Chapter 26 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 28
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE ASCENT: FROM THE RIVER JORDAN TO THE MOUNT OF
SECOND VISIT TO NAZARETH
THE MISSION OF THE TWELVE
(St. Matthew 13:54-58, 10:1,5-42, 11:1; St.
Mark 6:1-13; St. Luke 9:1-6.)
It almost seems, as if the departure of Jesus from Capernaum
marked a crisis in the history of that town. From henceforth it ceases to be
the center of His activity, and is only occasionally, and in passing, visited.
Indeed, the concentration and growing power of Pharisaic opposition, and the
proximity of Herod's residence at Tiberias1
would have rendered a permanent stay there impossible at this stage in our
Lord's history. Henceforth, His Life is, indeed, not purely missionary, but He
has no certain dwelling-place: in the sublime pathos of His own language, 'He
hath not where to lay His Head.'
1. Although in Ber. R. 23 the origin of that name is rightly traced to the Emperor Tiberius, it is characteristic that the Talmud tries otherwise to derive the name of what afterwards was the sacred capital of Palestinian Rabbinism, some explaining that it lay in the navel (tibura) of the land, others paraphrasing the name 'because the view was good' (Meg. 6 a). Rabbinic
ingenuity declared it one of the cities fortified since the time of Joshua, so as to give it the privileges attaching to such.
The notice in St. Mark's Gospel,2
that His disciples followed Him, seems to connect the arrival of Jesus in 'His
own country' (at Nazareth) with the departure from the house of Jairus, into
which He had allowed only three of His Apostles to accompany Him. The
circumstances of the present visit, as well as the tone of His countrymen at
this time, are entirely different from what is recorded of His former sojourn
The tenacious narrowness, and the prejudices, so characteristic of such a town,
with its cliques and petty family-pride, all the more self-asserting that the
gradation would be almost imperceptible to an outsider, are, of course, the
same as on the former visit of Jesus. Nazareth would have ceased to be
Nazareth, had its people felt or spoken otherwise than nine or ten months
before. That His fame had so grown in the interval, would only stimulate the
conceit of the village-town to try, as it were, to construct the great Prophet
out of its own building materials, with this additional gratification that He
was thoroughly their own, and that they possessed even better materials in
their Nazareth. All this is so quite according to life, that the substantial
repetition of the former scene in the Synagogue, so far from surprising us,
seems only natural. What surprises us is, what He marvelled at: the unbelief of
Nazareth, which lay at the foundation of its estimate and treatment of Jesus.
2. St. Mark vi. 1.
3. St. Luke iv. 16-31.
4. Compare Chapters X. and XI.
Upon their own showing their unbelief was most unwarrantable.
If ever men had the means of testing the claims of Jesus, the Nazarenes
possessed them. True, they were ignorant of the miraculous event of His
Incarnation; and we can now perceive at least one of the reasons for the
mystery, which was allowed to enwrap it, as well as the higher purpose in
Divine Providence of His being born, not in Nazareth, but in Bethlehem of
Judæa, and of the interval of time between that Birth and the return of His
parents from Egypt to Nazareth. Apart from prophecy, it was needful for
Nazareth that Christ should have been born in Bethlehem, otherwise the 'mystery
of His Incarnation' must have become known. And yet it could not have been made
known, alike for the sake of those most nearly concerned, and for that of those
who, at that period of His History, could not have understood it; to whom,
indeed, it would have been an absolute hindrance to belief in Him. And He could
not have returned to Bethlehem, where He was born, to be brought up there,
without calling attention to the miracle of His Birth. If, therefore, for
reasons easily comprehended, the mystery of His Incarnation was not to be
divulged, it was needful that the Incarnate of Nazareth should be born at
Bethlehem, and the Infant of Bethlehem be brought up at Nazareth.
By thus withdrawing Him successively from one and the other
place, there was really none on earth who knew of His miraculous Birth, except
the Virgin-Mother, Joseph, Elizabeth, and probably Zacharias. The vision and
guidance vouchsafed to the shepherds on that December night did not really
disclose the mystery of His Incarnation. Remembering their religious nations,
it would not leave on them quite the same impression as on us. It might mean
much, or it might mean little, in the present: time would tell. In those lands
the sand buries quickly and buries deep - preserving, indeed, but also hiding
what it covers. And the sands of thirty years had buried the tale which the shepherds
had brought; the wise men from the East had returned another way; the
excitement which their arrival in Jerusalem and its object had caused, was long
forgotten. Messianic expectations and movements were of constant recurrence:
the religious atmosphere seemed charged with such elements; and the political
changes and events of the day were too engrossing to allow of much attention to
an isolated report, which, after all, might mean little, and which certainly
was of the long past. To keep up attention, there must be communication; and
that was precisely what was wanting in this instance. The reign of Herod was
tarnished by many suspicious and murders such as those of Bethlehem. Then
intervened the death of Herod, - while the carrying of Jesus into Egypt and His
non-return to Bethlehem formed a complete break in the continuity of His
History. Between obscure Bethlehem in the far south, and obscure Nazareth in
the far north, there was no communication such as between towns in our own
land, and they who had sought the Child's life, as well as they who might have
worshipped Him, must have been dead. The aged parents of the Baptist cannot
have survived the thirty years which lay between the Birth of Christ and the
commencement of His Ministry. We have already seen reason for supposing that
Joseph had died before. None, therefore, knew all except the Virgin-Mother; and
she would hide it the deeper in her heart, the more years passed, and she
increasingly felt, as they passed, that, both in His early obscurity and in His
later manifestation, she could not penetrate into the real meaning of that
mystery, with which she was so closely connected. She could not understand it;
how dared she speak of it? She could not understand; nay, we can almost
perceive, how she might even misunderstand - not the fact, but the meaning and
the purport of what had passed.
But in Nazareth they knew nothing of all this; and of Him only
as that Infant Whom His parents, Joseph the carpenter and Mary, had brought
with them months after they had first left Nazareth. Jewish law and custom made
it possible, that they might have been married long before. And now they only
knew of this humble family, that they lived in retirement, and that sons and
daughters had grown around their humble board. Of Jesus, indeed, they must have
heard that He was not like others around - so quite different in all ways, as
He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. Then came that
strange tarrying behind on His first visit to Jerusalem, when His parents had
to return to seek, and at last found Him in the temple. This, also was only
strange, though perhaps not strange in a child such as Jesus; and of His own
explanation of it, so full of deepest meaning, they might not have heard. If we
may draw probable, though not certain, inferences, after that only these three
outward circumstances in the history of the family might have been generally
noticed: that Jesus followed the occupation of His adoptive father;5
that Joseph had died; and that the mother and 'brethren' of Jesus had left
Nazareth,6 while His
'sisters' apparently continued there, being probably married to Nazarenes.7
5. St. Mark vi. 3.
6. They seem to have settled in Capernaum, having followed Jesus to that place on His
first removal to it. We can readily understand, that their continuance in
Nazareth would have been difficult. The death of Joseph is implied in his not being mentioned in the later history of Jesus.
7. St. Mark vi. 3.
When Jesus had first left Nazareth to seek Baptism at the hands
of John, it could scarcely have attracted much attention. Not only did 'the
whole world' go after the Baptist, but, considering what was known of Jesus,
His absence from, not His presence at the banks of Jordan, would have surprised
the Nazarenes. Then came vague reports of His early doings, and, what probably
His countrymen would much more appreciate, the accounts which the Galileans
brought back from the Feast of what Jesus had done at Jerusalem. His fame had
preceded Him on that memorable Sabbath, when all Nazareth had thronged the
Synagogue, curious to hear what the Child of Nazareth would have to say, and
still more eager to see what He could do. Of the charm of His words there could
be no question. Both what He said and how He said it, was quite other that what
they had ever listened to. The difference was not in degree, but in kind: He
spoke to them of the Kingdom; yet not as for Israel's glory, but for
unspeakable comfort in the soul's deepest need. It was truly wonderful, and
that not abstractly, but as on the part of 'Joseph's Son.' That was all they
perceived. Of that which they had most come to see there was, and could be, no
manifestation, so long as they measured the Prophet by His outward antecedents,
forgetful that it was inward kinship of faith, which connected Him that brought
the blessing with those who received it.
But this seeming assumption of superiority on the part of
Joseph's Son was quite too much for the better classes of Nazareth. It was
intolerable, that He should not only claim equality with an Elijah or an
Elisha, but place them, the burghers of Nazareth, as it were, outside the pale
of Israel, below a heathen man or woman. And so, if He had not, without the
show of it, proved the authority and power He possessed, they would have cast
Him headlong over the ledge of the hill of their insulted town. And now He had
come back to them, after nine or ten months, in totally different
circumstances. No one could any longer question His claims, whether for good or
for evil. As on the Sabbath He stood up once more in that Synagogue to teach,
they were astonished. The rumour must have spread that, notwithstanding all,
His own kin - probably His 'sisters,' whom He might have been supposed by many
to have come to visit - did not own and honour Him as a Prophet. Or else, had
they of His own house purposely spread it, so as not to be involved in His
Fate? But the astonishment with which they heard Him on that Sabbath was that
of unbelief. The cause was so apparently inadequate to the effect! They knew
His supposed parentage and His brothers; His sisters were still with them; and
for these many years had they known Him as the carpenter, the son of the
carpenter. Whence, then, had 'this One,' 'these things,' 'and what the wisdom
which' was 'given to this One' - and 'these mighty works done by His Hands?'8
8 St. Mark vi. 2.
It was, indeed, more than a difficulty - an impossibility - to
account for it on their principles. There could be no delusion, no collusion,
no deception. In our modern cant-phraseology, theirs might have been designated
Agnosticism and philosophic doubt. But philosophic it certainly was not, any
more than much that now passes, because it bears that name; at least, if,
according to modern negative criticism, the inexplicable is also the
unthinkable. Nor was it really doubt or Agnosticism, any more than much that
now covers itself with that garb. It was, what Christ designated it - unbelief,
since the questions would have been easily answered - indeed, never have arisen
- had they believed that He was the Christ. And the same alternative still
holds true. If 'this One' is what negative criticism declares Him, which is all
that it can know of Him by the outside: the Son of Mary, the Carpenter and Son
of the carpenter of Nazareth, Whose family occupied the humblest position among
Galileans - then whence this wisdom which, say of it what you will, underlies
all modern thinking, and these mighty works, which have moulded all modern
history? Whence - if He be only what you can see by the outside, and yet His be
such wisdom, and such mighty deeds have been wrought by His Hands? Is He only
what you say and see, seeing that such results are noways explicable on such
principles; or is He not much more than this - even the Christ of God?
'And He marvelled because of their unbelief.' In view of their
own reasoning it was most unreasonable. And equally unreasonable is modern
unbelief. For, the more strongly negative criticism asserts its position as to
the Person of Jesus, the more unaccountable are His Teaching and the results of
In such circumstances as at Nazareth, nothing could be done by
a Christ, in contradistinction to a miracle-monger. It would have been
impossible to have finally given up His own town of Nazareth without one
further appeal and one further opportunity of repentance. As He had begun, so
He closed this part of His Galilean Ministry, by preaching in His own Synagogue
of Nazareth. Save in the case of a few who were receptive, on whom He laid His
Hands for healing, His visit passed away without such 'mighty works' as the
Nazarenes had heard of. He will not return again to Nazareth. Henceforth He
will make commencement of sending forth His disciples, partly to disarm
prejudices of a personal character, partly to spread the Gospel-tiding farther
and wider than he alone could have carried them. For His Heart compassionated
the many who were ignorant and out of the way. And the harvest was near, and
the harvesting was great, and it was His Harvest, into which He would send
For, although, in all likelihood, the words, from which
quotation has just been made,9
were spoken at a later time,10
they are so entirely in the spirit of the present Mission of the Twelve, that
they, or words to a similar effect, may also have been uttered on the present
occasion. Of such seeming repetitions, when the circumstances were analogous,
although sometimes with different application of the same many-sided words,
there are not a few instances, of which one will presently come under notice.11
Truly those to whom the Twelve were sent forth were 'troubled'12
as well as 'scattered,' like sheep that have not a Shepherd, and it was to
deliver them from the 'distress' caused by 'grievous wolves,' and to gather
into His fold those that had been scattered abroad, that Jesus sent forth the
Twelve with the special commission to which attention will now be directed.
Viewing it in its fullest form,13
it is to be noted: -
9. St. Matt. ix. 36-38.
10. St. Luke x. 2.
11. Comp. St. Matt. x. 26 with St. Luke xii. 1, 2.
12. So in St. Matt. ix. 36.
13. St. Matt. x. 5 to the end.
First: That this Discourse of Christ consists of five
parts: vv. 5 to 15; vv. 16 to 23; vv. 24 to 33; vv. 34 to 39; vv. 40 to the
Secondly: That many passages in it occur in different
connections in the other two Synoptic Gospels, specially in St. Mark xiii. and
in St. Luke xii. and xxi. From this it may be inferred, either that Jesus spake
the same or similar words on more than one occasion (when the circumstances
were analogous), or else that St. Matthew grouped together into one Discourse,
as being internally connected, sayings that may have been spoken on different
occasions. Or else - and this seems to us the most likely - both these
inferences may in part be correct. For,
Thirdly: It is evident, that the Discourse reported by St.
Matthew goes far beyond that Mission of the Twelve, beyond even that of the
Early Church, indeed, sketches the history of the Church's Mission in a hostile
world, up 'to the end.' At the same time it is equally evident, that the
predictions, warnings, and promises applicable to a later period in the
Church's history, hold equally true in principle in reference to the first
Mission of the Twelve; and, conversely, that what specially applied to it, also
holds true in principle of the whole subsequent history of the Church in its
relation to a hostile world. Thus, what was specially spoken at this time to
the Twelve, has ever since, and rightly, been applied to the Church; while that
in it, which specially refers to the Church of the future, would in principle
apply also to the Twelve.
Fourthly: This distinction of primary and secondary application
in the different parts of the Discourse, and their union in the general
principles underlying them, has to be kept in view, if we are to understand
this Discourse of Christ. Hence, also, the present and the future seem in it so
often to run into each other. The horizon is gradually enlarging throughout the
Discourse, but there is no change in the standpoint originally occupied; and so
the present merges into the future, and the future mingles with the present.
And this, indeed, is also the characteristic of much of Old Testament prophecy,
and which made the prophet ever a preacher of the present, even while he was a
foreteller of the future.
Lastly: It is evidential of its authenticity, and deserves
special notice, that this Discourse, while so un-Jewish in spirit, is more than
any other, even more than that on the Mount, Jewish in its forms of thought and
modes of expression.
With the help of these principles, it will be more easy to mark
the general outline of this Discourse. Its first part14
applies entirely to this first Mission of the Twelve, although the closing
words point forward to 'the judgment.'15
Accordingly it has its parallels, although in briefer form, in the other two
14. St. Matt. x. 5-15.
15. ver. 15.
16. St. Mark vi. 7-11; St. Luke ix. 1-5.
1. The Twelve were to go forth two and two,17
furnished with authority18
- or, as St. Luke more fully expresses it, with 'power and authority' - alike over
all demons and to heal all manner of diseases. It is of secondary importance,
whether this was conveyed to them by word only, or with some sacramental sign,
such as breathing on them or the laying on of hands. The special commission,
for which they received such power, was to proclaim the near advent of the
Kingdom, and, in manifestation as well as in evidence of it, to heal the sick,
cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons.19
They were to speak good and to do good in the highest sense, and that in a manner
which all would feel good: freely, even as they had received it. Again, they
were not to make any special provision20
for their journey, beyond the absolute immediate present.21
They were but labourers, yet as such they had claim to support. Their Employer
would provide, and the field in which they worked might well be expected to
17. St. Mark vi. 7.
18. So also in St. Matthew and in St. Mark. But this 'authority' sprang from the power which he gave them.
19. Dean Plumptre remarks: 'The words ("raise the dead") are omitted by the best MSS.'
20. Weiss (Matth. Evang. p. 262) has the curious idea that the prohibitions about money,
&c., refer to their not making gain on their journey.
21. Sandals, but not shoes. As regards the marked difference about 'the staff,' Ebrard
(Evang. Gesch. p. 459) points out the agreement of thought in all the Gospels. Nothing was to be taken - they were to go as they stood, without preparation or provision. Sometimes there was a secret receptacle at the top of the staff to hold valuables, or, in the case of the poor, water (Kel. xvii. 16).
22. Comp. for this latter aspect 1 Tim. v. 18.
23. According to Jewish Law, 'the labourers' (the Myli(aiwop@, at least), would be secured their
food. Not so always, however, slaves (Gitt. 12 a). In general, the
Rabbinic Law of slavery is exceeding harsh - far more so than that of the
Pentateuch (comp. an abstract of the Laws of Slavery in Fassel,
Mos.-Rabb. Civil-Recht, vol. ii. pp. 393-406).
In accordance with this, singleness of purpose and an entire
self-denial, which should lead them not to make provision 'for the flesh,' but
as labourers to be content with daily food, were the further injunctions laid
on them. Before entering into a city, they were to make inquiry, literally to
'search out,' who in it was 'worthy,' and of them to ask hospitality; not
seeking during their stay a change for the gratification of vanity or for
self-indulgence. If the report on which they had made choice of a host proved
true, then the 'Peace with thee!' with which they had entered their temporary
home, would become a reality. Christ would make it such. As He had given them
'power and authority,' so He would 'honour' the draft on Him, in acknowledgment
of hospitable reception, which the Apostles' 'Peace with thee!' implied.
But even if the house should prove unworthy, the Lord would
none the less own the words of His messengers and make them real; only, in such
case the peace would return to them who had spoken it. Yet another case was
possible. The house to which their inquiries had led them, or the city into
which they had entered, might refuse to receive them, because they came as
Christ's ambassadors. Greater, indeed, would be their guilt than that of the
cities of the plain, since these had not known the character of the heavenly
guests to whom they refused reception; and more terrible would be their future
punishment. So Christ would vindicate their authority as well as His own, and
show the reality of their commission: on the one hand, by making their Word of
Peace a reality to those who had proved 'worthy;' and, on the other, by
punishment if their message was refused. Lastly, in their present Mission they
were not to touch either Gentile or Samaritan territory. The direction - so
different in spirit from what Jesus Himself had previously said and done, and
from their own later commission - was, of course, only 'for the present
For the present they were neither prepared nor fitted to go beyond the circuit
indicated. It would have been a fatal anticipation of their inner and outer
history to have attempted this, and it would have defeated the object of our Lord
of disarming prejudices when making a final appeal to the Jews of Galilee.
24. The direction is recorded by St. Matthew only. But St. Matt. xxviii. 19 would, if it were necessary, sufficiently prove that this is not a Judaistic limitation.
Even these considerations lead us to expect a strictly Jewish
cast in this Discourse to the Disciples. The command to abstain from any
religious fellowship with Gentiles and Samaritans was in temporary
accommodation to the prejudices of His disciples and of the Jews. And the
distinction between 'the way of the Gentiles' and 'any city of the Samaritans'
is the more significant, when we bear in mind that even the dust of a heathen
road was regarded as defiling,25
while the houses, springs, roads, and certain food of the Samaritans were
At the same time, religiously and as regarded fellowship, the Samaritans were
placed on the same footing with Gentiles.27
Nor would the injunction, to impart their message freely, sound strange in
Jewish ears. It was, in fact, what the Rabbis themselves most earnestly
enjoined in regard to the teaching of the Law and traditions, however different
their practice may have been.28
Indeed, the very argument, that they were to impart freely, because they had
received freely, is employed by the Rabbis, and derived from the language and
example of Moses in Deut. iv. 5.2930
Again, the directions about not taking staff, shoes, nor money-purse, exactly
correspond to the Rabbinic injunction not to enter the Temple-precincts with
(mark, not sandals), and a money-girdle.32
reasons underlying this command would, in both cases, be probably the same: to
avoid even the appearance of being engaged on other business, when the whole
being should be absorbed in the service of the Lord. At any rate, it would
convey to the disciples the idea, that they were to consider themselves as if
entering the Temple-precincts, thus carrying out the principle of Christ's
first thought in the Temple: 'Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's
business?'34 Nor could
they be in doubt what severity of final punishment a doom heavier than that of
Sodom and Gomorrah would imply, since, according to early tradition, their
inhabitants were to have no part in the world to come.35
And most impressive to a Jewish mind would be the symbolic injunction, to shake
off the dust of their feet for a testimony against such a house or city. The
expression, no doubt, indicated that the ban of the Lord was resting on it, and
the symbolic act would, as it were, be the solemn pronouncing that 'nought of
the cursed thing' clave to them.3637
In this sense, anything that clave to a person was metaphorically called 'the
dust,' as for example, 'the dust of an evil tongue,'38
'the dust of usury,' as, on the other hand, to 'dust to idolatry' meant to
cleave to it.39
Even the injunction not to change the dwelling, where one had been received,
was in accordance with Jewish views, the example of Abraham being quoted, who40
'returned to the place where his tent had been at the beginning.'4142
25. Sanh. 15 b; Ned. 53 b.
26. Jer. Abhod. Z 44 d.
27. Jer. Sheq. i. 5, p. 46 b.
28. Ab. i. 13.
29. Ab. iv. 5; Bekhor. 29 a.
30. At the same time the statement in Bekhor. 29 a, that 'if needful money was to be paid for the acquisition of learning,' according to Prov. xxiii. 23 ('by
the truth'), implies that the rule cannot always have been strictly observed.
31. The Manal (l(afn:ma) or shoe, in contradistinction to the Sandal
(ld@afn:sa), as in Jer. Shabb. 8 a.
32. Ber. ix. 5.
33. The Pundah (hdafn:w@p@), or Aphundah (hdafn:w@p)a). Comp. for ex. Jer. Shabb. 12 c.
34. St. Luke ii. 49.
35. Sanh. x. 3.
36. Deut. xiii. 17.
37. The explanations of this expression generally offered need not here be repeated.
38. Jer. Peah 16 a.
39. Sanh. 64 a.
40. According to Gen. xiii. 3.
41. Arach. 16 b, lines 12 and 11 from bottom.
42. So common, indeed, was this view as to have become proverbial. Thus, it was said concerning learned descendants of a learned man, that 'the Torah returned into
its Akhsanya (xenia),'
or hospice (Baba Mez. 85 a, bis, in the curious story about the successful attempts made to convert to study the dissolute son of a great Rabbi).
These remarks show how closely the Lord followed, in this first
part of His charge to the disciples,43
Jewish forms of thinking and modes of expression. It is not otherwise in the
the difference is here very marked. We have no longer merely the original
commission, as it is given in almost the same terms by St. Mark and St. Luke.
But the horizon is now enlarged, and St. Matthew reports that which the other
Evangelists record at a later stage of the Lord's Ministry. Whether or not when
the Lord charged His disciples on their first mission, He was led gradually to
enlarge the scope of His teaching so as to adapt it to all times, need not be
discussed. For St. Matthew himself could not have intended to confine the words
of Christ to this first journey of the Apostles, since they contain references
to division in families, persecutions, and conflict with the civil power,45
such as belong to a much later period in the history of the Church; and,
besides, contain also that prediction which could not have applied to this
first Mission of the Apostles, 'Ye shall not have gone over the cities of
Israel, till the Son of Man be come.'46
43. St. Matt. x. 1-15.
44. St. Matt. x. 16-23.
45. vv. 16-18.
46. ver. 23.
Without here anticipating the full inquiry into the promise of
His immediate Coming, it is important to avoid, even at this stage, any
possible misunderstanding on the point. The expectation of the Coming of 'the
Son of Man' was grounded on a prophecy of Daniel,47
in which that Advent, or rather manifestation, was associated with judgment.
The same is the case in this Charge of our Lord. The disciples in their work
are described 'as sheep in the midst of wolves,' a phrase which the Midrash48
applies to the position of Israel amidst a hostile world, adding: How great is
that Shepherd, Who delivers them, and vanquishes the wolves! Similarly, the
admonition to 'be wise as serpents and harmless as doves' is reproduced in the
Israel is described as harmless as the dove towards God, and wise as serpents
towards the hostile Gentile nations. Such and even greater would be the enmity
which the disciples, as the true Israel, would have to encounter from Israel
after the flesh. They would be handed over to the various Sanhedrin,50
and visited with such punishments as these tribunals had power to inflict.51
More than this, they would be brought before governors and kings - primarily,
the Roman governors and the Herodian princes.52
And so determined would be this persecution, as to break the ties of the
closest kinship, and to bring on them the hatred of all men.53
The only, but the all-sufficient, support in those terrible circumstances was
the assurance of such help from above, that, although unlearned and humble,
they need have no care, nor make preparation in their defence, which would be
given them from above. And with this they had the promise, that he who endured
to the end would be saved, and the prudential direction, so far as possible, to
avoid persecution by timely withdrawal, which could be the more readily
achieved, since they would not have completed their circuit of the cities of
Israel before the 'Son of Man be come.'
47. Dan. vii. 13.
48. On Esther viii. 2, ed. Warsh. p. 120 b.
49. On Cant. ii. 14.
50. The question of the constitution and jurisdiction of the various Sanhedrin will be
discussed in another place.
51. St. Matt. x. 17.
52. ver. 18.
53. vv. 21, 22.
It is of the greatest importance to keep in view that, at
whatever period of Christ's Ministry this prediction and promise were spoken,
and whether only once or oftener, they refer exclusively to a Jewish
state of things. The persecutions are exclusively Jewish. This appears from
verse 18, where the answer of the disciples is promised to be 'for a testimony
against them,' who had delivered them up, that is, here evidently the Jews, as
also against 'the Gentiles.' And the Evangelistic circuit of the disciples in
their preaching was to be primarily Jewish; and not only so, but in the
time when there were still 'cities of Israel,' that is, previous to the final
destruction of the Jewish commonwealth. The reference, then, is to that period
of Jewish persecution and of Apostolic preaching in the cities of Israel, which
is bounded by the destruction of Jerusalem. Accordingly, the 'coming of the Son
of Man,' and the 'end' here spoken of, must also have the same application. It
was, as we have seen, according to Dan. vii. 13, a coming in judgment. To the
Jewish persecuting authorities, who had rejected the Christ, in order, as they
imagined, to save their City and Temple from the Romans,54
and to whom Christ had testified that He would come again, this judgment on
their city and state, this destruction of their polity, was 'the Coming
of the Son of Man' in judgment, and the only coming which the Jews, as a state,
could expect, the only one meet for them, even as, to them who look for Him, He
will appear a second time, without sin unto salvation.
54. St. John xi. 48.
That this is the only natural meaning attaching to this
prediction, especially when compared with the parallel utterances recorded in
St. Mark xiii. 9-13, appears to us indubitable. It is another question how, or
how far, those to whom these words were in the first place addressed would
understand their full bearing, at least at that time. Even supposing, that the
disciples who first heard did not distinguish between the Coming to Israel in
judgment, and that to the world in mingled judgment and mercy, as it was
afterwards conveyed to them in the Parable of the Forthshooting of the
Fig-tree,55 yet the
early Christians must soon have become aware of it. For, the distinction is
sharply marked. As regards its manner, the 'second' Coming of Christ may be
said to correspond to the state of those to whom He cometh. To the Jews His first
Coming was visible, and as claiming to be their King. They had asked for
a sign; and no sign was given them at the time. They rejected Him, and placed
the Jewish polity and nation in rebellion against 'the King.' To the Jews, who
so rejected the first visible appearance of Christ as their King, the second
appearance would be invisible but real; the sign which they had asked would be
given them, but as a sign of judgment, and His Coming would be in judgment.
Thus would His authority be vindicated, and He appear, not, indeed, visibly but
really, as what He had claimed to be. That this was to be the manner and object
of His Coming to Israel, was clearly set forth to the disciples in the Parable
of the Unthankful Husbandmen.56
The coming of the Lord of the vineyard would be the destruction of the wicked
husbandmen. And to render misunderstanding impossible, the explanation is
immediately added, that the Kingdom of God was to be taken from them, and given
to those who would bring forth the fruits thereof. Assuredly, this could not,
even in the view of the disciples, which may have been formed on the Jewish
model, have applied to the Coming of Christ at the end of the present Æon
55. St. Luke xxi. 29-31.
56. St. Matt. xxi. 33-46, and the parallels.
We bear in mind that this second, outwardly invisible but very
real, Coming of the Son of Man to the Jews, as a state, could only be in
judgment on their polity, in that 'Sign' which was once refused, but which,
when it appeared, would only too clearly vindicate His claims and authority.
Thus viewed, the passages, in which that second Coming is referred to, will
yield their natural meaning. Neither the mission of the disciples, nor their
journeying through the cities of Israel, was finished, before the Son of Man
came. Nay, there were those standing there who would not taste death, till they
had seen in the destruction of the city and state the vindication of the
Kingship of Jesus, which Israel had disowned.57
And even in those last Discourses in which the horizon gradually enlarges, and
this Coming in judgment to Israel merges in the greater judgment on an
this earlier Coming to the Jewish nation is clearly marked. The three
Evangelists equally record it, that 'this generation' should not pass away,
till all things were fulfilled.59
To take the lowest view, it is scarcely conceivable that these sayings would
have been allowed to stand in all the three Gospels, if the disciples and the
early Church had understood the Coming of the Son of Man in any other sense
than as to the Jews in the destruction of their polity. And it is most
significant, that the final utterances of the Lord as to His Coming were
elicited by questions arising from the predicted destruction of the Temple.
This the early disciples associated with the final Coming of Christ. To explain
more fully the distinction between them would have been impossible, in
consistency with the Lord's general purpose about the doctrine of His Coming.
Yet the Parables which in the Gospels (especially in that by St. Matthew)
follow on these predictions,60
and the teaching about the final Advent of 'the Son of Man,' point clearly to a
difference and an interval between the one and the other.
57. St. Matt. xvi. 28, and parallels.
58. St. Matt. xxiv. and parallels.
59. St. Matt. xxiv. 34; St. Mark xiii.30; St. Luke xxi. 32.
60. St. Matt. xxv. 1-30.
The disciples must have the more readily applied this
prediction of His Coming to Palestine, since 'the woes' connected with it so
closely corresponded to those expected by the Jews before the Advent of
Messiah.61 Even the
direction to flee from persecution is repeated by the Rabbis in similar
circumstances and established by the example of Jacob,62
of Moses,63 and of
61. Sot. ix. 15; comp. Sanh. 97 a to 99 a, passim.
62. Hos. xii. 12.
63. Ex. ii. 15.
64. 1 Sam. xix. 12; comp. Bemidb. R. 23, ed. Warsh. p. 86 b, and Tanch.
In the next section of this Discourse of our Lord, as reported
by St. Matthew,65
the horizon is enlarged. The statements are still primarily applicable to the
early disciples, and their preaching among the Jews and in Palestine. But their
ultimate bearing is already wider, and includes predictions and principles true
to all time. In view of the treatment which their Master received, the
disciples must expect misrepresentation and evil-speaking. Nor could it seem
strange to them, since even the common Rabbinic proverb had it:66
'It is enough for a servant to be as his lord' ()hy# rb(l wyd wbrk). As we hear it from
the lips of Christ, we remember that this saying afterwards comforted those,
who mourned the downfall of wealthy and liberal homes in Israel, by thoughts of
the greater calamity which had overthrown Jerusalem and the Temple. And very
significant is its application by Christ: 'If they have called the Master of
the house Beelzebul,67
how much more them of His household.' This charge, brought of course by the
Pharisaic party of Jerusalem, had a double significance. We believe, that the
expression 'Master of the house' looked back to the claims which Jesus had made
on His first purification of the Temple. We almost seem to hear the coarse
Rabbinic witticism in its play on the word Beelzebul. For, Zebhul,
(lw@bz:) means in Rabbinic language, not any ordinary dwelling, but
specifically the Temple,6869
and Beel-Zebul would be the 'Master of the Temple.' On the other hand, Zibbul
sacrificing to idols;71
and hence Beel-zebul would, in that sense, be equivalent to 'lord' or
'chief of idolatrous sacrificing'72
- the worst and chiefest of demons, who presided over, and incited to,
idolatry. 'The Lord of the Temple' (which truly was His Church) was to them
'the chief of idolatrous worship,' the Representative of God that of the worst
of demons: Beelzebul was Beelzibbul!73
What then might 'His Household' expect at their hands?
65. St. Matt. x. 24-34.
66. So Ber. 58 b; Siphra on Lev. xxv. 23; Ber. R. 49; Shem. R. 42; Midr. on Ps. xxvii. 4.
67. This is undoubtedly the correct reading, and not Beelzebub. Any reference to the
Baalzebub, or 'fly-god' of 2 Kings i. 2, seems, rationally, out of the
68. Zebhul (lw@bz:) is also the name of the fourth of the seven heavens in which Jewish
mysticism located the heavenly Jerusalem with its Temple, at whose altar
Michael ministered (Chag. 12 b).
69. Jer. Ber. 13 b.
70. The primary meaning is: manuring (land) with dung.
71. Abod. Z. 18 b, and often.
72. It could not possibly mean, as has been supposed, 'lord of dung,' because dung is
lbeze and not lw@b@z.
73. This alone explains the meaning of Beelzebul. Neither Beelzebub nor Baalzebul were names
given by the Jews to any demon, but Beelzebul, the 'lord of sacrificing to
idols,' would certainly be the designation of what they regarded as the chief of the demons.
But they were not to fear such misrepresentations. In due time
the Lord would make manifest both His and their true character.7475
Nor were they to be deterred from announcing in the clearest and most public
manner, in broad daylight, and from the flat roofs of houses, that which had
been first told them in the darkness, as Jewish teachers communicated the
deepest and highest doctrines in secret to their disciples, or as the preacher
would whisper his discourse into the ear of the interpreter. The deepest truths
concerning His Person, and the announcement of His Kingdom and Work, were to be
fully revealed, and loudly proclaimed. But, from a much higher point of view,
how different was the teaching of Christ from that of the Rabbis! The latter
laid it down as a principle, which they tried to prove from Scripture,76
that, in order to save one's life, it was not only lawful, but even duty - if
necessary, to commit any kind of sin, except idolatry, incest, or murder.77
Nay, even idolatry was allowed, if only it were done in secret, so as not to
profane the Name of the Lord - than which death was infinitely preferable.78
Christ, on the other hand, not only ignored this vicious Jewish distinction of
public and private as regarded morality, but bade His followers set aside all
regard for personal safety, even in reference to the duty of preaching the
Gospel. There was a higher fear than of men: that of God - and it should drive
out the fear of those who could only kill the body. Besides, why fear? God's
Providence extended even over the meanest of His creatures. Two sparrows cost
only an assarion (rsy)), about the third of a penny.79
Yet even one of them would not perish without the knowledge of God. No
illustration was more familiar to the Jewish mind than that of His watchful
care even over the sparrows. The beautiful allusion in Amos iii. 5 was somewhat
realistically carried out in a legend which occurs in more than one Rabbinic
passage. We are told that, after that great miracle-worker of Jewish legend, R.
Simeon ben Jochai, had been for thirteen years in hiding from his persecutors
in a cave, where he was miraculously fed, he observed that, when the
bird-catcher laid his snare, the bird escaped, or was caught, according as a
voice from heaven proclaimed, 'Mercy,' or else, 'Destruction.' Arguing, that if
even a sparrow could not be caught without heaven's bidding, how much more safe
was the life of a 'son of man' (#n rbr #pn), he came forth.80
74. St. Matt. x. 26.
75. Mark the same meaning of the expression in St. Luke viii. 17; xii. 2.
76. Lev. xviii. 5.
77. Sanh. 74 a comp. Yoma 82 a.
78. I confess myself unable to understand the bearing of the special pleading of Wünsche
against this inference from Sanh. 74 a. His reasoning is certainly
Isar (rsafy)i), or assarion, is expressly and repeatedly stated in
Rabbinic writings to be the twenty-forth part of a dinar, and hence not a
halfpenny farthing, but about the third of a penny. Comp. Herzfeld,
Handelsgeschichte, pp. 180-182.
80. Ber. R. 79, ed. Warsh. p. 142 b; Jer. Shebh. ix. 1; Midr. on Eccl. x. 8; on
Esth. i. 9; on Ps. xvii. 14.
Nor could even the additional promise of Christ: 'But of you
even the hairs of the head are all numbered,'81
surprise His disciples. But it would convey to them the gladsome assurance
that, in doing His Work, they were performing the Will of God, and were
specially in His keeping. And it would carry home to them - with the comfort of
a very different application, while engaged in doing the Work and Will of God -
what Rabbinism expressed in a realistic manner by the common sayings, that
whither a man was to go, thither his feet would carry him; and, that a man
could not injure his finger on earth, unless it had been so decreed of him in
heaven.82 And in
later Rabbinic writings83
we read, in almost the words of Christ: 'Do I not number all the hairs of every
creature?' And yet an even higher outlook was opened to the disciples. All
preaching was confessing, and all confessing a preaching of Christ; and our
confession or denial would, almost by a law of nature, meet with similar
confession or denial on the part of Christ before His Father in heaven.84
This, also, was an application of that fundamental principle, that 'nothing is
covered that shall not be revealed,' which, indeed, extendeth to the inmost
secrets of heart and life.
81. This is the literal rendering.
82. Chull. 7 b; comp. also the even more realistic expression, Shabb. 107 b.
83. Pesiqta 18 a.
84. This appears more clearly when we translate literally (ver. 32): 'Who shall confess in Me' - and again: 'in him will I also confess.'
What follows in our Lord's Discourse85
still further widens the horizon. It describes the condition and laws of His
Kingdom, until the final revelation of that which is now covered and hidden. So
long as His claims were set before a hostile world they could only provoke war.86
On the other hand, so long as such decision was necessary, in the choice of
either those nearest and dearest, of ease, nay, of life itself, or else of
Christ, there could be no compromise. Not that, as is sometimes erroneously
supposed, a very great degree of love to the dearest on earth amounts to
loving them more than Christ. No degree of proper affection can ever make
affection wrongful, even as no diminution of it could make wrongful affection
right. The love which Christ condemneth differs not in degree, but in kind,
from rightful affection. It is one which takes the place of love to Christ -
not which is placed by the side of that of Christ. For, rightly viewed, the two
occupy different provinces. Wherever and whenever the two affections come into
comparison, they also come into collision. And so the questions of not being
worthy of Him (and who can be positively worthy?), and of the true finding or
losing of our life, have their bearing on our daily life and profession.87
85. St. Matt. x. 34.
86. The original is very peculiar: 'Think not that I came to cast peace on the earth,' as a sower casts the seed into the ground.
87. The meaning of the expression, losing and finding one's life, appears more markedly by attending to the tenses in the text: 'He that found his life shall lose it, and he that lost his life for My sake shall find it.'
But even in this respect the disciples must, to some extent,
have been prepared to receive the teaching of Christ. It was generally
expected, that a time of great tribulation would precede the Advent of the
Messiah. Again, it was a Rabbinic axiom, that the cause of the Teacher, to whom
a man owed eternal life, was to be taken in hand before that of his father, to
whom he owed only the life of this world.8889
Even the statement about taking up the cross in following Christ, although
prophetic, could not sound quite strange. Crucifixion was, indeed, not a Jewish
punishment, but the Jews must have become sadly familiar with it. The Targum90
speaks of it as one of the four modes of execution of which Naomi described to
Ruth as those in custom in Palestine, the other three being - stoning, burning,
and beheading. Indeed, the expression 'bearing the cross,' as indicative of
sorrow and suffering, is so common, that we read, Abraham carried the wood for
the sacrifice of Isaac, 'like who bears his cross on his shoulder.'91
88. B. Mets 33 a.
89. Especially if he taught him the highest of all lore, the Talmud, or explained the reason for the meaning of what it contained.
90. On Ruth i. 17.
91. Ber. R. 56, on Gen. xxii. 6.
Nor could the disciples be in doubt as to the meaning of the
last part of Christ's address.92
They were old Jewish forms of thought, only filled with the new wine of the
Gospel. The Rabbis taught, only in extravagant terms, the merit attaching to
the reception and entertainment of sages.93
The very expression 'in the name of' a prophet, or a righteous man, is strictly
Jewish (M#l), and means for the sake of, or with intention, in regard to.
It appears to us, that Christ introduced His own distinctive teaching by the
admitted Jewish principle, that hospitable reception for the sake of, or with
the intention of doing it to, a prophet or a righteous man, would procure a
share in the prophet's righteous man's reward. Thus, tradition had it, that a
Obadiah of King Ahab's court94
had become the prophet of that name, because he had provided for the hundred
prophets.95 And we
are repeatedly assured, that to receive a sage, or even an elder, was like
receiving the Shekhinah itself. But the concluding promise of Christ,
concerning the reward of even 'a cup of cold water' to 'one of these little
ones' 'in the name of a disciple,' goes far beyond the farthest conceptions of
His contemporaries. Yet even so, the expression would, so far as its form is
concerned, perhaps bear a fuller meaning to them than to us. These 'little
ones' (Mynmq) were 'the children,' who were still learning the elements of
knowledge, and who would by-and-by grow into 'disciples.' For, as the Midrash
has it: 'Where there are no little ones, there are no disciples; and where no
disciples, no sages: where no sages, there no elders; where no elders, there no
prophets; and where no prophets, there96
does God not cause His Shekhinah to rest.'97
92. St. Matt. x. 40-42.
93. Comp. for example the long discussion in Ber. 63 b.
94. 1 Kings xviii. 4.
95. Sanh. 39 b.
96. According to Is. viii. 16.
97. Ber. R. 42, on Gen. xiv. 1.
We have been so particular in marking the Jewish parallelisms
in this Discourse, first, because it seemed important to show, that the words
of the Lord were not beyond the comprehension of the disciples. Starting from
forms of thought and expressions with which they were familiar, He carried them
far beyond Jewish ideas and hopes. But, secondly, it is just in this similarity
of form, which proves that it was of the time, and to the time, as well as to
us and to all times, that we best see, how far the teaching of Christ transcended
all contemporary conception.
But the reality, the genuineness, the depth and fervour of
self-surrender, which Christ expects, is met by equal fulness of acknowledgment
on His part, alike in heaven and on earth. In fact, there is absolute
identification with His ambassadors on the part of Christ. As He is the
Ambassador of the Father, so are they His, and as such also the ambassadors of
the Father. To receive them was. therefore, not only to receive Christ, but the
Father, Who would own the humblest, even the meanest service of love to one of
the learners, 'the little ones.' All the more painful is the contrast of Jewish
pride and self-righteousness, which attributes supreme merit to ministering,
not as to God, but as to man; not for God's sake, but for that of the man; a
pride which could give utterance to such a saying, ' All the prophets have
announced salvation only to the like of those who give their daughters in
marriage to sages, or cause them to make gain, or give of their goods to them.
But what the bliss of the sages themselves is, no mortal eye has seen.'98
98. Sanh. 99 a.
It was not with such sayings that Christ sent forth His
disciples; nor in such spirit, that the world has been subdued to Him. The
relinquishing of all that is nearest and dearest, cross-bearing, loss of life
itself - such were the terms of His discipleship. Yet acknowledgment there
would surely, be first, in the felt and assured sense of His Presence; then, in
the reward of a prophet, a righteous man, or, it might be, a disciple. But all
was to be in Him, and for Him, even the gift of 'a cup of cold water' to 'a
little one.' Nay, neither the 'little ones,' the learners, nor the cup of cold
water given them, would be overlooked or forgotten.
But over all did the 'Meek and Lowly One' cast the loftiness of
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