AS JESUS was coming out of the house where he had raised to life the young girl, two blind men met him; for the news of his return to Capernaum had gone abroad, and these two men, eager to obtain their sight, at once set out to find Jesus. They followed Jesus on the street, crying out aloud :
“Have mercy on us, O Son of David!”
You know that Jesus came from the family of which David had been the head long before. All the people looked for him, as sprung from David, to take David’s throne, and like David, become king over all the land. The people who believed that Jesus was to be king often called him “Son of David.”
These two blind men followed Jesus, crying to him, until he went into the house where he was staying, which may have been the house where Simon Peter lived. The blind men came into the house after Jesus. He said to them :
“Do you believe that I can do this which you desire?” They answered him, “Yes, Lord, we believe that you can.”
Then Jesus placed his hands upon their eyes, first on one man and then on the other. As he touched their eyes, he said to them, “As you believe, let it be done to you.”
At once their eyes were opened and they could see. Jesus spoke to them very strongly, and gave them special orders, saying, “See that nobody knows of this.”
He did not wish always to have crowds around seeking for miracles of healing, for he felt that he had a greater work to do in preaching to the souls of men than in curing their bodies. But these men went away and told all whom they met what a wonderful thing Jesus had done for them. It was not strange that they should speak of it, even though he had forbidden them, for all who had known them before as blind men saw the great change in their looks, now that they could see, and asked them how it had come to pass; so that it was not easy to avoid telling people about it. But wherever it was told, people who had any disease, or were blind, or deaf and dumb, or lame, were filled with desire to find Jesus and be made well.
Soon after these two men left Jesus, cured of their blindness, another man was brought to Jesus. This was a dumb man, in whom lived an evil spirit. Jesus always cast out the evil spirits, without waiting to be asked, whenever he found them ruling over men. He spoke to this evil spirit, and it left the man. Then all at once the man began to speak, for it was the evil spirit in him that had made him dumb. All the people wondered, and said to one another:
“Such power as this has never before been seen in the land of Israel!”
But the scribes and Pharisees, who were enemies of Jesus, said again, as they had said before :
“This man casts out the evil spirits, because Satan, the prince of the evil spirits, helps him.”
JESUS HAD now preached in nearly all parts of Galilee, except in the middle portion, the legion around Nazareth, the home of his younger days. You remember that when he had tried to speak in Nazareth, soon after coming from Judea, the people refused to listen to him, thinking that one who had been only a working-man and not a Rabbi or scribe could not teach them anything.
But Jesus loved those people in Nazareth, for many of the men had been with him boys at school; and his own sisters lived there with their children, boys and girls, who were his nephews and nieces. He longed to see them all, and made up his mind to go again to Nazareth, and see if its people would this time listen to him. On his earlier visit he had been alone, and the men of Nazareth in their anger had tried to kill him by throwing him down a very steep hill; but now Jesus had with him his twelve disciples and many more who followed him from place to place. On this visit the men of Nazareth did not venture to do him harm, because of his many friends around him.
As before, Jesus went to the village church on the Sabbath day and preached. Again the people listened to him with wonder at his words; but again they said:
“Is not this the carpenter who used to make plows and hoes and tables for us? How can he teach us?”
He could only do a few of his great works, because the people would not believe in him. He did, indeed, lay his hands upon a few that were sick, and made them well; but he could only wonder at the hardness of heart in those among whom he had lived so many years.
Leaving Nazareth with a sad heart, he went around the villages in middle Galilee, teaching in the churches and curing sickness of all kinds. As he saw how poor the people were, how little they knew of the truth, and how greatly they longed for it, he felt a great pity for them. They seemed to Jesus like sheep that were lost and wandering, not having any shepherd. He said to his disciples:
“The harvest truly is rich, but the workers in it are very few. Pray very earnestly to the Lord of the harvest that he may send out workers to gather in his harvest.”
Jesus knew that the time of his work in Galilee was nearly ended. There were other parts of the land of Israel where he had not yet preached, and he wished to visit them. He knew, too, what none but himself knew, that in a year he would be taken away from the earth, and his disciples would be left alone to carry on his work and preach to all the people the news of God’s kingdom. He made up his mind to send out his twelve disciples, whom he named “the apostles,” and to let them begin their work by preaching in the villages of Galilee which he had not found time to visit.
So he called together his twelve disciples, and divided them into pairs, sending two men together, that they might help each other. He poured upon them some of his own power to cure diseases and to cast out evil spirits from men. He gave them commands about their work, to whom they should go and how they should act. He said:
“Do not go to any city of the Gentiles, the foreigners; and keep away from the villages of the Samaritan people. Your work just now is to be among the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Go to the Jews throughout the land, and tell them that the kingdom of God has come, and that they may enter it. Cure the sick, raise the dead to life, cleanse the lepers, cast out the evil spirits from men. Give freely, without being paid; for you have received the gift of God freely.
“Do not take with you any money of gold or silver or copper in your girdle; nor a bag to carry food for the road; nor two shirts, nor a pair of shoes; but go wearing only sandals on your feet. For God’s workman deserves his food, and it will be given to him.
“When you come to a village, ask for some good man, go to his house, and stay there while you are in that village. Do not go visiting from one house to another. When you come to a house say, `Peace be to this house.’ If the people dwelling in that house are worthy of your peace, then peace shall be given to them; if they are not worthy, your peace shall come back to you. And if in any place the people will not hear you nor give you welcome, then as you go out of that house or that city, take off your sandals and shake the dust of that place from them as a sign. I say to you in truth that in the day of judgment it shall be worse for the cities that have refused you than for Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities upon which God rained down fire.
“You are sent forth like sheep among wolves; so be wise like serpents, yet harmless like doves. But you must watch against evil men, for they will seize you and hand you over to courts to be judged; you will be beaten in their court-rooms; you will be brought before governors and kings, because you are my followers. Now, when they bring you up for trial, do not be anxious about what you shall speak or how you shall say it; for what to speak shall be given you when you need it. For it is not you that speak, but the spirit of your Father in heaven that speaks in you.”
Many more words Jesus spoke to his twelve disciples : and at the end of his charge he said this:
“Whoever receives you and listens to you, it is the same as though he received me, your teacher; and who-ever receives me, receives my Father who sent me. He that receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. He who receives a good man because he is a good man shall receive a good man’s reward. And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple of mine, I tell you truly, he will not lose his reward.’
After giving his commands to the twelve disciples, Jesus sent them out to preach, while he himself went to other places telling the people the good news of the Kingdom of God.