which being interpreted is God with us. Matthew 1:23.
J. T. Mawson.
Part 1. His Deity and Incarnation.
Emmanuel. God's Sign to Men
God with us
"He Dwelt among us"
"My Lord and my God"
The Light and the Truth What the Gospels Prove
The Necessity of the Deity of Jesus
Part 2. His All-sufficiency for Our Need.
The Friend of Sinners
The Lord and the Home Life
The Lord of Winds and Waves
Held up on the Waves
The Good Shepherd
Part 3. His Suffering and Death.
On both sides of the Sea
"About a stone's cast"
Love that suffered all the Sorrow
That Terrible Hour
"He was numbered with the transgressors"
The Victory of Love
Part 4. His Resurrection and Glory.
"Fear not ye"
"Woman, why weepest thou?"
Power and Grace
Jesus showing Himself to His Disciples
Entering His Glory
The Great High Priest
His Deity and Incarnation.
"But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2).
"Christ, who is over all, GOD BLESSED FOR EVER. Amen" (Rom. 9:5).
"Fairer than all the earth-born race,
Perfect in comeliness Thou art;
Replenished are Thy lips with grace
And full of love Thy tender heart.
God ever blest, we bow the knee
And own all fulness dwells in Thee." (C. Wesley.)
"Lord of the heavens, Sovereign, Son for ever!
Lord of the earth, Creator, Increate!
Come in the likeness of our flesh, but never
Tarnished by taint of sin, inviolate.
Come to destroy the power of death, and sever
Man from its terror in His mercy great;
O let us kneel before Him! let us own Him
King of our hearts, and on that throne enthrone Him." (J. Boyd.)
God's Sign to Men
"The Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14).
The condition of the nation of Israel as it was in Isaiah's day is described in one vivid statement; "The whole head is sick and the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it: but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores; they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment." History is repeating itself, and the state of humanity could not be more truly described to-day. As it was then, so it is now. The profiteer was busy (Isa. 5:8); men and women piped and danced, eagerly following their pagan pleasure without a thought of God, or fear of His just judgments (Isa. 5:11, 12); crime abounded, for men had grown fearless in their godlessness, and gave rein to their wilful passions, sinning "as it were with a cart rope" (Isa. 5:18); blinded by the god of this world, they called evil good, and good evil; they put darkness for light, and light for darkness; bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter (Isa. 5:20), which thing the advocates of spiritism are doing to-day; men thought themselves wiser than God: wise and prudent in their own eyes, like those who dare to criticize His Word, and substitute their own thoughts for His (Isa. 5:21); and there were those who were so corrupt themselves that their whole business in life was to corrupt others, hating all righteousness and loving only wickedness (Isa. 5:23, 24).
There were reformers without end; reconstructors; politicians with many promises of better days to come, until men were weary of them; there was a great pretence at honouring God, but the heart was far from Him; and God Himself was weary of their pretentious hypocrisy (Isa. 7:13). Then it was that He proclaimed that He would intervene; for it was evident that apart from His intervention there could be no blessing or rest for men, or glory to His name from men.
God's intervention was to be entirely of Himself: men were to have no part in it at all, except to receive the good that would result from it. Men cried out for a man, and still cry out for a man, and God replied, I will give you a Man, but He shall be one who owes nothing to man, whose very presence in the world shall be independent of man, for "a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son." This was the sign. It was the sign of man's utter impotency for his own redemption; it was the sign that there was no balm in Gilead, and no physician there. It was the sign that when there was no hope for men in themselves then God would undertake their cause; but it was also the sign that this should proceed from Himself alone and not from men — "a virgin shall conceive." Impossible! cries the critic of God's ways, and the poor blind infidel, wise in his own sight. Yes, it is impossible with men; that is the very lesson that God would teach by the manner of His intervention. It is impossible that men should devise or evolve any scheme or system of redemption, or deliver and uplift themselves from the damning effects of sin, or make themselves what they ought to be before the God who justly claims their fear. Their young men might see visions and their old men dream dreams, but dreams and visions cannot help them; they cannot set themselves free from the law of sin and death. With men it is impossible, but not with God.
He stepped into the scene of man's utter ruin, and said, "Stand still, stand aside, and see the salvation of God": and so in due time, Mary brought forth her firstborn Son, and he [Joseph] called His name JESUS.
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise; When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS; for He shall save His people from their sins."
"Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Matt. 1:22, 23).
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger" (Luke 2:8-16).
Thus came Emmanuel, not only apart from all the power of men, but also outside the abodes of men, lying in a manger. For the solemn fact had to come clearly into evidence, that (1) men could not produce the great Redeemer, in whom only rest for men and glory to God could be found, but (2) they did not want Him when He came.
Yes, but the virgin's Son, lying upon the straw of a stable, was Emmanuel — God with us. He was "God manifest in the flesh, seen of angels" (1 Tim. 3:16). And from the lips of God went forth the command, "Let all the angels of God worship Him" (Heb. 1:6).
Angels worshipped Him, but men were indifferent. Only a few, such as those dusky sages from the far off East and the lowly shepherds from the hills near by, were moved by this great event. The blind unbelief of the multitude could not recognize the sign that God had given; Emmanuel was no more to them than "the carpenter's son," and they were as good or better than He.
"He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not" (John 1:10, 11).
God saw the contempt with which His Only Begotten was treated and spoke out from His eternal throne in consequence: "I will declare the decree," we read; "the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession" (Ps. 2:7, 8).
But not then did He ask for the universal throne; or power to break the rebellious with a rod of iron; instead He dwelt among men full of grace. Emmanuel had come to reconcile the world to God, but His mission seemed to be a failure. He appeared in Jerusalem which He loved, riding upon the colt of an ass, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughters of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting on an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass" (Matt. 21). But that city, grown hoary in its presumptuous pride, despised the meekness of its true Messiah, and asked contemptuously, Who is this? Then He said, "I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought." And the Lord, whose servant He had come to be, answered Him, for we read: "And now, saith the Lord that formed me from the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob again to Him, Though Israel be not gathered yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength. And He said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth" (Isa. 49:5, 6).
And Israel will answer, too, in the day of His power, and will say: "Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isa. 9:6, 7).
And the nations also shall own Him. "And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isa. 2:3, 4). His degradation by men was absolute; He sounded the depths of contumely and shame; but His glory will be as great as His humiliation, and every man that is saved will owe it to Him, for "there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." Every problem will be settled by His wisdom, every wrong righted, and the groaning creation shall reach the end of its travail and rejoice in the power and presence of EMMANUEL.
God with us.
As Moses kept the sheep of Jethro, the Midianite, in the back side of the desert, he came to Horeb, the mountain of God, and there he beheld a strange thing. Upon the rugged sides of that notable mountain there burned a bush with fire, but in spite of the fierce flames that enwrapped it that bush was not consumed. Wonder at this great sight moved Moses to turn aside to discover why this should be, when the voice of God arrested him, and he found that he was in the immediate presence of the great I AM.
Out of that bush God spoke to Moses, and told him of salvation for His people — free, great, and full. He revealed Himself as the Almighty Deliverer.
The rationalistic critic declares that for a bush to burn with fire and not be consumed is a physical impossibility, and so relegates this story, along with many another in Holy Writ, to the realm of legend and myth. But that which moves to ridicule the blind but presumptuous "wise and prudent" of the earth yields the most precious lessons to those who love God and His Word. In that burning bush there was foreshadowed the most extraordinary event that could happen in the history of time.
The flame of fire tells us of God; "For our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29). And the bush tells us of men, poor, sinful rebellious men — dry, withered, and useless, by whom no fruit was yielded to God. If God, who is a consuming fire, and who must judge all iniquity, should at any time come down into the midst of the dry and fruitless bush of humanity (and He has a right to do this whenever He pleases), what shall the result be? Why, there can be but one result, we should say; the bush will be consumed. Such is the natural thought of men, and hence the desire to keep God at a distance. And in this thought we seem to be confirmed as we read the record of Sinai. There at that awesome mount, the same at which Moses had had his first interview with God, the law of God was given, and out from its cloud crested summit the lightnings flamed forth, and the thunders boomed and rolled, and as God spoke to the people they feared exceedingly and begged that they might not hear that majestic voice again, but that Moses would become a mediator for them.
Yes, it would seem to us, as we contemplate that sight, that men must be consumed if God comes into the midst of them. But such a thought is false, fundamentally and absolutely false, for God who is light is also love, as His "due time" has proved.
That due time arrived when the virgin daughter of David's royal house brought forth her firstborn Son and "laid Him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn." Here was a sight for the angels of God, a sight that moved the whole multitude of them to rapturous praise, for the name of that Babe was called EMMANUEL, which, being interpreted, is, "God with us." The Babe in Bethlehem's manger was the great antitype of the burning bush. "God was manifest in the flesh and seen of angels." God was in the midst of men and they were not consumed.
But for what purpose was God in the midst of men? There could be only one reason for this great event. If He had desired to send some message of warning, entreaty, or command, a servant like unto the prophets would have served the purpose, for at sundry times and in divers manners He thus addressed the fathers of old. If He had intended to make an example of sinners by executing His righteous judgment against them for their sins, an angel or two would have sufficed, as in the case of the guilty cities of the plain. But neither men nor angels would do for the purpose and will of God which was now to be unfolded; only Emmanuel, who came, saying, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God." When Emmanuel appears, men and angels stand aside, for every ear must be attentive unto Him, for He comes to declare and bring to pass the intentions of divine and infinite love. "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world: but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:17).
If sinners were to be saved God must come down to them to do it, and if God comes down to sinners He must come as their Saviour: His very nature demands this, and His wisdom has found a way by which it can be done, according to the righteousness of the eternal throne.
So Emmanuel's name is JESUS. Blessed, precious name! Name of reproach and shame on earth, name of ignominy upon the cross, name above every name in heaven above, name that through endless ages shall thrill a universe with gladness, and blend in harmonious praise the joy of every creature within the limitless extent of the realm of the Redeemer-God.
"Sweetest Name on mortal tongue,
Sweetest carol ever sung,
Sweetest note on seraph song —
Jesus! Jesus! JESUS!"
The world opened a stable door to receive Him, and thus advertised its contempt and hatred of Him, but He accepted in infinite meekness the place they assigned to Him, that He might open out before the eyes of the poorest and the least the priceless treasures of divine compassion and love.
And so He moved through this world "seen of angels": they rejoiced in that goodness which dwelt in Him; the goodness of God by which He overcomes evil, even though men upon whom it flowed forth did not appreciate it. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, dried the tears upon the widow's cheeks, kissed the children into the kingdom of God, and preached the gospel to the poor. God had visited men, for "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19).
This is a great sight for us to turn aside and see, greater than that which Moses saw, as the substance is greater than the shadow. And in the presence of God made known to us, and brought nigh to us in Jesus, our souls can stay without a fear, (and not as Moses, who "hid his face and was afraid to look upon God,") for "GOD IS LOVE."
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:9, 10).
"WE LOVE HIM, BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US" (1 John 4:19).
"He Dwelt among us"
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us . . . full of grace and truth." — (John 1:14.)
What an amazing fact is revealed to us in this short sentence. He who WAS when time was not, at whose fiat the pendulum of time began to swing, who set all the forces of nature into motion, and made the universe pulsate with life: Who is Himself personally the exact expression of the infinite thoughts and eternal glory of the Godhead — the ever-existing Word — He became flesh and dwelt among us, taking part in flesh and blood that He might come near to us without making us afraid: it is this that fills the souls of those who have received Him with wonder and worship.
He did not come as a king might come to visit His subjects in their cottage homes, speaking a kindly word to them, and then passing on and forgetting them; He dwelt among us. There was no aloofness about Him: He entered into the circumstances of life: He entered into the joys and sorrows of men, as well as into their houses. He came near to them, became infinitely accessible to even the poorest and the worst. He dwelt among us full of grace and truth.
We say with deepest reverence that He took men as He found them: He demanded no special treatment from them: He was full of compassion for their sorrows, He did not grow impatient at their ignorance and weakness, nor condemn them for their sins.
He was ready to set the TRUTH before a man of the Pharisees when he came to Him, and was so full of GRACE that He did not rebuke the cowardice that made him creep out in the darkness for that memorable interview.
His GRACE took Him to Sychar's well to talk with a lonely and tired sinner there, and He poured the TRUTH into her soul so abundantly that she returned to her city a new creature, with Himself as her absorbing theme. And mark well His way in that story. The distance was great to where that solitary sinner sighed and sorrowed, yet no camel or ass bore him over the weary miles, for He was a poor man: He must take that journey, every step of it, on foot: and tired and hungry and thirsty He met her — met her as one wayfarer would meet another — and talked with her so gently that she felt neither restraint nor fear in His presence. How truly He "dwelt among us," and how full of grace and truth was He in that dwelling: for let not His lowliness and the poverty of His circumstances, and the way in which He "dwelt among us," hide from our souls the glory of His person. He was "THE WORD," "THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON IN THE BOSOM OF THE FATHER."
What a never-failing, ever-growing charm this Gospel of Gospels — the Gospel of the incarnate Word — has for our souls! How infinite are the heights in which it takes its rise, how deep are the depths into which it flows. Grace and truth are there in Him who dwelt among us, while He still dwelt in the bosom of the Father as the only begotten Son. He has brought the love of that bosom to us, and revealed it, not as something to be admired on the sabbath day in the temple, but as that which would labour seven days in the week, seeking no rest, in order to relieve the needs of men and fill their souls with joy. And TRUTH was in Him — He came from the highest height of God's glory to reveal it; and GRACE also — He stooped to the deepest depth of our need to meet it; and He has filled the immeasurable distance between the height and the depth with the light of God's love.
That which He declared here abides for us. What He was He is, and what He was the Father is: for He said, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." How infinitely attractive to our souls has the Father become since He has been revealed to us so blessedly in JESUS, who dwelt among us.
"My Lord and my God"
"And after eight days, again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said Peace be unto you.
"Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side; and be not faithless, but believing.
"And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and My God.
"Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (John 20:26-29.)
The Unitarian objects to this incident being advanced as evidence of the Deity of our Lord. He contends that Thomas was an admiring enthusiast, and an Eastern withal, having a tendency towards the picturesque and the exaggerated in his speech, and that on this occasion he was betrayed by his feelings into saying what was outside the truth.
That this is an ill-considered conclusion is evident from the insight into the character of Thomas, which the brief record of him in the Scriptures gives us. That his affection for his Master was not less than that of the other disciples is proved in John 11:16, but that he was not of an hysterical or credulous nature is equally proved by John 20:25. When his brethren — and there were ten of them — declared to him that they had seen the Lord, he met them with obstinate unbelief, and looked upon them as a band of visionaries. His cold, hard reason kept a tight rein upon his fervour, and his answer to their glad news might have been framed upon the lips of a modern rationalist. "Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I WILL NOT BELIEVE."
As to faith and training he was a Jew, believing in one all-transcendent God, and to address a mere man as God would have been in his eyes a most heinous sin, a sin of which a devout Jew would be morally incapable. For proof of this take the case of Daniel, who chose to face the lions rather than perform an act which would, by inference, ascribe an attribute of Deity to a man. It was not the impulsive Peter, but this man, naturally stubborn and unimaginative, and religiously a stern monotheist, who was convinced as to who his Master really was, and his confession of the truth of this drew forth no rebuke. Instead, his faith was confirmed by the Lord's reply "Because thou hast seen THOU HAST BELIEVED."
It is remarkable that the Spirit of God has placed it on record that homage was offered by men to both Peter and Paul, and that they both immediately and vehemently restrained it. "Stand up: I myself also am a man," was Peter's command to Cornelius when that centurion prostrated himself at his feet (Acts 10:26). And when the people of Lystra brought sacrifices to offer to Barnabas and Paul, they, Barnabas and Paul, "rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, and saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you" (Acts 14:11-15). These were true men, and they would not permit any to think that they were more than men, nor would they, even for a moment, accept adoration, which was God's alone. From these incidents in the lives of His servants we are taught by inference that Jesus was God when He accepted the adoration of Thomas: if not, what was He? Let the objectors supply the answer.
There is another incident in the Acts of the Apostles that might be well cited by way of contrast in this connection. "And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon. . . . And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. AND IMMEDIATELY THE ANGEL OF THE LORD SMOTE HIM, because he gave not God the glory; and he was eaten with worms, and gave up the ghost" (Acts 12:20-23). In his presumptuous and impious pride he accepted the adoration of the people, and immediately he was stricken by the stroke of a just and jealous God, his glory fled away, and he went down to the grave a loathsome mass of putrefaction. But Jesus, whom Thomas worshipped, was carried up into heaven, for we read that He led out His disciples "as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. AND THEY WORSHIPPED HIM, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God" (Luke 24:50-53).
It is John, who had been restrained from worshipping an angel (Rev. 22:8, 9), who records the meeting of Thomas with his Master, and what a meeting it must have been. It seems as though it was for Thomas alone, for twice did his Lord address him by name. He discovered that the very thoughts of his heart were all read by the all-seeing eye of the Lord, and the wounds which he beheld in that incorruptible flesh were to him mute though eloquent witnesses to the fact that He was the One who had laid down His life but who also had taken it again. The scales fell from his eyes, his heart threw off its infidelity, the glory of the Only Begotten was no longer veiled from him, and as his soul was drawn out of the winter of his unbelief, he voiced the worship of his brethren in those true and memorable words, "MY LORD AND MY GOD."
This meeting with Thomas is typical of the time, still to come, when the Lord will show Himself to the remnant of His people Israel, and when they shall say to Him, "What are these wounds in Thine hands?" (Zech. 13:6). And as they look upon Him, they, as did Thomas, will recognize Him, and will cry, "Lo, this is our GOD: we have waited for Him, and He will save us; this is the LORD: we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isa. 25:9). They will believe when they see Him, but "BLESSED ARE THEY THAT HAVE NOT SEEN, AND YET HAVE BELIEVED."
The Light and the Truth
"O send out Thy light and Thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto Thy holy hill, and to Thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God." — (Ps. 43.)
Thus cried the Psalmist as his soul panted after God, and God has answered his cry. He had purposed to do so before time began, and that every one who sought Him might find their full joy in Him, and that in a way that never could have entered into any human mind. The way He has done it is told out in the gospel of John the Apostle: where we see the height from which the light and the truth have come, the greatness of the One who was sent forth to be both: the depths of shame into which He went to save us, and the triumphant way in which He leads us, not to God's altars merely, but to His very home and heart. In John 1 we learn THE GLORY OF HIS PERSON, who said, "I am the light," and "I am the . . . truth."
"In the beginning was the Word" — HIS ETERNAL EXISTENCE.
"And the Word was with God" — HIS DISTINCT PERSONALITY.
"And the Word was God" — HIS PERSONAL DEITY.
"The same was in the beginning with God" — HIS ETERNAL COMPANIONSHIP WITH, BUT DISTINCTION FROM, THE FATHER.
The Word brings Him before us as the One in whom the wisdom of God's infinite mind has found personal expression: hence we read of Him, —
"All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made" —
HIS CREATIVE WISDOM AND POWER.
Thus is the eternal glory of His Person told, and thus John introduces Him to our faith and adoration. Augustine wrote, "John, deservedly compared to an eagle, has opened his treatise as it were with a peal of thunder: he has raised himself not merely above earth and the whole compass of the air and heaven, but even above every angel host and every order of the invisible powers, and has reached even to Him by whom all things were made, in that sentence, In the beginning was the Word.'"
From the glory of His Person, He proceeds to THE GREATNESS OF HIS CONDESCENSION.
"The Word was made flesh" (ver. 14) — HIS REAL AND PERSONAL INCARNATION.
"And dwelt among us" — HIS ENTRANCE AS MAN INTO ALL THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF MANHOOD.
"Full of grace and truth" — HIS SUITABILITY TO ALL THAT MEN ARE WITHOUT COMPROMISING WHAT GOD IS.
And in connection with His coming to tabernacle among us, a fresh glory bursts upon our vision: one that creatorial power could not reveal: one that never would have been revealed at all had it not been for the great purpose that was in the heart of the Father in sending Him forth.
And we beheld His glory, the glory as of "the only-begotten of the Father" — HIS UNCHANGING RELATIONSHIP IN LOVE, AND ONENESS IN NATURE WITH THE FATHER.
An able and reverent writer has said; "His was the glory of the only-begotten, come fresh from the splendour of uncreated light. Every idea but that of pure Sovereign Deity in this part of the argument is trifling and profane."
The same writer, speaking of this wonderful epithet, "Only Begotten Son," said; "When the evangelist would affirm the perfect and eternal intimacy and union between the glorious Persons in the Godhead, and the unspeakable and infinite endearment of our Lord to the Father: when he would convey the loftiest possible idea of the majesty of evangelical truth: when he would impress the minds of his readers with a deep sense at once of the inscrutableness of the Divine nature, and the certainty of the manifestations of God in Christ, he declares; 'No man' (nemo), no being of created mould, 'hath seen God at any time; THE ONLY-BEGOTTEN SON, who exists in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him' (ver. 18): when, again, he would illustrate the benevolence of God with the highest splendour, he says, 'In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that GOD SENT HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON into the world, that we might live through Him.' And, finally, when our Lord would represent unbelief as the last extreme of human guilt, He finds no stronger argument than that conveyed in this appellation, 'He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the NAME OF THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD.'"
We pass from the glory of His person and the greatness of His condescension to the PERFECTION OF HIS LIFE.
"I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do" (17:4) — HIS ABSOLUTE DEVOTION TO THE WILL OF GOD.
"I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (8:12) — HIS PERFECT MANIFESTATION OF GOD, THE ONLY SOURCE OF LIFE AND LIGHT FOR MEN.
"Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end" (13:1) — HIS UNCHANGING LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS TO THOSE WHOM HE HAD CHOSEN OUT OF THE WORLD.
How great the blessing that comes from the consideration of the fulness of light and truth in the lowly life of this glorious Person: of His suitability to meet the condition and need of every sinner whom He sought: of His patience toward their ignorance: His sympathy toward their sorrows: His mercy toward their sicknesses, and His grace toward their sins. What witness to His fulness is borne by Nicodemus, the Sychar sinner, the Bethesda cripple, the storm-tossed disciples, the hungry multitude, the guilty adulteress, the blind beggar, the stricken Bethany sisters, and all who were not too utterly blinded by their love for their own evil deeds to behold His glory. It was thus amid weariness and hunger and thirst, despised and rejected by men, that He laboured amongst them that the Father's heart might be made known, His words declared, and His works performed: and He that hath seen Him "hath seen the Father." He is the light and He is the truth.
HIS SUFFERING AND THE SHAME THAT MEN PUT UPON HIM.
"And one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand" (John 18:22).
"Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber" (ver. 40).
"Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him" (19:1).
"And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote Him with their hands" (ver. 2).
"They cried out, Away with him, crucify him" (ver. 6).
"Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him away" (ver. 15, 16).
Thus He, whose glory the Gospel unfolds before us, was smitten, scourged, mocked, buffeted, execrated, and crucified.
Along this path of sorrow and shame the Man of sorrows trod His stedfast way to accomplish the will of God. Rising up above all the contumely and the hatred wherewith the men, whose very breath was His, hated Him, He took up the question of God's glory in regard to sin, and became the bearer of it.
HIS GREAT SACRIFICE.
"And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha" (19:17).
He upholds "all things by the word of His power," we learn from Hebrews 1:3: but heavier than the universe was the burden that He carried that day, for then and there He was "THE LAMB OF GOD WHICH BEARETH AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD."
"They crucified Him and two other with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst" (ver. 18).
"When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, IT IS FINISHED: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost."
How incomparable the dignity of the holy Sufferer amid the shame of that cross! How triumphant that word ere He gave up His life! The will of God accomplished: the prince of this world utterly confounded: the great sacrifice made that would fill the universe with the glory of the light and the truth that He went even into death to fully manifest.
One more passage from this most solemn chapter we must quote: —
"One of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water" (ver. 34).
The last act of man's hatred brought out the love of God in all its fulness.
"The very spear that pierced His side
Drew forth the blood to save."
And now through the infinite, eternal, and ever-abiding efficacy of that blood, we are in the light, i.e., we are brought to full revelation of what God is that our joy may be full. "If we walk in the light, as He is IN THE LIGHT, we have fellowship one with another" (IN THE TRUTH). And the never-failing basis of both is "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
As we consider the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are not surprised at anything that may flow therefrom. We are assured that God must have had some great purpose in sending Him forth, and in this we find that we are not deceived, for when risen from the dead the Lord sends this message to His disciples; "Go unto MY BRETHREN and say unto them, I ascend to MY FATHER AND YOUR FATHER, TO MY GOD AND YOUR GOD." He has brethren now, to whom He can declare His Father's name, and lead them, not to a Jewish altar upon which smokes an impotent sacrifice, but having Himself sanctified them for ever by His one offering, He leads them to the Father that they may worship Him in spirit and in truth. We accept in deep humility this place and relationship which eternal love first planned, and then made possible, and while we find our joy in fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ, we own Him who leads us into it as our Lord and our God.
What the Gospels Prove
It is asserted by some who hate the truth that Jesus is the Son in the Godhead, that the Gospel of John alone declares it. This is false: the fact is stated very definitely in the other Gospels, but what is even more arresting and equally convincing is that this great truth is woven into the very texture of them all. Just as the gold was woven with the blue and purple and scarlet and fine twined linen into the ephod of the High Priest (Ex. 28), and could not be separated from it without destroying the whole fabric, so the Gospels must be reduced to torn and meaningless shreds if there is taken out of them the words and works in which the Deity of Jesus shows itself. To take this away is to tear the sun from the spiritual heavens, and to take away His true humanity is to rob us of the atmosphere by which the light of the sun reaches us.
The Gospel of Matthew opens with — "Jesus Christ the Son of David, the Son of Abraham," but before we reach the end of the chapter we read, "His Name shall be called EMMANUEL, which being interpreted is, GOD WITH US" (ver. 32).
"Thou shalt call His Name JESUS," said the angel of the Lord to Joseph when explaining to him that the child that Mary would bring forth was conceived of the Holy Ghost. And this name is of infinite preciousness to us because it is His personal, human name: the name which tells us of His grace and tenderness, His lowly life, His sorrow, and His death: but this name also carries with it divine glory, for it signifies JEHOVAH THE SAVIOUR. Yes, the very name of His humiliation, that which was written in derision on His cross, declares to us the greatness of His person and the love of His heart: He is Jehovah the Saviour.
This name of eternal sweetness to all who believe, was given to Him because He would "save His people from their sins." They were "His people." The great I AM THAT I AM who spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, and sent him to deliver Israel, His people, from Egyptian slavery, had appeared Himself to deliver them from a greater bondage. He had come to lead them into a more glorious liberty with an outstretched arm of power: but He had come in this lowly form so that they might not be afraid of Him: He had come to be the Lamb of God: the Son of Man lifted up: to suffer for their sins: and finally to take from their hearts that strange perversity that made them hug their chains and prefer their misery and bondage to God's mercy and care. He must be wilfully blind who does not see that He must be Divine and yet a man, a man who must Himself be sinless if He was to save others from their sins, a Divine Person having life in Himself if He was to impart life to others and bring them out of the bondage of death.
The wise men came saying, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him." Did ever a star in the heavens flame forth at the birth of a child either before or since? These princes brought their gifts, gifts such as nobles from afar would bring to a king, but "when they saw the young child with Mary His mother," they recognized first His divine glory and they "fell down and worshipped Him." Then they acknowledged His kingship and brought out their gifts; gold and frankincense and myrrh. They worshipped God and gave gifts to the King. How great is this mystery of love! The One "whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting," who was "to be Ruler in Israel," had come forth out of Bethlehem Ephratah (Micah 5:2), but in such meek and lowly form that the world passed heedlessly by, yet to the anointed eye His glory shone: the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
In the Holy-Ghost-inspired record "the young child" always has the precedence of His mother. Five times in chapter 2 we read of "the young child and His mother," in striking contrast to that blasphemous system, Rome, which paints her pictures of "Madonna and Child." But had He not been greater than the mother that bare Him, the Spirit of God would not have thus given Him the precedence, for He it was who founded the law which said, "Honour thy father and mother": and it may be here remarked (though this belongs to Luke's Gospel and not Matthew's), that when the aged Simeon came into the temple and took "the child Jesus" in his arms, recognizing in Him "God's salvation," he blessed Joseph and His mother, not the child Jesus (Luke 2:34). Had Jesus been as those other children gathered in the temple that day, what more natural than that Simeon should have blessed Him? But this could not be, for the lesser cannot thus bless the greater.
It will be noticed that whenever the angel of the Lord addresses Joseph, who, being the husband of Mary, was the young child's legal guardian, he never makes the mistake of calling Jesus "thy son." The people make this mistake, and their mistake is recorded for us in Luke 4, but the Scriptures guard this matter with the utmost care, and in this connection the prophetic word is quoted regarding the sojourn in Egypt; "Out of Egypt have I called MY SON." Turning aside to Luke's Gospel again, it is important to notice that when Mary, only dimly recognizing who He was, or forgetting it for the moment, seemed to question His loyalty and obedience to Joseph and to her, saying, "Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing," He replied at once, "wist ye not that I must be about MY FATHER'S business" (Luke 2:49).
It has been said by some who will seek out any subterfuge to break down the truth that Jesus is not of the first man, who came out of the dust, and sinned, and goes back to the dust again from which he came, but is the Second Man, the Lord out of heaven, that He did not realize His Sonship to the Father until His baptism. This passage exposes that falsehood, and shows us clearly that as He emerged into a responsible age the Lord knew who He was, from whom He came, and what His business was. The fact that He was the Son of the Father was publicly declared from heaven by the Father's voice at His baptism ( Luke 3:17), where for the first time the truth of the Trinity appears.
The prophets of old had come before the people with "Thus saith the Lord" on their lips, for in times past, and in divers manners, God spoke to the fathers thus: but in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus stood forth and said, "I SAY UNTO YOU," and those who heard Him were astonished at His doctrine, for He taught them as One having authority (Luke 7:29). This authority was the authority of the Lord, for this He declares Himself to be, having power to exclude from the kingdom of heaven all those who do not do the will of His Father which is in heaven. See how intimately He connects the kingdom of heaven with Himself. Some whose lips had owned Him, but whose hearts had not yielded to His Father's will, will desire to enter that kingdom: He will say to them, "Depart from ME": and He will say this, as being able to look behind the profession and all that is external, and read the heart, which none but God can do (Luke 7:21).
Later on in the Gospel He stretches out His hands to mankind and cries, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Luke 11:28). He knew the miseries, the burdens, the toilings, and the sins of the world: every groan and sigh and tear He noticed, and knowing all, He proposed to relieve all. What man, however mighty in influence, great in intellect, or broad in his sympathies, would dare to make such an appeal as that to men? But Jesus made it, and still makes it: and a countless host of ransomed saints will bear eternal witness to the fact that His deed is as good as His word. The Speaker is the Son, eternal, infinite, omnipotent: the mighty Creator who opens His hand and satisfies the needs of every living thing: the fountain of life and of mercy whose compassions fail not: hence He is able, being in Himself sufficient for the whole creation and every man within it, to remove every burden from every human soul and satisfy every craving within every one of them.
He is the Son into whose hands the Father hath delivered all things, whom only the Father knows, and who knows the Father and reveals Him to whomsoever He will ( Luke 11:27). He showed Himself to be the Master of the elements when He rebuked the winds and the waves and hushed their raging to a great calm (Luke 9:26): He had power on earth to forgive sins, which is God's prerogative (Luke 9:6). He claimed the absolute allegiance of the hearts of His disciples, before father or mother or son or daughter, which only God can claim (Luke 10:37). He declared Himself to be the Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 12:8), plainly indicating that though the Son of Man, He was the One who had ordained the Sabbath for His people. As Creator of the abundance of earth and sea, He multiplied the five loaves and two fishes so that a multitude were fed to satisfaction, and twelve basketfuls remained ( Luke 14:15-21). He walked triumphantly upon the heaving waves at midnight, and by his power enabled His servant Peter to do the same ( Luke 14:25-31). He unmasked the Pharisees by the question of all questions. "What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He?" "The Son of David," was their ready reply. Then He quoted the Scriptures which they knew so well. "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool." He asked, "If David, then, call Him Lord, How is he His Son?" They were silenced, for they had no answer to this great mystery. The whole Gospel of Matthew is the answer to the question: and we glory in the knowledge of this great mystery: the Son of David and Son of Man is the Son of God, and though His enemies refused His rights as David's Son, He has been raised up and made Lord of all. He sits at the right hand of God on God's very throne, and none but God could do that: and He is coming back again to the very place where His enemies cast Him out of His inheritance. He is coming back as the root and offspring of David, David's Lord and David's Son.
The Gospel closes with His place in the Godhead fully declared, for all nations are to be baptised in the Name (not "the names," the word is in the singular) of THE FATHER AND THE SON AND THE HOLY GHOST.
Finally, when the dispensations of time have served their purpose and run their course, and God shall dwell with men in a redeemed creation, every intelligent creature will rejoice in a Triune God fully revealed —
as FATHER, the source of all blessing for men:
and SON, the One who brought the blessing to men:
and HOLY GHOST, who by His power makes the blessing good in men:
"THAT GOD MAY BE ALL IN ALL."
The Necessity of the Deity of Jesus
The necessity of the Deity of Jesus meets us first in relation to men being brought to God in righteousness, for no purpose of God in regard to them could be realized if they were not brought to Him righteously, and established before Him according to His eternal justice and the holiness of His nature. How could this be done, and who was able to do it? The question is not a new one. It was asked by Job long centuries ago when he cried, "How should man be just with God?" (Job 9:2). And the question was not one of passing interest, that engaged his attention for a moment merely; it received his most earnest consideration, for he realized how vital a question it was. In the ninth chapter of his book we find him testing one by one the suggestions that arose in regard to it, and finally, apparently hopeless of finding an answer, breaking out in that soul-stirring lament, "HE IS NOT A MAN AS I AM, that I should answer Him, and we should come together in judgment. NEITHER IS THERE ANY DAYSMAN BETWIXT US, THAT MIGHT LAY HIS HAND UPON US BOTH. Let Him take His rod away from me, and let not His fear terrify me; then would I speak and not fear Him: but it is not so with me."
Do you perceive where he stood, and can you interpret his feelings? He said in effect: "I know that I have sinned against Him, and if He were a man as I am, I could, having the feelings of a man, understand His displeasure: I could estimate the extent of my offence, and I could go to Him and make restitution for the wrong that I have done, and so be at peace with Him. But He is not a man as I am, and I cannot enter into judgment with Him. I do not know where to begin the argument, and I cannot measure the demands of His justice. I have no ground upon which to stand before Him: the gulf between us is immeasurable from my side: He is almighty, holy and just, and I am weak, sinful and guilty: His very holiness is a terror to me: it makes me afraid."
Only could Job have hope if a daysman, or mediator, appeared in the case, fully qualified to take it up: and see how accurately he had gauged the situation; He must be one who can stand betwixt us — between God, infinitely holy and just, and the sinner, guilty and conscience-stricken — and put his hand upon us both: and, says he, I know no one who can do it. I have felt the need of such an one, longed for Him, sought for Him, but I have not found Him.
Mark well the qualifications that the needed mediator must possess; He must stand between God and the sinner, and put His hand upon both: and I beg of you not to miss the meaning of that. It is recorded that when David would bring the ark to Zion, that ark being God's throne in Israel, and the symbol of His presence there, Uzzah put forth his hand to steady it, and the moment his presumptuous fingers touched that throne of God he fell to the earth a corpse. Learn from that solemn incident that no sinful man could put his hand upon God, or upon the throne of God, and live. The mediator for whom Job cried in his despair must be able to put His hand upon God, He must be God's equal, pure as God is pure, holy as God is holy, great as God is great; none less could intervene, or be of use to Job or to us. But he must also put His hand upon men: He must be one of us, yet sinless or He would need a mediator Himself: He must be able to take our part and to identify Himself with our vast indebtedness, able to answer for the enormity of our guilt, and remove it. HE MUST BE GOD AND MAN.
It should be evident to us all, as it was to Job, that such an one we cannot produce, for no man, even the best, could exalt Himself to Deity: the attempt to do so, which will be made by the coming superman, the beast of Revelation 13, will be the climax of all blasphemy: and will result in that impious and devil-inspired personage being cast alive into the lake of fire (Rev. 19). Men cannot bring forth the needed mediator: here they come to their wit's end: they have no hope except in God, the One whose glory has been challenged by their sin. But man's extremity is God's opportunity, and the one whom Job could not find on earth has come from heaven, and our part is to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.
The New Testament is the book of the Mediator. In its first chapter there stands twice over in capital letters the name of its great subject, its true title, JESUS. "Thou shalt call His name JESUS; for He shall save His people from their sins" (ver. 21). "She brought forth her firstborn Son; and he called his name JESUS" (ver. 25): and Jesus is Emmanuel; GOD WITH US.
Being God, He knew according to God's perfect estimate what the effect to the universe of man's disregard of His will was; how and to what extent God's glory was jeopardized by man's sin: what the demands of the eternal throne were in regard to the violation of its just decrees. He knew how completely man's self-will had made him the slave of Satan, how great was the gulf that separated him from God: how utterly powerless he was to rectify the awful wrong that he had committed. He knew the penalty that had to be paid, the conflict that had to be waged, the work that had to be done. It was the will of God that every problem that man's sin had raised should be taken up and settled in a way in which every attribute of His should be glorified and salvation secured for us, and He, the Son, came to accomplish the will of God. He said, "A body hast Thou prepared Me. . . . Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God" (Heb. 10:5-7). He became man to stand in our place before God: to take the bill of our terrible indebtedness, and meet it to the full, so that God Himself could write "Settled" across the account. This involved for Him the sorrows of Calvary: and there, as the holy Substitute for men, He "gave Himself a ransom for all." The sacrifice that He made has met all the claims of the throne, and He is now "THE ONE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MAN, THE MAN CHRIST JESUS." But only one who could estimate things according to God's own measure of them could do what He has done.
What a Saviour is Jesus! How fully worthy is He of our fullest praise! He stooped to us that He might put His hand upon us, degraded though we were, and He has done it tenderly and graciously, so that we are not afraid. There is no terror for us in His hand, we do not shrink from Him. He has touched us with the touch of a man, and bound us with the cords of love. Yet he was never less than God, and God has touched us in Him. He has put one hand upon us and the other is placed upon the throne of God, and He is the one mediator. With the one hand He has offered the fullest satisfaction to the righteous claims of God, and with the other He has bestowed fulness of grace upon us. He brings us to God and gives us a place in His presence without fear, and in everlasting peace, a peace established upon the infallible and immovable foundation of divine righteousness, secured for us by a divine person for the eternal glory of God.
Thus are we justified before God, and all our fear is removed, and we are free to behold the hand that has been placed upon us, and to mark the fact that it is a wounded hand: a hand that was nail-pierced for us when He identified Himself with us, as we stood subject to the judgment of God, that He might save us. We know the power of this hand too: it has smitten death for us and will not relinquish its hold upon us for ever. As He is now a man in heaven, so shall we be there; He the first-born among many brethren, we His associates identified with Him in an everlasting oneness. He will never surrender that true humanity which He has taken up, and as He is, so are they also who are His. The purpose of God is that we should be conformed to His own image. And so we shall be, and yet never shall we forget that He is "over all, God, blessed for ever more."
Part 2. His All-sufficiency for Our Need.
"In all their affliction He was afflicted" (Isaiah 63:9).
"And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9).
"He hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" (Heb. 13:5).
"JESUS! Thou art enough
The mind and heart to fill,
Thy patient life — to calm the soul,
Thy love — its fear dispel."
"Still in Thee love's sweet savour
Shone forth in every deed,
And showed God's loving favour
To every soul in need." (J. N. Darby.)
The Friend of Sinners
For one brief hour only is the veil that covers the first thirty years of our Lord's life drawn aside, and one saying of His alone during that period is recorded for our learning. But what a revelation of sinless, holy perfection, and readiness to bear the yoke of service for the blessing of mankind, does that one saying reveal! "How is it that ye sought Me? Wist ye not that I must be about MY FATHER'S BUSINESS?" It is probable that at the age of twelve a child begins definitely to choose between evil and good; and the Lord is shown to us in this beautiful passage as making His choice; He refused the evil and He chose the good; as it was written by the prophet, that Emmanuel would. His Father's business — His Father's will — this to Him was good and perfect and acceptable, and with this will treasured in His heart He lived His youthful days, until the due time came for His manifestation.
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver," and "A word spoken in due season, how good it is." Such were all the words of the Lord; every one of them came forth in its own time and circumstance, and none more fitly spoken than this word. In the record of His words also, all are divinely placed. If a Divine Person, divinely perfect and blessed, came into the world for the eternal blessing of men, it is only fitting that a Divine record of His coming and His words and ways, also divinely perfect and blessed, should be given, that those for whom He came might have a perfect assurance as to it. Admit the former, and the latter follows in logical sequence. To suppose that God would send His only-begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him, and having done that, allow an imperfect, contradictory human record to be the only record of His life and death here, would be to suppose Him to be guilty of colossal folly. The record must be as perfect in its own sphere as the One whose life and mission it records was perfect in His, or else we have no sure knowledge or certainty of these things upon which depends our souls' eternal welfare.
If the Holy Scriptures are what the critics say they are, mere ancient, human documents, in which are recorded events which the writers did but poorly remember, to be tested by human scholarship, which, by the way, commences its test by a decided bias against them; if they may be cut and criticized, accepted or rejected, in parts or wholly, then, where are we in this matter? The angel's triumphant declaration that He brought "good tidings of great joy" when He announced the birth of Jesus is a mockery; we know not whether our great Redeemer did ever say, "Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Such wonderful words may have been put into His mouth, as Shakespeare put great sayings into the mouths of his characters. Did He really warn men against "the damnation of hell," and speak those blessed words about the many mansions in His Father's house? We cannot say unless the record of them is divinely perfect, and divinely sure.
We believe in God, and we are confident that if "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life," He would see to it that having given "His unspeakable gift" for men, they should be in no uncertainty about it; hence are the Scriptures God-breathed; the men who wrote them were moved by the Holy Spirit; they had these things, not by hearsay, or from their own imperfect observation, but "from the very first" from the source of all true knowledge, from God Himself. Hence the record of our Lord's words is a divine record, and the words are divinely placed, so that they shine like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
It is in Luke's Gospel that these words are alone recorded, and how beautifully they fit in to the character of this Gospel.
The Gospel of Luke is the Gospel of "My Father's business." It is the Gospel of grace, for this the Father's Name implies.
It is the Father who, in the very heart of it, sees His prodigal son afar off, and has compassion upon him, and runs to meet him while yet he is a great way off, and falls on his neck and kisses him; and cries in His gladness, "Let us eat and be merry: for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and is found." Yes, Luke's Gospel is the Gospel of grace to guilty sinners, and the Lord was the vessel of this grace His Father's business was His business. He was here to commence it, to carry it on, and to finish it, and the fact that He is crowned with glory and honour at His Father's right hand, is the proof that He has most blessedly done it, as is the fact also that millions are rejoicing in the grace of God which has brought salvation to them.
Being the vessel of God's grace He was, and is, the Friend of sinners. Mark His first words in public testimony as given to us in this Gospel. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord."
He came to men bruised and broken and blinded, and bound by sin, and said unto them: "This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears," and they all wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth.
In each Gospel the form of the opposition from His foes brings into greater prominence the chief feature that the Gospel presents. It is so here. The religionists did not like grace, they could not understand it; so full were they of their own importance that they marvelled that Jesus did not pay court to them and seek their patronage; they grew angry and scornful when He sought the company of sinners, and this is their chief complaint in this Gospel; against this they shouted their opposition constantly.
In Luke 5:30 they murmured against His disciples, saying, "Why do ye eat and drink with the publicans and sinners?"
In Luke 7:34 they grow abusive and say, "Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners."
In Luke 15:2 they say with bitter enmity, "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them."
And again in Luke 19:7, "they all murmured, saying, That He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner."
They spoke the truth in their hatred, and that which they thought was His shame was His glory, as a countless host of sinners saved by grace will declare to His eternal praise.
Not to the proudly religious did He come who, though wise in their own conceit, were "fools grown insolent in fooling; most, when the lost were dying at their doors." He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance; "the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost."
He said, "Fear not," to sinful Simon (Luke 5:10); "I will — be thou clean," to the poor foul leper (Luke 5:13); "Weep not," to the broken-hearted widow (Luke 7:13); "Thy sins are forgiven," to the weeping sinner at His feet (Luke 7:48); and "To-day, shalt thou be with Me in paradise." to the dying robber (Luke 23:43).
He came to do His Father's business, and for this there was given to Him the tongue of the learned [or instructed], that He should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary; His ear was wakened morning by morning, to hear as the learner (Isa. 50:4). But who was He who thus lived in entire and daily obedience to His Father's word, so that He might carry on His business? Isaiah 50 tells us this also. He says: "Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is My hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at My rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst. I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering" (Isa. 50:2, 3).
Yes, this is He who came from heaven to be the sinner's Friend, and to bring to the poorest and the worst the saving grace of God. He is the Creator, who came to redeem with outstretched arm; but it involved Him in a life of suffering and shame amongst men, and in hatred from those who loved Him not. The One who with hand omnipotent draws the curtain of night across the heavens, says: "The Lord God hath opened My ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked of the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting" (Isa. 50:5, 6).
Wonderful Friend of sinners! who would not cast aside their own righteousness and pride to make Thy acquaintance! and count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Thee!
The Lord and the Home Life
To assure us of His constant and particular care for us in all our circumstances, God has taken infinite pains in His sure and holy Word: it is bright with many faithful sayings in regard to it, and beautiful with many concrete cases in which His perfect care for those who trust Him is illustrated; but nothing can be more conclusive and convincing in regard to it than the life of our Lord Jesus on earth.
Let us consider, then, how the Lord Jesus acted in regard to the matters domestic, and the general needs of those whom He loved, as shown us in the Gospel of John. In that Gospel, be it remembered, He comes forth as the Word, who was with God, and who was God — the great Creator of the universe become flesh for our blessing. It is in this Gospel that He said: "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." Hence as we behold His tender mercy ever flowing forth, we see what the Father is, for thus He has revealed Him.
Is it not, then, most worthy of note and full of comfort to all who need comfort, that in this Gospel, and this alone, He is shown to us as a GUEST AT A WEDDING, rejoicing with those that rejoice? And is it not equally significant that in this Gospel, and this alone, He is also shown to us as A WEEPER AT A GRAVE SIDE? The wedding is the beginning of the home life, and may represent its most joyous period: the sealed grave is the close and the breakup of it, the darkest day of all. And the Lord, who came to earth to show to us the Father, was at both: and is there a day between the two when He is absent? No. He has said "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," and that, be it noted, again in connection with the home life (Heb. 13:4-6).
There are profound depths of spiritual meaning in these two incidents, and we should certainly seek these, but in doing so do not let us miss that which lies clear and plain upon the surface. Jesus, who was the Creator, the only begotten Son of God, the revealer of the Father, associated Himself with His own in the joys and sorrows of their home life. Perish the thought that we may only know His presence at the meetings for prayer or worship: that He only connects Himself with what are known as religious services. If this were all, then our religion were artificial and dead, and our Lord useless to us in our trials, and scarcely of more value than the dumb idols of the heathen. But He comes into the home life when He is allowed, comes in all the plenitude of an inexhaustible grace, rejoicing if we rejoice, and Himself becoming the source of a joy that earthly circumstances cannot yield: and standing by us in days of stress and sorrow, to sympathize with and support the heart that looks to Him. How near this brings Him to us: how real it makes Him: how tender and accessible it shows Him to be.
If this is the case (and only those who do not know the Lord will deny it), then all we have to do is to bring our need to His notice. At the wedding in Cana this was done and He supplied the lack. Happy bridegroom and bride who were wise enough to ask Jesus to their marriage. At the sorrowing home in Bethany this was done, and it was not done in vain. We behold Him as He stands with Mary prostrate at His feet. Listen while she pours out her grief before Him. See her as she looks up through her weeping into His dear face, and see, His cheeks are also washed with tears. Yes, He cares. How beautiful must He have seemed to her that day! How His sympathy must have swallowed up her sorrow! What a revelation of His heart were those tears! What intimacy with Him did Mary's sorrow yield her!
"The bud had had a bitter taste,
But oh, how sweet the flower."
Christ became supreme in her love. She had learnt in that silent walk by the side of Jesus to the grave of her brother how fully and tenderly He entered into her grief: how able He was to lift her out of the depths and sustain her by His sympathy: how every question that could arise in her mind as to the rightness of God's ways with her was settled in Himself, and how His love, so perfect and true, for it was God's love, was able to heal the wound and fill the void in her heart: and those were lessons, and that was an experience, that no mortal words can describe, but the result of it appeared when in silent adoration she poured the precious ointment upon His sacred feet. And what He was to Mary "yesterday," He is "to-day" to all who will bring their sorrow to His feet. And in Him is God revealed, turning that which seems only evil into everlasting good.
The same blessed care is most beautifully expressed in the Lord's words to Zacchaeus: "To-day I must abide at thy house." This was not said for the chief of the tax-gatherers alone, but for us also: it is the way the grace of the Lord compels Him to take towards all whom He has sought and saved, and so it can be said that salvation has come to all who are His; salvation not from the penalty of sin merely, from hellfire at last, but for every day of the journey to the homeland, for He Himself is salvation to us, and He is an everyday Saviour, who will never leave us nor forsake us.
What a comfort lies here for all about whom the storms of trouble sweep! The Lord is with them, and every sorrow may be laid at His feet and every difficulty told to Him. That life which appears to have the least sorrow has its difficulties and burdens, and none of us have sufficient wisdom or strength to deal with these. But He is sufficient for little trials and for big, and so precious are we to Him that He will never abandon us. Only let it be realized that the grace of God brought Him down to us, not only to save us, but to abide with us, and that He is ever by our side to support and succour us and to sympathize with us, and it will change the aspect of every sorrow and produce the song where the sigh has been. It is the realization of His presence that can lead the saint of God to say, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for THOU ART WITH ME: Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me" (Ps. 23). And if "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," we may boldly say, "The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me" (Heb. 13:5, 6).
Observe carefully that the Lord did not merely say to Zacchaeus, "I must abide with thee," but "AT THY HOUSE." He was interested in the family of the man whom He had sought and saved. A place was to be found for Him in the home circle, so that not only the individual needs and difficulties, but those of the household, might also be brought to His notice.
The Lord of Winds and Waves
When the disciples launched forth upon the Sea of Galilee on that evening of which three of the Gospels tell, they needed but little faith to put their Master into the helmsman's seat and commit the steering of the ship to Him, for the wind was fair and the sea was calm. But when the storm uprose and the shore lights were lost in the darkness, and they found that He had fallen asleep in the place that they had assigned to Him, it seemed to them that they had jeopardized their safety. The good ship might have had some chance of outriding the gale if the helm had been in the strong and capable hands of one of the sons of Zebedee, or if wide awake Simon had had control, but what hope could there be for it in such a sea while the helmsman slept? As the tempest grew in violence their terror increased, until, when it seemed that the mighty billows would break them utterly, they awoke Him with that cry, made bitter by unbelief, "Carest Thou not that we perish?" And in that cry their Master's power over the storm and His love to them were alike arraigned.
What shame must have been theirs when in answer to their cry He rose up from His sleep and calmed the elements with a word! How outrageous must their doubts of Him have seemed when the winds retired at His bidding and the waves obeyed Him as a dog obeys its Master! Ah, why had they no faith? They might have stretched themselves beside Him and known the wonder of unbroken peace in the tempest, and made that night most memorable by their confidence in Him. They might have shared His peace with Him, for it was not indifference that marked that one recorded sleep of His, but peace, wonderful, beautiful, unruffled peace in the wildest storm that ever beat upon that sea. And they were not one whit more safe when that great calm spread itself upon the waters than they were when the great billows thundered upon them, for the Man who slept in their storm-tossed ship was the Lord of the universe, and whether in peace or in calm they were in His care. Had they but realized this they might have honoured Him and saved themselves much worry, for if His hand was on the helm all was well.
Let us beware lest we fail in our confidence in the Lord as those fearful men failed. We may have spoken of safety in Him in fair weather, but when sailing upon stormy waters let us hold firmly to the fact that He cannot fail. Have we committed ourselves to His keeping? He is most worthy of our trust. Can we say as said Paul of old, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day"? Do we know His love and His wisdom so well that we can stay our minds upon Him and put the helm of our tiny craft into His hands and leave it there? Do we ask sometimes, "Carest Thou not?" Let the Scriptures give the answer: "Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you" (1 Peter 5:7).
Held up on the Waves
It was night, and the disciples of our Lord were afloat upon the Sea of Galilee. He had remained upon the quiet mountainside in prayer to His Father, but He looked through the darkness and beheld them toiling uselessly, for the waves rolled high. His heart was moved with compassion as He saw how the storm baffled them, and from His peaceful retreat He stepped out upon the sea to go to them. His appearance, as He strode from wave to wave, affrighted them, but His voice quickly calmed them. How sweet must have been the peace that filled them when they heard Him say, "BE OF GOOD CHEER: IT IS I: BE NOT AFRAID"! Aye, it is good to hear the voice of the Lord above the night-storms and to know in days of stress that He is nigh.
But Peter, impulsive and full of admiration for his Master, and ready to dare much to be near Him, left the boat to join Him where He walked. Then he found himself in circumstances that were new and strange to him — circumstances in which the creature could only sink and perish. But here comes in the loveliest bit of the wonderful story. He felt his desperate need and cried out to His Lord, and "immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand and caught him," and held him up. And together with the Master of every storm Peter walked on the very crests of the waves. The gale still raged fiercely and the sea surged and swished about his feet, but he was held up by almighty power and he walked by the side of his Lord, erect, fearless, and comforted.
Now let us understand the story. The Lord who sits above the water floods, and rules the waves from His throne of eternal calm, does not send succour to His saints as a sympathetic onlooker who knows nothing experimentally of the sorrows they endure. No. He came down upon the waves, He came from the eternal peace of heaven into the storm where His loved ones laboured: the winds blew and the waves tossed about Him. When His disciples saw Him, they were affrighted and supposed that He was a spirit, but He was not a spirit. HE WAS A MAN, AND HE IS A MAN. This is the amazing thing. Because the children were partakers of flesh and blood He, the Lord of Glory, likewise took part of the same, that He might know in His own experience the fierceness of the storms that beset our weak humanity: and He was tempted in all points as we are, apart from sin, and so He can succour us with a sympathy that is perfectly human though divine.
It was the hand of a Man, in which was the very power of God, that held up Peter on that memorable night. It is the hand of a Man — of Jesus, who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities — that is stretched out to us, and that holds us up upon the very waves that have leaped to our destruction. He is the Son of God, eternal in His being, and omnipotent in power, yet a man who loved us enough to die for us that He might take from our souls the very fear of death and make us triumph evermore.
We want our readers to lay hold of this great truth, not as a theory, but as a fact to be known first to faith and then blessedly in their experience. Peter's was an individual experience, he had it for himself, but it is an experience that every Christian may have when seas of trouble roll around. Yes, each for himself may be supported by that hand of gracious power and be made more than a conqueror in the very circumstance that threatens to swallow him up. What encouragement there is for us in the story — Peter's need and distress stretched out and reached the Saviour's heart, and the Saviour's hand stretched out and reached His sinking saint, and with his need met, his fears calmed, and his faith strengthened, Peter walked hand in hand with his Master until the storm ceased.
The Good Shepherd
The hand that bruised the head of the devil and smashed the power of death is the hand that holds the sheep of God securely for ever, but John 10 was not given to assure the sheep of Christ that they are eternally safe. It is often used for that purpose, and no doubt it has yielded comfort in that way to thousands of harassed souls. But that is not its purpose. The sheep of Christ should not need to be assured of their safety. It should be sufficient for them that they are HIS sheep. Can He let them slip? He is THE GOOD SHEPHERD. He laid down His life to deliver them from every foe. He has taken it again to gather them into one flock — the flock of God. Can one amongst these perish? Impossible! His greatness, goodness, love, and power forbid the thought entirely. They are safe. But the precious words of this chapter were not spoken, and preserved, to assure the sheep that they are safe, nor to occupy their thoughts with themselves at all, but with Christ. The chapter is about the Shepherd. It was written that we might see His greatness and hear the melody of His voice, and, as a consequence, know the supreme blessedness of following Him.
"He that entereth in by the door is the Shepherd of the sheep."
The door is the appointed way of entrance, and by that way He came — by the way that was marked out by the prophecies of old, which spake of Him. Others had come claiming to be Christ, but they had proved themselves to be thieves and robbers, actuated by vain-glory, and making gain of the sheep: they did not come in the appointed way. He came into the fold (Israel), fulfilling the Scriptures. His entrance into the fold is given in the earlier chapters of Matthew, in which Gospel He is presented as the Messiah of Israel, and these chapters are significant with the phrase "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet." And at His exit out of it given in the closing chapters of John, we are told often that things were done to Him "that the Scripture should be fulfilled."
There are prophecies which tell of His glory: how, as the Sun of Righteousness, He shall arise with healing in His wings, and fill the earth with the knowledge of God — for that time we wait: but there are others which tell us that "He was despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." These prophecies mark out a path of humiliation and suffering for Him: they show Him trodden under foot by the proud of the earth; "His visage so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men." He gave His back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: He hid not His face from shame and spitting. He was perfectly submissive to the will of Him that sent Him. The Lord God opened His ear and He was not rebellious, neither turned away back.
Now mark well who He is who trod this path of submission to God, and of suffering from sinners, who was buffeted by men because He would obey God. He says, "At My rebuke I dry up the sea. . . . I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering." He is the mighty Lord of the universe.
"Heaven's arches rang as the angels sang,
Proclaiming His royal degree —
But of lowly birth came the Lord to earth,
And in great humility."
Thus is He shown to us as the Shepherd of the sheep, gentle and submissive, meek and lowly of heart, the Servant of God and the Servant of men, yes, even of those who hated and derided Him. Have we seen the glory of that life of His — the glory of its humility?
HIS DEATH UPON THE CROSS.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep."
He has become the door of salvation and liberty for the sheep, the God-appointed and only way of blessing, but He has become that door by giving His life for them. There was no other means by which He could deliver them, for they were sinners every one, and held in the power of death. So the sword awoke against Him who is the Shepherd, who has proved Himself to be the Shepherd by standing between that sword and the sheep. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray: we have turned every one to his own way: and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." It is not here a question of physical pain; of the thorns, the smitings and the nails: nor of all the shame and degradation connected with His suffering a malefactor's death: undoubtedly our Lord felt these things with an intensity of which none other could be capable: but there was more than that at Calvary, for "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him: He hath put Him to grief" (Isa. 53:10). It was Jehovah's sword that smote Him when His soul was made an offering for sin: the billows of His wrath rolled over Him as He stood as the Substitute in the place of the sheep.
He gave His life for the sheep. He entered the field where death seemed to hold an undisputed sway, and there He annulled him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. As David beat down the mighty giant in Elah, so has the Good Shepherd, by His dying, destroyed the great foe, and wrought deliverance for the sheep.
He laid down His life, no man took it from Him. He had power to lay it down and power to take it again. These are wonderful words, proclaiming the fact of His Deity, for no creature could so have spoken, and yet in this same connection He says, "This commandment have I received of My Father" (ver. 18). How startling is that which greets us here. The supreme power of Deity was His, and yet He shows Himself to us in absolute submission to the Father's command. But further, this commandment of the Father's had the sheep entirely in view. His purpose was that they should be saved from every foe, and He has found a new reason for loving His well-beloved Son in that He laid down His life for them. These are wonderful things for the heart's meditation. Have we seen the Good Shepherd in the glory of His love?
HIS RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD.
"Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life that I might take it again."
He has taken His life again, that, as the Great Shepherd, He might gather the sheep of God into one flock. His voice sounded amidst the dead legalism of the Jews' religion, and the sheep within that fold heard it and followed Him out of it: His voice was also to ring tenderly and clear over the far-away mountains of sin, that His "other sheep" from among the Gentiles might also be brought, that there might be ONE FLOCK and one Shepherd. Not a fold now in which the sheep should be held together by the high walls of law and ordinance, as the Jews had been kept from the nations: nor yet by rules and regulations, either written or unwritten, but a FLOCK held together by the all-sufficiency and attractive power of the ONE SHEPHERD.
This is the beginning of the revelation of the oneness of the Christian company. It is developed in the thought of the family having God as FATHER, and still further in the body and its one HEAD, which is Christ: but there is a sweetness about the thought of the one flock which is entirely its own, and it is this: the sheep are not united to each other organically, as are the members of a body, but each individual in the vast flock of God is attached to the Shepherd by an intimacy known to itself alone. "He calleth His own sheep by NAME." "I know My sheep and am known of Mine." It is because we know Him that we belong to the one flock. He has a special name for each one of us, each of us is —
"Called by that secret name
Of undisclosed delight."
We shall fully understand its meaning when we see Him in the "saint-thronged courts" above, but now our ears should be so keenly attent to His voice that we should be learning it here. There should be with each sheep a secret history of soul with the Shepherd, increasing in blessedness as the days go by.
How precious is this oneness to God, and to Christ, and to everyone whose heart is intelligent in divine truth. "I am the good Shepherd, and I know those that are Mine, and am known of those that are Mine, as the Father knows Me and I know the Father: and I lay down My life for the sheep" (N.T.). This is an intimacy and communion that creature thought could never have conceived, and which can only be enjoyed by the Holy Ghost.
"There shall be one flock and one Shepherd"; this is the purpose of God, and, blessed be His name, it abides true, for there can be no failure in the one Great Shepherd. It is true for God, and true also for the faith and affection of every sheep that is contented to hear the Shepherd's voice and follow Him. Have we seen Him as the Great Shepherd, in the glory of His all-sufficiency for the whole flock of God?
HIS SUPREMACY OVER ALL EVIL.
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand."
These words were spoken to those who believed not, and they were the declaration of the Lord's ability to keep and bless His sheep. Those Jews who urged Him to tell them plainly whether He was the Christ or not were seeking some sign that would satisfy their sensuality, a sign such as He had given them when He fed the multitude. They wanted a king who would give them the bread that perisheth, and bless them according to their own carnal thoughts, but for the Bread of God they had no taste. But His sheep heard His voice: they said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." And this life He gave to them, a life outside of the world and nature, a life which was manifested to them in Him, and which belonged to the home out of which He had come.
He gives this life to His sheep, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of His hand. Neither decay within nor foes without can rob Him of those whom the Father has given Him. He is their life and protector, and He is supreme in His glorious power. Can any sheep have a doubt since He is its Shepherd? If when crucified in weakness He annulled the power of the devil, what will He do in the glorious strength of His resurrection? Shall He not be triumphant over every force of evil, and that for ever? It must be so, and He declares in this His supremacy, that He will hold all who are His. Have we seen Him in the glory of this great power?
Part 3. His Sufferings and Death.
"But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and with His stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53:5).
"Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow" (Lam. 1:12).
"O day of mightiest sorrow,
Day of unfathomed grief!
When THOU didst taste the horror
Of wrath without relief.
"No eye was found to pity,
No heart to bear Thy woe:
But shame, and scorn and spitting.
None cared Thy Name to know." (J. N. Darby.)
On Both Sides of the Sea
"And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives." — (Matt. 26:30.)
"In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee." — (Heb. 2:12.)
Christians are called to be a triumphant people. Through the riches of the grace of God they can sing with joyful lips their songs of praise unto Him, but in this they are like the Israelites when they saw their enemies dead upon the seashore: then in the gladness of their freedom from the cruel oppressor they could sound the loud timbrel and sing the high praise of Jehovah, for He had manifested the greatness of His excellency in their deliverance (Ex. 15). But they did not sing on the other side, when the waters rolled darkly before them, the fierce foe pressed hard behind and the mountains reared their rugged heads on either side. But Jesus sang on both sides of the sea.
He "divided the sea, whose waves roared," and "made the depths of it a way for the ransomed to pass over." He divided it by passing through it, while all its fury was spent upon Him, and now in resurrection He can celebrate His great triumph, surrounded by those whom He has set free: and so is fulfilled the word, "In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee." But He also sang on the other side. When deep called unto deep: when the waters were gathered to compass Him about: when the waves and billows of judgment uprose to pass over Him: as the darkness of Gethsemane and the deeper darkness of Calvary, with all its shame and woe and ignominy and unspeakable sorrow confronted Him; then He lifted up His voice and sang unto God.
The disciples may have known the words and the tune, but we cannot suppose that they entered into the spirit and meaning of that praise-psalm: He was the singer in deed and in truth.
It is written, "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me," and herein was that passage fulfilled and God greatly glorified, even though no other heart appreciated or understood what Jesus then did.
When the last "Praise ye the Lord" of that song was reached, He spoke of Himself as the Shepherd — the Shepherd, who, for the sake of the flock, was to bear the smiting of Jehovah's rod, and in view of this smiting He had to say, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." But in the presence of that unspeakable sorrow He fully approved God's will concerning Him, and to its last drop He would drink the cup that His Father gave Him. In this holy determination, conscious of God's approval of His faithfulness, He sang forth His praise as He entered the conflict. Be assured the music of that singing will never pass away: it will sound for ever in the Father's ear as the melody of a trust that never faltered and a love that was stronger than death.
So He sang then, and so He sings now. But now He has companions who can join in the singing that He leadeth; His brethren — who owe their every joy to His sorrow: who are placed, through His death, beyond the reach of judgment's wrathful sea: who are one with Him in nature and life, and to whom He has revealed His Father's name. These can share His joy, and so can sing in concert with Him, for they stand with Him in the unclouded light of His Father's love, and this is their place for ever. Yes, this is our place who have believed on Him, the risen Lord; but how our hearts are moved in the midst of our joy, and for ever will be, as we remember that He sang on the other side of the sea.
"About a stone's cast"
"He went a little farther" (Matt. 26:39).
"He was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast" (Luke 23:41).
A great crisis was now reached in the life of the Lord Jesus. He had not separated Himself from His disciples in this way before, nor had they ever parted company with Him. They would not leave Him, for they could not do without Him. When others turned their backs upon Him, they said: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," and so bound to Him had they been, that He had said to them, "Ye are they that have continued with Me in My temptation." They were His lovers and friends, and though they did not understand the exceeding sorrow that filled His soul, yet there was the sympathy of love in their hearts towards Him, and this was very precious in that hour to Him.
But now the parting time had come, if He was to fulfill the will of God. They follow Him to Gethsemane; they had often done so before, for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with His disciples, and in the past they had watched with Him in the silence of the night beneath those olive trees while He held communion with His Father. But now it was different, and He says to them: "Sit ye here, while I go and pray YONDER." Who can tell what that "yonder" meant to Him? He was about to enter the great conflict, and He "looked for comforters," and as Peter and the sons of Zebedee entered more fully into His thoughts than the other disciples, He takes them with Him. Surely these three could give Him what He longed for, and watch with Him through that terrible hour! But He must leave them, also. "He saith to them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death; tarry ye here and watch with Me." AND HE WENT A LITTLE FARTHER, or, as we read in Luke's record, "He was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast." In Matthew's Gospel, Emmanuel is the King, and it was the prerogative of David's royal Son to act in His own right, so there "He went." In Luke's record, He is the obedient and dependent Man, filled and anointed by the Spirit to do His Father's business; hence there He is "withdrawn from them" by the Father's will and the Spirit's power. His own voluntary act was in absolute unison with the Father's will and the Spirit's leading.
But though it was only a stone's cast that He was withdrawn from them, as a man would measure distance, in reality the distance was immeasurable. He had started on a road now upon which His disciples could not travel; He must take it alone. It was a road that never had been or could be travelled by any other human foot than His. And these disciples were never to be associated with Him in the old way again; that was a chapter which was closing; the links that bound Him to them as the Messiah of Israel were breaking now, and keenly He felt it.
Three times in the midst of His own great conflict He went back to them; for though they were unable to tread the road that He was treading, or watch with Him in it, yet His love towards them could not change; and they also were to pass through a stern sifting, and He wanted them for their own sakes to watch and pray. There was no response now to His earnest desire; the comforters He looked for failed Him, "He found them asleep." Then, when they did awaken from that strange sleep, terror-stricken at the sight of His sorrow, "they all forsook Him and fled."
Lover and friend were put far from Him; no mere human sympathy could help Him, for no human heart had ever suffered as His was to suffer. The cup from which He shrank was in His hand, and He must drink it until not a drop of its bitter contents remained; His Father's will and His love to us conspired together to make Him take it without a murmur. But He must do it alone.
"Alone He bare the cross,
Alone its grief sustained."
He had told His disciples that this break would be for "a little while." As a tender mother on leaving her timid child assures it that she will "soon come back," so He assured them that they should see Him again. "A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again a little while, and ye shall see Me: because I go to the Father." The "little while" passed, and the "little farther," the distance "about a stone's cast," with all its accumulated sorrow that had separated Him from them for that little while, was removed out of the way. And in resurrection He went after His broken-hearted, despairing, and scattered sheep, and gathered them together into one flock, and associated them with Himself in new and heavenly relationships, the blessedness of which they could never have conceived. We look back to that little while when He went a little farther, with deepest gratitude of heart, for but for the sorrow that He passed through then, we never could have sung, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"
Love that suffered all the Sorrow
The more deeply we know the love of Jesus the more unknowable we find it to be: the more we consider the way of it the more amazed we stand at its wisdom and its warmth. It is not a blind love that may awaken to find flaws and faults in its objects that it knew not of, for it knew from the beginning with omniscient certainty all about the loved ones. It knew, also, with the unerring knowledge of God, the whole way of sorrow that must needs be trodden in order to obtain its desire. It is a love that cannot be disappointed or alarmed, and when the great tests came it neither faltered nor fled. We need not fear that it will break down or change now: it has been fully proved.
"His love to the utmost was tried,
Yet firmly endured as a rock."
Consider that great crisis in the life of the Lord when Judas came with "a band of men and officers . . . with lanterns and torches and weapons" (John 18). How hideous, how hellish did the treachery and hatred of the human heart appear in that torchlight glare! Yet that band was but an advance guard, a flying column sent out to reconnoitre: behind them lay the hosts of darkness, waiting to crush and overwhelm Him. They were but as the spray of a stormy ocean cast up upon the strand: behind them surged the seas of sorrow, frightful and unfathomed. But how did He meet the crisis? He met it by saying, "Let these go their way." He might have escaped what lay before, from one point of view, for two words of His were enough to paralyze His foes. But He would not use His divine might to save Himself, for had He done so He must have lost His loved ones. In their fervid devotion His disciples might well have put that band to flight, but He would not let them fight. Of what use would their feeble arms have been against all that lay behind that band of men who came to take Him with Judas as their leader? He saw what lay behind them — the awful sorrow, the malignity of Satan, the judgment of God, and He said, "Let these go their way." He saw the wolf preparing to devour the sheep. He saw the righteous sword, also, that had awakened against His people's sins, and He said, "Let these go their way: that the saying might be fulfilled which He spake, Of them which Thou gavest Me, I have lost none."
He would bear all the sorrow alone. Not one pang must they feel of all those pangs that He would endure for them: not one stroke of all that judgment that He would bear must fall upon them. Not one drop of that bitter cup must gall their lips: He would drink it to the dregs and drink it alone for them. He would shield them from the suffering: stand between them and the threatening foe: become their Substitute under the judgment, and sacrifice Himself for them. That was the only way, and His love led Him that way, with steadfastness and deliberation, that He might keep for ever for Himself those that the Father had given Him. And we were represented there in those of whom He said, "Let these go their way." And we can say, each for himself, "He loved me and gave Himself for me."
"Guilt's bitter cup,
He drank it up,
Left but the love for me."
He bore it all for me.
That Terrible Hour
"This is YOUR HOUR, and the power of darkness" (Luke 22:53).
"Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from THIS HOUR but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy name" (John 12:27).
Consider these words, my soul, in the presence of Him who spoke them. Note well the fact that there was an hour in the years of the Saviour's life below that was full of horror for Him, an hour from which He shrank with a perfect shrinking, and from which He would have escaped had any way been found in heaven above or on earth beneath. It was the hour of the unrestrained hatred of men and of the power of darkness.
He had trodden a rough road, but in all His ways God had given His angels charge over Him, and in their hands they had borne Him up, lest at any time He should have dashed His foot against a stone. So that, though His adversaries hated Him with a virulent hatred, they could not hurt Him. They led Him to the edge of the rock upon which their city was built, in order to hurl Him into the abyss beneath it, but He, passing through the midst of them, went His way unharmed. The very stones that they picked up to cast at Him clave to their murderous hands while He "passed by." No malice of evil, whether of men or devils, had been able to break through the unseen angelic cordon, but for this terrible hour that protection was taken away. An angel brought Him heavenly succour in the garden and withdrew, and He turned to His foes and said to them, "This is your hour and the power of darkness" (Luke 22:43-53).
It was then that every element of evil beset Him round about. The floods rolled upon Him, and no voice was uplifted to cry unto them, "Hitherto shall ye come and no further." The dread array that had sought means to crush Him during the days of His lowly service amongst men combined against Him. The reins that had restrained them were thrown free, there was no check upon them, and their utmost fury broke upon Him. He was reproached, despised, and railed upon. Strong bulls of Bashan encompassed Him, gaping upon Him as a ravening and roaring lion: dogs beset Him: the assembly of the wicked enclosed Him. The sword, the power of the dog, the lion's mouth, the horns of the unicorn (Ps. 22) — all these in that dread hour sought out His soul to destroy Him: for to destroy Him was to destroy all that was good, and to overthrow Him was to overthrow the very throne of God. Upon Him — that one solitary Man, the Nazarene — who in that darkness had no helper, depended every hope of all the saints: the confidence of the host of great unfallen angelic principalities: the stability of the universe: and the supremacy of God.
We dwell upon the hatred of men, but we have seen nothing and known nothing so terrible as their hatred of Him, for never before, nor since, had proud men been confronted with absolute meekness: never before, nor since, had sin been unrestrained in the presence of perfect goodness, unprotected. But what of the malignity of the devil, and of those awful and entirely evil spiritual powers in rebellion against God, the roll of which is called in Psalm 22? Of these how little we know. Thank God, we know so little: we should have known much more had our Lord Jesus not faced them for us: but He knew, with divine and all-embracing prescience, their full strength before He entered that hour. Do we wonder that He prayed, "Father, save Me from this hour." But how worthy of everlasting adoration is He because of that supremely blessed and full consecration of soul which made Him say, "FATHER, GLORIFY THY NAME." This was the grand purpose of His life below, and to secure this He entered and passed through that hour.
It was the great hour in which darkness wrestled against light for the mastery. How closely He was beset in the palace of the High Priest: before the Sanhedrin: in the house of Pilate: before the throne of Herod: in the place called Gabbatha: on the road to Golgotha; and finally on the malefactor's gibbet. We are permitted to hear His cry, "I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax: it is melted in the midst of My bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd: and My tongue cleaveth to My jaws: and Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death. . . . Deliver my soul. . . . Save Me."
There was not a weapon in the vast armoury of evil, that Satan and his hosts had been preparing throughout the ages for this awful conflict, that was not brought against Him, the sent One of God, to force Him from the path of God's will and to make Him cry, "I yield" to the authority of darkness. Yet He did not yield. He was wholly light, darkness could gain no foothold in Him. The prince of this world came, but he had nothing in Him. Blessed, holy, adorable Lord! Having exhausted every device of their almost boundless malice, and exhausted themselves in their fury against Him, they sat down to watch Him there (Matt. 27:36) — men and devils, amazed, baffled, defeated, crowding together about Him. Thrones and dominions had fallen before Satan as the great leader of all evil, so that he had become "the prince of this world," and "the prince of the power of the air." His conquests were far-reaching and his triumphs great: he had only to drive back the Son of God from doing the will of God and then would his victories be crowned with everlasting success: but in that one poor and lonely Man, despised by the people, abandoned by lover and friend, and forsaken of God, he met his conqueror.
Consider Him, my soul: He had neither reply nor reproach for the men who mocked Him: had He cursed them Satan would have triumphed, but only prayers for their blessing were forced from His suffering soul by their cruelty. He was laughed to scorn because God did not aid Him in His dire necessity: and to make Him cast off His faith was the enemy's fell purpose; but neither repining nor rebuke was heard in His cries as He poured out His sorrow before God, whose ear seemed deaf to the voice of His supplication. Nevertheless He still cried, "My God, My God . . . O My God. . . . Thou art holy. . . . Thou art He. . . . I was cast upon Thee. . . . Thou art My God. . . . O My strength" (Ps. 22).
So He triumphed in that terrible hour, and trod the foes of God beneath His feet by being trodden down. And because no power of evil could overcome Him He was able to take up the question of sin on behalf of sinful men and settle that question to the everlasting glory of God by bearing His righteous judgment against it. He had suffered for righteousness, and in faithfulness to the will of God, but when the full tale of His suffering in regard to these was told, He entered into deeper depths and into a darker hour, for He was made "to be sin for us, who knew no sin." It pleased the Lord to bruise Him. He put Him to grief when He made His soul an offering for sin. He died, and through death He has annulled him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. He lives again and has the keys of death and hades. He is crowned with glory and honour. He must be exalted and extolled, and made very high, and He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied when the greatness of God's triumph through Him is publicly manifested to the wide universe. How glorious is He. The forces of evil have been met and vanquished: the judgment of God against sin has been borne and His justice glorified: the power of death has been destroyed by His dying, and He lives to die no more. No wonder that His saints delight to sing —
"Bless, bless the Conqueror slain,
Slain in His victory,
Who lived, who died, who lives again,
For thee, His Church, for thee."
"He was numbered with the transgressors"
"And when they came to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand and the other on the left." (Luke 23:33.)
They searched the prison cells of Jerusalem that morning for the most debased of all the criminals that that city contained, and they led them out to die along with Jesus. These men had been guilty of appalling crimes, and that was why they were chosen to hang one on His right hand and the other on His left: that was why they put Him upon the centre and highest cross. They meant to proclaim by their well-considered and malicious plan that He was the worst of the three. Thus did they heap shame upon Him, adding deepest insult to deepest injury.
But I am glad that such men as these, and not James and John, were taken to be His companions on that day: in this the devil showed his lack of foresight, and in this he was outwitted, for if they had crucified the sons of Zebedee, one on His right hand and the other on His left, it would have been said that they were helping Him to finish His work of redemption. The devil would have deceived men, now that Jesus is proclaimed as a Saviour, and would have said: These holy men, His disciples, had their share in His work, so that you must not trust in Him alone, but trust also in St. John and St. James, for they are worthy of as much glory as He.
Such a deception cannot now be practised upon weary, anxious sinners; those murderers who hung with Him could have no hand in the work that He was doing. They were suffering for their own crimes, He, the sinless One, for yours and mine.
"Alone He bore the cross,
Alone its grief sustained;
His was the shame and loss,
And He the victory gained.
The mighty work was all His own,
Though we shall share His glorious throne."
Yes, Jesus is the Saviour, and He alone. Behold Him there upon that cross, the darkness and shame of His surroundings only throwing into brighter relief the glory of His person. See Him "numbered with the transgressors," bearing the sin of many, and praying for His foes! How worthy is He of that name which is above every name!
Behold Him, the central object of man's hatred: all the unspeakable enmity of men against God flung upon Him in scorn and shame, and cruelty unrestrained, and that, too, in the very hour when He stood forth as the infinite expression of God's love to men. Truly, as we look upon Him there, every other actor in that solemn scene fades from the view, and He stands out alone in the incomparable glory of His own divine and unconquerable love.
Yet what an evidence it is of the utter darkness of the heart of unregenerate man, and of his complete alienation from God, that he should have heaped shame and execration upon the One who is the most glorious and everlastingly blessed Person in God's universe, that he should have condemned Him to die between two malefactors upon a shameful cross, in whom was centred the eternal delight of the heart of the Father.
The Victory of Love
"And they took Jesus, and led Him away. And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified Him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst." — (John 19:16, 17, 18.)
"They took Jesus and led Him away" in that the guilt of men reached its flood-tide.
"He bearing His cross went forth": in this was manifested the great victory of divine love over human hate. He was not dragged forth, nor driven forth; He went forth. No man took His life from Him; He laid it down Himself. The shouts of the rabble smote His ear and, with a holy sensitiveness, He keenly felt it all, and yet no thought of saving Himself was in His heart. In majestic lowliness He went forth, bearing His cross. He knew, to its last bitterness, all that the cross meant. He was not taken by surprise, nor did He go forth on the impulse of a moment. On the night that was passed in Gethsemane's garden He had looked into the darkness and had fully counted the cost. He had talked of it on the holy mount with Moses and Elias. This hour had been planned in the council chamber of eternity ere ever He came, and now He does not draw back. There was no resistance, no regret, and every step He took towards Golgotha shook the kingdom of the devil.
And there "they crucified Him"; and the crucified Christ is God's answer to the devil's lie in Eden. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). If God had left us to reap the bitter harvest of our rebellion and sin, we could not have complained; but, instead of this, He undertook to dispel the darkness and overthrow the power of the devil by this mighty and convincing proof of His love to us. Satan had made men believe that God was a hard Master, gathering where He had not strawed. God has proved that He is full of love by giving the very best gift that heaven contained, even His own beloved Son, to bear the penalty of our sin: and it is when the glorious light of this love shines into the hearts of men that Satan's thraldom comes to an end. Jesus was lifted up upon the cross, and that lifting has declared the whole truth, and we who believe it have been drawn to Him. He has become our great attractive centre, and the devil no longer holds us as his prey. The lie is laid bare, the darkness of ignorance past, and God has triumphed: for the prince of this world is cast out of the hearts of those who believe. He no longer holds them as his citadel. They have surrendered themselves to the God whose perfect love has been demonstrated in the cross of Christ.
How great is the splendour of Calvary! By its glorious light we have been awakened from our night of sleep as by the rising sun at morn. We have been compelled to exclaim: "Then God did love us, after all!" The entrance of His Word has given light, and with light has come liberty. The curtains of darkness have been torn asunder, and our souls have stepped forth into the day.
Part 4. His Resurrection and Glory.
"And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death" (Rev. 1:17, 18).
"For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15:25, 26).
"He is not here! the power of death is broken:
The Son of Jesse hath Goliath slain.
See in this riven rocky keep the token
That death no longer shall despotic reign.
This casket holds the Prince of Life no longer;
The powers of hell have felt the might of God;
The strong man has been vanquished by the stronger;
The Red Sea smitten by the Saviour's rod" (J. Boyd.)
"Fear not ye."
Stone and seal and soldiers held the lonely sepulchre in the garden where the body of Jesus lay. The subtlety of Jewish priests and the authority of Rome combined to make the place secure. "Make it," said Pilate, "as sure as ye can." They did their utmost, and may have gone to their beds assured that they would meet the hated Nazarene no more. What orders were issued to the Roman guard as they went to their unwonted watch? Were they told, I wonder, how to treat the expected raid upon that tomb by a mob of Galilean fishermen? It is more than likely that they were, but they certainly were not instructed how to deal with an earthquake, and an angel of the Lord, whose countenance was like lightning and whose raiment was white as snow. And the Galilean fishermen came not, but the earthquake and the angel did.
What a moment was that when the earth trembled and rocked, and the imperial seal was torn asunder, and the stone was rolled away from the mouth of that tomb by angelic hands! Glittering spears and shining armour were useless to withstand this display of heavenly power: the courage of the coarse defenders of that tomb failed utterly and they fell down flat as dead men.
There was every reason why that guard should shake and fall with fear, for it represented a world determined to be rid of Jesus, and that thought had realized its determination. Now He was risen from the dead, and His resurrection was His triumph and their defeat. It was the declaration on the part of God that He had seen and disapproved their awful act at Calvary: and that Christ was the righteous One before whose throne all men must stand.
But close at hand in that memorable hour were two weak women, and to them the angel turned with words of cheer. There was nothing in the power of God to make them afraid: there was every reason why they should rejoice. They represented, not the world that hated Jesus, but those whom He had chosen out of it, and who loved Him because He first loved them. So the angel said to them,
"FEAR NOT YE."
It seemed strange that such words should be said to these weak women, when Roman veterans fell as dead for fear: but the reason is at once declared. "I know," said the angel, "that
YE SEEK JESUS."
That was the reason. He was the object of their hearts' truest affection. The world was a dreary desert without Him: they could not keep away from that sepulchre where they supposed that He was lying. All their hopes were centred in Him: and though their faith, through ignorance, had been sorely shaken, their love for Him remained. He was their Beloved and their Friend, and in this, though they knew it not, their hearts were in fellowship with the heart of God. And we come together as those who cannot do without Him. As those women sought Him because they loved Him, so do we seek His presence, for He has won our hearts' affections, and in His company we find our fullest joy. He has become our gathering centre, our great attraction, our bond of fellowship: that which bound these women as one in their search for Him unites us also: we are one if we love our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not of the world that hates Him, but of God and of one another, because of our common devotion to Him.
"It is Himself that bindeth heart to heart,
In one eternal love."
But why did they seek Him? And why do we seek Him? The angel supplied the answer, "Ye seek Jesus," he said,
"WHICH WAS CRUCIFIED."
That is why. We should never have sought Him if He had not been crucified. His crucifixion was the expression and the measure of His love to us. When He was despised and rejected by men,
"Stripped and scourged by hands ungentle,
Mocked by tongues untamed,"
then He suffered, the Just for us the unjust, to bring us to God. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him: and with His stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53). He "loved the church and gave Himself for it." It is love that passes knowledge, and yet we know it, for He bore our sins, and has put them all away, having borne the righteous judgment that was due to us for them. He died for us.
"We know the way, the glorious way He made
Through death's dark sea.
O Lamb of God, we bless the love that laid
Our sins on Thee."
But if the angel could have said no more of Him, it would have been useless for any of us to have sought Him, or still to seek Him. He would have been of no use to us, nor could be. If He is a dead Christ we are hopeless, for "if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain: ye are yet in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17). But a glad triumph swells through the angel's words, as he proclaims, "He is not here, for
HE IS RISEN."
His work upon the cross has been accepted: the price He paid there for us is enough. Death has met his conqueror: the grave has been robbed of its terrors, and the devil's power has been broken for ever. The Father's approval of His life and death has been made manifest, His own personal greatness and glory has been declared, and eternal redemption secured for us beyond recall. We can understand how every fear and dark foreboding in these women's hearts would be changed to confidence and joy. His resurrection proved that He had not deceived them; that every hope that He had raised within their breasts would be fulfilled. And it was this that the angel urged upon them when he said, "He is risen
AS HE SAID."
He had told them that He would rise again: that He had done so was the confirmation of all His words, and proved that He was fully worthy of their fullest confidence. We, too, may give to the winds our fears, and renew our confidence in Him, as we read His words, which tell us that not one jot or tittle of His word shall fail. He is risen, that is the pledge. Death mocks at men's assertions and brings to naught their words and works, but our Saviour lives as Victor over death to give complete effect to all that the prophets have spoken concerning Him and all that He has spoken concerning us.
"COME, SEE THE PLACE WHERE THE LORD LAY."
They were to be witnesses to the disciples of this great event, and so must view the empty tomb with their own eyes, and this they did at the invitation of the angel of the Lord. It was presumptuously stated by one whose blasphemies have been closed by death that the Lord did not actually rise from the dead: that His remains are still lying somewhere near to Calvary. If this is so the Christian faith is a delusion and a snare, and all those who have fallen asleep in the joy of it have perished. "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:20).
See how the glorious worth of our Lord comes out in the angel's words.
1. YE SEEK JESUS — His personal preciousness.
2. WHICH WAS CRUCIFIED — His matchless love.
3. HE IS RISEN — His glorious power.
4. AS HE SAID — His absolute trustworthiness.
But there is more in this wonderful story: the risen Lord had not forgotten His disciples; they were His first thought. So that the angel continued,
"GO QUICKLY, AND TELL HIS DISCIPLES
that He is risen from the dead, and goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him; lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly with fear and great joy, and did run to bring His disciples word." Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee,
"INTO A MOUNTAIN WHERE JESUS HAD APPOINTED THEM."
He appointed a place where He could meet with them, and, blessed fact, He has appointed a place for us, where He can meet with us. It is in this same gospel that His precious words are recorded for us; "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20). It is not the place that we choose: we may not please ourselves in this matter: the place is His appointment: it is our responsibility as well as our joy to obey His word and keep this appointment with Him.
The place that He appointed them was outside the temple and away from Jerusalem. We must remember that in Matthew's Gospel He had been presented to Israel as their Messiah, and they had rejected Him, so that the temple, their house, and their city were to be desolated, and the faithful remnant was to be led out of both and gathered to Himself. His name instead of the temple and the city was to be their rallying centre. And so to-day not a sensuous religion, an ornate service, or a massive temple is that which satisfies His heart or the hearts of those who love Him. To meet His own is His wish, and to be in His presence without distraction, or the intrusion of that which pleases nature, is the wish of those who keep His word and do not deny His Name.
"AND WHEN THEY SAW HIM THEY WORSHIPPED HIM."
Could they do other, when He stood before them who had died for them, bearing in His risen body the marks of His suffering and death? A sight of Him was all that was needed to prostrate them in holy adoration at His feet. And so it will be with us if without distraction we seek His presence in the place that He has appointed us.
"Jesus, Thou alone art worthy
Ceaseless praises to receive,
For Thy love and grace and goodness
Rise o'er all our hearts conceive.
"Praise Him, praise Him, praise the Saviour,
Saints aloud your voices raise.
Praise Him, praise Him, till in heaven
Perfected we'll sing His praise."
"Woman, why weepest thou?"
Mary of Magdala stands in the garden where the mournful cypress casts its shadows, and sighs in the freshening breezes o'er the tombs of the dead. The morning sun breaking over the eastern Olivet has not reached the deep grove where she weeps, and if it had, its rays hold no power that can dispel the gloom of her soul, for she has lost the One in whom her life was centred, and she knows not where to find Him. The disciples, her friends, have homes and duties and distractions, but earth has no comfort for her as she stands beside that sepulchre where all that she loved had lain. Neither can heaven yield her consolation, she feels, for though "angels in white" appear and speak to her, she turns from them as though they were intruders, unable to understand or ease her grief. Behold her as she weeps, darkness above, darkness around, darkness within, and listen to her broken cry, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him."
Hopeless and overwhelming her sorrow seemed, for, believing that she had lost her Lord, both time and eternity were desolated for her.
Among the shadows He waits for her — her risen Lord, and when she turns herself back and stands face to face with Him, He speaks to her, asking the cause of her grief. But she supposes Him to be the gardener, and of what use can a gardener be to her? The gardener labours upon beautiful things that have neither sorrows nor souls — she has both: he tends things that grow and shed their sweetness for a day, then die and are forgotten — she is full of bitterness and cannot forget she seeks not flowers, but "Him" — who can heal the broken-hearted, who Himself is called the "Man of Sorrows." Marvellous designation for Jehovah's Fellow! The gardener may work with sympathy among the graves and endeavour to cover with the beauty of nature the stark nakedness of death, but a flower-strewed grave remains a grave, and the flowers fade in spite of all his labour, while the sorrow lives to drain the red heart white, unless a hand other than a gardener's intervenes. Mary does not want a gardener to garnish a grave, she wants her Lord to heal and satisfy her soul; she wants Him who breaks the power of death, and casts the light of resurrection upon the gloomy grave.
But if Mary knows not Jesus, He knows her, and calls her by her name in accents that throb with infinite love. He commands the morning for her, and turns the shadow of death into joy. The darkness flies away from her soul, and the dirge gives place to the triumph song within her heart, as she sees Him, recognizes Him, and responds to His voice to her in that one word, "Rabboni." Here is a glorious deliverance from the bondage of a hopeless sorrow. THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED. He calls her by her name, and His presence and His voice change her outlook at once and for ever.
In this there is everlasting consolation and good hope for all who weep. Death has met his conqueror: his stronghold has been stormed and taken, and the dark King of Terrors dethroned. Christ is risen, He is victor.
In no other way could the gates of death be opened for us than by His resurrection from the dead. He has opened them, and holds the keys of them, as He that liveth for evermore. To all who put their faith in Him He says, "Fear not; I am the first and the last; I am He that liveth, and was dead: and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen: and have the keys of hades and of death" (Rev. 1:17, 18). He is Master of death and the grave. Who? The risen Lord who loves you, and who tenderly lays upon you the hand of His power, and calls you by your name. He who tasted death for you in its unspeakable bitterness because He loved you, and who now would sweeten the cup that you drink with His deepest sympathy and undying love. He has flooded the darkness of death with the light of hope, and you may look forward with confidence to the day when "shall be brought to pass that saying which is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? . . . Thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
The tenderness of His grace is as great as the triumph of His might: as it was for Mary in that distant day, so it is for us in this.
Power and Grace
On the evening of the resurrection day the disciples were gathered together, the last of them drawn to that blessed tryst from distant Emmaus by the Lord's personal service to them: and being thus gathered, two things commanded their thoughts and filled them with wonder; (1) THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED, (2) AND HATH APPEARED TO SIMON. Nothing could be of greater moment to them than the first, for it was the manifestation of their Lord's victorious power, and was the confirmation of all things which He had spoken to them. And though they did not understand at the time what the results of this glorious resurrection were, yet it must have opened a new world to their souls, and shown them that what, in their eyes, had been weakness and defeat, had become the veritable triumph of God.
But how could they meet the risen Lord? Had they not forsaken Him in the midst of His exceeding sorrow, and might He not in consequence discard them for others more faithful and worthy? They might have thought so, and gone to hide themselves from Him for very shame, but — He had "appeared to Simon."
They do not say He hath appeared unto Mary Magdalene: they knew that her eyes had been the first to look upon Him, but there was nothing remarkable about His appearing to her, for she — devoted heart — had stood bereaved without the empty tomb, weeping out her sorrow, because she knew not where her beloved Lord lay. The world was a wilderness night where no comfort shone because the Lord was gone. It was no surprise to them, or to us, that since He was risen, He should appear to Mary.
But to Simon! who had abandoned his Master, and had proved the veriest coward in the presence of the scorning of a servant maid: who had denied his Lord with oaths and curses — that He should appear to Simon filled them with wonder.
So the two marvels are linked together by them, and in the Holy Spirit's record for us.
His Mighty Power HAD BROUGHT HIM FROM THE GRAVE.
His Tender Gracious Love HAD CARRIED HIM EVEN TO SIMON.
It was this Lord who stood in the midst of them: the powers of darkness had been smitten before Him, and the failure of His followers had not changed Him. He was all-sufficient for every foe without, and for every failure within. No wonder then that it is recorded that the joy of seeing Him was so overwhelming, that they could scarcely believe. But their doubts were speedily removed; they saw the Lord, and it is also our privilege to see Him — their Lord and ours — who had risen indeed, and appeared unto Simon.
We need Him as much as they did, for the malignity of the devil is not one whit less now than then, and we have to mourn failure and sin as terrible as Simon's, for the Church has not kept His Word, and has often denied His Name. But Christ remains unchanged, and every purpose of God, with every hope of His people, hangs alone upon Him.
How blessed then to know that this same Lord is in the midst of His saints to-day!
Days of stress and trial they are, in which the devil is seeking to stamp out all testimony for God, both as to the true word of the Gospel, and in the lives and unity of His own.
But He abides. If His pilgrim people are treading a wilderness journey in the which they are conscious of fierce opposition, of their individual needs, and much failure, He says to them, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee," so that they may boldly say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man shall do unto me" (Heb. 13:5, 6).
Jesus showing Himself to His Disciples
"On this wise showed He Himself" (John 21:1).
Simon Peter was a man of action: his was that nature that cannot bear to be still and wait: if his Master gave him no command he would act upon his own initiative, and being such a man he exercised an influence upon others. So that when he proposed to go a-fishing his companions fell in with his plans: "and that night they caught nothing."
As the red dawn chased the night-mists across the sea their Lord stood on the shore. Who shall tell with what tenderness He looked upon them, hungry, weary, and dispirited as they were! He had looked upon them all through that night of toil, had watched over them with an unspeakable love, for they were "His own," and the love He bore them could not change, and now had come the moment when He would show Himself to them.
Not at first did they recognize Him, not until He proved who He was by commanding the fish of the sea to come to their net. Then spake out that disciple whom Jesus loved, saying, "IT IS THE LORD."
And so they came to land and found "a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread." What a showing of Himself to them was this! How it revealed His care for them! THEY WERE COLD, and He knew it, and His own hand had provided the fire to warm them: THEY WERE HUNGRY, and He thought of it, and provided fish and bread to satisfy them: THEY WERE TIRED with their toil, and He sympathized with them in their weariness. Their faithlessness had made them FEARFUL AND ASHAMED; He knew it, and so invited them to sit down before Him, and made them quite at home by His grace, while He gave to them the food that those precious pierced hands had prepared for them. Matchless revelation of Himself! He, their Lord and Master, rejoiced to minister unto them: He, death's conqueror, and creation's Lord as He had proved Himself to be, was not indifferent to their bodily necessities, He cared for their smallest need.
Time spent in meditation upon the wonderful manner in which He showed Himself to them will not be wasted, for here is a revelation of His tender interest in His own, and He is just the same to-day as then, the same to us as He was to those Galilean fishermen.
Entering His Glory
"HE IS RISEN."
The fact of the actual bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is of the greatest possible importance. The salvation of the souls of men, the vindication of His own glorious person, and the supremacy of the everlasting God are all involved in it. If Christ be not raised, actually and bodily raised, your faith is vain: ye are yet in your sins. If Christ be not raised, actually and bodily raised, He is not what He said He was, and His life and words on earth are a cruel deception. If Christ be not raised, actually and bodily raised, God has met with defeat, His throne has been sapped at the very base of it, the devil has triumphed, and evil is almighty in the universe.
If Christ be not raised, God's gracious intentions with regard to the blessing of men have been frustrated: heaven shall never celebrate the greatness of God's salvation: no song shall ever roll over the fields of glory: the Father's house shall be sad and silent for ever; the earth shall remain a desert where no fragrant rose can blossom, and a deluge of darkness, more direful and disastrous than that flood which smote the world in Noah's day, shall roll over the whole race of men in an everlasting mastery.
If, then, everything depends upon the resurrection of our Lord — and it does, for so we are taught in the Scriptures of Truth — it is good for us to be able to travel in thought and faith with those who, on the first day of the week, sought the sepulchre where they had laid Him: it is good for us to look into that empty rock-hewn tomb and to hear angelic voices exclaim, "Why seek ye the living amongst the dead? He is not here, HE IS RISEN." Thank God! And the fact is placed outside the region of question: the Scriptures: the more than five hundred brethren: and Saul of Tarsus who saw Him alive after He was risen: and the happy millions of ransomed men and women who have staked their all for time and eternity upon Christ, and who have sung their song of triumph in the very presence of death, all unite to bear witness to His victory over death: and His own words are to us the crowning of the testimony, "Fear not: I am the First and the Last; I am He that liveth, and was dead: and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen: and have the keys of hell and of death" (Rev. 1:18).
Let those who deny the fact produce their witnesses, and bring their proofs to the test.
HE MUST BE SUPREME.
The Lord appears in Luke's Gospel on a great mission. He called it in His first recorded words "My Father's business" (Luke 2:49). It was "to give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins . . . to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:77-79). So His first utterance in public service was: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor" (Luke 4:18). And throughout the Gospel the opposition to Him was always because He would unswervingly pursue His Father's business. So they murmured because He did eat and drink with publicans and sinners (Luke 5:30): they said with scorn that He was "a friend of publicans and sinners" (Luke 7:34): they murmured again, saying, "This Man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them" (Luke 15:2). And yet again, "That He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner" (Luke 19:7). But the Son of Man had come to seek and to save that which was lost, and their murmurings did not hinder Him in this, though death and resurrection lay in the path of its accomplishment.
It was necessary, according to the divine plan of campaign, that others, not only those eleven disciples whom He met on this resurrection day, but all His disciples throughout the succeeding centuries down even to this day, should bear a part in this wonderful mission of making known this grace to the ends of the earth: and in this resurrection chapter the Lord is seen instructing His disciples as to this, and adjusting their thoughts to the new conditions.
These disciples, however, were faithless, dispirited, and sad. Strange that it should have been so, for that first Lord's day was the most glorious of all the days that God had made. But the Lord drew near and went with them, and the more we scrutinize His ways with them as He quietly and irresistibly takes the place of supremacy in their lives, the more glorious does He appear to us.
Their confidence in Him had received a rude shock, and yet they loved Him, and were sadly reciting the doings of the past week when "He drew near and went with them." He drew near in more senses than one; there was no sudden display of power and splendour to fill them with awe, but the exercise of that compassion that fills His heart for the ignorant. He came close to them in their sorrow and woe in all that gentleness that had always marked His dealings with them. They were the bruised reed and the smoking flax, which He would not break nor quench. They were broken of heart and sore of spirit, and needed the balm of the great Physician, and He was there to tenderly point out the sickness and to apply the remedy. Such is He who is the Master of all His servants, and thus does He prepare them to take up His service with boldness and joy.
Their fundamental mistake had been, that, in their innermost thought, they had made Him secondary to Israel. This is disclosed in their woeful complaint, "We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed ISRAEL." They had hoped that He would have broken the foreign yoke and made their nation free and glorious in the earth, and if He had done this how great He would have been in their eyes: but, instead, they had seen Him nailed to a malefactor's gibbet. "He was led as a lamb to the slaughter: and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth."
He had died, and His death was the grave of all their hopes. They reasoned as men, that since He had died all must be lost, for death is the end of all the glory of man: his thoughts and purposes lie shattered and broken beside his mortal clay. But Jesus was risen again, and resurrection is the power of God; it is God's new beginning and His glory; His thoughts and purposes are all established by it, established in Christ, where disaster can never overtake them, for "He dieth no more."
Happy are they who, by the grace of God, can transfer their hopes from that race of man which lies under the dread sentence of death, and centre them in Christ, the Second Man, the last Adam, who has risen above the power of death, the life-giving Head of a new race.
These disciples had not believed all that the prophets had spoken. They had had their favourite texts, and those texts spoke of the great power of the Messiah — power that would crush their foes and make them the head of the nations: these they read and cherished and loved, and as surely as God spoke them He will fulfil them: but those Scriptures that spoke of His sorrows, His acquaintance with grief, humiliation, rejection, and death they had neither understood nor believed. With great patience He expounded these to them, showing them these things written therein concerning HIMSELF, and how that He ought to suffer and enter into His glory. He showed them these things until their eyes began to perceive hitherto unthought-of glories in Him, and their hearts glowed within them at the sight of them.
In the council chamber of eternity it was planned that He should have His glory as the Head and Centre of a universe of blessing founded upon redemption, a universe to which men from all nations were necessary, and by the path of suffering He was tested, and in it His fitness for that place was proved. Every test brought out this fitness in clearer light until the final test — THE CROSS.
Every human perfection disclosed its fragrance in His suffering; His absolute and unquestioning obedience to the will of God throughout all the way that that will led Him, His meekness, dependence, self-abnegation — everything, in fact, that man ought to be according to the thought of God, He was, and that right onward and into death.
In Him also, the lonely and forsaken Man upon the cross, there appeared in full revelation every attribute of God. No ray of light from without pierced the awful gloom that enshrouded Him as the sin-bearer, but from out of that darkness there shone a glory that shall fill eternity. "All divine attributes were harmonized there — wisdom, holiness, mercy, justice, power, and truth" — and above all and through all the very nature of God, which is love, was declared triumphantly in the very place and hour where His justice demanded that sin should be judged to the uttermost.
Wonderful Saviour! It is along that path of unspeakable suffering that He has entered His glory. But the glory He has entered has added no glory to Him, for He was all glorious as He trod that downward pathway of sorrow and shame; He is not, nor can He be, more glorious than He was when He bowed His thorn-crowned head in death.
If He is now exalted to the Father's right hand it is because that place alone in the wide universe is worthy to receive Him. The diamond has been put in the golden setting, He has gone to His own place. Crowns of immortal lustre shall shine resplendent upon His sacred brow, but that brow is worthy of them, nor would they fit another.
As He expounded these things to them, thoughts of Israel must have faded from their minds, and He must have arisen to the supreme place in their thoughts, so that when at last their eyes are opened to know Him they no longer do their own will, nor think of their own interests or comfort, but that same hour of the night they arise and return to Jerusalem. They did His will, though no command had been expressed: instinctively they knew what He would have them do. HIS LORDSHIP WAS COMPLETE. But His lordship was exercised in perfect grace, and they did His will under the compulsion of love: no other service is acceptable to Him.
HE IS THE LEADER OF HIS SERVANTS.
The disciples were gathered together in Jerusalem on that day talking of His resurrection. He greeted them with that blessed salutation, PEACE! for theirs was to be a mission of peace, and if they were to prosecute it aright they must be filled with and kept in peace.
With a quiet and matchless dignity He convinces them as to the reality of His resurrection, assures them that it is Himself and none other who stands before them, and opens their understanding as to the teaching of all Scripture concerning Himself. It was this teaching as to Himself that was to prepare them for the mission and to maintain them in peace in it. Out of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms He showed them God's plan and His glory. He showed them that He was the fulfilment of every word that God had uttered whether in promise or prophecy. Their fears, then, that all they had hoped for was lost, were altogether groundless, for in Him, their risen Lord, everything that God had purposed was secured.
And further, though it was not then declared to them, they afterwards learnt that in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and that they were complete in Him, who is the Head of all principality and power. All the resources of God were in Him for them, and there was not a power in the universe that could intercept those resources.
Brethren in Christ, are we conscious that our Lord is such a glorious Lord, Centre, Leader, and Head for His servants? Those who are in the knowledge of this will fear no foe, for all the foes are defeated, as His resurrection is witness; they will dread no lack, for all the mighty fulness of God is at their disposal in Him.
His presence in the midst of those disciples made them one, one in heart, object, and purpose: for what place could divergent views and selfish aspirations find in the presence of their glorious risen Lord? As they looked upon Him, bearing in His body the wounds of the cross, wounds received in His devotion to them, a tide of love to Him must have surged through every heart, and each would instinctively drop into his divinely appointed place with regard to Himself and each other.
IN THE GREAT OUTER CIRCLE. Having assumed His rightful place amongst them, and opened their understanding that they might have a right knowledge as to Himself and the new circumstances in which they saw Him, He turned their eyes to the great outer circle of "all nations" and said unto them, "Thus it is written." Let that sentence impress us as it must have impressed them, and mark the place that THE SCRIPTURES hold in this chapter; first as to His own personal glory, it was "All that the prophets had spoken": then in the sacred circle of His beloved servants it was, "All things must be fulfilled, which were spoken in Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Me." And now in connection with the whole world it is "Thus it is written." There can be no right understanding of any relationship which we may have with the Lord apart from the Scriptures, nor can we rightly act in any sphere with Him apart from the guidance of the Scriptures.
And further, mark the place that THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST occupy in this chapter. First, as to His own personal glory, "Ought not Christ to have suffered?" Then, in the sacred circle of His servants, "He showed them His hands and His feet." Lastly, in this wide circle of all the world, "Thus it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise again the third day."
There is no sphere in which we may move with Him on this side of the glory in which we may forget His sufferings and death; and on the other side, when at home in the glory of God, He will still be the Lamb that was slain. The value of the Scriptures is that they keep Him constantly before us, for they unfold to us "the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow."
How wonderfully interwoven are these great things; the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures, the sufferings of Christ, His resurrection and glory, and the grace of God to all nations. Let no rude hand attempt to tear them asunder, or destroy any one of these divine verities, for if one could be spoiled the whole fabric would be marred.
But what place have the Scriptures and the sufferings of Christ with those who profess to be carrying out this blessed mission in these days? The question needs to be asked, for neither can be popular in the world that knows not God, and the popular taste, alas! is often consulted rather than the will of God.
The preaching of Christ crucified strikes at the root of all the pride of man: it means that he, in spite of all his boasted progress, must abase himself at the feet of the One who hung upon a gibbet, that only by this means can he be in right relations with God.
It means that in spite of all his culture, religion, learning, and power, he is a sinner under the power of death, the judgment of God, for "death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12). It means that Christ, the holy and the true, upon whom alone death had no claim, went down into it as the judgment of God, and that only thus could it be removed.
This preaching is to the Jew (the religionist) a stumbling-block, and to the Greek (the philosopher) foolishness: nevertheless it is the power of God and the wisdom of God. And how wonderful it is to us who believe, and how great our joy when we see Him, who went into death for us, raised again from the dead. He has sustained the judgment, has passed through the deep waters, "He divided the sea whose waves roared" and has made the depths a way for His ransomed to pass over — the Lord of Hosts is His name. How great indeed is His glory in God's salvation.
"Christ died for our sins . . . was buried and rose again from the dead." These are the great facts that have to be heralded in every habitation of man, and these facts are according to the Scriptures. And these facts are to be heralded, that men may know that in consequence of them a way has been opened by which they may return to God, and returning have all their sins remitted. And these priceless blessings have to be offered in His name: that is, His servants are to do it on His behalf, as His representatives, His ambassadors, backed by His authority, and, as He told them, endued with the power which He would send them from above. Then "He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and CARRIED UP INTO HEAVEN."
His work was finished, and the glory of God claimed Him, and their raptured eyes followed Him into that shekinah cloud. He is in that glory still: Stephen saw Him, Saul of Tarsus saw Him, and we by faith may also see Him "JESUS, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, CROWNED WITH GLORY AND HONOUR" (Heb. 2:9).
The Great High Priest
Here is a theme that might well occupy volumes printed in gold, but how little it is understood. Victory in the homeward way depends entirely upon the grace and mercy ministered from the throne on which He sits.
The great High Priest is Jesus, the Son of God. Does not the heart swell with holy exultation at the thought of His greatness? The service to which He devotes Himself in this character is that of bearing up His pilgrim saints in intercession before God, and He does this with truest compassion and deepest sympathy. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities — marvellous thought! It means that every pang in every heart that loves Him is felt by Him. We may not be able to understand it: we are not asked to do so — it is too great for our small minds, but He asks us to believe it, and if we don't we grieve that heart that loves above all things to be trusted. He would have us to believe that He is serving us every hour because He loves us: yes, loves us with the same love that led Him to Calvary for us. The birth pangs do not exhaust the mother's love for her babe: she would be willing to lay down her life for it at any time.
"Yet she may forgetful prove,
He will never cease to love."
How could He cease to love? He is JESUS. And what does that name mean to us? It tells us of the love that brought Him from the eternal throne to Bethlehem's manger: it tells us of a life of suffering-service that led through sorrow and shame and loss to the cross of Calvary: it tells us how His love declared itself there. The waves of death uplifted their awful crests and rolled upon Him to engulf Him: the billows of Satan's power roared about Him to destroy Him, and He went down beneath the deep waters of God's judgment against sin on our behalf. But though He stood for us where all the seas met upon Him, yet was His love not quenched. It burned with a fervent flame amidst the fierce waters, and shed its wondrous light in the darkness of that awful hour, and there it triumphed — and now the Lord is risen: He lives upon the throne of God for us; and
"We stand beyond the doom
Of all our sins through Jesu's empty tomb."
His love has not changed one whit: it is as deeply interested in our welfare to-day as it was when it bore our sins on the tree. Were it otherwise, Jesus would no longer bear that precious name for us, and we should have neither Saviour, Priest, nor home.
But Jesus is the Son of God, for so our text presents Him, and while "Jesus" carries us in thought down to the very depths of the humiliation into which His love carried Him, "THE SON OF GOD" presents His glory, His magnificent greatness, the unmeasured splendour of His Person and inheritance. But there are other thoughts than these in the bringing together of these names and titles that should talk eloquently to our hearts. "Jesus" tells us of His preciousness to us. "The Son of God" tells us of His preciousness to God. "JESUS" TELLS US THAT, SINCE HE LOVES US SO WELL, THERE IS NOTHING THAT WOULD BE GOOD FOR US THAT HE WILL NOT ASK FOR US WHEN HE INTERCEDES BEFORE GOD FOR US: AND "SON OF GOD" TELLS US THAT GOD WILL NOT DENY HIM ANY REQUEST THAT HE MAKES. So that the fact of Jesus the Son of God being our great High Priest means that we are put into contact with the eternal and infinite resources of God, and that eternal and infinite love sets these resources in motion for us, for God loves His Son and Jesus loves us, and Jesus is the Son of God.
He has passed through the heavens from the very lowest point of suffering and shame: He has gone to the highest point in glory, and no watchful sentry rang out the challenge, "Halt!" for every gate was thrown open wide for Him to pass triumphantly through, and He is our Forerunner as well as our Priest. He has passed into the glory which is our HOME before us, and for us, and the welcome that He received is the welcome that awaits us. There is not a difficulty or hostile power that He has not met in the way that we travel as we follow Him. He was tempted in all points as we are, apart from sin. And now He lives in the glory to succour us with gracious help from thence.
THE THRONE OF GRACE is available for us. We may come boldly to it, and when we do we shall discover that our best Friend sits upon it, and there we shall obtain mercy and find grace for seasonable help.
Here are some of our resources, and as we draw upon them we shall hold the full assurance of hope unto the end, and THE END IS HOME.
"Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord." (Ps. 150.)
So ends the last psalm, and therein is presented to us the result, as far as the earth is concerned, of the coming of the Lord into it. He is the blessed Man of the first psalm who walked not in the counsel of the ungodly, but delighted in the law of the Lord, and meditated in it both day and night. Every breath that He drew was a "hallelujah!" — a "Praise ye the Lord:" every pulse of His devoted heart was for God: in His every word and act the Father was glorified. Every moral excellence shone in unmeasured perfection in Him. Men said, "When shall He die and His name perish?" (Ps. 41:5): but His fruit shall appear in its season, His leaf shall never wither, and whatsoever He doeth shall prosper. Men thought that His light was quenched for ever when unresistingly He was led to the Cross, but He is coming again, He shall arise — the Sun of Righteousness: and then shall break that morning for which the saints of God have ever sighed, even a morning without clouds: as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain (2 Sam. 23:4).
He will stamp His blessed character upon His kingdom: it will reflect the glory which is effulgent in Him: every groan, and murmur, and cry of anguish will be hushed, the darkness will fly before the shining of His presence, and the whole earth shall be full of the glory of the Lord: and as His every breath was a hallelujah when He was here, so everything that hath breath will say "Hallelujah!" then.
The rise and fall of kingdoms: the accumulation of grave questions: the clashing of conflicting interests, which is growing fiercer as the years roll on, and which prove the instability of things in this world, and fill the hearts of men with misgiving, do not disturb the one who with the eye of faith sees "Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour: that He by the grace of God should taste death for everything" (Heb. 2:9, N.T.).
The Morning Star, bright harbinger of day, shines in the heavens and fills his heart with hope, so that he can cry, Hallelujah! now. THE LORD IS COMING.
". . . . We lift the head
In joyful expectation,
For He will bring salvation."
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:1, 2, 3).
"For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (Phil. 3:20, 21).
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thess. 4:16, 17, 18).
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly; Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen" (Rev. 22:20, 21).
"For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:14, 15).
"Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8).
"To Thee, Lord, my heart unfoldeth,
As the rose to the golden sun,
To Thee, Lord, mine arms are clinging,
The eternal joy begun.
For ever, through endless ages,
Thy cross and Thy sorrow shall be
The glory, the song, and the sweetness
That make heaven heaven to me." (H. Suso.)
"O keep my soul, Lord Jesus,
Abiding still with Thee,
And if I wander, teach me
Soon back to Thee to flee.
"That all Thy gracious favour
May to my soul be known;
And, versed in this Thy goodness,
My hopes Thyself shall crown." (J. N. Darby.)
In going over these papers, which have as their theme the Person of Christ, we feel that it is surely one most sorrowful indication of the low and backslidden condition of the majority of the children of God that devotion to Christ should be spoken of as something to marvel at and to praise. It is undoubtedly beautiful, and must yield sweet fragrance to the Father whose beloved Son Christ is, but that it should call for special comment on our part when it shows itself only proves that it is sadly exceptional, and clearly demonstrates the need of recovery.
We speak of the wonderful character of the devotion of Paul the Apostle when he laid all his glory in the dust as dross, and counted all that in which he might have boasted as a burden of which he was well rid, that he might have Christ for his gain, but was it really wonderful when in the same breath with which he tells of his own renunciation he also tells of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord? Notice how he speaks of Him, not as "the" Lord, nor "our" Lord, but as "MY LORD." Let the heart who knows the Saviour linger there for a while, and then answer, "Would it not have been wonderful if he had acted otherwise? Would it be wonderful if a woman abandoned a torn and filthy garment for a costly robe adorned with gold and gems? Then how can it have been wonderful on the Apostle's part to discard his own righteousness and be found IN HIM, having that righteousness which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith?"
We marvel at Paul rejoicing that Paul had gone from his thoughts, crucified with Christ, so that he no longer lived for Paul, for Christ had displaced him, in every sphere of life in which he moved, but why should we marvel when he tells us at once that the One who now enthralled him and controlled him wholly was "THE SON OF GOD WHO LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME"? (Gal. 2:20). Let us draw near and stand by this servant of Christ and put ourselves into his words, each for himself, and we marvel no more at his selfless life.
Why should we wonder that Paul laboured that whether living or dead he might be agreeable to his Lord (2 Cor. 5:9, N.T.). He would not have us to wonder at it at all, and hastens to tell us that "THE LOVE OF CHRIST CONSTRAINETH US." It would seem as though the marvel crept into his mind, that it could be a marvel to any that he should so labour when he adds, "We thus judge, that if One died for all then were all dead; and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but UNTO HIM WHO DIED FOR THEM, AND ROSE AGAIN."
In all these passages in which Paul speaks of his own devotion to Christ it is as though he stretched out his hands to the saints to whom he wrote, and to us also, and cried — Do not marvel that I wholly love my Lord: if you had seen Him as I have seen Him you would love Him wholly too! If He had come to you as He came to me, when I lay broken and dumb at His feet in my sinfulness, and folded me — worthless as I was, and chief of sinners in my hatred of Him — warmly to His heart, you could not forget Him. If you knew His mighty embrace as I do, and if your life bathed itself in that love that is "too vast to comprehend," you would cease to marvel at me: instead you would marvel that any heart on earth could hold back from Him, and any lip remain silent before Him. And you would weep in your astonishment, that any having tasted of His preciousness should have another thought of self or turn again from Him to the base and beggarly world!
Strange that we should think it a matter for praise that Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and heard His word! The wonder is that Martha could keep away from that sacred spot. We do not wonder that men delight to listen to exquisite music, or that the heart of the maiden thrills at the voice of her true lover, and that when he is near she has neither eyes nor ears for any but he. Then why should we wonder that the voice of Jesus was sweet to Mary? In His voice there is heaven's own music, and when He speaks it is from the heart of eternal love. If we look at Jesus as Mary saw Him, and know Him as she knew Him, we shall cease to wonder that she broke her alabaster box and poured its costly treasure on His feet. We shall take our place with her and do likewise, for He will fill our vision and possess our hearts. And the frowns of sisters and the condemnation of disciples who think themselves more practical and wiser than we, will not disturb us as we wonder and worship in the presence of unspeakable preciousness.
If the purpose of heart that made Paul what he was and the devotion of heart that made Mary so acceptable to the Lord are in any measure to mark us, we must transfer our thoughts from them to Him, and from self to Him. In this only is true recovery, and it is worth our while to do so.
"Lord Jesus, we remember the travail of Thy soul,
When through Thy love's deep pity the waves did o'er Thee roll.
Baptized in death's dark waters, for us Thy blood was shed,
For us, Thou, Lord of Glory, wast numbered with the dead."
As we remember this, O Lord, the lowest of low places is the one we take before Thee. Angels that have never sinned may stand in the presence of the great Jehovah, but we, whose sins brought Thee into death, can only lie prostrate with amazement at Thy feet. THY LOVE for us brought Thee into the place that OUR SINS had marked as ours, and there Thou didst drink the bitter cup of our judgment to its last drop. The darkness which should have been our lot for ever, enshrouded Thee, when Thou, who knewest no sin, wast made sin for us. Thou wert wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Thee and with Thy stripes we are healed.
Saviour, we bow at Thy sacred feet and break our alabaster boxes there and pour out our adoration before Thee. And it is here that our souls are recovered from their wanderings. Here we learn our nothingness and Thine exceeding worth. Here in Thy presence we grieve that our hearts should ever have a selfish thought; that any rival could dispute Thy right to fill our lives. Here we cast ourselves upon Thy pardoning mercy, and here would yield ourselves afresh to Thee.
"Let Thy love, Lord, like a fetter
Bind our wandering hearts to Thee."
And Thou art risen from the dead. The grave could not hold Thee. The glory of the Father raised Thee, and Thou hast lifted us from our degradation and sin, and hast joined us to Thyself in all Thine own acceptance before Thy Father and God. We no longer cower in terror in the presence of death, but we triumph in Thy triumphs, Thou Victor o'er the grave! Thou hast breathed into us a new life, the first and mightiest impulse of which is LOVE TO THEE.