I am anxious, beloved friends, to bring before you this evening the two subjects which go to make up this chapter, the cure of the withered hand and the call of Christ's chosen witnesses. They are very different subjects, but still they are both found in the chapter, and there is a kind of connection between the two. I name them in that way, because, with the Lord's help, it may enable us to grasp a little better, perhaps, the order of the truths that connect themselves with both these subjects.
And first as to this cure. In the gracious ministry of the Lord, and in His gracious works of kindness and mercy here in this world, it came in, in connection with the dispute in the end of the previous chapter about the sabbath. Now we need not enter into the question at this moment with regard to the sabbath; but this you will find closely connected with it, that Christ's rest — shall I say His sabbath? for sabbath is rest — Christ's rest in this world was in works of mercy; in the gratification of the love and goodness of His heart He found His rest in a world of sin. God grant that you and I may find our rest in that way. And that is true rest, that is to say, where there is divine love. You remember how He said, "My Father worketh hitherto and I work." I wish I could press that home upon my brethren here to-night: "I work." I am afraid, beloved brethren, that too often we are more disposed, and have a greater tendency and proclivity, and find it a greater attraction, to reason and speculate and argue and hair-split than to work. "I work." And you will find how that marked in a very peculiar way all the blessed grace and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ in this world. It was the activity of divine love in a world of evil and sin; and therefore this case, you see, was peculiarly suited to that disposition, while it was also suited to the purpose of the scribes and Pharisees, who were the legalists and Judaisers of that day, and who would be glad to stand for the sabbath and all that was connected with the sabbath in that way, but who had no feeling for misery and wretchedness in a right way in this world such as Christ had. And hence this case fell in exactly to the point; and not only was it apparently a seasonable case for them, but it was the very case for Him. And I think that is one of the instances in which you find how opposite principles come out so constantly in the characters and persons that are shown to us in scripture. He found in this poor helpless man with the withered hand the very case wherein to show the mercy and goodness and love of His heart. They found in the same case the very one that suited them — mark the words here — "that they might accuse him." They cavilled oftentimes, and when they wearied in cavilling then they gathered up fresh strength for accusation. That is what we find here; "they watched him." The word "watched" is a very peculiar word; it is a strong word, implying hatred, purposed malice, intent on malice, hostility of the deadliest nature against Him — "they watched him." Now it is a wonderful thing when you think of it; here were they, positively assured that the Lord was about to work this work of mercy, because their whole plot was founded on that knowledge; they knew He had the power to heal; they knew He was about to do that which showed that God had come down in lowly grace in His Person into this world, and they, in their malice and in the hatred of their hearts, desired for their wicked intent, the cure of that man, that the mercy of Jesus was about to bestow upon him. Now can you imagine anything like it? They wanted him to be healed, they wanted that work of mercy to be wrought. For what purpose? In order that they might have a handle, in the maliciousness and hatred of their hearts, to level an accusation against the Lord of life and glory. That is the scene that is brought before us in the opening verses of this chapter.
It is a very remarkable thing to see how you find certain touches in scripture in the description of cases that came before the Lord. This is an instance in point. Luke, for example, when he speaks of this case, says the man's "right hand" was withered; Mark simply speaks of "a man with a withered hand."
Now, beloved friends, it is a great thing just to catch these little differences that we constantly find in the accounts given us in the gospel history. Why does Mark simply relate the fact, while Luke goes into the details? I believe for this reason: that first of all, the right hand being withered made the object of misery, so to speak, more apparent. A man denuded of the power of his right hand would be far more helpless than a man who simply had not the use of his left hand; his right hand was that which spoke of power, and of the ability that belongs peculiarly and specially to the man. Therefore in the gospel which presents the Lord Jesus Christ to us in His human nature, and in all the tenderness and goodness and love of it, the objects that arrested His compassion and pity are always presented in the extreme; and the detail, which would not come into Mark at all, or serve the purpose of Mark, is in the Gospel of Luke. Further, I have no doubt that Luke, having been himself a physician, would be led by the Holy Ghost thus to describe the case. And therefore he adds, "Whose right hand was withered." But I put first and chief, and before all, the fact that the misery and wretchedness and helplessness and need are brought out stronger in the Gospel of Luke, where the kindness and goodness and compassion of the man Christ Jesus are set before us at every turn. Now it is a great thing for us to notice all these little points and features in the ministry and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ; because we thus get to know Him in His service by grace, and we get a little into His blessed company when we watch Him in the details of His beautiful shining path and ways of mercy in this world. Now we read that "they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day, that they might accuse him;" and He, knowing what was in their hearts, knowing the movements and motions of their minds and souls, He who was the searcher of all hearts, and knew exactly what passed within every breast, anticipates their malice and puts this question to them, whether it was right to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy on the sabbath day. You will observe the skill, in grace, of our Lord Jesus Christ in all this; and you will observe more, how nothing turned Him aside from His wonderful works of mercy and goodness here. The cavils of His enemies, the danger even (as we speak of it) that beset Himself, He was regardless of, nothing turned Him aside; if the hypocritical Pharisees and scribes of that day hated mercy and goodness in Him, if He was exposed to malice and hatred at the hands of men so that they sought to stone Him and lay hands upon Him, yet nothing turned Christ aside from ways of kindness and works of mercy in this poor dark scene. I do not know anything that speaks to our hearts in such intense distinctness as this. Alas! that we are so selfish; it seems to me to take so little to turn people aside from the path of service for Christ and for God; a little fatigue, a little pressure upon one's poor body, a little of what people call over-doing it, and see how very quickly the whole thing is given up. I feel greatly touched when I see in the gospel this peculiar feature of the service of that blessed One who was the pattern servant, the chiefest of servants here, how that nothing stayed Him. I see His unwearied path pressing on through everything; neither fatigue, nor cavil, nor malice, nor scorn, nor danger, ever hindered Him from His works of mercy; and so you find it everywhere.
Now just look for a moment at the method of the cure, the kind of way in which the cure is effected. First of all, He says to the man, "Stand forth." That is a very important word, "stand forth," because the great thing is to have the object of helplessness and need plainly apparent before every eye. I have no doubt that was the Saviour's object in bringing this man forward, so that every eye should rest upon the helplessness. That poor, helpless, impoverished man had lost the use of that which so peculiarly belongs to man, and is so characteristically his power, that the right hand becomes the emblem of and is constantly used in scripture for, power and ability, and favour too. The very place that He is occupying to-night "at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens," "being by the right hand of God exalted," speaks to us of the favour and power and might that has taken the Saviour from this world, and set Him there before His God: and this man with the right hand withered was to be seen by every one as an object who was in his own condition and circumstances perfectly powerless, so that every eye should form its own conceptions of the dire need that was there before Christ. "Stand forth." And he stands forth, and then He puts this question that I have already spoken of, this searching question that goes down to the very depths of conscience. Because there is conscience there; that conscience which man acquired as a fallen being; it was conscience under the searching word and power of Christ that compelled those men to be silent. What could they say? Their own consciences, in the presence of that word, were obliged to bear witness to the truth that He pressed. There is a silence of conscience that is far more expressive than the most loud-sounding voice, the silence of a conscience that is arrested by the word of God, arrested by the word of Christ, laid hold of by that power that searches men through and through. Oh! dear friends, there is something in this silence — shall I call it the sullen silence — of a conscience that cannot stand the piercing power of the Saviour's words. They hold their peace; and then in this silence, when conscience is obliged to give that tacit witness to the truth (and He was "the truth" there before them), He says to the man (and I call your special attention to this for a moment), "Stretch forth thine hand." Do you observe that there was no touch, no burden to be laid down there by the man, there was no claim upon him, so to speak, to alter anything; the Lord did not anoint this mans hand as He anointed the blind man's eyes in John 9 with the clay which His own spittle had moistened, and sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam: that scene has its own beauty and its own moral characteristics in its place in John; here we read of no work, no touch, no burden laid down, no clay applied, no remedy used. What is it? "He spake and it was done." There is nothing that so beautifully and wonderfully brings out the power of the great Servant like that word, "Stretch forth thine hand." The whole power is in that word, "Stretch forth thine hand." What I press upon my beloved brethren to-night is, it was a word of power; there was power in that "Stretch forth" that relaxed the muscles and freed that limb from its atrophy; that "Stretch forth" was exactly the very opposite to his condition; it was the very thing the man could not do of himself; his powerlessness to stretch forth his hand marked exactly the phase and condition he was in; and therefore, as I said before, the Lord's words were words of power, and those words — not works — of power, accomplished the whole thing. It would he simply impossible for that man not to stretch forth his hand; that is the point wherein the truth lies. And I look upon all the speculations that sometimes have been crowded around cases of this kind in scripture as mere idle, shallow perversions of the truth. Sometimes, you know, they say that the man stretched forth his hand and joined his faith with the word of Christ. I believe the simple word accomplished everything. I should like to know what there was that joined its faith with this word, "Let light be; and light was." It is the simple fiat of the great Creator, that is what it was; it is the simple word of the One who can speak and the thing is done. You know it is exactly the opposite with men; it matters not how great a man may be, or how small a man may be (though I suppose very few men are small in their own estimation), but you will always find that what characterises man as such is a great ado, a certain amount of noise and trumpet-blowing; attention must be called to his actings. I was struck the other day in reading the account of the cure of Naaman the Syrian, how clearly that comes out. The word of God, through the prophet Elisha, to him was, Go, wash seven times in Jordan, and your flesh shall come again as the flesh of a little child, and you shall be clean. And the great captain was exceedingly enraged. I thought, he says, that he would surely come out, and would have passed his hand over the place, and recovered the leper: I thought he would have done something in keeping with the dignity of the person that is come to him for cure: I thought he would have accomplished something in keeping with all that is supposed to go along with the wonder-working power of a great man, that there would be the externals to mark the thing. You never find that with Christ, beloved friends; that is what marks man in his littleness, his emptiness, his bloated vanity. But where there is divine power it is silent, noiseless, mighty; "Stretch forth thine hand." How blessed it is to think of it. I will show you where faith took that up if you like, and faith in a poor Gentile, too. You remember the case of the centurion: "Lord," he says, "I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof, neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee." May God grant us a little more of that kind of faith, lowly faith, self-emptied faith, the absence of that wretched, miserably small self esteem that so settles upon us oftentimes, and is in very truth contemptible in its littleness — "neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee, but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it." What does the Lord say? "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." There is where the faith came in; there was faith that recognised the mighty power of Jesus as God, and knew it was not necessary for Him to come down to the house, and felt he was not worthy to entertain the Saviour under his roof; but all that was needed was a word, "Say in a word, and my servant shall be healed." You have the principle of that here, too, hence the Lord says, "Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored whole as the other."
Now note the effect of this cure. The effect of it is increased malice, increased hatred of Christ, showing itself in these wretched enemies, these hypocritical scribes and Pharisees, in their attempt now to plot. Notice these things, beloved friends, they always go together; cavil, accusation, scheming, and plotting. Wherever you find them they are deeds of darkness, and the devil's hand is behind the scene. Look at the kind of plotting it is; and I beseech my brethren's earnest attention to it for a moment. They "took counsel with the Herodians." The Herodians were the ancestral enemies of the Jews; of all people that were opposed to each other were the Jews and the Herodians; but they would go down to their own enemies, the people that were positively against them, the people that they had the greatest hatred towards and the greatest possible dislike and fear of, they actually put their heads together and shake hands with them, so to speak. Just as Herod and Pontius Pilate did over the murder of Jesus Christ, so scribes and Pharisees are prepared to amalgamate and shake hands with the Herodians, that they might destroy Jesus. How one sees that awful principle in the world to-day! If there is anything to be done against the truth, and against Christ, and against the testimony of God and the word of God, the most opposite people will shake hands over it together, and merge their common differences, to blot out and obliterate the truth. And it is very interesting, though solemn, to remember this, that it was a Herod who sought to get information from the wise men when the infant King of the Jews was born into this world; and the very spirit that struck at His cradle in that day is revived here in this scene that we are looking at in this scripture. The same principle that sought to slay Him when He was born, is ready now to assert its malignity and hatred against Him in His deeds and acts of mercy. That is how the Herodians were called in. I believe they were far more a political sect of that day than a religious sect; I believe, indeed, that they were characteristically political; but at any rate, they are just at the hand of these scribes and Pharisees to plot together with them, in order to destroy Jesus.
Now, beloved, that is the effect of mercy upon a wicked man; there is nothing that brings out sin like grace; there is nothing that stirs up the hatred of the devil or the hatred of the votaries and slaves of Satan more than the mercy and goodness and character and nature of God exhibited in this world. Hence, though there was this cure, though this poor man was relieved, though that withered hand was restored, and the man had the use of it now, and from being powerless has now got that which specially belongs to man in his strength, still nothing will stay and nothing will stop the awful malice and hatred of men against Christ, and His truth and ways of mercy here.
And there is another little word which I think very instructive and very blessed for us. When this plot is sought to be entered into and this combination is on the eve of being made, it says, "The Pharisees went forth and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him how they might destroy him. But Jesus withdrew himself." I think there is something so blessed and so exceedingly touching to the heart to observe the ways of the blessed Lord, even when He was thwarted in His works of mercy in this world. It brings to one's mind the beautiful words of the prophet about Him, "He shall not strive nor cry, neither shall his voice be heard in the streets." He was Lord of all; true, He had become a servant, He had taken human form and become a man; yet He was Lord of all. If ever there was one who might have asserted His power to hold His position in acts and works of mercy, it was Jesus Christ: if ever there was one who we might think was called upon to defeat every opposition to Him that this gracious ministry might not be impeded in the midst of Israel, it was Jesus Christ. But you never find that, beloved friends; He always withdrew, He never strove. May God help us to learn a lesson from that; may God, in His infinite grace, give us to take in that word (it is a blessed word), "The bondsman of the Lord must not strive." That is a great word, my beloved brethren, servants of our Lord Jesus Christ here to-night; God help us to remember it: "The bondsman of the Lord must not strive, but be patient to all." It is very easy to be patient to a person who does not make much demand on you; it is very easy to be patient when everything is going smoothly; but, oh! not to strive even when you think things are crooked, and even where you think things might be better. How blessed to know that there is One who has it all His own way, and always has and will have the last word. How blessed just to be able to leave things. I mourn in my soul that some of us act as if God was not able to order things without us: I cannot help feeling it when I see the way things are done sometimes; it looks as if God wanted us to help Him to carry out His purposes. But where there is faith in the living God, that His eye and hand are over all — not merely where you have all correct at the back of your head; I do not count anything faith if you are not prepared to act upon it; it is credence, but faith acts; that is the difference between mere credence and faith — but where a person has faith in the word of God, he says, I am going to act that out, by God's help and grace. And how are you going to act it out? "I am seeking grace to be patient, I am going to leave things with God;" and He will settle them a great deal better than you can. You may think it is a platitude, but it looks sometimes as if we did not think so; I suppose no one would dare to say so, but do we practise it, that is the point? I leave that with you, note it well how in the ways of the Lord Jesus in His service, "He withdrew Himself."
Having explained the cure as far as I can see it, and drawn some lessons from it, I desire to ask you before I enter on the second subject, whether you have thought about the spiritual meaning of this man with the withered hand. Here was a case of healing and cure and mercy bestowed by the Lord upon the earth; but is there not a spiritual meaning, a deep spiritual lesson, lying couched in the fact that this man's hand was withered? Now I believe that it does point, in a very peculiar way, to service. And I not only say that with regard to the subject itself, but it is entirely in keeping with this gospel, the gospel of service. I think it is striking that it should be the hand; we have seen that there is every phase; we have had before us the leprosy and the fever, now we get the hand. And is it not true (oh! will you not bear with me if I speak a little more strongly and earnestly), that some of God's people are perfectly paralysed as to christian service? Is it not true that there are withered hands amongst us? Would to God that there were more withered tongues! but O to have the hand untied. It speaks to me so loudly and so distinctly with regard to positive acts of mercy and goodness for Christ, labour for Christ, zeal for Christ, energy for Christ. Why the fact is — there can be no question or doubt about it — there are numbers of people who do not even seem to have a passing thought that Christ has something for them to do! And that is just how I look at this withered hand: it speaks to me of the perfect paralysis, of the positive spiritual atrophy, that I see in too many with regard to service for our Lord Jesus Christ in this day. And I see no cure for it except the cure that is here; that is to say, we must be assured, have to do with Christ to get that order of things rectified. No one can possibly release from the paralysis of the hand in service, to the bounty and goodness of that hand in dispensing God's favour and mercy here in this world, but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. And we must be ready — and I put it to my beloved brethren here to-night as to whether we are ready — for Him to say, "Stand forth." Are you ready that it should be perfectly plain that you have been, so to speak, a poor spiritual idler, as far as the service of Christ in this world is concerned, selfishly thinking of your own interests, and talking about them, and not one thought of showing that mercy which you profess has flowed into yourselves? Are you ready for Him to say "Stand forth"? It must be perfectly patent and plain before all, first as to the disease, and then as to the blessed cure. You remember that word from His own lips, "Stretch forth thine hand;" and oh! my brothers, do not be unwilling for Him to say that to you: then only you will go and stretch forth your hand to the needy and to the miserable and lost and destitute; and you will stretch it out, filled with the grace and kindness of Christ, and remembering this word, "There is that scattereth and yet increaseth, and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, and it tendeth to poverty." Bear well in mind that is not money only. I remember long ago one used to think it applied only to money, and how one used to treat that passage, too, whenever there was need to beg. But it is a different thing entirely from that; it is the whole range of christian service first to Christ and then to all under Him, seeking to do the best you can; as He said of the woman, "She hath done what she could." What a wonderful thing! May God in His infinite grace give our hearts to desire He should say that to us, Well, it is not very much, but you have done what you could.
Now look for a moment more at the second subject, this call of the chosen witnesses. And the first thing in it I ask your attention to is the place where the call is heard. I do not think it is without reason that we are told He went up into a mountain; because, beloved friends, that points to the fact that ministry comes from above, and is not in any sense from men. That is the first great thing, ministry according to God comes from above. "He goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would." Not only that, but look at the sovereignty of it; it was "whom he would." I do not dwell upon it to-night, because time would not permit; but I believe there was what we might call a double election; "He called to him whom he would," and they responded to the call; how could they help it? All that He called answered, and out of those whom His sovereign grace had thus brought around Himself, He chose twelve, He elected twelve. Now that is exceedingly instructive for our hearts; it is an immense comfort that whilst on the one hand we positively refuse, and I trust we always will tenaciously and stoutly refuse to own any source of ministry except the ascended glorified Christ, yet on the other hand He calls as His servants whom He will. I believe it is a great thing to hold this fast, namely, that there is no other source of ministry in this world except what comes from the ascended, glorified Christ, Head over all things to the church His body. Now do not think for a moment that I am extreme in that statement; I hold that there are servants of Christ, called by Him, gifted by Him, and sent by Him, too, scattered up and down in all the sad disunion and ramifications of Christendom: I have learnt through grace, and I trust I shall always hold it fast, that the gifts are in the whole church, and not in part; that God is pleased in the sovereignty of His grace and goodness to work where and how and by whom He wills. Still, I also know how spoiled and deficient as to the prime thought of Christ is their service and ministry, by reason of their position. My business and your business, beloved friends, is to be sure that our feet are treading in the path that He has marked out for us; but it is a great thing to keep the balance of truth and not to be one-sided, and not to exaggerate on the one hand, or come short on the other. It is a great thing to maintain the largeness and width of divine truth in our souls whilst walking in the narrow path. I see then that He calls to Him whom He will; and I believe He does so now, that He has His servants scattered up and down through this world. Alas! how many of them are not in their true place according to scripture, but they are His servants for all that, and let us take care how we interfere with them. When we speak of ministry in that way, it is a great thing that we should plainly apprehend and understand the distinction between ministry in its intense individuality, and the assembly with its collective privileges and duties. The two things are quite distinct; there is no such thing according to scripture as a servant of Christ who is little better than a slave of what they call a church or an assembly or a meeting. All that is man's invention and to be refused. I quite admit that Christ's servants are amenable to the discipline and the order of the house of God; but for direction as to where they go, or when they go, or to whom they go, they are individually and only responsible to their Master and their Lord.
Now all that comes before us here in the fact that He went up into a mountain; it points, as I have said, to the divine source of ministry. And there is a beautiful little touch in connection with the call; it says, "He appointed twelve." "Ordained" is the word used here in the Authorised Version of the scriptures; in reality there is no such thought as "ordained," as men now say, at all in it; "appointed" is the force of the word. I have no objection whatever to the word "ordained," provided it is used in true sense. "He appointed twelve, that they might be with him;" that is what I want our hearts to take in; it is so blessed to know "that they might be with him." Oh! beloved brothers here to-night, those who through grace can put their hands upon their heart and say, I trust the Lord has called me to the ministry, and sent me to minister for Him, think of this; first, "with him" let us never forget that. In this lies the power of all service, and in this as well is the savour of all service; this is where the joy of service is; "with him." "He appointed twelve, that they might be with him, and that he might send them." Mark the order, for it is most important; first, "with him." What rest and peace! How could one ofttimes ever go forth to others if one were not first with Him? Ah! and most with Him, too. Beloved friends, you may depend upon it that when ministry, however earnest, however assiduous, however constant, however unflagging and untiring it may be — I say, when ministry to others outstrips and outsteps "with him," it has lost its savour, and its power, and its real effect and influence. May God help us to keep that clear. "He appointed twelve, that they might be with him." It speaks of communion, of intimacy, of intercourse, of divine and heavenly familiarity, of nearness; of all that is bound up in these precious words, "with him."
And then, observe, "That he might send them." Now that is a great thing; we must through grace be able in our ministry to prove that we are sent. "How shall they preach except they be sent?" I do not believe in any being self-sent. I do not believe in self-constituted servants; I think all that kind of thing is just as bad, if not worse than people-made ministers. I think one of the most miserable beings in this world is a man-made minister; but I think it a far more miserable thing for a man to hold no commission save from himself; I believe that is the worst of all — it is consecrated self-will. But we must have this, "He sent them." And when I speak of that, I am not speaking of it simply because of the words, but I delight to think that this is exactly the character He took Himself in this world; it is precisely what He continually said with regard to His service here. I did not come of Myself, He says, blessed Lord of life and glory though He was: "Neither came I of myself, but he sent me." "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, which is by interpretation, Sent." "The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world." How blessed that is! The Lord Jesus in His service and ministry exhibited that very character here below, and His servants must exhibit the same. Hence it says, He sent them forth to preach. He did give them power to work miracles, and power over demons, but their great service and great work was preaching: He sent them forth to preach. The word that is used for preaching here is a word that implies preaching as a herald. You can preach as an evangelist, you can preach as a herald, or you can speak in a kind of conversational way, and thus convey the mind of Christ; but here it is the herald; they were to be heralds of grace and the heralds of His glad tidings.
And then we get their names. I do not dwell upon that now, but what I am struck with in their names is this, that they were men of every conceivable kind of natural characteristic, and there were not two alike. They were simple men that were away from all the prejudices and passions of men; they were humble men, men that led a homely life, most of them Galilean fishermen. The more one thinks of whom He surrounded Himself with as servants of His own pleasure and choice, the character and kind of persons they were, the more one's heart is struck with the beauty of it all. There is nothing so blinding as prejudice; they were free from that. I was struck with what I was reading only this very day, namely, that in the seventeenth century Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood; there is not a man in his senses at the present moment who would deny it, but there was not a physician forty years of age that believed it at that time. Why? Under the blinding power of prejudice; and if that has such a wonderful effect in things terrestrial and secular, we know to our cost how perverting and darkening and deluding it is in things spiritual. You might as well try to get sense into a wall as try to get a truth of God into a mind that is darkened with prejudice. Now what I notice is that these men were simple men, and the first men to whom the message of mercy and greatness and goodness in this world was made known were "shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night." Dear men these were, apart from all the ways of the city that man made, and lovers of the country that God made. So here were these Galilean fishermen, simple, humble men in life. These are the chosen disciples and the chosen witnesses to accompany the Lord of life and glory in His service in this world. O that we may learn to admire His blessed words, and to adore Him for His blessed ways.
I must say in closing one little word more, and then I will return to it, if the Lord permit, next week. You find how little man understands — friends and enemies are all alike in misunderstanding — the ways of Christ. You find here that His friends actually thought Him beside Himself. Blind nature, that never comprehends Christ's ways! And then there was the malice and vile wickedness of these hypocritical scribes and Pharisees, that attributed these works of mercy to the devil. Now when all that comes out here, some one comes to the Lord and says, Your mother and your brethren desire to see you. He says, Who is my mother or my brethren? Now He breaks all natural associations, He breaks off from all natural links, He disowns all natural ties; and mark what He says. "Who is my mother or my brethren? Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother and my sister and mother." I do not know a word in scripture that is so comforting as that; He applies the dear titles and the dear names of relationship to the person who in this self-willed world does God's will; "Whosoever shall do the will of God." Ah, beloved friends, that obedience, how blessed it is to think of it! It is not a feeling that evaporates, it is not the self-esteem that will come to an end sooner or later; a broken heart can render obedience, a broken heart can be subject; and that is what I call real life. It is not that sort of life that in reality does not live. There is a thing that moves which is not life; it is like a balloon, it goes up by its emptiness, and it comes down when its inflation is over; but real life, what is its principle, what is its character? Obedience. "Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother and my sister and mother." May God grant that we may understand that, beloved friends, and may He by His grace so write His precious word to-night on all our hearts, that we may take it in a little more through His grace, and that it may come out in us practically to His praise and glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord.