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nounced him innocent. But we see what he said to his accusers, Luke xxiii. 13, 14: “ Pilate, when he had called together the Chief Priests and the rulers of the people, said unto them, You have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people; and behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man, touching those things whereof you accuse him : no, nor yet Herod, for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done by him.” And therefore, finding a man of that mean condition, and innocent life, (no mover of seditions, or disturber of the public peace) without a friend or a follower, he would have dismissed him, as a king of no consequence; as an innocent man, falsely and maliciously accused by the Jews.
How necessary this caution was in our Saviour, to say or do nothing that might justly offend, or render him suspected to the Roman governor; and how glad the Jews would have been to have had any such thing against him, we may see, Luke xx. 20.' The Chief Priests and the Scribes “ watched him, and sent forth spies, who should feign themselves just men, that might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.” And the very thing wherein they hoped to entrap him in this place, was paying tribute to Cæsar; which they afterwards falsely accused him of. And what would they have done, if he had before them professed himself to have been the Messiah, their King and deliverer?
And here we may observe the wonderful providence of God, who had so ordered the state of the Jews, at the time when his Son was to come into the world, that though neither their civil constitution nor religious worship were dissolved, yet the power of life and death was taken from them ; whereby he had an opportunity to publish “ the kingdom of the Messiah ;” that is, his own royalty, under the name of “ the kingdom of God, and of heaven;" which the Jews well enough understood, and would certainly have put him to death for, had the power been in their own hands. But this being no matter of accusation to the Romans, hindered him not from speaking of the “ kingdom of heaven," as he did, sometimes in reference to his appearing in the world, and being believed on by particular persons; sometimes in reference to the power should be given him by the Father at his resurrection; and sometimes in reference to his coming to judge the world at the last day, in the full glory and completion of his kingdom. These were ways of declaring himself, which the Jews could lay no hold on, to bring him in danger with Pontius Pilate, and get him seized and put to death.
Another reason there was, that hindered him as much as the former, from professing himself, in express words, to be the Messiah ; and that was, that the whole nation of the Jews, expecting at this time their Messiah, and deliverance by him from the subjection they were in to a foreign yoke, the body of the people would certainly, upon his declaring himself to be the Messiah, and their king, have rose up in rebellion, and set him at the head of them. And indeed, the miracles that he did so much disposed them to think him to be the Messiah, that, though shrouded under the obscurity of a mean condition, and a very private simple life; though he passed for a Galilean, (his birth at Bethlehem being then concealed) and assumed not to himself any power or authority, or so much as the name of the Messiah ; yet he could hardly avoid being set up by a tumult, and proclaimed their king. So John tells us, chap. vi. 14, 15, “ Then those men, when they had seen the miracles that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When therefore Jesus perceived that they would come to take him by force to make him king, he departed again into a mountain, himself alone.” This was upon his feeding of five thousand with five barley loaves and two fishes. So hard was it for him, doing those miracles which were necessary to testify his mission, and which often drew great multitudes after him, Matt. iv. 25, to keep the heady and hasty multitude from such disorder, as would have involved him in it; and have disturbed the course, and cut short
the time of his ministry; and drawn on him the reputation and death of a turbulent, seditious malefactor : contrary to the design of his coming, which was, to be offered up a lamb blameless, and void of offence; his innocence appearing to all the world, even to him that delivered him up to be crucified. This it would have been impossible to have avoided, if, in his preaching every where, he had openly assumed to himself the title of their Messiah ; which was all was wanting to set the people in a flame; who, drawn by his miracles, and the hopes of finding a Deliverer in so extraordinary a man, followed him in great numbers. We read every where of multitudes, and in Luke xii. 1, of myriads that were gathered about him. This conflux of people, thus disposed, would not have failed, upon his declaring himself to be the Messiah, to have made a commotion, and with force set him up for their King. It is plain, therefore, from these two reasons, why (though he came to preach the Gospel, and convert the world
to a belief of his being the Messiah ; and though he says so much of his kingdom, under the title of the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of heaven) he yet makes it not his business to persuade them, that he himself is the Messiah, nor does, in his public preaching, declare himself to be him. He inculcates to the people, on all occasions, that the kingdom of God is come; he shows the way
of admittance into this kingdom, viz. repentance and baptism ; and teaches the laws of it, viz. good life, according to the strictest rules of virtue and morality. But who the King was of this kingdom, he leaves to his miracles to point out, to those who would consider what he did, and make the right use of it now; or to witness to those who should hearken to the apostles hereafter, when they preached it in plain words, and called upon them to believe it, after his resurrection, when there should be no longer room to fear, that it should cause any disturbance in civil societies, and the governments of the world. But he could not declare himself to be the Messiah, without manifest danger of tumult and sedition : and the miracles he did declared it so much, that he was fain often to hide himself, and
withdraw from the concourse of the people. The leper that he cured, Mark i., though forbid to say any thing, yet blazed it so abroad, that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places,” living in retirement, as appears from Luke v. 16, and there “they came to him from every quar
And thus he did more than once. This being premised, let us take a view of the promulgation of the Gospel by our Saviour himself, and see what it was he taught the world, and required men to believe.
The first beginning of his ministry, whereby he showed himself, seems to be at Cana in Galilee, soon after his baptism; where he turned water into wine: of which St. John, chap. ii. 11, says thus : “ This beginning of miracles Jesus made, and manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him.” His disciples here believed in him, but we hear not of any other preaching to them, but by this miracle, whereby he "manifested his glory,” i. e. of being the Messiah, the Prince. So Nathanael, without any other preaching, but only our Saviour's discovering to him, that he knew him after an extraordinary manner, presently acknowledges him to be the Messiah ; crying,
Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.”
From hence, staying a few days at Capernaum, he goes to Jerusalem to the passover, and there he drives the traders out of the temple, John ii. 12—15, saying, “Make not my Father's house a house of merchandize."
Where we see he uses a phrase, which, by interpretation, signifies that he was the “Son of God, though at that time unregarded. Ver. 16, Hereupon the Jews demand, “What sign dost thou show us, since thou doest these things ?” Jesus answered, “Destroy ye this temple, and in three days I will raise it again.” This is an instance of what way Jesus took to declare himself: for it is plain, by their reply, the Jews understood him not, nor his disciples neither; for it is said, ver. 22, "When, therefore, he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered, “ that he
said this to them : and they believed the Scripture, and the saying of Jesus to them.”
This, therefore, we may look on in the beginning, as a pattern of Christ's preaching, and showing himself to the Jews, which he generally followed afterwards ; viz. such a manifestation of himself, as every one at present could not understand ; but yet carried such an evidence with it, to those who were well disposed now, or would reflect on it when the whole course of his mi. nistry was over, as was sufficient clearly to convince them that he was the Messiah.
The reason of this method used by our Saviour, the Scripture gives us here, at this his first appearing in public, after his entrance upon his ministry, to be a rule and light to us in the whole course of it: for the next verse taking notice, that many believed on him, “because of his miracles,” (which was all the preaching they had,) it is said, ver. 24, “ But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men;" i. e. he declared not himself so openly to be the Messiah, their King, as to put himself into the power of the Jews, by laying himself open to their malice; who, he knew, would be so ready to lay hold on it to accuse him ; for, as the next verse 25 shows, he knew well enough what was in them. We
We may here farther observe, that “ believing in his name” signifies believing him to be the Messiah. Ver. 22 tells us, That
many at the passover believed in his name, when they saw the miracles that he did.” What other faith could these miracles produce in them who saw them, but that this was he of whom the Scripture spoke, who was to be their Deliverer?
Whilst he was now at Jerusalem, Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, comes to him, John iii. 1-21, to whom he preaches eternal life by faith in the Messiah, ver. 15 and 17, but in general terms, without naming himself to be that Messiah, though his whole discourse tends to it. This is all we hear of our Saviour the first year of his ministry, but only his baptism, fasting, and temptation in the beginning of it, and spending the rest of it after the passover in Judea, with his disciples, baptizing