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Chapter 11

Rich Toward God

Joshua Ben Joseph, the prophet of Galilee, never forgets that he is from and of the people. After the rather distressing incident which occurred when in his ministry he went back to his native village of Nazareth, and gave or tried to give in the little village synagogue the same message he had been giving in many parts of Galilee, and in Judaea to the south, he seems to have broken with his home people and with his family. In a common-sense manner he recognised the inhospitality of their thought and the feeling at times even of hostility. Anyway he seems not to have gone back.

Once when he was near again an incident occurred which throws additional light upon these facts. At one house where a large gathering had assembled, the press of the people was so great that he and the disciples who were with him could scarcely eat. The account as given by Mark is: ‘And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself,’

So independent, so unconventional, so unorthodox was he, both in his teaching and in his practices, that many times a great commotion was stirred, and at times there was a considerable wagging of tongues. He mingled with publicans and sinners; be even ate with them. This disgusted the well-to-do, those of social standing, and pareicularly the scribes and Pharisees. And his teachings to the congregations assembled in the synagogues, humble and so different from the conventional type, gave rise to many questions and discussions, offending some and especially these same scribes and Pharisees. Many a time the question arose: ‘What manner of man is this?’

These same things were felt undoubtedly by the members of his own family, his mother and his brothers, humble people that they were. They were disturbed by the rumours which were brought to them. They could not understand. They did not like the wagging of the village tongues. They would have him come home rather than risk the disgrace that might come to them. They were incapable evidently of understanding his larger mission, and the passion that filled his soul to carry on with it. He was aware of this feeling. He perhaps regretted it, but he could not help it. He perhaps foresaw that some time he might be compelled even to break with them. His convictions and the absorbing purpose of his life, even if they could not understand, gave him his direction.

At the meeting in the same house, there was a clash with some of the scribes and Pharisees, who, hearing of the work that he was doing and the great crowds that were following him, had come or had been sent up from Jerusalern. Later, while he was teaching there was an interruption. The account is given by Mark: ‘There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent: unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they say unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother and my brethren?. . . For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, my sister, and mother.’ (Mark iii, 31-35.)

One grasps here the clear understanding which prompted his statement after his chilly reception the last time he visited his home town — and how pointed and how definite he makes it: ‘A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.’ (Mark vi. 4.)

He understood — but something bigger pushed him on: human needs. ‘When Jesus saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they were distressed and scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd.’ Human needs — and those the most in need.

‘It came to pass, that he was sitting at meat in Levi’s house, and many publicans and sinners sat down With Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. And the scribes and the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with the sinners and publicans, said unto his disciples, He eateth and drin-keth with publicans and sinners, And when Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ (Mark ii. 15-17.)

He knew their needs. He would make them rich toward God. And then the other extreme, for each has its needs.

‘Take heed, and keep yourselves from all covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: and he reasoned within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have not where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my corn and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry. But God said unto him, Thou foolish one, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; and the things which thou hast prepared, whose shall they be? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.’ (Luke xii. 15-21.)

Rich toward God he would make him — for the present and for the future. Simple but mighty message. There was a universal quality in the message and in the personality of the Master that drew him to, and that drew to him, those of all conditions who needed help, rich or poor, humble or seemingly great. Occurrences even as he passed along the highway are interesting to observe.

‘And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man called by name Zacchaeus; and he was a chief publican, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the crowd, because he was little of stature. And he ran on before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, He is gone in to lodge with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord, Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wrongfully exacted aught of any man, I restore fourfold, And Jesus said unto him, Today is salvation come to this house. (Luke xix. 1-9.)

Rich toward God, and still richer in that voluntarily he chose to do what was right! A beautiful understanding and comradeship between two sympathetic men! A name made immortal by the desire and the determination of an otherwise obscure man to know the best, and let it dominate his life!


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