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Jesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus online

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the legitimacy of the tax, expecting that He, as a loyal Jew, would
declare against its lawfulness. Such a reply would make the
Emperor His foe, and probably cause His deliverance to the
Governor, which the Herodians desired on political grounds, and
the Pharisees for religious reasons. Jesus' answer, however, by
means of the coin, was confounding. Apparently evasive, it met
successfully all aspects of their question. The significance of the
reply is this : Political service need not and should not conflict with
religious service. The State and the Church, while not identical,
are not essentially antagonistic. Both have their sphere, and both
should be the Kingdom of God.

The perfect service of God, indeed, involves the rendition of full

The Time of the Kingdom 175

It is true that Jesus said almost nothing specifically about
the effect of the Kingdom's principles upon what are usually
denominated secular affairs. There is no reference in His
teaching to the Kingdom's influence uopn Art or Education,
Literature or Culture, Philosophy or Economics, Politics or
Commerce. We must remember, however, that Jesus did not
suffer from the prevalent fallacy of dividing life into two com-
partments, one of which is labeled "sacred" and the other
"secular." The Jew, in fact, knew no sacred and no secular:
all was sacred. Life was religious in its every phase. In
Jesus' thought, then, the Kingdom was to dominate life in its
entirety. He simply emphasized the fundamental principles of
the Kingdom, and trusted to their inherent power to permeate
and impregnate the whole, regenerating all things.

The Christian centuries, indeed, have witnessed ever more
and more the gradual harmonization of almost every depart-
ment of human activity with the will of God. The Kingdom,
religious in essence, has always and everywhere overstepped
the bounds of what men call the "religious," and has invaded
the so-called "secular" sphere, seeking to reclaim it for God.
The aim has not been to make the w^orld and life "religious" in
the common and emasculated sense of the word, but to have
the principles of God reign everywhere. The former has
indeed been the result whenever the identification of the King-
service to the State. The Pharisees sought to serve God religiously ;
the Herodian was content to serve Him politically. Each thought
their whole duty fulfilled, whereas, each had failed in half their
duty. The coin evidenced the authoritative government of Rome :
under it, and because of it, the Pharisees enjoyed whatever blessings
they had, hence they owed certain duties to it. "Render unto Caesar
the things that are Caesar's." The Herodians, however, while
rendering unto Caesar the things that were Caesar's, had forgotten
God who alone rendered Caesar's government stable and authori-
tative. The duty to the State, and the duty to God, were, however,
complementary and not antagonistic; equally incumbent upon all
men, and both are necessary to the perfection of either. Men are
ever forgetful, however, that the Moral Law was written upon Two
Tables of Stone : the one, dealing with man's duty to God ; the
other, with his duty to his fellow-man. The Church, unfortunately,
like the Pharisees of old, has always been chiefly concerned with
duty to God, and neglectful of the equally important duty to man.
In consequence, thousands to-day are more concerned with the
service of man than with the service to God.

176 Jesus* Idea

dom with the visible Church has prevailed. Then the attempt is
made to subordinate every department of life to the Church.
The State must bow before the Church ; thrones and nations
acknowledge the sovereignty of the Mistress of the World.
Science must be the hand-maid of theology. Everywhere there
is curtailing, restricting, dwarfing. Life is limited instead of
had more abundantly. Consequently, there is constant rebellion
and struggle. A false ideal controls many, but is utterly unable
to conquer completely human nature, and human instinct.
Where it is successful, we have a society, sexless, impotent,

On the other hand, the veritable Kingdom of God seeks
not to be Master but servant, although it becomes sovereign
through service. It seeks to assist the State; to enrich life by
developing it, by calling out every inherent power in accord-
ance with the highest principles of its own existence. The effort
everywhere is to free, not to enslave. The one factor, indeed,
works from within to enlarge; the other from without, to sup-
press. The one is instinct with youth and vigor; the other
bears the marks of decrepitude and death. The one lives in
the past; the other always hails the future.

What a depth of meaning there is in the oft-used words
of the Lord's Prayer: ''Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done
on earth as it is done in heaven,'' now becomes apparent. The
coming of the sovereignty of God, indeed, means infinitely more
than the extension of the Christian Church or the transition
from a terrestrial to a celestial sphere; it means the bringing
of man's manifold relationships and activities under the control
of God.

Thus we find that Jesus' idea of the coming of the King-
dom is immeasurably larger and more inspiring than is gener-
ally admitted. He would, indeed, transfigure the whole of

Usually, this coming of the Kingdom is very slow. At other
times, the long-continued, silent, and unobserved leavening
process precipitates a sudden and apparently unheralded ad-
vance. Such an advance, the last century witnessed in the
freeing of the American slaves, and the emancipation of the
Russian serfs ; more recently in the revolutions which are bring-
ing political liberty to the Latin races and even to Asiatic

The Time of the Kingdom 177


This "near future" of the Kingdom, as we have interpreted
it, is referred to by Our Lord in St. Mark 9:1: ''Verily I say
unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which
shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God
come tvith power." In fact, many of the passages which are
usually interpreted as referring to the Final Coming of the
Kingdom, really refer to its spiritual and continuous coming.
The writer is persuaded that such passages as St. Mt. 10:23,
St. Mt. 16:27-28, St. Lu, 17:22-36, St. Mt. 24:29-51, St.
Mt. 26 : 63-64, and their counterparts in the other Gospels,
bear this significance. Unfortunately the limits of this work
do not permit proof of the fact. How^ever, let us now remem-
ber that, in Jesus' view, the Kingdom was to be ushered to
advancing stages by marked steps, which could be compared
to the coming of the Son of Man in majesty (St. Mt. 16: 28),
or to the Kingdom of God coming with power. These "com-
ings," however, are always regarded as imperfect and incom-
plete. The thought implied is "that the Kingdom is not fully
come till everything in human life and in the relations of man
in society is brought into complete harmony with the will of
God." A full and complete coming of the Kingdom is there-
fore posited.

The Kingdom of God, indeed^ will not be a mere continu-
ous evolution. Having had a beginning, and having a present
development, it will have a consummation : the more remote
future of the Kingdom. Christianity is, in this respect, closely
allied to all the great religions of the world, and to the great
philosophic and scientific systems of human thought. All have
some doctrine of an end. Of course, in using the word "end,"
we do not mean an absolute end or termination of all things —
but the entrance upon the celestial stage, when the end of things
as they are constituted at present shall be at hand. The human
mind, the constitution of the physical earth, the very nature of
the Universe itself, no less than past history, and all human
experience, demand and predicate an end. Hence Christianity
has its teleological aspect.

Our study would lead us to expect this. The language
of the parable which illustrates the development of the King-
dom by the growth of a seed is significant : "first the blade, then

178 Jesus^ Idea

the ear, then the full corn in the ear." Here, indeed, are "the
times" of the Kingdom — present, near future, remote future.
The remote future of the Kingdom is also distinctly empha-
sized in the words: *'But when the fruit is brought forth,
immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is
come" (St. Mk. 4: 29). The luxuriant growth of the Mustard
seed, and the thoroughness of the leaven in its work, may be
said, also, without unduly emphasizing the details of a parable,
to predicate the consummation of the Kingdom. The parables
of the Tares and the Drag-Net clearly demonstrate the same
truth, and may contribute certain features of the event. The
most convincing proof of the final coming of the Kingdom, how-
ever, is to be derived from the entire trend of Jesus' teaching
in regard to the Kingdom of God. As the Old Testament
demanded the New Testament as its complement and apology,
so the Kingdom of God, as revealed by Jesus, demanded through
its present character, a more complete and glorious final mani-
festation. Without this, the Kingdom is unintelligible and a
mockery. It is especially noticeable, also, that the Fourth
Gospel, which is the most insistent of all the Gospels upon
the spiritual and progressive coming of the Kingdom, is not
without unreserved testimony to a final consummation of the
Kingdom, and an adjudication of all things.

Our data for determining the details of this "coming,"
however, are few and unsatisfactory. This "time" of the King-
dom will mark the transference of the stage of action from
earth to heaven, yet the character of this stage is entirely beyond
our ken. Men endeavor to ascertain the conditions of this era,
only to fail. Their attempts are sometimes interesting, often
inane, and not infrequently ludicrous. Here, where certainty
is less justifiable than elsewhere, we often find a dogmatism at
once irreverent and unseemly. Time is projected into eternity.
The after-world is constructed upon the basis of the present
world. Heaven is a much magnified earth. Golden streets,
pearly gates, and a catholicity of musical ability are integral
factors of the conception. Of course this is pardonable, if it
remains in the realm of the figurative and the approximate.
When accepted literally, it becomes puerile and utterly in-

On the very threshold of our speculation, indeed, Jesus con-

The Time of the Kingdom 179

fronts us with an indication of its absolute futility. Let us note
the incident. The Sadducees denied the resurrection of the
dead. Laughing at what they termed Pharisaic credulity, they
came to Jesus with an inquiry, framed to show the absurdity of
the Pharisaic belief. The Mosaic law^ required that, when a
married man died without leaving children, his brother should
marry his widow and raise up children to him. The case pro-
pounded to Jesus was this: A woman had been married to seven
brothers in obedience to the Mosaic requirement; to whom
would she belong in the resurrection of the dead? The suppo-
sition of the Sadducees was the prevalent supposition of to-day,
that virtually the same conditions must prevail in heaven that
prevail on earth. The reply of Jesus is very important. He
declares that His questioners do not understand the Scriptures,
which they profess to believe, for they unmistakably imply im-
mortality, neither do they know^ the power of God. "Do ye
not therefore err, because ye know not the Scriptures, neither
the power of God? For when they shall rise from the dead,
they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as
the angels which are in heaven" (St. Mk. 12: 18-27).

This language is explicit. In the future of the Kingdom
of God there is no marriage. Now the married state is funda-
mental in this world. We cannot conceive of a worthy state
or condition of humanity in which husband and wife, parents
and children, and homes are not essential factors. Jesus, how^-
ever, with very few words, informs us that in the final stage of
the Kingdom this condition will not exist, and cites the power
of God as the indication of the Divine ability to fashion an-
other environment for man, which will illustrate another prin-
ciple of social life entirely. If, then, the final stage of the
Kingdom will not be organized on this fundamental principle
of our present existence, is it not foolhardy to attempt to con-
ceive of other characteristics of the future Kingdom? "We now
see through a glass darkly, but then we shall see face to face."
We must admit that we do not, and that we cannot know
the conditions which w^ill prevail, because we do not know
the power or the resources of God. The words of St. Paul
express our ignorance and our knowledge alike: "Eye hath
not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart
of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love

i8o Jesus' Idea

him" (I. Cor. 2:9). Thus, while ignorant of the details, we
have every reason to believe in the final coming of the King-
dom after a long period of time, when Jesus who "being the
Holiest among the mighty, and the mightiest among the holy,
has lifted with His pierced hand empires off their hinges, has
turned the stream of centuries out of its channel, and still
governs the ages," shall return as "the glorious Leader and
King of Mankind, the triumphant Founder and Perfecter of
the Kingdom of a redeemed humanity." The dead will rise,
and the day for Judgment be at hand. This, indeed, is clearly
pointed out by the Synoptists, and by St. John. The Synop-
tists, however, dwell rather upon the final Resurrection, while
St. John, who by no means ignores this event, dwells upon
the resurrection as a moral and ethical fact, possible in this
life, the prelude to, and the cause of the final Resurrection
to Eternal Life. "And shall come forth; they that have done
good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done
evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (St. Jn. 5:29).

We are thus limited to the baldest and barest of facts. We
may enter the realm of fantastic speculation, indulging in either
the wildest or the most sober of theories, and exercising to the
Heart's content the most fascinating arts of rhetoric, yet all
is profitless. This, indeed, men love to do, rather than to adhere
to the substantial facts which are revealed, translating them
into terms of their life. The important thing, however, to
remember is, that the present and the future of the Kingdom
are related to each other as cause and effect. There is "first
the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear." Hence
those who w^ould ultimately enter the Kingdom must pass
through these successive stages. There must be this orderly
progress. The individual must have the Kingdom present in
his life, before he can be present in the future of the Kingdom
in any satisfactory sense. This, indeed, is sufficient for man-
kind to know. Jesus simply brought life and immortality to
light; the details of the eternal life are, and will remain, obscure.



The world to-day hears a great deal of what the church has
to say about Jesus. Equally important, however — if not more
important, in view of present conditions — is it for the world
to hear what Jesus has to say about the church.

Only on two distinct occasions, however, did Our Lord
make explicit mention of His church. The references are St.
Matthew i6:i8 and 18:17. Some scholars, notably Wendt, dis-
pute the authenticity of these sayings of Jesus, inasmuch as there
are only two references to the church in Our Lord's entire teach-
ings, as we have them recorded in the Gospels, and both of these
are found only in St. Matthew. While this paucity of reference
is remarkable, yet the utterances in question are so eminently
characteristic of the Christ, and so natural, logical and essential
in view of the circumstances which called them into being, that
we are compelled to disagree with that criticism which would
invalidate them, and to acknowledge them genuine and worthy
of most studious interpretation.

Before proceeding to their detailed interpretation, however,
it may be pertinent to ask: What idea does the word "church"
convey to us? A little reflection will reveal that the word is
used commonly in one of three senses: the universal, the de-
nominational, or the local. We speak, for instance, of the
"universal church," meaning the Christian Church throughout
the world, independent of any particular nationality, age, or
clime. Again, w^e speak of the Episcopal, the Methodist, or the
Presbyterian church, narrowing the term to apply to some spe-
cific body of Christians or denomination. Yet again, we speak
of the church in some locality or town, thus more completely
limiting the application of the word. Underneath this diversi-
fied usage, however, there is, in the popular mind, a substantial
unity of conception or idea. It is the idea of organization.
Using the word "church," we understand it as signifying an


1 82 Jesus^ Idea

organized, duly constituted body, with its own officers, institu-
tions, laws, and clearly defined beliefs. The character or kind
of organization doubtless depends upon the point of view of
the person using the term ; upon the ecclesiastical spectacles worn
by the speaker, and through which he views the distant past.
The Roman Catholic, the Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, the
Methodist, and the Congregationalist alike are apt to project
into the earliest use of the word "church" the character or type
of ecclesiastical organization with which they are most familiar,
and of which they are devotees to-day. Hence even the author-
ity of Jesus is sometimes claimed for each of these varying forms
of organization. This method of procedure is, of course, un-
worthy of rational support. It is also a more or less flagrant
reversal of history. The law of organization is much the same
as the law of life. Institutions grow ; they are evolved and de-
veloped. They are not born full-grown, mature in form and
character. To attribute either the broad outlines or the detailed
minutiae of ecclesiastical organization to Jesus is, in our opinion
at least, to belittle the wisdom of the Son of Man in view of the
universality of His religion, and to demand His descent to a par-
ticularity with which He was apparently but slightly concerned,
if concerned at all. Jesus, indeed, stands committed to no
ecclesiastical program. The popular interpretation of the
word "church," however, renders it imperative that we study
the meaning of the word used and so translated in the pages
of the New Testament. The term is the Greek iKKXrja-la^
whence are derived "ecclesiastic" and "ecclesiastical." ^

At the outset we are compelled to say that the meaning of
this word is not what is first suggested by the English word
"church." The word of the Evangelist meant not so much
organization, official and stereotyped, as an assemblage, a con-
gregation, a community or brotherhood. This is the funda-
mental idea when we study the historic Hebrew connotation of
the term. The thought is plastic, pliable, more social than
institutional; it is an ideal to be made real, rather than an ac-
tual to be made ideal. Primarily, the term speaks of social and
religious union. At first everything is in a more or less chaotic
or disordered state — at least, an unorganized state. The refer-
ence of ''ecclesia'' indeed, is to the time before there have arisen

^ See Appendix F., "The Meaning of Ecclesia."

The Church and the Kingdom 183

the Inevitable results of any permanent association of mn — duly
constituted laws, officials, creeds, a thoroughly organized system ;
or, In other words, an Institutional regime. This will and must
ensue. But we must be careful not to confound the later
growth with the incipient stage; we must not project the late
Into the early. In our views of the Church of Jesus, let us
abandon the mechanical for the vital. ^

In order that we may see this as the meaning of Jesus the
more clearly, let us turn to the recorded instances of Our Lord's
use of the equivalent of this word. Toward the close of His
life, and, therefore, late In His public ministry, Jesus and the
Apostles were at Cesarea-Phllippi. The scene and occasion are
memorable. Already the bitter hostility of the Jews against
Jesus, and their absolute rejection of Him are in evidence. Fur-
thermore, they are standing in the very presence of the august
symbol of the Roman power in the splendid temple at Cesarea.
Jesus asks of His disciples: **Who do men say that I, the Son
of man, am?" The apostles answer: **Some say that thou art
John the Baptist; some Elijah, and others Jeremiah, or one of
the prophets." This reply reveals but one opinion — the people
do not understand Him to be the Messiah. Conscious of this,
Jesus addresses to them a like inquiry: "But who say ye that
lam?" That moment was one of dramatic intensity. For long
He has sought to lead them to the truth. Have His efforts
failed? Now is the moment to see. Think of the suspense!
But the Master has not long to wait. Peter, the impetuous

* The succinct yet pregnant statement of Dr. Hort is worthy of
our attention : "The word 'Church' carries with it associations
derived from the institutions and doctrines of later times, and this
cannot, at present, without a constant mental effort, be made to
convey the full and exact force which originally belonged to
'ecclesia.' "

Further, it is interesting to notice that in the early English trans-
lations of the New Testament "ecclesia" was translated "congre-
gation" and not "church." For instance, in the famous Bishop's
Bible, St. Matt. 16:18 reads, not "Upon this rock I will build my
church," but "Upon this rock I will build my congregation." It is
only with the appearance of our Authorized Version in 161 1 that
the translation "church" wholly supplanted the more correct render-
ing of "ecclesia." Such facts as these bring forcibly before us
the thought and idea of Jesus. He was to have a congregation,
an assembly, a community, or brotherhood of men. This was the
great conception.

184 Jesus* Idea

and active leader and spokesman of the apostolic band, imme-
diately replies: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living
God." Jesus has not failed. Success is His. Here is one at
least who understands. Rome may shine in her splendor, the
Jewish nation spurn the Galilean peasant, the people think of
Him only as a prophet; but Peter, at least, is convinced that
He is the Messiah and none else.^

And now is the moment to declare the effect or consequence
of this voluntary confession. "I say unto thee that thou art
Peter, and upon this rock I will build my 'ecclesia/ and the
gates of hell shall not prevail against it." There was, in other
words, to be a new Israel, in which Peter should be first; a
community or brotherhood of men, with Peter as the corner-
stone, against which the very gates of hell, the emblem of in-
vincibility to the Ancient World, should not prevail.^

This is the first explicit intimation which we have of the
Church. The words break suddenly from the Master's lips.
They seem, however, to presage a line of thought long enter-
tained, and to voice an intention determined upon in silence,
but now, at the opportune moment, publicly proclaimed. The
'*ecclesid' indeed, was no new idea, no sudden fancy, but rather
a mature conviction. The Christian Church, in fact, is no mere
mechanical creation; it is a vital thing. The church is neces-
sitated by the very nature of Christianity. Had Jesus enter-
tained no thought of founding a church, and had He taken
no steps to found one, the church would have resulted neces-
sarily, Christianity being what it is in both life and truth.
Truth tends to association and organization; life, to expression
and embodiment.*

^ It is an assured conviction, too — calm, mature; so mature as to
be able to bear the strain of the Messiah's suffering and death —
an idea abhorrent to the Jewish mind, but advocated openly by
Jesus for the first time on this occasion. Of their own will have
they come to their conclusion ; there has been no coercion, no
persuasion. Heaven has opened their eyes, and they have seen.

^ See Appendix G., "The Primacy of Peter."

'This is natural law. The psychologist's maxim, "All mental
states are followed by activity of some sort," finds illustration here.
The church, then, would have resulted had Jesus taken no active
steps consciously to utilize this law. But Jesus, here as elsewhere,

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Online LibraryFordyce Hubbard ArgoJesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus → online text (page 17 of 27)