Obrazy na stronie

eternal fire with the other (Matt. iii. 11, 12). The recognition comes to the mind of Jesus first of a progressiveness, a development of the kingdom of God, in virtue of which it cannot fall ready-made from heaven, but must develop itself in the bosom of the earth, in the human race and in the history of the world. That perception carried with it the distinction of a present and a future kingdom. All growth is at one and the same time present and future; it is and yet is not; it is present in germ and yet is future in its complete form. So is it with the kingdom of God. It is a thing in process of becoming—not in the sense of a gradual selfperfecting. The kingdom of God is from the beginning perfect in itself, prepared from the foundation of the world (Matt. xxv, 34), but prepared in heaven, in the ideal world of God. It has now, however, come near to earth, the world of history; it comes down from heaven to earth and already touches it, not, however, to invade it and do it violence, but in order to root itself in it and grow up in natural order to harvest. For that very reason it must begin in that inconspicuous lowly form which was so unintelligible and offensive to the people, and even to the disciples with their dreams of glory. That is the only possible beginning for a truly ethical and historical process of appropriation. That glorious form which His contemporaries expected to come ready-made from heaven can only be the final product of a true course of history, the result of infinite divine as well as human labour. Jesus endeavoured in many pictures, none of which are more profound and yet more simple than that of the seed and its sowing to which He repeatedly recurs, to make clear this view, which through Him has become familiar to us, but which was essentially strange to His first disciples. The seed is a living power in the most wonderful and, at the same time, most simple form. It is a power of growth. It bears in itself a complete image of God's glory, but in germ, secret, unimposing; it attains its development only gradually and by stages, and on condition of finding a soil fitted for it. The kingdom of heaven, though it has come near, is in the same way bound to the law of development, and conditioned by the free susceptibility of human nature. But as surely as sowing and growth finally result in harvest and completeness, so surely

will the kingdom, founded by Jesus in weakness and secrecy, finally develop into the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness, into that perfect state where God will be all in all (cf. Mark iv. 26-29; 1 Cor. xv. 28).


[ocr errors]


From this point we may now get a complete survey and estimate of Jesus' idea of the kingdom. In the first place, we are now able to settle what is true and what is false in the assertion of recent times, that in the teaching of Jesus, kingdom of God is to be conceived essentially as salvation and not as a commonweal.1

a commonweal.1 No doubt we do sometimes meet with the idea of the kingdom in a phrase which seems to exclude every idea of a kingdom, that is, of a commonwealth, and to leave simply the idea of the gift of God, the gift of grace. That occurs in the passage already referred to Mark x. 15, which speaks of a receiving of the kingdom, or when the kingdom is compared to a treasure hid in the field, a pearl of great price which a man has to discover and purchase (Matt. xiii. 44-46). Yet the kingdom of heaven or “ kingdom of God” can never lose its fundamental idea, the idea of a community in which God governs; nor does it lose it even in that saying of Mark, as is shown by the addition," he shall not enter therein,” and by the constant application of the notion of entrance to the present kingdom. Only, we must not overlook, that of the two elements of the kingdom of God necessarily united in idea, communion with God, and communion in God with one another, the first is throughout the more prominent in the teaching of Jesus and in its nature fundamental, the second is inferior, and rests upon the first. When Jesus declares the kingdom of God thus conceived to have come near, first of all as a power and a possibility, as a heavenly seed for the human soil, His idea is very nearly that of mere power, of heavenly gift, though he does not deny the fundamental idea of the community. Nay, the dominion of God and communion with God coming down from heaven to earth is salvation : for wherever it is established in a heart, there

1 Cf. Cremer in the work above referred to, p. 194 ; C. Haupt in the review of my Leben Jesu, Studien und Kritiken, 1887.


heaven is on earth. It is God's gift, for it does not originate in a man's turning to God of himself, but in the eternal love conquering him and setting up its throne in him. But in doing that it establishes its kingdom in him, a government of God and a heavenly commonwealth, which, in uniting him with the Father in heaven, unites him also with all God's children. Connected with this is the other point which we have still to consider with a view to a provisional completion of Jesus' teaching about the kingdom of heaven. The teaching of Jesus becomes in the full sense of the word a revelation of salvation just through the idea of the kingdom as growing, the idea of the kingdom as a force of divine love creating a community: the very thing which in the eyes of its contemporaries was its poverty and insufficiency, constitutes its divine riches and all-sufficiency. If it had only had to proclaim as near or at a distance that kingdom of glory which the disciples had been led by the prophets to expect, it would indeed have been a blessing in a certain sense, but only as an inheritance of the pious who had made themselves worthy of it, not of poor sinners who needed the gracious hand of God stretched out to meet them, and even drawing them to come. It would not have come as a power to save the lost, but rather as a power of judgment for all who did not possess the wedding garment of righteousness. In point of fact, the Baptist's preaching of the kingdom has a certain peculiarity in this, that it makes the kingdom act immediately in the way of blessing or condemning: as it demands conversion, but only demands it, and therefore drowns the sweet sounds of promise by the thunders of approaching judgment. Here lay the necessity for Jesus to separate Himself more and more from the Baptist's methods, and here for the Baptist lay the danger of a subsequent perplexity regarding Him whom he had recognised as the coming one. Jesus takes another path than the Baptist expected, one apparently much humbler, but in reality much more glorious. He regards it from the first as His mission not to condemn but to save (John iii. 17; Matt. xi. 2–6). But He can only fulfil this true calling of a Saviour in virtue of an idea of the kingdom which represents not only the future glorious inheritance of the just, but, at the same time, and above all, contains a present condescension of God's love, in virtue of which the spiritually poor may become divinely rich, and those who hunger and thirst after righteousness may be satisfied.

[ocr errors]





[ocr errors]

If we now inquire further how and wherein the kingdom of God is at hand, we are referred to the person of Him who announces it. Not that a prophet could not have announced the kingdom as coming independent of his person. John the Baptist did that, but he did so by predicting one mightier than himself, who should come after him and set it up. Jesus, on the other hand, never referred to another and greater than Himself, not even to a continuer and completer of His work, but charged Himself, and Himself only, with the setting up of the kingdom of heaven which He announced, from the sowing which founded it, to the judgment which would be the harvest. And this gives us, as the essential basis of His announcement of the kingdom, a self-consciousness quite unique, a consciousness of bearing in Himself personally that very thing which He desired to set up in the world; and this self-consciousness had to find expression, because, until it was declared, the announcement of the kingdom of heaven would, as it were, have remained floating in the air.

There follows, therefore, as the next main part of His teaching, His testimony concerning Himself. Not that He made His person the subject of didactic discussion from the first. According to the Synoptists there prevails rather with regard to this main point a reserve which certainly has a historical basis, and which refers us to immediate and suggestive utterances of His self-consciousness, rather than to intentional discussions of it. This is a formal enigma which is to be solved along with the mystery of those utterances themselves.


The testimony of Jesus concerning Himself was not without a point of connection in the national faith. The expectation of a personal instrument of God for the setting up of His kingdom was given in the Old Testament, and, if all signs are not deceptive, filled the minds of the people at the time of Jesus more than ever. The hope of a king of salvation springing from the house of David had stamped itself upon the minds of the prophets as early as the days in which the theocratic State was contending with the powers of Western Asia ; with the appearance of a God-sent and inspired deliverer were connected Israel's old hopes of salvation. The deliverer had not appeared, the commonwealth of God had broken down before the heathen; the expectation connected with the royal house of David fell into the background with that royal house in and after the Exile, and made way for other forms in which salvation was expected. The ideal form of the teaching and suffering servant of Jehovah (Isa. xl.-Ixvi.), or the idea of a visitation of His people by God Himself (Mal. iii. 1), had taken the place of the king of salvation from the house of David. But in the time immediately before Christ, under the reciprocal action of the scribes going back to the old prophets and the oppression of foreign dominion, the old idea seems to have revived, and to have become for the first time really national. By applying to Him the references in the Psalms to the old kings, the name Son of God, which had already been given to the old Israelitish kings, was transferred to this son of David. But the name Jehovah's Anointed, or Messiah, which likewise belonged originally to the kings of Israel as such, was applied, on the basis of Ps. ii. 2, in a special sense to the coming deliverer. Although there was no formal dogma regarding this Messiah, but only the most various and incompatible opinions about Him (cf. John vii. 26, 27, 40–42), and though beside the expectation of a personal Messiah room was without doubt found for the expectation of God's kingdom without such mediation, yet in this notion of the realisation of the Godgiven hopes of Israel which was most popular and apparently most in keeping with the time, there was given a watchword

[ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »