Chapter 2 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 4
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE CROSS AND THE CROWN
THE THIRD DAY IN PASSION-WEEK
THE EVENTS OF THAT DAY
THE QUESTION OF CHRIST'S AUTHORITY
THE QUESTION OF TRIBUTE TO CAESAR
THE WIDOW'S FARTHING
THE GREEKS WHO SOUGHT TO SEE JESUS
SUMMARY AND RETROSPECT OF THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF CHRIST
(St. Matthew 21:23-27; St. Mark 11:27-33;
St. Luke 20:1-8; St. Matthew 22:15-22; St. Mark 12:13-17; St.
Luke 20:20-26; St. Matthew 22:41-46; St. Luke 21:1-4; St. John
THE record of this third day is so crowded, the actors
introduced on the scene are so many, the occurrences so varied, and the
transitions so rapid, that it is even more than usually difficult to arrange
all in chronological order. Nor need we wonder at this, when we remember that
this was, so to speak, Christ's last working-day - the last, of His public
Mission to Israel, so far as its active part was concerned; the last day in the
Temple; the last, of teaching and warning to Pharisees and Sadducees; the last,
of his call to national repentance.
That what follows must be included in one day, appears from the
circumstance that its beginning is expressly mentioned by St. Mark1
in connection with the notice of the withering of the fig-tree, while its close
is not only indicated in the last words of Christ's Discourses, as reported by
but the beginning of another day is afterwards equally clearly marked.3
Mark xi. 20.
Matt. xxv. 46; St. Mark xiii. 37; St. Luke xxi. 36-38.
Matt. xxvi. 1; St. Mark xiv. 1; St. Luke xxii. 1.
Considering the multiplicity of occurrences, it will be better to
group them together, rather than follow the exact order of their succession.
Accordingly, this chapter will be devoted to the events of the third day
in Passion Week.
1. As usually, the day commenced4
with teaching in the Temple.5
We gather this from the expression: 'as He was walking,'6
viz., in one of the Porches, where, as we know considerable freedom of meeting,
conversing, or even teaching, was allowed. It will be remembered, that on the
previous day the authorities had been afraid to interfere with Him. In silence
they had witnessed, with impotent rage, the expulsion of their traffic-mongers;
in silence they had listened to His teaching, and seen His miracles. Not till
the Hosanna of the little boys - perhaps those children of the Levites who
acted as choristers in the Temple7
- wakened them from the stupor of their fears, had they ventured on a feeble
remonstrance, in the forlorn hope that He might be induced to conciliate them.
But with the night and morning other counsels had come. Besides, the
circumstances were somewhat different. It was early morning, the hearers were
new, and the wondrous influence of His Words had not yet bent them to His Will.
From the formal manner in which the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders
and from the circumstance that they so met Christ immediately on His entry into
the Temple, we can scarcely doubt that a meeting, although informal,9
of the authorities had been held to concert measures against the growing
danger. Yet, even so, cowardice as well as cunning marked their procedure. They
dared not directly oppose Him, but endeavoured, by attacking Him on the one
point where he seemed to lay Himself open to it, to arrogate to themselves the
appearance of strict legality, and so to turn popular feeling against Him.
these Levite chorister-boys, comp. 'The Temple and its Services,' p. 143.
is no evidence of a formal meeting of the Sanhedrin, nor, indeed, was there any
case which, according to Jewish Law, could have been laid before them. Still
less can we admit (with Dean Plumptre), that the Chief Priests, Scribes,
and Elders represented 'the then constituent elements of the Sanhedrin.'
For, there was no principle more firmly established by
universal consent than that authoritative teaching10
required previous authorisation. Indeed, this logically followed from the
principle of Rabbinism. All teaching must be authoritative, since it was
traditional - approved by authority, and handed down from teacher to disciple.
The highest honour of a scholar was, that he was like a well-plastered cistern,
from which not a drop had leaked of what had been poured into it. The ultimate
appeal in cases of discussion was always to some great authority, whether an
individual Teacher or a Decree by the Sanhedrin. In this manner had the great
Hillel first vindicated his claim to be the Teacher of his time and to decide
the disputes then pending. And, to decide differently from authority, was
either the mark of ignorant assumption or the outcome of daring rebellion, in
either case to be visited with 'the ban.' And this was at least one aspect of
the controversy as between the chief authorities and Jesus. No one would have
thought of interfering with a mere Haggadist - a popular expositor, preacher, or
teller of legends. But authoritatively to teach, required other warrant. In
fact there was regular ordination (Semikhah) to the office of Rabbi,
Elder, and Judge, for the three functions were combined in one. According to
the Mishnah, the 'disciples' sat before the Sanhedrin in three rows, the
members of the Sanhedrin being recruited successively from the front-rank of
At first the practice is said to have been for every Rabbi to accredit his own
disciples. But afterwards this right was transferred to the Sanhedrin, with the
proviso that this body might not ordain without the consent of its Chief,
though the latter might do so without consent of the Sanhedrin.12
But this privilege was afterwards withdrawn on account of abuses. Although we
have not any description of the earliest mode of ordination, the very name - Semikhah
- implies the imposition of hands. Again, in the oldest record, reaching up, no
doubt, to the time of Christ, the presence of at least three ordained persons
was required for ordination.13
At a later period, the presence of an ordained Rabbi, with the assessorship of
two others, even if unordained, was deemed sufficient.14
In the course of time certain formalities were added. The person to be ordained
had to deliver a Discourse; hymns and poems were recited; the title 'Rabbi' was
formally bestowed on the candidate, and authority given him to teach and to act
as Judge [to bind and loose, to declare guilty or free]. Nay, there seem to
have been even different orders, according to the authority bestowed on the
person ordained. The formula in bestowing full orders was: 'Let him
teach; let him teach; let him judge; let him decide on questions of first-born;15
let him decide; let him judge!' At one time it was held that ordination could
only take place in the Holy Land. Those who went abroad took with them their
'letters of orders.'16
the greatest liberty of utterance was accorded to all who were qualified to
Sanh. 19 a; lines 29 &c. from bottom.
involved points of special difficulty in cannon-law.
Hamburger, Real-Encycl. ii. pp. 883-886. But he adds little to the
learned labours of Selden, De Synedriis, ed. Frcf. pp. 681-713. How the
notion can have arisen that in early times a key was handed at ordination (Dean
Plumptre and many others), it is difficult to say - unless it be from a
misunderstanding of St. Luke xi. 52, or from a strange mistake of Lightfoot's
meaning ad loc.
At whatever periods some of these practices may have been
introduced, it is at least certain that, at the time of our Lord, no one would
have ventured authoritatively to teach without proper Rabbinic authorisation.
The question, therefore, with which the Jewish authorities met Christ, while
teaching, was one which had a very real meaning, and appealed to the habits and
feelings of the people who listened to Jesus. Otherwise, also, it was cunningly
framed. For, it did not merely challenge Him for teaching, but also asked for
His authority in what He did, referring not only to His Work generally,
but, perhaps, especially to what had happened on the previous day. They were
not there to oppose Him; but, when a man did as He had done in the Temple, it
was their duty to verify his credentials. Finally, the alternative question
reported by St. Mark: 'or' - if Thou hast not proper Rabbinic commission - 'who
gave Thee this authority to do these things?' seems clearly to point to their
contention, that the power which Jesus wielded was delegated to Him by none
other than Beelzebul.
The point in our Lord's reply seems to have been strangely
overlooked by commentators.17
As His words are generally understood, they would have amounted only to
silencing His questioners - and that, in a manner which would, under ordinary
circumstances, be scarcely regarded as either fair or ingenuous. It would have
been simply to turn the question against themselves, and so in turn to raise
popular prejudice. But the Lord's words meant quite other. He did answer
their question, though He also exposed the cunning and cowardice which prompted
it. To the challenge for His authority, and the dark hint about Satanic agency,
He replied by an appeal to the Baptist. He had borne full witness to the
Mission of Christ from the Father, and 'all men counted John, that he was a
prophet indeed.' Were they satisfied? What was their view of the Baptism in preparation
for the Coming of Christ? No? They would not, or could not answer! If they said
the Baptist was a prophet, this implied not only the authorisation of the
Mission of Jesus, but the call to believe on Him. On the other hand, they were
afraid publicly to disown John! And so their cunning and cowardice stood out
self-condemned, when they pleaded ignorance - a plea so grossly and manifestly
dishonest, that Christ, having given what all must have felt to be a complete
answer, could refuse further discussion with them on this point.
Matt. xxi. 23-27; St. Mark xi. 27-33; St. Luke xx. 1-8.
2. Foiled in their endeavor to involve Him with the
ecclesiastical, they next attempted the much more dangerous device of bringing
Him into collision with the civil authorities. Remembering the ever watchful
jealousy of Rome, the reckless tyranny of Pilate, and the low artifices of
Herod, who was at that time in Jerusalem,18
we instinctively feel, how even the slightest compromise on the part of Jesus
in regard to the authority of Cæsar would have been absolutely fatal. If it
could have been proved, on undeniable testimony, that Jesus had declared
Himself on the side of, or even encouraged, the so-called 'Nationalist' party,
He would quickly perished, like Judas of Galilee.19
The Jewish leaders would thus have readily accomplished their object, and its
unpopularity have recoiled only on the hated Roman power. How great the danger
was which threatened Jesus, may be gathered from this, that, despite His clear
answer, the charge that He prevented the nation, forbidding to give tribute to
Cæsar, was actually among those brought against Him before Pilate.20
Luke xiii. 7.
v. 37; Jos. Ant. xviii. 1. 1; xx. 5. 2.
Luke xxiii. 2.
The plot, for such it was,21
was most cunningly concocted. The object was to 'spy' out His inmost thoughts,22
and, if possible, 'entangle' Him
in His talk.23
For this purpose it was not the old Pharisees, whom He knew and would have
distrusted, who came, but some of their disciples - apparently fresh, earnest,
zealous, conscientious men. With them had combined certain of 'the Herodians' -
of course, not a sect nor religious school, but a political party at the time.
We know comparatively little of the deeper political movements in Judæa, only
so much as it has suited Josephus to record. But we cannot be greatly mistaken
in regarding the Herodians as a party which honestly accepted the House of
Herod as occupants of the Jewish throne. Differing from the extreme section of
the Pharisees, who hated Herod, and from the 'Nationalists,' it might have been
a middle or moderate Jewish party - semi-Roman and semi-Nationalist. We know
that it was the ambition of Herod Antipas again to unite under his sway of the
whole of Palestine; but we know not what intrigues may have been carried on for
that purpose, alike with the Pharisees and the Romans. Nor is it the first time
in this history, that we find the Pharisees and the Herodians combined.24
Herod may, indeed, have been unwilling to incur the unpopularity of personally
proceeding against the Great Prophet of Nazareth, especially as he must have
had so keen a remembrance of what the murder of John had cost him. Perhaps he
would fain, if he could, have made use of Him, and played Him off as the
popular Messiah against the popular leaders. But, as matters had gone, he must
have been anxious to rid himself of what might be a formidable rival, while, at
the same time, his party would be glad to join with the Pharisees in what would
secure their gratitude and allegiance. Such, or similar, may have been the
motives which brought about this strange alliance of Pharisees and Herodians.
Matt. xxii. 15-22; St. Mark xii. 13-17; St. Luke xx. 19-26.
for example, St. Mark iii. 6.
Feigning themselves just men, they now came to Jesus with
honeyed words, intended to disarm His suspicions, but, by an appeal to His
fearlessness and singleness of moral purpose, to induce Him to commit Himself
without reserve. Was it lawful for them to give tribute unto Cæsar, or not?
were they to pay the capitation-tax25
of one drachm, or to refuse it? We know how later Judaism would have answered
such a question. It lays down the principle, that the right of coinage implies
the authority of levying taxes, and indeed constitutes such evidence of de
facto government as to make it duty absolutely to submit to it.26
So much was this felt, that the Maccabees, and, in the last Jewish war, Bar
Kokhabh, the false Messiah, issued a coinage dating from the liberation of
Jerusalem. We cannot therefore doubt, that this principle about coinage,
taxation, and government was generally accepted in Judæa. On the other hand,
there was a strong party in the land; with which, not only politically but
religiously, many of the noblest spirits would sympathise, which maintained,
that to pay the tribute-money to Cæsar was virtually to own his royal
authority, and so to disown that of Jehovah, Who alone was Israel's King. They
would argue, that all the miseries of the land and people were due to this
national unfaithfulness. Indeed, this was the fundamental principle of the
Nationalist movement. History has recorded many similar movements, in which
strong political feelings have been strangely blended with religious
fanaticism, and which have numbered in their ranks, together with unscrupulous
partisans, not a few who were sincere patriots or earnest religionists. It has
been suggested in a former part of this book, that the Nationalist movement may
have had an important preparatory bearing on some of the earlier followers of
Jesus, perhaps at the beginning of their inquiries, just as, in the West,
Alexandrian philosophy moved to many a preparation for Christianity.27
At any rate, the scruple expressed by these men would, if genuine, have called
But what was the alternative here presented to Christ? To have said No,
would have been to command rebellion; to have said simply Yes, would
have been to give a painful shock to keep feeling, and, in a sense, in the eyes
of the people, the lie to His own claim of being Israel's Messiah-King!
Jew. War ii. 16. 4.
K. 113 a and the instance of Abigail pleading with David that Saul's
coinage was still in circulation. Jer, Sanh. 20 b.
fuller particulars on this point see Book II. ch. x.
might have even religious scruples about handling a coin of Cæsar. Such an
instance is mentioned in Ab. Zar. 6 b, where a Rabbi is advised to throw
it into the water, and pretend it had accidentally dropped from his hand. but
probably that instance refers to the avoidance of all possibility of being
regarded as sharing in idol-festivities.
But the Lord escaped from this 'temptation' - because, being
true, it was no real temptation to Him.29
Their knavery and hypocrisy He immediately perceived and exposed, in this also
responding to their appeal of being 'true.' Once more and emphatically must we
disclaim the idea that Christ's was rather an evasion of the question than a
reply. It was a very real rather, when pointing to the image and inscription on
the coin,30 for which
He had called, He said, 'What is Cæsar's render to Cæsar, and what is
God's to God.'31
It did far more than rebuke their hypocrisy and presumption; it answered not
only that question of theirs to all earnest men of that time, as it would
present itself to their minds, but it settles to all time and for all
circumstances the principle underlying it. Christ's Kingdom is not of this
world; a true Theocracy is not inconsistent with submission to the secular
power in things that are really its own; politics and religion neither include,
nor yet exclude, each other; they are, side by side, in different domains. The
State is Divinely sanctioned, and religion is Divinely sanctioned - and both
are equally the ordinance of God. On this principle did Apostolic authority
regulate the relations between Church and State, even when the latter was
heathen. The question about the limits of either province has been hotly
discussed by sectarians on either side, who have claimed the saying of Christ
in support of one or the opposite extreme which they have advocated. And yet,
to the simple searcher after duty, it seems not so difficult to see the
distinction, if only we succeed in purging ourselves of logical refinements and
pictorial, the sketch of this given by Keim ('Jesu von Nazara,' iii. 1,
pp. 131 &c.) is - as too often - somewhat exaggerated.
a strange concurrence the coin, which on Christ's demand was handed to Him,
bore 'the image' of the Emperor. It must, therefore, have been either a foreign
one (Roman), or else one of the Tetrarch Philip, who exceptionally had the
image of Tiberius on his coins (comp. Schürer, N.T. Zeitgesch. p.
231). Neither Herod nor Herod Antipas had any 'image' on their coins, but only
the usual 'devices' of the Maccabaean period. And the coins , which the Roman
emperors had struck specially for Palestine, bore till the time of Vespasian,
in accommodation to Jewish prejudices, no image of any kind.
Mark xii. 17.
It was an answer not only most truthful, but of marvellous
beauty and depth. It elevated the controversy into quite another sphere, where
there was no conflict between what was due to God and to man - indeed, no
conflict at all, but Divine harmony and peace. Nor did it speak harshly of the
Nationalist aspirations, nor yet plead the cause of Rome. It said not whether
the rule of Rome was right or should be permanent - but only what all must have
felt to be Divine. And so they, who had come to 'entangle' Him, 'went away,'
not convinced nor converted, but marvelling exceedingly.32
32. exeqaumazon, according to the better
reading in St. Mark.
3. Passing for the present from the cavils of the Sadducees and
the gainslaying of the Scribes, we come unexpectedly on one of those sweet
pictures - a historical miniature, as it is presented to us - which affords
real relief to the eye amidst the glare all around.33
From the bitter malice of His enemies and the predicted judgment upon them, we
turn to the silent worship of her who gave her all, and to the words with which
Jesus owned it, all unknown to her. It comes to us the more welcome, that it
exhibits in deed what Christ had said to those hypocrites who had discussed it,
whether the tribute given to Cæsar was not robbing God of what was His. Truly
here was one, who, in the simplicity of her humble worship, gave to the Lord
what was His!
Mark xiii. 41-44; St. Luke xxi. 1-4.
Weary with the contention, the Master had left those to whom He
had spoken in the Porches, and, while the crowd wrangled about His Words or His
Person, had ascended the flight of steps which led from 'the Terrace' into the
Temple-building. From these steps - whether those leading up to the 'Beautiful
Gate,' or one of the side gates - He could gain full view into 'The Court of
the Women,' into which they opened. On these steps, or within the gate (for in
no other place was it lawful), He sat Him down, watching the multitude. The
time of Sacrifice was past, and those who still lingered had remained for
private devotion, for private sacrifices, or to pay their vows and offerings.
Although the topography of the Temple, especially of this part of it, is not
without its difficulties, we know that under the colonnades, which surrounded
'the Court of the Women,' but still left in the middle room for more than
15,000 worshippers, provision was made for receiving religious and charitable
shaped boxes (Shopharoth); somewhere here also we must locate two
chambers:34 that of
'the silent,' for gifts to be distributed in secret to the children of the
pious poor, and that where votive vessels were deposited. Perhaps there was
here also a special chamber for offerings.35
These 'trumpets' bore each inscriptions, marking the objects of contribution -
whether to make up for past neglect, to pay for certain sacrifices, to provide
incense, wood, or for other gifts.
vi. 5; v. 6.
As they passed to this or that treasury-box, it must have been
a study of deep interest, especially on that day, to watch the givers. Some
might come with appearance of self-righteousness, some even with ostentation,
some as cheerfully performing a happy duty. 'Many that were rich cast in much'
- yes, very much, for such was the tendency that (as already stated) a law had
to be enacted, forbidding the gift of the Temple of more than a certain
proportion of one's possessions. And the amount of such contributions may be
inferred by recalling the circumstances, that, at the time of Pompey and
Crassus, the Temple-Treasury, after having lavishly defrayed every possible
expenditure, contained in money nearly half a million, and precious vessels to
the value of nearly two millions sterling.36
Ant. xvi. 4. 4; 7. 1.
And as Jesus so sat on these steps, looking out on the
ever-shifting panorama, His gaze was riveted by a solitary figure. The simple
words of St. Mark sketch a story of singular pathos. 'It was one pauper widow.'
We can see her coming alone, as if ashamed to mingle with the crowd of rich
givers; ashamed to have her offering seen; ashamed, perhaps, to bring it; a
'widow,' in the garb of a desolate mourner; her condition, appearance, and
bearing that of a 'pauper.' He observed her closely and read her truly. She
held in her hand only the smallest coins, 'two Perutahs,' and it should be
known that it was not lawful to contribute a less amount.37
Together these two Perutahs made a guadrans, which was the ninety-sixth
part of a denar, itself of the value of about sevenpence. But it was
'all her living,' perhaps
all that she had been able to save out of her scanty housekeeping; more
probably, all that she had to live upon for that day and till she wrought for
more. And of this she now made humble offering unto God. He spake not to her
words of encouragement, for she walked by faith; He offered not promise of
return, for her reward was in heaven. She knew not that any had seen it - for
the knowledge of eyes turned on her, even His, would have flushed with shame
the pure cheek of her love; and any word, conscious notice, or promise would
have married and turned aside the rising incense of her sacrifice.38
But to all time has it remained in the Church, like the perfume of Mary's
alabaster that filled the house, this deed of self-denying sacrifice. More, far
more, than the great gifts of their 'superfluity,' which the rich cast in, was,
and is to all time, the gift of absolute self-surrender and sacrifice,
tremblingly offered by the solitary mourner. And though He spake not to her,
yet the sunshine of his words must have fallen into the dark desolateness of
her heart; and, though perhaps she knew not why, it must have been a happy day,
a day of rich feast in the heart, that when she gave up 'her whole living' unto
God. And so, perhaps, is every sacrifice for God all the more blessed, when we
know not of its blessedness.
B. 10 b.
tradition, though it ever had painfully thrusts forward the reward, has
some beautiful legends, allegories, and sayings about the gifts of the poor.
One quotation must here suffice (Bemidb. R. 14). It is to the effect, that , if
on who is poor, doeth charity, god says of him: This one is preventing Me. he
has kept My commandments before they have come to him. I must recompense him.
In Vayyikra R. 3, we read of a woman, whose offering of a handful of flour the
priest despised, when God admonished him in a dream to value the gifts as highly
as if she had offered herself. Yet another quotation from the Mishnah.
The tractate Menachoth closes with these words: 'Alike as regards
burnt-offerings of beasts and those of fowls (those of the poor) and the
meat-offering, we find the expression "for a sweet savour," to teach us, that to
offer much or to offer little is the same, provided only that a person direct
mind and heart towards God.'
Would that to all time its lesson had been cherished, not
theoretically, but practically, by the Church! How much richer would have been
her 'treasury:' twice blessed in gift and givers. But so is not legend written.
If it had been a story invented for a purpose or adorned with the tinsel of
embellishment, the Saviour and the widow would not have so parted - to meet and
to speak not on earth, but in heaven. She would have worshipped, and He spoken
or done some great thing. Their silence was a tryst for heaven.
4. One other event of solemn joyous import remains to be
recorded on that day.39
But so closely is it connected with what the Lord afterwards spoke, that the
two cannot be separated. It is narrated only by St. John, who, as before
explained,40 tells it
as one of a series of progressive manifestations of the Christ: first in His
Entry into the City, and then in the Temple - successively, to the Greeks, by
the Voice from Heaven, and before the people.
John xii. 20-50.
Precious as each part and verse here is,
when taken by itself, there is some difficulty in combining them , and in
showing their connection, and its meaning. But here we ought not to forget,
that we have, in the Gospel-narrative, only the briefest account - as it were,
headings, summaries, outlines, rather than a report. Nor do we know the
surrounding circumstances. The words which Christ spoke after the request of
the Greeks to be admitted to His Presence may bear some special reference also
to the state of the disciples, and their unreadiness to enter into and share
His predicted sufferings. And this may again be connected with Christ's
prediction and Discourse about 'the last things.'41
For the position of the narrative in St. John's Gospel seems to imply that it
was the last event of the day - nay, the conclusion of Christ's public
Ministry. If this be so, words and admonitions, otherwise somewhat mysterious
in their connection, would acquire a new meaning.
It was then, as we suppose, the evening of
a long weary day of teaching. As the sun had been hastening towards its setting
in red, He had spoken of that other sun-setting, with the sky all aglow in
judgement, and of the darkness that was to follow - but also of the better
Light would arise in it. And in those Temple-porches they had been hearing Him
- seeing Him in His wonder-working yesterday, hearing Him in His
wonder-speaking that day - those 'men of other tongues.' They were
'Proselytes,' Greeks by birth, who had groped their way to the proch of
Judaism, just as the first streaks of light were falling within upon his altar.
They must have been stirred in their inmost being; felt, that it was just for
such as they, and to them that He spoke; that this was what in the Old
Testament they had guessed, anticipated, dimly hoped for, if they had not seen
it - its grand faith, its grander hope, its grandest reality. Not one by one,
and almost by stealth, were they thenceforth to come to the gate; but the
portals were to be flung wide open, and as the golden light streamed out upon
the way, He stood there, that bright Divine Personality, Who was not only the
Son of David, but the Son of Man, to bid them the Father's welcome of good
pleasure to the Kingdom.
And so, as the lengthening shadows gathered around the
Temple-court and porches, they would fain have 'seen' Him, not afar off, but
near: spoken to Him. They had became 'Proselytes of Righteousness;' they would
become disciples of 'the Lord our Righteousness;' as Proselytes they had come
to Jerusalem 'to worship,' and they would learn to praise. Yet, in the simple
self-unconscious modesty of their religious childhood, they dared not go to
Jesus directly, but came with their request to Philip of Bethsaida.42
We know not why to him: whether from family connections, or that his education,
or previous circumstances, connected Philip with these 'Greeks,' or whether
anything in his position in the Apostolic circle, or something that had just
occurred, influenced their choice. And he also - such was the ignorance of the
Apostles of the inmost meaning of their Master - dared not go directly to
Jesus, but went to his own townsman, who had been his early friend and
fellow-disciple, and now stood so close to the Person of the Master - Andrew,
the brother of Simon Peter. Together the two came to Jesus, Andrew apparently
foremost. The answer of Jesus implies what, at any rate, we would have
expected, that the request of these Gentile converts was granted, though this
is not expressly stated, and it is extremely difficult to determine whether,
and what portion of what He spake was addressed to the Greeks, and what to the
disciples. Perhaps we should regard the opening words as bearing reference to
the request of the Greeks, and hence as primarily addressed to the disciples,43
but also as serving as introduction of the words that follow, which were spoken
primarily the Greeks,44
but secondarily also to the disciples, and which bear on that terrible, very
near, mystery of His Death, and their Baptism into it.
mark here also the utter absence of all legendary embellishments as evidence of
truth. So far from yielding to what, even in a book like the present, is a
temptation, the narrative of the Evangelist is peculiarly meagre and void of
details. We may note that only 'proselytes of righteousness,' who had submitted
of circumcision, would be allowed fellowship in the regular worship.
John xii. 23.
As we see these 'Greeks' approaching, the beginning of Christ's
History seems re-enacted at its close. Not now in the stable of Bethlehem, but
in the Temple, are 'the wise men,' the representatives of the Gentile world,
offering their homage to the Messiah. But the life which had then begun was now
all behind Him - and yet, in a sense, before Him. The hour of decision was
about to strike. Not merely as the Messiah of Israel, but in His world-wide
bearing as 'the Son of Man,' was He about to be glorified by receiving the homage
of the Gentile world, of which the symbol and the firstfruits were now before
Him. But only in one way could He thus be glorified: by dying for the salvation of
the world, and so opening the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers. On a
thousand hills was the glorious harvest to tremble in the golden sunlight; but
the corn of wheat falling into the ground, must, as it falls, die, burst its
envelope, and so spring into a very manifoldedness of life. Otherwise would it
have remained alone. This is the great paradox of the Kingdom of God - a
paradox which has its symbol and analogon in nature, and which has also almost
become the law of progress in history: that life which has not sprung of death
abideth alone, and is really death, and that death is life. A paradox this,
which has its ultimate reason in this, that sin has entered into the world.
And as to the Master, the Prince of Life, so to the disciples,
as bearing forth the life. If, in this world of sin, He must fall as the
seed-corn into the ground and die, that many may spring of Him, so must they
also hate their life, that they may keep it unto life eternal. Thus serving,
they must follow Him, that where He is they may also be, for the Father will
honour them that honour the Son.
It is now sufficiently clear to us, that our Lord spake
primarily to these Greeks, and secondarily to His disciples, of the meaning of
His impending Death, of the necessity of faithfulness to Him in it, and of the
blessing attaching thereto. Yet was not unconscious of the awful realities
which this involved.45
He was true, Man, and His Human Soul was troubled in view of it:46
True Man, therefore He felt it; True Man, therefore He spake it, and so also
sympathised with them in their coming struggle. Truly Man, but also truly more than
Man - and hence both the expressed desire, and at the same tine the victory
over that desire: 'What shall I say?47
"Father, save Me from this hour?48
But for this cause came I unto this hour!"' And the seeming discord is
resolved, as both the Human and the Divine in the Son - faith and sight - join
in glorious accord; 'Father, glorify Thy Name!'
27, 28 a.
horror mortis et ardor obedientiæ. - Bengel.
dicam? non, quid eligam? - Bengel.
Westcott has declared himself in favour of regarding this clause, not as
a question, but as a prayer, But this seems to me incompatible alike with the
preceding and the succeeding clause.
Such appeal and prayer, made in such circumstances, could not
have remained unacknowledged, if He was the Messiah, Son of God. As at His
Baptism, so at this Baptism of self-humiliation and absolute submission to
suffering, came the Voice from Heaven, audible to all, but its words
intelligible only to Him: 'I both glorified it, and will again glorify it!'49
Words these, which carried the Divine seal of confirmation to all Christ's past
work, and assured it for that which was to come. The words of confirmation
could only be for Himself; 'the Voice' was for all. What mattered it, that some
spoke of it as thunder on a spring-evening, while others, with more reason, thought
of Angel-Voices? To him it bore the assurance, which had all along been the
ground of His claims, as it was the comfort in His Sufferings, that, as God had
in the past glorified Himself in the Son, so would it be in the future in the
perfecting of the work given Him to do. And this He now spake, as, looking on
those Greeks as the emblem and firstfruits of the work finished in His Passion,
He saw of the travail of His Soul, and was satisfied. Of both He spake in the
prophetic present. To His view judgement had already come to this world, as it
lay in the power of the Evil One, since the Prince of it was cast out from his
present rule. And, in place of it, the Crucified Christ, 'lifted up out of the
earth' - in the twofold sense - was, as the result of His Work, drawing, with
sovereign, conquering power, 'all' unto Him, and up with Him.
John vii. 28 b-33.
The Jews who heard it, so far understood Him, that His words
referred to His removal from earth, or His Death, since this was a common
Jewish mode of expression (qls Mlw(h Nm).5051
But they failed to understand His special reference to the manner of it. And
yet, in view of the peculiarly shameful death to the cross, it was most
important that He should ever point to it also. But, even in what they
understood, they had a difficulty. They understood Him to imply that He would
be taken from earth; and yet they had always been taught from the Scriptures52
that the Messiah was, when fully manifested, to abide for ever, or, as the
Rabbis put it, that His Reign was to be followed by the Resurrection. Or did He
refer to any other One by the expression, 'Son of Man?' Into the controversial part of the
question the Lord did not enter; nor would it have been fitting to have so in
that 'hour.' But to their inquiry He fully replied, and that with such earnest,
loving admonition as became His last address in the Temple. Yes; it was so! But
a little while would the Light be among them.53
Let them hasten to avail themselves of it,54
lest darkness overtake them - and he that walked in darkness knew not wither he
went. Oh, that His love could have arrested them! While they still had 'the
Light,' would that they might learn to believe in the Light, that so they might
become the children of Light!
is another evidence of the Aramaic education of the writer of the Fourth
Gospel. Yet another is the peculiar Judaic use of the word h(#, hour,
in ver. 27. But the idea of 'Prince of this world' has no analogon in the
r# Mlw(h (or Metatron) of Rabbinism, to whom, strangely, the designation
r(n (in Zech. ii. 4 A.V., Babha B. 75 b, and in Ps. xxxvii. 25,
Yebam. 16 b, about middle) is applied. And this is, on the other hand,
quite as characteristic of the Gospel which, under Jewish forms, bears a
totally contrary spirit.
is another mark of Jewish authorship, this use of the word 'Law,' to denote the
ipsa manet; sed non semper in vobis.
non disceptandum. Fides non est deszes, sed agilis in luce.
They were His last words of appeal to them, ere He withdrew to
spend His Sabbath of soul before the Great Contest.55
And the writer of the Fourth Gospel gathers up, by way of epilogue, the great
contrast between Israel and Christ.56
Although He had shown so many miracles, they believe not on Him - and this
their wilful unbelief was the fulfillment of Esaias' prophecy of old concerning
On the other hand, their wilful unbelief was also the judgement of God in accordance
Those who have followed the course of this history must have learned this above
all, that the rejection of Christ by the Jews was not an isolated act, but the
outcome and direct result of their whole previous religious development. In
face of the clearest evidence, they did not believe, because they could not
believe. The long course of their resistance to the prophetic message, and
their perversion of it, was itself a hardening of their hearts, although at the
same time a God-decreed sentence on their resistance.59
Because they would not believe - through this their mental obscuration, which
came upon them in Divine judgement, although in the natural course of their
self-chosen religious development - therefore, despite all evidence, they did
not believe, when He came and did such miracles before them. And all this in accordance
with prophecy, when Isaiah saw in far-off vision the bright glory60
of Messiah, and spoke of Him. Thus far Israel as a nation. And though, even
among their 'chief rulers,' there were many who believed on him, yet dared they
not 'make confession,' from fear that the Pharisees would put them out of the
Synagogues, with all the terrible consequences which this implied. For such
surrender of all were they not prepared, whose intellect might be convinced,
but whose heart was not converted - who 'loved the glory of men more than the
glory of God.'
John xii. 36 b.
John vii. 37-43.
the effect which is Isa. vi. is ascribed to the prophet, is here assigned to
God. We say 'decreed' - but not decreed beforehand, and irrespective of their
conduct. The passage is neither quoted from the Hebrew nor from the LXX., but
paraphrase of this passage in the Targum Jonathan (for which see Appendix II.)
is, indeed, most interesting; but the Yeqara or outstanding splendour of
Jehovah, is not that to which the Evangelist here refers.
Such was Israel. On the other hand, what was the summary of the
Christ's activity? His testimony now rose so loud, as to be within hearing of
all ('Jesus cried').61
From first to last that testimony had pointed from Himself up to the Father.
Its substance was the reality and the realisation of that which the Old
Testimony had pointed from Himself up to the Father. Its substance was the
reality and the realisation of that which the Old Testament had infolded and
gradually unfolded to Israel, and through Israel to the world: the Fatherhood
of God. To believe on him was really not faith in him, but faith in him that
sent Him. A step higher: To behold Christ was to behold Him that had sent Him.62
To combine these two: Christ had come a light into the world, God had sent Him
as the Sun of Righteousness, that by believing on him as the God-sent, men
might attain moral vision - no longer 'abide in darkness,' but in the bright
spiritual light that and risen. But as for the others, there were those who
heard and did not keep63
His words; and, again, who rejected, Him, and did not receive His words.
Neither in one nor the other case was the controversy as between His sayings
and men. As regarded the one class, He had come into the world with the Word of
salvation, not with the sword of judgement. As regarded His open enemies, He
left the issue till the evidence of His word should appear in the terrible judgement
of the last Day.
John xii. 44.
according to the better reading.
Once more, and more emphatic than ever, was the final appeal to
His Mission by the Father.64
From first to last it had not been His own work: what He should say, and what
He should speak, the Father 'Himself' had given Him commandment. Nay, this
commandment, and what He spoke in it, was not mere teaching, nor Law: it was
Life everlasting. And so it is, and ever shall be, eternal thanks to the love
of Him Who sent, and the grace of Him Who came: that the things which He spake,
He spake as the Father said unto Him.
These two things, then, are the final summary by the Apostle of
the History of the Christ in His public activity. On the one hand, he shows us
how Israel, hardened in the self-chosen course of its religious development,
could not, and, despite the clearest evidence, did not, believe. And, on the other
hand, he sets before us the Christ absolutely surrendering Himself to do the
Will and Work of the Father; witnessed by the Father; revealing the Father;
coming as the Light of the world to chase away its moral darkness; speaking to
all men, bringing to them salvation, not judgment, and leaving the vindication
of His Word to its manifestation in the Last Day; and finally, as the Christ,
Whose every message is commanded of God, and Whose every commandment is life
everlasting - and therefore and so speaking it, as the Father said unto Him.
These two things: concerning the history of Israel and their
necessary unbelief, and concerning the Christ as God-sent, God-witnessed,
God-revealing, bringing light and life as the Father's gift and command - the
Christ as absolutely surrendering Himself to this Mission and embodying it -
are the sum of the Gospel-narratives. They explain their meaning, and set forth
their object and lessons.
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