« הקודםהמשך »
their shoulders, walk away with light and graceful step. The fountain has been here from time immemorial, and seems always to have been the main, if not the only source of water-supply for the inhabitants. It was to the fountain, which now bears her name, that Mary came, day by day, amongst the village maidens, to fill her pitcher and return to her home. The Protevangelion, one
of the earliest of the Apocryphal gospels, says that it was here that she received the angelic salutation which marked her out as the mother of the Lord. The narrative however seems to indicate what the probabilities of the case imply, that the event happened in the seclusion of her own dwelling.
A hasty and general survey of the site of Nazareth produces the impression that it contains no cliff down which Jesus could have been “cast
headlong.” The town lying along the lower slope of the hill, no steep declivity is visible. But a more careful examination corrects the error and confirms the narrative of the evangelist. I found two or three precipitous walls of rock of thirty or forty feet in depth. One of them had a considerable accumulation of debris at the bottom which if cleared away would probably give twenty feet more. Dean Stanley's remarks are well worth quoting. “« They rose’ it is said of the infuriated inhabitants of the city, ‘and cast Him out of the city, and brought Him to a brow of the mountain on which the city was built, so as to cast Him down the cliff.” Most readers probably imagine a town built on the summit of a mountain, from which summit the intended precipitation was to take place. This, as I have said, is not the situation of Nazareth, yet its position is in strict accordance with the narrative. It is built upon, that is on the side of a mountain,' but the brow is not beneath but over the town, and such a cliff as is here implied is to be found in the abrupt face of the limestone rock, about thirty or forty feet high, overhanging the Maronite convent at the south-west extremity of the town.”
To gain a true idea of the scenes amidst which the first thirty years of our Lord's earthly life were passed we must climb the hills which rise above the town. There is very little in the Nazareth of to-day to recall that of eighteen hundred years ago. Not a single building is now standing which was standing then. It is even doubtful whether the site remains unaltered : and we know that important changes have passed over the scenery of the neighbourhood. The soil has lain fallow and unproductive for centuries.
A silent, unpeopled solitude stretches for miles around us. But in our Lord's days Galilee was like a garden in its luxuriant fertility. The hills, now so bare and barren, were terraced and cultivated to their very summits.
A numerous and thriving population occupied the soil. “ The little hills rejoiced on every side ; the pastures were clothed with flocks; the valleys also were covered over with corn.", But amidst all these changes the great natural landmarks remain the same. As we stand on the ridge which rises just above the town, we know that we tread on the very spots where Jesus of Nazareth often walked, and that we look on the landscape which was beneath
The hills, the valleys, the sea, the plains make up a scene of surpassing beauty, the main features of which are unaltered by the
lapse of centuries. Below us lies the little town in the peaceful seclusion of its quiet valley-far from the busy crowd, aside from the thronged highways. On the west the sun is sinking down into the sea, leaving a broad line of light across the Mediterranean. Hermon, on the north, with its crown of snow, glows in the fading light. “The excellency of Carmel and Sharon ” stretch away to the south. Eastward the eye ranges over the hills of Galilee, the valley of the Jordan, and the rich plains of Gilead beyond. The view though some
' Luke iv. 29. The translation is slightly altered, so as to bring it into closer agreement with the original.
Ps. Ixv. 12, 13
what less extensive than that from Tabor is even more beautiful. The hours of a Sabbath afternoon and evening spent in meditation and prayer on the thymy turf of this glorious upland have left behind them memories which no lapse of time can efface or weaken.
The numerous flocks of sheep and goats which were being led in to be folded for the night formed a striking object in the landscape, and recalled to mind a question which has perplexed many eastern travellers. Our Lord, speaking of His coming to judgment, says, “And before Him shall be gathered all nations; and He shall separate them from one another as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats. But the sheep and the goats are invariably brought in together. I had failed to find any instance in which they were divided. This, of all others, was the place to seek an explanation. It was given me by a shepherd who was leading his flock past the spot where I stood. The division is made not in the evening when the flocks are folded, but in the morning as they are taken out to pasture. The goats travelling much more quickly than the sheep and thriving upon a much scantier vegetation, are driven up to the mountain tops where they pick their food from amongst the rocks and stones. The sheep are kept upon the lower slopes, where the grass is more abundant and the pasturage richer. It is thus not to the night of death when “like sheep they are laid in the grave,"but the resurrection morning to which the illustration points and when the final separation shall be made. In this case, as in so many others the seeming discrepancy arises from our imperfect acquaintance with the facts. A more complete knowledge not only removes the apparent difficulty, but brings out a deeper meaning in the sayings of Him whose "words are spirit and are life.”
We cannot leave Nazareth without reflecting on the silence of Scripture respecting our Lord's residence here. Of the thirty-three years of His earthly life twenty-eight were spent in this secluded valley; yet the history of those years is an almost total blank.
A journey to Jerusalem is the only incident recorded. " The child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom : and the grace of God was upon Him . . . He was subject unto His parents.
He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man."3 This is all we know-no more. Imagination, working upon Apocryphal legends and obscure hints, has endeavoured to fill in the vague outline with biographical details. But the attempt is unwarranted, even if it be not irreverent. It is impossible for us to lift the veil which hides these years of mysterious growth and silent preparation. When “the day of His showing unto Israel” had come, He emerged from His obscurity; and we shall trace His footsteps on the shores of the neighbouring lake, the world's great Teacher, revealing God to man, and man to himself. It was at CANA OF GALILEE, the home of Nathanael, that our Lord
3 Luke ii. 40, 52.
I Matt. xxv. 32.
2 Ps. xlix. 14.
• John xx