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Why is it that, as you turn the page from St. Luke to St. John you seem to pass into another climate nay, I might almost say, into another atmosphere? The answer is at least twofold. It is, first, that there was so much to tell, facts and teachings of so much deeper meaning than those which the first three Evangelists had had to bring before you. It is, secondly, that, in the growth of thought respecting the Christ-life and the Christ-nature, there had now grown up the full demand for the full answers to the numberless questions which St. John and St. John alone sets at rest.
I. It is curious to notice how, in each of the three Gospels, Matthew, Luke, and John, it is the genealogy which strikes the keynote; and how the keynote dominates their contents. In St. Matthew, the genealogy carries you up to Abraham, and the whole Gospel exhibits the Jewish Messiah. In St. Luke, the genealogy goes up to Adam, and you have throughout the Gospel the Saviour of mankind the compassionate Brother of the race. In St. John, the genealogy is carried back to all eternity: it tells you of a Divine eternal existence with God not a separated existence, but with God; and of work done and functions fulfilled in that eternal existence creation, life, light; and of a certain mysterious contradiction on the part of darkness to the Light. St. John's prologue is no mere collection of theological dogmas stuck on to the beginning of his Gospel; it is rather this that St. John exhibits the earthly Christ-life, as the prolongation into mundane existence of what had been going on in the unseen from everlasting. This is clearly St. John's idea, and you see it reflected throughout his selection of facts and discourses. The special aspects on which St. John dwells in his picture of the Christ-life, are those which exhibit Him as being still with God as well as with men.
II. Thus it is St. John, who is so careful to tell us why Christ was made flesh and dwelt among us. It is St. John, who is so careful to exhibit the death of the Lord as a voluntary surrender pleasing to the Father freely rendered on His own part, and pleasing because thus freely rendered. Accept St. John's view, accept his picture of the visible Christ-life as the visible half of a duplex whole, and the puzzle vanishes; the Gospel which deals with the deepest mysteries becomes in truth the Gospel of explanation.
A. R. Ashwell, Oxford and Cambridge Journal, Feb. 10th, 1876.
Christ the Eternal Word.
I. "In the beginning was the Word." "In the beginning viz., of all things; farther back than the mind can conceive. For, form in your mind any image you will, however far back beyond the present state of things, of a definite point and a condition existing, and the beginning is beyond that. The expression is a simple one, but it baffles thought. We have here asserted, not that at some very remote period the world began to be, but that beyond the very remotest period which the mind can conceive, the Word was, was existing, not then brought into being, but then having His being and consequently, for such is the expression in which we take refuge when baffled by these things which stretch beyond the range of our ideas, "being from everlasting."
II. This Word, then, thus being in the beginning, is said also by the Evangelist to have been "with God." That is not with, in the sense of together with, or besides; but with in the sense of abiding with, as when we say, "I have it with me," or "He is abiding with us with God, so as to be in that place where God especially was present, so as to be at home with Him and inseparable from Him. It is thus that the Word was with God as His beloved in whom He was well-pleased.
III. The next and concluding clause of our text now follows by an easy sequence. That which was in the beginning that which was in the beginning with God and inseparable from Him what was it? Could it be a created being? If so, a certain definite moment must have witnessed its calling into being; and before that moment it was not, and thus could not be in the beginning. With creation necessarily began the incidents and limitations of time. Created being is the channel, so to speak, in which the stream of time flows on. But the Word "was" in the beginning, and is therefore uncreated. Again, the Word was "with God." Could a created being accompany the Almighty in the inhabitation of eternity? Could it be said of the Jealous One, who giveth not His glory to another, that even the loftiest of His angelic ministers was, or could be, "with Him" His assessor, His companion, the sharer of His glory, the impress of His substance? We are thus, you see, led on to the next declaration of our text, "the Word was God:" was no created being, no angelic intelligence, but partook of the nature and essence of God, equal with the Father, as indeed the very term itself implies. So that the Father in the beginning was not more, nor the Son less, Divine; but both were co-equal, and co-eternal. The Lord Jesus, in His humiliation, was the same Divine Person as before the worlds began; clothed in the garb of flesh, but not a different person. And if at that time we find Him performing acts of distinct personality, addressing the Father, speaking of the Father, so must it have been setting aside merely the difference made by His humiliation, in the beginning, when He was with God and was God. The fulness of the Father's glory was upon, shone forth from, was expressed by, Him. "All that the Father hath," He says, "is Mine." You cannot exalt, cannot reverence, you cannot adore, the Son of God too much. There is no such thing as exaggerating His Divine majesty and glory. The worship which we owe to the Father, the same precisely we owe to Him. He Himself describes the purpose of His course to be, "that all men may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father."
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. vi., p. 1.
References: John 1:1 . F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of St. John, p. 1; C. Kingsley, Village Sermons, p. 176; Ibid., Discipline and Other Sermons p. 212; John 1:1-43.1.14 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p.3 43; vol. v., p. 31; J. H. Hutchins, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 71. Joh 1:1-15 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 472. Joh 1:1-18 . Expositor, 1st series, vol. ii., pp. 49, 103 John 1:2 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 294.
Christ the Creator.
I. The Church in her creeds has borne unequivocal testimony to Christ as the Creator. When we say that the Son of God made the worlds, we do not speak as of an act of His, independent of and disconnected from the Father: for this, from the nature of the Son of God, is impossible. The creative work of the Son is the carrying out of the creative purpose of the Father, not as by a subordinate agent to whom it is said, "Do this, and he doeth it;" for the Son of God is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father, and acts in accord with Him as a Divine personal Agent, delighting to do His will, and to carry out His purpose.
II. Now let us come down to the Gospel narrative, and connect this high truth with the Lord's humiliation. We are not enough accustomed to do this. We are apt to forget His glory and His majesty in the meanness of His earthly investiture. To us Christians, who believe in Him as the Creator of all things, it is matter of deep interest to watch every simplest word that falls from Him in allusion to Nature and her processes, to man and his capacities; knowing as we do that such words will be spoken not from the weak and imperfect store of knowledge which man possesses, but from those inexhaustible stores of Divine wisdom which first devised them and brought them into being.
III. Note the references and consequences of this great doctrine relatively to ourselves. "What think ye of Christ?" is the most important question which can be asked of us. "Tell them all things were made by Him." What, then, is the world to us Christians? What but a standing testimony to the power and love of our Redeemer? Wherever I turn is Christ; without Him was nothing made. The cold abstraction known by the name of "natural religion," which never converted a heart nor amended a life, no longer chills my thoughts as I meditate on creation; the religion of nature is to me the religion of grace. All science becomes lighted up by the Redeemer's presence. The Spirit of Truth is no longer the mere right-deeming of men; but the living Spirit of Christ. His mighty and beneficent presence equally watches over all nature, and ought to be discerned by us in it. Creation is but a part of redemption; it is but the stage on which the Redeemer's great love is outwardly manifested.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. vi., p. 18.
References: John 1:3 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 36. John 1:3 , John 1:4 . H. Wace, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 198.
God's Self-revelation through Life.
I. This Scripture opens to us God's living way of making Himself known on earth. The Bible is the record and interpretation of a way of creation and of life which leads from the promise of the beginning on and on, with a purpose never given up, and a goal never lost from sight, and against all human gravitation downward from its high intent, until it completes its course in that one sinless life through which God shines the true Light, the Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. God has been present as a living power in man's life, as the educating and redemptive power in Israel, as the grace and truth of life in Jesus Christ who has declared Him. Such is God's real self-revelation; His life in men's life, His life in the Christ for our life. The written Gospel is, indeed, worthy of the God-Man. His spirit is in it. Nevertheless, our faith in the real and original revelation, in the Christ of the Gospels, does not depend upon absolute flawlessness in the reflecting glass. That is a question, in fact, for the critics. Let them examine and scrutinise every point in the whole Bible to their hearts' content. We are not anxious to dispute concerning the composition of the mirrors; we are content to receive the light which, by its own radiance, proclaims its celestial source. In this light of life we can walk, rejoicing as children of the day.
II. This Scripture discloses God's way of illuminating our lives. Christ entering into human life is its light. The Christ from God alone is equal to all human needs. He only touches human nature in all its chords; beats all life's music out; lights up all our history. Christianity alone is the truth sufficient for the life of the whole world. Christ renews man at the centre, and then throughout the whole circumference of his powers and possibilities.
III. Only through lives in real sympathy with God in Christ are we to receive the light of the world. You cannot, by any possibility, know God in Christ simply by argument and much reasoning. Through life to knowledge is the Christian way. Go and follow Jesus in His way of ministry among men, if you would know His Father and your Father. As God has come home to man through the life of Christ, so we are to draw near unto God through the Christian life.
N. Smyth, The Reality of Faith, p. 17.
The Joy of Living.
I. All lives created of God are happy lives, for His own life, of which they are offspring, is happy, and the children are as the Parent. The "new birth," of which Christ made such frequent and solemn mention, is the waking up of dormant faculties. It is the resurrection of buried powers. That part of the nature which the Spirit quickens is the highest part. Now, when the soul which was dead is made alive, what follows? Growth, strength, power. Power, then, begins to come to the man power like the faculty which has been revived spiritual power, soul power. The man's life becomes divine in its harmonies. A thousand notes in him sound to one key; discordance has gone out of him, as it goes out of an instrument when it is retuned by a skilful hand. God knows no age, and the life which comes out of Him is for ever youthful. The soul which is urged outward and upward by the germinating pressures of Divine moods never reaches its prime. For the life that we have, through our imitation of Christ, is eternal life; that is, its great central characteristic is everlastingness. The leaf of this growth shall never wither; for there is no frost in all the heavens to smite it. Even as Jesus said, "He that believeth in Me shall never die."
II. The joy of living is found in the pure and proper government of the life. Only that which is clean is sweet. The life of Christ, therefore, or growth into a life like to the life that Christ lived, is growth into joy. Heaven comes as harvests come; because the root-life and the stalk-life were perfect after their kind, and being perfect made the perfect consummation possible. Joy is the fruiting of long and patient waiting. We carry the bloom concealed in the sap of our lives, nor shall we flower out till we get just so tall, and have lived just so long. We carry all our heaven within us, before its expression breaks out of us, as a tree carries all its leaves and blossoms under its bark, until the sun coaxes it to let man see the beauty.
W. H. Murray, The Fruits of the Spirit, p. 386.
I. In Christ was life, and that life was the light of men. We consider these words as marking such a derivation to ourselves of that life, that immortality which was in the Word, as can never be affirmed of the inferior tribes of this creation. Undoubtedly these tribes draw their life from the Word, at whose command it was that earth and sea and air teemed with animated being. But there is all the difference between deriving life from the Word, and having that very life which is in the Word an enlivening, illuminating principle within ourselves. It is this which is asserted of men, and we hail the assertion as a fine testimony to the nature of the human soul. "The life was the light of men" the light of men, that which enables them to walk in a wholly different region from that of the beasts that perish, which irradiates, as it were, the universe, so that they can penetrate its wonders and scan its boundaries, whilst all other creatures of the earth are limited to a single and insignificant province. Who shall marvel that man is declared to have been originally formed in the image of God, when it appears that even now he bears within himself a principle which may be characterised as the life of his Creator? The heaven is still hung with its glorious lamps, and reason still burns brightly, and intellect is not quenched, and immortality wears a brilliant colouring, all because the Word, which never had beginning, consented to be born the Word, which never can end, consented to die.
II. The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." Man, in whom the lamp is lit up, is a fallen and depraved thing, alienated from God, and with all his moral faculties weakened and perverted. Conscience is a light, the light of the eternal Word, but a light shining in a dark place, where the shadows thicken so fast, and the gloom is so dense, that the rays fail to produce any moral illumination. Men in every age have been guided to a knowledge of their Maker from a survey of His workmanship, and might have learned from the manifestations around them so much of the character of God, as would have preserved them from idolatry. These have fallen into most degraded superstitions, these have abandoned themselves to every kind of unrighteousness, not because left without a revelation, the universe is witness against this, but simply because "the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." What, then, remains, seeing how possible it is to continue in darkness in the midst of light, but that we pray earnestly with the Psalmist, "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law"?
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2,598.
References: John 1:4 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 245; Ibid., vol. iv., p. 272; W. H. Jackson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 60; Homilist, New series, vol. i., p. 61 John 1:4-62.1.9 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 281.
In these few and simple words the great Evangelist describes the agency of Christ in the world. In Him, he tells us, was life; vital power for time and for eternity, able to quicken and invigorate man, and to set aside death. And that life was the light of men. Accordingly, when He appeared here on earth in our nature, this His enlightening power was signified and displayed at the very outset. The Gentiles came to the brightness of His rising.
I. It is in darkness that the light is, and ever has been, shining. Whether it be the world or the Church that we speak of, this is equally true; and it is a truth belonging of necessity to the glorious and lofty nature of Christ's manifestation of Himself. His light wins its way not by absolute and irresistible power, but by gradual and persuading love. Like Himself, it struggles with the cold-heartedness and contradiction of sinners. It is not the lightning, withering as it flashes; not the conflagration, wasting in its advance; but the quiet light that looks in the night from the far-off hillside, telling of peace and comfort and security; which the traveller may seek, but which he may also avoid. It is contented to overcome the darkness of man's nature by turning it into light; by a sure and blessed transformation, not a mighty and sudden overpowering.
II. Though in darkness, the light still shineth. In Judæa, in Samaria, in Galilee, it was never quenched. Amidst the slow-heartedness and littleness of faith of the disciples it shone with undiminished brightness. Throughout the whole history of the Church it has been shining on. Dark we may be, and even at this day for the most part in obscurity, but we have the light among us. While we have been weak, Christ has been strong; while we have been indolent and fickle, He has never been weary. While we have been darkness, His blessed light has been ever shining against and through and in spite of our darkness. If we were not darkness, if the light had exhausted its power and wholly penetrated us, we might distrust it for the deeper trials which are to come for the storms which have yet to blow, the floods which have yet to fall; we might fear for the day which shall be revealed, whether we should then be found light in the Lord; but now that we see daily more of our own unworthiness and ignorance and darkness, now that the light is hourly shining onwards toward the perfect day, let us have all confidence in its endurance, and its power and its sufficiency.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. iii., p. 1.
Christ Hidden from the World.
I. Christ, the sinless Son of God, might be living now in the world as our next-door neighbour, and perhaps we not find it out. And this is a thought that should be dwelt on. In the ordinary condition of private life people look very like each other. And yet, though we have no right to judge others, but must leave this to God, it is very certain that a really holy man, a true saint, though he looks like other men, still has a sort of secret power in him to attract others to him who are like-minded, and to influence all who have anything in them like him. And thus it often becomes a test whether we are like-minded with the saints of God, whether they have influence over us. Alas! too often we shall find that we were close to them for a long time, had means of knowing them, and knew them not; and that is a heavy condemnation on us, indeed. Now this was singularly exemplified in our Saviour's history, by how much He was so very holy. The holier a man is, the less he is understood by men of the world. All who have any spark of living faith will understand man in a measure, and the holier he is, they will, for the most part, be attracted the more; but those who serve the world will be blind to him, or scorn and dislike him, the holier he is.
II. We are very apt to wish we had been born in the days of Christ, and in this way we excuse our misconduct when conscience reproaches us. We say that had we had the advantage of being with Christ, we should have had stronger motives, stronger restraints against sin. I answer, that so far from our sinful habits being reformed by the presence of Christ, the chance is, that those same habits would have hindered us from recognising Him. Observe what a fearful light this casts upon our prospects in the next world. Sinners would walk close to the throne of God; they would stupidly gaze at it; they would touch it; they would meddle with the holiest things; they would go on intruding and prying, not meaning anything wrong by it, but with a sort of brute curiosity, till the avenging lightnings destroyed them, all because they have no senses to guide them in the matter.
III. Christ is still on earth. He is a hidden Saviour, and may be approached (unless we are careful) without due reverence and fear. He is here in His Church, in His poor, in His ordinances. Let us pray Him ever to enlighten the eyes of our understanding, that we may belong to the heavenly host, not to this world. As the carnal-minded would not perceive Him, even in heaven, so the spiritual heart may approach Him, possess Him, see Him, even upon earth.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, 4th series, p. 239.
References: John 1:5 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 298. John 1:6 . P. J. Turquand, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 173 John 1:8 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 243 John 1:9 . Ibid., p. 107; Ibid., vol. viii., p. 74; H. W. Price, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 347; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 268; G. Huntington, Sermons for Holy Seasons, p. 141; Church of England Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 309; Ibid., vol. xiv., pp. 158, 257. John 1:9-43.1.12 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 298. John 1:10 , John 1:11 . W. M. Statham, Ibid., vol. iii., p. 232 John 1:10-63.1.12 . Homilist, vol. i., p. 209.
Jewish Interpretation of Prophecy.
I. To the Jew, the argument from Messianic prophecy should be irresistible for these two reasons: (i.) That, book by book, prophecy by prophecy, verse by verse, his greatest and oldest rabbis, his Targums, his Talmud, his Midrashim, his mediæval commentaries, regarded as Messianic the very same passages, the very same Psalms, the very same chapters of Isaiah, as we do; (ii.) that, since their rejection of Jesus, the greatest Jewish teachers, in refusing to apply these prophecies to Him, have been reduced to utter confusedness, amounting often to absolute apostacy from the faith of their fathers.
II. The difference between us and the Jews is not only that we say "The Christ has come," and that they say "The Messiah will come," they differ from us fundamentally as to the idea and personality of the Messiah. On two points they take their stand: they will not admit a Suffering, they will not admit a Divine, Messiah. Here, then, we join close issue. (1) A Suffering Messiah! We appeal at once to the Scriptures, both theirs and ours. On their own principles of interpretation, both ancient and modern, we ask who was the rejected Corner-Stone; the Stone of stumbling to both houses of Israel; He against whom the heathen raged; He whose hands and feet they pierced; He for whose price they weighed thirty pieces of silver; the smitten Shepherd whose sheep were scattered; He who was wounded for our transgressions the bruised, insulted, suffering Servant of the Lord, who poured out His own soul unto death? Of whom speaketh the prophet this? If the rabbis of today want to take their stand against a suffering Christ, they must commit many and many a passage, not only of their prophets, but also of their Talmud and their greatest rabbis to the winds or to the flames. (2) Then on that second point of such infinite importance, the Divinity of the Messiah, the argument is cumulative and far-reaching, both in theory and in history. We make, with no less confidence, our twofold appeal, first to the Scriptures, next to their own highest authorities. We appeal to Psalms ii., xlv., cii., and cxl.; to the Child in Isaiah whose prophetic name was Immanuel God with us; to Him who was called the Mighty God; to the Man whom Jeremiah calls Jehovah Tsidkenu the Lord our Righteousness; to Him who in Zechariah is the Fellow of the Lord of Hosts; to Him who should come in the clouds of heaven. We appeal further to the titles given to the Messiah Himself, again and again in the Midrashim; to the acknowledgments by the Talmud as all proving that the Jews themselves were inevitably driven by their own Scriptures to believe in a more than human Mediator, and to the admission that He, of whom all their prophets prophesied, was more than David, more than Moses, more than Adam, more than man; that He was the Prince of the Presence who existed before the worlds, whose reign is to be eternal, and who should never die. But beyond all these considerations of literature and exegesis, we appeal to the sacred eternal instincts of humanity. The world needs for its Lord and Redeemer at once a Suffering man and a Divine man. Hercules, from the hour when he strangled serpents in his cradle to the hour he died on the Œtan pyre, was a suffering hero. The Buddha, from the moment that he recognised the awful reality of death and anguish, was a suffering prince. All the heroes, all the reformers, all the saints, have been suffering men. A king who had not suffered could not rule. Yes, and the world needs a Divine man. If Jesus were not the Son of God, were not the Lord from heaven, we should love, we should honour, Him; but He could be no Redeemer, no Intercessor. It is because Christ is God that "there crowns Him the topmost, ineffablest, uttermost crown."
F. W. Farrar, Oxford Review and Journal, Feb. 15th, 1883.
References: John 1:11 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1055; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 47. John 1:11-43.1.13 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi., No. 1212 John 1:12 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 229; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 669; vol. xxx., No. 1757; Ibid., Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 39. John 1:12 , John 1:13 . S. Martin, Ibid., vol. ii., p. 295; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxiv., p. 57. John 1:12-43.1.14 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 417. John 1:13 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. xv., p. 168.
(with Revelation 7:15 and Revelation 21:3 )
The word rendered "dwelt" in these three passages is a peculiar one. It is only found in the New Testament in this Gospel, and in the Book of the Revelation. The word literally means "to dwell in a tent" or, if we may use such a word, "to tabernacle;" and there is, no doubt a reference to the Tabernacle in which the Divine Presence abode in the wilderness and in the land of Israel before the erection of the Temple. In all three passages, then, we may see allusion to that early symbolical dwelling of God with man.
I. Think, first, of the Tabernacle for earth. The Word was made flesh, and dwelt, as in a tent, among us. St. John would have us think that, in that lowly humanity, with its curtains and its coverings of flesh, there lay shrined in the inmost place the brightness of the light of the manifest glory of God. The manifestation of God in Christ is unique, as becomes Him who partakes of the nature of that God of whom He is the representative and the revealer. Like the Tabernacle, Christ is the dwelling-place of God, the place of revelation, the place of sacrifice, and the meeting-place of God and man.
II. We have the Tabernacle for the heavens. "He that sitteth on the throne shall spread His Tabernacle above them," as the word might be rendered. That is to say, He Himself shall build and be the tent in which they dwell; He Himself shall dwell with them in it; He Himself, in closer union than can be conceived of here, shall keep them company during that feast.
III. Look at that final vision which we have in these texts, which we may call the Tabernacle for the renewed earth. "Behold, the Tabernacle of God is with men, and He will tabernacle with them." The climax and the goal of all the Divine working, and the long processes of God's love for, and discipline of, the world are to be this, that He and men shall abide together in unity and concord. That is God's wish from the beginning. And at the close of all things, when the vision of this final chapter shall be fulfilled, God will say, settling Himself in the midst of a redeemed humanity, "Lo! here will I dwell; for I have desired it. This is My rest for ever." He will tabernacle with men, and they with Him.
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, Nov. 26th, 1885.
I. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." This is St. John's declaration. He does not invent a great many arguments to prove it; he simply says "so it was." This poor fisherman, who was once upon a time sitting in his father's ship on the Lake of Galilee, mending his nets; this man who was infinitely humbler and less self-conceited now than he was then; says out boldly and without hesitation, "This everlasting Word, in whom was life and whose life was the light of men this Word, who was with God and was God was made flesh and dwelt among us." And he adds, "We beheld His glory the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father." We are sure that in this poor man, thus entering into our feelings and circumstances, we beheld the living God. Not some unseen power, some angel or Divine creature who might have been sent down on a message of mercy to one little corner of the earth, or to us poor fishermen of Galilee; it is not such a being whom we saw hidden under this human form: we declare that we saw the glory of the Father, of Him who made heaven and earth and the sea, of Him who has been and is and is to be.
II. That a meek, humble man, who believed that nothing was so horrible as to trifle with God's Name, should have spoken such words as these, so boldly and yet so calmly, with such a certainty that they were true, and that he could live and act upon them, this is wonderful. But yet, this might have been, and the world might have gone on as if no such sounds had ever been proclaimed in it. What is the case actually? These incredible words have been believed. The question was, Who is the Ruler of the world? The Apostles said, "This Jesus of Nazareth is its Ruler." Their word prevailed. The masters of the earth confessed that they were right, Here in England, at the other end of the world, the news was heard and received. Then the day which said, "The Word has been made flesh, and has dwelt among us," became the Queen Day of the year. All the joy of the year was felt to be stored up in it. Every man, woman, and child has a right to be merry upon it. This is the festival which makes us know, indeed, that we are members of one body: it binds together the life of Christ on earth with His life in heaven; it assures us that Christmas Day belongs not to time but to eternity.
F. D. Maurice, Christmas Day and Other Sermons, p. 1.
The Word was from the beginning the only-begotten Son of God. Before all worlds were created, while as yet time was not, He was in existence, in the bosom of the Eternal Father, God from God, and Light from Light, supremely blessed in knowing and being known of Him, and receiving all Divine perfections from Him, yet ever true with Him. who begat Him. The Son of God became the Son of Man: mortal, but not a sinner; heir of our infirmities, not of our guiltiness; the offspring of our old race, yet the beginning of the new creation of God.
I. God was in the Prophets, but not as He was in Christ. In like manner the Holy Ghost came on the Apostles at Pentecost and at other times; and so, again, the Jewish Temple was in one sense inhabited by the Presence of God, which came down upon it at Solomon's prayer. This was a type of our Lord's Manhood dwelt in by the Word of God as a Temple; still, with this essential difference that the Jewish Temple was perishable; and again, the Divine Presence might recede from it. But even when Christ's body was dead the Divine Nature was one with it; in like manner it was one with His soul in Paradise. Soul and body were really one with the Eternal Word not one in name only one never to be divided.
II. Again, the Gospel teaches us another mode in which man may be said to be united with Almighty God. It is the peculiar blessedness of the Christian, as St. Peter tells us, to be a partaker of the Divine Nature. But still, inexpressible as is this gift of Divine mercy, it were blasphemy not to say that the indwelling of the Father in the Son is infinitely above this, being quite different in kind; for He is not merely of a Divine Nature, Divine by participation of holiness and perfection, but Life and holiness itself, such as the Father is the Co-eternal Son incarnate, God clothed with our nature, the Word made flesh.
III. And lastly, we read in the patriarchal history of various appearances of angels so remarkable that we can scarcely hesitate to suppose them to be gracious visions of the Eternal Son. Whether or no the temporary outward form which the Eternal had assumed was really an angel, or but an appearance existing only for the immediate purpose, still, anyhow, we could not with propriety say that our Lord took upon Him the nature of angels.
IV. Great is our Lord and great is His power, Jesus the Son of God, Son of Man. He raised human nature, for Man has redeemed us. Man is set above all creatures, as one with the Creator. Man shall judge man at the last day. So honoured is this earth that no stranger shall judge us. But He, our Fellow, who will sustain our interests, and has full sympathy in all our imperfections; He who has given us to share His own spiritual nature; He from whom we have drawn the life's blood of our souls, He, our Brother, will decide upon His brethren.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. ii., p. 26.
Christ the Healing of Mankind.
According to the revelation made to us of the character and kingdom of God, and of the nature and conditions of man, there appears no other way by which we could be saved but by the manifestation of God in the flesh.
I. For, although it is most true that God might, in His almighty power, destroy the sinful race of mankind, and create another all holy in its stead; or separate the taint of sin and the power of death from our nature, and abolish them altogether; yet, we must not forget that God is not power alone, but Holiness, Wisdom, and Justice. There are deeper necessities in the perfections of the Divine mind and the laws of the spiritual world, which are the expressions of these perfections, than we can penetrate. As man, who has fallen under the power of sin and death, is a moral and responsible creature; and as his fall from God was through the misdirected energies of his moral powers; so the restoration of man, it would seem, can only be effected through the same means and under the same conditions. And therefore it may be that the immutable justice of God's kingdom demands no less than the atonement of a Person.
II. Again, sin and death had power in and over the personal nature of mankind. It was from this we had to be redeemed. And for this cause the Person who should undertake the salvation of mankind must assume to Himself our humanity that is, the very nature which He was to heal and to save and put Himself into personal relation to us.
III. As the burden of our humanity is too great for any of us to bear without falling, no created and finite being, either man or angel, could so assume it as to raise it from its fall, restore its imperfections, and sustain it in strength and mastery over the powers of sin. Our humanity needed to be hallowed and strengthened: if fleshly, to be again made spiritual; if mortal, to be raised above the power of death; if outcast from God, to be knitted to Him again. So closely, indeed, are we knit to Him, that St. Peter does not fear to say that we are made partakers of the Divine Nature. Therefore He must needs by Himself purge our sins. None but He that in the beginning said, "Let us make man in Our Image," could restore again to man the Image of God.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 1.
The Holy Scriptures only can answer the question, Who was Jesus?
They tell us
I. That He is God. (1) The peculiar name of Deity is given to Jesus. (2) Works which belong to God alone are declared to be performed by Jesus. (3) In the representations of Scripture, attributes which can only belong to God are ascribed to Jesus. (4) Honour and worship, equal to the honour and worship of, God are claimed for Jesus. (5) Jesus is distinctly affirmed to be God.
II. That He is Man. (1) Jesus Christ calls Himself, and was called, the Son of Man. (2) The records of His life prove Him to have been really Man. (3) God the Father acted toward Jesus as a Man; and Jesus recognised this fact.
S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Pulpit, 3rd series, p. 1.
References: John 1:14 . Homilist, 3rd series, vol. ii., p. 338; Ibid., vol. iv., p. 170; Ibid., vol. vi., p. 340; F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of St. John, p. 15; H. P. Liddon, Christmastide Sermons, p. 123; A. Barry, Cheltenham College Sermons, p. 306; S. A. Brooke, Christ in Modern Life, pp. 63, 75; W. Braden, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 385; A. F. Joscelyne, Ibid., vol. xvii., p. 182; J. F. Haynes, Ibid., vol. xx., p. 198; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 22; Spurgeon's Sermons, vol. vii., No. 414; Ibid., vol. xxxi., No. 1862. Joh 1:15 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 38.
From this passage some lessons of great importance come to us. As
I. That we should not try to live in the past, or by means of the past. As distinct from the present, we should not try to get a living, present nourishment out of states and frames and feelings, all dead and gone. You would not go roaming the woods on a bright summer day to gather the withered leaves of last autumn. Let them be. Let them sink into the soil, and resolve themselves back to dust. Trust Nature to get all the good out of them that is in them now, and to send it up and put it forth once more in leaf or flower or corn. If you want leaves, look at the summer trees; how they wave in the light, and quiver, and gleam millions of them! If you had all the leaves that were green last year, you could not out of them all make one green leaf today. So, if you had your old states at command, if you could find them and go into them, they would not be at all what you think them. They would not fit you now, and you would not be satisfied with them. Is there not the living grace of the living day? a living Saviour, and a living quickening Spirit, to meet your living soul?
II. That, as Christian men, Christian communities, we ought to be much afraid of stagnation, of settling on our lees, hiding our Lord's money, sinking into a base contentment with what comes by the least effort, instead of still endeavouring after all that is attainable of higher and better. We should be afraid if we have not always something new on hand. The reason some men die spiritually, or sink into a slumberous, bedridden state, that leaves them as useless to the world as if they were actually dead, is, that they do not devise and execute new things.
III. There are those who have never had grace at all in the true, full sense. You have only had sin. You can exchange it for grace. And then farewell, sin! For grace shall "reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."
A. Raleigh, The Little Sanctuary, p. 85.
I. The one ever full Source. The whole infinite majesty and inexhaustible resources of the Divine Nature were incorporated and insphered in that Incarnate Word from whom all men may draw. There are involved in that thought two ideas. One is, the unmistakable assertion of the whole fulness of the Divine Nature as being in the Incarnate Word; and the other is, that the whole fulness of the Divine Nature dwells in the Incarnate Word in order that men may get at it.
II. Consider, again, the many receivers from the one Source. "Of His fulness have all we received." The blessing that we receive may be stated in many different ways. You may say we get pardon, purity, hope, joy, the prospect of heaven, power for service; all these and a hundred more designations by which we might call the one gift all these are but the consequence of our having got the Christ within our hearts. He is like His own miracle: the thousands are gathered on the grass they do all eat and are filled. As their necessities required the bread was multiplied, and at the last there was more left than there had seemed to be at the beginning. So, "of His fulness have all we received," and after a universe has drawn from it, for an eternity, the fulness is not turned into scantiness or emptiness.
III. Notice the continuous flow from the inexhaustible Source. "Grace for grace." The word "for" is a little singular; of course, it means instead of, in exchange for, and the Evangelist's idea seems to be that, as one supply of grace is given and used, it is, as it were, given back to the Bestower, who substitutes for it a fresh and unused vessel, filled with new grace. He might have said grace upon grace, one supply being piled upon another. But his notion is, rather, one supply given in substitution for the other "new lamps for old ones."
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, Dec. 10th, 1885.
I. The doctrines of Scripture concerning the Person of Jesus Christ reveal His fulness.
II. The poetry and metaphors employed by the sacred writers to describe Jesus Christ all exhibit His fulness.
III. The characteristics which His first followers most appreciated were His truth and grace, and these were manifested in fulness.
IV. The experience of all His disciples confirms the observation of His first followers.
S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Pulpit, 3rd series, p. 21.
References: John 1:16 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 257; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 282; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 27; Ibid., Sermons, vol. xv., No. 858; vol. vii., No. 415; vol. xx., No. 1,169.
I. We have here the special glory of the contents of the Gospel, heightened by the contrast with law. Law has no tenderness, no pity, no feeling. Tables of stone and a pen of iron are its fitting vehicles. Flashing lightnings and rolling thunders symbolise the fierce light which it casts upon men's duty, and the terrors of its retribution. Inflexible and with no compassion, it tells us what we ought to be, but it does not tell us how to be it. And this is the opposite of all that comes to us in the Gospel. Law has no heart; the meaning of the Gospel is the unveiling of the heart of God. Law condemns; grace is love that bends down to an evildoer, and deals not on the footing of strict retribution with the infirmities and the sins of us poor weaklings. "The law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
II. Look at the other contrast that is here, between giving and coming. What do we mean when we talk about a law being given? We simply mean that it is promulgated either in oral or in written words. It is, after all, no more than so many words. It is a verbal communication at the best. But grace and truth "came to be." They are realities; they are not words. They are not communicated by sentences; they are actual existences, and they spring into being as far as man's historical possession and experience of them are concerned they spring into being in Jesus Christ, and through Him they belong to us all.
III. Look at the contrast that is drawn here between the persons of the founders. Moses was but a medium. His personality had nothing to do with his message. You may take away Moses, and the law stands all the same. But Christ is so interwoven with Christ's message that you cannot rend the two apart. You cannot have the figure of Christ melt away, and the gift that Christ brought remain. If you put away Christ from Christianity, it collapses into dust and nothingness.
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, Dec. 17th, 1889.
References: John 1:17 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1862; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 558.
What the God-Man reveals of God and man.
I. The Man Christ Jesus came expressly to show us the Father. That is, He came to teach us that God is our Father, that whatever we see or can imagine of pure parental love holds good of Him. Now we have known parents who would suffer anything, make any sacrifice, endure any pain for the welfare of their children, who would correct their faults with an untiring patience, who would confront the most shameless ingratitude with a constant and forgiving love, who would even die to save them from harm. And this, said Christ, is what God is, and is like. He is our Father your Father and Mine His love is stronger than death and without a bound. Sin cannot alienate it; hatred cannot alienate it. And here is the proof. He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father. And while you are yet sinners, yet enemies, I lay down My life for you. Thus God, My Father and yours, reveals and commends His love for you.
II. But again. He who reveals God to us also reveals man, and God's will concerning man. He calls Himself "the Son of Man," and that, according to the Hebrew usage of speech, means that He calls Himself "the Man" the real, the perfect Man. Man as God conceived, and will yet make him to be. We may be, we are to become, such men as He was. That is precisely God's intention concerning us. The world is to be redeemed, humanity is to be transfigured so at least Christ the Interpreter of the Divine Will affirms; while in His own Person He shows us what that redemption and transfiguration involve. According to Him, the end which God has set before Him, and to which His Providence is conducting the story of time, is a regenerated race dwelling in a renovated world.
III. But what most of all gives these revelations power over us, more even than their very reasonableness, is the fact that Christ Jesus does not make them in words only, or in looks, but in Himself, in His own Person, character, life. He is not simply One who speaks of life, or One who teaches us how to live. He is our life the Life indeed; for it is only as we become one with Him, who is one with God, that we truly live at all.
S. Cox, Sunday Magazine, 1886, p. 658.
References: John 1:18 . W. F. Moulton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 349; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 338; Expositor, 1st series, vol. ix., p. 385; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 216; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. x., p. 86; J. Caird, Sermons, pp. 101, 121; J. H. Thom, Laws of Heaven, vol. ii., p. 361.
The Ministry of John the Baptist.
From the ministry of John the Baptist we may learn
I. That when Jesus is about to visit a community in His saving power, His coming is generally preceded by loud calls to repentance. It was the special mission of the Baptist to unfold the majesty of the Divine law, and to call men up to its unerring standard. In some form or other John the Baptist comes always to fore-herald Christ.
II. That when Jesus comes to a place in saving power, His presence is recognised by the descent of the Holy Ghost. John knew that Jesus was the coming Deliverer when he saw the Holy Ghost like a dove coming down upon Him and remaining with Him. Nor was this all: the Saviour Himself was so far, at least, as His human nature was concerned prepared for the ministry of service and of sacrifice by the reception of the Spirit.
III. That they who would experience Christ's saving power must accept Him as a sacrifice for sin. When John saw Jesus he said: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," and as he was not only a Jew brought up under the Mosaic law, but a priest, or at least the son of a priest who officiated at the altar, this language in his lips could have but one meaning. It indicated that Jesus Christ was to be the great antetype of the lamb of sacrifice, and that what was only figurative in the case of the animal was real and true in his offering of Himself for human sin.
IV. Wherever Christ is present in His saving power, there will be a disposition among men to merge themselves in Him. John was quite willing to be put into the shade by Jesus. Nay, that is far from a right way of expressing it. His one desire was to give prominence to Christ, and to point Him out to others. And in this respect he was like minded with the Christian Apostles, for Paul's ambition was that Christ should be magnified, no matter what became of him.
W. M. Taylor, Peter the Apostle, p. 7.
References: John 1:19 , John 1:20 . R. Duckworth, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 147. John 1:19 , John 1:28 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 473; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 298.
I. I do not think we often question respecting the course and testimony of Christ's forerunner whereunto served it? We know that by it the Jewish people as a whole were not prepared to receive Jesus as their Saviour, for they rejected and crucified Him. And if it be alleged that they who rejected and crucified Him were the scribes and Pharisees who also rejected the baptism of John, the answer to this is, that the people themselves gave their voices for His crucifixion, that His course had disappointed and irritated them as well as their rulers, or they would not have listened to these latter rather than to Him. Still, even in this matter I cannot doubt that much was done by the testimony of John. At the very last, when the enmity of the scribes and Pharisees was at its highest, we find they dared not insinuate that the baptism of John was not from heaven but of men because all the people held John for a prophet. Now what a vast advantage must it have given the early preachers of the Gospel to have had to do with a people who held John for a prophet, for John's testimony to Jesus was a matter of notoriety.
II. We must not omit one purpose of God in raising up this remarkable forerunner to go before our Lord. He came "in the way of righteousness." He was to the scribes and Pharisees just one whom, if they had been in earnest at all, they would have hailed with eagerness and believed without hesitation He was full of the Old Testament spirit. His ascetic character, his stern morality, his utterance of his message in the well-known words of their prophets, all this was exactly of a kind to please Jewish feelings and conciliate Jewish prejudices. Thus was additional evidence given to the fact that the rejection of Jesus by His own was not merely for any hostility that His own character and course excited in them, still less on account of His falling short of the announcements of their prophets, but because they were hardened in heart against God and indisposed to turn to Him at all.
III. But I must also believe that the mission of John the Baptist had purposes reaching beyond anything which, as matters of history or surmise, His course may then have accomplished. All that concerns Christ's coming on earth has deep spiritual meaning. And so it was with the mission and career of John the Baptist. (1) First, as to the place of his ministry. He came, a voice in the wilderness; a solitary preacher in the vast and trackless desert. And so does God ever send His messengers to prepare His way before Him. When Christ would come to an individual, or to a family, or to a nation, He sends before Him these voices crying in the wilderness. (2) Again, the character of the Baptist's message has a voice and meaning for us. "Every valley shall be exalted," etc. Before this glorious revelation shall be made, this levelling process must take place, both amongst mankind and within ourselves. In our own hearts these mountains of pride must be laid low which we have raised for ourselves, those low places must be filled up where we love to cleave to the dust in grovelling and worldly thoughts; the crookedness of our ways, half with God and half with the world and self, must be made straight, and the rough unevenness of inconsistent conduct made plain, before Christ can really have His throne in our hearts, dwelling and reigning there by His blessed Spirit. (3) One more lesson from the Baptist's course seems to be set before us. "He must increase, but I must decrease." All that merely leads on to, all that stops short of Christ Himself shall wane and fade; while He shall shine on ever more and more glorious.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii., p. 263.
References: John 1:23 . H. W. Burgoyne, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 193; A. C. Hall, Ibid., vol. xviii., p. 401. Joh 1:26 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 408; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 32; J. Keble, Sermons, from Advent to Christmas Eve, p. p. 373.
(with John 20:31 )
What is the most characteristic account of Christianity, by which its supporters may demand that its pretensions shall be tried? The Evangelist supplies us with a sufficient answer in the passages which I have joined together as the text. It is a system which aims at the remission of sins, through the means of faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as a preparation for the life of eternity. It is a method designed by the Divine wisdom, and carried out through a supreme Divine sacrifice, to bring all men back under the moral standard of exalted purity, brightened by a heavenly hope; though its progress is retarded by the opposition of a great antagonistic force, which struggles to retain men under the bondage of its sensual power.
I. When Christianity was first proclaimed, the world was well-nigh lost in sin. The noblest cultivation, and the most perfect art, and a skill in law and government which has never been surpassed, were unhappily found to be compatible with a baseness of moral degradation, the very language of which, by God's mercy, has now become obsolete and unknown. Now the Gospel revelation rests upon the principle that the removal of the weight and stain of moral evil was the first requisite for the restoration of a higher life; and that no cure could be found for the deeply-seated mischief, except through the renewed contact of God Himself with human nature God Himself condescending to assume that nature, with the express purpose of winning back the world to purity and holiness. Christ came, not only to take up man's nature, and to show forth the noblest example of its capacities, but, more than this, by a still more marvellous condescension, He came to die for our sins, that thus the Blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, might "purge our consciences from dead works, to serve the living God." This is the concise summary of the whole matter, and the Christian argument must always remain weak and defective if it ever swerves aside from preaching its most important practical results, in the remission of sin through faith in Christ.
II. We must not rest satisfied, then, with the negative position, that the power of sin has been destroyed. It was the further object of the work of Christ that a higher life might be created through faith in His Name. We must pass on from the removal of the hindrances by which man was fettered, to recognise the larger capabilities that were infused through the regenerate life. By the atonement of Christ the strength of sin was virtually broken; but the way was thereby opened for the development of nobler freedom. The new man was to be created afresh, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; and thus he was to be brought back to that likeness of God's Image, which he had all but lost, through long centuries of alienation and sin. Being made free from sin, he was now to become the servant of righteousness. There is not a single talent or endowment which may not be raised to a higher level, and invested with a nobler character, if it is cultivated in a religious temper for religious ends.
III. Our estimate of the measure in which this ideal is fulfilled must be formed from the completeness with which these various duties are acknowledged and provided for; completeness being a fair and reasonable test of any theory of life and conduct. If we turn to the motives which influence the will, we can find none so pure and lofty as those which are inspired by faith, through the prospect of eternity. If we judge by the extension of the intellectual horizon, revelation teaches us to embrace the spiritual as well as the material, within the range of our knowledge. And lastly, if we are questioned on the claims of science, the true religious temper would welcome to the full its great discoveries, and be thankful for the means with which it has reached the families of men, but it would assign them their true position in the range of nature, and demand an equal admission for the principles of religion and morality to the circle of recognised knowledge.
Archdeacon Hannah, Oxford and Cambridge Undergraduates' Journal, May 19th, 1881.
References: John 1:29 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 84; Homilist, new series, vol. iii., p. 238; Ibid., 3rd series, vol. vi., p. 320; G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons to English Congregations in India, p. 249; F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of St. John, p. 28; W. R. Nicoll, The Lamb of God, Philippians 3:21 ; Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p, 121; J. Natt, Posthumous Sermons, p. 1; J. Hamilton, Works, vol. vi., p. 100; J. Vaughan, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 209; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 548; Ibid., vol. v., p. 8; Ibid., vol. vi., p. 360; Ibid., vol. vii., p. 292. Joh 1:29-35 . Ibid., vol. x., p. 294; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 9; W. Milligan, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 273. Joh 1:29-51 . A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 1. Joh 1:33 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. x., p. 99.
The First Disciples.
I. We see here the very first beginnings of the Christian Church. With what reverent interest may we meetly regard this simple record of the beginning of that great kingdom which has made every other feel its sway. It has affected the stability of empires, overthrown old idolatries, exploded philosophies, and, in spite of opposition, has outspread itself already into almost world-wide breadth. And it begins here with the Divine quietness which is characteristic of God's mightiest works. We have here no visible king, no rapt prophet, no scribe even to make record at the time of the event. The only scroll is the heart of the simple, the only writer the unseen Spirit of God.
II. We see not only the beginning of the Church, but also the beginning of first movements of personal religion. How does spiritual life begin in the individual heart? It begins when the person comes to Christ. The disciples all came; they were all received; and in that personal reception their higher life began.
III. We have here the Divine method of extending religion and of multiplying the number of disciples. There is a beautiful exemplification here of the law of personal influence. The whole passage is full of findings by Christ and by the disciples. It seems to be with a direct purpose that we have this minute mention of the finding of one disciple by another, of him who has not yet been with Jesus by him who has. It is as if the Holy Spirit would set before us conspicuously, at the very opening of the Christian Dispensation, one of the great laws by which the whole economy is to be replenished with new life, and extended to still wider bounds. True, this is not the only law of growth: the kingdom is to be extended many ways by writing, by preaching, by quiet living, by suffering; but through all these it will be found, if we examine closely, that the personal element of religion permeates and lives. Whatever one possesses or attains in spiritual things he is bound, by the very law of the life he has received, to try and communicate to others who do not feel and possess as he does.
A. Raleigh, From Dawn to the Perfect Day, p. 250.
References: John 1:35 , John 1:36 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vi., p. 360. John 1:35-43.1.40 . Ibid., vol. i., p. 281. Joh 1:35-41 . Ibid., vol. vii., p. 275. Homilist, 3rd series, vol. vii., p. 22. Joh 1:36 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1060.
The First Disciples John and Andrew.
I. Look at the question of Christ to the whole world: What seek ye? As it stands, on the surface and in its primary application, it is the most natural of questions. Venturing to take the words in a somewhat wider application, let me suggest two or three directions in which they seem to point. (1) The question suggests to us this: the need of having a clear consciousness of what is our object in life. (2) These words are really a veiled and implied promise. Christ asks all such questions not for His information, but for our strengthening. "What seek ye?" It is a blank cheque that He puts into their hands to fill up. It is the key of His treasure-house which He offers to all, with the assured confidence that if we open it we shall find all we need.
II. Now, how may we regard the second words which our Lord speaks as His merciful invitation to the world? "Come and see." (1) Christ is always glad when people resort to Him. (2) The revelation of the Master is also a very distinct call to a first-hand knowledge of Jesus Christ. (3) In this "Come and see" there is a distinct call to the personal act of faith.
III. Lastly, we have in these words a parable of the blessed experience which binds men's hearts to Jesus for ever. (1) The impression of Christ's own personality is the strongest force to make disciples. The character of Jesus Christ is, after all, the centre and the standing evidence, and the mightiest credentials of Christianity. (2) Once more, experience of the grace and sweetness of this Saviour binds men to Him as nothing else will. The deepest and sweetest and most precious part of His character and of His gifts can only be known on condition of possession of Him and them, and they can be possessed only on condition of holding fellowship with Him. I do not say to any man, Try, Trust, in order to be sure that Jesus Christ is worthy to be trusted; for by its very nature faith cannot be an experiment or provisional.
A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 2nd series, p. 127.
References: John 1:37 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 702. Joh 1:37-39 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 411. Joh 1:37-51 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x., No. 570; W. M. Taylor, Peter the Apostle, p. 21. Joh 1:38 . G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 306. John 1:38 , John 1:39 . H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Waterside Mission Sermons, No. 3:1:39. J. B. Heard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 12; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 633.
The World's Benefactors.
I. Little as Scripture tells us of St. Andrew, it affords us enough for a lesson, and that an important one. These are the facts before us. St. Andrew was the first convert among the Apostles; he was especially in our Lord's confidence; thrice is he described as introducing others to Him; lastly, he is little known in history, while the place of dignity and the name of highest renown have been allotted to his brother Simon, whom he was the means of bringing to the knowledge of his Saviour. Our lesson, then, is this: that those men are not necessarily the most useful men in their generation, nor the most favoured of God, who make the most noise in the world, and who seem to be principals in the great changes and events recorded in history; and that, therefore, we must unlearn our admiration of the powerful and distinguished, our reliance on the opinions of society, our respect for the decisions of the learned or the multitude, and turn our eyes to private life, watching, in all we read or witness, for the true signs of God's presence, the graces of personal holiness manifested in His elect, which, weak as they may seem to mankind, are mighty through God, and have an influence upon the course of His providence, and bring about great events in the world at large, when the wisdom and the strength of the natural man are of no avail.
II. Andrew is scarcely known except by name; and while Peter has ever held the place of honour all over the Church, yet Andrew brought Peter to Christ. God's mysterious providence works beneath a veil, and to see Him who is the Truth and the Life, we must stoop underneath it, and so in our turn hide ourselves from the world. They who present themselves at kings' courts pass on to the inner chambers, where the gaze of the rude multitude cannot pierce; and we, if we would see the King in His beauty, must be content to disappear from the things that are seen. Hid are the saints of God; if they are known to men, it is accidentally, in their temporal offices, as holding some high earthly station, and not as saints. St. Peter has a place in history, far more as a chief instrument of a strange revolution in human affairs, than in his true character, as a self-denying follower of his Lord, to whom truths were revealed which flesh and blood could not discern.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. ii., p. 1.
The First Disciples Simon Peter.
In this incident we have two things mainly to consider (1) the witness of the disciple; (2) the self-revelation of the Master.
I. The witness of the disciple. (1) Notice first the illustratration that we get here of how instinctive and natural the impulse is, when one has found Jesus Christ, to tell some one else about Him. Nobody said to Andrew, "Go and look for your brother." And yet, as soon as he had fairly realised the fact that this man standing before him was the Messiah, though the evening seems to have come, he hurries away to find his brother, and share with him the glad conviction. (2) He first findeth his own brother. The language of the text suggests that the Evangelist's tendency to the suppression of himself hides away in this singular expression the fact that he, too, went to look for a brother. Home, then those who are nearest to us presents the natural channels for Christian work. (3) Notice the simple word which is the most powerful means of influencing most men. Andrew did not begin to argue with his brother. The mightiest argument that we can use, and the argument that we can all use, if we have got any religion in us at all, is that of Andrew, "We have found the Messias."
II. The self-revelation of the Master. It was the impression which Christ Himself made on Simon which completed the work begun by his brother. The look, which is described by an unusual word, was a penetrating gaze which regarded Peter with fixed attention. It must have been remarkable to have lived in John's memory for all these years. Our Lord shows himself possessed of supernatural and thorough knowledge. (2) Another revelation of our Lord's relation to His disciples is given in the fact of His changing Simon's name. He thus takes absolute possession of him, and asserts His mastery over him. (3) That change of name implies Christ's power and promise to bestow a new character and new functions and honours.
A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 2nd series, p. 141.
References: John 1:40 . J. Foster, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 390; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 422; J. Keble, Sermons for Saints' Days, p. 11. Joh 1:40 , John 1:41 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. vii., p. 279. John 1:40-43.1.42 . R. Maguire, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 313; Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 303.
The First Home Mission.
I. We have here the spring of all true home mission work. Andrew had himself made acquaintance with the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. Note the object of the mission, "And he brought him to Jesus." In any mission work we undertake we should be satisfied with nothing less than this.
III. Note the place of this mission. It was in the most emphatic sense a home mission, and this has its lesson for us. In our zeal for the foreign heathen we are not to forget our own kinsfolk. (1) They have not the only claim upon us, but they have the first claim. (2) Even for our own sakes we must think of home. We cannot let masses of ignorance and sin and wretchedness foster and grow without bringing a blight on our own Christianity.
IV. Look at the time chosen for this first home mission. Andrew did not wait to speak to his brother till he had been made an Apostle, or even till he had become one of Christ's regular disciples. He began at once. There is a lesson here for ministers. They must begin and continue in the spirit of Andrew, not counting hours, but watching opportunities and forgetting self in love to the souls of men and zeal for the glory of Christ.
V. Let us learn from the spirit of the first home mission, Andrew went to his brother, naturally, not from calculation, but because he had it in his heart. It is in this spirit we must go to our fellowmen, whether they be closely related or not.
VI. Look at the success of the first home mission. We cannot forget that it is to Andrew we owe Simon Peter and all that he did.
J. Ker, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 100.
Those words, strange perhaps as they might have sounded for the text of a sermon, must have sounded still stranger when Christ first spoke them to this man. It was a strange thing, indeed, to a man of the East, to whom a name always conveys significant associations, to a member of that Hebrew race with whose sacred literature the thought of change of name was always bound up with the thought of change of life, work, character, or mode of thought a strange thing to say to a man the first time you met him. Nevertheless, I think they show if we think of them, one of those characteristics of Christ that we pass over constantly, but which nevertheless, are second to none in the estimate of what He is and was as a man I mean that insight into human character which marked all His dealings with His friends and with His foes.
I. Peter was impulsive, and he had the faults of an eager temper. He was fickle, he was a man who, when the greatest was demanded of him, failed in a manner we can only describe as feeble, unmanly, and even ridiculous. And depend upon it Christ saw that as well only, He saw what a man of the world would not see, and that is what lay behind; for Christ sees men not only as they are, but as they may be. Christ sees men not only in their actual being, but in their ideal being. Christ sees men not only as they have made themselves, but as He meant them to be.
II. Sympathy plus self-forgetfulness makes up insight, and in the Lord Jesus Christ it was not only sympathy combined with self-forgetfulness, but sympathy associated with an absolute want of taint of selfishness. And that is the reason why His words, why His whole life, are the teaching fit for all ages of the world and for all characters that men may bear. Notice two points of the multiform moral of the story. They are very simple Trust God, Trust men. Trust God, for God trusts you, and in spite of all that you have done to betray Him, He still gives you cause to hope for future labour in His service, and cause to know that you have capacity to do something for your fellowmen and for Him. Trust Him, and learn to trust, from Christ's dealings with Peter, learn to trust more fully your fellow men.
H. C. Shuttleworth, Family Churchman, Sep. 15th, 1886.
References: John 1:42 . J. G. Warren, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 177; J. Keble, Sermons for Saints' Days, p. 276; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 855; Homilist, vol. vi., p. 399.
The First Disciples Philip.
I. The revelation which is here given us of the seeking Christ. Everyone who reads this chapter with even the slightest attention must observe how seeking and finding are repeated over and over again. Christ will welcome and over-answer Andrew and John when they come seeking; He will turn round to them with a smile on His face, that converts the question, "What seek ye?" into an invitation, "Come and see." And when Andrew brings his brother to Him, He will go more than half-way to meet him. But when these are won there still remains another way, by which He will have disciples brought into His kingdom, and that is by Himself going out and laying His hand on the man and drawing him to His heart by the revelation of His love.
II. Consider the word of authority, which, spoken to the one man in our text, is really spoken to us all. Jesus "findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow Me." Your Shepherd comes to you and calls, Follow Me; your Captain and Commander comes to you and calls, Follow Me. In all the dreary wilderness, in all the difficult contingencies and conjunctions, in all the conflicts of life this Man strides in front of us and proposes Himself to us as Guide, Example, Consoler, Friend, Companion everything; and gathers up all duty, all blessedness, in the majestic and simple words, Follow Me.
III. Think, for a moment, about this silently and swiftly obedient disciple. Philip says nothing. He is silent but he yields. All decisions are matters of an instant. Hesitation may be long, weighing and balancing may be a protracted process, but the decision is always a moment's work, a knife edge. And there is no reason why anyone may not now, if he will, do as this man Philip did on the spot, and when Christ says, Follow Me, turn to Him and answer, "I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest."
A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 2nd series, p. 155.
Reference: John 1:43 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 185.
In the closing verses of this chapter we have a narrative of the calling of some four or five of our Lord's earliest disciples. It is interesting on many accounts, more particularly perhaps on this that it distinctly points out the reason why these men attached themselves to the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.
I. Had Jesus Christ come in His own Name, as did many of the revolutionary chieftains of the time had He appeared as a merely political Christ the Jews would gladly and thankfully have welcomed Him, even in spite of His Divine pretensions. But as it was, seeing that He disappointed their hopes, and practically disallowed the ideal which they had permitted themselves to set up, they turned upon Him in their fury, and cast Him out as a detected impostor. There is something remarkable, then, in the fact that these first disciples of Christ had a spiritual insight, so far superior to that of the rest of their fellow countrymen, that they could detect in Jesus of Nazareth what seemed to be hidden from the eyes of everybody else. Although not uneducated, and certainly not unintelligent men they had not, as we know, received the benefit of the highest culture of their day; and yet, while doctors and Sanhedrists, scribes and Pharisees, with all their learning, were blind to the glory of Jesus, these simple-minded Galilean fishermen were perfectly assured that it was He of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write.
II. Consider the reason why the Jews of the present day ought to believe that the Messiah has already come. (1) The time of the Messiah's Advent is distinctly announced in the ancient Scriptures and distinctly announced, we think as occurring between the return of the nation from the Babylonish captivity and its subsequent destruction and scattering at the hands of the Romans. (2) Two different comings of Messiah, different in their characteristics and attributes, are spoken of in the writings of the prophets. The one coming is to a people living in their own land, having a city, having laws, having a national existence; the other coming is to a people scattered in all quarters of the earth, and needing to be brought back to the land given by Divine covenant to them and to their fathers.
G. Calthrop, Penny Pulpit, new series, No. 1,034.
Reference: John 1:45 . A. Edersheim, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 157.
The First Disciples Nathanael.
I. Look first at the preparation a soul brought to Christ by a brother. "Philip findeth Nathanael." Nathanael's prejudice was but the giving voice to a fault that is as wide as humanity, and which we have every day of our lives to fight with, not only in regard of religious matters, but in regard of all others namely, the habit of estimating people, and their work, and their wisdom, and their power, by the class to which they are supposed to belong. "Philip saith unto him, Come and see." He is not going to argue the question. He gives the only possible answer to it. "You ask me, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Come and see whether it is a good thing or no; and if it is, and came out of Nazareth, well then, the question has answered itself." The quality of a thing cannot be settled by the origin of a thing.
II. The conversation between Christ and Nathanael, where we see a soul fastened to Christ by Himself. The omniscience of Christ, as manifested here, shows (1) how glad Christ is when He sees anything good, anything that He can praise, in any of us. (2) We have here our Lord's omniscience set forth as cognisant of all our inward crises and struggles. In our hours of crisis, and in our monotonous uneventful moments; in the rush of the furious waters, when the stream of our lives is caught among rocks, and in the long, languid reaches of its smoothest flow; when we are fighting with our fears, or yearning for His light; or even when sitting dumb and stolid, like snow men, apathetic and frozen in our indifference He sees us, and pities, and will help the need which He beholds.
III. One word more about this rapturous confession which crowns the whole: "Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel." The joybells of the man's heart are all a-ringing. It is no mere intellectual acknowledgment of Christ as Messiah. The difference between mere head-belief and heart-faith lies precisely in the presence of these elements of confidence, of enthusiastic loyalty, and absolute submission.
A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 2nd series, p. 169.
References: John 1:45-43.1.51 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi., No. 921; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. vii., p. 22; Ibid., 4th series, vol. i., p. 240.
The Duties of Heavenly Citizenship towards Infidelity.
I. The heavenly citizen must first be deeply convinced of the truth of the proposition, Magna est veritas et prævalebit. In "contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints," his contention will be rather to persuade men than to defend God; not, Uzzah-like, to imagine that he will uphold that which is tottering. This reflection will free him from timidity as to any supposed conflict between science and revelation. "Without Him was not anything made that was made." The investigating faculty of man is the boring tool, whereby the glories of the living God are dug out of His mines, and in the reverent pursuit of natural science the thoughts of God become visible.
II. Those who know the secret of the Lord will lead the anxious doubter away from systems, controversies, and debates, into the presence of the Lord Himself. Philip of Bethsaida, in the history before us, illustrates the true method. He had found Jesus, had recognised in Him the Christ God's answer to the hunger and thirst of humanity; such a knowledge evidences its reality by its self-communicativeness. He rushes to his friend, without preface, argument or explanation; he says, "I have found the Christ." He knows what he has found; he can at least invite trial; he is not afraid to subject the blessed truth, which was flooding his whole being with its vivid light, to the most searching analysis, the closest investigation. "Philip saith unto him, Come and see." Here is the one absolute, irrefragable Christian evidence: the power of Jesus Christ to satisfy every human instinct, to fill the heart to overflowing, to save to the uttermost, to elevate the affections, to perfect the nature, to ennoble the character, of fallen man. Inasmuch as the best sermon is a life, our life should so witness that men should be compelled to acknowledge that "the life we live in the flesh we live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us."
Canon Wilberforce, Christian Commonwealth, Oct. 29th, 1885.
References: John 1:46 . T. Islip, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 42; W. M. Arthur, Ibid., vol. xxxi., p. 316; Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 351; J. Hamilton, Works, vol. vi., p. 453; F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of St. John, p. 43.
An even unvaried life is the lot of most men, in spite of occasional troubles or other accidents; and we are apt to despise it and get tired of it, and to long to see the world or, at all events, we think such a life affords no great opportunity for religious obedience. Here we have the history of St. Bartholomew and the other Apostles to recall us to ourselves, and to assure us that we need not give up our usual manner of life in order to serve God; that the most humble and quiet station is acceptable to Him nay, affords means for maturing the highest Christian character, even that of an Apostle. Bartholomew read the Scriptures and prayed to God, and thus was trained at length to give up his life for Christ when He demanded it.
I. Consider the particular praise which our Saviour gives him: "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" This is just the character which, through God's grace, they may attain most fully who live out of the world in a private way. It is a most difficult and rare virtue to mean what we say, to love without dissimulation, to think no evil, to bear no grudge, to be free from selfishness, to be innocent and straightforward. This character of mind is something far above the generality of men; and when realised in due measure, one of the surest marks of Christ's elect. Such men are cheerful and contented, for they desire but little and take pleasure in the least matters, having no wish for riches or distinction. The guileless man has a simple boldness and a princely heart; he overcomes dangers which others shrink from, merely because they are no dangers to him, and thus he often gains even worldly advantages by his straightforwardness which the most crafty persons cannot gain, though they risk their souls for them.
II. Nor is it only among the poor and lowly that this blessed character of mind is found to exist. Secular learning and dignity have doubtless a tendency to rob the heart of its brightness and purity; yet even in kings' courts and the schools of philosophy Nathanaels may be discovered. Lastly, more is requisite from the Christian even than guilelessness such as Bartholomew's. Innocence must be joined to prudence, discretion, self-command, gravity, patience, perseverance in welldoing; but innocence is the beginning.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. ii., p. 333.
References: John 1:47 . G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 425; Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 270; Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 124; W. G. Horder, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 152. Joh 1:48 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 271; Ibid., vol. x., p. 68; Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 376; J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 2nd series, 62.
We have here
I. The dawn of faith. "Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou?"
II. The fact of experience from which faith begins is the dawning of a faith that must continually grow. Two things are necessary to the strengthening of belief. (1) Its evidence must be certain. (2) Its power must develop with advancing life.
E. L. Hull, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 167.
References: John 1:50 , John 1:51 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1478; T. Gasquoine, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 261. Joh 1:51 . J. Baldwin Brown, Ibid., vol. xix., p. 168; J. Keble, Sermons for Saints' Days, p. 329; G. Moberly, Plain Sermons at Brighstone, p. 169; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 283. Joh 1:51 . Expositor, 1st series, vol. iii., p. 134.John 2:1 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 548; J. M. Neale, Sermons in a Religious House, vol. i., p. 229. John 2:1 . C. C. Bartholomew, Sermons Chiefly Practical, p. 27; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. i., p. 67. John 2:1 , John 2:2 . A. P. Stanley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 49; C. Kingsley, National Sermons, p. 312 John 1:1-63.1.11 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., pp. 53, 400; Ibid., vol. ii., p. 490. John 2:3-43.2.5 . Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 318. John 2:4 . Expositor, 1st series, vol. iv., p. 179; J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 407.
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the First Week of Advent