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THE DISPUTE BY THE WAY.
was opened, a precious gem was found in it, which he sold, and ever afterwards lived of the proceeds."
In truth, most incongruous as it may appear to us, looking back on it in the light of the Resurrection-day, nay, almost incredible— evidently, the Apostles were still greatly under the influence of the old spirit. It was the common Jewish view, that there would be distinctions of rank in the Kingdom of Heaven. It can scarcely be
a Ber. R. 11
The reader can scarcely fail to mark the absolute difference between even the most beautiful Jewish legends and any trait in the on Gen. ii. 3 Evangelic history.
3. The event next recorded in the Gospels took place partly on the way from the Mount of Transfiguration to Capernaum, and partly in Capernaum itself, immediately after the scene connected with the Tribute-money. It is recorded by the three Evangelists, and it led to explanations and admonitions, which are told by St. Mark and St. Luke, but chiefly by St. Matthew. This circumstance seems to indicate, that the latter was a chief actor in that which occasioned this special teaching and warning of Christ, and that it must have sunk very deeply into his heart.
As we look at it, in the light of the then mental and spiritual state of the Apostles, not in that in which, perhaps naturally, we regard them, what happened seems not difficult to understand. As St. Mark puts it, by the way they had disputed among themselves St. Mark which of them would be the greatest-as St. Matthew explains, in the Messianic Kingdom of Heaven. They might now the more confidently expect its near Advent from the mysterious announcement of the Resurrection on the third day, which they would probably connect with the commencement of the last Judgment, following upon the violent Death of the Messiah. Of a dispute, serious and even violent, among the disciples, we have evidence in the exhortation of the Master, as reported by St. Mark, in the direction of the St. Mark Lord how to deal with an offending brother, and in the answering inquiry of Peter. Nor can we be at a loss to perceive its occasion. St. Matt The distinction just bestowed on the three, in being taken up the Mount, may have roused feelings of jealousy in the others, perhaps of self-exaltation in the three. Alike the spirit which John displayed in his harsh prohibition of the man that did not follow with the disciples, and the self-righteous bargaining of Peter about forgiving the supposed or real offences of a brother, give evidence of anything but the frame of mind which we would have expected after the Vision on the Mount.
xviii. 15, 21
St. Matt. xviii. 1
st. Mark ix
St. Matt. xviii. 21
necessary to prove this by Rabbinic quotations, since the whole system of Rabbinism and Pharisaism, with its separation from the vulgar and ignorant, rests upon it. But even within the charmed circle of Rabbinism, there would be distinctions, due to learning, merit, and even to favouritism. In this world there were His special favourites, who could command anything at His hand, to use the Taan. iii. 8 Rabbinic expression: like a spoilt child from its father.' a 1 And in the Messianic age God would assign booths to each according to his rank.b On the other hand, many passages could be quoted bearing on the duty of humility and self-abasement. But the stress laid on the merit attaching to this shows too clearly, that it was the pride that apes humility. One instance, previously referred to, will suffice by way of illustration. When the child of the great Rabbi Jochanan ben Saccai was dangerously ill, he was restored through the prayer of one Chanina ben Dosa. On this the father of the child remarked to his wife: If the son of Saccai had all day long put his head between his knees, no heed would have been given to him.' "How is that?' asked his wife; 'is Chanina greater than thou?' 'No,' the reply, he is like a servant before the King, while I am like a prince before the King' (he is always there, and has thus opportunities which I, as a lord, do not enjoy).
How deep-rooted were such thoughts and feelings, appears not only from the dispute of the disciples by the way, but from the request proffered by the mother of Zebedee's children and her sons at a later period, in terrible contrast to the near Passion of our Lord. It does, indeed, come upon us as a most painful surprise, and as sadly incongruous, this constant self-obtrusion, self-assertion, and low, carnal self-seeking; this Judaistic trifling in face of the utter self-abnegation and self-sacrifice of the Son of Man. Surely, the contrast between Christ and His disciples seems at times almost as great as between Him and the other Jews. If we would measure His Stature, or comprehend the infinite distance between His aims and teaching and those of His contemporaries, let it be by comparison with even the best of His disciples. It must have been part of His humiliation and self-exinanition to bear with them. And is it not, in a sense, still so as regards us all?
We have already seen, that there was quite sufficient occasion and material for such a dispute on the way from the Mount of Transfiguration to Capernaum. We suppose Peter to have only at
b Baba B. 75 a
Ber. 34 b
d St. Matt. XX. 20
The almost blasphemous story of how Choni or Onias, the circle-drawer,' drew a circle around him, and refused to leave it till God had sent rain-and suc
cessively objected to too little and too much, stands by no means alone in Talmudic legend.
'HE THAT IS NOT AGAINST US, IS FOR US.'
the first been with the others. To judge by the later question, how CHAP. often he was to forgive the brother who had sinned against him, he may have been so deeply hurt, that he left the other disciples, and hastened on with the Master, Who would, at any rate, sojourn in his house. For, neither he nor Christ seem to have been present when John and the others forbade the man, who would not follow with them, to cast out demons in Christ's name. Again, the other disciples only came into Capernaum, and entered the house, just as Peter had gone for the Stater, with which to pay the Temple-tribute for the Master and himself. And, if speculation be permissible, we would suggest that the brother, whose offences Peter found it so difficult to forgive, may have been none other than Judas. In such a dispute by the way, he, with his Judaistic views, would be specially interested; perhaps he may have been its chief instigator; certainly, he, whose natural character, amidst its sharp contrasts to that of Peter, presented so many points of resemblance to it, would, on many grounds, be specially jealous of, and antagonistic to him.
Quite natural in view of this dispute by the way is another incident of the journey, which is afterwards related. As we judge, John seems to have been the principal actor in it; perhaps, in the absence of Peter, he claimed the leadership. They had met one who, in the Name of Christ, was casting out demons-whether successfully or not, we need scarcely inquire. So widely had faith in the power of Jesus extended; so real was the belief in the subjection of the demons to Him; so reverent was the acknowledgment of Him. A man, who, thus forsaking the methods of Jewish exorcists, owned Jesus in the face of the Jewish world, could not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven; at any rate, he could not quickly speak evil of Him. John had, in name of the disciples, forbidden him, because he had not cast in his lot wholly with them. It was quite in the spirit of their ideas about the Messianic Kingdom, and of their dispute, which of His close followers would be greatest there. And yet, they might deceive themselves as to the motives of their conduct. If it were not almost impertinence to use such terms, we would have said that there was infinite wisdom and kindness in the answer which the Saviour gave, when referred to on the subject. To forbid a man, in such circumstances, would be either prompted by the spirit of the dispute by the way or else must be grounded on evidence that the motive was, or the effect would ultimately be (as in the case of the sons of Sceva) to lead men to speak evil' of Christ, or to hinder the work of His disciples. Assuredly, such could not have been the case with a man, who invoked His Name,
St. Luke ix.
St. Luke ix. 50
b St. Matt. xii. 30
and perhaps experienced its efficacy. More than this-and here is an eternal principle: He that is not against us is for us;' he that opposeth not the disciples, really is for them-a saying still more clear, when we adopt the better reading in St. Luke, He that is not against you is for you.'1
There was reproof in this, as well as instruction, deeply consistent with that other, though seemingly different, saying: 'He that is not with Me is against Me.' The distinction between them is twofold. In the one case it is not against,' in the other it is not with;' but chiefly it lies in this: in the one case it is not against the disciples in their work, while in the other it is-not with Christ. A man who did what he could with such knowledge of Christ as he possessed, even although he did not absolutely follow with them, was 'not against' them. Such an one should be regarded as thus far with them; at least be let alone, left to Him Who knew all things. Such a man would not lightly speak evil of Christ-and that was all the disciples should care for, unless, indeed, they sought their own. Quite other was it as regarded the relation of a person to the Christ Himself. There neutrality was impossible-and that which was not with Christ, by this very fact was against Him. The lesson is of the most deep-reaching character, and the distinction, alas! still overlooked-perhaps, because ours is too often the spirit of those who journeyed to Capernaum. Not, that it is unimportant to follow with the disciples, but that it is not ours to forbid any work done, however imperfectly, in His Name, and that only one question is really vital -whether or not a man is decidedly with Christ.
e St. Luke d St. Mark
Such were the incidents by the way. And now, while withholding from Christ their dispute, and, indeed, anything that might seem personal in the question, the disciples, on entering the house where He was in Capernaum, addressed to Him this inquiry (which should be inserted from the opening words of St. Matthew's narrative): 'Who, then, is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?' It was a general question-but Jesus perceived the thought of their heart; He knew about what they had disputed by the way,d and now asked them about it. The account of St. Mark is most graphic. We almost see the scene. Conscience-stricken 'they hold their peace.' As we
⚫in St. Mark read the further words: And He sat down,' it seems as if the
1 Readers of ordinary sobriety of judgment will form their opinions of the value of modern negative criticism, when we tell them that it has discovered in this man who did not follow with the
disciples an allusion to Pauline Christianity,' of which St. Mark took a more charitable view than St. Matthew! By such treatment you may make anything of the facts of history.
WHO IS GREATEST IN THE KINGDOM ?
Master had at first gone to welcome the disciples on their arrival,
These words about receiving Christ, and receiving in the Name of Christ,' had stirred the memory and conscience of John, and made him half wonder, half fear, whether what they had done by the way, in forbidding the man to do what he could in the Name of Christ, had been right. And so he told it, and received the further and higher teaching on the subject. And, more than this, St. Mark and, more fully, St. Matthew, record some further instruction in connection with it, to which St. Luke refers, in a slightly different form, at a somewhat later period." But it seems so congruous to the present occasion, that we conclude it was then spoken, although, like other sayings, it may have been afterwards repeated under similar circumstances. Certainly, no more effective continuation,
Verbal parallels could easily be quoted, and naturally so, since Jesus spoke as a Jew to Jews-but no real parallel. Indeed, the point of the story
lies in its being so utterly un-Jewish.
? Or else St. Luke may have gathered into connected discourses what may have been spoken at different times.
a St. Luke xvii. 1-7
Comp. for St. Mark ix.
St. Matt. v.