Skip to main content

Chapter 10

A Source of his Genius

Joshua Ben Joseph, he of the little carpenter’s shop of his father Joseph at Nazareth, has travelled far, though not wide, during the wellnigh three years of his teaching ministry. An almost irresistible impulse, impelled always by love, has taken him up and down dusty and often hot roads of Judea and Peraea and his own Galilee. It is but a small area; an area all told about a hundred and fifty miles long and a hundred miles wide. He early felt the impulse to leave his native village of Nazareth, and made Capernaum, some few miles distant, the central point of his goings and his comings.

During this time he was going almost continually here and there, the sower of the seed of what he felt was a mighty truth in the minds of all types and conditions of men and women and many times it was a motley crowd that gathered to hear him. He eagerly hoped, but sometimes almost in despair, that the truth he sought to plant would, when he would no longer be here to plant it, be taken by other men in order that it might reach a still larger hearing.

His experiences were many and varied; always interesting, sometimes amusing, sometimes discouraging — many times discouraging had he been one of a lesser mould. Had he been one of lesser vision and lesser faith, the memory of his experience twice repeated in his native place, and among his own home people, would have cost him considerable discomfort or even sadness.

The ties of human friendship do count. To be misunderstood and turned against by the people where one has been born, where one has worked and has grown to manhood, is unpleasant and discouraging. To be misunderstood, to be questioned and to that extent unappreciated by one’s own mother and brothers and sisters, is not agreeable to experience or later to remember.

One account of the carpenter’s son returned to his native village is given by the writer Luke, and it is interesting to read it in the form it is given: ‘And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?

‘And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.

‘And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down head long. But he passing through the midst of them went his way, and came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the Sabbath days. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.’ (Luke iv. 16-32.)

This account is interesting not only from its pathos but from the standpoint of giving us a very clear-cut picture of exactly how Jesus was regarded, while he lived, by the people with whom he lived.

To follow tradition is at times to traduce the fact or the person that we are not able, through intellectual indifference or intellectual cowardice, rightly to appraise or understand. It but encourages the reign of even the manufacture of dogma, that deadly thing which the Master himself found was throttling the spirit, the life and the welfare of his people, and the vigorous denunciation of which eventually cost him his life.

Nineteen hundred years is a very short period in the great march of time, and God’s eternal laws, laws of the universe, laws of human life, laws of human generation, were the same then as they are now. We can rest assured that what does not occur now did not occur then. To be born of a virgin, with God, or some god, or some mythological character, as father, was a very common occurrence in the traditions of antiquity.

Buddha, six hundred years before Jesus’ time, was born of a virgin. So tradition said later, after he became thoroughly well known and needed to be explained. So tradition said, when the priest began to mould a revelation and teaching, of wonderful light and power for human help, into a dogmatic system shot through with a material tinge — with an eye to authority, power, and money. Buddhism suffered great degeneration from the high ideals and humanly helpful purposes of him upon whose name it was built.

Practically all the world’s great leaders and saviours later were followed by this same tradition. Considerably before the time of Jesus and continuing many years aftenvard, to be born of a virgin was the fame of numbers of rulers and emperors. Very few were immune. Caesar Augustus was reputed the son of God born of a virgin mother. Such was the very common belief of the time, because tradition said it.

Jesus knew himself, and all of his time knew him, as the son of Joseph and Mary. Mary herself states it on several occasions, or at least from her statements we can infer nothing else — and she probably knew — yes, she undoubtedly knew. She was no simpleton. Jesus went with Mary and Joseph as a boy to Jerusalem, and lingered in the temple while they started home supposing him to be in the company. When they missed him and going back found him, the account reads: ‘And his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.’ (Luke ii. 48.) As a boy and while he lived at Nazareth, he was known as Joshua Ben Joseph.

The parents, the family, were poor, but from the most trustworthy accounts that we have, they were well known and well regarded. The parents were perhaps at times hard pressed; to care for a family of nine from the proceeds of a little carpenter’s shop in a village of that size was no small problem; and the help of Joshua, the oldest of the children, before any of the others were sufficiently grown to contribute to the family’s support, must have been a godsend.

That he received a splendid inheritance of qualities from such parents there can be no doubt — a splendid combination of qualities of spirit, of mind, and of body which gave him that unique endowment of power for discerning the things of the mind and the spirit, a mind for clear-cut seeing and statement, and a vigorous, healthy body through which all could function to their highest.

His must have been a unique endowment among the sons of men, an endowment which he in turn appreciated and used to its highest, which enabled him so uniquely to become a son of God, and so splendidly and triumphantly a revealer of the truth of God; or rather, shall we say, an embodiment and revealer of the truth of God.

We can well imagine that the clear-seeing vigour of his mind would make him the foe of anything that would separate him from his fellows and so lessen his power of appeal. The only point of difference he would countenance would be that a great truth had been given to him, a truth which so illumined and enlarged and filled his life that he was its wayshower so that it might give freedom and the same larger life to those who would hear him. When he saw the need of his people, and the low level of life around him compared to this larger life which had been revealed to him, it was but natural and right that he should come to feel himself the Messiah, the anointed, the son of God, for the deliverance of his people from their mental and spiritual hondage.

And when through the truth that he taught and the works that he did, his fame spread far and wide, and he began to be looked upon as the leader, the deliverer, the Messiah for whom they had long and intently been waiting, he went out of his way to make it plain, time and time again, that his message was a spiritual message, that the Kingdom of God he was showing them was a spiritual and not a material kingdom.

He never succumbed, and never had the slightest inclination to succumb, to the dream of grandeur which before and since afflicted so many able but lesser minds. ‘My Kingdom is not of this world,’ he said many times. Always he felt himself the servant of the truth which had been given to him, and felt that he must offer it every ounce of his devotion. He did this with such a steadfast purpose that nothing savouring of a material kingdom ever had the slightest lure for him or influence upon him. Here again appears the real genius and the real calibre of the man.

This we do know, however — and it is the fact of real importance and value: he had a great genius, a great aptitude in the realm of the mind and the spirit in knowing life, which he identified with God, or ‘the Father.’ He had an unusual perception of reality. He perceived being as spirit, and spirit as the universal creative force or energy which manifests itself as life, life energising and disclosing itself in all individual forms. This he perceived was the life that was his.

God is Spirit, he said, and spirit is life. In a perfectly natural way, then, he identified his life with the life of God — not through any reasoning process but through the direct process of self-consciousness, of intuition. He was not only a genius, but a great genius, in this realm .

A genius is one who finds his goal not through precepts or pattern or example, but through the direct method of inner-seeing, of intuition. That inner perceptive quality of the mystic is his prompter and his guide.

Some years ago a most interesting life of the Master, or study of his life, was written by a friend of mine, a woman of unusual perceptive qualities, one thoroughly unbiased and devoted to truth, and after a long period of prepration . She finds in him the high order of the mystic. Her thought is of particular interest and value at this point:

‘Even in his own age Jesus was rccogniscd se a mystic — one to whom knowledge comes not by way of reason and objective sense, but by a faculty of in-knowing. . . . He easily knew and did what other men fumble for and strive. He had a genius for mystically acquired knowledge of God in His relation to man. He is without doubt the greatest mystical genius that ever lived. . . .Jesus saw God as no man before him. He saw God as the Father and man as the veritable son; God-stuff in man, He in us and we in Him. . . . Jesus was an Occidental mystic whose mysticism is toward the mastery of life rather than the evasion of it. . . . On the whole, his concept of the experienceable universe has had a larger share of acceptance, and maintains itself in the thought stream longer, than the concepts of the intelligible universe predicated by Plate and Aristotle. The cornerstone of his mystical knowing, the oneness of the nature of God, conceived as Spirit, and man the projection of that Spirit into the world of sense, has become the head of the foundation of modern science; spirit and matter, energy and form, one substance, not denied by Jew nor infidel nor any other persuasion.’

Again consider this thought of hers - still more valuable perhaps because of its individual and practical element:

‘Knowing God as spirit, and love as the mode of his being, and man a partaker of God’s nature, Jesus also believed man to be a partaker of God’s powers. It is impossible to set aside the evidence that, in relation to the exigencies of his destiny as well as his daily life, Jesus lived at a high level of personal efficiency, and that he undertook to teach his disciples how to attain and sustain such levels for themselves. More than any man before or since, Jesus came teaching that the mystical is the practical. All those high moods which had been the prerogatives of saints and prophets, he meant to make part of the common use and posesssion. Mind, Spirit, whatever it is constituting the fundamental alikeness of God and man, he established as the daily instrument, accessible alike to the learned and the unlearned. God is as free as air, and heaven as close at hand in a fishing smack as in Jerusalem. . . . He drew — though his name people have not accepted it — all the manifestations of the supernatural into the field of the natural. But Jesus did nothing which he did not openly declare to be commonly possible, the fulfilling of a natural law. As far as he proved God, he declared Him, and he knew and said that there might be those of his disciples who by the same means might do greater wonders. . . .

‘It was the mystical life that Jesus admonished his disciples to lead, as differentiated from the ritualistic, legalistic life of the devout Jew. “Know yourselves and ye shall be aware that ye are the sons of the Father. . . .” They were to abide in this consciousness of God within, and it was to be sufficient unto them in health and fortune, food and raiment. There was no limitation to the power of God in man, and therefore no concept of limitation was to be allowed to the sincere disciple.

‘In all or any of the exigencies of human life you were to ask and you would receive. Knock and it should be opened unto you. Jesus made no distinction whatever as to the nature of these exigencies, whether they were of hunger, or disease, or what are called moral problems.’


Syndicate content