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On one occasion, and this too at the very opening of his history, when, if they had had any anxiety about the effect of the things they were going to relate, the writers would have taken care to place Jesus in the best light, they represent him as tempted. It is true the temptations that assailed him are described as the suggestions of another, the Evil One. But it must be remembered that this representation is made in accordance with the rude philosophy, if so it may be termed, of the age, with the universally received idea, not that men were tempted by a malignant being assuming a visible shape—for under such circumstances the temptation of the weakest would be impossible--but that the evil thoughts and inclinations, arising in men's own minds, were to be attributed to the agency of an evil spirit. Agreeably to this opinion, the temptation of Jesus is described as the work of such a being. And in the same way any individual living at that time, and in that region, would in all probability have represented his own temptations, if called upon to relate them. Although it is thus described, I see no reason for supposing that the authors of the Gospels had any idea that the temptation of Jesus would be understood to differ essentially from the temptations to which other men are exposed. If tempted, then, as we are, he had thoughts and imaginings which it became him to resist and banish; and thus the common weakness of our nature is made visible in him. This his biographers have unhesitatingly recorded.
Once when he was speaking to his disciples of the
sufferings and death that awaited him, Peter, who was shocked at the thought that one, whom he believed to be the Christ, should be exposed to ignominy and violence, exclaimed, “Be it far from thee, Lord! This shall not be done unto thee !" Jesus replied with great warmth and severity, and, by the strength of his language, showed that he was aware of the moral danger to which the suggestion of his warm-hearted friend exposed him. thee behind me, Satan, thou art an offence unto me. As if he had said, “Hush! thou art my enemy! Wouldst thou tempt me?”
But he is placed before us, not only as tempted, but as moved by indignation, as shedding tears, nay, as overcome by the prospect of suffering, and disclosing his emotion by exclamations of distress and groans of agony.
Twice is it particularly mentioned that Jesus wept. In both cases most needless is the mention of the fact, if the writers had had any purpose beyond a straightforward account of the things they had seen and heard. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus. But why did he weep there? Does not the narrative give us distinctly to understand that he had determined to restore the dead man to life? We should rather have expected that his whole deportment would have been expressive of joy and triumph, at the near prospect of dissipating the sorrow of his friends, and that the air of gladness produced by his secret and benevolent purpose, would have been made to appear in striking contrast with the lamentations of those around him. But as it is, the
AT THE GRAVE OF LAZARUS.
51 historians tell us that he wept and groaned in spirit, and was troubled. They barely state the fact. They offer no interpretation of it. Indeed it would seem to bear no explanation but that which those present put upon it. Behold,' said they, how he loved him.' And some said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died ??” So it
that the narrative not only represents Jesus as giving way to tears, but as yielding to this weakness, when he had but little reason to weep, in morbid sympathy, for so we must esteem it, with a grief which he knew in his own heart was about to be turned into the most extravagant joy--a grief, which, seeing as he did, what was about to take place, must have appeared to him almost groundless. Certainly the fact of Jesus weeping under such circumstances never would have been suggested nor recorded, if the writer had thought of anything but telling the truth.
When we duly consider it, the grief of Jesus at the grave of Lazarus is susceptible of an explanation not quite so obvious as that just alluded to, but an explanation which, so far from marring the character of Jesus, gives us a new impression of its extraordinary elevation. If the narrative had mentioned only that he shed tears upon seeing the tears of Mary and those who were with her, we might refer his grief to the mere impulse of sympathy. But it was no slight or transient emotion by which he was affected. He appears to have been in a state of great depression. We have three several notices of
HIS MELANCHOLY ON THAT OCCASION, CONSIDERED.
his tears or sighs on this occasion. And if we bring fully into view what he was, what were his aims and prospects, we may conjecture a probable and adequate cause of his melancholy. That he was a man of great tenderness of feeling, is evident enough from the whole genius of his religion. Even though we had no direct information concerning him, we might confidently infer from the pacific and gentle character of Christianity, that its author must have been possessed of no common degree of sensibility. Peculiarly formed by nature to appreciate the delights and consolations of human sympathy, he was cut off from all these, so far as the objects and purposes nearest his heart were concerned.
There were individuals, it is true, who were affectionately attached to him, but they did not understand him. They did not enter into his lofty views and sympathize with the great aim of his life. He was deprived of all human aids. It was impossible that he should be unconscious of his loneliness of the profound and appalling solitude of the heart in which he stood-a stranger in the world which he loved and yearned towards, with a new and unwonted love. When he stood at the grave of Lazarus, his own fate was near its consummation, and how natural is it that the tokens of human feeling and sorrow, and the sight of a grave, should bring over his mind, with peculiar vividness, a sense of his own melancholy situation—the thought of that rapidly approaching hour when he should suffer and die, without a single heart beating in unison with his. When, a few days after, Mary poured over his person the precious ointment, merely as an expression
JESUS WEEPING OVER JERUSALEM.
of her profound personal reverence, he immediately connected it with the thought of his death and burial. The perfumed ointment had to him the odour of the grave, and seemed as if intended to embalm his body. So, when I consider what he was, and how he stood in the world, I cannot wonder that he sighed deeply and was distressed, when the images of death and sorrow came thronging around him. That such should have been the feelings which caused him to sigh deeply and repeatedly, was touchingly natural. Besides, what a sense does it give us of his sublime superiority to all selfish weaknesses, to every emotion of self-complacency, that he should evince such a state of mind just when he was about to work a stupendous miracle, and exercise the most astonishing power ! What an elevated idea may we form of his greatness, when we perceive that he was not in the slightest degree elated at the thought of the mighty work he was just about to do!
Such is the account that may be given of the melancholy of Jesus at the grave of Lazarus; and so the fact harmonizes with his character and situation. But the authors of the gospel have not breathed a single explanatory word.
When Jesus approached Jerusalem, attended by an immense multitude, shouting hosannas, then too he wept. And then, too, it was, most probably, that he uttered the words, “Now is my soul troubled : and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour.” How does his distress at such a time exalt our idea of him ! Not for a moment was he blinded by the imposing demonstrations of popular favour.