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Jesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus online

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about by the disciples, and selected by Our Lord for interpre-
tation — the Sower, and the Tares.

Jesus' interpretation of this parable is as follows: **He an-
swered and said unto them: He that soweth the good seed is
the Son of Man; the field is the world; the good seed are
the children of the Kingdom; but the tares are the children of
the wicked one; the enemy that soweth them is the devil; the
harvest is the end of the w^orld ; and the reapers are the angels.
As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so
shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of Man shall
send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom
all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall
cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and
gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the
sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear,
let him hear" (St. Mt. 13:37-44).

Now, the meaning of the parable becomes clear. It is the
rude awakening from a sweet dream. The parable refutes
the idea of the immaculate character of the Kingdom. Not-
withstanding the presence of the Kingdom of God among men,
the world will remain for some time the harvest field of good
and bad. The Son of Man and Satan alike will sow seed
and contend for the harvest, striving for the fruitage of the
world at large, and of the individual life. And so cunning
will Satan be in his sowing that it will be impossible for some
time to differentiate the children of the devil from the children
of the Kingdom. However, when the fruit appears, they become
distinguishable. *'By their fruits ye shall know them." Be-
ing distinguished, consternation and surprise ensue. This soon
develops into a keen desire to eradicate the Tares. Force seems
to be the only available means. They must be pulled up!

144 Jesus^ Idea

But Jesus says — No ! That would be most unwise. For while
you uproot the Tares, the Wheat is likely to be uprooted. "Let
both grow together." At the harvest time, the separation will
be made, with absolute justice, and injury to none save the
Tares. This, indeed, was the usual custom. "The allusion in
the parable is in substantial accord with modern custom in the
East, which is to leave the cleaning of the fields until the grain
is well advanced toward the harvest, and can be readily dis-
tinguished from all other plants. Then the women and chil-
dren go into the fields and weed them out, so that an Oriental
grain farm in harvest time is a model of cleanness and beauty."
In this parable, then, the disciples were brought face to
face with reality. If the Kingdom's analogy was growth,
it must be subject to the laws and the vicissitudes of growth:
it must suffer from weeds and tares. Indeed, even as the
Master spoke, this was the present character of the Kingdom.
The opening words of the parable indicate this. They are not,
"The Kingdom will be like," or "The Kingdom is like," in
an indefinite sense. In the Greek of the original, they are
"The Kingdom of God has become like" i. e., the Kingdom was
already fulfilling the conditions of the parable.^ Jesus, indeed,
was giving His personal experience and observation. There
were already tares with the wheat.

While the meaning of this parable is apparently obvious,
around it have waged some of the fiercest conflicts of Christen-
dom. Two points present difficulty. What is the meaning of
"the field is the world"? What is the significance of Jesus'
prohibition against uprooting the tares? Let us consider the
words "the field is the world." In interpretations of the
parable, these words are usually minimized, if not ignored.
They are made to refer to the Christian Church, and the
burden of the parable becomes that within the Church both bad
and good men will be found. Opposed, however, to this in-
terpretation stands the unequivocal declaration of Jesus — "the
field is the world." If words mean anything, the borders of
the Church are overstepped here, and the conception of the
parable becomes world-wide. It is sometimes asserted, how-
ever, that it w^ould have been stupid to narrate such a parable
to remind the disciples of the existence of good and bad men
* The Aorist tense, (aiMoididrj, is used.

The Alloy of the Kingdom 145

in the world, a fact which they well knew, while it was sensible
to teach of their presence in the Church, a fact which they
would not appreciate. This, of course, implies an acquaintance
with the idea of *'the Church" which as yet was wholly foreign
to the disciples. Further, we are told that "the world" here
simply indicates the extensive character of the Kingdom. This,
however, is not convincing.

Let us remember one fact and we shall have no difficulty.

A great need of the disciples, if not their greatest need, was
to learn that the world, even with the Kingdom of God pres-
ent in it, ("the Kingdom of heaven is at hand"), was not
to present that ideal aspect with the absence of all evil and the
presence of all good which they expected. With the advent of
Christ, Satan had indeed fallen as lightning from heaven,
and the power of evil had been broken, and all power in heaven
and in earth given unto the Son of Man (St. Lu. 10:18) ; yet,
because the rule of God over the world and men was to be
voluntary and a gradual growth, indefinitely and until God's
own appointed time, would evil mingle with the good, the
children of the Kingdom with the children of the Devil. Jesus
meant exactly what He said: "the field is the world." Of
course, if this condition is true of the world at large, it is
also true of the Church. The principle is general: the applica-
tion to the Church is secondary. Further, a casual glance
at the parable will show that in the implied judgment, far
more than the judgment of the Christian Church is indicated:
it is unmistakably a world judgment.

This conception, however, not only contradicted prevalent
Jewish opinion, but it also ran counter to one of the most
ineradicable convictions of the human heart. That anything
with which God has to do, should contain an admixure of evil
is apparently beyond the comprehension of the human mind. If
this is God's world, why should evil be in it? Because evil
is present, some conclude that it is not God's world. Thus, in
the parables of the Tares and the Drag-Net, we stand face
to face with the mystery of evil: the mystery which has
defied solution, and which will probably remain insoluble, until
all things shall become clear. Jesus certainly gives no solution
of the problem; He simply seeks to bring good out of evil.
Evil to Him is not a mystery to be solved, but a fact to be

146 Jesus' Idea

reckoned with.

But how shall it be reckoned with, especially as it is mani-
fested in the lives of men? The parable presents this subject for
consideration. Shall the tares be weeded out? In discussing
this point, we must note that Jesus gave no interpretation of
this feature of the parable, consequently we are thrown upon
our own resources, and must form our conclusions from the
parable itself, without aid from any suggestions of Our Lord.
What, then, are our conclusions? They lie along these lines.

Because of the presence of evil in the Kingdom, mankind
is surprised and indignant. This feature of the parable is
eminently true of life. Indeed, this surprise and indignation
is really humanity's tribute to virtue. It is undeniable testi-
mony to the abnormality of present conditions ; a protest against
the permanence of these conditions; and an emphatic indica-
tion that stability cannot be gained unless it is founded upon
right and truth, and that such stability will and must be at-
tained ere humanity can be content and cease to be divinely
restless. Now this Jesus did not condemn ; it was only when this
spirit would manifest itself in the idea of separation and proceed
to the method of force that Jesus intervenes with His prohibi-
tion. There was to be no separation of the wheat and the
tares ; the tares were not to be uprooted.^

Mankind, however, is slow to learn this truth. The impa-

^ Certain Roman Catholic expositors have sought to break the
force of the Master's prohibition, by declaring the command not
to uproot in effect only when there is danger of uprooting the
wheat with the tares. This is the reasoning of Thomas Aquinas;
while, according to Archbishop Trench, Maldonatus adds that in
the specific case, the householder is to judge of the existence of
such danger, and that in as much as the Pope now represents the
householder, the question: "Wilt thou that we go and gather up
the tares?" is to be addressed to him, and the subsequent action is
to be determined by his answer. He urges, therefore, that Roman
Catholic princes imitate the zeal of the servants of the parable,
even if such zeal at times demands the restraint of the Pope, rather
than be guilty of the indifference to heresy and the heretic exhibited
by many. The unsoundness of such reasoning is at once apparent.
It is only one of many illustrations of that externalizing tendency
which vitiates so much of Roman Catholic exegesis. Such an
interpretation plainly contradicts the spirit of the parable. It is
only a lame apology for Rome's inquisitorial methods : in other
words, it is ex post facto interpretation.

The Alloy of the Kingdom 147

tfence of the servants, with their idea of separation and their
proposition of resort to force, is a perpetually recurring char-
acteristic of the race. How large a part it has played, and
is playing, in the life even of the Church is evident at a glance.
Many to-day, for instance, remain apart from the Church be-
cause, as they assert, there are hypocrites within it. No man,
indeed, can deny their existence. Unfortunately, Satan is one
of the largest stockholders in the Christian Church; but this is
to be expected after the parable of the Tares, and men have
no right to demand absolute perfection of the Church. It is
contrary to the world principle: life is everywhere a parable
of the Tares and the Wheat. But, taking a wider view, we
see that well-nigh every schism among Christians has re-
sulted from misguided zeal and an erroneous conception of duty,
in which the matter of pristine importance seemed to be the
separation of the Wheat from the Tares. The aim has been
the impossible one of founding an unalloyed communion, in
which spirituality should have undisputed sway and faith
know no admixture of error. And every schismatic movement
has signally failed to do that which it set out to do. Perhaps
measurably free from impurities for awhile, evil and error
soon creep in to mar the fair aspect, and to sow again the seeds
of dissension and strife. What is the result? Only another
schism, only another attempt, doomed to failure as soon as
attempted, to have a pure communion morally or intellectually.
The idea of the servants is, in fact, the multiplication of

This parable is also, if our judgment be correct, the con-
demnation of heresy-hunting. The knowledge of God's truth,
no less than the sovereignty of God is a growth, and being
a growth, it must be subject to the laws and vicissitudes
of growth. Satan sows false ideas, no less readily than false
principles of living. The world being what it is, immorality
and falsehood must be intermingled with morality and truth.
The Church will also show this lamentable admixture. Hence
it is as foolish to expect, and as impossible to have, a Church
with no intellectual error, no unsoundness of faith, as it is to
expect to have a Church free from moral unsoundness. In-
tellectual Tares will grow with the Wheat of Truth. And
men are no more justified in forcibly eradicating the intel-

14^ Jesus* Idea

lectual Tares, than they are in eradicating the moral Tares.
Indeed, there is no more pitiable spectacle in any age than
the ecclesiastical blood-hound, keen on the scent of heresy.
The spirit of the servants, however, is essentially the spirit of
the persecutor also. Contrast this anxious care for truth,
with its stereotyped dogmas, inerrant councils, infallible Popes,
and remorseless Inquisitions, with the sublime trust in truth
which characterized Jesus as He entrusted the revelation of
Heaven to the tender mercies of men — unsystematized, un-
stereotyped, even unwritten, without council or Pope or In-
quisition. Truth indeed, as we have seen, is self-propagating,
and it perpetually chants the paean of victory. The preventive
of heresy is the affirmation of truth; the corrective of heresy
is the fuller affirmation of truth. Indeed, it may be said that
the cause of morality is certainly never helped by the in-
quisitorial method; the cause of truth is always the loser by it.
In fact, the endeavor to uphold truth by inquisitorial methods
indicates a loss of faith alike in God, in humanity and in
truth. It is really distrust of faith; a practical denial of
faith — a doubt as to the winning power of truth.

Returning now to the fundamental thought of this parable,
we see that it gives insight into history both Ancient and
Modern. History, indeed, is the parable of the Tares and
the Wheat. Every department of human activity, also, serves
to illustrate the principle disclosed in the parable. The law
of the Tares and the Wheat is the law of life, domestic, com-
mercial, social, political, and religious. Life everywhere is a
battle of ideas, and a struggle for ideals. Yet this condition
will not always prevail. There will be a denouement. There
will be a harvest. "Let both grow together until the harvest."

To accentuate this, and to prevent the utter bewilderment
and dejection of His followers in His own, and in every age,
Jesus narrates the parable of the Drag-Net. The parable
of the Tares emphasizes the present commingling of the good
and the evil, and cautions against impatience and resort to
force in attempting separation. The parable of the Drag-Net
indicates wnth emphatic promise, that a final and thorough
separation, if such must be made, will be m.ade by God, and
thus reveals why any attempt on the part of man to do this
is futile and unreasonable. "Vengeance is mine: I will

The Alloy of the Kingdom 149

repay, saith the Lord." The very construction of the parable
in its omissions, as well as in its statements, indicates its
theme: the present admixture, and the future separation.
The Kingdom of God is like a Drag-Net. The word is
Sagene, which means *'a large fishing net," used to catch fish
which swam in shoals. Similarly, the Kingdom of God is cast
into the sea of life and embraces humanity, gathering in all
sorts and conditions of men. When the net is full, and is
hauled up on the shore of eternity, God will do the work of
separation, which men are so eager to do here. Such, we
believe, is the interpretation of these two parables of Our Lord.

It only remains to add that the parables of the Tares and the
Drag-Net are the terrible indictment of much in life, and
of a vast deal of ecclesiastical history. The parable of the
Tares, with its theory of separation, is indeed the life-like
picture of the actual Church in many ages. The Drag-Net
which gathers of every kind, is the likeness of the ideal Church.
The former is Ecclesiastical History; the latter should have
been Ecclesiastical History. The practical truth of both
parables, however, is well expressed by St. Paul : **But in a great
house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but
also of wood and of earth; and some to honor and some to
dishonor." (St. Tim. 2:20.)

At the conclusion of these parables, Jesus, addressing His
auditors, "saith unto them. Have ye understood all these
things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. Then said He unto
them. Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the
kingdom of heaven, is like unto a man that is a householder,
which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and
old" (St. Mt. 13:51-52). Apt, indeed, was the remark. As
they listened to the Master's words, the disciples were indeed
bringing forth out of their treasure — the Kingdom of God —
conceptions and ideas, both new and old.



One who has followed our study thus far would not expect
Jesus to lend the weight of His authority to the popular
conception of the extent of the Kingdom of God. Jesus, in
fact, taught the universal character of the Kingdom. As soon
as this statement is made, however, a well-known fact arises
in apparent repudiation. Jesus, Himself, hardly set foot beyond
the borders of His country, and personally confined His labors
to His countrymen, while the Apostles imitated His example,
at least for a time. This is evident from Jesus' own life;
from His instructions to the disciples before their first mis-
sionary tour: "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into
any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the
lost sheep of the house of Israel" (St. Mt. 10:5-6) ; and in
the subsequent conduct of the Apostles after their Master's

These facts, however, do not indicate the exclusive or secta-
rian character of the Kingdom. The precedence accorded to the
Jews is more easily explained upon other grounds. For in-
stance, the time for the mission to the Gentiles had not come.
Again, the great yearning love of Jesus for His own people —
a love by no means inconsistent with that borne toward all
mankind — would also prompt such precedence. Further, a
beginning had to be made somewhere. The Kingdom could
not be founded everywhere at once. Naturally, then, the
soil of Judaism was the most available. Nor had the Apostles
as yet outgrown their national prejudices in measure sufficient
to warrant the inauguration of a world-wide mission. Their
knowledge, too, and insight into the nature, laws and opera-
tion of the Kingdom was exceedingly limited; hence it was
better for them at the first to proclaim to their countrymen
with John the Baptist, the simple truth — "the Kingdom of
Heaven is at hand."


The Extent of the Kingdom 151

The reason for this precedence, however, which most strongly
commends itself, is this. Israel as a nation had been chosen
by God for a specific work, as we have seen. Opportunity
after opportunity had been given for the fulfilment of this
mission, but the nation had always proved a stubborn and a
stiff-necked people. Now Israel's last opportunity had come.
The people had mistreated the servants of the Lord of the
Vineyard; yet would they not reverence His Son? (St. Mt.
21). God is patient with nations, as well as with individuals,
giving them many chances, and overlooking much obduracy.
Will not the nation at last awaken and respond? To give the
nation ample opportunity was the purpose of Jesus' three vigor-
ous, carefully planned and systematic preaching tours through-
out the land. The Jews were to be converted, if possible ; then
they as a people were to convert the world. They were to
become the fulfilment of prophecy — ''a light to lighten the
Gentiles'' Thus a far more effective agency would be wielded
for the establishment of the Kingdom than the labors, however
zealous, of individual men. But this hope was disappointed.
The parables of the Vineyard and of the Marriage of the
King's Son were prophetic of truth. Human nature will dwell
rather upon the thought of election than of vocation, of privilege
than of duty, of self than of others.^

Notwithstanding the precedence of the Jew, however, the
Kingdom of God, in the view of Jesus, was "universal in
design and scope." We have His most explicit testimony
that the Kingdom would know no territorial or racial limita-
tions. If we may believe Saint Luke, this catholicity of sym-
pathy manifested itself at the very outset of Jesus' career.
Upon delivering the Inaugural Address at Nazareth, the
Master became convinced that "no prophet is accepted in his
own country." He was comforted in the thought, however,

^ That the precedence of the Jew was seemly and fitting, and in
line with St. Paul's subsequent saying, "To the Jew first, and also
to the Greek!" (Rom. 1:16) is evident from Jesus' own words. In
St. Mt. 8:12, Jesus calls the Jews "Sons of the Kingdom," while
St. Mk. 21 :43 shows the priority accorded to the Jews : "Therefore
the Kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and given to
a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." While this passage
indicates Israel's precedence, it is also the death-warrant of exclusive
and sectarian hopes.

152 Jesus^ Idea

that a prophet would be received outside His own land, and
cited in support of His contention the reception of Elijah by
the widow of Sidonian Sarepta, and Elisha's cure of the leprosy
of the Syrian Naaman (St. Lu. 4:25-27; I Ki. 17; H Ki. 5).
This incident also serves to show the temper of the Jews in
regard to the overstepping of the accepted national limitations
of the Kingdom. "And all they in the synagogue, when they
heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and
thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of
the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast
him down headlong."

The universal sympathy of Jesus is also indicated in His
attitude toward the Syro-Phoenician woman, notwithstanding
the singularity of its mode of expression, and in His willing-
ness to converse with the woman of Samaria. Racial limita-
tions are also distinctly transcended in the teaching of St.
Matthew 8:11-12.^ One of the greatest privileges accompany-
ing the Messianic Kingdom, according to Jewish thought,
was "participating in splendid festive entertainments along
with the patriarchs of the nation." This thought was the source
of immense satisfaction to the Jew, while it was made to militate
against the Gentiles, being understood in this sense: "In the
future world (God said) I will spread a great table for you,
which the Gentiles shall see and be ashamed." In contradis-
tinction to this, Jesus declares that many Gentiles will become
believers, and will have part in the joyous happiness of the
patriarchs of old, while those who apparently have every
right to the feast, shall be in the darkness "which is outside the
(illuminated) banqueting hall and in despair."

Plain hints as to the universality of the Kingdom are found
also in the wide-extending branches of the parable of the
Mustard Seed, and in the parable of the Drag-Net, which is
thrown not only around one nation as heretofore, but around
all peoples, and gathers "fish" of every kind and character. The
parable of the Good Samaritan also has the note of universality.

^ "And I say unto you, that many shall come from the East and
the West, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob
in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall
be cast out into outer darkness : there shall be weeping and gnash-
ing of teeth."

The Extent of the Kingdom 153

"Who is my neighbor?" asks the disputatious lawyer. ''Every
one whom you can serve," replies Jesus. Humanity is to
measure its opportunity for service only by man's need of
service. The satirical rebuke of Jewish reasoning as it is
revealed in this parable in the unsympathetic attitude of the
priest and the Levite, professional and "ordained" religionists,
and the exaltation of the charity of the unorthodox Samaritan,
was a stinging blow to Pharisaic religion, and exhibited from
the Jewish standpoint a most dangerous latitude and laxity.
Truly, the independence of Jesus was marvelous.

Full of interest also is the visit of certain Greeks to Jesus
during the sad week of the Crucifixion (St. Jno. 12:20-22).
Their coming, Jesus regarded as a kind of first fruits of the
rich harvest which He was to gather beyond the borders
of Israel. His joy and His words, especially the impressive
and closing declaration, are significant: "I, if I be lifted up
from the earth will draw all men unto me" (vs. 32). Worthy
of note also are the words spoken, when anointed with the
very precious ointment by Mary at Bethany (St. Mt. 26:6-12) :
"Verily, I say unto you. Wheresoever this gospel shall be
preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this
woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her."

These incidental references of a busy life, however, ulti-
mately merge into broad and explicit declarations. Consider, for
instance, the words of the Great Commission: "Go ye there-
fore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching
them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded
you" (St. Mt. 28:19). These words are also important:

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