WHILE JESUS was passing through Galilee for the last time, he wished not to do in that land any more wonderful works or to give any further teachings in public. He desired not to have crowds around him, but to be alone with his disciples, for there were many things to be told them before he should be taken away from them.
As they were on their way to Capernaum, which had been his home during the year before, he saw that his disciples as they walked were having some dispute or quarrel. He well knew what they were saying to each other, for he knew all things; but at the time he said nothing.
He came to Capernaum, for the first time followed by no crowd, but with his twelve disciples only. In the evening, as they sat together in the house, he said to them :
“What was it that you were talking about today as we were walking on the road?”
The disciples looked at each other, a little ashamed, and at first did not speak. Finally, one of them said :
“We were asking each other who of us should hold the first place in your kingdom.”
Although Jesus had more than once told these men that he must suffer and die, they did not believe it. They saw that he was on his way toward Jerusalem, and like all the people who believed in him, they thought that when he came to that city, he would take his kingdom and rule; and each of his disciples wanted a place for himself next the throne.
“The first place!” answered Jesus. If any of you has the will to be first in the kingdom of heaven, that one shall be the last of all and shall serve all the others!”
A little child was playing near him, for the children were never afraid of Jesus and loved to be with him. Jesus reached out his hand, took the child in his arms and held it close to him. Then he said to his disciples:
“I tell you, unless you change your spirit and become like little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven at all ! Whoever of you will be-come humble and gentle, like this little child, not seeking great things for himself, that is the one who shall be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And any one who helps even a little child to be one of my followers is helping me. But if anyone puts a snare or stumbling-block in the way of one of these little ones, to keep him from following me, it would be better for that man to have a great millstone hung on his neck, and to be thrown into the deep sea! Woe to the world on account of snares and hindrances, keeping men away from God and from salvation! There must be these snares and hindrances, that cannot be helped; but woe to the man who puts them in the way !
“If your hand or your foot becomes a snare to you, keeping you from God, you must cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life a cripple, and with only one hand, than with two hands or two feet, to go away to everlasting death. And if your eye would lead you to forsake God, pluck it out and throw it away. It is better for you to be saved having only one eye, than to be lost having two eyes.
“I tell you, never despise or think lightly of one of these little ones; for I say to you, their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”
Then John, one of the disciples, said :
“Teacher, we saw a man who is not one of your followers using your name to cast out evil spirits; and we told him not to use your name, since he is not with us.”
“Do not forbid him,” said Jesus, “there is no man who will do a mighty work in my name, and be able also to speak against me. Whoever is not against us is for us. Why, if any one will give you even a cup of water to drink, because you belong to Christ, I tell you truly, that man shall not fail of having a reward.”
At that time Jesus told his disciples how to treat those who had done them any wrong. He said :
“If your brother does wrong, go to him and speak to him about it when you are alone with him. If he listens to you, then you have won your brother. But if he will not listen, take with you one or two others, and talk with him again, that there may be at least two witnesses in every case. If he will not listen to these men, speak to the church; and if he refuses to listen to the church, then have nothing more to do with him, but treat him as a stranger, as the people treat those who collect the taxes for the Romans.
“I tell you, my disciples, that whatever you forbid on earth shall be forbidden by those in heaven; and whatever you allow on earth shall be allowed by those in heaven. I tell you another thing : if two of you shall agree on earth upon anything that they ask in prayer, it shall be done for them by my Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have come together in my name, I am there among them.”
Then Peter came up to Jesus and asked him a question. It was this :
“Master, how often should I forgive my brother when he has done me wrong? Shall it be as many as seven times?”
“Seven times?” said Jesus. “No, I say, seventy times seven ! For the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to have his servants pay him the debts which they owed him. When he had begun to make up their accounts, one servant was brought before him who owed him more than a million dollars. He could not pay his debt, and his master ordered that he should be sold, and his wife and children with him, and everything that he had, toward the payment of his debt. The servant fell down upon his face before him, and said, `Only have patience with me, my lord, and I will pay it all.’ His master knew that he could never pay so great a debt; he felt a pity for him, and let him go free, forgiving him all that he owed.
“But as he was going away, that servant met one of his fellow-servants who owed him a small debt, only about fifteen dollars. He took him by the throat, and said, `Pay me what you owe me!’ The man threw himself on the ground and begged for mercy, crying out, `Have patience with me, wait a little while, and I will pay all that I owe you.’ But he refused to have mercy; he took him into the court and had him put into prison until he should pay the debt.
“When the other servants saw him sending this man to prison, they felt troubled and told the king what he had done. At this the king became very angry. He sent for that cruel servant and said to him, `You wicked servant! When you asked me for mercy, I gave to you all your great debt and let you go free! Should not you, also, have shown the same kindness to your fellow-servant that I showed to you?’ Then his master, being very angry, handed him over to the. jailor, to be kept in a dungeon until he should pay the whole of his debt. So also will my Father in heaven do to you, unless you forgive your brother with all your heart.”
While Jesus was at this time in Capernaum, the officer who collected from the Jews the tax for the Temple came to Peter and said:
“Does not your Master. pay the Temple tax?” “Yes,” answered Peter.
But when he went into the house, before he could speak, Jesus said to him,
“Tell me, Simon, from whom do the kings of this world take taxes? From their sons, or from foreigners?” “From foreigners,” answered Peter.
“Then their own people are free from being taxed, are they not? We are the sons of God, and we should be free from the tax for the house of God. However, in order not to displease them, do you go to the sea, throw in a hook and take the first fish that comes up; open its mouth, and you will find in it a piece of silver money. Take that and give it to the tax collectors for you and me.”,