Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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he cites Matthew's account of the two
disciples bringing two animals, and
spreading the garments upon both, and
setting Jesus upon both. He accounts
for this by Matthew' s want of sense and
misapprehension of the passage in Zech-
ariah (ix. 9). Matthew "paralyzes"
4 ' the understanding " of Dr. Strauss
when he seems to represent Jesus as
riding both animals at once! and the
Doctor recovers himself only when he
examines Zechariah, where it is written
in Hebrew parallelism —

" Lowly — and riding upon an as9,
And upon a colt, the foal of an ass."

Matthew had read that, and supposed

that the fulfilment of the prophecy ne-
cessitated the riding of two animals
at once, and so he made the history con-
form to his dogmatic ideas ! But no one
would charge Dr. Strauss with being so
poor a Hebrew scholar as not to be quite
familiar with the Hebrew poetic forms.
As soon as he turned to the text in Zech-
ariah he knew that the second line was
a mere parallelism, being equivalent to
and expounding the idea in the first line,
the ass in the one being identical with
the foal in the other, the second simply
amplifying the first. Matthew certain-
ly was as good a Hebrew scholar as
Dr. Strauss, and the writings of the for-
mer, examined critically, show quite as
much common sense as the latter. This
' ' paralyzing of the understanding " is an
affectation unworthy one who sets up
for critic on the most influential of aU
the productions of literature.


As the cavalcade descended the sides of the Mount of Olives
they met a crowd composed of the friends of Jesus, of those who
had admiration of him, of those whom curiosity
and the excitement of the occasion had drawn to-
gether, coming out to meet Jesus, who was reported to be approach-
ing the city. "With the former Lazarus was undoubtedly present,
and with the latter the emissaries of the church party. The meet-
ing of these tides of people heightened the excitement. They cut
branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. They
took their very garments from their shoulders and spread them
before the colt that bore Jesus. Their hopes of the setting up of
the Messianic kingdom waxed warm. They shouted, " Hosanna
to the Son of David ! Be praised the King of Israel, coming in
the name of the Lord ! Peace in heaven ! Hosanna in the high-
est ! "

This Messianic shout of joy was taken from the Psalm cxviii.
25. The series of Psalms from cxiii. to cxviii., inclusive, culled
the Great Ilallel, was usually chanted by the priests, the whole
multitude of worshippers waving branches of willow and palm,
and at certain intervals shouting the response, " O Lord, I beseech
thee, send now prosperity." This was the Hallelujah or Hosanna.
The children who were old enough to wave the branches and re-
peat the words joined in the responses. The willow wands them-
selves came to be called Hosannas. And so whenever there were
occasions of happy excitement and joyous antieipation, this pas-
sage from the Psalm became its form of utteranee.

There were true hearts out of which this cry of joy went up in
utmost sincerity; but the mass of the people were earried away

with a wild kind of excitement which had no sub-

. , , . £ £ .,, m £ .' i Great excitement

BtantiaJ basis or faith. J hey were a festival pop-
ulation, the people of the city and the vicinity, whose bread was
in the maintenance of the sacred metropolitan character of 3Teru-
Balem. As the mass of the citizens of Rome at this day, artists
and artisans, depend for their livelihood upon Koine's being kept
the centre of ecclesiastical attraction, and might therefore regret
any movement which should take the Papal throne from the city
or break up a system which by repeated festivals and precessions
and spectacular exhibitions «>i' surpassing ecclesiastical splendor
draws thousands of visitors ami tens of thousands of dollars an-
nually to Rome, but might favor any candidate for the Papacy


who should promise a vast increase of these attractions, so these
Jerusalemites did this Sunday shout " Hosanna " to the young
Teacher, after whom they cried, " Crucify him, crucify him," on
the following Friday.

Jesus knew the hollowness of this parade and of this eulogistic
uproar. He allowed himself to be addressed as Messiah. If any
sinister political interpretation were given it, ho
could appeal to his whole course heretofore. He
would try his nation. He meant to be their spiritual leader, and
set them free by making them lit to be free, if they would accept
such leadership as that. They meant to make him king of the
nation civilly, the royal successor of the royal David, the Messiah
who should break the Roman yoke, and bring the nations to be
tributaries of the Holy People, planting the banners of the Hebrew
faith and polity on every high place of the earth, and making
Jerusalem the World-Metropolis. He could not induce them to
accept him as such a king as he meant to be, and he would not be
such a king as they desired. They could not induce him to fulfil
their wishes, and they would not comply with his requirements.
This Palm-Sunday they tried their experiment, hoping to betray
him in a moment of excitement into the assumption of a position
from which he could not retreat until he had carried out their de-
signs. He spent the week in one last long effort to lift them to
his plane of vision. They failed. He failed. The same multi
tude, when they found they had failed, wheeled into line with
the forces of the church, and increased the weight that was flung
on the lofty and lovely young Dissenter and Heretic to crush him
out of the world.

The emissaries of the church failed to understand the temper

of this festive mob, and felt as if their case was about to be lost.

They said to one another, each blaming his neigh-

T e c urc bor for inefficiency, as men in such circumstances
frightened. ^ ' .

are wont to do, Do you not perceive how ye pre-
vail nothing? Behold the world is gone after him!" It really
seemed as if the world had gone after him. As they looked upon
the mountain side it was covered with an immense multitude, and
when these waved their branches and shouted their song the clear
air was filled with the multitudinous music ; and the enemies of
Jesus, clad in robes of priestly authority, sitting in the high places
of churchly power, plotting the murder of Jesus, heard that shout,


and shook in. their timorous pride as Jesus neared the city, sitting
simple and qniet on the ass's colt, a pure personage without pre-
tence, a good man to be flung up against the rock of the church
by the billows of the popular enthusiasm, and left there to perish
when that tide ebbed, but who now seemed to priest and Pharisee
a bitter riddle of destiny, whose presence shook them with au
ague of fear and inflamed them with a fever of hatred.

Some of that party being with the multitude, and offended by
this open acknowledgment of his Messiahship, said to Jesus,
" Teacher, rebuke your disciples : " which far from doing, Jesua
answered, " I tell you that if these should be silent the stones will
cry out ; " signifying by this proverbial expression, " Do you ex-
pect my disciples to be harder than stones ? They have followed
me through my years of ministry, they have seen me open the
eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf, and cleanse the
skin of the leper, and raise the very dead, and now they see the
general people acknowledge me : are they stones that they should
show no emotion ? "

Then they came in sight of the city. From the summit of
Mount Olives the view of Jerusalem on the opposite heights is very
imposing. The Crusaders broke into jubilation
when they first beheld it. But now Jesus looked

J rusalem.

with profound sadness at its walls and temples,
and dwellings and towers, with its thousands of historical associa-
tions, of kings and prophets and holy men, of splendid worship
and bitter bigotry and deeds of violence, in the days of its glory
and the days of its gloom, the city of the Great King now held
as an outpost of a heathen empire. It was his Father's House
on earth. It was the repository of the oracles of God. But now
it was about to reject, to betray, and to murder him. What
a city it might speedily become if it would but be the first to
accept the form of civilization he could give, and the spiritualized
forms of faith lie could impart! Its doom rose up before his mind.
This great city was hastening to a direful catastrophe and knew it
not. The very spirit which led the reigning party in Jerusalem to
reject Jesus would precipitate the city into such acts as Bhould
bringdown upon it the crushing arm of the Roman Empire. I It-
foresaw all that. He was "a man that could certainly divine."
lie beheld the Roman cohorts encamped with their engines of war
laying siege to the city of David. He saw the fagot and the Bword


carrying destruction to buildings, and deatli to men, and worse
than deatli to women. He saw the Roman eagle flaunting in the
holy place, and the priests murdered as they attempted to flee, and
ferocity and lust penetrating everywhere, and soiling and tram-
pling and ruining everything sacred in man, or woman, or temple.
It swept over the city of the House of God. His was a great, en-
during, tender nature. This outburst was no relieving shower of
sentiment overflowing his eyelids ; it was the genuine expression
of manliest noblest sorrow for a fall from an eminence so august
to an abyss so base, that never in the ages would Jerusalem climb
back to the splendid exaltation from which she was about to be

Amid his sobs his disciples heard him apostrophizing the eity in
these tear-wet words. " If thou hadst known — in this day — even

thou — the things for peace ! But now — they are
Jesus apostro- , . ■■ r ., . • t-i i in

,. T , hid from thme eves — bar davs shall come upon
phizes Jerusalem. J J i

thee when thine enemies shall cast a trench about
thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, —
and shall level thee with the ground, and thy children in thee : and
they shall not leave in thee stone upon stone, because thou know-
est not the day of thy visitation ! "

Down the slopes of the Olive Mount, past the Gethsemane Gar-
den, over the Kedron Creek, went the Palm-Sunday procession.

Serene and sad sat Jesus on the colt as the singing
and Temple cavalcade, ascending to the white walls, passed

through the gates into the streets of Jerusalem,
making the city to ring with the gladness of their exuberant song.
From the lowliest, Jesus had ascended to the highest place in the
nation. This festal procession was becoming something like a
royal cortege. All the city was moved. Out of the windows
peered priest and Pharisee, and said, "Who is this?" And the
people answered, " This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of
Galilee." Perhaps those who answered were Galilaeans themselves,
and, becoming proud of the prophet that had sprung from their
country, they made a response which was the very answer, whether
so intended or not, to anger the hierarchic party. But the tone in
which the popular party answered the priestly party sounds to me
like an abatement of enthusiasm. They do not cry out, " This is
the King of Israel coming in the name of the Lord ! Come down,
ye priests and Pharisees, and render him homage." Jesus doubt-
less felt all this abatement of popular zeal.


Jesus went forthwith to the Temple, and made an inspection of
all things in the holy place.

There were certain Greeks, probably Jewish proselytes, who had
come up to the feast, and, with all that intellectual inquisitive-

ness which marked the Hellenistic character, they

-r TT r i i Greeks seek him.

were eager to see Jesus. He was a iresh phe-
nomenon of humanity. The}* seem to have been people of cul-
ture. They were at least polite, and did not intrude on the Great
Teacher, but communicated their desires to Philip of Bethsaida.
Perhaps Philip had Greek blood in him, as his name indicates.
He certainly had modesty. Although these Greeks represented
the most polished forms of civilization, they were, by Hebrew
narrowness, regarded as the lowest class of worshippers in the
great Temple. He consulted his brother disciple Andrew, and
upon agreement they both told Jesus.

So far from meeting a repulse these disciples found that the very
message filled Jesus with a strange joy. lie welcomed the Greeks,
and said to them and to his disciples, " The hour is come that the
Sou of Man should be glorified. I -most assuredly say b i you, That
except a grain of wheat falling into the ground die, it abides alone;
but if it die, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it,
and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it unto perpet
ual life. If any one serve me, let him follow me ; and where 1
am, there also shall my servant be. If any man serve me, the
Father will honor him."

The shouts of the people did not exhilarate Jesus, did not for a
moment throw him from his mental equipoise. Indeed Jesus
6eems grand in his solitary sadness amid this po-
pular gladness. But the coming of the Greeks fl^re™^
seems a great delight to him. lie is thereby
glorified. To say so was disloyalty and heresy. It was enough
that as proselytes they were barely admitted within holy precincts.
Loyalty to Hebrew traditions demanded contempt of pagans, and
loyalty to the church party demanded contempt for all the world
that did not live as the Pharisees directed and worship as the priesta

taught. But the BOul of Jesus was so tall as to look over the pale
of man's chureh ; indeed to perceive that that rotten structure was
to be by himself felled to the ground, that the whole world might
be let into one. That was his glorification. It required martyrdom
to accomplish it, and he was going to endure that martyrdom and


accomplish that glorious bringing of all peoples into one. The
births of life are through the husks and corruption of death, a
truth which finds forceful and beautiful illustration in vegetable
reproduction. The man who, like the foolish farmer, will not
sow his wheat because he desires to save his wheat, will surely
lose it all. " To hate " one's life is a Hebraism signifying to
" value less." He who values this present form of life less than
the life which is perpetual shall keep both this and that. Jesus
intended to yield this petty Palm-Sunday triumph, and even the
apparently more substantial royalty of supreme civil rule, so that
he might live in the lives of the world and be king over the
hearts of the ages. He desired his disciples to follow his example,
and promised that all who did, whatever earthly distinctions they
might miss, should have honor from God.

Then a great shudder passed through him, and he said, " Now is
my soul troubled : and what shall I say ? " He paused. He had
not been misled for an instant. He knew where all this would
end. The horror of death came upon him. He cried out, " Father,
save me from this hour." It was a natural cry. It was the
instinctive love of life. H he had yielded and pressed that ques-
tion, it would have been that loving of life which loses it. He
rallied. No ; he will not sacrifice the perpetual to the temporary.
He said, " But on this account came I to this hour. Father, glo-
rify thy name." "We do not know what Jesus meant by " on this
account." There was something in his mind which did not, per-
haps could not, come out in words. It was a great soul in a
frightful spiritual storm. In his agitation the anguish compelled
the utterance of the first prayer. He was strong enough to reverse
it, and to change it instantly from " my deliverance " to " thy glory."

A notable thing then occurred. A sound was heard. It seemed
to be a voice from heaven. Three interpretations were given to
it. Some said it thundered. Some said, " An
angel has spoken to him." Some said there were
these words spoken : " And I have glorified, and I will glorify."
It is plain that all heard a sound. The three interpretations are
to be explained on two grounds, the difference in relative position
and the difference in psychical condition. Thus on the more dis-
tant it may have produced only the impression of an inarticulate
heavy noise like thunder ; on those nearer, the impression of arti-
culate yet confused utterances, articulate in themselves but not dis~


tinct to the hearers ; on the nearest, the very syllables which are
repeated in the history. Or Jesus himself may have heard these
words, and have given a subsequent explanation of them to hia
disciples. Again, on the supposition that these very words were
spoken, there were but few who were so receptive as to hear
them, while to others they sounded like a voice in the air, and to
others like thunder.

This latter view of the case seems to me the more reasonable.
That God has spoken to man, all believe who are not atheists or
the most dreary materialists. Instances in which
men of good understanding have believed that
they heard voices are not to be put aside by our grossly material
philosophy as the hallucinations of a diseased mind. The Jewish
writers speak of the Bath-Kol, Vp-na , the daughter of the voice,
as a kind of second voice, an internal articulation, addressed to
the inner sense by the good God, and second in authority only to
the inspiration enjoyed by the Old Testament prophets. The
Tar gum and Midrash represent it as the actual medium of divine
communication with Abraham, Moses, David, Nebuchadnezzar,
etc. In the history of the early Christians we have accounts of
a " voice or voices," as in the conversion of Saul and the vision
of Peter. (Acts ix. 7, x. 13, 15.) Josephus tells of a " voice,"
supposed by some to be the Bath-Kol, which informed Ilyrcanus
that his sons had conquered Antiochus. (A/it., xiii. 10, 3.) The
same historian relates that, just before the fall of Jerusalem, one
night as the priests were going into the Temple to perform their
sacred ministrations, they heard a multitudinous voice saying,
" Let us go hence." ( War, vi. 53.) Similar instances might bo
adduced from the records of all succeeding ages like the " folic,
lege," take, read, which Augustine heard when he was converted.
Perhaps any finely organized reader of this page will bring
from his memory something similar in his own experience.

It is scarcely philosophical to call these fancies. Our modern
Bcience instructs us that the phenomena which arc able to affect
objectively do exist subjectively in every man's constitution.
Thus there is something existing subjectively in every man which
responds to the objective Impingemenl of the atmospheric waves
on the tympanum. Now, unless one be an atheist, or, believing
in the existence of God, believe that lie never desires to com-
municate with man, or desiring to communicate, has not Left Open


to Himself every avenue of approach which is free to a man'a
fellow-men, I can see no difficulty in receiving the theory that
this God can form in a man, immediately, the very sensations and
perceptions which are produced mediately by his fellow-men
who form sounds in the brain of the hearer, through the audi
tory nerves, by waves of air which the speaker sets in motion.
Even then each man's impression would be measured by his capabi-
lities of reception, as in an audience of a thousand there are a
thousand different results produced by the same speech ; as on
the exhibition of a picture to a thousand persons, a thousand dif-
ferent impressions have been made. To any human or divine
fountain, whosoever comes carries away just so much water as his
vessel holds.

Jesus recognized the voice. He was no fanatic. Through his
whole history nothing is more apparent than the absence of all

fanaticism. He is no trickster. Nothing seems
Jesus knew it. ,-, , . . -,. ,. r TT . ■, , ■, .

more open than his public lire. His whole his-
tory is like a structure which is all windows. From any side one
sees all through. He said, " This voice came not on my account,
but for you. Now is the judgment of this world. Now shall the
prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from
the earth, will draw all things unto myself." John says that he
said this signifying what manner of death he should die. He felt
sure that he was to be crucified. He felt sure that that which
his enemies supposed would be a wall between him and the
world, keeping all men away from him, namely, his death of
ignominy, would be a position of elevation from which he should
exert the attractive influence of his great character on the whole

Then a voice, representing the skepticism of the multitude,
said, "AVe have heard out of the law that the Christ abides through

the ages, and how do you say that it is necessary
Christ abides that the Son of Man be lifted up ? Who is this

forever. x

Son of Man?" It seems clear from this that the
name " Son of Man," to the apprehension of the common people,
was identical with the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed Saviour
of Israel. Of him the people had a belief, gathered from their
sacred writings, that he should abide forever, and this they intei-
preted in a sensuous manner. If the reader will take the pains
to consult the passages in Isaiah ix. 7, and Daniel vii. 14, he will



see how easy it was for minds not given to the study of spiritual
things, but filled with violent national prejudices, to make an in-
terpretation like that these people placed on the words. It is also
clear that in some part of his sayings that day Jesus had called
himself the Son of Man. Especially were they unprepared now
to give up so suddenly the hopes which the Palm procession had
so greatly kindled. He, Jesus, was to be the Messiah, to remain
on the throne of David forever, to administer a government which
should have no end, to subdue all peoples to the Hebrew theo-
cracy ; and now he speaks as if he were the Son of Man, on whom
is laid the necessity of being crucified. They never suspect the
soundness of their own orthodoxy nor the correctness of their own
logic, by which, from a perpetual reign, they had inferred a per-
petual personal presence of the Messiah.

Jesus does not resolve this question directly. He says simply,
11 "Walk whilst you have the light, that the darkness may not over-
take you : for he who walks in darkness knows not where he goes.
As you have the light, believe in the light, that you may be sons
of the light." As if he had said : You need not perplex your-
selves with questions whose solution one way or another would
have no benefit on your moral character. Do what your present
duty enjoins. Go forward. Children are obedient to their parents.
" Children of the light " is a Hebraism for those who are obedi-
ent to the light.

Thus ended Sunday the 2d of April.

Jesus went out of the city as the evening approached, and over
the darkening hills took his way to Bethany, where he lodged that

BTATZB— AN'li I'li.i.VKH,



The second day of the week found Jesus early on the road,
accompanied by his disciples, going up to Jerusalem. The record

"R t B th * s ^ at ^ e was hungry. Why the early morn should
any and Jerusa- mi d him so, when he might have broken fast with
lem. Monday, 3d his friends in Bethany, is not so very clear. He
April. Matt. xxi. ; ma y ] iave spent the night in devotion, and, being
joined by his disciples before sunrise, proceeded
at once to the city, knowing that his time was short, and it be-
hooved him to do promptly all that he would do before the final

As they were going towards the city he saw a solitary fig-tree

on the roadside, at some distance in advance, and was attracted

by its display of leafage. lie approached it, if

The barren fig- j^^ ^e might find something on it. There was

no fruit ; there was nothing but leaves. He said

to it, "May no one, to the end of this age, eat fruit of you!"

We shall see that the next morning the disciples noticed that it

was utterly withered.

Few passages in the life of Jesus have been so perplexing to his
friends, and such an apparent vantage-ground to those who either
dislike Jesus or disbelieve his history as this. The destructive
critics, such as Dr. Strauss, call it "a vindictive miracle." This
author calls attention to the fact that ".it is the only one of its

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 55 of 77)