prophet Amos foretold a time when there should be a famine
of hearing the words of the law of the Lord. That time came
at the end of the ministry of Malachi. For over four hundred
years no prophet arose in Israel like those who had been their
teachers for so long. There were prophets of a kind, and there
were patriots and priests who struggled hard to keep the nation
right, but there were none who have a part in this Story,
until once more the voice of a prophet was heard in the land.
circumstances attended his birth. His parents were advanced
in years and had had no child. His father was a priest, and
was ministering in the temple when an angel appeared to him
with the message that he should have a son who would appear
before Israel in the spirit and power of Elijah, to make ready
a people prepared for the Lord. In this reference to Elijah
the end of the Old Testament is linked with the beginning
of the New. The child who was born in accordance with this
promise was John the Baptist.
months afterwards an angel appeared to a virgin of Nazareth
named Mary with a still more surprising message. He said,
Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bear a son
. . . He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the
Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne
of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of
Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
In explanation of how this wonder might be brought about,
the angel also said The holy Spirit shall come upon
thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee
therefore also that which is to be born of thee shall be called
holy, the Son of God. Not only therefore was the
voice of prophecy to be revived, but the great promises of
the past were being remembered; Davids son who
was to possess the throne over Israel was about to be born.
was espoused to Joseph, a carpenter of Nazareth. When he found
that his affianced bride was about to have a child he was
greatly troubled. He knew he was not the childs father,
yet, being of a kindly disposition, he did not want any scandal
to attach to Mary. As he thought of the matter he had a vision
of an angel who said, Fear not to take unto thee Mary
thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy
Spirit. He was also told that the whole matter was a
fulfilment of the prophecy that a virgin should bring forth
a son who should be called Immanuel, which means, God with
us. Both he and Mary were told to name the child Jesus,
for he was to save his people from their sins.
The birth of Jesus
due time the child was born, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of
God, the only begotten of the Father, yet made of a woman
and therefore a partaker of the nature of his mother . . Although
known as Jesus of Nazareth he was born in Bethlehem, whither
his mother, and his supposed father, had gone on account of
a command of the Roman Emperor that a census should be taken.
On the night of his birth as some shepherds of Bethlehem watched
their flocks by night they were visited by an angel who brought
the message, Behold I bring you good tidings of great
joy which shall be to all the people; for there is born to
you this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ
the Lord. Suddenly the messenger was surrounded
by a multitude of angels, singing,
to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men
In whom He is well pleased.
child narrowly escaped destruction. Wise men from the East
sought Herod, the king of the country, saying, Where
is he that is born king of the Jews? Herod ascertained
that according to the old prophecies, the Messiah, the king
of the Jews, was to be born in Bethlehem. He directed the
Wise men there, asking them to return to him and let him know
where the young child was. They found the babe, and presented
him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but they did
not return to Herod as they were warned by God to return another
way. Foiled in his attempt to ascertain where the child
was, Herod gave instructions for all the children under two
years of age in the city of Bethlehem to be killed, but the
child was saved through another vision in which Joseph was
told to take him and his mother to Egypt. There they remained
until Herod was dead.
years passed by during which the only thing recorded of Jesus
is a visit he paid with his mother and father to Jerusalem
and the temple. There at. the age of twelve he was found listening
to the doctors of the law and asking them questions. To his
mothers anxious expostulations he replied, Wist
ye not that I must be in my fathers house?
the end of the thirty years Israel heard again the voice of
prophecy. It was John, who came with a message for the people,
Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand. It
was a great message and it portended great things. It created
a stir among the people, for multitudes went out to hear what
John had to say. He introduced the initiatory rite of baptism,
that is immersion in water, for anything short of that
is not baptism at all. Great numbers of people flocked to
him and were baptized. The main theme of his teaching
was that a greater One than he was coming. Meanwhile he said
the axe was laid at the root of the tree of Israel, and that
unless the nation brought forth fruits meet for repentance
the axe would be used to cut the tree down. Such a message
insistently delivered, aroused the attention of the people,
and the civil and religious leaders of the nation sent a deputation
to know who he really was, Was he Elijah who was to come?
or was he the prophet? or was he the Christ? His answer was
instructive. I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness,
Make ye ready the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaiah.
may have seemed a strange application of Isaiahs prophecy,
but it was very apt. Isaiah had foretold that such a proclamation
should be made, and had associated it with the statement,
The voice of one saying, Cry. And one said, What shall
I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof
is as the flower of the field; the grass withereth, the flower
fadeth, ... but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
It was a reminder that there was something stable in a perishing
world though few really grasped the fact, either then or now.
day as John was preaching, Jesus of Nazareth came to him to
be baptized. John would have dissuaded him, his baptism was
for the remission of sins, and he knew enough of his kinsman
to feel sure that he had no sins. But Jesus insisted, Suffer
it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.
No greater emphasis could be given; it became
Jesus to fulfil all righteousness by submitting to baptism,
and no follower of his can refuse to do the same. Immediately
afterwards the Holy Spirit, in the shape of a dove, descended
and alighted on Jesus, and a Voice was heard saying, This
is My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. To this
John added his testimony, Behold the Lamb of God that
taketh away the sin of the world. Under such auspices
Jesus of Nazareth entered upon his public career.
testimony secured for Jesus his first two disciples, Andrew,
and John the son of Zebedee who were immediately joined by
their brothers Peter and James, and, shortly afterwards, by
Philip of Bethsaida. As the days passed, and the influence
of Jesus grew, the little band increased until a special choice
was made of twelve who were to be apostles and witnesses of
the things that he did and said. To write of these things
would require a volume of itself; all that can be told here
is the barest outline of the story.
his deeds reference must be made to the miracles he wrought.
These were not mere prodigies, aimed at producing a feeling
of wonderment; they were beneficent acts, performed for the
good of those who were the subjects of them. The sick were
healed, the blind received their sight, the dumb were given
speech, the hungry were fed, lepers were cleansed, demoniacs
restored to their right mind, and the dead were raised up.
Such works coincided with the claims that Jesus made, and
his works can only be properly appreciated when they are placed
alongside the things he said. He was to take away the sin
of the world; what better proof could there be than that he
should remove the effects of sin?
. . And teaching
a teacher he was unique. The rabbis of his time were prolix,
and depended on the sayings of their predecessors. Jesus was
often terse and his teaching original. It went straight to
the mark, and reached the heart, so that men and women became
his ardent friends or his bitter enemies. He spoke with
authority. Ye have heard it said by them of old
time thus and so, but I say unto you this
or that. He preached a new morality. Men were to be judged
not by what they did, but by what they thought or desired.
A man who looked at a woman with lust in his heart had committed
adultery already in intent. The Thou shalt nots
of the Law gave place to such positive injunctions as Love
your enemies, Pray for those that persecute you,
Resist not evil, Ye therefore shall be perfect
as your heavenly Father is perfect.
word pictures are the most delightful examples of such teaching
that can be found anywhere. They were based on the most common
of everyday things, yet they took on a profound meaning. The
familiar sight of a sower sowing his seed was made to teach
great lessons. Tares growing in a wheatfield taught others.
Such things as the fishermans net, the merchants
trading, a woman leavening her meal or searching for a lost
piece of silver, the shepherd on the mountains, the householder
on a journey, virgins attending a wedding feast, all were
made to point a moral. Nothing seemed to be too trivial to
be made the basis of spiritual lessons, which to-day, after
nineteen hundred years, are, in all lands, as fresh as when
they were first uttered. Even the political events of the
period were used to give point to him and his mission. Herod
the Great and Archelaus had both journeyed to Rome to receive
the kingdom over Israel. So Jesus spoke of a nobleman who
went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and
return. No one could miss the point. He preached the Kingdom
of God, and he must go to God in the far country of heaven,
to receive the credentials of his kingdom and then return.
his teaching he laid the old Story under tribute. He referred
to Adam and Eve and the first marriage, to the Flood, to Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob, to the destruction of Sodom, to Moses, David
Isaiah and Daniel. He knew all about them, and his comments
gave importance to many things that might otherwise have seemed
quite unimportant. He seemed to gather up the spirit
of the past, and to focus its meaning in himself. Your
father, Abraham, rejoiced to see my day, he saw it and was
three strenuous years passed by, preaching, teaching, travelling,
and healing, above all, showing men how to prepare for the
future when they would have to give account of the actions
of the present. There were many sad incidents in his life.
A profligate Herod had been induced to murder John the Baptist,
and Jesus withdrew himself to a desert place apart to mourn.
As the last days approached he was deserted by his followers
until he turned to the Twelve and said, And will ye
also go away? It is one of the most pathetic questions
in all the worlds literature; it reveals a depth of
meaning and of suffering that can scarcely be realised.
the other hand there were sometimes periods of great exaltation.
One of these occurred towards the end of his life when, probably
on Mount Hermon, the incident generally referred to as the
transfiguration took place. Accompanied by his three
most intimate disciples, Peter, James, and John, Jesus had
ascended the mountain to pray. As he was engaged in prayer
his countenance seemed to alter; it became radiant, and his
raiment was white and dazzling. Then Moses and Elijah appeared
and talked with him. It was a strange conversation for such
a brilliant scene, they talked of his coming death in Jerusalem!
Suddenly they were engulfed in a great cloud, and the voice
of God was heard saying, This is My Son, My chosen one;
hear him. Then they were alone again; the vision was
over, but the experience must have been a tremendous
source of strength in the dark days that soon followed.
was in Jerusalem, the place of the throne that had been promised
him, the centre of the worship of his Father, that he found
his most bitter enemies. It seemed as if he could do nothing
to please its inhabitants. They set traps to catch him in
his speech, only to be staggered at his answers, and to marvel
at the way in which he turned the tables on them. At last
they could stand it no longer. The priests and rulers took
counsel, and it only waited for a traitor in the inmost circle
of his friends to betray him into their hands.
that time all the hopes that had been entertained by
his followers had been crushed. He had said, Fear not
little flock, for it is your Fathers good pleasure to
give you the kingdom. Blessed are the meek for
they shall inherit the earth. He had even promised them
that they should sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes
of Israel. Now he was always talking of his approaching death.
True, he said that he should rise again, but in their depressed
state that saying made no impression upon them; the shadow
of the cross was too dark.
last meeting with the Twelve took place in an upper room in
Jerusalem where they met to celebrate the Passover. There
he spoke to them as he had never spoken before. Let
not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also
in me. ... If I go I will come again. He promised them
the gift of the Holy Spirit, and spoke one of the most beautiful
of all parables, that of the True Vine. I am the true
vine and my Father is the husbandman. I am the
vine, ye are the branches. He depicted the ideal unity
of their association together. Then he prayed for them that
they might be one, I in them, and Thou (Father) in me,
that they may be perfected into one.
they were assembled in the upper room, Jesus took bread and
when he had given thanks gave it to them, saying, This
is my body which is given for you; this do in remembrance
of me. After that he took a cup, saying, This
cup is the new covenant in my blood, even that which is poured
out for you. Throughout the ages the memory of that
meal, and of the things represented by the bread and the wine,
have been commemorated wherever true believers in Jesus have
been found. On the first day of each week such people meet
to remember Jesus in his final act of self-sacrifice, though
at the same time they remember that he is now the Lord
in Spirit, who brought life and immortality to light
in his own experiences. After the supper Jesus and the eleven
left Jerusalem for the garden of Gethsemane.
they left, Judas, one of the twelve, had gone to the chief
priests. Meanwhile Jesus had withdrawn himself even from his
disciples to seek his Father in prayer. There in Gethsemane
he prayed, O my Father, if it be possible, let this
cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou
wilt. So great was the agony of this last struggle that
his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the
ground. While he was praying his disciples slept, worn out
by the emotions of the last few days. Suddenly the garden
was invaded by a mob bearing lanterns, torches and weapons,
led by Judas, who, by a pre-arranged signal, betrayed
his Master by a kiss!
first it looked as if the attempt would fail. The armed men
fell backwards, awed by the presence of the one they
sought to take. They soon recovered themselves and laid hold
on Jesus, when one of the disciples, Peter, drew a sword and
cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest. Jesus put
forth his hand and healed him, saying to Peter, Put
up thy sword into the sheath, for all they that take the sword
shall perish with the sword, which expresses a truth
of eternal application that all his followers must respect.
everything was rushed. The Passover was approaching and the
priests wanted to get rid of Jesus before the routine of the
feast made it impossible for them to do anything further.
So they rushed him from Annas to Caiaphas, and from Caiaphas
to Pilate, where trials took place which were a mockery of
all legal forms. Before the Jewish courts Jesus was asked,
Art thou the Christ? Art thou the son of
God? to which he replied Ye say that I am.
It was sufficient to enable the judges to justify their condemnation.
They termed it blasphemy and pronounced him to be worthy of
death. While this was taking place the mental sufferings of
the prisoner were deepened by a three-fold denial of one of
his closest friends Peter.
a new trial was rushed through. The Jewish court had no power
to inflict a death sentence; the Roman Procurator, Pontius
Pilate, must declare him guilty and pass the sentence. A charge
of blasphemy would have failed before Pilate, so a new one
was preferred, a charge that Jesus claimed to be the king
of the Jews. It was true, yet it was false. As the Messiah
of Israel Jesus necessarily claimed to be the king of the
Jews. Yet when, shortly before, the multitude had desired
to take him by force and make him king, he refused to submit
to such a thing. In reply to Pilates question, Art
thou a king then? He replied, My kingdom is not
of this world (or order), if my kingdom were of this world
then would my servants fight that I should not be delivered
to the Jews, but now is my kingdom not from hence. When
Pilate pressed the question, Art thou a king then?
he replied, Thou sayest that I am a king (the Hebrew
form of affirmation). To this end have I been born, and to
this end am I come into the world, that I should bear witness
unto the truth. Pilate could not understand it. He recognised
that envy was at the bottom of the accusation, the prisoner
before him was not one of whom Rome need be afraid, and he
was ready to release Jesus. He tried to save him by suggesting
that he should be released as an act of clemency, but the
Jews cried out that he should rather release Barabbas, a robber.
Then the priests played their final card. If thou let
this man go thou art not Caesars friend; every one that
maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. It was
their last argument and Pilate dared not face it; he was afraid,
and against his convictions gave the order for Jesus to be
were still rushed, the death must take place before the feast,
so Jesus was hurried away to Calvary and there, between two
thieves, was crucified. Pilate provided the wording for the
cross. This is Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.
It was too pointed for the chief priests, and they urged Pilate
to modify it. What I have written I have written,
was his reply, and there the words remained which connected
Jesus with the kingship of the Jews, Davids son, the
Messiah despised and rejected of men, apparently forsaken
by God, deserted by his friends, denied by one of his closest
followers, yet the Lamb of God who was to take away the sin
of the world. A great darkness fell on the land, and with
a last cry, My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?
Jesus died-died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
the chief priests were very careful. They knew that Jesus
had said that he would rise again on the third day, so they
sought for permission to have the tomb sealed and watched.
Pilate appears to have been very curt with them, You
have a watch, he said, make it as sure as ye can.
The tomb was sealed, and a watch set while the disciples of
Jesus, helpless and dis-spirited, were scattered. It seemed
as if all the promise connected with Jesus was over.
the morning of the third day, however, when some women who
had been his followers, went with- spices for his body, they
found the tomb open and empty. They saw a vision of angels
who gave them the startling information that he was alive.
They hurried to the disciples with the news, and Peter and
John ran to the sepulchre, and also found it empty. Mary Magdalene,
one of the women, spoke to one whom she thought to be the
gardener, but a word from him, Mary, showed her
that it was the Master, risen from the dead. Afterwards he
appeared to all the disciples, as well as to individuals among
them, and proved to them, by many infallible proofs
that God had raised him from the dead. He was raised
again for our justification.
forty days he remained, meeting them from time to time, that
they might be fully assured of his resurrection. Then he gave
them their great charge, Go ye into all the world, preach
the gospel to the whole creation, he that believeth and is
baptised shall be saved, but he that dis-believeth shall be
condemned. It was his last command, and it has never
been rescinded; belief of the gospel and baptism are unchanging
essentials for all who would be saved, to which must be added
the idea expressed in another account of the commission, teaching
them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.
No one who reads, and thinks over the Story, can avoid the
conclusion that this last command of Jesus must be obeyed.
Having given this commission Jesus ascended to heaven, there
to be a merciful and faithful high priest, an advocate with
the Father for his people.
he ascended from them the disciples became aware that two
angelic beings were standing by them. They brought a message,
a message that has been the central feature of all Christian
teaching ever since. Ye men of Galilee, why stand
ye looking into heaven? This Jesus, which was received up
from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld
him going into heaven. No words could be used which
would more simply, or more explicitly, convey the idea that
Jesus of Nazareth must come back to the earth to fulfil all
the things predicted of him, to raise the dead, to act as
a judge, because the Father has committed all judgment
to the Son, to possess the Land of Promise as the Seed of
Abraham, and to sit as a king upon the throne of David in
accordance with the covenant concerning the sure mercies
is an exceedingly brief account of the most important chapter
in the whole of the God-Spell, or Story. But from this chapter
it will be seen that Jesus was I, The Seed of the woman; 2,
The Seed of Abraham; 3, The Prophet like unto Moses; 4, The
Antitype of the lambs slain under the Mosaic Law; 5, Davids
greater Son; 6, Immanuel (God with us), for God was
in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself; 7, The
Branch of the Lord; 8, The Lord our Righteousness. Thus all
the Old Testament lines of promise and prophecy converge in
him who was the Word made flesh.