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Jesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus online

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assault that wealth makes upon character, we shall utterly misap-
prehend the constant teaching of the Master about riches. No pas-
sages of the New Testament certainly more forcibly reveal the
inward and essentially subjective character of the Kingdom than
those which have wealth for their subject. It has never been so
difficult for a rich man to enter into the visible Church as to justify
the strong declaration of Our Lord cited above. The Kingdom in
Jesus' view, however, was submission to God's obedience. Hence it
is so difficult as to be practically^ impossible for the rich man to
enter the Kingdom because of the inordinate trust in money, instead
of trust in God, which riches usually beget, and out of which the
grace of God alone can deliver. "With m.en it is impossible, but not
with God: for with God all things are possible" (St. Mk. 10:27).



92 Jesus' Idea

of a high order in the amassing of his fortune; by the world,
he was probably accounted sharp and shrewd. Yet Jesus called
him "a fool." His meaning may be gathered from Psalm 53 : i
— "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." In his
heart means in his personality, his life, as we have seen. From
these, he excludes God. This, in fact, is often the result of
wealth. While in the first of these parables we see the effect
of a self-indulgence which wealth makes possible, in Dives' feast-
ing while Lazarus starves at the door. Riches, indeed, often
close the door to mercy. The money which seems to make a
man is very likely to unmake him. Note the almost proverbial
worthlessness of rich men's sons, and the general pitiableness
of a wealthy aristocracy's inconsequential scions. Whereas
poverty begetting piety is often the preparation for greatness.
Riches, however, are relative. There is no absolute standard
to determine who is a rich man. In possessions, great or small,
lies the danger; although the greatness of the possessions always
increase the danger to the soul.

Thus Jesus taught the essential qualifications for member-
ship in the Kingdom of Heaven. In contrast with the popular
Jewish view, the qualifications are individual and personal,
not racial or national; they belong to the spiritual, not to the
natural man. These qualities were not popular with the Jews,
and they have not been pleasing to the mass of men in any
age; for humanity has always admired the more robust and
masterful qualities, as it affects to call them, although robustness
and masterfulness are the very essence of the qualities demanded
by Jesus when they are rightly understood. Unpalatable, how-
ever, at all times, how bitter must they have been to a people
whose dream was of an earthly Kingdom, which should sup-
plant Imperial Rome and surpass her splendor. Small wonder
that Jesus was misunderstood and hated.

Jesus, however, was a supreme logician. These characteris-
tics w^ere a logical deduction from His idea of God. Seated
near Jacob's well at Sychar, only a short w^hile before His
delivery of the Sermon on the Mount, and conversing with the
Samaritan woman, Jesus revealed His idea of the essential na-
ture of God. To the woman, perplexed as to the question
whether God should be worshiped at Jerusalem, as the Jews
asserted, or on Mt. Gerizim, as the Samaritans contended, Jesus



The Subjects of the Kingdom 93

replies: "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall
neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the
Father. . . . But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true
worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for
the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is spirit: and
they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth"
(St. Jn. 4: 21-24). These words indeed are the Magna Charta
of the soul's liberties throughout all the ages. They are the
very Emancipation Proclamation of the human spirit. But what
do they signify?

"God is spirit," means that God is a Personal Being. We
are spirits, or personal beings, in that we think and feel and
ivill: it is the possession of these faculties that makes one a
person. Man is thus made in the image of God. Hence, God
being a Person — thinking, feeling and willing — it follows, ac-
cording to the reasoning of Jesus, that true worshipers of God
must worship Him in spirit and in truth, i.e., in that part of
their being which corresponds to God's Being — the spirit: that
which thinks and feels and wills. Further, they must worship
Him in a way which corresponds to the Divine nature, for
this is the meaning of the words "in truth."

The worship of God is thus dissociated by Jesus from all
limitations of time and place, and associated only with the heart
of man, in that which thinks and feels and wills. Not the ritual
of worship nor of deeds primarily, not the dogma of stereotyped
belief, but the bestowal of the spirit of the inner man is what
God demands as essential to true worship. Being^ rather than
believing or doing, receives the Divine emphasis. Out of this
essential nature of God indeed, Jesus' idea of the Kingdom and
its subjects unfolds as naturally as the ear from the blade, the
lily from the bud. The Kingdom or rule of God must mean
for the individual — the submission of the spirit — the self, to
God; and, of course, the subjects of the Kingdom must be those
whose spirits brook this submission. Humility is thus the first
rung in the ladder by which the true worshiper climbs heaven-
ward; it is the prologue to spiritual progress.^

^ How the spirit of the Kingdom, or of true worship, expresses
itself both toward God and man, Jesus illustrates in the exquisite
teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. More admirable than any
commentary is the Sermon itself, and just here the reader is asked
to read the Sermon in its entirety.



94 Jesus' Idea

Thus, with Jesus, we return to the conception of the King-
dom, as it existed in the mind of God from all eternity: A
Kingdom of God in humanity, a conscious and w^illing obedi-
ence; a conception ruthlessly rejected in the rebellion of man-
kind, but now seeking realization through Jesus of Nazareth.
Having noted the condition of entrance into the Kingdom, and
the predisposing qualifications, we will now consider briefly
the salient duty of the subjects of the Kingdom.

While membership in the Kingdom confers great privileges
and blessings, it also entails great responsibilities and duties.
In fact, as soon as Jesus had disclosed the blessing inherent in
membership. He supplemented it with an explicit statement of
the duty involved. The members of the Kingdom were to be
the light of the world, and the salt of the earth. In rejecting
the popular Jewish conception of the Kingdom, Jesus did not
reject the idea of a rule by conquest. His was to be a conquer-
ing Kingdom. The apparently negative virtues which He de-
manded, however, seemed to the Jews, enamored of the idea
of forcible conquest, utterly incapable of winning a Kingdom.
If Jesus was to found a Kingdom — how was it to be extended ?
That was a perplexing question. The idea of conquest, how-
ever, had always been present in the concept of the Kingdom,
as we have seen. The family or clan, during the Patriarchal
period, had been selected with the view of conquering humanity
by blessing it. The nation was chosen at Sinai as a kingdom
of priests to reconcile men to God. This thought also had
ever been a part of the prophetic teaching. In view of this,
and the perplexity of the Jews, we are not surprised to find
Jesus dwelling with especial emphasis upon the vast responsibility
of the subjects of the Kingdom toward the world.^

The idea of a forcible conquest of the world, however, had
been met in the Temptation with the ideal of a bloodless con-
quest through truth and love. The weapons of war were dis-

^ Ye are the salt of the earth : but if the salt has lost its savor,
wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but
to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the
light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither
do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candle-
stick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your
light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and
glorify your father which is in heaven" (St. Mt. 5:13-16),



The Subjects of the Kingdom 95

carded for those of peace. This becomes conspicuously apparent
as Jesus sets forth the duty of the Kingdom's subjects.

First is the duty of illuminating the dense darkness of the
world by the light of God's truth, as it is revealed in the words
and deeds of the individual subjects of the Kingdom.

"Heaven doth with us as we with torches do.
Not light them for themselves : for if our virtues
Did not go forth of us, 'twere all alike
As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touched
But to fine issues."

The Kingdom of God, indeed, is truth: ''the Truth'' about
God and Man and Life (St. Jn. 18:37), and Jesus trusted
absolutely in the self-propagating power of this truth, as we
shall see more fully in our next Chapter. Indeed, the truth
of God and the heart of man are adapted each for the other,
and are mutually complementary. This sublime confidence ex-
presses Jesus' whole life. He lived and died for the truth. In
fact, the sublime confidence of Jesus in the winning power of
truth is well expressed by the Poet:

"Truth only needs to be for once spoke out,
And there's such music in her, such strange rhythm,
As makes men's memories her joyous slaves.
And clings around the soul, as the sky clings
Round the mute earth, forever beautiful.
And, if o'erclouded, only to burst forth
More all embracingly divine and clear :
Get but the truth once uttered, and 'tis like
A star new-born, that drops into its place.
And which, once circHng in its placid round.
Not all the tumult of the earth can shake."

However, it should not be overlooked that in the extension
of the Kingdom there is a supernatural factor. Christianity,
indeed, always unites Heaven and earth, even in its agencies
of extension. It is both an ideal of life and a pozuer in life.
Hence we expect a supernatural element. Man, however, has
his part no less than God. Man wields the mighty weapon of
truth in word and deed. It is the seed which he sows. In
itself, as we have seen, it is adapted to the soil of the human
heart and the soil is suited to it. Yet, as the seed demands
sunshine and rain, and much else for its growth, so the seed



g6 Jesus* Idea

of truth, sown by man, needs for its germination, growth and
fruitage, the operation of the Holy Spirit. We are not, how-
ever, considering the supernatural, but the human factor in
the extension of the Kingdom.

The antiseptic properties of salt. Our Lord brings before
the subjects of the Kingdom, also, to illustrate their duty in
preventing corruption in human life. As salt is also used to
extract flavors, so the Kingdom's subjects are to extract from
life all that is sweetest in it, to exercise a freshening influence
upon the moral, the intellectual, and the social life of the world,
and to give to everything its true flavor. Hence, whether the
Kingdom and its subjects act openly like Light, or secretly like
Salt, the Kingdom is to be a conquering Kingdom. Its subjects
are to illumine the world's darkness, to preserve it from further
corruption, and to extract what is sweetest in life. Thus the
duty is clearly imposed; but how, more specifically, shall it be
fulfilled?

The answer to this question constitutes one of Christianity's
many startling paradoxes — conquest by submission; victory
through defeat; the Crown through the Cross; priesthood
through sacrifice of self; Reconciliation through priesthood. It
has been said that "Christianity, the true Christianity, carries
no arms; it wins its way by lowly service, by patience, and by
self-sacrifice." These were undoubtedly the successful weapons
of its earlier warfare, and they have ever been the means of
Christianity's triumphs where permanent conquests have been
made. The pov^^er of truth and of self-sacrifice — that is, love —
whether manifested in life or in death was, and is, the mightiest
weapon for the establishment of the Kingdom. Jesus, in fact,
founded the Kingdom by dying for it, no less than by living for
it. '*I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men
unto me," says the Master (St. Jn. 12:32), and the subjects
of the Kingdom, like their King, must extend the Kingdom by
similar means. Goodness, indeed, is contagious as well as evil,
and that which will most quickly fan into flame the slumbering
spark of divinity latent within every man, is the example of self-
sacrifice and the personal embodiment of truth. The type of
character, therefore, developed within the Kingdom of God is
in itself the most effective agency in the extension of the King-
dom. Because the character of the subject is of the highest



The Subjects of the Kingdom 97

attractiveness and beauty, men are drawn toward the King-
dom. As Tennyson declares: "We needs must love the highest
when we see it." The law is apparently inwrought in human
nature.

The marvelous effectiveness of this character as a mission-
ary agency is seen in the homage paid to Jesus among all peo-
ples.^ Not only is the effectiveness of this character evidenced,
howTver, in the Person of the Kingdom's Founder, it is also
manifest in the wondrous triumphs won in the first three centu-
ries of Christianity's existence. These were won in the face
of a bitterly hostile world, which vented its wrath and opposi-
tion in the most untiring persecutions, which were continued
for several centuries, until the alliance of Church and State.
Beginning with the first persecution of the Christians in Jerusa-
lem, when the brilliant Stephen was sacrificed to the implacable
hatred of bigoted Jews, until the close of the last Imperial
persecution, what weapons could the subjects of the Kingdom
wield against their bitter foes? None save the sublime appeal
of truth and of self-sacrifice — more irresistible than all the
weapons of human ingenuity. They could not use the weapons
of a carnal warfare. The Master had said: "My Kingdom is
not of this world; if my Kingdom were of this world, then
would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the
Jews: but now is my Kingdom not from hence" (St. Jn.
18:36). The world, indeed, has acknowledged the pow^r of
this weapon in the saying: "The blood of the martyrs is the
seed of the Church." ^

^ While nations have their heroes who receive the plaudits of their
countrymen, and even a single nation may furnish a hero to the
world whose fame outgrows national or even racial limitations, there
is only One whose name is above every name and who receives the
homage of all men, irrespective of clime, or race, or age. This
exalted position is accorded the Galilean Peasant, at least by
thoughtful minds, chiefly because of the simplicity and the beauty
of His life of love and service — a Hfe crowned and adorned with
the cruel Cross of Calvary. The sublimity of His Life and Death
has ever riveted the attention of men, and prompted their glad
acclaim— "My Lord and My God."

'We are not amazed, then, to find Tertullian, about 220 A. D.,
testifying to the widespread diffusion of Christianity, or extension
of the Kingdom. After making every allowance for rhetorical effect
and the enthusiasm of the advocate, there is a large element of
truth in the passage: "For whom have the nations believed—



98 Jesus' Idea

That Jesus was justified then in the selection of these
weapons, the testimony of ages attests. Men and women were
to be brought to the obedience of God through the proclama-
tion of truth in word and deed, and by the power of self-
sacrifice. In turn, they were to become the Light of the World,
and the Salt of the Earth. Truth, indeed, is Light, and Love
is Salt. In the Kingdom of God, then, the sole forces on the
human side are the compelling power of truth, and the appeal-
ing power of love. By these means alone is the Kingdom of
God, which had been wrecked by Adam (humanly speaking),
to be launched by Jesus, the Second Adam, and brought to the
haven of God's conscious, willing and loving obedience.

We now see how much more comprehensive and spiritual
are the Kingdom and its subjects in the view of Jesus than in
the thought of even the inspired prophets. Yet His view had
its roots in the past. There was a continuity of thought and
purpose. These words of St. Peter, for instance, are singu-
larly reminiscent of those which describe the ancient covenant
of Israel to which reference has been made. **Ye also, as lively
stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer
up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. . . .
Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him
who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:

Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and they who inhabit Mesopotamia,
Armenia, Phrygia, Cappadocia, and they who dwell in Pontus, and
Asia, and Pamphylia, tarriers in Egypt, and inhabiters of the regions
of Africa which is beyond Cyrene, Romans, and sojourners, yes,
and in Jerusalem, Jews and all other nations, as for instance by this
time, the varied races of the Gaetulians, and manifold confines of
the Moors, all the limits of Spain, and the diverse nations of the
Gauls, and the haunts of the Britons (inaccessible to the Romans,
but subjugated to Christ), and of the Sarmatians, and Dacians, and
Germans, and Scythians, and of many remote nations, in^ all of
which places the name of Christ who is already come, reigns as
of him before whom the gates of all cities have been opened." Nor
were the Kingdom's weapons of Truth and Self-sacrifice of avail
only in reaching one or two classes, for Tertullian again testifies
to the diversified character of the Kingdom's subjects: "The outcry
is that the State is filled with Christians, that they are in the fields,
in the citadels, in the islands ; they make lamentation as for some
calamity, that both sexes, every age and condition, even high rank
are passing over to the profession of the Christian faith."



The Subjects of the Kingdom 99

which in time past were not a people, but are now the people
of God" (St. Pet. 2: 5, 9, 10). The Subjects of the Kingdom,
indeed, as well as the Chosen People, were destined to be a Holy
Nation — a Kingdom of Priests.

We cannot leave this subject without cursory reference to
the question of rank in the Kingdom of God. The Jewish mind,
vitiated by materialistic tendencies, pictured a temporal King,
and an earthly court with courtiers of every kind and degree.
The Kingdom of God was simply a Kingdom of the world much
magnified. In contrast to the gradations of court-life, with
their accompanying conventionality, artificiality, and insincerity,
Jesus demanded of his courtiers the simplicity and guilelessness
of childhood.^ Such abstract teaching as this, however, was
not sufficient to overcome the inveterate ideas and expectations
of the disciples. More concrete illustration was demanded.
Old ideas die hard. Hence we read of that singular interview
of James and John with Jesus as they seek high place in the
Kingdom.^

^ "And he came to Capernaum : and being in the house, he asked
them, What is it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?
But they held their peace : for by the way they had disputed among
themselves who should be the greatest. And he sat down and called
the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be the first, the
same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child
and set him in the midst of them" (St. Mk. 9:33-35).

^ "And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him,
saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever
we desire. And he said unto them. What would ye that I should do
for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one
on thy right hand, and the other on thy left, in thy glory. But Jesus
said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask : can ye drink of the cup
that I drink of ? and be baptized with the baptism that I am bap-
tized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said
unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of ; and
with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized :
But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is.FiOt mine to
give : but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. And
when the ten heard it they began to be much displeased with James
and John. But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them. Ye
know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exer-
cise lordship over them ; and their great ones exercise authority
upon them. But not so shall it be among you : but whosoever will
be great among you, shall be your minister : And whosoever of you
will be the chiefest, shall be the servant of all. For even the Son of
Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give






loo Jesns' Idea

The Kingdom itself, however, is infinitely more than posi-
tion, honor and adulation. Lobbying, too, as we see from this
incident, is never successful in the Kingdom, although it is
often very successful in the Christian Church. In the King-
dom, indeed, the most stringent Civil Service prevails. The
position always corresponds absolutely to the personal fitness
for the position. There are no misfits. There is no officialdom.
Sycophancy and nepotism have no portion there. On the God-
ward side, indeed, the Kingdom is an absolute Monarchy; on
the Manward side, it is the purest of Republics ; it is the essence
of democracy, and its highest positions are open to all its sub-
jects alike, and are gained alone through service and merit.

To emphasize the lofty character of service in the Kingdom
of God, Jesus washed the feet of the disciples at the Passover
Supper. Resuming His seat. His words indicate the significance
of the act.^ This indeed is a splendid lesson in humility. To
regard the Master's action as the institution of a rite which
is obligatory upon all Christians is, of course, to pervert the
meaning of the act. The principle is infinitely more impor-
tant than the action itself, and the principle established is that
of greatness through service; the idea, that greatness is not
inconsistent with the lowliest service.

"Wouldst thou the holy hill ascend
And see the Father's face
To all His children lowly bend
And seek the lowest place.

his life a ransom for many" (St. Mk. 10:35-45). The import of
this passage is apparent.

St. Matthew gives substantially the same interview, with one
difference, however. It is the mother of Zebedee's children who
comes with her sons and desires high position in the Kingdom (St.
Mt. 20:20-28). She is thus the first of many mothers who desire
preferment for their sons, and ignore the salient fact that prefer-
ment in the Kingdom of God comes only through a life of lowly
service, and by drinking the cup of bitterness and sorrow, which is
the portion of every prophet of the Living God.

^ "Ye call me Master and Lord : and ye say well ; for so I am.
If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also
ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example,
that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, Verily, I say
unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that
is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things,
happy are ye if ye do them" (St. Jn. 13:13-17).



The Subjects of the Kingdom loi

Thus humbly doing on the earth

What things the earthly scorn,
Thou shalt assert the lofty birth

Of all the lowly born."

Ambition, Indeed, unless it is the desire to become great
through service of mankind, is a mark of littleness. It is
simply selfishness which would use others for personal ends.
And selfishness is the opposite of the Kingdom of God.

To illustrate further how selfishness defeats its own ends,
and to warn against it, Jesus spoke the very suggestive Parable
of the Laborers in the Vineyard (St. Mt. 19: 27 and 20: 1-16).
Saint Peter expected great things because he had forsaken all
and followed Jesus. With quick incisiveness we hear this para-
ble with its keen rebuke of St. Peter's self-seeking, and its
unmistakable warning in the words: "So the last shall be first,
and the first last, for many be called but few chosen." The
great lesson of the parable is this. The Kingdom of God in the
reward given to its subjects for service so far transcends the



Online LibraryFordyce Hubbard ArgoJesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus → online text (page 9 of 27)