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   Chapter 1 The Purpose of Jesus

Quiet Talks about Jesus By S. D. Gordon Characters: 184977

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

The Purpose in Jesus' Coming.

The Plan for Jesus' Coming.

The Tragic Break In The Plan.

Some Surprising Results of the Break.

The Purpose in Jesus' Coming

God Spelling Himself out in Jesus.

Jesus is God spelling Himself out in language that man can understand. God and man used to talk together freely. But one day man went away from God. And then he went farther away. He left home. He left his native land, Eden, where he lived with God. He emigrated from God. And through going away he lost his mother-tongue.

A language always changes away from its native land. Through going away from his native land man lost his native speech. Through not hearing God speak he forgot the sounds of the words. His ears grew dull and then deaf. Through lack of use he lost the power of speaking the old words. His tongue grew thick. It lost its cunning. And so gradually almost all the old meanings were lost.

God has always been eager to get to talking with man again. The silence is hard on Him. He is hungry to be on intimate terms again with his old friend. Of course he had to use a language that man could understand. Jesus is God spelling Himself out so man can understand. He is the A and the Z, and all between, of the Old Eden language of love.

Naturally enough man had a good bit of bother in spelling Jesus out. This Jesus was something quite new. When His life spoke the simple language of Eden again, the human heart with selfishness ingrained said, "That sounds good, but of course He has some selfish scheme behind it all. This purity and simplicity and gentleness can't be genuine." Nobody yet seems to have spelled Him out fully, though they're all trying: All on the spelling bench. That is, all that have heard. Great numbers haven't heard about Him yet. But many, ah! many could get enough, yes, can get enough to bring His purity into their lives and sweet peace into their hearts.

But there were in His days upon earth some sticklers for the old spelling forms. Not the oldest, mind you. Jesus alone stands for that. This Jesus didn't observe the idioms that had grown up outside of Eden. These people had decided that these old forms were the only ones acceptable. And so they disliked Him from the beginning, and quarrelled with Him. These idioms were dearer to them than life--that is, than His life. So having quarrelled, they did worse, and then--softly--worst. But even in their worst, Jesus was God spelling Himself out in the old simple language of Eden. His best came out in their worst.

Some of the great nouns of the Eden tongue--the God tongue--He spelled out big. He spelled out purity, the natural life of Eden; and obedience, the rhythmic harmony of Eden; and peace, the sweet music of Eden; and power, the mastery and dominion of Eden; and love, the throbbing heart of Eden. It was in biggest, brightest letters that love was spelled out. He used the biggest capitals ever known, and traced each in a deep dripping red, with a new spelling--s-a-c-r-i-f-i-c-e.

Jesus is God, following us up.

You see, the heart of God had been breaking--is breaking over the ways things have been going down on this planet. Folk fail to understand Him. Worse yet, they misunderstand Him, and feel free to criticize Him. Nobody has been so much slandered as God. Many are utterly ignorant of Him. Many others who are not ignorant yet ignore Him. They turn their faces and backs. Some give Him the cut direct. The great crowd in every part of the world is yearning after Him: piteously, pathetically, most often speechlessly yearning, blindly groping along, with an intense inner tug after Him. They know the yearning. They feel the inner, upward tug. They don't understand what it is for which they yearn, nor what will satisfy.

For man was made to live in closest touch with God. That is his native air. Out of that air his lungs are badly affected. This other air is too heavy. It's malarial, and full of gases and germy dust. In it he chokes and gasps. Yet he knows not why. He gropes about in the night made by his own shut eyes. He doesn't seem to know enough to open them. And sometimes he will not open them. For the hinge of the eyelid is in the will. And having shut the light out, he gets tangled up in his ideas as to what is light. He puts darkness for light, and light for darkness.

Once man knew God well; close up. And that means loved, gladly, freely. For here to know is to love. But one day a bad choice was made. And the choice made an ugly kink in his will. The whole trouble began there. A man sees through his will. That is his medium for the transmission of light. If it be twisted, his seeing, his understanding, is twisted. The twist in the will regulates the twist in the eye. Both ways, too, for a good change in the will in turn changes the eyes back to seeing straight. He that is willing to do the right shall clearly see the light.

But that first kink seems to have been getting worse kinked ever since. And so man does not see God as He is. Man is cross-eyed Godward, but doesn't know it. Man is color-blind toward God. The blue of God's truth is to him an arousing, angering red. The soft, soothing green of His love becomes a noisy, irritating yellow. Nobody has been so much misunderstood as God. He has suffered misrepresentation from two quarters: His enemies and His friends. More from--which? Hard to tell. Jesus is God trying to tell men plainly what He is really like.

The world turned down the wrong lane, and has been going that way pell-mell ever since. Yet so close is the wrong lane to the right that a single step will change lanes. Though many results of being in the wrong lane will not be changed by the change of lanes. It takes time to rest up the feet made sore by the roughness of the wrong lane. And some of the scars, where men have measured their length, seem to stay.

The result of that wrong turning has been pitiable. Separation from God, so far as man could make separation. There is no separation on God's part. He has never changed. He remains in the world, but because of man's turning his face away, He remains as a stranger, unrecognized. He remains just where man left Him. And any one going back to that point in the road will find Him standing waiting with an eager light glistening in His eyes. No! That's not accurate. He is a bit nearer than ever He was. He is following us up. He is only a step off. Jesus is God eagerly following us up.

The Early Eden Picture.

But one will never get to understand this Jesus until he gets a good look at man as he was once, and as he is now. The key to understanding Jesus is man, even as Jesus is the key to God. One must use both keys to get into the inner heart of God. To get hold of that first key one must go back to the start of things. The old Book of God opens with a picture that is fascinating in its simplicity and strength. There is an unfallen man. He is fresh from the hand of God, free of scar and stain and shrivelling influence. He is in a garden. He is walking hand in hand with God, and working side by side with God: friendship and partnership. Friends in spirit: partners in service.

The distinctive thing about the man is that he is like God. He and God are alike. In this he differs from all creation. He is God's link between Himself and His Creation. Particular pains is taken by repetition and change of phrase to make clear and emphatic that it was in the very image of God that man was made. Just what does it mean that we men were made in God's likeness? Well, the thing has been discussed back and forth a good bit. Probably we will not know fully till we know as we are known. In the morning when we see Him we shall be like Him fully again. Then we'll know. That morning's sun will clear up a lot of fog. But a few things can be said about it now with a positiveness that may clear the air a bit, and help us recognize the dignity of our being, and behave accordingly.

Man came into being by the breath of God. God breathed Himself into man. The breath that God breathed out came into man as life. The very life of man is a bit of God. Man is of the essence of God. Every man is the presence-chamber of God.

God is a Spirit. Man is a spirit. He lives in a body. He thinks through a mind. He is a spirit, using the body as a dwelling-place, and the mind as his keenest instrument. All the immeasurable possibilities and capacities of spirit being are in man.

God is an infinite spirit. That is, we cannot understand Him fully. He is very close to us. The relationship is most intimate, and tender, yet His fulness is ever beyond our grasp and our ken. Man is infinite in that he knows that God is infinite. Only like can appreciate like. He can appreciate that he cannot appreciate God, except in part. He understands that he does not understand God save in smaller part. He knows enough to love passionately. And through loving as well as through knowing he knows that there is infinitely more that he does not know. Only man of all earth's creation knows this. In this he is like God. The difference between God and man here is in the degree of infinity. That degree of difference is an infinite degree. Yet this is the truth. But more yet: man has this same quality manward. He is infinite in that he cannot be fully understood in his mental processes and motives. He is beyond grasp fully by his fellow. Even one's most intimate friend who knows most and best must leave unknown more than is known.

God is an eternal spirit. He has always lived. He will live always. He knows no end, at either end. All time before there was time, and after the time-book is shut, is to Him a passing present. Man is an eternal spirit, because of God. He will know no end. He will live always because the breath of God is his very being.

God is love. He yearns for love. He loves. And more, He is love. Man is like God in his yearning for love, in his capacity for love, and in his lovableness. Man must love. He lives only as he loves. True love, and only that, is the real life. He will give up everything for love. He is satisfied only as he loves and finds love. To love is greater than to be loved. One cannot always have both. God does not. But every one may love. Every one does love. And only as there is love, pure and true--however overlaid with what is not so--only so is there life.

God is holy. That word seems to include purity and righteousness. There is utter absence of all that should not be. There is in Him all that should be, and that in fulness beyond our thinking. Man was made holy. There is in the Genesis picture of Eden a touch that for simplicity and yet for revealing the whole swing of moral action is most vivid. In the presence of conditions where man commonly, universally, the world around, and time through, has been and is most sensitive to suggestion of evil there is with this first man the utter absence of any thought of evil.1 In the light of after history there could be no subtler, stronger statement than this of his holiness, his purity, at this stage.

And in his capacity for holiness, in that intensest longing for purity, and loathing of all else, that comes as the Spirit of God is allowed sway, is revealed again the capacity for God-likeness. It is the prophetic dawn within of that coming Eden when again we shall see His face, and have the original likeness fully restored.

God is wise, all-wise. Among the finest passages of the' Christian's classic are those that represent God as personified wisdom. And here wisdom includes all knowledge and justice. That the Spirit of God breathed into man His own mental life is stated most keenly by the man who proverbially embodied in himself this quality of wisdom. "The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord searching out the innermost parts." The allusion is clearly to intellectual powers. There is in man the same quality of mental keenness that searches into things as is in God. It is often dulled, gripped by a sort of stupor, so overlaid you would hardly guess it was there. But, too, as we all know, it often shines out with a startling brilliance. It is less in degree than with God, but it is the same thing, a bit of God in man. This explains man's marvellous achievements in literature, in invention, in science, and in organization.

Two light master-strokes of the etching point in the Eden picture reveal the whole mental equipment of the man. The only sayings of Adam's preserved for us are when God brought to him the woman. She is the occasion for sayings that reveal the mental powers of this first man. Fittingly it is so. Woman, when true to herself, has ever been the occasion for bringing out the best in man. "And the man said, this time it is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; this shall be called woman, because out of man was this one taken. Therefore doth a man leave his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife, and they become one flesh." ... "And the man called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living." Here is revealed at a glance the keen mental powers at work. Here is the simplicity of statement that marks the speech of strong men. The whole forest is in a single acorn. The whole of a human life is in the primal cell. The chemist knows the whole body by looking into one drop of blood. Here is revealed in one glance the whole man. Mark the keen sense of fitness in the naming of woman--the last and highest creation. Adam was a philologist. His mind was analytical. Inferentially the same keen sense of fitness guided in all the names he had chosen. Here is recognition of the plan for the whole race, a simple unlabored foresight into its growth. A man's relation to his wife, his God-chosen friend, as being the closest of life, and above all others is recognized, together with the consequent obligation upon him. She comes first of all. She becomes the first of all his relationships. The man and the woman--one man and one woman--united, make the true unit of society. Any disturbance of that strikes at the very vitals of society.

And God is a Sovereign--the sovereign of the vast swing of worlds. Man likewise is a sovereign in the realm of nature, and over all the lower creation. He was given dominion, kingship, over all the earth-creation. Man is a king. He is of the blood royal. He was made to command, to administrate, to reign. He is the judge of last appeals on the bench of earth.

But there is more here. The chief characteristic of an absolute sovereign is the imperial power to choose, to decide. Man was made an absolute sovereign in his own will. God is the absolute sovereign. He has made man an absolute sovereign in one realm, that of his will, his power of choice. There is one place where man reigns alone, an absolute autocrat, where not even God can come save as the autocrat desires it, that is in his will. And if that "can" bother you, remember that it was God's sovereign act that made it so. So that God remains sovereign in making man a sovereign in the realm of his will. There every man sits in imperial solitude.

Here then is the picture of man fresh from the hand of God. A spirit, in a body, with an unending life, partly infinite, like God in his capacity for love, for holiness, and wisdom, with the gift of sovereignty over the lower creation, and in his own will. Like Him too in his capacity for fellowship with God. For only like can have fellowship with like. It is only in that in which we are alike that we can have fellowship. These two, God and man, walking side by side, working together, friendship in spirit; partnership in service.

This man is in a garden of trees and bushes, with fruit and flowers and singing birds, roses with no pricking thorns, soft green with no weeds, and no poison ivy, for there is no hate. And he is walking with God, talking familiarly as chosen friend with choicest friend. Together they work in the completion of creation. God brings His created beings one by one to man to be catalogued and named, and accepts his decisions. What a winsome picture. These two, God and a man in His likeness, walking and working side by side; likeness in being; friendship, fellowship in spirit; partnership, comradeship in service. And this is God's thought for man!

Man's Bad Break.

Then come the climax and the crisis. A climax is the climbing to the top rung of the ladder. A crisis is the meeting place of possible victory and possible disaster. A single step divides between the two--the precipice-height, and the canon's yawning gulf.

It was a climax of opportunity; and a crisis of action. God's climax of opportunity to man. Man's crisis of action. God made man sovereign in his power of choice. Now He would go the last step and give him the opportunity of using that power and so reaching the topmost levels. God led man to the hill of choice. The man must climb the hill if he would reach its top.

Only the use of power gives actual possession of the power. What we do not use we lose. The pressure of the foot is always necessary to a clear title. To him that hath possible power shall be given actual power through use.

This opportunity was the last love-touch of God in opening up the way into the fulness of His image. With His ideal for man God went to His limit in giving the power. He could give the power of choice. Man must use the power given. Only so could he own what had been given. God could open the door. Man must step over the door-sill. Action realizes power.

The tree of knowledge of good and evil was the tree of choice. Obedience to God was the one thing involved. That simply meant, as it always means, keeping in warm touch with God. All good absolutely is bound up in this--obeying God, keeping in warm touch. To obey Him is the very heart of good. All evil is included in disobeying Him. To disobey, to fail to obey is the seeded core of all evil.

Whichever way he chose he would exercise his God-like power of choice. Whichever way he chose, the knowledge would come. If he chose to obey he would know good by choosing it, and evil by rejecting it. He knew neither good nor evil, for he had not yet had the contact of choice. Knowledge comes only through experience. In choosing not to obey, choosing to disobey, he would know evil with a bitter intimacy by choosing it. He would become acquainted with the good which he had shoved ruthlessly away.

With the opportunity came the temptation: God's opportunity; Satan's temptation. Satan is ever on the heels of God. Two inclined planes lead out of every man's path. Two doors open into them side by side. God's door up, the tempter's door down, and only a door-jamb between. Here the split hoof can be seen sticking from under the cloak's edge at the very start. Satan hates the truth. He is afraid of it. Yet he sneaks around the sheltering corner of what he fears and hates. The sugar coating of his gall pills he steals from God. The devil bare-faced, standing only on his own feet, would be instantly booted out at first approach. And right well he knows it.

A cunning half lie opens the way to a full-fledged lie, but still coupled with a half-truth. The suggestion that God was harshly prohibiting something that was needful leads to the further suggestion that He was arbitrarily, selfishly holding back the highest thing, the very thing He was supposed to be giving, that is, likeness to Himself. Eve was getting a course in suggestion. This was the first lesson. The school seems to be in session still. The whole purpose is to slander God, to misrepresent Him. That has been Satan's favorite method ever since. God is not good. He makes cruel prohibitions. He keeps from us what we should have. It is passing strange how every one of us has had that dust in his eyes. Some of us might leave the "had" out of that sentence.

See how cunningly the truth and the lie are interwoven by this old past-master in the sooty art of lying. "Your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God knowing good and evil." It was true because by the use of this highest power of choice he would become like God, and through choosing he would know. It is cunningly implied with a sticky, slimy cunning that, by not eating, that likeness and knowledge would not come. That was the lie. The choice either way would bring both this element of likeness to God in the sovereign power of choice, and the knowledge.

Then came the choice. The step up was a step down: up into the use of his highest power; down by the use of that power. In that wherein he was most like God in power, man became most unlike God in character. First the woman chose: then the man. Satan subtly begins his attack upon the woman. Because she was the weaker? Certainly not. Because she was the stronger. Not the leader in action, but the stronger in influence. He is the leader in action: she in influence. The greater includes the less. Satan is a master strategist, bold in his cunning. If the citadel can be gotten, all is won. If he could get the woman he would get the man. She includes him. She who was included in him now includes him. The last has become first.

She was deceived. He was not deceived. The woman chose unwarily for the supposed good. The man chose with open eyes for the woman's sake. Could the word gallantry be used? Was it supposed friendship? He would not abandon her? Yet he proved not her friend that day, in stepping down to this new low level. Man's habit of giving smoothly spoken words to woman, while shying sharp-edged stones at her, should in all honesty be stopped. Man can throw no stones at woman. If the woman failed God that day, the man failed both God and the woman. If it be true that through her came the beginning of the world's sin, through her, too, be it gratefully and reverently remembered, came that which was far greater--the world's Saviour.

The choice was made. The act was done. Tremendous act! Bring your microscope and peer with awe into that single act. No fathoming line can sound its depth. No measuring rod its height nor breadth. No thought can pierce its intensity. That reaching arm went around a world. Millenniums in a moment. A million miles in a step. An ocean in a drop. Volumes in a word. A race in a woman. A hell of suffering in an act. The depths of woe in a glance. The first chapter of Romans in Genesis three, six. Sharpest pain in softest touch. God mistrusted--distrusted. Satan embraced. Sin's door open. Eden's gate shut.

Mark keenly the immediate result that came with that intense rapidity possible only to mental powers. At once they were both conscious of something that had not entered their thoughts before. To the pure all things are pure. To the imagination hurt by breaking away from God, the purest things can bring up suggestions directly opposite. Through the open door of disobedience came with lightning swiftness the suggestion of using a pure, holy function of the body in a way and for a purpose not intended. Making an end of that which was meant to be only a means to a highest end. Degrading to an animal pleasure that which held in its pure hallowed power the whole future of the race. There is absolutely no change save in the inner thought. But what a horrid heredity in that one flash of the imagination! Every sin lives first in the imagination. The imagination is sin's brooding and birth-place. An inner picture, a lingering glance, a wrong desire, an act--that is the story of every sin. The first step was disobedience. That opened the door. The first suggestion of wrong-doing that followed hot on the heels of that first step, through that open door, struck at the very vitals of the race--both its existence and its character. That first suggested unnatural action, with its whole brood, has become the commonest and slimiest sin of the race.

Here, in the beginning, the very thought shocked them. In that lay their safety. Shame is the recoil of God's image from the touch of sin. Shame is sin's first checkmate. It is man's vantage for a fresh pull up. There are only two places where there is no shame: where there is no sin; where sin is steeped deepest in. The extremes are always jostling elbows. Instantly the sense of shame suggested a help. A simple bit of clothing was provided. It was so adjusted as to help most. Clothing is man's badge of shame. The first clothing was not for the body, but for the mind. Not for protection, but for concealment, that so the mind might be helped to forget its evil suggestions. It is one of sin's odd perversions that draws attention by color and cut to the race's badge of shame. It would seem strongly suggestive of moral degeneracy, or of bad taste, or, let us say in charity, of a lapse of historical memory.

Mark the sad soliloquy of God: "Behold the man has become as one of us: He has exercised his power of choice." He tenderly refrains from saying, "and has chosen wrong! so pitiably wrong!" That was plain enough. He would not rub in the acid truth. He would not make the scar more hideous by pointing it out. "And now lest he put forth his hand and take of the tree of life." "Lest!" There is a further danger threatening. In his present condition he needs guarding for his own sake in the future. "Lest"--wrong choice limits future action. Sin narrows.

With man's act of sin came God's act of saving. Satan is ever on the heels of God to hurt man. But God is ever on the heels of Satan to cushion the hurt and save the man. It is a nip-and-tuck race with God a head and a heart in the lead. Something had to be done. Man had started sin in himself by his choice. The taint of disobedience, rebellion, had been breathed out into the air. He had gotten out of sorts with his surroundings. His presence would spoil his own heaven. The stain of his sin would have been upon his eternal life. The zero of selfishness would have been the atmosphere of his home. The touch of his unhallowed hand must be taken away for his own sake. That unhallowed touch has been upon every function and relationship of life outside those gates. Nothing has escaped the slimy contact.

Sin could not be allowed to stay there. Its presence stole heaven away from heaven. Yet sin had become a part of the man. The man and the wrong were interwoven. They were inseparable. Sin has such a tenacious, gluey, sticky touch! Each included the other. It could not be put out without his being put out. So man had to be driven out for his own sake to rid his home-spot of sin. The man was driven out that he might come back--changed. Love drove him out that later it might let him in. The tree of life was kept from him for a time that it might be kept for him for an eternity.

When he had changed his spirit, and changed sides in the fight with evil started that day, and gotten victory over the spirit now dominant within himself, those gates would swing again. When the stain of his choice would be taken out of his fibre it would be his right eagerly to retrace these forced steps, and the coming back would find more than had been left. Love has been busy planning the home-coming. The tree of life has been grown in his absence to a grove of trees. The life has become life more abundant.

Outside the Eden Gate.

The story of what took place outside that guarded gate makes clear the love, the wise farsighted love that showed the man the way out that day. To tell the story one must use a pen made of the iron that has entered his own soul, and though the pen be eased with ball point, it scratches and sticks in the paper for sheer reluctance. And only the tears of the heart will do for ink.

That was a costly meal. That first bite must have been a big one. Its taste is still in the mouth of the race. If that fruit were an apple it must have been a crab. There has been a bad case of indigestion ever since. If you think there were no crab-apples in Eden, then the touch of those thickening lips must have soured it in the eating--man's teeth are still on edge. The fruit became tough in the chewing. It's not digested yet. That Garden of Eden must have been on a hill, with lowlands below, and high hills above, and roads both ways. The man seems to have gotten into the lowland road, and after a bit, struck some marshes and swamps, with a good bit of thick gray fog.

The first result of the break with God was in the man himself. Man has two doors opening into himself from God--the eye and the ear. Through these God comes into the man and makes Himself known. Through these comes all man knows of God. Both have their hinges in the will, the heart. Man gave both doors a slam shut that day in Eden. Yet they went shut gradually. That was the God-side of their shutting. He quickly slipped in an air cushion so the shutting might be softened and delayed, and meanwhile His presence be appealing to the man.

Refusing to obey God was equal to hearing without being willing to listen. It was the same thing as looking with that reluctance that won't see, and then doesn't see. Hearing and seeing lie deeper than ears and eyes, down in the purpose, the will, the desire of the heart. Unwillingness dulls, and then deafens the ears. It blurs, and then blinds the eye. An earnest, loving purpose gives peculiar keenness to the ears, and opens the eye of the eye. Ears and eyes are very sensitive organs. If their messages be not faithfully attended to they sulk and pout and refuse to transmit messages. It is a remarkable fact that habitual inattention to a sound or sight makes one practically deaf or blind to it; and that close attention persisted in makes one's ears and eyes almost abnormally keen and quick. Love's ears and eyes are proverbially acute.

One may be so wholly absorbed in something that he absolutely does not see the thing on which his eyes are turned. He does not hear the sounds that are plainly coming to his ear because his thought, back of that his heart, is elsewhere. Hearing, seeing is with the heart back of ears and eyes. God is spoken of as silent. Yet His silence may be simply our deafness. The truth is He is speaking all the time, but we are so absorbed that we do not hear. He is ever looking into our faces with His great, tender, deep eyes, but we are so wrapped up in something else that the gaze out of our eyes is vacant to that Face, and with keenest disappointment, so often repeated, He gets no answering glance.

Let anybody in doubt about the strict accuracy of this do some experimenting on himself, either with outer things or regarding God. Let him obey the inner voice in some particular that may perhaps cut straight across some fixed habit, and then watch very quietly for the result. It will come with surprising sureness and quickness. And the reason why is simple. The man is simply moving back into his native air, and of course all the powers work better.

This truth about the nerves of the ears and eyes running down into the heart is constantly being sounded out in the old Book. A famous bit in Isaiah puts it very clearly, and becomes a sort of pivot passage of all others of this sort. That fine-grained, intense-spirited young Hebrew was caught in the temple one day by a sight of God. That wondrous sight held him with unyielding grip through all the after years. With the sight came the voice, and the message for the nation: "Tell these people--you are continually hearing, but you do not listen, nor take in what you hear. Your eyes are open, they look, but they do not see." Then the voice said, "Make their heart fat, and their ears heavy, and their eyes shut."

That is to say, by continually telling them what they will continually refuse to hear because it does not suit the habit of their lives, he would be setting in motion the action that would bring these results. The ears that won't hear by and by can't hear. The heart that will not love and obey gets into a state of fatty degeneration. The valves that refuse to move in loving obedience will get too heavy with fat to move at all. The fat clogs the hinges. There is the touch of a soft irony in the form of the message. As though Isaiah's talking would affect their ears, whereas it is their refusal to hear that stupefies the hearing organ. In faithfulness God insists on telling them the truth even though He knows that their refusal to do will make things worse. But then God is never held back from good by the possible bad that may work out of it.

When Jesus came, the Jews, to whom His messages to the world were directly spoken, were in almost the last stages of that sort of thing. So Jesus, with the fine faithfulness of love blending with the keenest tact, spoke in language veiled by parable to overcome the intense prejudice against plainly spoken truth. They were so set against what He had to tell that the only way to get anything into them at all was so to veil its form as to befool them into thinking it truer. Toward the close, His keenness, for which they were no match, joining with the growing keenness of their hate, made them see at once that the sharp edge of some of those last parables was turned toward themselves.

In explaining to His puzzled disciples about this form of teaching, with a sad irony that reveals both His heart's yearning and His mental keenness, He uses more than once with variations this famous bit from Isaiah. He makes the truth stand out more sharply by stating the opposite of what He desires, making the contrast between His words and His known desires so strong as not only to make plain the meaning intended, but to give it a sharper emphasis.

The result that began with ears and eyes quickly affected the tongue. That is nature's path. The inner road from ear and eye is straight to the tongue. The tongue is the index of man's whole being. While through ear and eye he receives all that ever gets in, through the tongue his whole being is revealed. Of course his personality reveals itself very much otherwise. In the carriage of the body. Strikingly so in the look of the eye. The body itself, especially the face, becomes in time the mould of the spirit within. Yet the tongue--what is said, how it is said, what is not said, the tone of voice--the tongue is the index of the spirit.

There is no stronger indication of mastery over one's powers than in control of the tongue. When God would break up man's first great ambitious scheme of a self-centred monopoly on the Shinar plains, He simply touched his tongue. The first evidence of God's touch in the re-making of man on that memorable Pentecost day was upon his tongue.

The effect upon his tongue of the break with God has been radical and strange. Dumbness, and slowness or thickness of speech alternate with an unnatural sharpness. Sometimes the spittle has a peculiar oiliness that results in a certain slipperiness of statement. Sometimes it has a bitter, poisonous, acid quality that eats its way into the words. There is a queer backward movement in biting sometimes. Withal a strange looseness of speech regarding the holiest things, and the most awesome truths, and the Holy One Himself.

The moment a man gets a vision of God he is instantly conscious of something the matter with his tongue. The sight that comes to his eyes, the sound to his ears makes him painfully self-conscious regarding the defect in his tongue. Moses found himself slow-tongued. Isaiah felt the need of the cleansing coal for his tongue.

But man's whole inner mental process was affected. A peculiar sense of fear, of dread, is woven inextricably into the very fibre of man's being. His first reported word after that break was, "I was afraid." That sense of fear--a horrid, haunting, nightmare thing--has affected all his thinking and planning and every-day speech. No phrase is oftener on man's tongue than "I'm afraid." Isaiah's classic utterance about ears and eyes has a counterpart equally classic from Paul's pen, about the effect of sin upon man's mental processes. A few lines in the letter to the Ephesian circle of churches give a sort of bill of details of the mental steps down that slope from the Eden gate.

Paul is urging these friends to live no longer as they, in common with all the races, had been living, in "the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their hearts; who, being past feeling, gave themselves up to lasciviousness to make a greedy trade of all uncleanness." Here are seven steps down. The first five are put in reverse order. Beginning where they have been, he traces the five steps back to the starting point, and then adds the two likely to follow with any who persist past this point.

The start of all sin is in the setting of one's self against God. Choosing some other way than His. It is called here "hardening of the heart." The native juices of the heart are drawn away from God and dry up. In this Book the heart is the seat of both affection and will. It is the pivotal organ of life. Any trouble there quickly and surely affects the whole being. Then follows "ignorance." Of course. The heart controls both ear and eye, the two great channels inward of knowledge. The hardening of the heart locks both doors. And hard on the heels of that comes "Alienated from the life of God." That is, cut off, shut out of fellowship and intimacy. Life is union with God. Through union God's life flows into us. Union is rooted in knowledge and in sympathy, fellow-feeling, a common desire and purpose. The man snapping that tying cord cuts himself off.

The next step is peculiarly pathetic--"darkened in their understanding." The man has shut the shutters close, and pulled the shades down tight. Of course it's dark inside. He is unable to see. First unwilling, now unable. If the only thing that can be gotten for use as light be darkness, how intense is that darkness! Then comes the pitiable result of acting as if darkness were man's native air--"the vanity of the mind." That word vanity means aimlessness. The mind is still keen, even brilliant, but the guiding star is shut out, and that keen mind goes whirring aimlessly around. Sometimes a very earnest aimlessness. The man's on a foggy sea without sun or star. The compass on board is useless.

But more pitiable and pathetic yet; indeed utterly laughable if it were not so terribly serious and pathetic:--this man in the dark proceeds gravely to decide that this darkness of his own making is a superior sort of light, and bows low in worship of its maker. He has even been known to write brilliant essays on the light-giving power of blinding darkness, with earnest protests at the evil of this thing commonly called light. Sometimes having carefully cottoned up the shutters that no scrap of sun light or sun warmth may get in, he strikes a friction match, and sits warming himself, and eloquently sets forth his own greatness as shown by the match, friction match. Most of this sort of light and heat is of the friction sort.

Then with reluctant hand, one who knows Paul's tender heart can well believe, the curtain is drawn aside for the last two stages; the grosser, gutter, animal stages, which, not always by any means, but all too commonly follow. "Past feeling!" The delicate sense of feeling about right and purity dulls and goes. The fine inner judgment blunts and leaves. The shrinking sensitiveness toward the dishonorable and impure loses its edge and departs. Then--pell mell, like a pack of dogs down a steep hill, follows the last--"lasciviousness," the purest, holiest things in the gutter-slime, and then, cold-blooded, greedy trading in these things. That's the picture painted in shadows of Rembrandt blackness, newly blackened, of the effect in man himself of turning away from God.

Now Jesus is the music of God's heart sounding in man's ears anew, that he may be wooed back the old road to the Eden life. Jesus is the face of God, close up, looking tenderly, yearningly, into man's face, that his eye may be caught and held, and his heart be enchained.

Sin's Brood.

The second great result of that Eden break has been in the growth of sin. In the seventeenth century after that it was said that man's heart was a breeding place of thoughts whose pictured forms were bad, only bad, with no spots of good, nor spurts of good. A thousand years later, Moses giving the Hebrew tribes the ten commandments, adds a crowd of particulars, some of them very grewsome, which serve as mirrors to reveal the common practice of his age. The slant down of those first centuries has evidently been increasing in its downward pitch.

More than a thousand years later yet, there is a summary made by Paul that reveals the stage reached by sin in his day. Probably no one knew the world of his time, which has proved to be the world's crisis time, as did Paul the scholar and philosopher of Tarsus. Himself a city man, well bred and well schooled, a world traveller, with acute, disciplined powers of observation, and a calm scholarly judgment, he had studied every phase of life cultured and lowly.

He pitched upon the great city centres in his active campaigning, and worked out into the country districts. He was a world-bred man. He knew the three over-lapping worlds of his time: the Hebrew, with its ideals of purity and religion; the Greek, with its ideals of culture; and the Roman, with its ideals of organization and conquest. He is writing from Corinth, then the centre of Greek life, to Rome, the centre of the world's life. His letter is the most elaborate of any of his writings preserved to us. In its beginning he speaks of man, universally, morally, as he had come to know him. His arraignment is simply terrific in its sweep and detail.

Let me pause and be measuring the words cautiously and then put this down:--the description of the latter half of the first chapter of Romans is a true description of man to-day. At first flush that sounds shocking, as indeed it is. It seems as if this description can apply only to degraded savages and to earth's darkest corners. But the history of Paul's day, and before, and since, and an under view of the social fabric to-day, only serve to make clear that Paul's description is true for all time, and around the world.

There is a cloak of conventionality thrown over the blacker tints of the picture to-day in advanced Christian lands. It is considered proper to avoid speaking of certain excesses, or, if speech must be used, modestly to say "unnamable." And it is a distinct gain for morality that it is so. Better a standard recognized, even though broken. But commonly the conditions are not changed. The differences found in different civilizations to-day are differences only of degree. In the most advanced cities of Christendom to-day may be found every bit of this chapter's awful details, but properly cloaked. In European lands the cloaks are sewed with the legal-stitch, which is considered the proper finish. In lands where our Christian standards are not recognized the thing is as open as in this chapter.

In four short paragraphs containing sixty-six lines in the American Revision, Paul packs in his terrific philippic. He swings over the ground four times. Nowhere does he reveal better his own fidelity to truth, with the fineness of his own spirit. Here, delicacy of expression is rarely blended with great plainness. No one can fail to understand, and yet that sense of modesty native to both man and woman is not improperly disturbed, even though the recital be shocking.

Here is paragraph one: Man knew God both through nature and by the direct inner light. But he did not want Him as God. It bothered the way he wanted to live. The core of all sin is there. All its fruitage grows about that core. He became vain in his reasonings. He gave himself up to keen, brilliant speculation. Having cut the cord that bound him to God, unanchored, uncompassed, on a shoreless, starless sea, he drifts brilliantly about in the dense gray fog.

Then he befooled himself further by thinking himself wise. He preferred somebody else to God. Whom? Himself! Then--birds; then-beasts on all fours with backbone on a line with the earth, nose and mouth close to the ground; then--gray-black, slimy, crawling, creeping things. He traded off the truth of God for a lie; the sweet purity of God for rank impurity. He dethroned God, and took the seat himself. He bartered God for beasts and grew like that he preferred. God's gracious restraint is withdrawn when he gets down to the animal stage. Only here man out-animalled the animals. The beasts are given points on beastliness. The life he chose to live held down by the throat the truth he knew so well. That's the first summary.

The next two paragraphs are devoted to that particular sort of unnatural sin first suggested to man after his disobedience, and which in all time and all lands has been and is the worst, the most unnatural, the most degrading, and the most common. It came first in the imagination. It came early in the history of actual sin. It is put first by Paul in his arraignment here. He gives it chief place by position and by particularity of description. First was the using of a pure, natural function to gratify unnatural desires. Then with strange cunning and lustful ingenuity changing the natural functions to uses not in the plan of nature. Let it all be said in lowest, softest voice, so sadly awful is the recital. Yet let that soft voice be very distinct, that the truth may be known. Then lower down yet the commercializing of such things. Unconcerned barter and trade in man's holy, most potent function. Putting highest price on most ingenious impurity.

Then follows the longest of these paragraphs running up and down the grimy gamut of sin. Beginning with all unrighteousness, he goes on to specify depravity, greedy covetousness, maliciousness. Oozing out of every pore there are envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity. Men are whisperers, backbiters, God-haters, and self-lovers, in that they are insolent, haughty, boastful. They are inventors of evil things, without understanding, breakers of faith, without natural affection, ruthlessly merciless.

The climax is reached in this, that though they know God, and what He has set as the right rule of life, they not only do these things named, but they delight in the fellowship of those who habitually practise them. The stage of impulsiveness is wholly gone. They have settled down to this as the deliberate choice and habit of life. Man is still a king, but all bemired. He is the image and glory of God, but how shrivelled and withered; obscured, all overgrown with ugly poison vines.

Let it be remembered at once that this is a composite picture of the race. Many different sorts of men must be put together to get such a view. Sin works out differently in different persons. A man's activities take on the tinge of his personality. So sin in a man takes on the color and tone of his individuality.

One man has the inner disposition against God, accompanied by no excesses at all. These things disgust him. He is refined in his tastes, perhaps scholarly and intellectual in his thinking. That inner disposition may be a sort of refined ignoring of God either defiant or indifferent. In another, the animal nature swings to the front, stronger perhaps by heredity, and, yielded to, it runs to the excess of riot. Then there is the man with the strange yellow fever, whose love for the bright-colored precious metal burns in his blood and controls every impulse and purpose. And the man with intense love of power, of controlling men and things for the sake of the immense power involved, with himself as the centre of all.

There is every imaginable degree of each of these, and every sort of combination among them. The lines cross and re-cross at every possible angle in various persons. A man is apt to get money-drunk then society-drunk (with a special definition for the word society in this connection), then lust-drunk. Or, he may swing direct from money-intoxication into power-intoxication. Please notice keenly that each of these four grows up out of a perfectly normal, natural desire. Sin always follows nature's grooves. There is nothing wrong in itself. The sin is in the wrong motive underneath, or the wrong relationship round about an act. Or, it is in excess, exaggeration, pushing an act out of its true proportion. Exaggeration floods the stream out of its channel. Wrong motive or wrong relationship sends a bad stream into a good channel.

But sift down under the surface and always is found the same thing. The upper growth is varied by what it finds on the surface to mingle with, but the sub-stuff is ever the same. The root always is self. The whole seed of sin is in preferring one's own way to God's way; one's self to God. The stream of life is turned the wrong way. It is turned in. Its true direction is up. The true centre of gravity for man is not downward, nor inward, but upward and outward.

God's Treatment of Sin.

God's treatment of sin lets in a flood of light on the sort of thing it is. Three times over in this summary Paul says that God "gave them up." As they cast out all acknowledgment of God, He gave them up to an outcast mind. When they turned God out-of-doors, God left them indoors to themselves. It was the worst thing He could do, and the best. Worst--to be left alone with sin. Best, because the sin would get so vile that the man in God's image would want to turn it out, and get God back. Man never turns from sin until he feels its vileness to the sickening point. When things get to the acute stage, and a sharp crisis is on, then as a rule there will be an eager turning to the One who can cleanse and make over new; but usually not until then.

Sin has a terrific gait. Give it a loose rein and man will get winded and ready to drop. Only then is he ready to drop it. Sin can't be patched up or mended. Nursing only helps it to its feet for a fresh start. The whole trouble is in the nature of the thing. The heart pumps the hot blood of rebellion. Its lungs can breathe only self-willed air. The worst punishment of sin is that left alone it breeds more sin, and worse sin. The worst of sin is in its brood. It is very prolific. Every sin is a seed-sin. The breeding process gets the sort more refined in its coarseness.

"This is the very curse of evil deed,

That of new sin it becomes the seed."2

And the plain statements of the Book, and the inevitable working of man's nature, reveal all the bad results of sin intensifying indefinitely in the after-life. Jesus is God letting sin do its worst, upon Himself, that man might see its utter, stubborn damnableness, and eagerly turn from it, and back to Him.

A Bright Gleam of Light.

Yet be it keenly marked, there is a very bright gleam of light across this dark picture. In going over the story of sin with its terrific results now and afterward, one needs to be very tender, for he is talking about men--his brothers. And to be very careful not to say things that are not so. Some good, earnest people have been thinking that the whole race except a small minority were given over to eternal misery. The vast majority of men has never heard the name of Jesus. And some very godly people have seemed to think that these are lost forever.

Yet the old Book of God speaks very plainly here. Its meaning can be gotten without any twisting of words. Neither the Jewish nation nor the Christian Church can be regarded as favorites of God. God has no favorites for salvation. The Jewish nation was chosen for service' sake. Through it there came a special after-revelation of God. Through it came the world's new Man. The Church is the repository of God's truth to-day, with its window panes not always quite clear. Its great mission is to tell the whole race of Jesus. Both were chosen for service.

Every nation knew God directly at the first. And be it said thoughtfully, every man has enough of revelation and of inner light to lead him back to God. A man's choice in this life is his choice always. Any student of the ordinary working of man's mind can certify that. Whatever sort of being a man deliberately, persistently chooses to be here and now, he will be always. The only change possible in the after-life will be in the degree. Never in the sort.

The Gospels speak of believing on Jesus, and of the bad results for those who decline or refuse to have anything to do with Him. Of course it is speaking of those who have heard of Him. There can be no believing on Jesus without hearing, and of course in simple fairness no condemning on any such grounds. The gospel message is wholly concerned with those who hear.

But there is clear and plain teaching about the great outside majority of past generations and of our own who have never heard. It was a member of both Jewish nation and Christian Church, whose tongue, touched by the Spirit of God, said, "God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness is acceptable to Him." That is a simple standard, yet a searching one. Anybody, anywhere, with a truly reverential thought upward, and a controlling purpose to be right in his life, will find the door swinging wide. No other badges or tickets required. This would include that remarkable woman of India, Chundra Lelah,3 all those weary years before the simple story of Jesus brought its flood of light and peace, and all of her innumerable class.

Paul puts it as simply and a little more fully in the letter to the Romans, that careful treatise which sums up with marvellous fulness and brevity the gospel he preached to the world. In chapter two, he says, "to them who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption (He will give) eternal life." Note that in his review thus far he has not yet gotten to Jesus the Saviour.

These people of whom he is now speaking have never heard of Jesus. They are the great majority. Mark keenly the simple description of them. It is a description, not of an achievement, but of a purpose. The absorbing aim in their lives is seeking upward. The seeking controls the life. The mastering spirit of these seekers is patience, steadfastness. They are seeking for the highest thing. They are doing what seems to them to be right, while seeking. They are doing right patiently.

Patience! What a world of conflicting experiences in a word! Misunderstandings, breaks, slips, stumblings, failures, falls; but in all, through all, patience, steadfastness. Taking a fresh hold at every turn. And the gripping fingers ever learning a new tenacity. Pulling steadily up a steep mountain side, in a blazing hot sun, blinded by dust, struck by loosened rocks above rolling down, but--patiently, steadily, with dust-blinded eyes, tugging up. To such is given the heart's desire--eternal life. Ah! God judges a man by his direction, by the set of his face. He may not be far up, but his face is turned up. His heels show their backs. His toes point toward the top. That reveals the purpose, the desire of the man inside. His choice is to be up. And it is choice that makes character as well as revealing it. And the one thing that concerns God is the character as revealed in the purpose.

There is a simple, pathetic story from mission lands, variously told, and well vouched for, of a missionary pausing long enough in a village to tell the story of Jesus to the crowd that gathered, and then pushing on. This was the first visit of a missionary to this place and so the first news of Jesus. The crowd listened eagerly with various results. There was one listener, an old man, held in repute for his wisdom, who at once accepted the missionary's story, and announced his acceptance of Jesus. His neighbors expressed their surprise at his prompt acceptance of such a new thing. The old man's quiet answer in effect was this: "Oh, I have long trusted this Jesus, but I never knew His name before." There was no change of purpose with this man, but, in the story of Jesus, the burst of light that brought unspeakable peace as he kept on in his upward tug.

Yet all this will not hold back from glad sacrifice, from free giving, from eager going to foreign mission lands a single man or woman who has been caught by Jesus' Spirit. The Master said, "Go ye." That's enough. For the largest wealth that may be given, for the keenest sacrifice that may be endured, for the strongest life that may be devoted--that is quite enough. And if more were needed--then to go, to give, to sacrifice for the sake of helping our struggling brothers yonder know Jesus, and His wondrous sacrifice and His great peace. To make them conscious of the disgustingness of sin, to bring to them a vision of Jesus' face to allure, and enchain, to give a man's will an earnest boost, when he -would choose, but cannot seem to for the suction of sin, inherited and ever growing upon his choosing powers. God sent His best. Jesus sacrificed His all in going. We'll gladly follow in such a train. Jesus is God sending His best, sacrificing His dearest, giving His most, going Himself to get men started up the hill out of the bog.

The Broken Tryst.

Man's break back in Eden was very hard on God. That evening early, in the twilight, God came walking in the garden to have the usual talk with His friend. He came to keep tryst. It was the usual trysting place and trysting hour, and God had the trysting spirit. We may think He came early for this bit of fellowship. He was prompt. Nothing would be allowed to disturb this appointment. But God was disappointed. It was His first disappointment. The first one to be disappointed on this earth was God. Adam had always met Him before. We may easily think met Him eagerly, jubilantly, with glad, free, open face and clinging hands.

But the man was not there this time. He failed God. He broke tryst. He stayed away. Indeed he had gone away. God didn't fail. He was there. The man failed. They had a long distance talk. God called Adam. He was not content to come to the trysting place. He must find the missing tryster. Some folk would make God a sort of hard and dry keeper of His word: A sort of trim syllogism, dry as punk. Some seem to think Him to be as they seem to be. How our poor God has been slandered by His supposed defenders! God was not satisfied to keep the appointment. He wanted the man. He hungered for His friend, upon whom He had imprinted His own image. His heart was hungry for fellowship. He wanted the comfort of a bit of talk. So He starts at once eagerly, insistently to find the man.

That voice of God spoke out, tender, gentle, plaintive, pleading. You can just hear the soft, very soft woodsman's cry, "Hello-alo, hello, Adam, A-a-dam--here I am--waiting for you--I've kept my tryst--where are you?--hello-o--hello--where--are--you?" The voice that spoke worlds into being, that brought life and beauty to all creation, that brought instant reverence and adoration from myriads of the upper world, that voice now speaks to one, two: two who were one. All the heart of God, all the power of God, in the soft voice talking to one man. God has always been after the one man, and still is.

And the breezes hushed to hear that voice with its new pleading tone. The birds stilled their song for this new music in minor mellowing tone. Silence for a moment, the breezes hushed, the birds stilled, the creation near by held its breath, God held His heart still, that He might catch the first response to its cry. The twilight of that day had a pathetic sight. It saw a broken tryst; a lonely God; words of fellowship unspoken. A man and woman hiding. Skulking behind trees. Trees served a new purpose that evening, not a good purpose. They never were meant to hide behind. Sin perverts the use of all things.

All these weary years God has been standing wherever men are: standing, waiting, calling man back to his tryst. Among the trees, in the crowded city of man's making, He is ever calling, and eagerly, wondrously, helping every one who answers. He is so near that a reaching hand always touches Him. The voice of the heart never misses His ear. But His love and grief shine out most on that bit of a hill, outside a city wall, on the east coast of the middle-of-the-earth sea. That is earth's tallest hill. It can be seen farthest away of any. Jesus up on that hill is God calling man back to his broken tryst.

God's Wooing.

God seems to have fairly outdone Himself to get man to turn toward the old trysting place. For when a man will turn around enough to get even a glimpse of that God-Face, and a whisper of that God-Voice, he can withstand no longer.

God has taxed all the ingenuity of His love to let man know about Himself. He revealed Himself directly to the whole race at the start. He has in every generation, and in every clime, on every hilltop and valley, in every village and crowded city, been revealing Himself to the heart of every man. There cannot be found one anywhere who has not heard the quiet inner voice drawing up, and away from wrong.

In this world of wondrous beauty God is speaking. The glory-telling heavens, the winsome coloring of trees and all growing things, the soft round hills, the sublime mountains, the sea with its ever-changing mood but never-changing beneficence upon the life of the whole earth, the great blue and gray above, the soothing green below, the brighter colors in their artistic proportion, the wondrous blendings--surely every bush and other green thing, every bright twinkler in the blue, everything is aflame with the presence that burns but in great love consumes not. His eyes are indeed badly bothered that cannot see; his ears in queer fix that do not hear. Yet sometimes the empty shoes seem few enough. But they are ever increasing, and will yet more and more, by retail method, with wholesale result.

But God comes closer yet in His wooing. The web of life's daily run, with its strange mixing and blending, shadings and tints, is of His weaving. He sits at life's loom ever watching and weaving. Were He but recognized oftener and His hand allowed to guide the skein, how different the weaving!

"Children of yesterday,

Heirs of to-morrow,

What are you weaving--

Labor and sorrow?

Look to your looms again;

Faster and faster

Fly the great shuttles

Prepared by the Master.

Life's in the loom,

Room for it--room!

"Children of yesterday,

Heirs of to-morrow,

Lighten the labor

And sweeten the sorrow:

Now--while the shuttles fly

Faster and faster,

Up and be at it--

At work with the Master.

He stands at your loom,

Room for Him--room!

"Children of yesterday,

Heirs of to-morrow,

Look at your fabric

Of labor and sorrow.

Seamy and dark

With despair and disaster,

Turn it--and lo,

The design of the Master.

The Lord's at the loom,

Room for Him--room."4

When men's eyes seemed unable to see clearly these revelations of Himself, God picked out a small tribe, and through long, patient, painstaking discipline, gave to it, for the whole world, a special revelation of Himself. In it, in the Book which preserves its records, in the Man who came through it, God came nearer yet.

In Jesus, God told out His greatness most, and His love most tenderly. Man is the fairest flower of earth's creation. It was love's fine touch that to him God should reveal Himself best and most in the fairest flower of the eternal creation. Only man could fully appreciate Jesus, God's Man, and man's Brother.

But Jesus was known only to one generation--His own generation--to one narrow strip of country, one peculiarly exclusive tribe, the very small majority of all to whom He had come. So there came to be a Book that all after-generations might know Him too. We of later generations know of Jesus through the Book, in some shape or other, before we can come to know Himself direct. And so we prize the Book above all others. Not for the Book's sake, at all, of course, but because through it we come to know Jesus. With loving reverence we handle it, for it tells of Him, our God-brother.

Some learned folk have been much taken up with the make-up of the Book, its paper and type, and punctuation, and binding. And they have done good service in clearing away a lot of dust and cobwebs that had been gathering on it for a long time. But we plain folk, absorbed in getting things done, do not need to wait on their conclusions. If in those pages we have found Jesus, and God in Jesus, the Book has fulfilled its mission to us.

To all directly, in nature's voice, and in our common daily life; to a nation chosen for the special purpose, and through that nation and its books; through Jesus to those who knew Him, and, by a Book telling of Him, to all following, God came, comes in His wooing, and looked, looks tenderly into man's face. Each of these paths leads straight to God, and each comes to include the others.

But chiefly in Jesus God came. Jesus is God going out in the cold black night, over the mountains, down the ravines and gullies, eagerly hunting for His lost man, getting hands, and face, and more, torn on the brambly thorn bushes, and losing His life, in the darkness, on a tree thrust in His path, but saving the man.

The Plan for Jesus' Coming

The Image of God.

Man is God's darling--the king and crown of creation. The whole creation was made for him to develop and rule over and enjoy. He is in a class by himself. When he made his bad break there was just one thing left to do. God must get a new leader for His man to lead him back into all the original plan for himself. Of the whole earth man stood next to God Himself. God could not find that leader lower down. So He went higher. Jesus is God giving the race a new Leader who would withstand the lure of temptation and realize the ambition of God's heart for His darling.

The man was made in the image of God, for self-mastery, and through self-mastery for dominion over all of God's creation. That was the plan for the man. That, too, is the plan for the new Man. There is only one place to go to find God's plan for the coming One. That is in the Hebrew half of the Bible. One can hardly believe, unless he has been through the thing, how hard it is to get out of the Old Testament its vision of the coming One without any coloring from the New getting into his eyes.

We have been reading the Old Testament through the events of the New for so long that it gives a severe mental wrench to try to do anything else. Yet only so, be it sharply marked, can the plan for the coming of Jesus be gotten, and, further, only so can Jesus be understood. One must attempt to do just that to understand at all fairly what a reverent Hebrew in prophetic times expected; what such earnest Hebrews as Simeon and Anna were looking for.

I have tried to make a faithful effort to shut severely out of view the familiar facts of the gospel story for my own sake, to try to understand God's plan as it stood before there was a gospel story.

This old Hebrew picture is so full of details that are found in the reality that one who has not actually gone studiously over the Old separately will be very likely to think that the New Testament details are being read into the Old. If that be so, it is urgently requested that such an opinion be held off until the old Hebrew pages have been carefully examined as outlined in the study notes, that you may get the refreshment of a great surprise.

It must be kept keenly in mind that there is a difference between God's plan and that which He knows ahead will occur. Sovereignty does not mean that everything God plans comes to pass. Nor that everything that comes to pass is God's plan. Clearly it has not been so. It does mean that through very much that is utterly contrary to His plan He works out, in the long run, His great purpose. He works His own purpose out of a tough tangled network of contrary purposes; but in doing it never infringes upon man's liberty of action. He yields and bends, and, with a patience beyond our comprehension, waits, that in the end He may win through our consent. And so not only is His purpose saved, but man is saved and character is made in the process.

The plan is a detail of the purpose. There is one unfailing purpose through continual breakings of the plan. God's purpose remains unchanging through all changes. Yet here not only is His purpose unbroken, but His plan is to work out in the end unbroken too, though suffering a very serious break midway.

The plan goes back to the first broken plan. There was dominion or kingship of the earth by a masterful man bearing the image and imprint of God. All this was lost. Through loss of contact with God came the blurring of the image and the loss of self-mastery. Through loss of these came loss of dominion. These are to be restored--all three. This is the key to the plan for the coming of Jesus. A universal dominion, under the lead of a Master-Man, in God's image, and through these a restoration of blessing to all the earth of men. This is the one continuous theme of the old Hebrew writings. The emphasis swings now to one aspect, now to another, but through all the one thought is a king, a world-wide kingdom bringing blessing to all creation.

But if Jesus was to lead man back He must first get alongside, close up, on the same level. This was the toughest part of the whole thing. The hardest part in saving a man is getting the man's consent to be saved. There is no task tougher than trying to help a man who thinks he doesn't need help, even though his need may be extreme. You may throw a blanket over a horse's head and get it out of a burning stable or barn; or a lasso over a bull's head to get it where you want, but man cannot be handled that way. He must be led. The tether that draws must be fastened inside, his will. He must be lifted from inside. That is a bit of the God-image in him. And so God's most difficult task was getting inside the man that had shut Him out.

Fastening a Tether Inside.

And a long time it took. That it took so long, measured by the calendar, suggests how great was the resistance to be overcome. A long round-about road it does seem that God took. Yet it was the shortest. The circle route is always the shortest. It is nature's way. Nature always follows the line of least resistance. The eagle, descending, comes in circles, the line of least resistance. Water running out of a bowl through the hole in the bottom follows the circuitous route--the easiest.

God's longest way around was the shortest way into man's heart. Standards had to be changed. New standards made. Yet in making a standard there must be a starting point. God's bother was to get a starting point. When man was too impure in his ingrained ideas to receive any idea of what purity meant, things were in bad shape. When he was grubbing content in the gutter, how was he ever to be gotten up to the highlands, when you couldn't even lift his eyes over the curbstone? All the prohibitions of the Mosaic code are but faithful mirrors of man's condition. A wholly new standard had to be set up. That was God's task. It must be set up through men if they were to be attracted to it. So God started on His longest-way-around-shortest road into man's heart.

A man is chosen. Through this man, by the slow processes of generations, a nation is grown. Yet a nation only in numbers at first; in no other sense; a mob of men. Then this mob is worked upon. They are led through experiences that will make them soft to new impressions. Then slowly, laboriously, by child-training methods, the new standard is brought to them. Yet after centuries the best attained is only that their tenacious fingers have hold of a form, not yet the spirit. Yet this is an immense gain.

By and by this is the pedigree: A man, a family, tribes, a nation, a strong nation, a broken nation, a literature, ragged remnants of a nation, an ideal the like of which could not be found anywhere on earth, and a book embodying that ideal written as with acid-point in metal, as with sharpest chisel in hardest stone.

At last a start was made. God had gotten a hook inside man's will to which He could tie His tether, and draw, lovingly, tenderly, tenaciously, persistently, draw up out of the mire, toward the highlands, toward Himself.

The First Touches on the Canvas.

This old Hebrew picture is found to be a mosaic made up of bits gathered here and there, scattered throughout the Book. Some of the bits are of very quiet sober colors found in obscure corners. Others are bright. When brought together all blend into one with wondrous, fine beauty. The first bit is of grave hue. It comes at the very beginning. There is to be sharp enmity, then a crisis, resulting in a fatal wound for the head of evil, with scars for the victor.

After this earliest general statement there are three distinct groups or periods of prediction regarding the coming One. During the making of the nation, during its high tide of strength and glory under David and his son, during the time of its going to pieces. As the national glory is departing, the vision takes on its most glorious coloring. The first of these is during the making of the nation. As the man who is to be father of the chosen family is called away from his kinfolk to a preparatory isolation, he is cheered with the promise that his relationship is to be a relationship of leadership and of great blessing to the whole earth. This is repeated to his son and to his grandson, as each in turn becomes head of the family. As his grandson, the father of the twelve men whose names become the tribe names, is passing away he prophetically sees the coming leadership narrowed to Judah, through whom the great Leader is to come.

Later yet, in a story of divination and superstition characteristic of the time, a strange prophet is hired by an enemy to pronounce a curse upon the new nation. This diviner is taken possession of by the Spirit of God, and forced to utter what is clearly against his own mercenary desires. He sees a coming One, in the future, who is to smite Israel's enemies and rule victoriously.

During the last days of Moses that man, great to the whole race, speaks a word that sinks in deep. In his good-bye message he says there is some One coming after him, who will be to them as he had been, one of their own kin, a deliverer, king, lawgiver, a wise, patient, tender judge and teacher. The nation never forgot that word. When John the Baptist came, they asked, "Art thou the prophet?"

The second group of predictions is found during the nation's strength and glory. To David comes the promise that the royal house he has founded is to be forever, in contrast with Saul's, even though his successors may fail to keep faith with God. It is most striking to note how much this meant to David. He accepts it as meaning that the nation's Messiah and the world's King is to be of his own blood. "Thou hast spoken also of thy servant's house for a great while to come." Then follows this very significant sentence: "And this is (or, must be) the law of the man (or, the Adam)." This promise must refer to the plan of God concerning the woman's seed, the man, the Adam.

At the close, when the tether of life is slipping its hold, this vision of the coming greater Heir promised by God evidently fills his eye. He says:

"There shall lie One that ruleth over men;

A righteous One, that ruleth in the fear of God.

And it shall be then as the light of the morning,

When the sun ariseth,

A morning without clouds,

The tender grass springing out of the earth through clear shining after rain."

"Verily, my own house has not been so with God;

Yet hath He made with me an everlasting covenant,

Ordered in all things and sure.

For this covenant is now all my comfort and all my desire,

Although he has not yet brought it to pass."

This seems to be the setting of those psalms of his referring to the coming One. It was to be expected that his poetical fire would burn with such a promise and conception. In the Second Psalm he sees this coming Heir enthroned as God's own Son, and reigning supremely over the whole earth despite the united opposition of enemies. In the One Hundred and Tenth Psalm this Heir is sharing rule at God's right hand while waiting the subduing of all enemies. He is to be divine, a king, and more, a priest-king. Surrounded by a nation of volunteers full of youthful vigor He will gain a decisive victory over the head of the allied enemies, and yet be Himself undisturbed in the continual freshness of His vigor. And all this rests upon the unchanging oath of Jehovah.

David's immediate heir found his father's pen, and in the Seventy-second Psalm repeats, with his own variations, his father's vision of the coming greater Heir. While there is repetition of the kingdom being world-wide and unending, with all nations in subjection, the chief emphasis is put upon the blessing to that great majority--the poor. They are to be freed from all oppression, to have full justice done them, with plenty of food to eat, and increased length of life.

That David's expectation had thoroughly permeated his circle is shown in the joyous Forty-fifth Psalm, written by one of the court musicians. It addresses the coming One as more than human, having great beauty and graciousness, reigning in righteousness, victoriously, with a queen of great beauty, and a princely posterity for unending generations.

A Full-length Picture in Colors.

These are but the beginnings. It is in the prophetic books, the third of the groups, that the full picture with its brightest coloring is found. The picture is not only winsome beyond all comparison and glorious, but stupendous in its conception and its sweep. It is most notable that, as the flood-tide of the nation's prosperity ebbs from its highest mark, the vision to the prophetic eye of a coming glory grows steadily in brightness and in distinctness. As the great kings go, the great prophets come. It is to them we must turn for the full-length picture.

The one continuous subject of the prophets is the coming King and kingdom and attendant events. Immediate historical events furnish the setting, but with a continual swinging to the coming future greatness. The yellow glory light of the coming day is never out of the prophetic sky. Its reflection is never out of the prophetic eye. Jeremiah is the one most absorbed in the boiling of the political pot of his own strenuous time, but even he at times lifts his head and gets such glimpses of the coming glory as make him mix some rose tincture with the jet black ink he uses.

The common thread running through the fabric of the prophetic books clear from Isaiah to Malachi is the phrase "in that day." Sometimes it thickens into "the day of the Lord," "the great day of the Lord," "Jehovah hath a great day," "at that time." About this thread is woven in turn the whole series of stirring scenes and events that are to mark the coming time. Sometimes it is of local application; most times of the future time, and a few times the meaning slides from one to the other, touching both.

Over all of these pages is the shadow of Somebody coming down the aisle of the ages, who is to be the world's Master. The figure of a man, large to gigantic size, majestic, yet kindly as well as kingly, looms out through these lines before the reader's face. The old idea of God Himself dwelling in the midst of the people, sharing their life, made familiar by Eden, by the flame-tipped mount and the glory-filled tent, comes out again. For this coming One is said to be God Himself. But more than that He is to be a man, and a son of man; man bred of man. The blending of the two, God and man, is pointed to in the unprecedented thing of a pure virgin birth for this one. God and a pure maiden join themselves in His coming. He is to be of native Hebrew stock, in direct descent from the great David, and born in David's native village. Of course He is to be a king as was David, but unlike that ancestor, to be not only a king, but a priest, and a preacher and teacher.

The kingdom he will set up will be like Himself in its blending of the human and divine. Its origin is not human, but divine. The capital is to be Zion or Jerusalem. It will be marked by the glorious presence of God Himself visibly present to all eyes. The characteristics of the kingdom are of peculiar attractiveness, at any time, to any people of this poor old blood-stained, gun-ploughed battle-field of an earth. The stronger traits that men commonly think of as desirable are combined with traits that have been reckoned by men of all generations as absurdly, unpractically idealistic.

There will be vengeance upon all enemies, who have been using Israel as a common football, and great victory. Yet, strangely, these will be gotten without the use of violent force, and will be followed by great peace. The kingdom is to be established in loving-kindness and marked to an unparalleled degree by a sense of right and justice to all. This feature is emphasized over and over again, with refreshing frequency to those so eager for such a revolutionary change in their affairs. Absolute gentle fairness and impartiality will decide all difficulties arising. Even the most friendless and the most obnoxious thing will be fairly judged.

That great universal majority, the poor, will be especially guarded and cared for. There will be no hungry people, nor cold, nor poorly clad; no unemployed, begging for a chance to earn a dry crust, and no workers fighting for a fair share of the fruit of their sweat-wet toil. But there are tenderer touches yet upon this canvas. Broken hearts will be healed up, prison doors unhung, broken family circles complete again. It is to be a time of great rejoicing by the common people. Yet all this will be brought about, not immediately, but gradually, following the natural law of growth; though the beginning will be marked by a great crisis, coming suddenly.

The effect upon Israel nationally is to be tremendous, sweepingly reversing the conditions under which most of these predictions are made. Israel is to become a Spirit-baptized nation, wholly swayed by the Spirit of God, and that gracious sway never to be withdrawn. All judgments for her sins are removed and all impurity thoroughly cleansed away. Possession of their own land is assured. And the capital city is to become a holy place from which, in common with the whole land, all impurity has been cleansed away. All weakness and disability are gone, and full freedom from the exactions of her former enemies to be enjoyed. Not only is Israel to be at peace with all nations, but, far more, is to have the leadership of the nations of the earth, and leadership of the highest sort--in a world-wide spiritual movement, in the day when the Spirit of God is to be poured out upon all flesh.

This leadership is to be a glorious and absolute supremacy among all the nations of the earth. And yet this is not to be by man's method of conquest, but of their own earnest accord all nations will come a-running eagerly, voluntarily, with all their wealth and resources for the upbuilding and service of Israel. In that time the Hebrew capital Jerusalem will likewise be the capital of the earth.

No less radical and sweeping will be the changes in Israel personally, individually. The people are to be made over new within. The modern word for this sort of thing is regeneration. The old-fashioned word is a new heart--a new spirit. The change is to be at the core; a change of the sort. With this will come a marked spirit of devotion to God, and a peculiar open-mindedness to the truth. There will be an absence of all sickness and a decided increase in length of life and great increase in numbers. There will be no longer any disappointment in plans, and the sense of slavish fear, which is universal, not only with all the race, but through all time, will be utterly absent. Israel is to be a nation of persons with thrilled hearts and radiant faces.

Back to Eden.

The effect upon all the nations of the earth is a large part of the background of the picture. Through Israel's advancement under the new order, every other nation is to come back to God. The outpouring of the Spirit upon Israel is to be followed by an outpouring upon all flesh. There are the two outpourings of God's Spirit in these old prophetic pages. This will be followed by a universal, voluntary coming to Israel for religious instruction. She becomes the teacher of the nations regarding God, until by and by the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the only God. Her influence upon them for good will be as the heavy fertilizing eastern dews and the life-giving showers are to vegetation.

But further yet, Israel is to be the only medium of God's blessing upon the nations--the only channel. Those refusing her leadership will, for lack of vital sap, die of dry rot. The wondrous blessing enjoyed by this central nation, the unhingeing of dungeon doors, the opening of blind eyes, the mellowing of all the hard conditions of life, the reign of simple, full justice to all, is to be shared with all the nations. Israel's peace with all nations is to become a universal peace between and among all nations.

But there's still more. There are to follow certain radical changes in the realm of nature. Splendid rivers of water are to flow through Jerusalem, necessitating changes in the formation of the land there. The fortress capital of the Jews strongly entrenched among the Judean hills is to become, as the world's metropolis, a mighty city, with rivers to float the earth's commerce. The light of the sun and moon will be greatly increased, and yet this greatly intensified light will become at Jerusalem a shadow cast by the greater light of the presence of God. A devout Hebrew would associate this back with the light of the Presence-cloud in the Arabian barrens. While the devout Christian will likely, quickly think forward from that to the light that was one time as the sun, and, again, above the sun's brightness. Naturally, with this comes a renewed fertility of the earth's soil, and the removal of the curse upon vegetation. Before the healing light and heat the poisonous growth, the blight of drought and of untempered heat disappear. There is to be a new earth and above it a new heaven.

To complete the picture, the animal creation is to undergo changes as radical as these. Beasts dangerous because of ferocity and because of treachery and poisonous qualities will be wholly changed. Meat-eating beasts will change their habit of diet, and eat grain and herbs. There will be a mutual cessation of cruelty to animals by man and of danger to man from animals, for all violence will have ceased.

And then the climax is capped by repeated assurances that this marvellous kingdom will be as extensive as the earth and absolutely unending.

The whole thing, be it keenly noticed, is simply a return to the original condition. In the Eden garden was the presence of God, a masterful man in the likeness of God, with full dominion over all creation. There was full accord in all nature, and perfect fellowship between man and nature.

All this is to come to pass through the coming One. He is the key that unlocks this wondrous future. Through all, above all, growing ever bigger, is the shadowy majestic figure of a Man coming. His personal characteristics make Him very attractive and winsome. He will be of unusual mental keenness both in understanding and in wisdom, combined with courage of a high order, and, above all, dominated by a deep reverential, a keenly alert, love for God. He will be beautiful in person and, in sharp contrast with earth's kings, while marked personally with that fine dignity and majesty unconscious of itself, will be gentle and unpretentious in His bearing. His relations with God are direct and very intimate, being personally trained and taught by Him. Backed by all of His omnipotence, He will be charged with the carrying out of His great plans for the chosen people and through them for the world.

In a fine touch it is specially said that "He will judge the poor." Poor folk, who haven't money to employ lawyers to guard their interests, and haven't time for much education to know better how to protect themselves against those who would take advantage of them--the poor, that's the overwhelming majority of the whole world--He will be their judge. They will have a friend on the bench. But He will have this enormous advantage in judging all men, poor and otherwise, that He will not need to decide by what folk tell Him, nor by outside things. He will be able to read down into the motives and back into the life.

Such is the plan for the coming One outlined in these old pages. To many a modern all this must seem like the wildest dream of an utterly unpractical enthusiast. Yet, mark it keenly, this is the conception of this old Hebrew book that has been, and is, the world's standard of morals and of wisdom. The book revered above all others by the most thoughtful men, of all shades of belief. It is striking how the parts of this stupendous conception fit and hold together. There is a mature symmetry about the whole scheme. For instance, the changes in the light of sun and moon run parallel with the changes in growth and in the healthfulness and longer lives of man. Increased light removes both disease and its cause, and gives new life and lengthened life.

Surely these Hebrews are a great people in their visions. And a vision is an essential of greatness. Yet this sublime conception of their future is not regarded as a visionary dream, but calmly declared to be the revealed plan of God for them, and through them for the earth. And that, too, not by any one man, but successively through many generations of men. The prophetic spirit of the nation in the midst of terrible disaster and of moral degradation never loses faith in its ultimate greatness, through the fulfilling of its mission to the nations of the earth.

Is it to be wondered at that the devout Israelite, who believed in his book and its vision, pitched his tent on the hilltop, with his eye ever scanning the eastern horizon, for the figure of the coming One? And when eyes grown dim for the long looking believed that at last that figure was seen, the heart breathed out its grateful relief in "Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen."

Strange Dark Shadowings.

But, too, there is in this vision of glory something very different, so mixed in that it won't come out. There are dark shadows from the first touch upon the canvas. Always there is a bitter, malignant enemy. There is decisive victory, but it comes only after sharp, hard, long-continued fighting. But in the latter parts, that is, in David's time, and intensifying in the later pages, there is something darker yet. Through these lines run forebodings, strange, weird, sad forebodings of evil. There are dark gray threads, inky black threads, that do not harmonize with the pattern being woven. And the weavers notice it, and wonder, and yet are under a strange impulse to weave on without understanding.

Their coming One is to be a king, but there is the distinct consciousness that there would be for Him terrible experiences through which He must pass, and to which He would yield on His way to the throne. The very conception seems to involve a contradiction which puzzles these men who write them down. Like a lower minor strain running through some great piece of music are the few indications of what God foreknew, though He did not foreplan, would happen to Jesus. A sharp line must always be drawn between what God plans and what He knows will happen. The soft sobbing of what God could see ahead runs as a minor sad cadence through the story of His plans.

Sometimes these forebodi

ngs are acted out. In the light of the Gospels we can easily see very striking likenesses between the experiences in which keen suffering precedes great victory, of such national leaders as Joseph and David, and the experiences of Jesus. Here is God's plan of atonement by blood, involving suffering, but with no such accompaniments of hatred and cruelty as Jesus went through. Read backward, Jesus' experience on the cross is seen to bear striking resemblances, in part, to this old scheme of atonement; yet only in part: the parts concerning His character and the results; but not the manner of his death, nor the spirit of the actors.

Then there are the few direct specific passages predicting a stormy trip for the king before the haven is reached. There is a vividness of detail in the very language here, that catches us, familiar with after events, as it could not those who first heard. There is the Twenty-second Psalm, with its broken sentences, as though blurted out between heart-breaking sobs; and then the wondrous change, in the latter part, to victory through this terrible experience. And the scanty but vivid lines in the Sixty-ninth Psalm. There is that great throbbing fifty-third of Isaiah, with its beginning back in the close of the fifty-second, and the striking ahead of its key-note in the fiftieth chapter.

Daniel listens with awe deepening ever more as Gabriel tells him that the coming Prince is to be "cut off." To the returned exiles rebuilding the temple Zechariah acts out a parable in which Jehovah is priced at thirty pieces of silver, the cost of a common slave. And a bit later God speaks of a time when "they shall look upon Me (or Him) whom they have pierced." And later yet, a still more significant phrase is used, as identifying the divine character of the sufferer, where God speaks of a sword being used "against the man that is My Fellow," adding, "Strike the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." It is God's Fellow--one on a par with Himself--against whom the opposition is directed.

Such is the great vision in these Hebrew pages of the plan for the coming One. There is a throne on a high mountain peak bathed in wondrous sublime glory, but the writers are puzzled at a dark valley of the shadow of death through which the king seems to be obliged to pick His way up to the throne.

Jesus is to be God's new Man leading man back on the road into the divine image again, with full mastery of his masterly powers, and through mastery into full dominion again; but the road back seems to be contested, and the new Man gets badly scarred as He fights through and up to victory.

The Tragic Break in the Plan

The Jerusalem Climate.

Then Jesus came. His coming was greeted with great gladness above, and great silence below. Above, the stars sent a special messenger to bid Him welcome to the earth they lightened and brightened. Below, the rusty hinges of earth's inn refused to swing for Him. So man failing, the lower creation shared room with Him.

Above, was the sweetest music, the music of heaven. Three times the music of heaven is mentioned: at the creation, at this coming of Jesus, at the coming crowning of Jesus in John's Revelation. Below, the only music was that of the babe's holy young mother, God's chosen one to mother His Son, crooning to her babe; and the gentle lowing in minor key of the oxen whose stall He shared. Above, the great glory shining, the messenger of God speaking a message of peace and love. Below, only darkness and silence.

Among the cultured leaders of the city of David, and of Solomon, and of God's once glorified temple, there were no ears for the message, nor eyes for the glory. They had gone deaf and blind Godward long before. To them came no message, for no door was open. To simple men of nature who lived with the stars and the hills and the sheep, came the new shining of the glory, and the wondrous messenger and message. Their doors were open. They practised looking up. Of course neither city nor country mattered, nor matters. God always speaks into the upturned ear and looks into the upturned face.

And so Jesus came. With all of its contrasts it was a winsome coming. A pure young mother nursing her babe; the babe with its sweet wondrous face, a fresh act of God indeed; the simple unselfish cattle; the bright stars; the Glory shining; the sudden flood of music; the Lord's messenger; the message--a very winsome coming.

He came into the peculiar climate of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is Judea. Out of the Babylonian remnant of Israel had come great men, true leaders, with great zeal for the city, and the temple, and the temple service, and for the law. They made the mould in which this later Jerusalem was cast. But that mould retaining its old form, had now become filled with the baser metals. The high ideals of the new makers of the city had shrunk into mere ideas. The small, strongly entrenched ruling circle were tenacious sticklers for traditions as interpreted by themselves. That fine old word conservative (with an underneath meaning of "what we prefer") was one of their sweetest morsels. Underneath their great pride as Moses' successors, the favored custodians of the nation's most sacred treasures, was a passionate love for gold. The temple service was secretly organized on the profit-sharing plan, with the larger share, as usual, for the organizers.

That hardest thing in the whole range of human action to overcome, either by God or man or the devil--prejudice--they had, in the Simon-pure form, superlatively refined. The original treasure of God's Word was about as much overlaid and hidden away by writings about it as--it has been in some other times. Of course they were looking for a Messiah, the one hope of their sacredly guarded literature. But He must be the sort that they wanted, and--could use.

Herod the King was a man of great ability, great ambition, great passion, and great absence of anything akin to conscience. But the virtual ruler was the high priest. His office was bargained for, bought and sold for the money and power it controlled in the way all too familiar to corrupt political life in all times, and not wholly unknown in our own. The old spiritual ideals of Moses, and Samuel, preached amid degeneracy by Elijah and Isaiah, were buried away clear out of sight by mere formalism, though still burning warm and tender in the hearts of a few. This was the atmosphere of the old national capital into which Jesus came.

The Bethlehem Fog.

Then it was that Jesus came. Strange to say, there is a shadow over His coming from the beginning. A gray chilling shadow of the sort of gray that a stormy sky sometimes shows, gray tingeing into slaty black. Yet it was the coming that made the shadow. It takes light, and some thick thing like a block, and some distance for perspective, to make a shadow. The nearer the light to the block thing the blacker the shadow. Here the light came close to some thick blocks; of stupid thickness; human blocks grown more toughly thick by the persistent resisting of any such transparent thing as light.

This was a foggy shadow. A fog is always made by influences from below. A lowering temperature chills the air, and brings down its moisture in the shape of a gray subtle pervasive mist, that blurs the outlook, and often gathers and holds black smoke, and mean poisonous odors and gases from bog and swamp. Such a fog endangers both health and life. This was just such a shadowing fog. There was a decided drop in the temperature, a sudden chill, a fog formed that sucked up the poison of the marshes, and threatened to stifle the baby breath of the new-born King.

A subtle, intangible, but terribly sure something haunts and hunts the King from the first. His virgin mother is suspected by the one nearest her of the most serious offense that can be charged against a woman. The shadow that later grew to inky blackness came ahead of the man, and, under the stable eaves, waited grimly His arrival. The feverish green of Herod's eyes will be content with nothing but a new, bright, running red, and plenty of it. Satan's plan of killing was started early. He was not particular about the way it was done. The first attempt was at Bethlehem. The venomous spittle oozed out there first. But he must move along natural channels: just now, a murderous king's jealous dread of a possible rival.

The first hint of the actual coming of the long expected One is from the star-students of the east. Their long journey and eager questioning bring the birth of Jesus before the official circle of the nation. It is most significant that His birth causes at once a special meeting of the nation's ruling body. Herod was troubled, of course. But--all Jerusalem was troubled with him. Here is a surprising sympathy. It reflects at once vividly the situation. It was strangely suggestive that news of their King coning should trouble these national leaders. These devout star-watchers are wise in the source of information they came to. These leaders knew. They quickly pointed out the spot where the coming One should be born.

A pure virgin under cruel suspicion, a roomless inn, a village filled with heart-broken mothers, a quick flight on a dark night to a foreign land by a young mother and her babe, the stealthy retirement into a secluded spot away from his native province, a fellow feeling between a red-handed king and the nation's leaders--ugh! an ugly, deadly fog.

The Man Sent Ahead.

A high fence of silence shuts out from view the after years. Just one chink of a crack appears in the fence, peering through which, one gets a suggestion of beautiful simplicity, of the true, natural human growing going on beyond the fence.

When mature years are reached, the royal procession is formed. A man is sent ahead to tell of the King's coming. John was Jesus' diplomatic representative, His plenipotentiary extraordinary; that is, the one man specifically sent to represent Him to the nation whose King He was. Treatment of John was treatment of Jesus. A slight done him was slighting his sovereign Master. If Sir Henry Mortimer Durand were to be slighted or treated discourteously by the American authorities, it would be felt at London as a slight upon the King, the government, and the nation they represent. Any indignity permitted to be done on American soil to von Stuckenburg would be instantly resented by Kaiser William as personal to himself. John was Jesus' Durand, His von Stuckenburg, His Whitelaw Reid. And no diplomat ever used more tactful language than this John when questioned about his Master. In Jesus' own simile, John was His best man. Jesus was a bridegroom. John stood by His side as His most intimate friend.

Jesus and John are constantly interwoven in the events of Jesus' career. We moderns, who do everything by the calendar, have been puzzled in the attempt to piece together these events into an exact calendar arrangement. And the beautiful mosaic of the Gospels has been cut up to make a new, modern, calendar mosaic. But these writers see things by events, not by dates. They have in mind four great events, and about these their story clusters. And in these Jesus and John are inextricably interwoven. First is John's wilderness ministry, heading up in his presenting Jesus to the nation. Then John's violent seizure, and Jesus' withdrawal from the danger zone. Then John's death, and Jesus' increased caution in His movements. Then Jesus' death. John comes, points to Jesus, and goes. Jesus comes, walks a bit with John, reaches beyond him and then goes, too.

John baptized. That is, he used a purifying rite in connection with his preaching. It helps to remember the distinction between baptism as practised in the Christian Church, and as practised by John, and by Jesus in His early ministry. In the church, baptism has come to be regarded as a dedicatory rite by some, and by others an initial and confessional rite. But in the first use of it, by John and Jesus, it was a purifying rite. It was a confession too, but of sin, and the need of cleansing, not, as later, of faith in a person, or a creed, although it did imply acceptance of a man's leadership. To a Hebrew mind it was preaching by symbol as well as by word. The official deputation sent from Jerusalem to look John up asked why he should be using a purifying rite if he were neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. They could understand the appropriateness of either of these three persons using such a rite in connection with his preaching as indicating the national need of cleansing. And in the beginning Jesus for a time, through His disciples, joined in John's plan of baptizing those who confessed sorrow for sin.

Jesus acknowledged John as His own representative, and honored him as such, from first to last. He gives him the strongest approval and backing. The national treatment of John always affects Jesus' movements. When, toward the close, His authority is challenged, He at once calls attention to the evident authority of His forerunner and refuses to go farther.

A trace of that ominous, puzzling foreboding noticed in the Old Testament vision of the coming One creeps in here. Pointing to Jesus, John says, "Behold the lamb of God, who beareth (away) the sin of the world." Why did John say that? We read his words backward in the light of Calvary. But he could not do that, and did not. He knew only a King coming. Why? Even as Isaiah fifty-third, and Psalm twenty-second were written, the writers there, the speaker here, impelled to an utterance, the meaning of which, was not clear to themselves.

This relation and intimacy between these two, John and Jesus, must be steadily kept in mind.

The Contemptuous Rejection.

From the very first, though Jesus was accepted by individuals of every class, He was rejected by the nation. This is the twin-fact standing out in boldest outline through the Gospel stories. The nation's rejection began with the formal presentation of Him to it by John. First was the simple refusal to accept, then the decision to reject, then the determination that everybody else should reject too. First, that He should not be admitted to their circle, then that He should be kept out of their circle, and then that He should be kept out of every circle. There are these three distinct stages in the rejection from the Jordan waters to the Calvary Hill.

First came the contemptuous rejection. John was a great man. Made of the same rugged stuff as the old prophets, he was more than they in being the King's own messenger and herald. In his character he was great as the greatest, though not as great in privilege as those living in the kingdom. He preached and baptized. With glowing eyes of fire, deep-set under shaggy brows, and plain vigorous speech which, if pricked, would ooze out red life, he told of the sin that must be cleaned out as a preparation for the coming One. And to all who would, he applied the cleansing rite.

He had great drawing power. Away from cultured Jerusalem on the hilltops down to the river bottoms, and the stony barrens of the Jordan; from the Judean hill country, away from the stately temple service with its music and impressive ritual, to his simple open-air, plain, fervid preaching, he drew men. All sorts came, the proud Pharisee, the cynical Sadducee, the soldiers, the publicans, farmers, shepherds, tradespeople--all came. His daily gatherings represented the whole people. The nation came to his call. It was the unconscious testimony of the nation to his rugged greatness and to his divine mission. They were impelled to come, and listen, and do, and questioningly wonder if this can be the promised national leader.

One day a committee came from the Jewish Senate to make official inquiry as to who he claimed to be. With critical, captious questions they demand his authority. True to his mission and his Master, he said, "I am not the One, but sent to tell you that He's coming, and so near that it's time to get ready." Then the next day, as Jesus walks quietly through the crowd, probably just back from the wilderness, he finishes his reply to the deputation. With glowing eyes intently riveted upon Jesus, and finger pointing, before the alert eyes of his hundreds of hearers--Pharisees, Sadducees, official committee, Roman soldiers, and common folk--he said in clear, ringing tones, "That is He: the coming One!"

No more dramatic, impressive presentation could have been made of Jesus to the nation. To their Oriental minds it would be peculiarly significant, Mark keenly the result. On the part of the leaders utter silence There could be no more cutting expression of their contempt. With eyebrows uplifted, eyes coldly questioning, their lips slightly curling, or held close together and pursed out, and shoulders shrugging, their contempt, utter disgusted contempt, could not be more loudly expressed. If they had had the least disposition to believe John's words about Jesus, even so far as to investigate patiently and thoroughly, how different would their conduct have been! But--only silence. And silence long continued. Jesus gave them plenty of time before the next step was taken. No silence ever spoke in louder voice. That same day five thoughtful men of that same throng did investigate, and were satisfied, and gave at once loyal, loving allegiance.

A few months later, the Passover Feast drew crowds from everywhere to Jerusalem. Jesus coming into the temple areas, with the crowds, one day, is struck at once with the strange scene. Instead of reverent, holy quiet, as worshippers approached the dwelling-place of God, with their offerings of penitence and worship, the busy bustle of a market-place greets His ears. The noise of cattle and sheep being driven here and there, the pavement like an unkempt barnyard, loud, discordant voices of men handling the beasts and bargaining over exchange rates at the brokers' tables--strange scene. Is it surprising that His ear and eye and heart, perhaps fresh from a bit of quiet morning talk with His Father, were shocked? Here, where everything should have called to devotion, everything jarred.

Quietly and quickly putting some bits of knotted string together, He started the stock out, doubtless against the protests of the keepers. With flashing light out of those keen eyes, He tipped over the tables, spilling out their precious greedy coins, and ordered the crates of pigeons removed. But all with no suggestion of any violence used toward anybody. Reluctantly, perhaps angrily, wholly against their plans and wishes, the crowd, impelled by something in this unknown Man, with no outer evidence of authority, goes. It is a remarkable tribute, both to the power of His personal presence and to His executive faculty.

Of course the thing made trouble. It was the talk of the town, and of all the foreigners for days after. The leaders were aroused and angered, deeply angered. This stranger had kicked up a pretty muss with His inconvenient earnestness and inconsiderate quoting of Scripture. It was a practical assumption of superior authority over them. It was an assumption of the truth of John's ignored claim that He was the promised King.

Was not this arrangement in the temple area a great convenience for the many strangers, who were their brothers and guests; a real kindly act of hospitality? Yes--and was it not, too, a finely organized bit of business for profiting by these strangers, a using of their proper authority over the temple territory to transfer their brothers' foreign coins safely over to their own purses? Aye, it was a transmuting of their holy offices into gold by the alchemy of their coarse, greedy touch.

Jesus' conduct was the keenest sort of criticism of these rulers, before the eyes of the nation and of the thousands of pilgrims present. These leaders never forgave this humiliating rebuke of themselves. It made their nerves raw to His touch ever after. Here is the real reason of all their after bitter dislike. They had a sensitive pocket-nerve. It was a sort of pneumogastric nerve so close did it come to their lives. Jesus touched it roughly. It never quit aching. Scratch all their later charges against Him and under all is this sore spot. The tree of the cross began growing its wood that day. Their hot, captious demand for authority, meant as much for the ears of the crowd as for His, brought from Jesus, who read His future in their hearts, a reply which they could not understand. They asked their question for the crowd to hear, He replied for His disciples to remember in the after years. There could be no evidence of authority more significant than this temple incident.

His first public work was done at this time. The great throng of pilgrims from around the world, attracted to Him by this simple daring act of leadership, witnessed a group of mighty acts during these Passover days. The angry leaders had critically asked for "signs" of His authority. He gave them in abundance, not in response to their captious demand, but doubtless, as always, in response to pressing human needs. The result was that many persons accepted Him, but the nation in its rulers, maintained their attitude of angered, contemptuous silence. But underneath that surface the pot is beginning to boil.

Of all the members of the national Senate, one, just one, comes to make personal inquiry, and sift this man's claim sincerely and candidly. And he, be it marked, chooses a darkened hour for that visit. That night hour speaks volumes of the smouldering passion under their contempt. That Jesus recognized fully their attitude and just what it meant comes out in that quiet evening talk. To that sincere inquirer, He frankly Jays, "You people won't receive the witness that John and I have brought you." He was pleading before a court that stubbornly refuses testimony of fact. And to this honest seeker, whom we must all love for his sincerity, He reveals His inner consciousness of a tragic break coming, with a pleading word for personal trust, and a saddened "men love darkness."

With the going away of the Passover crowds, Jesus leaves the national capital, and assists in the sort of work John was doing. His power to draw men, and men's eagerness for Him, stand out sharply at once. John had drawn great crowds of all classes. Jesus drew greater crowds. Multitudes eagerly accepted John's teaching and accepted baptism from him. As it turned out, greater multitudes of people, under the very eyes of these ignoring, contemptuous leaders, accepted Jesus' leadership. John baptized. Jesus baptized through His disciples. These leaders in their questioning of John had tacitly acknowledged the propriety of "the Christ" using such a rite. Jesus follows the line of least resistance, and fitted into the one phase of His work which they had recognized as proper.

The pitiable fact stands out that the only result with them is a wordy strife about the relative success of these two, Jesus and John. The most that their minds, steeped in jealousies and rivalries, ever watching with badger eyes to undercut some one else, could see, was a rivalry between these two men. John's instant open-hearted disclaimer made no impression upon them. They seemed not impressionable to such disinterested loyalty.

A little later, probably not much, John's ruggedly honest preaching against sin came too close home to suit Herod. He promptly shuts up the preacher in prison, with no protest from the nation's leaders. These leaders had developed peculiar power in influencing their civil rulers by the strenuousness of their protests. That they permitted the imprisonment of John with no word of protest, was a tacit throwing overboard of John's own claims, of John's claims for Jesus, and of Jesus' own claim.

Here is the first sharp crisis. From the first, the circle of national leaders characterized by John, the writer of the Gospel, as "the Jews," including the inner clique of chief priests and the Pharisees, ignored Jesus; with silent contempt, coldly, severely ignored. This was before the temple-cleansing affair. That intensified their attitude toward the next stage. They had to proceed cautiously, because the crowd was with Jesus. And full well these keen leaders knew the ticklishness of handling a fanatical Oriental mob, as subsequent events showed. Now John is imprisoned, with the consent of these leaders, possibly through their connivance.

Jesus keenly and quickly grasps the situation. First ignored, then made the subject of evil gossip, the temple clash, and now His closest friend subjected to violence, His own rejection is painfully evident. He makes a number of radical changes. His place of activity is changed to a neighboring province under different civil rule; His method, to preaching from place to place; His purpose, to working with individuals. There's a peculiar word used here by Matthew to tell of Jesus' departure from Judea to a province under a different civil ruler; "He withdrew." The word used implies going away because of danger threatening. We will run across it again and each time at a crisis point.

The leaders refused Jesus because He was not duly labelled. It seems to be a prevailing characteristic to want men labelled, especially a characteristic of those who make the labels. There is always an eager desire regarding a stranger to learn whom he represents, who have put their stamp upon him and accepted him. And if the label is satisfactory, he is acccepted in the degree in which the label is accepted. Others are marked with a large interrogation point. Inherent worth has a slow time. But sure? Yes, but slow. Jesus bore no label whose words they could spell out or wanted to. They were a bit rusty in the language of worth. How knoweth this man letters, having never learned! He seems to know, to know surprisingly well. He seems keenly versed in the law, able quickly to turn the tables upon their catch questions. But then it can't be the real article of learning, because He hasn't been in our established schools. He has no sheepskin in a dead language with our learned doctors' names learnedly inscribed. How indeed! An upstart!!

Yet always to the earnest, sincere inquirer there was authority enough. In His acts, an open-minded doctor of the law could read the stamp of God's approval. The ear open to learn, not waxed up by self-seeking plans, or filled with gold dust, heard the voice of divine approval out of the clouds, or in His presence and acts.

The Aggressive Rejection.

Then came the second stage, the aggressive rejection. This is the plotting stage. Their hot passion is cooling now into a hardening purpose. This has been shaping itself under the surface for months. Now it is open. This was a crowded year for Jesus, and a year of crowds. The Galileans had been in His southern audiences many a time and seen His miracles. The news of His coming up north to their country swiftly spread everywhere. The throngs are so great that the towns and villages are blockaded, and Jesus has recourse to the fields, where the people gather in untold thousands.

An ominous incident occurs at the very beginning of this Galilean work. It is a fine touch of character that Jesus at once pays a visit to His home village. One always thinks more of Him for that. He never forgot the home folk. The synagogue service on the Sabbath day gathers the villagers together. Jesus takes the teacher's place, and reads, from Isaiah, a bit of the prophecy of the coming One. Then with a rare graciousness and winsomeness that wins all hearts, and fastens every eye upon Himself, He begins talking of the fulfilment of that word in Himself.

Then there comes a strange, quick revulsion of feeling. Had some Jerusalem spy gotten in and begun his poisoning work already? Eyes begin to harden and jaws become set. "Why, that is the man that made our cattle-yoke."--"Yes, and fixed our kitchen table."--"He--the Messiah!" Then words of rebuke gently spoken, but with truth's razor edge. Then a hot burst of passion, and He is hustled out to the jagged edge of the hill to be thrown over. Then that wondrous presence awing them back, as their hooked hands lose hold, and their eyes again fasten with wonder, and He passed quietly on His way undisturbed. Surely that was the best evidence of the truth of His despised word.

Seven outstanding incidents here reveal the ever-hardening purpose of the leaders against Jesus. First comes another clash in the temple. Their ideas of what was proper on the Sabbath day receive a shock because a man enslaved by disease for years was healed with a word from Jesus' lips. Could there be a finer use of a Sabbath day! We can either think them really shocked, or hunting for a religious chance to fight Him. Jesus' reply seems so to enrage that a passion to kill Him grips them. It is notable that they had no doubt of the extent of Jesus' claim; "He called God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." On these two things, His use of the Sabbath, and His claim of divinity, is based the aggressive campaign begun that day.

The incident draws from Him the marvellous words preserved by John in his fifth chapter. In support of His claim He quietly brings forward five witnesses, John His herald, His own miraculous acts, His Father, the Scriptures entrusted to their care, and Moses, the founder of the nation. That was a great line of testimony. This first thought of killing Him seems to have been a burst of hot, passionate rage, but gradually we shall find it cooled into a hardened, deliberate purpose.

At once Jesus returns to the northern province. And now they begin to follow Him up, and spy upon His movements and words. In Capernaum, His northern headquarters, a man apparently at unrest in soul about his sins, and palsied in body, is first assured of forgiveness, and then made bodily whole. Their criticism of His forgiving sins is silenced by the power evidenced in the bodily healing. But their plan of campaign is now begun in earnest, and is evident at once. Later criticism of His personal conduct and habits with the despised classes is mingled with an attempt to work upon His disciples and undermine their loyalty. The Sabbath question comes up again through the disciples satisfying their hunger in the grain fields, and brings from Jesus the keen comment that man wasn't made for the Sabbath, but to be helped through that day, and then the statement that must have angered them further that He was "Lord of the Sabbath."

Another Sabbath day in the synagogue they were on hand to see if He would heal a certain man with a whithered hand whom they had gotten track of, "that they might accuse Him." They were spying out evidence for the use of the Jerusalem leaders. To His grief they harden their hearts against His plea for saving a man, a life, as against a tradition. And as the man with full heart and full eyes finds his chance of earning a living restored, they rush out, and with the fire spitting from their eyes, and teeth gritting, they plan to get their political enemies, the Herodians, to help them kill Jesus. A number of these incidents give rise to these passionate outbursts to kill, which seem to cool off, but to leave the remnants that hardened into the cool purpose most to be dreaded.

A second time occurs that significant word, "withdrew." Jesus withdrew to the sea, followed by a remarkable multitude of Galileans, and others from such distant points as Tyre and Sidon on the north, Idumea on the extreme south, beyond the Jordan on the east, and from Jerusalem. He was safe with this sympathizing crowd.

The crowds were so great, and the days so crowded, that Jesus' very eating was interfered with. His friends remonstrate, and even think Him unduly swayed by holy enthusiasm. But it is a man come down from Jerusalem who spread freely among the crowds the ugly charge that He was in league with the devil, possessed by an unclean spirit, and that that explained His strange power. No uglier charge could be made. It reveals keenly the desperate purpose of the Jerusalem leaders. Clearly it was made to influence the crowds. They were panic-stricken over these crowds. What could He not do with such a backing, if He chose! Such a rumor would Spread like wildfire. Jesus shows His leadership. He at once calls the crowds about Him, speaks openly of the charge, and refutes it, showing the evident absurdity of it.

Then a strange occurrence takes place. While He is teaching a great crowd one day, there is an interruption in the midst of His speaking Oddly, it comes from His mother and her other sons. They send in a message asking to see Him at once. This seems very strange. It would seem probable from the narrative that they had access to Him constantly. Why this sudden desire by the one closest to Him by natural ties to break into His very speaking for a special interview? Had these Jerusalem men been working upon the fears of her mother heart for the safety of her Son? She would use her influence to save Him from possible danger threatening? There is much in the incident to give color to such a supposition. Perhaps a man of such fineness as He could be checked back by consideration for His mother's feelings. They were quite capable of pulling any wire to shut Him up, however ignorant they showed themselves of the simple sturdiness of true character. But the same man who so tenderly provides for His mother in the awful pain of hanging on a cross reminds her now that a divine errand is not to be hindered by nature's ties; that clear vision of duty must ever hold the reins of the heart.

Then comes the most terrible, and most significant event, up to this time, in the whole gospel narrative--the murder of John. This marks the sharpest crisis yet reached. For a year or so John had been kept shut up in a prison dungeon, evidence of his own faithfulness, and of the low moral tone, or absence of moral tone, of the time. Then one night there is a prolonged, debased debauchery in a magnificent palace; the cunning, cruel scheme of the woman whose wrong relation to Herod John had honestly condemned. The dancing young princess, the drunken oath, the terrible request, the glowing-coal eyes closed, the tongue that held crowds with its message of sin, and of the coming One stilled, the King's herald headless--the whole horrible, nightmare story comes with the swiftness of aroused passion, the suddenness of a lightning flash, the cold cruelty of indulged lust.

Instantly on getting the news Jesus "withdrew"--for the third time withdrew to a retired desert place. This had tremendous personal meaning for Him. Nothing has occurred thus far that spells out for Him the coming tragic close so large, so terribly large, as does this. He stays away from the Passover Feast occurring at this time, the only one of the four of His public career He failed to attend.

The Murderous Rejection.

This crisis leads at once into the final stage, the murderous rejection. Jesus is now a fugitive from the province of Judea, because the death plot has been deliberately settled upon. The southern leaders begin a more vigorous campaign of harrying Him up in Galilee. A fresh deputation of Pharisees come up from Jerusalem to press the fighting. They at once bring a charge against Jesus' disciples of being untrue to the time-honored traditions of the national religion. Yet it is found to be regarding such trivial things as washing their hands and arms clear up to the elbows each time before eating, and of washing of cups and pots and the like. Jesus sharply calls attention to their hypocrisy and cant, by speaking of their dishonoring teachings and practices in matters of serious moment. Then He calls the crowd together and talks on the importance of being clean inside, in the heart and thought. Before all the crowds He calls them hypocrites. It's a sharp clash and break. Jesus at once "withdrew." It is the fourth time that significant danger word is used. This time His withdrawal is clear out of the Jewish territory, far up north to the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon, on the seacoast, and there He attempts to remain unknown.

After a bit He returns again, this time by a round-about way, to the Sea of Galilee. Quickly the crowds find out His presence and come; and again many a life and many a home are utterly changed by His touch. With the crowd come the Pharisees, this time in partnership with another group, the Sadducees, whom they did not love especially. They hypocritically beg a sign from heaven, as though eager to follow a divinely sent messenger. But He quickly discerns their purpose to tempt Him into something that can be used against Him. The sign is refused. Jesus never used His power to show that He could, but only to help somebody.

The fall of that year found Him boldly returning to the danger zone of Jerusalem for attendance on the harvest-home festival called by them the Feast of Tabernacles. It was the most largely attended of the three annual gatherings, attracting thousands of faithful Jews from all parts of the world. The one topic of talk among the crowds was Jesus, with varying opinions expressed; but those favorable to Him were awed by the keen purpose of the leaders to kill Him. When the festival was in full swing, one morning, Jesus quietly appears among the temple crowds, and begins teaching. The leaders tried to arrest Him, but are held back by some hidden influence, nobody seeming willing to take the lead. Then the clique of chief priests send officers to arrest Him. But they are so impressed by His presence and His words, that they come back empty-handed, to the disgust of their superiors. Great numbers listening believe on Him, but some of the leaders, mingling in the crowd, stir up discussion so sharp that with hot passion, and eyes splashing green light, they stoop down and pick up stones to hurl at Him and end His life at once. It is the first attempt at personal violence in Jerusalem. But again that strange restraining power, and Jesus passes out untouched.

As he quietly passes through and out, He stops to give sight to a blind man. Interestingly enough it occurs on a Sabbath day. Instantly the leaders seize on this, and have a time of it with the man and his parents in turn, with this upshot, that the man for his bold confession of faith in Jesus is shut out from all synagogue privileges, in accordance with a decision already given out. He becomes an outcast, with all that that means. It's a fine touch that Jesus hunts up this outcast and gives him a free entrance into His own circle.

After this feast-visit to Jerusalem, Jesus probably returns to Galilee, as after previous visits there, and then one day leads His band of disciples up to the neighborhood of snow-capped Hermon. Here probably occurs the transfiguration, the purpose of which was to tie up these future leaders of His, against the events now hurrying on with such swift pace. From this time begins the preparation of this inner circle for the coming tragedy so plain to His eyes.

Then begins that memorable last journey from Galilee toward Jerusalem through the country on the east of the Jordan. With marvellous boldness and courage He steadfastly set His face toward Jerusalem. The ever-tightening grip of His purpose is in the set of His face. The fire burning so intensely within is in His eye as He tramps along the road alone, with the disciples following, awestruck and filled with wondering fear. Thirty-five deputations of two each are sent ahead into all the villages to be visited by Him. What an intense campaigner was Jesus! He was thoroughly, systematically stumping the whole country for God.

As He approaches nearer to the Jerusalem section the air gets tenser and hotter. The leaders are constantly harrying His steps, tempting with catch questions, seeking signs, poisoning the crowds--mosquito warfare! He moves steadily, calmly on. Some of the keenest things He said flashed out through the friction of contact with them. A tempting lawyer's question brings out the beautiful Samaritan parable. The old Sabbath question provokes a fresh tilt with a synagogue ruler. There is a cunning attempt by the Pharisees to get Him out of Herod's territory into their own. How intense the situation grew is graphically told in Luke's words, they "began to set themselves vehemently against Him, and to provoke Him to speak many things; laying wait for Him to catch something out of His mouth."

Though unmoved by the cunning effort of the Pharisees to get Him over from Herod's jurisdiction into Judea, despite their threatening attitude, the winter Feast of Dedication finds Him again in Jerusalem walking in one of the temple areas. Instantly He is surrounded by a group of these Jerusalem Jews who, with an air of apparent earnest inquiry, keep prodding Him with the request to be told plainly if He is really the Christ. His patient reply brings a storm of stones--almost. Held in check for a while by an invisible power, or by the power of His presence shown under such circumstances so often, again they attempt to seize His person, and again He seems invisibly to hold their hands back, as He quietly passes on His way out of their midst.

Then comes the stupendous raising of Lazarus, which brings faith in Him to great numbers, and results in the formal official decision of the national council to secure His death. He is declared a fugitive with a price set upon His head. Anybody knowing of His whereabouts must report the fact to the authorities. This decides Him not to show Himself openly among them. In a few weeks the pilgrims are crowding Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus' name is on every tongue. The rumor that He was over the hills in Bethany takes a crowd over there, not simply to see Him, but to see the resurrected Lazarus. Then it was determined to kill Lazarus off, too.

That tremendous last week now begins. Jesus is seen to be the one masterly figure in the week's events. In comparison with His calm steady movements, these leaders run scurrying around, here and there, like headless hens. The week begins with the most public, formal presentation of Himself in a kingly fashion to the nation. It is their last chance. How wondrously patient and considerate is this Jesus! And how sublimely heroic! Into the midst of those men ravenous for His blood He comes. Seated with fine, unconscious majesty on a kingly beast, surrounded by ever-increasing multitudes loudly singing and speaking praises to God, over paths bestrewed with garments and branches of living green, slowly He mounts the hill road toward the city. At a turn in the road all of a sudden the city lies spread out before Him. "He saw the city and wept over it."

"He sat upon the ass's colt and rode

Toward Jerusalem. Beside Him walked

Closely and silently the faithful twelve,

And on before Him went a multitude

Shouting hosannas, and with eager hands

Strewing their garments thickly in the way.

Th' unbroken foal beneath Him gently stepped,

Tame as its patient dam; and as the song

Of 'Welcome to the Son of David' burst

Forth from a thousand children, and the leaves

Of the waving branches touched its silken ears,

It turned its wild eye for a moment back,

And then, subdued by an invisible hand,

Meekly trod onward with its slender feet.

"The dew's last sparkle from the grass had gone

As He rode up Mount Olivet. The woods

Threw their cool shadows directly to the west;

And the light foal, with quick and toiling step,

And head bent low, kept up its unslackened way

Till its soft mane was lifted by the wind

Sent o'er the mount from Jordan. As He reached

The summit's breezy pitch, the Saviour raised

His calm blue eye--there stood Jerusalem!

Eagerly He bent forward, and beneath

His mantle's passive folds a bolder line

Than the wont slightness of His perfect limbs

Betrayed the swelling fulness of His heart.

There stood Jerusalem! How fair she looked--

The silver sun on all her palaces,

And her fair daughters 'mid the golden spires

Tending their terrace flowers; and Kedron's stream

Lacing the meadows with its silver band

And wreathing its mist-mantle on the sky

With the morn's exhalation. There she stood,

Jerusalem, the city of His love,

Chosen from all the earth: Jerusalem,

That knew Him not, and had rejected Him;

Jerusalem for whom He came to die!

"The shouts redoubled from a thousand lips

At the fair sight; the children leaped and sang

Louder hosannas; the clear air was filled

With odor from the trampled olive leaves

But 'Jesus wept!' The loved disciple saw

His Master's tear, and closer to His side

He came with yearning looks, and on his neck

The Saviour leaned with heavenly tenderness,

And mourned, 'How oft, Jerusalem! would I

Have gathered you, as gathereth a hen

Her brood beneath her wings--but ye would not!'

"He thought not of the death that He should die--

He thought not of the thorns He knew must pierce

His forehead--of the buffet on the cheek--

The scourge, the mocking homage, the foul scorn!

"Gethsemane stood out beneath His eye

Clear in the morning sun; and there, He knew,

While they who 'could not watch with Him one hour'

Were sleeping, He should sweat great drops of blood,

Praying the cup might pass! And Golgotha

Stood bare and desert by the city wall;

And in its midst, to His prophetic eye

Rose the rough cross, and its keen agonies

Were numbered all--the nails were in His feet--

Th' insulting sponge was pressing on His lips--

The blood and water gushed from His side--

The dizzy faintness swimming in His brain--

And, while His own disciples fled in fear,

A world's death agonies all mixed in His!

Ah!--He forgot all this. He only saw

Jerusalem--the chosen--the loved--the lost!

He only felt that for her sake His life

Was vainly given, and in His pitying love

The sufferings that would clothe the heavens in black

Were quite forgotten.

"Was there ever love,

In earth or heaven, equal to this?"5

And so the King entered His capital. It was a royal procession. Mark keenly the result. Again that utter, ominous, loud silence, that greeted His ears first, more than three years before. He had come to His own home. His own kinsfolk received Him not!

Then each day He came to the city, and each night, homeless, slept out in the open, under the trees of Olivet, and the blue. Now, He rudely shocks them by clearing the temple areas of the market-place rabble and babble, and now He is healing the lame and maimed in the temple itself, amid the reverent praise of the multitude, the songs of the children, and the scowling, muttered protests of the chief priests. Calmly, day by day, He moves among them, while their itching fingers vainly clutch for a hold upon Him, and as surely are held back by some invisible force. By every subtle device known to cunning, crafty men, they lay question-traps, and lie in wait to catch His word. He foils them with His marvellous, simple answers, lashes them with His keen, cutting parables and finally Himself proposes a question about their own scriptures which they admit themselves unable to answer, and, utterly defeated, ask no more questions. Then follows that most terrific arraignment of these leaders, with its infinitely tender, sad, closing lament over Jerusalem. That is the final break.

Then occurs that pathetic Greek incident that seems to agitate Jesus so. This group of earnest seekers, from the outside, non-Jewish world brings to Jesus a vision of the great hungry heart of the world, and of an open-mindedness to truth such as was to Him these days as a cool, refreshing drink to a dusty mouth on a dry hot day. But--no--the Father's will--simple obedience--only that was right. The harvest can come only through the grain giving out its life in the cold ground.

Before the final act in the tragedy Jesus retires from sight, probably for prayer. Some dear friends of Bethany in whose home He had rested many a time, where He ever found sweet-sympathy, arranged a little home-feast for Him where a few congenial friends might gather. While seated there in the quiet atmosphere of love and fellowship so grateful to Him after those Jerusalem days, one of the friends present, a woman, Mary, takes a box of exceeding costly ointment, and anoints His head. To the strange protests made, Jesus quietly explains her thought in the act. She alone understood what was coming. Alone of all others it was a woman, the simple-hearted Bethany Mary, who understood Jesus. As none other did she perceive with her keen love-eyes the coming death, and--more--its meaning.

It is one of the disciples, Judas, who protests indignantly against such waste. This ointment would have brought at least seventy-five dollars, and how much such a sum would have done for the poor! Thoughtless, improvident woman! Strange the word didn't blister on his canting lips. John keenly sees that his fingers are clutching the treasure bag as he speaks the word, and that his thoughts are far from the poor. Jesus gently rebukes Judas. But Judas is hot tempered, and sullenly watches for the first chance to withdraw and carry out the damnable purpose that has been forming within. He hurries over the hill, through the city gate, up to the palace of the chief priest.

Within there was a company of the inner clique of the leaders, discussing how to get hold of Jesus most easily. They sit heavily in their seats, with shut fists, set jaws, and that peculiar yellow-green light spitting out from under their lowering, knit brows. These bothersome crowds had to be considered. The feast-day wouldn't do. The crowd would be greatest then, and hardest to handle. Back and forth they brew their scheme. Then a knock at the door. Startled, they look alertly up to know who this intruder may be. The door is opened. In steps a man with a hangdog, guilty, but determined look. It is one of the men they have seen with Jesus! What can this mean? He glances furtively from one to another.

Then he speaks: "How much'll you give if I get Jesus into your hands?" Of all things this was probably the last they had thought might happen. Their eyes gleam. How much indeed--a good snug sum to get their fingers securely on his person. But they're shrewd bargainers. That's one of their specialties. How much did he want? Poor Judas! He made a bad bargain that day. Thirty pieces of silver! He could easily have gotten a thousand. Judas did love money greedily, and doubtless was a good bargainer too, but anger was in the saddle now, and drove him hard. Without doubt it was in a hot fit of temper that he made this proposal. His descendants have been coining money out of Jesus right along: exchanging Him for gold.

Only a little later, and the Master is closeted with His inner circle in the upper room of a faithful friend's house in one of the Jerusalem streets, for the Passover supper. A word from Him and Judas withdraws for his dark errand. Then those great heart-talks of Jesus, in the upper room, along the roadway, under the full moon, maybe passing by the massive temple structure, then under the olive trees. Then the hour grows late, the disciples are drowsy, the Master is off alone among those trees, then weird uncertain lights of torches, a rabble of soldiers and priests, a man using friendship's cloak, and friendship's greeting--then the King is in the hands of His enemies. An awful night, followed by a yet more awful day, and the plan of the kingdom is broken by the tragic killing of the King.

Suffering the Birth-pains of a New Life.

Why did Jesus die? It's a pretty old question. It's been threshed out no end of times. Yet every time one thinks of the gospel, or opens the Book, it looks out earnestly into his face. And nothing is better worth while than to have another serious prayerful go at it. The whole nub of the gospel is here. It clears the ground greatly not to have any theory about Jesus' death, but simply to try thoughtfully to gather up all the statements and group them, regardless of where it may lead, or how it may knock out previous ideas.

It can be said at once that His dying was not God's own plan. It was a plan conceived somewhere else, and yielded to by God. God had a plan of atonement by which men who were willing could be saved from sin and its effects. That plan is given in the old Hebrew code. To the tabernacle, or temple, under prescribed regulations, a man could bring some live animal which he owned. The man brought that which was his own. It represented him. Through his labor the beast or bird was his. He had transferred some of his life and strength into it. He identified himself with it further by close touch at the time of its being offered. He offered up its life. In his act he acknowledged that his own life was forfeited. In continuing to live he acknowledged the continued life as belonging to God. He was to live as belonging to another. He made, in effect, the statement made long after by Paul: "I am offering up my life on this altar for my sin; nevertheless I am living: yet the life I live is no longer mine, but another's. Mine has been taken away by sin." There was no malice or evil feeling in the man's act, but only penitence, and an earnest, noble purpose.

The act revealed the man's inner spirit. It acknowledged his sin, that life is forfeited by sin, his desire to have the sin difficulty straightened out, and to be at one again with God. He expressed his hatred of sin and his earnest desire to be free of it. I am not saying at all that this was true of every Hebrew coming with his sacrifice. I may not say it of all who approach God to day through Jesus. But clearly enough, all of this is in the old Hebrew plan devised by God. It was the new choice that brought the man back to God, even as the first choice had separated him from God. And the explicit statement made over and over is this, "and it shall make atonement."

Clearly Jesus' dying does not in any way fit into the old Hebrew form of sacrifice, nor into the spirit of the man who caused the death of the sacrifice, though in spirit, in requirement it far more than fills it out. The Old Testament scheme is Jewish. The manner of Jesus' death is not Jewish, but Roman. As a priest He was not of the Jewish order, but of an order non-Jewish and antedating the other by hundreds of years. In no feature does He fit into the old custom. But every truth taught by the old is brilliantly exemplified and embodied in Him.

The epistle to the Hebrews was written to Jews who had become Christians, but through persecution and great suffering were sorely tempted to go back to the old Jewish faith. They seemed to be saying that Jesus filled out neither the kingdom plan, nor the Mosaic scheme of sacrifice. The writer of the epistle is showing with a masterly sweep and detail the immense superiority of what Jesus did over the old Mosaic plan. Read backward, these provisions are seen to be vivid illustrations of what Jesus did do, not in form, not actually, but in fact, in spirit, in a way vastly ahead of the Hebrew ritual. The truth underneath the old was fully fulfilled in Jesus, though the form was not.

One needs always to keep sharply in mind the difference between God's plan and that which He clearly saw ahead, and into which He determined to fit in carrying out His purpose. There is no clearer, stronger statement of this than that found in Peter's Pentecost sermon: "Him being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hands of men without law did crucify and slay." God knew ahead what would come. There was a conference held. The whole matter talked over. With full knowledge of the situation, the obstinate hatred of men, the terrific suffering involved, it was calmly, resolutely advised and decided upon that when the time came Jesus should yield Himself up pliantly into their hands. That is Peter's statement.

This in no way affects the fact that Jesus dying as He did is the one means of salvation. It does not at all disturb any of Paul's statements, in their plainest, first-flush meaning. It does explain the kingdom plan, and the necessity for Jesus finishing up the kingdom plan some day. For though God's plan may be broken, and retarded, it always is carried through in the end. It explains too that evil is never necessary to good. Hatred, evil never helps God's plans. The good that God brought out of the cross is not through the bad, but in spite of the bad.

The preaching of the Acts is absorbed with the astounding, overshadowing, appalling fact of the killing of the nation's King. But through it all runs this strain of reasoning: the kingdom plan has been broken by the murder of the King. He has been raised from the dead in vindication of His claim. This marvellous power that is so evident to all eyes and ears is the Holy Spirit whom the killed King has sent down. It proves that He is now enthroned in glory at God's right hand. He is coming back to carry out the kingdom plan. Now the thing to do is to repent, and so there will come blessing now, and by and by the King again.

When the first church council is held to discuss the matter of letting non-Jewish outsiders into their circle, the clear-headed, judicial-tempered James, in the presiding chair, puts the thing straight. He says: "Peter has fully told us how God first visited the outside nations to take out of them a people for Himself. And this fits into the prophetic plan as outlined by Amos, that after that the kingdom will be set up and then all men will come."

This brings out in bold relief the fact that the horrible features of Jesus' dying, the hatred and cruelty, were no part of the plan of salvation, and not necessary to the plan. The cross was the invention of hate. There is no cross in God's plan of atonement. It is the superlative degree of hate, brooded and born, and grown lusty in hell. It was God's master touch that, through yielding, it becomes to all men for all time the superlative degree of love. The ages have softened all its sharp jagged edges with a halo of glory.

It is perfectly clear, too, that Jesus died of His own accord. He chose the time of His death and the manner of it. He had said it was purely voluntary on His part, and the record plainly shows that it was. All attempts to kill Him failed until He chose to yield. There are ten separate mentions of their effort, either to get hold of His person or to kill Him at once before they finally succeeded. He was killed in intent at least three times, once by being dashed over a precipice, and twice by stoning, before He was actually killed by crucifixion. Each time surrounded by a hostile crowd, apparently quite capable of doing as they pleased, yet each time He passes through their midst, and their hooked fingers are restrained against their will, and their gnashing teeth bite only upon the spittle of their hate.

This makes Jesus' motive in yielding explain His death. The cross means just what His purpose in dying puts into it. If we read the facts of the gospel stories apart from Jesus' words, the cross spells out just one word--in large, pot-black capitals--HATE.

What was Jesus' motive or purpose in dying? His own words give the best answer. The earlier remarks are obscure to those who heard, not understood. And we can understand that they could not. At the first Passover He speaks of their destroying "this temple," and His raising it in three days. Naturally they think of the building of stone, but He is thinking of His body. To Nicodemus He says that the Son of Man must "be lifted up": and to some critics that when the "bridegroom" is "taken away" there will be fasting among His followers.

Later, He speaks much more plainly. After John has gone home by way of Herod's red road, at the time of the feeding of the 5,000 there is the discussion about bread, and the true bread. Jesus speaks a word that perplexes the crowd much, and yet He goes on to explain just what He means. It is in John, sixth chapter, verses fifty-three to fifty-seven inclusive, He says that if a man eat His flesh and drink His blood he shall have eternal life. The listening crowd takes the words literally and of course is perplexed. Clearly enough it is not meant to be taken literally. Read in the light of the after events it is seen to be an allusion to His coming death. Such a thing as actually eating His flesh and drinking His blood would necessitate His death.

We men are under doom of death written in our very bodies, assured to us by the unchangeable fact of bodily death. Now if a man take Jesus into his very being so that they become one in effect, then clearly if Jesus die the man is freed from the necessity of dying. Through Jesus dying there is for such a man life. That is the statement Jesus makes.

In five distinct sentences He attempts to make His meaning simple and clear. The first sentence puts the negative side: there is no life without Jesus being taken into one's being. Then the positive side: through this sort of eating there is life. And with this is coupled the inferential statement that they are not to be spared bodily death, because they are to be raised up. The third sentence, that Jesus is the one true food of real life. The fourth sentence gives a parallel or interchangeable phrase for eating and drinking, i.e., "abideth in me and I in Him." A mutual abiding in each other. The food abides in the man eating it. The man abides in the strength of the food He has taken in. Eating My flesh means abiding in Me. The last sentence gives an illustration. This living in Jesus, having Him live in us as closely as though actually eaten, is the same as Jesus' own life on earth being lived in His Father, dependent upon the Father. And when the crowds take His words literally and complain that none can understand such statements, He at once explains that, of course, He does not mean literal eating--"The flesh profiteth nothing" (even if you did eat it): "it is the Spirit that gives life:" "the words ... are Spirit and life." The taking of Jesus through His words into one's life to dominate--that is the meaning.

A few months later, in Jerusalem, He speaks again of His purpose, in John's tenth chapter, "The good shepherd layeth down His life for the sheep." "I lay down my life for the sheep." The death was for others because of threatening danger. "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must lead." Here is clear foresight of the wide sweep of influence through His death. "I lay down my life that I may take it again." The death was one step in a plan. There is something beyond. "I lay it down of myself. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it again. This commandment I received from my Father." The dying was voluntary and was agreed to between the Father and Himself. To the disciples He speaks of the need of taking up a "cross" in order to be followers, and to the critical Pharisee asking a sign, He alludes to Jonah's three days and nights in the belly of the sea monster. Neither of these allusions conveyed any definite idea to those listening.

Then the last week when the Greeks came; "Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit." The dying was to have great influence upon others. "And I if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto myself." The dying was to be for others, and to exert tremendous influence upon the whole race.

In that last long talk with the eleven, "that the world may know that I love the Father and as the Father gave me commandment even so I do." The dying was in obedience to His Father's wish, and was to let men know of the great love between Father and Son. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." This dying was for these friends. And in that great prayer that lays His heart bare, "for their sakes I sanctify myself that they also may be sanctified in truth." The dying is for others, and is for the securing in these others of a certain spirit or character. The reference to the dying being in accord with the Father's wish comes out again at the arrest, "The cup that the Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?"

To these quotations from Jesus' lips may be added a significant one from the man who stood closest to Jesus. Referring to a statement about Jesus made by Caiaphas, John adds: "being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation; and not for the nation only, but that He might gather together into one the children of God that are scattered abroad." As John understood the matter, the death was not simply for others, but for the Jewish nation as a nation, and beyond that for a gathering into one of all of God's children. Jesus was to be God's magnet for attracting together all that belong to Him. The death was to be a roadway through to something beyond.

From His own words, then, Jesus saw a necessity for His dying. He "must" be lifted up. That "must" spells out the desperateness of the need and the strength of His love. Sin contains in itself death for man as a logical result. And by death is not meant the passing of life out of the body. That is a mere incident of death. Death is separation from God. It is gradual until finally complete. Love would plan nothing less radical than a death that would be for man the death of death. His death was to be for others, it was purely voluntary, it was by agreement with His Father, in obedience to His wishes, and an evidence of His filial love. The death is a step in a plan. There is something beyond, growing out of the death.

Jesus plans not merely a transfer of the death item, but a new life, a new sort of life, in its place. The dying is but a step. It is a great step, tremendously great, indispensable, the step that sets the pace. Yet but one step of a number. Beyond the dying is the living, living a new life. He works out in Himself the plan for them--a dying, and after that a new life, and a new sort of life. Then according to His other teaching there is the sending of some One else to men to work out in His name in each of them this plan. That plan is to be worked out in each man choosing to receive Him into his life. He will send down His other self, the Holy Spirit, to work this out in each one. Jesus' death released His life to be re-lived in us. Jesus plans to get rid of the sin in a man, and put in something else in its place. The sin must be gotten out, first washed out, then burned out. Then a new seed put in that will bear life. What a chemist and artist in one is this Jesus! He uses bright red, to get a pure white out of a dead black.

In addition to the plan for man individually, the dying is to produce the same result in the Jewish nation. There is to be a national new-birth. A new Jewish people. And then the dying is to have a tremendous influence upon all men. On the cross Jesus would suffer the birth-pains of a new life for man and for the world. Such, in brief, seems to be the grouping of Jesus' own thought about His dying. Its whole influence is manward.

The value of Jesus' dying lies wholly in its being voluntary. Of deliberate purpose He allowed them to put Him to death. Otherwise they could not, as is fully proven by their repeated failures. And the purpose as well as the value of the death lies entirely in His motive in yielding. If they could have taken His life without His consent, then that death would have been an expression of their hate, and only that. But as it is, it forever stands an expression of two things. On their part of the intensest, hottest hate; on His part of the finest, strongest love. It makes new records for both hate and love. Sin put Jesus to death. In yielding to these men Jesus was yielding to sin, for they personified sin. And sin yielded to quickly brought death, its logical outcome.

Jesus' dying being His own act, controlled entirely by His own intention, makes it sacrificial. There are certain necessary elements in such a sacrifice. It must be voluntary. It must involve pain or suffering of some sort. The suffering must be undeserved, that is, in no way or degree a result of one's own act, else it is not sacrifice, but logical result. It must be for others. And the suffering must be of a sort that would not come save for this voluntary act. It must be supposed to bring benefit to the others. Each of these elements must be in to make up fully a sacrifice. There are elements of sacrifice in much noble suffering by man. But in no one do all of these elements perfectly combine and blend, save in Jesus.

To this agree the words of the philosopher of the New Testament writers. It would be so, of course, for the Spirit of Jesus swayed Paul. The epistle to the Romans contains a brief packed summary of his understanding of the gospel plan. There is in it one remarkable statement of the Father's, purpose in Jesus' death. In the third chapter, verse twenty-six, freely translated, "that He might be reckoned righteous in reckoning righteous the man who has faith." "That He might be reckoned righteous"--that is, in His attitude toward sin. That in allowing things to go on as they were, in holding back sin's logical judgment, He was not careless or indifferent about sin or making light of it. He was controlled by a great purpose.

God's great difficulty was to make clear at once both His love and His hate: His love for man: His hate for the sin that man had grained in so deep that they were as one. For the man's sake He must show His love to win and change him. For man's sake He must show His hate of sin that man, too, might know its hatefulness and learn to hate it with intensest hate. His love for man is to be the measure of man's hate for sin. The death of Jesus was God's master-stroke. At one stroke He told man His estimate of man and His estimate of man's sin; His love and His hate. It was the measureless measure of His hate for sin, and His love for man. It was a master-stroke too, in that He took sin's worst--the cross--and in it revealed His own best. Out of what was meant for God's defeat, came sin's defeat, and God's greatest victory.

And the one simple thing that transfers to a man all that Jesus has worked out for him is what is commonly called "faith." That is, trusting God, turning the heart Godward, yielding to the inward upward tug, letting the pleasing of God dominate the life. This, be it keenly marked, has ever been the one simple condition in every age and in every part of the earth.

Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness. The devout Hebrew, reverently, penitently standing with his hand on the head of his sacrifice, at the tabernacle door, believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness. The devout heathen with face turned up to the hill top, and feet persistently toiling up, patiently seeking glory and honor and incorruption believes God, though he may not know His name, and it is reckoned to him for righteousness. The devout Christian, with his hand in Christ's, believes God, and it is counted to him for righteousness.

The devout Hebrew, the earnest heathen, and the more enlightened believer in Jesus group themselves here by the common purpose that grips them alike. The Hebrew with his sacrifice, the heathen with his patient continuance, and the Christian who knows more in knowing Jesus, stand together under the mother wing of God.

Some Surprising Results of the Tragic Break

The Surprised Jew.

God proposes. Man disposes. God proposed a king, and a world-wide kingdom with great prosperity and peace. Man disposed of that plan for the bit of time and space controlled by his will, and in its place interposed for the king, a cross. Out of such a radical clashing of two great wills have come some most surprising results.

The first surprise was for the Jew. Within a few weeks after Jesus' final departure, Jerusalem, and afterward Palestine, was filled with thousands of people believing in Him. A remarkable campaign of preaching starts up and sweeps everything before it. Jesus' name was on every tongue as never before. But there were earnest Jews who could not understand how Jesus could be the promised Messiah. He had not set up a kingdom. Their Scriptures were full of a kingdom.

The Jew, whether in their largest colony in Babylon, or in Jerusalem, or in Rome, or Alexandria, or the smaller colonies everywhere, was full of the idea, the hope, of a kingdom. He was absorbed with more or less confused and materialized, unspiritual ideas of a coming glory for his nation through a coming king. But among the followers of this Jesus there is something else coming into being, a new organization never even hinted at in their Scriptures. It is called the church. It is given a name that indicates that it is to be made up of persons taken out from among all nations.

There comes to be now a three-fold division of all men. There had been with the Jews, always, a two-fold division, the Jew and the Gentiles, or outside nations. Now three, the Jew, the outsiders, and the church. The church is an eclectic society, a chosen out body. Its principle of organization is radically different from that of the Hebrew nation. There membership was by birthright. Here it is by individual choice and belief.

Foreigners coming in were not required to become Jews, as under the old, but remained essentially as they have been in all regards, except the one thing of relationship to Jesus in a wholly spiritual sense. There is constant talk about "the gospel of the kingdom," but the kingdom itself seems to have quite slipped away, and the church is in its place. Such a situation must have been very puzzling to any Jew. His horizon was full of a kingdom--a Jew kingdom. Anything else was unthinkable. These intense Orientals could not conceive of anything else. It had taken a set of visions to swing Peter and the other church leaders into line even on letting outsiders into the church.

This Jesus does not fill out this old Hebrew picture of a king and a kingdom. How can He be the promised Messiah? This was to thousands a most puzzling question, and a real hinderance to their acceptance of Jesus, even by those profoundly impressed with the divine power being seen.

This was the very question that had puzzled John the Baptist those weary months, till finally he sends to Jesus for some light on his puzzle. Jesus fills out part of the plan, and splendidly, but only part, and may be what seems to some the smaller part. Can it be, John asks, that there is to be another one coming to complete the picture? To him Jesus does not give an answer, except that he must wait and trust. He would not in words anticipate the nation's final rejection, though so well He knew what was coming. Their chance was not yet run out for the acceptance of Jesus that would fill out John's picture. God never lets His foreknowledge influence one whit man's choice. It was a most natural and perplexing difficulty, both for John and later for these thousands.

The answer to all this has its roots down in that tragic break. In the old picture of the Messiah there are two distinct groups of characteristics of the coming king, personal and official. He was to have a direct personal relation to men and an official relation to the nation, and through it to the world. The personal had in it such matters as healing the sick, relieving the distressed, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, easing heart strains, teaching and preaching. It was wholly a personal service. The official had, of course, to do with establishing the great kingdom and bringing all other nations into subjection. Now, it was a bit of the degeneracy of the people and of the times, that when Jesus came the blessings to the individual had slipped from view, and that the national conception, grown gross and coarse, had seized upon the popular imagination, and was to the fore.

Jesus filled in perfectly with marvellous fulness the individual details of the prophetic picture. Of course filling in the national depended upon national acceptance, and failure there meant failure for that side. And, of course, He could not fill out the national part except through the nation's acceptance of Him as its king. Rejection there meant a breaking, a hindering of that part. And so Jesus does not fill out the old Hebrew picture of the Messiah. He could not without the nation's consent. Man would have used force to seize the national reins. But, of course, God's man could not do that. It would be against God's plan for man. Everything must be through man's consent.

Out of this perplexity there came to be the four Gospels. They grew up out of the needs of the people. Mark seems to have written his first. He makes a very simple recital, setting down the group of facts and sayings as He had heard Peter telling them in many a series of talks. It is the simplest of the four, aiming to tell what he had gotten from another. But it offers no answer to these puzzling questions.

Matthew writes his account of the gospel for these great numbers of perplexed, earnest Jewish questioners. They are Palestinian Jews, thoroughly familiar with Jewish customs and places. Sitting backward on the edge of the Hebrew past, thoroughly immersed in its literature and atmosphere, but with his face fastened on Jesus, he composes out of the facts about Jesus and the old prophetic scriptures a perfect bit of mosaic. There is the fascination of a serpent's eye in turning from the prophetic writings to the Gospel of Matthew. Let a man become immersed and absorbed in the vision of the Hebrew prophetic books and then turn to Matthew to get the intense impression that this promised One has come, at last has actually come, and--tragedy of tragedies--is being rejected.

This is the gap gospel. It bridges the gap between the prophetic books and the book of Acts, between the kingdom which has slipped out and the church which has come in. It explains the adjournment of the kingdom for a specified time, the church filling a sort of interregnum in the kingdom. The kingdom is to come later when the church mission is complete. It tells with great care and with convincing power that Jesus filled perfectly the prophecy of the Messiah in every detail personally, and did not fill out the national features because of the nation's unwillingness. That is the Matthew Gospel.

Paul was the apostle to the outside nations. His great work was outside of Palestine. He dealt with three classes, Jews, outsiders who in religious matters had allied themselves with the Jews, but without changing their nationality, and then the great outside majority, chiefly the great crowds of other nationalities. These people needed a gospel of their own. Their standpoint is so wholly different from the Jews' that Matthew's gospel does not suit, nor Mark's. Paul, through Peter and Barnabas and others, has absorbed the leading facts and teachings of those three years, and works them over for his non-Jewish crowds. He omits much that would appeal peculiarly to Jews, and gives the setting and coloring that would be most natural to his audiences.

His studious companion, Doctor Luke, undertakes to write down this account of Jesus' life as Paul tells it, and for Paul's audience and territory, especially these great outside non-Jewish crowds of people. He goes to Palestine, and carefully studies and gathers up all the details and facts available. He adds much that the two previous writers had not included. One can easily understand his spending several days with Mary, the now aged mother of Jesus, in John's home in Jerusalem, and from her lips gleaning the exquisite account of the nativity of her divinely conceived Son. He largely omits names of places, for they would be unknown and not of value or interest. When needed, he gives explanation about places.

These three gospels follow one main line; they tell the story of the rejection of Jesus. Then there arose a generation that did not know Jesus, the Jesus that had tramped Jerusalem's streets and Galilee's roads. Some were wondering, possibly, how it was that these gospels are absorbed in telling of Jesus' rejection. There surely was a reason for it if He was so sweepingly rejected. So John in his old age writes. His chief thought is to show that from the first Jesus was accepted by individuals as well as rejected by the nation. These two things run neck and neck through his twenty-one chapters, along the pathway he makes of witnessed, established facts regarding Jesus. The nation--the small, powerfully entrenched group of men who held the nation's leadership in their tenacious fingers--the nation rejects. It's true. But the ugly reason is plain to all, even the Roman who gave final sentence. From the first, Jesus was accepted by men of all classes, including the most thoughtful and scholarly.

He is writing to the generation that has grown up since Jesus has gone, and so to all after generations that knew of Him first by hearing of Him. He is writing after the Jewish capital has been leveled to the ground, and the nation utterly destroyed as a nation, and to people away from Palestine. So he explains Jewish usages and words as well as places in Palestine, to make the story plain and vivid to all. And the one point at which he drives constantly is to make it clear to all after generations that men of every sort of Jesus' own generation believed; questioned, doubted, examined, weighed, believed, with whole-hearted loving loyalty followed this Jesus.

This decides the order in which, with such rare wisdom, the churchmen later arranged the four gospels in grouping the New Testament books. The order is that of the growth of the new faith of the church from the Jewish outward. Next to the Hebrew pages lies the gap gospel, then the earliest, simplest telling, then the outsiders' gospel, and then the gospel for after generations.

The Surprised Church.

Man proposes. God disposes. Man may for a time set aside God's plan, but through any series of contrary events God holds steadily to His own plan. Temporary defeat is only adjournment, paving the way for later and greater victory. Another surprise is for the church, that is, the church of later generations, including our own. The old Jew saw only a triumphant king, not a suffering king. He saw only a kingdom. There was no hint of any such thing as a church. The church to-day, and since the day of Constantine, sees only a church. The kingdom has merged into the church or slipped out of view.

There seems to be a confused mixing of church and kingdom, but always with the church the big thing, and the kingdom a sort of vague, indefinite--folks don't seem to know just what--an ideal, a spiritual conception, or something like that. The church is supposed to have taken the place of the kingdom. Its mission seems to be supposed to be the doing for the world what the kingdom was to do, but, being set aside, failed to do.

In reading the old Book there is a handy sort of explanation largely in use that applies all that can be fitted into the theory in hand, and calmly ignores or conveniently adjusts the rest. The Old Testament blessings for the Jewish kingdom are appropriated and applied to the church. The curses there are handed over to the Jews or ignored. There seems to be a plan of interpreting one part of the Bible one way and another part in a different way. This part is to be taken literally. This other not literally, spiritually, the only guiding principle being the man's preconceived idea of what should be. The air seems quite a bit foggy sometimes. A man has to go off for a bit of fresh air and get straightened out with himself inside.

A whiff of keen, sharp air seems needed to clear the fog and bring out the old outlines--a whiff?--a gale! Yet it must needs blow, like God's wind of grace always blows, as a soft gentle breeze. The common law among folk in all other matters for understanding any book or document is that some one rule of interpretation be applied consistently to all its parts. If we attempt to apply here the rule of first-flush, common sense meaning, as would be done to a house lease or an insurance policy, it brings out this surprising thing. The church is distinct from the kingdom. It came through the kingdom failing to come. It fits into a gap in the kingdom plan. It has a mission quite distinct from that of the kingdom.

The church is to complete its mission and go. The kingdom, in the plain meaning of the word kingdom, is to come, and be the dominant thing before the eyes of all men. The church goes up and out. The kingdom comes in and down. Later the church is to be a part of the executive of the kingdom. This seems to be the simple standpoint of the Book.

The tragic break does not hinder the working of the plan. It simply retards it awhile. A long while? Yes--to man, who counts time by the bulky measurement of years, and can't seem to shake off the time idea; who gets absorbed in moments and hours and loses the broad swing of things. To God?--No. He lives in eternities, and reckons things by events. His eye never loses the whole, nor a single detail of the whole.

But yet more. That break leads to an enriching of the plan. Out of hate God reveals love. Not a greater love, but a greater opportunity for greatly revealing love. Man's unwillingness and opposition may delay God's plan, but cannot hinder it. A man can hinder it for his own self if he so insist. But for others he can only delay, not hinder. Though God may patiently yield His own plan, for a time, to something else, through which meanwhile His main purpose is being served, yet He never loses sight of His own plan--the highest expression of His love. And when He does so yield, it is that through the interruption He may in the long run work out the higher and the highest.

And so in the fulfilment of God's plan as given by His Hebrew spokesmen, there is a sort of sliding scale. A partial fulfilment takes place, leaving the full fulfilment for the full working out of the plan. The fulfilment takes place in two stages, the first being only less full than the final. Thus Elijah is to come. But first comes John, a man with most striking resemblance to Elijah. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit prophesied in Joel is to be upon all flesh. But before that takes place, comes the Pentecost outpouring, filling out the Joel prophecy in spirit, but not in the full measure.

As a matter of good faith the King must come back and carry out the kingdom plan in full. And judging simply by the character of God and of Jesus, I haven't a bit of doubt that He will do it. No amount of disturbance ever alters the love of God, nor His love-plan in the long run, however patiently He may bear with breaks.

Even this phase is in the minor strain of the old Hebrew. "They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son." There is a future meeting of the rejected King and His rejecting people, and this time with sorrow for their former conduct, which implies different conduct at this meeting time. And to this agrees the whole swing of the New Testament teaching. Peter says the going away of Jesus is to be "until the restitution of all things." He is to return and carry out the old plan.

It's a bit unfortunate that some earnest, lovable people have pushed this phase of truth so much to the front as to get it out of its proportion in the whole circle of truth. Truth must always be kept in its place in the circle of truth. Truth is fact in right proportion. Out of that it begins to breed misstatement and error. Jesus' coming back is not to wind things up. It is to begin things anew. There will be certain phases of judgment, doubtless, a clearing of the deck for action, but no general judgment till long after. The kingdom is to swing to the front, and bring a new life to the earth for a very long time. Then after that the wind-up.

The gospel preached in the Acts is the "gospel of the kingdom." They are always expecting it to come. Paul constantly alludes to the Master's return as the great thing to look forward to, as distinctly at the close as at the beginning of his ministry. The book of Revelation is distinctly a kingdom book, and however it may, with the versatility of Scripture to serve a double purpose, foreshadow the characteristics of history for the centuries since its writing, plainly its first meaning has to do with the time when "the kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ." The King is coming back to straighten matters out, and organize a new running of things. This is the church's surprise, and a great surprise it will apparently be to a great many folks, though not to all.

The Surprising Jew.

There is a third surprise growing out of this tragic break, the greatest of all--the Jew. The first surprises were for the Jew, the later surprise for the church; this surprise has been and is for all the world. The Jew has been the running puzzle of history. A strange, elusive, surprising puzzle he has been to historians and all others. Not a nation, only a people, flagless, countryless, without any semblance of organization, they have been mixed in with all the peoples of the earth, yet always distinctly separate.

They have been persecuted, bitterly, cruelly, persistently persecuted, as no other people has ever been, yet with a power of recovery of none other too. With an astonishing vitality, resourcefulness, and leadership, they have taken front rank in every circle of life and every phase of activity, in art, music, science, commerce, philanthropy, statesmanship; holding the keys of government for great nations, of treasure boxes, and of exclusive social circles; making their own standards regardless of others, and with the peculiarity of strongest leadership, pushing on, whether followed or not.

And now the past few years comes a new thing. This surprising Jew is surprising us anew. From all corners of the earth they are gathering as not since the scattering to the Assyrian plains, gathering to discuss and plan for the getting into shape as a nation again on the old home soil. Jews of every sort, utterly diverse in every other imaginable way, except this of being Jews, men who hate each other intensely because of divergent beliefs in other matters, yet brushing elbows in annual gatherings to plan with all their old time intensity a new Jewish nation. Along the highways of earth, made and controlled by Christian peoples, they come. What does it mean? They continue to be, as they have been, the puzzle of history.

This tragic break of the kingdom and the persistency of the King's plan regardless of the break hold the key to the puzzle. The Jew has been preserved, divinely preserved, against every attempt at his destruction. For he is the keystone in the arch of the King's plan for a coming world-wide dominion.

Jesus is God's spirit-magnet for the Jew and for all men. Around Him they will yet gather, with the new Jewish nation in the lead, the church closest to the person of the king, and all men drawn. Jesus is God's organizer of the social fabric of the world. In response to His presence and touch, each in his own place will swing into line and make up a perfect social fabric.

With the new zeal for pure, holy living now in the church, the clearer vision coming to her of the Lord's purpose of evangelizing the world, the evidence in all parts of the world of men turning their thought anew to God, this remarkable Jewish movement toward national life, it is a time for earnest men to get off alone on bent knees, and with new, quietly deep fervor, to pray "Thy kingdom come." "Even so come, Lord Jesus."

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