Part 3 out of 4
very winsome. It was to be expected of Him, for He was a _man_ unstained
and unhurt by sin. Man, God's sort of man, is winsome, for he is in the
image of God. It was to be expected of Him, for He was God. And God is
winsome. Did men but _know_ God they would throw themselves at His feet in
the utter abandon of strong love.
Jesus' _personality_ must have been very attractive, because of the man
living within. He found expression in it. The spirit of a man finds
expression in his presence. He goes out to others through his presence.
From what we know of Jesus His presence must have had something distinctly
impressive about it. He would have a gently majestic bearing. He walked
upright like the king He was. He had the true dignity that is not
conscious of its dignity.
Jesus must have had a remarkable _face_. One's presence centers peculiarly
in the face. It comes to bear the imprint of the man inside. A man cannot
keep out of his face the dominant spirit of his life. The sin of the life,
the purity of the heart, is always stamped on the face. The finer the
nature the plainer is the facial index. That is the reason women's faces
reveal the inner spirit more than men's. Quite apart from His features,
the inner spirit of Jesus must have made His face beautiful with a manly
fascinating beauty. Yet in all likelihood those features were finely
chiselled and the skin clear, and with the transfiguring power of the
spirit within, that face must have been a great face in its beauty.
Jesus' face must have borne the impress of His experiences. The early home
experience would bring out patience and simplicity and sympathy. Those
forty days in the wilderness would intensify the purity and strength, and
bring evidence of struggle and of victory. The Jordan waters, with the
voice of approval, would deepen the mark of peace. Constant contact with
the sick and suffering would bring out yet more the tenderness and
gentleness. Constant teaching of undisciplined folk would intensify the
patience. Constant contact with sin would intensify the unflinching
sternness of purity. The Transfiguration would deepen the spirituality,
with possibly an added glory-touch. Gethsemane wrote in the deep lines of
intense suffering, with the intangible spirituality of victory and great
peace. And, at the last, Calvary with its scars marked in a beauty of
suffering and of spirituality refined beyond description. A marvellous
face that human face of Jesus.
_Indeed_, the glory of God was in the face of Jesus as He walked quietly
among men. Looking into that face men saw God. That simple, gentle,
patient, pure face, with its deep peace and victory and yet its
yearning--that was God looking out into men's faces.
The Music of God in the Voice of Jesus.
The face of that face was the _eye_. The eye is the soul of the face.
Through it the man looks out and shows himself. Through it we look in and
see him. Where the fires of self-ambition burn the flame is always in the
eye. Only where those fires are out or never lit does the real
beauty-light of God come into the eye. Great leaders have ever been noted
for their eyes, before whose glance strong men have cowed and quailed, or
eagerly coveted the privilege of service.
Those must have been matchless eyes of Jesus, keen, kindly, flashing out
blinding lightning, sending out softest subdued light. The Nazareth mob
couldn't stand the look of those eyes, nor the bolder Jerusalem mob
reaching down for the stones, nor the deputation sent to arrest, nor even
the reckless Roman soldiers at the garden gate. The disciples who were
closest sometimes followed him afraid and amazed because of the look of
those eyes. And yet the little children put their arms around His neck,
and looked up fearlessly and lovingly. And the crowd listened by the hour
with their eyes fastened upon His.
The _voice_ of Jesus must have been music itself. It speaks once of His
singing a hymn. How we would all have loved to hear Him sing! But that
voice was music at all times, whether in song or speech. Low, modulated,
rhythmic, gentle, rich, resonant--wondrous music. Those who have heard
Spurgeon and Gladstone almost always speak of the rare musical quality in
their voices. So, and more would it be with this Jesus. It has been said
that the personality reveals itself in the speech. It reveals itself yet
more, and more subtly, in the sound of the voice. The power or weakness of
a man is felt in the sound of his voice. The blind have unusual skill in
reading character in the voice. Were we wiser we could read men's
character much more quickly in the voice. Children and animals do. The
voice that stilled the waves and spoke forgiveness of sins, that drew the
babes, and talked out to thousands at once, must have been full of
sweetest music and thrilling with richest power.
Jesus made much of the personal _touch_, another means whereby a man's
power goes out to his fellow. He believed in close personal touch. He drew
men into close contact with Himself. He promised that when gone Himself,
Somebody else was to come, and live as He had done right with us in close
touch. He touched those whom He helped, regardless of conditions. There
was power in His touch. Some of Himself went out through that touch of
His. The fever, the weakness, the disease fled before His touch.
Is it to be wondered at that everywhere, in the temple yards, on Judean
hills or Galilean, by the blue waters of Galilee or the brown waters of
the Jordan, men crowded to Jesus? They couldn't help it. He was
irresistible in His presence, His face, His eye, and voice and touch. It
could not be otherwise. He was God on a wooing errand after man. Moses'
request of Jehovah, "Show me ... Thy glory," was being granted now to the
whole nation. In Jesus they were gazing on the glory of God. A veiled
glory? Yes, much veiled, doubtless, yet not as much as when Moses looked
Jesus _draws_ men. All classes, all nations, all peoples are drawn to Him.
It is remarkable how all classes in Christendom quote Jesus, and claim Him
as the leader of their own particular views. They will selfishly claim Him
who will not follow Him.
Jesus draws _us_. Let us each yield to His drawing. That is the sincerest
homage and honor we can give Him. That will draw out in us to fullest
measure the original God-likeness obscured by sin.
Let us lift this drawing Jesus _up_ by our lives of loyalty to Him, by our
modest, earnest testimony for Him, by our unselfish love for the men He
loved so. _Up_ let us lift Him before men's eyes; _up_ on the cross,
transfigured by His love; _up_ on the Olives' Mount, Victor over all the
forces of sin and death; _up_ at the Father's right hand in glory, waiting
the fullness of time for the completion of His plan for man.
Thou great winsome God, we have seen Thy beauty in this Jesus. We have
heard Thy music in His voice. We feel the strong pull upon our hearts and
wills of Thy presence in Him. We cannot resist Thee if we would. We would
not if we could. We are coming a-running to keep tryst with Thee under the
tree of life thou art planting down in our midst. We will throw ourselves
at Thy feet in the utter abandon of our strongest love, Thy volunteer
III. The Great Experiences of Jesus' Life
1. The Jordan: The Decisive Start.
2. The Wilderness: Temptation.
3. The Transfiguration: An Emergency Measure.
4. Gethsemane: The Strange, Lone Struggle.
5. Calvary: Victory.
6. The Resurrection: Gravity Upward.
7. The Ascension: Back Home Again Until----
The Jordan: The Decisive Start
The Anvil of Experience.
Experience is going through a thing _yourself_, and having it go _through_
you. And "through" here means not as a spear is thrust through a man's
body, piercing it, but as fire goes through that which it takes hold of,
permeating; as an odor goes through a house, pervading it.
A man _knows_ only what he experiences; what he goes through; what goes
through him. He knows only what he is _certain_ of. And he is certain of
only that which he _experiences_.
It is one of the natural limitations of our humanity that it is so. Even
the primary knowledge of space, and time, and so on comes in this way. A
man knows space only by seeing or thinking through space. He knows time
only by living consciously through some moments of time. Such knowledge is
primary only in point of time.
Experience is weaving fact into the fabric of your life. The swift drive
of the double-pointed shuttle, the hard push of the loom back and forth
_goes through you_.
Experience is sowing truth in actual personal occurrences. The cutting,
upturning edge of the plow, the tearing teeth of the harrow, go on inside
your very being, while perhaps the moments drag themselves by, slow as
Experience is hammering truth into shape upon the anvil of your life,
while the pounding of the lightning trip-hammer is upon your own quivering
flesh. It is seeing that which is most precious to you, so dear as to be
your very life, seeing that in a furnace, seven times heated, while you,
standing helplessly by, hope and trust perhaps, and yet _wonder_, even
while trusting, wonder _if_--(shall I say it the way your heart talks it
out within?), or, at most, wonderingly watch with heart almost stopped,
and eyes big, to see _if_ the form of the Fourth will intervene in _your_
case, or whether something else is the Father's will.
Experience is the three young Hebrews stepping with quiet, full,
heel-to-toe tread into the hotly flaming furnace, not sure but it meant
torture and death, only sure that it was the only right thing to do. It is
the old Babylonian premier actually lowering nearer and nearer to those
green eyes, and yawning jaws, and ivories polished on many a bone, clear
of duty though not clear of anything else.
A man having a financial understanding with his church, or a contract with
his employer, or a comfortable business, may be an earnest Christian,
living a life of prayer and realizing God's power in his life, but he
cannot know the meaning of the word _trust_ as George Mueller knew it
when he might waken in the morning with not enough food in hand for the
breakfast, only an hour off, of the two thousand orphans under his care,
and in answer to his waiting prayer have them all satisfied at the usual
breakfast hour. George Mueller himself did not know the meaning of "trust"
before such experiences as he did afterwards. No one can. We _know_ only
what we _experience_.
Now Jesus became a perfect man by means of the experiences He went
through. He is an older _Brother_ to us, for He has gone through ahead
where we are now going, and where we are yet to go. He was perfectly human
in this, that He did not know our human experiences, save as He Himself
went through those experiences. With full reverence be it said of the
divine Jesus, it was necessarily so, because He was so truly human.
The whole diapason of human experience, with its joyous majors and its
sobbing minors, He knew. Except, of course, the experiences growing out of
sin. These He could not know. They belong to the abnormal side of life.
And there was nothing abnormal about Him. It was fitting that Jesus,
coming as a man to save brother men, should develop the full human
character through experience. And so He did. And forever He has a
fellow-feeling with each of us, at every point, for He Himself has _felt
Jesus' experiences brought Him suffering; keen, cutting pain; real
suffering. Where there is possible danger or pain in an approaching
experience there is _shrinking_. It is a normal human trait to shrink from
pain and danger. Jesus' experiences in the suffering they brought to Him
far outreach what any other human has known. He shrank in spirit over and
over again as the expected experiences approached. He shrank back as none
other ever has, for He was more keenly alive to the suffering involved. He
suffered doubly: in the shrinking beforehand; in the actual experience.
But, be it keenly remembered, shrinking does not mean _faltering_. Neither
suffering in anticipation nor actually ever held Him back for a moment,
nor an inch's length, nor in the spirit of full-tilted obedience to His
Father's plan. This makes Jesus' experiences the greatest revealers of His
character. He was sublime in His character, His teachings, His stupendous
conceptions. He was most sublime in that wherein He touches us most
With a new, deep meaning it can be said, knowledge is power. We humans
enter into knowledge and so into power only through experience.
Experiences are sent, or when not directly sent are allowed to come, that
through these may come knowledge, through knowledge power, through both
the likeness of God, and so, true service in helping men back to God.
Let us, you and I, go through our experiences _graciously_, not
grudgingly, not balking, cheerily, aye, with a bit of joy in the voice and
a gleam of light in the eye. And remember, and not forget, that alongside
is One who _knows_ the experience that just now is ours, and, knowing,
There were with Jesus the commoner experiences and the great outstanding
ones: the mountain range with the foot-hills below and the towering peaks
above. From His earliest consciousness until the cross was reached, Jesus
ran the whole gamut of human experiences common to us all, with some
greater ones, which are the same as come to all men, but with Him
intensified clear beyond our measurements.
These greater experiences were tragic until the great tragedy was past.
Each has in it the shadow of the greatest. The Jordan waters meant turning
from a kingdom down another path to a cross. The Wilderness fight pointed
clearly to successive struggles, and the greatest. The Transfiguration
mount meant turning from the greatest glory of His divinity which any
earthly eye had seen to the little hill of death, which was to loom above
the mount. Gethsemane is Calvary in anticipation. Calvary was _the_
tragedy when love yielded to hate and, yielding, conquered. There love
held hate's climax, death, by the throat, extracted the sting, drew the
fang tooth, and drained the poison sac underneath. Love's surgery.
And the tinge of the tragedy remains in the Resurrection and Ascension in
lingering scars. They are still in that face. It is a scale ascending
from the first. In each is seen the one thing from a different angle. The
cross in advance is in each experience, growing in intensity till itself
is reached, and casting its shadow as it is left behind.
Through the crowds at the Jordan River, there quietly walked one morning a
Man who came up to where John stood. He took a place in the line of those
waiting to be baptized, so indicating His own intention. John is absorbed
in his work, but as he faces this Man, next in order, he is startled. This
is no ordinary man. That face! Its wondrous purity! That intangible
something revealing the man! That spirit looking through those eyes into
his own! In that presence he feels his own impurity. It is the instant
unpremeditated recognition by this fine-grained Spirit-taught John of his
Master, his Chief. The remonstrance that instinctively springs to his lips
is held in check by the obedience he at once feels is due this One.
Whatever _He_ commands is right, however unexpected it may be, or however
strange it may seem.
Why did Jesus go to John for baptism? The rite was a purifying one. It
meant confession of sin, need of cleansing, a desire for cleansing, a
purpose to turn from wrong and sin and lead a new life. How _could_ Jesus
accept such a rite for Himself? Why did He? Read in the light of the whole
story of Jesus the answer seems simple. Jesus was stepping down into the
ranks of man as His _Brother_. The kingdom He was to establish among men
was to be set up and ruled over by man's Brother. The salvation was to be
by One, close up, alongside. The King will brush elbows with His subjects,
for they are brothers too. No long-range work for Jesus, but personal
In accepting John's baptism, Jesus was allying Himself with the race of
men He had come to lead up, and out, as King. He was allying Himself with
them _where they were_. It was not the path always trodden by man in
climbing to a throne. But it was the true path of fellowship with them in
their needs. He was getting hold of hands, that He might be their leader
up to the highlands of a new life. He steps to their level. He would lift
from below. He would get by the side of the man lowest down. It was clear
evidence at the start that He was the true Messiah, the King. He was their
_Brother_. He would get down alongside, and pull up with them side by side
out of the ditch of sticky mud up to good footing.
And mark keenly--and the heart glows a bit at the thought--the point He
chooses for getting into that contact with His brothers. It is _the point
where they are turning from sin_. John's baptism meant turning from sin.
It is at that point that Jesus comes forward. A man can always be
live-sure of Jesus meeting him there, close up, with outstretched hand. He
is waiting eagerly, and steps up quickly to a man's side as in his heart
he turns from sin.
But there's more yet. Read in the after light cast upon it there is much
more. This was the voluntary path away from the kingdom. It was the
beginning of all that came after. The road up the hill of the cross not
far away led out of those waters. This was the starting point. Jesus
calmly turned His face for the time being--a long time it has proved--away
from the promised Kingdom of His Father and toward the planned cross of
It meant much, for it was the _first step_ into the path marked out. What
the Father had chosen for Him, He now chooses out for Himself. So every
bit of service, every plan, must be _twice chosen:_ by God for a man; by
the man for himself as from God. He entered eagerly, for this was His
Father's plan. That itself was enough for Jesus. But, too, it was the path
where His needy brothers were. That would quicken His pace. It was the
road wherein He would meet the _enemy_. And with a fresh prayer in His
heart and a quiet confidence in His eye He steps into the road with that
calmness that strong purpose gives.
As it proved there was danger here for Him. This was not the way approved
by man's established ideals for starting a kingdom. He was driving
straight across the carefully marked out roads of man's usage. He was
disregarding the "No trespassing" signs. There was danger here. A man
cutting a new path right across old ones meets stubborn undergrowth, and
ugly thorn hedges. Jesus struck the thorns early, and right along to the
last getting sharper. And they tore His face badly, as He cut the way
through for His brothers.
Yes, there were dangers as He pushed His way through the undergrowth down
to the water. Poison ivy thick, and fanged snakes darting guiltily aside
from fear even while wanting to strike in, tangled, gnarly roots hugging
the ground close, and bad odors and gases, and the light obscured--dangers
thick! And these Jordan waters prove chill and roily. His stepping in
stirs the mud. The storm winds sweep down the valley. A bit of a hill up
above to the west casts a long sinister shadow out over the water.
And He must have known the dangers. No need of supernatural knowledge
here. His familiarity with David and Jeremiah and other Hebrew writers,
His knowledge of human nature as it had grown to be, His knowledge of a
foe subtler than human, the fine sensitiveness of His finely organized
sensitive spirit--these would lead Him to scent the danger.
But He falters not. The calmness of His will gives steadiness to His step
down the river's bank. Aye, the dangers lured Him on. He had a keen scent
for danger, for it was danger to His race of men, whose King He was in
right and would prove Himself in fact. He would draw the thorn points by
His own flesh that men might be saved their stinging prod and slash. He
would neutralize the burning acid poison of the undergrowth by the red
alkaline from His own veins. He would use the thorns to draw the healing
salve for the wounds they had caused. He would put His firm foot on the
serpent's head that His brothers might safely come along after. This was
the meaning of His plunge into the swift waters by John's side.
The intense significance of this decisive step by Jesus is brought out
strikingly by what follows. What followed is God's comment upon it. Quick
as the act was done came the Father's approval. John's crowds were not the
only intent lookers-on that day. Jesus stands praying. Since He is going
this road it must be a-knee. Then the rift in the upper blue, the Holy
Spirit straight from the Father's presence comes upon the waiting Man and
the voice of pleased approval. And the heart of Jesus thrilled with the
sound of that approving voice. He could go any length, down any steep, if
He might only ever hear that voice in approval. Then the Holy Spirit took
possession of Him for the earth-mission. In the pathway of obedience down
that rough steep came the coveted power of God upon Him.
Three times in His life the Father's voice came, and each time at a
crisis. Now at the plunge into the Jordan waters, which meant brotherhood
with the race, and meant, too, a frostier chill of other waters later on.
At the opening of the Greek door through which led an easy path to a
great following, and away from a cross, when Jesus, with an agony
intensified by the intensified nearing of those crossed logs, turned His
step yet more steadily in the path He had chosen that first Jordan day.
And between these two, on the mountain top, when the whole fabric of the
future beyond the cross hung upon three poor wobbling, spiritually stupid,
mentally untrained Galilean fishermen.
This is the meaning of that step into the Jordan. It was the decisive
The Wilderness: Temptation
The University of Arabia.
The Jordan led to the Wilderness by a straight road. A first step without
slipping leads to the second. Victory opens the way to fresh struggles for
higher victories. The perfect naturalness of Jesus is revealed here, His
human naturalness. He had taken the decisive step into the Jordan waters.
And while absorbed in prayer had become conscious of a new experience. The
Spirit of God came upon Him in unusual measure. The effect of that always
is to awaken to new alertness and vigor every mental power, as well as to
key up every moral resolve. Jesus is _caught_ at once by the grasp, the
grip of this new experience of the wondrous Spirit's control. Keenly alive
to its significance, awakened anew to the part He was to perform, and to a
consciousness of His peculiar relation to God and to man, He becomes
wholly absorbed in this newly intensified world of thought.
Under the Spirit's impulse, He goes off into the solitude of the
wilderness to think. And in this mood of deep absorption, with every
faculty fully awake and every high moral impulse and purpose in full
throb, came the temptation with the recorded climax at the close.
There came an intensifying of all His former consciousness, and
convictions, regarding His own personality and His mission to mankind, as
absorbed from the Hebrew parchments, with the undercurrent, lying away
down, of a tragedy to be met on the way up to the throne.
Jesus was a man of great _intensity_. He could become so absorbed as to be
unconscious of other things. As a boy of twelve, when first He caught
fire, He was so taken up with the flood of thoughts poured into His mind
by the temple visit, that for three days and two nights He remained away
from His parents, simply absorbed in the world of thought awakened by that
visit. He could remain forty days in the wilderness without being
conscious of hunger. The impress of that forty days mentally remain with
Him during the remainder of His human life. Intensity is possible only to
strong mentality. The child's mind, the undisciplined mind, the mind
weakened by sickness or fatigue goes quickly from one thing to another.
The finest mental discipline is revealed in the greatest intensity, while
yet all the faculties remain at normal, not heated, nor disturbed by the
discoloration of heat.
He withdrew into the wilderness to think and pray. He wanted to get away
from man that He might realize God. With the near flaming footlights shut
out, He could see clearly the quiet upper lights, His sure guides. These
forty days gave Him the true perspective. Things worked into proportion.
He never lost this wilderness perspective. The wilderness means to Him
_alone with God_, the false perspective, the flaming of near lights, the
noise of men's shuffling feet all gone. And when He went out among men for
work, that wilderness atmosphere went with Him. And when the crowds
thickened, and work piled up, and dangers intensified, off He would go for
a fresh bit of improvised wilderness.
The temptation follows the natural lines of man's powers. Man was made
with mastery of himself, kingship over nature and all its forces, and
utter dependence, even for his very breath, upon God. While made perfect
in these, he would know them fully only through growth. He had three
relationships, to God, his fellows, and himself. His relation to God would
keep true the relation to himself, and adjust the relation to his fellows.
Keeping God in proper proportion in the perspective keeps one's self in
its true place always. Utter dependence by every man upon God would make
perfect harmony with his fellows. The dominion of nature was through
self-mastery, and this in turn would be only through the practice of utter
dependence upon God.
Now all sin comes under this grouping, the relation to God, the relation
to others, within one's self. Temptation follows the line of exaggeration,
misuse, misadjustment, wrong motive. It pushes trust over into unwarranted
presumption. Dominion over nature crosses the line into the relation to
other men. Fellow-feeling gives way to an ambition to get ahead of the
other man and to boss him. Proper appetite and desire become lust and
passion. The dominion that man was to have over nature, he seeks also to
have over his brothers, so crossing the line of his own proper dominion
and trespassing on God's. Only God is to have dominion over all men. Where
a man is lifted to eminence of rule among his fellows he is simply acting
for Somebody else. He is not a superior. He is a servant of God, in ruling
over his fellows.
John's famous grouping of all sin as "the lust of the flesh, lust of eye
and pride of life," refers to what is out "in the world." It touches only
_two_ of these three: sin in one's self and in relation to his fellows,
with the dominion line out of adjustment. Out in the world God has been
left clean out, so the phase of trust isn't touched upon by John.
Jesus' temptation follows these natural lines. Improper use of power for
the sake of the bodily appetite; to presume on God's care in doing
something unwarranted; to cross the line of dominion over nature and seek
to control men. For, be it remembered, Jesus was here as a man. The realm
of the body, the realm of religion, the realm of wrong ambition, these
were the temptation lines followed then, and before, and ever since.
The going into the wilderness was planned by the Holy Spirit. He was in
charge of this campaign of Jesus to win back the allegiance of man and
the dominion of the earth. Jesus yielded Himself to the control of the
Holy Spirit for His earthly mission, even as later the Holy Spirit yielded
Himself wholly to the control of the exalted Jesus for _His_ earthly
Here the Spirit proves Himself a keen strategist. He drives hard at the
enemy. He forces the fighting. A decided victory over the chief at the
start would demoralize all the forces. It would be decisive of the whole
conflict, and prophetic of the final outcome. Every demon possessing a man
on the earth heard of his chief's rout that day, and recognized his
Victor, and feared Him, and knew of his own utter defeat in that of his
chief. Having gotten the chief devil on the run, every sub-devil fled at
The Spirit would show to man the weakness of the devil. The devil can do
nothing with the man who is calmly set in his loyalty to God. This new
Leader of the race was led up to the dreaded devil that men might know for
all time his weak spot. The poison of those fangs is completely
neutralized by simple, steady loyalty to God. But the rattles do make a
big scary noise.
It is safe to go where the Spirit of God leads, and not safe to go
anywhere else. The wilderness, any wilderness, becomes a place of victory
if the Spirit of God be leading there. Any temptation is a chance for a
victory when the Spirit leads the way. A man's controlling motive
determines the attractiveness or ugliness of any place. To Jesus this
wilderness barren was one of the mountain peaks. Its forbidding chasms and
ugly gullies and darting snakes ever afterwards speak to Him of sweet
victory. The first great victory was here. He made the wilderness to
blossom with the rose of His unswerving loyalty to His Father. And its
fragrance has been felt by all who have followed Him there. To the tempter
it was a wilderness indeed, barren of anything he wanted. He quit it the
first chance he could make. He would remember the beasts and serpents and
dreary waste. For here he received his first death-thrust.
Every man whom God has used has been in the wilderness. The two great
leaders before Jesus, and the great leader after Him, had each a
post-graduate course in the University of Arabia. A degree in that school
is required for those who would do valiant service for God. Only so can
the eyes and ears be trained away from the glare and blare of the crowd.
They needed it, we need it, for discipline. He, the matchless Man, for
that too, and that He might make it a place of sure victory for us.
Earth's Ugliest, Deepest Scar.
Jesus is the _only_ One of whom we are told that He was led up to be
_tempted_. He was the leader of the race for the regaining of the blurred
image, the lost mastery and dominion. He Himself bade us pray not to be so
tempted. He out-matched the tempter. Any one of us, alone, is clearly
out-matched by that tempter. But we may always rest secure in the victory
He achieved that day. Only so are we safe.
It is noteworthy that the _place_ of the temptation was chosen by the
Spirit, and what place it is He chooses. Mark keenly, the tempter did not
choose it. He was obliged to start in there, but he seized the first
chance to get away to scenes more congenial to himself.
The wilderness is one of the most marked spots on the earth's crust. That
remarkable stretch of land going by swift, steep descents almost from
Jerusalem's very door down to the Dead Sea. It was once described as "the
garden of God," that is, as Eden, for beauty and fertility, like the
fertile Egyptian bottoms. For long centuries no ghastlier bit of land can
be found, haggard, stripped bare, its strata twisted out of all shape,
blistering peeling rocks, scorching furnace-heat reflected from its rocks,
swept by hot desert winds, it is the land of death, an awful death; no
life save crawling scorpions and vipers, with an occasional hyena and
jackal. Here sin had a free line and ran riot. It ran to its logical
conclusion, till a surgical operation--a cauterization--was necessary to
save the rest. Earth's fairest became earth's ugliest. It is the one spot
where sin's free swing seamed its mark deepest in. The story of sin's
worst is burned into the crust of the earth with letters over a thousand
feet deep. This is sin's scar: earth's hell-scar.
There is no talk of the glory of the kingdom here. Yet there had been
once. This is the very spot where that proposition on smaller scale was
made to a man in a crisis of _his_ life, and where, lured by the
attractive outlook, he had chosen selfishly. This is the wilderness, sin's
wilderness, whither the Holy Spirit led Jesus for the tempter's assault.
No man does great service for God till he gets sin into its proportion in
Jesus was tempted. Temptation, the suggestion to wrong, must find some
point of contact within. Therein consists the temptation to the man.
Without doubt there was a response within to the temptations that came to
Jesus. Satan always throws his line to catch on a hook inside. The
physical sense of hunger responded to the suggestion of getting hold of a
loaf. The unfailing breath of Jesus' life was trusting His Father. For the
_way_ a thing should be done, as well as for getting the result, He
trusted His Father. This trust, underlying and permeating His whole life,
furnishes the point of contact for the second temptation.
The ruling of a world righteously--not for the glory of reigning,
ingrained in _us_, but for the world's good and betterment--was ingrained
in Jesus by His birth, and fostered by His study of the Hebrew scriptures,
and by the consciousness of His mission. Here is the point of contact with
the third temptation. At once it is plain that there is nothing wrong here
in the inward response. For instantly it was clear that a response of His
_will_ to these outer propositions would not be right, would be wrong, and
so these points of contact were instantly held in check by His will.
"_Every_ temptation" was brought, we are told: "tempted in _all_ points."
This does not mean that every particular temptation came to Jesus, but the
heart, the essential, of every temptation. Every temptation that comes to
us is along the line of the three that came to Him. By rejecting the
_first_ of each line He shut out its successors. By accepting the first of
a series of temptations a man opens the way for the next, and so on.
Temptations come on a scale descending. There are the first, the initial
temptations, and then all that follow in their train. Rejecting the first
stops the whole line. Not only that, but stops also the _momentum_,
terrific, downward momentum of the whole line.
The first temptation is the door through which must pass all other
temptations of that sort. If that door be opened these other temptations
have a chance. If that door be kept shut, all these others are kept
waiting. Temptation is always standing with its pointed toe at the crack
of the door, waiting the slightest suggestion of an opening. This first
temptation is always the likeliest of its class to get in. It is not
always the same, of course. It is subtly chosen to suit the man. Jesus
kept these doors rigidly shut, key turned, bolts pushed, bar up, chain
hooked. So may we.
The tempting is to be done by "the devil." That is his strong point,
tempting people. It is one way of recognizing some of his kin. It is a
mean, contemptible sort of thing. He had fallen into a hole of his own
digging, and would pull in everybody else. He is never constructive in his
work, always destructive. Best at tearing down. Never builds up. His
allies can often be told by their resemblance to him here. Jesus is to be
tempted by this master-tempter. He is going to prove to all his brothers
that the tempter has no power without the consent of the tempted. The door
into a man has only the one knob. And that's on the inside.
Waiting the Father's Word.
Quite likely the form of the tempter's words suggests the upper current of
Jesus' thought. "If thou be the _Son of God_." Jesus was likely absorbed
with His peculiar relation to His Father, with all that that involved. The
tempter cunningly seeks to sweep Him off of His feet by working on His
mood. It is ever a favorite method with the tempter to _rush_ a man. A
flush of feeling, the mood of an intense emotion tipped over the balance
with a quick motion of his, has swept many a man off his feet. But Jesus
held steady. There was no unholy heat of ambition to disturb the calm
working of His mind.
Why "if"? Did Satan doubt it? Is he asking proof? He gets it. Jesus did
not need to prove His divinity except by continuing to be divine. He
proved best that He was Son of God by being true to His Sonship. He
naturally acted the part. We prove best that we are right by being right,
not by accepting captious, critical propositions. The stars shine. We know
they are stars by their shine. Satan would have Jesus use His divinity in
an undivine way. He was cunning. But Jesus was keener than the tempter was
"Get a loaf out of this stone. Don't go hungry. Be practical and
sensible." The cold cruelty of Satan! He makes no effort to relieve the
hunger. The hunger asked for bread and he gave it a stone. That is the
best he has. He is a bit short on bread. He would use the physical need to
break down the moral purpose. He has ever been doing just that. Sometimes
he induces a man to break down his strength in religious activity. And
then he takes advantage of his weakened condition. Even religious activity
should be refused save at the leading of God's Spirit. It will not do
simply to do _good._ The only safe thing is to do _God's will_, to be tied
fast to the tether of the Spirit's leading.
Jesus _could_ have made a loaf out of the stone. He did that sort of thing
afterwards. It was not wrong to do it, since, under other circumstances,
He did it. But it is wrong to do anything, even a good thing, at the
devil's suggestion. He would shun the counsel of the ungodly. The tempter
attacks first the _neediest_ point, the hunger, and in so far the weakest,
the likeliest to yield. Yet it was the strongest, too, for Jesus could
make bread. The strongest point may become the weakest because of the very
temptation the possession of strength gives to use it improperly. Strength
used properly remains strength; used improperly it becomes weakness. The
strong points always need guarding, that the balance be not tipped over
and lost. Strength is never greater than when used rightly; never greater
than when refused to the improper use. The essence of sin is in the
improper use of a proper thing.
The first step toward victory over temptation is to recognize it. Jesus'
quick, quiet reply here touches the human heart at once, and touches it at
its neediest and most sensitive point, the need of sympathy, of a fellow
feeling. He said, "_Man_ shall not live." The tempter said, "God." Jesus
promptly said, "Man." He came to be man, the Son of man, and the Brother
of man. He took His place as a _man_ that day in the Jordan water. He will
not be budged from man's side. He will stay on the man level in full touch
with His fellows at every step of the way.
He was giving to every man, everywhere in the world, under stress of every
temptation; with every rope tugging at its fastenings, and threatening
every moment to slip its hold, and the man be lost in the storm, _to every
man_ the right, the enormous staying power to say, "_Jesus_--a _man
_--such a one as I--was _here_, and as a _man_ resisted--and _won_. He is
at my side. I'll lean on Him and _resist_ too,--and _win_ too--in the
strength of His winning."
Jesus says here, "My life, my food, the supplying of my needs is in the
hands of my Father. When _He_ gives the word, I'll do: not before. I'll
starve if He wishes it, but I'll not mistrust Him; nor do anything save as
He leads and suggests. I'll not act at _your_ suggestion, nor anybody's
else but His. Starving doesn't begin to bother me like failing to trust
would do. But I haven't the faintest idea of starving with such a Father."
"Not by bread alone, but by every word ... of God." Not by a loaf, but by
a word. When a man is where God would have him, he can afford to wait
patiently till God gives the word. A man is never unsteadier on his feet
than when he has gone where he was not led. "_I go at my Father's word."
"I wait_ for my Father's word." Jesus' study of the parchment rolls in
Nazareth was standing Him in good stead now. Through many a prayerful hour
over that Word had come the trained ear, the waiting spirit, the doing of
things only at the Father's initiative. He could make bread, but He
wouldn't, unless the Father gave the word. It was not simply that He would
_not_ act at the tempter's suggestion, but He would not act at all except
at the Father's word. And to this Jesus remained true, whether the request
for evidence came from the tempter direct, or from sneering Pharisee at
the temple's cleansing, or from unbelieving brothers.
Life comes not through what a man can make, but through the Father's
controlling presence: not through our effort, but through the Father's
power transmitted through the pipe line of our ready obedience.
"Just to let thy Father do
As He will.
Just to know that He is true,
And be still.
Just to follow hour by hour
As He leadeth.
Just to draw the moment's power
As it needeth.
Just to trust Him. This is all.
Then the day will surely be
Peaceful, whatsoe'er befall,
Bright and blessed, calm and free."
Jesus held every activity, every power subject to the Father's bidding.
Not only obedient, but nothing else. Waiting the Father's send-off at
every turn: this is the message from Jesus that first tug, and first
victory. Jesus had held true in the realm of the body, in His relationship
Love Never Tests.
Satan shifts the scene. These wilderness surroundings grate on his nerves.
The setting of this place, once first class, is now rather worn. He's
famous at that. It's a favorite device of His; quick scene-shifting. A man
wins a victory over temptation, but a quick change of surroundings finds
him unprepared if he isn't ever alert for it, and down he goes before the
new, unexpected rush, before he can get his wind. The tempter is not a
fool, as regards man. That is, as a rule he is not. In the light of all
facts obtainable about his career, that word _might_ be thought of. Yet no
man of us may apply the word to him. Not one of us is a match for him.
We're not in the same class. In his keen subtlety and cunning he can
outmatch the keenest of us; outwit and befool without doing any extra
thinking. I am not using the word _wisdom_ of him. We are safe only in the
wisdom of our big Brother who drew his fangs in the wilderness that day.
He chooses shrewdly the spot for each following temptation. He's a master
stage manager. He always works for an _atmosphere_ that will help his
purpose. He took Jesus up to one of the wings of the temple in the holy
city. The holy city, and especially its temple, would awaken holiest
emotions. Here it was that Jesus, as a boy, years before, had probably
first caught fire. It is likely that He never forgot that first visit.
Here everything spoke to Him of His Father. The tempter is skilfully
following the leading of Jesus' reply. Jesus had given a religious answer.
So He is given a religious atmosphere, and taken to a religious place. He
would trust the Father implicitly. Here is an opportunity to let men see
that beautiful spirit of trust. Here is a chance for a master-stroke. A
single simple act will preach to the crowds. "You'll come down in the
midst of an open-mouthed, admiring crowd." The devil loves the
spectacular, the theatrical. He is always working for striking, stagy
How many a man has yielded to the _religious_ temptation! He is taken up
in the air, and seems to float among ethereal clouds. It is better for us
to live in the strength of Somebody else's victory, and keep good hard
earth close to the soles of our feet, or we may come into contact with it
suddenly with feet and head changing places.
The devil "taketh" Jesus. How could he? He could do it only by Jesus'
consent. Jesus yields to his taking. He has a strong purpose in it. He was
going for the sake of His brothers. The tempter cannot take anybody
anywhere except with his full consent. He tries to, and often befools men
into thinking he can. It's a lie. He cannot. Every man is an absolute
sovereign in his will, both as regards God and Satan. God will not do
anything with us without our ready consent. And be it keenly remembered
that the tempter _cannot_. Here Jesus gave consent for His brothers' sake.
The tempter acts his part like an old hand. The proper thing here is some
scripture, repeated earnestly in unctuous tones. Was it from this tempter
that all of us religious folks and everybody else have gotten into the
_inveterate_ habit of quoting verse and sentence entirely out of
connection? Any devil's lie can be proven from the Scriptures on that
plan. If it was he who set the pace, certainly it has been followed at a
lively rate. It was a cunning quotation, cunningly edited.
The angels _are_ ministering spirits. On their hands they do bear us up.
It is all true, blessedly true. But it is only true for the man who is
living in the first verse of that ninety-first psalm, "in the secret place
of the most High." The tempter threads his way with cautious skill among
those unpleasant allusions to the serpent, and the dragon, and getting
them under our feet, and then twisting and trampling with our hard heels.
He knew his ground well, and avoids such rough, rude sort of talk. It was
a cunning temptation, cunningly staged and worded and backed. He was doing
his best. One wonders if he really thought _Jesus_ could be tripped up
that way. So many others have been, and are, even after Jesus has shown us
the way. A dust cloth would help some of us--for our Bibles--and a little
more exercise at the knee-joint, and a bit of the hard common sense God
has given every one of us.
Did Jesus' wondrous, quiet calm nettle the tempter? Was He ever keener and
quieter? He would step from the substantial boat-deck to the yielding
water, He would cut Himself off from His Nazareth livelihood and step out
without any resources, He would calmly walk into Jerusalem when there was
a price upon His head, for so He was led by that Spirit to whose
sovereignty He had committed Himself. But He would do nothing at the
suggestion of this tempter. Jesus never used His power to show He had it,
but to help somebody. He could not. It is against the nature of power to
attempt to prove that you have it by using it. Power is never concerned
about itself, but wrapped up in practical service. There were no
theatricals about Jesus. He was too intensely concerned about the needs of
men. There are none in God-touched men. Elisha did not smite the waters to
prove that Elijah's power rested upon him, but _to get back across the
Jordan_ to where his work was needing him and waiting his touch. Jesus
would wear Himself out bodily in ministering to men's needs, but He
wouldn't turn a hair nor budge a step to show that He could. This is the
touch-stone by which to know all Jesus-men.
He rebukes this quotation by a quotation that breathes the whole spirit of
the passage where it is found. Thou shalt not _test_ God to see if He will
do as He promises. These Israelites had been testing, criticizing,
questioning, doubting God. That's the setting of His quotation. Jesus says
that love never tests. It trusts. Love does not doubt, for it _knows_. It
needs no test. It could trust no more fully after a test, for it trusts
fully now. Aye, it trusts more fully now, for it is trusting _God_, not a
_test_. Every test of God starts with a question, a doubt, a misgiving of
God. Jesus' answer to the second temptation is: love never tests. It
trusts. Jesus keeps true in His relation to His Father.
The Devil Acknowledges the King.
Another swift shift of the scene. Swiftness is a feature now. In a moment
of time, all the kingdoms, and all the glory of all the earth. Rapid work!
This is an appeal to the eye. First the palate, then the emotions, now the
eye. First the appetites, then the religious sense, now the ambition. The
tempter comes now to the real thing he is after. He would be a god. It is
well to sift his proposition pretty keenly, on general principles. His
reputation for truthfulness is not very good, which means that it is very
bad. Who wants to try a suspicious egg? He could have quite a number of
capitals after his name on the score of mixing lies and the truth. He has
a distinct preference for the flavor of _mixed_ lies.
Here are the three statements in his proposal. All these things have been
delivered unto me. I may give them to whom I will. I will give them to
you. The first of these is true. He is "the prince of this world." The
second is not true, because through breach of trust he has forfeited his
rule, though still holding to it against the Sovereign's wish. The third
is not true. Clearly he hadn't any idea of relinquishing his hold, but
only of swamping Jesus. Two parts lie: one part truth--a favorite formula
of his. The lie gets the vote. A bit of truth sandwiched in between two
He asks for worship. Did he really think that possibly Jesus would
actually worship him? The first flush answer is, surely not. Yet he is
putting the thing in a way that has secured actual worship from many a'one
who would be horrified at such a blunt putting of his conduct. We must
shake off the caricature of a devil with pointed horns, and split hoof,
and forked tail, and see the real, to understand better. From all accounts
he must be a being of splendor and beauty, of majestic bearing, and
dignity. His appeal in effect is this:--These things are all mine. You
have in you the ingrained idea of a world-wide dominion over nature, and
of ruling all men as God's King. Now, can't we fix this thing up between
us? Let's be friendly. Don't let's quarrel over this matter of world
You acknowledge me as your sovereign. You rule over all this under me.
I'll stand next to God, and you stand next to me. It's a mere technical
distinction, after all. It'll make no real change in your being a
world-wide ruler, and it will make none with me either. Each will have a
fair share and place. Let's pull together.--The thing sounds a bit
familiar. It seems to me I have heard it since somewhere, if I can jog up
my memory. It has raised a cloud of dust in many a man's road, and blurred
the clear outlines of the true plan--_has_ raised?--_is_ raising.
Jesus' answer is imperative. It is the word of an imperative. He is the
King already in His Father's plan. He replies with the sharp, imperial
brevity of an emperor, a king of kings, "Get thee hence!" Begone! The
tempter obeys. He knows his master. He goes. Biting his teeth upon his hot
spittle, utterly cowed, he slinks away. Only one Sovereign, Jesus says.
All dominion held properly only by direct dependence upon Him, direct
touch with Him, full obedience to Him. No compromise here. No mixing of
issues. Simple, direct relation to God, and every other relation _through_
that. No short cuts for Jesus. They do but cut with deep gashes the man
who cuts. The "short" describes the term of his power, a short shrift.
When the devil has used up all his ammunition--. That's a comfort. There
is an end to the devil if we will but quietly hold on. Every arrow shot.
Not a cartridge left. Yet he is not entirely through with Jesus. He has
retired to reform the broken lines. He'll melt up the old bullets into
different shape. They have been badly battered out of all shape by
striking on this hard rock. He's a bit shaken himself. This Jesus is
something new. When he can get his wind he will come back. He came back
many times. Once through ignorant Peter with the loaf temptation in new
shape, once through His mother's loving fears with the emotional
temptation, and through the earnest, hungry Greeks, and the bread-full
thousands with the kingdom temptation. Yet the edge of His sword is badly
nicked, and never regains its old edge.
But now he goes. He obeys Jesus. The tempter resisted goes, weakened. He
is a coward now. He fights only with those weaker than himself. He
doesn't take a man of his own size. Temptation resisted strengthens the
man. There is a new resisting power. There is the fine fettle that victory
gives. Jesus is Victor. The Jordan experience has left its impress. Every
act of obedience is to the tempter's disadvantage. In Jesus we are
victors, too. But only in Him.
Through Jesus we meet a fangless serpent. The old glare is in the eye, the
rattles are noisy, but the sting's out. He is still there. He still can
scare; but can do not even that to the man arm-in-arm with Jesus. Jesus
keeps true the relationship to all men and to nature by keeping true the
relationship to His Father.
Our Father, lead us not into temptation as Jesus was led. We're no match
for the tempter. Help us to keep arm-in-arm with Jesus, and live ever in
the power of His victory.
The Transfiguration: An Emergency Measure
God in Sore Straits.
The darkest hour save only one has now come in Jesus' life. And that one
which was actually darkest, in every way, from every view-point darkest,
had in it some gleams of light that are not here. Jesus is now a fugitive
from the province of Judea. The death plot has been settled upon. There's
a ban in Jerusalem on His followers. Already one man has been cut off from
synagogue privileges, and become a religious and social outcast. The
southerners are pushing the fight against Jesus up into Galilee.
Four distinct times that significant danger word "withdrew" has been used
in describing Jesus' departure from where the Judean leaders had come.
First from Judea to Galilee, then from Galilee to distant foreign points
He had gone, for a time, till the air would cool a bit. The bold return to
Jerusalem at the fall Feast of Tabernacles had been attended, first by an
official attempt to arrest, and then by a passionate attempt to stone
Jesus to death.
And now the Galilean followers begin to question, and to leave. His
enemies' northern campaign, together with His own plain teaching, has
affected the Galilean crowds. They come in as great numbers as ever to
hear and to be healed. But many that had allied themselves as Jesus'
followers decide that He is not the leader they want. He is quite too
unpractical. The kingdom that the Galileans are eager for, that the Roman
yoke may be shaken off, seems very unlikely to come under such a leader.
Many desert Him.
Jesus felt the situation keenly. The kingdom plan in Jerusalem had failed.
And now the winning of individuals as a step in another plan is slipping
its hold. These people are glad of bread and the easing of bodily
distress, but the tests of discipleship they pull away from. He turns to
the little band of His own choosing, with a question that reveals the keen
disappointment of His heart. There's a tender yearning in that question,
"Will ye also go away?" And Peter's instant, loyal answer does not blind
His keen eyes to the extremity. With sad voice He says, "One of you, my
own chosen friends, one of you is a--devil." Things are in bad shape, and
It was a time of dire extremity. God was in sore straits. The kingdom plan
was clearly gone for the present. The rub was to save enough out of the
wreckage to get a sure starting-point for the new plan, through which, by
and by, the other original plan would work out. There can be no stronger
evidence of God's need of men than this transfiguration scene. Just
because He had made man a sovereign in his will, God must work out all of
His plans _through_ that sovereign will. He would not lower one whit His
ambition for a man free in his own will. He Himself would do nothing to
mar the divine image in man. For man's sake, and _through_ man's
will--that is ever God's law of dealing.
Fire and Anvil for Leaders.
The great need just now was not simply for men who would be loving and
loyal, but men who would be _leaders_. It has ever been the sorest need.
Men are not so scarce, true-hearted men, willing to endure sacrifice, but
_leaders_ have always been few, and are. Nothing seems to be less
understood than leadership; and nothing so quickly recognized when the
real thing appears. Peter _was_ a leader among these men. He had dash and
push. He was full of impulse. He was always proposing something. He acted
as spokesman. He blurted out whatever came. The others followed his lead.
There were the crude elements of leadership here. But not true leadership
of the finer, higher kind.
The whole purpose of the transfiguration was to get and tie up leaders. It
was an emergency measure, out of the regular run of things. Goodness makes
character. It takes goodness plus ability to make true leadership. The
heart can make a loving follower. It takes a heart, warm and true, plus
_brains_ to make a leader. Character is the essential for life. For true
leadership, there needs to be character plus ability: the ability to keep
the broad sweep of things, and not be lost in details, nor yet to lose
sight of details; to discern motive and drifts; to sift through the
incidentals which may be spectacular and get to the essential which may be
in Quaker garb.
There are two sorts of leadership, of action, and of thought. By
comparison with the other, leaders of action are many, leaders of thought
few. Peter was the leader in action of the disciples, and in the earlier
church days. John became the leader in thought of the later years of the
early church. Paul was both, a very unusual combination. Leaders are born,
it is true. But the finest and truest and highest leaders must be both
born leaders, and then born again as leaders. There needs to be the
original stuff, and then that stuff hammered into shape under hard blows
on the anvil of experience. The fire must burn out the clay and dirt, and
then the hammer shape up the metal. Leaders must have convictions driven
in clear through the flesh and bone, and riveted on the other side.
_Simon_ loved Jesus, but there needed to be more before _Peter_ would
arrive. It took the transfiguration to put into the impulsive, unsteady,
wobbling Simon the metal that would later become steel in Peter. Yet it
took much more, and finally the fire of Pentecost, to get the needed
temper into the steel. These same lips could give that splendid statement
that has become the church's foundation; and, a bit later, utter boldly
foolish, improper words to Jesus; and, later yet, utter vulgar profanity,
and words far worse, aye, the worst that could be said about a _friend_,
and in that friend's _need_, too.
This was a fair sample of the clay and iron, the Simon and the Peter in
this man. Yet it was with painful slowness that he had been brought up to
where he is now. Two years of daily contact with Jesus. Slow work! No,
rapid work. Nobody but Jesus could have done it in such a short time.
Nobody but Jesus could have done it at all. And, mark you keenly, this man
is the _leader_ of the band of men that stand closest to Jesus. This is
the setting of the great transfiguration scene.
An Irresistible Plan.
Jesus goes off, away from the crowds, to have a bit of quiet time with
this inner band of His. Here is the strategic point, now. The key to the
future plan is in this small group. If that key can be filed into shape,
cleaned of rust, and gotten to fit and turn in the lock, all may yet be
well. The nub of all future growth is here. With simple, keen tact He
begins His questionings, leading on, until Peter responds with his
splendid declaration for which the church has ever been grateful to him.
"Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." It comes to Jesus' ears
as a grateful drink of cold water to a thirsty man on a hot day in a
Then to this leader and to the inner circle, He reveals the changed plan.
For the first time the word church is used, that peculiar word which later
becomes the name of the new organization, "a company of persons called
out." He is going to build up a church upon this statement of faith from
Peter's lips, and this church will hold the relation to the kingdom of
key-holder, administrator. The church is to be a part of the
administration of the coming kingdom.
And so Jesus begins His difficult, sad task of preparing this band for the
event six months off in Jerusalem. There is to be a tragedy before the
building of the church which will hold the kingdom keys. So thoroughly
does Peter fail to understand Jesus, that with stupid boldness he attempts
to "rebuke" Him. Peter "took" Jesus. A great sight surely! He slips his
hand in Jesus' arm and takes Him off to one side to--straighten--Him--out.
This Jesus is being swept off His feet by undue emotional enthusiasm.
Peter would fix it up and save the day. It would take Peter to do that.
And this is a sample of the best leadership in this inner group. Things
were in bad shape. All the machinery hung upon a little pin holding two
parts together. That pin threatens to bend and break for lack of temper.
The Son of God leaves all else and turns aside to attend to a pin. The
future of the kingdom hung upon three undisciplined country fishermen.
The transfiguration spells out God's dire extremity in getting a footing
in human hearts _and brains_ for His plans. Something must be done.
Mark what that something was to be: so simple in itself, so tremendous in
its results. They were to be allowed to _see Jesus_. That would be enough.
The Jesus within would look out through the body He was using. The real
Jesus within looked out through the Jesus they knew. He let these men see
Himself a few moments; simply that. All of that, yet simply that. They
were His lovers. They were to be sorely tried by coming events. They were
to be the leaders. To _love_, for a time of _sore need_, for _service's_
sake, for the sake of the _multitudes_ whose _leaders_ they were to be,
for the saving of the _church_ plan, and beyond of the _kingdom_ plan, the
Jesus within looked out for a few moments into their faces.
It was the same plan used later in getting another leader. Jesus had to go
outside these men for a man with qualifications needed by the situation
that these men did not have. The human element again in evidence. Paul
says, "When I could not see for the glory of that light." That light
bothered his eyes. The old ambitions were blurred. He couldn't see them.
The outlines dimmed, the old pedigree and plans faded out. They could no
longer be seen for the glory of that light. It is the plan the Master has
ever used, and still does. It is irresistible.
"The Glory of that Light."
It was six days, or eight counting both ends, after the first telling of
the coming tragedy that shook them so. Here is a bit of practical
psychology. Jesus lets the brain impression made by that strange
announcement _deepen_ before making the next impression. Jesus went up
into the mountain "to pray." Prayer never failed Him. It was equal to
every need with Jesus. It was while praying that the wondrous change came.
Changed while praying. When Moses came down from that long time alone with
God, his face was full of the glory reflected from God's presence.
Stephen's face caught the light of another Face into which he was intently
Jesus was changed _from within_. It was His own glory that these men saw.
He had wrapped Himself up in a bit of human tapestry so He could move
among men without blinding their eyes. Now He looks out through the
strands. They are astonished and awed to find that face they know so well
now shining as the sun, and the garments made transparent as light,
glistening like snow, by reason of the great brilliance of the light
within. Yet Jesus let out only a part of the glory. When Paul saw, on the
Damascus road, the light was _above_ the shining of the sun.
When their eyes get over the first daze, the disciples come to see that
besides Jesus there are two others, two of the old Hebrew leaders. There
is Moses, the great maker of the nation, the greatest leader of all. And
rugged Elijah, who had boldly stood in the breach and saved the day when
the nation's king was proposing to replace the worship of Jehovah with
demon-worship. They are talking earnestly together, these three,
about--what? The great sacrifices Jesus had been enduring? The
disappointment in the kingdom plan? The suffering and shame to be endured?
The bitter obstinacy of the opposition? The chief priests' plotting?
Listen! They are talking about the departure, the exodus, the going out
and up, Jesus is about to _accomplish_. They are absorbed in Jesus. He was
about to execute a master-stroke. He is going to accomplish a great move.
They are wholly absorbed in Him, this Moses, and Elijah, and in this great
move of His for men.
Meanwhile these men lying on the ground are waking up and rubbing their
eyes. The only jarring note is a human note. John and James look with awe,
reverent awe. It is an insight into their character that nothing is said
about them. Their sense of reverence and power of control are to the
front. It is dear, impulsive old Peter who can't keep still, even amid
such a scene. His impulsive heart is just back of his lips, with no
check-valves between. He must offer a few remarks. This great vision must
be duly recognized. What a sensation it would make in Jerusalem to get
these two men to stay and come down and address a meeting! That would turn
the tide surely. Luke graciously explains that he did not know what he
was saying. No, probably not. The tongue seemed to be going mechanically,
rather than by the controlling touch of the will. Peter seems to have a
large posterity, some of whom abide with us to this day.
Then the vision is shut out by the intervening cloud. This human
interference disturbs the atmosphere. For Peter's sake, the glory is
hidden that the impression of it may not be rubbed out even slightly by
his own speech. We blur and lose the impression God would make upon us, by
our speech, sometimes. A bit of _divine_ practical psychology, this
movement of the cloud. Then the quiet voice that thrilled them with the
message of the Jordan, "This is My Son; My Chosen One: hear ye Him." Then
it is all over.
It is most striking that this wondrous vision of glory is for these three
obscure, untutored men, of lowly station. Not for the nation's leaders.
Yet the reason is plain. They had gladly accepted what light had come. To
them came more. Their door was open. It is these men who had obeyed light
that now received more. To him that hath received what light has come
shall be given more. From him that hath no light, because he won't let it
in, shall be taken away even what light he has. Shut fists will stifle
what is already held, and the life of it oozes out between the fingers.
In each of the three Gospels recording this scene it is introduced by the
same quotation from Jesus' lips. There were some persons in His presence
who would not die until they had seen the kingdom of God. The writers'
reference is clearly to the vision that follows. It is said to be a vision
of the coming kingdom. Jesus, with the divine glory within, no longer
concealed, but shining out with an indescribable splendor, up above the
earth, with two godly men, one of whom had died, and the other had been
caught up from the earth without death, talking earnestly about men and
affairs on the earth, and in direct communication with the Father--that is
the vision here of the kingdom.
A Vision of Jesus.
And so the darkest hour save only one was filled with the brightest light.
The after, darker hour of Calvary had gleams of light from this
transfiguration scene. There was faithful John's sympathetic presence all
through the trial. John never flinched. And Peter had tears that caught
the light from Jesus' eyes, and reflected their glistening rays within.
Those tears of Peter's were a great comfort to Jesus that night and the
next day. The two greatest leaders were sure.
The transfiguration served its purpose fully. The memory of it saved Peter
out of the wreckage of Simon, else Judas' hemp might have had double use
that night. Under the leadership of these men, the little band hold
together during that day, so awful to them in the killing of their leader
and the dashing of all their fondest hopes on which they had staked
everything. Two nights later finds them gathered in a room. Could it have
been the same upper room where they had eaten _with Him_ that
never-to-be-forgotten night, and listened to His comforting words? Only
Thomas does not come. Everybody swings in but one. That shows good work by
these leaders. But another week's work brings him, too, into the meeting
and into the light.
These three men never forgot the sight of that night. John writes his
Gospel under the spell of the transfiguration. "We beheld _His glory"_ he
says at the start, and understands Isaiah's wondrous writings, because he,
too, "_saw His glory."_ The impression made upon Peter deepened steadily
with the years. The first impression of garments glistening beyond any
fuller's skill has grown into an abiding sense of the "_majesty" _ of
Jesus and "_the majestic glory_." I think it wholly likely, too, that this
vision of glory was in James' face, and steadied his steps, as so early in
the history he met Herod's swordsman.
It was _a vision of Jesus_ that turned the tide. There's nothing to be
compared with that. A man's life and service depend wholly on the vision
of Jesus that has come, that is coming. When that comes, instinctively he
finds himself ever after saying, without planning to,
"Since mine eyes were fixed on Jesus,
I've lost sight of all beside.
So enchained my spirit's vision,
Looking at the Crucified."
With the Damascus traveller he will be saying, "When I could not see for
the glory of that light." May we each with face open, uncovered, all
prejudice and self-seeking torn away, behold the glory of Jesus, even
though for the sake of our eyes it come as a reflected glory. Then we
shall become, as were Moses and Stephen, unconscious reflectors of that
glory. And the crowd on the road shall find Jesus in us and want Him.
Then, too, we ourselves shall be changing from glory to glory, by the
inner touch of Jesus' Spirit, as we continue gazing.
Gethsemane: The Strange, Lone Struggle
The Pathway In.
Great events always send messengers ahead. There is a movement in the
spirit currents. A sort of tremor of expectancy affects the finer currents
of air. The more sensitively organized one is, that is to say, the more
the spirit part of a man dominates body and mind, the more conscious will
he be of the something coming.
Jesus was keenly conscious ahead of the coming of Calvary. Apart from the
actual knowledge, there was a painful thrill of expectancy, intensifying
as the event came nearer. The cross cast long, dark shadows ahead. The
darkest is Gethsemane. It would be, for it was nearest. But there were
other shadows before that of the olive grove. Jesus plainly reveals in His
behavior, in His appearance, that He felt keenly, into the very fibre, so
sensitively woven, of His being, that the experience of the cross would be
a terrific one for Him. It was deliberately chosen by Him, and the time of
its coming chosen in the full knowledge that it would be an awful ordeal.
It would establish the earth's record for suffering, never approached
before or since.
As He turns His face for the last time away from Galilee, and to Judea,
it is with the calmness of strong deliberation. Yet the intenseness of the
inner spirit, in its look ahead, is shown in His face, His demeanor. As He
comes to a certain Samaritan village on the road south, the usual
invitation to stop for rest and a bit of refreshment is withheld out of
respect to His evident purpose. It is clear to these villagers that His
face is set to go to Jerusalem. In Luke's striking language, "_His face
was going to Jerusalem._" What going to Jerusalem meant to Him had no
meaning to them. They saw only that face, and were so caught by the
strong, stern determination plainly written there that they felt impelled
not to offer the usual hospitality.
They were Samaritans, it is true, a half-breed race, hated by Jews, and
hating them, but invariably they had been friendly to Jesus. That must
have been a marked face that held back these homely country people from
pressing their small attentions upon Jesus. They are keener to read the
meaning of that face than are these disciples who are more familiar with
the sight of it. The impress already made upon the inner spirit by the
great event toward which Jesus had determinedly set Himself was even thus
early marked in His face.
Later, on that journey south, as the time and place are nearing, He
strides along the road, with such a look in His face as makes these men,
who had lived in closest touch, "amazed," that is, awed and frightened.
And as they followed behind, they were "afraid." It is the only time it is
said that the sight of His face made them _afraid_. Then He explains to
them what is in His thoughts, with full details of the indignities to be
heaped upon His person. The sternness of His purpose, perhaps not only the
terrible experience of knowing sin at such close range, but, not unlikely,
an anger, a hot indignation against sin and its ravages, which He was
going to stab to death, flashed blinding lightning out of those eyes.
It was, not unlikely, something of the same feeling as made Him shake with
indignation as He realized His dear friend Lazarus in the cold, clinging
embrace of death, sin's climax. The determination to conquer sin, give it
a death thrust, mingled with His acute consciousness of that through which
He must go in the doing of it, wrote deep marks on His face. It is the
beginning already of Gethsemane, as that, in turn, is of Calvary.
Earlier in the last week occurs the incident which agitates Jesus so, of
the Greeks' request for an interview. These earnest seekers for truth,
from outside the Jewish nation, seem to bring up to His mind the great
outside world, so hungry for Him, and for which He was so hungry. But,
quick as a flash, there falls over that the inky black shadow of a cross
in His path, and the instant realization that only _through it_ could He
get out to these great outside crowds.
As though unaware of the presence of the crowds, He begins talking with
Himself, out of His heart, saying words which none understand. "Now is my
innermost being agitated, all shaken up; and what decisive word shall I
speak? Shall I say, 'Father, save me from this experience'? He can. No, I
cannot say that, for for this purpose I have deliberately come to it. This
is what I will say--and the agitation within His spirit issues in the
victorious tightening of every rivet in His purpose--'Father, glorify Thy
name.'" This is Gethsemane already, both in the struggle and in the
victory through loyalty to the Father's will.
The Climax of Jesus' Suffering.
And now comes Gethsemane. Both hat and shoes quickly go off here, for this
is holiest ground. One looks with head bowed and breath held in, and
reverential awe ever deepening. The shadow of the cross so long darkening
His path is now closing in and enveloping Jesus. The big trees cast black
shadows against the brilliance of the full moon. Yet they are as bright
lights beside this other shadow, this inky shadow cast by the tree up
yonder, just outside the Jerusalem wall, with the huge limb sitting
sharply astride the trunk.
The scene under these trees has been spoken of by almost all, if not by
all, as a strange struggle. With a great variety of explanations men have
wondered why He agonized so. It _was_ a strange struggle, and ever will
be, not understood, strange to angels and to men and to demons. It is
strange to angels of the upper world, for they do not know, and cannot,
the terrific meaning of sin as did Jesus. It is strange to all other men
except Jesus, for we do not know the meaning of purity as Jesus did. And
it was strange to demons, for in the event of the morrow sin was working
out a new degree of itself, a new superlative, in its final attack on
Jesus. Sin was trying to strangle God. Even demons stared.
Purity refined beyond what angels knew, and sin coarsened beyond what
demons knew were coming together. Purity's finest and sin's coarsest were
coming together in the closest touch thus far, in this Man under those old
brown-barked gray-leaved, gnarly trees. The shock of such extremes meeting
would be terrific. It _was_ terrific here under the trees. It was yet more
so on the morrow. Here was the cross in anticipation. Calvary was in
Man never will understand the depth of Gethsemane. We are incapable of
sympathizing with Jesus here. Yet it is true that as the Holy Spirit
within a man increases the purity, and the horror of sin, there comes an
increasing sense of sympathy with Him, and an increasing appreciation that
we cannot go into the depths of what He knew here. In the best of us sin
is ingrained. Jesus was wholly free from taint or twist of sin. He knew it
only in others. Now He, the pure One, purity personified, was coming into
_closest_ contact with sin, and sin at its worst. He had been in contact
with sin in _others_. He had seen its cruel ravages and been indignant
Now, on the morrow, He is to know sin by a horrid intimacy of contact, and
sin at a new worst. He was yielding to its tightest hold. Sin at its
ugliest would stretch out its long, bony arms and gaunt hands, and fold
Him to itself in closest embrace and hold Him there. And He was allowing
this, that so when sin's worst was done, He might seize it by the throat
and strangle it. He would put death to death. Yet so terrific is the
struggle that He must accept in Himself that which He thereby destroys.
This is the agony of Gethsemane. It may be told, but not understood. Only
one as pure as He could understand, and then only under circumstances that
never will come again.
The horror of this contact with sin is intensified clear out of our reach
by this: it meant _separation from His Father_. The Father was the life of
Jesus. The Father's presence and approving smile were His sunshine. From
the earliest consciousness revealed to us was that consciousness of His
_Father_. Only let that smile be seen, that voice heard, that presence
felt by this One so sensitive to it, and all was well. No suffering
counted. The Father's presence tipped the scales clear down against every
_But_--now on the morrow that would be changed. The Father's face
be--hidden--His presence _not_ felt. That was the climax of all to Jesus.
Do you say it was for a short time only? In minutes y-e-s. As though
experiences were ever told by the clock! What bulky measurements of time
we have! Will we never get away from the clocks in telling time? No clock
ever can tick out the length to Jesus of that time the Father's face was
hidden. This hiding of the Father's face was the climax of suffering to
It was a very full evening for Jesus. In the upper room of a friend's
house they meet for the eating of the Passover meal. There is the great
act of washing His disciples' feet, the eating of the old Hebrew prophetic
meal, the going out of Judas into the night of his dark purpose, the new
simple memorial meal. Then come those long quiet talks, in which Jesus
speaks out the very heart of His heart, and that marvellous prayer so
simple and so bottomless.
Very likely He is talking, as they move quietly along the Jerusalem
streets, out of the gate leading toward the Kedron brook, and then over
the brook toward the enclosed spot, full of the great old olive trees. The
moon is at the full. This is one of His favorite praying places. He is
going off for a bit of prayer. _So_ He approaches this great crisis. There
is a friendly word spoken to these men that they be keenly alert, and
_pray_, lest they yield to temptation. It is significant, this word about
temptation. Then into the woods He goes, the disciples being left among
the trees, while He goes in farther with the inner three, then farther
yet, quite alone. Intense longing for fellowship mingles with intense
longing to be alone. He would have a warm hand-touch, yet they cannot help
Him here, and may do something to jar.
Now He is on His knees, now prone, full length, on His face. The
agony is upon Him. Snatches of His prayer are caught by the
wondering three ere sleep dulls their senses. "My Father--if it be
The words used to tell of His mental distress are so intense that the
translators are puzzled to find English words strong enough to put in
their place. A frenzy of fright, a nightmare horror, a gripping chill
seizes Him with a terrible clutch. It is as though some foul, poisonous
gas is filling the air and filling His nostrils and steadily choking His
gasping breath. The dust of death is getting into His throat. The strain
of spirit is so great that the life tether almost slips its hold. And
angels come, with awe stricken faces, to minister. Even after that, some
of the life, that on the morrow is to be freely spilled out, now reddens
the ground. The earth is beginning to feel the fertilizing that by and by
is to bring it a new life.
By and by the mood quiets, the calm returns and deepens. The changed
prayer reveals the victory: "My Father, if this cup _can_not pass away
except I drink it--if only through this experience can Thy great love-plan
for the race be worked out--Thy--will"--slowly, distinctly, with the
throbbing of His heart and the iron of His will in them, come the
words--"Thy--will--be--done." In between times He returns to the drowsy
disciples with the earnest advice again about being awake, and alert, and
praying because of temptation near by.
And gentle reproach mingles in the special word spoken to Peter. "Simon,
are you sleeping? Could you not be watching with me _one hour_?" Yes, this
was Simon now, the old Simon. Jesus' new Peter was again slipping from
view. Then the great love of His heart excuses their conduct. What
masterly control in the midst of unutterable agitation! Back again for a
last bit of prayer, and then He turns His face with a great calm breathing
all through those deep lines of suffering, and with steady step turns
toward the cross.
Yielding to Arrest.
It is probably close to midnight when Jesus steps out from among the trees
to meet the crowds headed by the traitor. He knew they were coming, and
quietly goes to meet them. There is a great rabble that the chief priests
had drummed up, a city rabble with Roman soldiers, some of the chief
priests' circle, and in the lead of all, Judas. Judas keeps up the
pretense of friendship, and, advancing ahead of his crowd, greets Jesus
with the usual kiss. Jesus dispels the deception at once with His question
of reproach, "Betrayest thou with a _kiss_?" Damnable enough to betray,
but to use love's token in hate's work made it so much worse. Then He
yields to Judas' lips. It was the beginning of the indignities He was to
suffer that night. Jesus quietly adds, "Friend, do what you have planned.
Let there be no more shamming." But Judas' work is done. The silver
secured under his belt is earned. He drops back into the crowd.
Jesus steps out into the clear moonlight, and faces the crowd pressing
eagerly up. His is the one masterly, majestic presence. Quietly He asks,
"Whom are you hunting for?" Back comes the reply, "Jesus of Nazareth."
Jesus at once replies, "I am He." Again, that strange power of Jesus'
presence is felt, but now more marked than ever before. The crowd falls
backward and down to the ground. Soldiers, priests, crowds, Judas lying
prone before Jesus! Again the question and the answer, and then the word
spoken on behalf of His followers. This manifestation of power is _for
others_ this time.
Recovering themselves, the crowds press forward. The bewildered Peter
makes an awkward stroke with a sword he had secured and cuts off the right
ear of a man in the front of the crowd. Jesus gently stops the movement
with a word. The Father would even then send twelve legions of angels if
He were but to give the word. But He was not giving words of that sort,
but doing what the Father wished. With a word of apology for His impetuous
follower, the man's ear is restored with a touch. Surely _he_ never forgot
The leaders, now satisfied that Jesus will not use His power on His own
behalf, seize Him and begin to bind His hands. As He yields to their
touch, Jesus, looking into the faces of the Jewish leaders, said, "You
hunt me and treat me as though I were a common robber. I have never tried
to get away from you. But now for a while things are in your control, the
control of the powers of night."
Meanwhile the disciples forsook Him and fled, except two, John and Peter.
Peter followed at what he thought a safe distance. John kept along with
the crowd, and went in "_with Jesus_." Mark tells about the attempted
arrest of a young man who seemed friendly to Jesus, but in the struggle he
escaped, leaving his garments behind. And so they make their way, a
torch-light procession through the darkness of the night, back across the
brook, up the steep slope to the city gate, and through the narrow streets
to the palace of the high priest.
The Real Jewish Ruler.
Here Jesus is expected. Late as it is He is at once brought before Annas.
Annas was an old man who had been high priest himself once, years before,
and who had afterwards absolutely controlled that office through the
successive terms of his sons and now of his son-in-law. He was the real
leader of the inner clique that held the national reins in a clutching
grip. Caiaphas was the nominal high priest. The old man Annas was the real
leader. He controlled the inner finances and the temple revenues. To him
first Jesus is taken. He begins a quizzical, critical examination of Jesus
about disciples and teaching. Possibly he is trying to overawe this young
Galilean. Jesus calmly answers. "I have taught openly, never secretly;
everybody knows what my teaching has been. Why ask Me? These people all
around have heard all my teaching." He was ever in the open, in sharp
contrast with these present proceedings. One of the underlings of the
high priest--struck--Jesus--in the face, saying, "Answerest thou the high
priest so?" Jesus quietly replies, "If I have spoken something wrong tell
me what it is, but if not, why do you strike Me?" Annas ignores the gross
insult by one of his own men, and, probably with an exultant sneer that
the disturber of the temple revenues is in his power at last, gives order
that Jesus be bound and taken to his chief underling, Caiaphas.
This is the first phase of the condemnation determined upon beforehand,
and the real settling of the _Jewish_ disposition of Jesus. Still the
forms had to be gone through. So Jesus is sent with the decision of Annas
in the thongs on His hands to Caiaphas, high priest that year by the grace
of the old intriguer Annas, and by Roman appointment. The thing must be
done up in proper shape. These folks are great sticklers for proper forms.
Probably it is across a courtyard they go to another part of the same pile
of buildings or palace. Caiaphas, too, is ready, unusual though the hour
is. With him are several members of the senate, the official body in
control of affairs. The plans have been carefully worked out. This night
work will get things in shape before the dreaded crowds of the morrow can
be aroused. Now begins the examination here. These plotters have been so
absorbed in getting Jesus actually into their power that they seem to have
over-looked the details of making out a strong case against Him. They
really didn't need a case to secure their end, yet they seem to want to
keep up the forms, probably not because of any remnants of supposed
conscience left unseared, but to swing the bothersome, fanatical crowds
that must always be reckoned with. Now they deliberately try to find men
who will lie about Jesus' words, and swear to it. They find some willing
enough--money would fix that--but not bright enough to make their stories
hang together. At last some one brings up a remark made three years before
by Jesus about destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days. It
is hard to see how they might expect to make anything out of that, for in
the remark, as they understood it, He had proposed to undertake the
rebuilding of the famous structure if they should destroy it. And then
they can't even agree here. Clearly they're hard pushed. Something must be
done. Precious time is slipping away. The thing must be in shape by dawn
if they are to get it through before the crowds get hold of it.
All this time Jesus stands in silence, doubtless with those eyes of His
turned now upon Caiaphas, now on the others. His presence disturbed them
in more ways than one. That great calm, pure face must have been an
irritant to their jaded consciences. Suddenly the presiding officer stands
up and dramatically cries out, as though astonished, "Answerest thou
nothing? Canst thou not hear these charges against Thee?" Still that
silence of lip, and those great eyes looking into His enemies' faces. Then
comes the question lurking underneath all the time, put in the form of a
solemn oath to the prisoner, "I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou
tell us whether Thou art the Christ, the Son of God." Thus appealed to,
Jesus at once replies, "_I am_." And then, knowing full well the effect of
the reply, He adds, "_Nevertheless_--notwithstanding your evident purpose
regarding Me--the Son of Man will be sitting at the right hand of Power,
and coming in the clouds of heaven, and ye shall see it."
In supposed righteous horror Caiaphas tore his garments, and cried, "What
further need is there of witnesses? Behold you have heard His blasphemy.
What verdict do you give?" Back come the eager cries, "He deserves
death--Guilty." So the second session closes with the verdict of guilty
agreed upon. Yet this was not official. The senate could meet only in
daylight hours. The propriety of form they were so eager for requires them
to wait until dawn should break, and then they could technically give the
decisive verdict now agreed upon. While they are waiting, the intense
hatred of Jesus in their hearts and their own cruel thirstings find outlet
upon Jesus' person. They--spat--in--His--face, and struck Him, with open
hand and shut fist. He is blind-folded, and then struck by one and another
with derisive demands that He use His prophetic skill to tell who had been
hitting Him. And this goes on for possibly a couple of hours before dawn
permits the next step, soldiers vying with senators in doing Him greatest
Held Steady by Great Love.
Meanwhile a scene is being enacted within ear-shot of Jesus that hurts Him
more than these vulgar insults. Peter is getting into bad shape. John was
acquainted in the high priest's house-hold, and, going directly in without
striking his colors, is not disturbed. Peter gets as far as the gateway,
leading through a sort of alley into the open courtyard, around which on
the four sides the palace was built. Here, as a stranger, he was refused
admittance, until John comes to speak a word for him. In the center of the
open court a fire was burning to relieve the cold of the night, and about
this was gathered a mixed crowd of soldiers and servants and attendants.
Peter goes over to the fire, and, mingling with the others, sits warming
himself, probably with a studied carelessness. The maid who let him in,
coming over to the fire, looks intently into his face, and then says, "You
belong to the Nazarene, too." Peter stammers out an embarrassed, mixed up
denial, "I don't know what you mean--I don't understand--what do you say?"
Taken unawares, poor Peter mingles a lie with the denial. As soon as
possible he moves away from the fire toward the entrance. It's a bit warm
there--for him. He remembered afterwards that just then the crowing of a
cock fell upon his ear. Again one of the serving-maids notices him and
says to those standing about, "This man was with Jesus." This time the
denial comes sharp and fiat, "I don't know the man." And to give good
color to his words, and fit his surroundings, he adds a bit of profanity
An hour later, as he moves uneasily about, he is standing again by the
fire. Something about him seems to make him a marked man. Evidently he has
been talking, too. For now a man looking at him, said, "You belong to this
Jesus. I can tell by the twist of your tongue." Peter promptly says, "No."
Lying comes quicker now. But at once another speaks up, who was kin to the
man that temporarily lost his ear through Peter's sword. "Why," he said,
"certainly I saw you with Him in the garden." Again the denial that he
knew Jesus mingled freely with curses and oath. And even as he spoke the
air was caught again with the cock's shrill cry. And then Jesus, in the
midst of the vulgarity being vented upon Him, turned those wondrous eyes
upon Peter. What a look must that have been of sorrow, of reproach, and of
tenderest love. It must surely have broken Peter's heart. The hot tears
rushing up for vent were his answer. Those tears caught the light of love
in that look, as he goes away into the night and weeps bitterly. Those
bitter tears were as small, warm rain to a new growth within.
An Obstinate Roman.
And now the impatient leaders detect the first streaks of gray coming up
in the east. The national council can now properly meet. Like their two
chiefs, these men are prompt. The whips had been out over the city
drumming up the members for this extraordinary session. There seems to
have been a full attendance. Jesus, still bound, is led through the
streets; followed by the mixed rabble, to the meeting hall, probably in
the neighborhood of the temple. He is brought in and faces these men. How
some of those eyes must have gloated out their green leering! Here are the
men He had not hesitated to denounce openly with the severest invective
Some time is spent in consultation. The difficulty here is to fix upon a
charge upon which they can themselves agree, and which will also be
sufficient for the desired action by the Roman governor. It was a tough
task. They fail in it. These men divided into groups that were ever at
swords' points. There were utter opposites in beliefs and policies. But
their common hate of Jesus rises for the time above their hatred for each
other. The charge must appeal to Pilate, for only he has power of capital
punishment, and nothing but Jesus' blood will quench their thirst.
Their consultation results in another attempt to question Jesus in the
hope of getting some word that can be used. The president goes back to his
former question, "If Thou art the Christ, tell us." Jesus reminds them of
the lack of sincerity in their questionings. They would not believe Him,
nor answer His questions. Then He repeats the solemn words spoken in the
night session, "From henceforth shall the Son of Man be seated at the
right hand of the power of God." Eagerly they all blurt out, "Art Thou
then the Son of God?" Back comes the quiet, steady reply, "Ye say that I
am," equal to a strong yes. Instantly they decide fully and formally upon
His condemnation. So closes the third phase of the Jewish examination. The
death sentence is fixed upon. The thing has been formally fixed up. The
ground is now cleared for taking Him to Pilate for His death sentence.
It is still early morning when Jesus is taken to Pilate. It was an
imposing procession of the leading men of the nation, headed very likely
by Caiaphas, that now led Jesus across the city, through its narrow
streets, up to the palace of the Roman governor. Jesus is conducted into
Pilate's hall of judgment within, but, with their scrupulous regard for
the letter of their law, these principals would not enter his palace on
that day, but remained without. They seem to be expecting Pilate to send
the prisoner back at once with their death sentence endorsed.
To their surprise and disgust,[A] Pilate comes out himself and wants to
know the charge against the prisoner. They are not prepared for this. It
is their weak point, and has been from the first. Their bold, sullen
answer evades the question, while insisting on what they want, "If He were
not a criminal we would not have brought Him to thee." They didn't want
his opinion, but his power, his consent to their plot. But Pilate doesn't
propose to be used as such a convenience. With scorn he tells them that if
they propose to judge the case they may. This wrings from them the
humiliating reminder that the power of capital punishment is withheld from
them by their Roman rulers, and nothing less will satisfy them here. Then
they begin a series of verbal charges. They are all of a political nature,
for only such would this Roman recognize. This man had been perverting the
nation, forbidding tribute to Caesar and calling Himself a King.
It takes no keenness for Pilate to see the hollowness of this sudden
loyalty to Caesar. He returns to the beautiful marble judgment hall, and
has Jesus brought to him again. He looks into Jesus' face. He is keen
enough to see that here is no political schemer. At most probably a
religious enthusiast, or reformer, or something as harmless from his
standpoint. "Art _Thou_ the King of the Jews?" he asks. Jesus' answer
suggests that there was a kindliness in that face. If there be a desire
for truth here He will satisfy it. This political charge had been made
outside while He was within. "Do you really want to know about Me, or are
you merely repeating something you have heard?" He asks, with a gentle
But Pilate at once repudiates any personal interest. "Am I a _Jew_?" he
asks, with plain contempt on that word. "Thine own people are accusing
thee. What hast Thou done?" Then comes that great answer, "My kingdom is
not of this world, if so I would be resisting these leaders and these
present circumstances would all be different. But my kingdom is not of
your sort or theirs." Again there likely came a bit of softening and
curious interest in Pilate's face, as he asks, "Art Thou really a _King_
then?" Jesus replies, "To this end have I been born, and to this end am I
come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Every one
that is of the truth heareth my voice." Pilate wonders what this has to do
with being a king. With a weary, impatient contempt, he says, "_Truth_?
What is that?" The accused seems to be an enthusiast, a dreamer, yet
withal there certainly was a fine nobility about Him. Certainly He was
quite harmless politically.
Leaving Him there, again he goes to the leaders waiting impatiently
outside. To their utter astonishment and rage he says, "I find no fault in
this man." It is the judgment of a keen, critical, worldly Roman; an
acquittal, the first acquittal. The waiting crowd bursts out at once in a
hot, fanatical tumult of shouted protests. Is all their sleepless planning
to be disturbed by this Roman heathen? The prisoner was constantly
stirring up the people all through Judea and Galilee. He was a dangerous
man. Looking and listening, with his contempt for them plainly in his
face, and yet a dread of their wild fanaticism in his heart, Pilate's ear
catches that word Galilee. "Is the man a Galilean?" "Yes." Well, here's an
easy way of getting rid of the troublesome matter. Herod, the ruler of
Galilee, was in the city at his palace, come to attend the festival. It
would be a bit of courtesy that he might appreciate to refer the case to
him, and so it would be off his own hands. And so the order is given.
A Savage Duel.
Once more Jesus is led through these narrow streets, with the jeering
rabble ever increasing in size and the national heads in the lead. They
are having a lot of wholly unexpected trouble, but they are determined not
to be cheated of their prey. And now they are before Herod. This is the
murderer of John. He is glad to see Jesus. There has been an eager
curiosity to see the man of whom so much was said, and he hoped to have
his morbid appetite for the sensational satisfied with a display of Jesus'
power. He plies Him with questions, while the chief priests with fierce
vehemence stand accusing Him, and asking for His condemnation.
But for this red-handed man Jesus has no word. To him rare light had come
and been recognized, and then had been deliberately put out beyond recall.
He has gone steadily down into slimiest slush since that. Now, with
studied insolence, he treats this silent man with utmost contempt. His
soldiers and retainers mock and deride, dressing Him in gorgeous apparel
in mockery of His kingly claims. When they weary of the sport He is again
dismissed to Pilate, acquitted. It is the second mocking and the second
Again the weary tramping of the streets, with the chief priests' rage
burning to the danger point. Twice they have been foiled. Now the matter
must be _forced_ through, and quickly, too, ere the crowd that are
friendly have gotten the news. They hurry Jesus along and make all haste
back to Pilate. Now begins the sixth and last phase of that awful night.
Things now hasten to a climax. The character of Pilate comes out plainly
here. He really feared these wildly fanatical Jews whom he ruled with a
contemptuous disgust undisguised. Three times since his rule began their
extreme fanaticism had led to open riot and bloodshed, and once to an
appeal to the emperor, by whose favor he held his position. His hold of
the office was shaky indeed if the emperor must be bothered with these
superstitious details about their religion. The policy he pursued here was
but a piece of the whole Roman fabric. Yet had he but had the rugged
strength to live up to his honest conviction----. But then, that is the
one question of life everywhere and always. He failed in the test, as do
thousands. Unconsciously he was touching the quivering center of a whole
world's life, and so his action stands out in boldest outline.
He comes out now and sums up the case. He had examined the prisoner and
found no fault touching their charges of perverting the people. Herod,
their own native ruler, who was supposed to know thoroughly their peculiar
views, had also fully acquitted Him. Now, as a concession to them, he
will disgrace this man by a public scourging and let him go as harmless.
Instantly the air is filled with their fierce shrill cries, "Away with
Him: Away with Him."
But Pilate seems determined to do the best he can for Jesus, without
risking an actual break with these fanatical Orientals such as might
endanger his own position. It was usual at feast times to release to the
people some one who had been imprisoned for a political offense. The
crowds, prompted by the chief priests, doubtless, begin to ask for the
usual favor. Pilate brings forward a man named Barabbas, who was a robber
and murderer and charged with leading an insurrection against Roman rule.
Meanwhile, as he waits, a messenger comes up to him and repeats a message
from his wife. She has been suffering much in dreams and urges that he
have nothing to do with "that righteous man."
Apparently Pilate brings forward the two men, the one a robber and
murderer, the other with purity and goodness stamped on every line of His
face. It is a dramatic moment. "Which of the two will you choose?" he
asks. It is the appeal of a heathen to the better nature of these Jews,
called the people of God. Quick as a flash of lightning the word shot from
their lips and into his face, "_Barabbas!_" "What, then, shall I do with
Jesus, who is called Christ?" He is weakening now. His question shows it.
They are keen to see it and push their advantage. Again the words shoot
out as bullets from their hot lips, "Crucify Him: crucify Him." Still he
withstands them. "Why? What evil has He done? I find no fault in Him. To
please you I will chastise Him and release Him." But they have him on the
run now. At once the air is filled with a confused jangle of loud shrill
voices, "Away with Him! Give us Barabbas! Crucify! Crucify."
Apparently he yields. Barabbas is released. Jesus is led away to be
scourged by the soldiers. His clothing is removed, and He is bent over,
with thongs on the wrists drawn down, leaving the bare back uppermost and
tense. The scourging was with bunches of leather strips with jagged pieces
of bone and lead fastened in the ends. The blows meant for the back, even
if laid on by a reluctant hand, would strike elsewhere, including the
face. But reluctance seems absent here. Then occurs another, a third of
those scenes of coarse vulgarity, horrid mockings, based on His kingly
claims. The whole band of soldiers is called. Some old garments of royal
purple are put upon Jesus. One man plaits a crown of the thorns that grow
so large in Palestine, and with no easy gesture places it upon His head. A
reed is placed in His hand. Then they bow the knee in turn, with "Hail!
King of the Jews," and spit in His face, and rain blows down upon the
thorn-crown. All the while their coarse jests and shouts of derisive
laughter fill the air. Surely one could never tell the story were he not
held in the grip of a strong purpose.
But now Pilate springs a surprise. The scourging might be preliminary to
crucifixion or a substitute. Again Jesus is brought forward, as arrayed by
the mocking soldiers. There must have been an unapproachable majesty in
that great face, as so bedecked, with the indescribable suffering lines
ever deepening, He stands before them with that wondrous calm still in
those sleepless eyes. Pilate seems caught by the great spirit of Jesus
dominant under such treatment. He points to Him and says, "Behold the
Man!" Surely this utter humiliation will satisfy their strange hate.
Realizing that their fight is not yet won as they had thought, they make
the air hideous with their shouts, "Crucify--crucify--crucify." Anger and
disgust crowd for place in Pilate, as, with a contemptuous sneer, he says,
"_You_ crucify Him. _I_ find no fault in Him." It would be illegal, but it
would not be the first illegal thing. But these men are bound to get all
they want from their weakening governor. One of the leaders sharply spoke
up, "We have a law, and by our law He ought to die because He pretends to
be the Son of God." The Roman custom was to respect the laws of their
subject-peoples. All pretense of a political charge is now gone.
Pilate is startled. The sense of fear that has been strong with him
intensifies. That face of Jesus had impressed him. His wife's message
disturbed him. Now that inward feeling that this man was being wronged
grips him anew. At once he has Him led into his judgment hall for another
private interview. Looking into that face again with strangely mingling
emotions, he puts the question, "Whence art Thou?" But those lips refuse
an answer. The time for speech is past. Angered by the silence on the part
of the man he had been moved to help, Pilate hotly says, "Speakest Thou
not to _Me_? Knowest Thou not I have the power to release or to crucify?"
Then this strangely masterful Man speaks in very quiet tones, as though
pitying His judge, "Thou wouldst have no power against Me, except it were
given thee from above: therefore he that delivered Me unto thee hath
Again Pilate comes out to the waiting crowd more determined than ever to
release Jesus. But the leaders of the mob take a new tack. They know the
governor's sensitive nerve. "If thou release this man thou art not
Caesar's friend. Every one that maketh himself a king speaketh
against Caesar." That word "Caesar" was a magic word. Its bur catches
and sticks at once. It was their master-stroke. Yet it cost them
dear. Pilate instantly brings Jesus out and sits down on the
judgment seat. The thing must be settled now once for all. As Jesus
again faces them he says, "_Behold!--your King._" Again the hot shouts,
"Away--Away--Crucify--Crucify." And again the question. "Shall I crucify
Now comes the answer, wrung out by the bitterness of their hate, that
throws aside all the traditional hopes of their nation, "_We have no king
but Caesar_." Having forced that word from their lips, Pilate quits the
Yet to appease that inner voice that would not be stilled--maybe, too,
for his wife's sake, he indulges in more dramatics. He washes his hands in
a basin of water, with the words, "I am innocent of the blood of this
righteous man. See ye to it." Back come the terrible words, "His blood be
on us and on our children." Surely it has been! Then Jesus is surrendered
to their will. They have gotten what they asked, but at the sacrifice of
their most fondly cherished national tradition and with an awful heritage.
Pilate has yielded, but held them by the throat in doing it to compel
words that savagely wounded their pride to utter. The savage duel is over.
Jesus is turned over to the soldiers for the execution of the sentence.
His own garments are replaced, and once more He is the central figure in a
street procession, this time carrying the cross to which He has been
condemned. His physical strength seems in danger of giving way under the
load, after the terrible strain of that long night. The soldiers seize a
man from the country passing by and force him to carry the cross. As they
move along, the crowd swells to a great multitude, including many women.
These give expression to their pitying regard for Jesus.
Turning about, Jesus speaks to them in words that reveal the same clear
mind and masterly control as ever. "Daughters of Jerusalem, be weeping for
yourselves and your babes, rather than for Me. The days are coming when
it shall be said, 'Blessed are the barren, and the womb that never bare,
and the breasts that never gave suck.' If they have done these things
while the sap of national life still flows, what will be done to them when
the dried-up, withered stage of their national life is reached!"
Now the chosen place is reached, outside the city wall, probably a rise of
ground, like a mound or small hill. And the soldiers settle down to their
work. There are to be two others crucified at the same time. A drink of
stuff meant to stupefy and so ease the pain of torture was offered Jesus,
but refused. And now the cross is gotten ready. The upright beam is laid
upon the ground handy to the hole in which the end of it will slip, and
the cross-piece is nailed in place. Jesus is stripped and laid upon the
cross with His arms, outstretched on the cross-piece. A sharp-pointed
spike is driven through the palm of each hand and through the feet. The
hands are also tied with ropes as additional security. There is a small
piece half-way up the upright where some of the body's weight may be
As the soldiers drive the nails, Jesus' voice is heard in prayer, "Father,
forgive them; they know not what they do." Then strong arms seize the
upper end, and, lifting, shift the end of the cross into the hole, and so
steady it into an upright position. It is nine o'clock, and the deed has
been done. The soldiers, having finished their task, now go after their
pay. Jesus' garments are divided up among them, but when the outer coat
is reached it is found to be an unusually good garment, woven in one
piece. It was the love gift of some friend likely. So they pitch dice, and
in a few moments one of them is clutching it greedily as his own.
As quickly as the cross is in position the crowds are reading the
inscription which has been nailed to the top to indicate the charge
against the man. It was in three languages, Latin the official tongue,
Greek the world tongue, and Aramaic the native tongue. Every man there
read in one or other of these tongues, "_The King of the Jews_."
Instantly the Jewish leaders object, but Pilate contemptuously dismisses
their objection. This inscription was his last fling at them. And so Jesus
was crucified as a King. There He is up above them all, while the great
multitude stands gazing.
Now begins the last, coarse, derisive jeering. Some of the crowd call out
to Jesus, "Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days,
save Thyself; if Thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross." The
chief priests have dignified the occasion with their presence. Now they
mockingly sneer out their taunts, "He saved others; but He can't save
Himself. He is the King of Israel. Let Him come down from the cross and we
will believe on Him." The two others hanging by His side, in their pain
and distress, join in the taunting cries, and the soldiers add their
But through it all Jesus is silent. There He hangs with those eyes
watching the people to whom His great heart was going out, for whom His
great life was going out, calm, majestic, masterful, tender. The sight
affects at least one of those before unfriendly. The man hanging by His
side is caught by this face and spirit. He rebukes the other criminal,
reminding him that they were getting their just deserts, but "This Man
hath done nothing amiss." Then turning so far as he could to Jesus, he
said, with a simplicity of faith that must have been so grateful to Jesus,
"Jesus, remember me when Thou comest in Thy kingdom." Instantly comes the
reply, "Verily, I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou be with Me in
In the crowds were many of Jesus' personal acquaintances, including women
from Galilee. Close by the cross stood His mother and aunt and faithful
John and a few others of those dear to Him. Most likely John is supporting
Jesus' mother with his arms. Turning His eyes toward the group, Jesus
speaks to His mother in tones revealing His love, "Woman, behold thy son;"
and then to John, "Behold thy mother." _So_ He gives His mother a son to
take His own place in caring for her, and to His friend John this heritage
of love. John understands, and from that hour the ties between these two
were of the closest and tenderest sort.
So the hours drag along until noon. And now a strange thing occurs that
must have had a startling effect. At the time of day when the sunlight is
brightest a strange darkness came over all the scene, the sun's light
being obscured or failing wholly. And for three hours this strange, weird
spectacle continues. Then the hushed silence is broken by an agonizing cry
from the lips of Jesus, "My God--My God--why--didst--Thou--forsake--Me?"
One of the bewildered bystanders thinks He is calling for Elijah, and
another wonders if something startling will yet occur.