10. Abraham Gets Strange Visitors
IT WAS NOONDAY, and everywhere the sun shone hot upon the plains. But Abraham sat in the cool shade of his tent door, beneath a tree. Presently three strange men drew near. They did not look like other men, and Abraham knew they were from a far country. He hurried to meet them, and, bowing low toward the ground just as he always when greeting a friend or a visitor, he urged them to rest for a while in the cool shade. This they were quite ready to do.
Now we shall see how Abraham entertained his guests. First he merit for water to wash their feet. This was not unusual because people wore sandals in that long-ago time and it was customary for them to remove their sandals and wash their feet whenever they sat down to rest and visit. Next, Abraham told his wife to make ready and bake some barley cakes upon the hearth, while he should prepare some meat, for his guests. Then he ran out to his herd and selected a young calf, which he gave to a servant to dress and cook. When all was ready, he brought the food to his guests, and they ate while he stood under a tree near by. Abraham was glad to serve these strangers because he was kind to every one.
When the meal was ended, the men arose to continue their journey. Abraham walked with them for a little way. By this time he knew they were not like other men, but they were heavenly beings. Two of them were angels. The other one was the Lord. And Abraham felt that he was unworthy to entertain such wonderful visitors. But because he was a good man the Lord loved him.
“Shall I hide from Abraham this thing which I do”? the Lord asked his companions. “I know that he will teach his children to keep my ways and to do right.”
Then, turning toward Abraham the Lord said, “I am going to visit Sodom and Gomorrah to see if these cities are as wicked as they seem, for the cry of their sins has reached me.”
The two men hurried on; but Abraham detained the Lord a while longer, because he wanted to talk to him. He knew the Lord would destroy the cities if he found them to be as wicked as they seemed, and he thought of Lot. Now, we remember that Lot had gone back to live again in Sodom after Abraham and his servants had rescued him and his family from the enemy’s camp. Abraham knew that Lot too might perish if the cities should be destroyed. And he loved Lot. He wished once more to try to save him, so he said, “Will you destroy the righteous persons in the city, will you not spare the lives of all for their sake’?” And the Lord promised to spare Sodom if he could find fifty righteous persons in it.
Abraham feared that there might be less than fifty. And he was troubled for Lot’s safety. So he spoke again. “I know that I am but a common man, made of dust,” said he, “yet I speak to the Lord. If there should be only forty-five righteous persons living in Sodom, will you spare the city ?” And the Lord said he would spare the city for the sake of only forty-five righteous persons.
Still Abraham felt troubled. He feared there might not be even forty-five. So he asked if the city might be spared for the sake of forty. The Lord knew it was Abraham’s love for the people which to plead so earnestly for Sodom, and he promised to spare the city for the sake of forty.
“What,” thought poor, distressed Abraham, “if there should not be even forty righteous persons found in Sodom?” And once more he spoke. “0 Lord, be not angry with me,” he said, “but if there are only thirty righteous persons, will you spare the city for their sakes. And the Lord promised to spare the entire city if only thirty people could be found in it. Abraham continued to plead until he had asked the Lord if he would spare the city if only ten righteous persons were found, and the Lord promised to spare Sodom if he could find only ten. Then the Lord passed on, and Areturnehi
111. Jesus at the Great Feast in Jerusalem
SUMMER HAD PASSED, and the cooler days of autumn had come again. On the green hillsides around Jerusalem many booths, or huts made of the branches of trees, stood in groups, sheltering the people who had come to attend the Feast of Tabernacles, held every year at this city. And during the week of the Feast the temple was crowded with visitors from other parts of the land.
On the first day after the feast began groups of people stood together talking about the great Teacher in Galilee, whose miracles had caused much excitement in many places. They wondered whether he would come to Jerusalem and teach them there. Some of them wished he would come, for they enjoyed hearing him teach; others wished he would come because they hated him and wanted to find occasion to put him to death.
By and by Jesus came, and straight into the temple he went, to sit down there and teach the people. His enemies believed this would be a good opportunity to catch him, so they sent men to listen to his words and find some fault, that they might accuse him to the rulers.
But day after day passed by and still Jesus sat in the temple, teaching all who came to him. No one attempted to drive him away, and no one took hold of him to capture him. Many of the Jews who lived in Jerusalem knew how much their leaders hated him, and they wondered why these men did not take him now and shut him up in prison.
They said, “Is this not he whom they seek to kill? But now he speaks boldly and they say nothing to him. Have they come to believe that he is the very Christ?”
But the rulers of the Jews, who were the chief priests in the temple, and the scribes, and the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, did not acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ. They were very jealous of him because he drew the attention of all the people who came to the Feast. They disliked his teaching because he accused them of only pretending to be righteous. And they sent officers to take him.
Even the officers were pleased to hear the teaching of this wonderful man from Galilee. They listened carefully to his words, and they believed that he was not worthy to be punished. So they returned to the rulers without him.
The chief priests and Pharisees were angry when the officers returned alone. They asked, “Why have you not brought him?”
But the officers replied, “Never did a man speak like this man.” And they would not harm him.
The men who sent the officers were excited. They asked, “Are you allowing this man to deceive you as he is deceiving the other people? And have any of our own number of the rulers believed on him?”
Nicodemus, the Pharisee who had come to visit Jesus one night, sat among the angry rulers. He loved Jesus and believed in him. But he was afraid to let the other Pharisees know, for fear they would hate him, too. Now he asked timidly, “Does our law judge any man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”
His angry friends turned on him and replied, scornfully, “Are you from Galilee? Do you not know that no prophet comes from that country?”
And so saying they dismissed their meeting and went to their homes.
106.The Transfiguration of Jesus
Matt. 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36
IT HAD BEEN a long, hard climb up the rough slope of the great mountain near Caesarea Philippi, and Simon Peter, James, and John were very tired when at last they found a resting-place far above the quiet valley. These fishermen had not been accustomed to mountain-climbing, and no doubt they would have chosen to row a boat all day rather than to take such a weary journey. But Jesus, their master, had asked them to go with him to a place of prayer, and because they loved him they had followed.
But now that they had come with him all the way up the mountain, they felt too tired to pray. So they fell asleep. And Jesus prayed alone.
While the three disciples were sleeping, a great change came over their master. His face began to shine as the brightness of the sun; his clothing, too, gleamed as white as snow. And two men from heaven came to talk with him. They were: Moses, the man who had spent forty days alone with God on Mount Sinai when he was leading the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan; and Elijah, the prophet who had heard God’s voice on Mount Horeb, where he had gone to escape the wrath of a wicked queen. Moses had written the law of God which the Jews had a part of their Bible; and Elijah was one of the prophets through whom God had spoken to his people in other days.
While these two heavenly visitors talked with Jesus, the disciples awoke from their sleep. How surprised they were to see their master clothed in such brightness and talking with Moses and Elijah! They gazed in astonishment upon the glorious scene before them.
Then as Moses and Elijah began to disappear from their sight Simon Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it is good for us to be here! If you are willing, let us build three tabernacles–one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But while Peter spoke, a bright cloud descended upon the disciples, and they felt afraid. Then a voice spoke from the bright cloud and said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear him.” When the disciples heard the voice they fell to the ground, trembling with fright.
After the voice spoke, the cloud lifted, and Jesus came and touched the disciples, saying, “Rise up, and do not be afraid.”
When they lifted their eyes they saw Jesus only; for the bright cloud had vanished, and the heavenly visitors, too, had disappeared. Now they believed that surely Jesus is the Son of God.
On the next day when they came down from the mountain Jesus told them to keep this wonderful scene for a secret among themselves until after he should rise from the dead. The disciples wondered why he should be talking about pain, and grief, and death when he the Son of God had been visited with such heavenly glory. But they were careful to tell no one about what had happened when they were alone with Jesus on the mountain.
Now the disciples asked, “Why do our teachers say that Elijah just first come before the Messiah appears?”
Jesus answered, “Elijah has come already, but they have not known him, and they have treated him shamefully. So also will they treat me” And the disciples knew that he was speaking of John the Baptist, whom Herod had caused to be killed in person.
107.Jesus Casts A Demon Out of a Child
Matt. 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-45
THE NEXT DAY after Jesus had appeared in glory on the mountain, he came with his three disciples back to the valley where he had left the nine. And he found them surrounded by a questioning throng.
As soon as Jesus came near, a man ran from the throng and fell at his feet, crying, “Lord, have mercy on my son; for he is a lunatic, and often he falls into the fire, or into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
Jesus was grieved because he saw how little faith in him men had to heal such a pitiful case; for the child was being tormented by an evil spirit, which would throw him down and tear him until he would foam at the mouth and suffer great pain.
Now Jesus said to the troubled father, “Bring your child to me.” So the man hurried to bring the boy to Jesus.
When they came, the evil spirit seized the boy again and threw him violently upon the ground. There he lay in the dust, wallowing and foaming, and all the people were gazing in astonishment upon him.
Jesus asked the father, “How long has your son been so afflicted:”
The father answered, “Ever since he was a small child. Often the evil spirit has tried to destroy him; but if you can do anything for us, have mercy upon us and help us!”
Jesus saw that this man lacked faith in his power to heal this son. He answered, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
Then the father cried out, weeping, “O Lord, I do believe; help me to be rid of all doubt.”
So Jesus commanded the evil spirit to come out of the boy and torment him no longer. Then the spirit gave a loud cry and, tearing the child, came out, leaving him to lie still and unconscious upon the ground.
The people rushed up to the place where he lay, and said, “He is dead.”
But Jesus stooped down took his limp hand, and lifted him up. And the boy rose, and Jesus brought him to his father, a well child no longer to suffer the tortures of the evil spirit.
Then Jesus took his disciples away from the people, and they entered into a house alone. Here the nine asked their master, “Why was it that we could not cast out that evil spirit?”
Jesus answered, “Because you did not have faith. However, this kind goes out only when you fast and pray.”
And Jesus talked to his disciples about their need of having faith in God.
102. Jesus Walks on Water
Matt. 14:23-36; Mark 6:46-56; John 6:16-29
WHILE JESUS WAS alone praying on the mountain-side, the disciples were in their ship rowing toward Capernaum. And the multitude were returning homeward as they had come, walking along the northern shore of the sea.
After nightfall a strong wind began to blow across the Sea, driving against the little ship. Row as hard as they might, the disciples could not make much progress against the wind. Higher and higher the waves dashed and rolled, and slower the vessel plowed through them.
How tired the disciples were growing! Perhaps they were thinking about the time when a tempest swept over the Sea and Jesus had been with them, sleeping in the ship. Perhaps they were wishing for his presence now, to still this stormy wind that made their progress so wearisome and so slow.
Far away on the mountain Jesus had been praying for several hours. But he had not forgotten his disciples. Perhaps he had been praying for them as well as for himself. He knew how much they needed him when the strong wind began to blow against their little ship, and he started to go to them.
Out across the water he walked as easily as if it had been land, and nearer and nearer he came to the tossing ship and its weary sailors. By and by he came very near, so near that they could see him through the darkness, walking past them on the rough waves.
Now the disciples were frightened; for every one had seen Jesus and they believed they had seen a spirit. They did not think he could really walk on water, for no person had ever done that.
They remembered how God had parted the waters on the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross over on dry land, and how he had made a dry path across the Jordan River three times for his servant to walk upon. But never had they heard of any one walking on top of the water. This must be a spirit. And they cried out for fear of what they had seen.
Jesus stopped when he heard their cry, and turned to speak to them. He said, “Do not be afraid, for it is I.” How familiar that voice sounded! Still the disciples could scarcely believe it was Jesus who spoke.
Finally Simon Peter cried out, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you walking on the water.”
And Jesus answered “Come?”
With a bound Simon Peter leaped over the side of the ship and started to go to Jesus. The other disciples looked on in amazement, wondering more than ever at the great power of Jesus on both sea and land. Presently, however, they saw their fellow disciple beginning to sink in the rough waves, and they heard his voice calling frantically to Jesus to help. For Simon Peter had begun to look about at the stormy wind and waves, and just as soon as he took his eyes off Jesus he began to sink.
Then Jesus reached forth his hand and caught him, saying, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?”
When the two came to the ship, the other disciples received them joyfully, and at once the wind ceased. Again the disciples marveled at the wonderful power of their master, who could perform miracles on the sea as well as on the land. And they came to him, worshiping him and saying, “Surely you are the Son of God.
101. Jesus Feeds The Five Thousand
Matt. 14:13-23; Mark 6:31-46; Luke 9:7-17; John 6:1-15
A BOY’S LUNCH-BASKET is a very small thing compared with a great miracle. But in this story we shall see how a great miracle grew out of a boy’s lunch-basket. It all came about in this manner:
The disciples whom Jesus sent to preach in the towns and cities of Galilee had returned joyfully, telling their Master about their success in healing the sick and in casting out the evil spirits just as they had seen him do. And now the fame of Jesus was increasing every day, and many more people from distant parts of the country were flocking to hear him.
So urgent were the people who came to hear Jesus and to have their loved ones healed, that they pressed constantly upon him, and allowed no time for him to rest or even eat. Then Jesus called his twelve disciples aside from the multitude and said, “Come with me to a quiet place, for we must rest a while.”
Taking a ship they sailed away from the multitude to the other side of the Sea, and went into a desert place near a mountain. But they did not find much time to rest even in this lonely spot, for soon they saw a great throng of people coming toward them.
The multitude had followed from the other side of the Sea. Perhaps the disciples were disappointed because the people had found them again, but Jesus looked pityingly upon the great throng, and said of them, “They are like sheep that had no shepherd. They wander about here and there hunting for their own pasture-grounds.”
In this great throng were five thousand men, who had come from different parts of Galilee. Some of them had brought their wives and children along, and other women had come, too. When they had started they did not know they would have to go so very far to find Jesus, and many of them had brought nothing to eat. One boy, however, had not forgotten his lunch-basket, and in his basket he carried five little loaves of barley bread and two small fishes.
When the multitude came near, Jesus received them kindly and sat down to teach them again. He healed the sick ones whom they had brought to him, and taught them many things about the kingdom of heaven.
After a while the day wore on and evening came. Still the people lingered near, seeming to forget they could find no food or shelter in the desert place. The disciples grew impatient with them and came to ask Jesus to send them away.
“They have brought no food,” said the disciples, “and we can not supply food for them in this wilderness; therefore send them away that they may buy food in the towns and villages as they journey home.”
But Jesus answered, “We must feed them before sending them away.” Then, turning to Philip he asked, “Where shall we find bread, that all these people may eat?”
Philip looked at the great multitude and shook his head. “If we should buy two hundred pennyworth of bread,” he answered, “there would not be enough for each one to have a small piece.”
While Jesus and the disciples were discussing what to do, the boy who had not forgotten to carry his lunch came near and heard their conversation. Then he showed his basket of food to one of the disciples, and he offered to give the food to Jesus. The disciples, who was Andrew, came and told Jesus what the boy had said.
“How many loaves are there in the basket?” asked Jesus.
Andrew said, “Only five and two small fishes. But what will that be among so many people?”
Jesus replied, “Bring them to me.”
Then he told his disciples to bid the people sit down in groups, in some fifty and in others a hundred, and wait for their evening meal. While they waited, he took the little loaves and the fishes and blessed them and broke them into small pieces. He filled a basket for each of the twelve disciples and sent them to pass the food among the hungry people. Then the disciples returned and again he filled their empty baskets.
When all the people had eaten, he sent the disciples to gather up the scraps that had been left over, and they found twelve baskets full of scraps. And every one in the great multitude had eaten enough to satisfy his hunger. The boy who had brought the lunch-basket to Jesus had all that he could eat, and he shared his little lunch with every one in the great throng because he had let Jesus bless his offering.
This unusual miracle caused much excitement among the people. They wanted Jesus to become their king instead of letting the Roman government rule them any longer. They believed that he could set them free from the rule of the Romans, whom they hated. They thought it would be wonderful to have a king rule them who could feed them by working miracles.
But Jesus would not allow the people to take him for their king. Although he was a King, yet he had not come to earth to rule an earthly kingdom.
He commanded his disciples to enter their ship at once and return to the other side of the Sea. And when they left him, then he dismissed the multitude and went alone upon the mountain near by to pray.