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The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE DESCENT: FROM THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION
INTO THE VALLEY OF HUMILIATION AND DEATH.
THE JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
CHRONOLOGICAL ARRANGEMENT OF
THE LAST PART OF THE GOSPEL-NARRATIVES
FIRST INCIDENTS BY THE WAY.
(St. John 7:1-16; St. Luke 9:1-56, 57-62;
St. Matthew 8:19-22.)
THE part in the Evangelic History which we have now reached has this
peculiarity and difficulty, that the events are now recorded by only one of the
Evangelists. The section in St. Luke's Gospel from chapter ix. 51 to chapter
xviii. 14 stands absolutely alone. From the circumstance that St. Luke omits throughout
his narrative all notation of time or place, the difficulty of arranging here
the chronological succession of events is so great, that we can only suggest
what seems most probable, without feeling certain of the details. Happily, the
period embraced is a short one, while at the same time the narrative of St.
Luke remarkably fits into that of St. John. St. John mentions three appearances
of Christ in Jerusalem at that period: at the Feast of Tabernacles,1
at that of the Dedication,2
and His final entry, which is referred to by all the other Evangelists.3
But, while the narrative of St. John confines itself exclusively to what
happened in Jerusalem or its immediate neighborhood. it also either mentions or
gives sufficient indication that on two out of these three occasions Jesus left
Jerusalem for the country east of the Jordan (St. John x. 19-21; St. John x.
39-43, where the words in ver. 39, 'they sought again to take Him,' point to a
previous similar attempt and flight). Besides these, St. John also records a
journey to Bethany - though not to Jerusalem - for the raising of Lazarus,4
and after that a council against Christ in Jerusalem, in consequence of which
He withdrew out of Judĉan territory into a district near 'the wilderness'5
- as we infer, that in the north, where John had been baptizing and Christ been
tempted, and whither He had afterwards withdrawn.6
We regard this 'wilderness' as on the western bank of the Jordan, and extending
northward towards the eastern shore of the Lake of Galilee.7
1. St. John vii. to x.
2. x. 22-42.
3. St. Matt. xx. 17 &c.; St. Mark x. 32 &c.; St. Luke xvii. 11 &c.
4. St. John xi.
5. xi. 54.
6. St. Luke iv. 1; v. 16; vii. 24.
7. St. Luke viii. 29.
If St. John relates three appearances of Jesus at this time in
Jerusalem, St. Luke records three journeys to Jerusalem,8
the last of which agrees, in regard to its starting point, with the notices of
the other Evangelists,9
always supposing that we have correctly indicated the locality of 'the
wilderness' whither, according to St. John xi. 54, Christ retired previous to
His last journey to Jerusalem. In this respect, although it is impossible with
our present information to localise 'the City of Ephraim,'10
the statement that it was 'near the wilderness,' affords us sufficient general
notice of its situation. For, the New Testament speaks of only two
'wilderness,' that of Judĉa in the far South, and that in the far North of
Perĉa, or perhaps in the Decapolis, to which St. Luke refers as the scene of
the Baptist's labours, where Jesus was tempted, and whither He afterwards
withdrew. We can, therefore, have little doubt that St. John refers11
to this district. And this entirely accords with the notices by the other
Evangelists of Christ's last journey to Jerusalem, as through the borders of
Galilee and Samaria, and then across the Jordan, and by Bethany to Jerusalem.
8. St. Luke ix. 51; xiii. 22; xviii. 31.
9. St. Matt. xix. 1; St. Mark x. 1.
10. Comp. the suggestions in Neubauer, Geog. de Talm. p. 155.
11. in St. John xi. 54.
It follows (as previously stated) that St. Luke's account of the
three journeys to Jerusalem fits into the narrative of Christ's three
appearances in Jerusalem as described by St. John. And the unique section in
St. Luke12 supplies
the record of what took place before, during, and after those journeys, of
which the upshot is told by St. John. This much seems certain; the exact
chronological succession must be, in part, matter of suggestion. But we have
now some insight into the plan of St. Luke's Gospel, as compared with that of
the others. We see that St. Luke forms a kind of transition, is a sort of connecting
link between the other two Synoptists13
and St. John. This is admitted even by negative critics.14
The Gospel by St. Matthew has for its main object the Discourses or teaching of
the Lord, around which the History groups itself. It is intended as a
demonstration, primarily addressed to the Jews, and in a form peculiarly suited
to them, that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. The Gospel by
St. Mark is a rapid survey of the History of the Christ as such. It deals
mainly with the Galilean Ministry. The Gospel by St. John, which gives the
highest, the reflective, view of the Eternal Son as the Word, deals almost
exclusively with the Jerusalem Ministry.15
And the Gospel by St. Luke complements the narratives in the other two Gospels
(St. Matthew and St. Mark), and it supplements them by tracing, what is not
done otherwise: the Ministry in Perœa. Thus, it also forms a transition to
the Fourth Gospel of the Judĉan Ministry. If we may venture a step further: The
Gospel by St. Mark gives the general view of the Christ; that by St. Matthew
the Jewish, that by St. Luke the Gentile, and that by St. John the Church's
view. Imagination might, indeed, go still further, and see the impress of the
number five - that of the Pentateuch and the Book of Psalms - in the
First Gospel; the numeral four (that of the world) in the Second Gospel
(4x4=16 chapters); that of three in the Third (8x3=24 chapters); and
that of seven, the sacred Church number, in the Fourth Gospel (7x3=21
chapters). And perhaps we might even succeed in arranging the Gospels into
corresponding sections. But this would lead, not only beyond our present task,
but from solid history and exegesis into the regions of speculation.16
12. St. Luke ix. 51-xviii. 14.
13. St. Matthew and St. Mark.
14. See Renan, Les Evangiles, p.266.
15. This seems unaccountable on the modern negative theory of its being an Ephesian Gospel.
16. Of course, putting aside the question of the arrangement into chapters, the reader
might profitably make the experiment of arranging the Gospels into parts and sections, nor could he have a better guide to help his own investigations than
Canon Westcott's Introduction to the Study of the Gospels.
The subject, then, primarily before us, is the journeying of
Jesus to Jerusalem. In that wider view which St. Luke takes of this whole
history, he presents what really were three separate journeys as one -
that towards the great end. In its conscious aim and object, all - from the
moment of His finally quitting Galilee to His final Entry into Jerusalem -
formed, in the highest sense, only one journey And this St. Luke designates in
a peculiar manner. Just as17
he had spoken, not of Christ's Death but of His 'Exodus,' or outgoing, which
included His Resurrection and Ascension, so he now tells us that, 'when the
days of His uptaking' - including and pointing to His Ascension18
- 'were being fulfilled, He also19
His Face to go to Jerusalem.'
17. St. Luke ix. 31.
18. The substantive analhyiV occurs only
in this place, but the cognate verb repeatedly, as referring to the Ascension.
The curious interpretation of Wieseler would not even call for notice,
it had not the authority of his name.
19. The word kai, omitted in
translations, seems to denote Christ's full determination by the side of the fulfilment of the time. It could scarcely be argued that it stands merely for
the Hebrew copulative w.
20. The term is used in the LXX as denoting firmly setting. In connection with proswpon it occurs twelve times.
St. John, indeed, goes farther back, and speaks of the circumstances
which preceded His journey to Jerusalem. There is an interval, or, as we might
term it, a blank, of more than half a year between the last narrative in the
Fourth Gospel and this. For, the events chronicled in the sixth chapter of St.
John's Gospel took place immediately before the Passover,21
which was on the fifteenth day of the first ecclesiastical month (Nisan),
while the Feast of Tabernacle22
began on the same day of the seventh ecclesiastical month (Tishri). But,
except in regard to the commencement of Christ's Ministry, that sixth chapter
is the only one in the Gospel of St. John which refers to the Galilean Ministry
of Christ. We would suggest, that what it records is partly intended23
to exhibit, by the side of Christ's fully developed teaching, the fully
developed enmity of the Jerusalem Scribes, which led even to the defection of
many former disciples. Thus, chapter vi. would be a connecting-link (both as
regards the teaching of Christ and the opposition to Him) between chapter v.,
which tells of His visit at the 'Unknown Feast,' and chapter vii., which
records that at the Feast of Tabernacles. The six or seven months between the
Feast of Passover24
and that of Tabernacles,25
and all that passed within them, are covered by this brief remark: 'After these
things Jesus walked in Galilee: for He would not walk in Judĉa, because the
Jews [the leaders of the people26]
sought to kill Him.'
21. St. John vi. 4.
22. St. John vii. 2.
23. Other and deeper reasons will also suggest themselves, and have been hinted at when treating of this event.
24. St. John vi.
25. St. John vii.
26. The term 'Jews' is generally used by St. John in that sense.
But now the Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. The pilgrims
would probably arrive in Jerusalem before the opening day of the Festival. For,
besides the needful preparations - which would require time, especially on this
Feast, when booths had to be constructed in which to live during the festive
week - it was (as we remember) the common practice to offer such sacrifices as
might have previously become due at any of the great Feasts to which the people
might go up.27
Remembering that five months had elapsed since the last great Feast (that of
Weeks), many such sacrifices must have been due. Accordingly, the ordinary
festive companies of pilgrims, which would travel slowly, must have started
from Galilee some time before the beginning of the Feast. These circumstances
fully explain the details of the narrative. They also afford another most
painful illustration of the loneliness of Christ in His Work. His disciples had
failed to understand, they misapprehended His teaching. In the near prospect of
His Death they either displayed gross ignorance, or else disputed about their
future rank. And His own 'brethren' did not believe in Him. The whole course of
late events, especially the unmet challenge of the Scribes for 'a sign from
heaven,' had deeply shaken them. What was the purpose of 'works,' if done in
the privacy of the circle of Christ's Apostles, in a house, a remote district,
or even before an ignorant multitude? If, claiming to be the Messiah, He wished
to be openly28
known as such, He must use other means. If He really did these things, let Him
manifest Himself before the world - in Jerusalem, the capital of their world,
and before those who could test the reality of His Works. Let Him come forward,
at one of Israel's great Feasts, in the Temple, and especially at this Feast
which pointed to the Messianic ingathering of all nations. Let Him now go up
with them in the festive company into Judĉa, that so His disciples - not the
Galileans only - but all, might have the opportunity of 'gazing'29
on His Works.30
27. According to Babha K. 113 a, regular festive lectures commenced in the Academies thirty days before each of the great Feasts. Those who attended them were called Beney Rigla, in distinction to the Beney Khallah, who
attended the regular Sabbath lectures.
28. The same term )yshrp (Parhesya) occurs in Rabbinic language.
29. The verb is the significant one, qewrew.
30. Godet remarks, that the style of ver. 4 is peculiarly Hebraistic.
As the challenge was not new,31
so, from the worldly point of view, it can scarcely be called unreasonable. It
is, in fact, the same in principle as that to which the world would now submit
the claims of Christianity to men's acceptance. It has only this one fault,
that it ignores the world's enmity to the Christ. Discipleship is not the
result of any outward manifestation by 'evidences' or demonstration. It
requires the conversion of a child-like spirit. To manifest Himself! This truly
would He do, though not in their way. For this 'the season'32
had not yet come, though it would soon arrive. Their 'season' - that for such
Messianic manifestations as they contemplated - was 'always ready.' And this
naturally, for 'the world' could not 'hate' them; they and their demonstrations
were quite in accordance with the world and its views. But towards Him the
world cherished personal hatred, because of their contrariety of principle,
because Christ was manifested, not to restore an earthly kingdom to Israel, but
to bring the Heavenly Kingdom upon earth - 'to destroy the works of the Devil.'
Hence, He must provoke the enmity of that world which lay in the Wicked One.
Another manifestation than that which they sought would He make, when His
'season was fulfilled;' soon, beginning at this very Feast, continued at the
next, and completed at the last Passover; such manifestation of Himself as the
Christ, as could alone be made in view of the essential enmity of the world.
31. See especially the cognate occurrence and expressions at the marriage feast in Cana.
And so He let them go up in the festive company, while Himself
tarried. When the noise and publicity (which He wished to avoid) were no longer
to be apprehended, He also went up, but privately,33
not publicly, as they had suggested. Here St. Luke's account begins. It almost
reads like a commentary on what the Lord had just said to His brethren, about
the enmity of the world, and His mode of manifestation - who would not, and who
would receive Him, and why. 'He came unto His own, and His own received Him
not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become children of
God . . . which were born . . . of God.'
33. Godet infers from the word 'secretly,' that the journey of St. Luke ix. 51 could not have
been that referred to by St. John. But the qualified expression, 'as it were in secret,' conveys to my mind only a contrast to the public
pilgrim-bands, in which it was the custom to travel to the Feasts - a
publicity, which His 'brethren' specially desired at this time. Besides, the 'in secret' of St. John might refer not so much to the journey as to the appearance of Christ at the Feast: comp. St. John vii. 11, 14.
The first purpose of Christ seems to have been to take the more
direct road to Jerusalem, through Samaria, and not to follow that of the
festive pilgrim-bands, which travelled to Jerusalem through Perĉa, in order to
avoid the band of their hated rivals. But His intention was soon frustrated. In
the very first Samaritan village to which the Christ had sent beforehand to
prepare for Himself and His company,34
His messengers were told that the Rabbi could not be received; that neither
hospitality nor friendly treatment could be extended to One Who was going up to
the Feast at Jerusalem. The messengers who brought back this strangely
un-Oriental answer met the Master and His followers on the road. It was not
only an outrage on common manners, but an act of open hostility to Israel, as
well as to Christ, and the 'Sons of Thunder,' whose feelings for their Master
were, perhaps, the more deeply stirred as opposition to Him grew more fierce,
proposed to vindicate the cause, alike of Israel and its Messiah-King, by the
open and Divine judgment of fire called down from heaven to destroy that
village. Did they in this connection think of the vision of Elijah, ministering
to Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration - and was this their application of
it? Truly, they knew not of what Spirit they were to be the children and
messengers. He Who had come, not to destroy, but to save, turned and rebuked
them, and passed from Samaritan into Jewish territory to pursue His journey.35
Perhaps, indeed, He had only passed into Samaria to teach His disciples this
needful lesson. The view of this event just presented seems confirmed by the
circumstance, that St. Matthew lays the scene immediately following 'on the
other side' - that is, in the Decapolis.36
34. It does not necessarily follow, that the company at starting was a large one. But
they would have no host nor quarters ready to receive them in Samaria. Hence the despatch of messengers.
35. At the same time, according to the best MSS. the words (in St. Luke ix. 54): 'Even as Elias did,' and those (in verses 55 and 56) from 'and said. . .' to 'save
them,' are interpolated. They are 'a gloss,' though a correct one.
36. St. Matt. viii. 18.
It was a journey of deepest interest and importance. For, it
was decisive not only as regarded the Master, but those who followed Him.
Henceforth it must not be, as in former times, but wholly and exclusively, as
into suffering and death. It is thus that we view the next three incidents of
the way. Two of them find, also, a place in the Gospel by St. Matthew,37
although in a different connection, in accordance with the plan of that Gospel,
which groups together the Teaching of Christ, with but secondary attention to
37. St. Matt. viii. 19-22.
It seems that, as, after the rebuff of these Samaritans, they
'were going' towards another, and a Jewish village, 'one'38
of the company, and, as we learn from St. Matthew, 'a Scribe,' in the generous
enthusiasm of the moment - perhaps, stimulated by the wrong of the Samaritans,
perhaps, touched by the love which would rebuke the zeal of the disciples, but
had no word of blame for the unkindness of others - broke into a spontaneous
declaration of readiness to follow Him absolutely and everywhere. Like the
benediction of the woman who heard Him,39
it was one of these outbursts of an enthusiasm which His Presence awakened in
every susceptible heart. But there was one eventuality which that Scribe, and
all of like enthusiasm, reckoned not with - the utter homelessness of the
Christ in this world - and this, not from accidental circumstances, but because
He was 'the Son of Man.'40
And there is here also material for still deeper thought in the fact that this
man was 'a Scribe,' and yet had not gone up to the Feast, but tarried near
Christ - was 'one' of those that followed Him now, and was capable of such
feelings!41 How many
whom we regard as Scribes, may be in analogous relation to the Christ,
and yet how much of fair promise has failed to ripen into reality in view of
the homelessness of Christ and Christianity in this world - the stranger ship
of suffering which it involves to those who would follow, not somewhere, but
absolutely, and everywhere?
38. The word tiV, here designates a
certain one - one, viz., of the company. The arrangement of the words
undoubtedly is, 'one of the company said unto Him by the way,' and not as either in the A.V. or R.V. Comp. Canon Cook, ad loc. in the
39. St. Luke xi. 27.
40. We mark, that the designation 'Son of Man' is here for the first time applied to
Christ by St. Matthew. May this history have been inserted in the First Gospel in that particular connection for the purpose of pointing out this contrast in
the treatment of the Son of Man by the sons of men - as if to say: Learn the meaning of the representative title: Son of Man, in a world of men who would not receive Him? It is the more marked, that it immediately precedes the first application on the part of men of the title 'Son of God' to Christ in this
Gospel (St. Matt. vii. 29).
41. It is scarcely necessary to discuss the suggestion, that the first two referred to in the narrative were either Bartholomew and Philip, or else Judas Iscariot and Thomas.
The intenseness of the self-denial involved in following
Christ, and its contrariety to all that was commonly received among men, was, purposely,
immediately further brought out. This Scribe had proffered to follow Jesus.
Another of his disciples He asked to follow Him, and that in
circumstances of peculiar trail and difficulty.42
The expression 'to follow' a Teacher would, in those days be universally
understood as implying discipleship. Again, no other duty would be regarded as
more sacred than that they, on whom the obligation naturally devolved, should
bury the dead. To this everything must give way - even prayer, and the study of
the Law.43 Lastly,
we feel morally certain, that, when Christ called this disciple to follow Him,
He was fully aware that at that very moment his father lay dead. Thus, He
called him not only to homelessness - for this he might have been prepared -
but to set aside what alike natural feeling and the Jewish Law seemed to impose
on him as the most sacred duty. In the seemingly strange reply, which Christ
made to the request to be allowed first to bury his father, we pass over the
consideration that, according to Jewish law, the burial and mourning for a dead
father, and the subsequent purifications, would have occupied many days, so
that it might have been difficult, perhaps impossible, to overtake Christ. We
would rather abide by the simple words of Christ. They teach us this very
solemn and searching lesson, that there are higher duties than either those of
the Jewish Law, or even of natural reverence, and a higher call than that of
man. No doubt Christ had here in view the near call to the Seventy - of whom
this disciple was to be one - to 'go and preach the Kingdom of God.' When the
direct call of Christ to any work comes - that is, if we are sure of it
from His own words, and not (as, alas! too often we do) only infer it by our
own reasoning on His words - then every other call must give way. For, duties
can never be in conflict - and this duty about the living and life must take
precedence of that about death and the dead. Nor must we hesitate, because we
know not in what form this work for Christ may come. There are critical moments
in our inner history, when to postpone the immediate call, is really to reject
it; when to go and bury the dead - even though it were a dead father - were to
42. St. Luke ix. 59.
43. Ber. iii. 1; 17 b, and other passages, but especially Megill. 3.
Yet another hindrance to following Christ was to be faced. Another
in the company that followed Christ would go with Him, but he asked permission
first to go and bid farewell to those whom he had left in his home. It almost
seems as if this request had been one of those 'tempting' questions, addressed
to Christ. But, even if otherwise, the farewell proposed was not like that of
Elisha, nor like the supper of Levi-Matthew. It was rather like the year which
Jephtha's daughter would have with her companions, ere fulfilling the vow. It
shows, that to follow Christ was regarded as a duty, and to leave those
in the earthly home as a trial; and it betokens, not merely a divided
heart, but one not fit for the Kingdom of God. For, how can he draw a straight
furrow in which to cast the seed, who, as he puts his hand to the plough, looks
around or behind him?
Thus, these are the three vital conditions of following Christ:
absolute self-denial and homelessness in the world; immediate and entire
self-surrender to Christ and His Work, and a heart and affections simple,
undivided, and set on Christ and His Work, to which there is no other trial of
parting like that which would involve parting from Him, no other or higher joy
than that of following Him. In such spirit let them now go after Christ in His
last journey - and to such work as He will appoint them!
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