Now examine yourself—for that you have a right to do, You have a right to examine yourself, but you really do not have a right to let yourself without self-examination be deluded by “the others” into the belief, or to delude yourself into the belief, that you are a Christian—therefore examine yourself: supposing you were contemporary with him! True enough he—alas! he affirmed himself to be God! But many another madman has made that claim—and his times gave it as their opinion that he uttered blasphemy. Why, was not that precisely the reason why a punishment was threatened for allowing one’s self to be aided by him? It was the godly care for their souls entertained by the existing order and by public opinion, lest any one should be led astray: it was this godly care that led them to persecute him in this fashion. Therefore, before any one resolves to be helped by him, let him consider that he must not only expect the antagonism of men, but—consider it well!—even if you could bear the consequences of that step—but consider well, that the punishment meted out by men is supposed to be God’s punishment of him, “the blasphemer”—of him who invites! Come hither now all ye that labor and are heavy laden! How now? Surely this is nothing to run after—some little pause is given, which is most fittingly used to go around about by way of another street. And even if you should not thus sneak out in some way—always providing you feel yourself to be contemporary with him—or sneak into being some kind of Christian by belonging to Christendom: yet there will be a tremendous pause given, the pause which is the very condition that faith may arise: you are given pause by the possibility of being offended in him. But in order to make it entirely clear, and bring it home to our minds, that the pause is given by him who invites, that it is he who gives us pause and renders it by no means an easy, but a peculiarly difficult, matter to follow his invitation, because one has no right to accept it without accepting also him who invites—in order to make this entirely clear I shall briefly review his life under two aspects which, to be sure, show some difference though both essentially pertain to his abasement. For it is always an abasement for God to become man, even if he were to be an emperor of emperors; and therefore he is not essentially more abased because he is a poor, lowly man, mocked, and as Scripture adds, spat upon.
THE FIRST PHASE OF HIS LIFE
And now let us speak about him in a homely fashion, just as his contemporaries spoke about him, and as one speaks about some contemporary—let him be a man of the same kind as we are, whom one meets on the street in passing, of whom one knows where he lives and in what story, what his business is, who his parents are, his family, how he looks and how he dresses, with whom he associates, “and there is nothing extraordinary about him, he looks as men generally look”; in short, let us speak of him as one speaks of some contemporary about whom one does not make a great ado; for in living life together with these thousands upon thousands of real people there is no room for a fine distinction like this: “Possibly, this man will be remembered in centuries to come,” and “at the same time he is really only a clerk in some shop who is no whit better than his fellows.” Therefore, let us speak about him as contemporaries speak about some contemporary. I know very well what I am doing; and I want you to believe that the canting and indolent world-historic habit we have of always reverently speaking about Christ (since one has learned all about it from history, and has heard so much about his having been something very extraordinary, indeed, or something of that kind)—that reverent habit, I assure you, is not worth row of pins but is, rather, sheer thoughtlessness, hypocrisy, and as such blasphemy; for it is blasphemy to reverence thoughtlessly him whom one is either to believe in or to be offended in.