Religion of Jesus
Walter E. Bundy
The Religious Faith of Jesus
IN THE study of any great religious genius it is of paramount importance that we learn what he believed, that we come to some adequate understanding of his religious faith; otherwise, we stand little chance of knowing the man himself. The religious faith of the great genius is the key to his whole life. It accounts for all that he is and hopes to be, all that he says and works to accomplish. It is his personal faith that the great figure of religion seeks to share with others. He does not seek to give himself to others except as this is the natural issue of his faith, and usually it is. He gives himself first of all to his faith. This faith is always intensely personal; it commands completely the whole of his life; it reaches down to the last details of his existence. It accounts for his utter and unreserved devotion to a few things and Jor his indifference to many things. This personal faith is firm add unfailing because it springs from the depths of great inner conviction and certainty. It gives him his life-task; it brings him into it; it carries him through to its accomplishment. His religious faith gives him his message; it is his faith that he preaches.
This faith centers upon certain religious values which he regards as infinite and permanent, the supreme concerns of human life. To these values he commits himself so completely that all else falls into the background of his attention. Every other issue he sees only in its relation to them. He is a man of few thoughts and interests, but about these few the whole of his conscious existence
centers. It is this intense concentration upon a very limited scope that enables him to make his great contribution. The religious faith of the genius who makes a permanent contribution focuses upon God and His cause among men. He is wholly convinced that God has a cause in human life and history, that He will accomplish it, and that soon. This is the very pulse of his religious life; it is the most certain, the clearest single element in his experience.
In the case of Jesus a study of his religious faith is absolutely indispensable, for apart from it he is wholly unintelligible. It was his religious faith that made him what he was, that accounts for all that he said and did. We must ask ourselves the question: What did Jesus believe? And equally important is its natural correlate: How did Jesus believe? These questions historical Christianity has never taken seriously, but for us to-day in our religious approach to Jesus they furnish the one key to all that he represents in the way of religion, to the whole of his personality. The answers to these questions are not to be found in the official beliefs of historical Christianity; they are not guaranteed in the formal and recognized statements of faith. We must turn directly to the Gospel picture and let Jesus speak for himself so far as this is possible. He will not say all that we should like to hear, but he alone can give us an adequate answer. The ability to answer these questions does not require a complete critical equipment, for the religious faith and beliefs of Jesus are as clear as any feature in the Gospel picture; they are unmistakable even for the devotional reader.
By the religious beliefs of Jesus we mean those elements in his thinking and feeling that are essential and distinc-
tive, those elements that mark and make him as other and different from any Galilean Jew of his day. Many, of Jesus' beliefs were simply the common property of his contemporaries. His beliefs in heaven and hell, in Satan and his demons, in the resurrection and the judgment, in angels and the future life, all are simply the reflections of the religious views, ideas and conceptions of his people and day. All of these things came to him by way of social inheritance from his religious past and contemporary religious environment. On them he exercised no criticism; he made no important revisions or rejections; in their main body he simply accepted them. In all of these matters Jesus was as orthodox as any of his contemporaries. We might single out all of his words on these subjects, systematize all of his statements in which these themes are involved, and in the end have only a cross-section of the religious thought-world of first-century Judaism. All of these matters are purely secondary and incidental. They are characteristic of him, but equally characteristic of his contemporaries. Some of these questions were involved in the sectarianism of Jesus' day, but over against the factions that fought their forensic fights on these issues he stood with a sovereign freedom and independence. The distinctive elements of his faith fall entirely outside of these things. it was not his religious opinions that separated Jesus from his contemporaries, but his religious experience that expressed itself in a great personal faith that was entirely his very own.
The personal religious faith of Jesus is much more than a group of beliefs. When we come to those distinctive elements in his faith, to those things that are essential to the understanding of him, we shall find that they are
much more than mere matters of intellectual acceptance and entertainment. A compendium of his religious beliefs, ideas and conceptions might be exhaustive and yet miss entirely the really distinctive features. Religious beliefs and theological views may be ever so widely and loyally accepted, and yet mean little in the life of the individual or group that entertains them. They are often the source of bitter prejudice and feeling, but they do not alter perceptibly the actual living of the individuals and groups concerned. They are not commanding values according to which men shape their actions, speech and spirit. Real religious faith, on the other hand, is something that men live by; it off ers to them the supreme values which they in turn seek to attain. They mold the whole of their existence according to the intrinsic substance of the objects believed in. The objects of real religious faith are utterly commanding, and men feel the compulsion of living according to all that they require. This faith builds itself into the very fiber and tissue of their lives. Real religious faith is not just held and entertained; it becomes the creative element in individual character and the controlling force in social conduct.
Jesus was not a man of many beliefs. He was not an advocate of religious opinions, theological views or special ideas. He was the spokesman of God, the preacher of what God can and may mean in human life, and this meaning of God was what he himself had found God to be in his own personal experience. To speak of the religious beliefs of Jesus is not entirely to the point. It is better to speak of his personal religious faith because there is too much intense conviction and certainty in his experience, and in his expressions of this experience there is too little of the formal character, too little of the
careful systematic statement and logical definition that belong to belief.
Jesus was a man of great religious faith. But what wasthisfaith? What were the religious objects to which he accorded reverence and personal devotion? Where did his religious loyalties center? What were the great religious truths that Jesus lived by? Upon what great central issues did his personal faith focus? What were the high goals of his religious aspiration for himself and for men generally? What were those supreme values which he preached, for which he prayed and set everything else at naught?
When we come to answer these questions we shall find that any attempt to systematize the religious faith of Jesus is doomed to complete failure. If we succeed in securing the system, we also succeed in losing Jesus in the system. The religious faith of Jesus is not intricate and involved, but intimate and intense. It is not to be systematically stated, but very simply sensed. It is his very own, and because it is so much his own, it is full of paradox and impossible of systematization. At its original sources religious faith is always a simple thing, at least in its statement, although it may involve the whole of human life in its outlook. It must be simple because it springs from the heart of some great religious personality. It is only when faith has departed quite far from the personal sources from which it sprang that it becomes intricate and involved, and in proportion as it becomes intricate and involved, it loses its primitive power and persuasiveness.
The personal religious faith of Jesus can be summed up in a single simple statement, and this simplification comes
from Jesus himself. The very heart of all that he believed and hoped he put in a single sentence,
"The kingdom of God is at hand, repent ye." (Mark 1,15.)
God and His kingdom are the focal points. They do not represent two different and independent religious values. They are one and inseparable. Jesus knows of no God apart from His kingdom, of no kingdom apart from God. Jesus brought them together-in his experience they were never apart-in that one invariable and constant expression, the kingdom of God. We begin with Jesus' faith in God for the reason that the kingdom as his message and cause is the natural and organic issue of the meaning of God in his own personal experience.
JESUS' FAITH IN GOD
The belief in God in some form or other and the belief that He means something in human life and experience are characteristic of every known religion. Even atheism has its belief about God, and the very denial of God means something for the atheist himself. Most religions distinguish themselves by their belief in God, the kind of God believed in, the difference He makes and what He matters in human life, and the meaning He has in the experience of the believer.
This is still more true of the great religious genius. We can not come to an adequate understanding of him apart from his experience of his relation to his God, apart from the meaning that God has for him personally, for in the experience of the great religious genius it is
God who means most, even everything. The whole of his life is theocentric; he lives a God-centered existence; God and his experience of Him are the very core of his being.
A study of the personal piety of Jesus must begin with his faith or belief in God, not only because it is the polar point of all personal piety, but because "Jesus' faith in God is the basis of the whole of his message and the foundation of the whole of his life and work."' Here we have in mind not so much his teaching about God as his experience of God. As we shall see, Jesus' teaching about God is only a reflex of something deeper and more vital, his personal experience of God. Too often these two things have been separated, or even worse, the second has been neglected entirely. We are beginning to realize that Jesus' teaching about God was not an academic subject-matter that he thought out and presented in an attractive way to his contemporaries. His teaching on this point is purely personal, autobiographical, an announcement of what he has found God to be in his own personal experience. Therefore we shall avoid the beaten paths of New Testament theology in search of those more personal elements that belong to Jesus' experience of God.
Jesus' faith in God came to him by way of social inheritance and, in its main outlines, it is fundamentally that of his people. Nowhere in the Gospels do we read that Jesus leaves the impression with his contemporaries that he is preaching a new God such as the early Christians left with certain circles of their hearers. Biblical theology would describe Jesus' belief in God as the ethical monotheism of Israel-the belief that there is only one
true God and that He is good. Jesus never questions the traditional conception of God that had been held by his people for at least eighf- centuries. He never undertakes a refutation of polytheism either for himself or for his contemporaries. He never seeks to validate ethical monotheism either for himself or for his hearers. On this point neither Jesus nor his audiences stood in need of conviction.
A doubt concerning the existence of God seems never to have crossed Jesus' mind. He never seeks to prove God's reality to his hearers. It was as unnatural for them as it was for him to entertain any skepticism on this point. The stock arguments for the existence of God that have appeared in Christian theology and philosophy did not occur to Jesus; in fact, they were historically impossible as elements in his thought. He knows nothing of the cosmological, ontological and teleological arguments for God's existence. He seems to have felt no need for such proof. He was too much prophet, too little philosopher and theologian, to feel any such need. The reality of God presented no problem to his religious thinking. On this point Jesus' thought springs from the primitive piety of his people, and to any one that would have suggested doubt concerning God's existence he would have turned in amazement and have answered as any piouslsraelite: Has not God chosen and led His people? Has He not given to them His law? Has He not spoken to them through His prophets? Do we not know Him now as our Father?
The stock phraseology of Christian theism does not appear in the simple religious language of Jesus. That God is infinite, unchangeable, eternal, essential, indivisible, self-existent, that He is mind, wisdom, thought, intelli-
gence, will, purpose, power, that He is the Supreme Person, Activity, Value, Pure Being, the Absolute, the First Cause, he never said and felt no need for saying. At the foundation of his faith in God we find no rationalistic grounds. The arguments for the character of God that are common in Christian theism have no counterpart in his religious thinking. He felt no theistic problems such as Christian theologians and philosophers have felt. The God of theology and philosophy is not the God of Jesus. The God of Jesus is the God of primitive personal piety; His existence and ethical character are assumed without question and assured without formal proof. There is nothing of abstract intellectualism in his thought of God. The God of Jesus was not born in a moment of intellectual illumination. His thought of God is not burdened and beset with intellectual problems and puzzles. In his thought there are no theological speculations, no philosophical abstractions, no sharp definitions, no carefully framed concepts; in fact, Jesus would not be Jesus if we found such. He needed no theoretical supports and confirmations, no rationalistic arguments to give content, conviction and certainty to his faith in . God. As we learn to know Jesus in the first three Gospels, we see that such would never have satisfied him.
For Jesus, God is not a problem to be solved in the terms of speculative thought, but an intensely personal problem to be solved in the terms of the sum total of individual and social experience. That such is true to the Gospel picture is clear from the fact that Jesus speaks of God only in the concrete and universally intelligible terms of individual and social experience, in those intimate phrases that belong to personal piety in its purity. The
prophets before Jesus wrestled with two great problems concerning the God of Israel: What God is to be worshiped, and how is He to be worshiped? The prophetic answers to these questions are the background of all that he thinks and teaches of God, but they are not problems for Jesus himself. Christian thought has sought to define God in every conceivable term of philosophy and theology, but for Jesus God was more than a problem of theoretical thought. For Jesus, as we shall see in the next chapter, God was a problem involving the sum total of human experience: How may men, individually and collectively, come to know God and to do His holy will? In his experience God was primarily Holy Will that orders the last detail of human existence. Human religiousness is the problem of the discovery of this Holy Will and its accomplishment in our human life. Jesus' own problems concerning God were not those of impersonal speculation, but intensely personal problems involving the quest and performance of this Holy Will.
For Jesus, then, God is not just a belief or a group of beliefs; He is not just an abstract concept or system of concepts. For Jesus, God is an intensely personal matter of concrete human experience. Henceforth we shall not speak of Jesus' belief in God, but of his experience of God, his very own in the strictest sense of the term. Thus God in the experience of Jesus becomes purely personal, and it is just for this reason that he made his great religious contribution.
God in the experience of Jesus is paradoxical, and the paradox goes deep. But this is not at all surprising, for
personal piety in its purity always contains a certain amount of paradox; in fact, personal piety at its best seems unable to exist without paradox. We note this paradox in his experience of God because it actually exists and it warns us against the attempt to introduce a psychological system. In Jesus' experience of God we meet two paradoxical elements: on the one hand, his experience of God as Holy; on the other hand, his experience of God as Father.
Jesus' Experience of God as Holy
The experience of God as holy was not new with Jesus, and it is just here that he proves the genuineness of his religious consciousness. It is this experience of God as holy that calls forth the most elemental of the religious emotions-fear, awe, dread, reverence. These emotions are fundamental to the religious consciousness, whether primitive or cultured. They are so characteristic of the religious consciousness in all its forms that not a few regard these emotions as the original source of that peculiar type of human experience which we call religious. In primitive man's experience there is always that unintelligible and incomprehensible element in the Divine which he senses clearly, in his thought of which there is a strong strain of superstition, and which causes him to fear and to dread. The presence of the Divine is terrible and awful, and primitive man felt himself confronted with that which was Wholly Other than himself. Religious experience in its more intelligent forms strips its thought of primitive superstitions; it ceases to fear certain elements and objects that caused primitive man to shudder and to dread because he felt that he was in the
presence of the Holy. But religious experience even on its most cultured levels and most exalted ethical elevations never loses these primitive emotions apart from which there is no genuinely religious consciousness.
Even in a highly purified religion like that of prophetic Israel this primitive religious recoil is not only present, but predominant. For the pious Israelite God was terrible, awful, fearful, dreadful, sublime, sacred, majestic, mysterious; His name must not be spoken; no man can see His face and live; God is holy, the mysterium tremendum, the Wholly Other, the Numinous. This primitive experience of God has its classic Old Testament expression in Isaiah's Trisagion,
"Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts." (6,3.)
And again in 55,8-9:
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah, for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
As Professor Rudolf Otto has shown in such a brilliant way, these non-rational elements in the experience of God are absolutely basal in all genuine religious experience. "A God, wholly comprehensible and comprehended, is no God."'
In all its forms the genuine experience of God includes those elements that can not be rationalized, and that will fit into none of the usual categories of thought. A God that could be completely conceived and wholly understood, about whom there was left nothing of the inscrutable, the unintelligible, the incomprehensible, whose presence did not give rise to those elemental emotions of holy horror, fear, dread, awe and reverence, could never remain the object of either enlightened or unenlightened religious faith. All religions hold that God reveals Himself, but in all religions it is equally true that God remains holy, different, other in His real essence and being, which for man is impenetrable, unfathomable and inaccessible.
These non-rational elements in the experience of God reappear at the very depths of the religious life of Jesus. Christian thought has never been really sensitive to these non-rational elements in his religious experience. In its advanced stages Christian thought has neglected them entirely, sometimes deliberately, for the queer feeling of a contradiction with its own faith pressed upon it. The Christian consciousness with its exalted estimate of Jesus has overlooked entirely the clear Gospel fact that his own consciousness was genuinely religious in this respect. The Christian boast has always been that Jesus made the unapproachable God of Israel approachable, and the unnamable God of Israel he addressed as Father. Christianity may with right be proud of this religious triumph of Jesus, but it must not do violence to historical fact or to the religion of the New Testament. As Professor Otto writes, "The God of the New Testament is not less holy than the God of the Old Testament, but more so; the chasm between Creator and creature is not less, but
absolute; the worthlessness of the profane over against Him is not eliminated, but sublimated." The Christian consciousness may never lose those elemental feelings in its experience of God, that sense of the Holy, that belongs to all truly religious experience. If it does, it will become untrue to its best sources, the religious experience of Jesus and of the early Christians, and will cease to be really religious.
Jesus was a true son of Israel in his experience of God. For Jesus God is the Holy One; He is the Numinous, the mysterium tremendum, the Wholly Other. His God is fearful, sublime, sacred, majestic, mysterious; He is inscrutable, incomprehensible, impenetrable, unfathomable; He is all that is high and holy. In fact, these non-rational elements in his experience of God are fully as distinctive as the rational elements. No religious genius of history entertained and expounded a clearer conception of God as moral will and ethical goodness, a more simple idea of God and His relation to humankind, yet in Jesus' experience there still remain those non-rational elements that make the Heavenly Father of his experience a God before whom he stands in awe and reverence, to whom he prays in fear and dread. As Professor Otto points out, Jesus did rationalize, moralize and humanize the idea of God, but for Jesus personally God still continues to come into his experience as the Dreadfully Divine, arousing in him the most elemental emotions of the primitive religious consciousness. The Heavenly Father could not have been God for Jesus apart from those non-rational elements which in his religious experience appear in their highest and richest forms.
Jesus' experience of God as Holy and Other is clear and strong in his words, acts and attitudes. His word,
"Judge not that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged, and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you" (Matt. 7,1-2)
springs from that primitive feeling of the religious consciousness that judgment belongs to the Divine alone.
His word on oaths springs from an elemental emotion of awe and reverence before the mysterium tremendum (Matt. 5,34-37):
"Swear not at all; neither by the heaven, for it is the throne of God; nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, for thou canst not make one hair white or black. Let your speech be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one."
The whole of Jesus' quest of the divine will is a reflection of his experience of God as Holy. Before the mysterious majesty of God and His holy will he trembles, and at the heart of his personal struggle in Gethsemane are those primitive emotions aroused by the experience of God as Holy Will. As Professor Otto writes of the Gethsemane scene, "Whoever believes that he is not able to discover the Holy One of Israel in the God of the Gospels, must find him here, if he is able to see at all."
We also possess a prayer of Jesus that comes straight and strong from his experience of God as Holy. On the cross he does not cry, Father, Father, but, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15,34) -an outburst of deep dread and fear in the presence of God as Wholly Other and Numen, of the primitive sense of dreadful distance that separates man from his Maker. As Bousset writes, "He experienced the fact that God is fearful, that He is enveloped in a darkness of uncertainty and awe even for those who are nearest him."
Jesus' experience of God as Holy is specially prominent in his prayer-life. He praises God, petitions God, and protests to Him, but the primitive sense of being in the presence of the Holy never leaves him. The great majority of Jesus' prayer-words reflecting this religious fear and awe also reflects their paradoxical counterpart, an attitude of trust and confidence. This mingled state of religious feeling-awe and fear with complete trust and confidence-appears in not a few of his words. This contrast, this paradox of piety, is clear in the opening words of the Lord's Prayer:
"Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name." (Matt. 6,9.)
It is clear in the address of his prayer of praise,
"Father, Lord of heaven and earth." (Matt. 11, 25.)
In its most compact form this paradox appears in his experience of God as Heavenly Father.
In Matthew 10,28 Jesus expresses that primitive fear and awe of God that is essential to all true piety,
"Be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."
But this word is followed at once by an expression of unreserved trust and confidence:
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father: but the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows." (Matt. 10,29-31.)
In the Gospel picture we find that Jesus' experience of God includes the awe and reverence that separate man from his Maker, but we discover also that he feels himself irresistibly drawn to the Holy One who inspires trust and confidence. This brings us to the second element in Jesus' experience of God, as Father, a sense and attitude so prominent in his experience that it has occupied the whole foreground of Christian interest.
Jesus' Experience of God as Father
The idea of God as Father was common in the religions of the ancient world. Practically all of the peoples of the Roman Empire addressed God as FatherRomans, Greeks and Jews. That God is a Father, that
men are His children, and that God loves men as a father loves his children, are religious experiences that found expression in the devotional literature of Israel." In Psalm 103 we meet a God of love, a truly evangelical piety,
"Like as a father pitieth his children, so Jehovah pitieth them that fear him."
But the use of the term Father in addressing the deity on the part of the Jewish and other peoples of antiquity does not in the least compromise Jesus' tremendous contribution to the human experience of God in this respect. As Professor Deissmann says, "God as Father is an ancient gold coin. But where does it bear the stamp that Jesus gave it?"' And Professor Wernle writes, "What a difference it makes whether a man simply calls God his Father or whether he trusts Him as completely as a child trusts his father."
God the Father was not wholly original with Jesus, but any casual reader of the Old Testament and the Gospels can see that God the Father in the experience of Jesus is something quite different from anything that we find in the Old Testament. What in the religious experience of Israel is only occasional and sporadic becomes in the experience of Jesus essential and distinctive. The high peaks of Old Testament piety that now and again reached up into the experience of God as Father are the constant unbroken level on which Jesus lives and
moves and has his religious being. Here again we meet Jesus' relation to the religious past of his people, and again it is not a question of his absolute originality but of his distinctive contribution to the religious experience of Israel. The experience of God as Father is the very heart and pulse of Jesus' personal piety, and in spite of all its antecedents in the ancient world, God as Father stands as his distinctive achievement in the field of religious experience.
This element is so prominent in Jesus' experience of God that other elements, such as the experience of God as holy, are easily overlooked. It invades every avenue of his religious life. In prayer he addresses the Holy One of Israel as Father, a tremendous triumph in the human quest of God. Father, in the religious feeling and faith of Jesus, expresses the deepest secret in the human experience of the Divine. It is at this point that he exercised his most direct and lasting influence on historical Christianity. God as Father is one of the few vital elements in Jesus' religious experience that have survived in historical Christianity and have found their way into Christian confession and creed.
Jesus tells us practically nothing in a direct way of his experience of God as Father, but we see it reflected in his attitude toward the world and the sum total of the concerns of human life. As a true son of the religious genius of his people he saw God in nature, in human history, in the fates and fortunes of the individual and the group. For Jesus God bore a direct relationship to every detail of human existence. He saw God present and at work in the most prosaic and matter-of-fact items of human life and experience. And the God whom he saw everywhere is always the Father revealing His love
and care for His children. As Professor Wernle writes, "This is one of the most significant things that Jesus has to say to all ages."
Before the wonders of the natural world Jesus stands in awe as before the Holy One, yet he is not a worshiper of nature. His words on nature possess a beauty that is close to the poetic (Matt. 6,25-34), yet he composes no religious odes to nature such as we find in the Psalms (8; 19,1-7; 29; 104). We find in the words of Jesus no reflections and meditations on nature such as we find in the Indian Christian mystic, Sadhu Sundar Singh.
Jesus' conception of nature, as of the whole of life, is purely religious. In all nature he sees only the hand and work of the Father:
"Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them." (Matt. 6, 26a.) "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, 0 ye of little faith?" .(Matt. 6,28b-3-0.)." "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth his rain on the just and the unjust." (Matt. 5,4Sb.)
In these words on the birds of the heavens, the lilies of the field, the grass, the sunshine, the rain and the fallen sparrow, we do not have to do with an adoration of nature but of the Heavenly Father whom these simple facts reveal. These things have only a derived value and glory. It is the presence of God that enhances them in the faith of Jesus. All such words are simply direct reflections of his experience of God as a living, loving Father.
This presence of the Father in the natural world was real for Jesus, but it was only the key to a higher order of values, His presence in human life. All of these providences reveal a higher order of interest and love, God's fatherly love for men. Jesus finds the Father in closest touch with all the interests and concerns of men. The commonest mercies are the expressions of the divine thought and care. Fate and fortune, life and death are in the divine hand. The very hairs on human heads are all numbered; men can not by taking thought add or subtract a single cubit from their stature. Finer expressions of the simple human consciousness of dependence upon the Divine are not to be found than we meet here in Jesus' experience of God as Father.
The divine disposition is naturally, instinctively, infinitely kind. The Father will not give His son a stone for bread, a serpent for a fish, a scorpion for an egg. (Luke 11 , 11-13.) The Father of Jesus' experience is in such close contact with His children and their needs that He has no need of being informed; He knows the needs of men before they ask Him. (Matt. 6,8.) To the Father men may turn in complete confidence; they may bring to Him all the major and minor concerns of their life. The Father's care touches the whole cycle of
life, as we see in the Lord's Prayer. Men may pray for the kingdom and its coming, for forgiveness of sins, for protection in time of temptation and against the evil one. They may even pray for their daily bread in the same breath in which they petition His forgiveness.
Such a view of life that forbids anxiety concerning food and drink and raiment, or concerning the morrow in general, such an exalted estimate of human life as a great boon, such a calm confidence in God are absolutely without parallel in human experience. Nevertheless, just such is the religious faith of Jesus, his experience of God as Father. Jesus felt nothing of the groaning of nature and creation in travail that was so terrible for Paul, nothing of Paul's inner war between flesh and spirit, which resulted for him in a religious pessimism.
The matter-of-fact mind of to-day with its problems and puzzles of a practical sort hears these words of Jesus coming, it seems, from a far-off and wholly unattainable order of things. In its world of fact, in its fatalism, this mind feels that Jesus is wholly apart from the world as it is, from life as it knows it. A drought or a deluge, a frozen sparrow or a withered flower, a hungry family or a naked orphan, it feels, refutes the whole of Jesus' philosophy of Providence. But in all of its questionings the modern mind only reveals that its faith has been submerged by fact. Jesus' faith is unjustifiable in the face of fact, but real religious faith does not seek justification in the world of fact. Sometimes it believes because of the facts; again, it believes in the midst of facts both for and against; but when faith rises to its native altitudes, it ventures to maintain itself in spite of all the facts. The prodigalities and cruelties of nature, the survival of the fittest, and the struggle for existence created no problems
for the religious faith of Jesus. Jesus did not resort to faith in God as a man at bay in the world; he did not trudge along under the strain of existence as a man who makes the best of things. In spite of all the facts to the contrary, Jesus felt the thrill of living life in the uninterrupted presence of the Heavenly Father, and he lived his life as an experiment in faith, not as a compromise with fact.
Jesus' faith is naive; his experience of God as Father is childlike-two essential elements which personal piety must retain if it is to remain pure and a source of power. Jesus' faith is triumphant, an unfailing source of personal power that carried him to the conquest of the cross. God, the living and loving Father, is the heart of the religious experience of Jesus. Whether we like it or not, whether or not we can attain it, it is the faith that he lived and died by.
Before drawing our conclusions on Jesus' faith in God, we may survey its general relationship to the faith from which it came, the faith of Israel, and its bearing on the faith that followed it, the Christian faith.
The main content of Jesus' experience of God is not radically different from the best of the Old Testament faith. For Jesus, as for the whole of Israel, there was one great article of faith: Jehovah alone is God; there is none like unto Him; He is holy, eternal, faithful, good, gracious, infinitely merciful and kind. These elements, with a new emphasis in a fresh experience, become so commanding that the final form of his experience of God appears as something new. Jesus' contribution is not in new thoughts and new teachings about God; it comes rather
in the form of his own fresh experience of God. As Bousset writes, "Never in the life of any man was God such a living reality as in the life of Jesus."
God in the experience of Jesus was something more for him and is something more for us than anything that we find in the Old Testament. Some of the older and less worthy elements he allows to drop out simply by his neglect of them; other elements he deliberately rejects. But still other elements that lay on the periphery of Israel's faith Jesus brings to the very center of the experience of God. He strikes a balance in the unbal. anced elements in Israel's faith. In the Old Testament the experience of God as holy so predominates that the Father falls into the remote and hardly visible background. In Jesus, however, the attitude of calm confidence and trust is fully as strong as the attitude of awe and reverence. In his preaching and praying God as Father acquires a meaning and importance that is new and different and that constitutes his real contribution to man's experience and knowledge of his Maker. The faith in God that came to Jesus by social inheritance he makes his very own in that the Holy One of Israel lays hold on the deepest sources of his personal life and in the crucible of his religious experience becomes the Heavenly Father. As Professor Otto writes on this point, "He did not teach and preach something that was self-evident, but his own personal discovery and revelation-that just this Holy One is the Heavenly Father."
Jesus' experience of God is reflected in all his attitudes toward the religious past of his people. It was in the light of his own experience of God that he reproduced
and rejected, that he revised and recast, that he accepted and assimilated the religious traditions of his people. For Jesus religion is much more than accepted tradition of long standing; it is more than the authoritative voices of the past. As we see in Matthew 5,17 he had other authorities than sacred codes and precepts. A personal experience of God he sets high above the best of the past. His famous series of words on the law, "Ye have heard it said of old . . . but I say unto you," reveals very clearly the nature of the sources of his certainty. His own experience of God he sets in open opposition to the highest religious authority of his people. Such an attitude on the part of a true son of Israel required an unparalleled conviction born of a unique experience of the meaning of God in an individual life.
Jesus' reactions to and appraisals of his contemporary religious environment are direct reflections of his experience of God. Such institutions as the synagogue and the temple presented themselves to him as recognized and necessary parts of the religious life of his people. The synagogue may have been an important f actor in his religious education. Luke (4,16) tells us that it was his regular custom to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath, and we find the synagogue as one of the principal scenes of his activity in Galilee. Yet Jesus is neither an advocate nor a critic of the synagogue. He simply accepted it as it was; he did not break with it, nor did it break with him. But his mature experience of God was in no wise dependent upon the synagogue. With regard to the temple, Jesus shared the sentiment of Psalms 84 and 122 in his love for it. He goes directly to the temple upon his ar-
rival in the Holy City; he becomes the champion of its purity; he cleanses it of its trade and traffic because it is the house of God, a place of worship and of prayer. (Matt. 21,13.) Yet for Jesus the temple is not the only dwelling-place of God; in his own personal experience he was convinced once for all that a greater thing than the temple is here. (Matt. 12,6.)
Toward the cult elements in the religion of his people Jesus shows his indifference by his neglect. It is reported that he sent the leper to the priest for the rite of cleansing (Mark 1,44) in keeping with the Levitical law. It is true that he drew an analogy from the religious act of offering a gift at the altar, yet nowhere do we see him engaged in an external rite of cult-worship. Jesus seems to have felt no personal need for external and visible guarantees of God's existence in general or for His presence and power in particular such as we sense in the soul of the author of Psalms 42 and 43, where God is visibly present in the cult and ceremony of the temple. Jesus seems to have shared the prophetic skepticism regarding cult and its ability to bring man into the presence of the Holy One. He does not attack cult-worship as did Amos and others of the old prophets, but he does not advocate it as a part of the Holy Will nor as a source of religious assurance.
Jesus went up to Jerusalem at the time of the Passover; it was prepared for him, and on the last night of his life he celebrated this sacred feast in the closed company of his most intimate, disciples. It was a festival of his people that he had anticipated with all the intensity of genuine Jewish sentiment,
"With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you." (Luke 22,15.)
Yet it was a religious occasion that he interpreted in the light of his own experience of God, and into this most sacred of all his people's festivals he poured the very heart of his own personal religious faith.
Jesus' criticism of the contemporary practises of piety are also direct reflections of his experience of God. His pronouncement of woes on the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23,1-39) with their binding of heavy burdens, their titles of deference, their supposed monopoly on religion, proselyting, oath-taking, tithes, cleansings, memorials to the slain prophets, all describe in a negative way his experience of God and his worship of Him. Practically none of the things that were characteristic and central in later Judaism appears in Jesus' understanding of religion-circumcision, the Sabbath, fasting, tithes, food regulations, precepts of purification and so forth. Some of these things do not so much as claim his attention, and those that do figure in his thought, like the Sabbath, he judges and appraises in the light of his own experience of what God requires of men. In these matters Jesus was a non-conformist. But his failure to conform was not a striking course of conduct consciously chosen with a relish for conspicuousness and conflict; it was the natural expression of a sovereign freedom born of a rich experience of God that was all his own.
In this connection there is a group of words found only in Matthew which we may not neglect, for they reveal very clearly the nature of Jesus' religious experience over against the Pharisaic type of piety-his words on alms, prayer and fasting. We have no record to the ef-
fect that Jesus ever gave alms, but he does not forbid alms-giving: "When therefore thou doest alms, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee." (Matt. 6,2-4.)
Jesus did not forbid prayer; he prayed as none before or after him. But he says: "When ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites: for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee." (Matt. 6,5-6.)
Jesus did not fast, and it brought him into conflict with the religious sects of his day (Mark 2,18-22), yet he did not forbid fasting. Concerning fasting he says: "When ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they
may be seen of men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face; that thou be not seen of men to fast, but of thy Father who is in secret: and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall recompense thee." (Matt. 6,16-18.)
In all of these things he sees more than conventional religious customs. For Jesus they are not matters of public parade, but intimately private and personal. They should be practises of the presence of God who looks within, not without. This emphasis on the inwardness of religion preached by Jesus is the organic expression of his own personal experience of where and how the Holy One and Heavenly Father is to be found and worshiped. In his experience of God Jesus is, in general, true to the faith of his people. He neglects the legalistic and ritualistic elements, for he belongs to the prophets of Israel, not to its priests. He did not follow in the beaten track of tradition; he saw God in the past and sought to secure His presence in his own experience. But the sources of Jesus' knowledge of God and his faith in Him are less traditional and inherited, more personal and original. He does not imitate the past; he inherits from it, but his faith in God has always the freshness that can come only from individual experience. He does not constantly question himself as to whether this or that is in conformity with the faith of the past or the present. He speaks and acts, he feels and believes, at the direct dictation of his own experience of God. For Jesus God's most certain revelation of himself is in human life and experience. The meaning of God in personal experience is for him the supreme source of religious authority. A
faith in God must validate itself in individual experience. And it is exactly because he had validated certain elements in the religious faith of his people that he rejects and revolts against others and eliminates them from the essentials of religion. He accepted only those elements that made an unmistakable contribution to a personal knowledge of God as Holy Will and Heavenly Father.
When we come to consider the bearing of Jesus' ex. perience of God and his faith in Him on the Christian faith we are struck at once by the great difference between the two. In its historical forms the Christian faith becomes fixed and formulated, systematically stated and logically defined. Calm confidence and implicit trust, both purely personal, are supplemented, even supplanted, by doctrine and dogma, creed and confession. In short, faith becomes belief, and the outstanding feature of the faith that followed Jesus is its intellectualism. Theology, Christology, and soteriology took the place that God and His kingdom held in the experience of Jesus.
Any student who turns to Jesus with the hope of dis. covering the intellectual foundations of his faith in God is doomed to disappointment. He offers no intellectual criticisms of the old, and he lays no intellectual foundations for the new. We possess really nothing from Jesus that we may properly call his reflections about God. Religious faith for Jesus was more than rational reflection, more than mystical meditation. The accrued attributes of God that begin in the Old Testament and mount to great numbers in Christian theology and philosophy have no counterpart in his simple religious language.
Christian rationalism ascribes to God pure being, absoluteness, intelligence, reason, purpose, good will, essen-
tial unity, consciousness and a whole host of technical attributes. But Jesus' experience of God did not come through the processes of rationalistic reasoning, and he does not express his faith in formal theological terminology. Wherever we meet an involved complexity in the Christian thought of God, we meet a corresponding and equally extreme simplicity in the faith of Jesus. He never seeks to reduce his faith in God to a system; rather he seeks to secure God as the commanding content of his personal experience. Instead of a systematic structure of reasoning, we find in the religious experience of Jesus the disparate and diverse ramifications of a soul in search of God. His faith in God is as unsystematic and spontaneous, as unformulated and organic as the unquestioning attitude of the child toward its father. Jesus questions his God; his God becomes problematic for him, but his questions and problems are not of the intellectual order.
There are no philosophical or theological tendencies in Jesus' thinking. He does not seek to demonstrate any of the ordinary tenets that a formal faith in God includes. It is true that he teaches Israel's ethical monotheism; he thought of God as one and good. But even here he does not use argument and dialectic. In the matters of religion, the only matters that appear as of vital importance in the experience of Jesus, we see that his mind was not geared to theoretical thinking. He announces no doctrine of the divine omnipotence, yet he accepts everything without exception as from God; no doctrine of the divine omniscience, yet he very simply confides to his contemporaries, "Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." (Matt. 6,8.)
There is nothing of the Christian philosopher, nothing of the Christian theologian in Jesus' religious constitution. For Jesus God is not a formal proposition in need of proof, and his faith in Him needed no supporting arguments of an intellectual sort. His experience of God, as is the case in all pure piety, carried its own proofs with it-those primitive proofs that are wholly remote from intellectualism, yet which possess a peculiar power to persuade and to sustain. When Jesus preached his faith to others, his faith in God as a living and loving Father, he did not call to hand any of the many stock arguments, but he struck straight at that native element in the human constitution that responds to spiritual stimulation and inspiration, not to convincement and logical proof.
The God of Christian rationalism is not the God of Jesus, nor is He the God of living personal piety. A rationalistic God may present a coherent concept that smoothes the way of intellectual difficulties, but He lacks the most essential elements that are present in Jesus' experience. Such a God is too consistent, too consequent, and there is left in Him none of those non-rational and paradoxical elements that are distinctive for the personal faith of Jesus. Jesus' experience of God is not philosophical but prophetic. By constitution he was instinctively sensitive to the fundamental realities and values which faith in God brings to the truly religious consciousness. His experience of God as Holy One and as Heavenly Father is paradoxical, and it is a paradox that can maintain itself only in a rich religious life that can stand the strain of contrary and conflicting forces. It is paradoxical because it is so intensely personal; and just because it is so intensely personal, springing from the sum total of his
experience, it is powerful and possesses a warmth and glow that are illuminating, stimulating and life-giving.
Christian theologians have evolved elaborate soteriological systems, showing why and how and under what conditions God redeems men. From Paul down they have expounded the necessity of Jesus' death, the indispensability of the cross, and Jesus as the only mediator between God and man. In the simpler faith of Jesus, however, man stands directly in the presence of his Maker, the child in the presence of his Father. In sharpest contrast with Paul's scheme of mediatorial salvation stands Jesus' childlike picture of God as the shepherd who goes into the wilderness and seeks till he finds the lost sheep, as the f ather who hastens to meet the lost son and welcomes him home. According to Jesus it is not a scheme that saves men, for it is not the will of the Father that any should perish. In his faith there is absolutely no theoretical scheme of salvation, because to his religious way of thinking God's children include all, the disobedient as well as the obedient.
In the religious thought of Jesus there are no difficult deductions, no intricate inductions. He gives no formal instructions on man's relation to his Maker and his hope of redemption by Him, but in a simple picture he settles this issue for ever, "A certain man had two sons . . ." (Luke 15,11-32.)
Thus Jesus begins, and before he is done we know that he has pictured for ever the divine disposition toward men. Christian theology, philosophy and psychology have wrestled with the problem of prayer, with the pos-
sibility of man communicating with his Maker, but Jesus comes to us with another prosaic picture, "Two men went up into the temple to pray . . ." (Luke 18,9-14) and before he has finished we know that men may or may not commune with the Holy One. The really important thing in all such pictures is not what they teach others, but what they reveal of Jesus' own experience of God. All are direct reflections of his own personal faith in Him.
The forging of Jesus' faith is not revealed to us by the Gospel writers. The dawn and development of his experience of God are shrouded in darkness. With regard to its history we can say little except that it seems to have been inherent in his religious genius. How he achieved his knowledge of God we can not say, for he did not choose to disclose such to others. He claims no special avenues of approach to the Divine that are unknown to ordinary men. In the Gospel story we see that he traverses the painful path that is open to all the children of men-prayer, the pursuit and performance of the divine will. He does not claim to know everything about God; he does not presume to have said all that there is to be said of Him. In all simplicity Jesus exposes his experience of God, what he has found Him to be and to mean. Yet it is his own personal experience that gives him authority for all that he has to say of God, for all that he does in behalf of His cause. In his experience of God Jesus had his great certainties, but he also had his uncertainties. For him God's great mysteries con-
tinue to exist. God is infinitely more than man can know or think. In this respect Jesus remains rigidly religious. There are many things that we would like to know, but as long as we have a clear conception of the distinctive elements in his faith in God nothing else matters greatly. Jesus intended that his faith should be shared by his fol. lowers; it is ours to seek to share as he sought to share it with all who have the necessary courage.
Jesus' faith and his experience of God are not easily shared. Both contain those non-rational elements that are difficult of assimilation for a type of mind that has been brought up in an atmosphere that is overcharged with intellectualism, that looks upon religion as the entertainment of certain opinions rather than as an experience of the Divine. Jesus' experience of God is primitive in its utter realism, in its passion and power; he could and did dispense with the grounds of logic and the supports of reason, and he even learned to know God in contradiction to both. His ideal realm of faith often comes into open conflict with the world of fact. Such a faith is difficult for a type of mind that has been taught that religion must always be rational, that faith must accommodate itself as best it can to fact. And it is this very thing that accounts for the powerlessness of our modern Christianity. We shall never experience the purging power of Jesus' faith in God until our faith ventures to trust itself as true and dares to dispense with all the rational excuses for its existence. Then we may be in a position to fashion fact according to faith and learn one of the great lessons of religious experience-that faith must overcome fact, that such is faith's necessary destiny, and that, in this constant conflict with fact, faith freshens itself, enriches its life and augments its power.
We are convinced that we share Jesus' faith in God as Father. For us such is the simplest and richest address of the Divine. It was for Jesus. All but two of his seven prayers begin with Father, and their content corresponds to this intimate type of address. But we forget that God as Father was more than a concept, title or style of address in the religious experience of Jesus. It was the most compact single expression of what he had found God to be in the whole of his experience. But we apparently do not share this experience in all of its implications. If we do, it is not yet sufficiently commanding, for we have never drawn its inevitable consequences for the social structure of our human life.
The paradoxical character of Jesus' experience of God is not so easily assimilated as might be thought at first glance. It can not be assimilated except as it strikes the full range of our experience. It is a matter hopelessly foreign to a religion of pure reason-if there is such a thing. God as Father arouses our sympathetic emotions, but there is a reverse side to this faith. For Jesus, God is not just Father; He is just as truly the Holy and Sovereign Ruler of the universe who can "destroy both soul and body in hell." The God of Jesus is ethically exalted and holy, demanding of men character and conduct that correspond to His own. Jesus did think and teach of God in a spirit of startling frankness, but this frankness is always tempered by a feeling of awe in the presence of the Father's sublime majesty, of His unapproachable goodness, of His infinite love that must bestow gifts upon men who are not in a position to merit them, of the God who imparts himself to men who are utterly unworthy. Jesus never forgot for a moment that the Father is in heaven, high and holy, all that God can signify and be.
There is still another feature in Jesus' experience of God that renders it difficult of assimilation even for the modern Christian mind, accustomed as it is to look upon faith as a more or less impersonal body of religious subject-matter that is to be held. There is always a strong personal element in the faith of the great religious genius, and it is usually just this striking personal element that gives him that peculiar power and persuasion that is most convincing for others. The fai*th of the great genius is not something that has come to him in an impersonal way, but he feels that he personally has been gripped by it. It is that type of religious conviction that Paul shared and described in Philippians 3,12: "I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus."
Jesus' faith in God was not something that he held, but something that held him. In his words and deeds, in all that we know of him, we get the clearest sort of impression that his faith reaches down into the deepest sources of his personal life. Certainly all that he is and hopes to be, he trusts to the fate of his faith. It is the grip that his experience of God has on the whole of his life that gives" his faith a flash and a flare that sweeps everything before it. The faith of Jesus is a veritable fire. He himself said, "I came to cast fire upon the earth," (Luke 12,49) and this is more than a mere figure of speech. Jesus' faith in God was not something that was fixed and formulated for him. It is fresh and fervent; it kindles an ex-
alted enthusiasm in him; it is a source of seemingly limitless personal energy. Disappointment, despair, distress, unanswered prayer could not tear him from his faith. He confronts his God with a faith that is absolutely unflinching, unreservedly loyal. It is a faith that knows no defeat; it has about it a deliberate and dazzling daring that even death can not daunt. For Jesus, faith was a source of power that makes the impossible possible: "All things are possible to him that believeth." (Mark 9,23.) "Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou taken up and cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he saith cometh to pass; he shall have it." (Mark 11,23.)
Such an estimate of faith in God is not just an exaggeration of speech. just such a faith we see operating in the religious life of Jesus. Both passages reflect his own personal convictions concerning the power of religious faith and both come straight from his own experience. We keep the faith-impersonal; the faith does not keep us-personal. This is the sorry plight of our Christian religion over against that of Jesus.
The fervent faith of the religious genius has often led to a fanaticism that has hindered the accomplishment of the very thing that it points out to be accomplished. The fanatic often resorts to the spectacular in a mistaken confidence in what God desires and does. The faith of Jesus is a fire that consume.s, but it is absolutely free from fanaticism. There are evidences of fanatical faith in the religious past of his people. Elijah was the great prophet of the popular imagination even in Jesus' day. He had
called down fire from heaven (I Kings 18,2S-40; II Kings 1,9-16), and the God of Elijah's faith was known as the God that answereth by fire. Even as late and sane a prophet as Isaiah challenges King Ahaz to demand a sign. (Isa. 7,10f.) This fanatical faith had its occasional outbursts within the circle of the twelve and to two of his disciples Jesus gave the surname, Sons of Thunder. (Mark 3,17.) These outbursts Jesus regularly meets with a word of suppression that brands such faith as irreligious. To James and John who would call down fire from heaven, "even as Elijah did," and consume the inhospitable Samaritan village, he says, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of, for the Son of man came not to destroy men's lives but to save them." (Luke 9,55 marg.)
Jesus did not share the spectacular piety of Elijah and others of his prophetic predecessors. He refuses to give a sign from heaven (Mark 8,11-12), but his rejection of this spectacular type of piety does not point to a lack of confidence in God. For Jesus, God and faith in Him operate elsewhere; they lay hold on the deepest sources of human life. His faith is fervent and fiery, but it is never fanatical and feverish. Nothing can be more refreshing and stimulating to the earnest religious imagination than that constantly calm confidence, that firmly fixed faith in God which Jesus always exhibits and which was at the same time the driving power of his life. The simple and clear consciousness that the Holy One was Heavenly Father seems to have been all the assurance and guarantee that Jesus needed to raise him above the common conflicts that so often bring upheaval and turmoil
into the lives of the greatest of the saints who have had f aith in God.
The intensity of Jesus' faith, free from fanaticism as it is, has its reverse side or contrary part. His experience of God is exceedingly simple, especially his experience of God as Father, and many speak of the mysticism of Jesus, or of Jesus the mystic. The preacher speaks of the mystical faith and personality of Jesus, and he has in mind Jesus' insistence upon true piety as inward and as a matter of the spirit. This is true to Jesus, but not to mysticism as it has appeared in great religious personalities which form a distinct type well known to the student of the psychology of religion. There is nothing of real mysticism in him. Like the mystic, he trusted his own personal experience of God as true and as authoritative above all else-tradition, practise, custom and so forth. But this is not peculiar to mysticism; it appears in every great religious figure who has any freshness about him. In Jesus we see no exercitia spiritualia, no via negativa, no scala paradisi, no unis mystica. There is no ascetic mortification of the human equipment. All this he regards as God-given, as forces and factors for the construction of character and for the control of conduct. All of these human faculties must contribute to the richness and reality of the individual's experience of God. He gives us no mystical psychology of the human faculties; he regards every talent as a trust, every gift as a rigid and relentless responsibility. In Jesus we see nothing of the mystic who brands the world and self with a
flat negation, and who seeks solely to sink away into the impersonal All-One. Mysticism's summum bonum is the melting, mingling and merging of the one in the All, the complete dissipation of the real in favor of the Ideal. Even in his prayer-life, as we shall see in the next chapter, where mystical communion is most likely to appear, Jesus is not a mystic. He did not go through the devotional drill by which the mystic shuts himself off from the offense of the real world. His problems in prayer were not psychological as they are for the mystic. Jesus' problems were so pressing that they consumed the whole center of his consciousness and automatically excluded all the distractions which handicap the mystic as he concentrates and contemplates. "The childlike confidence of Jesus toward God the Father always remains a personal communion; it never has its issue in a mystical union."
The whole temper of Jesus' personal piety is foreign to the truly mystical personality. His experience of God is intimate, intense, simple, but in the main too prosaic and practically personal to admit of true mysticism. Jesus' goal of religious living was a consistent life constantly lived in the presence of God whose holy will is the measure of character and conduct.
In conclusion on this first phase of Jesus' religious faith, we may say that it remains a strict ethical monotheism, admitting of the intrusion of no other object of worship, yet conceived and experienced with a personal warmth and intimacy that makes his experience of God as Father something new and distinctly different from the traditional faith of Israel. His religious faith is prophetic in depth of conviction and certainty. God for
Jesus is a matter of personal experience rather than a formal faith; for this reason his faith in God is not to be systematized. The very attempt to introduce a system will result in its devitalization. This does not mean that we are not to attempt to understand the faith of Jesus; in reality, this is our principal task. But we are to seek to understand it as it was, not as Christian prejudice might desire that it should be. Those who think of religious faith in terms of creed and confession, doctrine and dogma, theology and metaphysics will experience the greatest of disappointments in the religious faith of Jesus. To such Jesus has little to say. His faith is to be understood only as the spontaneous expression of his own personal experience of God. It is this purely personal source from which it sprang that renders it intelligible, as intelligible as it can be made. The problem of the intelligibility of Jesus' faith is not to be solved in the terms of an intellectual insight that will ferret out the last of a system of involved and intricate implications, for there is nothing involved and intricate in his faith in God. Its intelligibility will come in terms of the sum total of religious experience, by the personal ability to appreciate and appropriate, to sense and to share, to be inspired and to reproduce.
God as Holy Will and as Heavenly Father is the sum and substance of Jesus' experience of the Divine. It is this peculiar and paradoxical experience of God that gave the whole of his personality the single stamp of deep inner certainty, of complete confidence that left with his contemporaries, and that leaves with us to-day, the impression of religious authority. Jesus' contribution to humanity's faith is not to be found in new and original beliefs which he first formulated and expounded, nor is
it to be sought in any novel and striking religious teachings. His contribution is less formal but more firm. In his experience of God he contributes a solid substance from which humanity may build its religious life with complete confidence. The God of Jesus is not new. The new thing is God in the experience of Jesus. There is no reason why we should ever fear to trust God for what Jesus in his own experience found Him to be.
JESUS' FAITH IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Thus far we have discussed onlyone element in the faith of Jesus, his experience of God, but we shall realize fully what God meant for Jesus personally only when we come to the next chapter to the discussion of his expericnce of God as Holy Will and to his quest of God in prayer. We now come to the second of the two principal elements in his faith, the kingdom of God, the meaning of God not only in his own personal experience but in all human experience. His faith in the kingdom has aspects, like his faith in God, that reach out beyond himself. The kingdom is what Jesus found the meaning of God to be in the formation and structure of human life and experience as a whole. Who and what is God for men? Jesus would answer: The kingdom of God. To be sure, God is to be Holy Will and Heavenly Father in the experience of men, but this experience has its natural issue in the kingdom.
As a problem of the life of Jesus the kingdom of God has been studied from an almost infinite number of angles, and each angle of approach conscientiously pursued has made at least some contribution to our understanding of him. An almost endless amount of scholarly material
has been written on the kingdom of God as conceived and announced by Jesus. Our more humble task here is to seek to determine the r6le that the kingdom played in his own personal piety. From the point of view of our present study of Jesus as a religious subject, we shall discuss briefly the kingdom of God as his religious message, as the outlook of his personal religious faith, and as the religious cause chosen by him.
The Kingdom of God as the Religious Message of Jesus
The historical message of Jesus may be stated in a single sentence, "The kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye." (Mark 1, 15.)
In Mark and Luke we meet almost without exception the expression, the kingdom of God. In Matthew, however, this form is suppressed almost entirely by the expression, the kingdom of heaven. Matthew's form is very probably an early Jewish-Christian revision. In all probability Jesus himself used the term the kingdom of God, as Mark and Luke regularly represent. Jesus, him. self a layman from the ranks of the common people, would naturally use the popular language. We do not find him in other matters using the professional and technical religious language of the clerical classes of his day, but the lay language of the plain people. Further, a prophet who spoke in such an intimate way about and to God as he did would hardly share Israel's traditional shyness in the use of the divine name, even when we keep in mind the deep awe and real reverence which
Jesus never failed to manifest toward man's Maker. Upon his very first appearance in public Jesus announces the kingdom of God and its coming, and he continued to announce it to the very end. But never once does he stop to explain the term. He simply announces the kingdom as a thought quite familiar to his contempo. raries, familiar enough at least to enable him to dispense with all definition and explanation. Moreover, Jesus' contemporaries do not ask him to define or to explain it. His disciples and others ask when and where it will appear, but they never ask him what the kingdom of God is.
The familiarity which Jesus assumes on the part of his contemporaries, and which they in turn show with the expression and what is meant by it, makes it dear that the term was not coined and used for the first time by him. However, this very fact creates for us a problem, for the historical background out of which this great thought and faith of Jesus came is by no means clear to us. Because of the meagerness of the literary expressions of Judaism's religious life that have come down to us from the first and second centuries before our Christian era, we can say little of the birth and development of the idea. The exact details of its origin and early history we do not know, but when Jesus appeared in public with the message of the kingdom of God, it was a well-understood and familiar element in the religious thinking of his contemporaries.
As a definite expression for a special idea and faith and in the full sense it has in the message of Jesus, the term, kingdom of God, is not found in the Old Testament, the later Apocrypha or Pseudepigrapha. The nearest approaches which we find to it as expression and as idea are in such passages as Psalms 22,28; Obadiah 21; Isaiah
24,23; 52,7; Micah 4,7; Zechariah 14,9; Wisdom of Solomon 3,8; Psalms of Solomon 17,3; Assumption of Moses 10,1. But in all such passages, the religious idea is that of the kingly rule, reign or r6gime of God rather than the purely religious entity, the society of God and men, announced by Jesus.
As an expression of religious reality and hope, the kingdom of God stands practically isolated on the lips of Jesus. But certain strains in the substance of his message of the kingdom, as well as the form in which he expects its arrival, reach back to the remote and immediate past in the history and development of Jewish religious thought. Both in substance and in form Jesus' message of the kingdom of God has its historical antecedents, in reality, a solid substratum reaching back through the religious life of later Judaism to the faith of the great sixth and eighth century prophets.
In substance of religious conception, the kingdom of God as preached by Jesus is prophetic. One of its root ideas goes back as far as Amos, the idea of an impending future originating with and to be accomplished by God. Amos took the day of Jehovah from the lips of his complacent contemporaries and painted it as a day of doom and darkness, not of light. This idea of an impending future is expanded and developed in the thought of the later prophets, increasingly clothed with a warm optimism, until it reaches its climax in the kingdom of universal and eternal peace as pictured by Second Isaiah. (40-66.)
Further, Jesus' thought of God as the God of history and human affairs, involved deeply as it is in the kingdom, also goes back to the earliest prophets, and it stands as one of the signal victories won by them. This
idea began in a narrow nationalism that had not yet entirely disappeared in Jesus' day and that confined the divine interest to the fates and fortunes of Israel alone. But in the minds of Israel's.great prophets it expanded to include not only the whole of mankind but all of living creation. We might point out other aspects of the kingdom of God that had their foundations in the prophetic past and without which their full fruition in the religious faith of Jesus would have been impossible.
In form of realization, the kingdom of God as preached by Jesus is eschatological or apocalyptic. Here the influence of the immediate past is much clearer and stronger than in the case of the term or the substance of the thought of the kingdom. It is only relatively recently that this fact, with rather extreme emphasis, has been called to the attention of students of the life of Jesus by men like Johannes Weiss, Albert Schweitzer and Alfred LoiSy. [These men interpret Jesus almost exclusively in the light of what is now known among New Testament students as his escbatology. Eschatology is a technical word of simple meaning. The best understanding of its real meaning is not to be found in a dictionary but in the thirteenth chapter of Mark. In the discussion that follows eschatology means simply: Jesus' religious view of the future u4th its spectacular scenery the - collapse of the present world order and the appearance of a new supernatural order to be introduced by God's chosen agent, the Son of man-in short, the coming of the kingdom of God. Consult the eschatological or apocalyptic words of Jesus referred to in the following paragraph.]
Jesus lived and worked in an apocalyptic atmosphere that had invigorated certain sections of Judaism's religious life for two centuries and which found literary expression in the book of Daniel within the Old Testament and in the apocalyptic writings of the Pseudepigrapha.
It is perfectly clear that the form of Jesus' message
and faith in the kingdom of God came directly from this Jewish apocalyptic atmosphere which, in a modified form, lived on in the religious outlook of his followers as is evident in the earlier letters of Paul and in a book like Revelation. Jesus' message of the kingdom of God as an impending event, as a supernatural order that is to supplant the present order, is apocalyptic. Certain words seem to have been spoken by him under the conscious influence of Daniel 7,13-14 and similar passages in the Jewish apocalyptic writings. Numerous apocalyptic or eschatological words of Jesus might be cited, but a few outstanding instances will suffice: Matthew 10,23; Mark 9,1; the whole of his longest address in Mark 13; 14,62; Luke 22,18. "And then shall they see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send forth the angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven." (Mark 13,26-27.)
In such passages Jesus stands for us almost unapproachable and inaccessible. This element in his message is so strange and foreign to our wholly different worldview that it is only by conscious and sustained effort that the historical imagination can find its way back to him.
Nevertheless, it stands as an integral element of his religious thought. We can not and must not seek to explain it away, as some have sought to do, for it belongs to the real Jesus of history. It is rather the seeker's task to learn to see and to share something of the tremendous religious faith that surges behind and through this strange setting.
The kingdom of God in the message of Jesus is not just a social scheme or system; it is an actual society of God and men, the perfect performance and presence of the divine will on earth as in heaven. For Jesus, the kingdom of God is eine durchaus religioese Groesse (an exclusively religious entity and value).
The kingdom of God is the soul of all that Jesus has to say, and what he meant by the kingdom on earth and among men is clear to any one who can read and follow the simple yet profound thought of the Lord's Prayer. For the technical student Jesus' message of the kingdom of God involves historical, linguistic and other types of problems, but for the plainest Galilean peasant in his audience, as for the most unlearned lay reader of his words to-day, his message of the kingdom of God as the supreme religious value to be awaited, acquired or attained was and is as clear as crystal. Nothing is more characteristic of Jesus' presentation of his message than universal intelligibility.
Jesus presented his message in the greatest variety of forms. He projected the kingdom of God in parable and in paradox, by comparison and by contrast, often in short compact sentences, again in longer addresses. However, the longer discourses ascribed to him are usually collections of briefer and simpler statements. It is certainly characteristic of the address of Jesus that he did not speak at length but to the point. He presses his way at once to the very heart of the matter. In a simple statement, often in a single sentence, he sets forth in a complete picture, in an illuminating illustration with homely materials drawn from the familiar fields of human experience, what the kingdom of God is and what it is to mean in human life and living. Any one who ob-
serves merely the form in which he presented his great message, the rich and attractive variety of graphic pic. tures which he projected, can not but marvel at the intellectual resourcefulness of Jesus, not to mention the deep. est truths of religion which these pictures sent home to the heart of the plainest hearer.
Jesus was a man with a single theme of thought, the kingdom of God. Of a mind with a single theme, constantly presented, we might expect a certain monotony of message, a mental and moral monotony as well, such a dreary development as confronts us in certain sections of the book of Ezekiel. But in the religious thinking of Jesus our impression is the very opposite. The rich variety of his method of presentation does not account wholly for this lack of monotony. It is not due to sheer intellectual resourcefulness. Back of Jesus' thought and message of the kingdom of God is the infinite richness of his own personal experience of religion, which kept him free from monotony, always fresh in faith, vivid in imagination, and impressive in presentation.
Compactness and clearness are certainly thoroughly characteristic of Jesus' presentation of his great religious message. However, nothing is more uncharacteristic of his presentation of the kingdom of God than logical consistency. The kingdom is not a system of religious thought logically developed and declared by Jesus. There is no attempt at systematic statement of his thought on this great theme. There is nothing in Jesus' teaching that would suggest the systems of Christian doctrine formulated by the earlier and later thinkers of the church. He nowhere seems to aim at a methodical development, at an orderly presentation of his thought that would result in a clear and coherent system. In fact, Jesus' pre-
sentations of the kingdom of God are often so different in thought and conception that contradictions seem evident on the very surface.
At times, Jesus presents the kingdom as the kingly rule, reign or r6gime of God as is quite common in the thought of the Old Testament prophets. This meaning is bound up in the very term, the kingdom of God. The kingdom is like "unto a certain king who made a marriage feast for his son." (Matt. 22,1-14.) There is a royal will to be obeyed. (Matt. 7,21.) There are duties to be performed. (Matt. 2S,31-46.) God may arbitrarily give His kingdom to any or all independent of any merit on the part of the recipients. (Matt. 20,1-16.) The kingdom as a reign or rule is perfectly dear in a purely Jewish picture which Jesus projected for the twelve (Matt. 19,28),
"Ye who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
At other times, Jesus presents the kingdom of God as a realm with definite ways along which one may enter:
"Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it." (Matt. 7,13-14.)
The kingdom is surrounded by borders and barriers that may bar the way and exclude; one may be cast out of the kingdom,
"Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven: but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer darkness." (Matt. 8,11-12a.)
One may be near or far from the kingdom. To the Jerusalem scribe Jesus says (Mark 12,34), "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God."
Again, the kingdom is a new world order, a supernatural entity that is to be awaited by men and which will come by divine intervention resulting in the complete collapse of the present order. "There are some here of them that stand by, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God come with power."
Still again, the kingdom of God is a community offering citizenship, a spiritual society requiring an attitude that is to be cultivated until it reaches perfection (Matt. 18,3) : "Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Finally, Jesus presents the kingdom of God, as the supreme value, the priceless treasure, the precious pos. session which the individual may aspire to and acquire for his own (Matt. 13,44-46) :
"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in the field; which a man found, and hid; and in his joy he goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a merchant seeking goodly pearls; and having found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it."
Jesus' thought that men may expect, await, approach, aspire to, attain, acquire the kingdom of God presents a complexity of passive and active human attitudes that defies the processes of logical reasoning, but that springs organically from the pure depths of a consecrated religious consciousness wholly concentrated upon its one great objective.
This lack of strict logical consistency is also apparent in Jesus' teaching concerning the time of the arrival or realization of the kingdom of God. In some words, the kingdom is to come in the immediate future. It is imminent, at hand, nigh, even at the doors; the sky is red with its dawning. To the twelve as he sends them out on their mission, Jesus says (Matt. 10,23) "Ye shall not have gone through the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come."
In other passages, the kingdom belongs to the remote future and its realization is to be the outcome of a process of gradual growth and development. (-Mark 4,2629.) Again, it has its roots struck in the present, but its perfection lies in the future. (Mark 4,30-32.) And in still other words, the kingdom appears as present, here and now.(Matt. 12,28; Luke 17,20-21.)
But straight through all of these variations runs Jesus' confidence and certainty that God will establish His kingdom. Such is the deeper unity that expresses the very essence of his message and faith. The early or late date of the kingdom's complete realization and perfection is a matter of secondary importance which, even for Jesus himself, lies hidden in the divine will. (Mark 13,32.)
Many students of the life of Jesus have taken these paradoxical elements with great seriousness. Some have sought to remove the contradictions by reconciling what arc only apparently conflicts. Others have brought about consistency by an extreme emphasis on some one element to the exclusion of other equally evident elements. But neither is true to the temper of the genuinely religious consciousness in general, nor to the state of the facts in the thought and teaching of Jesus in particular. Both try to accomplish for Jesus a logical consistency for which he himself very clearly felt no need and in which he manifested no interest. He nowhere seems to think or to teach under the restraints of reason and logic. His thought is free from fallacy, but logic and reason seem to have had no command over him. And all this for the reason that Jesus did not deliver his message of the kingdom in the interest of clear thinking, but in the interest of the whole of human life and experience with the demands which religion places upon both. Further, it is thoroughly characteristic of the passionately religious personality that it can live and work, even thrive, in the very midst of those tensions in thought, those conflicts in conceptions, that are so distracting and disturbing to the strictly logical type of mind. For as life is more than
logic, so is faith more than f act, and religion more than reason.
Such conflicts as do exist in Jesus' message and his presentation of it disappear only as the student of his life learns to see in his teaching concerning the kingdom of God something more than a system of thought. The student must learn to press back beyond the outer form to the single and solid religious life and experience of which they are expressions. Jesus, true to the Semitic mind and temper, thought and taught in pictures. He shared nothing of the academic inclination of the Western mind. In his thought and teaching concerning the kingdom of God, we do not meet and can not expect to find a fine and delicately membered argumentation, a careful articulation of all parts to the whole. In his message we meet rather a straightforward and simple presentation of one fundamental theme, a single great thought clearly and plainly pictured in a way intelligible to all. Such lack of logical consistency as appears is due to the fact that Jesus, as all truly great prophets who feel themselves called and commissioned to the cause of God in behalf of men, thought and spoke under the pressure of his own deepest convictions and faith.
The Kingdom of God as the Religious Outlook of Jesus
Every great message, religious or otherwise, that contributes worth and value to human life and living must spring organically and spontaneously from the personal faith and conviction of the one who announces it. We can not separate a man from his message, an error too often committed in the study of the great men of the past. Historical and biographical studies are often too
objective. They give a systematic presentation of the thought and teaching of the great man in question as though the man's thought and teaching were quite separate from the man himself. In the study of great religious genius this has often been the case. We can read whole volumes on the thought, teaching and theology of Paul, Augustine, Luther and a host of others, and yet learn very little about the men who did the thinking, teaching and preaching. By this impersonal method of study a rupture is made in the life of a man whose life was a single solid substance of soul and who was never conscious of his message as a thing apart from himself, or of himself apart from his message. Not a few studies of the thought and teaching of Jesus have fallen into this grave error. They are treated objectively and impersonally as though neither was an organic part of Jesus himself. Such treatments are often very learned, but very lifeless.
A man must be in his message; he must throw himself into it. It is this launching of himself in his message that gives it weight and carrying power. There is a great difference, between a man with a message and a message with a man. When the messenger is possessed by the message his own person is so absorbed in and by it that it in turn is filled with a fire and fervor that carries its own conviction. We may not separate Jesus from his message; they constitute such an organic unity that separation means the devitalization of both, and we have left only a heap of green branches cut from the mangled body from which they sprang and grew.
Jesus' message of the kingdom of God is simply the natural expression of his own personal religious faith. His words, parables and addresses on the kingdom tell us
more of his own faith than they do of anything else. Here we find in rich deposits the pure metal of his own mind as it hoped, believed and aspired to God and His kingdom. As Professor Deissmann writes, "It is not his system, which one finds in his words, it is his soul.""' Jesus' message has, then, an intensely personal source-his own experience of God. His utterances are never cold and formal on the question of the kingdom; they always have about them that personal warmth which betrays their origin from within. In fact, many of his words, a number of his most familiar teachings, are intelligible only in the terms of the personal religious life from which they come. Therefore, we may not treat as impersonal what for Jesus was intensely personal.
Jesus was more preacher than teacher, more prophet than pedagogue. His message is more an announcement and declaration of his own personal faith than an effort to impart religious instruction. In the whole of his public work Jesus' aim is less to win men to his message, more to communicate to them his faith. He did not go about teaching the kingdom of God and what it involves; rather he announced with all the fire of his spirit that the kingdom is coming and that soon. Too many studies have him preach the kingdom in a too impersonal manner and fail to see that the kingdom for Jesus was not a formal, but a deeply personal matter. Its announcement was by no means just his life-work and occupation; it was not just a public profession chosen by him. It was the one point where all of his religious conviction centered, where his faith and feeling focused.
Jesus is seized by the importance of the time in which
he lives. The conviction that the kingdom of God is coming is for him a consciousness not only of a new but of the final episode of Israel's religious life and history. For the whole world it is at the very doors. He feels the impact of the new age; he sees the dawning of God's great day. In a moment of exalted faith he tells his disciples: "Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which ye see, and saw them not; and to hear the things which ye hear and heard them not." (Matt. 13,16-17.)
Jesus feels that something greater is here than anything that has been in the glories of the past. In triumphant faith and exalted conviction he announces to his contemporaries: "But I say unto you, that one greater than the temple is here. . . . The men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is here." (Matt. 12,6 41-42.)
[The text of our American translators is non-committal, one greater or a greater. The best manuscripts read, something greater, a greater thing, greater matter, which is the genuine thought of Jesus. The minority reading, a greater one, some one greater, presents the Christian point of view which centers upon the person of Jesus rather than Jesus' own point of view which centered upon God and His kingdom.]
When Jesus announced his message (Mark 1,15), "The kingdom of God is at hand," when he sent his disciples out with the word (Matt. 10,23b), "Ye shall not have gone through the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come," when he turned and said to his followers (Mark 9,1), "There are some here of them that stand by, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God come with power,"
he was announcing very simply yet very clearly his own personal faith and religious conviction. The immediate coming of the kingdom was his own fervent hope and expectation, the great goal of the near future. And on the last night of his life, when the kingdom had not yet come and when he stood face to face with his own fate, he tells his disciples that he may perish but the kingdom will come,
"I shall not drink from henceforth of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come." (Luke 22,18.)
Thus from beginning to end, we see that he believed that God has a kingdom; he is convinced that it will come, and that soon. Jesus' faith in the kingdom of God and its coming is one of the most personal and reliable features
of him that has come down to us. This faith he holds unflinchingly; it holds him, and he does not surrender it even in the very face of his own personal fate.
All that Jesus says of the kingdom of God he himself esteems it to be. When he presents it as the hidden treasure which a man finds and as the pearl of great price (Matt. 13,44-46), we see very clearly what the kingdom is in his own estimate. In the kingdom of God he located the highest of all values. It is something for which one gladly, even enthusiastically, makes the greatest sacrifices in order to possess it. Such a location of values belongs to the very heart of any real religion. When he says, "Seek ye first His kingdom," we see the goal of his own faith and aspiration. just such a quest of the kingdom of God runs through all that we know of him. Such a word is autobiographical, an extract from his very soul. Life and food, body and raiment, are wholly unimportant in comparison with the great concern of God that commands and consumes the whole of his life.
The quest of the kingdom that leaves all else in a secondary place is born of the experience and conviction of only the greatest souls whose personal courage equals their consecration. The hunger and thirst of which Jesus speaks in Matthew's beatitude (5,6) is a personal religious confession in a veiled form. Butwedonotrealize fully what it meant for Jesus personally until we hear him pray for its coming. "Thy kingdom come," is the very heart of the Lord's Prayer; all the other petitions are simply elaborations and implications of this one thought. In his prayer-life he put the kingdom of God first, ahead of all other human needs and interests. The primary place of the kingdom in this greatest of all prayers is not due to conscious reflection on the part of
Jesus. Its place was first in his own thought, and it should be the chief of all Christian aspirations because it was primary in the scale of religious values personally held and sought by Jesus. We must not forget that the Lord's Prayer has the rich prayer-experience of Jesus behind it, of which it is the fine fruit.
Jesus' faith in the kingdom of God took on a strange form, one quite foreign to us to-day, yet as natural to him and his contemporaries as it is strange to us. The kingdom in the faith of Jesus is a supernatural order, a divine intervention that is about to come; it is to be introduced by a special divine agent, the Son of man, who is to come on the clouds of heaven in great power and glory, attended by the angelic hosts, as we see in such passages as Mark 13,26-27 and 14,62.
This peculiar form of Jesus' faith has given rise to extensive discussion and debate in the twentieth-century life-of-Jesus research. This controversy has waged about Jesus' view of the future, in more technical terms, about his eschatology. On the one hand, we have the eschatologists who, in milder or more extreme form, regard Jesus' view of the future as the key to the understanding of all that he said and did and was. The most prominent advocate of this view is Albert Schweitzer who reduces the whole of Jesus' life to a series of eschatological words, acts and sacraments; even Jesus' teaching is only a probationary ethics, Interimsethik. On the other hand, we find the anti-eschatologists, headed by Wilhelm Bousset, with the claim that Jesus' view of the future
is not eschatological, and that eschatology is not essential to the understanding of him. The eschatological passages in the Gospels are ingenuine, the product of a later age.
But, on turning to the first three Gospels, we find that eschatology is absolutely characteristic of the form of Jesus' faith in the kingdom of God and its coming. The eschatological passages are too numerous and extensive to be eliminated, too deeply set in the bed-rock of our best Gospel tradition to be uprooted without tearing him from his century. If Jesus did not express his faith in eschatological form, if these passages are not genuine, then we can not be sure that any words in the Gospels go back to him. Eschatology, that fantastic view of the future so foreign to our way of thinking, is thoroughly characteristic of the Jesus of history, and it is important in our approach to an adequate understanding of him. It stands as the great achievement of Albert Schweitzer in the field of New Testament criticism to have forced modern scholarship to face this long-neglected aspect of Jesus' thought and faith. As Professor Heiler writes, "The recognition of the eschatological character of Jesus' gospel is the Copernican Achievement of modern theology."
The eschatological form of Jesus' faith is an established fact of modern research, and it rests upon the solid foundation of all that the Gospels tell us of him. There is no natural reason why his faith should have expressed itself in any other form. His very historicity and our own historical judgment demand it. Back of him are two centuries of Judaism's faith, the predominant strain of which is eschatological. In our best records of him are
those eschatological passages that defy invention. They stand as unfulfilled words of Jesus, and the only possible motive for ascribing such statements to him would be the fact that he made them and believed them.
It was on the basis of his eschatological faith that the early Christian community founded its hope and expecta. tion of Jesus' speedy return to inaugurate the new age. The first Christians, like Joseph of Arimathea, were looking for the kingdom of God. It was the fervent faith of Paul, as we see in I Thessalonians 4,15-18 where he cites the speedy return of the Lord Jesus as a chief source of Christian comfort and consolation. Such a hope had a solid basis in the thought and faith of his Master. "Piety for Jesus was an altogether eschatological matter."" The same is true of the faith and religion of the earliest Christians. The failure of Jesus to appear in cosmic triumph, the death of fellow believers in the face of Jesus' promise that the kingdom would come in his own generation, constituted a serious problem for the first Christians. It was a problem that Paul was forced to face as presented to him by his mission stations whose members were dying before the Lord Jesus came. The earliest Christian prayer addressed to Jesus was very probably, "Marana tha-Our Lord, come."
This eschatological faith survived Jesus, Paul and the first generation of Christians. It became the theme of a whole document like Revelation. It was surrendered by Christians generally only in the face of fact, but it was
not a complete capitulation of confidence in Jesus. The early Christian faith surrendered its form and that of Jesus, but it did not surrender the substance of Jesus' faith nor its own.
"Although we are not sure as to the exact character and extent of the eschatological hopes of Jesus' day, we do know that his picture of the future was not peculiar to himself, but a picture painted before him as early as Daniel 7,13-14 and that it was not shared by Jesus alone, but by many of his own people. That Jesus' view was a common view is clear from the fact that he finds it no more necessary to explain or define it than he does the notion of the kingdom of God. He simply refers to it as a well-known element in the religious acumen and atmosphere of his day. How widely this view was entertained by Jesus' national contemporaries can not be determined; the sources are too inadequate. But they do attest that when he spoke of the future in such glowing terms his teaching was not new and strange, but well enough understood to dispense with definition. It was a picture so vividly visualized by his disciples that they even engaged in a dispute as to their respective roles in the future and requested reservations for prominent places. (Mark 10,35-41.) They had but two questions to ask: Where? (Luke 17,37), and when? (Mark 13,4.) 1926
The eschatological form of his faith belongs to the very Jewishness of Jesus, and the modern student is forced to take a Jewish view of him in this respect. The
historical setting in which he appeared and worked, thought and taught, believed and hoped, makes any other view impossible. Jesus' genius and temperament were Oriental, Syrian, and they must be recognized as such in spite of the difficulty that the Western mind experiences in trying to find its way through this maze of eschatological thought, faith and hope so generally characteristic of the ancient East, and in spite of its failure to feel at home in such an atmosphere.
But the eschatological form of Jesus' religious outlook is only a secondary matter. The primary concern is that solid substance of religious faith expressed in this strange form. It is at this point that both the eschatologists and the anti-eschatologists have committed grave error. The weakness of the position that sees in his thought eschatology only is that it condemns Jesus hopelessly to his own century and leaves him anchored there without a clear word for us to-day. Anti-eschatology is even weaker: it strips his thought of its characteristic form, it leaves only shreds of his teaching, and it commits the gravest of historical errors by tearing Jesus from his own century. Eschatologists and anti-eschatologists alike miss, at least in theory, the tremendous religious faith of Jesus that expressed itself in this strange but natural form. Both have mistaken the characteristic for the essential; they have found the form and lost the content. Eschatology belongs simply to the upper strata of his faith in God and His kingdom. We may maintain it or reject it, and interpret Jesus accordingly, and yet in the end miss what it really has to offer.
To identify Jesus' eschatology entirely with his view of the future is a serious error, for it overlooks the real faith of Jesus. His eschatology stands out as clear as
crystal for an immediate divine intervention, but his view of the future is essentially religious. The future, as he sees and believes in it, is God's. It is of and from God. It is God and men in perfect society. If Jesus' view of the future had been a mere dream, an unattainable Utopia, it would have perished with its failure to fulfill itself. It was the religious substance behind it, that expressed itself in and through it, that saved it for his first followers and for us.
We must remember that there is nothing sacred in the spectacular scenery of Jesus' religious outlook. It is thoroughly characteristic of him and it may not be stripped from him as an historical figure, but it is never primary. The essential element in Jesus' view of the future is his faith in the fact that God has a kingdom, that it can and will come, and that soon, and that it is the highest calling of men to be worthy of it as their divine destiny. Jesus' eschatology is permeated with his fiery faith for the future that belongs to God the Father and to men His children. This religious faith, announced with such great conviction and certainty, is the chief treasure that Jesus has in store for his followers. If we miss this, we have missed Jesus himself. Jesus was not committed unreservedly to the form of the future's realization, but to God who was to bring this future about. With all of his strange eschatology Jesus belongs in the ranks of the prophets rather than in the ranks of the apocalyptists, for whom only too often the spectacular scenery of the future constituted the principal substance of their faith.
"Eschatology has its evident elements of strength. It is conservative in its treatment of the sources. It
leaves Jesus to live seriously and genuinely in his own
day and time. It also offers what Strauss in his 1835 Life of Jesus called 'true and splendid elements' that are not to be underestimated. Finally, eschatology pays a tremendous tribute to Jesus himself in that it shows that primitive, and essential, Christianity was not committed to the formal fulfillment of any particular promise but to Jesus himself and the substance of his faith."
The imminent kingdom of God stands at the very center of all of Jesus' thinking and teaching, at the very heart of his deepest feeling and faith. In the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven Jesus' mind is moved by a tremendous optimism. He does not montion, nor in his thinking does he reckon with any counter-forces, so confident is he of the final triumph of the kingdom. Both parables are organic expressions of his own personal faith: Independent of beginnings, the kingdom will triumph. It will come in his own generation. Mark 13,30 is an outburst of just such certainty, "This generation shall not pass away, until all these things be accomplished." The following word (Mark 13,31), "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away," is a clear echo of the old prophetic consciousness and conviction. The kingdom of God is the great religious objective of Jesus; he works and prays for its coming; it is the great concern of his life.
The Kingdom of God as the Religious Cause of Jesus
Every great faith must have its champion, and a faith is never really great until it finds its champion who is held by it and wholly consecrated to it. A truly great religious faith is not just held and advocated. On the contrary, it lays hold upon men and presses them into its service. A man of really great faith becomes active and aggressive. If his faith is religious, it becomes the cause of God which he champions. A great religious faith enlists men in its enterprise; they choose it as their cause; in it they invest their lives, everythiing.
Just such is the kingdom of God for Jesus. His faith in God's kingdom and its coming is so firm and fervent that he becomes its champion. It presses him actively and aggressively into its service. The personal piety of Jesus seems to have been more than all else the espousal of the divine cause. He is so absorbed in the kingdom and its coming that it amounts practically to an identification, to a loss of self-identity in the commanding conviction of a cause to be championed. For him it was at the very center of everything. Nothing else could command him except as it demonstrated its vital relationship to this one central concern; he consecrated himself to it with a perf ect abandon.
"Ye can not serve God and mammon." (Matt. 6,24.)
In such a word we feel the intensity with which he threw himself into the cause of God among men.
Jesus possessed an unparalleled, an almost incredible personal power in the experience and expression of religion. And the secret of this personal power is to be
sought in his utter devotion to his faith in the kingdom of God. It was this faith that forged his life into a single solid substance, and all else fell into the background or out of his life for ever. For the kingdom he is ready to sacrifice everything; he gives all, even life itself, in order to possess and present it. The world has never witnessed a greater quest of religious faith. For Jesus, the kingdom of God was much more than convincing; it was completely commanding. His faith in it created his character; it determined his conduct down to the least and last detail of his existence.
This cause of the kingdom of God was not chosen for him but by him. Jesus, as the prophets before him, did not regard his task as that of general public instruction in certain religio-moral, religio-ethical ideas and ideals. He was not just a teacher with a certain subject-matter at his command. He was a spokesman of God, a man whose faith gave him a task to accomplish. He was not a man who uttered pious precepts, a man ready to die for his opinions. It was the sheer weight of personal religious conviction that brought Jesus into the service of the kingdom of God. It was not tradition or custom, profession or precedent. He came from no school or sect; he represented no special tendency of religious thought, no shade of opinion. He did not posit and prove, neither did he debate and dispute. In the utter simplicity that belongs to the truly great, he declared his faith. When Jesus appeared in public he represented just one thing, a purely personal thing, his own faith in God and His kingdom.
It is true that for Jesus the kingdom was a supernatural thing; it was the work of God, not the work of men, and it was to be established by the divine agency. But in
his conviction it is among men that the kingdom is to realize itself. It is to this kingdom, to this eternal enterprise that seeks the permanent society of God and men, that men are called. They may enter into it; they may attain it; they may acquire its chiefest treasures. For Jesus the kingdom of God is the goal toward which human history moves and in which it must find its culmination. It is the new, the final, the glorious order to be established by God with men. In brief, the kingdom of God is simply the divine cause in human life and history-"the practice of the presence of God." (Jeremy Taylor.)
In the faith of Jesus the kingdom of God is the one thing that can give permanent value and worth to human life and living. He presents it as the one great goal of all human ambition, aspiration and endeavor. The single and supreme interest of humankind should be to approach and to attain it. It is the pearl of great price to be sought and secured, and no sacrifice is too great on the part of the individual or group. Men can if they will, if they have faith. This is the very heart of Jesus' faith in humankind. And it was his faith in men as well as his faith in God that brought him into the public service of both.
There is a triumphant daring in this faith of Jesus that it is among men that the kingdom of God will realize itself. The daring lies in Jesus' limitless confidence in men. He had more confidence in men than they have ever manifested in themselves. He believed more of them, had more ambition for them, than they would dare ask or think for themselves. And men have never yet justified this tremendous confidence of Jesus in their ability to attain.
The great religious task to which Jesus felt himself
called and commissioned was to set before men the prospect of the kingdom of God, the way that leads to it, and to bring them to share in it. To show men the kingdom of God and to share with them his faith in it, this was the very essence of his mission in public. In its service he set every personal religious resource at his command.
In this connection we may not fail to inquire into the promoting factors that brought Jesus out of private life into public. If we turn to the Gospel writers for an answer, we find that Mark very clearly locates these in the three sketches he gives us prior to Jesus' first announcement of his message (1,14-15): the Baptist and his work (1,2-8), the vision and voice at the Jordan (1,9-11), and the period of seclusion and temptation in the wilderness (1,12-13). All of these experiences may have contributed to Jesus' determination upon a public career, although all three are presented by Mark more from the point of view of what they meant for the Christian faith of his readers than from the point of view of what they meant for Jesus personally. In just what sense and how they were significant for Jesus himself Mark does not make clear to us. But as historical students we are inclined to locate his decision upon a public career in something other and deeper than any one incident or series of incidents such as Mark arranges in his immediate prepublic life of Jesus. (1,2-13.) The grounds for Jesus' determination upon a public career seem rather to be found in Mark 1, 14-1 S-in his conviction that God has a kingdom which is at hand and in his consciousness of being called and commissioned to preach as a public message this deep religious faith. It is the consciousness of possessing the message of the kingdom of God and the conviction of being chosen to make it
his cause that explain best the nature of a public work and mission such as that in which Jesus engaged.
Mark's promoting factors-John the Baptist, the Jordan experience and the wilderness retreat-may have helped, but they do not account for all that Jesus represented. In every feature of the Gospel picture Jesus is characterized by the consciousness of high call and holy commission. It is this elusive element of high call and holy commission that has been present, without exception, in the person and work of all the great leaders of human history. And in the case of Jesus, it seems to have been the one force in his personality and public appearance that caused the common people to hear him gladly (Mark 12,37b) and that distinguished him and his message from the conventional and professional religious leaders of his day. "The multitudes were astonished at his teaching: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes." (Matt. 7,28b-29.)
This impression of personal authority in matters of religion Jesus left with his hearers from the very first, and it continued to the end. Only some such powerful personal factor, emanating from an exalted consciousness of high call and holy commission, can account adequately for the constant thronging of the multitudes, the winning and retaining of permanent followers, the effecting of cures, and the bitter hatred of opponents.
When, where and how Jesus received the substance of this deep conviction we can not say. We have no record of any experience that would tell us when and where the substance of his message was imparted to him,
no account of a personal call in which he received his commission to the particular work of the kingdom of God, such as we find in the experience of his great predecessors-Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel.
Jesus nowhere states the grounds for the faith that was in him, but we may be sure that they were not the product of rational reflection and reason. His reasons for this hope he does not reveal; the sources of this certainty he does not disclose. They do not seem to have been in the signs of the times-political, social or religious, matters which furnished some of his great predecessors with their convictions, or in turn confirmed them. Like Amos (3,8) Jesus seems to have responded to inner impulses. By prophetic intuition he feels that he and his contemporaries are living at the dawning of the new age, a situation that demands religious reconstruction of mind and life.
The sources of Jesus' faith in the kingdom of God and its coming are not clear to us. We must confess that we do not know, that such lies hidden for ever in the depths of his profoundly religious consciousness. The most that we can say with certainty is not a great deal, but we may say that Jesus possessed a genuine genius for sensing, seizing and sharing all that is highest and best in religion-an unfaltering faith in God and in His plans and purposes for men. And this faith in God and His kingdom was sufficiently strong to carry him through all disappointments and discouragements. In inner conflict and crisis, in severest personal stress and strain, the consciousness of the worth and right of his faith, the very greatness of the cause he had chosen, seems to have supported and sustained him.
But after surveying all the possibilities, we shall have
to say that above all else it was the kingdom of God as the object of his own personal faith, as the sum and substance of his deepest religious convictions, as the divine cause which he felt himself called to preach and commissioned to champion publicly, that brought Jesus out of private life in the little village of Nazareth into the engagement in a public career at the command of God and in behalf of men.
Jesus devoted himself with an exclusiveness and exhaustiveness to the cause of God in human life and history, to all that religion at its highest and best stands for, that is without parallel in our human history. Yet he did this without the fury of the fanatic, without the effervescent enthusiasm of the extremist. He did it with a sanity and seriousness that makes human life, with the kingdom of God in prospect, a supreme happiness and boon.
Jesus accepted what many might call an almost impossible cause, the kingdom of God among men. He did not live to see his cause accomplished; the kingdom did not come as he expected and announced. His own forecasts remained unfulfilled both for himself and for his followers. The twelve disciples returned from their mission in spite of the fact that he had told them that they should not go through the cities of Israel till the Son of man be come. (Matt. 10,23.) Jesus perished and his followers died after him in spite of the fact that he had promised that they should not taste of death till they should see the kingdom of God come with power (Mark 9,l) and that it should be accomplished in his own generation (Mark 13,30). In vain the disciples awaited the fulfillment of his word that he should not taste again of the fruit of the vine until he should drink it new with them in the kingdom of God. (Matt. 26,29.)
But it is just at this point that Jesus proves himself a prophet and not an apocalyptist. The prophets before him were relatively indifferent toward the fulfillment of their forecasts of the future. Jonah is the great exception among the prophets, and the chief point to his discipline is that the prophet is not a predictor of the future but the spokesman of his own great faith in God. The failure of their forecasts did not deter the great prophets from their work because their faith in God meant more to them than their own announcements of what the future would bring. The prophetic pictures of the future were always cast in moments of high inspiration and confidence; they were expressions of the prophetic faith at its best, and they served as such rather than as detailed predictions of future events. The prophetic attitude toward the fulfillment of forecasts was characteristically undogmatic. The great prophets were preaching the God of the past, the present and the future. All that they announced as to come was dependent upon the will of Him who is the Eternal Now.
Such was Jesus' own attitude toward the future and what it was to bring. The future was wholly dependent upon the divine will. In the work of Jonah he saw, not the failure of his forecast, but his message of repentance-Jonah's sign to his generation, and Jesus said that the sign of Jonah was the only sign that he would give to his own contemporaries. (Luke 11,29-30.)
Jesus' faith in the kingdom of God is the most vital and powerful venture of the religious spirit that human history knows. As Loisy writes, it is "the greatest manifestation of faith ever displayed on earth.' 128 Its failure "The Gospel and the Church, p. 123.
to realize itself in the form of his forecast is a thought that will hardly cross the threshold of the religious consciousness that has felt the fire of Jesus' spirit and that has launched itself in the quest of the kingdom that Jesus announced and sought. It will be difficult, however, for the modern mind to regain its relinquished hold on religion and to realize that faith is never a failure either for its subjects or for its objects.
In conclusion on the kingdom of God, we may say that Jesus, in keeping with the spiritual genius of his prophetic predecessors, looks forward rather than backward. He does not rehearse those outstanding instances when God long ago proved himself the shepherd of his people, and he does not preach the God who revealed himself in ancient signs and wonders. He does not review God's dealings in the past, rather he announces His purpose for the future and His demands on the present in the light of this future. For Jesus the best is yet to come; the golden age lies just ahead; it presses upon the doors; it is as, near as the summer when the fig tree's branches become tender and shoot forth their leaves. (Mark 13,28-29.)
In the religious literature of his people the kingdom of God is not more than a rare piece of religious terminology, but in the religious experience of Jesus himself it becomes the central issue for God and for men, and into it Jesus poured the entire wealth of his own religious mind. His contribution to the history of the conception of the kingdom of God was the central and exclusive place which he gave it, not only in the divine plan but in human experience. Jesus sets it as the highest possible goal for human aspiration and attainment. Men are to participate in this kingdom; it is among men that God will realize
His plans and purposes, that He will realize himself. The important thing for Jesus and his work is what the kingdom and its coming are to mean in human life and history. It is to mean everything that religion at its best can mean in the realm of human experience-God Himself.
In the thought of Jesus the kingdom of God is not a system of religious philosophy. In his message of the kingdom Jesus was not a philosopher but a prophet. His faith in its coming is not based on any historical calculations or grounds of reason, but on an intense inner conviction that dared fly in the face of fact and logic. He presents the kingdom very plainly, even prosaically, for the most part, in parables. He appealed to the imagination of his hearers rather than to their power to reason. His own thinking concerning the kingdom is plain picturethinking. For Jesus, the kingdom of God was "a simple idea," better doubtless, "a simple reality. 112' And yet it was as full of paradox, contrast and contradiction as life itself, for it sprang from an intensely personal religious faith that in its expressions must reflect something of the "ebb and flow of a great inner life."
The kingdom of God does not exhaust the religious significance of Jesus, but it comes to us as our one great heritage from him. As all the great spiritual values of mankind, the kingdom of God comes to us from the very depths of a unique religious nature.
Jesus appeared in public preaching an exclusively religious message, a prophet possessed by a deeply religious faith, consecrating himself to and consuming himself in the championship of the greatest of all religious causes-
the kingdom of God on earth and among men. The kingdom of God stands as the most adequate single expression of Jesus' own personal piety and religion. It constitutes his greatest contribution to the religious faith of mankind, for God and His kingdom with all that both signify and imply in the religious experience of Jesus are not only Christianity's but religion's chiefest treasure and possession. But the puzzling thing in the history of Christianity is that this kingdom of God, believed in and preached by Jesus, this cause which he championed and for which he died, this greatest of all his contributions to religious faith, has never found official expression in any Christian creed-creeds which pretend to crystallize in succinct statements the essential elements of a religion that names itself after him.
In this chapter we have sought to delineate the religious faith of Jesus, and we are struck at once by the marked contrast between the religion of Jesus and Christianity. Christianity has always been Chris to cen tric-its faith focusing on the person of Jesus. The faith of Jesus, however, his own personal piety, centered upon God and His kingdom--it was theocentric. His faith was nothing more, nothing less, than the issue of his own personal religious experience, his experience of God as holy and as loving Father. In keeping with the psychology of religious genius, Jesus trusted his own experience of God as true; upon the basis of this experience he lived his life and performed his work. In the light of it he believed and felt, thought and taught, preached and prayed. His personal faith in God and His kingdom gave the whole of his life a unique quality. His certainties and convictions grew out of the nature of these objects of his faith and
his experience of them as the highest religious values. His faith in God was not for his personal protection, to preserve him from a tragic death. In fact, it was this faith that brought him to and through his end.
All that Jesus had to say of God and His kingdom came straight from his own breast. The goals and religious objects which he set for others were first of all his own. What he himself had sensed, sought and secured, he in turn sought to show and to share with others.
Jesus' faith in God and His kingdom presents itself to us in the terms of the sum total of a vital religious experience that wholly possesses an individual in his quest of the Divine, in his pursuit of the divine presence as the permanent possession in human life and history. His great faith did not come to him by rational processes, nor was it his merely by social inheritance as elements from the religious past and present. It became his very own by that more painful process of personal religious conviction. As such it laid hold of the deepest sources of his life, and it was the firm grip of this great faith upon his whole person that forced him out of private into public life as the commissioned champion of the cause of God among men. The religious faith of Jesus functioned as the most vital and powerful thing in his life. It was the driving force of his existence, for "religion is not an intellectual abstraction but a power to live by."