The Third Day in Passion-Week – The Events of That Day – The Question of Christ’s Authority – The Question of Tribute to Cæsar – The Widow’s Farthing – The Greeks Who Sought to See Jesus – Summary and Retrospect of the Public Ministry of Christ
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. Mark in connection with the notice of the withering of the figtree, while its close is not only indicated in the last words of Christ’s Discourses, as reported by the Synoptists, but the beginning of another day is afterwards equally clearly marked.
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 commenced with teaching in the Temple. We gather this from the expression: ‘as He was walking,’ 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 Temple – 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 are introduced, 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, 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.
For, there was no principle more firmly established by universal consent than that authoritative teaching 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 the Scholars. 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. 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. At a later period, the presence of an ordained Rabbi, with the assessorship of two others, even if unordained, was deemed sufficient. 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 firstborn; 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.’ 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. 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.
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, 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. 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.
The plot, for such it was, was most cunningly concocted. The object was to ‘spy’ out His inmost thoughts, and, if possible, ‘entangle’ Him in His talk. 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.
Herod may, indeed, have been unwilling to incur the unpopularity of personally proceeding against the Great Prophet of Nazareth, expecially 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.
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-tax 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.
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.
At any rate, the scruple expressed by these men would, if genuine, have called forth sympathy. 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!
But the Lord escaped from this ‘temptation’ – because, being true, it was no real temptation to Him. 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, for which He had called, He said, ‘What is Cæsar’s render to Cæsar, and what is God’s to God.’ 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 strained references.
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.
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.
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!
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: 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. 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.
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.
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. 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’ (βͺος), 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. But to all time has it remained in the Church, like the perfume of Mary’s alabaster that filled the house, this deed of selfdenying 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.
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.
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, 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.
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.’ 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. 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 ot 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, but also as serving as introduction of the words that follow, which were spoken primarily the Greeks, but secondarily also to the disciples, and which bear on that terrible, very near, mystery of His Death, and their Baptism into it.
As we see these ‘Greeks’ approaching, the beginning of Christ’s History seems reenacted 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 ot 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. He was true, Man, and His Human Soul was troubled in view of it: 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? “Father, save Me from this hour? 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!’ 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!’ 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.
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 (מן העולם סלק). 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 Scriptures 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. Let them hasten to avail themselves of it, 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!
They were His last words of appeal to them, ere He withdrew to spend His Sabbath of soul before the Great Contest. And the writer of the Fourth Gospel gathers up, by way of epilogue, the great contrast between Israel and Christ. 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 the Messiah. On the other hand, their wilful unbelief was also the judgement of God in accordiance with prophecy. 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. Because they would not believe – through this their mental obscuration, which came upon them in Divine judgement, although in the natural course of their selfchosen 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 faroff vision the bright glory 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.’ 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’). 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. To combine these two: Christ had come a light into the world, God had sent Him as 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 keep 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 judgenment of the last Day.
Once more, and more empatic than ever, was the final appeal to His Mission by the Father. 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 selfchosen 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.
Alfred Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, The, WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 1043-1058.