A dying man asked a dying man for eternal life; a man without possessions asked a poor man for a Kingdom; a thief at the door of death asked to die like a thief and steal Paradise. One would have thought a saint would have been the first soul purchased over the counter of Calvary by the red coins of Redemption, but in the Divine plan it was a thief who was the escort of the King of kings into Paradise. If Our Lord had come merely as a teacher, the thief would never have asked for forgiveness. But since the thief's request touched the reason of His coming to earth, namely, to save souls, the thief heard the immediate answer: 'I promise thee, this day thou shalt beWith Me in Paradise'(Luke 23: 43)It was the thief's last prayer, perhaps even his first. He knocked once, sought once, asked once, dared everything, and found everything. When even the disciples were doubting and only one was present at the Cross, the thief owned and acknowledged Him as Saviour.
As Adam lost the heritage of union with God in a garden, so now Our Blessed Lord ushered in its restoration in a garden. Eden and Gethsemane were the two gardens around which revolved the fate of humanity. In Eden, Adam sinned; in Gethsemane, Christ took humanity's sin upon Himself. In Eden, Adam hid himself from God; in Gethsemane, Christ interceded with His Father; in Eden, God sought out Adam in his sin of rebellion; in Gethsemane, the New Adam sought out the Father and His submission and resignation. In Eden, a sword was drawn to prevent entrance into the garden and thus immortalizing of evil; in Gethsemane, the sword would be sheathed.
Some religions draw by force of arms; He would draw by force of love. The attraction would not be His words, but Himself. It was His Person around which His teaching centered; not His teaching around which He would be remembered. 'Greater love than this no man hath' - that was the secret of His magnetism.
When one takes into account also His reiterated assertions about His Divinity - such as asking us to love Him above parents, to believe in Him even in the face of persecution, to be ready to sacrifice our bodies in order to save our souls in union with Him - to call Him just a good man ignores the facts. No man is good unless he is humble; and humility is a recognition of truth concerning oneself. A man who thinks he is greater than he actually is is not humble, but a vain and boastful fool. How can any man claim prerogatives over conscience, and over history, and over society and the world and still claim he is 'meek and humble of heart'? But if He is God as well as man, His language falls into place and everything that He says is intelligible. But if He is not what He claimed to be, then some of His most precious sayings are nothing but bombastic outburts of self-adulation that breathe rather the spirit of Lucifer than the spirit of a good man. What avails Him to proclam the law of self-renouncement, if He Himself renounces truth to call Himself God? Even His sacrifice on the Cross becomes a suspect and dated thing, when it goes hand in hand with delusions of grandeur and infernal conceit. He could not be called even a sincere teacher, for no sincere teacher would allow anyone to construe his claims to share the rank and the name of the Great God in heaven.
As scientific truths put us in an intelligent relaton with the cosmos, as historic truth puts us in temporal relation with the rise and fall of civilization, so does Christ put us in intelligent relation with God the Father; for He is the only possible Word by which God can address Himself to a world of sinners.
He came to put a harlot above a Pharisee, a penitent robber above a High Priest, and a prodigal son above his exemplary brother. To all the phonies and fakers who would say that they could not join the Church because His Church was not holy enough, He would ask, 'How holy must the Church be before you will enter into it?' If the Church were as holy as they wanted it to be, they would never be allowed into it! In every other religion under the sun, in every Eastern religion from Buddhism to Confucianism, there must always be some purification before one can commune with God. But Our Blessed Lord brought a religion where the admission of sin is the condition of coming to Him. 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are ill.
Our Blessed Lord left the world without leaving any written message. His doctrine was Himself. Ideal and History were identified in Him. The truth that all other ethical teachers proclaimed, and the light that they gave to the world, was not IN them, but OUTSIDE them. Our Divine Lord, however, identified Divine Wisdom with Himself. It was the first time in history that it was ever done, and it has never been done since.
His words even imply that philanthropy has deeper depths than is generally realized. The great emotions of compassion and mercy are traced to Him; there is more to human deeds than the doers are aware. He identified every act of kindness as an expression of sympathy with Himself. All kindnesses are either done explicitly or implicitly in His name, or they are refused explicitly or implicitly in His name.
The good repent on knowing their sin; the evil become angry when discovered. Ignorance is not the cause of evil, as Plato held; neither is education the answer to the removal of evil. These men had an intellect as well as a will; knowledge as well as intention. Truth can be known and hated; Goodness can be known and crucified. The Hour was approaching, and for the moment the fear of the people deterred the Pharisees. Violence could not be triggered against Him until He would say, 'This is your Hour.