A Series of 4pp. Gospel Tracts by W.K. for distribution after preaching.
1 The Widow's Son raised
2 The Unclean Demon cast out
3 The woman with a spirit of Infirmity
4 The Dropsical Man Cured
5 The Ten Lepers
6 The Lord at Bethesda
7 The Blind at Siloam
8 Lazarus Raised
9 Blind Bartimaeus
10 The Power and the Grace of the Name
11 Malchus healed
12 The Unbroken Net
1 The Widow's Son raised
(B.T. Vol. N3, p. 134-135. Gospel No. 10-1.)
As this is a miracle peculiar to the Gospel of Luke, it strikingly illustrates God's design therein. Luke alone tells us of the penitent woman sent away in peace, of the good Samaritan, of the tax-gatherer in the parable self-judging and contrasted with the self-righteous Pharisee, of the prodigal son, of Zacchaeus, of the converted robber: all of them cases of overflowing grace. So it is here where the gracious power of God manifested itself, and this in the man Christ Jesus, and with marked commiseration of human grief. All this and more was in the Saviour, as God would have all men know.
"And it came to pass the day after that he went to a city called Nain, and there went with him his disciples, and a great crowd. Now, as he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, there was carried out dead, an only son of his mother, and she a widow, and a considerable crowd of the city was with her. And the Lord seeing her had compassion on her, and said to her, Weep not. And coming up he touched the bier (or, open coffin), and the bearers stopped. And he said, Youth, I say to thee, Awake. And the dead sat up and began to speak; and he gave him to his mother. And fear visited all; and they were glorifying God, saying, A great prophet is arisen among us, and God visited his people. And this report about him went out in the whole of Judea and in all the surrounding country" (vers. 11-17).
The power in which the grace of Christ acted was not limited to sickness, even so extreme as leprosy or paralysis. It was not confined to Israel: faith drew it out mightily in answer to Gentile appeal. Here without an appeal we see it supreme over the ravages of death, and with exquisite tenderness toward sorrow otherwise hopeless. Outside the gate of Nain, still called Nein, and mounting the steep declivity of Jebel Duhy, or Little Hermon, with its many sepulchral caves, the Lord and His disciples, with a great crowd following, met another great crowd drawn together by the funeral of a young man, a widow's only son. With a heart full of pity He said to the mother, "Weep not." They were words in vain from other lips. To men it is appointed once to die; and the young man was really dead, as the inspired physician attests. Man born of woman is of few days, and full of trouble. There is hope of a tree, even if it wax old and the stock die in the ground; through the scent of water it will bud and put forth boughs. But man dies and is prostrate; yea, man expires, and where is he? The waters retire from the lake, and the river water dries up; so man lies down and rises not: till the heavens be no more, they awake not, nor are raised out of their sleep.
But now the Second Man was here, the last Adam. The Kinsman-Redeemer was hard by, and uttered words of hope to the widowed mother, stricken afresh and without hope. The strong one fully armed, who had the might of death, thought to keep his own credit and his goods in peace; but a stronger than he had come upon him and overcome him, and would take from him his whole armour wherein he trusted and divide his spoils. As a sample of this the Lord touched the bier, and the bearers stood still; and His voice was again heard. This time He spoke to the corpse, Youth, I say to thee, Awake.
Never was such a call uttered or heard before. The great prophet Elijah prayed and stretched himself over and over again on another widow's child; and Jehovah hearkened to Elijah's importunate supplication (1 Kings 17). He too that asked and received a double portion of Elijah's spirit with no less prayer and urgent effort laboured for another dead child, and was heard for his faith. So in later N.T. days Peter ventured not to say to the body of the deceased disciple, Tabitha, Arise, till he had knelt down and prayed, any more than Paul when he fell on the dead Eutychus and enfolded him in his arms.
How different His bearing Who alone is the Resurrection and the Life! "Youth, I say to thee, Awake." Yet He Who by the act thus done was marked out Son of God in power by resurrection of a dead man, habitually called Himself the Son of man, as it is carefully shown in John 3. And He Who subsisting in the form of God counted it not rapine (or, prize to be clutched) to be on equality with God, in the perfection of human affection gave the youth (no longer dead but sitting up and speaking) to his mother. How able, how willing, is He to help the tried! How suited and ready to sympathise with our infirmities!
Do you, my reader, answer that this was a miracle, and therefore exceptional? Learn then that, though true miracles, His miracles, like His words were written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life in His name. Be assured then of a love in a human heart infinitely beyond man's, even the love of God shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us. His voice now appeals to you in the gospel. For the hour now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live. O you that read, hear Him and live. Why should you die? Why despise grace and truth in not bearing them? Listen to Him again: "Verily, verily, I say to you, He that heareth My word, and believeth Him that sent Me, hath life eternal, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life" (John 5:24).
2 The Unclean Demon cast out
Mark 1. 23-28; Luke 4:33-36.
(B.T. Vol. N3, p. 148-150. Gospel No. 10-2.)
This miracle which Mark records as well as Luke may be noticed as the first wrought publicly on one a demoniac. Indeed it has a striking place in the opening of our Lord's service in the second Gospel, which is devoted to that display of its exercise. What truths are more needful for man to hear than that he is in one way or another under the thraldom of Satan? and that the name of Jesus alone avails to deliver him? Only it is as beautiful as it is blessed to see that the third Gospel depicts from the vision of Isaiah the grace and power in which He came, before manifesting man's wretched subjection to the enemy. It was given to Luke only to tell us of that matchless scene in the synagogue at Nazareth, before the solemn lesson that soon followed at Capernaum. How quickly men turn from wonder at grace in God and His Son to the wrath and hatred of their own offended pride! How slow to allow that their own will opens the door for their slavery to Satan!
"And there was in the synagogue a man having a spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried with a loud voice, Eh! what have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Didst thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out from him. And the demon, having thrown him down in the midst, came out from him, without injuring him. And amazement came upon all, and they spoke together one with another, saying, What [is] this word? because with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out" (vers. 33-36).
No doubt this case like others in the Gospels exhibits the aggravated fact of possession. It was not derangement here, but Satan's command of mind and body. Yet it is also observable that what is ordinary and presents none of the humiliating horrors of possession may be really more ruinous eternally. So we may infer from the Gadarenes, who were not drawn to Jesus by the deliverance of him that had the legion, but on the contrary besought Him to depart from their borders. In any way, how awful is the subjection! How gladly should men hail the true tidings God sends of a Deliverer in Jesus! Only believe on Him; believe God about His Son. Do you not need Him desperately? None less, none other, than Jesus can defeat Satan or save your soul.
Think of the fearful identification of the unclean spirit with the man, which his language reveals. "Eh! what have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Didst Thou come to destroy us?" There is no creature in the universe which affords a lair so congenial for a demon as a sinful human heart. As long as you are far from the Lord, you are near and open to the power or wiles of the spirit of evil. He is your great enemy; the Lord Jesus is your greater friend. Reject not the Saviour to your ruin. Be assured that He will receive you; if you cast your soul on Him, He will in no wise reject you. He came to seek and save the lost. If you own yourself lost, as indeed you are, He is just the Saviour for you.
There is another notable word. "I know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God." Yes, He was and is "holy," even as God is, the Holy One of Israel. And this most appals these unclean spirits, a Man, yet the Holy One of God! No wonder, that they believe and shudder. How portentous that sinful man when he hears neither believes nor shudders! yea, yet worse, that he believes after a sort without a shudder even at his own state and sure doom, if he abides as he is in his sins, neglecting so great salvation.
But "Jesus rebuked him," refusing a demon's testimony; as the apostle did at a later day. God testifies by His word, as He was then testifying in Jesus, His Son and Servant; and the Holy Spirit is now sent forth to bear witness of Jesus, that you may believe on Him and be saved.
Not content with rebuking the demon, He commanded him to hold his peace and come out from the man he had made his prey. And the demon was compelled to obey. If he threw the man in the midst, as evidence of the powerful spirit, he came out from the man without doing him hurt, to the praise of the Lord Jesus. It was not "word" only, to which they were used; but this word was with authority and power in Jehovah's servant, His chosen. Amazement came on all then; but for a sinner to believe is far better still.
Oh! is not this the Saviour that you want? He that died to annul him that had the power of death, He died for you, that your sins might be blotted out and yourself justified by faith in His name. "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." Such was the due time with God: why is it not your due time? What could God do more to meet your danger and your need? How could He better assure you of His deep compassion? No other sign could match what He has already given in the Crucified? Why should you ask or look for any other? Be sure God gave the very best.
3 The woman with a spirit of Infirmity
(B.T. Vol. N3, p. 167-168. Gospel No. 10-3.)
This is a miracle which fell to Luke alone to record; and it sets before us the Man Who was Jehovah's fellow accomplishing His mission of grace in the midst of a race not only indifferent or hostile to God but hypocritical. Their perverse iniquity leads on those who ought to be intercessors to become adversaries.
"And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And, behold, a woman having a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and she was bowed together and wholly unable to hold her head up. And Jesus, seeing her, addressed and said to her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And he laid his hands upon her; and immediately she was made straight, and was glorifying God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus healed on the sabbath, said in answer to the crowd, There are six days in which one ought to work; in these therefore come and be healed, and not on the day of the sabbath. The Lord therefore answered him and said, Hypocrites! doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall and leading it away water [it]? And this [woman], Abraham's daughter as she is, whom Satan bound, behold, eighteen years, ought she not to be loosed from this bond on the day of the sabbath? And as he said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed; and all the crowd rejoiced at all the glorious things that were being done by him" (vers 10-17).
The sabbath had often furnished occasion to prove the evil state of the people, especially of those in repute among men, as in Luke 6:2, 7, 11. Here the Holy Spirit introduces the grace of our Lord, where the context tells of God's moral judgment of Israel, tested and aggravated by His presence, Who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil. But what was God and His grace to such as sought no glory but their own? They were only provoked by a love which condemned their ungodly self- seeking. Their heart was far from Him, and its deceits were veiled from themselves by religious forms. It is not the righteous, still less the self-righteous, but sinners whom our Saviour calls.
While teaching in a synagogue one sabbath, the Lord beheld a woman, so long bowed down that she could not look up, and yet coming to hear God's word. Without an appeal from her or any other, He addressed her with words of wonder-working compassion. "Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity." Not content with what had fully sufficed, "He laid his hands upon her; and immediately she was made straight, and was glorifying God." He had vanquished the strong one, and would take from him all his panoply wherein he trusted, and would divide his spoils. The Lord was entitled to proclaim release to the captives, and to set at liberty those who were bound.
The ruler of the synagogue, instead of owning and blessing God for His manifested goodness and power, was "indignant," hating the grace which he could not deny, and thus proving himself to be under a deeper slavery to Satan than the delivered woman. His wickedness was all the worse for the zeal, in his answer to the crowd, he affected for the sabbath. "There are six days in which one ought, to work; in these therefore come and be healed, and not on the day of the sabbath." It was God Who had wrought in and by His Son; and would he shut one out from His mercy on that day? to say nothing of her lying in the bitter bondage of the enemy so many years.
"The Lord therefore answered him and said, Ye hypocrites! [for he had not a few who shared his half-hearted unbelief] doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead it off to watering? and this [woman], Abraham's daughter as she is, whom Satan bound, behold, eighteen years, ought she not to be loosed from this bond on the day of the sabbath?" It was irresistible for the conscience; and hearts were gladdened by grace as evident as the truth. "All his adversaries were ashamed; and all the crowd rejoiced at all the glorious things that were being done by him."
He, the Lord, has done a far greater and more enduring work. He has given His life a ransom for many. He has suffered once for sins, Just for unjust, to bring you to God, Who points you to Him for a greater deliverance, even redemption for the body with glory on high. Acknowledge then your desperate need; for you too are so bowed down by Satan through your iniquities, that you cannot truly look up. To your guilt and misery add not the hypocrisy of pleading religious obligations, when God proclaims in your ears the glad tidings of His Son, the Rescuer from the wrath to come. Neither working on the six days, nor rest on the seventh, can efface your sins; nor can the synagogue avail, nor saints or Virgin more than yourself, but "Jesus only." He is the "one Mediator between God and men" (1 Tim. 2:5). "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house" (Acts 16:31). "In none other is there salvation; for neither is there any other name under heaven that is given among men, wherein we must be saved." So said Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit to the rulers of the people and elders (Acts 4:12). So say not those who falsely claim to be his successors or their abettors.
4 The Dropsical Man Cured
(B.T. Vol. N3, p. 187-188. Gospel No. 10-4.)
It is plain that the Spirit is in this context setting out the moral ruin of men who flattered themselves, as far as possible from believing that the kingdom of God was to be taken from them, and given to such as should bring forth the fruits thereof. The various incidents of the chapter bring to light man in his evil confronted by the grace of God in Christ. So it is in the opening scene.
"And it came to pass, when he went into the house of a certain one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on a sabbath, that they were watching him. And, behold, there was a certain dropsical man before him. And Jesus answering spoke unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath, or not? But they were quiet. And he took, healed, and let him go. And [answering] he said unto them, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fall into a well, and will not straightway draw him up on the sabbath day? And they were unable to answer again unto these things" (Luke 14:1-6).
Neither love nor truth animated these religious chiefs. Under the cover of hospitality, they were hostile. They sought evil, but only proved it in their own ill-will. The dropsical man there present gave the Lord occasion to assert God's title to do good.
Had not Jehovah said before the law, "If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of Jehovah thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his eyes, wilt give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put upon the Egyptians; for I am Jehovah that healeth thee" (Ex. 15:26). Yet what was the witness of the dropsical man before the Lord and before them? And what meant all manner of disease and of sickness in the land of Israel, as it were crowding round Him to be healed? And why from all Syria brought they all that were sick, suffering under various distempers and torments, and those possessed by demons, with lunatics and paralytics? It was not Jehovah-Rophi who had failed, but man generally and Israel in particular. If the sabbath was a sign between Him and them, how came it, in shining, to disclose such misery and suffering? Why with an object before all eyes to draw out pity and humiliation, were these chiefs, Pharisees, doctors of the law, blind to His glory Who was the Son of God, blind to His grace Who went about doing good and healing all that were overpowered by the devil, for God was with Him? Yea, God was in Him, reconciling the world to Himself, not reckoning to them their offences; and they were watching Him with eyes fuller of hatred to Him than to the Gentiles they most despised! Was this then their sabbath honour?
The sabbath was a precious sign from the beginning, and, filling the very centre of the law, the sure pledge of what God would accomplish in due time. But what of man's ways before the law, and under the law? What had he been to God during all the six days? What were his works before Him, and what his life? Did he love Jehovah with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might? Did not the presence of His Son, a man among man, prove the very reverse? Alas! man, sinful man, cannot enter God's rest. His works are evil. There is judgment, not rest, for him; death, and judgment.
The Lord therefore made a special point of healing on a sabbath. All the Gospels attest it, and repeatedly (Matt. 12:9; Mark 1:21, 3:1; Luke 13:10; John 5:9, 9:14). Here, as in chap. 13 cases are special to Luke as displaying divine grace, hateful to the self-righteous. The incurably sick man was the true testimony to man's state. Christ answers the selfish and unbelieving rancour of their hearts by His question. They were abashed and afraid to speak; but their will remained unbroken. And He laid hold of the man, who had not even appealed to Him (that the grace of God might all the more appear), healed him, and let him go. But He added a withering word to those hard and self-complacent sinners, "Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fall into a well, and will not straightway draw him up on the sabbath day"? This was notorious. And had God no interest in healing a sufferer or in saving a sinner? This they virtually denied, and hated Him Who came to give it effect.
And you, dear reader, if you believe not on Him, are in worse case than the dropsical man. Are you not a lost soul? Face your actual state before God; do not palliate; do not forget. In vain the medicine-man; in vain yourself or others; in vain, the saints, the angels, or the virgin. But "the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost." So He said Who is the truth. It is God's word; believe Him, and receive the blessing, even peace and joy in believing. Own the truth of your sins: this is repentance. Own the truth of His grace; this is faith, It is the way of Christ to the Father; and there is no other way from God and to God for a sinner.
5 The Ten Lepers
(B.T. Vol. N3, p. 201-202. Gospel No. 10-5.)
The Lord in this miracle sets forth the grace, which was soon to supersede the law publicly, as even faith might in a measure enjoy personally. So this Gospel shows the Lord preparing the way in word and deed for the Christianity that was at hand, when Judaism died in His death.
The miracle was striking in its breadth and in its originality, if one may so say. It was not now a single leper prostrate at His feet, and His hand touching him in gracious power as Jehovah-Messiah. Ten leprous men together appealed as they stood afar off, calling aloud for His compassion, and not in vain before Him who came to save that which was lost. But let us hear the instructive account of divine pity and much more here only recorded.
"And it came to pass as He was on the way into Jerusalem, that He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten leprous men who stood afar off; and they lifted up their voices, saying, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And on seeing He said to them, Go your way, show yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass, as they departed they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back with a loud voice glorifying God; and he fell on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks; and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus in answer, said, Were not the ten cleansed? but where [are] the nine? Were none found to return and give glory to God save this stranger? And He said to him, Arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole" (vers. 11-19).
Faith was put to the test. While still uncleansed, they were told to go and show themselves to the priests. The solitary leper in earlier days was first cleansed, and then sent; but the ten were to go as they were. Assured of His power and unfailing compassion Who never wrecked the hope of the wretched, they acted on His word; and as they withdrew they were cleansed. What could the priests do but pronounce on the cure by the Master, and perform their prescribed ritual? One infinitely greater and better than they had wrought on ruined men to God's glory.
And this truth had spoken in growing faith to one heart among them where it might least have been expected; for he was a Samaritan. How apt even believers are to settle down contented with the needed blessing, and stop short of the Blesser! But one rose above letter and self; but one of them recognised the new responsibility created by grace; but one of the ten felt the immediate and paramount duty of returning to give glory to God, and of honouring the Man, His image and Son, even as the Father is honoured.
Yes, the despised Samaritan alone turned back when he saw that he was healed. The nine might argue and blame the faith that outgrew theirs. "What! you going back to Jesus! Did He not tell us all to go and show ourselves to the priests?" It was plausible to reason, which cleaves to letter; but above letter is spirit, which cannot be satisfied with aught but God's mind; and He is not truly honoured apart from Jesus. The nine remained Jews as they were, relieved bodily by divine power, but the heart in the old precincts of law, neither purified by faith nor enlarged by grace. Not so the Samaritan who turned to the Source and honoured with the deepest homage Him Who is the Channel too of divine goodness.
It was indeed a living sample of Judaism, the refuge now of mere lettered ritual, soon to give place to grace and truth in and by Jesus, the Christianity of the gospel, and the church, believing man being brought to God reconciled and rejoicing. The first becomes last, and the last first. How the Lord fathomed and felt it all! "Were not the ten cleansed? but where the nine? Were none found to return and give glory to God save this stranger?" Truly their loss is the riches of the Gentiles; their casting away is the world's reconciling, as the apostle announced in Rom. 11.
Nor is this all. The Lord instantly proclaims to the grateful Samaritan that liberty which is so essential to the Christian and is now preached to all that believe the gospel. "Arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole (or, saved thee)." The cleansing, marvellous as it was, was but a figure of a deeper cure, even of soul-salvation. God in Christ came out to man in his sins, and man justified can now go in to God, even in the holiest. Earthly priests and temple, sacrifices and rites of law, are all gone in presence of Jesus dead, risen, and ascended.
But how is it with you, my reader? Many Jewish and more Gentile eyes that scan these pages know how true is the gospel to their present and everlasting deliverance. Are you one of those who say that to believe on Christ is one thing, but to realise and appropriate to yourself is another? God says not so; only your human dogma, or your unjudged unbelief, cherishes these churlish thoughts of God. He is better than the strongest faith apprehends; He has declared himself to you in Jesus, full of grace and truth. Believe Him about His Son given for you and testified to you, that you too by grace may be saved through faith.
6 The Lord at Bethesda
(B.T. Vol. N3, p. 215-216. Gospel No. 10-6.)
Throughout this Gospel, and especially these early chapters the Lord is shown eclipsing and superseding all the old objects of honour and trust. The Pool of Bethesda bore witness even then to Jehovah as healing Israel (Ex. 15). Not merely was it occasional only, but incomplete and conditional; like the law, it required strength enough to avail oneself of it. He that was quite powerless lay there in vain. Another stept in before he could be put into the water when troubled by the angel. To will was present with him, but not to do. "O wretched man that I am!" was all he could feel. He needed the only One Who could speak the effectual word, "Arise, take up thy couch, and walk"; then he did so immediately, sabbath as it was. What was an angel's act in comparison?
Such a sight aroused Jewish enmity; for with seared conscience they exaggerated and idolised every form. They disliked the healing power of the True God on a sabbath. The man did not profit by the warning given him of worse than sickness, but learning who it was that healed him, went and told it to the Jews, who persecuted Jesus. His answer was, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." How overwhelming for their evil and pride! how glorifying to God! how full of blessing to every man who truly owns his sin and misery!
It is the revelation of the Father and the Son, Who works as man in the midst of men. This is the truth, yea grace and truth come through Jesus Christ. Let the Jews vainly boast of the law given by Moses, which they kept not, it could not but be a ministration of death and condemnation. But the veil of unbelief was lying on their heart; and they neither judged themselves nor believed on Him Who did indeed say that God was His own Father, making Himself equal with God. And therefore those blindly religious yet wicked men sought the more to kill Him.
O my reader, flatter not yourself. You ware not so tried. You are no less guilty and lost. You may pay homage with the lip; but are you in heart and life slighting Him Who came and died for you? Are you not neglecting so great salvation? Do you not annul the gospel, as if God's proclamation were but a fair and kindly form, and not a message of life and peace to the believer? Does not God pronounce His wrath to abide on him who is not subject to the Son? If you are believing on Him, God's word is that you have life eternal in His Son.
So the Lord then declared that the Son loyally takes as man the place of entire subjection, and does nothing of Himself, save what He saw the Father doing. He emptied Himself of glory, taking the form of a bondman; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even death of a cross. From what a height, and to what a depth, that God might be perfectly and at all cost glorified even about sin and ruin! And so He is. Wherefore also God highly exalted Him.
Here the Lord opens the great truth, starting from the sign on the sick man, and going on to His giving life eternal to those who believe, and His executing judgment on those who, not believing, do evil. Thus it is that all may honour the Son even as they honour the Father. The Son quickens whom He will, in communion with the Father who raises the dead and quickens. But He alone of Godhead became man, and suffered man's contempt and hatred even to the Cross. He therefore has all judgment given to Him, for in that full and final sense He alone judges. Bodily healing was but a sign. The real question is between life eternal and future judgment.
Hence we have the solemnly blessed message: "Verily, verily, I say to you, He that heareth my word and believeth him that sent me hath life eternal and cometh not into judgment, but hath (or, is) passed out of death into life" (ver. 24). All turns on hearing Christ's word and believing Him that sent the Saviour Son of God. If one hear and believe, he has life eternal, and does not come into judgment which is no less everlasting, but has passed out of death as it was into life as now given in Him. Life eternal is in contrast with judgment which awaits those who here below only dishonoured the Son, but must honour Him to their own perdition in that judgment.
Next is shown on one side man's real state, not infirm only but "dead " before God; and even now the voice of His Son for men that have heard to live. "Verily, verily, I say to you, An hour cometh and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that heard shall live" (ver. 25). For the Son was come, and as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself. Being man, He receives all from the Father, jealous to honour Him alone, as man's only right place. Thus He quickens now, as at the end He will execute judgment, according to the authority given Him, because He is Son of man.
None should wonder at this. An hour cometh which will demonstrate both His giving life as Son of God, and His executing judgment as Son of man. It is an hour, ,when all that are in the tombs [distinguishing these from the spiritually dead of ver. 25] shall hear his voice, and shall go forth: they that wrought the good things unto a resurrection of life; and they that committed the worthless unto a resurrection of judgment" (vers. 28, 29). There are thus two resurrections of opposed character (not a general one as the unbelief of Christendom feigns). They answer to life and good fruit now had by faith in God's Son, and to the unbelief with its unremoved death and corrupt ways. The Revelation which the Lord gave John adds the fresh light of the kingdom over the earth and all things, in which the changed saints reign with Him for a thousand years, and a little more, before the judgment of the wicked dead and their consignment to the lake of fire. It is a book of times and seasons, which the Gospel of John is not: but both thoroughly agree as to a resurrection of life, and a resurrection of judgment.
O my reader, can any words of man add to the Lord's solemn call? Hear the voice of God's Son now, that you may have life in Him and may not come into that judgment which is woe for ever.
7 The Blind at Siloam
(B.T. Vol. N3, p. 231-232. Gospel No. 10-07.)
On no healing of the blind has the Holy Spirit dwelt so long and impressively as on this. But it is evidently in furtherance of His design in the Gospel of John: to set forth the Son's person as incarnate, but rejected in His work here, as in His word just before (John 8). How blind are all who can now read or hear God's written testimony, and fail to recognise His signature in the address to their souls, that believing in the name of Jesus they may have life eternal!
It was indeed a desperate case, "And as he passed on, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind? Jesus answered, Neither did this man sin nor his parents, but that the works of God should be manifested in him. I must work the works of him that sent me while it is day: night cometh when none can work. When I am in the world, I am light of the world. Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which is interpreted, Sent). He went off therefore, and washed, and came seeing. The neighbours therefore, and those that used to see him before that he was a beggar said, Is not this he that used to sit and beg? Some said, It is he, and others said, No, but he is like him. He said, I am [he]. They said therefore to him, How then were thine eyes opened? He answered and said, A man called Jesus made clay, and smeared mine eyes, and said to me, Go to Siloam and wash; and having gone off and washed, I received sight. And they said to him, Where is he? He saith, I know not" (vers. 1-12).
The Lord put aside questions, and presents God's working in grace by Himself here, as Light of the world to give it effect. In an action which figured His incarnation in Whom was life, He besmeared the blind man's eyes with that which would have hindered sight, till he washed in the pool (Sent). The humiliation of Christ enables none to see, unless by the word and Spirit they apprehend Him sent of God the Father to do His will; by which will (as Heb. 10 tells us) we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. The word was thus mixed with faith in him who heard.
To confess Jesus Christ come in flesh is by the Spirit of God. Thus only do we, blind by nature, receive the Light of life. Christ becomes all to us, who before had nothing but sins and darkness and death. Till then uncertainty reigns, as we see here among the neighbours. The man is clear as to himself and confesses the Lord more as he learns more. The self-righteous oppose, and seize on the sabbath when the sign was wrought, as proof against the Saviour. The Jews believe not and summon the parents in vain to set it aside. But the great fact remains: Jesus gave the blind to see. Human affection may shirk the confession of the truth. Human religion may frown, revile, and persecute. But grace and truth only shine the more brightly. "One thing I know," the beggar that was answers, "that whereas I was blind, now see" (ver. 25).
Is not this characteristic of the gospel? It is the glad tidings, not only proclaimed in the name of Jesus, but known and enjoyed by the believer. "I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake" (1 John 2:12). So it is not only that the believer has life eternal, but "these things I write to you, that ye may know that ye have life eternal, to you that believe on the name of the Son of God" (1 John 5:13). Christendom in its unbelief falls back behind the veil of Judaism, and denies to the Christian the happy certainty of what grace has wrought and now gives freely. The priest and his rites would cloud all peace and joy in believing. They may be disciples of Moses; they are not disciples of Jesus. They claim a sacrifice for ever, continuously offered, instead of confessing that He sat down in perpetuity, because His one accepted sacrifice is so efficacious that God will remember our sins and iniquities no more. To unbelief it is always a-doing, never done.
Faith made the seeing man bold. To the perverse reasoning of unbelief, which refused the evidence of God's gracious power and rejected Him Who alone makes the Father truly known, he replies, "Since the world began it was never heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man [Jesus] were not from God, he could do nothing." Impotent and incensed, they could only hiss in answer, "Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out" (ver. 34).
"Jesus finding him said, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, And who is he, Lord, that I may believe on him? Jesus said to him, Thou hast both seen Him, and He it is that speaketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe; and he worshipped Him" (vers. 35-37). May this be your portion, dear reader. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; and the one means of receiving Him is faith. Believe God's testimony to Him; and He is yours. This will enable you to judge yourself truly and confess your sins honestly; without it, you will only render a fair show in flesh. All other things, important as they may be, are subordinate to receiving Jesus. But He once received makes all else an easy yoke and a light burden.
8 Lazarus Raised
(B.T. Vol. N3, p. 250-252. Gospel No. 10-8.)
The Lord Jesus manifested His glory by His "signs"; for such they were, and not wonders only or powers. Here the signs which He did reached a climax in testifying to Him as Son of God. For as the Father raises the dead and quickens them, so the Son also quickens whom He will. This testimony He gave in raising the young daughter of Jairus (as recorded in the three synoptic Gospels), and in raising the widow's son of Nain whilst being carried out for burial. But now, quite close to Jerusalem, a still more glorious sign was seen in raising up Lazarus not only dead but buried. It is also in exact keeping with the special design of the fourth Gospel, and divinely seasonable too at that moment.
The Lord did not come to the sick man at the appeal of the sisters, however truly He loved them all, but abode two days where He was. "This sickness is not unto death (said He) but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby." He waited as ever for divine direction. After this He goes, though the disciples warn of danger, and He intimates that Lazarus was dead, as they failed to catch the meaning of His words. He knew the end from the beginning.
Martha went and met Him, but Mary sat still in the house. Yet the faith of Martha rose no higher than that He was Messiah, and that God would give Him whatsoever He should ask. When Jesus said, Thy brother shall rise again, she only speaks of the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth on Me, though he have died, shall live; and every one that liveth and believeth on Me shall never die. Believest thou this? Martha's answer was quite vague and not to the purpose: "I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, that cometh into the world." And having said this, she went and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is here, and calleth thee. And she, when she heard it, rises quickly and comes to Him. Yet when she arrived and fell at His feet, she says like her sister, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
The power of death lay on both, on all their hearts; and Mary wept, and the Jews that came with her. Jesus was deeply pained in His spirit, and was troubled, and wept. It was not only sympathy in love, but profoundly feeling trouble at death's power over not man only but saints. At the grave He speaks and acts in divine power over death, in communion with the Father. Martha's unbelief only draws out the expression of it. He is the resurrection and the life; and with His eyes lifted on high, He says, I thank Thee that Thou hearest Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always; but for the sake of the crowd that standeth around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me. And having thus said, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And the dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes; and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith to them, Loose him and let him go.
With this Lord and Saviour you, my reader, have to do now. You are called on by God to honour Him whom man rejected and crucified. You are enjoined to believe on Him. You need Him as much as Lazarus, nay even more; for Lazarus already believed on Him and was beloved by Him. Can you say that you believe on Him? Do you receive Him as the Lord and Saviour sent by God that you may have in Him life eternal? To receive Him thus on God's testimony is to believe on His name. His coming again will prove the power and blessedness of life in Him; for then it is that the sleeping saints shall be raised, and the living saints shall not sleep but be changed. It is the full result of His being the resurrection and the life, of which the raising of Lazarus was the pledge on a small scale. It accords with Christ's own words to Martha, "he that believeth on me, though he should have died, shall live; and every one, that liveth and believeth on me shall never die."
Martha did not enter into this blessed truth, though she believed on Him. She thought she knew all of moment in believing Him to be the Christ, the Son of God, that was to come into the world. And there are many saints who lose much joy and power by like vagueness. But she did believe on Him. And this let me press on you who read these lines, and yet cannot say that you believe on Him. Oh, if He is, as He says, the resurrection and the life, why do you hesitate to rest on such a revelation of Himself? It goes far beyond raising up the dead and buried man to renewed life in this world. It suffices for heaven and for eternity. It was not said only for that occasion; it is written by the Holy Spirit for you, and for every other who reads or hears these wondrous words now.
Do not then aggravate your guilt and state of spiritual death by slighting either the grace of God that appeals to you in the words of the Lord Jesus, or the wrath of God revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men that hold fast the truth in unrighteousness. Such may differ greatly in outward seeming; neither class have life, because they believe not on Him. They are both alike in that they will not come unto Christ, that they may have life. But without Christ, as life and propitiation also, happiness is as impossible as holiness. Life is the first want of one dead in sins. Christ is the only giver of life; and He gives it to all that believe on Him.
9 Blind Bartimaeus
(B.T. Vol. N3, p. 266-267. Gospel No. 10-9.)
No sight was more characteristic of our Lord's ministry than His grace to the blind. It has the first place given to it in the answer to John the Baptist's message. A special case is presented in Matt. 9:27, another in Mark 8:22, and the more general fact in Luke 7:21 with other cures, but the most marked of all in John 9. Yet there is this striking circumstance common to the three earlier Gospels, that the final testimony which the Lord offers to the Jews in or near Jerusalem opens with the healing of the blind man near Jericho. Only Matthew, as his manner is, tells us of two (compare Matt. 8:28, 9:27). Mark and Luke were led to dwell on what was for other reasons the more remarkable of them. It is idle to conceive separate occasions, one on entering and the other in quitting Jericho. For Matthew and Mark are express that the miracle was wrought on going out from the town. The phrase of Luke is so indeterminate as to fall in with that statement. He does not say, "as he drew nigh" or "when he came near" to Jericho; but while in the neighbourhood. This was as true when He went out as when He came in.*
* Nor is there real difficulty in the account of Zacchaeus being placed after the miracle; for Luke puts things in moral order, where required as here, not chronologically. This explains the purposely general language of the third Gospel which called for the incident about Zacchaeus later.
"And they come to Jericho, and as he was going out from Jericho and his disciples and a considerable crowd, the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus the blind, was sitting by the wayside begging. And having heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, O Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me. And many were rebuking him that he might be silent, but he cried out so much the more, Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood still and said that he should be called. And they call the blind, saying to him, Be of good courage, rise: he calleth thee. And, throwing away his garment, he sprang up and came unto Jesus. And Jesus in answer said to him, What wilt thou that I should do to thee? And the blind said, Teacher (Rabboni), that I may receive sight. And Jesus said to him, Go thy way; thy faith hath healed (saved) thee. And immediately he received sight, and followed him in the way" (vers. 46-52).
Observe how the blind Israelites at the beginning of our Lord's ministry appeal to Him as Son of David. It was a matter of revealed promise that Messiah should open their eyes; and as they believed with their heart, they confessed with their mouth, and got the blessing. It was not so with the Canaanite, though she too believed, and with rare faith. But like many a believer, she at first applied on a wrong ground; from which the Lord led her into the right and true, that she might all the better enjoy the grace that awaited her. Here the call on the Son of David exactly suits the ways of God, when Christ finally presented Himself to the people, about to consummate His rejection to their own utter ruin for the present. It is the starting-point for His last Messianic offer to Jerusalem, where the blind that cried in faith were made to see, and those who said they saw were made blind for their unbelief and enmity.
O my reader, call on the Lord, like the once blind Bartimaeus. Hitherto you have been blind, and have followed blind leaders into the ditch. But Jesus still waits to heal and extricate you. Fear not. Be of good courage, if now you feel your need, and believe that all authority and power are His. Does He not call you as truly as He did the son of Timaeus? Read not His words so unbelievingly. These things are written that you may believe unto life and salvation. Profit by the lesson of his earnest importunity. Many, who felt not their own need any more than his, kept rebuking him. It was not decorum — in their view who were travelling at ease to perdition. Such cries might be well on the sabbath perhaps, and no doubt on a dying bed; but they were wholly objectionable by the wayside and before a crowd.
The Lord heard as He ever does the call of distress and of faith, took His stand, and bade him be brought before Him. And how graphic the sketch, and instructive the eagerness of the blind man casting away his cloak that he might get to the Lord! Poor as he was, he must lay aside every hindrance and go to Him at once. And Jesus answered his heart, and drew out its desire: "Great Teacher, that I may receive sight." And immediately was it given; he also followed Jesus in the way. For this His sheep do. It is their instinct of life in Him; as it is His word to them, that they may be kept in a world of evil, snares, and danger. But the Lord Jesus guides and guards His own, yet not without their hearing His voice and following Him all the way through. And a stranger will they not follow, as the rule (the only right and safe rule), but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers.
Can you say, dear reader, that you have received sight from Jesus? If not, be assured that you are blind as well as in your sins. You are trusting baptism or religious observances or your clergyman in vain, if you suppose that any or all these can give you sight, or life, or propitiation for your sins. Only Jesus avails in answer to your faith, and even Jesus can give you all only by His death for you a guilty sinner. Look to Him, and be saved.
10 The Power and the Grace of the Name
(B.T. Vol. N3, p. 280-281. Gospel No. 10-10.)
How strikingly the divine design of the Fourth Gospel differs from the three Synoptics, as seen in their reports of Gethsemane on the night of the betrayal! Who left to his own feelings would have so dwelt on his Master's agony as the beloved disciple? Yet he says not one word about it, though he alone of the Evangelists was chosen to be near the Lord in that affecting and mysterious scene, when He repaired again and again to them and found them sleeping. It fell to the others to record His exceeding sorrow in realising the depths into which He was just about to enter; because it bore directly on the rejection of the Messiah, on the work the Righteous Servant had in hand, and on the Son of man, as perfectly dependent on His Father in the hour of woe as in all the activities of power in loving service.
Here shines out the glory of His person. Had we only the witness of John, rich as it is, what should we know of His anguish in anticipation of all before Him as He prayed to His Father, and of His entire submission whatever it cost? If most appropriately Luke alone mentions an angel strengthening Him and His sweat as clots of blood, here we see and hear the Son of the Father, to Whom He had commended His own in John 17.
"Jesus having said these things went out with his disciples over the winter-torrent Kidron, where was a garden into which he entered, he and his disciples. And Judas also that betrayed him knew. the place; because Jesus often resorted thither with his disciples. Judas therefore, having received the band and officials from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that were coming upon him, went forth and said to them, Whom seek ye? They answered, Jesus the Nazaraean. He said to them, I am [he]. And Judas that betrayed him stood with them. When therefore he said, I am [he], they went backward, and fell to the ground. Again therefore he asked them, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus the Nazaraean. Jesus answered, I told you that I am [he]: if therefore ye seek me, let these go away; that the word might be fulfilled which he said, Of those whom thou hast given me, I lost not one" (vers. 1-9).
What communion with the Father, what prayer, what intercession, what tender care for the feeble disciples, what self-sacrificing interest on their behalf, what vigilant love of the good Shepherd, what pity for Israel, what outgoing of heart for the sheep not of this fold, had not been known in that garden! Yes, Judas knew it, and took his measures accordingly under Satan to gratify the chief priests and Pharisees. Thither he led the band with lanterns and torches and weapons.
Men who do not know the Lord talk of His "limitations," and forget that He is God, the Word become flesh, but no more ceasing to be God than a man can cease to be man. Jesus knew all things that were coming on Him, the same Jesus Who had gone through all in the profoundest grief yet dependence on the Father, for He was as truly man, the perfect man. Now when horrors began to thicken, what calm pervaded His every word and act! He went forth and said to them, Whom seek ye? They answered, Jesus the Nazaraean; and on His reply, I am [He], they went backward and fell to the ground.
God indeed attested what was due to that Name; for He too was God no less than the Father and the Holy Spirit. Nor was there ever a moment more befitting. So Judas the betrayer stood with them, and he too with them fell to the ground. What a testimony to their conscience, as well as to His glory!
When the wicked Ahaziah sent a captain with his fifty to take the Tishbite prophet as he sat alone on a hill, again and again came fire down from heaven to consume the captains and their fifties. Jesus full of grace and truth came to save the lost. Not a word more did He utter. He owned Himself Jesus the Nazaraean. It was enough. In His name shall bow all beings heavenly, earthly, and infernal, and every tongue confess Him Lord to God the Father's glory. It was but a witness then to that glory; but how blessed and suited and eloquent, if they had not had deaf ears, seared consciences, and hearts harder than stone! He Whose name laid them prostrate could have in a moment consigned them to death for everlasting judgment. But no! He came that God might be glorified in His death for sin, to set free every sinner that believes in Him.
And so it was of His grace that, after the manifestation of power, He asked them again, Whom seek ye? As they gave the same reply, He answered, I told you that I am [He]; if therefore ye seek Me, let these go away. O what grace now manifested on behalf of His own, so unworthy of His love, yet loved unto the end, loved though He knew all would forsake Him and flee, and that one who ventured nearer in that night of desertion would there thrice deny that he knew Him! It was a fulfilment of John 17:12; but great as it was, how little compared with all that those words mean and guarantee! And indeed such is His love that it covers all things great and small.
How are you who read these lines treating Him and His love? He, the Son of God and Lord of glory, was nothing to Judas and the Jews, but for the one to sell and the other to buy; and He submitted to be the willing prisoner, and the willing sacrifice, that you might hear and live. You have heard, but cannot live without faith in Him Who is the life eternal — life now that you may live of Him now — life evermore that you may have Him your life for the body and heaven as well as now for your soul on earth. But forget not that to hear and not believe on Him leaves you worse unspeakably than if you had never heard. Oh then hear, believe, and live.
11 Malchus healed
Luke 22:50-51; John 18:10-11.
(B.T. Vol. N3, p. 295-296. Gospel No. 10-11.)
The moral perfection of the Lord shone only the more brightly in His new and last trial. Satan, foiled in his effort to tempt Him out of His path of obedience, came now to kill Him in it. But nothing moved Him out of that way, nothing provoked Him, even when the disciples slept instead of praying, unable (even Peter and James and John) to watch one hour with Him.
When the crowd of men with swords and staves laid hold on and seized Him, Peter (too hasty to await the answer to the appeal, Lord, shall we smite with sword?) drew his, and smote the high priest's bondman, and took off his ear. This the Lord rebuked: "Return thy sword to its place; for all that take the sword shall perish by the sword. Or thinkest thou, that I cannot now call on my Father, and he will furnish me more than twelve legions of angels? How then should the scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?"
He abides the righteous Servant. He came to suffer for sins, Just for unjust, that He might bring us to God, and fit the children of God to share His glory on high when He takes all the creation heavenly and earthly, and reigns over Israel and the nations on earth in His day. Those who believe now are called to suffer with Him, as the Lord had taught His own when correcting their thoughts and desires about His kingdom. "Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and the great exercise authority over them. But it shall not be thus among you; but whosoever will be great among you, he shall be your servant; and whosoever will be first among you, let him be your bondman; as indeed the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:25-28).
But Peter, ever rash as yet, thought of nothing but his Master's danger; and, in fleshly zeal seeking to defend Him, he stood reproved. It was human nature, but contrary to Christ and His word. If carried out, it would have made redemption impossible, like his warm and hasty error in Matt. 16:22, for which the Lord bade him, Get away behind me, Satan, and added, Thou art an offence to me; for thy mind is not on the things of God but on the things of men. Peter failed not only to appreciate Christ's death, but to apprehend that the Christian must deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Him. He did in his measure and spirit what the Lord told Pilate was not for His servants to do, because His kingdom is not of this world. It is of heaven, and of no worldly source.
In the Gospel of Luke (22:51) we first hear that Jesus said in answer, Suffer ye thus far, and with a touch He healed the cut-off ear. Even at such a crisis as this He is thus presented as the gracious Son of man, anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power. If He was no longer going about doing good and healing all that were under the devil's power, because God was with Him, He was just as ready to heal one wounded by His thoughtless follower.
John lets us know particularly the names, not only of His follower but of the wounded man. And here the healing has its significance, like every other word and fact in this Gospel as illustrating His personal dignity. As the mention of His name hurled to the ground the band which came to capture Him, and to which He thereon gave Himself up, with the words, Let these go away; so now the answer to Peter spoke His glory and His grace in a way peculiar to the last Gospel. "Put the sword into the sheath: the cup which the Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?"
Blessed Saviour, as Thou in Thy love and light and lowliness art alone in Thy perfection, so art Thou in the ineffable sufferings which were in that cup for Thee to drink! And Thou didst drain it, that God might be glorified, and we who believe might be saved worthily of God. Yet do we rejoice also that as God was glorified in Thee, and in Thy death especially and infinitely, so did He glorify Thee in Himself, and this immediately in heaven, before the world-kingdom of our Lord and His Christ come, who shall reign unto the ages of the ages.
Nor need poor souls who are in their sins wait for that displayed kingdom. While Jesus is glorified on high is just the time during which the Holy Spirit is sent forth, not only to dwell in the church, but to proclaim the gospel, the glad tidings of God to guilty and perishing man. Doubt not then but believe the witness God bears to the Lord Jesus, His Only-begotten Son. Great as is your need, many as are your sins, His grace is far greater. It is as infinite as His person. Come as you are that you may find Him as He is, full of grace and truth. Does not this suit you who have nothing but sins? Receive of His fulness: it is open to all who believe. Then will you live to Him.
12 The Unbroken Net
(B.T. Vol. N3, p. 313-314. Gospel No. 10-12.)
We have seen in Luke 5 the remarkable manner in which the Lord called Simon Peter and his companions, already disciples, to be fishers of men. There was then a miracle wrought, which acted powerfully not on the mind only or the affections, but on the conscience. After a night's toil in which they caught nothing, the Master spoke, and at His word they let down the nets. This done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes; but their nets were breaking, and their partners came to help them, and filled both their boats, so that they began to sink. It was the beautiful picture of the gospel work to which they were thenceforward called, where they apart from Him could do nothing, and His power wrought. But yet He allowed the weakness of human responsibility to be felt; for the nets were breaking and the boats sinking under the weight of the very blessing given.
Here at the sea of Tiberias after His resurrection we see them at Peter's instance again fishing; and this night too they took nothing. "But when morn was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach. The disciples however knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus therefore saith to them, Children, have ye aught to eat? They answered him, No. And he said to them, Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved saith to Peter, It is the Lord. Simon Peter therefore, having heard that it was the Lord, girded his overcoat about him (for he was naked), and cast himself into the sea; and the other disciples came in the small boat (for they were not far from the land, but about two hundred cubits off), dragging the net of fishes. When therefore they went out on the land, they see a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus saith to them, Bring of the fishes ye have now taken. Simon Peter therefore went up, and drew the net to the land full of great fishes a hundred and fifty- three; and though they were so many, the net was not rent. Jesus saith to them, Come, dine. But none of the disciples dared enquire of him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus cometh and taketh the bread and giveth it to them, and the fish in like manner. This is already the third time that Jesus had been manifested to the disciples, being risen from the dead" (vers. 4-14).
This was not a miracle only but a sign, as indeed is ever the case in the fourth Gospel, and in special connection with the two fore-going manifestations of the risen Lord, which give the key to what has just been cited. The first was when the Lord made Himself known to the disciples gathered on the first day of the week, His own very resurrection day, when He breathed on them, and said, Receive the Holy Spirit. It was His risen life communicated in the power and character of His resurrection, His blood already shed, peace now given, and themselves sent on a mission of peace. It is the type of the Christian and the church.
Eight days after was the second manifestation, when Thomas, who had been absent before but was now present, was convicted of unbelief; as the Lord took up his words of doubt and bade him reach here his finger and see His hands, and put his hand into His side, and be not faithless but believing. The slow disciple could only answer, My Lord and my God! just as the converted Jews will say at the end of this age. Indeed the Lord intimated the same thing when He said to him, "Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed [as Israel will do by-and-by]: blessed are they who have not seen and believed"; which is the proper faith of the Christian now.
The third manifestation is equally notable. "After these things Jesus was manifested again to his disciples" in Galilee of the Gentiles. It is not said to be on the first day of the week, nor eight days after; but simply after what foreshadowed His work in bringing Israel out of their unbelief. Now He sets forth Himself for their millennial work of bringing to Him from the sea of the nations, in which converted Israel will be honoured by His grace. Here there is no breaking of the nets, no sinking of the boats. The net is drawn to land full of great fishes, as becomes the type of that vast ingathering. Whatever be the ruin of the Gentiles deceived by Satan at the end, there will be no failure among the blessed among the nations any more than in Israel. This is no small contrast with all that has been seen since Pentecost. And it is not without a bearing on that new day for the earth, that they found a fire of coals already there, and fish on it and bread. Those, who are used of grace for bringing in of the Gentiles on a great scale, learn that the Lord has wrought a work before them, and that they are invited to enter into the communion of His love in that previously hidden work; for eating here as elsewhere is its well-known figure. They partook of the fish ashore before what they had just caught on a larger scale.
Is not Jesus a wondrous and unwearied Saviour? Think of it in all these three manifestations of Himself after He rose. What was it to the disciples who forsook Him and fled? What was it to Thomas so gloomily denying the good tidings? What will it be to a Gentile remnant, and to all the nations in the future day? And are you, my reader, to be left out of the blessing? It can only be because you harden your soul against casting yourself on Him now. If you are poor, He is rich; if you have no merit, and sins only, He is All-worthy, and died for you. Is not His death all that God values on your behalf? Believing on Him, you are justified. His work claims it, and God delights to prove that it is not in vain. Therein is his righteousness. He owes it to the cross of Christ; and it is yours if you believe. But beware of slighting the divine message. Put not His word of grace from you, nor thus judge yourselves unworthy of life eternal. God is not mocked in the end. Despise Him not now to your own ruin both now and for ever. It is "the hour when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live." Is any case too desperate?