"The Other Side"

Mark 4:35-41.

There cannot be a question that many of the facts of the life of our blessed Lord were intended to teach us spiritual things; that, in the light thrown upon them through the presence of the Holy Spirit, they are seen to be pictures both of His ways with His people, and of their experiences under the guidance of His hand. It is only, indeed, when these facts are thus considered that their true significance can in any measure be apprehended. The immediate connection of the scripture before us may be adduced as an illustration of this point. The Lord had been teaching the multitude through similitudes; and we read that "without a parable spake He not unto them: and when they were alone, He expounded all things to His disciples." (v. 34.) We understand this to mean - not that He made His teaching plain to the minds of the people by illustrations, as is commonly supposed - but rather that He concealed in these parables spiritual meanings from unspiritual persons. Then afterwards, when the disciples were alone with Him, He laid bare before them the inner significance of the words they had heard. But if He thus explained all things to His disciples, He would have them enter practically into the truth they had received; and hence "the same day, when the even was come, He saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side." Not that they would understand what He was doing with them (for the Holy Ghost had not yet come), but for us this is the instruction of the context.

Two things will make this clear. It is abundantly certain that the Lord passed through death to secure the blessing of His people, and it is as certain that His people must pass through death in order to enjoy what He has secured. This latter point is verified in the experience of every one who departs to be with Christ. Every Christian, indeed, will admit that it is not until after death and the resurrection of our bodies that we shall enter upon that scene of glory, which, in the purpose of God, we shall inherit in association with our blessed Lord. For "if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together." But there is also another thing, and that is, we may enjoy our heavenly portion now, through faith and in the power of the Holy Ghost, if we are willing to pass through death morally. Such, indeed, is the teaching of our Lord's well-known words, "Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:54.) That is, His death must be appropriated (not to go further), made our own, accepting for ourselves the judgment under which we lay, and which He bore, if we would, while here in this world, take up and enjoy eternal life. Death thus known in the soul is the only present doorway into the life of heaven, the life of the Father's house. In every possible way the Lord taught this lesson, as, for example, when He said, "He that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." Now it is the same lesson the Lord teaches, we apprehend, when He says to His disciples, "Let us pass over unto the other side"; and it is in this light we propose to consider it.

One thing, however, has to be remembered. The disciples who were gathered round about our Lord were up to Pentecost on the ground of, and in fact were, the Jewish remnant; and hence it is that the remnant of a future day, after the church has been rapt from the earth, will find such blessed instruction in the gospels, if they are able to appropriate it. It is, however, permissible to us to read the full teaching of Christianity into these events, and thus take them to enforce the lesson already stated, that we must pass to the other side, if we are to be in liberty with, and to enjoy, Christ in the place where He now is, and if we are to expatiate at large in that home of glory of which He Himself is the expression and centre. So regarding it, we may learn much in all the details here given, and much to encourage us to make the journey. For this is what we need - encouragement to start, inasmuch as naturally we cling to life here, and are so prone to be satisfied with God's favour upon our earthly path instead of pressing on towards the mark for the prize of our calling on high of God in Christ Jesus. When once our faces are fully set towards Christ where He is, our backs will be turned towards the world, and it will be all our desire, at whatever cost, to be in His company, in the enjoyment of that unspeakable love which has made Himself ours, together with all that He has secured through His death and resurrection.

What has been already said will place the key of this narrative in the reader's hands. Still we may call attention to some of its points in order yet further to elucidate and apply it. Notice first, then, that the Lord says, "Let us pass over unto the other side." He vouchsafes His company to those who will make the journey, or to speak more accurately, He invites them to accompany Him. He never allows any of His own to pass through anything for His sake without bestowing upon them the sense of His presence. Or, if unbelief so prevails that His presence is not apprehended, He abides faithful. The Shadrachs, Meshachs, and Abednegos of every age loudly proclaim this truth. The disciples, little anticipating the character of the journey, readily responded to the invitation; they sent away the multitude, and took Him even as He was in the ship. Two things are here suggested: first, there must be separation from man if we are to follow Christ; and, secondly, we learn something of the ineffable grace of our blessed Lord in that He allowed His disciples to take Him even as He was in the ship. He - blessed be His name - is always at the service of His people, and thus in His condescension and grace permits them, as it were, to take Him at all seasons and according to their requirements. There were also with Him other little ships, but, alas! not one of these had Him with them. So at the present time there are many professing to cross to the other side in company with Christ, but He is not with them - they are professors, and only professors.

The next thing we gather is that all the enemy's power will be encountered by those who are passing over unto the other side. We thus read that a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. If Satan can terrify the believer and turn him back from the path on which he has entered, he will use all the means at his disposal to accomplish his object. He even sought to prevent the blessed Lord Himself from going onward to the cross, and to this end pressed upon His holy soul the power of death when He was in Gethsemane. So it was with these poor disciples. Satan was permitted to awaken the storm that he might, if possible, deter them from following the Lord. But remark that when we are learning what death is, and what the power of Satan is in connection with it, we must be alone. Not that the Lord is not with us while passing through these painful exercises and experiences, but, as with the disciples in the boat, we may be so occupied with our circumstances as to lose sight of the fact that He Himself is conducting us through them; and with unbelief pervading and possessing our souls we shall begin, as they did, to feel that He has ceased to care for us in our trouble. He was asleep on a pillow, in the hinder part of the ship, in calm repose after His labours, and it might have seemed to the outward eye as if He had left them to battle alone with the danger. As, however, we shall see, He was caring for them even by His sleeping, for He was testing  their hearts by the very dangers which aroused their fears.

It is blessed to see that, unreasoning as their unbelief was, they yet appeal to the Lord for succour. They had no one else to turn to, and they knew it. The burden of their cry, when they awaked Him, was, "Master, carest Thou not (is it no matter of concern to Thee) that we perish?" Had they known who that divine Person was who was with them in the boat, they might have slept as calmly as He; for how could they perish when they had with them in the boat the Son of God? If HE could perish, they also might, but not otherwise; for as He taught them in a later day, "Because I live, ye shall live also." Two things may be remarked in His response to their cry: first, He demonstrated His power over the wind and the sea, so that there was a great calm; and, secondly, He pointed out that fear and unbelief were the cause of all their agitation and terror. And it will be evident to the feeblest soul that as soon as we have learned that Christ has acquired power over death and Satan, through His work on the cross, our fears will cease. He thus said to John, when he fell at the Lord's feet as dead, "Fear not; I am the first and the last; I am He that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." The disciples now feared in another manner, feared exceedingly, but it was in the presence of the divine power exhibited before their eyes; and even if they could not yet embrace the full truth of the Person of their Lord, they were yet impressed with the mystery which surrounded Him, for they said, "What manner of Man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"

The next statement is that "they came over unto the other side of the sea." We will not dwell upon this except to make an application to ourselves in recalling and pressing the lesson of the narrative. Let it then be repeated that in order to pass over unto "the other side," to the side of Christ, we must go through death. The Lord will ever encourage us to take this blessed journey by assuring us that He is with us in it. Still, we must always count on Satan's active enmity and opposition, and he will always seek to drive us back. But when once we have the firm conviction that He who is with us is the One who has overcome death, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us; for we have the secret of victory over both the world and Satan's power, in believing that Jesus is the Son of God. Then, lastly, we reach "the other side" in His company, in anticipation of that moment when He will come to receive us, and when we shall be for ever with Him.