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to be set up, and that his own mission was to prepare them for it by exhortations to repentance, and by baptizing true penitents in token that their sins were forgiven (Matt. iii. 1, 2). Here we have in brief both the exhortation and the tidings—“Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." "John came, who baptized in the wilderness, and preached the baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins ” (Mark i. 4).
While John baptized with water all who came to him, not being able to discriminate between those who were sincerely repentant and the insincere or shallow, he told them it would be far otherwise with the Messiah, who would judge them in his baptism ; those whose actions showed true repentance, he would admit into his kingdom, baptizing them with the Holy Ghost, but the others with fire unquenchable (Matt. iii. 11, 12).
John must have preached with wondrous eloquence and power, or else the Jewish nation, believing that the time had arrived for the advent of the Messiah, was peculiarly susceptible to religious influences, for we read that almost the whole people, including many of the Pharisees and Sadducees, came to John, seeking his baptism of repentance for the remission of their sins (Matt. iii. 5, 6; Mark i. 4, 5).
Among the rest came Jesus, in whose countenance and manner there would seem to have been something to impress an observer with a conviction of his moral excellence, for John acknowledged his superiority to himself, and with exceeding humility hesitates as to
whether he shall relinquish his high position in favour of the Nazarene (“I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?”—Matt. iii. 14); but Jesus felt it his duty to make public profession of his repentance and desire of forgiveness. This evidently implies a consciousness of past sin; we need not accuse Jesus of the mere hollow conformity of submitting to a popular rite.* On the contrary, the plain inference from the narrative is that he submitted to it in all sincerity, and that he had “a realizing sense ” of its efficacy, a consciousness that his sins were indeed remitted, and that he was now accepted
a beloved son of the Father. A dove which alights on him after his baptism is regarded by him (and rightly so, in the estimation of the writer of the Gospel) as an emblem of the Holy Spirit, conveying the divine peace to his soul. The evangelist does not intimate that John or the spectators heard a voice from heaven, or that they were conscious of any supernatural manifestation (see Matt. iii. 15-17; also Mark i. 10, 11).
Having thus been assured by the voice of God of his special favour, Jesus now longed for communion with his Divine Parent. He therefore (following the example of the prophets, and of John) went into the wilderness, where he remained forty days and forty nights without food, without even suffering the sensation of hunger. Here, then, was a great miracle,
“Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in the Jordan" (Mark i. 9, see 4; and also Matt. iii. 6, 11, 13).
and one which raised Jesus to an equality with the wonder-working prophets of old, even the two chief, viz. Moses and Elijah, who had each been sustained this exact time without food by the power of God.
Though Jesus had had no distinct testimony that he was the Messiah, he yet had been acknowledged greater than John, the Messiah's forerunner. The heavens also had been opened to him in attestation of his possessing the peculiar favour of God; and now the divine power was displayed in his behalf, as it had been to the greatest prophets, and to them only. Was he not then himself the Messiah-the Anointed One of God to whom all the prophets bare witness, and, therefore, not only equal to Moses and Elijah, but superior to them both ? This question seems now to have occurred to him, and, along with it, a desire to put it to the test.
But Jesus remembers that always of old it was God who gave the word, and that it rather became him to wait on God, since he who had kept him hitherto “by the word of his power” could still do so, or by the same word could send him manna from heaven, as he did to the Israelites in the desert. He therefore resists the temptation, resolving to be led only by the Spirit of God.
Still, the desire to know whether he really is this Son of God (the Messiah) remains, and the devil takes advantage of it by proposing another test. Was it not written of the Messiah that he should be the peculiar care of angels, and should be borne up on
their hands when in danger of falling on the stones ? Having reminded Jesus of this text of Scripture, the tempter suggests to him that he should put it to the proof by throwing himself off some high place, as the pinnacle of the temple. But Jesus recalls another Scripture to repel the temptation, where it is expressly forbidden to make experiments for the purpose of trying whether the power of God is with us or not (Exod. xvii. 7; Deut. vi. 16). He is thus strengthened in his resolve to wait on God.
But, letting miracle alone, what if, taking advantage of the popular enthusiastic expectation, he were to boldly announce himself as Messiah, and, arming the multitudes, were to lead them to victory like the Macabees; and, having freed the land from foreign domination, were then, like David, to subjugate the surrounding heathen, until, repeated conquests adding to his power, he might at length be able to overcome Rome herself, and, reducing to subjection the mistress of the world, would have even the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession.
According to the literal reading, Satan takes Jesus to a mountain, and showing him all the kingdoms of the earth and their glory, offers to give them all to him, on condition of his falling down and worshipping himself. As there does not exist any mountain from the summit of which we can with our bodily eyes see all the world, we need not here take the literal sense. We may, therefore, conclude that Jesus reflected on the means by which the subjugation of the world could be effected, and it seemed to him it could only be done by unscrupulous falsehood and cruelty. To determine on attempting it by these means would be deliberately to serve the devil, whereas men must worship and serve God only, seeking first the establishment of his kingdom and righteousness, not their own personal aggrandisement.
This, then, is the grand work to which Jesus will devote himself—he will assist John to bring in the reign of righteousness, the kingdom of heaven, or else will wait till he receives direct instruction from on high. The devil has done his worst with him, and behold, angels come and supply his wants (Matt. iv. 1-11).
If Jesus was now in any perplexity as to what course he should pursue, this did not long continue. He finds that John's career has been suddenly cut short by Herod, who has thrown him into prison. Here, then, is a call to take up John's work, to begin preaching repentance (if not to baptize), and to spread the good tidings that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand." He does not, however, affect the austerity of his predecessor, but leaves the desert for his native Galilee, to live, not with his mother at Nazareth, but at Capernaum, on the lake.*
At Capernaum he taught in the synagogue on the
*“Now when he heard that John was delivered up, he withdrew into Galilee ; and leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum.
From that time began Jesus to preach, and to say Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand ” (Matt. iv. 12, 13, 17; also see Mark i. 14, 15, 21).