Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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for his disciples. They were thinking of a throne, a court, them-
selves as Hebrew princes in the regenerated theocracy, and that
princes and their king should not be interrupted in their converse
by the prattle of babes. Jesus taught them that he knew noth-
ing of any such kingdom ; that the kingdom of the heavens, which
he preached, and which was also the kingdom of God, was made
up of such people, not of children merely, not that the kingdom
was theirs exclusively, but that no one could enter and enjoy that
kingdom, which is as wide as all the heavens, covering the uni-
verse, who did not have childlikeness of disposition ; that so far
from children having to grow into manhood in order to enter the
fruition of God's kingdom it was absolutely essential that men
should shed the hard-shell of their rigid manhood and come back
to the unsuspicious, open-eyed, natural sensitiveness of childhood ;
and thus have the utmost enjoyment of all that God has made.

About this time, as he was on his journey out of the country,
a certain ruler came running and kneeled to him, and said, " Good

Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may
The rich ruler. j n h er ; t p er p C t U al life ? " He seems suddenlv to

Matt. xix. ; Mark . „ . . „ ....

• Luke xviii. have felt the necessity or receiving the instruction

of Jesus before he left the neighborhood. Jesus

replied, " Why do you call me good ? Xo one is good but one,

that is God. You know the commandments : Do not kill ; do not

commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness ; defraud


not; honor your father and your mother, and yon shall love your
neighbor as yourself." lie answered, "Teacher, all these things
have I observed from my youth up." Jesus looked on him and
loved him, and then spoke the words that tested him, "One thing
is yet wanting to you : if you will be perfect, go sell whatever
you have and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in
heaven ; and come, follow me." lie was very rich, and the saying
sent him away very sorrowful.

This is a peculiarly interesting case, as exhibiting a phase of
human nature worth studying, and as giving fresh insight into the
character of Jesus. This person, who seems to have been a ruler
of the synagogue, had led a life of scrupulous external morality,
but failed to have (piiet of spirit and satisfaction of soul. lie
had probably watched the course and studied the character of
Jesus. lie had occasional deep longings and high aspirations, but
he did not have most thorough earnestness in the pursuit of the
highest good, — nay, bad a kind of self-conceit and flippantnesa in
talking of the most sacred things, both which came out in his ad
dress to Jesus, " Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit perpet
ual life?" To which Jesus's reply seems to be a check ; as if ho
had said : You seem to talk of goodness very lightly. Goodnes3
is the loftiest thing. No one is absolutely good but God. Do you
recognize God's goodness in me, or do you address me with an
empty compliment? "Ashe would not have himself called Mes-
siah in the wrong, or at least easily misinterpreted, sense in which
the word was then often used, so neither [would he have himself
in a mistaken way called ] Good Master." (Langc.) lie gives the
young man, however, no space for reply, but proceeds to answer
the question by directing him to the commandments of the Moral
Law. The young man avowed that he had strictly kept all the
commandments all his life. This he may have said with an accent
of pride, but there was a painful tone in the question, " What yet
do I Lack?" which moved the compassion of Jesus. The young
man m;iv have unduly plumed himself upon his legal righteous-
ness, hnt he was certainly candid.

It was in kindne.-s, then, not in severity, that dons, whose spir-
itual insight into moil oven hi- enem*3S musl acknowledge, showed
the young man the depth of his own heart and his lack of total

earnestness. He was rich. JcSUS submitted him to a violei '
namely, the selling of >roperty, its distributi >n to the poor



and his following a Teacher who had no worldly gain or glory to
offer. Jesus did not here enact a law for all his followers. He
never enacted laws, lie simply taught the great fundamental
principles of morality, from which each man must make a rule
for himself. lie saw that the temperament of the young man
made it quite easy for him to render his life exemplary of all out-
ward morality, while a latent spirit of self-indulgence weakened
his whole character. The sorrow the young man felt demon-
strated the correctness of the estimate Jesus had formed of him.
When he found just what he lacked he was not willing to pay
the price of perfection. Being troubled at that saying he went
away grieved, for he had great possessions.

Jesus made a lesson for his disciples. He turned to them and
said, "With what difficulty shall they that have riches enter into

the kingdom of God." This saying astonished
Difficulty of the j iis di^p]^ an( j T esus savv - t } ie i, npr ession which

his words had made. They recollected that riches

were a part of the blessings pronounced under the old dispensa-
tion, and their Jewish ideas exaggerated the temporal prosperity
which ought to visit the children of the kingdom under the new,
the Messianic, dispensation, which they were fondly hoping was
about to be inaugurated. Jesus said, " Children, how difficult it
is to enter the kingdom of God.* It is easier for a camel to enter
through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the
kingdom of God." Here he speaks of the natural difficulty all
men encounter in coming out of a gross worldly life into a spir-
itual and lofty mode of existence, a difficulty intensified in the
case of the rich, because their hearts grow large and their bur
dens are packed bulkily upon them, so that, to use a proverbial
expression, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a
needle than for such a person to divest himself of his love for
these material possessions, to cease to be gross and sensuous so as
to become line and spiritual, to enjoy a kingdom whose greatnesses
and glories and happinesses are wholly spiritual.

At this saying the disciples were astonished out of measure
and said, "Who then can be saved \ " If it be this temper which

* In the common version (Mark x. 24)
the reading is, " Children, how hard it
is j for them that trust in riches] to enter
into the kingdom of God." The words

included in brackets do not occur in the
original in the oldest MSS. The trans-
lation I have made in the text is of the
Smait. Cod. in loco.


destroys a man the rich will be lost ; and all men, poor as well as

rich, will be found to be engrossed with the world and filled with

worldliness. Matthew and Mark say that Jesus, " looking on them,"

made his reply. How often the looking of Jesus

is mentioned bv these historians! It seems that ,«,

saved i

they would supplement the words they repeat by
intimating that there was something in the eyes and looks of Jesus
which was illustrative and explanatory of the sentences he uttered.
And most probably there was. If that could be reproduced with
his words what light it would probably shed upon all his most
profound sayings. The reply was, " With men it is impossible, but
not with God; for with God all things arc possible;" which
seems to teach that no man has power of himself to spiritualize
his nature, but that God is able to do that for any man.

The impulsive Peter was hereby excited to propound this ques-
tion: " Lo ! we have left all and followed you: what therefore
shall be to us?" It is a little difficult to understand the tempei
in which this question was asked. Peter compared, and perhaps
contrasted himself — for the personal " I " is concealed under the
modest "we" — with the rich young man who had been con-
founded by the test which Jesus applied to his character. How
far Peter's renunciation of the comforts of home was proof of liis
devotion to the spiritual life lie may have been at a loss to de-
termine. Or, if giving up worldly wealth was all, then, in view
of their sacrihees, what might they not expect? For the apostles
were not totally impecunious. Peter had his house. John and
James had servants, Matthew had a lucrative office and was able
to give a feast to his friends. And even if they had been mere
fishers, with a hut by the lake and a net on the shore, a poor man's
heart often clings more tenaciously to his little than a rich man's
heart to his much.

Jesus answered, " I most assuredly say to you, that yon who have
followed me in the Palingcnesia, when the Son of Man shall sit
on his glorious throne, von shall also sit upon twelve thrones
judging tho twelve tribes of Israel: and every ono who ha- For

Saken brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children,
or lands, on account of my name and the gospel's, shall receive a
hundredfold now in this time, and in the age to conic life per-
The " Palingcnesia " is translated " the regeneration" in the


common version. It means " the renovation," " the renewed ex-

istencc." It shows what Jesus believed would he his influence

upon the world, that his life would infuse such

powerful transforming elements into humanity

sia. l o •>

that the world should he renewed, as since his time

it manifestly has been. He began a new aeon, a fresh age. It is
also to be noticed that incidentally Jesus gives his authority to
monogamy as he had on the divorce question very clearly rendered
it. He does not say " wives," as he says " children," but " wife,"
as he says " mother." lie promises them a manifold return for
all their sacrifices. His saying about the twelve apostles on the
twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes is enigmatical. Unless
he furnished a private explanation it must have puzzled them to
the close of their lives. If he did give such private interpreta-
tion they have failed to record it, and nothing has occurred in the
history of the world, so far as I can see, to fulfil the prediction
of these words. It is quite easy to give a mystical interpretation,
but the plain apostles would not have understood that. The only
reasonable ground that I see is to say that this is an unfulfilled
prophecy. There is a general truth, well-known to the students
of human society, that he who makes the most sacrifices for his
race has the greatest moral inlluence over them, and this abstract
truth is embedded in the concrete forms of speech which Jesus
here employs. There is also this truth, that they who have, in all
ages since his death, devoted themselves to Jesus, and received all
his words into loving breasts, have gained in spiritual influence
and enjoyment much more than they have lost of power and
pleasure in surrendering their visible material properties for
their religious principles.

Immediately Jesus added, as if to cheek Peter's presumption,
the saying, " But many first shall be last, and last first." There is
nothing mercenary in the kingdom of the heavens. ISToman need
fancy that he can do what will entitle him to promotion. It was
a bad footing on which Peter set his question, "What shall we
havef what shall be to us ? " It was the question of the hireling's

In illustration of his saying Jesus furnished the following
parable :

"The kingdom of tlic heavens is like unto a man, a householder [a human
householder], who went out with the dawn to hire laborers into his vineyard:


and having agreed with the laborers for a denarius [15 cents*] the day, he
sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour [nine
o'clock a.m.] he saw others standing idle in the market-place, and said to them,
' Go you also into my vineyard, and whatsoever may be just

T _;ii iaiIi ■ i • • Parable of the la-

1 will give to you. And they went. And again going out
about the sixth and ninth hour [noon and three o'clock
p. m.] he did in like manner. And about the eleventh hour [near the close of
day] lie found others standing, and saith to them, ' Why stand you here all
the day idle ? ' They say to him, ' Because no man has hired us.' He says to
them, ' Go you also into the vineyard.' Now when the evening was come the
lord of the vineyard says to his overseer, ' Call the laborers and pay the hire,
beginning from the last unto the first.' And they who came about the eleventh
hour received each a denarius. And the first having come, supposed that they
should receive more; but they received each a denarius. But having received
it, they murmured against the householder, saying, ' These last have made but
one hour, and thou makest them equal to us, who have borne the burden of
the day and the scorching heat.' But he answering, said to one of them,
1 Friend, I do you no wrong. Did you not engage with me for a penny ?
Take what is yours and begone. But I will give to this last even as to you.
Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own ? Is your eye evil
because I am good? ' Thus the last shall be first, and the first last."

Here is the picture of a scene which to this day can be witnessed
in Oriental lands. Laborers take their spades and assemble in the
market-place. Employers go and bargain with
as many and such as they need. There may be ne
both laborers and hirers who come late. These
Mill meet. In this parable the owner of the vineyard went several
times in one day. Each time lie hired as many as were present.
Those whom he found at noon were not present at sunrise, and
those whom he found an bom- before sunset had not arrived at
noon. When there was a whole day's work the householder made
a bin-gain with the laborers; when there was but one hour of work
he promised what was fair, and they trusted him. The trouble
was in the settlement. lb' gave What. he chose out of bis own
means to the Iasl comers. He chose to give for an hour's labor
what was usually considered at that time fair pay for a whole
day's work. This did not in any way Interfere with the rights
of the others. When their time for settlement came they Beemed
to think that if a denarius was right pay for one hour, at least

Beveral denarii would come to those who had been working twelve

hours, lint the reasoning was unsound. The laborers of an hour

* See the representation of a denarius on p. -M-l.


received their denarius in part as pay and in part as gratuity. In
fact there was no bargain with t/ie?n } ' there was with those first
who had labored longest.

The lessons seem quite plain, if we have no system of theology
to bolster. 1. The kingdom of heaven is one of moral govern-
ment, in which there is proprietorship upon one
side and work on the other. 2. All who are
willing may find work to do in this kingdom. All are called.

3. There will certainly be pay and rewards to all who work.

4. Both the rewards and the pay will be distributed on grounds
of perfect justice and discriminating mercy. No one will be
injured by what is given to another. AVhatever imperfections of
work or frailty of temper may be in any laborer, he will receive
the full amount of any payment stipulated in the covenant. There
will be justice to all, and grace to such as can appreciate it. The
first laborers were manifestly mercenary, and worked for the
money, and evidently with such a temper as they exhibited they
could not have done their work well. There must have been
something in the last laborers which so Avon the approval of their
employer that he was willing to pay them as though they had
done a whole day's work. He called up first those who had come
in last. lie paid them liberally as liberal workers. lie then
called up those whom he had engaged first. lie paid them justly
according to covenant. lie showed them his approval of the others,
and perhaps for that purpose had paid them first. And thus the
first, because of their technical spirit, became last; and the last,
who trusted their employer, and wrought heartily without a bar-
gain, became first. The kingdom of God is such that they gain
most who trust God most; but every man is fully paid for all
service ; and they who trust God most boast themselves least, and
make no merit of their works.

Pursuing their way to Jerusalem, Jesus took occasion for the

third time to forewarn his disciples of his approaching death.

Nothing seemed to take him at unawares, lie

A third warning, ^thdrew his twelve chosen friends from the

Matt. xx. ; Mark . _ .

x. • Luke xviii crowd and communed with them confidentially,

saying to them, according to Mark's record :

u Bch:ld, we arc going up to Jerusalem: and the Son of Man

shall be betrayed to the chief priests and scribes : and they shall

condemn him to death ; and shall deliver him to the Gentiles tc

gotxg to Jerusalem. 531

mock and to scourge and to crucify ; and the third day he shall
be raised."

It is a remarkable illustration of the force of preconceived
opinions that the disciples of Jesus, being filled with expectations
of an early display of Messianic glory, could not comprehend
words so explicit as these. They were mystic utterances which
they filled with the light of their own hopes. It was the third
announcement, made by him to his disciples, of his impending
fate. The words contain no ambiguity. The Jewish ecclesiastical
power was to seize him, and to deliver him to the Roman civil
authorities, lie was to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified.
Could more unambiguous words have been used? And yet they
could not understand them. How much less could they under-
stand, " and the third day lie shall be raised '. " Perhaps it was
this that helped to make the whole statement unintelligible.
There was to be a "raising. 1 ' an

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 53 of 77)