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of the Messiah clearly predicted: one as Jesus of Nazareth, doomed to persecution and death ; the other as a glorified Being, appearing in the clouds of heaven to take vengeance on his cruel enemies, and reward his faithful disciples.
Hitherto, even when sending out his apostles as missionaries, Jesus had adhered to the programme of John—“ The kingdom of heaven is at hand;' but now the time had come for privately disclosing to his disciples that he is the long-expected Messiah of Israel and Judah. Jesus leads up to the question by inquiring what popular opinions were generally current respecting him ; and learns that social gossip identifies him with John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am ? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. From that time forth began Jesus to shew 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.' 2
Jesus having thus finally identified himself with the fatal prediction of Isaiah, his persecution and death at the hands of enemies, exasperated by the candour of his denunciations, was a foregone conclusion; and we thus behold him lured by the prophetic superstition to court fulfilment of the fatal programme penned by the gifted personator of Isaiah. But did he predict his
1 We exclude the interpolated verses 17-19.
own resurrection, and even name the period of detention in the grave? The reply of Peter, ‘Be it far from thee, Lord ; this shall not be unto thee,' obviously refers to persecution and death, without any consciousness of a glorious resurrection; and all the Gospels clearly indicate that, at the crucifixion, none of the apostles anticipated the miracle of a risen Saviour.
The warning voice of Peter was powerless to control the growing fanaticism of Jesus, and the severity with which he was rebuked finally silenced all the Apostles. Thus Jesus became hopelessly entangled in the meshes of prophetic illusion, deprived of all advice and counsel which might have shown him that selfimmolation, in harmony with the fanciful utterance of an ancient bard, was a form of suicide irreconcilable with the purpose of a beneficent Deity.
Having thus announced to his disciples the sufferings and death which awaited him according to Isaiah, he also communicated to them the Messianic glories predicted by Enoch.
Matt. xvi. 27, 28: For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of his father with his angels, and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.'
Matt. xxiv. 30, 31, 34-36 : 'And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven ; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn ; and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall
gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.'
When we consider that the form and substance of these startling announcements are borrowed from the Book of Enoch, and that, contrary to the expectations of Jesus, nearly two thousand years have passed away without their fulfilment, we inevitably see in him the innocent victim of illusory dreams originating in the Messianic fanaticism of some unknown enthusiast, speaking in the name of a man who had been dead three thousand
years. The author of the Book of Enoch knew nothing of a suffering Messiah. His hopes rested on the triumphal appearance of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven, sitting on the throne of his glory. Jesus, as we have seen, reconciled the conflicting predictions of Isaiah and Enoch by adopting the theory of a second advent, as the only possible solution of prophetic destiny; but who was to determine the date of that marvellous event ? A general consensus of opinion pointed to that age as the era of Messianic triumph. Although the Jews could not accept the carpenter's son as the promised Prince of Judah, they did not cease to anticipate an early appearance of the national deliverer. Jesus, therefore, inferred that, although the day and the hour were still unrevealed, his second and glorious advent would occur within the lifetime of his disciples. We thus attain the remarkable position that the
Messianic views of Jesus were identical with those of the nation, with the exception that the triumphal advent would be the second, instead of the first appearance of the promised Saviour of the people. And thus the first Christians were simply Jews who participated in the national expectation of the triumphal Messiah of the prophets, but believed he had already passed a brief period on earth.
THE TRAGEDY OF CALVARY.
At length the tragedy of Calvary was at hand. Jesus had deeply wounded the susceptibilities of the sacerdotal and philosophic formalists of his day, by the mere suggestion of a kingdom of heaven from which they were to be excluded ; and, true to the spirit of religious intolerance which has characterised Hebrew and Christian theology, from the slaughter of the Canaanites to the massacre of St. Bartholomew, they doomed the too candid Prophet to destruction, who had dared to form independent opinions on subjects within their own realm of thought.
Conscious that his enemies were plotting his destruction, Jesus retired to the privacy of Gethsemane to finally think out the awful problem of prophetic fatality, and make one last appeal to his father in heaven for merciful reconsideration of Isaiah's cruel prediction : • He was taken from prison and from judgment, he was cut off out of the land of the living.' This is the decree of an inspired prophet, but can it be the will of God that innocent blood should be shed? Is there no way of escape from prophetic destiny? Is he doomed to silence before the judgment-seat, to be led forth as a dumb animal to the slaughter? Was not Isaac snatched at the last moment from the sacrificial knife ?