Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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received him, after his absence, in the double character of son and
Messiah. And she knew that the Messiah was to work miracles.
The hour seemed to have arrived; the wine failed. She spoke
to Jesus, very delicately, merely informing him of the fact. It
was very natural. The reply of Jesus seems im-

e repy o na turally harsh. That somehow it was a reproof

Jesus. , ^

is obvious. That some rebuff should come, we

might, upon reflection, expect. Our knowledge of Jesus after all
we have read makes it natural. He would do nothing at the mere
pr< >mpting of pride or vanity. And if Mary believed or suspected
him to be the Messiah, she should wait until his own spirit prompt-
ed the extraordinary act.

And yet the words are not as harsh as they seem in our English
version. iVrai, " "Woman," is an Oriental method of salutation to
women of the highest rank, and Jesus used it upon the cross, in the
season of his extreme suffering, and when he was exhibiting the
most tender and unselfish regard for his mother. (See John xix.
26).* Substitute "Lady," and see how different is the sound. But.
the fact that he chose to say "My Lady," instead of " My Mother,"
is significant. lie had entered his work. This was his first meet-
ing with Mary after his baptism, and he seems to have made her
then feel the barrier which must ever thereafter be between them.
Mary was to learn what, many a woman has learned, how a great
life-work interferes with the affections. She is to be " w T oman"

* See also John xx. 15.



to him, — a very dear mother, ever to be honored, hut wm
ITer husband had not been his father.* lie knew himself now as
the son of the God. His whole treatment hereafter, as we shall
see, is on this platform.

"What have I to do with thee?" is the translation of a difficult
phrase. It seems to imply that they had different positions from
which to see the demands of this occasion. She
had a neighbor's and a mother's feelings. He had
the sentiments becoming the Messiah, the Sent of God, and was
to do what was necessary to make himself known in this work,
and no more. It was not an ugly, rough, unfilial speech; but it
did reprove Alary, and stands forever against all that superstition
which elevates her into a goddess who has power to command her
son. We shall find that nowhere does Jesus encourage supersti-

The mother still felt that her jrreat son would do something
great. Perhaps he had intimated as much, and all that he checks'
in Mary is her too great forwardness. She tells the servants to be
on the alert, although he had said what she could hardly have
understood, what perhaps we do not understand — "My hour has
not yet come." Gregory of Nyssen gives a turn to this which
may be the solution of difficulties. lie regards it as a question :
"lias not my hour come?" He used it afterward on another
memorable occasion. He will hasten nothing, he will delay noth-
ing, lint docs not her speech to the servants show that Mary had
had some intimation of what Jesus was going to do?

The ceremonial punctuality of the Jewish religion was ob-
scrved by this poor family. They had six water-pots, each hold

ing from two to three "firkin-." This word

• -a £ a li 1 - i • i re H» water P

signifies a measure oj Sgallonsand JA pints, it

we assign two firkins and a half (ji€Tpr)T7)'i' the aymjposiarch^ the master
of ceremonies, the rex % whose Ian is in
his hands." They certainly did recollect what David had sung
in his sorrowful exile: "The zeal of thy house has eaten me up."'
(Ps. lxix. 9.)

The Jews demanded his authority for this amazing act. The

demand is to he regarded ;is coming from two classes. The more

dc\ out among the people must have long regarded
, . . . £ . 1.1 rn i ■ Hia authority

tin- prOXimil \ • ol the mart to the temple a mil- . , .

1 J demanded.

sauce which should he abated. When this extra-
ordinary young man, of whom they had heard vague but Interest-
ing statements, performed the act bo boldly, it must have been
agreeable to them, and probably increased their expectation
what he should do hereafter. They hoped he would byg •
deeds of national importance furnish authority for believing that
he did thi- as a M< jianic act The worldly a .


him foi it. but could not resent, as he placed it upon a religious
ground and had some good people near who approved. All the
traders could do was to make sullen demand for his authority,
which they had a right to do, as only the Sanhedrim or a prophet
could correct abuses in the Temple-worship, and the latter was
always expected to demonstrate his prophetic authority hy a mir-

His reply to that demand was enigmatical. It was : " Destroy
this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.''
In order to appreciate the effect of this speech
upon his hearers there are several things to he done. In the first
place, we must remember that the disciples themselves did not
understand the meaning of the saying until after the death of
Jesus, and that neither they nor the Jews were furnished with
the interpretation of this dark speech, which John gives in ii. 21,
22. Then we must, as far as practicable, reproduce the state of
feelings in the hearts of the Jews against which Jesus seems to
have hurled this speech as a courageous reply to their defiance.
Towards him personally they had no kind feelings. He had been
associated with the denunciatory John the Baptist. lie had
made no overtures to ecclesiastical power or popular favor. II is
first public act seemed the deed of a zealot. But their Temple
had become their idol. He himself intimated as much in a
rebuke contained in one of his speeches.

The Temple was the central figure among their national ideals.
It had stood, in one form or another, on the same spot through the
centuries, collecting around itself all the tender-
empe. cgt ^^ sublimest associations of devotion and
patriotism. It was the visible residence of the invisible Jehovah.
It imparted a solemn sanctification to the whole land. It was the
heart through which all the national blood flowed. It held those
who were resident, and attracted Jews from every clime. Their
co-religionists, dispersed among the nations, having no more place
of business in Jerusalem, no more home there, no living associates
of their youth there, nothing but sad memories in the city of the
sepulchres of their fathers, saw, in the vision of the night, The
Temple rise and stretch its arms like a great Mother, and heard
a voice as from the Holiest of Holies call them back, in sounds
more solemn than the thunder and more thrilling than a love-
whisper — and they rose, and at whatever sacrifice of business or



pleasure they turned their faces towards Jerusalem and stood
with awful joy in the courts of the house of Jehovah.

The people that heard Jesus speak this fearful enigma recol-
lected that the Temple had been defiled. They recalled the days
of Antiochus Epiphanes, who had forbidden the

observance of the law, and had set up the " abom- , Pain ^ ul nation "

n t , . ,, , , . . „ al recollections.

ination or desolation by making a sacrifice to

Olympian Jove on the altar of Jehovah ; * and they never forgot
his loathsome end, when terror and remorse lashed him into an
ignominious grave. " He came to his end, and there was none to
help him." They recollected that Crassus, governor of Syria, on
his way from Home to fight the Parthians, plundered their Tem-
ple,! an( l went forward to terrible defeat and captivity, and to a
fearful death amid the desert sands. They had not ceased to feel
that it was retribution from God, for his Temple's sake, which
had sent Poinpey's head to Caesar, and left his dishonored trunk
on the shore of Egypt.:}:

Their love for their Temple was stronger than patriotism, or
love of home, or the instinct of self-preservation. It was a pas-
sion and a fanaticism. As truly as beautifully does Mil man say,
"The fall of the Temple was like the bursting of the heart of
the nation."

In such a state of mind the Jews heard this young teacher de-
clare: " Destroy this Temple, and I will rebuild it in three days."
Any careless speech in regard to the Temple was unpardonable;
but to talk lightly of its destruction was an intolerable outrage.
And that is just what they and his disciples understood him to.
say. and he knew that they did so understand. The suggestion
that he pointed to his body, indicating that he referred to his

* Compare Diod. Sic, Ecilog. xxxiv.
1 ; 1 >;uii/. ).
t I find no other authority for this

than tin' paragraph in Jose phus i Wars, i.
; lint the mention by him shows
how any even reported disrespect to the
Temple fired the Jew ish hi
J Pompey'a fate is well known to all
Josephua - lys that
Pompey'a virtue kept him from i
ing off the sacred treasure, hut, records
tin- fact thai he de ecrated the Temple
hv entering the Boliest of H

xiv. iv. 4), and ••\:imin intr those thing!

whioh u "as lawful fox tin- prieeti
only to behold.



death and resurrection, is wholly inadmissible. If lie had done
so it must have been in sight of the Jews, or of Ins disciples only.
He could scarcely have made the gesture significant to his disci-
ples without also making it apparent to the Jews, and it is not
consistent with the general purity and simplicity and elevation of
his character to fancy him winking to his disciples and concealing
a gesture from the crowd. They believed that lie meant the ma-
terial Temple in which they were standing.

Their reply shows that: "Forty and six years was this Temple
in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days 3" This must
refer to the completion of some main portion or
j ews principal wing of the Temple. Herod the Great

had a taste for building, and had expended, and
was still expending, vast sums and much time on this great work,
in which he was assisted by the piety, the wealth, and the patri-
otic pride of the Jews. From the time he had commenced this
work to the time this reply was made to Jesus it was just forty-six
years. Josephus (Ant., xvi. 11. 1) says that he began in the
eighteenth year of his reign ; but in his Wars of the Jar* (i. 21. 1)
he says in the lifteenth, the dates being founded respectively
upon the death of Antigonus and Herod's appointment by the
Romans. If the latter date be taken, it will give twenty years to
the birth of Jesus, and thirty years to this passover, making
fifty from which if we take four years to correct our era, the
epoch of which is just that much too late, we have forty -six
years. *

It was to Jewish ears a preposterous and a blasphemous thing

in Jesus to intimate that the Temple should lie destroyed, and to

assert that he could rebuild it in three davs. The//
The nation , . ,_ . . , .

shocked never forgave mm. He had hurt tnem in every

sensibility. And Jesus knew it. And he made
no reply and no explanation. In his first public acts he had ex-
hibited a zeal that seemed headstrong; he had certainly per-
formed :> most impolitic act. But it cannot be charged as an in-
discretion or inadvertence, such as occur in every public man's
life and give him great regrets. Jesus never regretted it. lie

* Alford (on John ii. 20) notices that
the Temple was not completed till a.d.
64, under Herod Agrippa II. and the
procurator Albums; so that "was in

building " must have referred to the
greater part of the work then com-



must have known tliat lie had virtually signed his own death-
warrant. He awaited the result. "We shall see how this one
sentence of his rankled in the heart of the nation, was made the
strength of the indictment on which he was executed, and con-
fronted him in the shape of gibe amid the horrors of his cru-

lie meant his own body. lie thought of his death by violence,
and his belief that he had power to take up his life again. lie
knew the unity of his own meaning and compre-
hended the multiplicity of its relations. It might , .
refer to the desecration of the Temple by the men
around him, or to its destruction by the Romans ; it might refer
to the abolition of the Jewish form of religion and the recon-
struction of faith on the basis of his resurrection. Here as
throughout his whole public life (compare Matt. xii. 10) this thought
of his resurrection was ever present to his mind. Subsequently
he seems to have told John and the other disciples that his allu-
sion, in the offending speech, was to "the temple of his body."
But even then they could not comprehend, they seemed scarcely
able to apprehend, the idea of the resurrection of the body. The
whole meaning came upon them only after they believed that they
had seen him alive after death.*

An appeal may now be made to the candor of mankind against

the disingenuousness of some modern critics. If any public man,

say Pericles, or Ccesar, or Cromwell, or "Washing-

xt i tii ^ • tt it An appeal,

ton, or JNapoleon, had plunged into public lite as

' - did, would it be fair to charge that his intent was to pan-
der to the public taste, to study the tides of fortune, to adapt him-
self to the desires of the masses, and thus to p , himself?
Suppose the act of cleansing the Temple would be agreeable to a
few unsecularized devout old Jews; it would be disagreeable to
the large majority of ruling, influential people, and hugely dis-
gusting to the traffickers themselves; while the speech of the
Temple would give point to the rancor of those whom the acl bad
offended, and shield their resentment from the allegation of being
! upon personal grounds, while it would be poignantly afflic-
tive to the sensibilities of the pious few who Would, but for the

Bpecch, have favored the act

* Road with care Jolm ii. 21, 22.


On grounds of policy the act and the accompanying speech are
wholly indefensible. If Jesus undertook the enterprise which is
charged upon him b} r the critics, then he was sim-
ply a fool, whose folly it would be difficult to

policy. - 1 J ' J

match from all the recorded mistakes of men.
But whatever else be charged, he is not accused of folly. Then,
he did not seek to draw men to his fellowship by going to their
opinions. Then, he was an independent thinker and actor. Then,
he was not politic. If, since his death, it be ascertained that he
has exerted a vast influence over human thought and action, — if
now he reigns king in the hearts of multitudes of men, — then it is
possible to live a great life and die a great death without a policy.
If devout men see in the life of Jesus something supernaturally
beautiful, we shall find, in an undogmatic study of his career, the
thing of all things most beautiful, pure naturalness.

It would seem from the history that during his attendance upon
the Passover Jesus did many wonderful things, even performed

miracles, which convinced many that he was the
Does many won- Mesgiah> T1 seemed more willing to trust him

derful works. J . a . _ .

than he was to trust them. His intimate friend

and biographer says that it was because "he knew what was in

man." He knew that in the fervor of recent conviction they

might soon form a mob of excited adherents, whose fidelity could

not endure the test which such teaching and discipline as lie would

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 13 of 77)