Jesus’ Conception of Himself
252. When Jesus called forth the confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi he brought into prominence the question which during the earlier stages of the Galilean ministry he had studiously kept in the background. This is no indication, however, that he was late in reaching a conclusion for himself concerning his relation to the kingdom which he was preaching. From the time of his baptism and temptation every manifestation of the inner facts of his life shows unhesitating confidence in the reality of his call and in his understanding of his mission. This is the case whether the fourth gospel or the first three be appealed to for evidence. It is generally felt that the Gospel of John presents its sharpest contrast to the synoptic gospels in respect of the development of Jesus’ self-disclosures. A careful consideration of the first three gospels, however, shows that the difference is not in Jesus’ thought about himself.
253. The first thing which impressed the people during the ministry in Galilee was Jesus’ assumption of authority, whether in teaching or in action (Mark i. 27; Matt. vii. 28, 29). His method of teaching distinguished him sharply from the scribes, who were constantly appealing to the opinion of the elders to establish the validity of their conclusions. Jesus taught with a simple “I say unto you.” In this, however, he differed not only from the scribes, but also from the prophets, to whom in many ways he bore so strong a likeness. They proclaimed their messages with the sanction of a “Thus saith the Lord;” he did not hesitate to oppose the letter of scripture as well as the tradition of the elders with his unsupported word (Matt. v. 38, 39; Mark vii. 1-23). His teaching revealed his unhesitating certainty concerning spiritual truth, and although he reverenced deeply the Jewish scriptures, and knew that his work was the fulfilment of their promises, he used them always as one whose superiority to God’s earlier messengers was as complete as his reverence for them. He was confident that what they suggested of truth he was able to declare clearly; he used them as a master does his tools.
254. More striking than Jesus’ independence in his teaching is the calmness of his self-assertion when he was opposed by pharisaic criticism and hostility. He preferred to teach the truth of the kingdom, working his cures in such a way that men should think about God’s goodness rather than their healer’s significance. Yet coincidently with this method of his choice he did not hesitate to reply to pharisaic opposition with unqualified self-assertion and exalted personal claim. Even if the conflicts which Mark has gathered together at the opening of his gospel (ii. 1 to iii. 6) did not all occur as early as he has placed them, the nucleus of the group belongs to the early time. Since the people greatly reverenced