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REVIEW OF WHAT LED UP TO PETER'S CONFESSION.
It seems worth while, even at such length, to describe the scenery CHAP. along this journey, and the look and situation of Cæsarea, when we recall the importance of the events enacted there, or in the immediate neighbourhood. It was into this chiefly Gentile district, that the Lord now withdrew with His disciples after that last and decisive question of the Pharisees. It was here that, as His question, like Moses' rod, struck their hearts, there leaped from the lips of Peter the living, life-spreading waters of his confession. It may have been, that this rock-wall below the castle, from under which sprang Jordan, or the rock on which the castle stood, supplied the material suggestion for Christ's words: “Thou art Peter, and on this rock will I build My Church.” In Cæsarea, or its immediate neighbourhood, did the Lord spend, with His disciples, six days after this confession; and here, close by, on one of the heights of snowy Hermon, was the scene of the Transfiguration, the light of which shone for ever into the hearts of the disciples on their dark and tangled path;“ nay, * 2 Fet. i, 19 far beyond tbat-beyond life and death-beyond the grave and the judgment, to the perfect brightness of the Resurrection-day.
As we think of it, there seems nothing strange in it, but all most wise and most gracious, that such events should have taken place far away from Galilee and Israel, in the solitary grandeur of the shadows of Hermon, and even amongst a chiefly Gentile population. Not in Judæa, nor even in Galilee-but far away from the Temple, the Synagogue, the Priests, Pharisees and Scribes, was the first confession of the Church made, and on this confession its first foundations laid. Even this spoke of near judgment and doom to what had once been God's chosen congregation. And all that happened, though Divinely shaped as regards the end, followed in a natural and orderly succession of events. Let us briefly recall the circumstances, which in the previous chapters have been described in detail.
It had been needful to leave Capernaum. The Galilean Ministry of the Christ was ended, and, alike the active persecutions of the Pharisees from Jerusalem, the inquiries of Herod, whose hands, stained with the blood of the Baptist, were tremblingly searching for his greater Successor, and the growing indecision and unfitness of the people—as well as the state of the disciples—pointed to the need for leaving Galilee. Then followed the Last Supper' to Israel on the eastern shore of Lake Gennesaret, when they would have
"So Stanley, with his usual charm of lan- infer, that the words of Peter's confesguage, though topographically not quite sion were spoken in Cæsarea itself. The correctly (Sinai and Palestine, p. 395). place might have been in view or in the
Nothing in the above obliges us to memory
made Him a King. He must now withdraw quite away, out of the boundaries of Israel. Then came that miraculous night-journey, the brief Sabbath-stay at Capernaum by the way, the journey through Tyrian and Sidonian territory, and round to the Decapolis, the teaching and healing there, the gathering of the multitude to Him, together with that “Supper,' which closed His Ministry there—and, finally, the withdrawal to Tarichæa, where His Apostles, as fishermen of the Lake, may have had business-connections, since the place was the great central depôt for selling and preparing the fish for export.
In that distant and obscure corner, on the boundary-line between Jew and Gentile, had that greatest crisis in the history of the world occurred, which sealed the doom of Israel, and in their place substituted the Gentiles as citizens of the Kingdom. And, in this respect also, it is most significant, that the confession of the Church took place in territory chiefly inhabited by Gentiles, and the Transfiguration on Mount Hermon. That crisis was the public challenge of the Pharisees and Sadducees, that Jesus should legitimate His claims to the Messiahship by a sign from heaven. It is not too much to assert, that neither His questioners, nor even His disciples, understood the answer of Jesus, nor perceived the meaning of His "sign.' To the Pharisees Jesus would seem to have been defeated, and to stand self-convicted of having made Divine claims which, when challenged, He could not substantiate. He had hitherto elected (as they, who understood not His teaching, would judge) to prove Himself the Messiah by the miracles which He had wrought-and now,
when met on His own ground, He had publicly declined, or at least evaded, the challenge. He had conspicuously—almost self-confessedlyfailed! At least, so it would appear to those who could not understand His reply and sign. We note that a sinilar final challenge was addressed to Jesus by the High-Priest, when he adjured Him to say, whether He was what He claimed. His answer then was an assertion—not a proof; and, unsupported as it seemed, His questioners would only regard it as blasphemy.
But what of the disciples, who (as we have seen) would probably understand the sign’ of Christ little better than the Pharisees? That what might seem Christ's failure, in not daring to meet the challenge of His questioners, must have left some impression on them, is not only natural, but appears even from Christ's warning of the leaven—that is, of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Indeed, that this unmet challenge and virtual defeat of Jesus did make lasting and deepest impression in His disfavour, is evident
St. John vii. 1-5
from the later challenge of His own relatives to go and meet the Pharisees at headquarters in Judæa, and to show openly, if He XXXVII could, by His works, that He was the Messiah.a All the more remarkable appears Christ's dealing with His disciples, His demand on, and training of their faith. It must be remembered, that His last 'hard' sayings at Capernaum had led to the defection of many, who till then had been His disciples. Undoubtedly this had already » St. John tried their faith, as appears from the question of Christ: Will ye comp. also go away?'c It was this wise and gracious dealing with them- xv.12 this putting the one disappointment of doubt, engendered by what est. John they could not understand, against their whole past experience in following Him, which enabled them to overcome. And it is this which also enables us to answer the doubt, perhaps engendered by inability to understand seemingly unintelligible, hard sayings of Christ, such as that to the disciples about giving them His Flesh to eat, or about His being the Living Bread from heaven. And, this alternative being put to them: would they, could they, after their experience of Him, go away from Him, they overcame, as we overcome, through what almost sounds like a cry of despair, yet is a shout of victory: Lord to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.
And all that followed only renewed and deepened the trial of faith, which had commenced at Capernaum. We shall, perhaps, best understand it when following the progress of this trial in him who, at last, made shipwreck of his faith: Judas Iscariot. Without attempting to gaze into the mysterious abyss of the Satanic element in his apostasy, we may trace his course in its psychological development.
We must not regard Judas as a monster, but as one with passions like ourselves. True, there was one terrible master-passion in his soul-covetousness; but that was only the downward, lower aspect of what seems, and to many really is, that which leads to the higher and better-ambition. It had been thoughts of Israel's King which had first set his imagination on fire, and brought him to follow the Messiah. Gradually, increasingly, came the disenchantment. It was quite another Kingdom, that of Christ ; quite another Kingship than what had set Judas aglow. This feeling was deepened as events proceeded. His confidence must have been terribly shaken when the Baptist was beheaded. What a contrast to the time when his voice had bent the thousands of Israel, as trees in the wind! So this had been nothing--and the Baptist must be written off, not as for, but as against, Christ. Then came the next disappointment,
a St. Luke ix. 18
when Jesus would not be made King. Why not—if He were King ? And so on, step by step, till the final depth was reached, when Jesus would not, or could not—which was it?--meet the public challenge of the Pharisees. We take it, that it was then that the leaven pervaded and leavened Judas in heart and soul.
We repeat it, that what so, and for ever, penetrated Judas, left not (as Christ's warning shows) the others wholly unaffected. The very presence of Judas with them must have had its influence. And how did Christ deal with it? There was, first, the silent sail across the Lake, and then the warning which put them on their guard, lest the little leaven should corrupt the bread of the Sanctuary, on which they had learned to live. The littleness of their faith must be corrected; it must grow and become strong. And so we can understand what follows. It was after solitary prayer—no doubt for them that, with reference to the challenge of the Pharisees, the leaven' that threatened them, He now gathered up all their experience of the past by putting to them the question, what men, the people who had watched His works and heard His words, regarded Him as being. Even on them some conviction had been wrought by their observance of Him. It marked Him out (as the disciples said) as different from all around, nay, from all ordinary men: like the Baptist, or Elijah, or as if He were one of the old prophets alive again. But, if even the multitude had gathered such knowledge of Him, what was their experience, who had always been with Him? Answered he, who most truly represented the Church, because with the most advanced experience of the three most intimate disciples he combined the utmost boldness of confession: Thou art the Christ!'
And so in part was this leaven of the Pharisees purged! Yet not wholly. For then it was, that Christ spake to them of His sufferings and death, and that the resistance of Peter showed how deeply that leaven had penetrated. And then followed the grand contrast presented by Christ, between minding the things of men and those of God, with the warning which it implied, and the monition as to the necessity of bearing the cross of contempt, and the absolute call to do so, as addressed to those who would be His disciples. Here, then, the contest about the sign,' or rather the challenge about the Messiahship, was carried from the mental into the moral sphere, and so decided. Six days more of quiet, waiting and growth of faith, and it was met, rewarded, crowned, and perfected by the sight on the Mount of Transfiguration; yet, even so, perceived only as through the heaviness of sleep.
• WHOM DO MEN SAY THAT I AM?:
Thus far for the general arrangement of these events. We shall CHAP. now be prepared better to understand the details. It was certainly XXXVII not for personal reasons, but to call attention to the impression made even on the popular mind, to correct its defects, and to raise the minds of the Apostles to far higher thoughts, that He asked them about the opinions of men concerning Himself. Their difference proved not only their incompetence to form a right view, but also how many-sided Christ's teaching must have been. We are probably correct in supposing, that popular opinion did not point to Christ as literally the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets who had long been dead. For, although the literal reappearance of Elijah, and probably also of Jeremiah,' was expected, the Pharisees did not teach, nor the Jews believe in, a transmigration of souls. Besides, no one looked for the return of any of the other old prophets, nor could any one have seriously imagined, that Jesus was, literally, John the Baptist, since all knew them to have been contemporaries.? Rather would it mean, that some saw in Him the continuation of the work of John, as heralding and preparing the way of the Messiah, or, if they did not believe in John, of that of Elijah ; while to others He seemed a second Jeremiah, denouncing woe on Israel, and calling to tardy repentance; or else one of those old prophets, who had spoken either of the near judgment or of the coming glory. But, however they differed, in this all agreed, that they regarded Him not as an ordinary man or teacher, but His Mission as straight from heaven ; and, alas, in this also, that they did not view Him as the Messiah. Thus far, then, there was already retrogression in popular opinion, and thus far had the Pharisees already succeeded.
There is a significant emphasis in the words, with which Jesus
I confess, however, to strong doubts senes. The first distinct mention of the on this point. Legends of the hiding reappearance of Jeremiah, along with of the tabernacle, ark, and altar of in- Elijah, to restore the ark, &c., is in cense on Mount Nebo by Jeremiah were, Josippon ben Gorion (lib. i. c. 21), but indeed, combined with an expectation here also only in the Cod. Munster., not that these precious possessions would be in that used by Breithaupt. The age of restored in Messianic times (2 Macc. ii. the works of Josippon is in dispute; pro1-7), but it is expressly added in ver. 8, bably we may date it from the tenth that the Lord' Himself, and not the century of our era. The only other prophet, would show their place of con- testimony about the reappearance of cealment. I cannot understand Dean Jeremiah is 4 Esd. (2 Esd.) ii. 18. But Plumptre's statement to the contrary, nor the book is post-Christian, and, in that his insistence, that the Pharisees taught, section especially, evidently borrows from or the Jews believed in, the doctrine the Christian Scriptures. of the transmigration of souls. The ? On the vague fears of Herod, see vol. mistake seerns to have arisen from a i. p. 675. misapprehension of what Josephus said, 3 A vision of Jeremiah in a dream was as has been shown in the chapter on supposed to betoken chastisements (Ber. • The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Es- 57 b, line 8 from top).