Sivut kuvina



impression were he to assume the title of Messiah. He studiously avoided giving the least countenance to the idea that he was a secular Prince. He perceived how powerfully his miracles had wrought on the general mind, producing the suspicion that he was the Christ. So great was the excitement that he was compelled once and again to withdraw himself from public notice -to retire to the wilderness. He saw how false were the popular notions of the Messiah. The people, taking hastily up the impression that he was that personage, would have insisted upon making a king of him, or upon his refusal, would have torn him to pieces in the fury of their disappointment. Difficult and perilous was the path that lay before him. While he could not avoid producing excitement, it was necessary that it should not rise beyond a certain point. A single word from him declaratory of his office as the Christ, would have been understood as a signal for the unfurling of banners, and the mustering of armed hosts. He aimed therefore to correct and enlarge the popular views of the coming kingdom. This was the task to which he gave himself. Avoiding the assumption of a title or name which would have inevitably produced an erroneous impression, he went about, claiming, not in words but in fact, all the authority of the Anointed of Heaven, speaking, acting, bearing himself on all occasions, and in all respects, even in this very avoidance of the title of Messiah, in a manner conformable to the true idea of a Heaven-sent, furnishing at every step decisive credentials to the truth of his claims.

The only title which he took was, "the Son of Man," an appellation of a general character, by no means identical with "the Christ." It was a favourite title of the ancient prophets, of Ezekiel particularly. Most natural was it for those, who, like the old prophets,

[blocks in formation]

cherished an overpowering sense of Divine Majesty, and contemplated themselves not with reference to human standards but in their relation as creatures before their Creator, to eschew all artificial terms of designation, all conventional titles. They felt themselves to be men, only men, frail creatures of the dust, children of mortality. And this they felt most deeply. God recognised and addressed them, so they felt, simply as men; and the word of the Lord came to the prophet, to whose awe-struck vision, only God and his own mortality were present, saying "Son of Man!" But not to dwell on the origin and significance of this phrase, I remark that the Hebrews used the term indicative of the filial relation in a peculiar manner. The phrases," sons of men," and "children of men," abound in the Scriptures, and are evidently synonymous with "men," simply, although somewhat more emphatic.

The title of Son of Man was adopted by Jesus, partly as expressive of a prophetic character, and partly as a mere term of designation. He was the object of particular and universal attention, the topic of conversation throughout the whole country. The rumour of his miracles ran through the land, kindling the minds of all men. In public and private, wherever men met, there was a talking about the strange Man who had appeared in Galilee, the Man, who had visited such and such places, who had healed one or another of an inveterate disease, or given sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, and had uttered wonderful words. So possessed were all men's minds with the thought of him, so exclusively was he the one only man whom all were thinking and talking of, that it became needless for him to characterise himself as any other than merely "the Man," or "Son of Man." "Have you seen the man?" "Have you heard what the man has just been



doing?" Questions of this kind, we may suppose, were continually put when friends and acquaintances met. And it was unnecessary, I repeat, that he should be designated by any title more definite than "the Man," or "the Son of Man," because every one's thought, engrossed with the idea of him, supplied the rest. When the Man was spoken of, who else could be meant, but the man upon whose appearance and works all were musing.



A somewhat similar use of language prevails in some places with reference to the Supreme, who is designated by the simple pronoun 'He.' But it is not any local trait. It is a natural mode of speaking. Upon the occurrence of any sudden calamity, a mind of a devout cast, fully and habitually possessed with the thought of God, instead of saying, God's will be done!' might naturally, and with more emphasis, exclaim, ' His will be done!' the expression implying that there is no being thought of, or to be thought of, but One. So with like pertinence the title of Son of Man,' or its synonyme, 'the Man,' was applied by Jesus to himself. The first occasion, upon which Matthew records him to have used it, was when one offered to follow him wherever he might go. Jesus replied. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." As if he had said, 'You are sadly deceived if you expect to obtain any thing by following me. The meanest creatures are provided for, but the man whom all are talking of and all are glorifying, the man upon whom universal attention is fixed, knows not where he shall rest his head.' At another time, when alone with his disciples, he inquired, "Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" In other words, 'Whom do men


say that I, the Man, am, the Man that all are talking about, that am attended by such crowds?"

The title, thus understood partly as indicative of a prophetical office and partly as a mere term of designation, was applied also by Jesus to the Messiah, but it did not necessarily amount to an identification of himself with that personage. Jesus was the man about whom universal curiosity was excited. The Messiah was the man who was to appear. The former was the man present, the latter the man looked for. Jesus did not deny the identity of the two, nor did he directly assert it. He left it to his listeners to draw the true conclusion, assisting them as much as possible by describing as definitely as words could do it, the true character and glory of the Christ, and by manifesting that character and glory in his own life. When he sent forth his disciples to announce the coming of the heavenly kingdom, he said unto them, "Verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of man be come," i. e., before you have fulfilled the commission upon which I send you, the Son of Man, the man whom all are waiting for, the Messiah, will appear. In fact, had the disciples but only known it, the Messiah had already come, the great revolution, signified by the 'coming,' had already commenced. But although they believed Jesus to be that man who was looked for, still they did not consider him as having come, the grand coming had not, to their minds, yet taken place. Again on another occasion, he said, "Nevertheless when the Son of Man cometh, will he find faith on the earth?" i. e. When the Man cometh whom the whole nation is so anxiously waiting for, with the hope of whose appearance all hearts burn, will he find men prepared to believe in




him? Let me repeat this statement. It is important to be kept in mind. Jesus speaks of himself and he speaks of the Messiah as 'the Son of Man;' but with a difference. He was the man who commanded present attention. The Christ was the man whom all were expecting, the man that was to come. Jesus knew that the two were one and the same. But he did not explicitly declare himself as the Christ, except on special occasions, because he could not avoid seeing, that, if the people were unmoved by that most powerful evidence which all that he said and did gave to his identity with Christ, the mere verbal declaration of himself as the anointed One would produce error and mischief and nothing else. If they were unable to feel the divine power of his works, it was obviously because their minds were corrupted by that vision of worldly magnificence and military glory of which the name of the Christ was the symbol; and the assumption of this title would only have inflamed, it never could have chastened, their earthly imaginations.

These observations, I cannot help thinking, lead to the elucidation of a portion of the New Testament, involved in much obscurity. Expositors and theologians have written much about the first and second coming of Christ. The Christian world almost universally look for a personal re-appearance of the Man of Nazareth, and there appears to be much in the language of the Scriptures to justify this expectation. But let us go back to the age of Jesus and endeavour to see the case as it stood.

It was the divine peculiarity of the religion of Moses that it recognised the progressive nature of man, by pointing steadily into the future. While the other

« EdellinenJatka »