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§ 50. Christ’s Steadfast Consciousness of his Messiahship.

And Jesus knew and testified to his Messiahship from the beginning, from his first public appearance until his last declaration, made before the high-priests in the very face of death; although he did not always proclaim it with equal openness, especially when there was risk of popular commotions from false and temporal conceptions of the Messiah on the part of the people; but rather gradually led them, from the acknowledgment of his prophetic character (by which, indeed, they were bound to believe in his words), to recognize him as the Messiah, a Prophet also, but in the highest sense.

In this respect there is no contradiction whatever between the Synoptical Gospels124124   Matthew, Mark, and Luke. and John. They all agree in stating that Jesus spoke and acted from the beginning in consciousness of his Messiahship; and 82also that, as circumstances demanded, he was sometimes more and sometimes less explicit125125   John, viii., 25; x., 24. in regard to it. Nor is John silent126126   John, vii., 40; Matt., xvi., 14; John, vii., 12. The less hostile portion of the people agreed, at first, only in believing that Christ had good intentions and was no seducer of the people. about the fluctuations and divisions of opinion (easily explained on psychological grounds), even among the more favourably disposed portions of the multitude: nay, he tells us that some of the Apostles were slow to believe, and wavered in their faith. All this, however, does nothing to prove similar fluctuations in Christ’s conviction of his Messiahship. According to Matthew, Jesus commenced his ministry, like John the Baptist, by summoning men to repentance, as a preparation for the coming kingdom of God. But this by no means implies that his intention and his announcement, at the beginning, were the same as those of the Baptist. It was necessary for him to take this starting-point, as he joined his ministry upon John’s proclamation, and upon the desire for the manifestation of the kingdom of God which it had awakened, in order to purify this desire and direct it to its object, the real founder of the kingdom. It was essential to awaken and preserve in the minds of the people a sense of the necessity of repentance as a condition of participation in the kingdom, and the first starting-point for a clear idea of its nature. After this general summons had gone before, Jesus could prove, by the impression of his own works, that the kingdom had really been manifested through him (Matt., xii., 28; Luke, xvii., 21). The proclamation of the approaching kingdom and the announcement of Jesus as its founder and central-point, were closely connected together; but sometimes the one was announced more prominently, and sometimes the other, as circumstances might demand. Compare the Sermon on the Mount with the discourses of Christ as recorded in John’s Gospel.

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