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Evan Roberts Quote : Christian Books : IV Jesus' Conception of Himself

The Life Of Jesus Of Nazareth by Rush Rhees

IV Jesus' Conception of Himself

252. When Jesus called forth the confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi he brought into prominence the question which during the earlier stages of the Galilean ministry he had studiously kept in the background. This is no indication, however, that he was late in reaching a conclusion for himself concerning his relation to the kingdom which he was preaching. From the time of his baptism and temptation every manifestation of the inner facts of his life shows unhesitating confidence in the reality of his call and in his understanding of his mission. This is the case whether the fourth gospel or the first three be appealed to for evidence. It is generally felt that the Gospel of John presents its sharpest contrast to the synoptic gospels in respect of the development of Jesus' self-disclosures. A careful consideration of the first three gospels, however, shows that the difference is not in Jesus' thought about himself.

253. The first thing which impressed the people during the ministry in Galilee was Jesus' assumption of authority, whether in teaching or in action (Mark i.27; Matt. vii.28, 29). His method of teaching distinguished him sharply from the scribes, who were constantly appealing to the opinion of the elders to establish the validity of their conclusions. Jesus taught with a simple |I say unto you.| In this, however, he differed not only from the scribes, but also from the prophets, to whom in many ways he bore so strong a likeness. They proclaimed their messages with the sanction of a |Thus saith the Lord;| he did not hesitate to oppose the letter of scripture as well as the tradition of the elders with his unsupported word (Matt. v.38, 39; Mark vii.1-23). His teaching revealed his unhesitating certainty concerning spiritual truth, and although he reverenced deeply the Jewish scriptures, and knew that his work was the fulfilment of their promises, he used them always as one whose superiority to God's earlier messengers was as complete as his reverence for them. He was confident that what they suggested of truth he was able to declare clearly; he used them as a master does his tools.

254. More striking than Jesus' independence in his teaching is the calmness of his self-assertion when he was opposed by pharisaic criticism and hostility. He preferred to teach the truth of the kingdom, working his cures in such a way that men should think about God's goodness rather than their healer's significance. Yet coincidently with this method of his choice he did not hesitate to reply to pharisaic opposition with unqualified self-assertion and exalted personal claim. Even if the conflicts which Mark has gathered together at the opening of his gospel (ii.1 to iii.6) did not all occur as early as he has placed them, the nucleus of the group belongs to the early time. Since the people greatly reverenced his critics, he felt it unnecessary to guard against arousing undue enthusiasm by this frank avowal of his claims. He consequently asserted his authority to forgive sins, his special mission to the sick in soul whom the scribes shunned as defiling, his right to modify the conception of Sabbath observance; even as, later, he warned his critics of their fearful danger if they ascribed his good deeds to diabolical power (Mark iii.28-30), and as, after the collapse of popularity, he rebuked them for making void the word of God by their tradition (Mark vii.13). His attitude to the scribes in Galilee from the beginning discloses as definite Messianic claims as any ascribed by the fourth gospel to this early period.

255. These facts of the independence of Jesus in his teaching and his self-assertion in response to criticism confirm the impression that his answer to John the Baptist (Matt. xi.2-6) gives the key to his method in Galilee. In John's inquiry the question of Jesus' personal relation to the kingdom was definitely asked. The answer, |Blessed is he whosoever shall find none occasion of stumbling in me,| showed plainly that Jesus was in no doubt in the matter, although for the time he still preferred to let his ministry be the means of leading men to form their conclusions concerning him. What he brought into prominence at Caesarea Philippi, therefore, was that which had been the familiar subject of his own thinking from the time of his baptism.

256. In the ministry subsequent to the confession of Peter the self-disclosures of Jesus became more frequent and clear. His predictions of his approaching death were at the time the greatest difficulty to his disciples; when considered in their significance for his own life, however, they prove that his conviction of his Messiahship was as independent of current and inherited ideas as was his teaching concerning the kingdom. When he came to see that death was the inevitable issue of his work, he at once discovered in it a divine necessity; it does not seem to have shaken in the least his certainty that he was the Messiah. Associated with this conception of his death is the conviction which appears in all the later teachings, that in rejecting him his people were pronouncing their own doom. Because she would not accept him as her deliverer, Jerusalem's |house was left unto her desolate| (Luke xiii.35). His sense of his supreme significance appears most clearly in some of the later parables, such as The Marriage of the King's Son (Matt. xxii.1-14) and The Wicked Husbandmen (Matt. xxi.33-44), which definitely connect the condemnation of the chosen people with their rejection of God's Son. Two other sayings in the first three gospels express the personal claim of Jesus in the most exalted form, -- his declaration on the return of the seventy: |All things have been delivered unto me of my Father, and no man knoweth who the Son is save the Father, and who the Father is save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him| (Luke x.22; Matt. xi.27); and his confession of the limits of his own knowledge: |But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father| (Mark xiii.32). The confession of ignorance, by the position given to the Son in the climax which denied that any save the Father had a knowledge of the time of the end, is quite as extraordinary as the claim to sole qualification to reveal the Father.

257. The similarity of these last two sayings to the discourses in the fourth gospel has often been remarked; the likeness is particularly close between them and the claims of Jesus recorded in the fifth chapter of John. It is interesting to note that in the incident which introduces the discourse in that chapter Jesus shows that he preferred, after healing the man at the pool, to avoid the attention of the multitudes, precisely as in Galilee he sought to check too great popular excitement by withdrawing from Capernaum after his first ministry there (Mark i.35-39), and enjoining silence on the leper who had been healed by him (Mark ii.44). When, however, he found himself opposed by the criticism of the Pharisees he spoke with unhesitating self-assertion and exalted personal claim, even as he did in like situations in Galilee. During his earlier ministry in Judea he had not shown this reserve. The cleansing of the temple, although it was no more than any prophet sure of his divine commission would have done, was a bold challenge to the people to consider who he was who ventured thus to criticise the priestly administration of God's house. In his subsequent dealings with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman Jesus manifested a like readiness to draw attention to himself. From the time of the feeding of the multitudes all four of the gospels represent him as asserting his claims, with this difference, however, that in John it is the rule rather than the exception to find sayings similar to the two in which the self-assertion in the other gospels reaches its highest expression. Although the method of Jesus varied at different times and in different localities, yet it is evident that he stood before the people from the first with the consciousness that he had the right to claim their allegiance as no one of the prophets who preceded him would have been bold to do.

258. During the course of his ministry Jesus used of himself, or suffered others to use with reference to him, many of the titles by which his people were accustomed to refer to the Messiah. Thus he was named |the Messiah| (Mark viii.29; xiv.61; John iv.26); |the King of the Jews| (Mark xv.2; John i.49; xviii.33, 36, 37); |the Son of David| (Mark x.47, 48; Matt. xv.22; xxi.9, 15); |the Holy One of God| (John vi.69; compare Mark i.24); |the Prophet| (John vi.14; vii.40). It is evident that none of these titles was common; they represent, rather, the bold venture of more or less intelligent faith on the part of men who were impressed by him. There are two names, however, that are more significant of Jesus' thought about himself, -- |the Son of God| and |the Son of Man.|

259. The latter of these titles is unique in the use Jesus made of it. Excepting Stephen's speech (Acts vii.56), it is found in the New Testament only in the sayings of Jesus, and its precise significance is still a subject of learned debate. The expression is found in the Old Testament as a poetical equivalent for Man, usually with emphasis on human frailty (Ps. viii.4; Num. xxiii.19; Isa. li.12), though sometimes it signifies special dignity (Ps. lxxx.17). Ezekiel was regularly addressed in his visions as Son of Man (Ezek. ii.1 and often; see also Dan. viii.17), probably in contrast with the divine majesty.

260. In one of Daniel's visions (vii.1-14) the world-kingdoms which had oppressed God's people and were to be destroyed were symbolized by beasts that came up out of the sea, -- a winged lion, a bear, a four-headed winged leopard, and a terrible ten-horned beast; in contrast with these the kingdom of the saints of the Most High was represented by |one like unto a son of man,| who came with the clouds of heaven (vii.13, 14). Here the language is obviously poetic, and is used to suggest the unapproachable superiority of the kingdom of heaven to the kingdoms of the world. The expression |one like unto a son of man| is equivalent, therefore, to |one resembling mankind.| The vision in Daniel had great influence over the author of the so-called Similitudes of Enoch (Book of Enoch, chapters xxxvii. to lxxi.). He, however, personified the |one like unto a son of man,| and gave the title |the Son of Man| to the heavenly man who will come at the end of all things, seated on God's throne, to judge the world. This author used also the titles |the Elect One| and |the Righteous One| (or |the Holy One of God|), but |the Son of Man| is the prevalent name for the Messiah in these Similitudes.

261. The facts thus stated do not account for Jesus' use of the expression. Many of his sayings undoubtedly suggest a development of the Daniel vision resembling that in the Similitudes. This does not prove that Jesus or his disciples had read these writings, though it does suggest the possibility that they knew them. It is probable, however, that the apocalypses gave formulated expression to thoughts that were more widely current than those writings ever came to be. The likeness between the language of Jesus and that found in the Similitudes may therefore prove no more than that the Daniel vision was more or less commonly interpreted of a personal Messiah in Jesus' day.

262. Much of the use of the title by Jesus, however, is completely foreign to the ideas suggested by Enoch and Daniel. Besides apocalyptic sayings like those in Enoch (Mark viii.38 and often), the name occurs in predictions of his sufferings and death (Mark viii.31 and often), and in claims to extraordinary if not essentially divine authority (Mark ii.10, 28 and parallels); it is also used sometimes simply as an emphatic |I| (Matt. xi.19 and often). Whatever relation Jesus bore to the Enoch writings, therefore, the name |the Son of Man| as he used it was his own creation.

263. Students of Aramaic have in recent years asserted that it was not customary in the dialect which Jesus spoke to make distinction between |the son of man| and |man,| since the expression commonly used for |man| would be literally translated |son of man.| It is asserted, moreover, that if our gospels be read substituting |man| for |the Son of Man| wherever it appears, it will be found that many supposed Messianic claims become general statements of Jesus' conception of the high prerogatives of man, while in other places the name stands simply as an emphatic substitute for the personal pronoun. Thus, for instance, Jesus is found to assert that authority on earth to forgive sins belongs to man (Mark ii.10), and, toward the end of his course, to have taught simply that he himself must meet with suffering (Mark viii.31), and will come on the clouds to judge the world (Mark viii.38). The proportion of cases in which the general reference is possible is, however, very small; and even if the equivalence of |man| and |son of man| should be established, most of the statements of Jesus in which our gospels use the latter expression exhibit a conception of himself which challenges attention, transcending that which would be tolerated in any other man. The debate concerning the usage in the language spoken by Jesus is not yet closed, however, and Dr. Gustaf Dalman (WJ I.191-197) has recently argued that the equivalence of the two expressions holds only in poetic passages, precisely as it does in Hebrew, and that our gospels represent correctly a distinction observed by Jesus when they report him, for instance, as saying in one sentence, |the Sabbath was made for man| (Mark ii.27), and in the next, |the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.| The antecedent probability is so great that the dialect of Jesus' time would be capable of expressing a distinction found in the Hebrew of the Old Testament and in the Syriac of the second-century version of the New Testament, that Dalman's opinion carries much weight.

264. Many of those who look for a distinct significance in the title |the Son of Man,| find in it a claim by Jesus to be the ideal or typical man, in whom humanity has found its highest expression. It thus stands sharply in contrast with |the Son of God,| which is held to express his claim to divinity. So understood, the titles represent truth early recognized by the church in its thought about its Lord. Yet it must be acknowledged that the conception |the ideal man| is too Hellenic to have been at home in the thought of those to whom Jesus addressed his teaching. If the phrase suggested anything more to his hearers than the human frailty or the human dignity of him who bore it, it probably had a Messianic meaning like that found in the Similitudes of Enoch. A hint of this understanding of the name appears in the perplexed question reported in John (xii.34): |We have heard out of the law that the Messiah abideth forever; and how sayest thou, The Son of Man must be lifted up? who is this Son of Man?| Here the difficulty arose because the people identified the Son of Man with the Messiah, yet could not conceive how such a Messiah could die. In fact, if the conception of the Son of Man which is found in Enoch had obtained any general currency among the people, either from that book or independently of it, it was so foreign to the earthly condition and manner of life of the Galilean prophet, that it would not have occurred to his hearers to treat his use of the title as a Messianic claim until after that claim had been published in some other and more definite form. Their Son of Man was to come with the clouds of heaven, seated on God's throne, to execute judgment on all sinners and apostates; the Nazarene fulfilled none of these conditions. The name, as used by Jesus, was probably always an enigma to the people, at least until he openly declared its Messianic significance in his reply to the high-priest's question at his trial (Mark xiv.62), and gave the council the ground it desired for a charge of blasphemy against him.

265. What did this title signify to Jesus? His use of it alone can furnish answer, and in this the variety is so great that it causes perplexity. |The Son of Man came eating and drinking| is his description of his own life in contrast with John the Baptist (Matt. xi.18, 19). |The Son of Man hath not where to lay his head| was his reply to one over-zealous follower (Matt. viii.20). Unseemly rivalry among his disciples was rebuked by the reminder that |even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister| (Mark x.42-45). When it became needful to prepare the disciples for his approaching death he taught them that |the Son of Man must suffer many things ... and be killed, and after three days rise again| (Mark viii.31). On the other hand, the paralytic's cure was made to demonstrate that |the Son of Man hath authority upon the earth to forgive sins| (Mark ii.10). Similarly it is the Son of Man who after his exaltation shall come |in the glory of his Father with the holy angels| (Mark viii.38). In these typical cases the title expresses Jesus' consciousness of heavenly authority as well as self-sacrificing ministry, of coming exaltation as well as present lowliness; and the suffering and death which were the common lot of other sons of men were appointed for this Son of Man by a divine necessity. The name is, therefore, more than a substitute for the personal pronoun; it expresses Jesus' consciousness of a mission that set him apart from the rest of men.

266. We do not know how Jesus came to adopt this title. Its association with the predictions of his coming glory shows that he knew that in him the Daniel vision was to have fulfilment. The predictions of suffering and death, however, are completely foreign to that apocalyptic conception, being akin rather, as Professor Charles has suggested, to the prophecies of the suffering servant in the Book of Isaiah (Book of Enoch, p.314-317). Moreover, it may not be fanciful to find in his claims to heavenly authority a hint of the thought of the eighth Psalm, |Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet| (see Dalman WJ I.218). Although the name expresses a consciousness of dignity, vicarious ministry, and authority, similar to thoughts found in Daniel, Isaiah, and the Psalms, it was not deduced from these scriptures by any synthesis of diverse ideas. It rather indicates that Jesus in his own nature realized a synthesis which no amount of study of scripture would ever have suggested. He drew his conception of himself from his own self-knowledge, not from his Messianic meditations. On his lips, then, |the Son of Man| indicates that he knew himself to be the Man whom God had chosen to be Lord over all (compare Dalman as above). The lowly estate which contradicted the Daniel vision prevented Jesus' hearers from recognizing in the title a Messianic claim; for him, however, it was the expression of the very heart of his Messianic consciousness.

267. If Jesus gave expression to his official consciousness when he used the name |the Son of Man,| the title |the Son of God| may be said to express his more personal thought about himself. It is necessary to distinguish between the meaning of this title to the contemporaries of Jesus and his own conception of it. In the popular thought |the Son of God| was the designation of that man whom God would at length raise up and crown with dignity and power for the deliverance of his people. This meaning followed from the Messianic interpretation of the second Psalm, in which the theocratic king is called God's son (Ps. ii.7). In another psalm, which Jesus himself quotes (John x.34), magistrates and judges are called |sons of the Most High| (lxxxii.6). Another Old Testament use casts light on this, -- the designation of Israel as God's son, his firstborn (Ex. iv.22; Hos. i.10), with which may be compared a remarkable expression in the so-called Psalms of Solomon (xviii.4), |Thy chastisement was upon us [that is, Israel] as upon a son, firstborn, only begotten.| In all these passages that which constitutes a man the son of God is God's choice of him for a special work, while Israel collectively bears the title to suggest God's fatherly love for the people he had taken for his own. The Messianic title, therefore, described not a metaphysical, but an official or ethical, relation to God. It is certainly in this sense that the high-priest asked Jesus |Art thou the Messiah the son of the Blessed?| (Mark xiv.61), and that the crowd about the cross flung their taunts at him (Matt, xxvii.43), and the demoniacs proclaimed their knowledge of him (Mark iii.11; v.7). The name must be interpreted in this sense also in the confession of Nathanael (John i.49); moreover, it was not the coupling of the names |Messiah| and |son of the living God| in Peter's confession that gave it its great significance for Jesus. In all of these cases there is no evidence that there has been any advance over the theocratic significance which made the title |the Son of God| fitting for the man chosen by God for the fulfilment of his promises.

268. The case is different with the name by which Jesus was called at his baptism (Mark i.11). The difference here, however, arises not from anything in the name as used on this occasion, but from that in Jesus which acknowledged and accepted the title. With Jesus the consciousness that God was his Father preceded the knowledge that as |his Son| he was to undertake the work of the Messiah. The force of the call at the baptism is found in the response which his own soul gave to the word |Thou art my Son.| The nature of that response is seen in his habitual reference to God as in a peculiar sense his Father. The name |Father| for God was used by him in all his teaching, and there is no evidence that he or any of his hearers regarded it as a novelty. Psalm ciii.13 and Isaiah lxiii.16 indicate that the conception was natural to Jewish thinking. The unique feature in Jesus' usage is his careful distinction between the general references to |your Father| and his constant personal allusions to |my Father.| Witness the reply to his mother in the temple (Luke ii.49); his word to Peter, |Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven| (Matt. xvi.17), his solemn warning, |Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven| (Matt. vii.21), and the promise, |Every one who shall confess me before men ... him will I also confess before my Father| (Matt. x.32). In the fourth gospel the same intimate reference is common: so, for example, the temple is |my Father's house| (ii.16), the Sabbath cure is defended because |my Father worketh even until now| (v.17), the cures are done |in My Father's name| (x.25), |I am the vine, and my Father is the husbandman| (xv.1). This mode of expression discloses a consciousness of unique filial relation to God which is independent of, even as it was antecedent to, the consciousness of official relation.

269. The full name |the Son of God| was seldom applied by Jesus to himself, the only recorded instances being found in the fourth gospel (v.25; ix.35?; x.36; xi.4). He frequently acquiesced in the use of the title by others in addressing him (for example, John i.49; Matt. xvi.16; xxvi.63f.; Mark xiv.61f.; Luke xxii.70); but for himself he preferred the simpler phrase |the Son.| This mode of expression occurs often in John, and is found also in the two passages, already noticed, in which the other gospels give clearest expression to the extraordinary self-assertion of Jesus (Matt. xi.27; Luke x.22; and Mark xiii.32). In the first of them his claim to be the only one who can adequately reveal God is founded on the consciousness that the relation between himself and God is so intimate that God alone adequately knows him, whom men were so ready to set at nought, and he alone knows God. This relation, in which he and God stand together in contrast with all other men, is expressed by the unqualified names, |the Father| and |the Son.| In the second passage Jesus confessed the limitation of his knowledge, but again in such a way as to set himself and God in contrast not only with men, but also with |the angels in heaven.| Such assertions as these indicate that he who, knowing his full humanity, chose the title |the Son of Man| to express his consciousness that he had been appointed by God to be the Messiah, was yet aware in his inner heart that his relation to God was even closer than that in which he stood to men.

270. There is no word in John which goes beyond the two self-declarations of Jesus which crown the record of the other evangelists, yet in the fourth gospel the same claim to unique relation to God is more frequently and frankly avowed. The most unqualified assertion of intimacy -- |I and the Father are one| (x.30) -- states what is clearly implied throughout the gospel (so xiv.6-11; xvi.25; and particularly xvii.21, |that they may be one, even as we are one|). It has often been said, and truly, that this claim to unity with the Father, taken by itself, signifies no more than perfect spiritual and ethical harmony with God. Yet when the words are considered in their connection, and more particularly when the two supreme self-declarations in the synoptic gospels are associated with them, they express a sense of relation to God so utterly unique, so strongly contrasting the Father and the Son with all others, that we cannot conceive of any other man, even the saintliest, taking like words upon his lips.

271. These titles in which Jesus gave expression to his official and his personal consciousness present clearly the problem which he offers to human thought. Jesus stands before us in the gospels as a man aware of completest kinship with his brethren, yet conscious at the same time of standing nearer to God than he does to men.

272. It is highly significant that the gospel which records most fully the claim of Jesus to be more closely related to God than he was to men, most fully records also his definite acknowledgment of dependence on his Father, and of that Father's supremacy over him and all others. |The Son can do nothing of himself| (John v.19), |I speak not from myself| (xiv.10), |my Father is greater than all| (x.29), |the Father is greater than I| (xiv.28), -- these confessions join with the common reference to God as |him that sent me| (v.30 and often) in giving voice to his own spirit of reverence. It appears as clearly in his habitual submission to his Father's will, -- |My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to accomplish his work| (John iv.34); |I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me| (John vi.38). This submission reached its fulness in the prayer of Gethsemane, recorded in the earlier gospels, -- |Father, all things are possible unto thee; remove this cup from me: howbeit not what I will, but what thou wilt| (Mark xiv.36). Jesus was a man of prayer; not only in Gethsemane, but also throughout his ministry he habitually sought his Father in that communion in which the soul of man finds its light and strength for life's duty. When he was baptized (Luke iii.21), after the first flush of success in Capernaum (Mark i.35), before choosing the twelve (Luke vi.12), before the question at Caesarea Philippi (Luke ix.18), at the transfiguration (Luke ix.29), on the cross (Luke xxiii.46), -- at all the crises of his life he turned to God in prayer. Moreover, prayer was his habit, for it was after a night of prayer which has no connection with any crisis reported for us (Luke xi.1), that he taught his disciples the Lord's prayer in response to their requests. The prayer beside the grave of Lazarus (John xi.41, 42) suggests that his miracles were often, if not always (compare Mark ix.29), preceded by definite prayer to God. His habit of prayer was the natural expression of his trust in God. From the resistance to the temptations in the wilderness to the last cry, |Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,| his life is an example of childlike faith in God.

273. Yet throughout his life of obedience and trust Jesus never gave one indication that he felt the need of penitence when he came before God. He perceived as no one else has ever done the searching inwardness of God's law, and demanded of men that they tolerate no lower ambition than to be like God, yet he never breathed a sigh of conscious failure, or gave sign that he blushed when the eternal light shone into his own soul. He was baptized, but without confession of sin. He challenged his enemies to convict him of sin (John viii.46). Such a challenge might have rested on a man's certainty that his critics did not know his inner life; but hypocrisy has no place in the character of Jesus. The reply to the rich young ruler, |Why callest thou me good?| (Mark x.18), even if it was a confession that freedom from past sin was still far less than that absolute goodness that God alone possesses, simply sets in stronger light his silence concerning personal failure, and his omission in all his praying to seek forgiveness. It is probable, however, that that reply deals not with the |good| as the |ethically perfect,| but as the |supremely beneficent,| so that Jesus simply reminded the seeker after life that God alone is the one to be approached as the Gracious and Merciful One by sinful men (see Dalman WJ I.277). Thus the reply becomes a fresh expression of the reverence of Jesus, and still further emphasizes his failure to confess his sinfulness.

274. In all this thought about himself Jesus stands before us as a man, conscious of his close kinship with his fellows. Like them he hungered and thirsted and grew weary, like them he longed for friendship and for sympathy, like them he trusted God and prayed to God and learned still to trust when his request was denied. He stands before us also as a man conscious of being anointed by God for the great work which all the prophets had foretold, and of being fully equipped with authority and power and the promise of unapproachable dignity. Of deep religious spirit and great reverence for the scriptures of his people, he yet used these scriptures as a master does his tools, to serve his work rather than to instruct him in it. He drew his knowledge from within and from above, and proclaimed his own fulfilment of the scriptures when he filled them with new meaning. A man always devout, always at prayer, he is never seen, like Isaiah, prostrate before the Most High, crying, |I am undone| (Isa. vi.5). In his moments of greatest seriousness and most manifest communion with heaven he looked to God as his nearest of kin, and felt himself a stranger on the earth fulfilling his Father's will. He felt heaven to be his home not simply by God's gracious promise, but by the right of previous possession. His kinship with men was a condescension, his natural fellowship was with God.

275. The miracles with which the gospels have filled the record of Jesus' life have caused perplexity to many, and they belong with other mysterious things recorded for us in the story of the past or occurring under the incredulous observation of our scientific generation. They all pale, however, before the unaccountable exception presented to universal human experience by this Man of Nazareth. It confronts us when we think of the unschooled Jew who, in his thought of God, rose not only above all of his generation, but higher than all who had gone before him, or have come after, one who built on the foundation of the past a superstructure of religion new, and simple, and clearly heavenly. It confronts us when we think of this Man who believed that it was given to him to establish the kingdom that should fill the whole earth, and who had the boldness and the faith to ignore the opposition of all the world's wisdom and of all its enthroned power, and to fulfil his task as the woman does who hides her leaven in the meal, content to wait for years, or millenniums, until his truth shall conquer in the realization of God's will on earth even as it is done in heaven. It confronts us when we consider that the Man who has shown his brethren what obedience means, who has taught them to pray, who has been for all these centuries the Way, the Truth, the Life, by whom they come to God, habitually claimed without shadow of abashment or slightest hint of conscious presumption, a nature, a relation to God, a freedom from sin, that other men according to the measure of their godliness would shun as blasphemy. If the personal claim was true, and not the blind pretence of vanity, the Jesus of the gospels is the exception to the uniform fact of human nature, but he is no longer unaccountable; and if his claim was true, his knowledge of the absolute religion, and his choice of the irresistible propaganda, are no less extraordinary, but they are not unaccountable. Paul, whose life was transformed and his thinking revolutionized by his meeting with the risen Jesus, thought on these things and believed that |the name which, is above every name| was his by right of nature as well as by the reward of obedience (Phil. ii.5-11). John, who leaned on Jesus' breast during his earthly life, and who meditated on the meaning of that life through a ministry of many decades, came to believe that he whom he had seen with his eyes, heard with his ears, handled with his hands, was, indeed, |the Word made flesh| (John i.14), through whom the very God revealed his love to men. Through all the perplexities of doubt, amidst all the obscurings of irrelevant speculations, the hearts of men to-day turn to this Jesus of Nazareth as their supreme revelation of God, and find in him |the Master of their thinking and the Lord of their lives.|

|Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God.|

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