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Jesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus online

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more pointed. He compares himself to the stone which is
rejected by the builders, but which nevertheless becomes the
corner stone. This is a reference to Psalm 118:22, which
makes Israel, the nation despised and rejected by the Gentiles,
the very cornerstone of God's relations with the world. The
words, however, had been applied in later times to the Messiah
by the Rabbis, hence Jesus' application of them to Himself.
Further, in view of the nation's repeated rejection of the
advances of God and its treatment of those through whom
they were made, especially its murder of the Son and Heir,
dire punishment was also to be administered. This was actu-
ally accomplished in the destruction of Jerusalem, the overthrow
of the leaders of the theocracy, and the fall of the Jewish state
in A. D. 70. The Kingdom also would be given to others —
'*to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." Not, it is
apparent, to the Gentiles as a whole, or to any specific nation-
ality, but to a people gathered from many nations, to an
eclectic nation, — all the subjects of the true Kingdom of God.
Further, this nation is represented as one already bringing
forth the fruits of the Kingdom, i. e., possessing the char-
acteristics indicated in the Beatitudes. Here we see again the
sublime confidence expressed in the parable of the Seed Growing
Secretly. If Jewish hearts were hardened against the reception
of the seed, there were at least human hearts elsewhere which
would prove congenial soil for the sowing of God's truth.
Jesus, in fact, had already seen foregleams of this "nation"

The WorlcTs Reception of the Kingdom 113

in the Roman centurion at Capernaum, at whose faith He ex-
claimed, "I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel,"
(St. Luke 7:1-11), and in the Syro-Phoenician woman, and
the Samaritans. Such a prophecy as this was certainly madden-
ing to the Jews, and we read: **When the chief priests and
Pharisees had heard His parables, they perceived that he
spake of them." They feared, however, to prove the absolute
truthfulness of His portrayal by laying hands on Him then,
because the multitude took Him for a prophet.

Jesus, however, speaks another parable.^ He voices the
same general truth, but looks at the subject from a different
standpoint. The thought now is not primarily of right and
obligation, but of privilege and opportunity. The parable is
that of the Marriage Feast.^ The details of this story are

^ This parable is given more fully in St. Matthew 22:1-14 than in
St. Mark, or St. Luke 14:16-24, and the context is different. Given
by St. Matthew immediately after the parable of the Wicked Hus-
bandmen, it clinches the truth enunciated there. This variance in
context has given rise to various suppositions. Some think the
version of St. Luke an imperfect one, which found its way into
some early document used by him. Others maintain that his version
is the original, and that in St. Matthew it is combined with another.
This, however, is speculation. Its idea and position here are emi-
nently logical. It is, in fact, complementary to the preceding parable.
The parable itself may have been suggested by Zephaniah i -.y, 8.

^ "And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables,
and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which
made a marriage for his son. And sent forth his servants to call
them that were bidden to the wedding : and they would not come.
Again, he sent forth other servants, saying. Tell them which are
bidden. Behold I have prepared m.y dinner : my oxen and my fat-
lings are killed, and all things are ready : come unto the marriage.
But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his farm,
another to his merchandise : And the remnant took his servants, and
entreated them spitefully and slew them. But when the king heard
thereof, he was wroth : And he sent forth his armies, and destroyed
those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his
servants. The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were
not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as
ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into
the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both
bad and good : and the wedding was furnished with guests. And
when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which
had not on a wedding garment ; And he saith unto him. Friend,
how earnest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he
was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand

114 Jesus* Idea

easily identified. The circumstances of its delivery make clear
the content. God is the King; Jesus is the groom; His
marriage is the establishment of the Kingdom. The servants,
or slaves, are John the Baptist, Jesus perhaps, and the disciples,
who, now that the marriage is ready, in accordance with the
Oriental custom summoned those who had been invited pre-
viously. The invited, of course, are the Jews. Some — the
majority (vs. 5) — pay no attention whatever to the call; others
" — the minority (vs. 6) — are bitter, manifesting open hostility
and slaying the servants. In consequence the King is angry
and sends forth his army, destroying the murderers and burn-
ing their city. This language again is singularly descriptive
of the fate which overtook the Jews in the destruction of
Jerusalem in A. D. 70.

This, however, was not the end of the matter. Pearls
had been cast before swine; that which was holy had been
given to dogs. The invited were not worthy, so the servants
were sent outside the city into the cross-roads (such is the
meaning of the word) where people were wont to congregate,
with directions to summon every one to the wedding — good
and bad alike. The intent here is apparent. The King-
dom, or sovereignty of God, had come near. Those who had
been invited, and were expected to avail themselves of the
privilege — the Chosen People — will not do so. Hence the
Gentiles, and according to St. Luke's version of the parable,
the poor and the maimed, the despised and the overlooked in
Israel, will be summoned to the Feast. All will be called,
but only those who are qualified for admission will be per-
mitted to enter. This is the thought suggested by the wedding
garment. While those venturesome enough to enter without
suitable attire — righteousness of mind and heart — will be cast
out amid the wailing of despair and the gnashing of teeth in
hopeless impotency. Many, indeed, will be called, but few
chosen. It is interesting to note, also, how closely the proclama-
tion of the Kingdom to the Gentiles is associated here by
Jesus with the fall of Jerusalem.

No more succinct resume of Jewish history could have been

and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness ;
there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called,
but few are chosen."

The JForUVs Reception of the Kingdom 115

given than that which is offered in these parables. Chiefly
of historical interest, they possess, however, an eternal signifi-
cance. The illustration is historical, but the principle is eternal.
"Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn
down and cast into the fire." Duty and privilege cannot
be trifled with on pain of punishment dire and certain. This
is the saddening burden of the parable; the Jews are the ob-
ject lesson. The Jew, indeed, is the tragedy of history.

"Though the mills of God grind slowly,

Yet He grinds exceeding small,

Though in patience long He waiteth,

With exactness grinds He all." ^

Thus Jesus, toward the close of His life, showed that He was
well aware that the Chosen People w^ouid prove recreant
to their trust, and unmindful of their privilege to the end. The
proof lies in these parables of doom, which are at once
the nation's death note and the Kingdom's paean of vic-

Jesus, however, did not conceive of the acceptance of the
Kingdom in terms of nationality alone. He also spoke of it
in terms of individuality. This, in fact. He was compelled
to do in view^ of His conception of the Kingdom as primarily
personal and spiritual. The parable of the Sower is pre-
eminently the parable of individuality." It is really a psycho-
logical study. Its position is unique, and its content makes it

^ The rejection of the Kingdom by the Jews is the plaint also of
the parable of the Barren Fig Tree (St. Mk. 11 -.20-25). The closing
words of the parable of the Pounds are also indicative of the same
truth: "But those mine enemies which would not that I should
reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me" (St. Luke

*"And he spake many things to them in parables, saying, Behold
a sower went forth to sow ; And when he sowed some seeds fell
by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up : Some
fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth : and forth-
with they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And
when the sun was up they were scorched ; and because they had
no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and
the thorns sprung up and choked them: But others fell into good
ground, and brought forth fruit some an hundredfold, some sixty-
fold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear." (St.
Matthew i3-3-9ci., St. Mk. 4:3-20, St. Lu. 8:4-15.)

1 1 6 Jesus' Idea

the pivotal parable. With its advent, the national stage of the
Kingdom has passed, and the individual, henceforth, is the
unit of the Kingdom of God. This parable, in fact, was the
first to be spoken by Jesus, and its bearing upon all subsequent
parables is evident from His answer to the question of the
disciples: "Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye
know all parables?" (St. Mk. 4:13). While this illustration
is pastoral in its simplicity, each Evangelist seems impressed
with the importance of the story, inasmuch as each one repre-
sents Jesus as saying at the close: "He that hath ears to hear,
let him hear." Indeed, this parable is Jesus' nearest approxima-
tion to a definition of the Kingdom of God. In it He both
states what the Kingdom is, and gives its vicissitudes of growth.
Elsewhere, He makes many allusions to it, and gives partial il-
lustrations of it, but here He is comprehensive and thorough;
He goes to the bottom of the matter. It was very important,
indeed, that He should do so; for the disciples, as the future rep-
resentatives of the Kingdom, must understand its pregnant
meaning, and failure to understand this parable would mean
failure to understand all parables. Recognizing this, Jesus
departs from His usual custom and becomes, in this instance,
the interpreter of His own parable.^

Before we note the interpretation of this parable let us
realize that nowhere is the surpassing intellectuality of Jesus
more clearly revealed than in the parables. Jesus Christ was
an intellectual giant, no less than a moral giant. His intellect,
indeed, was as clear as crystal, alert, powerful, commanding.
This characteristic of the Christ has received but scant ac-

^ "Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When anyone
heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then
Cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in
his heart. This is he that receiveth seed by the wayside. But he that
receiveth the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the
word, and anon with joy receiveth it: Yet hath he not root in him-
self, but dureth for awhile: for when tribulation or persecution
ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that
receiveth seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word ; and
the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the
word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that receiveth seed into
the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it ;
which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold,
some sixty, some thirty." (St. Matthew 13: 18-23).

The World's Reception of the Kingdom 117

knowledgment. It has been almost lost sight of in the dazzling
splendor of His moral vision. The painters and sculptors
of all ages have made us familiar vuith a Christ whose face
and form reveal the gentler qualities of humanity. They have
been strikingly deficient in portraying the virility, the manliness,
and the intellectuality of the Christ. Whether this can be done
may be a matter of debate, but certainly the Christ of Art is not
the Christ of the New Testament. It is probable that the
intellectuality of Jesus, not to speak of His spirituality, defies
portrayal. However this may be, every student of the teach-
ing of Jesus should be alive to the keen intellectuality which
He exhibited from the first in a marvelous mastery over the
fundamental principles of the Kingdom of God, and in a no
less marvelous ability in enunciating them. This is singularly
exemplified in the first of His parables.

''The sower soweth the word," says Jesus, and the word
sown is "the word of the kingdom." Now words are the ex-
pression of ideas, and the idea, in this case, is the idea of God
and His rule. It is, in brief, the Gospel of the Kingdom.
(Let the reader consult St. Matthew 4:23; 24:14; Acts 1:3;
28:31). The thought, indeed, in this parable constituted the
mystery or hidden truth of the Kingdom. Awaiting a perfect
Kingdom of God, ushered in by a tour-de-force, the Jews learn
that the Kingdom is akin to an idea sown among men, and
that it is subject to all the vicissitudes of planting and growth.
It was exceedingly difficult for the disciples to grasp this teach-
ing, so Jesus reinforces the main conception of the parable by
its details. While Chrysostom's canon of interpretation —
"Nor is it necessary to waste labor by way of explanation
over all matters in the parables, but having learned the de-
sign for which it was constructed, to get possession of that,
and not to busy one self with anything further" — is usually to
be followed, this parable is an exception to the rule. In this
case, the details are of primary importance. But what is the
significance of the various details?

The seeds which fall on a hard, trodden path, and lying
upon the surface are soon carried away, are typical of those
persons who hear the message of the Kingdom, but do not
understand it. They are men without spiritual receptivity.
The condition is abnormal, but it is real. Contact with life has

ii8 Jesus' Idea

atrophied, not developed, their higher susceptibilities. The
superinducing causes are not given by Jesus, but they are
many and as effective to-day as then. And what is the re-
sult? That which cannot penetrate into the inner life but
lies upon the surface of the heart, extraneous influences soon
remove. This detail shows also that the foes of the Kingdom
are not only within the man, but are without him as well.
There is a vast environment of evil which militates against
the Kingdom, and seeks to prevent even its planting.

There is also the stony soil, says Jesus, which is tj'pical of
those who hear the message of the Kingdom and "anon with
joy receive it." This is the shallow, the volatile, the emotional
type. "Of course," they say, "God should rule." But they
do not count the cost. When the tribulation which ensues upon
any honest attempt to do God's will arises, they are soon
discouraged and rendered lifeless. This class is always the
congenial soil of revivalism. Under stress of appeal and excite-
ment religion springs into existence, and as easily dies.

But again, some seed falls among thorns. Jesus' masterly
analysis of human nature is strikingly apparent here. The soil
is propitious, but it endeavors to grow two crops at the same
time. The old story of God and Mammon. The cares of this
world, or correctly of the age, are said to choke the Kingdom.
Something more, indeed, than positive and acknowledged
sinfulness wages warfare against the Kingdom of God. The
anxiety of men in regard to temporal affairs militates against
the development of God's rule. This thought, in fact, was
ever present to the mind of Christ. We meet it in the parable
of the King's Supper, and of The Rich Fool, and we find it
elaborated at length in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus,
of course, did not discourage thoughtful provision for the
present and the future. What He had in mind was that
anxiety which finds in this the great object of life to the neglect
of the life of God, and which is a powerful foe of the King-
dom in every age.

The deceitfulness of riches, however, is also mentioned as a
foe of the Kingdom. Wealth seems man's greatest good. Jesus,
however, warns against its deceitfulness. And well might He do
so. Wealthy men are by no means the happiest of men. The
ability to enjoy wealth is indeed often lost in the shriveling

The World's Reception of the Kingdom 119

of the soul attendant upon its accumulation. There is, also,
the disquieting endeavor to increase or to retain the possessions,
the haunting fear of loss, or of death, or even of enjoyment at
the expense of spending. There is the surrounding crowd of
sycophants whose patent insincerity casts suspicion on all one's
friends. But pre-eminently are riches deceitful in that they
lead to the placing of emphasis upon what a man has, rather
than upon what a man is. They foster the fearful lie that
happiness consists in having rather than in being, and thus
blind to life's true values. They are often productive of
moral bankruptcy. Acting in concert with man's love of
pleasure and the lust for other things which lies buried in the
human heart, the cares of life and the deceitfulness of money
too frequently spring up to throttle the idea that God should
rule; hence thousands of lives become unfruitful.

Some seed, however, falls into good ground, and this good
soil bears fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
One fourth of the sowing, at least, is not in vain. Here again is
the prophetic doctrine of the remnant. Is the percentage of
fruit-bearers always only one to three? If so, slender indeed is
the stream of salvation. But narrow is the way that leadeth
unto life, and few there be that find it. However this may
be, it is noticeable that the Kingdom of God does not bear
the same amount of fruit in every life. We cannot expect,
therefore, the same degree of Christianity in all Christians:
the young with the old, the well-trained with the ill-trained, the
intelligent with the illiterate. The fruitage is dependent upon
the planting, the environment, and the character of the soil;
some is rich, some is mediocre, some is comparatively poor.

Such, in outline, is the parable of the Sower. While
prophetic of the future, it w^as also reminiscent of the past.
Jesus, indeed, had already witnessed this varying reception of
the Kingdom on the part of individuals. The outcome of ex-
perience, the parable was undoubtedly spoken in mercy, in order
that the disciples might understand the failure of much of their
Master's sowing, and also the reception which awaited the
truth when sown by them. The story, indeed, is the sad com-
fort of every preacher to-day, and the ever-true commentary
upon human nature.

Jesus, however, spoke also of the attitude of certain classes

I20 Jesus^ Idea

toward the Kingdom of God. The parable of the Children
Playing in the Market-place is Jesus' criticism of a class, as
well as of a people (St. Luke 7:31-35). "But whereunto shall
I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the
markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have
piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned
unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither
eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The
Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say. Behold
a man gluttonous and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and
sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children. Then began
he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were
done, because they repented not" (St. Matthew 1 1:16-20).

The meaning of this parable is not apparent at once; it opens
to view, however, upon examination. Jesus finds a resem-
blance between the thoughtless, frolicking children who play
in the market-place and reproach their disinterested play-
mates for responding neither to their mournful nor to their
merry strains, and the men of His own time. Jesus and
John the Baptist are evidently the unwilling playmates; the
men of that generation are the fault-finding children. Neither
John nor Jesus could satisfy the people of their time. John, the
rugged, unbending prophet of the wilderness, was too austere,
ascetic, and unsympathetic. Although attracted for a time,
an ease-loving age soon discarded the strenuous prophet of the
desert (St. John 5:35). Then came Jesus. He was a decided
contrast to John. Yes; but He was too unrestrained and
too unconventional. John did not dance to their music; Jesus
did not mourn to their whims. Hence there was only criticism
and abuse from their countrymen. As a result, the age, in the
thought of Jesus, was as superficial as childhood at play.
Indeed, the men of His generation were merely players at

The age was dominated by the Pharisees, as we have seen.
Being formalists, and content with the husks of religion, they
became inevitably the chief opponents of John and of Jesus, who
were the advocates of a moral and spiritual religion. Because
of an inveterate tendency to live on the surface, and to be
satisfied with the external; because undisturbed by any deep
sense of the inward and the spiritual, that age was distinctly

The World's Reception of the Kingdom ill

lacking in moral earnestness. John and Jesus were phenomena
which it could not understand. They were accordingly dis-
missed summarily with the characterization of one as a devil,
and of the other, as "a glutton and a wine-bibber, a friend
of publicans and sinners." It is always so easy to abuse what
we do not understand.

This abuse, however, was a criticism of the fault-finders
rather than of those faulted. Our Lord makes this apparent in
the remark which concludes the parable. Despite Pharisaic
sneer. He is comforted in the thought that "Wisdom is justified
of all her children." It was true that neither the Pharisees,
nor their generation, appreciated the Baptist nor Jesus. In
their blind self-sufficiency, they could dismiss both with a super-
ficial criticism, but fortunately there w^ere some wise enough
to justify the wisdom of Jesus and of John, as it was exemplified
in their varying conduct. These, of course, are the children
of wisdom.

Both of the criticised had acted, indeed, in accordance with
a true principle and a true conception of their era, although
their lassez-faire generation had not the moral depth to see
it. John, born in the priestly course, and to the priestly office,
in reaction against his time, refused the honors and emoluments
of his hereditary calling, and, despite birth and inheritance,
sought the solitude of the w^ilderness to hear amidst its undis-
turbed stillness the voice of God, which his age was stifling.
There he caught the accents of reality, and emerging to the
banks of the Jordan, he translated into speech, the intense
convictions born of that silence. In view of the approaching
Kingdom, and the needful preparation therefor, the character
and the career of John were eminently fitting. Asceticism,
sternness, denunciation, moral intensity, the age demanded.
John met the demand admirably. He was the embodiment of
the highest in his time; the flower of his age. On the other
hand, Jesus, the founder of the Kingdom, conscious of God's
rule and its blessing of redemption and release, aware of the
joy and peace in His own life, and of the bliss which awaited
a lost world, shunned no man, but sought all men in love. His
manifest duty was to be in the world, and for the world, but
not of the world.

Thus Jesus indicated by this parable that the Pharisees, and

122 Jesus' Idea

the men of His generation, would not receive the Kingdom
of God. This, however, is equally true of the same class in every
age. The Pharisees, unfortunately, cannot be restricted to the
time of Christ. Their lineal descendants are multitudinous;
the fecundity of the class is marvelous. The world, in
fact, is full of religious dilettantes, of players at religion. Our
Lord designated these repeatedly as hypocrites; and the title
was indeed deserved. The word originally signified an actor —
one who spoke through a mask, according to the custom of
the ancient stage. Such, indeed, is the hypocrite throughout

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