J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 6.)
But there was a further and critical testimony to be brought of Jesus in all His characters.
This chapter is of the most interesting character. We have already seen the circumstances under which it was given. The Evangelist therefore is careful to record that it was to those whom Jesus loved, to some of the Remnant who loved and received Him, to whom it was done, though in the presence of the Jews. But nothing is said to them. We have the fact, too, that there was a known and recognised Remnant, the circumstances of whose love were recognised and recorded in the midst of the rejection of the Jews: "It was that Mary." There was a little circle God's love, despised perhaps of man, but recorded with Him, where Jesus' heart might find present rest; poor rest, indeed, but rest for His love in some sort; where His affections, as the ministering Servant of God, chilled, if chilled they could be, by the selfish blasts of the world's unbelief, might expand and find comfort, if they could not rest. "Lord, behold he whom thou lovest." It was sufficient motive, they thought; and they thought well. They knew Jesus, for any claim; they could at once rest them there. It is a great thing to know that even in this sense Jesus loves. They had shown their love to Him, poor as it was, and they reckoned upon His, for they knew it.
172 But there was much more to be developed. It was not only as the sympathising Son of Man with even miraculous power that was to be manifested. There was the whole development of the victory over evil. God was to be glorified, the Son of God was to be glorified in it. There was the whole development of the sufferance of it in reaching its height; that the power of the victory of it even to resurrection [might be] shown; whereby also He should be declared the Son of God with power. The necessity of subjection to evil, the passage through it in the light, not stumbling, where the will of God led till the time for it was come; the viewing it as taking place in the faith of deliverance, so as that death should be "he sleepeth"; the perfect sympathy of our Lord with the suffering under it of man; the identification of the resurrection power with His Person, in contrast with the mere miraculous prevention of evil; the certainty of deliverance; God's triumph over evil, which the resurrection was, as contrasted with the imbecility of man's sympathy; the unity of the Father with the Son in this matter (compare John 5, and compare verses 23, 25 and 41); the effect of it when seen: it is a full canvassing of evil and Christ as in Person with it; what man can do; what he may miraculously be thought to do; and what God in Christ, what the Son, is manifested to do, has been manifested to do.
- 4. Here we have the great general principle, and true indeed in every delivered soul. There was Jesus' love trusted, and Jesus did love them all: "This sickness is not unto death." Not that it was not deadly in its character, not that it did not in fact produce and end in death. He knew it did. But this was not the ultimate result. The permission of evil was for the glory of God; that is, in triumph over it in behalf of the creature, and that in the Person of the Son, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. The resurrection power of the Son is the great central evidence of this. It was the overcoming of evil in its ultimate natural results, the full power of it as in the hands of Satan; death. It was therefore mercy to allow evil, though painful mercy, to have its full results; because it gave unqualified ground for our assurance of God's love through all, and also where evil seemed to have its way; but, above all, in full, unqualified deliverance from, triumph over, all. This was the point exhibited in the world indeed, but in the person of the saints, the really identified ones with Jesus. We must also remark that this is the power of the resurrection, and therefore has not its full accomplishment till Jesus returns, acting in His resurrection power, raising the saints, and taking them to be with Himself.
173 Till then evil is allowed to prevail, as it was allowed to prevail over Him. And though the Lord and His disciples were doubtless intrinsically happier, yet as regards the world and the power of Satan, it was allowed to prevail over them as regards His death. So the case of His saints. Evil is allowed to prevail, but it is not unto death, but reconciles the mind of the saint to the failure of all present things, that God may be all in all to him, that it might be full affiance in God. Thus Adam; thus the Jewish system; thus Christ Himself, fulfilling all righteousness; thus the Church of God; thus everywhere that which partakes of the creature. Resurrection is its hope, a hope verified in Christ actually, where sin is, through Jesus, and in the power of it in result, where only subject, but not willingly. The deliverance here referred to, which we are taught to look to in a rejected Christ (for Christ was now rejected) is resurrection, and therefore in fulness not till His return; for then we see and know the Christ that was rejected. And this is the image here presented; Christ absent because rejected; suffering the evil, therefore, to take its course, as though He did not mind it or could not help it; that is, to the unbelief of those mixed up with it. As He says elsewhere, "As if a man slept, and it sprung and grew up, he knew not how"; and upon His return setting it all aside, and gladdening the hearts of His saints by yet more blessed demonstration of His interest and power, aye, and sympathy ever with us under the evil.
There is more than this brought out before us in this passage; but this is so brought out; for His return was to His saints, quickening the dead, and satisfying those who were waiting for Him, expecting Him. And the Lord now bears a double character; and also His acts, having been morally rejected, His acts are the acts in this moral sense of the rejected One and so, if in power, indicative of the character in which He will return; although, as not being actually rejected, they had a direct agency on those who were concerned in it, and put them under the responsibility of the rejection of Him in the (power of that) character in which He will be actually revealed in all its actuality in that day.
174 This much opens out all that follows, and also the old prophets, as Zechariah. This opens out the force of verse 54, and shows how the resurrection of the saints, I think, precedes the manifestation of Jesus to the Jews; while the first resurrection is shown to be the glory of God; and also, etc.; and that it is subsequent to this that the development of the full actual hostility of the unbelieving portion of the Jews, not the nation, will show itself, etc.; and the order of the whole glory of His Sonship.
But we also learn (which the passage shows) that while unbelief would think that it could only be "if," etc., that the Lord's love watched every circumstance for the greater demonstration of His love. This therefore is set first when the object or thesis of the story is given, the facts on which it rose, and the purpose for which it was: the intervention of death on those that Jesus loved, that the intervention of His deliverance might the rather illustrate His love in their entire exemption, and identification with His glory, glorified in, etc. But "Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus" (none were not objects); they were His hosts in His pilgrimage, as the saints indeed are now (how poorly!); and they are not here yet set first. But it might seem they loved Him, not He loved them; had done, or however afterwards showed it. We speak merely of their character, "what she could." There was deep necessity for His showing this, for they were subject to death. All exemption was resurrection exemption, though being in the power of Him who had borne it, and risen. The full result might be shown in the change, instead of death, of some; an additional illustration of the great redemption.
"Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." When Jesus heard that he was sick, He abode two days in the same place. It is hard for the Church to think often (for it is unbelieving, very) that it is good for Jesus to stay so long away. And the Spirit and the Bride, too, say, Come. So, for the principle, errors through daily life: it is hard to think it good that deprecated evil should not be prevented by the Lord, that the Lord should not come on the first requisition of love. But, though even unbelief or sin may have brought the evil, we have this wrongful confidence in Jesus' love that He must be at our beck to remove it. Surely He has indeed made Himself our Servant from first to last, but in His wisdom (for that is love), not ours. But we have evidence that the Lord has withheld His hand in deliverance. He has not His eye. It is not from carelessness. When the just time has elapsed He is as ready to go at all cost, though it might seem to man of no profit; and His volunteering to come at cost in the time of wisdom is the evidence it was no want of love deterred or delayed Him. He proposes to go when none else would; but shows that in calmness of spirit and perfect knowledge He had waited the just time.
175 After stating the principle, He says, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth"; as if He had been by his bedside watching; but in what sovereign calmness: "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth"! In the midst of all their anxieties there was One, who they thought was neglecting them, whose eye was watching there, marked his closing eyelids, that He might the more abundantly show forth (and to us also) the full power of His love and His fellowship in the glory [of] its exertion in his behalf. In a word, the three great points in the chapter (public points, so to speak) are the apparent abstinence of Christ from appearing to deliver: "He abode in the same place"; His perfect sympathy with us: "Jesus wept"; the exercise of full power in deliverance from its full results. The gracious tenderness of Christ's considerate yet, I may call it, anxious manner, anxious for their belief, runs through and characterises this whole passage. He was at home with His disciples, yet with a feeling which enabled Him to be thus at ease with them, which His fulness enabled Him to have: "Our friend Lazarus."
We must remember the order to be thus: chapter 8, the word rejected; chapter 9, the works rejected; chapter 10, the distinction of the sheep. Here the portion of the sheep, the peculiar, Christ-comforting portion; their resurrection; and herein the real glory of the rejected Sonship; and then (for herein the sure mercies of David were sealed) the Jewish royalty and the Gentile headship.
176 All this the Jews had marred. It was revealed, that is, done publicly and openly after their rejection of Him. "The day" was the time of Jesus' presence in this world, the Light of the world. He, as walking in this light, present obedience to His Father's will, and they, as following Him, had nothing to fear. And so, in general, wherever we are simply doing the will of God in His time we have nothing whatever to fear, because the God is whom we serve, and He is the God and Orderer of all things. When the time of service is ended our departure is equally clear.
There is this distinction: he that walks in the day has the light of the world; but the walker in the night has no light in himself, and it is night, and all is totally dark. It is not said ever we have light in ourselves. We have no light in ourselves; but he that has the light walks in the light (so the believer), in the Light of this World, Christ, the living Obeyer of God's will as Image of His Person. Such was the state of the Jews after rejecting Him. They went on in darkness, though thinking and seeking to walk. They had no light in them. Not so the disciples; they had the light with them
Furthermore, the Lord designates distinctively that, as to the children, the elect disciples, death had passed away: "Our friend sleepeth." His coming thither again will be to awaken them. How sweetly and perfectly gracious is the whole truth, coming from the Bearer's lips, of all the evil which gave occasion to the interference! Never man wept as He wept, or spake as He spake. Yet His people weep with Him, if they cannot speak like Him. Yet withal, with His Spirit, may it be much so, to His glory, from Him and to Him
The Lord gathers instruction to all from His own sorrows, His own trials; content if they be taught and fed. He wept over Jerusalem, and He wept over a world in death, for He saw the Jews weeping; and if His power delivered the saints only, His tears were shed over others. And should not ours [be]? They understood not the Lord's speech, but their ignorance (so ever) is the occasion of our knowledge; for our Lord plainly herein shows that He meant his death in saying he "sleepeth." And so is the common expression the expression of truth: he "fell on sleep," "them that sleep in Jesus," and the like; for it is but that which closes the memory on the sorrows of the world that is passed, to wake up in invigorated strength for a day that shall never wear it out; for pain shall not weary a new-born soul nor a resurrection body.
177 "And I rejoice for your sakes that I was not there, that ye may believe." We see here how a saint can rejoice in evil, in one sense, though not in iniquity; and retrospectively we can even glorify God where we have failed. But thus when these things begin to come to pass, a tide of flowing disorder and evil, "Lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh." Thus we see why evil is permitted; for the greater manifestation of the glory of God, for the everlasting strength and comfort of His saints. It shows how the Lord can view it, His consideration of His saints in everything, and thus how the coming in of the devil's power is made the instrument of their greater edification and everlasting comfort. And it is great comfort to us that the Lord can say as to every evil, evil in which we may be conscious of failure (for every evil is from the Lord's absence in power and the devil's presence, though under the control of God and of Christ): "I am glad that I was not there." For, though it may arise from unbelief, the Lord will bring greater glory out of it, which is our strength and sure comfort; and we retrospectively can see the glory and patience and wisdom of our Lord; for it indeed always ends with, "Let us go to him." To unbelief there was, as it were, no time to go. But the Lord views it all in the power of the resurrection life in which He was going to fulfil the counsel of God. The whole sentence is one of great practical comfort of faith to the believer. The prospective power of the chapter hangs on this, the sufferance of evil; ending, "Let us go to him," in the power of resurrection life. That the Jewish body shall be quickened, so I admit; but it is not on that I rest here.
It is remarkable that Thomas should [be] here brought out in love to our Lord. "With him" I count our Lord. It is remarkable that, at the time of our Lord's going to show resurrection power, the thought should have been that He was going to die, and the only portion of the saints was to show affection in dying with Him. Resurrection power and life is the great object and portion of faith (they were to be witnesses of His resurrection, for that is the defeat of the devil's power), and this is the paint of unbelief. So Mary in the garden, at the sepulchre; so Thomas afterwards; but both show how affection to the Lord may be with utter failure of purpose where there is not this faith. It is illustrative of the position of the disciples when they had not this faith, and their total ignorance of His mind, even in the expression of their love to Him. They loved Him; not, indeed, as the Son of God. Hence Paul: "Yea, though we had known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more." Let us go, and die with Christ, is the best that affection short of resurrection power, or the faith of resurrection power, can do. And this is the main point in the connection of the subject of the chapter. They could say he would not have died, they could (through grace) be willing to die with Him; but resurrection liberty was known to none at all. We see supposition of power to hinder, assurance that it would not have happened, willing to die themselves with Him, according to what their minds were interested in; but it is all in every contrast, as the sorrow or weakness or ignorance of unbelief, with the delivering power of resurrection.
178 Thus far then the preliminary position and circumstances. Then the existing ones. Jesus came, and found him dead four days. It was nigh to Jerusalem. It was to be done as a last sort of evidence before the Jews, though not amongst them. Those who had at all ears to hear might yet be separated from the untoward generation. But the same great principle is developed. They came to give the world's comfort. We have also in Martha and Mary very different natural characters, and very different apparent aspects of faith towards Jesus; one ready and conclusive, one affectionate and dependent; but nothing stepping out of the limits of death. The Lord, as analogously to the Laodicean church (while the Philadelphian state was recognised), stood at the door, and knocked, that if any had ears to hear, they might hear. How blessedly, too, the Lord used the poor unbelieving sorrows of Martha and Mary, etc., and the death of Lazarus, to the greater manifestation of the witness of His power than had ever been before! What we can do after we have been apparently driven out by those amongst or to whom the testimony was to be offered is often more than when we have apparent passage in and out amongst them. It may be painful, but we are more separated as to our own strength when it is done amongst the disciples; and it can be done more openly, for it belongs to disciples: and the rest will hear. When He raised Jairus' daughter, the Lord had to put them all out, save the three.
179 We have, further, what our Lord was, as intrinsically in Himself, and yet how He did all things in dependence on His Father, which was His perfection as a Man. Martha's faith went further than simply so far seeing the prevention of evil by Jesus' presence. She believed or knew that, what Jesus asked, God would give Him. "He shall ask for thee, for he is a prophet." Hence the force in that day, "Ye shall ask me nothing"; and, "I say not that I will pray the Father for you." Being sons, we have the privilege of asking the Father directly. We ask in His name. Her apprehensions were confused, not practical; for she owned the fact of His Sonship, nothing of the office of Sonship. The Lord answers her case at once, her anxieties, in the power of what He was; the best way of meeting unbelief; and, while it draws out the point where there is want of intelligence in our faith, gives occasion to the meeting of it by that which is in Jesus. "I know that he shall rise in the resurrection in the last day." She recognised God as ordering this as a common point of faith for all; but there was no identification with Jesus in her mind. She knew that God would hear Jesus. She knew there was a resurrection in the last day. Such is the common faith. But Jesus' quickening power to His saints is another thing. "I am," said Jesus to her, "the resurrection and the life." The assertion is all-sufficient, and comprehends every point of positive faith; and as meeting the aspects of unbelief. There was a resurrection, and God would hear Jesus. Now, "I am the resurrection, and the life." Nor was it a mere general thing at the last day, but the intrinsic power of life in Jesus. "I am the resurrection, and the life." It was, in a word, what He was.
We shall see how faith comes in; for the statement is very perfect; it states the fact in Him, or what He was, not merely its operation in faith, which could have none save He was that (for faith, observe, made no distinction in a general resurrection). Moreover, there is a distinction between resurrection and life; for this is a very full revelation; still it is as the object of faith: "He that believeth on me, though he have died, shall live." Then He is the Resurrection: "And every one living and believing on me shall never die." Now, the Lord in presence is the power of resurrection. Though He has the power of resurrection (and so indeed quickens our souls), yet He does not exercise it, nor could till the earthlies be to be set right, He taking His power; and the heavenlies too. But He had it; as then, so always; for it is intrinsic. He is; but it is when He can say, "I am," that He will exercise it. Now He is as to presence as though He were not, and things are so too. All must come together. The present Jesus was so, the rejected Jesus is so, as to the inward life of the souls of the elect, of the children of God; but their life is hid with Him; and He is so in all its results in the day when He shall appear to them that believe in Him.
180 Martha did not intelligently understand or believe this. She believed what the Lord said to her as His word, and stated all she could of sound faith; but feeling she could not hold communion with the Lord in this, as soon as she had made what she could of acknowledgment of faith (yet she was not rejected) she departed. Ah! how does the world shut up the channels of access, the links of union, between the Lord's heart and ours! How does it now, a cold, loose, general belief in a resurrection in the last day, bar the communion with Jesus who is the Resurrection and the Life, and who opens out all these glorious and blessed truths in the identity of believers with Himself! He is the Resurrection and the Life: "He that believeth." Martha was cumbered about much serving. She went to call Mary to relieve her mind apparently, though not unmixedly, from the Lord's presence, in that in which she could not hold communion with Him.
Oh, how does the world cheat us! Who would have thought that the zealous service of Martha should have hindered her from the joyous portion with the revealing Jesus? Yet so it was. And so it is ever. So much as we have of the world, so much is the glory of Jesus shut out from us. Great things may go first; everything must follow, or the heart sticks yet in the world. It may not seem so deep; it is often stickier; but, thank God! the Lord's love is better than all. Yet Martha was a Christian (that is, a believer); she loved, and Jesus loved her. Her name we have seen (lest she should be despised) is marked first. She felt a righteous, common interest with her sister, and she evidently did so, and there was good feeling mixed up with her bad state. It was marred, spoiled, by her cumberedness; beautiful spots, but no whole; no illustration of Jesus; for many a spot was barren; none was really deep.
Often we turn to speak of Jesus to another because we have not communion with Him ourselves, to talk about Him because we are not able, we are oppressed, with talking with Him; we go to call some sister of the Master, but not to stay with the Master. Deep communion requires much communion; and though labour is good, the point to be presented to the Lord is the fruit. We look for someone else to hold communion with Jesus. We are conscious we cannot ourselves.
181 Yet Martha was loved, it was true; but how cold "The Master is here"! It is plain that in the outgoings of her heart (and we know from what abundance it springs) she had not practically reached beyond this: The Teacher, the Master, is here. Oh, world, world, world! how dost thou cheat us, and deceive us out of Jesus, in whom is all fulness, all fulness dwells; the Resurrection and the Life, all fulness; out of fulness we should receive! Doubtless He looked for Mary. But why? Why had He not sympathy with Martha? Yet He loved her. But the Lord was shut up here: "Dost thou believe this?" His heart was going out in revealing this. "I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, who should come into the world." A sound confession! She went off, and called her sister. But there was not power, either, in this confession. It was saving, I doubt not. The intercourse of our Lord with Martha, and all the circumstances, as well as the words, implants the belief.
But oh! what power was there (yet not all) in that word "the living God"! I believe that indeed is a truth of faith, the present characteristic of His Sonship; the very power of it then was life, quickening power in Christ the Son when in the flesh upon earth, in the power of this life in God. Martha's faith, her sentiment, was defective. She knew the Person (we the Person properly, for the living God was left out, and therefore also set first, now death and sin had entered); she knew not the power, or felt it not in faith. Now, indeed, resurrection was involved in quickening power in life, as intrinsic life, and this was what was revealed in Christ: "Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness," which note, for it shows holiness is in resurrection standard - in Him, however, declaratively - not living, but it was not necessary to it, but incidental; necessary only by an incident, but this incident consequent upon creature state unsustained, that is, sin, the actings of the creature unsustained. (Hence Christ had no sin, and could have none, for the actings of the creature were sustained, yet as a creature, but a creature in union with God the Son; and this is the solution of the mystery thus far, as argued among many.)
182 But note further, humblingly, that hasty reference to the Lord's heard-of return merely for the supply of or to meet one's own natural feelings (so Martha) is not the way of grace. It may after have to say, "The Master is come, and calleth for thee." There may be, in one so acting, capacity, desire, of communion in those things in the power of which so coming the Lord is revealed, with which He occupies Himself in the communion and blessing of His saints. It is not but that, when heard of as calling, she arises hastily, and goes out to meet Him; but, I say, acting on the mere satisfying of natural feelings herein is not the abiding power of communion, the bringing in of which is the power of Jesus' coming. This secretly shows, too, much the state and frame of mind in which Martha made the communication in which she was. The actings of Mary were, however, immediate on the call.
Martha, loved as she was, yet acted on the impulse of her nature, with no holy fulness of deference to Jesus, yet not without gracious acknowledgment of Him, yet also with no full perception of what He was, and occupied with her natural anxieties, which clouded this, and destroyed her deference: "I know that even now whatsoever thou askest of God, God will give it thee." This itself may be a love of the object given, not of Jesus the Giver; makes Him the Servant, not the Master, of our blessing. If He makes Himself so, in the riches of His grace, blessed as it shall be, blessed be His name! But it was, too, but as an accepted Man with God, the Teacher: "God will give it thee"; no consciousness of what Jesus was in Himself. Though He might even glorify the Father, who glorified Him, though He might glory in the title, the special witness of His love, of Son of Man, yet should His disciples see through and understand His love indeed to them in this; but His glory in Deity withal. To Him be the praise and glory.
But I cannot help thinking that there is much allusion here to the state of the Jewish and Gentile Church. I speak merely in the spirit and character of them. The great truth of resurrection is that brought out, which is the order of blessing to everything where sin has entered. But, in whatever measure of faith and ignorance, all met Him away from the place where the Lord showed His present power. The Jews followed Mary, supposing she was going to the grave to weep, and Mary the suggestion of Martha that the Lord was come, and called for her. Mary could but say, "If here, my brother had not died"; but there was less loquacity, and more deference, and real apprehension. Jesus spoke to Martha, and reasoned with her: He wept with Mary. The full power of death over all alike was brought before His soul, and He wept with them too, and mourned with their sorrow; only with full sense of its cause, power, and as none else could, for they were under it, the power of evil (in death).
183 It does not appear that Martha was there. She did not meet Him at this scene out of the village. There was doubtless perfect love in Jesus, but there was more, the power of help in sympathy. He saw what it all was, as knowing the Father. "He groaned in spirit, and was troubled." But He said, "Where have ye laid him?" The power of human sympathy does but tie down to the grief which it would assuage. It lays in the grave, and puts a stone on the mouth. The Lord indeed grieves, troubles Himself, but seeks the case of ruin for remedy.
The whole of this exceedingly interesting chapter is very imperfectly gone through; for there is the whole depicting of the infirmity of unbelief and man's necessity, and the sympathy and energy of Jesus for the glory of God, and that detailed with the utmost beauty, so as in effect to declare the Father. The present quickening power of Jesus, Sonship, is the great point (with the perfect sympathy with our weakness); and yet the necessity of Christ's presence felt by man is unbelief. Compare the centurion's faith; Luke 7:7. This, as applied to the whole scope (followed on that word, subsequently: "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again"), is of most important consequence and extensive bearing, as to which the "Lord, if thou hadst been here," is of great import. I speak as to the scene before Christ's death, as well as after.
I do not at all, in this passage of Jesus' life, exclude the sympathy of actual affection. The compassion of Jesus was drawn out, and His affection. He could exercise it, for He was above it, save in sympathy bearing its burthen: "Where have ye laid him?" That is all ye can do. The man that I love I can do more for. How did their hearts bound yet at the thought of Jesus's sympathy! He was at least concerned in their trouble. It set them at ease with Him: "Lord, come and see." John, too, was there, and entered thus far into his Master's mind; as now taught, much more. "It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it." But also observe the tendency (which indeed Jesus meets) to bring down the use of God to the service of our sorrow, instead of the power of God to the remedy of our sorrow to His glory. This is our unbelief. It is, Come and see Lazarus dead; not, Thou, O Lord, art the Resurrection and the Life. But it is thus withal that God is rightly glorified in our weakness.
184 You may also notice how, from the statement of the great truth of power of deliverance, we are passed through the sorrow and power, as it were, of the thing to be delivered from, and then into the result of the delivering power, taking the subject of the sorrow up out of it. This was just the mission of Christ, "who, being rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich"; and the soul is ever (sin being entered in) so passed through this. If He had been simply received, the result of blessing would have been simple and immediate on the manifestation of the power. But the necessity which caused its manifestation implied its entering into the sorrow; that is, in result; for faith would not have led it there; but so would not the sympathy of Jesus have been known. Our comfort is that He who voluntarily led us in, and entered in Himself, can, passing through it, exhibit in His and the Father's glory deliverance, a deliverance enhanced by the expression of His love. But it is quite the way, though it ought not to be, of the daily experience of our souls. It results from unbelief, but Jesus in His quickening power can enter down into our sorrows to make us rich by His poverty. Compare, "The hour is come that the Son of Man," though there willingly, and what then follows here. It was in sympathy merely with others, but the same thing: "I am the resurrection." But they led Him to the tomb. He went there; yea, He wept there. But, brethren beloved of the Lord, He neither remained there, nor left Lazarus there. He remained, and that in immediate power, till He called Lazarus forth from it.
Note also how His entering into the grief enabled Him to call out of it, and produced that groan of sympathy which drew out the exercise of the Father's power. For it is the sympathy of man with Jesus which calls in the exercise of the Father's power and is the exercise of the Son's. The Son of God is glorified thereby; that is, in this raising power, I say, disclose the Father, for it does so abstractedly. It is the glory of God, but being wrought by the Son it brings out this, is the great mystery (of God's purpose), the necessity of man, or his ruin; brings out the union of the Father and the Son, and discloses them in the exercise of this relationship of blessing to us; and then by one Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, we are given fellowship with them, known in Jesus glorified (which note). Compare also the case of Stephen.
185 The sympathy of Jesus shows His love to a stranger, and Jesus yields it to them. We yield to it, or refuse it because it brings us under the power of others. But all was confusion while it was thus. All felt the ruin. Jesus felt with the ruin; and, while they thought they saw the evidence of love, they did not see how He entered into the cause of their sorrows. Their thoughts about His power did but give occasion, or however leave occasion, for the exercise of His spirit. Man's grief, I say, buries deeper. Jesus takes away the impediments. But this groan was the presenting the power of death to His Father, the bearing it in His spirit before God, the witness that He felt with it; and setting us an example of those groanings which cannot be uttered; a groan the Father heard; a groan accompanied with the thanksgiving of faith.
Again, Martha presented the utter hopelessness of the case. It could not be now. That is the point of faith when Jesus is present in power. But resurrection from death, yea, from corruption, being the power of quickening, it matters not what state of death the person [be] in. All circumstances in the power of God are unbelief; He is not therefore reckoned God in them. But here is the glory of God. Man failed under evil; he bound with others under the grief of it. But it stopped there. All men alike mark its power. The power of death is not shown only in the world in them that die, but in those that are left by it. It wastes, and makes the breach, but the waters of sorrow break in thereat, and waste and trouble all around.
Jesus sympathised with it. He was troubled. But it was the active exercise of sensible grief. But He came to the tomb. The glory of God is in His living power over evil in death in Jesus, and the exercise of love (to those ruined by it.) The recognition of this in Jesus is the grand principle of faith. This was Peter's confession, alone in it; and upon this therefore the Lord declared He would build His Church. But blessed to us it is that in this we do see the glory of God. But come to the point of difficulty, we exercised with God concerning it. The Lord came, then, in the simplicity of His power. Now, while the Son did quicken in His life whom He would, yet He takes not the glory, but associates His Father in it, never breaking the link which, in faith, we have with the Father, by Him specially in this matter of life. Our Lord was accustomed to be heard, and accustomed therefore to look to be heard. A groan in the perception of difficulty is often power in it. It has but its power in the groan; and the eyes will follow thoughtfully to that God in the secret of His love who is present in the answer of His love known in His presence. The force of verse 42 is in "I." It is not "knew" simply, but "I knew." But it was a witness to those around.
186 The stone Jesus had had removed, the outward power of death and woe; though useless unless the quickening power came, or it would only have exposed his corruption. The world hides this, but they leave the man dead. But the Lord not only removes the actual imposed impediments, but calls forth. There are many lessons to be learned from this. It was a full manifestation of the Lord's power before many Jews in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, the power of His Sonship. Hence He so prayed to the Father that they might know He acted as Son, and that the Father owned Him. But Jesus loosed him after from what was round him quickened, as the outward restraints to his coming forth when he was quickened. But the effect of all this was diversified in grace and hardening. Some believed, some went and told the priests. We have then God glorified in the Son, and known consequently as the Father; and the full deliverance in the Son from all evil shown in the resurrection of this poor dead man. It was an anticipative exhibition that He was "the Son of God with power." His Sonship and mission from the Father was the great point thus demonstrated and published and evidenced. His ascription to the Father, replied to in such a way, demonstrated to faith His mission as Son, that He was the Son of God having power to quicken whom He will. This closed the exhibition of witness to them. Now their enmity and judgment began.
I have most feebly brought out the bright evidence of this chapter; but I have learned most strong and blessed truths in it, healthful truths, truths of glory (and life). But I am sure there is a great deal more of it. But the leading principle is so central, and the root of all, assuming His death, that its various bearings, as contrasted with the bearings of unbelief, are, I am sure, much more large, and of fuller reference, than are at all touched on here, though the principle be most clear, and is indeed eternal life.
187 But there is another point of dispensation that this might have been; that is, if faith had been in man, if accepting power had been, that is. It might have been the bringing in the Kingdom, supposing the Lord had been received and lived with. The quickening, sustaining power of His life was competent to sustain them in life. He that kept His saying should never see death: the expression is, "he shall in no wise see death for ever." This He testified of there. Here we find the power in which the dead saints could be raised, and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, had it so pleased Him, be called into the Kingdom of God. And this [is] a material point; it was no deficit of living power.
We have noticed, I believe, the full recognition of our Lord in His three great characteristic points: Son of God here; then King, the Son of David; then Head of the heathen, but this in attractive power by death. The whole order of the gospel we have been pursuing is very plain; chapter 3, the general character and Kingdom not yet manifested; chapter 4, its extension by the Spirit taking the worst; to wit, the humiliation of Jesus, and the gift of the Spirit in life, and therefore to any, the stranger, the Samaritan, the worthless one; chapter 5, life and light as contrasted with the law, but in quickening power; chapter 6, His flesh broken, the bread of life contrasted, as life-giving humiliation, with kingly power, so love; chapter 7, the union of the Spirit contrasted with the joy, the universal joy, of that Feast of Tabernacles in which He (the Lord) should be shown to the world, the King, the Blesser; this is what He was then; chapter 8, His word's rejection; chapter 9, the power of His work manifest to the simplest and most needy by its operation; its rejection; then, chapter 10, His sheep called out, that is, God's purpose, and what He would do further, and His discussion with the Jews in the assertion of who He was thereupon, and their final confirmed rejection of them; then the exhibition of His real power and title in the which He was rejected, as we have here traced it; and after discussion upon it, from chapter 12, what He was to His disciples thus rejected. This we reserve until we come there, by the Lord's mercy.
But if the Spirit of life was shown in Jesus, the spirit of murder was to be shown in them, that the whole Israel of God might be absorbed into His Person. Hence their whole character was fully exhibited, not only personally, morally, but as to their own national dispensation.
188 We have now the public act of the Jewish nation, and the position in which they were; for they called a council, saying, "What shall we do?" Then there is the full avowal and acknowledgment: "This Man doeth many miracles." What shall we do? because He does many miracles; and, while they confess the universal effect on the minds of the people, they show (as far as they were concerned, for the Lord's love remained unchanged; but these men were witness) that they had no power: "The Romans will come." The great word "I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people", "There shall not a man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life." Now it was not God's place, God's nation, but "our place," "our nation." Jesus had been rejected. They had no God in faith. They practically denied, unconsciously denied, they had any God, saying "our place," "our nation"; while they infatuatedly assumed it to themselves; and as they have no God in devotion, in acknowledgment, they have confessedly no God in defence: "The Romans will come." They rejected "this man" that "doeth many miracles."
Such is the melancholy picture of this blinded people. We may remark, too, that great as the effort at Babel not to be scattered, [it] produced the scattering; so their effort to keep out the Romans by sacrificing Christ brought them in in desolating power; and this observe, in the confession of His doing many miracles. The present destruction of their moral polity is also manifest: "The High Priest of that year." Who ever heard of such a thing? But they were wrapped up in their own selfishness, with the assumption of power. This was their position, and Christ rejected! It was therefore "expedient"; therefore there was no reference to right and wrong. There was the confession, too, they had no power of preservation. They could not refer to what evidence there was of God in "this Man," because they had no God. This is one of the great characteristics of apostasy. The whole scene is demonstrative of this great point of the position of the nation.
We must not pass by the force of "huper" (for) here, which some have cavilled at. Its application as to this point is obvious. "But this he spoke not from himself." This is a remarkable instance of how far the over-ruling of God's Spirit can go, of the human mind, without any association with its moral state. The Spirit of God made this witness of the apostasy of his nation speak their disposition or his wisdom to murder Messiah, as a prophecy of the purpose of His death as regards the nation he represented. So, may we add, was God affianced to the Jewish people, turning the principle of their curse into the witness of their blessing, and making them in their rejection of Him and His Christ His witness (for they still represented the Jew) of the infiniteness of His blessing to them; we may add, to the children of God, sinners of the Gentiles, the supremacy of His love, His intrinsic love to them, from the declaration of blessing through their sin, making their lie abound to His glory. O happy people in such a case! Blessed, blessed in Jehovah their God, the God of salvation.
189 The Jew must speak God's mind to witness to His love and salvation, though his thoughts had wandered far away. The apostle still keeps up the witness to the great accompanying truth that not only this love to the Jews led the purposes of God, but opening the door to others, yea, for the gathering in from among (for now He is the Head of His people, the Gatherer of His sheep) the Gentiles, the sheep, the children of God which were scattered abroad.
Here alone the term "children of God" is used to [of?] those who may be supposed to be unconverted. But it is what men might call a sort of error of expression, but rests on this, that it applies to the gathering which must look at them as converted, as children of God, which we are by faith in Christ Jesus. It could not be said to convert the children of God; to gather them you may, for that assumes in thought that they are children of God, though it goes out and seeks them in their unconverted state, and brings them in, and gathers them converted, the children of God.
In this little sentence, then, we have the conversion of the wickedness of man into the purpose of God; His abiding identity of love with the Jews in spite of their apostasy, and yet in the wickedness of the act of theirs, then thus apostate, opening the door in Jesus' death, and gathering in the people of His grace, wheresoever scattered. The whole order of the divine counsel is opened out in all its application, and overruling the hand and mind of the Jew, and the purpose and mind of God; "he prophesied." His hand (that is, God's) was in it. The purpose is fully opened in verse 52. But there is much to be learned in every letter of this; for it is not, Not for the nation, but, etc.; but, "not for the nation only, but that also." Its present purpose was the Church, Jew or Gentile. The full purpose was "not for that nation only," etc. So we find fully confirmed the Jewish application of Isaiah 53; and the prophetic character attached to Caiaphas, as noticed above, as exhibiting that point, is fully confirmed and established. And, indeed, on the whole, it is a remarkable synoptical view of the whole counsel of God just in its place, when the actings of the Jewish purpose, on the rejection of the Lord, began to be developed and expressed as coming from the heart of man. God over-rules them, and says, These are Mine. It was on the rejection of Christ by His nation, and a full development of the characteristic testimony or revelation of this gospel, and gives the mind of God, that we may see it through the sorrow, before. The blessed Lamb (to Him be all honour, to whom it is due) was led to the slaughter in the accomplishment of it, that we might see Him there, and the just stamp of honour on Him, as in our affections. For He "walked no more … among" them.
190 We have, moreover, in detail the peculiar character and stamp of this dispensation in purpose: gathering into one the children of God. He died negatively, so to speak, for the world; that is, the purpose effected in dispensation is this gathering together in one the children of God. The world ought to have obeyed. But compare Ephesians 1:9-10. This was the result of rejection; for the children of God, through grace, would rather have Him rejected than the world received: that the result of full purpose in glory as passing by rejection; for God is glorified in all His ways. I do not enter here into the order; for the Church ought to have taken it in this order. It may be seen in Romans 11, and again in Psalm 95:9. But we pass on to the chapter.
Jesus' ministry just met the process of their unbelief. They took counsel to destroy. In the wisdom of God they had their own counsel. He walked no more openly amongst them. Jesus retires from unbelief. They perhaps had so far care, yet not care; and whatever they had was the care of destruction approaching. I believe this is indeed typical, and exhibitory of the position in which Jesus will be (and in a certain sense is) previous to His real entering into Jerusalem in kingly power; not having left but hanging on the borders of His people, as now hid in God till the day of His appearing. So will He abide then with His disciples, though more unknown. The attention of the people still fixed upon Him, whatever thoughts were in the rulers. The accomplishment of the Passover will be in the deliverance of the Jews. The offering of the Lamb was now, and they on whom the blood was preserved, they (owning it) will be brought through then in full deliverance, as through the sea, though many may think the wilderness has shut them in. Jesus then, having intermediately continued in the wilderness, draws near to Jerusalem.
191 These facts I have stated I believe to be typical, save the sufferings which were now accomplished, unless in sympathy. And so they will be delivered. The power of that will be to the Jews in that day, as well as the power of the Kingship, although the act on which it rested was now accomplished in their sin. The people were in uncertainty. There was the general sense of the rulers' determination. But "the spiritual man is judged of no man." They knew not the simplicity in which Jesus pursued without reference to man the Father's will, and in which therefore was brought out (as in us often, without knowing how; in Him perfectly) all the mind of the Father's glory. Wherever we act in circumstances in the Father's will (that is, on Jesus' way and commandments) there all the bright results of the Father's counsels are stamped upon us; yea, if it be going into the wilderness (or Gaza, being desert), if the wilderness is our place.
But the cup of the Lord's sorrow was not yet filled up, and it must be made full, and, most blessed Master and Lord! drunk of necessity in Thy love, the necessity of Thy love, in obedience and love. Not that the prince of this world had anything in Him. The people might be at ease in the temple, and Jesus in the wilderness, or in Ephraim. But this was still the patience of service, however degrading. The scene, as to their moral state, was really closed; but Jesus could take no step to throw up the service, not waiting on the Lord's will. This was most humbling; but Jesus in all things emptied Himself. He waited the Lord's will and His leisure, and all His glory (in Headship) flowed from it. There was one thing yet necessary, an enemy within. Let us see the circumstances in which the last sad, bitter drop was put into human suffering, and to us most shameful.
192 Note, also, how remarkably the power of death is brought out in John 11. Thomas, to that obedience, the Jews, Martha, Mary, and all the circumstances to give the full character and power of death over the spirit.