Chapter 27 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 29
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE ASCENT: FROM THE RIVER JORDAN TO THE MOUNT OF
THE STORY OF THE BAPTIST, FROM HIS LAST
TESTIMONY TO JESUS TO HIS BEHEADING IN PRISON
(1. St. John 3:25-30.
2. St. Matthew 9:14-17; St. Mark 2:18-22; St. Luke 5:33-39.
3. St. Matthew 11:2-14; St. Luke 7:18-35.
4. St. Matthew 14:1-12; St. Mark 6:14-29; St.
WHILE the Apostles went forth by two and two on their first
Himself taught and preached in the towns around Capernaum.2
This period of undisturbed activity seems, however, to have been of brief
duration.3 That it
was eminently successful, we infer not only from direct notices,4
but also from the circumstance that, for the first time, the attention of Herod
Antipas was now called to the Person of Jesus. We suppose that, during the nine
or ten months of Christ's Galilean Ministry, the Tetrarch had resided in his
Paraean dominions (east of the Jordan), either at Julias or at Mach�rus, in
which latter fortress the Baptist was beheaded. We infer, that the labours of
the Apostles had also extended thus far, since they attracted the notice of
Herod. In the popular excitement caused by the execution of the Baptist, the
miraculous activity of the messengers of the Christ, Whom John had announced,
would naturally attract wider interest, while Antipas would, under the
influence of fear and superstition, give greater heed to them. We can scarcely
be mistaken in supposing, that this accounts for the abrupt termination of the
labours of the Apostles, and their return to Jesus. At any rate, the arrival of
the disciples of John, with tidings of their master's death, and the return of
the Apostles, seem to have been contemporaneous.5
Finally, we conjecture, that it was among the motives which influenced the
removal of Christ and His Apostles from Capernaum. Temporarily to withdraw
Himself and His disciples from Herod, to give them a season of rest and further
preparation after the excitement of the last few weeks, and to avoid being
involved in the popular movements consequent on the murder of the Baptist -
such we may venture to indicated as among the reasons of the departure of Jesus
and His disciples, first into the dominions of the Tetrarch Philip, on the
eastern side of the Lake,6
and after that 'into the borders of Tyre and Sidon.'7
Thus the fate of the Baptist was, as might have been expected, decisive in its
influence on the History of the Christ and of His Kingdom. But we have yet to
trace the incidents in the life of John, so far as recorded in the Gospels,
from the time of His last contact with Jesus to his execution.
1. This is the only occasion on which they are designated as Apostles in the Gospel by St. Mark.
2. St. Matt. xi. 1.
3. Their mission seems to have been short, probably not more than two weeks or so. But it seems impossible, in consistency with the facts, to confine it to two days, as Bishop Ellicott proposes (Hist. Lect. p. 193).
4. St. Mark vi. 12, 13; St. Luke ix. 6.
5. St. Matt xiv. 12, 13; St. Mark vi. 30.
6. St. John vi. 1.
7. St. Mark vii. 24.
1. It was8
in the late spring, or rather early summer of the year 27 of our era, that John
was baptizing in �non, near to Salim. In the neighbourhood, Jesus and His
disciples were similarly engaged.9
The Presence and activity of Jesus in Jerusalem at the Passover10
had determined the Pharisaic party to take active measures against Him and His
Forerunner, John. As to the first outcome of this plan we notice the
discussions on the question of 'purification,' and the attempt to separate
between Christ and the Baptist by exciting the jealousy of the latter.11
But the result was far different. His disciples might have been influenced, but
John himself was too true a man, and too deeply convinced of the reality of
Christ's Mission, to yield even for a moment to such temptation. Nothing more
noble can be conceived than the self-abnegation of the Baptist in circumstances
which would not only have turned aside an impostor or an enthusiast, but must
have severely tried the constancy of the truest man. At the end of a most
trying career of constant self-denial its scanty fruits seemed, as it were, snatched
from Him, and the multitude, which he had hitherto swayed, turned after
Another, to Whom himself had first given testimony, but Who ever since had
apparently neglected him. And now he had seemingly appropriated the one
distinctive badge of his preaching! Not to rebel, nor to murmur, but even to
rejoice in this as the right and proper thing, for which he had longed as the
end of his own work - this implies a purity, simplicity, and grandeur of
purpose, and a strength of conviction unsurpassed among men. The moral height
of this testimony of John, and the evidential force of the introduction of this
narrative - utterly unaccountable, nay, unintelligible on the hypothesis that
it is not true - seem to us among the strongest evidences in favour of the Gospel-history.
8. St. John iii. 22 to iv. 3.
9. Comp. chapter vii. of this Book. For the sake of clearness and connection, some points formerly referred to have had to be here repeated.
10. St. John ii. 13 to iii. 21.
11. St. John iii. 25 &c.
It was not the greatness of the Christ, to his own seeming
loss, which could cloud the noonday of the Baptist's convictions. In simple
Jud�an illustration, he was only 'the friend of the Bridegroom' (the 'Shoshebheyna'),
with all that popular association or higher Jewish allegory connected with that
He claimed not the bride. His was another joy - that of hearing the Voice of
her rightful Bridegroom, Whose 'groomsman' he was. In the sound of that Voice
lay the fulfilment of his office. And St. John, looking back upon the relation
between the Baptist and Jesus - on the reception of the testimony of the former
and the unique position of 'the Bridegroom' - points out the lessons of the
answer of the Baptist to his disciples (St. John iii. 31 to 3613)
as formerly those of the conversation with Nicodemus.14
'Sketches of Jewish Social Life,' pp. 152, 153.
13. These verses contain the reflections of the Evangelist, not the words of the Baptist, just as previously vv. 16 to 21 are no longer the words of Christ but those of St. John.
14. St. John iii. 16 to 21.
This hour of the seeming abasement of the Baptist was, in
truth, that of the highest exaltation, as marking the fulfilment of his office,
and, therefore, of his joy. Hours of cloud and darkness were to follow.
2. The scene has changed, and the Baptist has become the
prisoner of Herod Antipas. The dominions of the latter embraced, in the north:
Galilee, west of the Jordan and of the Lake of Galilee; and in the
south: Per�a, east of the Jordan. To realise events we must bear in mind
that, crossing the Lake eastwards, we should pass from the possessions of Herod
to those of the Tetrarch Philip, or else come upon the territory of the 'Ten
Cities,' or Decapolis, a kind of confederation of townships, with constitution
and liberties, such as those of the Grecian cities.15
By a narrow strip northwards, Per�a just slipped in between the Decapolis and
Samaria. It is impossible with certainty to localise the �non, near Salim,
where John baptized. Ancient tradition placed the latter a few miles south of
Scythopolis or Bethshean, on the borders of Galilee, or rather, the Decapolis,
and Samaria. But as the eastern part of Samaria towards the Jordan was very
narrow, one may well believe that the place was close to, perhaps actually in,
the north-eastern angle of the province of Jud�a, where it borders on Samaria.
We are now on the western bank of Jordan. The other, or eastern, bank of the
river would be that narrow northern strip of Per�a which formed part of the
territory of Antipas. Thus a few miles, or the mere crossing of the river,
would have brought the Baptist into Per�a. There can be no doubt but that the
Baptist must either have crossed into, or else that �non, near Salim, was
actually within the dominions of Herod.16
It was on that occasion that Herod seized on his person,17
and that Jesus, Who was still within Jud�an territory, withdrew from the
intrigues of the Pharisees and the proximity of Herod, through Samaria, into
15. Comp. Caspari, Chronolog. Georgr. Einl. pp. 83-91.
16. �non may even have been in Per�a itself - in that case, on the eastern bank of the Jordan.
17. St. John iii. 24.
18. St. John vi. i.
For, although Galilee belonged to Herod Antipas, it was
sufficiently far from the present residence of the Tetrarch in Per�a. Tiberias,
his Galilean residence, with its splendid royal palace, had only been built a
year or two before;19
and it is impossible to suppose, that Herod would not have sooner heard of the
fame of Jesus,20
if his court had been in Tiberias, in the immediate neighbourhood of Capernaum.
We are, therefore, shut up to the conclusion, that during the nine or ten
months of Christ's Ministry in Galilee, the Tetrarch resided in Per�a. Here he
had two palaces, one at Julias, or Livias, the other at Mach�rus. The latter
will be immediately described as the place of the Baptist's imprisonment and
martyrdom. The Julias, or Livias, of Per�a must be distinguished from another
city of that name (also called Bethsaida) in the North (east of the Jordan),
and within the dominions of the Tetrarch Philip. The Julias of Per�a
represented the ancient Beth Haram in the tribe of Gad,21
a name for which Josephus gives22Betharamphtha, and the Rabbis Beth Ramthah.2324
It still survives in the modern Beit-har�n. But of the fortress and palace
which Herod had built, and named after the Empress, 'all that remains' are 'a
few traces of walls and foundations.'25
19. Comp. Sch�rer, Neutest. Zeitgesch. p. 233. As to the name Tiberias, comp. p. 635, note 1.
20. St. Matt. xiv. 1.
21. Numb. xxxii. 36; Josh. xiii. 27.
22. Ant. xviii. 2. 1.
23. Jerus. Shev. 38 d.
24. Comp. the references in B�ttger, Lex. zu Jos. p. 58.
25. See the description of the site in Tristram, Land of Moab, p. 348.
Supposing Antipas to have been at the Per�an Julias, he would
have been in the closest proximity to the scene of the Baptist's last recorded
labours at AEnon. We can now understand, not only how John was imprisoned by
Antipas, but also the threefold motives which influenced it. According to
Tetrarch was afraid that his absolute influence over the people, who seemed
disposed to carry out whatever he advised, might lead to a rebellion. This
circumstance is also indicated in the remark of St. Matthew,27
that Herod was afraid to put the Baptist to death on account of the people's
opinion of him. On the other hand, the Evangelic statement,28
that Herod had imprisoned John on account of his declaring his marriage with
Herodias unlawful, is in no way inconsistent with the reason assigned by
Josephus. Not only might both motives have influenced Herod, but there is an
obvious connection between them. For, John's open declaration of the
unlawfulness of Herod's marriage, as unlike incestuous and adulterous, might,
in view of the influence which the Baptist exercised, have easily led to a
rebellion. In our view, the sacred text gives indication of yet a third cause
which led to John's imprisonment, and which indeed, may have given final weight
to the other two grounds of enmity against him. It has been suggested, that
Herod must have been attached to the Sadducees, if to any religious party,
because such a man would not have connected himself with the Pharisees. The
reasoning is singularly inconclusive. On political grounds, a Herod would
scarcely have lent his weight to the Sadducean or aristocratic priest-party in
Jerusalem; while, religiously, only too many instances are on record of what
the Talmud itself calls 'painted ones, who are like the Pharisees, and who act
like Zimri, but expect the reward of Phinehas.'29
Besides, the Pharisees may have used Antipas as their tool, and worked upon his
wretched superstition to effect their own purposes. And this is what we suppose
to have been the case. The reference to the Pharisaic spying and to their
comparisons between the influence of Jesus and John,30
which led to the withdrawal of Christ into Galilee, seems to imply that the
Pharisees had something to do with the imprisonment of John. Their connection
with Herod appears even more clearly in the attempt to induce Christ's
departure from Galilee, on pretext of Herod's machinations. It will be
remembered that the Lord unmasked their hypocrisy by bidding them go back to
Herod, showing that He fully knew that real danger threatened Him, not from the
Tetrarch, but from the leaders of the party in Jerusalem.31
Our inference therefore is, that Pharisaic intrigue had a very large share in
giving effect to Herod's fear of the Baptist and of his reproofs.
26. Ant. xviii. 5. 2.
27. St. Matt. xiv. 5.
28. St. Matt. xiv. 3, 4; St. Mark vi 17, 18.
29. Sot. 22 b.
30. St. John iv. 1, 2.
31. St. Luke xiii. 31-33.
3. We suppose, then, that Herod Antipas was at Julias, in the
immediate neighbourhood of �non, at the time of John's imprisonment. But,
according to Josephus, whose testimony there is no reason to question, the
Baptist was committed to the strong fortress of Mach�rus.3233
If Julias lay where the Wady of the Heshban debouches into the Jordan, east of
that river, and a little north of the Dead Sea, Mach�rus is straight south of
it, about two and a half hours north-west of the ancient Kiriathaim (the
modern Kur�iy�t), the site of Chedorlaomer's victory.34 Mach�rus (the
modern M'Khaur) marked the extreme point south, as Pella
that north, in Per�a. As the boundary fortress in the south-east (towards
Arabia), its safety was of the greatest importance, and everything was done to
make a place, exceedingly strongly by nature, impregnable. It had been built by
Alexander Jann�us, but destroyed by Gabinius in the wars of Pompey.35
It was not only restored, but greatly enlarged, by Herod the Great, who
surrounded it with the best defences known at that time. In fact, Herod the
Great built a town along the shoulder of the hill, and surrounded it by walls,
fortified by towers. From this town a farther height had to be climbed, on
which the castle stood, surrounded by walls, and flanked by towers one hundred
and sixty cubits high. Within the inclosure of the castle Herod had built a
magnificent palace. A large number of cisterns, storehouses, and arsenals,
containing every weapon of attack or defence, had been provided to enable the
garrison to stand a prolonged siege. Josephus describes even its natural
position as unassailable. The highest point of the fort was on the west, where
it looked sheer down into a valley. North and south the fort was equally cut
off by valleys, which could not be filled up for siege purposes. On the east
there was, indeed, a valley one hundred cubits deep, but it terminated in a
mountain opposite to Mach�rus. This was evidently the weak point of the
32. Ant. xviii. 5. 2.
33. A little before that it seems belonged to Aretas. We know not, how it again passed into the hands of Antipas, if, indeed, it ever was fully ceded by him to the Arabs. Comp. Sch�rer, u.s. p. 239, and Wieseler, Chron. Syn.
p. 244, Beitr, pp. 5, &c., whose positions are, however, not always quite reliable.
34. Gen. xiv. 5.
35. Jewish War i. 8. 5.
36. Here Bassus made his attack in the fast Jewish war (Jos. War vii. 6. 1-4).
A late and very trustworthy traveller37
has pronounced the description of Josephus38
as sufficiently accurate, although exaggerated, and as probably not derived
from personal observation. He has also furnished such pictorial details, that
we can transport ourselves to that rocky keep of the Baptist, perhaps the more
vividly that, as we wander over the vast field of stones, upturned foundations,
and broken walls around, we seem to view the scene in the lurid sunset of
judgment. 'A rugged line of upturned squared stones' shows the old Roman paved
road to Mach�rus. Ruins covering quite a square mile, on a group of undulating
hills, mark the site of the ancient town of Mach�rus. Although surrounded by a
wall and towers, its position is supposed not to have been strategically
defensible. Only a mass of ruins here, with traces of a temple to the Syrian Sun-God,
broken cisterns, and desolateness all around. Crossing a narrow deep valley,
about a mile wide, we climb up to the ancient fortress on a conical hill.
Altogether it covered a ridge of more than a mile. The key of the position was
a citadel to the extreme east of the fortress. It occupied the summit of the
cone, was isolated, and almost impregnable, but very small. We shall return to
examine it. Meanwhile, descending a steep slope about 150 yards towards the
west, we reach the oblong flat plateau that formed the fortress, containing
Herod's magnificent palace. Here, carefully collected, are piled up the stones
of which the citadel was built. These immense heaps look like a terrible
monument of judgment.
37. Canon Tristram Land of Moab, pp. 255-265; comp. Baedeker (Socin) Pal�stina, p. 195 and, for the various passages in Josephus referring to Mach�rus, B�ttger, u.s. pp. 165-167.
38. War vii. 6. 1, 2.
We pass on among the ruins. No traces of the royal palace are
left, save foundations and enormous stones upturned. Quite at the end of this
long fortress in the west, and looking southwards, is a square fort. We return,
through what we regard as the ruins of the magnificent castle-palace of Herod,
to the highest and strongest part of the defences - the eastern keep or the
citadel, on the steep slope 150 yards up. The foundations of the walls all
around, to the height of a yard or two above the ground, are still standing. As
we clamber over them to examine the interior, we notice how small this keep is:
exactly 100 yards in diameter. There are scarcely any remains of it left. A
well of great depth, and a deep cemented cistern with the vaulting of the roof
still complete, and - of most terrible interest to us - two dungeons, one of
them deep down, its sides scarcely broken in, 'with small holes still visible
in the masonry where staples of wood and iron had once been fixed!' As we look
down into its hot darkness, we shudder in realising that this terrible keep had
for nigh ten months been the prison of that son of the free 'wilderness,' the
bold herald of the coming Kingdom, the humble, earnest, self-denying John the
Baptist. Is this the man whose testimony about the Christ may be treated as a
We withdraw our gaze from trying to pierce this gloom and to
call up in it the figure of the camel-hair-clad and leather-girt preacher, and
look over the ruins at the scene around. We are standing on a height not less
than 3,800 feet above the Dead Sea. In a straight line it seems not more than
four or five miles; and the road down to it leads, as it were, by a series of
ledges and steps. We can see the whole extent of this Sea of Judgment, and its
western shores from north to south. We can almost imagine the Baptist, as he
stands surveying this noble prospect. Far to the south stretches the rugged
wilderness of Jud�a, bounded by the hills of Hebron. Here nestles Bethlehem,
there is Jerusalem. Or, turning another way, and looking into the deep cleft of
the Jordan valley: this oasis of beauty is Jericho; beyond it, like a silver
thread, Jordan winds through a burnt, desolate-looking country, till it is lost
to view in the haze which lies upon the edge of the horizon. As the eye of the
Baptist travelled over it, he could follow all the scenes of His life and
labours, from the home of his childhood in the hill-country of Jud�a, to those
many years of solitude and communing with God in the wilderness, and then to
the first place of his preaching and Baptism, and onwards to that where he had
last spoken of the Christ, just before his own captivity. And now the deep
dungeon in the citadel on the one side, and, on the other, down that slope, the
luxurious palace of Herod and his adulterous, murderous wife, while the shouts
of wild revelry and drunken merriment rise around! Was this the Kingdom he had
come to announce as near at hand; for which he had longed, prayed, toiled,
suffered, utterly denied himself and all that made life pleasant, and the rosy
morning of which he had hailed with hymns of praise? Where was the Christ? Was
He the Christ? What was He doing? Was he eating and drinking all this while
with publicans and sinners, when he, the Baptist, was suffering for Him? Was He
in His Person and Work so quite different from himself? and why was He so? And
did the hot haze and mist gather also over this silver thread in the deep cleft
of Israel's barren burnt-up desolateness?
4. In these circumstances we scarcely wonder at the feelings of
John's disciples, as months of this weary captivity passed. Uncertain what to
expect, they seem to have oscillated between Mach�rus and Capernaum. Any hope
in their Master's vindication and deliverance lay in the possibilities involved
in the announcement he had made of Jesus as the Christ. And it was to Him that
their Master's finger had pointed them. Indeed, some of Jesus' earliest and
most intimate disciples had come from their ranks; and, as themselves had
remarked, the multitude had turned to Jesus even before the Baptist's imprisonment.39
And yet, could He be the Christ? How many things about Him that were strange
and seemed inexplicable! In their view, there must have been a terrible
contrast between him who lay in the dungeon of Mach�rus, and Him Who sat down
to eat and drink at a feast of the publicans.
39. St. John iii. 26.
His reception of publicans and sinners they could understand;
their own Master had not rejected them. But why eat and drink with them? Why
feasting, and this in a time when fasting and prayer would have seemed
specially appropriate? And, indeed, was not fasting always appropriate? And yet
this new Messiah had not taught his disciples either to fast or what to pray!
The Pharisees, in their anxiety to separate between Jesus and His Forerunner,
must have told them all this again and again, and pointed to the contrast.
At any rate, it was at the instigation of the Pharisees, and in
company with them,40
that the disciples of John propounded to Jesus this question about fasting and
prayer, immediately after the feast in the house of the converted Levi-Matthew.41
We must bear in mind that fasting and prayer, or else fasting and alms, or all
the three, were always combined. Fasting represented the negative, prayer and
alms the positive element, in the forgiveness of sins. Fasting, as self-punishment
and mortification, would avert the anger of God and calamities. Most
extraordinary instances of the purposes in view in fasting, and of the results
obtained are told in Jewish legend, which (as will be remembered) went so far
as to relate how a Jewish saint was thereby rendered proof against the fire of
Gehenna, of which a realistic demonstration was given when his body was
rendered proof against ordinary fire.42
40. Thus viewed there is no contradiction, not even real variation, between St. Matt. ix. 14, St. Mark ii. 18, and St. Luke v. 33.
41. St. Matt. ix. 14-17 and parallels.
42. B. Mez. 85 a, 2 towards the end.
Even apart from such extravagances,43
Rabbinism gave an altogether external aspect to fasting. In this it only
developed to its utmost consequences a theology against which the Prophets of
old had already protested. Perhaps, however, the Jews are not solitary in their
misconception and perversion of fasting. In their view, it was the readiest means
of turning aside any threatening calamity, such as drought, pestilence, or
national danger. This, ex opere operato: because fasting was
self-punishment and mortification, not because a fast meant mourning (for sin,
not for its punishment), and hence indicated humiliation, acknowledgment of
sin, and repentance. The second and fifth days of the week (Monday and
those appointed for public fasts, because Moses was supposed to have gone up
the Mount for the second Tables of the Law on a Thursday, and to have returned
on a Monday. The self-introspection of Pharisaism led many to fast on these two
days all the year round,45
just as in Temple-times not a few would offer daily trespass-offering for sins
of which they were ignorant. Then there were such painful minuti� of
externalism, as those which ruled how, on a less strict fast, a person might
wash and anoint; while on the strictest fast, it was prohibited even to salute
43. Altogether, Baba Mez, 84 a to 85 a contains a mixture of the strangest, grossest, and profanest absurdities.
44. Thus a three day's fast would be on the second, fifth, and again on the second day of the week.
45. Taan. 12 a; St. Luke xviii. 12.
46. Taan i. 4-7.
'The Temple, its Ministry and Services,' pp. 296-298.
It may well have been, that it was on one of those weekly fasts
that the feast of Levi-Matthew had taken place, and that this explains the
expression: 'And John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting.4849
This would give point to their complaint,' 'Thy disciples fast not.' Looking
back upon the standpoint from which they viewed fasting, it is easy to perceive
why Jesus could not have sanctioned, not even tolerated, the practice among His
disciples, as little as St. Paul could tolerate among Judaising Christians the,
in itself indifferent, practice of circumcision. But it was not so easy to
explain this at the time of the disciples of John. For, to understand it,
implied already entire transformation from the old to the new spirit. Still
more difficult must it have been to do it in in such manner, as at the same time
to lay down principles that would rule all similar questions to all ages. But
our Lord did both, and even thus proved His Divine Mission.
48. St. Mark ii. 18.
49. This is the real import of the original.
The last recorded testimony of the Baptist had pointed to Christ as
As explained in a previous chapter, John applied this in a manner which
appealed to popular custom. As he had pointed out, the Presence of Jesus marked
the marriage-week. By universal consent and according to Rabbinic law, this was
to be a time of unmixed festivity.51
Even in the Day of Atonement a bride was allowed to relax one of the ordinances
of that strictest fast.52
During the marriage-week all mourning was to be suspended - even the obligation
of the prescribed daily prayers ceased. It was regarded as a religious duty to
gladden the bride and bridegroom. Was it not, then, inconsistent on the part of
John's disciples to expect 'the sons of the bride-chamber' to fast, so long as
the Bridegroom was with them?
50. St. John iii. 29.
51. Ber. 6 b.
52. Yoma viii. 1.
This appeal of Christ is still further illustrated by the
which absolved 'the friends of the bridegroom,' and all 'the sons of the
bride-chamber,' even from the duty of dwelling in booths (at the Feast of
Tabernacles). The expression, 'sons of the bride-chamber' (hpwx ynb), which
means all invited guests, has the more significance, when we remember that the
Covenant-union between God and Israel was not only compared to a marriage, but
the Tabernacle and Temple designated as 'the bridal chambers.'5455
And, as the institution of 'friends of the bridegroom' prevailed in Jud�a, but not
in Galilee, this marked distinction of the 'friends of the bridegroom,'56
in the mouth of the Jud�an John and 'sons of the bride-chamber' in that of the
Galilean Jesus, is itself evidential of historic accuracy, as well as of the
Jud�an authorship of the Fourth Gospel.
53. Jer. Sukk. 53 a, near the middle.
54. twpwx Jer. Megill. 72 d 1.
55. 'And all bride-chambers were only within the portions of Benjamin' (the Tabernacle and the Temple). Hence Benjamin was called 'the host of the Lord.'
56. Strangely, the two designations are treated as identical in most Commentaries.
But let it not be thought that it was to be a time of unbroken
joy to the disciples of Jesus. Nay, the ideas of the disciples of John
concerning the Messianic Kingdom, as one of resistless outward victory and
assertion of power, were altogether wrong. The Bridegroom would be violently
taken from them, and then would be the time for mourning and fasting. Not that
this necessarily implies literal fasting, any more than it excludes it,
provided the great principles, more fully indicated immediately afterwards, are
contrary to the spirit of the joyous liberty of the children of God. It is only
a sense of sin, and the felt absence of the Christ, which should lead to
mourning and fasting, though not in order thereby to avert either the anger of
God or outward calamity. Besides the evidential force of this highly spiritual,
and thoroughly un-Jewish view of fasting, we notice some other points in
confirmation of his, and of the Gospel-history generally. On the hypothesis of
a Jewish invention of the Gospel-history, or of its Jewish embellishment, the
introduction of this narrative would be incomprehensible. Again, on the theory
of a fundamental difference in the Apostolic teaching, St. Matthew and St. Mark
representing the original Judaic, St. Luke the freer Pauline development, the
existence of this narrative in the first two Gospels would seem unaccountable.
Or, to take another view - on the hypothesis of the much later and non-Jud�an
(Ephesian) authorship of the Fourth Gospel, the minute arch�ological touches,
and the general fitting of the words of the Baptist57
into the present narrative would be inexplicable. Lastly, as against all
deniers and detractors of the Divine Mission of Jesus, this early anticipation
of His violent removal by death, and of the consequent mourning of the Church,
proves that it came not to him from without, as by the accident of events, but
that from the beginning He anticipated the end, and pursued it of set,
57. St. John iii. 29.
Yet another point in evidence comes to us from the eternal and
un-Jewish principles implied in the two illustrations, of which Christ here
made use.58 In truth,
the Lord's teaching is now carried down to its ultimate principles. The slight
variations which here occur in the Gospel of St. Luke, as, indeed, such exist
in so many of the narratives of the same events by different Evangelists,
should not be 'explained away.' For, the sound critic should never devise an
explanation for the sake of a supposed difficulty, but truthfully study the
text - as an interpreter, not an apologist. Such variations of detail present
no difficulty. As against a merely mechanical unspiritual accord, they afford
evidence of truthful, independent witness, and irrefragable proof that,
contrary to modern negative criticism, and three narratives are not merely
different recensions of one and the same original document.
58. St. Matt. ix. 16, 17.
In general, the two illustrations employed - that of the piece
of undressed cloth (or, according to St. Luke, a piece torn from a new garment)
sewed upon the rent of an old garment, and that of the new wine put into a old
wine-skins - must not be too closely pressed in regard to their language.59
They seem chiefly to imply this: You ask, why do we fast often, but Thy
disciples fast not? You are mistaken in supposing that the old garment can be
retained, and merely its rents made good by patching it with a piece of new
cloth. Not to speak of the incongruity, the effect would only be to make the
rent ultimately worse. The old garment will not bear mending with the
'undressed cloth.' Christ's was not merely a reformation: all things must
become new. Or, again, take the other view of it - as the old garment cannot be
patched from the new, so, on the other hand, can the new wine of the Kingdom
not be confined in the old forms. It would burst those wine-skins. The spirit
must, indeed, have its corresponding form of expression; but that form must be
adapted, and correspond to it. Not the old with a little of the new to hold it
together where it is rent; but the new, and that not in the old wine-skins, but
in a form corresponding to the substance. Such are the two final principles60
- the one primary addressed to the Pharisees, the other to the disciples of
John, by which the illustrative teaching concerning the marriage-feast, with
its bridal garment and wine of banquet, is carried far beyond the original
question of the disciples of John, and receives an application to all time.
59. Godet has shown objections against all previous interpretations. But his own view
seems to me equally untenable.
60. St. Luke v. 39 seems either a gloss of the writer, or may be (though very doubtfully) an interpolation. There is a curious parallel to the verse in Ab. iv. 20.
5. We are in spirit by the mount of God, and about to witness
the breaking of a terrible storm.61
It is one that uproots the great trees and rends the rocks; and all we shall
watch it solemnly, earnestly, as with bared head - or, like Elijah, with face
wrap in mantle. Weeks had passed, and the disciples of John had come back and
showed their Master of all these things. He still lay in the dungeon of
Mach�rus; his circumstances unchanged - perhaps, more hopeless than before.
For, Herod was in that spiritually most desperate state: he had heard the
Baptist, and was much perplexed. And still he heard - but only heard - him
It was a case by no means singular, and of which Felix, often sending for St.
Paul, at whose preaching of righteousness, temperance, and the judgement to
come, he had trembled, offers only one of many parallels. That, when hearing
him, Herod was 'much perplexed,' we can understand, since he 'feared him,
knowing that he was a righteous man and holy,' and thus fearing 'heard him.'
But that being 'much perplexed,' he still 'heard him gladly,' constituted the
hopelessness of his case. But was the Baptist right? Did it constitute part of
his Divine calling to have not only denounced, but apparently directly
confronted Herod on his adulterous marriage? Had he not attempt to lift himself
the axe which seemed to have slip from the grasp of Him, of Whom the Baptist
had hoped and said that He would lay it to the root of the tree?
61. St. Luke vii. 18-35; St. Matt. xi. 2-19.
62. St. Mark vi. 20.
63. This is both the correct reading and rendering.
Such thoughts may have been with him, as he passed from his
dungeon to the audience of Herod, and from such bootless interviews back to his
deep keep. Strange as it may seem, it was, perhaps, better for the Baptist when
he was alone. Much as his disciples honoured and loved him, and truly zealous
and jealous for him as they were, it was best when they were absent. There are
times when affection only pains, by forcing on our notice inability to
understand, and adding to our sorrow that of feeling our inmost being a
stranger to those nearest, and who love us must. Then, indeed, is a man alone.
It is so with the Baptist. The state of mind and experience of his disciples
had already appeared, even in the slight notices of his disciples has already
appeared, even in the slight notices concerning them. Indeed, had they fully
understood him, and not ended where he began - which, truly, is the characteristic
of all sects, in their crystallisation, or, rather, ossification of truth -
they would not have remained his disciples; and this consciousness must also
have brought exquisite pain. Their very affection for him, and their zeal for
his credit (as shown in the almost coarse language of their inquiry: 'John the
Baptist hath sent us unto Thee, saying, Art Thou He that cometh, or look we for
another?'), as well as their tenacity of unprogressiveness - were all, so to
speak, marks of his failure. And, if he had failed with them, had he succeeded
And yet further and more terrible questions rose in that dark
dungeon. Like serpents that crept out of its walls, they would uncoil and raise
their heads with horrible hissing. What if, after all, there had been some
terrible mistake on his part? At any rate the logic of events was against him.
He was now the fast prisoner of that Herod, to whom he had spoken with
authority; in the power of that bold adulteress, Herodias. If he were Elijah,
the great Tishbite had never been in the hands of Ahab and Jezebel. And the
Messiah, Whose Elijah he was, moved not; could not, or would not, move, but
feasted with publicans and sinners! Was it all a reality? or - oh, thought too
horrible for utterance - could it have been a dream, bright but fleeting,
uncaused by any reality, only the reflection of his own imagination? It must
have been a terrible hour, and the power of darkness. At the end of one's life,
and that of such self-denial and suffering, and with a conscience so alive to
God, which had - when a youth - driven him burning with holy zeal into the
wilderness, to have such a question meeting him as: Art Thou He, or do we wait
for another? Am I right, or in error and leading others into error? must have
been truly awful. Not Paul, when forsaken of all he lay in the dungeon, the
aged prisoner of Christ; not Huss, when alone at Constance he encountered the
whole Catholic Council and the flames; only He, the God-Man, over Whose soul
crept the death-coldness of great agony when, one by one, all light of God and
man seemed to fade out, and only that one remained burning - His own faith in
the Father, could have experienced bitterness like this. Let no one dare to say
that the faith of John failed, at least till the dark waters have rolled up to
his own soul. For mostly all and each of us must pass through some like
experience; and only our own hearts and God know, how death-bitter are the
doubts, whether of head or of heart, when question after question raises, as
with devilish hissing, its head, and earth and heaven seem alike silent to us.
But here we must for a moment pause to ask ourselves this,
which touches the question of all questions: Surely, such a man as this
Baptist, so thoroughly disillusioned in that hour, could not have been an
imposter, and his testimony to Christ a falsehood? Nor yet could the record,
which gives us this insight into the weakness of the strong man and the doubts
of the great Testimony-bearer, be a cunningly-invented fable. We cannot imagine
the record of such a failure, if the narrative were an invention. And if this
record be true, it is not only of present failure, but also of the previous
testimony of John. To us, at least, the evidential force of this narrative
seems irresistible. The testimony of the Baptist to Jesus offers the same kind
of evidence as does that of the human soul to God: in both cases the one points
to the other, and cannot be understood without it.
In that terrible conflict John overcame, as we all must
overcome. His very despair opened the door of hope. The helpless doubt, which
none could solve but One, he brought to Him around Whom it had gathered. Even
in this there is evidence for Christ, as the unalterably True One. When John
asked the question: Do we wait for another? light was already struggling
through darkness. It was incipient victory even in defeat. When he sent his
disciples with this question straight to Christ, he had already conquered; for
such a question addressed to a possibly false Messiah has no meaning. And so
must it ever be with us. Doubt is the offspring of our disease, diseased as is
its paternity. And yet it cannot be cast aside. It may be the outcome of the
worst, or the problems of the best souls. The twilight may fade into outer
night, or it may usher in the day. The answer lies in this: whether doubt will
lead us to Christ, or from Christ.
Thus viewed, the question: 'Art Thou the Coming One, or do we
wait for another?' indicated faith both in the great promise and in Him to Whom
it was addressed. The designation 'The Coming One' (habba), though a
most truthful expression of Jewish expectancy, was not one ordinarily used of
the Messiah. But it was invariably used in reference to the Messianic age, as
the Athid labho, or coming future (literally, the prepared for to come),
and the Olam habba, the coming world or �on.64
But then it implied the setting right of all things by the Messiah, the
assumption and vindication of His Power. In the mouth of John it might
therefore mean chiefly this: Art Thou He that is to establish the Messianic
Kingdom in its outward power, or have we to wait for another? In that case, the
manner in which the Lord answered it would be all the more significant. The
messengers came just as He was engaged in healing body and soul.6566
Without interrupting His work, or otherwise noticing their inquiry, He bade
them tell John for answer what they had seen and heard, and that 'the poor,67
are evangelised.' To this, as the inmost characteristic of the Messianic
Kingdom, He only added, not by way of reproof nor even of warning, but as a
fresh 'Beatitude:' 'Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be scandalised in Me.'
To faith, but only to faith, this was the most satisfactory and complete answer
to John's inquiry. And such a sight of Christ's distinctive Work and Word, with
believing submission to the humbleness of the Gospel, is the only true answer
to our questions, whether of head or heart.
64. The distinction between the two expressions will be further explained in the sequel.
65. St. Luke vii. 21.
66. Negative criticism charges St. Luke with having inserted this trait, forgetting that it is referred to by St. Matthew.
67. St. Matt. xi. 5.
But a harder saying than this did the Lord speak amidst the
forthpouring of His testimony to John, when his messengers had left. It pointed
the hearers beyond their present horizon. Several facts here stand out
prominently. First, He to Whom John had formerly borne testimony, now bore
testimony to him; and that, not in the hour when John had testified for Him,
but when his testimony had wavered and almost failed. This is the opposite of
what one would have expected, if the narrative had been a fiction, while it is
exactly what we might expect if the narrative be true. Next, we mark that the
testimony of Christ is as from a higher standpoint. And it is a full
vindication as well as unstinted praise, spoken, not as in his hearing, but
after his messengers - who had met a seemingly cold reception - had left. The
people were not coarsely to misunderstand the deep soul-agony, which had issued
in John's inquiry. It was not the outcome of a fickleness which, like the reed
shaken by every wind, was moved by popular opinion. Nor was it the result of
fear of bodily consequences, such as one that pampered the flesh might
entertain. Let them look back to the time when, in thousands, they had gone
into the wilderness to hear his preaching. What had attracted them thither?
Surely it was, that he was the opposite of one swayed by popular opinion, 'a
reed shaken by the wind.' And when they had come to him, what had they
his dress and food betokened the opposite of pampering or care of the body,
such as they saw in the courtiers of a Herod. But what they did expect, that
they really did see: a prophet, and much more than a mere prophet, the very
Herald of God and Preparer of Messiah's Way.69
And yet - and this truly was a hard saying and utterly un-Judaic - it was
neither self-denial nor position, no, not even that of the New Testament
Elijah, which constituted real greatness, as Jesus viewed it, just as nearest
relationship constituted not true kinship to Him. To those who sought the
honour which is not of man's bestowing, but of God, to be a little one in the
Kingdom of God was greater greatness than even the Baptist's.
68. The two terms are different. The query was: would they go out 'to gaze at' a reed, and 'to see' one in soft clothing.
69. The reader will mark the difference between the quotation as made by all the three Evangelists, and our present Hebrew text and the LXX., and possibly draw his own inferences.
But, even so, let there be no mistake. As afterwards St. Paul
argued with the Jews, that their boast in the Law only increased their guilt as
breakers of the Law, so here our Lord. The popular concourse to, and esteem of,
did not imply that spiritual reception which was due to his Mission.72
It only brought out, in more marked contrast, the wide inward difference
between the expectancy of the people as a whole, and the spiritual reality
presented to them in the Forerunner of the Messiah and in the Messiah Himself.73
Let them not be deceived by the crowds that had submitted to the Baptism of
John. From the time that John began to preach the Kingdom, hindrances of every
kind had been raised. To overcome them and enter the Kingdom, it required, as
it were, violence like that to enter a city which was surrounded by a hostile
army.74 Even by
the Law 'and all the prophets prophesied only of the days of Messiah.'76
John, then, was the last link; and, if they would but have received it, he
would have been to them the Elijah, the Restorer of all things. Selah - 'he
that hath ears, let him hear.'
70. St. Luke vii. 29, 30.
71. This is a sort of parenthetic note by St. Luke.
72. St. Matt. xi. 12-14.
73. St. Matt. xi. 14-19.
74. The common interpretations of this verse have seemed to me singularly
75. Comp. the Appendix on the Jewish Interpretation of Prophecy.
76. Sanh. 99 a; Ber. 34 b; Shabb. 63 a.
Nay, but it was not so. The children of that generation
expected quite another Elijah and quite another Christ, and disbelieved and
complained, because the real Elijah and Christ did not meet their foolish
thoughts. They were like children in a market-place, who expected their fellows
to adapt themselves to the tunes they played. It was as if they said: We have
expected great Messianic glory and national exaltation, and ye have not
responded ('we have piped77
unto you, and ye have not danced'); we have looked for deliverance from our
national sufferings, and they stirred not your sympathies nor brought your help
('we have mourned to you, and ye have not lamented'). But you thought of the
Messianic time as children, and of us, as if we were your fellows, and shared
your thoughts and purposes! And so when John came with his stern asceticism,
you felt he was not one of you. He was in one direction outside your
boundary-line, and I, as the Friend of sinners, in the other direction. The axe
which he wielded you would have laid to the tree of the Gentile world, not to
that of Israel and of sin; the welcome and fellowship which I extended, you
would have had to 'the wise' and 'the righteous,' not to sinners. Such was
Israel as a whole. And yet there was an election according to grace: the
violent, who had to fight their way through all this, and who took the Kingdom
by violence - and so Heaven's Wisdom (in opposition to the children's folly) is
vindicated78 by all
If anything were needed to show the internal harmony between the Synoptists and
the Fourth Gospel, it would be this final appeal, which recalls those other
words: 'He came unto His own (things or property), and his own (people, they
who were His own) received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave
He power (right, authority) to become children of God, which were born
(begotten,) not . . . of the will of man, but of God.'80
77. The pipe was used both in feasts and at mourning. So the Messianic hope had both its joyous and its sorrowful aspect.
78. Literally, justified. The expression is a Hebraism.
79. I cannot accept the reading 'works' in St. Mark.
80. St. John i. 11-13.
6. The scene once more changes, and we are again at Mach�rus.81
Weeks have passed since the return of John's messengers. We cannot doubt that
the sunlight of faith has again fallen into the dark dungeon, nor yet that the
peace of restful conviction has filled the martyr of Christ. He must have known
that his end was at hand, and been ready to be offered up. Those not unfrequent
conversations, in which the weak, superstitious, wicked tyrant was 'perplexed'
and yet 'heard him gladly,' could no longer have inspired even passing hopes of
freedom. Nor would he any longer expect from the Messiah assertions of power on
his behalf. He now understood 'that for which He had come;' he knew the better
liberty, triumph, and victory which He brought. And what mattered it? His
life-work had been done, and there was nothing further that fell to him or that
he could do, and the weary servant of the Lord must have longed for his rest.
81. As, according to Josephus, John was executed at Mach�rus, the scene must have been there, and not either at Tiberias or at Julias.
It was early spring, shortly before the Passover, the
anniversary of the death of Herod the Great and of the accession of (his son)
Herod Antipas to the Tetrarchy.82
A fit time this for a Belshazzar-feast, when such an one as Herod would gather
to a grand banquet 'his lords,' and the military authorities, and the chief men
of Galilee. It is evening, and the castle-palace is brilliantly lit up. The
noise of music and the shouts of revelry come across the slope into the
citadel, and fall into the deep dungeon where waits the prisoner of Christ. And
now the merriment in the great banqueting-hall has reached its utmost height.
The king has nothing further to offer his satiated guests, no fresh excitement.
So let it be the sensuous stimulus of dubious dances, and, to complete it, let
the dancer be the fair young daughter of the king's wife, the very descendant
of the Asmon�an priest-princes! To viler depth of coarse familiarity even a
Herod could not have descended.
82. The expression genesia leaves it
doubtful, whether it was the birthday of Herod or the anniversary of his
accession. Wieseler maintains that the Rabbinic equivalent (Ginuseya, or Giniseya) means the day of accession, Meyer the birthday. In
truth it is used for both. But in Abod. Z. 10 a (about the middle) the Yom Ginuseya is expressly and elaborately shown to be the day of accession. Otherwise also the balance of evidence is in favour of this view. The event described in the text certainly took place before the Passover, and this was the time of Herod's death and of the accession of Antipas. It is not likely, that the Herodians would have celebrated their birthdays.
She has come, and she has danced, this princely maiden, out of
whom all maidenhood and all princeliness have been brazed by a degenerate
mother, wretched offspring of the once noble Maccabees. And she has done her
best in that wretched exhibition, and pleased Herod and them that sat at meat
with him. And now, amidst the general plaudits, she shall have her reward - and
the king swears it to her with loud voice, that all around hear it - even to
the half of his kingdom. The maiden steals out of the banquet-hall to ask her
mother what it shall be. Can there be doubt or hesitation in the mind of
Herodias? If there was one object she had at heart, which these ten months she
had in vain sought to attain: it was the death of John the Baptist. She
remembered it all only too well - her stormy, reckless past. The daughter of
Aristobulus, the ill-fated son of the ill-fated Asmon�an princess Mariamme
(I.), she had been married to her half-uncle, Herod Philip,83
the son of Herod the Great and of Mariamme (II.), the daughter of the
High-Priest (Bo�thos). At one time it seemed as if Herod Philip would have been
sole heir of his father's dominions. But the old tyrant had changed his
testament, and Philip was left with great wealth, but as a private person
living in Jerusalem. This little suited the woman's ambition. It was when his
half-brother, Herod Antipas, came on a visit to him at Jerusalem, that an
intrigue began between the Tetrarch and his brother's wife. It was agreed that,
after the return of Antipas from his impending journey to Rome, he would
repudiate his wife, the daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia, and wed Herodias.
But Aretas' daughter heard of the plot, and having obtained her husband's
consent to go to Mach�rus, she fled thence to her father. This, of course, led
to enmity between Antipas and Aretas. Nevertheless, the adulterous marriage
with Herodias followed. In a few sentences the story may be carried to its
termination. The woman proved the curse and ruin of Antipas. First came the
murder of the Baptist, which sent a thrill of horror through the people, and to
which all the later misfortunes of Herod were attributed. Then followed a war
with Aretas, in which the Tetrarch was worsted. And, last of all, his wife's
ambition led him to Rome to solicit the title of King, lately given to Agrippa,
the brother of Herodias. Antipas not only failed, but was deprived of his
dominions, and banished to Lyons in Gaul. The pride of the woman in refusing
favours from the Emperor, and her faithfulness to her husband in his fallen
fortunes, are the only redeeming points in her history.84
As for Salome, she was first married to her uncle, Philip the Tetrarch. Legend
has it, that her death was retributive, being in consequence of a fall on the
83. From the circumstance that Josephus calls him Herod and not Philip, a certain class of critics have imputed error to the Evangelists (Sch�rer, u. s., p. 237). But it requires to be kept in view, that in that case the Evangelists would be guilty not of one but of two gross historical errors. They would (1) have confounded this Herod with his half-brother Philip. the Tetrarch, and (2) made him the husband of Herodias, instead of being her son-in-law, Philip the
Tetrarch having married Salome. Two such errors are altogether inconceivable in so well-known a history, with which the Evangelists otherwise show such familiarity.
On the other hand, there are internal reasons for believing that this Herod had a second name. Among the eight sons of Herod the Great there are three who bear his name (Herod). Of only one, Herod Antipas, we know the second name (Antipas). But, as for example in the case of the Bonaparte family, it is most unlikely that the other two should have borne the name of Herod without any distinctive second name. Hence we conclude, that the name Philip, which occurs in the Gospels (in St. Luke iii. 19 it is spurious), was the second name of him
whom Josephus simply names as Herod. If it be objected, that in such case Herod would have had two sons named Philip, we answer (1) that he had two sons of the name Antipas, or Antipater, (2) that they were the sons of different mothers, and (3) that the full name of the one was Herod Philip (first husband of Herodias), and of the other simply Philip the Tetrarch (husband of Salome, and son-in-law of Herodias and of Herod Philip her first husband). Thus for distinction's sake the one might have been generally called simply Herod, the other Philip.
84. Jos. Ant. xviii. 7. 1, 2; War ii. 9. 6.
Such was the woman who had these many months sought with the
vengefulness and determination of a Jezebel, to rid herself of the hated
person, who alone had dared publicly denounce her sin, and whose words held her
weak husband in awe. The opportunity had now come for obtaining from the
vacillating monarch what her entreaties could never have secured. As the Gospel
'instigated' by her mother, the damsel hesitated not. We can readily fill in
the outlined picture of what followed. It only needed the mother's whispered
suggestion, and still flushed from her dance, Salome reentered the
banqueting-hall. 'With haste,' as if no time were to be lost, she went up to
king: 'I would that thou forthwith give me in a charger, the head of John the
Baptist!' Silence must have fallen on the assembly. Even into their hearts such
a demand from the lips of little more than a child must have struck horror.
They all knew John to be a righteous and holy man. Wicked as they were, in
their superstition, if not religiousness, few, if any of them, would have
willingly lent himself to such work. And they all knew, also, why Salome, or
rather Herodias, had made this demand. What would Herod do? 'The king was
exceeding sorry.' For months he had striven against this. His conscience, fear
of the people, inward horror at the deed, all would have kept him from it. But
he had sworn to the maiden, who now stood before him, claiming that the pledge
be redeemed, and every eye in the assembly was now fixed upon him. Unfaithful
to his God, to his conscience, to truth and righteousness; not ashamed of any
crime or sin, he would yet be faithful to his half-drunken oath, and appear
honorable and true before such companions!
85. St. Matt. xiv. 8.
It has been but the contest of a moment. 'Straightway' the king
gives the order to one of the body-guard.86
The maiden hath withdrawn to await the result with her mother. The guardsman
has left the banqueting-hall. Out into the cold spring night, up that slope,
and into the deep dungeon. As its door opens, the noise of the revelry comes
with the light of the torch which the man bears. No time for preparation is
given, nor needed. A few minutes more, and the gory head of the Baptist is
brought to the maiden in a charger, and she gives the ghastly dish to her
86. A spekoulatwr, speculator, one of
a body-guard which had come into use, who attended the C�sars, executed their behests and often their sudden sentences of death (from speculor). The
same word occurs in Rabbinic Hebrew as Sephaqlator (rw+lafq:pas:), or Isphaqlator
(rw+lafq:pas:)i), and is applied to one who carries out the sentence of execution (Shabb. 108 a).
It is all over! As the pale morning light streams into the
keep, the faithful disciples, who had been told of it, come reverently to bear
the headless body to the burying. They go forth for ever from that accursed
place, which is so soon to become a mass of shapeless ruins. They go to tell it
to Jesus, and henceforth to remain with Him. We can imagine what welcome
awaited them. But the people ever afterwards cursed the tyrant, and looked for
those judgments of God to follow, which were so soon to descend on him. And he
himself was ever afterwards restless, wretched, and full of apprehensions. He
could scarcely believe that the Baptist was really dead, and when the fame of Jesus
reached him, and those around suggested that this was Elijah, a prophet, or as
one of them, Herod's mind, amidst its strange perplexities, still reverted to
the man whom he had murdered. It was a new anxiety, perhaps, even so, a new
hope; and as formerly he had often and gladly heard the Baptist, so now he
would fain have seen Jesus.87
He would see Him; but not now. In that dark night of betrayal, he, who at the
bidding of the child of an adulteress, had murdered the Forerunner, might, with
the aprobation of a Pilate, have rescued Him whose faithful witness John had
been. But night was to merge into yet darker night. For it was the time and the
power of the Evil One. And yet: 'Jehovah reigneth.'
87. St. Luke ix. 9.
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