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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : VIII The Shadow of Death

The Life Of Jesus Of Nazareth by Rush Rhees

VIII The Shadow of Death

196. Of the garden of Gethsemane it is only known that it was across the Kidron, on the slope of the Mount of Olives. Tradition has long pointed to an enclosure some fifty yards beyond the bridge that crosses the ravine on the road leading eastward from St. Stephen's gate. Most students feel that this is too near the city and the highway for the place of retreat chosen by Jesus. Archaeologically and sentimentally the identification of places connected with the life of Jesus is of great interest. Practically, however, it is easy to over-emphasize the importance of such an identification. Granted the fact that in some olive grove on the mountain-side, where an oil-press gave a name to the place (Gethsemane), Jesus withdrew with his disciples on that last night, and all that is important is known. It is of far higher importance to see rightly the relation of what took place in that garden to the things which preceded and followed it in the life of Jesus. At that time Jesus saw pressed to his lips the |cup| from the bitterness of which his whole soul shrank. It was not an unlooked-for trial; some time earlier he had sought to cool the ardor of the ambition of James and John by telling them that they should drink of his cup, and declared that even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. The fourth gospel, whose representation omits the agony of Gethsemane and only reports its victory, tells how Jesus rebuked the violent impulse of Peter with the word, |The cup which my Father hath given me to drink shall I not drink it?| (John xviii.11^b); and all the gospels exhibit the marvellous quietness of spirit and dignity of self-surrender which characterized Jesus throughout his trial and execution. In Gethsemane, however, we see the struggle in which that calmness and self-mastery were won.

197. It is unbecoming to consider that scene with any vulgar curiosity to know what it was that made Jesus so draw back from the drinking of his |cup.| It is not unfitting, however, to recognize that in his cry, |Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; remove this cup from me| (Mark xiv.36), an intense longing of his own soul's life had expression. There was something in the fate which he saw before him from which his whole being shrank. But stronger than this was his fixed desire to do his Father's will. Here was supremely illustrated the truth that |he came down from heaven, not to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him| (John vi.38). The fullest allowance for the shrinking of the most delicately constituted nature from pain and death completely fails to account for this dread of Jesus. He was no coward, drawing back from sufferings which for simple physical pain were over and again more than matched by many of the martyrs to truth who preceded and followed him. He himself declared to the sons of Zebedee that they should share a cup in kind like unto his, suffering for the kingdom of God, for the salvation of the world. Yet there is a difference evident between what others have had to bear and the cup from which Jesus shrank. The death which now stood before him in the path of obedience had in it a bitterness quite unexplained by the pain and disappointment it entailed. That excess of bitterness can probably never be understood by us. A hint of its nature may be found in the |shame of the cross| which the author of Hebrews (xii.2; xiii.13) emphasizes, and in the |curse| of the cross which made it a stumbling block to Paul and his Jewish brethren (Gal. iii.13; I. Cor. i.23). Jesus came from the garden ready to endure the cross in obedience to his Father's will; but it was a costly obedience, a complete emptying of himself (Phil. ii.7, 8).

198. The loneliness of Jesus in his struggle is emphasized in the gospels of Mark and Matthew. In search of sympathy he had confessed to the disciples his trouble of heart, and had taken his three intimates with him when he withdrew from the others for prayer, asking them to watch with him. They were too heavy of heart and weary of body to stand by in his bitter hour, and instead of being in readiness to warn him of the approach of the hostile band, he had to awake them to their danger. The fourth gospel reports that after the struggle Jesus bore marks of majesty which astonished and overawed his foes when he calmly told them that he was the one they were seeking. Their fear was overcome, however, when Judas gave the appointed sign by kissing his Master (Mark xiv.45). The thought for the disciples' safety which John records (xviii.8) is another proof that the fight had been won, and Jesus had fully resumed the self-emptying ministry appointed to him by his Father.

199. The band that arrested Jesus was accompanied by a Roman cohort from the garrison of the city, but it was not needed, for the disciples offered no appreciable resistance; on the contrary, |they all forsook him and fled| (Mark xiv.50). Having arrested Jesus, the band took him to Annas, the actual leader of Jewish affairs, though not at the time the official high-priest. He had held that office some time before, but had been deposed by the Roman governor of Syria after being in power for nine years. His influence continued, however, for although he was never reinstated, he seems to have been able to secure the appointment for members of his own family during a period of many years. Caiaphas, the legal high-priest, was his son-in-law. Annas, as the leader of aristocratic opinion in Jerusalem, had doubtless been foremost in the secret counsels which led to the decision to get rid of Jesus, hence the captive was, as a matter of course, taken first to his house. The trial by the Jewish authorities was irregular. There seems to have been an informal examination of Jesus and various witnesses, first before Annas, and then before Caiaphas and a group of members of the sanhedrin, the outcome of which was complete failure to secure evidence against Jesus from their false witnesses, and the formulation of a charge of blasphemy in consequence of his answer to the high-priest acknowledging himself to be the Messiah (Mark xiv.61-64). The early hours before the day were given over to mockery and ill-usage of the captive Jesus. When morning was come, the sanhedrin was convened, and he was condemned to death on the charge of blasphemy (Mark xv.1; Luke xxii.66-71), and then was led in bonds to the Roman governor for execution, since the Romans had taken from the sanhedrin the authority to execute a death sentence (John xviii.31). Before Pilate the Jews had to name an offence recognized by Roman law; his accusers therefore falsified his claim and made him out a political Messiah, hostile to Roman rule (Luke xxiii.1, 2). Pilate soon saw that the charge was trumped up, and sought in every way, while keeping the good-will of the people, to escape the responsibility of giving sentence against Jesus. His first effort was a simple declaration that he found no fault in the prisoner (Luke xxiii.4); then, having heard that he was a Galilean, he tried to transfer the case to Herod, who happened to be in the city at the time (Luke xxiii.5-12); he then sought to compromise by agreeing to chastise Jesus and then release him (Luke xxiii.13-16); next he offered the people their choice between the innocent Jesus and Barabbas, a convicted insurrectionist (Mark xv.6-15; Luke xxiii.16-24), and the people, instructed by the priests, chose Barabbas, caring nothing for a Messiah who would allow himself to be arrested without resistance; the fourth gospel tells of Pilate's still further effort, by appealing to the people's sympathy, to escape giving sentence, even after he had delivered Jesus to the soldiers for the preliminary scourging. Finding the Jews ready to urge, at length, a religious charge, Pilate's superstitious fear was roused (John xix.7-12), and he sought again to release him, but was finally cowed by the threat of an accusation against him at Rome, and, mocking the people by sitting in judgment to condemn Jesus as their king, he gave sentence against the man whom he knew to be innocent (John xix.12-16).

200. Some of Jesus' disciples and friends were witnesses of the early stages of the informal trial, in particular, John (John xviii.15) and Peter. It was during the progress of the early examination that Peter was drawn into his denials by the comments made by the bystanders on his connection with the accused. It has been suggested that the house of the high-priest where Jesus was tried was built, like other Oriental houses, about a court so that the room where Jesus was examined was open to view from the court. In this case it is easy to see how Jesus could overhear his disciple's strenuous denials of any acquaintance with him, and could turn and give him that look which sent him out to weep bitterly (Luke xxii.61, 62). If it be further assumed that Annas and Caiaphas occupied different sides of the same high-priestly palace, the double examination reported by John would still be within hearing from the one court in which the faithless disciple was a fascinated witness of his Master's trial.

201. Humanly speaking, it may be said that the fate of Jesus was sealed when the Sadducean leaders came to look on him seriously as a danger to the State (John xi.47-50, note the mention of chief priests). The religious opposition was serious, and might have brought trouble, in some such way as it seems to have done to John the Baptist (see Matt. xvii.10-13; Luke xiii.31, 32); but it is doubtful whether the governor would have given much attention to a charge not urged by the men of influence in Jerusalem. The notable thing in connection with the last days of Jesus' life is the joint opposition of Sadducean priests and Pharisaic scribes. That the populace easily changed their cry from |hosanna| to |crucify him| is not surprising. Their hosannas were due to a complete misconception of Jesus' aim and purpose; disappointed in him, they would be the earliest to cry out against him, especially when the choice lay between him and a genuine insurrectionist.

202. Each fresh study of the trial of Jesus gives a fresh impression of his greatness. He who but a few hours before was pouring out his soul in prayer that his cup might pass, stands forth as the one calm and undisturbed actor among all those who took part in the tragic doings of that day. His judges and foes were all swayed by passion and self-interest and were ready to make travesty of justice, from the leaders of the sanhedrin who condemned him on one charge and accused him to the governor on another, to the governor himself, who appeared determined to release him if he could do it without risk of personal popularity, and who yet, in order to avoid accusation at Rome, gave sentence according to the people's will. The fickle populace crying |crucify him,| the disciples who forsook him, the rock-apostle who denied even so much as knowledge of the man, show how all the currents of life about him were stirred and full of tumult. In all this, of which he was the occasion and centre, he stands the supreme example of dignity, self-mastery, and quietness. This is seen in his silence in the presence of Annas and Caiaphas, and later before Pilate; in his frank avowal of his Messianic claim in reply to the high-priest's challenge, and of his kingly rank in answer to the governor's question; and in the look of reproof which he turned upon Peter. Not that he was without feeling. There is strong sense of outrage in his words, |If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil, but if well, why smitest thou me?| It was not the quietness of stoic indifference, but of perfect self-devotion to the Father's will. He maintained it from the time of his arrest to the last cry of trust with which he committed his spirit to his Father.

203. The scourging over, the mock homage of the soldiers done, he was led out beyond the city wall to be crucified. The exact place of the crucifixion can be determined as little as that of Gethsemane, though there is a tradition from the fourth century, and in addition there are many conjectures. Jesus was led, apparently, to the ordinary place of criminal execution, and with two others, probably insurrectionary robbers like those with whom Barabbas had been associated, he was crucified. Two episodes in the journey to the place of crucifixion are recorded, -- the help which Simon of Cyrene was compelled to give to Jesus in carrying his cross (Mark xv.21), and the word of Jesus to those who, following him, bewailed his fate (Luke xxiii.27-31).

204. Of the cruelty and torture of crucifixion much has been written and often. It would be difficult to exaggerate it. The death by the cross was a death by hunger and exhaustion in ordinary cases; it was thus torture prolonged for many hours. It is noticeable, however, that it is not the suffering but the disgrace and shame of the cross that occupied the thought of the apostolic days. Indeed, were physical suffering chiefly to be considered, it would have to be owned that the fact that Jesus died within a few hours released him from the most excruciating pains incident to this barbarous form of execution. The later ascetic thought loved, and still loves, to dwell on the physical torments of the Lord's death. They were severe enough to give us awe; but the biblical writers show a much healthier mind, and their thought does not invite comparison between the pains endured by the Master and those which some of his martyred followers bore with great fortitude. The disgrace of the cross was the uttermost; for the Romans it was the death of a slave, for the Jews it was patent proof of the curse of God (Deut. xxi.23). The obedience of Jesus was unlimited when he submitted to death (Phil. ii.8). It is on the shame of the cross, and on the sacrifice of himself for the life of the world when in obedience to his Father's will he |despised the shame,| that the thought of the apostolic day laid emphasis. In this experience Jesus found himself in truth numbered with the transgressors; he was the object of scorn for all them that passed by, they mocked at him, at his works, and at his confident trust in God. In this last extremity the darkness of Gethsemane again swept over Jesus' soul, when he cried out |My God, my God,| recalling the words of one of the saints of old in his hour of distress (Ps. xxii.). Yet, like him, Jesus kept hold on the certainty of deliverance; the darkness passed at length.

205. The evangelists preserve several sayings of Jesus from the cross, the records of the different gospels being remarkably diverse. Mark and Matthew record the exclamation, |My God, my God (Eloi, Eloi), why hast thou forsaken me,| which the bystander misconstrued as a call for Elijah, thinking this pseudo-Messiah was reproaching Elijah for failing to come to his help. The same gospels tell of the loud cry with which Jesus died. Luke omits the call Eloi, and gives in place of the last expiring cry the prayer of trust, |Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit| (xxiii.46). Earlier, however, this gospel tells of Jesus' word to the penitent robber, |To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise| (xxiii.43), and of the prayer for his foes, that is, for the Jewish people who blindly condemned him (xxiii.34). The oldest manuscripts cause some doubt whether this last saying was originally a part of the Gospel of Luke. If it was not it would belong in the same class with the story of the sinful woman which we now find in John, both being authentic records of the life of Jesus, though from some other source than that in which we now find them. The fourth gospel gives quite an independent group of sayings. It interprets the dying cry as, |It is finished| (xix.30), and preceding this it gives the cry, |I thirst| (xix.28), which led to the offering of the vinegar of which the first two gospels speak. Earlier it tells of the committal of Mary to the care of the beloved disciple (xix.26, 27). Of these seven sayings, |Eloi,| |I thirst,| |Father, into thy hand I commend my spirit,| and |It is finished| belong to the last hours of the life of the crucified one, after the darkness of which the first three gospels speak had overshadowed the land. Of the cause of that darkness they give no hint, for Luke's expression cannot mean an eclipse, since an eclipse at Passover time, that is, at full moon, is an impossibility. The conjecture that dense clouds hid the sun is common, and is as suitable as any other. Whatever the cause, the evangelists saw in it a token of nature's awe at the death of the Son of God. During the hours of the darkness the waves swept over his soul, as the cry |my God| shows to our reverent thought. But the last word of trust proves that the dying Jesus was not forsaken, and that Calvary, like Gethsemane, was a battle won. The earlier sayings all express Jesus' continued spirit of ministry, showing even in his bitter pain his accustomed thoughtfulness for others' need.

206. It is futile to speculate on the cause of Jesus' early death. He certainly suffered a much shorter time than was ordinarily the case, as appears in the fact that at sunset it was necessary to break the legs of the robbers so as to hasten death, Jesus having already been some time dead. There is something attractive in the theory of Dr. Stroud (The Physical Cause of Christ's Death) that Jesus died of rupture of the heart. It may have been true, but the evidences on which he based his argument are insufficient for proof. To the Jews the death of their victim did not give all the satisfaction they desired. In the first place, Pilate insisted on mocking them by posting over the head of Jesus the placard, |The King of the Jews| (see John xix.19-22); moreover, their haste had brought the crime into close proximity to the feast which they were eager to keep from defilement; so that they had still to beg of Pilate that he would hasten the death of the victims, that their bodies might not remain to desecrate the following Sabbath sanctity (John xix.31-37); while for those who witnessed it the death of Jesus deepened the impression that a hideous crime had been committed in the slaughter of an innocent man (Mark xv.39).

207. Among the bystanders few of the disciples of Jesus were to be found -- they were hiding in fear. Yet some faithful women, and two courageous councillors of Jerusalem, were bold enough to make their loyalty known. These two men, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, were members of the sanhedrin, but they had had no part in the condemnation of Jesus; and after knowing that he was dead, Joseph begged of Pilate the body, and he and Nicodemus took Jesus down from the cross and laid him in a tomb which Joseph owned near the place of crucifixion, rendering such tender ministries as were possible in the closing hours of the day. The women who had witnessed his end meanwhile were arranging also to anoint the body. They took notice where the two friends had laid him, and then went away to rest on the Sabbath day, according to the commandment.

208. To the Jews it was a high day, the first Sabbath in the eight days of their holy feast (John xix.31). They had eagerly guarded their conduct that no ceremonial defilement might prevent their sharing in the paschal feast. They believed that they had rid their nation of a dangerous disturber of its peace, and men whose conscience shrank not from making God's house a house of merchandise, who would punish one who ventured to cure a mortal disease if it chanced to cross their Sabbath traditions, who had condemned to death the holiest man and godliest teacher the world had ever seen because he did not square with their heartless formalism, -- such men hardly had conscience enough to feel repentance or remorse for the cowardly injustice and crime with which of their own choice they had reddened their hands (Matt, xxvii.25). They doubtless kept their feast with satisfaction. Not a few hearts, however, were heavy with grief and disappointed hope. They had believed that Jesus |was he that should redeem Israel| (Luke xxiv.21). Stunned, they could not throw away the faith which he had kindled in their hearts. Yet he was dead, and only faintly, if at all, did they recall his prediction of suffering and his certainty of triumph through it all (John xx.9). What remained for them was the last tender ministry to their dead Lord.

Outline of Events after the Resurrection

The day of the resurrection -- Sunday. The visit of the women to the tomb -- Matt. xxviii.1-8; Mark xvi.1-8; Luke xxiv.1-12; John xx.1-10.

Jesus' first appearance; to Mary -- Matt. xxviii.9 10; [Mark xvi.9-11]; John xx.11-18.

The report of the watch -- Matt. xxviii.11-15.

The appearance to Simon Peter -- I. Cor. xv.5.

The walk to Emmaus -- [Mark xvi 12,13]; Luke xxiv.13-35.

The appearance to the ten in the evening -- [Mark xvi.14]; Luke xxiv.36-43; John xx.19-25; I. Cor. xv.5.

One week later -- Sunday. The appearance to the eleven, with Thomas -- John xx.26-29.

Later appearances. To seven disciples by the sea of Galilee -- John xxi.1-24.

To a company of disciples in. Galilee -- Matt, xxviii.16-20; [Mark xvi.15-18]; I. Cor. xv.6.

The appearance to James -- I. Cor. xv.7.

To the disciples in Jerusalem, followed by the ascension -- Mark xvi.19, 20; Luke xxiv.44-53; Acts i.1-12; I. Cor. xv.7.

IX

The Resurrection

209. Christianity as a historic religious movement starts from the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This is very clear in the preaching and writings of Paul. The first distinctively Christian feature in his address at Athens is his statement that God had designated Jesus to be the judge of men by having |raised him from the dead| (Acts xvii.31), and for him the resurrection was the demonstration of the divinity of Christ (Rom. i.4), and the confirmation of the Christian hope (I. Cor. xv.). With him the prime qualification for an apostle was that he should have seen the risen Lord (I. Cor. ix.1). The early preaching as recorded in Acts shows the same feature, for after repeated testimony to the fact that God had raised up Jesus, Peter summed up his address with the declaration, |Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified| (Acts ii.36). In fact the buoyancy of hope and confidence of faith which gave to the despised followers of the Nazarene their strength resulted directly from the experiences of the days which followed the deep gloom that settled over the disciples when Jesus died.

210. It can but seem strange to us that after Jesus had so often foretold his death and the resurrection which should follow it, his disciples were thrown into despair by the cross. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus when they embalmed his body may not have known of these teachings which Jesus gave to the nearer circle of his followers, but it is difficult to believe that the women who prepared their spices to anoint his body (Mark xvi.1) had heard nothing of these predictions, and it is certain that the apostles who received with incredulity the first news of the resurrection were the men whom Jesus had sought to prepare for this glorious victory. The disciples do not seem to have finished |questioning among themselves what the rising again from the dead should mean| (Mark ix.10, compare Luke xviii.34) until Jesus himself explained it by his return to them after his crucifixion. It was formerly common to conclude from the scepticism of the disciples that Jesus could not have told them, as he is reported to have done, that he would rise again the third day. It is now widely conceded, however, that if he foresaw and foretold his death, he surely coupled with it a promise of resurrection, otherwise he must have surrendered his own conviction that he was Messiah; for a Messiah taken and held captive by death was apparently as foreign to Jesus' thought as it was unthinkable for the men of his generation. The inability of the disciples to adjust their Messianic ideas to the death of their Master was not removed by the rebuke Jesus administered to Peter at Caesarea Philippi; their objections were only silenced. It would seem that even when they saw his death to be inevitable, they were simply dumb with hope that in some way he would come off victor; the cross and the tomb crushed out that hope -- at least from most of them. If one disciple, his closest friend, recalled and believed his words when he saw the empty tomb (John xx.8), others were cast into still deeper sorrow by the report, and could only say, |But we hoped that it was he which should redeem Israel| (Luke xxiv.21).

211. The light which banished the gloom from the hearts of Jesus' followers dawned suddenly. There was no time for gradual readjustment of ideas and the springing of hope from a faith which would not die. The uniform early tradition is that Jesus showed himself alive to his disciples |on the third day,| that is, a little over thirty-six hours from the time of his death. Not only the gospels, but Paul, who wrote many years before our evangelists, testify to this (I. Cor. xv.4), as does the very early observance of the first day of the week as |the Lord's day,| and the substitution of |the third day| for |after three days| in the gospels which made use of our Gospel of Mark (compare parallels with Mark viii.81; ix.31; x.34, and see Holtzmann, NtTh I.309). Of the events which occurred on that third day and after, our earliest account is that of Paul. He gives a simple catalogue of the appearances of the risen Lord, referring to them as well known, in fact as the familiar subject matter of his earliest teaching (I. Cor. xv.4-8). He gives definite date to none of these appearances, indicating only their sequence. He tells of six different manifestations, beginning with an appearance to Cephas on the third day, then to the twelve, then to a large company of disciples, -- above five hundred, -- then to James, then to all the apostles. The sixth in the list is his own experience, which he puts in the same class with the appearances of the first Easter morning. Two of these instances are found only in Paul's account, the appearance to James and to the five hundred brethren, though this last may probably be the same as is referred to in the Gospel of Matthew (xxviii.16-20).

212. The gospel records are much fuller, but they differ from each other even more than they do from Paul. Mark is unhappily incomplete, for the last twelve verses in that gospel, as we have it, are lacking in the oldest manuscripts, and were probably written by a second-century Christian named Aristion, as a substitute for the proper end of the gospel which seems by some accident to have been lost. These twelve verses are clearly compiled from our other gospels. They have value as indicating the currency of the complete tradition in the early second century, but they contribute nothing to our knowledge of the resurrection. All, then, that Mark tells is that the women who came early on the first day of the week to anoint the body of Jesus found the tomb open and empty, and saw an angel who bade them tell the disciples that the Lord had risen. How the record originally continued no one knows, for Matthew and Luke use the same general testimony up to the point where Mark breaks off, and then go quite different ways. Of the two Matthew is closer to Mark than is Luke. The first gospel adds to the record of the second an account of an appearance of Jesus to the women as they went to report to the disciples, and then tells of the meeting of Jesus with the disciples on a mountain in Galilee, and his parting commission to them. It gives no account of the ascension. Luke agrees with Mark in general concerning the visit of the women to the tomb, the angelic vision, and the report to the disciples. He says nothing of an appearance of Jesus to the women on their flight from the tomb, but, if xxiv.12 is genuine (see R.V. margin), he, like John, tells of Peter's visit to the sepulchre.

213. Luke further reports the appearances of Jesus to two on their way to Emmaus, to Simon, and to the eleven in Jerusalem, -- this last being blended consciously or unconsciously with the final meeting of Jesus with the disciples before his ascension. The genuine text of the gospel (xxiv.50) says nothing of the ascension itself, but clearly implies it. In contrast with Matthew it is noticeable that Luke shows no knowledge of any appearance of Jesus to his disciples in Galilee. John is quite independent of Mark, as well as of Matthew and Luke. He mentions only Mary Magdalene in connection with the early visit to the tomb, though perhaps he implies the presence of others with her (|we| in xx.2). He tells of a visit of Peter and John to the tomb, of an appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, of an appearance to ten of the disciples in the evening, and a week later to the eleven, including Thomas. So far this gospel makes no reference to appearances in Galilee; but in the appendix (chapter xxi.) there is added a manifestation to seven disciples as they were fishing on the Sea of Galilee.

214. Criticism which seeks to discredit the gospels, for instance most recently Reville in his |Jesus de Nazareth,| discovers two separate and mutually exclusive lines of tradition, -- one telling of appearances in Galilee, represented by Mark and the last chapter in John, the other telling of appearances in or near Jerusalem, and found in Luke and the twentieth chapter of John. It is said that the gospels have sought to blend the two cycles, as when Matthew tells of an appearance to the women in Jerusalem on their way from the tomb, and when the last chapter of John adds to the original gospel a Galilean appearance. Luke, however, who makes no reference at all to Galilean manifestations, is taken to prove that originally the one cycle knew nothing of the other. This theory falls, however, before the uniform tradition of appearances on the third day, which must have been in Jerusalem, and the very early testimony of Paul to an appearance to above five hundred brethren at once, which could not have been in Judea. It need not surprise us that there should have been two cycles of tradition, not however mutually exclusive, if Jesus did appear both in Jerusalem and in Galilee. The same kind of local interest which is supposed to explain the one-sidedness of the synoptic story of the public ministry would easily account for one line of tradition which reported Galilean appearances, and another which reported those in Jerusalem. Luke may have had access to information which furnished him only the Jerusalem story. John and Peter, however, must have known the wider facts. The very divergences and seeming contradictions of the gospels, troublesome as they are, indicate how completely certainty regarding the fact of the resurrection removed from the thought of the apostolic day nice carefulness concerning the testimony to individual manifestations of the risen Lord. Doubtless the first preaching rested, as in the case of Paul, on a simple |I have seen the Lord.| When later the detailed testimony was wanted for written gospels, it had suffered the lot common to orally transmitted records, and divergences had sprung up which it is no longer possible for us to resolve. They do not, however, challenge the fact which lies behind all the varied testimony.

215. A general view of the events of that third day and those which followed can be constructed from our gospels and Paul. Early on the first day of the week certain women, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, Salome, Joanna, and others, came to anoint the body of Jesus. On their arrival they found that the stone had been rolled back from the tomb. Mary Magdalene saw that the grave was empty and ran to tell Peter and John. The others saw also a vision of angels which said that Jesus was alive and would see his disciples in Galilee, and ran to report this to the disciples. Meanwhile Mary Magdalene returned, following Peter and John who ran to see the tomb, and found it empty as she had said. She lingered after they left, and Jesus appeared to her, she mistaking him at first for the gardener. She then went to tell the disciples that she had seen the Lord. These events evidently occurred in the early morning. The next incident reported is that of the walk of two disciples, not of the twelve, to Emmaus, and the appearance of Jesus to them. At first they did not recognize him, not even when he taught them out of the scriptures the necessity that the Messiah should die. He was made known when at evening he sat down with them to a familiar meal. Either before or after this event he had shown himself to Peter. This is the first manifestation reported by Paul. If Luke xxiv.12 is genuine (see R.V. margin), he also tells that when the two again reached Jerusalem the apostles received them with the news that Peter had seen the Lord. That same evening Jesus appeared suddenly among the disciples in their well-guarded upper room. His coming was such that he had to convince the disciples that he was not simply a disembodied spirit. Luke says that he did this by bidding them handle him, and by eating part of a fish before them. According to John, Thomas was not with the others at this first meeting with the disciples. A week later, presumably in Jerusalem, Jesus again manifested himself to the little company, Thomas being with them, and dispelled the doubt of that disciple who loved too deeply to indulge a hope which might only disappoint. He had but to see in order to believe, and make supreme confession of his faith. The next appearance was probably that to the seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee, when Peter, who denied thrice, was thrice tested concerning his love for his Lord. Then apparently followed the meeting on the mountain reported in Matthew, which was probably the same as the appearance to the five hundred brethren; then, probably still in Galilee, Jesus appeared to his brother James, who from that time on was a leader among the disciples. The next manifestation of which record is preserved was the final one in Jerusalem, after which Jesus led his disciples out as far as Bethany and was separated from them, henceforth to be thought of by them as seated at the right hand of God.

216. This construction of the story as given in the New Testament does violence to the accounts in one particular. It holds that Matthew's report of the meeting of Jesus with the women on their way from the tomb on Easter morning is to be identified with his meeting with Mary Magdalene. This can be done only if it is supposed that in the transmission of the tradition the commission given the women by the angel (Mark xvi.6f.) became blended with the message given to Mary by the Lord (John xx.17), the result being virtually the same for the religious interest of the first Christians, while for the historic interest of our days it constitutes a discrepancy. The difficulty is less on this supposition than on any other. It is highly significant that the account of the most indubitable fact in the view of the early Christians is the most difficult portion of the gospels for the exact harmonist to deal with. This is not of serious moment for the historical student. It is rather a warning against theoretical ideas of inspiration.

217. The universal acknowledgment that the early Christians firmly believed in the resurrection of their Lord has made the origin of that firm conviction a question of primary importance. The simple facts as set forth in the New Testament serve abundantly to account for the faith of the early church, but they not only involve a large recognition of the miraculous, they also contain perplexities for those who do not stumble at the supernatural; hence there have been many attempts to find other solutions of the problem. Some of the explanations offered may be dismissed with a word: for instance, those which, in one form or other, renew the old charge found in the first gospel, that the disciples stole the body of Jesus, and then declared that he had risen; and those which assume that the death of Jesus was apparent only, that he fainted on the cross, and then the chill of the night air and of the sepulchre served to revive him, so that in the morning he was able to leave the tomb and appear to his disciples as one risen from the dead. This apparent-death theory involves Jesus in an ugly deception, while the theory that the disciples or any group of them removed the body of Jesus and then gave currency to the notion that he had risen, builds the greatest ethical and religious movement known to history on a lie. A slightly different explanation which was very early suggested was that the Jews themselves, or perhaps the gardener, had the body removed, and that when Mary found the tomb empty she let her faith conclude that his absence must be due to his resurrection.

218. This last explanation has in recent times been revived in connection with the so-called vision-hypothesis by Renan and Reville. Mary found the tomb empty, and being herself of a highly strung nervous nature -- she had been cured by Jesus of seven devils -- by thinking about the empty tomb she soon worked herself into an ecstasy in which her eyes seemed to behold what her heart desired to see. She communicated her vision to the others, and by a sort of nervous contagion, they, too, fell to seeing visions, and it is the report of these that we have in the gospels. The vision-hypothesis takes with some, Strauss for instance, a different form. These deny that the tomb was found empty at all, and regard this story as a contribution of the later legend-making spirit. They hold that the disciples fled from Jerusalem as soon as the death of Jesus was an assured fact, and not until after they found themselves amid the familiar scenes of Galilee, did their faith recover from the shock it had received in Jerusalem. In Galilee the experiences of their life with Jesus were lived over again, and the old confidence in him as Messiah revived. Thus thinking about the Lord, their hearts would say, |He cannot have died,| and after a while their faith rose to the conviction which declared, |He is not dead;| then they passed into an ecstatic mood and visions followed which are the germ out of which the gospel stories have grown.

219. These different forms of the vision-hypothesis have been subjected to most searching criticism by Keim, who is all the more severe because his own thought has so much that is akin to them. There are two objections which refute the hypothesis. The first is that the uniform tradition which connects the resurrection and the first appearances with the |third day| after the crucifixion leaves far too short a time for the recovery of faith and the growth of ecstatic feeling which are requisite for these visions, even supposing that the disciples' faith had such recuperative powers. The second is that once such an ecstatic mood was acquired it would be according to experience in analogous cases for the visions to continue, if not to increase, as the thought of the risen Lord grew more clear and familiar; yet the tradition is uniform that the appearances of the risen Christ ceased after, at most, a few weeks. The only later one was that which led to the conversion of Paul; and though Paul was a man somewhat given to ecstatic experiences (see II. Cor. xii.), he carefully distinguishes in his own thought his seeing of the Lord and his heavenly visions. In a word, the disciples of Jesus never showed a more healthy, normal life than that which gave them strength to found a church of believers in the resurrection in the face of persecution and scorn.

220. Keim seeks to avoid the difficulties which his own acute criticism disclosed in the ordinary vision-theory, by another which rejects the gospel stories as legendary, yet frankly acknowledges that the faith of the apostles in the resurrection was based on a miracle. Their certainty was so unshakable, so uniform, so abiding, that it can be accounted for only by acknowledging that they did actually see the Lord. This seeing, however, was not with the eyes of sense, but with the spiritual vision, which properly perceives what pertains to the spirit world into which the glorified Lord had withdrawn when he died. In his spiritual estate he manifested himself to his disciples, by a series of divinely caused and therefore essentially objective visions, in which he proved to them abundantly that he was alive, was victor over death, and had been exalted by God to his right hand. This theory is not in itself offensive to faith. It concedes that the belief of the disciples rested on actual disclosures of himself to them by the glorified Lord. The difficulty with the theory is that it relegates the empty tomb to the limbo of legend, though it is a feature of the tradition which is found in all the gospels and clearly implied in Paul (I. Cor. xv.4; compare Rom. vi.4); it also fails to show how this glorified Christ came to be thought of by the disciples as risen, rather than simply glorified in spirit. This criticism brings us back to the necessity of recognizing a resurrection which was in some real sense corporeal, difficult as that conception is for us. The gospels assert this with great simplicity and delicate reserve. They represent Jesus as returning to his disciples with a body which was superior to the limitations which hedge our lives about. It may be well described by Paul's words, |It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.| Yet the records indicate that when he willed Jesus could offer himself to the perception of other senses than sight and hearing -- |handle me and see| is not an invitation that we expect from a spiritual presence. If, however, we have to confess an unsolved mystery here, and still more in the record of his eating in the presence of the disciples (Luke xxiv.41-43), it is permitted us to own that our knowledge of the possible conditions of the fully perfected life are not such as to warrant great dogmatism in criticising the account. The empty tomb, the objective presence of the risen Jesus, the renewed faith of his followers, and their new power are established data for our thought. With these, many of the details may be left in mystery, because we have not yet light sufficient to reveal to us all that we should like to know.

221. The ascension of the risen Christ to his Father is the presupposition of all the New Testament teaching. The Acts, the Epistles, and the Apocalypse join in the representation that he is now at the right hand of God. In fact it may be said that such a view is involved in the doctrine of the resurrection, for the very idea of that victory was that death had no more dominion over him. It is a fact, however, that none of our gospels in their correct text (see Luke xxiv.51, R.V. margin) tell of the ascension. Luke clearly implies it, and John says that Jesus told Mary to tell the disciples that he was about to ascend to his Father and their Father. In Luke's later book, however (Acts i.1-11), he gives a full account of a last meeting of Jesus with the disciples, and of his ascension to heaven before their eyes. This withdrawal in the cloud must be understood as an acted parable; for, in reality, there is no reason for thinking that the clouds which hung over Olivet that day were any nearer God's presence than the ground on which the disciples stood. For them, however, such a disappearance would signify vividly the cessation of their earthly intercourse with their Lord, and his return to his home with the Father. The word of Jesus to Mary (John xx.17) may fairly be interpreted to mean that Jesus had ascended to the Father on the day of the resurrection, and that each of his subsequent manifestations of himself were like that which later he granted to Paul near Damascus. In fact it is easier to view the matter in this way than to conceive of Jesus as sojourning in some hidden place for forty days after his resurrection. What the disciples witnessed ten days before Pentecost was a withdrawal similar to those which had separated him from them frequently during the recent weeks, only now set before their eyes in such a way as to tell them that these manifestations had reached an end; they must henceforth wait for the other representative of God and Christ, the Spirit, given to them at Pentecost.

222. The faith with which the disciples waited for the promised spirit was a very different faith from that which Peter confessed for his fellows at Caesarea Philippi. It had the same supreme attachment to a personal friend who had proved to be God's Anointed; the same readiness to let him lead whithersoever he would; the same firm expectation of a restitution of all things, in which God should set up his kingdom visibly, with Jesus as the King of men. Now, however, their trust was much fuller than before, and they looked for a still more glorious kingdom when their friend and Lord should come from heaven to assume his reign. They expected Christ to return soon in glory, yet his death and victory made them ready to endure any persecution for him, certain that, like the sufferings which he endured, it would lead to victory. These disciples had no idea that in preaching a religion of personal attachment to their Master, in filling all men's thoughts with his name, in building all hope on his return, and guiding all life by his teaching and spirit, they were cutting their moorings from the religion of their fathers. They remained loyal to the law, they were constant in the worship; but they had poured new wine into the bottles, and in time it proved the inadequacy of the old forms and revolutionized the world's religious life.

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