Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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original word indicates something of a quiet promenade. Another
man attempts to walk towards him, and succeeds so long as he
trusts him, but sinks as soon as his faith begins to fail. Jesus
teaches that, so far as Peter was concerned, the walking was due
to his faith alone ; that there was in him a capability to achieve
this dominion over nature, but that he had failed because his
faith had failed. So far as Jesus was concerned, there was no
force exerted on him from without, nor was there any suspension
of the physical law of gravity : it was manifestly the power of
his own will dominating what seem to us to be natural laws.

If there had been any very philosophic man among his fol-
lowers he must have seen, even at the disadvantage of too great
ProBressivenesd of nearness, what seems sufficiently plain to even
Je8US - superficial study of Jesus at this remove from

his presence, namely, that there was a progress! veness in his whole
inner and outer history — a growth of the inner man — to which
there was a corresponding development of the outer life. Through
thirty years his spiritual force seems to have been accumulating
in private. AVe can hardly imagine that he was totally devoid of
all consciousness of this progress of his soul ; nay, the whole his-
tory shows that he knew himself, and that one of the very greatest
difficulties of his position was to make others comprehend his
psychical condition. At the ripening moment he entered upon
his public career, through all of which there w^ere repeated out-
llashings of the growing inner glory. These three years show
how he became more and more luminous. At this point of his
history he opposes the forces of his inner man to famine, to a
mob, to a storm at sea. lie stretches the assertion of his kingly
rule further and further into the world of matter and the world
of mind. The development of his spiritual history is rhythmic.
These phenomena are described by men who did not perceive, and
could not comprehend, the profound logical and poetical noume-
non which produced them. If these things did not occur, then
we have a more troublesome perplexity to deal with, namely, the
miracle of the existence of a narrative so superhumanly true to


philosophy and the highest poetry — snperhumanly, that is to say,
if the historians were not relating facts. It would be easier for
any man to walk the Atlantic through a raging storm, from New
York to Liverpool, than to produce a book which should set forth
a character and a history so wonderful as this of Jesus, no
symmetrical, so accordant with our intuitions of truth, and yet
not modelled after this of Jesus, whose historians produced it
without type, suggestion, or original, if just such a man did not
live and perforin just the things which they represent.

There is no wonder, then, that the mariners and passengers, as
well as the disciples, now, if never before, acknowledged him as
the Son of God ; that is, granted what he had claimed, the posi-
tion of Messiah, although they held their own gross views of
what the Messiah's functions were. They now believed that he
was the One Anointed to deliver them from the bondage of the
Romans. It would seem as if there now came upon them the
Conviction which had been forced upon the multitude by the
feeding of thousands with a few loaves.

The party landed on the plain of Gennesaret. As soon as the
inhabitants found that he had arrived they sent messengers through
the whole country and had the sick brought in lit-

Intense excitement.

ters to him. As he passed around the lake to his
home in Capernaum there was an intense excitement everywhere.
In all the towns and villages they brought their sick and laid them
before him on his passage through their streets, and invalids
begged the privilege of touching if only the hem of his garment.
All were healed. It was a wonderful procession of beneficence.
In the mean time some of the most fanatical of the people who
had been fed on the previous day seemed to have lingered in the
hope of seeing him again. They knew nothing of the extraor-
dinary night-scene on the lake. They supposed that he may have
retired for private devotion, but would make his appearance
during the day. But not finding him, and knowing that there had
been but one vessel on the lake yesterday, and that in the fearful
Btorm the disciples could not have returned and taken him, they
fell back on the only natural conjecture, namely, that he had
walked around the edge of the lake 1>\ Iietlisaida to Capernaum.
When, therefore, vessels from Tiberias passed near, they hailed
them and took shipping for Capernaum, seeking Jesus and mora


That these people were not the best of the multitude who had

been fed in the wilderness, appears from their persecuting Jesus

with their presence when he would fain have been

Capernaum. John xvl. , x

rid of them, because they did not follow him for
religious instruction, but for material considerations. They hoped
that he was to be their Bread-king, the Messiah, to reign and feed
his people. Their hearts and consciences had all gone to stomach.
They lived in a dream, in which many a lazy soul to this day laps
itself, that there is "a good time coming" when men shall have
plenty to eat and nothing to do. They were the Millerites or
Adventists of old. We must remember this, to make the address
of Jesu6 at all comprehensible. He speaks what they could not
understand, while he utters profound truths which all receptive
spirits will find instructive.

The company of bread-seekers pushed into the synagogue where

Jesus was teaching, and sought to relieve their curiosity by the

abrupt inquiry, "Rabbi, when did you come

The bread-seekers. ,.,„„%•,. -i i i

hither? Jesus deigned no reply to this imperti-
nence. He regarded himself as the embodiment of Truth, and
Truth never reveals itself to crude curiosity and pruriency. He
answers reprovingly, and then makes an utterance very deep, but
not wholly incomprehensible even to them. "Verily, verily, I say
to you, Ye seek me not because ye saw signs, but because ye did eat
of the loaves and were filled. Exert yourselves, not for food
which perishes, but for that which remains to the enduring life
which the Son of Man gives to you, for him has God the Father

The}' seemed to understand something of this, so far at least as
that he meant to say that if they got material bread from him it
would be a very incidental thing ; that he was a moral teacher, and
that they must seek him for what their souls would gain of spiri-
tual sustenance, which he boldly announces that he is able to
give them; that he is the one whom God the Father has stamped
as genuine, and that he could give them that which nourishes the
life which endures. Therefore they said, "What shall we do that
we may work the works of God ? " Jesus answered them, " This
it the work of God, that ye believe on him whom He hath sent."

Their reply was, " What sign doest thou, that we may see and
believe thee ? what dost thou work ? Our fathers did eat manna
in the wilderness, as it is written, ' He gave them bread from hea-


ven to eat.' " These gross people, having been fed miraculously
had forgotten the feeding and undervalued the miracle, it would
seem, because it was a mere multiplication of

1 They demand a 6ign.

bread, whereas in the desert, during their wander-
ings, their fathers had a daily shower of bread from heaven. This
reply shows how material and sensuous were all their ideas.

Jesus answered : " Moses did not give you the bread, but my
Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of
God is that which cometh down from heaven and giveth life to
the world." It was not Moses who gave the manna, but it was
God. And that maiina was but temporary, for if it remained
over it decayed and was useless. But God sends Jesus, in whom
the world is to have life. He evidently believed and manifestly
taught that the life of the world was derived from hhAself, and
wholly dependent on himself. It was the highest possible claim.

There seemed to be some upspringing of faith in the hearts of
his hearers. They said unto him, " Sir, evermore give us this
bread." Jesus, knowing that the faith which

. ° Some faith.

depended upon miracles was a stream made by
showers, and not flowing from a fountain, deepened his discourse
and became more offensive to them. " I am the bread of life :
he that comes to me shall never hunger, and he that believes on
me shall never thirst. But I said unto you that ye have even seen
and failed to believe. The whole that the Father gives me will
come to me, and him that comes to me I will not cast out. For
I came down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will
of Him who sent me, which is, that of the whole which lie has
given me I should not lose from, but should raise it up in the
final day. For this is the will of the Father, that every one who
sees the Son and believes on him may have lasting life, and
that I should raise him up in the final day."

This profound speech seems to imply that as bread is the nutri-
ment of the outward and physical life, so Jesus is the nutriment
of the spiritual life; that as the body which does not receive
food into itself, and assimilate that food with itself, will perish,
BO the soul which fails to receive and assimilate Jesus, which must
mean the spirit and teachings of Jesus, will also perish ; that
there is no lasting life for those who do not derive it from Jesus.

The assertion that he came down from heaven, by which ho
claimed a relation to the spiritual world quite distinct from and


superior to that of other men, was an offence to the Pharisaic
leaders, who started the murmur among the people : " Is not this

jesus n ga in offends Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father also we
the Pharisees. have kuowu ? How then says he, 'I came down

from heaven ?' " They had been familiar with Joseph and with
Jesus as plain mechanics working in a humble shop, or going
about doing the usual work of carpenters. That such a man
should claim knowledge of a previous existence in heaven, and a
voluntary coming from heaven to earth, all which Jesus certainly
did claim, was to them a stumbling-block.

The reply of Jesus was, " Murmur not among yourselves. No

man can come to me except the Father who has sent me draw

him ; and I will raise him up in the last day. It

His reply to them. . , \ "

is written m the prophets, ' And they shall all be
taught of God.' * Every one who has heard and has learned of
the Father comes unto me. Not that any one hath seen the
Father, except he who is from the Father: he has seen God.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, lie that believes has lasting life.
I am the bread of life. Your fathers did eat the manna in the
wilderness and have died. This is the bread that comes down
from heaven, that any one may eat of it and not die. I am the
living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eat of
my bread he shall live forever. The bread which I shall give for
the life of the world is my flesh." Here Jesus explicitly teaches
that God co-operates with him in his mission, so that every one
who has any right thoughts and feelings from God has the moral
preparation necessary to receive Jesus. Not that any one has seen
God except Jesus himself, but he implicitly says that he has seen
God. God gave perishable bread in the desert for the temporary
Bustentation of the temporary lives of their fathers, but now God
gives living bread from heaven, even Jesus.

This language is evidently highly symbolical of a deeply pro-
found conviction of Jesus. He connected the welfare of man-
kind with himself, and with himself after death. Flesh cannot
be eaten until the animal is dead; but then that flesh, having lost
its life, is on the way to decay: but Jesus says his flesh is alive

when eaten. The words in the original are so arranged as to ex-
es o

press this weightily. Then there can be no doubt as to his con-

* In 3uch passages as the remarkable i pare Isa. liv. 13, and Jerem. xxxi. 33,
one in Joel ii. 26, 29, with which com- | 34.


viction that he should die ; that after death he should be alive
again : and that then faith in him should be the life of men, and
that only by faith in him could men have lasting life, and that
souls that did not receive him should perish, just as bodies perish
that do not receive material food into themselves.

Then the Jews strove among themselves and said, " How can
this man give us his flesh to eat?" Perhaps some had glimpses
of a profound spiritual meaning. Jesus confirms .

a J- c Their puzzle.

their idea of "eating" by a positive averment.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son
of Man, and drink his blood, ye have not lasting life in you. He
who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has lasting life, and I
will raise him up at the final day. For my flesh is truly food, and
my blood is truly drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my
blood dwells in me and I in him. As the living Father has sent
me, and I live on account of the Father, so he who eats me, ho
also shall live on account of me. Such is the bread which camo
down from heaven : not as the fathers did eat, and have died : he
who eats this bread shall live forever."

This is very spiritual or very gross, and to each hearer it must
have seemed, as now to each reader it does seem, either one or the
other, according to his moral state of receptivity. To Jesus, from
all we now know of his character, it could have been only an ex-
pression in human language of his most delicate perceptions of
most spiritual and sublime and important truths. No one could
truthfully utter these words without believing that the existence
of all souls depended upon himself, and that his life was depend-
ent upon the continued existence of God and upon nothing else,
so that he is virtually the God of humanity. The soul that does
not somehow partake of him is as surely going to destruction as
the body that does not somehow partake of food and drink is go-
ing to destruction. He makes this statement so strong that while
the Jews are discussing the possibility ho cuts them short with an
emphatic statement of the necessity. That which is eaten is taken
into the absorbing and circulating organs of the body and assimi-
lated. That seems to be the reigning idea throughout this speech,
not the grossness of mastication, but the fineness of assimilation.

All this discourse took place in the synagogue in Capernaum.
It was not only offensive to the Jews, but also to many of the
hangers-on of his disciples, those who followed him from general


motives or for sinister purposes. They said, " This is a hard say-
hip;; who can listen to it?" Jesus knew how they felt, perhaps
heard what they said. He replied, " Does this offend you ? "What
if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before ?
It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing: the
words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there
are some of you who do not believe." It seemed to them some-
thing like impiety which he was uttering in saying that he came
down from heaven. He startles them with the intimation that it
is possible they may yet have ocular proof of his ascending. lie
declares again his pre-existence. In speaking to his disciples he
gives a spiritual turn to the words he had uttered, and broad-
ens the spiritual significance of that speech by declaring that his
physical man, his body, could not be profitable, but that it is the
spirit which gives life, the spirit animates the body, and spirit-
ual recognitions alone are valuable.

John declares that Jesus had insight into the spiritual con-
dition of the men about him, and knew who did and who did not
Jesus sifts his follow- believe his words, and who it was that should
ers - betray him. He saw that he weaned from him

the utter materialists and traditionalists and secularists. Many of
his followers turned away from him forever. Jesus said to his
twelve chosen friends, whom he had selected to propagate his
principles, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter, gen-
erally spokesman, answered, "Sir, to whom shall we go? You
have the words of lasting life, and we believe and have found out
that you are the Iloly One of God." There was a great faith
based on a great spiritual intelligence. lie saw that words were
more powerful than acts. Deeds die. Words live. The feeding
of five thousand people was a small thing as compared with the
utterance of a great truth on which the soul could feed and grow.
Jesus said, " Have not I chosen you twelve? and one of you is a
traitor." John says, after the fact, that Jesus spoke of Judas
Iscariot, son of Simon of Kerioth. Jesus may have told John
that he did mean this Judas, or John may have simply afterward
recollected when Jesus was betrayed that this speech had been
made and must have referred to Judas.

This is the closing passage in the history of the second year of
the ministry of Jesus. He had aroused the Pharisees, had sifted
his followers, and had given training to his tried Apostles.






It does not appear that Jesus went up to Jerusalem to the Pass-
over of this year, but it is supposed that his disciples did. There

must have been multitudes at the great national

,... iii i 3 £. ii_ x j • Jesus remains

celebration who had seen or heard ot the reeding .

° in Capernaum.

of the five thousand, and who knew the intense
desire of the people to make Jesus king. Such things would be
much talked of and most eagerly listened to. The intense inter-
est excited by these reports probably hastened the determination
of the hierarchic party to destroy Jesus. Jesus knew it, and ceased
to travel in Judaea proper, confining himself to Galilee.

Soon after the Passover a deputation from the Pharisees and
Scribes, being charged to ascertain some ground of accusation
against Jesus, were dogging his steps and watch- - „ xy . ^ r] .
ing his movements; and spies of that character vii. The deputa-
never fail to find in the most spotless life some- tion from the
thing to which they can take exception.

In addition to the Scriptures, which contained the moral law in
writing, the Pharisees endeavored to bind upon the consciences
of the people certain unwritten traditions of the

ill i-ii -ill Tradition,

elders, oral precepts, which they attributed to the

assistants of Moses. After the time of Jesus these were collected


into a book, consisting of two parts : the Mishna, the text of the
supposed original precepts of the elders, and the Gemara, the
comments on the text by the chief rabbies — the whole being
called The Talmud.

Among the requirements of these traditions were many which
obliged the Jews to wash often, and to wash many things, and to
wash in peculiar ways. Mark has a note to that effect, inserted
parenthetically in his history : " For the Pharisees and all Jews,
except they wash their hands often, eat not, holding the tradition
of the elders, and on coming from the market, if they sprinkle
not, they eat not. And many other things there are which they
have received to hold, as baptisms of cups and of pots and of
vessels of brass." On coming from any public assembly it was in
accordance with this ceremonial law that the whole body be
washed, because it could not be known what defilement may have
been contracted by contact with the common people. When this
deputation of spies saw that Jesus and his disciples paid no regard
to these requirements they catechized him, saying, " Why do your
disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat
bread with unwashed hands ? " The plain intimation is, that the
Master was held responsible for at least the known and unrebuked
acts of his disciples.

The stern reply of Jesus was, " Well has Isaiah prophesied of

you hypocrites when he said (representing Jehovah as speaking),

' This people honor me with their lips, but their

Jesus rebukes k ear t j s f ar f rom me ; in va in do they worship

me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of
men.' For you, leaving the commandment of God, hold the tra-
dition of men. Well do you reject the commandment of God
that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, ' Honor
thy father and thy mother, and he who resisteth father or mother
let him end by death.' But you say that if a man shall say to his
father or mother, ^Corhan (which means a gift), by whatever thou
mightest be profited by me,' ye suffer him no longer to do anything
for his father or his mother, making the word of God of none
effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered. And
many such like things ye do."

This was a severe rebuke, and struck at the sorest spot of Pha-
risaism. The hold of the hierarchic clique upon the people lay
in continuing in them a superstitious regard for the " traditions."


So long as the people were traditionists and ritualists, and the
Pharisees held in their hands the interpretation of the tradition
and the arrangement of the ritual, they could lord it over the con-
sciences of the populace. And we see in this rebuke of Jesus
that churchisra is the same in all ages of the world. The spies
from Jerusalem indirectly rebuked Jesus, not because he did not
regard personal cleanliness, but because he did not conform to the
minute directions of the ceremonial laws which had been built up
by the doctors of the law. In this they were hypocrites. They
had made canons which were contrary to God's express command-
ments. They had been described by Isaiah, and a telling passage
was quoted against them. Jesus cites a case in which the terrible
injury of churchism is seen. According to the law of God, a man
was to honor his parents. But these "churchmen" taught that if
a man said " Corban " over any property, it was thenceforth de-
voted to "the church," and no matter how much the parents might
be in need, this property was interdicted and alienated to " the
church." Jesus regarded this as simply horrible. ^Nothing taken
from a needy father or mother covdd be made acceptable to God
by being devoted to what are called sacred purposes.

Then calling to the crowd that was near, Jesus said, "Hear and
understand: There is nothing from without the man which enter-
ing into him can defile him ; but the things which

What defiles a
come out of him, those are what defile the man." maIL

The comparison of this address to the multitude
with the speech to the Pharisees shows to us, that Jesus would not
be understood as undervaluing purity in any sense, as not abol-
ishing any law which God had given, but that purity was not to
be attained and maintained by outward washings and by observ-
ance of what meats a man should eat, but rather by keeping the
soul, the source of life, all clean. But this is expressed in a par-

His disciples told him that he had offended the Pharisees by Ins
speech to them. lie answered, "Every plant which niv heavenly
Father hath not planted shall be roofed up. Let them alone;
they are blind leaders. And if a blind man lead a blind man
both shall fall into the ditch." Wlliell reply seems to mean that
whatever might come to him from so doing, he should not hesitate

tc root up such noxious weeds as these false teachers, but seems
also to implv that no special violence would be requisite. Do yon


see a blind man leading a blind man? There is a pit in their
path. Why should one push them forward ? They are going to
destruction of themselves. So of these false teachers, and, alas!
of their followers.

But when they reached the house, Peter, who still had tradi-
tionary ideas, and regarded the manner of eating as not an indif-
ferent subject, asked his Master to explain to the
Jesus explains ^^ , ^ ble about the food# And ] ie

his saying. x *■

said, "Are you yet also without understanding '.

They had been so near him, had so long heard his expressions of
thought that they should have been able at once to know what he
meant, and not compel him to go into a detailed explanation,

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 40 of 77)