Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

. (page 39 of 77)
Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 39 of 77)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


60 beautiful to them would be so ugly and hateful to others.
They should be called to answer suddenly at the highest pagan
tribunals. But they were not to be anxious. The right word
would come at the right hour. They are to keep themselves in
the love of the truth and be not specially careful for their orat( >ry.
lie particularly tears away all self-conceit from them by saying
" Ye are not the speakers, but the Spirit of your Father." This
lifts them above all selfish anxiety. It is not their work, but
another's. If they be persecuted in one city they must flee to
another. They have no further work in the one, and they have
something to do in another. Providence sometimes leads and
sometimes drives.

But he gives them this consolation — that they shall not have
finished visiting the cities of Israel " until the Son of Man come."
It is not quite easy to determine satisfactorily

^ ■* A consolation.

what this phrase means. It may mean that he
should join them in person before long, and thus be present to
aid and direct them. To this it is to be objected that the portion
of tlHS solemn charge which begins with " Behold, I send you
forth as sheep," really seems not to have had application to them
in their temporary missionary excursions, but to their much longer
apostolic career after the death of Jesus. Certainly the events
which he foretold did not take place until then. The interpreta-
tion suggested by Stier is that it applies to the apostolic labors
in Judaea, which were to be closed by the coming of the Son of
Man in the destruction of Jerusalem, and, by extension, that it
applies to the operations of his messengers in the towns of the
spiritual Israel. But all this seems mystical. These men were
going on a practical mission, which Jesus tells them was so full of
peril that their lives should be in constant jeopardy. It was no
time to talk romantic theology to them. Jesus meant something
practical which they could understand. Just what it was I do
not know, but its general significance seems to be that, no matter
how industriously they worked, and however rapid their move-
ments, they could not visit all the towns before their mission
should be accomplished. And this was probably the sense,
whether their temporary tour be considered or their travels and

labors after the death of their Teacher.

Ill- still further confirms and strengthens them by reminding

them oL* his own case. They readily acknowledged him as theii


Master and Lord ; but he had all kinds of opprobrium heaped
upon him. He had not had a serene and brilliant public life
„. His was not the work of gradually winning men

IIis own caso. ° " ~

to the truth ; it was a terrific battle with error
and evil. The disciple is not above his master, the servant is nol
above his lord. They were to push the battle forward. He had
spoken to them privately; they were to declare his doctrines
openly. What they had heard in the closet they must proclaim
upon the house-top. But there was to be no timidity and pusil-
lanimity. A special providence would be vouchsafed them. To
sparrows, one of which is worth scarcely a penny, God's guar-
dianship extends, so that one of them does not fall without his
notice. The arrow of the archer cannot reach him unless God
so wills. That same heavenly Father counts every hair of every
head. How much more precious is the head than the hair, the
man than the sparrow ! And a man set to the promulgation of
great truths, how precious is he ! He shall not be destroyed care-
lessly. On the other hand, he warns them by their fear of God
as well as by their confidence in his love. The persecutor lives
his day ; the martyr lias eternity. Men may destroy the body.
They reach their limit there. God can destroy both soul and
body in eternity. lie seems to teach that the final punishment
of the incorrigibly wicked shall be the final destruction of both
soul and body.

He gives his Apostles to understand that the propagation of his
gospel would be a process of discrimination, and an occasion, not

The gospel to be a a cause, of wide-spread and bitter antagonisms,
discrimination. jj e announces his intention of claiming and striv-

ing to win the best love of every man. Every earthly affection
in the disciple is to become subordinate to his devotion to his
Master. Father, mother, son, daughter, — every other relationship
and love must sit down at his feet. He intends to make himself
king by obtaining monarchic sway over the hearts of men. Life
itself is to be laid on the altar of this love. If a man shrink
from the service of Jesus in order to preserve his life, he will
surely lose it. He who yields himself, in the wise abandonment
of a reasonable devotion, to Jesus, shall find all the good and
sweet there is in life. Jesus will know, remember, and reward
every least act of help to his kingdom or to those who are engaged
in upbuilding it — even to the giving of a cup of cold water to a


disciple. ITe intends to invest all his followers with a portion of
his own dignity. Whosoever receives a minister of the gospel is
to be regarded as one who has received Jesus into his house, as
Jesus is to be king of hearts !

It must have been appalling to the Apostles when Jesus spoke
of " taking up the cross " and following him. lie had not been
crucified : there was no prospect that he would

, . . . -. A frightful figure.

be : he had given them no intimation of any
suspicion on his part that his career would have so disastrous a
termination. But the cross as an instrument of ignominious tor-
ture was well known to them ; and they most probably interpreted
this phrase figuratively, as it was intended, to mean great pain
and shame to be brought upon them by becoming preachers of
the gospel.

The whole address is a great step forward. It commissions
Apostles to open the way before him. His hour was coming. lie
was advancing his claims. lie was prudently but

..... - - IT P 1 • •*• S 1 " 0111 StC l' f 0rW!lrJ '

unhesitatingly going forward on the line of his
nission. lie might have retreated hitherto; now he must go for-
ward to any fate that might lie in the path he had chosen.

The disciples went on their way. Jesus continued to work.
They were all engaged in preaching repentance as preparatory to
the receiving of the Messiah. We are not now able to learn how
large was the missionary circuit of the Apostles, but it is very ap-
parent that it excited a great popular interest in the person and
work of Jesus.

At the instigation of Ilerodias, Herod had, as we have seen,
seized and imprisoned John the Baptist, because the bold preacher
had rebuked him for living in adultery with Ile-

,. , i • • i i •£ £. t»i m« John the Baptist ex-

rodias, who was his sister-in-law, the wire 01 Inilip. ( ., llU ,i. Matt av. 1-
Ile mav also have feared lest the growing in- 1:!: M:irk vi - 21 " 2 ' J;

" Luke ix. 7-'J.

fluence of John upon the populace might become
so great as to give him political power, if he chose to exert it.
For entire safety he had confined the Baptist in the castle of
Machaerus. Ilerodias never forgave John his denunciation ,,t
this adulterous connection, but continued to plot against liis life,
and at last succeeded Herod's birthday arrived. He made a
supper for his lords, high captains, and chief-estates. At a
warm stage of the revel the daughter of Ilerodias entered and
danced before the assembly, danced so seductively that Herod, in



Herod hears of Jesus.

his hot admiration, promised to give her whatever she should ask,
to the half of his kingdom. To convince her, he backed up this
foolish promise by an oath. She conferred with her vindictive
mother, who instructed her to demand the head of John the Bap-
tist. To this demand Herod was extremely reluctant to comply.
Nevertheless, as the historian says, "for his oath's sake, and for
their sakes who sat at meat, he would not reject her." An execu-
tioner went forthwith and brought the horrible gift in a charger,
which the hardened daughter carried to her callous mother.
John's disciples heard that he had been executed, and went and
buried his headless corpse.

It was at this juncture that the fame of Jesus reached the court
of Herod. That potentate was superstitious as well as lustful
and cruel. When he heard the marvellous things
which Jesus was doing he was perplexed, and
said to his friends that it was John risen from the dead. They
endeavored to allay his terror by saying that it was Elias, or the
spirit of some other of the older prophets reappearing in Jesus.
But Herod's alarms were not so easily dissipated. He retained
and affirmed the conviction that his victim had risen from the
dead. lie determined, if possible, to see Jesus, who was mani-
festly becoming as important, in a political point of view, as
Herod had supposed John to be. When Jesus heard that Herod
had begun to manifest an interest in his movements, and saw
that the people were reaching a pitch of excitement which might
easily transport them into violence, he judged it best to withdraw
himself from a position in which he was liable to have his great
work interrupted by the arousing of a tyrant's terrors by popular
demonstration in his behalf.

In the mean time the disciples had returned and reported the
results of their missionary tour. Perhaps the news of the death
of John hastened their return.* Mark mentions
another reason: the Apostles had returned from
their tour, by the labors and circumstances of which they were
excited, and they needed refreshment for coming conflicts. Jesus

Return of the twelve.

* It does not appear how long they
Were absent on this preaching tour.
Wieseler and Tischendorf make it only a
flay; Ellicott, two days; Greswell, that
hey left in February and returned in

March, one or two months ; and Krafft
extends it to several months. We can
hardly suppose that it was less than
several weeks.



withdrew them from their public ministry, and went with them
into a desert place. If he had not done so, now that he was
becoming so popular, and the people so much excited by his min-
istry, and the slaughter of John having undoubtedly produced a
very profound impression, it is probable that a sedition Mould
have occurred, and Herod would have charged it to his ministry.
And this sedition was all the more probable as the people did not
recognize him as a divine person, but only as a very great prophet.
There was every prudential reason for retiring. He took a boat
with his disciples and went over to a portion of uninhabited shore,
probably near the town of Bethsaida, in Perea. He was not flying
from Herod so much as from the people. But he could not be
hid. The excited populace, seeing the movement and conjectur-
ing the destination, ran around the head of the lake and reached
the spot before the landing of Jesus, who, when lie came out, saw
that privacy was impracticable. lie looked on that great multi-
tude, anxious and panting from the exertion they had made to
gain the spot.* He had compassion upon them. Their spiritual
pastors had abandoned them. They were as sheep without a shep-
herd. The tender-hearted Jesus could not forbear. So, o-oino- to
an elevation, he sat down, and for hours gave them instruction in
the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

And when the day was far spent his disciples reminded him
that it was a desert place and that the people had long been with-
out food, and urged him to send them away to find food and

* The distance was from six to eight
miles, and could be passed over as
quickly by those who hastened on foot
as by those who crossed the lake in a
boat. Bethsaida probably lay on both
Bides the Jordan, just where it entered
into the lake. On the east is the level
plain of Buthiah, in the shape of a tri-
angle, made by the eastern mountains,
the lake shore, and the river side. Dr.
Thomson concludes, and I think BhoWB,
that the site of the feeding of the five
thousand was in the south-eastern angle
of this plain, when- (he hills come close
to the shore. He says (vol. ii. p, 89),
" From the four narratives of this stu-
pendous miracle, wo gather, 1st, That.
the place belonged to Bethsaida ; 3d,

That it was a desert place ; 3d, That it
was near the shore of the lake, for they
came to it by boats ; 4th, That there was
a mountain close at hand ; 5th, That it
was a smooth grassy spot, capable of
seating many thousand people. Now
all these requisites arc found in this
exact locality, and nowhere else, so far
as I can discover. This Butoiha be-
longed to Bethsaida At this extreme
south-east corner of it the mountain
ahutsdown apon the hike, bleak and bar-
ren. It was, doubtless, desert then as
now. for it is not capable of onltivat ion.
In this little cove the ships (boats) were
anchored On this beautiful sward, at
the base of the rocky hill, the people
■ 1."



lodging in the surrounding country. To this he replied, a They
need not depart ; give ye them to eat." Previous to this, probably
Mimcnions feeding at early in the afternoon, Jesus had questioned Philip
five thousand. as t i 10W they should manage to feed so great a

congregation of people. There may have been two reasons for
putting this question to Philip, namely, that he was a man very
slow of spiritual apprehension, and was a citizen of the neighbor-
ing town of Bethsaida. John says that Jesus thus questioned
Philip to prove him. Philip's reply shows his spiritual obtuse-
ness. Jesus was putting forth his claim to Messiahship more and
more distinctly. Put Philip could not discover it. lie replied,
" Two hundred denarii worth of loaves is not sufficient for them,
that every one should receive a little." This intimation of the
impossibility of making so heavy a purchase shows the scantiness
of the exchequer of the circle of Jesus. "Thirty dollars would
not feed them ! and where have we that sum ? " Jesns seems to
have left the perplexing question with Philip until late in the
afternoon, when his disciples snggestcd the difficulty to him, to
which he replied as above, and added, "How many loaves have
you ? " Andrew answered that they had found in the multitude
a lad who had live barley loaves and two small lishes. He ordered
them to be brought to him, and then commanded the multitude to
be seated on the green grass, in plots or squares, so that there were
alleys between, and the whole slope looked like a garden whose
parterres were filled with human beings. He then looked up to
heaven and blessed and brake the loaves, and handed them to the
disciples to set before the multitude. There were about five thou-
sand men, beside women and children. The orderly arrangement
secured ample opportunity to each to eat as much as he would, as
long as the food lasted. They did all eat and were rilled. "When
they could eat no more Jesus directed the fragments to be gath-
ered, that nothing be lost, and the disciples gathered twelve bas
kcts* full of the fragments and of the lishes that remained over
after all had eaten.

* This is the translation in the com-
mon version, and is correct, that being
the ordinary meaning of the word. But
does it not mean that the twelve Apos-
tles filled each his wallet with the frag-
ments ? Whence did they have so many
empty baskets? But the very word

which is here translated "baskets"'
does mean "wallet," and was applied
to the travelling-bag which every Jew
carried. To this Juvenal alludes, using
the very word employed in this passage,
" Judaeis, quorum c

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 39 of 77)