« السابقةمتابعة »
aas anointed my feet with ointment. Has she not shown the fervor of her love? I tell you, then, her many sins are forgiven her. Iler own conduct proves it. But,” he continued in a quiet tone, wishing to give his host to understand what heavy witness his haughty conduct bore against him, “he to whom little is forgiven shows but little love.” Meanwhile, the woman knew not whether she was dreaming or waking, and could scarce believe that he was really speaking about her. But now he turned to her and said, “Your sins are forgiven!” A scarcely audible murmur ran through the place, for the guests had been deeply shocked already by the fact of Jesus allowing the woman to touch him, and still more by his daring to make a kind of comparison between such a creature and a man of approved piety and virtue like their host; but now they exchanged indignant glances, and their looks betrayed the thought: • What does he suppose he is? What right has he to forgive her sins?” But Jesus, taking no notice of the protest they implied, said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace!” and so, with a look of encouragement and sympathy, he sent her on her way.
The tradition of the Church has, without any reason, identified this woman, of whom we know nothing more, with Mary of Magdala, who has thus become the express image or type of penitence. It is a matter of more importance to decide how far we may rely upon the truth of this story, which is one of the most beautiful in all the Gospels. It bears upon its face unmistakable signs of truth, not only in its indicatious of the characters and actions of all concerned, but still more in the depth and refinement of the spiritual truth contained in the words of Jesus on the connection between forgiveness and love. Yet we cannot doubt that certain unessential details, such as the alabaster flask of ointment and the name of the host, have slipped in from some other source ; for we read elsewhere of a certain woman, otherwise unknown to us, anointing Jesus in the house of a man named Simon ; ? and it is evident from the context that at that time no such mark of honor had ever been paid to him before. It is clear, therefore, that the account of the event just given was affected by this later incident, and that it is no longer possible to say exactly what took place in fact. It is inevitable that oral tradition should sometimes run stories into one another. But this does not at all affect the only point of real importance.
I Luke vii. 41, 42, 47, 48.
Whatever did or did not happen on this occasion the essential truth of the picture cannot be doubted. It reproduces with striking fidelity the attitude which Jesus took towards sinners.
As we go along we shall meet from time to time with further illustrations of this subject. Thus, in discussing the relations of Jesus to the Pharisees, we shall see that the lat ter accused him of too great freedom in his intercourse with sinners; on his journey to Jerusalem we shall find him described both emblematically and literally as the friend of publicans ; and finally, during his stay in Jerusalem, the story of an adulteress who was brought before him will claim our attention.
At present we will only give a few more examples of the way in which tradition worked out the metaphor by which Jesus compared himself to a physician of the sick. The first of these examples is given in all three Gospels. We shall put the later additions between brackets, to mark them off from the older and simpler form of the story : —
A certain woman who had suffered for twelve years from a disease that made her unclean according to the Law (and had never been able to obtain relief, though she had spent her substance in the attempt], came behind Jesus in the middle of a crowd, and seized hold of the fringe of his garment;
for,” said she to herself, “ if only I can touch his garment, I shall be saved.” [Now a healing power did indeed go out from Jesus to the woman, but not without his perceiving it.] Then Jesus turned round and [asked who had touched him. His disciples, who only noticed the multitude that pressed upon him, and not the poor woman who had come to him for help, attempted in vain to persuade him that it was an idle question. At last the woman herself came forward trembling, threw herself upon the ground before him, and in the presence of the people declared what she had done. Then Jesus] cheered her with the words, “ Daughter, your faith has saved you, go in peace!”]
The following stories are each of them found in one Gospel only :
Two blind men once followed Jesus in the street and cried, “Son of David, have pity on us!” He went into his house, and they followed him. At last he turned round to them and said earnestly, “ Do you really believe that I can
1 Matthew ix. 20-22 (Mark v. 25-34; Luke viii. 43–48).
help you?” “Yes, Lord !” they answered, unhesitatingly. Then he laid his hand upon their eyes, and said, “Let it be to you according to your faith ;” and immediately their sight was restored. He strictly forbade them to tell it to any one, but in vain."
Another time, when he was on a journey, they brought him a deaf man who had also a great impediment in his speech, and besought him to lay his hands on liim and cure him. He took the unfortunate man asiile, put a finger in each of his ears, made spittle, and moistened his tongue with it. Then he looked up, heaved a deep sigh, and said in a commanding voice, “ Ephphatha!” that is, " Be opened! And thereupon his ears were opened, and the impediment in his speech was gone, so that he could hear and speak as well as others. Again Jesus forbade the man himself and those who had brought him to publish the event abroad, but they did it all the more, and every one cried out in amazement, * Truly, this Jesus fulfils his calling according to the Scripture, for he makes the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak!
Yet again : A blind man was brought to Jesus at Bethsaida, in the North, with the humble petition that he would touch him. He took the blind man from his guide and led him outside the village. Then he made him stand still, spit on his eyes, put his hand over them, and when he had removed it asked him, “ Do you see any thing?” The blind man stared and answered, “ I can see people ; but confusedly, like trees walking.” Jesus put his hand upon his eyes again, and when he removed it his sight was completely restored, both for near and distant objects. So the man was able to go home alone, but Jesus told him not to go through Beth saida.8
The Evangelists have taken all these stories literally, and have therefore added many details, especially in the last two, which are beside the real purpose of the narratives. But the essential feature common to them all is that Jesus touches the sufferers, or lays his hand upon them; and this means that he rescued them by frankly entering into friendly intercourse with them. For there cannot be a doubt that these stories, as well as the more general accounts of how Jesus restored the use of lost powers or withered limbs to the crippled, the blind, the dumb, and the maimed,4 were originally symbolical rather than literal in their meaning. They represent 1 Matthew ix. 27–31.
2 Mark vii. 31-37. & Mark viii. 22-26.
4 Matthew xv. 29-31.
Jesus — the friend of sinners, the redeemer of the peoples of the land” as restoring to the spiritually blind the perception of the way of truth and the path of salvation ; giving the morally crippled power to walk after God's commandments : teaching the deaf to hear his voice, his word of love. the dumb to speak his praise ; making the lepers clean, and restoring the dead to life, — and so fulfilling the scriptural anticipations of the blessings of the Messianic age,' in which he himself saw his mission indicated.2
When Jesus speaks of sinners as 6 the sick,” he describes by implication his whole method of dealing with them. He never denounces them, or threatens them with the wrath of God, or utters the stern sentence of a judge against them. It is pity that inspires him. And again, it is not the lofty pity that looks down upon the sutferers from on high, but the pity that is linked to unbounded reverence for the man never lost in the sinner ; the pity that goes out to meet the sufferers with tenderest sympathy, and gives itself up to them without reserve. Jesus had found the key to the sinner's heart by that love of man which was one with belief in the worth of
From this point of view, perhaps the story of the repentant woman who was a sinner” is the most striking of all. Jesus did not say to her, “Sin no more!” for to continue in her evil ways would be impossible to her, and such an exhortation would have implied a cruel doubt, which Jesus would not injure her by entertaining. What he says about her is so clear and so profound that it not only gives us fresh insight into the workings of the human soul, but helps us to perceive how we ourselves stand with regard to our own past and God. Love is the only and the certain proof that our sins are forgiven.
Jesus himself expressed his faith in the worth of man and the love of God in a simple image, with which we may close our sketch of the sinner's friend :
If a woman has ten drachmas and misses one as she is counting them over, does she not light her lamp and sweep the dust out of the cracks and corners, and move about the furniture and look under the settle, and go on searching carefully and unweariedly until she finds it? And when she finds the coin, does she not run out and call her friends and neighbors, and say, “Wish me joy! for I had lost a drachma, but now I have found it again !” And so, I tell you, there is joy among God's angels when a sinner repents.
1 Isaiah xxxv. 5, 6; compare xxix. 18, 19, xlii. 7, lxi. 1.
Matthew xi. 5; compare Luke iv. 18-21.
wards the religion of Israel ; and we must therefore try to form a true idea of the extent to which he accepted the existing system, and the point at which his principles compelled him to depart from it, and so produced a religious revolution. The importance and the difficulty of the question will be readily understood when we reflect that it is, as it were, the focus of three apparent contradictions, which will force themselves upon us in succession as we continue our treatment of the narratives of the New Testament. Firstly : Jesus was put to death as a heretic; but his faithful disciples and friends were afterwards left undisturbed as orthodox Jews. Secondly: Our Gospels record sayings and actions of Jesus which are in cortlict with the Law; but Paul, whose hands it would have strengthened infinitely to have been able to quote them, appears to know nothing of them. Lastly and chiefly: Nothing was further from the thoughts of Jesus, from first to last, than the foundation of a new religion ; which, nevertheless, turned out to be a prominent result of his life and work. It is obvious that all this must be largely explained by the peculiar attitude he assumed towards the religion of his people.
The passages which bear upon this subject are very numerous, but at present we shall only deal with such as are absolutely necessary to throw sufficient light upon the question we have asked, and such as will not demand special treatment in any other connection. Presently, when the threatening clouds begin to gather, when Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, when the final conflict deepens in the city itself, we shall constantly meet with examples to confirm our present conclusion.
In the first place, then, we must remember that the religious education that Jesus received in his father's house and in the synagogue must have disposed him reverently to observe the precepts of the Law, as well as the tradition which was
i Matthew ix. 14-17, xii. 1-14; Luke v. 33-vi. 11.