But the people in Jerusalem refused to rise, as the Galilaeans had refused at the time when the disciples were sent out to rouse them
|November 24, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter two||
From Matt. v. 18 it is evident that Jesus did not break with the Law, but took His stand upon it unreservedly. If there was anything at all new in His preaching, it was the righteousness which was requisite for the Kingdom of God. The righteousness of the Law will no longer suffice in the time of the coming Kingdom; a new and deeper morality must come into being. This demand is the only point in which the preaching of Jesus went beyond the ideas of His contemporaries. But this new morality does not do away with the Law, for He explains it as a fulfilment of the old commandments. His followers, no doubt, broke with the Law later on. They did so, however, not in pursuance of a command of Jesus, but under the pressure of circumstances, at the time when they were forced out of Judaism and obliged to found a new religion.
Jesus shared the Jewish racial exclusiveness wholly and unreservedly. According to Matt. x. 5 He forbade His disciples to declare to the Gentiles the coming of the Kingdom of God. Evidently, therefore. His purpose did not embrace them. Had it been otherwise, the hesitation of Peter in Acts x. and xi., and the necessity of justifying the conversion of Cornelius, would be incomprehensible.
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are no evidence that Jesus intended to found a new religion. In the first place the genuineness of the command to baptize in Matt. xviii. 19 is questionable, not only as a saying ascribed to the risen Jesus, but also because it is universalistic in outlook, and because it implies the doctrine of the Trinity and, consequently, the metaphysical Divine Sonship of Jesus. In this it is inconsistent with the earliest traditions regarding the practice of baptism in the Christian community, for in the earliest times, as we learn from the Acts and from Paul, it was the custom to baptize, not in the name of the Trinity, but in the name of Jesus, the Messiah.
But, furthermore, it is questionable whether Baptism really goes back to Jesus at all. He Himself baptized no one in His own lifetime, and never commanded any of His converts to be baptized. So we cannot be sure about the origin of Baptism, though we can be sure of its meaning. Baptism in the name of Jesus signified only that Jesus was the Messiah. “For the only change which the teaching of Jesus made in their religion was that whereas they had formerly believed in a Deliverer of Israel who was to come in the future, they now believed in a Deliverer who was already present.”
The “Lord’s Supper,” again, was no new institution, but merely an episode at the last Paschal Meal of the Kingdom which was passing away, and was intended “as an anticipatory celebration of the Passover of the New Kingdom.” A Lord’s Supper in our sense, “cut loose from the Passover,” would have been inconceivable to Jesus, and not less so to His disciples.
It is useless to appeal to the miracles, any more than to the “Sacraments,” as evidence for the founding of a new religion. In the first place, we have to remember what happens in the case of miracles handed down by tradition. That Jesus effected cures, which in the eyes of His contemporaries were miraculous, is not to be denied. Their purpose was to prove Him to be the Messiah. He forbade these miracles to be made known, even in cases where they could not possibly be kept hidden, “with the sole purpose of making people more eager to talk of them.” Other miracles, however, have no basis in fact, but owe their place in the narrative to the feeling that the miracle-stories of the Old Testament must be repeated in the case of Jesus, but on a grander scale. He did no really miraculous works; otherwise, the demands for a sign would be incomprehensible. In Jerusalem when all the people were looking eagerly for an overwhelming manifestation of His Messiahship, what a tremendous effect a miracle would have produced! If only a single miracle had been publicly, convincingly, undeniably, performed by Jesus before all the people on one of the great days of the Feast, such is human nature that all the people would at once have nocked to His standard. For this popular uprising, however, He waited in vain. Twice He believed that it was near at hand. The first time was when He was sending out the disciples and said to them: “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes” (Matt. x. 23). He thought that, at the preaching of the disciples, the people would flock to Him from every quarter and immediately proclaim Him Messiah; but His expectation was disappointed.
The second time, He thought to bring about the decisive issue in Jerusalem. He made His entry riding on an ass’s colt, that the Messianic prophecy of Zechariah might be fulfilled. And the people actually did cry “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Relying on the support of His followers He might now, He thought, bid defiance to the authorities. In the temple He arrogates to Himself supreme power, and in glowing words calls for an open revolt against the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees, on the ground that they have shut the doors of the Kingdom of Heaven and forbidden others to go in. There is no doubt, now, that He will carry the people with Him! Confident in the success of His cause, He closes the great incendiary harangue in Matt. xxiii. with the words “Truly from henceforth ye shall not see me again until ye shall say Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”; that is, until they should hail Him as Messiah.
But the people in Jerusalem refused to rise, as the Galilaeans had refused at the time when the disciples were sent out to rouse them. The Council prepared for vigorous action. The voluntary concealment by which Jesus had thought to whet the eagerness of the people became involuntary. Before His arrest He was overwhelmed with dread, and on the cross He closed His life with the words “My God! my God! why hast Thou forsaken me?” “This avowal cannot, without violence, be interpreted otherwise than as meaning that God had not aided Him in His aim and purpose as He had hoped. That shows that it had not been His purpose to suffer and die, but to establish an earthly kingdom and deliver the Jews from political oppression—and in that God’s help had failed Him.”
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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