Part 2 out of 4
coming One. And to all who would, he applied the cleansing rite.
He had great drawing power. Away from cultured Jerusalem on the hilltops
down to the river bottoms, and the stony barrens of the Jordan; from the
Judean hill country, away from the stately temple service with its music
and impressive ritual, to his simple open-air, plain, fervid preaching, he
drew men. All sorts came, the proud Pharisee, the cynical Sadducee, the
soldiers, the publicans, farmers, shepherds, tradespeople--all came. His
daily gatherings represented the whole people. The nation came to his
call. It was the unconscious testimony of the nation to his rugged
greatness and to his divine mission. They were impelled to come, and
listen, and do, and questioningly wonder if this can be the promised
One day a committee came from the Jewish Senate to make official inquiry
as to who he claimed to be. With critical, captious questions they demand
his authority. True to his mission and his Master, he said, "I am not
_the_ One, but sent to tell you that He's coming, and so near that it's
time to get ready." Then the next day, as Jesus walks quietly through the
crowd, probably just back from the wilderness, he finishes his reply to
the deputation. With glowing eyes intently riveted upon Jesus, and finger
pointing, before the alert eyes of his hundreds of hearers--Pharisees,
Sadducees, official committee, Roman soldiers, and common folk--he said in
clear, ringing tones, "_That is He: the coming One!_"
No more dramatic, impressive presentation could have been made of Jesus to
the nation. To their Oriental minds it would be peculiarly significant,
Mark keenly the result. On the part of the leaders _utter silence_ There
could be no more cutting expression of their contempt. With eyebrows
uplifted, eyes coldly questioning, their lips slightly curling, or held
close together and pursed out, and shoulders shrugging, their contempt,
utter disgusted contempt, could not be more loudly expressed. If they had
had the least disposition to believe John's words about Jesus, even so far
as to _investigate_ patiently and thoroughly, how different would their
conduct have been! But--only silence. And silence long continued. Jesus
gave them plenty of time before the next step was taken. No silence ever
spoke in louder voice. That same day five thoughtful men of that same
throng _did_ investigate, and were satisfied, and gave at once loyal,
A few months later, the Passover Feast drew crowds from everywhere to
Jerusalem. Jesus coming into the temple areas, with the crowds, one day,
is struck at once with the strange scene. Instead of reverent, holy quiet,
as worshippers approached the dwelling-place of God, with their offerings
of penitence and worship, the busy bustle of a market-place greets His
ears. The noise of cattle and sheep being driven here and there, the
pavement like an unkempt barnyard, loud, discordant voices of men handling
the beasts and bargaining over exchange rates at the brokers'
tables--strange scene. Is it surprising that His ear and eye and heart,
perhaps fresh from a bit of quiet morning talk with His Father, were
shocked? Here, where everything should have called to devotion, everything
Quietly and quickly putting some bits of knotted string together, He
started the stock out, doubtless against the protests of the keepers. With
flashing light out of those keen eyes, He tipped over the tables, spilling
out their precious greedy coins, and ordered the crates of pigeons
removed. But all with no suggestion of any violence used toward anybody.
Reluctantly, perhaps angrily, wholly against their plans and wishes, the
crowd, impelled by _something_ in this unknown Man, with no outer evidence
of authority, goes. It is a remarkable tribute, both to the power of His
personal presence and to His executive faculty.
Of course the thing made trouble. It was the talk of the town, and of all
the foreigners for days after. The leaders were aroused and angered,
deeply angered. This stranger had kicked up a pretty muss with His
inconvenient earnestness and inconsiderate quoting of Scripture. It was a
practical assumption of superior authority over them. It was an assumption
of the truth of John's ignored claim that He was the promised King.
Was not this arrangement in the temple area a great convenience for the
many strangers, who were their brothers and guests; a real kindly act of
hospitality? Yes--and was it not, too, a finely organized bit of business
for profiting by these strangers, a using of their proper authority over
the temple territory to transfer their brothers' foreign coins safely over
to their own purses? Aye, it was a transmuting of their holy offices into
gold by the alchemy of their coarse, greedy touch.
Jesus' conduct was the keenest sort of criticism of these rulers, before
the eyes of the nation and of the thousands of pilgrims present. These
leaders never forgave this humiliating rebuke of themselves. It made their
nerves raw to His touch ever after. Here is the real reason of all their
after bitter dislike. They had a sensitive pocket-nerve. It was a sort of
pneumogastric nerve so close did it come to their lives. Jesus touched it
roughly. It never quit aching. Scratch all their later charges against Him
and under all is this sore spot. The tree of the cross began growing its
wood that day. Their hot, captious demand for authority, meant as much for
the ears of the crowd as for His, brought from Jesus, who read His future
in their hearts, a reply which they could not understand. They asked their
question for the crowd to hear, He replied for His disciples to remember
in the after years. There could be no evidence of authority more
significant than this temple incident.
His first public work was done at this time. The great throng of pilgrims
from around the world, attracted to Him by this simple daring act of
leadership, witnessed a group of mighty acts during these Passover days.
The angry leaders had critically asked for "signs" of His authority. He
gave them in abundance, not in response to their captious demand, but
doubtless, as always, in response to pressing human needs. The result was
that many persons accepted Him, but the nation in its rulers, maintained
their attitude of angered, contemptuous silence. But underneath that
surface the pot is beginning to boil.
Of all the members of the national Senate, one, _just one_, comes to make
personal inquiry, and sift this man's claim sincerely and candidly. And
he, be it marked, chooses a darkened hour for that visit. That night hour
speaks volumes of the smouldering passion under their contempt. That Jesus
recognized fully their attitude and just what it meant comes out in that
quiet evening talk. To that sincere inquirer, He frankly Jays, "You people
won't receive the witness that John and I have brought you." He was
pleading before a court that stubbornly refuses testimony of fact. And to
this honest seeker, whom we must all love for his sincerity, He reveals
His inner consciousness of a tragic break coming, with a pleading word for
personal trust, and a saddened "men love darkness."
With the going away of the Passover crowds, Jesus leaves the national
capital, and assists in the sort of work John was doing. His power to draw
men, and men's eagerness for Him, stand out sharply at once. John had
drawn great crowds of all classes. Jesus drew greater crowds. Multitudes
eagerly accepted John's teaching and accepted baptism from him. As it
turned out, greater multitudes of people, under the very eyes of these
ignoring, contemptuous leaders, accepted Jesus' leadership. John baptized.
Jesus baptized through His disciples. These leaders in their questioning
of John had tacitly acknowledged the propriety of "the Christ" using such
a rite. Jesus follows the line of least resistance, and fitted into the
one phase of His work which they had recognized as proper.
The pitiable fact stands out that the only result with _them_ is a wordy
strife about the relative success of these two, Jesus and John. The most
that their minds, steeped in jealousies and rivalries, ever watching with
badger eyes to undercut some one else, could see, was a rivalry between
these two men. John's instant open-hearted disclaimer made no impression
upon them. They seemed not impressionable to such disinterested loyalty.
A little later, probably not much, John's ruggedly honest preaching
against sin came too close home to suit Herod. He promptly shuts up the
preacher in prison, with no protest from the nation's leaders. These
leaders had developed peculiar power in influencing their civil rulers by
the strenuousness of their protests. That they permitted the imprisonment
of John with no word of protest, was a tacit throwing overboard of John's
own claims, of John's claims for Jesus, and of Jesus' own claim.
Here is the first sharp crisis. From the first, the circle of national
leaders characterized by John, the writer of the Gospel, as "the Jews,"
including the inner clique of chief priests and the Pharisees, ignored
Jesus; with silent contempt, coldly, severely ignored. This was before the
temple-cleansing affair. That intensified their attitude toward the next
stage. They had to proceed cautiously, because the crowd was with Jesus.
And full well these keen leaders knew the ticklishness of handling a
fanatical Oriental mob, as subsequent events showed. Now John is
imprisoned, with the consent of these leaders, possibly through their
Jesus keenly and quickly grasps the situation. First ignored, then made
the subject of evil gossip, the temple clash, and now His closest friend
subjected to violence, His own rejection is painfully evident. He makes a
number of radical changes. His _place_ of activity is changed to a
neighboring province under different civil rule; His _method_, to
preaching from place to place; His _purpose_, to working with
_individuals_. There's a peculiar word used here by Matthew to tell of
Jesus' departure from Judea to a province under a different civil ruler;
"He _withdrew_." The word used implies going away because of danger
threatening. We will run across it again and each time at a crisis point.
The leaders refused Jesus because He was not duly labelled. It seems to be
a prevailing characteristic to want men labelled, especially a
characteristic of those who make the labels. There is always an eager
desire regarding a stranger to learn whom he represents, who have put
their stamp upon him and accepted him. And if the label is satisfactory,
he is acccepted in the degree in which the label is accepted. Others are
marked with a large interrogation point. Inherent worth has a slow time.
But sure? Yes, but slow. Jesus bore no label whose words they could spell
out or wanted to. They were a bit rusty in the language of worth. How
knoweth this man letters, having never learned! He seems to know, to know
surprisingly well. He seems keenly versed in the law, able quickly to turn
the tables upon their catch questions. But then it can't be the real
article of learning, because He hasn't been in our established schools. He
has no sheepskin in a dead language with our learned doctors' names
learnedly inscribed. How indeed! An upstart!!
Yet always to the earnest, sincere inquirer there was authority enough. In
His acts, an open-minded doctor of the law could read the stamp of God's
approval. The ear open to learn, not waxed up by self-seeking plans, or
filled with gold dust, heard the voice of divine approval out of the
clouds, or in His presence and acts.
The Aggressive Rejection.
Then came the second stage, _the aggressive rejection._ This is the
plotting stage. Their hot passion is cooling now into a hardening purpose.
This has been shaping itself under the surface for months. Now it is open.
This was a crowded year for Jesus, and a year of crowds. The Galileans
had been in His southern audiences many a time and seen His miracles. The
news of His coming up north to their country swiftly spread everywhere.
The throngs are so great that the towns and villages are blockaded, and
Jesus has recourse to the fields, where the people gather in untold
An ominous incident occurs at the very beginning of this Galilean work. It
is a fine touch of character that Jesus at once pays a visit to His home
village. One always thinks more of Him for that. He never forgot the home
folk. The synagogue service on the Sabbath day gathers the villagers
together. Jesus takes the teacher's place, and reads, from Isaiah, a bit
of the prophecy of the coming One. Then with a rare graciousness and
winsomeness that wins all hearts, and fastens every eye upon Himself, He
begins talking of the fulfilment of that word in Himself.
Then there comes a strange, quick revulsion of feeling. Had some
Jerusalem spy gotten in and begun his poisoning work already? Eyes begin
to harden and jaws become set. "Why, that is the man that made our
cattle-yoke."--"Yes, and fixed our kitchen table."--"He--the Messiah!"
Then words of rebuke gently spoken, but with truth's razor edge. Then a
hot burst of passion, and He is hustled out to the jagged edge of the hill
to be thrown over. Then that wondrous presence awing them back, as their
hooked hands lose hold, and their eyes again fasten with wonder, and He
passed quietly on His way undisturbed. Surely that was the best evidence
of the truth of His despised word.
Seven outstanding incidents here reveal the ever-hardening purpose of the
leaders against Jesus. First comes another clash in the temple. Their
ideas of what was proper on the Sabbath day receive a shock because a man
enslaved by disease for years was healed with a word from Jesus' lips.
Could there be a finer use of a Sabbath day! We can either think them
really shocked, or hunting for a religious chance to fight Him. Jesus'
reply seems so to enrage that a passion to kill Him grips them. It is
notable that they had no doubt of the extent of Jesus' claim; "He called
God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." On these two things,
His use of the Sabbath, and His claim of divinity, is based the aggressive
campaign begun that day.
The incident draws from Him the marvellous words preserved by John in his
fifth chapter. In support of His claim He quietly brings forward five
witnesses, John His herald, His own miraculous acts, His Father, the
Scriptures entrusted to their care, and Moses, the founder of the nation.
That was a great line of testimony. This first thought of killing Him
seems to have been a burst of hot, passionate rage, but gradually we shall
find it cooled into a hardened, deliberate purpose.
At once Jesus returns to the northern province. And now they begin to
follow Him up, and spy upon His movements and words. In Capernaum, His
northern headquarters, a man apparently at unrest in soul about his sins,
and palsied in body, is first assured of forgiveness, and then made bodily
whole. Their criticism of His forgiving sins is silenced by the power
evidenced in the bodily healing. But their plan of campaign is now begun
in earnest, and is evident at once. Later criticism of His personal
conduct and habits with the despised classes is mingled with an attempt to
work upon His disciples and undermine their loyalty. The Sabbath question
comes up again through the disciples satisfying their hunger in the grain
fields, and brings from Jesus the keen comment that man wasn't made for
the Sabbath, but to be helped through that day, and then the statement
that must have angered them further that He was "Lord of the Sabbath."
Another Sabbath day in the synagogue they were on hand to see if He would
heal a certain man with a whithered hand whom they had gotten track of,
"that they might accuse Him." They were spying out evidence for the use of
the Jerusalem leaders. To His grief they harden their hearts against His
plea for saving a _man_, a _life_, as against a tradition. And as the man
with full heart and full eyes finds his chance of earning a living
restored, they rush out, and with the fire spitting from their eyes, and
teeth gritting, they plan to get their political enemies, the Herodians,
to help them kill Jesus. A number of these incidents give rise to these
passionate outbursts to kill, which seem to cool off, but to leave the
remnants that hardened into the cool purpose most to be dreaded.
A second time occurs that significant word, "withdrew." Jesus withdrew to
the sea, followed by a remarkable multitude of Galileans, and others from
such distant points as Tyre and Sidon on the north, Idumea on the extreme
south, beyond the Jordan on the east, and from Jerusalem. He was safe with
this sympathizing crowd.
The crowds were so great, and the days so crowded, that Jesus' very eating
was interfered with. His friends remonstrate, and even think Him unduly
swayed by holy enthusiasm. But it is a man come down from Jerusalem who
spread freely among the crowds the ugly charge that He was in league with
the devil, possessed by an _unclean_ spirit, and that that explained His
strange power. No uglier charge could be made. It reveals keenly the
desperate purpose of the Jerusalem leaders. Clearly it was made to
influence the crowds. They were panic-stricken over these crowds. What
could He not do with such a backing, if He chose! Such a rumor would
Spread like wildfire. Jesus shows His leadership. He at once calls the
crowds about Him, speaks openly of the charge, and refutes it, showing the
evident absurdity of it.
Then a strange occurrence takes place. While He is teaching a great crowd
one day, there is an interruption in the midst of His speaking Oddly, it
comes from His mother and her other sons. They send in a message asking
to see Him at once. This seems very strange. It would seem probable from
the narrative that they had access to Him constantly. Why this sudden
desire by the one closest to Him by natural ties to break into His very
speaking for a special interview? Had these Jerusalem men been working
upon the fears of her mother heart for the safety of her Son? She would
use her influence to save Him from possible danger threatening? There is
much in the incident to give color to such a supposition. Perhaps a man of
such fineness as He could be checked back by consideration for His
mother's feelings. They were quite capable of pulling any wire to shut Him
up, however ignorant they showed themselves of the simple sturdiness of
true character. But the same man who so tenderly provides for His mother
in the awful pain of hanging on a cross reminds her now that a divine
errand is not to be hindered by nature's ties; that clear vision of duty
must ever hold the reins of the heart.
Then comes the most terrible, and most significant event, up to this time,
in the whole gospel narrative--the murder of John. This marks the sharpest
crisis yet reached. For a year or so John had been kept shut up in a
prison dungeon, evidence of his own faithfulness, and of the low moral
tone, or absence of moral tone, of the time. Then one night there is a
prolonged, debased debauchery in a magnificent palace; the cunning, cruel
scheme of the woman whose wrong relation to Herod John had honestly
condemned. The dancing young princess, the drunken oath, the terrible
request, the glowing-coal eyes closed, the tongue that held crowds with
its message of sin, and of the coming One stilled, the King's herald
headless--the whole horrible, nightmare story comes with the swiftness of
aroused passion, the suddenness of a lightning flash, the cold cruelty of
Instantly on getting the news Jesus "_withdrew_"--for the third time
withdrew to a retired desert place. This had tremendous personal meaning
for Him. Nothing has occurred thus far that spells out for Him the coming
tragic close so large, so terribly large, as does this. He stays away from
the Passover Feast occurring at this time, the only one of the four of His
public career He failed to attend.
The Murderous Rejection.
This crisis leads at once into the final stage, _the murderous rejection_.
Jesus is now a fugitive from the province of Judea, because the death plot
has been deliberately settled upon. The southern leaders begin a more
vigorous campaign of harrying Him up in Galilee. A fresh deputation of
Pharisees come up from Jerusalem to press the fighting. They at once bring
a charge against Jesus' disciples of being untrue to the time-honored
traditions of the national religion. Yet it is found to be regarding such
trivial things as washing their hands and arms clear up to the elbows each
time before eating, and of washing of cups and pots and the like. Jesus
sharply calls attention to their hypocrisy and cant, by speaking of their
dishonoring teachings and practices in matters of serious moment. Then He
calls the crowd together and talks on the importance of being clean
_inside_, in the heart and thought. Before all the crowds He calls them
hypocrites. It's a sharp clash and break. Jesus at once "withdrew." It is
the fourth time that significant danger word is used. This time His
withdrawal is clear out of the Jewish territory, far up north to the
vicinity of Tyre and Sidon, on the seacoast, and there He attempts to
After a bit He returns again, this time by a round-about way, to the Sea
of Galilee. Quickly the crowds find out His presence and come; and again
many a life and many a home are utterly changed by His touch. With the
crowd come the Pharisees, this time in partnership with another group, the
Sadducees, whom they did not love especially. They hypocritically beg a
sign from heaven, as though eager to follow a divinely sent messenger. But
He quickly discerns their purpose to _tempt_ Him into something that can
be used against Him. The sign is refused. Jesus never used His power to
show that He could, but only to help somebody.
The fall of that year found Him boldly returning to the danger zone of
Jerusalem for attendance on the harvest-home festival called by them the
Feast of Tabernacles. It was the most largely attended of the three annual
gatherings, attracting thousands of faithful Jews from all parts of the
world. The one topic of talk among the crowds was Jesus, with varying
opinions expressed; but those favorable to Him were awed by the keen
purpose of the leaders to kill Him. When the festival was in full swing,
one morning, Jesus quietly appears among the temple crowds, and begins
teaching. The leaders tried to arrest Him, but are held back by some
hidden influence, nobody seeming willing to take the lead. Then the clique
of chief priests send officers to arrest Him. But they are so impressed by
His presence and His words, that they come back empty-handed, to the
disgust of their superiors. Great numbers listening believe on Him, but
some of the leaders, mingling in the crowd, stir up discussion so sharp
that with hot passion, and eyes splashing green light, they stoop down and
pick up stones to hurl at Him and end His life at once. It is the first
attempt at personal violence in Jerusalem. But again that strange
restraining power, and Jesus passes out untouched.
As he quietly passes through and out, He stops to give sight to a blind
man. Interestingly enough it occurs on a Sabbath day. Instantly the
leaders seize on this, and have a time of it with the man and his parents
in turn, with this upshot, that the man for his bold confession of faith
in Jesus is shut out from all synagogue privileges, in accordance with a
decision already given out. He becomes an outcast, with all that that
means. It's a fine touch that Jesus hunts up this outcast and gives him a
free entrance into His own circle.
After this feast-visit to Jerusalem, Jesus probably returns to Galilee, as
after previous visits there, and then one day leads His band of disciples
up to the neighborhood of snow-capped Hermon. Here probably occurs the
transfiguration, the purpose of which was to tie up these future leaders
of His, against the events now hurrying on with such swift pace. From this
time begins the preparation of this inner circle for the coming tragedy so
plain to His eyes.
Then begins that memorable last journey from Galilee toward Jerusalem
through the country on the east of the Jordan. With marvellous boldness
and courage He steadfastly set His face toward Jerusalem. The
ever-tightening grip of His purpose is in the set of His face. The fire
burning so intensely within is in His eye as He tramps along the road
alone, with the disciples following, awestruck and filled with wondering
fear. Thirty-five deputations of two each are sent ahead into all the
villages to be visited by Him. What an intense campaigner was Jesus! He
was thoroughly, systematically stumping the whole country for God.
As He approaches nearer to the Jerusalem section the air gets tenser and
hotter. The leaders are constantly harrying His steps, tempting with catch
questions, seeking signs, poisoning the crowds--mosquito warfare! He moves
steadily, calmly on. Some of the keenest things He said flashed out
through the friction of contact with them. A tempting lawyer's question
brings out the beautiful Samaritan parable. The old Sabbath question
provokes a fresh tilt with a synagogue ruler. There is a cunning attempt
by the Pharisees to get Him out of Herod's territory into their own. How
intense the situation grew is graphically told in Luke's words, they
"began to set themselves vehemently against Him, and to provoke Him to
speak many things; laying wait for Him to catch something out of His
Though unmoved by the cunning effort of the Pharisees to get Him over from
Herod's jurisdiction into Judea, despite their threatening attitude, the
winter Feast of Dedication finds Him again in Jerusalem walking in one of
the temple areas. Instantly He is surrounded by a group of these Jerusalem
Jews who, with an air of apparent earnest inquiry, keep prodding Him with
the request to be told plainly if He is really the Christ. His patient
reply brings a storm of stones--almost. Held in check for a while by an
invisible power, or by the power of His presence shown under such
circumstances so often, again they attempt to seize His person, and again
He seems invisibly to hold their hands back, as He quietly passes on His
way out of their midst.
Then comes the stupendous raising of Lazarus, which brings faith in Him to
great numbers, and results in the formal official decision of the national
council to secure His death. He is declared a fugitive with a price set
upon His head. Anybody knowing of His whereabouts must report the fact to
the authorities. This decides Him not to show Himself openly among them.
In a few weeks the pilgrims are crowding Jerusalem for the Passover.
Jesus' name is on every tongue. The rumor that He was over the hills in
Bethany takes a crowd over there, not simply to see Him, but to see the
resurrected Lazarus. Then it was determined to kill Lazarus off, too.
That tremendous last week now begins. Jesus is seen to be the one masterly
figure in the week's events. In comparison with His calm steady movements,
these leaders run scurrying around, here and there, like headless hens.
The week begins with the most public, formal presentation of Himself in a
kingly fashion to the nation. It is their last chance. How wondrously
patient and considerate is this Jesus! And how sublimely heroic! Into the
midst of those men ravenous for His blood He comes. Seated with fine,
unconscious majesty on a kingly beast, surrounded by ever-increasing
multitudes loudly singing and speaking praises to God, over paths
bestrewed with garments and branches of living green, slowly He mounts the
hill road toward the city. At a turn in the road all of a sudden the city
lies spread out before Him. "He saw the city and wept over it."
"He sat upon the ass's colt and rode
Toward Jerusalem. Beside Him walked
Closely and silently the faithful twelve,
And on before Him went a multitude
Shouting hosannas, and with eager hands
Strewing their garments thickly in the way.
Th' unbroken foal beneath Him gently stepped,
Tame as its patient dam; and as the song
Of 'Welcome to the Son of David' burst
Forth from a thousand children, and the leaves
Of the waving branches touched its silken ears,
It turned its wild eye for a moment back,
And then, subdued by an invisible hand,
Meekly trod onward with its slender feet.
"The dew's last sparkle from the grass had gone
As He rode up Mount Olivet. The woods
Threw their cool shadows directly to the west;
And the light foal, with quick and toiling step,
And head bent low, kept up its unslackened way
Till its soft mane was lifted by the wind
Sent o'er the mount from Jordan. As He reached
The summit's breezy pitch, the Saviour raised
His calm blue eye--there stood Jerusalem!
Eagerly He bent forward, and beneath
His mantle's passive folds a bolder line
Than the wont slightness of His perfect limbs
Betrayed the swelling fulness of His heart.
There stood Jerusalem! How fair she looked--
The silver sun on all her palaces,
And her fair daughters 'mid the golden spires
Tending their terrace flowers; and Kedron's stream
Lacing the meadows with its silver band
And wreathing its mist-mantle on the sky
With the morn's exhalation. There she stood,
Jerusalem, the city of His love,
Chosen from all the earth: Jerusalem,
That knew Him not, and had rejected Him;
Jerusalem for whom He came to die!
"The shouts redoubled from a thousand lips
At the fair sight; the children leaped and sang
Louder hosannas; the clear air was filled
With odor from the trampled olive leaves
But 'Jesus wept!' The loved disciple saw
His Master's tear, and closer to His side
He came with yearning looks, and on his neck
The Saviour leaned with heavenly tenderness,
And mourned, 'How oft, Jerusalem! would I
Have gathered you, as gathereth a hen
Her brood beneath her wings--but ye would not!'
"He thought not of the death that He should die--
He thought not of the thorns He knew must pierce
His forehead--of the buffet on the cheek--
The scourge, the mocking homage, the foul scorn!
"Gethsemane stood out beneath His eye
Clear in the morning sun; and there, He knew,
While they who 'could not watch with Him one hour'
Were sleeping, He should sweat great drops of blood,
Praying the cup might pass! And Golgotha
Stood bare and desert by the city wall;
And in its midst, to His prophetic eye
Rose the rough cross, and its keen agonies
Were numbered all--the nails were in His feet--
Th' insulting sponge was pressing on His lips--
The blood and water gushed from His side--
The dizzy faintness swimming in His brain--
And, while His own disciples fled in fear,
A world's death agonies all mixed in His!
Ah!--He forgot all this. He only saw
Jerusalem--the chosen--the loved--the lost!
He only felt that for her sake His life
Was vainly given, and in His pitying love
The sufferings that would clothe the heavens in black
Were quite forgotten.
"Was there ever love,
In earth or heaven, equal to this?"
And so the King entered His capital. It was a royal procession. Mark
keenly the result. Again that utter, ominous, loud silence, that greeted
His ears first, more than three years before. He had come to His own home.
His own kinsfolk received Him not!
Then each day He came to the city, and each night, homeless, slept out in
the open, under the trees of Olivet, and the blue. Now, He rudely shocks
them by clearing the temple areas of the market-place rabble and babble,
and now He is healing the lame and maimed in the temple itself, amid the
reverent praise of the multitude, the songs of the children, and the
scowling, muttered protests of the chief priests. Calmly, day by day, He
moves among them, while their itching fingers vainly clutch for a hold
upon Him, and as surely are held back by some invisible force. By every
subtle device known to cunning, crafty men, they lay question-traps, and
lie in wait to catch His word. He foils them with His marvellous, simple
answers, lashes them with His keen, cutting parables and finally Himself
proposes a question about their own scriptures which they admit themselves
unable to answer, and, utterly defeated, ask no more questions. Then
follows that most terrific arraignment of these leaders, with its
infinitely tender, sad, closing lament over Jerusalem. That is the final
Then occurs that pathetic Greek incident that seems to agitate Jesus so.
This group of earnest seekers, from the outside, non-Jewish world brings
to Jesus a vision of the great hungry heart of the world, and of an
open-mindedness to truth such as was to Him these days as a cool,
refreshing drink to a dusty mouth on a dry hot day. But--no--the Father's
will--simple obedience--only that was right. The harvest can come only
through the grain giving out its life in the cold ground.
Before the final act in the tragedy Jesus retires from sight, probably for
prayer. Some dear friends of Bethany in whose home He had rested many a
time, where He ever found sweet-sympathy, arranged a little home-feast for
Him where a few congenial friends might gather. While seated there in the
quiet atmosphere of love and fellowship so grateful to Him after those
Jerusalem days, one of the friends present, a woman, Mary, takes a box of
exceeding costly ointment, and anoints His head. To the strange protests
made, Jesus quietly explains her thought in the act. She alone understood
what was coming. Alone of all others it was a woman, the simple-hearted
Bethany Mary, who _understood_ Jesus. As none other did she perceive with
her keen love-eyes the coming death, and--more--its meaning.
It is one of the disciples, Judas, who protests indignantly against such
_waste_. This ointment would have brought at least seventy-five dollars,
and how much such a sum would have done for the _poor_! Thoughtless,
improvident woman! Strange the word didn't blister on his canting lips.
John keenly sees that his fingers are clutching the treasure bag as he
speaks the word, and that his thoughts are far from the poor. Jesus gently
rebukes Judas. But Judas is hot tempered, and sullenly watches for the
first chance to withdraw and carry out the damnable purpose that has been
forming within. He hurries over the hill, through the city gate, up to the
palace of the chief priest.
Within there was a company of the inner clique of the leaders, discussing
how to get hold of Jesus most easily. They sit heavily in their seats,
with shut fists, set jaws, and that peculiar yellow-green light spitting
out from under their lowering, knit brows. These bothersome crowds had to
be considered. The feast-day wouldn't do. The crowd would be greatest
then, and hardest to handle. Back and forth they brew their scheme. Then a
knock at the door. Startled, they look alertly up to know who this
intruder may be. The door is opened. In steps a man with a hangdog,
guilty, but determined look. It is one of the men they have seen with
Jesus! What can this mean? He glances furtively from one to another.
Then he speaks: "How much'll you give if I get Jesus into your hands?" Of
all things this was probably the last they had thought might happen. Their
eyes gleam. How much indeed--a good snug sum to get their fingers securely
on his person. But they're shrewd bargainers. That's one of their
specialties. How much did he _want_? Poor Judas! He made a bad bargain
that day. Thirty pieces of silver! He could easily have gotten a thousand.
Judas did love money greedily, and doubtless was a good bargainer too, but
anger was in the saddle now, and drove him hard. Without doubt it was in a
hot fit of temper that he made this proposal. His descendants have been
coining money out of Jesus right along: exchanging Him for gold.
Only a little later, and the Master is closeted with His inner circle in
the upper room of a faithful friend's house in one of the Jerusalem
streets, for the Passover supper. A word from Him and Judas withdraws for
his dark errand. Then those great heart-talks of Jesus, in the upper room,
along the roadway, under the full moon, maybe passing by the massive
temple structure, then under the olive trees. Then the hour grows late,
the disciples are drowsy, the Master is off alone among those trees, then
weird uncertain lights of torches, a rabble of soldiers and priests, a man
using friendship's cloak, and friendship's greeting--then the King is in
the hands of His enemies. An awful night, followed by a yet more awful
day, and the plan of the kingdom is broken by the tragic killing of the
Suffering the Birth-pains of a New Life.
Why did Jesus die? It's a pretty old question. It's been threshed out no
end of times. Yet every time one thinks of the gospel, or opens the Book,
it looks out earnestly into his face. And nothing is better worth while
than to have another serious prayerful go at it. The whole nub of the
gospel is here. It clears the ground greatly not to have any theory about
Jesus' death, but simply to try thoughtfully to gather up all the
statements and group them, regardless of where it may lead, or how it may
knock out previous ideas.
It can be said at once that His dying was not God's own plan. It was a
plan conceived somewhere else, and yielded to by God. God had a plan of
atonement by which men who were willing could be saved from sin and its
effects. That plan is given in the old Hebrew code. To the tabernacle, or
temple, under prescribed regulations, a man could bring some live animal
which he owned. The man brought that which was his own. It represented
him. Through his labor the beast or bird was his. He had transferred some
of his life and strength into it. He identified himself with it further by
close touch at the time of its being offered. He offered up its life. In
his act he acknowledged that his own life was forfeited. In continuing to
live he acknowledged the continued life as belonging to God. He was to
live as belonging to another. He made, in effect, the statement made long
after by Paul: "I am offering up my life on this altar for my sin;
nevertheless I am living: yet the life I live is no longer mine, but
another's. Mine has been taken away by sin." There was no malice or evil
feeling in the man's act, but only penitence, and an earnest, noble
The act revealed the man's inner spirit. It acknowledged his sin, that
life is forfeited by sin, his desire to have the sin difficulty
straightened out, and to be at one again with God. He expressed his hatred
of sin and his earnest desire to be free of it. I am not saying at all
that this was true of every Hebrew coming with his sacrifice. I may not
say it of all who approach God to day through Jesus. But clearly enough,
all of this is in the old Hebrew _plan_ devised by God. It was the new
choice that brought the man back to God, even as the first choice had
separated him from God. And the explicit statement made over and over is
this, "and it shall make atonement."
Clearly Jesus' dying does not in any way fit into the old Hebrew _form_ of
sacrifice, nor into the spirit of the man who caused the death of the
sacrifice, though in spirit, in requirement it far more than fills it out.
The Old Testament scheme is Jewish. The manner of Jesus' death is not
Jewish, but Roman. As a priest He was not of the Jewish order, but of an
order non-Jewish and antedating the other by hundreds of years. In no
feature does He fit into the old custom. But every truth taught by the old
is brilliantly exemplified and embodied in Him.
The epistle to the Hebrews was written to Jews who had become Christians,
but through persecution and great suffering were sorely tempted to go back
to the old Jewish faith. They seemed to be saying that Jesus filled out
neither the kingdom plan, nor the Mosaic scheme of sacrifice. The writer
of the epistle is showing with a masterly sweep and detail the immense
superiority of what Jesus did over the old Mosaic plan. Read backward,
these provisions are seen to be vivid illustrations of what Jesus did do,
not in form, not actually, but in fact, in spirit, in a way vastly ahead
of the Hebrew ritual. The truth underneath the old was fully fulfilled in
Jesus, though the form was not.
One needs always to keep sharply in mind the difference between God's
_plan_ and that which He clearly saw ahead, and into which He determined
to fit in carrying out His purpose. There is no clearer, stronger
statement of this than that found in Peter's Pentecost sermon: "Him being
delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by
the hands of men without law did crucify and slay." God knew ahead what
would come. There was a conference held. The whole matter talked over.
With full knowledge of the situation, the obstinate hatred of men, the
terrific suffering involved, it was calmly, resolutely advised and decided
upon that when the time came Jesus should yield Himself up pliantly into
their hands. That is Peter's statement.
This in no way affects the fact that Jesus dying as He did is the one
means of salvation. It does not at all disturb any of Paul's statements,
in their plainest, first-flush meaning. It does explain the kingdom plan,
and the necessity for Jesus finishing up the kingdom plan some day. For
though God's plan may be broken, and retarded, it always is carried
through in the end. It explains too that evil is never necessary to good.
Hatred, evil never helps God's plans. The good that God brought out of the
cross is not through the bad, but in spite of the bad.
The preaching of the Acts is absorbed with the astounding, overshadowing,
appalling fact of the killing of the nation's King. But through it all
runs this strain of reasoning: the kingdom plan has been broken by the
murder of the King. He has been raised from the dead in vindication of His
claim. This marvellous power that is so evident to all eyes and ears is
the Holy Spirit whom the killed King has sent down. It proves that He is
now enthroned in glory at God's right hand. He is coming back to carry out
the kingdom plan. Now the thing to do is to repent, and so there will come
blessing now, and by and by the King again.
When the first church council is held to discuss the matter of letting
non-Jewish outsiders into their circle, the clear-headed,
judicial-tempered James, in the presiding chair, puts the thing straight.
He says: "Peter has fully told us how God _first_ visited the outside
nations to take out of them a people for Himself. And this fits into the
prophetic plan as outlined by Amos, that _after_ that the kingdom will be
set up and then _all_ men will come."
This brings out in bold relief the fact that the _horrible_ features of
Jesus' dying, the hatred and cruelty, were no part of the plan of
salvation, and not necessary to the plan. The cross was the invention of
hate. There is no cross in God's plan of atonement. It is the superlative
degree of hate, brooded and born, and grown lusty in hell. It was God's
master touch that, through yielding, it _becomes_ to all men for all time
the superlative degree of love. The ages have softened all its sharp
jagged edges with a halo of glory.
It is perfectly clear, too, that Jesus died of His own accord. He chose
the _time_ of His death and the _manner_ of it. He had said it was purely
voluntary on His part, and the record plainly shows that it was. All
attempts to kill Him failed until He chose to yield. There are ten
separate mentions of their effort, either to get hold of His person or to
kill Him at once before they finally succeeded. He was killed _in intent_
at least three times, once by being dashed over a precipice, and twice by
stoning, before He was actually killed by crucifixion. Each time
surrounded by a hostile crowd, apparently quite capable of doing as they
pleased, yet each time He passes through their midst, and their hooked
fingers are restrained against their will, and their gnashing teeth bite
only upon the spittle of their hate.
This makes Jesus' _motive_ in yielding explain His death. The cross means
just what His purpose in dying puts into it. If we read the facts of the
gospel stories apart from Jesus' words, the cross spells out just one
word--in large, pot-black capitals--HATE.
What was Jesus' motive or purpose in dying? His own words give the best
answer. The earlier remarks are obscure to those who heard, not
understood. And we can understand that they could not. At the first
Passover He speaks of their destroying "this temple," and His raising it
in three days. Naturally they think of the building of stone, but He is
thinking of His body. To Nicodemus He says that the Son of Man must "be
_lifted up_": and to some critics that when the "bridegroom" is "taken
away" there will be fasting among His followers.
Later, He speaks much more plainly. After John has gone home by way of
Herod's red road, at the time of the feeding of the 5,000 there is the
discussion about bread, and the true bread. Jesus speaks a word that
perplexes the crowd much, and yet He goes on to explain just what He
means. It is in John, sixth chapter, verses fifty-three to fifty-seven
inclusive, He says that if a man eat His flesh and drink His blood he
shall have eternal life. The listening crowd takes the words literally and
of course is perplexed. Clearly enough it is not meant to be taken
literally. Read in the light of the after events it is seen to be an
allusion to His coming death. Such a thing as actually eating His flesh
and drinking His blood would necessitate His death.
We men are under doom of death written in our very bodies, assured to us
by the unchangeable fact of bodily death. Now if a man take Jesus into his
very being so that they become one in effect, then clearly if Jesus die
the man is freed from the necessity of dying. Through Jesus dying there is
for such a man _life_. That is the statement Jesus makes.
In five distinct sentences He attempts to make His meaning simple and
clear. The first sentence puts the _negative_ side: there is no life
without Jesus being taken into one's being. Then the positive side:
through this sort of eating there is _life_. And with this is coupled the
inferential statement that they are not to be spared _bodily_ death,
because they are to be _raised up_. The third sentence, that Jesus is the
one true food of real life. The fourth sentence gives a parallel or
interchangeable phrase for eating and drinking, _i.e._, "_abideth_ in me
and I in Him." A mutual abiding in each other. The food abides in the man
eating it. The man abides in the strength of the food He has taken in.
Eating My flesh means abiding in Me. The last sentence gives an
illustration. This living in Jesus, having Him live in us as closely as
though actually eaten, is the same as Jesus' own life on earth being lived
in His Father, dependent upon the Father. And when the crowds take His
words literally and complain that none can understand such statements, He
at once explains that, of course, He does not mean literal eating--"The
flesh profiteth nothing" (even if you did eat it): "it is the _Spirit_
that gives life:" "the _words_ ... are _Spirit_ and _life_." The taking
of Jesus through His words into one's life to dominate--that is the
A few months later, in Jerusalem, He speaks again of His purpose, in
John's tenth chapter, "The good shepherd layeth down His life for the
sheep." "I lay down my life for the sheep." The death was for others
because of threatening danger. "Other sheep I have which are not of this
fold: them also I must lead." Here is clear foresight of the wide sweep of
influence through His death. "I lay down my life that I may take it
again." The death was _one step_ in a plan. There is something beyond. "I
lay it down of myself. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the
right to take it again. This commandment I received from my Father." The
dying was voluntary and was agreed to between the Father and Himself. To
the disciples He speaks of the need of taking up a "cross" in order to be
followers, and to the critical Pharisee asking a sign, He alludes to
Jonah's three days and nights in the belly of the sea monster. Neither of
these allusions conveyed any definite idea to those listening.
Then the last week when the Greeks came; "Except a grain of wheat fall
into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it
beareth much fruit." The dying was to have great influence upon others.
"And I if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto myself."
The dying was to be _for others_, and to exert tremendous influence upon
the whole race.
In that last long talk with the eleven, "that the world may know that I
love the Father and as the Father gave me commandment even so I do." The
dying was in obedience to His Father's wish, and was to let men know of
the great love between Father and Son. "Greater love hath no man than
this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." This dying was for
these friends. And in that great prayer that lays His heart bare, "for
their sakes I sanctify myself that they also may be sanctified in truth."
The dying is _for others_, and is for the securing in these others of a
certain spirit or character. The reference to the dying being in accord
with the Father's wish comes out again at the arrest, "The cup that the
Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?"
To these quotations from Jesus' lips may be added a significant one from
the man who stood closest to Jesus. Referring to a statement about Jesus
made by Caiaphas, John adds: "being high priest that year he prophesied
that Jesus should die for the nation; and not for the nation only, but
that He might gather together into one the children of God that are
scattered abroad." As John understood the matter, the death was not simply
for others, but for the _Jewish nation_ as a nation, and beyond that for a
gathering into one of _all_ of God's children. Jesus was to be God's
magnet for attracting together all that belong to Him. The death was to be
a roadway through to something beyond.
From His own words, then, Jesus saw a _necessity_ for His dying. He
"must" be lifted up. That "must" spells out the desperateness of the need
and the strength of His love. Sin contains in itself death for man as a
logical result. And by death is not meant the passing of life out of the
body. That is a mere incident of death. Death is separation from God. It
is gradual until finally complete. Love would plan nothing less radical
than a death that would be for man the death of death. His death was to be
_for others_, it was purely _voluntary_, it was by agreement with His
Father, in obedience to His wishes, and an evidence of His filial love.
The death is a step in a plan. There is something beyond, growing out of
Jesus plans not merely a transfer of the death item, but a _new_ life, a
new _sort_ of life, in its place. The dying is but a step. It is a great
step, tremendously great, indispensable, the step that sets the pace. Yet
but one step of a number. Beyond the dying is the _living_, living a _new_
life. He works out in Himself the plan for them--a dying, and after that a
new life, and a new sort of life. Then according to His other teaching
there is the sending of some One else to men to work out in His name in
each of them this plan. That plan is to be worked out in each man choosing
to receive Him into his life. He will send down His other self, the Holy
Spirit, to work this out in each one. Jesus' death released His life to be
re-lived in us. Jesus plans to get rid of the sin in a man, and put in
something else in its place. The sin must be gotten out, first washed
out, then burned out. Then a new seed put in that will bear life. What a
chemist and artist in one is this Jesus! He uses bright red, to get a pure
white out of a dead black.
In addition to the plan for man individually, the dying is to produce the
same result in the Jewish nation. There is to be a national new-birth. A
new Jewish people. And then the dying is to have a tremendous influence
upon all men. On the cross Jesus would suffer the birth-pains of a new
life for man and for the world. Such, in brief, seems to be the grouping
of Jesus' own thought about His dying. Its whole influence is manward.
The value of Jesus' dying lies wholly in its being _voluntary_. Of
deliberate purpose He _allowed_ them to put Him to death. Otherwise they
could not, as is fully proven by their repeated failures. And the purpose
as well as the value of the death lies entirely in His _motive_ in
yielding. If they could have taken His life without His consent, then that
death would have been an expression of their hate, and only that. But as
it is, it forever stands an expression of two things. On their part of the
intensest, hottest hate; on His part of the finest, strongest love. It
makes new records for both hate and love. Sin put Jesus to death. In
yielding to these men Jesus was yielding to sin, for they personified sin.
And sin yielded to quickly brought death, its logical outcome.
Jesus' dying being His own act, controlled entirely by His own intention,
makes it _sacrificial_. There are certain necessary elements in such a
sacrifice. It must be voluntary. It must involve pain or suffering of some
sort. The suffering must be _undeserved_, that is, in no way or degree a
result of one's own act, else it is not sacrifice, but logical result. It
must be for others. And the suffering must be of a sort that would not
come save for this voluntary act. It must be supposed to bring benefit to
the others. Each of these elements must be in to make up fully a
sacrifice. There are elements of sacrifice in much noble suffering by man.
But in no one do all of these elements perfectly combine and blend, save
To this agree the words of the philosopher of the New Testament writers.
It would be so, of course, for the Spirit of Jesus swayed Paul. The
epistle to the Romans contains a brief packed summary of his understanding
of the gospel plan. There is in it one remarkable statement of the
_Father's_, purpose in Jesus' death. In the third chapter, verse
twenty-six, freely translated, "that He might be reckoned righteous in
reckoning righteous the man who has faith." "That He might be reckoned
righteous"--that is, in His attitude toward sin. That in allowing things
to go on as they were, in holding back sin's logical judgment, He was not
careless or indifferent about sin or making light of it. He was controlled
by a great purpose.
God's great difficulty was to make clear at once both His love and His
hate: His love for man: His hate for the sin that man had grained in so
deep that they were as one. For the man's sake He must show His love to
win and change him. For man's sake He must show His hate of sin that man,
too, might know its hatefulness and learn to hate it with intensest hate.
His love for man is to be the measure of man's hate for sin. The death of
Jesus was God's master-stroke. At one stroke He told man His estimate of
man and His estimate of man's sin; His love and His hate. It was the
measureless measure of His hate for sin, and His love for man. It was a
master-stroke too, in that He took sin's worst--the cross--and in it
revealed His own best. Out of what was meant for God's defeat, came sin's
defeat, and God's greatest victory.
And the one simple thing that transfers to a man all that Jesus has worked
out for him is what is commonly called "faith." That is, trusting God,
turning the heart Godward, yielding to the inward upward tug, letting the
pleasing of God dominate the life. This, be it keenly marked, has ever
been the one simple condition in every age and in every part of the earth.
Abraham _believed_ God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness. The
devout Hebrew, reverently, penitently standing with his hand on the head
of his sacrifice, at the tabernacle door, _believed_ God and it was
reckoned to _him_ for righteousness. The devout heathen with face turned
up to the hill top, and feet persistently toiling up, patiently seeking
glory and honor and incorruption _believes_ God, though he may not know
His name, and it is reckoned to _him_ for righteousness. The devout
Christian, with his hand in Christ's, _believes_ God, and it is counted to
_him_ for righteousness.
The devout Hebrew, the earnest heathen, and the more enlightened believer
in Jesus group themselves here by the common purpose that grips them
alike. The Hebrew with his sacrifice, the heathen with his patient
continuance, and the Christian who _knows_ more in knowing Jesus, stand
together under the mother wing of God.
Some Surprising Results of the Tragic Break
The Surprised Jew.
God proposes. Man disposes. God proposed a king, and a world-wide kingdom
with great prosperity and peace. Man disposed of that plan for the bit of
time and space controlled by his will, and in its place interposed for the
king, a cross. Out of such a radical clashing of two great wills have come
some most surprising results.
The first surprise was for the Jew. Within a few weeks after Jesus' final
departure, Jerusalem, and afterward Palestine, was filled with thousands
of people believing in Him. A remarkable campaign of preaching starts up
and sweeps everything before it. Jesus' name was on every tongue as never
before. But there were earnest Jews who could not understand how Jesus
could be the promised Messiah. He had not set up a kingdom. Their
Scriptures were full of a kingdom.
The Jew, whether in their largest colony in Babylon, or in Jerusalem, or
in Rome, or Alexandria, or the smaller colonies everywhere, was full of
the idea, the hope, of a kingdom. He was absorbed with more or less
confused and materialized, unspiritual ideas of a coming glory for his
nation through a coming king. But among the followers of this Jesus there
is something else coming into being, a new organization never even hinted
at in their Scriptures. It is called the church. It is given a name that
indicates that it is to be made up of persons taken out from among all
There comes to be now a three-fold division of all men. There had been
with the Jews, always, a two-fold division, the Jew and the Gentiles, or
outside nations. Now three, the Jew, the outsiders, and the church. The
church is an eclectic society, a chosen out body. Its principle of
organization is radically different from that of the Hebrew nation. There
membership was by birthright. Here it is by individual choice and belief.
Foreigners coming in were not required to become Jews, as under the old,
but remained essentially as they have been in all regards, except the one
thing of relationship to Jesus in a wholly spiritual sense. There is
constant talk about "the _gospel_ of the kingdom," but the kingdom itself
_seems_ to have quite slipped away, and the church is in its place. Such a
situation must have been very puzzling to any Jew. His horizon was full of
a kingdom--a _Jew_ kingdom. Anything else was unthinkable. These intense
Orientals could not conceive of anything else. It had taken a set of
visions to swing Peter and the other church leaders into line even on
letting outsiders into the church.
This Jesus does not fill out this old Hebrew picture of a king and a
kingdom. How _can_ He be the promised Messiah? This was to thousands a
most puzzling question, and a real hinderance to their acceptance of
Jesus, even by those profoundly impressed with the divine power being
This was the very question that had puzzled John the Baptist those weary
months, till finally he sends to Jesus for some light on his puzzle. Jesus
fills out part of the plan, and splendidly, but only part, and may be what
seems to some the smaller part. Can it be, John asks, that there is to be
another one coming to complete the picture? To him Jesus does not give an
answer, except that he must wait and trust. He would not in words
anticipate the nation's final rejection, though so well He knew what was
coming. Their chance was not yet run out for the acceptance of Jesus that
would fill out John's picture. God never lets His foreknowledge influence
one whit man's choice. It was a most natural and perplexing difficulty,
both for John and later for these thousands.
The answer to all this has its roots down in that tragic break. In the old
picture of the Messiah there are two distinct groups of characteristics of
the coming king, _personal_ and _official_. He was to have a direct
personal relation to men and an official relation to the nation, and
through it to the world. The personal had in it such matters as healing
the sick, relieving the distressed, raising the dead, feeding the hungry,
easing heart strains, teaching and preaching. It was wholly a personal
service. The official had, of course, to do with establishing the great
kingdom and bringing all other nations into subjection. Now, it was a bit
of the degeneracy of the people and of the times, that when Jesus came the
blessings to the individual had slipped from view, and that the national
conception, grown gross and coarse, had seized upon the popular
imagination, and was to the fore.
Jesus filled in perfectly with marvellous fulness the individual details
of the prophetic picture. Of course filling in the national depended upon
national acceptance, and failure there meant failure for that side. And,
of course, He could not fill out the national part except through the
nation's acceptance of Him as its king. Rejection there meant a breaking,
a hindering of that part. And so Jesus _does not_ fill out the old Hebrew
picture of the Messiah. He could not without the nation's consent. Man
would have used force to seize the national reins. But, of course, God's
man could not do that. It would be against God's plan for man. Everything
must be through man's consent.
Out of this perplexity there came to be the four Gospels. They grew up out
of the needs of the people. Mark seems to have written his first. He makes
a very simple recital, setting down the group of facts and sayings as He
had heard Peter telling them in many a series of talks. It is the
simplest of the four, aiming to tell what he had gotten from another. But
it offers no answer to these puzzling questions.
Matthew writes his account of the gospel for these great numbers of
perplexed, earnest Jewish questioners. They are Palestinian Jews,
thoroughly familiar with Jewish customs and places. Sitting backward on
the edge of the Hebrew past, thoroughly immersed in its literature and
atmosphere, but with his face fastened on Jesus, he composes out of the
facts about Jesus and the old prophetic scriptures a perfect bit of
mosaic. There is the fascination of a serpent's eye in turning from the
prophetic writings to the Gospel of Matthew. Let a man become immersed and
absorbed in the vision of the Hebrew prophetic books and then turn to
Matthew to get the intense impression that this promised One _has_ come,
at last has actually come, _and_--tragedy of tragedies--_is being
This is the gap gospel. It bridges the gap between the prophetic books and
the book of Acts, between the kingdom which has slipped out and the church
which has come in. It explains the adjournment of the kingdom for a
specified time, the church filling a sort of interregnum in the kingdom.
The kingdom is to come later when the church mission is complete. It tells
with great care and with convincing power that Jesus filled perfectly the
prophecy of the Messiah in every detail _personally_, and did not fill out
the _national_ features because of the nation's unwillingness. That is
the Matthew Gospel.
Paul was the apostle to the outside nations. His great work was outside of
Palestine. He dealt with three classes, Jews, outsiders who in religious
matters had allied themselves with the Jews, but without changing their
nationality, and then the great outside majority, chiefly the great crowds
of other nationalities. These people needed a gospel of their own. Their
standpoint is so wholly different from the Jews' that Matthew's gospel
does not suit, nor Mark's. Paul, through Peter and Barnabas and others,
has absorbed the leading facts and teachings of those three years, and
works them over for his non-Jewish crowds. He omits much that would appeal
peculiarly to Jews, and gives the setting and coloring that would be most
natural to his audiences.
His studious companion, Doctor Luke, undertakes to write down this account
of Jesus' life as Paul tells it, and for Paul's audience and territory,
especially these great outside non-Jewish crowds of people. He goes to
Palestine, and carefully studies and gathers up all the details and facts
available. He adds much that the two previous writers had not included.
One can easily understand his spending several days with Mary, the now
aged mother of Jesus, in John's home in Jerusalem, and from her lips
gleaning the exquisite account of the nativity of her divinely conceived
Son. He largely omits names of places, for they would be unknown and not
of value or interest. When needed, he gives explanation about places.
These three gospels follow one main line; they tell the story of the
_rejection_ of Jesus. Then there arose a generation that did not know
Jesus, the Jesus that had tramped Jerusalem's streets and Galilee's roads.
Some were wondering, possibly, how it was that these gospels are absorbed
in telling of Jesus' _rejection_. There surely was a reason for it if He
was so sweepingly rejected. So John in his old age writes. His chief
thought is to show that from the first Jesus was _accepted by individuals_
as well as _rejected by the nation_. These two things run neck and neck
through his twenty-one chapters, along the pathway he makes of witnessed,
established facts regarding Jesus. The nation--the small, powerfully
entrenched group of men who held the nation's leadership in their
tenacious fingers--the nation rejects. It's true. But the ugly reason is
plain to all, even the Roman who gave final sentence. From the first,
Jesus was accepted by men of all classes, including the most thoughtful
He is writing to the generation that has grown up since Jesus has gone,
and so to all after generations that knew of Him first by _hearing_ of
Him. He is writing after the Jewish capital has been leveled to the
ground, and the nation utterly destroyed as a nation, and to people away
from Palestine. So he explains Jewish usages and words as well as places
in Palestine, to make the story plain and vivid to all. And the one point
at which he drives constantly is to make it clear to all after
generations that men of every sort of Jesus' own generation believed;
questioned, doubted, examined, weighed, _believed_, with whole-hearted
loving loyalty followed this Jesus.
This decides the order in which, with such rare wisdom, the churchmen
later arranged the four gospels in grouping the New Testament books. The
order is that of the growth of the new faith of the church from the Jewish
outward. Next to the Hebrew pages lies the gap gospel, then the earliest,
simplest telling, then the outsiders' gospel, and then the gospel for
The Surprised Church.
Man proposes. God disposes. Man may for a time set aside God's plan, but
through any series of contrary events God holds steadily to His own plan.
Temporary defeat is only adjournment, paving the way for later and greater
victory. Another surprise is for the church, that is, the church of later
generations, including our own. The old Jew saw only a triumphant king,
not a suffering king. He saw only a kingdom. There was no hint of any such
thing as a church. The church to-day, and since the day of Constantine,
sees only a church. The kingdom has merged into the church or slipped out
There seems to be a confused mixing of church and kingdom, but always with
the church the big thing, and the kingdom a sort of vague,
indefinite--folks don't seem to know just what--an ideal, a spiritual
conception, or something like that. The church is supposed to have taken
the place of the kingdom. Its mission seems to be supposed to be the doing
for the world what the kingdom was to do, but, being set aside, failed to
In reading the old Book there is a handy sort of explanation largely in
use that applies all that can be fitted into the theory in hand, and
calmly ignores or conveniently adjusts the rest. The Old Testament
blessings for the Jewish kingdom are appropriated and applied to the
church. The curses there are handed over to the Jews or ignored. There
seems to be a plan of interpreting one part of the Bible one way and
another part in a different way. This part is to be taken literally. This
other not literally, spiritually, the only guiding principle being the
man's preconceived idea of what should be. The air seems quite a bit foggy
sometimes. A man has to go off for a bit of fresh air and get straightened
out with himself inside.
A whiff of keen, sharp air seems needed to clear the fog and bring out the
old outlines--a whiff?--a gale! Yet it must needs blow, like God's wind of
grace always blows, as a soft gentle breeze. The common law among folk in
all other matters for understanding any book or document is that some one
rule of interpretation be applied consistently to all its parts. If we
attempt to apply here the rule of first-flush, common sense meaning, as
would be done to a house lease or an insurance policy, it brings out this
surprising thing. The church is distinct from the kingdom. It came
through the kingdom failing to come. It fits into a gap in the kingdom
plan. It has a mission quite distinct from that of the kingdom.
The church is to complete its mission and go. The kingdom, in the plain
meaning of the word kingdom, is to come, and be the dominant thing before
the eyes of all men. The church goes up and out. The kingdom comes in and
down. Later the church is to be a part of the executive of the kingdom.
This seems to be the simple standpoint of the Book.
The tragic break does not hinder the working of the plan. It simply
_retards_ it awhile. A _long_ while? Yes--to man, who counts time by the
bulky measurement of years, and can't seem to shake off the _time_ idea;
who gets absorbed in moments and hours and loses the broad swing of
things. To God?--No. He lives in eternities, and reckons things by events.
His eye never loses the whole, nor a single detail of the whole.
But yet more. That break leads to an _enriching_ of the plan. Out of hate
God reveals love. Not a greater love, but a greater opportunity for
greatly revealing love. Man's unwillingness and opposition may _delay_
God's plan, but cannot hinder it. A man can hinder it for his own self if
he so insist. But for others he can only delay, not hinder. Though God may
patiently yield His own plan, for a time, to something else, through which
meanwhile His main purpose is being served, yet He never loses sight of
His own plan--the highest expression of His love. And when He does so
yield, it is that _through_ the interruption He may in the long run work
out the higher and the highest.
And so in the fulfilment of God's plan as given by His Hebrew spokesmen,
there is a sort of sliding scale. A partial fulfilment takes place,
leaving the full fulfilment for the full working out of the plan. The
fulfilment takes place in two stages, the first being only less full than
the final. Thus Elijah is to come. But first comes John, a man with most
striking resemblance to Elijah. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit
prophesied in Joel is to be upon _all_ flesh. But before that takes place,
comes the Pentecost outpouring, filling out the Joel prophecy in spirit,
but not in the full measure.
As a matter of good faith the King must come back and carry out the
kingdom plan in full. And judging simply by the character of God and of
Jesus, I haven't a bit of doubt that He will do it. No amount of
disturbance ever alters the love of God, nor His love-plan in the long
run, however patiently He may bear with breaks.
Even this phase is in the minor strain of the old Hebrew. "They shall look
upon Him whom they have _pierced;_ and they shall _mourn_ for Him, as one
mourneth for his only son." _There_ is a future meeting of the rejected
King and His rejecting people, and this time with sorrow for their former
conduct, which implies different conduct at this meeting time. And to this
agrees the whole swing of the New Testament teaching. Peter says the
going away of Jesus is to be "_until_ the restitution of all things." He
is to return and carry out the old plan.
It's a bit unfortunate that some earnest, lovable people have pushed this
phase of truth so much to the front as to get it out of its proportion in
the whole circle of truth. Truth must always be kept in its place in the
circle of truth. Truth is fact in right proportion. Out of that it begins
to breed misstatement and error. Jesus' coming back is not to wind things
up. It is to begin things anew. There will be certain phases of judgment,
doubtless, a clearing of the deck for action, but no general judgment till
long after. The kingdom is to swing to the front, and bring a new life to
the earth for a very long time. Then after that the wind-up.
The gospel preached in the Acts is the "gospel of the _kingdom_." They are
always expecting it to come. Paul constantly alludes to the Master's
return as the great thing to look forward to, as distinctly at the close
as at the beginning of his ministry. The book of Revelation is distinctly
a kingdom book, and however it may, with the versatility of Scripture to
serve a double purpose, foreshadow the characteristics of history for the
centuries since its writing, plainly its first meaning has to do with the
time when "the kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord and
of His Christ." The King is coming back to straighten matters out, and
organize a new running of things. This is the church's surprise, and a
great surprise it will apparently be to a great many folks, though not to
The Surprising Jew.
There is a third surprise growing out of this tragic break, the greatest
of all--_the Jew_. The first surprises were for the Jew, the later
surprise for the church; this surprise has been and is for all the world.
The Jew has been the running puzzle of history. A strange, elusive,
surprising puzzle he has been to historians and all others. Not a nation,
only a people, flagless, countryless, without any semblance of
organization, they have been mixed in with all the peoples of the earth,
yet always distinctly separate.
They have been persecuted, bitterly, cruelly, persistently persecuted, as
no other people has ever been, yet with a power of recovery of none other
too. With an astonishing vitality, resourcefulness, and leadership, they
have taken front rank in every circle of life and every phase of activity,
in art, music, science, commerce, philanthropy, statesmanship; holding the
keys of government for great nations, of treasure boxes, and of exclusive
social circles; making their own standards regardless of others, and with
the peculiarity of strongest leadership, pushing on, whether followed or
And now the past few years comes a new thing. This surprising Jew is
surprising us anew. From all corners of the earth they are gathering as
not since the scattering to the Assyrian plains, gathering to discuss and
plan for the getting into shape as a nation again on the old home soil.
Jews of every sort, utterly diverse in every other imaginable way, except
this of being Jews, men who hate each other intensely because of divergent
beliefs in other matters, yet brushing elbows in annual gatherings to plan
with all their old time intensity a new Jewish nation. Along the highways
of earth, made and controlled by Christian peoples, they come. What does
it mean? They continue to be, as they have been, the puzzle of history.
This tragic break of the kingdom and the persistency of the King's plan
regardless of the break hold the key to the puzzle. The Jew has been
preserved, divinely preserved, against every attempt at his destruction.
For he is the keystone in the arch of the King's plan for a coming
Jesus is God's spirit-magnet for the Jew and for all men. Around Him they
will yet gather, with the new Jewish nation in the lead, the church
closest to the person of the king, and all men drawn. Jesus is God's
organizer of the social fabric of the world. In response to His presence
and touch, each in his own place will swing into line and make up a
perfect social fabric.
With the new zeal for pure, holy living now in the church, the clearer
vision coming to her of the Lord's purpose of evangelizing the world, the
evidence in all parts of the world of men turning their thought anew to
God, this remarkable Jewish movement toward national life, it is a time
for earnest men to get off alone on bent knees, and with new, quietly deep
fervor, to pray "Thy kingdom come." "Even so come, Lord Jesus."
II. The Person of Jesus
1. The Human Jesus.
2. The Divine Jesus.
3. The Winsome Jesus.
The Human Jesus
God's Meaning of "Human."
Jesus is God becoming man's fellow. He comes down by his side and says,
"Let's pull up together." Jesus was a man. He was as truly human as though
only human. We are apt to go at a thing from the outside. God always
reaches _within_, and fastens His hook there. He finds the solution of
every problem within itself. When He would lead man back the Eden road to
the old trysting place under the tree of life He sent a man. Jesus takes
His place as a man and refuses to be budged from the human level with His
That word human has come to have two meanings. The first true meaning, and
a second, that has grown up through sin, and sin's taint and trail. The
second has become the common popular meaning; the first, the forgotten
meaning. It will help us live up to our true possible selves to mark
keenly the distinction. The first is God's meaning, the true. The second
is sin's, the hurt meaning. Constantly we read the effect and result of
sin into God's thought as though that were the real thing. This is grained
in deep, woven into the adages of the race. For instance, "To err is
human, to forgive divine." Yet this catchy statement is not true, save in
part. To forgive is human--God's human--as well as divine. Not to forgive
is devilish. It is not human to err. It is possible to the human being to
err, as it is with angels, but, in erring, man is leaving the human level
and going lower down.
To understand what it means to say that Jesus is human we must recall what
human meant originally, and has properly come to mean. Man as made by God
before the hurt of sin came had certain powers and limitations. His
powers, briefly, were, mastery of his body, of his mental faculties, and
powers in the spirit realm so lost to us now that we cannot even say
definitely what they are. And mastery means poised, mature control, not
misuse, nor abuse, nor lack of use, but full proper use. Possibly there
were powers of communication between men in addition to speech unknown to
us. Then, too, he had dominion over nature, over all the animal creation,
over all the forces of nature, and not only dominion, but fellowship with
the animal creation and with the forces of nature: dominion _through_
He had certain limitations. Having a body was a limitation. The necessity
for food, sleep, rest, and for exertion in order to move through space
acted as a constant check upon his movements and achievements. He could
not go into a building except through some opening. The law of growth, of
such infinite value to man under his conditions, was likewise a check.
Only by slow laborious effort and application would there come the
discipline of mental powers and the knowledge necessary to life's work.
The Hurt of Sin.
Now, in addition to these natural limitations sin has made other changes.
It has lessened the powers and increased the limitations. There has been
immense loss in the power over the forces of nature, though now, by slow
and very laborious efforts, after centuries, much is being regained.
Instead of fellowship there has been an estrangement between man and the
lower animals and between man and the forces of nature. All of this has
immensely added to man's limitations, though it is true that most men do
not know of what has been lost, so complete has the loss been.
The natural limitations have been added to. Sin affects the judgment. It
brings ignorance and passion, and they affect the judgment. There results
lack of care of the body, improper use of the strength, and ignorant and
improper use of the bodily functions. Then come weakness and disease and
shortened life, not to speak of the misery included in these and the
enjoyment missed. In the chain of results comes the toil that is drudgery.
Not work, but excessive work, more than one should do, with less strength
than one should have. Work itself under natural conditions is always a
delight. But through sin has come strain, tugging, friction, unequal
division. The changes wrought in nature by sin call for greater effort
with less return. Toil becomes slavish and grinding. Then poverty adds its
tug. And sorrow comes to sap the strength and take away the buoyancy. And
then man's inhumanity to his brothers and sisters. These are some of the
limitations added by sin and ever increasing.
Now, Jesus was human; truly naturally human, God's human, and then more
because of the conditions He found. The love act of creation brought with
it self-imposed limitations to God. And now the love act of saving brings
still more. God made man in His own image. In His humanity Jesus was in
the image of God, even as we are. Adam was an unfallen man. Jesus was that
and more, a tested and now matured unfallen man, and by the law of growth
ever growing more. Adam was an innocent, unfallen man up to the
temptation. Jesus was a virtuous unfallen man. The test with Him changed
innocence to virtue.
In His experiences, His works, His temptations, His struggles, His
victories, Jesus was clearly human. In His ability to read men's thoughts
and know their lives without finding out by ordinary means, His knowledge
ahead of coming events, His knowledge of and control over nature, He
clearly was more than the human _we_ know. Yet until we know more than we
seem to now of the proper powers of an unfallen man matured and growing
in the use and control of those powers we cannot draw here any line
between human and divine. But the whole presumption is in favor of
believing that in all of this Jesus was simply exercising the proper human
powers which with Him were not hurt by sin but ever increasing in use.
Jesus insisted on living a simple true human life, dependent upon God and
upon others. He struck the key-note of this at the start in the
wilderness. Everything He taught He put through the test of use. He _was_
what He taught. As a man He has gone through all He calls us to. He blazed
the way into every thicket and woods, and then stands ahead, softly,
clearly calling, "Come along _after_ Me."
He was a normal man, God's pattern unchanged. All the powers of body and
mind and spirit were developed naturally and _held in poise_, no lack of
development, no over development of some part, no misuse of any power, nor
abuse, but each part perfectly fitting in and working naturally with each
He experienced all the proper limitations of human life. He needed food
and sleep and rest and needed to give His body proper thought and care. He
was under the human limitations regarding space and material construction.
He got from one place to another by the slow process of using His strength
or joining it with nature or that of a beast. He entered a building
through an opening as we do. Both of these are in sharp contrast with the
conditions after the resurrection. His stock of knowledge came by the law
of increase, the natural way; some, and then more, and the more gaining
But there's more than this. There's a bit of a pull inside as one thinks
of this, as though Jesus in His _humanity_ after all is on a level above
us, hardly alongside giving us a hand. Ah! there is more. He had
fellowship with us in the limitation that sin has brought. He shared the
experiences that men were actually having. He knew the bitterness of
having one's life plan utterly broken and something else--a rude jagged
something else--thrust in its place. But the bitterness of the experience
never got into His spirit or affected His conduct. The emergency He found
down here wrought by sin affected Him.
He was _hungry_ sometimes without food at hand to satisfy His hunger. He
always showed a peculiar tender sympathy with hungry people. He couldn't
bear the sight of the hungry crowds without food. He would go out of His
way any time to feed a man. He makes the caring for hungry folks a test
question for the judgment time. There's a great note of sympathy here with
the race. Every night hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters go
hungry to bed. It was said at one time that the death rate of London rises
and falls with the price of bread. If true when said it probably is more
intensely true to-day. Jesus ate the bread of the poor, the coarsest,
plainest bread. But then, that may have been simply His good common
Jesus got _tired_. Could there be a closer touch! He fell asleep on a
pillow in the stern of the boat one day crossing the lake. And the sleep
was like that of a very tired man, so sound that the wild storm did not
wake Him up. It was His tiredness that made Him wait at Jacob's well while
the disciples push on to the village to get food. He wouldn't have asked
them to go if they were too tired, too. Was He ever _too_
tired--over-tired--like we get? I wonder. There was the temptation to be
so ever tugging. Probably not, for He was wise, and had good self-control,
_and_ then He trusted His Father. Yet He probably went to the full limit
of what was wise. Certainly He lived a strenuous life those three and a
Jesus knew _the pinch of poverty_. He was the eldest in a large family,
with the father probably dead, and so likely was the chief breadwinner,
earning for Himself and for the others a living by His trade. He was the
village carpenter up in Nazareth, an obscure country village. I do not
mean abject grinding poverty, of course. That cannot exist with frugality
and honest toil. But the pinch of constant management, rigid economy,
counting the coins carefully, studying to make both ends meet, and needing
to stretch a bit to get them together. It is not unlikely that house rent
was one of the items.
The ceaselessness of His labors those public years suggests habits of
industry acquired during those long Nazareth years. He was used to working
hard and being kept busy. It would seem that He had the care of His mother
after the home was broken up. At the very end He makes provision for her.
John understands the allusion and takes her to his own home. He must have
thought a great deal of John to trust His mother to his care. Could there
be finer evidence of friendship than giving His friend John such a trust?
Jesus was _a homeless man_. Forced from the home village by His fellow
townsmen, for those busy years he had no quiet home spot of His own to
rest in. And He felt it. How He would have enjoyed a home of His own, with
His mother in it with him! No more pathetic word comes from His lips than
that touching His homelessness--foxes have holes, and the birds of the air
nests, but the Son of Man hath neither hole nor nest, burrowed or built,
in ground or tree.
And Jesus knew the sharp discipline of _waiting_. He knew what it meant to
be going a commonplace, humdrum, tread-mill round while the fires are
burning within for something else. He knew, and forever cast a sweet soft
halo over all such labor as men call drudgery, which never was such to Him
because of the fine spirit breathed into it. Drudgery, commonplaceness is
in the _spirit_, not the work. Nothing could be commonplace or humdrum
when done by One with such an uncommon spirit.
There's More of God Since Jesus Went Back.
I have tried to think of Him coming into young manhood in that Nazareth
home. He is twenty now, with a daily round something like this: up at dawn
likely--He was ever an early riser--chores about the place, the cow,
maybe, and the kindling and fuel for the day, helping to care for the
younger children, then off down the narrow street, with a cheery word to
passers-by, to the little low-ceilinged carpenter shop, for--eight
hours?--more likely ten or twelve. Then back in the twilight; chores
again, the evening meal, helping the children of the home in difficulties
that have arisen to fill their day's small horizon, a bit of quiet talk
with His mother about family matters, maybe, then likely off to the
hilltop to look out at the stars and talk with the Father; then back
again, slipping quietly into the bedroom, sharing sleeping space in the
bed with a brother. And then the sweet rest of a laboring man until the
gray dawn broke again.
And that not for one day, _every_ day, a year of days--_years_. He's
twenty-five now, feeling the thews of his strength; twenty-seven,
twenty-nine, still the old daily round. Did no temptation come those years
to chafe a bit and fret and wonder and yearn after the great outside
world? Who that knows such a life, and knows the tempter, thinks _he_
missed those years, and their subtle opportunity? Who that knows Jesus
thinks that _He_ missed such an opportunity to hallow forever, fragantly
hallow, home, with its unceasing round of detail, and to cushion, too, its
every detail with a sweet strong spirit? Who thinks _He_ missed _that
chance_ of fellowship with the great crowd of His race of brothers?
"In the shop of Nazareth
Pungent cedar haunts the breath.
'Tis a low Eastern room,
Windowless, touched with gloom.
Workman's bench and simple tools
Line the walls. Chests and stools,
Yoke of ox, and shaft of plow,
Finished by the Carpenter
Lie about the pavement now.
"In the room the Craftsman stands,
Stands and reaches out His hands.
"Let the shadows veil His face
If you must, and dimly trace
His workman's tunic, girt with bands
At His waist. But His _hands_--
Let the light play on them;
Marks of toil lay on them.
Paint with passion and with care
Every old scar showing there
Where a tool slipped and hurt;
Show each callous; be alert
For each deep line of toil.
Show the soil
Of the pitch; and the strength
Grip of helve gives at length.
"When night comes, and I turn
From my shop where I earn
Daily bread, let me see
Those hard hands; know that He
Shared my lot, every bit:
Was a man, every whit.
"Could I fear such a hand
Stretched toward me? Misunderstand
Or mistrust? Doubt that He
Meets me full in sympathy?
"Carpenter' hard like Thine
Is this hand--this of mine;
I reach out, gripping Thee,
Son of Man, close to me,
Close and fast, fearlessly."
To-day up yonder on the throne _there's a Man_--kin to us, bone of our
bone, heart of our heart, toil of our toil. _He_--knows. If you'll listen
very quietly, you'll hear His voice reaching clear down to you saying,
with a softness that thrills, "Steady--steady--_I_ know it all. I'm
watching and _feeling_ and _helping_. Up yonder is the hill top and the
glory sun and the wondrous air. Steady a bit. Stay up with _Me_ on the
glory side of your cloud, though your feet scratch the clay." Surely
there's more of God since Jesus went back!
The Divine Jesus
Of all the men who knew Jesus intimately John stands first and highest. He
misunderstood for a time. He failed to understand, as did the others. He
did not approach the keen insight into Jesus' being and purpose that Mary
of Bethany did. But, then, she was a woman. He was a man. Other things
being equal (though they almost never are), woman has keener insight into
the spirit and motives than has man. But John stood closer to Jesus than
any other. Jesus drew him closer. And that speaks volumes for John's
fineness of spirit. He alone of the inner twelve did not forsake in the
hardest hour that Thursday night, but went in "_with_ Jesus." How grateful
must Jesus have been for the presence of His sympathetic friend that black
night, with its long intense shadows!
Now John writes about Jesus. And what this closest friend says will be of
intensest interest to all lovers of Jesus. But it is of even intenser
interest to note keenly _when_ John writes. He waits until the end. He
gets the longest range on Jesus that his lengthening years will permit.
Distance is essential to perspective. You must get far away from a big
thing to see it. The bigger the thing to be seen, the longer the distance
needed for good perspective. John shows his early appreciation of the size
of Jesus by waiting so long. When all his mental faculties are most
matured, when any heat of mere youthful attachment has cooled off, when
the eye of the spirit is clearest and keenest, when the facts through long
sifting have fallen into right place and relation in the whole circle of
truth, then the old man settles to his loving task.
He had been _looking_ long. His perspective has steadily lengthened with
the looking years. The object has been getting bigger and bigger to his
eyes. He is getting off as far as possible within his earthly span. At
last he feels that he has approximately gotten the range. And with the
deep glow of his heart gleaming up out of his eyes, he picks up a
freshly-sharpened quill _to tell folk about Jesus_.
As he starts in he takes a fresh, long, earnest look. And so he writes,
like a portrait artist working, with his eyes ever gazing at the vision of
that glorified Face. He seems to say to himself, "How _shall_ I--how _can_
I ever _begin_ to tell them--about _Him_!" Then with a master's skill he
sets out to find the simplest words he can find, put together in the
simplest sentences he can make, so simple folk everywhere may read and get
something of a glimpse of this Jesus, whose glory is filling his eyes and
flooding his face and spilling out all over the pages as he writes.
He is seeing back so far that he is getting beyond human reach. So he
fastens his line into the farthest of the far-reaches of human knowledge,
the creation, and then flings the line a bit farther back yet. He must use
a human word, if human folk are to understand. So he says "_beginning_."
"In the beginning," the beginningless beginning, away back of the Genesis
beginning, the earliest known to man.
Then he recalls the tremendous fact that when, in the later beginning man
knew about, the worlds came into existence, it was by a _word_ being
spoken, a _creative, outspoken word_. The power that created things
revealed itself in a few simple words. Then he searches into the depths of
language for the richest word he knew to express thought outspoken. And
taking that word he uses it as a _name_ for this One of whom he is trying
to tell. The scholars seem unable to sound the depths of the word that
John in his own language uses. It means this, and beyond that, it means
_this_, deeper yet, and then _this_. And then all of these together, and
more. That is John's word. "In the beginning was _the Word_."
Then with a few swift touches of his pen he says, "This was Jesus before
He came among men, the man Jesus whom we know." In the earliest beginning
the whole heart and thought of God toward man was outspoken in a person.
This person, this outspeaking God, it was He who later became known to us
as Jesus. Jesus, away back before the farthest reach of our human
knowledge, was God speaking out of His inner heart to us. This Jesus _is_
God speaking out His innermost heart to man. Did you ever long to hear God
speak? Look at Jesus. He's God's speech. This One was _with_ God. He _was_
God. It was _He_ who spoke things into being, that creative span of time.
Only through Him _could_ anything come into being. All life was in Him,
and this life was man's light. It is He who came into our midst, shining
in the darkness that could neither take Him in nor hold Him down from
Every now and then as he writes John's heart seems near the breaking
point, and a sob shakes his pen a bit, as it comes over him all anew, and
almost overcomes him, how this wondrous Jesus, this throbbing heart of
God, was treated. Listen: "He came to His _own possessions_, and they who
were His--own--kinsfolk--and the quiver of John's heart-sob seems to make
the type move on the page--_His own kinsfolk_ received him not into their
homes, but left Him outside in the cold night; _but_--a glimpse of that
glorious Face steadies him again--as many as _did_ receive Him, whether
His own kinsfolk or not, to them He gave the right to become _kinsfolk of
God_, the oldest family of all."
John has a way of reaching away back, and then by a swift use of pen
coming quickly to his own time, and then he keeps swinging back over the
ground he has been over, but each time with some added touch, like the
true artist he is.
John's statement, "the world was made by Him," takes one back at once to
the early Genesis chapters. There the creating One, who, by a word, brings
things into existence is called God. And then, that we may identify Him,
is called by a _name_, Jehovah. The creator is God named Jehovah. And this
Jehovah, John says, was the One who afterward became a Man, and pitched
His tent among men. And as one reads the old chapters through, this is the
God, the Jehovah, who appears in varying ways to these Old Testament men,
one after another. He talked and walked and worked with Adam in completing
the work of creation, and then broken-hearted led him out of the forfeited
Then to make his standpoint unmistakably plain to every one, before
starting in on the witness borne by the herald, he makes a summary. All
that he has been saying he now sums up in these tremendous words,
"_God_--no one ever yet has seen; the only begotten God, in the bosom
of the Father, this One has been the spokesman." In what He _was_, and in
what He _did_ as well as in what He _said_, He hath been the spokesman.
Here is a difference made between the Father God, whom no one has seen,
and the only begotten God, who has been telling the Father out.
Now God revealed Himself to men in the Old Testament times. Repeatedly in
the Old Testament it distinctly speaks of men seeing God in varying ways
and talking with Him. Adam walked with Him, and Enoch, and Noah. Abraham
had a _vision_, and talked with the three men whose spokesman speaks as
God. Isaac has a night-vision and Jacob a dream and a night meeting with a
mysterious wrestler. Moses _spoke_ with Him "face to face" and "mouth to
mouth," and is said to have seen His "form." Yet after that first forty
days on the mount when Moses hungrily asks for more, He is told that no
man could endure the sight of that great glory of God's face. And he is
put in to a cleft of the rock, and God's hand put over the opening (in the
simple language of the record), and then only the _hinder_ part of God
passing is seen, while the wondrous voice speaks. Yet the impression so
made upon Moses far exceeds anything previous and completely overawes and
melts him down. The elders of Israel "saw God," yet the most _distinct_
impression of anything seen is of the beautiful _pavement under His feet_.
Isaiah's most definite impression, when the great vision came to him, was
of a train of glory, seraphim and smoke and a voice. Ezekiel has rare
power in detailed description. He has overpowering visions of the "glory of
Jehovah." Yet the most definite that he can make the description is a
storm gathering, a cloud, a fire, a centre spot of brightness, a clearness
as of amber, and four very unusual living creatures.
These men "saw" God. He "appeared" to them. Evidently that means many
different things, yet the word is always honestly used. It never means as
we gaze into another man's face. But always there is that profound
impression of having been in God's own presence. They _met_ Him. They
_saw_ Him. They heard His voice.
Yet John says here, "_God_--no one ever yet at any time has seen; the only
begotten God, in the bosom of the Father--this One has been the
spokesman." Clearly John, sweeping the whole range of past time, means
this: they saw Him whom we call Jesus. Jesus is Jehovah, the only
_begotten_ God. To all these men the only begotten God was the spokesman
of the Father.
Sometimes it was a voice that came with softness but unmistakable
clearness to the inner spirit of man, a soundless voice. Sometimes in a
dream, a more realistic vision of the night or of the day time; again, in
the form of a man, thus foreshadowing the future great coming. This One
who _came_ to them in various ways, this Jehovah has _come_ to men as
Jesus. This is John's statement. This is the setting of His gospel. The
setting becomes a part of the interpretation of what the gospel contains.
It explains what this that follows _meant to John_.
Is it surprising that John's Gospel has been pitched upon as the critics'
chief battle-field of the New Testament? Battle-field is a good word. The
fire has been thick and fast, needle-guns--sharp needles--and
machine-guns--Gatling guns and rattling--but no smokeless powder. The
cloud of smoke of a beautiful scholarly gray tinge has quite filled the
air. Men have been swinging away from a man, the Man to a book. But no
critic's delicately shaded and shadowing cloud of either dust or smoke, or
both, can hide away the Man. He's too tall and big. The simple hearted man
who will step aside from the smoke and noise to the shade of a quiet tree,
or the quiet of some corner, with this marvellous bit of manuscript from
John's pen for his keen, Spirit-cleared eye, will be enraptured to find a
_Man, the_ Man, the _God_-Man.
Whom Moses Saw.
What did Jesus say about Himself? The critics of the world, including the
skeptical, infidel critics, seem to agree fully and easily on a few things
about this Jesus on whose dissection they have expended so much time and
strength. They agree that in the purity of His life, the moral power of
His character, the wisdom of His teachings, the rare poise of His conduct
and judgment, the influence exerted upon men, He clear over-tops the whole
race. Surely His own opinion of Himself is well worth having. And it is
easy to get, and tremendous when gotten. It fits into John's conception
with unlabored simplicity and naturalness.
According, then, to Jesus' own words, He had come down out of heaven, and,
by and by, would go back again to where He was before. He had come on an
errand for the Father down into the world, and when the errand was
finished He would go back home to the Father again. He had seen the
Father, and He was the only one who _had_ ever seen Him. He was the Son of
God in a sense that nobody else was, a begotten Son, and the only Son who
had been begotten. Therefore He naturally called God His Father, and not
only that, but His _own_ Father, making Himself _equal_ with the Father.
This statement it was that swung the leaders over from silent contempt to
aggression in their treatment of Him. The Jews understood this perfectly
and instantly. They refused to accept it. Reckoning it blasphemous, they
attempted to stone Him. They were partly right. If it were not true, it
_was_ blasphemous, and their law required stoning. Yet they were fools in
their thought, and not even keen fools. For no blasphemous man could have
revealed the character and moral glory that Jesus constantly revealed
before their eyes.
Then follows one of John's exquisite reports of Jesus' words in reply. In
it run side by side the essential unity of spirit between Father and Son,
with the absolute life-giving or creative power invested in the Son. A
sweet, loving, loyal unity of spirit is between the two. It is love unity.
There can be none closer. In this unity the Son has full control of life
for all the race of men, and final adjustment of the character wrought out
by each. At His word all who have gone down under death's touch will come
into life again, and each by the character he has developed will go by a
moral gravitation to his natural place.
And then follows the bringing forward of witnesses, John, the Father, the
works, the Scriptures, and the climax is reached in the one whose name was
ever on their lips--Moses. And this is the significant reference to Moses,
"He wrote of _Me_." Sift into that phrase a bit. It cannot mean, he wrote
of me in the sacrifices provided for with such minute care. For Moses
clearly had had no such thought. It might be supposed to mean that
unconsciously to himself there was, in his writings about the sacrifices,
that which would be seen later to refer to Jesus in His dying. And there
is the resemblance in purity between Moses' sacrifices and the great
Sacrifice. Yet where there is so much plain meaning lying out on the face
of the thing, this obscure meaning may be dropped or checked in as an
incidental. There is a single allusion in Moses' writing to a prophet
coming like himself.
But Moses is ever absorbed in writing about a wondrous One who revealed
Himself to him in the burning bush, the pillar of cloud and fire, the
little peaked tent off by itself on the outskirts of the camp, and the
soft distinct voice. There was the One with whom He had twice spent forty
days in the mount, and whose great glory left its traces in his face. Ever
Moses is writing of this wondrous Jehovah. Jesus quietly says, "He wrote
Another time He said, "I and the Father are one," provoking another
stoning. Invisibly holding back their hands He said, "The Father is in Me,
and I in the Father," and again they are aroused. In connection with this
word "Father," it may be noted that the Old Testament has been called the
"dispensation of the Father." But this seems scarcely accurate. God
speaking, appearing there is spoken of as Father very rarely, and then
chiefly in the great promises of the future glory. The common name for Him
is _Jehovah_. Jesus practically gives us the name Father for God. He
constantly refers to God as _His_ Father. It was He who taught us to call
God Father. He never speaks of Jehovah, but of the Father. His language in
this always fits in perfectly, as of course it would, with John's
standpoint, that Jesus is the Jehovah of the Old Testament times. A little
later Jesus says, "Moses gave you not the manna from heaven, but--my
Father giveth (note the change in the time element of the word)--giv_eth_
you the true bread." It is a sort of broken, readjusted sentence, as
though He was going to say who it was that gave the manna, and then
changes to speaking of the Father and the present. He does not say who it
was that _did_ give that manna. It is plain enough from John's standpoint
what _he_ understands Jesus to mean as he puts the incident into his
Jesus is God Wooing Man.
During the autumn before His death, while in attendance on one of the
Jerusalem feasts, the leaders are boasting of their direct descent from
Abraham, and attacking Jesus. On their part the quarrel of words gets very
bitter. They ask sharply, "Who do you pretend to be? Nobody can be as
great as Abraham; yet your words suggest that you think you are." Then
came from Jesus' lips the words, spoken in all probability very quietly,
"Your father Abraham exulted that he might see my day, and he saw it, and
was glad." It is a tremendous statement, staggering to one who has not yet
In attempting to find its meaning, some of our writing friends have
supposed it means that, after Abraham's death, when he was in the other
world, at the time of Jesus being on the earth, he was conscious of Jesus
having come and was glad. But this hardly seems likely, else it would
read, "He _sees_, and _is_ glad." The seeing and gladness were both in a
day gone by. Others have supposed that it refers to the scene on Moriah's
top, when the ram used as a sacrifice instead of Isaac enabled Abraham to
see ahead _by faith_, not actually, the coming One. But this, too, seems a
bit far-fetched, because Abraham was surprised by the occurrences of that
day. He fully expected to sacrifice his son, apparently, so there could be
no exultant looking forward to _that_ day for him. And deeper yet, the
coming One was not expected to be a sacrifice, but a king.
The natural meaning seems to lie back in Abraham's own life. Abraham was
Israel's link with the idolatrous heathen, as well as the beginning of the
new life away from idolatry. He grew up among an idolatrous people, yet in
his heart there was a yearning for the true God. Back in his old home
there came to him one day the definite inner voice to cut loose from these
people, his own dear kinsfolk, and go out to a strange unknown land, with
what seemed an indefinite goal, and there would come to him a vision of
the true God.
It was a radical step for a man of seventy-five years to take. He was
living among his own kinsfolk. His nest was feathered. It meant leaving a
certainty for an uncertainty. It meant breaking his habit of life, a very
hard thing to do, and starting out on a wandering roaming life. Not
unlikely his neighbors thought it a queer thing, a wild goose chase, this
going off to a strange land in response to a call of God that he might see
a vision of the true God. Decidedly visionary. But the old man was clear
about the voice. The fire burned within to know God, the real true God.
All else counted as nothing against that. He would _see God_. And a
warming glow filled his heart and shone in his eyes and kept him steady
during the break, the good-byes, the start away, the journeying among
strangers. Into the strange land he came, and pitched his tent. And--one
night--in his tent--among these strange Canaanites, there came the
promised vision. "Jehovah appeared unto Abraham," and tied up there anew
with him the promise made back in his native land. This seems to be the
simple explanation of these words about Abraham. "He exulted that he might
see my day. He _saw_ ... and was glad."
With a contemptuous curl of the lip instantly they come back with: "Thou
art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?" More quietly
than ever, with the calmness of conscious truth, come those tremendous
words, emphasized with the strongest phrase He ever used, "Verily, verily,
I say unto you, before Abraham was born, I am." The common version omits
"born," and so the sharp contrast is not made clear. Abraham was _born_.
He came into existence. Jesus says "I _am_." That "I am" is meant to mean
absolute existence. An eternal now without beginning or ending. Their
Jewish ears are instantly caught by that short sentence. Jesus was
identifying Himself with the One who uttered that sentence out of the
burning bush! Again stones for speech. Again the invisible power holds
their feverish impotent hands. That "I am" explains the meaning of the
expression "my day." It stretches it out backward beyond Abraham's day. It
lengthens it infinitely at both ends.
This is Jesus' point of view, this marvellous Jesus. He is the Jehovah in
Genesis' first chapters. It is with Him that Adam broke tryst that day,
and with Him that Enoch renewed the tryst after such a long wait, and took
those long walks. It is His voice and presence in the black topped,
flaming mount that awed the Israel crowd so. His voice it was that won and
impressed so winsomely the man waiting in the hand-covered cleft of the
rock that early morning, and long after, that other rugged, footsore man,
standing with face covered in the mouth of a cave. Isaiah saw _His_ glory
that memorable day in the temple. It was He who rode upon the storm before
Ezekiel's wondering eyes and who walks with His faithful ones on the seven
times heated coals, and reveals to Daniel's opened ears the vision of his
people's future. Jehovah--He comes as Jesus. Jesus--He is Jehovah. No
sending of messengers for this great work of winning His darling back to
the original image and mastery and dominion will do for our God. He comes
Himself. Jesus is God coming down to woo man up to Himself again.
The Winsome Jesus
The Face of Jesus
Jesus was God letting man see the beauty of His face and listen to the
music of His voice, and feel the irresistibly gentle drawing power of His
presence. Jesus was very winsome. He _drew_ men. He said that if He were
lifted up He _would_ draw men. They who heard that could believe it, for
He drew them before He was lifted up. He drew the _crowds_. Yet many a
leader that has drawn the crowds has led them astray. He drew _men_--men
of strongest mentality, scholarly, cultured, thoughtful men, and every
other sort. Yet men have often been befooled in their leaders. He drew
_women_. Here is a great test. Men may be deceived in a man. But woman,
true strong woman, pure womanly woman, because of her keen discernment
into spirit and motive, cannot be deceived, when true to her inner
He drew _children_. This was the highest test. The child, fresh from the
hand of God, before it is appreciably hurt by parents or surroundings, is
drawn to the pure and good. They are repelled by selfishness and badness.
They draw out the best. They are drawn only by the true and beautiful and
good. That is, in the early years, before the warping of a selfish, sinful
atmosphere has hurt them. This is an infallible test. This told most His
_Bad people_ were drawn to Him. That is, bad in their lives. Rarely indeed
is a human so wholly bad as to be untouched by true goodness, by sincere
love. Here is the touchstone of service. He touched that spot in the
lowest, and by His presence increased the hunger of their hearts for
purity and for sympathy up toward purity.
His _enemies_--a very small group, but in a position of great power,
holding the national reins--His enemies were drawn to Him, by a drawing
they fought, but could not resist. They admired Him while hating Him. His
presence disturbed because it accused the opposite in them. They
recognized the purity, the love, the rugged honesty, the keen insight, the
poised wisdom, and they hated Him the more intensely, so committed were
they in the practice of their lives to the opposite of these. Jesus was