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Then Jesus six days before the Passover.
--The following calendar of the Passover week is taken from Lightfoot (2.586):
NISAN IX; The Sabbath. Six days before the Passover, Jesus sups with Lazarus at the going out of the Sabbath, when according to the custom of that country their suppers were more liberal.
NISAN X; Sunday. Five days before the Passover, Jesus goes to Jerusalem on an ass, and in the evening returns to Bethany (Mark 11:11). On this day the lamb was taken, and kept till the Passover (Exodus 12:1-2.12.51), on which day this Lamb of God presented Himself, who was the Antitype of that ride.
NISAN XI; Monday. Four days before the Passover, He goes to Jerusalem again; curseth the unfruitful fig tree (Matthew 21:18; Mark 11:12); in the evening He returns again to Bethany (Mark 6:19).
NISAN XII; Tuesday. Three days before the Passover, He goes again to Jerusalem; His disciples observe how the fig tree was withered (Mark 11:20). In the evening going back to Bethany, and sitting on the Mount of Olives, He foretelleth the destruction of the Temple and city (Matthew 24:1-40.24.51), and discourses those things which are contained in Matthew 25:1-40.25.46.
NISAN XIII; Wednesday. This day He passeth away in Bethany. At the coming in of this night, the whole nation apply themselves to put away all leaven.
NISAN XIV; Thursday. He sends two of His disciples to get ready the Passover. He Himself enters Jerusalem in the afternoon. In the evening eats the Passover, institutes the Eucharist: is taken, and almost all the night had before the Courts of Judicature.
NISAN XV; Friday. Afternoon, He is crucified.
NISAN XVI; Saturday. He keeps the Sabbath in the grave.
NISAN XVII; The Lord’s Day. He riseth again.
Came to Bethany
The arrival of the Passover caravan
Coming into Bethany, the nearest point of the great road to Galilaeans’ Hill, the caravan broke up; the company dispersed to the south and north, some seeking for houses in which they could lodge, others fixing on the ground where they meant to encamp. Those marched round Olivet to the south, following the great road, crossing the Cedron by a bridge, and entering the Holy City by the Sheep Gate, near Antonio; these mounted by the short path to the top of Olivet, glancing at the flowers and herbage, and plucking twigs and branches as they climbed. Some families, having brought their tents with them from Galilee, could at once proceed to stake the ground; but the multitude were content with the booths called Succoth, built in the same rude style as those in which their father Israel had dwelt. Four stakes being cut and driven in the soil, long reeds were drawn, one by one, round and through them. These reeds, being in turn crossed and closed with leaves, made a small green bower, open on one side only, yielding the women a rude sort of privacy, and covering the young ones with a frail defence from both noontide heat and midnight dew. The people had much to do, and very little time in which it could be done. At sundown, when the shofa sounded, Sabbath would begin; then every hand must cease its labour, even though the tent were unpitched, the booth unbuilt, the children exposed, the skies darkening into storm. Consequently the poles must be cut, the leaves and branches gathered, the tents fixed, the water fetched from the wells, the bread baked, the cattle penned, the beds unpacked and spread, the supper of herbs and olives cooked before the sofa sounded from the Temple wall. But everyone helped. While the men drove stakes into the ground and propped them with stones, the women wove them together with twigs and leaves, the girls ran off to the springs for water, the lads put up the camels and led out the sheep to graze. In two or three hours a new city had sprung up on the Galilaeans’ Hill--a city of booths and tents--more noisy, perhaps more populous, than even the turbulent city within the walls. This Galilaeans’ Hill made only one field in a great landscape of booths and tents. All Jewry had sent up her children to the feast, and each province arrayed its members on a particular site. The men of Sharon swarmed over Mount Gideon, the men of Hebron occupied the Plain of Rephaim. From Pilate’s roof on Mount Zion the lines and groups of this vast encampment could be followed by an observer’s eye down the valley of Gihon, peeping from among the fruit trees about Siloam, dotting the long plain of Rephaim, trespassing even on the Mount of Offence, and darkening the grand masses of hill from Olivet towards Mizpeh. All Jewry appeared to be encamped about the Temple Mount. From sundown all was quiet on the hillsides and on the valley, only the priests and doctors, the Temple guards, the money changers, the pigeon dealers, the bakers of shewbread, the altar servants being astir and at their work. There was no Sabbath in sacred things. But everywhere, save in the Temple Courts, traffic was stayed, movement arrested, life itself all but extinct. (Hepworth Dixon.)
There they made Him a supper
I. BY IMPROMPTU ACTS. One of the plainest proofs of the inspiration of the Bible is its selection of facts for the world’s instruction. Its standard of utility is not ours. Acts to us unimportant are given a prominence that arouses our curiosity and lead to profitable study. Thus the single act in Jacob’s life, which is used as a proof of his faith in Hebrews 11:1-58.11.40, is his blessing the sons of Joseph on his dying bed. We should have selected the scene at Bethel. Nothing gives such a solemnity to the last judgment as the picture of the separation of good and bad. On what ground? Not on that of an intelligent and determined rejection of Christ’s claims or of pronounced and heroic service, but upon what we should call the waste and forgotten materials of life--things done so naturally and thoughtlessly that both cry out, “When saw we Thee,” etc. And so, according to the common standard, these two acts here of unpremeditated honour are given undue importance. The anointing was done in a few moments, yet Jesus selected that one act as a service never to be forgotten. The scene on the day following had no great utility. A modem reporter would have called it a simple outburst of popular enthusiasm. But Jesus needed these songs of welcome and prized them.
II. BY UNCALCULATED LOVE. Paul declares that without love we and our works are unprofitable, and John makes it the sum of all virtues. We live in times of great religious activity. The poor in body are with us--the poor souls of heathens are yonder. We do a good deal for both, and we do well. Yet because Christian work is so highly organized and reportable we need the lesson of Mary’s uncalculating love. We may be inside the great circle of Christian beneficence, and yet lack Mary’s “good part.” The institutions of Christianity open avenues to pride and ostentation never known before. The machinery of benevolence may exhaust the soul until all its sweetness and grace are wasted. We may shine in use and yet lack the ineffable charm and grace of a life hid with Christ in God. (Monday Club Sermons.)
Bethany and its feast
The house in which we find ourselves is that of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:1-40.26.75; Mark 14:1-41.14.72). The feast is a great one; but Christ is the centre, and gives to it and the guests all their significance. Let us consider the latter in their relation to Christ.
I. SIMON ENTERTAINING. He had known Christ before, probably first through his leprosy. Our first interview with Christ is respecting our moral leprosy. But Simon finds that he has much more to do with Jesus than merely for His cure: therefore he must have Him under his roof. So our acquaintanceship must be a companionship, and Christ must sit at our table. This is the sinner’s side of the gospel. Here it is, not Christ receiving the sinner, but the sinner Christ. We must not overlook either side.
II. LAZARUS FEASTING. What a feast, what a company! Simon healed, Lazarus raised, dipping into the same dish, drinking of the same cup with Christ the Healer and Raiser. How Lazarus first became acquainted with Christ we know not; but it was his death that had brought about the special closeness of contact--type now of risen saints who are to take their places at the marriage supper of the Lamb. What has Lazarus now but to gaze and listen? This is our true posture who have died and risen with Christ--listening, not bustling and talking. There is a time for both.
III. MARTHA SERVING. Her usual employment, lowly but not least blessed; like His who came to serve. Angels might covet service to Christ in any form, were it for nothing else than near contact with Him. “Inasmuch as ye have done it,” etc.
IV. MARY ANOINTING--not entertaining, feasting, serving, but doing what some would consider a useless thing. Yet her act gets most notice. Christ says nothing to Simon, etc. It is no labour, suffering, etc., that gets the fullest commendation but love. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
The supper at Bethany
I. THE ABOUNDING PROOFS OF OUR LORD’S GREATEST MIRACLES. Here was Lazarus. No one could pretend that his resurrection was an optical illusion. The same proofs attend the mightier miracle of Christ’s resurrection (Luke 24:42). We do well to remember this in this sceptical age.
II. THE UNKINDNESS AND DISCOURAGEMENTS CHRIST’S FRIENDS RECEIVE. Mary thought nothing too great and good to expend on such a Saviour. Greatly loved, she thought she could not show to much love in return. But she was blamed by those who had lesser views than hers of the dignity of Christ’s person and of their own obligations to Him. There are only too many of the same spirit, who begrudge nothing to push trade or advance science, but count it waste to spend money on Christ’s cause. We must not allow ourselves to be moved from well doing by such. It is vain to expect men to do much for Christ who have no sense of debt to Him. We must pity them, but work on. He who pleaded the cause of Mary will not forget the “cup of cold water.”
III. THE DESPERATE HARDNESS AND UNBELIEF OF THE HUMAN HEART.
1. Unbelief in the chief priests (John 12:10-43.12.11), who would rather commit a murder than confess themselves in the wrong.
2. Hardness in Judas, who after this could betray Christ (1 Corinthians 10:12). (Bp. Ryle.)
The true Church
I. ITS INTERNAL ASPECT.
1. Christ as the central figure, “They made Him a supper.” Lazarus was conspicuous, but Christ was the centre of attraction. In the true Church Christ is in the “midst,” and in all things has the preeminence.
2. A variety of guests. Lazarus silent, Martha busy, Mary tender, Simon healed and grateful. The true Church embraces all shades of character.
3. The presence of an incongruous character. Judas partaking of the feast, but unsympathetic. He shows three base things
(1) A false estimate of property. Money is not wasted on Christ, but on houses, apparel, fare, etc.
(2) A hypocritical philanthropy--Judas cared little for the poor, as his history shows.
(3) A heartless intrusion. No man has a right to “trouble” another on account of his religious services. Iscariotism is very prevalent.
4. The display of genuine devotion. Mary’s act was
(1) Generous--the ointment was costly.
(2) Spontaneous. It was unsought.
(3) Open. It was done in the presence of all.
(a) In principle. She wrought a good work
(b) In extent. She did what she could.
(c) In reason--against the day of Christ’s burying.
II. ITS EXTERNAL INFLUENCE.
1. Some were attracted by curiosity (John 12:9). The wonderful fact on which the Church’s theology is founded, as well as the moral revolutions it is constantly effecting, have a natural tendency to rouse inquisitiveness. Hence the questions, criticisms, and discussions in society, public halls and literature.
2. Some men attracted by malice (John 12:10). The determination of the priests was
(2) Foolish. Truth cannot be struck down by physical force. The true Church has always been the object of malice, (D. Thomas, D. D.)
In the practical working of good agencies, there must almost always be a certain prodigality. The light which illuminates this speck of a world is but a single beam in comparison with that immense body of light which passes off, to be lost, apparently, in endless space. Nature produces a hundred seeds for everyone which comes to maturity; and at every sculptor’s feet there is an unheeded pile of marble chips which have been sacrificed to the fulfilment of the artist’s design. If this is waste, then what the world wants is waste--waste of precious seed in sowing it, late and early, by the wayside, in thorny places, beside all waters. And what many a Sunday School wants is more waste like this--waste of money and time and effort over an apparently hopeless enterprise, waste of thought and speech and prayer in behalf of those for whom these seem to be spent in vain. (H. O. Trumbull, D. D.)
The fragrance of true piety
When I was in Paris, I used to rise early and sit at my open window. I always knew when the stores beneath me were open; for one was a flower store, and from its numberless roses, and heaps of mignonette, arose such sweet, sweet fragrance, that it proclaimed what was done. It seems to me that Christians should be as a flower store, and that the odour of sanctity should betray them wherever they are. Not that they should go about obtruding themselves and their actions on others, with the cant of usefulness, but that they should live the purity and joy of religion, so that men might see the desirableness of it, both for the sake of nobleness, and for the enjoyment both of this world and that which is to come. (H. W. Beecher.)
Power of perfumes
Lieutenant Conder, in his “Tent Work in Palestine,” mentions that the perfume of the orange groves is detected many miles from Jaffa. (H. O. Mackey.)
The lasting perfume of pious deeds
It has been shown that the odoriferous molecule of musk is infinitesimally small. No power has yet been conceived to enable the human eye to see one of the atoms of musk, yet the organs of smell have the sensitiveness to detect them. Their smallness cannot even be imagined, and the same grain of musk undergoes absolutely no diminution in weight. A single drop of the oil of thyme, ground down with a piece of sugar and a little alcohol, will communicate its odour to twenty-five gallons of water. Haller kept for forty years papers perfumed with one grain of ambergris. After this time the odour was as strong as ever. And so the perfume of this generous gift to Christ will last throughout all time, and be carried over the whole world.
The philosophy of beneficence
He who selfishly hoards his joys, thinking thus to increase them, is like a man who looks at his granary, and says, “Not only will I protect my grain from mice and birds, but neither the ground nor the mill shall have it.” And so, in the spring, he walks around his little pit of corn, and exclaims, “How wasteful are my neighbours, throwing away whole handfuls of grain!” But autumn comes; and, while he has only his few poor bushels, their fields are yellow with an abundant harvest. “There is that scattereth and yet increaseth.”
Motive for great gifts
A poor Protestant congregation in Lyons was trying to build a small house for their public worship. An old soldier brought all his three months’ earnings. “Can you spare so much?” asked the minister. “My Saviour spared not Himself,” he answered, “but freely gave His life for me; surely I can spare one quarter of a year’s earnings to extend His kingdom on earth.” Then saith one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot.
I. A FOUL INIQUITY gilded over with a specious pretence.
II. WORLDLY WISDOM passing censure on PIOUS ZEAL.
III. Charity to the poor made a colour for opposing an act of piety to Christ. (M. Henry.)
Mary’s offering: criticised and vindicated
I. THE BETRAYER’S CRITICISM OF MARY’S OFFERING. An eminent statesman once said that critics were men who had failed. What a lurid light this definition casts over the conduct of Judas at this hour! Moreover, criticism is too often the outcome of an utter incapacity to appreciate, arising from inferiority on the part of the critic. Judas, too, was not only too prosaic, but was also too official to be touched by the beauty of this deed. It is a hard thing for any man to be the treasurer of one society and maintain the breadth of his humanity. Judas felt that his “bag” had greater claims than his Saviour. Then, again, as a thief he could not understand that there are some offerings which cannot be sold, but which lose all their sacredness the moment you put them under the auctioneer’s hammer; that in this instance the alabaster box must be broken in the giving, and that there are offerings the value of which the giver never counts.
II. OUR LORD’S VINDICATION OF MARY AND HER OFFERING.
1. He bade Judas and the other disciples whom he had induced to repeat his cry (Matthew 26:8; Mark 14:4) to “let her alone.”
2. He not only vindicated the deed, but also explained its meaning. What a gracious construction He puts upon our poor services when they are prompted by love! That little child of yours wants to give you a present on your birthday. She buys it a week or so before the day. You notice some mysterious movements and looks, and there are little whispers heard all over the house. She confides in her little brother; and he, too, looks very wise and then very excited. At last the pressure is too great, the safety valve of speech gives way, and out comes the secret; then there is a rush out of the room and back again, and then the disclosure of a present which all the cupboards in the house could not conceal a moment longer. The present is thrust on your lap, and young eyes shoot light and love into yours. It has come before the proper date but it is all the better for that. Mary, on this occasion, was like that little child, she could keep her alabaster box of ointment no longer; and what had been intended for the dead body was now poured, in the prodigality and impatience of an overflowing love, over His living form. Jesus knew all, and rejoiced over a love which had ante-dated its purpose, and given to the living Lord what had been kept for His burial.
3. Having done this, He emphasized the urgency for such an act as compared with the duty to the poor, who would remain when He had vanished from their sight and this act would be no longer possible. What they desired to do to Him, whether it were Mary to anoint, or Judas to betray, must be done quickly. (D. Davies.)
The self-sacrificing woman and the covetous apostle
The self-seeking heart in the Church makes balsam into poison. It turns
I. A JOYOUS FEAST INTO AN HOUR OF TEMPTATION.
II. THE PUREST LOVE OFFERING INTO AN OFFENCE.
III. THE SACRED JUSTIFICATION OF FIDELITY INTO A MOTIVE FOR EXASPERATION.
IV. THE MOST GRACIOUS WARNINGS AGAINST DESTRUCTION INTO A DOOM OF DEATH. (J. P. Lange, D. D.)
Mary and Judas
The parts of Mary and Judas in respect to the death of Christ are brought into sharp contrast. Mary in her devotion unconsciously provides for the honour of the dead. Judas in his selfishness unconsciously brings about the death itself. (Bp. Westcott.)
Alabaster box and money box
Mark the striking contrast between the money box of Judas and the alabaster box of Mary, his thirty pieces of silver and her three hundred denaries, his love of money and her liberality, his hypocritical profession of concern for the poor, and her noble deed for the Lord, his wretched end and her noble deed for the Lord. (P. Schaff, D. D.)
Judas and the disciples
In the synoptists it is “His disciples” (Matthew). “Some” (Mark), who remonstrate. It seems that on this as on many other occasions, Judas played among his fellow disciples the part of the leaven which raises the flour. (F. Godet, D. D.)
Because he was a thief and had the bag
Judas and the bag
Why Jesus should have allowed Judas to carry the bag, when He knew that he could not resist the temptation to which it exposed him, is one of those mysteries which we shall only be able to answer when we understand why God allows any man to be exposed to temptation which He knows he will not be able to resist. It may be that Judas was first selected for this purpose, because he showed an aptitude for making such arrangements as were required for supplying the daily wants of the disciples, and for relieving the poor, and that the opportunity--the possession of the bag--had developed in him the hitherto latentfeeling of avarice. His sin consisted in appropriating to his own individual use some of the money which was given to him for the general good of Jesus and the disciples and the poor. That Judas was not an unblushing peculator, that he did not practise his thefts openly, but with the utmost secrecy, and with every outward appearance of upright dealing, is plain from the fact that the disciples do not seem to have suspected his motives on this occasion. They join with Judas in representing, that the value of the ointment might have been better spent in distributing to the poor, because they had not the slightest suspicion of his honesty. The fearful lesson, which the conduct of Judas teaches us, is the intimate relation which, in the nature of things, exists between appropriating to oneself the goods given to us in charge for Christ and His poor, and the betrayal of Christ Himself, between avarice and treason to Christ. The latter of these is the necessary consequence of the former, not the accidental but the moral consequence, not in Judas only, but in every man. Betrayal of Christ, in some form or other, follows the love of money as regularly and as certainly as night follows day. (F. H. Dunwell, B. A.)
Christ and utilitarianism
It is easy enough to give an ill name to that which lies beyond the range of our sense or our sympathies. Thus the refinement and culture which give a tone of ease and elegance to higher social circles are regarded by many with contempt. The rare and costly products of skilled labour, which our modern civilization demands, are despised as trivial luxuries. Education in whatever cannot be turned to account in a merchant’s office, or in passing an examination, is deemed superfluous, however much it may enlarge and ennoble the scholar’s mind. Even the moral delicacy of pure and sensitive natures is scorned as squeamishness. Men steeped in one class of religious ideas seem incapable of doing justice to those who hold other opinions. Mystical devotion sees profanity in thoughtful inquiry. The aesthetic ceremonial of a stately service is but mummery to those whose worship is of a simpler form. Of the purest, noblest, and most generous actions, which are veiled by their own grace, there is little comprehension by the world that toils and struggles all around for its daily bread. Its value in the market gave to the spikenard its only worth in the eyes of Judas. The manufacturer and retailer of it could be justified, for they made it only a means of gain; but not Mary, who poured it out like water in the mere gratification of sentiment. Yet surely if the dignity of human existence is recognized we may plead for a generous while just expenditure upon all that can sweeten and lend grace to life. Painting, sculpture, literature, architecture, have a rightful claim to be fostered. Foreign travel, social hospitality, instead of being forms of selfish indulgence, should enter into the education of whatever is best within us. Still more may we contend that the gifts of friendship, and the consecrated offerings of devotion, but fittingly express the reaching forth of the spirit after fuller and higher being. To value only what can be “sold” is to appreciate least what in nature and man is most glorious, and most capable of affording exquisite and perfect satisfaction. The gold and purple of the sunset, the flushing tenderness of the dawn, the rippling songs of birds, the full-voiced chorus of breaking billows, the pure air fresh with the fragrant breath of wild flowers, the rain pouring its living draught into every arid blade and leaf, are God’s free gifts to men. The innocent joy of childhood, the generous enthusiasm of youth, the strength of wisdom, the serenity of a holy trust in God--in what earthly market can these blessed things of the Spirit be bought or sold? With what coin can you purchase the tenderness of sympathy, the confidence of friendship, the devotion of love. The things that cannot be bartered, the price of which no merchant quotes, the value of which no figures can express, which no thief can steal, and no moth and rust corrupt, alone form the wealth of the soul. (J. R. S. Harrington.)
Utility not the highest test
The question cui bono, to what practical end and advantage do your researches tend? is one which the speculative philosopher, who loves knowledge for its own sake, can seldom hear without a sense of humiliation. He feels that there is a lofty and disinterested pleasure in his speculations which ought to exempt them from such questionings. The great minds of the past who thought and laboured for pure truth did not trammel themselves with the question of utility; yet many of the truths they discovered have, in after ages, found a use, and contributed even to man’s material progress. (Sir J. Herschell.)
Then said Jesus, let her alone.
Mary’s passionate love accepted
1. Christ often put aside enthusiasm. When men and women brought Him what looked like lovely flowers, He asked for sterner things. When the woman said, “Blessed is the womb that bare Thee”; when men brought Him a crown, and when the rich young man fell down and worshipped Him, He put their enthusiasm aside, chilled and damped. He would accept no sudden emotions and thoughtless impulses--flowers without roots soon to wither.
2. How different here. Who is to supply ice now? Judas the proper person. Jesus gathered this passion flower and put it forever into the garland of God--because
I. MARY HAD BEEN GROWING IN LOVE. At first what joy it was to her to sit at the Master’s feet; then when her brother came back, her joy and gratitude were overwhelming. She had good grounds for her love; and at last, with a fine impulse, she pours out her choicest gift at His feet. How many years had it been kept, too precious to be used!
II. MARY’S LOVE WAS HOLY. She had grown at His feet, and learned by His teaching. Now she could sit there no longer, she must render her tribute. To know what and how to give is one of the last achievements of good manners, one of the most delicate of tasks, and when successfully done, one of the most gracious of acts. It is also one of the greatest victories of the soul to properly receive a gift. Christ does not put by her gift. It is Judas who interferes now; and with his beggarly economics brings in the dirty scales of this world. “Let her alone,” said Christ, “she has done well.” Why? Because her whole soul was in it, and when the whole soul is in anything arithmetic has nought to do with it. When a little child offers its caresses to some cold-blooded woman, “There, there, there,” she says, “you have kissed me once, that’ll do.” So the little mouth is put back, and the little heart chilled. Yes: it will do for her, for a second kiss wasted on that icicle would freeze the heart from which it came.
III. MARY’S GIFT CAME LAST. She had been contemplative, had heard His word, sat at His feet, and last, not first, came the spikenard. Because this passion flower was rooted in the heart and conscience and intellect of the woman, Christ rebuked Judas. Of all things in the house, these are the saddest--greetings where no friendship is, honeyed words which everybody gets, the same welcome for every fool, everybody’s hand shaken alike. These things are hateful. But when the fair water lily, rising from the very bottom of the pool, deep rooted, slow climbing, at last reaches the light, and bursts forth into glory, Christ loves the flowers. Conclusion: What about the three hundred pence? The chances are that those who give to beggars do it without much heart interest; but to kiss those sacred feet, what were three hundred pounds! What has money to do here? Listen to the justification, “I am going to die: there will be no more chance for her. These are flowers thrown on My grave.” (G. Dawson, M. A.)
The recognition of a noble act
I. CHRIST’S MIND REGARDING HIS DEATH
1. He looked forward to it. It was never absent from His mind. Here it emerges in a scene, the last apparently that could have suggested it.
2. He looked forward to a life above it, and Mary’s act was grateful as revealing a love over which death had no power.
3. He had a pleasant view provided Him in regard to it. How cheered He must have been by this act with the cross imminent, and amid the murmuring and unbelief of His friends.
II. CHRIST’S MIND REGARDING OUR SERVICE.
1. The timeliness of service. A word spoken, an act done in season, how good it is I There is a time to speak and to be silent, to work and to be still. We need to pray for wisdom.
2. Christ’s recognition of our service. He knows what we do, and accepts the service, however trifling, because of the motive.
3. Christ’s defence of freedom in our service.
4. Christ’s loving construction to quicken our service. (J. Duthie.)
The poor always ye have with you
The claims of poverty
This word extorted by the rapacity of Judas teaches us that poverty has its claims upon us which we must not neglect. From our definition of “the poor” we exclude the systematic idler and professional beggar. The claims of the real poor are based on
I. THE POSSESSIONS OF A COMMON NATURE. “The rich and the poor the Lord is the Maker,” etc. A community of nature should
1. Awaken interest.
2. Stimulate sympathy.
II. THE RELATIONS OF HUMAN SOCIETY. St. Paul’s imagery of the body and the members (1 Corinthians 12:14-46.12.22) will illustrate this. The poor have their place in the social economy, and cannot be safely neglected.
III. THE RELATIONS OF CHRIST’S CHURCH
1. The Church is a body of which Christ is the Head.
2. The Church is indebted to the poor for some of the brightest testimonies to the power of Divine grace. It owes a debt in return.
IV. THE SANCTIONS OF HOLY WRIT. (Deuteronomy 15:11; Lev 23:22; 1 Samuel 2:7; Job 29:11-18.29.13; Psalms 41:1; Proverbs 21:31; Proverbs 21:31; Isaiah 58:7; Isaiah 58:7; Matthew 25:36; Matthew 25:36; James 2:14-59.2.16). The Bible is thus the poor man’s book. (Clerical World.)
The Church and the poor
When the deacon St. Lawrence was asked, in the Decian persecution, to show the Prefect the most precious treasures of the Church at Rome, he showed him the sick, the lame, the blind. “It is incredible,” said Lucian, the pagan jeerer and sceptic, “to see the ardour with which those Christians help each other in their wants. They spare nothing. Their first Legislator has put it into their heads that they are all brothers.” “These Galileans,” said Julian the Apostate, “nourish not only their own poor, but ours as well.” In the year 252 a plague raged in Carthage. The heathen threw out their dead and sick upon the streets, and ran away from them for fear of the contagion, and cursed the Christians.
St. Cyprian, on the contrary, assembled his congregation, told them to love those who cursed them; and the rich working with their money, the poor with their hands, never rested till the dead, were buried, the sick cared for, and the city saved from destruction. (Archdeacon Farrar.)
The poor represent Christ
A rich youth in Rome had suffered from a dangerous illness. On recovering his health his heart was filled with gratitude, and he exclaimed, “O Thou all-sufficient Creator I could man recompense Thee, how willingly would I give Thee all my possessions!” Hermas the herdsman heard this, and said to the rich youth, “All good gifts come from above; thither thou canst send nothing. Come, follow me.” He took him to a but where was nothing but misery and wretchedness. The father lay on a bed of sickness; the mother wept; the children were destitute of clothing and crying for bread. Hermas said, “See here an altar for the sacrifice; see here the Lord’s brethren and representatives.” The youth assisted them bountifully; and the poor people called him an angel of God. Hermas smiled, and said, “Thus turn always thy grateful countenance, first to heaven, and then to earth.” (J. Krummacher.)
A motive for care of the poor and depraved
A few miles above Montreal, the two great convergent rivers of British America, the St. Lawrence and the Ottawa, meet. The St. Lawrence is a pure stream, of a peculiar, light-blue colour: the Ottawa is dark, as if it were tinged by moss in its way. After their meeting the two rivers run side by side a few miles, each occupying its own half of one broad bed; but gradually the boundary line disappears, and all the waters are mingled in one vast homogeneous flood. Although the life of the inhabitants below depended on preserving the pure cerulean hue of the St. Lawrence, it could not possibly be preserved. All the might of man cannot prevent the Ottawa from tingeing the united waters with its own dark shads. Unless the darkness can be discharged from its springs, that great affluent will effectually dye the main river in all its lower reaches. Behold the picture of the process by which the neglected children of our unsaved brother, meeting our own at a lower point in time’s rolling current, will blot out the distinction which is now maintained. Behold the rod lifted up in our sight to prevent the neglect now, or punish it hereafter! The dark cellars in which ignorant, vicious, godless parents, now pen their hapless brood, are the springs which feed a mighty river. Our little ones rise in cleaner spots, and in the meantime a solid bank separates the streams. But that turbid river lies within the same basin, and by the laws of nature must converge towards the central channel of society. It is an affluent. We must accept the fact, for we cannot change it. We dread that dark stream which, at a little distance, is flowing parallel with our own. Over the embankments, now not very lofty, we hear sometimes the ominous gurgle of its rapid flow. There is only one way of subduing that terrible enemy. If we cower timidly in our own hiding place, the destruction which we thereby invite will quickly overtake us. In this warfare there is no armour for the back of the fugitive. Safety lies in facing the danger. The evil which in its issue is a deluge, may in its origin be success fully neutralized. Below you cannot keep the gathered volume out: above you may do muck to purify the rising spring. (W. Arnot, D. D.)
Me ye have not always
Christ absent and present
(For a Communion: text and Matthew 28:20):--Like many passages these seem in contradiction; but if we grasp their deeper meaning they harmonize. Christ has given us a memorial of Himself in the Lord’s Supper--a gem with two facets; on the one is written “Me ye have not always;” on the other, “Lo, I am with you alway.” They remind us that we have in Christ
I. ONE WHO IS HUMAN AND DIVINE.
1. “Me,” etc. There is something very human and touching in this farewell, which comes at first like a hint, and afterwards became more plain. And the absence of the personal Saviour from our Communion reminds us always of His death, and therefore of His true humanity. “Forasmuch as the children,” etc. Let not the thought of His Divinity take away from our view of Him a single fibre of His true humanity. In this memorial of His death, “Behold the sign.”
2. But “Lo,” etc., reminds us that we have a Saviour who is Divine. So in the memory of His death we must realize His Divinity. The promise is not completed in the continuance of His words, example, influence, death, memorials going down from age to age. It is the promise of a presence which implies an omnipresence: so that at every Communion He is Divinely repeating the words, “This is My body.” And if here, then everywhere--to protect, guide, comfort to the end.
II. ONE WHOSE DEATH AS OUR SAVIOUR IS ALL-IMPORTANT AND NOT LESS HIS LIFE.
1. His death is the first truth which meets us in the Supper, “Me,” etc. He instituted it that His death might be kept in memory, and the manner of it--broken body and shed blood--the memorials twice put into our handsthat by two witnesses every word might be established. It is impossible to account for this without believing that His death was of supreme importance. Nor can we read the Bible without seeing this. The Old Testament points forward, and the Apostles point back to this. The Incarnation may serve other ends, but the first end to us is that Christ was “made lower than the angels for the suffering of death,” etc.
2. But the other word must be spoken by one who is to be a complete Saviour. The Resurrection is connected with the death as the seal and assurance of its success. We have a monument of each--the Lord’s table and the Lord’s day, “Who was delivered for our offences,” etc.
III. ONE WHO PRESIDES OVER THE WORLD WHERE WE ARE GOING AND OVER THE WORLD IN WHICH WE NOW ARE. “It is expedient for you,” etc. Christ goes up before, that He may lead the way and say, Come; but He comes to guide and guard on the journey to the place He has gone to prepare. If we had a Saviour only in heaven, we might doubt if ever we should reach heaven. So we have Him there in the noonday, here in the twilight; there amid the palms of victory, here in the heat of battle. “For to this end Christ both died and rose,” etc. (J. Ker, D. D.)
Much people of the Jews therefore knew that He was there.
1. Where Christ pleaseth to make Himself known, He will get respect and followers, were there never so much hazard and opposition in the way; for albeit the Rulers had concluded to put Him to death, and He had withdrawn upon that, and they had given charge to spy Him out (chap. 11:53, 54, 57), yet much people of the Jews, so soon as they heard of Him, they flocked to Him.
2. Christ gives so glorious proofs of His power and love, as may invite men to flock unto Him; for He hath with Him Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead, to make them flock unto Him.
3. It is an argument to persuade Christ to help His people in their difficulties, that by so doing, He not only doth them good, but doth also bring about the manifestation of His glory, and an increase of followers; for, by raising Lazarus, He draws them out to wait upon Him (Psalms 7:6-19.7.7).
4. Albeit Christ will get glory, even by the unsound actings and appearings of men for Him (Philippians 1:18; Philippians 1:18; Psalms 66:8), yet it is the sin of many, that they flock to Him rather out of curiosity, than in sincerity, and that they choose rather to gaze upon His works, than fall in love with the worker; for such was their fault here. They were curious to see such a rare sight, and possibly also, to inquire somewhat of Him concerning the state of the dead. (G. Hutcheson.)
Not for Jesus’ sake only
Imperfect attachments to Christ
I. SPECIFY SOME OF THESE ATTACHMENTS. Those whose attachment is influenced.
1. By custom. It was the fashion of the hour to be interested in Christ (John 12:12; John 12:19). May we not truly say that the power of fashion has something still to do with assembling men about Christ.
(1) For His sake only ought we to worship in the sanctuary; but we go also because the respectable multitude is there.
(2) For His sake only ought we to give; but are not our givings prompted and regulated by social considerations?
(3) For His sake only ought we to work; but do we not cast side glances at the public and reckon somewhat on their approbation?
2. By intellectual considerations. “For my sake,” i.e., personal love to Christ ought to bind us to Him, and prompt all our obedience and service. “But that they might see Lazarus”--intellectual interest--learn something per chance about the unseen world. Not for His own sake, but because of the light He may shed on great questions. How many in our day congregate about Christ as a prophet, and only faintly realize in Him a Saviour!
3. By secular considerations. Interest sways men in the matter. Virtues are valued as they pay; and Christ is chosen not for His own sake only, but also because of the immediate bearing that Christianity has on our worldly interest (chap. 6:26).
4. By a regard to moral aesthetics. Not loving Christ only, enamoured with His grace and righteousness, but “cultivating holiness as so much personal adornment.” Not loving Christ because He is the Son of God, and the
Saviour of the world, but admiring Christianity because it fashions noble nations. Thus there may be much that is false and mixed in the feelings which lead men to throng Christ. Fashion is there, because Christ has acquired social credit: intellect is there, because Christ can satisfy some of the hunger of its curiosity: taste is there, because in the shadow of Jesus it can realize some of its ideals: and prudence and policy are there, not because Christ is truth and love, but because He creates loaves and fishes of which they eat and are filled.
II. THE PLACE AND VALUE OF SUCH ATTACHMENTS.
1. They may be allowed as the starting point of Christian discipleship. Many are drawn to Christ not by the highest, and yet by legitimate, motives. Their first ideas, motives, and hopes, mixed and inferior, and yet leading on to what is purer and more perfect. As Matthew Henry says, “God makes the best of the green ears of wheal”; and because He does so, the green ears become golden, fit for the garner of God.
2. But the prize to which we must all press is that of a personal love to Christ. For His sake only. Not only when He will answer our mental questionings, but also when He is silent; not only when He is fashionable, but when He is forsaken; not only when discipleship insures honour and wealth, but when it involves poverty and disgrace; not only because He makes us perfect, but because He is perfection. Conclusion--Jesus only.
1. Here we are safe.
2. Here we are supremely joyful.
3. Here we, forgetting everything else, shall find far more than we have forgot. (W. L. Watkinson.)
But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death
1. Such as betake themselves to bear down Christ do engage themselves in an endless vexing life and an harder task than they are able to undergo; for they who would kill Jesus would put Lazarus also to death. Yea, they would kill many who would kill all whom Christ made objects of His mercy, for inviting others to come to Him (Exodus 1:12).
2. Men once engaged in opposition to Christ will not readily be reclaimed by insuperable difficulties, nor the convincing beams of His glory shining in their eyes; for, albeit this was a glorious work prevailing on others, and albeit they see more and more impediments in their way, yet they will go on.
3. None are so malicious and bitter enemies to Christ as corrupt churchmen, when they once decline; for it is the chief priests who are so cruel as to kill a man for being the harmless occasion for drawing men to Christ and whom God had newly delivered from death, and testified He would have Him live.
4. It is the great preferment, and most special mercy that can be conferred on any when they are made means and instruments of advancing Christ’s honour and kingdom; for this was Lazarus’ dignity, that because many of the Jews went away and believed on Jesus. It is not needful to assert that the faith of the most of them was sound, but the least degree of it in the worst of them was enough to irritate the rulers.
5. Such as have received special mercies from Christ, or are made instruments of His glory, may expect that they shall meet with a rub, and be made the butt of the malice of enemies; for there is a resolution against Lazarus’ life, who was thus highly honoured.
6. How mad soever enemies be, or their projects cruel; yet they would be far enough from their point, if Christ pleased, though they got their will; for, suppose they had put Lazarus to death, could not Christ raise him up again as He had done even lately to their knowledge, and so make His glory shine yet more brightly? (G. Hutcheson.)
Putting the witness away
1. The conduct of these men presents the chief difficulty in the way of the hope of some final universal salvation. For hardening themselves against Christ, they reveal the power of the human heart to become utterly blinded to the truth, even while the Life of Love is an increasing light round about it. The difficulty lies not in the nature of God or in the Cross of Christ, or in any temporal bounds put on the omnipresence of the Spirit of God; but the obstacle at which our knowledge must stop lies deep in the will of man and its fearful possibilities of evil.
2. The simple reason why they sought to put Lazarus to death was that “many of the Jews went away (from them) and believed on Jesus.” But that thought was only an exaggeration of a common tendency of our human nature. For consider how natural it was. They had no special spite against
Lazarus, but they did not wish to lose their power. As consistent Sadducees they could not allow his resurrection, but his existence was an unwelcome suggestion of its possibility, and an evidence of it which was misleading the people. Dogmatists must always close their minds against evidences of new truth. 1500 years later the same men would have put Lazarus to the rack until he recanted. 1800 years later they would have broken down his influence by misrepresentation and appeals popular prejudice in the organs of their sect. If we do not want to receive Christ or His truth, the next thing for us is to put away anything that may remind us of it. This is illustrated
I. IN THE ATTITUDE OF COMMUNITIES TOWARDS NATIONAL DUTY. In the troubled days before the American civil war there were merchants who did not wish to have their profits stopped. Selfish politicians who for the sake of office and ease were willing to reject the truth of freedom, and ready to put down every Lazarus whose presence was leading the people away after the new faith.
II. IN THE ATTITUDE OF PERSECUTORS TOWARD THE GOSPEL.
1. In the book of the lives of martyrs and witnesses we find abundant illustrations in the conduct of the Roman emperors, in that of the papacy, and in that of the opponents of popular movements who refuse to inquire what unheeded truths are beneath them, or what more human gospel may be waiting to enter our cities.
2. An obvious exemplification is the counsel of irreligious men to put the Church or the Bible out of the way. Social Sadducees cannot secure their reign in an anarchic humanity, so long as the people have the Bible in their homes, and so long as the churches stand to bear witness to the gospel.
III. Is our OWN ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE TRUTH.
1. Christ draws nigh the cities of our souls in a duty, privilege, opportunity, clearer perception of truth. How do we receive His approach? We saw that it would interfere with our plan of life, disturb our ease, spoil our pleasure, leave us poorer, and we become afraid lest we should yield. And there was something near which reminded us of it. At least we could get rid of that. It may have been the sight of a friend; we avoided him: some spectacle of want or suffering; we passed by on the other side: some inward feeling or thought; we repressed it. So we remembered to forget that duty. We put its Lazarus where he would not trouble us.
2. Christ draws near sometimes in a new sense of faith, or hope, or possibility of life richer, truer, happier; and then we turn and other desires of life gather quickly round us, and the vision fades: we belong to the world again. We put that Lazarus also to death. (Newman Smyth.)
On the next day much people … when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of the palm trees
The triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem
In the morning Jesus set forth on His journey.
Three pathways lead, and probably always led, from Bethany to Jerusalem; one a long circuit over the northern shoulder of Mount Olivet; another a steep foot path over the summit; the third, the natural continuation of the road, by which the mounted travellers always approach the city from Jericho over the southern shoulder. There can be no doubt that this last was Christ’s road. Two vast streams of people met on that day. The one poured out from the city; and as they came through the gardens, whose clusters of palm trees rose on the southern corner of Olivet, they cut down the long branches, as was their wont at the Feast of Tabernacles, and moved upwards towards Bethany, with loud shouts of welcome. From Bethany streamed forth the crowds who had assembled there on the previous evening, and who came testifying to the great event at the sepulchre of Lazarus. The road soon loses sight of Bethany. It is now a rough, but still broad and well-defined mountain track, winding over rock and loose stones; a steep declivity below on the left; the sloping shoulder of Olivet above on the right; fig trees below and above, here and there growing out of the rocky soil. Along the road the multitudes threw down the boughs severed from the olive trees, through which they were forcing their way, or spread out a rude matting formed of the palm branches which they had already cut as they came out. The larger portion--those, perhaps, who had escorted Him from Bethany--unwrappedtheir loose cloaks from their shoulders, and stretched them along the rough paths to form a momentary carpet as He approached. The two streams met mid-way. Half of the vast mass, turning round, preceded; the other half followed (Mark 11:9). Bethany is hardly left in the rear, before the long procession must have swept up and over the ridge, where first begins “the descent of the mount towards Jerusalem.” At this point the first view is caught of the southeastern corner of the city. It was here (Luke 19:37)--may it not have been from the sight thus opening upon them?--thatthe hymn of triumph, the first hymn of Christian devotion, burst from the multitude--“Hosannah,” etc. There was a pause as the shout rang through the long defile; and as the Pharisees who stood by in the crowd Luke 19:39) complained, He pointed to the stones which, strewn beneath their feet, would immediately cry out if these were to hold their peace. Again the procession advanced. The road descends a slight declivity, and the glimpse of the city is again withdrawn behind the intervening ridge of Olivet. A few moments, and the path mounts again; it climbs a rugged ascent, it reaches a ledge of smooth rock, and in an instant the whole city bursts into view. It is hardly possible to doubt that this rise and turn of the road was the exact point where the multitude paused again, and “He, when He beheld the city, wept over it.” (Dean Stanley.)
The entrance into Jerusalem
Four heads of thought
I. THE MULTITUDE. This a vast concourse of people who are accompanying Jesus from Bethany to Jerusalem, and of people coming out of Jerusalem to meet Him. It was composed of Galileans, of Jews from foreign countries, and even of Jerusalem (John 12:11), these latter being led by the miracle of the raising of Lazarus to reconsider the claims of Jesus, and to believe on Him, at least temporarily. The enthusiasm offers a sad contrast to the furious cry. “Crucify Him,” so soon to be heard; but it seems sincere enough. With palm branches, symbols of triumph Leviticus 23:40), and with loud acclamations, they welcome the King to the royal city. In John 12:13 we have the Divine mission and the national work both recognized.
II. JESUS HIMSELF. Hitherto He had resisted the enthusiasm of the people John 6:15); now the time to yield to it has come. He sees the yielding to be in accordance with the Father’s will. It is not a move calculated upon, but unfolding itself out of, the course of events. He does not say, “Now I will fulfil the prophecies which concern Me”; but simply accepts the situation, recognizing (as He always did) Divine guidance. Two things have to be done:
1. He has to assert Himself; He has openly to announce His true relation to the theocracy, and to take the consequences of doing so, which He clearly foresees.
2. He has to assert Himself in such a way as to give no countenance to mistaken Messianic ideas; but rather to symbolize the spiritual character of His royalty. This is accomplished by riding on an ass, and thus, in the most simple and natural way, the ancient prophecy is fulfilled (Zechariah 9:9).
III. THE DISCIPLES. They had joined with the people in their homage to Jesus; but even they did not understand the significance of their actions. They had submitted to the influences of the moment; and afterwards, looking back, discovered that they had been unconscious instruments of fulfilling the purpose of God concerning His Son (cf. Acts 13:27)
IV. THE OPPONENTS OF CHRIST. For the moment they seem paralyzed. “They had lost what they looked upon as their own. But it was their own after all; and it came back to them. The world at large does not and will not accept Christ. It swings back to its centre. Conclusion: We may learn how to distinguish between emotion and principle” between a momentary enthusiasm and the complete surrender of heart and will to the Saviour. (G. Calthrop, M. A.)
I. TO CONFOUND HIS FOES.
II. TO CONSOLE HIS FRIENDS.
III. TO COMPLETE HIS WORK.
The coming of Jesus
I. AS A MAN AMONG MEN.
II. AS A POWER AMONG SAINTS.
III. AS A KING AMONG NATIONS. (S. S. Times.)
The King comes to His capital
I. THE KING’S PERSON. Jesus
1. Recently condemned by the Sanhedrim.
2. Who had tacitly claimed to be Zion’s King.
3. Who had repeatedly proved His right to this dignity, and lately established it by the miracle at Bethany.
4. Who now asserted it in the most open and unambiguous manner by riding in royal state into His capital.
II. THE KING’S CREDENTIALS
1. Consisted in the fact that He was coming to His metropolis in the name of the Lord. He was no usurper, but One to whom the throne belonged by
Divine appointment. The crown pertained to Him in a more real sense than to any of Israel’s kings.
2. Were displayed in the manner of His coming. He came exactly as predicted. Had He come as kings of the earth are wont to approach their capitals--as Solomon and His successors--on fiery chargers, there would have been required no further demonstration that He was not God’s Messiah. He came in humility and righteousness--indisputable tokens of His claim.
III. THE KING’S WELCOME.
1. The multitudes--accompanying, meeting.
2. Their homage--waving palms and strewing garments in the way.
3. Their acclaim--Hosannah.
IV. THE KING’S ATTENDANTS. The disciples.
1. Ignorant at the time of its significance; perhaps imagining the present realization of their earthly hopes.
2. Afterwards alive to its spiritual and eternal meaning.
IV. THE KING’S ENEMIES. The Pharisees. The spectacle seemed for a moment to confound their plots. It filled them with indignation, urged them to recrimination, made them more determined. Caiaphas’ prophecy appeared on the eve of coming true. The nation was slipping from their hands. Lessons:
1. The religious instincts of the multitudes.
2. The credibility of ancient Scripture;
3. The illumination Christ’s glorification has cast on history.
4. The certainty that the world will ultimately be won by Christ. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Welcoming the Monarch’s approach
Going out to meet an approaching guest, and escorting him to one’s house with a show of honour, is a common custom throughout the East. A ruler of any sort, or a conquering hero, is welcomed in that way as a matter of course. Thus it was that Abraham was welcomed by the kings of Canaan when he returned from his pursuit of Chedorlaomer; that Jephthah was welcomed by his daughter and her companions; that David was welcomed by singing and dancing women, out of all the cities of Israel, as he came back from the slaughter of the Philistines. Herodotus records that when Xerxes was passing over the bridge of the Hellespont, the way before him was strewed with branches of myrtle, while burning perfumes filled the air. Quintius Curtius tells of the scattering of flowers in the way before Alexander the Great when he entered Babylon. Mentor, in our own day, saw the way of a Persian ruler strewn with roses for three miles; while glass vessels filled with sugar were broken under his horse’s feet--the sugar being symbolical of prosperity. (S. S. Times.)
Two royal progresses
The immense host which accompanied Xerxes in his attempted conquest of Greece--a concourse gathered together from the Indies to the Lybian desert; a sea of nations rolling on in serried waves, with turbans and helmets of brass and steel, of silver and gold--were seven days and seven nights without intermission, and under the stimulus of the lash, in crossing the boat bridges of the Hellespont; and as they took up their line of march, they all moved on with exultation, and strewed branches in the pathway of their king. But what a contrast in spirit, in purpose, and in result, between that occasion and this! There, a vast army, held together by the bands of military force, and moving in abject submission; here, a spontaneous multitude, kindling with the impulses of wonder and of love. That, marching to the work of terror and of desolation; this, celebrating the achievements of a healing and restoring goodness. Here, among a rejoicing people, with eyes that had been blind, turned toward Him in beaming gratitude; with tongues that had been dumb, crying hosannas to His name; with hands that once were impotent, strewing branches and garments in His path, comes the King of Israel, the Saviour of mankind, in humble raiment and wayworn sandals, riding upon an ass. (E. H. Chapin, D. D.)
Three classes in relation to Christ
Two things strike us at the outset.
1. The highest majesty under the garb of meanness. Christ as a mere man was great. But how does this “Prince of the kings of the earth” enter Jerusalem? In a triumphal chariot? On a prancing steed, accompanied by a magnificent cavalcade? No! On an ass. The more truly kingly a man is, the less he cares for conventional pageantry. Hearts of oak requires neither veneer nor varnish. A great age has never been an age of millinery and gold rings. “Howe’er it be, it seems to me,” etc.
2. An eternal idea developed in an apparently incidental appearance. It seemed perfectly casual that Christ should have required a creature to ride upon, and that there should be such a creature at hand; but all this was but the carrying out of an eternal plan, indicated six hundred years before. Caprice and impulse had no part in the control of Christ’s life. The life of virtue is never that of accident; it is always the unfoldment of an eternal idea. We have here
I. THE POPULACE, a type of the unsophisticated masses unbiassed by doctrinal and ecclesiastical prejudices. These men
1. Saw Divine royalty under the garb of secular meanness. Men in our age and land are so blinded by pride and prejudice that they can discover no moral greatness under the garb of poverty.
2. Because enraptured with the morally great for its own sake. Conscience is bound by the law of its own constitution to exult in the right and morally great. “I delight in the law of God after the inner man.”
3. Felt the reality of Christ’s miracle. The sophisticated and prejudiced tried to argue it away, and refused to believe it. But the common people saw it, and had no interest in denying it. Thus the “people” went with Christ and honoured Him; and this they will always do if Christ is presented to them as He really is, not as metamorphosed by churches and creeds.
II. THE DISCIPLES.
1. They were partially informed (John 12:16). They knew nothing of what Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9) uttered in relation to Christ. Though they had been with Christ so long, and heard Him expound the Scriptures, they were yet very ignorant.
2. They were enlightened by history. After Christ had ascended, and the Spirit come down, a new light dawned upon them. The facts of His life were brought vividly to their minds, and were compared with their older Scriptures, when they saw the fulfilment, of ancient predictions. History is the best interpreter of prophecy.
III. THE PHARISEES (verse19). These men were
1. Bound to acknowledge the failure of their efforts. “Ye prevail nothing.” All the antagonists of Christianity will have to acknowledge this sooner or later.
2. Bound to acknowledge a most disagreeable fact. “The world is gone after Him.” (D. Thomas, D. D.)
These things understood not His disciples at first
Men may be in the midst of great mercies and actings, and may not only be witnesses of the Lord’s working and the works of others, but even actors themselves in that which for the time they do little or nothing understand; for these things understood not the disciples at the first. Men have much brutish ignorance fed with inadvertency and may be little expecting the things that God is doing in such a time or case (Gen_16:13; Gen_28:16), and therefore do not discern them.
2. When the Lord’s people are ignorant and under a cloud, He useth not to take advantage of them, but can guide them as right as may be, so that a back-look thereunto when they get light will be sweet unto them; for in all this they act as rightly as if they had understood, and afterward they find that what was written of Him they had done unto Him (Psalms 73:22-19.73.24).
3. However, the Lord for a time suffer His people to lie under clouds, and ignorant of what He or they are doing, yet in due time He will clear them in so far as is needful; for afterward they remembered (John 13:7).
4. The treasures of knowledge hid up in Christ were not fully opened up till Christ was glorified; for when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they, etc. Hereby is kept a due proportion betwixt the head and his members, that he shall be first exalted before they get their full allowance. And hereby also Christ being exalted giveth evidence that He remembers His people (John 7:39; Acts 2:33; Ephesians 4:8).
5. Confession of infirmity and ignorance is a sweet fruit of the Spirit poured out; and the more one have received they will be the more sensible of, and ready to acknowledge their frailties; for John, the beloved disciple, being now enlightened, is most forward to record that they understood not these things at the first.
6. When the Spirit of God is most amply poured out, He will still lead men to the Scriptures to discern of Christ and compare their own actings by it; for so was it in the disciples’ best days, they remembered that these things were written of Him and that they had done these things to Him. It is an evidence of Christ’s being exalted at the right hand of the Father for the good of His people when He brings Scriptures to their minds, makes them clear to them, and clears their practice there, for, when Jesus was glorified, this was a comfortable evidence of it, they remembered these things. (G. Hutcheson.)
I. GOD DOES FORETELL IN HIS WORD MANY EVENTS BEFORE THEY COME TO PASS. This appears from the text and from the whole history of His conduct from the first prediction of Genesis to the last in Revelation. Witness the fulfilled promises concerning the Jews, heathen nations, Christ, His Church, etc.
II. GOD ALWAYS BRINGS TO PASS THE EVENTS WHICH HE FORETELLS. This will appear if we consider
1. That we have no evidence that. He has ever failed to bring to pass any event that He has foretold. Though the disciples did not know at first that Zechariah’s prophecy had been fulfilled, they knew it afterwards.
2. God never foretold any events but such as
(1) He was willing to bring to pass. He never could be under any compulsion to foretell.
(2) His own glory requires to be brought to pass.
(3) He is able to bring to pass. God can do anything that power can do and that does not involve a contradiction. His opponents He can break in pieces.
III. GOD HAS GOOD REASONS FOR FORETELLING EVENTS BEFORE THEY COME TO PASS.
1. To convince men that He is concerned in bringing them about.
2. To demonstrate the truth of His bringing to pass other events not predicted. Predicted events stand inseparably related to unpredicted. The Messianic prophecies are connected with other events which took place in every part of the world. Improvement: It appears from the design of prophecy, that the Bible predictions
1. Are the last He will ever give (Revelation 22:18-66.22.19).
2. Will answer their end though not understood till fulfilled.
3. Being disbelieved does not destroy their evidence or importance.
4. Are an infallible evidence of the truth of the Bible. (N. Emmons, D. D.)
The continuous fulfilment of Scripture
There was much written as in sympathetic ink, invisible for a season, yet ready to flash out in lines and characters of light whenever the appointed hour had arrived. Or to use another figure, Holy Scripture progressively unfolding what it contains may be likened to some magnificent landscape on which the sun is gradually rising, and even as it rises is bringing out one headland into light and prominence, and then another; anon kindling the glory smitten summit of some far mountain, and presently lighting up the recesses of some near valley which had hitherto abided in gloom, and so travelling on till nothing remains in shadow, but the whole prospect stands out in the clearness and splendour of the brightest noon. The Church informed and quickened by the Spirit of God, more and more discovers what in Scripture is given her. She has always possessed what she now possesses, only not always with the same distinctness of consciousness. He has not added to her wealth, but she has become more and more aware of that wealth; her dowry has remained always the same, but that dowry was so rich and rare that only little by little she has counted over and taken stock and inventory of her jewels. She has consolidated her doctrine compelled thereto by the provocation of her enemies, or induced to it by a growing sense of her own needs. She has brought together utterances of Holy Writ, and those which apart were comparatively barren, when thus married, have been fruitful to her. And yet all this she possessed implicitly though not explicitly--even as the shut hand is as perfect a hand as the open, or as our dominion in that huge island of the Pacific is as truly ours, and that region as vast in extent now as it will be when every mountain and valley, rivulet and bay, have been explored, and the flag of England has waved over all. (Archbishop Trench.)
The people therefore … bare record
The popular testimony to the resurrection of Lazarus
1. It is the part of all such as have been witnesses to Christ’s working on themselves or others to publish the same to His praise; for the people that was with Him when He called Lazarus, etc., bare record.
2. As it is at all times a sin to smother the praises of Christ. So, in particular, in days of solemnity, it is our sin not to join and bring in what we know to make up the song, for they bring in that particular to make up the triumph.
3. In a day of Christ’s power, and when He is to get glory to Himself, He can furnish means and make them effectual to bring it to pass, for He makes that miracle an occasion to bring about this triumph.
4. It may encourage men to publish the praise of Christ’s working as they know of it, that God may make their weak endeavours effectual to work upon very many, for the testimony of some drew out this great confluence to Christ.
5. It is the duty of them who hear anything of Christ’s commendation to go and seek Him, and do homage to Him, for, for this cause, the people also met Him, for that they had heard that He had done this miracle. (G. Hutcheson.)
Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing?
Behold the world is gone after Him
The failure of infidelity
Like the prediction of Caiaphas and the inscription of Pilate, an unconscious prophecy is hidden in these words. What the Pharisee affirmed hyperbolically Christ’s friends may now affirm almost literally. Note
I. THE PROGRESS OF THE GOSPEL. Four important facts concerning this pro-gross are admitted by friends and foes.
1. That during the first four centuries it was rapid and extensive.
2. That its human instruments were few and feeble.
3. That it was in spite of bitter and persistent opposition.
4. That it was not achieved in the dark, but in the most enlightened age of antiquity, and in the most populous and polished of ancient cities. The company of one hundred and twenty soon became three thousand, then five thousand men alone, then multitudes in Jerusalem only. In less than half a century Christian Churches were planted in all the chief cities of the Roman empire; in less than three centuries more, it was the religion of that empire. And from that day it has continued to spread until the most civilized nations are Christian and become Christian.
II. THE EFFORTS OF INFIDELITY TO STOP THAT PROGRESS. Such was the nature of the opposition to Christianity that if our standpoint had been the first instead of the nineteenth century we should be forced to the conclusion that it would fail.
1. The Jewish world opposed it. The rulers crucified its Author but that effort was unavailing, for Christ rose again. They killed Stephen and James, but the disciples, driven in every direction, spread the gospel. Wherever the apostles went the Jews stirred up the people against them; but being persecuted in one city they fled to another preaching until thousands of Jews, including many priests, became obedient to the faith.
2. The Gentile world opposed it. Polytheism was so firmly enthroned in the hearts of the people, and so completely interwoven with the government, the arts and trade, that Christianity was regarded as treason against religion, the state, common sense and good taste. First, the Christians were slandered and ridiculed, then slaughtered in thousands. But all the efforts of the empire and paganism combined prevailed nothing.
3. The modern world has opposed it. Changing its tactics, infidelity, instead of assaulting men bodily, has assailed their minds and hearts, and marshalled its hosts under the banners of science and literature. But still it prevails nothing.
III. WHY INFIDELITY HAS FAILED. The Christian answer is because the hand of God is in the progress of Christianity. The answer of infidelity--in human instrumentality--refutes itself. Infidelity has failed because
1. It has dashed itself against the Rock of Ages. There is no successful arguing against such a character as Christ.
2. The evidences of Christianity are too convincing, intelligent people would not continue for nineteen centuries to use a remedy that never cures.
3. Infidelity has no substitute for Christianity. (W. B. Stewart, D. D.)
The world is gone after Him
It is a confession of defeat, “There has been a long struggle and it has gone against us.” The triumphal entry had shown the hold which Christ had on the people.
I. WHAT WAS IT IN CHRIST WHICH SO DEEPLY STIRRED THE ENMITY OF THE PHARISEES?
1. We are in some respects hard on the Pharisees. When Christ called them hypocrites, He meant that sort of doubleness which may be but half conscious, or which may be quite unconscious to the man himself. They were moral men, and it is not hard to reconcile this with their conduct towards Christ. Who are they now, who are most sensitive to the appearance of what they regard as irregular teachers of religion? And who can wonder if the last to give their sympathy to the new doctrine are the established exponents of the old?
2. Doubtless it was the sin of the Pharisees to be prejudiced against Christ, but we lose the lesson if we regard them as monsters of the past, which is the danger of prejudice in things of the soul. We ought not to be so wedded to one form or formula as to be incapable of profiting by any new light.
II. WHAT WAS IT THAT MADE THE WORLD GO AFTER HIM.
1. Reality. We may trifle with Christ; but He never trifles with us. The Pharisees were triflers, as are their modern representatives, whether of wealth, literature, or the Church. Men then, as now, were weary with childish discussions, and were then, as now, ready to follow a real man who meant and lived what he said.
2. Unworldliness. It is a mistake for a religious teacher to court popularity by compromise with the world, “All things to all men.” The people see through it all and despise the man who flatters himself that he has won them. The secret of John the Baptist’s power was his unworldliness, and it was the incomparable unworldliness of Christ that attracted the world after Him.
3. Wonderful love. It was new to publicans and sinners to be treated with love, and still more strange that with the love of Christ there should be blended such an inflexible righteousness. But the people followed Him because of the love which won them from the sin which purity condemned. (Dean Vaughan.)
Why Christianity triumphed
Our curiosity is naturally prompted to inquire by what means the Christian faith obtained so remarkable a victory over the established religions of the earth. To this inquiry an obvious but satisfactory answer may be given, that it was owing to the convincing evidence of the doctrine itself, and to the ruling providence of the great Author. (Gibbon.)
The triumph of Christianity
During the decay of the Roman Empire, a pure and humble religion gently insinuated itself into the minds of men, grew up in silence and obscurity, derived new vigour from opposition, and finally erected the triumphant banner of the Cross on the ruins of the capitol. Nor was the influence of Christianity confined to the period or to the limits of the Roman Empire. After a revolution of thirteen or fourteen centuries that religion is professed by the nations of Europe, the most distinguished portion of the human kind in arts and learning as well as in arms. By the industry and zeal of the Europeans, it has been widely diffused to the most distant shores of Asia and Africa, and by the means of their colonies has been firmly established from Canada to Chili, in a world unknown to the ancients. (Gibbon.)
And there came certain Greeks;…the same came therefore to Philip … saying, Sir, we would see Jesus
The incident and its significance
These Greeks belonged to those numerous Gentiles who, like the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:1-44.8.40) had embraced Judaism and came to Jerusalem to keep its festivals.
They must be carefully distinguished from the Jews (Hellenists) speaking the Greek language, who dwelt in heathen lands. The spacious court of the Gentiles was devoted to these proselytes according to the words of Solomon (1 Kings 8:41-11.8.43). If these strangers witnessed the entry of Jesus, and were present at the expulsion of the sellers--an act by which Jesus restored to its proper use the only part of the sanctuary open to them--we can all the better appreciate their desire for nearer acquaintance with such a person. Assuredly they did not, like Zacchaeus, want merely to see Jesus with their bodily eyes; for such a purpose there was no need of Philip’s intervention, since they might have seen Him as He passed through the court. Besides, the solemnity of our Lord’s reply obliges us to attribute a more serious intention to this step. What they desired was to have a private conversation on religious subjects. How do we know even whether, having witnessed the opposition He encountered from the rulers of His own nation, they did not desire to invite Him to turn to the Gentiles who would better appreciate such a sage than these bigoted Jews? Eusebius has preserved the memory of an embassy sent to Jesus by Abgarus, king of Edessa, in Syria, to invite Him to take up His abode with Him, and to promise Him such a royal welcome as should compensate Him for the obstinacy with which the Jews rejected Him. This fact is not without resemblance to the one in the text, and in which we behold, in one of the first demonstrations of the heathen world in favour of the Gospel, the first indication of that attraction which its moral beauty was soon to exercise over the whole human race. Jesus was undoubtedly, at the time, in the court of the women, which was entered after crossing that of the Gentiles, and in which He frequently taught. The term “approached” has a certain tone of gravity and solemnity. The address, “Sir,” shows the respect they felt for the disciple of such a Master. “They desired,” expresses an action begun and awaiting its completion, the answer of Philip. Θέλομεν--“We have decided to … ”; procure us therefore the means--“to see.” These strangers used the most modest expression: to see Him more closely. The fact that Philip was of Bethsaida may serve to explain why they applied to him. They came perhaps from Decapolis on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, where were several entirely Greek cities. It is remarkable that Philip and Andrew are alone those whose names were of Greek origin. The Greek name went hand in hand with the Greek culture, Mark the cautious character of Philip. He feels the gravity of the step he is asked to take, and before asking Jesus to deviate from His habitual conduct (Matthew 15:24) brings the matter before Andrew, who in all the catalogues of the apostles is placed next to Philip, and are mentioned together in chapters 1 and 6. It is probable that the latter, the more vigorous and decided character, was the spokesman, and that this is the reason why his name is placed first. Why did this circumstance make so profound an impression on Jesus? First it aroused within Him the feeling of His sovereignty over the Gentile world. Religious wants expressed by Gentiles and to Him! It is, as it were, the first bursting forth of a new world. But this sovereignty could only be realized so far as He should Himself be freed from His Jewish covering and raised to a new form of existence. Hence His thoughts turned to Calvary. Hence, instead of answering yes or no to the question, He was absorbed in the reflections it called forth, The Gentiles were knocking at the door of the kingdom of God: it was the signal that a decisive hour had come
(1) For Himself (verses 23-30);
(2) For the human race (verses 31-33);
(3) Especially for Israel (verses 34-36). (F. Godet, D. D.)
It is one of the many curious things that assure us that the Gospels themselves are substantially fragments out of the real life and times of Jesus Christ, that these men should be Greeks, at that time probably the most inquisitive and newsy race on earth. They had come, I presume, from Corinth or Ephesus; and, when they went back home, the first question would be, “What’s the news?” Now, the news was Jesus. He was just then the common subject of discussion; and it would be a great thing for them, when they got home, to say, “We have seen Jesus, and talked with Him.” And the answer of Christ, though it seems at the first glance to be no answer at all, touches the very heart of all such question and answer, and is, beside that, a beautiful instance of the rich, transcendental nature of this Son of God: “Except a corn of wheat,” etc. As if He would say, “These men want to see Me. What can they gain by that? What they will see is not Me. The root is not the flower. This common, footsore man, with this poor brown face, so thin and worn that men think I may be nearly fifty, while I am but thirty--what can I be to men whose ideal is Apollo? My simple words about God and man, and duty and destiny, would be foolishness to them. Let them wait until the world burns with the lustre of what is sprung out of Me. When I have whispered my comfort and confidence to millions of desolate souls; when I have created new homes for purity and peace to dwell in, and brought men and women and children back to the Divine will; when the love and truth and self-sacrifice of which God has made me, though I seem but a poor peasant, shall have done what all the genius of all the ages has failed to do; when I have hushed the fevered heart of the world to rest, and quickened it into a new life--then they can see Me. But I must die to live.” (R. Collyer, D. D.)
The two Epiphanies
There were two manifestations of our Lord to the Gentiles. One took place at the beginning and the other at the close of His life. The Magi, the wise men of the East, came to the cradle of Jesus; the Greeks, the wise men of the West, came to His cross. The old world of the East, with its exhausted history and completed revelation, came to the cradle of the Child of Promise to receive a fresh impulse, to share in the new creation of God and rejuvenescence of the world. The new world of the West with its mobile life, its ever expanding history, its glowing hopes and aspirations, came to the cross of the Redeemer that it might receive a deeper earnestness and a higher consecration. In these two Epiphanies we see harmoniously united the two great systems of pagan religion which separately were but a mere fragment of the truth, and contained no hope or promise of blessing for man. The Orientals had the humiliation of the Godhead as dimly shadowed forth in the Avatars of Vishnu and Buddha; the Greeks had the exaltation of manhood as shown in the apotheosis of the heroes of the Pantheon. Thus appropriately the representatives of the wisdom of the East and the West came respectively to the birth and death of Him who, though He was the equal of God, yet took on Him the form of a servant, and whom God had highly exalted, giving Him a name which is above every name. Equally significant were the symbols of the two manifestations. In both cases they were borrowed from the field of nature. The one was a star, the other a corn of wheat. The star of the wise men of the East--the watchers of the midnight heavens--was changeless as the life and religion of the East. It rose and set, and moved in its orbit forever the same. The corn of wheat of the Greeks--those restless searchers into the meaning of everything on earth--grew to more and more, and exhibited all the changes and variations of life. The one was a symbol of the night with its dreams and mysteries and spiritual thoughts; the other of the day with its stern facts and active duties and daily bread. “Sir, we would see Jesus” was but another form of the old question which the wise men asked, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” The wise men of the East were guided to Christ by a star, a dead silent object of nature. But the Greeks were guided to Him by the living voice and hand of man. And how characteristic was this circumstance of the difference between the Orientals and the Greeks! The Orientals shaped their philosophy and religion in the changeless desert, under the passionless starry heavens, from the calm contemplation of the objects of nature which entered so largely into their worship. The Greeks shaped their philosophy and religion amid the ever-changing haunts of man, and in contact with the busy work of everyday life. Not through the sympathy of nature, but through the fellowship of man, did they rise to their conception of man’s origin and destiny, and their solution of the profound mysteries which surround his present and future. It was fitting therefore that they should be guided to Christ, in whom all their hopes should be fulfilled, and all their mysteries solved, not by a star but by their fellow men. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)
East and West coming to Christ
This is a companion picture to the visit of the Magi--science and thought seeking Christ. The Magi, on the one side, are the representatives of the world’s godly scientists, the forerunners of the Galileos, the Keplers, the Newtons, and the Faradays, who never stop at laws but reach to their giver, “from nature rise to nature’s God;” who refuse to see the world as a stage only on which man may stand or strut, may display his energy or magnify his pride, but who see it as an “altar stair that slopes through darkness up to God,” and on which it becomes man to kneel and pray. The Greeks, on the other side, are the representatives of the world’s godly philosophers, the theistic thinkers; they are the forerunners of the Augustines, the Aquinases, the Anselms, and the Pascals--the men who rescue philosophy from being the painted priestess of pride and purify her to be the sweet handmaid of Christ. “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” “Sir, we would see Jesus.” (G. M. Grant, B. D.)
I. THE GREEKS. Three peoples prepared for Christ’s coming and three languages waved above His cross. Jewish religion, Roman arms and government, Greek thought. The philosopher connects preacher and politician.
1. In an age far back, when thought had become enslaved in the falsified civilizations of the Nile and Euphrates, an asylum was found in Greece. For five centuries the Greeks marched at the head of humanity. All gathered round the torch of Greek genius. Meanwhile Greek language had been fashioned into the most perfect vehicle of thought ever developed. Neither Hebrew nor Latin had the copiousness or flexibility necessary to deal with a new world of spiritual realities. And this so rich and copious became all but universal. And what a marvellous intellect wielded this weapon. To them was entrusted the brilliant but sad task of demonstrating for all time the necessary failure of culture to regenerate man. The grandeur of the effort is the measure of the greatness of the failure. Their intellectual labours were those of Titans. Of this mission and failure the apostle reminds the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:21, etc.)
2. At the hour when the failure was most evident. When instead of being brought nearer to heaven and God man was halting between a superstition which believed everything and a scepticism which believed nothing these Greeks said, “We would see Jesus.”
3. They were proselytes, Greek correspondents of the Roman centurion, brothers of thousands in India today who are Christian theists halting at the “gate” of baptism. We can picture the processes by which they reached their position. Born where decorous belief in mythology was professed; then emancipated into a vague scepticism by the speculations and criticisms of the schools (what Western science and literature are doing in India); then plunged into dead, unproductive negation, the spirit protesting, and the longing after positive truth eventually triumphant. The Jewish scriptures reach them, and there they find at least something of that for which they yearned; a warrant for the vague belief throughout the East of the advent of some great one in Judea. The project would be started and carried out to visit Jerusalem. How disillusioned they become at the sight of its secularities. They are permitted to enter the Temple no further than the Outer Court; and how little to solemnize they see there--tables of money changers, cattle, etc. Then comes Palm Sunday, and the benign form “riding on an ass’s colt.” Who is this? Jesus. Then follows the cleansing of the Temple. They talk it over. Something more than curiosity awakes within them--a revival of those hopes which the vitiated moral atmosphere had killed. They make up their minds to seek a personal interview, which brings us to
II. THE REQUEST. On two other occasions we hear of a similar desire. Herod, “that fox “ (Luke 23:8), had his wish gratified to his condemnation--for Jesus answered him nothing; to such as he our Lord’s lips are closed. Zacchaeus (Luke 19:3) was also gratified and salvation brought to his house.
1. The request is marked by directness and simplicity, yet there is more in it than lies on the surface. In their minds a train of possibilities hung upon that “seeing.” Jesus might turn out to be a Messiah, or only a kindly enthusiast or a popular idol.
2. But there was much more in it than they knew. They occupied a representative position and spoke for a vast constituency--the devout souls of all time who cry for a Saviour.
III. ITS EFFECT. “The hour is come” must have seemed a strange outburst in such a connection; but we can trace the connection easily.
1. Christ saw in them the first fruits of the full harvest of heathen lands--the advance guard of the multitude which no man can number. All that was needful for Him to do as a teacher was now done; what remained of His regenerative mission could be done only by dying. So He goes on to discourse concerning the life efficacy of His death.
2. Christ does not appeal to the Prophets concerning His death as He does when addressing His disciples, but appeals to the secretly prophesying mystery of nature--the prophecy of a Redeeming Death which they could discern everywhere around them, and on which philosophy had long speculated, the mystery of life through death. Only by dying could His Divine energy be set free and exerted for the life of all.
3. This analogy was appropriate to the Greeks. They had sought their ideal of life, not in self-renunciation, but in beauty, strength, self-satisfaction. Their ideal Was embodied in Apollo, the very opposite of Jesus, who was “without comeliness” and whose emblem was a cross. The lesson of dying to self was what their race most lacked and therefore most needed.
4. The influence of that interview would never pass away. That grandest prayer, the voice from heaven understood according to spiritual capacity--all that would abide as an instruction and power of life forever. (G. M. Grant, B. D.)
The inquiring Greeks
I. THE LONGING TO SEE JESUS IS A MATTER OF CONSTITUTION NOT EDUCATION (John 12:20). These were not Jews, and their visit grew up out of heart want. Man’s need and God’s supply must be contemplated together. Religious experience begins in the natural seekings of our constitution, and ends in the gratification of some higher ones which are supernatural. The natural desires demand direct communion with God; but the supernatural are created by the disclosure of a possible purity, and these demand to be led to Christ as a sacrifice.
II. SPIRITUAL INQUIRY AFTER CHRIST IS SOMETIMES LITTLE MORE THAN RESTLESS CURIOSITY (John 12:21). These men could not have known just what they wanted. The soul has vague but sincere wishes for something it does not possess--“an aching void.” Partly from need and curiosity the Greeks came to ask. Fire ascending seeks the sun; we can imagine some flames so buffeted by winds as to render it consistent for them to say, “We would see the Day-God”; or some compass needles disturbed praying, “We would see the North Pole!” For these constitutional desires will not long tamely bear to be denied of their proper rest.
III. MANY MEN TAKE THE ROUNDABOUT WAY IN COMING TO JESUS (John 12:22). They prefer some intervening Philip, some mediating priesthood. But it is not the Greek name of Philip, nor the experience of Andrew, which is to be relied on for soul rest. Redemption as an individual acquisition is the only reply to the cravings within.
IV. THE MOMENT ONE SEES JESUS HE FINDS THAT HE HAS A WORD TO SAY DIRECTLY FOR HIMSELF (John 12:23). Hitherto one may have supposed his own soul to be the object of the atonement. Suddenly he perceives that the glory of God is lying behind the Cross, and it puts a new thought in his mind to learn that the work of the Son of Man was done that the Son of God might have supreme glory. But did not Christ suffer to save souls? Yes; but what was the special need that souls should be saved?
V. THE TERMS OF THE GOSPEL ARE IMPERATIVE AS TO AN ENTIRE SURRENDER OF SELF IN ORDER TO SEE JESUS (John 12:24-43.12.25). If one wants the grand hope of the gospel in conversion; to attain the full measure of consecration, to know the secret of unfailing success--it is life for life. Jesus means that we are to put our heart into our work, to deny our ease, give our time, money, etc., and sink our selfishness in devotion to Him.
VI. WHEN A SOUL HAS FOUND JESUS IT IS TO MAKE ITSELF PERFECTLY SATISFIED WITH JESUS (John 12:25). (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
What the world owes to the Greeks?
It was the Greeks who first welcomed Christianity, and there cannot be a more striking contrast than between the eagerness with which they received the truth of God manifest in the flesh, and the difficulty which even the Jewish Christians had in realizing its full significance. It was in the Greek tongue that it first addressed its Divine message to the world. It was in the cities and homes of the Greeks that it first displayed its wonderful power of assimilating and transforming all the elements of life, and manifested what it should afterwards become in human society. The gods of Hellas were the first to fall down before the ark of the Son of God; and when He died, it is touchingly said a wailing voice was heard through all the hills and forests of Greece crying, “Great Pan is dead.” It is indeed difficult to conceive what form Christianity might have assumed had not Greek faith first illustrated its saving truths; or how it would have prospered had not the Greeks of earlier days spread their language and philosophy through all lands. What the world owes to the Greeks no tongue can sufficiently tell. From them we have received the sublime poems and splendid treatises on science and philosophy which have educated all the higher minds of the human race. From them we have received the matchless sculptures, paintings, and architectural glories which have filled men’s souls with visions of ideal beauty. From them we have received the inestimable legacy of our Greek New Testament, which is the light of our feet and the lamp of our path to immortality. It is to them we owe the boon for which we should never cease to be thankful, that the sacred Scriptures passed from the calm lonely lethargic scenes of nature in the East, associated with the infancy and early youth of our race, to the busy stimulating scenes of the West, associated with its manhood; that the lofty, vague Hebrew language, the very language of the loneliness and grandeur of nature, has been translated into the quick, precise, many-mooded Greek, the very language of business and active human life; that the stately oracles of prophets living in deserts, addressing men afar off and from pedestals high above them, have become the familiar epistles, of apostles coming constantly into personal contact with the sins, sorrows, and wants of humanity. From them we have received the noble works of the early Greek fathers of the Church, Justin, Origen, Gregory, Chrysostom, Athenagoras, Basil, Cyril of Jerusalem, and John of Damascus, which have proved such invaluable helps in expounding the sacred Scriptures. From them we have received the grand liturgies, the inspiring hymns, the glorious triumph of martyrs, and the devoted lives of saints, which have stimulated the piety and fired the enthusiasm of all Christian churches ever since. The Greeks gathered together, as it were, all that was grandest and most enduring in the world, and, holding it up in their arms for the baptism of Christianity, handed it on thus purified for the blessing of all after ages. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)
The movement of Greek thought toward Christ
In the courteous but eager desire of these Greeks we hear the longing of their whole heathen world for a Redeemer. The old rites and superstitions had lost their hold on men’s minds. Jupiter, Mars, Apollo, and Venus, had all faded from the imagination of the upper classes; End the worship of these deities was left to the vulgar and ignorant, or was retained only as a matter of policy. The oracles were dumb; the altars cold and deserted; and some tried in vain to satisfy their wants by changing religion into poetry or philosophy, or sought as a last resource to fill with sensual pleasure the intolerable vacuity of their hearts. Regretful of the past, hopeless of the future, suicide was recommended as the only cure for human misery; the darkness of despair giving place to the deeper darkness of death. But even in the utter blankness of such a night, there were men of nobler instincts who could not do without religion--“Memnons waiting for the day.” They felt about for the unknown God to whom they might cry for help amid the wreck of every religious system, and the failures and uncertainties of the world around. Some of these “seekers after God,” men of the stamp of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, had wandered into Jewish synagogues, which by a providential coincidence at that time were placed in all the chief cities of the world; and there they found to their surprise, in what they had been taught to regard as an “execrable superstition,” ledges of faith and hope by which they climbed out of the profound darkness into the happy sunshine. They were irresistibly drawn to the new religion by its unity of the Godhead, its high ideal of domestic and social purity, and above all by the hope which it held out of a coming Messiah who should redress all the evils of the world, dispel its ignorance, and bring in not a cold morality, but a righteousness which should be the offspring of a burning love. Not a few of these went up as pilgrims to the annual festival at Jerusalem; and among them were the Greeks who wished to see Jesus. They expressed the longing of the whole heathen world for Him who was the light to lighten the Gentiles. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)
The desire to see Jesus
I. WHAT IS THERE TO SEE IN JESUS?
1. God manifest in the flesh. In any other aspect the Deity is an object of fear not of comfort.
2. God anxious to save the lost.
3. God rejoicing when the lost is found.
4. God receiving before He expects amendment.
5. The way of salvation through Christ’s Cross and Christ’s life.
6. God always accessible.
II. HOW ARE WE TO RECEIVE JESUS?
1. With deep penitence.
2. With hungry expectancy.
3. With a longing to do His will. (W. Birch.)
Wishing to see Jesus
These Greeks are
I. ILLUSTRATIONS OF A UNIVERSAL TRUTH--that those who live up to the light they have will be gradually led on to more.
1. They were proselytes, or at least companions of those who feared God, or they would not have been here. They had given up heathenism, and this step was, according to God’s moral government, rewarded by another. A desire came into their hearts, awakened, no doubt, by the resurrection of Lazarus, to become acquainted with Christ.
2. There are differences of opinion how people become Christians. Some say there is first a giving up of what is wrong and false, then an intermediate stage in which one feels nothing and is nothing, and then truth taking occasion by the vacuum enters the mind. Others say there is no middle state. But the true theory is, “the wind bloweth where it listeth.” In the majority of cases, however, truth comes in and expels falsehood, just as there is no parenthesis between light and darkness, but the moment that it ceases to be dark it is light, and the moment that light has begun darkness is over.
II. EXAMPLES OF A UNIVERSAL CRAVING. Theirs was the language
1. Of the whole Old Testament dispensation. The cherubim bending over the mercy seat, as if to look into the mysteries of the ark, were emblems of all the Mosaic ages. The expected Messiah, the desire of all nations, was the point to which all faces turned. “Many prophets and righteous men,” etc. As the appointed time drew on the desire was intensified. Simeon and Anna, the Magi and the Greeks, were representatives of the whole Jewish and Gentile world. And during Christ’s life, the crowds that thronged His steps bore testimony to the feeling, and Zacchaeus was probably not the only man whose pious curiosity was rewarded.
2. Of the Christian Church in regard to Christ’s Second Advent.
3. Of penitents under a sense of sin groping their way toward the light.
4. Of Christians who have lost the glimpses they once enjoyed, and are now passing under clouds.
5. Of the dying Christian passing home. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
A sight of Jesus
I. A PERSONAL OR BODILY VIEW. No reliable portrait or representation of our Lord has been handed down to us, and we have reason to believe no such portrait was ever taken. It was, no doubt, in the order of God’s providence that it should be so, or the portrait, and not the Saviour Himself, would probably have been the object of worship.
II. HISTORICAL view. We all know about the incarnation, etc., of Christ, and the other points of His human history, as recorded.
III. THEOLOGICAL view. “I and My Father are one” human, as well as Divine--hard to some to believe.
IV. BELIEVING view. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,” etc. “Look unto Him, and be ye saved.”
V. IMITATIVE view. After believing, let us go on unto perfection, imitating Christ, “doing good.”
VI. JUDICIAL view. Christ will sit on His great white throne, etc.
VII. HEAVENLY view. “There we shall see His face, and never, never sin,” etc. (L. H. Wiseman, M. A.)
A sight of Jesus
Inspiration has given us no description of the personal appearance of Jesus. God did not intend for us to worship Him through an image. We cannot tell His appearance, but we know His spirit which shone through His earthly body. We can see Him
1. IN THE ELEMENTS OF HIS CHARACTER AND LIFE. Infidels deny His divinity, but they admire His character, and present His graces for the emulation of men. His is a unique position in history, the only one in the flesh without defect.
II. IN HIS SYSTEM OF MORAL TEACHINGS. How superior to all human writings not borrowing from Him! Plato and Mohammed taught much that is good with much that is evil. His teachings are without defect.
III. IN THE GLORIOUS SCHEME OF REDEMPTION. By the Cross He graciously solves the problem which baffled the ages, how God can be just and justify the sinner. Man was doomed, but Jesus came to the rescue. The sublime philosophy lies in its supreme adaptedness to the necessities of the case.
IV. IN THE KINGDOM HE ESTABLISHED IN THE EARTH. The Jews expected a temporal kingdom, but He came not to subdue Caesar but Satan. He despised all carnal means, and used nobler methods. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
V. IN THE EFFECTS OF HIS RELIGION ON INDIVIDUALS AND THE WORLD. Christianity is a character builder. It alone transforms men. It has blessed whatever it has touched. I lift up before you Jesus Christ and beg you to behold Him. He is God; worship with all adoration. (C. A. Stakeley.)
We would see Jesus
1. We would see Jesus, for we have heard of Him from others. One friend has told of His love, another of His wisdom, a third of His power, a fourth of His faithfulness. Does this second-hand knowledge satisfy you? Has it appeased your spiritual hunger, allayed your discontent, removed the burden of your sins? Oh, let the testimony of others lead you to His feet!
2. We would see Jesus, for we have need of Him.
(1) To release us from the burden of our sins.
(2) To enable us to overcome temptation.
(3) To take away the fear of death.
3. We would see Jesus, for He is so accessible. No barriers stand in the sinner’s path when he seeks the Saviour. His court is an open audience chamber to all. (G. A. Sowter, M. A.)
Opportunity to be used
These Greeks seem to have seized the only opportunity ever presented to them of coming to Jesus. Shall we, with many opportunities, lose them ally This one may be our last. I have sometimes in passing through a forest seen a tree here and a tree there marked with a line of white paint. What did it mean? Was it a clue to the inexperienced traveller to show him his road? Was it a boundary line between different properties? No; these paint-marked trees were dotted over the whole woods. Then I heard the woodman’s axe ringing out in the distance, and I knew that the trees were marked for destruction. The owner had decided which should fall and which should stand a while longer. And the woodman, guided by the marks, was thinning the forest with his deadly axe in obedience to his master’s word. Brethren, God’s mark may be set upon some of us, we know not upon whom. Oh, trifle not then with your opportunities! Lay hold on them ere they pass away. Take up the language of these Greek visitors to Jerusalem, and cry out of the yearning depths of your inmost hearts, “We would see Jesus.” The request will be granted. The heavenly life-giving sight of Him will gladden your eyes, and with that vision the old cry of yearning will change to a new glad shout of hope. No longer “we would see Jesus,” but “we shall see Jesus,”--“we shall see Him as He is.” (G. A. Sowter, M. A.)
The consequences of seeing Jesus
I. REST. There are some objects so calm and restful that the very sight of them is rest. This is the chief of them.
II. PEACE. He is our peace; and to see Him is to have peace with God and conscience.
III. QUICKENING. He is our life; and the sight of Him as such puts life into us.
IV. HEALING. He is “the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings,” and in looking to Him we have health.
V. ENLIGHTENMENT. He is the Light of the world; and to see Him as such is to have day within us.
VI. FREEDOM. He and His truth make free.
VII. STRENGTH. All power is in Him; and the sight of Him draws it out to us.
VIII. FULNESS. In Him is all fulness; and in looking we are filled. Every void disappears.
IX. GLUMNESS. We are made partakers of His joy. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
The great exhibition
Perhaps the sight-seeing instinct was never more fully developed than at present. We live in a sight-seeing age. This instinct has managed to engage the whole world as purveyor to its enjoyments in its periodical exhibitions in this and that great city. But we may profitably turn to another exhibition, not at present more attractive externally, but intrinsically far more interesting. Not works of human art and industry, but of Divine wisdom, justice, and love, are exhibited. Turn aside and see this great sight. Apply it to
I. INTELLECTUAL EXERCISES.
1. In geographical study we may see the vastness of the theatre on which Jesus’s faithfulness performs its promises. His wisdom exerts its guidance, His love pours out its treasures, His grace fulfils its plans.
2. In botanical investigation we may see His wisdom and goodness, for He painted the colours of every flower, shaded its tints, and infused its perfume.
3. In historical research we find that personages are His agents, and events are controlled for His purposes.
4. Morals take their image from His example and their vigour from His Spirit.
II. SOCIAL DUTIES.
1. Conversation; and not only in that part which is interspersed with His name. To see Him is to check trifling, levity, garrulity. To see Him is to transform the daily salutation into a benediction; for who can make “good day” but Jesus?
2. In visiting, business, recreation, etc., He is to have the preeminence. This will make the soul’s health secure, guard against temptation, encourage righteousness.
III. RELIGIOUS OBLIGATIONS.
1. Searching the Scriptures. Of these Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, and they will be unintelligible unless we see Him. The doctrines centre in Him. In the practical parts His example is the rule, His love the motive, His blood the purifier. The promises are “Yea, and amen in Him.” His testimony is the spirit of prophecy. The ceremonies and characters are types of Him. Take Jesus out of the Bible, and you have taken the sun from the system, the seal from the body, gravitation from the universe.
2. Baptism. Take Christ away and it is an unmeaning ordinance. To see Him in it is to make it a sacrament of life, promise, and power. “Go ye therefore … Lo, I am with you,” present, pledging to save.
3. The Lord’s Supper. “This is My body,” etc.
IV. FAMILIAR PLACES.
1. The devotional closet. How cold that is without Christ; how radiant with glory when we see Jesus, having expelled all intercepting objects, thoughts, cares, etc.
2. The domestic tabernacle. If in the human family Christ is a brother, how much mere in the believing family. To see Him is to hush all domestic dissensions; to sanctify all family relations, duties, etc.
3. In the public temple. What is Christ’s Church without Him? “Where two or three,” etc.
V. RESPECTIVE CHARACTERS.
1. Two characters would gladly see Jesus.
(1) The penitent. Are you sorry for sin? then “Behold the Lamb of God,” etc.
(2) The believer who now apprehends Christ by faith waits for His full manifestation in glory, and has “a desire to be with Christ,” etc.
2. Two classes must be exhorted to see Jesus.
(1) The impenitent. Your need is absolute, and your obligation unlimited.
(2) The apostate. The Greeks reprove you. They knew not Jesus but would see Him; you know Him but forsake Him.
VI. TO IMPORTANT STAGES.
1. In discouragement.
2. In temptation.
3. In youth, manhood, and old age.
4. In the hour of death and the day of judgment. (D. Griffiths.)
Manifestations of humanity
I. ITS MORAL CRAVING (John 12:21). These Greeks wanted Jesus for their soul as
1. One who could solve their moral problems.
2. One on whom to centre their supreme love.
3. One to guide them rightly on the way of life.
II. ITS GRANDEST WORK (John 12:22).
1. To bring men to Christ is something more than to bring them
(1) To science and art. Such a ministry we disparage not, but highly prize.
(2) To a church or sect. Numbers are thus engaged. Their inspiration is sectarianism; and their efforts often immoral and pernicious.
2. To bring them to Christ is to bring them
(1) To the only infallible Physician.
(2) To the only efficient Educator.
(3) To the only qualified Redeemer.
3. To bring to Christ you must be Christlike. You may bring crowds to your church by clap-trap; you can only bring them to Christ by a life of Christly stateliness, inspiration, and influence.
III. ITS SUBLIMEST TYPE (verse 23).
1. Christ speaks with magnanimity in prospect of His death.
2. With triumph at the prospect of His glory--in His resurrection, exaltation, moral victories over all the errors, curses, miseries of the world. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Andrew: Leading others to Christ
The notices of this apostle are extremely rare, but nearly all of them exhibit Him introducing others to Christ--his brother Peter, the lad with the barley loaves, the Greeks. And this is the prime duty of all Christians; let each ask how he has discharged it. Note the qualifications
I. WE MUST OURSELVES KNOW CHRIST. This is something more than a knowledge of gospel history, of Christian doctrine. We may teach these and bring none nearer to Christ Himself. Nor is it these in union with a moral life. To know Christ is to reverence Him as our Master and to cling to Him as our Saviour. This knowledge alone will help us to make disciples and Christians.
II. WE MUST BE QUICK TO KNOW OUR FELLOW MAN. The physician can tell much of the history and condition of his patients from their very looks. Like readiness is there with the Physician of souls. This quickness depends on
III. WE MUST SPEAK FOR CHRIST. We remember this requirement in preaching. But the effort of Andrew was a type of those private ways of doing good which are open to ordinary men and women. There are difficulties in the way of private personal testimony for Christ--the reticence of etiquette and culture, the sense of the shame of the cross, constitutional sensitiveness, etc. But it is astonishing how difficulties may be smoothed before a willing mind.
IV. WE MUST LIVE FOR CHRIST. Words with which the life is inconsistent will lose all attractive power. A life that is wanting somewhat in words may yet bring blessing. The disciple’s life should be attractive. (T. Gasquoine, B. A.)
Every Christian may be useful
See that well on the mountain side--a small, rude, rocky cup full of crystal water, and that tiny rill flowing through a breach in its brim. The vessel is so diminutive that it could not contain a supply of water for a single family a single day. But, ever getting through secret channels, and ever giving by an open overflow, day and night, summer and winter, from year to year, it discharges in the aggregate a volume to which its own capacity bears no appreciable proportion. The flow from that diminutive cup might, in a drought or war, become life to all the inhabitants of a city. It is thus that a Christian, if he is full of mercy and good fruits, is a greater blessing to the world than either himself or his neighbours deem. Let no disciple of Christ either think himself excused, or permit himself to be discouraged from doing good, because his talents and opportunities are few. Your capacity is small, it is true, but if you are in Christ it is the capacity of a well. Although it does not contain much at any moment, so as to attract attention to you for your gifts, it will give forth a great deal in a lifetime, and many will be refreshed. (W. Arnot.)
A lesson to pastors and teachers
An orthodox clergyman found one Sunday on his Bible a slip of paper, placed there by some members of his congregation, on which was written, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” The pastor felt distressed, but was not offended. He set to examine himself humbly and sincerely. The result was that he made the sad but happy discovery that the people were justified in making the above request. He thereupon “went into a desert place,” and within a short time he found in his pulpit another slip of paper with the following words, “Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.” (Pastor Funcke.)
One afternoon in the Sabbath school where a lad was asked to repeat what he had learned during the week, he said simply “Sir, we would see Jesus.” The teacher was strangely conscience smitten. He remembered that he had given excellent lessons on the Creation, the Fall, Israel in Egypt, and similar subjects, but had said little about Christ. He looked at the youth who had spoken these words, and then round on the faces of the others. And then instead of using the lesson he had prepared, he talked to the lads earnestly upon the request made so simply and opportunely. He spoke with such yearning for their souls, that the lads listened as never before; and as he spoke he felt that the Master’s presence was in their midst. The want which had unconsciously been felt was met that afternoon, and souls were gathered into the eternal harvest. (W. Baxendale.)
Congregations want to see Christ
On a lovely Sunday morning in August we arrived at Osborne. We were desirous of seeing her Majesty, but did not succeed. We only saw her house, her gardens, and her retainers. Then we went to Whippingham Church, having been told that the queen would attend divine service. But again we were disappointed. We only saw the seat the august lady was wont to occupy. The ladies and gentlemen of the court came to church, and those we saw; we even heard the court chaplain preach, but of the sovereign we saw nothing. Well this was a disappointment we could easily get over. But with me it led to a serious frame of thought. I said to myself: What if the flock committed to your care should come to church to see the King of kings, and yet through some fault of yours not get to see Him! What if you, the great King’s dependent, detain men with yourself, by your words and affairs and all sorts of important matters which yet are trifles in comparison with Jesus I May it not be that we ministers often thus disappoint our congregations. (Pastor Funcke.)
The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified.
The significance of this declaration in connection with the incident
Why should this be such an hour of trouble and glory? How should the appearance of a few strangers have led to a discussion respecting the falling of wheat into the ground, and its death--the saving of life and the losing it? You will remember that when our Lord spoke of those “other sheep” He connected the formation of the one flock with the death of the one shepherd. The assertion is in strict harmony with the prophecy of Caiaphas. If you turn from St. John to St. Paul you will find that the breaking down of the wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles is effected “in the body of Christ’s flesh through death.” If you reflect on these passages, that which we treat as though it were only an accident--the calling in of the Gentiles--the unfolding of a universal society, will be seen to be that wonderful event to which all God’s purposes, from the beginning of the world, had been tending--the unveiling of the deepest mystery of all, in the relations of God to man, in the Being of God Himself. Without sacrifice Jews and heathen had been taught there could be no unity among the members of a race. Sacrifice must bind them to God and to each other. Only he who can give up himself--so the heart of mankind testified--is a patriot; only he obeys the laws; only he can save his country when itis falling. There had been, then, a sure conviction that any larger union must involve a mightier sacrifice. As the conscience was awakened by God’s teaching more and more clearly to perceive that all resistance to God lies in the setting up of self, it began to be understood that the atonement of man with man must have its basis in an atonement of God with man, and that the same sacrifice was needed for both. One thing yet remained to be learned--the most wonderful lesson of all, and yet one of which God had been giving the elements, line upon line, from the beginning: Could sacrifice originate in God and be made, first, not to Him but by Him? All our Lord’s discourses concerning Himself and His Father--concerning His own acts as the fulfilment of the Father’s will--concerning the love which the Father had to Him because He laid down His life for the sheep--had been bringing these mysteries to light; had been preparing the meek to confess with wonder and contrition that in every selfish act they had been fighting against an unselfish God--that in every self-sacrificing act they had been merely yielding to Him. And so far as they had any glimpses of the accomplishment of God’s promises--that He would bring all into one--that the Gentiles should wait for His law--that He would be a Father of all the families of the earth--so far they had the vision of a transcendent and Divine sacrifice. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)
The hour of redemption
It was given to St. John long after the other evangelists had described the Passion to add some details of the deepest interest. The Transfiguration and Gethsemane St. John omits, but here records the significance of both. The Lord passed through a season of profound agitation--the earnest of the Garden; but out of the darkness light unspeakable arose--the reflection of the Mount.
I. THE LORD ENTERS INTO THE DARKNESS OF HIS HOUR AND PROCLAIMS ITS GLORY.
1. “The hour” is the sacred term that marks the Passion as the consummation of the Redeemer’s work. He entered the world in the “fulness of time”; He wrought His preparatory work in the “days of the Son of Man”; and now, after ages of waiting had passed into days of fulfilment, the days are compressed into an “hour.” From this moment the shadow of the cross throws its sacred gloom upon every incident and word. The Passion has begun, and from that moment went on in its ever-deepening variety of grief, through the indignities of His enemies, the abandonment of His friends, the sense of the world’s guilt, to that infinite woe which took from man his curse. It was the first more direct onset since the temptation. It was the beginning of the awful strain on the resources of His lower nature under which He would fain cry “Save me,” but that He knows “for this purpose,” etc.; the same pressure which caused Him to ask that the cup might pass, a prayer the next moment recalled in the submission of perfect victory.
2. The darkness is not past, but the true light already shines. His first word on entering the dark valley is--“The hour … glorified.” His lowest humiliation was His highest dignity. The cross in which His servants gloried He here glories in. In it He beholds the glorification of the Father’s attributes (verse 28), an exhibition of the glory of Divine justice visiting upon sin its penalty, and the glory of the Divine mercy providing salvation for the sinner. To this the Redeemer’s final “Lo! I come,” there is a sublime response from heaven. For the third time the Father proclaims aloud the secret of His constant complacency in the sacrifice of His Son.
3. The record teaches us two errors we must avoid.
(1) We must not by our feeble theories mitigate the sorrow that wrought out our redemption and exchange it into a mere demonstration of such charity and self-sacrifice as man might rival and which could never redeem man’s soul.
(2) It tells us, too, that the Redeemer was filled with a sense of His own glory and His Father’s complacency even while He suffered for our sins. He presented Himself as an oblation for man’s sin to manifest the love that provided the propitiation, and to declare the glory of the Divine name in the harmony of its perfections.
II. FROM THE HOUR OF THE PASSION TO THE LIFTING UP ON THE CROSS THE TRANSITION IS OBVIOUS. Here also we perceive the blending, of opposite emotions.
1. St. John has already made us familiar with this expression, which serves the double purpose of signifying the crucifixion and the exaltation. But in the gospels it is used to express the act of man that lifted Jesus to His cross. In the beginning of His ministry, our Lord spoke to Nicodemus of this lifting up; in the middle He told the Jews that they would do it; and now He refers to it at the close. But the cross is the symbol here of His own reproach, “Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.”
2. But while His soul is troubled--and only in His deepest anguish does He mention His soul--Jesus still rejoiced in spirit. On either side is a word of triumph.
(1) “The prince of this world is cast out.” He had at an earlier time, and in a higher sphere, “beheld Satan as lightning,” etc. Now He beholds, as the result of His redeeming death, Satan fall from his power on earth--not, indeed, with the swiftness of lightning, but absolutely and surely.
(2) “I will draw all men unto Me” expresses the tranquil assurance that the virtue of His death would draw in due time--when preached in His word and testified by His spirit--all the children of men to Himself.
3. Here also are two lessons that guard our thoughts.
(1) The reality of Satan’s relation to our sin and the world’s redemption. A doctrine of atonement finds acceptance, which rejects the personality of the being to whom our Lord alludes. But in so doing they must reconstruct the entire doctrine of the New Testament, wrest the Saviour’s words to their own peril, and undermine the whole economy of redemption, which assumes that Satan is the representative and ruler of the world’s wickedness, whose power and law is broken.
(2) That through our redemption we are delivered from the reign of sin; that the drawing of Christ is as universal in its influence as the virtue of His atonement; that we may enter into our Master’s joy and exult over a vanquished enemy.
III. WE PASS FROM THE HOUR, THROUGH THE LIFTING UP, TO THE SELFSACRIFICING DEATH WHICH GIVES LIFE TO MULTITUDES. Here again we have two contending emotions.
1. All His allusions to the coming end connect His own loss with our gain, His death with our life. So it is here, only the emblem is the most affecting He ever employed, expressive of the entireness of His surrender, and the absolute connection between His death and the abundant life of His people. What in the similitude of the corn of wheat expresses the deep anguish of this prelude to Gethsemane the Lord does not say. There was a mystery in the anguish of His soul that nothing in the secret of human dying will account for.
2. But the rejoicing of His spirit keeps not silence. He passes immediately to the much fruit that would grow from His death, the example He would set to His saints, and the supreme honour which He and His imitators in the self-renouncing charity of holiness would partake together throughout eternity. Nor is His rejoicing marred by the prospect that His death will not give life to all mankind. And should we be discontented when our Master sees of the travail of His soul and is satisfied?
1. The only word of exhortation that we hear in this solemn hour is, “If any man serve Me, let him follow Me.” This is the voice of Him who passes through the garden to the cross. There is no loyalty to the Redeemer which does not share His passion. For Him we must sacrifice our sins, and, in imitation of His last example, must live, and, if need be, die for others.
2. “Where I am,” etc.; for a short season in the gloom of sorrow and conflict, but forever in His glory.
3. “If any man serve Me,” etc.; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)
The hour of Christ’s suffering and triumph
(text and John 12:27-43.12.28)
I. THE HOUR. It stands out from all other hours amid the reminiscences of the past and anticipation of ages to come. Time’s stream set in to bear upon it. All prophecy met here. One dispensation after another was introduced and completed in relation to it, and derived all their importance from that relation. It was an hour
1. Of intense suffering. Who can tell the physical agony? His soul was troubled within a body of sensibility as keen as ours; and what anguish racked His spirit when He was executed as a malefactor and forsaken of His Father!
2. Of triumph. An hour in which He glorified God and God Him; in which all the Divine attributes harmonized as they never had before, and never could again. They received glory which covered all obscurations that had appeared, and which can never be tarnished to eternity.
II. THE SEEMING RELUCTANCE OF CHRIST TO MEET THIS HOUR (John 12:27). His spirit is perplexed, for He was as truly man as God. But wherefore these cries and tears? Because of
1. The death of ignominy which He, innocence itself, was about to die.
2. The unbelief and ingratitude of the Jews. “He came to His own,” etc.
3. The desertion of His disciples, the denial of Peter, the betrayal of Judas.
4. The buffetings of Satan during “the hour and power of darkness.”
5. The hiding of the Father’s face (Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 27:45-40.27.46). Well might His soul be troubled and say, Father, save Me from this hour--if there is any other way of saving sinners. But God spared not His own Son, and the Son acquiesced.
III. THE GROUNDS ON WHICH HE OVERCAME HIS APPARENT RELUCTANCE. They respect
1. Himself. He knew that on this hour depended all that He came to do, and this consideration dispelled the cloud human nature raised. He had done too much to allow of His retracting. Why the Babe of Bethlehem if He refused to be the Man of Sorrows? He came to finish the work God gave Him to do.
2. His people. If I would save others I dare not save Myself. If they are to have life I must endure death.
3. His Father. To glorify Him was the design of His coming into the world. “Lo! I come,” etc.
IV. BY WHAT MEANS GOD WAS GLORIFIED IN THE WORK OF CHRIST.
1. In the fulfilment of Messianic prophecy. God had in all the introductory announcements of the Redeemer for four thousand years, connected His glory with the completion of redemption by Christ’s death as a sacrifice for Hebrews 1:1-58.1.3; Luke 2:7-42.2.14).
2. The incarnation. “We beheld His glory,” etc.
3. The discourses, miracles, and character of Christ.
4. His death, resurrection, and ascension.
5. The spread of the gospel.
6. The resurrection and judgment. (T. Raffles, LL. D.)
The glorification of the Son of Man
1. Christ here displays His broad humanity. Not “Son of David.” The Jewish side of His mission is no longer prominent. As “the Son of Man” Jesus is near akin to every man that lives.
2. He speaks of His glory as approaching suggested by the sight of these first fruits among the Gentiles. Christ is glorified in the souls He saves, as a physician wins honour by those he heals.
3. The same visitors led the Saviour to use the metaphor of the buried corn. Wheat was mixed up with Greek mysteries. Christ was undergoing the process which would burst the Jewish husk in which His human life had been enveloped. Aforetime He said He was not sent save to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Note
I. PROFOUND DOCTRINAL TEACHING conveyed in several paradoxes.
1. Glorious as He was, He was yet to be glorified.
(1) Jesus was always glorious--as one with God, in the perfection of His moral character, in His great love, in His complete consecration, and also in the wonders of His birth, baptism, and transfiguration.
(2) But something was to be added to His honour--death, resurrection, ascension, etc.
2. His glory was to come to Him through shame. It is His highest reputation to be of no reputation. His crown derives new lustre from His cross. If we merge the crucified Saviour in the coming King we rob our Lord of His highest honour.
3. He must be alone, or abide alone. Unless He had trodden the winepress alone, and had cried, “My God! My God!” etc., He could not have saved us. If He had not died He would, as man, have been alone forever: not without the Father, the Spirit, and the angels; but there had not been another man to keep Him company. Our Lord cannot bear to be alone. Without His people He would have been a shepherd without His sheep, a husband without His spouse. His delights were with the sons of men. In order that He might draw all men unto Him, He was lifted up upon the cross alone.
4. He must die to give life, not teach, etc. If the ethical part of Christianity is the most important, why did Jesus die? But since He did fall into the ground and die, we may expect much as the result of it. The travail of the Son of God shall not bring forth a scanty good.
II. PRACTICAL INSTRUCTION. What is true of Christ is in a measure true of Christians.
1. We must die if we would live.
2. We must surrender everything to keep it. We can never have spiritual life except by giving everything up to God.
3. We must lose self in order to find self. The man who lives for himself does not live--he loses the essence and crown of existence: but if you live for others and God, you will find the life of life. “Seek ye first,” etc.
4. If you wish to be the means of life to others, you must, in your measure, die yourself. The self-sacrificing life and death of saints has always been the life and increase of the Church. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Christ’s cross, Christ’s glory
I. THE GREAT ENEMY. In the wilderness Christ did not achieve a complete victory. The devil departed from Him for a season only, and was actually and finally vanquished on the cross. He who hoped to crush Adam was himself crushed in Christ. Satan had brought ruin and misery into a happy world. Christ brought out the world into happiness tenfold as bright and holy as that which Satan ruined.
II. MAN. On the cross was transacted the central event of man’s world. All before had reference to this; all after flow from it. The whole system of types found its end on the cross; the whole state of acceptance in which believers stand before God, the whole dispensation of the Spirit, had its origin here. Wherever there breathes a man, there the cross has a deep and never-failing interest. Here also was the triumph of human nature. You hear of the power and dignity of human nature, its wonderful capacities for knowledge, its high endowments for enterprise; but in none of these did it reach its noblest height, nor bear its fairest fruit. Not in Athens or Rome, in poesy or art, has man been most glorified; but on the cross of Jesus. There manhood bore its fruit of love untouched by a blight, and was honoured with the union of the Godhead, stooping to share its sentence of death and to bring it to glory.
III. HIMSELF (Romans 14:9). Christ was born that He might be a King; and here we have His Lordship established and His kingdom inaugurated. Remember what He said to the dying thief. The cross is Christ’s throne; His atonement His basis of empire (Revelation 5:6); from it proceeds the work of the Spirit, whose office it is to glorify Christ.
IV. THE FATHER. By the counsel of the Father’s will was the plan of redemption directed, and His perfections find their highest example on the cross.
1. Love. “Herein is love,” etc.
2. Truth. “For this end He came into the world, to bear witness unto the truth”; and He bore it here.
3. Righteousness. “He made Him to be sin for us,” etc. (Dean Alford.)
The work and glory of the Saviour
In eternity there are no hours; yet there have been two hours in time which are drawn out over the length of eternal ages. One, pregnant of evil, when Eve plucked the forbidden fruit.
When time shall be no more that unhappy hour will live in the memory and be felt in the misery of the lost. The other hour, pregnant with greatest good, was when the Son of Man said, “It is finished,” and the head He bowed in death was crowned with its brightest glory.
I. THE VISIBLE GLORY OF THE CROSS. There never was a death like this.
1. Rays of Godhead streamed through the darkest stages of Christ’s humiliation. Angels attended His humble birth, and a new star rested above the stable. His hands were rough with labour, but at their touch eyes received their sight. His voice cried in infancy and death, but it quelled the storm and burst the fetters of the tomb. His eye was quenched in darkness, but it had read man’s heart and penetrated futurity. He wore no costly robes, but the hem of His garment cured inveterate disease. He trod on no luxurious carpets, but His step was on the sea. His simple drink was water, but water changed into wine at His bidding. No sumptuous banquets entertained His guests, but the few fishes and barley loaves in His hands satisfied multitudes.
2. But this glory was still more apparent in His dying hours. Men had left undone nothing to heap shame upon Him. To pour contempt on His kingly claims they crowned Him with thorns; in mockery of His omniscience they asked Him to tell who struck Him; in ridicule of His omnipotence they challenged Him to leave the cross. Yet even ix this dark hour He was glorified. “If these should hold their peace the stones would cry out,” was now verified. Men were silent, dumb nature spoke. The rocks, whose bosoms, less hard than man’s, were rent, cried out on earth; the sun, veiling his face from a scene on which man looked without emotion, cried out in heaven; the dead, disturbed in their graves by so great a crime, cried out from their open tombs; and’ the temple’s veil added its solemn testimony to theirs.
II. THE MORAL GLORY OF THE CROSS.
1. Christ’s death afforded the fullest display of His love. Not that it had not been displayed before. It was when Moses smote the rock that its hidden treasures were unsealed. It was when the alabaster box was broken that its value became known. It is when the clusters of the grape are crushed that they yield the wine. And so Christ’s gracious attributes were not fully disclosed till His dying hour. But for that it had never been known how He loved. He had been despised and rejected of men, but He died to prove His willingness and power to save the chief of sinners.
2. By His death He conquered hell, death, and the grave. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
The law of self-sacrifice exemplified in the death of Christ
We shrink too much from investigating the mental struggles of Jesus as though it were a profanation. But in this we commit two errors.
1. We lose sight of Christ’s proper humanity, of the fact that He had a mind governed like our own, a heart and sympathies which throbbed as ours.
2. A false conception of true reverence. It is reverential to be cautious of approaching too closely an earthly sovereign, because near approach would only produce familiarity, and make us feel that he too is but a frail and sinful man. But the Majesty of Jesus requires no such precautions, because the nearer we get to Him the more we realize His Divine Majesty. Note
I. THE LAW OF THE ATONEMENT.
1. The gloriousness of suffering. There are two ways of looking at every act--at the appearance, and at the reality. Hence what seems mean is often inwardly glorious, and vice versa. Thus there is nothing in the outward circumstances of a soldier’s death to distinguish them from an ignoble brawl; but over the soldier’s death is shed the glory of that cause for which his life was offered. So in external circumstances Christ’s death was mean, but in inward principles it was glorified by God. We say that a throne is glorious and a coronet noble; but nothing can ennoble cowardice or selfishness. We say that a dungeon, scaffold, and the lower arts of life are base; but Christ’s death has sanctified the cross, and His life shed a glory over carpentry.
2. The death of one for the life of many. This is the great law upon which God has constructed the universe. If there is to be a crop, there must first be the destruction of the seed. The lives of vegetables and animals are given for us. So the doctrine of the atonement is no strange, arbitrary principle. The Father who made the law by which the flesh of living things sustains the life of others is the same Being who made and obeyed the law by which the flesh of Christ is to the world “meat indeed.”
3. Self-devotion (John 12:25). The previous parallel fails in one thing. We do not thank the grain of wheat for dying, because its death is involuntary; and therefore to constitute a true sacrifice a living will is needed. Christ’s sacrifice was a voluntary act, else it had been no sacrifice at all.
II. THE MENTAL STRUGGLE BY WHICH THAT LAW WAS EMBRACED AS THE LAW OF THE REDEEMER’S LIFE. It is one thing to understand a law and another to obey it. To admire that which is right is one thing, but to do what is right is another. The Divine life of Christ subordinated innocent human ideas to itself by degrees. Here He was literally distracted between the natural craving for life and the higher desire to embrace the will of God. But the victory was won by prayer, that communion of the mind with God through which our will becomes at last merged into His. And so there was one perfect will, the will of the Father being that of the Son. “Father, glorify Thy name.” (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die
A corn of wheat
The original word is not sperma, a seed, but kokkos, a berry, a fruit.
It shows the extreme, even scientific, accuracy of our Saviour’s language; for the corn of wheat, and other cereal grains, consist of seeds incorporated with seed vessels, and are in reality fruits, though they appear like seeds. It is not the bare seed that falls into the ground, and, by dying, yields much fruit, but the corn of wheat--the whole fruit with its husk-like coverings. A corn of wheat is beautiful and complete in itself. It is full of latent life; it contains the germ of boundless harvests. But it is hard and narrow and isolated. How then are its dormant capabilities to be quickened? Clearly not by keeping it as it is. In its present state it abideth alone. It can never be anything else but bare corn if kept out of the ground. But if sown in the field, and covered by the earth, and quickened by the sunshine and showers of heaven, it softens and expands. It seems to die. It surrenders itself to the forces of nature which take possession of it, and seem to put it altogether aside. But this apparent death is in reality more abundant life. Its burial place becomes the scene of a wonderful resurrection. The spark of vitality has been kindled by the very elements that seemed to work its destruction. The embryo grows at the expense of the decomposing perisperm. Lengthening downwards by the radicle and upwards by the plumule, the seed becomes a bright, green, beautiful plant which lays all nature under contribution for its sustenance, borrows the materials of growth from earth and sky, and at length becomes a luxuriant stalk of corn laden with its fruitful ear. Seed time in this country is in spring. The sower goes forth to sow when the day is lengthening and brightening, and a warmer feeling is in the air. The dark days and wild storms of winter are over; and before the seed sown there is an almost uninterrupted continuance of genial weather till the harvest. But in nature seed time is at the close of autumn, when “the melancholy days have come, the saddest of the year.” The important process of scattering the seed over the waste places of the earth is accomplished amid the fading and falling of leaves, and the destruction of nature’s strength and beauty. The chill air and feeble sunlight put a stop to all further growth; and the dreary rain and boisterous storms which prevail at this season are needed to shake down the ripe fruits from stem or bough, to scatter them over the face of the earth, and to rot them in the ground, so that the imprisoned seeds may escape and find a suitable soil in which to grow. Thus, the dark ungenial weather which so often proves disastrous to our cereal crops when they are about to be gathered into the barn, is a wise provision of nature to facilitate the dispersion of the ripened fruits and seeds of the earth. We step between nature and her purpose, snatch the corn from its appointed destiny as the seed of a future crop, and convert it into human food; and thus diverting a law of nature into a new channel, we cannot always expect that the weather which would be favourable to the natural process should be equally favourable to the artificial. Nature fulfils her designs perfectly; she is faithful to the law of her God. But when she comes into contact with man she does not harmonize with his designs. The primeval curse rests upon the toil of man’s hands, and the earning of man’s bread; and nature therefore will not give us her blessings without a stern struggle with hostile elements. How true is all this of the stormy end of our Saviour’s life; that dreary autumn seed time of which He said, “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say, Father, save me from this hour; but; for this cause came I unto this hour.” And further, how true of His entombment is the natural fact that the seed thus sown in the decaying autumn, amid the wreck of life and beauty, and to the wailing dirge of the devastating storm, lies passive and inert in the soil all the winter, chilled with the frosts, drenched with the rains, and buried in its grave of darkness beneath a shroud of snow, waiting for its resurrection under the bright skies of spring. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
The corn of wheat; or growth through death
We see the principle of propagation by self-surrender operating in the region of
I. INDIVIDUAL LIFE.
1. if a man will be an individual in the strict sense of the term he will be his own destroyer. If the seedling of a babe would grow physically he must
(1) give, by stretching forth the tendrils of its undeveloped faculties; and
(2) take, by the aliment which such exercise supplies. Thus the first condition of physical life is faith. The same law operates in
2. The acquisition of knowledge. A man must believe before he knows, and faith is the depositing of self in the ground of human testimony, a boy must work with self deposited in the ground of study under disciplinary influences, and convert his time, etc., into materials for developing the seeds of knowledge.
3. The formation of character. When we say that a man has character we mean he has acquired self-control. Self-control is the fruit of submission. Submission during the period of youth grows into those principles of conduct which are the polestar of manhood, through mortifying acts of obedience.
II. SOCIAL LIFE. A man is obliged to work for others if he would enlarge and propagate his life and influence. We see this illustrated in
1. Family relationships. The law of marriage enjoins the giving up of self to another, so as to become a larger, happier self. Parents who fulfil God’s idea, think, work, pray, live for and in their children. If the father does not thus lose himself and die he “abides alone,” and when he departs this life he has no one to propagate his likeness, and becomes extinct except in name.
2. Legislation. Law, to a certain extent, consists of those things which individuals have agreed to surrender for the maintenance of society and is the fruitage of seeds of individual knowledge put into the soil of public experience.
3. The extension of knowledge. Ideas and schemes in the mind are so many seeds having life in them which have to be cast into the ground of public opinion in order to bear fruit. They must get out of the mind if they are not to “abide alone.” The thinker communicates his scheme to another, or publishes it in the newspaper, and by and by, under the influence of the opinions and suggestions of others, the thought, once his, bears fruit. This holds true of apparently trivial thoughts. A casual remark made in the hearing of a thoughtful friend may yield a rich harvest of knowledge.
4. Historic influence. The good that men do lives after them. Men in advance of their age are never known till they die. This is true of poets, statesmen, etc., but of none so much as Christ. No one was ever so misunderstood--so little known; but every succeeding century carries a truer picture of His unique life.
III. CHRISTIAN LIFE.
1. Christ who was “the Life” had to surrender that life in order that He might be for and in the world. Had he “spared Himself” He would have abode alone, had He never been “bruised” He would not have been the “Bread of life.”
2. So in regard to the principle of Christian life. Self is given away in holy efforts for others, in order to produce in them, and so be found again in, the fruits of righteousness.
3. The mainspring which sets all going is love. Love is self-sacrifice, and by that principle we live unto God and are filled.
IV. THE RESURRECTION. Like the seed corn the body must be put into the ground if it would rise again and bear fruit. Conclusion: The subject teaches
1. The difficulties of selfishness and the terrible daring and force of sin.
(1) God has placed us under a system of laws which make it natural and imperative to serve others. To break through this system involves effort and secures self-destruction.
(2) Yet sin has the audacity to recommend this course, and is thus the grand antagonist of nature as well as grace.
2. The nature and functions of Christianity--that it is no afterthought suggested by the fall, but what agrees with principles already in operation.
3. The feelings of awe and hope with which we should regard death. (S. C. Gordon, B. D.)
The corn of wheat dying
1. A corn of wheat--how insignificant. A little child may hold it in its tiny hand; and yet not all the science of the world could produce it. That depends on the strict preservation of all the laws and influences of the universe; were one interfered with all life would perish.
2. Our Lord’s disciples were probably excited over the triumphal entry, and expectant that their Master would assume that throne they had imagined for Him. Hence He reminds them of His approaching death and its significance.
3. The great truth here declared is that life comes through death and exaltation through humiliation. Again and again had our Lord taught this, but the disciples failed to apprehend it. Nor can we wonder at that, for it is the great stumbling block of our day.
4. But of what use is a corn of wheat except it die? It would hardly supply a meal for the smallest bird. It is a thing of beauty perfectly shaped and you may put it in a casket worthy of it, but it is worthless while kept “alone.” But place it in the earth where showers and sunshine may reach it, and who can tell what may become of it? So it was with Him who compared Himself to one. The disciples would have kept that inestimably precious life all to themselves. Had they done so it would have stood “alone,” and been but an angel’s visit. It would have supplied man with a pattern, but one which would have filled the race with despair, and made it at best local and temporary. What man wanted was an adequate motive power which death only could supply.
5. Not only so, but “except it died” how could it multiply itself? Place a corn of wheat among the regalia of the realm, and it will remain “alone,” but place it in suitable soil and it will spring up thirty, sixty, etc. “The Son of Man came to give His life a ransom for many.” The preaching of a crucified Christ won three thousand on the Day of Pentecost; and it is this same truth which has ever since been the lifeblood of the Church.
6. Moreover, it is by the death of the corn of wheat that we have hope and promise of a more glorious body by and by. Turn up the earth in a month or so after the seed has been sown, and what do you find but a black, mouldy mass with death written on every particle of it? But go to the same spot on the reaping day, and can any contrast be greater? “Sown in corruption,” etc. (D. Howell.)
The seed corn
I. THE FACTS.
1. The symbolical corn of wheat has a real existence--Christ.
(1) Wheat! The Word of God is called by this name. It is not like chaff; it has nourishment in it, and is preeminent among all words, as wheat is among grain. Believers are called wheat. The wicked are chaff, tares, which have no value in them. Christ is the Word of God in a higher sense than scripture, and between Christ and believers there is union. The rank which wheat holds among cereals may remind us that Christ is chief among ten thousand; the delicate purity of it, that He is the Holy One of God; and the great purpose that it serves, that He is the bread of life.
(2) A corn of wheat. There is life in that, so there is in a blade or leaf; but these cannot propagate their life, whereas that has life to give away. Their life, too, is dependent and continually derived from the stem and root from which they must not be divided; but that has life that it carries with it wherever it goes. So the life that is in Christ comes not by transmission. He is “the Life.”
(3) Acorn of wheat keeps its life a long time. It has been found in the hand of a mummy after thousands of years. The Son of God became a corn of wheat, for the purpose expressed in our text, before the foundation of the world.
2. The corn of wheat, has fallen into the ground. This is a figurative expression of the fact of the incarnation. When the vital powers of wheat are to he called into action it is necessary to take it from the garner and sow it. One corn of wheat was taken from the Father’s bosom and put into this sinful world. How great an abasement! The Creator became a creature, and was subjected to a creature’s duties and obligations.
3. When a corn of wheat falls into the ground it dies. One corn of wheat has died because it was sown. If the Eternal Son had not been sent down His death would not have taken place. He was made under the broken, offended law which slew Him with its curse.
4. When a corn of wheat dies its life-giving power is developed. One corn of wheat has not remained alone. Christ’s death has great results. It was to Him what the deep sleep was to Adam--it gave Him a spouse. His death is the root, the collective Church is the stem, and individual believers its fruit with which the stem is laden. “When thou shalt make His soul,” etc. He saw this seed at Pentecost and at many a Pentecost since, and will continue to see it till the Church is complete. And when He sees His seed He recognizes them, and that because of their likeness to Himself. When a corn of wheat produces seed, it is seed of its own nature. So the seed of Christ are like Him.
II. THE DEATH OF CHRIST.
1. Its character.
(1) Glorious. The shame was outward and transient, the glory essential and imperishable.
(2) Fruitful. In this its glory largely consists. The consequences are destined to cover the earth and outlive time.
(3) Not a natural death but a death of violence. There are various kinds of violent deaths.
(a) Martyrdom. This is glorious, and has fruits. Christ was a martyr.
(b) That of a soldier. A peculiar lustre attaches to Wolfe, Nelson, and the heroes at Thermopylae, who conquered while they died, as did Christ.
(c) The felon’s death, which answers useful ends. And Christ suffered the punishment sin deserved. The holy law was trampled underfoot; His death lifted it up and took away its reproach.
(d) The death of a substitute, such as David wished for when Absalom was slain, and Paul, in Romans
1. The ram substituted for Isaac and the sacrifices of Judaism were examples of the same thing. Christ’s death was vicarious. “The Lord laid on Him,” etc.
2. Its necessity.
(1) The simple fact proves this. Christ was not capable of throwing away His life, and God would never have given it had it not been necessary.
(2) Its character proves this--as that of a warrior, martyr, etc.
(3) But there was a special necessity for it. “Except a corn of wheat,” etc. Had He not died He had been a head without a body, a shepherd without a flock, a king without a kingdom, etc. (A. Gray.)
The seed corn
Two travellers, journeying together, tarried to rest by the way at an inn, when suddenly a cry reached their ears that there was a fire in the village. One of the travellers forthwith sprang up, and leaving his staff and his bundle behind him, hastened to afford assistance. But his companion strove to detain him, saying, “Why should we waste our time here? Are there not hands enough to assist? Wherefore should we concern ourselves about strangers?” The other, however, hearkened not to his words, but ran forth to the fire; when the other leisurely followed, and stood and looked on at a distance. Before the burning house there was a mother transfixed with horror, and screaming, “My children! my children!” When the stranger heard this, he rushed into the house among the falling timbers, and the flames raged around him. “He must perish!” exclaimed the spectators. But after they had waited a short time, behold, he came forth with scorched hair, bringing two young children in his arms, and carried them to their mother. She embraced the infants, and fell at the feet of the stranger; but he lifted her up, and spoke words of comfort to her. The house meanwhile fell with a dreadful crash. As they two, the stranger and his companion, were returning to the inn, the latter said, “But who bade thee risk thy life in such a rash attempt?” “He,” answered the former, “who bids me put the seed corn into the ground, that it may decay and bring forth new fruit.” “But how,” said the other, “if thou hadst been buried beneath the ruins?” His companion smiled, and said, “Then should I have been the seed corn myself.” (J. Krummacher.)
The corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying
I. The corn of wheat ABIDING ALONE. It is Christ’s humiliation which we are mainly called in these words to ponder. But in order, by contrast, to bring out the wonders of that humiliation, let us, as here suggested, go back to a past Eternity, and contemplate that corn of wheat abiding alone. Immensity a void. The mysterious Trinity in unity, pervading and filling all space: No need of worlds or angels to glorify them. There was the corn of wheat abiding alone: the Eternal Son with the Eternal Father, in the glory which He had with Him before the world was.
II. We are next called to consider the corn of wheat FALLING INTO THE GROUND, AND DYING. Impelled by nothing but His own free, sovereign, unmerited grace, Christ resolves not to abide alone. He is to come down to a ruined world in order to effect its ransom and salvation. But, how replace it? How, in other words, is this redemption from sin and death to be effected? There are two words in our text, on which we may for a moment instructively pause. The one suggesting the necessity, the other the voluntariness of the death of Jesus.
1. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground.” “Unless.” There was no other possible way by which the world could be redeemed. Without the dying of corn seed--no life.
2. We have the voluntariness of Christ’s death here set forth. “If it die!”--“If.” This same monosyllable He Himself repeats with similar emphasis a few verses further on: “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.” This leads us
III. To the corn of wheat BRINGING FORTH MUCH FRUIT. It was prophesied regarding the Redeemer, that He should “see His seed” (Isaiah 53:10). “This,” says He, “is the Father’s will who hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:39). He--the Tree of Life--was to be felled to theground; the axe was already laid to the root. But as many a noble denizen of the forest, coming with a crash on the sward, scatters its seed all around, and in a few years there starts up a vast plantation, so Christ, by dying, scattered far and wide the grain of spiritual and immortal life. The seed and the leaves of this Tree are for the healing of the nations. The Divine corn seed drops into the ground; a golden harvest waves, and heaven is garnered with ransomed souls. Oh wondrous multitude which no man can number! A multitude growing ever since Abel bent, a solitary worshipper, in the heavenly Sanctuary, with his solitary song--the first solitary sheaf in these heavenly granaries. Yes! the song is deepening; the sheaves are multiplying. (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)
The dying seed fruitful
The blood of the martyrs has evermore “been the seed of the Church.” Thus have the “corns of wheat” been again and again planted, to die and live again in great harvests. We are reminded of the saying of Cranmer to Ridley, as they were fastened to the stake and the fire was lighted under them: “Be of good courage, Master Ridley. We will kindle a fire this day that will be a light to all England.” The life of Christ without and within
I. In one point of view Christ’s life was AN ENTIRE FAILURE. He did not get the things which men think to be most valuable; nor did He derive much gratification in those faculties which men live to gratify; nor, though endowed with a wondrous versatility of powers, did He employ those powers as to make it appear that He gained the object of life. Regarding our Saviour in His general relations
1. He could scarcely have entered life at a worse door than at the portal of Jewish nationality. For in that age it was a misfortune to be born a Jew in the estimation of everybody except a Jew. So far as worldly opportunities were concerned He might better have been born a heathen.
2. He had but few opportunities in youth. Men are dependent for their standing on the fact that they began with the capital of their predecessors. Christ had nothing of the kind, and He never strove to repair these conditions of fortune.
3. He secured no wealth, not even enough to redeem Himself from dependence.
4. Though He had great power of exciting enthusiasm, He never gained or kept a steady influence over the people. Even His disciples failed to enter into His ideas or career.
5. He failed even more, if it were possible, to secure any personal or professional influence on the minds that ruled that age. There were political rulers of great sagacity whom He never seems to have fallen in with, and He never had a place among men of letters, nor was He a power in any philosophical circle.
6. Even more remarkable is it that He did not produce any immediate impression on the religion and feelings of His age.
7. Nor did He found a family, the object of most great men’s ambition. All this being the case, what could His life produce that should remain? Nothing, apparently. It seemed to be like an arrow shot into the air. His trial and condemnation were more than ordinarily ignominious and fruitless, whereas there are many whose trial, etc., is the most glorious event in their history. He died leaving no trace behind. In His resurrection there was not much alleviation, for He never appeared in public; and His ascension closed His career. Was there ever a life that seemed to be thrown away more than Christ’s?
II. WHAT ARE THE FACTS ON THE OTHER SIDE? Did He not save His life by losing it.
1. Born a Jew, no man now ever thinks of Him as a Jew. There is victory in that what hung about Him as a cloud is utterly dissipated.
2. Born without opportunity in His social relations, there is not a household or community in Christendom that is not proud to call itself Christian. The very kings of the earth bring their glory and baptize it with His name.
3. Having no learning, when has there been a school or university, or philosophical system for a thousand years that has not been conscious of receiving its germ from Christ?
4. He was indifferent to the ordinary sources of wealth, yet from out His life there has issued an influence that is to control money making.
5. He never gained much influence with the masses, yet what name evokes so much enthusiasm among the common people as Christ’s?
6. He made little impression on political and intellectual rulers, but He has now filled the channels of thought and poetic sentiment, and more and more do you find in treaties of law the principles of Christian justice. His life was thrown away, just as grain is thrown away, into the soil: it died to give growth to life.
III. WHAT WAS THE SECRET OF IT ALL? If you had asked at that time, “What are the secrets of power in the world?” any Jew would have pointed to the temple. If, as he did so, you had seen some Greek smiling and asked him the same question, he would have said, “Have you been in Athens?” And if, while he yet spoke, a disdaining Roman had passed by, and you had asked him, “Wherefore that smile?” he would have said, “Jews and Greeks are full of superstitions and are blinded as to the true source of the world’s power. That power is centred in Rome.” And how would Jew and Greek and Roman joined in the derision if you had pointed to Jesus crucified as the secret of the world’s power. And yet Jews, Greeks, and Romans have gone down while this shadow fills the world. It was His death, and the sacrifice involved by that death that was and is the secret of His unique power. But His life was a daily death--a constant self-surrender, and only in so far as we copy Him shall we share His power. (H. W. Beecher.)
The death of Jesus
I. DEATH THE MOST DREADFUL OF EVENTS HAS OFTEN BEEN MADE A BLESSING.
1. The death of the believer has been the life of the sinner. After turning their backs on a sermon men have been convinced by a dying bed.
2. The death of a parent has proved the life of the child. The expiring change has never been forgotten.
3. The death of a minister has been the life of the hearer. Little regarded when living, his word has come with power when gone.
4. The death of a martyr has been the life of the beholder. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
5. But where are we now? The death of Jesus is the life of the world.
II. THE DEATH OF JESUS CONFERS THE LARGEST BLESSING. By His death Christ fills heaven with praise, the Church with blessings, the world with followers.
1. A grain of corn multiplies by yielding other grains like itself. If barley is sown, barley comes up; if wheat, wheat; if Christ, Christians. He was not of the world--they are not of the world; He went about doing good--they serve their generation by the will of God; He was meek and lowly of heart--they are learning of Him.
2. A grain of corn is capable of yielding a large crop--one may stock a country. Christ was asked, “Are there few that be saved?” He told the questioner to strive himself to enter into the straight gate; a wiser course for us than speculation. But were the question asked properly we might reply, No, He is leading “many sons to glory”--a multitude which no man can number.
III. EVERYTHING THAT ENLIVENS US AND CONFORMS US TO HIM OWES ITS EFFICACY TO HIS DEATH.
1. The convincing and renewing influences of the Spirit.
2. Deliverance from spiritual enemies.
3. The lively hope by which we draw nigh to God.
4. Holiness. (W. Jay.)
The law of fruitfulness
The people were full of expectation of the temporal kingdom of the Messiah. Therefore our Lord lays down the principles on which His kingdom shall come. It is spiritual, but conforms to the law which says, No power comes into this world, or attains its end, but on the condition of suffering: only in death can life be achieved.
I. ILLUSTRATIONS OF THIS LAW. When we distinguish between the laws of Christian and the laws of ordinary life, we make a false distinction. The former are but the highest spiritual expression of the conditions which underlie and rule all nature.
1. Our Lord takes us to the lower side of life--that of physical nature.
2. So it is with every beautiful and joyous thing that exists. Not a little child’s laughter makes home ring with gladness but it has found its life in the trembling agony that has gone before.
3. Take life on its commercial side. The spirit of enterprise does not mean the hugging of your savings, but reinvesting them. A man wins wealth by his readiness and wisdom in fulfilling the law of sacrifice.
4. It is true also in the world of intellect. The power of genius and talent largely consists in the power of self-denial and industry. It is only when a man puts his whole will into the subject he is studying, denying himself pleasure, enduring physical pain and hardship, patiently proving the certainties of his discoveries, that he stands at last amongst his fellows as one who has something to teach.
5. So in all noble and high enterprise. Columbus has his dream, but he must first incur the ridicule and indifference of those who plume themselves on being the wise men of the day.
6. It is true in regard to social life. The same law has its illustration in the case, e.g., of Israel. Their position at first was that of a mere assemblage of tribes with individual preferences, needs, etc., surrounded by the determined hostility of the nations of Canaan. The duty of tribal suffering was the condition of the nation’s unity. The Song of Deborah teaches this. That was in its youth; but. Solomon taught that the same principle was at work. “There is that scattereth and yet increaseth,” etc. The real wealth of the nation depends on the people’s willingness to sacrifice themselves. When the spirit of selfishness came into the land it was easy for the prophets to predict its doom.
II. WHAT DO WE OWE TO CHRIST IN CONNECTION WITH THIS PRINCIPLE? Christ did for it that which makes it capable of operating throughout the whole length and breadth of human life.
1. Christ unfolded to the intellect and brought into the consciousness of life this law. This is His claim to originality. No man can claim originality in inventing new laws. Sir Isaac Newton only brought into human thought the law of gravity, which bad existed ever since the stars were made. The truest benefactor is not he that brings novelties, but who makes us acquainted with the laws which underlie our national existence.
2. But intellectual perception is not enough. Example is the potent agent of action, and therefore Christ brought the law home to the will. You teach a law by an example because you thus stir up the principles of admiration and emulation. Christ is no mere demonstrator; He stood to the yoke of the very laws He had made. He passes by all temptations to selfishness leading a life of self-consecration from Bethlehem to Calvary. And what is the harvest? His power is the kingdom which is the measure of the world’s empire today. Where is the power of Egypt and Assyria, the wisdom and genius of Greece? These, founded on mere selfishness, have passed away. But every land has worshippers of Him who died on the cross.
3. The work must be carried yet further. A man may clearly perceive a thing and most earnestly resolve it. You may gain his intellect and will, but you have not won the man until you have got hold of the affections. It is love which illuminates the actions and understanding, and lifts men’s lives into courses which make the whole life obedient to them. Christ was not only the educator and the embodiment of the law; behind both there was the inspiration of His love. And so “we love Him because He first loved us.” (Bp. Boyd Carpenter.)
There are two conditions of being possible, either of which must constitute our character--rove and self. Love seeks its life outside itself: self seeks its life in itself. Love, in order to possess, sacrifices selfishness; while self, in order to possess, keeps itself and sacrifices love. An unloving soul is
I. WITHOUT GOD IN THE WORLD. God’s love toward us is certain; but of what avail is that if our hearts are closed against Him. “He that loveth not knoweth not God.” He may be, as He is, everywhere present; but unless the heart receives His love and returns it, it is the same to us as if God did not exist. The world is without the sun at noon-day to the blind man.
II. WITHOUT CHRIST. Jesus is one with the Father in Being and in love to man. He came not merely to atone for sin, but to impart His life of love. He represents Himself accordingly, as knocking, etc., the symbol of fellowship of brotherly love. But how can such fellowship be realized if self bars the door? Jesus may be as near to us as He was to Satan in the wilderness, and yet between us the same moral gulf. Judas was as far from Him when he sat by His side as when he went forth to his own place. So we may be near Christ when He saves others, but abide “alone.” He cannot dwell in the selfish heart.
III. WITHOUT THE SPIRIT. The Spirit sheds abroad the love of God. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ,” etc. “The fruit of the Spirit is love.” But if we quench Him, whatever His love may be, it may be said of us “not having the Spirit.”
IV. WITHOUT COMMUNION WITH SAINTS. There is but one family in heaven and earth, and one Spirit pervades the whole--love. Prisons, loss, and bereavement cannot shut Christians out from this. The unloving soul is not rejected: he is invited, “Come thou with us and we will do thee good”; but he responds, “I desire only myself.”
V. What is to become of such a man? He has rejected God, etc. As years advance the conviction steals over him that his companions are falling away. Old age comes, and the world becomes like a cell where he must suffer solitary confinement. The deathbed at last is reached, and he must go forth “alone” into the unknown. How sad and dreary. He has lived alone and now finds himself WITHOUT HEAVEN. (J. T. Pitcher.)
He that loveth his life shall lose it.--Suppose that Jesus, seeking only His personal safety, had now gone to the Greeks to play among them the part of a sage, or to organize the state like another Solon, He might indeed thus have saved His life, but would in reality have lost it. In having given it up to God, He could not have received it from Him glorified (John 12:23). Thus kept by Him, it would have remained doomed to sterility and earthly frailty. It was by renouncing the life of a sage that He became a Christ, and by renouncing the throne of a Solon he obtained that of God. This saying included the judgment of Hellenism; for what was Greek civilization but human life cultivated from the view point of enjoyment, and withdrawn from the law of sacrifice. (F. Godet, D. D.)
The bearing of the present on the future life
I. APPLIES TO THE POSITION CHRIST OCCUPIED AT THE TIME. The gratification of a selfish desire in Christ at this time meant the world’s ruin--ruin intensified by the fact that the work of deliverance was so nearlycompleted. Christ was the exemplification of the text (chap. 10:17, 18; Galatians 2:20).
II. THE GENERAL APPLICATION TO US. It points to two subjects on which we propose to dwell.
1. Selfishness indulged--the cause of irreparable loss. “He that loveth His life shall lose it.” See how selfishness operates on and affects the life.
(1) It isolates. Man is intended to be a social being. Selfishness shuts out society and turns a man in upon himself.
(2) It debases. Man is intended to benefit his race. While getting good he is to do good. Selfishness obstructs the work of charity and usefulness. The life that should find loving room for all is reduced to its own enjoyment and gratification.
(3) It destroys. “Shall lose it.” An irreparable loss, which cannot be fully understood, but of which some conception may be formed when you consider
(a) The excellence of its nature--God-bestowed.
(b) The duration of its existence--eternal.
(c) The price of its redemption--the sacrificial death of Jesus.
This leads us to ask, What is meant by loving life? Not the pure enjoyment of life by a healthy vigorous person, but the love bestowed without restraint on the purely animal life, indulging appetite, fulfilling sensual lusts and delights, following fashion, craving for fame, a passion for riches and pleasures--loving these more than Christ. The worldling who gives his soul for the world.
2. Self-denial practised--the security of eternal life. “He that hateth,” etc. Self-denial is not a gift, but a cultivation developed by exercise and practice. It is the resurrection of our personality buried in the grave of deception. In self-denial we find our true selves. Man’s choice lies between temporary gain and eternal loss. The false says the present; the true part of our nature says the future. “Hatred” of life is not misanthropy. It is this life loved less than the life to come; everything here treated as being incompetent to give true joy, preferring God’s favour to all below. Crucifying the flesh, keeping the body under, enduring persecution for Christ’s sake--the seed of “much fruit.” “Shall keep it,” etc. Selfishness enervates, loosens the grasp, and allows the treasure to slip away. Self-denial tightens the hold and retains possession. “Life eternal”--deliverance from trial, the enjoyment of rest and reward. (J. E.Hargreaves.)
Life loved and lost
Richard Denton, a blacksmith, residing (in Cambridgeshire, was a professor of religion, and the means of converting the martyr, William Woolsey. When told by that holy man that he wondered be had not followed him to prison, Denton replied that he could not burn in the cause of Christ. Not long after, his house being on fire, he ran in to save some of his goods, and was burnt to death.
If any man serve Me, let him follow Me
I. LET WHOM?
II. FOLLOW WHOM?
III. FOLLOW WHENCE?
IV. FOLLOW WHITHER?
V. FOLLOW HOW. (S. S. Times.)
I. THE LEADER.
II. THE FOLLOWER.
III. THE JOURNEY.
IV. THE DESTINATION. (S. S. Times.)
When Amurah II died, which was very suddenly, his son and destined successor, Mohammed, was about a day’s journey distant in Asia Minor. Every day of interregnum in that fierce and turbulent monarchy is attended with peril. The death of the deceased Sultan was therefore concealed, and a secret message despatched to the prince to hasten at once to the capital. On receiving the message he leaped on a powerful Arab charger, and, turning to his attendants, said, “Let him who loves me follow!” This prince afterwards became one of the most powerful sovereigns of the Ottoman line. Those who approved their courage and loyalty by following him in this critical moment of his fortunes were magnificently rewarded. There is another Prince--the Prince of Peace--who says to those around him, “Let him who loves Me follow.”
Christ’s servant: his duties and rewards
The motto of the Prince of Wales is “Ich dien”--I serve; it should be the motto of every prince of the blood royal of heaven.
I. PLAIN DIRECTIONS FOR A VERY HONOURABLE OFFICE.
1. We should all like to minister to Christ. If He were here now there would be nothing which we would not do for Him, so we say. But much of this is mere sentiment. If Christ were to come now as He came at first, probably we should treat Him as He was treated. This sentimentalism has at the bottom of it the idea that we should be honouring ourselves by it. But if you really would serve Christ, you can, by following, i.e., imitating Him.
(1) One says, “I should like to do something to prove that I really would obey my Lord. I would show that I am not a servant in name only.” Imitate Christ, and you then show your obedience.
(2) Another says, “I would joyfully assist Him in His wants.” Imitate Him, then, and go about doing good. Behold His wants in the poor saints.
(3) “I would do something to cheer Him.” The solace of His sorrow is the obedience of His people. When He sees that He sees of the travail of His soul, etc.
(4) “I would honour Him.” Christ is most honoured when His saints are most sanctified. Follow Him thus, and you will honour Him more than by strewing palm branches in His way and shouting “Hosannah!”
2. Let me mark out Christ’s way, and then, if you would serve Him, follow Him. The proud flesh wants to follow Christ by striking out new paths, to he an original thinker. It is not for us to be originals, but humble copies of Christ.
(1) He went to Jordan to be baptized. If you would serve Him don’t say this is not essential; it is not a servant’s business to determine that.
(2) The Spirit led Him to be tempted of the devil; don’t think that temptation is a mark of being out of Christ.
(3) Now He comes forth to work. So you must follow Him in labour. If you cannot preach to thousands you can to tens, or to one, as He did by Jacob’s well.
(4) He bears bold witness before His adversaries. Let there not be a foe before whose face you would fear to plead His cause.
(5) He comes into the black cloud of reproach; they say He has a devil and is mad. Follow Him there.
(6) He comes to die. Be ready to yield thy life if called upon, and if not, devote every moment of it to Him.
II. GENEROUS STIPULATIONS FROM A NOBLE MASTER. “Where I am,” etc. Whoever heard of such conditions. The master is in the drawing room, the servant in the kitchen; the master presides at the table, the servant waits at the table. Not so here.
1. This was Christ’s role all His life long.
(1) He went to a wedding, to the house of Lazarus, to the Pharisee’s house, and had He been an ordinary man He would have said, “I cannot take these poor fishermen with Me;” but they were always with Him: with Him too in His triumphal entry and His last great feast. “With desire,” etc.
(2) But if He thus shared His comforts among His disciples, He expected them to share His discomforts. He was in a ship in a great storm, and they must be with Him though they were sore afraid. He goes to Gethsemane, and they must be with Him there; and though He had to tread the winepress alone, yet they were with Him in death, for they suffered martyrdom.
2. This stands true to us. Where Christ was we must be. He is gone to heaven now, and where He is we shall be also. Fare ill or well we are to have joint stock with Christ.
III. A GLORIOUS REWARD FOR IMPERFECT SERVICES. “Him will my Father honour.”
1. In his own soul. He shall have such peace and fellowship that this honour shall be apparent. How greatly God honoured Knox, who never feared the face of man, with unruffled serenity of heart!
2. By success in whatever he may attempt. Why is it that little success rests on some who labour for God? Because they do not serve Christ by imitating Him. Ecclesiastical courts and rubrics confine too many.
3. At the last, before the angels. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Service and its reward
I. THE COURSE OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE. What are men’s ideas of life? The gratification of animal appetites, the desire for social pleasures, the love of distinction. Is it any wonder that these ideas should prompt the question, “Is life worth living?” These are ends which life itself will ultimately disdain. Turn, then, to Christ’s idea--service true and lasting.
1. Christ’s life was one of full consecration to God. This consecration was
(1) Active--“I come to do Thy will.”
(2) Entire--“My meat is to do the will,” etc.
(3) Realized in the largest degree--“Into Thy hands I commit My Spirit.”
(4) Triumphant, “It is finished.”
(5) Was maintained by prayer.
2. Christ’s life was inspired with one aim--the elevation of mankind. Archimedes said that if he could find a fulcrum he would make a lever that would lift the world. The fulcrum in our redemption was God’s eternal purpose, and the lever Christ’s own life--His teaching and example. This is the Church’s mission today.
3. Jesus never made present success the ground of His life. After 1800 years there is more power in it than when He saved the dying thief.
II. THIS SERVICE LEANS WHERE JESUS IS. There is elevation in the very nature of Christian service. Men wearing titles and honours which they have never deserved are looked upon with contempt. To bear Christ’s name and to wear His livery without serving Him is despicable. But that service is calculated to destroy one of our most debasing passions--selfishness; and the moment that that is dead at the feet of Jesus we begin to rise. We are not Mind to other elevating influences--knowledge, taste, industry, uprightness, but a heart consecrated to Christ is higher than all. It has higher conceptions of life, sweeter sentiments of duty, aims at higher ends.
III. THIS LIFE OF SERVICE WILL BE CROWNED WITH DIVINE HONOURS.
1. A place in heaven.
2. Distinguished signs of approbation.
3. Association with Jesus. (Weekly Pulpit.)
I. THE SELF-DENIAL IN WHICH WE SHOULD FOLLOW JESUS.
1. It was free. Voluntariness is the essence of this virtue. For others to deny us a benefit or to constrain us to hardship we would avoid is not self-denial. Christ “emptied Himself,” etc.
2. It was wise. It was not placed in trifles. If He restrained innocent desires or endured what was painful it was for noble and generous ends.
3. It was extensive, reaching from the humble stable to the malefactor’s cross, and all was foreseen.
4. It was disinterested. Many deny to serve themselves; but “ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” etc. Would we be Christ’s followers? Our self-denial must be like His--free, wise, etc.
II. THIS SELF-DENIAL IS THE PATH TO TRUE HONOUR AND GREATNESS, because
1. It is great and honourable in itself. These qualities arise from character and conduct, and are independent of the judgments of men. They are not derived from noble descent, magnificence, dominion, etc. To rise above self-love requires a vigour in which there will always be found true greatness of mind.
2. It conducts to true greatness. Voluptuousness rusts the best talents, blunts the most undaunted courage, perverts the soundest judgment, and corrupts the purest heart. All these qualities a habit of self-denial improves. That which the world counts greatness can only be achieved by self-denial--learning, statesmanship, war. But Christian self-denial makes man trulygreat.
3. It is honoured by God. This is seen in the case of Christ. For His self-denial God gave Him a name above every name. (J. Erskine, D. D.)
Where I am there shall also My servant he. I have heard that a noted Methodist preacher, who commenced his ministry very early in life, suffered not a little at first because of his humble origin and unpromising exterior. Being sent on the circuit plan to a certain house on a Saturday night, to be in readiness for preaching on the Sunday, the good woman, who did not like the look of him, sent him round to the kitchen. The serving man was surprised to see the minister in the kitchen when he came from labour. John, rough as he was, welcomed the despised preacher, and tried to cheer him. The minister shared John’s meal of porridge, John’s bed in the cockloft, and John’s humble breakfast, and walked to the House of God with John in the morning. Now, the preacher had not long opened his mouth before the congregation perceived that there was somewhat in him, and the good hostess, who had so badly entertained him, began to feel a little uneasy. When the sermon was over there were many invitations for the minister to come home, and the hostess, fearful of losing her now honoured guest, begged he would walk home with her, when, to her surprise, he said, “I supped with John, I slept with John, I breakfasted with John, I walked here with John, and I’ll walk home with John.” So when dinner came he was, of course, entreated to come into the chief room, for many friends wished to dine with this young minister, but no, he would dine in the kitchen; he had supped with John, he had breakfasted with John, and he would dine with John. They begged him to come into the parlour, and at last he consented on the condition that John should sit at the same table. “For,” he said, very properly, “John was with me in my humiliation, and I will not sit down to dine unless he be with me in my exaltation.” So on they went till the Monday morning, for “John was with me at the beginning, and he shall be with me to the end.” This story may be turned to account thus: our Master came into this world once, and they sent Him into the servants’ place, where the poor and despised ones were. Now the name of Christ is honoured, and kings and cardinals, popes and bishops, say, “Master, come and dine with us.” Yes, the proud emperor and philosopher would have Him sup with them, but still He says, “No, I was with the poor and afflicted when I was on earth, and I will be with them to the end, and when the great feast is made in heaven the humble shall sit with Me, and the poor and despised who were not ashamed of Me, of them will I not be ashamed when I come into the glory of My Father, and all My holy angels with Me.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
If any man serve Me, him will My Father honour
Christian service and its honours
I. THE SERVICE OF CHRIST.
1. It is not a condition of serfdom. It is perfect freedom.
2. It is not a condition of menialism. In a modified sense it gives equality with Christ (John 15:15). The relation between the Saviour and His servants is tender, intimate, mysterious. “Christ in you the hope of glory.”
3. It involves a complete renunciation of every other service and our entire dedication to Christ. Hand and head and heart, time and influence and wealth must be laid on His altar.
4. It is a voluntary service. The Bible, the history of each saint of God, and our own inward consciousness unite in attesting that we possess the power to discern moral distinctions, to recognize the character, and to appreciate the claims of God; the power to render implicit obedience or proudly to defy our Maker.
II. ITS ACCOMPANYING HONOURS.
1. The service of Christ is the only path of real honour; but it is the sure way to certain and glorious distinction.
2. This service elevates the physical, gives majesty to the intellectual, and arrays in robes of richest glory the moral and spiritual. It inspires an unwavering purpose. It raises to all the privileges of an adopted sonship.
3. It is emphatically royal. Those engaged in it are “a royal priesthood.” Already they have in possession the highest good, and in prospect an “inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” They are kings, albeit as yet uncrowned, but awaiting patiently their coronation. (J. W. Jones.)
The Christian service and honour
Few men love service. Man prefers to be his own master, to do as he pleases, But he who spurns the counsel of God commits an act of suicide on his liberty. He is the free man who serves God. But he who refuses is a slave to Satan or self.
I. WHAT IS IT TO SERVE JESUS? We may serve Him
1. In the faith we hold. Studying it, mastering it, loving it, practising it.
2. In suffering for His sake. Bearing meekly persecution, calumny, Divine discipline, and poverty.
3. In the outward acts we perform. Some may serve God in ecclesiastical duties, others in the private duties of religion, and those of daily life. If you cannot serve Christ in one way you can in another--the servant in the household, the nurse in the hospital, the merchant in the rectitude of his dealings. It is not necessary to be a clergyman; you may serve Christ behind the counter or at the plough.
II. THE HONOUR GOD CONFERS ON CHRIST’S SERVANTS.
1. In this world.
(1) In the midst of the Church. Whatever a man’s rank may be, the most useful are after all the most honoured. Let a man deserve position, and his fellow Christians will not be backward in giving it.
(2) In the world. You may not know it, but the conscience of the wicked respects the righteous, however scornful the tongue. And for whom does the sinner send on his death bed? His boon companions? No; the man of prayer.
(3) After he is dead. The servant of Christ has honour at the hands of his family, his business connections, his neighbourhood, after he is gone.
2. In the world to come.
(1) At the judgment--from persecutors, the wicked, the devil himself.
(2) Throughout eternity. “Well done,” etc.
Christian service and its reward
I. THE SERVICE.
1. The master who is served. Jesus--Divine and human--One in whom are associated the might of omnipotence and the tenderness of love, who strengthens the weakness of His servants and uniformly leads them to victory and reward. And what else can it be but a service of honour to follow one so preeminently glorious? The subject may be proud of the sovereign, the scholar of the teacher, etc., but what sovereign, etc., can be compared with Christ. The conclusion is irresistible. There is no one who ought to be so trusted, loved, and obeyed.
2. The men who serve. Not men of any description, but fit men, chosen, justified, sanctified. How animating to be associated with such--men at the head of their species, whatever the world may say. The soldier congratulates himself on belonging to a profession which includes a Wellington; the student that he traverses a path trodden by Plato and Newton; the artist that he follows in the wake of Raphael and Reynolds; but we follow in the footsteps of Paul, Augustine, Luther, etc. “Wherefore seeing we are encompassed,” etc.
3. The object contemplated--the loftiest at which man can aim--the evangelization of the world. The politician may alleviate the burdens of many, the merchant increase the comfort of thousands, the physician and inventor minister to multitudes, but the Christian carries light to the benighted and life to the dead, deposes Satan and enthrones God.
4. Its motive. The love of Christ. Think of that in the constancy of its exercise, the depth of its intensity, the fulness of its abundance, the felicity of its influence, and the munificence of its bestowment, and you will feel with Paul, “the love of Christ constraineth,” etc.
II. THE REWARD. God honours those who serve His Son
1. By crowning their labours with success. Admiration and advantages are nothing with success, but that compensates all sacrifices and exertions; and Christians always have it, although in a different way and of a different sort to what they expect.
2. By bestowing upon them His friendship and presence. This atones for worldly neglect and contempt.
3. By making them the almoners of His grace. All right-minded men esteem it an honour to dispense blessings, but Christians are channels of the living waters of salvation.
4. By raising them to the blessedness and glory of heaven. (J. Fleming.)
The Christian a follower of Christ
I. EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN IS A SERVANT OF CHRIST. This is a very frequent description of His people, “My servants.” In one sense all men and all creatures are the servants of Christ: they are subject to the control of His power, the direction of His wisdom, the accomplishment of His purposes, and the manifestation of His glory. But it may be more properly said He serves Himself by them, than that they serve Him. We are not to confine this relationship to those who serve Christ in the ministry of the word, either at home or amidst the moral wilds of pagan superstition. They, indeed, are His servants in an eminent, but not in an exclusive sense. To be a servant might seem to imply no very lofty eminence of distinction, no very rich honour. This, however, depends upon the dignity of the person we serve. When the queen of Sheba saw the glory, and heard the wisdom of Solomon, she poured forth her raptures in congratulations to his servants, who stood continually in his presence, and ministered before his throne.
II. IT IS ESSENTIAL TO THE CHARACTER AND CONDUCT OF A SERVANT OF CHRIST TO FOLLOW HIM. This, in fact, is the service; the follower is the servant, and no other. The servant keeps his eye upon his master, and avoiding all other persons, and all other streets, treads in his footsteps, and presses as closely as possible to him. Just observe for a moment whom a Christian does not follow. He does not follow the teachers of false opinions in religion, in philosophy, or in morals, with whatever specious sophisms, or seductive eloquence, their notions may be advanced and supported. He does not follow the votaries of pleasure or of fashion, in their epicurean revels, with whatever elegance or refinement they may endeavour to recommend their habits.
1. In what views of Christ do His servants follow him? As their Teacher.
2. We are to follow Him as our Saviour. He came not only to instruct us, but to redeem us.
3. We are to follow Christ as a Master. “Ye call me Master and Lord,” said Jesus to His disciples, “and ye say well, for so I am” (John 13:13). Here it may be proper to consider the rule of our service to Christ. This is the word of God. If I were asked to describe the character of a servant of Christ, not such as His professing people are too generally found, but such as they ought to be, I should say, they are His willing servants; they choose His service with their whole heart, and would not quit it for any consideration of wealth, rank, station, or fame. They are His servants without terms or conditions as to the kind, quantity, time or place of service. If it be not degrading the subject to apply to it a common phrase in domestic use, I would say they are servants of all work: willing to do the work of God in any place, in any condition, in any circumstances; so that if they can serve Him better by suffering than by active duties, in adversity than in prosperity, they are willing to do it. They are His inquisitive servants, searching the Scriptures as the rule of conduct, to know His will. They are His loving servants; loving their Master and His work too. They are His diligent servants, satisfied with no measure of duty, wrestling against a slothful and indolent disposition, and forgetting the things that are behind, in going on unto perfection. They are His faithful servants, taking account of all the gifts, graces, opportunities of usefulness, and means of doing the will of God and serving their generation. They are His waiting servants, looking for the coming of their Master.
4. We are to follow Him as an example. We are to imitate His holy life. Christ must be followed in humble dependence on Divine grace; and with a fixed resolution and dauntless courage in the face of danger, and at the risk of suffering.
III. ALL WHO FOLLOW CHRIST ON EARTH WILL DWELL WITH HIM IN HEAVEN. HE SAITH, “WHERE I AM THERE SHALL MY SERVANT BE.” (J. A. James.)
Labour is not necessarily service. A good worker may be a poor server. A cook who lets the dinner spoil because she persists in scrubbing the floor when she should be watching the pot, is laborious, but not faithful. Service rather than labour is the measure of usefulness everywhere. God’s service is not merely in the church meeting, nor in the home closet, but in every legitimate undertaking of life. Whatever distracts us in our proper business distracts from our proper service. The bookkeeper who makes a wrong entry because he is dreaming of the pleasures of last night’s prayer meeting, is practically forgetting God, because he forgets present duty. The paymaster who makes an overpayment because he is framing his next Sunday school lesson, may think more about God than he thinks of Him. He is a religious worker more than a godly server. And one may serve the Church to the neglect of the Master. He may forget God in thinking about God. (H. C.Trumbull, D. D.)
The honour God confers upon those who serve Christ
We will suppose that the Prince of Wales is wrecked on a certain voyage, and is cast on shore with only one companion. The Prince falls into the hands of barbarians, and there is an opportunity for his companion to escape; but he says, “No, my Prince, I will stay with you to the last, and if we die, we will die together.” The Prince is thrown into a dungeon; his companion is in the prison with him, and serves him and waits upon him. He is sick--it is a contagious fever--his companion nurses him--puts the cooling liquid to his mouth--and waits on him with a mother’s care. He recovers a little: the fond attendant carries the young Prince, as he is getting better, into the open air, and tends him as a mother would her child. They are subject to deep poverty--they share their last crust together; they are hooted at as they go through the streets, and they are hooted at together. At last, by some turn in Providence, it is discovered where the Prince is, and he is brought home. Who is the man that the Queen will delight to honour? I fancy she would look with greater affection upon the poor servant than upon the greatest statesman; and I think that as long as she lived she would remember him above all the rest, “I will honour him above all the mighty ones in the land.” And now, if we shall be with Christ, the King’s Son, if we shall suffer with Him, and be reproached with Him, if we shall follow Him anywhere and everywhere, making no choice about the way, whether it shall be rough or smooth--if we can go with Him to prison and to death, then we shall be the men whom heaven’s King delighteth to honour. “Make room for Him, ye angels! Stand back ye peers of heaven’s realm Here comes the man; he was poor, mean, and afflicted; but he was with My Son, and was like My Son. Come hither, man! There, take thy crown, and sit with My Son in His glory, for thou wast with My Son in His shame.” (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Now is My soul troubled.
This struggle is like one of those fissures in its crust which enables science to fathom the bowels of the earth. It lets us read the very inmost depths of our Lord’s being. And what do we discover? Just the reverse of that impassive Jesus attributed by criticism to St. John. (F. Godet, D. D.)
Lent, a preparation for Good Friday: or the valley of the shadow of death
It has been well said that all Lent should be regarded as a preparationfor Good Friday and its observance. Just as when we visit some deep and gloomy gorge amongst the mountains, long before we reach the spot where the cliffs rise highest and the daylight is farthest off, the hills begin to encircle us, the bright sunshine is lost and the black shadows of the stern and solemn precipices encompass our path! Thus, for a considerable time before His crucifixion, our Lord by His prophetic foresight entered into “the valley of the shadow of death.” And we, in sympathy, should follow His footsteps. When the great prehistoric temple of Stonehenge was perfect, a number of huge stone gateways gave access to the central altar, around which they were ranged. So our Blessed Lord may be pictured as approaching the great Sacrifice on the Altar of the Cross by passing through diverse portals. We may look on Him in different aspects of the preparation for the first Good Friday.
I. For instance, we see Him passing through the archway of PAINFUL ANTICIPATION. He knew what awaited Him--He told His disciples--“the Son of Man” was about to be betrayed--given into the hands of strangers--“scourged,” “mocked,” “spitefully entreated--insulted--crucified!” All, like a harrowing picture, was clear before His eyes, every detail stood out distinctly, and each day the crisis of His obedience drew closer. “For though He was a Son, yet learned He obedience by those things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). A middle-aged man said that the most agonizing day he ever spent was the one day before an operation was performed on him; he did not know whether it would be very painful or not, and he was afraid to ask, and every time his thoughts wandered to pleasant matters they came back with a start to the grim recollection that every moment brought nearer and nearer the horrible instant that he could not escape!
II. Again, we may regard our Lord pressing on to the Cross through the portal of a brave and RESOLUTE DETERMINATION. “He set His face to go up to Jerusalem.” When His disciples objected, “Master, the Jews of late sought to stone Thee, and goest Thou thither again?” the warning cannot stay His footsteps. When “the power of darkness” is at hand, He says, with a noble resignation, “The cup that My Father giveth Me to drink, shall I not drink it?”
III. Another aspect in which we may observe our Saviour is, that He was called on to take His pathway under the gloomy arch of MORTIFICATION AND FAILURE. The disciples who walked by His side He knew were about to forsake Him. Peter, their chief spokesman, was going to deny Him, and Judas to betray Him, and the multitude were soon to exchange their welcome of “Hosannah” into grim yells of “Crucify Him!” But none of these things daunted the resolution of our Lord. In one golden sentence He summed up His task. (J. W. Hardman, LL. D.)
The Saviour’s prayer
I. THE EXPERIENCE OUT OF WHICH IT AROSE. “Troubled” means tortured, racked, torn, as it were, with intense and various emotions.
1. This trouble arose out of the foresight of the Cross. Between Him and His glory lay Calvary. But the anguish was not on account of the physical torture or personal ignominy He would endure, although extreme; He had tasted the bitterness of sin in the intensity and perfection of His redeeming sympathy, and to pass under the shadow of its retribution.
2. This trouble superinduced a great conflict in His mind, “What shall I say? Father,” etc. Some regard this as a petition; others with more propriety an interrogation implying a natural shrinking which it would have been more human not to feel. Gladly would He have said it but for the stability of His redeeming purpose. Purpose and feeling thus came into distressing collision.
3. The conflict, however, was but momentary. It gave place at once to a calm and heroic resignation.
II. THE PURPORT OF THE PRAYER. “Father, glorify Thy name.” How concise, yet comprehensive: expressive of
1. Resignation. “Do what Thou wilt so long as Thou be glorified.”
2. Fortitude. “The task before Me is a heavy one, but for Thy sake, I will go forward to it.”
3. Benevolence. Self is lost sight of, and the Father’s purpose and the redounding glory is all in all.
4. Faith. “What Thou hast promised Thou wilt perform.”
III. THE ANSWER.
1. How it was given. By a voice from heaven, mistaken as thunder, as the voice of an angel, but truly interpreted by Christ.
2. What it was. A declaration
(1) That it had been already fulfilled--in the whole of Christ’s life. How this assurance would animate Christ, and endear to Him afresh the Father’s will.
(2) That the end for which Jesus prayed would be still further attained. Conclusion: Learn to cherish at all times a true and steady regard for the glory of God. (B. Wilkinson.)
A foretaste of Gethsemane
I see in the whole event here described a short summary of what took place afterwards more fully at Gethsemane. There is a remarkable parallelism at every step. Does our Lord say here
1. “My soul is troubled”? Just so He said in Gethsemane: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matthew 26:38)
2. “Father, save Me from this hour”? Just so He says in Gethsemane: “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39).
3. Does our Lord say here, “For this cause came I unto this hour”? Just so He says in Gethsemane: “If this cup may not pass away from Me except I drink it, Thy will be done.”
4. Does our Lord say, finally, “Father, glorify Thy name”? Just so our Lord says, lastly, “The cup which My Father hast given Me, shall I not drink it” (chap. 18:11). The brief prayer which our Lord here offers, we should remember, is the highest, greatest thing that we can ask God to do. The utmost reach of the renewed will of a believer, is to be able to say always, “Father glorify Thy name in Me. Do with Me what Thou wilt, only glorify Thy name.” The glory of God after all is the end for which all things were created. Paul’s joyful hope, he told the Philippians, when a prisoner at Rome, was “that in all things, by life or by death, Christ might be magnified in his body” (Philippians 1:20). (Bp. Ryle.)
Gethsemane in prospect
This world is a world of grief. The infant begins its career with a cry of distress premonitory of all it must suffer from the cradle to the grave. Some suffer more than others--martyrs, e.g. Hebrews 11:36-58.11.38). But one stands out preeminent for suffering (Isaiah 53:1-23.53.12; Psalms 69:1-19.69.2; Psalms 69:20). It was in the foresight of His amazing sufferings that Christ felt this perturbation of spirit, which arose out of
I. AN OVERWHELMING SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY UNDER THE TRUST HE HAD ASSUMED. Those most worthy of responsibility feel its pressure most. Some rush into office without sensibility or conscience, prepared to take all responsibility merely to pervert it to private ends. But men who deserve the trusts of life shrink even from their honours--e.g., the conscientious physician, advocate, judge, parent. What was Christ’s trust? It was
1. To represent the sinner (Galatians 5:4-48.5.5; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
2. To represent God. His holiness, justice, truth, in all the bitter experiences of His Spirit, and that not in His omnipotent Divine, but in His frail human nature.
II. THE VIEW OF DEATH AS THE PENALTY OF THE LAW. The dread of death is natural because it formed no part of our original constitution. Whatever belongs to our nature God makes pleasant--e.g., sleep and food. But death is horrible because it has supervened on our constitution Romans 5:12). But Christ had to die under the Father’s judicial displeasure as the substitute for sinners whom the law condemns. He was made sin for us who know no sin, which sinlessness added to the agony. Who that is in any degree sanctified can help but feel the pain of the sins with which He is brought in contact? How then must it have been with the Perfect Man who bore all sin, and all sorrows that are born of sin, even to the privation of the Divine presence.
III. THE ANTICIPATION OF CONFLICT WITH THE POWERS OF DARKNESS. It was an old quarrel begun when Satan lifted the standard of rebellion in heaven, continued when Adam fell, and after. We know something of the terribleness of striving with the devil, and as we advance in the Divine life it becomes more terrible. What then must it have been for the spotless Jesus to feel the full brunt of all the forces that hell could muster. Conclusion:
1. All these sufferings are the evidences of Christ’s love to us.
2. They show us the awful demerit of sin. (B. M. Palmer, D. D.)
The internal sufferings of Christ
It became Christ to suffer Hebrews 2:10). His sufferings were many varied and severe, and His external sufferings, though of no common kind, were the least part of them, as may be judged by the fact that they never extorted a complaint, whereas His inward anguish wrung from Him “strong crying and tears.”
I. THE SAVIOUR’S INTERNAL SUFFERINGS. When the mind is free from uneasiness it is said to be calm like the bosom of the lake when no breath of wind ruffles its glassy surface. When sorrow and terror takes possession of it, it is said to be agitated, like the ocean in a storm. The latter was the case with Christ here, and John 13:21, and Matthew 26:36-40.26.46.
1. Its cause
(1) not external circumstances. There was no scourge or cross here, or at Gethsemane. On the contrary, there was much to please. The people had just shouted their Hosannahs to His Messiahship; the Greeks had fulfilled the promise of Isaiah 49:6.
(2) Not remorse. In no case could He wish that He had thought, or felt, or acted differently from what He had done.
(3) Not fear of impending bodily sufferings (though no doubt they did give rise to uneasy feelings), for He knew that these would be momentary and would be abundantly compensated.
(4) There is but one way of accounting for it. The invisible arm of Omnipotence smites Him. On the head of the spotless, perfect man, Jehovah made to meet, as the victim for human transgression, the iniquities of us all, in all their odiousness and malignity. The more He loved those in whose room He stood, the more would His trouble be increased, just as we are affected more by the crimes of a friend than by those of a stranger. And in addition He was exposed to the attack of malignant spiritual beings whose was that hour and power of darkness.
2. Its purpose.
(1) To “make Him perfect,” i.e., fully to accomplish Him as Saviour. It formed one important part of His expiation. Mere bodily sufferings could not expiate “spiritual wickedness.”
(2) To complete His example. This had been incomplete had He not showed His people how to conduct themselves under inward troubles which often form the severest part of their trials.
(3) To render Him sympathetic with His people under those trials which most need His sympathy.
II. THE EXERCISE OF OUR LORD’S MIND UNDER THESE SUFFERINGS.
1. “What shall I say?” has been regarded as a further expression of suffering--“My sorrows are too great to be uttered in words. Father, save me from my impending sufferings.” Christ’s sorrows were indeed unspeakable, but He could hardly have asked to be saved from death when He rebuked His disciples for attempting to dissuade Him, and when He was straitened till the baptism of blood was accomplished.
2. The words express the deliberating of our Lord’s mind as to what course He should follow--“to what quarter shall I turn for relief. Men are not disposed to pity Me, and cannot relieve Me. I turn to God: what shall I say to Him? He can sustain and deliver Me. Shall I ask Him to release Me from My covenant engagements? No: for this cause I came to this hour. I will not ask it. I will say, Glorify Thy name; finish Thy work in righteousness. Let the end be gained: I quarrel not with the means.”
3. What a display of
(1) Love to God in entire devotedness to His glory!
(2) Love to man in becoming obedient to death.
4. What a call for gratitude, love and devotion from us!
III. THE FATHER’S APPROBATION OF THE SAVIOUR’S EXERCISE OF MIND UNDER THESE SUFFERINGS. “I have both glorified it,” etc. The whole universe glorifies God’s name, the whole history of the past and future. But this refers to the glorification of God’s name
1. In Christ Jesus. His faithfulness in fulfilling His great promise to His Church; His power in bringing into personal union, the Divine and human natures; His mercy in not withholding His only Son. God’s glory was seen in Christ’s life, teaching, miracles.
2. In the awful events of that “hour.”
3. In the glorious results of Christ’s death (Psalms 16:10-19.16.11; Exodus 2:8; Exodus 2:8; Isaiah 53:12; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 40:5). The Resurrection and Ascension of Christ;the effusion of the Spirit; the salvation of an innumerable company.
1. Tells the impenitent sinner what he must endure if he refuses to avail himself of the “redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
2. Bids the Christian rejoice that the cup of wrath he deserved has been drunk by Christ.
3. Urges us often to show forth the Lord’s death in His own ordinance. (J. Brown, D. D.)
The soul trouble of Christ
I. THE MYSTERY OF THE SAVIOUR’S SORROW. It is usual to explain that the human nature of Jesus shrank from death. But this view lowers Him below the level of the martyrs, and is inconsistent with the haste with which He journeyed to Jerusalem to meet His death; and we cannot think of Him as losing courage.
II. SOME LIGHT ON THE MYSTERY. We are apt to take too corporeal a view of Christ’s sacrifice. The bodily pain was an essential part of the suffering, but only a part. It was something all His own in dying, from which He shrank, and the shrinking from which He had to conquer. He saw the sin-wrought woes and horrors of all the generations before and after, to the day of judgment, and there was a sense of their being upon Him, and enveloping Him. And so we may hear Him cry, “Spare Me not the scourging, the death agony,” etc., but the being made one with the world in its sin.
III. THE MEANING OF THE PRAYER. This experience had not been altogether measured beforehand, and now the agony of the incorporation of the sinless with sin is before Him, He prays for deliverance from conscious sin-bearing.
IV. THE ANSWER TO THE PRAYER. “There came a voice.” Modern unbelief scoffs at voices from heaven. Reverence will not pass hasty judgments. One said, “It thundered;” another, “an angel spoke to Him.” Christ alone hears the audible words, and interprets them when He is alone with His people. “I have glorified it and will glorify it.”
V. PRACTICAL LESSONS.
1. “My soul is troubled.” Christ is not alone in that experience; but His troubles were not His own; ours are our own.
2. “Save Me from this hour.” Not that He would not suffer for others; but that this going fearfully into the very heart of sin seemed terrible. We may pray this prayer; but let us take care to remember how different is our trouble; and to add, “Glorify Thy name,” whatever it may cost us.
3. Can we pray, “Glorify Thy name?” Whatever I suffer for my own sin or for my brother’s, only may God be glorified; only may God be seen as He is in His power to save. May this thought take root and grow in us! (Dean Vaughan.)
The sorrow and resignation of Christ
I. THE HOUR WHICH THE SAVIOUR MET. He names it twice in a very emphatic manner: and there is repeated notice of the fact that “it had not yet come.” There have been many important hours, but none like this. It was the hour
1. For which time was made.
2. To which all the dispensations referred--Adamic, Abrahamic, Mosaic.
3. Which all the prophets foretold (1 Peter 1:11).
4. In which the grandest work was accomplished, and the grandest victory achieved.
5. In which all intelligent creation was concerned.
(1) Angels were not indifferent spectators, for they were confirmed in their bliss.
(2) Devils, for they were deprived of their last expiring hope.
(3) Man, for a full atonement for his sin was made.
II. THE AFFLICTION HE FELT. He hardly knew how to express Himself in the prospect; what then must have been the agony itself? No one had ever such reason to meet death with calmness. He had no guilt, was assured of immortality, and saw the blessed issue. Martyrs--mere men--have suffered with magnanimity and joy. Yet He was troubled. Why? Because He was the surety for sinners and suffered for sin. Learn, then
1. The extreme evil of sin.
2. The greatness of the love of Christ.
3. The indispensable necessity of faith in His atonement.
III. THE RESIGNATION HE EXEMPLIFIED. “Father, save Me,” etc., is not a petition, but an interrogation. Note that
1. Christ’s undertaking for sinners was voluntary. He “came to this hour,” which teaches His inviolable faithfulness, and should encourage our trust.
2. He saw this hour in every period of His existence. It was not unexpected--“For this cause.”
3. The motives which had influenced Him to suffer were still the same; and as the hour approached they gathered weight.
4. It was but an hour. The conflict was severe but transient. Such considerations contributed to work this resignation.
IV. THE PRAYER HE OFFERED. “Father, glorify Thy name” is more than resignation; it is a consecration of His sufferings to God’s glory. How is the Father glorified thus?
1. In His perfections. Already His wisdom, power, and mercy were displayed in the Saviour’s mission and miracles: but now He was to display His holiness and justice.
2. As regards His dispensations. (T. Kidd.)
The Redeemer contemplating His hour as come
I. THE UNIQUE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LANGUAGE.
1. The nature of the hour--the time appointed for the vindication of the Divine government outraged by man, and for the manifestation of Divine love. The world had been spared for this hour.
2. The mysterious agitation with which it was approached. This was natural. Who has not spent anxious days and sleepless nights over an unfinished work, and who does not know the tension as the hour for its completion arrives.
3. The grand consideration which induced Christ to meet this hour--the fact that all the past was summed up in it to the glory of God, and that the glory of God would stream from it.
II. ITS APPLICATION TO US.
1. There is an hour in the life of every man, Christian, Church, for which every previous hour is a designed preparation.
2. Seasons of special service and sacrifice have actually occurred in the history of the Church--Israel on the confines of the promised land; the Reformation; the mission of Wesley; the great missionary movement.
3. Such times of effort should be expected, prayed for, ascertained.
4. The due apprehension of our hour would invest us with a consecrating sense of opportunity.
5. On our discharge of impending responsibilities may be suspended consequences of unknown magnitude.
6. Is not the urgency of the hour now greater than ever? (J. Harris, D. D.)
The hour of atonement
I. CONTEMPLATED AN IMPORTANT PERIOD.
1. As involving intense and infinite agony--betrayal, desertion, ignominy, corporeal torture, agony in the endurance of imputed sin.
2. As connected with and founding His exaltation (John 12:23).
(1) The glory of His personal dignity in His resurrection, ascension, enthronement, and dominion.
(2) The glory of the universal efficacy of His atonement (John 12:24, Isaiah 53:10-23.53.12).
II. WAS AFFECTED BY A POWERFUL EMOTION.
1. He was perturbed with anxiety arising from the prospect of His sufferings, which incidentally proves that His death was an atonement. How else shall we explain this intense agitation?
2. He was resolute in determination. “For this cause come I to this hour.”
3. He was fervent in prayer. “Father, glorify Thy name.”
III. RECEIVED A REMARKABLE TESTIMONY.
1. Its mode--a voice from heaven.
2. Its announcement--an approval of the invocation.
1. Honour the hour of atonement by admitting its unparalleled importance.
2. Seek with supreme earnestness a personal interest in the redemption this period has provided.
3. Promote the glory of the Father and the Son by the zealous diffusion of that gospel which conveys it. (J. Parsons.)
Father, glorify Thy name
The glorified name
One important aspect of Christian life is the imitation of Christ. But this is not necessarily doing the same things that Christ did, but involves the discovery of the principles by which His life was ruled, and the imitation of ways of expressing character after we have gained Christ’s principles.
2. A man’s ruling principle can best be discovered in his prayers, particularly in those which are forced on by sudden calamity or pressure. Then all the guards and formalities around a man are broken down, and the man reveals himself in his heart cry to God. The circumstances of the text present such an occasion, and that we may know what was our Lord’s ruling principle, let us study this revealing prayer.
I. THE PRAYER THAT EMBODIES THE PRINCIPLE OF THE NOBLE CHRISTLY LIFE. Observe
1. The apprehension of God that is in it. The character of our prayer depends on the name we are able to use for God. Our Lord could only employ the richest and dearest--Father. This apprehension includes some apprehension of the mystery of life and suffering, and a comforting recognition of the Divine purpose. His is a fatherhood of many sons whom He is training for glory.
2. The attitude of soul it indicates.
(1) Perfect trust in the goodness of all the Father’s arrangements and doings.
(2) Simple and unquestioning obedience.
(3) Intense love making complete self-sacrifice possible.
3. What is involved in the petition--living out to the end such a perfect sonship that men, throughout the ages, thinking of the life of Jesus, should fill the name of Father with highest, tenderest, and holiest meanings. To live for self is ignoble; to live for God in His character of Father, the noble life indeed.
II. THE DIVINE RESPONSE TO SUCH A PRAYER.
1. A side of tender comforting--“I have glorified it; that has been the meaning of all your life’s toil and pain.” This voice may be heard to cheer all true-hearted sons of God. Their life has not been lived in vain.
2. A sign of assurance for the future--“I will,” etc. Therefore our Lord may calmly go on to new scenes of toil and suffering. (R. Tuck, B. A.)
The glory of God interpreted in Christ
The true glory of God must be interpreted in Christ Jesus; and when you understand what it is that God makes to be His glory; when you understand that the glory of God is not self-laudation, nor enriching His own power, nor multiplying His own treasures, but that it is supremely to make others happy; when you understand that the glory of God means loving other people and not oneself, mercy and not selfishness, the distribution of His bounty and not the hoarding it up; when you understand that God sits with all the infinite stores of redemptive love only to shed them abroad upon men forever and forever, then you form a different conception of what it is for God to reign for His own glory. If love is His glory; if generosity is His glory; if giving is His glory; if thinking of the poor is His glory; if strengthening the weak is His glory; if standing as the defender of the wronged is His glory; if loving and watching over every being that He has created forever and forever is His glory, then, blessed be that teaching which represents that God does reign for His own glory. That is a glory which is worthy of the Divine regality. It will bring out blossoms of joy and gladness in heaven and on earth. (H. W. Beecher.)
The glory of God in Christ crucified
Here shine spotless justice, incomprehensible wisdom, and infinite love, all at once; none of them darkens or eclipses the other; every one of them gives a lustre to the rest; they mingle their beams, and shine with united, eternal, splendour. The just Judge, the merciful Father, the wise Governor--no other object gives such a display of all these perfections; yea, all the objects we know give not such a display as any one of them. Nowhere does justice appear so terribly awful, mercy so sweetly amiable, or wisdom so unfathomably profound. The glories that are found separately in the other works of God, are found united here. The joys of heaven glorify God’s goodness; the pains of hell glorify His justice; the cross of Christ glorifies both of them in a more remarkable way than heaven or hell glorifies any of them. The justice of God is more awfully displayed in the sufferings of Christ, as the substitute of sinners, than in the torments of devils; and His mercy is far more brightly manifested in these sufferings, than in the joys of angels. (J. McLaurin.)
The glory of God the object of grace
Whenever God has blessed the Church, He has secured Himself the glory of the blessing, though we have had the profit of it. Sometimes He has been pleased to redeem His people by might; but then He had so used the power that all the glory hath come to Him, and His head alone hath worn the crown. Did He smite Egypt, and lead forth His people with a strong hand and an outstretched arm? the glory was not to the rod of Moses, but to the Almighty power which made the rod so potent. Did He lead His people through the wilderness and defend them from their enemies? Still, did He, by teaching the people their dependence upon Him, preserve to Himself all the glory. So that not Moses or Aaron amongst the priests or prophets could share the honour with Him. And tell me, if ye will, of slaughtered Anak, and the destruction of the tribes of Canaan; tell me of Israel’s possessing the promised land; tell me of Philistines routed, and laid heaps on heaps; of Midianites made to fall on each other; tell me of kings and princes who fled apace and fell, until the ground was white, like the snow in Salmon. I will say of every one of these triumphs, “Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously;” and I will say at the end of every victory, “Crown Him, crown Him, for He hath done it; and let His name be exalted and extolled, world without end.” (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Human glory, what it comes to
A moment before he uttered his last sigh he called the herald who had carried his banner before him in all his battles, and commanded him to fasten to the top of a lance the shroud in which the dying prince was soon to be buried. “Go,” said he, “carry the lance, unfurl this banner; and while you lift up this standard, proclaim, ‘This, this is all that remains to Saladin the Great (the conqueror and the king of the empire) of all his glory.’” Christians, I perform today the office of this herald. I fasten to the staff of a spear sensual and intellectual pleasures, worldly riches, and human honours. All these I reduce to the piece of crape in which you will shortly be buried. This standard of death I lift up in your sight, and I cry, “This, this is all that will remain to you of the possessions for which you exchanged your souls.” (J. Saurin.)
Voices from the excellent glory
(Text and Mat_3:16-17; Mat_17:5)
I. THE THREE TESTIMONIES.
1. When the voices were heard
(1) In relation to Christ’s personal ministry.
(a) The first at the commencement of His public ministry.
(b) The second some little time after its central point.
(c) The last just before its close. How cheering at the beginning of a great enterprise to have God’s testimony that He has sent you; how encouraging when the labour is heavy and the spirit faint to receive another affirming word; but best of all to have it when we are about to depart.
(2) In relation to His life and enterprise.
(a) The first celestial witness was given after He had lived for thirty years in obscurity. It was meet when He first appeared that there should be some token that He was what He professed to be. It came also before the temptation, for which there could not be a better forearming. So with us: before temptation, spiritual sustenance.
(b) The second was when our Lord (according to Luke) was about to send out other seventy disciples. Before extending His agencies of mercy He received a token for good. When the Lord calls us to wider service; let us go up into the mountain to pray, and there too we may expect to enjoy the comforting and strengthening witness of the Spirit.
(c) The third came just before His sufferings and death. It was meet that the Sufferer who must tread the winepress alone should receive a word meeting the point about which His soul was most concerned, viz., God’s glory.
(3) In relation to His habits.
(a) The first came when He was in the attitude of obedience--“fulfilling all righteousness.” When you are in the path of filial obedience you may expect the Spirit to bear witness with yours that you are born of God.
(b) The second came when He was in devout retirement. He had gone up into the mountain alone, and when you are there you may expect to receive Divine testimonies.
(c) The third came when about Isis work, preaching in the Temple. If you are called to any form of service, under no pretext neglect it, or you may lose the inward witness.
2. To whom the attestations were given.
(1) To an increasing number of persons. The first to John alone; the second to five; the last to many. God’s testimony to Christ is an ever growing one.
(2) It was given in this wise.
(a) The first to the greatest of men, yet the voice revealed a greater than he.
(b) The second to the best of men, but the voice bear witness to a better.
(c) The third in the holiest place, and there it testified to a holier. Jesus is everywhere magnified beyond all others.
3. To what God bore testimony.
(1) The first was to Christ’s miraculous origin: “This is My beloved Son.”
(2) The second sealed His appointment as the Great Prophet--“Hear Him.”
(3) The third bore witness to the success of His work--“I have glorified it,” etc. Some have thought that the three voices attested our Lord in His threefold office.
(a) John came proclaiming the kingdom, and Jesus was in His baptism proclaimed the chief of the new kingdom.
(b) On the second occasion, “Hear Him,” ordained Him the Prophet of the people.
(c) In the third He was owned as Priest. Is this threefold witness received in your hearts the testimony of God, who cannot lie. Behold Christ well pleasing to the Father; let Him be well pleasing to you. Hear Him proclaimed as God’s beloved; let Him be the beloved of your hearts. Hear the testimony that He has glorified God, and remember that His further glorifying God depends in some measure on you.
4. How were these testimonies given?
(1) On the first occasion the heavens were opened and the Spirit descended. What if this proclaims to us that by His obedience our Lord procured the opening of heaven for us that our prayers might go up and our blessings come down!
(2) Heaven was not beheld as opened the second time--the overshadowing cloud represented the Mediatorship of Christ veiling the excessive brightness of the Godhead.
(3) In the third our mind rests neither upon the opening of heaven nor on the cloud, but on the voice. The opening of heaven and the interposition of a Mediator are but means to the great end of glorifying God. Let this one great object absorb all our souls.
5. What was it that was spoken?
(1) The first time the heavenly voice preached the gospel, “This is My beloved Son,” etc. The gospel is tidings concerning a blessed person, and His acceptableness as the chosen of God, and of the Divine pleasure with those who are “in” Him.
(2) The second time the voice uttered the great command, “Hear Him.” Salvation does not come by seeing, as Romanists have it. Faith cometh by hearing, and not the doctrines of men, even such as Moses and Elias, but Him.
(3) On the third occasion testimony was given to the gospel’s result. It is through the gospel that God is glorified.
II. INSTRUCTIVE CIRCUMSTANCES CONNECTED WITH THESE TESTIMONIES.
1. On each occasion Jesus was in prayer. Learn that if any would have God speak comfortably to him, he must speak to God in prayer.
2. Each time His sufferings were prominently before Him. John, at the waters of Jordan, said, “Behold the Lamb,” etc. On Tabor Moses and Elias spoke of His decease. In the Temple His soul was troubled at the prospect of His death. Learn, then, if you desire to see the glory of Christ, as attested of the Father, you must dwell much on His death.
3. Each time He was honouring the Father. In His baptism by obedience, on the mountain by devotion, in the Temple His very words were, “Glorify Thy name.” If you would see God’s glory and hear His voice you must honour Him. Conclusion: Receive these testimonies.
1. With assured conviction.
2. With profound reverence.
3. With unconditional obedience.
4. With joyful confidence. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The best prayer ever offered
I. ITS OBJECT.
1. It is unselfish. Personal apprehension is swallowed up in the craving for Divine glory. Compare this with Matthew 6:9. Prayer is often too selfish.
2. It seeks the revealing of God’s glory. God is changeless and cannot grow more glorious in Himself. But His name is glorified when the beauty of His character is revealed. The mountains are not changed when the mists lift; but they are glorified in being unveiled.
3. The particular form is the glory of the Fatherhood of God. His creative glory of wisdom and might had been revealed in nature; His regal glory of justice and government in providence; His highest glory of goodness awaited its full manifestation when His Fatherhood would be seen in personal self-sacrificing love to His children.
II. ITS MOTIVES.
1. The name of God as our Father deserves to be glorified.
2. Christ found His own greatest encouragement in the vision of the glory of God. So did Moses (Exodus 33:18-2.33.19). We are most strengthened when we forget self in God.
3. Christ’s work is accomplished when the name of God as our Father is glorified. This name had been dishonoured till Christ raised it to honour among His disciples. The Christian is glorified only as he reflects the glory of God, and this can only be as God is first revealed to him (2 Corinthians 3:18).
III. ITS ANSWER.
1. God’s Fatherhood had been revealed
(1) In creation, providence, and Old Testament revelation, but dimly and partially.
(2) In the incarnation, life, character, words, and works of Christ, but still not perfectly.
2. It was destined to be revealed more fully.
(1) In the passion of Christ, by the love of God shown in sustaining His Son, by His holiness and goodness in the suffering Saviour, and by the great act of redemption then accomplished.
(2) In the resurrection, and the proof this gave of God’s redeeming goodness.
(3) In the fruits of the redemption seen in the history of the Church.
(4) Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in helping the Church to read aright the mystery of the Cross, which, after Pentecost, became the central theme of the Church’s praises. (W. F. Adeney, M. A.)
The changed prayer
A man once complained to his minister that he had prayed for a whole year that he might enjoy the comforts of religion, but found no answer to his prayers. The minister replied, “Go home now, and pray, ‘Father, glorify Thy name.’”
The truest and deepest view of life
I. A MAN TAKING THE TRUEST AND DEEPEST VIEW OF LIFE. A sentence is often a revelation. This is unique, suggestive. If we were to put our deepest desires into words would they be this? The worldly man’s life is limited to the self sphere; the very point of this is that Christ had no self sphere. The former is the shallow, the latter the ennobling view. Observe our Lord’s
1. Cherished life thought. This inspiring thought for Christ and us starts the question, Will not a cherished sense of our independence do more for us than the sense of dependence, and so of responsibility? Let Christ’s life be the answer. The independent view--I am my own--may be fascinating; but it is untrue and deteriorating, and sooner or later is found to be such. What is the condition of the parasite when the tree on which it feeds is dead? or that of the ivy cut below and made independent of its secret rootings? What good is an independent vine branch?
2. Ruling life-force--obedience inspired by affection for His Father. Here we see how all the seeming hardness of dependence is lost in the atmosphere of love. The wife never finds it hard to obey when she loves.
Mere obedience is, for man, very hard; but obedience out of love is the highest joy; and this deep joy we find in Christ.
3. Prevailing life-attitude--the activity of submission; for true submission is not mere bearing, but bearing in doing. This is fully illustrated in the life of Christ.
II. GOD’S RESPONSE TO THE MAN WHO TAKES THIS VIEW OF LIFE.
1. That the deepest wish of His heart has been already realized and He may read His past in the light of it. All depends on the light in which we read our past. Read Christ’s in the light thrown by this response and see how it had been a glorifying of the Father-name of God in
(1) His own Sonship.
(2) His teachings about the Father.
(3) His brotherhood with men.
2. That the deepest wish of his heart shall yet be realized, and he may go calmly on into darkness with the assurance that even his Cross shall glorify the Father. Death shall do even more than life. The “forsaking” was a final triumph of obedience. The will of God was so beautiful that He could even suffer and die for it. Conclusion: We say, “God is our Father.” Do we say, “Father, glorify Thy name.” Is this our inspiring life secret? In life labour, relationships, sufferings, bereavements, death, do I honour myself or my Father? (R. Tuck, B. A.)
The people … said that it thundered.--The whole multitude heard a noise; but the meaning of the voice was only perceived by each in proportion to his spiritual intelligence. Thus the wild beast perceives only a sound in the human voice; the trained animal discovers a meaning, a command, e.g., which it immediately obeys; man alone discerns a thought. (F. Godet, D. D.)
The voice from heaven
I. THE VOICE.
1. Grossly misunderstood by the bystanders
(1) As a natural phenomenon, as thunder.
(2) As a supernatural utterance, the speech of an angel--a significant proof of man’s incapacity to understand the words of God (1 Corinthians 2:14).
2. Lovingly by Jesus; as an old and familiar voice, the voice of His Father, which twice previously had addressed Him out of heaven. It needs a child’s heart to recognize a father’s voice.
3. Rightly interpreted again by Jesus--perhaps also by John and his co-apostles--to whom it spoke in the language of
(1) Approbation, “I have glorified it.”
(2) Consolation, “Will glorify it again.”
II. THE PURPOSE OF THE VOICE.
1. Not for His sake; since He knew His Father always heard Him (chap. 11:42).
2. But for theirs--to assure them that He was the Father’s Son, the heaven-sent Messiah.
1. The superiority of faith to unbelief in the understanding of Divine revelations.
2. The condescension of Christ in considering man’s weakness and infirmity. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Now is the Judgment of this world
The world’s hour of deepest revolution
It was the signal
OF ITS JUDGMENT. To judge is to verify the moral condition. The judgment of the world is based upon the Cross, inasmuch as this discloses the moral condition of man in his natural state. Man, by raising this throne for Jesus, judged himself, and manifested the enmity to God which is in his heart. Having erected it, he judges himself still more decidedly by his relation thereto; for either by faith he finds therein his salvation, or by unbelief his condemnation. Of this choice the final judgment will be only the ratification. Thus the judgment of the world dates from Good Friday. Its first external manifestation was the destruction of Jerusalem; its second will be the judgment of the Church; its third the last judgment predicted (Matthew 25:1-40.25.46) on the very day on which these words were uttered.
II. OF THE EXPULSION OF ITS ANCIENT MASTER. The Cross filled up the measure of tolerance granted to the perversity of the Prince of this world. The Crucifixion was the most odious and unpardonable transgression of Satan; this crime put an end to the long suffering of God concerning him, and, consequently, to his dominion over mankind. The Rabbis habitually designate Satan “the prince of this world,” but place the Jews outside his kingdom, while Jesus includes them as well as the heathen therein (chap. 8) “Out” signifies not only out of his office and power, but chiefly out of the world--his ancient realm--as is shown by the connection of these words with the preceding, and the opposition between John 12:31-43.12.32.
III. THE ACCESSION OF ITS NEW SOVEREIGN. The overthrow coincides with the accession. Jesus declares Himself appointed to fill this part. But, strange to say, it is not upon this earth, whence Satan is cast out, that He will establish His kingdom. He will not become, as the Jews expected, the successor of His adversary, and, consequently, another prince of this world; He, as well as His rival, will leave the earth; He will be raised from it and above it, and in a higher sphere He will draw to Himself His subjects and realize His kingdom. “Lifted up” must be understood here in the same amphibiological sense as at John 8:28; John 8:28. His lifting up on the cross, that throne of love, appears to Him as the gloriously ironical emblem of His elevation to the throne of glory. And this comparison is based on a deep truth. For was it not the Cross which created the abyss between Christ and the world (Galatians 6:14), and rendered the purely heavenly form of the kingdom of God for the present necessary? “From” or “out of the earth” designates an ignominious expulsion from earthly existence by any capital punishment, and cannot refer to the small distance between the ground and the feet of the crucified. It is “lifted up,” which refers to the Cross. The Cross and the Ascension united freed Jesus from all earthly ties and national obligations, and placed Him in a position to extend His agency to the whole world (Romans 10:12). Once raised to heaven, Jesus will draw around Him a new people, strangers to earth, and, like Himself, of a heavenly nature. He will be both the Author and End of this Divine attraction. (F. Godet, D. D.)
In the Cross Christ saw a provision for three great objects. By it
I. THE WORLD SHOULD BE JUDGED. God judged our sins in the person of Jesus, visited our guilt upon Him condemned in our place. That is the true measure, as it is the most awful punishment of our guilt. If men sin on they may see, as clearly as if it were come already, their eternal doom. How can a sinner be so deluded as to think he will escape when he sees the Son of God hanging there. Let him look and realize who He was, and then feel, “I am condemned.” Thus Christ knew that the Cross would convince men of sin. What the law could not do, what no mercies or judgments of God could do, this would effect, and His heart exulted in the thought that men at last would see that there was no hope for them save in turning to God through Him.
II. THE PRINCE OF THIS WORLD REJECTED. That being whose empire none else could shake, whose dominion over men’s minds and habits none else could destroy, Jesus saw dethroned. God had predicted this. “The seed of the woman,” etc. To accomplish this was the end of His coming. “For this purpose is the Son of God manifested,” etc. This end is gained when Satan is banished from the human heart. The Cross avails for this
1. By having procured the gift of the Spirit who turns men “from the power of Satan unto God.”
2. By furnishing the most powerful motives to turn from sin, inasmuch as it reveals the guilt and danger of sin, and endears believers to the Saviour who died to reconcile them to God, and therefore weans them from sin.
3. By securing powerful help in such a view of the love of God as inspires faith and hope.
III. HUMAN SOULS DRAWN TO CHRIST.
1. The means--wondrous, the last, apparently, calculated to serve this purpose.
2. The method--“draw,” not compel, by the attraction of love.
3. The object--“all men.” Gentiles as well as Jews.
4. The result--“to Me.” (B. W. Noel, M. A.)
The death of Christ and its results
I. THE DEATH OF CHRIST.
1. The fact of His death predicted. It was a wonderful thing that He should die, for death is the penalty of sin and He was sinless, and can only take effect on humanity, whereas He was Divine.
2. The manner of His death described--crucifixion. The mystery thickens. If He must die, surely it should be naturally and peacefully, or if not, gloriously, as a hero, and amidst the blessings of His race. No, He must die as a felon, a death
(1) profoundly humiliating;
(2) excruciatingly painful.
3. The nature of His death unfolded. Its manner partly indicates its nature.
(1) It was penal. He suffered under Roman and Divine law, but how differently.
(2) It was vicarious, since He was innocent.
(3) It was expiatory (Isaiah 53:5-23.53.6).
II. ITS RESULTS.
1. The judgment of the world.
(1) What this means. In the Scriptures to judge means to govern. Hence the “Judges.” As King and Ruler the Messiah is frequently predicted as Judge. This interpretation agrees with the context. The Son of Man is glorified by being made King of the world; how, therefore, is the world to be judged by being ruled by Him? A new order of Divine administration has been commenced, having for its object the subjection of the world to God.
(2) How is this judgment the result of Christ’s death?
(a) It was the promised and richly-merited reward of His death Isaiah 53:10-23.53.12; Philippians 2:5-50.2.11).
(b) It is the necessary means of His carrying into accomplishment the great design of His death, the salvation of His chosen people John 17:2).
2. The expulsion of the prince of this world (John 16:8-43.16.11; John 16:8-43.16.11; Ephesians 2:2).
(1) Who is he?
(a) A real personal existence.
(b) A potentate.
(c) Exercising dominion over this world.
(d) But not independently and uncontrolled, but largely as the executioner of Divine justice, and limited in power by the duration of “this world.”
(2) What is his expulsion? His being cast out
(a) From the human heart.
(b) From the religious and civil institutions he had controlled.
(3) How is he cast out?
(a) Christ bore the penalty of that for which he held men in bondage, and men paid their debt and suffered their punishment in Christ their substitute.
(b) By the power of the Spirit, by which men can resist the devil and make him flee.
3. This drawing of all men to Christ.
(1) What this drawing is.
(a) All men, without exception, become the subjects of His mediatorial government.
(b) All men, without distinction, become the objects of the invitations of His gospel.
(c) All whom the Father has given Him, an innumerable company out of every kindred, etc., are put in possession of the blessings of His salvation.
(2) How it is connected with His lifting up. Had not atonement been made there could have been no salvation to offer, or give or receive. Christ’s death removed all obstacles to this, and secured the effectual agency of the Spirit. (J. Brown, D. D.)
I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me
The uplifted Saviour
Nothing is more wonderful about Christ than His unfaltering confidence in the boundlessness and perpetuity of His power, especially when we consider the circumstances in which it was expressed and the grounds on which it was based. The assertion before us is that of a fanatic or of a God.
I. THE EXTENT OF THE SAVIOUR’S DRAWING. “All men.”
1. The meaning of universal terms in Scripture must be determined
(1) By its great acknowledged principles. One of these is the freedom of the will. So the text signifies merely that there is sufficient power in Christ to draw all men; but the melancholy fact is that many “will not come unto Him that they may have life.”
(2) By the context. Spoken as it was in connection with the visit of the Greeks, the text means that the benefits of Christ’s redemption were not restricted to the Jews, but were thrown open to the world.
2. While, however, some shall reach destruction because they will choose the broad way, there is a vastly preponderating aggregate who shall he brought to Christ. The drawing commenced with the dying thief. Seven weeks afterwards three thousand were drawn. Then the whole of the Acts furnishes illustrations. Then eighteen centuries of Church history, particularly great movements like Methodism and missions. Finally, the Apocalyptic visions shall be realized.
II. WHAT IS THERE IN THE UPLIFTED SAVIOUR SO CALCULATED TO ATTRACT. In Him is disclosed
1. The ground of full and free pardon for the very chief of sinners. This gives hope to the most despairing, who can get rest nowhere else.
2. Ample provision for the purification of sinful hearts.
3. All those qualities calculated to draw the sympathies and aspirations of the renewed heart.
(1) The love of truth is satisfied in Him, who is the Truth.
(2) The yearning for fellowship is satisfied in His Brotherhood.
(3) The sense of right binds us to Him as our Redeemer Sovereign.
(4) The desire for spiritual beauty is gratified in Him, who is the altogether lovely.
(5) Impulses to serve our brethren are sanctified and empowered by the constraint of His self-sacrificing love.
III. THE AGENCY EMPLOYED.
1. The power of Providence or government of the world is committed to the Redeemer for the ingathering and completion of the Church.
2. The Holy Spirit draws hearts to the Saviour. He is Christ’s Witness and Glorifier. “No man can say that Jesus is the Christ but by the Holy Ghost.” For this purpose He abides with the Church forever. Hence
3. The Church is Christ’s visible agency for this great work, which is discharged
(1) By private testimony.
(2) Public proclamation. (J. Graham.)
Christ lifted up
I. CHRIST’S GLORY. Because
1. The manifestation of glorious love.
2. The demonstration of glorious fortitude.
3. The completion of glorious work.
4. The achievement of glorious triumph.
II. THE MINISTER’S THEME. Christ lifted up, and not
1. Hell and damnation.
2. Mere doctrine.
3. Inoperative morality.
4. Sacred or secular learning.
III. THE HEART’S ATTRACTION. Christ draws
1. Like a trumpet attracting men to hear the proclamation.
2. Like a net drawing men out of the sea of sin.
3. With the bands of love.
4. As a standard in the centre of gathering.
5. As a chariot in which souls are drawn to heaven. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Why Christ was lifted up
Expression of text used three times to teach that the Son of Man must be lifted up in order
I. TO GIVE A DEMONSTRATION OF HIS DIVINE MANHOOD (chap. 7:28).
1. Christ proved Himself to be true man by dying as every man dies.
2. He proved Himself to be Divine by dying as no other man ever died.
(1) His death unique in its supernatural accompaniment.
(2) In its voluntariness.
II. TO BRING TO BEAR THE MOST POWERFUL DIVINE ATTRACTION UPON MAN (John 12:32).
1. The strongest bonds of attraction between man and man are love and sympathy. These two are braided together in a two-fold cord in Christ crucified.
2. He was lifted up to draw men out of and keep them away from the sins that had kept them from Him.
III. TO ACCOMPLISH A DIVINE REDEMPTION FOR MAN (chap. 3:14). Salvation is absolutely fastened to Christ crucified.
1. Without the shedding of blood is no remission.
2. The Divine imperative “must.” (A. J. Gordon.)
The great attraction
1. Christ’s death must have seemed to His apostles an unmitigated misfortune; but He showed them that it was really the most hopeful of all points in His history.
2. The text must be illustrated by doctrines that are concealed in it, and facts with which it is connected. The prince of darkness enticed poor foolish man to his destruction as fish are taken by the bait, birds lured by decoys, barques wrecked by false lights or sucked into the whirlpool. Christ came to produce a counter attraction. But men stood at a distance from their best Friend; but since man does not come of himself, even when he perceives the gracious errand of Jesus, He condescends to attract him, and that by means of the Cross.
I. WHAT IS THE ATTRACTION OF JESUS CRUCIFIED? It lies in that which some count its weakness and reproach. Certain preachers have missed all in forgetting this. Socinians have fondly dreamed that His holy life will provide the attraction. Such has not proved to be the case. Nor has the millennial glory of Christ proved attractive; but men have been drawn to the Cross
1. By the disinterested love there manifested. “Scarcely for a righteous man,” etc.
2. By the satisfaction there rendered to justice, through which pardon is provided, and may be accepted honourably.
3. By its exact suitability to man’s necessities--thirsty, here is living water; naked, here is a robe of righteousness; vile, here it a fountain; lost, here is salvation.
4. By its agonies, the culmination of all previous sorrows.
II. IN WHAT DIRECTION DOES THE CROSS ATTRACT.
1. From despair to hope.
2. From fear to faith.
3. From dread to love.
4. From sin to obedience.
5. From self to Jesus.
6. From earth to heaven.
III. WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS AND QUALITIES OF THIS POWER.
5. Present. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
In the Paris Salon some few years ago there was a bust of the painter Baudry, by Paul Dubois. Mr. E. Gosse was sitting contemplating the bust, when an American gentleman passed, caught sight of it, and, hovering round it for some time, came and sat down by his side and watched it. Presently he turned to Mr. Gosse, inquiring if he could tell him whose it was, and whether it was thought much of, adding, with a charming modesty, “I don’t know anything about art; but I found I could not get past that head.” Would we could so set forth Christ that His word might be fulfilled! “I, if I be lifted up,” etc. (H. O. Mackey.)
A little boy was flying a kite, which had soared so high as to be almost out of sight. Seeing him looking so intensely upward, a gentleman asked him what he had there. “A kite, sir,” was the boy’s reply. “A kite!” said the gentleman; “how can that be, I don’t see it?” “Ah! I feel it pulling, sir,” was the boy’s unanswerable reply. This should be our evidence that our Saviour is above--we should feel Him pulling. (T. DeWitt Talmage, D. D.)
The attractiveness of Christ
This subject ought to be attractive. There is the attraction of one dew drop for another, as they hang together on the same blade, and, running together, fall from their momentary glory into a common grave. There is the attraction of the flame for the moth, as it flutters and darts around the fatal glow, until at last it falls, wingless and scorched, upon the floor. There is the attraction of the magnet for the particles of matter through which it is passed, in virtue of which it draws some of them to itself, and has no influence upon others. There is the attraction of the moon for the sea, its pale light shining in tremulous bars on the bosom of the melancholy deep, as it rises and falls, like a dark and guilty conscience heaving and sobbing under the ghostly memories of its past misdeeds. And there is the attraction of the sun for all created things within the circle of the worlds that sweep around him as their centre, finding life and gladness in his beams. The latter is the highest and most glorious form in which the principle of attraction displays itself, and it is that which is exerted by the Sun of Righteousness. Christ is the luminous centre and the effulgent source of all vitality and blessing in the universe of souls. (F. Ferguson, D. D.)
The attractiveness of the cross
There is a moral power in beauty; it elevates the heart of the man who sees it. It is not enough that a man should display the law of holiness; he must display the beauty of holiness. There are some whose religion has every quality but one--attractiveness. They are animated by the sincerest motives; they are ruled by the tenderest conscience; they are influenced by the purest desires; yet their religion is withal a weapon in the hand, not a magnet in the heart; it drives, but it does not draw. They are impressed above all things with the power” of the Lord, and they would like to display His power; but they do not see that the uppermost garment of the religious life must be the beauty of the Lord. They have not measured the force of the words of the text. The highest power of the Cross is ability to allure--its beauty. The glory of religion lies in the number of things it can attract. (G. Matheson, B. D.)
The attractive power of Christ
I. THE IMPORTANT EVENT THE TEXT ANTICIPATES.
1. Primarily the Crucifixion (John 3:14-43.3.15).
2. Christ’s exaltation to the mediatorial throne.
3. The preaching of the gospel, which displays both the Cross and the throne. This comprehends
(1) The recital of the manner of the Redeemer’s death.
(2) The declaration of the great design of His death.
(3) The proclamation of His power to save, with the terms on which He saves.
II. THE GRAND PURPOSE THE TEXT REVEALS.
1. The point to which He attracts. “Me.” The centre of humanity, toward which all should gravitate.
2. The manner in which He attracts. By Himself, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. But the uplifting is adapted to the end.
(1) What is more calculated to arrest attention than the spectacle of such a Sufferer dying for the sake of a sinful world.
(2) The view of the Divine character presented is eminently attractive.
(3) The felt wants of our nature are here supplied.
3. The scale on which He attracts. “All men.” Some resist. Objects are interposed between the magnet and the substance. But Christ attracts men from every race. (J. Rawlinson.)
The attractive power of Christ
I. Observe HOW UNIVERSALLY OPERATIVE IS THAT MYSTERIOUS LAW BY WHICH MEN ARE DRAWN TO CHRIST. Explain it how we may, Christ is today the central figure in the thoughts of the civilized world, and is becoming more and more so. For the past 1800 years interest in Him has been Steadily growing. How many volumes it would take, e.g., to present a faithful account of “Christ in Song” since Luke penned the “Overture of the Angels” down to the time when Keble wrote “Sun of my Soul”! Is the world tired of singing about Christ because He has occupied the central field so long? It is a fact of no little interest that Christ is the only Person all nations of the world have ever united to praise in the same forms of speech. Again, it might be shown that Christ occupies the same position through the ages in art and general literature. No one has ever received such tributes from men of genius as Christ, and about no one is the printing-press so busy.
II. WHAT IS IT IN MAN THAT IS THUS DRAWN OUT TO CHRIST. With some it is admiration for His character and teachings; with others it is the interest that a reformer awakens; with others a sense of His Divinity. But if we stop here we shall lose sight of the true reason, so well stated by Napoleon. “Jesus alone founded His empire on love, and to this very day millions would die for Him.” It is the human heart that is drawn out towards Christ. As we test the power of the magnet by the weight we attach to it, so Satan experiments with the heart of man. Take a typical case--that of Paul. He weighted Paul’s heart with worldly allurements; but Paul cried, “What things were gain to me,” etc. (Philippians 3:21): then with persecutions; but Paul said, “I take pleasure in infirmities,” etc. (2 Corinthians 12:10): finally with death; but Paul exulted, “Who shall separate me” Romans 8:35-45.8.39). When a bar of soft iron is brought into contact with a powerful magnet it becomes magnetic, and continues so while in contact; but remove it, and its virtue is gone. So the believer, to be attractive, must live near to Christ (chap. 13:35).
III. WHAT IS IT IN CHRIST THAT HAS SUCH POWER TO KINDLE NEW AFFECTIONS AND SET UP NEW RELATIONS AMONG MEN? Not merely the influence of His life or doctrines, or of the mysterious union of the Divine with the human, but supremely His Cross. And why His Cross we cannot exactly analyze. We cannot explain the mysterious principle that we see operating in the galvanic battery; but there is clearly something, and we call it Magnetism. And the mysterious something in the Cross we call Love 2 Corinthians 5:15; Jeremiah 31:3). Here is a love that has at its command the resources of the Godhead. “In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead,” and a perfect sympathy with all human weaknesses Hebrews 4:15). What wonder that sinners are drawn to such a Saviour.
IV. THE MANNER IN WHICH THAT POWER IS BROUGHT TO BEAR UPON MEN. By drawing (Psalms 110:3; Song of Solomon 1:4; Psalms 73:28). (J. G.Lowrie, M. A.)
The attractive power of the crucified Saviour
1. When a man is leading a great religious movement, the worst thing that could usually happen is that he should die. The death of a pastor is often a hindrance to a good work. But here is one great religious Leader who, through death, draws all men to Himself.
2. But if the death of a religious leader is a disgraceful one, what damage his influence suffers--e.g., Dr. Dodd, who was hung for forgery. But behold a wonder I The death of Jesus on a malefactor’s cross is the secret of His highest influence.
I. THE ATTRACTIVE POWER OF THE CRUCIFIED SAVIOUR. Himself.
1. Some suppose that Christ was lifted up to draw men unto the priests.
2. To draw men to a church might satisfy a religious bigotry.
3. But Christ alone can satisfy their souls.
II. HOW THAT POWER IS EXERCISED TODAY. There are degrees of drawing. Those who have never heard of Christ are drawn in a sense, for the world is pervaded with His influence.
1. Some say that the force that draws man is light; but men are sometimes driven away by light. They rebel against it, and use the truth to their own detriment.
2. Men are won to Christ by the force of love. Even earthly love is powerful. Swayed by love, what have not mothers done. Jesus’ power lay in His irresistible love.
3. By His sufferings. In the old martyr days, what made England Protestant was the death of martyrs.
4. By the instrumentality of other men. Not by ministers only, but by holy life and loving words.
III. WHAT IT EVIDENTLY IMPLIES.
1. That men were far off from Christ. The older philosophers taught that men started like a sheet of white paper, and decried original sin. But the newer philosophers tell us that we have inherited all the desires and vices of our animal ancestors.
2. That men would not come to Christ unless He drew them.
3. That if we feel ourselves drawn, the wisest thing for us to do is to yield. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The attractive power of Christ crucified
1. Standing alone, these words might be understood to refer to the Ascension. St. Peter twice applies the expression to that event. But St. John explains the text according to our Lord’s own meaning in John 13:28; John 13:28.
2. The Apostle has preserved the text for the purpose of enforcing his main theme--the Divinity of Christ--whereas the stress in the other Gospels is on the manhood, although neither side of our Lord’s Person is overlooked by either. This general difference culminates in the picture of the Crucifixion. To the Three that is the lowest depth of Christ’s humiliation, and their task is to train our sympathies with the perfect Man. But to St. John the cross is not a scaffold but a throne; not defeat but victory; not a repulsion but a world-wide attraction.
3. If Christianity had come from man its chief attraction would not have been placed here, but to Christ on the Mount or beyond the stars. The wisdom of the Teacher, the prowess of the Conqueror, the majesty of the King would have been put forward, and a veil drawn over these dark hours. Instead of this, Christianity boasts of that which to human eyes must have appeared a failure. Twenty years after this prediction St. Paul echoes it, “We preach Christ crucified,” and implies that that is the compendium of all Christian doctrine and morality, “I determined,” etc. Wherein consists this attraction? In
I. THE MORAL BEAUTY AND STRENGTH OF SELF-SACRIFICE. This fascinates because
1. It requires a moral effort of the highest kind, and commands admiration exactly proportioned to its intensity.
2. It is rare. The mass of men follow self. The majestic power of keeping well in hand the forces that belong to the life of nature is as rare as it is beautiful. As we admire gems and flowers for their rarity as well as for their beauty, so we are drawn to great examples of self-sacrifice.
3. It is fertilizing. It is not unproductive moral beauty or energy run to waste. All the good done among men is proportioned to the amount of sacrifice employed. To witness sacrifice is to breathe a bracing atmosphere, and to be capable of it is already to be strong. All intense labour, and particularly that which is at the same time unrecognized or discouraged, is sacrifice of a high order. Such has been that of discoverers whose discoveries have been made public after death. Faraday’s life was one example of disinterestedness and vast results of sacrificial labour. There are also lives in which sacrifice is pure suffering, undergone for a great cause or truth. The old pagans knew how to appreciate, e.g., the deaths of the three hundred at Thermopylae. And who that has ever witnessed the welcome a man receives who saves a fellow creature from a watery grave, or a burning house, can doubt the empire of sacrifice over every class in society. Our Lord said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” That each gift of what is dear to self adds immeasurably to moral capital is a matter of experience. Wealth consists not in the abundance of things external to ourself but in internal possession, in the force and freedom of the will to do good. That is God-like and Christ-like. Christ surrendered long before all that man cares for most, but on the cross He gave His life. Had He come amongst us without this mark, not doctrine, prowess or majesty would have drawn us to Him.
II. THE SUFFERINGS ENDURED.
1. Life is made up largely of pain of body or mind. Some have not begun to feel it, but all do before life closes. What account can be given of this empire of pain.
(1) It is a punishment--the advertisement that a deeper evil lies beneath.
(2) A purification.
(3) A preventative.
2. Still, an abstract doctrine in justification of pain is not sufficient to support us. We need the sympathy of a fellow sufferer. Now, if Christ had come fenced in among all the comforts of life by a superhuman power, and, after teaching the true theory of pain, had died on a soft bed, He might have been honoured as a great teacher, but would not have drawn all men unto Him. As it is, He is the Universal Sympathizer. “It behoved Him in all things to be made like unto His brethren.” Therefore, after a life of varied suffering, He enforces His teaching by a supreme example of an excruciating death.
III. THE ATONEMENT HE OFFERED.
1. The prevalence of sacrifice expresses a truth recognized universally by the conscience, viz., that man carries about him that which is offensive to the purity of heaven. The depth of the sense of sin is proportioned to the soul’s vision of moral truth, which becomes clearer as the law of God is more clearly revealed. The law affords a standard of duty, but gives no means of realizing it. Would, then, Christ have drawn all men unto Him had He only left the Sermon on the Mount? Nay, they who have felt the reproaches of the Decalogue would have felt more keenly the reproaches of the Beatitudes.
2. Christ draws all men because He alone offers relief to this our deepest need. The Bible describes three forms which a sense of sin takes, and how Christ crucified relieves us from each.
(1) It tells man that sin is like a tyrant who keeps him fettered, and then points to Christ as paying down a ransom by His death.
(2) It tells us that since God is holy, sin makes God and man at enmity; and that Jesus removes this by an atonement.
(3) It insists that sin once committed is not like a vapour which melts away into the sky, but that it leaves a positive load of guilt behind it, and then it points to Jesus as taking this load and offering for it as a propitiation His supreme act of obedience.
3. Faith unites us with the all-sacrificing Christ. Conclusion:
1. The Cross is the one real principle of unity to the human family.
2. To this common centre we are drawn one by one.
The attraction of the Cross
This is one of God’s paradoxes. Christendom gathers once a year to commemorate and contemplate a brutal public execution. How is this? The Cross is
I. AN ATTRACTION OF ADMIRATION.
1. Who has not felt his heart burn within him as he reads or sees a life given for another? If a man saves his wife or child from a burning house and perishes we have a natural admiration for the sacrifice. If the sacrifice be one all of duty; if the captain remains with the wreck and dies at his post, or still more, if a man die as a martyr the self-devotion demands higher praise. Yet once more, if the life be thus given not in heat and emotion, but with calm reflection when it might have been avoided, the consideration is heightened.
2. Christ attracts in part with the help of admiration. This is the first feeling a man has who contemplates the Cross. We see there, even before reaching the higher ground of the Divinity and Incarnation, an innocent person, the victim of an old-world formalism, the best of men enduring voluntarily the worst of deaths as a condition of giving life to the world. The observer of the Crucifixion desires to penetrate the heart of the Sufferer, and as he passes in review the prayer for the murderers, the gentle answer to the penitent, the tender consignment of His mother to John, what heart can find no affinity of admiration? For here in its highest form is what men most admire--strength, courage, presence of mind, tenacity of purpose, might of will, and all combined with perfect tenderness, love and sympathy.
II. AN ATTRACTION OF FAITH, growing, in due course, out of admiration. The object of the lifting up was no mere exhibition of a superhuman excellence, but the bearing away of sin. The moment you rob the Cross of this, you take out of it the magnetic virtue. As a mere display of heroic courage other deaths have rivalled it; other martyrs have yielded their life: we admire the sacrifice, but it would be a misnomer to say that it draws us to them. Though admiration may draw us towards Him, faith alone can draw us to Him. Put thy trust in that death: it has in it the balm of all sorrow, the satisfaction of all want, the healing of all disease, and the quickening of all death. (Dean Vaughan.)
The power of the Cross
The gospel, with the Cross as its centre, is destined to exert an influence over the whole race.
I. WHEREVER IT IS PROCLAIMED IT CREATES A GENERAL INTEREST AND EXERTS A UNIVERSAL INFLUENCE. The fact is as startling as the assertion. Millions of sympathetic hearts cluster round the Cross, of all orders of intellect, all nationalities, etc. Even infidels, in spite of their antipathies, are drawn to the Cross to write lives of Christ. How can we account for this great influence?
1. The life and sufferings of Jesus are in the highest degree expressions of the Divine mind and heart. Nature is full of attractions. It is uphill work to scale the mountain, but the tourist is drawn up by an irresistible influence. We are always ready for another country walk. Man soon gets tired of human productions, but never of the works of God. The Divine alone can capture the spirit of man, and the Cross is the sublimest exhibition of the Divine.
2. Christ’s life and sufferings supply a particular craving in the human breast. What an attraction a fountain has for a crowd of thirsty people, and the Cross attracts because there is that in it which alone can quench the thirst of the spirit. The great questions, “How shall a man be just with God?” “How shall conscience be satisfied?” are only answered there.
3. The same life and sufferings have conferred inestimable blessings on mankind. The influence radiating from the Cross has banished superstitions, liberated slaves, promoted peace, good government, etc., and therefore forces the most reluctant to give it a silent tribute of respect.
II. THE SPECIAL INFLUENCE OF THE CROSS IS THE SALVATION OF OUR SOULS. Some lives are more effective at a distance; but the nearer we come to Christ the better. Thousands are near enough to the Cross to be touched by its influence, but not its transforming power. There is here
1. A sacrifice for sin. The Cross is the power which draws us to God for reconciliation.
2. Sanctification from sin--“Whereby the World is crucified unto Me.”
3. Elevation above sin “Unto Me.” (T. Davies, Ph. D.)
The attraction of the Cross
(Missionary Sermon):--The text presents us with
I. THE GREAT OBJECT OF MISSIONARY ZEAL. Such an object associates our cause with
1. The design of the Son of God in redemption, the salvation of the human soul.
2. The ultimate end of all Providential arrangements. Providence is the direction of all human events with reference to the kingdom of Christ.
3. The best interests of the human race. If we succeed in drawing men to Christ we save their souls from death, and provide them with a blissful eternity; besides which religion is a civilizing process, and has the promise of the life that now is.
II. THE GRAND INSTRUMENT OF MISSIONARY EXERTIONS--the doctrine of the Cross. We see something resembling the splendid fable of Constantine’s conversion--“By this conquer.” We preach a true crusade whose object is not the recovery of the holy sepulchre, but the setting forth of Him who is the Resurrection and the Life, and whose weapons are not carnal but spiritual.
1. What is included in the doctrine of the Cross.
(1) The manner of Christ’s death--agonizing, ignominious.
(2) The design of Christ’s death, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation.”
(3) The Divinity of Christ’s Person as constituting the value of His satisfaction. While the hope of a guilty world can rest nowhere but on an atonement, that in its turn can be supported by nothing short of the Rock of Ages.
(4) The gratuitous manner in which its blessings are bestowed: “by faith that it might be by grace.”
(5) Its moral tendency and design as respects the heart and conduct of those by whom it is received. “I am crucified with Christ.”
2. The various powers of attraction which the doctrine of the Cross exerts.
(1) The stupendous fact arrests and fixes the attention. The whole fabric of Christianity, both as to doctrines and duties, is founded on a fact; and that fact, drawn out into details more touching and tender than can be found in any history or romance. Conceive the effect upon pagans, conversant with nothing but the puerilities of a barbarous state, who heard for the first time of the death of the Son of God.
(2) As an exhibition of unparalleled love, it melts and captivates the heart. John calls it the manifestation of love, as if nothing more now remained to be known of love in any age or world; St. Paul speaks of it as the commendation of love, as if nothing more could now ever be said upon the subject; and Christ uses the remarkable emphasis, “God so loved,” etc. There is a mighty power in love, and the heart which wraps itself up in the covering of a stubborn and reckless despair against the attacks of severity, like the flower which closes at the approach of the angry blast, will put forth all the better parts of its nature to the smiles of love, like the tendrils of the sea anemone when it feels the first wave of the returning tide upon its native rock.
(3) As a system of mediation, it allays the fears of a guilty conscience, and draws the soul into confidence in God. The idea of retributive justice seems far more easily deducible by the sinner from the light of nature, than that of mercy. What is the meaning of all those bloody sacrifices? But the Cross puts an authorized and perfect satisfaction to justice in the sinner’s hand.
(4) By admitting an individual appropriation of its benefits, it appeals to all the feelings of self-regard and personal interest. It is the glory of the gospel that, while it makes ample provision for the world, it lays its blessings at the feet of every individual.
(5) By the suitableness and certainty of its blessings, it awakens hope and establishes faith. Are we guilty, here is pardon; “rebels, here is reconciliation; unholy, here is sanctification; agitated, here is peace for a wounded spirit; without knowledge of or hope for the future, here is life and immortality.
3. The effects which the doctrine of the Cross has produced.
(1) In Judaism, at the metropolis, and in heathen lands.
(2) In heathenism at Antioch, Corinth, Athens, and more recently in India, etc.
III. THE FIRST CONSUMMATION OF MISSIONARY SUCCESS.
1. Review the present results of missionary zeal.
2. Forecast its future triumph. (J. Angell James.)
The attraction of the Cross
The Crucifixion furnished a significant type of the influence which the Cross would exert. Witnessing that spectacle were all classes of men. In the Roman centurion behold a representative of the intellectual and sceptical convinced, saying, “This is the Son of God.” In the multitude remark the careless and thoughtless roused and agitated, “smiting heavily on their breasts.” In the thief see the power of the Cross to stir and still the guilty clamour within. Whatever the intellect of man there is an argument in the Cross to convince him; whatever his heedlessness there is an energy in the Cross to rouse him; whatever his guilt there is a magnetism to draw, a magic to change, and a mystery to save him. (R. Fuller, D. D.)
Christ the Great Magnet
When I was a student at Princeton, Professor Henry had so constructed a huge bar of iron, bent into the form of a horseshoe, that it used to hang suspended from another iron bar above it. Not only did it hang there, but it upheld four thousand pounds weight attached to it! That horseshoe magnet was not welded or glued to the metal above it; but through the iron wire coiled round it there ran a subtle current of electricity from a galvanic battery. Stop the flow of the current one instant, and the huge horseshoe dropped. So does all the lifting power of a Christian come from the currents of spiritual influence which flow into his heart from the living Jesus. The strength of the Almighty One enters into the believer. If his connection with Christ is cut off, in an instant he becomes as weak as any other man. (T. L. Cuyler.)
The great attraction
Our world has two forces: it has one tendency to run off at a tangent from its orbit; but the sun draws it by a centripetal power, and attracts it to itself, and so between the two forces it is kept in a perpetual circle. Oh, Christian! thou wilt never walk aright, and keep in the orbit of truth, if it be not for the influence of Christ perpetually attracting thee to the centre. Thou feelest (and if thou dost not feel always, it is still there)--thou feelest an attraction between thine heart and Christ; and Christ is perpetually drawing thee to Himself, to His likeness, to His character, to His love, to His bosom, and in that way thou art kept from thy natural tendency to fly off, and to be lost in the wide fields of sin. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The moral attraction and separation of the Cross
He was lifted up, that He might draw all men unto Him by drawing them out of, and away from, the sins that had put them so far off from Him. The sun, lifted into the meridian heavens, draws through its far-reaching beams from ten thousand lakes, and rivers, and oceans. But there is separation as well as attraction. Here a crystal drop is lifted from a muddy pool, but with no trace of impurity remaining in it; and there another drop is drawn from the Dead Sea waters, but with no taint of the acrid salts left in it. There is attraction and separation in one process. So, the beams of love from Christ’s Cross fall upon this sinful world, and draw men to Him. Not alone to win you to Himself did Jesus die; but also to win you away forever from the sins that have held you in the bondage of corruption. “Thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins.” (A. T. Gordon.)
The universality of Christ’s attraction and resistance to it
The image, which most naturally suggests itself to the mind on reading the declaration, is that of the loadstone attracting on all sides the iron to itself. But this is a defective image; the loadstone draws only one kind of substance; Christ declares that He will draw all men, however diverse their character. Some of the ancient philosophers, observing the attractive power of the earth, by which various bodies are made to fall towards its surface, inclined to the opinion that the earth itself was one huge loadstone. Sir Isaac Newton fairly argued that the earth attracts a feather as much as a piece of iron; whereas the loadstone attracts only iron, and he therefore contended there could be nothing analogous between the loadstone and the earth. Now it will follow from this, that Christ must be thought of as having the properties of the earth rather than of the loadstone. Some bodies indeed are so light that they float in the air, but this is not because the earth attracts them not, but simply because the air resists their descent. If there were no air, the tiniest leaf would fall as rapidly as a mass of lead. And here we cannot but observe a beautiful analogy. Only a few are actually drawn to Christ, the great mass of men continue at a distance. But Christ, like the earth, attracts all--though, as with the earth, all come not to Him. Why, then, are not all literally drawn unto Him? Oh! just because there is a carnal atmosphere round them, which neutralizes, as it were, the attractive power; and thousands float in it, who, if it were destroyed, would rush eagerly to Jesus as their centre. So that in these respects the earth, though not the lodestone, is the exact emblem of Christ; there is attractive virtue enough in each case to draw all; but in each case there is also a resisting medium which prevents the lighter bodies from descending. And it is possible, that this is something more than imagery, and ought to be received as interpretation. It is clear that the fact of one substance drawing another does not depend on the two being actually brought into contact. The earth draws the feather as much as it draws the lead; yet the feather falls not, and the lead rushes. Thus with Christ: it is not that He did not die for all; it is not that He does not love all; it is not that He does not invite all; and therefore we cannot be warranted in saying that He does not draw all--just as the earth draws all. But the feather of the unstable and worldly mind descends not, whilst the lead of the weary and heavy-laden spirit approaches Him rapidly. All are drawn; but one is inflated with vanity, and therefore floats; another is burdened with sin, and therefore falls. So that by illustration, at least, if not by argument, we make out that Christ might say of Himself that He would draw all, and yet know that all would not come to Him for life. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The mighty magnet
The attraction of gravitation is an invisible force, whose centre is the sun. This natural force illustrates the attractive power of the Cross. The Cross attracts
I. BY ITS EXHIBITION OF JUSTICE (Romans 3:25).
1. Violated law demands the punishment of the guilty. This principle is inherent in man’s conscience. There is a distinction between chastisement and punishment. The one originates in love, and its end is the good of the offender; the other originates in justice, and its end is the maintenance of the majesty of law.
2. The Cross of Christ satisfies the demand of conscience for justice. Christ is “the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1-62.2.2).
(1) The sufferings of Christ were penal. He bore our sins (Isaiah 53:4-23.53.6). He was “made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). “God made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
(2) The sufferings of Christ were vicarious (1 Corinthians 15:3).
(3) All the difficulties of this truth find their practical solution in the union of the believer with Christ (Hebrews 10:22).
II. BY ITS EXHIBITION OF LOVE.
1. It has its origin in love (1 John 3:16).
2. It reconciles the attributes of God. The substitution of Christ for sinners is not a mere arbitrary interference (Psalms 85:10).
3. The sacrifice of the Cross was voluntary, and in accordance with a covenant arrangement between the Father and the Son (John 10:17-43.10.18).
III. THIS EXHIBITION OF LOVE AND JUSTICE IN THE CROSS OF CHRIST IS THE MIGHTY MAGNET OF THE SPIRITUAL WORLD.
1. The power which draws near to the Cross is the work of the Holy Spirit John 16:8-43.16.11).
2. There is no passion, affection, or desire of the human heart which the Holy Spirit cannot subdue by the Cross.
3. The attractive power of the Cross, through the influences of the Holy Spirit, is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Homiletic Review.)
Christ drawing all
I. CHRIST’S SUBLIME CONFIDENCE. He knew that the triumphal procession to Jerusalem was but a funeral march. The Church has had many moments of despair since then, but never one like that. There is much to weary and depress in the slow progress of the Church, yet how much brighter is our outlook than His. Yet He never faltered. And He is standing in the midst of His waiting Church today, sure of Himself, and of His truth and His destiny.
II. THE CONDITION OF VICTORY “lifted up.” Eighteen hundred years were needed to explain this--lifted up out of the passions of men, their prejudices, errors, misconceptions, sins--He was so far above His age that it has taken eighteen centuries of moral growth to enable men to partially understand Him. By and by the world will see the King in His beauty, and then this promise will be fulfilled.
III. THE TRUE CHARACTER OF CHRIST’S POWER--“draw.” It is the magic attraction of Divine beauty, and not the compulsion of Divine terrors. He would have no slaves, but free men. He disdained to entice men by the bribes of this world or the next. He had faith in human nature, and laid hold of its aspirations with His love.
IV. THE VAST KINGDOM OVER WHICH CHRIST WILL REIGN--“all men.” The text lies parallel to Christ’s prophecy of one fold and one shepherd, and the apostles’ anticipation of the complete victory Christ will win when He shall put all things under His feet. (J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)
Christ drawing, not dragging
The words σύρω and ἐλκύω differ. In σύρειν, as in our “drag,” there lies always the notion of force, e.g., the headlong course of a river; and it will follow, that where persons, and not merely things, are in question, σύρειν, will involve the notion of violence Acts 8:3; Acts 14:19; Acts 17:6). But in ἐλκύειν this notion does not of necessity lie. It may be there (Acts 21:30; Acts 21:30; James 2:6), but not of necessity, any more than in our “draw,” which we use of a mental and moral attraction, or in the Latin traho. Only by keeping in mind this difference can we vindicate from erroneous interpretation this doctrinally important passage. The word here is ἐλκύσω. But how does a crucified, and thus an exalted, Saviour draw all men unto Him? Not by force, for the will is incapable of force, but by the Divine attraction of His love. Again John 6:44) “Father which hath sent Me draw him” (ἐλκύσν ἀυτόν). Now, as many as feel bound to deny any gratia irresistibilis, which turns man into a mere machine, and by which, willing or unwilling, he is dragged to God, must at once assert that this ἐλκύση can mean no more than the potent allurements, the allective force of love, the attracting of men by the Father to the Son; compare Jeremiah 31:3 (ἕικυσα σε), and Song of Solomon 1:3,
4. Did we find σύρειν on either of these occasions (not that I can conceive this possible), the assertors of a gratia irresistibilis, might then urge the declarations of our Lord as leaving no room for any other meaning but theirs; but not as they now stand. In agreement with all this, in ἐλκύειν, is predominantly the sense of a drawing to a certain point, in σύριεν merely of dragging after one. Thus Lucian likens a man to a fish already hooked and dragged through the water. Not seldom there will lie in συριεν the notion of this dragging being on the ground, inasmuch as that will trail upon the ground (Isaiah 3:16), which is forcibly dragged along with no will of its own: as for example, a dead body. We may compare John 21:11; John 21:11, with John 21:8 of the same chapter, in proof of what has just been asserted. At John 11:1-43.11.57; John 11:1-43.11.57 ἐλκύειν is used: for there a drawing of the net to a certain point is intended: by the disciples to themselves in the ship, by Peter to himself upon the shore. But at John 21:8, ἐλκύειν gives place to σύριεν, for nothing is there intended but the dragging of the net, which had been fastened to the ship, after it through the water. (Abp. Trench.)
The power of Christ’s death
I. THE MANIFESTATION OF THE POWER OF CHRIST’S DEATH.
1. Evidences of this power are to be found in the national and social life of countries wherever His death has been proclaimed. Is it not marvellous that an obscure teacher, who spent but a few years in making known His doctrines to a despised people, and was so despised by them that they put Him to death, should draw to Him the steadfast gaze of all who have heard His name?
2. Within the broad circle of popular homage to Christ, there is the narrower one containing those who are personally attached to Him. He who was despised and crucified is loved by millions with an ardour that death cannot quench.
3. Whatever may now be the power of Christ’s death, it will be greater still. “Every knee shall bow” to Him. The fulness of the promise is not yet realized; but because the stream of homage has daily risen higher, the hope is kindled that the whole family of man will be gathered into the household of God.
4. But if this hope be not realized, in yet another sense all men will be drawn to Christ. “When He cometh with clouds every eye shall see Him.”
II. WHENCE COMES THIS ATTRACTIVE POWER?
1. Christ’s death is significant, because in it He triumphed over the prince of this world (John 12:31). He shook the kingdom of evil to its foundation, and gave to all the power to become the sons of God. So men are drawn to Him as their Deliverer.
2. Christ’s death exemplifies the highest form of self-sacrifice, and declares with greatest emphasis the love of God. The world knows of no greater forces than love and self-sacrifice.
3. Christ’s death is the ground of the impartation of spiritual life (John 12:24). (F. Carter.)
The centripetal power of Christ overcoming the centrifugal attraction of sin
I. MAN THE WANDERER. The centrifugal influence of sin has been felt not only by devils, but by men. It has so separated man from God that he has neither the disposition nor the ability to return.
1. Cain-like he has gone out from the presence of God.
2. Prodigal-like he has gone into a far country.
3. Pharaoh-like he has asked, “Who is the Lord that I should serve Him?”
4. Eve-like he has been seduced from his allegiance.
II. CHRIST THE RESTORER. A Divine Person, one representative and a substitute.
1. He has provided for our restoration by the Cross. He was lifted up in the very heart of Satan’s kingdom. In the midst of fiery flying serpents He heals our diseases and restores us to our place of duty in His kingdom.
2. From earth to heaven. “Led captivity captive.” “A highway shall be there.” “I am the Way.” Thus only is the wandering star brought back to its orbit by the attraction of the Sun of Righteousness.
III. THE BLESSINGS THUS SECURED.
1. Man is freed from sin; its guilt, pollution, love, power, alienation, and curse.
2. Mammon is no longer His Master. As the greater fire extinguishes the less, so the love of Christ puts out the love of Mammon.
3. He is drawn to Christ. This first; to Church and ordinances after. Union is followed by communion. Being like Him, we shall spend eternity with Him.
IV. APPLICATION. Men by nature are drawn by sin to hell; they must by grace be drawn from sin to heaven. Which power controls you, the centrifugal or the centripetal? The one will land you in the zenith of glory; the other sink you in the nadir of despair. (Homiletic Review.)
I. THE OBJECT OF CHRIST WAS TO DRAW ALL MEN UNTO HIM. The opposition in which He sets Himself to the prince of this world (John 12:31) shows us that by drawing He means attracting as a king attracts to his name, claims, standard, person. Note some of the characteristics of this kingdom.
1. It is a kingdom; a community of men under one Head. Those who are attracted to Christ are formed into one solid body or community. Being drawn to Christ, we enter into fellowship with all the good who are labouring in the cause of humanity. Every man out of Christ is an isolated individual.
2. It is a universal kingdom--“all men.” The idea of universal monarchy has visited the great minds of our race. But an effectual instrument has ever been wanting. Christ turns this grandest dream into a rational hope. He appeals to what is universally present in human nature, and there is that in Him which every man needs. He does not say that His kingdom will be quickly formed. If it has taken a million ages for the rocks to knit and form for us a standing ground and a dwelling place, we must not expect that this kingdom, which is to be the one enduring result of this world’s history, and which can be built up only of thoroughly convinced men, and of generations slowly weeded of traditional prejudices and customs, can be completed in a few years.
3. Being universal it is necessarily inward. What is common to all men lies deepest in each. Christ knew what was in man, and knew also that He could sway all that was in man. This He would do by the simple moral process of drawing. It is by inward conviction, not outward compulsion, men are to become His subjects. And because Christ’s rule is inward, it is therefore of universal application. The inmost choice being governed by Christ, all conduct is governed by Christ. The kingdom of Christ claims all human life as its own. If the statesman is a Christian, it will be seen in his policy; if the poet, his song will betray it, etc. Christianity does not mean churches, creeds, Bibles, but the Spirit of Christ. It is the most portable and flexible of all religions, and therefore the most persuasive and dominant in the life of its adherent.
II. THE CONDITION OF HIS ATTAINING IT. Not His remarkable life, but His shameful death. Wherein then consists the superiority of the latter as a constraining force?
1. Because it presents in a dramatic and compact manner the devotedness which is diffused through every part of the life, and was the culmination and seal of the life.
2. Because Christ was the representative of God, and His death the last syllable of the utterance of God’s great love for man. It draws us because the very heart of God is laid bare to us. It is this which is special to the death of Christ, and separates it from all other deaths. Nothing could be more noble or pathetic than the way in which Roman after Roman met His death. But beyond respectful admiration they win from us no further sentiment; they have no connection with us. But Christ’s death concerns all men, and the result of our contemplation of it is not that we admire, but are drawn into new relations with Him whom that death reveals. (Marcus Dods, D. D.)
A lesson for preachers and churches
“You have,” said the Hon. and Rev. W.B. Cadogan, to a young clergyman, “but one thing to do; exalt Jesus, and the promise is, ‘I will draw all men unto Him.’” The Moravians laboured in Greenland for a number of years with no apparent fruit. When they spoke to the savages of the being and attributes of God--of the sin of man--of the necessity of an atonement--of the evil of sin--of the excellence of holiness--of the glories of heaven, or of the horrors of hell--their hearers talked of soul catching, and said they did not understandthese things. But, on one of the missionaries one day describing to them, with unusual minuteness, the sufferings and death of Christ, one of the savages suddenly stepped forward, and said, “How was that? Tell me it once more. I also would fain be saved.” This amazed and delighted the missionaries, and led them to adopt a new method with their pagan disciples. They preached the Cross. They held up Jesus, lifted up from the earth, and virtue came forth from Him. The poor brutalized Greenlanders were interested; their dark understandings were enlightened; their stubborn hearts melted; in a word, they were drawn to Christ; the Spirit wielded resistlessly His favourite instrument--the Cross. (J. Brown, D. D.)
Nothing but the Cross draws for any length of time
Take Unitarianism, for instance, Christianity with the Cross left out, the Gospel with the Atonement struck off. What is the result? It does not “draw.” One of the leaders of English Unitarianism declared publicly in Birmingham the other day that Unitarianism failed to “draw.” The English public will not attend their chapels. That is just what Christ foresaw. He knew that nought save His Cross would serve to draw men. “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw.” It is not His character, though spotlessly white, not His teaching, though sublimely pure, not His person, though mysteriously Divine, but His Cross that is the centre of the world’s attraction. The popularity as well as the efficacy of Christianity is mainly dependent on the Cross. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)
We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth forever.
Misunderstandings and explanations
I. MISUNDERSTANDINGS (John 12:34). They considered perhaps that Ps Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 7:13 referred to Christ. Their question would be, therefore, “If Thou art to die, how canst Thou be the Messiah? We know who the Son of Man in the Old Testament is; but who is this Son of Man?” Men have always misunderstood the Cross. It is foolishness to the Greek, etc.
1. Some now speak of the Cross as a means of appeasing the wrath of the Almighty.
2. Some as a transaction that will purchase souls.
3. Some as the procuring cause of God’s love.
4. Whereas it is the effect, demonstration, channel of God’s love for man.
II. EXPLANATIONS. Christ does not explain the difficulty by logical disquisition, but by exhorting them to practice holiness (verse 35). It is the pure heart, not the logical understanding, that solves the problems of Christianity. Christ urges the spirit of holiness on three considerations.
1. Their possession a special advantage. They had the light with them. From Christ’s presence, words, deeds, holiness beamed brightly on them. They were moving in the rays of the highest moral excellence.
2. Their special advantage was only temporary--“Yet a little while.” A few days more and their moral sun would be set. Man’s opportunities for spiritual improvement are very transient.
3. The departure of their special advantage would expose them to danger--“He that walketh in darkness,” etc. To walk on in moral darkness to the great eternity, how dismal and dangerous!
4. The right use of their advantage would fill them with light (verse 36). Trust in Christ will fill the soul with Divine illumination. “The entrance of Thy Word giveth light.” (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Who is this Son of Man?
The Son of Man
This question of utter bewilderment negatives the supposition that it was equivalent to the Messiah. The two names do not cover the same ground; for our Lord avoided the one and habitually used the other. The name is found on no other lips, and no man applied it to Christ but Stephen. The two apparent instances in which it occurs--in Revelation--probably read a, not the Son of Man. It has been supposed to be taken from Daniel. No doubt there is a connection, but the Prophet speaks of “one like a Son of Man,” in contradistinction to the bestial forms. What, then, is the force of the name?
I. CHRIST THEREBY IDENTIFIES HIMSELF WITH US.
1. The name declares the fact of the Incarnation and the reality and fulness of His humanity. It is employed where special emphasis is to be placed on our Lord’s manhood.
(1) As, e.g., when He would bring into view the depth of His humiliation--“Foxes have holes,” etc. “Not merely am I individually homeless, but Iam so because I am truly a Man, the only creature who builds houses, and the only creature that has not a home. Foxes can rest any where; any bough will do for birds; I, as the representative of humanity, wander a pilgrim.” We are all restless and homeless: the creatures correspond to their environment. We have desires and needs that wander through eternity; our Representative “hath not where to lay His head.”
(2) When He would emphasize the completeness of His participation in our conditions. “The Son of Man came eating and drinking”--having ordinary dependence on external things: nor unwilling to taste whatever gladnesses may be found in man’s path through the supply of natural appetites.
(3) When He would emphasize this manhood as having truly taken upon itself the whole weight and weariness of man’s sin. “The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto,” etc.
2. All these instances suggest to us
(1) How truly and blessedly He is “bone of our bone” etc. All our joys, sorrows, wants were His. The Son of Man is our Brother and Example.
(2) Is it not beautiful that this name, which emphasizes humiliation, and weakness, and likeness to ourselves, should be always on His lips. Just as if some teacher who went away into savage life might adopt some barbarous designation and say, “That is my name now.”
II. CHRIST THEREBY DISTINGUISHES HIMSELF FROM US, and plainly claims an unique relationship to the whole world. How absurd it would be for one of us to perpetually insist on the fact that He was a man, and the very frequency and emphasis with which the name comes from our Lord’s lips lead one to suspect that there is something behind it. The impression is confirmed by the article the.
1. Appropriately, then, the name is used with suggestions of authority and dignity, contrasting with those of humiliation. “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath,” “hath power on earth to forgive sins,” etc. And it is significant that the designation occurs more frequently in the first three Gospels than in the fourth, which is alleged to present higher notions of Jesus. In substance Christ claims, what Paul claimed for Him, to be the Second Adam. “Aristotle is but the rubbish of an Adam,” and Adam is but the dim outline sketch of a Jesus. The one man as God meant him, the perfect humanity, is He who claimed that for Himself, and as He did so said, “I am meek and lowly of heart.” “Who is this Son of Man?” A perfect Son of Man must be more than a Son of man--“the Christ the Son of the living God.”
2. The name is employed in connections in which He desires to set Himself forth as the solitary medium of all blessing to mankind--“The Son of Man came to give His life a ransom for many,” “the angels of God ascending and descending,” etc.,--the Medium of all communication between earth and heaven. He who is perfect manhood touches all men, and all men touch Him, and the Son of Man whom God hath sealed will give to every one of us bread from heaven.
III. THE PREDICTIVE CHARACTER OF THIS DESIGNATION. If not a quotation from it is an allusion to the prophecy of Daniel. Hence we find the name occurring in passages which refer to Christ’s second coming--“Hereafter ye shall see,” etc. “He hath given Him authority,” etc. “Standing at the right hand of God.”
1. The name carries with it a blessed message of the present activity and perpetual manhood of the risen Lord. Stephen does not see Him sitting, but standing, as if He had sprung to His feet on response to the cry of faith from the first of a long train of sufferers. He is the ever-present Helper.
2. That perfect manhood will be our Judge. It could not end its relationship on the cross or at the Ascension. That He should come again is the only possible completion of His work. That Judge is our Brother. So in the deepest sense we are tried by our Peer. With the omniscience of Divinity will be blended the sympathy of humanity. Conclusion: Let us lay hold by true faith on the mighty work which He has done on the cross, then we shall rejoice to see our Brother on the throne. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Yet a little while is the light with you
Light and its little while
I. THE LIGHT. Light is that which reveals, as darkness hides. Christ is the Light: He reveals the Father, the Father’s love and righteousness, and all the riches of His grace; and we, opening our eyes to take in this light, are thereby enlightened.
II. THE SIGHT WITH US. The first gleam came in the first promise. After that the rays multiplied. Then the Light came and remained here for thirty-three years. It is still, though impersonally, with us; and it will be yet more gloriously so when Christ comes again. We may withdraw from it, but it never withdraws from us. We may shut our eyes and our windows, but the light still shineth--not starlight or moonlight, but sunlight. “The darkness comprehendeth it not.” Oh dark world, child of darkness, when wilt thou let in the light.
III. THE LITTLE WHILE OF THE LIGHT. Our Lord’s personal presence. There are other little whiles. Israel had hers; the Churches have had or are having theirs; so with nations, congregations, souls. A little while of Sabbaths, sermons, sacraments, providences, and all is done. Then the light departs, and its little while for thee may be near. Improve it. Jesus is coming, but with darkness to the despisers of the light.
IV. THE USING OF THE LIGHT. “Walking” is equivalent to the whole of a man’s life. Our Lord’s meaning is “Use this light for whatever you do.”
1. Believe in the light, and in no other. The light of reason, literature, science will do nothing for the soul. At best they are but starlight, clear but cold, distinct but distant. God proclaims His testimony concerning this light, and it wants admission.
2. Become children of the light. He into whom it enters becomes a child of light, and a light to others.
V. THE REFUSAL TO USE THE LIGHT--by neglect, delay, hatred, rejection. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
A man who would enjoy the pleasures of this world said it was too soon for him to think of another world. He journeyed, and was taken ill very suddenly, and in the middle of the night, at an inn. The people there sent for a clergyman. He came; and the dying man, looking him in the face, before he could speak, said to him, “Sir, it is too late!” The minister said, “Christ is able to save to the uttermost,” and explained the gospel to him. He replied, “Sir, it is too late!” The clergyman asked, “Will you allow me to pray with you?” His only reply was, “Sir, it is too late!” He died, saying, “It is too late!” (Arvine.)
The similitude of the light
I. A GRACIOUS PRIVILEGE. “While,” or “as ye have,” etc.
1. Great. A day without light, a world without the sun, expressive but faint emblems of a soul without spiritual illumination, of humanity without Christ.
2. Present. The world was never without it, but only since the Incarnation has it attained to meridian splendour.
3. Temporary. It is not permanent to us any more than it was to the Jews, or than the natural light is to any.
II. A SOLEMN DUTY. “Believe in the light.”
1. Plain. Christ’s language neither vague nor ambiguous.
2. Easy. It is not work or suffer for, but only believe, trust, walk in the light.
3. Continuous. It is not one act of faith and then all is done. “Walk” implies continuance and progress.
III. A GLORIOUS RESULT--“That ye may become,” etc.
1. Magnificent. The light, for man, can illuminate his understanding, purify his heart, quicken his conscience, vitalize his spirit, direct his conduct, beautify and dignify His whole life. It can put Him in direct contact with and assimilate him to Him who is the Light.
2. Designed. This it does not unexpectedly or accidentally, but purposely and necessarily.
3. Certain. He who walks in the light will as certainly be transfigured by it as the flower is transformed into a spectacle of beauty by the beams of the sun. Lessons
1. Thankfulness to Him who hath furnished the light.
2. Watchfulness lest the light should pass away unimproved.
3. Hopefulness with respect to the future of those who believe on the Saviour.
4. Pitifulness for the fate of those who still walk in darkness. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
The gospel of light
The gospel is “light.” This marks its origin from heaven. It is no human device, but comes from God Himself. It is “light.” This denotes its truth. It is fitting that what is truth, without mixture of error, should be compared to the most simple substance in nature. It is called “light” because of its penetrating and subtle nature. Kindle it up, and no shade is so gross that it cannot penetrate it; there is no imposture so well devised which it will not expose; there are no works of darkness which it will not drag to light and shame; there is no conscience so callous but this light will search it. It is called “light,” because of the discoveries which it makes. It is a “great light.” It makes manifest the invisible God, in His awful and mild glories. It shows Him in His works, His providence, and His grace; it opens to view the path of peace which has been so long lost; it presents the model and the promises of holiness; displays the connection between the present state of probation and eternity; it plays round the darkness of the tomb, and illuminates the mansion of the grave with hope of a resurrection; it makes the future start to sight, and is both “the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” But it is called “light” for another reason. It is life and health to the world; it shows us “the Sun of Righteousness,” rising with “healing in His wings.” The comparison is made to the parent bird, warming her young to life, and giving health and strength by brooding over them. Such is the sun to nature. It warms to life, purges the atmosphere of its vapours, and renews the health of the world. Such is the light of the gospel. Where it prevails, spiritual life is inspired, and the moral disorders of the soul give place to health and vigour. (R. Watson.)
Children of light
I. LIGHT is the symbol of
1. God the Father (1 John 1:5). He is the Medium through which all spiritual things are discerned. It is only in God, as light, that we can see God or have any notion of Him. The old pervasiveness of light, too, is an apt emblem of omnipresence.
2. Christ Himself (John 1:4). He is the Light of God to man in a state of darkness. Without Him we cannot know God, ourselves, or the relations between the two.
3. The written Word (Psalms 119:105). The fact of our receiving the light in any of these senses throws upon us a vast amount of responsibility.
II. BELIEVE IN THE LIGHT. Not believe it, or about it, or reason about it, but believe so as to participate in it. Of what use is it for man to believe in the fact of the sun, or in some theory about it, or to reason about its effects, especially if he is charged with some mission which requires its light, if he persists in keeping his shutters closed. Yet how many there are who, requiring the Light of the World to illuminate their path to heaven, content themselves with mere orthodox views about Him. Numbers are more ready to argue about the Divinity of Christ than to say with adoring trust, “My Lord and my God.” Numbers more are content with acknowledging God’s claims and the reasonableness of Bible precepts who never think of fulfilling the one or walking by the other.
III. CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT means more than being enlightened. “Children” implies parentage, propagating power. Light produces light, and by believing in Him who is the Light we become light in the Lord. And if light as applied to God sets forth His perfections, the enjoyment of that light means the perpetration in us of holiness, truthfulness, etc. (G. Fisk, LL. B.)
I. THERE ARE SEVERAL KINDS OF LIGHT WHICH YET FALL SHORT OF THE GOSPEL, and leave a man in fatal obscurity. As
1. The light of nature.
2. There is the light of infidel philosophy. This is full of self-importance and swelling pride.
3. There is the light of enthusiasm. This is a sort of wild-fire, it blazes as straw, bewilders the mind, and produces an obstinacy not easily eradicated.
4. But Christ is the “Light of Life.” That which is pure, unadulterated, and unchangeable. This blessed light centres in Christ, and emanates from Him. Jesus Christ neglected--disregarded--undervalued, must give the death-wound to a man’s brightest hopes, and his best felicity (see 1 Corinthians 16:22).
II. THE DARKNESS OF THE HEART IS MADE EVIDENT BY SOME CERTAIN SYMPTOMS.
1. Gross ignorance; a mind perfectly uninformed. The Sadducees did not know the Scriptures nor the power of God.
2. A heart inflated with vanity, and puffed up with its own consequence. Some of the Corinthians were thus puffed up. If they had a little light, they had much darkness.
3. Self-righteousness and self-sufficiency are evidences of positive darkness dwelling within (see Romans 10:3-45.10.4; Matthew 23:1-40.23.39). Affected royalty in a lunatic provokes a smile, but self-righteousness in a sinner ought to produce astonishment and grief.
III. THE WAY TO BE SECURE IS TO TAKE HEED. To look well within and wisely around. We must guard against pride, the operations of which preclude the entrance of truth, as the gay colouring of cathedral windows excludes the common light of day. We must guard against prepossessions and prejudice. These often operate upon the mind greatly to a man’s disadvantage. Prejudice will turn that which is beautiful into deformity, and then reject it. Beware of two great evils, negligence and unbelief.
Negligence (see Hebrews 6:12; Proverbs 19:15). Unbelief (see Hebrews 3:12-58.3.19). Do not resist conviction, do not shut out the light.
1. Let the infidel take heed lest his boasted light terminate in a worse than Egyptian darkness.
2. Let the proud, self-righteous Pharisee come down from the pinnacle of his elevation, and seek both light and life in Jesus Christ.
3. Let the profane sinner, venturesome as he now is, look out in time; go to Jesus Christ the Sun of righteousness, in time.
IV. MENTAL DARKNESS, THAT OF THE UNDERSTANDING, IS THE WORST KIND OF DARKNESS. It produces enmity to the truth of God, and neglect of His ways. Permit me to give you a word of friendly counsel in reference to this light.
1. Set a just value on it. Buy it at any expense, sell it not on any account.
2. Labour to gain more of it.
3. Communicate it to others, and that to the extent of your abilities.
4. Remove obstacles to its shining whenever you can.
5. Triumph in the happy victories which the light and truth of God may at any time gain, in any one family, at any one place.
6. Look forward to its final and complete triumphs, its unfading and eternal splendour! (The Evangelist.)
Believing in the light and its effects
In certain parts of Asia there is a curious plant which grows in the forests. These forests are very dense and gloomy, for the trees grow thick together, and twine their branches into one another at the top, till the forest almost seems to have a great roof over it keeping out the sunlight. This plant at first is a very slim and feeble-looking plant--just a straight stalk, with only a thin leaf here and there upon it. But it shoots up and up, and gathers strength as it grows, till it becomes like a tall bamboo rod. And now it reaches up to the first branches of the trees, then up to the middle ones, then up to the topmost boughs, and pierces its way through the thick roof of leaves at the top; then, for the first time, it lifts its head unto the sunshine. And now, it does what it never did and never could have done before. It puts out beautiful blossoms and flowers; and, by and by, out of these it brings fruits and seeds. Once it has become a child of the light it begins to blossom and be fruitful. This explains the text in this way: at first the plant had a little light, and that little made it glad. It loved the light, and believed it was good for it. It believed in the light, and it found that the more it loved the light the more light it got, because it was growing more up to it, and from being a sickly, pale plant it became strong and beautiful. Now Jesus is the Light of the soul. We know a little about Him, that He loved us and died to save us, and wants to make us good. We have a little light, and what we have now to do is to love that light and believe that light, that our souls may be changed by the light from day to day, till we also become children of light. Suppose that plant, when it had only a little light, had said to itself, “Ah, I don’t want the light, I don’t want the light; I am tired of always trying to grow higher into the light. I think it would be much nicer if I could become a creeper and grow on the dark ground!” Well, if the plant said that and did that, it would bend down and down and away from the light, and it would receive less light and less light, and it would never have any flowers or any kind of fruit, just because when it had the light it would not believe in the light, or try to get more of it, or love it. It is the same with you. If you do not want that light, if you do not believe in it, if you prefer to do this thing and that which is sinful, then you will be growing away from the light, and receive less and less light still, and you will forget the light you once had, and your life will be lost. (J. R. Howat.)
Light limited in duration
Alexander the Great, when he besieged a certain city, kindled a torch, and offered pardon and peace to the besieged citizens if they would surrender themselves so long as the torch continued to burn, but threatened them with destruction and death if they did not surrender during the blazing light of the torch. So will it be with God and ourselves. Let us therefore work while we can enjoy the light that shines from heaven and leads us to heaven, for when this light is quenched, if we have not before surrendered ourselves to God, we must certainly, as He has warned us, meet with eternal death and destruction at His hands. (T. H.Leary, D. C. L.)
Delay leads to the winter of the soul
How dangerous to defer those momentous reformations which conscience is solemnly preaching to the heart! If they are neglected, the difficulty and indisposition are increasing every month. The mind is receding, degree after degree, from the warm and hopeful zone; till at last it will enter the arctic circle, and become fixed in relentless and eternal ice. (J. Foster.)
But though He had done so many miracles … yet they believed not on Him
Our Lord’s ministry
1. The doctrines He taught (John 12:44-43.12.50). These words are an abridged statement of our Lord’s words uttered at different times. In John 12:36 we have, the formal close of our Lord’s mission, and this summary appropriately follows. It teaches
(1) The Divinity of His mission (John 12:49). There is nothing that our Lord stated more frequently or plainly than this His name for God is often “He who sent Me.” This claim leaves no alternative between receiving Him as a Divine Messenger or rejecting Him as fanatic or impostor.
(2) The Divinity of His doctrine (John 12:44; John 12:49-43.12.50). He did not bring it forward as an opinion of the man Jesus, but as the truth He had heard of the Father.
(3) The Divinity of His Person. His authority here is clearly co-ordinate with that of the Father.
(4) The design of His mission. To be a light to the world; not to judge the world but to save it. The two declarations are synonymous. Men are in a state of darkness, i.e., of ignorance, error, guilt and depravity; at a distance from God who is “light.” Jesus is the “light” as He is the author and bestower of that salvation which dispels our moral darkness.
(5) The manner of being interested in His salvation. “He that believeth on Me.”
(6) The doom of those who refuse to believe (John 12:48).
2. The manner of His teaching (John 12:44).
(1) Public. He did not confine His teaching to a few, and like Mohammed and other impostors conceal His doctrines, till by private exertions He had secured a considerable body of followers.
(2) Earnest. Sometimes He quietly “talked with the people,” but at other times He cried aloud and spared not. The conviction He had of the truth and importance of His message produced a holy excitement.
(3) Fearless. He well knew how unpalatable His doctrines were and how great the dangers to which He exposed Himself. But He “set His face as a flint, and refused to be ashamed.” In all this Christ is a Model to His own ministers.
3. The evidence He produced.
(1) He did miracles, i.e., “signs,” tokens or signals of the truth of His doctrines. These miracles were
(2) “Great,” as the words “so many” may be rendered--far and obviously exceeding human power.
(a) More than those of Old Testament prophets.
(b) Many in kind, remarkable for variety.
(4) “Before” His countrymen; not like pretended miracles of later ages for the most part in the presence of those interested in supporting His system.
(5) These miracles were also
(c) At a time and in circumstances where imposture could be detected.
(d) In conformity with Messianic predictions.
II. ITS RESULTS.
1. The body of the Jewish nation did not believe.
(1) This disbelief fulfilled prophecy (John 12:38-43.12.41).
(2) In this prophecy we have the true cause of their rejecting Him. They had blinded eyes and hardened hearts, and therefore they could not perceive and understand.
(3) This blindness was first voluntary and self-imposed, then judicial, a punishment of God.
2. A minority who did believe from worldly motives suppressed their convictions (John 12:42-43.12.43). (J. Brown, D. D.)
The rejected messenger
I. THE CLOSED MINISTRY (John 12:36). It had been a ministry of -
1. Manifested glory. Glory one of the keynotes of the Gospel. The Divine Being looked upon by Israel in the first temple had been rejected by Israel in the second. This glory
(1) Was of a higher order than that seen by the prophet. That was symbolical, this real.
(2) Of more frequent exhibition. He had only one glimpse, they repeated manifestations.
2. Offered grace. The ministry was one persistent effort to secure their personal and social redemption.
3. Attesting power (John 12:37).
II. THE FORSAKEN PEOPLE. “Did hide Himself” (John 12:36).
1. The unbelieving majority (John 12:37). The completest evidence had been laid before them. Yet they voluntarily closed their eyes to the light. One would have expected the opposite from John 12:13. But Christ was not deceived by popular applause.
2. The believing minority.
(1) Considerable, embracing many of the rulers.
(2) Sincere, though defective.
(3) Timid, afraid of excommunication.
(4) Reprehensible, preferring human approbation to Divine.
III. THE FULFILLED PREDICTION (John 12:38).
1. The prediction.
(1) That the report of Jehovah’s suffering Servant would not be believed.
(2) That the “signs” would not be understood.
2. The fulfilment. This came to pass when the nation misinterpreted the signs, disbelieved the message, and rejected the person of Christ.
3. The connection: the fulfilment necessary because of the prediction.
(1) Not that compulsion was laid upon the Jews to reject Christ to save the credit of a prophet. But
(2) that the foreordained programme of human history should come to pass. That, however, did not exempt the Jews from guilt.
IV. THE ACCOMPLISHED DESIGN (verse 89).
1. The law of moral hardening. The truth rejected always results in a diminution of the soul’s susceptibility for receiving it.
2. The Author of this law, God. It being part of the moral order of the universe (Ephesians 4:19), God does not shrink from the responsibility.
3. The working out of this law. They could do no other than reject the Saviour, because they hated the light. Lessons
1. The day of grace may terminate before the day of life.
2. Unbelief seldom springs from lack of evidence.
3. No prediction of God will ever fail.
4. The Divine foreknowledge exempts no man from responsibility.
5. It is perilous to shut one’s eyes against the light of truth.
6. Unbelief is a disease for which Christ is the only Physician.
7. Christ the healer of souls is the Jehovah of the Old Testament.
8. It is not enough to believe on Christ; we must also confess Him.
9. They who follow Christ must expect persecution.
10. Who love the praise of men more than the glory of God cannot be saved. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Jesus and the Jews
I. A GUILTY UNBELIEF (John 12:37). Why did they not believe?
1. Not for want of evidence. For many miracles had been wrought amongst them.
2. Not for want of warning (John 12:38). The ministry that was fitted by God to bring them to spiritual knowledge and repentance they turned to opposite results (John 12:40). When a man has not three things
(2) The capacity for examining evidence, and
(3) The opportunity for doing so--his unbelief is not guilty; but this is not the unbelief of England today.
II. A COWARDLY FAITH (John 12:42-43.12.43) arising from
1. Fear of men.
2. Love of popularity. “Glory” would be a better word than praise. It is implied
(1) That between the glory of men and the glory of God there is an essential difference. Glory in the estimation of men is wealth, fame, titles, etc. In the eyes of God these are worthless. The glory of God is holiness.
(2) That a higher appreciation of the glory of man than of God is inimical to a courageous faith. The faith of Peter before the Sanhedrim; “we cannot but speak,” etc., is the true type.
III. REDEMPTIVE TRUSTFULNESS (John 12:44).
1. It is faith in Christ’s identity with the Father. Christ claimed no position independent of the Father.
2. It is faith, the absence of which tends to a terrible doom--“Darkness,” i.e., ignorance, remorse, despair. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
No welcome for Christ
Perhaps there is no episode recorded in history more interesting than that of Charles V when he landed at Tunis. Ten thousand men and women who were slaves within the city, when they heard of the approach of their deliverer, rose and broke their chains, and rushed toward the gate as the emperor was entering the town; and this mighty procession knelt down, hailed him as their deliverer, and prayed God to bless him. But when Christ the world’s deliverer comes to His own His own, alas, receive Him not.
That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled
The Gospel report
I. THE GOSPEL REPORT IS TRUE AND DIVINELY MIGHTY.
1. It is true because it is implied that it ought to be believed. What is genuinely believable must be true.
2. It is mighty because called “The arm of the Lord.” Redemptive truth is “the power of God unto salvation.”
II. THOUGH TRUE, ITS TRUTH IS OFTEN UNRELIEVED AND UNFELT. It was so in the days of the prophets, of Christ, of the apostles, and of all subsequent times. “Therefore they could not believe”--not because of the prediction, or of any Divine decree, but because of the state of their minds. As long as men are in the depths of moral corruption they can neither see nor feel Divine things. A malignant nature cannot see love, nor an avaricious generosity and disinterestedness.
III. THESE MORAL STATES OF MIND INIMICAL TO FAITH ARE OFTEN INTENSIFIED BY LISTENING TO THE REPORT. “He hath blinded,” etc. Matthew 13:14; Acts 28:26). It is a fact proved by the nature of things, and patent to the observation of all, that the hearer of the gospel who believes not is made more blind and hard by listening. Then as free agents have the power of counteracting the moral tendencies of things, turning blessings into curses and vice versa. The unbeliever is ever doing the former and the believer the latter.
IV. THE AWFUL RESULTS OF THE GOSPEL UPON MEN POSSESSING THESE STATES OF MIND ARE ALL FOREKNOWN OF GOD. The prophet was told what would be the fate of his “report.” But God’s foreknowledge did not render the result necessary, nor interfere with freedom of action, nor lessen guilt.
V. ALTHOUGH GOD FOREKNOWS THE TERRIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF THE GOSPEL ON THE UNBELIEVING HEARER, HE STILL COMMANDS IT TO BE PREACHED. The proclamation of Gospel truth is a good in itself, and a good to the universe, though it may enhance the misery of millions. Though God knows that storms will spread fearful devastation, yet He sends them forth. Man is not the only creature to be served. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The Gospel not believed
I. THE GOSPEL IS A MESSAGE OR REPORT TO MAN UPON MATTERS OF SUPREME IMPORTANCE. A system introduced by such agency as that of the Son of God could not be insignificant. The gospel is a message
1. As to the character and claims of God--the Majesty of His nature, the harmony of His attributes, the import of all His relations to the universe as Creator, Governor, Benefactor and Judge.
2. As to the character and condition of mankind; our depravity consequent on the fall, our alienation from God, our exposure to the curse. Beyond the gospel announcements on these subjects we want nothing. Here are the principles of true philosophy and untiring observation. Outside them all is delusion.
3. As to the method of salvation by the intervention of a Mediator--the counsels of eternity respecting it, the Author of it, the nature of His office, the value of His sacrifice, and the effects on earth and in heaven are all clearly and fully set forth.
II. THE GOSPEL IS COMMUNICATED TO MAN FOR THE EXPRESS PURPOSE OF BEING BELIEVED.
1. The report of the gospel is worthy of faith on account of the evidence by which it is confirmed. We are not called upon to believe it without evidence. The historic testimony to its authenticity, the fulfilment of prophecy, the performing of miracles, its wonderful adaptation to the circumstances of all men and its wonderful achievements constitute a conclusive claim to the embrace of every enlightened mind.
2. Faith in the report of the gospel is the only medium by which it can be rendered available to our safety and final happiness. Observe the statement of Scripture respecting the connection between
(1) Faith and justification.
(2) Faith and sanctification.
(3) Faith and the salvation which is the glorious consummation of justification and sanctification.
3. Faith in the gospel results from the operation of Divine power on the soul. “The arm of the Lord” signifies His power, and the manifestation of that arm consists in the implantation of the principle of faith. It is an affecting thought that nothing can overcome the depraved incredulity of the human heart but an agency omnipotent and Divine. This agency is the Holy Spirit secured by the death, resurrection, etc., of Christ.
III. IT BECOMES A MATTER OF SOLEMN INQUIRY AS TO THE NUMBER BY WHOM THE GOSPEL HAS BEEN EMBRACED. “Who hath believed?”
1. The implication which this inquiry involves, viz. that the number is comparatively small. It was so in the days of the prophet, in those of our Lord and the apostles, and in subsequent Christian history. And now, while we must not overlook the revived interest in religion and the success of missions, how few are the saved in comparison with the unsaved.
2. The results which from that implication must be produced.
(1) Compassion for sinners.
(2) Exertion for their salvation.
(3) Prayer that our efforts may be blessed. (J. Parsons.)
Therefore they could not believe
The loss of faith
I. THE TEMPERAMENT WHICH RENDERS FAITH IMPOSSIBLE. The statement is a strong one and is derived from Isaiah 6:10; Isaiah 6:10. This refers to no arbitrary act of Divine sovereignty. The Hebrews never conceived of a mere mechanical law, but regarded all sequence as a mode of God’s power. And as overlooking intermediate cause they spoke of Him as making day and night, so they spoke of Him as making spiritual day and night. In the stolidity inevitable when the soul refuses the report of God’s messengers, and closes itself against the light, they beheld law, and beholding law they discerned God. St. John dwells much upon cans and cannots (John 5:19; John 5:30; John 6:44; John 3:3), which refer to impossibilities which have their root in the presence or absence of certain dispositions; and the “could not” here implies the operation of a spirit incompatible with trust in Christ. The difficulty of verse 34 arose out of a state of mind impervious to Christ’s manifest Divine life. Intellectual cavillings were allowed to intercept spiritual light, and so they could not believe. For the same reason many do not believe now. There is a type of mind which is often praised as a sign of intellectual smartness--disputatious, so constantly posing as debater or critic that the light which would illumine doubts cannot get into the heart. Such should deeply ponder the text.
II. THE SPIRITUAL INACTION WHICH INVOLVES THE LOSS OF FAITH (verses 42, 43). Compare this with John 8:45-43.8.52. Only one then protested, now we learn that there was a considerable party in favour of Jesus although prudential considerations prevented them from confessing Him. What was the consequence of their timidity? A few days after the hiding of Jesus, they were all with two exceptions implicated in the plottings which issued in the crucifixion. It is dangerous to delay the expression of conviction in appropriate action. Christ requires confession, and no peculiarity of disposition should hinder it. So-called reserved people run the risk of weakening their own faith and love as well as hiding God’s righteousness (Psalms 40:10). “He who is not for Me is against Me” Romans 10:8-45.10.10).
III. THE ACTION IN WHICH FAITH IS PRESERVED AND PERFECTED (verses 35, 36, 46, cf. Ephesians 4:15; Ephesians 5:13).
1. Believe and walk. The error of the people is that they stand still, putting their scruples between them and Christ. His command is, Use what light you have; set yourselves in the path which faith in the light shall indicate Hosea 6:3).
2. Believe that you may be the children of light. Not to believe is to pass into darkness. (J. M. Lang, D. D.)
Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also many believed on Him
The conduct of the rulers
There were rulers, chief rulers, and many of them believed. What a pleasing circumstance. God grant that it may be the same with our rulers up to the sovereign; but may their faith go further; for the Jewish potentates did not confess Christ because they feared men and were anxious to secure their praise.
I. THERE ARE DIFFERENT WAYS OF BELIEVING IN CHRIST. Faith is made a great matter of in Scripture. Salvation hangs altogether on it, “He that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life.” Are we then to infer that everyone who is convinced that Christ is the Saviour shall be saved? No, for the rulers were thus convinced, and there are many who believe all the truths of the Bible and yet are not believers. We read that the devils believe and tremble, but never that the devils believe and live. The text helps us to discriminate between a true and a false faith. The faith of the rulers was one which could lie in their bosoms and could be smothered by fear of man and love of his praise. But a true faith cannot be stifled. It must speak out Romans 10:9). And not only will the lips speak out, but the life in all the graces of the Christian character. We live in days when it is no disgrace to say that we are Christians, but to show it.
II. THERE ALSO TWO GREAT OBSTACLES TO FAITH.
1. The fear of man as withering now as then. “What will the world say?” often casts a damp on godly resolutions. Men cannot bear the thought of ridicule, and so lower the standard of religious conduct and conform to the world. But grace enables the true believer to say, “I will not be afraid,” and he “rejoices that he is counted worthy to suffer shame.”
2. The love of man’s praise in preference to that of God. How many a man’s faith is nipped by no other cause? To live agreeably to the gospel is not the way to gain man’s praise. Man does not praise the poor in spirit, the meek, etc., but the proud, etc. He therefore who seeks to please the world puts on such qualities as these. But the true believer acts differently. He is not indeed indifferent to the good opinion of his fellow creatures, yet he values God’s esteem above this, and to secure that is the great film of his life. (A. Roberts, M. A.)
The meanness of not confessing Christ
I believe there are many in this congregation who wake every morning to pray, and who never let the evening shadows go without perfuming them with their grateful thanks for the mercies of the day; who study their Bibles more than many professing Christians; and who believe that the life they now live is by faith in the Son of God, but who yet do not wish to have it known, and shrink from joining the Church, and making a public acknowledgment of the debt they owe to Christ. They mean to be Christians, but not to avow themselves such. Thus they will leave the world to suppose that their manifest virtues are self-cultured, and that Christian lives may be led without Christ. If I were a pupil of Titian, and he should design my picture, and sketch it for me, and look over my work every day and make suggestions, and then, when I had exhausted my skill, he should take the brush and give the finishing touches, bringing out a part here and there, and making the whole glow with beauty, and then I should hang it upon the wall and call it mine, what a meanness it would be! (H. W. Beecher.)
For they loved the praise of man more than the praise of God
The uses of praise
I. PRAISE IS ONE OF THE MOST ACTIVE AND IMPORTANT OF ALL THE INFLUENCES THAT AFFECT HUMAN LIFE. A man without a sense of pleasure in other men’s approbation is not well fitted to live among men. Its operation tends continually to restrain men from offence. It incites to doing of a thousand things which are agreeable and which we should not have thought of doing if it had not been for the desire to produce pleasure in others, and so reflexively to win their favour. In these directions it cooperates easily with benevolence. When it works upward, and is in alliance with reason, duty, and religion, then it becomes a glorious incitement, a stimulus to industry and to chivalry. If those from whom we desire praise are praiseworthy, then to desire their praise is to set in operation within ourselves the machinery by which we lift ourselves toward their level. Where it includes the approval of great spirits generically, and of God, then the highest form of motive power is reached.
II. THE VALUE OF THIS FUNCTION IN LIFE DEPENDS ON ITS ASSOCIATIONS AND EDUCATION. Of all the faculties it is the most illusive. When not rightly trained it is deceiving, and when improperly exercised it is weakening. Associated with conscience it should reject all undeserved praise. Men ought to be ashamed to be praised for what they know is not true, and when they lay traps for it how beggarly is the degradation to which they have come. How many array themselves on the side of right to be praised! Who accepts truth which is unpopular, and love that which their conscience tells them is just when it will bring down upon them the discredit of the whole community? How easy is it to bring men on the side that is popular. As long as slavery was an accredited fact and not to be disturbed, it was a very ungracious thing to stand up for human liberty; but no sooner was the public sentiment changed than men sprang up thicker than asparagus and cried, “Oh, the preciousness of emancipation.” So men think they are following the truth when they are simply lusting for praise. As an auxiliary there can be no objection to it. If a man in the performance of duty afterwards finds himself the subject of praise, all well and good; but it is necessary that it should be the second or the third, and not the primary or dominant motive. Those surrounded by a low-toned public sentiment are apt to have an indiscriminate hankering after praise and to be so demoralized that they even become vain of sinful courses. There are men whose foul tongue is their strength and they glory in it. There are men proud of their rudeness. They think it praiseworthy to be singular in this respect. Men enter into competition with each other as to which can eat or drink the most. Yea, crimes become virtues in the sight of many.
1. As an incitement to artistic work, the love of praise should always wait on and follow achievement, and never precede it. No man who works for praise can ever become a leading artist.
2. This is true also of literary work. No author will live whose paper is a looking glass. No man will write thoughts but he who is utterly unconscious and lost in his subject.
3. In politics everything is made to turn on the popular vote, and our public men grow up questioning not, “What will be the influence of this or that as to the right or wrong?” but, “How will it strike my constituents and affect my chances?” And the inspirations of God in the lines of truth are sacrificed to this miserable and mercenary regard for praise which men want and do not deserve.
4. Of all places there is none where self-consciousness and the love of praise are so fatal as in the pulpit. There is a wide range for the selection of themes by the preacher, but how many are chosen that jar on the nerves of the lovers of pleasure, wealth, etc.? In the treatment especially of great public questions, what conservatism and fear of men’s opinions there is? No man can effectually preach the truths of the Christian life who is not willing to throw himself instantly into anything that is needful and be lost to popularity so that it is with truth and God that he stands.
IV. IN THIS SUBJECT WE HAVE MATTER FOR VERY PROFOUND SELFEXAMINATION.
1. It is a question for many how much of your religion is other than conformity to public custom, and how much is simple conformity to what is respectable.
2. Is the praise you receive beneficial in its effect upon you? Is it preparing you for higher association in the kingdom above? The day hastens. Soon we shall stand before Him who has declared that if in this evil generation we are ashamed of Him, He will be ashamed of us. (H. W. Beecher.)
The praise of men
I. THE FOLLY OF AN OVER-VALUATION OF THE OPINION OF MEN. The condemnation was not that the rulers loved the praise of men, but they loved it more than the praise of God. This overweening regard to human opinion is
1. Very common. Not that the esteem of others is sinful, because deference to the opinion of the wise and good is wisely implanted in our nature. The perversion of an instinctive tendency does not convert a good principle into a bad one. The love of praise is not to be condemned if limited to the praise of good men for right sentiments and good actions. It must, however, be an insufficient principle of conduct, because it may be extended to the praise of bad men for bad actions. We must not then say that the love of praise or fear of blame is necessarily sinful. Opinion is the prop and stay of all social intercourse. Reputation for honour, etc., is essential, while man is man. “No man liveth to himself.” Jacob said of Judah, “Thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise”; and to stand well in the opinion of good men is a means of blessing to the Church and the world. St. Paul says, “If there be any praise, think on these things.” Only remember that this love of praise should be followed by a love of praiseworthiness, and a fear of blame of blameworthiness; otherwise it will be only vanity in disguise. The man who is above or below the good opinion of ethers, must be more or less than man. He who sets no value upon the just estimation of society is often careless of the actions which tend to produce it.
2. It may be abused, and become implicit idolatry like that of the heathen who served the creature more than the Creator. It was the same with the young ruler, Pilate and Felix. “This is the victory that overcometh our faith--even the world.”
3. This sinful preference of man to God is dangerous in its issue. It hazards the less of the soul, and draws down the displeasure of God (see following verses).
II. CONSIDERATIONS WHICH MAY CORRECT THIS EVIL.
1. The worthlessness of the men for whose commendation we are ready to renounce Christ. Let us know why and for whom we are prepared to make shipwreck of faith and good conscience. For what did Judas betray Christ? The favour of worthless Pharisees and thirty pieces of silver. For what did Esau renounce his birthright? And for what do we give up the hope of acceptance with Christ? For the wretched smile of triflers, for the ribaldry of Paine and the “don’t know” of Spencer--a mess of pottage indeed. “An atheist’s laugh is a poor exchange for a Deity offended.”
2. The study of the best models. The men of whom this world was not worthy, were not the men who bowed to ruling opinions. Paul conferred not with flesh and blood; Columbus turned a deaf ear to worldly wisdom, or he would never have discovered a new world. Had Milton been swayed by popular opinion he would never have left a name immortal. Defoe was offered wealth and preferment to support government measures by a venal pen, but he sternly refused, and borrowed a guinea to supply his wants for the day. Study the answer of the Three Hebrew Children and the example of Christ. We talk of the public opinion of earth, but forget that there is a public opinion in heaven (Hebrews 12:10).
3. Estimate of the value of the Divine opinion. God is the standard of all excellence. His approbation is the seal of honour.
4. Anticipate the decisions of the great day. (T. H. Day.)
The supreme value of that honour which cometh from God
I. THERE IS NOTHING IN THE NATURE OF PRAISE THAT IS ABSOLUTELY SINFUL. It is nowhere condemned except in the form of flattery, which is not praise but simply lying. It is needful to bear this in mind, because, through erroneous notions, many receive what is done for them or for God’s cause with chilling indifference, which has a detrimental effect particularly on the young. To see that praise is not sinful, we have but to study the generous commendations of our Lord and of St. Paul. Then how frequently has it animated the faint and discouraged, as in the case of St. Paul at Appii Forum.
II. THE PRAISE OF MEN AND THE PRAISE OF GOD ARE FREQUENTLY OPPOSED. For man often condemns what God approves, and vice versa. God cannot look upon any form of sin with allowance, but man condones and sometimes applauds the grossest vices.
III. BOTH IN BESTOWING AND ACCEPTING PRAISE WE SHOULD BE GUIDED ENTIRELY BY THE MIND OF GOD. He knows what is praiseworthy, and has revealed His mind on the subject. Never receive or give flattery for what the Bible condemns.
IV. TO THIS UNHAPPY PREFERENCE FOR THE PRAISE OF MAN BEFORE THAT OF GOD MAY BE TRACED THE MISERY AND RUIN OF MANKIND. (Congregational Remembrancer.)
The desire for admiration
The human eye of admiration I seek is like the scorching ray that destroys all the delicate colours in the most costly material. Every action that is done only to be seen of others, loses its freshness in the sight of God, like the flower that, passing through many hands, is at last hardly presentable to anyone, much less to a dear friend. (T. H.Leary, D. C. L.)
The peril of the love of praise
A clergyman once had a dream, in which another popular clergyman appeared to him in his garden and asked the time of the day. “Twenty-five minutes past four,” said the other. “It is then exactly an hour since I died, and I am damned;” “Damned for what?” said the other. “Not for not preaching the gospel, for I have many seals to my ministry; but I have sought the praise of men more than the praise of God.” The first clergyman on going to the service in the evening (Sunday) was asked “if he had heard of the loss of such a church whose minister had died.” “When?” said the clergyman. “Twenty-five minutes past three this afternoon!”
Love of fame rebuked
There was one Michael Fenwick that travelled with Wesley as a sort of groom, nurse, and occasional exhorter. The good man was vain enough to complain, one day, that his name was never inserted in Wesley’s published “Journals.” In the next number of the “Journals” he found his name in a connection that probably did not serve to increase his vanity. “I left Epworth,” wrote Wesley, “with great satisfaction, and about one, preached at Clayworth. I think none were unmoved but Michael Fenwick, who fell fast asleep under an adjoining hayrick.” (Dr. Haven.)
Jesus cried and said.
The rejected message
A message of
I. LOVE FROM THE FATHER (John 12:49).
1. The substance of the message--a revelation of the Father (John 12:45).
(1) Of His name, Father.
(2) Of His character, love.
(3) Of His gift, the Son.
(4) Of His purpose, salvation (John 12:47).
2. The medium of its transmission--through Christ, God’s
(1) Son (John 12:50);
(2) Representative (John 12:44);
(3) Commissioner (John 12:44; John 12:49).
3. The heinousness of its rejection--to reject Christ and His message the same thing as to reject the Father and His message (John 12:44).
II. SALVATION FOR THE WORLD (John 12:46-43.12.47).
1. Of Salvation from the darkness of
(1) Intellectual error.
(2) Moral unholiness.
(3) Legal condemnation.
(4) Eternal death.
2. Of salvation through faith--through hearing, believing, keeping Christ’s words.
3. Of salvation forever--through escaping the final judgment and entering at the last day upon eternal life.
III. JUDGMENT FOR THE UNBELIEVING (John 12:48).
1. Its time--the last day.
2. Its author--the Word of Christ.
3. Its ground--unbelief and disobedience.
IV. ETERNAL LIFE FOR THE FAITHFUL (John 12:50).
1. The object of the Father’s commission.
2. The burden of the Son’s commission.
3. The issue of the individual’s faith. Lessons
1. Thankfulness for the gospel message.
2. Watchfulness against the sin of unbelief.
3. Prayerfulness that the news of salvation may be propagated through the earth.
4. Trustfulness that we may escape the judgment of the last day.
5. Earnestness to lay hold of eternal life. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
I am come a Light into the world.
Light for the world’s darkness
I. OUR WORLD IS DARK. God did not make it so, but man has darkened it, and Satan and sin have darkened it. It is a darkness of
1. Sleep. The sleeper sees not the light. He may dream that he does so, but that is all.
2. Death. With life, light flees.
3. The tomb. Buried, the darkness is double.
4. Satan. He is the ruler of the darkness of this world.
5. Hell. Our world is an earnest of the blackness of darkness forever. The shadow of hell is over it.
II. THERE IS LIGHT FOR IT. Deep as is the darkness, it is not hopeless. There is enough of light in God and heaven yet. Light has not been quenched throughout the universe, though driven from our world.
III. THIS LIGHT HAS COME. It is not in heaven merely; it has come down to earth. The gospel is an announcement of the arrival of the light.
IV. CHRIST IS THE LIGHT. The brightness of Jehovah’s glory; the true Light; the Sun of Righteousness; the Day Star; the bright and morning Star. All the light of the Godhead, of heaven, of the universe, is centred in Him. He is the Light of the World because
1. Of what He shows us of the Father. He that hath seen Him hath seen the Father.
2. Of what He does to us--pardons, heals, comforts, blesses, saves.
3. Of what He is yet to do for our world. His reign shall be the reign of light, and the earth shall rejoice in His light.
V. THE WAY IN WHICH THE LIGHT ENTERS. Not in working or waiting, but believing. Faith ends the darkness, and lets in the glorious light.
VI. THE FREENESS AND UNIVERSALITY OF THE LIGHT. “Whosoever.” (H. Bonar, D. D.)
Believers shall not abide in darkness
Perhaps the worst feature of darkness is, that it is so bewildering. You have to walk, and yet your way is hidden from your eyes. This is hard work. God will help His children, will He not? Ay, that He will, but we cannot see how I We look upward, and see no twinkling star; downward and do not even find a glow worm. Surely we shall see a candle in some window! But no! we are lost in a dark wood. Have we not somewhere about us a match that we could strike? We fumble for it; we find it, it is damp, we have no light. The question that now chills the heart is--How can God deliver me? We do not see how He can make a way of escape. What simpletons we are to fancy that if we do not see a way of deliverance God does not see one either! If you have ever steamed up the Rhine, you have looked before you, and it has looked as if you could go no further; the river seemed to be a lake; great mountains and vast rocks blocked up all further advance. Suddenly there has been a turn in the stream, and at once a broad highway has been before you, inviting you to enter the heart of the country. Perhaps in Providence you are in one of those parts of the river of life where no progress appears possible. You are quite blocked up, and this causes you darkness of mind. Cease from this unbelieving bewilderment. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him, and He shall give thee thy heart’s desire.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
If any man hear My words
THE GREATEST SPIRITUAL PRIVILEGE THAT MAN CAN ENJOY. It is a priceless privilege to hear the words of any great sage, poet, moralist. But what are the best human words compared with those of Christ? They are spirit and life; more pure than crystal, more refreshing than the morning breeze, more quickening than the sunbeam, they are recreative forces. What have they accomplished ere now?
II. THE GREATEST CRIMINAL NEGLECT OF WHICH A MAN CAN BE GUILTY--“and believe not,” i.e. keep them not. Such is guilty of
1. The most egregious folly.
2. The most heinous ingratitude.
3. The most hardened impiety.
II. THE MOST TERRIBLE DOOM WHICH A MAN CAN APPREHEND. “I judge him not.” I as a Saviour have nothing more to do with him; I leave him to the retributive treatment of My Father. Mercy leaves him, and justice apprehends him. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The words of Christ
I. AS LAWS TO BE OBEYED. Christ’s words are not like poetry for entertainment, or abstract science for speculative thought; they are laws to be kept; not so much a creed as a code. It is only as they are embodied in actual life that their mission is answered, that they are of any real or lasting service to man.
II. AS A MEANS OF SALVATION. Had Christ come to judge the world, His words would have breathed the indignation of insulted justice. But He came to save, and hence His words are full of all that can restore man to holiness and God. The salvation which Christ came to effect is restoration from spiritual ignorance to intelligence, from selfishness to benevolence, from bondage to freedom, from inward conflict to inner harmony, from social perniciousness to social utility. To this His signs and words are adapted. “Save the world,” not a class.
III. AS CRITERIA OF JUDGMENT (John 12:48). The man to whom Christ has spoken, and who rejects or nullifies His words, needs no other judge but His words. These words will judge him in his conscience and will condemn him for ingratitude, folly and rebellion. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Christ is both able and willing to save the world
When the Duke of Argyle was taken in rebellion in Scotland, and brought before James II, the king said to him, “You know that it is in my power to pardon you.” It is reported that the prisoner answered, “It may be in your power, but it is not in your nature”--a speech which, whether true or not, cost him his life, He died like a stoic, executed at Temple Gate. But Christ has both the power and the disposition to pardon sinners. He that rejecteth me … hath one that judgeth Him.
The redemptive becoming retributive
I. CHRISTIANITY MAY BE REJECTED NOW. It is possible to accept Christ’s creed and to reject His authority.
II. THOSE WHO REJECT CHRISTIANITY NOW, MUST BOW TO ITS JUDICIAL FORCE HEREAFTER. “The last day” is the retributive period that awaits us all. Then the “Word” which has been trodden under foot will rise from the dust and take the throne.
1. There is nothing arbitrary in the decision or procedure of the last judgment. The glorious words of mercy which are rejected will spring from their graves, and conscience will invest them with judicial authority.
2. Man should be profoundly cautious as to how to treat the words of Christ now. His words are not sounds but things--terrible things. They must live forever in every soul into which they have fallen. Old sermons will be preached again by memory many ages on. “How shall we escape.” (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The word that I have spoken, the same shall Judge Him.
I. THERE IS A LAST DAY. The world shall not always roll on. God shall interpose at length. In one sense there is no last day either to righteous or wicked. But in reference to the existing order there is a winding up, a reckoning. “Tomorrow” shall then cease, and that word of mystery and procrastination and suspense be known no more.
II. THAT DAY SHALL BE ONE OF JUDGMENT. The long unsettled cases of earth shall be settled then. Time’s riddles shall be solved and its wrongs righted. The oppressed shall be vindicated and the evil-doer be put to shame. The judgment shall be just, undoing the evil and establishing the good.
III. CHRIST’S WORD SHALL JUDGE US. Not that the word is to supersede the Judge, but it will form the ground of judgment. We can imagine in connection with that word such questions as these:
1. Did it reach you?
2. Did you listen to it, or spend your lives in listening to someone or thing else?
3. Did you treat it as a true word? Professing to receive it as true, did you treat it as untrue?
4. Did you treat it as Divine? by reverence and submission.
5. Did you accept it as suitable, as meeting your case? or did you reject it? By this word, then, let us judge ourselves now, that so we may not be condemned by it at the great day. (H. Bonar.)
For I have not spoken of Myself.
Christ as a teacher
I. HIS PROFOUND HUMILITY. “I have not spoken of Myself.” As if He had said, I take no credit for the thoughts that I have addressed to men: they are not the flashes of my own genius, or the conclusions of my own reason. I am not their fountain but their channel. A teacher is great and divine just in proportion to his humility. Alas! the vanity of preachers has become proverbial.
II. HIS CONSCIOUS DIVINITY. “But the Father which sent Me,” etc. No man is a true spiritual teacher who is not conscious that the thoughts he utters are not his own but God’s. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "John 12". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent