The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE DESCENT: FROM THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION
INTO THE VALLEY OF HUMILIATION AND DEATH.
AT THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES
FIRST DISCOURSE IN THE TEMPLE
(St. John 7:11-36.)
IT was Chol ha Moed - as the non-sacred part of the
festive week, the half-holy days were called.1
Jerusalem, the City of Solemnities, the City of Palaces, the City of beauty and
glory, wore quite another than its usual aspect; other, even, than when its
streets were thronged by festive pilgrims during the Passover-week, or at
Pentecost. For this was pre-eminently the Feast for foreign pilgrims, coming
from the farthest distance, whose Temple-contributions were then received and
the strange costumes of Media, Arabia, Persia, or India, and even further; or
the Western speech and bearing of the pilgrims from Italy, Spain, the modern
Crimea, and the banks of the Danube, if not from yet more strange and barbarous
lands, it would not be difficult to recognise the lineaments of the Jew, nor to
perceive that to change one's clime was not to change one's mind. As the
Jerusalemite would look with proud self-consciousness, not unmingled with
kindly patronage, on the swarthy strangers, yet fellow-countrymen, or the
eager-eyed Galilean curiously stare after them, the pilgrims would, in turn,
gaze with mingled awe and wonderment on the novel scene. Here was the
realisation of their fondest dreams ever since childhood, the home and spring
of their holiest thoughts and best hopes - that which gave inward victory to
the vanquished, and converted persecution into anticipated triumph.
They could come at this season of the year - not during the
winter for the Passover, nor yet quite so readily in summer's heat for
Pentecost. But now, in the delicious cool of early autumn, when all
harvest-operations, the gathering in of luscious fruit and the vintage were
past, and the first streaks of gold were tinting the foliage, strangers from
afar off, and countrymen from Judĉa, Perĉa, and Galilee, would mingle in the
streets of Jerusalem, under the ever-present shadow of that glorious Sanctuary
of marble, cedarwood, and gold, up there on high Moriah, symbol of the
infinitely more glorious overshadowing Presence of Him, Who was the Holy One in
the midst of Israel. How all day long, even till the stars lit up the deep blue
canopy over head, the smoke of the burning, smouldering sacrifices rose in
slowly-widening column, and hung between the Mount of Olives and Zion; how the
chant of Levites, and the solemn responses of the Hallel were borne on
the breeze, or the clear blast of the Priests silver trumpets seemed to waken
the echoes far away! And then, at night, how all these vast Temple-buildings
stood out, illuminated by the great Candelabras that burned in the Court of the
Women, and by the glare of torches, when strange sound of mystic hymns and
dances came floating over the intervening darkness! Truly, well might Israel
designate the Feast of Tabernacles as 'the Feast' (haChag), and
the Jewish historian describe it as 'the holiest and greatest.'34
Early on the 14th Tishri (corresponding to our September or
early October), all the festive pilgrims had arrived. Then it was, indeed, a
scene of bustle and activity. Hospitality had to be sought and found; guests to
be welcomed and entertained; all things required for the feast to be got ready.
Above all, booths must be erected everywhere - in court and on housetop, in
street and square, for the lodgment and entertainment of that vast multitude;
leafy dwellings everywhere, to remind of the wilderness-journey, and now of the
goodly land. Only that fierce castle, Antonia, which frowned above the Temple,
was undecked by the festive spring into which the land had burst. To the Jew it
must have been a hateful sight, that castle, which guarded and dominated his
own City and Temple - hateful sight and sounds, that Roman garrison, with its
foreign, heathen, ribald speech and manners. Yet, for all this, Israel could
not read on the lowering sky the signs of the times, nor yet knew the day of
their merciful visitation. And this, although of all festivals, that of
Tabernacles should have most clearly pointed them to the future.
Indeed, the whole symbolism of the Feast, beginning with the
completed harvest, for which it was a thanksgiving, pointed to the future. The
Rabbis themselves admitted this. The strange number of sacrificial bullocks -
seventy in all - they regarded as referring to 'the seventy nations' of
The ceremony of the outpouring of water, which was considered of such vital
importance as to give to the whole festival the name of 'House of Outpouring,'6
was symbolical of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.7
As the brief night of the great Temple-illumination closed, there was solemn
testimony made before Jehovah against heathenism. It must have been a stirring
scene, when from out of the mass of Levites, with their musical instruments,
who crowded the fifteen steps that led from the Court of Israel to that of the
Women, stepped two priests with their silver trumpets. As the first cockcrowing
intimated the dawn of morn, they blew a threefold blast; another on the tenth
step, and yet another threefold blast as they entered the Court of the Women.
And still sounding their trumpets, they marched through the Court of the Women
to the Beautiful Gate. Here, turning round and facing westwards to the Holy
Place, they repeated: 'Our fathers, who were in this place, they turned their
backs on the Sanctuary of Jehovah, and their faces eastward, for they
worshipped eastward, the sun; but we, our eyes are towards Jehovah.' 'We are
Jehovah's - our eyes are towards Jehovah.'89
Nay, the whole of this night- and morning-scene was symbolical: the
Temple-illumination, of the light which was to shine from out the Temple into
the dark night of heathendom; then, at the first dawn of morn the blast of the priests'
silver trumpets, of the army of God, as it advanced, with festive trumpet-sound
and call, to awaken the sleepers, marching on to quite the utmost bounds of the
Sanctuary, to the Beautiful Gate, which opened upon the Court of the Gentiles -
and, then again, facing round to utter solemn protest against heathenism, and
make solemn confession of Jehovah!
5. Sukk. 55 b; Pesiqta, ed. Buber, p. 17 a; 194 a; Shabb. 88 b.
6. Sukk. v. 1.
7. Jer. Sukk. v. 1, p. 55 a.
8. Sukk. v. 4.
9. This second form is according to R. Jenudah's tradition.
But Jesus did not appear in the Temple during the first two
festive days. The pilgrims from all parts of the country - perhaps, they from
abroad also - had expected Him there, for everyone would now speak of Him -
'not openly,' in Jerusalem, for they were afraid of their rulers. It was hardly
safe to speak of Him without reserve. But they sought Him, and inquired after
Him - and they did speak of Him, though there was only a murmuring - a low,
confused discussion of the pro and con, in this great controversy
among the 'multitudes,'10
or festive bands from various parts. Some said: He is a good man, while others
declared that He only led astray the common, ignorant populace. And now, all at
once, in Chol ha Moed,11
Jesus Himself appeared in the Temple, and taught. We know that, on a later
occasion,12 He walked
and taught in 'Solomon's Porch,' and, from the circumstance that the early
disciples made this their common meeting-place,13
we may draw the inference that it was here the people now found Him. Although
neither Josephus nor the Mishnah mention this 'Porch' by name,14
we have every reason for believing that it was the eastern colonnade, which
abutted against the Mount of Olives and faced 'the Beautiful Gate,' that formed
the principal entrance into the 'Court of the Women,' and so into the
Sanctuary. For, all along the inside of the great wall which formed the
Temple-enclosure ran a double colonnade - each column a monolith of white
marble, 25 cubits high, covered with cedar-beams. That on the south side
(leading from the western entrance to Solomon's Porch), known as the 'Royal
Porch,' was a threefold colonnade, consisting of four rows of columns, each 27
cubits high, and surmounted by Corinthian capitals. We infer that the eastern
was 'Solomon's Porch,' from the circumstance that it was the only relic left of
These colonnades, which, from their ample space, formed alike places for quiet
walk and for larger gatherings, had benches in them - and, from the liberty of
speaking and teaching in Israel, Jesus might here address the people in the
very face of His enemies.
10. In the plural it occurs only in this place in St. John, and once in St. Mark (vi. 33), but sixteen times in St. Luke, and still more frequently in St. Matthew.
11. See above, p. 148.
12. St. John x. 23.
13. Acts v. 12.
14. This, as showing such local knowledge on the part of the Fourth Gospel, must be taken
as additional evidence of its Johannine authorship, just as the mention of that Porch in the Book of Acts points to a Jerusalem source of information.
15. Jos. Ant. xv. 11. 5; xx. 9. 7.
We know not what was the subject of Christ's teaching on this
occasion. But the effect on the people was one of general astonishment. They
knew what common unlettered Galilean tradesmen were - but this, whence
came it?16 'How does
this one know literature (letters, learning),17
never having learned?' To the Jews there was only one kind of learning - that
of Theology; and only one road to it - the Schools of the Rabbis. Their major
was true, but their minor false - and Jesus hastened to correct it. He
had, indeed, 'learned,' but in a School quite other than those which alone they
recognised. Yet, on their own showing, it claimed the most absolute submission.
Among the Jews a Rabbi's teaching derived authority from the fact of its
accordance with tradition - that it accurately represented what had been
received from a previous great teacher, and so on upwards to Moses, and to God
Himself. On this ground Christ claimed the highest authority. His doctrine was
not His own invention - it was the teaching of Him that sent Him. The doctrine
was God-received, and Christ was sent direct from God to bring it. He was God's
messenger of it to them.18
Of this twofold claim there was also twofold evidence. Did He assert that what
He taught was God-received? Let trial be made of it. Everyone who in his soul
felt drawn towards God; each one who really 'willeth to do His Will,' would
know 'concerning this teaching, whether it is of God,' or whether it was of
man.19 It was
this felt, though unrealised influence which had drawn all men after Him, so
that they hung on His lips. It was this which, in the hour of greatest
temptation and mental difficulty, had led Peter, in name of the others, to end
the sore inner contest by laying hold on this fact: 'To whom shall we go? Thou
hast the words of eternal life - and we have believed and know, that Thou art
the Holy One of God.'20
Marking, as we pass, that this inward connection between that teaching and
learning and the present occasion, may be the deeper reason why, in the Gospel
by St. John, the one narrative is immediately followed by the other, we pause
to say, how real it hath proved in all ages and to all stages of Christian
learning - that the heart makes the truly God-taught ('pectus facit
Theologum'), and that inward, true aspiration after the Divine prepares the
eye to behold the Divine Reality in the Christ. But, if it be so is there not
evidence here, that He is the God-sent - that He is a real, true Ambassador of
God? If Jesus' teaching meets and satisfies our moral nature, if it leads up to
God, is He not the Christ?
16. St. John vii. 15.
17. Comp. Acts xxvi. 24.
18. St. John vii. 16-17.
19. The passage quoted by Canon Westcott from Ab. ii. 4 does not seem to be parallel.
20. St. John vi. 68, 69.
And this brings us to the second claim which Christ made, that
of being sent by God. There is yet another logical link in His reasoning. He
had said: 'He shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God, or whether I
speak from Myself.' From Myself? Why, there is this other test of it: 'Who speaketh
from himself, seeketh his own glory' - there can be no doubt or question of
this, but do I seek My own glory? - 'But He Who seeketh the glory of Him Who
sent Him, He is true (a faithful messenger), and unrighteousness is not in
Him.'21 Thus did
Christ appeal and prove it: My doctrine is of God, and I am sent of God!
21. St. John vii. 18.
Sent of God, no unrighteousness in Him! And yet at that very
moment there hung over Him the charge of defiance of the Law of Moses, nay, of
that of God, in an open breach of the Sabbath-commandment - there, in that very
City, the last time He had been in Jerusalem; for which, as well as for His
Divine claims, the Jews were even then seeking 'to kill Him.'22
And this forms the transition to what may be called the second part of Christ's
address. If, in the first part, the Jewish form of ratiocination was already
apparent, it seems almost impossible for any one acquainted with those forms to
understand how it can be overlooked in what follows.23
It is exactly the mode in which a Jew would argue with Jews, only the substance
of the reasoning is to all times and people. Christ is defending Himself
against a charge which naturally came up, when He claimed that His Teaching was
of God and Himself God's real and faithful Messenger. In His reply the two
threads of the former argument are taken up. Doing is the condition of
knowledge - and a messenger had been sent from God! Admittedly, Moses was such,
and yet every one of them was breaking the Law which he had given them; for,
were they not seeking to kill Him without right or justice? This, put in the
form of a double question,24
represents a peculiarly Jewish mode of argumentation, behind which lay the
terrible truth, that those, whose hearts were so little longing to do the Will
of God, not only must remain ignorant of His Teaching as that of God, but had
also rejected that of Moses.
22. St. John v. 18.
23. I regard this as almost overwhelming evidence against the theory of an Ephesian authority of the Fourth Gospel. Even the double question in ver. 19 is here significant.
24. St. John vii. 19, 20.
A general disclaimer, a cry 'Thou hast a demon' (art
possessed), 'who seeks to kill Thee?' here broke in upon the Speaker. But He
would not be interrupted, and continued: 'One work I did, and all you wonder on
account of it'25
- referring to His healing on the Sabbath, and their utter inability to
understand His conduct. Well, then, Moses was a messenger of God, and I am sent
of God. Moses gave the law of circumcision - not, indeed, that it was of his
authority, but had long before been God-given - and, to observe this law, no
one hesitated to break the Sabbath,26
since, according to Rabbinic principle, a positive ordinance superseded a
negative. And yet, when Christ, as sent from God, made a man every whit whole
on the Sabbath ('made a whole man sound') they were angry with Him!27
Every argument which might have been urged in favour of the postponement of
Christ's healing to a week-day, would equally apply to that of circumcision;
while every reason that could be urged in favour of Sabbath-circumcision, would
tell an hundredfold in favour of the act of Christ. Oh, then, let them not
judge after the mere outward appearance, but 'judge the right judgment.' And,
indeed, had it not been to convince them of the externalism of their views,
that Jesus had on that Sabbath opened the great controversy between the letter
that killeth and the spirit that maketh alive, when He directed the impotent
man to carry home the bed on which he had lain?
25. The words 'on account of it,' rendered in the A.V. 'therefore,' and placed in ver. 22 (St. John vii.), really form the close of ver. 21. At any rate, they cannot
be taken in the sense of 'therefore.'
26. This was a well-recognized Rabbinic principle. Comp. for example Shabb. 132 a,
where the argument runs that, if circumcision, which applies to one of the 248 members, of which, according to the Rabbis, the human body consists, superseded
the Sabbath, how much more the preservation of the whole body.
27. vv. 21-24.
If any doubt could obtain, how truly Jesus had gauged the
existing state of things, when He contrasted heart-willingness to do the Will
of God, as the necessary preparation for the reception of His God-sent
Teaching, with their murderous designs, springing from blind literalism and
ignorance of the spirit of their Law, the reported remarks of some
Jerusalemites in the crowd would suffice to convince us.28
The fact that He, Whom they sought to kill, was suffered to speak openly,
seemed to them incomprehensible. Could it be that the authorities were shaken
in their former idea about Him, and now regarded Him as the Messiah? But it
could not be.29
It was a settled popular belief, and, in a sense, not quite unfounded, that the
appearance of the Messiah would be sudden and unexpected. He might be there,
and not be known; or He might come, and be again hidden for a time.3031
As they put it, when Messiah came, no one would know whence He was; but they
all knew 'whence this One' was. And with this rough and ready argument of a
coarse realism, they, like so many among us, settled off-hand and once for all
the great question. But Jesus could not, even for the sake of His poor weak
disciples, let it rest there. 'Therefore' He lifted up His voice,32
that it reached the dispersing, receding multitude. Yes, they thought they knew
both Him and whence He came. It would have been so had He come from Himself.
But He had been sent, and He that sent Him 'was real;'33
it was a real Mission, and Him, who had thus sent the Christ, they knew not.
And so, with a reaffirmation of His twofold claim, His Discourse closed.34
But they had understood His allusions, and in their anger would fain have laid
hands on Him, but His hour had not come. Yet others were deeply stirred to
faith. As they parted they spoke of it among themselves, and the sum of it all
was: 'The Christ, when He cometh, will He do more miracles (signs) than this
28. St. John vii. 25-27.
29. In the original: 'Can it be?'.
33. The word alhqinoV has not an exact
English equivalent, scarcely a German one (wahrhaftig ?). It is a
favourite word of St. John's, who uses it eight times in his Gospel, or, if the Revised reading viii. 16 be adopted, nine times (i. 9; iv. 23, 37; vi. 32; vii.
28; viii. 16 ?; xv. 1; xvii. 3; xix. 35); and four times in his First Epistle (ii. 8, and three times in ch. v. 20). Its Johannine meaning is perhaps best
seen when in juxtaposition with alhqhV
(for example, 1 John ii. 8). But in the Book of Revelation, where it occurs ten times (iii. 7, 14; vi. 10; xv. 3; xvi. 7; xix. 2, 9, 11; xxi. 5; xxii. 6), it has another meaning, and can scarcely be distinguished from
our English 'true.' It is used, in the same sense as in St. John's Gospel and Epistle, in St. Luke xvi. 11, in 1 Thess. i 9; and three times in the Epistle to the Hebrews (viii. 2; ix. 24; x. 22). We may, therefore, regard it as a word
to which a Grecian, not a Judĉan meaning attaches. In our view it refers to the true as the real, and the real as that which has become outwardly true. I do not quite understand, and, so far as I understand it, I do not agree with, the view of Cremer (Bibl. Theol. Lex., Engl. ed. p. 85), that 'alhqinoV is related to alhqhV as form to contents or substance.'
The distinction between the Judĉan and the Grecian meaning is not only borne out by the Book of Revelation (which uses it in the Judĉan sense), but by Ecclus. xlii. 2. 11. In the LXX. it stands for not fewer than twelve Hebrew words.
34. St. John vii. 29.
So ended the first teaching of that day in the Temple. And as
the people dispersed, the leaders of the Pharisees - who, no doubt aware of the
presence of Christ in the Temple, yet unwilling to be in the number of His
hearers, had watched the effect of His Teaching - overheard the low, furtive,
half-outspoken remarks ('the murmuring') of the people about Him. Presently
they conferred with the heads of the priesthood and the chief Temple-officials.35
Although there was neither meeting, nor decree of the Sanhedrin about it, nor,
indeed, could be,36
orders were given to the Temple-guard on the first possible occasion to seize
Him. Jesus was aware of it, and as, either on this or another day, He was
moving in the Temple, watched by the spies of the rulers and followed by a
mingled crowd of disciples and enemies, deep sadness in view of the end filled
His heart. 'Jesus therefore said' - no doubt to His disciples, though in the
hearing of all - 'yet a little while am I with you, then I go away37
to Him that sent Me. Ye shall seek Me, and not find Me; and where I am, thither
ye cannot come.'38
Mournful words, these, which were only too soon to become true. But those who
heard them naturally failed to comprehend their meaning. Was He about to leave
Palestine, and go to the Diaspora of the Greeks, among the dispersed who lived
in heathen lands, to teach the Greeks? Or what could be His meaning? But we,
who hear it across these centuries, feel as if their question, like the
suggestion of the High-Priest at a later period, nay like so many suggestions
of men, had been, all unconsciously, prophetic of the future.
36. Only those unacquainted with the judicial procedure of the Sanhedrin could imagine that there had been a regular meeting and decree of that tribunal. That would
have required a formal accusation, witnesses, examination, &c.
37. Canon Westcott marks, that the word here used (upagw)
indicates a personal act, while another word (poreuomai)
marks a purpose or mission, and yet a third word (apercomai) expresses simple separation.