Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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antedated in fact, while he anticipated everything
in thought. The shadow of the cross on his path ,. '.
lay as distinct as that which Gustavo Dore, in his
terrible pictures, throws everywhere on the way of the "Wan-
dering Jew." lie saw it. lie talked of his death, before it oc-
curred, with as much defmiteness as he did of that of John the
Baptist after it had occurred. His disciples could not sec the
outline of the shadow on the path until Jesus pointed it out to
them. Now he begins to tell them "plainly," says the record in
Mark viii., that he must go up to Jerusalem, lie had absented
himself from the late Passover; nowhe"mitst go to Jerusalem."
lb- slp.uld suffer many things. The conspiracy formed against

him by the elders and chief priest8 and scribes should culminate

in bis death. [Ie should certainly he killed.

But, — on the third day he should rise again! lie plainly pre-
dicted that.

The prediction of the resurrection Beems to have made no im-
:n upon them. Whether it was because he talked -■ » much

Ln parables with them that their I was often -'rely puz-

4:24 THE third tassovek to the feast of TABERNACLES.

zled, so that they knew not when to interpret his words literally
and when figuratively," — or whether the startling and astound-
ing annonneement that he was to be killed came
eprecics s go guc ] ( ] en ]y a ft er ] x j s -j G y a t the recognition of
rcsu rrection. . °

his Messiahship, — the fact comes oiit afterwards
that they totally forgot the prediction of the resurrection. The
statement that he, the newly acknowledged Messiah, was to be
killed, was more than Peter could bear. He seized him by hand,
or dress, or perhaps in embrace, and exclaimed, " God save thee,f
lord ; not to thee shall this be ! " lie actually undertook to rebuke
him, as Matthew and Mark agree in recording.

Jesns turned his back on Peter, saying, " Go behind me, Satan:
thou art my stumbling-stone ; for thou regardest not the things of
God, but the things of men." A moment ago the
Rock on which the church was to be built ! if we
accept the interpretation of churchism : then it is fair to hold
churchism to what Jesus says now, and this same Peter is the very
devil and a stumbling-stone ! But the words no more apply to
Peter here than there, in the sense of a closely restricted personal
application. They contain a general truth. He who cannot
accept the self-abnegation of Jesus, and endure the humiliation
of a violent and ignominious death, but is so carnal and secular
as to desire a reign of visible temporal glory, is a stumbling-block
to the work of Jesus in the world. When they met face to face,
as Jesns and Peter did, it was a personal rebuke.

Satan is the Hebrew name for the chief of evil spirits, in whose
existence as a personality Jesus certainly believed. The general
meaning of the word is Tempter, or, more correctly, Adversary,
one who sets himself in opposition to goodness and duty and
right. It may have been used in this general sense to Peter, but
certainly very pointedly, and with a distinct recognition of the
personal existence of Satan.

* The reader may consult John iv.
33; Matthew xvi. 7; and John xi. 12,
for passages in which Jesus manifestly
epoke figuratively, and which his dis-
ciples interpreted literally. At other
times he spoke literally and they under-
stood him figuratively : see Matthew
xv. 15, 17; John xi. 11, 17; and John
vi 70

f The phrase in the Greek is an ab-
breviation, and literally is, "Propitious
to thee," or " Gracious to thee," mean-
ing that the goodness of God should
save the person from the evil spoken ; a
sudden ejaculatory prayer for the safety
of the person addressed. The very form
shows the great excitement of Peter.


Tin's resistance of Peter to the announcement by Jesus of his
coming death is proof that, notwithstanding his noble and lofty
acknowledgment of the spiritual Messiahship of Jesus, there still
clung worldly notions to the mind of Peter, and to the disciples
and followers generally. lie therefore called his disciples and
the people near to himself, and delivered a discourse to them, the
substance of which is preserved by Matthew, Mark, and Luke,
and which Avas as follows : —

"If any one wishes to come after rne, let him deny himself, and take up Iris
cross and follow me. For whosoever may wish to save his life shall lose it ;
and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gos-
pel's, shall find it. For what shall a man be profited if lie Addresseshis disciples,
should gain the whole world and lose his own life, or be
cast away? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life ? "Whosoever
shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which
is in heaven, and before the angels of God ; but whosoever shall deny me and
be ashamed of me and of my words before men in this sinful and adulterous
generation, him will I also deny before my Father which is in the heavens:
for the Son of Man shall come in his own glory, and in the glory of his Father,
with his angels ; and then lie shall reward every man according to Iris works.
Verily I say unto you, That there be some standing here which shall not taste
of death till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom with power."

"Winch seems to mean this: His Messiahship had been acknow-
ledged, but it was to be a bitter disappointment, even to many
who acknowledged it, because he was going to be y*

° ' *~ . Its meaning,

killed. If any man thought of becoming his dis-
ciple, he must make tip his mind to abandon all hopes of pecu-
niary advantage and personal ease and indulgence. He must go
further. lie must deny himself. Whatflesh and blood call for,
he must often refuse even to himself. lie must submit to igno-
miny and torture. Nothing was so disgraceful and painful as
death by crucifixion, in which the condemned was compelled to
carry the cross, which was to be the instrument of his torture, to
the place of execution. So his disciples must learn perfect sub-
mission to extreme sufferings. But there was a compensation
even here. A man who gives his life np for the sake of Jesus
and thoRo doctrines of philanthropy which he preached, should
indeed lose luxuries, comforts, home delights, and many a sensu-
ous pleasure, but after all should find the truest and sweetest 0868

of life : whereas the Belfish hoarder of hia vital powers should find
them shrinking within him. In general, vitality is maintained


and strengthened by living largely, putting out the energies
widely, life being not income but outgo.

In that case why should a man lose his life? If he kill himself
in the effort to grasp the whole world, even if that effort should
be imagined to prove successful, nothing would come of it. He
would be gone, lost, a castaway, out of existence ; then where
would there be any use of pleasures if he did not exist to enjoy
them ? The basis of everything is life. The universe is nothing
without life. A man must therefore do all he can to increase his
physical, intellectual, and spiritual vitality. The world will be so
much world to him, and the man will be so much man to himself
in proportion as he has life. And life is got by giving. The more
a man gives himself to his generation the more he gets out of it.

o o o

Jesus taught that to follow him was the way to gain life by

giving it. Men must therefore confess him by following him.

lie was going through a dark passage. lie would

„ , ' not conceal that from them. But their hope of

all a dream. m l

Messianic glory was not all a dream. It was a
mistake in so far as it was secular, but it was a truth in so far as
it recognized him as the conquering Deliverer. lie was to come in
glory, in his own glory and God's, which he spoke of as being iden-
tical, with a holy familiarity, in such style as no man before his time
or since has ever dared to employ. The rewards of mankind he
representees being in his hands, — a prodigious claim ! He knew
the works of every man, and in exact accordance with those works
he should give each man his reward, and there should be no mistake.
He closed his address with the statement that there were those
present who should not die until they saw the Son of Man coming

in his kingdom with power. I do not know what
Anincomprchen- ]lQ mcant Did j^ discip]es % Did any eve]lt

ever occur in their life-time which corresponds
-until this statement? If so, where is it recorded? I know what
theories have been propounded in explanation, have read the
commentators, am familiar with the views of theologians, and
have perhaps a theory of my own ; but the plain question, to be
honestly answered, would amount to this : As each man in that
company died, if he had been asked in his last moments whether
he had seen any event which was to him a fulfilment of these
words of Jesus, could he have designated any such event? If he
could, we have no means of ascertaining the fact.



It was about a week after the confession made by Peter that
an event of great interest, as a fresh revelation, occurred in
the history of Jesus. The narrative, as col-
lected from all the New Testament historians, Probably Mount

. ,i . Ilermon. Matt.

is this : — .. ,, , .

xvn. ; Mark ix. ;

Jesus took Peter, James, and John into a high Luke ix.
mountain apart. As he prayed he was trans-
figured before them. The fashion of his countenance was altered,
and his face shone like the sun, and his raiment became shining
and white as the snow, white as the light, whiter

than any earthly fuller could make them. Moses Thc transfi ^"

,_..., ^ t n . -it ration,

and Elijah were present and talking with Jesus,

who had a glorious appearance, and they spoke of his death at
Jerusalem, "which he should accomplish." The three disciples
were heavy with sleep, but this vision kept them awake by its
splendor. As Moses and Elijah departed, Peter said unto Jesus,
" Sir, it is good for us to be here! If thou wilt, I will make here
three tents; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
lie spoke at random, for he was greatly scared. While he was
speaking, the awe of the disciples was increased by the over-
spreading of a bright cloud, out of which came thc words, " This
is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased: hear him."
This splendor and these words overpowered them, and they fell
on their laces greatly afraid. And when the voice was past,
Jesus came and touched them, and said, "Arise, and be oot
afraid." And when they lifted up their eyes they saw no
man but Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain his disciples asked him
why the Seniles taught thai Elijah musl first come. [lis answer
Mas, "Elijah truly shall come, and restore all tilings: but I
say unto you, That Elijah is e< ime already, and they knew him not,


but have done to him whatever they wished. Thus also is the

Son of Man about to suffer by them." The disciples understood

him to mean John the Baptist in this last speech.

Why Elijah must Aud ag tl descended from the mountain, Jesus
first come. _

charged them, saying, "Tell the vision to no man

until the Son of Man be risen from the dead." Luke and Mark

say that the injunction was obeyed. The disciples did not tell

anything of the vision outside their own circle, but inside they

held discussion of the meaning of the perplexing phrase, " risen

again from the dead."

It would appear that the intimation of his sufferings and
death had had a depressing effect upon the mind of his dis-
ciples. Under this cloud they struggled and questioned their
own hearts for the space of a week, when the event of the trans-
figuration gave new form to their thoughts and hopes.

It is not known precisely what mountain was the site of this

transfiguration. In the fourth century, from a passing remark

by Cyril of Jerusalem, tradition fixed on Mount

TmnsfioTxratiorf 6 Tabor > in Galilee > famous for the beauty of its
form and for the wide view of Central Palestine
beheld from its summit. In the sixth century three churches
were built on its top, suggested by Peter's idea of three booths.
Subsequently a monastery was founded. But later criticism has
displaced the claims of Tabor. It was possible for Jesus, by a
very forced march, of which we have no account, to reach Tabor
within the period specified. But why should he return to Galilee,
where his enemies were seeking him to destroy him? Mark
(ix. 30) informs us that he did not go into Galilee until after
this event. Moreover, Tabor was occupied, to its summits, by
settlements, and had been, probably, from the time of Joshua.
Jesus was in the highlands of Gaulonitis, in the region of
Ca3sarea Philippi. Whoever in this place looks up for a "high
mountain," immediately sees the sublime heights of Ilermon, and
the almost common consent of travellers and critics is now given
to the theory that the transfiguration took place somewhere on

Jesus had with him the three representative and trusted dis
ciples, Peter and James and John. It was his custom to go into
the mountains for evening prayer, and sometimes to continue his
devotions through the entire night. He seems to have done so in


this instance. lie prayed while his fatigued disciples slept. At
some period of the night a strange awe suffused their slumbers.
They woke to see their Master in a state of glori-

TliG witnesses

fication. His face shone like the sun, and his very
garments were glistening, snowy white, and luminous. Mark was
struck with that fact, which must have been narrated to him by
one of the spectators, and his simple remark is that they were
white "as no fuller on earth can white them." This was the
first stage of the marvel. Then two unknown men stood with
him. They entered into solemn discourse with Jesus. The
disciples learned from the lofty conversation that these were
Moses and Elias, the founder and the defender of the theocracy
They spoke to Jesus about his death, which was shortly to

It was an awful time to the disciples. It seemed to flash upon
Peter's mind that Jesus was now about to declare openly that
Messiahship of his which Peter had so recently
confessed; that on this mount he was about to iix . onjec'

. . -ri •• ture.

the seat of his empire, with Moses and Elijah

as his prime ministers. It was the prevalent belief of the Jews
that Elijah was to precede and herald the Messiah, bring back
the pot of manna and Aaron's rod, settle the controversies
between the Jewish schools, purify the people by some lustration,
and hand the nation over to King Messiah. He seemed now
about to begin this grand inauguration. But then, on the in-
stant, he and Moses retire. Peter, in his general confusion
and fright, blunders out a request to Jesus to be permitted to
erect there such booths as the Jews were accustomed to put
np in a temporary style for their Feasts of Tabernacles, so that
Moses and Elijah might remain with Jesus and carry forward the
great work.

Before Jesus made any response a bright eloud encircled them,
and the disciples wen; sore amazed and frightened as they en-
tered the cloud. A new marvel broke n them.

a • i i £ , i i • i i. • Tll ° voice.

A voice sounded from the brightness, saying,

"This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased:

hear him." The disciples fell on their Paces, and remained bo
until Jesus came and touched them and encouraged them to
arise, when lliey found thai they were alone with Jdsns.
Whatever theory may he adopted as to this history, the efl


upon the minds of the disciples is the important consideration:

whether it was a vision which all three saw consentaneously, in

all its parts, in a dream, or whether, being awake,

Influence on the they werfl in gm . h a phy^^ intellectual, and

spiritual state as, all together, to have witnessed
these phenomena, it is certain that there were impressions made
upon them which had. great influence subsequently upon theii
character and conduct. The surpassing glory of Jesus, his con-
sistency with the law and. the prophets, the subjection of Moses
and Elijah to Jesus, his suffering of death not vitiating his claims
to the Messiahship, were certainly represented with great power
to the minds of these three representative and influential disci-
ples, and by them brought to bear upon the whole body of the
nearest followers of Jesus.

But still there were two perplexities created by this vision and
by the words of their Master. One was the " being raised again
from the dead," as applied to Jesus. If he were
perp exi y. ^ e Messias, how could he die ? How could death
have power over a being so glorious that the effulgence of his
person rendered his very garments glistening? They never did
find a satisfactory solution of that problem through the whole
life-time of their Master. That he was in some mysterious man-
ner to accomplish at Jerusalem something which might be repre-
sented as a death, they had gathered from the conversation of
Moses and Elijah; but that he should really depart this life by
dying, being virtually murdered, and that his spirit should come
back to that same mangled body and lift it from the grave, and
go about in it as if he had never died, is a series of thoughts
which seems never to have entered their minds.

Their second trouble was to reconcile the fact that they had
seen Elijah leave Jesus, apparently not to return, with the predic-
tion of Malachi (iv. 5, G) that Elijah must fii-st

Anot er per- comc w hj cn as their religions instructors had

taught them to believe, meant that the personal

appearance of the prophet Elijah was to precede that of the Mes-
sias. Here he had shown himself to only three of the disci-
ples, and not to the body of the people ; and instead of preceding
Jesns, had really appeared to no one until this late period in the
ministry of Jesus. Their Master gave them to understand that
John the Baptist had fulfilled all predictions of a forerunner ;


that lie liad preceded Jesus with the power of Elijah, and had
been slaughtered, and that the fate of the Baptist prefigured the
sufferings which he himself was to endure. His own approach-
ing death by violence seemed as plain before his eyes as that of
John, which had already been accomplished.

After these wonderful revelations Jesus enjoined silence on the
three witnesses. Yv r e can readily conjecture good reasons for this.
They had become so affected by this interview that they could
carry the moral influence into the whole body of the disciples
without the description of phenomena which might give rise to
perplexing and inharmonious discussions. Everything was to be
done which should suppress the sensuous Messianic expectations
of his followers. The very criticism made on this transaction by
such men as Paulus and Venturini and Strauss in modern days,
shows just the spirit with which the narrative of such lofty scenes
and experiences would have been met by the multitude and by
the learned men of that time, who were generally coarse, skepti-
cal, and profane. When no good can possibly come of speaking,
and much evil may, it is wisdom to keep silence.

Immediately upon the descent from the mountain occurred a
scene which stands in contrast with the lofty splendor of the
Transfiguration. Jesus came to the nine disci-
ples whom he had left behind, and found them in ° m ...
* ' sarea Phihppi.

great trouble and perplexity, and the hostile Mark ix. ■ Matt
Scribes vexing them with questions, and the xvii - ; Luke **•
multitude about them in a tumult. But there
must have been something in the natural dignity of the person
of Jesus, and perhaps on this occasion some reminiscence of the
glory wherewith he had shone on the eyes of his three disciples
in the Mount; for the people were amazed at his appearance, and
ran towards him and saluted him. He asked them, " Why do
ye question among yourselves? " The disciples gave no answer,
nor the Scribes. The former were ashamed of their weakness
in the absence of their Master, and the latter feared his power
now that he was present. The question, however, was, soon an-
swered by a man from the crowd, who came forward and kneeled
down before Jesus, and said: "Teacher, I have brought to thee
my son, mine only child, who bus a dumb spirit; and where it
seizes him it tears him, ami lie suddenly eric- oul and foams, and
gnashes with Lis teeth, and pines away, and the spirit with dilli-

432 the TniRD tassover to the feast of tabernacles.

culty departs from lilm ; for lie is a lunatic and sore vexed. And
I spoke to thy disciples that they should cast him out ; and they
could not."

Here was the whole case, with all its difficulties, revealed.

Ilere was a spectacle of mental and physical wretchedness, an

epileptic and lunatic youth, whom the disciples

The demoniac had no( . pQwer tQ hea] . and because they failed

when they tried, the party antagonistic to Jesus
had stirred up the multitude to profane skepticism, and perhaps
to taunts, rejecting the Master in the persons of the disciples, who,
under these jeers, on account of their weakness, grew still more
impotent. The contrast with the Mount of Transfiguration was
violent. Rafaellc's great picture in the Vatican presents to the
eye the idea of the contrast, but fails to express it all. The
Mount was bright and warm, and full of celestial health and har-
monies, but here in the plain were physical disease and mental
disorder, and darkness, and clang of discordant voices and pas-
sions. It smote from the sensitiveness of Jesus the expression :
" O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you ? How
long shall I suffer you ? " What long pent up agony suspired in
that groan ! He had lived to teach them that faith in God was
everything as a basis of character and as an energy of life ; and
it all seemed to come to nothing. lie knew the power and good-
ness of God so well that want of trust in Him on the part of
others gave Jesus the greatest suffering. He could not endure it.
It was not the sins into which their passions betrayed them that
was most grievous, but the lack of faith which allowed their pas
sions such power over their lives.

" Bring him to me," he said. And as they brought him the
boy had another fit, and he fell and wallowed foaming. And
Jesus asked the father : " How long since this
happened to him ? " And he answered : " From
a child : — and often it has cast him into the fire and into the wa-
ters, that it might destroy him ; but if thou art able, have com-
passion on us and help us." Jesus replied : " If thou art able ! —
all things are possible to him who believes." There may be a
doubt as to the precise shade of meaning which Jesus attached to
these words. The emphasis makes great difference. " Jf thou
art able ! " would be quoting the man's words and rebuking him
for the implication of inability on the part of Jesus. Repeating


the man's words without any emphasizing would be to say: "It
is not a question of ability, physical or intellectual, but purely of
faith ; if I have faith enough I can do this ; if my disciples had
had faith enough they might have done it." Both these mean-
ings may be in the speech of Jesus, but I think that over them
predominates the sense given by the words when emphasized as
above : " If thou — the father of the child — art able." No faith
on the part of Jesus w T ould have availed if the man remained un-
believing : and, — faith is strength. " If thou art able " to believe
— is the reply to " If thou art able " to cure. It is only the
repetition of the teaching of Jesus that the greatest power of
humanity lies in its trust in the Father God, that this gives a man
control over all the possibilities of the universe, and that things
become possible to men in proportion to their faith ; that as a man
extends the radius of his faith he enlarges the circle of his possi-
bilities. Faith and Love, in the system of Jesus, are the two great
wings which bear a man upward through the universe to the
highest attainments and enjoyments.

The father must have felt that there was some rebuke in the
reply of Jesus. He burst into tears and said: " Sir, I believe ;
do thou help mine unbelief." This is at once so

natural, so simple, and so profound, that every

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 43 of 77)