The Offence of the Cross (2)

Matthew 11

It is not so much the words which the blessed Lord speaks in this well-known chapter, wonderful though they are, but it is the presentation of Himself personally in those words that must strike the mind of the attentive reader.

Thus, in sending a message of reassurance to His imprisoned witness and forerunner, John the Baptist, He not only draws attention to works done by Himself in giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, health to the sick, and life to the dead, but, most significantly He adds: “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me” (v. 6).

Now this testimony—that He should be a stumbling-stone, an offence—was wholly apart from those acts of grace and power which declared His Messiahship and His divine mission. In these there lay no offence, nor scandal. Rather they were a just cause of admiration. They attested His power, goodness, and pity, and called forth man’s appreciation; but, underlying all that goodness, there was the truth that, in order to deliver from the effects of sin He must, in grace, meet its awful consequences by death—the death of the cross.

It was here that the offence rested. That cross was prescient to Him; it was the baptism wherewith He was to be baptized, and, in view of which, He was “straitened.” John appears to have been taken by surprise by his imprisonment. Hence he sent to the Lord for reassurance, receiving from Him the fullest possible satisfaction; but the Lord was never surprised, for He “knew all things that should come upon him,” He was perfectly conscious that, while distributing countless benefactions on poor, needy man, there lay before Himself only the cross and its dire offence. That was to be the greatest benefaction of all—that giving of Himself, whatever the reproach attaching to it. And hence He said, “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.”

And then John, when he had received his Master’s message, would get the key to his own unexpected condition. He had to forerun a rejected King and to suffer for His sake.

Has the same key been placed in the hand of each of His followers? Have we all truly apprehended the fact that—
  Our Lord is now rejected
  And by the world disowned
as much, and as really, as He was near two thousand years ago in Judea? We are slow to perceive that the kingdom, in its authority, is not yet a thing of display or popularity, but one of refusal and suffering. It is “the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ”. “Not offended in Me!” That is the supreme test of discipleship. It is quite possible to admire the works and to applaud the mighty Workman, just as Jonathan admired the conqueror of Goliath; but to esteem His reproach and to follow in the steps of His rejection is another thing. Yet he who does so is “blessed.”

Further, He presents Himself (in v. 19) as the Son of Man who had come eating and drinking, and of whom they said, “Behold, a man gluttonous and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.” Nor was He ashamed to be so regarded.

It was true, thank God, to the letter. There He was in perfect liberty, as Son of the Father, using His creatures in a way which could not be understood by the legalist, and befriending even the publican and sinner. He was a Man amongst men—the Son of Man, as He said—and His friendship toward the sinner was one of His distinctive glories. True, He was holy, harmless, and undefiled in all His ways; but by that friendship He could pronounce pardon on the guilty, and do more than speak of paradise to a penitent malefactor. And yet for such grace He was commonly stigmatized! Blessed stigma Oh! how He gloried in an offence of this kind! His love for the poor, sinful souls of men—that sublimest of all charities—should have secured something else than His rejection. For this reason too He might have said, “Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me.”

And those cities which had witnessed so many of His mighty works closed their gates against Him. They were offended in Him: and not only missed the blessing but incurred a final and irretrievable curse. They rejected Him to their own confusion.

He shines in His intrinsic perfection. In that hour of outward defeat, as we would call it, and in a spirit of absolute submission, He thanks the Father, Lord of heaven and earth, who had hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and had revealed them to babes. Enough for Him that such should be the recipients of a revelation from His Father. That which was good in the Father’s sight was pleasing to Him.

Then did He lose aught? Nay; “all things,” said He, “are delivered unto Me of My Father.” These were secured indefectibly, even though He passed through death’s dark waters; He should hold them in resurrection “and,” He added, “no man knows the Son but the Father,” Man might appraise His works, but none save the Father could know the Son, who, in the deep mystery of that relationship, must ever be inscrutable to man.

Again: “Neither knows any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.” This revelation is the prerogative of the Son and His utmost delight, as we may learn from John 17. The Outcast of Capernaum is the Revealer of the Father! But to whom?

“Come unto me” are His gracious words, “all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Rest for the weary”: and such rest and for all such!

What fulness resides in that “Me!” He stands alone—matchless, and only needs to be proved. He closes His incomparable statement by saying, “Learn of Me, and ye shall find rest to your souls.” His gentle yoke of submission to the will of the Father is undoubtedly the pattern for the rest and tranquillity of our hearts here below. “Learn of Me”—why? “For I am meek and lowly in heart”—as all the chapter under consideration beautifully proves—and in so doing we shall find rest to our souls.

  I heard the voice of Jesus say:
  My yoke and burden share,
  Easy the burden I endure,
  And light the yoke I bear;
  I follow Jesus and I find
  His Father’s will the best;
  And now in yielding to that will
  My soul has perfect rest.