Notes on John 18-21

Around the Cross (chapters 18-19)

The Gospel of John glows like a priceless gem in the golden casket of the Word of God. "All Scripture is God-breathed" and is profitable, we cannot do without any part of it, but the Gospel of John is unique, it has a glory all its own; it is the beating heart of the Word. It unfolds for us the glory of the Son, the Revealer of the Father and the Giver of the Holy Ghost. The Fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell in Him, and John was the chosen vessel to give special emphasis to this, it is stamped upon every word and act that he records. Hear what he says in his opening chapter. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth." That is it, that middle sentence describes the Gospel. John beheld the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, and what he beheld he has recorded by the inspiration and direction of the Holy Ghost. And what he has recorded is for our sakes, that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we might have life through His Name (20:31).

We have the same person in all the Gospels, and each has its special significance and glory. The words of the late Robertson Nicholl, in his book, "The Incarnate Saviour, " are good and true words. Says he, "What He was in any one place at any one time, He was always and everywhere: so that though the mirror of the Gospel history be broken into a thousand fragments, every fragment yields the same image of the God-man, the Saviour of the world." The glory shines through the veil of His flesh in all the Gospels; as the golden thread was woven into the high priest's ephod, with the scarlet and blue and fine twined linen, so the Deity of our Lord is woven into the texture of them all; but it is chiefly His perfect, holy human life and nature that is seen in the first three. And this is as essential to the revelation of God and our redemption as His Deity — the Son of Man is our Saviour, but the Son of Man is the only-begotten Son of God. We do not separate the divine Being from the holy Manhood, they are indissolubly and now eternally joined in the blessed Person of Jesus our Lord. But in the Gospel of John we do see the glory of the only-begotten rather than the sufferings of the Son of Man. Hence there is a dignity and majesty about His movements in it, even when most the object of men's hatred, that arrests us and fills us with wonder and worship. It is this that we are to consider chiefly.

"When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth." What words were these? They were the words of His prayer to His Father, uttered in the presence of His disciples, in which He had spoken of them as His Father's gift to Him, and desired for them that they might be with Him where He was to be, that they might behold His glory, and further that the love wherewith His Father loved Him might be in them even now. If that prayer was to be answered He must go forth to meet every threatening foe, and deliver them from every challenging force. We move in thought with Him along that road to the accomplishing of that great purpose of His love.

"He went forth." Micah tells us that His goings forth were from of old, from the days of eternity (chap. 5:2). We do not know, for it is not revealed to us, what those eternal goings forth were, but we do know that when time began He went forth in creatorial power and wisdom; the heavens declare the glory of those goings forth, and they might well fill us with wonder, but they could not have won our hearts nor produced that faith within us that makes us cleave to Him as our only hope. But Micah had more to say of Him. It was God who spoke through him when he said, "And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah out of thee shall He come forth to Me, who is to be ruler in Israel." In fulfilment of that prophetic word, He, "the Word became flesh." How completely He came forth for God and His will! He said, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me and to finish His work;" and hear Him in the upper-chamber. "That the world may know that I love the Father, " and as the Father gave the commandment "even so I do, Arise, let us go hence" (John 14:31). That "hence" was Gethsemane, Gabbatha, Golgotha; and He knew all that it would mean to Him, as verse 4 tells us. "Jesus therefore knowing all things that should come upon Him went forth" and said to the band that had come to take Him. "Whom seek ye?" He was not taken by surprise when this hostile band led by the traitor appeared in this resort of His; it was their hour and the power of darkness, He had come from heaven to meet it, and He met it with an unperturbed dignity.

In answer to His question they say "Jesus, the Nazarene." A name of reproach in their dark minds and base lips, a name to be derided and loathed, for "can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" and knowing this He answered "I AM He." The glory of His Person flashed forth in that utterance, and in the presence of that glory they were bereft of all power to stand, for as soon as He said to them "I am He", they went backward and fell to the ground. How strange it was that their eyes were not opened, and that they did not fall down again before Him and acknowledge His power; but the god of this world had taken full possession of them and they could not turn back, and God was behind all, making their unspeakable sin work out His own purposes of love. So once again the Lord asks, "Whom seek ye?" and again they answer "Jesus, the Nazarene." Accepting that name with all the reproach of it He answered "I have told you that I am He." "What perfection! If the darkness comprehended not the light of His personal glory, His moral glory shall only find occasion to shine the brighter. For there is nothing finer … than this combination of willing degradation in the midst of men, and the consciousness of intrinsic glory before God" (Bellett).

"If ye seek me, let these go their way." He was not an hireling that fleeth when he sees the wolf coming, the sheep were His, He was the Good Shepherd. He must and would stand between His flock and the foe. He had said to His Father. "Of them that Thou gavest Me, have I lost none" and the testing time had come, when He must make good His word, and He was ready. The fangs of the wolf might tear His flesh, but not theirs; His very soul would be burned by the contents of the cup that He would drink for them, but not one drop of it should touch their lips. He would be their substitute, and surrender Himself to the foe to save His flock from his power and from perdition and keep them for ever in the security of eternal love.

It would appear as though Malchus, a slave of the high priest, vaunting a temporary authority, had offered some insult to the Lord, and Simon Peter, indignant and enraged, slashed at him with his sword; it was a rash stroke, and he no swordsman. His intention was to cleave the man's skull to its bases but he missed his aim and severed his ear. It was not given to John to record the healing of that ear e'er the hands of the Lord were bound, but we might well pause and consider the power and mercy of those hands that were only stretched forth to heal bound with cords. It was John's privilege to hear and record the Lord's words to Peter. "Put up thy sword into the sheath." He needed not that carnal blade, nor the feeble arm that wielded it; the voice that had made that hostile band fall backward could have called twelve legions of angels to His aid, but how then would the Scripture have been fulfilled? "The cup that My Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?" It was that that settled all things for Him. He looked at no second causes, hence the insults and ignominy did not move Him to resentment or resistance, when he suffered He threatened not for He suffered all in absolute subjection to His Father's will.

In an interesting little book entitled "The Trial of Jesus Christ, " the late Lord Shaw, one of the Lords of Appeal, has shown that every step taken in the trial and condemnation of the Lord Jesus was illegal. The precipitancy of the entire proceedings was a complete violation of Hebrew jurisprudence. Trials, even in money matters, had to be conducted in the day time, but trials for life had not only to take place during the day, but if condemnation was the result, the sentence had to be postponed until the second day. The Lord Jesus was condemned and declared worthy of death; and this before the darkness of even the night of His arrest was over. Then two or three witnesses were necessary according to law to satisfy the court that there was triable matter. "Their deposition was the beginning of every proceeding, and until it was publicly given against a man he was held to be in the judgment of the law not merely innocent but unaccused." The witnesses were put on a solemn oath. "Forget not, O witness that… in this trial for life, if thou sinnest, the blood of the accused and the blood of his seed to the end of time shall be imputed to thee." Further, the law of the Jews was "Our law condemns no one to death upon his own confession" and "it is a fundamental principle with us that no one can damage himself by what he says in judgment." Hence, "putting the question to the accused" as Caiaphas did, "and founding a condemnation on the answer was the last violation of formal justice." "This procession of illegality, " says the learned judge, "still staggers the mind: it tears up jurisprudence and justice by the very roots."

The key to this strange drama and unparalleled injustice has two sides to it; theirs and His. On their side, "This is your hour and the power of darkness" and "They hated Me without a cause, " — on His side. "The cup which My Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?" Their blind and uncontrollable hatred and His lowly and perfect submission ran together in that solemn hour; and behind it all that mystery of love. "Christ suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God."

With these points of Jewish law in mind we can understand the Lord's answer to the interrogations of the high priest. "I spake openly to the world: I ever taught in the synagogue and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou Me? ask them that heard Me. What I have to them, they know what I said." The power and justice of that rebuke must have been felt by the whole court, in spite of its excitement at its own injustice and the success of it thus far, and one of them, an officer, lost his head completely and struck Jesus with the palm of his hand. The quiet answer to that blow emphasised the illegality of the proceedings without witnesses. "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou Me?"

The high priest asked Jesus of His disciples and of His doctrine. His disciples! Was the high priest afraid of them? Where were they? Had the Lord any disciples in that hour? "Behold, the hour comes, yea and is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone." Thus had He said, and His word had been fulfilled. His disciples had scattered like frightened rabbits at the first approach of danger; they were gone, and the one who had boasted the most of his attachment to his Master had come back only to deny Him with oaths and curses with the court menials by the kitchen fire. His disciples could give the high priest no trouble, but His doctrine! Ah, that was different. At His doctrine that ambitious and apostate Sadducean Jew might well have trembled, for it was the utter condemnation of his life and ways, and he knew it. But why did he ask Jesus of His doctrine? He had had testimony as to His doctrine already, and that from his own officers, who had been sent to take Him on a previous day, and had returned without fulfilling their commission saying "Never man spake like this man."

John twice records the fact that He was bound: the incarnate Word, Creator of worlds become flesh, bound with cords! Thus they hoped to hold Him fast. Their cords did not hold Him, but others did that their eyes could not see.

"Cords indeed, O Saviour, bound Thee,
&sbsp; Strong, unbreakable, divine
Twined were they in long past ages
  Out of love for souls like mine."

"Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas to the hall of judgment" and Pilate who was to play his ignoble part in this great tragedy appears on the scene for the first time.

What a confirmation of the Lord's condemnation of these leaders of the people was their conduct now. Punctilious to the last degree as to all that was ceremonial and external, their hearts were the abode of every evil passion. They would not go into the judgment hall "lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover" — "whited sepulchres which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." And Pilate, a shrewd judge of character, saw through them, he knew that for envy they had delivered Him up, and he treated them with a well-deserved contempt. "What accusation bring ye against it this man?" Why this unseemly haste and hatred? Stung by his question and probably by his manner, they answer apparently with anger of He were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered Him up to thee." Then see to Him yourselves, said Pilate. "Take Him and judge Him according to your law."

They hated Jesus more than they hated the Roman yoke; that yoke had been intolerable to them, but now they were ready to endure it and acknowledge it if only they could through it get rid of Him. So they confessed "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death." But above and behind all was the infallibility of His own words, "signifying what death He should die." Then it seemed that Pilate realised that the case was graver than he had supposed. What they really asked for was the ratification of a sentence already passed upon Him, it was a matter of life or death, and he must decide it.

The Lord was not silent to Pilate; before him "He witnessed a good confession." The Gentile had to be tested as well as the Jew, and having come into contact with the Truth, Pilate, as representing the Gentile, as Caiaphas represented the Jew, must have the opportunity of bowing to Jesus or rejecting His claim. The time had come when all men, Jew and Gentile, high and low, were come under God's searchlight, to be exposed in their true nature and character.

Pilate then started that most remarkable of all dialogues by the abrupt question "Art Thou the King of the Jews?" And we discern in the Lord's answer, not an attempt to gain the favour of the judge but a note of divine pity for him. "Sayest thou this of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me?" It was the old question, and the greatest of all questions that a man can face, "What think ye of Christ?" Did Pilate want to know? Did his question arise from a true desire to have the truth as to this arresting prisoner? Or was he repeating what he had heard, without any personal interest in the matter? The question brought out what was in him. "Am I a Jew, " he cries. This is a Jewish question merely, and beneath the notice of a proud Roman, except in the execution of his duty. So men look upon Christ, who He may be is to them a mere question of religion; a question for theologians, and of no personal interest to them. But "God has made this same Jesus both Lord and Christ, " "at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth: and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." "Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee to me, " said Pilate, since they reject Thy claim and refuse Thy title what is it to me; I am Thy judge, not a would-be disciple — "What hast thou done?"

In the absence of witnesses he was compelled to ask that question, but he might have had many witnesses, if they would have dared to speak the truth in that hour of Satan's power, and if he had been just enough to summon them to his court and remand the prisoner until they appeared, for not long before that day the multitude had said with united voice, "He has done all things well."

The Lord did not answer the Governor's question, He was not there to talk of His works or to vindicate Himself, but to bear witness to the truth. If His own nation refused His rights, and if, as far as they were concerned, He was to be cut off and have nothing, yet He had a kingdom, a kingdom not founded and formed by sword and blood and "reeking tube" and will of man, as are all the kingdoms of this world, a kingdom nevertheless, in which those who enter it would be empowered to suffer as He was suffering and be more than conquerors through Him who loved them, as He would most surely conquer. But "except a man be born again he cannot see that kingdom."

The Lord lays the stress on the possessive pronoun, "My kingdom, " "My servants." This is one of the features of this Gospel of John; it meets us everywhere. "My Father, My Father's house, My peace, My joy, My word, My commandments, My sheep, My friends, My brethren, — He moves in this Gospel amongst things that are His own, and His kingdom is His own, for "the Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hands."

No wonder that as Pilate listened to these words that he could not comprehend, there was forced from him the question. "Art Thou a King then?" Jesus answered, "Thou sayest that I am a King. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should hear witness to the truth. Everyone that is of the truth bears My voice." There shone with steady glow the glory of His person and the greatness of His mission. He was a King, indeed! He was the King eternal, and He had come into the world to establish a kingdom that would never be moved The "Word was made flesh" and He was "full of grace and truth." He came to bear witness to the truth: to tell out what God is, in a world blinded and blighted by the devil's lie He was the truth Himself, for that is what He meant, surely, when He said, "Every one that is of the truth hears My voice." His kingdom is truth, there is no lie in it, and to hear His voice means to obey the truth, and to be in His kingdom means to be subject to Him. No man knows the truth who does not obey it and no man is in His kingdom who has not submitted to Him.

Here are words that we should ponder in their setting. The power of Imperial Rome was there, ruthless, bestial, God-defying — a power that in its revival will gather up its stupendous forces to hold the world against God and His Christ (Rev. 17:14). And the Jews were there, swept by a storm of hatred against the Lord in comparison with which all the passions of the past were as a summer breeze. And He was there, a fettered prisoner, awaiting sentence of death from the Gentile judge as He had heard it from a united Sanhedrin. And standing there He spoke of His kingdom and of the Truth. There shone light divine on so dark a background, and there were words spoken that shall abide when time has ceased to be.

But Truth was on the way to the scaffold and wrong was on the throne! Yes, but that shall not always be, for "great is truth and it prevails" is eternally true. Caiaphas spoke, and Pilate spoke, but the word of the fettered Prisoner shall be the last word. They spake and had their day and went to perdition. His words abide. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one jot or tittle of His word shall fail.

Pilate's examination of Jesus was brief, and his judgment was swift and sure; it was the only one he could have given, for there was no evidence of any crime nor charge against Him as yet. So to the impatient waiting Jews he declared as the administrator of Roman law, "I find no fault in Him at all." And that if it meant anything, surely meant acquittal, the instant release of the Prisoner and the dispersal of the mob.

But Pilate's prestige at Rome was more to Pilate than justice, and he had wantonly and grievously insulted these Jews on several occasions of late, and they were quite capable of appealing to Caesar against him; it might be politic to appease them, and here was the opportunity; he would conform to one of their fiercely guarded customs. It was the great Feast, and they had clamoured that a prisoner should be released to them as was usual, he would pretend to favour them and release "the King of the Jews, " if it was their wish. They would surely not hesitate in the choice between Jesus and Barabbas. Thus would he escape from an annoying situation and please them at the same time. Their answer must have been like a blow in the face for him. "Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas." And the comment of the Spirit of God on that cry is. "Now Barabbas was a robber."

They cast their unanimous vote for the lawbreaker, the man of violent passions and violent words and deeds. He was the world's choice then, and is now, and yet will be when it has its last opportunity of choosing. "Then that man of sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God" (2 Thess. 2:3). "And power shall be given him over all kindreds, and tongues and nations" (Rev. 13:7).

"Then Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged Him." What was the antecedent to that "therefore"? May we join it up with Pilate's verdict of not guilty? I think we may. Indeed, that is exactly how Luke puts it in his account of the matter. Pilate said, "Behold, I, having examined Him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse Him … I will therefore chastise Him and release Him." Whatever excuse may be found for Pilate, his decision was wickedly callous and brutally unjust. It was as though a judge in a modem Assize Court said, The prisoner is absolutely innocent of the crime. I will therefore pass upon him the sentence of 20 strokes of the cat. That is Luke's side of it, but it seems to me that John goes beneath the surface and reveals the very heart of the man. It was at the cry of the Jews, "Not this man, " that Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. These Jews were thwarting him, they were giving him much trouble, they were daring to challenge his verdict, his honour was at stake and the dignity of his office; he was an angry man and upon whom should be vent his rage? Well, the prisoner was a Jew; they surely would not care to see one of their own race subjected to the ignominy of the Roman scourge. We do not know whether "the terrible flagellum" or the lictor's rods were used on this occasion, but whichever it was the victim was stripped and stretched with thongs on a frame and beaten, and no Roman could be subjected to such shame. Pilate seemed to have hoped to strike at the pride of the Jews as well as at his unresisting Prisoner whom he had come to hate because he feared and could not understand Him. The scornful pagan in that hour of darkness was as thoroughly under Satan's power as were priests and people, and Jesus the Son of God, was the object of the hatred of all; they hated Him without a cause. Let Pilate wash his hands if he will, they will never be cleansed from the stain of that blood which by his order was forced from the flesh of the Son of God at that scourging. And yet he and his mercenaries were but fulfilling the ancient word, and not only testing the lowly submission of their Victim to the will of God, but proving His divine foreknowledge and power, for He it was who spoke through the prophet, saying "I gave My back to the smiters and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting" (Isa. 50:6). It was He who gave His back to their cruelty, and no power of man or devil could have compelled Him.

Then was He handed over to the soldiers to do as they would with Him, and this pleased them well; not often did such sport come their way. He was a king, or claimed to be; they would crown Him then, but with thorns, and if a king, He must wear the purple, so on His bruised and bleeding back is cast a soldier's cloak, as substitute for a royal robe, and thus arrayed they hail Him, and because of His meekness they smite Him with their hands. Pilate watched them for a while, and then as though to spring a surprise upon the clamouring crowd outside, and it may be in the hope that a sight of His marred and bleeding form would satisfy their hatred, he went forth again and says to them "Behold I bring Him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in Him." "Then came Jesus forth wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, and Pilate says to them, Behold the Man!"

Well might they have answered, "If you have found no fault in Him, why have you scourged Him?" But what did he mean by "Behold the Man!"? Was it that they were compelled to look upon Him that in the day of judgment they would remember that sight? "As many were astonied at Thee: His face was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men." But they were not placated; the sight of Him only stirred their hatred to its depths and their full determination declared itself in their cry "Crucify! Crucify!"

The long drawn out duel between Pilate and the Jews is of sad and absorbing interest. The chief priests were as clever as they were wicked, almost; they were too clever for Pilate, and it mattered not to them what weapon they used in the conflict so long as they were successful. Every blow they struck, and the blows were foul blows, weakened the Governor in his efforts to counter their determination that the Lord should die. And yet they claimed to be "wholly right seed" and boasted that they had Abraham for father, and were they not the custodians of the oracles of God? For fifteen centuries they had been under divine culture; as a nation they were the vineyard that God planted, and of which it was written: "My well-beloved has a vineyard in a very fruitful hill… and He looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes" (Isa. 5:1-2). Here were the wild grapes, and worse, here were the husband-men of that vineyard, saying, "This is the Heir, come, let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be ours" (Mark 12:7), and every effort of Pilate's to thwart their fell purpose failed. Pilate sinned, grievously sinned in this great crisis in human history, but their's was the greater sin. These religionists, the custodians of light, the moralists of the day, with the greatest privileges that men had known since creation, were the supreme sinners, and as we contemplate them we cease to marvel that the Lord said, "Ye must be born again." "That which is born of flesh is flesh, " and the most intensive culture of it only brought out more clearly its terrible nature and fruit.

But see with what deliberate and Satanic cunning they meet all Pilate's moves to beat them in this conflict:

Pilate: "What accusation bring ye against this man?"

The Jews: "If He were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered Him up to thee."

Pilate: "Take ye Him and judge Him according to your law."

Jews: "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death."

Pilate: "I find no fault in Him at all. But ye have a custom, that I should release to you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release to you the King of the Jews?"

Jews: "Not this man but Barabbas!"

Pilate: "Behold, I bring Him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in Him. Behold the Man!"

The chief priests: "Crucify! Crucify!"

Pilate: "Take you Him, and crucify Him for I find no fault in Him."

Jews: "We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God."

Jews: "If thou let this Man go thou art not Caesar's friend; whosoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar."

Pilate: "Behold your King."

Jews: "Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him."

Pilate: "Shall I crucify your King?"

The chief priests: "We have no king but Caesar."

What man could tell the sorrow of the Lord during those hours! These were his own who "received Him not, " the great men of the city over which He had wept, who were now leading the people in the clamour for His blood, the very people who had cried "Hosanna" as he had entered the city but a week before. He was the Son who would have made them free indeed, but they preferred Caesar and the Roman yoke to His blessing, and in rejecting Him they were rejecting His Father, whose love He had brought near to them.

How keen must have been His sorrow, not because they hated Him with such violence only, but because they hated His Father also. "They have both seen and hated both Me and My Father."

We are tracing the footsteps of our lowly suffering Lord from Gethsemane to Golgotha as they are recorded for us by John, and we must feel how the unspeakable hypocrisy of the Jews increased the sufferings and multiplied the sorrows. That they might not be defiled, and that they might eat the passover, they would not enter the judgment hall. They would observe to its last detail their ceremonial law, and yet howl like unclean dogs for their prey. And as a result the bewildered Pilate, in the hope of finding a way, hurried the Lord Jesus inside and out of the judgment hall again and again and again.

"They led Jesus from Caiaphas to the hall of judgment" (chap. 18:28).

"Then said Pilate, Take ye Him" (v. 31).

"Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again and called Jesus" (v. 31).

"Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe" (chap. 19:5).

"When Pilate therefore heard that saying … he went again into the judgment hall and says to Jesus. …" ( v. 9).

"When Pilate therefore heard that saying, be brought Jesus forth, and sat down … in a place that is called the Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha" (v. 13).

"Then delivered he Him therefore to them to be crucified. And they took Jesus and led Him away" (v. 16).

For the greater part of those weary hours the mouth of Jesus was silent. Once only since Pilate turned his back on "the Truth" did He speak, and that when Pilate anxious to assert his authority with his Prisoner, even if the Jews mocked at it, cried "Speakest Thou not to me? Knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee?" Did the Lord acknowledge the authority of the Roman judge? Yes, in the ways of God, that disobedient people had been put under the yoke of Rome, and since the Lord had said to them "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's" He would not flout the authority of Caesar's delegate. But God was over all, and Pilate could do nothing that day except as permitted from above. God was not responsible for the black flood of hatred that was pouring out from the hearts of the Jews, nor for the lesser sin of the vacillating judge who was ready to stoop to any injustice to save his face, but He did make Himself responsible for the channel in which the sin of Jew and Gentile flowed. He made the wrath of man to praise Him. The Lamb "verily was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world, " and He being delivered by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God they with wicked hands crucified and slew (Acts 2:23). The sin of man was fulfilling the will of God; events were moving rapidly to the hour when that sin would rise in its utmost strength against God, but in that hour His love would triumph, for "God commends His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."

"Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe." Why does John only record this appearance of the Lord thus arrayed before the people? Matthew and Mark tell how the whole band of soldiers was called together to the mock coronation, and Luke wrote that "Herod and his men of war set Him at nought and mocked Him, and arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, " but makes no reference to the crowning with thorns. There must be a reason for the prominence that John gives to this special suffering and shame endured by the Lord. What is it?

In our Gospel He is not presented to us as the Son of David, the King of Israel as in Matthew, nor as the faithful servant of man's need and God's glory as in Mark, but as the Word, the Creator of the world, who had come into it to be its Saviour. The world belonged to Him for He made it, and as the Son in the eternal Bosom He was the Heir to it, but it was under the curse, man's disobedience had brought the curse upon it, and thorns were the product and abiding evidence of the curse. He had come to redeem the world; to remove the curse and bring in the blessing, and to do this He must bear the curse. He has "redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree" (Gal. 3:13), but the original curse fell upon Him, and the sign of this was the crown that He wore. "Then came Jesus forth wearing the crown of thorns." Oh the shame and the glory of it! Shame to man, who crowned Him: to us all, for we all had our part in it, but glory to Him who in divine compassion for God's glory and our salvation took the curse upon Him that by His death He might remove it.

And now we understand the full meaning of Pilate's cry "Behold the Man." He knew not what he said, but we know, for then there came forth the representative Man, the Son of Man, our Substitute. He had spoken thus of Himself. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, " and now we "Behold the Man" consecrated to our cause and crowned with our curse. But who is this Son of Man? Hear His own words. "For God so loved The world that He gave His only-begotten Son" The thorn-crowned Man is the only-begotten Son of God. It is thus that John reveals Him in his Gospel to our astonished gaze and we understand why the crowning with thorns is so prominent in it.

"The Word became flesh, " and having come thus into manhood He could take no other way than this. He was sinless; He was holy; He was as holy in His manhood, wearing the crown of thorns as He ever was in His Godhead glory, hence the curse had no reference to Him personally, but having espoused the cause of the ruined race, be must bear the curse, if not He would have remained a solitary man for ever, and God's purpose for man would have failed and Satan would have triumphed. In the hope of holding mankind under the perpetual curse of God Satan offered to Jesus every crown under the sun, and men would have made him king when He fed them with bread, but He would take no crown from Satan or from men, but this crown, the crown of thorns. Every other crown was tarnished; there was not a kingdom of righteousness on earth over which He could reign. One crown alone the earth could give that He could take — the crown of thorns. If He was to be the Blesser He must bear the curse.

Pilate said, "Behold, I bring Him forth to you." But Pilate's part in that presentation was merely incidental; the chief factor in that hour that controlled all the circumstances was not Pilate's will or his authority, but the will and purpose of his fettered and thorn-crowned Prisoner, and His obedience to His Father's command: hence we must put the statement in capitals, "THEN CAME JESUS FORTH, WEARING THE CROWN OF THORNS."

We have considered His goings forth in the Garden, as recorded in chapter 18; they continue here; not only did He come forth wearing the crown of thorns, but in verse 17 we read "He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha. Pilate had his part in this for it is said, "Then delivered he Him to them to be crucified, " and in that act the culpability of the time-serving judge reached its climax, "And they took Jesus and led Him away" and in that the greater guilt of the Jews was consummated; but the injustice of Pilate and the frenzied hatred of the Jews could not have brought the Lord of glory to Golgotha. "He went forth bearing His cross." He offered Himself without spot to God. He had said to God, His Father, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God." And to His disciples He had said, "That the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence." That "hence" had been reached at last, and without hesitation or haste He went forth bearing His cross. This was their hour, but it was His also, for "now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in Him." There was a dignity that belongs not to earth about that lone Figure. Here was MAN after God's own heart, bearing man's inhumanity to its utmost limit without resentment or retaliation, and bending His bruised and bleeding back to the cross because it was the will of God. His form was scarred and His visage marred, and a lewd and mocking rabble followed Him through the gates of David's city to Golgotha, yet a glory shone forth in Him in that hour that will abide for ever. That going forth was the march of a King to His coronation and triumph.

"Where they crucified Him and two others with Him and Jesus in the midst." Other Gospels, tell us of the "two other"; but it was not given to John to do so, he had eyes only for Jesus. The malefactors were there, but they were incidental, Jesus was in the midst, the centre of that scene, the centre of man's scorn and hatred, as in a day yet future He will be the centre of God's throne, the object of God's infinite and eternal approbation, and of the worship of a multitude that no man can count.

"And Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross, and the writing was Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews." John tells us, as also does Luke, that this title was written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. These languages represented the religious, the philosophic and political worlds — everything in which man trusts and boasts, and the title was written thus that all the world might know that Jesus the Nazarene, crucified by men, is King. The chief priests rebelled against the writing and would have had Pilate change it, that He might die under the title of an imposter, who had made a false claim; but the writing was unalterable, penned by Pilate but indited by the Holy Ghost; it abides, the unimpeachable witness against the Jew, and the cause of his long travail, which travail shall deepen in the years yet to come until the great tribulation shall be reached, when in no country on earth will he find rest for the soles of his feet.

All the four Gospels tell us of the soldiers' gamble for the garments of the Lord. John particularises the coat without seam, woven from the top throughout, as the one article for which they cast lots. A man's coat was his own; even if he had given it in pledge during the day it had to be returned to him at night, according to the law of Moses. These clothes for which the soldiers gambled were the Lord's only possessions, and even these were taken from Him. How poor He became for our sakes! But why is this seamless coat which the soldiers would not rend, prominent in John's record? We deprecate fanciful interpretations of Scripture, but if a man's garment indicates his character, and it often does so in Scripture, then we venture to suggest that this garment might symbolise the perfect evenness and consistency of the Lord's life and character — He was all that He ever said. But clearly the fact is recorded that we might have light on the Old Testament Scriptures, the soldiers did not know it, yet by their callous conduct they were fulfilling the Scripture which said — "They parted My raiment among them, and for My vesture did they cast lots." Thus we know that a thousand years before He came the great sin-offering Psalm foretold these things of Him.

I have said that the garments of the Lord for which the soldiers gambled were His only possession, but there was Mary, His mother. Even though He had had to put the relationship into the background at the beginning of His ministry, it was there, and now at the end of His life it came into view again; she was "His mother." Four times John uses the word "His mother." The tenderness of His love flowed out to her and He committed her to John. He could have cared for her miraculously, but there was a more excellent way. John stood by the cross with Mary and some other women, "The disciple whom Jesus loved, " probably a youth of twenty years and who had leaned his head upon His bosom at the Supper, was not His disciple only but His friend; he could be trusted, and to him Jesus committed this precious legacy, and he proved himself true to the trust.

This committal of His mother to John was His last act before yielding up His life in sacrifice for us, and it calls for our earnest consideration. Was the Lord in that hour caring only for His mother and His loved disciples? has not this act something in it to teach us? No two persons on earth loved that Lord more than His mother and John, and none were more truly the objects of His tender solicitude. His last word to them was a command that they should dwell together in love and mutual help; He bound them together for this in a new relationship. But He has done this for all His own and everyone of them is loved with the same love wherewith He loved these favoured two, and His command is that they love one another and dwell together in peace in the new relationship that He has placed them in. He died "that He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad" (John 11:52). And He has given them a commandment: "This is My commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you" and "Ye are My friends if you do whatsoever I command you" (John 15). Alas, the seamless robe has been rent by hard and legal hands, and the new relationship that Jesus died to form has had little hold upon the hearts of those who have been brought into it, and family quarrels have dishonoured the Lord, and grieved the Holy Ghost and proved how small is our claim to be the friends of Jesus. Ah, we need to be drawn afresh to the Cross, and to stand there with "His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene, and the disciple whom Jesus loved, " and to hear afresh His words, "Woman, behold thy Son!" and "Behold thy mother!" and again, "I am the good Shepherd: the good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep… There shall be one flock and one shepherd." "Feed My sheep."

What chapter in the whole Book of God can compare with this? In it we reach the climax of the Gospel of the only-begotten Son, the Father's sent One; it glows with His glory. In another place John says, "In this was manifested the love of God towards us, " and again, "Herein is love." It is all here, and here the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in Him.

The Gospel opens with the declaration of His eternal glory and creative power, and John the Baptist, His forerunner, bore witness to the people as to this, but when He appeared, a man among them, John gave another testimony, for he seeing Jesus coming to him, says, "Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world." Heeding John's word, we do behold Him in this Gospel as He treads His onward way from one Passover to another until the last of them all is reached. We behold Him as the Lamb without blemish and without spot. As the Israelites of old were commanded to take a Lamb on the tenth day of the month and have it in their houses that it might dwell with them until the fourteenth day when it was to be slain for their deliverance, so we see the Lamb of God, dwelling among us, full of grace and truth. There was no blemish in Him, and we follow Him with an ever deepening sense of His holy fitness to be the sacrificial Lamb, until we reach

"That sacred spot for sin-stained sinners — CALVARY."

But He was not only the true Lamb of the Passover, He was the substance of all the shadows, and He fulfilled all the God-given types. In the Book of Leviticus God commanded Israel to bring to Him burnt offerings and offerings for sin; they were five in number — the Burnt Offering, the Meat Offering, the Peace Offering, the Sin Offering, and the Trespass Offering. But though God-appointed they were of no value except as fingers pointing onward to the coming of the great Offering, and in them God had no pleasure. All His pleasure was centred in His beloved Son, who said, "Lo, I come (in the volume of the Book it is written of Me), to do Thy will, O God." And here we see Him fulfilling that eternal vow.

It may be right to say that the burnt offering aspect of His death is prominent in our chapter. We most surely see it in the words, "And He bearing His cross, went forth, " for in that willing submission to the will of God He offered Himself without spot to God; then He showed also how much He loved us, for we read, "Christ also has loved us, and has given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour" (Eph. 5:2); but we cannot shut out the sin offering from John's record. Here was the Lamb of God, the bearer away of the sin of the world (chap. 1), here was the Son of Man, lifted up, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, "in the likeness of sinful flesh and a sacrifice for sin" (chap. 3); the blood also that flowed from His side, of which only John speaks, is the blood that cleanses from all sin; and the Scripture which was fulfilled when the soldiers gambled for His raiment is found only in the great sin-offering Psalm (Ps. 22). The trespass offering is here also, for when He cried "I thirst, " and they gave Him vinegar to drink, the Scripture was fulfilled which says "In My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink, " which Scripture is the 69th Psalm, the Trespass Offering Psalm. The Peace Offering is here, for when Joseph and Nicodemus and those women, with tender hands and hearts overflowing with love to Him, bore His body to its burying in the garden tomb, they were most surely in the fellowship of His death, sharing in their measure God's thoughts of Him.

Nor can we pass over the meat offering, which was of fine flour mingled and anointed with oil. He had said, "Now is My soul troubled, and what shall I say?" (chap. 12). But now with unruffled peace He meets every test: the treachery of Judas, the faithlessness of Peter, the venom and hatred of Caiaphas, the vacillation and injustice of Pilate, the frenzy of the people, the callous brutality of the soldiers and all the suffering of the cross, not all combined can force one hasty word from His lips or turn Him aside from His will to glorify God. He is the perfect Man drinking the cup that His Father had given Him, and the more severe the test the more fully revealed is His perfection. Here is the fine flour mingled with oil. He had said to His disciples on an earlier day, "I have meat to eat that ye know not of." But now He shows that He has strength to draw upon that none of them knew. What hidden resources are His! — this solitary suffering Man, the object of the hatred of men, and foot to foot with the powers of hell. God is His trust and hope, and He wavers not; there is no faltering in Him, or shadow of turning. He is the same through all the agony until He bows His head and gives up His spirit.

We consider Him now in those closing moments. He is reaching the end of His mighty undertaking, and knowing that all things were now accomplished He speaks of His bodily suffering for the first and only time; and this only serves to bring out the perfection of His human nature. He is no stoic boasting indifference to pain, He suffers and He declares it. His strength is dried up like a potsherd and His tongue cleaves to His jaws (Ps. 22) and He says, "I thirst." In this same Gospel He had appealed to a Samaritan woman for water, now His cry is to whosoever will hear it; is that cry more than an expression of need? Is there not in it a final test for His foes? They had shown Him no pity, who had always pitied them, but will they relent at last in answer to that poignant cry? They answer Him with vinegar, the sourest thing the earth can yield, and they fulfil the Scripture which says "They gave Me also gall for My meat and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink" (Ps. 69).

The world still offers Him vinegar, what shall we give Him? Certainly He would not have suffered on the cross of Calvary if He had not thirsted for what we can give Him. Can we withhold from Him the sweet wine of true hearts?

" … He thirsted there
For love of sinners, who in glory fair
Shall own His love, and owe eternal praise
To His death sorrows."

But the great reason why He declared His agony of thirst was that the Scripture might be fulfilled. As a man in obedience to the will of God He had lived by the Word of God; it had been His delight and His meditation day and night, it was His weapon when in conflict with the great enemy, and His guide throughout His earthly life. He could have prayed His Father for more than twelve legions of angels and escaped all the suffering, "but how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that this it must be?" He had said when His disciples would have defended Him with the sword. Step by step He had exalted that word and now this only had remained unfulfilled. In the midst of this great event and just before the final word was spoken did this detail matter? Yes, it mattered. The Scriptures must be fulfilled in every letter. It carried the authority of the living God with it, and could not be broken. And shall not we who are His disciples, reverence that same Word? If we are disciples indeed we can do no other.

When Jesus had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost. His work was done, that great work which the Father had given Him to do; and by it God is glorified, the prince of this world is beaten and cast out, and our souls are saved. The door is open now and no power on earth or in hell can shut it — the door of Salvation; it is open for the poorest, the weakest, and the most sinful. He is that door, as His own words assure us. "I am the door, by Me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved." What triumph abides in this word! "It is finished." Who but the eternal Son come from the Father to do His will could have uttered it? We rest upon it in the full assurance of faith.

And He yielded up His spirit, and in that He fulfilled His own word "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father" (John 10). Many have sought to account for His death by some natural means. It is all futile, even when it is reverent; this was no natural death, it was as miraculous as His birth and His resurrection. He through the eternal Spirit had offered Himself without spot to God, and the Prince of life and the Lord of glory, the Son of God and our Saviour, hung dead upon the cross, and "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

"It is finished." The last insult had been offered to the Lord in answer to His cry "I thirst;" and by that insult the last of the Scriptures was fulfilled which foretold His sufferings at the hands of men; hence having received the vinegar He could say "It is finished."

"It is finished." Every element of evil had beset Him; the floods had rolled over Him, and no power from heaven had held them back; the assembly of the wicked had encompassed Him, and reproach had broken His heart; the thorns, the scourge, the spittle and the cross were there; the sword, the power of the dog, the ravening lion and the horns of the unicorns in that dread hour sought out His soul to destroy it. There was not a weapon in the vast armoury of evil that Satan and his hosts had been preparing throughout the ages for this very hour that was not used against Him then. The prince of men and devils was there himself, knowing well, that if he failed in this great fight his doom was sealed. He did fail. "The Prince of this world comes and has nothing in Me." That solitary, suffering Man, without succour from above or sympathy from below had gone forth and met the hosts of darkness and had triumphed over them; their force was all spent, their power was broken; He was victor. "It is finished."

"It is finished." He had come to do the work that God had given Him to do, and it is here in John's record that we learn that it was done. The Lamb of God had offered Himself up — the great sacrifice to take away the sin of the world; He had drained the cup that His Father had given to Him; He had glorified God on the earth and maintained that glory on the cross; and now the suffering is behind Him, and e'er He yields up His Spirit He utters the triumphant word "It is finished." The infinite work was accomplished to stand for ever in its solitary grandeur, the wonder of eternity, and the unshakeable basis of God's glory and our salvation. We feebly enter into the meaning of this word, but as we meditate upon it we are in communion with our God about it, for in that finished work His attributes have been vindicated and His nature revealed and our redemption secured. "Mercy and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other." "It is finished."

"It is finished." Here is the gospel indeed, and now it can be joyfully declared "By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2). The work is done, and for us, by Him who does all things well. This alone gives us access to God in peace; here He can meet us with an eternal forgiveness and the kiss of "His great love wherewith He loved us."' The worst, the weakest, the most worthless may rest here, and none will find rest either now or hereafter who does not only and altogether rest on this finished work. We cast away our choicest works, as "filthy rags"; we confess that it was when we were "without strength" that Jesus finished the work for us, and we praise Him,

"And when in the bright glory
  Our ransomed souls shall be,
From sin and all pollution
  For ever, ever free;
We'll cast our crowns before Him
  And loud His grace extol —
Thou hast Thyself redeemed as.
  Yes, Thou hast done it all."

"And He bowed His head and gave up the ghost." To us who have believed this is the most staggering fact that divine history records; the incarnation of the Son, amazing as that is, seems to take a second place in our thoughts as we consider this. But a few days before, He had said to His enemies "Before Abraham was I AM" and now He hung dead upon a cross! He was the master of death; He had commanded death and it had obeyed Him, when but a week ago He had called Lazarus from the grave, but now He had yielded to it. His spirit had gone to the Father and His sacred body hung dead upon a felon's cross.

Of course His death was a miracle and a deep unfathomable mystery, yet it was a fact. Yet no man took His life from Him; how could they? He was the Word, the Creator and Upholder of all life. He yielded it up Himself, having received authority from His Father to do it. And yet He was the slain One. Jew and Gentile had joined hands to kill Him as surely as they killed the two thieves that hung one on either side of Him. They had "destroyed this temple, " which He was to build again in three days. It was a just charge that Stephen brought against the rulers of Israel when he cried against them saying they had betrayed and murdered the Just One (Acts 7). There are the two sides to the stupendous drama. God's side and man's, and they do not clash, but whether we look at one side or the other, or consider them together, we have before us this wonder of the ages, the Prince of life was crucified, "He was cut off out of the land of the living"; His head was bowed in death.

Death is the great foe, the foe of God as well as of men; it entered the world through sin, and enslaved the whole race — "death reigned." It claimed all and struck at all with envenomed sting, "the sting of death is sin." But when Jesus died it was no triumph for death, it was the triumph of the love of God and death's defeat — "He death by dying slew." The dead body of the Only-begotten Son of God upon the cross of Golgotha was God's answer to the devil's lie in Eden. That lie was — "God loves you so little that He withholds from you the fruit of the one tree in the garden that will elevate and bless you"; the death of God's Son replies, God loves you so well that He will give His best, His Only-begotten, for your redemption and blessing. When Jesus bowed His head and gave up the ghost He put His seal upon His own words, recorded for us in chapter 3:16 of this same Gospel. And "God commends His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

"The Jews therefore." Again the Jew jostles his way to the front and breaks the sacred silence by his discordant religious demands. These base men who had bribed the traitor and wilfully murdered their Messiah must keep the Sabbath and eat the passover, and how could they do that while those three crosses overlooked their city? Their religious sensibilities would have been outraged and their land defiled if the sinless body of their Victim were not buried before sunset! So "they besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away." It was the purpose of God, who made, not their wrath only to praise Him, but their hateful and blatant hypocrisy also, and that the Scripture might be fulfilled. Let them go and wash their hands, and make clean the outside of the cup and platter while we abide still by the cross.

"Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs: but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water." We may be sure that the soldiers would just as readily have broken the legs of the Lord as of the thieves, but they could not, the restraining hand of God was there, for the Scripture had said, "A bone of Him shall not be broken. And another Scripture says, They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced" and in fulfilment of this second word one of the soldiers stepped back a pace and thrust his spear into the Lord's side. It was the last stab of the world's hatred and it fulfilled the Scripture. It did more:

"The very spear that pierced His side
Drew forth the blood to save."

"And forthwith came there out blood and water." We seek for no natural cause to account for this strange result of this piercing. It is said that the Lord died of a broken heart, and the blood and water were the proof of it. He did not die of a broken heart, He lived with a broken heart, but His death was unique. He yielded up His life, and the blood and water from His side was as unique as His death. "He came by water and blood." And these two are symbols and bear witness to us that expiation for sins and purification for sin are an absolute necessity, and further they witness that in the death of Christ we have both. "And he that saw it bear record, and his record is true: and he knows that he says true. THAT YE MIGHT BELIEVE."

We were not there to see that great sight, but God, in His infinite mercy to us, ordained and ordered than one should be there who by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit should bear witness to what he saw and record it for us. The disciple whom Jesus loved was not more courageous than his brother James or Simon or Thomas, and he would have fled with them from the scene of his Master's shame and apparent defeat, if he had not been held there by the power of God. God kept him standing by the cross when his brethren fled that he might record what he saw for the sake of multitudes yet to come; and for our sakes, that we might believe.

What did he see? He saw His Lord and Master, the One whom he trusted would have redeemed Israel, hanging upon a felon's cross, with thorn-crowned head bowed in death, and blood and water flowing from His spear-ripped side. That was a sight that had shattered the faith of many and destroyed their hopes, yet John tells us that he bears record of it, that ye might believe. What is there in that sight to command our faith? It looked as though the cause of the Lord was lost. His foes exulted in what they considered was His extinction, His disciples with the women that followed Him thought that He had been utterly defeated, and they mourned and wept thereat in a hopeless sorrow. But the conclusion of foes and friends were wrong; it was not defeat but victory, as John had learnt when he wrote his record, that we might believe. But what are we to believe? That God's love is greater than man's hatred, and that there and then when man's hatred of God broke all bounds and rose up to murder His Son and drive Him out of the inheritance that they claimed as their own His love triumphed, and that in the death of His Son He would find the righteous basis upon which He could give eternal life to whosoever believes in Him. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4).

Herein is love indeed. How shall we describe it? What word shall we employ to tell out its greatness? We call it great love, wonderful love, love surpassing all other loves; we pile adjective upon adjective, but we feel that all are feeble and inadequate. All the words that we can command, or their equivalent in the language in which Paul wrote must have been considered by him when he desired to describe this love and the gift that it gave, but he discarded them all and declared the gift of God's Son to be "God's unspeakable gift." That which surpasses all human comprehension cannot be described in human language. We shall have a new language when we reach heaven, and shall be able to speak in heavenly superlatives, but even then and there shall we find words to describe the meaning of what John saw? I doubt it. It will be for ever unspeakable love, the unspeakable gift.

We stand in thought with John, and with his eyes we see it all. We gaze upon a dead Christ upon the cross, where He was made sin for us, and there we learn the necessity for it, for without the shedding of blood is no remission of sins. But not the blood of bulls and goats could avail for this, nor the blood of any other man, for every man's life was forfeited because of his own sins, and none could give a ransom for his brother, but this blood, the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purges our conscience from dead works, and cleanses from all sin. The judgment could not spare Him when He was lifted up as our Substitute; His life was poured out as a sacrifice for our sins, infinite and efficacious; it has met the demands of justice against us and because of it God rejoices in giving eternal life to all that believe.

But John saw water as well as blood flow forth from the side of his Lord, and though he could not have understood the significance of this at the time, he had learnt its meaning afterwards when he wrote of it in his Epistle.

John saw the evil of the human heart fully exposed in its bitter hatred of his Lord. And let everyone of us say as we behold it through John's eyes, "There go I, but for the grace of God"; for there is no difference, not only because all have sinned, but because the nature that does the sins is alike in all men. But the evil in man's heart brought out the good that is in God's, and Jesus died, not for what we had done only, but for what we were. We can face it all now, not the sins only, but the evil spring of all within us. The blood was there to expiate the sins; the water was there also, evidence that the judgment of death which God had pronounced upon Adam's sinful race had been borne by our representative and substitute. It was the judicial end before God of the man who had sinned the sins. As we take it to ourselves and say with Paul, "I am crucified with Christ" we are morally cleansed from that inner evil, we reckon ourselves to be dead indeed to sin. "There are three that bear witness on earth, the Spirit, and the water and the blood: and these agree in one" (1 John 5:8). They witness to the glorious fact that God Himself has taken up our case, and whether it be our evil nature or its outcome, whether it be the root or the fruit, He has dealt with it according to His own wisdom, that nothing might stand in the way of His pleasure in us and our joy in Him. He has so dealt with it that He gives eternal life to all who believe.

Have you believed? has the great sight that John saw and recorded moved and melted you and brought you in adoring faith to the feet of the Lamb that was slain? To this end the record was made, may it have its full force and effect with us.

"And [men] appointed His grave with the wicked, but He was with the rich in His death" (Isa. 53:9 N.Tr.). The soldiers who had charge of the crucifixion were anxious to be done with their brutal work and probably had dug a rough hole not far from the crosses into which they intended to fling the three corpses, for "They appointed His grave with the wicked." He was no more to them than the poor wretches who had hung on either side of Him, and why should they give Him a separate grave? But God stepped in and cried Halt, to the will and purpose of men. The great work was finished: the last Scripture that spoke of men's hatred of Him was fulfilled and God would not permit His beloved Son who had always honoured Him to suffer any further dishonour. His enemies were thrust aside and from this point onwards He was honoured and revered by those who loved Him.

God had held His man in reserve, and we read, "After this came Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus" (v. 38). It was a great and noble act; the timorous and secret disciple came forth as bold as a lion and in the face of a hostile world took his stand by the cross of his crucified Lord. It was an unheard of thing. Whoever before had set any value upon the body of a crucified criminal? That a ruler of the Jews should do it must have caused a sensation. The world would scoff but the sight of that solitary man, separated from his fellows, regardless of all consequences, standing beside that cross, must have thrilled heaven! It was as though he said, "O Jews, ye have spurned Him but I embrace Him. O world, ye have despised and crucified Him, but I love Him. Christ for me. I share in His shame, and will bear His reproach. Ye are on that side, I am on this." This is the stand that Paul took in later years when he said, "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified to me, and I to the world."

"And there came also Nicodemus." It is good to see that Joseph was not left to bear the reproach of Christ alone. It may be that his faithfulness and courage inspired Nicodemus to join his company; but this Pharisee also loved the Lord, and he could not hold back, though as far as we know he had only once been in His company, and that by night. And he "brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes about a hundred pounds weight." The women also would be there, for they were never wanting when needed, though John says nothing of them at this point. And "they took the body of Jesus and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews was to bury." "He was with the rich in His death." His kingly rights had been refused Him by His people, but these, His hitherto secret followers, would own Him, the highest honour that they could pay to Him should be His. The linen, the spices and the new tomb were their tribute to His worth, but the love that moved them in that day of sorrow! Ah, that went up with a fragrance to heaven that shall never be forgotten. Those two men would be cut and ostracised by their fellows from that day onward, but what of that, the Father loved them, for "the Father Himself loves you because ye have loved Me."

Look at those "two or three" as they tend the sacred body of their Lord, wrapping it in the linen clothes with the spices and bearing it away to the new sepulchre. They were in the fellowship of the Lord's death — Christian fellowship indeed! They were heedless of the praise or blame of the world; they had one object, their hearts were absorbed with Christ, and they were acting according to the mind of heaven and with the approval of God. Do we know the meaning of those words "As oft as ye eat of this bread and drink of this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come"? That little group of the Lord's lovers were showing His death; they were identified with His death, they stood together in faithfulness and love to the One whom the world had rejected and still rejects — that is Christian fellowship.

"Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man laid. There laid they Jesus." John is the only writer in the New Testament who tells us of a garden. He is always great on environment, and writes as an eye witness, which indeed he was. So he speaks of a garden, and with the garden he shows us a traitor, a cross, and a tomb. All for the Son of God. It is a startling fact, and I believe that the Spirit of God would have us to be startled and impressed by it. The Lord of glory was betrayed into the hands of His foes in a garden, and there He was crucified. Not in the bleak wilderness where He had hungered for forty days, but in a garden, a spot that had been tamed and cultivated by man's labour. Thither He had resorted with His disciples for prayer, and it was there that His quietude — for the agony was past — was rudely broken by the advent of the soldiers led by the traitor.

The garden of the betrayal may not have been the garden of the cross, but this we know, for John tells us, "in the place where He was crucified there was a garden"; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man laid. There they laid Jesus. Of course everyone loves a garden, and an oft-quoted poet has declared that he was "nearer to God in a garden than anywhere else on earth"; but John tells us that the Son of God was betrayed in a garden: "where He was crucified there was a garden, " and He was buried in a garden. Why? We are not drawing on our imagination when we say, It was not in the habitations of cruelty where the naked savage lived his ignorant and degraded life that

"Man meted to the sinless One
The cross, the grave."

"The princes of this world crucified the Lord of glory." It was where the cultivation of man had reached its highest results. Religion, philosophy, statescraft all were there. What man since time began had been under better cultivation than Iscariot? And the Jews had the oracles of God and boasted in Moses and the perfection of their ordinances and priestly caste; they had been under divine culture for centuries. Yet Judas betrayed the Lord into the hands of the Jews and they crucified Him. Pilate also had been trained and educated to administer Roman justice and would be well versed in Greek philosophy; but he was as clay in the hands of the fanatical religionists, and shared their guilt when he condemned Him to crucifixion, and in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin he wrote the accusation and put it on the cross. It was when art and philosophy and religion and military and political power had been brought to perfection that the Son of God, full of grace and truth, came into the world, and He was betrayed with a kiss, crucified as a felon, and buried out of sight, though this fast was done by kindly hands, "because of the Jew's preparation day: for the sepulchre was nigh at hand." Who that weighs these solemn facts can question the absolute necessity — "Ye must be born again."

"And in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man laid, there they laid Jesus." We linger here with those friends of Jesus; they stood apart from the world that had hated and murdered Him and we stand with them. They would have given Him a throne, indeed they had enthroned Him in their hearts, but now the new tomb is all that they could give Him, and in giving Him that they fulfilled the Scripture. It was a new sepulchre in more senses than one. It was new in the sense that never before had the grave received a sinless occupant. There had always been a natural affinity between the grave and the dead, for God had said, "Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return, " but there was no affinity between the body of Jesus and the grave; for the first time in the history of mankind the grave had received an incorruptible body, because a sinless one. Yet His burial was as real as His death, and herein is the gospel, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and was buried, " and we cannot stop there. "He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, " but His resurrection belongs to another chapter.

The First Day of the Week (John 20)

What does "the first day of the week" mean to us who have believed? Surely the question is right and timely since the first day of the year of our Lord 1939 is also the first day of the week. It means great and wonderful things for us, this first day of which John speaks, for it was the day of resurrection, the beginning of a new creation, a day that shall never be forgotten and shall never know a night. It tells of darkness past, of death smashed and overthrown, of a victorious Saviour and a delivered people! It means all this and more to us who having not seen have believed. Blessed indeed are we! and that by the risen Saviour's own words (v. 29).

The light of the new day shines upon us and we walk in the light of it, but for Mary Magdalene "it was yet dark." She, like all the disciples, was controlled by sight and not faith, and the darkness in which they mourned and wept was unrelieved. She was early at the sepulchre and peering in the darkness hers were the first mortal eyes to see that the stone was taken away from the sepulchre. She concluded that someone had been there before her and who could it be but an enemy. It was not an enemy, it was the Father. For "Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father" (Rom. 6:4). Who can tell what the first day of the week meant to the Father whose beloved Son had accomplished all His will? What infinite and holy joy must have been His when He "brought again from the dead the Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant" (Heb. 13). The first day of the week must have filled heaven with louder and sweeter praise than ever it had known before.

But for Mary "it was early" and though the day was awaking, her faith was asleep, a sleep that was almost death. But the love that filled her heart for the Lord was not sleeping, it was never more awake, and because she loved Him with a love that He only could understand and satisfy she had come thus early to the sepulchre. She had come to anoint His body and it must have added another pang to her almost boundless sorrow to find that this unsatisfying "satisfaction" was denied her. His body was not there.

We must take special notice of this Mary, for she is the outstanding figure on this first day of the week, her love for her Lord made her so. And what cause she had to love Him. She had been the slave of a seven-fold Satanic malignity and He had set her free. He had driven out the evil spirits and turned the hell of the life she had lived into the heaven that His own presence affords. He had set her heart and her tortured mind at rest, as the Shepherd of her soul He had led her into paths of righteousness and peace. And now He who had wrought so mightily and mercifully for her had been slain as a common felon, and even His body was gone. No wonder "it was yet dark" for Mary. No wonder she gave voice to her agony and despair in her oft repeated words, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him."

What could she do in her bewilderment but run to Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, her grief was too great for one heart to bear, and they on hearing her report also ran. Her words shook them out of their sullen sorrow and put a surprising energy into them. Surely the mystery was deepening, what could that empty sepulchre, so lately containing the body of Him in Whom all their hopes were centred, and so well sealed and closely guarded, mean? They satisfied themselves that it was even as Mary had reported, the tomb was empty, but to still further deepen the mystery, the linen clothes had not gone with the body. Stooping down and looking in, John, who fleeter of foot, had reached the sepulchre first, beheld and saw these clothes lying undisturbed, and Simon arriving on the heels of John and being bolder than his friend went in and confirmed what John saw. He "sees the linen clothes lie, and the napkin that was about the head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together by itself."

These details as to the linen clothes must not be overlooked. There is a reason for this twofold testimony as to them. Lying there in perfect order they tell us more than that there was no sign of a struggle. When Lazarus came forth from his tomb at the command of the Lord he was bound hand and foot with grave clothes, witness that he had to return to that grave again, and he needed friendly hands to loose him and let him go. But the sacred body of Jesus did not need such friendly service, it did not arise from the dead wrapt in the garments of death. He left them behind Him undisturbed by His rising. They were lying there for those disciples to see just as they were when the body of Jesus lay within them; neither they nor the stone that held the door of the tomb had impeded His triumphant rising, all that spoke of bondage and of prison had been left behind. It was the first day of the week, the resurrection day; the power of resurrection life had vanquished death. The grave was empty. The Lord was risen indeed, and all that spoke of death was left behind for ever.

"… Then went in also that other disciple who came first to the sepulchre, AND HE ALSO BELIEVED." He who saw His crucified Lord dead upon His cross and bore record of it that we might believe, saw also the empty grave that he might bear witness of that also. "Then the disciples went away again to their own home." It was a strange thing for these men to do, and we marvel at it; surely they might have pursued their search for Him who had been so much to them. It may be that their sensibilities were benumbed by their sorrow, or they may have feared being in the vicinity of the tomb when the authorities learned that it was empty, lest they should be charged with the theft of the body. We do not know why they went away to their own home on such a morning with all its mysteries, leaving Mary standing without weeping.

This we do know that they "as yet knew not the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead." If they had known the Scriptures they would have had no need of sight to convince them that the grave was empty; they would have been assured and triumphant and rejoicing men, waiting in that garden to greet their risen Lord. How great are the Scriptures! What assurance, what confidence they give to those who know them. Sight and sense may deceive us, but the Scriptures are the very word of the God who cannot lie. We give thanks for every experience of the truth of them, but we would not rely even upon our experience, it may fail us; the Word of God is the impregnable rock upon which faith rests without fear, it never fails.

"But Mary stood without the sepulchre weeping." The men might depart to their own home, she had no home where her Lord was not; the world was a wilderness without Him. Poor, desolate, heart-broken woman! And as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and sees two angels in white sitting, the one at the head and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain." It was not the linen clothes that she saw, cerements of death, but angels in white, heavenly messengers in garments of victory, now holding death's territory, that the Lord had subdued and taken, and their question seems to be one of surprise that one who loved their Lord should weep on that great day. "They say to her, 'Woman, WHY weepest thou?' She says to them, 'Because they have taken away my Lord, and 1 know not where they have laid Him.' And when she had thus said, she turned herself back." As much as to say, "How could anyone ask me, why I weep, could I do anything else but weep, having lost MY Lord? She had no home where He was not and even angels from heaven had no attraction for her.

"And when she had thus said she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus says to her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing Him to be the gardener, says to Him, Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away." Her eyes, dimmed with days and nights of constant weeping did not discern her Lord, but her love spoke out, a desperate but ignorant love, that saw no difficulty in what she proposed to do. Disciples had failed, angels even she could not trust, would this gardener help her! The time had come. The Lord could not withhold from her the revelation of Himself in resurrection. She, faithful woman, must be the first to behold Him alive from the dead. He answered the cry of her heart with one word, "Mary." It was enough. He called His own sheep by name and His sheep heard His voice. "She turned herself, and says to Him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master."

The day had fully dawned for Mary. The first day of the week meant for her the risen Saviour, her Lord and Master, and she wholly surrendered to His will, was a vessel meet for His use, one that He could send with the greatest message that had ever been carried by mortal lips.

And what does the first day of the week mean for us? Does it mean for us as it meant for Mary, a risen Saviour, our Lord and Master? We needed His finished work for the salvation of our souls, and chapter 19 of our Gospel gives us that, but we need the living Saviour for the satisfaction of our hearts and "the first day of the week" gives us that. But He who can fill our hearts and make them overflow with joy is our Master. We cannot have the joy of His ever-living for us if we are not subject to His will. But if with Mary we bow low at His feet and respond to His love by that one word "Master" we shall even now know somewhat of the light and joy and triumph of the new day, the first day of the week.

The first day of the week was the end of Mary Magdalene's darkness and sorrow for it brought back her Lord alive from the dead, and gave her "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." We are not surprised that with joy and wonder she fell down before Him to embrace the nail-pierced feet, but why did He say to her, "Touch Me not?" Many suggestions have been made as to the meaning of these strange words. We believe that the true interpretation is that the truth of John's Gospel carries us outside and beyond the range of sight and sense into the region of faith. Mary had believed that the Lord was the Messiah of Israel, on this level her links with Him had been earthly and a matter of sight. She had known Him "after the flesh" which means in limited earthly circumstances, and according to the old creation, but she had to learn, as we have to learn that, "though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth we know Him no more" (2 Cor. 5:17). The resurrection of our Lord was the beginning of a new creation, which as far exceeds the old, even at its best, as heaven is higher than earth, and she had henceforward to know the Lord not only as the Son of David, and the Conqueror and Master of death but as ascended to His Father, the centre of heaven and the object of the Father's pleasure there, the Father's well-beloved Son.

Mary and all the disciples had hoped to see Him take the throne of David; they would have been contented to have seen Him crowned with Israel's crown, for their thoughts and hopes had not reached higher than that, but the Father had something greater than that for Him, even the fulfilment of eternal counsels. He must ascend to His Father's throne, the only place in the universe worthy of Him who had accomplished all the Father's will. Would then these greatly loved disciples be losers by having their earthly hopes disappointed? Most certainly not. Nothing could separate them from His love, He would carry their hearts with Him where He was going and by faith and the Holy Spirit, who was to come upon them and dwell in them, they would have part with Him in that heavenly home to which He was about to ascend, and that not as disciples merely, or as willing subjects in a glorious kingdom, but as His brethren, which was a new and spiritual relationship for them, a relationship more intimate and glorious than that in which the angels stood to the Lord.

But this being so why should He have allowed the women to hold Him by the feet immediately after this, as we read they did in Matthew 28? The answer is that the design of Matthew's Gospel is different to that of John's. Each is perfect in its place. Matthew shows us the Lord as Israel's King. "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?" is the first question in it. In the last chapter there is no mention of the ascension, the Lord is there with the godly remnant of Israel, representing those who in a day yet to be will go and disciple all nations in His risen power and conscious of His presence with them. Jewish hopes have been suspended for the time being and heavenly hopes have taken their place, that is John's Gospel, but these hopes of Israel are to be restored and realised according to the Scriptures, and His fame carried by His messengers from among the Jews to all nations under heaven, that is Matthew's Gospel.

If Mary was the first of the Lord's followers to learn that the hopes they had entertained were not at that time to be realised she was the first to hear of the new relationship which was the result of His death and resurrection. He had said, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abides alone; but if it die, it brings forth much fruit" (chap. 12:24). He was the Corn of Wheat, and His disciples and all who have believed on Him are the much fruit. "He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Heb. 2); and Mary was chosen to carry the news of this to those whom it concerned. Who else could have done it? The disciples were not there to be sent, but Mary was there, a vessel meet for the Master's use, and how wonderful was the message He committed to her. "Go to My brethren and say to them, I ascend to My Father, and your Father, to My God, and your God."

We must not suppose that Mary understood the meaning of the message; not until the Holy Spirit came to lead those whom He indwells into all the truth would any understand it, but that did not diminish the honour that the Lord put upon her, an honour which showed how He appreciates the affection that can be satisfied with nothing but Himself. And eagerly and well she carried out her commission; like the man born blind of chapter 9, whose testimony was, "One thing I know, " she carried with her a testimony that no unbelief could shake, for she had seen the Lord and heard His voice.

As a result of her service the disciples gathered together at their secret rendezvous in the evening of the day. Men of little faith they were, and the prey to misgivings and unbelief, with the doors closed and barred for fear of the Jews. It may be that the memory of their faithlessness kept them back from going to seek their Lord, and the doubt as to how He would treat them added to their perplexity, but while they talked "came Jesus and stood in the midst." The barred doors did not keep Him out. Nothing could do that, they were His first and chief thought on that first day of the week. He might have gone to the high priest and the rulers of the Jews and convicted them of their great crime in rejecting Him and so have vindicated His Name, but He did not. He might have asked of His Father, and He would have given Him the heathen for His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession (Ps. 2), but He did not, those Galilean fishermen were more to Him than the vindication of His Name, or crowns and kingdoms, they were the men that His Father had given Him out of the world (chap. 17), they were His brethren, and having loved them He loved them to the end.

"He stood in the midst, " and His presence with them changed everything. They may have been despicable before in their unbelief and terror, and not the sort of men that any leader would be proud of, or such as a military commander would have chosen for soldiers, but now, in the sight of the angels in heaven at least, they were the most august company on earth. The Lord, the risen Lord, the Lord of glory stood in the midst of them. He claimed them as His own, He had said of them "My brethren." They were His assembly, the nucleus of His church, and they represented all who afterwards should believe on His Name. Then and there Psalm 22:22 and Hebrews 2:12 was fulfilled. "I will declare Thy Name to My brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise to Thee." He sings because He is triumphant and He sings with joy because He possesses now beyond all challenge those His Father had given Him, His blood-bought brethren, but greatest of all He is now able to effectually reveal to them the meaning of the Father's Name.

We cannot pass this great first day of the week scene with haste, it has much to teach us. The first chapter of our Gospel tells us that "He was in the world and the world was made by Him and the world knew Him not. He came to His own and His own received Him not." "He was cut off and had nothing" as the old prophet prophesied of Him. Instead of the throne of David He was nailed to a felon's cross, instead of the world's homage He was despised and rejected by men! Think of the Lord of glory crucified, and that by the princes of this world (1 Cor. 2)! But now He stood in the midst of His own. He held territory won from this present evil world and its god and prince, who is the devil and Satan. He was supreme in that assembly, every heart there rendered Him willing homage; they were glad when they saw the Lord, and as never before those men realised the meaning of that great title. This is what He had called in anticipation "My church." It abides, the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, but the chiefest joy of those who know its blessedness lies in the fact that He now has His own circle, "His own which are in the world, " where His will is everything, His word is treasured, His Name magnified, His love known and His Father's Name declared.

To gain this territory He had to pass through Gethsemane's agony and the unparalleled woe of Golgotha; it was the only way to deliver His own from the bondage of sin, the world and Satan; if they were to be forgiven and sanctified it was necessary that He should bear their sins in His own body on the tree and endure the just judgment of God that those sins deserved. He gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God our Father (Gal. 1:4).

The subject is of such importance both to the Lord and to us that we must pursue it. What a wonderful gathering that must have been: the Jew shut out and the Lord shut in with His own. There would be no jarring note there, no fleshly ambition, no place for the world. Sometimes we sing of what heaven will be.

"Every knee to Jesus bending
All the mind in heaven is one."

We see a foretaste of this in that "first day of the week" gathering. Those men whom He called His own were not of the world. He had said to His Father, "I have given them Thy word, and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world even as I am not of the world" (chap. 17:14). They had been of the world but He had chosen them out of it (chap. 15:19), and by His death He had delivered them from it and they were one with Him, and His joy in being in the midst of them was infinitely greater than theirs could be in having Him there. And He has not changed, He loves His own as much today as He loved those disciples on that first day of the week, but how are we responding to His great and changeless love? That is a fair question, surely? As we consider that first assembly meeting do we know anything comparable to it today?

Let us consider a contrast to that holy scene that should move us to heart-searching and indignation, yes, and to shame. It is found in the address to the church of the Laodiceans (Rev. 3:14-22), "Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with Me." Instead of being shut in with His loved brethren, He is shut out of this church — shut out! and yet standing at the door and knocking! Think of the tragedy of that! Think of the sorrow of heart of Him who stands outside, and think of the delusion and the poverty of those who have shut Him out. A "Christian" assembly without Christ, and deaf to His appeal of love. What had happened? The Jew at first so rigorously excluded had got in. "Beware, " the Lord had said, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." They had not heeded that warning and the Pharisees had got in with his ceremonies and ritual, he had set up his standard within that sacred enclosure, and formulated his rules and regulations, and the Sadducee had got in with his rationalism and materialism, and Christ and His authority had been forced out and the door shut on Him that ought to have been shut upon the Jew. The fear of the Jew is a wholesome fear and to be cultivated, especially as the spirit of him is in everyone of us. And by the Jew I do not mean the race of Israel, but that spirit that tends to legality and bondage and boasts in an ecclesiastical standing without a corresponding moral condition. And this backslidden church boasted, "I am rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing, " and knew not that it was wretched, and miserable, and poor and blind and naked.

We turn back to this first assembly meeting, this pattern of what every assembly meeting should be, for though the Lord is now ascended to His Father He has not forgotten those whom He has left in the world, and we have His own words "Where two or three are gathered together in My Name there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20). And the Holy Spirit is with all such to make the presence of the Lord as real to the faith and affection of His saints as it was to those disciples on that first day of the week.

The appearance of the Lord in the midst of His disciples on the first day of the week was the fulfilment of His own word to them. "I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you" (chap. 14:18 N.Tr.), and "I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man takes from you" (chap. 16:22). They had forgotten that He had said these things to them, but He had not forgotten. He is the Faithful and the True, and He neither forgets nor fails. So we read "Jesus came and stood in the midst, and says to them, Peace be to you." He came with a salutation that must have driven the tumult of fear and doubt from their hearts. It may have been a common salutation, but it took on a new meaning on His lips and at such a time. It meant what it could never have meant before. He had spoken to them of peace in view of His going away. He had said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you … let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (chap. 4:27), and "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me ye might have peace" (chap. 16:33). His salutation was the announcement to them that the time had come for them to possess this three-fold peace.

Peace, what a word it is! Is it possible to have it in this sad world? Yes, it is. Let us thank God and rejoice, that the first word from the lips of the risen Lord in the midst of His disciples was, Peace, and that word was not spoken for them only but for us also who have believed on Him through their word. He was about to ascend to His Father, and these Galilean fishermen whom He loved so well, were to be left in the world, but they were not to be the unhappy sport of every storm that might assail them, He would leave peace with them, and this peace abides for us to this day.

We must first consider the basis of it, and for this we must begin with God: we could have no peace but false peace if we were not at peace with Him. God sent His Son into this world of sinners preaching peace, and "He has made peace by the blood of His cross." Our sins were laid upon Him when He suffered, the Just One for us, the unjust, to bring us to God, and He has put away those sins for ever by the sacrifice of Himself. In His death the inflexible justice of God was magnified and His righteousness upheld; the effect is peace. Having peace with God we need not fear either death or the devil. The blood of Jesus has silenced the tongue of the great accuser and death's power has been annulled by the Saviour's death, and now the Lord, who is alive for evermore proclaims peace as the result of a completed work, an all-sufficient sacrifice, and a signal and everlasting victory.

But there is more. He gives to His own His own peace. "My peace I give to you" and this peace must be included in the salutation. This is that peace that was always His because His mind was always stayed upon His Father. As His holy feet trod the filthy streets of those eastern cities He was the Man of sorrows; the sin and sorrow that surged everywhere made Him that, but He was never ruffled. The contradiction of sinners against Him was strong and persistent, but He was never perturbed. "His path uncheered by earthly smiles led only to the cross, " and yet He did not falter; a peace that nothing could disturb possessed His heart and mind as He carried out His Father's will. He was the dependent Man, and all His confidence was in His Father's wisdom and love and in that confidence He had perfect peace. This is the peace He gives, not as the world gives; He shares it and makes it real by bringing His own into the same relationship to His Father and God in which He stands. Hence in all circumstances and at all times His peace may be theirs as they wholly confide in the Father's wisdom and love.

Finally, in view of the tribulation and hatred that they would encounter in the world as His witnesses, they were to have peace in Him. "These things I have spoken to you that in Me ye might have peace, " He had said. This phase of peace in tribulation was to be theirs as they remembered and treasured the words that He had spoken to them. He had told them plainly that they would suffer for His Name's sake; He had told them this so that when it did happen to them they would remember that He had told them (chap. 16:4), and not be taken by surprise. Peace with God, peace in the knowledge of the Father's love, peace in Christ, their risen and exalted Lord, who had overcome the world, all this was contained in the words of His salutation as He stood in their midst.

HIS WORDS were wonderful, but what shall we say of HIS WOUNDS? "He showed them His hands and His side." Let us put ourselves in the place of those men and enter into their reactions to this situation; His sudden appearance in their midst must have startled and amazed them, His salutation must have thrilled them to their heart's centre, but would not the tears rush to every eye as they beheld His wounds? It was indeed their Lord who stood before them. His wounds were the absolute proof of that, they could doubt no more, and He had suffered those wounds for them. Did they speak? No, even Simon Peter was silent in the presence of the wounds of Jesus. How inadequate and cold would words have been then! In silent wonder they gazed upon their Lord alive from the dead, and they were glad. A gladness too full for words filled them, a foretaste and earnest of that gladness that will fill the ransomed hosts when for the first time they behold their great Redeemer in the Father's house.

The divinely given record as given through John is impressive in its simplicity and economy of words. But we do not need words to unfold that wonderful hour before our souls, we can see it all. We see those men, furtive and afraid gathering in that upper room; we enter into their amazement at the appearance of their Lord in the midst — the Lord of the angel hosts, and yet the One who loved them and had called them brethren, and whom they feared they had lost for ever. We hear His salutation and see Him showing His wounds. Would they ever forget that sight? How eloquently those wounds would appeal to them! They were glad when they saw the Lord. There is a quietness and calm about the scene in spite of its tremendous meaning; as we consider it we feel that all fear must have fled away, the peace of His presence must have filled and pervaded that assembly, and the brethren of the Lord were at home with Him.

Then He spoke to them again for He had work for them to do. His words and His wounds were in view of HIS WORK in the world. They were to be His sent ones, even as He had been sent by His Father. What an honour was this! What confidence He was reposing in them! But they were not sent forth in their own strength; it was not their natural enthusiasm that would make them His triumphant witnesses. If they were to represent Him they must be like Him. They must have His peace, and in view of their going forth He imparts His peace to them. They must have His life also, hence He breathed on them. As God breathed into Adam's nostrils the breath of life on the day of his creation, so the risen Lord breathed the life of the new creation into these men on the first day of it; and further they needed His power, and this they would have by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, who was to come upon them at Pentecost.

Finally He gave to them their commission. They were to go forth and inaugurate the gospel dispensation, the reign of grace. They were to be Christ's ambassadors praying men to be reconciled to God, and carrying with their message the forgiveness of sins.

There is presented to us in this entrancing scene a view of what abides for the Assembly — the Lord's own beloved saints, when gathered to Him and the resources they have in and through Him during His absence from the world. Everything is new. The blood of the great sacrifice had been shed as the basis of it all; the Lord had risen triumphant over death; He had gathered His own together, calling them His brethren, and making the relationship real by leading them into the meaning of the Father's Name; He stood in the midst of them bringing perfect peace to them and showing them His hands and His side, the indelible and eternal witness to them of His great love; He imparted to them His own life and (anticipatively) the Holy Ghost as the power of that life by whom they were united to Him, their Head and Lord, and who would be their power to witness for Him in the world as they carried into it the message of the forgiveness of sins, which as His representatives they were commissioned to proclaim.

May the Lord by His Spirit recover His saints to these great things and make them living and real to us all, for His Name's sake.

"But Thomas one of the twelve, which was called Didymus" was not with his brethren on that memorable first day of the week, and as the Lord looked upon His disciples He must have missed him. Why was he not there? and where was he? This Thomas was a peculiar character, he was not a voluble and excitable man like his friend Simon Peter, nor trustful and companionable like John; he was a man by himself, his words were few and he was apparently of a dull, determined and materialistic turn of mind, he would take nothing on trust. Yet when he did speak it was to the point and there was no mistaking his meaning. Only John records his sayings and the Holy Ghost who inspired him to write had a purpose in that.

There was a time before the great tragedy when the disciples seemed thoroughly bewildered in their association with the Lord, they could not understand Him, He never seemed to do the thing that they expected. He could command the tempest when it threatened them; demons whom other men feared fled before His word, even death obeyed Him, yet when the Jews attempted to murder Him, He simply withdrew from Judea and went beyond Jordan and so escaped out of their hands. It was most perplexing. And then He proposed to return thither again. It seemed a foolish thing to do, and the disciples in evident surprise said to Him, "Master, the Jews of late sought to stone Thee, and goest Thou thither again?" When it was evident that He would not be turned from His purpose and some of them were undecided what to do, Thomas spoke out bravely and well. Said he "Let us also go that we may die with Him." He had pledged his allegiance to his Lord, and done it with his whole heart, and in life or death he would be true to his pledge. He meant it, though when the fury of hell began to rage he fled like the rest of them, for which cowardice he would never forgive himself. That was the sort of man he was.

He spoke again when the Lord told them that He was going away to His Father's house and would prepare a place for them there. They had not heard of the Father's house before, and yet He said to them, "Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." This was too much for Thomas, it was too visionary for his matter-of-fact mind. How could they know the way to a place they had never heard of? He, with the rest of his brethren had looked for a place in Jerusalem with his Lord, but he would have been quite willing to share His fortunes in a desert, anywhere on earth, in fact, as long as his Lord was there, but the Father's house, and the way to it! Surely the Lord was speaking in parables, so he exclaimed with some impatience yet with deep reverence, "Lord, we know not whither Thou goest and how can we know the way?"

As we consider these words of his reported by John we begin to understand why he was not with the rest of his brethren on that first day of the week. His Lord had died and they had not died with Him; He had gone away and he knew not whither He had gone. He was ashamed; he had failed his Lord and all he had hoped for had failed, and his pessimistic mind and mood had mastered him. He had only companied with his brethren because the Lord was with them, he could find neither comfort nor joy in them now that He had gone, so he had forsaken their company and hidden himself away to weep and mourn, and Mary could not find him when she sought for him to give him the message of the risen Lord. Yet his brethren found him during the days that followed, and there were ten of them, and every one of the ten said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But did that move and change Thomas? Not at all; no faith, no hope stirred his dull soul. Listen to his words, "Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and thrust my hands into His side, I will not believe" (v. 25). His dullness had grown into stubborn unbelief. His brethren were deceived but not he; they were ready to believe anything; he knew them; he would believe nothing that he could not see and feel.

"And after eight days again the disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be to you." Again the closed doors did not keep Him from His disciples, and what a cheer His salutation must have given them, but this visit seems to have been specially for Thomas, for He addressed Him twice. He looked upon him with pity and met his unbelief with infinite grace; He showed him that He knew the very thoughts of his heart and had heard his stubborn words to his brethren during the week that had passed. Stretching out His hands to him in entreaty He said to him, "Reach hither thy fingers and behold My hands, and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into My side; and be not faithless but believing." What a revelation of the Lord's grace was this, showing that no matter what the condition of soul His disciples might be in He was equal to it. He appeared first to Mary, for she loved much and had the first claim and He filled her desolate heart with a joy that no man could take from her, and last of all he appeared to Thomas, and there could not be a greater contrast than that between Mary and Thomas, and He drove from his heart its sinful unbelief. And the grace that He showed then abides for us to this day.

Thomas could doubt no more; those wounds in that incorruptible body were the eloquent witnesses that the One whom he had seen crucified but twelve days ago had taken His life again. The glory of the only begotten Son burst upon his astonished soul and falling prostrate before Him he cried, "My Lord and my God."

This great Gospel opens with the declaration of the Godhead glory of the Lord, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made." We read the words and wonder if any among all those who come into contact with Him will discern the full splendour of His person. One ray of His glory breaks into a heart here and another there as the story moves on to its climax. It's climax is here. At last human lips confess who He is, the close of the Gospel answers to its beginning. And it was Thomas who saw and believed and confessed: not enthusiastic Peter, not John who had leaned upon His breast at Supper but Thomas, dull, calculating, materialistic Thomas. The truth that the whole Gospel was written to reveal is confessed at the end by the last man of the twelve from whom we would have expected it.

Happy Thomas, yet happier are those who have not seen yet believed. Believed what? That the One who bears in His body the wounds that He sustained upon the cross is none other than the eternal Word, by whom all things were made, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God.

Note it well, the Lord accepted the confession and adoration, and incidentally this is one of the strongest proofs that He is indeed what Thomas confessed Him to be. If He had been merely man, good and true, as some deniers of His Deity assert, He would have rebuked Thomas for uttering foolish words, for it would have been an unspeakable wickedness for one man to accept from another man the adoration that belongs only to God; but He accepted it because it was His right. And He went further and declared the blessedness of all those throughout the ages who should perceive His glory and confess it and render homage to Him. These words of His should be pondered and treasured by us, "Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, yet have believed." How wonderful is this grace that has brought us into this supreme blessedness!

I have no doubt that this second first day of the week has a dispensational interpretation. The first appearing is a type of this present church period. Thomas represents the Jew who refuses to believe the gospel of the risen Lord, and will not believe until the Lord appears to them when the Church period has closed with its rapture to heaven. Then they shall see Him and say, "What are these wounds in Thine hands?" (Zech. 13:6), and then they shall confess "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us; this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isa. 25:9).

While rejoicing in the perfection of the Scriptures that reveal these ways of God to us, we must stress what lies on the surface, the grace of the Lord that can meet every condition of soul in His people. Are our hearts growing dull and cold towards the Lord, and does unbelief creep into our thoughts at times; does His word fail to stir our hearts as once it did? What is the remedy? A sight of Him as Thomas saw Him, His hands and side wounded. Yes,

"wounded for me"

"The Son of God, loved me and gave Himself for me."

"And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this Book; but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His Name."

Jesus Showing Himself (John 21)

By the last words of chapter 20, John seemed to bring his wonderful story to a close, but this was not to be. There were other resurrection incidents that the Holy Ghost brought to his remembrance and of these He inspired him to write: the Gospel would have been incomplete without them and we are greatly enriched in our knowledge of the Lord by the record of them. They give us the final showing of Himself to His disciples before He left them in the world to witness and suffer for Him. Notice how the emphasis is laid upon this showing of Himself. We read "After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples … and on this wise showed He Himself, " then again in verse 14, "This is now the third time that Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was risen from the dead." He showed Himself to His disciples to confirm and strengthen them in view of all they would have to face for His sake in a hostile world, but the showing has been recorded for us also that we might contemplate Him and have our hearts moved and our faith confirmed also by what we see.

The scene had changed from the Upper room in Jerusalem to the sea of Galilee, where we are on familiar ground. It was in Galilee that He had begun to show forth His glory when by His first miracle He met the need of His friends at their marriage, and now in Galilee again His glory shone forth with a greater splendour when He wrought His last miracle to meet the needs of those He called "His own".

We may conclude that the disciples had gone to Galilee in response to the Lord's appointment to meet them there (Matt. 28), but in the estimation of Simon Peter He was long in coming, and he was not a man gifted with patience, nor was he a lover of idleness. The sea, the old boat, the nets, his wife and his mother-in-law and all the old associations urged him to action and he could not resist them; then of course they must live, and the sea abounded with fish; so the old Simon spoke out, "I go a fishing." Whether his brethren had been waiting for just such a lead as this or not, they heartily responded "We also go with thee." They lost no time in setting to work, out came the nets and they launched forth immediately, an enthusiastic crew, back to their old job. "And that night they caught nothing."

Had they forgotten the art of catching fish or had their hands lost their cunning? Not so, but wise and loving eyes were on them, and the Master of sea and land controlled the fish that night that He might teach them lessons that they would never forget on earth, lessons that we may also learn for our good and His glory.

The hands and muscles of these men must have grown soft since they forsook their nets and followed their Master in His journeyings through the land, and their night of hard and fruitless toil must have made them tired men and dispirited. Then it was that Jesus stood on the shore. They did not know Him. but He spoke to them in familiar terms, as a father might speak to disappointed boys. "Children, have ye any meat? They answered. No. He said to them Cast the net on the right side of the ship and ye shall find." They did not know this stranger who seemed so solicitous for them, but His tone was gracious and He spoke with authority, so they did as He bade them, and they cast their net, and enclosed such a multitude of fishes that they were not able to draw it.

Who could this be but the Lord? The disciple whom Jesus loved had no doubt about it, and with wonder and with joy he said to Peter, "It is the Lord." Yes. He was the Lord, and their Lord, and the Lord of all creation, but at that time most particularly interested in them.

Peter recognised Him then, and nothing could keep him from Him. On a former occasion, at a word from the Lord he had stepped out of the boat to walk on the water to go to Jesus, but now he waits for no command but flings himself into the sea to be the first at His feet. We may be sure that the Lord appreciated his ardent affection. There is much in Peter's story that stands to his discredit, but surely this energy of affection in him went to the credit side of his life.

"And as soon as they were come to land they saw a fire of coals there and fish laid thereon and bread." Was it doubt of Him and His care for them that had driven them out to that night of fruitless toil? Did they think that death and resurrection had changed His love for them and that now they would have to fend for themselves? If so, what a rebuke was there waiting for them on the shore; or was it not rather His own gracious way of showing them that He was that same Jesus; death and resurrection had not changed Him. He had said to them in those former happy days, "I am among you as He that serves." Most amazing word! It surely meant that He thought of their needs and ministered to them continually; that He had often risen up a great while before day and while they slept had prepared their breakfast, and here again, in resurrection life, He had considered them and provided for their needs. They were cold. He knew it and had lit a fire, they were hungry, He knew it and had prepared fish and bread for their breakfast; they were awed at His presence and perhaps abashed because caught at their old trade from which He had called them to follow Him wholly. He knew it, so with gracious words He invited them to draw near, and not that only but He took the bread and fish and gave it to them. Yes. He was their servant still. His love that exceeded all their thoughts could not rest until their need was met. Those hands, now bearing in their palms the nail wounds were as ready to serve them as ever they had been, and "on this wise He showed Himself to them."

"And none of the disciples durst ask Him, who art Thou? knowing that it was the Lord." Who could it be but He? Who else could command the fish of the sea as He had done? The power of the Creator was His. And who else would have known of their needs and so well provided for them, and spoken to them so graciously as He had done? the grace of the Lord was His. They could doubt no more, the way He showed Himself to them convinced them that He was the Lord who changes not. We are sure that the hundred and fifty-three great fishes were not wasted. Many a poor home and hungry child would be made happy as the fish was shared amongst them but it would not be the fish that occupied these men, but the Lord. He taught them there and then that He would have them without anxious care, and free from all self-consideration that they might give themselves wholly to the mission on which He would send them.

As He showed Himself to those men, so He abides for every one of us. Do not doubt Him, burdened and troubled believer. His eye has been upon you during your night of trial and apparently fruitless toil, and He waits to meet your need, to restore and to refresh you, and to give you such evidences of His care that you will cease for ever to doubt Him. He arises a great while before day on your behalf, and if you awoke hours before you do, and your needs were ten thousand times greater than they are they would not exhaust the resources or the grace of the Lord.

The unchanged love of the Lord for His own and His solicitude for their needs lies clearly on the surface of the incident of the fire and the prepared breakfast, but what of the netful of great fishes? The casting of the net into the sea is a familiar figure of catching men for Christ by the gospel. When the Lord called these men to follow Him He said, "Come ye after Me, . and I will make you to become fishers of men." The fact that they were fishermen before He called them was no qualification for this new and greater work. They could only accomplish it as they kept His company and learnt of Him. He was to be their Teacher as well as their Lord. They had to learn that the expenditure of natural energy and youthful enthusiasm apart from Him would be but fruitless toil. "Without Me ye can do nothing, " is as true in winning men for Him, as it is for a fruit-bearing life.

Simon Peter had gone forth on that toilsome night without any reference to the will of the Lord; His will was that they should wait for Him, and later, that they should tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high (Luke 24). These men who were to pioneer the gospel and to be examples to all who should follow them had to learn to wait for the word of the Lord and depend wholly on Him. What a difference that one word from Him made! Weary and disappointed hearts and empty nets gave place to a harvest from the sea and we may be sure it turned them into worshippers.

Nature and self are tested by the waiting times, only faith and submission to the will of the Lord can carry His servants through the testing; but what presumption it is for anyone to imagine that by his own skill he can do this great work, or that he can do it just when and where he pleases without reference to the will of the Lord. Fruitless toil must be the result of such folly.

How wonderful is the thought of the Lord. He would not have His servants to serve Him at a distance from Him. "Come ye after Me" is His word to every one of them then their service becomes the outcome of communion more truly than of commands. They know not only what He would have them to do, and how He would have them to do it, but they know why it has to be done. In our Gospel He had said to them, "Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his Lord does, but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known to you." Nothing could be more attractive to those who love Him and desire to serve Him than this. To serve as His friends, subject to His holy will, by the power that the Holy Ghost gives, in the fulfilment of the Father's purposes, to this He has called us. Blessed be His Name!

It must have been a great joy to John to find himself moved and led by the Holy Spirit to record the story of the Lord's dealings with his old friend and companion, Simon Peter. It is a story so full of interest and instruction that his Gospel would have been incomplete without it. In it the Lord showed Himself as greater in His grace than the great failure of His servant, and how He could turn the failure to his lasting blessing, to the strengthening of his fellow-servants and to the good of the whole flock of God.

The Lord had called Simon and his brethren to a great service; they were to go forth into the world and catch men, to deliver them from the power of Satan and bring them to God, and Satan knew this and "desired to have them." He said, "I will show you what sort of men these chosen apostles are and especially the chief of them, and all your purpose for them shall fail." The Lord's answer to the devil's challenge was, "I will show you, and all the world beside, that out of the fiery trial through which you will make them to pass I will bring forth golden vessels for My use."

Of what use would Simon Peter have been on the day of Pentecost if he had stood up to speak in the same spirit as was his on the night of his denial, when he considered himself a better man than any one of his brethren and all of them put together? He would have preached Peter instead of Christ. The Lord knew this and so allowed Satan to have him that he might "sift him as wheat, " but, oh, wonderful Master! His prayer went before him to the threshing floor and followed him when beaten and broken he went out into the night and wept bitterly, and his faith did not fail.

We have often wondered at the grace of the Lord in His way with Simon Peter on the resurrection day. The angel's message to him (Mark 16), and the Lord's own appearance to him (Luke 24) showed out the love that loves to the end and will never give up a loved one. Simon had been personally fully assured of the Lord's forgiveness, but it was necessary that he should be convinced as to the root of his failure, and the question of his commission and service remained; had he forfeited these by his thrice-repeated denial of the Lord? That question had to be raised and settled as publicly as his failure had been.

All the ways of the Lord are wonderful, but nothing can surpass His gracious yet faithful way with His servants. He will heal the wounds that their failures inflict upon them, but not slightly; He desires truth in the inward parts, and to those same inward parts He will impart wisdom (Ps. 51), and it was "on this wise that He showed Himself" to Simon. A fire of coals was there, lit by the Lord's own hands. How it would awaken conscience and memory in Simon. He had drawn near to the fire of the Lord's foes, and it had been the scene of his degradation and denial; now he is drawn and welcomed to the Lord's fire and it becomes the scene of his restoration and re-commission, according to the grace that much more abounds where sin abounded.

It was when they had dined, all their needs thoroughly met by the Lord's provision, that He turned to Peter and addressed him by his natural name, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me, more than these?" It had been Simon's confidence in himself — his natural courage and love for his Master, that was the cause of his fall, and he was brought face to face with this by the way the Lord addressed him. He had to learn that it was this self-confidence that had given the devil his opening and opportunity. Three times over the Lord put His question, probing deeply with Simon's heart until the very root of his being was reached; three times Simon answers, at first apparently with some warmth, but at last in true brokenness of spirit and contrition of heart. "Lord, Thou knowest all things. Thou knowest that I love Thee." His threefold denial might cause everyone else to question his love for his Master, or deny it altogether, and he could only cast himself upon His knowledge, who is the "heart-knowing God": there he found his rest.

The Lord did know, and in view of Peter's deliverance from self-confidence and his reliance on the knowledge and grace of the Lord, He honoured him with a great trust His lambs, His sheep, these were to be Peter's special charge and care, these who were of such value to the Lord that He had laid down His life for them, were committed to Peter, and upon these he was to expend that love which the Lord knew was in his heart for Himself.

But there was more. Peter had three times denied the Lord with oaths and curses and though the Lord had freely and fully forgiven him, I question whether he had forgiven himself, and the very grace of the Lord would increase his sorrow at having missed such an opportunity of confessing Him. Was this in the Lord's mind in what followed? I believe it was. Consider the words, "Verily, verily, I say to thee, When thou wast young thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thine hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God." His sin had been blotted out by His Saviour's blood, but he was to be permitted to blot it out too by his own act. He was to have the opportunity of going to prison and death for his Lord, not in self-confidence and boasting, but in such humility of heart and joy in his Lord that God would be glorified by his death. Peter must have been overwhelmed by the loving-kindness of the Lord whenever he thought of this.

"But when He had spoken this, He says to him, Follow ME." It was a needed word. Peter needed it and so do we. Feeding the Lord's sheep, caring for His lambs, witnessing for Him, and even dying for Him, all are secondary to this. He must be first; whatever we may do for Him must be second. Indeed nothing can be done truly and well if He is not supreme in heart and life. When we follow Him for His own sake because we can do no other, then our service has full value and is acceptable to Him. He values our service, but our company is more to Him than our service, and it is only as we keep His company that we learn how to serve. Not many weeks after this the leaders of the nation took knowledge of these men, that they had been with Jesus. What a wonderful commendation that was from the mouths of their enemies.

But Peter "turning about", that was the opposite to following, "sees the disciple whom Jesus loved following, which also leaned on Jesus' breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth Thee?" Peter seeing him says to Jesus, "Lord, and what shall this man do?" Once more Peter earned and received a rebuke from the Lord. "What is that to thee? follow thou Me." It is not the business of the servant of the Lord to interfere with another; it is the Lord's prerogative to command and commission them. But Peter's blunder gave the Lord the opportunity of bringing John to our notice in a special way. He was following without a command.

On his first appearance in the Gospel he was following without being told to (John 1:37), and now on his last appearance he is still following without being told to. In this he is the pattern disciple. It was the treasure that He had found in the love of his Lord that made him follow; and he is described for us, as "the disciple whom Jesus loved, who also leaned on His breast at supper." He was attracted, not commanded, and of him the Lord said, "If I will that he tarry till I come." And the saying went abroad among the brethren that he should not die, but it was not that that the Lord said of him. Then what did He mean? This at least we may draw from His words, that that is the sort of disciple that He would have here when He comes again — disciples who treasure His love, who lean upon His breast in confidence in Him and in self-distrust, and who FOLLOW HIM WITHOUT BEING TOLD TO. May you and I be disciples of that sort.