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that the prophets had spoken of the love of God. We understand why Hosea could speak for Jehovah, “How shall I give thee up, Oh, Ephraim”; and how Isaiah could express the more than parental love of God, “Can a woman forget her child, that she shall not have compassion on her son? Yea, she may forget, yet will not I forget you.”
Then why did not the Jews understand him? Jesus has a beautiful story of a good man who had two sons, and one was prodigal and the other proud, and neither of them understood him. We easily think we understand indulgent love. We accept with pleasure gifts that are accordant with our tastes. But we are impatient of a love that is too wise to humor us.
The Jews thought him unsympathetic with their hopes. The Sadducee was an ecclesiastical aristocrat, and, in the enjoyment of privileges and wealth, sought simply political and social peace. But Jesus spoke of treasures in heaven. The Pharisee was devoting his life to religion, without realizing that life is religion. And when Jesus said, love God and love men for that is law, he was offended. The Zealot was a passionate patriot and would expel the Roman tyrant by the sword. But Jesus said, “He that taketh the sword shall perish by the sword.” The people wanted to be fed and clothed without labor. And Jesus said, life is more than meat, and the body than raiment. So they all concluded that the strange teacher had no sympathy with their hopes.
Jesus unresponsive to any earnest hope! Men draw away from him to-day with the same complaint Labor unions reject his religion, seeking, as they think, benefits more tangible. Jesus seems unresponsive to their needs. Socialists have a like objection. Men with practical purposes often think that Jesus cannot understand their demands. How little they have understood him! No man has a longing for any good, but jesus appreciates its meaning and sympathizes with his hopes. With the socialist-yes, with the anarchist—he sympathizes. He feels with them in all their hatred of wrong. He shares with them all their hopes of human betterment. And perhaps, if they could only know, he sympathizes with them most, when he is able least to give approval to their programs.
Then, Jesus was not careless of the patriotic devotion of the Jew to his own people and his own land. It was because he entered so deeply into the hopes of his people, and knew so well what would really satisfy, that he sought so earnestly their good. To that rich, ruling Sadducee he would give the glory of a real aristocracy. And he offers it to the ambitious, ease-loving still to-day-a share of the unseen, unselfish, kingly rule of men.
To the junctilious Pharisee, he would offer far more than the most rigid observance of the divine commands-nothing other than actual fellowship with God, that he might feel his oneness with the Father. To the fiery Zealot, he would give a Jewish glory won by national righteousness and truth, inore lasting and more real than arms can gain. Jesus in his very patriotism saw that the national ills were deeper than the Roman bondage. He saw that a nation that was good would have a life that would outlast the armed might of Rome. How little would have been the kingdom of Cæsar, if he could have established in Judæa the kingdom of God. It was not for himself, it was not for a mere religious interest apart from the great human interest, it was for the men themselves, because he loved them and because their highest welfare was his supreme concern, that he sought to lead them from their follies to his faith. Like the mother bird he
would have gathered them, the poor, foolish, frightened brood, under his sheltering wings. It was the infinite and divine yearning to bless them. But they would not.
There is the tragedy of human life in that refusal, that deliberate human rejection of divine grace. We can look back now over the centuries. We see the futility and selfishness of the Jewish hopes. We see the truth and beauty of the appeal of Jesus. And yet how little our day is different from that! Men still think they know better than the Master what is good. He seems to show them an impossible and impracticable way of blessing. They think happiness is in selfishness, and they still say, we will not have this man to reign
us. Jesus' principles of discipleship seem too high. We cannot follow the teachings of his impossible perfection. Jerusalem would not, and Europe will not, and America will not. The rejection is repeated over again.
There are some who really think, like the Sadducees, that Jesus' program of life means the destruction of the social order. Annas and Caiaphas led the assault upon our Lord because his success meant, as they supposed, the interference of the Roman and the disruption of the state. Men tell us to-day that business would have to be abandoned if Jesus' principles were enforced; national life would be impossible; society could not exist; civilization would disappear; there would be no law, no property, no incentive to labor, no ambition. Sometimes such men belong to the church, but they will not be disciples of Jesus. Sadly our Lord looks at our wealthy, prosperous life and says
“How wondrously I could transform it! with what a different spirit men would work! what brotherhood of brain and hand there would be! how all the hatred and oppression and commercial iniquity would vanish, if I were leader! And there would be no less wealth and progress, but far more. Oh, America, America, how often would I have led you to the way of life—and ye would not!”
Others among us, like the Pharisees, are too proud for Jesus to be able to help them. They are so satisfied with their morality and respectability. To be a Christian is to be humble, to recognize unworthiness, to confess sin. Men will not bow. Jesus would make conscience sensitive, and God's holy law imperative, and hold a high standard of purity and unselfishness and truth. He would say, “You are weak, but I am strong. Find your moral stay for noble lives in me.” But they are too proud and satisfied. They will not. They do not want a religion that bows the knee, even to God. And divine grace cannot help the proud.
And more among us are like the fickle people of Jerusalem, who will not think and will not be earnest. If the religion that Jesus has can do anything for usgive us bread and butter—we will accept it. But his ideals are far away; his fellowship with God means nothing to us; we have our interests and our pleasures. And so the great world goes on its way. It is not rejecting Jesus, but it does not know him. It does not care. He is here as he was in Jerusalem with soultransforming power, opening the way to glorious life and beauty. They do not know; they do not care. It is not deliberate rejection of him, but it is deliberate rejection of all the higher, holier calls of life. And Jesus cannot save them as he would.
There must be consequence of evil choice and positive rejection of the good. There was consequence inevitable and fatal to Jerusalem. It was not punishment: it was result. God did not hurl thunderbolts upon the
city that rejected the Lord. It was the heathen armies of Titus that destroyed Jerusalem. Yet no: the city fell, the temple was burned with fire, that Tuesday of the Passion Week. No one else saw it. The disciples . called upon the Lord, even as he moved from the splendid structure after his last words, to look upon the beautiful stones that challenged the admiration of every visitor to Jerusalem. Only Jesus saw the end. The deliberate rejection of the moral ideal for the nation, the deliberate, foolish determination to exalt political supremacy above spiritual truth, the clutching for the things that are seen, and the scorn for the unseen spiritual realities, could have only one result. It would lead to the mad fight with Rome and—“there shall not be left one of these stones upon another. It was not punishment: it was consequence. Character makes history; character makes destiny.
“Your house is left unto you desolate. You will not have the Christ and he goes away. You care nothing for God, and God cannot force his goodness into your life. “Your house is left unto you desolate.” Oh, the pity of it! Upon the broken lives of men; upon the wasted powers that might have been beneficent; upon the hardened men who have turned away from the light; upon the sordid souls that have been narrowed in their own selfishness; upon all the careless, indifferent people, in whose lives is no glory of sacrifice and moral achievement; upon everything in men and women that has not come to its best, there is written the sentence: “Ye would not. Behold your house is left unto you desolate." And men ask why, and find fault with the constitution of things, and prate of heredity. But to everyone who is responsible enough to ask the question there comes the awful answer: “I would have saved you, and ye would not.”