Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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with the despised Nazarenes.*

In this town the first twelve years of the life of Jesus were
spent. History gives us little insight into this period of his exist-
ence Lukesaysthal he"grewand waxed strong in spirit, tilled



Return and set-
tlement in Naza-
reth.



* Matthew says, "that it might lie
fulfilled which was spoken l>y the
prophet ll' hall be called a Nazarene."
i l can discover, tin' Old T<

Hunt does nut contain any text in which

the wont Nazarene is applied to the
U h. Tin explanation may '»■ that
4



prophets had described the Messiah asa
despised person, as tin- Nazarenes were.
See John i. in, where Nathanael quotes
i he proverb, " Can any good thing come

out of Nazareth?" In Isaiah liii. wo

have a specimen of the general prophecy.



50 THE BIKTH AND CHILDHOOD OF JESUS.

with wisdom ; and the grace of God was upon him." He had
for his playmates his younger half-brothers, children horn to Mary
after Jesus, together with his cousins, the children of Cleopas.
At his mother's knee he learned language and the elements of
religious thought. He was probably engaged in assisting in the
ordinary affairs of the household as he grew older, and perhaps
assisted his reputed father Joseph in his business as a carpenter.
The silence of history is filled with the babblings of tradition,
which seems to delight to crowd these twelve years with wonder-
ful fantasies. We may rely only upon what is certainly afiirmed,
and yet it is reasonable to suppose that the wonderful child car-
ried with him the unconscious air of an innocent soul that has
uncommon depths of spiritual introspection, and is being fitted
for a marvellous destiny.

So great is the influence of the surroundings of the young that
the situation and the scenery of Nazareth must hereafter forever
be a study of profound interest to every student of the growth of
character. There is none more glowing than the following, with
which M. Renan closes the second chapter of his " Life of
Jesus" :

" Nazareth was a little town, situated in a fold of land broadly open at
the summit of the group of mountains which closes on the north the plain of
Esdraelon. The population is now from three to four thousand, and it can-
not have varied much. It is quite cold in winter, and the climate is very
healthy. The town, like all the Jewish villages of the time, was a mass of
dwellings built without pretensions to style, and must have presented that
poor and uninteresting appearance which is offered by villages in Semitic
countries. The houses, from all that appears, did not differ much from those
cubes of stone, without interior or exterior elegance, which now cover the
richest portion of Lebanon, and which, in the midst of vines and tig-trees,
are nevertheless very pleasant. The environs, moreover, are charming, and
no place in the world was so well adapted to dreams of absolute happiness.

"Even in our days Nazareth is a delightful sojourn, the only place perhaps
in Palestine where the soul feels a little relieved of the burden which weighs
upon it in the midst of this unequalled desolation. The people are friendly
and good-natured; the gardens are fresh and green. Antonius Martyr, at
the end of the sixth century, draws an enchanting picture of the fertility
of the environs, which he compares to paradise. Some valleys on the western
side fully justify his description. The fountain, about which the life and
gaycty of the little town centred, has been destroyed; its broken channels
now give but a turbid water. But the beauty of the women who gather there
at night — this beauty which was already remarked in the sixth century, and
in which was seen the gift of the Virgin Mary, has been surprisingly well



• HTS FIRST YEAJRS. 51

preseived. It is the Syrian typo, in all its languishing grace. There is no
doubt that Mary was there nearly every day, and took her place, with her urn
upon her shoulder, in the same line with her unremembered countrywomen.
Antonius Martyr remarks that the Jewish women, elsewhere disdainful to
Christians, are here full of affability. Even at this day religious animosities
are less intense at Nazareth than elsewhere.

"The horizon of the town is limited; but if we ascend a little to the pla-
teau, swept by a perpetual breeze, which commands the highest houses, tin.'
prospect is splendid. To the west are unfolded the beautiful lines of Carmel,
terminating in an abrupt point, which seems to plunge into the sea. Then
stretch away the double summit which looks down upon Megiddo, the moun-
tains of the country of Shechem, with their holy places of the patriarchal
age, the mountains of Gilboa, the picturesque little group with which are
associated the graceful and terrible memories of Solam and Endor, and
Thabor, with its finely rounded form, which antiquity compared to a breast.
Through a depression between the mountains of Solam and Thabor are seen
tli" valley of the Jordan and the high plains of Parsea, which form a contin-
uous line in the east. To the north, the mountains of Safed, sloping towards
the sea, hide St. Jean d'Acre, but disclose the gulf of Khaifa. Such was the
horizon of Jesus.

" This enchanted circle, the cradle of the kingdom of God, represented the
World to him for years. His life even went little beyond the limits familiar
to his childhood. For beyond, to the north, you almost see upon the slope
of Hermon, Cesarea Philippi, his most advanced point into the Gentile world,
and to the south, you feel behind these already less cheerful mountains of
Samaria, sad Judaea, withered as by a burning blast of abstraction and of
death."

Joseph and Mary were accustomed to go up annually to Jerusa-
lem t attend the J'assover Festival. When Jesus readied the
age of twelve he was carried to the Temple, to

be initiated into (he regular study «»f the law, and a Je f ls among

~ , the doctors.

to begin the observance of the festivals and fasts
of the Jewish church. The Jews believed the age of twelve to
be the line dividing childhood from youth. At thai period one
waa called "son of the law," and first incurred legal responsi-
bility.*

This incidenl is the only pus-age in the early life of Jesus f
which we have any reliable historical account. But it is full of
interest

lie was a remarkable child, born under remarkable circum-
Btances, which bad undoubtedly been narrated to him, and which

* Joscphus states that when he waa I city met with him to put questions tc
fourteen yeara of ag< the priesto of the | bin about the law



52 TIIE BIRTH AND CHILDnOOir OF JEStJS.

lie had pondered as he read the law and the prophets, or heard
them read. He had never been in the Temple since he was an
infant. Now the sight of the solemn fane and the holy rites,
amid the excitement of the great crowds who were present, must
have stirred the depths of this profound young soul. A solemn
sense of his spiritual capabilities, and perhaps an awful presenti-
ment of his tremendous destiny must have come upon him. lie
began to be revealed to himself. lie did not put himself forward
as a teacher among those white-haired rabbis. 1 1 is. hour had not
yet come. But he was neither a stupid nor a frivolous boy. His
rare fine spirit had been developing itself amid the quiet scenes
of nature, and he had been looking into the faces of the most
profound and puzzling questions. Many a bright day from the
heights near Nazareth he had gazed upon the grand scenery about
him, turning over what he had heard of the historic associations
of such famous places as were in sight, feeling his blood tingle
with the touches of autumnal breezes or glowing in the rich
warmth of the first spring; and Life and Man, the Seen and the
Unseen, Nature and Supernature, held their problems up to his
soul. And he dared to study them. At twelve he was ready to
ask questions even of rabbis. The custom of the Jewish schools
was for the scholars to ask questions of the teachers, and much
of rabbinical literature consists of answers to such interrogato-
ries. The questions a man asks are as indicative of his character
as the positive sayings that go out of kis mouth. If history had
preserved these questions which he asked in the Temple, we
should be helped in our study of Jesus. It records simply the
general fact that his learned hearers were astonished at his under-
standing.

When the Paschal ceremonies were ended, Joseph and Mary

started to return to Nazareth. They did not at first perceive that

Jesus was not of the company. They had been

Tssed by . o- &Q . l( . ( . us |, „ U(M ] t ],; s obedience as to rely upon his

Bepn and Mary. l .

promptness. Eastern travellers m ancient times

ordinarily made a short journey on the first day. Perhaps Joseph

and Mary did not start until some time in the afternoon, and

then in company with many others. When they pitched their

tents that night they discovered his absence. They returned to

Jerusalem. Luke says that "after three days they found him."

This probably includes their first day out, the second day, in which



HIS FIRST YExVRS.



53



they returned and inquired, and the third day, when they found
him. He was in the Temple, among the rabhis, astounding them
by asking questions, startling by reason of their artless depth and
amazing significance.*

Mary — not Joseph — spoke to him. She and Joseph knew their
relations to the boy. And Mary said, "Son, why have you dealt
bo with us? Behold, your father and I have sought you sorrow-
ing." Up to that time he seems to have regarded Joseph as his
father, and to have behaved towards him in that relation. But in
his public teachings he never acknowledged Joseph as his father.
If Mary had said "we," the remarkable answer in which Jesus ex-
presses his sense of his own intimate relationship with God could
not have been given. But "your father and I" brings it. With
tender reproachfulness Jesus replied: "How is it that you sought
me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father's busi-
ness?" As if he would remind his mother that she ought to
know from his extraordinary introduction to the world that his
was to be an extraordinary Life. As if he would remind her of
the fact that at the Annunciation she had been told by the angel
that her child was to be the "Son of the Mosl High." All this
6he knew; but now it comes home to her with power, when that
simple, ingenuous, noble child stands up in the house of God and
claims his Divine Paternity.

Of this only authenticated saying of Jesus in his childhood, Sticr
beautifully says: "Solitary floweret out of the wonderful inclosed
garden of thirty years, plucked precisely there where the swollen
bud, at a distinctive crisis, bursts into flower. To mark that is
redly the design and the meaning of this record. The child
Jesus sought to know himself, and his whole life of childhood
w.-i - this seeking."

All these things Mary laid up in her heart, and most probably

after the death of Jesus told them t.> Luke. This sounds like a

mother's narrative repeated by a historian.

That Jesus had accumulated a vasl number of questions touch-
ing ( rod and man, life and death, the seen and the invisible, it is

most natural to suppose. One also naturally thinks that those
questions must have been based largely upon the Bebrew sacred



• u To answer children w indeed an
Bzamen rigorornm," Baj b Bamanxi. And
■gain, " lldium, where he
was buried, was a distance of two hundred furlongs, and if the
account of Josephus means that the procession moved at the rate of
eight furlongs a day, this pomp continued no less than twenty days.

While Archelaus was thus publicly mourning for his father, he
was said to be privately spending his nights in revelry. The
mourning done, he went up to the Temple, took
Archelaus. Trou- j^ geat U p OU a throne of gold, spoke conciliating-
bles in settling the . ,,,.,-, . i 5i o •

succession v t() tne multitude, promised them everything,

but declined to assume the crown until the will
of his father had been ratified by Caesar.



PUBLIC AFFAIRS DURING THE CHILDHOOD OF JESUS.



59



Arclielaus
Home.



But, almost immediately after, *a sedition was raised in the city.
The people began a lamentation for the two martyrs who had
perished in the affair of the Eagle. At the Passover, at the time of
the evening sacrifice, this feeling became deep, and broke into erics
for vengeance. Arclielaus sent his general to explain and remon-
strate. But it was of no avail. The upshot of the riot was the
slaughter of three thousand men and the breaking up of the feast.

A rchelaus then went to Rome to secure the establishment of
his kingdom by an imperial ediet. lie carried with him the
eloquent orator Nicholas of Damascus, who had
been a faithful friend of his father. With him
also was his intriguing aunt, Salome, who was
secretly in the interest of his brother, Herod Antipas. The Jews
sent after him a deputation of live hundred of their chief men,
praying Caesar to abolish the monarchy and let them be governed
by their own laws. They made what capital they could of the
inauspicious events which had attended the beginning of his
government.*

While Arehelaus was in Borne, Jerusalem was in charge of
Sabinus, the Roman procurator of the province. He was a vio-
lent, tyrannical, avaricious coward, lie made
diligent search for the late king's treasure, and
did not scruple to take even the sacred treasure.
devise means to exasperate the Jew.-. The smouldering tires of
fanatic determination to free their country from the Roman yoke
were fanned into a flame. "When Pentecost came vast multitudes
of men from all parts of the country flocked to Jerusalem, mani-
festly full of bitterness and ready for mischief. They encamped
about the Temple, and besieged Sabinus, who from a Lofty tower,
to which he had betaken himself for safety, gave a signal to his
hoops to issue forth against the besiegers. Much .-laughter was
on both sides. The Jews were repulsed, but betook themselves
to the Temple, from the heights of which they rained arrows on
the Romans, who could not reach their enemies. The Roman-,



Sabinus.

He seemed to



' ivrhaps it is to thi - fli.it .!■ sns allud-
ed in the parable reported by Luke (xix.

: "A oertaio nobleman
vaiu ,



Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 6 of 77)