“Never man spake as this Man”

“Never man spake as this Man”

The Feast of Tabernacles.

(The Gospel History, Section 77)

The officers therefore came to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why did ye not bring him? The officers answered, Never man so spake. The Pharisees therefore answered them, Are ye also led astray? Hath any of the rulers believed on him, or of the Pharisees? But this multitude which knoweth not the law are accursed. Nicodemus saith unto them (he that came to him before, being one of them), Doth our law judge a man, except it first hear from himself and know what he doeth? They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and see that out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. And they went every man unto his own house.

“Never man spake as this Man”

(The Saviour of the World, Vol V Book III Poem XXXIII)

Meantime, the Sanhedrin in session sate;
Had hasty summons called the Seventy
To confer on national emergency?
Fretful, in feverish anxiety,
They wait the return of the officers sent out
To apprehend this Man, the people’s Seer:
What should they do with their prisoner? vexing thought!
“An kill we Him, the Romans will accuse us
Of breaking their hateful laws.” “Pooh, we can deal
With subtlety—make these same Romans kill,
Act as our executioners—base part!—
And crucify this Jesus, for that He hath
Transgressed the laws of Rome—a thing to prove:”
“A worthy scheme, subtle and simple, but how,
On what grounds, get conviction?”

While they spake,

The officers returned—crestfallen men—
No prisoner in their hand. “Why, where is He?
Why, Him, bring ye not hither?” How wonderful
The ways of God with men! These had gone forth,
Eager to gain blood-money; vindictive,
If but to justify their shameful part;
They’d watched and listened—hoped to catch a word,
Which should Jesus of Nazareth condemn: and lo,
The Truth rose up and, sudden, caught the men,
Shook them with violence till their naked soul
Stood fearful forth, and owned the Christ of God.

A wonder came to pass, a miracle!
These men, unknowing, had that act of Will
Performed, which turns a man; a “Sesame,”
Pronounced, imperious, by their sordid soul,
Had let in Christ—all lovely, all divine:
They saw and understood, and found grace—they!—
To speak the final word, unanswerable,
In every controversy concerning Christ:
No signs adduce they, mighty works performed,—
These had stirred wonder in the days gone by,
But now—what matter signs to them who know?
“Never man so spake”—they say, and, in that word,
Exhaust all argument, flout evidence!
Ye happy men, poor creatures of the Jews,
No theologian in all future years
Shall find the final word to say of Christ—
That word is yours for ever!

The angry Jews

Forgot that dignity of office, prized
Chief among their possessions, rose in wrath—
Hissed bitter words from out closed teeth, waved hands
To stress a scorn immeasurable; to these,
Their servants, spake as though to rulers born,
(Fierce wrath, like love, makes equal in a trice;)
Cried they, as to their fellows, “What, ye too,
Are ye also led astray, whose bread depends
On this august Assembly? Fie on you!
Poor ignorant fools, what better can ye know?
Look at your betters, hath any of them believed
On Him,—the Rulers or the Pharisees?
As rocks they stand—which He shall break upon!
Aye, as rocks they’ll fall and crush Him!”

Was it so?

Or had the truth, a living stream, urged in
Through all obstructions,—flowing water’s wont—
And were there amongst the Seventy (named “the Jews,”
As though the people counted not),—were there here
Parched souls that sighted water? God, He knows:
One such was moved to speak a timid word;—
On general principles would he take his stand;
None should suspect his anxiety to save
The Man his heart assured him was the Christ:
Had he not seen, that night they sent him forth
To test this “interloper,” a Presence there,
In that dim upper room, had come to abide
For ever with him, chiding?

Nicodemus saith—

“Doth our law judge a man except it hear
Him speak in his own defence?” Alas, for them,
The fearful advocates who would save a man
Nor compromise themselves! They fail to serve,
And bewray that they would hide. The Pharisees
In bitter spleen turned on him—“Art thou, too,
Of Galilee?” they hissed, and mouth’d at him,—
Opprobrious epithet then, as to-day,
Sure way to damn a cause! “Search thou and see—
No prophet cometh out of Galilee!”
Subtle their tactics,—name of scorn to fix
On them who followed Christ; who’d choose to be
Nicknamed a Galilean, in a land
Where purity of descent was more than life?
With curious pleasure note we, how disperse
The manifold charges made to prove that He,
Jesus of Nazareth, was not the Christ:
A single count remains: Of Galilee, He,
Whilst the Messias out of Judah comes:
Charge, got of ignorance on arrogance!
The Evangelist makes no comment; by their words,
Stand these condemned for ever.

St. John vii. 45-53.
St. John iii. 1-21.

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