When John the Baptist in prison was disturbed by doubts as to whether Jesus was “he who was to come,” he sent two of his own disciples to him to ask him himself. There is nothing more touching than this question of the Baptist’s, nothing more edifying than the Lord’s answer, but we will not dwell upon the scene. What was the answer? “Go and shew John again those things which you do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” That is what the “coming of the kingdom” means, or, rather, it is there already in this saving activity. By vanquishing and banishing misery, need and disease, by the actual influence which Jesus was exerting, John was to see that a new day had dawned. The healing of the possessed was only a part of this saving activity; the activity itself, however, was what Jesus denoted as the meaning and the seal of his mission. It was, then, to the wretched, to the sick, and to the poor, that he addressed himself; but not as a moralist and without any trace of weak-minded sentimentality. He makes no division of evils into departments and groups; he spends no time in asking whether the sick one “deserves” to be healed; he is far, too, from having any sympathy for pain and death. He nowhere says that disease is salutary and that evil is a blessing. No! disease he calls disease, and health he calls health. To him all evil, all misery, is something terrible; it is part of the great realm of Satan. But he feels the power of the Saviour within him. He knows that progress is possible only by overcoming weakness and healing disease.
But he goes further. It is by his healing, above all by his forgiving sin, that the kingdom of God comes. This is the first complete transition to the conception of the kingdom of God as the power that works inwardly. As he calls the sick and the poor to him, so he calls sinners also, and it is this call which is all- important. “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Here for the first time everything that is external and merely future is abandoned: it is the individual, not the nation or the state, which is redeemed; it is new men who are to arise, and the kingdom of God is to be at once their strength and the goal at which they aim. They search for the treasure hidden in the field and find it; they sell all that they have and buy the pearl of great price; they are converted and become as children; but thereby they are redeemed and made God’s children and God’s champions.