Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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Then the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith." And
the Lord said —

" If ye have faith as a grain of mustard, ye might say to this sycamine-
tree, Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea ; and it would have obeyed
you. But who of you, having a slave ploughing or tending flocks, will
say to him, when he is conic from the field, ' Go immediately and recline to
eat ? ' And will not rather say to him, ' Make ready wherewith I may sup,
and gird thyself, and serve me, until I eat and drink ; and afterwards thou
shalt eat and drink ? ' Doth he thank the slave because he did the things com-
manded him ? So likewise ye, when ye shall have done the things which are
commanded you, say, We are unprofitable slaves; we have done what was our
duty to do."

This address teaches the • hehavior proper among brothers.
Through the frailty of human character men will offend, and,
what is worse, will cause others to offend. It is a thing to be
dreaded. But if one's brother commits an offence he must go to
him kindly and admonish, and upon repentance must forgive him,
and must do so just as often as the brother offends and repents.

As this requires faith, the twelve who were near him united in
a prayer for increase of faith, and it has been noticed that this is
the only petition in which the whole twelve ever
did unite. The reply of Jesus shows something
more than the cross marvel which a literal rendering of words
Mould indicate. It shows that Jesus believed there was a loftier
circle of existence, in which faith represents what muscular
strength stands for in this lower physical world, and, moreover,
that in that sphere things are possible which are impossible in this

The disciples were always ready to go into pride, and such a
picture of spiritual power Jesus tempered by calling their atten-
tion to the fact that they were servants, and that as they expected

m perea. 495

their slaves to do their duty without feeling that they had laid
any one under obligation, so when the disciples of Jesus had per-
formed their greatest and best works they were to consider in
humility that they had merely done their duty.

The Bethany in Perea is about thirt}- miles from the Olivet
Bethany, which is less than two miles from Jerusalem; fifteen
stadia says Luke. While Jesus was carrying for-
ward his work on the east of the Jordan, Lazarus Sickness an

. . . T , , . , , f . , - death of Lazarus.

sickened. Lazarus was the cherished friend or Jo}m ^
Jesus. Indeed, nowhere else in his history do we
find Jesus enjoying the amenities of society in repose, and away
from the glare of publicity which notable men of affairs must
always endure, except in this household, which consisted of a
busy, bustling elder sister, a gentle, thoughtful younger sister, and
a quiet brother, probably the youngest of the three. Bethany
was so near to Jerusalem that it presented Jesus a place of easy
retreat, and it was so small and unimportant a village, lying nes-
tled Quietly on the mountain sjde, containing no residence t' otli-
cial personage, whether civil or ecclesiastical, that it afforded a
safe and happy escape from the bickerings and contentions of the
excitable metropolis.' Jesus had put himself upon the footing of
most respectful familiarity with this family, insomuch that Martha
came to him with her petty household cares and the gentle Mary
became his companion. These people were not desperately poor,
but rather in moderately comfortable circumstances, seeing that
they entertained company and were owners of a family burial-

"When Lazarus sickened the sisters despatched a messenger to
Jesus, saying simply, " Lord, behold he whom you love is sick."
It was a request delicately embedded in an expression of trustful-
ness. "When Jesus heard it he said, "This sickness is not unto
death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of (led may be
glorified thereby." This was a declaration which showed that
Jesus believed he could see the conclusion of this whole matter.
and the results proved how correct it was. It wa- not merely an

opinion of a case of Bickness, expressed after hearing the Bymp>
toms from the messenger, but it was of the nature of a prediction.
It gave the messenger coraforl t carry to the Bisters.

After receiving the message Jesus remained in Perea two dayi

before he again alluded to the subject or made any change in his


movements. ITc then said to his disciples, " Let ns go into

Judsea." They recalled the painful scenes through which they

had so lately passed with him in Jerusalem, scenes

Jesus still re- ^^.j, impressed them deeply with the feeling

mains in Perea. . .

that the intentions of the ruling party were most

malignant. They replied, "Rabbi, the Jews of late sought to

stone you, and do you go there again?" His answer was, "Are

there not twelve hours in the day? If any one walk in the day

he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But

if any one walk in the night he stumbles, because there is no light

in hi in."

There is in these words not only a lofty truth as to the special
mission of the extraordinary man who uttered them, but an im-
portant principle touching all human life. The disciples desired
to prolong his life by keeping him from his enemies. lie did not
desire to lose his life in any sense, either by having his career cut
short by his foes, or by his own departure from the line of his
rightful work. He held that if he should protract the years of
his natural life by keeping out of the line of his work, because
the peril of death lay therein, his life would be lost in a worse
manner than if he were killed in doing his work at the right time
and place. He should have outlived himself, and thus have lost
his life. The only safety and happiness lie in doing the assigned
work, discharging the obvious duty. That is walking in the light,
There is just so much of light and life, say "twelve hours." If
a man fill those hours with the right work, he lias gained life. If
he omit, and then endeavor to go out in the night to work, he stum-
bles. To apply it to himself: if his duty call him to Bethany,
thither he must go, even if the Jews kill him; for staying away
is stepping out of the light of duty into the night of selfishness.
If Jesus do so, he can no longer accomplish any good in Perea, or
Galilee, or elsewhere. He must walk in the day.

He then said to them, "Lazarus, our friend, is sleeping; but I

go that 1 may awake him." He knew that Lazarus was dead.

Whether by the prophetic spirit that was in him

lie announces ()1 . j )V yj g j lu i„., ncl ,t U pon whatever description of

the death of Laz- , , ° , . .

„„,„ the case the messenger may have inven, it is not

arus. ~ • b

important to decide ; but the fact is that Jesus in
Perea knew that Lazarus was dead in the Bethany near Jerusa-
lem. He desired to prepare the minds of his disciples for the

m perea. 497

dangerous journey, and so began to let them know the exact state
of the ease. They took his statement literally, and said, " Lord,
if he sleep he shall recover." But Jesus spoke of his death. In
all languages sleep is represented as the image of death ; but it
comes with extraordinary beauty and force from the lips of him
who is going to arouse the sleeper. Then Jesus said to them
plainly, " Lazarus is dead, and I am glad on your account that I
was not there, that ye may believe ; but let us go to him."

The history here inserts a little incident which is very beauti-
ful, and which sheds light on a certain cast of character. Thomas,
called Didyinus, turned to his fellow-disciples and
said very pathetically, " Let us also go, that we ev0 10n °
may die with him." Thomas was a natural skep-
tic, a constitutional doubter, a desponding soul. lie required the
most grossly palpable proofs to win his belief. But he was true-
hearted and brave when he did believe. And of just such stuff
do we find a certain class of doubters and melancholy men in
all ages. Lazarus was dead. Jesus was going to die. The circle
was breaking. "Let us all go together," said this sad, brave
man. His faith could not reach to the heights of his Master's
predictions, but his fidelity made him ready to follow that Master
unto the death.

Why Jesus should have delayed two days in Perea after receiv-
ing the message of Martha and Mary we can only conjecture, and
scarcely any theory yet presented seems entirely

satisfactory. He did not idle. He was not en- , y "


deavoring to while away time. In Perea he
found plenty of work to do, and he chose to finish what had been
bo auspiciously begun. It is true that he might have left some
disciples behind him and have returned. But he did not intend
to return. His career was coming to its close, lie read his cir-
cumstances correctly. Moreover, he was never hurried. He had
that self-possession which, when conjoined with high intellectual
and moral qualities, is the measure of true greatness, lie knew
what he e«>uld do, and what he would do. And then he had re-
spect to those, his dearest friends, whose spiritual improvement
was a ruling consideration in this matter. He was working lor
the good of men and for the glory of God. lie neither loitered
nor hurried.




"When Jesus reached Bethany he found that Lazarus had been
already "four days in the tomb." It would seem that when the

messenger was despatched by the sisters, Lazarus
Jems^tm^^ was still living. Such their message implied. It

was therefore satisfactory and consolatory to the
messenger to hear Jesus say that that sickness was not unto death.
He must have been greatly surprised when he returned and found
Lazarus buried, and if he delivered the message to the sisters they
must have been sorely puzzled, for Lazarus had died in the mean
time. This message must have seemed to them to show that Jesus
had lost his way. lie had said that this sickness was not unto
death at the very moment when Lazarus was in his grave, for the
Jews made haste to bury their dead out of their sight, and a
prompt interment was intended to be an honor to the deceased.*
When this message came to Martha and Mary it must have been
a double blow. They had had such love for Lazarus and such
confidence in the power of Jesus ; and now Lazarus was dead and
Jesus was mistaken, or, if not mistaken, he did not regard them
enough to come and explain his dark sayings. So it seemed to
them. Lazarus must have died the day the messenger left for
Perea, and been buried before sundown. That journey occupied
a day. Jesus spent two other days in Perea, and the fourth was
given to the journey to Bethany, so that when he arrived it was
the fourth day that the corpse of Lazarus had been in the grave.

* For proof that it was customary to
bury the dead on the day of their death,
see Acts v. G, 10, and Jahn's Archeeology,
i. 2. In hot countries it is necessary to
bury promptly because of the rapid de-
composition ; and the Jews had the ad-
ditional reason of being fearful of defde-
ment by reason of contact with a corpse.

Even now, in Jerusalem, the burial, as a
general rule, is not deferred more than
three or four hours ; and if the death
occur so late in the evening that the
burial cannot take place that night, it
is performed at the earliest break of


The sorrow of this stricken family had called to them their
neighboring friends, and also many Jews from Jerusalem, some
undoubtedly sincerely sympathizing with these afflicted young
women, others simply going through the ceremonies of condolence
in a perfunctory manner, and others perhaps desirous of bringing
back into the fold of orthodoxy these excellent women, who had
been turned aside by the fascination and friendship of the young
heresiarch Of Nazareth. There was a crowd in the house. Martha,
always busy and bustling, was in a position to hear of the approach
of Jesus, and she hastened to meet him. Mary was sitting quiet in
the house. The traits of character in each came out under the
new and exciting circumstance of the arrival of Jesus. Martha met
him first, and the words that burst from her lips indicate what had
been the thoughts, and probably the sayings, of the sisters in his
absence. " Lord, if you had been here my brother had not died ! "

This speech is a study. Martha had had ample opportunity to
investigate the character of Jesus. She had seen him both

fatigued and rested ; had noticed him gazing in

» . J , , , , . Martha's speech,

re very tar into the air, or down the mountain

slope, as he sat before the door of her house ; had heard him when
he was engaged in conversation with Lazarus or some of the dis-
ciples ; had watched his intercourse with Mary; noticed, as only
woman's quick eye can notice, all his movements about the house,
his dress and address, his dispositions of himself, his off-guard
moods, his temper under provocation, and all those things which
have been said to make a man cease to be a hero to his valet
The whole impression made upon her mind was that he was so
h"lv as to have most intimate communion with God, such Intimacy
as gave him most extraordinary power, Mich power as would have
enabled him even to push back death and keep her brother alive.
But she did not know, it would seem, of the miracles he had
wrought in restoring other persons to life, and did not imagine
such a possibility as the resurrection of her brother. To Martha
Jesus was a divine personage, bu1 nol Deity. To the saying, " It
you had been here my brother had not died,*' Bhe added, proba-
bly after a pause and a Bob, " Even now 1 know thai whatever you
will ask of God, God will give to you." What Bhe expected him

to ask of God is nol apparent. She was in the tumult of B in -li

and great bereavement, Bwayed by hopes and fears and griefs.
The spiritual elevation of every person who came within tho


circle of his influence was manifestly the design of all that Jesus

did and said. To give back her brother simply, was merely to

indulge Martha's natural desires for a season, leav-

s aims 01 . j ier gt -jj - n „ reat c ]i s t r ess because her brother

Jesus. " ° .

nught be snatclied from her again at any mo-
ment. Her suffering, in that case, would have been such as
Wordsworth, in his fine poem of Laodamia, lias described to have
been that of his heroine when the shade of Protesilaus was re-
stored to her for a brief time and then withdrawn. As Olshausen
lias well said, it was needful that Martha should so recover her
brother that it would be impossible ever to lose him again, and thus
become rooted with him in the element of the imperishable.
Jesus proceeded not simply to restore her brother, but to furnish
her with a remedy against all forms in which death could possibly
assault humanity, bodily or spiritually.

Jesus said to her, " Your brother shall rise again ! "

Martha replied, "I know that he shall rise again at the resur-
rection — at the last day." It is to be noticed that she speaks of
the resurrection as a doctrine currently received, and as including
the restoration to life of all dead men, simply in virtue of their
being men and being dead ; and also that this was to be accom-
plished for all the race at the last day. As if she had said : " Of
course, as he has shared the fate of all men in dying, he shall
share the fate of all men in rising."

But Jesus taught her another doctrine and advanced a most

prodigious claim for himself. lie said : " I am the Resurrection

and the Life. He who believes on me, even if he

.esuscaims o were dead, shall live: and every one who lives

ot cu.0 xtcsurrGc*

tion and believes in me shall not ultimately die." He

removes from the plane of natural causes both
life and the resurrection, and declares that the power of both re-
sides in him ; that he is the dynamical force of life ; that without
him no one who is dead could possibly be restored ; and that those
who are alive and have connection with him cannot finally per-
ish, lie represents himself as the fountain of soul-life and of
the animal life that is in man. He is the life. He is Lifeness
itself. If he bring himself to bear upon the dead they live. If
he bring himself to bear upon the living, so long, through the
ages, as this remains, they are not able to die. He is the Resur-
rection for Lazarus, and he is the Life for Martha.


Upon this he appealed to her : " Do you believe this?"
Martha did not unequivocally express her faith in this startling
and immense claim, but she did reply, " I have reached the be-
lief that you are the Christ — the Anointed One —

topz-111 • i it ?i Martha's caution.

the Son or (jrod that was to come into the world.
It was a noble thing in her not to give hasty assent to what she
could neither understand nor believe. Jesus had uttered some-
thing too deep for her, and then startled her by the sudden ques-
tion, " Do you believe all this % " She could not say whether she
did or not, because she was not sure that she quite apprehended
the meaning ; but she did believe that he was the Messiah, and
was quite ready to say that much. If that meant what Jesus
meant, then " Yes, Lord ; " if not, then " Nay, Lord ; not yet that
much ; but I have believed and do believe that you are the Mes

Having said this she went her way and privately sought Mary
not choosing to let the Jews from Jerusalem know that Jesus was
so near, for she must have known the intensity of
the malignant hatred of the Jews towards Jesus.
She said to Mary : " The Master is here, and calls for you." When
Mary heard this she arose quickly and came to him. Jesus had
not come to the house, nor indeed into the village, but was near,
perhaps between the house and the burial-place. When the Jews
who were in the house, and had been endeavoring to comfort her,
saw Mary rise up hastily and go out, they followed her, thinking
that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary
reached Jesus she fell at his feet — an act of homage which Martha
had not paid, an expression of adoring love, perhaps brought sud-
denly from her by the recollection that she had been sitting in
the house while her dear friend was so near. She exclaimed,
" Loid, if you had been here my brother had not died." In the
identity of this speech with that of Martha, both coining out in
the great emotion of the first meeting, we see what had been the
tenor of their conversation in the absence of the dear friend.
It was the unfortunate absence which occasioned all their trouble.
The confidence in Jesus of these two women, who were so dif-
ferent in temperament, is really affectingly beautiful.

The outburst of Mary stirred the hearts of the dews who had
come to mourn with her, and they wept. When desus saw thin
deep emotion he was vehemently agitated. The language of the


original history (John xi. 33) intimates a complex mental condi
tion, a combination of grief and anger, " he grew wroth in his
spirit and disturbed himself ! " His sympathies
The grief of the were mtense< He i ove( i Mary. He could not en-
dure to see her suffer so keenly. These were rea-
sons for tears ; but why should he be angry % That is not so easy
to answer. Neither Mary nor the Jews had done anything on this
occasion to arouse his indignation. - It is absurd to suppose that
the mere death of Lazarus had produced this state of feeling, or
that he had any regrets for his own absence when Lazarus died ;
because he believed that he was about to "raise him from the dead,
and he had said to his disciples that he was glad he was not present
at the death, because he knew that it was for the glory of God.
We cannot very clearly discern good reason for his anger, but he
was angry. It may be that an intense perception of all the wrong
that sin was working in the race came upon him, and the discords
and jangles, of the world broke on his sensitive soul with a force
that excited' him violently. If this be not the explanation, we do
not know what is ; but it is quite clear that the historian de-
scribes him as angered.

He said, " Where have you laid him % " They replied, "Lord,
come and see."

Jesus wept.

On the way to the sepulchre the company noticed that manly
tears were silently flowing down the cheeks of Jesus, like a shower
of soft rain after a thunder-clap. Something
Jesus 6 gne na( ^ ail g ere d him. Now he was weeping. Some

of the Jews said to others, " See how he loved
him." And then, recollecting the case of the blind man in Jeru-
salem, whom Jesus had restored to sight, they said, " Could not
this man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have caused even
that this man should not have died ? " It must be noticed that
this remark shows that the restoration of the blind man had been
settled as a fact in the popular opinion of Jerusalem. The spec-
tators saw in Jcsns unmistakable signs of affection for Lazarns.
He had shown great power in the case of the blind man ; did his
ability to save stop at that limit ? In that case he had been criti-
cised for doing too much ; here, for doing too little. The anger
of Jesus rose again, and exploded in a groan rather than in a ver-
bal reply to their foolish gainsaying.


They came to the tomb. It was a cave. A stone lay against
it. Jesus said to them, " Take the stone away." Martha shrank
from the exposure and expostulated: "Lord, al-
ready he" — she said with instinctive shuddering Atthesrave -
and painful reluctance — " stinketh ; for he has been buried four
days." Here was a conflict between her faith in the friendly
power of Jesus and her natural desponding disposition. She did
not know that putrefaction had begun; the word "for" shows
that she had merely inferred it from the length of time her
brother had been in the tomb. Jesus reassured her. "Did
I not say to you that if you would believe you should see the
glory of God."

Then they removed the stone. Jesus lifted up his eyes and
said, "Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard me. And
I know that Thou nearest me always ; but because of the mul-
titude which stand around I said this that they may believe that
Thou hast sent me." This remarkable speech seems to be the
utterance of a sentiment of internal spiritual communion, and not
a prayer in the form of petition, although Jesus did make such
prayers. This was no " show-prayer." It was a Eucharist, a
thanksgiving, such as was in his heart, and he chose to utter
it that the people hearing it might believe that he was the Sent
of God, the Christ, the Messiah, or at least perceive that he
believed himself to be such. The raising of the dead was the
experimentum cruets, the final and indisputable test and proof
of Messiahship. . He accepted it as such. lie had raised the
dead at least twice before, in the cases of the daughter of tho
nobleman and the son of the Xain widow, bat never under cir-
cumstances like these, in which the deceased was an adult, had
been dead and buried now the fourth day, and spectators from
Jerusalem, the seat of ecclesiastical authority and of enmity to
Jesus, were present in a crowd sufficient to examine all the
phenomena of the miracle, and to detect collusions and tricks.
They were certain that Lazarus was dead. It could not have
been an arrangement upon the part of these young women and
Jesus. His whole character was such that not only would he not
have entered into any such arrangement, but if they had desired
to glorify the great Teacher by getting up a pseudo-miracle, he
would never for the Bake of friendship have yielded himself
unwillingly to be part of such a scheme. Moreover, the grief of


Martha and Mary, as well as that of Jesus, was not feigned. If it
had been, the Jews, who had three days for observation, would
have detected it. They were so thoroughly convinced of the
death of Lazarus that they themselves wept with Mary and ad-
mired the tenderness of the friendship of Jesus.

It was the crisis of Jesus. He stood before the opened tomb,

and, with a loud voice, cried, " Lazarus, come forth." Then he

who had been dead came forth, in just such

e raises Laza- pijgjjj- as cor p Ses> W ere customarily laid away in

the grave, namely, with narrow strips of linen
wrapped about each limb, so that while motion was obstructed

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 50 of 77)