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ter's teaching and principles. We are constantly told that they did not understand him, and he himself sometimes complains of their obtuseness. The religious prejudices of their people were too deeply ingrained in them to be expelled by their Master's preaching of a spiritual kingdom; and to the very last they dreamed of a king arrayed in outward splendor, and of posts of wealth and honor for themselves. Their ideas remained incurably material in spite of every warning.? On one occasion they displeased Jesus greatly by trying to send away some little children that had been brought to him. There could not have been a clearer proof of how little they understood his spirit. Another striking instance of this want of sympathy is recorded in a story which accurately depicts the disposition of the disciples, though its historical truth is by no means above suspicion. It runs as follows:
Jesus had set out on his journey to Jerusalem. He intended to take the shortest way, which led through Samaria, and had sent on some of his disciples to the first village over the border to secure hospitality for the band of thirteen men. But the Samaritans refused to receive him, because he was on a journey to a feast at the City of the Temple, while they believed that Gerizim was the only place at which lawful worship could be offererl. At this insult the sons of Zebedee burst into indignant wrath. " Lord !” said they, “ shall we not call down fire from heaven to consume these wretches?” The example of Elijah 4 was evidently before their minds. But Jesus turned round and rebuked them. Did they not know that as his disciples they must breathe a very different spirit from that of the great prophet of the ancient covenant? - not the stern spirit of wrath and vengeance, but the gentle spirit of redeeming, reconciling love. So the travellers went, at the command of Jesus, to another village.
From the last period of Jesus' life in Galilee we have another story, which should be mentioned here, for both in its original and its present form it was intended to show the slender capacity of the disciples. Let us listen to it:
Once on a time Jesus left his disciples alone for a little while, and when he returned he found them surrounded by & crowd of people, and hard pressed by certain Scribes. When he asked what it meant, one of the crowd cried out, "s Master! I brought my son here because he has a devil that
1 Mark iv. 13, vi. 52, vii. 17, 18, ix 6. 10. 32. x. 38. 2 Matthew xvi. 22, 23, xx. 20-23 (Mark viii. 32, 33, x. 35-40). 8 See p. 174. 4 2 Kings i. 10-12; compare vol. ij. chap. xi. p. 124.
makes him dumb; and when it seizes him he has fearful convulsions, and foams at the mouth and gnashes his teeth, and then falls down motionless. And I asked your disciples to cast out the devil, but they could not.” When Jesus heard of the feebleness of his fellow-workers his patience for a moment gave way, and he cried, “O faithless and perverse generation! How long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear you? Bring him here to me!” But hardly had the boy been brought to Jesus when he had another fit, and fell in convulsions to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth. “ Ilow long has he suffered thus?” said Jesus to the father. “Since infancy,” was the reply ; "and the wonder is that he is still alive, for the devil has many a time hurled him into fire or water to kill him. But for pity's sake help us if you can!” If I can?” repeated Jesus. ery thing is possible to him who has faith.” Then the father cried from the bottom of his heart, “ I believe it. faith is weak.
Help me!” And Jesus, seeing how the people kept running to the place, turned to the boy and said, Deaf and dumb spirit! I command you to come out of him and return to him no more !” A shriek and a convulsion followed the command ; and then the child lay so still that most of the bystanders thought him dead. But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he stood up restored. A few moments afterwards, when the Master had retired to the house, his disciples asked him privately, ** Why could not we drive it out?' And he replied, “ This kind of devil cannot be expelled except by prayer and fasting." Matthew
says that the boy was moon-struck, that is to say, that he had regular attacks when the moon was waxing. Luke makes him an only child. In other respects Mark is the fullest. Several objections might be urged against the story in its completest form, but they are less applicable to the shorter and simpler narratives of the first and third Gospels. To take the last words of the story, for instance, how could Jesus enjoin those fasts which he never observed mself, and from which he publicly released his disciples ? 1 How could the boy hear what Jesus said, and shriek, if he was deaf and dumb? But we lay no stress on these and other such points ; for the original and historical elements of the story may probably still be detected. To say nothing of the great accuracy with which the symptoms are described, we 1 Matthew ix. 15 (Mark ü. 19; Luke v. 34).
may note that it is very probable that when the disciples, perhaps at the command or suggestion of Jesus himself, attempted to imitate him in curing demoniacs they sometimes succeeded, but were sometimes put to shame. Now the record of such a failure is the chief object of this story, and it shows us that this practice of casting out devils, though undertaken in all sympathy and love for the sufferers, was always a very delicate affair. A failure, such as might well occur, threw the exorcist into a very critical position. But it is especially noteworthy that the disciples of Jesus did not even approach their Master's power. They fell far short of him, because they lacked that true self-reliance which is needed for success in any thing. For though they may have had enough of the self-confidence which often passes for true self-reliance, they had far too little of the real trust in themselves which would urge them to pray, and would be strengthened in its turn by prayer; which is religious in its very nature, and coincides with trust in God. It was, therefore, with a correct instinct that an undoubtedly genuine saying of Jesus, “he who has faith can do all things,” was taken up into the story; and this saying, together with the reproach that escaped the Master in a moment of impatience, constitutes another thoroughly historical feature of the narrative. To the power of faith nothing is impossible ! Such was indeed the motto of Jesus ; and Matthew therefore very appropriately makes him explain the failure of his disciples by the words, “ It comes of your want of faith. For I tell you, if you had faith like a grain of mustard seed [small as yet, but full of life and power even now], you might say to this mountain, “ Depart hence !' and it would go; and nothing would be impossible to you.”
A faith that “ can remove mountains” of difficulty, that can accomplish not only what seems impossible, but what would really be utterly impossible without it, — such a faith is spoken of elsewhere as well as here. On another occasion, when the Twelve asked him to “increase their faith,” Jesus is said to have answered in almost the same words: “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you might say to this mulberry tree, Be thou plucked up and planted in the sea!' and it would obey you." It seems, then, that Jesus used this metaphor on more than one occasion.* 1 See pp. 135, 136.
2 See pp. 135, 136. 8 1 Corinthians xii. 2; compare Psalm xlvi. 2.
4 Matthew xxi. 21, 22 ; Mark xi. 22-24 ; Luke xvii. 5, 6; compare Mark xvi. 17, 18; Matthew xiv. 31.
In a word, the story gives us a faithful picture of the deficiencies of the disciples, or rather of their marked inferiority to their Master. And ihis leads us to a general remark. Inasmuch as the Twelve were always with Jesus, we involuntarily make use of them to enable us to form a comparative estimate of the character of Jesus himself. And indeed they actually furnish the best basis for such an estimate we have. Regarded from this point of view, the disciples constantly display so marked an inferiority, hardly admitting of any comparison at all, that we may safely say their lives and characters do more than any one or any thing else to bring the greatness of Jesus into the full light. To excel among mean or commonplace companions is nothing; but these disciples were men of any thing but ordinary virtue. They were the picked men of their time, and in many respects were truly noble. What could exalt Jesus more than a comparison which shows how far he stood above even such men as these? If the Apostles make an unfavorable impression upon us, we must ascribe it to the fact that we always see them close by Jesus. Otherwise we should probably let many of their failings pass unnoticed ; but, as it is, they contrast too sharply with his exalted excellence. It is with no want of respect for them that we say, that their small-mindedness and his great nobility of soul; their narrow prejudices and his striking originality and unconditional fidelity to truth ; their material expectations and his deep and spiritual conception of the kingdom of God; their self-seeking impulses and his unwearied steadfastness in self-denial and self-sacrifice; their weakness and his moral strength; their faithlessness and his mountain-moving faith, - all stand in such sharp contrast to each other that our wondering reverence for him rises each moment.
From this account of the friends of Jesus it must be evi. dent that he, with all his longing to impart himself to others and find support in their sympathy, must have felt a grievous want more than once in the course of his public ministry, a feeling that he was not understood by any one, that he stood in a certain sense alone. This fate, indeed, he shared with other exceptionally great men who have been raised by their very loftiness of spirit far above those around them, and have longed in vain for attachments worthy of their great hearts and full communion with others in their highest life. It was only to God that Jesus could pour out all his soul without fear of heing painfully checked. Once in the Gospel we catch the
ecko of a sad assertion that his heavenly Father alone understood him, that no one knew him except God; but the doctrinal speculations of later times have misunderstood the saying, disguised it almost past recognition, and turned it. into a piece of self-exaltation of which Jesus could not possibly have been guilty.!
In yet another respect Jesus stood almost alone. He had not sought for personal friends so much as for fellow-workers; for such he rightly judged were indispensable to the fulfilment of his giant task. And in this hope also he found himself, at least for the moment, disappointed. But still he judged of others by himself, and never doubted that they might become like him ; however far from him they stood as yet, still he trusted that they would at last be strong enough? for tasks for which they were not fit as yet. He seems also to have foreseen the possibility that was afterwards realized, and for which he must have hoped, — the possibility that others might excel the Twelve in influence and zeal for the kingdom of God, and so take rank above them.3 Meanwhile he sought and found in God strength to pursue
In Him Jesus was never disappointed. Whatever demands were made on him, communion with his Father, and His all-sufficient strength, enabled him to accomplish his task even though he stood alone.
Was not this true greatness?
JESUS THE FRIEND OF SINNERS.
MATTHEW VIII. 1-4, IX. 1-13; LUKE VII, 36-50, XV. 8-10.4
in whom my soul has pleasure! I will lay my spirit on him, and he shall proclaim righteousness to the heathen. He shall not contend nor cry out, and no one shall hear his voice in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, a
1 Matthew xi. 27 (Luke x. 22). 2 Matthew xix. 28 (Luke xxii. 30). 8 Matthew xix. 30, xx. 23 (Mark's. 31. 40), 4 Mark i. 10-ü. 17; Luke v. 12-32.