صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

CHAPTER XXVIII.

ON THE WAY TO JERUSALEM.

(Continued.)

Luas XII. 49–53, 57–59,, XIII. 1-9, XI. 24-26, XIX. 1-10;

Matthew XX. 17-34,1

[ocr errors]

VEN if we had no direct indications or accounts of such

a thing, we should suspect from what we know of the gloomy forebodings entertained by Jesus that he often had moments of deep depression in the course of this journey. Sometimes it was the probable result to himself of all his efforts that afflicted bim; sometimes the fearful judgment that his people were drawing upon themselves ; sometimes the great strain and ferment which he himself was causing. Did not his gospel hurl the torch of dissension among his contemporaries? And what a sharp contrast was offered by this fact to the sweet hopes he himself had formerly cherished and the fair, bright anticipations still entertained by his followers. And was he not constantly compelled himself to insist on the rupture of the tenderest and holiest ties? The kingdom of peace and love promised by the prophets would surely come, but who could say after how long and how terrible a struggle? Listen how he poured out his heart to his friends!

"I am come to bring fire into the world. What shall I do then? Would that it were already kindled ! But I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and how am I troubled till it be over! Do you think that I have come to give peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but divisions and war! For henceforth the five inmates of one house shall be divided, three against two, and two against three, the father against his son, and the son against his father ; the mother against her daughter, and the daughter against her mother; the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. So shall the members of the same household become one another's foes !” 2

We shall presently hear Jesus speak of this baptism again. He means that he will be plunged into the depths of suffering ; 1 Matthew x. 34-36, v. 25, 26, xii. 43-45; Mark x. 32–52 ; Luke xviii. 31-43. Compare Michab vii. 6.

that the waters of affliction will not only rise to his lips, but flow over his head. It is a striking metaphor, like that of the cup of suffering filled to the brim. But here let us consider some of the solemn warnings and denunciations which he addressed to the bystanders or the people at large. We could sometimes fancy that we were listening to John instead of Jesus.

He was greeted on a certain day with the mournful tidings that Pilate had laid hold of certain Galilæans who had come to offer their sacrifices at Jerusalem, and had slain them in the forecourt of the temple. We know nothing as to the exact date of this event or the circumstances which occasioned the murder. Possibly there was some slight tumult to which the restless, excitable temperament of the countrymen of Jesus might easily give rise. The news doubtless made a very different impression upon different hearers. While one would clench his fist and turn his eyes to heaven, wondering whether the measure of Israel's oppression by these cursed heathen did not yet overflow, and whether the hour of redemption had not yet struck; others of a more cautious and submissive temperament would shake their heads, and declare that the victims had fallen before a righteous judgment of the Lord. But Jesus, while emphatically repudiating this Jewish doctrine of divine “judgments,” warned his hearers no less earnestly against being excited to revenge by the murderous event, and urged them rather to regard as a presage of the fate that hung over their own heads also. He took the same opportunity to rernind them of an accident that had happened a short time before in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, opposite the south-west corner of the city wall, from which false conclusions had likewise been drawn. “Do you think,” he said severely, “ that the death of these Galilæans shows that they were special sinners among their fellow-countrymen? I tell you no! but unless you repent you shall all perish likewise ! Or do you think that the eighteen men who were crushed in the ruins when the tower of Siloam fell were specially guilty among all the citizens of Jerusalem, in God's sight? I tell you no! but unless you repent you will all perish likewise.

To enforce the necessity of a speedy repentance, Jesus used an illustration borrowed from the administration of earthly justice. It was best, he said, even at the very last moment, to come to some friendly agreement with a creditor. What he meant was that it was wise for a man to be reconciled

1 See Map IV.

with God in time, before he was cast into the fire of Gehenna. These are his words : “Why do you not consider what to do? If you are going with your creditor to the court of law, co your best, even on the very road, to appease him. Otherwise he will take you before the judgment seat, and the judge will band you over to the gaoler, and the gaoler will throw you into prison. I tell you, you will never come out again till you bare paid the last farthing of your debt!”

Sometimes his warnings were addressed to all Israel ; and still in the form of parables : “ There was a certain fig-tree growing in a vineyard, and the master kept coming to see if there was any fruit on it, but could never find any. Then he said to the vine-dresser: -See, I have come to look for fruit upon this fig-tree for three years, and have never found any. Cut it down, for it impoverishes the ground for nothing !' But the man replied : Master, let it alone one year more, and I will try it once again. I will dig up the earth round its roots and manure it well; and then if it bears fruit, all the better, and if not you can cut it down next year.'”

We can see that it is not so much God's long-suffering as the certainty of the approaching judgment that Jesus seeks to enforce. One more attempt to teach his people their true calling, and then ...! But the conversion must be genwine, lasting, fruitful, not a mere fitful reformation followed by a far more hopeless relapse. Jesus had had experience of such reformations, and compared his incorrigible contemporaries to a man possessed by a devil, who had been relieved for a little while, but only to become a victim to his old disease in a yet more terrible degree. " When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he wanders about in deserts seeking a resting-place and finding none. Then he says: 'I will go back to my old house, out of which I came.' So he comes and finds it uninhabited, swept clean and beautified. Then he goes and finds seven other spirits, yet more wicked tha.a himself, and takes them with him, and they go into the house and stay there. The last state of this man is worse than the first; and even so shall this wicked race go on from bad to worse!"

We should certainly be wrong in supposing that Jesus never had brighter and more cheerful hours or days during this journey. On the contrary, we have already mentioned tokens of affection and reverence which he met with and rejoiced in on his way. But it is only natural that as he drew uear to

the goal of his journey, the fearful thought of a fatal issue to all his efforts should again have risen in his mind with fresh distinctness. He had now crossed the river, left the valley of the Jordan behind him, and set his foot upon the territory of Judah, where the road led up a gentle ascent, through a densely populated district, and through natural scenery widely different from that which he had just left. And here, we are expressly told, Jesus took the Twelve aside again to speak to them of what was weighing on his mind. " We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man,” — but in this case we must not attempt the task upon which we ventured in a previous instance, of restoring the original form of his discourse, for the words of this third prediction of suffering have been adjusted to the event down to the minutest details by all the three Gospels. Jesus is made to foretell that he will be given up to the Sanhedrim, condemned to death by that assembly, and put into the hands of the heathen authorities to be mocked, scourged, and crucified. Mark and Luke do not even omit to say that he would be spit upon, while the latter puts into the mouth of Jesus the words, “ All that was written by the prophets shall be accomplished upon the Son of Man." In Mark, Jesus and his disciples completely change characters, for the latter hang back in dismay or follow timidly, while the Master goes on undisturbed and calm. We therefore leare all this as we find it, and can only be sure that on this occasion also Jesus concluded the discourse by an assurance that even if he were defeated for a time, yet - after three days” he would rise victorious.

His disciples understood the certainty of his final triumph better than the probability of his temporary defeat. Of course they were not so incapable of understanding his teaching, or sympathizing with his anxiety, or so absolutely blind to the true position of affairs, as not to apprehend the possibility of a hard and bitter struggle, involving them in the greatest difficulties and dangers, before the opposition should be overcome and the kingdom of God attained. But they were prepared, in such a case, to stand faithfully and bravely at their Master's side as he faced the enemy, and to protect him from violence, sword in hand, against any odds. But as for the thought that their Master himself might have to purchase the victory by his own death, — that they could not by any possibility accept; that was still in conflict with all their ideas and all their faith ; that was still an absurdity to

1 See pp. 326 ff.

them. And so, when they saw that the crisis drew near, visions of grandeur and honor floated before their minds. Indeed two of them (the brothers James and John) thought that it was a good opportunity for securing their own future. They did not think it would be unfair or ungenerous towarıls the rest if they tried to gain the highest rank for themselves ; for they, together with Simon, had been the first summoned and the most trusted of all the disciples. And if any thing was to be done it was high time now to do it. But since they could hardly venture upon putting their plan into execution themselves they persuaded their mother to help them, and she would do any thing if the interests of her children seemed to require it. So, once on a time, before they had reached Jericho, Zebedee's wife came with her two sons to Jesus, threw berself upon the ground before him, and begged a boon of him. “What is it?” he asked her gently. “ Promise me,” she cried humbly but fervently, " that these two sons of mine shall sit in your kingdom, the one on your right hand and the other on your left.”

Here again we encounter the fixed belief of the disciples that, since their Master was going to the city of God, ere long, though the severest sufferings and the most stubborn conflict might intervene, he would ascend the throne of the Messiah. When this took place, James and John hoped to gain the highest places of honor after Jesus himself. What a painful shock this request must have been to Jesus! Was it in vain that he had warned his disciples so expressly yet again against self-exaltation and emulation? Would they remain to the end the victims of mere worldly ambition? What could he expect from such disciples? Would they be true to him and to the good cause when beavy sacrifices were required? He did not utter a word of reproof to the mother, for he could easily forgive even such a request as hers if dictated by a mother's love; but turning to the two disciples he said, with more than usual sternness, “ You know not what you ask! Have you courage and strength to drink the cup which I must drain, and to submit to the baptism with which I must be baptized ?" But they did not notice the tone of rebuke, and only heard the conditions. There was no need to doubt their readiness, lowever hard the proof might be. “We have,” they answered, so eagerly that Jesus was encouraged by their zeal and felt that he was sure of them again. He answered more gently than before, “ You shall empty the cup which I drink, and shall undergo the baptism with which I am baptized ; but to

« السابقةمتابعة »