The Man Nobody Knows:
A Discovery of the Real Jesus
by Bruce Barton
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Bruce Barton's 1925 effort to reconfigure Jesus for the Roaring Twenties turned into one of the great best-sellers of the century. Here was Christ, the world's greatest business executive, who "picked up twelve men from the bottom ranks of business and forged them into an organization that conquered the world" Despite its controversial nature, the book topped the nonfiction best-seller lists and sold more than 750,000 copies in two years.
This is a realistic look at the nature of Jesus based on the gospels written about him . No man or woman can read it without being impressed by its power and sweep. With a keen and penetrating insight the author interprets the personal relationships of Jesus and their psychology. The book is written in crisp, vivid language for the contemporary reader.
"The life of Jesus, as we ordinarily read it," the Boston Herald wrote, "is what the life of Lincoln would be if we were given nothing of his boyhood and young manhood, very little of his work in the White House and every detail of his assassination . . . Jesus liked to dine out. He was the most popular dinner guest of Jerusalem. . .The reader is not shocked by this method of Mr. Barton's . . . Jesus seems even more the being for the ages"
Bruce Barton, one of the founders and later Chairman of the Board of Batten, Barton, Durstme and Osborne, wrote this book in the 'twenties'; since then it has made publishing history. It sold over half a million copies in hardcover in the English language alone; translations of it have appeared all over the world. It is here for the first time presented in a ebook edition.
How It Came to Be Written
This was his weekly hour of revolt.
The kindly lady who could never seem to find her glasses would have been terribly shocked if she had known what was going on inside the little boy's mind.
"You must love Jesus," she said every Sunday, "and God."
The little boy did not say anything. He was afraid to say anything; he was almost afraid that something would happen to him because of the things he thought.
Love God! Who was always picking on people for haying a good time and sending little boys to hell because they couldn't do better in a world which He had made so hard! Why didn't God pick on someone His own size?
Love Jesus! The little boy looked up at the picture which hung on the Sunday-school wall. It showed a pale young man with no muscle and a sad expression. The young man had red whiskers.
Then the little boy looked across to the other wall. There was Daniel, good old Daniel, standing off the lions. The little boy liked Daniel. He liked David, too, with the trusty sling that landed a stone square on the forehead of Goliath. And Moses, with his rod and his big brass snake. They were fighters—those three. He wondered if David could whip the champ. Samson could! That would have been a fight!
But Jesus! Jesus was the "Lamb of God." The little boy did not know what that meant, but it sounded like Mary's little Iamb, something for girls—sissified. Jesus was also "meek and lowly," a "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." He went around for three years telling people not to do things.
Sunday was Jesus' day; it was wrong to feel comfortable or laugh on Sunday.
The little boy was glad when the superintendent rang the bell and announced, "We will now sing the closing hymn." One more bad hour was over. For one more week the little boy had left Jesus behind.
Years went by and the boy grew up.
He began to wonder about Jesus.
He said to himself: "Only strong men inspire greatly and build greatly. Yet Jesus has inspired millions; what he founded changed the world. It is extraordinary."
The more sermons the man heard and the more books he read the more mystified he became.
One day he decided to wipe his mind clean of books and sermons.
He said, "I will read what the men who knew Jesus personally said about Him. 1 will read about Him as though He were a character in history, new to me, about whom I had never heard anything at all."
The man was amazed.
A physical weakling! Where did they get that idea? Jesus pushed a plane and swung an axe; He was a good carpenter. He slept outdoors and spent His days walking around His favorite lake. His muscles were so strong that when He drove the moneychangers out, nobody dared to oppose Him!
A kill-joy! He was the most popular dinner guest in Jerusalem! The criticism which proper people made was that He spent too much time with publicans and sinners (very good fellows, on the whole, the man thought) and enjoyed society too much. They called Him a "wine bibber and a gluttonous man."
A failure! He picked up twelve humble men and created an organization that won the world.
When the man had finished his reading, he exclaimed, "This is a man nobody knows!
"Someday," said he, "someone will write a book about Jesus. He will describe the same discovery I have made about Him, that many other people are waiting to make." For, as the man's little-boy notions and prejudices vanished, he saw the day-to-day life of Him who lived the greatest life and was alive and knowable beyond the mists of tradition.
So the man waited for someone to write the book, but no one did. Instead, more books were published that showed the vital Christ as one who was weak and unhappy, passive and resigned.
The man became impatient. One day he said, "I believe I will try to write that book myself."
It was very late in the afternoon.
If you would like to learn the measure of a man, that is the time of day to watch him. We are all half an inch taller in the morning than at night; it is fairly easy to take a large view of things when the mind is rested and the nerves are calm. But the day is a steady drain of small annoyances, and the difference in the size of men becomes hourly more apparent. The little man loses his temper; the big man takes a firmer hold.
It was very late in the afternoon in Galilee.
The dozen men who had walked all day over the dusty roads were hot and tired, and the sight of a village was very cheering as they looked down on it from the top of a little hill. Their leader, deciding that they had gone far enough, sent two members of the party ahead to arrange for accommodations, while He and the others sat down by the roadside to wait.
After a bit the messengers were seen returning, and even at a distance it was apparent that something unpleasant had occurred. Their cheeks were flushed, their voices angry, and as they came nearer they quickened their pace, each wanting to be the first to explode the bad news. Breathlessly they told it—the people in the village had refused to receive them, had given them blunt notice to seek shelter somewhere else.
The indignation of the messengers communicated itself to the others, who at first could hardly believe their ears. This backwoods village refuse to entertain their master—it was unthinkable. He was a famous public figure in that part of the world. He had healed sick people and given freely to the poor. In the capital city crowds had followed Him enthusiastically, so that even His disciples had become men of importance, looked up to and talked about. And now to have this country village deny them admittance as its guests—
"Lord, these people are insufferable," one of them cried. "Let us call down fire from Heaven and consume them."
The others joined in with enthusiasm. Fire from Heaven—that was the idea! Make them smart for their boorishness! Show them that they can't affront us with impunity! Come, Lord, the fire—
There are times when nothing a man can say is nearly so powerful as saying nothing. A business executive can understand that. To argue brings him down to the level of those with whom he argues; silence convicts them of their folly; they wish they had not spoken so quickly; they wonder what he thinks. The lips of Jesus tightened; His fine features showed the strain of the preceding weeks, and in His eyes there was a foreshadowing of the more bitter weeks to come. He needed that night's rest, but He said not a word. Quietly He gathered up His garments and started on, His outraged companions following. It is easy to imagine His keen disappointment. He had been working with them for three years . . . would they never catch a true vision of what He was about! He had so little time, and they were constantly wasting His time. . . . He had come to save mankind, and they wanted Him to gratify His personal resentment by burning up a village!
Down the hot road they trailed after Him, awed by His silence, vaguely conscious that they had failed again to measure up. "And they went to another village," says the narrative—nothing more. No debate; no bitterness; no futile conversation. In the mind of Jesus the thing was too small for comment. In a world where so much must be done, and done quickly, memory could not afford to be burdened with a petty slight.
"And they went to another village."
Eighteen hundred years later an important man left the White House in Washington for the War Office, with a letter from the President to the Secretary of War. In a very few minutes he was back in the White House again, bursting with indignation.
The President looked up in mild surprise. "Did you give the message to Stanton?" he asked.
The other man nodded, too angry for words.
"What did he do?"
"He tore it up," exclaimed the outraged citizen, "and what's more, sir, he said you are a fool."
The President rose slowly from the desk, stretching his long frame to its full height, and regarding the wrath of the other with a quizzical glance.
"Did Stanton call me that?" he asked.
"He did, sir, and repeated it."
"Well," said the President with a dry laugh, "I reckon it must be true then, because Stanton is generally right."
The angry gentleman waited for the storm to break, but nothing happened. Abraham Lincoln turned quietly to his desk and went on with his work. It was not the first time that he had been rebuffed. In the early months of the war when every messenger brought bad news, and no one in Washington knew at what hour the soldiers of Lee might appear at the outskirts, he had gone to call on General McClellan, taking a member of the Cabinet with him. Official etiquette prescribes that the President shall nor visit a citizen, but the times were too tense for etiquette; he wanted firsthand news from the only man who could give it.
The general was out, and for an hour they waited in the deserted parlor. They heard his voice at last in the hall and supposed of course that he would come in at once. But the "Young Napoleon" was too filled with his own importance; without so much as a word of greeting he brushed by, and proceeded on his haughty way upstairs. Ten minutes passed, fifteen, half an hour—they sent a servant to remind him that the President was still waiting. Obviously shocked and embarrassed, the man returned. The general was too tired for a conference, he said; he had undressed and gone to bed!
Not to make a scene before the servants, the Cabinet member restrained himself until they were on the sidewalk. Then he burst forth, demanding that this conceited upstart be removed instantly from command. Lincoln laid a soothing hand on the other's shoulder. "There, there," he said with his deep, sad smile, "I will hold McClellan's horse if only he will bring us victories."
Other leaders in history have had that superiority to personal resentment and small annoyances which is one of the surest signs of greatness, but Jesus infinitely surpasses all. He knew that pettiness brings its own punishment. The law of compensation operates inexorably to reward and afflict us by and through ourselves. The man who is mean is mean only to himself. The village that had refused to admit Him required no fire; it was already dealt with. No miracles were performed in that village. No sick were healed; no hungry were fed; no poor received the message of encouragement and inspiration—that was the penalty for its boorishness. As for Him, He forgot the incident immediately. He had work to do.
For some, formal theology has diminished the thrill to be found in His life by assuming that He knew everything from the beginning—that His three years of public work were a kind of dress rehearsal, with no real problems or crises. What interest would there be in such a life? What inspiration? You who read these pages have your own creed concerning Him; I have mine. Let us forget all creed for the time being, and take the story just as the simple narratives give it—a poor boy, growing up in a peasant family, working in a carpenter shop; gradually feeling His powers expanding, beginning to have an influence over His neighbors, recruiting a few followers, suffering disappointments, reverses and finally death. Yet building so solidly and well that death was only the beginning of His influence! Stripped of all dogma, this is the grandest achievement story of all! In the pages of this book let us treat it as such. If, in so doing, we are criticized for overemphasizing the human side of His character, we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that our overemphasis rends a little to offset the very great overemphasis which has been exerted on the other side. Books and books and books have been written about Him as the Son of God; surely we have a reverent right to remember that His favorite title for Himself was the Son of Man.
Nazareth, where He grew up, was a little town in an outlying province. In the fashionable circles of Jerusalem it was quite the thing to make fun of Nazareth—its crudities of custom and speech, its simplicity of manner. "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" they asked derisively when the report spread that a new prophet had arisen in that country town. The question was regarded as a complete rebuttal of His pretensions.
The Galileans were quite conscious of the city folks' contempt, but they bore it lightly. Life was a cheerful and easygoing affair with them. The sun shone almost every day; the land was fruitful; making a living was nothing much to worry about. There was plenty of time to visit. Families went on picnics in Nazareth as elsewhere in the world; young people walked together in the moonlight and fell in love in the spring. Boys laughed boisterously at their games and got into trouble with their pranks. And Jesus, the boy who worked in the carpenter shop, must have been a leader among them. Later on we shall refer again to those boyhood experiences, noting how they contributed to the vigorous physique which carried Him triumphantly through His work. We are quite unmindful of chronology in writing this book. We are not bound by the familiar outline which begins with the song of the angels at Bethlehem and ends with the weeping of the women at the cross. We shall thread our way back and forth through the rich variety of His life, picking up this incident and that bit of conversation, this dramatic contact and that audacious decision. We shall bring them together to illustrate our purpose as well as we can. For that purpose is not to write a biography but to paint a portrait. So in this first chapter we pass quickly over thirty years of His life, noting only that somehow, somewhere, there occurred in those years the eternal miracle—the awakening of the inner consciousness of power.
The eternal miracle! In New York one day a luncheon was tendered by a gathering of distinguished gentlemen. There were perhaps two hundred at the tables. The food was good and the speeches were impressive. But what stirred one's imagination was a study of the men at the speakers' table. There they were—some of the most influential citizens of the present-day world; and who were they? At one end an international financier—the son of a poor country parson. Beside him a great newspaper proprietor—he came from a tiny town in Maine and landed in New York with less than a hundred dollars. A little farther along the president of a world-wide press association—a copy boy in a country newspaper office. And, in the center, a boy who grew up in the poverty of an obscure village and became a commanding statesman.
When and how and where did the eternal miracle occur in the lives of those men? At what hour, in the morning, in the afternoon, in the long quiet evenings, did the audacious thought enter the mind of each of them that he was larger than the limits of a country town, that his life might be bigger than his father's? When did the thought come to Jesus? Was it one morning when He stood at the carpenter's bench, the sun streaming in across the hills? Was it late in the night, after the family had retired, and He had slipped out to walk and wonder under the stars? Nobody knows. All we can be sure of is this—that the consciousness of His divinity must have come to Him in a time of solitude, of awe in the presence of Nature. The Western Hemisphere has been fertile in material progress, but the great religions have all come out of the East. The deserts are a symbol of the infinite; the vast spaces that divide men from the stars fill the human soul with wonder. Somewhere, at some unforgettable hour, the daring filled His heart. He knew that He was bigger than Nazareth.
Another young man had grown up nearby and was beginning to be heard from in the larger world. His name was John. How much the two boys may have seen of each other we do not know; but certainly the younger, Jesus, looked up to and admired His handsome, fearless cousin. We can imagine with what eager interest He must have listened to the reports of John's impressive reception at the capital. He was the sensation of that season. The fashionable folk of the city were flocking out to the river to hear his denunciations; some of them even accepted his demand for repentance and were baptized. His fame grew; his uncompromising speeches were quoted far and wide. The businessmen of Nazareth who had been up to Jerusalem brought back stories and quotations. There was considerable head wagging as there always is; these folk had known of John as a boy; they could hardly believe that he was as much of a man as the world seemed to think. But there was one who had no doubts. A day came when He was missing from the carpenter shop; the sensational news spread through the streets that He had gone to Jerusalem, to John, to be baptized.
John's reception of Him was flattering. During the ceremony of baptism and for the rest of that day Jesus was in a state of splendid exultation. No shadow of a doubt darkened His enthusiasm. He was going to do the big things which John had done; He felt the power stirring in Him; He was all eager to begin. Then the day closed and the night descended, and with it came the doubts. The narrative describes them as a threefold temptation and introduces Satan to add to the dramatic quality of the event. In our simple story we need not spend much time with the description of Satan. We do not know whether he is to be regarded as a personality or as a personification of an inner experience. The temptation is more real without him, more akin to our own trials and doubts. With him or without him, however, the meaning of the experience is clear.
This is its meaning: the day of supreme assurance had passed; the days of fearful misgiving had come. What man of outstanding genius has ever been allowed to escape them? For how many days and weeks do you think the soul of Lincoln must have been tortured? Inside himself he felt his power, but where and when would opportunity come? Must he forever ride the country circuit, and sit in a dingy office settling a community's petty disputes? Had he perhaps mistaken the inner message? Was he, after all, only a common fellow—a fair country lawyer and a good teller of jokes? Those who rode with him on the circuit testify to his terrifying moods of silence. What solemn thoughts besieged him in those silences? What fear of failure? What futile rebellion at the narrow limits of his life?
The days of Jesus' doubt are set down as forty in number. It is easy to imagine that lonely struggle. He had left a good trade among people who knew and trusted Him—and for what? To become a wandering preacher, talking to folks who never heard of Him? And what was He to talk about? How, with His lack of experience, should He find words for His message? Where should He begin? Who would listen? Would they listen? Hadn't He perhaps made a mistake? Satan, says the narrative, tempted Him, saying: "You are hungry; here are stones. Make them into bread." The temptation of material success. It was entirely unnecessary for Him to be hungry ever. He had a good trade; He knew well enough that His organizing ability was better than Joseph's. He could build up a far more prosperous business and acquire comfort and wealth. Why not?
Satan comes in again, according to the narrative, taking Him up into a high mountain and showing Him the kingdoms of the world. "All these can be yours, if you will only compromise." He could go to Jerusalem and enter the priesthood; that was a sure road to distinction. He could do good in that way, and have the satisfaction of success as well. Or He might enter the public service and seek political leadership. There was plenty of discontent on which He could have capitalized, and He knew the farmer and the laborer. He was one of them; they would listen to Him.
For forty days and nights the incessant fight went on, but, once settled, it was settled forever. In the calm of that wilderness there came the majestic conviction which is the very soul of leadership—the faith that His spirit was linked with the Eternal, that God had sent Him into the world to do a work which no one else could do, which—if He neglected it—would never be done. Magnify this temptation scene as greatly as you will; say that God spoke more clearly to Him than to anyone else who has ever lived. It is true. But to every man of vision the clear Voice speaks; there is no great leadership where there is not a mystic. Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside themselves was superior to circumstance. To choose the sure thing is treason to the soul. . . .
If this was not the meaning of the forty days in the wilderness, if Jesus did not have a real temptation which might have ended in His going back to the bench at Nazareth, then the forty days' struggle has no real significance to us. The youth who had been a carpenter stayed in the wilderness; a man came out. Not the full-fledged Master who within the shadow of the cross could cry, "I have overcome the world." He had still much growth to make, much progress in vision and self-confidence. But the beginnings were there. Men who looked on Him from that hour felt the authority of one who has put his spiritual house in order and knows clearly what he is about.
The mastery of ideas, the achievement of ideals—what we call success is always exciting; we never grow tired of asking what and how. What, then, were the principal elements in His power over men? How was it that the boy from a country village became the greatest leader?
First of all, He must have had the voice and manner of the leader—the personal magnetism which begets loyalty and commands respect. The beginnings of it were present in Him even as a boy. John felt them. On the day when John looked up from the river where he was baptizing converts and saw Jesus standing on the bank, he drew back in protest. "I have need to be baptized of thee," he exclaimed, "and comest thou to me?" The lesser man recognized the greater instinctively. We speak of personal magnetism as though there were something mysterious about it—a magic quality bestowed on one in a thousand and denied to all the rest. This is not true. The essential element in personal magnetism is a consuming sincerity—an overwhelming faith in the importance of the work one has to do. Emerson said, "What you are thunders so loud I can't hear what you say." The hardened French captain. Robert de Baudricourt, could hardly be expected to believe a peasant girl's story about heavenly voices promising she would do what the Dauphin's armies couldn't. Yet he gave Joan of Arc her first sword.
Most of us go through the world mentally divided against ourselves. We wonder whether we are in the right jobs, whether we are making the right investments, whether, after all, anything is as important as it seems to be. Our enemies are those of our own being and creation. Instinctively we wait for a commanding voice, for one who shall say authoritatively, "I have the truth. This way lies happiness and salvation." There was in Jesus supremely that quality of conviction.
Even very prominent people were moved by it. Jesus had been in Jerusalem only a day or two when there came a knock at His door at night. He opened it to find Nicodemus, one of the principal men of the city, a member of the Sanhedrin, a supreme court judge. One feels the dramatic quality of the meeting—the young, almost unknown teacher and the great man, half curious, half convinced. It would have been easy to make a mistake. Jesus might very naturally have expressed His sense of honor at the visit, might have said: "I appreciate your coming, sir. You are an older man and successful. I am just starting on my work. I should like to have you advise me as to how I may best proceed." But there was no such note in the interview—no effort to make it easy for this notable visitor to become a convert. One catches his breath involuntarily at the audacity of the speech:
"Verity, verily, I say to you, Nicodemus, except you are born again you cannot see the kingdom of Heaven." And a few moments later, "If I have told you earthly things and you have not believed, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?"
The famous visitor did not enroll as a disciple, was not invited to enroll; but he never forgot the impression made by the young man's amazing self-assurance. In a few weeks the crowds along the shores of the Sea of Galilee were to feel the same power and respond to it. They were quite accustomed to the discourses of the Scribes and Pharisees—long, involved arguments backed up by many citations from the law. But this teacher was different. He quoted nobody; His own word was offered as sufficient. He taught as "one having authority and not as the scribes."
Still later we have yet more striking proof of the power that supreme conviction can carry. At this date He had become so large a public influence as to threaten the peace of the rulers, and they sent a detachment of soldiers to arrest Him. They were stern men, presumably immune to sentiment. They returned, after a while, empty-handed.
"What's the matter?" their commander demanded angrily. "Why didn't you bring Him in?"
And they, smarting under their failure and hardly knowing how to explain it, could make only a surly excuse.
"You'll have to send someone else," they said. "We don't want to go against Him. Never man so spake."
They were armed; He had no defense but His manner and tone, but these were enough. In any crowd and in any circumstances the leader stands out. By the power of his faith in himself he commands, and men instinctively obey.
This blazing conviction was the first and greatest element in the success of Jesus. The second was His powerful gift of picking men and recognizing hidden capacities in them. It must have amazed Nicodemus when he learned the names of the twelve whom the young teacher had chosen to be His associates. What a list! Not a single well-known person on it. Nobody who had ever accomplished anything, A haphazard collection of fishermen and small-town businessmen, and one tax collector—a member of the most hated element in the community. What a crowd!
Nowhere is there such a startling example of success in leadership as the way in which that organization was brought together. Take the tax collector, Matthew, as the most striking instance. His occupation carried a heavy weight of social ostracism, but it was profitable. He was probably well-to-do according to the simple standards of the neighborhood; certainly he was a busy man and not subject to impulsive action. His addition to the group of disciples is told in a single sentence:
"And as Jesus passed by, he called Matthew."
Amazing. No argument; no pleading. A small leader would have been compelled to set up the advantages of the opportunity. "Of course you are doing well where you are and making money," He might have said. "I can't offer you as much as you are getting; in fact you may have some difficulty in making ends meet. But I think we are going to have an interesting time and shall probably accomplish a big work." Such a conversation would have been met with Matthew's reply that he would "have to think it over," and the world would never have heard his name.There was no such trifling with Jesus. As He passed by He called Matthew. No leader in the world can read that sentence without acknowledging that here indeed is the Master
He had the born leader's gift for seeing powers in men of which they themselves were often almost unconscious. One day as He was coming into a certain town a tremendous crowd pressed around Him. There was a rich man named Zacchaeus in the town, small in stature, but with such keen business ability that he had got himself generally disliked. Being curious to sec the distinguished visitor, he had climbed up into a tree. Imagine his surprise when Jesus stopped under the tree and commanded him to come down, saying, "Today I intend to eat at your house." The crowd was stunned. Some of the bolder spirits took it on themselves to tell Jesus of His social blunder. He couldn't afford to make the mistake of visiting Zacchaeus, they said. Their protests were without avail. They saw in Zacchaeus merely a dishonest and greedy little man; He saw in him a person of unusual generosity and a fine sense of justice, who needed only to have those qualities revealed by someone who understood. So with Matthew—the crowd saw only a despised tax gatherer. Jesus saw the potential writer of a book which will live forever
So also with that "certain Centurion," who is one of the anonymous characters in history that every businessman would like to meet. The disciples brought him to Jesus with some misgivings and apology. They said, "Of course this man is a Roman employee, and you may reprove us for introducing him. But really he is a very good fellow, a generous man and a respecter of our faith." Jesus and the Centurion looking at each other found an immediate bond of union—each responding to the other's strength.<>Said the Centurion: "Master, my servant is ill; but it is unnecessary for you to visit my house. I understand how such things are done, for I, too, am a man of authority; I say to this man 'Go' and he goeth; and to another 'Come,' and he cometh—and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he doeth it. Therefore, speak the word only, and I know my servant will be healed"
Jesus' face kindled with admiration. "I have not found anywhere such faith as this," He exclaimed. This man understood Him. The Centurion knew from his own experience that authority depends on faith, and that faith may depend on authority. Every businessman, every leader in any field today, knows—or should know—what the Centurion knew.
Having gathered together His organization, there remained for Jesus the tremendous task of training it. And herein lay the third great element of His success—His vast unending patience. The Church has attached to each of the disciples the title of Saint, and it may be that thinking of them exclusively as Saints robs us of an essential reality. They were very far from sainthood when He picked them up. For three years He had them with Him day and night, His whole energy and resources poured out in an effort to create an understanding in them. Yet through it all they never fully understood. We have seen, at the beginning of this chapter, an example of their petulance. The narratives are full of similar discouragements.
In spite of all He could do or say, they were persuaded that He planned to overthrow the Roman power and set Himself up as ruler in Jerusalem. Hence they never tired of wrangling as to how the offices should be divided. Two of them, James and John, got their mother to come to Him and ask that her sons might sit, one on His right hand and one on His left. When the other ten heard of it they were angry with James and John; but Jesus never lost His patience. He believed that the way to get faith out of men is to show that you have faith in them.
Of all the disciples Simon was most noisy and aggressive. It was he who was always volunteering advice, forever proclaiming the stanchness of his own courage and faith. One day Jesus said to him, "Before the cock crows tomorrow you will deny me thrice." Simon was indignant. Though they killed him, he cried, he would never deny! Jesus merely smiled—and that night it happened. . . . A lesser leader would have dropped Simon. "You have had your chance," he would have said, "I am sorry, but I must have men around me on whom I can depend." Jesus had the rare understanding that the same man will usually not make the same mistake twice. To this frail, very human, very likable former fisherman He spoke no words of rebuke. Instead He kept His faith that Peter would carry on bravely. It was daring, but He knew His man. The shame of the denial had tempered the iron of that nature like fire; from that time on there was no faltering in Peter even at the death.
The Bible presents an interesting collection of contrasts in this matter of executive ability. Samson had almost all the attributes of leadership. He was physically powerful and handsome; he had the great courage to which men always respond. No man was ever given a finer opportunity to free his countrymen from the oppressors and build up a great place of power for himself. Yet Samson failed miserably. He could do wonders singlehanded, but he could not organize.
Moses started out under the same handicap. He tried to be everything and do everything—and was almost on the verge of failure. It was his father-in-law, Jethro, who saved him from calamity. Said that shrewd old man; "The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou and this people that is with thee, for this thing is too heavy for thee, for thou art not able to perform it thyself alone."
Moses took the advice and associated with himself a partner, Aaron, who was strong where he was weak. They supplemented each other and together achieved what neither of them could have done alone.
John the Baptist had the same lack. He could denounce, but he could not construct. He drew crowds who were willing to repent at his command, but he had no program for them after their repentance. They waited for him to organize them for some sort of effective service, but he was no organizer. So his followers drifted away and his movement gradually collapsed. The same thing might have happened to the work of Jesus. He started with much less than John and a much smaller group of followers. He had only twelve, and they were untrained, simple men, with elementary weakness and passions. Yet because of the fire of His personal conviction, because of His marvelous instinct for discovering their latent powers, and because of His unwavering faith and patience, He molded them into an organization which carried on victoriously. Within a very few years after His death, it was reported in a far-off corner of the Roman Empire that "these who have turned the world upside down have come hither also." A few decades later the proud Emperor himself bowed his head to the teachings of this Nazareth carpenter, transmitted through common men.
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