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to suffer them to labour under so manifest a delusion were founded in the necessity of the case.
Had he, on their first association with him, declared at once, that shame, persecution, misery, and death, were to be their portion, they might have felt too much disheartened to proceed any farther in his enterprise, and have dispersed and gone away without any attempt to assist him. It was necessary, therefore, to win their affections, and to gain over their minds and judgments, before he ventured to remove their national prejudices. This could be done only by miracles; by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, casting out devils, and raising the dead. Such works would have the two-fold effect of exciting their love and regard, and of inspiring them with boldness and confidence in his supernatural power. He said nothing, therefore, at first concerning the nature of the kingdom he came to set up, or his own personal interest in its establishment. He left both to be gathered from his conduct. It seems to have been in the third and last year of his ministry, and as he was drawing towards the close of his career, that he first began to explain these matters more particularly, and to open their minds to the very different scene of things which they were soon to behold. He introduced the subject in an easy and natural manner, by asking them what was thought of him. Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am ?” They told him the current reports of the day;
“Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the Pro
phets.” This led him farther to enquire into their own opinion of him. “But whom say ye that I
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
This answer showed that a sense of Christ's real character was now predominant in their breasts, that they believed him to be the promised Messiah so long foretold, so ardently expected by their nation; and this conviction was produced by that very kind of evidence which was likely to make it lasting, namely, the supernatural works which he had wrought. Finding, therefore, that they understood somewhat of his holy nature though it was but little, he began to unfold the grand design of his mission.
“ From that time forth,” says the Evangelist,“ began Jesus to show unto his disciples how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the Elders and Chief Priests and Scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” How they were prepared to receive such tidings, which struck at the root of all their long-cherished hopes, we may learn from St. Peter's conduct, who “took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord : this shall not be unto thee." In this first prediction of our
blessed Lord respecting his meditated death we are to observe, that he merely gives an outline of his approaching trial. He enters into no particulars. He neither states the manner by which he shall be brought into the hands of the Gentiles, that is, the Roman authorities, nor the nature of the sufferings, independent of death, which he should endure from them. His object was barely to state the facts, and leave them, as interesting events, to be revolved in the minds of his disciples. It farther deserves to be observed, that the very next occurrence of any moment in the history of our Lord, was the most striking and memorable of all during his life. He was transfigured before some of his disciples.. Having announced his approaching death and resurrection, he took three of them, of whom St. Peter was one, into a mountain apart, and there gave them, what is generally understood to have been, a specimen of a glorified body at its resurrection. He seems, evidently, to have meant it as an illustration of this nature, if not as a more immediate type of his own resurrection, for he said to these favoured followers, “ Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of Man be risen again from the dead,” connecting it with what he had already announced to them on that awful and interesting subject.
Having gone thus far in undermining their prejudices respecting his temporal glory, and preparing them to look for a very different result of his labours to what they had anticipated, he soon follows it up with a more express declaration of his approaching end. “ And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of Man shall be betrayed into the hands of men : and they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again.” Here his prophecy is more particular. He tells them in what way he shall be brought into trouble, that it should be by treachery, some one was to betray him, and then were to follow his death and resurrection. This new recital of his sufferings touched them greatly. “ They were exceeding sorry.” It made a deep impression on their hearts. Still they did not rightly comprehend him. On the contrary, the Evangelist says, “ They understood not this saying, and it was bid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying."
The time was now approaching when all the prophecies which related to his death were to be fulfilled. He set out, therefore, from Galilee and came into Judea preparatory to his appearance for the last time at Jerusalem. And on the road thither, as he was going up, he took the twelve disciples apart, and made a full discovery of his approaching sufferings and end.
“Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the Chief Priests and unto the Scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.” Here, you perceive, he enters into a detail of the event, states that he was to be betrayed to his countrymen, was to be condemned to death by them, and then to be delivered over to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him, and that on the third day he should rise again.
Now, when we come to lay all these circumstances together, it puts us in possession of this important fact, that the disciples, notwithstanding the communications which had been made to them by our blessed Lord, were in no way prepared for his death and resurrection. Accordingly, when Judas, attended by an armed band, appeared with torches in the garden of Gethsemane, whither Jesus and the disciples had retired, an overwhelming panic seized them. The attack was sudden, and their surprise was consequently great. Peter, indeed, made some resistance, but his Master soon forbade it, and when they saw him taken forcibly away and carried at once to the Sanhedrim, their courage completely failed them, and “they all forsook him, and fled.” Peter and John attended his examination by the High Priest, but there Peter unhappily denied him. At the crucifixion, of them no one but John is mentioned as being present. The rest, it is probable, had all hid themselves. Thus was fulfilled the first part of the prophecy of Christ, cited by him from the prophet Zechariah, who gives it in these words, “ Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts : smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered."