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10. SUBJECT OF JESUS’ DISCOURSES.

And with what do the discourses of Jesus deal? In the Synoptics almost exclusively with the question, What must one do to gain admittance into the Kingdom of God? And the answer to the question is well-nigh exhausted when it is summed up in the words, “Be pure in heart, love God and your neighbour, do God’s will” (Mt. v. 8; xxii. 37-39; vii. 21). According to the circumstances, and the persons to whom it was given, it took on different occasions the most varied forms; but the point was always that what is required is moral conduct based on the fear of God. This is so, even where Jesus speaks of his own person and says that one must follow him, one must listen to him (for instance, in Mt. x. 37-40). He does not say this for his own sake, but on account of those whom he wishes, by speaking thus, to lead into the right path, which of course no one knew so well as he. Words which go beyond this and require people to recognise his exalted nature, such as, “every one who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven” (Mt. x. 32 f.) play a quite subordinate part. Jesus speaks about himself very seldom.

He does so all the more frequently in the Fourth Gospel. Here his person and its divine nature is almost the only subject of his discourses. Jesus’ words to the sick man at Bethesda after his cure, “Sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee” (v. 14) are indeed spoken for the sufferer’s sake; but the whole discourse which follows down to the end of the chapter serves to elaborate the thought, that Jesus has been sent by God and that God through his miracles, as well as through the prophecies found in the Old Testament, 38bears witness to Jesus as His son. It is true that we find again in this chapter something which is said on account of Jesus’ hearers, “He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life” (v. 24); but this word of Jesus to which they are to listen, according to the immediately preceding verse amounts to this, that all ought to honour the Son as they honour the Father in heaven. The man born blind is healed, but no word is said to him that might be helpful for the nurture of his soul—his only gain is this, that he learns step by step who it was that healed him; and this again, to say the least, subserves the purpose of Jesus glorification of himself. At the very beginning of the cure (ix. 5), Jesus calls himself the Light of the World. This thought, to which he has already given expression in viii. 12, is amplified throughout chapter viii., and here the discourse frequently harks back to what we have mentioned from chapter v., the idea that God bears witness to Jesus as His son. In chapter vi. (26-58), it is true that it is in the interest of Jesus’ hearers when we are told that they are to receive the true bread of life, but the important point on which the whole discourse turns is this, that Jesus himself is this bread of life.

And what are known as the Farewell-discourses of Jesus (chaps. xiii.-xvii.) are not at bottom different in character. They deal with the idea that, to help the followers of Jesus after his death, the Holy Spirit will come upon them, and guide them to the whole truth (xiv. 26; xvi. 13); but at least of equal importance is the other point, that it is not only God (so xiv, 16 f.), but also Jesus himself, who will send this Holy Spirit (xv. 26; xvi. 7), and even that he himself, regarded from another point of view, is this Holy Spirit (xiv. 18, identical with xiv. 17; also xiv. 28). 39Moreover, these chapters are full of sayings which expressly serve the purpose of Jesus own glorification: “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (xiv. 9, exactly as in xii. 45); “all things whatsoever the Father hath are mine” (xvi. 15); “I came out from the Father, and am come into the world” (xvi. 28). It may be nothing more than external corroboration of this, but it is significant all the same, that in the discourses of Jesus in Jn. the word “my” occurs much more than twice as often as in Mt., and the word “I” more than six times as often.

There is only one narrative in the Fourth Gospel in which the utterances of Jesus do not serve the purpose of his own glorification, but are spoken entirely for the sake of the persons with whom he is dealing; this is the story of the woman who was taken in adultery and brought to Jesus (vii. 53-viii. 11). “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”; and after her accusers have slunk away one after another, “Neither do I condemn thee; go thy way, from henceforth sin no more.” These utterances read, in fact, as if Mk., Mt., or Lk. lay open before us. But, apart from this, there is hardly a scholar who does not agree that this narrative was not found originally in the Gospel of Jn. It is missing in copies which were made as late as in the fourth century or still later, and many particular words are found in it for which elsewhere Jn. regularly uses quite different terms.

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