صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

for he felt that he was vindicating their work and spirit, but it was against the conceptions of piety current in his own age and among his own people. By this act he defined his position as clearly and sharply as possible, and his aggressive attitude was a striking exposition of his views and intentions. His action was a visible presentation of the words which it appears from the evidence given at his trial he must have uttered in Jerusalem : “ I will destroy this temple, and in three days will raise it again.” By “this temple” he meant the Jewish religion, which he came to destroy in order that he might raise it again renovated and purified. In future when he spoke of the kingdom of God every one knew what he meant. This one vigorous measure had put both the masses and their leaders in a position to choose decisively for or against him.

As for the leaders, whether priests or Scribes, their choice never wavered for an instant. Jesus had summoned them to arms, and made them his avowed enemies both by his entry and by his cleansing of the temple. Mark and Luke, however, are a little premature in making the Sanhedrim immediately form the definite project of taking his life, and only delay its execution for fear of the masses. The first Gospel mentions on this occasion that Jesus healed some blind men and cripples who came to him in the temple, which is perhaps a reminiscence of an old saying that forbade the blind and crippled to enter the sacred place; and the same Gospel says that the children in the court cried out, “Hosanna to the son of David !” upon which the chief priests and Scribes angrily demanded of Jesus whether he heard what they said, and found little satisfaction in his brief reply: “I hear it! But have you never read, “From the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou prepared thy praise '?”? These details do not commend themselves to our acceptance, and come in strangely after the violent scene that precedes them. Mark, in his turn, relates that Jesus would allow no one to carry household utensils or furniture, for instance, through the temple court, when that was the shortest way from one part of the city to another; and also that he called the temple a

6 for all nations,” which is the expression really used in Isaiah ; but Jesus was not thinking of the heathen at that moment. It is of more importance to note that the same Evangelist represents the Master as simply visiting the temple and looking round on his first arrival and then retiring, since it was rather late, but only to return the Compare vol. ii. p. 4, and 2 Samuel v. 8.

2 Psalm viii. 2.

house of prayer

next day and assert himself by the cleansing of the temple We see at once how improbable this is. The next morning he was without his numerous escort, and, what is more, he was in a less sensitive and excited mood. His burst of indignation at seeing once more what he had carefully inspected the evening before would be very artificial, and his whole line of conduct unnatural, not to say impossible.

Let us now look back for a moment, and sum up in a single word our conception of the precise project with which Jesus had entered Jerusalem.

Here again we are driven to conjectures, for the Gospels make it appear as if he had come with the simple object of being put to death. But even suppose he expected the issue to be fatal, he must surely have contemplated the possibility of success, and must at any rate have had some definite project, whether destined to succeed or fail. It is not until we 'clearly understand what this project actually was that we can see the full bearings of his entry into the city, of bis assertion of his power in the temple court, and, generally, of his appearance at Jerusalem.

We know that he had come to offer his people the kingdom of heaven, the perfect blessedness of close communion with the heavenly Father. If Israel accepted it, then Jesus would already have removed from the shoulders of his countrymen the yoke which Pharisaic scripturalism had laid upon them; they would have broken in principle with their national pride and hatred, their formality and self-righteousness, — and God would do the rest.

In the present circumstances, therefore, there was but one thing that could make the efforts of Jesus successful, but one thing that could rescue him personally, and also do what was far more important in his eyes, — preserve the kingdom of God for Israel, and Israel for the kingdom of God. That one thing was a rapid and increasing accession of disciples. a series of decisive proofs of sympathy and powerful expressions of faith on the part of the masses. This would entirely disarm the opposition of the Pharisaic and the priestly parties. The temple and the synagogues would then, so to speak, be gradually emptied ; the approaching Passover would become the feast of the great redemption ; Jerusalem would thenceforth be the central point of the work of Jesus, and the thousands and tens of thousands of foreign Jews the messengers of his kingdom. That would be his success!

He had therefore, properly speaking, no choice in the matter. It was impossible for him to begin quietly and tentatively, as he had done in Galilee. He must at once and conspicuously challenge attention, and make it impossible to ignore his arrival and its significance. Averse as he was to any sensational display, he could not now desire to enter the city and the temple in quiet simplicity; and the Messianic demonstrations which accompanied his entry, though he had by no means provoked them, were not unacceptable to him. He knew well enough that a host of shallow misconceptions lurked beneath these exuberant cries and tokens of veneration, but yet he accepted them as well intentioned and as coming from the heart. They were the first public recognition of the significance of his person and his work; and may not the hope have now revived in his heart that they might perchance be the first fruits of his harvest of souls, a prophecy that God would turn the people's hearts to him? At the very worst, these loud expressions of devotion could not fail to further bis purpose of announcing that he had come, and had come in the character of God's messenger, commissioned to establish the kingdom of heaven. It was but another step — and a step of which any accident might be the occasion for him to proceed to some such striking and decisive action as that in the temple court. And this deed, occasioned by the repulsive scene that met him, and as little foreseen or premeditated on his part as the mode of his entry into the city, was an unmistakable indication to the public of the nature of the Messianic kingdom he came to found.

But it need hardly be said that in spite of all this the work he contemplated at Jerusalem was of a purely religious and by no means of a political character, and that he had not the least intention of exciting a popular commotion. We must not dream of his departing by a hair's breadth from his principles, or becoming untrue to himself! It was, therefore, impossible for him to repeat or follow up this single deed. His only weapons were the power of the word, of the spirit, of the truth,

- the appeal to the heart and conscience. Nor could he go a single step further in the employment of material means.

But, since this was so, his impressive deed had not improved his chances of success ; for the masses could not fail to be disappointed when the sequel answered so il to the introduction, when the work was so unlike the manifesto. And how could this disappointment have any but disastrous consequences?

CHAPTER XXX.

JESUS PN THE DEFENSIVE.

Matthiew XXI. 17, 23–32, XXII. 15-40; John VII. 53-VIII 11.!

'HROUGHOUT his stay in Jerusalem Jesus never spent

the night in the city itself. Every evening he went with the Twelve to Bethany, returning early in the morning to teach in the temple-synagogue, or one of the other halls in the colonnades of the Forecourt. We have already followed him along the road from Bethany through Bethphage. The distance was about three-quarters of a league ; but a footpath, which ran across the Mount of Olives, shortened it by a few minutes' walk.

Whatever it may have been at first, it ultimately became a pressing measure of precaution to retire at night to some refuge unknown to the authorities; for, though they were afraid of a disturbance if they attempted to seize him by day, they might safely have snatched him from his bed at night. But we cannot tell whether such precautions were necessary from the first, or whether Jesus spent his nights outside Jerusalem, in order to secure the opportunity of recovering his own composure, and enjoying a time of quiet intercourse with his friends in the evening and morning.

The hospitable customs of the East make it probable that he remained under one roof during his whole visit, and would only have quitted it in obedience to some special necessity. Accordingly, we may think of a certain Simon, known as “the leper,” as his permanent host. The third Gospel is less accurate in representing him as spending his nights on the Mount of Olives, and apparently in the open air in the garden of Gethsemane.?

The very first evening Jesus went with the Twelve, after dismissing the multitude we may suppose, to enjoy the quiet of the village where the night's lodging was prepared. It is not improbable that he knew Simon already. Perhaps he had met him as he passed through Bethany at noon, perhaps

1 Mark xi. 19, 27-33, xii. 13-34 a; Luke xix. 47, 48, xx. 1-8, 20-39, xxi 37, 38.

2 Luke xxi. 37, xxij. 39, 40. Compare John viii. 1.

later on in the day, and no long acquaintance would be needed to justify the offer of hospitality. Jesus had most likely spoken little after purifying the temple, for the day was far advanced when he entered Jerusalem, and the wearying journey, followed by such a tumult of emotions, must bave so strained his powers as to make the opportunity of resting under a friendly roof extremely grateful.

Here, then, he might gather strength for the struggle which he saw so clearly awaiting him. The following morning found him in the temple-court again at the spot whence he had dismissed his followers the night before, addressing both them and a number of others whom interest or curiosity had led to accompany them. Doubtless he assumed the authority of a prophet; and his preaching, in accordance with the action of the previous day that introduced it, would be an emphatic exposition of the spiritual nature of the kingdom of God and of the moral demands it made upon its subjects. But see, he is interrupted! A deputation of respected citizens approaches him with solemn dignity. Every one makes room for thein, for they are members of the Sanhedrim. This Sanhedrim was composed of high priests” (“ chief priests ” in our Authorized Version), elders, or heads of distinguished Jewish fainilies and the most eminent Scribes. Under the name of “high priests” were included not only the priest who held the office in question at the moment, but all who had ever filled it in their lives, and even the most influential of the remaining members of the bigh priestly families. The members of this little deputation therefore, though it may not have had an official character, felt bound in their individual capacity to put some check upon the pretensions of the Galilæan reformer. Nothing could be more appropriate, therefore, than their question, “By what authority are you doing all this, and who gave it to you?”

Of course they referred especially to his vigorous proceedings when first be entered the temple-court, but not to them alone. When they observed the authoritative tone and attitude which he assumed in addressing the multitudes upon the subject of their dearest interests, they felt that unless he could offer some adequate defence of his use of such language they ought to crush him with the sentence of absolute condemnation. So Jesus stood face to face with the honored representatives of ecclesiastical and civil authority among his people. How much must depend upon his answer! He had

i See pp. 5, 6.

« السابقةمتابعة »