John 13:1-14, 14:1-6.
T. H. Reynolds.
Christian Friend vol. 17, 1890, p. 237.
We were having before us this morning, beloved brethren, the coming of the Lord, and I could not help feeling how necessary it is not only that our hearts should be stirred up to the fact that He is coming, but there is another thing that would weigh upon the heart of every servant of the Lord, certainly on the spirit of all those who have known a little bit of what it is to traverse this scene; that is, a sense of what it is to be ready. I am not speaking at all now of what it is to be saved; we are ready for the coming of the Lord in that sense, but there is a preparedness here. I know that in virtue of that cross of our Lord Jesus Christ the dying thief could go straight to paradise. There is one fitness, and, thank God, every believer now in His presence has it; there is only one way to go to heaven, and that is by Christ, as the dying thief upon the cross dropped there and then the thief, and went to heaven in nothing but Christ. That is just how we all go there. But there is another thing, and that is, that while we are made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, there should be conduct befitting. Looked at as in Christ, we have the wedding garment.
There is no one who knows what it is to have fled to Christ for salvation, and who knows Christ as his righteousness, but has the wedding garment. But let me ask you as to the real preparation of heart and spirit which was brought before you this morning, that as soon as Rebecca knew Isaac was coming, that they were about to meet, she took a veil and covered herself. It is the sense of that I want to put upon your heart. There is a demeanour in us, a propriety of walk and ways, that befits those that say, "Lord Jesus, come." It is easy to sing a hymn, and get a bit excited over it, and say, "What joy!" Beloved friends, do you think of what it will be to enter His presence? I could not really think of entering into the presence of the true Isaac without having the sense that there was a demeanour, a suitability to Him, a preparedness for it. I know we are made meet. All I ask is, Are our souls in the present sense as we speak of the coming of the Lord? Are our souls in the sense of the suitability for the heavenly Bridegroom? I know you have the wedding garment; but, remember, it does not say He made the marriage for the guests, the marriage was made for His Son, therefore I have the sense of whom I am to be presented to. Whom? Yes, the heavenly One, the heavenly Bridegroom. In the resurrection we shall be made fit by putting on the image of the heavenly One. It is the deepest joy of our hearts that we shall be like Him; not a single stain of sin there. As you tread that crystal floor you leave no stain. Christ is our fitness, and you will not leave a stain as you tread the crystal floor of heaven. But when the apostle speaks of being presented, he says, "Unblamable and unreprovable in His sight." He speaks of being blameless. There is a suitability for Him. There is a sense wrought in our souls that we want to greet Him, and when we greet Him, not only that I know I have the wedding garment, but in reality I have been dropping everything that is unsuitable to Him. I want to take it home to my own soul. If my conscience did not answer to it, it would not do for me to speak to you about it. How far is it on our hearts and consciences? I want to drop everything that is unsuitable to Him. It is not only that I am made meet, it is not only you have to go into heaven, but you have to come out of heaven. I do not think people think much about that. When I get into heaven I shall be there with the Lord; you see I shall have done with everything of flesh, sin, and the world, but you have to come out of heaven.
Dear friends, when the Lord comes out of heaven to come to this earth, you have to come with Him; and that will be the time when all that has taken place down here will come out. This prospect should exercise all our consciences. The Lord has to display us according to all we have been here. We cone back to this earth with the Lord. When He comes back we come back with Him, and we are displayed. I grant you it is in the heavenlies the display takes place; but it is to the earth Christ wants to say of each one, This is my righteous one, this is the one that gave up for me, that walked here blameless and harmless as a son of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. God's working in us for the working out of our salvation is to this end.
I have read these two scriptures because you get the Lord's service here in a double way; the one service is, that He goes to prepare a place for us. I do not doubt, as was said, the place is now prepared; but He was going away, and would come again, to receive them unto Himself. Their great thought was that the Lord Jesus would reign upon the earth, and that they would reign with Him. They said to Him, after His resurrection, "Wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" So little had they taken in John 14. The Lord was going away - giving up all that He was not going to take into the kingdom, therefore He instructs their heart about this new service of His love. "In my Father's house are many mansions." Heaven belonged to Him. He could say, "My Father's house." He could say, "I go to the Father." That was His own place; He could go there. These dear Jewish disciples knew there was to be the coming kingdom, the coming glory; they knew they were to have their part in that; but He said, "You will not wait for that. I am going away, and I shall come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am there ye may be also." You will not have to wait two thousand years. There He is the blessed Servant of the Father's glory; it is prepared now for the saints where He is.
These believers did not really understand it. How much do we understand what that place is? Have you the sense of what it is to be presented to Him there? to enter into the presence of the heavenly One, the Church to be the companion of the heavenly One? Oh, may the Lord lay it upon our hearts! It is our portion. We could not insist too much on that. I press again, it is the portion of the youngest believer here.
Nothing weighs, I think, more on my spirit, where I see it, than the way young people are coming in now. I don't see that they give up the world. I see they get the blessed knowledge of salvation, but I do not see they really drop the world. It seems to me that a beautiful gospel is preached - so clear, so plain - and I thank God for it. They know the work is finished, but they don't go through much exercise. It was different when I was young. I grant you it was all the wrong way about, because the exercise was legal, but it was good exercise. There was the old saying, A person had got into the way. They did not mean to heaven, but to salvation. But I know this, that what used to be pressed upon us was, that it was a narrow way; and I do want you, beloved young believers, to remember it is a narrow way. I don't see the dropping of the ways of the world, the fashions of the world, the games of the world. I don't see the acceptance of the narrow path. There is no room in it for the world. There is only room for you and Christ to walk together.
I have given a word for the conscience. I want to give a word for the heart. John 13 brings before us the other service of the blessed Lord, that we should have a part with Him.
Dear friends, believe that service goes on whether you know it or not - you may not even be conscious of it; it is done in such a beautiful way. If I were to go and say to a believer, "Now, you know such or such a thing is not suitable to a heavenly path," I might do it in a rough way. The Lord does it so tenderly. I don't say there is not pain. He won't let us carry a lot of earthly things along a heavenly path. There is all the tender forbearance and grace of His heart, in which He says to us, "Now, drop that, that won't do." Now, that is the service of His blessed grace, that is the meaning of washing our feet. There is a service when there is actual, positive defilement, as when a man touched a bone or a dead body. Then this service of the blessed Lord comes in, but it goes further than the type. It is the way the blessed Lord is dealing with us. The Father has put our feet into Christ's hand to wash them according to His counsels. He says, as it were, "I have put these sheep into your hands to bring them home." He is not only the Servant of our need but of the Father's glory. He brings me to the Father's house. He not only gives me the best robe, but He detaches me from what is unsuitable.
Now, beloved fellow-believers, young and old, you are sure to get this ministry, for He loves you, the Lord loves you, and therefore you are sure to get this service. He won't let you carry a lot of earthly things in the heavenly path. He wants you to travel with Him, to go that way His blessed feet have trodden. Some get this thought, and say, "If I were to have a fall, a great tumble, I should need the Lord to come in." Beloved friends, you want it every day of your lives, and you get it too. I don't say how you get it, but you do get it; every day you get it, and you are sure to have it, because the Lord loves you. Let me say, it becomes a very solemn thing, the intercession of the Lord - very solemn to think the Lord is always occupied about me there. I will give you an illustration that will make it plain. A relative of my own, who was converted, wanted to go on with the world. He chose the world. Somehow he was always in trouble, never in peace. One day he said, "How can I have any peace when I know So-and-so is praying for me?" He would have the world, but he could not enjoy it. Christ is praying for you. That is a solemn thing. It is not a poor relative who is praying for you; it is CHRIST. You will get all His blessed dealings. It is a serious and solemn thing - Christ is praying for me. It is a most blessed thing to think I am an object of His interest; it will sweeten the cup of sorrow. A person may say, These are the dealings of the Lord; or, as Job said, "His hand hath touched me." But Job did not know what the hand was, like you and I do. If I get sorrow or affliction, I am sensible of the touch of His hand. Don't give up the thought of His love one single moment. He wants you in glory, but He wants you there suitable to Himself. He must remove everything unsuitable. All the trouble He takes, if I may use a human expression, all the trouble He has taken with some of those in this room, shows that He is leading us along. Here we are tasting His love afresh, I trust, this evening. Has He ever forgotten us? No, thank God, He never will! Never forget, young or old, the young ones especially, the love of the Lord Jesus.
Verse 5. "After that He poureth water into a bason." The water means that He brings the Word to bear upon us in one way or another. He might have to bring to bear upon us the word of the cross. It may be a tender word of grace or sympathy. He brings the Word to bear upon us. What the bason may be I do not know; perhaps affliction. "Before I was afflicted I went astray: but I have I kept Thy word." Affliction, beloved friends, does not do you any good apart from the tender ministry of Christ in His word. Affliction is to bring your ear to the Word. Christ always wants to drop a word into your ear. He knows how to help the weary with a word. When you get up in the morning, have you not the sweet sense, Christ can drop a word into my ear that will help me all day? You say, "I am so poor, so feeble! How shall I get along today?" It comes, perhaps, in the form of manna; still it is a word He brings to bear. If we are not listening we lose it. If you do not bend your ear to hear He may bring a word to bear in another way. Many read the Word, and it does nothing but make them uncomfortable. The more uncomfortable it makes you feel, if really the will is wrong, the better. But the great thing in affliction is to bring the Word, that He may blessedly whisper it in my ear. When you kneel down, for instance, you say, "I want to have Thy will done in me." It is a good, acceptable, and perfect will. I may not understand the workings; I may have to pause, and say -
"His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
"Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will."
Now a word that may perhaps help you on the Psalms. In the end of the Psalms there is a burst of praise, and all the Psalms lead up to it; but the great end of all the exercises of the Psalms was to bring the people up to praise God, and it has taken the Lord now nearly four thousand years of discipline with Israel, before they will be able to utter those hallelujahs. The blessed Lord gives the keynote (Psalm 146), "Praise ye the Lord," and all bursts forth into praise. It has taken four thousand years to bring them to that. "Now you praise Jehovah." He says, You are the people I have found for myself; you shall show forth my praise. (Isaiah 43:21.) He could not give the keynote until He had been through it Himself. "I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth." (Psalm 34:1.) He knew what it was to go through pressure. How does it all come out? In Psalm cxlv. He praises: "I will bless Thy name for ever and ever." Then He leads the praises of His people. "Praise ye Jehovah" (Psalm 146), and everything bursts forth. There is another note in heaven above still, the Lord leading it. He who has washed our feet. He who has wrought it all with the afflictions, the sorrows, the chastenings of the way. Oh, what will it be when He lays down that service, and has us in heaven, and says, "Now PRAISE," and we all burst forth into praise! Oh, won't that be wonderful, as we surround the blessed Lord, as we not only know how He laid down His life that all I am might be put aside in the cross, that all He is, as divine righteousness, might be mine, but how He wrought in us to put away all that was unsuitable to Himself, so that we may have part with Him in the many mansions of the Father's house! I want your heart to be thoroughly in the sense of how the Lord loves you.
The thirteenth chapter is His service down here, the fourteenth is when His service down here is ended. Now comes another service of the blessed Lord, How are you going to get to heaven? Peter said, in Luke 20:33, "Lord, I am ready to go with Thee into prison, and to death;" he counted on his own competency. Now, do you think you are competent to tread the path up there? You say, "Perhaps my feet are treading the heavenly road." You say, "I hope I shall get on and get there." You know what Peter was. No, that will not do; the Lord puts Peter all aside. Peter, you will deny me. Now I will tell you what I will do. "I will come again, and fetch you;" that is how you will go to heaven. That will be the blessed service of the Lord on the morning of the resurrection. "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven," etc. etc. He comes to fetch us, and that is how we get to heaven. Just one word more for your conscience. Now, I have shown you how we get to heaven, now one word more about coming out of heaven. It is not any new thought to most of you. We find in the Book of Revelation, that just before we come out of heaven, we are presented. I do not think we are presented when we go in; the moment comes of presentation, and there the acclamations ring out in heaven - "The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready." And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints. Now she is presented to the Bridegroom, but the "fine linen" is "the righteousnesses of the saints," not the righteousness of God. You are to be presented to Christ in the righteousnesses of the saints. Some one may say, "I am afraid I have very little." That is a great step to find out how little I have got. It says of the earthly bride, "Her clothing is of wrought gold" but the moment it speaks of presentation. "She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework." "Wrought gold" is divine righteousness; but the moment it is presentation, it is the raiment of needlework, - as has been said, wrought stitch by stitch, red, therefore, it is the righteonsness of saints.
Do you say, "I am afraid I have very few stitches"? It does not take long to do it, that may be a comfort to some. Now I have referred to the service of the blessed Lord, all the patience He exercises with us, to make us drop the things that are unsuitable, before you put on the veil and wear the demeanour that is suitable to Him. I say it may take forty years, like it did with Israel, to get you to drop the earth. I don't think it takes one minute to flood your heart with Christ when you have dropped it. It is Christ in you, flooding the heart with all His perfections, that will make the demeanour all right. Now, suppose I get a person with an irritable temper; he has struggled with it, but instead of being meek and lowly, there it is always. How will the Lord deal with it? He is so patient with us in doing it. His service is, Now I must work with you in order to make you drop that; and when He has brought you to the judgment of it, and we drop it, Christ can turn round and say, "That is my meek one. It took me forty years to make him that, and now I am going to display him in. glory as my meek one." Blessed Lord, to work thus with us. Beloved young believer, do you court the scrutiny of Christ? Don't you get away from the ministry of His word; do you seek the ministry of His word? Very often those who cannot get it would like to have it, and those who have it at their very door, don't trouble much about it. And in private, read His word. You say, "Well, I read it, but I don't quite understand it." Never you mind, it's like putting coals into a grate. Never mind, store it up, the Spirit of God will give a light and power to that word you never saw before. The more you are in His company, and feel His hand dealing with you, bringing the Word to bear upon you even if it is to make you feel uncomfortable, the more you will get these heavenly springs in the desert - for every day; and when you know His company and the service of His love, and how He is coming for you, the more you will look forward to be presented to Him. T. H. R.