I The Friend of Men 223. In nothing does the contrast between Jesus and John the Baptist appear more clearly than in their attitude towards common social life. John had his training and did his work apart from the homes of men. The wilderness was his chosen and fit scene of labor. From this solitude he sent forth his summons and warning to his people. They who sought him for fuller teaching went after him and found him where he was. They then returned to their homes and their work, leaving the prophet with his few disciples in their seclusion. With Jesus it was otherwise. His first act, after attaching to himself a few followers, was to go into Galilee to the town of Cana, and there with them to partake in the festivities of a wedding. While it is true that most of his teaching was by the wayside, among the hills, or by the sea, it is still a surprise to discover how often his ministry found its occasion as he was sitting at table in the house of some friend, real or feigned. The genuine friendships of Jesus as they appear in the gospels are among the most characteristic features of his life -- witness the home at Bethany, the women who followed him even to the cross, and ministered to him of their substance, and the |beloved disciple.| Jesus calls attention to this contrast between himself and John, reminding the people how some of the scornful pointed the finger at himself as |a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.| He received his training as a carpenter while John was in his wilderness solitude. Men who would probably have stood with admiration before John had he visited their synagogue, found Jesus too much one of themselves, and would none of him as a prophet (Mark vi.2, 3).224. A like contrast sets Jesus apart from the scribes of his day. These were revered by the people, in part perhaps because they held the common folk in such contempt. Their attitude was frank -- |this multitude which knoweth not the law is accursed| (John vii.49). The popular enthusiasm for Jesus filled them with scorn, until it began to give them alarm. They were glad to be reverenced by the people, to interpret the law for them |binding heavy burdens and grievous to be borne;| but showed little genuine interest in them. Jesus, on the other hand, not only had the reverence of the multitudes, but welcomed them. First his words and his works drew them, then he himself enchained their hearts. Outcasts, rich and poor, crowded into his company, and found him not only a teacher, a prophet of righteousness rebuking their sins and calling to repentance, but a friend, who was not ashamed to be seen in their homes, to have them among his closest attendants, and to be known as their champion. It was when such as these were pressing upon him to hear him that Jesus replied to the criticism of the scribes in the three parables of recovered treasure which stand among the rarest gems of the Master's teaching (Luke xv.).225. One class only in the community failed of his sympathy, -- the self-righteous hypocrites, who thought that godliness consisted in scrupulous regard for pious ceremonies, and that zeal was most laudable when directed to the removal of motes from their brothers' eyes. For these Jesus had words of rebuke and burning scorn. It has been common with some to emphasize his friendship for the poor as if he chose them for their poverty, and the unlettered for their ignorance. Yet Jesus had no faster friends than the women who followed from Galilee and ministered to him of their substance, and the two sanhedrists, Joseph whose new tomb received his body, and Nicodemus whose liberality provided the spices which embalmed him; for these, and not the Galilean fishermen, were faithful to the last at the cross and at the grave. In no home did Jesus find a fuller or more welcome friendship than in Bethany, where all that is told us of its conditions suggests the opposite of poverty. The rich young ruler, who showed his too great devotion to his possessions, would hardly have sought out Jesus with his question, if he was known as the champion of poverty as in itself essential to godliness. The demand made of him surprised him, and was suited to his special case. Jesus saw clearly the difficulties which wealth puts in the way of faith, but he recognized the power of God to overcome them, and when Zaccheus turned disciple, the demand for complete surrender of possessions was not repeated. On the contrary Jesus taught his disciples that even |the unrighteous mammon| should be used to win friends (Luke xvi.9), so ministering unto some of |the least of these my brethren| (Matt. xxv.40). The beatitude in Luke's report of the sermon on the mount (Luke vi.20) was not for the poor as poor simply, but for those poor folk lightly esteemed who had spiritual sense enough to follow Jesus, while the well-to-do as a class were content with the |consolation| already in hand. Jesus' interest was in character, wherever it was manifest, whether in the repentance of a chief of the publicans, or in the widow woman's gift of |all her living;| whether it appeared in the hunger for truth shown by Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel, or in the woman that was a sinner who washed his feet with her tears. He was the great revealer of the worth of simple humanity, in man, woman, or child. Our world has never seen another who so surely penetrated all masks or disguising circumstances and found the man himself, and having found him loved him. 226. This sympathy for simple manhood was manifested in a genuine interest in the common life of men in business, pleasure, or trouble. It is significant that the first exercise of his miraculous power should have been to relieve the embarrassment of his host at a wedding feast. Doubtless we are to understand that the miracle had a deeper purpose than simply supplying the needed wine (John ii.11); but the significant thing is that Jesus should choose to manifest his glory in this way. It shows a genuine appreciation of social life quite impossible to an ascetic like the Baptist. The same appears in the way Jesus allowed his publican apostle to introduce him to his former associates, to the great scandal of the Pharisees; for a feast at which Jesus and a number of publicans were the chief guests accorded not with religion as they understood it. Jesus, however, seems to have found it a welcome opportunity to seek some of his lost sheep. The illustrations which he used in his teaching were often his best introduction to the common heart, for they were drawn from the occupations of the people who came to listen; while the aid Jesus gave to his disciples in their fishing showed not only his power, but also his respect for their work, a respect further proved when he called them to be fishers of men.
227. Beyond this interest in life's joy and its occupations was that unfailing sympathy with its troubles which drew the multitudes to him. He was far more than a healer; he studied to rid the people of the idea that he was a mere miracle-monger. He healed them because he loved them, and he asked of those who sought his help that they too should feel the personal relation into which his power had brought them. This seems to be in part the significance of his uniform demand for faith. Doubtless Mary, out of whom he had cast seven devils, and Simon the leper, who seems to have experienced his power to heal, are only single instances of many who found in him far more than at first they sought. No further record remains of the paralytic who carried off his bed, but left the burden of his sins behind, nor of the woman who loved much because she had been forgiven much, nor of the Samaritan whose life he uncovered that he might be able to give her the living water. Some who had his help for body or heart may have gone away forgetful, after the fashion of men, but in the company of those who were bold to bear his name after his resurrection there must have been many who could not forget.
228. Jesus' interest in common life was genuine, and he entered into it with his heart. The incident of the anointing of his feet as he sat a guest in a Pharisee's house shows that he was keenly sensitive to the treatment he received at the hands of men. He had nothing to say of the slights his host had shown him, until that host began mentally to criticise the woman who was ministering to him in her love and penitence. Then with quiet dignity Jesus mentioned the several omissions of courtesy which he had noticed since he came in, contrasting the woman's attention with Simon's neglect (Luke vii.36-50). One of the saddest things about Gethsemane was Jesus' vain pleading with his disciples for sympathy in his awful hour. They were too much dazed with awe and fear to lend him their hearts' support. He recognized indeed that it was only a weakness of the flesh; yet he craved their friendship's help, and repeatedly asked them to watch with him, for his soul was exceeding sorrowful. In contrast with this disappointment stands the joy with which Jesus heard from Peter the confession which proved that the falling off of popular enthusiasm had not shaken the loyalty of his chosen companions, -- |Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood have not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven| (Matt. xvi.17). There is the sorrow of loneliness as well as rebuke in his complaint, |O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I bear with you?| (Mark ix.19), and the lamentation over Jerusalem comes from a longing heart (Luke xiii.34).
229. The independence of human sympathy which Jesus often showed is all the more glorious for the evidence the gospels give of his longing for it. When he put the question to the twelve, |Would ye also go away?| (John vi.67), there is no hint in his manner that their defection with the rest would turn him at all from faithfully fulfilling the task appointed to him by his Father. In fact only now and then did he allow his own hunger to appear. Ordinarily he showed himself as the friend longing to help, but not seeking ministry from others; he rather sought to win his disciples to unselfishness by showing as well as saying that he came not to be ministered unto but to minister. He washed the feet of his disciples to rebuke their petty jealousies, but we have no hint that he showed that he felt personal neglect. His own heart was full of |sorrow even unto death,| but his word was, |Let not your heart be troubled;| he asked in vain for the sympathy of his nearest friends in Gethsemane, yet when the band came to arrest him he pleaded, |Let these, the disciples, go their way.|