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Jesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus online

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tive must precede the positive; the human, the divine.^ Thus
Nicodemus was introduced to a new line of thought, and one
extremely subversive of his convictions and his prejudices. Every
man must become like a little child, if he would experience the
sovereignty of God. Jesus, indeed, had wrought out this truth
in His own experience in the Wilderness, and He makes it the
indispensable condition for the subjects of the Kingdom through-
out the ages.-

We will now consider what characteristics or qualifications
entitle one to become a subject of the Kingdom. What were
these qualifications as taught by Jesus? Let us turn to the Ser-
mon on the Mount for our answer. There the character of
the subject of the Kingdom is depicted and the essential qualifi-
cations for membership are set forth.^ They are found in the
Beatitudes or the opening words of this Sermon (St. Mt.
5:1-12). We read, for instance, ''Blessed are the poor in
Spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." "Blessed are
they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is
the kingdom of heaven/' Such are the first and the last of
the Beatitudes. Those which intervene must be interpreted in
harmony with these; for while "the kingdom of heaven" is not
mentioned specifically in them, some variant of the Kingdom, or
some blessing inherent in the possession of the Kingdom, is
enumerated. We have simply different phases of the same truth.

^ The positive and negative aspects of Baptism are well brought out
in the Baptismal Offices of the Episcopal Prayer Book.

' That Jesus, although He fulfilled the baptism of John — the bap-
tism of water by the baptism of the Spirit, as John foretold that He
would — should have begun His ministry, and continued it for some
time, by simply reiterating the cry of the Baptist, "Repent for the
Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" is also emphatic proof of the
stress laid by Him upon repentance.

'We shall appreciate more fully Jesus' teaching upon this subject
if we pause for a moment to consider the significance of this Ser-
mon. Interesting events occasioned its delivery. After Jesus' de-
cision in the Wilderness and His entrance upon His lifework of

The Subjects of ihe Kingdom 83

These Beatitudes, however, sound strangely indeed, when we
recall the supreme Beatitude of Jesus' day: "Blessed is the Jew:
for his is the Kingdom of Heaven," and some of the smug and
complacent Beatitudes of more modern days, such as ''Blessed is
the Baptized : for his is the Kingdom of Heaven ;" or "Blessed
is the Churchmember: for his is the Kingdom of Heaven;" or,
even, "Blessed is the Catholic: for his is the Kingdom of
Heaven." There is evidently a difference of opinion between
Jesus and His comtemporaries, and many of His later followers,
and in order to understand the mind of the Master, it will
be necessary to note the several Beatitudes in detail, but briefly.^

gaining the sovereignty of the world for God through the patient
proclamation of the truth, and suffering for love's sake, it became
evident that such a herculean task could not be performed by one
man, nor in one lifetime. Consequently, at the outset of His labors,
He sought to reinforce His efforts by the appointment of the Twelve
Apostles. "And he ordained twelve that they should be with him,
and that he might send them forth to preach'' (St. Mk. 3:14). The
selection of the Twelve, however, demanded their instruction. There
had arisen the necessity and the opportunity for detailed teaching
in regard to the Kingdom as He viewed it. What He had wrought
out in the depth of His own consciousness must become the prop-
erty of His disciples. The necessity and opportunity Jesus met
with the Sermon on the Mount. Addressed to the Twelve, and also
to the larger company of behevers, the sermon has for its theme
the topic ever dearest to Jesus' heart — The Kingdom of God : The
Character and the Conduct of its Subjects. In St. Matthew's version
of this discourse, some sayings which were not originally spoken on
this occasion may be included. However, whether the version of
St. Matthew or of St. Luke be adopted, there is abundant evidence
of the unity of the discourse, its theme, and its development. The
theme is enunciated in the opening words, i. e., in the Beatitudes.
Those who regard the discourse as primarily a protest against the
Pharisaic interpretation of the Law, or a defense against the Phari-
saic charge that Jesus destroyed the Law and the Prophets, make
a mistake, we think (St. Mt. 5:17-20). Jesus, viewing the Kingdom
of God as primarily spiritual and personal, is endeavoring to set
forth the ideal character of the subjects of the Kingdom, and the
conduct in which that character expresses itself ; while in giving
such instruction He must necessarily warn against the current Phari-
saic irreligion and defend Himself from the charge of being a

^ The t3'pe of utterance disclosed in the Beatitudes is found in the
Old Testament : "Blessed is he that considereth the poor : the Lord
will deliver him in the time of trouble" (Ps. 41-1 cf. 84:5-7; Isa.
30:18, 20, 32; I Ki. 8:15). Hence the type is borrowed by Jesus,

84 Jesus* Idea

Each word, indeed, is replete with significance and first to
challenge our attention is the term — "blessed." ^

But who are thus blessed? First are "the poor in spirit";
but who are they? ^ "The poor in spirit" are those with open
hearts and minds toward God; the humble, not the self-
sufficient. And to these, says Jesus, belongs the Kingdom of
Heaven. Jesus, Himself, indeed has given us a vivid illus-
tration of this spirit in a familiar parable. The publican, un-
willing even to lift his eyes toward heaven, and crying "God be
merciful to me a sinner!" is the immortal type of poverty of

and we must look for novelty in the content and not in the form.
Yet here there is dependence upon the Old Testament, for the
ideas and phrases are also borrowed largely. "The poor," ''the
mourners," "the meek," "the hungering and thirsting," "the merci-
ful," "the pure in heart," "the peacemakers," "the persecuted," "the
kingdom of heaven," "the comfort of the afflicted," "the inheriting
of the earth," "the satisfaction of longing for righteousness and
truth," "the seeing of God," and "the becoming sons of God," are
conceptions and terms common to the older Scriptures, and to the
Judaism of Jesus' day. The Beatitudes also consist of two clauses :
the one expressing the condition, the other the result. The thought
is that compliance with the condition of the first part brings the
result of the second part.

^ The Greek word so translated represents a Hebrew word, and
comes to us with the Hebrew meaning. This word thinks of man
as the object of blessing. When God is the subject of blessing, as
in the sentence, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel !" — a different
word is used. This marked distinction Jesus probably preserved in
His teaching. The root from which this word is derived signified
"to go straight," "to advance." Thus an unusual conception of
"blessedness" is gained: it consists in the possession of something
which makes one "go straight," or prosper in that sense. Hence in
the "blessedness" of the Beatitudes there is a religious and ethical

^ St. Luke identifies these, apparently, with the poor (6:20). St.
Luke's version of the Beatitude is the probable original, and is not
due to any tendency to unduly exalt poverty in itself. St. Matthew's
version is due probably to a desire to guard the Gentile world from
a materialistic interpretation, when the technical word "poor" was
translated into Greek. This materialistic interpretation, as a matter
of fact, was widespread in the Early, and also in the Medieval
Church, in the idea that voluntary poverty was blessed. This is
still the interpretation of many Roman Catholic expositors. The
interpretation, however, is negatived by the other Beatitudes, all
of which, with one exception, deal with inner quahfications. The
exception, however, deals with an external condition — persecution,

The Stibjects of the Kingdom 85

But again we read, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they
shall be comforted." A strange idea, but let us understand it.
The Jew thought that with the coming of the Messianic King-
dom, perfect comfort and consolation would be given (Isa.
61:2; St. Lu. 2:15; 4:18; Rev. 21:4). Mourning, however,
was then and it is now an ever-present fact of life. No one,
indeed, escapes the experiences which entail mourning, al-
though all strive to do so. Now this universal mourning,
whatever its cause — and an inclusive, not an exclusive sense, is
to be posited — brings its own blessing in the divine comfort
administered. Such, at least, is the thought of Jesus. Of
course, this is only appreciated by the spiritually minded. "Now
no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous:
nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of right-
eousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Heb. 12:11).
Nor is this relief only to be expected in the distant future?
The Kingdom, or rule of God, with its revelation of the God
who is a Father, speaks infinite peace to the mourning soul
now. While the consciousness that mourning is but the keen-

which is superinduced by an inner qualification — righteousness.
Now, this term, in the Jewish world, bore a technical meaning.
With us, as among the ancient Gentiles, the word is used in an
economic sense, and signifies, primarily, poverty. Among the Jews,
however, the word was derived from the Hebrew anah, which meant
to be humbled or abased. To the Jew, "the poor" was one deprived
of his rights, the humbled and abased by oppression. Often these
were the poor in an economic sense, yet the essential idea is that
of ill-treatment. The term is used again and again by Prophets
and Psalmists to denote those oppressed "at the hands of a high-
handed and cruel aristocracy" (See Ps. 18-27, 9:12-18; 10:2, 9, 12;
Isa. 61-1 and St. Lu. 4-18). From this usage, the word came to
designate the poor who suffer — "the religious poor." Thence, "the
poor" became the title of a party among the Jews in process of
formation some years before the Exile, but which was united and con-
solidated during and after the return from the Captivity. This party,
as we may infer from our previous study, embraced the devout
and faithful Israelites, in contrast to "the worldly and indifferent."
Hence, "the poor" signified "those who feared and sought after
God." Professor Harnack, in speaking of this class, says : "Often
too poor to pay even for the barest advantages of and privileges of
public worship, oppressed, thrust aside, and unjustly treated, they
could not raise their eyes to the Temple, but they looked to the
God of Israel, and fervent prayers went up to Him : 'Watchman,
what of the night?'"

86 Jesus' Idea

edged chisel which, in the hands of God, is carving the cold
marble of our individualit)^ into the likeness of our great
Exemplar Christ, who was perfected through suffering, is
both a comfort and an inspiration. (Heb. 5:8, 12; 3:11).
Much that is finest in life, indeed, is born of sorrow and sad-
ness. Mourning, then, is a Christian duty and privilege; not,
however, the mourning as of those who have no hope.

"All is in busy, stirring, stormy motion,

And many a cloud drifts by, and none sojourns."
"The worse for us;

He that lacks time to mourn, lacks time to mend,
Eternity mourns that. 'Tis an ill cure

For life's worst ills to have no time to feel them.
Where sorrow's held intrusive and turned out,
There wisdom will not enter, nor true power,
Nor aught that dignifies humanity."

We also hear, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit
the earth." Now meekness is the absence of guile, and of the
spirit of the earth.^ It is closely akin to poverty of spirit.
In fact, poverty of spirit begets meekness or tractableness
toward God. And, of course, this in turn manifests itself
toward men in an attitude of approachableness, gentleness, and
love. It is the meek, for instance, who, bowing the head in
submission, place their lives in God's hands, cooperate with
Him in His purposes for the individual and the world ; who, in
sacrificing all, gain all. And it is the meek who really inherit
the earth, says Jesus, or enter into possession of all that God
has to give.

He also tells us that "Blessed are they that hunger and
thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." Here, as
in all of the Beatitudes, the thought is noble, if somewhat
perplexing. In this case, the heart, Jesus declares, that knows
a craving for the right, akin in the intensity of its pangs to
the physical need expressed under the terms "hunger" and
"thirst," is the human heart that will be satisfied. This is
God's world, Jesus means, and God and the right will triumph.

* Meekness, in the Beatitudes, looks rather toward God than
toward men, following the Hebrew and not the Greek usage, which
knew nothing of meekness toward God, but only of meekness toward

The Subjects of the Kingdom 87

He, who recognizing that man does not live by bread alone,
turns to God to satisfy his hunger for the righteousness he
craves, will be filled and satisfied in the knowledge that more
and more God and the right are triumphing in individual
lives, and in the collective life of the world. While those who
hunger for evil are but accentuating and intensifying a craving
which can never be satisfied, but must eventually rival in keen-
ness and insatiability the veritable pangs of the nethermost hell.

Another utterance is: "Blessed are the merciful: for they
shall obtain mercy." To be merciful is both to possess the
spirit of compassion, and to practice benevolence. Mercy is,
therefore, subjective and objective, passive and active — a spirit
and a practice. If we follow the meaning of the Greek
word used in this Beatitude, eleemones, Jesus emphasizes mercy
as a practicej although the spirit of mercy is not to be ex-
cluded. The spirit of mercy is well indicated in Jesus' reply
to a question of St. Peter: ''Then came Peter to him and
said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I
forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say,
not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven"
(St. Mt. 18:21-35). The spirit of mercy is, therefore, that
which is illimitable in its forgiveness. The practice of mercy,
on the other hand, is well evidenced in the conduct of the
God, **w^ho maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good,
and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust"; and in the
action of the Man who, in generous sympathy, when sur-
rounded by publicans and sinners, replied to the fault-finding
Pharisees: "They that be whole need not a physician, but
they that are sick. But go y^ and learn what that meaneth,
/ will have jnercy and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call
the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (St. Mt. 18:23-35).

But again we hear: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they
shall see God." The heart, according to the Hebrew usage,
signified the personality, the inmost self. Originally, the refer-
ence was to the bodily organ, which was thought of by the
ancients as the seat of life. What Jesus means, therefore, is
that blessed are those whose personality, or inmost self, is free
from all heterogeneous and extraneous elements, who enjoy an
unalloyed condition of thought and feeling, in whom w^orld-
liness, materialism or false religion have not wrought their

88 Jesus' Idea

baneful work. Where this unalloyed condition of the heart
exists, there is the vision of God. Not, of course, that God
can be seen with the physical eye; His existence and presence
are spiritually discerned. God, indeed, is only visible to the
inward eye, and the vision of Him and of eternity, depends
rather upon cleanness of heart than clearness of intellect.

Further we read: "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they
shall be called the children of God." It is probable that two
ideas of "the peacemakers" are included in this Beatitude:
the peaceable — the passive sense: the workers for peace — the
active sense. Jesus Christ, however, is the great examplar
of both — "The Prince of Peace." In Him, man finds peace
with himself, with his God, and with his fellow-man. Yet
there is a darker side. It is Jesus Himself who says: "Think
not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to
send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at vari-
ance against his father, and a daughter against her mother,
and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a
man's foes shall be they of his own household" (St. Mt.
10:34-36). But how is this to be explained? The answer is
at hand. It is this: There can be no permanent peace save
that of the kingdom, or rule of God. This is true of the
individual life, and of the social life of the world. God
and Satan, indeed, can never be at peace. This world is not,
as yet, in its entirety God's Kingdom. Hence Jesus, the
Apostles, and true Christians everywhere, though essentially
peaceable and peacemakers, are the authors of strife — a strife
of good with evil, of truth with error. Thus among the
peacemakers of the earth such men as Luther, Calvin, Savon-
arola, Wesley, and many others whose very names are synony-
mous with agitation and even revolution, must take high rank.
And more and more to-day are those who seek to bring peace
into the world, even at the cost of strife, being recognized as
the children of God. They resemble Him at least in their
striving for peace.

Finally, we are told that: "Blessed are they which are per-
secuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom
of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and per-
secute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely,
for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is

The Subjects of the Kingdom 89

your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets
which were before you." Persecution, indeed, is the inevitable
accompaniment of righteousness. Loyalty to God and the
right in a sinful world always begets opposition. Experience
had taught Israel this truth, and many of her greatest men are
immortal illustrations of the fact. The history of the early
Church also offers convincing testimony to the foresight of
Jesus, while the conditions of to-day in many respects attest
His truthfulness. The persecution is now different in kind,
it is true, and perhaps less in extent, but it is none the less
real, and often in its refinement and ingenuousness it bespeaks
Satanic device. As it was with the Master, so it is with the
servant (Heb. 11:33-40). And yet to the persecuted belongs
the Kingdom: ''theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

This unequivocal teaching gave to the Jews a shock and a
surprise as great as it gives to thousands to-day. Fortunate,
blessed are the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the
hungry and the thirsty for righteousness, the merciful, the pure
in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted! Men cannot be-
lieve it. Usually the possessors of the opposite characteristics
are regarded as earth's fortunate and blessed. Hence men ask
again and again — How are these fortunate? And Jesus re-
plies, as we have seen: To them belongs the Kingdom of
God. Now, bearing in mind that the Kingdom of God is
the doing of God's will, is it not profoundly true that this
is possible only to the poor in spirit, to those who feel their
unworthiness? Who are the obedient to God, and, in their
obedience, the comforted, but those who mourn for their
quondam disobedience, and the shortcomings of the world ? Who
really inherit the earth — all its truest and highest gifts and
pleasures — but the meek, the tractable, the submissive finder
and follower of God's way? While those who hunger and
thirst after righteousness seek for perfect conformity to God's
will — and are they not of all men truly filled with the mean-
ing of life, and satisfied with it?

To illustrate more fully, however, the truthfulness and the
significance of Our Lord's words, let us note the vices of
which the Beatitudes are the corresponding virtues, and see
how the possession of these renders entrance into the Kingdom
impossible. Pride is the opposite of humility; self-satisfaction,

90 Jesus' Idea

of mourning; refractoriness, of meekness; lethargy and apathy,
of hungering and thirsting after righteousness; unfeelingness,
of mercy; alloy of heart, of purity of heart; strivers, of peace-
makers; ready compliance with the world-principles, of persecu-
tion for righteousness' sake. Now is it not uniformly true that
the arrogant man is not the doer of God's will? The self-
sufficient man feels no need of obedience; refractoriness in its
rebellious spirit cannot submit; lethargy knows no craving;
while unfeehngness cannot enter into the pity and compassion
of God. Those whose hearts are admixed with a love of the
world cannot perceive God's simplicity of aim and motive;
and mere strivers are unable to appreciate the Kingdom, in
and through which God is endeavoring to replace human strife
by "peace on earth, good will among men." Those, also, who
are not persecuted in some way for righteousness' sake, indicate
their conformity to the world by this immunity — an immunity
utterly impossible to those in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Thus we see that the Kingdom of God does not belong to an
individual in view of who he is, or what he has, but solely in
view of what he is; further, that a man's true happiness and
prosperity is determined by his relation to the Kingdom, or
his submission to God's obedience. Thie idea is extremely
revolutionary in every age. It explains much, however, in
Jesus' teaching. Because the individual is the unit of the
Kingdom of God, and the gateway to the Kingdom lies along
the pathway of character, Jesus so assiduously emphasized
the value of the inner life. Anything which was likely to
militate against this, finds in Him an uncompromising antag-
onist. It was for this reason that He remarked sorrowfully
after the departure of the rich young ruler : "Verily, I say unto
you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of
heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to
go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter
into the kingdom of God" (St. Mt. 19:23-24). Yet riches
in themselves are never denounced by Jesus, although He does
apparently regard their possession as likely to prove a mis-
fortune. And indeed the study of a rich man is often a study
in unlovely personality.^

^ The great danger in the possession of riches is clearly indicated
by Jesus in St. Mk. 10:24: "How hard is it for them that trust in

The Subjects of the Kingdom 91

Riches, however, may be used by their possessors to min-
ister to their eternal gain. Clearly is this pointed out in the
Parable of the Unjust Steward (St. Luke 16: 1-9). The moral
of this parable is found in the ninth verse: ''And I say unto
you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unright-
eousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into ever-
lasting habitations." Mammon, however, is not the name of
a God; it is simply money. The passage then reads: "Make to
yourselves friends of the money of unrighteousness; that when
ye fail (i.e., die) they may receive you into everlasting habi-
tations." Yet even here we notice that it is called "the money
of unrighteousness," because unrighteous means are frequently
employed in its acquisition, or because its possession often min-
isters to unrighteousness of heart and life. "Ye cannot serve
God and mammon" — ^Jesus says also in the Sermon on the
Mount. Thus riches are always likely to be opposed to God,
and, therefore, to His Kingdom.

How they become accursed, Jesus has revealed in the salient
lessons of the selfishness, the self-indulgence, and the indiffer-
ence to God and man exhibited by rich men in the parables
of Dives and Lazarus and the Rich Fool. It is often vulgarly,
if truly, remarked of persons "that their money has made
fools of them." Jesus makes the same remark, without suspi-
cion of vulgarity, but w^ith perfect truthfulness, in the second
of these parables (St. Lu. 12: 16-21). The word "fool" in
the Bible, however, does not refer primarily to mental but to
spiritual deficiency. The fool of the Bible is not the brainless
but the heartless man; the word bears the sting of death, for
it is sin. The fool of this parable had no doubt displayed ability

riches to enter into the kingdom of God." Unless we remember the

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