Chapter 22 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 24
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE DESCENT: FROM THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION
INTO THE VALLEY OF HUMILIATION AND DEATH.
THE LAST INCIDENTS IN PEREA
THE YOUNG RULER WHO WENT AWAY SORROWFUL
TO LEAVE ALL FOR CHRIST
PROPHECY OF HIS PASSION
THE REQUEST OF SALOME, AND OF JAMES AND JOHN
(St. Matthew 19:16-22; St. Mark 10:17-22; St.
Luke 18:18-23; St. Matthew 19:23-30; St. Mark 10:23-31; St. Luke
18:24-30; St. Matthew 20:17-19; St. Mark 10:32-34: St. Luke
18:31-34; St. Matthew 20:20-28; St. Mark 10:35-45.)
As we near the goal, the wondrous story seems to grow in
tenderness and pathos. It is as if all the loving condescension of the Master
were to be crowded into these days; all the pressing need also, and the human
weaknesses of His disciples. And with equal compassion does He look upon the
difficulties of them who truly seek to come to Him, and on those which,
springing from without, or even from self and sin, beset them who have already
come. Let us try reverently to follow His steps, and learn of His words.
As 'He was going forth into the way'1
- we owe this trait, as one and another in the same narrative, to St. Mark -
probably at early morn, as He left the house where He had for ever folded into
His Arms and blessed the children brought to Him by believing parents - His
progress was arrested. It was 'a young man,' 'a ruler,'2
probably of the local Synagogue,3
who came with all haste, 'running,' and with lowliest gesture [kneeling],4
to ask what to him, nay to us all, is the most important question. Remembering
that, while we owe to St. Mark the most graphic touches,5
St. Matthew most fully reports the words that had been spoken, we might feel
inclined to adopt that reading of them in St. Matthew6
which is not only most strongly supported, but at first sight seems to remove
some of the difficulties of exposition. This reading would omit in the address
of the young ruler the word 'good' before 'Master, what good thing shall I do
that I may inherit eternal life?' and would make Christ's reply read: 'Why
askest thou Me concerning the good [that which is good]? One there is Who is
good.' This would meet not only the objection, that in no recorded instance was
a Jewish Rabbi addressed as 'Good Master,' but the obvious difficulties
connected with the answer of Christ, according to the common reading: 'Why
callest thou Me good? none is good, save only One: God.' But on the other side
it must be urged, that the undoubted reading of the question and answer in St.
Mark's and St. Luke's Gospels agrees with that of our Authorised Version, and
hence that any difficulty of exposition would not be removed, only shifted,
while the reply of Christ tallies far better with the words 'Good Master,' the
strangeness of such an address from Jewish lips giving only the more reason for
taking it up in the reply: 'Why callest thou Me good? none is good save only
One: God.' Lastly, the designation of God as the only One 'good' agrees with
one of the titles given Him in Jewish writings: 'The Good One of the world'
(Mlw( l# wbw+).7
is the exact rendering.
Plumptre needlessly supposes him to have been a member of the Great
Sanhedrin, and even identifies him with Lazarus of Bethany.
is well pointed out by Canon Cook on St. Mark x. 19.
Matt. xix. 16.
ed. Buber, p. 161 a, last lines.
really remove exegetical difficulties, the reading should be further altered to
en esti to aqon as Wünsche
suggests, who regards our present reading eiV
estin o agaqoV as a mistake of the translator in rendering the neuter of
the Aramaic original by the masculine. We need scarcely say, the suggestion,
however ingenious, is not supported. And then, what of the conversation in the
other Gospels, where we could scarcely expect a variation of the saying from
the more easy to the more difficult? On the application to God of the term 'the
Good One,' see an interesting notice in the Jud Liter. Blatt, for Sept. 20,
1882, p. 152.
The actual question of the young Ruler is one which repeatedly
occurs in Jewish writings, as put to a Rabbi by his disciples. Amidst the
different answers given, we scarcely wonder that they also pointed to
observance of the Law. And the saying of Christ seems the more adapted to the
young Ruler when we recall this sentence from the Talmud: 'There is nothing
else that is good but the Law.'9
But here again the similarity is only of form, not of substance. For, it will
be noticed, that, in the more full account by St. Matthew, Christ leads the
young Ruler upwards through the table of the prohibitions of deeds to
the first positive command of deed, and then, by a rapid transition, to the
substitution for the tenth commandment in its negative form of this wider
positive and all-embracing command:10
'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' Any Jewish 'Ruler,' but especially
one so earnest, would have at once answered a challenge on the first four
commandments by 'Yes' - and that not self-righteously, but sincerely, though of
course in ignorance of their real depth. And this was not the time for
lengthened discussion and instruction; only for rapid awakening, to lead up, if
possible, from earnestness and a heart-drawing towards the master to real
discipleship. Best here to start from what was admitted as binding - the ten
commandments - and to lead from that in them which was least likely to be
broken, step by step, upwards to that which was most likely to awaken
consciousness of sin.
5 a, about middle; Ab Zar. 19 b.
And the young Ruler did not, as that other Pharisee, reply by
trying to raise a Rabbinic disputation over the 'Who is neighbour to me?'11
but in the sincerity of an honest heart answered that he had kept - that is, so
far as he knew them - 'all these things from his youth.'12
On this St. Matthew puts into his mouth the question - 'What lack I yet?' Even
if, like the other two Evangelists, he had not reported it, we would have
supplied this from what follows. There is something intensely earnest, genuine,
generous, even enthusiastic, in the higher cravings of the soul in youth, when
that youth has not been poisoned by the breath of the world, or stricken with
the rottenness of vice. The soul longs for the true, the higher, the better,
and, even if strength fails of attainment, we still watch with keen sympathy
the form of the climber upwards. Much more must all this have been the case
with a Jewish youth, especially in those days; one, besides, like this
young Ruler, in whose case affluence of circumstances not only allowed free
play, but tended to draw out and to give full scope to the finer feelings, and
where wealth was joined with religiousness and the service of a Synagogue.
There was not in him that pride of riches, nor the self-sufficiency which they
so often engender; nor the pride of conscious moral purity and aim after
righteousness before God and man; nor yet the pride of the Pharisee or of the
Synagogue-Ruler. What he had seen and heard of the Christ had quickened to
greatest intensity all in him that longed after God and heaven, and had brought
him in this supreme moral earnestness, lowly, reverently, to the Feet of Him in
Whom, as he felt, all perfectness was, and from Whom all perfectness came. He
had not been first drawn to Christ, and thence to the pure, as were the
publicans and sinners; but, like so many - even as Peter, when in that hour of
soul-agony he said: 'To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life,'
- he had been drawn to the pure and the higher, and therefore to Christ. To
some the way to Christ is up the Mount of Transfiguration, among the shining
Beings of another world; to some it is across dark Kedron, down the deep Garden
of Gethsemane with its agonies. What matters it, if it equally lead to Him, and
equally bring the sense of need and experience of pardon to the seeker after
the better, and the sense of need and experience of holiness to the seeker
Luke x. 29.
St. Matt. xix. 20, these words should be struck out as spurious.
And Jesus saw it all: down, through that intense upward look;
inwards, through that question, 'What lack I yet?' far deeper down than that
young man had ever seen into his own heart - even into depths of weakness and
need which he had never sounded, and which must be filled, if he would enter
the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus saw what he lacked; and what He saw, He showed
him. For, 'looking at him' in his sincerity and earnestness, 'He loved him' -
as He loves those that are His Own. One thing was needful for this young man:
that he should not only become His disciple, but that, in so doing, he should
'come and follow' Christ. We can all perceive how, for one like this young man,
such absolute and entire coming and following Christ was needful. And again, to
do this, it was in the then circumstances both of this young man and of Christ
necessary, that he should go and part with all that he had. And what was an outward,
was also, as we perceive it, an inward necessity; and so, as ever,
Providence and Grace would work together. For, indeed, to many of us some
outward step is often not merely the means of but absolutely needful for,
spiritual decision. To some it is the first open profession of Christ; to
others, the first act of self-denial, or the first distinct 'No'-saying; to
some, it may be, it is the first prayer, or else the first act of
self-consecration. Yet it seems, as if it needed not only the word of God but a
stroke of some Moses'-rod to make the water gush forth from the rock. And thus
would this young Ruler have been 'perfect;' and what he had given to the poor
have become, not through merit nor by way of reward, but really 'treasure in
words 'take up the cross,' in the textus receptus of St. Mark x. 21, are
spurious - the gloss of a clumsy interpolator.
What he lacked - was earth's poverty and heaven's riches; a
heart fully set on following Christ: and this could only come to him through
willing surrender of all. And so this was to him alike the means, the test, and
the need. To him it was this; to us it may be something quite other. Yet each
of us has a lack - something quite deep down in our hearts, which we may never
yet have known, and which we must know and give up, if we would follow Christ.
And without forsaking, there can be no following. This is the law of the
Kingdom - and it is such, because we are sinners, because sin is not only the
loss of the good, but the possession of something else in its place.
There is something deeply pathetic in the mode in which St.
Mark describes it: 'he was sad' - the word painting a dark gloom that overshadowed
the face of the young man.14
Did he then not lack it, this one thing? We need scarcely here recall the
almost extravagant language in which Rabbinism describes the miseries of
poverty;15 we can
understand his feelings without that. Such a possibility had never entered his
mind: the thought of it was terribly startling. That he must come and follow
Christ, then and there, and in order to do so, sell all that he had and give it
away among the poor, and be poor himself, a beggar, that he might have treasure
in heaven; and that this should come to him as the one thing needful from that
Master in Whom he believed, from Whose lips he would learn the one thing
needful, and who but a little before had been to him the All in All! It was a
terrible surprise, a sentence of death to his life, and of life to his death.
And that it should come from His lips, at Whose Feet he had run to
kneel, and Who held for him the keys of eternal life! Rabbinism had never asked
this; if it demanded almsgiving, it was in odious boastfulness;16
while it was declared even unlawful to give away all one's possessions17
- at most, only a fifth of them might be dedicated.18
word is only used in St. Matt. xvi. 3, of the lowering sky.
sayings might here be quoted. It was worse than all the plagues of Egypt put
together (Babha B. 116 a); than all other miseries (Betsah 32 b);
the worst affliction that could befall a man (Shem. R. 31).
a story of boastfulness in that respect in Wünsche, ad loc. To make a
merit of giving up riches for Christ is, surely, the Satanic caricature of the
meaning of His teaching.
And so, with clouded face he gazed down
into what he lacked - within; but also gazed up in Christ on what he needed.
And, although we hear no more of him, who that day went back to his rich home
very poor, because 'very sorrowful,' we cannot but believe that he, whom Jesus
loved, yet found in the poverty of earth the treasure of heaven.
Nor was this all. The deep pity of Christ for him, who had gone
that day, speaks also in his warning to his disciples.19
But surely those are not only riches in the literal sense which make it so
difficult for a man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven20
- so difficult, as to amount almost to that impossibility which was expressed
in the common Jewish proverb, that a man did not even in his dreams see an
elephant pass through the eye of a needle.21
But when in their perplexity the disciples put to each other the saddened
question: Who then can be saved? He pointed them onward, then upward, as well
as inward, teaching them that, what was impossible of achievement by man in his
own strength, God would work by His Almighty Grace.
Mark x. 23.
words in St. Mark x. 24, 'for them that trust in riches,' are most likely a
55 b, last line; comp. also Babha Mets. 38 b.
It almost jars on our ears, and prepares us for still stranger
and sadder to come, when Peter, perhaps as spokesman of the rest, seems to
remind the Lord that they had forsaken all to follow Him. St. Matthew records
also the special question which Simon added to it: 'What shall we have
therefore?' and hence his Gospel alone makes mention of the Lord's reply, in so
far as it applied only to the Apostles. For, that reply really bore on two
points: on the reward which all who left everything to follow Christ would
obtain;22 and on
the special acknowledgment awaiting the Apostles of Christ.23
In regard to the former we mark, that it is twofold. They who had forsaken all
'for His sake'24
'and the Gospel's,'25
'for the Kingdom of God's sake' - and these three expressions explain and
supplement each other - would receive 'in this time' 'manifold more' of new,
and better, and closer relationships of a spiritual kind for those which they
had surrendered, although, as St. Mark significantly adds, to prevent all
possible mistakes, 'with persecutions.' But by the side of this stands out unclouded
and bright the promise for 'the world to come' of 'everlasting life.' As
regarded the Apostles personally, some mystery lies on the special promise to
them.26 We could
quite understand, that the distinction of rule to be bestowed on them might
have been worded in language taken from the expectations of the time, in order
to make the promise intelligible to them. But, unfortunately, we have no
explanatory information to offer. The Rabbis, indeed, speak of a renovation or
regeneration of the world (wmlw( t) #dhm) which was to take place after the 7,000 or
else 5,000 years of the Messianic reign.27
Such a renewal of all things is not only foretold by the prophets,28
and dwelt upon in later Jewish writings,29
but frequently referred to in Rabbinic literature.30
But as regards the special rule or 'judgment' of the Apostles, or ambassadors
of the Messiah, we have not, and, of course, cannot expect any parallel in
Jewish writings. That the promise of such rule and judgment to the Apostles is
not peculiar to what is called the Judaic Gospel of St. Matthew, appears from
its renewal at a later period, as recorded by St. Luke.32
Lastly, that it is in accordance with Old Testament promise, will be seen by a
reference to Dan. vii. 9, 10, 14, 27; and there are few references in the New
Testament to the blessed consummation of all things in which such renewal of
the world,33 and even
the rule and judgment of the representatives of the Church,34
are not referred to.
Matt. xix. 29; St. Mark x. 26, 30; St. Luke xviii. 29, 30.
Matt. xix. 28.
Matthew and St. Mark.
course, the expression 'twelve thrones' (St. Matt. xix. 28) must not be pressed
to utmost literality, or it might be asked whether St. Paul or St. Matthias
occupied the place of Judas. On the other hand, neither must it be frittered
away, as if the 'regeneration' referred only to the Christian dispensation, and
to spiritual relations under it.
for example Is. xxxiv. 4; li. 6; lxv. 17
of Enoch xci. 16, 17; 4 Esd. vii. 28.
Onkelos on Deut. xxxii. 12; Targ. Jon. on Habak. iii. 2; Ber, R. 12. ed. Warsh.
p. 24 b, near end; Pirké de R. Eliez 51.
subject will be further treated in the sequel.
Luke xxii. 30.
iii. 21; Rom. viii. 19-21; 2 Pet. iii. 13; Rev. xxi. 1.
Cor. vi. 2, 3; Rev. xx. 4; xxi. 14.
However mysterious, therefore, in their details, these things
seem clear, and may without undue curiosity or presumption be regarded as the
teaching of our Lord: the renewal of earth; the share in His rule and judgment
which He will in the future give to His saints; the special distinction which
He will bestow on His Apostles, corresponding to the special gifts, privileges,
and rule with which He had endowed them on earth, and to their nearness to, and
their work and sacrifices for Him; and, lastly, we may add, the preservation of
Israel as a distinct, probably tribal, nation.35
As for the rest, as so much else, it is 'behind the veil,' and, even as we see
it, better for the Church that the veil has not been further lifted.
also Acts xxvi. 7.
The reference to the blessed future with its rewards was
followed by a Parable, recorded, as, with one exception, all of that series,
only by St. Matthew. It will best be considered in connection with the last
series of Christ's Parables.36
But it was accompanied by what, in the circumstances, was also a most needful
of the future Messianic reign, its glory, and their own part in it might have
so engrossed the minds of the disciples as to make them forgetful of the
terrible present, immediately before them. In such case they might not only
have lapsed into that most fatal Jewish error of a Messiah-King, Who was not
Saviour, the Crown without the Cross, but have even suffered shipwreck of their
faith, when the storm broke on the Day of His Condemnation and Crucifixion. If
ever, it was most needful in that hour of elation to remind and forewarn them
of what was to be expected in the immediate future. How truly such preparation
was required by the disciples, appears from the narrative itself.
in Book V.
Matt. xx. 17-19.
There was something sadly mysterious in the words with which
Christ had closed His Parable, that the last should be first and the first last38
- and it had carried dark misgivings to those who heard it. And now it seemed
all so strange! Yet the disciples could not have indulged in illusions. His own
sayings on at least two previous occasions,40
however ill or partially understood, must have led them to expect at any rate
grievous opposition and tribulations in Jerusalem, and their endeavour to deter
Christ from going to Bethany to raise Lazarus proves, that they were well aware
of the danger which threatened the Master in Judæa.41
Yet not only 'was He now going up42
to Jerusalem,' but there was that in His bearing which was quite unusual. As
St. Mark writes, He was going 'before them' - we infer, apart and alone, as
One, busy with thoughts all engrossing, Who is setting Himself to do His great
work, and goes to meet it. 'And going before them was Jesus; and they were
amazed [utterly bewildered, viz. the Apostles]; and those who were following,
It was then that Jesus took the Apostles apart, and in language more precise
than ever before, told them how all things that were 'written by the prophets
shall be accomplished on the Son of Man'44
- not merely, that all that had been written concerning the Son of Man should
be accomplished, but a far deeper truth, all-comprehensive as regards the Old
Testament: that all its true prophecy ran up into the sufferings of the Christ.
As the three Evangelists report it, the Lord gave them full details of His
Betrayal, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. And yet we may, without irreverence,
doubt whether on that occasion He had really entered into all those
particulars. In such case it would seem difficult to explain how, as St. Luke
reports, 'they understood none of these things, and the saying was hid from
them, neither knew they the things which were spoken;' and again, how
afterwards the actual events and the Resurrection could have taken them so by
surprise. Rather do we think, that the Evangelists report what Jesus had said
in the light of after-events. He did tell them of His Betrayal by the leaders
of Israel, and that into the hands of the Gentiles; of His Death and
Resurrection on the third day - yet in language which they could, and actually
did, misunderstand at the time, but which, when viewed in the light of what
really happened, was perceived by them to have been actual prediction of those
terrible days in Jerusalem and of the Resurrection-morning. At the time they
may have thought that it pointed only to His rejection by Jews and Gentiles, to
Sufferings and Death - and then to a Resurrection, either of His Mission or to
such a reappearance of the Messiah, after His temporary disappearance, as
Mat., xx. 16; St. Mark x. 31.
words, 'many be called, but few chosen,' seem spurious in that place.
Matt. xvi. 21; xvii. 22, 23.
John xi. 8, 16.
is the precise rendering of the verb.
is the precise rendering of St. Mark x. 32.
Luke xviii. 31.
But all this time, and with increasing fierceness, were
terrible thoughts contending in the breast of Judas; and beneath the tramp of
that fight was there only a thin covering of earth, to hide and keep from
bursting forth the hellish fire of the master-passion within.
One other incident, more strange and sad than any that had
preceded, and the Peræan stay is for ever ended. It almost seems, as if the
fierce blast of temptation, the very breath of the destroyer, were already
sweeping over the little flock, as if the twilight of the night of betrayal and
desertion were already falling around. And now it has fallen on the two chosen
disciples, James and John - 'the sons of thunder,' and one of them, 'the
beloved disciple!' Peter, the third in that band most closely bound to Christ,
had already had his fierce temptation,45
and would have it more fiercely - to the uprooting of life, if the Great
High-Priest had not specially interceded for him. And, as regards these two
sons of Zebedee and of Salome,46
we know what temptation had already beset them, how John had forbidden one to
cast out devils, because he followed not with them,47
and how both he and his brother, James, would have called down fire from heaven
to consume the Samaritans who would not receive Christ.48
It was essentially the same spirit that now prompted the request which their
mother Salome preferred,49
not only with their full concurrence, but, as we are expressly told,50
with their active participation. There is the same faith in the Christ, the
same allegiance to Him, but also the same unhallowed earnestness, the same
misunderstanding - and, let us add, the same latent self-exaltation, as in the
two former instances, in the present request that, as the most honoured of His
guests, and also as the nearest to Him, they might have their places at His
Right Hand and at His Left in His Kingdom.51
Terribly incongruous as is any appearance of self-seeking at that moment and
with that prospect before them, we cannot but feel that there is also an
intenseness of faith and absoluteness of love almost sublime, when the mother
steps forth from among those who follow Christ to His Suffering and Death, to
proffer such a request with her sons, and for them.
Matt. xvi. 23.
Matt. xxvii. 56; comp. St. Mark xv. 40.
Mark ix. 38.
Luke ix. 54.
is very remarkable that, in St. Matt. xx. 20, she bears the unusual title: 'the
mother of Zebedee's children' (comp. also for the mention of Zebedee, St. Mark
x. 35). This, evidently, to emphasise that the distinction was not asked on the
ground of earthly kinship, as through Salome, who was the aunt of Jesus.
St. Mark (x. 35).
Matt. xx. 20-28; St. Mark x. 35-45.
And so the Saviour seems to have viewed it. With unspeakable
patience and tenderness, He, Whose Soul is filled with the terrible contest
before Him, bears with the weakness and selfishness which could cherish such
thoughts and ambitions even at such a time. To correct them, He points to that
near prospect, when the Highest is to be made low. 'Ye know not what ye ask!'
The King is to be King through suffering - are they aware of the road which
leads to that goal? Those nearest to the King of sorrows must reach the place
nearest to Him by the same road as He. Are they prepared for it; prepared to
drink that cup of soul-agony, which the Father will hand to Him - to submit to,
to descend into that baptism of consecration, when the floods will sweep over
Him?52 In their
ignorance, and listening only to the promptings of their hearts, they imagine
that they are. Nay, in some measure it would be so; yet, finally to correct their
mistake: to sit at His Right and at His Left Hand, these were not marks of mere
favour for Him to bestow - in His own words: it 'is not Mine to give except to
them for whom it is prepared of My Father.'
clause in St. Matthew: 'and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptised
with,' is probably a spurious insertion, taken from St. Mark's Gospel.
But as for the other ten, when they heard of it, it was only
the pre-eminence which, in their view, James and John had sought, which stood
out before them, to their envy, jealousy, and indignation.53
And so, in that tremendously solemn hour would the fierce fire of controversy
have broken out among them, who should have been most closely united; would
jealousy and ambition have filled those who should have been most humble, and
fierce passions, born of self, the world and Satan, have distracted them, whom
the thought of the great love and the great sacrifice should have filled. It
was the rising of that storm on the sea, the noise and tossing of those angry
billows, which He hushed into silence when He spoke to them of the grand
contrast between the princes of the Gentiles as they 'lord it over them,' or the
'great among them' as they 'domineer'54
over men, and their own aims - how, whosoever would be great among them, must
seek his greatness in service - not greatness through service, but the
greatness of service; and, whosever would be chief or rather 'first' among
them, let it be in service. And had it not been thus, was it not, would it not
be so in the Son of Man - and must it not therefore be so in them who
would be nearest to Him, even His Apostles and disciples? The Son of Man - let
them look back, let them look forward - He came not to be ministered unto, but
to minister. And then, breaking through the reserve that had held Him, and
revealing to them the inmost thoughts which had occupied Him when He had been
alone and apart, going before them on the way, He spoke for the first time
fully what was the deepest meaning of His Life, Mission, and Death: 'to give
His Life a ransom for many'55
- to pay with His Life-Blood the price of their redemption, to lay down His
Life for them: in their room and stead, and for their salvation.
Matt, xx. 24, &c.; St. Mark x. 41 &c.
have chosen these two words because the verbs in the Greek (which are the same
in the two Gospels) express not ordinary 'dominion' and 'authority,' but a
forcible and tyrannical exercise of it. The first verb occurs again in Acts
xix. 16, and 1 Pet. v. 3; the second only in this passage in the Gospels.
Matt. xx. 28; St. Mark x. 45.
would here call attention to some exquisitely beautiful and forcible remarks by
Dean Plumptre on the passage.
These words must have sunk deep into the
heart of one at least in that company.57
A few days later, and the beloved disciple tells us of this Ministry of His
Love at the Last Supper,58
and ever afterwards, in his writings or in his life, does he seem to bear them
about with him, and to re-echo them. Ever since also have they remained the
foundation-truth, on which the Church has been built: the subject of her
preaching, and the object of her experience.59
Dean Plumptre, u. s.
iii. 24: 1 Cor. vi. 20; 1 Tim. ii. 6; 1 Pet. i. 19; 1 John iv. 10.
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