Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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which fills all the heavens, — the great moral and *

spiritual kingdom which he is now preaching, — but Manv shilU pa - v t0 me

i • • i i , i li-i m thsxt day, "Lord,

that it is absolutely necessary to establish a pro- Lord, have we not in
found and lofty moral character, and that this can th - 7 na,nc i>™ ched >

,, . . ~ . , .,, "ml in thy name ex-

be done only by an inward conformity to the will ))e ned many demons,

of his heavenly Father. aml in thv name Ittr "

That not only are professions comparatively
valueless, but that even the possession of singular
gifts, such as excite the admiration of the world,
will avail nothing in the absence of a true and
high character, he teaches in a brief dramatic
passage of almost fearful power. It is as if he had said : All
time is not now. Days are coming after this day. To all hypo-
crites and self-deceivers some day of exposure will come. They
may plead against it. They may appeal to the eloquent sermons
they have delivered in explanation or defence or enforcement of
my doctrines; they may appeal to the force that lay in them, which
was sufficient to cast out the demons who had taken possession of
men ; they may appeal to apparent miracles which they have per-
formed in my name, and these appeals may be founded on facts
which I will not deny. But this I will do, 1 will make such ex-
posure of them as shall be the same as if in speech. I will tell them
that I had never known them as being of my people and subjects

formed many works of
power ? " And then
will I profess t to them,
" I never knew you."
Separate yourselves
from me, ye who ato
working lawlessness.

* The Greek ov wat 6 \tywv . . . tifff-
\tv7trai does not signify that every one
whocalls Jesus" Lord " shall be excluded
from the kingdom which he was preach-
ing; but that calling him so does not of
itself secure such admission.

f The word in the Greek is striking.
It means, as Alford points out, a state*
ment of the simple truth of farts as op
posed to the false coloring and self-de-
ceit of the hypocrites.


of the heavenly kingdom ; that I always knew that they were not
doing my Father's will.

Then, after that startling announcement, which was all the
more terrible because the clay was not designated, Jesns turned
upon the crowd about him, and in substance said : " Seeing that
this is the case, I charge every man whose life is a series of works
done lawlessly, without regard to the law of the right, which is
the will of my heavenly Father, to separate himself from me and
my community. Whatever power to perform miracles he may
eecm to possess, I acknowledge no gifts and no professions. Char-
acter is everything. Law is eternal. God is the law-maker.
Those who obey Him follow me ; let others separate themselves."

It must not be unnoticed that Jesus asserts that it is possible for
one who does not conform to God's moral law to cast out demons
and perform works of power and wonder, that is to sa} r , miracles,
or seem to do so. The performance of miracles, therefore, accord-
ing to this teaching of Jesus, is no proof that the teacher who
does them is true, or that his teachings arc in accordance with
truth. It follows that he did not lay his claim to the attention of
the world upon the miracles which he performed. lie claimed,
as we shall see, through all his course, to be something higher than
a miracle- worker, namely, to be a teacher of truth, and to be king
over all other teachers and over all other men in that he taught
the truth authoritatively. lie claimed to have the right to say
what the truth is, and declare it, not as a discovery made by his
intellect, not as an inspiration from some spiritual force outside of
himself, but as originally knowing it and authoritatively declar-
ing it. lie certainly conformed his subsequent teachings to these
announcements in the Mount Sermon, in which we learn that a
truth is greater than a miracle, and to obey God is better than to
do marvellous works.

conclusion: TnE safe foundation of character.

This wonderful discourse terminates with a striking parable.
As Jesus had begun with an enumeration of characteristics, he
closes with a description of the trials of character, in which he
contrasts the stability of one with the downfall of another. All
goodness and safety lie in placing the life upon the truth and
remaining there. Knowledge of truth is in no way helpful to a
man if he do not obey the truth ; it rather makes his destruction


more appalling. The same kind of trial comes to those who are
mere hearers of truth and to those whose lives are conformed
to it. To all outward appearance the characters

A x Every one, then, who

of the two men were the same, except as to foun- hears these words of
dation. Both built. Both built residences, not Zu^TV^d^tTa
mere sheds. The houses were the same. If both wise man, wu-buiit his

house upon tie rock:

had been built upon the rock, both would have and down came the*
stood. It was not the materials or the architec- ctm^anlf th^windl
ture that was at fault. It was the foundation. If blew - and fen on tnat

. . -i-iri lii house, and it fell not ;

the winds, the rams, and the freshets could have for it had been founded
swept away the foundation of the first, his house ^SeSiea^a^
would have fallen and its downfall have been words of mine, and does

-,-„, if • r> -I them not, shall be liken-

great. If the sandy foundation of the second man e d to a foolish man,
had been able to resist the winds, the rains, and wh0 built his house

' upon the sand : and

the freshets, his house was good and strong enough down came the shower,
to have stood. But the stronger the timbers, and and the fl00ds came '

,.,.., an< i tn e winds blew,

the more thoroughly knitted and nailed together, and smote that house,
the more prodigious the wreck and ruin when the anditfe ^ and its faL '

1 ° was great.

foundation subsided and the lofty and strong
edifice collapsed. Men who pay no attention to the upbuilding
of their characters may fall and attract little attention. Men whc
are most careful to build up their characters, and yet secure no
foundation, have no security, whatever be the materials or the
painstaking. This is the important and generally neglected thought
to which Jesus calls attention. It is the collapse of character
which is the most appalling catastrophe possible in the universe.

This Discourse has been dwelt upon at length, because as Jesus
came a Teacher of Truth his words are most important, and this
is the longest report of his speeches made in any

... . The manner of Jesus.

biographical memoir extant. It must be supposed
to embrace the essence and spirit of the gospel he came to pro-
mulgate. We have the recorded statements, the propositions ver-
bally rendered, but there was something in the manner of Jesus
that was extraordinary. There was a tone which made his hear-
ers feel that this was a man altogether superior to any other

* The articles as used in the original I ers into freshets, and the fierce winds,
show that all those things were familiar i The word translated Hoods means rivers,
to the hearer ; that from personal obser- but in this case it obviously means rivera
vations they knew the rock, the sand, I swollen into Hoods,
the shower, the sudden swelling of riv- |



"greatest man," because the latter was compelled to enforce his
teaching either by an argument or by authority, by showing that
what he said was true or by invoking the authority of the ancients.
Jesus did no such thing. He announced the truth as a monarch
announces an imperial edict : " I say unto you." The people were
struck with astonishment. They had heard learned men. They
had heard enthusiasts. They had heard the Scribes and John the
Baptist. In the case of Jesus it was not learning. It was not
eloquence. It was authority. lie made them feel his royal pre-
rogative. No other man had ever done so before. No man in
modern times is known to have made anything like a respectable
imitation of this marvellous impression. We can see how dicta-
torially the discourse is constructed. We must fancy the manner
of him who spoke under the conviction that he had the right to
declare what the truth is, and that of the finality of his announce-
ments there was to be no discussion, and from his supreme deci-
sions there could be no appeal.



Matt. vlli. 5-13 ;
Luke vil. 1-10. Jesua
heals the centurion's

Upon his return to Capernaum an incident occurred in the
history of Jesus of very great importance. A Roman company
of soldiery held the post in the town. The cen-
turion in command was a person remarkable for
his faith, his humility, and his large charity.
Having had Roman and perhaps Greek culture,
he had so much respect for the Jewish religion that he had actu-
ally erected a synagogue for the use of the Jewish residents.
Such considerate liberality had won the regard of even the Jew-
ish elders, who became interested in whatever concerned this
centurion. His case presented a violent contrast with the relation
usually existing between the hating, subjugated Jew and the
scornful, ruling Roman. This officer had a slave between whom
and himself existed a strong attachment, as is not unusual in
countries where slavery has existed;* a sentiment of tenderness
which is wholly incomprehensible to those whose servants have
always been hirelings. He loved his servant, and his servant was
ill of some paralytic disease which gave him excruciating torture.
The centurion had probably studied the character of Jesus, and
the history of the great works he had already performed, and had
the utmost confidence in his healing power. The Jewish elders,
whatever may have been their prejudices against Jesus, entertained
so high a regard for the centurion that they waited on Jesus and

* In the original Greek the word is
7rar?, boy. The ancient Hebrew had,
and the modern French has, the same
idiom. In the Southern States of North
America, before the abolition of slavery,
the servant was often called "boy,"
although an adult and perhaps advanced
in years. It was a euphemism, a soft-
ening term. If the slave were a mar-

ried man, he was usually called " un-
cle." Domestic servants were generally
tenderly treated, and the whole family
thrown into mourning when they died.
Even under the rougher form of Roman
slavery, Cicero expresses the great grief
he suffered on the occasion of a death
of a favorite servant.


urged the exercise of his marvellous therapeutic faculty in behalf
of the Roman slave.

Jesus readily consented to accompany them. When the cen-
turion learned that he was approaching the official residence, he
sent his friends to Jesus with a message most

The centurion's hu- -r> . •■%•. j i. x n .£

milit Koman, most military, and yet most lull 01 a

beautiful humility and faith, containing the lof-
tiest and the widest view of the character and power of Jesus
which had as yet ever been uttered. lie sent an expression of wor-
shipful regard, and most humbly told Jesus that he did not feel
himself worthy to have so illustrious a personage come under his
roof, even as he had not felt himself worthy to approach the great
Teacher, and had therefore accepted the kind mediation of the
Jewish ecclesiastics. Moreover, he had such full faith in the
transcendent power of Jesus that there could be no need that the
great Healer should touch or even see his servant : he had but to
speak the word. And he illustrated his idea by a military fact :
he was a subaltern, under authority, with tribunes over him, and
yet he was not compelled to be present at every place in person.
And while he, as a soldier, was bound to obey his superior in
office, he nevertheless commanded his slave, and that slave^obeyed
him as if he were the autocrat of the world. Now Jesus, in the
spiritual realm, in command over the forces at work in the world,
was more than centurion or tribune : he was Csesar, emperor,
supreme commander. He had but to speak, and the hosts would
obey him.

The tender beaut} 1- and extraordinary grandeur of this faith

aroused in Jesus sentiments of admiration. A Roman had so far

overcome the power of prejudice as to believe

Jesus admires him.

that from the bosom of a broken and enslaved
community might arise the great power of God. A soldier, an
officer, representing imperialism, had, at the head of his command,
come to believe in the superiority of spiritual power over mere
brute force. Jesus turned to the crowd about him, and said,
" Verily I say to you, I have not found so much faith in Israel.
And I say to you, That many shall come from the east and the
west, and shall recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the
kingdom of the heavens, but the sons of the kingdom shall be
cast into the darkness outside. There shall be Availing and grat
ing of teeth " Here was the prediction of a great revolution


presented in a picture. It is the picture of a happy family.
The elders are seated or stretched on couches, the children reclin-
ing in their presence, enjoying their society. But strangers from
a great distance, never expected, come in to this delightful domes-
tic banquet. That is wonderful. But there is something more:
the children are cast violently into the darkness outside, where
they give vent to their rage in wailing and in grating their teeth.
This seems to be as much as if he had said, The spiritual blessings
of God's kingdom, which is as wide as all the heavens, are not to
be confined to a close corporation on earth. From any distance
any man may come, and if he have such faith as numbered
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob among the servants of the great King,
he shall take his place : whereas those who rely upon a mere
traditional right to the kingdom and its privileges shall be thrown
outdoors into the night. It was a declaration of the spirituality
and width of the kingdom of God, and was a great blow at sacer-
dotalism and all ehurchism, a thing Jesus hated as a snare to
human souls.

lie then justified the faith of the centurion by telling the mes-
sengers to return and they should find it as their superior desired.
Upon their return, they found that the servant

, l rrn The Kervant healed.

had recovered in that same hour. Tins wonder-
ful cure is something. It stopped pain. It gratified and rewarded
the centurion. But it was a small thing as compared with the
saying of Jesus in the utterance of a grand truth which is to help
the struggling hearts of truly religious men through all the a^es.
A truth is greater than a miracle. What Jesus said in the Mount
Sermon is much more valuable to the world than what Jesus did
among the diseased, when he had descended from his lofty pulpit.
But the latter have a historical connection and unity with the
former. It was because of what was in him that Jesus spake and
did his wonderful words and acts.

Not far from Capernaum, a few miles to the south of Mount
Tabor, on the north-west declivity of Little Hermon, commanding
a wide view of the plain of Esdraelon and the
northern hills, stands a village now called Nein, Nai "
in the time of Jesus bearing the name of Nain.
On the day after the healing of the centurion's servant, Jesus
visited this place with his company of disciples, and a greal crowd
attracted by his recent miracle. As he entered the town he saw



a funeral procession. It was the Jewish custom that all who met
such a procession should join it and add their lamentations to the
tears of the mourners. This was a particularly touching case.
The corpse was that of a man stricken down in his youth, being
the only child of his mother, who was a widow. lie was being
carried in an open coffin. When Jesus saw the mother's sorrow,
his heart was moved. lie stopped the bearers, and turning to the
young man, he said, "I say unto thee, Arise" And the dead


sat up and began to speak. And Jesus "delivered him to his

Here was an open meeting between death and the forces of

life which Jesus contained and directed. There was a crowd !'

spectators. There was no incantation. There

Jesus rallies the dead.

was no prayer. There was no invocation of the
help of another. Out of himself, and by virtue of his own power
and authority, Jesus said to a dead man, "/say, Arise." There
was no gradual recovery. The dead was alive, sat up, and began
to talk. It was the collision of life-force with the inertness of



death, and the former prevailed. All such collisions are a^ful,
but here was the additional element of extraordinariness. Usually
death conquered. Here life was the victor. Great fear fell upon
the people. Jesus had at first been a teacher, then a physician;
now he is a great prophet. Never since the days of Elisha had
such a miracle been performed. For nine centuries the power of
resurrection had been in abeyance. Now it had come back among
men. In tones of awe they said one to another, " God has visited
His people," and the fame of Jesus spread through all the regions
round about.*

While Jesus was thus increasing in popular attractiveness, and
enlarging his field of operations, his friend John lay pining in the
castle of Machserus,t into which he had been

, , T -,- -. . , r , . , , . The castle of Machas-

thrown by Herod Antipas, because or his bold ni8 . John ^ prison#
denunciation of that tetrarch's crimes and public Luke vii - 18 ~ 35 ' Matt
scandals. John had hailed Jesus as the " Coming
One," the Anointed, the Deliverer. Sixteen months had passed
since the inauguration of Jesus, and as yet John had not heard
that he had begun to perform such Messianic acts as the Jews
looked for in the Deliverer. From a national blaze of reputation
John had suddenly gone down into the gloom of a dungeon. The
lion had been caged. This grand spirit that had walked the
wilderness and the shores of Jordan, and had drawn vast crowds
to hear his roaring eloquence, lay cankering in the silent solitude
of a prison. Day and night, through months of winter and of
spring he lay. Now and then notices of the doings of Jesus had

* But the contrast between the pray-
erful efforts of the prophets and the
sublime authoritative call of Jesus must
always be noticed. It is set forth in a
passage in Massillon's sermon, Sur la
Divinite de Jesus- Christ, which is worth
quotation for its great eloquence, finer
in the original than I can give in a trans-
lation : " Elias raised the dead, it is
true, but he was obliged to throw him-
self often on the corpse of the child he
would resuscitate : he breathed hard,
he drew himself together, he threw
himself about ; it is plain that he is in-
voking a power outside himself (un
puis-sance otrangorc), that he is recall-

ing from the empire of death a soul
that is not submissive to his voice, and
that he is not himself the master of
death and of life. Jesus Christ raises
the dead as he does the most common
actions ; he speaks as a master to those
who are slumbering in the eternal sleep ;
it is quite apparent that he is the God
of the dead as well as of the living, but
always the most serene when he is per-
forming the grandest deeds. "

f Next to Jerusalem, the best forti
fied place in the Holy Land. It was
near the summer residence of Ilerod in


reached him. All that these seemed to show was the free and
easy manner in which the new Teacher mingled with peoples of
all kinds, rising apparently above all ecclesiastical and national
prejudices, and setting himself and his disciples free from the
eremitical restrictions which characterized the lives of John
and his disciples. John's soul was growing weak with waiting.
lie was becrinninff to doubt. Had he made a mistake? If Jesus
were the Deliverer, why did he delay the deliverance %

It was probably at this juncture that John heard of some of the
mighty works of Jesus. This increased rather than diminished
John hears of works his perplexity. It seemed unaccountable to John
of Jesus - that more than a year before he should have pro-

phetically seen signs of Messiahship in Jesus which appeared most
unquestionable, and that now Jesus had begun to perform miracles
that surpassed the deeds of even Elijah, and that still he declined
to assert his Messiahship. He determined to seek a solution of the
difficulty. Accordingly he sent two of his chosen disciples to
Jesus. They found him surrounded by the populace. They ad-
dressed to him publicly, in John's name, the question, "Art thou
the Coming One, or do we look for another ? "

No more unfortunate question, as coming from John, could have
been propounded to Jesus at this moment, and under these cir-

john's message to cumstanccs. It said to the people that the man
Jesus, and his reply. wnom they had regarded as one of the greatest of
the prophets, who had introduced Jesus to public life in a season
of great excitement, now that he had time for cool reflection, had
begun to doubt the mission of Jesus. It was a blow on the heart
of Jesus from the hand of his best friend. It showed him what a
melancholy effect was being produced upon the mind of John by
his long and cruel imprisonment.

The acts and words of Jesus on this occasion passed up into the
sphere of the sublime. John must be saved. That was the Bret
thing. In the presence of the embassy from John, Jesus relieved
many of the infirmities of the people, opened the eyes of the blind,
and cured demoniacs. Turning to the messengers he said in sub-
stance, " Go to John, and tell him what you yourselves have seen
and have heard from reliable witnesses. The blind see, the lame
walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead arc raised,
and the men of humble souls have a jubilee, for they are hearing
glad tidings. And happy is he who is not offended in me."


That was the whole message to John. It implied more than it
said. Jesns did not wish to wound the imprisoned prophet as that
friend had wounded him. lie was grander than even the grand
John. Instead of saying, " Woe to him who is offended in me,"
he puts it in the softer way, "Blessed he who is not offended."
John knew what the prophets had indicated as true Messianic
signs. He remembered the words of Isaiah in lxi. 1, 2, and xxxv
5, 6, and other prophetic utterances. If these met in Jesus, then
Jesus was the Messiah, and, for any who believed that, it was a
happy thing to wait his motions and not be striving to precipitate
his announcements.

But there were the people hearing all these things. The repu-
tation of his incarcerated friend was dear to Jesus. He saw at
once that the people might begin to turn against Defence of John by
John, and charge him with weakness in thus so Jesus -
Btrangely modifying his own endorsement of Jesus. As soon
therefore as John's disciples had departed — for he would not even
seem to flatter his great friend — he recalled to the minds of his
hearers the picture of John in the glory of his strength, in the
height of his popularity, when he was crowding the Jordan with
auditors and disciples. If they suspected John of being a vacil-
lating weakling, it was doing him great injustice. He was no reed
shaken in a wind. He was himself rather a storm that shook
others. Nor was he a courtcr of public applause, a flatterer, or a
sycophant. If he had been such he would have been found among
the sumptuously dressed attendants on the court of Herod Antipas,
instead of a prisoner Ma-ting away in a dungeon because of his
bold out-spokenness against the wrong. He was neither a reed
shaken in the wind nor a delicate self-seeker. He was acknow-
ledged as a prophet by those who heard his tremendous harangues
at the Jordan. And Jesus asserted that John was more than an
ordinary prophet, that he was as great as the greatest prophet, and
that do greater man had ever been raised up by Providence for
any work so great as that of John. With this generous eulogy he;
at once defended the reputation of his afflicted friend, and made
his hearers to remember that the greatest men have their hours
of weakness and distrust.

But having 80 done justice to the character of John, he pro-

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 31 of 77)