ASHAMED OF JESUS
‘No man spake openly of Him for fear of the Jews.’
The seventh chapter is divided from the preceding one by a wide interval of time. The many miracles which our Lord wrought, while he ‘walked in Galilee,’ are passed over by John in comparative silence. The events which he was specially inspired to record, are those which took place in or near Jerusalem. Observe—
I. The desperate hardness and unbelief of human nature.—We are told that even our Lord’s ‘brethren did not believe in Him.’ Holy and harmless and blameless as He was in life, some of His nearest relatives, according to the flesh, did not receive Him as the Messiah. It was bad enough for His own people, ‘the Jews sought to kill Him.’ But it was even worse that ‘His brethren did not believe.’ That great Scriptural doctrine, man’s need of preventing and converting grace, stands out here, as if written with a sunbeam. It becomes all who question that doctrine to look at this passage and consider. Let them observe that seeing Christ’s miracles, hearing Christ’s teaching, living in Christ’s own company, were not enough to make men believers. The mere possession of spiritual privileges never yet made any one a Christian. All is useless without the effectual and applying work of God the Holy Ghost.
II. One principal reason why many hate Christ.—Our Lord said to His unbelieving brethren, ‘The world cannot hate you; but Me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.’ These words reveal one of those secret principles which influence men in their treatment of religion. They help to explain that deadly enmity with which many during our Lord’s earthly ministry regarded Him and His Gospel. They could have tolerated His opinions if He would only have spared their sins. The principle is one of universal application. It is at work now just as much as it was then. The real cause of many people’s dislike to the Gospel is the holiness of living which it demands. Teach abstract doctrines only, and few will find any fault. Denounce the fashionable sins of the day, and call on men to repent and walk consistently with God, and thousands at once will be offended.
III. The strange variety of opinions about Christ, which were current from the beginning.—‘There was much murmuring among the people concerning Him: for some said, He is a good man; others said, Nay, but He deceiveth the people.’ The words which old Simeon had spoken thirty years before were here accomplished in a striking manner. The endless differences and divisions about religion, which we see on all sides in the present day, ought never to surprise us. The open hatred of some toward Christ; the carping, fault-finding, prejudiced spirit of others; the bold confession of the few faithful ones; the timid, man-fearing temper of the many faithless ones; the unceasing war of words and strife of tongues with which the Churches of Christ are so sadly familiar—are only modern symptoms of an old disease.
IV. What think we of Christ ourselves?—This is the one question with which we have to do. Let us never be ashamed to be of that little number who believe on Him, hear His voice, follow Him, and confess Him before men.
—Bishop J. C. Ryle.
‘Who these “brethren” were is a matter of dispute. Some think, as Alford, Stier, and others, that they were literally our Lord’s own brethren, and the children of Mary by Joseph, born after our Lord’s birth. (See Psalms 69:8.) Some think, as Theophylact and others, that they were the children of Joseph by a former marriage, and brought up by Mary under the same roof with our Lord. Others think, as Augustine, Zwingle, Musculus, and Bengel, that the word “brethren” does not necessarily mean more than cousins or kinsmen. (See 1 Chronicles 23:22.) This is the most probable opinion. We take these “brethren” to have been relatives and kinsmen of Joseph and Mary, living at Nazareth, or Capernaum, or elsewhere in Galilee, who naturally observed all our Lord’s doings with interest and curiosity, but at present did not believe on Him. To suppose, as some do, that these brethren were some of our Lord’s Apostles, is a most improbable theory, and flatly contrary to the fifth verse of this chapter.’
KNOWLEDGE AND LOVE
‘If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.’
‘All men naturally desire knowledge,’ said the ‘master of those who know,’ and it is a statement never more re-echoed than to-day. But among the varieties of knowledge there is one, and one only, which concerns us all, learned and unlearned alike, and that is religious knowledge—the knowledge of our relation to God.
I. God once known in any degree makes an immediate personal demand upon our conduct.—To reject that demand is, by the very nature of the case, to refuse to know Him, while to comply with the demand is to do His will, and so to verify the teaching of the text that if any man willeth to do, he shall know of the teaching. God means to us, above all things, a holy being, and holiness casts an obligation upon us who come near it. To be in the presence of holiness is to feel an obligation to be holy. This obligation is part of the very nature of holiness. To decline the obligation is to deny the nature of holiness, to be blind to its existence, and therefore to Him Whose attribute it is. There is, therefore, nothing unreasonable in the assertion that conduct is the key to creed, for the analogy of all knowledge argues this. The only difference in this respect between secular and sacred science is that the former is departmental, while the latter is universal.
II. There is a quantitative relation between our doing and knowing.—We shall learn exactly as much of science as our experiment has justified, of God as our conduct may deserve. The same line of thought may help us to meet a further objection of the day. Knowledge which is based on conduct is a personal property which outsiders cannot share. This many resent. They expect belief to be universal—open to all; to be read in a book and criticised at will. But such is not the case with any other sort of knowledge.
III. Divine truth is a revelation.—We have not chosen Him, but He has chosen us, and He appeals to all the faculties of our complex being. It was not in the critical attitude of the faculties that the saints of old spoke. From this personal character it follows that religious knowledge must be mystic, incommunicable. The religious man may be able to adduce reasons for the faith that is in him, but he feels all the while that his arguments cannot produce conviction. They but draw their colour therefrom, and are too secret, too spiritual, too sacred to produce. Our belief is sure. The influence of our life, prayers answered, judgments unmistakable, punishment for secret sin—these, as they gather round our inner history, make us hear the same voice speaking which said to Nathanael, ‘Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.’ Saintly example may call us to Christ, but it is only the sense that His eye is upon us that can change probability into certainty, and elicit the confession, ‘Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel.’ The knowledge of God depends, primarily, upon the desire to do His will. It is revealed, not invented. It may be described and commended, but not imparted to our fellowmen.
IV. ‘Come, and I will show you what the Lord hath done for my soul’ is the limit of a possible missionary appeal. From this vein the Church of Christ draws a practical corollary which men do not like to draw—that moral purification is necessary to the knowledge of God. There may have been earnest seekers after truth who have not found Him, but these are few and far between. Those who bandy words about agnosticism have not been in earnest as the Church of Christ counts earnestness. Earnestness means to bring our secret sins into the light of God’s countenance; to mourn over them, forsake them, and acquiesce in the solemn fact that we have marred our purity for ever. The very fact that men consider it an insult to have unbelief attributed to sin shows how little they have studied the effect of sin on the soul. The knowledge of God may indeed be hard of attainment, as calling for personal effort long sustained. But it is within the reach of all, simple as well as sage. All men, of whatever intellectual capacity, are capable of loving, and may follow love’s leading if they will. ‘And he that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.’
Rev. J. R. Illingworth.
‘The best and most active-minded Christians, even those whose interests and tastes are naturally speculative, seem increasingly disposed to recognise that their main energies ought to be directed to practical and social rather than to intellectual pursuits, that their chief life’s work ought to be done in the world of their fellowmen rather than in their studies. This disposition arises not from any tendency to obscurantism, but from their increasing recognition of the fact that Christianity is, and ever must be, its own chief evidence, and that, therefore, the man who lives a consistent, progressive Christian life, and thus displays its beauty and its grace in concrete form, is the most effective kind of apologist. He not merely can point to evidence already existing—he produces new evidence himself, and that in a form most likely to be convincing to a race of predominantly practical instincts.
KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING
God never tells us that we are intended, at present, to understand all; but what He does tell us is that He does mean us to know they are true. You may know a thing without understanding it in the least; a child may know that medicine cures, or that fire warms when he has not the least idea how. So God tells us that we may know of the doctrine, know its truth, know that these facts and teachings will bring us right, and set us in the way of happiness for life and death without understanding how.
I. We have Christ’s own word for it.—Our text is a fitting one for Trinity Sunday, the Day of the Athanasian Creed, the day which sums up all the series of amazing facts and marvellous doctrines, when Christ tells us that the Doing of God’s will is the way to know that all these doctrines are true; and that there is one plain way of knowledge, and that is doing God’s will. He does not say, If any man will be very clever and very intellectual, and succeed in understanding all mysteries, then he shall know that all this is true; He does say, If any man will do His will he shall know of the doctrine.
II. This is intensely comforting.—Think how few people can give their lives to hard thinking and to solving difficulties; it would be a poor Gospel, indeed, which was a Gospel only for the learned.
III. It is also a very solemn warning.—Look how it brings the knowledge of God home to every one of us as a thing quite within your reach, so that you are all quite inexcusable if you do not get it. For knowing means that sort of feeling quite sure about a thing which you have about the facts of your own house and family. This knowing of the doctrine means feeling the same sort of sureness and certainty that Christ is your Saviour, that God is your Father, that the Holy Spirit is in you—working out your renewal into God’s likeness—the same sort of certainty of all these things—and that your life is arranged for you by God—as you had that your earthly parents watched over your infancy and provided for your bringing up.
IV. It is the doing of His will which is sure to bring this home to you.—Therefore we know that disbelief in a man’s mind means sin in a man’s life. It is a strong thing to say; but Christ says it, not I, and I am bound to say what Christ says. Christ says it, not I and Christ must know, for He made us, and He knows what is in man. What is God’s will that we are to do? There are many things; but one thing is the chief. When Christ was about to be offered He gave His Apostles one command—one New Command—that Love to one another should be the rule of their lives: as He had loved us, so we are to love one another; and St. Paul fills it up when he says Charity and Love is the life of Christianity. It is the one rule for all: for individuals, for churches, for parishes, for towns—practical charity, goodwill to one another in private life and in public. All evil speaking, all thinking evil of one another, all jealousies, misrepresentations, all party spirit—all these things war against the life of religion, and throw us open to the misunderstanding of the doctrine, as well as to forsaking the way of Christ.
‘It should never be forgotten that God deals with us as moral beings, and not as beasts or stones. He loves to encourage us to self-exertion and diligent use of such means as we have in our hands. The plain things in religion are undeniably very many. Let a man honestly attend to them, and he shall be taught the deep things of God. Whatever some may say about their inability to find out truth, you will rarely find one of them who does not know better than he practises. Then if he is sincere, let him begin here at once. Let him humbly use what little knowledge he has got, and God will soon give him more.’
THE NEGATION OF SELF
‘He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh His glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.’
There is no feature in our Saviour’s life, no single word or act of His more distinctive of the Deity revealed in Him than the persistent will to deny and efface Himself. Among the innumerable forms under which self-love swells into pride, and becomes the root of sin in man and suffering in society, we shall by way of practical illustration select one only whose dangers lie chiefly in its subtle and plausible character. We shall endeavour to trace how the spirit of emulation develops into the love of interference and pre-eminence, contrasting it with true humility in doing the work of God.
I. At first, indeed, to ‘excel’ would appear to be a duty which we owe both, to ourselves and to God: it is the very spring of progress, both in the arts and in morals, as men strive to realise in their lives or in outward material such glimpses as they attain of perfection; neither does the good craftsman, as Plato taught us, ‘seek to go beyond his fellow.’ But when, instead of devoting ourselves with single eye to our own appointed work, we begin to cast another upon our neighbours’, to measure ourselves against them, endeavouring to surpass, to outshine—then the praiseworthy ambition to excel degenerates into the vulgar passion of emulation and the proud love of superiority. And therewith enter in one evil spirit after another: the spirit of competition, which drives the weakest to the wall; the spirit of envy and discontent, which can embitter the sweetest blessings of life; the spirit of vainglory, which cares only for outward recognition; the spirit of hypocrisy, hiding its festering burden within. But where, on the other hand, the spirit of Christ is, where self-will is lost in the single-hearted desire to do the work and declare the message from above, there indeed is liberty: no rivalries, no anxious comparisons with other men, no dependence for our happiness upon what others may think or say, no slavery to any will outside our own, which is, to do the will of God. Such a self-surrendering spirit is quite compatible, and indeed directly conduces to what is well called ‘proper pride.’
II. ‘Proper pride’ can only be truly and radically distinguished by this, that it is centred, not in ourselves or in our own achievements, but in the work to which we are called, and extends at furthest to a grateful recognition that therein we have been enabled in some measure, however humble, to assist. Here, therefore, proper pride and true humility meet in one. For true humility again bears more semblance to that base counterfeit which is for ever parading a pretended inferiority, wasting time and breath in mutually obsequious hypocrisies. On the contrary, it will have nothing at all to do with personal estimations of character, with the comparing and appraising of one man with another. It springs only from the just appreciation of human nature when viewed in the light of Divine perfection, and the Divine calling of which it is all unworthy. Thus and thus only it learns to put a higher value upon the gifts and efforts of other men, leading us to deem those who differ from ourselves as more exceeding honourable, just because they are what is required in order to supplement our own imperfections in order to carry out the common aim and work of redeemed humanity.
III. Where the true humility of self-effacement does not exist, the very opposite result takes place.—We attach undue importance to the particular gifts which we possess ourselves; we imagine that they are just what are needed at this particular epoch, at that particular juncture. We think perhaps that we are marked out to solve some special problem in religion, in politics, in society, or to fulfil the requirements of the work in some other department of the Lord’s vineyard; and instead of waiting still upon God, making Him both guide and goal, we become impatient, interfering, and finally end in seeking our own glory.
—Rev. Dr. Bidder.
‘It is one mark of a man being a true servant of God, and really commissioned by our Father in heaven, that he ever seeks his Master’s glory more than his own. The principle here laid down is a very valuable one. By it we may test the pretensions of many false teachers of religion, and prove them to be unsound guides. There is a curious tendency in every system of heresy, or unsound religion, to make its ministers magnify themselves, their authority, their importance, and their office. It may be seen in Brahminism to a remarkable extent. Alford’s remark, however, is very true, that in the highest and strictest sense, “the latter part of the sentence is only true of the Holy One Himself, and that owing to human infirmity, purity of motive is no sure guarantee for correctness of doctrine”; and therefore in the end of the verse it is not said, “he who seeketh God’s glory,” but “he who seeketh His glory that sent Him”—specially indicating Christ Himself.’
‘In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.
Christ here says that He is able and willing to assuage all man’s spiritual thirst. Whatever spiritual need man has, in Christ it is met and in Christ alone.
I. Men thirst for pardon and peace with God.—This is a deep and universal desire. It is not felt equally by all. In some it is an intense and almost constant longing; in others the thirst is not so great nor is it as continuous. But in all souls it is found. Sometimes the thirst is excited by startling, distressing circumstances which awaken anxiety and dread; in others it comes they hardly know how, but stealing into heart and mind, giving no rest. This thirst is caused now and again by a sight—fitful and very fragmentary—of God’s love in Christ. However the wish for pardon may spring up, by whomever it is felt, to all and every one burdened with a sense of sin, Jesus says, ‘Come unto Me and drink’ of the free, forgiving love of God made known in Me.
II. Many thirst to be made free from the power of sin.—They not only long for power and peace with God, a longing is felt to be set at liberty from the bondage of evil passion and habits. Every man in whom there is any sense of the true, right, and pure is conscious that more or less he is in bondage to that which is corrupt and destructive. He is not allowed to lose sight of this for long, and sometimes he experiences shame and remorse through a terrible gust of temptation which has swept him into what his conscience condemns. Then he realises a little of the power of sin, it reigns in his mortal body and he obeys it in the lust thereof. But as he obeys he hates the power that enthrals him. There are many around us who thirst for release from the enslaving power of sin. They have tried to free themselves, nor have they quite given up hope of being able to do this. They have failed repeatedly, and sadly failed in all efforts of this kind that they have made. Still, the hope of deliverance from the power of sin by their own efforts is not quite gone. If we could but convince them that this hope is a delusion and that rescue from the power of sin and Satan can only be obtained in Jesus!
III. There is the thirst for love.—All love comes from God: He gives us the capacity and impulse to love. He feeds the desire in us to love. He alone is the object that satisfies our love. No heart can rest in itself as the object of love. When any seek to centre and restrict love to themselves, instead of finding peace, satisfaction, and joy in loving, they are filled with disquietude, they are disappointed and miserable. ‘No man liveth unto himself.’ Nor can we find any other object that fully satisfies the power of love except God Himself. The love of God alone imparts all we need. The yearnings of love are never met until God becomes the supreme object of love. The more you love Him the more you will love others. It is only in Christ that we can love God, as Christ only reveals the fullness and glory of God’s love to us. If you long for an object of love, come to Christ and take Him as God’s highest gift of love, and you will find rest to your souls.
IV. There is the thirst for a worthy aim and pursuit in life.—There are very many in our crowded, wealthy land who have no definite, worthy occupation. Some of them are in possession of wealth sufficient to raise them above the need of toil. And yet they are dissatisfied, rightly so, with the purposeless spending of time and abilities. The rounds of pleasure do not give them all they want, their life appears to be idle and useless, etc. They become restless. Now if such only had rest in Christ, pardon, peace, and life in Him, what a noble aim would at once open up!
‘On the last great day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus “was standing” watching the procession of the people from their booths to the Temple, and then, moved by love and compassion, He cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.” The image appears to have been occasioned by the pouring out of water brought in a golden vessel from Siloam, which pouring out was made at the time of the morning sacrifice, on each of the days of the feast, when that beautiful psalm Isaiah 12. was sung. The pouring out of the water was a commemoration of one very important event in the wilderness life, when the people drank of the water that followed them from the rock, which rock represented Christ.’
THE PROGRESSIVE WORK OF THE SPIRIT
‘The Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.’
‘The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.’
I. At the very opening of the sacred record, we have a most suggestive statement made.—The language must not be treated with a base literalism. When it is said that ‘the Spirit of the Lord moved over the face of the waters,’ we must banish from our minds any physical or material conception, and rather take the passage as expressing the energising and formative working of the Divine Spirit in bringing order out of chaos and light out of darkness. The fact which is stated is sufficiently suggestive and glorious, for we are told that all natural order is of God. So are we taught that even in this dull earth, and in what may appear to our eye but the mechanical movements of blind force, we are to see a higher power; for that all are manifestations of creative, formative intelligence, even the moving of the Holy Spirit of God.
II. In perfect harmony with these conceptions of the spiritual underlying the material in the external world, we have in the word of God a magnificent vindication of the Divine in those gifts of human genius which modern religionism has been accustomed to relegate to the category of things belonging to the ‘natural man.’ With a boldness which puts to shame our grudging and feeble apprehension of the breadth and grandeur of the Divine influence in common things, the Old Testament recognises that the skill of architect, musician, and artist is the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. The valour of Joshua, the great captain, and the bravery and physical strength of David, are equally ascribed to Divine influence, while such matters as prudence in council or generosity in making offerings, instead of being classified as merely natural, worldly, or secular qualities, are traced to the working of the same Holy Ghost.
These things are mentioned in Scripture not that we should regard them as exceptions, but rather to reveal to us principles that are universal, and to teach us, with new emphasis, how ‘every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights.’ We should do wrong to the Bible were we to confine the working of God’s Holy Spirit only to those persons and to those matters which are peculiarly spiritual. It would surely be a misunderstanding of John if we supposed him to mean that the Holy Ghost had never worked among men till Christ was glorified. It would be to make him contradict the clear statements of other passages of Scripture, and to make him banish God from His own world, and to deny His dealings with the minds and consciences of the great and good through countless generations. But while we thankfully acknowledge the work of the Divine Spirit as manifested in the development of creation and in the progress of humanity, yet
III. We ought to recognise the greatness of the advance when we pass from the lower stages to the highest—even to the outpouring of the Holy Ghost upon the Church, and to His work of converting and sanctifying human souls. This was not a mere development out of the past. It was not a mere natural outgrowth of previous education. It was sudden, abrupt, and all-mastering. It was new in kind as well as in intensity and force. It was verily a new spiritual creation, a new spiritual order, fulfilling and interpreting all that had been best in the past, but lifting all on to a new range of progression. The life bestowed on St. Peter or St. Paul was of a new kind. That life we are called to possess. That life we may and ought to possess.
‘The Holy Ghost was not yet with men in such fullness of influence on their minds, hearts, and understandings, as the Spirit of adoption and revelation, as He was after our Lord ascended up into heaven. It is clear as daylight, from our Lord’s language about the Spirit, in John 14:16-17; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7-15, that believers were meant to receive a far more full and complete outpouring of the Holy Spirit after His Ascension than they had received before. It is a simple matter of fact, indeed, that after the Ascension the Apostles were quite different men from what they had been before. They both saw, and spoke, and acted like men grown up, while before the Ascension they had been like children. It was this increased light and knowledge and decision that made them such a blessing to the world, far more than any miraculous gifts. The possession of the gifts of the Spirit, it is evident, in the early Church was quite compatible with an ungodly heart. A man might speak with tongues and yet be like salt that had lost its savour. The possession of the fullness of the graces of the Spirit, on the contrary, was that which made any man a blessing to the world.’
THE WORDS OF JESUS
‘Never man spake like this Man.’
It often happens that people appreciate a work of art, and appreciate it rightly, but cannot altogether say why. Much the same, I think, is the case with the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am one of those who think that sufficient attention has not always been fixed upon the language of Jesus Christ. Theologians and other thinkers debate about His supernatural works, His miracles, but to my thinking the words of Jesus are more marvellous than His works. We know so little about the relation of spirit to body, of our own spirits to our own bodies, and the spirit of one man to the spirit and body of another, that I should be loth to lay down dogmatically that this or that fact was impossible; but it is to me absolutely inconceivable that any one, if he were a man, however lofty, however powerful, however holy, should assert the claims which Jesus Christ asserted for Himself, that he should claim, for example, to be the judge of all the living and the dead. It will be my object to examine, as well as one sermon will permit, the words of Jesus Christ, in order to show how true it is that ‘Never man spake like this Man.’
I. Words of authority.—It will be best to begin with the ordinary conversation of everyday life. We say ‘I hope,’ or ‘I think,’ or ‘I am afraid,’ or ‘I expect.’ But there is not one of these expressions which Jesus Christ, if He were living now, could possibly have used. The words which are so often current upon our lips, such as ‘perhaps,’ or ‘probably,’ or ‘I dare say,’ are never heard from His, whether about earthly things or about heavenly. He speaks with absolute assurance. He may or may not choose to impart His knowledge, but He never says ‘I do not know.’ To take an example. It is related that one of His disciples asked Him, ‘Lord, are there few that be saved?’ He does not say ‘I do not know,’ but He says it is not their business to know, and they must try to win their own salvation. I do not forget that to this universal amplitude of knowledge there seems to be one exception. In regard to the final Day of Judgment our Lord, at least as Mark reports Him, used the words, ‘Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.’ And if so, then I can only say that that one solitary exception to the law of His universal knowledge does but serve to throw into relief His paramount claim in other instances. I sometimes think the best way to realise how unique is the teaching of Jesus Christ is to set it beside the teaching of some one high, holy, and pure among men. Now this is the language which Socrates addressed to his judges in the prospect of his execution: ‘The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our way, I to die and you to live. Which is better, God only knows.’ Now listen to the words of Jesus Christ: ‘I go to My Father and ye see Me no more.’ ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.’ ‘I ascend unto My Father and your Father; and to My God and your God.’
II. Words of infallibility.—There are no expressions which are, and ought to be, commoner upon our lips than such as suggest our own imperfections or limitations, such as ‘I will try,’ ‘I will do my best,’ ‘I have forgotten,’ ‘I made a mistake.’ There is not one of these expressions which Jesus Christ ever used or could have used in His human life. It is in His relation to His disciples that I seem especially to notice the uniqueness of His language. He lived with them, as you know, an intimate, daily companionship. Yet He never says, ‘What do you think? In the circumstances, what do you recommend me to do?’ And, strangest of all, He never said to His disciples, ‘Let us kneel down and pray together.’ This He did not say, but what He did say strikes me as even more wonderful. Let me remind you of such words as these: ‘Which of you convinceth Me of sin?’ Is there any one who could advance a claim like that? ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ ‘All,’ notice; not ‘some.’ He is the one absolute Comforter and Saviour of all men in all vicissitudes of their human lives. Or, again, ‘Before Him shall be gathered all nations.’ He claims to be the final Judge of all men, to discriminate with absolute precision between all men and all nations of men at the last judgment. He asserted from the first a world-wide, imperishable mission. His conception of His mission He never revoked, never qualified, never changed, and yet, in the prosecution of His mission, He seemed to be indifferent to the common signs and tokens of success. He did not count up His disciples, He did not advertise Himself, He shrank from publicity. The Son of Man had not where to lay His head; but for all that He did not entertain so much as a momentary doubt that His mission would be ultimately accomplished. Is there anything more tragic in history than the life of the traitor Judas, false friend, plotting in secret, as he thought, the death of his Master, and all the while that Master could read his heart, could see the plague spot of sin spreading over it? Jesus knew from the beginning who should betray Him.
III. Words that endure.—He Who spoke as never man spake predicted that His words should never pass away. The science, the philosophy, the religion of the Roman Empire in His day, they are gone, and they will never come again. His words alone have never been superseded. The world needs no new religion. It needs only to lay hold of His revelation of the Father Who loves His children with a love to which all earthly love is as shadow to sunshine.
The speaker was quite right, although he knew not how deep and profound a truth he was uttering. Let us see the significance of these words as applied to Christ.
I. The matter of His teaching.—Originality was its distinctive feature. Christ Himself—His Person, His work, and His mission—was the theme of His teaching. It was characterised by sublimity and simplicity, profundity and perspicuity.
II. The manner of His teaching.—There was no reasoning, popularly so-called, but there was the highest wisdom in all He said. Nor was there the eloquence of human oratory. He spoke with authority. Mark the touching solemnity of His lamentation over Jerusalem, His severe denunciation of hypocrisy, and His passionate tenderness for the sorrowful.
III. The method of His teaching.—His words were brief, emphatic, suggestive, parabolic. Now turn to the present position of Christ and His teaching.
(a) He is the central figure of human history.
(b) His teaching confessedly the most potent factor in human progress.
Truly ‘never man spake like this Man.’
Archdeacon W. F. Taylor.
‘The words of the Lord are as living now as on the very day they were uttered. They indicate their unequalled grandeur in this—that, uttered by a Galilæan carpenter eighteen centuries ago, they are universal in their application to all time and place. “Never man spake as this Man.”’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on John 7". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter