Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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ceeded to Bay, " Notwithstanding, he that is less in the kingdom
of the heavens is greater than John." 1 Here manifestly the speaker


draws a distinction between the world which closed with John
and the world which opened with himself. John had not become
Relative estimate of a citizen of the kingdom of the heavens. Jesus
JĀ° ha - is proclaiming that kingdom. John had not been

set free. lie was still held by formalisms, and still made much
of baptisms and mortifications, lie had not yet risen to regard
the kingdom of God as a kingdom of the heavens, covering all
parts of the universe and running through all the ages, of which
our planet and the time of our generation make a very, very small
part. Jesus came speaking the breadth of God's love and God's
law. He came to preach those principles which rituals, and
canons, and human forms of creeds and hierarchies cannot bind ;
principles which survive all human institutions, all consecutive
literatures and civilizations, and which vitalize them all. He that
is less in position, or office, -or native endowments than John, less
in relation to this kingdom than John to the old theocracy, is,
nevertheless, greater than John. He has gone into the temple on
whose porch died all these greatest men who knew things only
in their outwards.

It is to be carefully noted that Jesus does not say that the
crowds who waited upon his ministry are so superior; that those
who after him were to pervert the name of Christian and preach
Churchism were so superior. Very far from that. That was pre-
cisely the defect in the Jews generally, and in John specially.
A modern churchman, of any sect, is precisely in the condition of
the Israelite who depended upon his having Abraham to his
father, lie is a citizen of perhaps a sung little kingdom of the
earth, but lie is not a citizen of the broad kingdom of the heavens.
He is depending upon what must perish if the world shall pass
away, and not upon what will survive the measureless cycles of
eternity. He that builds on churchism, builds on the sand : he
uhat builds on the words of Jesus erects his edifice upon the rock.
He that even measurably recognizes the kingdom of the heavens,
and strives to live according to its wide, deep, ceaseless laws, is a
greater man than the man who is greatest in a kingdom of cir-
cumcisions, baptisms, and general decent ritualisms. That seems
to be what Jesus taught.

The law and the prophets, he proceeded to teach, did their work
up to John's completion of his public ministry. Now, although
that last and greatest of the prophets had retired from his actual



labors, the spirit of his work lived. He had been a hei aid. He
had aroused the people. He had announced a coming King anc 1
a coming kingdom. There was power in the announcement and
in the rushing influences which had begun to break down ecclesi-
astical barriers, and bring the world under the influence of this
kingdom. John could not retract. He had excited a furore
which should increase. From his days the kingdom of the heav-
ens suffers violence ; people violently press Into it; multitudes are
eager to break the shell and reach the kernel ; multitudes are zeal-
ously striving to rise into the higher life. John had come in the
spirit and power of Elias to prepare the way of the Lord of the

All this explanation and defence was made to a fickle genera-
tion. Jesus knew their waywardness. He reflected upon the
treatment received by John and by himself. To Both John and Jesu8
John's baptism the common people and the pub- "J*****-
licans had come ; but the Pharisees and Doctors of the Sacred
Law had rejected him, and the same leaders had rejected Jesus:
and the two rejections were for opposite reasons. lie seemed
for a moment at a loss how to describe this capriciousness, and
then selected an illustration from the petulance of whimsical chil-
dren so often exhibited in their sports. He described a party of
boys at play in a town square. One party endeavors to draw the
others into their amusements. First there is a mock wedding, and
a portion would not join in that ; then the leaders get up a mock
funeral, but the same companions refuse to take part in that ;
whereupon the leaders break forth into vociferous reproaches :
"What kind of fellows are you? We have tried to amuse you
every way. We have fluted, and you would not dance : we have
played funeral, and you would not beat your breasts. What will
please you?" So John came, an ascetic, withdrawing himself
from the ordinary conventionalities of life. He was most abste-
mious, confining himself to a diet of locusts and wild honey. The
Pharisees and the Doctors denounced him as one possessed of a
demon, lie mourned ; they did not lament. Jesus came, ā€” the
Son of Man, as he calls himself in this passage, thus claiming
the Messiahship,* ā€” came eating and drinking as other men did,

* The reader is again referred lo Dan.
vii. 13, where the phrase the " Son of
Man " is used confessedly as a designa-

tion of the Messiah. By applying it to
himself Jesus obviously intended to
claim Messianic functions and honors.



having nothing singular in his habits. The Pliarisees and the
Doctors denounced him as a glutton and a wine-bibber, an associ-
ate of tax-gatherers and vagabonds. lie made music for them ;
they did not dance. Jesus closed this vivid invective by the irony
of the saying, "And such is the justice which Wisdom receives at
the hands of her professedly devoted children !"

Recalling the treatment which he had rccei-ved from several
towns in his beneficent mission, he breaks forth in words which
show the depth of his grief and anger. "Woe to
thee, Chorazin ! woe to thee, Bethsaida ! For if
in Tyre and Sidon had been done the things of might which have
been done in you, in old times, sitting down in bag-cloth and in
ashes, they would have changed their minds and repented. But
I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon
in the day of separation than for you. And thou, Capernaum,
why hast thou been exalted to heaven ? Thou shalt descend even
to Hades!"


None of the three places thus denounced had any distinction
beyond what they derived from the presence and works of
Jesus, and they have all so passed away that the site of them is
no longer definitely known. The Tyre and Sidon must be sup-
posed to refer to the old Phoenician cities against which the
prophets had hurled their predictions, and on the ruins of which



stood modern towns of the same name. Capernaum had been
selected as his residence when Jesus had been driven from Naza-
reth. The lesson seems to be that the neglect of superior privi
leges brings the greater destruction. Jesus employed phrases from
the pagan mythology to convey this idea, "heaven" as contrasted
with " hades" signifying a contrast between great height of privi-
lege and great depth of doom.

A few days afterwards a Pharisee invited Jesus to an enter-
tainment at his house, probably in Capernaum,* thus paying with
a small civility the healing of some small ailmentf
by the kindness and power of Jesus. The recep- Dines yrii ^ a p hariaee .
tion of the great Teacher does not seem to have and is anointed by a
been eminently cordial. Simon felt compelled to
invite him, and was probably glad to have the interview short. lie
showed few civilities to his distinguished guest. Nevertheless
Jesus found sufficient reason for accepting the invitation. While
reclining, with his unsandalled feet stretched from the rear of the
couch, after the manner of the ancients, a woman of the city, who
was a notorious sinner, came behind him with a vase of perfumed
ointment, weeping, and unostentatiously wetting his feet with her
tears, and with most exquisite reverence wiping them with her
beautiful hair. Her adoring tenderness made her feel that when
that delicious ointment had touched the holy feet of Jesus it was
sweeter than ever before, and she instinctively caught it back into
her tresses.

The Pharisee at length noticed this, and reasoned thus : " This
man has a certain strange power with him ; but if he were a
true prophet he would know what kind of woman Jcsus rcads his hostg
this is who pollutes him by touching him, would thou s hts -
know that she is a prostitute." Jesus read his thoughts. This
Teacher seems to have been the first of pure men who had for-
giveness and pity for that sin which, in a woman, no one forgives.
Turning to his host, he said : " Simon, I have something to say to
you." And Simon replied, " Teacher, say it." "A money-lender
had two debtors. One owed him live hundred denarii, and the
other fifty. And when neither could pay he freely forgave them

* Robinson ami Meyer believe that it
was Capernaum.

] If Jesus had not conferred some
favor upon him there had beeu no point

in his comparison of those who lova

much, as tin- woman did, and those who
love little, as the Pharisee did.


both. Now, winch of them will love him most ? " Simon, not
seeing as jet the bearing of the question, replied, " I suppose he
to whom he forgave most." " Qnite right," said Jesus ; and turn-
ing upon his elbow as he reclined, so that he could see the woman,
he said, " Simon, look at her : I entered jour house a bidden guest,
jet you failed of the ordinary courtesy of furnishing water for
my feet,* while this woman has washed my feet with her tears
and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave me no
warm salutation : she has caressed my feet with kisses. You
poured not even ordinary oil upon my head : she has expended
her precious ointment on my feet."

This was most delicately pungent. The woman had entered

the apartment in the crowd accompanying the Teacher. Simon

did not take offence at this, because he knew that

The delicacy of Jesus. . ' .,.

Jesus had all kinds of characters in his tram.
But when he saw what he considered the polluting touch, he won-
dered and was scandalized. Jesus most delicately gave him to
understand that this unbidden guest was now in a better moral
condition than the giver of the entertainment. Her great sins
had been forgiven her, or else she never would have been so
grateful. Jesus had done more for her, whatever it was, than he
had done for Simon, and therefore she loved much more. It was
no longer a prostitute who bent over his feet, but a penitent. She
lingered. She had been a great sinner. It required distinct as-
surance to confirm her faith. Jesus said to her : " Your sins are
forgiven you." Then those who were reclining at the dinner-
table began to whisper among themselves in protest against his
assumption of power to forgive sins. It was greater to forgive a
sin than perforin a miracle. But Jesus repeated it, " Your faith
has saved you ; go in peace."

Who this woman was is not known. There is not the slightest
intimation. By a most unhappy mistake Mary of Magdala, called
This woman not Mary in our common version Mary Magdalene, has been
of Magdaia. confounded with this woinan.f This mistake has

been perpetuated in painting and in sculpture, and is counte-
nanced by the caption to the chapter of St. Luke in the English

* Which was necessary in a country
where men walked over dusty roads
without shoes.

f The anointing took place in Nain

or Capernaum, of one of which cities
this penitent sinnej^probably was a na-
tive or an inhabitant ; but Mary was of



version. But there is nothing whatever on record in the history
to give the slightest coloring to this supposition. It is doing as
much injustice to the truth of history as to suppose that the Vir-
gin Mary was this sinner. The name of this penitent sinner is
strictly withheld. There is nothing in the history of Mary of
Magdala to justify this aspersion of her fair fame ; on the con-
trary, we shall see how she came into greatest intimacy with the
purest followers of Jesus, devoted herself to him, and came to
be controlled by a powerful yet pure passion for Jesus, ā€” the Virgin
Mary and the Magdalan Mary being his most devoted friends,
and this latter Mary loving him quite as warmly as the Blessed
Virgin, but with an ardor which certainly was not mother-love.




Immediately after this, Jesus began another circuit of preach-
ing and miracle-working, going from village to village and from
Luke via. 1-3. Ac- city to city, preaching the happy news of God's
companied by women, kingdom. " On this tour he was accompanied by
his twelve chosen Apostles, and by many women whom he had
cured of evil spirits and other infirmities. This companionship
with Jesus was not out of the usual order of things, since it was
customary for women of means, especially for widows, to con-
tribute of their substance to the support of rabbis whom they
reverenced." Three are mentioned as being in this company,
namely, Mary called Magdalene, and Joanna, and Susanna. The
first of these so devoted herself to Jesus that she became his chief
friend among women, and it may be worth while to make a sum-
mary of what we can learn concerning her.

In the first place, it should be repeated that there does not ap-
pear the slightest reason for believing that she had been an extra-
ordinary bad woman, particularly that she was a prostitute, but
cpiite the contrary. Here is one of those unhappy cases in his-
tory in which some misapprehension has occurred which has suc-
ceeded in branding a name with an undeserved infamy and
perpetuating it through generations. Let us sec what is said
about her.

El-Mejdel is the name of a "miserable little Muslim village,"
as Robinson calls it, which is most probably the representative of
the town on the western shore of the lake of
Gennesaret, known as Magadan in the days of
Jesus, and so called in the chief MSS., although in the author-
ized English version, and in the usually received Greek text of
Matthew (xv. oi>) it is written Magdala.f It was one of the many

* See Jerome on 1 Cor. ix. 5. I embrace every point worth notice.

f Prof. Stanley's description seems to j " Of all the numerous towns and vil-



Mary Magdalene.

Migdols {watch-towers) which existed in Palestine. The nn fortu-
nate identification of the saintly and loving friend of Jesus
with the sinner who bathed the feet of Jesus with her tears, has
made Magdala, this Mary's birthplace, familiar to all modern

She comes before us first in this passage in St. Luke, associated
with women of great respectability. These ladies were Joanna
and Susanna. The former was the wife of Chuza,
the steward of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of
Galilee. It is not to be supposed that this lady of the court
would associate herself with a " woman of the city," a street-
walker, a prostitute, or probably even with one who had had that
reputation. Moreover, the fact that Mary was engaged with these
ladies in ministering to the personal wants of Jesus, shows that
she, as well as each of the others, had means at her own disposal.
She was not a woman of the lower ranks, in point either of prop
erty or of reputation.

In this passage, and in Mark xvi. 9, the fact is stated that out
of her Jesus had cast seven devils. Modern thought has been
accustomed to associate demoniac possession with

. . Uer "seven devils. *

the idea of bad moral character in the pos-
sessed, which, however, is a very great error. Children, women
of good repute, people yi any class of society, had been liable to
this terrible disease. It is a very proper remark, therefore, that
we must think of her " as having had, in their most aggravated
forms, some of the phenomena of mental and spiritual disease
which we meet with in other demoniacs, the wretchedness of de-
spair, the divided consciousness, the preternatural phrensy, the
long-continued fits of silence." Her case had been so marked
and painful that the contrast it afforded with the serenity of her
condition after the great Healer had restored her, made such an
impression upon those; who were familiar with the circle of Jesus,

lages in what must have been the most
thickly peopled district of Palestine,
one only remains. A. collection of a
few hovels stands ;it the south-east cor-
ner of the plain of Gennesaret, its
name hardly altered from the ancient
Magdala < >r Migdol, so called probably
I'roin a watch-tower, of which ruins ap-
pear to remain, that guarded the en-

trance to the plain. A large solitary
thorn-tree stands beside it. The situa-
tion, otherwise unmarked, is dignified
by the high limestone rock which over-
hangs it ou the south-west, perforated
with caves, recalling, by a curious
though doubtless unintentional coinci-
dence, the scene of Correggio's cele-
brated picture."

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 32 of 77)