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Life of Jesus Christ in Its Historical Connexion and Historical Developement.
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§ 235. The Necessity for Christ’s Death.

TO avoid the snares of his enemies, and secure a short season of undisturbed intercourse with the disciples before the close of his career on earth, Jesus retired into the obscure village of Ephraim,631631   John, xi., 54. in the desert of Judea, several miles632632   According to Jerome, 20 Roman miles. north of Jerusalem. He knew that in travelling to the Passover at the city he should be overcome by the machinations of the Pharisees, and be put to death. The question may be asked, Why, then, did be not keep himself concealed still longer? He might then have carried on the still defective religious training of his disciples, and might, also, have prepared a greater number of agents to disseminate his truth.

So, indeed, it might be said if he had been a mere teacher of truth, like other men. Even though at last he had to fall a victim to the hierarchical party, he might thus have gained some time, at least, for the training of his followers; a work of the highest possible importance, as every thing, in the developement of his work, depended upon the way in which they apprehended his doctrine. But the doctrine of Jesus was not a system of general conceptions; it was founded upon a fact, viz., that in Him had been manifested the end to which all previous revelations to the Jewish people had been but preparatory; that He was the aim of the prophecies of the Old Testament; that in Him the kingdom of God was realized. Of this fact, to which his whole previous ministry had borne witness, he had now to testify openly be fore the face of his enemies. Moreover, his labours in Galilee, and the raising of Lazarus at Bethany, had raised the expectations of the people to the highest pitch (John, xi., 56); and many who had gone up to the city before the Passover to purify themselves were anxious to know whether he would venture to come in spite of the hostile intentions of the Sanhedrim. To stay away then, would have been to lose the most favourable juncture; and to manifest both fear of his enemies and distrust of his own Divine calling to the Messiahship. Now was the time, when the rage of the Pharisees was at its highest, in the face of their sentence and their threats, to bear witness to himself openly as Messiah. He did not seek death, but went to meet it in the execution of his calling, in obedience to the Divine will, and with a love to Gou and man that was ready for any sacrifice.633633   There must be a right conception of Christ’s self-sacrifice as a moral act, in connexion with his whole calling, in order to any just doctrinal view of his sufferings. And he was assured that precisely by his death was the great object, to which in holy love he had devoted his whole life, to be fully realized.

As for the imperfect training of his disciples, it must have caused him uneasiness had he not been able to rely (as no human teacher could do) upon his own continued operation, and that of the Divine Spirit, in their hearts and minds, to complete their culture. With this presupposition he could not but be confident that his separation from them would further their independent developement, as he himself told them afterward in his closing conversations with them.


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