Fordyce Hubbard Argo.

Jesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus online

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all time — one who plays a part. He may seek only to deceive
others, or he may unconsciously deceive himself. Hypocrisy,
however, is either the intentional, or the unintentional acting of
a role.

Unfortunately, well nigh every age betrays the earmarks
of this Pharisaic class. The Roman Church, for example, at
the Reformation, lacked the moral earnestness to grasp the sig-
nificance of the strenuous voice of Luther, in spite of the re-
peated warnings of Savonarola, Wycliffe, and others, the far-
seeing heralds of the coming dawn. The lethargic Anglican
Church of the eighteenth century lacked, to its shame and
loss, the moral depth to appreciate the mighty protest of Wesley,
and the zeal and intensity of the early Methodist movement.
Yet both the Roman and the Anglican Churches were very
earnestly playing at religion. In fact, many instances of this
Pharisaic blindness might be cited, not only in the Church,
but in the State and in Society. The Abolition movement, the
present labor agitation, and the general social movement of our
time witness to its presence in more recent years. In truth,
this moral obtuseness is the fruitful parent of heresy and schism
in the Church, and of Revolution in the State and in the Social
Organism. These are caused more frequently by the goodness
of the human heart than by its evil. A self-satisfied and
superficial age meets the enlightened or the unenlightened,
the restless and the earnest heralds of a new era with stolid in-
difiference, open contempt, or hostility. Often the witnesses
for the truth fall, the victims of their progressive ideas, and
the blindness of their generation. Yet the down-trodden
truth rises again, only strengthened by defeat, to cumulate ever
accumulating strength until the storm breaks; then we have

The World's Reception of the Kingdom 123

revolution in Church or State or Society: the atmosphere is
cleared, and men breathe more freely.

Jesus also gives another well-founded criticism of this Phari-
saic class in the parable of the Two Sons. "But what think
ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first,
and said, Son, go work to-day in my vineyard. He answered
and said, I will not; but afterward he repented, and went.
And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered
and said, I go, sir : and went not. Whether of them twain did
the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus
saith unto them, Verily I say unto you. That the publicans
and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For
John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye be-
lieved him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him:
and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye
might believe him" (St. Matthew 21 :28-32).

This parable is the preface to the parables of the Wicked
Husbandmen, and the Marriage of the King's Son. It is
addressed to the same persons, and w^ith much the same intent.
In it, Jesus does for His auditors that for which the poet Burns
petitions in his famous lines :

"Oh wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursel's as others see us !"

Our Lord, in fact, not infrequently assumes the role of the
candid friend. Malice, however, or the mere desire to wound
are never the prompting motives. This parable, and the
superb invective of the denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees,
more poignant than any that can be found in the Philippics
of Demosthenes, the Orations against Cataline, or the letters of
Junius (St. Matthew 23), are the attempts of an outraged
but loving heart to open the blind eyes, and by heroic measures,
to sting into amendment of life, where the soft appeal of love
has failed.

But what is the portraiture of this parable? To under-
stand that the Two Sons represent respectively the Jews and
the Gentiles is to misunderstand the parable, and to ignore the
context. The correct interpretation finds in the first mentioned
son, the publicans and the harlots of Jesus' day. The former
were the despised tax-gatherers who, as Jews, in the service of

124 Jesus' Idea

the Roman Empire, were thought to sacrifice both their religion
and their patriotism to assume such an office. The latter were
women of the street, who, in the sacrifice of chastity, lost self-
respect, and became a menace and a scourge to others. These
classes, along with other Jews before the days of John the
Baptist, had been commanded by God to work in His vine-
yard of Israel, and to produce the fruit of righteousness of life
according to the teaching of the Law and the Prophets. They
had curtly and steadily refused. But when John came, there
was a change. The tremendous earnestness and the moral power
of the man had produced a conviction of sin, had fanned into
flame the slumbering embers of conscience, and had awakened
a desire for a better life. Consequently they repented, and
went into the Vineyard.

But the Second Son — who is he? Manifestly he represents
the Chief Priests and the Elders whom Jesus was addressing;
the members of the Sanhedrin, the great legislative, executive,
and judicial council of the Jews and their class. While they,
with much pretention and an unseemly ostentation which called
forth stinging rebuke from Jesus on more than one occasion,
were apparently working in the Vineyard, in truth they were
not laboring in the Vineyard at all. And, unlike the poor
publicans and harlots, the strong voice of the Baptist had no
message for them, and his passionate appeal awakened no
response. Even when they saw the supposedly irredeemable
classes repenting, they were not convinced. Hence Jesus aptly
remarked, ''The publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of
God before you." The satire of this remark is incomparable.
Before the Chief Priests, the Elders, the Aristocracy, the
Orthodox, the publicans and harlots were to enter the Kingdom
of Heaven. Verily, the wounds of the Friend are faithful. But
how humbling to Jewish pride, and how bitter to Jewish
ears! We must indeed admire the splendid courage of the
Man Christ-Jesus, and His keenness of perception. Have these
parables no meaning for our generation ?



Notwithstanding its varying reception at the hands of
men, the Kingdom would remain life's chief value. Jesus was
fully convinced of this as His words attest. Let us notice some
of His declarations.

The Lord's Prayer is interesting and suggestive in this con-
nection. The first petition is that the name of God, not the
mere name however, for among the Hebrews names were not
conferred indiscriminately, but each bore a distinct significance,
rather the name with all that it connotes may be hallowed
or reverenced of men. Secondly, petition is made that God's
rule may become actual in that God's will may be done on
earth as it is done in Heaven. This, of course, would be the
direct outcome of man's proper reverence for God; hence the
first petition reveals the logical order both in time and thought.
What is noteworthy, however, is that Jesus foreshadows His
estimate of the value of the Kingdom, when He makes prayer
for its coming, and that which will induce its coming, precede
prayer for any immediate individual need. This, indeed, is an
essential characteristic of all prayer genuinely offered in the
name of Jesus. To ask anything in Jesus' name means to
ask in the spirit, the power and the intention of Christ, It
means that the one who prays is occupying toward God the
relationship of Jesus in love and desire, so far as that rela-
tionship can be assumed by any human being. All prayer is,
therefore, conditional: the condition of successful prayer is the
Kingdom of God. If this fact were remembered how much
richer would be both the teaching and the practice of the
Christian Church.

But we are not confined to inferential evidence as to the
value of the Kingdom. There are explicit statements of
Jesus upon the subject, Most obvious, perhaps, is this one:
''Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and


126 Jesus' Idea

all these things shall be added unto you" (St. Mt. 6:33; St. Lu.
12:31-32). Here we see that Jesus would not only have the
coming of the Kingdom the primary burden of humanity's
prayer, He would also have it the primary quest of mankind.
When given by St. Matthew, the words just quoted are a
portion of the Sermon on the Mount, and the context assist
greatly in their interpretation. Jesus has just declared that
**No man can serve two Masters" — God and Gold. He bids
His followers "take no thought for your life, what ye shall
eat, or what ye shall drink." He inquires, "Is not the life
more than meat, and the body than raiment?" He cites the
birds of the air, and the tender lilies of the field as illustrations
of that which is fed and clothed by the Father in Heaven
w^ithout wearying anxiety. He then asks. If God makes such
provision for even the short-lived grass of the field, shall He not
much more clothe and care for His children? The answer is
self-evident; and Jesus closes His subject with an earnest ex-
hortation to the disciples, not to take thought as to what they
shall eat or drink, or wherewithal they shall be clothed, for
these are the chief objects of the heathen Gentile's life. Rather
are they to "seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteous-
ness; and all these things shall be added."

Jesus, indeed, sees that mankind at large seeks the temporal
and the transient, and that about these they worry greatly.^
Now in contradistinction to this quest, Jesus urges mankind
to seek, in the first place, the Kingdom or sovereignty of God.
His idea is this : Instead of that forbidden care for temporal con-
cerns and necessities, which most people make the chief end
of life, mankind should seek first the rule of God, and that
righteousness of life of which God approves. The passage,
however, is really stronger than it appears to be at first sight.
To seek something first might imply that there could be a
legitimate seeking of something else second. This, however, is
not the teaching of Jesus. A second striving is entirely pre-
cluded from His thought by the words which follow, and
which precede these. Jesus has just declared against the
objects of the Gentiles' search, and has shown that there will

* "Not to be anxious" is the significance of the Greek merimnesete,
which is translated in the Authorized Version by the somewhat
colorless phrase, "Take no thought."

The Value of the Kingdom 127

be no necessity for such a quest on the part of His followers.
The promise is explicit that in seeking first the Kingdom of
God, and His righteousness, ''all these things shall be added
unto you" (vs. 33).

Any strong statement is likely to arouse the combative
nature of man, as strong natures always arouse more or less
hostility. This is emphatically true of such a statement as
this. It is a bold challenge to humanity. It attacks man in
a vital point. He is told not to make the very things, which
seem to be first by every law of nature and necessity, the
object of his consideration. Instead he is to seek what appears
to him a somewhat intangible and unreal something, called the
Kingdom of God, which in turn w^ill bring all needful things.
Hence many think Jesus an impractical idealist, or a fraud
and sensational deceiver. Is this statement, indeed, sense or
nonsense? Is it faith or works? In answering this question,
we must bear in mind the essential idea of the Kingdom.
Then the query is: Will food and raiment be added to one
who seeks God's absolute sovereignty over his life, as the gift
of God wholly, or is man to be accounted a partial cause?
The answer to this question also reveals one of the Kingdom's
fundamental values.

While we would not derogate from God's part in the
matter, we believe that the necessities of life will be added
normally, not merely as a reward but as a partial effect
or result; for one of the fundamental principles of God's
law is work. It is, indeed, an important requirement of the
righteousness of God, and it was a law of nature long before
it was a law of religion. "Work" is the law of God, however,
enunciated as distinctly in the Fourth Commandment, as is the
observance of the Sabbath. ''Six days shalt thou labor, and do
all that thou hast to do'' is as obligatory upon mankind as
is the duty implied in the words: "Remember the Sabbath Day
to keep it holy." The implications of this truth, however, are
not as fully understood by the disciples of Jesus as they
ought to be. From it follows that in the Kingdom of God there
is nothing religious per se, and nothing secular. Everything
indeed becomes religious. Work is transfigured. The men
who labor on the six days of the week, become ministers of
God, no less than he who ministers on the one supposedly

128 Jesiis^ Idea

sacred day. The six days for labor belong to God, and are
quite as sacred as the one day of rest. God overshadows the
week; it is his entire. This truth also proves that Christianity,
or the Kingdom, is the most practical of all things. It brings
God to bear upon every duty and relationship of life, how-
ever humble, and consecrates each duty and all relationships to
God. Christianity, indeed, is the religion of the common-

Hence, in seeking first the Kingdom of God, and His
righteousness, man is doing that which inspires to work. This
is the sense of Jesus' remark about the fowls of the air and the
lilies of the field; they are fed and clothed, yet they do not
madly fret and strive. They simply fulfil the law of their
being, and, as a result are fed and clothed by God. So, says
Jesus, should it be among men. The world is constituted for
man quite as much as for the birds, and if man will simply fol-
low the law of his being, which is to seek first the Kingdom
of God, food, drink and raiment will be added.

^ Passing from the Old Testament to the New Testament, we
find Jesus declaring, at the age of twelve years, that He must be
about His Father's business. Later He affirmed that the work
which His Father had given Him to do He had performed.
(St. Jn. 17:4) "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." Well-
nigh the last words of the Master were, "It is finished." The refer-
ence, of course, is to His work. The presupposition also of the
Parable of the Sower, the Pounds, the Talents, and the Laborers
in the Vineyard, is the idea of the necessity of labor. Everywhere,
indeed, Jesus assumes work as the normal characteristic of man.
Even in the selection of His apostles He followed the principle
so strikingly illustrated in the Old Testament: Elisha was surn-
moned to the prophetical office from the plow. Saul and David
and Moses were also called from busy activity to their respective
duties. God apparently had no respect for idlers. Indeed God
and men aHke, and even bees, despise drones. Hence the Apostles
were summoned from ships, from nets, and from the receipt of
customs ; none were called from the street corners or the market
places. From fishers of fish they became fishers of men. They
exchanged one department of work for another. The mind of
God and of Jesus upon this point is, indeed, fully revealed in
the question: "H therefore ye have not been faithful in the
unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true
riches?" (St. Luke 16:11.) It is the servant who has been "faith-
ful in very little" to whom is committed "authority over ten-
cities" (St. Lu. 19:17). Such language denotes the really spiritual
nature of work. Labor, indeed, is a sacrament of grace.

The Value of the Kingdom 129

This however, is not the way of the world. The usual way
is to seek first material things, then, by and by, perhaps spiritual

Even more explicitly, however, the value of the Kingdom is
disclosed in the parables of the Hidden Treasure and the
Pearl of Great Price. Spoken in the privacy of a dwelling,
and to the disciples alone, these parables constitute Jesus' most
emphatic statement of the supreme value of the Kingdom of
God. "Again, the Kingdom of God is like unto treasure hid in
a field, the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and
for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth
that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a mer-
chant man, seeking goodly pearls : who, when he hath found one
pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought
it" (St. Mt. 13:44-46).

Archbishop Trench informs us "that in the East, on account
of the different changes of dynasties, and the revolutions which
accompany them, many rich men divide their goods into three
parts: one they employ in common, or for their necessary sup-

^ The order of quest, emphasized here by Christ, is also set forth
in the Lord's Prayer : "Thy Kingdom come ; Thy will be done on
earth as it is in heaven" ; then follows, "Give us this day our daily
bread." This teaching almost convinces of the authenticity of a
purported saying of Jesus, which has been handed down by Clement,
Origen, and Eusebius : "Ask the great things, and the small will
be added to you; ask also the heavenly things, and the earthly ivill
be added to you."

It is significant that in St. Luke's Gospel the parable of the
Rich Fool is the occasion of Jesus' exhortation : "Seek first the
Kingdom of God." Whether Jesus repeated His teaching, or whether
this difference is due to confusion in the Evangelist's mind, is com-
paratively unimportant. The context in St. Luke's Gospel is at least
logical, if not historical. To emphasize the usual quest of man
and its futility,, Jesus spoke the parable of the Rich Fool. He
then followed in much the same strain as in St. Matthew's report,
and concludes with the command, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of
God." The meaning is quite apparent. The Rich Fool, as the
result of his life of striving, had amassed wealth ; he thought him-
self sufficient unto himself, but the Kingdom of God did not come.
He died a spiritual bankrupt. Now, in marked contrast to this,
Jesus remarks that where the Kingdom of God is sought first,
temporal necessities will follow, at least in a measurable degree.
The Fool had made a fatal mistake. To warn against a similar
mistake is the object of Jesus.

130 Jesus^ Idea

port: one they turn into jewels, which, should it prove need-
ful to fly, could be easily carried with them; a third part
they bury. But as they trust no one with the place where
the treasure is buried, so is the same, should they not return
to the spot before their deatTi, as good as lost to the living,
until by chance, a lucky peasant digging in his field, lights
upon it. And thus when we read in Eastern tales how a man
has found a buried treasure, and in a moment risen from poverty
to great riches, this is, in fact, no strange or rare occurrence,
but a natural consequence of the customs of these people."

Such, indeed, is the circumstance of the first of these
parables. A man has stumbled unexpectedly upon a hid treasure.
For fear it might escape him, he hides it again, while he goes
and sells all that he has, and buys the field. The legality of
this action is indisputable; the morality of it is certainly
questionable. Jesus, however, is not discussing the morality of
the action; He is simply setting forth the supreme value of
the Kingdom, and the price at which alone it can be bought.
This parable must be classified with the parables of the
Unjust Judge, and the Unjust Steward, and interpreted in the
same generous way. Evidently, Jesus was not in sympathy with
intellectual prudery. The second illustration, however, offers
no diflficulty. A merchant was seeking pearls. These were
greatly esteemed in the Ancient World. Beautiful in them-
selves, the tradition as to their formation probably enhanced
their value. "The fish conceived the pearl from the dew of
heaven, and according to the quality of the dew, it was pure
and round, or cloudy and deformed with specks. The state of
the atmosphere at this time of conception, and the hour of
the day, had great influence on their size and color." "Goodly
pearls/' this merchantman is seeking. He finds one, at length,
of great price, and, selling all that he has, makes himself
the owner of the coveted treasure.

These parables are much alike in their general features, yet
there is a noteworthy difference. With His accustomed in-
sight, Jesus divides mankind into two classes: the seekers, and
the non-seekers, the thinkers, and the non-thinkers, the aspirants,
and the non-aspirants. The division, however, is absolutely un-
tainted by cynical criticism, or haughty depreciation of those
who do not think. The man who finds, the Hid Treasure,

The Value of the Kingdom 131

stumbles upon it accidentally ; he is involved in no conscious
search for anything. This is typical of the majority of men.
For them, there is no absolute good in life. That which is
immediately about them occupies their thought to the exclusion
of all else. They are content to live in the practical and the
material. Speculation as to their origin, the reason for their
existence, and their destiny, is utterly foreign to them. They
are men, "Who have no Whence or Whither in their souls."
They are unconscious of any treasure of surpassing worth,
hidden from their eyes, and lying deeper than they have ex-
plored. But suddenly, and unexpectedly, the blind eyes are
opened, the treasure is discovered, and their joy becomes intense.

But what is the discovery? Some maintain that the field
of the parable is the Bible, and the Hid Treasure, the knowl-
edge of Christ w^hich is hidden there. Others identify the
field with the visible Church, while the Hid Treasure is the in-
ward and spiritual Church. Neither of these interpretations,
however, fulfil the requirements of the parable. The field is
the world of human life, and its Hid Treasure is the knowl-
edge of and the necessity for God's rule, which most men over-
look, entirely unconscious of its value, until perchance stumbling
upon it, they perceive its inestimable worth, and for joy, gladly
sacrifice all that they possess to gain it. What, indeed, could
better express the sacrifice of self-will in its countless manifesta-
tions — the imperative price of the Kingdom, as we have seen
— than the parting with all one's possessions in order that this
Treasure might be obtained.

In the second parable, however, we have a merchantman
seeking goodly pearls. Unlike the personage of the former
parable, this man is alive to the higher things of life. Finali-
ties have for him an interest, also origins. The material
and the practical are not sufficient. He rises above the carnal,
and considers the intellectual, perhaps the spiritual. He asks
questions which he cannot answer. He thinks, he aspires!
Finally he discovers one pearl of surpassing worth. He sells
all that he has, that he may buy it. His search need go no
further. The void of his life is filled. All lesser things become
centered in one thing. Life is seen to be a unit. Finalities and
origins are explained. His questions are answered. He has
found the Kingdom of God, the Pearl of Great Price.

132 Jesus* Idea

If we put ourselves in the position of those who listened to
the Master, we must agree with them as to the utterly stupe-
fying effect of these parables as spoken by Him. To Jesus'
countrymen, the supreme value of the Kingdom lay in the
avenging of Israel's wrongs, the humiliation of the Gentiles,
and the exaltation of the Jew in the establishment of a world
empire. But what was its value in the thought of this singular
Galilean? The disciples even could not understand. The
vision of the Jews, indeed, included themselves alone: their his-
tory, their wrongs, their destiny — this earth. Jesus, on the con-
trary, surveyed humanity throughout the ages; the world's
history, its wrongs, its destiny — not only earth, but heaven.
There was no necessarily irreconcilable conflict, however, be-
tween the two views. The history of the Jews and the world's
history were not intended for hopeless contrariety. They
were intended to be complementary. But the Jews would not
have it God's way. They could only interpret value in terms
of earth and of self. Spiritual things were "at a discount."
Hence, Jesus' conception of the Kingdom's value was an
enigma beyond solution. How could the Kingdom of this
peasant, the Galilean carpenter, be the most valuable of all
things, and worth life's supremest sacrifice? Yet, despite the
national rejection of the Kingdom, despite the sorry reception
which it would receive at the hands of men, despite class criticism

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