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Name and Surname
Why these surnames? We do not want them, we do not like them; but there they are. Why not say 'Simon,' and let his identification be established by other means than by recalling the loathsomeness of the disease? Why these expansions of names, why these fringes and attachments? Why not identify men by something better than leprosy, or evil deed, or red shame of any kind?
We fall here upon a very profitable scene of investigation and instruction. There seems to be some policy in this way of naming men; this is no bare accident.
I. Let us take instances. 'Matthew the publican.' Why remind a man that he was a publican or tax-gatherer? Why remind a man of days that he wants to forget? Is a man always to be reminded that he was once a blasphemer? He ought to remind himself of that; there may be some greatness and wealthy fortune in the very reminiscences that we would gladly get rid of. Remember the hole, recall the mire, set up an image of the pit in your gayest parlour, to remind you that you did not come down from heaven, though by the grace of God you may be going up into it. You were once Simon the leper; remember it, and be kind to all lepers; 'such were some of you'. You were once Matthew the publican, the hard-natured, close-fisted tax-gatherer, felt to be an oppressor in the neighbourhood; remember, and be gentle.
The Lord was always talking thus to the people whom He made dear to His heart. He was saying to them every day almost, Remember thou also wast a stranger; bethink thee of the bondage days of old Egypt; recall the time when thou wouldst have been thankful for a mouthful of bread and a night's hospitable lodging; remember. There are men round thee to whom thou mayest show kindness for David's sake, for Jonathan's sake, for thy father's sake, for thy mother's sake, for auld lang syne's sake. The past will follow thee with name, and the intention of such pursuit is thy chastening, humbling; not a contemptuous humbling, but a stimulating and comforting humbling, so that thou mayest get rid of the old rags and put on the garments of duty. There must be a policy in this.
II. Take another instance, 'Rahab the harlot'. Why torment the woman by such memories? Was it not enough to call her 'Rahab who received the spies'? Why is her sin to be even blackened and deepened and thrust in her face as a present-day memory and almost a present-day fact, so hot the breath, so damning the recollection? But this is the way; there must be a purpose in it. We cannot be satisfied until we find out the way into the heart of that purpose: always reminding a man that he was born blind, always refreshing his memory with the fact that once he had to beg his bread even at the beautiful gate of the temple; always reminding the soul that it was just as bad once as any other soul ever could be. Why these painful, shocking, heart-cutting reminiscences and reminders? She was saved by faith, yet she was Rahab the harlot. Again and again it is forced upon us that there must be some meaning in all this, that a certain process has not yet been completed. Regeneration has been completed, blessed be God, but resurrection has yet to begin; regeneration is completed, consummated, crowned by resurrection, the old foul body left with the worms, and the new body, that is to say, the heavenly and the spiritual, has assumed the wedding garment, made fit for the wedding feast.
III. We must take the case in both its aspects. Simon the leper, Paul the Apostle, this is the woman out of whom the seven devils were cast. Oh, do not talk always about the seven devils, they are gone; she is the temple of the Holy Ghost. Do not torment yourselves by too morbid a reference to and brooding on the melancholy past.
If we turn over a few pages of the New Testament we shall find that God gives His people a new name. He gives some of them a name which no man can read but the bearer thereof. Sometimes He will give us a name that will have no evil associations attaching to it. The name 'sinner' will be forgotten, and no man will say to another in the city celestial, Is not this he that sat and begged? No; in that great home city there shall be no such reminder, for the former things are passed away. Neither shall there be any limiting names. We take no leprous garment into heaven, our evil deeds we leave far behind us behind the back of God. Said the gracious Lord to His sinning but penitent Israel, 'I will cast thy transgressions behind Me,' and no line has been found that can measure the distance indicated by that word 'behind'. Then let us hope for liberation or redemption, full, complete.
Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. Iv. p. 223.
References. XXVI. 6, 7. A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, part ii. p. 318. XXVI. 6-13. F. D. Maurice, Christmas Day and Other Sermons, p. 184. W. Landels, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. 1897, p. 72. XXVI. 6-16. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew XVIII.-XXVIII. p. 221. XXVI. 6-30. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xl. No. 2350.
The best part of a woman's love is worship; but it is hard to her to be sent away with her precious spikenard rejected, and her long tresses, too, that were let fall ready to soothe the wearied feet.
When Mary anointed our Lord's feet, the act was a transient one; it was done for His burial: the holy feet which she anointed ceased soon after to walk on earth. Yet He declared that wheresoever His gospel was preached in the whole world, that act should also be told as a memorial of her. So has it ever been with what has been given to God, even though it were blindly and erringly. While all other things have perished, this has endured.
There are more ways of doing good than almsgiving. All heavenly charity is not to be bound up in bags of flour.... And the form which God has given to the world we live in is in harmony with this judgment. The earth is not constructed merely on the principle of producing so much food for man's bodily wants. It has its cornfields, but it has also its wild-flowers on hill and moorland to give us the sense of a touching and simple beauty; it has its precipices, and wastes, and seas, to inspire us with a feeling of the sublime and infinite. The utilitarian looking on this side of things may say, and has said, 'To what purpose is this waste? It might have been given to the poor.' But the world was made by One who had in view not merely the physical wants of man but his intellectual and spiritual nature, and Who has constructed His dwelling-place so as to train that nature above the animal and earthly. The golden glory of the furze that brought tears to the eyes of Linnaeus is as true a gift of God as the joy of the harvest, and it is a most Christian endeavour to make the poor partakers of both. There is a 'life which is more than meat,' and herein lies part of the significance of this incident in the house of Bethany.
Dr. John Ker, Thoughts for Heart and Life.
References. XXVI. 8. G. H. Morrison, Flood-Tide, p. 92. F. R. M. Hitchcock, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. 1898, p. 324. J. A. Bain, Questions Answered by Christ, p. 81. T. Teignmouth Shore, The Life of the World to Come, p. 83. A. N. Obbard, Plain Sermons, p. 34. XXVI. 8, 9, 10. H. P. Liddon, Passion-Tide Sermons, p. 227.
We men are always so ready and anxious to keep women right, like the wretched creature Laertes in 'Hamlet,' who reads his sister such a lesson on her maidenly duties, but declines almost with contempt to listen to a word from her as to any co-relative obligations on his side!
References. XXVI. 10. A. W. Potts, School Sermons, p. 102. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvi. No. 2126.
Who is the beggar? The beggar is a man forced by fate to remind us of Christ: he is a brother of Christ; he is the bell of the Lord, and he rings in life to rouse our conscience, to arouse the satiety of the flesh of man. He stands by the window and sings out: 'For the sake of Christ!' and by his singing he reminds us of Christ, of this holy commandment to help the neighbour.
Maxim Gorky, The Man who was Afraid, chap. iv.
He is rich who hath enough to be charitable; and it is hard to be so poor that a noble mind may not find a way to this price of goodness. 'He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord;' there is more rhetorick in that one sentence than in a library of sermons. Upon this motive only I cannot behold a beggar without relieving his necessities with my purse, or his soul with my prayers. These scenical and accidental differences between us cannot make me forget that common and untouched part of us both; there is under these centres and miserable outsides, those mutilate and semi bodies, a soul of the same alloy with our own, whose genealogy is God as well as ours, and in as fair a way to salvation as ourselves. Statists that labour to contrive a commonwealth without poverty take away the object of our charity; not understanding only the commonwealth of a Christian but forgetting the prophecy of Christ.
Sir Thomas Browne ('The prophecy of Christ' being, of course, the above-quoted words, the poor ye shall have always with you).
In Dreamthorp Alexander Smith observes that at Christmas 'there is more charity than at any other time. The heart warms as the frost increases. Poverty, scant clothing, and fireless grates come home at this season to the bosoms of the rich, and they give of their abundance. The Master's words, "The poor ye have always with you," wear at this season a deep significance.'
References. XXVI. 12. James Vaughan, Fifty Sermons (9th Series), p. 301. XXVI. 12, 13. W. H. Hutchings, Sermon-Sketches, p. 100. XXVI. 13. W. E. Blomfield, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 24. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi. No. 286. XXVI. 14, 15. J. Wright, The Guarded Gate, p. 147. XXVI. 14-45. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. liii. No. 3033.
I. Three times, in the Gospel narrative, is Judas said to have been, in some special sense, the devil's instrument. And the first occasion was a year before the actual betrayal. 'Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?' What did it mean? Already, to the eye of Christ, there was seen the line of moral cleavage between the one and the eleven. Even in despondency, and almost despair, they are ready to fling away the cherished hope of ambition, of personal gain, and cling to Him they loved. And yet not all. One has in secret made a different choice. He is still in external union with them. But he had fought for his own hand, when he joined what he thought the winning side, and he will fight for his own hand now that he foresees its failure not openly, but secretly; in outward friendship and companionship, but with secret alienation of heart He was amongst the disciples, but, though perhaps they did not know it, he is no longer one of them.
So the old sin of Paradise is repeated. The act, which at heart all sin is, the self-love which separates man from God and makes him try to live and stand alone.
II. Twice, we are told, 'Satan entered into Judas,' and, in each case, the occasion was of some gracious act of love and condescension for the Lord he professed to serve (1) Once when, as Mary's loving hand poured precious ointment on the sacred feet, and He to Whom she ministered, accepted and interpreted her gift ('she did it for My burial'), and checked the words of him whose petty covetousness found fault with the 'waste'. Then, first, the treachery, which was hidden in the heart of Judas, took shape, and he bargained for his price: 'What will ye give me?' (2) Then, at the Last Supper, once more Satan entered into the traitor, and claimed him as his own. The Master had washed the traitor's feet Judas had heard his treachery foretold,' One of you shall betray Me,' as if in that last hour the appeal of love must be made; and he answered with the hypocritical 'Is it I?' Then came those awful words, which left the sinner to his sin, 'That thou doest, do quickly '. And he went out into the darkness. Then, in quick succession, we recall the garden meeting, the traitorous kiss, the remorseful 'I have sinned, for I have betrayed!' and the scornful 'See thou to that!' And Judas the traitor stood alone. And in his ears those words keep ringing, 'What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world?' What shall it profit? And forth he rushes into the darkness, to hide himself from himself, away across the Valley of Hinnom, to the Field of Blood. And that weird solitude witnessed the last act of him whom after-times look back upon as the hypocrite, the thief, the traitor, the suicide!
III. And it almost seems as if, in our day, Christ was leading His Church through the same description of disappointment through which He led His disciples. We are told from outside that Christianity has failed. And, if we accept and apply the world's test of what failure is, we must admit that it is true. Christianity has not introduced a golden age. Have we, any of us, who are signed with the Cross, and have received the seal of the Lord, nay, who have been brought into closest, truest union with Him in the Sacrament of His love, been sometimes disquieted, sometimes despondent, at the failure of Christianity? If so, what then? For it is here that we come to the dividing of the ways, the line which separates the followers of the Crucified from those who would be Christians without the Cross.
Christ has many open enemies; but it is amongst the baptized that the traitors are found, and the darkest treachery is that of those who have been brought very near their Lord. Therefore 'let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall'. Let us therefore fear. The beginning of treachery is that which we know so well, and fear so little unreality in religion; and the beginning of unreality is the separation of faith from life, or faith from thought. A faith which no longer shows itself in a holy life, a faith which we keep hidden away apart from all that appeals to our rational nature, is a faith to which we are already false which, when the occasion offers, we shall be ready to betray.
Aubrey L. Moore, Some Aspects of Sin, p. 105.
Illustration. 'Nowhere,' says St Bernard, 'are pilgrims in perfect safety. Not in heaven, for Lucifer fell from thence; not in Paradise, for Adam was driven from thence; much less in the world, since Judas perished in the school of Christ.'
Aubrey L. Moore, Some Aspects of Sin, p. 115.
References. XXVI. 15-17. E. B. Pusey, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii. p. 283. XXVI. 17-30. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew XVIII.-XXVIII. p. 225. XXVI. 17-30. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliv. No. 2595; vol. xlvi. No. 2699; vol. 1. No. 2865.
Imagine the situation. The hour which they had so eagerly expected had come. The peace of evening had fallen round them. The joyful recollection of the annual festival had no doubt taken possession of the little party. They were alone with their Master, Who had reassured them of His love with the most touching signs, and although there hung over them the sense of an impending danger, yet at any rate tonight there was nothing to disturb them. There all were friends, and all were dear to Him, and He was with them.
As they were eating, He said, 'Verily I say unto you, That one of you shall betray Me'. One of them! The disciples looked upon one another, doubting of whom He spoke. And they began to say unto Him, every one, 'Is it I, Lord? is it, surely it cannot be, I'.
I. Was it Hard that such a Subject should be Mentioned at such a Time? 'One of you shall betray Me.' They would know the truth soon enough. Might they not be spared the intrusion of such a thought in that peaceful hour? Is that what we think as we hear the story once again? But surely this is all of a piece with our Lord's compassion for human souls. This is the last appeal to the man who was most conscious of guilt, to pause and consider before it became too late. Surely this is the kindness of the surgeon who cuts deep that he may save. It was not too late for Judas to repent.
II. The Sweep of that Word Reached Further than the Conscience of Judas. They began to say unto Him, every one, 'Is it I, Lord?' It was a word which forced every one of them to search his conscience. A flood of light, as it were, is poured into the most secret recesses of their heart, and there they saw all the things which men are only too anxious to forget. There was that in them which did not make it so impossible, but that each of them might prove a traitor to his Lord. Do we not know those searching words of our Lord which every now and then spring up from the pages of the Gospel and tear through all the coverings that we wrap round our secret life and disposition, till they have laid bare those roots of evil which will ruin the whole nature if they are not exposed? Yes, the words flash out again and again, and haunt us.
III. The Word of the Lord Forced the Disciples to Look Closely Within, and should not we ask ourselves serious questions? The first stage in our progress is to know ourselves. Judas the traitor refused to allow the light to penetrate his soul, and the darkness flooded it instead, and one has seen lives break up into bits because men and women would not deal faithfully with themselves, would not look at their faults or look for them. Do not let us put this aside as though it were a tedious task, or just a matter of obligation. It is a matter of life and death to us, that we should be always searching to see what there is within us, for the evil weeds grow quickly in the garden of our souls. It does not seem to me to matter-much what method of self-examination we pursue, so long as it is done, so long as it is honest, real, and painstaking. Let every one do what is best and most natural to them, but let no one stop until they get to the root of all that may be wrong with them, for remember that all the time our lives are open to the Lord Jesus.
References. XXVI. 20-30. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. lii. No. 2982. XXVI. 22. C. Stanford, The Evening of the Lord's Ministry, p. 36. XXVI. 22, 26. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew XVIII.-XXVIII. p. 232.
There can be no treason, where is not some trust.
At the close of his essay on The Civil Disabilities of the Jews, Macaulay protests against 'the practice of confounding prophecy with precept, of setting up predictions which are often obscure against a morality which is always clear. If actions are to be considered as just and good merely because they have been predicted, what action was ever more laudable than that crime which our bigots are now, at the end of eighteen centuries, urging us to avenge on the Jews, that crime which made the earth shake and blotted out the sun from heaven? The same reasoning which is now employed to vindicate the disabilities imposed on our Hebrew countrymen will equally vindicate the kiss of Judas and the judgement of Pilate. "The Son of Man goeth as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed." And woe to those who, in any age or in any country, disobey His benevolent commands under pretence of accomplishing His predictions.'
References. XXVI. 24. Hugh Black, University Sermons, p. 4. S. A. Tipple, The Admiring Guest, p. 182. W. H. Simcox, The Cessation of Prophecy, p. 269. H. P. Liddon, Passion-Tide Sermons, p. 210. Archer Butler, Sermons (1st Series), p. 75. Spurgeon, Sermon Notes on New Testament, p. 33. J. H. Thom, Laws of Life After the Mind of Christ (1st Series), p. 251. A. K. H. B., Graver Thoughts of a Country Parson, p. 268. New Outlines on New Testament, p. 47. Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 61; Inner Life of Christ, vol. iii. p. 11. In Christian World Pulpit, vol. i. p. 61 (Berg); vol. ii. p. 177 (Parker); vol. ii. p. 331 (Beecher); vol. v. p. 102 (Barfield); vol. viii. p. 37 (Hubbard); vol. viii. p. 305 (David Thomas, also in Pulpit Memorials, p. 417); vol. ii. p. 311 (Bantain); vol. xii. p. 394 (Beecher); vol. xv. p. 316 (Higgins); vol. xviii. p. 161 (Hird); vol. xx. p. 202 (Beecher); vol. xxvi. p. 102 (Tuck); vol. xxix. p. 90 (Beecher). Selections from Pusey, p. 326. Winterbotham, Sermons, p. 360. Aitken's Misson Sermons (2nd Series), p. 121.
The Real Presence of Christ Jesus in the Holy Eucharist
There are two classes of difficulties which keep men from the Sacrament of the Altar. One class is intellectual and the other moral. The first is met by faith and the second by repentance. The one comes from want of appreciation of Divine mysteries and from the consequent absence of experimental self-surrender to those mysteries. The other comes from sin which, through self-indulgence, is unrepented of.
I. Let us be sure that there is something mysterious about our Eucharist, whatever that mystery may be. Christ's words, which are repeated at every celebration, 'This is My Body' ' This is My Blood,' are undoubtedly mysterious, but yet quite patent of a literal sense, and as Hooker says, 'I hold it for a most infallible rule in expositions of Sacred Scripture that where a literal construction will stand, the farthest from the letter is commonly the worst'. The Primitive Church, again, witnesses to the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist St. Augustine says: 'It seemed good to the Holy Ghost that the Lord's Body should be the first food to enter the Christian's mouth, in order that due honour should be shown to so great a Sacrament, and this custom is observed throughout the world'. Again, the Church of England not only explicitly receives the testimony of the early Church as an authoritative interpretation of Scripture, but she also unmistakably declares her own belief in the Real Presence of her Lord. She speaks of Christ's Body being ' given, taken, and received,' of Its being 'verily and indeed taken and received,' where 'verily and indeed' point not to a logical certainty, but to a real presence and real communion: she speaks of 'holy mysteries,' of our 'eating the flesh of Christ and drinking His blood,' of Christ being 'veiled under the forms of bread and wine'.
II. Some considerations drawn from allied truths may help us to accept more unreservedly, and to use more thankfully, the great gift associated with the altar.
1. In the first place, Sacraments are not isolated phenomena in the dispensation of the Spirit. Christianity is itself Sacramental. The Son of God took to Himself the whole of man's nature, and joined it to His own nature in indissoluble union. The two natures found their unity in the one Person of the Eternal Word. This is the Sacrament of the Incarnation, the mystery which reveals the most ancient of all mysteries, that of the Blessed Trinity. Throughout the earthly life of the Son of God the Godhead which was concealed within was ever manifesting forth its glory by words and deeds of power. But yet to most men the inward part of the Sacrament of the Incarnation was hidden. The Son of Man was known of every passer-by as one having no form nor comeliness; the Son of God was recognized by few. Others, however, found that virtue went out of Him at the touch of faith. Then, as now in the Sacrament of the Altar, to touch His outermost robe was to find His manhood beneath, and to realize that that manhood was the channel through which there flowed the power of the Godhead.
Again, is not the mystical body of Christ, the Church, a great Sacrament? Its outward part is formed of all who are baptized into the name of the Blessed Trinity. Some are good and some are evil, and the evil is at all times so prevalent that the face of the Bride of Christ, like that of her Spouse, is so marred that, when men see it, there is no beauty in it that they should desire it. Yet is she holy because of the indwelling of the Spirit of holiness who is her life and soul. This is her 'inward part,' that with which she is anointed; but it is hidden, except for those whose eyes are open to spiritual realities.
2. A second truth which bears closely on the Sacrament of the Altar is that of the nature of our Lord's Resurrection Body. It is that spiritual Body, a Body 'invisible, indivisible,' and not subject to the laws of physics, which is now sacramentally present at our altars. The mode of its existence is beyond our ken, the laws according to which it works are not revealed to us in consciousness. It is a spiritual Body, and Christ's presence is, therefore, a spiritual presence. It is this spiritual nature of Christ's Body which enables it to be sacramentally present with us.
3. A third fact may be brought forward to help us to realize better the mysterious Presence of Christ. He took our human nature, when He was made man, in its entirety. Man, St. Paul says, consists of body, soul, and spirit. The Word of God, therefore, assumed each of these three. The spirit of man is that highest part of his being, of which the most that can be said is that it exists; beyond this we are in almost utter ignorance about it. The soul is that spiritual part of man in which the spirit manifests itself intellectually and morally. The body is in its essence, that is, when stripped of all accidents, the name given to a force, or collection of forces, which act as the power within our constitution, which lays hold of and moulds to its purposes the outside world of matter. There is a great difference between the organism of a living man and a corpse.
4. A fourth fact may be finally brought forward. All creatures live by external support. The angels have their nourishment directly through contemplation of the Word of God. Man is spoken of, it appears, as the food of the evil one, so far as he becomes like his tempter. To the one was said, 'Earth thou art,' and to the other, 'Earth shalt thou eat'. The bodily life of man, again, is supported from without by food taken within. But nothing that has not lived will serve as food for him. Either vegetable or animal life must be sacrificed for his needs. In other words, it is only a substance of kindred nature that will sustain man's bodily frame. Similarly, the food that is the support of man's soul is of kindred nature to it. 'The bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.' That is, it is the human nature of Christ Jesus which is given us in the Blessed Sacrament That nature is consubstantial with us and fitted, therefore, for the support of our souls. But that nature is united to the Divine, and hence in Holy Communion man approaches more nearly than anywhere else on earth to the Being of God Himself, and we realize in it something of St. Peter's assertion that we are made partakers of the Divine Nature.
III. Such are one or two truths which throw sidelights on the mysterious Presence. But after all we can go but a short way towards comprehending it. A mystery it will still remain, and as a mystery faith will receive it. The true knowledge of Christ's presence comes from that experiment which faith makes in a sure trust in God's mercy. To have been with Jesus, to be conscious of the sweetness of His presence, to find Him as a guest within, to hold silent colloquy with Him, this is evidence that cannot be gainsaid. Even if He so manifested Himself but once, and the a withdrew for years, it would be testimony sufficient, the heart would stand up and answer 'I have felt; "My Beloved is mine and I am His; He feedeth among the lilies".' Such experience will not care to inquire too curiously into the mystery. It is dark with excess of light; the more earnestly we gaze the more are we dazzled.
W. F. Cobb, Church Times, vol. xxviii. p. 304, 31 March, 1890.
References. XXVI. 26. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xl. No. 2350. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Blessed Sacrament, p. 179. XXVI. 26-28. W. C. Wheeler, Sermons and Addresses, p. 138. G. Salmon, Non-Miraculous Christianity, p. 174. XXVI. 26-30. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxviii. No. 2268. XXVI. 27, 28. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew XVIII.-XXVIII. p. 243. XXVI. 28. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiii. No. 1971; see also Twelve Sermons on the Atonement, p. 373. E. B. Pusey, The Holy Eucharist a Comfort to the Penitent, p. 1. XXVI. 29. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew XVIII.-XXVIII. p. 252. XXVI. 30. J. Guinness Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. 1898, p. 280. B. D. Johns, Pulpit Notes, p. 145. C. J. Ridgeway, Plain Instructive Sermons on Holy Communion, p. 20. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. lii. No. 2982. XXVI. 31-35. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlviii. No. 2771. XXVI. 32. R. Winterbotham, Sermons Preached in Holy Trinity Church, Edinburgh, p. 241.
'Tis not the many oaths that make the truth,
But the plain single vow, that is vowed true.
References. XXVI. 33. C. Wordsworth, Primary Witness to the Truth of the Gospel, p. 138. XXVI. 35. S. D. McConnell, A Year's Sermons, p. 67. XXVI. 35, 40. E. Griffith Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. 1900, p. 133. XXVI. 36. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No. 693. J. Halsey, The Spirit of Truth, p. 133. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 199. A. Whyte, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiii. 1903, p. 375. C. Stanford, The Evening of the Lord's Ministry, p. 171. XXVI. 36-46. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xl. No. 2376. T. Binney, Sermons Preached in the King's Weigh-House Chapel, p. 150. J. Laidlaw, Studies in the Parables, p. 177. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew XVIII.-XXVIII. p. 261. XXVI. 38. E. Fowle, Plain Preaching to Poor People (1st Series), p. 15. V. R. Lennard, Passion-Tide and Easter, p. 73. T. T. Carter, Lent Lectures, 1860-66, p. 115. W. P. Balfern, Glimpses of Jesus, p. 237. XXVI. 38-46. Selected Sermons of Schleiermacher, p. 38.
Christ Shrinking From the Cross
Why did Jesus so shrink from His cross? The answer cannot be given in a single confident word or two. Only as we realize what Christ was, and is, and shall be; only as we understand what He came to be and to do; and only as we see the part which the Cross filled in His life, and has filled in the life of the race, shall we realize the elements of bitterness in the cup from which Jesus shrank.
I. The first element in the cup was His Mortal Pain. Christ passed through His dying hours in complete self-control. He made His cross a place of counsel, of blessing, and prayer. But there was a peculiar horror at the death of the cross. It had for men of finely strung nature, and of sensitive organization, an almost unbearable agony. The scourging before the crucifixion, the driving in of the nails, the uplifting of the beam, the long, slow, fiery agony of the wounds, the horror of the thirst all of these were vividly realized by Jesus and bore in on His mind. 'He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,' said the Apostle, recalling its mortal pain.
II. The Loneliness of its Shame. The very thought of the cross brought a loneliness into Christ's spirit. He never made a movement towards it without finding Himself going forward alone. He saw that what men would desert Him for was its shame.
There are three kinds of loneliness. There is the loneliness of solitude tonic, calming, strengthening. There is the loneliness of character. A man may find himself in a community, or in a society, or even in a home very greatly alone. Jesus knew both these lonelinesses. He sought the solitude of the seashore and of the mountain-top and of the olive garden. He accepted the loneliness of His character, saying even among His disciples, 'I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now'. But this third loneliness of shame He shrank from, as all men shrink from it. 'I was sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not,' said Jesus in His parable, declaring the loneliness of shame. 'I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with Me.' An element in the cup was the loneliness of its shame.
III. Its Mental Anguish. The Cross of Christ shall never cease to be a tragedy. But we can see it now, in the light of centuries of Christian experience, Christian history and Christian thought, to be a splendid triumph. But was it all clear to Christ? He had, no doubt, an anticipation of such an issue throughout His whole ministry. But now, as He stands at the foot of the cross, and as He faces the actual deed, there is given Him a keen mental anguish. Was this the hour? Was this the way? Could this be the will of God?
When we think that Christ always found it easy to know God's will we do greatly err. With us the greater difficulty is the doing of the will of God. With Christ the problem was to know that will. As soon as God's will became clear to Him He went forward to it with animation of spirit. Here in Gethsemane He suffered mental anguish both as to the knowledge of God's will and obedience to it When the light fell clearly on the path, and He saw the cross as the inevitable duty, the mental anguish is over. You can hear the calm of His spirit in His words, 'Rise up, let us be going'.
IV. His Desolation of Soul. What causes desolation of soul? What gives us the sense that God is no longer near, no longer mindful, no longer loving? Why are all children natural believers and all older hearts prone to doubt? What gives desolation of soul is, in a single word sin. It may be, it commonly is, our own sin. But in a pure heart desolation of soul may be caused not only by one's own sin but by the sin of others. In this way the sin of man desolated the soul of Christ He was willing to be sundered from God, to have His name blotted out, to be accursed from God, to go out into the desolation of a forsaken soul, if He could redeem man from the desolation which is eternal. That was the agony of the garden. Out of it He passed in tranquillity to go to His cross.
'Let this cup pass from Me,' prayed Jesus. Yet He drank it.'
W. M. Clow, The Cross in Christian Experience, p. 65.
I. To Christian hearts no name is so sacred as Gethsemane. In Gethsemane Jesus was in anguish. The heart is awed at the sight of the Son of God on His knees in the garden.
This was the temptation of the life of Jesus. The cup of human guilt was held out to Him. He trembled to stretch out His hand to take the cup. He longed to avoid the ordeal.
Having the redemptive love, Jesus saw that the cup was inevitable. To save, He must die. To find, He must lose. In His distress He prayed, and His prayer was a cry. 'O My Father! if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless: not as I will, but as Thou wilt.' A second time He prayed, and in the interval He had seen more clearly that the cup was unavoidable. 'O My Father! if this cup may not pass from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.' A third time He prayed, using the same words.
That prayer stamps Jesus as the world's religious leader. It is religion epitomized. It is spirituality in a word.
II. There are Gethsemanes in human life. Life for the most part is on the path of the commonplace, but, ever and anon, we pass into the garden of gloom.
Death is the common gate into Gethsemane. Gethsemane may be a home where sickness lingers. Gethsemane may be a lonely life. Gethsemane may be a wilderness of impoverishment. Sometimes Gethsemane is long foreseen. Jesus had the prescience of His Gethsemane for years, and it is the sign of His high courage that He stepped forward to meet it. But sometimes we plunge into it unexpectedly. The soul is always alone in Gethsemane. Jesus was alone. All that the soul can do in Gethsemane is to pray. Jesus prayed. Prayers in Gethsemane are always broken. But those who have prayed in Gethsemane never doubt the blessedness of prayer.
III. The most precious truth in Gethsemane is that of the Divine Fatherhood. 'O My Father!' was the cry of Jesus. The soul can only pray when God is known as Father. When we think of God as our Father, then we assume our true relationship. It is the filial He seeks in us.
We can exercise every freedom in our speech with our Father. Jesus did. He showed His fear to His Father. 'If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.' The intenser our assurance of His Fatherliness, the freer our confessions will be.
True religion is the reverent acceptance of the Father's will. The deep religion of the soul of Jesus is shown in this. He was prepared to abide His Father's will.
J. G. Bowran, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxii. 1907, p. 347.
References. XXVI. 39. G. Tyrrell, Oil and Wine, p. 251. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. i. p. 260. E. L. Hull, Sermons Preached at King's Lynn (3rd Series), p. 58. W. Baker, Penny Pulpit, vol. xii. No. 707. p. 325. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xl. No. 2376; vol. xlvii. No. 2715. XXVI. 39-42. C. J. Vaughan, Last Words in the Parish Church of Doncaster, p. 165. XXVI. 40, 41. Mandell Creighton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. 1894, p. 219. XXVI. 41. F. W. Farrar, Everyday Christian Life, p. 159. E. Meyrick Goulburn, Three Counsels of the Divine Master, vol. i. p. 133. XXVI. 43. A. F. W. Ingram, Addresses in Holy Week, 1902, p. 41. XXVI. 45. R. Rainy, Sojourning With God, p. 95. XXVI. 45, 46. J. Percival, Some Helps for School Life, p. 146. XXVI. 46. J. Halsey, The Spirit of Truth, p. 65. XXVI. 47. J. G. Stevenson, The Judges of Jesus, p. 11. James Moffatt, The Second Things of Life, p. 70.
We have all of us one human heart. The blackest criminal is a man of like passions with ourselves. His crime comes from the yielding to tendencies which are in us all, and his nature grows to be capable of it by slow degrees. We never need to remember this more than in thinking of that man who is gibbeted for ever as 'Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him'.
I. Consider First His Gradual Downward Progress, and note:
1. How it illustrates the power of one sinful tendency to overgrow and destroy the whole soul. His fault was one the love of money. It grew and increased in his soul till it swallowed up everything.
2. The conflict of Divine love and human sinful will. Christ chose him for an Apostle not for his badness, but for what he might have been. He gave him all His teaching. At the last He tried to win him back, giving him the sop in loving familiarity, making a last appeal to his heart. Striking hard on conscience, by letting him see he was known, 'That thou doest,' and by urging him as a last request to do it 'at once'. Then the tenderness, the firmness, the absence of all rebuke, 'Friend, wherefore art thou come?'
And so with us all. It is the awful mystery of human will that it can and does turn itself against all Divine appeals, and annihilates and thwarts the loving purposes and mercy of Jesus Christ.
II. The Actual Crime. Remember that his knowledge of Christ's higher nature was dim and vague. He did not fully know what he was doing.
This illustrates, (1) the essential character of all sin, as blinding a man to the true nature of what he is doing. (2) The real nature of all sin is preferring self to Christ. (3) The real aggravation of sin, ingratitude. The form may differ but the substance is the same.
III. The End. Immediate remorse. 'I have sinned.' Judas goes to the priests, and flings down the money then his suicide.
This brings out, (1) The unprofitableness of sin. Judas gets his reward, and with it a bitter conscience. (2) The remorse which leads to desperation. His crime was not unpardonable. Suppose he had gone to the cross, and cried there, 'I have sinned,' would He Who forgave them all, not have forgiven him? His condemnation was not his betrayal of Christ, but his own non-acceptance of pardon for his betrayal. So the last lesson is that the only thing which binds sin upon a man and leads to death is unbelief. And we who have betrayed, denied, crucified Christ, may have all pardoned.
References. XXVI. 50. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew XVIII.-XXVIII. p. 270. XXVI. 51-56. W. M. Taylor, The Miracles of Our Saviour, p. 426.
The grace of God shall never want champions, for by her own almighty power she makes them for herself. She requires hearts pure and disengaged; and she herself purifies and disengages them from worldly interests incompatible with the truths of the Gospel.
Reference. XXVI. 52. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Sheathed Sword, p. 14.
Holy Angels (Feast of St. Michael and All Angels)
The unprayed prayer of the Lord Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, is not only a standing marvel of self-sacrificing love, and an example of the voluntary endurance of educative pain, it is also a revelation that the earthly lives of God's children are enfolded by intelligences invisible, who, under the command of God, act as ministers and protectors. And this is true of all, because, 'as He is, so are we in this world'.
I. Do not ask me to define an angel; I have never seen one. But every painstaking thinker knows that those forces in the universe, that never have been seen and never can be seen, are the mightiest. Christian history, apart from Christian legend, is as much a history of the angels as it is a history of God and man. The works of Christian writers teem with allusions to the angels. The monuments of Christian cities testify to the ever-existing realization of the office of the angels. The written Word from first to last is full of the holy angels. It begins with angels, and it ends with angels.
II. This gaze into the spirit sphere on St. Michael's Day should help us to realize the true dignity of humanity, and stimulate us to lift our lives to the standard of our privileges. The inference is not the dignity of angels, but the dignity of men. These ethereal intelligences are our ministering attendants. Our fellowship is not with them, but with their Master; they are our ministers and His. It gives the real man the man who honours himself because he knows his essential nature is God's essential nature no pleasure to be highly praised by men; rather will self-knowledge turn such praise into gall for him. But he will honour himself, 'because of the angels'. And he will remember also that some of these heavenly beings are described as not having kept their first estate, and, therefore, that the common, coarse temptations of the flesh are not necessarily the most dangerous; and he will strive to guard himself against spiritual sins angels' sins self-love, self-will, love of praise, abuse of intellectual superiority, substitution of self for God. Moreover, he will shape his service according to the pattern of these ministering spirits, and when he prays, 'Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven,' he will see that his work for God possesses the characteristics of the angels' service, which are, (1) intellectual submission, together with intellectual aspiration 'they desire' to learn the mysteries. (2) Obedience. Amen! Alleluia! obedience before praise. (3) It is work consciously in the Divine presence, and, therefore, full of noble Godlike purpose, for they 'do always behold the face of My Father, which is in heaven'.
III. The unprayed prayer in Gethsemane teaches us that our communion with angels is not to be direct, but by prayer to the Father. 'I can pray to My Father, and He shall give.'
It provides the authority for the beautiful Collect for St. Michael's Day. We need the ministry of angels in life; we shall doubly need it in death.
Basil Wilberforce, Following on to Know the Lord, p. 157.
Illustration. I have stood, as have countless thousands, on the bridge which spans the Tiber by Hadrian's tomb in the City of Rome, and there the eye is at once arrested by a colossal statue of St. Michael, the Prince of the Angels, surmounting the aimed battlements of the Castle of St. Angelo. It is an impressive scene, calculated to promote that condition of mind in which holy sentiment comes to deepen faith. More than a thousand years ago, upon that memorable spot, there knelt in prayer and fasting one of Christendom's greatest bishops, pleading with God for the removal of the pestilence which was desolating the city that he loved, and there seemed to pass before his eyes, dim with fasting, weary with prayer and watching, a vision of the mighty Prince of the Angels, alighting on the summit of the tomb of Hadrian, and sheathing a blood-stained sword, and from that moment the pestilence was stayed.
Basil Wilberforce, Following on to Know the Lord, p. 160.
References. XXVI. 53. W. L. Watkinson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiii. 1903, p. 136. S. Cox, Expositions, p. 362. XXVI. 53, 54. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiii. No. 1955.
I. Surely that appeal must be heard 'My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. Tarry ye here, and watch with Me!' But the disciples' eyes were heavy, and their hearts were sad, and hope had gone, and dull, helpless resignation had settled down upon their souls. And when the Master returned He found them sleeping. Yet there is no word of censure, only something of sadness may we not say, of disappointment? 'What, could ye not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.' Again, and a third time, He comes and finds them sleeping still. They have been tried, and failed. They could not watch. 'Sleep on now, and take your rest' It sounds almost like the echo of those words to Judas, 'What thou doest do quickly'. The moment of trial is past. It is all over. The only one of the twelve who was wakeful on that night was Judas the betrayer, who watched, but didn't love. The betrayer is near; and the disciples, who loved, but could not watch, saw their Master taken; and they who, in the strength of enthusiastic hope, once 'forsook all, and followed Him,' now, all in panic fear, 'forsook Him, and fled'. It was but for a little while. There was no thought of treachery or disloyalty in their hearts, only the cowardice and faintheartedness which comes of despondency and sloth.
II. Can we not see here a true picture of ourselves? What of the cowardly, despondent, faint-hearted Christians? Are they few amongst ourselves? What of the slothful ones who cannot 'watch,' cannot 'endure hardness,' who have committed themselves to Christianity as if it were a sort of 'forlorn hope' for the world, but have not the heart to fight for it and believe in it as a conquering power?
In our day there are few arguments more common in the mouth of the enemies of this faith than the reproach that Christianity is a failure. And has not it sometimes, even while we resented it and put it away from us, reacted on our belief, and made us sad and halfhearted and hopeless?
III. And, on the other hand, faith and effort react on one another, as do despondency and sloth. Is not it so in the service of man? When we hear of all the misery and wretchedness and vice of some great city, it seems so hopeless, we are ready to fold our hands and let things go; but if, in some little corner of the great field of work, we bestir ourselves to do what little we may, is not it wonderful how, with that effort, faith and hope and love grow strong and strengthen one another?
Surely sloth and unwillingness to make the effort, intellectual and moral, which is necessary for a real hold of truth, is largely to blame for what is vaguely called unbelief, in these days of ours.
Can we better gather up our thoughts on this desertion of Christ than in those words of His to them in the garden, 'Watch and pray'? If the moral struggle is what it ever was for those who would live the Christlike life, the intellectual struggle was never keener than it is for us now. And we are quite wrong to suppose that the battle can be fought out for us. Every thinking man and woman must take his part or hers, must fight for Christ, or, like the slothful sleepers in the garden, look on while the traitor betrays, and the enemies assail the Master they claim to love.
Aubrey L. Moore, Some Aspects of Sin, p. 117.
In a great piece of music a composer strikes the note in his prelude which is to be recurring and dominant the keynote of his message. This grave and saddening line is the keynote of the story of the day of the cross. It was a sign, as Jesus had foreteld, that His hour had come. It was His first step down into the waters of His baptism of sorrow. It was His first draught of the cup. To be forsaken by all turned His pie-vision of the cross into an experience.
With the story of the garden before us, let us look into this forsaking of Christ. Let us see the reasons why men are disloyal to Him, and mark how we may be safeguarded against the sin.
I. Men Forsake Christ Through Fear. We understand at a glance the fear of these men. They were Galilean fishermen and strangers in a large city. They were surprised at night in the depths of an olive garden. The sudden Roman faces, with Judas at their head, the flashing lamps and gleaming spears, the rough and insolent soldiery, Christ captive, submissive, seemingly helpless in the soldiers' hands, death menacing themselves, in the rude gestures of their assailants, shook their nerve and blanched their courage, and they forsook Him, and fled.
II. Men Forsake Christ Through Weariness. These disciples were disloyal not only through fear, but their temptation assailed them in an hour of extreme weariness. They had walked as Passover pilgrims from Capernaum to Jerusalem. They were guests in strange homes, and that is always a straining experience. They had spent a week of unusual and exhausting excitement. Since they had entered Jerusalem with Jesus to the shouting of Hosanna they had lived out a full round of six long and eventful days. They had been stinted of rest and robbed of sleep. Even while they were witnesses of Christ's agony in the garden and listeners to His prayers they fell asleep in sheer weariness. It was when worn, spent, drained of energy both of mind and of body, that they forsook Him, and fled.
We all understand these sad experiences. It was when we were weary, at the close of a long day, in our hour of failure, in the month when some great hope had been finally quenched, in the mood of discouragement and of despair, when the unexpected misfortune had overwhelmed us, as it overwhelmed the disciples in the garden, that we took that step, and did that deed, in which we forsook Christ, and fled.
III. Men Forsake Christ Through Spiritual Reaction. Behind their fear and their weariness there lay a deeper cause of failure. That was spiritual reaction. We sometimes forget how intense had been the life which these men had lived, and how dazzling had been the light in which they had rejoiced. Transforming and illumining as had been their years of fellowship with Jesus, these last days in Jerusalem had brought them into a religious wonderland. They had companied with the Lord Jesus, and beheld His glory. They had heard the great parables spoken in the Temple. They had sat at Martha's feast in Bethany and looked on Lazarus risen from the dead. On the last day of the feast they had passed into the Holy of Holies. They had spent the early hours of the evening in the Upper Room, and at the supper table which Christian men and women consider their holiest memorial. They had listened to Jesus when He had unlocked His heart in counsel and in prophecy. All religious experiences are costly and exhausting. Every excitement exacts its toll of energy. The human spirit cannot sustain any rapture without times of relief. But the most exhausting of all emotion is an elating spiritual experience. It always has its after hours of dull and jaded mood. To have lived with Christ through this holy week must have set the spiritual fervour of these men of religious genius on fire. Then came the reaction of the night and the darkness, and the sudden peril of the garden, and then they forsook Him, and fled.
IV. There are two counsels which may safeguard us against our forsaking Christ.
1. The first of these is to be found in that word with which Christ sought to safeguard His disciples against their hour of trial the word 'Watch'.
2. The second counsel we shall take from one who was loyal to Christ in a day when many were tempted to forsake Him. It is the counsel given as his message after the recital of the deeds of the cloud of witnesses who seldom faltered in their loyalty to God. That counsel is 'Looking unto Jesus'.
W. M. Clow, The Day of the Cross, p. 57.
I. Whom? Not an enemy; nor a faithless leader; but their best friend. Sometimes we are justified in forsaking people; the fuller our acquaintance with them, the less desirable it appears. But the more Christ was known, the better He was loved.
1. At a time of peculiar peril and sorrow.
2. After many proofs of His Messiahship.
3. After receiving many favours.
4. After strong professions of attachment.
5. After expressing indignation at the treachery of another.
III. Why? Because they were:
See how one man influences another; all forsook Him.
Let us take heed to our company.
Let us take heed to ourselves.
F. J. Austin, Seeds and Saplings, p. 41.
The leader of the Sadducees was Caiaphas. He was the High Priest that same that fateful year. The high priesthood had been the petty gift of all the foreign rulers of Judaea, bestowing it as their pleasure or their passion prompted. Caiaphas held the office for the long period of eighteen years, from the year a. d. 18 to the year a.d. 36. It was this High Priest and leader of the Sadducees who was the chief agent in the Crucifixion of Christ.
Caiaphas stands out so clearly upon the page of Scripture that we cannot mistake his character. His unflinching and implacable enmity imprinted itself indelibly on the minds of the Apostles. In scene after scene he is distinctively drawn. We see him in the Council with the note of scorn in his speech, his easy mastery of the moods and fears of men, his bold, definite counsel. We see him in the interview with Jesus, rending his robes with histrionic fervour, in a finely simulated horror at the blasphemy of Christ. We see him playing his game with Pilate, and using that able Roman as his tool. We see him when Judas, torn with relentless remorse, bursts into the Council Chamber, turning away from the conscience-stricken man, dismissing the poor fool from his presence with a phrase. We see him, unchanged, when Peter and John stand before him, and he charges them to hold their peace. Who is this resolute, defiant, merciless man? He is the High Priest of God the holder of the holiest office in Judaism. What is he? An astute and unscrupulous diplomatist; a wily manager of men; a master of assemblies with a fitting gift of speech; a conceiver of bold and daring policies in the hour when others waver, and a man of unflinching will in carrying them out. How shall we describe this man of the holy office, and the crafty speech, and the diplomatic skill, in a single word? In one word, he is an ecclesiastic the type of all that long succession of men who have laid heavy burdens on every Church, and often thwarted the purpose of God. Let us look at Caiaphas, the ecclesiastic, in the clear light that beats upon him from the Word of God, so that we may not enter into his secret or come into his condemnation. I take three points of view
I. The Ecclesiastic in his View of the Church. Caiaphas, the High Priest, was the virtual leader of the Jewish Church.
What was the Church to Caiaphas? It was an institution on whose history he could have descanted with eloquence. It was an institution he must preserve in its present form at all hazard. It was an institution with certain offices and ceremonies, and buildings, and privileges, and powers. And it was an institution in which he and his fellows held certain station and authority, and power and emolument. Whatever endangered its supremacy, whatever threatened to lower its prestige, whatever assailed its security, must be ruthlessly destroyed. A new revelation might be dawning among men; a new learning might be disclosing more of the power and wisdom of God; new methods of science might be stirring men's minds; a new and holier spirit of compassion might be surging in men's hearts; and all these might have been craving for recognition and sympathy within the Church. It mattered nothing to Caiaphas, the ecclesiastic. The new wine would endanger the old bottle, and the old bottle was his precious thing. It gave him his place and his power, and it must be preserved. It needed only the cry in his ears: 'The Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation,' to rouse him to the strong, unflinching, merciless policy of the ecclesiastic.
Now, what is the source of the ecclesiastic's view of the Church? It is simply the spirit of worldliness the spirit which prevails when faith in the unseen has died within the soul.
II. The Ecclesiastic In his Attitude towards Doctrine. This man Caiaphas, although drawn with such almost unrelieved condemnation in the Word of God, must not be thought of as inhuman, or as a self-consciously evil or diabolic man. Louis XI, with all his cruel craft, had a conscience. Machiavelli, the prince of liars, had always his self-defence in readiness. Lord Chesterfield's letters seem to us so much polite villainy, and yet they were written in tender regard for the well-being of his son. And Caiaphas had men to respect him, perhaps to love him. Children climbed upon his knee, and he put his hand gently on their heads. There were some frailties to which he was not liable; there were many vices impossible to him. And you can believe that in all he did he was well persuaded in his own mind. The state of mind behind his policy, the reason that dictated his action, was his attitude towards doctrine. Towards doctrine, and towards any possible change in doctrine, Caiaphas did not keep an open, testing, discerning mind. He was as fixed as the ice of an Arctic winter, as unreceptive as the dead.
III. The Ecclesiastic in his Conduct to Christ. This cool, cunning, crafty man saw in a flash that the watchful Roman governor would be only too glad to see in this popular clamour around Christ an outbreak of insurrection, and sweep away the Temple and its priesthood because unable to keep the peace. And with the passing of the Temple would pass Caiaphas and his pride. He stands up in the midst of the sacred and bewildered men, who already hear, in anticipation, the shouts of the populace proclaiming Christ as king, and with keen scorn he says 'Ye know nothing at all'; and then calmly proposes to take Jesus and to put Him to death.
That is the decisive test of the ecclesiastic. The Church needs leaders. She needs men of wise counsel and prompt energy and determining speech. She needs men who will patiently and untiringly serve her tables. But the office they fill is full of giddy and dazing temptations. No class of men need more the continual reconsecration of aim and the fresh baptism of the Spirit. But these are gained only as men keep themselves in the faith and love of Jesus. The man to whom Christ is a name, or only an instrument of service, is a danger to the Church. But the man to whom He is Lord, in whose heart a deep devotion maintains its unquenched fire, may make mistakes, may seem to endanger sacred interests, but his blundering will be wiser than the cold prudence of the ecclesiastic.
W. M. Clow, The Day of the Cross, p. 13.
References. XXVI. 57. C. Stanford, The Evening of Our Lord's Ministry, p. 237. J. G. Stevenson, The Judges of Jesus, p. 83. XXVI. 57-62. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlii. No. 2473. XXVI. 57-68. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew XVIII.-XXVIII. p. 286. XXVI. 59, 60. ' Plain Sermons' by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. ix. p. 315.
In the fourth chapter of his History, Macaulay, after narrating the fearful punishment inflicted on Titus Oates, the detected informer, adds: 'Horrible as were the sufferings of Oates, they did not equal his crimes. The old law of England, which had been suffered to remain obsolete, treated the false witness, who had caused death by means of perjury, as a murderer. This was wise and righteous; for such a witness is, in truth, the worst of murderers. To the guilt of shedding innocent blood he has added the guilt of violating the most solemn engagements into which man can enter with his fellow-men, and of making institutions, to which it is desirable that the public should look with respect and confidence, instruments of frightful wrong and objects of general distrust. The pain produced by ordinary murder bears no proportion to the pain produced by the murder of which courts of justice are made the agents.'
References. XXVI. 64. G. A. Chadwick, The Intellect and the Heart, p. 116. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii. No. 1364.
Jesus Charged with Blasphemy
These horror-stricken judges, rending their garments in simulated grief and zeal, and that silent Prisoner, knowing that His life was the forfeit of His claims, yet saying no word of softening or explanation of them, may teach us much. They are witnesses to some of the central facts of the revelation of God in Christ.
I. They witness to Christ's claims.
The question that was proposed to Jesus,' Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the living God?' was suggested by the facts of His ministry, and not by anything that had come out in the course of this investigation. It was the summing up of the impression made on the ecclesiastical authorities of Judaism by His whole attitude and demeanour. He did claim a Divine prerogative; and either the claim must be admitted or the charge of blasphemy urged.
He died because He declared that He was the Son of God.
II. Note how we have here the witness that Jesus; Christ assented always to the loftiest meaning that men attached to His claims.
I want to know whether that characteristic, which runs through all His life, and is inseparable from it can be vindicated on any ground except the ground that He was God manifest in the flesh.
III. We have here witness to the only alternative to the acceptance of His claims.
He hath spoken 'blasphemy'. Not that He had derogated from the dignity of Divinity, but that He had presumed to participate in it. And it seems to me, with all deference, that this rough alternative is the only legitimate one. When all is said and done, we come to one of three things about Jesus Christ. Either 'He blasphemeth' if He said these things, and they were not true, or, 'He is beside Himself' if He said these things and believed them, or
Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ;
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
If these claims are true, what should our attitude be but that of infinite trust, love, submission, obedience, and the shaping of our lives after the pattern of His life?
A. Maclaren, Christ's Musts, p. 44.
References. XXVI. 65. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew XVIII.-XXVIII. p. 290. XXVI. 65, 66. Father Bernard Vaughan, Society Sin and the Saviour, p. 61. XXVI. 67. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlii. No. 2473. XXVI. 69, 70. W. C. E. Newbolt, Church Times, vol. xlv. 1901, p. 366.
'Let us look to it,' pleads Ruskin, 'whether that strong reluctance to utter a definite religious profession, which so many of us feel, and which, not very carefully examining into its dim nature, we conclude to be modesty, or fear of hypocrisy or other such form of amiableness, be not, in very deed, neither less nor more than Infidelity; whether Peter's "I know not the man" be not the sum and substance of all these misgivings and hesitations; and whether the shamefacedness which we attribute to sincerity and reverence, be not such shamefacedness as may at last put us among those of whom the Son of Man shall be ashamed.'
'Once launched upon such a course,' says De Quincey of Pope, 'he became pledged and committed to all the difficulties which it might impose. Desperate necessities would arise, from which nothing but desperate lying and hard swearing could extricate him.'
I. It is a remarkable thing that, in the Gospel narrative, two of the disciples, and two only, are spoken of as having been in some special way exposed to the assaults of Satan. The one was Judas the traitor; the other that disciple who, on any view we may take of the words, was singled out for special honour by the Lord St. Peter. It seems as if St. Peter stood side by side with Judas in danger.
And here it is worth while to pause and remind ourselves that temptation always comes to us through that which is most natural to us, and our danger lies very near to that which, rightly used, is our strength.
It was directly after St. Peter's great confession, and the Lord's words, 'Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona,' that there came that stern rebuke, 'Get thee behind me, Satan!' The love which could see in Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ of God, could not see him in the Man of Sorrows, the Persecuted, the Betrayed, the Forsaken.
It was this instinctively self-trusting nature, the nature which had not learned to know itself, its own strength and weakness, that Satan sought to claim as his own. 'Simon, Simon,' said Christ after the Last Supper, 'Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.' Did Christ pray for Judas too? Surely it must have been so.
St. Peter had to learn a deeper lesson of disappointment the disappointment with self. All his self-confidence had to be destroyed before he could give his real self to Christ. Even Peter could not watch; and when the traitor drew near, he gave way to the momentary impulse of resistance, and then forsook his Lord, and fled.
II. In that hour of sadness and desolation, we can trace again the likeness and the difference between Judas and St. Peter. When the Messiah is condemned, and Judas and St Peter alike realize their moral failure, the one 'repented himself,' the other 'wept bitterly.' What a difference is implied in those words! The one knew but remorse; the other entered on the toilsome road of penitence. Judas flung back the hated silver to the priests, and went and hanged himself; St. Peter, in that sad look of Christ, saw, even in the reproach, the hope of restoration, and he went out, and wept bitterly.
III. How shall we test our love? 'Lord, help us to know ourselves!' We cannot trust our feelings; we must go to. facts. How shall we be sure that our love is real?
1. Love must be love for a person, not a system. It must be love for Christ, not for Christianity; devotion to One 'Who first loves us'. It is the distinguishing mark of religion that it implies a moral and personal relationship between God and man.
2. It will prove its reality by its moral strength. 3. And then it will distrust itself, and be trustful only of its Lord; content to be unknown, the least among the servants of God, to fill a little place in God's world, to be thought worthy just to give a cup of cold water to one of God's poor. Covetousness, ambition, self-assertion, all are gone, only when we have learned to say, 'Not I, but Christ in me'. It is the Christian reading of the teaching of the Muslim mystic: 'One knocked at the door of the beloved, and a voice from within said, "Who is there?" The lover answered, "It is I". The voice replied, "This house will not hold me and thee ". So the door remained shut. The lover went into the wilderness and spent a year in solitude and fasting and prayer. Then again he returned and knocked at the door. And the voice of the beloved said, "Who is there?" The lover answered, "It is Thyself". Then the door was opened.'
Aubrey L. Moore, Some Aspects of Sin, p. 129.
References. XXVI. 74. D. L. Ritchie, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiii. 1903, p. 218. B. D. Johns, Pulpit Notes, p. 66. A. F. Wilmington Ingrain, Addresses in Holy Week, p. 19. XXVI. 75. W. H. Hutchings, Sermon-Sketches, p. 77. T. B. Dover, Some Quiet Lenten Thoughts, p. 62. XXVII. 1-27. J. Burns, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiii. 1903, p. 214.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 26". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension