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come from that despised quarter, (John i. 47, vii. 41,) Matt. xxi. 10, 11.
The king of glory's first visit was to his temple, fulfilling prophecy, Psalm xxiv. 7-10. There he wrought his signal and appropriate miracles of curing the blind and the lame, which excited the admiration even of the children, who joined in the general acclamation of Hosanna to the Son of David; thus hailing him as the MESSIAH. And when the chief priests, blind to such evidence, but not daring to stop them for fear of the multitude, insinuated that JESUS ought to do so, he approved their action in the language of prophecy, "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou perfected praise," (Psalm viii. 2,) Matt. xxi. 14-16.
And now some Greeks, or " Jews of the dispersion," (John vii. 35,) who attended the feast, expressed to Philip of Bethsaida, one of his disciples, a wish to see and hear JESUS, which He probably granted, from his gracious invitation, (Matt. xi. 28,) John xii. 20-22.
He then obscurely signified to the assembled multitude his approaching sufferings and ensuing glory, under the imagery of a grain of corn, sown in the ground, which dies before it vegetates, and produces much fruit. And he warned his disciples likewise of the sufferings they were to expect in his service, and their future reward in heaven. And struck with a lively sense of his approaching death, he said, "Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? [Shall I say] FATHER save me from this hour! [By no means;] but [rather] for this cause came I unto this hour," John xii. 23-27.
And now, for the last confirmation of his disciples' faith, he said openly, “ FATHER glorify thy name;" then there came a voice from heaven, in the hearing of the multitude, saying, "I have glorified it already, and will glorify it again." Some present, probably the Greeks, who knew not the language, said it thundered, but others, the Jews perhaps, who knew it, that an angel had spoken to him. John xii. 28-30.
After this last solemn attestation from heaven, which was verified at his resurrection, our Lord figuratively intimated the conversion of the whole world, in consequence of his crucifixion. "And I, when I shall be lifted up from the earth, [on the cross,] will draw all men to myself."
Perplexed at this doctrine of a suffering MESSIAH, the
multitude answered, "We have heard out of the law, that CHRIST endureth for ever." And so they might have collected from 2 Sam. vii. 13; Psalm lxxxix. 30-37, cx. 4; Isa. ix. 6, 7; Ezek. xxxvii. 25; Dan. ii. 44, vii. 14-27. How then sayest thou, [as before, John viii, 28.] that THE SON OF MAN must be lifted up? Who is the Son of Man? or what sort of a suffering, mortal Messiah, do you profess yourself? John xii. 32—34. This indeed was a real difficulty which they were not prepared to conceive or relish at the present. He therefore declined answering it, and only exhorted them in general, to believe in the light, during the short time of his continuance among them, that they might become children of light, or heirs of his kingdom. With this saying, He disappeared from them, leaving them greatly disappointed at his description of THE SON OF MAN, or MESSIAH, and his refusal to accept the temporal dominion, which they expected, and offered to him; and therefore, in a fit temper of mind to be worked upon to his prejudice, as an impostor, by his inveterate and insidious foes, the chief priests and rulers of the Jews, John xii. 35, 36.
THE BARREN FIG-TREE CURSED.
Early on Tuesday morning, JESUS, going from Bethany, where he lodged, to Jerusalem, according to tradition, by the lower road, saw, at a distance, a fig-tree in leaf, now in the spring season, (Matt. xxiv. 32,) and being hungry, he went to it, if perhaps, he might find some fruit thereon, (but when he came to it he found nothing but leaves,) for it was not fig season. And he answered, and said unto it, "Let none eat fruit of thee henceforth for ever! And his disciples heard," Matt. xxi. 18; Mark xi. 12-14.
The Palestine fig-tree regularly bears two crops in the year, and occasionally a third: the boccore, or early fig, (noticed by Isaiah, xxviii. 4.) which comes to perfection in the middle or end of June; then the kermez, or summer fig, begins to be formed, though it rarely ripens before August. About the beginning of autumn, the same tree not seldom throws out a third crop, of a longer shape and darker complexion than the kermez, called the winter fig, which hangs upon the tree after the leaves are shed, and ripens, provided the winter proves mild; and is gathered, as a delicious morsel, in spring. This natural history of the fig-tree in Judea, taken from the accurate Shaw's Travels,
p. 370, happily removes the ambiguity of the foregoing passage in our English Bible, by the help of the parenthesis, judiciously introduced by Archbishop Newcome. JESUS being hungry, and seeing leaves thereon, which shewed that the tree was alive, though it was not a regular fig season, either for early or summer figs, yet went to it, in a reasonable expectation of finding, perhaps, some winter fruit thereon; but when he came he was disappointed, for he found nothing thereon but leaves. Whereupon he doomed it to perpetual barrenness, in the hearing of the disciples. This curse instantly took place; for when they passed by again, on Wednesday morning, they saw the fig-tree, not only stript of its leaves," but withered from the roots." And Peter remarked it, Mark xi. 20, 21.
This was the awful sequel, and significant interpretation of the foregoing parable of the barren fig-tree, Luke xiii. 6—9. The fig-tree represented the Jewish nation, which was barren, or unproductive of good works, during the foregoing dispensations of the Law and the Prophets, and the Baptist, expressed, perhaps, by "the three years;" and when sentenced to be cut down, as cumbering the ground, was spared, on the intercession of the Gardener, CHRIST, for a further season of trial and respite, during his own and his Apostles' ministry; but when they continued irreclaimable, and failed of producing even the last crop, after his resurrection, and during the ministry of his Apostles, to the whole world, beginning with them; then the sentence, which had been suspended, was carried into execution by those ministers of divine vengeance, the Romans.
THE TEMPLE PURGED AGAIN.
This second significant act of authority, as the Reformer of their religious worship, was accompanied by a severer rebuke than the first, and in the language of prophecy; it is written, "MY HOUSE shall be called the house of prayer,” (Isa. lvi. 7,) "But ye have made it a den of thieves," (Jer. vii. 11,) Matt. xxi. 13; Luke xix. 46.
PHARISEES AND HERODIANS SILENCED.
This dignified and just censure, delivered in public, joined to our Lord's open declaration of the Gospel, or glad tidings of his
ετωσιον άχθος αρούρης, a useless burthen of the ground." Homer.
coming, and his teaching the people, without reserve, that he was "the light of the world," and that he came at present, not to judge the world, but to save the world, [by the sacrifice of himself,] Luke xx. 1: John xii. 44-50, so exasperated the chief priests, Scribes, and elders of the Sanhedrim, that they sent a deputation of Pharisees and Herodians, to entangle him in his talk; who, though at variance between themselves, cordially conspired to work his destruction, the former with the Jewish people, the latter with the Romans. Accosting him with a hypocritical semblance of respect and deference to his opinion, as a firm and undaunted teacher of the law, they proposed, as a case of conscience, at that time much litigated between the different parties, whether it was lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not? But our Lord completely baffled the malignant proposers of this dangerous dilemma, affecting his reputation, or his life, if he either authorized or denied the payment of the Roman tribute, by taking advantage of their own concession, that "the denarius bore the emperor's image and superscription," and also of their own tradition, that wherever any king's coin was current it was a proof of that country's subjection to his government; for he significantly warned these turbulent and seditious demagogues, the Pharisees, "to render unto Cæsar the dues of Casar," which they resisted; and these licentious and irreligious courtiers, the Herodians, " to render unto GOD the dues of GOD," which they neglected; thus publicly reproving both, but obliquely, in a way that they could not take any hold of. "And they marvelled at his answer, and were silent, and departed,” Matt. xxii. 15-22; Mark xii. 13-17; Luke xx. 20—26.
The same day he was encountered also by the atheistical Sadducees, who denied a resurrection. They attempted, in mockery of the resurrection, to puzzle him with a common-place objection, found in the old Jewish writers, of a woman, married successively to seven husbands, who were brothers, in default of issue by the preceding, according to the law of Moses, Deut. xxv. 5, enquiring whose wife of the seven she should be reckoned at the resurrection? But our Lord reproved their ignorance on a double account:-"Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of GOD." Their first error consisted in denying the existence of the soul after death, though it was clearly implied
in the books of Moses, which they held to be canonical; when God declared, "I am THE GOD of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," not I was the GOD, &c. intimating that they were still living, and that He was still their God, in their separate state of existence, in Hades; and their second, in their sensual and carnal notions of a resurrection; for that in the regeneration, the just shall neither marry nor be given in marriage, as males and females, in this life; but shall be immortal, like angels of Heaven, when they become children of the resurrection, by the power of God. Thus were the Sadducees also silenced, and the multitude, astonished at the clearness and cogency of his doctrine, Matt. xxii. 23-33; Mark xii. 18-24; Luke xx. 27-38.
Hearing the discomfiture of their rivals, the Sadducees, the Pharisees assembled together, and perhaps, not insidiously, but as a further trial of his skill, proposed to him a question that was much litigated at that time among themselves, which was the great commandment of the law? Some of their doctors held it to be the law of sacrifices; others the law of circumcision, or of the sabbath, or of meats and purifications, peculiar to the Jews. But JESUS decided in favour of the LOVE OF God, as the great commandment of the law, and the second, the love of our neighbour, as like it in the principle, and derived therefrom; that "on these depended all the law and the prophets," or their whole religious and moral code. (See Vol. II. p. 233-237.)
Struck with the profound wisdom of this answer, the proposer of the question, who seems to have been a Karaite, commended JESUS, and agreed with him, that these were indeed preferable to any sacrifices, or external ordinances whatsoever. And our Lord, in return, commended him, as being not far from the kingdom of Heaven, or almost a Christian, Matt. xxii. 34-40; Mark xii. 28-34.
And now, JESUs, in his turn, proposed a difficulty to the assembled Pharisees, to try their knowledge of the law; why the inspired David, Psalm cx. 1, called THE MESSIAH" his Lord," whom they themselves acknowledged to be his son? This they were unable to solve *; and from that day forth none
Yet the Son of Sirach, if they had understood, furnished them with the true solution, in the divine as well as human nature of CHRIST, from David's second Psalm. "I called upon THE Lord, the FATHER OF MY LORD, not to leave me in the day of my trouble," &c. Ecclus. li. 13.