|je'-zus krist (savior; deliverer)
the Baptist, Joseph,
on the Mount, Temptation
of Christ, Transfiguration,
Easton's Bible Dictionary
(1) Je'sus, the proper name, as Christ is the official name of our Lord. To distinguish
him from others so called, he is spoken of as "Jesus of Nazareth" ( John
18:7 ), and "Jesus the son of Joseph" ( John
This is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, which was originally Hoshea
13:8 , 13:16
), but changed by Moses into Jehoshua ( Numbers
13:16 ; 1
Chronicles 7:27 ), or Joshua. After the Exile it assumed the form Jeshua,
whence the Greek form Jesus. It was given to our Lord to denote the object of
his mission, to save ( Matthew
The life of Jesus on earth may be divided into two great periods,
|(1) that of his private life, till
he was about thirty years of age;
In the "fulness of time" he was born at Bethlehem, in the reign of the emperor
Augustus, of Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph, a carpenter ( Matthew
1:1 ; Luke
3:23 ; Compare John
7:42 ). His birth was announced to the shepherds ( Luke
2:8 - 20
). Wise men from the east came to Bethlehem to see him who was born "King of the
Jews," bringing gifts with them ( Matthew
2:1 - 12
). Herod's cruel jealousy led to Joseph's flight into Egypt with Mary and the
infant Jesus, where they tarried till the death of this king ( Matthew
2:13 - 23
), when they returned and settled in Nazareth, in Lower Galilee ( Matthew
2:23 ; Compare Luke
4:16 ; John
1:46 , etc.). At the age of twelve years he went up to Jerusalem to the Passover
with his parents. There, in the temple, "in the midst of the doctors," all that
heard him were "astonished at his understanding and answers" ( Luke
2:41 , etc.).
Eighteen years pass, of which we have no record beyond this, that he returned
to Nazareth and "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man"
(2) that of his public life, which lasted about three years.
He entered on his public ministry when he was about thirty years of age. It is
generally reckoned to have extended to about three years. "Each of these years
had peculiar features of its own.
|The first year may be called the year of obscurity, both
because the records of it which we possess are very scanty, and because he seems
during it to have been only slowly emerging into public notice. It was spent for
the most part in Judea.
The second year was the year of public favour, during which the country had become
thoroughly aware of him; his activity was incessant, and his frame rang through
the length and breadth of the land. It was almost wholly passed in Galilee.
The third was the year of opposition, when the public favour ebbed away. His enemies
multiplied and assailed him with more and more pertinacity, and at last he fell
a victim to their hatred. The first six months of this final year were passed
in Galilee, and the last six in other parts of the land.", Stalker's Life of Jesus
Christ, p. 45.
The only reliable sources of information regarding the life of Christ on earth
are the Gospels, which present in historical detail the words and the work of
Christ in so many different aspects. (See CHIRST .)
(2) A Jewish Christian surnamed Justus ( Colossians
(3) Joshua, the son of Nun ( Acts
7:45 ; Hebrews
4:8 ; RSV, "Joshua").
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
"The life and character of Jesus Christ," says Dr. Schaff, "is the holy of holies
in the history of the world."
The name Jesus signifies saviour. It is the Greek form
of JEHOSHUA (Joshua). The name Christ signifies anointed. Jesus was both priest
and king. Among the Jews priests were anointed, as their inauguration to their
office. ( 1
Chronicles 16:22 ) In the New Testament the name Christ is used as equivalent
to the Hebrew Messiah (anointed), ( John
1:41 ) the name given to the long-promised Prophet and King whom the Jews
had been taught by their prophets to expect. ( Matthew
11:3 ; Acts
19:4 ) The use of this name, as applied to the Lord, has always a reference
to the promises of the prophets. The name of Jesus is the proper name of our Lord,
and that of Christ is added to identify him with the promised Messiah. Other names
are sometimes added to the names Jesus Christ, thus, "Lord," "a king," "King of
Israel," "Emmanuel," "Son of David," "chosen of God."
Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, God being his father, at Bethlehem of
Judea, six miles south of Jerusalem. The date of his birth was most probably in
December, B.C. 5, four years before the era from which we count our years. That
era was not used till several hundred years after Christ. The calculations were
made by a learned monk, Dionysius Exiguus, in the sixth century, who made an error
of four years; so that to get the exact date from the birth of Christ we must
add four years to our usual dates; i.e. A.D. 1882 is really 1886 years since the
birth of Christ. It is also more than likely that our usual date for Christmas,
December 25, is not far from the real date of Christs birth. Since the 25th of
December comes when the longest night gives way to the returning sun on his triumphant
march, it makes an appropriate anniversary to make the birth of him who appeared
in the darkest night of error and sin as the true Light of the world. At the time
of Christs birth Augustus Caesar was emperor of Rome, and Herod the Great king
of Judea, but subject of Rome. Gods providence had prepared the world for the
coming of Christ, and this was the fittest time in all its history. All the world
was subject to one government, so that the apostles could travel everywhere: the
door of every land was open for the gospel. The world was at peace, so that the
gospel could have free course. The Greek language was spoken everywhere with their
other languages. The Jews were scattered everywhere with synagogues and Bibles.
Jesus, having a manger at Bethlehem for his cradle, received a visit of adoration
from the three wise men of the East. At forty days old he was taken to the temple
at Jerusalem; and returning to Bethlehem, was soon taken to Egypt to escape Herods
massacre of the infants there. After a few months stay there, Herod having died
in April, B.C. 4, the family returned to their Nazareth home, where Jesus lived
till he was about thirty years old, subject to his parent, and increasing "in
wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." The only incident recorded
of his early life is his going up to Jerusalem to attend the passover when he
was twelve years old, and his conversation with the learned men in the temple.
But we can understand the childhood and youth of Jesus better when we remember
the surrounding influences amid which he grew.
The natural scenery was rugged and mountainous, but full of beauty. He breathed
the pure air. He lived in a village, not in a city. The Roman dominion was irksome
and galling. The people of God were subject to a foreign yoke. The taxes were
heavy. Roman soldiers, laws, money, every reminded them of their subjection, when
they ought to be free and themselves the rulers of the world.
When Jesus was ten years old, there was a great insurrection, ( Acts
5:37 ) in Galilee. He who was to be King of the Jews heard and felt all this.
The Jewish hopes of a Redeemer, of throwing off their bondage, of becoming the
glorious nation promised in the prophet, were in the very air he breathed. The
conversation at home and in the streets was full of them.
Within his view, and his boyish excursions, were many remarkable historic places,
--rivers, hills, cities, plains, --that would keep in mind the history of his
people and Gods dealings with them. His school training. Mr. Deutsch, in the Quarterly
Review, says, "Eighty years before Christ, schools flourished throughout the length
and the breadth of the land: education had been made compulsory. While there is
not a single term for school to be found before the captivity, there were by that
time about a dozen in common usage. Here are a few of the innumerable popular
sayings of the period: Jerusalem was destroyed because the instruction of the
young was neglected. The world is only saved by the breath of the school-children.
Even for the rebuilding of the temple the schools must not be interrupted."
His home training. According to Ellicott, the stages of Jewish childhood were
marked as follows: "At three the boy was weaned, and word for the first time the
fringed or tasselled garment prescribed by ( Numbers
15:38 - 41
) and Deuteronomy
22:12 His education began at first under the mothers care. At five he was
to learn the law, at first by extracts written on scrolls of the more important
passages, the Shema or creed of ( 2:4 ) the Hallel or festival psalms, Psalms
and by catechetical teaching in school. At twelve he became more directly responsible
for his obedience of the law; and on the day when he attained the age of thirteen,
put on for the first time the phylacteries which were worn at the recital of his
daily prayer." In addition to this, Jesus no doubt learned the carpenters trade
of his reputed father Joseph, and, as Joseph probably died before Jesus began
his public ministry, he may have contributed to the support of his mother.
PUBLIC MINISTRY. --
All the leading events recorded of Jesus life are given at the end of this volume
in the Chronological Chart and in the Chronological Table of the life of Christ;
so that here will be given only a general survey. Jesus began to enter upon his
ministry when he was "about thirty years old;" that is, he was not very far from
thirty, older or younger. He is regarded as nearly thirty-one by Andrews (in the
tables of chronology referred to above) and by most others. Having been baptized
by John early in the winter of 26-27, he spent the larger portion of his year
in Judea and about the lower Jordan, till in December he went northward to Galilee
through Samaria. The next year and a half, from December, A.D. 27, to October
or November, A.D. 29, was spent in Galilee and norther Palestine, chiefly in the
vicinity of the Sea of Galilee. In November, 29, Jesus made his final departure
from Galilee, and the rest of his ministry was in Judea and Perea, beyond Jordan,
till his crucifixion, April 7, A.D. 30. After three days he proved his divinity
by rising from the dead; and after appearing on eleven different occasions to
his disciples during forty days, he finally ascended to heaven, where he is the
living, ever present, all-powerful Saviour of his people. Jesus Christ, being
both human and divine, is fitted to be the true Saviour of men. In this, as in
every action and character, he is shown to be "the wisdom and power of God unto
salvation." As human, he reaches down to our natures, sympathizes with us, shows
us that God knows all our feelings and weaknesses and sorrows and sins, brings
God near to us, who otherwise could not realize the Infinite and Eternal as a
father and friend. He is divine, in order that he may be an all-powerful, all-loving
Saviour, able and willing to defend us from every enemy, to subdue all temptations,
to deliver from all sin, and to bring each of his people, and the whole Church,
into complete and final victory. Jesus Christ is the centre of the worlds history,
as he is the centre of the Bible. --ED.)
The Greek form of the name Joshua or Jeshua, a contraction of Jehoshua, that is,
"help of Jehovah" or "saviour." ( Numbers
(2) Joshua the son of Nun. ( Numbers
27:18 ; Hebrews
4:8 ) [JEHOSHUA]
(3) called Jestus, a Christian who was with St. Paul at Rome. ( Colossians
4:11 ) (A.D. 57.)
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
je'-zus krist (Iesous Christos):
The Founder of the Christian religion; the promised Messiah and Saviour of the
world; the Lord and Head of the Christian church.
I. THE NAMES
(Iesous) is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Joshua" (yehoshua'), meaning "Yahweh
is salvation." It stands therefore in the Septuagint and Apocrypha for "Joshua,"
and in Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8 likewise represents the Old Testament Joshua;
hence, in the Revised Version (British and American) is in these passages rendered
"Joshua." In Matthew 1:21 the name as commanded by the angel to be given to the
son of Mary, "for it is he that shall save his people from their sins" (see below
on "Nativity"). It is the personal name of the Lord in the Gospels and the Acts,
but generally in the Epistles appears in combination with "Christ" or other appellative
(alone in Romans 3:26; 4:24; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 11:4; Philippians
2:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; Hebrews 7:22; 10:19, etc.).
(Christos) is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Messiah" (mashiach;
compare in the New Testament, John 1:41; 4:25, "Messiah"), meaning "anointed"
(see MESSIAH). It designates Jesus as the fulfiller of the Messianic hopes of
the Old Testament and of the Jewish people. It will be seen below that Jesus Himself
made this claim. After the resurrection it became the current title for Jesus
in the apostolic church. Most frequently in the Epistles He is called "Jesus
Christ," sometimes "Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1,2,39; 1 Corinthians
1:2,30; 4:15; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:4,28 the King James
Version; 1 Thessalonians 2:14, etc.), often "Christ" alone (Romans 1:16
the King James Version; Romans 5:6,8; 6:4,8,9; 8:10, etc.). In this case "Christ"
has acquired the force of a proper name. Very frequently the term is associated
with "Lord" (kurios)--"the (or "our") Lord Jesus Christ"
(Acts 11:17; 15:11 the King James Version; Acts 16:31 the King James Version;
Acts 20:21; 28:31; Romans 1:7; 5:1,11; 13:14; 1 Corinthians 16:23, etc.).
II. ORDER OF TREATMENT
In studying, as it is proposed to do in this article, the earthly history of Jesus
and His place in the faith of the apostolic church, it will be convenient to pursue
the following order:
First, as introductory to the whole study, certain questions relating to the sources
of our knowledge of Jesus, and to the preparation for, and circumstances of, His
historical appearance, invite careful attention (Part I).
Next, still as preliminary to the proper narrative of the life of Jesus, it is
desirable to consider certain problems arising out of the presentation of that
life in the Gospels with which modern thought is more specially concerned, as
determining the attitude in which the narratives are approached. Such are the
problems of the miracles, the Messiahship, the sinless character and supernatural
claims of Jesus (Part II).
The way is then open for treatment in order of the actual events of Christ's life
and ministry, so far as recorded. These fall into many stages, from His nativity
and baptism till His death, resurrection and ascension (Part III).
A final division will deal with Jesus as the exalted Lord in the aspects in which
He is presented in the teaching of the Epistles and remaining writings of the
New Testament (Part IV).
PART I. INTRODUCTORY
I. THE SOURCES
1. In General
The principal, and practically the only sources for our knowledge of Jesus Christ
are the four Canonical Gospels--distinction being made in these between the first
three (Synoptic) Gospels, and the Gospel of John. Nothing, either in the few notices
of Christ in non-Christian authors, or in the references in the other books of
the New Testament, or in later Christian literature, adds to the information which
the Gospels already supply. The so-called apocryphal Gospels are worthless as
authorities (see under the word); the few additional sayings of Christ (compare
Acts 20:35) found in outside writings are of doubtful genuineness (compare a collection
of these in Westcott's Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, Appendix C; see
2. Denial of Existence of Jesus
It marks the excess to which skepticism has gone that writers are found in recent
years who deny the very existence of Jesus Christ (Kalthoff, Das Christus-Problem,
and Die Entstehung des Christenthums; Jensen, Das Gilgamesch-Epos, I; Drews, Die
Christusmythe; compare on Kalthoff, Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus,
English translation, 313; Jensen is reviewed in the writer's The Resurrection
of Jesus, chapter ix). The extravagance of such skepticism is its sufficient refutation.
3. Extra-Christian Notices
Of notices outside the Christian circles the following may be referred to.
There is the famous passage in Josephus, Ant, XVIII, iii, 3, commencing, "Now
there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man,"
etc. It is not unlikely that Josephus had some reference to Jesus, but most agree
that the passage in question, if not entirely spurious, has been the subject of
Christian interpolation (on the lit. and different views, see Schurer, Jewish
People in the Time of Christ, Div II, volume II, 143; in support of interpolation,
Edersheim on "Josephus," in Dictionary of Christ. Biography).
The Roman historian, Tacitus, in a well-known passage relating to the persecution
of Nero (Ann. xv.44), tells how the Christians, already "a great multitude" (ingens
multitudo), derived their name "from one Christus, who was executed in the reign
of Tiberius by the procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate."
(3) Suetonius also, in his account of Claudius, speaks of the Jews as expelled
from Rome for the raising of tumults at the instigation of one "Chrestus" (impulsore
Chresto), plainly a mistake for "Christus." The incident is doubtless that referred
to in Acts 18:2.
4. The Gospels
The four Gospels, then, with their rich contents, remain as our primary sources
for the knowledge of the earthly life of Jesus.
|(1) The Synoptics
It may be taken for granted as the result of the best criticism that the first
three Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) all fall well within the apostolic age (compare
Harnack, Altchr. Lit., Pref; see GOSPELS). The favorite theory at present of the
relations of these Gospels is, that Mr is an independent Gospel, resting on the
teaching of Peter; that Matthew and Luke have as sources the Gospel of Mr and
a collection of discourses, probably attributable to the apostle Matthew (now
commonly called Q) ; and that Lu has a third, well-authenticated source (Luke
1:1 - 4) peculiar to himself. The present writer is disposed to allow more independence
to the evangelists in the embodying of a tradition common to all; in any case,
the sources named are of unexceptionable authority, and furnish a strong guaranty
for the reliability of the narratives. The supreme guaranty of their trustworthiness,
however, is found in the narratives themselves; for who in that (or any) age could
imagine a figure so unique and perfect as that of Jesus, or invent the incomparable
sayings and parables that proceeded from His lips? Much of Christ's teaching is
high as heaven above the minds of men still.
(2) The Fourth Gospel
The Fourth Gospel stands apart from the Synoptics in dealing mainly with another
set of incidents (the Jerusalem ministry), and discourses of a more private and
intimate kind than those belonging to the Galilean teaching. Its aim, too, is
doctrinal--to show that Jesus is "the Son of God," and its style and mode of conception
are very different from those of the Synoptic Gospels. Its contents touch their
narratives in only a few points (as in John 6:4 - 21). Where they do, the resemblance
is manifest. It is obvious that the reminiscences which the Gospel contains have
been long brooded over by the apostle, and that a certain interpretative element
blends with his narration of incidents and discourses. This, however, does not
warrant us in throwing doubt, with so many, on the genuineness of the Gospel,
for which the external evidence is exceptionally strong (compare Sanday, The Criticism
of the Fourth Gospel; Drummond, Character and Authorship of the Fourth Gospel;
and see JOHN, GOSPEL OF). The Gospel is accepted here as a genuine record of the
sayings and doings of Jesus which it narrates.
II. THE PREPARATION
1. Both Gentile and Jewish
In the Gospels and throughout the New Testament Jesus appears as the goal of Old
Testament revelation, and the point to which all providential developments tended.
He came, Paul says, in "the fullness of the time" (Galatians 4:4). It has often
been shown how, politically, intellectually, morally, everything in the Greco-Roman
world was ready for such a universal religion as Jesus brought into it (compare
Baur's Hist of the Church in the First Three Cents., English translation, chapter
i). The preparation in Israel is seen alike in God's revelations to, and dealings
with, the chosen people in the patriarchal, Mosaic, monarchical and prophetic
periods, and in the developments of the Jewish mind in the centuries immediately
2. Old Testament Preparation
As special lines in the Old Testament preparation may be noted the ideas of the
Messianic king, a ruler of David's house, whose reign would be righteous, perpetual,
universal (compare Isaiah 7:13-9:7; 32:1,2; Jeremiah 33:15,16; Psalms 2:1-10,
etc.); of a Righteous Sufferer (Psalms 22, etc.), whose sufferings are in Isaiah
53 declared to have an expiatory and redeeming character; and of a Messianic kingdom,
which, breaking the bounds of nationalism, would extend through the whole earth
and embrace all peoples (compare Isaiah 60; Psalms 87; Daniel 2:44; 7:27, etc.).
The kingdom, at the same time, is now conceived of under a more spiritual aspect.
Its chief blessings are forgiveness and righteousness.
3. Post-exilic Preparation
The age succeeding the return from exile witnessed a manifold preparation for
the advent of Christ. Here may be observed the decentralization of the Jewish
religious ideals through the rise of synagogue worship and the widespread dispersion
of the race; the contact with Hellenic culture (as in Philo); but especially the
marked sharpening of Messianic expectations. Some of these were of a crude apocalyptic
character (see APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE; ESCHATOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT); many
were political and revolutionary; but some were of a purer and more spiritual
kind (compare Luke 2:25,38). To these purer elements Jesus attached Himself in
His preaching of the kingdom and of Himself as its Lord. Even in the Gentileworld,
it is told, there was an expectation of a great One who about this time would
come from Judea (Tacitus, History v.13; Suet. Vespas. 4).
III. THE OUTWARD SITUATION
1. The Land
Of all lands Palestine was the most fitted to be the scene of the culminating
revelation of God's grace in the person and work of Jesus Christ, as before it
was fitted to be the abode of the people chosen to receive and preserve the revelations
that prepared the way for that final manifestation. At once central and secluded--at
the junction of the three great continents of the Old World, Asia, Africa and
Europe--the highway of nations in war and commerce--touching mighty powers on
every hand, Egypt, Syria, Assyria, kingdoms of Asia Minor, as formerly more ancient
empires, Hittite and Babylonian, now in contact with Greece and Rome, yet singularly
enclosed by mountain, desert, Jordan gorge, and Great Sea, from ready entrance
of foreign influences, Palestine has a place of its own in the history of revelation,
which only a Divine wisdom can have given it (compare Stanley, Sinai and Palestine,
Part II, chapter ii; G.A. Smith, Hist. Geog. of the Holy Land, Book I, chapters
i, ii; Lange, Life of Christ, I, 246).
Its Divisions. Palestine, in the Roman period, was divided into four well-defined
provinces or districts--Judaea, with Jerusalem as its center, in the South, the
strong-hold of Jewish conservatism; Samaria, in the middle, peopled from Assyrian
times by mixed settlers (2 Kings 17:24-34), preponderatingly heathen in origin,
yet now professing the Jewish religion, claiming Jewish descent (compare John
4:12), possessing a copy of the law (Sam Pentateuch), and a temple of their own
at Gerizim (the original temple, built by Manasseh, circa 409 BC, was destroyed
by John Hyrcanus, 109 BC); Galilee--"Galilee of the Gentiles" (Matthew 4:15; compare
Isaiah 9:1)--in the North, the chief scene of Christ's ministry, freer and more
cosmopolitan in spirit, through a large infusion of Gentile population, and contact
with traders, etc., of varied nationalities: these in Western Palestine, while
on the East, "beyond Jordan," was Peraea, divided up into Peraea proper, Batanea,
Gaulonitis, Ituraea, Trachonitis, Decapolis, etc. (compare Matthew 4:25; 19:1;
Luke 3:1). The feeling of bitterness between Jews and Samaritans was intense (John
4:9). The language of the people throughout was ARAMAIC (which see), but a knowledge
of the Greek tongue was widely diffused, especially in the North, where intercourse
with Greek-speaking peoples was habitual (the New Testament writings are in Greek).
Jesus doubtless used the native dialect in His ordinary teaching, but it is highly
probable that He also knew Greek, and was acquainted with Old Testament Scriptures
in that language (the Septuagint). In this case He may have sometimes used it
in His preaching (compare Roberts, Discussions on the Gospels).
2. Political Situation
The miserable story of the vicissitudes of the Jewish people in the century succeeding
the great persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes and the Maccabean revolt--a story
made up of faction, intrigue, wars, murders, massacres, of growing degeneracy
of rulers and nation, of repeated sackings of Jerusalem and terrible slaughters--till
Herod, the Idumean, misnamed "the Great," ascended the throne by favor of the
Romans (37 BC), must be read in the books relating to the period (Ewald, History
of Israel, V; Milman, Hist of Jews; Schurer, History of the Jewish People in Time
of Christ, Div I, Vol I; Stanley, Jewish Church, III, etc.). Rome's power, first
invited by Judas Maccabeus (161 BC), was finally established by Pompey's capture
of Jerusalem (63 BC). Herod's way to the throne was tracked by crime and bloodshed,
and murder of those most nearly related to him marked every step in his advance.
His taste for splendid buildings--palace, temple (Matthew 24:1; John 2:20), fortresses,
cities (Sebaste, Caesarea, etc.)--and lavish magnificence of his royal estate
and administration, could not conceal the hideousness of his crafty, unscrupulous
selfishness, his cold-blooded cruelty, his tyrannous oppression of his subjects.
"Better be Herod's hog (hus) than his son (huios)," was the comment of Augustus,
when he heard of the dying king's unnatural doings.
Changes in Territory. At the time of Christ's birth, the whole of Palestine was
united under Herod's rule, but on Herod's death, after a long reign of 37 (or,
counting from his actual accession, 34) years, his dominions were, in accordance
with his will, confirmed by Rome, divided. Judea and Samaria (a few towns excepted)
fell to his son Archelaus (Matthew 2:22), with the title of "ethnarch"; Galilee
and Perea were given to Herod Antipas, another son, with the title of "tetrarch"
(Matthew 14:1; Luke 3:1,19; 23:7; Acts 13:1); Herod Philip, a third son, received
Iturea, Trachonitis, and other parts of the northern trans-Jordanic territory,
likewise as "tetrarch" (Luke 3:1; compare Matthew 14:3; Mark 6:17). A few years
later, the tyranny of Archelaus provoked an appeal of his subjects to Augustus,
and Archelaus, summoned to Rome, was banished to Gaul (7 AD). Thereafter Judea,
with Samaria, was governed by a Roman procurator, under the oversight of the prefect
3. The Religious Sects
In the religious situation the chief fact of interest is the place occupied and
prominent part played by the religious sects--the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and
(though unmentioned in the Gospels, these had an important influence on the early
history of the church) the Essenes. The rise and characteristics of these sects
can here only be alluded to (see special articles).
|(1) The Scribes
From the days of Ezra zealous attention had been given to the study of the law,
and an order of men had arisen--the "scribes"--whose special business it was to
guard, develop and expound the law. Through their labors, scrupulous observance
of the law, and, with it, of the innumerable regulations intended to preserve
the law, and apply it in detail to conduct (the so-called "tradition of the elders,"
Matthew 15:2), became the ideal of righteousness. The sects first appear in the
Maccabean age. The Maccabean conflict reveals the existence of a party known as
the "Assidaeans" (Hebrew chacidhim), or "pious" ones, opposed to the lax Hellenizing
tendencies of the times, and staunch observers of the law. These in the beginning
gave brave support to Judas Maccabeus, and doubtless then embraced the best elements
of the nation.
(2) The Pharisees
From them, by a process of deterioration too natural in such cases, developed
the party of legalists known in the Gospels as the "Pharisees" ("separated"),
on which Christ's sternest rebukes fell for their self-righteousness, ostentation,
pride and lack of sympathy and charity (Matthew 6:2; 23; Luke 18:9-14). They gloried
in an excessive scrupulosity in the observance of the externals of the law, even
in trivialities. To them the multitude that knew not the law were "accursed" (John
7:49). To this party the great body of the scribes and rabbis belonged, and its
powerful influence was eagerly sought by contending factions in the state.
(3) The Sadducees
Alongside of the Pharisees were the "Sadducees" (probably from "Zadok")--rather
a political and aristocratic clique than a religious sect, into whose possession
the honors of the high-priesthood and other influential offices hereditarily passed.
They are first met with by name under John Hyrcanus (135-106 BC). The Sadducees
received only the law of Moses, interpreted it in a literal, secularistic spirit,
rejected the Pharisaic traditions and believed in neither resurrection, angel
nor spirit (Acts 23:8). Usually in rivalry with the Pharisees, they are found
combining with these to destroy Jesus (Matthew 26:3-5,57).
(4) The Essenes
The third party, the "Essenes," differed from both (some derive also from the
Assideans) in living in fraternities apart from the general community, chiefly
in the desert of Engedi, on the Northwest shore of the Dead Sea, though some were
found also in villages and towns; in rejecting animal sacrifices, etc., sending
only gifts of incense to the temple; in practicing celibacy and community of goods;
in the wearing of white garments; in certain customs (as greeting the sunrise
with prayers) suggestive of oriental influence. They forbade slavery, war, oaths,
were given to occult studies, had secret doctrines and books, etc. As remarked,
they do not appear in the Gospel, but on account of certain resemblances, some
have sought to establish a connection between them and John the Baptist and Jesus.
In reality, however, nothing could be more opposed than Essenism to the essential
ideas and spirit of Christ's teaching (compare Schurer, as above, Div. II, Vol.
II, 188; Kuenen, Hibbert Lects on National Religions and Universal Religions,
199-208; Lightfoot, Colossians, 114-79).
IV. THE CHRONOLOGY
The leading chronological questions connected with the life of Jesus are discussed
in detail elsewhere (CHRONOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT; QUIRINIUS, etc.); here it
is sufficient to indicate the general scheme of dating adopted in the present
article, and some of the grounds on which it is preferred. The chief questions
relate to the dates of the birth and baptism of Jesus, the duration of the ministry
and the date of the crucifixion.
1. Date of the Birth of Jesus
Though challenged by some (Caspari, Bosanquet, Conder, etc., put it as late as
1 BC) the usual date for the death of Herod the Great, March, 4 BC (year of Rome
750), may be assumed as correct (for grounds of this dating, see Schurer, op.
cit., Div. I, Vol. I, 464-67). The birth of Jesus was before, and apparently not
very long before, this event (Matthew 2). It may therefore be placed with probability
in the latter part of the previous year (5 BC), the ordinary dating of the commencement
of the Christian era being thus, as is generally recognized, four years too late.
There is no certainty as to the month or day of the birth. The Christmas date,
December 25, is first met with in the West in the 4th century (the eastern date
was January 6), and was then possibly borrowed from a pagan festival. December,
in the winter season, seems unlikely, as unsuitable for the pasturing of flocks
(Luke 2:8), though this objection is perhaps not decisive (Andrews, Conder). A
more probable date is a couple of months earlier. The synchronism with Quirinius
(Luke 2:2) is considered in connection with the nativity. The earlier datings
of 6, 7, or even 8 BC, suggested by Ramsay, Mackinlay and others, on grounds of
the assumed Roman census, astronomical phenomena, etc., appear to leave too long
an interval before the death of Herod, and conflict with other data, as Luke 3:1
2. Date of His Baptism
John is said by Luke to have begun to preach and baptize "in the fifteenth year
of Tiberius" (Luke 3:1), and Jesus "was about thirty years of age" (Luke 3:23)
when He was baptized by John, and entered on His ministry. If the 15th year of
Tiberius is dated, as seems most likely, from his association with Augustus as
colleague in the government, 765 AUC, or 12 AD (Tacitus, Annals i.3; Suetonius
on Augustus, 97), and if Jesus may be supposed to have been baptized about 6 months
after John commenced his work, these data combine in bringing us to the year 780
AUC, or 27 AD, as the year of our Lord's baptism, in agreement with our former
conclusion as to the date of His birth in 5 BC. To place the birth earlier is
to make Jesus 32 or 33 years of age at His baptism--an unwarrantable extension
of the "about." In accord with this is the statement in John 2:20 that the temple
had been 46 years in building (it began in 20-19 BC) at the time of Christ's first
Passover; therefore in 780 AUC, or 27-AD (compare Schurer, op. cit., Div. I, Vol.
3. Length of Ministry
The determination of the precise duration of our Lord's ministry involves more
doubtful elements. Setting aside, as too arbitrary, schemes which would, with
some of the early Fathers, compress the whole ministry into little over a single
year (Browne, Hort, etc.)--a view which involves without authority the rejection
of the mention of the Passover in John 6:4--there remains the choice between a
two years' and a three years' ministry. Both have able advocates (Turner in article
"Chronology," and Sanday in article "Jesus Christ," in H D B, advocate the two
years' scheme; Farrar, Ramsay, D. Smith, etc., adhere to the three years' scheme).
An important point is the view taken of the unnamed "feast" in John 5:1. John
has already named a Passover--Christ's first--in 2:13,23; another, which Jesus
did not attend, is named in 6:4; the final Passover, at which He was crucified,
appears in all the evangelists. If the "feast" of John 5:1 (the article is probably
to be omitted) is also, as some think, a Passover, then John has four Passovers,
and a three years' ministry becomes necessary. It is claimed, however, that in
this case the "feast" would almost certainly have been named. It still does not
follow, even if a minor feast--say Purim--is intended, that we are shut up to
a two years' ministry. Mr. Turner certainly goes beyond his evidence in affirming
that "while two years must, not more than two years can, be allowed for the interval
from John 2:13,23 to John 11:55." The two years' scheme involves, as will be seen
on consideration of details, a serious overcrowding and arbitrary transposition
of incidents, which speak to the need of longer time. We shall assume that the
ministry lasted for three years, reserving reasons till the narrative is examined.
4. Date of Christ's Death
On the hypothesis now accepted, the crucifixion of Jesus took place at the Passover
of 30 AD. On the two years' scheme it would fall a year earlier. On both sides
it is agreed that it occurred on the Friday of the week of the Passover, but it
is disputed whether this Friday was the 14th or the 15th day of the month. The
Gospel of John is pleaded for the former date, the Synoptics for the latter. The
question will be considered in connection with the time of the Last Supper. Meanwhile
it is to be observed that, if the 15th is the correct date, there seems reason
to believe that the 15th of Nisan fell on a Friday in the year just named, 783
AUG, or 30 AD. We accept this provisionally as the date of the crucifixion.
PART II. THE PROBLEMS OF THE LIFE OF JESUS
I. THE MIRACLES
1. The "Modern" Attitude
Everyone is aware that the presence of miracle in the Gospels is a chief ground
of the rejection of its history by the representatives of the "modern" school.
It is not questioned that it is a super-natural person whose picture is presented
in the Gospels. There is no real difference between the Synoptics and John in
this respect. "Even the oldest Gospel," writes Bousset, "is written from the standpoint
of faith; already for Mark, Jesus is not only the Messiah of the Jewish people,
but the miraculous eternal Son of God, whose glory shone in the world" (Was wissen
wir von Jesus? 54, 57). But the same writer, interpreting the "modern" spirit,
declares that no account embracing supernatural events can be accepted as historical.
"The main characteristic of this modern mode of thinking," he says, "rests upon
the determination to try to explain everything that takes place in the world by
natural causes, or--to express it in another form--it rests on the determined
assertion of universal laws to which all phenomena, natural and spiritual, are
subject" (What Is Religion? English translation, 283).
2. Supernatural in the Gospels
With such an assumption it is clear that the Gospels are condemned before they
are read. Not only is Jesus there a supernatural person, but He is presented as
super-natural in natural in character, in works, in claims (see below); He performs
miracles; He has a supernatural birth, and a supernatural resurrection. All this
is swept away. It may be allowed that He had remarkable gifts of healing, but
these are in the class of "faithcures" (thus Harnack), and not truly supernatural.
When one seeks the justification for this selfconfident dogmatism, it is difficult
to discover it, except on the ground of a pantheistic or monistic theory of the
universe which excludes the personal God of Christianity. If God is the Author
and Sustainer of the natural system, which He rules for moral ends, it is impossible
to see why, for high ends of revelation and redemption, a supernatural economy
should not be engrafted on the natural, achieving ends which could not otherwise
be attained. This does not of course touch the question of evidence for any particular
miracle, which must be judged of from its connection with the person of the worker,
and the character of the apostolic witnesses. The well-meant effort to explain
all miracles through the action of unknown natural laws--which is what Dr. Sanday
calls "making both ends meet" (Life of Christ in Recent Research, 302)--breaks
down in the presence of such miracles as the instantaneous cleansing of the leper,
restoration of sight to the blind, the raising of the dead, acts which plainly
imply an exercise of creative power. In such a life as Christ's, transcendence
of the ordinary powers of Nature is surely to be looked for.
II. THE MESSIAHSHIP
1. Reserve of Jesus and Modern Criticism
A difficulty has been found in the fact that in all the Gospels Jesus knew Himself
to be the Messiah at least from the time of His baptism, yet did not, even to
His disciples, unreservedly announce Himself as such till after Peter's great
confession at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13). On this seeming secrecy the bold
hypothesis has been built that Jesus in reality never made the claim to Messiahship,
and that the passages which imply the contrary in Mark (the original Gospel) are
unhistorical (Wrede; compare on this and other theories, Schweitzer, The Quest
of the Historical Jesus, English translation; Sanday, The Life of Christ in Recent
Research). So extreme an opinion is rejected by most; but modern critics vie with
each other in the freedom with which they treat the testimony of the evangelists
on this subject. Baldensperger, e.g., supposes that Jesus did not attain full
certainty on His Messiahship till near the time of Peter's confession, and arbitrarily
transposes the earlier sections in which the title "Son of Man" occurs till after
that event (Das Selbstbewusstsein Jesu, 2nd edition, 246). Bousset thinks that
Jesus adopted the Messianic role as the only one open to Him, but bore it as a
"burden" (compare his Jesus). Schweitzer connects it with apocalyptic ideas of
a wildly fantastic character (op. cit., chapter xix).
2. A Growing Revelation
There is, however, no need for supposing that Peter's confession marks the first
dawn of this knowledge in the minds of the apostles. Rather was it the exalted
expression of a faith already present, which had long been maturing. The baptism
and temptation, with the use of the title "Son of Man," the tone of authority
in His teaching, His miracles, and many special incidents, show, as clearly as
do the discourses in John, that Jesus was from the beginning fully conscious of
His vocation, and His reserve in the use of the title sprang, not from any doubt
in His own mind as to His right to it, but from His desire to avoid false associations
till the true nature of His Messiahship should be revealed. The Messiahship was
in process of self-revelation throughout to those who had eyes to see it (compare
John 6:66-71). What it involved will be seen later.
III. KINGDOM AND APOCALYPSE
1. The Kingdom--Present or Future?
Connected with the Messiahship is the idea of the "Kingdom of God" or "of heaven,"
which some in modern times would interpret in a purely eschatological sense, in
the light of Jewish apocalyptic conceptions (Johannes Weiss, Schweitzer, etc.).
The kingdom is not a thing of the present, but wholly a thing of the future, to
be introduced by convulsions of Nature and the Parousia of the Son of Man. The
language of the Lord's Prayer, "Thy kingdom come," is quoted in support of this
contention, but the next petition should guard against so violent an inference.
"Thy will be done," Jesus teaches His disciples to pray, "as in heaven, so on
earth" (Matthew 6:10). The kingdom is the reign of God in human hearts and lives
in this world as well as in the next. It would not be wrong to define it as consisting
essentially in the supremacy of God's will in human hearts and human affairs,
and in every department of these affairs. As Jesus describes the kingdom, it has,
in the plain meaning of His words, a present being on earth, though its perfection
is in eternity. The parables in Matthew 13 and elsewhere exhibit it as founded
by the sowing of the word of truth (Sower), as a mingling of good and evil elements
(Tares), as growing from small beginnings to large proportions (Mustard Seed),
as gradually leavening humanity (Leaven), as of priceless value (Treasure; Pearl;
compare Matthew 6:33); as terminating in a judgment (Tares, Dragnet); as perfected
in the world to come (Matthew 13:43). It was a kingdom spiritual in nature (Luke
17:20,21), universal in range (Matthew 8:11; 21:43, etc.), developing from a principle
of life within (Mark 4:26-29), and issuing in victory over all opposition (Matthew
2. Apocalyptic Beliefs
It is difficult to pronounce on the extent to which Jesus was acquainted with
current apocalyptic beliefs, or allowed these to color the imagery of parts of
His teachings. These beliefs certainly did not furnish the substance of His teaching,
and it may be doubted whether they more than superficially affected even its form.
Jewish apocalyptic knew nothing of a death and resurrection of the Messiah and
of His return in glory to bring in an everlasting kingdom. What Jesus taught on
these subjects sprang from His own Messianic consciousness, with the certainty
He had of His triumph over death and His exaltation to the right hand of God.
It was in Old Testament prophecy, not in late Jewish apocalypse, that His thoughts
of the future triumph of His kingdom were grounded, and from the vivid imagery
of the prophets He borrowed most of the clothing of these thoughts. Isaiah 53
e.g., predicts not only the rejection and death of the Servant of Yahweh (53:3,1-9,12),
but the prolongation of His days and His victorious reign (53:10-12). Dnl, not
the Book of En, is the source of the title, "Son of Man," and of the
imagery of coming on the clouds of heaven (Daniel 7:13). The ideas of resurrection,
etc., have their ground in the Old Testament (see ESCHATOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT).
With the extravagant, unspiritual forms into which these conceptions were thrown
in the Jewish apocalyptic books His teaching had nothing in common. The new apocalyptic
school represented by Schweitzer reduces the history of Jesus to folly, fanaticism
and hopeless disillusionment.
IV. THE CHARACTER AND CLAIMS
1. Denial of Christ's Moral Perfection
Where the Gospels present us in Jesus with the image of a flawless character--in
the words of the writer to the Hebrews, "holy, guileless, undefiled, separated
from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26)--modern criticism is driven by an inexorable necessity
to deprive Jesus of His sinless perfection, and to impute to Him the error, frailty,
and moral infirmity that belong to ordinary mortals. In Schweitzer's portraiture
(compare op. cit.), He is an apocalyptic enthusiastic, ruled by illusory ideals,
deceiving Himself and others as to who He was, and as to the impending end of
the world. Those who show a more adequate appreciation of Christ's spiritual greatness
are still prevented by their humanitarian estimate of His person and their denial
of the supernatural in history from recognizing the possibility of His sinlessness.
It may confidently be said that there is hardly a single writer of the modern
school who grants Christ's moral perfection. To do so would be to admit a miracle
in humanity, and we have heard that miracle is by the highest rational necessity
excluded. This, however, is precisely the point on which the modern so-called
"historical-critical" mode of presentation most obviously breaks down. The ideal
of perfect holiness in the Gospels which has fascinated the conscience of Christendom
for 18 centuries, and attests itself anew to every candid reader, is not thus
lightly to be got rid of, or explained away as the invention of a church gathered
out (without the help of the ideal) promiscuously from Jews and Gentiles. It was
not the church--least of all such a church--that created Christ, but Christ that
created the church.
|(1) The Sinlessness Assured.
The sinlessness of Jesus is a datum in the Gospels. Over against a sinful world
He stands as a Saviour who is Himself without sin. His is the one life in humanity
in which is presented a perfect knowledge and unbroken fellowship with the Father,
undeviating obedience to His will, unswerving devotion under the severest strain
of temptation and suffering to the highest ideal of goodness. The ethical ideal
was never raised to so absolute a height as it is in the teaching of Jesus, and
the miracle is that, high as it is in its unsullied purity, the character of Jesus
corresponds with it, and realizes it. Word and life for once in history perfectly
agree. Jesus, with the keenest sensitiveness to sin in thought and feeling as
in deed, is conscious of no sin in Himself, confesses no sin, disclaims the presence
of it, speaks and acts continually on the assumption that He is without it. Those
who knew Him best declared Him to be without sin (1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5; compare
2 Corinthians 5:21). The Gospels must be rent in pieces before this image of a
perfect holiness can be effaced from them.
(2) What This Implies.
How is this phenomenon of a sinless personality in Jesus to be explained? It is
itself a miracle, and can only be made credible by a creative miracle in Christ's
origin. It may be argued that a Virgin Birth does not of itself secure sinlessness,
but it will hardly be disputed that at least a sinless personality implies miracle
in its production. It is precisely because of this that the modern spirit feels
bound to reject it. In the Gospels it is not the Virgin Birth by itself which
is invoked to explain Christ's sinlessness, but the supernatural conception by
the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). It is because of this conception that the birth is
a virgin one. No explanation of the supernatural element in Christ's Person is
more rational or credible (see below on "Nativity").
2. Sinlessness and the Messianic Claim
If Jesus from the first was conscious of Himself as without sin and if, as the
converse of this, He knew Himself as standing in an unbroken filial fellowship
with the Father, He must early have become conscious of His special vocation,
and learnt to distinguish Himself from others as one called to bless and save
them. Here is the true germ of His Messianic consciousness, from which everything
subsequently is unfolded. He stood in a rapport with the Father which opened His
spirit to a full, clear revelation of the Father's will regarding Himself, His
mission, the kingdom He came to found, His sufferings as the means of salvation
to the world, the glory that awaited Him when His earthly work was done. In the
light of this revelation He read the Old Testament Scriptures and saw His course
there made plain. When the hour had come He went to John for baptism, and His
brief, eventful ministry, which should end in the cross, began. This is the reading
of events which introduces consistency and purpose into the life of Jesus, and
it is this we mean to follow in the sketch now to be given.
PART III. COURSE OF THE EARTHLY LIFE OF JESUS
Divisions of the History: The wonderful story of the life of the world's Redeemer
which we are now to endeavor to trace falls naturally into several divisions:
Not a Complete "Life": To avoid misconception, it is important to remember, that,
rich as are the narratives of the Gospels, materials do not exist for a complete
biography or "Life" of Jesus. There is a gap, broken only by a single incident,
from His infancy till His 30th year; there are cycles of events out of myriads
left unrecorded (John 21:25); there are sayings, parables, longer discourses,
connected with particular occasions; there are general summaries of periods of
activity comprised in a few verses. The evangelists, too, present their materials
each from his own standpoint--Matthew from theocratic, Mark from that of Christ's
practical activity, Luke from the universalistic and human-sympathetic, John from
the Divine. In reproducing the history respect must be had to this focusing from
distinct points of view.
A. FROM THE NATIVITY TO THE BAPTISM AND TEMPTATION
I. THE NATIVITY
1. Hidden Piety in Judaism
Old Testament prophecy expired with the promise on its lips, "Behold, I send my
messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek,
will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant, whom ye desire,
behold, he cometh, saith Yahweh of hosts" (Malachi 3:1). In the years immediately
before Christ's birth the air was tremulous with the sense of impending great
events. The fortunes of the Jewish people were at their lowest ebb. Pharisaic
formalism, Sadducean unbelief, fanatical Zealotry, Herodian sycophantism, Roman
oppression, seemed to have crushed out the last sparks of spiritual religion.
Yet in numerous quiet circles in Judea, and even in remote Galilee, little godly
bands still nourished their souls on the promises, looking for "the consolation
of Israel" and "redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:25,38). Glimpses of these are
vouchsafed in Zacharias and Elisabeth, in Simeon, in Anna, in Joseph and Mary
(Luke 1; 2; Matthew 1:18). It was in hearts in these circles that the stirrings
of the prophetic spirit began to make themselves felt anew, preparing for the
Advent (compare Luke 2:27,36).
2. Birth of the Baptist
(Luke 1) In the last days of Herod--perhaps in the year 748 of Rome, or 6 BC--the
aged priest Zacharias, of the course of Abijah (1 Chronicles 24:10; compare Schurer,
Div. II, Vol. I, 219), was ministering in the temple at the altar of incense at
the hour of evening prayer. Scholars have reckoned, if on somewhat precarious
grounds, that the ministry of the order to which Zacharias belonged fell in this
year in the month of April or in early October (compare Andrews, Life of our Lord).
Now a wonderful thing happened. Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth, noted for their
blameless piety, were up to this time childless. On this evening an angel, appearing
at the side of the altar of incense, announced to Zacharias that a son should
be born to them, in whom should be realized the prediction of Malachi of one coming
in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the way of the Lord (compare Malachi
4:5,6). His name was to be called John. Zacharias hesitated to believe, and was
stricken with dumbness till the promise should be fulfilled. It happened as the
angel had foretold, and at the circumcision and naming of his son his tongue was
again loosed. Zacharias, filled with the Spirit, poured forth his soul in a hymn
of praise--the Benedictus (Luke 1:5-25,57-80; compare JOHN THE BAPTIST).
3. The Annunciation and Its Results
Meanwhile yet stranger things were happening in the little village of Nazareth,
in Galilee (now enNacirah). There resided a young maiden of purest character,
named Mary, betrothed to a carpenter of the village (compare Matthew 13:55), called
Joseph, who, although in so humble a station, was of the lineage of David (compare
Isaiah 11:1). Mary, most probably, was likewise of Davidic descent (Luke 1:32;
on the genealogies, see below). The fables relating to the parentage and youth
of Mary in the Apocryphal Gospels may safely be discarded. To this maiden, three
months before the birth of the Baptist, the same angelic visitant (Gabriel) appeared,
hailing her as "highly favored" of God, and announcing to her that, through the
power of the Holy Spirit, she should become the mother of the Saviour. The words
"Blessed art thou among women," in the King James Version of Luke 1:28 are omitted
by the Revised Version (British and American), though found below (1:42) in Elisabeth's
salutation. They give, in any case, no support to Mariolatry, stating simply the
fact that Mary was more honored than any other woman of the race in being chosen
to be the mother of the Lord.
|(1) The Amazing Message.
The announcement itself was of the most amazing import. Mary herself was staggered
at the thought that, as a virgin, she should become a mother (Luke 1:34). Still
more surprising were the statements made as to the Son she was to bear. Conceived
of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35; Matthew 1:18), He would be great, and would be
called "the Son of the Most High" (Luke 1:32)--"the Son of God"
(Luke 1:35); there would be given to Him the throne of His father David, and His
reign would be eternal (Luke 1:32,33; compare Isaiah 9:6,7); He would be "holy"
from the womb (Luke 1:35). His name was to be called Jesus (Luke 1:31; compare
Matthew 1:21), denoting Him as Saviour. The holiness of Jesus is here put in connection
with His miraculous conception, and surely rightly. In no case in the history
of mankind has natural generation issued in a being who is sinless, not to say
superhuman. The fact that Jesus, even in His human nature, was supernaturally
begotten--was "Son of God"--does not exclude the higher and eternal
Sonship according to the Divine nature (John 1:18). The incarnation of such a
Divine Being as Paul and John depict, itself implies miracle in human origin.
On the whole message being declared to her, Mary accepted what was told her in
meek humility (Luke 1:38).
(2) The Visit to Elisabeth.
With the announcement to herself there was given to Mary an indication of what
had befallen her kinswoman Elisabeth, and Mary's first act, on recovering from
her astonishment, was to go in haste to the home of Elisabeth in the hill country
of Judea (Luke 1:39). Very naturally she did not rashly forestall God's action
in speaking to Joseph of what had occurred, but waited in quietness and faith
till God should reveal in His own way what He had done. The meeting of the two
holy women was the occasion of a new outburst of prophetic inspiration. Elisabeth,
moved by the Spirit, greeted Mary in exalted language as the mother of the Lord
(Luke 1:42-45)--a confirmation to Mary of the message she had received; Mary,
on her part, broke forth in rhythmical utterance, "My soul doth magnify the
Lord," etc. (Luke 1:46-56). Her hymn--the sublime Magnificat--is to be compared
with Hannah's (1 Samuel 2:1-11), which furnishes the model of it. Mary abode with
Elisabeth about three months, then returned to her own house.
(3) Joseph's Perplexity.
Here a new trial awaited her. Mary's condition of motherhood could not long be
concealed, and when Joseph first became aware of it, the shock to a man so just
(Matthew 1:19) would be terrible in its severity. The disappearance of Joseph
from the later gospel history suggests that he was a good deal older than his
betrothed, and it is possible that, while strict, upright and conscientious, his
disposition was not as strong on the side of sympathy as so delicate a case required.
It is going too far to say with Lange, "He encountered the modest, but unshakably
firm Virgin with decided doubt; the first Ebionite"; but so long as he had no
support beyond Mary's word, his mind was in a state of agonized perplexity. His
first thought was to give Mary a private "bill of divorcement" to avoid scandal
(Matthew 1:19). Happily, his doubts were soon set at rest by a Divine intimation,
and he hesitated no longer to take Mary to be his wife (Matthew 1:24). Luke's
Gospel, which confines itself to the story of Mary, says nothing of this episode;
Matthew's narrative, which bears evidence of having come from Joseph himself,
supplies the lack by showing how Joseph came to have the confidence in Mary which
enabled him to take her to wife, and become sponsor for her child. The trial,
doubtless, while it lasted, was not less severe for Mary than for Joseph--a prelude
of that sword which was to "pierce through (her) own soul" (Luke 2:35). There
is no reason to believe that Joseph and Mary did not subsequently live in the
usual relations of wedlock, and that children were not born to them (compare Matthew
4. The Birth at Bethlehem
(Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:1-7) Matthew gives no indication of where the events narrated
in his first chapter took place, first mentioning Nazareth on the occasion of
the return of the holy family from Egypt (2:23). In 2:1 he transports us to Bethlehem
as the city of Christ's birth. It is left to Luke to give an account of the circumstances
which brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem--thus fulfilling prophecy (Micah 5:2;
Matthew 2:5,6)--at this critical hour, and to record the lowly manner of Christ's
|(1) The Census of Quirinius
The emperor Augustus had given orders for a general enrollment throughout the
empire (the fact of periodical enrollments in the empire is well established by
Professor W.M. Ramsay in his Was Christ Born at Bethlehem?), and this is stated
to have been given effect to in Judea when Quirinius was governor of Syria (Luke
2:1,2). The difficulties connected with the enrollment or census here mentioned
are discussed in the article QUIRINIUS. It is known that Quirinius did conduct
a census in Judea in 6 AD (compare Acts 5:37), but the census at Christ's birth
is distinguished from this by Luke as "the first enrollment." The difficulty was
largely removed when it was ascertained, as it has been to the satisfaction of
most scholars, that Quirinius was twice governor of Syria--first, after Herod's
death, 4-1 BC, and again in 6-11 AD. The probability is that the census was begun
under Varus, the immediate predecessor of Quirinius--or even earlier under Saturninus--but
was delayed in its application to Judea, then under Herod's jurisdiction, and
was completed by Quirinius, with whose name it is officially connected. That the
enrollment was made by each one going to his own city (verse 3) is explained by
the fact that the census was not made according to the Roman method, but, as befitted
a dependent kingdom, in accordance with Jewish usages (compare Ramsay).
(2) Jesus Born
It must be left undecided whether the journey of Mary to Bethlehem with Joseph
was required for any purpose of registration, or sprang simply from her unwillingness
to be separated from Joseph in so trying a situation. To Bethlehem, in any case,
possibly by Divine monition, she came, and there, in the ancestral city of David,
in circumstances the lowliest conceivable, brought forth her marvelous child.
In unadorned language--very different from the embellishments of apocryphal story--Luke
narrates how, when the travelers arrived, no room was found for them in the "inn"--the
ordinary eastern khan or caravanserai, a square enclosure, with an open court
for cattle, and a raised recess round the walls for shelter of visitors--and how,
when her babe was born, Mary wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in
a manger. The wearied pair having, according to Luke, been crowded out of, and
not merely within, the inn, there is every probability that the birth took place,
not, as some suppose, in the courtyard of the inn, but, as the oldest tradition
asserts (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 78), in a cave in the neighborhood,
used for similar purposes of lodgment and housing of cattle. High authorities
look favorably on the "cave of the nativity" still shown, with its inscription,
Hic de virgine Maria Jesus Christus natus est, as marking the sacred spot. In
such incredibly mean surroundings was "the only begotten of the Father" ushered
into the world He came to redeem. How true the apostle's word that He "emptied"
Himself (Philippians 2:7)! A problem lies in the very circumstances of the entrance
into time of such a One, which only the thought of a voluntary humiliation for
saving ends can solve.
5. The Incidents of the Infancy
(Luke 2:8-39; Matthew 2:1-12) Born, however, though Jesus was, in a low condition,
the Father did not leave Him totally without witness to His Sonship. There were
rifts in the clouds through which cidents of the hidden glory streamed. The scenes
in the narratives of the Infancy exhibit a strange commingling of the glorious
and the lowly.
|(1) The Visit of the Shepherds
To shepherds watching their flocks by night in the fields near Bethlehem the first
disclosure was made. The season, one would infer, could hardly have been winter,
though it is stated that there is frequently an interval of dry weather in Judea
between the middle of December and the middle of February, when such a keeping
of flocks would be possible (Andrews). The angel world is not far removed from
us, and as angels preannounced the birth of Christ, so, when He actually came
into the world (compare Hebrews 1:6), angels of God made the night vocal with
their songs. First, an angel appearing in the midst of the Divine glory--the "Shekinah"--announced
to the sorely alarmed shepherds the birth of a "Saviour who was Christ the Lord"
at Bethlehem; then a whole chorus of the heavenly host broke in with the refrain,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men in whom He is well
pleased" (literally, "men of good pleasure")--since, the Christmas hymn of the
generations (Luke 2:1-14). The shepherds, guided as to how to recognize the babe
(Luke 2:12), went at once, and found it to be ever, as they had been told. Thence
they hastened to spread abroad the tidings--the first believers, the first worshippers,
the first preachers (Luke 2:15-20). Mary cherished the sayings in the stillness
of her heart.
(2) The Circumcision and Presentation in the Temple
Jewish law required that on the 8th day the male child should be circumcised,
and on the same day He received His name (compare Luke 1:59-63). Jesus, though
entirely pure, underwent the rite which denoted the putting off of fleshly sin
(Colossians 2:11), and became bound, as a true Israelite, to render obedience
to every Divine commandment. The name "Jesus" was then given Him (Luke 2:21).
On the 40th day came the ceremony of presentation in the temple at Jerusalem,
when Mary had to offer for her purifying (Leviticus 12; Mary's was the humbler
offering of the poor, "a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons" (Leviticus
12:8; Luke 2:24)), and when the first-born son had to be redeemed with 5 shekels
of the sanctuary (Numbers 18:15,16; about .60). The observance was an additional
token that Christ--personally sinless--did not shrink from full identification
with our race in the responsibilities of its sinful condition. Ere it was completed,
however, the ceremony was lifted to a Diviner level, and a new attestation was
given of the dignity of the child of Mary, by the action and inspired utterances
of the holy Simeon and the aged prophetess Anna. To Simeon, a righteous and devout
man, "looking for the consolation of Israel," it had been revealed that he should
not die till he had seen the Lord's Christ, and, led by the Spirit into the temple
at the very time when Jesus was being presented, he recognized in Him the One
for whom he had waited, and, taking Him in his arms, gave utterance to the beautiful
words of the Nunc Dimittis--"Now lettest thou thy servant depart, Lord," etc.
(Luke 2:25-32). He told also how this child was set for the falling and rising
of many in Israel, and how, through Him, a sword should pierce through Mary's
own soul (Luke 2:34,35). Entering at the same hour, the prophetess Anna--now in
extreme old age (over 100; a constant frequenter of the temple, Luke 2:37--confirmed
his words, and spoke of Him to all who, like herself, looked "for the redemption
(3) Visit of the Magi
It seems to have been after the presentation in the temple that the incident took
place recorded by Matthew of the visit of the Magi. The Magi, a learned class
belonging originally to Chaldea or Persia (see MAGI), had, in course of time,
greatly degenerated (compare Simon Magus, Acts 8:9), but those who now came to
seek Christ from the distant East were of a nobler order. They appeared in Jerusalem
inquiring, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?" and declaring
that they had seen His star in the East, and had come to worship Him (Matthew
2:2). Observers of the nightly sky, any significant appearance in the heavens
would at once attract their attention. Many (Kepler, Ideler, etc.; compare Ramsay,
op. cit., 215) are disposed to connect this "star" with a remarkable
conjunction--or series of conjunctions--of planets in 7-6 BC, in which case it
is possible that two years may have elapsed (compare the inquiry of Herod and
his subsequent action, Matthew 2:7,16) from their observation of the sign. On
the other hand, the fact of the star reappearing and seeming to stand over a house
in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:9) rather points to a distinct phenomenon (compare BETHLEHEM,
STAR OF). The inquiry of the Magi at once awakened Herod's alarm; accordingly,
having ascertained from the scribes that the Christ should be born at Bethlehem
(Micah 5:2), he summoned the Magi, questioned them as to when exactly the star
appeared, then sent them to Bethlehem to search out the young child, hypocritically
pretending that he also wished to worship Him (Matthew 2:7,8). Herod had faith
enough to believe the Scriptures, yet was foolish enough to think that he could
thwart God's purpose. Guided by the star, which anew appeared, the wise men came
to Bethlehem, offered their gifts, and afterward, warned by God, returned by another
road, without reporting to Herod. It is a striking picture--Herod the king, and
Christ the King; Christ a power even in His cradle, inspiring terror, attracting
homage! The faith of these sages, unrepelled by the lowly surroundings of the
child they had discovered, worshipping, and laying at His feet their gold, frankincense
and myrrh, is a splendid anticipation of the victories Christ was yet to win among
the wisest as well as the humblest of our race. Herod, finding himself, as he
thought, befooled by the Magi, avenged himself by ordering a massacre of all the
male children of two years old, and under, in Bethlehem and its neighborhood (Matthew
2:16-19). This slaughter, if not recorded elsewhere (compare however, Macrobius,
quoted by Ramsay, op. cit., 219), is entirely in keeping with the cruelty of Herod's
disposition. Meanwhile, Joseph and Mary had been withdrawn from the scene of danger
(Matthew 2:17 connects the mourning of the Bethlehem mothers with Rachel's weeping,
6. Flight to Egypt and Return to Nazareth
(Matthew 2:13-15,19-23) The safety of Mary and her threatened child was provided
for by a Divine warning to retire for a time to Egypt (mark the recurring expression,
"the young child and his mother"--the young child taking the lead, Matthew 2:11,13,14,20,21),
whither, accordingly, they were conducted by Joseph (Matthew 2:14). The sojourn
was not a long one. Herod's death brought permission to return, but as Archelaus,
Herod's son (the worst of them), reigned in Judea in his father's stead (not king,
but "ethnarch"), Joseph was directed to withdraw to Galilee; hence it came about
that he and Mary, with the babe, found themselves again in Nazareth, where Luke
anew takes up the story (Luke 2:39), the thread of which had been broken by the
incidents in Matthew. Matthew sees in the return from Egypt a refulfilling of
the experiences of Israel (Hosea 11:1), and in the settling in Nazareth a connection
with the Old Testament prophecies of Christ's lowly estate (Isaiah 11:1, netser,
"branch"; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12, etc.).
7. Questions and Objections
The objections to the credibility of the narratives of the Virgin Birth have already
partly been adverted to. (See further the articles on MARY; VIRGIN BIRTH; and
the writer's volume, The Virgin Birth of Christ.)
|(1) The Virgin Birth
The narratives in Matthew and Luke are attested by all manuscripts and versions
genuine parts of their respective Gospels, and as coming to us in their integrity.
The narrative of Luke is generally recognized as resting on an Aramaic basis,
which, from its diction and the primitive character of its conceptions, belongs
to the earliest age. While in Luke's narrative everything is presented from the
standpoint of Mary, in Matthew it is Joseph who is in the forefront, suggesting
that the virgin mother is the source of information in the one case, and Joseph
himself in the other. The narratives are complementary, not contradictory. That
Mark and John do not contain narratives of the Virgin Birth cannot be wondered
at, when it is remembered that Mark's Gospel begins of purpose with the Baptism
of John, and that the Fourth Gospel aims at setting forth the Divine descent,
not the circumstances of the earthly nativity. "The Word became flesh" (John 1:14)--everything
is already implied in that. Neither can it be objected to that Paul does not in
his letters or public preaching base upon so essentially private a fact as the
miraculous conception--at a time, too, when Mary probably still lived. With the
exception of the narrowest sect of the Jewish Ebionites and some of the Gnostic
sects, the Virgin Birth was universally accepted in the early church.
(2) The Genealogies
(Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-28) Difficulty is felt with the genealogies in Matthew
and Luke (one descending, the other ascending), which, while both professing to
trace the descent of Jesus from David and Abraham (Luke from Adam), yet go entirely
apart in the pedigree after David. See on this the article GENEALOGY OF JESUS
CHRIST. A favorite view is that Matthew exhibits the legal, Luke the natural descent
of Jesus. There is plausibility in the supposition that though, in form, a genealogy
of Joseph, Luke's is really the genealogy of Mary. It was not customary, it is
true, to make out pedigrees of females, but the case here was clearly exceptional,
and the passing of Joseph into the family of his father-in-law Heli would enable
the list to be made out in his name. Celsus, in the 2nd century, appears thus
to have understood it when he derides the notion that through so lowly a woman
as the carpenter's wife, Jesus should trace His lineage up to the first man (Origen,
Contra Celsus, ii.32; Origen's reply proceeds on the same assumption. Compare
article on" Genealogies" in Kitto, II).
II. THE YEARS OF SILENCE--THE TWELFTH YEAR
1. The Human Development
(Luke 2:40,52) With the exception of one fragment of incident--that of the visit
to Jerusalem and the Temple in His 12th year--the Canonical Gospels are silent
as to the history of Jesus from the return to Nazareth till His baptism by John.
This long period, which the Apocryphal Gospels crowd with silly fables (see APOCRYPHAL
GOSPELS), the inspired records leave to be regarded as being what it was--a period
of quiet development of mind and body, of outward uneventfulness, of silent garnering
of experience in the midst of the Nazareth surroundings. Jesus "grew, and waxed
strong, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him .... advanced in
wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:40,52). The incarnation
was a true acceptance of humanity, with all its sinless limitations of growth
and development. Not a hint is offered of that omniscience or omnipotence which
theology has not infrequently imputed to Jesus even as child and boy. His schooling
was probably that of the ordinary village child (He could read, Luke 4:17, and
write, John 8:6-8); He wrought at the carpenter's bench (compare Mark 6:3; Justin
Martyr, following tradition, speaks of Him as making "plows and yokes," Dial.,
88). His gentleness and grace of character endeared Him to all who knew Him (Luke
2:52). No stain of sin clouded His vision of Divine things. His after-history
shows that His mind was nourished on the Scriptures; nor, as He pondered psalms
and prophets, could His soul remain unvisited by presentiments, growing to convictions,
that He was the One in whom their predictions were destined to be realized.
2. Jesus in the Temple
(Luke 2:41-50) Every year, as was the custom of the Jews, Joseph and Mary went,
with their friends and neighbors, in companies, to Jerusalem to the Passover.
When Jesus was 12 years old, it would seem that, for the first time, He was permitted
to accompany them. It would be to Him a strange and thrilling experience. Everything
He saw--the hallowed sites, the motley crowd, the service of the temple, the very
shocks His moral consciousness would receive from contact with abounding scandals--would
intensify His feeling of His own unique relation to the Father. Every relationship
was for the time suspended and merged to His thought in this higher one. It was
His Father's city whose streets He trod; His Father's house He visited for prayer;
His Father's ordinance the crowds were assembled to observe; His Father's name,
too, they were dishonoring by their formalism and hypocrisy. It is this exalted
mood of the boy Jesus which explains the scene that follows--the only one rescued
from oblivion in this interval of growth and preparation. When the time came for
the busy caravan to return to Nazareth, Jesus, acting, doubtless, from highest
impulse, "tarried behind" (verse 43). In the large company His absence was not
at first missed, but when, at the evening halting-place, it became known that
He was not with them, His mother and Joseph returned in deep distress to Jerusalem.
Three days elapsed before they found Him in the place where naturally they should
have looked first--His Father's house. There, in one of the halls or chambers
where the rabbis were wont to teach, they discovered Him seated "in the midst,"
at the feet of the men of learning, hearing them discourse, asking questions,
as pupils were permitted to do, and giving answers which awakened astonishment
by their penetration and wisdom (Luke 2:46,47). Those who heard Him may well have
thought that before them was one of the great rabbis of the future! Mary, much
surprised, asked in remonstrance, "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us?" evoking
from Jesus the memorable reply, "How is it that ye sought me? knew ye not that
I must be in my Father's house?" or "about my Father's business?" the King James
Version (Luke 2:48,49). Here was the revelation of a selfconsciousness that Mary
might have been prepared for in Jesus, but perhaps, in the common intercourse
of life, was tending to lose sight of. The lesson was not unneeded. Yet, once
it had been given, Jesus went back with Joseph and Mary to Nazareth, and "was
subject unto them"; and Mary did not forget the teaching of the incident (Luke
IlI. THE FORERUNNER AND THE BAPTISM
1. The Preaching of John
(Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-18) Time passed, and when Jesus was nearing
His 30th year, Judea was agitated by the message of a stern preacher of righteousness
who had appeared in the wilderness by the Jordan, proclaiming the imminent approach
of the kingdom of heaven, summoning to repentance, and baptizing those who confessed
their sins. Tiberius had succeeded Augustus on the imperial throne; Judea, with
Samaria, was now a Roman province, under the procurator Pontius Pilate; the rest
of Palestine was divided between the tetrarchs Herod (Galilee) and Philip (the
eastern parts). The Baptist thus appeared at the time when the land had lost the
last vestige of self-government, was politically divided, and was in great ecclesiastical
confusion. Nurtured in the deserts (Luke 1:80), John's very appearance was a protest
against the luxury and self-seeking of the age. He had been a Nazarite from his
birth; he fed on the simplest products of nature--locusts and wild honey; his
coarse garb of camel's hair and leathern girdle was a return to the dress of Elijah
(2 Kings 1:8), in whose spirit and power he appeared (Luke 1:17) (see JOHN THE
The Coming Christ. John's preaching of the kingdom was unlike that of any of the
revolutionaries of his age. It was a kingdom which could be entered only through
moral preparation. It availed nothing for the Jew simply that he was a son of
Abraham. The Messiah was at hand. He (John) was but a voice in the wilderness
sent to prepare the way for that Greater than himself. The work of the Christ
would be one of judgment and of mercy. He would lay the axe at the root of the
tree--would winnow the chaff from the wheat--yet would baptize with the Holy Spirit
(Matthew 3:10-12; Luke 3:15-17). Those who professed acceptance of his message,
with its condition of repentance, John baptized with water at the Jordan or in
its neighborhood (compare Matthew 3:6; John 1:28; 3:23).
2. Jesus Is Baptized
(Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21,22) John's startling words made a profound
impression. All classes from every part of the land, including Pharisees and Sadducees
(Matthew 3:7), came to his baptism. John was not deceived. He saw how little change
of heart underlay it all. The Regenerator had not yet come. But one day there
appeared before him One whom he intuitively recognized as different from all the
rest--as, indeed, the Christ whose coming it was his to herald. John, up to this
time, does not seem to have personally known Jesus (compare John 1:31). He must,
however, have heard of Him; he had, besides, received a sign by which the Messiah
should be recognized (John 1:33); and now, when Jesus presented Himself, Divinely
pure in aspect, asking baptism at his hands, the conviction was instantaneously
flashed on his mind, that this was He. But how should he, a sinful man, baptize
this Holy One? "I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?" (Matthew
3:14). The question is one which forces itself upon ourselves--How should Jesus
seek or receive a "baptism of repentance"? Jesus Himself puts it on the ground
of meetness. "Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness"
(Matthew 3:15). The Head was content to enter by the same gateway as the members
to His specific vocation in the service of the kingdom. In submitting to the baptism,
He formally identified Himself with the expectation of the kingdom and with its
ethical demands; separated Himself from the evil of His nation, doubtless with
confession of its sins; and devoted Himself to His life-task in bringing in the
Messianic salvation. The significance of the rite as marking His consecration
to, and entrance upon, His Messianic career, is seen in what follows. As He ascended
from the water, while still "praying" (Luke 3:21), the heavens were opened, the
Spirit of God descended like a dove upon Him, and a voice from heaven declared:
"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:16,17). It is needless
to inquire whether anyone besides John (compare John 1:33) and Jesus (Matthew
3:16; Mark 1:10) received this vision or heard these words; it was for them, not
for others, the vision was primarily intended. To Christ's consecration of Himself
to His calling, there was now added the spiritual equipment necessary for the
doing of His work. He went forward with the seal of the Father's acknowledgment
IV. THE TEMPTATION
1. Temptation Follows Baptism
(Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:13,14; Luke 4:1-13) On the narrative of the baptism in
the first three Gospels there follows at once the account of the temptation of
Jesus in the wilderness. The psychological naturalness of the incident is generally
acknowledged. The baptism of Jesus was a crisis in His experience. He had been
plenished by the Spirit for His work; the heavens had been opened to Him, and
His mind was agitated by new thoughts and emotions; He was conscious of the possession
of new powers. There was need for a period of retirement, of still reflection,
of coming to a complete understanding with Himself as to the meaning of the task
to which He stood committed, the methods He should employ, the attitude He should
take up toward popular hopes and expectations. He would wish to be alone. The
Spirit of God led Him (Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1) whither His own spirit
also impelled. It is with a touch of similar motive that Buddhist legend makes
Buddha to be tempted by the evil spirit Mara after he has attained enlightenment.
2. Nature of the Temptation
The scene of the temptation was the wilderness of Judea. Jesus was there 40 days,
during which, it is told, He neither ate nor drank (compare the fasts of Moses
and Elijah, Exodus 24:18; 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:18; 1 Kings 19:8). Mark adds, "He
was with the wild beasts" (verse 13). The period was probably one of intense self-concentration.
During the whole of it He endured temptations of Satan (Mark 1:13); but the special
assaults came at the end (Matthew 4:2; Luke 4:2). We assume here a real tempter
and real temptations--the question of diabolic agency being considered after.
This, however, does not settle the form of the temptations. The struggle was probably
an inward one. It can hardly be supposed that Jesus was literally transported
by the devil to a pinnacle of the temple, then to a high mountain, then, presumably,
back again to the wilderness. The narrative must have come from Jesus Himself,
and embodies an ideal or parabolic element. "The history of the temptation," Lange
says, "Jesus afterwards communicated to His disciples in the form of a real narrative,
clothed in symbolical language" (Commentary on Matthew, 83, English translation).
3. Stages of the Temptation Its Typical Character
The stages of the temptation were three--each in its own way a trial of the spirit
|(1) The first temptation was to distrust. Jesus, after His
long fast, was hungry. He had become conscious also of supernatural powers. The
point on which the temptation laid hold was His sense of hunger--the most over-mastering
of appetites. "If thou art the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."
The design was to excite distrustful and rebellious thoughts, and lead Jesus to
use the powers entrusted to Him in an unlawful way, for private and selfish ends.
The temptation was promptly met by a quotation from Scripture: "Man shall not
live by bread alone," etc. (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4; compare Deuteronomy 8:3). If
Jesus was in this position, it was His Father who had brought Him there for purposes
of trial. Man has a higher life than can be sustained on bread; a life, found
in depending on God's word, and obeying it at whatever cost.
(2) The second temptation (in Luke the third) was to presumption. Jesus is borne
in spirit (compare Ezekiel 40:1,2) to a pinnacle of the temple. From this dizzy
elevation He is invited to cast Himself down, relying on the Divine promise: "He
shall give His angels charge over thee," etc. (compare Psalms 91:11,12). In this
way an easy demonstration of His Messiahship would be given to the crowds below.
The temptation was to overstep those bounds of humility and dependence which were
imposed on Him as Son; to play with signs and wonders in His work as Messiah.
But again the tempter is foiled by the word: "Thou shalt not make trial of (try
experiments with, propose tests, put to the proof) the Lord thy God" (Matthew
4:7; Luke 4:12; compare Deuteronomy 6:16).
(3) The third temptation (Luke's second) was to worldly sovereignty, gained by
some small concession to Satan. From some lofty elevation--no place on a geographical
map--the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them are flashed before Christ's
mind, and all are offered to Him on condition of one little act of homage to the
tempter. It was the temptation to choose the easier path by some slight pandering
to falsehood, and Jesus definitely repelled it by the saying: "Thou shalt worship
the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matthew 4:10; Luke 4:8). Jesus
had chosen His path. The Father's way of the cross would be adhered to.
Its Typical Character. The stages of the temptation typify the whole round of
Satanic assault on man through body, mind, and spirit (Luke 4:13; compare 1 John
2:16), and the whole round of Messianic temptation. Jesus was constantly being
|(a) to spare Himself;
(b) to gratify the Jewish signseekers;
(c) to gain power by sacrifice of the right.
In principle the victory was gained over all at the commencement. His way was
B. THE EARLY JUDAEAN MINISTRY
I. THE TESTIMONIES OF THE BAPTIST
1. The Synoptics and John
While the Synoptics pass immediately from the temptation of Jesus to the ministry
in Galilee the imprisonment of the Baptist (Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14,15; Luke 4:14),
the Fourth Gospel furnishes the account, full of interest, of the earlier ministry
of Jesus in Judea while the Baptist was still at liberty.
2. Threefold Witness of the Baptist
(John 1:19-37) The Baptist had announced Christ's coming; had baptized Him when
He appeared; it was now his privilege to testify to Him as having come, and to
introduce to Jesus His first disciples.
|a) First Testimony--Jesus and Popular Messianic Expectation:
(John 1:19-28) John's work had assumed proportions which made it impossible for
the ecclesiastical authorities any longer to ignore it (compare Luke 3:15). A
deputation consisting of priests and Levites was accordingly sent to John, where
he was baptizing at Bethany beyond Jordan, to put to him categorical questions
about his mission. Who was he? And by what authority did--he baptize? Was he the
Christ? or Elijah? or the expected prophet? (compare John 6:14; 7:4; Matthew 16:14).
To these questions John gave distinct and straightforward replies. He was not
the Christ, not Elijah, not the prophet. His answers grow briefer every time,
"I am not the Christ"; "I am not"; "No." Who was he then? The answer was emphatic.
He was but a "voice" (compare Isaiah 40:3)--a preparer of the way of the Lord.
In their midst already stood One--not necessarily in the crowd at that moment--with
whose greatness his was not to be compared (John 1:26,27). John utterly effaces
himself before Christ.
b) Second Testimony--Christ and the Sin of the World:
(John 1:29-34) The day after the interview with the Jerusalem deputies, John saw
Jesus coming to him--probably fresh from the temptation--and bore a second and
wonderful testimony to His Messiahship. Identifying Jesus with the subject of
his former testimonies, and stating the ground of his knowledge in the sign God
had given him (1:30-34), he said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the
sin of the world" (1:29). The words are rich in suggestion regarding the character
of Jesus, and the nature, universality and efficacy of His work (compare 1John
3:5). The "Lamb" may point specifically to the description of the vicariously
Suffering Servant of Yahweh in Isaiah 53:11.
c) Third Testimony--Christ and the Duty of the Disciple:
(John 1:35-37) The third testimony was borne "again on the morrow," when John
was standing with two of his disciples (one Andrew, 1:40, the other doubtless
the evangelist himself). Pointing to Jesus, the Baptist repeated his former words,
"Behold, the Lamb of God." While the words are the same, the design was different.
In the first "behold" the idea is the recognition of Christ; in the second there
is a call to duty--a hint to follow Jesus. On this hint the disciples immediately
acted (1:37). It is next to be seen how this earliest "following" of Jesus grew.
II. THE FIRST DISCIPLES
1. Spiritual Accretion
(John 1:37-51) John's narrative shows that Jesus gathered His disciples, less
by a series of distinct calls, than by a process of spiritual accretion. Men were
led to Him, then accepted by Him. This process of selection left Jesus at the
close of the second day with five real and true followers. The history confutes
the idea that it was first toward the close of His ministry that Jesus became
known to His disciples as the Messiah. In all the Gospels it was as the Christ
that the Baptist introduced Jesus; it was as the Christ that the first disciples
accepted and confessed Him (John 1:41,45,49).
|a) Andrew and John--Discipleship as the Fruit of Spiritual
(John 1:37-40) The first of the group were Andrew and John--the unnamed disciple
of John 1:40. These followed Jesus in consequence of their Master's testimony.
It was, however, the few hours' converse they had with Jesus in His own abode
that actually decided them. To Christ's question, "What seek ye?" their answer
was practically "Thyself." "The mention of the time--the 10th hour, i.e. 10 AM--is
one of the small traits that mark John. He is here looking back on the date of
his own spiritual birth" (Westcott).
b) Simon Peter--Discipleship a Result of Personal Testimony:
(John 1:41,42) John and Andrew had no sooner found Christ for themselves ("We
have found the Messiah," John 1:41) than they hastened to tell others of their
discovery. Andrew at once sought out Simon, his brother, and brought him to Jesus;
so, later, Philip sought Nathanael (John 1:45). Christ's unerring eye read at
once the quality of the man whom Andrew introduced to Him. "Thou art Simon the
son of John: thou shalt be called Cephas"--"Rock" or "Stone" (1:42). Matthew 16:18,
therefore, is not the original bestowal of this name, but the confirmation of
it. The name is the equivalent of "Peter" (Petros), and was given to Simon, not
with any official connotation, but because of the strength and clearness of his
convictions. His general steadfastness is not disproved by His one unhappy failure.
(Was it thus the apostle acquired the name "Peter"?)
c) Philip--the Result of Scriptural Evidence:
(John 1:43,14) The fourth disciple, Philip, was called by Jesus Himself, when
about to depart for Galilee (John 1:43). Friendship may have had its influence
on Philip (like the foregoing, he also was from Bethsaida of Galilee, John 1:44),
but that which chiefly decided him was the correspondence of what he found in
Jesus with the prophetic testimonies (John 1:45).
d) Nathanael--Discipleship an Effect of Heart-Searching Power:
(John 1:45-51) Philip sought Nathanael (of Cana of Galilee, John 21:2)--the same
probably as Bartholomew the Apostle--and told him he had found Him of whom Moses
in the law and the prophets had written (John 1:45). Nathanael doubted, on the
ground that the Messiah was not likely to have His origin in an obscure place
like Nazareth (John 1:46; compare John 7:52). Philip's wise answer was, "Come
and see"; and when Nathanael came, the Lord met him with a word which speedily
rid him of his hesitations. First, Jesus attested His seeker's sincerity ("Behold,
an Israelite indeed," etc., John 1:47); then, on Nathanael expressing surprise,
revealed to him His knowledge of a recent secret act of meditation or devotion
("when thou wast under the fig tree," etc., John 1:48). The sign was sufficient
to convince Nathanael that he was in the presence of a superhuman, nay a Divine,
Being, therefore, the Christ--"Son of God .... King of Israel" (John 1:49). Jesus
met his faith with further self-disclosure. Nathanael had believed on comparatively
slight evidence; he would see greater things: heavens opened, and the angels of
God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man (John 1:51). The allusion is
to Jacob's vision (Genesis 28:10-22)--a Scripture which had possibly been theme
of Philip's meditation in his privacy. Jesus puts Himself in place of that mystic
ladder as the medium of reopened communication between heaven and earth.
2. "Son of Man" and "Son of God"
The name "Son of Man"--a favorite designation of Jesus for Himself--appears here
for the first time in the Gospels. It is disputed whether it was a current Messianic
title (see SON OF MAN), but at least it had this force on the lips of Jesus Himself,
denoting Him as the possessor of a true humanity, and as standing in a representative
relation to mankind universally. It is probably borrowed from Daniel 7:13 and
appears in the Book of Enoch (see APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE). The higher title, "Son
of God," given to Jesus by Nathanael, could not, of course, as yet carry with
it the transcendental associations of John's Prologue (John 1:1,14,18), but it
evidently conveyed an idea of superhuman dignity and unique relation to God, such
as the better class of minds would seem to have attributed to the Messiah (compare
John 5:18; 10:33; Matthew 26:63).
III. THE FIRST EVENTS
An interval of a few weeks is occupied by a visit of Jesus to Cana of Galilee
(John 2:1) and a brief sojourn in Capernaum (John 2:12); after which Jesus returned
to Jerusalem to the Passover as the most appropriate place for His public manifestation
of Himself as Messiah (John 2:13). The notes of time in John suggest that the
Passover (beginning of April, 27 AD) took place about three months after the baptism
by John (compare 1:43; 2:1,12).
1. The First Miracle
(John 2:1-11) Prior to His public manifestation, a more private unfolding of Christ's
glory was granted to the disciples at the marriage feast of Cana of Galilee (compare
John 2:11). The marriage was doubtless that of some relative of the family, and
the presence of Jesus at the feast, with His mother, brethren and disciples (as
Joseph no more appears, it may be concluded that he was dead), is significant
as showing that His religion is not one of antagonism to natural relations. The
marriage festivities lasted seven days, and toward the close the wine provided
for the guests gave out. Mary interposed with an indirect suggestion that Jesus
might supply the want. Christ's reply, literally, "Woman, what is that to thee
and to me?" (John 2:4), is not intended to convey the least tinge of reproof (compare
Westcott, in the place cited.), but intimates to Mary that His actions were henceforth
to be guided by a rule other than hers (compare Luke 2:51). This, however, as
Mary saw (John 2:5), did not preclude an answer to her desire. Six waterpots of
stone stood near, and Jesus ordered these to be filled with water (the quantity
was large; about 50 gallons); then when the water was drawn off it was found changed
into a nobler element--a wine purer and better than could have been obtained from
any natural vintage. The ruler of the feast, in ignorance of its origin, expressed
surprise at its quality (John 2:10). The miracle was symbolical--a "sign" (John
2:11)--and may be contrasted with the first miracle of Moses--turning the water
into blood (Exodus 7:20). It points to the contrast between the old dispensation
and the new, and to the work of Christ as a transforming, enriching and glorifying
of the natural, through Divine grace and power.
After a brief stay at Capernaum (John 2:12), Jesus went up to Jerusalem to keep
the Passover. There it was His design formally to manifest Himself. Other "signs"
He wrought at the feast, leading many to believe on Him--not, however, with a
deep or enduring faith (John 2:23-25)--but the special act by which He signalized
His appearance was His public cleansing of the temple from the irreligious trafficking
with which it had come to be associated.
2. The First Passover, and Cleansing of the Temple
(John 2:13-25) A like incident is related by the Synoptics at the close of Christ's
ministry (Matthew 21:12,13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45,46), and it is a question
whether the act was actually repeated, or whether the other evangelists, who do
not narrate the events of the early ministry, simply record it out of its chronological
order. In any case, the act was a fitting inauguration of the Lord's work. A regular
market was held in the outer court of the temple. Here the animals needed for
sacrifice could be purchased, foreign money exchanged, and the doves, which were
the offerings of the poor, be obtained. It was a busy, tumultuous, noisy and unholy
scene, and the "zeal" of Jesus burned within Him--had doubtless often done so
before--as He witnessed it. Arming Himself with a scourge of cords, less as a
weapon of offense, than as a symbol of authority, He descended with resistless
energy upon the wrangling throng, drove out the dealers and the cattle, overthrew
the tables of the moneychangers, and commanded the doves to be taken away. Let
them not profane His Father's house (John 2:14-16). No one seems to have opposed.
All felt that a prophet was among them, and could not resist the overpowering
authority with which He spake and acted. By and by, when their courage revived,
they asked Him for a "sign" in evidence of His right to do such things. Jesus
gave them no sign such as they demanded, but uttered an enigmatic word, and left
them to reflect on it, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it
up" (John 2:19). The authenticity of the saying is sufficiently vouched for by
the perverted use made of it at Christ's trial (Matthew 26:61 parallel). It is
a word based on the foresight which Christ had that the conflict now commencing
was to end in His rejection and death. "The true way to destroy the Temple, in
the eyes of Jesus, was to slay the Messiah. .... If it is in the person of the
Messiah that the Temple is laid in ruins, it is in His person it shall be raised
again" (Godet). The disciples, after the resurrection, saw the meaning of the
word (John 2:22).
3. The Visit of Nicodemus
(John 3:1-12) As a sequel to these stirring events Jesus had a nocturnal visitor
in the person of Nicodemus--a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, a "teacher of Israel"
(John 3:10), apparently no longer young (John 3:4). His coming by night argues,
besides some fear of man, a constitutional timidity of disposition (compare John
19:39); but the interesting thing is that he did come, showing that he had been
really impressed by Christ's words and works. One recognizes in him a man of candor
and uprightness of spirit, yet without adequate apprehensions of Christ Himself,
and of the nature of Christ's kingdom. Jesus he was prepared to acknowledge as
a Divinely-commissioned teacher--one whose mission was accredited by miracle (John
3:2). He was interested in the kingdom, but, as a morally living man, had no doubt
of his fitness to enter into it. Jesus had but to teach and he would understand.
|(1) The New Birth.
Jesus in His reply laid His finger at once on the defective point in His visitor's
relation to Himself and to His kingdom: "Except one be born anew, he cannot see
the kingdom of God" (John 3:3); "Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he
cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). Nicodemus was staggered at this
demand for a spiritual new birth. There is reason to believe that proselytes were
baptized on being received into the Jewish church, and their baptism was called
a "new birth." Nicodemus would therefore be familiar with the expression, but
could not see that it had any applicability to him. Jesus teaches him, on the
other hand, that he also needs a new birth, and this, not through water only,
but through the Spirit. The change was mysterious, yet plainly manifest in its
effects (John 3:7,8). If Nicodemus did not understand these "earthly things"--the
evidence of which lay all around him--how should he understand "heavenly things,"
the things pertaining to salvation?
(2) "Heavenly Things."
These "heavenly things" Jesus now proceeds to unfold to Nicodemus: "As Moses lifted
up the serpent," etc. (John 3:14). The "lifting up" is a prophecy of the cross
(compare 12:32-34). The brazen serpent is the symbol of sin conquered and destroyed
by the death of Christ. What follows in John 3:16-21 is probably the evangelist's
expansion of this theme--God's love the source of salvation (John 3:16), God's
purpose not the world's condemnation, but its salvation (John 3:17,18) the self-judgment
of sin (John 3:19).
4. Jesus and John
(John 3:22-36) Retiring from Jerusalem, Jesus commenced a ministry in Judea (John
3:22). It lasted apparently about 6 months. The earlier Gospels pass over it.
This is accounted for by the fact that the ministry in Judea was still preparatory.
Jesus had publicly asserted His Messianic authority. A little space is now allowed
to test the result. Meanwhile Jesus descends again to the work of prophetic preparation.
His ministry at this stage is hardly distinguishable from John's. He summons to
the baptism of repentance. His disciples, not Himself, administer the rite (John
3:23; 4:2); hence the sort of rivalry that sprang up between His baptism and that
of the forerunner (John 3:22-26). John was baptizing at the time at Aenon, on
the western side of the Jordan; Jesus somewhere in the neighborhood. Soon the
greater teacher began to eclipse the less. "All men came to Him" (3:26). John's
reply showed how pure his mind was from the narrow, grudging spirit which characterized
his followers. To him it was no grievance, but the fulfillment of his joy, that
men should be flocking to Jesus. He was not the Bridegroom, but the friend of
the Bridegroom. They themselves had heard him testify, "I am not the Christ."
It lay in the nature of things that Jesus must increase; he must decrease (3:27-30).
Explanatory words follow (3:31-36).
IV. JOURNEY TO GALILEE--THE WOMAN OF SAMARIA
1. Withdrawal to Galilee
Toward the close of this Judean ministry the Baptist appears to have been cast
into prison for his faithfulness in reproving Herod Antipas for taking his brother
Philip's wife (compare John 3:24; Matthew 14:3-5 parallel). It seems most natural
to connect the departure to Galilee in John 4:3 with that narrated in Matthew
3:13 parallel, though some think the imprisonment of the Baptist did not take
place till later. The motive which Joh gives was the hostility of the Pharisees,
but it was the imprisonment of the Baptist which led Jesus to commence, at the
time He did, an independent ministry. The direct road to Galilee lay through Samaria;
hence the memorable encounter with the woman at that place.
2. The Living Water
Jesus, being wearied, paused to rest Himself at Jacob's well, near a town called
Sychar, now 'Askar. It was about the sixth hour--or 6 o'clock in the evening.
The time of year is determined by John 4:35 to be "four months" before harvest,
i.e. December (there is no reason for not taking this literally). It suits the
evening hour that the woman of Samaria came out to draw water. (Some, on a different
reckoning, take the hour to be noon.) Jesus opened the conversation by asking
from the woman a draught from her pitcher. The proverbial hatred between Jews
and Samaritans filled the woman with surprise that Jesus should thus address Himself
to her. Still greater was her surprise when, as the conversation proceeded, Jesus
announced Himself as the giver of a water of which, if a man drank, he should
never thirst again (John 4:13,14). Only gradually did His meaning penetrate her
mind, "Sir, give me this water," etc. (John 4:15). The request of Jesus that she
would call her husband led to the discovery that Jesus knew all the secrets of
her life. She was before a prophet (John 4:19). As in the case iof Nathanael,
the heart-searching power of Christ's word convinced her of His Divine claim.
3. The True Worship
The conversation next turned upon the right place of worship. The Samaritans had
a temple of their own on Mount Gerizim; the Jews, on the other hand, held to the
exclusive validity of the temple at Jerusalem. Which was right? Jesus in His reply,
while pronouncing for the Jews as the custodians of God's salvation (John 4:22),
makes it plain that distinction of places is no longer a matter of any practical
importance. A change was imminent which would substitute a universal religion
for one of special times and places (John 4:20). He enunciates the great principle
of the new dispensation that God is a Spirit, and they who worship Him must do
so in spirit and in truth. Finally, when she spoke of the Messiah, Jesus made
Himself definitely known to her as the Christ. To this poor Samaritan woman, with
her receptive heart, He unveils Himself more plainly than He had done to priests
and rulers (John 4:26).
4. Work and Its Reward
The woman went home and became an evangelist to her people, with notable results
(John 4:28,39). Jesus abode with them two days and confirmed the impression made
by her testimony (John 4:40-42). Meanwhile, He impressed on His disciples the
need of earnest sowing and reaping in the service of the Kingdom, assuring them
of unfailing reward for both sower and reaper (John 4:35-38). He Himself was their
Great Example (John 4:34).
C. THE GALILEAN MINISTRY AND VISITS TO THE FEASTS
Galilee was divided into upper Galilee and lower Galilee. It has already been
remarked that upper Galilee was inhabited by a mixed population--hence called
"Galilee of the Gentiles" (Matthew 4:15). The highroads of commerce ran through
it. It was "the way of the sea" (the King James Version)--a scene of constant
traffic. The people were rude, ignorant, and superstitious, and were densely crowded
together in towns and villages. About 160 BC there were only a few Jews in the
midst of a large heathen population; but by the time of Christ the Jewish element
had greatly increased. The busiest portion of this busy district was round the
Sea of Galilee, at the Northeast corner of which stood Capernaum--wealthy and
cosmopolitan. In Nazareth, indeed, Jesus met with a disappointing reception (Luke
4:16-30; Matthew 13:54-57; compare John 4:43-45); yet in Galilee generally He
found a freer spirit and greater receptiveness than among the stricter traditionalists
It is assumed here that Jesus returned to Galilee in December, 27 AD, and that
His ministry there lasted till late in 29 AD (see "Chronology" above). On the
two years' scheme of the public ministry, the Passover of John 6:4 has to be taken
as the second in Christ's ministry--therefore as occurring at an interval of only
3 or 4 months after the return. This seems impossible in view of the crowding
of events it involves in so short a time--opening incidents, stay in Capernaum
(Matthew 4:13), three circuits in "all Galilee" (Matthew 4:23-25 parallel; Luke
8:1-4; Matthew 9:35-38; Mark 6:6), lesser journeys and excursions (Sermon on Mount:
Gadara); and the dislocations it necessitates, e.g. the plucking of ears of corn
(about Passover time) must be placed after the feeding of the 5,000, etc. It is
simpler to adhere to the three years' scheme.
A division of the Galilean ministry may then fitly be made into two periods--one
preceding, the other succeeding the Mission of the Twelve in Matthew 10 parallel.
One reason for this division is that after the Mission of the Twelve the order
of events is the same in the first three evangelists till the final departure
First Period--From the Beginning of the Ministry in Galilee till the Mission of
I. OPENING INCIDENTS
1. Healing of Nobleman's Son
(John 4:43-54) From sympathetic Samaria (John 4:39), Jesus had journeyed to unsympathetic
Galilee, and first to Cana, where His first miracle had been wrought. The reports
of His miracles in Judea had come before Him (John 4:45), and it was mainly His
reputation as a miracle-worker which led a nobleman--a courtier or officer at
Herod's court--to seek Him at Cana on behalf of his son, who was near to death.
Jesus rebuked the sign-seeking spirit (John 4:48), but, on the fervent appeal
being repeated, He bade the nobleman go his way: his son lived. The man's prayer
had been, "Come down"; but he had faith to receive the word of Jesus (John 4:50),
and on his way home received tidings of his son's recovery. The nobleman, with
his whole household, was won for Jesus (John 4:53). This is noted as the second
of Christ's Galilean miracles (John 4:54).
2. The Visit to Nazareth
(Matthew 4:13; Luke 4:16-30) A very different reception awaited Him at Nazareth,"His
own country," to which He next came. We can scarcely take the incident recorded
in Luke 4:16-30 to be the same as that in Matthew 13:54-58, though Matthew's habit
of grouping makes this not impossible. The Sabbath had come, and on His entering
the synagogue, as was His wont, the repute He had won led to His being asked to
read. The Scripture He selected (or which came in the order of the day) was Isaiah
61:1 (the fact that Jesus was able to read from the synagogue-roll is interesting
as bearing on His knowledge of Hebrew), and from this He proceeded to amaze His
hearers by declaring that this Scripture was now fulfilled in their ears (Luke
4:21). The "words of grace" he uttered are not given, but it can be understood
that, following the prophet's guidance, He would hold Himself forth as the predicted
"Servant of Yahweh," sent to bring salvation to the poor, the bound, the broken-hearted,
and for this purpose endowed with the fullness of the Spirit. The idea of the
passage in Isa is that of the year of jubilee, when debts were canceled, inheritances
restored, and slaves set free, and Jesus told them He had come to inaugurate that
"acceptable year of the Lord." At first He was listened to with admiration, then,
as the magnitude of the claims He was making became apparent to His audience,
a very different spirit took possession of them. 'Who was this that spoke thus?'
'Was it not Joseph's son?' (Luke 4:22). They were disappointed, too, that Jesus
showed no disposition to gratify them by working before them any of the miracles
of which they had heard so much (Luke 4:23). Jesus saw the gathering storm, but
met it resolutely. He told His hearers He had not expected any better reception,
and in reply to their reproach that He had wrought miracles elsewhere, but had
wrought none among them, quoted examples of prophets who had done the same thing
(Elijah, Elisha, Luke 4:24-28). This completed the exasperation of the Nazarenes,
who, springing forward, dragged Him to the brow of the hill on which their city
was built, and would have thrown Him down, had something in the aspect of Jesus
not restrained them. With one of those looks we read of occasionally in the Gospels,
He seems to have overawed His townsmen, and, passing in safety through their midst,
left the place (Luke 4:28-30).
3. Call of the Four Disciples
(Matthew 4:17-22; Mark 1:16-22; Luke 5:1-11) After leaving Nazareth Jesus made
His way to Capernaum (probably Tell Hum), which thereafter seems to have been
His headquarters. He "dwelt" there (Matthew 4:13). It is called in Matthew 9:1,
"his own city." Before teaching in Capernaum self, however, He appears to have
opened His ministry by evangelizing along the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Matthew
4:18; Mark 1:16; Luke 5:1), and there, at Bethsaida (on topographical questions,
see special articles), He took His first step in gathering His chosen disciples
more closely around Him. Hitherto, though attached to His person and cause, the
pairs of fisher brothers, Simon and Andrew, James and John--these last the "sons
of Zebedee"--had not been in constant attendance upon Him. Since the return from
Jerusalem, they had gone back to their ordinary avocations. The four were "partners"
(Luke 5:10). They had "hired servants" (Mark 1:20); therefore were moderately
well off. The time had now come when they were to leave "all," and follow Jesus
|a) The Draught of Fishes:
(Luke 5:1-9) Luke alone records the striking miracle which led to the call. Jesus
had been teaching the multitude from a boat borrowed from Simon, and now at the
close He bade Simon put out into the deep, and let down his nets. Peter told Jesus
they had toiled all night in vain, but he would obey His word. The result was
an immense draught of fishes, so that the nets were breaking, and the other company
had to be called upon for help. Both boats were filled and in danger of sinking.
Peter's cry in so wonderful a presence was, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful
man, O Lord."
b) "Fishers of Men":
The miracle gave Jesus opportunity for the word He wished to speak. It is here
that Mt and Mr take up the story. The boats had been brought to shore when, first
to Simon and Andrew, afterward to James and John (engaged in "mending their nets,"
Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19), the call was given : "Come ye after me, and I will make
you fishers of men." At once all was left--boats, nets, friends--and they followed
Him. Their experience taught them to have large expectations from Christ.
4. At Capernaum
(Matthew 4:13; Luke 4:31) Jesus is now found in Capernaum. An early Sabbath--perhaps
the first of His stated residence in the city--was marked by notable events. The
Sabbath found Jesus as usual in the synagogue--now as teacher. The manner of His
teaching is specially noticed: "He taught them as having authority, and not as
the scribes" (Mark 1:22). The scribes gave forth nothing of their own.
|a) Christ's Teaching
(Mark 1:22,27; Luke 4:32) They but repeated the dicta of the great authorities
of the past. It was a surprise to the people to find in Jesus One whose wisdom,
like waters from a clear fountain, came fresh and sparkling from His own lips.
The authority also with which Jesus spoke commanded attention. He sought support
in the opinion of no others, but gave forth His statements with firmness, decision,
dignity and emphasis.
b) The Demoniac in the Synagogue
(Mark 1:23-27; Luke 4:33-37) While Jesus was teaching an extraordinary incident
occurred. A man in the assembly, described as possessed by "an unclean spirit"
(Mark 1:23; Luke 4:33) broke forth in cries, addressing Jesus by name ("Jesus,
thou Nazarene"), speaking of Him as "the Holy One of God," and asking "What have
we to do with thee? Art thou come to destroy us?" The diseased consciousness of
the sufferer bore a truer testimony to Christ's dignity, holiness and power than
most of those present could have given, and instinctively, but truly, construed
His coming as meaning destruction to the empire of the demons. At Christ's word,
after a terrible paroxysm, from which, however, the man escaped unhurt (Luke 4:35),
the demon was cast out. More than ever the people were "amazed" at the word which
had such power (Mark 1:27).
Demon-Possession: Its Reality
This is the place to say a word on this terrible form of malady--demon-possession--met
with so often in the Gospels. Was it a reality? Or a hallucination? Did Jesus
believe in it? It is difficult to read the Gospels, and not answer the last question
in the affirmative. Was Jesus, then, mistaken? This also it is hard to believe.
If there is one subject on which Jesus might be expected to have clear vision--on
which we might trust His insight--it was His relation to the spiritual world with
which He stood in so close rapport. Was He likely then to be mistaken when He
spoke so earnestly, so profoundly, so frequently, of its hidden forces of evil?
There is in itself no improbability--rather analogy suggests the highest probability--of
realms of spiritual existence outside our sensible ken. That evil should enter
this spiritual world, and that human life should be deeply implicated with that
evil--that its forces should have a mind and will organizing and directing them--are
not beliefs to be dismissed with scorn. The presence of such beliefs in the time
of Christ is commonly attributed to Babylonian, Persian or other foreign influences.
It may be questioned, however, whether the main cause was not something far more
real--an actual and permitted "hour and the power of darkness" (Luke 22:53) in
the kingdom of evil, discovering itself in manifestations in the bodies and souls
of men, that could be traced only to a supernatural cause (see DEMONIAC). (The
present writer discusses the subject in an article in the Sunday School Times
for June 4, 1910. It would be presumptuous even to say that the instance in the
Gospels have no modern parallels. See a striking paper in Good, Words, edited
by Dr. Norman MacLeod, for 1867, on "The English Demoniac.") It should be noted
that all diseases are not, as is sometimes affirmed, traced to demonic influence.
The distinction between other diseases and demonic possession is clearly maintained
(compare Matthew 4:24; 10:1; 11:5, etc.). Insanity, epilepsy, blindness, dumbness,
etc., were frequent accompaniments of possession, but they are not identified
c) Peter's Wife's Mother
(Matthew 8:14,15; Mark 1:29-31; Luke 4:38,39) Jesus, on leaving the synagogue,
entered the house of Peter. In Mark it is called "the house of Simon and Andrew"
(1:29). Peter was married (compare 1 Corinthians 9:5), and apparently his mother-in-law
and brother lived with him in Capernaum. It was an anxious time in the household,
for the mother-in-law lay "sick of a fever"--"a great fever," as Luke the physician
calls it. Taking her by the hand, Jesus rebuked the fever, which instantaneously
left her. The miracle, indeed, was a double one, for not only was the fever stayed,
but strength was at once restored. "She rose up and ministered unto them" (Luke
d) The Eventful Evening
(Matthew 8:16; Mark 1:32-34; Luke 4:40,41) The day's labors were not yet done;
were, indeed, scarce begun. The news of what had taken place quickly spread, and
soon the extraordinary spectacle was presented of 'the whole city' gathered at
the door of the dwelling, bringing their sick of every kind to be healed. Demoniacs
were there, crying and being rebuked, but multitudes of others as well. The Lord's
compassion was unbounded. He rejected none. He labored unweariedly till every
one was healed. His sympathy was individual: "He laid his hands on every one of
them" (Luke 4:40).
II. FROM THE FIRST GALILEAN CIRCUIT TILL THE CHOICE OF THE APOSTLES
1. The First Circuit
(Mark 1:35-45; Luke 4:42-44; compare Matthew 4:23-25) The chronological order
in this section is to be sought in Mark and Luke; Matthew groups for didactic
purposes. The morning after that eventful Sabbath evening in Capernaum, Jesus
took steps for a systematic visitation of the towns and villages of Galilee.
The task He set before Himself was prepared for by early, prolonged, solitary
prayer (Mark 1:35; many instances show that Christ's life was steeped in prayer).
His disciples followed Him, and reported that the multitudes sought Him. Jesus
intimated to them His intention of passing to the next towns, and forthwith commenced
a tour of preaching and healing "throughout all Galilee."
|a) Its Scope:
Even if the expression "all Galilee" is used with some latitude, it indicates
a work of very extensive compass. It was a work likewise methodically conducted
(compare Mark 6:6: "went round about the villages," literally, "in a circle").
Galilee at this time was extraordinarily populous (compare Josephus, Wars of the
Jews, III, iii, 2), and the time occupied by the circuit must have been considerable.
Matthew's condensed picture (Matthew 4:23-25) shows that Christ's activity during
this period was incredibly great. He stirred the province to its depths. His preaching
and miracles drew enormous crowds after Him. This tide of popularity afterward
turned, but much of the seed sown may have produced fruit at a later day.
b) Cure of the Leper:
(Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16) The one incident recorded which seems
to have belonged to this tour was a sufficiently typical one. While Jesus was
in a certain city a man "full of leprosy" (Luke 5:12) came and threw himself down
before Him, seeking to be healed. The man did not even ask Jesus to heal him,
but expressed his faith, "If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." The man's apparent
want of importunity was the very essence of his importunity. Jesus, moved by his
earnestness, touched him, and the man was made whole on the spot. The leper was
enjoined to keep silence--Jesus did not wish to pass for a mere miracle-worker--and
bade the man show himself to the priests and offer the appointed sacrifices (note
Christ's respect for the legal institutions). The leper failed to keep Christ's
charge, and published his cure abroad, no doubt much to his own spiritual detriment,
and also to the hindrance of Christ's work (Mark 1:45).
2. Capernaum Incidents
His circuit ended, Jesus returned to Capernaum (Mark 2:1; literally, "after days").
Here again His fame at once drew multitudes to see and hear Him. Among them were
now persons of more unfriendly spirit. Pharisees and doctors, learning of the
new rabbi, had come out of "every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem"
(Luke 5:17), to hear and judge of Him for themselves. The chief incidents of this
visit are the two now to be noted.
|a) Cure of the Paralytic
(Matthew 9:2-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26) In a chamber crowded till there was
no standing room, even round the door, Jesus wrought the cure upon the paralytic
man. The scene was a dramatic one. From Christ's words "son," literally, "child"
(Mark 2:5), we infer that the paralytic was young, but his disablement seems to
have been complete. It was no easy matter, with the doorways blocked, to get the
man brought to Jesus, but his four bearers (Mark 2:3) were not easily daunted.
They climbed the fiat roof, and, removing part of the covering above where Jesus
was, let down the man into the midst. Jesus, pleased with the inventiveness and
perseverance of their faith, responded to their wish. But, first, that the spiritual
and temporal might be set in their right relations, and the attitude of His hearers
be tested, He spoke the higher words: "Son, thy sins are forgiven" (Mark 2:5).
At once the temper of the scribes was revealed. Here was manifest evasion. Anyone
could say, "Thy sins are forgiven." Worse, it was blasphemy, for "who can forgive
sins but one, even God?" (Mark 2:7). Unconsciously they were conceding to Christ
the Divine dignity He claimed. Jesus perceives at once the thoughts of the cavilers,
and proceeds to expose their malice. Accepting their own test, He proves His right
to say, "Thy sins are forgiven," by now saying to the palsied man, "Take up thy
bed and walk" (Mark 2:9,11). At once the man arose, took his bed, and went forth
whole. The multitude were "amazed" and "glorified God" (Mark 2:12).
b) Call and Feast of Matthew
(Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32) The call of Matthew apparently took
place shortly after the cure of the paralytic man. The feast was possibly later
(compare the connection with the appeal of Jairus, Matthew 9:18), but the call
and the feast are best taken together, as they are in all the three narratives.
|(1) The Call.
Matthew is called "Levi" by Luke, and "Levi, the son of Alpheus" by Mark. By occupation
he was a "publican" (Luke 5:27), collector of custom-dues in Capernaum, an important
center of traffic. There is no reason to suppose that Matthew was not a man of
thorough uprightness, though naturally the class to which he belonged was held
in great odium by the Jews. Passing the place of toll on His way to or from the
lake-side, Jesus called Matthew to follow Him. The publican must by this time
have seen and heard much of Jesus, and could not but keenly feel His grace in
calling one whom men despised. Without an instant's delay, he left all, and followed
Jesus. From publican, Matthew became apostle, then evangelist.
(2) The Feast.
Then, or after, in the joy of his heart, Matthew made a feast for Jesus. To this
feast he invited many of his own class--"publicans and sinners" (Matthew 9:10).
Scribes and Pharisees were loud in their remonstrances to the disciples at what
seemed to them an outrage on all propriety. Narrow hearts cannot understand the
breadth of grace. Christ's reply was conclusive: "They that are whole have no
need of a physician, but they that are sick," etc. (Mark 2:17, etc.).
(3) Fasting and Joy.
Another line of objection was encountered from disciples of the Baptist. They,
like the Pharisees, "fasted oft" (Matthew 9:14), and they took exception to the
unconstrained way in which Jesus and His disciples entered into social life. Jesus
defends His disciples by adopting a metaphor of John's own (John 3:29), and speaking
of Himself as the heavenly bridegroom (Mark 2:19). Joy was natural while the bridegroom
was with them; then, with a sad forecast of the end, He alludes to days of mourning
when the bridegroom should be taken away (Mark 2:20). A deeper answer follows.
The spirit of His gospel is a free, spontaneous, joyful spirit, and cannot be
confined within the old forms. To attempt to confine His religion within the outworn
forms of Judaism would be like putting a patch of undressed cloth on an old garment,
or pouring new wine into old wineskins. The garment would be rent; the wineskins
would burst (Mark 2:21,22 parallel). The new spirit must make forms of its own.
3. The Unnamed Jerusalem Feast
(John 5) At this point is probably to, be introduced the visit to Jerusalem to
attend "a feast," or, according to another reading, "the feast' of the Jews, recorded
in John 5. The feast may, if the article is admitted, have been the Passover (April),
though in that case one would expect it to be named; it may have been Purim (March),
only this is not a feast Jesus might be thought eager to attend; it may even have
been Pentecost (June). In this last case it would succeed the Sabbath controversies
to be mentioned later. Fortunately, the determination of the actual feast has
little bearing on the teaching of the chapter.
|a) The Healing at Bethesda
(John 5:1-16) Bethesda ("house of mercy") was the name given to a pool, fed by
an intermittent spring, possessing healing properties, which was situated by the
sheep-gate (not "market," the King James Version), i.e. near the temple, on the
East Porches were erected to accommodate the invalids who desired to make trial
of the waters (the mention of the angel, John 5:4, with part of 5:3, is a later
gloss, and is justly omitted in the Revised Version (British and American)). On
one of these porches lay an impotent man. His infirmity was of long standing--38
years. Hope deferred was making his heart sick, for he had no friend, when the
waters were troubled, to put him into the pool. Others invariably got down before
him. Jesus took pity on this man. He asked him if he would be made whole; then
by a word of power healed him. The cure was instantaneous (John 5:8,9). It was
the Sabbath day, and as the man, at Christ's command, took up his bed to go, he
was challenged as doing that which was unlawful. The healed man, however, rightly
perceived that He who was able to work so great a cure had authority to say what
should and should not be done on the Sabbath. Meeting the man after in the temple,
Jesus bade him "sin no more"--a hint, perhaps, that his previous infirmity was
a result of sinful conduct (John 5:14).
b) Son and Father
(John 5:17-29) Jesus Himself was now challenged by the authorities for breaking
the Sabbath. Their strait, artificial rules would not permit even of acts of mercy
on the Sabbath. This led, on the part of Jesus, to a momentous assertion of His
Divine dignity. He first justified Himself by the example of His Father, who works
continually in the upholding and government of the universe (John 5:17)--the Sabbath
is a rest from earthly labors, for Divine, heavenly labor (Westcott)--then, when
this increased the offense by its suggestion of "equality" with the Father, so
that His life was threatened (John 5:18), He spoke yet more explicitly of His
unique relationship to the Father, and of the Divine prerogatives it conferred
upon Him. The Jews were right: if Jesus were not a Divine Person, the claims He
made would be blasphemous. Not only was He admitted to intimacy with the Divine
counsel (John 5:20,21; compare Matthew 11:27), but to Him, He averred, was committed
the Divine power of giving life (John 5:21,26), of judgment (John 5:22,27), of
resurrection--spiritual resurrection now (John 5:24,25), resurrection at the last
day (John 5:28,29). It was the Father's will that the Son should be honored even
as Himself (John 5:23).
c) The Threefold Witness
(John 5:30-47) These stupendous claims are not made without adequate attestation.
Jesus cites a threefold witness:
|(1) the witness of the Baptist, whose testimony they had
been willing for a time to receive (John 5:33,15);
(2) the witness of the Father, who by Christ's works supported His witness to
Himself (John 5:36-38);
(3) the witness of the Scriptures, for these, if read with spiritual discernment,
would have led to Him (John 5:39,45-47). Moses, whom they trusted, would condemn
them. Their rejection of Jesus was due, not to want of light, but to the state
of the heart: "I know you, that ye have not the love of God in yourselves" (John
5:42); "How can ye believe," etc. (John 5:44).
4. Sabbath Controversies
Shortly after His return to Galilee, if the order of events has been rightly apprehended,
Jesus became involved in new disputes with the Pharisees about Sabbath-keeping.
Possibly we hear in these the echoes of the charges brought against Him at the
feast in Judea. Christ's conduct, and the principles involved in His replies,
throw valuable light on the Sabbath institution.
|a) Plucking of the Ears of Grain
(Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5) The first dispute was occasioned by
the action of the disciples in plucking ears of grain and rubbing them in their
hands as they passed through the grainfields on a Sabbath (the note of time "second-first,"
in Luke 6:1 the King James Version, is omitted in the Revised Version (British
and American). In any case the ripened grain points to a time shortly after the
Passover). The law permitted this liberty (Deuteronomy 23:25), but Pharisaic rigor
construed it into an offense to do the act on the Sabbath (for specimens of the
minute, trivial and vexatious rules by which the Pharisees converted the Sabbath
into a day of wretched constraint, see Farrar's Life of Christ, Edersheim's Jesus
the Messiah, and similar works). Jesus, in defending His disciples, first quotes
Old Testament precedents (David and the showbread, an act done apparently on the
Sabbath, 1 Samuel 21:6; the priests' service on the Sabbath--"One greater than
the temple" was there, Matthew 12:6), in illustration of the truth that necessity
overrides positive enactment; next, falls back on the broad principle of the design
of the Sabbath as made for man--for his highest physical, mental, moral and spiritual
well-being: "The sabbath was made for man," etc. (Mark 2:27). The claims of mercy
are paramount. The end is not to be sacrificed to the means. The Son of Man, therefore,
asserts lordship over the Sabbath (Mark 2:28 parallel).
b) The Man with the Withered Hand
(Matthew 12:10-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11) The second collision took place on
"another sabbath" (Luke 6:6) in the synagogue. There was present a man with a
withered hand. The Pharisees themselves, on this occasion, eager to entrap Jesus,
seem to have provoked the conflict by a question, "Is it lawful to heal on the
sabbath day?" (Matthew 12:10). Jesus met them by an appeal to their own practice
in permitting the rescue of a sheep that had fallen into a pit on the Sabbath
day (Matthew 12:11,12), then, bidding the man stand forth~, retorted the question
on themselves, "Is it lawful on the sabbath day to do good, or to do harm? to
save a life, or to kill?" (Mark 3:4)--an allusion to their murderous intents.
On no reply being made, looking on them with holy indignation, Jesus ordered the
man to stretch forth his hand, and it was at once perfectly restored. The effect
was only to inflame to "madness" (Luke 6:11) the minds of His adversaries, and
Pharisees and Herodians (the court-party of Herod) took counsel to destroy Him
(Mark 3:6 parallel).
c) Withdrawal to the Sea
(Matthew 12:15-21; Mark 3:7-9) Jesus, leaving this scene of unprofitable conflict,
quietly withdrew with His disciples to the shore, and there continued His work
of teaching and healing. People from all the neighboring districts flocked to
His ministry. He taught them from a little boat (Mark 3:9), and healed their sick.
Mt sees in this a fulfillment of the oracle which is to be found in Isaiah 42:1-4.
5. The Choosing of the Twelve
(Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:13) The work of Jesus was
growing on His hands, and friends and enemies were rapidly taking sides. The time
accordingly had come for selecting and attaching to His person a definite number
of followers--not simply disciples--who might be prepared to carry on His work
after His departure. This He did in the choice of twelve apostles. The choice
was made in early morning, on the Mount of Beatitudes, after a night spent wholly
in prayer (Luke 6:12).
|a) The Apostolic Function
"Apostle" means "one sent." On the special function of the apostle it is sufficient
to say here that those thus set apart were chosen for the special end of being
Christ's witnesses and accredited ambassadors to the world, able from personal
knowledge to bear testimony to what Christ had been, said and done--to the facts
of His life, death and resurrection (compare Acts 1:22,23; 2:22-32; 3:15; 10:39;
1 Corinthians 15:3-15, etc.); but, further, as instructed by Him, and endowed
with His Spirit (compare Luke 12:12; John 14:16,17,26, etc.), of being the depositories
of His truth, sharers of His authority (compare Matthew 10:1; Mark 3:15), messengers
of His gospel (compare 2 Corinthians 5:18-21), and His instruments in laying broad
and strong the foundations of His church (compare Ephesians 2:20; 3:5). So responsible
a calling was never, before or after, given to mortal men.
b) The Lists
Four lists of the apostles are given--in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Ac (1:13, omitting
Judas). The names are given alike in all, except that "Judas, the son (or brother)
of James" (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13) is called by Mt Lebbaeus, "and by Mr Thaddaeus."
The latter names are cognate in meaning and all denote the same person. "Bartholomew'"
(son of Tolmai) is probably the Nathanael of John 1:47 (compare 21:2). The epithet
"Cananaean" (Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:18) marks "Simon" as then or previously a member
of the party of the Zealots (Luke 6:15). In all the lists Peter, through his gifts
of leadership, stands first; Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, stands last. There
is a tendency to arrangement in pairs: Peter and Andrew; James and John; Philip
and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew; lastly, James, the son of Alpheus, Judas,
son or brother of James, Simonthe Zealot and Judas Iscariot. The list contains
two pairs of brothers (three, if "brother" be read with Judas), and at least one
pair of friends (Philip and Nathanael).
c) The Men
All the apostles were men from the humbler ranks, yet not illiterate, and mostly
comfortably circumstanced. All were Galileans, except the betrayer, whose name
"Iscariot" i.e. "man of Kerioth," marks him as a Judean. Of some of the apostles
we know a good deal; of others very little; yet we are warranted in speaking of
them all, Judas excepted, as men of honest minds, and sincere piety. The band
held within it a number of men of strongly contrasted types of character. Allusion
need only be made to the impetuous Peter, the contemplative John, the matter-of-fact
Philip, the cautious Thomas, the zealous Simon, the conservative Matthew, the
administrative Judas. The last-named--Iscariot--is the dark problem of the apostolate.
We have express testimony that Jesus knew him from the beginning (John 6:64).
Yet He chose him. The character of Judas, when Jesus received him, was doubtless
undeveloped. He could not himself suspect the dark possibilities that slept in
it. His association with the apostles, in itself considered, was for his good.
His peculiar gift was, for the time, of service. In choosing him, Jesus must be
viewed as acting for, and under the direction of, the Father (John 5:19; 17:12).
See special articles on the several apostles.
III. FROM THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT WILL THE PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM--A SECOND CIRCUIT
1. The Sermon on the Mount
The choice of the apostles inaugurates a new period of Christ's activity. Its
first most precious fruit was the delivery to the apostles and the multitudes
who thronged Him as He came down from the mountain (Luke 6:17) of that great manifesto
of His kingdom popularly known as the Sermon on the Mount. The hill is identified
by Stanley (Sinai and Palestine,368) and others with that known as "the Horns
of Hattin," where "the level place" at the top, from which Christ would come down
from one of the higher horns, exactly suits the conditions of the narrative. The
sick being healed, Jesus seated Himself a little higher up, His disciples near
Him, and addressed the assembly (compare Matthew 7:28,29). The season of the year
is shown by the mention of the "lilies" to be the summer.
Its Scope. His words were weighty. His aim was at the outset to set forth in terms
that were unmistakable the principles, aims and dispositions of His kingdom; to
expound its laws; to exhibit its righteousness, both positively, and in contrast
with Pharisaic formalism and hypocrisy. Only the leading ideas can be indicated
here (see BEATITUDES; SERMON ON THE MOUNT; ETHICS OF JESUS). Matthew, as is his
wont, groups material part of which is found in other connections in Luke, but
it is well to study the whole in the well-ordered form in which it appears in
the First Gospel.
|a) The Blessings
(Matthew 5:1-6; Luke 6:20-26) In marked contrast with the lawgiving of Sinai,
Christ's first words are those of blessing. Passing at once to the dispositions
of the heart, He shows on what inner conditions the blessings of the kingdom depend.
His beatitudes (poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, hunger and thirst after
righteousness, etc.) reverse all the world's standards of judgment on such matters.
In the possession of these graces consists true godliness of character; through
them the heirs of the kingdom become the salt of the earth, the light of the world.
The obligation rests on them to let their light shine (compare Mark 4:21-23; Luke
b) True Righteousness--the Old and the New Law
(Matthew 5:17-48; Luke 6:27-36) Jesus defines His relation to the old law--not
a Destroyer, but a Fulfiller--and proceeds to exhibit the nature of the true righteousness
in contrast to Pharisaic literality and formalism. Through adherence to the latter
they killed the spirit of the law. With an absolute authority--"But I say unto
you"--Jesus leads everything back from the outward letter to the state of the
heart. Illustrations are taken from murder, adultery, swearing, retaliation, hatred
of enemies, and a spiritual expansion is given to every precept. The sinful thought
or desire holds in it the essence of transgression. The world's standards are
again reversed in the demands for nonresistance to injuries, love of enemies and
requital of good for evil.
c) Religion and Hypocrisy--True and False Motive
(Matthew 6:1-18; compare Luke 11:1-8) Pursuing the contrast between the true righteousness
and that of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus next draws attention to motive in
religion. The Pharisees erred not simply in having regard only to the letter of
the Law, but in acting in morals and religion from a false motive. He had furnished
the antidote to their literalism; He now assails their ostentation and hypocrisy.
Illustrations are taken from almsgiving, prayer and fasting, and in connection
with prayer the Lord's Prayer is given as a model (Luke introduces this in another
context, Luke 11:1-4).
d) The True Good and Cure for Care
(Matthew 6:19-34; compare Luke 11:34-36; 12:22-34) The true motive in religious
acts is to please God; the same motive should guide us in the choice of what is
to be our supreme good. Earthly treasure is not to be put above heavenly. The
kingdom of God and His righteousness are to be first in our desires. The eye is
to be single. The true cure for worldly anxiety is then found in trust of the
heavenly Father. His children are more to God than fowls and flowers, for whom
His care in Nature is so conspicuously manifest. Seeking first the kingdom they
have a pledge--no higher conceivable--that all else they need will be granted
along with it (this section on trust, again, Luke places differently, 12:22-34).
e) Relation to the World's Evil--the Conclusion
(Matthew 7:1-29; Luke 6:37-49; compare 11:9-13): Jesus finally proceeds to speak
of the relation of the disciple to the evil of the world. That evil has been considered
in its hostile attitude to the disciple (Matthew 5:38); the question is now as
to the disciple s free relations toward it. Jesus inculcates the duties of the
disciple's bearing himself wisely toward evil--with charity, with caution, with
prayer, in the spirit of ever doing as one would be done by--and of being on his
guard against it. The temptation is great to follow the worldly crowd, to be misled
by false teachers, to put profession for practice. Against these perils the disciple
is energetically warned. True religion will ever be known by its fruits. The discourse
closes with the powerful similitude of the wise and foolish builders. Again, as
on an earlier occasion, Christ's auditors were astonished at His teaching, and
at the authority with which He spoke (Matthew 7:28,29).
2. Intervening Incidents
A series of remarkable incidents are next to be noticed.
|a) Healing of the Centurion's Servant
(Matthew 8:1,5-13; Luke 7:1-10) The healing of the centurion's servant apparently
took place on the same day as the delivery of the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 7:1,2).
It had been a day of manifold and exhausting labors for Jesus. A walk of perhaps
7 miles brought Him back to Capernaum, the crowds accompanying. Yet no sooner,
on His return, does He hear a new appeal for help than His love replies,"I will
come and heal him." The suppliant was a Roman centurion--one who had endeared
himself to the Jews (Luke 7:5)--and the request was for the healing of a favorite
servant, paralyzed and tortured with pain. First, a deputation sought Christ's
good offices, then, when Jesus was on the way, a second message came, awakening
even Christ's astonishment by the magnitude of its faith. The centurion felt he
was not worthy that Jesus should come under his roof, but let Jesus speak the
word only, and his servant would be healed. "I have not found so great faith,"
Jesus said, "no, not in Israel." The word was spoken, and, on the return of the
messengers, the servant was found healed.
b) The Widow of Nain's Son Raised
(Luke 7:11-17) The exciting events of this day gathered so great a crowd round
the house where Jesus was as left Him no leisure even to eat, and His friends,
made anxious for His health, sought to restrain Him (Mark 3:20,21). It was probably
to escape from this local excitement that Jesus, "soon afterwards," is found at
the little town of Nain, a few miles Southeast of Nazareth. A great multitude
still followed Him. Here, as He entered the city, occurred the most wonderful
of the works He had yet wrought. A young man--the only son of a widowed mother--was
being carried out for burial. Jesus, in compassion, stopped the mournful procession,
and, in the calm certainty of His word being obeyed, bade the young man arise.
On the instant life returned, and Jesus gave the son back to his mother. The amazement
of the people was tenfold intensified. They felt that the old days had come back:
that God had visited His people.
It was apparently during the journey or circuit which embraced this visit to Nain,
and as the result of the fame it brought to Jesus (Luke 7:17,18; note the allusion
to the dead being raised in Christ's reply to John), that the embassy was sent
from the Baptist in prison to ask of Jesus whether He was indeed He who should
come, or would they look for another.
c) Embassy of John's Disciples--Christ and His Generation
(Matthew 11:2-30; Luke 7:18-35) It was a strange question on the lips of the forerunner,
but is probably to be interpreted as the expression of perplexity rather than
of actual doubt. There seems no question but that John's mind had been thrown
into serious difficulty by the reports which had reached him of the work of Jesus.
Things were not turning out as he expected. It was the peaceful, merciful character
of Christ's work which stumbled John. The gloom of his prison wrought with his
disappointment, and led him to send this message for the satisfaction of himself
and his disciples.
|(1) Christ's Answer to John.
If doubt there was, Jesus treated it tenderly. He did not answer directly, but
bade the two disciples who had been sent go back and tell John the things they
had seen and heard--the blind receiving their sight, the lame walking, the deaf
cured, the dead raised, the Gospel preached. Little doubt the Messiah had come
when works like these--the very works predicted by the prophets (Isaiah 35:5,6)--were
being done. Blessed were those who did not find occasion of stumbling in Him.
Jesus, however, did more. By his embassy John had put himself in a somewhat false
position before the multitude. But Jesus would not have His faithful follower
misjudged. His was no fickle spirit. Jesus nobly vindicated him as a prophet and
more than a prophet; yea, a man than whom a greater had not lived. Yet, even as
the new dispensation was higher than the old, one "but little" in the
kingdom of heaven--one sharing Christ's humble, loving, self-denying disposition--was
greater even than John (Matthew 11:11).
(2) A Perverse People--Christ's Grace.
The implied contrast between Himself and John led Jesus further to denounce the
perverse spirit of His own generation. The Pharisees and lawyers (Luke 7:30) had
rejected John; they were as little pleased with Him. Their behavior was like children
objecting to one game because it was merry, and to another because it was sad.
The flood of outward popularity did not deceive Jesus. The cities in which His
greatest works were wrought--Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum--remained impenitent
at heart. The heavier would be their judgment; worse even than that on Tyre and
Sidon, or on Sodom itself. Over against their unbelief Jesus reasserts His dignity
and declares His grace (Matthew 11:25-30). All authority was His; He alone knew
and could reveal the Father (no claims in John are higher). Let the heavy laden
come to Him, and He would give them rest (parts of these passages appear in another
connection in Luke 10:12-21).
d) The First Anointing--the Woman who Was a Sinner
(Luke 7:36-50) Yet another beautiful incident connected with this journey is preserved
by Lk--the anointing of Jesus in Simon's house by a woman who was a sinner. In
Nain or some other city visited by Him, Jesus was invited to dine with a Pharisee
named Simon. His reception was a cold one (Luke 7:44-46). During the meal, a woman
of the city, an outcast from respectable society--one, however, as the story implies,
whose heart Jesus had reached, and who, filled with sorrow, love, shame, penitence,
had turned from her life of sin, entered the chamber. There, bathing Christ's
feet with her tears, wiping them with her tresses, and imprinting on them fervent
kisses, she anointed them with a precious ointment she had brought with her. Simon
was scandalized. Jesus could not be a right-thinking man, much less a prophet,
or He would have rebuked this misbehavior from such a person. Jesus met the thought
of Simon's heart by speaking to him the parable of the Two Debtors (Luke 7:41,42).
Of two men who had been freely forgiven, one 500, the other 50 shillings, which
would love his creditor most? Simon gave the obvious answer, and the contrast
between his own reception of Jesus and the woman's passionate love was immediately
pointed out. Her greater love was due to the greater forgiveness; though, had
Simon only seen it, he perhaps needed forgiveness even more than she.
3. Second Galilean Circuit--Events at Capernaum
(Luke 8:1-4,19-21; Matthew 12:22-50; Mark 3:22-35 compare Luke 11:14-36) Her faith
saved her and she was dismissed in peace. But again the question arose, "Who is
this that even forgiveth sins?" Luke introduces here (Luke 8:1-4) a second Galilean
circuit of Jesus, after the return from which a new series of exciting incidents
took place at Capernaum.
|a) Galilee Revisited
(Luke 8:1-4) The circuit was an extensive one--"went about through cities and
villages (literally, "according to city and village"), preaching." During this
journey Jesus was attended by the Twelve, and by devoted women (Mary Magdalene,
Joanna, wife of Herod's steward, Susanna, and others), who ministered to Him of
their substance (Luke 8:2,3). At the close of this circuit Jesus returned to Capernaum.
b) Cure of Demoniac--Discourse on Blasphemy
Jesus, no doubt, wrought numerous miracles on demoniacs (compare Luke 8:1,2; out
of Mary Magdalene He is said to have cast 7 demons--perhaps a form of speech to
indicate the severity of the possession). The demoniac now brought to Jesus was
blind and dumb. Jesus cured him, with the double result that the people were filled
with amazement: "Can this be the son of David?" (Matthew 12:23), while the Pharisees
blasphemed, alleging that Jesus cast out demons by the help of Beelzebub (Greek,
Beelzeboul), the prince of the demons (see under the word). A quite similar incident
is narrated in Matthew 9:32-34; and Lu gives the discourse that follows in a later
connection (11:14). The accusation may well have been repeated more than once.
Jesus, in reply, points out, first, the absurdity of supposing Satan to be engaged
in warring against his own kingdom (Matthew 18:25 parallel; here was plainly a
stronger than Satan); then utters the momentous word about blasphemy against the
Holy Spirit. All other blasphemies--even that against the Son of Man (Matthew
12:32)--may be forgiven, for they may proceed from ignorance and misconception;
but deliberate, perverse rejection of the light, and attributing to Satan what
was manifestly of God, was a sin which, when matured--and the Pharisees came perilously
near committing it--admitted of no forgiveness, either in this world or the next,
for the very capacity for truth in the soul was by such sin destroyed. Mr has
the strong phrase, "is guilty of an eternal sin" (3:29). Pertinent words follow
as to the root of good and evil in character (Matthew 12:33-37).
The Sign of Jonah. Out of this discourse arose the usual Jewish demand for a "sign"
(Matthew 12:38; compare Luke 11:29-32), which Jesus met by declaring that no sign
would be given but the sign of the prophet Jonah--an allusion to His future resurrection.
He reiterates His warning to the people of His generation for their rejection
of greater light than had been enjoyed by the Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba.
Two incidents, not dissimilar in character, interrupted this discourse--one the
cry of a woman in the audience (if the time be the same, Luke 11:27,28), "Blessed
is the womb that bare thee," etc., to which Jesus replied, "Yea rather, blessed
are they that hear the word of God, and keep it"; the other, a message that His
mother and brethren (doubtless anxious for His safety) desired to speak with Him.
c) Christ's Mother and Brethren
To this, stretching out His hand toward His disciples, Jesus answered, "Behold,
my mother and my brethren" (Mark 3:34), etc. Kinship in the spiritual kingdom
consists in fidelity to the will of God, not in ties of earthly relationship.
4. Teaching in Parables
(Matthew 13:1-52; Mark 4:1-34; Luke 8:4-15; 13:18-21) On the same day on which
the preceding discourses were delivered, Jesus, seeing the multitudes, passed
to the shore, and entering a boat, inaugurated a new method in His public. teaching.
This was the speaking in parables. Similitude, metaphor, always entered into the
teaching of Jesus (compare Matthew 7:24-27), and parable has once been met with
(Luke 7:41,42); now parable is systematically employed as a means of imparting
and illustrating important truths, while yet veiling them from those whose minds
were hostile and unreceptive (Mark 4:10-12; Luke 8:9,10). The parable thus at
once reveals and conceals. The motive of this partially veiled teaching was the
growing hostility of the Pharisees. In its nature the parable (from a verb signifying
"to place side by side") is a representation in some form of earthly analogy of
truths relating to Divine and eternal things (see PARABLE).
The parables of the kingdom brought together in Matthew 13 form an invaluable
series, though not all were spoken in public (compare Matthew 13:36-52), and some
may belong to a later occasion (compare Luke 13:18-21). Mr adds the parable of
the Seed Growing Secretly (4:26-29). Of three of the parables (the Sower, the
Tares, the Dragnet), Jesus Himself gives the interpretation.
Parables of the Kingdom. In series the parables at once mirror the origin, mixed
character and development of the kingdom in its present imperfect earthly condition,
and the perfection which awaits it after the crisis at the end. In the parable
of the Sower is represented the origin of the kingdom in the good seed of the
word, and the varied soils on which that seed falls; in the Seed Growing Secretly,
the law of orderly growth in the kingdom; in the parable of the Tares, the mixed
character of the subjects of the kingdom; in those of the Mustard Seed and Leaven,
the progress of the kingdom--external growth, internal tramsformative effect;
in those of the Treasure and Pearl the finding and worth of the kingdom; in that
of the Dragnet the consummation of the kingdom. Jesus compares His disciples,
if they understand these things, to householders bringing out of their treasure
"things new and old" (Matthew 13:52).
IV. FROM THE CROSSING TO GADARA TO THE MISSION OF THE TWELVE--A THIRD CIRCUIT
1. Crossing of the Lake--Stilling of the Storm
(Matthew 8:18 - 27 ; Mark 4:35 - 41 ; Luke 8:22 - 25 ; compare 9:57 - 62) It was
on the evening of the day on which He spoke the parables--though the chronology
of the incident seems unknown to Luke (8:22)--that Jesus bade His disciples cross
over to the other side of the lake. At this juncture He was accosted by an aspirant
for discipleship. Matthew gives two cases of aspirants; Luke (but in a different
connection, 9:57 - 62), three. Luke's connection (departure from Galilee) is perhaps
preferable for the second and third; but the three may be considered together.
The three aspirants may be distinguished as, (a) The forward disciple: he who
in an atmosphere of enthusiasm offered himself under impulse, without counting
the cost. The zeal of this would-be follower Jesus cheeks with the pathetic words,
"The foxes have holes," etc. (Matthew 8:20 ; Luke 9:58). (b) The procrastinating
disciple. The first candidate needed repression; the second needs impulsion.
|a) Aspirants for Discipleship
He would follow Jesus, but first let him bury his father. There had come a crisis,
however, when the Lord's claim was paramount: "Leave the dead to bury their own
dead" (Matthew 8:22). There are at times higher claims than mere natural relationships,
to which, in themselves, Jesus was the last to be indifferent. (c) The wavering
disciple. The third disciple is again one who offers himself, but his heart was
too evidently still with the things at home. Jesus, again, lays His finger on
the weak spot, "No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back," etc.
(Luke 9:62). As mentioned, the latter two cases tally better with a final departure
from Galilee than with a temporary crossing of the lake.
b) The Storm Calmed
The inland lake was exposed to violent and sudden tempests. One of these broke
on the disciples' boat as they sailed across. Everyone's life seemed in jeopardy.
Jesus, meanwhile, in calmest repose, was asleep on a cushion in the stern (Mark
4:38). The disciples woke Him almost rudely: "Teacher, carest thou not that we
perish?" Jesus at once arose, and, reproving their want of faith, rebuked wind
and waves ("Peace, be still"). Immediately there was a great calm. It was a new
revelation to the disciples of the majesty of their Master. "Who then is this,
that even the wind and the sea obey him?"
2. The Gadarene (Gerasene) Demoniac
(Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39) The lake being crossed, Jesus and
His disciples came into the country of the Gadarenes (Matthew), or Gerasenes (Mark,
Luke)--Gadara being the capital of the district (on the topography, compare Stanley,
Sinai and Palestine,380-81). From the lake shore rises a mountain in which are
ancient tombs. Here Jesus was met by a demoniac (Matthew mentions two demoniacs:M.
Henry's quaint comment is, "If there were two, there was one." Possibly one was
the fiercer of the two, the other figuring only as his companion). The man, as
described, was a raving maniac of the worst type (Mark 5:3-5), dwelling in the
tombs, wearing no clothes (Luke 8:27), of supernatural strength, wounding himself,
shrieking, etc. Really possessed by "an unclean spirit," his consciousness was
as if he were indwelt by a "legion" of demons, and from that consciousness he
addressed Jesus as the Son of God come for their tormenting. In what follows it
is difficult to distinguish what belongs to the broken, incoherent consciousness
of the man, and the spirit or spirits who spake through him. In the question,
"What is thy name?" (Mark 5:9) Jesus evidently seeks to arouse the victim's shattered
soul to some sense of its own individuality. On Jesus commanding the unclean spirit
to leave the man, the request was made that the demons might be permitted to enter
a herd of swine feeding near. The reason of Christ's permission, with its result
in the destruction of the herd ("rushed down the steep into the sea") need not
be too closely scrutinized. It may have had an aspect of judgment on the (possibly)
Jewish holders of the swine; or it may have had reference to the victim of the
possession, as enabling him to realize his deliverance. Whatever the difficulties
of the narrative, none of the rationalistic explanations afford any sensible relief
from them. The object of the miracle may be to exclude rationalistic explanations,
by giving a manifest attestation of the reality of the demon influence. When the
people of the city came they found the man fully restored--"clothed and in his
right mind." Yet, with fatal shortsightedness, they besought Jesus to depart from
their borders. The man was sent home to declare to his friends the great things
the Lord had done to him.
3. Jairus' Daughter Raised--Woman with Issue of Blood
(Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56) Repelled by the Gerasenes, Jesus
received a warm welcome on His return to Capernaum on the western shore (Mark
5:21). It was probably at this point that Matthew gave the feast formerly referred
to. It was in connection with this feast, Matthew himself informs us (9:18), that
Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue, made his appeal for help. His little
daughter, about 12 years old (Luke 8:42), was at the point of death; indeed, while
Jesus was coming, she died. The ruler's faith, though real, was not equal to the
centurion's, who believed that Jesus could heal without being present.
|a) Jairus' Appeal and Its Result
Jesus came, and having expelled the professional mourners, in sacred privacy,
only the father and mother, with Peter, James and John being permitted to enter
the death-chamber, raised the girl to life. It is the second miracle on record
of the raising from the dead.
b) The Afflicted Woman Cured
On the way to the ruler's house occurred another wonder--a miracle within a miracle.
A poor woman, whose case was a specially distressing one, alike as regards the
nature of her malady, the length of its continuance, and the fruitlessness of
her application to the physicians, crept up to Jesus, confident that if she could
but touch the border of His garment, she would be healed. The woman was ignorant;
her faith was blended with superstition; but Jesus, reading the heart, gave her
the benefit she desired. It was His will, however, that, for her own good, the
woman thus cured should not obtain the blessing by stealth. He therefore brought
her to open confession, and cheered her by His commendatory word.
4. Incidents of Third Circuit
(Matthew 9:27-38; 13:53-58; Mark 6:1-6) At this point begins apparently a new
evangelistic tour (Matthew 9:35; Mark 6:6), extending methodically to "all the
cities and villages." To it belong in the narratives the healing of two blind
men (compare the case of Bartimeus, recorded later); the cure of a demoniac who
was dumb--a similar case to that in Matthew 12:22; and a second rejection at Nazareth
(Matthew, Mark). The incident is similar to that in Luke 4:16-30, and shows, if
the events are different, that the people's hearts were unchanged. Of this circuit
Matthew gives an affecting summary (9:35-38), emphasizing the Lord's compassion,
and His yearning for more laborers to reap the abundant harvest.
5. The Twelve Sent Forth--Discourse of Jesus
(Matthew 10; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6; compare Luke 10:2-24; 12:2-12, etc.) Partly
with a view to the needs of the rapidly growing work and the training of the apostles,
and partly as a witness to Israel (Matthew 10:6,23), Jesus deemed it expedient
to send the Twelve on an independent mission. The discourse in Mt attached to
this event seems, as frequently, to be a compilation. Parts of it are given by
Luke in connection with the mission of the Seventy (Luke 10:1; the directions
were doubtless similar in both cases); parts on other occasions (Luke 12:2-12;
21:12-17, etc.; compare Mark 13:9-13).
The Twelve were sent out two by two. Their work was to be a copy of the Master's--to
preach the gospel and to heal the sick. To this end they were endowed with authority
over unclean spirits, and over all manner of sickness. They were to go forth free
from all encumbrances--no money, no scrip, no changes of raiment, no staff (save
that in their hand, Mark 6:8), sandals only on their feet, etc.
|a) The Commission
They were to rely for support on those to whom they preached. They were for the
present to confine their ministry to Israel. The saying in Matthew 10:23, "Ye
shall not have gone through the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come,"
apparently has reference to the judgment on the nation, not to the final coming
b) Counsels and Warnings
The mission of the Twelve was the first step of Christianity as an aggressive
force in society. Jesus speaks of it, accordingly, in the light of the whole future
that was to come out of it. He warns His apostles faithfully of the dangers that
awaited them; exhorts them to prudence and circumspection ("wise as serpents,"
etc.); holds out to them Divine promises for consolation; directs them when persecuted
in one place to flee to another; points out to them from His own case that such
persecutions were only to be expected. He assures them of a coming day of revelation;
bids them at once fear and trust God; impresses on them the duty of courage in
confession; inculcates in them supreme love to Himself. That love would be tested
in the dearest relations, In itself peace, the gospel would be the innocent occasion
of strife, enmity and division among men. Those who receive Christ's disciples
will not fail of their reward.
When Christ had ended His discourse He proceeded with His own evangelistic work,
leaving the disciples to inaugurate theirs (Matthew 11:1).
|Second Period--After the Mission of the Twelve till the
Departure from Galilee
I. FROM THE DEATH OF THE BAPTIST TILL THE DISCOURSE ON THE BREAD OF LIFE
1. The Murder of the Baptist and Herod's Alarms
(Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9; compare 3:18-20) Shortly before the
events now to be narrated, John the Baptist had been foully murdered in his prison
by Herod Antipas at the instigation of Herodias, whose unlawful marriage with
Herod John had unsparingly condemned. Josephus gives as the place of the Baptist's
imprisonment the fortress of Macherus, near the Dead Sea (Ant., XVIII, v, 2);
or John may have been removed to Galilee. Herod would ere this have killed John,
but was restrained by fear of the people (Matthew 14:5). The hate of Herodias,
however, did not slumber. Her relentless will contrasts with the vacillation of
Herod, as Lady Macbeth in Shakspeare contrasts with Macbeth. A birthday feast
gave her the opening she sought for. Her daughter Saleme, pleasing Herod by her
dancing, obtained from him a promise on oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted
by Herodias, she boldly demanded John the Baptist's head. The weak king was shocked,
but, for his oath's sake, granted her what she craved. The story tells how the
Baptist's disciples reverently buried the remains of their master, and went and
told Jesus. Herod's conscience did not let him rest. When rumors reached him of
a wonderful teacher and miracle-worker in Galilee, he leaped at once to the conclusion
that it was John risen from the dead. Herod cannot have heard much of Jesus before.
An evil conscience makes men cowards.
Another Passover drew near (John 6:4), but Jesus did not on this occasion go up
to the feast. Returning from their mission, the apostles reported to Jesus what
they had said and done (Luke 9:10); Jesus had also heard of the Baptist's fate,
and of Herod's fears, and now proposed to His disciples a retirement to a desert
place across the lake, near Bethsaida (on the topography, compare Stanley, op.
cit., 375, 381).
2. The Feeding of the Five Thousand
(Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14) As it proved, however,
the multitudes had observed their departure, and, running round the shore, were
at the place before them (Mark 6:33). The purpose of rest was frustrated, but
Jesus did not complain. He pitied the shepherdless state of the people, and went
out to teach and heal them. The day wore on, and the disciples suggested that
the fasting multitude should disperse, and seek victuals in the nearest towns
and villages. This Jesus, who had already proved Philip by asking how the people
should be fed (John 6:5), would not permit. With the scanty provision at command--5
loaves and 2 fishes--He fed the whole multitude. By His blessing the food was
multiplied till all were satisfied, and 12 baskets of fragments, carefully collected,
remained over. It was astupendous act of creative power, no rationalizing of which
can reduce it to natural dimensions.
3. Walking on the Sea
(Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52; John 6:15-21) The enthusiasm created by this
miracle was intense (John 6:14). Matthew and Mark relate (Luke here falls for
a time out of the Synopsis) that Jesus hurriedly constrained His disciples to
enter into their boat and recross the lake--this though a storm was gathering--while
He Himself remained in the mountain alone in prayer. John gives the key to this
action in the statement that the people were about to take Him by force and make
Him a king (6:15). Three hours after midnight found the disciples still in the
midst of the lake, "distressed in rowing" (Mark 6:48), deeply anxious because
Jesus was not, as on a former occasion, with them. At last, at the darkest hour
of their extremity, Jesus was seen approaching in a way unlooked-for--walking
on the water. Every new experience of Jesus was a surprise to the disciples. They
were at first terrified, thinking they saw a spirit, but straightway the well-known
voice was heard, "Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid." In the rebound of
his feelings the impulsive Peter asked Jesus to permit him to come to Him on the
water (Matthew). Jesus said "Come," and for the first moment or two Peter did
walk on the water; then, as he realized his unwonted situation, his faith failed,
and he began to sink. Jesus, with gentle chiding, caught him, and assisted him
back into the boat. Once again the sea was calmed, and the disciples watch found
themselves safely at land. To their adoring minds the miracle of the loaves was
eclipsed by this new marvel (Mark 6:52).
4. Gennesaret--Discourse on the Bread of Life
(Matthew 14:34-36; Mark 6:53-56; John 6:22-71) On the return to Gennesaret the
sick from all quarters were brought to Jesus--the commencement apparently of a
new, more general ministry of healing (Mark 6:56). Meanwhile--here we depend on
John--the people on the other side of the lake, when they found that Jesus was
gone, took boats hastily, and came over to Capernaum. They found Jesus apparently
in the synagogue (6:59). In reply to their query, "Rabbi, when camest thou hither?"
Jesus first rebuked the motive which led them to follow Him--not because they
had seen in His miracles "signs" of higher blessings, but because they had eaten
of the loaves and were filled (6:26)--then spoke to them His great discourse on
the bread from heaven. "Work," He said, "for the food which abideth unto eternal
life, which the Son of man shall give unto you" (6:27). When asked to authenticate
His claims by a sign from heaven like the manna, He replied that the manna also
(given not by Moses but by God) was but typical bread, and surprised them by declaring
that He Himself was the true bread of life from heaven (6:35,51). The bread was
Christ's flesh, given for the life of the world; His flesh and blood must be eaten
and drunk (a spiritual appropriation through faith, 6:63), if men were to have
eternal life. Jesus of set purpose had put His doctrine in a strong, testing manner.
The time had come when His hearers must make their choice between a spiritual
acceptance of Him and a break with Him altogether. What He had said strongly offended
them, both on account of the claims implied (6:42), and on account of the doctrine
taught, which, they were plainly told, they could not receive because of their
carnality of heart (6:43,44,61-64). Many, therefore, went back and walked no more
with Him (6:60,61,66); but their defection only evoked from the chosen Twelve
a yet more confident confession of their faith. "Would ye also go away?"
Peter's First Confession. Peter, as usual, spoke for the rest: "Lord, to whom
shall we go? .... We have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God"
(John 6:69). Here, and not first at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:16), is Peter's
brave confession of his Master's Messiahship. Twelve thus confessed Him, but even
of this select circle Jesus was compelled to say, "One of you (Judas) is a devil"
II. FROM DISPUTES WITH THE PHARISEES TILL THE TRANSFIGURATION
The discourse in Capernaum seems to mark a turning-point in the Lord's ministry
in Galilee. Soon after we find Him ceasing from public teaching, and devoting
Himself to the instruction of His apostles (Matthew 15:21; Mark 7:24, etc.).
1. Jesus and Tradition--Outward and Inward Purity
(Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23) Meanwhile, that Christ's work in Galilee was attracting
the attention of the central authorities, is shown by the fact that scribes and
Pharisees came up from Jerusalem to watch Him. They speedily found ground of complaint
against Him in His unconventional ways and His total disregard of the traditions
of the elders. They specially blamed Him for allowing His disciples to eat bread
with "common," i.e. unwashen hands. Here was a point on which the Pharisees laid
great stress (Mark 7:3,4). Ceremonial ablutions (washing "diligently," Greek "with
the fist"; "baptizings" of person and things) formed a large part of their religion.
These washings were part of the "oral tradition" said to have been delivered to
Moses, and transmitted by a succession of elders. Jesus set all this ceremonialism
aside. It was part of the "hypocrisy" of the Pharisees (Mark 7:6). When questioned
regarding it, He drew a sharp distinction between God's commandment in the Scriptures
and man's tradition, and accused the Pharisees (instancing "Corban" (which see),
in support, Mark 7:10-12) of making "void" the former through the latter. This
led to the wider question of wherein real defilement consisted. Christ's rational
position here is that it did not consist in anything outward, as in meats, but
consisted in what came from within the man: as Jesus explained afterward, in the
outcome of his heart or moral life: "Out of the heart of men evil thoughts proceed,"
etc. (Mark 7:20-23). Christ's saying was in effect the abrogation of the old ceremonial
distinctions, as Mark notes: "making all meats clean" (Mark 7:19). The Pharisees,
naturally, were deeply offended at His sayings, but Jesus was unmoved. Every plant
not of the Father's planting must be rooted up (Mark 7:13).
2. Retirement to Tyre and Sidon--the Syrophoenician Woman
(Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30) From this point Jesus appears, in order to escape
notice, to have made journeys privately from place to place. His first retreat
was to the borders, or neighborhood, of Tyre and Sidon. From Mark 7:31 it is to
be inferred that He entered the heathen territory. He could not, however, be hid
(Mark 7:24). It was not long ere, in the house into which He had entered, there
reached Him the cry of human distress. A woman came to Him, a Greek (or Gentile,
Greek-speaking), but Syrophoenician by race. Her "little daughter" was grievously
afflicted with an evil spirit. Flinging herself at His feet, and addressing Him
as "Son of David," she besought His mercy for her child. At first Jesus seemed--yet
only seemed--to repel her, speaking of Himself as sent only to the lost sheep
of Israel, and of the unmeetness of giving the children's loaf to the dogs (the
Greek softens the expression, "the little dogs"). With a beautiful urgency which
won for her the boon she sought, the woman seized on the word as an argument in
her favor. "Even the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs." The child
at Jesus' word was restored.
3. At Decapolis--New Miracles
(Matthew 15:29-39; Mark 7:31-37; 8:1-10) Christ's second retreat was to Decapolis--the
district of the ten cities--East of the Jordan. Here also He was soon discovered,
and followed by the multitude. Sufferers were brought to Him, whom He cured (Matthew
15:30). Later, He fed the crowds.
The miracle of the deaf man is attested only by Mk. The patient was doubly afflicted,
being deaf, and having an impediment in his speech. The cure presents several
peculiarities--its privacy (Matthew 15:33); the actions of Jesus in putting his
fingers into his ears, etc. (a mode of speech by signs to the deaf man); His "sign,"
accompanied with prayer, doubtless accasioned by something in the man's look;
the word Ephphatha (Matthew 15:34)--"Be opened."
|a) The Deaf Man
(Mark 7:32-37) The charge to those present not to blazon the deed abroad was disregarded.
Jesus desired no cheap popularity.
b) Feeding of the Four Thousand
(Matthew 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-9) The next miracle closely resembles the feeding
of the Five Thousand at Bethsaida, but the place and numbers are different; 4,000
instead of 5,000; 7 loaves and a few fishes, instead of 5 loaves and 2 fishes;
7 baskets of fragments instead of 12 (Mark's term denotes a larger basket). There
is no reason for doubting the distinction of the incidents (compare Matthew 16:9,10;
4. Leaven of the Pharisees, etc.--Cure of Blind Man
(Matthew 16:1-12; Mark 8:11-26) Returning to the plain of Gennesaret (Magdala,
Matthew 15:39 the King James Version; parts of Dalmanutha, Mark 8:10), Jesus soon
found Himself assailed by His old adversaries. Pharisees and Sadducees were now
united. They came "trying" Jesus, and asking from Him a "sign from heaven"--some
signal Divine manifestation. "Sighing deeply" (Mark) at their caviling spirit,
Jesus repeated His word about the sign of Jonah. The times in which they lived
were full of signs, if they, so proficient in weather signs, could only see them.
To be rid of such questioners, Jesus anew took boat to Bethsaida. On the way He
warned His disciples against the leaven of the spirit they had just encountered.
The disciples misunderstood, thinking that Jesus referred to their forgetfulness
in not taking bread (Mark states in his graphic way that they had only one loaf).
The leaven Christ referred to, in fact, represented three spirits:
|(1) the Pharisaic leaven--formalism and hypocrisy;
(2) the Sadducean leaven--rationalistic skepticism;
(3) the Herodian leaven (Mark 8:15)--political expediency and temporizing.
Arrived at Bethsaida, a miracle was wrought on a blind man resembling in some
of its features the cure of the deaf man at Decapolis. In both cases Jesus took
the patients apart; in both physical means were used--the spittle ("spit on his
eyes," Mark 8:23); in both there was strict injunction not to noise the cure abroad.
Another peculiarity was the gradualness of the cure. It is probable that the man
had not been blind from his birth, else he could hardly have recognized men or
trees at the first opening. It needed that Jesus should lay His hands on Him before
he saw all things clearly.
5. At Caesarea Philippi--the Great Confession--First Announcement of Passion
(Matthew 16:13-28; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-27) The next retirement of Jesus with
His disciples was to the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi, near the source of
the Jordan. This was the northernmost point of His journeyings. Here, "on the
geographical frontier between Judaism and heathenism" (Liddon), our Lord put the
momentous question which called forth Peter's historical confession.
|(1) The Voices of the Age and the External Truth.
The question put to the Twelve in this remote region was: "Who do men say that
the Son of man is?" "Son of man," as already said, was the familiar name given
by Jesus to Himself, to which a Messianic significance might or might not be attached,
according to the prepossessions of His hearers. First the changeful voices of
the age were recited to Jesus: "Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah," etc.
Next, in answer to the further question: "But who say ye that I am ?" there rang
out from Peter, in the name of all, the unchanging truth about Jesus: "Thou art
the Christ, the Son of the living God." In clearness, boldness, decision, Peter's
faith had attained a height not reached before. The confession embodies two truths:
|(1) the Divinity,
(2) the Messiahship, of the Son of man.
Jesus did honor to the confession of His apostle. Not flesh and blood, but the
Father, had revealed the truth to him. Here at length was "rock" on which He could
build a church. Reverting to Peter's original name, Simon Bar-Jonah, Jesus declared,
with a play on the name "Peter" (petros, "rock," "piece of rock") He had before
given him (John 1:42), that on this "rock" (petra), He would build His church,
and the gates of Hades (hostile evil powers) would not prevail against it (Matthew
16:18). The papacy has reared an unwarrantable structure of pretensions on this
passage in supposing the "rock" to be Peter personally and his successors in the
see of Rome (none such existed; Peter was not bishop of Rome). It is not Peter
the individual, but Peter the confessing apostle--Peter as representative of all--that
Christ names "rock"; that which constituted him a foundation was the truth he
had confessed (compare Ephesians 2:20). This is the first New Testament mention
of a "church" (ekklesia). The Christian church, therefore, is founded
|(1) on the truth of Christ's Divine Sonship;
(2) on the truth of His Messiah-ship, or of His being the anointed prophet, priest
and king of the new age.
A society of believers confessing these truths is a church; no society which denies
these truths deserves the name. To this confessing community Jesus, still addressing
Peter as representing the apostolate (compare Matthew 18:18),gives authority to
bind and loose--to admit and to exclude. Jesus, it is noted, bade His disciples
tell no man of these things (Matthew 16:20; Mark 8:30; Luke 9:21).
(2) The Cross and the Disciple.
The confession of Peter prepared the way for an advance in Christ's teaching.
From that time, Matthew notes, Jesus began to speak plainly of His approaching
sufferings and death (16:21). There are in all three solemn announcements of the
Passion (Matthew 16:21-23; 17:22,23; 20:17-19 parallel). Jesus foresaw, and clearly
foretold, what would befall Him at Jerusalem. He would be killed by the authorities,
but on the third day would rise again. On the first announcement, following His
confession, Peter took it upon him to expostulate with Jesus: "Be it far from
thee, Lord," etc. (Matthew 16:22), an action which brought upon him the stern
rebuke of Jesus: "Get thee behind me, Satan," etc. (Matthew 16:23). The Rock-man,
in his fall to the maxims of a worldly expediency, is now identified with Satan,
the tempter. This principle, that duty is only to be done when personal risk is
not entailed, Jesus not only repudiates for Himself, but bids His disciples repudiate
it also. The disciple, Jesus says, must be prepared to deny himself, and take
up his cross. The cross is the symbol of anything distressing or painful to bear.
There is a saving of life which is a losing of it, and what shall a man be profited
if he gain the whole world, and forfeit his (true, higher) life? As, however,
Jesus had spoken, not only of dying, but of rising again, so now He encourages
His disciples by announcing His future coming in glory to render to every man
according to His deeds. That final coming might be distant (compare Matthew 24:36);
but (so it seems most natural to interpret the saying Matthew 16:28 parallel)
there were those living who would see the nearer pledge of that, in Christ's coming
in the triumphs and successes of His kingdom (compare Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27; Matthew
6. The Transfiguration--the Epileptic Boy
(Matthew 17:1-20; Mark 9:2-29; Luke 9:28-43) About eight days after the announcement
of His passion by Jesus, took place the glorious event of the transfiguration.
Jesus had spoken of His future glory, and here was pledge of it. In strange contrast
with the scene of glory on the summit of the mountain was the painful sight which
met Jesus and His three companions when they descended again to to the plain.
|a) The Glory of the Only Begotten:
Tradition connects the scene of the transfiguration with Mount Tabor, but it more
probably took place on one of the spurs of Mount Hermon. Jesus had ascended the
mountain with Peter, James and John, for prayer. It was while He was praying the
wonderful change happened. For once the veiled glory of the only begotten from
the Father (John 1:14) was permitted to burst forth, suffusing His person and
garments, and changing them into a dazzling brightness. His face did shine as
the sun; His raiment became white as light ("as snow," the King James Version,
Mark). Heavenly visitants, recognized from their converse as Moses and Elijah,
appeared with Him and spoke of His decease (Luke). A voice from an enveloping
cloud attested: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Little wonder
the disciples were afraid, or that Peter in his confusion should stammer out:
"It is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, I will make here three tabernacles
(booths)." This, however, was not permitted. Earth is not heaven. Glimpses of
heavenly glory are given, not to wean from duty on earth, but to prepare for the
trials connected therewith.
b) Faith's Entreaty and Its Answer:
The spectacle that met the eyes of Jesus and the chosen three as they descended
was distressing in the extreme. A man had brought his epileptic boy--a sore sufferer
and dumb--to the disciples to see if they could cast out the evil spirit that
possessed him, but they were not able. Their failure, as Jesus showed, was failure
of faith; none the less did their discomfiture afford a handle to the gainsayers,
who were not slow to take advantage of it (Mark 9:14). The man's appeal was now
to Jesus, "If thou canst do anything," etc. (Mark 9:22). The reply of Jesus shifted
the "canst" to the right quarter, "If thou canst (believe)" (Mark 9:). Such little
faith as the man had revived under Christ's word: "I believe; help thou mine unbelief."
The multitude pressing around, there was no call for further delay. With one energetic
word Jesus expelled the unclean spirit (Mark 9:25). The first effect of Christ's
approach had been to induce a violent paroxysm (Mark 9:20); now the spirit terribly
convulsed the frame it was compelled to relinquish. Jesus, taking the boy's hand,
raised him up, and he was found well. The lesson drawn to the disciples was the
omnipotence of faith (Matthew 17:19,20) and power of prayer (Mark 9:28,29).
III. FROM PRIVATE JOURNEY THROUGH GALILEE TILL RETURN FROM THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES
1. Galilee and Capernaum
Soon after the last-mentioned events Jesus passed privately through Galilee (Mark
9:30), returning later to Capernaum. During the Galilean journey Jesus made to
His disciples His 2nd announcement of His approaching sufferings and death, accompanied
as before by the assurance of His resurrection. The disciples still could not
take in the meaning of His words, though what He said made them "exceeding sorry"
|a) Second Announcement of the Passion
(Matthew 17:22,23; Mark 9:30-33; Luke 9:44,45) The return to Capernaum was marked
by an incident which raised the question of Christ's relation to temple institutions.
The collectors of tribute for the temple inquired of Peter: "Doth not your teacher
pay the half-shekel?" (Greek didrachma, or double drachm, worth about 32 cents
or is. 4d.).
b) The Temple Tax
(Matthew 17:24-27) The origin of this tax was in the half-shekel of atonement-money
of Exodus 30:11-16, which, though a special contribution, was made the basis of
later assessment (2 Chronicles 24:4-10; in Nehemiah's time the amount was one-third
of a shekel, Nehemiah 10:32), and its object was the upkeep of the temple worship
(Schurer). The usual time of payment was March, but Jesus had probably been absent
and the inquiry was not made for some months later. Peter, hasty as usual, probably
reasoning from Christ's ordinary respect for temple ordinances, answered at once
that He did pay the tax. It had not occurred to him that Jesus might have something
to say on it, if formally challenged. Occasion therefore was taken by Jesus gently
to reprove Peter. Peter had but recently acknowledged Jesus to be the Son of God.
Do kings of the earth take tribute of their own sons? The half-shekel was suitable
to the subject-relation, but not to the relation of a son. Nevertheless, lest
occasion of stumbling be given, Jesus could well waive this right, as, in His
humbled condition, He had waived so many more. Peter was ordered to cast his hook
into the sea, and Jesus foretold that the fish he would bring up would have in
its mouth the necessary coin (Greek, stater, about 64 cents or 2s. 8d.). The tax
was paid, yet in such a way as to show that the payment of it was an act of condescension
of the king's Son.
c) Discourse on Greatness and Forgiveness
(Matthew 18:1-35; Mark 9:33-50; Luke 9:46-50) On the way to Capernaum a dispute
had arisen among the disciples as to who should be greatest in the Messianic kingdom
about to be set up. The fact of such disputing showed how largely even their minds
were yet dominated by worldly, sensuous ideas of the kingdom. Now, in the house
(Mark 9:33), Jesus takes occasion to check their spirit of ambitious rivalry,
and to inculcate much-needed lessons on greatness and kindred matters.
|(1) Greatness in Humility
First, by the example of a little child, Jesus teaches that humility is the root-disposition
of His kingdom. It alone admits to the kingdom, and conducts to honor in it. He
is greatest who humbles himself most (Matthew 18:4), and is the servant of all
(Mark 9:35). He warns against slighting the "little ones," or causing them to
stumble, and uses language of terrible severity against those guilty of this sin.
The mention of receiving little ones in Christ's name led John to remark that
he had seen one casting out demons in Christ's name, and had forbidden him, because
he was not of their company. "Forbid him not," Jesus said, "for there is no man
who shall do a mighty work in my name, and be able quickly to speak evil of me.
For he that is not against us is for us" (Mark 9:39,40).
(3) The Erring Brother
The subject of offenses leads to the question of sins committed by one Christian
brother against another. Here Christ inculcates kindness and forbearance; only
if private representations and the good offices of brethren fail, is the matter
to be brought before the church; if the brother repents he is to be unstintedly
forgiven ("seventy times seven," Matthew 18:22). If the church is compelled to
interpose, its decisions are valid (under condition, however, of prayer and Christ's
presence, Matthew 18:18-20).
(4) Parable of Unmerciful Servant
To enforce the lesson of forgiveness Jesus speaks the parable of the Unmerciful
Servant (Matthew 18:23-35). Himself forgiven much, this servant refuses to forgive
his fellow a much smaller debt. His lord visits him with severest punishment.
Only as we forgive others can we look for forgiveness.
2. The Feast of Tabernacles--Discourses, etc.
(John 7-10:21) The Gospel of John leaves a blank of many months between chapters
6 and 7, covered only by the statement, "After these things, Jesus walked in Galilee"
(7:1). In this year of His ministry Jesus had gone neither to the feast of the
Passover nor to Pentecost. The Feast of Tabernacles was now at hand (October).
To this Jesus went up, and Joh preserves for us a full record of His appearance,
discourses and doings there.
|a) The Private Journey--Divided Opinions
(John 7:1-10) The brethren of Jesus, still unpersuaded of His claims (John 7:5),
had urged Jesus to go up with them to the feast. "Go up," in their sense, included
a public manifestation of Himself as the Messiah. Jesus replied that His time
for this had not yet come. Afterward He went up quietly, and in the midst of the
feast appeared in the temple as a teacher. The comments made about Jesus at the
feast before His arrival vividly reflect the divided state of opinion regarding
Him. "He is a good man," thought some. "Not so," said others, "but He leadeth
the multitude astray." His teaching evoked yet keener division. While some said,
"Thou hast a demon" (John 7:20), others argued, "When the Christ shall come, will
he do more signs?" etc. (John 7:31). Some declared, "This is of a truth the prophet,"
or "This is the Christ"; others objected that the Christ was to come out of Bethlehem,
not Galilee (John 7:40-42). Yet no one dared to take the step of molesting Him.
b) Christ's Self-Witness
(John 7:14-52) Christ's wisdom and use of the Scriptures excited surprise. Jesus
met this surprise by stating that His knowledge was from the Father, and with
reference to the division of opinion about Him laid down the principle that knowledge
of the truth was the result of the obedient will: "If any man willeth to do his
will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God" (John 7:17). It was
objected that they knew who Jesus was, and whence He came. In a sense, Jesus replied,
this was true; in a deeper sense, it was not. He came from the Father, whom they
knew not (John 7:28,29). The last and great day of the feast--the eighth (Numbers
29:35)--brought with it a new self-attestation. Jesus stood and cried, "If any
man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me .... from
within him shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37,38). The words are understood
to have reference to the ceremony of pouring out a libation of water at this feast--the
libation, in turn, commemorating the gift of water at the striking of the rock.
The evangelist interprets the saying of the Spirit which believers should receive.
Meanwhile, the chief priests and Pharisees had sent officers to apprehend Jesus
(John 7:32), but they returned without Him. "Why did ye not bring him?" The reply
was confounding, "Never man so spake" (John 7:45,46). The retort was the poor
one, "Are ye also led astray?" In vain did Nicodemus, who was present, try to
put in a moderating word (John 7:50,51). It was clear to what issue hate like
this was tending.
c) The Woman Taken in Adultery
(John 8) The discourses at the feast are at this point interrupted by the episode
of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11), which, by general consent, does
not belong to the original text of the Gospel. It is probably, however, an authentic
incident, and illustrates, on the one hand, the eagerness of the official classes
to find an accusation against Jesus, and, on the other, the Saviour's dignity
and wisdom in foiling such attempts, His spirit of mercy and the action of conscience
in the accusers. In His continued teaching, Jesus put forth even higher claims
than in the foregoing discourse. As He had applied to Himself the water from the
rock, so now He applied to Himself the symbolic meaning of the two great candelabra,
which were lighted in the temple court during the feast and bore reference to
the pillar of cloud and fire. "I am the light of the world," said Jesus (John
8:12). Only a Divine being could put forth such a claim as that. The Jews objected
that they had only His witness to Himself. Jesus replied that no other could bear
adequate witness of Him, for He alone knew whence He came and whither He went
(John 8:14). But the Father also had borne witness of Him (John 8:18). This discourse,
delivered in the "treasury" of the temple (John 8:20), was soon followed by another,
no man yet daring to touch Him. This time Jesus warns the Jews of the fate their
unbelief would entail upon them: "Ye shall die in your sins" (John 8:24). Addressing
Himself next specially to the Jews who believed in Him, He urged them to continuance
in His word as the condition of true freedom. Resentment was again aroused at
the suggestion that the Jews, Abraham's seed, were not free. Jesus made clear
that the real bondage was that of sin; only the Son could make spiritually free
(John 8:34-36). Descent from Abraham meant nothing, if the spirit was of the devil
(John 8:39-41). A new conflict was provoked by the saying, "If a man keep my word,
he shall never see death" (John 8:51). Did Jesus make Himself greater than Abraham?
The controversy that ensued resulted in the sublime utterance, "Before Abraham
was born, I am" (John 8:58). The Jews would have stoned Him, but Jesus eluded
them, and departed.
d) The Cure of the Blind Man.
(John 9) The Feast of Tabernacles was past, but Jesus was still in Jerusalem.
Passing by on a Sabbath (John 9:14), He saw a blind man, a beggar (John 9:8),
well known to have been blind from his birth. The narrative of the cure and examination
of this blind man is adduced by Paley as bearing in its inimitable circumstantiality
every mark of personal knowledge on the part of the historian. The man, cured
in strange but symbolic fashion by the anointing of his eyes with clay (thereby
apparently sealing them more firmly), then washing in the Pool of Siloam, became
an object of immediate interest, and every effort was made by the Pharisees to
shake his testimony as to the miracle that had been wrought. The man, however,
held to his story, and his parents could only corroborate the fact that their
son had been born blind, and now saw. The Pharisees themselves were divided, some
reasoning that Jesus could not be of God because He had broken the Sabbath--the
old charge; others, Nicodemus-like, standing on the fact that a man who was a
sinner could not do such signs (John 9:15,16). The healed man applied the logic
of common-sense: "If this man were not from God, he could do nothing" (John 9:33).
The Pharisees, impotent to deny the wonder, could only cast him out of the synagogue.
Jesus found him, and brought him to full confession of faith in Himself (John
e) The Good Shepherd Chronological Note
(John 10:1-21) Yet another address of Jesus is on record arising out of this incident.
In continuation of His reply to the question of the Pharisees in John (9:40),
"Are we also blind?" Jesus spoke to them His discourse on the Good Shepherd. Flocks
in eastern countries are gathered at night into an enclosure surrounded by a wall
or palisade. This is the "fold," which is under the care of a "porter," who opens
the closely barred door to the shepherds in the morning. As contrasted with the
legitimate shepherds, the false shepherds "enter not by the door," but climb over
some other way. The allusion is to priests, scribes, Pharisees and generally to
all, in any age, who claim an authority within the church unsanctioned by God
(Godet). Jesus now gathers up the truth in its relation to Himself as the Supreme
Shepherd. From His fundamental relation to the church, He is not only the Shepherd,
but the Door (10:7-14). To those who enter by Him there is given security, liberty,
provision (10:9). In his capacity as Shepherd Christ is preeminently all that
a faithful shepherd ought to be. The highest proof of His love is that, as the
Good Shepherd, He lays down His life for the sheep (10:11,15,17). This laying
down of His life is not an accident, but is His free, voluntary act (10:17,18).
Again there was division among the Jews because of these remarkable sayings (10:19-21).
Though John does not mention the fact, there is little doubt that, after this
visit to Jerusalem, Jesus returned to Galilee, and at no long interval from His
return, took His final departure southward. The chronology of this closing period
in Galilee is somewhat uncertain. Some would place the visit to the Feast of Tabernacles
before the withdrawal to Caesarea Philippi, or even earlier (compare Andrews,
Life of our Lord, etc.); but the order adopted above appears preferable.
D. LAST JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM--JESUS IN PERAEA
|Departure from Galilee: An interval of two months elapses
between John 10:21 and 22--from the Feast of Tabernacles (October) till the Feast
of the Dedication (December). This period witnessed the final withdrawal of Jesus
from Galilee. Probably while yet in Galilee He sent forth the seventy disciples
to prepare His way in the cities to which He should come (Luke 10:1). Repulsed
on the borders of Samaria (Luke 9:51-53), He passed over into Peraea ("beyond
Jordan"), where he exercised a considerable ministry. The record of this period,
till the entry into Jerusalem, belongs in great part to Luke, who seems to have
had a rich special source relating to it (Luke 9:51 - 19:27). The discourses in
Luke embrace many passages and sections found in other connections in Matthew,
and it is difficult, often, to determine their proper chronological place, if,
as doubtless sometimes happened, portions were not repeated.
I. FROM LEAVING GALILEE TILL THE FEAST OF THE DEDICATION
1. Rejected by Samaria
(Luke 9:51 - 55) Conscious that He went to suffer and die, Jesus steadfastly set
His face to go to Jerusalem. His route was first by Samaria--an opportunity of
grace to that people--but here, at a border village, the messengers He sent before
Him, probably also He Himself on His arrival, were repulsed, because of His obvious
intention to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:53). James and John wished to imitate Elijah
in calling down fire from heaven on the rejecters, but Jesus rebuked them for
their thought (the Revised Version (British and American) omits the reference
to Elijah, and subsequent clauses, Luke 9:55 , 56).
2. Mission of the Seventy
(Luke 10:1 - 20) In the present connection Luke inserts the incidents of the three
aspirants formerly considered (Luke 9:57 - 62; compare p. 1645). It was suggested
that the second and third cases may belong to this period.
A new and significant step was now taken by Jesus in the sending out of 70 disciples,
who should go before Him, two by two, to announce His coming in the cities and
villages He was about to visit. The number sent indicates how large a following
Jesus had now acquired. (Some see a symbolical meaning in the number 70, but it
is difficult to show what it is.) The directions given to the messengers are similar
to those formerly given to the Twelve (Luke 9:1 - 5; compare Matthew 10); a passage
also found in Matthew in a different connection (11:21 - 24) is incorporated in
this discourse, or had originally its place in it (11:13 - 15). In this mission
Jesus no longer made any secret of His Messianic character. The messengers were
to proclaim that the kingdom of God was come nigh to them in connection with His
impending visit (Luke 10:9). The mission implies that a definite route was marked
out by Jesus for Himself (compare Luke 13:22), but this would be subject to modification
according to the reception of His emissaries (Luke 10:10 , 11 ,16). The circuit
need not have occupied a long time with so many engaged in it. The results show
that it aroused strong interest. Later the disciples returned elated with their
success, emphasizing their victory over the demons (Luke 10:17). Jesus bade them
rejoice rather that their names were written in heaven (Luke 10:20). Again a passage
is inserted (Luke 10:21 , 22) found earlier in Matthew 11:25 - 27; compare also
Luke 10:23 , 24, with Matthew 13:16 ,17.
3. The Lawyer's Question--Parable of Good Samaritan
(Luke 10:25 - 37) Jesus had now passed "beyond the Jordan," i.e. into Peraea,
and vast crowds waited on His teaching (compare Matthew 19:1; Mark 10:1; Luke
12:1). At one place a lawyer put what he meant to be a testing question, "What
shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus referred him to the great commandments
of love to God and one's neighbor, eliciting the further query, "And who is my
neighbor?" In reply Jesus spoke to him the immortal parable of the Good Samaritan,
and asked who proved neighbor to him who fell among the robbers. The lawyer could
give but one answer, "He that showed mercy on him." "Go," said Jesus, "and do
The incident of Martha and Mary, which Luke inserts here (Luke 10:38 - 42), comes
in better later, when Jesus was nearer Bethany.
4. Discourses, Parables, and Miracles
(Luke 11 - 14) At this place Luke brings together a variety of discourses, warnings
and exhortations, great parts of which have already been noticed in earlier contexts.
It does not follow that Luke has not, in many cases, preserved the original connection.
This is probably the case with the Lord's Prayer (Luke 11:1 - 4), and with portions
of what Matthew includes in the Sermon on the Mount (e.g. 11:9 - 13 ,13 - 36 ;
12:22 - 34; compare Luke 13:24 - 27 with Matthew 7:13 , 14 , 22 , 23), and in
other discourses (e.g. Luke 11:42 - 52 = Matthew 23:23 - 36; Luke 12:2 - 12 =
Matthew 10:26 - 33; Luke 12:42 - 48 = Matthew 24:45 - 51; Luke 13:18 - 21, parables
of Mustard Seed and Leaven = Matthew 13:31 , 32 , etc.).
|a) Original to Luke
Of matter original to Luke in these chapters may be noted such passages as that
on the Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5 - 8), the incident of the man who wished
Jesus to bid his brother divide his inheritance with him, to whom Jesus spoke
the parable of the Rich Fool (12:13 - 21), the parable of the Barren Fig Tree,
called forth by the disposition to regard certain Galileans whom Pilate had slain
in a tumult at the temple, and eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam had fallen,
as sinners above others (Luke 13:1 - 9): "Nay," said Jesus, "but, except ye repent,
ye shall all likewise perish"), and most of the teaching in Luke 14, referred
to below. In Luke 11:37 , 38, we have the mention of a Pharisee inviting Jesus
to dine, and of his astonishment at the Lord's neglect of the customary ablutions
before eating. Luke 11:53 gives a glimpse of the fury to which the scribes and
Pharisees were aroused by the severity of Christ's denunciations. They "began
to press upon him vehemently .... laying wait for him, to catch something out
of his mouth." In Luke 13:31 it is told how the Pharisees sought to frighten Jesus
from the district by telling Him that Herod would fain kill Him. Jesus bade them
tell that "fox" that His work would go on uninterruptedly in the brief space that
remained ("day" used enigmatically) till He was "perfected" (Luke 13:32). The
woe on Jerusalem (Luke 13:34 , 35) is given by Matthew in the discourse in chapter
b) The Infirm Woman--the Dropsied Man
Of the miracles in this section, the casting out of the demon that was mute (Luke
11:14) is evidently the same incident as that already noted in Matthew 12:22.
Two other miracles are connected with the old accusation of Sabbath breaking.
One was the healing in a synagogue on the Sabbath day of a woman bowed down for
18 years with "a spirit of infirmity" (Luke 13:10 - 17); the other was the cure
on the Sabbath of a man afflicted with dropsy at a feast in the house of a ruler
of the Pharisees to which Jesus had been invited (Luke 14:1 - 6). The motive of
the Pharisee's invitation, as in most such cases, was hostile (Luke 14:1). In
both instances Jesus met the objection in the same way, by appealing to their
own acts of humanity to their animals on the Sabbath (Luke 13:15 , 16 ; 14:5).
c) Parable of the Great Supper
This feast at the Pharisee's house had an interesting sequel in the discourse
it led Jesus to utter against vainglory in feasting, and on the spirit of love
which would prompt to the table being spread for the helpless and destitute rather
than for the selfish enjoyment of the select few, closing, in answer to a pious
ejaculation of one of the guests, with the parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:7
- 24). The parable, with its climax in the invitation to bring in the poor, and
maimed, and blind, and those from the highways and hedges, was a commentary on
the counsels He had just been giving, but it had its deeper lesson in picturing
the rejection by the Jews of the invitation to the feast God had made for them
in His kingdom, and the call that would be given to the Gentiles to take their
d) Counting the Cost
The injunctions to the multitudes as to the sacrifice and cross-bearing involved
in discipleship are pointed by the examples of a man building a tower, and a king
going to war, who count the cost before entering on their enterprises (Luke 14:25
5. Martha and Mary
At or about this time--perhaps before the incidents in Luke 14--Jesus paid the
visit to Jerusalem at the Feast of the Dedication described in John 10:22-39.
This seems the fitting place for the introduction of the episode of Martha and
Mary which Luke narrates a little earlier (10:38 - 42). The "village" into which
Jesus entered was no doubt Bethany (John 11:1). The picture given by Luke of the
contrasted dispositions of the two sisters--Martha active and "serving" (compare
John 12:2), Mary retiring and contemplative--entirely corresponds with that in
John. Martha busied herself with preparations for the meal; Mary sat at Jesus'
feet, and heard His word. To Martha's complaint, as if her sister were idling,
Jesus gave the memorable answer, "One thing is needful: for Mary hath chosen the
good part," etc. (Luke 10:42).
6. Feast of the Dedication
(John 10:22-39) The Feast of the Dedication, held in December, was in commemoration
of the cleansing of the temple and restoration of its worship after its profanation
by Antiochus Epiphanes (164 BC). Great excitement was occasioned by the appearance
of Jesus at this feast, and some asked, "How long dost thou hold us in suspense?
If thou art the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus said He had told them, and His
works attested His claim, but they were not of His true flock, and would not believe.
To His own sheep He gave eternal life. The Jews anew wished to stone Him for claiming
to be God. Jesus replied that even the law called the judges of Israel "gods"
(Psalms 82:6, "I said, Ye are gods, and all of you sons of the Most High") how
could it then be blasphemy for Him whom the Father had sanctified and sent into
the world to say of Himself, "I am the Son of God"? The Jews sought to take Him,
but He passed from their midst.
II. FROM THE ABODE AT BETHABARA TILL THE RAISING OF LAZARUS
After leaving Jerusalem Jesus went beyond Jordan again to the place where John
at first baptized (John 10:40; compare John 1:28, called in the King James Version
"Bethabara," in the Revised Version (British and American) "Bethany," distinct
from the Bethany of John 11). There He "abode," implying a prolonged stay, and
many resorted to Him. This spot, sacred to Jesus by His own baptism, may be regarded
now as His headquarters from which excursions would be made to places in the neighborhood.
Several of the incidents recorded by Luke are probably connected with this sojourn.
1. Parables of Lost Sheep, Lost Piece of Silver and Prodigal Son
(Luke 15) The stronger the opposition of scribes and Pharisees to Jesus became,
the more by natural affinity did the classes regarded as outcast feel drawn to
Him. He did not repel them, as the Pharisees did, but ate and drank with them.
Publicans and sinners gathered to His teaching, and He associated with them. The
complaining was great: "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." The
defense of Jesus was in parables, and the Pharisees' reproach may be thanked for
three of the most beautiful parables Jesus ever spoke--the Lost Sheep (compare
Matthew 18:12 - 14), the Lost Piece of Silver, and the Prodigal Son (Luke 15).
Why does the shepherd rejoice more over the one lost sheep brought back than over
the ninety-nine that have not gone astray? Why does the woman rejoice more over
the recovery of her lost drachma than over all the coins safe in her keeping?
Why does the father rejoice more over the prodigal son come back in rags and penitence
from the far country than over the obedient but austere brother that had never
left the home? The stories were gateways into the inmost heart of God. There is
joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninetynine just persons
that need no repentance (Luke 15:7).
2. Parables of the Unjust Steward and the Rich Man and Lazarus
(Luke 16) Two other parables, interspersed by discourses (in part again met with
in other connections, compare Luke 16:13 with Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:16 with Matthew
11:12; Luke 16:18 with Matthew 5:32; 19:9, etc.), were spoken at this time--that
of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1 - 9) and that of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke
16:19-31). The dishonest steward, about to be dismissed, utilized his opportunities,
still dishonestly, to make friends of his master's creditors; let the "children
of light" better his example by righteously using mammon to make friends for themselves,
who shall receive them into everlasting habitations. The rich man, pampered in
luxury, let the afflicted Lazarus starve at his gate. At death--in Hades--the
positions are reversed: the rich man is in torment, stripped of all he had enjoyed;
the poor man is at rest in Abraham's bosom, compensated for all he suffered. It
is character, not outward estate, that determines destiny. The unmerciful are
doomed. Even a messenger from the unseen world will not save men, if they hear
not Moses and the prophets (Luke 16:31).
In this connection Luke (17:1 - 10) places exhortations to the disciples on occasions
of stumbling, forgiveness, the power of faith, renunciation of merit ("We are
unprofitable servants"), some of which are found elsewhere (compare Matthew 18:6
, 7 , 15 , 21 , etc.).
3. The Summons to Bethany--Raising of Lazarus
(John 11) While Jesus was in the trans-Jordanic Bethabara, or Bethany, or in its
neighborhood, a message came to Him from the house of Martha and Mary in the Judean
Bethany (on the Mount of Olives, about 2 miles East from Jerusalem), that His
friend Lazarus ("he whom thou lovest") was sick. The conduct of Jesus seemed strange,
for He abode still two days where He was (John 11:6). As the sequel showed, this
was only for the end of a yet more wonderful manifestation of His power and love,
to the glory of God (John 11:4). Meanwhile Lazarus died, and was buried. When
Jesus announced His intention of going into Judea, the disciples sought hard to
dissuade Him (John 11:8); but Jesus was not moved by the fears they suggested.
He reached Bethany (a distance of between 20 and 30 miles) on the fourth day after
the burial of Lazarus (John 11:17), and was met on the outskirts by Martha, and
afterward by Mary, both plunged in deepest sorrow. Both breathed the same plaint:
"Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died" (John 11:21,32). To Martha
Jesus gave the pledge, "Thy brother shall rise again," strengthening the faith
she already had expressed in Him (John 11:22) by announcing Himself as "the resurrection,
and the life" (John 11:25,26); at Mary's words He was deeply moved, and asked
to be taken to the tomb. Here, it is recorded, "Jesus wept" (John 11:35), the
only other instance of His weeping in the Gospels being as He looked on lost Jerusalem
(Luke 19:41). The proof of love was manifest, but some, as usual, suggested blame
that this miracle-worker had not prevented His friend's death (John 11:37). Arrived
at the rock-tomb, Jesus, still groaning in Himself, caused the stone at its mouth
to be removed, and, after prayer, spoke with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth"
(John 11:43). The spirit returned, and the man who had been dead came forth bound
with his grave-clothes. He was released and restored to his sisters.
Even this mighty deed did not alter the mind of the Pharisees, who held a council,
and decided, on the advice of Caiaphas (John 11:50), that for the safety of the
nation it was "expedient" that this man should die. The circumstantiality of this
beautiful narrative speaks irresistibly for its historical truth, and the objections
raised by critical writers center really in their aversion to the miraculous as
III. FROM THE RETIREMENT TO EPHRAIM TILL THE ARRIVAL AT BETHANY
1. Retreat to Ephraim
(John 11:54 - 57) The hostility of the ruling classes was now so pronounced that,
in the few weeks that remained till Jesus should go up to the Passover, He deemed
it advisable to abide in privacy at a city called Ephraim (situation uncertain).
That He was in secrecy during this period is implied in the statement (John 11:57)
that if anyone knew where He was, he was to inform the chief priests and Pharisees.
The retirement would be for Jesus a period of preparation for the ordeal before
Him, as the wilderness had been for the commencement of His ministry.
2. The Journey Resumed
On His leaving this retreat to resume His advance to Jerusalem the narratives
again become rich in incident and teaching.
3. Cure of the Lepers
(Luke 17:11 - 19) It is not easy to define the route which brought Jesus again
to the border line between Samaria and Galilee (Luke 17:11), but, in traversing
this region, He was met by ten lepers, who besought Him for a cure. Jesus bade
them go and show themselves to the priests, and on the way they were cleansed.
Only one of the ten, and he a Samaritan, returned to give thanks and glorify God.
Gratitude appeared in the unlikely quarter.
4. Pharisaic Questionings
At some point in this journey the Pharisees sought to entrap Jesus on the question
(Matthew 19:3 - 12 ; Mark 10:1 - 12) Was it lawful for a man to put away his wife
for every cause? (Matthew 19:3). Jesus in reply admitted the permission to divorce
given by Moses (Mark 10:3 - 5), but declared that this was for the hardness of
their hearts, and went back to the original institution of marriage in which the
two so joined were declared to be "one flesh." Only one cause is admissible as
a ground of separation and remarriage (Matthew 19:9; compare Matthew 5:31,32;
Mark has not even the exception, which is probably, however, implied). Comments
follow to the disciples in Mt on the subject of continence (Matthew 19:10 - 12).
b) Coming of the Kingdom
(Luke 17:20 - 37) Another question asked by the Pharisees of Jesus was as to when
the kingdom of God should come. The expectation excited by His own ministry and
claims was that it was near; when should it appear? Rebuking their worldly ideas,
Jesus warned them that the kingdom did not come "with observation"--was not a
"Lo, there! Lo, here!"; it was "within" them, or "in their midst," though they
did not perceive it. In the last decisive coming of the Son of Man there would
be no dubiety as to His presence (Luke 17:24 , 25). He adds exhortations as to
the suddenness of His coming, and the separations that would ensue (Luke 17:26
- 37), which Mt gives as part of the great discourse on the Last Things in chapter
c) Parable of the Unjust Judge
(Luke 18:1 - 8) In close connection with the foregoing, as furnishing the ground
for the certainty that this day of the Son of Man would come, Jesus spoke the
parable of the Unjust Judge. This judge, though heedless of the claims of right,
yet yielded to the widow's importunity, and granted her justice against her adversary.
How much more surely will the righteous, long-suffering God avenge His own elect,
who cry unto Him day and night (Luke 18:7 , 8)! Yet men, in that supreme hour,
will almost have lost faith in His coming (Luke 18:8). A series of sayings and
incidents at this time throw light upon the spirit of the kingdom.
5. The Spirit of the Kingdom
The spirit of self-righteousness is rebuked and humble penitence as the condition
of acceptance is enforced in the parable of the Pharisee and Publican.
|a) Parable of Pharisee and Publican
(Luke 18:9 - 14) The Pharisee posing in his self-complacency at his fastings and
tithes, and thanking God for his superiority to others, is set in vivid contrast
to the abased publican, standing afar off, and able only to say, "God, be thou
merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13). Yet it was he who went down to his house
"justified" (Luke 18:14).
b) Blessing of the Babies
(Matthew 19:13 - 15; Mark 10:13 - 16; Luke 18:15 - 17) A similar lesson is inculcated
in the beautiful incident of the blessing of the babes. The disciples rebuked
the mothers for bringing their little ones, but Jesus, "moved with indignation"
(Mark), received and blessed the babes, declaring that to such (to them and those
of like spirit) belonged the kingdom of heaven. "Suffer the little children, and
forbid them not, to come unto me," etc.
c) The Rich Young Ruler
(Matthew 19:16 - 30 ; Mark 10:17 - 31; Luke 18:18 - 30) A third illustration--this
time of the peril of covetousness--is afforded by the incident of the rich young
ruler. This amiable, blameless, and evidently sincere young man ("Jesus looking
upon him loved him," Mark 10:21) knelt, and addressing Jesus as "Good Teacher,"
asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus first declined the term "good,"
in the easy, conventional sense in which it was applied, then referred the ruler
to the commandments as the standard of doing. All these, however, the young man
averred he had observed from his youth up. He did not know himself. Jesus saw
the secret hold his riches had upon his soul, and revealed it by the searching
word, "If thou wouldest be perfect, go, sell that which thou hast," etc. (Matthew
19:21; compare Mark, "One thing thou lackest," etc.). This was enough. The young
man could not yield up his "great possessions," and went away sorrowing. Jesus
bases on his refusal earnest warnings against the love of riches, and points out,
in answer to a question of Peter, that loss for His sake in this life is met with
overwhelmingly great compensations in the life to come.
6. Third Announcement of the Passion
(Matthew 20:17 - 19 ; Mark 10:32 - 34 ; 18:31 - 33) Not unconnected with the foregoing
teachings is the third solemn announcement to the disciples, so hard to be persuaded
that the kingdom was not immediately to be set up in glory, of His approaching
sufferings and death, followed by resurrection. The disciples had been "amazed"
and "afraid" (Mk) at something strange in the aspect and walk of Jesus as they
Lu were on the way, going to Jerusalem (compare Luke 9:51). His words gave the
explanation. With them should be taken what is said in a succeeding incident of
His baptism of suffering (Mark 10:38,39; compare Luke 12:50).
7. The Rewards of the Kingdom
The spirit of the kingdom and sacrifice for the kingdom have already been associated
with the idea of reward, but the principles underlying this reward are now made
the subject of special teaching. First by the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard
the lesson is inculcated that reward in the kingdom is not according to any legal
rule, but is governed by a Divine equity, in accordance with which the last may
often be equal to, or take precedence of, the first.
|a) Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard
(Matthew 20:1-17) The laborers were hired at different hours, yet all at the end
received the same wage. The murmuring at the generosity of the householder of
those who had worked longest betrayed a defectiveness of spirit which may explain
why they were not more highly rewarded. In strictness, the kingdom is a gift of
grace, in the sum total of its blessings one and the same to all.
b) The Sons of Zebedee
(Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45) Still there are distinctions of honor in God's
kingdom, but these are not arbitrarily made. This is the lesson of the reply of
Jesus to the plea of the mother of the sons of Zebedee, James and John, with,
apparently, the concurrence of the apostles themselves, that they might sit one
on the right hand and the other on the left hand in His kingdom. It was a bold
and ambitious request, and naturally moved the indignation of the other apostles.
Still it had its ground in a certain nobility of spirit. For when Jesus asked
if they were able to drink of His cup and be baptized with His baptism, they answered,
"We are able." Jesus told them they should share that lot of suffering, but to
sit on His right hand and on His left were not favors that could be arbitrarily
bestowed, but would be given to those for whom it had been prepared of His Father--the
preparation having regard to character and fitness, of which the Father alone
was judge. Jesus went on to rebuke the spirit which led one to seek prominence
over another, and laid down the essential law, "Whosoever would become great among
you shall be your minister," enforcing it by His own never-to-be-forgotten example,
"Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to
give his life a ransom, for many" (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45).
8. Jesus at Jericho
Accompanied by a great throng, possibly of pilgrims to the feast, Jesus drew near
to the influential city of Jericho, in the Jordan valley, about 17 miles distant
from Jerusalem. Here two notable incidents marked His progress.
|a) The Cure of Bartimeus
(Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-82; Luke 18:35-43) As they approached the city (Luke)
(Matthew and Mark place the incident as they "went out") a blind beggar, Bartimeus,
hearing that "Jesus the Nazarene" (Mark) passed by, loudly called on Him as the
"Son of David" to have mercy on him. The multitude would have restrained the man,
but their rebukes only made him the more urgent in his cries. Jesus stopped in
His way, called the blind man to Him, then, when he came, renewing his appeal,
healed him. The cry of the beggar shows that the Davidic descent, if not the Messiahship,
of Jesus was now known. Matthew varies from the other evangelists in speaking
of "two blind men," while Matthew and Mark, as noted, make the cure take place
on leaving, not on entering the city. Not improbably there are two healings, one
on entering Jericho, the other on going from the city, and Matthew, after his
fashion, groups them together (Luke's language is really indefinite; literally,
"as they were near to Jericho").
b) Zaccheus the Publican
(Luke 19:1-10) The entrance of Jesus into Jericho was signalized by a yet more
striking incident. The chief collector of revenue in the city was Zaccheus, rich,
but held in opprobrium ("a sinner") because of his occupation. Being little of
stature, Zaccheus had climbed into the branches of a sycomore tree to see Jesus
as He passed. To his amazement, and that of the crowd, Jesus stopped on His way,
and called Zaccheus by name to hasten to come down, for that day He must abide
at his house. Zaccheus joyfully received Him, and, moved to a complete change
in his views of duty, declared his purpose of giving half his goods to the poor,
and of restoring fourfold anything he might have taken by false accusation. It
was a revolution in the man's soul, wrought by love. "Today," Jesus testified,
"is salvation come to this house ..... For the Son of man came to seek and to
save that which was lost."
c) Parable of the Pounds Arrival at Bethany
(Luke 19:11-27) The expectations of the multitude that the kingdom of God should
immediately appear led Jesus to speak the parable of the Pounds, forewarning them
that the consummation they looked for might be longer delayed than they thought,
and impressing on them the need of loyalty, faithfulness and diligence, if that
day, when it came, was not to prove disastrous to them. The nobleman went into
a "far country" to receive a kingdom, and his ten servants were to trade with
as many pounds (each = 100 drachmas) in his absence. On his return the faithful
servants were rewarded in proportion to their diligence; the faithless one lost
what he had; the rebellious citizens were destroyed. Thus Jesus fore-shadowed
the doom that would overtake those. who were plotting against Him, and checked
hopes that disregarded the moral conditions of honor in His kingdom.
Arrival at Bethany. From Jericho Jesus moved on to Bethany, the abode of Lazarus
and his sisters. To His halt here before His public entrance into Jerusalem the
next events belong.
E. THE PASSION WEEK--BETRAYAL, TRIAL, AND CRUCIFIXION
|Importance of the Last Events: We reach now the closing
week and last solemn events of the earthly life of Jesus. The importance attached
to this part of their narratives is seen by the space the evangelists devote to
it. Of the Gospels of Matthew and Mark fully one-third is devoted to the events
of the Passion Week and their sequel in the resurrection; Luke has several chapters;
John gives half his Gospel to the same period. It is obvious that in the minds
of the evangelists the crucifixion of Jesus is the pivot of their whole narrative--the
denouement to which everything tends from the first.
I. THE EVENTS PRECEDING THE LAST SUPPER
1. The Chronology
The arrival in Bethany is placed by John "six days before the Passover" (12:1).
Assuming that the public entry into Jerusalem took place on the Sunday, and that
the 14th of Nisan fell on the following Thursday, this would lead to the arrival
being placed on the Friday or Saturday preceding, according to the mode of reckoning.
It is in the highest degree unlikely that Jesus would journey from Jericho on
the Jewish Sabbath; hence He may be supposed to have arrived on the Friday evening.
The supper at which the anointing by Mary took place would be on the Saturday
(Sabbath) evening. Matthew and Mark connect it with events two days before the
Passover (Matthew 26:2; Mark 14:1), but parenthetically, in a way which leaves
the other order open.
2. The Anointing at Bethany
(Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-9) This beautiful deed occurred at a
supper given in honor of Jesus at the house of one Simon, a leper (Matthew and
Mark)--probably cured by Jesus--at which Martha, Mary and Lazarus were guests.
Martha aided in serving (John 12:2). In the course of the meal, or at its close,
Mary brought a costly box of nard (valued by Judas at "300 shillings," about ,
or 10 pounds; compare the American Revised Version margin on John 6:7), and with
the perfume anointed the head (Matthew, Mark) and feet (John) of Jesus, wiping
His feet with her hair (Matthew and Mark, though not mentioning the "feet," speak
of the "body" of Jesus). Indignation, instigated by Judas (John), was at once
awakened at what was deemed wanton waste. How much better had the money been given
to the poor! Jesus vindicated Mary in her loving act--a prophetic anointing for
His burial--and declared that wherever His gospel went, it would be spoken of
for a memorial of her. It is the hearts from which such acts come that are the
true friends of the poor. The chief priests were only the further exasperated
at what was happening, and at the interest shown in Lazarus, and plotted to put
Lazarus also to death (John 12:10).
3. The Entry into Jerusalem
(Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-44; John 12:12-19) On the day following--Palm
Sunday--Jesus made His public entry as Messiah into Jerusalem. All the evangelists
narrate this event. The Mount of Olives had to be crossed from Bethany, and Jesus
sent two disciples to an adjacent village--probably Bethphage (this seems to have
been also the name of a district)--where an ass and its colt would be found tied.
These they were to bring to Him, Jesus assuring them of the permission of the
owners. Garments were thrown over the colt, and Jesus seated Himself on it. In
this humble fashion (as Mt and Joh note, in fulfillment of prophecy, Zechariah
9:9), He proceeded to Jerusalem, from which a multitude, bearing palm branches,
had already come out to meet Him (John). Throngs accompanied Him, going before
and after; these, spreading their garments, and strewing branches in the way,
hailed Him with hosannas as the Son of David, the King of Israel, who came in
the name of the Lord. Very different were the feelings in the breasts of the Pharisees.
"Behold," they said, "how ye prevail nothing; lo, the world is gone after him"
(John 12:19). They bade Jesus rebuke His disciples, but Jesus replied that if
they were silent, the very stones would cry out (Luke 19:40).
Jesus Weeping over Jerusalem--Return to Bethany. One incident in this progress
to Jerusalem is related only by Luke 19:41-44. As at a bend in the road Jerusalem
became suddenly visible, Jesus paused and wept over the city, so blind to its
day of visitation, and so near to its awful doom. Not His own sufferings, but
the thought of Jerusalem's guilt and woes, filled Him with anguish. On reaching
the city, Mark's testimony is explicit that He did no more than enter the temple,
and 'look round on all things' (Mark 11:11). Then eventide having come, He returned
to Bethany with the Twelve.
4. Cursing of the Fig Tree--Second Cleansing of the Temple Were There Two Cleansings?
(Matthew 21:12-22; Mark 11:12-26; Luke 19:45-48) The morning of Monday found Jesus
and His disciples again on their way to the city. Possibly the early hours had
been spent by Jesus in solitary prayer, and, as they went, it is recorded that
"he hungered." A fig tree from which, from its foliage, fruit might have been
expected, stood invitingly by the wayside, but when Jesus approached it, it was
found to have nothing but leaves--a striking symbol of the outwardly religious,
but spiritually barren Jewish community. And in this sense Jesus used it in pronouncing
on it the word of doom, "No man eat fruit from thee henceforward for ever" (Mark).
Next morning (Tuesday), as the disciples passed, the tree was found withered from
the roots. Matthew combines the events of the cursing and the withering, placing
both on the second day, but Mark more accurately distinguishes them. Jesus used
the surprise of the disciples as the occasion of a lesson on the omnipotence of
faith, with added counsels on prayer.
Were There Two Cleansings? Pursuing His journey on the first morning, Jesus reached
the temple, and there, as His first act, is stated by Mt and Mr to have cleansed
the temple of the traders. It is a diffcult question whether this is a second
cleansing, or the same act as that recorded by John at the beginning of the ministry
(John 2:13-22; see above), and here narrated out of its chronological order. The
acts are at least quite similar in character and significance. In favor of a second
cleansing is the anger of the priests and scribes (Mark 11:18; Luke 19:47), and
their demand next day for His authority. No other incidents are recorded of this
visit to the temple, except the healing of certain blind and lame, and the praises
of the children, "Hosanna to the son of David"--an echo of the previous day's
proceedings (Matthew 21:14-16). In the evening He went back to Bethany.
5. The Eventful Tuesday
Far different is it with the third day of these visits of Jesus to the temple--the
Tuesday of the Passion Week. This is crowded with parables, discourses, incidents,
so numerous, impressive, tragical, as to oppress the mind in seeking to grasp
how one short day could embrace them all. It was the last day of the appearance
of Jesus in the temple (John 12:36), and marks His final break with the authorities
of the nation, on whom His words of denunciation (Matthew 23) fell with overwhelming
force. The thread of the day's proceedings may thus be briefly traced.
|a) The Demand for Authority--Parables
(Matthew 21:23-22:14; Mark 11:27-12:12; Luke 20:1-18) On His first appearance
in the temple on the Tuesday morning, Jesus was met by a demand from the chief
priests, scribes and elders (representatives of the Sanhedrin), for the authority
by which He acted as He did. Jesus met them by a counterquestion, "The baptism
of John, was it from heaven, or from men?" The dilemma was obvious. If John was
Divinely accredited, why did they not accept his testimony to Jesus? Yet they
feared to say his mission was of men, for John was universally esteemed a prophet.
They could therefore only lamely reply: "We cannot tell" (the King James Version).
Matters had now come to an issue, and Jesus, reverting to the method of parable,
set forth plainly their sin and its results to themselves and others.
The Two Sons--the Wicked Husbandmen--the Marriage of the King's Son. The parables
spoken on this occasion were: that of the Two Sons, one who said "I go not," but
afterward repented and went, the other who said, "I go, sir," but went not--pointing
the moral that the publicans and harlots went into the kingdom of God before the
self-righteous leaders who rejected the preaching of John (Matthew 21:28-32);
that of the Wicked Husbandmen, who slew the servants, and finally the son, sent
to them, and were at length themselves destroyed, the vineyard being given to
others--a prophecy of the transferring of the kingdom to the Gentiles (Matthew,
Mark, Luke); and that of the Marriage of the King's Son (Matthew 22:2-14), akin
to that of the Great Supper in Luke 14:16-24 in its gathering in of the outcasts
to take the place of those who had been bidden, but distinguished from it by the
feature of the wedding garment, the lack of which meant being thrust into the
outer darkness. The Pharisees easily perceived that these parables were spoken
of them (Matthew 21:45; Mark 12:12; Luke 20:19), and were correspondingly enraged,
yet dared not touch Jesus for fear of the people.
b) Ensnaring Questions, etc.
(Matthew 22:1-46; Mark 12:13-37; Luke 20:19-44) The attempt was next made on the
part of the Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees--now joined in a common cause--to
ensnare Jesus by captious and compromising questions. These attempts He met with
a wisdom and dignity which foiled His adversaries, while He showed a ready appreciation
of a candid spirit when it presented itself, and turned the point against His
opponents by putting a question on the Davidic sonship of the Messiah.
|(1) Tribute to Caesar--the Resurrection--the Great Commandment
First the Pharisees with the Herodians sought to entrap Him by raising the question
of the lawfulness of tribute to Caesar. By causing them to produce a denarius
bearing Caesar's image and superscription, Jesus obtained from them a recognition
of their acceptance of Caesar's authority, and bade them render Caesar's things
to Caesar, and God's to God. The Sadducees next tried Him with the puzzle of the
wife who had seven husbands, leading up to denial of the resurrection; but Jesus
met them by showing that marriage relations have no place in the resurrection
life, and by pointing to the implication of a future life in God's word to Moses,
"I am the God of Abraham," etc. God "is not the God of the dead, but of the living,"
a fact which carried with it all the weight of resurrection, as needed for the
completion of the personal life. The candid scribe, who came last with His question
as to which commandment was first of all, had a different reception. Jesus met
Him kindly, satisfied him with His answer, and pronounced him "not far from the
kingdom of God" (Mark 12:34).
(2) David's Son and Lord
The adversaries were silenced, but Jesus now put to them His own question. If
David in Psalms 110 could say "Yahweh saith unto my lord, Sit thou on my right
hand," etc., how was this reconcilable with the Christ being David's son? The
question was based on the acceptance of the oracle as spoken by David, or one
of his house, of the Messiah, and was intended to suggest the higher nature of
Christ as one with God in a Divine sovereignty. David's son was also David's Lord.
c) The Great Denunciation
(Matthew 23 ; Mark 12:38 - 40; Luke 20:45 - 47; compare Luke 11:39 - 52) At this
point, in audience of the multitudes and of His disciples in the temple, Jesus
delivered that tremendous indictment of the scribes and Pharisees, with denunciations
of woes upon them for their hypocrisy and iniquity of conduct, recorded most fully
in Matthew 23. A more tremendous denunciation of a class was never uttered. While
conceding to the scribes and Pharisees any authority they lawfully possessed (23:2,3),
Jesus specially dwelt on their divorce of practice from precept. They said and
did not (23:3). He denounced their perversion of the right, their tyranny, their
ostentation, their keeping back others from the kingdom, their zeal in securing
proselytes, only to make them, when gained, worse than themselves, their immoral
casuistry, their scruples about trifles, while neglecting essentials, their exaltation
of the outward at the expense of the inward, their building the tombs of the prophets,
while harboring the spirit of those that killed the prophets. He declared them
to be foul and corrupt to the last degree: 'sons of Gehenna' (23:15,33). So awful
a condition meant ripeness for doom. On them, through that law of retribution
which binds generation with generation in guilt and penalty, would come all the
righteous blood shed since the days of Abel (the allusion to "Zachariah son of
Barachiah," 23:35, is unmistakably to 2 Chronicles 24:21--this being the last
book in the Hebrew Canon--but "Barachiah" seems a confusion with Zechariah 1:1,
perhaps through a copyist's gloss or error). At the close indignation melts into
tenderness in the affecting plaint over Jerusalem--"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, ....
how often would I have gathered thy children together," etc. (Matthew 23:37-39)--words
found in Luke in an earlier context (13:34,35), but assuredly also appropriate
here. For other parts of the discourse found earlier, compare Luke 11:39-52. All
seems to have been gathered up afresh in this final accusation. It can be imagined
that the anger of the Pharisees was fierce at such words, yet they did not venture
openly to touch Him.
d) The Widow's Offering
(Mark 12:41 - 44; Luke 21:1 - 4) Before finally leaving the temple, Jesus seems
to have passed from the outer court into the women's court, and there to have
sat down near the receptacles provided for the gifts of the worshippers. Many
who were wealthy cast of their gold and silver into the treasury, but the eye
of Jesus singled out one poor widow who, creeping up, cast in two mites (Greek
lepta, the smallest of coins), which made up but a farthing. It was little, but
it was her all, and Jesus immortalized her poor offering by declaring that, out
of her want, she had given more than the wealthlest there. Gifts were measured
in His sight by the willingness that prompted them, and by the sacrifice they
e) The Visit of the Greeks
(John 12:20-36) It is perhaps to this crowded day, though some place it earlier
in the week (on Sunday or Monday), that the incident should be referred of the
request of certain Greeks to see Jesus, as related in John 12:20. Who these Greeks
were, or whence they came, is unknown, but they were evidently proselytes to the
Jewish faith, and men of a sincere spirit. Their request was made through Philip
of Bethsaida, and Philip and Andrew conveyed it to Jesus. It is not said whether
their wish was granted, but we can hardly doubt that it was. Jesus evidently saw
in the incident a prelude of that glory that should accrue to Himself through
all men being drawn to Him (John 12:23,32). But He saw as clearly that this "glorifying"
could only be through His death (John 12:24,33), and He universalized it into
a law of His Kingdom that, as a grain of wheat must fall into the earth and die
if it is to be multiplied, so only through sacrifice can any life be made truly
fruitful (John 12:24,25). The thought of death, however, always brought trouble
to the soul of Jesus (John 12:27), and a voice from the Father was given to comfort
Him. The multitude thought it thundered, and failed to apprehend the meaning of
the voice, or His own words about being "lifted up" (John 12:29,34).
f) Discourse on the Last Things
(Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-36) Jesus had now bidden farewell to the temple.
As He was going out, His disciples--or one of them (Mark)--called His attention
to the magnificence of the buildings of the temple, eliciting from Him the startling
reply that not one stone should be left upon another that should not be thrown
down. Later in the evening, when seated on the Mount of Olives on their return
journey, in view of the temple, Andrew, James and John (Mark) asked Him privately
when these things should be, and what would be the signs of their fulfillment.
In Matthew the question is put more precisely, "When shall these things be? And
what shall be the sign of thy coming (parousia), and of the end of the world?"
(or "consummation of the age"). It is in answer to these complex questions that
Jesus spoke His great discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem and His final
coming, some of the strands in which it is difficult now to disentangle. In the
extended report in Matthew 24 certain passages appear which are given elsewhere
by Luke (compare Luke 17:20-37). It may tend to clearness if a distinction be
observed between the nearer event of the destruction of Jerusalem--also in its
way a coming of the Son of Man--and the more remote event of the final parousia.
The former, to which Matthew 24:15-28 more specially belong, seems referred to
by the "these things" in 24:34, which, it is declared, shall be fulfilled in that
generation. Of the final parousia, on the other hand, it is declared in 24:36
that "of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither
the Son, but the Father only" (compare Mark 13:32). The difficulty occasioned
by the immediately of Matthew 24:29 is relieved by recalling the absence of perspective
and grouping of future events in all apocalyptic prophecy--the consummation ever
rising as the background of the immediate experience which is its prelude. The
discourse then divides itself into a general part (Matthew 24:4-14), delineating
the character of the entire period till the consummation (false Christs and prophets,
wars, tribulations, apostasies, preaching of the gospel to all nations, etc.);
a special part relating to the impending destruction of the city, with appropriate
warnings (Matthew 24:15-28); and a closing part (Matthew 24:32-51) relating mainly
to the final parousia, but not without reference to preceding events in the extension
of Christ's kingdom, and ingathering of His elect (Matthew 24:30,31). Warning
is given of the suddenness of the coming of the Son of Man, and the need of being
prepared for it (Matthew 24:37-51). The whole is a massive prophecy, resting on
Christ's consciousness that His death would be, not the defeat of His mission,
but the opening up of the way to His final glorification and triumph.
g) Parables of Ten Virgins, Talents and Last Judgment
(Matthew 25) To this great discourse on the solemnities of the end, Jesus, still
addressing His disciples, added three memorable parables of instruction and warning
(Matthew 25)--the first, that of the Ten Virgins, picturing, under the figure
of virgins who went to meet the bridegroom with insufficient provision of oil
for their lamps, the danger of being taken unawares in waiting for the Son of
Man; the second, that of the Talents, akin to the parable in Luke of the Pounds
(19:11-27), emphasizing the need of diligence in the Lord's absence; the third,
that of the Sheep and Goats, or Last Judgment, showing how the last division will
be made according as discipleship is evinced by loving deeds done to those in
need on earth--such deeds being owned by Christ the King as done to Himself. Love
is thus declared to be the ultimate law in Christ's kingdom (compare 1 Corinthians
13); the loveless spirit is reprobated. "These shall go away into eternal punishment:
but the righteous into eternal life" (Matthew 25:46).
6. A Day of Retirement
(compare John 12:36) Luke 21:37,38 might suggest that Jesus taught in the temple
every day till the Thursday of the Passover; if, however, the denunciation took
place, as nearly all agree, on Tuesday, an exception must be made of the Wednesday,
which Jesus probably spent in retirement in Bethany in preparation of spirit for
His last great conflict (others arrange differently, and put some of the preceding
events in this day). The summary in John 12:36-43 connects the blindness of mind
of the Pharisees with Isaiah's vision (Isaiah 6:10), and with the prophecy of
the rejected Servant (Isaiah 53:1).
7. An Atmosphere of Plotting--Judas and the Priests
(Matthew 26:1-5,14-16; Mark 14:1,2,10,11; Luke 22:1-6) The plot for the destruction
of Jesus was meanwhile maturing. Two days before the Passover (Tuesday evening),
Jesus forewarned the disciples of His approaching betrayal and crucifixion (Matthew
26:2); and probably at that very hour a secret meeting of the chief priests and
elders was being held in the court of the house of the high priest, Caiaphas (Matthew),
to consult as to the means of putting Him to death. Their resolve was that it
should not be done on the feast day, lest there should be a tumult; but the appearance
of Judas, who since the anointing had seemingly meditated this step, speedily
changed their plans. For the paltry sum of 30 pieces of silver (shekels of the
sanctuary, less than or 4 pounds; the price of a slave, Exodus 21:32; compare
Zechariah 11:12), the recreant disciple, perhaps persuading himself that he was
really forcing Jesus to an exercise of His Messianic power, agreed to betray his
Lord. The covenant of infamy was made, and the traitor now only waited his opportunity
to carry out his project.
II. FROM THE LAST SUPPER TILL THE CROSS
1. The Chronology
A question of admitted difficulty arises in the comparison of the Synoptics and
John as to the dates of the Last Supper and of the crucifixion. The Synoptics
seem clearly to place the Last Supper on the evening of the 14th of Nisan (in
Jewish reckoning, the beginning of the 15th), and to identify it with the ordinary
paschal meal (Matthew 26:17-19). The crucifixion then took place on the 15th.
John, on the contrary, seems to place the supper on the day before the Passover
(13:1), and the crucifixion on the 14th, when the Passover had not yet been eaten
(18:28; 19:14). Many, on this ground, affirm an irreconcilable discrepancy between
John and the Synoptics, some (e.g. Meyer, Farrar, less decisively Sanday) preferring
Jn; others (Strauss, Baur, Schmiedel, etc.) using the fact to discredit Jn. By
those who accept both accounts, various modes of reconciliation are proposed.
A favorite opinion (early church writers; many moderns, as Godet, Westcott, Farrar)
is that Jesus, in view of His death, anticipated the Passover, and ate His parting
meal with His disciples on the evening of the 13th; others (e.g. Tholuck, Luthardt,
Edersheim, Andrews, D. Smith), adhering to the Synoptics, take the view, here
shared, that the apparent discrepancy is accounted for by a somewhat freer usage
of terms in John. Details of the discussion must be sought in the works on the
subject. The case for the anticipatory view is well given in Westcott, Introduction
to the Study of the Gospels, 339; and in Farrar, Life of Christ, Excur. X; a good
statement of that for the Synoptics may be seen in Andrews, Life of our Lord;
compare Tholuck, Commentary on John, on 13:1; Luthardt, Commentary on John, on
13:1; 18:28; D. Smith, Days of His Flesh, App. II. The language of the Synoptists
("the first day of unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the passover," Mark
14:12) leaves no doubt that they intended to identify the Last Supper with the
regular Passover, and it is hardly conceivable that they could be mistaken on
so vital a point of the apostolic tradition. This also was the view of the churches
of Asia Minor, where John himself latterly resided. On the other hand, the phrase
to "eat the passover" in John 18:28 may very well, in John's usage, refer to participation
in the special sacrifices which formed a chief feature of the proceedings on the
15th. The allusion in John 13:1 need mean no more than that, the Passover now
impending, Jesus, loving His disciples to the end, gave them a special token of
that love during the meal that ensued. The "preparation of the passover" in John
19:14,31 most naturally refers to the preparation for the Sabbath of the Passover
week, alluded to also by the Synoptics (Matthew 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54).
The objections based on rabbinical regulations about the Sabbath are convincingly
met by Tholuck (see also Andrews). We assume, therefore, that our Lord ate the
Passover with His disciples at the usual time--the evening of the 14th of Nisan
(i.e. the beginning of the 15th).
2. The Last Supper
(Matthew 26:17-35; Mark 14:12-31; Luke 22:7-38; John 13; compare 1 Corinthians
11:23-25) In the scene in the upper chamber, at the observance of the Last Supper,
we enter the holy of holies of this part of the Lord's history. It is difficult,
in combining the narratives, to be sure of the order of all the particulars, but
the main events are clear. They may be exhibited as follows:
|a) The Preparation
On "the first day of unleavened bread"--Thursday, 14th of Nisan--Jesus bade two
of His disciples (Luke names Peter and John) make the needful preparations for
the observance of the Passover. This included the sacrificing of the lamb at the
temple, and the securing of a guest-chamber. Jesus bade the disciples follow a
man whom they would meet bearing a pitcher, and at the house where he stopped
they would find one willing to receive them. The master of the house, doubtless
a disciple, at once gave them "a large upper room furnished and ready" (Mark);
there they made ready.
b) Dispute about Precedence--Washing of the Disciples' Feet--Departure of Judas
Evening being come, Jesus and the Twelve assembled, and took their places for
the meal. We gather from John 13:23 that John reclined next to Jesus (on the right),
and the sequel shows that Judas and Peter were near on the other side. It was
probably this arrangement that gave rise to the unseemly strife for precedence
among the disciples narratedin Luke 22:24-30. The spirit thus displayed Jesus
rebuked, as He had more than once had occasion to do (compare Mark 9:33-37); then
(for here may be inserted the beautiful incident in John 13:1), rising from the
table, He gave them an amazing illustration of His own precept, "He that is chief
(let him become) as he that doth serve ..... I am in the midst of you as he that
serveth" (Luke 22:26,27), in divesting Himself of His garments, girding Himself
with a towel, and performing the act of a servant in washing His disciples' feet.
Peter's exclamation must have expressed the feelings of all: "Lord, dost thou
wash my feet?" The act of the Divine Master was a wonderful lesson in humility,
but Jesus used it also as a parable of something higher. "If I wash thee not (i.e.
if thou art not cleansed by the receiving of my word and spirit, which this washing
symbolizes), thou hast no part with me"; then on Peter's further impulsive protest,
"Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head," the word: "He that is
bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit" (i.e. sanctification
of the inner man is once for all, but there is need for cleansing from the sins
of the daily walk). Resuming His place at the table, He bade them imitate the
example He had just given them.
Is it I? An ominous word had accompanied the reply to Peter, "Ye are not all clean"
(John 13:10,11). As the supper proceeded, the meaning of this was made plain.
Judas, who had already sold his Master, was at the table with the rest. He had
permitted Jesus to wash his feet, and remained unmoved by that surpassing act
of condescending love. Jesus was "troubled in spirit" and now openly declared,
"One of you shall betray me" (the Greek word means literally, "deliver up": compare
Luke 22:4,6, and the Revised Version margin throughout). It was an astounding
announcement to the disciples, and from one and another came the trembling question,
"Lord, is it I?" Jesus answered that it was one of those dipping his hand with
Him in the dish (Mark), and spoke of the woe that would overtake the betrayer
("Good were it for that man if he had not been born"). John, at a sign from Peter,
asked more definitely, "Who is it?" (John). Jesus said, but to John only, it was
he to whom He would give a sop, and the sop was given to Judas. The traitor even
yet sought to mask his treachery by the words, "Is it I, Rabbi?" and Jesus replied,
though still not aloud, "Thou hast said" (Matthew); then, as Satanic passion stirred
the breast of Judas, He added, "What thou doest, do quickly" (John). Judas at
once rose and went out--into the night (John 13:30). The disciples, not comprehending
his abrupt departure, thought some errand had been given him for the feast or
for the poor. Jesus was relieved by his departure and spoke of the glory coming
to Himself and to His Father, and of love as the mark of true discipleship (John
c) The Lord's Supper
The forms of the observance of the Passover by the Jews are given elsewhere (see
PASSOVER). Luke alone of the New Testament writers speaks of 2 cups (22:17,20);
in Jewish practice 4 cups were used. The "Western" text, Codex Bezae (D), omits
Luke's 2nd cup, from which some (compare Sanday, Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible
(five volumes)) infer duplication, but this is not necessary. Luke's 1st cup (Luke
22:17) may be that with which the paschal supper opened; the 2nd cup--that mentioned
by all the writers--was probably the 3rd Jewish cup, known as "the cup of blessing"
(compare 1 Corinthians 10:16). Some, however, as Meyer, make it the 4th cup. It
is implied in Matthew, Mark, John, that by this time Judas had gone. Left thus
with His own, the essentials of the paschal meal being complete, Jesus proceeded,
by taking and distributing bread and wine, associating them with His body and
blood, soon to be offered in death upon the cross, to institute that sacred rite
in which, through all ages since (though its simplicity has often been sadly obscured)
His love and sacrifice have been commemorated by His church. There are variations
of phrase in the different accounts, but in the essentials of the sacramental
institution there is entire agreement. Taking bread, after thanks to God, Jesus
broke it, and gave it to the disciples with the words, "This is my body"; the
cup, in like manner, after thanksgiving, He gave them with the words, "This is
my blood of the covenant (in Luke and Paul, "the new covenant in my blood") which
is poured out for many" (Matthew adds, "unto remission of sins"). Luke and Paul
add what is implied in the others: "This do in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19;
1 Corinthians 11:24). Nothing could more plainly designate the bread and wine
as holy symbols of the Lord's body and blood, offered in death for man's redemption,
and sealing in His blood a new covenant with God; nor, so long as the rite is
observed in its Divine simplicity, as Jesus instituted it, will it be possible
to expunge from His death the character of a redeeming sacrifice. In touching
words Jesus intimated that He would no more drink of the fruit of the vine till
He drank it new with them in their Father's Kingdom (on the doctrinal aspects,
see EUCHARIST; SACRAMENTS; LORD'S SUPPER).
d) The Last Discourses--Intercessory Prayer
The Supper was over, and parting was imminent, but Jesus did not leave the holy
chamber till He had poured out His inmost heart in those tender, consolatory,
profoundly spiritual addresses which the beloved disciple has preserved for us
in John 14; 15; and 16, followed by the wonderful closing intercessory prayer
of John 17. He was leaving them, but their hearts were not to be disquieted, for
they would see Him again (14:18; 16:16), and if, ere long, He would part with
them again in visible form, it was only outwardly He would be separated from them,
for He would send them the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, who would take His place,
to guide them into all truth, and bring all things to their remembrance that He
had said to them (14:16,17; 15:26; 16:7-14). If He went away, it was to prepare
a place for them, and He would come again to receive them to Himself in His Father's
house (14:1-3); let them meanwhile show their love to Him by keeping His commandments
(14:15,23,14). In the Spirit He Himself and the Father would dwell in the souls
that loved Him (14:21-23). The intimacy of their union with Him would be like
that of branches in the vine; only by abiding in Him could they bring forth fruit
(15:1). They would have tribulations (15:18; 16:1,2), but as His dying bequest
He left them His own peace (14:27); that would sustain their hearts in all trial
(16:33). With many such promises did He comfort them in view of the terrible ordeal
through which they were soon to pass; then, addressing His Father, He prayed for
their holy keeping, and their final admission to His glory (17:9-18,24).
These solemn discourses finished, Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn (the "Hallel")
and departed to go to the Mount of Olives. Comparing the evangelists, one would
infer that the conversation in which Jesus foretold the denial of Peter at least
commenced before they left the chamber (Luke 22:31; John connects it, probably
through relation of subject, with the exposure of Judas, John 13:36-38); but it
seems to have continued on the way (Matthew, Mark).
e) The Departure and Warning
Jesus had spoken of their being "offended" in Him that night. In his exaltation
of spirit, Peter declared that though all should be offended in Him, he would
never be offended. Jesus, who had already warned Peter that Satan sought to have
him, that he might sift him as wheat (Luke 22:31; but "I made supplication for
thee," etc.), now told him that before the cock should crow, he would thrice deny
Him. Peter stoutly maintained that he would die rather than be guilty of so base
an act--so little did he or the others (Matthew 26:35; Mark 14:31) know themselves!
The enigmatic words in Luke 22:36 about taking scrip and sword point metaphorically
to the need, in the times that were coming upon them, of every lawful means of
provision and self-defence; the succeeding words show that "sword" is not intended
to be taken literally (22:38).
3. Gethsemane--the Betrayal and Arrest
(Matthew 26:36-56; Mark 14:32-53; Luke 22:39-53; John 18:1-12) Descending to the
valley, Jesus and His disciples, crossing the brook Kidron ("of the cedars"),
entered the "garden" (John) known as Gethsemane ("oil-press"), at the foot of
the Mount of Olives. Here took place the agony, which is the proper commencement
of the Passion, the betrayal by Judas and the arrest of Jesus.
During the evening the thoughts of Jesus had been occupied mainly with His disciples;
now that the hour had come when the things predicted concerning Him should have
fulfillment (Luke 22:37 "your hour, and the power of darkness," Luke 22:53), it
was inevitable that mind and spirit should concentrate on the awful bodily and
mental sufferings that lay before Him.
|a) Agony in the Garden
It was not the thought of physical suffering alone--from that also the pure and
sensitive humanity of Jesus shrank with natural horror--but death to Him, the
Holy One and Prince of Life, had an indescribably hateful character as a hostile
power in humanity, due to the judgment of God on sin, and now descending upon
Him through the workings of the vilest of human passions in the religious heads
of His nation. What anguish to such an One, filled with love and the desire to
save, to feel Himself rejected, betrayed, deserted, doomed to a malefactor's cross--alone,
yet not alone, for the Father was with Him! (John 16:32). The burden on His spirit
when He reached Gethsemane was already, as the language used shows, all but unendurable--"amazed,"
"sore troubled," "My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death" (Mark). There,
bidding the other disciples wait, He took with Him Peter, and James, and John,
and withdrew into the recesses of the garden. Leaving these also a little behind,
He sank on the ground in solitary "agony" (Luke), and "with strong crying and
tears" (Hebrews 5:7), poured out His soul in earnest supplication to His Father.
"Let this cup pass away from me"--it could not be, but thus the revulsion of His
nature was expressed--"howbeit not what I will, but what thou wilt." The passage
in Lu (22:44), "His sweat became as it were great drops of blood," etc., though
omitted in certain manuscripts, doubtless preserves a genuine trait. Returning
to the three, He found them overpowered with sleep: even the support of their
wakeful sympathy was denied Him! "Watch and pray," He gently admonished them,
"that ye enter not into temptation." A second and third time the same thing happened--wrestling
with God on His part, sleep on theirs, till, with Divine strengthening (Luke 22:41),
victory was attained, and calm restored. "Sleep on now," He said to His disciples
(the crisis is past; your help can avail no more): "Arise, let us be going" (the
future has to be faced; the betrayer is at hand. See the remarkable sermon of
F.W. Robertson, II, sermon 22).
b) Betrayal by Judas--Jesus Arrested
The crisis had indeed arrived. Through the darkness, even as Jesus spoke, was
seen flashing the light of torches and lanterns, revealing a mingled company of
armed men--Roman soldiers, temple officers (John), others--sent by the chief priests,
scribes and elders, to apprehend Jesus. Their guide was Judas. It had been found
impracticable to lay hands on Jesus in public, but Judas knew this retreat (John
18:2), and had arranged, by an act of dastardly treachery, to enable them to effect
the capture in privacy. The sign was to be a kiss. With an affectation of friendship,
only possible to one into whose heart the devil had truly entered (Luke 22:3;
John 13:27), Judas advanced, and hailing Jesus as "'Master," effusively kissed
Him (Matthew 26:49; Mark 14:45 margin). Jesus had asked, "Betrayest thou the Son
of man with a kiss?" (Luke); now He said, "Friend, do that for which thou art
come" (Matthew). The soldiers essayed to take Jesus, but on their first approach,
driven back as by a supernatural power, they fell to the ground (John). A proof
thus given of the voluntariness of His surrender (compare Matthew 26:53): "Thinkest
thou that I cannot beseech my Father," etc.), Jesus, remarking only on the iniquity
of secret violence when every day they had opportunity to take Him in the temple,
submitted to be seized and bound. At this point Peter, with characteristic impetuosity,
remembering, perhaps, his pledge to die, if need be, with Jesus, drew a sword,
and cut off the right ear of the high priest's servant, Malchus (John gives the
names). If he thought his deed justified by what Jesus had earlier said about
"swords" (Luke 22:36,38), he was speedily undeceived by Jesus' rebuke (John 18:11),
and by His healing of the ear (Luke; the last miracle of Jesus before His death).
How little this flicker of impulsive boldness meant is shown by the general panic
that immediately followed. "All the disciples," it is related, "left him, and
fled" (Matthew, Mark). Mr tells of a young man who had come upon the scene with
only a linen cloth cast about his naked body, and who fled, leaving the cloth
behind (14:51,52). Not improbably the young man was Mark himself.
4. Trial before the Sanhedrin Legal and Historical Aspects
(Matthew 26:57-75; 27:1-10; Mark 14:53-72; 15:1; Luke 22:54-71; John 18:12-27;
compare Acts 1:18,19): It would be about midnight when Jesus was arrested, and
He was at once hurried to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest, where in expectation
of the capture, a company of chief priests, scribes and elders--members of the
Sanhedrin--were already assembled. Here the first stage in the trial of Jesus
The legal and constitutional questions connected with the trial of Jesus are considered
in the article on JESUS CHRIST, THE ARREST AND TRIAL OF; see also Dr. Taylor Innes,
The Trial of Jesus Christ; on the powers of the Sanhedrin, see SANHEDRIN, and
compare Schurer, Jewish People, etc., II, 1, pp. 163. There seems little doubt
that, while certain judicial forms were observed, the trial was illegal in nearly
every particular. The arrest itself was arbitrary, as not rounded on any formal
accusation (the Sanhedrin, however, seems to have arrogated to itself powers of
this kind; compare Acts 4:1); but the night session, lack of definite charge,
search for testimony, interrogation of accused, haste in condemnation, were unquestionably
in flagrant violation of the established rules of Jewish judicial procedure in
such cases. It is to be remembered that the death of Jesus had already been decided
on by the heads of the Sanhedrin, so that the trial was wholly a means to a foregone
conclusion. On the historical side, certain difficulties arise. Joh seems to make
the first interrogation of Jesus take place before Annas, father-in-law to Caiaphas
(on Annas, see below; though deposed 15 years before, he retained, in reality,
all the dignity and influence of the high-priesthood; compare Luke 3:2; Acts 4:6);
after which He is sent to Caiaphas (John 18:13,14,19-24). The narrative is simplified
|(1) John 18:19-23 are regarded as a preliminary interrogatory
by Annas till matters were prepared for the arraignment before Caiaphas; or
(2) 18:24 is taken as retrospective (in the sense of "had sent," as in the King
James Version), and the interrogation is included in the trial by Caiaphas (compare
18:19: "the high priest").
Annas and Caiaphas may be presumed from the account of Peter's denials to have
occupied the same official residence; else Annas was present on this night to
be in readiness for the trial. The frequently occurring term "chief priests" denotes
the high priests, with those who had formerly held this rank, and members of their
families (compare Schurer, op. cit., 203). They formed, with the scribes, the
most important element in the Sanhedrin.
|a) Before Annas and Caiaphas--the Unjust Judgment
First Jesus was led before Annas, then by him, after a brief interview, was transferred,
still bound, to Caiaphas. Annas had been deposed, as above noticed, much earlier
(15 AD), but still retained the name and through his sons and relations, as long
as he lived, exercised much of the authority of high priest. Like all those holding
this high office, he and Caiaphas were Sadducees. Annas--if he is the questioner
in John 18:19-23--asked Jesus concerning His disciples and His teaching. Such
interrogation was unlawful, the duty of the accuser, in Jewish law, being to produce
witnesses; properly, therefore, Jesus referred him to His public teaching in the
temple, and bade him ask those who heard Him there. An officer standing by struck
Jesus with his hand for so speaking: an indignity which Jesus endured with meek
|(1) An Illegal Session.
Meanwhile a company of the Sanhedrin had assembled (23 sufficed for a quorum),
and Jesus was brought before this tribunal, which was presided over by Caiaphas.
A hurried search had been made for witnesses (this, like the night session, was
illegal), but even the suborned testimony thus obtained ("false witnesses") was
found useless for the purpose of establishing, constructively or directly, a charge
of blasphemy against Jesus. At length two witnesses were produced who gave a garbled
version of the early saying of Jesus (John 2:19) about destroying the temple and
rebuilding it in three days. To speak against the temple might be construed as
speaking against God (compare Matthew 23:16,21; Acts 6:13,14), but here too the
witnesses broke down through lack of agreement. At all costs, however, must Jesus
be condemned: the unprecedented course therefore was taken of seeking a conviction
from the mouth of the accused Himself. Rising from his seat, the high priest adjured
Jesus by the living God to tell them whether He was the Christ, the Son of God
(in Mark, "Son of the Blessed"). In using this title, Caiaphas had evidently in
view, as in John 5:18; 10:33, a claim to equality with God. The supreme moment
had come, and Jesus did not falter in His reply: "Thou hast said." Then, identifying
Himself with the Son of Man in Daniel's vision (Daniel 7:13,14), He solemnly added,
"Henceforth (from His resurrection on) ye shall see the Son of man sitting at
the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." It was enough. Without
even the pretense of inquiry into the truth or falsehood of the claim, the high
priest rent his garments, exclaiming, "He hath spoken blasphemy," and by assent
of all Jesus was adjudged worthy of death. Abuse and insult followed. The minions
of the Sanhedrin were permitted to spit on the condemned One, smite Him, blindfold
and mock Him, saying, "Prophesy unto us, thou Christ: who is he that struck thee?"
Then, with further blows, He was led away (Matthew 26:68).
(2) A Morning Confirmation. To give color of judicial sanction to these tumultuous
and wholly irregular night proceedings, a more formal meeting of the Sanhedrin
was convened as soon as day had dawned (Matthew 27:1; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66-71).
Probably the irregularities were held to be excused by the urgency of the occasion
and the solemnities of the feast. Jesus was again brought forward; new questions
were put which He declined to answer. Possibly a new avowal of His Messiahship
was made (more probably Luke includes in this scene, the only one he records,
some of the particulars of the earlier proceedings). The judgment of the past
night was confirmed.
b) The Threefold Denial
While this greatest moral tragedy of the trial and condemnation of Jesus was in
process, a lesser, but still awful, tragedy in the history of a soul was being
enacted in the court of the same building (from this the chamber in which the
Sanhedrin sat was visible), in the threefold denial of his Master by the apostle
Peter. Peter, who had followed "afar off" (Luke), had gained access to the court
through an unnamed disciple, whom it is easy to identify with John (John 18:15).
As he stood warming himself at a fire which had been kindled, the maid who had
admitted them (John), gazing attentively at Peter, said boldly, "Thou also wast
with Jesus the Galilean" (Matthew 26:69). Unnerved, and affrighted by his surroundings,
Peter took the readiest mode of escape in denial. "I know him not." His heart
must have sunk within him as he framed the words, and the crowing of a cock at
the moment (Mark--perhaps an hour after midnight), reminding him of his Master's
warning, completed his discomfiture. Guiltily he withdrew to the porch, only a
little after to be accosted by another (the maid had spoken to her neighbors,
Mark), with the same charge. More afraid than ever, he declared again, "I know
not this man," and, seeing he was not believed, strengthened the denial with an
oath. Yet a third time, an hour later, a bystander (or several, Mark), this time
founding on his Galilean speech, pronounced, "Of a truth thou art one of them."
Peter, to clear himself, cursed and swore, anew disclaiming knowledge of his Lord.
To this depth had the boastful apostle fallen--as low, it might seem, as Judas!
But there was a difference. As Peter spoke the cock again crew--the cockcrow which
gives its form to three of the narratives (Mark alone mentions the double cockcrowing).
At the same instant, either from within, or as He was being led forth, Jesus turned
and looked on His erring disciple. That look--so full of pity, sorrow, reproach--could
never be forgotten! Its effect was instantaneous: "Peter went out, and wept bitterly."
c) Remorse and Suicide of Judas
Peter's heartfelt repentance has its counterfoil in the remorse of Judas, which,
bitter as it also was, cannot receive the nobler name. First, Judas sought to
return the 30 shekels paid him as the price of blood ("I betrayed innocent blood");
then, when callously rebuffed by the priests and elders, he flung down the accursed
money in the sanctuary, and went and hanged himself. Matthew and Ac seem to follow
slightly divergent traditions as to his end and the purchase of the potter's field.
The underlying facts probably are that the priests applied the money, which they
could not put into the treasury (Matthew), to the purchase of the field, where,
either before or after the purchase, Judas destroyed himself (Acts): falling and
bursting asunder), assigning it as a place to bury strangers in. Its connection
with Judas is attested by its name, "Akeldama," "the field of blood."
The Jews might condemn, but they had no power to execute sentence of death (John
18:31). This power had been taken from them by the Romans, and was now vested
in the Roman governor. The procurator of Judea was Pontius Pilate, a man hated
by the Jews for his ruthless tyranny (see PILATE), yet, as the Gospels show him,
not without a sense of right, but vacillating and weak-willed in face of mob clamor,
and risk to his own interests.
5. Trial before Pilate
(Matthew 27:2,11-31; Mark 15:1-20; Luke 23:1-25; John 18:28-40; 19:1-16) His residence
in Jerusalem ("Praetorium," the English Revised Version "palace") was probably
Herod's former palace (thus Schurer, G.A. Smith, etc.), on the tesselated pavement
(John 19:13) in the semicircular front of which was placed the tribunal (bema)
from which judgments were delivered. It was to this place Jesus was now brought.
The events took place when it was "early" (John 18:28), probably between 6 a.m.
and 7 a.m. (compare John 19:14, Roman camputation).
|a) The Attitude of the Accusers
Jesus was taken within the Pretorium, but His accusers were too scrupulous about
defilement at the Passover festival (John 18:28) to enter the building. Pilate
therefore came out to hear their accusation. They would fain have had him endorse
their condemnation without further inquiry, but this he would not do. They would
not have it that it was a simple question of their law, yet had to justify their
demand for a death sentence (John 18:31). They based, therefore, on the alleged
revolutionary character of Christ's teaching, His forbidding to pay tribute to
Caesar (a false charge), His claim to be a king (Luke 23:2,5), to all which charges
Jesus answered not a word (Mark 15:3,5). At a later stage, after Pilate, who knew
very well that no mere sedition against the Roman power had called forth all this
passion (witness the choice of Barabbas), had repeatedly declared that he found
no crime in Jesus (Mark 15:14; Luke 23:4,14,22; John 18:38; 19:4,6), the real
spring of their action was laid bare: "We have a law, and by that law he ought
to die, because he made himself the Son of God" (John 19:7). When it was seen
how this declaration made Pilate only the more unwilling to yield to their rage,
return was made to the political motive, now in the form of personal threat: "If
thou release this man, thou art not Caesar's friend" (John 19:12). This was Pilate's
weak point, and the Jews knew it. The clamor grew ever louder, "Crucify him, crucify
him." Hate of Jesus and national degradation could go no farther than in the cry,
"We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15).
b) The Attitude of Pilate
Pilate was from the first impressed with the innocence of Jesus, and was sincerely
anxious, as his actions showed, to save Him from the terrible and ignominious
death His implacable enemies were bent on inflicting upon Him. His crime was that,
as Roman judge, he finally, against his own convictions, through fear of a charge
of disloyalty to Caesar, yielded up to torture and death One whom he had pronounced
guiltless, to gratify the brutal passions of a mob. By Pilate's own admissions,
Christ's death was, not a punishment for any crime, but a judicial murder. First,
through private examination, Pilate satisfied himself that the kingship Jesus
claimed ("Thou sayest") carried with it no danger to the throne of Caesar. Jesus
was a king indeed, but His kingdom was not of this world; was not, like earthly
kingdoms, supported by violence; was founded on the truth, and gathered its subjects
from those that received the truth (John 18:36,37). The indifference to the name
of truth which the jaded mind of Pilate confessed ("What is truth?") could not
hide from him the nobility of soul of the Holy One who stood before him. He declared
publicly, "I find no fault in this man," and thereafter sought means of saving
Him, at least of shifting the responsibility of His condemnation from himself
|(1) Jesus Sent to Herod
Hearing in the clamor round the judgment seat that Jesus was a Galilean, and remembering
that Herod Antipas, who had jurisdiction in that region, was in the city, Pilate's
first expedient was to send Jesus to Herod, to be examined by him (Luke 23:6-11).
This act of courtesy had the effect of making Herod and Pilate, who had been at
enmity, again friends (Luke 23:12); otherwise it failed of its object. Herod was
pleased enough to see One he had so often heard about--even thought in his flippancy
that a miracle might be done by Him--but when Jesus, in presence of "that fox"
(Luke 13:32), refused to open His mouth in answer to the accusations heaped upon
Him, Herod, with his soldiers, turned the matter into jest, by clothing Jesus
in gorgeous apparel, and sending Him back as a mock-king to Pilate.
(2) "Not This Man, but Barabbas"
Pilate's next thought was to release Jesus in pursuance of a Jewish custom of
setting free a prisoner at the feast, and to this end, having again protested
that no fault had been found in Him, offered the people the choice between Jesus
and a notorious robber and murderer called Barabbas, then in prison. Just then,
as he sat on the judgment seat, a message from his wife regarding a dream she
had ("Have thou nothing to do with that righteous man," Matthew 27:19) must strongly
have influenced his superstitious mind. Pilate could hardly have conceived that
the multitude would prefer a murderer to One so good and pure; but, instigated
by the priests, they perpetrated even this infamy, shouting for the release of
Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus.
(3) "Ecce Homo"
Pilate's weakness now began to reveal itself. He proposed to "chastise" (scourge)
Jesus--why "chastise," if He was innocent?--then release Him. But this compromise,
as was to be anticipated, only whetted the eagerness for blood, and the cries
grew ever louder, "Crucify him." Pilate, however, as if yielding to the storm,
did deliver Jesus to be scourged (scourging--a fearful infliction--preceded crucifixion),
the cruelty being aggravated by the maltreatment of the soldiers, who, outstripping
former mockeries, put on His head a crown of thorns, arrayed Him in a purple robe,
and rained blows upon His bleeding face and form. It seems to have been a design
of Pilate to awake pity, for once again he brought Jesus forth, and in this affecting
guise, with new attestation of His innocence, presented Him to the people in the
words, "Behold, the man!" (John 19:5). How hideous the mockery, at once to declare
of such an one, "I find no crime in him," and to exhibit Him to the crowd thus
shamefully abused! No pity dwelt in these hearts, however, and the shouts became
still angrier, "Crucify him."
(4) A Last Appeal--Pilate Yields
The words of the leaders, "He made himself the Son of God," spoken as a reason
for putting Jesus to death (John 19:7), struck a new fear into the heart of Pilate.
It led him again to enter the Pretorium, and inquire of this strange prisoner,
unlike any he had ever seen, "Whence art thou?" Jesus was silent. "Knowest thou
not," asked Pilate, "that I have power to release thee, and have power to crucify
thee?" Jesus answered only that he, Pilate, had no power over Him at all save
what was given him of God; the greater therefore was the crime of those who had
subjected Him to this abuse of Divinely given power. Again Pilate went out and
sought to release Him, but was met by the fierce cries that foreboded complaint
to Caesar (John 19:12). A tumult seemed imminent, and Pilate succumbed. Here probably
(though possibly after the choice of Barabbas) is to be placed the washing of
his hands by Pilate--a vain disclaiming of his responsibility--recorded in Matthew
27:24, and the awful answer of the people, "His blood be on us, and on our children"
(27:25). Pilate now ascends the judgment seat, and, fully conscious of the iniquity
of his procedure, pronounces the formal sentence which dooms Jesus to the cross.
The trial over, Jesus is led again into the Pretorium, where the cruel mockery
of the soldiers is resumed in intensified form. The Holy One, thorn-crowned, clad
in purple, a reed thrust into His hand, is placed at the mercy of the whole band,
who bow the knee in ridicule before Him ("Hail, King of the Jews"), spit upon
Him in contempt, smite Him on the head with the reed (Matthew, Mark). Then, stripped
of the robe, His own garments are put on Him, in preparation for the end.
c) The Attitude of Jesus
In all this hideous scene of cruelty, injustice, and undeserved suffering, the
conspicuous feature in the bearing of Jesus is the absolute calmness, dignity
and meekness with which He endures the heaviest wrongs and insults put upon Him.
The picture in Isaiah 53:7,8 is startling in its fidelity: "When he was afflicted
he opened not his mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep
that before its shearers is mute, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and
judgment he was taken away," etc. There is no return of the perturbation of Gethsemane.
As if the strength won there had raised Him into a peace that nothing could shake,
He passed through the frightful physical exhaustion, mental strain, agony of scourging,
suffering from wounds and blows, of that terrible night and morning, with unbroken
fortitude and unembittered spirit. Not a word of complaint passes His lips; He
makes no reply to accusations; when reviled, He reviles not again; He takes all
with submission, as part of the cup the Father has given Him to drink. It is a
spectacle to move the stoniest heart. Well to remember that it is the world's
sin, in which all share, that mingled the bitter draught!
III. THE CRUCIFIXION AND BURIAL
1. The Crucifixion
(Matthew 27:31-56; Mark 15:20-41; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:16-37) Crucifixion was
the form of punishment reserved by the Romans for slaves, foreigners and the vilest
criminals, and could not be inflicted on a Roman citizen. With its prolonged and
excruciating torture, it was the most agonizing and ignominious death which the
cruelty of a cruel age could devise. Jewish law knew nothing of it (the 'hanging
on a tree' of Deuteronomy 21:22,23, was after death; compare Galatians 3:13),
yet to it the Jewish leaders hounded Pilate on to doom their Messiah. The cross
was no doubt of the usual Roman shape (see CROSS). The site of Golgotha, "the
place of a skull" (in Luke "Calvary," the Latinized form), is quite uncertain.
It may have been a slight mound resembling a skull (thus Meyer, Luthardt, Godet,
etc.), but this is not known. It is only plain that it was outside the wall, in
the immediate vicinity of the city (see note below on sepulcher). The time of
the crucifixion was about 9 a.m. (Mark 15:25). The day (Friday) was the "preparation"
for the Sabbath of the Passover week (Matthew, Mark, Luke; compare John 19:14,31).
|a) On the Way
It was part of the torment of the victim of this horrible sentence that he had
to bear his own cross (according to some only the patibulum, or transverse beam)
to the place of execution. As Jesus, staggering, possibly fainting, under this
burden, passed out of the gate, a stranger coming from the country, Simon, a man
of Cyrene, was laid hold of, and compelled to carry the cross (such an one would
not be punctilious about rabbinical rules of travel, especially as it was not
the regular Sabbath). Jesus, however, was not wholly unpitied. In the crowd following
Him were some women of Jerusalem, who bewailed and lamented Him. The Lord, turning,
bade these weep, not for Him, but for themselves and for their children. "If they
do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" (Luke 23:27-31).
b) Between the Thieves--the Superscription--the Seamless Robe
Golgotha being reached, the crucifixion at once took place under the care of a
centurion and a quaternion of soldiers. With ruthless blows, hands and feet were
nailed to the wood, then the cross was reared (the perpendicular part may, as
some think, have first been placed in position). As if to emphasize, from Pilate's
point of view, the irony of the proceedings, two robbers were crucified with Jesus,
on right and left, an undesigned fulfillment of prophecy (Isaiah 53:12). It was
doubtless when being raised upon the cross that Jesus uttered the touching prayer--His
1st word on the cross (its genuineness need not be questioned, though some ancient
manuscripts omit)--"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke).
Above His head, according to custom, was placed a tablet with His accusation,
written in three languages, Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The chief priests took offense
at the form, "This is the King of the Jews," and wished the words changed to,
"He said, I am King," etc., but Pilate curtly dismissed their complaint: "What
I have written I have written" (John). Whether Jesus still wore the crown of thorns
is doubtful. The garments of the Crucified were divided among the soldiers, but
for His inner garment, woven without seam, they cast lots (compare Psalms 22:18).
A draught of wine mingled with an opiate (gall or myrrh), intended to dull the
senses, was offered, but refused.
c) The Mocking--the Penitent Thief--Jesus and His Mother
The triumph of Christ's enemies now seemed complete, and their glee was correspondingly
unrestrained. Their victim's helplessness was to them a disproof of His claims.
Railing, and wagging their heads, they taunted Him, "If thou art the Son of God,
come down from the cross"; "He saved others; himself he cannot save." At first
the robbers who were crucified with Him (possibly only one) joined in this reproach,
but ere long there was a change. The breast of one of the malefactors opened to
the impression of the holiness and meekness of Jesus, and faith took the place
of scorn. He rebuked his neighbor for reviling One who had "done nothing amiss";
then, addressing Jesus, he prayed: "Jesus, remember me when thou comest in thy
kingdom." The reply of Jesus--His 2nd word on the cross--surpassed what even the
penitent in these strange circumstances could have anticipated "Today shalt thou
be with me in Paradise" (Luke). A not less touching incident followed--perhaps
preceded--this rescue of a soul in its last extremity. Standing near the cross
was a group of holy women, one of them the mother of Jesus Himself (John 19:25
Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas--some identify
the two latter--Mary Magdalene). Mary, whose anguish of spirit may be imagined,
was supported by the disciple John. Beholding them--His 3rd word from the cross--Jesus
tenderly commended His mother to the care of John; to Mary, "Woman, behold, thy
son"; to John, "Beho1d, thy mother." From that time Mary dwelt with John three
hours passed, and at noon mocking was hushed in presence of a startling natural
change. The sun's light failed (Luke), and a deep darkness, lasting for 3 hours,
settled over the land. The darkness was preternatural in its time and occasion,
whatever natural agencies may have been concerned in it. The earthquake a little
later (Matthew) would be due to the same causes. It was as if Nature veiled itself,
and shuddered at the enormity of the crime which was being perpetrated.
d) The Great Darkness--the Cry of Desertion
But the outer gloom was only the symbol of a yet more awful darkness that, toward
the close of this period, overspread the soul of Jesus Himself. Who shall fathom
the depths of agony that lay in that awful cry--the 4th from the cross--that burst
loudly from the lips of Jesus, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani"--"My God, My God,
why hast thou forsaken me" (or, "Why didst thou forsake me?")--words borrowed
from Psalms 22:1! It was before remarked that death was not a natural event to
Jesus, but ever had in it to His mind its significance as a judgment of God on
sin. Here it was not simply death that He experienced in its most cruel form,
but death bereft of the sensible comforts of the Father's presence. What explanation
of that mystery can be found which does not take into account with Isaiah 53 (compare
John 1:29) His character as Sin-Bearer, even as the unbroken trust with which
in His loneliness He clings to God ("My God") may be felt to have in it the element
of atonement? On this, however, the present is not the place to dwell.
e) Last Words and Death of Jesus
The end was now very near. The victim of crucifixion sometimes lingered on in
his agony for days; but the unexampled strain of body and mind which Jesus had
undergone since the preceding day brought an earlier termination to His sufferings.
Light was returning, and with it peace; and in the consciousness that all things
were now finished (John 19:28), Jesus spoke again--the 5th word--"I thirst" (John).
A sponge filled with vinegar was raised on a reed to His lips, while some who
had heard His earlier words ("Eli, Eli," etc.), and thought He called for Elijah,
said, "Let us see whether Elijah cometh to save him" (Matthew). With a last effort,
Jesus cried aloud--6th and memorable word--"It is finished," then, in a final
utterance--the 7th--commended His spirit to God: "Father into thy hands I commend
my spirit" (Luke). Following on this word, bowing His head, He surrendered Himself
to death. It will be seen that of the 7 words spoken from the cross, 3 are preserved
by Luke alone (1st, 2nd, 7th), 3 by John alone (3rd, 5th, 6th), while the 4th
cry ("Eli, Eli," etc.) occurs only in the first 2 evangelists (Matthew and Mark,
however, speak of Jesus "crying with a loud voice" at the close).
f) The Spear-Thrust--Earthquake and Rending of the Veil
Jesus had died; the malefactors still lived. It was now 3 o'clock in the afternoon,
and it was desired that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the approaching
Sabbath. Permission was therefore obtained from Pilate for the soldiers to break
the legs of the crucified (crurifragium), and so hasten death. When it was discovered
that Jesus was already dead, a soldier, possibly to make sure, pierced His side
with a spear, and John, who was present, notices as a special fact that "there
came out blood and water" (19:34). Whether this means, as Stroud and others have
contended, that Jesus literally died of rupture of the heart, or what other physiological
explanation may be given of the phenomenon, to which the apostle elsewhere attaches
a symbolical significance (1John 5:6), need not be here discussed (see BLOOD AND
WATER). This, however, was not the only startling and symbolically significant
fact attending the death of Jesus. A great darkness had preluded the death; now,
at the hour of His termination, the veil of the temple (i.e. of the inner shrine)
was rent from top to bottom--surely a sign that the way into the holiest of all
was now opened for mankind (Hebrews 9:8,12)--and a great earthquake shook the
city and rent the rocks. Mt connects with this the statement that from the tombs
thus opened "many bodies of the saints .... were raised; and coming forth out
of the tombs after his resurrection they entered into the holy city and appeared
unto many" (27:52,53). There is nothing in itself improbable, though none of the
other evangelists mention it, in such an early demonstration being given of what
the Lord's death and resurrection meant for believers. In other ways the power
of the cross was revealed. A dying robber had been won to penitence; now the centurion
who commanded the soldiers was brought to the avowal, "Truly this was the Son
of God" (Matthew, Mark; in Luke, "a righteous man"). The mood of the crowd, too,
was changed since the morning; they "returned, smiting their breasts" (Luke 23:48).
"Afar off," speechless with sorrow, stood the women who had followed Jesus from
Galilee, with other friends and disciples. The evangelists
name Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and Joses, Salome (Mark), and Joanna,
the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward (Luke).
2. The Burial
(Matthew 27:57-66; compare 28:11-15; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42)
Jesus had conquered hearts on His cross; now His death reveals friends from the
wealthier classes, hitherto kept back by fear (John 19:38,39), who charge themselves
with His honorable burial. One was Joseph of Arimathea, a just man, "looking for
the kingdom of God," of whom the interesting fact is recorded that, though a member
of the Sanhedrin, "he had not consented to their counsel and deed" (Luke); the
other was Nicodemus, he who came to Jesus by night (John 3:1,2; 19:39), mentioned
again only in John 7:50-52, where, also as a member of the Sanhedrin, he puts
in a word for Jesus.
|a) The New Tomb
Joseph of Arimathea takes the lead. "Having dared," as Mr says (15:43, Gr), he
begged the body of Jesus from Pilate, and having obtained it, bought linen cloth
wherein to wrap it, and reverently buried it in a new rock-tomb of his own (Matthew,
Mark), "where never man had yet lain" (Luke). John furnishes the further particulars
that the tomb was in a "garden," near where Jesus was crucified (19:41,42). He
tells also of the munificence of Nicodemus, who brought as much as 100 pounds
(about 75 lbs. avoir.) of spices--"a mixture of myrrh and aloes" (19:39), with
which to enwrap the body of Jesus. This is not to be thought of as an "anointing":
rather, the spices formed a powder strewn between the folds of the linen bandages
(compare Luthardt, Commentary on John 19:40). The body, thus prepared, was then
placed in the tomb, and a great stone rolled to tile entrance. The burial was
of necessity a very hurried one, which the holy women who witnessed it--Mary Magdalene
and Mary the mother of Joses are specially mentioned (Matthew, Mark)--purposed
to supplement by an anointing when the Sabbath was past (compare Luke 23:56).
b) The Guard of Soldiers
Though Jesus was dead, the chief priests and Pharisees were far from easy in their
minds about Him. Mysterious words of His had been quoted about His building of
the temple in three days; possibly Judas had told something. about His sayings
regarding His death and rising again on the 3rd day; in any case, His body was
in the hands of His disciples, and they might remove it, and create the persuasion
that He had risen. With this plea they went to Pilate, and asked from him a watch
of soldiers to guard the tomb. To make assurance doubly sure, they sealed the
tomb with the official seal. The result of their efforts was only, under Providence,
to provide new evidence of the reality of the resurrection!
The uncertainty attaching to the site of Golgotha attaches also to the site of
Joseph's rock-tomb. Opinion is about equally divided in favor of, and against,
the traditional site, where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre now stands. A principal
ground of uncertainty is whether that site originally lay within or without the
second wall of the city (compare Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, 457; G.A. Smith,
Jerusalem, II, 576; a good conspectus of the different opinions, with the authorities,
is given in Andrews, Part VII).
F. THE RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION
|The Resurrection a Fundamental Fact. The resurrection of
Jesus, with its completion in the ascension, setting the seal of the Father's
acceptance on His finished work on earth, and marking the decisive change from
His state of humiliation to that of exaltation, may be called in a true sense
the corner stone of Christianity (compare 1 Corinthians 15:14,17). It was on the
preaching of Christ crucified and risen that the Christian church was founded
(e.g. Acts 2:32-36; 1 Corinthians 15:3,4). Professor Harnack would distinguish
between "the Easter faith" (that Jesus lives with God) and "the Easter message,"
but the church never had any Easter faith apart from the Easter message. The subversion
of the fact of the resurrection is therefore a first task to which unbelief addresses
itself. The modern spirit rules it out a priori as miraculous. The historical
fact is denied, and innumerable theories (imposture, theories of swoon, of hallucination,
mythical theories, spiritualistic theories, etc.) are invented to explain the
belief. None of these theories can stand calm examination (see the writer's work,
The Resurrection of Jesus). The objections are but small dust of the balance compared
with the strength of the evidence for the fact. From the standpoint of faith,
the resurrection of Jesus is the most credible of events. If Jesus was indeed
such an One as the gospel history declares Him to be, it was impossible that death
should hold Him (Acts 2:24). The resurrection, in turn, confirms His claim to
be the Son of God (Romans 1:4).
1. The Resurrection
(Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20; 21; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8) With the narratives
of the resurrection are here included as inseparably connected, those of the appearances
of Jesus in Jerusalem and Galilee. The accounts will show that, while the body
of Jesus was a true body, identical with that which suffered on the cross (it
could be seen, touched, handled), it exhibited attributes which showed that Jesus
had entered, even bodily, on a new phase of existence, in which some at least
of the ordinary limitations of body were transcended. Its condition in the interval
between the resurrection and the ascension was an intermediate one--no longer
simply natural, yet not fully entered into the state of glorification. "I am not
yet ascended .... I ascend" (John 20:17); in these two parts of the one saying
the mystery of the resurrection body is comprised.
|a) The Easter Morning--the Open Tomb
The main facts in the resurrection narratives stand out clearly. "According to
all the Gospels," the arch-skeptic Strauss concedes, "Jesus, after having been
buried on the Friday evening, and lain during the Sabbath in the grave, came out
of it restored to life at daybreak on Sunday" (New Life of Jesus, I, 397, English
translations). Discrepancies are alleged in detail as to the time, number, and
names of the women, number of angels, etc.; but most of these vanish on careful
examination. The Synoptics group their material, while Joh gives a more detailed
account of particular events.
|(1) The Angel and the Keepers
No eye beheld the actual resurrection, which took place in the early morning,
while it was still dark. Matthew records that there was "a great earthquake,"
and tells of the descent of an angel of the Lord, who rolled away the stone, and
sat upon it. Before his dazzling aspect the keepers became as dead men, and afterward
fled. The chief priests bribed them to conceal the facts, and say the body had
been stolen (Matthew 28:2-4,11-15).
(2) Visit of the Women
The first intimation of the resurrection to the disciples was the discovery of
the empty tomb by the women who had come at early dawn (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2;
Luke 24:1; John 20:1) with spices, prepared to anoint the body of Jesus (Mark
16:1; compare Luke 23:56). Apparently ignorant of the guard, the women were concerned
on their way as to who should roll away the stone from the door of the tomb (Mark
16:3), and were much surprised to find the stone rolled away, and the tomb open.
There is no need for supposing that the women mentioned all came together. It
is much more probable that they came in different groups or companies--perhaps
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, or these with Salome, first (Matthew, Mark;
compare the "we" of John 20:2); then Joanna and other members of the Galilean
band (Luke). (On the appearance of Jesus to Mary, see below.)
(3) The Angelic Message
As the women stood, perplexed and affrighted, at the tomb, they received a vision
of angels (Matthew and Mark speak only of one angel; Luke and John mention two;
all allude to the dazzling brightness), who announced to them that Jesus had risen
("He is not here; for he is risen; .... come, see the place where the Lord lay"),
and bade them tell His disciples that He went before them to Galilee, where they
should see Him (Matthew, Mark; Luke, who does not record the Galilean appearances,
omits this part, and recalls the words spoken by Jesus in Galilee, concerning
His death and resurrection; compare Matthew 16:21). The women departed with "trembling
and astonishment" (Mark), yet "with great joy" (Matthew). Here the original Mr
breaks off (Mark 16:8), the remaining verses being an appendix. But it is granted
that Mark must originally have contained an account of the report to the disciples,
and of an appearance of Jesus in Galilee.
b) Visit of Peter and John--Appearance to Mary
(John; compare Mark 16:9,10; Luke 24:12,24) The narrative in John enlarges in
important respects those of the Synoptics. From it we learn that Mary Magdalene
(no companion is named, but one at least is implied in the "we" of 20:2), concluding
from the empty tomb that the body of Jesus had been removed, at once ran to carry
the news to Peter and John ("They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and
we know not where they have laid him"). These apostles lost no time in hastening
to the spot. John, who arrived first, stooping down, saw the linen cloths lying,
while Peter, entering, beheld also the napkin for the head rolled up in a place
by itself. After John likewise had entered ("He saw, and believed"), they returned
to their home. Meanwhile Mary had come back disconsolate to the tomb, where, looking
in, she, like the other women, had a vision of two angels. It was then that Jesus
addressed her, "Why weepest thou?" At first she thought it was the gardener, but
on Jesus tenderly naming her, "Mary," she recognized who it was, and, with the
exclamation, "Rabboni" ("Teacher"), would have clasped Him, but He forbade: "Touch
me not," etc. (John 20:17, margin "Take not hold on me"), i.e. "Do not wait, but
hasten to tell my disciples that I am risen, and ascend to my Father" (the ascension-life
had already begun, altering earlier relations).
Report to the Disciples--Incredulity. The appearance of Jesus to the other women
(Matthew 28:9,10) is referred to below. It is probable that, on the way back,
Mary Magdalene rejoined her sisters, and that the errand to the disciples--or
such of them as could be found--was undertaken together. Their report was received
with incredulity (Luke 24:11; compare Mark 16:11). The visit of Peter referred
to in Luke 24:12 is doubtless that recorded more precisely in John.
c) Other Easter-Day Appearances (Emmaus, Jerusalem)
Ten appearances of Jesus altogether after His resurrection are recorded, or are
referred to; of these five were on the day of resurrection. They are the following:
|(1) The first is the appearance to Mary Magdalene above
(2) The second is an appearance to the women as they returned from the tomb, recorded
in Matthew 28:9,10. Jesus met them, saying, "All hail," and as they took hold
of His feet and worshipped Him, He renewed the commission they had received for
the disciples. Some regard this as only a generalization of the appearance to
Mary Magdalene, but it seems distinct.
(3) An appearance to Peter, attested by both Luke 24:34 and Paul (1 Corinthians
15:5). This must have been early in the day, probably soon after Peter's visit
to the tomb. No particulars are given of this interview, so marked an act of grace
of the risen Lord to His repentant apostle. The news of it occasioned much excitement
among the disciples (Luke 24:34).
(4) The fourth was an appearance to two disciples on their way from Jerusalem
to Emmaus--a village about two hours distant (Luke 24:12-35; Mark 16:12,13). They
were conversing on the sad events of the last few days, and on the strange tidings
of the women's vision of angels, when Jesus overtook them, and entered into conversation
with them. At first they did not recognize Him--a token, as in Mary's case, of
change in His appearance--though their hearts burned within them as He opened
to them the Scriptures about Christ's sufferings and glory. As the day was closing,
Jesus abode with them to the evening meal; then, as He blessed and brake the bread,
"Their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight"
(Luke 24:30,31). They hastily rose, and returned to the company of disciples at
Jerusalem. According to Mark 16:13, their testimony, like that of the women, was
not at first believed.
(5) The fifth appearance was that to "the eleven," with others, in the evening--an
appearance recorded by Luke (24:36), and John (20:19-23), and alluded to by Paul
(1 Corinthians 15:5). The disciples from Emmaus had just come in, and found the
company thrilling with excitement at the news that the Lord had appeared to Simon
(Luke). The doors were closed for fear of the Jews, when suddenly Jesus appeared
in their midst with the salutation, "Peace be unto you" (Luke, John; doubt is
unnecessarily cast on Luke 24:36,40, by their absence from some Western texts).
The disciples were affrighted; they thought they had seen a spirit (Luke); "disbelieved
for joy" (Luke 24:41). To remove their fears, Jesus showed them His hands and
His feet (in Jn, His side), and ate before them (Luke). He then breathed on them,
saying, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit," and renewed the commission formerly given
to remit and retain sins (John; compare Matthew 18:17,18). The breathing was anticipative
of the later affusion of the Spirit at Pentecost (compare John 7:39; 1 Corinthians
5:3). The incident strikingly illustrates at once the reality of Christ's risen
body, and the changed conditions under which that body now existed.
d) The Second Appearance to the Eleven--the Doubt of Thomas
Eight days after this first appearance--i.e. the next Sunday evening--a second
appearance of Jesus to the apostles took place in the same chamber and under like
conditions ("the doors being shut"). The peculiar feature of this second meeting
was the removal of the doubt of Thomas who, it is related, had not been present
on the former occasion. Thomas, devoted (compare John 11:16), but of naturally
questioning temperament (John 14:5), refused to believe on the mere report of
others that the Lord had risen, and demanded indubitable sensible evidence for
himself. Jesus, at the second appearance, after salutation as before, graciously
gave the doubting apostle the evidence he asked: "Reach hither thy finger, and
see my hands," etc. (John 20:27), though, as the event proved, the sign was not
needed. The faith and love of the erst-while doubter leaped forth at once in adoring
confession: "My Lord and my God." It was well; but Jesus reminded him that the
highest faith is not that which waits on the evidence of sense ("Blessed are they
that have not seen, and yet have believed," John 20:29).
e) The Galilean Appearances
The scene now shifts for the time to Galilee. Jesus had appointed to meet with
His disciples in Galilee (Matthew 26:32; Mark 16:7; compare Mark 14:28). Prior,
however, to this meeting--that recorded in Matthew 28:16-20, probably to be identified
with the appearance "to above five hundred brethren at once" mentioned by Paul
(1 Corinthians 15:6)--there is another appearance of Jesus to seven disciples
at the Lake of Galilee, of which the story is preserved in John 21:1-23.
|(1) At the Sea of Tiberias--the Draught of Fish--Peter's
The chapter which narrates this appearance of Jesus at the Lake of Galilee ("Sea
of Tiberias") is a supplement to the Gospel, but is so evidently Johannine in
character that it may safely be accepted as from the pen of the beloved disciple
(thus Lightfoot, Meyer, Godet, Alford, etc.). The appearance itself is described
as the third to the disciples (John 21:14), i.e. the third to the apostles collectively,
and in Jn's record seven disciples are stated to have been present, of whom five
are named--Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel (probably to be identified with Bartholomew),
and the sons of Zebedee, James and John. The disciples had spent the night in
fishing without result. In the morning Jesus--yet unrecognized--appeared on the
beach, and bade them cast down their net on the right side of the boat. The draught
of fishes which they took revealed to John the presence of the Master. "It is
the Lord," he said to Peter, who at once flung himself into the lake to go to
Jesus. On landing, the disciples found a fire of coals, with fish placed on it,
and bread; and Jesus Himself, after more fish had been brought, distributed the
food, and, it seems implied, Himself shared in the meal. Still a certain awe--another
indication of a mysterious change in Christ's appearance--restrained the disciples
from asking openly, "Who art thou?" (John 21:12). It was not long, however ("when
they had broken their fast"), before Jesus sufficiently disclosed Himself in the
touching episode of the restoration of Peter (the three-fold question, "Lovest
thou me?" answering to the three-fold denial, met by Peter's heartfelt, "Yea,
Lord; thou knowest that I love thee," with the words of reinstatement, "Feed my
lambs," "Feed my sheep"). In another way, Jesus foretold that Peter would have
the opportunity of taking back his denial in the death by which he should glorify
God (John 21:18,19; tradition says he was crucified head-downward). Curious inquiries
were set aside, and attention recalled to duty, "Follow thou me" (John 21:22).
(2) On the Mountain--the Great Commission--Baptism
Though only the eleven apostles are named in Matthew's account (Matthew 28:16),
the fact of an 'appointment' for a definite time and place ("the mountain"), and
the terms in which the message was given to the "disciples," suggests a collective
gathering such as is implied in Paul's "above five hundred brethren at once" (1
Corinthians 15:6). The company being assembled, Jesus appeared; still, at first,
with that element of mystery in His appearance, which led some to doubt (Matthew
28:17). Such doubt would speedily vanish when the Lord, announcing Himself as
clothed with all authority in heaven and earth, gave to the apostles the supreme
commission to "make disciples of all the nations" (Matthew 28:18-20; compare Mark
16:15, "Go ye into all tho world" etc.). Discipleship was to be shown by baptism
"into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (one name,
yet threefold), and was to be followed by instruction in Christ's commands. Behind
the commission, world-wide in its scope, and binding on every age, stands the
word of never-failing encouragement, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the
end of the world." Doubts of the genuineness of these august utterances go as
a rule with doubt of the resurrection itself.
It will be noticed that the Lord's Supper and Baptism are the only sacraments
instituted by Jesus in His church.
f) Appearance to James
Paul records, as subsequent to the above, an appearance of Jesus to James, known
as "the Lord's brother" (1 Corinthians 15:7; compare Galatians 1:19). No particulars
are given of this appearance, which may have occurred either in Galilee or Jerusalem.
James, so far as known, was not a believer in Jesus before the crucifixion (compare
John 7:3); after the ascension he and the other brethren of Jesus are found in
the company of the disciples (Acts 1:14), and he became afterward a chief "pillar"
of the church at Jerusalem (Galatians 1:19; 2:9). This appearance may have marked
g) The Last Meeting
The final appearance of Jesus to the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:7) is that which
Luke in the closing verses of his Gospel (Luke 24:44-53), and in Acts 1:3-12,
brings into direct relation with the ascension. In the Gospel Luke proceeds without
a break from the first appearance of Jesus to "the eleven" to His last words about
"the promise of my Father"; but Acts 1 shows that a period of 40 days really elapsed
during which Jesus repeatedly "appeared" to those whom He had chosen. This last
meeting of Jesus with His apostles was mainly occupied with the Lord's exposition
of the prophetic Scriptures (Luke 24:44-46), with renewed commands to preach repentance
and forgiveness of sins in His name, "beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47,48;
compare Acts 1:8), and with the injunction to tarry in Jerusalem till the Spirit
should be given (Luke 24:49; compare Acts 1:4,5). Then He led them forth to Olivet,
"over against Bethany," and, while blessing them, "was carried up into heaven"
(Luke 24:50,51; compare Acts 1:10,12).
2. The Ascension
(Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:6-14; compare Mark 16:19) Jesus had declared, "I ascend
unto my Father" (John 20:17), and Luke in Acts 1 narrates the circumstances of
that departure. Jesus might simply have "vanished" from the sight of His disciples,
as on previous occasions, but it was His will to leave them in a way which would
visibly mark the final close of His association with them. They are found, as
in the Gospel, "assembled" with Him at Jerusalem, where His final instructions
are given. Then the scene insensibly changes to Olivet, where the ascension is
located (Acts 1:12). The disciples inquire regarding the restoration of the kingdom
to Israel (even yet their minds are held in these temporal conceptions), but Jesus
tells them that it is not for them to know times and seasons, which the Father
had set within His own authority (Acts 1:7). Far more important was it for them
to know that within the next days they should receive power from the Holy Spirit
to be witnesses for Him to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). Even as
He spake, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight (Acts 1:9).
Then, as the apostles stood gazing upward, two heavenly messengers appeared, who
comforted them with the assurance that in like manner as they had seen Jesus ascend
into heaven, so also would He come again. For that return the church still prays
and waits (compare Revelation 22:20).
See, further, ASCENSION.
Retracing their steps to Jerusalem, the apostles joined the larger company of
disciples in the "upper room" where their meetings seem to have been habitually
held, and there, with one accord, to the number of about 120 (Acts 1:15), they
all continued steadfastly in prayer till "the promise of the Father" (Luke 24:49;
Acts 1:4) was, at Pentecost, bestowed upon them.
PART IV. EPILOGUE:
|THE APOSTOLIC TEACHING
1. After the Ascension
The earthly life of Jesus is finished. With His resurrection and ascension a new
age begins. Yet the work of Christ continues. As Luke expressively phrases it
in Acts 1:1,2, the Gospels are but the records of "all that Jesus began both to
do and to teach, until the day in which he was received up." It is beyond the
scope of this article to trace the succeeding developments of Christ's activity
through His church and by His Spirit; in order, however, to bring the subject
to a proper close, it is necessary to glance, even if briefly, at the light thrown
back by the Spirit's teachings, after the ascension, on the significance of the
earthly life itself, and at the enlargement of the apostles' conceptions about
Christ, consequent on this, as seen in the Epistles and the Apocalypse.
2. Revelation through the Spirit
It was the promise of Jesus that, after His departure, the Spirit would be given
to His disciples, to teach them all things, and bring to their remembrance all
that He had said to them (John 14:26). It was not a new revelation they were to
receive, but illumination and guidance of their minds into the meaning of what
they had received already (John 16:13-15). This promise of the Spirit was fulfilled
at Pentecost (Acts 2). Only a few personal manifestations of Jesus (Acts 7:55,56;
22:17,18; 23:11) are recorded after that event--the two chief being the appearance
to Paul on the way to Damascus (1 Corinthians 15:8; compare Acts 9:3, etc.), and
the appearance in vision to John in Patmos (Revelation 1:10). The rest was internal
revelation (compare Galatians 1:12,16; Ephesians 1:17; 3:3-5). The immense advance
in enlargement and clearness of view--aided, no doubt, by Christ's parting instructions
(Luke 24:44-48; Acts 1:2)--is already apparent in Peter's discourses at Pentecost;
but it is not to be supposed that much room was not left for after-growth in knowledge,
and deepened insight into the connection of truths. Peter, e.g., had to be instructed
as to the admission of the Gentiles (Acts 10:11); the apostles had much gradually
to learn as to the relations of the law (compare Acts 15; 21:20; Galatians 2,
etc.); Paul received revelations vastly widening the doctrinal horizon; both John
and Paul show progressive apprehension in the truth about Christ.
3. Gospels and Epistles
It is therefore a question of much interest how the apostolic conceptions thus
gained stand related to the picture of Jesus we have been studying in the Gospels.
It is the contention of the so-called "historical" (anti-supernaturalistic) school
of the day that the two pictures do not correspond. The transcendental Christ
of Paul and John has little in common, it is affirmed, with the Man of Nazareth
of the Synoptic Gospels. Theories of the "origins of Christianity" are concocted
proceeding on this assumption (compare Pfieiderer, Weizsacker, Bousset, Wernle,
etc.). Such speculations ignore the first conditions of the problem in not accepting
the self-testimony of Jesus as to who He was, and the ends of His mission into
the world. When Jesus is taken at His own valuation, and the great fact of His
resurrection is admitted, the alleged contradictions between the "Jesus of history"
and the "Christ of faith" largely disappear.
4. Fact of Christ's Lordship
It is forgotten how great a change in the center of gravity in the conception
of Christ's person and work was necessarily involved in the facts of Christ's
death, resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of power. The life is not
ignored--far from it. Its influence breathes in every page, e.g. of Paul's epistles.
But the weakness, the limitations, the self-suppression--what Paul in Philippians
2:7 calls the "emptying"--of that earthly life have now been left behind; the
rejected and crucified One has now been vindicated, exalted, has entered into
His glory. This is the burden of Peter's first address at Pentecost: "God hath
made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified" (Acts 2:36). Could
anything look quite the same after that? The change is seen in the growing substitution
of the name "Christ" for "Jesus" (see at beginning of article), and in the habitual
speaking of Jesus as "Lord."
5. Significance of Christ's Person
With belief in the lordship of Jesus went necessarily an enlarged conception of
the significance of His person. The elements were all there in what the disciples
had seen and known of Jesus while on earth (John 1:14; 1 John 1:1-3), but His
exaltation not only threw back light upon His claims while on earth--confirmed,
interpreted, completed them--but likewise showed the ultimate ground of these
claims in the full Divine dignity of His person. He who was raised to the throne
of Divine dominion; who was worshipped with honors due to God only; who was joined,
with Father and with Holy Spirit as, coordinately, the source of grace and blessing,
must in the fullest sense be Divine. There is not such a thing as honorary Godhead.
In this is already contained in substance everything taught about Jesus in the
epistles: His preexistence (the Lord's own words had suggested this, John 8:58;
17:5, etc.), His share in Divine attributes (eternity, etc.), in Divine works
(creation, etc., 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16,17; Hebrews 1:2; Revelation
1:8; 3:14, etc.), in Divine worship (Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 5:11,12, etc.),
in Divine names and titles (Hebrews 1:8, etc.). It is an extension of the same
conception when Jesus is represented as the end of creation--the "Head" in whom
all things are finally to be summed up (Ephesians 1:10; compare Hebrews 2:6-9).
These high views of the person of Christ in the Epistles are everywhere assumed
to be the possession of the readers.
Jesus had furnished His disciples with the means of understanding His death as
a necessity of His Messianic vocation, endured for the salvation of the world;
but it was the resurrection and exaltation which shed light on the utmost meaning
of this also. Jesus died, but it was for sins. He was a propitiation for the sin
of the world (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). He was 'made sin' for us (2 Corinthians
6. Significance of the Cross and Resurrection
The strain of Isaiah 53 runs through the New Testament teaching on this theme
(compare 1 Peter 1:19; 2:22-25, etc.). Jesus' own word "ransom" is reproduced
by Paul (1 Timothy 2:6). The song of the redeemed is, "Thou didst purchase unto
God with thy blood men of every tribe," etc. (Revelation 5:9). Is it wonderful,
in view of this, that in the apostolic writings--not in Paul only, but in Pet,
in Jn, in He, and Rev, equally--the cross should assume the decisive importance
it does? Paul only works out more fully in relation to the law and the sinner's
justification a truth shared by all. He himself declares it to be the common doctrine
of the churches (1 Corinthians 15:3,4).
7. Hope of the Advent
The newer tendency is to read an apocalyptic character into nearly all the teaching
of Jesus (compare Schweitzer, Quest of the Historical Jesus). This is an exaggeration,
but that Jesus taught His disciples to look for His coming again, and connected
with that coming the perfection of His kingdom, is plain to every reader of the
Gospels. It will not be denied that the apostolic church retained this feature
of the teaching of Jesus. In accordance with the promise in Acts 1:11, it looked
for the glorious reappearing of its Lord. The Epistles are full of this hope.
Even Joh gives it prominence (1 John 2:28; 3:2). In looking for the parousia as
something immediately at hand, the early believers went even beyond what had been
revealed, and Paul had to rebuke harmful tendencies in this direction (2 Thessalonians
2). The hope might be cherished that the coming would not long be delayed, but
in face of the express declarations of Jesus that no one, not the angels, not
even the Son, knew of that day and hour (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32), and that
the Father had set these things in His own authority (Acts 1:7; compare also such
intimations as in Matthew 13:30; 24:14; 25:19; 28:19; Luke 19:11, etc.), none
could affirm this with certainty. Time has proved--proved it even in the apostolic
age (2 Peter 3:3,4)--that the Advent was not so near as many thought. In part,
perhaps, the church itself may be to blame for the delay. Still to faith the Advent
remains the great fixed event of the future, the event which overshadows all others--in
that sense is ever near--the polestar of the church's confidence that righteousness
shall triumph, the dead shall be raised, sin shall be judged and the kingdom of
God shall come.
The literature on the life and teaching of Jesus is so voluminous, and represents
such diverse standpoints, that it would be unprofitable to furnish an extended
catalogue of it. It may be seen prefixed to any of the larger books. On the skeptical
and rationalistic side the best account of the literature will be found in Schweitzer's
book, From Reimarus to Wrede (English translation, Quest of the Historical Jesus).
Of modern believing works may be specially named those of Lange, Weiss, Ellicott
Edersheim, Farrar, D. Smith. Dr. Sanday's book, The Life of Christ in Recent Research,
surveys a large part of the field, and is preparatory to an extended Life from
Dr. Sanday's own pen. His article in HDB has justly attracted much attention.
Schurer's Hist of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ (ET, 5 volumes;
a new German edition has been published) is the best authority on the external
conditions. The works on New Testament Biblical theology (Reuss, Weiss, Schmid,
Stevens, etc.) deal with the teaching of Jesus; see also Wendt, The Teaching of
Jesus (ET). Works and articles on the Chronology, on Harmony of the Gospels, on
geography and topography (compare especially Stanley, G.A. Smith) are legion.
A good, comprehensive book on these topics is Andrews, Life of our Lord (revised
edition). The present writer has published works on The Virgin Birth of Christ
and The Resurrection of Jesus. On the relations of gospel and epistle, see J.
Denney, Jesus and the Gospel.
See also the various articles in this Encyclopedia, on GOSPELS; PERSON OF CHRIST;
ETHICS OF JESUS; VIRGIN BIRTH; JESUS CHRIST, THE ARREST AND TRIAL OF; RESURRECTION;
ASCENSION; PHARISEES; SADDUCEES; HEROD; JERUSALEM, etc.
je'-zus (Iesous, for yehoshua'):
(FROM JESUS (OTHER))
(1) Joshua, son of Nun (the King James Version Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8; compare
1 Macc 2:55; 2 Esdras 7:37).
(2) (3) High priest and Levite.
See JESHUA, 2, 5.
(4) Son of Sirach.
(5) An ancestor of Jesus (Luke 3:29, the King James Version "Jose").
anointed, ascension, bethlehem, bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, calvary, christ, christian, christmas, cross, crucifixion, define, easter, faith, golgotha, gospels, immanuel, jesus, jesus christ, jesus of nazareth, jehoshua, jeshua, joshua, king of the jews, lord, mashiach, messiah, redeemer, resurrection, saviour, son of god, transfiguration of jesus, virgin mary