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dom of God, and are for that reason greater than even John himself. These words are the expression of a mighty enthusi
With more of calm, but with no less certainty and joy, Jesus praises the beginning of the kingdom here and now in certain parables.
In the double parable of the mustard seed and of the leaven, Jesus contrasts the small beginning with the mighty end. So it is with the kingdom of God. It begins small and unnoticeable—so small that the great and the wise of this earth pay it no attention whatever. But its end brings about the transformation of the world. And so it is that all the great future is already contained in the small beginning. As we read these parables we must picture to ourselves Jesus going about teaching and ministering in that little corner of Galilee, and then try and imagine how this obscure activity is to lead up to the great world-catastrophe.
In the next parable, that of the seed growing of itself, two thoughts struggle for the mastery. In the first place that expressed by the words of itself, the unshaken confidence in the necessary progress of God's cause, independent of all human activity; on the other hand, the steps in the development, the sure insight embracing the whole process of evolution by slow and gradual laws. Of the two the first thought is to be ascribed to Jesus with greater probability. There is no mention in this connection of miracles. The parables breathe an atmosphere of joy, courage, and confident resignation.
The modern mind is only too apt to read its own thoughts of evolution, immanence, and the universal
character of the divine and the good, into these words. Jesus appears
to have placed everything that is supernatural on one side. But that is just appearance. Under all circumstances Jesus imagined the kingdom of God to Himself as something supernatural. It always brings along with it the world of miracles to which belong the judgment, the new earth, the resurrection of the dead, and the vision of God. And that is just why Jesus and His disciples recognize the beginning of the kingdom in the miraculous powers that issue from Him. The only thing that is new in Jesus' point of view is that He regarded His own work not as preparation but as beginning (after all, the difference between the two is very slight), and recognized the dawn of the new age in His deeds. Here we stand once more in presence of what we have called the enthusiasm of Jesus. There was a time in the life of Jesus when hope swelled His breast in a quite unusual manner, when the people seemed to be coming over to Him, when all the devils yielded to His miraculous powers, when heaven descended upon earth. “I beheld Satan fall from heaven like lightning,” cried Jesus at that time. “The harvest is great, but the labourers are few.” “Blessed are your eyes to behold what ye behold;—.that which prophets and kings have sought in vain to behold.” At that time Jesus still felt Himself to be in harmony with all the good influences at work amongst His people. Patriotism and religion were one, and hope ran into vision. That was the happiest period in His life. It was then that He uttered the words about the kingdom of God being present here and now.
But the question is whether He retained this
enthusiastic belief until the end. That period of jubilant hope was followed by a season of deep disenchantment brought about by the recognition of the fact that He and the people would not agree together in the long run. If the unclean spirit that has been driven forth can return to the house from which he has been driven, taking unto himself seven other spirits, then the last state has become worse than the first. In the end the great miracles only serve unto the towns in which they have been performed for a greater condemnation; that surely sounds a great deal sterner than the answer to the Baptist. Finally, Jesus foresaw destruction for His people and suffering and death for Himself. But even in the midst of this painful experience He did not surrender the certainty of His hopes. At the Last Supper, just before His death, He looked forward to the meeting once more in the kingdom of God, when He should drink anew of the fruit of the vine with His disciples. He bequeathed to His disciples the daily and hourly expectation of the coming of the kingdom: they were to be prepared every moment.
The present generation should not pass away till all be fulfilled. They that have seen the works of Jesus shall likewise see the accomplishment thereof. This and that particular disciple—the later tradition substituted a vague ' certain '—shall not taste of death until they behold the kingdom.
While Jesus points so decisively towards the future, the thought of the present commencement of the kingdom appears to have receded for Him into the background, but He never expressly abandoned it; and so the early Church, too, clung fast to it in spite of the Master's death. But the
emphasis is laid on the future. Just as in the parables before mentioned, our looks were forcibly directed
from the small beginning to the great end.
And so Jesus Himself made of Christianity the religion of hope. All His work breathes a spirit of expectation, of longing for the great invisible, for perfection. The goal of religion has not yet been reached. It cannot, it may not, be in our possession. During the whole period of His work on earth, Jesus never wearied of directing the gaze of His people forwards and upwards, and of balancing the blessedness of the future against all the suffering of the present. He did that in the Beatitudes no less than in the parable of poor Lazarus. It was only to the self-satisfied and contented, to the worldlings, that He had nothing to offer. We should picture Him entering into rich man's house and poor man's cottage with the greeting of peace, and then inviting
, His listeners in the simplest, most childlike strain to the joys of the life eternal. If Paul in a later age preaches the religion of longing in words of enthralling eloquence, he is merely continuing in his own language the Beatitudes of Jesus. This longing was the best element even in the Jewish religion, but here the Jewish nationalism—the Church—was in its way. Jesus had to remove the impediment.
3. The Jews believed that the kingdom was for Israel, and that Israel should be the ruling people in the kingdom. It is evident that Jesus shared this belief at first. Not only do isolated sayings of His show this clearly, but above all the fact that He purposely confined His message to His own people.
Jesus seeks out the publicans and sinners for this very reason, because they, too, are the children of Abraham. And therefore His gospel is one of gladness, because it promises His people in the first instance joy and happiness. But in course of time, the message of judgment takes the place of the message of gladness, and the kingdom of God is emptied of all its national connotation.
From the very first the kingdom and the judgment were for Jesus inseparable. By the side of the king
. dom was Gehenna, by the side of the invitation the threat. So the Sermon on the Mount rightly reproduces the thoughts of Jesus. The thought that every Jew as such had a right to the kingdom never entered into Jesus' mind. Yet at first the promise was throughout of a glad and enthusiastic character. But soon one disappointment follows another, and thus the Galilean ministry comes to an end. It is to disciples full of enthusiasm indeed, but not of changed life, that the word is uttered as to the mere saying of Lord, Lord.' To them also refer the parables of the tares and of the drag-net in their original form. Jesus cries woe upon the towns of Bethsaida and Chorazin and Capernaum, because all the miracles have been of no avail. The whole people He compares now to children at play in the market place, whom no one can satisfy, neither John nor Jesus; and now to the unclean and relapsed spirit, whose last state is worse than the first. The Jews cannot and will not understand the signs of the time: they live carelessly for the day; they eat and they drink; they marry and are given in marriage; they buy and they sell—that is their life, and nothing but