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VII.

SIMON BAR-JONA: THE STONE AND THE ROCK.

BY MRS. T. C. PORTER.

CHAPTER FOURTH.

A TRIED STONE.

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat."-St. Luke xxii. 31.

SECTION I.

The Messiah's Preparation for Death.

WHEN Jesus of Nazareth was persuaded that however forcible and convincing His preaching, reasoning and miracles might be, the public would none the less reject Him, on account of their bearings, so unpalatable to the natural mind, He, the last and greatest of her prophets, prepared to obey the will of God and close forever the Jewish church. There was no help for His enemies in man, solely, nor for the apostles, not even in their peerless Messiah. He must be declared by His resurrection and ascension to be the eternal Son of God incarnate, before friend or foe, His people or the world could be helped by Him. In short, Judaism must give way to Christianity.

His first disciple, Peter, who was appointed to begin to unfold the doctrine of the Trinity, which Moses had wrapped up in the declaration, "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD," and who had accordingly declared with all the fervor of his earnest spirit, "Thou art the Son of the living God," had also, when his Master thereupon announced his approaching violent death, with the same fervor exclaimed, "Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee!"

And yet "to this end He was born, and for this cause He came into the world!" Simon's words were tantamount to a request of the Christ to deny Himself, and therefore his Master's sudden repulse, "Get thee hence, Satan." It also proved that Peter was wholly ignorant of the extent and value of his own confession. This was indeed with him a firm and honest conviction, for he spake by the Holy Ghost; but it was not yet an assured knowledge which entered into and formed a part of his own consciousness. It could not be, till Jesus, by the full or perfect descent of the Spirit, should be declared "the Son of God with power."

Simon's words came, he knew not whence, till the Master told him; and, at that time, he knew just as little whither they reached; for it was not always given to those who spake by the Spirit of God to understand their own utterances. And yet, though the earnest rebuke, "Be it far from thee, Lord," disclosed that Peter had no knowledge of Jesus as a Saviour, it also served the good purpose of showing that he had no real apprehension of the facts of sin and himself as a sinner, all of which are necessary to make a true Israelite, such as the Messiah had promised he should become in naming him Cephas. Though the Holy Ghost had shown him Jesus. Christ as the sinless Son of man, He had not yet shown him Simon Bar-Jona as a son of the first and last Adam. Consequently, Simon was wholly insensible of sin and Satan. Once, indeed, his baptism of awakening so far prevailed, that, astonished at a miracle of the Master's, he exclaimed, “ I am a sinful man, O Lord," but the only effect it produced on him was fear, and prompted by this fear he had also prayed Him, "Depart from me." Had he known himself to be a sinner thoroughly lost, and Jesus to be a Saviour, he would have begged Him to stay with him forever, for the very reason that he was such, and without His presence must continually fall.

Preaching and miracles were not enough to teach the disciples, any more than the enemies of Christ. Acts of another kind were needed. His departure in the body, and return in

the spirit could alone quicken and perfect their knowledge and faith. These acts Peter had but now opened the way for, both by his confession and remonstrance. While the former strengthened their Master's resolution to leave them in order to return again, the latter accelerated His steps in going. Neither to suffer nor die, but to take the kingdom before God should put it into His hands, was the very temptation of Satan, a temptation which the Son of David, like His father David, nobly and promptly resisted.

It was time for the Messiah to die, when the chief disciple, through the grand conviction of His personality, and amazing ignorance of himself, was fast becoming a tempter. Not eight days after this, when Jesus took "Peter and James and John" "up into a high mountain apart," to have their faith confirmed by His transfiguration, Peter, in an ecstasy, desired their Lord. to tabernacle with them there; so quickly had He forgotten His communication that He "must go to Jerusalem to suffer and be killed," and His rebuke, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" So little did he understand the true object of His coming-as little as the Jews who thought the Christ must "abide forever" in His mortal nature as the Son of David, when all their sacrifices pointed to His death! "I have never eaten anything common nor unclean," Saint Peter could say, so strictly had he observed the ceremonial law, and yet all its washing and cleansing, and slaying and sacrificing, pointed to the facts of sin present and a Saviour to come. Truly that law was as powerless, in his case, to convince him of sin, as it was in the case of those who were convinced, to make them perfect as pertaining to the conscience." The time had indeed come for the great Paschal Lamb to be slain, and therefore Jesus the Christ, both high priest and sacrifice, began at once to prepare for the plain and public confession of His undeputed and inherent divinity; that truth which alone could secure His condemnation to death, and afterward raise Him again to life and glory.

SECTION II.

His Discourses with the Jews.

Christ's Sonship (twofold) was a continual stumbling-block to the Jews, for it was always coming up, forced upon them either by His teaching, or preaching, or miracles. The eternal was more strongly impressed upon them than the mortal, for only by a firm adherence to the former could the Messiah bring about His death as the latter, and at the same time be guiltless of His and their blood by letting them know "plainly" "who" He was. Had He wavered in the least from His unmistakable intimations that He was the eternal Son of God, and that, of course, by generation, they could not have taken Him with intent to kill. The title "Son of God," apart from this peculiar meaning attached to it by Christians, could not have offended them, for in one sense it is applicable to all men, since all were originally created in Adam, and are the children of God by His continuous creation and preservation. "In Him we live, and move, and have our being." Angels and archangels, prophets, apostles, and all believers are also called the sons of God by vocation and adoption. Had the Messiah, then, as He stood before the Jews, a man of flesh and blood, and mortal, admitted that He was merely a being of special Divine creation and calling, they had not dared to accuse or condemn Him. Or, had He even claimed to be an angel or archangel in disguise, they could not have objected, for they were accustomed to the idea of these presenting themselves to men in human form, visiting and abiding with them (as "the angel of the LORD "), whilst the names of "Gabriel" and "Michael" were familiar to them as household-words. That a great prophet like Jesus should call himself the Son of God, would have excited no surprise nor antagonism in the Jews. That title, at its highest, would never to them have signified generation.

This, Jesus very well knew, and therefore He was always

careful not to say to them in so many words, "I am the Son of God."* This might have been. interpreted to mean the same in His case as in that of many others. On the contrary, He did more. He called God His "Father;" and not only this, but "My Father," in the sense of generation as the Jews understood. Thus "He made Himself," as they said truly, "equal," or of one substance with God.t He did not call, but (leaving them to draw the inference) "made Himself the Son of God," and provoked them to anger by forcing them to put His intimation into these plain words. Precisely this inference it was that made them so desirous, and it possible, for them to take Him to put to death. Hence, when they charged Him with it to the face, He neither denied nor explained it away, but proceeded to talk on that assumption. Later, determined to draw them out still more (because anxious that He and they should be guiltless of each other's blood), He endeavored to prove to them His highest Sonship by His works. "Many good works have I shown you from my Father," He said; and then as they took up stones, He asked ironically, "for which of those works do you stone me?" And the Jews again answered frankly and truly: "For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God."

At that point they saw that He did not make Himself merely the Son of God, but "God;" that is, not only God of one substance, or essence with, but also of one nature, or eternal with the Father. At last they had put His teachings into words, clear and concise as a creed! He had claimed to be true or perfect man, and true or perfect God! And the Messiah, delighted (though it would insure His death), instead of denying their conclusion, only pressed it more strongly and beseechingly: "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the

* Except where He used it, as in St. John x. 36, in the sense of the Messiah, St. John x. 32, 33.

St. John v. 18.

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