Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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thought it was not the correct and regular thing for a Jew to
show mercy to a Samaritan, Jesus showed him the beautiful
picture of a Samaritan putting his own life in peril to save a man
whom he considered a heretic, and whom he knew to be his na-
tional enemy.

If the wounded man, however, was not a Jew, — and Jesus does
not say he was, — then the Samaritan is represented as having the

widest possible humanity. He had met a man

, -it -i • -i . i i A lesson of wide

who w T as a stranger. He did not have even the ij Umanit y

pleasure which comes from helping an enemy,

which is always an intense personal gratification of one's own

nobleness. The person before him presented only two claims to

his attention and his kindness, namely, he was a man. and in trouble.

Here was the vcrywidest humanity. But we know that the helper

was a Samaritan, and by introducing this feature into the picture

Jesus taught that it is possible to have humanity with heterodoxy,

and to have orthodoxy without humanity; and he also teaches

that if a man's orthodoxy do not beget humanity it is barrenly

worthless; that humanity is superior to orthodoxy, and inhumanity

is worse than heterodoxy.

The beauty of this parable in an sesthetical view, its graphic-

ness, its fulness, its wideness and completeness of action, its

genuine humaneness, are all heightened by the fact thai this great

Teacher, who selected the Samaritan to be the model of neighborly

behavior, bad himself been recently Insulted and rejected by the


It would seem to have been on this journey to the Feast of Dedi-
cation thai Jesus and his followers went to the little neighb< ring
village of Bethany, to meel a household consisting of three per-
sons, two Bisters and a younger brother, of whom we Bhall have
jiore to say hereafter. This family seems to have attracted and


held the friendship of Jesus. The sisters were named Martha

and Mary, the former probably being the elder and the keeper of

the house. Their brother was named Lazarus.

Bethany. Mary ^y nellj or ] low often previously, or whether ever

and Martha. Luke , „ T , , , . ;1 . , •,

before, Jesus had been m this house, we have no
means of knowing positively ; but it would seem
from the air of the narrative that Jesus had had some previous
intercourse with this interesting domestic circle.

Jesus had come into the house tired with travel and preaching.
His reception by the sisters shows the difference in their tempera-
ments. Mary sat at his feet, listening lovingly to his words.

Mary was receptive. But Martha went bustling about the house,
preparing many things, intent upon giving Jesus something of a
festal reception as he came from his tiresome journey. At last
her industry passed over into worry. She became cumbered about
much serving. And then she became a little fretful. And she
went from the kitchen to the sitting-room and broke in upon the
^artv with the half -playful, half-petulant speech addressed to Mary
tH*ougii desus, "Dost thou not care that my sister has left me
to serve alone ? Bid her therefore that she help me!" It did
not occur to Mary that much preparation would be needed. ht>^
she loved Jesus so that she went straight into the sittmir -room and


took a stool at his feet, in the confidence of innocence. Martha
loved him just aS much, and knew that he must have something
to eat, and water to wash with, and a comfortable bed. Mary
thought of what she needed of Jesus. Martha thought of what
Jesus needed of her. She was so anxious to get back to Jesus
that she felt keenly how her work was depriving her of the pleas-
ure and profit of the company of her illustrious friend and guest.
Mary was having all the good of it. Martha was not envious oi
her sister, but she desired to have some of the happiness of that
society, and if no one helped her she would lose it all.

The reply of Jesus has generally been regarded as a rather
severe rebuke to Martha, and a boundless compliment to Mary.

I venture to say that it was neither the one nor
i t -i-r -i ■ -i iii i • Reply of Jcsua

the other, lie did most probably convey m his t Martha

tone, as is intimated in the repetition of her name,
some dissatisfaction with Martha's course. It was, however, only
the dissatisfaction of love, not of anger. He desired to have her
there where Mary was. lie loved the sisters equally. He was
not satisfied that Martha should be worrying in the kitchen, and
he should be losing her society. He did not undervalue care for
Iris personal comfort. No man, sinner or saint, ever does. It
was a token of her love substantially given. lie must have ut-
tered the words tenderly, with the tone of love, reproving love for
putting itself to trouble. He did need food and a resting-place,
but he also needed her company. And so, with a loving smile
and a kind look that pleaded his love against his words, he ut-
tered this sentence that had in it more of warning than of re-

She was in peril. She was undertaking too much for her means.
That was making her over-careful. She was becoming distracted
and worried, anxious and troubled. She was Losing her self-con-
trol. She was in danger of losing her whole enjoyment of those
for whom she was working. Now, no true man can sec his friend,

especially if that friend be a woman, making over-exertion for
his comfort, and be unconcerned. Unless he be entirely selfish
he will interfere. So Jesus did as Boon as she opened the door

and looked in.

Nor did the reply of Jesus imply that only one dish was n<
sarv. That is an absurd interpretation of his words. Nor did it

mean that religion was that one thing. This is a mystical inter-


pretation. The plain, common-sense meaning of this part of the
reply is, that he required only one thing in his reception, namely,
love of him. Martha had that. All then that was necessary was
simple attention to his simple wants.

What he says of Mary is not so much complimentary as defen-
sive. We must recollect that. It was not a volunteered statement.
Martha knew that she loved Jesus, and believed that Mary did
too ; but thought that her sister had a very indifferent way of
showing it ; and Martha intimated as much. Jesus simply meant
to defend Mary. lie said, "Martha, you shall not take away
Mary's share in this loving reception of me. She has chosen the
part of goodness as well as you." The fact is, that the reply of
Jesus was a sweet speech to both the women, and both felt pleased
and improved by it.

There is no record of what followed ; but I have no doubt that
when Martha shut the door behind her, Jesus intimated somehow
to Mary that she should go to the help of her sister, for he saw
that Mary's peril was in the direction of quietism, as Martha's
was in the direction of worry.*

From Bethany Jesus went up to the metropolis. While passing
he saw there a man who had been blind from his birth. f This

* I venture to refer the reader to two
published sermons of mine, entitled,
Mary j or, Religion in Beauty, and
Martha ; or, Religion in Service.

f I can unite with Dean Milman,
who, in a note to the text of his Hist.
Christianity, in loco, says : " I hesitate
at the arrangement of no passage in
the whole narrative more than this his-
tory of the blind man." The Harmo-
nists have two opinions, one placing it
at the time when Jesus escaped from
the wrath of his enemies in the Tem-
ple, and the other in the time I have
given it in my text above. In favor of
the former it may be urged that the
narrative seems so closely connected
that we can hardly imagine an interval.
Moreover, we know that that conflict in
the Temple was on the Sabbath, and that
this healing took place on the Sabbath,
(ix. 14.) The objection to that view is
that Jesus evidently departed alone

from the Temple, while at the healing
of the blind man his disciples were with
him. Archbishop Trench replies that
it is easy to suppose that they could have
extricated themselves as Jesus did him-
self; but the Archbishop must have
overlooked the fact that they were not
present at that violent interview. The
argument from the Sabbath is not con-
clusive, because the conflict took place
on a festal Sabbath, and this healing on
a regular weekly Sabbath. Both might
have fallen on the same day, but it is
not known that they did. I have been
inclined to place it where it stands in
the text, because the connection of the
conclusion of the narrative seems to
me quite as close as that which is urged
for the beginning, and the conclusion
(John x. 22) connects itself with the
Feast of Dedication, at which his disci-
ples were with him, as they were not
on the former occasion. Moreover, a



was the first time that the disciples were in Jerusalem with Jesus.
As they were passing a certain place they saw a man who had
been blind from his birth. It occurred to the
disciples to extract from their Teacher some

Jerusalem. The
blind man. John

Existence of eviL

light on a dark difficulty, as old as the history of .
human thought.

Traces of the profound study given by men to such questions
as the existence of evil in the universe of the good God; the
transmission, if not of mental and moral traits,
at least of penalties ; the connection between sin
and suffering ; and kindred problems, are almost everywhere in
the stream of recorded thought, as far up towards the fountain-
head as the literature of the world enables us to ascend. It is
probably impossible to say when men first began to have these
conceptions in shapely manner in their minds. But this much is
certain, that very early in the history of human society we discover
that the doctrine of retribution was not held merely loosely
as hypothesis, but was imbedded in the human mind, and spring-
ing up in all forms of human literature and art. The heathen
classics are full of it. The students of the old Greek dramatists
can never forget with what power it comes out in the writings of
^Eschylus, the father of classic tragedy ; how he shakes his read-
ers with the grand horrors of the Prometheus, the Agamemnon,
the Ewnenides y how in them and his other tragedies which have
survived we are thrilled by the perpetual reproduction of ances-
tral guilt, the punishment of successive generations of sinners
who are pressed into the commission of atrocities by the doom
which lay mountain heavy on their race. Nor will they fail to

great difficulty lies against the other
(lair, namely, I hat Jesus would scarcely
have left the Temple in a scent man-
ner, and then immediately perform a

miracle which would attract all eyes to
him at the moment of a popular tu-
mult, nor would there have been Bpace
during t ho remainder of the day for the
to have occurred which arc eon
tained in i he narral ive, It is a beauti
ful thought that it exhibits his godlike
calmness to 1,0 able thus in his ow n peril
to stand still and work this beneficent
miracle. If I were writing a poem in-

stead of a history, I should take the
other date, infavorof which are Lange,
Olshausen, Meyer, SLier, Trench, and
Milman; against whom, and in favor of
the view I adopt, stand Lucke, Tho-
luck. Do Wctto, Alford, and Rev. Mor-
ris Dods, who translated and edite 1
the Lord JesusChrist."
Macknight places the liealing on the
day of the escape from the Temple ;
the recognition and subsequent pr<
ings during the visit at the Dedication.

The reader must examine and dc



remember how the greatest of Greek dramatic authors, in his
wonderful (Edlpus, seems to attempt an imitation of the intrica-
cies of Divine Providence, and the inevitability of the blow of
retribution from the opening of the plot to the tremendous catas-
trophe ; nor with what splendid diction and terrible beauty t Ik!
same doctrines are set forth by Euripides in his wonderful Phce-
dra and overwhelming Medea-. Indeed, the whole ancient classic
tragedy surges with the heaving billows of sinful passion under
the beating tempests of tremendous retribution.

The ancient idea of penalty was personified. Nemesis, daugh-
ter of Darkness and kinswoman of Shame, was the agent of the
gods in the punishment of the violation of law,

and was the special avenger of family crimes,
gan idea. l n J

With the scent, the swiftness, and the certainty
of a sleuth-hound, she followed guilt through all the windings of
society and all the doublings of blood, until she smote it with the
scourge that infuriated or the sword that destroyed. The skill of
even Phidias was employed to embody in marble the popular con-
ception of this personation of penalty.

This same idea of the inevitable following of pain upon trans-
gression, at whatever intervals and through whatever prosperi-

m „ ties, — from' which was always made the illogical

The Hebrew idea. ' . . „ . J ■ . . & . .

conclusion that no surrering takes place with-
out sin, — lay dark and heavy on the Hebrew mind. In that sim-
plest, grandest, and most solemn of all the tragedies, the book
Job, we see a very powerful representation of this. A man serv-
ing God with such consecration and such constancy that even tbe
Almighty spoke of him as His perfect servant, suddenly topples
from the pinnacle of human prosperity to the dunghill of the
lowest debasement; from surroundings of comfort, which made
him seem like a secure god, into privations and pains which
ranked him among the most pitiful of the feeble. When his
friends drew near to condole with him, they knew him not.
They beheld a blackened ruin lie where there had stood a palace
of delights. The sight was so appalling that Eliphaz the Teman-
ite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, lifted up
their voices and wept, and rent their mantles and crowned them-
selves with dust, and sat down with the sufferer seven days and
seven nights, and never a man of them essayed to break with
syllables the awful silence of that transcendent grief. And when


they did, when they had taken a week to contemplate the situa-
tion and study the case of Job, these three great men, whom Job
had thought worthy to be his friends, embodied their philosophy
iu such words as these :

Eliphaz said: ''Who ever perished, being innocent? or where
were the righteous cut off? Even as I have seen, they that plough
iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same" Bildad said : " Can
the rush grow up without mire? Can the flag grow without
water? Whilst it is yet in its greenness, and not cut down, it
withereth before any other herb. So are the paths of all that
forget God / and the hypocrites hope shall perish." Zophar
boldly said : "Know that God exacteth of thee less than thine
iniquity deserveth."

And amidst all this intimation or assertion of secret sin, Job was
without fault. But it was impracticable for these men to conceive
it possible that there could be so much suffering and no sin. We
know that Job was in the midst of prodigious pains which were in no
way a punishment for either his own sins or the sins of any other.

So when we come down to the days of Jesus and the passage
of our text, we find the great Teacher confronted with a case of
special privation, and his disciples plumply out

.{ r V ,.' , ,. ( ' .. Vl • *• "Who did sin?"

the direct question to him: "Who did sin, tins
man or his parents, that he was born blind ? " 1 [ere is a sad case,
a man who had never beheld God's great expanse of the heavens
or fruitful field of the earth — a man who had never seen the love-
light in the eye of mother or wife or child — a man to whom the
angel rays of holy light had never come flooding in from all the
forms of nature and of art, full of reports of beauty. It was a
dire privation. It never occurred to the disciples to ask the pre-
vious question: "Why came he thus?" They never question
their prejudices and their old ideas which they had received from
their fathers. If they had ever read the book of Jobtheyhad
forgotten its moral. They presumed sin. Here is suffering, where
is the sin '. Suffering lias only one parent, Sin. All they seemed
curious to know was. Wlw was the sinner? It broke upon them
like a new day on what they supposed the noon of their intelli-
e when the Master said, Neither hath this man sinned, nor
his parents. It was an utterance which smote the mouth of
Poetry with the hand of Silence, and emptied the garnered treas«

wics of Philosophy into the sea.


It is not at all necessary to suppose that the disciples believed in
the doctrines of pre-existence and metempsychosis,* or had even
heard them. There is no sufficient proof that these Platonic ideas
had spread generally among the Hebrew people, or that they pre-
vailed to any extent even in the schools of the Rabbis.

Here is the ray of light which Jesus let in on one case, and

which maybe applicable to millions: "Neither hath this man

sinned, nor his parents ; but that the works of God

What Jesus g^^ ^ mac | e man if es t in him." Not that the

thought of it. , .. . , . P , . ,

man had never committed sin or any kind, not
that his parents were faultless, but that this blindness was
neither punitive nor the result of sin. It was the grand rev-
elation to the world that suffering may exist without sin, and as
part of the working of a beneficent law whose sweep describes a
circumference too large for human vision, but enclosing a vast
field of God's benign operations ; of this circle, the segment, if
visible to us, is too small, too fine a point, for us to find the cen-
tre, measure the radius, and calculate the area, with all the aids
of all the geometry known to man. Jesus says that a man may
suffer for God's sake, and by the cure of the blind man and the
results of that cure he demonstrated this blessed fact.

Jesus added the saying, " While it is day we must work the
works of him who sent us. Night comes, when no man can
work. As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world."
The proverbial expression " Night comes, when no man can work,"
simply meant that he who did not his work in the day cannot do
it in the night ; that when a man neglects an opportunity to do
what he should do, he cannot recover it: and Jesus applies this
general principle to himself and his disciples. As he was the
light of the world, what fitter thing than that he should open the
eyes of the blind? So, lie spat on the ground, and made clay of
the spittle, and anointed the blind man's eyes therewith, and said
to him, " Go, wash in the pool of Siloam."

Anciently a virtue was supposed to be in saliva for disorders of

* The doctrine of metempsychosis
was widely xeceived among the Jews of
the Middle Ages, especially among the
Cctbalists, who explicitly taught that
blindness from the birth was to be ac-
counted for by this doctrine ; but we
cannot learn that it was taught in the

times of Jesus. Lightfoot quotes the
Rabbins as teaching that the embryo
might sin in the womb, and as quoting
for proof the struggle between Jacob
and E«au. (Gen. xxv. 22 ) Tholuck
believes that this was merely the pri-
vate opinion of particular individuals.


the eyes, as we learn from Livy [Hist. JVat., xxviii. 7). Suetoniua
( Vesjj., vii.) and Tacitus (Hist., iv. S) give accounts of the restoring
of a blind man by the Emperor Vespasian, and
both speak of the use of saliva, the latter repre- , ,,.
senting the blind man as begging the Emperor to
anoint his eyes with spittle.* Jesus himself in a similar case em-
ployed it in the healing of a blind man (Mark viii. 23), and also
in the case of one suffering from a defect in the organs of speech
and hearing. lie did not always, however, use outward applica-
tions, as we see in the ease of the blind man near Jericho (Mat-
thew xx. 34). Why he did so in this case we do not positively
know. Trench's suggestion seems good: " Probably the reasons
which induced him to use these means were ethical ; it was per-
haps a help for the weak faith of the man to find that something
external was done." It may also have been a test of his faith,
as faith was the psychological basis on which Jesus wrought his
miracles. It could hardly have been to wash off the clay which
would have obstructed the use of the eyes after the miracle haa
been wrought, as this would not have been a sufficiently import-
ant thing to mention, much less to command. The short history
is, that " he went and washed, and came seeing."

The recovery of his sight made so great a change in the appi ar-
ance of the man that some of his neighbors doubted his identity,
although they still saw a great resemblance to the blind beggar.
When he affirmed that he was the very man, they asked him,
" How were your eyes opened % " He answered, " The man who
^s called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said to me,
'Go to the Siloam and wash:' then I went and washed, and
received sight." — " Where is he?" said they. " I do not know,"
said he.

The people noticed that the man had been healed on the Sab-
bath. It was expressly forbidden by some of the Rabbins, accord-
ing to Lightfoot, to put saliva on the eyelids on

,,,,,,',, . c. - x\ , ■ c. i Healed on the

the Sabbath: m case oi inflammation ol tneeyes, „ .. h
however, some did allow this to be done. There
being some difference of opinion among their religious teachers
and rulers, the man's neighbors brought him to the Pharisees.
The wish has often been expressed thai Borne miracle of Jesus had

* Trench soya that abundant quota- , in Wetstein, in loco.
tions to the same effect are to be found [


been submitted to judicial investigation. Now here is precisely
such a case. Jesus had given sight to a man blind from his birth,
The man was no fool, but rather a quick-witted, genial person.
The best intellects of the nation employed themselves in investi
gating the phenomena and circumstances of the case. These in-
tellects were not credulous, but exceedingly skeptical ; not spiritu-
alistic, but exceedingly materialistic; not friendly to Jesus, but ex-
ceedingly hostile. If it be possible to disprove the alleged work-
ing of a miracle we have now an opportunity. Let us study the
investigation and results.

The Pharisees asked him how he had received his sight. That
presumed blindness and a cure. The man admitted both, and to
the point of their question, namely, the manner
catechised.* 1 ' of the baling, he replied, "He put clay on my
eyes, and I washed, and I see." There must
have been some peculiar quality in the clay, and if so it arose
from the saliva of Jesus, for the same dust from which to make
the clay, and the same water of Siloam, had been open to the
use of millions of men, and yet no other blind man had been

This was so manifest to all his inquisitors that a schism was
immediately produced. No one doubted that a very wonderful
thing had been done, if there were no fraud or collusion in the
case. Their hostility to Jesus came out in the saying, " This man
is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath." But
some replied, " How can a man that is a sinner work such signs ? "
Here was a dilemma. The miracle could not be denied, if there
were no fraud, and they could not give up their ideas of Sabbath-
keeping so far as to accept a good man, although he had sustained
his claims by a miracle.

They turned again to the healed man and said, " What do you
say of him, seeing he has opened your eyes?" This question in-
volves the admission on their part that Jesus had given the man
sight in some wonderful way, if his story be true, or else the ad-
mission of that upon the man's part, or both. That he believed it
was a miracle is manifest from his reply, " He is a prophet." But
the inquisitors were not willing to be imposed

His parents ex- rn , . . . * . .

amined upon. Ihey had no interest in admitting a mira-

cle, but the contrary. They called his parents
and asked them three questions: "Is this your son?" "Was he



born blind ? " " How does lie now see? " To which liis parents

replied : 1. " We know that this is our son ; " 2. " We know that

he was horn blind ; " 3. " We know not how he now sees, nor do

we know who has opened his eyes : he is of full age, he shall

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 47 of 77)