A very significant passage in St. Mark (10:32) gives us a glimpse of a moment on Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem. It is a sentence which one could hardly imagine being included in the Gospel, if it did not represent some actual memory, and a memory of significance. It runs something like this: “And they were in the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was moving on before them; and they began to wonder; and as they followed they began to be afraid.” He is moving to Jerusalem with a purpose. They do not understand it. He is wrapped in thought; and, as happens when a man’s mind is working strongly, his pace quickens, and they find themselves at a distance behind him. And then something comes over them—a sense that there is something in the situation which they do not understand, a strangeness in the mind. They realize, in fact, that they are not as near Jesus as they had supposed. And, as they follow, the wonder deepens into fear.
Anyone who will really try to grapple with this problem of the cross will find very soon the same thing. The first thing that we need to learn, if our criticism of Jesus is to be sound, is that we are not at all so near him as we have imagined. He eludes us, goes far out beyond what we grasp or conceive; and I think the education of the Christian man or woman begins anew, when we realize how little we know about Jesus. The discovery of our ignorance is the beginning of knowledge. Plato long ago said that wonder is the mother of philosophy, and he was right. John Donne, the English poet, went farther, and said: “All divinity is love or wonder.” When a man then begins to wonder about Jesus Christ in earnest, Jesus comes to be for him a new figure. Historical criticism has done this for us; it has brought us to such a point that the story of these earliest disciples repeats itself more closely in the experience of their followers of these days than in any century since the first. We begin along with them on the friendly, critical, human plane, and with them we follow him into experiences and realizations that we never expected. It may be summed up in the familiar words of the English hymn,
Oh happy band of pilgrims,
If onward ye will tread
With Jesus as your fellow,
To Jesus as your head.
These men begin with him, more or less on a footing of equality; or, at least, the inequality is very lightly marked. Afterwards it is emphasized; and they realize it with wonder and with fear, and at last with joy and gratitude.
We may begin by trying steadily to bring our minds to some keener sense of what it was that he chose. To say, in the familiar words, that he chose the cross, may through the very familiarity of the language lead us away from what we have to discover. We have, as we agreed, to ask ourselves what was his experience. What, then, did his choice involve? It meant, of course, physical pain. There are natures to