« Prev 9. Form of Jesus’ Discourses. Next »


The same contrast is seen again in a particularly clear way in Jesus’ discourses. Here indeed the difference, as compared with the Synoptics, is perhaps most clearly marked. It is apparent even in the form. In the first three Gospels we have short, pithy utterances: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”; “ye have heard that it was said to those of old . . . but I say unto you . . .”; “they that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick”; “what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer loss of his own life” (Mt. v. 8, 21 f.; Mk. ii. 17; viii. 36). We might go on quoting utterances of this kind almost without end. Even where the discourses are longer, as in the Sermon on the Mount, or on the occasion when he sent forth the disciples, or in his address to the Pharisees (Mt. v.-vii., x., xxiii.), we can easily see that they are really compilations of such pithy utterances as these, each of which has a meaning and force of its own. In Jn. no more than a few of these utterances reappear. Everywhere else in this Gospel we find long spun-out discourses about certain thoughts, which, moreover, are repeated on the most varied 36occasions. In order to gain some idea of their style, read for instance Jn. iii. 11-21; v. 19-47; viii. 12-59; or vi. 26-58.

Jesus parables are special gems in his discourses. We never cease to be charmed by their vividness, the freshness of their colouring, and their appropriate application to the religious and moral problems of life, and we feel that they really must have been the best means of bringing eternal truths home to simple people in whom dwells half unconsciously so deep a desire for them. The Fourth Gospel does not contain a single parable. The only passage that approaches the parabolic form is that in which Jesus compares himself to a vine and his disciples to the branches (xv. 1-8); but this is only a figurative discourse, not a story in which some action is represented as going on before our eyes, such as that of the sower scattering seed or the shepherd going in search of his lost sheep. Elsewhere we have in Jn., besides this, only the instances in which Jesus calls himself the good shepherd and the door of the sheepfold (x. 11-16; x. 1-10). The first is as beautiful as the second is peculiar. Who can think of Jesus as the door? The thought is employed here for the purpose of distinguishing two classes of teacher: the shepherds who come to their sheep by entering the door, and robbers who climb in by another way. But how Jesus can here represent the door cannot be made clear, and much less when he is immediately afterwards compared (x. 11-16), not to the door, but to the good shepherd the good shepherd, by whom we have just been led to think (x. 2-5) some one else was intended.

« Prev 9. Form of Jesus’ Discourses. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection