"Sir, We Would See Jesus"

"We would see Jesus, for the shadows lengthen
Across the little landscape of our life;
We would see Jesus, our weak faith to strengthen
And keep us peaceful in a world of strife."

Yes, if we are to tread our pilgrim way with confidence to the end, we must see Jesus. If we are to fight the good fight and lay down the weapons of our warfare in final triumph at His feet, we must see Jesus. No Christian life can be right in any department of it if clouds obscure His face from us, and the whole fabric of our "most holy faith" must collapse if we do not hold fast to the truth of His most holy person.

Yes, we need to see Him, who have found secure and eternal rest in His person and sacrifice, we need to know that He is crowned with glory and honour, we need Him as the perpetual and all-satisfying object of our hearts, and men need Him, and God needs Him. There can be no blessing for men, no peace for the world, and no glory to God apart from Him. Consider the condition of the world — of these lands, England, Scotland and Ireland, and think of the world as it is — and tell me, What hope is there for mankind apart from Christ, and what glory can there be for God in this creation apart from Him? Who can unravel the present tangle? But history is only repeating itself, and things are as they have been, except that the utter bankruptcy of man's resources is being more and more disclosed. Yet all was described in graphic terms long ago. Said Isaiah, as inspired by the Holy Ghost, nearly 3000 years ago, "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness in it: but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores; they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment" (chap. 1:6).

But was it for such a state of things as this that God created the world, and is man as He made him, and has He been thwarted in His intentions, and have His plans failed? Let us consider the question. The stars that make the night skies radiant proclaim His power and divinity, and this lower creation makes manifest His wisdom, but His supreme work in creation was man, and His delights were with the sons of men. The persons of the Godhead took counsel together, and said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness," and "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the earth." In the last act of creation something more than the almighty creative word was brought into operation. As the almighty fingers fashioned every member of the man who was to represent Him in the earth, a tenderness entered into the work of God that was not manifested in any previous work. How near God came to man when He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and brought the woman to him to be his mate and helpmeet. With the man at the head of it, creation was complete, and God pronounced it "very good," and rested from His work.

But how soon was that Sabbath disturbed, for God's noble and beautiful creature fell before the first onslaught of His arch-foe, who is called the dragon, that old serpent, and Satan, and instead of standing for God, and withstanding the adversary, Adam turned his back upon his Maker and allied himself with his destroyer. It looked as though God had been defeated, as though Satan had succeeded in His everlasting discomfiture; for he had discovered and attacked the vulnerable spot in the man's constitution, and bribed him into becoming a traitor to his God. It looked as though all that expenditure of power and wisdom and tenderness in the creation of man had recoiled upon God, and that His chiefest and choicest work had proved to be His undoing.

The shadow of sin and death lay darkly over that fair garden, and hidden behind the trees of it, guilty and afraid, crouched the sinner and his wife, when God came forth to seek them. Not as an avenger came He, not as a Judge, but with tender love in His heart, crying after His lost creature, "Adam, where art thou?" But how could God, who had cast Satan down from his high estate for sin, spare the man? If He did spare him, what would become of His righteousness? And if He executed His just judgment upon him, what of His mercy, His loving-kindness, His purposes of blessing for men? Here was a crisis, and a great problem; was God able to meet it? Sullenly and afraid the man waited, exultantly and defiantly the devil waited to see what He would do; to see who would triumph, God or the devil. They had not long to wait, for God announced His resource. "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel." God was not defeated, His counsels would stand, and in this word was foretold the overthrow of the devil and the salvation of men.

"Soon as the reign of sin began,
The light of mercy dawned on man:
When God announced the blessed news,
'The woman's Seed thy head shall bruise.'"

"God was the first gospel preacher, and He announced in that first gospel word the coming of a Person, the woman's Seed, who should undo the works of the devil. How much this promised Deliverer was needed was proved as the centuries rolled by, for "all we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to His own way." There was no difference in this, no exception, for "there is no man that sinneth not" said Solomon, and no man was able to deliver himself from the tempter's power, to break the yoke of sin, or wash out the stain of it.

But the fullness of time seemed long in coming, and the eyes of those who looked for salvation must have failed them through watching and disappointment if God had not constantly lighted up the gloom with words of hope and promise, and of these there is none greater than those given by that gospel-prophet, Isaiah. "Behold," said he, "a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14). I boldly speak of this as the greatest of all the prophecies spoken by the prophets, for it is the first of them all that is recorded as being fulfilled in the New Testament. By it is declared what God would do. He shows that He Himself would intervene by the woman's Seed, taking the cause of fallen man's redemption completely out of his puny and sinful hands. How the critics of Isaiah's day must have mocked at these words. A virgin conceive! That is an utter impossibility! And the man who dreamed such a dream as that was a demented man! Yes, most truly he was, if he was not inspired by the Holy Ghost, and if he spoke his own word instead of God's. But such a thing would outrage the course of nature, it is impossible! Yes, it is impossible with men, that is the very lesson that God would teach men by the manner of His intervention, and this prophecy was not a dream of a disordered mind but the very word of God. This was the sign that He would give. It was the sign of man's complete impotency for his own redemption, but it was a sign that when men were hopeless, God would undertake their cause; but, also, that this should all proceed from Himself and not from man at all; in this matter man must stand aside and see the salvation of the Lord. "A virgin shall conceive and bring forth a Son." THE WOMAN'S SEED shall bruise the serpent's head.

In the first chapter of Matthew this astonishing word is fulfilled; the virgin-daughter of David's royal line brings forth the promised Son, and lays Him in a manger, and His name is Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, GOD WITH US. God had come to dwell among men. Does anyone say, "Sir, we would see Jesus"? In answer I bid you stand in thought with those shepherds who beheld with adoration the lowly Babe, wrapt in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, and draw near again with those wise men from the East, who brought their gifts to Him. Look upon that Babe, and be as wise as were those Gentile strangers, wonder and adore, as you see this miracle of grace. God come down to man, for this is Jesus, Jehovah the Saviour.

I am glad that here in the first chapter of our New Testament that lovely name — the sweetest name that our ears have ever heard — is given to us twice in capital letters, so that it may arrest us as we read. It stands there upon the title page of the New Testament as the title of the Book. But Jesus is Emmanuel, and Emmanuel is Jesus. If men were to be saved, God must come down to do it, and here we learn that having come He has come as Saviour.

In the person of Jesus, God was with us, and is with us still, for we Christians have the closing words of this Gospel of Matthew for our constant comfort, the last words of our Lord Jesus Christ in it, "Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end." Hence we can with confidence follow the lowly, rejected Nazarene; and carry out His word, for He will be to the end what He was at the beginning, "God with us."

There are those who deny that the Deity of Jesus is taught in any Gospel but that by John; to be rid of this great truth altogether they say that that Gospel cannot be relied upon; but here, in the opening of the New Testament, we find the blessed fact of the Deity of Jesus definitely, most definitely, asserted, and we could not read this Gospel with anointed eyes without seeing it on every page. It is woven into the very texture of it, as the gold was woven into the ephod of the High Priest, along with the blue and scarlet and purple and the fine twined linen. Take just one instance: He stood in the midst of men, with their sorrows and pains and burdens and sins; and extending His hands to them, He said, "Come to Me, and I will give you rest," and His word stands good today. He says to the world, devil-ridden, sin-burdened, sorrow-blasted, "Come to Me, and I will give you rest." Come as you are; come with your sins, your problems, your difficulties, your burdens; bring your sighs, your sorrows, your broken hearts, Come, and I will give you rest. Could the greatest of men stand up and speak thus? He knew all about men, every tear on every cheek had come under His notice, He had heard every groan, and knew the deep unsatisfied craving in every heart. He looked upon the world through eyes that saw all and comprehended all, and He offered to relieve all. Who could do that but God? And the Christians can bear witness to the fact that His deed is as good as His word. He has never promised what He cannot perform. If no other word had ever reached us from His blessed lips, that invitation alone proves that He is indeed the Everlasting God, who opens His hands in infinite kindness to satisfy the needs of the creatures He has made; it reveals the fact that in His bosom there throbs a heart of love that longs to relieve the sorrows that sin has caused, and He can do it, and will do it for all who come to Him.

But His life and His words alone could not have affected that which had to be accomplished, and so we read in the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew that He was nailed to the cross. They led Him to the place which is called Golgotha, and there they crucified Him. Jesus, whose name is Emmanuel, was taken by wicked hands and nailed to the cross, and over His sacred, thorn-crowned head, was this accusation written: "THIS IS JESUS …" And again the words are in capitals in our Bibles. Ah, Pilate wrote truer than he knew when he penned with his official hand that indictment. It seems as if the Spirit of God was determined to show to all men by this very accusation, that this is Jesus, that it was because He is Jesus that He died, for apart from that cross He would not have been Jesus, apart from that cross He could not have been the Saviour. He might have gone to the glory of God from the mount of transfiguration, for that glory was His, but He could not have gone as Jesus, nor could He have worn there that Name that is above every name. The only way in which He could establish His right to that Name, was by going to Golgotha, and there giving up His life in sacrifice for sinners.

It is popular in these gospel-rejecting days to reject the cross and despise the blood, and to preach Jesus as a great leader of men, a reformer, a socialist, or anything you like except a Saviour from sins. But such a Jesus is no Jesus at all. Do you say, "Sir, we would see Jesus"? Mr answer is, Look at the centre cross on the hill of Calvary. THIS IS JESUS — the thorn-crowned Nazarene, despised and rejected by men, crucified upon the cross of a malefactor and made sin for us there! This is Jesus, and beside Him there is none other; "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other Name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved." What tongue of man shall tell out the blessedness of this salvation, or describe its glory?

"Brightly it beamed on men forlorn,
When Christ the holy Child was born;
But brighter still in splendour shone,
When Jesus dying cried, 'Tis done.'"

The first prophecy which the New Testament records as fulfilled, tells us of the greatness of the Person whose name is Jesus. The second prophecy tells us of the place of His birth, and declares that He is to be the Ruler, the Governor of all whom He saves: "And thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule My people Israel" (Matt. 2:6). It should be clear to all that if the Creator comes into His creation He must eventually be supreme in it. We scarcely need the Scriptures to tell us that, though they do tell us it most emphatically. This prophecy had very special reference to His Messiahship, but we will look at it in its wider application — CHRIST IS LORD OF ALL. If it is true that you cannot know the Saviour apart from His cross, it is equally true that you cannot know Him apart from His Lordship. He was obedient to death, even the death of the cross, if God also has highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:9-11). Would you see Jesus? Look up to the right hand of the Majesty on high and see Him there both Lord and Christ. The Spirit of God has linked up these two things together. The One whose name is Jesus, who was despised and rejected by men, is the Lord, and if these two things greet us at the very threshold of the New Testament at the birth of the Lord, and are now proclaimed from the throne, they were also told out at the cross, for the accusation written thereon was, "THIS IS JESUS THE KING …" And faith read the writing then and embraced the truth, and cried, "Lord, remember me, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." How blessed will that kingdom be when it comes, and there can be no peace for this world until it does come. Men will continue to strive, selfishly, covetously, sinfully, hateful and hating one another, until He comes to break oppression, and until the universal sceptre is put into the pierced hand. When the scythe of judgment has swept this godless world, then He will come down like rain upon the mown grass, and as the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings He will arise,

"And bid the whole creation smile
And hush its groan."

And then under His beneficent rule men, subdued by His judgments and spared by His mercy, will make haste to beat their swords into ploughshares, and call everyone his neighbour under the vine and fig tree. The reason why riots and bloodshed and turmoil and strife and crime continue in the world to this day, in spite of all its boasted progress, is because the rightful King is rejected, the Prince of Peace is not owned, men will not have Jesus as Lord.

But all who own Him as Saviour and Lord may have peace, and how blessed is the sway that He exercises in that life that does own Him. We do not look for peace in the world that will not own Him, for "there is no peace, says my God, for the wicked," but we may have it, each of us every day, by yielding to His gracious claims, for He has said, "If I leave with you, My peace I give to you, not as the world gives give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

God grant that while we pray, "Thy kingdom come," we may know the peace of it before it comes, by yielding a glad obedience to Jesus who is both Lord and Christ.