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7. GENUINE HUMAN CHARACTERISTICS IN JESUS?

But, this being so, does the description of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel embody no genuinely human characteristics? It is significant that even those who still place this Gospel on a higher level than the other three would rather the picture of Jesus were not so like a God as it is in the description we have just given, following faithfully the real idea of the author But of all that they can point to, the only thing which is at all worthy of consideration is found in the words (xi. 35), “Jesus wept”—the occasion being when he came near to the grave of Lazarus. And the idea that we have here an instance of real human emotion on the part of Jesus seems, further, to be confirmed expressly by the following words: “The Jews therefore said, ‘Behold how he loved him.’” But this of itself is necessarily startling. We shall very soon (p. 44 f.) have to explain that what the Jews say in reply to a declaration by Jesus is in the Fourth Gospel regularly based upon a misunderstanding. But, further, the author has taken care to make it clear to every one who is at pains to understand him that the words of the Jews are shown by the context of the passage itself to be a misunderstanding. Before this it has been said (xi. 33): “When Jesus therefore saw Mary weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” After the words 31of the Jews, “Behold, how he loved him,” we are told further, “But some of them said, ‘Could not this man, which opened the eyes of him that was blind, have caused that this man also should not die?’” Jesus, again groaning in his spirit, now goes to the grave. Why did he groan in this way? Now this second time we are clearly told, it was because the Jews who are here speaking did not think that his power to raise Lazarus was to be regarded as something which he possessed quite as a matter of course. But why should he have groaned the first time? Surely because of something of the same nature, that is to say, simply because Mary and the Jews wept instead of confidently expecting that the dead man would be raised by Jesus. And when we are told, in the interval, that he wept, it should not really be so difficult to see that his tears were not on account of the loss of his friend and the mourning of Lazarus’ kinsfolk—he knew well enough that at the next moment both would be obliterated by the raising of Lazarus—but simply because they did not believe in his power to work miracles.

Or if this cannot really be seen here, can it not be recognised even at the beginning of the narrative? If we were to read it aloud simply as far as the words in xi. 5 f., “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister, and Lazarus. When therefore he heard that he was sick,” certainly every listener would expect us to proceed, “then he went to him immediately.” Instead of this we actually find the words, “he abode at that time two days in the place where he was.” Why? Unless we are willing to believe that he feared the snares of the Jews, against which his disciples warn him in xi. 8 two days later—he himself refusing to take warning—we can only say that this delay was to all appearances due to an indifference or inhumanity which is 32superior to all genuinely human feeling. But it would be quite unfair to make his conduct a subject of moral criticism. The author of the Gospel has taken care to show that we may not, as a matter of fact, expect to find any genuinely human feeling in the Jesus of his story. After two days have passed, Jesus says to his disciples openly (xi. 14 f.): “Lazarus is dead; and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe.” In what? This we have been told already, in xi. 4, where Jesus receives news of the illness of Lazarus: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby.”

The words at the beginning of this sentence mean, not that this sickness will not cause the death of Lazarus, but that it will not lead to his remaining dead, for, as the concluding words show, Jesus knew beforehand that he would raise Lazarus, and that the miracle would serve for his own glorification. And he could only effect this and exceed all other miracles if he allowed the fourth day to come before he arrived at the sepulchre, since only then could any return to life be considered out of the question (see p. 19). Here then we have the real reason why he delayed his journey for two days.

In this case we can prove something more. Since the journey to Bethany takes at most two days, and Jesus did not arrive there until the fourth day after Lazarus’ death, Lazarus was already dead by the time the messengers reached Jesus, and the Fourth Gospel presupposes that Jesus already knew this, by means of course of that omni science with which it supposes him to be endowed. The sorrow of the sisters, their longing for a word of comfort, their anxious waiting for one who might have arrived long ago—all this is nothing to him; he is only concerned about 33the miracle and his own glorification. Here we can see whether the Jesus of the Fourth Gospel has any human characteristics.

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