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13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.
14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
There is reason to be glad at the record of this incident. It helps to check the tendency to sternness which some aspects of the truth by themselves would generate. It helps to preserve the spirit of loving sympathy which is at the root of the gospel. It makes a place for the young and the helpless in the hearts of all who take after Christ. But, like everything else, it can be misinterpreted to the destruction of other parts of divine truth.
Such a misinterpretation is that which, in almost all systems of theology, deduces from it the idea that children are saved because they are children, in defiance of the truth most plainly enunciated in all the Scriptures, that salvation is by faith and obedience alone. When Christ said, "Of such is the kingdom of God," he immediately explained the sense in which he uttered the words. He added: "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein." It was evident that it was mental attitude in relation to the kingdom that he had in view when he said, "Of such is the kingdom." This is in harmony with all he taught either by his own mouth or through the apostles.
The popular view is in contradiction to all he taught; for it would make children heirs of the kingdom irrespective of "receiving" it, and it would make the kingdom of God an institution in which there would be no place for grown men and women. It is the child-like disposition that Jesus sought to enforce. He enforced it still more plainly on other occasions: "Except a man humble himself as a little child, he shall in no case enter the Kingdom of God."
There was need for the enforcement of this. It is a feature that distinguishes divine principles in their application from human. In human life it is the proud and the unbelieving and the self-assertive that carry influence and obtain position and find favour. The ascendency of this type of character spreads blight in the world. It propagates itself in all classes, interferes with the development of innocence and kindness in those who would be disposed in those directions.
... We have all perceived the beautiful faith and honest simplicity of childhood checked and perverted by contact with the ugly ways of grown life. In this, we get a momentary glimpse of the type of character that Christ would generate in men. He would not have them abdicate their reason: on the contrary, he would have them "wise as serpents;" he would not have them ignorant of truth and fact: on the contrary, he would have them "filled with all wisdom, able also to admonish one another."
At the same time, with their knowledge, he would have love to dwell: with their discernment and skill, he would have the simplicity and faith that can trust implicitly where the eye perceives; and with the firmness and boldness of confident knowledge, he would have them combine that humility of self estimate which is according to self-powerlessness; that reverence for greatness and worth which is the noblest attitude of a created being; and that docility of faith and obedience which is the highest result of enlightened reason.
There is no type of manhood so beautiful as that in which these qualities combine. A child-like strong man is the beau ideal of humanity. Christ himself was the highest example of this, and he seeks to generate his own image in all who believe in him. It was fitting, therefore, that he should seize the incident of children being brought for blessing, to rebuke the harshness of the disciples, and to exhibit the children as the type of the men and women who will at last find acceptance with him.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 44
17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
...a young man of some sincerity and earnestness of character. *
18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
Was not Jesus good then? Yes, but not in the sense intended by the young man. The young man evidently regarded Jesus as a teacher in the sense in which the Rabbis were regarded as teachers, and in which the poets and philosophers of Greece were regarded as teachers, and the "great and good men" so-called of our own day -- men popularly supposed to have light and good in them as an inherent attribute. Jesus disowned the application in this sense.
He maintained that in the sense intended by the populace, no one was good but God. With him only is goodness an essential, an inherent attribute. Any good that man has, comes from without, as a matter of communication from God directly, as in the case of Adam's inspiration, or indirectly, as in the case of the modifying influence exerted by the Bible.
Man left to his unaided resources develops no goodness, as in the case of a human being brought up in solitude, or a nation having no contact with the civilisation that has resulted from divine interposition in the earth's affairs. He is naturally destitute of knowledge, and his instinctive impulses, in the absence of knowledge, turn to evil. Thus the statement of Paul is experimentally and scientifically true, that "in the flesh dwelleth no good thing."
The young man, in calling Jesus "good master," was giving expression to the common fallacy that goodness is a thing innate with man. Therefore Jesus refused the apparent compliment, and put the stern fact in the foreground that "there is none good but one, that is God." In this Jesus differed from all human teachers, past or present. In this the Bible differs from all books.
Human teachers and human books all deify human nature as a good thing. Universal experience proves that goodness is only a potentiality with man depending upon outside supply for development. Universal experience, therefore, proves Christ and the Bible true on the very point where they are supposed by modern ideas to be behind. *
19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
If this was a true testimony, then the young man, according to Christ's answer, was an heir of life eternal, upon which there would seem to arise a conflict between the teaching of Christ and the statement of Paul: that the law of Moses could not give life (Rom. vii. 10; Gal. iii. 21). The apparent conflict vanishes when we realise that other teaching of Paul (Rom. viii. 3); that the inefficiency of the law in this respect was due to the inability of human nature to render to it the perfect obedience required.
It was "weak through the flesh." It was truly "ordained to life," as Paul says and as Jesus recognised; but all Israel found it, like Paul, "to be unto death," because it pronounced a curse upon every one continuing not in all things written therein. Its blessing was upon perfect obedience, and none were able to render this in the sense of embracing all particulars. Christ only exhibited this ability; and "by one man's obedience" many are made righteous, in being forgiven and received for his sake. He is "the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth" (Rom. x. 4.
Jesus did not enter into these explanations with the young man. They would have been futile of any effect upon his unripe understanding. He adopted a course that convicted the young man of fatal shortcoming upon his own principles. No doubt he might have taken the ground that the young man had often failed in his obedience of the commandments, which in the main he had tried to keep "from his youth up," for the testimony of the scriptures is true, that "there liveth not a man upon the earth that sinneth not."
But he might not so easily have brought this home to the young man's conviction; so he tried him on the spot, by using the authority the Father had given him, to deliver to him a commandment for his special obedience...*
22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
He desired to be in the right and to inherit eternal life; but he could not possibly part with his possessions, though directly commanded. Thus he was shown to be incapable of the perfect obedience which he boasted, and went away condemned on his own grounds.
Christ has not required believers in general to part with their possessions. He required it of this young man because the case called for it, and because with Christ personally on the earth to be followed as a head and Master, it was reasonable. It is inapplicable to our time, though the Roman Catholic church, among its many enormities, has not scrupled to make use of this to fleece its wealthy votaries of their substance for the benefit of lazy and sensuous priests.
What Christ requires of believers in general in his absence is to be "good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Pet. iv. 10), and the rich among them particularly are enjoined "to be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come" (1 Tim. vi. 17).
In most cases, this is as hard a test as the command to sell all was to the young man. The rich, as a rule, have gluey fingers. Jesus remarked as the young man retired, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God. A rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven." *
23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
The disciples were astonished at these expressions. They seemed to think they shut off all hope for anyone that had anything. *
24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
This seemed an extreme saying which, however, experience has shown to be true. As a general rule, rich people are so satisfied with themselves, and so full of their own schemes, as to be incapable of complying with the requirements of the gospel. Their minds are so pre-occupied with human things that the way is barred against the entrance of those that are divine.
But there are exceptions. There were exceptions in the clays of Jesus. Some of the most useful disciples were rich, to wit: Zaccheus, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Chuza, wife of Herod's steward, and other examples.
Jesus intimated that there would be a multitude of exceptions by the power of God *
27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.
That is, in ordinary circumstances, riches form an inconquerable impediment to salvation; but God would show them the destruction of that impediment in the submission of hundreds of rich men to the self-sacrificing claims of the service of Christ. And he did. When his power was shown in the effusion of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and in the miraculous manifestations that followed, we read that as a result, "as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold and laid them down at the apostles' feet" (Acts iv. 34, 35). *
28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
Then Peter, with his usual impulsive readiness, sought to draw a personal application to themselves from the things Jesus had been saying.
29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's,
30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
Jesus added something to the kingdom-promise. The question put by Peter related to what the twelve had done, who had "left all." The question was "What shall we have?" Jesus answered the question in its ultimate sense first, and then makes an addition of a proximate bearing, something about "now in this time;" ...
Those who witnessed what came after the day of Pentecost saw the fulfilment of this. Houses and lands by the score were placed at the disposal of the apostles. Even "a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith" (Acts vi. 7). Multitudes of fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters, &c., were "added to the Lord" (Acts v. 14); and bestowing their property on them, clustered round the apostles with an ardour of affection rarely exhibited among men (Acts iv. 32-35).
But this tide of favour was "with persecutions." The authorities interposed and tried to stamp out the newborn faith. The effort was vain: "When they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they they might punish them because of the people, for all men glorified God for that which was done" (Acts iv. 21). Though futile, the persecutions continued without intermission. With the advance of time there came a great change, but still in the first instance, Christ's words were fulfilled to the very letter. *
35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.
[Matthew 20: 20-21 records...
Then came to him the mother of Zebedees children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.
And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom].
36 And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?
37 They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.
What Jesus had said about the apostles sharing the kingdom with him at his coming, naturally impressed their minds. James and John, set on by an ambitious mother, appear to have been more exercised than the others, and exercised in a wrong way. Along with her, they privately applied to Christ in their own special interest. The mother, "worshipping him," "desired a certain thing of him." The obsequious, anxious, ambitious woman, waiting Christs invitation: "What wilt thou?" ventured on a large request: "Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand and the other on the left, in thy kingdom."
The sons themselves joined in the proposal.
It is beside the mark to condemn the request as a carnal misconception of the nature of the kingdom of Christ. Christ did not so treat it. It was a carnal request growing out of his own promise. It was wrong to desire preeminence; it was not wrong to desire to reign with him in his kingdom. *
41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John.
42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your
While condemning the spirit of the request, he did not condemn the idea of the kingdom on which the request was based. On the contrary, he sanctioned the idea in saying: "To sit on my right hand and my left is not mine to give, but to them for whom it is prepared." He indicated the principle upon which this highest of all positions would be allotted in the very first words with which he received the request:
"Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of; and be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with?" As much as to say, "The place next me in glory can only be earned by filling the place next me in suffering." As Paul says, "Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour" (1 Cor. iii. 8); and Jesus himself: "I will give to everyone of you according as your work shall be" (Rev. xxii. 12).
However much men may scoff at the idea, it is the simple truth, and the central promise of the Gospel that "if we suffer him we shall reign with him: if we deny him, he will deny us" (2 Tim. ii. 12). James and John at this time were young untutored men, not yet in that subjection to the mind of the Spirit which brings self abasement, and that exaltation of God and our neighbour as the ruling mental habit. Their request was the carnal mis-appreciation of a divine promise and naturally excited the indignation of their fellow-apostles. But that misconception in no way interferes with the promise itself, which, like the mercy of God out of which it springs, "endureth for ever." *
* Nazareth Revisited Ch 43
43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
"Great men" are only fictions of the public imagination. All men are small, weak, shortsighted, impulsive, and erring; only some are more so than others.
TC July 1894. p262
46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.
The light penetrates the eye through the optic lens; the pupil regulating the amount of light, and the lens, adjusting for distance; focusing the light on the back of the eye or retina, a light sensitive lining, full of speciaIised cells called rods and cones.
These are miraculous in design and function, and enable us to perceive colour as well as light and dark shades, black and white so that the external world is photographed onto our minds through the optic nerve, and internalized and interpreted as rational form and beauty, all to Scale. Marvellous!
The image is inverted onto the retina, but rectified by the visual cortex, again miraculous design!
When Christ gave sight to the blind, such as blind Bartimaeus, and gave him sight this was all put in order by the phenomenal Spirit power God had given the Lord, although he had not studied, nor did he need to, optical engineering and optics or the structure of the eye and its defects.
As Isaac Newton said, God must have been a wonderful optician to design the eye, with its advanced technology, so easily taken for granted, except when things go wrong and we lose our eye, or vision becomes blurred (Gen. 27:1).
The Pharisees said to Christ Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them: If ye were blind, ye should have no sin, but now ye say , We see: therefore your sin remaineth." Jhn.9.39-41).
The Apocalyptic Messenger, Sept 2018