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The expression of Jesus is remarkable on these accounts:
1. It was spoken three years before his death.
2. Previously to the event it was exceedingly ambiguous, and subsequently to it is found to be characteristic and distinctive.
Accordingly, we find that it was taken in a literal sense by those who heard it, and afterwards made a matter of accusation and reproach'; and by his disciples was understood only after the event which we consider as having fulfilled the prediction.
e Matt. xxvi, 60, 61, 62; “At the last came two false witnesses, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?" Mark xiv, 58.
f Matt. xxvii, 39, 40; “And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself.” Mark xv, 29.
6 John ii, 21, 22; “But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them.”
I cannot help thinking that the interval of time (three years), may reasonably account for the disagreement in the testimony of the false, i. e. suborned, witnesses ; which disagreement appears to be preserved in the different accounts of St. Matthew, and St. Mark, in During the period of this Passover he is stated to have convinced many persons by the miracles which he wrought; in consequence of which a man of high consideration in their church, came to him privately, and, admitting that his mission must be divine, because attested by such miracles", he enters into a conversation, in the course of which Jesus tells him that; as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John iii, 14, 15. the places referred to. Tlie expression “this temple" was descriptive of our Lord's character, as we esteem it: so also was the expression quoted above, “make not my Father's house," etc. I shall have occasion to call the reader's attention to these and like expressions. One thing I may remark here : that their ambiguity was perfectly consistent with what we can gather of our Lord's design, and (if we might be permitted to use the word) plan, as evinced in the rest of His ministry. These and the like expressions virtually attributed to Him the Divine character predicted by their Prophets, but did not openly declare it before the time.
h It is observable that St. John, from whom the narrative is taken, does not particularize these miracles : nor do the other Evangelists. This incidental admission of miraculous powers on the part of a half-believer, like Nicodemus, is a much more valuable testimony to their truth than a formal description of them on the part of a disciple.
On this remarkable expression I would observe, as above; That it preceded the event by three years :
And that it was no less ambiguous before the event, than it appears characteristic after it; being expressive both of the peculiar suffering which Jesus underwent, and the purpose for which he is stated to have undergone it.
As addressed to one whose profession was that of a “ Master of Israel”, this reference to a wellknown passage in the Book of their Law was appropriate, as sending him back to the first elements of their common religion for a description of the office and character of him who spoke to him.
From Judæa we find that he returned into Galilee, his usual place of residence, but the time when he did so is remarkable.
i The passage is strikingly illustrated by John viii, Then said Jesus unto them, When
have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he,” etc.
The recurrence of the same characteristic expressions addressed to different persons, and after a considerable space of time, confirms the fact of their having been used on the occasion we are considering.
k It is needless to remark, that by “the Son of man” our Lord must have meant to designate Himself; as it is the expression He so constantly uses when speaking of Himself: Matt. viii, 20; Mark ix, 31; Luke v, 24; vii, 34; ix, 22; John viii, 28; lastly, Matt. xvi, 13; “ Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am ?”
after John the Baptist, who had proclaimed him his successor and superior, had been put in prison by Herod the tetrarch of Galilee. Mark i, 14, 15; “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel (i. e. good tidings) of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled.” See also Matt. iv, 12, 17, 23.
He was returning therefore into the dominions of a man formidable on account of the character of his family, and also for a recent act of rigor inflicted on one nearly allied in every way to Jesus of Nazareth ; yet this was the time he chose (as the quotation shows), for the commencement of his preaching'.
Those who are convinced of the truth of the Christian religion can see a propriety in this, inasmuch as it was only after the accomplisment of the Baptist's mission that the ministry of him he preceded could properly commence, but to those who are not so convinced, I would only remark, that Jesus of Nazareth did not consult his worldly comfort or security by commencing his career as a teacher in the country of Galilee, under the tetrarch Herod, who had just imprisoned John; more especially, as he was attended by some of John's disciples.
On his return to Galilee, he necessarily passed
1 Matt. iv, 17; “ From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
through Samaria, and a conversation is recorded which he had with a woman of that country, in the course of which he declares himself simply but explicitly to be that Messiahm whom the Sa
m I notice this circumstance for the following reason : That, although John the Baptist had (by an expression pregnant with what we Christians believe to be the true character of Jesus Christ, and descriptive of his life and death) declared Him to be that Great Personage of whom he was only the precursor; and although our Lord's first followers, the disciples of John, had understood John in this sense (John i, 45, 49), yet he appears to have announced himself as the Messiah (until the close of His ministry) only by His actions, and certain expressions characteristic of His nature; except on this, and the following occasions : John ix, 37; “And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him (the Son of God, i. e. the Messiah), and it is He that talketh with thee.”
(He had previously directed the blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam, the name of which was significant of His character as sent from God: an oblique way of leading him to the knowledge of it.)
It will be remembered that the person to whom this direct declaration was made had been just separated from religious communion with his fellow-countrymen, by his expulsion from the synagogue.
The same is implied, but more covertly, by other passages, such as John vii, 37, 38, compared with Isaiah, xii, 3; lv, 1. It
may indeed be argued that our Lord had declared