Fordyce Hubbard Argo.

Jesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus online

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and repudiation, Jesus never wavered in His estimate of its
value. Was it madness? The Jews thought so. Is it mad-
ness to-day to declare the Kingdom of God the highest good?
The world thinks so. Is this, however, a criticism of the
Jews and of the World, or of Jesus and the Kingdom? Let
us see.

The Kingdom of God in its last analysis is the sovereignty of
God, whether we consider it from the standpoint of fact,
intent, or aim. What, then, is the value of this to man?
This is a large question, and in endeavoring to answer it we can-
not be more than suggestive. The Kingdom is the most valu-
able of all things in that it means the salvation of the in-
dividual, and of the world. The presupposition of Christianity
is that we live in a lost world. An old-fashioned Idea, and un-
pleasant to the ears of our masterful generation, it is never-

The Value of the Kingdom 133

theless true.^ But what is meant by being lost? When we
speak of the lost condition, and we are thinking of religion,
Hell is usually prominent in the thought. Our minds are full
of imagery, the creation of dread, and of much preaching.
The word has thus a harsh meaning. Indeed, when many refer
to the mission of Our Lord, they speak of it as an endeavor
to save mankind from the torments of Hell. This, however, is
only a half-truth, and, without the complementary truth, is
exceedingly pernicious, for it loses sight of the primary idea
of the term.

Jesus, however, constantly used the word and He must have
had a definite idea as to its meaning. In studying His thought,
indeed, we have an opportunity to learn how the true teach-
ing of the New Testament is often marred by our unwilling-
ness to interpret the words of Jesus in their natural significance,
and without recourse to strained traditionalism. In three
memorable parables, Jesus indicates the true signification of this
word. In defending His seemingly familiar intercourse with
publicans and sinners from Pharisaic aspersion, He narrates
the Parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost,
or Prodigal Son (St. Lu. 15). In the first of these, Jesus
justifies His conduct by that of a shepherd, who leaves his
ninety and nine sheep to seek one that is lost; in the second,
by that of a woman who spares neither time nor strength in
the search for a coin which had been lost. In the third. He
tells the story of two brothers, one of whom leads a life
of filial obedience, while the other, departing from his father's
home, seeks the excitement of riotous living. He drinks the
cup of his fancied happiness to the dregs, and then comes
the inevitable reaction, satiety. Seeing the distress to which
his folly has brought him, he returns to his home, and is wel-
comed by his father with merriment and thanksgiving, while
his elder brother is displeased at the favor shown the wanderer.
Now what is important for our subject is this: the father
justifies his conduct in these words: "It was meet that we
should make merry, and be glad, for this thy brother was
dead, and is alive again; and was lost and is jound." Here
the fundamental meaning of "lost," as used by Jesus, is evi-

^ "The Son of Man is come to save that which was lost." (St. Mt.

134 Jesus' Idea

dent. The boy had strayed from his father's house, had become
lost in the path of living. Returning, however, to home and
duty, he is said to have been found. Thus the term is truly
pathetic. The word speaks of a human being, who, embarked
upon the sea of life, has lost his bearings, is tempest tossed,
and likely not to reach his destination.

If we think of the depths of meaning in the word, as thus
interpreted, we understand the work of Jesus as we never
did. There bursts upon us the full significance of the saying:
"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Men, indeed, are
lost in the way of living; lost, too, to the truth, thinking
erroneously, and with truth divorced from life; confused, also,
as to the ideal of life, and craving the inspiration to live. Jesus,
however, cries, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life."
The exquisite tenderness of the figure of the Good Shepherd also
becomes very real. Thus Jesus' conception is one of great
beauty and persuasiveness. Pitying humanity. He has come
to save, not so much from future penalty, as from present peril.

An age of surpassing achievements in the material and the
intellectual worlds may be loth to believe itself lost. Looking,
however, from the world without the man to the world within,
skepticism becomes belief; doubt, certainty. Soon or late, man
is convinced of his impotency with regard to himself. He
is conscious of a strange contrariety of experience. He cannot
interpret himself to himself. He cannot control himself.
Nature and mind are easier to harness and to handle than self.
He fulfils to some degree in his own personality the experience
so graphically depicted by St. Paul. "For that which I do
I allow; but what I would, that do I not; but what I hate,
that do L For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth
no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to per-
form that which is good I find not. For the good that I
would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it,
but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when
I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in
the law of God after the inward man : But I see another law
in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and
bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my
members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me

The Value of the Kingdom 135

from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:15, 18-24).

This experience, indeed, is universal. Man is at war with
himself. His higher and lower natures fight. The lower often
triumphs, and with the triumph comes the haunting convic-
tion that it ought not to have triumphed. Man suffers, in
fact, from what the philosopher Kant calls the categorical
imperative: that within which tells him in no uncertain voice
that he ought and ought not. While the individual is free
to choose between different courses of action, there is something
within which unfalteringly bids him choose the right. If the di-
rection is not obeyed, a feeling of guilt ensues. Life thus
abundantly witnesses to man's lost condition, and explains
humanity's constant cry: ''Oh for a man to arise in me,
That the man I am, may cease to be!"

Now just here appears the supreme value of the Kingdom
of God. It is the Kingdom which finds man. It rescues him
in the lost condition. It brings the prodigal back to the
Father's house. Or, if we adopt more popular phraseology,
it is the Kingdom which saves man. In using this term, how-
ever, we must interpret aright a misinterpreted theological
term. What is salvation? Let us take our cue from the
name of our Lord. The name Jesus, true to the Hebrew
usage, was not conferred haphazardly upon the Christ-Child.
"Thou shalt call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from
their sins'' (St. Mt. 1:21). Jesus, in fact, is the Greek
equivalent of the Hebrew, Joshua, or Jehoshua, which means
"Jehovah will save." The name was bestowed upon Jesus
because it was typical of His life work. But from what was He
to save? "From Hell," of course is the usual reply. Yet
the Angel of the Annunciation declares: "he shall save his
people from their sins." Now manifestly there is a difference
in these two conceptions. Salvation from sin is the real mis-
sion of Christ, however, and in order to understand the high
valuation which He placed upon the Kingdom of God, we
must ask another question. What is sin?

The Greek word translated "sin" is amartia, which means
"missing the mark." It is very significant that the words most
frequently used for "sin" in both the Old and New Testa-
ment have this fundamental idea. Man is regarded as having
missed the mark which God has set for him. Humanity has

136 Jesiis^ Idea

missed its aim. Life in consequence is largely a bungle and a
tangle ; thought, an error and deceit. And man feels measurably
responsible for this. Hence to the anguish of the condition
itself is added the haunting sense of guilt with its inevitable
accompaniment — the fear of punishment. This, indeed, is the
condition from which Jesus came to save. Salvation, then, is
something more than deliverance from a future Hell.

The popular idea of salvation, we fear, loses entirely the true
beauty of the thought of Jesus. Let us remember that the
words used by our Lord are always of poetic significance.
Jesus was neither a dogmatician nor a systematic theologian.
His method was to suggest rather than to define; to provoke
thought rather than to ofFset inquiry. "Salvation," indeed, as
it represents His thought, was full of poetic meaning. The
Greek term has the thought of healing, curing, making well.
It is interesting to notice that the word used in the Angelic
message is employed by the Evangelists on several occasions
to translate the thought of Jesus Himself. For example,
in speaking to the poor woman who had an issue of blood, and
who had just touched His garment, Jesus said : "Daughter, be of
good cheer, thy faith hath made thee whole," i. e., saved thee;
for the word translated "hath made thee whole" is this very
word "save" (St. Mt. 9:22). Again in St. Mark 10:52,
Jesus, in curing a man of his blindness, says: "Go thy way, thy
faith hath made thee whole." Here again is our word "save."
Now in both of these instances — and others might be cited —
the reference is to a person who is afflicted or diseased. Jesus
comes and saves them physically, i. e., makes them well. This
word, then, w^hen applied to the spiritual part of man, repre-
sents most admirably Jesus' conception of salvation as spiritual
health. Jesus, Himself, in justifying His intercourse with out-
casts, says, "They that are whole need not a physician, but
they that are sick."

The idea, then, is that mankind is morally diseased, and
to cure the maladies of the soul and their gruesome conse-
quences, to save man in this sense, Jesus came.^ Consequently,

^ This idea of salvation as healthf ulness is found in certain of
the Psalms : "Thy way may be known upon earth ; thy saving
health among all nations" (Ps. 67). Again, in Psalm 103, we read
of the Lord who "healeth all thine infirmities."

The Value of the Kingdom 137

salvation Is the curing of humanity's malady, in order that the
individual and the race may hit the mark, or attain their God-
appointed goal. It is also the removal of that sense of guilt,
which rests upon mankind like a somber pall, and which often
engenders despair. Salvation, indeed, is the Kingdom of God.

We have dwelt upon this subject because it is of great im-
portance in properly estimating the value of the Kingdom of
God. It is only in the Kingdom, in fact, that man can find him-
self ; self-realization through self-sacrifice; can find the unifying
principle of life, developing through his obedience to the will
of God, all the powers, active and latent, in his personality.
And he thus affects not only himself, for no man liveth unto
himself, but others also. He may influence even posterity
through the laws of heredity, and also the general environment
of man. If it is true that the sins of the fathers are visited
upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of those
that hate God and refuse to obey Him, it is equally Drue
that the virtues of the fathers are visited upon thousands in
them that love God and keep His commandments. So that the
Kingdom of God in the individual begets the Kingdom of God
in the offspring; or, if this be too strong a statement, it at least
predisposes to, and paves the way for, its establishment.

"I read a record deeper than the skin.
What ! Shall the trick of nostrils and of lips
Descend through generations, and the soul
That moves within our frame like God in worlds —
Convulsing, urging, melting, withering —
Imprint no record, leave no documents,
Of her great history? Shall men bequeath
The fancies of their palate to their sons.
And shall the shudder of restraining awe,
The slow-wept tears of contrite memory,
Faith's prayerful labor, and the food divine
Of fasts ecstatic — shall these pass away
Like wind upon the waters, tracklessly?
Shall the mere curl of eyelashes remain,
And God-enshrining symbols leave no trace
Of tremors reverent?"

But man is more than the product of heredity. He is influ-
enced profoundly by his surroundings. Yet, while environ-
ment may make the man, man also makes the environment.
Hence it is important to observe that the Kingdom of God

138 Jesus* Idea

in man means both gradually and ultimately the creation of an
environment which is favorable to the interests of the Kingdom
in the individual, and in the vuorld. The words of St. Paul
are significant to-day: **For the earnest expectation of the
creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the
bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children
of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth
and travaileth in pain together until now" (Rom. 8:19-21-22).
The present environment of man, indeed, cries out for redemp-
tion. This the Kingdom gives. In it, both man and creatures
are relieved. Even the horse, the dog, and the cat fare the
better. The yoke of sin is lifted. All things again become
good. Thus we see that the sovereignty of God is no arbi-
trary fiat of a tyrannous sovereign. It is designed for the
good of man; it represents the truest welfare of mankind.
With it, man becomes a new creature, and earth is transfigured.
It is, indeed, the making of an ideal humanity, and an ideal
world. Do we wonder that Jesus stressed the value of the
Kingdom? Was He mistaken in His estimate?

The Kingdom, however, has an additional value, at least in
the thought of the writer. The Kingdom of God, indeed, is
the harmony of the mind as well as of the soul. It is mental
peace no less than spiritual peace. Man, upon reflection,
stands aghast at his own apparent insignificance in the presence
of the teeming millions of the world, in the presence of the
ages of the past and of the future, and in the presence of the
shortness and uncertainty of the individual life. Looking upon
the world of the past, the present and the future, however,
the subject of the Kingdom sees nothing to dismay. Man is
apparently insignificant, and of few days — but what of that?
This world always has been and always will be the Kingdom
of God. God, indeed, is sovereign; man may destroy himself,
as we have seen, but he cannot destroy God's plan, nor ulti-
mately thwart God's purpose. And there is purpose in the
drama of Creation. The past has not been aimless, nor is the
present goalless. The mind of man, indeed, can detect order
and advance in history, slow, tortuous but sjjre: a movement
sometimes forward, sometimes backward, but ever on the whole
ascending, never moving in mere cycles. And every individual

The Value of the Kingdom 139

has a relation to this purpose. The individual is a factor,
albeit, a small factor in the plan, yet very necessary; each in-
dividual is, indeed, as it were a stone in a great structure.
The Architect is God. Thus the Kingdom of God gives the
true perspective from which to view man, life and history. The
Kingdom, indeed, is seen to be the intent, the end and the aim
of human history. It explains the individual to himself; it
is man's apology for existence, the raison d'etre of his being.
It makes intelligible the centuries of the past, and the individual's
relation thereto. Further, in exhibiting the vastness of the
eternal design, it makes apparent the slowness of the process,
the complexity of its movements, and the value of even the
most trivial things. It also suggests much as to the glory
and the splendor of the consummation of the process and the
character of the issue of the age-long development. It extends
also into the eternal world and finds place for those who have
gone before; the individuals and the nations which are passed
away; offering immeasurable opportunity to those who perish
with untried and undeveloped powers. The Kingdom of God,
indeed, is a conception and a reality, which includes not only
the individual and society, but the world and the universe,
heaven and earth, time and eternity. Thus the philosophical
value of the Kingdom is marked no less than its spiritual value.
Again we ask, was Jesus' mistaken in His estimate of the King-
dom's worth?



If the parables of the Sower and of the Seed Growing
Secretly were a revelation and a disappointment to the Jews,
equally, if not more keenly, disappointing were the parables
of the Tares and of the Drag-Net^ Yet these followed logically
from the Kingdom's general analogy — growth. All that Jesus
taught, in fact, in regard to the development of the Kingdom
was logically deducible from this fundamental truth. The
Jews, however, not being able to grant the premise, could not
accept the conclusions; yet the revelation contained in these

^ The illustrations are as follows : "Another parable put he forth
unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man
which sowed good seed in his field : But while men slept, his
enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then
appeared the tares also. So the servants of the house-holder
came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seeds in thy
field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An
enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then
that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye
gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both
grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I
will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and
bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my
barn." (St. Mt. 13:24-31.) We find nothing to commend itself
in the idea that the parable of the Tares is an amplification of
the parable of the Growing Seed in St. Mk. 4:26-29, and that its
exposition was an interpretation emanating from the Evangelist,
or in current use among the early disciples.

The parable of the Drag-Net is close akin in spirit, but different
in detail. "Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that
was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when
it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the
good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the
end of the world : the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked
from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire:
there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth," (St. Mt. i3;47-50-)


The Alloy of the Kingdom 141

parables (St. Mt. 13:24-31; 47-50) is an essential part of the
mystery of the Kingdom. But what is this revelation?

The fondest dream of the Jews, as we have seen, was
the Messianic Kingdom. With its advent every wrong would
be righted. Evil would no longer triumph, but goodness, ac-
cording to the standard of the age, would reign unquestioned.
The prophets, indeed, had bequeathed this conception to subse-
quent generations. In fact, it was prophecy — the coming of
unconditioned goodness. Isaiah, for instance, sang: ''Awake,
awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful
garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for henceforth there
shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean"
(52:1); "Thy people also shall be all righteous" (60:21);
"And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be
called, The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over
it" (35:38). Zephaniah WTites: "The remnant of Israel shall
not do iniquity, nor speak lies, neither shall a deceitful tongue
be found in their mouth." Ezekiel, with all the passion of an
ardent soul, pictures the return from exile, and the unification
of Israel, and concludes with the glowing prediction of the full
realization of the hope cherished for Israel by every prophetic
heart: "I will be their God, and they shall be my people."

* But more convincing is the eloquent utterance which so distinctly
colored the subsequent Messianic expectation : "And there shall
come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow
out of his roots : and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and
might, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord ; And
shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord;
And he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove
after the hearing of his ears : But with righteousness shall he
judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth:
and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with
the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness
shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his
reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard
shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion, and
the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. And the
cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down
together : and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking
child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall
put his hand on the cockatrice's den. They shall not hurt nor

142 Jesus' Idea

This is certainly an entrancing picture, and men who are
enamored of a beautiful vision do not care to have it dispelled.
In fact, an additional impetus was given to this conception in
the time of Our Lord by John the Baptist. An unmis-
takable part of his prophecy was that One should come to
set up the long-awaited Kingdom, "Whose fan is in his hand,
and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat
into his garner: but he will burn up the chaff with unquench-
able fire" (St. Mt. 4:12). Thus the Kingdom of God was
to be immaculate. This opinion, indeed, is the background of
the parables of the Tares and the Drag-Net. In mercy,
however, Jesus anticipates the future and dispels the Jewish
illusion. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Had He
left the Apostles to face the conditions which would soon con-
front them, without any adequate preparation, the violent con-
trast beween their expectation and the reality might have proved
disastrous to themselves and to their cause. Hence, these
parables are also the faithful wounds of a friend.

With the general features of the parables, the Jews were
quite familiar. The incidents were not supposititious. All knew,
for instance, of the "bearded Darnel" (Lolium temulentum),
a pernicious grass growing everywhere, which, in the blade,
could not be distinguished from the wheat, but only mani-
fested its noxious presence when the ear appeared. Or perhaps,
as some think, the tare was not "the bearded darnel," but
"creeping wheat" {Trilicun repens), which sends its pestilential
roots stealthily under the earth until they intertwine with the
roots of the wheat. Edersheim tells us that these tares were
regarded as degenerate wheat by the Orientals, and suggested
to the Jewish mind an idea current in Rabbinism: "the ground
had been guilty of fornication before the Judgment of the
Flood, so that when wheat was sown, tares sprang up." Nor
wxre the circumstances of the sowing imaginary. Such instances
of malicious mischief were not unknown among the Jews.
Even Rome was compelled to legislate against similar practices.
Travelers also find this form of vengeance in India to-day,
and instances of evicted tenants resorting to such measures come
to us from Ireland within recent years.

destroy in all thy holy mountain : for the earth shall be full of the
knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11:1-9).

The Alloy of the Kingdom I43

The intent of the first of the parables was not so apparent,
however, as its features. A dim, unconscious understanding of
its meaning was present, perhaps; at any rate, a sufficient im-
pression had been made by the recital to cause the disciples to
ask for an interpretation, when the privacy of a dwelling gave
opportunity. "Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the
field?" (St. Mt. 13:36). It is also noteworthy that the two
parables which more pointedly violated the current Jewish
expectation than any others, were those anxiously inquired

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