Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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,.',,. . . emotions,

reader must reel that he is perusing a narrative

of actual events. The father believed that his unbelief was in

the way of the healing of his child ; he believed that Jesus could

do something to destroy that unbelief; he prayed him to do it,

so that at once his infidelity and his child's malady might be

cured. If it was not the voice, it was at least the echo of faith.

It was enough.

By this time the people had begun to run together. He made
no prayer, but said authoritatively, "Dumb and deaf spirit, 1

charge thee come out. of him, and enter no more

,..,.,,.,. , , , Jesus heals the

into him. And shrieking, and having greatly ,
convulsed him, it left ; and the hoy lay as if

In- were dead, SO mueh mi thai BOllie of the spectators pronounced

him dead. But Jesus took his hand and raised him; and lie
Btood up.

When they entered the house, his disciples privately asked him

the Cause of their failure. lie plainly traced it to their lack of

faith. They then prayed, " Lord, incr< ase our faith." ELia replj


was, " If you have faith as a grain of mustard, ye might say to

this sycamine tree, ' Be rooted up and planted in the sea,' and it

would have obeyed you ; or to tills mountain, ' Re-

y e sci- move nence yonder ,' and it should obey you. And
pies could not. . ^ . , " ^

nothing should be impossible to you." lie also

said to them, " This kind can come forth by nothing except by
prayer." It was a strong expression of the value attached to faith
by Jesus. Stier seldom said a more sensible thing than his com-
ment on this passage. " Faith cannot make it its concern, in a
literal sense, to be removing mountains of the earth. But if it
could be, and ought to be its concern, then faith would be able
really [literally] to remove mountains." All the possibilities are
within the reach of faith. But if a man have not faith, even the
possibilities become impossibilities. The removing of material
mountains is a matter of small moment. It would be curious to
stand on a peak of the Alps, and see a spur of the mountain lifted
by a word and set down quietly in a Swiss lake ; but it would be
nothing more. Nothing useful, or beautiful, or profitable would
be in it. A man who takes from his fellow-men a mountain of
doubt, of intellectual and spiritual difficulty, is greater, does a
grander, wiser, better, lovelier thing. Very currently in the
school of the Rabbins was a remover of such difficulties finely
called " An Uprooter of mountains."



To such a pitch had risen the opposition to Jesus that he no

longer dared to show himself openly along the high-roads, lest

his life and his ministry should be brought to a

sudden termination by violence. He could not go Through North-
, ;,iii o • ,ixi ern Galilee. Mark

down to the lake, bo, crossing the Jordan near . , r .. ..

la ix. ; Matt. xvii. ;

its source, by field-paths and through byways Luke be
he went with his disciples through Upper Galilee.
In Gaulonitis he had declared to his nearest and most trusted
disciples that his end was approaching, and that it was to be one
of great shame and pain. But there were scattered throughout
Galilee quite a body of people who in such measure believed
on him that they might be called disciples. To these, "of whom
a nucleus of more than five hundred brethren survived the trial
of the cross," he now made the same announcement in plain lan-
guage, saying, " The Son of Man is being delivered into the hands
of men, and they will kill him ; and when he is killed, after three
days he shall arise." Here was an open prediction of a violent
death, and of a resurrection after a certain specified time. And
yet they could not understand it. They could see no necessity
for it. It was so contrary to all their expectations, to his great
power and mighty works, that his death was utterly incompre-
hensible. The resurrection was totally unintelligible. And they
were afraid to ask him what this saying meant; but it was a sad-
ness and a sorrow to them.

We do not know how long this journey was, nor what spots of
Northern Galilee he visited. It was manifestly not intended to
bo a circuit of preaching, but a season to be spent in instructing
his disciples, especially in the matter of bis great trial, which he
saw approaching.

A Iter some time he brought his disciples to Capernaum. On
their arrival, Peter, who was the most demonstrative, and there-


fore the most conspicuous of the little band, was applied to by

the collectors of the didrachms. This didraehm (or double-drachm)

was of about the value of thirty American centa

J tr J m » e " i" U'old, and was the half-shekel tribute to the Teni-

tax. Matt, xvii. . -^

pie mentioned in Exodus xxx. 13. Every Jew
acknowledged it. Even during the Babylonish captivity it was
conscientiously and punctually paid. It was not, then, a tax to
the Roman government, for it had been collected long anterior
to the Roman rule. Jesus had been absent from his home, and
now, upon his return to Capernaum, being in arrears, as this
money had been due since the previous March, it was expected
that he would attend to it. And yet there was something so excep-
tional in his character and history that the collectors hardly dared
to approach Jesus on the subject, but preferred to speak to his
disciples. After he had passed into the house, they said to Peter,
" Does not your Teacher pay the didraehm ? " As all paid it,
Peter supposed of course that Jesus would, and, generally blun-
dering, often through his gushing earnestness and generosity, he
said, " Yes." Perhaps he felt that his Teacher's honor was at
stake, and, forgetting what he had a short time ago confessed,
that Jesus was the Son of the living God, and thus, as Jesus
declared of himself, greater than the Temple, he had placed his
Master in the difficulty of confessing himself to be liable to Tem-
ple-tribute, or of taking a position in which offence would be
given where no good could be done.

When Peter entered the house, Jesus said to him, "What think-

esl thou, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth receive

tariff or poll-tax, of their own sons or of others ?"

. ., , ' Peter answered, " Of others." Of course a prince

Bnould not pay it. _ x

of blood royal would not pay a capitation-tax!
" Therefore the sons are free," responded Jesus. Peter must
have heard in the words and tone a very deep meaning. Jesus
claimed to be a son of Jehovah in a sense in which no other Jew,
and therefore no other human being, could titter the claim. He
v:is a son, free in his Father's house. Other men might pay
Temple tax, but surely not he. The admission of Peter, the logi-
cal connection of which that disciple did not perceive, took back
his former confession and reduced Jesus to the level of an itiner-
ant teacher.

From this predicament his Master relieved him, saying, " But,




that we may not offend them, go to the lake and cast a hook, and

take the first fish that comes up ; upon opening its mouth thou

shalt find a stater; take

that, and give it to them

for me and thee." It is to

be presumed that Peter did

so, else the narrative would

have found no place in the

history. The stater was a

coin equal to the Ilebrew

shekel, about sixty American cents gold, and was therefore two

double didrachms : it paid for two. But it is to be noticed that

while Jesus put himself into brotherhood and sympathy with his

disciples, there is always a dignified reserve. He does not say,

" Give it for us ; " but " for me and for tlieeP

This was a miracle or nothing. It was at least a miracle of

knowledge, being out of the usual methods in which knowledge is

gained. It was not a creation. There was no

need of that. And Jesus never created before , m^ace o

the eyes of men. He did not make the money in

the fish. The fish had swallowed it. He knew it, and knew that
it would come to Peter's hook. And it came. The tax was paid.
It is quite easy to say that this was a selfish act, that it was ex-
erted for his personal benefit, and that it was undignified and un-
necessary. It occurred. There is nothing else undignified, and
unnecessary, and selfish in this man's life. To have paid this
special tax would have been to surrender what he had claimed,
and to let his disciples down from the high place to which he had
been so long engaged in lifting them. As the Son of God, in a
sense higher than any which can he claimed by any other, which
is manifestly what he though! and taught himself to he, he should
nut pay the Temple lax. Bangs do not tax princes of the blood
royal. As God's Only Begotten he was free in his Father's
house. Nevertheless, as il would have been mosl imprudent to

plant himself on that claim at this juncture of his history, and as

Peter had pledged the paymenl of this tax, he performed this
miracle, which at once meet-, the case and declares his superiority

to other men.

Several circumstances now combined to increase in the <
pics the rigor of their anticipations of a lb Messianic r


Jesus had told them that the end approached. The intimatione
of the darkness and sorrow that awaited him, with which he
accompanied this prediction, seem to have made
Messianic hopes; little impression upon them. The Messiah was
Mark is. ; Matt. tQ reJ An som)WS wou j d be lik(J the mom .

xvm. : Luke xvu. ,

^iv, ing cloud before the rising sun. The Transfigura-

tion, the miracle of the stater in the fish's mouth,
combined with the ground he took as to his non-liability to be
taxed, made them feel that the kingdom had in some sense been
set up, and that the time of the distribution of honors must be
approaching. Certain things had excited their vanity. Peter
had received special commendation for his confession. Peter and
James and John had been taken to witness the splendors of the
Transfiguration. A miracle had been performed by which money
had been procured to pay Peter's Temple-tax. Poor human
nature could not endure all this, and so they fell into a dis-
pute in regard to the Primacy. When they reached the pres-
ence of Jesus they were flushed with the excitement of the
discussion. Matthew says that they came and submitted the
question to Jesus. Mark says that Jesus perceived the thought
of their hearts. Their very visages plainly told of the alter-
cation they had had. lie questioned them as to what had been
the subject of dispute. They were silent witli shame. But lie
pushed them to a reply, and they said that they had been dis-
puting on the question, " "Who is the greater in the kingdom of
heaven ? "

Here was the spirit of churchism cropping out, with its official
distinctions and struggles for office, which have been the curse of

religionists in all ages. It was a fitting time to
Therule of pre- ghow how ^ kin ^ doin f the h eavclls w l lic h h e

preached, the limitless field and perpetual dura-
tion of principles of right, was set against everything that sa-
vored of churchism. There were to be no distinctions in that
kingdom, no officers, no primacies. He called the twelve out,
and laid down to them this principle: "If any man desire to be
first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all ;" as much as
to say, profoundest humility and most extensive usefulness con-
stitute the only ground of distinction in the kingdom of the
heavens. The distinctions there are of character and not of


To impress this lie took a little child * and set him in the midst

of them, and when he had taken the boy in his arms he said to

his disciples, " Unless you shall be changed, and

, t, i t m i i ii • , A little child.

become as little children, you shall not enter into

the kingdom of the heavens. Whosoever, therefore, shall humble

himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of the

heavens. AVhosoever shall receive one of these children in my

name receivcth me, and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not

me, but him that sent me."

This reminded John of something. The wideness of this
catholic speech condemned a little act of sectarian meanness into
which the disciples had been betrayed. It was
frank in John to say, "Teacher, we saw one cast- John ' s fr^k
ing out demons in thy name, and we forbade him,
because he followeth not us." It was a most naive confession. It
was an exhibition of denominationalisin, sectarianism, churchism,
in its very essence, but in its best manner. It gave Jesus an op-
portunity to make a speech that ought to make any man blush to
acknowledge himself a churchman, and in the same breath claim
to be a Christian. Jesus said : " Forbid him not ; for there is no
one who shall do a mighty work in my name and be able lightly
to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. And
whosoever shall offend one of these little ones believing in me, it
were better for him that a millstone were hung upon his neck
and that he were sunk in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the
world from causes of offence ! For it must needs be that offences
come ; but woe to the man by whom the offence comes. For every
one shall be salted with lire. Salt is good ; but if the salt have
become saltless, with what will you season it ? Have salt in your-
selves, and have peace one with another. See that ye despise not
one of these little ones; for I say unto von. Their angels in the
heavens always behold the face of ray Father in the heavens."

The connection seems to lie this: forbid no one. The doing
of any good thing is sullicicnt authority lor the doing. 1 )o not dis-
courage that follower of mine who follows mo even at the greatest

* There is a church tradition thai this individual vanity i* very BtrDdng in the
child was [gnatiua, who afterward be- absence of the names of many parties
came a martyr. But there seems folic mentioned in the Scripture histories.

really no proof of this. The link of Where there is no high moral reason fot
such personal distinction as minister to | it, no name Li ever mentioned.

440 tife third passover to the feast of tabernacles.

distance and with the least faith. Schism is a great evil, and
schismatics greatly to be condemned. But who are schismatics?
Those who are driven from a church because they
will not yield the truth ? No, but those who drive
them forth. The doom of a destroyer of faith is terrible. Incen-
tives to defection will naturally occur, but woe to the man who
makes them. Those who follow me will be subjected to severe
trial. As every sacrifice before being presented to God is sprin-
kled with salt, so each of my disciples is to be salted with fiery
trials. Salt is a symbol of spiritual preservation. Have this
spiritual life in you. If it be gone you arc worthless. Have a
keen, sharp, active spiritual life in yourselves as individuals, and
be at peace among yourselves. Have life. Let others have life.
Strive not at all for pre-eminence, but very much for inner life.
And see that you do not despise one of these little ones. The
angels in heaven are like them. God sees in the angels the
counterpart of His humblest, simplest children. And, perhaps,
he also meant that to those angels lie commits the keeping of
little children and of child-like men.

In this connection Jesus continued to teach them, and said :
" Moreover, take heed to yourselves ; if your brother shall tres-
pass, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone ; if he
shall hear you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not
hear you, take with yourself one or two, that by the mouth of
two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if
he neglect to hear them, tell it to the congregation ; * but if he
neglect to hear the congregation, let him be to you as a heathen f
and a tax-gatherer. Verily I say to you, Whatsoever ye shall
bind upon the earth, shall be bound in the heavens ; and whatso-
ever ye shall loose upon the earth, shall be loosed in heaven.
Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree upon earth
about asking anything, it shall be done for them by my Father in
the heavens ; for where two or three are gathered together in my
name, there I am in the midst of them."

In this teaching of the method of mending breaches of fra-
ternafl fidelity Jesus utters some very profound
truths. Two men belong to a congregation of fol-
lowers of Jesus. One is offended by his brother. Let him not, in

* See what was said on the transla- I f Which means one of another na-
tion of this word, page 420. I tion, a Gentile.


turn, be an offender, but let him bring personal kindness to bear
upon the offender for his restoration. It may prevail, and greater
love come than existed before. But the offender may be incor-
rigible. Let the offended take two witnesses, other brethren, so
that this scandal may be kept from spreading, if possible, and bo
that if one continue to be offensive while the other is peaceable,
it may be known which is the offender. If he shall continue un-
appeasable, take the case to the congregation. If the voice of the
brotherhood be. disregarded, then the offender may be to the of-
fended as if he were an " outsider," a Gentile, and a tax-gatherer,
that is to say, no longer an object of fraternal confidence, but a
subject for missionary zeal ; certainly not a person to be hated,
for the whole teaching of Jesus and his whole conduct taught a
different lesson, lie received tax-gatherers and sinners, and ate
with them.

Xow, whatever profound principle may underlie the declaration
of what is bound upon earth being bound in heaven, that princi-
ple Jesus applies to every believer, to all the dis-
1 "If two a "Tee."

ciples, to his congregation, and not to the Apostles

alone. That the whole essence of modern ehurchism and of an-
cient hierarchism are totally absent ; that the " power of the k « * n b,"
as it is called, belongs not to any officials as such, but to all ( Jliris-
tians as such, appeal's from the statement of Jesus, "If two of you
shall agree upon earth about asking anything, it, shall be done for
them by my Father in the heavens;" and from the reason which
he assigns for this, namely, " For where two or three are gathered
together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." These
seem to be among the profoundest utterances and the loftiest
claims of Jesus. Wherever two souls exist, to both of whom some-
thing is equally necessary, and necessary above everything else,
so thai they go to the heavenly Father with this united and para
mount petition, it will be granted. It cannot be a trilling, earthly,
temporary, egotistic thing; it must be something that takes hold
of eternity. If siu-h a thing be asked it will be granted, because
nothing contrary to God's will can, under Buch circumstances, be
requested. The only permanenl platform of union for any two
sou Is lic> high op among the Loftiest things of eternity.

His idea of a true church now comes out. It is nol ahicrarchy
It docs not rest on officials. Any two souls together, united in
the name of Jesus, make a church, with all powers and functions j


His idea of a
time church.

for there is with them always a third, and that person is Jesus.
There may be a true church without bishops, ciders, and deacons.
The fountain of spiritual power and authority is
always present where two souls are spiritually con-
joined. Whether Jesus makes good these claims
is a question for individual spiritual experiences; but that lie did
make the claims is simply what we must record as history; and
this fact tears from the teaching of Jesus all that men have in-
serted therein whereon to build ecclesiasticism, denominationalism,
sectarianism, and whatever would give to any one believer in
Jesus what does not belong to every other. His was to be a holy
catholic church, and a holy catholic church is one in which are no
persons who are not holy, and in which is no one who has what is
not catholic, common to all.

Peter, the noble-hearted blunderer, apparently having failed to

dsten carefully to the discourse of Jesus, but pondering what had

been said about offences, broke in with the ques-

How frequently {{ "Lord, ] 10W f te n shall my brother trespass
must I forgive ? . T „ . , . „ „.,. . „„

against me and 1 forgive him « lill seven times i

That seemed a large measure of placability to Peter.* But fancy
the look which the large-hearted Teacher gave him when over
against Peter's close arithmetical calculation of forgiveness he set
a statement of boundless compassion. "Until seven times? I
Bay not that, but until seventy times seven ! "

That this compassionateness of Christian character might be
impressed upon them he related the following parable: "There-
Parable of the f° re sua ^ 1ne kingdom of the heavens be likened
unmerciful ser- unto a human f king who wished to compare an
vant - account with his slaves. And, beginning to com-

pare, there was brought one to him, a debtor of many:}: talents.
And he not having wherewith to pay, the lord commanded him to be

* It greatly exceeded the rabbinical
rule of three times, which they based
on Amos i. o ; ii. 6 ; Job xxxiii. 29, 30.

\ In the common version it is "a cer-
tain king," in the original it is avdpwna>
f)acri\fi, a man, a king ; but it seems to
me that the translation above gives the
true sense, making a.>>0pu>nw emphatic.
So Meyer says, "da das IIiMMEl.ltEldl
mit einem Mensculiciien Konige ver-
glichen wird."

% In the common version it is " ten
thousand talents. " So a number of the
MSS. have /.ivpiav raXavToiv, but the old
reading, as in the Codex Sin., is irnWaiu,
many. If the former reading be adopt-
ed, it means an infinite, if the latter,
an indefinite debt. One talent, Attic,
was equal to 6,000 denarii. If the read-
ing be 10,000 talents, then the one owed
his lord 000,000 times as much as his
I fellow-servant owed him.



sold, and the wife, and the little children, and all that he had, and
payment to be made. Then the slave falling down worshipped him,
saying, ' Lord have patience with me and I will pay you all.' Then
the lord of that slave, moved with compassion, released him and
forgave him the debt. But that slave going out found one of his
fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii,* and, having
seized him, he throttled him, saying ' Pay if you owe.' f Then his
fellow-slave falling down besought him, saying, ' Have patience
with me, and I will pay you.' And he would not ; but going out
he cast him into prison until he should pay the debt. Then his
fellow-slaves seeing what was done were very sorry, and came and
told their own lord all that had been done. Then, having called
him, his lord says to him, ' O wicked slave, I forgave you all that
debt because you did entreat me: did it not behoove you also to
pity y< >ur fellow-slave as I also pitied you \ ' And his lord, being
indignant, delivered him to the tormentors until he should pay all
that was owing to him. Tims also shall my heavenly Father do
to yon, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother."
The moral of this beautiful parable is so apparent that it needs
little explication. It teaches the Christian doctrine of Forgive-
ness. A man must be wide-hearted who is a sub-
ject of the kingdom of the heavens. The parable
is in accordance to what Jesus taught as a proper prayer, " Forgive
us our trespasses, as we have forgiven those who trespass against
us." "When the slave who owed to the master vastly more than
his fellow-slave owed him, appealed for mercy to his lord, he pro-
fessed by that very petition to believe that mercy was a grace
which every man should show his fellow-man. When he would
not forgive his fellow-slave he showed that that profession was a
lie. So when a man asks God to forgive him, he announces to

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 44 of 77)