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This is another instance of the universal misapprehension which then prevailed, and from which the disciples of Jesus were not free, concerning the office of the expected Messiah. It was with a complete understanding of this misapprehension, that Jesus now answered the deceived and partial mother; “ Ye know not what
ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? Will you partake wholly of my lot; will you be able to adhere to me through every adversity, and share all my toils and dangers with me?” The brothers, whom in reality Jesus addressed, and through whose instigation it was that their mother had spoken to him, now answered him, under the persuasion that they could readily undergo a few trials in his service, in order to be at length advanced to great dignity under him, “We are able." How full of melancholy meaning is the reply of our Saviour. “ Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, ye shall drain its full measure of sufferings to the dregs; and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with, even the waters of violent death; but to sit on my right hand and on my left, to prescribe your rank and degree in this world or the next, is not mine to give; it shall be given to those for whom it is prepared of my Father." As soon as the other disciples heard of the ambitious application of the sons of Zebedee, they were moved with indignation against them; but their Master, to quell their rising jealousy and ill will, told them that the princes of the Gentiles, merely temporal governors, did indeed exercise that authority which they were so anxious to possess; but that it should not be so among them, but that they who would be great, truly great, among them, should minister the most kindly to each other's wishes and necessities; for in his kingdom that man would be chief in estimation and place, who was chief in benevolence, usefulness, and virtue.
The brothers are again exhibited to us in no very amiable light. We read in the ninth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, that when the time approached in which Jesus was to finish his mission on earth, he set out to go from Galilee to Jerusalem ; and as his way led through Samaria, he sent messengers before him to a Samaritan village, to prepare for his hospitable reception. The Samaritans, knowing that he was going up to the feast of the Passover, and piqued that he should pass by their own temple, which was the
rival of that of Jerusalem, would not receive him. The anger of James and John was kindled by this rudeness, and they said to Jesus, “ Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.” The evangelist adds, in words simply descriptive of our Saviour's gentleness and forbearance, “ And they went to another village." We may
collect from these notices, that James was disposed to be ambitious and passionate; somewhat resembling Peter in these respects, as also in his real attachment to his Master. We can with difficulty suppose that his brother John heartily joined him on the abovementioned occasions, because his character, as we shall see hereafter, was of a very gentle order; and therefore it is probable that he was prevailed upon by the more vehement and energetic James to concur in his sentiments and projects at those times. It can hardly be regretted, however, that these exposures of human infirmity took place, when we advert to the excellent precepts on the subjects of ambition and revenge which they drew from the Saviour. And it is likewise to be observed, that with all his gentleness, John had a great deal of zeal, and, before that zeal was chastened by the influence and example of his Master, might have often displayed it without knowledge. Beside which, we not unfrequently see, that the gentlest and most amiable have the keenest sense of injustice, and that when they are 'roused to indignation, they are greatly roused. It may have been so with John. At any rate, he shared with his brother in the appellation of Boanerges, or Sons of Thunder, which Mark, in his catalogue of the twelve, informs us was the surname bestowed on them by Jesus, and which seems to have reference to the heat of their temper ; though by some interpreters it is supposed to signify their powers of eloquence.
In the book of Acts, we hear of James but once, after his name is given in the enumeration of the eleven apostles; and then it is to hear of his death. “ Herod the king stretched forth his hand to vex certain of the church; and he killed James, the brother of John, with the sword.” This Herod was Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great, in whose reign Christ was born. He was a distinguished favorite of the Roman emperors, Caligula and his successor Claudius, though a strict and zealous observer of the Jewish law. On entering upon his government, he was desirous of doing something to please the Jewish populace, and for that end began to persecute the infant Christian church, selecting for a principal victim, James the brother of John. We are informed by Clemens Alexandrinus, that as the apostle was led forth to the place of execution, the person who had accused him was so touched with the courage and constancy which he displayed, that he repented of what he had done, came and fell down at his feet, and earnestly begged pardon for what he had said against him. St. James tenderly raised him up, kissed him, and said to him, “ Peace be to thee, my son, and the pardon of thy faults." At this, his former accuser publicly professed himself a Christian, and so both were beheaded at the same time. Not long after this martyrdom, Herod suffered a miserable death, as is related in Acts, xii. 23., and more at large by Josephus in the nineteenth book of his Antiqui