Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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Wesley, All tcho are born of the Spirit ;
while De Wette and Lucke regard it as
only a rhetorical plural.


true or not, it is not our purpose now to decide ; we are simply
striving to ascertain what he said and what he meant.

It must be remarked that Jesus claims another thing: that
what he says must be believed, not known or understood, because
he says it. He flings away the title of teacher,
which Nicodemus bestowed. He is the Heavenly ,. .
Assertor of heavenly tilings and speaks with par-
amount authority.

And Jesus made this solemn statement to ISTicodemus : "As
Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, it is absolutely
necessary that thus the Son of Man be lifted, that every man
trusting in him should have perpetual life. For God loved the
world so, that he gave His son, the only begotten, that every one
who trusts in him may obtain perpetual life and not perish. For
God sent not His Son into the world that he should damn (or
.condemn) the world,- but that the world might be saved through
him. He who trusts in him is not damned (or condemned) ; but
he who trusts not is damned already, because he has not confided
in the name of the only begotten Son of God. But this is the
damnation (condemnation), that light has entered the world, and
men have preferred the darkness to the light because their deeds
were evil ; for every one who does vilely hates the light, and shuns
it, lest his deeds should be detected and convicted. But lie that
does the truth comes to the light, that his works may be niani-
d that they are done in God."

Here is an open statement by Jesus that he knows — he is con-
sciously positive — that he is the "only begotten" Son of God,
whatever thai may mean. John must have receiv-
ed the word from Jesus himself, and it can only . n °

' " claim.

mean a more intense nearness to God than it is pos-
sible for Language to convey. The word tells us something which
we can understand, and, as is often the case with profoundesl think-
er.-, intimates more. We Bee the ocean oul to the horizon, bur the
Bonl feels that the ocean stretches far beyond. Nbl aim]
Eugene bul as Monog - was known in the spiritual \

Ele says still further, thai Moses lifted up the Berpenl on the
pole in the wilderness, as related in Numbers
x\i., as a Bymbol of himself, whether M
understood it or not. He claims this act as
typical. So he was to be crucified. It was an


harmless as the Nechustan to which Moses directed the eyes of
the people who had been bitten by the harmful fiery serpents, —
he must be lifted up and crucified. And that accomplished,
every man who put his trust in that crucified Only Begotten
would have a life that is endless. Here are the two main doc-
trines of Jesus clearly set forth: 1, That his religion was not to
consist in any intellectual assent to any statement of any moral
proposition, but in a personal attachment to his person and a per-
fect trust in him • and, 2, That no caste, prescriptive right, rank,
learning, or nationality, or form of creed, gave title to place in
the kingdom of God, nor did any or all of these exclude any

It thus threw down the barriers of Jewish prejudice and bigotry,

and let the nations, the Gentiles, into the kingdom of God. The

Jews believed that when the Messiah came he

* r. e ^ C ^ ° 1C1 y would " damn " the Gentiles, and make them

of God s love.

" perish." Jesus told Kicodemus that it should not

be so ; that God loved the world in sublime catholicity of affec-
tion, in intensest depth of devotion, — so loved it as to give his
peculiar one, his Monogene, that the world might hold to him as
he held to God, that thus they might be drawn from perdition
and lifted into the light ; that salvation, not damnation, was the
intent of his coming, and that salvation lay not in knowledge
but in faith ; not in processes of intellection and ratiocination but
in the culture of the human heart planted in the divine heart, so
that a man's deeds should be done " in God."

He asserted salvation and everlasting life to be by trust in
himself when crucified.

"Whether that be true or false, Jesus taught it.

"Whether Kicodemus believed him or not, we shall see that
Jesus never changed the essence of his dogmatic statement, never
developed in himself thereafter, but told all out at the beginning,
and demonstrated not only his belief in the truth of what he said,
but the very truth of his sayings, as far as it is conceivable that
any human being could render such demonstration, by any possi-
ble life and any possible death.



Some time after the Passover at which he had performed mir-
acles, and had had the conference with Nicodemus, Jesus went
with his disciples into the rural districts of Juda3a,
probably along the western side of the Jordan, Matt - iv -5 Mark
opposite East Bethany. Precisely how long after £ Luke iv " ; John
the Passover, there is no means of ascertaining.
Nor do we know how he was engaged in that interval. That he
was constantly preparing the way for that "kingdom of God" ol
which he spoke to Nicodemus there can be no doubt. Upon leav-
ing the metropolis he seems to have been engaged in active min-
istry, teaching and preaching, while his disciples baptized.

The question naturally arises, why Jesus should have baptized I
Perhaps this is an answer. John came with the baptism of repent-
ance, that the people might turn from their sins,

and make ready to receive the Messiah. Such lie , , , . ' . ,

J m lowed Ins disciples

recognized Jesus to be, and changed his style of to baptize,
preaching, his place of baptizing, and perhaps his
very formula. It was all now employed in concentrating the atten-
tion of the people on Jesus as the Messiah. His first baptism had
respect to the Coming One ; his second, to the ( me Come. Jesus in
the beginning of his ministry may have had a baptism unto repent-
ance administered by his disciples, because the question now had
come to he whether the nation would accept him as the Messiah,
and certainly none but those who were penitent could. It' they
had submitted to this baptism Jesus would have instructed them
further in the doctrines of the kingdom of I l-od.

At this time John was baptizing in zEnon, near to Salim. It is
not possible to fix this site with precision positively. John (iii. 23)
lb as a reason for the selection of this Bpot that there

many springs there. The expression in John iii. 26 fixes it

the west side of the .Jordan. It could scarcelv have been innuo-


diately on the river, else the statement of its abundance of water
would be superfluous. Eusebius and Jerome place Salim eight
Roman miles south of Scythopolis. Dr. Thomson, who visited
Scythopolis, now called Beisan, represents the valley as abound-
ing in water, and as being one of the most fertile in Palestine.
The tradition in this case is most probably correct. Mr Van de
Velde reports finding a Mussulman oratory, called Sheykh Salim,
near a heap of ruins about six English miles south of Scythopolis
and two west of Jordan. ^Enon would seem to be the name of
the district, and Salim of the town.

Both the cousins were now baptizing, Jesus at the Jordan and

John in Samaria. It would seem that some Jewish proselyte to

Jesus had had a discussion with some of John's

John and Jesus disciples j n wllic]l hc spoke slightingly of the

baptizing. f- .

reformatory baptism of their master, and magni-
fied the discipleship of Jesus, as if the latter had rendered the
former superfluous. This kindled their sectarian and partisan
zeal. Heated with this discussion, they immediately repaired to
John, as if they were about to communicate some alarming intel-
ligence. "Rabbi, he who was with you beyond Jordan, to whom
you bore witness, behold the same is baptizing, and all come to
him." They seem to have regarded the act of Jesus as a usurpa-
tion of the place and the functions of John. The very phrase,
" to whom you bore witness," shows that the disciples felt that
John was superior to Jesus, and that the latter derived his chief
consideration from the eulogy pronounced on him by John.

This appeal brings forth from John a testimony for Jesus, re-
markable not only as indorsing the new teacher in the most em-
phatic possible way, but as presenting the char-
John's self-con- acter of J()hu m thc mogt Bublime p 0SS ible light,
quest. , . A °

There is nothing grander in all history or fiction.

No human being ever more thoroughly conquered his own spirit
or governed his whole nature by a sense of right than did John
the Baptist.

lie had felt stirring in him his wonderful genius for religion.
Under what he believed to be divine impulses he attacked the
sins and follies of the day in a style so vigorous as to attract atten-
tion to himself. lie had been thc most popular public speaker of
his generation, lie had swayed the masses and made even roy-
alty quail beneath his power. lie had been the great prophet,


and had enjoyed all the consideration which that position gives to
any man. Now he sees another, one who had come to him for
baptism, rising into public notice, attracting the attention of the
highest ecclesiastics, and, as his own disciples inform him, with
(hawing the masses from himself. There is not a particle of envj
or anger or jealousy. The news which saddens his weak disciples
gladdens their grand and glorious master. lie had had a mission
from heaven. He had fulfilled that mission. His work was
done. There was nothing lacking but some movement on the
part of the Divine Providence which should as clearly point out
the way of his exit as it had designated his mode of entry, or
should forcefully withdraw him from public life. lie had not
entered of his own accord ; he would not leave. lie saw and felt
that he was declining. He held himself read}' to be extinguished.
Grand man! There never was any other human being more
sorely tempted ; there was never a man more triumphant over
temptation. Beside one such noble act as this how all the achieve-
ments of the Nirnrods and Alexanders, the Caesars and the Napo-
leons dwindle ! " lie that ruleth.his own spirit is greater than he
that taketh a city!"

His final testimony to Jesus is worth considering. I shall attempt
a faithful paraphrase. lie first lays down a general principle,

and then applies it to Jesus and himself: — A man

,i . i»ii i • John's last tcsti-

can assume nothing which heaven does not a rti/i^fov, friend of the
would have given yon living water." So intent
was he upon his mission that he had forgotten his thirst ; hut so


skilful is lie that he connects his highest moral lessons with the
most transient circumstances. The saying seems to mean that
water is one of the freest and fullest of God's gifts to man, and
nothing but most extreme meanness would allow a man to deny
his fellow a drink of water; but God's bounties in the spiritual
world are as full and free as in the physical world, and men can
as readily obtain water of spiritual life as water of material life ;
and Jesus professed to be able to impart thte great gift to the soul
of the Samaritan woman. This was the second revelation to her.

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 15 of 77)