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8. SUPPRESSION OF HUMAN TRAITS IN JESUS.

From tins can now be gathered how greatly Jn.’s style of thinking is misunderstood when an attempt is made to find traits of a real humanity in the Jesus of the Fourth Gospel. Those who do this, for instance, in the case of the raising of Lazarus, or those even who are only disturbed by the thought that no such traits can really be found, have quite misunderstood the peculiar character of this book. Humanly speaking, Jesus must have been so cruel as to keep away from Bethany for two more days, because otherwise the miracle which he proposed to do would not have been so great as if it did not happen until the fourth day after Lazarus’ death. We ought not. however, to apply this human point of view; if we are to do the Evangelist justice, we ought, just as he does, to identify our selves to such an extent with this Son of God who has come from heaven, as to approve entirely of his demonstrating his exaltation, his dignity, and his omnipotence in the strongest possible way. So long as it is what is truly human in Jesus that attracts us, we are totally unfit to enter into the ideas of the Evangelist, for he is attracted only by what is divine.

This is, in fact, so much the case that the human in Jesus is more sternly set aside than the Evangelist himself desires. He would like certainly to oppose the Gnostics, amongst whom the heavenly Christ was united with the man Jesus only superficially and for a limited period, or only had a phantom body to deceive the eyes of men. To meet this latter idea, he insists that there flowed from the wound, which was made by the spear-thrust in the crucified Lord, blood and water (xix. 34); and perhaps he has the same thing in mind when he says that Jesus sat down tired 157by Jacob’s well (iv. 6), and so forth. In this Gospel again Jesus speaks of having always observed the commands of God (xv. 10) and of being studious to do not his own will, but the will of God (v. 30). But how does all this help us? This kind of obedience can hardly be said to have the same value as the obedience of a man to God, for Jesus simply could not act otherwise; he himself speaks of doing the will of God as being his food (iv. 34). He can even say “I and the Father are one” (x. 30); and the reason for this is not that he entirely subordinates his own will to the will of his heavenly Father (he does indeed do this, but only because it was natural for him to do so), but that he, and he alone, was begotten of God, that he, and he alone, was of like nature with God.

This is as clear as daylight, when he walks over the sea, or when, on an attempt being made to stone him, he makes himself invisible in a miraculous way; when his soul is affected by no feelings of passion; when he keeps away for two days from the place where his friend has died, in order to set his miraculous power in a brighter light; when Philip is made to see in his person, as he stands before him, God the Father. Here he is actually, in hardly a different way than he is amongst the Gnostics, a God walking upon the earth, whom one can only worship in astonishment. A man whose possibilities are exposed to limitations, as those of others are, who thinks and feels like others, to whom one can cling, because he has first trodden the same path and experienced the same difficulties, whom one can gladly follow—no, he is nothing of this. The Fourth Gospel knows nothing and can know nothing of the great consolation which the Epistle to the Hebrews (ii. 18) gives to all such earthly pilgrims: “because that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.”

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Nevertheless, we shall refuse to reproach its author for this, in proportion as it becomes clear to us that the task which he set before himself was from the first impossible of achievement. Nor has any later teacher in the Church been able so to reconcile the divine and human nature in Jesus, that a real and consistent personality has been produced. The important point, therefore, is simply to recognise on which of the two sides in Jn. the scale turns. Those who persist in attempting to reconcile the two natures, are not agreed, even down to the present day, as to whether they ought to say, as Paul says (see above, p. 146), that Jesus, when he came down from heaven to earth, laid aside his divine characteristics, or that he kept them, hiding them during his earthly life. As regards the Fourth Gospel, we must say that it quite certainly does not take the first of these positions. And even as regards the second view, it only presents the thought that on earth Jesus was endowed with all his divine characteristics; their concealment is very slight and transparent, and does not really accord with the purpose of Jesus’ public ministry, which in Jn. consists simply in revealing himself in all his greatness.

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