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Now before the feast of the Passover.
A three-fold marvel
I. A MARVELLOUS LOVE: that of Christ for His own. Marvellous in respect of
1. Its time.
(1) Before the feast of the Passover, when His thoughts might have been occupied with its memories.
(2) Before His departure, when He might have been absorbed in the contemplation of death or the heaven beyond.
(3) Before His exaltation, when the vision of the coming glory might have fixed His Spirit’s eye.
2. Its intensity--“unto the end.”
(1) To the uttermost, or in the highest degree, with a love passing knowledge (Ephesians 3:19), which many waters (of affliction) could not quench, nor floods (of sorrow) drown (Song of Solomon 8:9).
(2) To the latest moment of His life, with a love which, as it had been without beginning, so also would it be without end (Jeremiah 31:8).
(3) At the last, surpassing every previous demonstration and stooping even unto death for its objects (Joh 15:13; 1 John 3:16; Romans 5:8).
3. Its reason. While He was departing from, they were remaining in the world, exposed to the enmity and evil He was escaping. The thought of their feebleness and defencelessness, and their sufferings and imperfections, added fuel to the fire of His affection (Hebrews 4:15).
II. A MARVELLOUS DEED (John 13:5). An act of
1. Amazing condescension, considering
(1) Its nature--the work of a slave (1 Samuel 25:41).
(2) His dignity--the Incarnate Son, conscious of His heavenly origin and destiny (John 13:3), on the eve of grasping the sceptre of the universe Matthew 28:18).
(3) The objects--frail and erring men and one of them a traitor. Had Christ been only man He would have spurned Judas: being God, He loved him and even washed his feet.
2. Sublime significance. Symbolic
(1) Of Christ’s self-abasement who, in order to effect the spiritual cleansing of His people, laid aside the form of God, assumed the garment of humanity, and poured His purifying blood from the cross (Philippians 2:7-8; 1 John 1:7).
(2) Of the working of regeneration through which sin’s defilement is removed (Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5).
(3) Of the daily cleansing which the renewed need (Psalms 51:7; 1 John 1:9).
III. A MARVELLOUS OBLIGATION (verses 14, 15). Christ’s example calls His disciples to
1. Personal humility. If the Lord and Master could stoop and wash the feet of a Judas, it ill became them to be puffed up with thoughts of their own greatness (Romans 12:3; Luke 22:27; Matthew 9:29; 1 Peter 5:5).
2. Loving service. Not that Christ instituted a new religious service. The Pope is Christ’s ape rather than His imitator. Christ’s example is to be followed spiritually in ministering to necessity and practising Christian kindness (John 15:17; Matthew 25:34-40; Romans 12:9-10, Galatians 6:2; Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Timothy 5:10).
3. Brotherly forgiveness. Christ had washed and therefore forgiven them; they were to practise the charity which covers a multitude of sins Matthew 6:12; Mark 11:28; Luke 17:3-4; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).
1. The supreme Divinity of Christ.
2. The diabolical depravity of the fallen heart.
3. The imperfections of even Christ’s followers.
4. The absolute necessity of Christ as a Saviour.
5. Christ’s perfect knowledge of men.
6. The duty of taking Christ as our example.
7. Obedience the royal road to happiness. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Jesus knew that His hour was come
I. Its FULNESS.
II. Its SOURCES.
III. Its USES. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
I. SO LONG CONTEMPLATED.
II. SO FULL OF SUFFERINGS.
III. SO FULL OF RESPONSIBILITY. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
I. HE HAD A DIVINE PRESENTIMENT OF THE EXACT TIME OF HIS DEATH. “When Jesus knew” etc. All men know that they must die sooner or later. This throws a shade v on the whole path of life, but the exact time is in mercy hidden from us. But Christ knew His hour from the first, and instead of endeavouring to avoid it comes forth to meet it. What mere man would have done this? And with such heroic calmness!
II. HE HAD A GLORIOUS VIEW OF THE NATURE OF HIS DEATH.
1. It was a departure from this world. With the exception of the beauties and blessings of the earth, everything in the world must have been repugnant to Him. It was a world of rebels against the government of His Father, of enemies against Himself. To Him it must have been what the cell is to the prisoner or the lazaretto to the healthy. To leave such a scene could not have been a matter for regret, but rather of desire. May not every good man look on death thus? What is there in the human world to interest him?
2. It was a going to the Father, where
(1) He would get the highest approbation of His work.
(2) He would enjoy the sublimest fellowship. So with the Christian.
III. HE HAD A SUBLIME MOTIVE FOR MEETING WITH HIS DEATH. Love for His own, i.e., all who in every land and age consecrate themselves to God, whose they are. This love continues
1. To the end of every man’s existence.
2. To the end of the mediatorial system. Nay, will it ever have an end? Never in essence, but in achievement. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
A great and solemn hour
1. It was the hour of His departure. “Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto His Father.” Such was His death, even though it was the death of the Cross, “a departure.”
2. It was the hour of His love. If He rejoiced in the thought of departing to be with the Father, there was also a strain upon His heart at the thought of leaving His disciples, whom, “having loved as His own in the world, He loved to the end,” that is, “to the uttermost.”
3. It was the hour of His betrayal. What a frightful contrast is here l In this hour, when His Divine heart was swelling nigh unto bursting with the intensity and vehemence of His love, there was one of their number whose heart was filled with a devilish purpose of betrayal.
4. It was the hour of His supreme and sublime self-consciousness--“Knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He came forth from God, and was going back to God.”
5. The hour of His lowly service to His disciples. (G. F. Pentecost.)
That He should depart out of this world unto the Father.--He came from God, and yet not leaving Him, and He goeth to God not leaving us. (St. Bernard.)
Having loved His own which were in the world
The Divine love
1. It is not strange that the hour of departure should be the hour of quickened affection. When the child leaves home, father and mother seem more dear than before. And had this been the Saviour’s home, and those around Him His relations, it would not have been strange that He should have felt more strongly for them than at any previous time.
2. On the other hand, when for purposes of health, business, or pleasure one has long been an exile, and the day comes for return, although he has made pleasant acquaintances, yet the thought of home swallows up every other. Applying this, who can imagine the vision that arose before Jesus at this hour? The infinitude of His power was to be restored, and the companionships He had known from eternity. Yet at this hour it is said that “having loved,” etc.
3. This is wonderful. For consider what the disciples were. If Christ had dwelt in the accomplishments of the heavenly land, what must they have seemed to Him? Not one had any extraordinary endowment except John, and none save he and Peter and James have left any record except their names. Had Christ selected heroes like Luther, Melanchthon, Hampden, Sidney, Washington, or geniuses like Dante, Shakespeare, or Goethe, we can imagine how, surrounded by the greatest natures, He should have suffered at parting from them. But these were men with not only no royalty of endowment, but selfish, prejudiced, ambitious, and mean. And yet taking them with all their imperfections which the glory to which He was departing threw into bolder relief, having loved them He loved them unto the end.
4. It is plain that Divine love includes other elements than those usually imagined. It is not strange that God loves loveliness. We do that. But who of us loves that which is unlovely? This is what God does. But it does not follow that this love is not more qualified with growing excellency than without it. It is that kind of love which a parent feels toward children who are not in themselves attractive. Parental love, however it may grow, is what we feel by reason of what is in us, not of what is in our children. The newborn babe has neither thought, love, nor power of expression; and yet there is in the mother that which loves it with an intensity which is like life itself. So there is in the Divine nature a power of sympathizing with things at the lowest and poorest.
5. In this simple thought we find the world’s hope and comfort. You may dismiss from your minds, if you can, all who are not your near relations; but I cannot. It is a burden on my soul what becomes of the vast multitudes of Africa, Asia, and of our great cities who crawl like vermin in and out of dens of vice and poverty. The only light on this problem comes from the fact that there is a God who loves things that are not lovable.
6. This universality of the Divine sympathy interprets the declaration, “God so loved the world,” etc. His affection for a world lying in brutality and wickedness was such that He gave what was most precious to Him to redeem it. Men think that this obliterates the motives to right. Not so. Is there any feeling in the parent’s mind stronger than this: that the beloved child shall grow out of nothingness into largeness and beauty? And God aims to purify and exalt and enrich human nature. He loves men without reason in them, but with infinite reason in Himself. His love is not simply good nature. It is intensely earnest and just, and suffering flows from it. There is nothing lovable in us at first, but under the fructifying influence of the Divine soul working on ours, germ after germ begins to develop into something lovable; and the Divine complacency takes hold of us as we rise to higher love and perfection.
7. What a consolation this representation presents to those who are battling with their imperfections. (H. W. Beecher.)
Christ’s love to His own
I. THE LOVE OF CHRIST IS A PERSONAL LOVE.
1. This personal love is not to be contrasted with, although it is to be distinguished from, His love of the whole world. Without supposing the universal love that pities misery everywhere, we cannot make our way to a personal love. You cannot be sure of a love that passes by great multitudes.
2. This personal love is just the application of the general love to the person. It is not merely that the individual believes in that general love and appropriates just so much to himself as he needs, but that in that very appropriation he practically increases the love of Christ to himself. His love to Christ makes Christ’s love to him a love of complacency and friendship.
3. The belief of this is the turning point of life. When a man can say, “He loved me and gave Himself for me,” he has passed or is passing from darkness into light. His destiny is solved. Not to believe that assurance so solemnly and affectingly given, is to be without the comfort of the blessed gospel, to abide under wrath.
4. It is either wrath or love. There is no explaining it away or shading it off. Come to Christ, believe the gospel, you are in love. Stay away from Him, distrust His gospel, leave it lying there unopened, untouched, as you would some printed circular you don’t care to be troubled with, and the whole world is full of wrath. It darkens and embitters your whole life. Just say this and believe it, for it is true, “He loved me,” etc.; and then you are out of wrath into love, you leave the ranks of His enemies, you enter among “His own.”
II. CHRIST LOVES HIS OWN UNTO THE END, i.e., to the end of His own life. In proof of which, here at the very end is a most thoughtful, touching instance of His intense desire to do them a good that would last long after He was away.
1. He was going into great suffering. No agitation, no depression, no entering into the sorrow before the time; but this calm, beautiful action of feet washing which they might recall forever as an overwhelming proof of the endurance of His love to His own.
2. He was going into great glory. Work all done. Suffering nearly finished. Home now to God! What then? A great elation of spirit and a corresponding forgetfulness of these common persons and these inferior things? No; but the washing of the disciples’ feet! A yearning, enfolding love of “His own” unto the end. No trial of love could be more searching, more complete, than is furnished by those two great things, both so near--the suffering and the glory.
1. You who are “His own,” it concerns you much to believe that He will “love you unto the end.” Why should He not?
(1) Even His own great suffering could not cast a shade between the loving Master and the trembling disciple when He was here. And now there is no suffering to come between you and Him.
(2) And as to the glory of His heavenly life, even now when throned and crowned and worshipped by ten thousand times ten thousand, the joy that is dearer to Him than all this is that which He wins yet down here when He seeks and finds the sheep that was lost. We think poorly of Him if we suffer ourselves to think of Him as enjoying heaven yonder while we suffer and die.
(3) And as for your unworthiness, you were unworthy when He began to deal with you, and you have been unworthy every day since, and you are now, and He knows all this. Having loved His own with an unbought, uncaused love from the beginning, and thus far along their individual histories, He will love them so, and no otherwise, unto the end. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Christ’s love for His own
I. THE RELATION--“His own.” This relation is formed by Himself. “To them gave He power to become the sons of God.” It is not, therefore, from a mere profession of religion. “Ye are clean; but not all.” There were persons endued with miraculous powers who nevertheless were not “His own,” and to whom Christ will say, “I never knew you.”
II. THE POSITION “in the world.” It is one of
1. Trial. You are exposed to a position of sorrow, and struggling, and conflict. Here is something that will try you. What influence has the world had on your spirit and conduct? If you are called on to suffer, is there the language of Eli: “It is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth good unto Him”? or obstinacy and rebellion?
2. Danger. You are exposed
(1) To innumerable adversaries. “Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about,” etc.
(2) To great temptations. How many run well for a time and afterwards fall short!
III. THE AFFECTION--“having loved.” If your position is to be a test of your affection for Christ, what a proof it will be of His affection for you! What evidence of love will you ask at His hands? What can He do more than He has done? “Greater love hath no man than this,” etc.
IV. THE ADHESION--“unto the end.” Can you say this of any human affection? Can the child calculate on the affection of the parent, the most durable of all, to the end? “Can a woman forget her sucking child?…Yea, she may forget; yet will I not forget.” There is no unchangeable love but His because there is no unchangeable being but God. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love,” etc. (W. Bengo Collyer, D. D.)
Christ’s love of His own
The Saviour has a treasure of immortal spirits who are not in the world. Angels and spirits of the just made perfect are all His own--a multitude which no man can number. This verse, however, shows the relationship of Jesus to His faithful followers who “are in the world.” The disciples were no monopolists of Christ’s love. The lapse of time may change the tense, but it does not change the sense of this gracious text.
I. THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS ARE CALLED BY A PECULIARLY ENDEARING NAME--‘‘His own.” All things are His own. “All souls are Mine,” even the rebellious and unthankful. Here, however, the words imply a relationship of the dearest and closest kind. A true mother has a sympathy for all children; but there is a singular depth in her words, as she looks into the eyes of the darling of her heart, and says, “My own!” The gift in the hand of a child is enhanced when it is understood to be his “very own.” With such intense affection and delight does Christ regard His people. He constantly challenges them as “My brethren,” “My sheep,” “My friends,” and emphatically, “Mine.” They are His own
1. As the purchase of His blood. They had sold themselves for nought, were sold under sin. Christ was their Redeemer. He gave His life a ransom for them, and they are become His purchased possession. “He justly claims us for ‘His own,’” etc.
2. By willing personal surrender. This is an all-essential endorsement of His claim. The price of his freedom may be proffered to the slave, but if he will not accept it he is still in bonds. Christ hath purchased all souls. Yet it needs the assent of their understanding, and the consent of their will, in order to bind them to Him by the special tie and to make them peculiarly His own.
3. They bear the name, seal, and image of the Saviour.
4. As the gift of the Father, the reward of His mediatorial work. In chap. 17, we see how the Saviour gathered strength and comfort from the thought of their prospective possession. “Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me.”
II. THE TEMPORARY POSITION OF CHRIST’S OWN! “In the world.” When a sinner is converted and all is safe for heaven, how desirable it seems that he should be removed out of the world. Let him be taken away from the evil to come that he may never run the hazard of losing so rich a prize. Amid the troubles of life the Christian pilgrim is often tempted to say, “Oh that I had the wings of a dove,” etc. But the Lord keeps “His own” in the world
1. For their own sake. Eternal life is the gift of God unmerited and free; yet the Christian’s future will be largely influenced by the tone and character of his life on earth. According to his spiritual growth, his moral victories, his love and sacrifice and service, will be the fulness of the glory which shall be revealed.
2. For the Saviour’s sake. The world holds Him in dishonour, and gives His glory to another. Christians are in the world to represent the Saviour! “The glory which Thou hast given Me! have given them, that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me.”
3. For the world’s sake. The world cannot spare them. Its only hope lies in the element of godliness which is slowly leavening it more and more. “Ye are the salt of the earth.”
III. THE SAVIOUR’S UNCHANGING LOVE FOR HIS OWN. “He loved them to the end.” These disciples of His, from the day He called them, had been the objects of tenderest regard. They were full of faults and failings, were sadly slow of heart to receive the truth; yet in and through all He loved them. Now that the time is at hand when the bitter cup shall be lifted to His lips, His anxiety for their well-being is the foremost feeling of His heart. He pours into their ears the richest strains of comfort and consolation. “Let not your hearts be troubled,” etc. He promises them a Comforter, and bids them “be of good cheer.” In the garden, His gentle forbearance to the unwatchful three reveals the fixity and depth of His love. When the officers came, He wards His trembling disciples from the threatening crowd. Their desertion was a sharper pang than any made by jailer’s scourge or soldier’s spear. And yet it was quenchless love that “looked” on Peter. When He left the tomb, He gave the angel watchers a kindly message for His flock, and mentioned the penitent denier by name. And when at last they gathered round Him on the hill of Bethany, His latest movement was to lift His hands and bless them; His latest word a promise to be with them even to the end of the world; when a cloud received Him out of their sight, two angels stood before them to tell them that as they had seen Him ascend, so should He again descend, that He might receive them unto Himself! Afterwards, when seated at the right hand of God, Stephen’s cry for help brought Him to His feet! Do you wonder that when the aged apostle called up each look, tone, deed, and word that marked his Saviour’s later days, that with a gush of unrestrained devotion he should write, “Having loved His own,” etc.? Conclusion:
1. Believer, you are in the holy and the privileged succession.
(1) Christ loves you with an abiding love. Your memory bears grateful witness. Many an Ebenezer stands out and tells how His love came in the hour of your sorest need. Your backslidings have been many; your imperfections more, but His love hath endured through all. Be of good cheer. He will love you to the end, and draw closer and nearer as the end draws nigh.
(2) Seek a closer, more perfect union with your Saviour. Be “His own” entirely.
2. Sinner! you are not in this saving sense “His own.” Then whose are you? You are a servant of the devil, whose wages is death! Yet the Saviour loves you! Give Him your heart, then you shall be “His own.” (J. JacksonWray.)
Jesus loving His own that were in the world
For the inspired Evangelist not only specifies the precise date--“Before the feast of the Passover”--but he also mentions a particular fact of a moral nature, of the utmost importance, as giving us an insight into the Saviour’s mind: “When Jesus knew”--or Jesus knowing--“that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father,” etc. The idea plainly is, that just because He knew--not merely although, but just because He knew--that His hour was come, that He should leave this world, and that, consequently, His disciples would be left alone in it--as He had always previously loved them, so He now manifested His love in a very peculiar manner, corresponding to their necessities; and this, too, under the most affecting circumstances, and to the utmost extent.
I. The OBJECTS of this love are described, in the first instance, more generally as being “His own.” It is true, indeed, that, in one sense, all things are His own, as being their Creator and Preserver--all things, from the highest archangel to the meanest insect that crawls upon the ground. But His people are His own in a sense peculiar to themselves. But the objects of this love are described not only as His own, but more particularly as His own that were in the world. Jesus had many of “His own” that were now in glory; and doubtless these were objects of peculiar complacency and delight. Oh! see them in their white robes, as they shine so bright! But still the precious truth for us is, that it was His own that were in the world that He is here said to have loved. And why were they singled out from the rest? Why, but because of the peculiar difficulties and dangers to which they were exposed. Ask that tender-hearted mother, which of her many children recurs oftenest to her memory--those of them who are safe at home under the parental roof, or the one that is far away at sea? Jesus was now to depart out of the world, but they were to be left in it; and therefore His heart turned in love towards them. But without dwelling further on this idea here, is it not a most delightful and encouraging truth, that, though Jesus is now in glory, yet He still regards His own that are in the world with peculiar care suited to their circumstances and necessities? But methinks I hear someone say, “Alas! I feel that I am in the world, not only because of the sins of others, but because I sin myself; because I have ‘a body of death’ within me, and often it breaks out in word and action.” Yes, indeed, but Jesus loves His own that are in the world still; He sees and knows all the sin and imperfection, that you have to contend against, and yet He loves His own notwithstanding. “But, oh!” says someone, “my case is of a different kind still: I have come hither today, burdened with a heavy heart.” It may be that it is some dear relative that is sick, and apparently near to death. All this proves that you are still in a world of sorrow. But then Jesus loves His own still, and looks down upon them with ever watchful eye.
II. But I come now, in the second place, to mention SOME OF THOSE WAYS IN WHICH JESUS HAD ALWAYS PREVIOUSLY MANIFESTED HIS LOVE TO THEM.
1. See, for example, how having once chosen them in His love, He ever afterwards proved His love by continual companionship with them.
2. See, too, how tenderly, how graciously He instructed them. His instructions were always very simple, because He loved them so well. His love was stronger than their unbelief and ignorance.
3. See, moreover, how ready He was to sympathize with them, and to render them every kind of assistance. Whenever they were in trouble, He was their willing and able Friend.
4. And, oh, with what patience did He bear with them in all their weakness and infirmities!
III. But what I wish you specially to notice now is THE STEADFASTNESS OF THIS LOVE--ITS UNFAILING AND UNFLINCHING FAITHFULNESS, AS IN LIFE
SO ALSO IN DEATH. “He loved them unto the end”--not only to the end of life, but to the utmost extent, and under the most affecting circumstances. And if He thus loved them, in the view of the agonies of Gethsemane and the death of Calvary, think you does He now forget them--now that He has passed within the veil? Ah! no, it is impossible. But I must also add, if Jesus Christ loved His own unto the end, then surely they ought to persevere in their love to Him. But I have this also to say in closing, what misery must it be to be without such a Saviour! (C. Ross.)
Christ’s love unto the end
I. THERE WAS NOT MUCH IN THEM TO LOVE--YET HE LOVED THEM. I have no wish to disparage these early disciples. Everything betokens that most of them were what the narrative tells us--unlearned Galilean fishermen, who had been nurtured in the flee, clear air of Nature, and so they had to the end a sort of frankness about them which was very enjoyable. I think that was something in them which Jesus Christ appreciated. It must not be forgotten that there was also in them an unselfish readiness to endure sacrifice in the cause of Him who had charmed their hearts and excited the questioning wonder of their minds. Yet in spite of all this, what was there particularly in these men that one like Christ should find to love? I think of the sensitiveness of His nature, the gentleness of His disposition, the purity of His thought, the utter unselfishness of His purposes, the grandeur and sweep of His ideas, His conceptions of nature, of man, of God. What was there that Christ could perceive in these rude, uncultured, somewhat coarse men, men most limited in their thoughts, who had little of what we call spirituality in them to attract Him towards them? Yet He gave them His very heart; He loved them with a love that is simply matchless and astounding. Ah! doubtless He saw more in them to love than common eyes could possibly see. For the greatest natures always do discover beauties of character in the humblest which escape the observation of ordinary people. But look at the Divine side. See Him as the Incarnate Son of God, the Holy One, the Perfect, the Divine One, and how the wonder grows that He should have humbled Himself to associate on terms of generous love with the disciples! Why has Christ loved you--your heart, mind, soul? It is a fact; that you know. Why is it? Ah! that you cannot answer, I cannot answer, except we say, It is the nature of God to love, and the more weak, feeble, helpless, unworthy we are, the more compassionately does He bend to pour the fulness of His heart into our sinning lives.
II. THERE WAS MUCH IN THEM THAT TESTED HIS LOVE--YET HE LOVED THEM. It is not necessary to speak much of the trial that Christ’s first disciples were to Him over and over again. Quarrelling, petulance, scepticism, blindness of thought, cowardliness, treachery have no power to destroy that supreme love. How often we have stumbled at the revelations He has made, and, through a doubting spirit which we have encouraged, have asked foolish sceptical questions simply for the sake of asking them! How we have prayed for more light and clearer visions of God, when close at our side, all around us, have been manifestations of the Father! How, when asked to watch with and for Christ, we have pleaded weariness and slept!
III. THERE WAS A CONTINUOUS NEED OF HIS LOVE AND HE LOVED THEM UNTO THE END. Thus His life was a discipline of love to them, His death a sacrifice of love for them. (W. Braden.)
The great love of Christ for His own
I. IN THE DIVERSIONS IT HELD AT BAY.
1. The consciousness that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world. And knowing the fact, He also knew all the particulars of the tragic exode. The actual endurance could not be much worse than such a distinct anticipation of it as He had. And yet the tremendous pressure of this foresight did not divert Him from the most tender and considerate attention to those whom He was about to leave.
2. The consciousness that He was about to return to God. There was a joy set before Him for which He endured the cross, despising the shame. Yet such was His affection for His disciples, that not all the glories of heaven in the act of opening to receive Him, could for a moment disturb His warm and compassionate attentions to them.
II. IN THE REPULSIONS IT SURMOUNTED. There was much unworthiness and carnal crudeness in these men to repel the Saviour’s affection. They did not so love Him. A few hours and they all had deserted Him. That same night, one of the most devoted of them denied Him. Another of them was harbouring at the time the Satanic instigation to betray Him. And in the hearts of all of them worked a most unseemly jealousy and contention Luke 22:24). The Saviour had given them lesson after lesson on this point, and yet their miserable pride and selfishness had not been cured. How painful the contemplation I How disheartening and repellant to Him who had so loved them. And yet, the more unworthy they were of His love, the more intensely did it flame forth.
III. IS THE CONDESCENSION IT INDUCED. He into whose hands the Father had given all things, stooped to employ those hands in washing a traitor’s feet! Nor did He only take the menial’s attire and work, but, when Peter objected, Jesus set Himself to new efforts to meet new manifestations of disease. And even Judas, with all His known treachery, was not relinquished without the most faithful and tender endeavours to bring him to himself. And when the washing was finished, the Lord preached still another sermon on humility and the true Christian spirit.
IV. IN THE SACRAMENT IT ORDAINED. Though not given in the text, the other Evangelists have stated it in full (Matthew 26:26-28). Herein is the great love of Christ manifest toward His own, that, on the very eve of His great passion, He appointed and left to them and us this perpetual legacy and memorial of His affection, in which He continually administers to all believing celebrants of this holy sacrament the very manna and bread of heaven, and incorporates His living Self with us as our salvation and our eternal life. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
The Method by which we become Christ’s own
His redemption is not a mere breaking of bonds in which we were enthralled. It is not as when one comes upon a wild animal caught in a snare, and undoes the snare, and lets the panting, struggling thing return to its wild liberty again; it is rather as if one not only delivered it from the snare, but likewise attached it to himself, and tamed it to His will, so that it becomes his own. (J. Culross, D. D.)
Christ’s transcendent love
The experiences of love are such sometimes, even in this life as to be an earnest, a blessed interpretation, of something more glorious yet to come. There is one thing which the New Testament is always in labour with, and which is never born, and that is, the conception of the greatness of the love of Christ to our souls. When all language is exhausted, when every one of its variations of figures and illustrations has been employed to set it forth, still it is never finished. Like music that transcends the scale of the instrument, it leaves the strain always unexpressed. The apostle, first in one key and then in another, tries all the melodies and harmonies of this Divine theme; but, after all, the love of Christ has never been told. The apostle declares that it is past understanding, and so it is; but there are elements of experience that teach us something of it; and there are moments in which we put these elements together, and get some sense of it. (H. W. Beecher.)
The love of the departing Christ
The text should perhaps read “to the uttermost”--expressing the depth and degree rather than the permanence of our Lord’s love. It is much to know that the emotions of these last moments did not interrupt Christ’s love. It is even more to know that in some sense they perfected it. So understood, the words explain for us the foot washing, the marvellous discourses, and the climax of all that High-Priestly prayer.
I. Look at that love as A LOVE WHICH, WAS NOT INTERRUPTED, BUT PERFECTED BY THE PROSPECT OF SEPARATION.
1. “He knew that His hour was come.” All His life was passed under the consciousness of a Divine necessity laid upon Him, to which He cheerfully yielded Himself. On His lips there are no words more significant, and few more frequent, than “I must!” And all through His life He declares Himself conscious of the hours which mark the several crises of His mission. No external power can coerce Him to any act till the hour come, or hinder Him from the act when it comes. And thus, at the last and supreme moment, to Him it dawned unquestionable and irrevocable. How did He meet it? “Father! save Me from this hour Yet for this cause came I unto this hour.” There is a strange, triumphant joy that blends with the shrinking that the decisive hour is at last come.
2. Mark, too, the form which the consciousness took. The agony, the shame, the mysterious burden of a world’s sins that were to be laid upon Him; all these elements are submerged in the one thought of leaving behind all the limitations, humiliations, and compelled association with evil which, like a burning brand laid upon a tender skin, was an hourly agony to Him, and soaring above them all, unto His own calm home, His habitation from eternity with the Father.
3. This marvellous consciousness is set forth here as the basis and the reason for a special tenderness, as He thought of the impending separation.
(1) Does this not help us to realize how truly flesh of our flesh, and bearing a heart thrilling with all innocent human emotions that Divine Saviour was? We, too, have known what it is to feel, because of approaching separation from dear ones, the need for a tenderer tenderness. At such moments the masks of use and wont drop away, and we are eager to find some word, to put our whole souls into some look, our whole strength into one clinging embrace that may express all our love, and may be a joy to two hearts forever after to remember. The Master knew that longing, and felt the pain of separation; and He, too, yielded to the human impulse which makes the thought of parting the key to unlock the hidden chambers of the most jealously-guarded heart, and let the shyest of its emotions come out for once into the daylight. So, “knowing that His hour was come, He loved them then unto the uttermost.”
(2) But amidst all the parting scenes that the world’s literature has enshrined, there are none that can be set by the side of this supreme and unique instance of self-oblivion. This Man who was susceptible of all human affections, and loved us with a love like our own human affection, had also more than a man’s heart to give, and gave us more, when, that He might comfort and sustain, He crushed down Himself and went to the Cross with words of tenderness and consolation and encouragement for others upon His lips.
(3) And if the prospect only sharpened and perfected His love, the reality has no power to do aught else. In the glory, when He reached it, He poured out the same loving heart; and today He looks down upon us with the same face that bent over that table, and the same love flows to us. “Knowing that He goes to the Father, He loves to the uttermost,” and being with the A LOVE WHICH IS FAITHFUL TO THE OBLIGATIONS OF ITS OWN PAST Father, He still so loves.
II. HAVING LOVED, HE LOVES. That is an argument that implies Divinity. About nothing human can we say because it has been therefore it shall be. Alas! we have to say the converse, because it has been, therefore it will cease to be. They tell us that the great sun itself, pouring out its rays exhausts its warmth, and were it not continually replenished must gradually, and even though continually replenished, will one day be a dead, cold mass of ashes. But this heart of Christ, which is the Sun of the World, shall endure after the sun is cold. He pours it out and there is none the less to give. “Thy mercy endureth forever.”
III. A LOVE WHICH HAS SPECIAL TENDERNESS TOWARDS ITS OWN. These poor men, who, with all their errors, did cleave to Him; who, in some dim way, understood somewhat of His greatness and His sweetness--and do you and I do more?--were they to have no special place in His heart because in that heart the whole world lay? Surely, because the sun shines down upon dunghills and all impurities, that is no reason why it should not lie with special brightness on the polished mirror that reflects its lustre. Surely, because Christ loves the outcasts and the sinners, that is no reason why He should not bend with special tenderness over those who, loving Him, try to serve Him, and have set their whole hopes upon Him. The rainbow strides across the sky, but there is a rainbow in every little dew drop that hangs glistening on the blades of grass. And there is nothing sectional, narrow in the proclamation of a special tenderness of Christ towards His own, when you accompany with that truth this other, that all men are besought by Him to come into that circle of “His own,” and that only they themselves shut any men out therefrom. The whole world dwells in His love. But there is an inner chamber in which He discovers all His heart to those who find in that heart their heaven and their all. “He came to His own,” in the wider sense of the word, and “His own received Him not;” but also, “having loved His own He loved them unto the end.” There are textures and lines which can only absorb some of the rays of light in the spectrum; some that are only capable of taking, so to speak, the violet rays of judgment and of wrath, and some who open their hearts for the ruddy brightness at the other end of the line.
IV. A LOVE MADE SPECIALLY TENDER BY THE NECESSITIES AND THE DANGERS OF ITS FRIENDS. “Which were in the world.” We have, running through the discourses which follow, many allusions to His leaving His followers in circumstances of peculiar peril. “I come unto Thee, and am no more in the world, but these are in the world. Keep them through Thine own name.” The same contrast between the certain security of the Shepherd and the troubles of the flock seems to be in the text, and suggests a reason for the special tenderness with which He looked upon them. As a dying father on his deathbed may yearn over orphans that he is leaving defenceless, so Christ here is represented as conscious of an accession even to the tender longings of His heart when He thought of the loneliness and the dangers to which His followers were to be exposed. It seems a strange contrast between the emperor, sitting throned there between the purple curtains, and the poor athletes wrestling in the arena below. It seems strange to think that a loving Master has gone up into the mountain, and has left His disciples to toil in rowing on the stormy sea of life; but the contrast is only apparent. For you and I, if we love and trust Him, are with Him in the heavenly places even whilst we toil here, and He is with us, working with us even whilst He sitteth at the right hand of God. We may be sure of this, that that love ever increases its manifestations according to our deepening necessities. The darker the night the more lustrous the stars. The deeper, the narrower, the savager, the Alpine gorge, usually the fuller and the swifter the stream that runs through it. And the mere enemies and fears gather round about us the sweeter will be the accents of our Comforter’s voice, and the fuller will be the gifts of tenderness and grace with which He draws near to us. Our sorrows, dangers, necessities, are doors through which His love can come nigh. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The constancy of Christ’s love
A short time previous to the death of the Marchioness of Tavistock, and when she was preparing to go to Lisbon for the recovery of her health, a consultation of physicians was held at Bedford House; and one of the gentlemen present requested, while he felt her pulse, that she would open her hand. Her frequent refusals occasioned him to take the liberty of gently forcing the fingers asunder; when he perceived that she had kept her hand closed to conceal the miniature picture of the marquis. “Oh madam!” observed the physician, “my prescriptions must be useless, if your ladyship is determined to keep before your eyes an object which, although deservedly dear to you, serves only to confirm the violence of your illness.” The marchioness replied, “I have kept the picture, either in my bosom or my hand, ever since the death of my lamented lord; and thus I am determined to preserve it till I fortunately drop after him into the grave.” (Percy.)
The perfection of Christ’s love
The mother, wan and pale with incessant vigils by the bedside of a sick child; the fireman, maimed for life in bravely rescuing the inmates of a blazing house; the three hundred Spartans at Thermopylae; Howard, dying of fever caught in dungeons where he was fulfilling his noble purpose of succouring the oppressed and remembering the forgotten; the Moravian missionaries, who voluntarily incarcerated themselves in an African leper house (from which regress into the healthy world was impossible, and escape only to be effected through the gates of death) in order that they might preach the glad tidings to the lepers,--all these, and many other glorious instances of self-devotion, do but faintly shadow forth the love of Him who laid aside divine glory, and humbled himself to the death of the cross. (W. Baxendale.)
Christ’s an unchanging love
A noble rolling river has been flowing on for six thousand years watering the fields and slaking the thirst of a hundred generations, yet shows no signs of waste. The sun has melted the snows of so many winters, renewed the verdure of so many springs, painted the flowers of so many summers, and ripened the golden harvests of so many autumns, yet shines as brilliant as ever, his floods of light none the less full for centuries of boundless profusion. Yet these are but faint images of Christ’s love. For when the judgment flames have licked up that flowing stream and the light of that glorious sun shall be quenched in darkness, His love shall flow on throughout eternity. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
Love in the face of discouragement
I know a mother who has an idiot child. For it she gave up all society, almost everything, and devoted her whole life to it. “And now,” said she, “for fourteen years I have tended it and loved it and it does not even know me.” Amid all discouragements Christ’s love is patient and unwearying. (D. L. Moody.)
The changeless love of Christ
Earthly love is a brief and penurious stream, which only flows in spring, with a long summer drought. The change from a burning desert, treeless, springless, drear, to green fields and blooming orchards in June, is slight in comparison with that from the desert of this world’s affection to the garden of God, where there is perpetual, tropical luxuriance of blessed love. (H. W. Beecher.)
Henry the Eighth used to come up the Thames to Chelsea to Sir Thomas More’s house, drop in to dinner, and walk afterwards in the garden, his arms about More’s neck. More’s son-in-law, Roper, records it with delight. But More knew just what all this was worth, and that his head would count with the king for nothing against a French city or citadel, say. It is not so with Christ. “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them to the end.”
The Divine love does not fail when man fails
Mr. Slosh said: “A father teaching his child about the unchanging piety and love of God, said: ‘I knew a little boy who received a canary from a friend as a present. The bird seemed to fill that boy’s heart. He was intensely fond of it, and every morning he was delighted to listen to its singing. One morning no note proceeded from the cage. The bird was standing panting upon its perch, its feathers all ruffled. The little boy sat upon his chair and sobbed as if his heart would break.’ The lesson taught the little child was this--Do you think he loved the bird any less that morning when he could not sing? No, he loved it when it was joyfully singing on its perch, but he loved it that morning when it could not sing. When it sang it filled him with joy and delight, but when it was ill he loved it all the more though its condition caused him pain.” So, too, God loved us at all times.
The changeless Friend
So long as there is blossom on the trees, and boney in the blossom, the bees will frequent them in crowds, and fill the place with music; but when the blossom is over, and the honey is gone, the bees too will disappear. The same happens in the world with men. In the abode of fortune and pleasure friends will be found in plenty; but when fortune flies, they fly along with it. For this reason, let good men be advised to fly to Christ crucified, who never forsakes, in their distress, those who truly seek Him. (Gotthold.)
The faithfulness of Jesus
Consider these words
I. IN THEIR RELATION TO THE APOSTLES. The words “having loved His own,” are a brief but complete summary of the Saviour’s conduct. He loved them with a love of pity when He saw their lost estate, and He called them out of it to be His disciples; touched with a feeling of their infirmities He loved them with a tender and prudent affection, and sought to train and educate them, that they might be good soldiers of His cross; He loved them with a love of complacency as He walked and talked with them and found solace in their company. Even when He rebuked them He loved. On Tabor or in Gethsemane He loved His own; alone or in the crowd, in life and in death. Our Saviour’s faithfulness was
1. Most remarkable. He had selected persons who must have been but poor companions for one of so gigantic a mind and so large a heart.
(1) He must have been greatly shocked at their worldliness. He was thinking of the baptism wherewith He was to be baptized, but they were disputing which should be the greatest. When He warned them of an evil leaven, they thought of the loaves. Earthworms are miserable company for angels, moles but unhappy company for eagles, yet love made our great Master endure the society of His ignorant and carnal followers.
(2) Worse was the apparent impossibility of lifting them out of that low condition; for though never man spake as He spake, how little did they understand! “Have I been so long time with you,” etc. No teacher here could have had patience with such heavy intellects, but our Lord’s love remained, notwithstanding.
(3) When we love a person, we expect him to have some little sympathy in the great design and aim of our life; yet our Lord loved disciples who could not be brought to enter at all into the spirit which governed Him. Had they dared, they would rather have thwarted than assisted Him in His self-sacrificing mission. Still, this could not prevent Him from loving them unto the end.
(4) On one or two occasions certain of them were even guilty of impertinence. Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him. But after rebuking a temptation which was evidently Satanic, His affection to Peter remained unabated.
(3) That was a stern trial, too, when at a later period “all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” Carrying the text beyond its original position, Christ, who had loved His own, loved them to the end.
2. Christ proved His love
(1) By His continual companionship. You would not expect a master to find rest in the society of his scholars; and yet herein was love, that Jesus, passing by angels, and kings, and sages, chose for His companions unlettered men and women.
(2) By being always ready to instruct them, and His love is shown as clearly in what He kept back from them as in what He revealed. How loving to dwell so often upon the simpler truths, and the more practical precepts; it was as though a senior wrangler should sit down in the family and teach boys and girls their alphabet day after day.
(3) By rendering every kind of assistance. Whensoever they were in trouble, He was their willing and able friend--when the sea roared; when Peter’s wife’s mother was sick; when one of His dearest friends was dead and buried.
(4) By comforting them when He foresaw that they would be cast down; especially was this true at the period before His passion--when one would have thought He might have sought for comfort, He was busy distributing it.
(5) By constantly pleading for them. Ere the poison was injected by the old serpent, the antidote was at hand. “Satan hath desired,” etc.
(6) By washing their feet.
II. IN THEIR RELATION TO ALL HIS SAINTS. We read that our Lord “Came unto His own,” etc.
the word is neuter--his own things; but in this instance it is masculine--his own persons. A man may part with his own things; sell his own house, cattle, merchandise; but a man cannot part with his own when it relates to persons, his own child, wife, father. Our own relatives are real property, perpetual possession. Jesus has just such a property in His own people--they are forever near of kin to Him. These He “loved to the end.” The text opens three windows.
1. As to the past. He has loved His own people from of old; eternally. This everlasting love has a speciality about it. Our Lord has a general love of benevolence towards all His creatures; but He has a special place in His heart for His own peculiar ones.
(1) Jesus loved His people with a foresight of what they would be. He knew that “His own” would fall in Adam; that they would be hard to reclaim and difficult to retain; and yet He loved His own over the head of all their sins. On their highest Tabors He loves them, but equally as well in their Gethsemanes; when they wander, and when they come back.
(2) This love is more than a passion, it is a settled principle, not subject to changes like terrestrial things.
(3) This love has been attested by many deeds. By the fact that He stood surety for us when the covenant was made, and entered into stipulations on our behalf that He would fulfil the broken law, and offer satisfaction to the justice of God. In the fulness of time he took upon Himself our nature, lived a life of blameless service, died a death into which all the weight of Divine vengeance for sin was compressed. Now that He lives exalted in the highest heaven, He is still His people’s servant, interceding for them, representing them, preparing a place for them, and by His Spirit fetching them out from mankind, and preparing them for the place which He has prepared.
2. The second window looks out upon the present. “Which were in the world.” It does not seem an extraordinary thing that Jesus should love His own who are in heaven. Well may Jesus love them, for there is much beauty in them. But Jesus loves you working men that have to work with so many bad fellows, you tradesmen who have to go in among many who shock you, you good work girls, who meet with so many tempters. He sees your imperfection, He knows what you have to struggle with, and He loves you notwithstanding all. Again, as the sparks fly upwards, so were we born to trouble. But Jesus loves His own which are in this dolorous world: this is the balm of our griefs.
3. The third window looks out to the future. “Unto the end.”
(1) To the utmost end of their unloveliness. Their sinfulness cannot travel so far but His love will travel beyond it; their unbelief even shall not be extended to so great a length but His faithfulness shall still be wider and broader than their unfaithfulness.
(2) To the end of all their needs. They may need more than this world can hold, and all that heaven can give, but Jesus will go to the end of all their necessities, and even beyond them, for He is “able to save to the uttermost.”
(3) To the end of their lives.
(4) To the end of His own life. Until the eternal God shall die, His love shall never depart from any one of His beloved. Conclusion: If Jesus Christ thus loves to the end
1. How ought we to persevere in our love to Him.
2. Let us not indulge the wicked thought that He will forsake us.
3. What a misery it must be to be without such a Saviour! (C. H.Spurgeon.)
And supper being ended.--The translation should probably be, “And it now becoming supper time.” As a matter of fact the supper was not ended (John 13:12; John 13:26); but they had already reclined, and were, as we say, ready for supper. (Archdeacon Watkins.)
Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands
The great gift
I. FROM THE SOVEREIGN OF ALL.
II. INCLUDING ALL THINGS.
III. TO THE SAVIOUR OF ALL. (S. S. Times.)
I. THE GIVER.
II. THE GIFT.
III. THE RECIPIENT. (S. S. Times.)
And that He was come from God and went to God
Extremes in Christ’s life
This sublime declaration is but the preface to what follows, and nothing more startling at first sight can be found in all literature.
I. CHRIST POSSESSED ALL THINGS, and yet He washed His disciples’ feet. What has the possession of boundless wealth to do with such menial service? We could imagine a Rothschild sweeping His own room, but would it occur to us to connect with that act, as a reason, the fact of his immense riches? The explanation lies in what this feet washing meant--the pardon and sanctification of Christ’s disciples through His atonement. To this “all things” were necessary, and the absence of one Divine prerogative would have marred the work. Christ required all wisdom, all justice, all power, all love, and all influence over the widest reach of human souls.
II. CHRIST CAME FROM GOD, and yet He washed His disciples’ feet--as wonderful a conjunction as the previous one. We could imagine an ambassador of the highest rank relieving his lacquey of some humble duty and discharging it himself--but we should hardly refer to his office for a reason. But Christ’s mission was expressly to do what the feet washing meant. His one motive for visiting this world was to cleanse and sanctify His disciples’ souls.
III. CHRIST WAS GOING TO GOD, and yet He washed His disciples’ feet--an equally strange conjunction. We can imagine a sovereign, just before his return from some distant province, rendering some humble but kindly service to a peasant, but we should never dream of saying that he did this because he was going to his capital. But Christ went to heaven because He had done that which was symbolized by the feet washing. He came for that purpose; that purpose being accomplished, there was no further reason for Him to stay. And in going He went to His rest and His reward. Lessons:
1. Christ’s work is an individual work, and shows the value of individual souls. Christ had all things, He came, He went for every man’s cleansing--for mine.
2. What is true of Christ is in a sense true of every disciple. God has given us all we have, time, talents, money, influence, etc.; we have come from God; we shall go to God--what for? The salvation of men. God has endowed us with ability for it, has sent us to do it, will hold us accountable for it at the great day.
3. The “knowledge” of all this should beget a due sense of the blessedness, dignity, and responsibility of Christian discipleship. (J. W. Burn.)
I. ITS ORIGIN--“from God.”
II. ITS QUALIFICATIONS--“all things.”
III. ITS DESTINY--“to God.” (J. W. Burn.)
He riseth from supper.--The minuteness with which every action of our Lord is related here is very Striking. No less than seven distinct things are named--rising, laying aside garments, taking a towel, girding Himself, pouring water into a bason, washing and wiping. This very particularity stamps the whole transaction with reality, and is the natural language of an astonished and admiring eyewitness. St. John saw the whole transaction. (Bp. Ryle.)
He poureth water into a bason and began to wash the disciples’ feet.
Jesus teaching humility
Christ taught humility by precept--“He that humbleth himself shall be exalted;” by metaphor, as in the parable of the Pharisee and Publican; by illustration, as when he set a little child in the midst; and, as here, by his own most blessed example. Note
I. HUMILITY IN ITS CHARACTERISTIC UNSELFISHNESS. Pride is essentially selfish; humility “seeketh not its own, but another’s good.” Where shall we find a more beautiful or touching example than that introduced by John 13:1?
II. THE DEEPEST HUMILITY IS CONSISTENT WITH THE HIGHEST STAGE OF CHRISTIAN ASSURANCE. Many Christians regard full assurance of salvation as having a tendency to spiritual pride. They are afraid to say “Jesus is mine, and I am His,” lest it should savour of presumption. There is a false assurance which founds itself upon feeling, or imagined revelations, rather than upon the testimony of the word of God, and which by its blatant self-assertion has tended to bring assurance into contempt. But where assurance is the result of a simple faith in the promises, it produces in the soul the fruits of genuine humility. Just when Jesus was at the zenith of spiritual exaltation (John 13:3), He bowed Himself to His lowly task.
III. TRUE HUMILITY EXPRESSES ITSELF NOT IN WORDS, BUT IN DEEDS. Our Lord uses no words of self-abasement. In majestic silence He proceeds with His lowly but loving task. There is a form of so-called humility which expends itself in words of idle self-depreciation. This never becomes so clamorous as when any humble service is to be rendered or any modest testimony borne. They are not presumptuous enough to make a public confession of Christ, to teach a Sabbath school class, to visit a family in poverty, etc. It is easy to see that this is a thin veil for self-indulgence and pride. True humility expresses itself not in unfavourable comparisons of ourselves with others, but in whole-hearted devotion to the interests of others. This was the humility of Him who, “though He was in the form of God,” etc.
IV. THE SERVICE WHICH TRUE HUMILITY RENDERS IS NOT SPECTACULAR AND SCENIC, BUT UNOBTRUSIVE AND HELPFUL. The simple rite of hospitality observed by our Lord became the occasion of many a splendid pageant in later days. But let him who would follow our Lord’s example not imagine that he can do so by a literal observance of a rite that, through change of customs, has lost its utility and therefore its significance. He now truly “washes the disciples’ feet” whose own feet are swift to bear to them messages of kindness, and whose hands are ready for any humble service.
V. THE PARTICULAR SERVICE RENDERED BY OUR LORD, THOUGH NOT SPECTACULAR, WAS SYMBOLIC of inward purification, and distinguishes between the first and radical purification which takes place once for all in regeneration, and that daily purging from the infirmities that cling to us as we pass through the world (John 13:10). As one coming up fresh from the bath needs only to wash off the dust” that clings to his feet and does not affect the purity of his person, so the believer by the bath of his first regeneration is kept pure till he enters his Father’s house on high, whilst a daily application of the Spirit in sanctification is needed to remove the impurities that come from daily contact with earth and earthly things. (T. D.Witherspoon, D. D.)
Jesus teaching humility
I. The DIRECT TEACHING contained in our Saviour’s washing of the disciples’ feet. That our relation to Christ is
1. Personal, as is also His relation to us. There is no such fact as a general relationship to Christ. We are either His personal followers, or personally estranged. There is no religion but personal religion. Christ knelt before each of the twelve in turn.
2. Cleansing. Christ came to save the world from sin. But only those cleansed by the blood receive eternal life.
3. Needs to be continually renewed. It is a daily relation. He pointed to his daily cleansing, the washing of the basin, in distinction from the bathing in the fountain.
4. Practical. Our service is to be
(1) Personal. We have no general ministry, either of clergy or laity. It is the personal work we do which builds up the kingdom of God. The lost are found one by one. All organization that amounts to anything is association in some form for hand-to-hand work.
(2) Lowly. Jesus took the form of a servant. Look upon Him as He kneels at thy feet. So humble thyself to serve.
(3) With the basin and towel. We are to aid each other to be clean Christians.
II. The INDIRECT TEACHING.
1. That the first act of discipleship is self-surrender (John 13:8-9). We must do just as the Saviour says, or we can have no part with Him. We must waive all objections. The objection of Peter arose from tenderness of conscience. We may feel unworthy of the grace of God. But some say, “We need no cleansing; we are satisfied with our way of life.” There is nothing for these but self-surrender. How can you help it, looking upon Jesus, kneeling and waiting before you?
2. The value of one soul in God’s sight. Jesus felt a personal love for each, even for Judas! What a tender touch He put upon those feet, which no mere washing could cleanse!
3. That bathing precedes washing (John 13:10); the atonement, the baptism of the Spirit; pardon, sanctification. As Peter, having been bathed, needed not save to wash his feet, so Judas, not having been bathed, needed the cleansing of you see that He was quite conscious of His dignity when He did it? He did not forget Himself; and that is put down there that you may know that the deepest act of humility is not inconsistent with dignity. He, knowing that He came from God, and that He was just about to go back to God, would do this, the humblest of all acts. He would show us before He went up to the throne of the universe what He is who is sitting on the throne; because if He had not done this who was with God from all eternity, dwelling with Him in unapproachable light, we should not have been able to think that there was such humility on the throne. But now we shall know forever and ever what He is that is sitting upon the throne. Let us learn another thing--what it is that goes to God. It is humility that goes to God as well as comes from God. We must be humble, then; we must go on humbling ourselves more and more to the very last, so that at the last, when we at last go, we shall go with nothing but humility--prepared to be just nothing before the throne. When we are nothing God gives us all, and God will not give us His all till we are nothing in our own estimation.
There are two or three reflections, which shall close our subject.
1. The first is--let us write it upon our hearts--that our Christ in glory is as humble now, and will be as humble to all eternity, as He was in that supper room before His disciples. He changeth not.
2. Another reflection is, that as the devil and his angels lost their heaven through their self-importance, through pride, we may lose our heaven as they did through pride.
3. The next reflection is, that there is a spurious grandeur of humility which we must avoid. We are reminded of this by Peter. When Peter’s turn came to be washed, he said, O no, never, never! My Lord wash my feet? Never! How humble that seems; and yet it was not humility, but a spurious, affected grandeur of humility, in which there is no humility at all. No; I will tell you what humility is. Humility before God is exactly that simple willingness to be served which the babe has to be waited on by its mother. The baby does not object to it. The baby does not say, “I am nothing but a poor little baby.” No; but it takes it for granted. Now, we must allow God to do with us whatever He will in the same artless, simple spirit.
4. Another thought--that Satan put something into Judas’s heart that put him off from Christ and heaven. That is in the connection too. Judas was among the twelve, but Satan was putting something into his heart. What was it? The love of this present evil world, and the love of the means by which this present evil world can be enjoyed--the love of what he had in the bag, and the love of putting something more into the bag and increasing it by any means. The devil was putting that into his heart. (J. Pulsford.)
I. IN THE CAREER OF THE LORD.
1. Taking our nature (John 1:14; Romans 1:3).
2. Assuming our infirmities (Matthew 8:17; Hebrews 4:15).
3. Born in lowliness (Luke 2:7; Luke 2:12; Luke 2:16).
4. Becoming a servant (Luke 22:27; Philippians 2:6-7).
5. Associating with the lowly (Matthew 9:10; Luke 15:1-2).
6. Submitting to toil (Mark 6:3; John 4:6).
7. Enduring poverty (Matthew 17:27; Luke 9:58).
8. Obeying the law (Matthew 3:13-15; Galatians 4:4).
9. Refusing honours (John 5:41; John 6:15).
10. Dying on the cross (Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 12:2).
II. IN THE CAREER OF BELIEVERS.
1. Abraham before the Lord (Genesis 18:27; Genesis 18:30; Genesis 18:32).
2. Jacob before God (Genesis 32:9-10).
3. Moses in Midian (Exodus 3:11; Exodus 4:1; Exodus 4:10).
4. Joshua before Ai (Joshua 7:6-9).
5. Gideon when appointed to save Israel (Judges 6:15).
6. David at the great offering (1 Chronicles 29:14).
7. John the Baptist (Matthew 3:14; John 3:29-30).
8. The Roman centurion (Matthew 8:8).
9. Peter (Luke 5:8; John 13:6-8).
10. Paul (Acts 18:1-3; Acts 20:33-34).
Conclusion: Pauline commendation of humility (Philippians 2:5-11). (S. S. Times.)
The importance of humility
St. Augustine makes humility bear to religion the same essential relation which, according to Demosthenes, action bears to eloquence. “As the Athenian orator,” says he, “being asked, What is the first precept in oratory? answered, Action; and What the second? answered, Action; and What the third? answered, Action; so, if you ask me in regard to the precepts of the Christian religion, I answer, first, second, third, Humility.” (T. D. Witherspoon, D. D.)
Christ washing the feet of His disciples
Christ appears here as a dramatical teacher. Every act is significant. The old prophets taught in this way. Jeremiah’s potters vessel; Ezekiel’s scales, knife, and razor, are amongst the numerous examples. Christ taught here
I. THAT TRUE GREATNESS CONSISTS IN MINISTERING TO THE GOOD OF INFERIORS. We learn from Luke 22:24, that there was a dispute as to who should be greatest, and that Evangelist records what our Lord said. John records what Christ did. This idea of greatness
1. Condemns the general conduct of mankind. The world regards men great who receive most service, and mix least with inferiors.
2. Agrees with the moral reason of mankind. The greatness of Christ, who made Himself of no reputation, and the greatness of Paul, is that which commends itself to the unsophisticated reason of the world. He who humbles himself to do good gets exalted in the estimation of universal conscience. Disinterestedness is the soul of true greatness.
II. THAT SPIRITUAL CLEANSING IS THE GREAT WANT OF THE RACE (verse 8).
1. That this is so appears from two facts.
(1) Divine fellowship is essential to human happiness. In God’s presence is fulness of joy, and nowhere else.
(2) Spiritual purity is essential to Divine fellowship. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” Hence God’s command, “Wash you and make you clean;” and man’s prayer, “Purge me with hyssop,” etc.
2. This cleansing is preeminently the work of Christ. “If I wash thee not,” etc. His blood cleanseth from all sin. “Unto Him that loved us,” etc.
3. It extends to the whole life of man (verse 10). Though regenerated, a man is not perfect. Every day brings its defilements and requires its purifications.
Conclusion: At the table were three types of character.
1. The perfectly clean--Christ.
2. The partially clean--the disciples.
3. The entirely unclean--Judas. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Washing the disciples’ feet
I. IT IS THE QUALITY OF AN UNFETTERED SPIRIT. The possession of an unfettered spirit is the gift of humility, a possession which can be yours and mine only as we rid ourselves of those fetters with which society and business and fashions of the day would bind us, and go out in the strength of a loyal affection to Jesus Christ to walk in the footsteps of the Master, bind up the broken-hearted, to visit those who are in prison, to wash the disciples’ feet, and thus by our very humility illustrate a strength and power for the manifestation of which the world is longing today, as never before, with a great longing.
II. IN SUCH A CHRISTIAN HUMILITY THERE IS ALWAYS MAJESTIC POWER. There is a vast difference between muscular strength and moral strength. Atlas could carry the world upon his shoulders, but it required Christ to carry the world upon his heart. Go back into that valley of Elah in Old Testament times and see the difference between the strength of muscle and the strength of morals. Here comes the Philistine giant out from his camp. Behind him all are boasting of his power and of his prowess; in just a little Israel will be overthrown and the Philistine’s god will be triumphant. And out from the camp of Israel comes that boy armed only with his sling and his five smooth stones. If you will follow the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, you will find that ever and always the strength of His life was a strength of moral purpose put over against the other strength that the world had to offer.
III. THE WASTE OF A LIFE WHICH IS UNPOSSESSED OF THIS SPIRIT OF HUMILITY. This is a corollary from those last words of the text: “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them;” because there is always great disaster which comes to an immortal soul when knowledge is not the spur which drives it. There is always something lost in a human life when that life knows more about Christ than it does for the sake of Christ. It is not that there may not be the manifestation of this lovely virtue or of that attractive trait apart from the spirit of humility; but there is a great waste in the life still, because it retains a possession which has not been transmuted into action, because it has not been entirely permeated by the spirit of love. You find a person, for example, who has been living far away among the hills, perhaps in a beautiful home, with everything that pertains to comfort and to luxury about him, but never having gone beyond the borders of the little town in which he has been dwelling. You have had the advantage of a larger acquaintance and of a larger fellowship, and as you speak with that circumscribed life you cannot help confessing to yourself that, although there is very much that is beautiful about it and within it, still there is a great lack there somewhere; there is a waste because that life has not gone out to see what there is to be seen in this world of ours. But just so soon as the Lord opened the eyes of Peter’s impulsive soul, just so soon as He permitted him to look out upon vistas which he had never seen before, and upon a Divine landscape which had never before fallen beneath his ken, at that moment Peter called out in a great yearning and in a great soul-desire, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” (Nehemiah Boynton.)
Jesus washing His disciples’ feet
I. MATTER FOR INQUIRY. Is there anything in the conduct of Christ now analogous to His washing Peter’s feet when on earth? Yes.
1. When He watches over the temporal affairs of His people. When Jesus looks to your family troubles, and bears your household cares, saying unto you, “Cast all your care on Me for I care for you,” is He not in effect doing for you what He did for Peter, caring for your lowest part, and minding the poor dust-stained body?
2. When He puts away from us our daily infirmities and sins. It is a great act of love when Christ once for all absolves the sinner, and puts him into the family of God; but what long suffering there is when the Saviour bears the follies of the recipient of so much mercy hour by hour, putting away the constant sin of the erring but yet beloved child. To blot out the whole of sin like a thick cloud, this is a great and matchless power, as well as grace; but to remove the mist of every morning and the damps of every night--this is condescension well imaged in the washing of Peter’s feet.
3. When He cleanses our prayers. They are the feet of our soul, since with them we climb to heaven and run after God. It is oftentimes easier to do a thing over at once anew than it is to patch up a work which has been badly done by others. There are His own prayers for me--I thank Him for them, but I cannot help also blessing Him that He should take my prayers, and put them into the censer, and offer them before His Father’s face; for I am certain that before they can have been fit to offer they must have experienced a deal of washing.
4. When He makes our works acceptable. These may be compared to the soul’s feet. It is by the feet that a man expresses his activity. We have heard of someone who made sugar out of old rags; but the manufacture cost more than the goods were worth; and this is something like our works. Jesus Christ makes sweetness out of the poor rags of our good works; they cost Him more in the manufacturing than ever the raw material could have been worth, or the finished works themselves are worth, except in His esteem.
5. When He is content to suffer in His people’s sufferings. Not a pang shoots through you but Jesus knows and feels it.
II. MATTER FOR ADMIRATION. When we consider
1. The freeness of the deed. “Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?” It is perfectly wonderful that He should, for we have scarcely desired the mercy. You do not find that Peter asked Christ to do it. No, it was unsolicited, unexpected. It is great goodness on Christ’s part to hear our prayers when we really feel our need; but if Christ did no more for us than we ask Him to do, we should perish; for nine out of ten of the things which He gives us we never asked for, and three out of four of them we scarcely know that we want, Have there not been many nights on which you have gone to bed without any particular sense of guilt, and without any special intercession for cleansing? You have forgotten to ask, but He has never forgotten to give. You have risen in the morning; you were not aware that any special danger would come to you, and you did not pray for special protection, but yet He knew it; and unasked and unsought for He has kept you from danger.
2. The glory of the Person. Lord! Master! God! Dost thou wash my feet? He whom the angels worship takes a towel and girds Himself. What a stoop is here!
3. The lowliness of the office. “My feet.” To wash my head, to purge my mind, to cleanse my hands and my heart, is very condescending; but He does a slave’s work, takes the meanest part of me and washes that.
4. The unworthiness of the object of this washing. “My feet?”
5. The completeness of the washing. When things are washed by careless servants, they want washing again; but when they are washed by the loving hands of Jesus, they cannot be badly done.
III. MATTER FOR GRATITUDE, that having once washed head and hands and feet with blood, He still doth daily wash my feet with water.
IV. MATTER FOR IMITATION. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The teaching of the foot washing
I. THE TYPE OF OUR LORD’S CONTINUOUS LOVE TO US.
1. Christ still acts as the host of His people. How much the life of Christ with His people lay in intense familiarity with them! He began His ministry at a feast, and again and again we find Him eating with His disciples; and the last thing He did was to sit at supper with them. He still saith to His Church, “If any man open to Me,” etc.; and His own figure for the opening of the new dispensation is “the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Now Jesus is the host of His Church, providing the gospel supper and entertaining us right royally. He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies. “He satisfies our mouth with good things,” etc. And the Lord is a host who leaves nothing incomplete, and entertains us, not as paupers but as guests, as friends, as distinguished persons who shall not sit among mean men, but shall have their portion among princes.
2. Christ cares for our minor matters with a personal interest. That He should ease their weary hearts, enlighten their clouded brains, I can understand; but that He should wash their feet is wonderful. A little soil on their ankles; He will attend to that, and personally, too. He might have left them to wash one another’s feet. Surely He had but to suggest it and they would have cheerfully waited on each other. Take your little things to Christ, those trials of which your heart says, “They are too trifling for prayer.” Not so; the Lord loves us to trust Him thoroughly.
3. Christ provides refreshment for His people. What an intense pleasure it is in extremely hot countries to have the feet washed upon coming in after a weary walk. Our Lord washed His disciples’ feet, not only because cleansing was desirable, but also for their pleasure and solace. He takes great pleasure in giving joy to His followers. When doth the Lord give us these refreshments?
(1) Often after a journey--after a severe trial.
(2) Sometimes before the trial, for these disciples were now about to enter upon a very rough road.
(3) When we are in the house of God, when the Word has been preached, some joyful hymn borne us to heaven; or, best of all, at the communion table.
(4) In our own quiet chambers, and in the night watches.
4. Christ continues to guard the purity of His Church. From the occasion it is clear that He would have us seek the special purifying power of His presence during religious ordinances. We need our feet washed before we come to His table--“Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of this bread,” while we are at His table, for there is sin in our holiest things. When we come away from worship we have need to get alone, and cry, “Cleanse Thou me from secret faults.” This frequent washing is
(1) Absolutely necessary. Ye that follow in His footsteps, walk with clean feet. His ministers especially need this or the people will never cry, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings.”
(2) Spiritual: no external form will suffice. Christ washed the feet of Judas with water.
(3) Very readily given.
II. THE MODEL OF HIS OWN LOVE IN HIS PEOPLE. We learn
1. That there will always be need of service in the Church, and always need of service in the particular direction of promoting purity. The apostles were twelve strong men, yet they could not do without a servant; and therefore their Lord supplied the vacant place. And now that the Lord is gone His Church still needs servants, and will never be so clean that it will have no need of foot washing.
2. That we are not to advocate the abrogation of such service. The Stoic would say, “What need of washing a man’s feet? If he needs it, let him wash them himself. The first law of nature is self-love. Let him mind his own business.” That is anti-Christianity: but Christianity says, “I am willing that others should help me to be holy, and I am also willing to help others to the same end.” Sometimes it is more humbling to have your own feet washed than to wash other people’s, and hence sometimes our naughty pride says, “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” Yet it must be so, and pride must sit still like a child and be both washed and wiped.
3. That such service should be done very cheerfully. Nobody asked the Master to bring the basin: no one would have thought of such a thing: it was His own heart of love that made Him do it. Let us be also ready to perform any office for our brethren, however lowly. Covet humble work, and when you get it be content to continue in it.
4. That such service should be done thoroughly. How well our Lord took up the servant’s place. Give your Lord zealous and earnest service; strip to your shirt sleeves, if need be. Do not attempt to play the fine gentleman; is it not far nobler to be a real Christian? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Reminiscences of the foot washing
In the Epistles of Peter, written many years after this, we find subtle traces of the impression it left upon his mind. There still seemed to rise before him the form of the King taking off His upper garment, tying a towel round His waist, and then, with marvellous self-abasement, washing the disciples’ feet. Hence the intensely picturesque expression of His charge--“Yea, all of you gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another, for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” Literally, “Tie on humility like a dress fastened with strings.” It is plain that he understood the required imitation of what Christ did when washing the feet of His company, to consist not in copying the outward act, at the same time wearing an outward garment like that which He wore at the time, but in copying the spirit of the act and wearing humility itself. (C. Stanford, D. D.)
Parody of the foot washing
A great authority declares that “Peter lives today in the person of the Pope.” Then he has changed his conviction on the present subject, if we can accept the Rev. Newman Hall’s account of the ceremonies of “Maundy Thursday.” “Thirteen persons personated the apostles. They were dressed in white flannel, and were seated on an elevated platform in the south transept, which had been arranged for the ceremony, with galleries of ascending seats for lady spectators, who came in the prescribed costume. Descending from his throne after the benediction, the Pope was divested of his gorgeous outer vestments, and appeared as if in a very large flannel dressing gown, fastened with a cord round the waist; a towel of fine cloth, trimmed with lace, having been tied on him, he walked slowly to the nearest apostle, whose right foot, evidently well washed beforehand was already bare. The stocking had been previously cut so as, without any trouble or delay, to be removed sufficiently for the purpose at the precise moment. Everything was done to facilitate his Holiness in the arduous duty which now awaited him. The apostles were seated at such a convenient elevation that He was under no necessity of stooping. A sub-deacon on his right raised the apostle’s foot, over the instep of which a second attendant poured a little water, which fell into a silver-gilt basin, held by a third; while a fourth, carrying thirteen towels in a silver basin, handed one of them to his Holiness, who passed it over the foot, which he then kissed. Another officer in waiting was a bearer of nosegays, one of which he then handed to the Pope, who presented it to the apostle, together with two medals from a purse of crimson velvet fringed with gold, borne by the Papal treasurer. The rest were then similarly served; and the whole was done so expeditiously, that in a very few minutes the immense crowd were rushing off to be present at the next ceremony. So does the Pope fulfil what has been called the proudest of titles, “Servus servorum Dei.” Not only at Rome, however, has this act of our Lord been regarded as the institution of a religious rite rather than the display of an example to be followed spiritually. Many humble Christian societies have adopted this view, and still we find that some devout people are earnest for it. Such worthies, in making the mere sign a resting place of thought, remind us of the case feigned by an old British sage, of a belated and weary traveller, who, on coming up to an hostelry, ready to die for want of a night’s lodging, took no notice of the inn, but “embraced the signpost.” (C. Stanford, D. D.)
The strangeness of our Lord’s procedure
To provide a guest with water to wash his feet is a common act of hospitality among the Hindoos. It is also considered a privilege and duty for disciples to wash the feet of any celebrated gooroo, or religious guide. But for a gooroo to wash the feet of his disciples would be diametrically opposed to a Hindoo’s ideas of propriety. “Suppose,” I said to my pundit, the other day, “a celebrated gooroo were to attempt to wash the feet of his disciples, would they allow it?” “Never,” he replied; “if he were to make the attempt, they would refuse to allow him; would rush out of his presence; and would think he was gone mad. Such an idea is entirely opposed to the reverence which a disciple has for his teacher, and would not be tolerated for a moment. To permit it would bring reproach upon both teacher and disciple.” With these ideas in his mind it is easy to understand how Peter should be startled and astonished when Jesus drew near to wash his feet. “Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?” Such an act had never been heard of; was contrary to the customs of the country; contrary to every idea of propriety; and calculated to bring reproach upon his teacher. (J. L. Nye.)
What I do thou knowest not now
The inscrutable character of the Divine dispensations
I. THE CONDUCT OF GOD IS IN GENERAL CONCEALED FROM THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS PEOPLE.
1. It may be the result of necessity. The conduct of God will appear, on the least consideration, too vast and complicated ever to be comprehended by man. Not only is our knowledge limited in reference to nature, but in reference to many sublime truths of revelation. We know not what attainments the mind will make in its disembodied and exalted state, but we seem fully confident that in the present condition there is a limit to its discoveries.
2. It may be the result of design. That He could have stated the reason of chastisement when the rod was inflicted, that He could have made known His design when the suffering was felt, there can be no doubt. But it is intentionally concealed, that the discovery may add to our felicity in a world of greater purity and light and love.
II. THERE IS A PERIOD WHEN THE CONDUCT AND PURPOSES OF GOD WILL BE FULLY AND SATISFACTORILY EXPLAINED.
1. The conduct of God may be partially disclosed in time. Time is necessary for the development of many things. The seed lies in the ground and seems to rot, but if we have patience to wait we shall see the germ, and at a subsequent period a tall and stately tree. Hence, that which once seemed useless and rotten becomes in process of time useful both in blossom and fruit--the one enchanting to the eye, and the other grateful to the palate. Now if it be requisite to wait that we may trace the opening beauties of nature, equally necessary is it to wait that we may trace the conduct of Providence. The singular and diversified history of Joseph may be cited as a proof of these observations. Permit me to observe, before I pass on, that we are not always required to wait so long for the developments of Divine Providence as in a moment of unbelief we are apt to imagine. Disclosures are sometimes speedily made and unexpectedly enjoyed. Peter had merely to wait the utterance of another sentence before he perceived the symbolical character of our Lord’s conduct. But though, as an antidote to despondency and a stimulus to hope, the disclosure may be made, we are not warranted to look for it with unwavering certainty.
2. That it will be fully revealed in eternity.
III. THIS CONCEALMENT OF THE CONDUCT OF GOD OUGHT NOT TO LEAD TO ANY DISCOURAGEMENT OR UNBELIEF IN THE MINDS OF HIS PEOPLE. Notice
1. The equity of the Divine government. In the administrations of His laws, and in the distribution of His favours, God appears in a two-fold character--as a benefactor and a judge. In the former character, favours unmeritedand unsought are graciously bestowed, and it is this that endears Him to the Christian, and entitles Him to honour, homage, and praise. As a judge He never fails to do that which is right.
2. The parental character of the Divine discipline. (The Evangelist.)
I. THE PROPOSITION. “What I do thou knowest not now.”
1. As to the intent. God’s people know the general end of His dealings with them--His own glory and their good; but the particulars they are not able to guess--as Joseph when his brethren sold him into Egypt Genesis 50:20).
2. As to the extent and effect. We see things sometimes in their beginnings but not in their close; because of
(1) Their intricacy (Psalms 78:19; Romans 11:13; Isaiah 55:8-9; Job 5:9).
(2) Our understandings, which at best are short-sighted, on account both of the dimness of natural reason and the imperfection of supernatural illumination.
(3) A special Divine dispensation. God makes His ways dark to His servants
(a) Because they are not capable of or fit to receive a revelation of John 16:12; Hebrews 5:12).
(b) That their faith may be thereby strengthened, and their dependence on God encouraged (John 20:19).
(c) That God’s sovereignty and liberty may be preserved Deuteronomy 29:29).
(d) For their discipline--to correct or prevent some miscarriage in them, whether pride, security, or carnal confidence (2 Corinthians 12:7).
II. THE QUALIFICATION. “Thou shall know,” etc.
1. The discovery. He will make known
(1) The justice of His ways, and show that He has done no more than equal (Jeremiah 12:1; Habakkuk 2:13; Ezekiel 18:29).
(2) Their truth, and manifest His faithfulness (Psalms 77:8; Joshua 23:14).
(3) Their efficacy, and so manifest His power (Psalms 78:19).
(4) Their unchangeableness, and so show His constancy (Job 1:17).
(5) Their wisdom, and so justify them to all (Job 12:6; 2Co 1:25).
(6) Their goodness, and so make known His kindness (Romans 8:1-39).
2. The manner of this discovery.
(1) By illumination, so that we may see.
(2) By experience, so that we may feel.
3. The time.
(1) Perhaps in this life. Many Christians have left the world justifying God’s proceedings.
(2) Certainly in the life to come. “In Thy light we shall see light.” (T. Horten, D. D.)
“What I do.”
That act of Christ’s did seem strange, and Peter’s bewilderment is not to be wondered at. Let us see how the Master dealt with it.
I. “WHAT I DO.” What a wealth of meaning is stored in these three words. No angel mind can grasp them. He is the great Doer; always doing. “My Father worketh,” etc. There is nothing anywhere, or at any time, that He does not perform, permit, or control, in mind or matter, heaven or earth.
II. “THOU KNOWEST NOT.” Put the two pronouns side by side. “I” stands for the Deity, “thou” for the mortal. Oh, the folly and pride that criticises and objects to His providential rule! I could not worship a God whose work I could comprehend. How wicked to rebel because our poor capacity cannot gauge the Divine intention. If an architect were to ask you to explain the lines on which Chichester Cathedral is built as you were flashing by it in the express to Portsmouth, you would smile at his unreason, but you are moving across the field of God’s matters more rapidly than that. You cannot pour the ocean into a pond, crowd the light of the sun into a lantern, compress the mind of an archangel into the brain of a schoolboy. Then, again, your affairs are mixed up with the rest of His matters, and what He does you know not, because you are only the smallest cog, and the scope of the machine is beyond your ken; because you are only one thread in the vast loom at which He is weaving, and the pattern and purpose cannot be scanned by mortal eyes. What, then, is the attitude we ought to take? One of implicit obedience and unflinching trust. Though we know not what He does we need never be at a loss to know what He would have us do. But if you set up a will of your own you must suffer. Loyally enter the train of His providence, make its movements yours, and you shall be carried safely to the terminus; but oppose it, and collision will come and eternal wreck--witness the cases of Pharaoh, Israel in the wilderness, Saul, Jerusalem.
III. “THOU SHALT KNOW HEREAFTER.’’ In Peter’s case the revelation followed close upon the mystery. It often does. It did to Joseph in Egypt, Esther in Persia, Luther in Wartburg. But whether here or not heaven will be the land of revelations. Amongst the many mansions there will be the Interpreter’s house, where we shall look upon the picture of life as it was, and read the translations too. “There shall be no night there.” (J. JacksonWray.)
Ignorance and knowledge
What we do not know does not lessen or impair the value of what we do know. (H. H. Dobney.)
Existing ignorance and approaching knowledge
I. THE EXISTING IGNORANCE OF THE GOOD. There is much that the best man does not know.
1. In nature. How little does the most scientific man know of the substances, lives, laws, operations, extent of the universe. How deeply did Newton feel his ignorance.
2. In moral government. The reasons for the introduction of sin, the suffering of innocence, the prosperity of the wicked, the tardy march of Christianity, are wrapt in obscurity.
3. The Divine revelation. What Peter said of Paul’s epistles we feel to be true of the whole book--difficulties we cannot remove, doctrines that transcend our intelligence.
4. In his own experience. Why should he be dealt with as he is? Why such alternations of joy and sorrow, friendship and bereavement, health and sickness? Why such conflicting elements in his nature?
II. THE APPROACHING KNOWLEDGE OF THE GOOD. Christ’s words imply that there is a hereafter, and that this hereafter will be a sphere of knowledge.
1. There will be sufficient time for knowing. What ages of study await us!
2. Sufficient facilities for knowing. All existing obstructions removed, and the immeasurable field of truth wide open under a never clouded or setting sun. (Homilist.)
Present ignorance and future illumination
We view the text as containing
I. A STATEMENT OF PRESENT IGNORANCE. We propose
1. To illustrate the fact of this present ignorance. God has been pleased to assist the human mind, by the gift of His own inspired word, and has imparted the influences of His Holy Spirit, by whose agency its meaning--which, to the carnal mind, is frequently obscure--is more fully unfolded. Yet, at the same time, there is a vast sphere over which, as yet, ignorance casts her shadow. “We know but in part,” etc. For example:
(1) The construction of your bodies; the constitution of your minds; the mode of their primeval union; of their present cooperation, and of their final separation--how much of mystery is here!
(2) Angels. Their residence, occupations, enjoyments.
(3) God, the trinity of persons in unity of essence, the perfections of His nature and the process by which He operates in the creation.
(4) Providential dispensations.
(5) The scheme of redemption.
2. To assign its reasons.
(1) The limitation of our intellectual faculties, arising partly from their inherent constitution, and partly from their being now identified with material bodies.
(2) The pollution of our moral nature.
(3) The positive design of God, in order to continue our fitness for the ordinary associations and duties of life; to mature and to perfect the graces of the Christian character; to create and continue within us a vivid anticipation of the eventual possession of another and a better world.
II. A PROMISE OF FUTURE ILLUMINATION. Observe that the future state
1. Is one of vast and expanded knowledge.
(1) All obstructions will be removed.
(2) Men are there to be brought into direct and immediate contact with objects, the very existence of which they now know only upon testimony and through faith.
2. The vast and expanded knowledge of the future state is identified with the highest interests of our being.
(1) There is much of difficulty in studying, and oftentimes much of pain in acquisition, and its results. There is also much which directly tends to pollute. Ask the philosopher over his midnight lamp; the statesman amid the intricacies of his cabinet; the man of observation amid the buffeting and temptations of the world--one result will invariably be pronounced, “All is vanity and vexation of spirit.”
(2) Now against all this the knowledge of the celestial state is associated
(a) With our holiness. Not that the knowledge of heaven is an efficient cause of purity; but it will be an instrument for preserving it. Possessing such a knowledge, with such objects from such a source, and from such causes, it is impossible for the inhabitants of heaven to fall.
(b) With our happiness; for holiness is inseparable from happiness. And what must be the result of those contemplations which the heavenly world fully and absolutely reveals to our view of providence and of redemption?
3. Evangelical preparation. (J. Parsons.)
Rectified knowledge in the future state
It is very interesting to consider ourselves here as only in the childhood of our being, our full manhood being reserved for another and higher state of existence. When a man reviews the ideas, imaginations, and pursuits of his youth, he discovers a number of wild notions which he now would be ashamed to entertain, of false theories which a riper judgment has long ago exposed, and of worthless objects which have long ceased to attract his regards. He finds, moreover, that much which seemed inexplicable has become very plain, and that things at which he used to wonder present no longer any cause for surprise. Thus shalt it be with us hereafter. We shall look back upon riches, and honour, and property--things which now seem to us of great worth and importance--we shall look back upon them as so many toys with which it is wonderful we could ever have been pleased. Many of our present notions and opinions, though framed with care and maintained with pertinacity, will appear to us like the dreams and fancies of boyhood, which fade before the light of riper years; and the dispensations of Providence at which we now wonder, and beneath which we are too often impatient, will become as simple to us and as worthy of our gratitude as the discipline and correction we have received from earthly parents, which, whilst we were young, may have appeared to us harsh and unaccountable, but of which in later days we see all the reasons and feel all the worth. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
At best our knowledge of God’s designs is fragmentary
If we could know as much as we desire it would probably make us insane. We have seen gardeners pull down the awnings in their greenhouses. Plants may sometimes have too much sun, and so may we. (T. Adams.)
A clear view of life’s mysteries
A traveller, as he passed through a large and thick wood, saw a part of a huge oak which appeared misshapen, and seemed to spoil the scenery. “If,” said he, “I was the owner I would cut down that tree.” But when he had ascended the hill and taken a full view of the forest this same tree appeared the most beautiful part of the landscape. One day we are to have clearer vision of life’s mysteries.
The present obscure because unfinished
You go into the workshop of the artist who is framing a great structure. You see here a stone of a peculiar colour; there a stone of another colour; here one of this, and there one of that angle. You would not say to the artist, “You had better take this stone or that stone next;” you would submit to his superior wisdom. He sees the whole of the structure as it stands complete before his mind. What do you know of the whole plan? These few stones that you see can give you but the most imperfect conception of the cathedral in which they are to be placed. In God’s providence I submit to the superior wisdom of the Great Architect. He takes from the earth one man and leaves another. We are amazed; we cannot understand it; we know not the plan that lies in God’s mind. (W. Hamma, D. D.)
Hereafter, not now
Christ’s “hereafter” has a large scope. In this case it might mean
1. Presently--as soon as He had taken His garments and was set down again (John 13:12-15).
2. The later life of the apostle--when the Holy Spirit had led him into all truth, and he began to see in this act an epitome of all Christ’s life, work, and teaching.
3. That haven of everlasting repose, where every mystery shall be read aright in the sunshine of the Saviour’s presence. Let us now apply the text to
I. CHRISTIAN ORDINANCES.
1. Which of us has not asked himself, in taking part in the services of the Church, What is the meaning, hope, use of this entering a particular building, kneeling at certain rails, hearing and uttering of sounds, eating bread, drinking wine, sprinkling of a little child with water?
2. We can answer these questions most satisfactorily in these words of Christ. The operation of the Holy Spirit is observed not in the agency, but in the effect. It is mere impatience to say, Because I cannot see which way the Spirit came or went, I will not believe. Or, because I cannot see the connection between this word of God and my soul--because I cannot understand how my poor voice can make its way into the Eternal Presence, etc.--therefore I will forsake the assembling of Christians together, and trust that grace, the only real thing, will come to me all the same in solitude.
3. We hope that the hereafter thus promised is the nearest of the three. If a man will earnestly set himself to use the ordinances of the gospel, we trust that he will be enabled very soon to know what Christ does in them. And certainly, if we never find any good from any of them, we have cause for anxiety and self-suspicion. Every service ought to send us home saying, Lord, it was good for us to be there; it has enabled me to hold converse with Thee, and to go on my way rejoicing.
II. That which is true of ordinances is no less true of DOCTRINES.
1. There are many things which Christ teaches, and which the teaching of Christ presupposes as already communicated that we know not. We receive them; they lie on the surface of the intellect--unharmonized particulars--but they do not enter into our thoughts and feelings as truths grasped and realized. When we re-examine them they are each time as difficult as before, and we despair of ever fitting them into our plan of truth. There are some which we could wish away; the doctrines, e.g., of grace and freewill, of the existence of evil, of the atonement, of the Spirit.
2. In regard to all this “hereafter” is nearer and a more distant.
(1) The first sound of these difficulties is daunting, yet, when we look into them we see a ray of light soon. Few, if any, are created by the gospel. Most certainly the existence of evil had place before, and would have place without, the gospel. Each, when tried not by the intellect but by the heart, diminishes almost into nothing, and is qualified by such accompaniments, that practically its force is almost nothing, as regards piety and life. It may be a hard saying, “Whom He will He hardeneth;” but if along with that there stands the promise, “Ask, and ye shall have--If any man thirst, let Him come unto Me and drink,” we see at once that the object of the doctrine is rather attraction than repulsion.
(2) And what I know not now I shall know hereafter. Life is troubled and confused; its opportunities of Divine study are rare and brief, its distractions many, the illusions of its sight and thought powerful, the gaze of the intellect into God’s heaven dim and unsteady. But eternity will be free from all these interruptions: and when God Himself, revealed in open vision, becomes the instructor, we shall advance apace in that science of sciences, which is “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
III. The text is no less true of PROVIDENCES. There are many things in the conduct of this world, whether in the affairs of empires or individuals, which are difficult to make consistent with the truth of a Divine Ruler. We make, some of us, too free a use of the word mysterious in our judgments upon Providence. There is nothing mysterious in the removal of a good man to his paradise, even though it leave a neighbourhood sad and a family fatherless, nor in any event which instructs the living or makes heaven more real to us, reflection easier, or repentance more resolved. The mysterious thing is, when evil is allowed to spread unchecked; when souls are lost in sin for which Christ died; when unprepared men are hurried to judgment without a moment for thought; when the Gospel of Christ seems to make so little progress. It is concerning these things that we have to say, “What I do,” etc. And though we must not call affliction in its commoner forms a mystery, yet there is a sense in which even to it may be applied these words, and the Christian mourner, or watcher, or wrestler, with indwelling corruption, may be bidden to look up, and say, The time is at hand, for my Master tells me so, when I shall know why I was so buffeted and tempted. Even in the near hereafter I may be able to say, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; in the great boundless hereafter I shall certainly read all clearly, and be satisfied when I awake in His likeness.” (Dean Vaughan.)
Present mysteries, future solutions
“God’s providences,” says the godly Flavel, “like the Hebrew letters, are often to be read backward.”
1. Sense doubts, while faith trusts.
2. The one questions while the other obeys.
3. The one must reason out all mysteries, all God’s ways, while the other can take them on trust. “Though no affliction for the present seemeth joyous, but grievous, nevertheless, afterwards,” etc. (Homiletic Monthly.)
The patient waiting and obedience of faith
The subject suggests
I. A CAUTION AGAINST THE SPIRIT OF HASTY DOGMATISM.
1. Respecting the Divine procedure. Peter was over hasty in judging Christ’s action, for he was ignorant. Had he waited Christ would have made it clear. We, too, are incompetent to comprehend the Divine procedure.
(1) When we consider the Doer it is not surprising that there should be much that is mysterious in His varied action in the universe. A man may do and say many things confounding to the intellect of his child; much more the infinite God.
(2) No wonder that in a system so vast and complex there should be many things that appear to our limited view to conflict with Divine goodness, wisdom, and power; but the wise man will not conclude that the conflict is real; He will rather wait. Ignorance should be modest in its judgments.
2. Respecting the difficulties of Divine revelation. Because you fancy you see some contradictions in the Bible, or something opposed to science, do not rush to the conclusion that therefore the Bible is false. Wait! There may be a mistake somewhere outside the Bible. That which contradicts it may be mere hypothesis, or that in it which contradicts may be your own mistaken interpretation. A little more light may remove the difficulty.
II. THAT WHATEVER DIFFICULTIES THERE MAY BE SURROUNDING OTHER THINGS, AND HOWEVER IGNORANT WE MAY BE RESPECTING THEM, THERE IS AT LEAST ONE THING PLAIN--THE PATH OF DUTY. Peter’s duty was plain, it was to obey Christ. No matter whether he saw the reason or not. The Scriptures, if they do not resolve your difficulties, yet do light up the path in which you should walk. If they do not supply all desirable light for the head, they do supply all needful light for the feet.
III. THAT OBEDIENCE IS THE CONDITION OF KNOWLEDGE. Christ did not impart knowledge, and then tell Peter to submit. Do what Christ enjoins and you will the better learn of Him. “If any man will do His will,” etc. Patient acquiescence and trustful submission are the best guarantee of our knowledge of Divine things. The light becomes clearer and fuller as we follow it. Turn your back on it, and you shall go deeper and deeper into gloom. (A. Bell, B. A.)
The next life an interpreter of this
This life is like a bale of silk on a loom, that winds itself up as fast as it is woven. You do not know what the figure is until it has been taken off and unrolled; then you begin to see what it is. This life weaves; the other life reveals. No man that is doing these great things can tell that he is the cause of the effect. Nobody can tell what he has done. A man’s real life is not in his body; it is that celestial life within himself that has no external exponent. (H. W. Beecher.)
The unknown ways of love
I. IN OUR LORD’S DOINGS THERE IS MUCH WHICH WE CANNOT UNDERSTAND. We may know the external part of what He does, but there is more in His actions than any of us can conceive. The work of Jesus is lower than thy fall, higher than thy desire. Even His acts of loving condescension we do not fully understand; how can we (John 13:3-4)?
1. Was anything that Jesus did understood while He was doing it! He is born a babe in Bethlehem, but to the mass of mankind He was unknown. He lived the life of a mechanic’s son; a life the most august in all human history, but “the world knew Him not.” He came forward to preach; did they know who it was that spake as never man spake? or comprehend what He spake? At last He laid aside the life He had so strangely taken; who knew the reasons of His death upon the cross? He could say even to His own disciples, of all that He had done, “What I do thou knowest not now.”
2. This is true too of every separate gift which our Lord’s love has given to His people. You have been justified, but do you fully know the wondrous righteousness with which justification has endowed you? You are accepted in the beloved, but did any one of you ever realize the full sweetness of its meaning? You are one with Christ, and joint heirs with Him. He is betrothed unto you in an everlasting marriage, know you what all that means?
3. Our Lord is doing great things by way of preparing us for a higher state of existence. We know that they are being done, but we cannot as yet see their course and ultimate issues. The instrument does not comprehend the tuner; the tuner fetches harsh sounds from those disordered strings, but all those jarring notes are necessary to the harmonious condition which he is aiming to produce. If the discords were not discovered now, the music of the future would be marred.
II. OUR WANT OF UNDERSTANDING DOES NOT PREVENT THE EFFICACY OF OUR LORD’S WORK. The Master washes just as clean whether Peter understands it or not. A mother is washing her little child’s face: the child does not like the water, and it cries, but it is washed all the same; the mother waits not for the child to know what she is doing, but completes her work of love. So is the Lord often exercising Divine arts upon us, and we do not appreciate them; perhaps we even strive against them, but for all that He perseveres. Does the tree understand pruning, the land comprehend ploughing? yet pruning and ploughing produce their good results. The physician gives medicine which is unpalatable, and which causes the patient to feel worse; this the sufferer cannot understand, and therefore he draws unhappy conclusions; but the power of the medicine does not depend upon the patient’s understanding. If a fool eats his dinner, it will satisfy his hunger as much as if he were a philosopher, and understood the processes of digestion. It is not necessary for a man to be learned in the nature of caloric in order to be warmed. A man may be ignorant of the laws of light, and yet be able to see; he may know nothing of acoustics, and yet be quick of hearing. A passenger who does not know a valve from a wheel, enters a carriage at the station, and he will be drawn to his journey’s end by the engine as well as if he were learned in mechanics. It is the same in the spiritual world. We think it so essential that we should form a judgment of what the Lord is doing. It is better to trust, to submit, to obey, to love, than to know. Let the Lord alone; He is doing rightly enough, be sure of that.
III. OUR NOT BEING ABLE TO KNOW WHAT THE LORD DOETH SHOULD NEVER SHAKE OUR CONFIDENCE IN HIM. Some things which the Lord has done bear upon their very forefront the impress of His love, but I hope you know enough of Him to be able to believe that where there are no traces of love apparent His love is as surely there. This washing of the feet was the act of the Lord Himself. Now, when the Master and Lord is the actor, who wants to raise a question or to suggest inquiry? Do you know Christ? Then you are sure that He will never act unkindly, unbecomingly, or unwisely.
IV. OUR WANT OF UNDERSTANDING AS TO WHAT OUR LORD DOES GENERALLY SHOWS ITSELF MOST IN REFERENCE TO HIS PERSONAL DEALINGS WITH OURSELVES. We are too close home to see clearly. The looker-on sees more than the player. We generally form a better opinion of another than we do concerning ourselves. So we must not expect when Christ is personally dealing with us that we should be able to understand. Besides, if He be afflicting us we are generally in an unfavourable state of mind for forming a judgment. When a patient is under the knife he is a poor judge of the necessity of the operation or the skill of the surgeon. In after days, when the wound has healed, he will judge better. Judge nothing before the time.
1. I do not wonder that Peter could not understand, for it is always a hard thing for an active and energetic mind to see the wisdom of being compelled to do nothing. It is hard to be put on the shelf among the cracked crockery, while yet you feel you could be useful if you had but strength to leave your chamber.
2. Then, what is worse, Peter not only cannot do anything, but must be waited on by his Master, whom he loved to serve. He would say, “Cannot I do it myself? I am not used to be waited on.” It is very unpleasant to an active man to be dependent upon others. To stand in need of anxious prayers, and to arouse pitying thoughts, seems strange to those who have been accustomed to do rather than to suffer. We become inquisitive, but the Saviour says, “What I do thou knowest not now.”
3. All the while there is in our mind a sense of insignificance and unworthiness, which makes our receipt of favours the more perplexing. “What,” says Peter, “Shall I be washed by the Lord Jesus Christ?” So it seems to us unworthy sinners.
4. Yet, if our eyes are opened, the Lord’s afflicting dealings are not so wonderfully mysterious after all, for we need purging and cleansing even as Peter needed foot washing.
5. There was a needs be of fellowship. “If I wash thee not thou hast no part with Me.” You cannot have fellowship with Christ except He does this or that for you, nay, especially except He tries you; for how shall you know the suffering Saviour except you suffer yourself?
6. There was a needs be yet again to learn the lesson of washing their brethren’s feet by seeing the Lord wash theirs. No man can rightly wash another’s feet till his own feet have been washed by his Saviour.
V. UPON THIS POINT AND MANY OTHERS WE SHALL ONE DAY BE INFORMED.
1. That “hereafter” may be very soon. Peter knew within a few minutes what Jesus meant. A child is in an ill temper because there has been a rule made by the father and not explained, and so it thinks of some unkind motive on the father’s part. In a minute or two after it understands it all, and has to eat its own words.
2. Peter understood his Master’s washing His feet better after his sad fall and threefold denial. When he perceived how sadly he needed washing, he would prize the token which his Lord had given him. At a certain point of your experience you will possibly discover the explanation of your present adversity.
3. After the Lord had said to him, “Feed My sheep,” and “Feed My lambs,” another method of explanation was open to him. Often does our work for Jesus unfold the work of Jesus.
4. Yonder in heaven, best of all, Peter understands, for he sings, “Unto Him that loved us,” etc. All things will be clear when we once pass into the region of light. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
God’s work in our behalf
I. GOD IS DOING SOMETHING FOR US. Every life is a little Bible--a revelation of God. Everything is from God. Life’s meaning is God.
II. WE KNOW NOT WHAT IT IS. We misinterpret the events of life--like Job’s friends. It were better not to know. Yet we do “know in part”--have blind hints of the Divine meaning in our lives.
III. WE SHALL KNOW HEREAFTER. The end explains all. “Face to face,” “eye to eye.” God, at last, will make plain all His providences. (George Elliot.)
Reasons for submission
I. THE SAVIOUR’S WISDOM. As St. Peter emphasises “Thou,” our Lord lays stress upon “I.” All My past intercourse should teach you to submit to what I think best for you in My wisdom (Isaiah 28:29).
II. THE DISCIPLES IGNORANCE. Equally does our Lord emphasize “Thou.” The ways of God baffle us, and that idle boast, “We shall soon lay bare the throne itself of the Eternal,” is but the mere froth of human vanity. The ignorance of Joseph and Job of the reasons of their trials is illustrative of ours.
III. THE PROMISED EXPLANATION.
1. It came soon in part (verses 8-10, 13-17).
2. More fully at Pentecost.
3. Clearer still in heaven.
4. Completely at the Second Advent. (Family Churchman.)
The night-flowering cereus; or, the beauty of unfolding providences
“I was walking with Wilberforce in his verandah,” says a friend, “watching for the opening of a night-flowering cereus.” As we stood by in expectation, it suddenly burst wide open before us. “It reminds me,” said he, as we admired its beauty, “of the dispensations of Divine Providence first breaking on the glorified eye, when they shall fully unfold to the view, and appear as beautiful as they are complete.”
Thou shalt never wash My feet
Washing the disciples’ feet
1. That they who, like Peter, refuse to believe in or conform to requirements of the Master which they do not fully understand or sympathize with are in danger of getting where they have no part with Him.
2. That if we submit to His will we shall in due time understand the significance of His treatment.
3. It is good to be zealously desirous of abundant blessing, a generous supply of grace. But it is sometimes necessary also to “wait patiently for the Lord,” to learn of Him, perchance slowly, and “one thing at a time.”
4. That in the kingdom of Jesus Christ the crown bearer is the feet-washer.
5. That our knowledge of Christian duty becomes a blessing in proportion as it is transmuted into practice. Sentimental admiration of humility and lowly helpfulness is one thing, being humble and helpful is another.
6. The passage affords us, as Bruce has well shown, an excellent intimation of what constitutes the perfection of obedience. “It lies in letting the Lord change places with us, and, if it seem good to Him, humble Himself to be our servant. Our true humility is not to object to Christ’s humiliation, but, on the contrary, to recognize its necessity in order to our deliverance from sin. They honour not God who deny the Incarnation and the redeeming death of the eternal Son as unworthy of Him. Rather do they doubly dishonour the Divine Being; first, by misconceiving wherein His glory lies, and, next, by ignoring their own need of redemption. The only genuine piety is that which owns man’s moral defilement and leaves God to remove it in His own way.” (Boston Homilies.)
The washing of Peter’s feet
I. THE MIXTURE OF EVIL IN THE EXPERIENCE OF THE GOOD. Peter on the whole was a good man, and his language here expresses something that was really good, just that sense of Christ’s greatness and his own unworthiness as appears in Luke 5:8. “Thy condescension overwhelms me.” But associated with this is Peter’s want of reflection, of ready acquiescence and his characteristic impulsiveness. He should have felt such unbounded confidence in Christ as to submit without resistance or reluctance. This shows the necessity
1. For self-scrutiny. “Who can understand his errors.”
2. For Divine cleansing, “Cleanse thou me from secret faults.”
3. The advantages of death. With the good all imperfections are left this side of Jordan. Yonder is unmixed good.
II. THE DANGER OF A RIGHT FEELING LEADING TO EVIL. Peter’s humility was right, but it led him to oppose Christ. A sense of our own unworthiness and of God’s greatness, right in itself, may lead to wrong results.
1. To the rejection of Christ’s mediation. How can the Maker of the universe have sent His Son to die for this little world of rebellious worms.
2. To the rejection of God’s personal providence. God is too great and man too little for such a thing.
3. To the rejection of Christian consolation.
III. THE RAPIDITY WITH WHICH THE SOUL CAN PASS INTO OPPOSITE SPIRITUAL MOODS (verses 7, 8). This power indicates
1. The greatness of human nature. We know of no other creature that can pass through such changes. All irrational creatures move in a rut, which they cannot leave. Man has power to defy time and space, to live in the future, and to revel in the distant.
2. The necessity for reflection. Without this men will ever be at the mercy of external influences. Thoughtless men of impulse are like feathers on the wind--the sport of circumstances.
IV. THE DEPENDENCE OF PERFECTION IN CHARACTER UPON AN INCREASE OF DIVINE KNOWLEDGE (verses 7, 12-14). (Homilist.)
I. ITS NATURE.
1. The evil from which we are to be cleansed. Christ evidently had Judas’s sin in view (John 13:2; John 13:11). And in John 13:8, He manifestly implies that the sin of the betrayer was the sin into which they would fall unless purified by Him. This is the root and ground of every other sin. Every man has the Judas nature in him. Consider what that sin was. Avarice was only the last form which it assumed. Go deeper and we shall discover its spirit and essence in intensely carnal selfishness. Look at any form of this and you will see that its natural development is the Judas sin--all things sold for its own gratification. Its laws of growth are all there. It shuts out Divine influences, creates unbelief, hardens the heart, and reaches its consummation in the sale of Christian principle. The world for eighteen centuries has cast stones at Judas, but the thoughtful Christian will be constrained almost to stand by his side and say, “Had it not been for God’s grace, this tendency to sin in me would have led to that consummation, and I had sold the Christ too.” This, then, is the evil from which we need cleansing.
2. Whence comes the purifying power? The answer to this we find expressed in the symbol. The highest stooping to the lowest, that He might purify them from sin … Connect with that the words, “Having loved His own, He loved them unto the end,” and you will reach the power in Christ which purifies the soul. This is the power which shatters the idols of the heart; which makes the life a sacrifice. In the hours of fiercest trial, only let us feel, “He became a servant for me,” and this will bind the heart as with golden chains to Christ as its Master and Lord.
II. ITS PERFECTION. How are we to be wholly cleansed from this dark temptation? Now, mark, they needed not a special purifying; but to let that power pervade their whole natures they needed to wash their feet. Two thoughts are involved here.
1. The purifying must pervade the lowest powers of life. The feet, as representing the least, lowest actions and energies of life, those which come into actual contact with the world. The most trifling outward act has a power to corrupt the spiritual life. One evil deed leaves its scar; one such impedes prayer, because the dark nature within you will find an outlet there. You are encircled by foes; leave no portal unguarded. You are surrounded by a torrent; leave no break in the dyke.
2. The purifying must advance with advancing life. The feet again, as representing the progress of life. Past purification will leave the advanced life untouched If a man tries to live always on the power of the first grace given, he will fall. We must go to the Cross daily. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)
If I wash thee not thou hast no part with Me
I. BY THE LORD PERSONALLY.
II. OF THE SINNER INDIVIDUALLY.
III. FOR THE SUBMISSIVE EXCLUSIVELY.
IV. FOR HIS SALVATION ETERNALLY. (S. S. Times.)
I. BY WHAT?
II. IN WHAT?
III. ON WHAT CONDITIONS?
IV. WITH WHAT RESULTS? (S. S. Times.)
Humboldt tells us that, after bathing among the noctilucae in the phosphorescent water of the Pacific, his skin was luminous for hours after. In a spiritual sense is it not true that when we bathe, so to speak, mind and heart in the truths and influences of Christianity, allowing, seeking their appropriate effect upon us, the whole character shines with heaven-given light and beauty, that we can hear about with us into the common scenes and daily duties of life? But the means need to be repeatedly used if we would have the effect continued. Let then our devoutness be habitual. Let thought and love find their home in the “truth as it is in Jesus,” and our profiting will appear unto all. (Homiletic Monthly.)
The sine qua non
I. THE GREAT OBJECT OF OUR DESIRE.
1. To have a part in Christ.
(1) In the merit of His righteousness.
(2) In His death.
(3) In His resurrection.
(4) In His ascension.
(5) In His intercession.
(6) In His kingdom.
(7) In His second advent.
2. I hope most of us know what it is to have a part in Christ. But if we do, the blessed fact is altogether due to grace, and it could never have been so if we had not first been washed. If we do not then this is a blessing worthy of the utmost intensity of desire, and one which we must obtain or sink down to destruction, since to be without Christ is to be without hope.
II. THE ESSENTIAL QUALIFICATION FOR OBTAINING AND ENJOYING A PART WITH CHRIST--being washed by Him. Then, the qualification is not one of merit on our part, but one of mercy on His. If He had said, “Except ye obtain a superior degree of holiness, ye have no part in Me,” we might have despaired; but the very chief of sinners may find comfort in such a word as this. But what is meant by this washing?
1. No man has any part in Christ who does not receive the first all-essential washing in the precious blood, by which all sin is once and forever put away. The moment a sinner believes in Jesus Christ, his iniquities are seen as laid on Christ the Substitute, and the believer himself is free from sin. But without faith in the atonement thou canst have no part in Christ.
2. There follows a second cleansing, viz., daily pardon for sin through faith in Jesus. As day by day we fall into sin, we are taught to pray each day, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us;” and there is provision made in Christ Jesus for this daily pardon, since besides being the Paschal Lamb, our Lord is the morning and evening Lamb for daily guilt. The priest of God, when consecrated first, was washed from head to foot, and so baptized into the service of the sanctuary; but each time he went to offer sacrifice he washed his feet and his hands in the brazen laver. No need to give the complete immersion on each occasion; but accidental defilement, incident to everyday life, had to be cleansed away, not to make the man a priest, but to keep him in proper condition for the discharge of his office. The leper, once purged under the law, was clean, and might go into the congregation of the Lord’s house; yet as a clean man, he had the ordinary need to wash which was incidental to every Israelite.
3. Another thing included is the continual sanctification which faith in Jesus Christ carries on within by the Holy Spirit. If a man profess to be a Christian, and is not in his walk and conversation holier than other men, that man’s profession is vain. If Jesus wash not your tongue, and cleanse away those angry, or idle, or filthy words; that baud, and render it impossible for it to perform a dishonest or unchaste act; that foot, and render it impossible it should carry you to the haunts of vice and criminal amusement, you have no part in Him.
4. The daily communion which the true Christian has with Christ.
III. WHY THIS WASHING IS SO ESSENTIAL. Because of
1. The claims of Christ. Suppose a man shall say, “I have no need of washing,” brethren, it is clear that he has no part in Christ, because Christ came on purpose to cleanse His people from their sins. He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. You have no part in Christ, then, however much you applaud Him, unless you are washed by Him, for you have rejected that for which He lived and died.
2. Christ is Himself so infinitely pure that we must first be cleansed by Him before He can enter into fellowship with us. There is a fellowship with us as sinners which He graciously adopts, for He receiveth sinners and eateth with them; but into fellowship with His deep thoughts, His blessed purposes, and His Divine nature. He brings no man till first He has washed him in His blood.
3. The blessings which are in Christ are so spiritual that till we are cleansed we cannot enjoy them. Who can see God but those who are first made pure in heart? Who can have peace with God but those who are justified by faith?
4. Man’s nature is such that it is impossible for him to have part with Christ without washing.
IV. SOME THINGS WHICH HAVE BEEN PUT FORWARD AS SUBSTITUTES FOR BEING WASHED BY JESUS CHRIST.
1. Peter had such love and admiration for his Master that he very humbly said, “Dost Thou wash my feet?” Humility will not save you.
2. Peter had performed distinguished service for his Master. Though any of us should possess tongues of men and of angels, and give our bodies to be burned, yet if Christ wash us not, we have no part in Him.
3. Peter had enjoyed very remarkable views of Christ’s glory. I hear men boasting of the “coming glory”; but it is not as glorified that Jesus puts away sin. Though a man bathe day after day in the very light of the Millennium, yet if Jesus wash him not it profiteth him nothing.
4. Peter had walked the water once and found it marble beneath his feet. If thou hadst faith to remove mountains, yet if thou hadst not this washing, thou wouldst have no part in Christ.
5. Peter had received deep instruction! Ay, but though you possessed all knowledge, and could interpret all mysteries, yet if Jesus wash you not, you have no part in Him.
6. Peter was full of zealous enthusiasm, but the greatest imaginable zeal does not prove a man to have a part in Christ if he be not truly washed.
V. LESSONS OF WISDOM.
1. Let no supposed humility keep any of you from believing in Jesus Christ.
2. As you must not let a supposed humility, so let no other kind of feeling keep you from Christ.
3. Remember what you are if you remain unwashed, and what you will be if you are washed. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The connection between a sinner having a part with Christ and being washed by Him
I. A SINNER HAVING PART WITH CHRIST. This includes
1. His being of Christ’s mystical body through union with Him (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 in contrast with 1 John 5:19; see 2 Corinthians 6:17).
2. His having communion with Christ in His saving benefits (1 John 1:3).
II. A SINNER BEING WASHED BY CHRIST.
1. There is a filthiness in sin whereby the soul is polluted and defiled before the Lord (Ezekiel 36:25; Jeremiah 44:4; Isaiah 4:4). This consists in its contrariety to the holiness of God (Exodus 15:11). Hence
(1) It makes the sinner loathsome before God (Zechariah 11:8; Habbakuk 1:13; Psalms 5:4).
(2) It fills the soul with shame before God (Ezekiel 16:60-61; Genesis 3:10).
2. Christ has them all to wash who get part in Him (Revelation 1:5; 1 John 1:7).
(1) There are two things in Christ’s blood which make it cleansing.
(a) An infinite value and dignity (Acts 20:28).
(b) An infinite energy and efficacy (Hebrews 10:20).
(2) In all washing there are two things to be distinguished.
(a) The loosing of the filth of sin sticking to the soul--as pitch sticks to men’s fingers (1 Corinthians 15:56). This is done in our justification.
(b) Its removal from the soul--as water takes filth right away. This is done in sanctification (Hebrews 9:14; Revelation 7:14).
(3) This cleansing lies in three things.
(a) The putting away of former loathsomeness, so that God can look on the soul with complacency (Revelation 1:5-6).
(b) The making of the soul fair and clean before God (Song of Solomon 4:7).
(c) The removal of legal shame.
(4) Faith is the instrumental course of this cleansing (Acts 15:9; Romans 3:25).
III. THE INSEPARABLENESS OF THE TWO.
1. In respect of their subject. He that has the one has the other.
2. In respect of time. They are simultaneous. (T. Boston, D. D.)
Communion with the Saviour inseparable from holiness
Let us consider that purification, without which all our hope of an interest in Christ is vain.
I. The CONDITION “If I wash thee not.” This reminds us that sin is of a defiling quality. Man may palliate the evil, but in the view of the Supreme Judge it is unspeakably vile and hateful. And when the sinner himself is convinced of sin he sees it in the same light. He “loathes himself for all his abominations.” This enables us to determine what our Saviour means by washing us. As water removes defilement and restores to purity, so the influences of Divine grace deliver us from sin and make us truly holy. We do not indeed mean to intimate that real Christians are entirely freed from all sin here. Unmixed purity is the privilege of heaven. But let us remember, that though this work is completed in eternity, it is begun in time.
II. The DREADFULNESS OF THE EXCLUSION--“Thou hast no part with Me.” Hear how the apostle Paul speaks of a privilege from which you are excluded. “But what things were gain to me,” etc. But you say, you do not thus value Him; you prefer a thousand objects to an interest in Him--and therefore to you there seems nothing so very dreadful in this threatening. But the question is--whether your judgment be a righteous one. A pearl is not the less precious because the swine tramples it under foot. A toy is not more valuable than a title to an estate because an infant or an idiot may give it the preference. And the question also is, whether you will always remain in the same opinion. Will the day of judgment operate no change in your sentiments? Will not the approach of death alter your convictions? If our Saviour was an unimportant character, your exclusion from Him would not be so fatal--but the fact is, that everything you need is found in Him, and to be derived only from Him. No being in the universe can fill His place, and do for us what He is able to do. And therefore, if He will have nothing to do with us, our case is indeed miserable and hopeless. We are wanderers without a guide: dying patients without a remedy: exposed to the deluge, and have no ark. It matters not to whom else we belong. “Neither is there salvation in any other,” etc. To have no communion with Him in whose favour is life; to hear Him say, I have a family, but you are no part of it--you are not a child, nor even a servant; to bear Him say, I have a plantation, but you are not in it, I have in reserve for my followers, thrones of glory, rivers of pleasure, fulness of joy--but as for you--you--have “neither part nor lot in the matter,”--if this be not dreadful,nothing can be dreadful. Especially when we add that there is but one alternative--If you have no part with Christ and His people, you must have your portion with hypocrites and unbelievers, with the devil and his angels! You have already fixed your destiny.
III. The CERTAINTY OF THIS EXCLUSION. There are two ways of proving this.
1. By testimony. “If you receive the witness of man, the witness of God is greater.” And, says not our Lord, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me”? “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.”
2. Reasoning from principles.
(1) Christ is pure and holy; His person, kingdom, joy, service are pure. If therefore we are not made pure, we have no likeness in Him.
(2) If Christ is the head, and Christians are the body, let us remember that the head and the body partake of the same nature: and that if Christ be the vine, and Christians the branches, the vine and the branches partake of the very same qualities.
(3) What intercourse can there be where nothing prevails but a contrariety of inclination and an opposition of interest? “How can two walk together except they be agreed?” “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?”
(4) Without this renovation we should be wholly incapable of deriving happiness from our connection with Him. Our being forever in His presence would only render us miserable. Wherever he may be placed, while he has sin in him, man has hell with him. Conclusion:
1. How exceedingly those misunderstand the gospel, and delude their own souls, who expect to be “made partakers of Christ,” while they seek not to be sanctified by Him. “He was manifested to take away our sin.”
2. We may congratulate those who are made free from sin. You have “an inheritance among them that are sanctified.” You have part with Christ! you partake of His safety and His dignity.
(1) Can you be poor? Having nothing, you possess all things. “For all things are yours,” etc.
(2) Can you be miserable? “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, rejoice.” And if you have part with Him in His glory, can you be unwilling to share with Him in His reproach? If you are to “live with Him,” cannot you “die with him”? (W. Jay.)
But is clean every whit; and ye are clean but not all; for He knew who should betray Him.--The expressions used by the Evangelist with reference to the traitor show the development and progress of the treasonable thought.
1. He that was about to betray (John 6:71).
2. He that should betray (John 6:64).
3. He that is betraying (text).
4. He that betrayed (John 18:2; cf. Matthew 26:48). (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Clean every whit
These words teach two different and yet most closely connected truths.
I. The completeness and abidingness of the Divine forgiveness. He who is washed is clean every whit.
II. The second is, that after we have got this complete, abiding forgiveness, we still require, while we remain on earth, daily, hourly forgiveness; we still need to wash our feet. This accords with our daily experience; the emblem, as is always the case with Christ’s figures, exactly accords with fact. But there is a more striking illustration in the book of Exodus. The Lord there tells Moses to consecrate Aaron and his sons as priests. In doing this their bodies were wholly washed with water. This was the consecration washing, and this was never to be repeated. But in the next chapter, Moses is commanded to make a laver, or large basin of brass, and put it between the brazen altar and the tabernacle, and fill it with pure water. In this the priests, who had been fully washed, once for all, were yet required to wash their feet and hands every time they entered the tabernacle. I believe the Lord referred to this when He uttered the words of this verse. It is as if He had said, “When you come as sinners, and believe on Me, I wash you, bathe you, once for all, in My blood. I make you priests unto God; I perfect you forever, in as far as concerns acceptance and approach to the Lord. But, like the typical priests, you will still require, so long as you sojourn and minister on earth, to wash your feet, to seek, and get, forgiveness for your daily, hourly errors and shortcomings. Such seems to be the import of the Lord’s words. We cannot but feel that there is more intended here than the washing with water. We are lifted into a loftier region; we stand on high and holy ground, and are dealing with that blood of the Lamb of God wherewith He washed and sanctified His Church unto Himself, “Clean every whit.” I fear that many never get full hold of this blessed truth; they never realize the difference between law and gospel. The law made nothing perfect; the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin forever; it only procured a respite, a reprieve, “a renewal of the bill,” as men of business would say. The blood which the Jewish high priest took into the holiest of all, and sprinkled there on the mercy seat, only covered Israel’s sin for a year; it had to be annually renewed. But the blood which Christ, our High Priest, has taken into the heavenly tabernacle, and sprinkled on the mercy seat there, covers the sins of His believing people forever and ever. There needs no more sacrifice for sin, for by one offering He has perfected forever them that are sanctified; that is, those who are washed and set apart for God. Oh, it is blessed when this truth gets full possession of the heart and conscience! It brings in peace, assurance, hope, joy, holiness, humility. It makes our service one of freedom, gladness, light. But now comes the subordinate truth; the forgiven man still needs to wash his feet. We can easily understand this. God’s forgiven people are still on earth; still in the flesh; and so liable to many sins and shortcomings. What are we to do? We have an advocate; we have a propitiation. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive,” etc. This will keep up a close, intimate, happy fellowship with God (1 John 1:7). I suppose this is very much what is meant when it is said (Revelation 7:14-15). They had once been washed, and washed forever; but then they continued all their days resorting to the fountain, to wash away the sin and infirmity of life and lip and heart. (John Milne.)
Know ye what I have done unto you?
I. IN ITS ETERNAL FORMS.
II. IN ITS INTRINSIC WORTH.
III. IN ITS EXEMPLARY FORCE. (S. S. Times.)
What Christ requires of His disciples
I. INTELLIGENCE--“Know ye.” Sometimes the actions of men have no meaning: they are impulsive and purposeless. Sometimes they have a bad meaning: they have selfish and sensual aims. Sometimes they have a good meaning: they are benevolent and pure in their motives. Christ’s actions always had a meaning, holy and beneficent, and it is the duty of His disciples to find it out. Two classes of professed Christians act wrongly in this respect.
1. Those who attach no meaning to Christ’s works.
2. Those who attach a wrong meaning to them. What absurd and even blasphemous ideas are current about many of them! Let the real Christian, then, “prove all things.”
II. Consistency (John 13:14). There should be perfect harmony between what they profess to be and what they are. Creed and conduct should agree. The discrepancy between the two is the greatest crime and curse of Christendom. Christ denounces war, worldliness, selfishness, and subjection to the flesh, yet His followers practise them.
III. CHRISTLINESS (John 13:15). To do in spirit as Christ did is to follow His example, and not the mere copying of the form. Were we to do all that Christ did we might still be out of harmony--aye, and in antagonism with His spirit. The way for a student artist to become like a great painter, is not to copy most accurately all the strokes and shadings of his model, but to catch the genius that inspired the master. Christ’s Spirit is the genius of all works of moral beauty and excellence, and if we catch that, we shall be “fruitful unto all good works.”
IV. HAPPINESS (John 13:16-17).
1. Christ desires the happiness of His disciples. Those who profess His name and are gloomy and discontented are not His.
2. The doing in love the things of His loving heart ensures true happiness. The labour of love is the music of life. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Ye call Me Master and Lord
Christ a Master
I. WE ALL URGENTLY NEED A GOOD MASTER FOR THE REGULATION AND CONTROL OF OUR LIVES.
1. Even in matters secular there is no such thing as absolute independence. We are the subjects of the sovereign, who in turn is subject to national law, private advisers, or public opinion.
2. But, especially, in matters spiritual. It is the misery of the ungodly, that they are subject to no law but that of their own folly and passions. What a mercy that we have been placed under the management of Him whose regulations form “the perfect law of liberty!” That man is the slave whose master is himself; and he alone is the freeman whose master is Christ.
II. CHRIST IS OUR MASTER IN THE TRUE AND STRICT SENSE OF THE TERM--not one who is to be saluted with the name, merely in a spirit of courtesy. His mastership is that of a sovereign, whom his subjects must obey, for whom they must fight, and to whom they must pay tribute (1 Corinthians 9:21).
III. CHRIST HAS BEEN CONSTITUTED OUR MASTER BY THE DECREE OF HIS FATHER (Psalms 2:6; Acts 5:31). So that the devout man’s satisfaction is, that, when he does homage to Christ as His Lord, he does homage to the Father, as honouring His appointment (Philippians 2:9-11). So far, then, is the worship of Christ from robbing of the Father of His honour, that it is an act which we honour both at once (John 5:19-23).
IV. THE FATHER’S ORDINATION OF CHRIST TO BE OUR MASTER PROCEEDS ON A PRINCIPLE OF EQUITY, and is not an act of mere arbitrary sovereignty. The Father (Hebrews 1:2; John 1:3) commissioned the Son, in His state of unincarnated glory, to create us, and in His state of incarnated mercy to redeem us (Revelation 5:12; 2 Corinthians 5:14). Since Christ died to save our lives, these lives are most lawfully His, to be consecrated to His service; should we deny Him which service we shall be condemnable, not only for a want of gratitude, but a violation of the law of equity.
V. CHRIST, AS OUR MASTER, IS ENTITLED TO, AND DEMANDS OF US, ABSOLUTE, UNIVERSAL OBEDIENCE; such as is commensurate with our entire being, and the whole economy of our lives, in our works, words, meditations; not only on the Sabbath, but on all clays; not only at the stated hours of devotion, but in the management of business, etc.; as a citizen in your political conduct, and in your domestic relations, etc. (Colossians 3:17). Does this seem oppressive? Do you feel as if He should be satisfied with only a partial control, and act accordingly? Then
1. How foolish you are; as if there were any part of the economy of your being which could be safely entrusted to the management of yourself.
2. How corrupt you are; since it appears there is some part of your life which will not bear His inspection.
3. How ungrateful you are; grudging the subjection of any part of your life to Him who gave Himself from the manger to the cross for you!
4. How unjust you are; robbing the Redeemer of part of His pain-bought inheritance! If with purpose of heart you can coolly reason that there is one hour of life for the manner of spending which you are under no obligation to consult with Him--then all is wrong, you are still “in your sins.”
VI. CHRIST IS OPEN AND FREE TO THE APPLICATION OF ALL HIS SERVANTS FOR AID IN PERFORMING THE WORK WHICH HE PRESCRIBES THEM. How many masters act unreasonably and unjustly by their servants in this respect! They starve them so as to enfeeble them, and refuse to furnish them with proper implements for their work. How different the Christian’s Master! All His commandments are reasonable; and to an unperverted disposition would be easy. And He looks at the subjective weakness and incapacity of our hearts, and sympathises with our infirmity, and communicates strength (2 Corinthians 12:9).
VII. Perfect though Christ’s rights be, and free and ample the help which He vouchsafes, so that all disobedience is without excuse, yet is CHRIST A MASTER MOST FORBEARING WITH THE FAULTS AND FAILURES OF HIS SERVANTS. Had we treated any other master as we have treated Him, long ere this we would have been dismissed from his service. A principal explanation of this forbearance is found in the circumstance that He was once a servant Himself (Hebrews 5:8); and in our own nature, amid the same scenes of trial through which we pass. And although He stood the trial, yet He does not make this a reason for condemning His weak brethren. But rather, remembering the force of temptation, and how much fortitude it required of Himself to withstand it, He apologizes to Himself for their failures, and easily forgives them.
VIII. AS A MASTER CHRIST REWARDS HIS SERVANTS WITH EXUBERANT LIBERALITY. As if He had done nothing for us as yet, at all, He encourages us to diligence and activity by the assurance of a “great recompense of reward.” (W. Anderson, LL. D.)
The helpfulness of Christ as Master
Who teaches like Christ? By His Spirit He pours light into the soul, applies His word to the conscience, and draws the heart gently, yet powerfully, to faith, love, and holy obedience. Five minutes’ instruction in Christ’s school is worth more than ten thousand sermons. We have seen a child make a drawing from a picture set before him; and as the work grows under his pencil, he is delighted with his own performance, and does not perceive its many defects. The master looks at the work, and surprises the pupil by pointing out deficiencies hitherto unsuspected; he then takes the pencil into his hand, and by a bold touch here, and a stroke there, he produces a new effect; so that the pupil is at once astonished and humbled. Thus a touch or so from the Spirit of Jesus in the heart is more effectual than all the wisdom of the schools, and all the learning of the ancients. Let us inquire, Have we so learned Christ? Devout Mr. Herbert, when He mentioned the name of Christ, used to add, “my Master”; and thus expresses himself concerning it in one of his poems: “How sweetly doth ‘my Master’ sound, ‘my Master!’ As ambergris leaves a rich scent unto the taster, so do these words a sweet content, an oriental fragrancy; ‘my Master.’” (J. M. Randall.)
Christ our Master and Lord
“Who went about doing good.” This is the shortest and noblest eulogium ever pronounced. I will not “give flattering titles unto man.” Yet the practice is too common. But now, as to the Lord Jesus, whatever we say of Him that is noble and glorious, we say well, for so He is. Some of this good was mediatorial; some of it miraculous; some of it corporeal; some of it spiritual; and some of it exemplary--as here.
I. THE TITLE. As the Master and the Lord of His people. They learn in His school and serve in His house. In both these titles the main idea is authority. He is Lord
1. By the claims of creation. As He is our Maker, He has an infinitely greater property in us than a creature can have. In Him we live, and move, and have our being. If, therefore, He were to call into His presence a monarch or a philosopher, and say, “Take that thine own is,” what could either of them take? Not even his existence.
2. By the claims of redemption. “Ye are not your own.” This gives Him a greater claim than even creation, for redemption delivers us from greater evils, advances us to greater blessings, and is accomplished by a much more expensive process than creation.
3. By their own choice and submission. Once He bare not rule over them; they were not called by His name. But He made them willing in the day of His power. And the glory of His dominion is here--that He does not govern only by external rule, but by internal influence. He illuminates our understanding, and displays to their view His loveliness. And thus we run after Him; for He draws with the cords of a man and with the bands of love.
II. THE OBLIGATION. “If I am your Master and Lord”
1. You ought to renounce connection with every other; for “no man can serve two masters.” But His dominion does not interfere with the relations subsisting between man and man. Your rendering unto God the things that are God’s does not prevent your rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. But even this service is regulated by His authority too. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right in the Lord.” He said, “Call no man master.” Thus He releases His subjects from all authority as to conscience but His own. But said He also, “Be not ye called masters.” There are those, who refuse dominion, who are ready enough to require it.
2. You ought to obey My commandments. There cannot be a better evidence of sincerity than this. “If ye love Me,” etc. For a knowledge of His orders, you must repair to the Scriptures, and to these only. You must shun all that He forbids, and pursue all that He enjoins.
3. You ought to submit to My appointments. As He gives us our work, so He must determine when, and where, and how we shall labour and serve Him. “Here I am; let Him do what seemeth Him good.” You must not, therefore, complain if He restrains you, tries you, bereaves you. He has a right to determine your connections, the bounds of your habitations, the way in which you are to glorify Him; and He never exercises this right but for your own welfare. Some at His bidding cross over land and sea; they also serve Him that wait, and they also serve that suffer.
4. You ought to imitate Me. “If any man serve Me, let him follow Me.” You see this specified here.
5. You should esteem all you have as Mine, and use it accordingly. “Occupy till I come.” If you have no title to yourselves, how is it possible that you can have a title to anything that you now call your own?
(1) Do you think that your time is your own, that you may lie as long in bed as you please, or that you may lounge as much in the day as you choose? You will soon appear before Him who has said, “Redeem the time.”
(2) Can you suppose that your tongues are your own? You will soon be in His presence who said, “For every idle word that men shall speak,” etc.
(3) Do you think that your substance is your own, that you may either hoard it or spend it as you like? You will soon be in His presence who has told you, “To do good and to communicate, forget not,” etc.
6. You should be willing to partake with Me in all My estates. If you are to reign with Him hereafter you must suffer with Him now.
7. You may depend upon Me for all the advantages of the relation. “Ye shall receive the reward of your inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ.” It is impossible for you to serve Him for nought.
1. Entertain proper apprehensions of Christ. He is not only a Saviour, but He is a Lord and Master: Is Christ divided?
2. Beware of hypocrisy and inconsistency. Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say?
3. Some have other lords; some love idols, and after them they will go. (W. Jay.)
The universality of Christ’s Mastership
In the high-toned sanctities of our Christian worship, on the lower plane of domestic life, with its secret cares, and silent griefs, and angry frets, Christ is our Lord. On the crested wave of business, with its glittering spray and argosies of wealth, and along its turbid and choking shallows, Christ is our Lord. In all the undress and innocent relaxations of life--on the heathery hills, or placid ocean, or in the crowded city--still Christ is our Lord. In the retreat of the counting house or the perilous whirlpool of the public exchange, in the obscurest nook and corner of your life, Christ is your Master and Lord. You have chosen Him as such. Your faith, your profession, affirm Him as such, and He responds to that profession. He is Lord of your spirit, in what it thinks, and feels, and is; of your wealth, and time, and influence; of your pursuits, and pleasures, and possessions; of the most hidden, germinal, and unbetrayed proclivities of the soul; of the totalized aggregate man--Christ is “Lord of all.” And you are His servants, put in trust with His goods, stewards of His wealth, factors in His household; and He, the Lord and Master, is even now on His return journey, to call each to his account, and to assign his position and award. But what a weight of responsibility does this assumption of the regal sovereignty of Christ entail upon its subjects! What a solemnity does it lend to the ongoings of human life, and what a tragic interest does it give to the dismission of each occupant from his trust! “What manner of persons,” in view of all this, “ought ye to be?” (John Burton.)
The Christian a servant
Dr. Muhlenburg gave a beautiful illustration of obedience to his Master when he once took up a tray of dishes in St. Luke’s Hospital and carried them down to the kitchen. Some one meeting him, and protesting against his doing such menial work, he quickly said, “What am I, but a waiter in the Lord’s hotel?”
If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another’s feet
The sign of the feet washing
Let us look at this act
I. AS REQUIRING THE CROSS FOR ITS INTERPRETATION. Short as this evening was, it was the most memorable on which the sun ever went down, and the eve of the most memorable day that ever dawned. First came the feet washing, then the holy supper, then the discourse, then the prayer. But all that passed within that ante-chamber of the passion had reference to the morrow.
1. “Thou shalt know hereafter” intimated that the mystery of the whole strange scene would be explained when the Servant of God, and the Minister of man’s redemption, would reach the lowest point of His submission, and offer His final oblation of humility. “He riseth and laid aside His garments,” etc.; even so He left the Father’s bosom, and emptied Himself. “He poured water into a basin”--but this water is once again changed, not now into wine, but into blood--and washed His disciples’ feet.
2. Notice some of the specific points of this exhibition.
(1) It was voluntary service rendered in the consciousness of Divine power (John 13:3). To the ransom of His life He Himself freely gave. “I have power to lay down My life,” etc. Had it not been so, His death could not have been redemption.
(2) It was as our Lord that He bought us with His blood. “Ye call me,” etc. The submission to death was a Divine victory over the cause of death.
(3) The redeeming act is fully available only for “His own.” The symbol did, indeed, teach that that Christ washed away the sins of the race; that He made atonement for John and Judas alike. So effectual has been that washing that no one is condemned eternally for his original stain or contracted defilement, and baptism is the pledge of that. But as we look at our Great Servant going round with the basin, and washing each one, and saying, “Ye are clean, but not all”; when we hear Him telling Simon, “If I wash thee not,” etc., we cannot help seeing that Christ may wash in vain, or man may refuse the benefit of His washing. We may hope that these are as few in comparison of the innumerable multitude as Judas in comparison of the eleven. But the saved are personally saved, and none have fellowship with Christ whose souls have not been cleansed in His blood.
II. AS ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE BELIEVERS’ FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST, the bond of union between Christ and His cleansed people.
1. Our Minister in heaven makes provision for the forgiveness of our sins and the renewal of our nature. He came to give His life a ransom for many; He is gone to give His spirit for His people’s redemption. Thus we are washed by pardon and the bestowal of the renewing Spirit. The two washings, distinguished as acts, are united in their effect; and He who “came by water and blood” makes both symbols one in those who have “part in Him.”
2. Christ makes provision for the cleansing of that defilement which may be daily contracted by a renewed believer save to wash His feet. Two opposite perversions of this gracious act must be guarded against.
(1) It gives us the perfect ideal of the Christian life; but it may be exhibited so as to throw many into despondency. Christ does not say more than that He who is once washed needeth not that washing again. He does not go on to say, “Nor shall he who has lost his first washing ever be washed anew.” Our heavenly Minister fainteth not, neither is weary.
(2) But this saying must not be perverted in the interests of a nature only too tolerant of evil. It does not say that those whom Christ has once washed He will and must wash unto the end. Those who make it say so forget the terrible denunciation uttered on those who “sin that grace may abound.”
III. AS OUR EXAMPLE. “If I, your Lord,” etc.
1. The mind of Christ in His self-renunciation is the standard of the true Christian spirit. Between the Pattern and the imitators there is infinite disparity; but of the Spirit we are all commanded to partake. This was the solitary principle in Himself, that He or His apostles proposed for our imitation. To know no self apart from the will of God and the service of man is Christ’s example and the perfection of the Christian spirit.
2. In some sense, also, He gives us here the pattern of our act as well as of our spirit. His service left no ministry incomplete, whether to our bodies or our souls. He chose here an emblem that was well adapted to illustrate those deeds which minister to our brethren’s needs of every kind. Conclusion: Our Lord closes the scene by a warning and a benediction (verse 17). (W. B. Pope, D. D.)
Great principles and small duties
A soul occupied with great ideas best performs small duties; the Divinest views of life penetrate most clearly into the merest emergencies. Let us apply this principle to
I. INTELLECTUAL CULTURE. The ripest knowledge is best qualified to instruct the most complete ignorance. It is a mistake to suppose that the master, who is but a stage before the pupil, can, as well as another, show him the way. However accurately the recently initiated may give out his new stores, he will rigidly follow the method by which he made them his own, and will want that command of several paths of access to a truth which are given by a thorough survey of the whole field on which he stands. The instructor also needs to have a full perception of the internal contents of the truths he unfolds. The sense of proportion between the different parts and stages of a subject, the appreciation of every step at its true value, the foresight of the section that remains in its real magnitude and direction, are qualities so essential, that without them all instruction is but an insult to the learner’s understanding. And in virtue of these it is that the most cultivated minds are the most patient, clear, progressive. Neglect and depreciation of intellectual minutiae are characteristic of the ill-informed. And, above all, there is the indefinable power which a superior mind always puts forth on an inferior. In the task of instruction no amount of wisdom is superfluous, and even a child’s elementary teaching would be best conducted by omniscience itself.
II. SOCIAL LIFE. It is an error to suppose that homely minds are the best administrators of small duties. How often the daily troubles prove too much for the generalship of feeble minds, and a petty and scrupulous anxiety in defending some almost invisible point of frugality, surrenders the greater unobserved! How often, too, a rough and unmellowed sagacity rules, indeed, but creates a constant friction. But where, in the presiding genius of a home, taste and sympathy unite, with what ease, mastery, and graceful disposition do the seeming trivialities of existence fall into order and drop a blessing as they take their place. This is realized, not by microscopic solicitude of spirit, but by comprehension of mind and enlargement of heart; by that breadth and nicety of moral view which discerns everything in due proportion, and, in avoiding an intense elaboration of trifles, has energy to spare for what is great; in short, by a perception akin to that of God, whose providing frugality is on an infinite scale, whose art colours a universe with beauty, and touches with its pencil the petals of a flower. A soul thus pure and large disowns the paltry rules of dignity, and will discharge many an office from which lesser beings would shrink as ignoble. Offices the most menial cease to be menial the moment they are wrought in love.
III. HIGH RELIGIOUS FAITH. In the management of daily disappointments and small vexations only a devout mind attains any real success. How wonderfully the mere insect cares that are ever on the wing in the noonday heat of life have power to sting even the giant minds around which they sport! It may be absurd and immoral to be teased by trifles; but while you remain in the dust it will annoy you, and there is no help for it but to retire into a higher and grassier region, where the sultry load is visible from afar. We must go in contemplation out of life, ere we can see how its troubles are lost, like evanescent waves, in the deeps of eternity and the immensity of God. How welcome to many a child of anxiety and toll to be transferred from the heat and din of the city to the midnight garden or mountain top. And like refreshment does a high faith, with its infinite prospects, open to the worn and weary: no laborious travels are needed for the devout mind, for it carries within it Alpine heights and starlit skies, which it may reach at a moment’s notice.
IV. THE SERVICES OF BENEVOLENCE. The humblest form of this receives its moat powerful motive from the sublimest truth--immortality. It might have been thought that no love would be so faithful as that which believed at the deathbed of a friend that the absolute farewell was drawing nigh. The vivid expectation of futurity, which has so often led the believer to ascetic contempt, would appear only consistent if it passed by in equal scorn the bodily miseries of others. But it is not so. In this, as in all other instances, truths the most divine are the greatest servitors of wants the most humiliating. The immortal element imparts a species of sanctity to the mortal: just as the worshipper feels that the very stones of the temple are sacred. Conclusion: Let us revere the great sentiments of religion not as an occasional solace to a weakly dignity, but as truths which penetrate the very heart of life’s activity. Nothing less than the majesty of God and the powers of the world to come can maintain the peace and sanctity of our homes and hearts. (J. Martineau, LL. D.)
Christian service should be rendered lovingly
Preaching on this text, Mr. Finlayson, of Helmsdale, observed, “One way in which disciples wash one another’s feet is by reproving one another. But the reproof must not be couched in angry words, so as to destroy the effect; nor in tame, so as to fail of effect. Just as in washing a brother’s feet, you must not use boiling water to scald, nor frozen water to freeze them.”
Christian service should be rendered constantly
Christian charity is too often like a large banknote which may be flourished on occasion to excite the wonder of bystanders, but which is never broken up into small change to meet everyday occasions. Little labours are the small change into which true charity is willing to be turned for life’s common needs. Do not be content with merely discharging your charity by large professions of liberality, but prove it by those little deeds of pity and grace for which you may get no popular applause. (H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)
I have given you an example
The example of Christ
Among those rules for his daily conduct which the pious, though visionary Lavater, suspended in his study, and seriously read every night and morning, the following is far from being the least important:--“I will not do nor design anything which I would omit if Jesus Christ were standing visibly before me, or which I suppose He would not perform if He were in my situation. I will, with the assistance of God, accustom myself to do everything in the name of Jesus Christ; and, as His disciple, to sigh every hour to God for the blessing of the Holy Ghost, and be always disposed to prayer.” Happy the believer who acts in this manner!
I. THAT IT IS OUR DUTY TO IMITATE THE EXAMPLE OF THE REDEEMER IS EASILY PROVED.
1. For what reason was the history of His life written? Not that it might gratify an idle curiosity; not that it might amuse us by its wonderful events, and produce a barren admiration; not that it might afford scenes on which we might carelessly gaze, and subjects on which we might coldly converse. They recorded the actions and the words of Jesus, that a living, lustrous, obligatory rule of conduct; that a visible commentary on God’s law might be presented for our imitation; that a light, unerring as the pillar of fire and cloud that led the Israelites, might be given to us to conduct us through this wilderness to the promised land that is on high.
2. In your Scriptures you are constantly and unequivocally commanded to imitate the Redeemer. “Learn of Me”; “If any man serve Me, let him follow Me.” “Let the same mind be in you which was in Christ” is the admonition of Paul (Philippians 2:5). Do they exhort us to holiness? As He who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (1 Peter 1:15). Do they incite us to charity? “Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us” (Ephesians 5:2); “This is My commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Would they arm us with patience? “We must consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest we be weary and faint in our minds” Hebrews 12:3). Would they teach us to condescend to our neighbour for his benefit? “Let everyone please his neighbour for his good to edification, for even Christ pleased not Himself” (Romans 15:2). Do they urge us to forgiveness? “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Colossians 3:13).
3. The sacred vows that are upon us, the tender and solemn relations that we sustain to Jesus, enforce this duty.
4. A regard to the best interests of our fellow men should induce us to follow the example of the holy Jesus, Oh! let us be careful not to alienate them: let us imitate Jesus, and then perhaps we will draw them to the Saviour, or if not, we shall be “pure from their blood.”
5. A regard to our own spiritual improvement and salvation should induce us to study and imitate the example of Jesus. There is no other example so comprehensive: from that wonderful union of greatness and humiliation. Other lives afford instruction to men in particular circumstances and relations; though they are burning and shining lights, they dissipate the gloom but for comparatively a short distance around them: but He, like the sun, is set in a higher orb, and with an everlasting and uncircumscribed light illumines the universe. Other lives may be excellent examples of some particular virtues: as Job, of patience; Moses, of meekness; Paul, of zeal. But in Jesus there is a beautiful and attractive harmony of all the virtues. Other examples present us with only a short period of time, reaching merely from the birth to the death of those who exhibit them. We are taught by Him not only when He tabernacled in flesh, but also when He first raised the hopes of fallen man: when He appeared to the patriarchs and prophets; when He comforted His martyrs, and cheered His children in every age; when He now sheds down into the souls of His followers joys unspeakable. Other examples communicate no quickening influence. Other examples are of persons who are not united to us by such endearing bonds as is Immanuel. Other examples bear the slump of imperfection. Let us remember that a conformity in our internal principles of conduct forms the first step of this imitation. Hence we are exhorted by Paul to “have the same mind which Christ had” (Philippians 2:5). We must, then, in order to imitate Jesus, be animated by the same Holy Spirit that He possessed. We must also receive the same systems of Divine truths, otherwise our obedience will spring from different motives.
But in what particular instances must we take Jesus as our model, and conform ourselves to His example?
1. Imitate Him in His piety towards God. It was constant and unwearied. In no single instant did His heart cease to glow with affection to His Father. Ye who “did run well for a season,” blush when you contemplate the steady path of Jesus, and return from your wanderings. His piety was zealous. He does not coldly and heartlessly engage in the duties of religion. His piety was attended with frequent prayer.
2. He is an example to us in His benevolence. This is exhibited in all His conduct, as it breathed in all its discourses. On the wings of charity He descended from heaven, and His whole life proved that He had lain from eternity in the bosom of everlasting love.
3. He is an example to us in His humility. Never were such endowments as He possessed; yet, with celestial wisdom, He never was assuming.
4. He is an example to us of superiority to the world. He might have enjoyed all that the world idolizes; His renunciation of it was voluntary.
5. He is an example to us in His patience and forgiveness.
6. He is an example to us in tolerance and forbearance. Though zealous, His zeal was never cruel and malignant; though perfectly innocent, He tenderly compassionated the errors and the follies of men. Though His censures were faithful, they were ever meek and gentle. (H. Kollock, D. D.)
Christ our example
God is set before us as our example in the Scriptures; but Christ, being man, subject to our infirmities and temptations, brings before us not merely Divine but human perfection as a model for our imitation. We should imitate Christ
I. IN HIS DEVOTION TO GOD. His constant
1. Reference to God’s glory.
2. Confidence in His promise.
3. Obedience to His commands.
4. Submission to His will.
5. Fulfilment of all righteousness.
II. IN HIS DISINTERESTED SERVICE TO MAN. He sought not His own. He went about doing good. Neither His own honour nor advantage was the end He pursued. Let your governing principle be what His was.
III. IN HIS MANNER OF RESISTING TEMPTATION.
1. He never placed Himself in danger. He refused to tempt God.
2. He resisted the first suggestions of evil.
3. He appealed to the authority of the Scriptures, and used them as the sword of the Spirit.
IV. IN HIS ENDURANCE OF INJURES. Never was such ingratitude and scorn heaped on any other head. Yet
1. There was no resentfulness. He did good for evil, and prayed for those who shed His blood.
2. He did not threaten. In this there is a strong contrast between Him and many of the martyrs.
V. IN HIS REBUKING OF SINNERS.
1. His censures were expressive of His hatred of sin.
2. It was impartial.
3. With authority.
4. Loving and tender, except where there was manifest hypocrisy.
VI. IN HIS PUBLIC WORK. As a teacher He
1. Adapted His instruction to the state of His hearers.
2. He seized every occasion, and gave His lesson a special application.
3. He spoke as a witness.
VII. IN HIS SUFFERINGS.
1. He did not manifest stoical indifference.
2. He was meek and resigned.
3. He looked to the glory which should follow. (C. Hodge, D. D.)
Christ our example not our model
The two are different. You copy the outline of a model; you imitate the spirit of an example. You might copy the life of Christ, and make Him a model in every act, and yet you might be not one whir more of a Christian than before. You might wash the feet of poor fishermen as He did, live a wandering life with nowhere to lay your head. You might go about teaching, and never use any words but His, never express a truth except in Bible language, have no home, and mix with publican’s and harlots. Then Christ would be your model; and you would have copied His life like a picture, line for line, and shadow for shadow; and yet you might not be Christ-like. On the other hand, you might imitate Christ, get His spirit, breathe the atmosphere of thought He breathed, do not one single act which He did, but every act in His spirit. You might be rich, whereas He was poor; never teach, whereas He was teaching always; lead a life in all outward particulars the very opposite of His, and yet the spirit of His self-devotion might have saturated your whole being, and penetrated into the life of every act and the essence of every thought. Then Christ would have become your example, for we can only imitate that of which we have caught the spirit. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
The perfection of Christ’s example
The reference of all the world tells us that Christ’s example was perfect. The admissions of enemies tell us; our own hearts and consciences tell us; but did you ever think how strange it is that these four little tracts, telling us such fragmentary stories, and of so brief a period of a life, in which there was a conspicuous absence of very many of the important circumstances of that life, should have been accepted by all the centuries, and by all sorts and conditions of men, women, and children, wise and foolish, learned and ignorant, bond and free, happy and sad, as an all-sufficient guide for them, and that these little stories should he felt by us all to contain an adequate guide and rule for our conduct? It is not enough to say, “Men’s circumstances change, but the essentials of their duty are very few, and you can put them into two or three words and they will be enough.” That is quite true, and we thank God for it. It is a great thing instead of a whole host of precepts to have got two or three fruitful principles. We have got the Divine example in human form, and the stimulus of His deeds, when pondered, opens out into majesty and greatness; and what a blessed thing it is instead of being handed over to a mere law--Do that and thou shalt live; Be this, and so forth--to be told, “Do as I do”; and still more blessed, “Do as I do, because I love you, and you love Me.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Christ the supreme example
We were examining Guido’s “Aurora” in the summerhouse of the Rospigliosi Palace, and as we sat behind the row of artists busily copying the celebrated painting, we could not help noticing how they differed from each other as well as from the immortal fresco. After a time we called the attention of our guide to the fact that each of the painters had a different colour for the horses, and that no two copies were at all alike. With an expressive gesture he replied, “Don’t look at them! Look only at the original!” (W. Baxendale.)
Christ an all-round example
The character of our Lord was such that no one virtue had undue predominance. Take Peter, and there is a prominent feature peculiar to himself; one quality attracts you. Take John, and there is a lovely trait in his character which at once chains you, and his other graces are unobserved. But take the life of Jesus, and it shall perplex you to discover what virtue shines with purest radiance. His character is like the lovely countenance of a classic beauty, in which every single feature is so in exact harmony with all the rest, that when you have gazed upon it, you are struck with a sense of general beauty, but you do not remark upon the flashing eye, or chiselled nose, or coral lips; an undivided impression of harmony remains upon your mind. Such a character should each of us strive after--a mingling of perfections to make up one perfection; a combining of all the sweet spices to make up a rare perfume, such as only God’s Holy Spirit Himself can make, but such as God accepts wherever He discovers it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The union in Christ of precept and example
If He recommended active benevolence He went about doing good; if He preached forgiveness of injuries He prayed for His murderers; if He inculcated self-denial, He voluntarily subjected Himself to penury, persecution, and death; if He prescribed piety towards God, He passed days and nights in prayer; if He enjoined resignation to the Divine will, He freely drank the cup which His Father gave to His lips. In these respects our Lord presented a marked contrast to the example, often pernicious, always imperfect of other teachers, and by exemplifying His own laws He has rendered no small service to virtue, since, in addition to His instructions, He has embodied a living pattern of that new cast and description of character, of those original and distinctive excellencies, which He has prescribed to His followers. (G. Chandler, LL. D.)
Sceptical testimony to Christ’s example
When Christ’s preeminent genius is combined with the qualities of probably the greatest moral reformer and martyr to that mission who ever lived, religion cannot be said to have made a bad choice in pitching upon this man as the ideal representative and guide of humanity; nor even now would it be easy even for an unbeliever to find a better translation of the rule of virtue from the abstract into the concrete than the endeavour so to live that Christ would approve our life. (J. S. Mill.)
Christ’s example gradually imitated
The Christian, in his striving after perfection, is like the sculptor Fiamingo with his image, of which the elder D’Israeli tells us. He kept polishing and polishing, till his friend exclaimed impatiently, “What perfection would you have?” “Alas!” was the answer, “the original I am labouring to come up to is in my head, but not yet, in my hand.” (W. Baxendale.)
Self-propagating power of example
Example is like the press: a thing done is the thought printed; it may be repeated if it cannot be recalled; it has gone forth with a self-propagating power, and may run to the ends of the earth, and descend from generation to generation. (H. Melvill.)
Influence of example
When in the Mexican war the troops were wavering, a general rose in his stirrups and dashed into the enemy’s lines, shouting, “Men, follow!” They, seeing his courage and disposition, dashed on after him and gained the victory. What men want to rally them for God is an example to lead them. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
The imitation of Christ
Man is observed to be a creature naturally given to imitation; examples have a great deal more influence on him than laws and precepts. This being the case, he is concerned to set before him the best examples. And because this is a thing wherein men generally fail, here the loving Jesus directs them to the worthiest object of their imitation!
I. WHEREIN ARE WE TO IMITATE CHRIST. As there are some duties that the gospel commands us, which yet Christ was not capable of, as repentance, etc., so, likewise, there are some actions of Christ which it would be folly in us to endeavour to imitate.
1. Negatively. We are not to imitate Christ in
(1) Those actions which He did by His extraordinary and Divine power. The poets relate that Salmoneus strove to imitate Jove’s thunder, and was slain with a real thunderbolt. Such may be expected to be the recompense of our presumptuous emulating the miraculous undertakings of Christ. And to these I may add those actions of His, which were arbitrary and absolute, as He was Lord of the world.
(2) In His actions as Redeemer He both did and suffered many things thus, which were peculiar to Him, and above our imitation; and yet in some sense we are to make Him our pattern, even as to those. His nativity must be copied out in our spiritual birth; His cross bearing, crucifixion Galatians 2:20; Galatians 6:14), death (Romans 6:8; Colossians 2:20; 2 Timothy 2:11), sacrifice (Romans 12:1) by ours. He was buried, and we must (Romans 6:4) find a grave for our sins. He was raised and we must rise (Colossians 3:1; Romans 6:4). And, as Christ was exalted, so God exalts us in Him (Ephesians 2:6).
(3) In some actions which He did in His peculiar state and condition, e.g., we are not authorized by His example to choose a life of poverty; for we are not in the same circumstances with Him.
(4) In those acts He did only to signify and teach some greater thing, as the feet washing--e.g., the apostles, it is true, washed one another’s feet, in imitation of their Lord’s example, yet this only the custom of that country. In this country it would only be apish imitation, and like those who wore sandals, preached on the house tops, and saluted no man by the way, etc.
2. Positively. Imitate Christ in
(1) His humility and condescension. How this appears in His birth, subjection to His parents, trade, choice of companions, and object of ministry! And, as He was humble Himself, so he reproved pride and haughtiness of spirit in others (Matthew 18:2-4; Luke 22:24, etc.; Matthew 20:27). And under Christ’s humility I may reckon His obedience to the government He lived under (Matthew 17:27). “Render unto Caesar,” etc. And as Christ’s whole life so His death was an amazing act of condescension (Philippians 2:6-8).
(2) In His self-denial and mortification. These He eminently showed in divers emergencies of His life; in despising the world’s
(a) Honour and applause. He obscured even His Divinity itself for many years, and sometimes when He wrought miracles He would not lot them take air (John 8:50).
(b) Riches (Matthew 8:20).
(d) In His entire resigning Himself to God’s will (John 5:30; John 6:38).
(e) In that He was pleased to bear with the infirmities and frailties of Romans 15:1-3).
(3) In His extensive love and exact justice towards men. I join these because be that acts charitably gives men their due, and he that acts justly proves kind. None was a greater observer of honest dealing than our Lord Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:21). And that He was also charitable, everything that He did was a proof (Acts 10:38). As He lived so He died a most compassionate lover of souls. Still He propounds Himself as a pattern to us. Being a loving Saviour, He calls on us to love one another John 13:35).
(4) In His religious and devout converse with God. In His love for and attendance at God’s house. In His private converse with God (Luke 22:44; Luke 22:44; Hebrews 5:7). His meditation, etc. In these things let our Lord be our pattern, leaving behind us the noise and business of the world.
(5) In His patient and undaunted deportment under His extraordinary sufferings (Hebrews 12:1-3).
(6) In His constant beating down of sin and vice, and His encouraging and promoting of holiness, by all that He said or did. Was there ever a more eminent reprover of sin than our Lord?
II. THE REASONS WHY WE ARE TO IMITATE CHRIST.
1. Because His example is the exactest that we can follow.
(1) Some examples of virtue are counterfeit. The Papists impiously take St. Francois to be the exact image of Christ. And you may read in their legends of other persons who were canonized for the prodigious holiness of their lives. But Christ’s example is no fiction.
(2) The examples of those saints that are true and real are very imperfect, and often mixed with sinful miscarriages, and therefore not the fittest to be followed by us. Christ alone is an unblemished pattern (2 Peter 2:22).
(3) The examples of the best of men are only so far imitable by us, as they are conformable to the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
2. It was the design of God in sending His Son into the world, that He should be an example to us.
3. This is the great character of Christianity, and the main thing whereby we are able to demonstrate ourselves to be true Christians (1 John 2:6).
4. Christ’s own command.
5. This is it which brings repute to Christianity, and renders it honourable and praiseworthy.
6. This is that which yields us solid comfort, and gives us certain hopes of eternal happiness.
III. THE APPLICATION.
1. Ask yourselves seriously whether you have set Christ’s example before you, and have endeavoured to imitate it.
2. Lament both in ourselves and others our neglect of taking Christ for our example.
3. Let this grief and shame lead us to our duty.
(1) Make use of Christ’s example to repel the temptation that you are under. As when you are tempted to pride, think how humble a Saviour you had. When you are tempted to deal unjustly, consider how upright He was. When you find yourselves allured by pleasure allay your extravagant desires by calling to mind what a severe observer of temperance the Holy Jesus was.
(2) Set this before you when you are to enterprise any virtuous action.
4. Often peruse the holy life and dough of Jesus.
5. Be convinced of the matchless excellency and beauty of Christ. (John Edwards, D. D.)
Christ our example
There were in Greece certain fields called Palaestrae, where young men exercised themselves in wrestling. In these were set up statues of some valiant champions, that the young wrestlers might fix their eyes upon them and so be encouraged. Can we choose a better champion than Christ to eye and imitate. (J. Trapp.)
Imitation of Christ in sacrifice
Are you not trying to build your nests high, and to feather them with down? Are you not trying to provide for the future, so that you shall escape trouble and care? Has the idea entered into your mind that suffering is the baptism of holiness? that it brings you into the likeness of Christ, and that it is to be, not suffering for your own sake, but suffering that other men may be wiser and purer, and truer and juster? Is this the foundation upon which you are building your activity? Can we be saviours of the world, and none of us be willing to suffer, and all of us be fierce for vengeance? Can we be saviours of the world, and all of us carry the whip of justice, and none of us carry the sweet incense and perfume of love? Shall all pulpits, all papers, all Churches, all Christians of every name, clamour for justice, justice, justice, and not one speak of that crowned Sufferer who stood silent and meek, though the world thundered about Him and rolled in upon Him, and overwhelmed Him even unto death? Go! go! ye sons of Zebedee, that want to stand high, but do not want to take the cup or the baptism! But if any man would follow Christ, let him be silent in the presence of that most august spectacle of time--the Saviour crowned with thorns! (H. W. Beecher.)
The family likeness
A little boy had lost his sister. There was no portrait of her. It was before the days of photographs. He begged his parents to get a painter to make a picture of his sister, Remonstrance did not silence him, and finally he was sent to visit friends in Boston, and was told that he might see if he could find a painter who would undertake to make a picture of his sister. The friends humoured him, and took him to the studios of several artists; but they all shook their heads. At last one young artist said: “Come with me, and see if you can find any faces that look like your sister’s.” He took the little boy to a large gallery of portraits. Soon one picture attracted the child’s attention. “That’s like her eyes,” he said. Then another--“that’s like her mouth.” Another had “her hair,” another “her forehead,” and so on. The artist put all these features together, and succeeded in making a good portrait of the boy’s sister. In the same way we can supply the likeness of Christ. We do not find all His portrait in any one person. But pick it out, feature by feature, among the different members of His family, and we can make it into one harmonious whole. (New Testament Anecdotes.)
If ye know these things happy are ye if ye do them
Knowing and doing
1. In order to do anything, anywhere, we must know. This is so in the natural world. The laws of nature are determinate over her whole empire, and the triumphs of science are but the discoveries of occult law. It is so also in the moral universe. There law is supreme and intelligent, whether revealed in Scripture or written on the heart. This we must know to obey, for where there is no knowledge of it there is no transgression. There are some who think that religion is a thing of emotion, and has nothing to do with the intellect, and herein those old systems, which so long swayed the spirits of men, were essentially defective. Christianity appeals to the whole man. Ignorance is not the mother of devotion, but of squalor and crime. Christ came that whosoever believed in Him should not “walk in darkness,” etc.
2. This knowledge must be clear and certain. A confused or contradictory or partial revelation would either bewilder us, drive us to despair, or paralyse our efforts. There must be a revelation
(1) Of God.
(a) In His nature, that we may avoid impiety in our worship.
(b) In His character, that we may grow up into His likeness.
(c) In His will, that we may neither cumber ourselves with needless restrictions, nor indulge in unworthy compromises.
(2) Of man.
(a) In His capacity, that we may know that we are not overtasked.
(b) In His fall, that we may taste the bitterness of the wormwood.
(c) In His helplessness that we may be humbled from our pride, and driven to rely on the succours of another.
(3) Of Christ, whose atonement is life from the dead.
(4) Of immortality that we may feel the importance of our stewardship.
3. God has provided for this knowledge in
(1) The Bible.
(2) The interpreting Spirit.
(3) A living ministry. Ignorance, therefore, is not misfortune but guilt.
II. OBEDIENCE, without which knowledge is an aggravation of transgression, and for the sake of which knowledge is given. This obedience
1. Is the essence of religion--“Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.”
2. Is a test of affection towards Christ. “If ye love Me keep My commandments.”
3. Is not meritorious, but simply dutiful.
4. Must have respect to the fixed rule of Divine law and the whole of it. We must not lower the standard of right either for fashion, affection, or persecution.
5. Must be whole-hearted. We must not pick and choose.
6. Must regard the spirit as well as the letter of the command.
7. Must have as its motive power not fear but love.
8. Must be constant; not strict on Sunday and lax during the week; not dependent on feelings or associations, but on principle.
9. Must endure to the end.
III. HAPPINESS. The result in which this knowledge and obedience will issue. The satisfaction
1. Of understood and discharged duty.
2. Of God’s consequent and manifested favour.
3. Of the hope of reward in heaven. (W. M. Punshon, LL. D.)
Knowing and doing
I. WE SHOULD STRIVE TO KNOW OUR DUTY.
1. What kind of knowledge?
(1) Clear and distinct (1 Peter 3:15).
(2) Scriptural (John 5:39; Isaiah 1:12).
(4) Universal (Psalms 119:6).
(5) Growing (2 Peter 3:18).
2. What duties?
(1) Toward God.
(a) Repentance (Matthew 4:17).
(b) Faith (John 14:1).
(c) Love (Matthew 22:37).
(2) To man.
(a) Love (Matthew 5:44).
(b) Justice (Matthew 7:12; Matthew 22:21).
(c) Mercy (Luke 6:36).
(d) Humility (John 13:4-8).
3. Why should we know our duty.
(1) Because the law and gospel were both written for this end John 20:31).
(2) To know a duty is itself a duty commanded (1 Peter 3:18).
(3) We can perform no duty without we first know it (Romans 10:1).
4. Labour then to know your duty, Consider
(1) Ignorance is the cause of all error (Matthew 22:29).
(2) You have all means requisite for this knowledge in the Scriptures.
(3) It is then your own fault if you know not how to serve God (Hos 42:9).
(4) Hence you will be inexcusable at the day of judgment, and have greater condemnation (John 3:19).
II. WE SHOULD DO WHAT WE KNOW.
1. How should we perform all the commands of Christ?
(1) From such principles as Christ commands.
(a) Love (Galatians 5:6).
(b) A desire to please God (1 Thessalonians 4:1).
(2) In a right manner.
(a) Understandingly (1 Corinthians 14:15).
(b) Willingly (Psalms 110:3).
(c) Cheerfully (Romans 12:8; Psalms 40:8).
(d) Believingly (Romans 14:23; Hebrews 13:6).
(e) With all our might (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
(f) Humbly (James 4:6), so as never to think we can do enough Luke 17:10), nor merit anything (Galatians 2:16), but that our best duties are full of infirmities (Isaiah 64:6).
(3) To a right end
(a) Not for vain glory (Matthew 6:1) or temporal interest; but
(b) for God’s glory (Matthew 5:16; 1 Corinthians 10:31), and in order to our own salvation (1 Corinthians 9:27).
2. Why should we perform all the commands of Christ?
(1) This was His end in commanding them.
(2) The only way whereby to manifest ourselves to be His disciples (chap. 14:15).
(3) He deserves this after all He has done for us.
(4) Our baptism and subsequent vows pledge us to this.
III. THEY THAT DO GOD’S COMMANDS ARE HAPPY
1. In this life.
(1) We shall not fear the curses of the law (Malachi 2:2), nor the wrath of God (Psalms 7:11.
(2) Our consciences will be clear (2 Corinthians 1:12).
(3) Our souls will be kept in right order (Isaiah 57:20-21).
(4) We shall have the assistance and communion of the Holy Ghost John 16:7).
(5) God will be present with us (Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 43:2).
(6) He will direct us (Proverbs 3:6; Psalms 25:12).
(7) Make all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28).
(8) Discover His special love to us and ours to Him (1 John 5:3), and that we are His children (John 1:12).
(9) Have a title to everlasting life (Matthew 19:16-17).
2. In the world to come.
(1) In our freedom from pain (Revelation 21:4), and sin Ephesians 5:27).
(2) In our company--saints, angels, God.
(3) In our employments--perfect service, perfect praise.
(4) In our privileges--admission to God’s presence, sight of His glory, fruition of desire.
(5) In our enjoyments.
(a) Perfection of soul and body (Philippians 3:21; Hebrews 12:23).
(b) The infinite love and favour of God.
(c) All the pleasures that our natures are capable of (Psalms 16:11; Psalms 17:15), forever (Matthew 25:46). (Bp. Beveridge.)
Knowing and doing
I. THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THOSE WHO KNOW.
II. THE BLESSEDNESS OF THOSE WHO KNOW AND DO.
III. THE CULPABILITY OF THOSE WHO KNOW AND DO NOT.
IV. THE DESTITUTION OF THOSE WHO KNOW NOT. (S. S. Times.)
The reciprocal relations and blessedness of knowing and doing
We must not think that we have then obtained to the right knowledge of the truth when we have broken through the outward shell of words and phrases that house it up; or when, by logical analysis, we have found out the dependencies and coherences of them one with another, or when, like stout champions of it, having well guarded it with the invincible strength of our demonstration, we dare stand out in the face of the world and challenge the field of all those who pretend to be our rivals. We have many grave and reverend idolaters that worship truth only in the image of their own wits; that could never adore it so much as they may seem to do, were it anything else but such a form of belief as their wandering speculations had at last met together in; were it not that they find their own image and superscription on it. There is a knowing of “the truth as it is in Jesus”--as it is in a Christ-like nature, as it is in that sweet, mild, humble, and loving spirit of Jesus, which spreads itself, like a morning sun, upon the souls of good men, full of light and life. There is an inward beauty, life and loveliness in Divine truth, which cannot be known but when it is digested into life and practice. (John Smith, M. A.)
Knowledge and practice necessary in religion
Two things make up religion, the knowledge and the practice of it; and the first is wholly in order to the second. God hath not revealed to us the knowledge of Himself and His will, merely for the improvement of our understanding, but for the bettering of our hearts and lives. Our Saviour, in the text, from a particular instance, settles this general conclusion.
I. THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD’S WILL AND OUR DUTY IS NECESSARY, IN ORDER TO THE PRACTICE OF IT. Rome teaches that “ignorance is the mother of devotion,” and locks up from the people the great storehouse of Divine knowledge. In justification of this, it is pretended that knowledge is apt to puff men up, to make them disobedient, and heretical. For answer to this pretence, consider
1. That, unless this be the necessary effect of knowledge in religion, and of the free use of the Holy Scriptures, there is no force in this reason, for that which is useful ought not to be taken away, because it is liable to be abused. If it ought, then all knowledge ought to be suppressed; light, and liberty, and reason, yea, life itself ought to be taken away. But if the knowledge of religion is of its own nature pernicious, then the blame of all this would fall upon our Saviour for revealing, and upon His apostles for publishing, it in a known tongue to all mankind.
2. But this is only accidental and through men’s abuse of it, for which the thing itself ought not to be taken away. If any man abuse the Holy Scriptures he does it at his peril. We must not hinder men from being Christians, to preserve them from being heretics, and put out men’s eyes, for fear they should dispute their way with their guides. St. Paul (1 Corinthians 8:1) takes notice of this accidental inconvenience, but the remedy which he prescribes (1 Corinthians 14:1-40) is that the service of God be so performed as may be for the edification of the people; and that charity shall govern knowledge and help to make right use of it (1 Corinthians 14:20). There is nothing in the Christian religion, but what is fit for every man to know, for it is all designed to promote holiness. Men, therefore, ought not to be debarred of it.
3. The proper effects of ignorance are equally pernicious, and much more certain than those which are accidentally occasioned by knowledge; for so far as a man is ignorant of his duty, it is impossible he should do it. He that hath the knowledge of religion may be a bad Christian; but he that is destitute of it can be none at all (Proverbs 19:2). Because nothing is religious that is not a reasonable service, and no service can be reasonable that is not directed by our understanding. The end of prayers, e.g., is to testify of our own wants, and of our dependence upon God for supply; it is impossible, therefore, that any man should be said to pray who does not understand what he asks; and the saying over so many pater nosters by one that does not understand them is no more a prayer than the repeating over so many verses in Virgil. And if men must not be permitted to know so much as they can in religion, for fear they should grow troublesome, then the best way to maintain peace would be to let the people know nothing in religion, and to keep the priests as ignorant as the people, but then the mischief would be, that, out of a fondness to maintain peace in the Church, there would be no Church, nor no Christianity; which would be the same wise contrivance, as if a prince should destroy his subjects to keep his kingdom quiet.
4. If this reason be good, it is much stronger for withholding the Scriptures from the priests and the learned than from the people, for most of the famous heresies have their names from some learned man. The ancient fathers frequently prescribe to the people the constant and careful reading of the Scriptures as the surest antidote against the poison of dangerous errors. And if the word of God be so improper a means to this end, one would think that the teachings of men should be much less effectual; so that men must either be left in their ignorance, or they must be permitted to learn from the word of truth.
5. This danger was as great in the age of the apostles as now; and yet they took a quite contrary course.
II. THE KNOWLEDGE OF OUR DUTY, AND THE PRACTICE OF IT, MAY, AND OFTEN ARE, SEPARATED. Our Saviour, elsewhere, supposes that many know their Master’s will, who do not do it; and He compares those that hear His sayings, and do them not, to a foolish man that built his house upon the sand. And St. James speaks of some who are “hearers of the word only, but not doers of it;” and for that reason fall short of happiness. There are three sorts of persons in whom the knowledge of religion is more remarkably separated from the practice of it.
1. The speculative Christian, who makes religion only a science, and studies it as a piece of learning. He hath no design to practise it, but he is loth to be ignorant of it, because the knowledge of it is a good ornament of conversation, and will serve for discourse and entertainment. And because he does not intend to practise it, he passeth over those things which are easy to be understood, and applies himself chiefly to the consideration of those which will afford matter of controversy. Of the same rank usually are the leaders of factions in religion, who, by endless disputes about things, commonly of no great moment, hinder themselves and others from minding the practice of the great and substantial duties of a good life.
2. The formal Christian, who takes up religion for a fashion. Such think they are very good Christians if they can give an account of the articles of their faith, profess their belief in God and Christ, and declare that they hope to be saved by Him, though they take no care to keep His commandments. These are they of whom our Saviour speaks in Luke 6:46.
3. Hypocritical Christians, who make an interest of religion, and serve some worldly design by it (2Ti 3:21.)
III. THE PRACTICE OF RELIGION IS THE ONLY WAY TO HAPPINESS.
1. The gospel makes the practice of religion a necessary condition of our happiness. Our Saviour, in His first sermon, where He repeats the promise of blessedness so often, makes no promise of it to the mere knowledge of religion, but to the habit and practice of Christian graces (Matthew 7:22-24; Romans 2:13; James 1:22-26; Hebrews 12:14).
2. As God hath made the practice of religion a necessary condition of our happiness, so the very nature and reason of the thing make it a necessary qualification for it. It is necessary that we become like to God, in order to the enjoyment of Him; and nothing makes us like to God but the practice of holiness and goodness (1 John 3:3). Conclusion:
1. The great end of all our knowledge in religion is to practice what we 1 John 2:8; 1 John 2:4).
2. Practice is the best way to increase and perfect our knowledge (John 7:17).
3. Without the practice of religion our knowledge is vain. (Abp. Tillotson.)
All light good
It is very sad to fail in duty from ignorance. And when that ignorance is very gross, the failure is generally so complete and so visible, that it is sure to meet with its appropriate punishment. The utter worthlessness into which men can sink who have never been taught any portion of the truth is a visible proof to us how much we owe to the light which has been shed over our own lives. Their condition clearly tells us what education does for us: what we gain from mere unassisted light. Mere light of intellect, without any direct consciousness of God or of Heaven, or of Christ, or of conscience, does a great and visible work. It sets a man free from many temptations, so that without making him, as far as we can see, at all a better man, it puts him in a better position. There are many gross sins which lose all their power over him, simply because other attractions are presented which are still more powerful. But this is not all, though this is much. Light of any kind invariably throws light upon duty, and if we know anything we are sure to have thereby a clearer knowledge of right from wrong. The mere awakening of the understanding must awaken the conscience in some degree. You cannot gain more intellectual power without also gaining moral light. Just as the coming of the daylight shows you the beauty of nature at the same moment that it shows you the position of surrounding objects, so, too, even the merest science must reveal in some slight degree the beauty of the Will of God. (Bishop Temple.)
Knowledge and obedience
I. KNOWLEDGE IS GOOD
1. In its nature.
2. In its contents.
3. It is an evil thing to be without it.
II. OBEDIENCE IS BETTER.
1. More rare.
2. More difficult.
3. Implies a better disposition of heart.
4. Produces far better effects.
III. HAPPINESS RESULTS FROM THEIR UNITED INFLUENCE. The real Christian is happy in
1. The real safety of his state.
2. In the approbation of conscience.
3. In the special favour of God.
4. In the earnest and hope of heaven.
1. The character of a true Christian.
2. The wise ordination of the gospel.
3. The necessity of the influence of the Holy Spirit. (T. Kidd.)
The comfort of duty
Rain falls on the Highland hills. Slipping down the bare sides, trickling along the roots of the heather, soaking through the bogs, past all obstacles, the waters make their way into the glen. They are not stopped there by the fallen trees, or the big boulders which impede their progress. On and on they traverse every barrier till they fall into the sea, out of which they came, and to which they ever tend. Thus, too, does comfort from doing that which duty demands meet with many an opposition, but it will surely sweep past them all, and shed into waiting hearts the consciousness that obligation fulfilled is associated with blessedness according to eternal law. (D. G. Watt, M. A.)
The blessedness of duty
Have you heard of that pious monk in the middle ages? He intensely desired to have one look at the Saviour’s bodily form, one gaze on His blessed and holy countenance. And one day as he was praying and meditating in his cell, “suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven,” and raising his eyes he beheld in the cloud of light one like unto the Son of God. But just as he was going to fix his eyes on the celestial vision, the monastery bell rang calling him to his duty. What did he do? Did he postpone his duties and stop to feast his soul on the sacred sight? No; the little monk immediately started to his feet, went out of his cell, took his turn at the outer gate, distributed charity to the necessitous that flocked to the monastery for much-needed help. Having completed his task, be returned to his apartment, sorry to think he had missed the vision for which he had been praying all his monastic life through. But, to his astonishment, there shone the Shekinah brighter than ever, and in the glowing radiance he beheld One, no longer like unto the Son of God, but “like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle,” and out of the ineffable Brightness came a voice, saying, “Hadst thou remained here to the neglect of duty I should have departed; but seeing thou preferrest duty to ease, come and see;” and thereupon He showed to the poor monk His hands and His feet. The conscientious Christian was filled with unspeakable delight, not unmixed with holy awe. You see the lesson: to taste the joy of religion you must perform its duties; to enter the inner court of sweet communion with God you must penetrate through the outer court of outward service. Through Judaism the world attained Christianity; and through duty shall we arrive at solid pleasure. (J. G. Jones, D. D.)
The secret of a happy life
I. HAPPINESS IS NOT ONLY A PRIVILEGE BUT A DUTY, because
1. It adorns religion. Christians are a book which everyone reads, and a happy face is a beautiful illustration in that book which is sure to attract the reader.
2. A happy mind is the cradle of all usefulness. Everyone does everything best when he is happy.
3. We are to be like God, and our God is a happy God.
4. We are rehearsing our eternity, and that is a happy heaven.
5. An unhappy man wrongs the Father,--for what father is not grieved if his child is not happy? He wrongs the Son--for what has not the Son done to make us happy? He wrongs the Holy Ghost, the “Spirit of joy?” So unhappiness is not so much a weakness to be pitied as a sin to be condemned and overcome?
II. WHAT, THEN, IS THE SECRET OF A HAPPY LIFE? To turn knowledge into practice, first to “know” and then to “do.” But then is not happiness the cause of a good life? Yes, the two act and re-act forever. I believe that Christ died for me, that my debt is paid, and I free. In that belief all happiness begins before I do a single work, and makes me do it? But then how is this consistent with our Lord’s words, “Know” what? “Do” what? I know that Christ has borne my punishment, and that I am saved. What I am to do with that knowledge is to turn it into faith. I have the knowledge of salvation through faith, and my believing it is the doing.
1. I come, then, to the first principle of a happy life, that sense of freedom which springs from a sense of pardon. A man may be called a happy man; he may be a merry man; but how can he be really happy with unforgiven sins, with dark retrospects, and awful visions of the future scaring him.
2. What Christ appears to have had specially in His mind here--love and humility. It is pride which stands in the way of most persons’ happiness. Personal pride--of beauty, or intellect, never getting what they expect from it, and therefore always mortified; pride of wealth and grandeur; spiritual pride. The man who has now chosen the lower ground will
(1) Always have Jesus at his side. He carries with him “the Light of Life.” Therefore he walks in the sunshine.
(2) Have a secret communion going on with God.
(3) And walking with frequent converse with Him, we gradually take something of the mind of God, our judgment unites itself to God’s judgment--our will to God’s will--without which there never can be a happy life. Until that, all life is a conflict between man and God.
(4) And so we arrive at a strange independence of this present world. We may have and enjoy human friendships; we are independent of them. And the trials and sorrows prove only evidences that we are the children of God; that our education is for home.
(5) And every true child of God has some work which he is doing for Him. And work for God is happiness. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
The good practitioner
I. KNOWLEDGE ALONE IN THE MYSTERIES OF RELIGION WILL NOT MAKE A MAN HAPPY (Matthew 7:21; Luke 6:46). His knowledge might make a man admired, but not blessed. I would not disparage knowledge: knowledge is the pilot to guide us in our obedience; if zeal be not according to knowledge, it is will-worship, the setting up an altar to an unknown God. Knowledge is the elder sister, but here the elder must serve the younger: knowledge may put us into the way of happiness, but it is only practice brings us thither.
1. Knowledge alone doth not make a man better, therefore it cannot make him happy; it informs, not transforms: a man may receive the truth in the light of it, not in the love of it (2 Thessalonians 2:10 : Romans 2:20). Knowledge alone makes men monsters in religion; they are all head but no feet (Colossians 2:6). A man may have knowledge and be neglective of his duty; and have a clear head, and a foul heart, as the sun may shine on a dirty way.
2. Knowledge alone will not save, therefore it will not make a man happy. Hell is full of learned heads.
3. Knowledge alone makes a man’s case worse, therefore it cannot make him happy.
(1) It takes away all excuse and apology (John 15:22).
(2) It adds to a man’s torment (Luke 12:47). If a king cause his proclamation to be published, the subject knows it, but obeys not, this doth the more incense the king against him. Better be ignorant than knowingly disobedient.
4. Use. Get knowledge, but do not rest in it (Ecclesiastes 1:18). To know only to know is like one that knows certain countries by the map, and can discourse of them, but never travelled into them, nor tasted the sweet spices of those countries. So the gnostic in religion hath heard and read much of the beauty of holiness, but never travelled into religion, nor tasted how good the Lord is; what is it the better to have the Bible in our heads if not in our hearts? You do not call him an handicraftsman who doth not work in his trade: so it is improper to call him a Christian who hath knowledge, but no practice.
II. IT IS THE PRACTICAL PART OF RELIGION MAKES A MAN HAPPY.
1. There must be practice, because it is only that which answers God’s end in giving us His Word both written and preached (Leviticus 18:4; Deuteronomy 26:16). If you speak to your children, it is not only that they may know your mind, but do it. God gives us His Word not only as a picture to look upon, but as a copy to write after. The master gives his servant a candle, not to gaze on, but to work by; and so David calls the Word of God, not a lamp to his eyes, but a lantern to his feet.
2. It is only the practice of religion that makes a man happy. It appears by Scripture (James 1:25; Acts 7:22; Matthew 25:34-35; Revelation 22:12). By reason, happiness is not attainable but in the use of means; and the use of means implies practice (Philippians 2:12). There can be no crown without running, no recompense without diligence.
(1) If it be only the doing part of religion makes men happy, then it sharply reproves them who know much, yet do nothing. It is better to practice one truth than to know all. But why do so few come up to the practical part of religion? Surely it is
(a) For want of humility.
(b) Want of faith (Isaiah 53:1).
(c) The difficulty of it. It is easy to hear a truth, to make a profession of it; but to digest it into practice, men are loath to put themselves to too much trouble (Proverbs 19:15). But it costs many a sinner more labour in toiling about his lusts than it costs a saint in serving his God.
(d) The world comes between and hinders.
(2) It exhorts all to become practitioners in religion. Note the following:
(a) Obedience is an evidence of sincerity (John 10:25).
(b) Practice will both honour religion and propagate it.
(c) Thus we show our love to Christ (John 14:21).
(d) Without practice you will come short of them who have come short of heaven (Mark 6:20).
(e) What unspeakable comfort will obedience yield both in life and death.
(f) What is the end of all God’s administrations, promises, threatenings, but obedience (Deuteronomy 11:28).
(g) Consider what a sin disobedience is, against reason (1 Corinthians 10:22), against equity, against conscience (Malachi 1:6); against kindness, against nature, since every creature in its kind obeys God; against self-preservation (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).
(h) The benefit of obedience (Psalms 19:11). So saith the text. If this argument will not prevail, what will?
(3) Some rules to help Christians in their obedience. Obedience must be
(a) Cordial (Deuteronomy 26:16; Romans 6:17). The heart is the seat of love, and it is love perfumes every duty. The heart makes service a free will offering, else it is but a tax.
(b) Extensive--it must reach to all God’s commandments (1 Kings 9:4; Luke 1:6).
(c) Believing (Hebrews 11:6; Romans 16:26).
(d) Constant (Revelation if. 26). Faith must lead the van, and perseverance must bring up the rear. (T. Watson.)
Religion essentially practical
The object of religion is conduct; and conduct is really, however men may overlay it with philosophical disquisitions, the simplest thing in the world as far as understanding is concerned: as regards doing, the hardest. Here is the difficulty--to do what we very well know ought to be done. This difficulty is great enough to satisfy the most voracious appetite for difficulties. It extends to rightness in the whole range of what we call conduct; in three-fourths, therefore, at the lowest computation, of human life. The only doubt is whether we ought not to make the range of conduct wider still, and say it is four-fifths of human life, or five-sixths. Now, certainly we need not go far about to prove that conduct is in a special manner the object of Bible religion Isaiah 56:1; Isaiah 56:1; Psalms 50:23; Psalms 50:23; 2 Timothy 2:19). But instantly there will be raised the objection that this is morality and not religion which, some people suppose is identical with speculative theology. Religion, however, means simply either a binding to righteousness, or else a serious attention to righteousness and dwelling upon it; the antithesis between ethical and religious is thus quite a false one. Ethical means practical, it relates to conduct passing into habit or disposition. Religious also means practical, only in a still higher degree: if we follow the intention of human thought and language in the use of the word, it is ethics heightened, enkindled, lit up by feeling. The passage from religion to morality is when to morality is applied emotion. And the true meaning of religion is thus, not simply morality, but morality touched by emotion. And this new elevation and inspiration of morality is well marked by the word “righteousness.” Conduct is the word of common life, morality of philosophical disquisition, righteousness of religion. (Matthew Arnold.)
I speak not of you all
A last appeal
A SOLEMN ANNOUNCEMENT.
1. The reason of it.
(1) To indicate Christ’s knowledge of the human heart, and to show that He had not been mistaken in Judas (John 13:18). Had it not been made it would have appeared as though Christ were not omniscient.
(2) To direct the disciples’ minds to an impressive fulfilment of Scripture (John 13:18).
(3) To confirm the faith of the disciples in Himself (John 13:19).
(4) To arrest, and if yet possible rescue, the soul of Judas.
2. The certainty of it (John 13:21). “Amen, amen.” Had any other made the announcement it would have been rejected with scorn.
3. The effect of it.
(1) It filled the Saviour with horror (John 13:21), just as He had been perturbed at Lazarus’s grave (John 11:33).
(2) It plunged the disciples into consternation and dismay (John 13:22).
II. AN ANXIOUS QUESTION (John 13:25).
1. Moved by Peter, with characteristic impetuosity, who thought perhaps that John was in the secret, but he was equally ignorant.
2. Proposed by John
(1) With affection--leaning back till his head rested on Jesus’s breast.
(2) With reverence--“Lord.”
(3) With pity for Christ, who should suffer, and the disciple who should inflict so sad a fate.
(4) With humility and self-examination--as if he dreaded it should be himself; and yet surely
(5) With conscious innocence--though Judas had the effrontery to ask, “Is it I?”
III. AN EXPLICIT ANSWER (verse 26).
1. Clearly given.
2. Defiantly accepted.
3. Strangely misunderstood (verse 28). Lessons
1. Christ in His Church a searcher of hearts.
2. The possibility of sitting at Christ’s table without being a true disciple, of enjoying religious ordinances without possessing grace, of falling from Christ so far as to lift the heel against Him.
3. Apostasies, though they do not affect Christ’s position in the Church, are occasions of pain.
4. John-like spirits are most likely to obtain from Christ revelations of His grace and truth.
5. Christ loves those who hate Him; but he who will not be won by that love must eventually fall into the devil’s grasp. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
A four-fold theme for thought
I. A SOLEMN TRUTH (John 13:18)--“I know whom I have chosen.” Christ knows His disciples--the true and false--their works and their hearts--all they have been, are, and shall be. “He knew what was in man.” Then
1. He does not require of us what will out measure our faculties. He loves us too much, and is too just for this.
2. The services that are not rendered Him from the heart are of no value in His sight. Formality and insincerity are worse than worthless.
3. Every one that names His name should depart from evil.
II. A LAMENTABLE FACT. “He that eateth bread,” etc. Judas was guilty of
1. The basest ingratitude.
2. The grossest avarice.
3. The most daring impiety. Such a fact as this shows
(1) Possibility that should lead us all to the most rigorous heart scrutiny. Here we see that a man may be in close contact with Christ and yet have no spiritual connection with Him.
(2) That Christ coerces no man into His service. He leaves each to act for himself.
III. A BENEFICENT WARNING (John 13:19).
1. Against a probable danger to the other disciples. Had the conduct of Judas broken suddenly on them, they might have received a moral shock which would have imperilled their faith.
2. For the purpose of fortifying their faith in the Messiah by the very means of the betrayal as foreannounced.
IV. A GLORIOUS ASSURANCE (John 13:20). This shows that His faithful disciples were
1. Identified with Him. The treatment they receive is regarded as being rendered to Him.
2. As He was identified with the Father
(1) By official work.
(2) By vital sympathy. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The history of Judas in relation to the Divine dealings
The history of Judas is but the record of a human life. He was a man like ourselves, subject therefore to temptation and struggle, and one with the freedom and responsibility which belong to us all. This will save us from fatalism, and in the face of many dark problems here is our safe starting point. Learn that
I. MEN MAY FRUSTRATE CHRIST’S PURPOSES CONCERNING THEM. Christ gave Judas responsible work and a noble calling, and educated him for it all. But the training was worse than useless, the privileges were abused, and the sacred trust betrayed. Yet Christ would have had delight in Judas’s wellbeing and success. But all was frustrated, and the bitter lament over Jerusalem had its reference to Judas. We all share this terrible power, and could we see how we have used it we should live much nearer to Him for the rest of our lives.
II. THE MERCY OR GOD WHICH WOULD SAVE US MAY RUIN US. Judas had gifts: Christ employed them. His very position brought its dangers: Christ trusted him. Not indeed without warning him (John 6:70-71). And as the besetting sin was yielded to, and the downward course became more and more marked, where was Judas so likely to be kept from evil as in Christ’s company. Accordingly he was retained at his post and was still trusted. Yet the mercy which would have saved ruined him. For, turning from the source of Goodness, he said, “Evil, be thou my good.” Each of us may apply this principle.
III. MAN’S SIN IS OVERRULED TO DISPLAY THE DIVINE GOODNESS. Thomas doubted: We obtain an additional proof of Christ’s resurrection. Judas betrayed: Jesus died. It did not require a Judas to save the world, or the hatred of the Sanhedrim to fulfil God’s promises. Yet the sin of the world runs up into typical acts, and in a profoundly representative sense the sin of Judas was ours. This sin was overruled for God’s glory and man’s good. And through it all Judas was free, as is every sinner, as proved from common consent, conscience, and such words as “can,” “ought,” etc. Christ too is free and maketh the wrath of man to praise Him.
IV. THE BEARING OF ALL THIS ON THE PRESENCE OF JUDAS IN THE CHURCH. Men may know not that they are there: but Christ knows them. Each service in the upper room repeated. John is there, and it may be Judas, so is Christ. If so the love that spares is the love that would save. How must Christ have looked on Judas, yet he went out madly from that saving Presence. “And I saw there was a way to hell from the gate of heaven.” Two apostles sinned grossly. Judas went out from the presence of Christ to meet the night; Peter, broken-hearted, to meet the dawn. Which will you follow? (G. T. Keeble.)
The sin and folly of the crime of Judas
Once, I think, there was great joy in a certain house in Kerioth, because there a child had just been born. I think this joy broke out in the name given to the child. Call him “Praise,” that is, Judah. But the parents were not prophets; and years after this, Jesus said of him, “It had been good for that man if he had not been born!” This saying darkly intimates that the sin of Judas was unparalleled. “Esau for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” But Judas sold Christ! For a man to sell his soul for some passing paltry profit is enough to make him infamous. But Judas sold Christ! John Bunyan tells us that long after he loved Christ he was tempted for the space of a year to sell and part with the blessed Christ for the things of this life. The tempter, he says, “would intermix in such sort with all I did, that I could not eat my food, nor stoop to pick up a pin, nor chop a stick, without hearing this whisper--Sell Christ--sell Him for this--sell Him for that. Sell Him! sell Him!” But Judas actually sold Christ. You may have had some moment of spiritual delirium, when some one sinful gratification seemed to be so irresistible that your heart swore that you would have it, come what might; but God’s hand snatched you back just in time, and His Spirit showed the truth in its light, and made you resolve not to buy bliss that was only for a moment, at the cost of bliss everlasting. The temptation was fearful; for it was to part with your portion in Christ. But the sin of Judas was that he sold Christ Himself. Sometimes men treat Christ with profanity, partly because they are steeped in ignorance; and all the while they are sinning the Intercessor’s plea for them is “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Judas knew what he did. He had heard Christ say, “Before Abraham was, I am;” “I and My Father are one.” He had witnessed His grand manifestations as King of the air, of the water, of the dead, of spirits; and yet Judas sold Christ! What did he sell Him for? The old German story reports that the astrologer Faustus sold his soul to the evil one for twenty-four years of earthly happiness. What was the bargain in this case? The auctioneer had tempting lists to show; what was it that tempted Judas? He sold his Lord for thirty somethings. What things? Thirty years of right over all the earth, with all the trees of the forests, all the fowls of the mountains, and the cattle upon a thousand hills? For thirty armies, or thirty fleets? Thirty stars? Thirty centuries of power to reign majestically on hell’s burning throne? No, for thirty shillings, i.e., £3 10s. (C. Stanford, D. D.)
I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled.
Why did Christ choose Judas
Christ chose him for what he was, and what he might have been, not for what he became. Christ chooses men not for their attainments, but for their possibilities. Do you suppose Christ chooses men for their ability or their character? He chooses them that He may give them character and inspire new capacities within them. He chooses twelve men, and one was a traitor; the average of treachery in human life is usually higher than that. Moreover, the election of Christ does not fetter the free will of a man. In a certain high and almost inscrutable sense it is true that it all happens “that it may be fulfilled;” for though the bad man may seem an accident he is not, but in some way fits into a Divine order. The wild wind roars through the troubled heaven, but somewhere there is a sail to catch it, so that all its fierceness is yoked to fairest uses, and transformed into a mysterious helpfulness. There are no accidents in the Divine order; the harvest of today is the fruitful child of the storm weather of a century ago; it was all that it might be fulfilled. But whatever may be the ultimate issue of events, the will of man works freely within their circumference. Christ has chosen every living soul, and called him; yet few there are that shall be saved. You are as free to work evil in an apostleship as in a fisherman’s boat. Nay more, if this man was so cursed and burdened with evil aptitudes, was it not an act of Divinest mercy to call to him an apostleship? There are some men who never would be Christians at all unless they were Christian ministers. They need the constraint of solemn responsibilities; the only chance of saving them is to set them to save others. And, looked at in this light of human experience, how Divine was that discernment which chose Judas, and gave him this unique opportunity of making his calling and election sure beneath the very eyes of Jesus! For the evils which destroyed Judas had not ripened in him when Jesus called him. He came in the untainted freshness of faith, perhaps in the unbroken energy of youth. He had more than ordinary capacity, for at once he became the organiser of the little society, its steward, its financier, the custodian of its means. To paint him therefore in the light of the after event, as most painters have done, disfigured with the leer of low cunning, scowling with the meanness of baffled craft and delayed cupidity, is altogether false. He who paints Judas must put into his face the dying light of what was once noble enthusiasm--the shadowed eagerness of what was once heroic faith. He must paint a face full of the anguish of remembrance, the traces of perished nobility, the tragedy of overthrown ideals. In a word, we must remember Christ called him, and not in vain; Christ loved him, and not without cause; and howsoever dreadful the end may be, there was once a bright, a brilliant, and a beautiful beginning. (W. J.Dawson.)
He that eateth bread with Me, is equivalent to “a professed friend,” “an intimate acquaintance”--“a familial friend,” as the psalmist has it in the place referred to. To “lift up the heel,” according to some is a figure borrowed from the practice of wrestlers in lifting up the foot, for the purpose of overthrowing an antagonist. The more probable account is, that the figure is that of a vicious horse or ox, receiving food from the hand of its owner, and yet lifting up the heel to give him a stroke which may be fatal to him. The meaning of the whole expression seems to be, “a highly favoured associate is prepared secretly to inflict on me a very severe injury.” (J. Brown, D. D.)
In considering this prophecy show
I. IN WHOM IT MAY BE SAID TO BE FULFILLED.
1. The Atheist.
2. The infidel.
3. The hypocrite.
4. The apostate.
II. WHAT WE MAY LEARN FROM ITS ACCOMPLISHMENT.
1. That Christianity must be true.
2. That the falls of its professors afford no just argument against it.
3. That no man can tell what evil he may perpetrate, if Satan be permitted to assault him.
4. That God’s conduct towards us is the very reverse of ours towards Him. (C. Simeon, M. A.)
The successive steps by which the traitor reached the climax of his guilt
The devil had already put it into his heart to betray the Lord (John 13:2).Wounded pride (Matthew 26:14), Satanic influence (Luke 22:3), and the love of money--these were the great evils that lay at the root of his conduct. And yet, who can tell what struggles he must have gone through ere he brought himself to carry his resolution into effect? (C. Ross.)
Warnings as to the conduct of the traitor
1. And, first of all, do we not see here what a hateful, detestable thing hypocrisy, treachery is in the sight of God. Oh see, only see, the Lord of Glory troubled in spirit as He approaches the painful subject. And let us remember, that hypocrisy is equally offensive to Him still.
2. Further, do we not see here that sin--that hardness of heart is a gradual, a progressive thing? Judas did not reach the climax of his guilt by a single leap, but step by step.
3. But still further, may we not learn from this narrative, that though the hypocrite and the hardened sinner may for a long time escape detection, yet at last he shall be disclosed. The Lord may indeed, in His long suffering, allow him to pass unknown, just to give him space and opportunity for repentance.
4. Finally, let the Lord’s true-hearted ones seek John’s place--leaning on the Master’s bosom. What a contrast between John and Judas--John leaning on Jesus’ breast, Judas proposing in his heart to betray Him! (C. Ross.)
Jesus … was troubled in spirit and testified
I. CHRIST IN SADNESS (verse 21). This was the distress
1. Of intense holiness in the presence of sin. The more holiness, the more sensitiveness to sin. Sometimes the optic nerve becomes so sensitive that a sunbeam will produce the greatest pain; and the auricular nerve so tender that the softest sound yields agony. And in some diseases a breath of air will throw the whole writhing frame into anguish. And so Judas sent a quiver through all the nerves of Christ’s pure soul.
2. Of the highest benevolence in the presence of a lost soul. The more love a being has, the more he feels the sufferings of others. Christ’s love was immeasurable, and He knew what a lost soul meant. We wonder not then that He was troubled as a lost soul stood before Him.
II. THE DISCIPLES IN ANXIETY (verse 22). Matthew and Mark tell us that they were exceeding sorrowful, and asked each, “Is it I?” The question implies two things.
1. Self-suspicion. Had they been certain of their incapability they would not have made such an appeal. None of them was confident of His impeccability. This self-suspicion is well founded in all souls, and is a help to our spiritual progress and safety. “Let him that thinketh he standeth.”
2. A desire to know the worst. Cowards close their, eyes on the worst, and delude themselves with the idea that all is right. It is to the spiritual interest of every man to know the worst here and now, for here and now it can be rectified. “Search me, O God! and know my heart,” etc.
III. THE TRAITOR UNMASKED.
1. The means of his detection (verse 26).
2. His domination by Satan (verse 27). Before we read that Satan had put the wicked deed into his heart; now he took possession of his soul.
3. His defiance by Christ, “What thou doest,” etc. “I defy thee to do thy worst. Do it and have done with it.”
4. His lamentable doom (verse 20). (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The Saviour’s trouble
These verses describe the last scene between our Lord and Judas before the betrayal. They never met again, excepting in the garden. Within a short time both the Holy Master and the treacherous servant were dead. They will never meet again till the trumpet sounds. What an awful meeting will that be! Let us mark
I. WHAT TROUBLE OUR LORD WENT THROUGH FOR THE SAKE OF OUR SOULS.
1. Our Master’s troubles are far beyond the conception of most people. The cross was only the completion of His sorrows (Isaiah 53:3).
2. But this trouble was an exceptional one--that of seeing an apostle becoming an apostate. Nothing is so hard to bear as ingratitude.” Sharper than a serpent’s tooth is a thankless child. Absalom’s rebellion was David’s heaviest trouble, and Judas’s Christ’s.
3. Passages like these should make us see
(1) The amazing love of Christ to sinners. How many cups of sorrow He drained to the dregs in working out our salvation, beside the mighty cup of bearing our sins!
(2) How little reason we have for complaining when friends fail us and men disappoint us.
(3) The perfect suitableness of Christ to be our Saviour. He can sympathize with us. He has suffered Himself, and can feel for those who are ill-used and forsaken.
II. THE POWER AND MALIGNITY OF OUR GREAT ENEMY, THE DEVIL. First he suggests: then he commands. First he knocks at the door and asks permission to come in: then, once admitted, he takes complete possession, and rules the whole inward man like a tyrant. Let us take heed that we are not “ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). He is still going to and fro in the earth, seeking whom he may devour. Our only safety lies in resisting him at the first. Strong as he is, he has no power to do us harm, if we cry to the stronger One and use the means which He has appointed James 4:7). Once let a man begin tampering with the devil, and he never knows how far he may fall.
III. THE EXTREME HARDNESS WHICH COMES OVER THE HEART OF A BACKSLIDING PROFESSOR OF RELIGION. One might have thought that the sight of our Lord’s trouble, and the solemn warning, “One of you shall betray Me,” would have stirred the conscience of this unhappy man, or the words, “That thou doest, do quickly.” But like one whose conscience was dead and buried, goes out to do his wicked work, and parts with his Lord forever. The extent to which we may harden ourselves by resisting light and knowledge is one of the most fearful facts in our nature. We may become past feeling, like those whose limbs are mortified before they die. We may lose entirely all sense of fear, or shame, or remorse. (Bp. Ryle.)
The sufferings of the soul of Jesus
What a spectacle! He who is inseparably united to the source of life and felicity, in sorrow; He who is the unfailing fountain of consolation to His children on earth, and of joy to the redeemed in heaven, in trouble and distress! We in vain look for external causes of this woe. Entering upon His last conflicts, He cries, “Now is My soul troubled.” These inward sufferings of our Redeemer were no less necessary than His external woes; the anguish of His soul was as requisite as the tortures of His cross.
1. Sin had defiled our souls as well as our bodies: nay, the soul had been the first source of disobedience; in it the throne of sin and Satan was erected, while the body was used only as its instrument. When Jesus, therefore, appeared as surety to expiate for our offences, it was needful that the agonies of His soul should unite with the pains of His body, in order to pay down a full ransom for us.
2. Besides, one great end of His incarnation and death was, that He might set before us a perfect pattern of holy conduct, a complete example of every virtue; so that in every circumstance we might cast our eyes upon Him, and learn our duty. But this great end could never have been accomplished, had our Redeemer experienced no sorrows of the soul, had He been a stranger to inward troubles.
3. And, finally, had only the body of Jesus suffered, we should have been deprived of a large portion of that consolation and support which is now afforded us by remembering the events of His life. Every afflicted Christian has been comforted by recollecting, that “we have not a High Priest who cannot be touched with a feeling of our infirmities,” but one who “was in all points tempted as we are,” and who will therefore sympathize with us in all our sorrows. The inward sorrows of men are, it is true, often criminal. Christ’s sorrows were ever holy: for in their source they were pure; in their degree, they did not transcend the measure which reason and religion required; and their effect never was to suspend His communion with His Father, to make Him pause in His laborious beneficence, or recoil from those sufferings which He was to undergo for our salvation. Under this trouble of spirit, Jesus has recourse to prayer. And how exalted is this testimony to the sublimity of the Redeemer’s character, and the benefits of His mediatorial work: “I have glorified My name.” In the incarnation of Immanuel, the wisdom and the faithfulness, and the love of God, had already been illustriously displayed. Yes, in these and in other modes the honour of the Divine name had been promoted by the Redeemer. But the voice from heaven added, “I will glorify it again,” more remarkably by Thy death and the great effects of Thy sacrifice. And has not this been fully verified? Had we time to display the Divine glory, as manifested in the Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension of Jesus; in the gift of the Holy Spirit; in the conversion of the Gentiles; you would instantly acknowledge that this declaration has been accomplished.
Look upwards, and see how there especially in the Cross the name of God is glorified.
1. The Divine perfections are there displayed in a degree infinitely greater than they are elsewhere manifested. You admire the goodness which shines in nature and providence; but what is this to that love which induced the Father to give the Son of His bosom to undergo such agonies for your salvation? You shudder at that justice and holiness which are announced in the Scriptures, which are heard in the thunders and glitter in the lightnings on Sinai; but they are more manifested in the tremendous sacrifice of Immanuel.
2. It is there that those perfections, which appeared irreconcilable, beautifully and completely harmonize. Holiness is exalted, while grace triumphs.
The rights of the Divine government are unimpaired, while the sinner is saved.
1. Careless and impenitent man, this subject should alarm thee! The woes which Jesus endured were suffered for the guilty. Refuse the gospel method of salvation, and thou sacrilegiously attemptest to rob God of His glory manifested in it. But wilt thou succeed?
2. Believer, in the anguish of Jesus, see the foundation of thy joy! He suffered that thou mightest triumph.
3. Communicants, approach the holy table. Contemplate the glories of God in the crucified Saviour. Retrace the mercy of your Redeemer. (H. Kollock, D. D.)
The practical uses of Christ’s troubles
Away with the argument of philosophers who say that a wise man is not liable to be troubled. Let the soul of the Christian be troubled with fear lest others perish, with sorrow when others perish, with desire that others may not perish, with joy when others are saved from perishing, with fear lest we ourselves perish, with sorrow because we are absent from Christ. And let us not despair when we are troubled by the prospect of death, for Christ was troubled by it. Thus He cheers infirm members in His Body--the Church--by the voluntary example of His own infirmity; thus He encourages Christians, if they find themselves troubled by the defection of friends or the prospect of death. (Bp. Wordsworth.)
Judas, John, and Peter
I. THE TREACHERY OF JUDAS OR SEPARATION FROM CHRIST. We speak of close corporations and sacred fellowships, but there are none so close, so sacred, as to shut out intruders. Curiously assorted guests sit down side by side at the same feast. The Son of Man did not exclude a traitor.
1. This treachery occasioned our Lord poignant sorrow.
2. Our Lord in love and mercy interposed between the traitor and his doom.
3. The interposition being ineffectual the traitor leaves Christ, Satan captures him, and he disappears in darkness.
II. THE BLESSEDNESS OF JOHN; OR, KEPT IN THE LOVE OF CHRIST. It cannot be an accident that these accounts of John and Judas are left here side by side. We are to “look here upon this picture, and on that.” The treachery of Judas going out into the night to serve his master is best understood when set over against the blessedness of John leaning on the breast and hearing the wisdom of his Master. Extremes meet. But John has no monopoly of his Master’s love. It was offered to Judas and rejected. If the presence of a traitor into the glorious company of the apostles troubled the spirit of Christ, why should not his going forth be a relief? It was like the vanishing of a cloud. It was also prophetic, for at last the spirit of selfishness and evil and darkness shall be utterly and forever cast forth from the Church of God. When Judas is gone John may enter fully into the Divine joy and life.
III. THE DENIAL OF PETER: OR, TRUSTING TO OUR LOVE FOR CHRIST. The fall of such a man is inevitable. He has miscalculated his strength, and mistaken the true and only source from which comes the abiding love that makes one willing to leave all things. He thinks love a possession of his own, something that originates with and in himself. This delusion is so fatal, so sure to bring failure and disappointment, that, at all costs it must be dispelled. Peter was really believing in himself, in his own constancy and determination. The worthlessness of such a faith was very soon to be demonstrated. For that faith in himself he was to substitute a faith in One who was able to keep him. (Monday Club.)
The apostacy of Judas
This was the last of a series of fatal victories which Judas Iscariot won over the different means and checks which God had mercifully provided. From that time it seemed as if God would no more strive with him, either by His Providence of love or by the suggestions of His Spirit within. “Let him alone.” There was no more check to his iniquity, and he proceeded rapidly in that downward course which was to issue in his irremediable destruction. Consider that series of the means of grace which Judas had resisted before he triumphed over this.
I. JUDAS HAD BEEN ACQUAINTED WITH ALL THE REMARKABLE MIRACLES THAT JESUS CHRIST HAD WROUGHT TO MANIFEST THE TRUTH OF HIS MISSION.
II. WHAT INSTRUCTION HAD JUDAS RECEIVED FROM HIS MASTER?
III. THIS INSTRUCTION WAS SUSTAINED BY AN EXAMPLE OF UNPARALLELED LOVELINESS.
IV. HE WAS FAVOURED WITH CONSTANT TOKENS OF KINDNESS.
V. Being brought in connection with Jesus Christ must necessarily have induced him to EMPLOY HIMSELF FREQUENTLY IN THE VARIOUS RELIGIOUS EXERCISES THAT WOULD PROMOTE HIS CHRISTIAN TEMPER AND CHARACTER.
VI. HE WAS CONTINUALLY ASSOCIATING WITH THE BEST PEOPLE UPON EARTH.
VII. HE SAW THE REMARKABLE CHANGE PERFECTED BY THE MEANS OF GRACE AND RENDERED EFFECTUAL BY GRACE ITSELF--the joy and gratitude of the Syro-Phoenician woman whose strength of faith brought her great blessings, the change in the heart of the publican, the penitence of Mary Magdalene.
VIII. HE WAS THE SUBJECT OF THE FEET WASHING. IX. As the context tells us (cf. Luke 22:1-71)
, HE WAS CALLED TO THE TABLE OF THE LORD AT THE FIRST INSTITUTION OF THE SUPPER. Thus all the most powerful means that imagination could devise failed in repressing the sin of Judas when once it had obtained the mastery. Conclusion: Perhaps when we are noticing the strength of sin in him, which overcame all the most powerful means of grace, there may be some who are ready to suppose that Judas was one selected above all others to manifest the power of depravity. Who is it that is thus prompt to condemn Judas? Who is the person that is not as singular an instance of depravity? Are not you now under the power of a reigning sin, you that thus condemn this wretched man? “Therefore thou art inexcusable,” etc. Who are you that can say truly that you have never manifested such obduracy? I ask you to determine the question as before God whether you have not resisted and triumphed over means of grace as mighty as he overcame. Consider, then
1. That you are an inexcusable sinner.
2. That you need a Saviour and One has been provided.
3. Do not neglect to avail yourself of this provision by repentance and faith. (Baptist Noel.)
Jesus and the traitor
Consider these words
I. AS PREDICTING THE SIN OF JUDAS, which shows
1. That Christ suffered as no other human being ever suffered. Great as are the sorrows of men, they are generally unforeseen; more than half their weight therefore is removed. We are supported by hope even on the brink of misery: Jesus foresaw all His woes, and He knew them to be unavoidable.
2. That all hearts are open to the Son of God. It was not long since Judas had agreed with the chief priests. He was sure not to have betrayed himself; and the same secrecy was equally needful to his accomplices. Yet how vain all their precautions! The traitor hears his own purpose first exposed by the very Being whom he would betray! How then can you hope to impose on Christ and shun the eye of God? “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him?”
3. That the most wicked actions of men unintentionally promote God’s secret purposes of grace. He who foretold this crime could have prevented it. But the act foreseen was permitted and overruled for good. Shall we murmur, then, even at the most mysterious dispensation (Romans 8:28)?
II. AS DESCRIBING THE AGGRAVATIONS OF THAT SIN.
1. It was the sin of treachery--a sin of that kind which is held in abhorrence even by fallen man. Nor is the case at all mended by urging that Judas was moved by self-interest and not by malice. The plea only adds detestable meanness to his character, where passion and revenge might have furnished (what men would call) a prouder excuse. And who is the traitor? Has he no name but Judas? Alas! his “name is Legion, for he is many.”
2. It was treachery against the best of friends--“Me!” Is not the same Christ our Friend? Yet multitudes still prefer the silver to Christ.
3. It was the treachery of a highly privileged and confidential servant. “One of you!” For three years had the Pharisees been seeking for such an accomplice: but the multitude would not, the officers could not. These persecutors never dreamed of asking one of the apostles--who would? when, to their great astonishment, he offers of his own accord! “Take heed lest there be in any of you such an evil heart of unbelief.”
III. AS EXEMPLIFYING THE FEELINGS OF A HOLY MIND IN THE CONTEMPLATION OF SIN. Jesus “was troubled in spirit.” Not because mortified by an unexpected discovery. He had known that these things would take place at least as long ago as when David penned the fifty-fifth Psalm (John 13:12-14). Nor because this treachery made His own fate certain; it could not be more so than His eternal purpose had already made it. No; He was troubled
1. At the present dishonour done to God and the gospel. It was a triumph to Satan, who thus “bruised His heel”; to all the ungodly--“Ah, so would we have it!” It is not passion or jealousy which calls forth from true
Christians the reproof of sin. It is trouble of heart because God is dishonoured. Encourage this feeling.
2. At the approaching ruin of a sinner. He saw before him a soul which (before even His own death should be accomplished) would be “gone to its place.” He still feels the same trouble for thee, O sinner! whosoever thou art. His holy children also feel the same cause for mourning--none but devils and sinners rejoice. (J. Jowett, M. A.)
Horror of treachery natural
Even in Pagan story the name of Ephialtes enjoyed a bad preeminence, and could not be mentioned without horror, whom no love of his country, no admiration of heroic valour, not the dear pledges of his friends, nor the threatened tyranny of a degrading foe, could withhold from such a deed of shame; but Persian gold, more sacred to that base mind than all of these, bribed him to guide the enemy over the mountain path, and surprise that devoted Spartan band. Sad indeed that in Christian annals it should have its more than parallel. (C. J. Brown, M. A.)
One of you shall betray Me
I. “YOU” WHOM I HAVE LOVED SO TENDERLY.
II. “YOU” WHOM I HAVE TAUGHT SO PATIENTLY.
III. “YOU” WHOM I HAVE SERVED SO FAITHFULLY. (S. S. Tinges.)
The conspicuousness of apostates
In the long line of the portraits of the Doges in the palace at Venice, one space is empty, and the semblance of a black curtain remains as a melancholy record of glory forfeited. Found guilty of treason, Marine Falieri was beheaded, and his image, as far as possible, blotted from remembrance. As we regarded the singular memorial we thought of Judas and Demas, and then, as we heard in spirit the Master’s warning, “One of you shall betray Me,” we asked within our soul the solemn question, “Lord, is it I?” Everyone’s eye rests longer on the one dark vacancy than upon any one of the fine portraits of the merchant monarchs; and so the apostates of the Church are far more frequently the theme of the world’s talk than the thousands of good men and true who adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. Hence the more need of care on the part of those of us whose portraits are publicly exhibited as saints, lest we should one day be painted out of the Church’s gallery, and our persons only remembered as having been detestable hypocrites. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom
Christ’s special affection for St. John
You naturally ask, was there anything noticeable or distinguishing in the character of this much-favoured disciple? We answer, Christ’s love is free. It must be so, for it is everlasting--it precedes the existence of its objects; and further, it must be so, for itsobjects are guilty and evil--they have nothing in them to attract, they have everything to repel. Christ’s love has its cause, or reason, in Himself. Even our love is in some respects free. It cannot be bought; it cannot be forced; we cannot reason ourselves into it. But while love is thus in its nature free, yet, in examining the objects of it, we find that they possess some real or supposed qualities, which are the ground of this peculiar esteem. In our blindness we often fancy qualities which do not really exist; and so, on more intimate acquaintance, we are often disappointed. But the Lord cannot be thus mistaken; and so, when we find one distinguished from his companions as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” we infer that, through grace, He must have possessed some qualities which the others had not, or not in the same degree. What was it, then, in John, on whom the Lord’s complacency rested? It was not any peculiarly high talent, for in this Paul was superior. It was not any peculiar aptitude for business and the conduct of affairs, for in this Peter seems to have excelled. It was for the qualities of the heart, rather than the head, that John was distinguished; and the secret of the Lord’s peculiar delight in him is perhaps found in this: “I love them that love Me, and they who seek Me early shall find Me.” John was a man of warmer, fervid temperament, as appears from the Lord calling him and his brother Boanages (sons of thunder); and this ardent heart was given wholly and abidingly to Christ. He came young to Christ, as appears from the long period that he outlived his Master. He came also early; for he was one of the two who, in consequence of John Baptist’s words, followed Jesus to His dwelling, and became His disciples. His deep, fervent love, unconsciously breaks forth in many ways. His love to Christ, as well as Christ’s to him, appears in his place at the table--the nearest to Jesus. His love made him follow his Master to the judgment hall; made him linger at the cross when the others were gone; made him foremost in the race to the tomb, and first to believe the story told by the forsaken but orderly grave clothes. It was his love, quick sighted, that made him the first to recognize his Beloved on the shores of Tiberias, in the grey twilight of the dawning day. It was admiring love that made him close his gospel with the glowing words (John 21:25). It was panting, longing love that made him close his Apocalypse with the fervid prayer (Revelation 22:20). John’s very faults show his love to Christ … But further, John had a deeper, truer insight than the others into the Divine glory of Christ’s person, and the spiritual nature of His work. The others begin with His earthly lineage and birth, and occupy themselves chiefly with His manhood. John begins with the eternal Godhead. The others dwell on the works of benevolence and power which crowded Christ’s laborious days. John takes little note of these, but dwells rather on the glory of the grace and truth, and gathers up the words of life and power. John seems to have been among men what Mary was among women--he sat at Christ’s feet, and heard His words. Hence his gospel is different from the others. While the other evangelists speak chiefly of Christ’s dealings with the bodies of men, John dwells more on His dealings with men’s souls. The Lord must have felt that John knew Him better, and appreciated Him more fully, than the others. We can conceive that, when Christ performed any act of higher import, or uttered any word of deeper meaning, His eye would unconsciously turn to John, and would be ever sure to meet John’s loving, gleaming eye! (John Milne.)
Titled believers; the disciple whom Jesus loved
This was John’s most notable title. As a servant of the Queen, having distinguished himself in the service of Her Majesty, becomes the lord of such and such a town, and he takes the name of the place as a name of honour, so John drops his own birth-given name, as it were, and takes this title instead of it--“that disciple whom Jesus loved.” He wears it as a Knight of the Garter, or of the Golden Fleece, wears the mark of his sovereign’s esteem. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
A title that was better than a name
Lord Brooks was so proud of his friendship with Sir Philip Sidney, that he chose for his epitaph, “Here lies Sir Philip Sidney’s friend.”
Nearness to Jesus
I. Let us first, then, inquire HOW ARE WE TO ATTAIN THIS NEARNESS TO JESUS?
1. In the first place, by coming to Him. We are, naturally, at a distance from Him.
2. This nearness implies real sympathy of mind. What a sacred bond is sympathy! what a fountain of delight, of comfort, and of strength! In order that there may be sympathy, there must be three things--mutual knowledge one of another--harmony of moral taste--and aiming at the same end. The refined cannot sympathize with the polluted, the gentle cannot sympathize with the cruel hearted. He that delights in sin, on the other hand, cannot sympathize with him who seeks to advance in holiness, and to bring all around him to enjoy communion with God and Jesus.
3. Nearness to Jesus implies that we persevere in following Him. Nearness to Him does not depend upon one act.
4. The next idea is, that nearness to Jesus implies felt fellowship--real communion. Oh! it is not a dream. We have, I trust, very many of us, experienced it as a distinct and separate thing from the work of imagination. Felt fellowship--he who has experienced that is near to Jesus.
5. Pass on to notice the next thing implied in nearness to Jesus--love to Him. Love is the power that annihilates the distance between us.
6. Then it implies, also, that we have intercourse with His people--communion with His disciples.
II. THE BLESSEDNESS OF THIS CONDITION.
1. In the first place, it is an honour--the highest honour--to come near to the Lord Jesus Christ, to be acquainted with Him, to walk with Him, to have fellowship with Him. That is the highest distinction that can be conferred upon man, for it implies that a man is raised to a kind of equality with the Supreme Being, that has condescended to become brother and saviour. The honour of being introduced to Jesus will last, and fill the mind with rest and tranquility.
2. We say, in the second place, it is a blessed privilege to be near to Jesus, because it assures us of His eternal love to us. The text says, “there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of the disciples whom Jesus loved.” It was John himself that wrote it, and he knew the fact that Jesus loved him. The way then to be assured of the love of Jesus is to live near to Him.
3. Nearness to Jesus, in the third place, secures glorious shelter and protection from the evils which are in the world. Keep near to thy Saviour, nestle, as it were, in the bosom of His promises; let His feathers cover thee, and His wings be over thee; go to Him in times of danger and trial.
4. Then there is another glorious privilege--the power that is transferred from Jesus to those who are near to Him. When we are near to Jesus, there is a current of sanctified influence passing, until those hearts of yours, once the abode of pollution, become as spotless temples. The soul that was in the thraldom of sin is released, and becomes cleansed and sanctified, and shall stand clean in the presence of the eternal God. This is not done at once, but by a continued influence which assimilates the soul to Jesus in purity, holiness, love, and heavenly mindedness, and makes it a type of Jesus.
5. Then there is another privilege--that there is a constant manifestation of fresh glory made to the mind in the Lord Jesus Christ. What an unworthy idea some people have of Jesus. It is only that of a beautiful image, as it were, drawn on canvas. But, to the believer, Jesus always manifests some new beauty in His face--some new glory in His nature.
6. You have another striking advantage of being near to Jesus--that of growing and increasing in your usefulness in the service of Jesus. There is a moral element of fitness required for the service of Jesus.
7. Then there is another great privilege and blessing--the mind and heart are weaned from earth in proportion as we live near to Jesus. We become conscious of being only strangers on the earth, of belonging to another world, as citizens of a more enduring city. (T. Thomas.)
The sacred breast
Attention should be called to the different words (different in the original as well as in the English) used in the text to denote that part of our Lord’s most Sacred Person: “bosom” in John 13:23, “breast” in John 13:25. Strictly speaking, the latter word alone denotes part of the person; the “bosom” is that part of the dress which covers the breast. Ancient dresses consisted of two pieces, a tight-fitting inner garment, and a shawl or outer wrapper thrown over it. And this shawl was so arranged as to fall in a large full fold over the breast, this full fold constituting the bosom or lap of the dress. This bosom or lap was sometimes used as a purse, to contain money or valuables; which explains that expression of our Lord, “Good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom” (Luke 6:38). And when a parent or nurse carried a young child, the child would more or less repose in this fold of the dress, which would be drawn over its head. The subject having been thus opened, we will speak to you first of the Bosom in which our Lord Himself lay from all eternity; secondly, of the moral attitude of His faithful and beloved ones, who “lean on His Bosom,” or “lie on His Breast;” and lastly, of the glorified Breast of the risen and ascended Saviour.
I. And, first, of THE BOSOM IN WHICH HE HIMSELF LAY FROM ALL ETERNITY, “before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world were made.” “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” John 1:18). The earthly image chosen to convey the heavenly truth is drawn from the parental relationship upon earth, and from the loving services which human parents do for their children in the earliest and most dependent stage of existence. They fold them in their bosom; they carry them in their arms; according to that word of Moses (Numbers 11:12). This doctrine lights up Christian theology with bright and consolatory lights. First, the God of Christian men, as distinct from the God of the Deist and Unitarian, is not to be thought of as ever having dwelt apart or in solitude. And then, secondly, this doctrine of our Lord’s eternal generation gives us such an assurance as we could not otherwise have of the tenderness and strength of God’s love to ourselves. He who gave up for us, and who giveth to us, the Son of His love, to be “unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30), what may we not expect Him to do for us, to give to us; how can we suppose that He will withhold from us any good thing? O Lord and Heavenly Father, may we open our hearts to this fatherly love of Thine, in faith, in confidence, in filial love reciprocating it!
II. THE MORAL ATTITUDE OF THOSE FAITHFUL AND BELOVED ONES WHO LEAN ON HIS BOSOM OR LIE ON HIS BREAST. It is said especially of St. John the Evangelist, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 20:2; John 21:7; John 21:20). The expression has reference, as is well known, to the arrangement of the guests at an ancient supper. They did not sit round the table in our modern fashion, but reclined on broad couches, leaning on the left elbow, and helping themselves with the right hand. Each couch usually accommodated three guests, and the central place on it was the most distinguished. It was a privileged position, you will say, not granted even to all the Apostles; and therefore, in applying the passage, nothing can be founded upon it as to the spiritual privileges of ordinary Christians. But I find a Messianic prophecy of Isaiah, which surely enlarges the purview of this privilege, showing it to be a privilege designed for all, sad more especially for the weaker members of Christ’s flock. “He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11). Yes; “He shall carry them in His bosom.” He Himself, we have seen, was carried from all eternity in the bosom of the Father. And our attitude and relation towards Him is to be that which He Himself bears to the Father. But now let us develop in particulars the moral attitude which it behoves us to have towards the Saviour, as pictorially represented in those words, “leaning on Jesus’ bosom,” “lying on Jesus’ breast.”
(1) And first, he who leans on Jesus’ bosom in a spiritual sense has a trustful repose in Him. Activity indeed must characterize the Christian life; and there is a blessedness and a healthfulness in work for God; but it must be a calm activity, without solicitude, without wearing anxiety, an activity which, while it works, knows also how to lean, and lie still, and to say, “the Lord will provide.” “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God,” etc. (Philippians 4:6-7). To taste this peace, at least in a measure, is to lean on Jesus’ bosom, to lie on His breast.
(2) Secondly; he who leans on Jesus’ bosom in a spiritual sense has an assurance of the Saviour’s nearness to him and love for him--a love which will cling to him to the end. Oh for an assurance, independent of the senses--the assurance of faith--that Christ is near to us at all times, more especially in public prayer, where two or three are gathered together in His name, and in the Sacred Supper, in which He makes every faithful recipient a partaker of His body and blood!
(3) Thirdly; he who leans on Jesus’ bosom in a spiritual sense cultivates St. John’s type of character, a quiet contemplativeness, in which he may hear the whispers made by the Divine Master to the soul. The present is an age of activity, of material progress, of rapid movement. Under these circumstances it becomes more than ever necessary, as an antidote to the spirit of the times, that devotional retirement should be insisted upon as a condition of all healthy spiritual life. Let things drop ever and anon, even when the strain of work and worry is most severe, and lean back as it were on the bosom of thy Lord, and look up into His face, and seek from Him the guidance or the help or the comfort which thou needest, and, if thou doest this faithfully, thou shalt not fail to hear the whispers of His voice within. But how can those whispers be heard in the rapid whirl of business, in the tumult of affairs, without an inward silence and a hush in the soul?
III. We are to speak, lastly, of THE GLORIFIED BREAST OF THE RISEN AND EXALTED SAVIOUR. In that magnificent vision of the glorified Son of Man at the opening of the Revelation. “Being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about at the breasts” (so it is in the Revised Version) “with a golden girdle.” Three points are observable in this part of the grand vision, which throughout is full of deep and edifying significance.
(1) He appears “girded;” and to the angel of the Church of Ephesus He describes Himself as “walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks” (Revelation 2:1). The girding and the walking are both expressive of the ceaseless activity of the exalted Saviour, an activity which shows itself not only in His intercession, but in His close inspections of the Churches as to their spiritual condition and progress.
(2) He appears girded at the breasts, not at the loins; the golden cincture is swathed around Him high up the person, below the armpits. This is explained by what Josephus tells us about the girdle of the high priest, and the part of the person on which it was fastened. This girding at the breast, then, being the sacerdotal way of wearing the girdle, and obviously a more dignified, reposeful, and majestic way than merely tying it tight round the loins, as was done when men addressed themselves to secular and common work, indicates that He who wears the girdle thus is the “great high priest, that is passed into the heavens,” there “to appear in the presence of God for us,” and to give effect to His sacrifice by pleading it on our behalf in the heavenly sanctuary. But if by the position of the girdle the high priestly character of the wearer is indicated, why is it not also indicated by the materials, which here are all gold, whereas the curious or (embroidered) girdle of the ephod, though it had gold in it, yet was made also of “blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen?” This is to indicate the kingly character of Christ united with the priestly, He being not only a priest, but “a priest upon His throne,” a priest exalted to universal government.
(3) But what shall we say of this remarkable feature of the vision, that the Saviour appears in it with the breast of a woman, not of a man? That there is a profound and beautiful significance in this trait, whatever be its significance, I make no manner of question. He was the Seed of the woman, not of the man, and, as being descended only from a mother, might be expected to show all that tender side of human character which woman more especially exemplifies. He has the breast of a woman, that is, the heart of a woman, in susceptibility to the sufferings of His people, and in sympathy with them, when they are called upon to suffer. (E. M.Golburn, D. D.)
Leaning on Jesus’ bosom
I. THE SIGNIFICANCY OF THIS ACT. Even with John the outward posture was only the symbol of the spiritual. It implies
1. Reconciliation to Christ. We are by nature estranged from God and Christ. Hence we stand guilty and condemned. But, impelled by wondrous love, Jesus has taken our place and borne our penalty. Now God can be just and the justifier of all who believe in Him. Those who have been thus reconciled lean on Jesus’ bosom, and those only. Suppose a child to have disobeyed its mother’s commands and cherished a rebellious spirit. Will that child with conscious guilt and angry feelings nestle on the mother’s breast? But let temper subside and penitence arise, then it will hasten to the mother’s knee, let the mother’s forgiveness kiss away tears, and throw its arms round the mother’s neck and lean on her bosom.
2. Confidence in Him. He is worthy of this, for He is infinitely wise, strong, good, and ought to be thoroughly trusted. But He is not. But those who lean on His bosom have no fear, and find everything they need.
3. Love for Him. He is worthy of our best affection. Do we not naturally admire beauty? “He is altogether lovely.” Are we not always affected by loving kindness? He has loved as with a love surpassing every other. Hatred separates, love unites. Those who love Christ are ever near His side.
4. Communion with Him--not merely saying prayers--but heart intercourse with Him everywhere. Silence leads to estrangement, exchange of confidences to love. So when there is little communion with Christ there is little love; but the soul whose fellowship with Him is constant will lay his head where John lay his.
II. THE BLESSEDNESS OF THIS POSITION. Here is
1. Perfect safety. We are all exposed to danger as regards both body and soul. Most men are concerned about the safety of their bodies and money--then surely they should be about that of their souls. But where shall
(1) The unpardoned sinner, or
(2) the backsliding saint find safety save here? “There is therefore now no condemnation,” etc. “If God be for us, who can be against us.”
2. Spiritual instruction. We are enfeebled by ignorance. Some of us think we know much about business, science, art, etc.; but we know little about God and Divine things. Where shall we look? The learned of our day only bewilder us, but we shall get all we want from the best Teacher, who is Himself the embodiment of truth; and those who trust Him most will be the best instructed, even as John learnt most of the betrayal.
3. Moral improvement. We are greatly influenced by our associates. Those who dwell in courts acquire a peculiar dignity, and those who live near Christ become Christ-like.
4. Rest and peace. There is a fearful amount of unrest in the world arising from a guilty conscience, loss of friends, wealth, etc.; but “in Christ Jesus the peace of God will keep our hearts and minds.” (J. Morgan.)
Lying on Jesus’ breast
I. THE STATE OF MIND AND HEART, ON EITHER SIDE, OF WHICH THIS ATTITUDE WAS THE EXPRESSION.
1. On the side of the disciple, it told
(1) Of a holy, unsuspecting, childlike trust, reliance on the Lord. Doubtless John was tried with many a painful foreboding for the future. Had anyone asked, “Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy Master from thy head?” methinks he had been ready to answer, “Yea, I know it; hold thou thy peace.” Too well he knows it. But just the more he will lean his head tonight on that Master’s bosom and cast his care on this mighty, gracious One.
(2) Of intense affection. It is heart drawing to heart in the hour of deep grief!
(3) The two feelings, the reliance and the love were inseparably connected. It was a loving reliance; and it was a confiding affection. The “faith wrought by love;” and the love, “casting out fear,” emboldened the faith.
2. It told of corresponding feelings on the side of the Master.
(1) Confidence, trust, reposed by Christ in the disciple? Jesus suffers him to lean his head upon His bosom. Ah! this is not to be the traitor. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.”
(2) Intense affection. Not that Christ loved John with any higher love of benevolence than He did the other disciples. Plainly it is satisfaction, delight, complacency, in John that is spoken of in the appellation, and which came out divinely in the permission to lean his head upon His bosom.
II. OUR TEXT ADMITS OF BEING TURNED TO EXTENSIVE USE, far beyond the ease of John. One disciple only could lean as did John, but we may now find that this is a privilege, accessible in the essence of it, even to as many as shall truly aspire after it.
1. The soul of this attitude, as on the disciple’s side lay in trust in Jesus. Then have we the attitude still. “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Many years ago I was visiting a dying boy. He lay weary on his pillow, near his end. I scarce hoped to make him understand me--he was not six years of age. But thinking I might make an attempt, after short prayer, I said to him, “Charlie, you are resting your head on the pillow; try and rest on Jesus, as you are resting on the pillow.” Next day his father told me that, on going up to the little crib several hours after my visit, and without making any reference to it, he said to him, “Are you resting on Jesus, dear?” He immediately answered, “Soft pillow.” It was his only reply. Ah, that is it, unsuspecting reliance, “soft pillow”--He lying on Jesus’ breast!
(2) And have we not the love also, still. “My beloved is mine, and I am his”--faith and love hand in hand. “I will seek Him whom my soul loveth.”
2. The leaning of disciples still is by His welcoming also, just as of old--reciprocating their feelings towards Him in a blessed corresponding confidence, and complacency in them. “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them,” etc. Perhaps, in a more special manner at the Lord’s Supper, may the lying on the breast be known and realized. Yet this is not a privilege confined to any one ordinance or season. Assuredly the bosom, the heart, of Jesus is large enough to receive every weary head that is but truly offered to lean on it. “I heard the voice of Jesus say,” etc. (G. J. Brown, D. D.)
Can we now lean on Jesus’ bosom
What is it, at this day, to do this?
I. TO BRING OUR HEARTS INTO LIVING FEELING, CONTACT WITH THE HEART OF CHRIST. We speak of the breast of man, as being filled with noble or revengeful feelings; of a generous or an unfeeling bosom, because the heart has its seat in the breast; and as that, in the physical system, is the centre of animal life, the ever-welling up and distributing fountain of the vital currents, so when we would speak of the moral centre, the well spring of moral emotions, we use the term heart, and say, his heart is right or wrong, generous or closed, renewed or unsanctified; hence, to lean upon the breast, the outer casement of the heart, is equivalent to saying, that the person leans upon the love and sympathy of that individual. Christ’s love emanates from His heart, and hence he who rests upon His love rests upon His breast. The feeling of confidence in human affection is one of the most delicious emotions of which we are capable. In leaning upon the heart of Jesus, the Christian can have this confidence, to a degree impossible among men. His heart is an organ of infinite love.
II. TO LEAN UPON THE PLACE WHENCE HIS SYMPATHIES FLOW. There are daily trials, in which we seek not only succour but sympathy. None ever felt so deeply for the sorrows and sufferings of the world as Jesus, and now that He has ascended into heaven, He is still “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” And if we lean on Jesus’ bosom, we shall always have His sympathies.
III. TO GET AN INTELLIGENT UNDERSTANDING OF THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” A man may be a learned theologian without leaning upon Jesus’ bosom; but no one can savingly understand Divine truth who does not bring his head in contact with Jesus’ heart. There is a great difference between an intellectual, and an experimental, knowledge of Bible doctrines. The poor widow, the bed-ridden patient, often has a richer knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus; than the learned minister or the boasting professor. All real knowledge of Jesus must come from Christ’s heart, and through our heart.
IV. TO LEAN UPON THE PLACE WHENCE FLOWED HIS PRECIOUS BLOOD. It was from the spear-riven heart of Christ, that there gushed out blood and water; and in leaning upon Jesus’ breast, therefore, we get close to the fountain opened for sin and all uncleanness. If we would feel the preciousness of that blood, we must lean upon the heart whence it flowed, and there learn the vastness of the love which gave it, the greatness of the sacrifice it involved, and the unspeakable richness of the grace it purchased. Conclusion: The bosom of Christ is a privileged place in times of
1. Adversity. The world may treat us coldly, friends may withdraw from us, riches may depart, but, if we can lean on Jesus’ bosom, we care not.
4. Death. (Bp. Stevens.)
One of His disciples whom Jesus loved
The beloved disciple
I. JOHN’S CHARACTER.
1. Early piety.
2. The most remarkable trait, love, which was constantly evinced in his attendance on our Lord. He leaned on his Master’s bosom in their hours of social enjoyment--“And in death they were not divided.” He remained with Him till he saw Him expire. We must follow him to the cross.
II. HOW DID HE ARRIVE AT THIS? He explains this, “We love Him.” Yes; there he learned the lessons of love on Jesus’ bosom.
III. HOW DID HE EXEMPLIFY AFTER HIS MASTER’S DECEASE? Read his Epistles. He led others to it (chap 1). Zeal for God and love for man; a burning fervour for God’s cause and man’s happiness--“What we have seen and heard we testify unto you.” Love.
IV. THE PARTICULAR DISTINCTIONS AND FAVOURS CONFERRED ON HIM BY CHRIST. Leans on His breast; Mount of Transfiguration; garden; and He consigns His holy virgin mother to his care; lived long; closed the canon of Scripture; was raised to glory. (T. Summerfield, M. A.)
A specially loved disciple is
I. NEAR TO JESUS.
II. INTIMATE WITH JESUS.
III. HONOURED BY MEN.
IV. HELPFUL TO MEN. (S. S. Times.)
Why Jesus roved John
We learn from the text the rightness of personal preferences--certain minds being more akin to other minds than others--but also that in the highest hearts this affinity will be determined by spiritual resemblances, not mere accidental agreeabilities, accomplishments, politenesses, or pleasant manners. Again, I imagine that the union had nothing to do with mental superiority; that might have been more admirable. John was lovable. Not talent, as in Paul’s ease, nor eloquence, nor amiability, drew Christ’s spirit to him, but that large heart, which enabled him to believe because he felt, and hence to reveal that “God is love.” It is very remarkable, however, that his love was a trained love. Once John was more zealous than affectionate. But he began by loving the human friend, by tending the mother as a son, by attachment to his brother James; and so through particular personal attachments he was trained to take in and comprehend the larger Divine love. I should say, then, that he was most lovable, because, having loved in their varied relationships “men whom he had seen,” he was able to love “God whom he had not seen.” He is most dear to the heart of Christ, who loves most, because he has most of God in him; and that love comes through missing none of the preparatory steps of affection given us as primer lessons. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Who is it?
Familiarity with Christ
Personal Christianity is an intimate connection with Christ. To be a true Christian is to be more familiar with Christ than with father, mother, etc. This familiarity involves
I. THE MOIST AMAZING CONDESCENSION. Little magnates of earth deem it a great condescension to allow the humble and lowly to speak to them even at a distance. But here is the Author and Proprietor of the universe, the infinitely holy as well as the transcendently great, permitting this poor, frail, sinful man to lean on His bosom. Let this condescension
1. Inspire us with adoring gratitude.
2. Consume that pride which prompts man to keep the poor at a distance.
II. THE SUBLIMEST PRIVILEGE. To be so closely allied to Christ as this is to be in the safest and most honourable position. What an honour to recline on the bosom of the King of kings.
III. THE PROFOUNDEST REVERENCE. John addresses Christ as Lord. Familiarity with men, the proverb says, breeds contempt. We know it often breeds discontent. So imperfect are the best of men, that, as a rule, the more we know of them the less reverence we have. Not so with Christ. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
He it is to whom I shall give a sop.--Literally, “the morsel.” No incident of Oriental meals is more celebrated in Western narrative than the giving of the morsel, or sop, to a table neighbour, as a mark of favour. It is said that the Shah of Persia, when in London some years ago, could not break himself entirely of the habit, but insisted on passing some morsels to the fine ladies near him, to the danger of their fine dresses; giving rise to the witticism which described the saving for the cat of the morsels left after the meal, by the French sentence, Nous allons les garder pour le chat--“We are going to save them for the Shah” (cat). But scarcely a traveller, and certainly no resident, in the East can escape this Oriental courtesy at meals. Since the dishes are generally either stews or cooked almost to pieces, the fingers can easily tear off a morsel. This is dipped in the sauce, thus becoming the sop, and is thrust directly, into the favoured one’s mouth. If the mouthful is large, the sauce or gravy is apt to run down the receiver’s beard. The present writer has often received the sop at an Oriental meal, and cannot say that, considering the other customs, there is anything uncleanly or repulsive in it. A common mode, however, both of helping one’s self and giving the sop to one’s neighbour, is to take two pieces of bread, and take up the morsel between them, the pieces of bread serving as spoon, or knife and fork. The sop must, according to all Oriental rules, be considered as a mark of favour; and in Jesus’ giving it to Judas, we must, unless we look farther below the surface than we have any light, see only love and goodwill. The giving of the sop, or morsel, seems to be an old Greek custom, as well as an Oriental one; but the citations to sustain that position may be seen collected in Webster’s Greek Testament. They are too numerous and voluminous to repeat here. The custom goes back to the time of Socrates, if not to that of Homer. (S. S. Times.)
He gave it to Judas.--Christ was now standing at the door of the heart of His apostle. He was holding out to him the opportunity of repentance. Judas, however, was unwilling to open that door at the call of Christ, though he opened it to Satan, and so Satan entered into him. The devil had stood knocking at his heart by the his yielding temptation of money; and to the temptation unbarred the door of the sinner’s heart, and made him an easy prey to the great tempter. (W. Denton, M. A.)
The dramatic interest of the act
There is perhaps a reason why this giving of a sop has an effect on our minds not unlike the knocking on the gate in “Macbeth,” which succeeds the murder of Duncan. No words are spoken in either case. In this instance the effect is more startling, because the sign precedes rather than follows the crime. It produces a feeling of peculiar awfulness and solemnity. It is the casting of a die. We are made to feel, as De Quincey says of the device of the great poet, “that the human and Divine nature of love and mercy, spread through the hearts of all creatures, and seldom utterly withdrawn from man, is entirely gone, and that this fiendish nature has taken its place. By this sign and token we know that Satan has entered. It was not the Lord rejecting Judas, but Judas rejecting the Lord. (Monday Club.)
The final step
Remorse may disturb the slumbers of a man who is dabbling with his first experiences of wrong; and when the pleasure has been tasted and is gone, and nothing is left of the crime but the ruin which it has wrought, then, too, the furies take their seats upon the midnight pillow. But the meridian of evil is, for the most part, left unvexed; and when a man has chosen his road, he is left alone to follow it to the end. (J. A.Froude.)
Christianity not responsible for the words or deeds of its professors
We must distinguish Christian thoughts from the thoughts of Christians, and Christian deeds from the deeds of Christians; in short, we must discriminate between Christianity and Christians, because Christians are human and Christianity is Divine. It is, in fact, because of this very distinction that Christianity often suffers in the minds of those who note the unworthiness of Christians. Every fall of a Christian is an indication of the elevation of Christianity; and every indication of that elevation is a reason for our endeavour to reach it. To say that a man does not practice what he preaches is no necessary condemnation of his preaching, however much it condemns his practice. A drunkard has the right to preach temperance from the standpoint of intemperance. A slave to tobacco is not necessarily insincere because he advises abstinence from his masterful habit. “I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching,” says Portia; but while that may reflect on the twenty, it is no reflection on the teaching. And so, when a Christian is derelict, that dereliction is not a fruit of his Christianity, but of his want of it. The defection of Christians cannot legitimately condemn the Church and Christianity; because Christianity and the Church first condemned the defection. Yet when a Church member or a minister turns out to be a defaulter, a blasphemer, an adulterer, the world often points its finger of scorn at the Christian profession, as if the culprit had learned the principles of deception from the pulpit, or had been instructed in defilement from the Sunday school chair or desk. A shallower argument against the Christian profession than this it would be difficult to conceive. It is really the blaming of Christianity for another instance of the neglect of Christianity; it is charging a high ideal with the consequences of a low practice; it is criminating virtue because of the existence of vice; it is reproaching truth with the fact of falsehood. It is as if we were to reflect upon Jesus by pointing at Judas. The simple question at issue is, Is the Christian standard high or low, good or evil? If it be high, live for it--no matter who falls; if it be good, practice it--no matter who fails. If it be in itself low and evil, say so squarely. (H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)
The timid encouraged to communion
Look in upon that humble chamber in Jerusalem. Whom do you see eating of the bread of life, and drinking of the cup of salvation? Are they not all men of like passions with ourselves? There are James and John, who, in their hasty zeal, would fain have called down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans. And there is Thomas--doubting Thomas. There, too, is Peter, who only a few hours afterward would curse and swear and cowardly deny his Lord. There, again, the Master is seen passing the bread and the cup to Andrew, and Philip, and Matthew, and Bartholomew, and the other James, who reverently drank, but who, when dangers and death encompassed Him about, forsook Him and fled. And look once more. There, too, is Judas! The Saviour does not even pass him by. Now, I ask, what right has anyone to declare that the Lord’s Supper is something so sacred and awful, that none but perfectly good people must venture to receive it, when our Saviour Himself admitted such characters as these to the table which His goodness had spread? What reason is there in the plea which is so often urged by people that they are afraid to commune, because they have done so many wrong things in times past, or because they are apprehensive lest they may be led into evil in the future? Are they mere uncharitable and vindictive by nature than James and John? Have they more serious and perplexing doubts than Thomas? Do they run a greater risk of apostacy than Peter? or of treason than Judas? Others acknowledge, if you press them very closely upon the subject, that they slay away from the Lord’s table because of insincere communicants. But how clearly does the traitor’s presence prove that no personal unworthiness on the part of others can excuse us from the performance of our duty. (J. N. Norton, D. D.)
For some of them thought
I. The statement that he “had the bag” shows THE POSITION JUDAS OCCUPIED AMONG THE APOSTLES. He was no mean and inferior person. He was so far from being suspected, that he had the charge of the common store of money. Bullinger even thinks that he must have been a man remarkable for wisdom, prudence, economy, and faithfulness.
II. The supposition of some that Jesus told Judas to “buy the things needed against the feast” shows clearly that OUR LORD DID NOT WORK MIRACLES IN ORDER TO PROCURE THE NECESSARIES required by Himself and His disciples. Christians must buy and sell like other people, and must manage their money affairs with prudence and economy. It also shows how little the disciples realized that their Master’s death was close at hand.
III. The supposition of others that Jesus told Judas to “give something to the poor” shows plainly what WAS OUR LORD’S CUSTOM IN THE MATTER OF ALMSGIVING. He sanctified and adorned the practice of caring for the poor by His own example. This passage and Galatians 2:10 deserve careful consideration. It may be doubted whether the English Poor Law has not tended to shut up English almsgiving far more than is right before God. Conclusion:
1. Let us mark the snares which attend the possession and fingering of money. The man who has care of the money in our Lord’s little company of followers is the very man who makes shipwreck of his soul forever through the love of money. “Give me neither poverty nor riches” should be a Christian’s frequent prayer.
2. The possession of money is evidently not in itself sinful and wicked. The Romish mendicant friars, and others who make a self-imposed poverty, are under a complete delusion. It is not the having, but the misusing, money which is sinful. (Bp. Ryle.)
He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night
Judas and the sop
The subject suggests
THE TWO-FOLD AND EVEN CONTRASTED SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SAME THING.
1. The giving of the sop meant one thing to John, viz., who was the betrayer? It does not seem to have been fully understood (verse 28), but that was its meaning. To Judas it was meant as a mark of kindness. There was no inconsistency in this. It was done for a good reason. It consisted with Christ’s affection for John, not to allow the suspicion of betrayal to rest upon him, and with His love for Judas to show him kindness. But why should Christ so act when He knew the result? Because He invariably acted as though results were unknown. He knew that He would raise Lazarus, yet He gave way to grief. He knew who believed not and who should betray Him, but that did not lead Him to slacken efforts on their behalf.
2. And so the same providence now may convey a varied meaning according to our feeling or position. We are more susceptible at one time than another. A song may make glad feelings in one and sad in another, according to the mood. Let each learn what God says aside to him.
II. HOW MUCH MEANING MAY BE CONVEYED BY A LITTLE THING. In the very unobtrusiveness of the sop there was an element of power. It was better than if many words had been employed. The little friendly act was sufficient to flash the whole before His mind, and to discover the whole attitude of the Saviour. It was an intimation that it was not too late for repentance. Shortly before Christ put into a little service the great lesson of humility and serviceableness; shortly after He put great meaning into a look; and while sitting there He put meaning to all time into simple bread and wine. It needs only to have susceptible warm hearts to learn great lessons through little things.
III. THE DISASTROUS EFFECT THAT MAT FOLLOW FROM THE REJECTION OF AN APPEAL.
1. During all his declension Judas had the close attendance of Jesus, and therefore must have had every help toward a successful issue in his trial. And now a last appeal was about to be made. Would he say yes or no to the love of Christ. That was the turning point in his, as in every man’s, destiny. And he was so infatuated with evil as to say No. And so Satan, who had only previously put the thought in his heart, now entered him, and the Spirit of the Lord departed from him. But as soon as the act was performed, the enchantment was gone, and he hurried himself into eternity.
2. And so Christ is continually making appeals to us, in some sermon, book, mercy, worldly loss. If we do not yield there will come a last and decisive appeal, and if we reject that, despair.
IV. HOW EXTERNAL NATURE REFLECTS AND MEETS STATES OF THE HUMAN SOUL. “It was night”--a congenial time for the deed of darkness. The children of darkness are dark within, and when Judas went out the dark thought of his mind was reflected there. Perhaps it was a relief to be away from the light, perhaps a suggestion of destiny. There is only outer darkness for those who “go out” from Christ. Let us accept Him now, from whose presence by and by we shall go no more out. (R. Finlayson, B. A.)
The sop and a dark deed
I. THE GROWTH AND STRENGTHENING OF EVIL AMID THE HOLIEST INFLUENCES. Judas lived within the circle of the Saviour’s influence for three years. Eli was rebuked by Samuel for permitting his sons to commit sin on the threshold of the Temple, and--strange irony--Samuel’s sons while doing priestly work walked in the same evil way. We may attend the sanctuary and listen to a mother’s prayers for fifty years, and afterwards be lost.
II. THE SAVIOUR’S GOODNESS BECOMES THE OCCASION OF GREAT EVIL. Judas was a worse man at the end of three years; while Christ’s appreciation of Mary’s offering, and His appeal to Judas, seemed to strengthen him in his purpose. So the presence of goodness, if not a blessing to us, is a withering curse.
III. CHRIST’S GENEROUS TREATMENT OF THE SINNER. He saw the growth of evil in Judas, but it made no difference in His trust and love. At the last moment, there was one more attempt to touch the traitor’s heart. “Friend,” etc. The gift of the sop was a sign of love. What a wealth of persevering love is poured out on the most depraved!
IV. THE DARK TERMINATION OF AN EVIL LIFE. Judas went out into the calm of that beautiful Syrian night, but is was a scene of blankness and tempest to him. Then came that deeper night of unavailing penitence and suicide. The path of sin always ends in night. It may be strewn with flowers or steeped in blood, but there is the same termination--the night of separation from God and communion with our own sins. (Noel R. Hamer, M. A.)
It was night
I. IN JERUSALEM. Only the pale shining of the passover moon lit the streets. The sieve was shaken, and the small soul of the money lover dropped through out of honour into shame and gloom.
II. In His HEART. For Satan, the prince of darkness, in person was ruling there. Over him swept a wave of the “outer darkness” like a cloud from the bottomless pit. Suicide was just at hand.
III. IN ALL THE VAST FUTURE. He was going “to his own place.” (Job 10:22). We see at this vanishing moment that the man is lost while he is living, virtually in hell because the prince of hell is in his heart. And so we know that a soul can be damned even before it is dead. (C. S.Robinson, D. D.)
Walking in the night
I. THE DARKNESS OF JUDAS’S CRIME.
1. The night has become intolerable to him now.
2. He was not always a traitor.
3. He may even have been brought into Christ’s company that he might be saved.
4. But over all good his evil heart obtains supremacy.
II. THE DARKNESS OF HIS REPENTANCE.
1. His conscience works up with the terror of night upon it, but without the accents of hope.
2. His repentance leads only to suicide--a further crime.
III. THE DARKNESS OF HIS DOOM. “It had been better for that man, if he had never been born.” (J. H. Hargreaves.)
The harmony of nature with our mental moods
We always like to have nature in sympathy with our sorrows and our joys; to have our moods of mind quite in accordance with our moods of seasons. Thus, if you and I are in distress, there is a sort of melancholy pleasure to find the sky gloomy with clouds; and when the shutter which tells our loss, and hides our mourning from the world and casts a shadow upon our home, lets in through the crevice the sunbeam, and we hear the happy crowd enjoying it outside, that intrusion seems quite an injury to our feelings. We take our moods of mind from those of nature, and this is a mystery, of course, which we cannot explain; but we have pleasure in finding that her moods are in accordance with ours, that she is bright when we are bright, that she is in sackcloth when we are sad. And so it is quite a relief to our feelings, just as it must have been to the Evangelists, to find “it was night.” Such a deed could not have been done before the face of God’s smiling sun. (C. J. P. Eyre, M. A.)
There is a moral night upon the soul of every sinful creature, just as there has been a day spring in the soul of every true believer. (C. J. P. Eyre, M. A.)
Now is the Son of Man glorified.
The triple glorification
I. THE GLORIFICATION OF THE SON OF MAN IN AND BY HIS SUFFERING. This language is strange here. It would not have been wonderful at Jordan or on the Mount of Transfiguration. Observe that it is as “the Son of Man” He is glorified, i.e., His glory
1. As the perfect man was displayed in and by His sufferings. Man’s excellence consists in entire conformity to God’s will. Of this Christ was all through possessed, but more particularly when at the supreme moment to do God’s will He died for man.
2. As the representative man, as typified by the vicarious sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, and by the “Kinsman Redeemer.” How glorious this was.
3. As the God-man, as illustrated by the supernatural portents before and at the Crucifixion, which made the Centurion exclaim, “Surely this is the Son of God.”
4. As the predicted man. At no period of His history were so many prophecies fulfilled. It is probable that the words suggest that there should be spectators: that there should not only be glory, but glorification. If so, Christ was glorified in His sufferings by the dying thief, God the Father, and the holy angels. Some expositors refer the words to the Lord’s supper--a glorious display of His authority as the Legislator, and His love as theSaviour of the Church.
II. THE GLORIFICATION OF GOD IN THE SON OF MAN SUFFERING. This is a strange declaration. We can understand how God is glorified in heaven, in the universe, in His government, and in multitudes of saved beings, but how in the sufferings of His Son? Now was “the hour and power of darkness.” The words “in Him” explain the mystery. By men and devils God was dishonoured, but by Christ honoured. God was glorified in Christ’s sufferings
1. Viewed in themselves, they glorify
(1) The Divine power which inflicted them and sustained the Sufferer. Never was sorrow like Christ’s sorrow, but never was God’s grace so abundant. Christ crucified is “the power of God.”
(2) The Divine wisdom. Christ’s sufferings
(a) Effectually answer an important end--the eternal salvation of man.
(b) By means different from any that created wisdom could have suggested.
(3) The Divine justice (Romans 3:25-26).
(4) The Divine faithfulness in exactly fulfilling so many predictions.
(5) The Divine benignity (chap. 3:16).
2. Viewed in their results.
(1) In the events themselves. The enemy of God is baffled, evil in the form of sin and suffering prevented, and good in the form of holiness and happiness produced.
(2) In those events as the results of Christ’s suffering--to bring such results out of such means. Satan’s ruin rises out of his apparent triumph; life is the fruit of death; favour arises out of wrath, etc.
III. THE GLORIFICATION BY GOD OF THE SON OF MAN, ON ACCOUNT OF HIS SUFFERINGS, IN CONSEQUENCE OF GOD BEING GLORIFIED BY HIM IN THEM.
1. God glorified the Son of Man
(1) Under His sufferings, which tested His power to bear and His disposition to obey, by sustaining Him amid them.
(2) After His sufferings--“straightway,” “It is finished,” paradise, the resurrection, ascension, session, and the judgment to come.
2. God glorified the Son of Man in Himself. If God is glorified in Him He shall be glorified in God.
3. God’s glorification of the Son of Man was the result and reward of God being glorified in and by the Son of Man’s sufferings.
Conclusion: The subject bids us
1. Rest with entire confidence on the finished work of Christ as the ground of our hope.
2. Imitate the Son of Man in glorifying God and in seeking thus to be glorified by God.
3. Cooperate, though at an infinite distance, with God in glorifying the Son of Man. (J. Brown, D. D.)
God glorified in His Son
showed what glory accrued from the sufferings of Christ.
I. TO THE SON HIMSELF.
1. In completing His engagements with the Father.
2. In redeeming from death a ruined world.
II. TO THE FATHER THROUGH THE SON.
1. In the display of all His perfections.
2. In the accomplishment of all His purposes.
III. TO THE SON BY AND WITH THE FATHER.
1. In the testimonies borne to Him under His sufferings.
2. In the triumphant issue of them.
3. In the benefits conferred in consideration of them. (C. Simeon, M. A.)
God glorified in His Son
I. HIS OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S LAW.
II. HIS TEACHING OF GOD’S WILL.
III. HIS SUBMISSION TO GOD’S APPOINTMENTS.
IV. HIS DEATH FOR GOD’S CHILDREN. (S. S. Times.)
The cross the glory of Christ and God
There is something very weird and awful in the brief note of time--“it was night.” In immediate connection comes this singular burst of triumph--“Therefore.” Now that that “spot in their feast of charity” had disappeared, the Master felt at ease; and, like some stream, out of the bed of which a black rock has been taken, His words flow more freely. How intensely real and human the narrative becomes when we see that Christ, too, felt the oppression of an uncongenial presence, and was relieved and glad at its removal! The departure of the traitor evoked these words of triumph in another way. The match was lit that was to be applied to the train. He had gone out on his dark errand, and that brought the Cross within measurable distance of our Lord. What Judas went to do was the beginning of Christ’s glorifying.
I. THE SON OF MAN GLORIFIED IN HIS CROSS.
1. There is a double aspect under which our Lord regarded His sufferings. On the one hand we mark the innocent shrinking of His manhood. And yet, side by side with that, there is the reaching out almost with eagerness to bring the Cross nearer. Like the pellucid Rhine and the turbid Moselle, that flow side by side, so the shrinking and the desire were contemporaneous in Christ’s mind. Here we have the triumphant anticipation rising to the surface, and conquering for a time the shrinking.
2. Why did Christ think of His Cross as a glorifying? The New Testament generally represents it as the lowest point of His degradation; John’s Gospel always represents it as the highest point of His glory. And both are true; just as the zenith of our sky is the nadir for these on the other side of the world. The same fact which in one aspect sounds humiliating, in another is glorious. The Cross glorified Christ because
(1) It was the revelation of His heart. All His life long He had been trying to tell the world how much He loved it; but in His death it comes in a flood, and pours itself upon the world. For Him to be known was to be glorified. So pure and perfect was He, that revelation of His character and glorification of Himself were one and the same thing. We can fancy a mother in the anticipation of shame, and suffering, and death for the sake of some prodigal child, forgetting all, because all are absorbed in the one thought: “If I bear them, my poor, rebellious child will know at last how much I loved him.” So Christ yearns to impart the knowledge of Himself to us because by that knowledge we may be won to His love and service.
(2) It is His throne of saving power. Christ could not have spoken such words as these if He had simply thought of His death as a Plato or a John Howard might have thought of his, as being the close of his activity for the welfare of his fellows. If His death is His glorifying, it must be because in that death something is done which was not completed by the life, however fair; by the words, however wise and tender; by the works of power, however restorative and healing. Here is something more, viz., that His
Cross is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. He is glorified therein, not as a Socrates might be glorified by his calm and noble death; but because in that death He wrestled with and overcame our foes, and because, like the Jewish hero, dying, He pulled down the house which our tyrants had built, and overwhelmed them in its ruins.
3. And so there blend, in that last act, the two contradictory ideas of glory and shame; like some sky, all full of dark thunderclouds, and yet between them the brightest blue and the blazing sunshine. In the Cross Death crowns Him the Prince of Life, and His Cross is His throne. “He endured the Cross, despising the shame;” and lo! the shame flashed up into the very brightness of glory, and the ignominy and the suffering became the jewels of His crown.
II. GOD GLORIFIED IN THE SON OF MAN. The mystery deepens as we advance. That God shall be glorified in a man is not strange, but it is strange that the act in which He was glorified was the death of an innocent man, and must imply
1. That God was in Christ, in some singular and eminent manner. If His whole human life and nature were the brightest manifestation of God, we can understand that the Cross was the highest point of the revelation of the Divine nature, and so was the glorifying of God in Him. But if we take any lower view of the relation between God and Christ, these words are a world too wide for the facts of the case.
2. That these sufferings bore no relation to the deserts of the person who endured them. If Christ, with His pure and perfect character, suffered so, then, if they have any bearing at all on the character of God, they cast a shadow rather than a light upon the Divine government. But if we can say, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself;” that His death was the death of Him whom God had appointed to live and die for us, and to bear our sins then, though deep mysteries come with the thought, still we can see that, in a very unique manner, God is glorified and exalted in His death. For, if the dying Christ be the son of God dying for us, then the Cross glorifies God, because it teaches us that the glory of the Divine character is the Divine love. If there be nothing Diviner in God than His giving of Himself to His creatures, then the Cross towers above all other revelations. And is it not so? Has it not scattered doubts that lay like mountains of ice upon man’s heart? Has it not delivered men from the dreams of gods angry, capricious, vengeful, etc.? Has it not taught us that love is God, and God is love?
III. THE SON OF MAN GLORIFIED IN THE FATHER. The mysteries deepen as we advance. “If God be glorified in Him,” etc. Do these words sound to you as if they expressed no more than the confidence of a good man, who, when he was dying, believed that he would be accepted of a loving Father, and would be at rest from his sufferings?
1. “In Himself.” That is the obvious antithesis to the previous clause, a glorifying which consisted in a manifestation to the external universe, whereas this is a glorifying within the depths of the Divine nature. And the best commentary is: “Father! glorify Thou Me with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” We get a glimpse into the very centre of the brightness of God; and there, walking in that beneficent furnace, we see “One like unto the Son of Man.”
2. This reception into the bosom of the Father is given to the Son of Man. The brother of us all, in His manhood, enters into that same glory, which, from the beginning, the Eternal Word had with God.
3. That glorifying is set forth as commencing immediately--“straightway.” At the instant, then, that He said, “It is finished,” and all that the Cross could do to glorify God was done, at that instant there began, with God’s glorifying of the Son in Himself. It began in that Paradise into which we know that upon that day He entered. It was manifested to the world when He raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory. It reached a still higher point when, ascending up on high, a dominion and a throne and a glory were given to Him. It shaft rise to its highest manifestation before an assembled world, when He shall come in His glory, and before Him shall be gathered all nations. Conclusion: From that elevation He looks down ready to bless each poor creature here. And if we will but take Him as our Saviour, His all-prevalent prayer, presented within the veil for us, will certainly be fulfilled at last--“Father, I will that they also whom Thou has given Me,” etc. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Three important facts in relation to Christ
I. A PAINFUL IMPRESSION REMOVED FROM HIS HEART. “Therefore when he was gone out”
1. An object of moral offence had been removed from His vision. It is never felt to be a pleasant thing to have in your social circle a corrupt man, especially if you know he has plotted against you. The exit of such a man is felt to be a relief.
2. An obstruction to the free utterance of His love had been removed from amongst His hearers. Parents and pastors have often things to say which they will not utter in the presence of a stranger or enemy. When the traitor was gone Christ’s tongue was free.
II. A GLORIOUS CONSUMMATION OF THE GREAT PURPOSE OF HIS LIFE. The expression “Son of Man” occurs sixty-six times. Not son of a tribe, nation, sect, or He would have had tribal, etc., peculiarities. He realized the Divine ideal of what man ought to be.
1. The true glory of a man is the realization of the Divine purpose in his Ills. The universe is glorious because it realizes the Divine purpose. The gospel is glorified when it transforms men into the image of God.
2. The man who thus realizes the Divine purpose glorifies God also. We see most of God’s glory in his life who works out the Divine will in a Godlike life. This is what Christ felt now.
III. A TENDER CONSIDERATION FOR THE COMING TRIAL OF HIS DISCIPLES (John 13:33).
1. He informs them of that trial. A trial that would crush if it came unexpectedly may fall lightly when anticipated.
2. He informs them in the language of endearment. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
(See Dr. Maclaren’s sermon on John 7:33-34).
IV. PROTECTION. (S. S. Times.)
Whither I go, ye cannot come … now.--
I. A picture of THE CHRISTIAN’S PRESENT CONDITION.
II. A promise of THE CHRISTIAN’S FUTURE DEVELOPMENT. (S. S. Times.)
The conditions of being with Christ
Just as these friends of Christ, though they loved Him very truly, and understood Him a little, were a long way from being ready to follow Him, and needed the schooling of the Cross, and Olivet, and Pentecost, as well as the discipline of life and toil, before they were fully ripe for the harvest, so we, for the most part, have to pass through analogous training before we are prepared for the place which Christ has prepared for us. Certainly, so soon as a heart has trusted Christ, it is capable of entering where He is, and the real reason why the disciples could not come where He went was that they did not yet clearly know Him as the Divine Sacrifice for theirs and the world’s sins, and, however much they believed in Him as Messiah, had not yet, nor could have, the knowledge on which they could found their trust in Him as their Saviour. But, while that is true, it is also true that each advance in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour will bring with it capacity to advance further into the heart of the far-off land, and to see more of the King in His beauty. So, as long as His friends were wrapped in such dark clouds of misconception and error, as long as their Christian characters were so imperfect and incomplete as they were at the time of my text being spoken, they could not go thither and follow Him. But it was a diminishing impossibility, and day by day they approximated more and more to His likeness, because they understood Him more, and trusted Him more, and loved Him more, and grew towards Him, and, therefore, day by day became more and more able to enter into that kingdom. (A. Maclaren,, D. D.)
A new commandment I give unto you
The new commandment
I. WHY IS THIS CALLED NEW?
1. Negatively. Not as if it was not enjoined before (1 John 2:7; Leviticus 19:18).
(1) Newly freed from the false glosses of the Jews (Matthew 5:43-44).
(2) Newly infused into the heart as well as commanded.
(3) Christ adds a new authority to it, and a new obligation on us.
(4) Because it is so excellent (Psalms 32:3).
(5) It is to be performed according to a new pattern, viz., Christ’s love to us.
II. BY WHAT POWER DOES CHRIST LAY HIS COMMANDS UPON US?
1. AS God (John 20:28).
2. As King and head of the Church (Matthew 28:18).
III. WHAT LOVE IS IT WE SHOULD HAVE TO ONE ANOTHER?
1. Pray for one another (1 Timothy 2:1).
2. Forgive one another (Matthew 6:14).
3. Help one another.
(1) In temporals (Matthew 7:11).
(2) In spirituals (Leviticus 19:17).
4. Sympathize with one another.
(1) In prosperity (Romans 12:15).
(2) In adversity.
5. Relieve one another’s necessities
(1) In obedience to God (1 John 3:17).
(2) Proportionably to our estates (1 Corinthians 16:2).
(3) Humbly, not thinking to merit thereby (Luke 17:10).
IV. HOW IS CHRIST’S LOVE TO US TO BE A PATTERN FOR OUR LOVE?
(1) Not that we can suffer so much for others as He has done for us.
(2) Nor do so much; for He has obtained the pardon of our sins 1 John 2:2); peace with God (Romans 5:1); heaven John 14:2).
(1) Our love must proceed from the same principles.
(2) In the same manner.
(a) Readily (Titus 3:1; Psalms 40:7-8).
(c) Effectually, in deeds as well as words (1 John 4:18).
(d) Humbly, thinking nothing too low for us to do for others Philippians 2:6-8).
(e) Constantly (verse 1).
(3) To the same objects, His enemies (Romans 8:1-39; Romans 9:1-33; Romans 10:1-21).
(4) To the same ends
(a) God’s glory (John 17:4; 1 Corinthians 10:31).
(b) Others good (Acts 10:38).
V. Use. Consider
1. Unless you love others you have no love for God (1 John 3:17).
2. It is the fulfilling of all the law (Romans 13:9).
3. No duty is accepted without it (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
4. It is the badge of a Christian (verse 35).
5. It is an everlasting grace (1 Corinthians 13:8; 1 Corinthians 13:13).
6. Christ will judge us according to this command (Matthew 25:45). (Bp. Beveridge.)
The new commandment
It is new, because
I. FOUNDED ON A NEW RELATION.
1. Our relation to Christ. We are united to Him by faith, and receive from Him, as the branches from the vine, the life by which we live.
2. This new relation to Christ involves a new relation with each other. We are brethren, members of one family--“as many as received Him,” etc.
3. On this new relation the new commandment is based. As the relationship of nature gives rise to natural affection, so this spiritual one begets love in accordance with itself. It is more than philanthropy, patriotism, party attachment, friendship, etc. It is love to those who love Christ and are beloved by Him: love to the Elder Brother in His brethren and ours.
II. PRESENTED IN A NEW FORM--“As I have loved you.” It must be the same in kind, although in a lesser degree; just as a drop from the ocean, or a ray from the sun, is the same as the fulness from which it comes. These conversations exhibit several characteristics which we ought to imitate.
1. Tender consideration for each others’ needs. He thought of them more than He thought of Himself.
2. Humble ministration to the welfare of the brethren (John 13:4-5). Christ’s was not a sentimental, but a practical love.
3. Self-sacrifice for our sakes. “He gave Himself,” not merely certain blessings, and not merely to teach and minister, but to die. “Greater love hath no man than this.” “We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
III. ENFORCED BY A NEW POWER. It is in this respect that the new covenant differs so widely from the old. The law enjoined the duty of loving our neighbour; but it had not sufficient motive power to carry the commandment into effect. Hence it remained a dead letter, and spoke only to condemn. But the new commandment is “The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” and its word is with power. It is attended by the constraining influence of the Saviour’s love. “We have not received the Spirit of fear,” etc. As we contemplate this “great love,” we become the subjects of a new emotion of admiration and gratitude. Above all, His Spirit writes the new commandment on the fleshy tables of our hearts.
IV. DESIGNED FOR A NEW PURPOSE (John 13:35). It is not only a law to be fulfilled; but its fulfilment is a distinction and evidence of our relation to Christ.
1. A peculiar distinction. Of old time, discipleship was known by dress, language, meat, and drinks, creeds, etc.; but our Lord declares that the distinct mark of His disciples shall be, beyond everything else, love like His own.
2. A certain distinction. For what is there more directly opposed to the sinfulness of the human heart? And what is the saving change, but one from selfishness to love? “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because,” etc.
3. An influential distinction. For wherever it exists, men cannot but recognize us, and Christ in us, and be attracted to His love and service. (B. Dale, M. A.)
The new commandment
We all know the Ten Commandments, is there another besides? Yes, says--
I. THE WORLD. “Thou shalt not be found out in breaking any of the ten.” It acknowledges their excellence, breaks them, and strives to conceal that it has done so, wishing above all things to escape detection. This is the object which the bad part of the world pursues with all its cleverness and energy.
II. THE CHURCH. It is remarkable that in the version of the Ten Commandments by the oldest of existing sects, the Samaritans, this is added, “Thou shalt build an altar on Mount Gerizim, and there thou shalt worship.” And for commandments such as this, half the energies of Christendom have been spent, and spent in vain.
III. CHRIST. “Love one another.” We can imagine the surprise of the apostles, “What I are not the ten enough, or the two; may we not rest and be thankful in these?” True in these are the substance of all duty; but there is a craving in the human heart for something beyond mere duty, for a commandment which should be at once old and new--new with all the varying circumstances of time and thought and feeling, and which should give a new, fresh, undying impulse to its ten elder sisters. The ten older commandments were written on blocks of stone, as if to teach us that all great and good works were like that primeval granite of Sinai, more solid and enduring than all the other strata, cutting across all the secondary and artificial distinctions of mankind. As that granite block itself had been fused and wrought together by the central fire, so the Christian law of duty, in order to fully perform its work in the world, must have been warmed and fed at the source of a central fire of its own--love of God and love of man. And that central fire itself is kept alive by the consciousness that there has been in the world a love above all other love--the love of Christ. Learn the importance
1. Of personal kindness.
2. Systematic beneficence.
3. Making the most and the best of everyone. (Dean Stanley.)
The new commandment
It is new because love
I. RENEWS US.
II. MAKES US NEW CREATURES.
III. MAKES US HEIRS OF A NEW COVENANT.
IV. ENABLES US TO SING A NEW SONG. (Bp. Christ. Wordsworth.)
The new commandment
What are Christ’s parting instructions to His Church? How are His followers to vanquish all the banded opposition of the world? Does He counsel them to amass wealth? to secure high offices? to acquire learning? to equip fleets and armies? to employ craft and intrigue? No, the first disciples were poor, destitute of learning, humble and despised, nor did they ever kill or wound a single human being. The power with which the Redeemer arms His Church is love.
I. THE COMMANDMENT.
1. Love is the only badge by which the Church of Christ is known (John 13:35). Armies have their banners, and families their heraldry. In the days of Christ, Jews and Gentiles had their emblems--different sects and schools being distinguished by symbols and mottoes. At this day, churches called Christian glory in names, titles, orders, and parade. But there is only one badge of the true Church which will be recognized and honoured by “all men.” “The banner over us is love.”
2. Love is the only law by which a Church of Christ is to be governed. Church government!--how much pride, prejudice, ambition, selfishness, cruelty, have been sanctified by this phrase. A king dabbling with astronomy once said, Had I been present when God arranged the solar system, I could have made some important suggestions. So vain men have thought as to the Saviour’s regulation of His Church, and they have sought to improve His system. As in the natural world the Creator secures order without monotony, by forming each particle of matter with its own peculiar properties, and throwing around all substances the law of gravitation; so in the Church, there are many members and diversities of gifts, etc., but the law of love binds all into one harmonious whole. If love reign in a church, it will almost supersede discipline.
3. When from the internal administration of the Church we turn to its outward enterprise, we find a mission entirely of love. It is this which makes the gospel the religion suited to all climes and ages.
4. It is love which is to secure the perpetuity, and final and universal triumph of the Church. Force, stratagem, heredity, prescriptive authority, are the foundations of earthly kingdoms. Christ founded His empire on love.
5. Love is the glory, the happiness, the perfection of the Church of Christ. It is greater than faith and hope, because it comprehends them both; for it “hopeth all things, believeth all things.” We every day see loving hearts hoping against hope, and trusting in spite of the basest perfidiousness. Love, indeed, is the crowning flower in which all the Christian graces will expand and bloom in eternity. The highest heaven knows nothing more exalted and blessed than love.
II. IN WHAT SENSE IS IT NEW.
1. In the new principle to which it appeals. It is not attachment to a human being for his natural excellencies, but complacency in the image of God reflected by him. “Every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him.”
2. In its extent--embracing all who are the children of God. All other ties and relations are subordinated to this religion--this new spiritual affinity which rebinds us to Christ and to each other. Separated from God, men are walled off from each other by selfish and hostile distinctions. To repair these unnatural breaches, the “Son of God” became the “Son of Man,” that He might attract us all to God, and unite us all to one another by new and heavenly ties.
3. Its spirituality. It is love not only for the bodies, but for the souls of our brethren. How few really and practically recognize the soul. In Christ’s teachings the soul is everything. He heeded neither the trappings of the prince nor the rags of the beggar. Beneath all, through all, He saw a soul whose dignity and worth transcend finite thought. The only charge which His enemies could ever prove against Him was, “This man receiveth sinners.” And, catching His spirit, what a new passion inflamed the souls of His disciples.
4. Its comprehensiveness; for it embraces and renders superfluous all other commands.
III. THE EXAMPLE BY WHICH IT IS ENFORCED--“As I have loved you.” A love
1. How attentive! as considerate and assiduous as the love of a woman.
2. How confiding! “Having loved His own, which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.” Often had they been faithless. Yet He trusts them, opens His whole heart to them, and commits His cause to their keeping.
3. How condescending! Stooping to the most menial office of kindness and hospitality (John 13:4-5).
4. How compassionate! He not only pronounces every sin, however aggravated, pardonable, if only against Himself, but He is ingenious in finding apologies for all the weaknesses, even for the baseness and treachery, of those whom He had trusted.
5. How disinterested! He entirely forgets Himself when His friends are in sorrow or danger. (R. Fuller, D. D.)
The new commandment
These words fall strangely on our ears. A commandment to love! We have placed law and love in contrast, and have imagined affection to be below our reach. Yet Jesus enforces love. We are, therefore, reminded that love is within our own reach. Christ lays it upon us not as an ideal which we may admire, and which may exert some kind of influence on us, nor as a standard which we may attain to in heaven; but as a commandment. In what sense can it be called a new commandment? Surely in the old dispensation God commanded love. The newness of the law may be found in the prominent position which is given to it, and the standard set before us. The first fruit of the Spirit named in the list of graces is love. Christ especially singles out this affection as being illustrative of His own character, and giving most effectual testimony to Him.
I. IN WHAT FORM MAY THIS NEW COMMANDMENT BE FULFILLED?--“As I have loved on you.” Study the love of Christ. His love showed itself
1. In a generous appreciation of the characters of those around Him. In that little group there existed the utmost differences. You find a publican like Matthew, a man with very dim perceptions like Philip; a determined and resolute doubter like Thomas; a boastful man like Peter, etc. These are men from whom we should be inclined to shrink, but Christ could appreciate them all. Be quick, like Christ, to see virtues, and slow to see faults. Generous appreciation will encourage public men to hold their position. It will encourage men of worth, who are retiring in disposition, to come to the front and bear their share of public duty. Unkind criticism will keep in the background men who can best serve the Church and commonwealth. This generous appreciation is a wonderful force to elevate society. Suspicion has a tendency to create what it suspects. If you suspect a lad of untruthfulness, you are tempting him to falsehood. If high estimates are formed of us by others, we are encouraged to rise to the estimate.
2. In patient endurance! “When reviled He reviled not again.” We are to forbear one another and to forgive one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us. If we are doing good work we cannot afford to be turned aside by any unkindness. God has overcome our evil with His good, and turned the hostile forces of our nature into helpful influences for His purposes. Thus seek to conquer the evil which you have to endure by good. It is the noblest of all triumphs.
3. In unselfish service.
(1) In little deeds of kindness, of which sometimes the recipients shall know nothing, but which shall bring some fresh gladness and hope into their lives.
(2) In words. What did God give you the power of speech for? Is it to hide your feelings? Love will die like a smothered fire if you give it no expression.
(3) In looks. If your face is dull, sad, cross, to the extent of your influence you are saddening all that come within your circle.
II. WHAT WILL BE THE RESULT OF SUCH CHRIST-LIKE LOVE?
1. That you can sympathise with God. On many sides of the Divine nature you cannot sympathise with Him.
(1) With His mighty power, for you have not an arm like His.
(2) With Divine wisdom.
(3) With burning purity.
(4) But you can sympathise with His love. You can feel for men as God feels for them.
2. That you will show your union with Christ (verse 35). No Christian grace exercises so much influence on the thoughts of men. They are not able to appreciate Christian holiness, prayerfulness, zeal; but Christlike love they can.
3. Such love will gladden your own life as well as the lives of others. There is perhaps no joy greater than that of loving. The bliss of the blessed God lies chiefly in His loving heart. (C. B. Symes, B. A.)
The new commandment
It was new because He had only then come to explain it; it was new because it could not have been conceived before His life exhibited its meaning; it was new because the love which He showed was something altogether beyond the power of man to have imagined for himself; and as in science we reckon him to be the discoverer of a new law, who rises above the guesses and glimpses of His predecessors, and establishes upon new ground, and in a manner which can never afterwards be questioned, some great principle which had been perhaps partly conceived before, so I think we may say, that the law of brotherly love, as illustrated by the example of the Lord, which stamps the great principle of selfishness as a vile and execrable principle, might be truly described as a new commandment which Christ gave to His disciples. (Bp. H. Goodwin.)
The new commandment and the old
Christ is our Lawgiver as well as our Saviour. And He made obedience to His laws the test and the manifestation of love to Him (John 14:15). The Church of Christ is in fact the spiritual Israel. Israel according to the flesh had their laws fitted for their place in God’s purposes; we have ours adapted to our position also. And we may well be thankful when we compare the two codes together. Theirs, as necessary in a state of imperfection and bondage, was cumbrous and intricate. Of all the commands of the old law, none remain for us, but those which are based on the nature of God, and His attributes. And our new commandment comes to us, not sanctioned by lightnings and thunderings, etc.
but from the dying lips of our dearest Friend; it is prefaced by His deed of deep humiliation, is embosomed in His words of consolation and peace--is enforced by His own constraining example. A new commandment. And what is it which we are to hear from the lips of Divine wisdom, after such an announcement? Long had the world disobeyed His law written in the conscience; and then He defined that law, and wrote it on tables of stone, and set apart a people for Himself, among whom it might be observed. But that people had rejected Him, and disobeyed His laws. And now, what new commandment will He promulgate to His rebellious world? What, to the Gentile, sunk in moral degradation--what to the Jew, mocking Him with empty hypocrisy? Shall it not surpass in strictness and in terror all that have gone before? Shall it not be such as to awe the passions into submission to awaken the conscience into energy, to drive the sinner to repentance or to his doom? Nay! Can He, who invited to Him the weary and heavy laden, speak aught but words of gentleness and comfort? Had God’s new revelation of His will been an increase in severity, would this Messenger have been sent to make it? Anew commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another. (Dean Alford.)
Christ’s law of love
Look for a moment, by way of recall, at three or four characteristics of that love which Christ showed to His disciples. In the first place, love was the principle of His life. Some men are like Western farmers who have their one hundred and sixty acres, and put one hundred and fifty-nine and a half acres in hay and grain and grass for the cattle, and half an acre around the door is a garden and grass-plot, and a fraction of that the wife cultivates in flowers. So men give the larger part of their life to self or justice or righteousness or fair-dealing, and they cultivate a little plot with flowers which they call love (and generally they are very like the Western farmers in that they leave the wife to raise all the flowers). know, love was not thus a mere incident of Christ’s life. It was the essence of His life. He lived for love. Love was the inspiration of His life. It was a wise love, not a mere sentiment, not a mere blind enthusiasm. It was well considered. He measured men and adapted His gifts to their capacities. Christ’s love was not either a mere sentimental love. It was not a love that cannot bear to look upon suffering, or that intervenes to stop all suffering. It was not a love that could not rebuke and reprove. There was flash in the eyes of His love, and there was thunder, sometimes, in the tones of His love. He loved, too, with infinite patience and long-suffering. He loved not only with benevolence--that is, well wishing to all men, and with pity--that is, with love to those that are in suffering, but with mercy--that is, love to those who do not deserve love. He loved when love andconscience seemed to antagonize each other. Impossible I do you say? Well, then, let us say frankly it is impossible to be a Christian. Impossible? Then impossible to follow Christ. Not human nature? No, it is not human nature. It is Divine nature: and that is the very object of Christianity--to confer upon all who will be the disciples of Christ a Divine nature, not a mere human nature; that they may be lifted up out of the plane of the human, and walk in the plane and atmosphere of the Divine ever more. (Lyman Abbott, D. D.)
The new commandment of love to one another
The commandment of love issued appropriately at the Feast of Love, and not long before the great Act of Love. For the love of Christ was no fine saying; it cost Him His life to say these words. It is difficult to grasp the meaning of this command, arising from the fact that words change their meaning. Love is, by conventional usage, appropriated to one species of human affection, which, in the commoner men, is most selfish. Nor is charity a perfect symbol of His meaning; for that is now identified with almsgiving. Benevolence or philanthropy, in derivation, come nearer to the idea; but yet you feel at once that these words are too tame and cold. We have no sufficient word. “As I have loved you:” that alone expounds it. Take
I. THE NOVELTY of the law
1. As a historical fact. Men before that had travelled, but the spectacle of a Paul crossing oceans not to conquer kingdoms, to hive up knowledge, to accumulate stores for self, but to give and to spend himself--was new in the history of the world. The celestial fire had touched the hearts of men and their hearts flamed; and it caught, and spread, and would not stop. Read the account given by Tertullian of the marvellous rapidity with which the Christians increased, and you are reminded of one of those vast armies of ants which move across a country in irresistible myriads, drowned by thousands in rivers, cut off by fire, consumed by men and beast, and yet fresh hordes succeeding interminably to supply their place. A new voice was heard; man longing to burst the false distinctions which had kept the best hearts from each other so long. And all this from Judaea--the narrowest, most intolerant nation on the face of the earth.
2. In extent. It was in literal words, an old Commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” But the difference lay in extent in which the words were understood. By “neighbour,” the Jew meant his countrymen; so that the rabbinical gloss was, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy.” And what the Gentile understood by the extent of the law of love, we may learn from their best and wisest, who thanked heaven that he was born a man, and not a brute--a Greek, and not a barbarian. But Christ said, “Love your enemies.” And as a specimen of a neighbour he specially selected one of that nation whom every Jew had been taught to hate. And just as the application of electricity to the innumerable wants of human life and to new ends is reckoned a new discovery (though the fact has been familiar to the Indian child and applied for ages to his childish sports), so the extension of this grand principle of Love to all the possible cases and persons--even though the principle was applied long before in love to friends, country, and relations--is truly and properly “a new commandment.”
3. In being made the central principle of a system. Never had obedience before been trusted to a principle, it had always been hedged round by a law. Now it was reserved for One to pierce down into the springs of human action, and to proclaim the simplicity of its machinery. “Love,” said the apostle after Him--“Love is the fulfilling of the law.” I may abstain from murder and theft, deterred by law and its penalties. But I may also rise into the Spirit of Charity; then I am free from the law; the law no more binds me, now that I love my neighbour, than the dyke built to keep in the sea at high tide restrains it when that sea has sunk to low watermark.
II. THE SPIRIT OR MEASURE of the law--“As I have loved you.” Broadly, the love of Christ was the spirit of giving all He had to give--“Greater love hath no man than this,” etc. “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.” These words, meant as taunt, were really the noblest panegyric. How could He, having saved others? How can any keep what he gives? Love gives itself. The mother spends herself in giving life to her child; the soldier dies for him country; nay, even the artist produces nothing that will live, except so far as he has merged his very being in his work. That spirit of self-giving manifests itself in
1. Considerate kindness. Take three cases.
(1) When He fed the people with bread, there was a tenderness which, not absorbed in His own great designs, provided for the satisfaction of the lowest wants.
(2) “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile.” He did not grudge from duty the interval of relaxation.
(3) “Woman, behold thy son!” In that hour of death torture, He could think of her desolate state when He was gone, and with delicate, thoughtful attention provide for her well-being. There are people who would do great acts; but because they wait for great opportunities, life passes and the acts of love are not done at all. Observe, this considerateness of Christ was shown in little things. And life is made up of infinitesimals. And these trifles prepared for larger deeds. The one who will be found in trial capable of great acts of love is ever the one who is always doing considerate small ones.
2. It was never foiled by the unworthiness of those on whom it had once been bestowed. There was everything to shake His trust in humanity. As we mix in life there comes disappointment, and the danger is a reaction of desolating and universal mistrust. The only preservation from this withering of the heart is love. The strength of affection is a proof, not of the worthiness of the object, but of the largeness of the soul which loves. The might of a river depends not on the quality of the soil through which it passes, but on the inexhaustibleness and depth of the spring from which it proceeds. The greater minds cleave to the smaller with more force than the other to it. Love trusts on--expects better things. And more, it is this trusting love that makes men what they are trusted to be, so realizing itself. When the crews of the fleet of Britain knew that they were expected to do their duty, they did their duty. And it is on this principle that Christ wins the hearts of His redeemed. He trusted the doubting Thomas; and Thomas arose with a faith worthy “of his Lord and his God.” He would not suffer even the lie of Peter to shake His conviction that Peter might love him yet; and Peter answered nobly to that sublime forgiveness. Therefore, come what may, hold fast to love. Learn not to love merely, but to love as He loved. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Love one another
A little girl, three or four years old, learned the Bible text, “Love one another.” “What does love one another mean?” asked her next eldest sister, in honest doubt as to the meaning. “Why, I must love you and you must love me; and I’m one and you’re another” was the answer. Who can improve on that? (J. L. Nye.)
The winning power of love
Alexander the Great, being asked how he had been able at so early an age and in so short a period to conquer such vast regions, and establish so great a name, replied, “I used my enemies so well that I compelled them to be my friends; and I treated my friends with such constant regard that they became unalterably attached to me.”
The victorious power of love
A lady brought a little ragged orphan girl to her house for a playmate for her three daughters. But the little thing would venture no further than the lobby, where she sat crying as if her heart would break. The lady said to her daughters there was one secret of four letters she thought would win the little one. The eldest girl tried her doll, the second her new muff, but still the little stranger kept on weeping. At length the youngest sister ran into the lobby, sat down beside her, began to weep with her, and then put her arms about her neck and kissed her, till at last she easily got her into the room; and then it was found that the secret was love. (Clerical Library.)
Love the cure for coldness
One of the common complaints in our day, in Christian societies, is this, “There is no love among us.” Sometimes the complaint is uttered in holy sorrow. But sometimes it only means, “I am not getting my just share of love from others; the place feels cold around me.” If this is what the complaint means, the remedy is that the complainer should love till he warms up the whole neighbourhood. I am to love when I am not loved. I am to love when I am suspected. I am to love when men are trying to discover what selfish feeling moves me, or what my price is. I am to love those who do not care for my love. I am to love even when I have indignation. I am to love as the sun shines--its beams going forth on all sides without asking for an object, and “there is nothing hid from the heat thereof;” the love I show being the love of God in me.
The eleventh commandment
I. ITS PRINCIPLE. We are to have love like that of Christ.
1. In one sense this is impossible. “Measure the waters in the hollow of thine hand; mete out heaven with a span,” etc.--these are measurable things, but the love of Christ is measureless. To love like Paul--like John--would be a lofty aim, but who can love like Christ?
2. He asks not that our love should equal, but resemble His; not that it should be of the same strength, but of the same kind. A pearl of dew will not hold the sun, but it may hold a sparkle of its light. A child, by the sea, trying to catch the waves, cannot hold the ocean in a tiny shell, but he may hold a drop of the ocean water. “There is an ocean of love in My heart,” says Christ, “let a drop of that ocean be received into yours.”
3. Divine love, therefore, is but another name for that Divine life which animates all the disciples. None need despair of his ability to obey his Lord’s will, for Christ gives the love which He commands, and you need only ask in order to have (Ephesians 3:14-19).
II. THE MODE OF ACTION it prescribes. If we love as Christ loves
1. We shall be ready to love others before they love us. If He had waited until we loved Him, where should we now have been? “Herein is love, not that we loved Him, but that He loved us.” His love explains His death, but what can explain His love? Sublime as it is, our love must acknowledge no lower law.
2. Our love will be a practical thing. Some are in danger of becoming mere religious sentimentalists. They feel much, but do little. They are ready for sympathy, but not for sacrifice. They are the sensitive plants of the Church, and not fruit-bearing trees of righteousness. This fine sensibility, cherished for its own sake, and having no outforce in deeds for the good of others, both weakens the soul and itself. “Abiding alone,” it is but soft effeminacy or weak indulgence; luxury, not love. Christ has not said, “By love feel for one another,” merely; but “By love serve one another.” Let us interpret His law by His life. His love speaks to us through a glorious deed; then our love, like His, must speak through action. His love found expression through a sacrifice; then ours must express itself through sacrifice. His love was displayed when “He bore our griefs, and carried our sorrows;” then, “bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” Redemption was His own personal act. Then our love is not to have a mere representative utterance.
3. Our love will be humble. All love is lowly. You often see a loving purpose kept in cheek by a haughty will, and the ice of pride seal the river of love. You have seen the father and son proudly stand apart. Each yearns to fling himself into the other’s embrace, but pride forbids the younger to confess his fault, and the elder his sorrowful tenderness. But where love lives in its strength it will be stronger than death. It will come down, cast aside state and ceremony, submit to a thousand indignities, stoop to save, and “stand at the door and knock.” If you would know what humility can do, study redeeming love, and though Christ sits enthroned on the riches of the universe His heart is still unchanged. Like the sunshine that falls with magical flicker on pearl and ruby, lance and armour, in the royal hall--yet overflows the shepherd’s home, and quivers through the grating of the prisoner’s cell--floods the noblest scenes with day, yet makes a joy for the insect--so does the Saviour’s love, not deterred by our unworthiness, come down to teach and bless the meanest and the lowliest life in the new creation.
4. Our love must be bountiful. Love can never do enough for its object. When you were lost, “unsearchable riches” were poured forth as the price of your redemption. When you were found, what was the language of the Heart of Hearts? “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him,” etc. When, therefore, your heart is disposed to give a brother disciple but a scanty and penurious affection remember “Freely ye have received, freely give.”
5. We shall breathe a spirit of gentleness and patience towards the erring or offending members of the Christian brotherhood. The effects flowing from the violation of this principle might fill a library with sad histories.
6. We shall love all the disciples. Christ is not now speaking of His universal love, but of His peculiar and discriminating love to those who have accepted Him, and who are already partakers of His life. He loves them, as you love your child none the less because it is now only learning to read, or just beginning, with many a fall, to totter along alone. He loves all His disciples, and all are His disciples, who, however they differ in other respects, unite in the sentiment, “for us to live is Christ.”
7. Our love will last forever. Whom He loves He always loves. This is an inference from His nature.
III. ITS NOVELTY. It is a new commandment
1. As it enjoins love after a new model. Love had always been commanded, but never before had it been so exemplified.
2. As it is addressed to a peculiar class of God’s subjects, and is a law for the new creation alone. The old commandments were given to the world this new commandment to the Church.
3. As it arose out of a new necessity, and was intended to be the distinguishing sign of Christ’s disciples. To prevent confusion, and secure a defined place in society, each office and every class has its peculiar sign. “As every lord giveth a certain livery to his servants, charity is the very livery of Christ. Our Saviour, which is the Lord above all lords, would have His servants known by their badge, which is love” (Latimer).
4. As it has a new impressiveness--an affecting power all its own. The old commandments had a power to alarm; this, when truly understood, has a power to subdue; they smote the conscience, this captivates the heart. (C. Stanford, D. D.)
The eleventh commandment
The little town of Anworth was the home and the pride of that sweet soul, Rutherford, the Covenanter. One Saturday evening, so the story runs, his household were gathered together for their usual cotter’s Saturday night’s devotions, when an alarm was heard at the outer door. A stranger sought admission. He was welcomed with true hospitality, and took his place in the circle of those who were then answering the varied questions in the Catechism. It so chanced that the question, “How many commandments are there?” came to this newcomer, as the one to which he was to make reply, and instantly he answered, “Eleven.” “What!” said Rutherford; “a man so experienced in life as you seem to be, and so educated in the law and the Scripture of God, not to know that there are but ten commandments!” The stranger answered, “‘A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.’” Startled by the answer, Rutherford proceeded with his service. The next morning before the hour of service, he walked from his humble manse along that pathway which is still spoken of as “Rutherford’s Walk,” towards the little church. It was early in the day, and he scarcely expected to meet anyone in the path; but over in the wood he heard the voice of someone in supplication. The moment he listened he recognized the stranger’s tone. He sought him out, and demanded to know who he was. The stranger answered, “My name is Usher.” He was the Archbishop and Primate of all Ireland. Having heard much of the piety of the Presbyterian Rutherford, he had, in this secret way, sought his society that he might judge for himself. Their hearts flowed together in the common devotion which they both felt toward the Lord Jesus, their Master; and when the hour of service came, together the Covenanter and the prelate walked to the little Anworth church, and Usher of Ireland preached to the Covenanters of Scotland on the new commandment, that “ye love one another.” His presence there, his welcome there, his spirit and his words, were expositions of the truth of that which the Lord gave as the summing up of His own life. (S. H.Tyng, D. D.)
(Sermon to Children):--Brotherly love should show itself
I. In KINDNESS to each other. Love will have to get outlet. If I do not see brotherly kindness, I conclude that there is not brotherly love.
1. There will be kind words. In most families there are many unkind, scolding, fault finding, angry, irritating, coarse, uncourteous words. Not to speak of kindness, there is sometimes scarcely common civility. There is a rudeness--demanding things of each other--driving each other out of the way, etc., when, if a request were made politely, it would be so much better. I like to see children in a kindly way bidding each other “Good night,” and again, greeting each other when they meet in the morning. All this would change the whole face of many a family circle. Though you may say it is but words, it would soon tell on everything else. And do not tell tales. A “tell-tale” is an ugly character (Leviticus 19:16; Proverbs 26:20; Proverbs 26:22). Did you ever notice an echo? If you fire a gun, or sing, or whistle, or shout, or whisper, you get exactly what you give. And so it has passed into a proverb, “Kind words awaken kind echoes.”
2. There will be kind looks, You know how much there is in a look--a displeased, angry, sulky, scornful, off-taking look. How they can vex and do a world of mischief! But if looks can do evil, they can also do good. There are kind, encouraging, comforting, winning looks. And just as “kind words produce kind echoes,” so kind looks call forth a return in kind. You must have noticed what an effect the look you gave has sometimes had on a dog. In the case of an infant, how you can, without difficulty, make him either laugh or cry merely by a look. That tells what a look can do for good or evil. Others will look at you just as you look at them. You have looked into a mirror, and seen reflected there your own face. As you looked pleased or cross, so did it. Just so is it in a family.
3. There will be kind deeds. I have heard of a mother who was in the habit of asking her children, each night before they went to bed, what they had done that day to make others happy. It would be well for the members of each family to ask themselves that. How many little services of love you might render without being asked. Now, if you love each other you will pray for each other. This is one of the greatest of all kindnesses, as it is one of the most tender of all bonds, and will be likely to lead to all the rest.
II. In SYMPATHY for each other. To “sympathise” is to feel for, or rather with one. I have heard of a girl who, alter having lost a little brother, went back to school; and I have this account of her from one of her companions: “All the time she studied her lesson, she hid her face in her book and cried. I felt so sorry that I hid my face on the same book and cried with her. Then she looked up, and put her arms around my neck; but I do not know why she said I had done her so much good.” It was the power of sympathy. When there is any trial, be it light or heavy, pressing on another’s mind there is nothing you can give to be compared to sympathy. It is wonderful the effect of even inquiring for the sick one. I am sometimes amazed, in asking children about a little brother or sister who has been ill, when they say they “don’t know!” Why do they not know? Had they lost their tongue, or had they not rather lost their heart? When your brother has got up in his class; when he has carried off a prize; when he has got some present; when his birthday has come round; when he is raised up from a sick bed--give him your hearty sympathy.
III. In SELF-DENIAL. Selfishness is the great cause of unhappiness in many homes. Where children are unselfish they must agree--they cannot fail to be happy. But the reverse meets us on every hand in most painful and humbling ways. I once offered a friend a copy of a little book for his three children. But, no. He said, “I must have three or none, otherwise there will be no satisfying them.” I am not sure but they had even to be all of the same colour. Two of these books were thus very much thrown away. Now, it should not be so.
IV. In FORBEARANCE and PATIENCE. “Love suffereth long,” etc. In every family there is much to annoy. But love enables one to bear a great deal, and keeps the wheels running smoothly. Especially is it the part of the elder members of the family to bear with the younger, as it is the duty of the younger to pay deference to the elder. You have got some unkind, rude, impudent thing said or done to you. Your first impulse is to pay the evildoer back in his own coin. Do you ask, “What should I do?” I say, Bear it. Try to be like God--“slow to wrath.” Some one gives the advice to “count ten before you speak,” when you are angry. Even in the worst case, “a soft answer turneth away wrath.” There is a saying, “He begins the fight who strikes the second blow.” That is true of the tongue as well as of the hand.
V. In FORGIVENESS. A mother can forgive when none else can because she loves. God can forgive when none else can, because He loves. And if we love like Him we shall forgive like Him. To be unforgiving, whether young or old, is one of the worst characters that could be given to one. (J. H. Wilson, M. A.)
The social principles of Christianity
(1):--In what sense is this a new commandment? This epithet distinguishes it from
1. The Mosaic code. The law of Moses was mainly an embodiment of justice. It admitted the cultivation of mutual love, and even enjoined it. But this was not its salient characteristic. Whereas the gospel is preeminently and characteristically a law of love. Again, the love which Judaism recognized was inferior in quality. A Jew behoved to love his neighbour as himself. A Christian must love his brother so as to sacrifice himself if need be.
2. From all common worldly affection. There are
(1) Instinctive affections, such as the parental, filial, etc.
(2) Elective affections, such as those of friendship, patriotism, etc.
(3) But none of these afford the highest exhibition, development, and gratification of man’s social nature. In a manner far to surpass them Christian love is to be cherished. Christ has introduced among men an altogether new principle of social existence. This social aspect of the gospel will be fully displayed in heaven. Meanwhile it is intended to show itself in churches. The singularity of this affection will better appear if we consider a few of its distinctive features. Consider
I. ITS SPIRITUAL BASIS. It is not founded upon any natural relationship or sentiment, but upon a common participation in the benefits of Christ’s redemption. Observe
1. How this circumstance connects us with the same loving Lord.
2. How it supposes in each of us the same spiritual experience.
3. How it guarantees in each and all the same elements of a pure and estimable character.
4. How it furnishes the prospect of our being united together in perfect blessedness forever and ever. Is there any other love which has such a profound and solemn basis as this?
II. ITS DISINTERESTED PURITY. III. ITS DEVOTED FERROUS. It should lead us, if need be, to die for our brethren, after the example of Christ.
IV. ITS PRACTICAL PURPOSES.
1. It supposes times of persecution and trial, and then it is serviceable to encourage and comfort us.
2. It relates to the exigencies of our spiritual cultivation, and is intended to supply the means of instruction and guidance.
3. It glances at the work which we are to do for Christ in the world, and it ensures strength, cooperation, and success. Apply specially to Church members. The Church ought to be the happiest circle of our acquaintance. Do we observe the new commandment? The way to promote it is to love Christ more. Thus to act is most important for the sake of our piety, our peace, and our usefulness. (T. G. Horton.)
By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples
The social principles of Christianity
(2):--How seldom is this test of true discipleship to Christ appealed to.
We look for orthodoxy of sentiment, moral character, denominational zeal, attention to ordinances, but we are apt to overlook the one great criterion laid down in the text. Quite in harmony with this verse is 1 John 3:14. Consider
I. THE NATURE OF THIS LOVE. It consists mainly of two elements, an admiration of the peculiar spiritual character of God’s saints, and a deep personal sympathy with them in their struggles and temptations. To these elements may sometimes be added a high sense of gratitude to them if they have been made instrumental in conveying light, grace, and comfort to our minds, and a hearty desire of pure benevolence to do them good and be helpers of their joy. It will be borne in mind that the objects of this love are Christian believers, simply as such. Now
II. HOW DOES SUCH AN AFFECTION EVINCE OUR DISCIPLESHIP TO CHRIST?
1. Because He commands it; therefore not to cherish it is to disobey Him, and prove that we do not love Him.
2. Because the character of the saints is the very one which we are striving to acquire if we are followers of Christ; and therefore we cannot help but admire it.
3. As Christians we are called to pass through the same tribulations and trials as they have; therefore we are constrained to sympathy with them according to that fundamental law of human nature--“A fellow feeling makes the whole world kin.”
4. Gratitude for spiritual mercies is only possible to those who have ceased to be carnally-minded: while, again, to receive spiritual mercies through the medium of a fellow believer must attach us specially to him, on the common principle of human gratitude.
5. To love God’s people so as to be willing to go through great sacrifices for them, must surely be impossible to the worldly mind, because it is at enmity with God and cannot honestly seek the good of those who are born of Him. If, therefore, any man loves us as Christian disciples, the inference must be that he is a disciple and has ceased to stand connected with our enemies.
III. CONSIDER THIS AFFECTION AS A STANDING PROOF OF OUR DISCIPLESHIP.
1. Nothing else, without this, can prove a man to be a child of God. He that is destitute of this love, whatever else he possesses, abideth in death.
2. Where this exists, nothing else need be looked for.
1. As a professed believer test your sincerity by this principle: Do you love the followers of Jesus?
2. Judge of your growth or declension in grace by your waxing or waning love to the brethren.
3. Prepare for greater usefulness by seeking more of this love to the people of God.
4. Appeal to the unconverted and inquiring. We want you amongst us only if you can love us; and we want you to love us only because you and we together have learned to love the Saviour. (T. G. Horton.)
The badge of true Christians
I. CHRIST WOULD HAVE EVERY CHRISTIAN KNOWN TO BE A DISCIPLE. And this cannot be otherwise. The fire of grace will ever show itself both by smoke and light. But wherein must we show ourselves disciples of Christ? In five things.
1. The disciples were called by Christ’s voice, and depended on His mouth for instruction and direction. So must we be made disciples by the word of Christ. But if thou carest not for the preaching of the Word, or canst content thyself in thy ignorance, or with some confused knowledge, thou showest thou art no disciple.
2. The disciples being called, denied themselves, left all for Christ, and acknowledged no master but Him alone (Matthew 4:22; Matthew 23:8; Matthew 23:10). If thou likewise be a disciple thou must renounce all other masters and all employments which will not stand with Christianity.
3. The disciples were called to be near attendants of Christ and perform all His commandments (John 8:31; John 15:14-15).
4. The disciples were glad of Christ’s presence, and when He was absent their hearts were full of sorrow. If thou art a disciple thy soul rejoiceth in the presence of Christ, in His ordinances, in the directions and consolations of His Spirit.
5. The disciples had commission and commandment to make other disciples, accordingly were diligent in their callings, spending themselves in doing good to others. Dost thou gain others to Christ and form thine own course to His?
II. CHRIST WOULD HAVE ALL KNOW HIS DISCIPLES BY THIS BADGE OF LOVE 1 John 2:10).
1. What is this true Christian love?
(1) The act--love; it is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). No natural man is capable of it, nor any but such as are entered into God’s school (1 Thessalonians 4:9).
(2) The object of it is good men, and all good men (Ephesians 1:15), even the poorest and meanest, without accepting of persons; it must not offend one of the little ones.
(3) The bond of this love is goodness. Christian love loves not only in the truth, but for the truth (2 John 1:2).
(4) The rule of this love is according to Christ (verse 34). Thus
(a) He loved us first, before we loved Him.
(b) When we were enemies.
(c) Not for His benefit, but ours.
(d) To make us better.
1. Constantly, even to the end.
2. This is a badge of a true Christian man. And that for these reasons
(1) It is a note of God’s child, or one that is born of God (1 John 4:7-8; 1 John 3:14).
(2) It is a note of the Spirit’s presence, who dwells nowhere but in the heart of a sound Christian.
(3) A lively and inseparable fruit of living faith is a badge of a true Christian, but true love of the brethren is such a fruit of living faith Galatians 5:6).
(4) A note of a true member of the Church is a badge of a true Christian, but it is a note of a true member of the Church when the lion and lamb feed together, etc. (Isaiah 11:7-8), that is, when a man brought into the kingdom of Christ putteth off his fierce, lionish, and poisonful affection, and is now become tame and tractable as a lamb of Christ’s fold, or as a child resembles his heavenly Father, who is loving and merciful. (T. Taylor.)
The badge of discipleship
Love was to be the grand distinctive sign which hence on through all the ages was to denote, distinguish, and define the followers of Jesus from all other guilds, schools, creeds, and combinations under heaven. The Pharisee was known by his broad phylactery, the Sadducee was known by his contempt for ritual and his ostentatious contrast to the rival sect. The priests and scribes were marked out by their peculiar robes; the Roman, by his toga, or the eagle on his helmet according as he was citizen or soldier. Today the Brahmin is known by the mystic character cut upon his breast and brow, and the Mahometan by his headgear. The soldier’s red, the sailor’s blue, the cleric’s black--by this, that, and the other sign, classes, creeds, professions, preferences, races, are distinguished the wide world over. Some time ago there was quite a warm burst of indignation from our Scottish fellow countrymen because the distinctive plaids and colours of the tartan, which denote the difference between the Campbell, the Mackintosh, and Macgregor, were in peril. Well, to those who are Israelites indeed, those who are enlisted under the banner of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, those who are faithful followers of Jesus, and bend a loyal knee to Him of the Crown of Thorns--to these Jesus says, “I institute a new order. In it neither star, ribbon,medal, stripe, nor outward garb, mark, or colour shall find place; but you shall wear a token by which all men shall take knowledge of you that you belong to Me, ‘By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.’” (J. Jackson Wray.)
The criterion of discipleship
I. A SIMPLE TEST. Had it been the adoption of a certain set of beliefs, or conformity to certain rites, it would have been too complicated to be of easy application or practical use; but here how simple--“He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen,” etc.
II. AN INFALLIBLE TEST. Other tests, even the best, are of doubtful accuracy; the application may lead to wrong conclusions. But this is infallible, and will determine the destiny of all men at the last day (Matthew 25:1-46).
III. A SOLEMN TEST. If we apply it to the Christians of this age and country, where men hate, cheat, and fight each other, how few will prove genuine disciples l Could all men stand it the world would be a paradise. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The proof of discipleship
The marks of a true disciple of any master are
I. BELIEF in his master’s words.
II. ATTACHMENT to his master’s person.
III. OBEDIENCE to his master’s precepts.
IV. IMITATION of his master’s example. Obedience and imitation may be summed up in one word--love. If we love Christ we shall believe, obey, and imitate Him; and we must show that love by loving one another. (J. R. Bailey.)
Lord, whither goest Thou?
It is a common fault among us to be more inquisitive concerning things secret, which belong to God only, than concerning things revealed, which belong to us and to our children--more desirous to have our curiosity gratified, than our conscience directed--to know what is done in heaven, than what we ought to do to getthither. It is easy to observe it in the conversation of Christians, how soon a discourse of what is plain and edifying is dropped, and no more is said of it; the subject is exhausted; while matter of doubtful disputation runs into an endless strife of words. (M. Henry.)
Peter’s curiosity and presumption
I. His CURIOSITY. The question was occasioned by John 13:33; and as soon as our Saviour paused, Peter suddenly makes the inquiry.
1. Here is something which we know not how entirely to censure. The imperfections of good men betray their excellences. We see Peter’s love to his Lord, and concern for His presence. When Elijah was going to be taken up, Elisha followed him. When Jonathan and David were about to separate, they fell upon each other’s neck and wept. When, at Miletus, “Paul kneeled down and prayed with the brethren, they all wept sore.” But think of Christ! What a Benefactor, what a Master was He! Could Peter then view His removal with indifference?
2. But if our Saviour blames Peter, Peter was blameworthy. He was a little too curious--a fault by no means uncommon. For how many are more anxious to know secret things than to improve the things revealed. We are all fender of speculation than practice. Whereas, we ought to remember, that, in a state where we have so much to do, and so little time to do it in, we should secure ourselves from all superfluous engagements.
3. Our Saviour, therefore, never encouraged this principle. When a man asked Him, “Lord, are there few that shall be saved?” He did not even notice the trifler: He said unto them, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” So here He shows His judgment of the inquiry by eluding it. But though He does not gratify, He instructs. In two senses, Peter was to follow Him, in due time
(1) To glory. It was what our Lord prayed for, and what He promisedJohn 17:24; John 17:24). So we are to be forever with the Lord. He has gone to prepare a place for us. But for every thing there is a season. He could not follow Him now. Though our Saviour’s hour was come, Peter’s was not; though the Master had finished the work given Him to do, the servant had scarcely begun his--and “we are all immortal till our work is done.” Christians are sometimes impatient, but this is wrong. “The best frame we can be in is to be ready to go, and willing to stay.” The eagerness is not only wrong, but useless. What would it avail the husbandman to fret? Would this bring harvest the sooner? He cannot reap in May, the order of nature forbids it. There is also an order in grace. Why cannot you follow Him now? You have an aged mother to support, or an infant charge to rear, or an institution of charity to found, or to exemplify religion in your practice, or to recommend it by your sufferings.
(2) To the cross. But he could not follow Him now, because he had not sufficient faith and resolution to suffer. This shows us that our Lord’s dealings with His people are founded not only in kindness, but in wisdom and prudence. He adapts the burden to the shoulder, or fits the shoulder to the burden. “As thy day, so shall thy strength be.” Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof--and what is better, sufficient for it too will be the grace.
II. HIS PRESUMPTION (verses 37, 38). Ah, Peter, this is sooner said than done. Life is not so easily parted with. You trembled upon the water; be not so confident now. Note
1. The crime was heinous. To deny his Master was unfaithfulness: his Friend, perfidy: his Benefactor, ingratitude: his Redeemer, impiety. This, too, was the conduct of one who had been called from a low condition in life to the high honour of apostleship--of one who had seen His miracles, etc. Three aggravations are here mentioned.
(1) He was warned--he could not plead ignorance.
(2) The sin was immediately committed. Things soon wear off from the mind; but here was no time for forgetfulness.
(3) It was repeated, “thrice.” A man may be surprised and overtaken in a fault; but, the moment after, reflection may return; and he may flee. But Peter, after his first offence, renews it again--and again--and each time waxes worse and worse.
2. The lessons:
1. The foreknowledge of our Saviour.
2. What reason have we to exclaim, with David, “Lord, what is man!” Survey him under the greatest advantages and obligations. There is nothing too vile for us to fall into, if we are left of Him who alone can keep us from failing.
3. How little we are acquainted with ourselves. Peter spoke according to his feelings. But sincerity is not constancy. There is a goodness, compared to the morning cloud and early dew, that soon passeth away. Peter did not consider the difference between an impulse and a principle; between an hour of ease and a moment of trial. Hazael’s case is a strong one; but it will apply, in various degrees, to ourselves. God only knows how much of our innocency has been owing to principle, or the absence of temptation; or what we should have been in conditions the reverse of those which have sheltered our weakness.
4. The most confident are the most exposed; and the most humble the most safe. “When I am weak, then I am most strong.” “Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe.” Conclusion: We do not wonder at this sad revolution in Peter. He is proud and self-sufficient. “Pride goes before destruction,” etc. I never saw a professor of religion full of confidence in himself, and speaking censoriously of others, but who fell into some gross crime, or into some great calamity. (W. Jay.)
Not now, but afterwards
1. Children will have everything now: “afterwards” is a word that plagues them. As life advances we become more intimately acquainted with the word, and come to like it. We know that yesterday has gone beyond recall, and that tomorrow is coming and always available.
2. This is the second time the same thing has been said, on this same occasion, to the same man, and both times in a Master’s tone, delivered with a brother’s heart and voice (John 13:7). So this child-man was constantly put back and told to wait till the clock struck, and the hour had come when he should have the keener vision, the more sensitive heart, the more receptive spirit and understanding mind. This was the training that Peter needed. He was a man who wanted everything done instantaneously. The Lord knowing this said the most vexing words, “Not now.” We want it too, and when we are mad with impatience He says it quietly and sovereignly; but adds “afterwards” in the same tone, for Christ lived in tomorrow.
I. LOOK AT THIS IN THE DIRECTION OF
1. Revelation. We cannot follow any great doctrine in all the range of its thoughts and in all the possibilities of its issues. Who can explain the atonement? We begin in the right spirit when we begin in the spirit of waiting. I need the cross; I accept it, but cannot tell the measure of the oblation or its efficacy. But afterwards there will be a higher school, additional facilities, then I shall know.
2. The mysteries of daily providence. “Thou canst not follow Me”--not from one locality to another, but in thought, purpose, and sovereign decree. Who can keep pace with the Great Walker? I halt, stagger, fall, half rise again, and am down before I can straighten myself I cannot follow except in the dim far distance now, but afterward. Our strange constitution, individuality, sufferings, are heavy burdens. Explanation would help us to bear them. Why should I wear this chain? be encompassed by this cloud? The answer is “not now, but afterward.” “No chastening, for the present seemeth joyous,” etc.
II. THERE CANNOT BE AN AFTERWARD OF REVELATION UNLESS THERE IS A NOW OF OBEDIENCE.
1. The “now” is not evacuated of all meaning. To obey in the darkness is the great thing. Were I to say, “I will trust God in the seventh trouble because He has delivered me in six,” it would be historically true and full of solace, but no indication of growth in grace. But he has grown in grace who says, “Though He slay me yet will I trust in Him.”
2. Obedience now is revelation afterward. He that doeth the will shall know of the doctrine. We do not know the joy which is laid up for us in complete obedience to the words, “Stand still and see the salvation of God.” The next piece of knowledge comes easily. Were the child to be compelled to overleap seven years of the process of education, he would be overcome. What he has to do is to read the next line, and then to turn over the next page. What we as Christian students have to do is to keep to the present truth, do the next duty, and then the revelation will steal upon us without the violence of haste and the unrest of surprise. We cannot tell how the light grows, so in mental illumination and spiritual culture. (J. Parker, D. D.)
“The “now” and “then” of following Christ
The first words spoken to Peter were “Follow Me”; almost the last were “Thou canst not follow Me now.” After a long attachment to the Saviour it was a hard word. There is, however, always a ”staying hand” in life as well as a “beckoning.” The pillar of cloud moves and halts.
I. THE NEGATIVE PRESENT. When had it been that Simon could not go with his Master? He had accompanied Him to Bethany when seeking rest after tumult and turmoil; to the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus was pre-glorified. Now he may not follow Him. Nor was this strange. The high priest only could enter the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, and Peter might not understand, but we do, that the great Day of Atonement had dawned. On to the cross, into the tomb, within the veil, only Jesus must go. Yet by this access to God was given. And now into the crucified life, as dead with Christ to the world; into the risen life, as new creatures in Him, we may follow Jesus; but further than this we may not go now; into the ascension life we are forbidden to enter at present, but we shall be permitted afterwards.
II. THE POSITIVE FUTURE. It was in the human life Jesus commanded Peter to follow Him, saying He would make them “fishers of men.” They were to observe His modes of action and drink of His Spirit. And so with us. But is it not rather into the higher risen life that He bids us follow Him--the life of pardon, peace, sanctity, and spiritual power? And to this He is “the Way”; and by following that Way we shall reach the “afterwards” of His presence and glory (1 John 3:2). (I. Watts.)
Why cannot I follow Thee now?
1. Why, indeed? There could be no doubt of his sincerity and attachment to his Master. I cannot believe that our Lord merely referred to the time for Peter’s departure. Further, Peter did follow Christ so far as he could without dying; for there was still a considerable portion of ground to be traversed by those sacred feet. There lay before Him the way of sorrows, crowned with the cross on Calvary. Up to that point Simon Peter might have followed Christ, although he did not. Our Lord was referring to this first, though His words may have reached on to the glory that was at last to be revealed. The time was already come when His disciples were to be scattered and to leave Him alone. And knowing this, He says, “Whither I go,” etc. And it is equally true that this same Simon Peter did follow the Lord Jesus Christ afterwards in the same sense in which he was now precluded from following Him.
2. As we ask Peter’s question, we are led to consider our own experience. Is it not true that there sometimes seems to rise up in the very path of our inclinations and spiritual aspirations a strange, indescribable barrier--an inexorable “cannot”--that seems to bar the way to further progress? It is wise to ask this question, for if it be honestly put, the Holy Spirit of God will sooner or later show us what gives strength to this cruel and pitiless “cannot.” Why could not Simon follow Jesus then? Because
I. HE THOUGHT HE COULD. “I will lay down my life for Thy sake.” There is nothing more common amongst Christians than the admission of our frailty and weakness. But what a great difference there is between making orthodox admissions and having a real consciousness of our own helplessness and dependence on a higher power. Sometimes, feeling ourselves to be a little weaker than we should be, we are ashamed of our infirmity. And sometimes, taught by many disasters, we entertain serious apprehensions about ourselves; but it is wonderful how self-confidence rebounds from the most distressing humiliations. We are quite determined to be more careful in the future. But how slow we are to abandon all confidence in the flesh! And it is not until we have learnt our helpless dependence that we can hope to follow Jesus. For flesh and blood can no more participate in the fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings than they can inherit the kingdom of God. But Simon Peter was a man of strong determination; and such characters find it very hard to renounce all confidence in their moral vigour. It seemed incredible that he should turn his back upon his Master, and we can scarcely bring ourselves to believe that we could condescend to the sin, which subsequently we commit; and then by and by we learn our weakness amidst bitter tears, as Simon Peter did.
II. HE WAS AT THIS TIME WALKING BY SIGHT RATHER THAN BY FAITH. We do not reach the life of real faith till we are fully conscious of our own helplessness. How can we really trust Christ unless we have thoroughly learnt to distrust ourselves? Peter, walking by sight, his firmness was greatly dependent upon outward circumstances. As long as he saw Christ performing prodigies, or greeted by hosannas, it appeared easy to follow Him; but when all His glory seemed departed, his courage forsook him. Ah! how many of us are fair-weather sailors 1 and how few in their daily life by faith possess themselves of God.
III. HE WAS WALKING IN THE FLESH RATHER THAN IN THE SPIRIT. This same Peter, only a few weeks afterwards, when baptized with the Holy Ghost, stood before the rulers of his country with unblanched countenance, for that Master whom He denied. And for us also that Spirit is given. This qualification for following Jesus is closely connected with the other. They represent the two sides of a healthy spiritual experience. Faith on our side brings us into contact with the Divine, and puts the soul in the attitude of reception; the gift of the Holy Ghost on God’s side brings the Divine into contact with us, and fills us according to our capacity. “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? But, if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit;” and Paul’s charge against the Galatians is that, having begun in the Spirit, they had gone on to be made perfect in the flesh. Is not this where many of us lose our capacity to follow Christ? The energies of the flesh may be never so strong and well-intentioned, but they cannot take the place of the powers of the Holy Ghost; and there is a point beyond which they cannot go in disposing us to follow Christ.
IV. BECAUSE HE WAS OUT OF SYMPATHY WITH CHRIST’S MIND. “Can two walk together except they be agreed? “Christ was meditating on the Father’s will, while Simon Peter” savoured of the things that be of men.” And if we are to follow Jesus we must rise into the inner circle of His fellowship, and see things from His point of view. It is not by saying, “I will follow Thee” that we succeed in following Him. It is by bringing our hearts into full harmony with His Divine will. And the first step towards accepting the Divine will is taken when we repose our full confidence in it. Jesus Christ was at this moment fulfilling in His own experience the language of the Psalm, “Lo! I come to do Thy will.” Peter, on the other hand, preferred to trust to his own will. He had daydreams of material aggrandisement, and political power, so that he had no room for the fellowship of the mind of Jesus Christ. And when Jesus began to open up His own purposes to him, he shrank from them with aversion. Now, here is our lesson. You, who seek after popularity, who are wishing to be on good terms with the world, how can you follow Jesus until you are in sympathy with Him and with His aims? “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.”
V. HE WAS INWARDLY CLINGING ALL THE WHILE TO A BESETTING SIN--self-assertion, or self-confidence, mingled with not a little worldly pride. We see this evil habit of soul exhibiting itself in his attempt to dissuade his Master from facing the Cross; and in his conduct at the supper table. How many of you are kept back from following Jesus now by some cherished sin? Conclusion: Perhaps some of you are asking, “Can we not go to heaven without all this?” We are not discussing the minimum qualification for heaven. What it is God only knows. We are talking of following Jesus, and that is far more to the purpose. I have no desire to solve the problem. Here is a consideration which is very profitable: How much spiritual benefit is it possible for a man to get out of his religion? (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)
The withheld completions of life
St. Peter felt dimly that the life of Jesus was opening into something so large that all which had gone before would be seen to have been only the vestibule and preparation for what was yet to come. And just then, when his expectation was keenest, and his love most eager, an iron curtain fell across his view. The completion was withheld. And that is what is always happening. It would be intolerable to us if we could not trace tendencies in our life. If everything stood still, or only moved round in a circle, it would be a dreary and a dreadful thing to live. But we rejoice in life because it seems to be carrying us somewhere. We bear with incompleteness, because of the completion which is prophesied and hoped for. But it is the delay or barrier that distresses us. The tendency that is not allowed to reach the fulfilment, which alone gave it value, seems a mockery. You watch your plant growing, and see its wonderful building of the woody fibre, its twining of the strong roots, its busy life blood hurrying along its veins. Some morning the deep-red flower is blazing full blown on the stem, and all is plain. The completion has justified the process. But suppose the plant to have been all the time conscious of the coming flower, and yet to have felt itself held back from blossoming, would it not be a very puzzled and impatient and unhappy little plant? Now, there are certain conditions which are to all good life just what the flower is to the plant. There are certain fine results of feeling which are the true and recognized results of the best ways of living. But when the life, conscious of the character in itself out of which these conditions ought to come, finds that it pauses on the brink of its completion and cannot blossom, then come impatient questionings and doubts.
I. LET US TAKE SOME INSTANCES DRAWN FROM DAILY LIFE. Suppose we have someone devoted to the good of others. A poor obscure woman in a sick room giving her days and nights, health and strength, to some poor invalid; or a great brilliant man out in the world neglecting his personal interests in the desire that some of the lagging causes of God may be helped forward. Now such a life has its legitimate completion. The natural flower which should crown that life is men’s gratitude. Perhaps in ringing cheers, perhaps only in the silent pressure of the hand. The man who does no good expects no thanks. The selfish life feels and shows the unnaturalness if men make a mistake and lavish their gratitude upon it. It is as if men tied the glorious flower on to the top of a wooden post. And now suppose that the gratitude does not come. Is there no disappointment; no sense of a withheld completion? “What does it mean?” you ask with wonder, even with impatience. And in answer to your question there are two things to he said.
1. That such a suspension of the legitimate result, shows a condition of disorder. The natural result of your self-devotion has not come because the state of things in which you live is unnatural. That must he recognized. If you let your surprise appear, men will misunderstand you, and cry, “Oh, after all, then, you were not unselfish.” But they are wrong; you did not work for thanks. When the thanks do not come it is not your loss; it is the deranged state of things that troubles you. When Jesus wept over Jerusalem, did He not feel its ingratitude? But was it not the disturbed world, where such ingratitude was possible, which lay at the bottom of His grief? When your child is ungrateful to you, is it the neglect of yourself, or the demoralized home, that saddens you? It is the violation of a deep, true instinct.
2. But because any state of things is unnatural, it does not prove that there can come out of it no blessing. So it is here. The service that a man does to his fellow men does not bring down their gratitude. What then? The withholding of the legitimate completion of his service may throw him back upon the nature of the act itself, and compel him to find his satisfaction there. That has been the support of many a despised reformer and misunderstood friend. The essence of any act is more and finer than its consequences are. Because Christ was “despised and rejected of men,” we are able to see more clearly how truly He was His Father’s “well-beloved Son.”
II. AS WE COME INTO THE REGIONS OF SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE THIS TRUTH BECOMES MORE STRIKING, and often much more puzzling.
1. Look, e.g., at the connection of duty and happiness. Happiness is the natural flower of duty. The good man ought to be a thoroughly bright and joyous man. To disbelieve this would be to bow down at the footstool of a devil or a chance, and which of these would be the most terrible master who can say? With this conviction strong in us we come to some good man’s life, and that life is all gloomy. Duty is done day after day, but done in utter dreariness; good without gladness, shocking and perplexing our deep certainty that to be good and to be glad belong together. To such we want to bring the two before-mentioned considerations. To recognize that it is unnatural, and so to struggle against it, and yet, while it must last, to get what blessing we can out of it, by letting it drive us down deeper, for our joy and comfort, into the very act and fact of doing righteousness. The plant ought to come to flower, but if it fails it is still a plant. The duty should open into joy, but it may still be duty; still hold the duty. Do righteousness and forget happiness, and so it is most likely that happiness will come. This will help a man to be hopeful without impatience, and patient without despair.
2. But take another case. There are promises in the Bible which declare that dedication to God shall bring communion with God. “Draw near to Me, and I will draw near to you.” And yet sometimes the man does give himself to God, and the promise seems to fail; and the man given to God trembles when he hears other men talk of the joy of Divine communion, because no such ever comes to him. Once more, to such a soul there are the same two messages to bring. Never, no matter how long such exclusion from the presence of God may seem to last, make up your mind to it that it is right; never cease to expect that you will be admitted to all the joy of your Father’s felt love. And seek even more deeply the satisfaction which is in your consecration itself; and that you may find it, consecrate yourself more and more completely. There are two great anxieties which I do feel for such souls. One is, lest you should give up expecting that privilege of communion which is certainly yours in possibility, and must certainly be yours some day in possession. The other is, lest, since the consecration has not brought you the communion, you should think that the consecration is unreal, and so lose the power to be blessed by it, and the impulse to increase it. Multitudes of saints would tell you how in their hindered lives God kept them true to such experience as they had attained; and so it was that, by and by, either before or after the great enlightenment of death, the hindrance melted away, and they now “follow the Lamb withersoever He goeth.”
3. Among Christ’s promises there is none that is dearer to one class of minds than this. “If any man wills to do My will, he shall know of the doctrine,” etc. Such souls have not found that the thousand curious questions of theology were answered, and all the mystery rolled away out of the sky of truth. Christ did not promise that. But they have found what He did promise: that, coming near to Him in obedience, they have been made sure of the true divinity that was in Him and in the teachings that He gave. Everywhere the flower of obedience is intelligence. Obey a man with cordial loyalty and you will understand him. And now, are there any of us from whom that completion seems to have been withheld? They must be sure, first, that they are right: that they have not really come to an essential faith that the doctrine of Jesus is divine. They must be sure, again, that their will to serve Christ has been indeed true. And what then? Sure of all this, still the darkness and the doubts remain. Then they must come to the two principles; they must say,” This is unnatural. I will not rest until my service of Christ completes itself in the knowledge of Christ; and yet all the time while I am waiting I will find joy in the service of Him, however dimly I may apprehend Him.” (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)
Readiness for death
The most natural explanation of Christ’s words to one who knew Him as intimately as Peter did was that, while shrinking from no danger Himself, He would not involve His followers in that danger. But Christ’s meaning was that the time had not come for Peter to die. Had Peter known this he would still have desired thus to follow Christ: but in reality he was not ready. Desiring to die and readiness for death are two different things.
I. THERE WAS A WORK YET TO BE DONE IN PETER.
1. His knowledge of Christ and of Divine things needed to be increased. He knew a great deal, being Divinely taught, but he had yet to learn that Christ must suffer and enter into His glory. Our Lord had indeed spoken of this, but nothing short of the event itself could teach the full truth. There was the teaching, too, supplied by the Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost. Compare what Peter knew in later years with what he knew now, and you see the reason for our Lord’s words. Here, then, is one of the reasons why God keeps us here. We are to learn Christ as He can be learnt nowhere else, by experiencing His wonderful love and almighty grace. What will not men endure to become acquainted with man or nature? Shall we complain then because we are called for a season to endure hardships that we may know Christ.
2. His character needed chastening and strengthening. He was weaker morally than he thought himself. “I will lay down,” etc. “Wilt thou?” etc. Life was a furnace by means of which the baser parts of his character were re moved, and the truer and nobler made manifest. Peter went to heaven a better man than he would have done had he followed Christ now. There is no explanation of human life satisfactory but this. Once accepted the axe is laid at the root of all impatience and disgust.
II. THERE WAS A WORK YET TO BE DONE BY PETER.
1. Indeed the work done in Peter was with a view to that to be done by him. To regard our knowledge and experience only as a fitting us for heaven is only selfishness. Christ taught that both were for the sake of others. They could only follow Him as they gave themselves for their fellow men, as He did. Doubtless Peter soon understood this, and acquiesced in the “afterwards.”
2. Our work here is a preparation for the life hereafter. That will be no state of inactivity, and by serving Christ here in our inward and outward life we are to learn how to work for Him in heaven. (H. S. Toms.)
Speech and action
1. Peter meant what he said, but he did not measure the meaning of his words. Sometimes our words are bigger than we are, and all exaggeration is weakness. Peter spoke out of his passion, not out of his reason, and the only passion that endures is reason-on-fire. If he had said less, he would have done more. The strongest man has only so much energy, and if that be spent in wild speech, it will not be spent in well-directed actions. Hear a man talk much about the poor, and the probability is he is not going to do much for the poor. How to spend our limited amount of energy to the greatest effect ought to be the inquiry of every earnest man. We want more Bible reading, deeper devotion--the strengthening of our inner life--and then the expenditure will be with ease, and be a great beneficence.
2. Thunder frightens people; the light is welcome to all, and how quietly it comes. “Let your light so shine,” etc. I quote this passage because there is a danger lest this doctrine of action, as opposed to speech, should be perverted. Persons excuse themselves from saying anything about their religion, and say that they seek the shade. Don’t believe them. The shade is never difficult to find. To talk about humility is not to practice it. Action and speech must go together. Love the shade, certainly; but remember that God made the light, and that everything does not grow in the shade, and don’t undervalue the light. Are you sure that you are honest in professing to love the shade? Is it not when someone asks you to do something that you don’t like that you become so modest? Christ wants speech and action, open conduct, that everybody, if needful, can see and estimate. There are times when the shadow will be right welcome; but let the light make the shade.
3. Peter’s boast is one of the expressions which outdo themselves by their own bigness. Beware of outdoing yourself by your own words. There are men whose geese are all swans, and their swans eagles. Christ demands that our words be weighed and directed to His Cross and service. He asks no man to lay down his life, in this tragical sense, on a manufactured occasion--that will come by and by as a practical necessity. There are many who are ready to do some tremendous thing for us when we don’t want anything tremendous done. A dying master told his old slave that he had arranged in his will that he (the slave) was to be buried in the family grave: to which he made reply, “Ten dollars would suit Cato better.” We cannot live on tragedies--give us bread and water. “My mother, sir!” says the wild youth, “I would walk fifty miles on burning metal for her!” But his mother wants no filial piety so tragical as that; but she would like him home a little earlier at night. Don’t say that you would lay down your life for her--lay down your glass, your pipe, your cards; lay down something as an instalment. “My pastor! sir, I would die for him!” No, no; he wants nothing so tragic, all he wants is for you to take a sitting, come in time, and pay your subscription occasionally.
4. Peter’s boast was a broken sentence. Christ only could complete it, and did. “I have power to take it again.” To serve friends after death, as well as in it, was reserved for Him alone. Therefore economize life. You can serve others better by living than by dying--even Christ. “I beseech you therefore … present your bodies a living sacrifice.” And if we live for Christ we shall certainly die for Him. (J. Parker, D. D.)
We must watch our weak points
A great commander was engaged in besieging a strongly fortified city. After a while he concentrated his forces at a point where the fortifications were stronger than at any other, and at two p.m., under a bright sun and a clear sky, ordered an assault. When expostulated with by an under officer, the commander replied: “At this point such a general is in command. At this hour of the day he is invariably accustomed to retire for a long sleep. When informed of our approach he will deny the fact, and send a messenger for information. Before the messenger returns we shall gain possession of the fortress.” The facts turned out exactly as predicted. “Yonder weak point,” said the commander, “is held by General There is no use in attempting to surprise him; he is never for a moment off his guard.” (A. Mahan, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "John 13". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20