Wilfrid John Richmond.

The Gospel of the rejection : a study in the relation of the Fourth Gospel to the three online

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intent ye may believe." It is difficult to
resist the conclusion that the deliberate
delay, when " He abode two days in the
place where He was" after He heard that
Lazarus was sick, was intended to enhance
the manifestation of the life-giving power,
and that the miracle was intended to be
a final challenge, a final vindication of the
life-giving power. But it is notable, in this
connection, that there is no special assertion
of the Divine claim in connection with the
miracle. It is a final manifestation of the
life-giving power, in which indeed the
Divine claim was involved, but from which
it only emerges into separate prominence
when the life-giving power itself is con-
troverted. On the theory we are disputing
as to the view of miracles in this Gospel,
such emphasis of the Divine claim would
seem to be demanded in connection with
this miracle above all. As it is the miracle
is done 1 "for the glory of God, that the
Son of God may be glorified thereby," and
Martha before the miracle professes that

1 St John xi. 4.


she "has believed that He is the Christ
the Son of God," but there is no fresh
utterance parallel with " My Father worketh
hitherto and I work ; " " Before Abraham
was I am ; " "I and My Father are one."
Instead, there is the great utterance of the
life-giving power, " I am the Resurrection
and the Life." And in the light of this
utterance it is impossible to maintain that
the result, the belief of "the Jews which
came to Mary and beheld that which He
did," was produced by a mere wonderful
manifestation of power, apart from the
spiritual significance of the work. The
other result, the carrying of the news to
the Pharisees, raises the question for them, 1
" What do we ? for this man doeth many
signs. If we let Him thus alone, all men
will believe on Him : and the Romans will
come and take away both our place and
nation." Here the belief, to which they
fear the signs will lead, is the belief which
would_Jead to our Lord bei ng accepteH' as
a political leader the kind of belief which

1 St John xi. 47.


had led the Galileans to wish to come and
take him by force to make Him king not
the belief which recognised His own higher
Divine claim. The two multitudes who
escorted Him and met Him on His way
into Jerusalem, those who were with Him
when He had called Lazarus out of the
tomb, and those who had heard that
He had done this sign, greeted Him
accordingly as the " King of Israel," and
our Lord accepted their homage without
distinguishing between the few who had
in any measure entered into the spirit of
the kingdom, and the many who looked
only for a great political leader of the

(/) In the final summary of the rejection
the Evangelist says, 1 "Though He had
done so many signs before them, yet they
believed not on Him," and the want of
belief is attributed to the hardening of the
heart, a phrase which cfescTlUe's the moral
obliquity of vision, the spiritual blindness,
that prevented them from discerning the

1 St John xii. 37.


moral and spiritual significance of the

(m) Our Lords knowledge of the hearts
and minds of men and of the future
course of events has been represented as
a markedly miraculous element in the story
of this Gospel. If the suggestion means that
He is represented as having knowledge _such
as could be attained by perfect humanity,
with jtliat DlvmeT eln^werment ana inspira-
tion of its faculties which belonged to the
true ideal of humanity as manifest in Him,
it i<T plainly true that this Tdnd of knowledge
is displayed and dwelt upon in a greater
degree in this Gospel. But the difference
is only one of degree, and the degree of
difference is not greater than is accounted
for by the aim of the Gospel the manifes-
tation of the life-giving Christ as the Son
of God. If the suggestion is that the
knowledge shown by our Lord is repre-
sented as Divine in any sense beyond this,
such a view might be imposed on the
story, but it does not fairly arise out of
the story. There are no instances which



demand this interpretation. As we attain
to fuller knowledge, it would appear that
we shall more and more view all our
Lord's miraculous activity from this point
of view. 1 It will not therefore be less
miraculous. It is towards such a view of
the miraculous that the word "works,"
St John's characteristic name for miracles,
tends to direct our minds.

1 " Christ's humanity is in the New Testament regarded
as normal, in the sense that everything that belonged to
His manhood is to belong to ours, in and through Him.
He is regarded as setting the standard of what humanity
in the purpose of God is, through Him, capable of becoming ;
but as compared to humanity as we find it at present among
ourselves His humanity is supranormal." The Bishop of
Birmingham allows me to make this quotation from an un-
published paper.


i. Do the two Pictures harmonise ?

WHEN we have been considering the various
contrasts between St John's Gospel and the
Three, the question very naturally arises
whether the general picture of our Lord
in St John harmonises with the picture of
the Galilean Gospels. And on this question
some light is thrown by the difference of
purpose between the two stories on which
we have been dwelling.

The question is not very easy to answer,
partly because it is not very easy to ask.
The question is not whether, if we had *
St John's Gospel alone, it would leave us
with the same picture as if we had the



Galilean Gospels without the Fourth. It
is not a question of identity. It is a
question of harmony between the pictures
presented by stories written from professedly
different points of view. Is there such a
harmony between the two ? Plainly with
the Three the human character is more
prominent, in St John the Divine Com-
munion. 1 Are we to say that in St John
the Divine obscures the human ; or, by a
fusion in the mind of the writer who
penetrates below the surface and brings
into prominence elements in the character
present, though less obvious, in the earlier
story, has the Divine become human and
the human Divine ? Are we right in saying
that we miss in St John the simplicity, the
naturalness, of the display of sympathy and
pity and patience and humility, and that the
traditional acceptance of the equal authority
of the four Gospels has led us to imagine
that we can combine into one what are
really incompatible presentations ?

What does the view we have taken of

1 Drummond, p. 15.


St John suggest as to the causes of the
difference in his picture?

2. First Cause of the Difference in St Johns
Picture his own Personality.

First among these causes comes the

character and mind of the person whose

i I r r .

impression the Gospel gives to us. It is

one secret of the value of the different
Gospels that they <>'ive us the impression


made by our Lord on various types of

/ j r

mind, and we should say that on the face


of it the writer of theJFpurth Gospel is a
far more marked personality than*tKe"wnters
of tHe other Three. This is in part due
to the possession of his whole mind and
character by the subject of his story. He
reflects that which he pictures. But this
again, in its turn, is due to some natural
kinship between his own mind and the
aspect of the story which he presents. It
is impossible to marshal the evidence for
and against the view that the personality of
the writer plays a large part in determining


the character of the picture. We can only
say, ' and appeal to any reader of the
Gospel to allow, that the impression of the
individuality of the author is strong. He
is not like other men. He is a strange,
unearthly soul. Like St Paul, we could
imagine him to have been caught up into
the third heaven, and to have heard things
unspeakable, and ever after to have carried
about with him the inspiration of the high
air that he had breathed. He looks to
the eternal significance of the things that
are seen. His spirit dwells in the eternal
world. To him the present is the eternal.
On the other hand, he has a natural gift
for intimacy, for a sympathy that goes
below the surface, and that by the insight
of sympathy reads motives and meanings.
The body of things is to him informed
and penetrated through and through by
their soul. His senses are spiritual, and
his pictures of the scenes in which he
lived glow with the delight of moments of
rare spiritual communion, in which every
detail as it is remembered seems illumined


by a light from within a light that belongs
to its very self, to the experience which,
because it is transfused with the light of j
this vision, lives in his mind as though it \
were present still. Above all, it is a passion-
ate spirit. His facultiesare^quickcned into
full action by the still enthusiasm of devotion
which is the true expression of his nature,
the life in which his character is fully
manifested, in which he truly lives. Hence
there is given to him a realisation above
that of other men of the issues of Tufrhan
life, "of the glory to which men may rise,
of the horror of the deeds that they may
do. His judgments are most terrible, ,
because they are the judgments of the I
white light of love.

3. Second Cause his Purpose to Picture the
Rejection of the Son of God.

The second great cause of the difference
in St John's picture of our Lord is the
aspect under which he presents Him, as
the rejected Son of God, as manifesting


His Divinity under the pressure of the
rejection of the offer of Eternal Life. On
this we have dwelt sufficiently in what goes
before. There must be an almost infinite
difference between the picture of a Christ
who is accepted, and the picture of a Christ
who is rejected. Add to this that the fact
of the rejection tended to bring into clear
and awful contrast the character and nature
of Him who was rejected, His revelation
of the Eternal Father, and His own Eternal
Being. Add to this, again, that the whole
drama is seen as reflected in the souroHolie,
who, alone among the Evangelists declaring
that which he had seen with his eyes, had
himself met the offer of Eternal Life with the
awed and loving acceptance of a spinTThat
entered into the very spirit of the gift. Add
to this, again, that he is one. who through
a long life had lived not onlyinthe memory
of the giving but in the experience of the
fruition of tne gill, to "wnomthe present
spiritual "eSffleTflHTCe had become a part of
the memory, and the memory a" part <>1
the~~present spiritual experience. We have


here considerations which go a very long
way to account for the uniqueness of the
picture, not to mitigate the contrast between
the two stories, but to account for it however
great it may be.

4. The Galilean Picture gives (i) the First
Appeal of Christ to Man in the World.

If we turn to the picture of the Galilean
Gospels, we may put first some considera-
tions which tend further to account for the
contrast. The purpose of these Gospels was
to record the beginning of the Gospel. And
the story they tell is the story of how our
Lord formed in the first members of His
Fellowship the character which would fit
them for the gift they were to receive.
They present the Gospel accordingly in its
first contrast with the worldly spirit from
which they were to be weaned. There is
a very obvious reason why this picture of
our Lord, presenting His Gospel in its
contrast with the spirit of the world, should
always powerfully appeal to us. The world


is with us still. The spirit of Christ and
the spirit of the world hold over us a divided
dominion. The Galilean Gospels present
the Christ as He appealed to those to whose
spiritual position our own far too nearly
corresponds. Their spiritual situation is one
with which we are more familiar. We are
more at home with the Christ who made
His appeal to it. There is no such thing
to be found by man as an abstract and
absolutely true picture of any personality.
This is not the nature of truth. There is
only to be gained by us or by any one the
picture of the personality as it presents itself
to the degree and kind of apprehension
which men bring to it. We bring to the
apprehension of the Personality of Christ
far more readily the kind and degree of
apprehension from which in His Galilean
Ministry He was leading His disciples on.
And, even apart from any question of our
instinctive sympathy and preference, the
Galilean Gospels do present this historical
moment in the growth of the apprehension
of Christ, the first contrast between the


spirit of Christ and the spirit of worldly
interests, of worldly religion, and worldly

5. (2) The Human Perfection of Christ.

Again the Galilean Gospels presents us
with the first naive recognition of the
charm and power of our Lord's human
perfection. From this we are to rise to the
knowledge in Him of the Divine. But as
the ascent is made the Human is transfused
with the Divine, glorified and transfigured
beyond the recognition of those who still
stand upon the lower steps from which
the ascent is to be made. The glorified
Humanity is not less but more truly Human,
but it is less familiar to our own appre-
hension. The beginning is easier to under-
stand than the end, except to those who
shall have reached the end.


6. But the Galilean Gospels show the
Hidden Glory.

But, on the other hand, the picture of
our Lord in the Galilean Gospels has in
it elements which suggest something behind
and beyond. Every now and then there
breaks in upon the simple story the sense
of a grandeur, a fear, a mystery. Behind
the Christ who heals the sick and teaches
in parables, there is the Christ who goes
apart into the wilderness to pray, who
comes back saying, "It is I, be not
afraid ; " the Christ of the Transfiguration,
to whom they say, as in a new and other
world, " Lord, it is good for us to be here ; "
the Christ who breaks in upon their peace
with the predictions of the Passion, and the
revelation of a mysterious task of patience
and love, a baptism with which He has to
be baptized, and He is straitened till it
be accomplished ; the Christ of the Agony,
who strives in familiar spiritual communion
with the Eternal Father : He is in an


alien atmosphere even among His own,
" How long shall I be with you, how long
shall f surter XQU?" and when He thanks
the Father because He has hid these
things from the wise and prudent, and has
revealecT them unto babes, tie ^speaks of
a communion with the Father which is the
hidden reality of all this passing scene,
" All things have been delivered unto Me
of My Father, and no one knoweth the
Son save the Father, neither doth any
know the Father save the Son, and He to
whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal
Him." There is a Christ within the Christ
in the Galilean <jospels,

dimly felt in these^^e^eaje^onl^.ni > St
John, though even there we are reminded
Jesus was not yet glorified," and

St John himself watches the revelation of
the mystery reverently, and as from afar,
as though already and always he had
heard Him saying, "Touch Me not."


7. And in Si John we have not lost the
Christ of Galilee.

And in St John, on the other hand, the
Christ^ ot the Galilean ' uospels has by no
means disappeared from view. In scene
after s^efte 1 He is present still. He is
seen no longer with Galilean eyes, but we
can imagine the stories of the turning of
the water into wine, of the sitting by the
well at Sychar, of the healing of the im-
potent man at the pool, of the man born
blind, of the raising of Lazarus, as they


would have been told by the Three, the


same events, and those just such events
as they did tell, with less eager absorption
of significant details, with less devoted im-
print on the memory of a look or of a
word, less radiant with the glory that shone
through them. But we are face to face in
St John with the same or even greater
tenderness and sympathy there is nothing


in the Three to parallel the sheer humanity
of the feeling and the repression of feeling
in the story of Lazarus ; we are face to face
with a humility more amazing because of

^^MMi^* ^^Hi.^"** g "IffT** ** ll T^ i

its majesty, ana witn a simplicity in the
direct appeal of love, which shines through
the dark cloud of the rejection in the very
unveiling of the Eternal Light.

8. He makes the Eternal Love a Fact.

For it is not that St John's Gospel takes
us away from the world of fact into a world
of ideas, or away from the world of fact into
the region of Eternal Truth. Rather the


Truth, which in the Galilean Gospels is

1 ^^ ***^f* s>< *^ ii '' ||| '** ->-| * < '' <| ^"* i * < i*' i- ' """"V*** 1 "** ******** I ' I ^^**IP*'*'*/~
the underlying idea, nas become with St

John the present and immediate fact. The
Christ of St John is not less but more
the Christ of fact than the Christ of the
Galilean Gospels, because the Truth presented
as fact in Jerusalem is more vivid and more
intimate and more universal in its appeal.
The fusion of the picture of the Three


with the picture of St John is not effected
by our going to Galilean Gospels for the
actual Christ, and then letting St John
breathe into the picture the spirit of the
ideal and the Eternal. Even if St John's
Gospel stood alone, the Christ of St John
would stand before us as the Christ of


fact. Not merely is it tfie purpose of the
Evangelist that He should do so " He
dwelt among us and we beheld His glory."
Not merely does He stand as a Living
Person in a real world, who says : " Take
these things hence," or, " Go call thy
husband," or, "Arise, take up thy bed, and
walk," or, 'J'GoTand sin no more," or,
"Where have ye laid Him?" He brings
into the region of fact the great Eternities.
He' who says: "Before Abraham was I
am," stands as a living man upon the
earth. The Eternal Love of God is
manifest in fact, in our world of sin and
struggle and need in Him who says, "My
sheep hear My voice, and I know them,
and they follow Me, and I give unto them
Eternal Life, and no one shall snatch them


out of My hand. My Father, which hath
given them unto Me, is greater than all,
and no one is able to snatch them out of
the Father's hand. I and the Father are

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Online LibraryWilfrid John RichmondThe Gospel of the rejection : a study in the relation of the Fourth Gospel to the three → online text (page 8 of 8)