FROM THE land of the Ten Cities, Jesus and his disciples sailed straight across the Sea of Galilee, and on its southwestern shore they came to a city called Magadan or Magdala. One of the women who went with Jesus on his journeys in Galilee, Mary Magdalene, that is, Mary of Magdala, was from this city. Jesus came to this place for rest and for quiet talking with his disciples; but as soon as he landed he was met by some Pharisees and others who did not believe in him. They said to him:
“Teacher, show us some sign from heaven that you are a prophet or one whom God has sent.”
They wished Jesus to do some miracle or wonderful work, not that they might believe in him, but only that they might see what he could do. Everywhere the Pharisees, who looked upon themselves as leaders, were opposed to Jesus and stirred up the ignorant people against him.
We have already seen that Jesus never gave any cures or wonderful works merely to be looked upon. He would help those who were in need or in trouble; but he would not merely satisfy an idle desire to see a miracle. He answered these Pharisees as he had answered others :
“I will give you a sign from heaven. In the evening, at sunset you say, `It will be fine weather, for the sky is as red as fire.’ But in the morning, if the sky is red, you say, `It will be a stormy day, for the sky is red as fire, and threatening.’ You learn to read the signs in the sky, yet you do not know how to read the signs of the times. If you would look, you might see whether I come from God or not. It is a wicked and a disobedient people who continually ask for signs. No sign shall be given to this people, except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”
He did not even tell them how Jonah was to be a sign or token to them. Perhaps a few months later, when these people heard that Jesus had been slain and buried; then after three days had risen again to life, just as Jonah had come forth alive after being buried for three days in the great fish, they would then understand how Jonah had been as a sign of Jesus.
Jesus saw at once that this was no place to find quiet and a chance to teach his disciples, so he went into the boat again, with his disciples, and sailed away up the lake. They left in such haste that the disciples did not think, while they were ashore, to buy some bread, and they had with them in the boat only one loaf for Jesus and twelve men.
While they were rowing over the sea, Jesus said to them :
“Take care and be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”
They thought that he was speaking to them about their having failed to bring more bread, and they began talking among themselves. Jesus noticed this, and he said :
“Why are you talking to one another about your being short of bread? How little trust you have in me ! Do you not remember the five loaves with which I fed the five thousand, and the twelve baskets full of pieces that you picked up afterward? Have you forgotten about the seven loaves among the four thousand, and the seven baskets full that you picked up? How is it that you do not see that I was not speaking to you about bread? No, be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”
In warning his disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees, Jesus meant their pride and pretense of religion and exactness in obeying rules, while failing to serve God with the heart. By the leaven of Herod, he meant the spirit of living for the world, of guilty pleasure, with-out a thought of doing God’s will.
They came to Bethsaida; and as soon as the people saw Jesus they brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him, hoping to see Jesus give him his sight. But Jesus would not let them look on the curing of the man. He took him away from the crowd, and outside the town, to a lonely place. There, after spitting upon the man’s eyes, he laid his hands upon him, and asked him :
“Can you see anything?”
The man looked up, and said, “Yes, I can see a little, but not very clearly. I see men moving about, but they look like trees.”
Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes. He looked around, and now could see everything distinctly.
Jesus said to him, “Now go directly to your home; and do not go into the town, where men will see you and ask how you received your sight.”
Jesus and his disciples did not stop in Bethsaida; for he felt that he must find some quiet, lonely place, where he could teach his disciples the great truths of which they knew nothing; truths, too, which it would be hard for them to believe and to understand. So from Bethsaida he went on, following a road beside the river Jordan to the foot of Mount Hermon, far in the north.