what is the mystery of the Kingdom of God?
|November 4, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter nineteen, the mystery||
The predestinarian view goes along with the eschatology. It is pushed to its utmost consequences in the closing incident of the parable of the marriage of the King’s son (Matt. xxii. 1-14) where the man who, in response to a publicly issued invitation, sits down at the table of the King, but is recognised from his appearance as not called, is thrown out into perdition. “Many are called but few are chosen.”
The ethical idea of salvation and the predestinarian limitation of acceptance to the elect are constantly in conflict in the mind of Jesus. In one case, however. He finds relief in the thought of predestination. When the rich young man turned away, not having strength to give up his possessions for the sake of following Jesus as he had been commanded to do, Jesus and His disciples were forced to draw the conclusion that he, like other rich men, was lost, and could not enter into the Kingdom of God. But immediately afterwards Jesus makes the suggestion, “With men it is impossible, but not with God, for with God all things are possible” (Mark x. 17-27). That is, He will not give up the hope that the young man, in spite of appearances, which are against him, will be found to have belonged to the Kingdom of God, solely in virtue of the secret all-powerful will of God. Of a “conversion” of the young man there is no question.
In the Beatitudes, on the other hand, the argument is reversed; the predestination is inferred from its outward manifestation. It may seem to us inconceivable, but they are really predestinarian in form. Blessed are the poor in spirit! Blessed are the meek! Blessed are the peacemakers!—that does not mean that by virtue of their being poor in spirit, meek, peace-loving, they deserve the Kingdom. Jesus does not intend the saying as an injunction or exhortation, but as a simple statement of fact: in their being poor in spirit, in their meekness, in their love of peace, it is made manifest that they are predestined to the Kingdom. By the possession of these qualities they are marked as belonging to it. In the case of others (Matt. v. 10-12) the predestination to the Kingdom is made manifest by the persecutions which befall them in this world. These are the light of the world, which already shines among men for the glory of God (Matt. v. 14-15).
The kingdom cannot be “earned”; what happens is that men are called to it, and show themselves to be called to it. On careful examination it appears that the idea of reward in the sayings of Jesus is not really an idea of reward, because it is relieved against a background of predestination. For the present it is sufficient to note the fact that the eschatologico-predestinarian view brings a mysterious element of dogma not merely into the teaching, but also into the public ministry of Jesus. To take another point, what is the mystery of the Kingdom of God? It must consist of something more than merely its near approach, and something of extreme importance; otherwise Jesus would be here indulging in mere mystery-mongering. The saying about the candle which he puts upon the stand, in order that what was hidden may be revealed to those who have ears to hear, implies that He is making a tremendous revelation to those who understand the parables about the growth of the seed. The mystery must therefore contain the explanation why the Kingdom must now come, and how men are to know how near it is. For the general fact that it is very near had already been openly proclaimed both by the Baptist and by Jesus. The mystery, therefore, must consist of something more than that.
In these parables it is not the idea of development, but of the apparent absence of causation which occupies the foremost place. The description aims at suggesting the question, how, and by what power incomparably great and glorious results can be infallibly produced by an insignificant fact without human aid. A man sowed seed. Much of it was lost, but the little that fell into good ground brought forth a harvest—thirty, sixty, an hundredfold—which left no trace of the loss in the sowing. How did that come about?
A man sows seed and does not trouble any further about it—cannot indeed do anything to help it, but he knows that after a definite time the glorious harvest which arises out of the seed will stand before him. By what power is that effected?
An extremely minute grain of mustard seed is planted in the earth and there necessarily arises out of it a great bush, which cannot certainly have been contained in the grain of seed. How was that?
What the parables emphasise is, therefore, so to speak, the in itself negative, inadequate, character of the initial fact, upon which, as by a miracle, there follows in the appointed time, through the power of God, some great thing. They lay stress not upon the natural, but upon the miraculous character of such occurrences.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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