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Sought how they might kill Him
The conspiracy against Christ
This chapter gives us a sad and sorrowful relation of the chief priests’ conspiracy against the life of our blessed Saviour; in which we have three particulars observable:
The persons making this conspiracy, the chief priests, scribes, and elders; that is, the whole Jewish sanhedrim, or general council; they all lay their malicious heads together, to contrive the destruction of the holy and innocent Jesus. Thence learn, that general councils have erred, and may err fundamentally, both in matters of doctrine and practice; they did not believe Jesus to be the Messias, after all the miracles wrought before their eyes, but ignominiously put Him to death.
2. The manner of this conspiracy against the life of our blessed Saviour; it was clandestine, secret, and subtle. They consulted how they might take Him by craft, and put Him to death. Learn thence, that Satan makes use of the subtlety of crafty men, and abuseth their parts as well as their power for his own purposes and designs: the devil never sends a fool on his errand.
3. The circumstance of time when this conspiracy was managed, at the feast of the passover. (W. Burkitt)
Then entered Satan into Judas
Men do not become great villains at once.
Souls are not like meteoric bodies, that are blazing amongst the stars at one moment, and the next in some dark pit on earth, wrapped in a noxious and sulphurous smoke. They are rather like trees, they fall by degrees. See that great monarch of the forest! For years disease has been in its roots, and a long succession of foul insects have been gnawing at its vitals. Slowly and silently the decline goes on. At first the outward symptoms are scarcely visible. A few withered leaves on one of its branches on a certain spring are first noticed by the old woodman. The next spring, and not only withered leaves are seen, but perhaps a leafless branch or: two. Thus through many a long year the deterioration proceeds, until at last it is rotten to the core, and only awaits some slight breeze blowing in the right direction to strike it down. One morning a gentle gust of air sweeps through the wood, the tree falls with a crash that shakes its neighbours, vibrates through the forest, and appals the district with its boom.
Go and prepare us the passover
Preparation for the Last Supper
Passover just at hand.
Day of preparation. The Lamb to be offered is Himself. “Go and prepare--get ready--for Me; let it be heart-preparation.”
1. This preparation was general. All Old Testament teachings, histories, prophecies, and events were a preparation for the death on the cross. “Go, prepare to meet Me around that table of commemoration.”
2. When, or at what time, concerned the disciples. Your time to prepare is now.
3. The character of this command. Imperative. “Go.” Now Grotius, who lived to be fifty before he made this preparation, said, “I have passed the whole of my life laboriously doing nothing.” Cast away your sins, your prayerlessness. “I have lost ten years; I give the rest to Jesus,” should be the resolution of youth.
4. You will need to carry nothing in there. The feast is prepared. (S. H.Tyng, D. D.)
Preparation for the Lord’s Supper
Part of the preparation for the Lord’s Supper consists in learning about Christ. Unless we know Him we cannot remember Him. If we know little about Him our remembrance of Him will be poor and shallow. Suppose you were asked to do something, to illuminate your house or to plant a tree, in remembrance of some one of whom you had never heard--Bocchoris, for instance--you might do it; but what sense would there be in your doing it? You know nothing about him. What you did would be a mere external and formal observance. If I told you that according to Manetho he was the only monarch belonging to the twenty-fourth dynasty of Egyptian kings, he would still be nothing more than a name to you. Was he a good king or a bad king? Did he build temples, pyramids, great public works, make canals, establish wise and beneficent laws, fight famous battles, contribute to the civilization and happiness of his people, or did he do nothing? Was his reign long and glorious? Was he remembered after his death with love and honour? Or was his memory execrated? You don’t know; I believe no one knows. His name stands in a list of ancient kings, that is all we can say, and to do anything in remembrance of him would be an unmeaning ceremony. Remembrance must be based on knowledge, and the richer our knowledge the more vivid is our remembrance. When there is to be any public celebration of a great man, when a statue is to be erected or a building opened in his honour, the newspapers tell us about his life, and about what he did for the country; and speeches are delivered to recall the grounds on which his memory deserves to be perpetuated. And so a large part of the proper preparation for the Lord’s Supper consists in learning all we can know about the Lord Jesus Christ. The four Gospels are the best preparation for the service. (R. W. Dale.)
The last passover
I. CHRIST’S DESIRE TO EAT THE PASSOVER. This in another place is expressed in the strongest terms (Luke 22:15). Now, this he might do for the following reasons:
1. It was the Lord’s passover, so called in Exodus 12:11.
2. Hereby he gave an undeniable proof, that He was made under the ceremonial as well as moral law.
3. This was His last passover, and had an immediate relation to His subsequent sufferings.
4. The company with which He was to eat the passover, and the gospel ordinance He was about to institute in its room, might increase the ardour of His desire. Hence those tender words: “I shall eat the passover with My disciples.”
II. Notice THE PLACE IN WHICH CHRIST WOULD EAT THIS PASSOVER. Not in Herod’s, or the High Priest’s palace; for He who took upon Him the form of a servant, did not affect state and grandeur. Not in the magnificent dwelling of a Roman officer, or Jewish ruler, where He might be attended with a numerous retinue of servants; He came not to be ministered to, but to minister. Now this may be considered as emblematical Ñ
1. Of the gospel Church.
2. It may resemble the renewed and sanctified heart. “Commune with your own heart” (Psalms 4:4). “Enter into your own chamber” (Hebrews) The furnished room may also resemble a heart endowed with all the gifts, and adorned with all the graces of the Spirit. (B. Beddome, M. A. )
With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you
The last passover--Christ’s desire for it
“This passover before I suffer! “It tells us, surely, that there was some connection between the passover and the suffering of Christ, and a special connection in this passover at which He and His disciples were now sitting down.
Let us think of some of the reasons why the Saviour desired so earnestly to join in this last passover before He suffered.
1. One reason was, that the passover had now reached its end, and found its full meaning. The ancient covenant, which changed the slaves of Egypt into God’s servants, gives place to the new, which changes his servants into His sons, and commences that golden chain, “If children, then heirs: heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,” etc. And here, too, are the means of the redemption. The passover, which sprinkled with the blood of the covenant the door-posts in the land of Egypt, descends until its last victim dies beneath the shadow of the cross of Christ. Its efficacy is gone, for He has appeared who is to finish transgression, to make an end of sin, and to bring in an everlasting righteousness. At best it was a shadow, but now the great reality has come, “Christ our passover, sacrificed for us.” It is no unconscious victim, but one who freely gives Himself, the just for the unjust, that He may bring us to God.
2. Another reason why Christ desired to be present at this passover was, for the support of His own soul in the approaching struggle. “Before I suffer!” He had a terrible conflict to meet, for which He longed, and at which He trembled. We may feel startled at the thought that the Son of God should be dependent on such aid at such a moment. And yet it is in keeping with all His history--with the whole plan of redemption. The Divine and human are inseparably interwoven in the life and work of Christ.
3. We are led naturally to this further reason--that Christ desired to be present at the last passover because His friends needed special comfort. “To eat this passover with you before I suffer.” He desired to make His converse with them at this passover in the upper chamber a strength and consolation to them against the sore temptations they were to encounter. And may we not believe that Christ still prepares His people for what may be lying before them, and that He employs His comforts “to prevent” them--to go before them--in the day of their calamity. When darkness isabout to fall, God has lamps to put into the hand by anticipation. He who made His ark go before His ancient people in all their wanderings, causes the consolations of His Word to smooth the way of them that look to Him. He knows what painful steps are before us in the journey of life, what privations, what bereavements--it may be that the most solemn step of all must ere long be taken--and He desires to eat this passover with us “before we suffer.”
4. The last reason we give for Christ’s desire to be present at this passover is, that it looked forward to all the future of His Church and people. At the close of the last passover, Christ instituted that communion of the Supper which has come down through many generations--which goes forth into all the world as the remembrance of His death and the pledge of the blessings it has purchased for us. How frail this little ark which His hand has sent out on those stormy waters, but how safely it has carried its precious freight! And this presence of His, at the first communion, looks still further--on to the period when, instead of His Spirit, we shall have Himself. He desired to take His place in person at the first communion in our world, and when the great communion opens in heaven, He shall be seen in His place once more. (J. Ker, D. D.)
The Lord’s Supper
We need not look for great things in order to discover great truths. To those who reach after God he will reveal his deepest secrets through things insignificant in themselves, within the routine of common lives. No event occurs more regularly than the daily meal. None, perhaps, gathers around it so many pleasant associations. Its simplest possible form, in Christ’s time, consisted in eating bread and drinking a cup of wine. Into this act, one evening, He gathered all the meaning of the ancient sacrifices; all sacred and tender relations between Himself and His followers, and all the prophecies of His perfected kingdom.
I. THE PREPARATION. “They made ready the passover.” Note concerning the making ready that--
1. It was deliberate. The room was selected and secured. The hour was appointed. Two of the disciples were chosen to prepare the lamb and to spread the table. The Lord’s Supper is not less, but far more, rich in meaning than was the ancient passover. It requires the preparation of mind and heart made by private meditation, and by the gathering together beforehand of disciples for prayer, conference, and instruction.
2. It was exclusive, “I shall eat the passover,” Christ said, “with My disciples.” No others were invited, because no others were fitted to share in the ceremony which He was to inaugurate.
3. It was familiar. He drew closer to His disciples as the time approached in which He was to teach them how to celebrate His great act for the redemption of the world. Such times must be cherished as the warm, spring hours of spiritual growth.
4. It was solemn. The shadow of the greatest tragedy in the world’s history, close at hand, hung over them, as they went through the silent streets to the prepared guest chamber. His manner, His words, His actions, were filled with the consciousness of it.
II. THE BETRAYER POINTED OUT.
1. It leads each true disciple to self-examination.
2. It helps to reveal to Himself She false disciple. Judas knew that he was out of place in that upper chamber. The Lord’s table, which symbolizes the most intimate fellowship with Him, is a means of leading selfish men to begin to realize the awful and utter loneliness of sin.
3. It helps us to realize the baseness of a false confession of Christ.
III. THE SUPPER INSTITUTED.
1. A new sacrifice. Oxen, sheep, and doves had for centuries been slain as a sign that through life offered in sacrifice, human life that had been forfeited by sin might be restored. But from that night the broken bread takes the place of all these, and represents to us the body of Christ given as a sacrifice for sinners.
2. A new covenant.
3. A new kingdom, which was begun when first Christ through the Holy Spirit began to rule in one human heart. (A. E. Dunning.)
The happiness of attending The Communion
During the sunshine of his prosperity, Napoleon I. thought little of God and religious duties. But when his power had been broken, and he was an exile at St. Helena, he began to see the vanity of earthly things, and became earnest and attentive to religion. Then it was that he returned a very remarkable answer to one who asked him what was the happiest day in his life. “Sire,” said his questioner, “allow me to ask you what was the happiest day in all your life? Was it the day of your victory at Lodi? at Jena? at Austerlitz? or was it when you were crowned emperor?” No, my good friend, replied the fallen emperor, “it was none of these. It was the day of my first communion! That was the happiest day in all my life!” Sacramental service--
I. HOW INTENSE THE SAVIOUR’S LOVE FOR US MUST HAVE BEEN, in that His desire was not extinguished by the knowledge that it was to be His death-feast.
II. HOW CLOSE HIS FELLOWSHIP WITH MEN, as shown in that He desired to spend such an hour in their company.
III. HOW EAGER THE MASTER WAS TO MAKE THE DISCIPLES REALIZE THE NEARNESS OF THE HEAVENLY BLESSING HE WOULD PURCHASE FOR THEM, and to give them a pledge of it for their assurance. “I will not eat any more thereof, until it be fulfilled,” etc. The Lord’s Supper, then instituted, is thus designed to be--
1. An evidence of Christ’s undying love.
2. An assurance of His intimate fellowship.
3. A confirmation of His promise of the everlasting blessedness.
The Last Supper
I. THE PASSOVER PREPARED. This preparation is suggestive of three things.
1. The dispensation in which Christ and His apostles still were.
2. The all-comprehensive knowledge possessed by Christ.
3. That in the midst of enemies Christ still had friends in Jerusalem.
II. The passover eaten.
1. Our Lord’s punctuality (Luke 22:14).
2. Our Lord’s intense desire in respect to this passover.
(1) Because the last He would celebrate with them.
(2) Because He would impress them with the connection between Himself as God’s Lamb, and the paschal lamb.
(3) Because He would awaken in them an intense desire for His second coming, when He would sit down with them in the Kingdom of God.
III. THE PASSOVER SUPERSEDED.
1. By the establishment of an ordinance which commemorates the true passover (see 1 Corinthians 5:7).
2. By the assurance of the better hope which this ordinance affirms Hebrews 7:19-22).
3. By the emblematic re-crucifixion of our Lord, which should inspire them to a constant remembrance of His personal love for them (1 Corinthians 11:24).
1. Retrospection essential.
(1) Bread broken.
(2) Wine poured out.
2. Introspection essential (1 Corinthians 11:28).
3. Prospection essential (1 Corinthians 11:26). (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
The cup of sneering and of Communion
I. THAT COMMUNION BETWEEN CHRIST AND BELIEVERS WILL BE RENEWED IN HEAVEN. Even on this side heaven, seasons of pure spiritual communion are not denied us. This exhausts the Saviour’s idea. His words are to be taken not literally, but spiritually. The wine is put for the thing represented--the joys and the felicities of the final state, and to drink the wine newwith Him is to partake the inmost pleasure of His soul.
II. THIS COMMUNION WILL BE PERFECT AND UNMIXED. We receive only in part; and this necessarily renders every act of communion imperfect. But in heaven it will be otherwise. Our nature will be so purified and transformed, as that every power and every property will be an avenue to convey the stream of life and glory into the soul. The fellowship will be that of perfected spirits. There will be no darkness in the understanding, no error in the judgment, no guilt in the conscience, no sin in the heart.
III. THIS COMMUNION WILL RE UNINTERRUPTED AND ETERNAL. Sublime and refreshing as are the seasons of spiritual joy which we experience on earth, they are, generally speaking, but of short duration. Here perpetuity of enjoyment is impossible, but there it is certain. The union between the Saviour and the soul will never be dissolved, and therefore the fellowship will never end. Here we are overtaken by fatigue and exhaustion, but there we shall be endowed with immortal vigour; here sickness and infirmity often intervene, but there the inhabitants shall never say they are sick; here we enjoy communion at intervals, there it will be eternal.
IV. THIS COMMUNION WILL BE HEIGHTENED BY THE PRESENCE AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE WHOLE REDEEMED CHURCH. It is no common joy which we experience even in the most private communion; but this joy is heightened when we can blend with other souls in harmony with our own. What, then, must be the communion of the coming world, where we shall hold immediate fellowship not only with God and the Redeemer, but at the same moment, and in the same act, with angels and the whole Church of the redeemed? Delightful is the union and fellowship of minds on earth! When heart communes with heart it is like the mingling dew-drops on the flower. But this union will be heightened in heaven. There we shall find none but kindred minds, with which it will be impossible not to unite. The blessedness of the future world is in reserve for those only who belong to the kingdom of God on earth. Into the heavenly communion none will be received, but those who have here held fellowship with a risen and glorified Saviour. (R. Ferguson, LL. D.)
He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it
The Holy Communion
I. HOLY COMMUNION--WHAT IS IT?
1. It is Christ’s own ordinance. Being a communicant is the test of the reality of your Christian profession.
2. It is the command of the Great Master. Emphatic, plain, straightforward, definite. A test of our faithfulness RS the servants of Christ.
3. It is the dying wish of the best of Friends. You cannot disregard it, and be true to Him.
4. Its great importance is taught plainly by the teaching and practice of the early Church. It was at first the only act of united worship. And it was celebrated at least every Lord’s Day.
II. WHAT IS ITS NATURE?
1. It is a memorial. A picture for all time of Christ’s body broken and blood shed for the sins of man.
(1) A memorial to God the Father. In our prayers we say, “through Jesus Christ our Lord”; or some such words; i.e., we plead before the Father what He has done for us. In the Holy Communion we say, “for Jesus’ sake” not in words, but in the very acts which He Himself has taught us. Thus it is our highest act of prayer.
(2) A memorial to ourselves. How easily we forget. This refreshes our memory, and rekindles our love.
(3) A memorial to an unthinking or unbelieving world. A witness to men that we believe in Jesus, who lived and died and still lives for us.
2. It is a means of grace. Jesus Himself is pleased in this ordinance of his own appointment to give us Himself.
3. It is a bond of union between ourselves and others. In partaking together one sacred food we, made one with Jesus, are brought nearer to one another.
(1) A bond of union between those who belong to the same earthly family.
(2) A bond of union between those who belong to the same congregation.
(3) A bond of union between all Christians who love the Lord Jesus.
(4) A bond of union between those who are resting in paradise.
III. WHO OUGHT TO COME?
1. Those who know how poor their love is, and want to love God more.
2. Those who are trying to serve God, and fail because they are weak, and need strength.
3. Those who are sinful, but desire to become holy.
4. Those who are careful and troubled about many things, and long for rest.
IV. WHO OUGHT NOT TO COME?
1. Those who are sinning, and do not want to give up their sin.
2. Those who think themselves good enough. The selfsatisfied obtain no blessing, for they seek none.
V. HOW TO COME.
1. Humbly. Why? Because we are not worthy to come.
2. Trustingly and simply. Taking God at His word, and not asking questions.
3. Earnestly. Meaning what we are doing. Not because others come, but because we realize that in our sinfulness and our unworthiness we find the strongest reason why we ought to come.
4. Reverently. Humbly realizing the presence of Jesus, and earnestly desiring His blessing.
5. Regularly. Have a fixed rule about it. Do not leave it to be done at any time when it is convenient or suits you.
6. More and more frequently. As you grow older you ought to be more earnest, and in order to serve God better you must seek more help. The grown-up man is not content with the same amount of food as the child; and the man who is desirous to grow up into the full measure of the stature of Christ, needs more spiritual nourishment than the man who is only a babe in Christ.
7. Early. When your thoughts are fresh, your heart free from cares and worries, your mind undisturbed by worldly things. Give to God the best you can. Let Him have the first of the day. (C. J. Ridgeway, M. A.)
The Holy Communion
I. THE ORDINANCE ITSELF.
II. ITS CHARACTERISTICS.
1. A Divine ordinance.
2. A perpetual ordinance.
3. A binding and obligatory ordinance.
4. It should be a frequent ordinance. No Lord’s Day without the Lord’s Supper.
III. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH IT SHOULD BE OBSERVED.
1. Deep humility of mind.
2. Grateful love to Jesus.
4. Love to all mankind.
5. Joyous hope.
IV. THE ADVANTAGES ARISING FROM OBEDIENCE TO THIS COMMAND OF CHRIST’S.
1. The soul will be strengthened.
2. Christ will be increasingly precious.
3. Holiness will be increased.
4. Heaven will be desired.
1. Address regular communicants. Come in a right spirit. Be watchful, humble, prayerful, etc.
2. Address irregular communicants. Why so? It is disobedience, inconsistency, injurious to yourselves, Church, world.
3. Those who never commune at all.
(1) The conscientiously doubtful. Do you hate sin? Believe in Christ, etc. Are you willing to obey him? Then draw near, etc.
(2) Those who are really unfit for the Lord’s table, are also unfit for death, judgment, eternity. (J. Burns, D. D.)
The Sacrament of Holy Communion
In preserving this festival, we are urged alike by affection and duty.
I. THE ACT.
1. To stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance, we may point out the simplicity of this act.
2. But though simple it is significant. The material forms and visible things, represent spiritual and invisible realities.
3. The participation of this Sacrament is a manifestation of
Christian unity (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
4. This act is commemorative.
5. This ordinance is also sealing. A pledge of Divine mercy. A covenant act.
6. This Sacrament is also prospective. “Till He come.”
II. THE COMMAND. “This do.”
5. Worthily. “Discerning the Lord’s Body.” (R. M. Willcox.)
The Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper--what a title! How full of memories, how it carries us back into the very heart of the past! What a solemn night it tells of--what a meeting--what a parting! The Lord’s Supper, however often it is celebrated, always ought to carry us back to the institution. For the little company of the disciples it was a night of gloom. The week had opened amid Hosannas; for a moment it had seemed as if the Saviour was to be the hero and the idol of the multitude. But the acclaims died away. The bitter hostility of the rulers reasserted itself in a series of angry or crafty assaults; and now we are on the very eve of that other and most opposite cry--“Away with Him; crucify Him. His blood be on us, and on our children.” The fortunes of the new gospel, as man must judge, were that night at the very lowest ebb. As the event advances it is made quite evident that this is a parting meeting, and that the Lord and Master knows it. He speaks of Himself as departing, not on a temporary journey, but by a violent death. People who are bent upon explaining away everything that is remarkable, still more everything that is superhuman in the Gospels, have denied that the words “Take, eat, this is My Body; Drink ye all of this, for this is My Blood,” were words of institution at all. They say that they were merely a pathetic way of typifying to the disciples His approaching death, and had nothing to do with any future commemoration of it when He should be gone. It is not necessary to argue this point, because we have the clearest testimony from the earliest date rationally possible; the testimony of friends and foes; of Christians and Pagans; of St. Paul and St. Luke; of Pliny no less than Justin Martyr, that those who heard the words did understand them as words of institution, and did act upon them as such. The breaking of the bread, the coming together to eat the Lord’s Supper were phrases of perpetual recurrence as soon as there was any Church founded, and wherever that Church spread itself over Asia and Europe; and that custom, always, and everywhere, explained itself by going back to the scene in the guest-chamber the night before the Crucifixion. But now, if the words had this meaning, the thought comes upon us with great force, how wonderful is it that our Lord, knowing that tiffs was His last night upon earth as a man in flesh and blood, instead of regarding it as an end, looks upon it as a beginning, speaks of it as a preliminary, a necessary preliminary to results foreseen and foreknown, in particular to what He calls the remission or dismissal of sins, and gives directions for the perpetual remembrance of His approaching baptism of blood, in an ordinance which is to have for its marked feature the symbolic eating and drinking of His own Body and Blood. Brethren, this is a great thought. Our Lord in the same night in which He was betrayed, the very night before tie suffered, did not look upon that betrayal or upon that passion as a disaster, as a blow struck at His work, or His enterprise, but rather as its necessary condition. It is the fore-ordained consummation. The same night in which He was betrayed, and in the clearest foresight of His Crucifixion, He founds an ordinance, He institutes a sacrament in express recognition, and for the everlasting remembrance, of His death of violence and torture, of ignominy and agony. “Well, now let us pass on to the very words of the institution, so much more surprising and startling than if they had merely spoken of commemorating His death--“Take, eat, this is My Body”; “Drink ye all of this, for this is My blood.” It would not have been at all startling, and not at all surprising, if our Lord had hidden His disciples to come together from time to time to meditate upon His cruel and suffering death. A mere man might have thought of this, might even have made it a religious service to go over the particulars of His passion, partly as a memorial to a lost friend, and partly for the encouragement of serious, devout, and humble living. But this cannot be said of the expressions before us--“Take, eat, this is My Body.” “Drink this, for it is My Blood.” So far from this being the common language of a dying friend, it would be language of which all would shrink from the hearing or the uttering. Brethren, it speaks for itself, that they must have regarded Him who said, “Take, eat, this is My Body,” as one altogether different from any common, or any merely human person. It would be cruelty, it would be impiety, it would be insanity in any friend, living or dying, to use such expressions concerning himself. They say this, if they say anything, “My death shall be your life;” “My body is given, My blood is outpoured for you.” In that death is involved the life of the world. In that separation of flesh and blood which is the act of dying, the sins of the world are taken away; yet this is not as a single isolated fact just to be accepted, just to be relied upon, without corollary or consequence--not so. “I, the dying, the once dead, shall be alive again after death, and be your life, not as a dead man, but as one alive after death; so must you deal with Me. You must receive Me into your hearts, you must, as it were, eat Me and drink Me, so that I may enter into your very being, and become a part of you; not as a man in human form treading upon the earth, companying with you as a man with his friends, but in a totally different manner, as one that died and was dead, but who now liveth to die no more; as one that has died and risen again; as one that is now in heaven; as one that has the Holy Spirit, and sends Him forth for perpetual indwelling in the hearts of His people. “So eat, so drink, for refreshing, and for sustentation.” The flesh profiteth nothing”; no, not though you could hold in the hand and press with the teeth the very body of the Crucified. The flesh, even the sacred flesh, profiteth nothing; “it is the Spirit that quickeneth.” One moment of spiritual contact with the risen and glorified is worth whole centuries, whole millenniums, of the corporeal co-existence. (Dean Vaughan.)
The advantages of remembering Christ
I. We are to inquire, first, WHAT IS IMPLIED IN REMEMBERING CHRIST.
1. There is evidently implied in this remembrance a knowledge of Him, a previous acquaintance with Him. He must have occupied much of our thoughts, have entered into our hearts, and been lodged in the deepest recesses of our minds.
2. Hence to remember Christ implies a heart-felt love for Him.
3. Hence to remember Christ implies also a frequent and affectionate recalling of Him to our minds.
II. Let us proceed to inquire why CHRIST HAS LEFT US THIS COMMAND TO REMEMBER HIM.
1. He has done this for a reason which ought greatly to humble us tie has said, “Remember Me,” because He knows that we are prone to forget Him.
2. But our proneness to forget Christ is not the only reason why He has commanded us to remember Him. He has given us this command, because He desires to be remembered by us.
3. The great reason, however, why Christ has commanded us to remember Him, is this--He knows that we cannot think of Him without deriving much benefit to ourselves.
III. WHAT, THEN, ARE THE ADVANTAGES RESULTING FROM AN HABITUAL REMEMBRANCE OF JESUS? This is our third subject of inquiry; let us proceed to consider it.
1. The first of these benefits is comfort to the soul, when wounded by a sense of sin.
2. An habitual remembrance of Christ has a tendency also to elevate our affections.
3. This heavenly-mindedness would lead us to a third benefit resulting from this remembrance of Christ--patience and comfort in our afflictions.
4. The remembrance of Christ tends also to keep alive within us a holy hatred of sin. Nothing makes sin appear half so hateful, as the cross of Christ; nothing so effectually checks it when rising in the soul, as the thought of a dying Saviour. O let me never crucify the Son of God afresh!
IV. BUT IF WE WOULD HABITUALLY REMEMBER CHRIST, LET US NOT FORGET THE COMMAND GIVEN US IN THE TEXT. “This do in remembrance of Me.” We soon forget objects which are removed from our sight; and our Lord, who knows and pities this weakness of our nature, has given us an abiding memorial of Himself. He has appointed an ordinance for this very purpose, to remind us of His love. (C. Bradley, M. A.)
Christ wanting to be remembered
The Holy Communion is the memorial of our Redeemer’s sacrifice.
I. CHRIST WANTS TO BE REMEMBERED FOR WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR US. We never must forget the past, or lose sight of Calvary. Great Prophet, we must ever think of what He has done to teach; Great Priest, what He has done to atone; and Great King, what He has done to win the allegiance and devotion of our hearts.
II. OUR LORD WANTS TO BE REMEMBERED IN WHAT HE IS DOING FOR US. He lives to carry on and to carry out His work of grace in our hearts and lives.
III. CHRIST WANTS TO BE REMEMBERED FOR WHAT HE IS UNDER PLEDGE TO DO. We anticipate the coronation of our King, and the marriage-supper of the Lamb. Veils hide Him now; we long for the vision of His face. (R. Tuck, B. A.)
The Holy feast
1. A feast of charity.
2. A feast of commemoration.
3. A feast of sanctified communion.
4. A feast of hope. (J. B. Owen, M. A.)
The Sacrament of Holy Communion
I. A DIRECTION FROM CHRIST--“Do this.”
1. Addressed by our Lord
(1) to the apostles, and
(2) through them to the whole catholic Church.
2. Spoken as a Friend to His friends.
3. Spoken instructively. As our Prophet.
4. Spoken authoritatively. As our King, Christ expects us to keep this our military oath with Him. If an earthly commander had but to say to his servant, “go,” and he went; and “come,” and he came; how much more “ought we to be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?” “See then, oh believer, that ye refuse not Him who speaketh.” Do not come to the Holy Table--
(b) grudgingly, or of necessity.
II. AN EXPLANATORY MOTIVE--“In remembrance of Me.” (R. S. Brooke, M. A.)
The cup of reconciliation
Warburton and Tucker were contemporary bishop and dean in the same cathedral. For many years they were not even on speaking terms. It was on a Good Friday, not long before Warburton’s death; they were at the Holy Table together. Before he gave the cup to the dean, he stooped down, and said in tremulous emotion, “Dear Tucker, let this be the cup of reconciliation between us.” It had the intended effect; they were friends again to their mutual satisfaction. (Christian Age.)
The Lord’s Supper
I. THE INSTITUTION OF THIS HOLY RITE. “This do”--that is, do what I am doing. To do what Jesus did we are to take bread and wine. And we are to take this bread and wine, not for an ordinary meal--for they “had supped’; and St. Paul says, “If any hunger, let him eat at home,”--but for a sacramental feast, a means of feeding in our souls upon the Body and Blood of Christ our Saviour. Again, if we would do what Jesus did, we must, before we eat that bread and drink that wine, have them consecrated: “Jesus blessed”; and, as St. Paul says, “the cup of blessing which we bless.” Next, we are to have a minister to consecrate them. We do not find that any disciples meeting together could consecrate the elements, for in Matthew we are told, that “Jesus blessed it and brake it, and then gave it to the disciples and said, Take, eat, this is My Body.” Again we find, that in doing this, our Lord accompanied it with prayer.
II. THE PURPOSE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER--“do this in remembrance of Me.” The remembrance of Jesus may be considered actively or passively--“this do in remembrance of Me”--that is, to remind Jesus of us, or to remind us of Jesus. The expression may be applied both ways, and may be profitably considered in either view. We have need of reminding Christ of us, of our necessities, our wants, our joys, and our sorrows, as in Is
43:26. In Numbers 10:9, we have the same truth of reminding God of us set before the Jews, and so s gain in Malachi 3:16-17. In this view of these words, we have then this truth set before us that, in that holy ordinance, we remind Jesus of His covenanted mercy, of His dying love, the price it cost Christ to purchase our souls, the greatness of His promises, the reality and truth of our faith in Him, the necessity we have to bring before Him our weakness and our woes. We remind Him that we do indeed believe in Him, and that, believing in Him, we cling to His precious covenant. In taking of the memorials of His dying love, we remind Him that we are those of whom He has said, “He that believeth on Me, though He were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth and believeth on Me shall never die.” But again, the remembrance of Jesus, taken passively, implies that we remember Jesus; our remembrance of Jesus implies, not merely a remembrance of one act of the Saviour, of one truth, or one fact connected with His gospel or His life, but a remembrance of Himself. He does not say, do it in remembrance of the cross-do it in remembrance of the garden, but, do it in remembrance of Me--My person--My offices--My qualities--My whole being--Christ Jesus our Redeemer--ourFriend. Remembrance of Jesus must vary in intensity, and affection, and character, in proportion to our knowledge of His love, His grace, His kindness, and His truth, and of our habitual abiding in Him in our own souls.
III. WHO ARE THE PERSONS THAT OUGHT TO PARTAKE OF IT?
IV. THE DUTY OF OBSERVING IT. It was given for disciples. (J. Baylee, D. D.)
The Lord’s Supper an emblem and memorial
I. It is AN EMBLEM. The question is, then, what unseen things do these simple objects represent?
1. The human nature of Christ; His incarnation.
2. The death of Christ, too, is shadowed forth in this ordinance. We have more than bread before us in it, it is bread which has been broken; and more than wine, it is wine which has been poured forth.
3. The consecrated elements are emblematical also of the great end and design of our Lord’s incarnation and death.
II. Let us now go on to another view of this ordinance. IT IS A MEMORY. “This do,” He says, “in remembrance of Me.” But it is not Himself simply considered, that our Lord calls on us here to remember; it is Himself as these emblems set Him forth, given and bleeding for us; it is Himself in His humiliation, sufferings, and death. Why the institution of an ordinance to bring things like these to our remembrance?
1. Partly, perhaps, on account of the joy Christ Himself feels in the recollection of them. His heart overflows with joy at the thought of His cross and passion, and He would have us think of them and sympathize with Him in His joy.
2. The remembrance of Christ’s incarnation and death is of the utmost importance to us; therefore also He may have established this memorial of them among us. “All our fresh springs” are in our crucified Lord, and therefore He brings Himself frequently before us as our crucified Lord that we may go to Him as the great source of our mercies, and take of His blessings.
3. There is another reason to be given for the setting up of this memorial of our Lord’s sufferings--it is our liability to forget them. (C. Bradley, M. A.)
Christ’s vicarious death
A single verse, written on paper, now yellow with age, hangs on the wall of a nobleman’s study in London. It has a remarkable history, and has, in two notable instances, at least, been blessed of God to conversion. The verse was originally composed by Dr. Valpy, the eminent Greek scholar and author of some standard school books. He was converted late in life, and wrote this verse as a confession of faith:--
“In peace let me resign my breath,
And Thy salvation see;
My sins deserve eternal death,
But Jesus died for me.”
On one occasion Dr. Marsh was visiting the house of Lord Roden, where he held a Bible reading with the family. He mentioned Dr. Valpy’s conversion by way of illustration in the course of his remarks, and recited the verse. Lord Roden was particularly struck with the lines, wrote them out, and affixed them to the wall of his study, where they still are. Lord Roden’s hospitable mansion was often full of visitors, among whom were many old army officers. One of these was General Taylor, who served with distinction under Wellington at Waterloo. He had not, at that time, thought much on the subject of religion, and preferred to avoid all discussion of it. But soon after the paper was hung up he went into the study to talk with his friend alone, and his eyes rested for a few moments upon the verse. Later in the day Lord Roden upon entering his study came upon the general standing before the paper and reading it with earnest face. At another visit the host noticed that whenever General Taylor was in the study his eyes rested on the verse. At length Lord Roden broke the ice by saying, “Why, General, you will soon know that verse by heart.” “I know it now by heart,” replied the general, with emphasis and feeling. A change came over the general’s spirit and life. No one who was intimately acquainted with him could doubt its reality. During the following two years he corresponded readily with Lord Roden about the things which concerned his peace, always concluding his letters by quoting Dr. Valpy’s verse. At the end of that time the physician who attended General Taylor wrote to Lord Roden to say that his friend had departed in peace, and that the last words which fell from his dying lips were those which he had learned to love in his lifetime. A young relative of the family, an officer who served in the Crimea, also saw it, but turned carelessly away. Some months later Lord Roden received the intelligence that his young acquaintance was suffering from pulmonary disease, and was desirous of seeing him without delay. As he entered the sick-room the dying man stretched out both hands to welcome him; at the same time repeating Dr. Valpy’s simple lines. “They have been God’s message,” he said, “of peace and comfort to my heart in this illness, when brought to my memory, after days of darkness and distress, by the Holy Ghost the Comforter.”
The ordained memorial
I. THE MAIN OBJECT OF THE SUPPER IS A PERSONAL MEMORIAL. “In remembrance of Me.” We are to remember not so much His doctrines, or precepts, as His person. Remember the Lord Jesus at this Supper--
1. As the trust of your hearts.
2. As the object of your gratitude.
3. As the Lord of your conduct.
4. As the joy of your lives.
5. As the Representative of your persons.
6. As the Rewarder of your hopes. Remember what He was, what He is, what He will be. Remember Him with heartiness, concentration of thought, realizing vividness, and deep emotion.
II. THE MEMORIAL ITSELF IS STRIKING.
1. Simple, and therefore like Himself, who is transparent and unpretentious truth. Only bread broken, and wine poured out.
2. Frequent--“as oft as ye drink it,” and so pointing to our constant need. He intended the Supper to be often enjoyed.
3. Universal, and so showing the need of all. “Drink ye all of it.” In every land, all His people are to eat and drink at this table.
4. His death is the best memory of Himself, and it is by showing forth His death that we remember Him.
5. His covenant relation is a great aid to memory; hence He speaks of--“The new covenant in My Blood.” We do not forget Adam, our first covenant-head; nor can we forget our second Adam.
6. Our receiving Him is the best method of keeping Him in memory; therefore we eat and drink in this ordinance. No better memorial could have been ordained.
III. THE OBJECT AIMED AT IS ITSELF INVITING. Since we are invited to come to the holy Supper that we may remember our Lord, we may safely infer that--
1. We may come to it, though we have forgotten Him often and sadly. In fact, this will be a reason for coming.
2. We may come, though others may be forgetful of Him. We come not to judge them, but to remember Him ourselves.
3. We may come, though weak for aught else but the memory of His goodness.
4. It will be sweet, cheering, sanctifying, quickening, to remember Him; therefore let us not fail to come. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Sacrament better than a sermon
Frequently to me the Supper has been much better than a sermon. It has the same teaching-power, but it is more vivid. The Lord is known to us in the breaking of bread, though our eyes have been holden during His discourse. I can see a good meaning in the saying of Henry III., of France, when he preferred the Sacrament to a sermon: “I had rather see my Friend than hear Him talked about.” I love to hear my Lord talked about, for so I often see Him, and I see Him in no other way in the Supper than in a sermon; but sometimes, when my eye is weak with weeping, or dim with dust, that double glass of the bread and wine suits me best. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The ends for which the Holy Communion is appointed
1. It is appointed to be a memorial of Christ.
2. It is a standing evidence of the truth of Christianity.
3. It furnishes an opportunity of the open profession of the Christian religion in general, and, especially, of our trusting in the sacrifice of Christ for forgiveness and acceptance with God.
4. Another end of the Lord’s Supper is to be an act of Church fellowship, or communion.
5. The Lord’s Supper gives an opportunity of covenanting with God, and engaging to be the Lord’s. He who partakes of the Communion is, by that very act, as completely and voluntarily bound to serve the Lord, as if he had engaged aloud to do so in the plainest terms of speech, or subscribed, with his own hand, a written deed to that effect. It follows, too, by necessary consequence, that, though he is not bound to anything to which he was not in duty bound before, yet, if he abandon himself to sin, he is justly chargeable with breach of engagement. This argument does not rest on anything peculiar to the Supper; but it applies to it with particular force.
6. Another very comprehensive end of this ordinance is to be a means of cherishing all the graces of the Divine life. We say of cherishing them, not of implanting them; for, though the grace of God is not to be limited, and may reach the heart, for the first time, in any circumstances, those who partake of the Lord’s Supper ought already to be possessed of the Christian character in some degree.
7. Once more, this ordinance is intended to lead our thoughts forward to our Lord’s second coming. It is not only retrospective, but prospective. It is not only a remembrance of something past, but an anticipation of something future. (James Foote, M. A.)
In remembrance of Him! What a flood of recollections comes back to us as we think on these words. To every class, age, and character amongst us those words are spoken. To you babes and children He says, “Do this in remembrance of Me, the Child Jesus, who for you once lay as a babe in the manger at Bethlehem, who for your sakes grew as a child in favour with God and man, who was obedient to His parents, a gentle, holy Child; do this, be obedient, be gentle, be loving, keep your baptismal vow in remembrance of Me.” It speaks to you, young men, and says, “Do this, keep yourselves pure, flee fleshly lusts which war against the soul, be helpful, be earnest, not slothful in business, labour honestly in your appointed task, do this in remembrance of Me, who as a young man was pure and earnest and helpful, who laboured patiently and obscurely in lowly Nazareth.” He speaks to all Who have money or time or influence at their disposal, He says, “Do this, go about doing good, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the fatherless and the widow; never turn your face from any poor man; if thou hast much, give plenteously, if thou hast little do thy diligence to give gladly of that little, do this in remembrance of Me, the Man Christ Jesus, who went about doing good, who gave up all time, glory, honour, wealth, life itself, for others, who sought out the ignorant and those who were out of the way, who dried the widow’s tears, who ministered to the sick, who was not ashamed to help and comfort even the publican and the fallen woman, who suffered hunger and thirst, and want, and insult for His people; O you, who are called by My name, do this in remembrance of Me, for in that ye do such things unto the least of My people, ye do it unto Me, and verily ye have your reward.” To you who are anyways afflicted and distressed lie speaks and says, “Do this in remembrance of Me, bear this cross meekly in remembrance of that bitter cross of Mine, for what sorrow is like unto My sorrow, what night of agony can equal that night in Gethsemane, what grave can now be without hope since that one grave in the Garden which was unsealed on Easter morning?” (H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)
The memorial of Jesus
I. THE INJUNCTION OF A DEEPLY DEVOTED FRIEND.
II. THE INJUNCTION OF A DEPARTED FRIEND.
III. WHAT DO WE SPECIALLY COMMEMORATE BY OUR COMPLIANCE WITH THIS COMMAND? His death, as a sacrificial atonement for our sins, and as the most remarkable display of His love for us, though sinners.
IV. In commemorating Christ’s death by this ordinance, WE RECALL THE IGNOMINY, REPROACH, AND SHAME HE ENDURED ON OUR BEHALF.
V. Reflect that THESE THINGS, MORE THAN ALL OTHERS, ARE WORTHY OF BEING HELD IN EVERLASTING REMEMBRANCE.
VI. HERE, TOO, WE KEEP IN REMEMBRANCE TRANSACTIONS IN WHICH EVERY GENERATION HAS THE SAME INTEREST, AND WHICH PRESENT TO ALL THE SAME MOST INVITING AND SOLEMN ASPECTS.
VII. Once more, in the same direction of thought, we observe that, IN THE CELEBRATION OF DEEDS OF PROWESS AND PATRIOTISM, THE REMOTER THE PERIOD OF THEIR PERFORMANCE, THE LESS IS THE INTEREST AWAKENED BY THEM, while in relation to the great event which we this day commemorate, THE REMOTER THE AGE AND GENERATION, THE DEEPER WILL BE THE INTEREST FELT IN IT, AND MORE NUMEROUS WILL THEY BE WHO CELEBRATE IT.
VIII. IN THIS ORDINANCE CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED UPON TO REMEMBER AN UNSEEN FRIEND, UNTIL THE APPOINTED PERIOD OF HIS REAPPEARANCE.
IX. FROM THE SIMPLE NATURE OF THE SYMBOLS EMPLOYED, WE INFER THAT THIS COMMEMORATION IS TO BE UNIVERSAL AS THE CHURCH, AND EXTENSIVE AS THE WORLD.
X. Notice the PECULIAR CHARACTER OF THIS COMMAND AS DISTINGUISHED FROM ALL OTHERS ENJOINED BY DIVINE AUTHORITY. This commemorative command is not issued to us so much in the manner of a Lord and lawgiver, as in the character of a claim of gratitude and affection. The Creator commands thus, “Do this and live; or, fail to do, and die.” So does the Lawgiver command--“Thou shalt do this in fear of Me, and of the penalties of disobedience.” But our Lord’s command in the text speaks to us in a very different manner. He does not say, “Do this in fear of Me as God,” but “Do this in remembrance of Me, as Redeemer”--“Do this, I beseech you, as you love Me, and as I have loved you. I have done My work--‘It is finished.’ Now do your part in remembrance of this finished work.” In obeying this command, we obey it as having especial and peculiar reference to the Mediator. Other commands, like those of the moral law, respect the providence and moral government of God, and the benefit of man--this one directly issues from, and gives glory to, the dying Redeemer, the God-man, “the Author and Finisher of our faith.” In His other commands Christ addresses us as our Master, our Shepherd, our Divine and Supreme Teacher--in this He instructs us in our duties to God, to our neighbour, and to ourselves. All His other commands appear to point OUTWARDS in the direction of various rights and duties; this command only points REWARDS: others, away from Himself--this, to Himself, “Do this in remembrance of ME--in remembrance of My body, My blood, My death. That death which I endured for your sakes, do you at least remember for My sake.” (J. R. Leifchild, M. A.)
Design of the Lord’s Supper
1. “In remembrance of Me”--the end.
2. “Do this”--the means.
1. The bread, or Christ’s body, represents His personality, or the Incarnation.
2. The wine, or Christ’s blood, represents His work, or the
3. The bread and wine, the body and blood, represent the incarnate career.
III. PROCLAMATIVE. An immortal witness to the crucifixion (1 Corinthians 11:20).
IV. COVENANTIVE (Luke 22:20). The engagement both Divine and human.
V. COMMUNICATIVE (1 Corinthians 10:17).
VI. ASSOCIATIVE. Personal membership in Christ is universal co-membership of Christ’s people.
VII. ANTICIPATIVE (Matthew 26:29). The dirge glides into the paean. Hint of the new heavens and new earth. Bridegroom and bride at the same marriage-supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9). (National Baptist.)
The blood of the new covenant
I. THE NEW COVENANT OF FORGIVENESS AND LIFE. The new reminds of the old. From the old we may learn what to look for as essential features of the new. Take three illustrations:
1. The covenant with Noah, on leaving the Ark.
2. The covenant with Abraham, on entering Canaan.
3. The covenant with Moses, on leading the people from Egypt. The new covenant is an engagement between God and man, through Christ, who acts as representative of God to man and of man to God. It implies mutual pledges. On God’s side is pledged forgiveness; remission of sins; and life, in its fullest, highest meaning. On man’s side is pledged the obedience of faith.
II. THE BLOOD WHICH SEALS AND SANCTIONS THE COVENANTS. Look again at the three cases mentioned. Each covenant was sealed with blood. Noah took of the clean beasts for his offering, which devoted the spared lives to the service of God. Abraham divided the creatures, when he entered into his covenant. And Moses sprinkled with blood both the book and the people, when the covenant was ratified. Why always with blood? Because the blood is the symbol of the life, and, so, shedding blood was a symbolical way of taking a solemn vow to give the whole life to obedience. Then see how Christ’s blood becomes the seal of the new covenant. Take Christ as Mediator for God. He condescended to our weakness, and pledged His very being, His very life, to His faithfulness towards us. In this sense He is God’s sacrifice. Take Christ as mediator for man. And in this He is man’s sacrifice. Then two things come to view.
1. He seals our pledge that we will spend life in obedience, serving God up to and through death. In accepting Christ as our Saviour, we acknowledge that He has taken this pledge for us.
2. In giving His blood, His life, to us to partake of, Christ would give us the strength to keep our pledge. Illustrate by the Scottish Covenanters, opening a vein, and, signing with their life-blood the “Covenant” on the gravestone, in Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh. What, then, is the pledge which we take afresh in each sacramental act? Obedience unto death. The obedience of faith. What is the pledge we receive afresh in every sacramental act? The assurance of Divine forgiveness, and eternal life. Why do we take the sacramental emblems together? In order that we may be mutual witnesses; and then true helpers one of another in keeping our pledge. (The Weekly Pulpit.)
The Son of Man goeth
The Son of Man, and His going
THE SON OF MAN.
1. Reference of the appellation. Nothing is more certain than that the appellation, “the Son of Man,” belongs to Jesus Christ, and is peculiar to Him.
2. Origin of the appellation (see Psalms 18:17).
3. Meaning of the appellation. When the Messiah is termed “the Son of Man,” the term fixes the mind both on the reality of His manhood, and on the circumstances which distinguish Him among men. It marks Him as truly a man, a descendant of man; but it as really marks Him as standing out from the rest of men. The leading thoughts suggested by the designation, “the Son of Man,” as given to our Lord Jesus Christ, are these: that He is a real man, truly a partaker of human nature; that He is a perfect man, the normal man, man as he should be; that He is the representative man, the second Adam, charged with the responsibilities of the race; that He is the God-man, a true man in union with the true God; finally, that He is the predicted man, the great subject of New Testament prophecy; a man, a son of man--the man, the son of man.
II. THE GOING OF THE SON OF MAN. The predestined, predicted “going” of this Son of Man comes now to be considered. “The Son of Man,” said the Son of Man Himself, goeth, “goeth as was determined, goeth as it is written.” Heaven was His original abode--earth was His present residence; but it was not intended to be His permanent dwelling-place. He had come from heaven to earth, and was to go from earth to heaven. When He came, He came not unsent. He was commissioned to do a great work, and, when that work was accomplished, He was to return to Him that sent Him.
1. He went to the grave.
2. He went to the grave as it is written. Before proceeding farther in tracing the Son of Man’s amazing journey, it may be well for us here to stop and inquire how, when He went thus to the grave, He went “as it is written”? Here, there are three remarks which deserve our attention--
(1) He went in the character in which it was written He should go;
(2)He went in the disposition in which it was written He should go; and
(3) In many of the particular and even minute details of His progress, He went “as it was written.”
(1) He suffered and died as a public person, the representative of His people, the victim of sin. He suffered for us, the just in the room of the unjust; and this is as it was written.
(2) He went, as we have seen, in the spirit of the most entire self-devotedness, cheerful resignation, magnanimous fortitude. No man took His life from Him; He laid it down of Himself. And all this was written of Him.
(3) The agony in Gethsemane was as it was written; also His betrayal, the particular insults and injuries done Him, the manner in which His death was accomplished the circumstances of His funeral, etc.
3. He went to heaven.
4. He went to heaven as it is written. (D. Brown, D. D.)
He that is greatest among you let him be as the younger
How to be the greatest in Christ’s Kingdom
THERE IS A NECESSARY AND NATURAL DESIRE IN MAN FOR SUPERIORITY.
1. It is taken for granted that the principle exists universally.
2. It is admitted that the desire is an inherent principle.
3. It is therefore a holy and righteous principle.
4. It is a necessary principle.
II. THE BEST MEN MAY FAIL TO DISCOVER THE TRUE WAY TO HONOUR AND DIGNITY.
1. The cause of the disciple’s failure. This strife arose in the absence of the Saviour
2. The spirit of their failure. “Accounted.” Carnal, external, worldly ambition.
3. The manifestation of their failure.
III. FIDELITY TO CHRIST IN TRIAL QUALIFIES FOR THE HIGHER SPHERES AND HONOURS IN HIS KINGDOM.
1. Adherence to Christ brings us into contact with the greatest trials.
2. All true disciples cleave to Christ, even in His trials.
3. Christ will honourably acknowledge and reward fidelity in His disciples.
(1) It is honour as reward for humble service.
(2) It is distinguished honour.
(3) It will be satisfying honour. (T. M. Evans.)
The evils of worldly ambition
I. THE DISPUTE AROSE--
1. Out of ignorance as to the nature of the kingdom of Christ.
2. Out of the worldly ambition of their own hearts.
II. THE LORD REBUKED THIS SPIRIT OF WORLDLY AMBITION. By drawing their attention to His own example. Application:
1. Show the widespread prevalence of this worldly ambition in the Church.
2. Urge lowliness of mind.
(1) By the strong commendation Christ bestows on it.
(2) By the injury done to the cause of Christ, when His followers manifest the opposite spirit. (F. F. Goe, M. A.)
1. Beware of a proudly aspiring and envious spirit. Seek not to rise on the ruins of others, or by trampling on others.
2. Remember wherein true greatness consists, and follow after it. It consists in high attainments in piety and usefulness.
3. Whatever your attainments may be, be humble, if you would be great.
4. Let the disciples of Christ continue with Him, notwithstanding every trial. (James Foote, M. A.)
I. The narrative we are considering discloses what effect SELF-SEEKING HAD on the disciples.
1. It blinded their eyes to the glory of the Son of God. They saw, indeed, His mighty works, and longed to be able to do such works themselves; but the hidden life of righteousness and peace and love they did not see and were not yet capable of seeing. Darkness cannot comprehend the light. Men seeking conspicuous places cannot understand the mind which was in Christ Jesus, who made Himself of no reputation, humbled Himself, and became obedient even to the death of the cross.
2. The self-seeking spirit plunged the disciples into a quarrel on the eve of a great occasion.
3. The self-seeking spirit put the disciples into a false attitude of presumption, undertaking more than they were able to do. “Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask.”
4. The spirit of self-seeking confused their notions of dominion. They had adopted the maxims of the Gentiles, and were in danger of believing that a man was great simply because he exercised authority.
1. The courage of self-sacrifice. It shrinks back from no danger, fears no hardship, and is superior to all suffering. He took the twelve disciples apart and said unto them: “We go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man shall be betrayed, condemned, and crucified.” Knowing all things that should be accomplished, He went forward; He went forward that they might be accomplished.
2. The universality of self-sacrifice. Because this is the way of the Son of Man, therefore it must become the way of every man. Each man is to take up his cross. Each man is to become like the man.
3. The reward of self-sacrifice. Spiritual promotion comes according to just and immutable law.
4. The kingdom of self-sacrifice. They would reverse the maxims of the Gentiles, and reckon the servant greater than the Master.(Edward. B. Mason.)
“As he that doth serve”
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?”
The law of service
The desire for distinction is one of the radical principles of our nature; never so crucified and buried but that, in unexpected ways and moments, it may revive, and rise again in power. In the world we find it, and in the Church. Charles V. could lay off the imperial purple, but could not so easily dispossess himself of the imperial will. Simon Stylites, on his pillar in the Lybian desert, was as willing to draw crowds out after him as any most lordly Bishop of Alexandria. The decrepit anchorite, in spite of his austerities, was still a man; his stomach hungry for bread, his heart hungry for applause. This subtle passion is strongest in the middle and more athletic period of life. It comes in between the love of pleasure, which besets our youth, and the love of gain, which besets our age. Though liable to desperate abuse, this passion, like every other, was benevolently given. If it causes wars, and builds up oppressive institutions, poisoning the hearts and cursing the lives of men, it is likewise one of the sharpest spurs to honourable toil, inspires the grandest achievements, and strikes its deepest roots into the deepest natures. It is, then, not to be fought against, as an enemy to virtue, but drawn into service rather, as an ally.
I. TRUE GREATNESS IS NOT INDICATED EITHER BY A CONSPICUOUS POSITION, OR THE BUZZ OF POPULAR APPLAUSE. Exalted stations add nothing to human stature. A great reputation may chance to balloon a very little man.
II. TRUE GREATNESS IS NOT INDICATED INFALLIBLY EVEN BY THE PRESENCE OF GREAT ABILITIES, OR GREAT ACQUISITIONS. Hero-worship is a perpetual fact in history. Mankind are sadly prone to be fascinated by mere ability, or what is so esteemed, irrespective of its exercise; by mere learning, irrespective of its aims and uses. We encounter this idolatry in every walk of life. Much lamentation is poured out over what is called dormant power--Cromwells that lead no armies, Newtons that write no “Principia,” Miltons that build no lofty rhymes. Men are named in every circle, of whom it is remarked that they are possessed of great abilities, if they would only exercise them; or possessed of great learning, if they would only use it. No doubt there is such a thing as having one’s talent, a real talent, laid up in a napkin. But there is probably much less of waste in this way than is commonly supposed. There is a meaning, perhaps, in that feature of the Gospel parable, which represents the idle talent as being a solitary and single one; a talent in some one direction, as that of a mere chemist, mathematician, linguist, or logician. Ability of this sort, thus partial, limited, and narrow, may doubtless be content to slumber, or exercise itself only in trifling. But true greatness cannot justly be predicated of any such ability. Real power has fulness and variety. It is not narrow like lightning, but broad like light. The man who truly and worthily excels in any one line of endeavour, might also, under a change of circumstances, have excelled in some other line. He who eight times led conquering legions into Gaul, could also write matchless commentaries describing their exploits. He who fought at Marengo and Austerlitz, could also build Alpine roads and construct the Code Napoleon. He who sang “Paradise Lost,” could also pen ablest state papers.
III. THE IDEAL AND MEASURE OF GREATNESS, AS SET BEFORE US BY CHRIST HIMSELF, CONSISTS IN USEFULNESS. He who does the greatest amount of good in this world is the greatest man. This is the Christian sentiment. It is also at bottom the universal sentiment. The Titans of ancient fable, who piled mountains together, and stormed the heavens, were not great, only huge. Hercules was great by virtue of the twelve great labours which he performed. Grecian art, faultless as it was, failed of being great by being sensual. Hindoo generals are not great leaders, for, though they wield vast masses of men, they wield them to little or no purpose. He is not great, who merely wastes the nations; only he is great who saves and serves them. This rule, which the historic judgment of the world thus proceeds upon, is more an instinct than a principle. Christianity lays it down with emphasis as the highest law. According to this law, he only is great of heart who floods the world with a great affection. He only is great of mind who stirs the world with great thoughts. He only is great of will who does something to shape the world to a great career. And he is greatest who does the most of all these things, and does them best. As to the particular sphere in which a man shall lay out the labour of his life, this must b.e determined by a wise regard to individual tastes, talents, and circumstances. Each must choose for himself the employment and sphere best suited to his gifts. But all must choose with one heart, one purpose, in the fear of God, and under the light of eternal realities.
IV. THE MOTIVES TO THE ADOPTION OF SUCH A RULE OF LIFE ARE OBVIOUS AND STRONG.
1. It is the key to happiness. God is infinitely happy in His boundless beneficence. Christ was happy in giving Himself up a sacrifice for the world. In all ages, the happiest of men have been the busiest and most beneficent.
2. It enhances power; relative power and actual power. He who works for God and man, with the least of solicitude about himself, has all the forces of Providence working with him. All these forces are powerful, so is he; and their triumph is his triumph. Moreover, the benevolent affections are the best stimulants of the intellect, the best allies and energizers of the will. Henry Martyn was twice the man for going to Persia that he would have been had he remained in England; and consequently has twice the fame. It is by dying that we live. It is only the good and the self-denying who rule us from their urns.
3. It is noble. Selfishness is pitiful and paltry. (R. D. Hitchcock, D. D.)
He that serveth--
The servant of sinners
We find in these words a double reference--first, to the character, and secondly, to the office, of the Son of Man; to His character as the lowly one, to His office as the servant. For the purpose of bringing both these things before His disciples, He makes use of those marvellous words, “I am among you as the Serving One.” Consider three things in reference to this service.
I. ITS HISTORY. It is not with His birth in Bethlehem that Christ’s service begins. His visit to our first father in paradise was its true commencement. After that we find Him, age after age, visiting the children of men, and always in the character of one ministering to their wants. At His ascension He only entered on a new department of service; and as the Advocate with the Father, the Intercessor, the Forerunner, we see Him still serving. Nor, when He comes again in strength and majesty, as King of kings and Lord of lords, does He lose sight of His character as the Ministering One Luke 12:37).
II. LET US CONSIDER THE NATURE OF THIS SERVICE. It is in all respects like Himself--like Him who, though He was rich, for our sakes became poor.
1. It is willing service. His varied rounds of service are no heavy task. He is the willing servant of the needy.
2. It is a loving service. Out of no fountain save that of love could such amazing, such endless acts of service flow. The loving and the serving are inseparable.
3. It is self-denying service. To continue ministering, day after day, in the midst of reproach, and opposition, and rejection, was self-denial and devotedness such as man can hardly either credit or conceive.
4. It is patient, unwearied service. He has compassion on the ignorant, and on them that arc out of the way. He breaks not the bruised reed; He quenches not the smoking flax. By day or by night we find Him ever girt for service.
5. It is free service. It cannot be bought, for what gold could purchase it? Neither does it need to be bought, for it is freely rendered.
III. ITS ENDS AND OBJECTS. It is to sinners that this service is rendered; and there is much in this to exhibit the ends which it has in view. This gracious servant of the needy is willing to be employed by any one, no matter who, let him be the poorest, and the sickliest, and the feeblest of all who ever sought a helper, a protector, or a guide, on their way to the kingdom. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
The life of service
Let us ask ourselves why our Lord has done so much for mankind in proposing a life of service as the true life of man. Service, I apprehend, is thus necessary in some shape for all of us, because it involves the constant repression of those features of our nature which constantly tend to drag it down and degrade it. Aristotle remarked, more than two thousand years ago, that all our faulty tendencies range themselves under the two heads of temper and desire--bad temper or ill-regulated desire. When the one element is not predominant in an undisciplined character, you will find, in some shape, the other, and sometimes you will find the one and sometimes the other at different periods in the life of the same man. Now, service--that is, the voluntary undertaking of work in obedience to the Higher Will--is a corrective to each of these tendencies.
1. It is a corrective, first of all, of temper in its ordinary and everyday form of self-assertion or pride. The man who serves from his heart cannot indulge in self-assertion; he represses self if he tries to perform his service well. Each effort, each five minutes, of conscientious service has the effect of keeping self down, of bidding it submit to a higher and more righteous will; and this process steadily persevered in ultimately represses it, if not altogether, yet very considerably. And what a substantial service this is to human nature and to human character. Be sure of this, that self-assertion, if unchecked, is pitiless when any obstacle to its gratification comes in its way. The self-asserting man delights in making an equal or an inferior feel the full weight of his petty importance; he enjoys the pleasure of commanding in the exact ratio of the pain or discomfort which he sees to be the cost of obedience; and thus, sooner or later, selfassertion becomes tyranny, and tyranny, sooner rather than later, means some revolt which carries with it the ruin of order. The tyrant in the State, in the family, in the office, in the workshop, is the man bent on the assertion of self; and, despite the moments of passing gratification which he enjoys, such a tyrant is really more miserable than his subjects, for the governing appetite of his character can never be adequately gratified; it is in conflict with the nature of things, it is in conflict with the laws of social life, it is in conflict with the Divine will; and when it is repressed, curbed, crushed by voluntary work in obedience to a higher will, a benefit of the very first order has been conferred on human nature and on human society.
2. And in like manner work voluntarily undertaken in obedience to a higher will corrects ill-regulated desire. Distinct from gross sin is the slothful, easy, enervated, self-pleasing temper which is the soil in which gross sin grows. The New Testament calls this district of human nature concupiscence--that is to say, misdirected desire--desire which was meant to cleave to God--at least, to centre in God the eternal beauty, but which, through some bad warp, does, in fact, attach itself to created objects, and generally to some object attractive to the senses. This evil can only be radically cured by making God the object of desire--that is to say, by a love of God; and a true love of God will express itself in service--the service of man as well as of God (1 John 4:20). Service keeps this ill-regulated desire at bay, and it centres the soul’s higher desire or love more and more perfectly on its one legitimate object. And then, incidentally, it braces character, and this is what is wanted if a man is to escape from the enervation of a life of sensuous and effeminate ease. (Canon Liddon.)
The glory of service
Helpfulness is the highest, quality of the human life. Service is the crowning glory of man. The serving type is the noblest type of all the manifold varieties of human development. The principle of the text is not to the effect that service is one and the same with, or altogether made up of, what we know as the activities of life. “And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.” That it is not always what we call the most active life which is the most useful. Activity is not all of service. There is the moral power static, as well as the moral power dynamic. Again, let us note that service does not discard the element of beauty or the splendour of intellectual gifts. Beauty, rightly so named, binds up ever within it a factor of highest value. A beautiful picture is nothing less than a moral force in the world. The Madonna face, the Madonna form, through the centuries rebuke coarseness, teach purity, uplift human thoughts, refine human souls. So with flowers. Their beauty has a moral value. The window-sill which lifts them up is twice blessed. It blesses him who plants and him who passes. The law of service, as proclaimed by highest authority, refuses her not beauty as an ally. All that is meant is that, when Beauty stands by herself, divorced from Service, hen the latter is higher, nobler. So also of the splendour of mental gifts. This splendour also may rest upon, may add a new beauty and a new power to that which is the highest type of human life. But when it stands off by itself, when it offers itself as a substitute for or a rival of service, then to the latter must be given the pre-eminence. Measured by the true standard of human greatness, the inventor of the Calculus is less of a man than the founder of London’s ragged schools. It is better and it is nobler to help one poor, vicious human life into a pure and happy immortality than it is to weigh the sun or to write equations for the planets. The same must also be said when high station is brought into comparison with helpfulness. But let us turn to the direct consideration of the great canon of human worthiness.
I. HELPFULNESS IS MORE LIKE, IN MORE PERFECT HARMONY WITH, THE DIVINE BEAUTY, WITH THAT DIVINE BEAUTY WHICH HAS ITS EVENER APOCALYPSE UPON NATURE’S FIELD AND IN THE HUMAN SOUL. Even upon His material works has God stamped the law of sympathetic service. Read this written out in the clouds of the sky. These are the great water-carriers of the world. And how diligently, how joyously, they carry on their labour of love t The huge masses skip and whirl and chase each other like lambs at play; but, however weary, they never think of laying down the burden which they bear. And the mountains, too, are in service. Look upon the Andes, vertibral ridge of a continent. They are a giant hand raised to catch and redistribute the moisture of the trade-winds from the Atlantic, thus sending it back across the plains in healthful and life-giving streams. And water, too, serves. By one of its lines cold is carried southward, and by another heat is carried northward, thus diminishing the inequalities of temperature and making the earth a pleasant residence for man. So is it through every department. Nature is an organism. Not a drop of water leads a selfish life, not a wind-blast is without its mission. And let that human life which dares to lift heavenward the formal profession as the fulfilment of the Divine demand--let such a one take his rebuke from ocean’s lips! Let him hear it sounding in the winds of heaven! Let him hear it thundered forth by the everlasting mountains. Human lives are not wanted in this world for ornament. God has prettier things for this purpose. And such a life, I say, is in full harmony with the Divine. For a long time the world and man knew not God. In this ignorance and blindness we can well imagine men asking the question, “What is God?” To whom is He like? Is He the Zeus of the celestial world, full of vindictiveness and passion? Is He the Oriental monarch, luxuriously lounging in the palace room of the universe? And while men so questioned, the door of heaven opened, and a Divine one in visible form walked forth before the eyes of men. And this form, what was it? “That of a servant.” He bore men’s burdens. He healed men’s sicknesses. He comforted human sorrows. He went about doing good. He gave His life a ransom for many. And now that the Divine Spirit is in the world the manifestation is the same. He, too, cowries in service. He is the Advocate, the Comforter, His the soft hand which wipes away the falling tear and binds up the broken heart. Such is the Divine, such is Deity.
II. But, in the second place, OF ALL MORAL FORCES, HELPFULNESS IS THE MOST POTENT IN THE EDIFICATION OF INDIVIDUAL CHARACTER. There is nothing which grounds a man in truth and righteousness so firmly, there is nothing which lifts him up so surely, as the doing of good to others. This, indeed, is only the highest illustration of a law wide as the realm of human life. The bird which sings for others gladdens its own heart with its song. The brook which flows with music for listening ears grows more clear and limpid as it flows. Old ocean’s mighty tides and racing gulf streams, which ever serve the need of man, paint the great deep with its spotless blue, and bring safety and life to all the mighty host which march and counter-march within its hollow bed. In doing good, everything in God’s universe gets good. Service of others is highest service of self, and the best way for any man to grow in grace is to move forward into service.
III. But, again, HELPFULNESS IS MORE LASTING, MORE IMMORTAL, THAN ANYTHING ELSE OF HUMAN LIFE. “Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. But charity never faileth.” Bad as is this world, it is good enough to transmute and to hold immortality within it. The beauty of the beneficent deed, the widow’s two mites, the alabaster box of ointment, Sir Philip Sidney’s cup of cold water; the passing shadow of Florence Nightingale, which the dying soldier strove to kiss; above all, the patient and gentle self-denial of the Christ life--these are pictures which this world--God’s world, after all--will not let fade. The suns of centuries rise and set upon them. Consider what this canon of human worthiness calls for of those who would receive honour under it.
1. This, first of all: personal goodness. In this world of ours the tares grow together with the wheat. Service of man calls for a servant first of all; and this can no one of us be who is not disinterestedly in love with his kind, and true and pure in all his works. To do good works which shall endure we ourselves must be good.
2. In the second place, the canon of the text demands that we should be willing to help when help is required.
3. The law of the higher type also makes this a duty. We should seek opportunities for doing good. The glory of the patriarch of Uz was written in these words, “The cause that I knew not I searched out.”
4. The principle of the text teaches also the obligation of self-training. If we do not know how to help now, why, then, we should learn. If we are unfit for service now, we must make ourselves fit. Congenital infirmities may be corrected. The inertia of selfish idleness and of grasping covetousness may be overcome by him who, upon his knees, opens his heart to the entrance of the Divine Spirit. The enthusiasm of humanity may be caught from the example and inspiration of Jesus Christ. The mill-wheel will cease to revolve when the waters of the rushing stream are cut off; the moving train will stop when the glowing heat cools within the hidden chamber; and charity in this world will degenerate into a professional schedule without inspiration and without power when the name of Jesus is no longer writ by the hand of Faith upon its banner. (S. S. Mitchell, D. D.)
I. OUR LORD’S POSITION.
1. In the world our Lord was not one of the cultured few on whom others wait. He was a working-man, and in spirit Servant of servants.
2. In the circle of His own disciples He was one that served.
3. In celebration of Holy Supper, He was specially among them “as He that serveth,” for He washed His disciples’ feet.
4. In the whole course of His life, Jesus on earth ever took the place of the servant or slave. His ear was bored by His entering into covenant. “Mine ears hast thou digged, or pierced (Psalms 40:6 (margin); Exodus 21:6). His office was announced at His coming, “Lo, I come to do thy will!” (Psalms 40:7; Hebrews 10:5-9). His nature was fitted for service: He “ took upon Him the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). He assumed the lowest place among men (Psalms 22:6; Isaiah 53:3). He cared for others, and not for Himself. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). He laid aside His own will (John 4:34; John 6:38). He bore patiently all manner of hardness (1 Peter 2:23).
II. THE WONDER OF IT--that He should be a servant among His own servants. The marvel of it was rendered the greater--
1. As He was Lord of all by nature and essence (Colossians 1:15-19).
2. As He was superior in wisdom, holiness, power, and in every other way, to the very best of them (Matthew 8:26-27; John 14:9).
3. As He was so greatly their Benefactor (John 15:16).
4. As they were such poor creatures, and so unworthy to be served.
III. THE EXPLANATION OF IT. We must look for this to His own nature.
1. He is so infinitely great (Hebrews 1:2-4),
2. He is so immeasurably full of love (John 15:9; 1 John 3:16).
IV. THE IMITATION OF IT.
1. In cheerfully choosing to fulfil the most lowly offices.
2. In manifesting great lowliness of spirit and humility of bearing Ephesians 4:1-3; Philippians 2:3; 1 Peter 5:5).
3. In laying ourselves out for the good of others. Let self: sacrifice be the rule of our existence (2 Corinthians 12:15).
4. In gladly bearing injustice rather than break the peace, avenge ourselves, or grieve others (1 Peter 2:19-20; 1 Peter 3:14).
5. In selecting that place in which we receive least, and give most; choosing to wait at table rather than to sit at meat. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A true character can never be built on a false foundation; on the denial of a fact or on pretending not to see it. There are greater men and less; stronger and weaker; wiser and less wise; men fit to rule and men fit only to be led; some who can teach and others whose business it is to learn. The right relationship between men.is to be reached, if at all, by a manly acknowledgment of the facts which divide them and the individual superiorities which set one above another. It is he who can rightly say, “Master and Lord am I”; who can also say with the fullest emphasis, “I am among you as the servant”!
I. Since, then, THE MORAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS VOLUNTARY SERVICE were those which gave it worth, let us try in a few words to disentangle these moral characteristics and understand them. They may be summed up, I think, in these two: in unselfish love as the root-virtue, and in lowliness of mind as the specific shape which love must take when it girds itself to serve.
II. Taking, then, these words of Jesus, “I am in the midst of you as your attendant,” to be virtually DESCRIPTIVE OF HIS WHOLE POSITION ON EARTH and the spirit of His entire career, we find that His life may be described thus: it was a voluntary service of other men, rooted in pure love for them, and carried out with such lowliness of mind as deems no office degrading which can be lovingly rendered. Notice next, more expressly than we have yet done, that such lowly, loving service of others was not in His case an occasional effort or a mere ornament of character exhibited now and then. It formed the staple of His life. Christ came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister; not to enrich Himself, either with nobler or baser wealth, but to impoverish Himself that He might make many rich. With Him it is not, as with other men, “I will sit at table, and do you wait on Me”; but it is, “you sit at table, and I will wait.”
III. But is this, after all, A MORE EXCELLENT WAY WHICH JESUS HAS SHOWN? Wherein is it more excellent? The King’s Son came among us. We called Him our “Lord and Master,” and we said well; but He was as one who served us! Now we know that the Father on high is like unto Him. The divinest part of His relationship to His creatures lies here, that being Lord of all He makes Himself the servant of all. How is He by day and night creation’s unwearied watcher, provider, attendant, benefactor! The lions roar and He feedeth them. Not a sparrow falls but He heeds it. The lilies spin not, yet He clothes them. True, patient minister to each creature’s need, in whose loving eyes nothing is too minute to be remembered nor too mean to be served; He is for ever with tender humble carefulness laying His might and His providence and His inventiveness and His tastefulness at the service of all creation. What! cries out the heart of the proud, is this your conception of the Eternal? Were not all things made for His glory, then? Yes, indeed, for His glory; but not in the ignoble sense we so often intend! Not made to be sacrificed to His pleasure. Not made for a boastful display of His omnipotence or skill; nor as mere trappings or attendants to lend dignity to His court. Away with such vain thoughts, borrowed from the barbaric and vulgar splendour of an Oriental despotism! Verily, the universe is the mirror of its Creator’s glory; but it is so because it shows Him to be prodigal of His love, lavishing His care upon the least, stooping to adorn the poorest, and made then supremely glad when He can see His creatures glad. The glory of God; where is it? that He ministers to all! His blessedness; what is it? to make others blessed! I see, then, that when the Son came among us as a servant, it became Him as a son to do so, for it became the Father whose Son He was. It was a prolongation only, although a right marvellous one, of that character whose Divineness men had been slow to see, but which God the Maker had pencilled with light across His creation. (J. O. Dykes, D. D.)
Continued with Me in My temptations
The solitariness of Christ in His temptations
We get here a wonderful glimpse into the heart of Christ, and a most pathetic revelation of His thoughts and experiences; all the more precious because it is quite incidental, and, we may say, unconscious.
I. THE TEMPTED CHRIST. “In My temptations”--so He summed up His life! The period to which He refers lies between the wilderness and the garden, and includes neither. His whole ministry was a field of continual and diversified temptations. No sham fight.
1. Let us think of the tempted Christ, that our conceptions of His sinlessness may be increased. His was no untried and cloistered virtue, pure because never brought into contact with seducing evil, but a militant and victorious goodness, that was able to withstand in the evil day.
2. Let us think of the tempted Christ, that our thankful thoughts of what He bore for us may be warmer and more adequate, as we stand afar off and look on at the mystery of His battle with our enemies and His.
3. Let us think of the tempted Christ, to make the lighter burden of our cross and our less terrible conflict easier to bear and to wage. So will He continue with us in our temptations, and patience and victory flow to us from Him.
II. THE LONELY CHRIST. The most solitary man that ever lived. His nearest kindred stood aloof from Him. Even in the small company of His friends, there were absolutely none who either understood Him or sympathized with Him. Talk of the solitude of pure character amid evil, like Lot in Sodom, or of the loneliness of uncomprehended aims or unshared thoughts--whoever experienced that as keenly as Christ did? The more pure andlofty a nature, the more keen its sensitiveness, the more exquisite its delights, and the sharper its pains. The more loving and unselfish a heart the more its longing for companionship; and the more its aching in loneliness. That lonely Christ sympathizes with all solitary hearts. If ever we feel ourselves misunderstood and thrown back upon ourselves; if ever our heart’s burden of love is rejected; if our outward lives be lonely and earth yields nothing to stay our longing for companionship; if our hearts have been filled with dear ones and are now empty, or but filled with tears, let us think of Him and say, “Yet I am not alone.” He lived alone, alone He died, that no heart might ever be solitary any more.
III. THE GRATEFUL CHRIST. His heart was gladdened by loving friends, and He recognized in their society a ministry of love. Where there is a loving heart there is acceptable service. It is possible that our poor, imperfect deeds shall be an odour of a sweet smell, acceptable, well-pleasing to Him. Which of us that is a father is not glad at his children’s gifts, even though they be purchased with his own money, and be of little use? They mean love, so they are precious. And Christ, in like manner, accepts what we bring, even though it be chilled by selfishness, and faith broken by doubt, and submission crossed by self-will. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I appoint unto you a kingdom
Called to a kingdom
There was once a young prince, heir to the throne of Russia, who was giving himself to every form of dissipation. He took up his residence in Paris, and entered heartily into all its gaieties. One evening, as he u as seated with a number of young profligates like himself, drinking, gambling, and making merry, a message was privately conveyed to him that his father was dead. Pushing away from him the dice and the wine-cup, he rose up and said, “I am emperor!” and forthwith announced that his must henceforth be a different kind of life. Young men, I have to tell you tonight of a kingdom to which you are called. To you the Lord Jesus says, “I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me.” To no meaner rank are you to aspire than to that of “kings and priests unto God.” But when the day came that Saul was actually to be made king, the youth was “not to be found.” He had hid himself among the stuff. Saul concealed amid the baggage, perhaps the commissariat for that large assembly of people; hidden, tall fellow as he was, amid the heap of boxes and baskets of all kinds--is he not a picture of many a young man whom God is calling to a kingdom, but who is chin-deep in business, so absorbed in worldly matters that he cannot attend to the affairs of his soul? (J. T.Davidson, D. D.)
Satan hath desired to have you
The temptation of St.
Our Lord is conversing here with His dear disciples a little before His crucifixion. In the tenderness of His heart, He almost thanks them for their faithful adherence to Him (Luke 22:28-30). And now comes a sudden transition, showing us the strong feeling at work at this time in our Lord’s breast. He thinks the next moment of the perils these men will have to pass through in their way to those thrones, and gives them abruptly a warning of one of them.
I. We must begin with THIS WARNING.
1. See in it our Lord’s knowledge of the invisible world. We know nothing of Satan but what we are told. But the Lord Jesus does see him as he goes about and He not only sees him, He can look into his heart and discern the secret purposes and desires of it.
2. See next here the crafty policy of Satan. “He hath desired to have you,” our Lord says; “you especially; you, believers in Me, rather than the Jews or heathen around you; you, My most beloved disciples,” etc. Why? Because they stood more in his way than any others.
3. We may see here the limited power of Satan. He cannot touch one of these men without God’s permission.
II. Leaving now the other disciples, let us look at THE EFFECT OF THIS WARNING ON ONE OF THEM, PETER. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you.”
1. Observe, that it excited his love. If mere feeling could have made a martyr, Peter was already prepared to be one.
2. And observe again--this warning did not shake Peter’s self-confidence. And yet it was given in a manner calculated to shake it. It made no impression on him or a very faint one.
3. And mark again--this warning did not prevent Peter’s fall.
III. We may come now to another point in the text--THE TENDER MERCY OF OUR LORD TO PETER NOTWITHSTANDING HIS SELF-SUFFICIENCY AND FALL, or rather, in anticipation of his self-sufficiency and fall. “I have prayed for thee,” He says, “that thy faith fail not.”
1. We must be struck at once, I think, with the lowliness of this language. Our Lord has been speaking just before in the almost unveiled dignity of the Godhead. He has been manifesting, too, a knowledge of Satan and a knowledge of the human heart such as none but the infinite Jehovah can possess; and yet when His fallen apostle is to be rescued, what does He say? “I will rescue him”? or, as in Paul’s case, “My grace is sufficient for him”? No; He speaks now as a feeble man; “The mighty God only can rescue him. I have prayed for him.” What a view does this give us of our Lord’s humility! And what a view, too, of the awful nature of sin! of the difficulty of extricating even a servant of God out of it!
2. Observe, too, the peculiar tenderness of His love for those who are peculiarly tempted.
3. And there is the intercession of our Lord to be noticed here--its influence on our preservation from sin or recovery from it. Faith lies at the root of every grace. It is that within us which first lays hold of the Lord Jesus, and it is that which keeps hold of Him. It seems the lowest, the poorest, and meanest of all graces, but it is notwithstanding the most active and operative of all; it secretly does the most. (C. Bradley, M. A.)
The sifting of Peter
I. THE CHARACTER OF PETER. The character of Peter is a very marked one. His character stands out in bold prominence and relief, like an object situated on a height, and seen between us and a clear sky. We notice at once his natural sincerity and boldness, his vehemence and self-confidence; his liability to be hurried away by the tide of events and the current of prevailing feeling. We perceive that as a disciple of Christ he is under the guardian care and grace of heaven; but we discover sin lurking within, and bursting forth from time to time as the liquid fire of the volcano breaks out from the mountain whose surface may be covered with the loveliest foliage. His love to Jesus was genuine and sincere--for with all his failings Peter was no hypocrite; yet he not infrequently resists the will of his Master, and at times is positively ashamed of Him. He is zealously affected in every good thing, but his zeal is often unthinking and impetuous, and proceeds from a self confident and self-righteous rather than a humble and trustful spirit of dependence on God; and it comes forth when it should be restrained, and fails when it should flow.
II. TEMPTATION OF PETER BY SATAN. “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” We see that we are to regard our temptations as coming from Satan the tempter, the accuser. He who rebelled against God in heaven seeks to thwart His will on earth. “The devil entered into Judas Iscariot,” whom he hurried from one crime to another till he laid violent hands on himself. May he not succeed also with his brother apostle? In tempting us Satan takes advantage of two circumstances. He employs the world to seduce us, and he addresses the corruption of the heart. First, he takes advantage of the circumstances in which we are placed, and of the worldly and sinful character of those with whom we mingle. Breathing as we do an infected atmosphere, we are apt to take in malaria which breeds moral disease.
III. THE RECOVERY OF PETER, THROUGH THE PRAYER OF JESUS SUSTAINING HIS FAITH. It is of vast moment that Christians should know wherein lies the secret of their strength. It lies first of all in the intercession of Christ, and secondly in their remaining faith.
1. It does not lie primarily in yourselves--in the liveliness of your feelings or the strength of your resolutions. Purposes formed in our own strength are like the writing upon the sand, which is swept away by the first breath of the tempest or the first swelling of the tide. The believer’s steadfastness does not lie in himself, but in another. His strength is in the foundation on which he rests, and that foundation is the Rock of Ages. How was it that Peter was restored? The cause was to be found in the work of Christ. “I have prayed for thee.” He was recovered, not by the meritorious power and efficacy of his own prayers, but by the prayers of Christ. When Peter was brought to repentance he prayed; but there is a previous question--What brought him to repentance? If Christ had not first prayed for him, he had never prayed for himself.
2. There was, however, a secondary power, and this was Peter’s faith.
IV. THE COMMAND, “WHEN THOU ART CONVERTED, STRENGTHEN THY BRETHREN.” In this conversion there was much searching. This we learn from the interview with which our Lord favoured Peter after His resurrection. “ Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?” was the question; and Peter could answer. Brethren, according to the sins of which you are conscious, so let your love and zeal now be in the service of God. (J. McCosh, D. D.)
The sifting of life
The figure which Christ here makes use of in order to describe the severe ordeal through which Peter, the most prominent of all the disciples, was to pass, is a very significant one; and we cannot believe that it was used by chance, or without full intention. The sifting of wheat is a most hard and thorough, but a most necessary, process. The wheat, as it has grown, has become associated with the protecting chaff, which it is necessary should be blown away, and with the foreign substances taken from the earth and from the air, which must be separated. Before the wheat is ready for use, it must be sifted or winnowed; no pains must be spared to make the process as thorough as possible. Only an enemy to the wheat, or a disbeliever in its true powers, would desire to spare it such an ordeal. As it falls, after such a process, into the receptacle which has been prepared for it, solid and clean, its value is greatly enhanced. There is now no doubt about its true nature and the work to which it should be put. It carries out all the points of the analogy to notice that Peter is not promised that he shall be saved from the sifting process: no hand is put forth to hold him securely sheltered; no cloud wraps him away from danger. Peter is too valuable to be thus treated. If he is wheat he must be sifted.
I. And so we learn the great lesson from Christ, that DIFFICULTIES ARE AS NECESSARY AND BENEFICIAL FOR THE SOUL AS WINNOWING IS FOR THE WHEAT. The winds of temptation blow, and the poor, lightly-weighted souls are carried away; while the strong ones are stripped of many things in which they trusted, and the true power of principle becomes more evident in their lives. The question of the winnowing floor is always being repeated: Are you wheat or chaff?
1. There is the shifting of change of position, the pouring from vessel to vessel--a process under which the light grains are removed, and which finds its parallel in the change of life’s demands. You are rich, and the question the next day is, Can you stand poverty? or you are poor, and the sudden access of prosperity tests your real ability and weight. Will the one rob you of your spirit, or the other of your humility? If they will, then you have been sifted with the result of proving that you are but chaff. Changes from joy to sorrow or from sorrow to joy, from light to dark or from dark to light--those have revealed the substance of many a man to us; and we have said, “I thought that he could stand it better,” or we have exclaimed, “What a noble man he is! He is just as he was before, not puffed up by his exaltation, not broken by dejection.”
2. And there is the sifting of progress: ideas and men all pass through that. New tests are applied, just as ever new sieves, with closer and closer meshes, wait for the falling grain with sharper discrimination at each stage of the process. The truth of one generation or one age of life is sifted before it is accepted by the next. Some accretion, some profitless protecting husk, is cast off, and the substance is more valuable than ever. The man finds, after life’s experience, that not one particle of the truth as to honesty, virtue, and God has proved itself false, although he smiles at the childish conceptions which enshrined it for him, and which long ago passed away; and with each generation God’s truth is made simpler and clearer to the eyes of all.
II. BUT WHAT HAS SATAN TO DO WITH IT? Satan rejoiced at the anticipation of this process and longed to see it begin, because he did not believe that Peter could stand it; he does not believe that any man can, and he longs, therefore, to see men come under the test. At first this sifting seems to give evil the advantage. But the meaning of those words of Christ’s gradually comes out: “Fear not them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.” There is an ultimate kernel of life which the sifting cannot touch. It is a reality which defies all the processes of ultimate solution which can be brought against it. That is the belief which makes a man strong to endure temptation, brave to pass through all changes, courageous to march with all progress of ideas. It was to the soul that Christ spoke; on it all His work was based. When He had once seen that soul conscious of itself and of its power in the heart of a man, He was not afraid to let the world sift him, though he might be a man with as many weaknesses and foibles as Simon Peter. Let them be shaken off and blown away, like corrupting substances or infolding chaff. When that was all done the man remained.
III. I think, then, that we can understand that tone of confidence with which Jesus speaks of the trial which is to befall His great disciple. To His eye the conditions are not hopeless. He does not deprecate the struggle, but rather in it anticipates the defeat of Satan. But the tone of confidence is still more sublime when THE MEANS OF STRENGTH AND VICTORY are considered. The whole of the sifting process administered by its great master and confident authority, Satan, is to be brought to bear; and yet Peter will not succumb because Christ has prayer for him that his faith fail not. See how Christ puts Himself against the world. Through that prayer the life of Peter was made strong to bear the ordeal; through that prayer he was able to defy the world and Satan. That prayer told of the relation which He had established between that disciple for whom, and the Father to whom, it was offered. He stood between the two. The subject, the offerer, the receiver of the prayer, were one in their purpose and desire to overcome and baffle Satan. Defeat was impossible. (Arthur Brooks.)
Christ’s warning to Peter
1. The greatness or nearness of the danger. There are some souls that there is no delaying or dallying with them; but if ye will save them at all, ye must save them quickly; ye must deal roundly and nimbly with them if ever ye intend them any good. The Spirit of God, He speaks quick, and He speaks often, again and again, where He would prevent from danger.
2. The security of the person warned. Peter was not more in danger than he was insensible of his danger.
3. The affection of the Monitor or person that gives the warning; that is also in the doubling of the appellation. It is a sign Christ’s heart was much in it, and that He bore a singular love and respect to Peter, in that He does thus passionately admonish him. Love is full of solicitude and carefulness for the party beloved. The matter of the admonition or the warning itself.
1. The persons aimed at. They are here said to be you. He spake before to Peter in the singular, Simon, Simon; now it is you, in the plural. To signify thus much unto us; that there’s the same condition of all believers as of one. That which befalls one Christian it is incident to all the rest. The reason of it is this--because they all consist of the same natures, and are acted by the same principles.
(1) You believers, rather than other men. Satan’s aim is especially at such, to get them. As for wielded and ungodly persons, who are yet in their unregenerate condition, he has them already. And there are two considerations especially which do lay ground to this practice in him.
(a) That absolute antipathy and hatred and contrariety which is in him to goodness itself, yea, to God Himself, who is the chiefest good. The devil, because he hates goodness itself, therefore he assaults it wherever he finds it.
(b) It proceeds from that envy and pride which is in him.
(2) You eminent believers rather than other Christians. This is the manner of Satan to cast his sticks most at those trees which are fullest of fruit; where he spies more grace than ordinary, there especially to lay his chiefest assaults. There is a double reason for it which does encourage him to it--First, it is the greater victory; and secondly, it is the greater advantage. He does more, both in it and by it. The use of this to ourselves is--First, to teach Christians not to trust to their own habitual graces nor to the number or measure of them. Secondly, we learn, hence, not to pass uncharitable censures upon the servants of God which are under temptations, as to conclude them therefore to be none of His servants.
(3) You apostles and ministers rather than other eminent believers.
I. The DESIGN itself--Satan hath desired you. As here is Satan’s restraint, so moreover his malice and boldness of attempt.
1. Here is implied Peter’s ignorance and present unadvisedness. He was not aware of this attempt of Satan. So is it likewise with many others of God’s servants. Satan does secretly lay siege unto their souls, and they do not discern it. It is a great piece of skill to know indeed when we are tempted, and to be apprehensive that we are under a temptation.
2. We see here also the love of Christ, who helps our ignorance in this particular, and advises us where we are less regardful
3. Here is also, as sometimes, the eminency and conspicuousness of the temptation.
(1) To have you to corrupt you.
(2) This were enough to make us look about us; that Satan would have us to corrupt us, but yet that is not all--he would have us to afflict us too. As Satan would weaken our faith, so also darken our comfort; and as he would draw us into sin, so likewise trouble us and torment us for it.
II. The AMPLIFICATION of it. And to sift or winnow you as wheat.
1. Take it in an ill sense; as Satan’s intent, so to winnow you, is to shake and remove you. This expression shows the unweariedness of Satan in his attempts upon the godly, and his several courses which he takes with them, to annoy them. He shifts them and he removes them from one temptation to another. But--
2. It may also be taken in a good sense; and so, as expressing to us the event of Satan’s practices, though beyond his own desire and intention. The winnowing of the corn in the fan, it is not for the hurt of it, but for the good of it. And they fit them also for future service. We see here how also God outwits Satan and destroys his own plots by himself. (J. Horton, D. D.)
I. THE DISCRIMINATION WHICH OUR LORD MAKES IN PRAYING FOR HIS DISCIPLES. Why single out Simon for this peculiar distinction? Because he was the weakest, the most in danger, the most liable to fall. His rashness and impulsiveness would expose him to the fiercest assaults, and render him least able to resist. Let us learn from this that the easily tempted ones are they to whom Christ’s sympathy and helpfulness go out in most tender interest.
II. THE NATURE OF THE HELP WHICH CHRIST GAVE TO PETER IN HIS PERIL.
1. Notice the individuality of this intercession. “For thee.” Each one of us is the object of Christ’s particular watchfulness and care.
2. Christ made His supplication before the danger came. “I have prayed.” He did not wait until the disciple was in the snare before He sought help for him.
3. The petition itself. What did Jesus ask for His imperilled disciple? Not that he might escape the trial, for he needed just this experience, not even that he might not fail; but that his faith might not fail, might not suffer an utter and endless eclipse as had that of Judas.
III. THE RESULT OF PETER’S SIFTING. Chaff sifted out, pure wheat left.
IV. THROUGH HIS PAINFUL EXPERIENCE, SIMON WAS PREPARED TO BE A MORE HELPFUL MAN. “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” He was to use his new knowledge, gained by his sad and painful experiences, in blessing others. Whatever God does for us, He wants us to do in turn for others. All the lessons He teaches us, He wants us to teach again. (J. R. Miller, D. D.)
The benefits of sifting
There are defects in many Characters which apparently can be removed only by some terrible experiences like those of Peter. This seems to have been true of David. Mingled with all his noble qualities, qualities which made him, when purified, the man after God’s own heart, there were many evil elements of which his nature had to be cleansed; and he also was allowed to fall into Satan’s hand to be sifted. But from that sifting he came a new man, cleansed and enriched. Many of David’s sweetest songs received their inspiration from the experience of his fall and eclipse, and from the painful chastening he endured. In every matured life, however many the noble qualities, there are also many faults and defects bound up with the good. For example, one has firmness, and firmness is a good quality; but it is yet a very chaffy firmness. Some of it is stubbornness; part is selfish pride; part is most unamiable obstinacy. There is a good element there, but there is also much chaff which must be blown away before it can be noble, Christlike firmness. By and by, when mid-life has come, and when the defects have been sifted out, you will see a firmness stable as a rock, yet gentle as the heart of a little child. It has been cleansed of its chaff in the gusts of trial, and is now pure, golden wheat. Or there is pride in the character. It makes a man arrogant, self-willed, haughty. But pride is not altogether an evil quality. It has in it an element of nobleness. It is the consciousness of dignity, of Divine birthright, of power. As it appears, however, in early years, there is much in it that is offensive and bad. The man must be winnowed until the unlovely qualities are removed, till the arrogance and the selfwill are gone. At length you see the old man, after many experiences of trial and pain, lordly and regal still, but gentle, humble, benevolent, with a sweet spirit, using his noble gifts for lowly service, with his fine hands washing the feet of humble disciples. Pride has not been destroyed; it has been sifted, cleansed, and sanctified. Or take gentleness; even this quality, beautiful as it is, may be very chaffy. It may be weakness; it may be the absence of firmness, mixed up with timidity and want of strong moral principle. The gentleness is golden, but the defects must be got out. Take, once more, what we call temper. A man is easily provoked, swept away by sudden gusts of anger. Now, temper itself is not a bad quality. It is not to be destroyed, as we sometimes say. Without temper a bar of steel becomes like lead. A man without temper is weak and worthless. We are to learn self-control. A strong person is one who has a strong temper under perfect mastery. These are simple illustrations of the sifting which Peter experienced. Every one has, in greater or less degree, to pass through the same processes in some way. Sometimes the separation and cleansing go on quietly and gradually, under the kindly culture of the Spirit. Sometimes afflictions are God’s messengers--sickness, or sorrow, or pain. Sometimes temptation is necessary, thebuffeting of Satan. All of us have in us by nature, even after regeneration, much that is unlovely, much that can never enter heaven, and must in some way be got out of us. In Guido’s painting of “Michael and the Dragon” the archangel stands upon the fallen foe, holding a drawn sword, victorious and supreme; but the monster beneath him yet lives. It cowers and writhes. It dares not lift up its head, but it is not yet slain. This is a symbol of the conquest of grace over the old nature in the best of us. It is not dead, though under our feet; and this old evil must be got out. The process may be tong and painful, but Christ is looking on, and every experience of sifting should leave us a little purer. Thus it is that even our falls, if we are Christ’s, make us holier. Evil habits conquered become germs of character. An old man sat dreaming one day about his past, regretting his mistakes and follies, and wishing he had never committed them. He made a list on paper of twenty things in his life of which he was ashamed, and was about to seize an imaginary sponge and rub them all out of his biography, thinking how much more beautiful his character would have been if they had not been committed. But to his amazement he found that if there were any golden threads running through his life, they had been wrought there by the regrets felt at wrongs; and that, if he should wipe out these wrong acts, he would destroy at the same time whatever of nobleness or beauty there was in his character. He found that he had got all his best things out of his errors, with the regret and the repenting which followed. There is a deep truth here--that our mistakes and our sins, if we repent of them, will help in the growth and upbuilding of our character. We can make wrong the seed of right and righteousness. We can transmute error into wisdom. We can make sorrows bloom into a thousand forms like fragrant flowers. Our very falls, through the grace and tender love of Christ, become new births to our souls. In the hot fires of penitence we leave the dross, and come forth as pure gold. But we must remember that it is only Christ who can make our sins yield blessing. (J. R. Miller, D. D.)
St. Peter’s sifting and conversion
1. The secret may be told in a few words. The cause and spring of the most obvious defects in the apostle’s character was that large and assured confidence in himself which made him so quick to speak, so prompt to act. But, throughout Scripture, as in human nature, self-confidence is opposed to faith or confidence in God. Everywhere, too, we are told that God dwells only in the humble, lowly, contrite heart. So that if God was to take up His abode with Peter, if the impulsive and vehement strength of the man was to be schooled into stedfastness and hallowed by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, in order that, being himself divinely moved and led, he might rightly lead the Apostolic Company during those first critical months in which the foundations of the Church were laid, then, obviously, his self-confidence must be purged out of him, and replaced by the humility with which God delights to dwell. On no other terms could he be fitted for the work to which he was called. And therefore it was that Satan “obtained” him--obtained, i.e., permission to sift and purge self-trust out of him. If the process was severe, the task and honour for which it prepared him were great; and greatness is not to be achieved on easy terms. It is a cruel spectacle, one of the saddest on which the stars have ever looked down--a brave man turned coward, a true man turned liar, a strong man weeping bitterly over the very sin which of all sins might well have seemed impossible to him! But would anything short of this open and shameful fall, this fracture at his strongest point, have sufficed to purge him of that self-confidence which we have seen to be so potent and so active in him up to the very instant of his fall? And if nothing else would have so suddenly and sharply sifted it out of him, and wrought into him the humility which fitted him to receive the Holy Ghost and to found the Church which Christ was about to redeem with His precious blood, shall we complain of the severity of the process by which he was purged from a dangerous self-trust and made meet for a task so honourable and blessed? Shall we not rather ask that we too may be sifted even by the most searching trials, if we too may thus be made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and be qualified for a Divine service?
2. So far, then, we have seen how Satan obtained Peter, that he might sift him. But if Satan obtained, Christ prayed for him, and even obtained him in a far higher sense; for He obtained that Peter should only be “sifted,” and that the sifting should issue in his “ conversion.” It is to this second part of the process that we have now to turn our thoughts; for the conversion of the apostle was no less gradual, and no less complete and wonderful, than his fall. Event meets and answers event, false steps are re,rod, broken threads are taken up and worked in, triumphs of faith are set over against failures in faith, denials are retrieved by confessions; the evil in the man is sifted out of him, the good cultivated, consolidated, made permanent; and in and through all this strange and mingled discipline we see the grace of God at work to prepare him for the most honourable service and the highest blessedness. Let us be sure, then, that God has a plan for us no less than for Peter, a plan which dominates all our fugitive impulses, and changeful passions, and broken purposes, and unconnected deeds. Our lives are not the accidental and purposeless fragments they often seem to us to be. God is so disposing them as that we may be sifted from all evil, converted to all goodness, His end for us being that we may become perfect and entire, lacking nothing. (S. Cox, D. D.)
Satan’s prayer, and Christ’s
Three parties are before us in these words--three parties to a crisis--the sinner, the sinner’s friend, and the sinner’sfoe. A conflict is revealed to us--a conflict between two of the parties with reference to the third. The conflict is a conflict of prayer. It is by prayer that tile great rivals strive for the mastery. Of the two prayers, that of Satan is first in order. The adversary speaks first, and makes his request. Jesus follows him. The suit of Jesus is founded upon the adversary’s demand, and is shaped accordingly. There is the prayer of Satan, and then there is the counter-prayer of our Lord. How fares it with the two requests? The answer is favourable--favourable to both. Is Satan’s prayer granted? It is. Yes! Satan succeeds in his application, and Peter is banded over to him to be sifted as wheat. It is easy to discover the reason. He might boast that if he had been allowed to subject Peter to the ordeal Jesus would not have been able to carry Peter safely through; and that, if he had been suffered to try, he could have plucked the sheep from the Shepherd’s hands. It is necessary that Satan’s defeat be directly and manifestly the work of Christ. The prayers, then, are granted. Let us see what their import is. Satan’s request is, that he may be allowed to tempt Peter. He expresses his desire to have Peter, that he may sift him as wheat. He would sift him as wheat; that is, in the same way. Wheat is sifted by being shaken up and down. He would sift Peter by the shock and agitation of great and sudden trials. He would sift him as wheat; that is, for the same purpose. Wheat is sifted that it may be known what amount of wheat there is, and what amount of chaff, as well as for other reasons. He would sift Peter, in order to show what measure of genuine faith is in him, and perhaps to show that no true faith is in him, and that Peter himself, with his great professions, is chaff entirely, and not wheat at all! What now is the prayer of Jesus? Does it betray any fear? It might seem to betray fear, if it were that Satan’s request should be denied. But He prays not that the trial may not come. What, then, does Jesus pray for? “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” His request is that Peter’s faith may not be wholly or finally overborne. It is that Peter may not have too little faith for the emergency that is at hand to keep him from being an apostate and a castaway. The Saviour has a glorious purpose with reference to the serpent. He means to plant His own foot on the serpent, and to bruise his head. Let us now deduce some lessons from the scene which has been surveyed. These prayers may afford us much instruction.
1. For one thing, we learn somewhat of the malice of the devil. He knows nothing of love or pity.
2. But if the malice of the devil appears, so do the love and compassion of Jesus. The contrast between them is beautiful. The spectacle of Satan praying against Peter and Jesus praying for him brings out in strong relief the kindness of the Friend that sticketh closer than a brother. The sympathy of Jesus is also here exemplified.
3. Again, there is a lesson here, that ought not to be lost upon us, respecting the craft and hypocrisy of Satan. In the very presence of God we find him trying to hide his malice under cover of something like a zeal for uprightness and truth. His insinuation is that Peter’s religion is but a pretence; and he would fain appear as a friend of truth, who is prepared to show this if he is allowed. His motive, forsooth, is less to do harm to Peter than simply to unmask him for the sake of truth, and to prove him to be what he really is. He does not want to corrupt Peter’s mind; oh, no! He would merely show it to be corrupt already! But there is a lesson, on the other hand, to encourage and comfort us. Jesus is watchful, and Jesus is wise.
4. One lesson more. We may learn the excellence of faith. Mark the testimony of the Saviour Himself: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” And we have not the testimony of Jesus alone. We have Satan’s involuntary tribute to this capital grace. It was the faith of the apostle that he was about to assail, and, if possible, to extinguish. Peter had signalized himself by his faith. It was his faith that produced his renowned confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The confession was gall and wormwood to Satan; he could not forget or forgive it; and he denounced, in his rage, and determined to strike at, the faith from which it sprang. He dislikes, and he fears, the faith of God’s people. And not without reason. It is faith that unites us to Christ, and keeps up the communication with His fulness. If the foe can but break that blessed bond of connection, he will have us for his own. (A. Gray.)
Satan’s power is limited
1. The Bible doctrine of Satan’s existence is strikingly corroborated by the devilish in society.
2. His existence has been revealed in mercy to us.
3. He has the will to destroy us, but not the power.
4. He is ever active.
5. We are saved from his cruel and hellish hate by the intercession of Christ. (Anon.)
I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not
Christ’s prayer for Peter
I. The ESSENTIAL FACTS involved in the occurrence.
1. It was an hour full of trial and danger for all the disciples.
2. Peter especially was in danger.
3. Christ prayed, not simply for them all, but for Peter particularly and personally.
4. The specific point in his spiritual condition to which the prayer was directed, was the preservation of his “faith.”
5. Christ also advised him of all the facts in the case--of the greatness of the peril, the source of it, and the duty of the hour.
II. The PRACTICAL TRUTHS it teaches for all time.
1. Christ really interposes to save His people when in peril.
2. He intercedes for particular persons.
3. Christ’s intercessions go into effect only through the moral or spiritual state of the disciple.
4. Faith is the special element of the Christian’s security.
5. Christ’s prayers, as well as His design and desire, as to each one, look beyond the individual to others. “Strengthen thy brethren.”
6. Christ’s intercessions are not in vain, but take effect even when they seem to fail. (M. Valentine, D. D.)
Divine help in temptation
Now, what the Lord said to Peter, He still virtually says to all His people: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” When Mrs. Winslow was bereaved of an affectionate husband, deprived of fortune, and in a strange land, and friends far away, “The enemy,” she said, “seemed to sift me as wheat. I would steal away and weep in agony, for I lost my hold and confidence in Him who had said, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.’” This buffeting of the adversary, however, was but for a season, for afterwards, through the helpful grace of her Lord, her faith revived, and she was able to say, “He is all and everything He said He would be. He is my joy by night and by day, my stay in trouble, my strength in weakness, the lifter-up of my head, my portion for ever. God be praised! God be praised!” Not less touching is the recorded conflict and triumph of a young disciple. A Christian mother, not long ago, finding, as she sat beside her dying boy, that Satan had been dealing with him, said, “Does he ever trouble you, George?” “Oh yes; he has been very busy with me, especially when I have been weak, telling me I was too great a sinner and could not be saved.” “And what did you say?” “I told him I had a great Saviour”; and then he added, “I think the tempter is nearly done with me now.” Some weeks before his death he had been saying, “There is light in the valley”; and turning to his mother, he said very solemnly, “Ah, it would be a dark valley without a light!” On the last day of his life she said to him, “ Is there light in the valley now, George?” “Oh, yes, yes!” And when further asked, “Is Satan done with you now?” “Well, I think he is almost. He is lurking near, however; but Jesus is nearer.” (R. Macdonald, D. D.)
Christ’s praying for Peter
In this adversative but, there is a threefold antithesis or opposition, which may be here observed and taken notice of by us. First, an opposition of the persons, Christ against Satan. It is the devil that assaults, but it is the Saviour that labours to divert it. And there is a great matter in this--a potent assistant is a great encouragement against a potent assailant. Now, thus is Christ, in comparison of Satan. He has the greater prevalency with Him, especially in approaches to God, and the requests which He makes to Him for His people. The second is, the opposition of actions or performances, praying against desiring. Satan has but desired, yea, but Christ has prayed. But He choses rather here to do it by prayer, that He might hereby sanctify this performance to us, and show us the efficacy of it as to the vanquishing of temptations themselves. The third is, the opposition of success, establishment against circumvention. Satan has desired to have you, but I have so ordered the matter that thy faith shall not fail notwithstanding. His attempts upon thee shall be in vain. Which latter now leads me from the first general part to the second here in the text; to wit, the matter of Christ’s prayer, or the thing itself requested by Him in these words, “That thy faith fail not.” For the negative--First, to consider that what it is not. Where we may observe that it is not that Peter might have no temptation befall him; that, one would have thought, had been more suitable. When He had said before “Satan hath desired to have you,” we might have expected He should have said next, “but I have prayed that he shall have nothing to do with you.” This it pleases God to suffer and permit upon divers considerations. First, for their greater abasement and humiliation. The servants of God are apt sometimes, where grace is not more watchful in them, to be advanced and lifted up in themselves. Secondly, as to breed humility, so also to breed compassion and tenderness of spirit to others. Christians, as they are apt sometimes to be too well opinionated of themselves; so also to be now and then too harsh and rigorous towards their brethren. Thirdly, God suffers His servants to be tempted for the honour of His own grace in supporting them and keeping them up, and for the confusion likewise of the enemy in his attempts upon them. Let us not, then, have our armour to get when our enemy is coming upon us, but be furnished aforehand; and remember that we trust not to any grace which we have already received, but be still labouring and striving for more. The second is the positive part of it in the words of the text, “that thy faith may not fail.” To take them absolutely as they lie in themselves, and so they do signify to us the safety of Peter’s condition; and, together with him, of all other believers. Their faith, it shall not fail. This, it may be made good unto us from sundry considerations.
1. The nature of grace itself which is an abiding principle. Faith is not a thing taken up, as a man would take up some new fashion or custom, but it is a thing rooted and incorporated in us, and goes through the substance of us, it spreads itself through the whole man, and is, as it were, a new creature in us.
2. The covenant of grace, which is an everlasting covenant. “I will make an everlasting covenant with them” (Jeremiah 32:40).
3. The spirit of grace, which is not only a worker but an establisher and a sealer of this faith in us, and to us (2 Corinthians 1:20). That the servants of God they shall have their faith much upheld in such conditions. We have this implied, that a steadfast faith is a singular help in temptation. Now, the efficacy of faith in temptation is discern-able in these particulars--
(1) As it pitches us upon the strength and power of God. That which keeps up a soul in temptation, it is an almighty power, it is a power which is above all the powers of darkness itself.
(2) Faith helps in temptation as it lays hold upon the promises of God.
(3) As it lays hold upon Christ, and pitches us, and fastens us upon Him, we are so far safe and sure in temptation, as Christ has any hold of us and we of Him. When the stability of a Christian is said to depend upon the prayers of Christ, this is exclusive of any virtue or merit of their own. The consideration of this doctrine is very much still for the comfort of believers, as to this particular. They may from hence, in the use of good means, be very confident, and persuaded of their perseverance, because they have Christ praying for them. And there arc two things in this that make for them. The one is, as I said, first, the acceptance which Christ is sure to have with His Father. Secondly, As there is Christ’s acceptance, so the constancy of His interceding for us. If Christ should only pray for us sometimes we might seem to be no longer upon sure terms, than such times as He prayed for us; “but now He ever liveth to make intercession for us.” (J. Horton, D. D.)
When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren
Peter helped by his fail to strengthen his brethren
I. On the first view of such a crime as Peter’s, WE SHOULD SUPPOSE THAT ALL HIS INFLUENCE OVER HIS BRETHREN, ALL HIS ABILITY TO DO GOOD, HIS CAPACITY TO IMPART STRENGTH TO OTHERS, WERE LOST, AND THAT FOR EVER. At the most, he could only hope to be forgiven, and to live as an unnoticed believer, brooding in the shade over his ingratitude and content to take an obscure place during the remainder of his life. For consider in what position he would now be placed.
1. First his own shame would naturally bring with it a sense of weakness, and would furnish a good reason for concentrating his efforts upon himself.
2. His brethren in such a case would naturally lower their opinion of him.
3. His brethren would naturally feel that a man of such glaring sins was not the man to be put foremost in their efforts to do good outside of the Church.
II. But, notwithstanding all this, it may be true, under a system of grace, that THE MANIFESTATION OF CHARACTER WHICH IS MADE BY A PARTICULAR SIN MAY TURN INTO A BLESSING TO HIM WHO IS ALLOWED TO FALL INTO IT. In this case it is not sin, but an outward sin that is the source of good, and this is accomplished, not in the ordinary course of things, but through the grace of the gospel. Of two persons in the same moral condition before the eye of God one may be untempted and so far forth innocent, while the other yields to a temptation, before which the first also would have fallen, had it been allowed to assail him. Now I say in such a case as this the outward sin may under the gospel be made a blessing to him who commits it; nay, more, the blessing may extend beyond himself to all around him. He may become a wiser, better, stronger Christian than he was before.
1. And this will be made apparent, if we consider that in this way he arrives at a better knowledge of his own character and is impressively warned against his own faults.
2. But secondly, a person who is thus recovered from his sins has the practical power derived from a renewed hope of forgiveness.
3. A person in Peter’s condition appeals to the affections of the Church, and he has a closer hold upon them than if he had never become a kind of representative of Divine grace. (T. D. Woolsey.)
The ministry of a converted man
I. JESUS EMPLOYS CONVERTED SOULS TO DO HIS WORK. The testimony of living men glorifies Christ.
II. A CONVERTED MAN CAN GIVE A REASON FOR HIS FAITH. II workman who has been employed in the manufacture of machinery is best able to explain the principles and manner of its work.
III. A CONVERTED MAN CAN SPEAK CONFIDENTLY.
IV. A CONVERTED MAN SPEAKS WITH SYMPATHY, AS NO ONE ELSE CAN. Learn--
1. The strength of the ministry.
2. Grace is given to be employed for others.
3. We must use means, and be very diligent in the use of them, if we would strengthen our brethren. (Canon Fremantle.)
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY SECOND CONVERSION. It implies that there has been a first conversion; that is, a principle of true piety has been implanted in the bosom, but it has hitherto been there in a weak, imperfect form. The heart has been changed, but the change is superficial and defective. The repentance is sincere, but not deep and thorough. The faith is real, but not strong and controlling. The love is genuine, but inconstant and feeble. And so of all the Christian graces; they exist in him who has had a first conversion, but in an imperfect, partially developed state, weak, unstable, unsymmetrical, and bearing but little fruit in the life. Now the effect of a second conversion is to take the subject out of this low, inadequate, and ineffective state of piety, and raise him higher, and make him more faithful in the Divine life. The antecedents of this change are often very similar to those that precede first conversion. It commences in a serious, scrutinizing view of one’s spiritual state and prospects. The subject of this change becomes dissatisfied with his present type of religion. As he passes through this second conversion as I call it, he seems to himself to enter into a new spiritual region. He sees Divine things in a clearer and more affecting light than he ever did before.
II. ITS REALITY AS A MATTER OF EXPERIENCE. The apostles before and after Pentecost. Through the gift of the Spirit they rose to holier love, to a more spiritual faith and hope in Christ, and to a greater consecration to His service. The late Dr. Judson, of the Burmah Baptist Mission, after he had been years in his field of labour, earnestly engaged in his work, and no doubt as a true Christian man, experienced a change in his religious feelings and views which, in all its essential elements, may properly be regarded as a second conversion, and which gave a new impulse and a new power, as well as a greatly increased spirituality, and joy, and hope, to the whole of his subsequent life. The late Judge Reeve, of Litchfield, furnishes another remarkable example illustrating the point now under consideration. For many years after he professed religion he was saris fled to keep up the usual routine of religious observances, but with little of the life and enjoyment of a clear, indwelling spirit of piety. Then he passed through a great and most decided change in his Christian experience and character, in which he felt as if old things had indeed passed away, and all things had become new to him. From that time till the close of his life he enjoyed great nearness to God and peace of mind, and his path became like that of the sun, shining more and more unto the perfect day.
III. WHY A SECOND CONVERSION IS NECESSARY TO PREPARE ONE TO BE TRULY AND EMINENTLY USEFUL IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, or in promoting the spiritual good of others.
1. It is necessary because first conversion is often very superficial. It does indeed change the heart and turn the affections towards God and Divine things; but the whole inner man is far from being subdued to the obedience of Christ. Much land remains yet to be possessed.
2. A second conversion is often necessary to bring the soul into a nearer union and a deeper sympathy with Christ.
3. This second conversion of which I speak, brings those who are the subjects of it to see and feel the miserable condition of such as are out of Christ and perishing in sin.
4. Second conversion qualifies those who are the subjects of it, to do good in the most acceptable and successful manner. It begets a new spirit of humility, tenderness, and love in the soul; gives tone to the voice and look to the eye, imparts an aspect of benevolence and kindness to the whole manner and style of address, and makes it entirely apparent, when attempting to do good to others, to converse with them for example on the subject of personal religion, that you are moved to it by real concern for their salvation. This, beyond anything else, disarms opposition, subdues prejudice, gives access to the heart and conscience, and is well-nigh sure to render your efforts successful.
5. When the heart is deeply imbued with the feelings implied in second conversion, God’s presence maybe expected to be with you, to guide and crown with success your endeavours to do good to others. (J. Hawes, D. D.)
Conversion and strengthening
1. The essential, primary idea is that of a corporeal turning round, without anything to limit it. But to this original notion, which is inseparable from the word, usage in many cases adds certain accessory notions. One of these is, the idea of turning in a definite direction; that is, towards a certain object. The difference is that between a wheel’s turning on its axis and a flower turning towards the sun. But in some connections there is a still further accession to the primary idea; so that the words necessarily suggest, not the mere act of turning, nor the act of turning in a definite direction, but the act of turning from one object to another, which are then, of course, presented in direct antithesis to one another. Thus the magnetic needle, if mechanically pointed towards the south, is no sooner set at liberty than it will turn from that point to the north. In this case, however, there is still another accessory motion added to the simple one of turning, namely, that of turning back to a point from which it had be[ore been turned away. And this idea of return or retroversion may, of course, be repeated without limit, and without any further variation of the meaning of the term used, which is still the same, whether the turning back be for the first or second, tenth or hundredth time. All these distinctions or gradations may be traced also in the spiritual uses of the term. As thus applied, conversion is a change of character, that is, of principles and affections, with a corresponding change of outward life. Now, such a change may be conceived of, as a vague, unsettled, frequently repeated revolution of the views and feelings, without any determinate character or end. But the conversion spoken of in Scripture is relieved from this indefiniteness by a constant reference to one specific object to which the convert turns. It is to God that all conversion is described as taking place. But how, in what sense, does man turn to God? The least and lowest that can be supposed to enter into this conception is, a turning to God, as an object of attention or consideration--turning, as it were, for the first time to look at Him, just as we might turn towards any object of sense which had before escaped attention or been out of sight.
2. Sometimes, again, the idea is suggested that we not only turn to God, but turn back to Him. This may at first sight appear inconsistent with the fact just stated, that our first affections are invariably given to the world and to ourselves. But even those who are converted, for the first time, from a state of total alienation, may be said to turn back to God, in reference to the great original apostasy in which we are all implicated. As individuals, we never know God till we are converted. As a race, we have all departed from Him, and conversion is but turning back to Him. But this expression is still more appropriate, even in its strict sense, to the case of those who have already been converted, and are only reclaimed from a partial and temporary alienation, from relapsing into sin, or what is called, in religious phraseology, declension, and, in the Word of God itself, backsliding. That the term conversion may be properly applied to such a secondary restoration, is apparent from the language of the text, where it is used by Christ Himself, of one who is expressly said to have had faith, and faith which did not absolutely fail.
II. Conversion tends to the STRENGTHENING OF OTHERS. In answer to the question, How does conversion tend to this result? the general fact maybe thus resolved into three distinct particulars:
1. It enables men to strengthen others.
2. It obliges men to strengthen others.
3. It disposes men to strengthen others.
The convert is enabled to confirm or rescue others by his knowledge of their character and state. He knows, not only what he sees in them, but what he feels or has felt in himself. He knows the difficulties of the restoration--how much harder it is now to excite hope or confirm faith, how much less effective either warning, or encouragement, or argument is now than it once was--how precarious even the most specious reformation and repentance must be after such deflections. This advantage of experimental knowledge is accompanied, moreover, by a corresponding liveliness of feeling, a more energetic impulse, such as always springs from recent restorations or escapes. Out of this increased ability arises, by a logical and moral necessity, a special obligation. This is only a specific application of a principle which all acknowledge, and which the Word of God explicitly propounds, “To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” It needs not so much to be explained or established, as to be exemplified from real life. The recognition of the principle is there unhesitating and unanimous. He who has been recovered from the power of a desperate disease by a new or unknown remedy, is under a peculiar obligation to apply it, or at least to make it known, to all affected in like manner. Hence the unsparing, universal condemnation of the man who, from mercenary motives, holds in his possession secrets of importance to the health or happiness of others. He who is mercifully saved from shipwreck, often feels especially incumbent on himself the rescue of his fellows. He must do what he can even though he be exhausted; how much more if he is strengthened. The heart must beat in concord with the reason and the conscience. And it does so in the ease of the true convert. (J. A. Alexander, D. D.)
Strengthening the brethren
That the brethren may be weak in faith, in love, in humility, and in some departments of Christian duty, is clearly implied in the command to strengthen them. But this cannot be done by abandoning them. How, then, can it be accomplished?
1. By being always in the place, and punctually discharging the duty which the Lord requires of you, according to your covenant.
2. By the spirituality of those who are turned from any particular course of sinfulness.
3. The brethren may be strengthened by our meekness, and other mild graces.
4. Nor should this work of strengthening the brethren, be a matter of mere contingence. It must be undertaken systematically. Each Christian should adopt a system of doing good, and carry it out in all the branches of a Christian life.
5. He should strengthen them, by meeting with them in circles for prayer.
6. He will also encourage them, by praying for them.
7. He will encourage them by his conversation. (J. Foot, D. D.)
Peter after his restoration
I. First, it is HIS DUTY. He has gone astray, and he has been brought back; what better can he do than to strengthen his brethren?
1. He will thus help to undo the evil which he has wrought. Peter must have staggered his brethren.
2. Besides, how can you better express your gratitude to God than by seeking to strengthen your weak brethren when you have been strengthened yourself?
3. Do you not think, too, that this becomes our duty, because, doubtless, it is a part of the Divine design? Never let us make a mistake by imagining that God’s grace is given to a man simply with an eye to himself.
4. By the way, the very wording of the text seems to suggest the duty: we are to strengthen our “brethren.” We must do so in order that we may manifest brotherly love, and thus prove our sonship towards God.
5. Let us see to it, dear friends, if we have been restored, that we try to look after our weak brethren, that we may show forth a zeal for the honour and glory of our Lord. When we went astray we dishonoured Christ.
II. Now secondly, HE HAS A QUALIFICATION FOR IT. This Peter is the man who, when he is brought back again, can strengthen his brethren.
1. He can strengthen them by telling them of the bitterness of denying his Master. He went out and wept bitterly.
2. Again, Peter was the man to tell another of the weakness of the flesh, for he could say to him, “Do not trust yourself.”
3. But he was also qualified to bear his personal witness to the power of his Lord’s prayer. He could never forget that Jesus had said to him, “I have prayed for thee.”
4. And could not Peter speak about the love of Jesus to poor wanderers?
5. And could not Peter fully describe the joy of restoration?
III. And now, lastly, the restored believer should strengthen his brethren, because IT WILL BE SUCH A BENEFIT TO HIMSELF. He will derive great personal benefit from endeavouring to cherish and assist the weak ones in the family of God.
1. Brother, do this continually and heartily, for thus you will be made to see your own weakness.
2. But what a comfort it must have been to Peter to have such a charge committed to him!
3. And, brethren, whenever any of you lay yourselves out to strengthen weak Christians, as I pray you may, you will get benefit from what you do in the holy effort. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Christ’s command to Peter
1. Here is an enlargement of personal conversion, to fraternal or brotherly confirmation. He that is converted himself, he must strengthen his brethren. And that in divers respects--
(1) In a way of faithfulness, as closing with that end for which they are converted themselves. The reason why God does bestow such a measure of grace or comfort upon this or that particular Christian, it is not for himself only, but for others, that so they may be so much the better, or comfortabler for his sake.
(2) In away of thankfulness, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren”; upon this account likewise, we cannot better testify our acknowledgments of God’s goodness, in the bestowing of grace or comfort upon our own souls, than by imparting and communicating it to others. True thankfulness, it hath, for the most part, joy with it.
(3) Out of zeal to the glory of God. We should endeavour others’ conversion, that so God may have more glory by it. The more that sinners are converted, the more is God honoured.
(4) Out of love to ourselves and our own good. The more we strengthen others, the more indeed do we confirm ourselves, whether in grace or comfort. This oil, it increases in the spending; and this bread in the breaking of it. And to him that thus hath, it shall be given. This is done divers ways, as--
(a) By discovering and laying open the flights of sin, and the subtilties of the spiritual enemy.
(b) By quickening and exciting and stirring up one another to good, we do hereby strengthen our brethren. There is nothing does more strengthen men in goodness, than the practice of goodness.
(c) By imparting and communicating of our own experiences, we do hereby likewise strengthen our brethren; when we shall show them what good we ourselves have found by such and such good courses.
This is a means not only to draw on, but to confirm others with us.
To help us, and enable us hereunto, we must labour especially for such graces as are conducing to the practice of it, as--
(1) A spirit of discerning, whereby to judge aright of the case and condition which our brethren are in. It is a great part of skill in a physician, to be able to find out the disease, and to know the just temper and constitution of his patient’s body; and so is it also for a healer of souls.
(2) A spirit of love and tenderness and condescension. There is a great deal of meekness required in a spiritual strengthener and restorer (Galatians 6:2).
(3) A spirit of faith, whereby we do believe ourselves those things which we commend to others.
2. The confinement of brotherly confirmation to personal conversion. He that will strengthen his brethren, he must himself be first of all converted. Peter, till himself be converted, he cannot confirm or strengthen his brethren, whether in comfort or grace. When we say, he cannot do it, this holds good according to the notion of a threefold impossibility which is in it.
(1) In regard of the performance; he cannot strengthen his brethren in this respect, who is himself unconverted. The reason of it is this: because persons in such a condition, they are devoid of those graces which are requisite to such a performance.
(2) Cannot do it, in regard of acceptance; God will not take it so well from him, in his making and pretending to do it; neither is it altogether so satisfactory to men.
(3) Cannot, in regard of success. He that is himself unconverted and unexperienced in his own heart, he cannot speak so profitable to others, and to the good of their souls. Nothing goes to the heart so much as that which comes from it. (J. Horton, D. D.)
Both to prison and to death
That violent impulse is not the same as a firm determination--that men may have their religious feelings roused, without being on that account at all the more likely to obey God in practice, rather the less likely.
As a general rule, the more religious men become, the calmer they become; and at all times the religious principle, viewed by itself, is calm, sober, and deliberate. Let us review some of the accidental circumstances I speak of.
1. The natural tempers of men vary very much. Some men have ardent imaginations and strong feelings; and adopt, as a matter of course, a vehement mode of expressing themselves. No doubt it is impossible to make all men think and feel alike. Such men of course may possess deep-rooted principle. All I would maintain is, that their ardour does not of itself make their faith deeper and more genuine; that they must not think themselves better than others on account of it; that they must be aware of considering it a proof of their real earnestness, instead of narrowly searching into their conduct for the satisfactory fruits of faith.
2. Next, there are, besides, particular occasions on which excited feeling is natural, and even commendable; but not for its own sake, but on account of the peculiar circumstances under which it occurs. For instance, it is natural for a man to feel especial remorse at his sins when he first begins to think of religion; he ought to feel bitter sorrow and keen repentance. But all such emotion evidently is not the highest state of a Christian’s mind; it is but the first stirring of grace in him. A sinner, indeed, can do no better; bat in proportion as he learns more of the power of true religion, such agitation will wear away. The woman who had been a sinner, when she came behind our Lord wept much, and washed His feet with tears. It was well done in her; she did what she could; and was honoured with our Saviour’s praise. Yet it is clear this was not a permanent state of mind. It was but the first step in religion, and would doubtless wear away. It was but the accident of a season. Had her faith no deeper root than this emotion, it would soon have come to an end, as Peter’s zeal.
3. And further, the accidents of life will occasionally agitate us--affliction and the pain; bad news; though here, too, the Psalmist describes tile higher excellence of mind, viz., the calm confidence of the believer, who “will not be afraid of any evil tidings, for his heart standeth fast, and believeth in the Lord.” In times of distress religious men will speak more openly on the subject of religion, and lay bare their feelings; at other times they will conceal them. They are neither better nor worse for so doing. Now all this may be illustrated from Scripture. We find the same prayers offered, and the same resolutions expressed by good men, sometimes in a calm way, sometimes with more ardour. Observe how calm Job is in his resignation:
“The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” And on the other hand, how calmly that same apostle expresses his assurance of salvation at the close of his life, who, during the struggle, was accidentally agitated:--“I am now ready to be offered … I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” These remarks may suffice to show the relation which excited feelings bear to true religious principle. They arc sometimes natural, sometimes suitable; but they are not religion itself. They come and go. They will gradually lose their place within us as our obedience becomes confirmed--partly because those men are kept in perfect peace, and sheltered from all agitating feelings, whose minds are stayed on God; partly because these feelings themselves are fixed into habits by the power of faith, and instead of coming and going, and agitating the mind from their suddenness, they are permanently retained so far as there is anything good in them, and give a deeper colour and a more energetic expression to the Christian character. Now, it will be observed, that in these remarks I have taken for granted, as not needing proof, that the highest Christian temper is free from all vehement and tumultuous feeling. But, if we wish some evidence of this, let us turn to our Great Pattern, Jesus Christ, and examine what was the character of that perfect holiness which He alone of all men ever displayed. And can we find anywhere such calmness and simplicity as marked His devotion and His obedience? When does He ever speak with fervour or vehemence? Consider the prayer He gave us; and this is the more to the purpose, for the very reason that He has given it as a model for our worship. How plain and unadorned is it! How few are the words of it! How grave and solemn the petitions? What an entire absence of tumult and feverish emotion! To conclude: Let us take warning from St. Peter’s fall. Let us not promise much; let us not talk much of ourselves; let us not be high-minded, nor encourage ourselves in impetuous bold language in religion. (J. H. Newman, D. D.)
The mount of Olives
The mount of Olives
The mountains are Nature’s monuments.
Like the islands that dwell apart, and like them that give asylum from a noisy and irreverent world. Many a meditative spirit has found in their silence leisure for the longest thought, and in their Patmos-like seclusion the brightest visions and largest projects have evolved; whilst by a sort of overmastering attraction they have usually drawn to themselves the most memorable incidents which variegate our human history. And, as they are the natural haunts of the highest spirits, and the appropriate scenes of the most signal occurrences, so they are the noblest cenotaphs.
I. OLIVET REMINDS US OF THE SAVIOUR’S PITY FOR SUCH AS PERISH (see Luke 19:37-44). That tear fell from an eye which had looked into eternity, and knew the worth of souls.
II. THE MOUNT OF OLIVES REMINDS US OF THE REDEEMER’S AGONY TO SAVE.
III. The Mount of Olives is identified with the supplications and intercessions of Immanuel, and so suggests to us the Lord Jesus as THE GREAT EXAMPLE IN PRAYER.
1. Submission in prayer. In praying for His people, the Mediator’s prayer was absolute: “Father, I will.” But in praying for Himself, how altered was the language! “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”
2. Perseverance in prayer. The evangelist tells that there was one prayer which Jesus offered three times, and from the Epistle to the Hebrews 5:7, we find that this prayer prevailed.
3. The best preparation for trial is habitual prayer. Long before it became the scene of His agony, Gethsemane had been the Saviour’s oratory. “He ofttimes resorted thither.”
IV. The Mount of Olives recalls to us THE SAVIOUR’S AFFECTION FOR HIS OWN. I fear that the love of Christ is little credited even by those who have some faith in His finished work, and some attachment to His living person. (James Hamilton.)
Being in an agony
Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
Jesus commenced His sacred Passion in the garden for these reasons:
I. BECAUSE HE INTENDED TO OBSERVE A PIOUS CUSTOM.
1. It was His custom, after He had preached and wrought miracles, to retire and betake Himself to prayer.
2. It should be our custom, too, to recollect ourselves in prayer, especially when the day’s work is over.
II. BECAUSE CHARITY AND OBEDIENCE URGED HIM.
1. Charity towards the master of the house, who, having left the supper-room at His disposal, should not be molested by the seizure of Jesus.
2. Love and obedience to His heavenly Father.
III. IN ORDER TO FULFIL THE TYPE OF DAVID. When Absalom had revolted against his father, David and the people went over the brook Kedron, and they all wept with a loud voice. Christ went over the same brook now, accompanied by His faithful friends.
IV. AS SECOND ADAM HE WOULD MAKE SATISFACTION IN A GARDEN FOR THE SIN OF THE FIRST ADAM WHICH HAD BEEN COMMITTED IN A GARDEN. (J. Marchant.)
Now let us look at this scene of pain and agony in the lifo of Christ, and see what lessons it supplies to us. And I remark--
I. IT WAS SOLITARY SUFFERING. “He was removed from them.” He was alone. How weird and sombre the word! How it throbs with painful life I And does not your experience substantiate the same thing? What a recital you could give of pain, and sorrow, and heartache, and stern conflict you have borne and sustained in solitude into which your dearest earthly friend must not enter. But I remark further that this scene in the life of Jesus was one of--
II. INTENSE SUFFERING. It is an hour of supreme agony! The betrayer is at hand, the judgment hall, the mockery, the ribald jeers of the populace, the desertion of His friends, the false charges of His enemies, the shame and pain of the cross are just before Him. The bitterness of death is upon Him.
III. EARNEST PRAYER. “He prayed the more earnestly.” What! Christ pray? Did He need the help of this provision of the Infinite Father to meet the exigencies of sinful dependent man? Yes, the Man Jesus needed to exercise this gift. It was the human Christ that was suffering. Prayer is an arrangement in the economy of infinite wisdom and goodness to meet the daily needs of Human lives. But see again, in this time of great suffering there is--
IV. DEVOUT SUBMISSION TO THE DIVINE WILL. “Nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done.” Christ hero reveals a force and beauty of character of the highest and most perfect kind. When a man can be thus brought to put himself into harmony with the Divine plan and purpose, so as to say in true submission and surrender, “Thy will be done,” he gets to the very heart of the saint’s “higher life” on earth; this is about as fall a “sanctification” as can be attained this side heaven. This is one of the grandest, the greatest, and hardest, yet the sweetest and most restful prayers I know. “Thy will be done.” This prayer touches all things in human life and history from centre to circumference, nothing is left outside its sweep and compass. It is the life of heaven lived on earth--the soul entering into deep and abiding sympathy with the character and will of God, and going out in harmony with the Divine plan to “do and suffer” all His righteous will. What are some of the lessons suggested by this suffering scene in the life of Christ?
1. Every true man has his Gethsemane. It may be an “olive garden,” where is everything to minister to the senses, and meet the utmost cravings of the human heart so far as outer things are concerned. Or, it may be out on the bleak unsheltered moor, where the cutting winds and blinding storm of sickness and poverty chill to the very core of his nature: or in any of the intermediate states of life, but come it does.
2. To pass through Gethsemane is a Divine arrangement, a part of God’s plan for perfecting human lives. Christ was there not merely because it was His “wont” or habit, but as part of a Divine plan. He was drawn thither by unseen forces, and for a set or definite purpose. It was just as much the will of God as was any other act or scene of His life.
3. To pray for the cup to pass from us should always be subject to Christ’s condition, “If it be Thy will.”
4. God ever answers true prayer, but not always in the way we ask. Of this we may be sure, that He will either lift us from the Gethsemane of suffering, or strengthen us to bear the trial
5. In great suffering, submission to the Divine will gains strength for the greater trial beyond.
6. I learn, finally, this grand lesson, that I would by no means miss--that in all, above, and beyond, and through all, the Lord God reigns. (J. T.Higgins.)
Jesus in Gethsemane
I. Upon the very threshold of our lesson lies the weighty truth: WOE’S BITTEREST CUP SHOULD BE TAKEN WHEN IT IS THE MEANS OF HIGHEST
USEFULNESS. Wasted suffering is the climax of tragedy. Many broken hearts would have lived could it have been clear that the crushing woe was not fruitless. Unspeakable the boon if earth’s army of sufferers could rest on the knowledge that their pain was service.
II. FROM OUR LORD’S EXAMPLE WE LEARN THE HELPFULNESS IN SORROW OF RELIANCE UPON HUMAN AND DIVINE COMPANIONSHIP COMBINED,
III. OUR LORD’S CRUCIAL OBEDIENCE IN THE GARDEN AGONY REFLECTS THE MAJESTY OF THE HUMAN WILL AND ITS POSSIBLE MASTERY OF EVERY TRIAL IN PERFECT OBEDIENCE TO THE DIVINE WILL. However superhuman Jesus’ suffering, He was thoroughly human in it. He had all our faculties, and used them as we may use ours. It is no small encouragement that the typical Man gives us an example of perfect obedience, at a cost unknown before or since. In the mutual relations of the human and Divine wills all merit is achieved and all character constructed.
IV. JESUS’ SOUL COULD HAVE BEEN “SORROWFUL EVEN UNTO DEATH” ONLY AS HIS SUFFERINGS WERE VICARIOUS.
V. GETHSEMANE’S DARKNESS PAINTS SIN’S GUILT AND RUIN IN FAITHFUL AND ENDURING COLOUR. It is easy to think lightly of Sin.
VI. GETHSEMANE THROWS PORTENTOUS LIGHT UPON THE WOE OF LOST SOULS.
VII. OUR LESSON GIVES TERRIBLE EMPHASIS TO THE FACT AND SERIOUSNESS OF IMPOSSIBILITIES WITH GOD. Our Lord’s agonized words, “ If it be possible,” establish the rigidity and absoluteness of governmental and spiritual conditions. God’s will and plans are objective realities; they have definite and all-important direction and demands. (S. L. B. Speare.)
The will of God the cure of self-will
Awful in its bliss, more awful yet is the will in its decay. Awful power it is, to be able for ourselves to choose God; terrible to be able to refuse Him. We have felt, many of us, the strangeness of the power of will in children; how neither present strength, nor persuasion, nor love, nor hope, nor pain, nor punishment, nor dread of worse, nor weight of authority, can, for a time, bend the determined will of a little child. We are amazed to see a power so strong in a form so slight and a mind so childish. Yet they are faint pictures of ourselves whenever we have sinned wilfully. We marvel at their resisting our wisdom, knowledge, strength, counsel, authority, persuasiveness. What is every sinful sin but a resistance of the wisdom, power, counsel, majesty, eloquent pleadings of Almighty God in the sinner’s soul? What is it, but for the soul which He hath made, to will to thwart His counsel who hath made it, to mar His work, to accuse His wisdom of foolishness, His love of want of tenderness, to withdraw itself from the dominion of God, to be another god to itself, a separate principle of wisdom and source of happiness and providence to itself, to order things in its own way, setting before itself and working out its own ends, making self-love, self-exaltation, self-gratification, its object, as though it were, at its will, to shape its own lot as much as if there were no God. Yea, and at last, it must will that there be no God. And in its worst decay, it accomplishes what it wills, and (awful as it is to say) blots God out of its creation, disbelieving that He is, or will do as He has said, or that He will avenge. Whoever wills that God wills not, so far dethrones God, and sets up his own will to dispute the almightiness and wisdom of the eternal God. He is a Deicide. It matters not wherein the self-will is exerted, in the very least things or the greatest. Antichrist will be but the full unhindered growth of self-will. Such was the deep disease of self-will, to cure which our good Lord came, in our nature, to fulfil the leather’s will, to will to suffer what the Father willed, to “empty Himself and become obedient unto death, and that the death of the Cross.” And since pride was the chief source of disease in our corrupted wills, to heal this, the eternal Son of God came as now from His everlasting glory, and, as a little Child, fulfilled His Father’s will. And when He entered on His ministry, the will of His Father was the full contentment, refreshment, stay, reward, of His soul, as Man. And then, whereas the will of God is done either by us, in active obedience, or on us and in us by passive obedience or resignation in suffering, to suffer the will of God is the surest, deepest, safest, way to learn to do it. For it has least of self. It needeth only to be still, and it reposeth at once in the loving will of God. If we have crippled ourselves, and cannot do great things, we can, at least, meekly bear chastening, hush our souls and be still. Yet since, in trials of this soul, the soul is often perplexed by its very suffering, it may be for your rest, when ye shall be called to God’s loving discipline of suffering, to have such simple rules as these.
1. It is not against the will of God even strongly to will if it should be His will, what yet may prove not to be His will. Entire submission to the will of God requireth absolutely these two things. Wholly will whatsoever thou knowest God to will; wholly reject whatsoever thou knowest God willeth not. Beyond these two, while the will of God is as yet not clear unto thee, thou art free. We must indeed, in all our prayers, have written, at least in our hearts, those words spoken by our dear Lord for us, “Not as I will, but as Thou.” We shall, in whatever degree God hath conformed our will to His, hold our will in suspense, even while yet uncertain, ready to follow the balance of His gracious will even while we tremblingly watch its motions, and our dearest earthly hopes, laid therein, seem ready gradually to sink, for the rest of this life, in dust (2 Samuel 16:10). And so thou, too, whatever it be which thou willest, the health and life of those thou lovest as thine own soul, the turning aside of any threatened scourge of God, the healing of thine aching heart, the cleansing away of harassing thoughts or doubts entailed upon thee by former sin, or coldness, or dryness, or distraction in prayer, or deadness of soul, or absence of spiritual consolation, thou mayest without fear ask it of God with thy whole heart, and will it wholly and earnestly, so that thou will therein the glory of God, and, though with sinking heart, welcome the will of God, when thou knowest assuredly what that will is.
2. Nor again is it against the will of God that thou art bowed down and grieved by what is the will of God. And even when the heaviness is for our own private griefs, yet, if it be patient, it, too, is according to the will of God. For God hath made us such as to suffer. He willeth that suffering be the healthful chastisement of our sins.
3. Then, whatever thy grief or trouble be, take every drop in thy cup from the hand of Almighty God. Thou knowest well that all comes from God, ordered or overruled by Him. How was the cup of thy Lord filled, which He drank for thee?
4. Again, no trouble is too small, wherein to see the will of God for thee. Great troubles come but seldom. Daily fretting trials, that is, what of thyself would fret thee, may often, in God’s hands, conform thee more to His gracious will. They are the dally touches, whereby He traces on thee the likeness of His Divine will. There is nothing too slight wherein to practise oneness with the will of God. Love or hate are the strength of will; love, of the will of God; hate, of the will of devils. A weak love is a weak will; a strong love is a strong will. Self-will is the antagonist of the will of God; for thou weft formed for God. If thou wert made for thyself, be self thy centre; if for God, repose thyself in the will of God. So shalt thou lose thy self-will, to find thy better will in God, and thy self-love shall be absorbed in the love of God. Yea, thou shalt love thyself, because God hath loved thee; take care for thyself, because thou art not thine own, but God careth for thee; will thine own good, because and as God willeth it.
“Father, nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou.” So hath our Lord sanctified all the natural shrinkings of our lower will. He vouchsafed to allow the natural will of His sacred Manhood to be “amazed and very heavy” at the mysterious sufferings of the cross, to hallow the “mute shrinking” of ours, and guide us on to His all-holy submission of His will. (E. B.Pusey, D. D.)
Christ’s preparation for death
1. The prayer of Christ. In a praying posture He will be found when the enemy comes; He will be taken upon His knees. He was pleading hard with God in prayer, for strength to carry Him through this heavy trial, when they came to take Him. And this prayer was a very remarkable prayer, both for the solitariness of it, “He withdrew about a stone’s cast” (Luke 22:41) from His dearest intimates--no ear but His Father’s shall hear what He had now to say--and for the vehemency and importunity of it; these were those strong cries that He poured out to God in the days of His flesh Hebrews 5:7). And for the humility expressed in it: He fell upon the ground, He rolled Himself as it were in dust, at His Father’s feet.
2. This Scripture gives you also an account of the agony of Christ, as well as of His prayer, and that a most strange one; such as in all respects never was known before in nature.
3. You have here His relief in this His agony, and that by an angel dispatched post from heaven to comfort Him. The Lord of angels now needed the comfort of an angel.
It was time to have a little refreshment, when His face and body too stood as full of drops of blood as the drops of dew are upon the grass.
1. Did Christ pour out His soul to God so ardently in the garden, when the hour of His trouble was at hand? Hence we infer that prayer is a singular preparative for, and relief under, the greatest troubles.
2. Did Christ withdraw from the disciples to seek God by prayer? Thence it follows that the company of the best men is not always seasonable. The society of men is beautiful in its season, and no better than a burden out of season. I have read of a good man, that when his stated time for closet-prayer was come, he would say to the company that were with him, whatever they were, “Friends, I must beg your excuse for a while, there is a Friend waits to speak with me.” The company of a good man is good, but it ceases to be so, when it hinders the enjoyment of better company. One hour with God is to be preferred to a thousand days’ enjoyment of the best men on earth.
3. Did Christ go to God thrice upon the same account? Thence learn that Christians should not be discouraged, though they have sought God once and again, and no answer of Peace comes. If God deny you in the things you ask, He deals no otherwise with you than He did with Christ.
4. Was Christ so earnest in prayer that He prayed Himself into a very agony? Let the people of God blush to think how unlike their spirits are to Christ, as to their prayer-frames. Oh, what lively, sensible, quick, deep, and tender apprehensions and sense of those things about which He prayed, had Christ! Though He saw His very blood starting out from His hands, and His clothes dyed in it, yet being in an agony, He prayed the more earnestly. I do not say Christ is imitable in this; no, but His fervour in prayer is a pattern for us, and serves severely to rebuke the laziness, dulness, torpor, formality, and stupidity that is in our prayers. Oh, how unlike Christ are we! His prayers were pleading prayers, full of mighty arguments and fervent affections. Oh, that His people were in this more like Him!
5. Was Christ in such an agony before any hand of man was upon Him merely from the apprehensions of the wrath of God with which He now contested? Then surely it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, for our God is a consuming fire.
6. Did Christ meet death with such a heavy heart? Let the hearts of Christians be the lighter for this when they come to die. The bitterness of death was all squeezed into Christ’s cup. He was made to drink up the very dregs of it, that so our death might be the sweeter to us. (J. Flavel.)
The agony in Gethsemane
I. Meditating upon the agonizing scene in Gethsemane we are compelled to observe that our Saviour there endured a grief unknown to any previous period of His life, and therefore we will commence our discourse by raising the question, WHAT WAS THE CAUSE OF THE PECULIAR GRIEF OF GETHSEMANE? Do you suppose it was the fear of coming scorn or the dread of crucifixion? was it terror at the thought of death? Is not such a supposition impossible? It does not make even such poor cowards as we are sweat great drops of blood, why then should it work such terror in Him? Read the stories of the martyrs, and you will frequently find them exultant in the near approach of the most cruel sufferings. The joy of the Lord has given such strength to them, that no coward thought has alarmed them for a single moment, but they have gone to the stake, or to the block, with psalms of victory upon their lips. Our master must not be thought of as inferior to His boldest servants, it cannot be that He should tremble where they were brave. I cannot conceive that the pangs of Gethsemane were occasioned by any extraordinary attack from Satan. It is possible that Satan was there, and that his presence may have darkened the shade, but he was not the most prominent cause of that hour of darkness. Thus much is quite clear, that our Lord at the commencement of His ministry engaged in a very severe duel with the prince of darkness, and yet we do not read concerning that temptation in the wilderness a single syllable as to His soul’s being exceeding sorrowful, neither do we find that He “was sore amazed and was very heavy,” nor is there a solitary hint at anything approaching to bloody sweat. When the Lord of angels condescended to stand foot to foot with the prince of the power of the air, he had no such dread of him as to utter strong cries and tears and fall prostrate on the ground with threefold appeals to the Great Father. What is it then, think you, that so peculiarly marks off Gethsemane and the griefs thereof? We believe that now the Father put Him to grief for us. It was now that our Lord had to take a certain cup from the Father’s hand. This removes all doubt as to what it was, for we read, “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him, He hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin.” “The Lord hath made to meet on Him the iniquity of us all.” Yet would I exhort you to consider these griefs awhile, that you may love the Sufferer. He now realized, perhaps for the first time, what it was to be a sin bearer. It was the shadow of the coming tempest, it was the prelude of the dread desertion which He had to endure, when He stood where we ought to have stood, and paid to His Father’s justice the debt which was due from us; it was this which laid Him low. To be treated as a sinner, to be smitten as a sinner, though in Him was no sin--this it was which caused Him the agony of which our text speaks.
II. Having thus spoken of the cause of His peculiar grief, I think we shall be able to support our view of the matter, while we lead you to consider, WHAT WAS THE CHARACTER OF THE GRIEF ITSELF? Trouble of spirit is worse than pain of body; pain may bring trouble and be the incidental cause of sorrow, but if the mind is perfectly untroubled, how well a man can bear pain, and when the soul is exhilarated and lifted up with inward joy, pain of body is almost forgotten, the soul conquering the body. On the other hand the soul’s sorrow will create bodily pain, the lower nature sympathizing with the higher.
III. Our third question shall be, WHAT WAS OUR LORD’S SOLACE IN ALL THIS? He resorted to prayer, and especially to prayer to God under the character of Father. In conclusion: Learn--
1. The real humanity of our Lord.
2. The matchless love of Jesus.
3. The excellence and completeness of the atonement.
4. Last of all, what must be the terror of the punishment which will fall upon those men who reject the atoning blood, and who will have to stand before God in their own proper persons to suffer for their sins. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. Come hither and behold THE SAVIOUR’S UNUTTERABLE WOE. We cannot do more than look at the revealed causes of grief.
1. It partly arose from the horror of His soul when fully comprehending the meaning of sin.
2. Another deep fountain of grief was found in the fact that Christ now assumed more fully His official position with regard to sin.
3. We believe that at this time, our Lord had a very clear view of all the shame and suffering of His crucifixion.
4. But possibly a yet more fruitful tree of bitterness was this--that now His Father began to withdraw His presence from Him.
5. But in our judgment the fiercest heat of the Saviour’s suffering in the garden lay in the temptations of Satan. “This is your hour and the power of darkness.” “The prince of this world cometh.”
II. Turn we next to contemplate THE TEMPTATION OF OUR LORD.
1. A temptation to leave the work unfinished.
2. Scripture implies that our Lord was assailed by the fear that His strength would not be sufficient. He was heard in that He feared. How, then, was He heard? An angel was sent unto Him strengthening Him. His fear, then, was probably produced by a sense of weakness.
3. Possibly, also, the temptation may have arisen from a suggestion that He was utterly forsaken, I do not know--there may be sterner trials than this, but surely this is one of the worst, to be utterly forsaken.
4. We think Satan also assaulted our Lord with a bitter taunt indeed. You know in what guise the tempter can dress it, and how bitterly sarcastic he can make the insinuation--“Ah! Thou wilt not be able to achieve the redemption of Thy people. Thy grand benevolence will prove a mockery, and Thy beloved ones will perish.”
III. Behold, THE BLOODY SWEAT. This proves how tremendous must have been the weight of sin when it was able so to crush the Saviour that He distilled drops of blood I This proves, too, my brethren, the mighty power of His love. It is a very pretty observation of old Isaac Ambrose that the gum which exudes from the tree without cutting is always the best. This precious camphire-tree yielded most sweet spices when it was wounded under the knotty whips, and when it was pierced by the nails on the cross; but see, it giveth forth its best spice when there is no whip, no nail, no wound. This sets forth the voluntariness of Christ’s sufferings, since without a lance the blood flowed freely. No need to put on the leech, or apply the knife; it flows spontaneously.
IV. THE SAVIOUR’S PRAYER.
1. Lonely prayer.
2. Humble prayer.
3. Filial prayer.
4. Persevering prayer.
5. Earnest prayer.
6. The prayer of resignation.
V. THE SAVIOUR’S PREVALENCE. His prayers did speed, and therefore He is a good Intercessor for us. “How was He heard?”
1. His mind was suddenly rendered calm.
2. God strengthened Him through an angel.
3. God heard Him in granting Him now, not simply strength, but a real victory over Satan.
I do not know whether what Adam Clarke supposes is correct, that in the garden Christ did pay more of the price than He did even on the cross; but I am quite convinced that they are very foolish who get to such refinement that they think the atonement was made on the cross, and nowhere else at all. We believe that it was made in the garden as well as on the cross; and it strikes me that in the garden one part of Christ’s work was finished, wholly finished, and that was His conflict with Satan. I conceive that Christ had now rather to bear the absence of His Father’s presence and the revilings of the people and the sons of men, than the temptations of the devil. I do think that these were over when He rose from His knees in prayer, when He lifted Himself from the ground where He marked His visage in the clay in drops of blood. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The agony of Christ
I. THE PERSON OF THE ILLUSTRIOUS SUFFERER.
1. The dignified essential Son of God.
2. Truly and properly the Son of Man. Had our nature, body, soul.
II. THE AGONY WHICH HE ENDURED.
1. The agony itself.
(1) Deep, intense mental suffering.
(2) Overwhelming amazement and terror.
2. The cause of Christ’s agony. It arose--
(1) From the pressure of s world’s guilt upon Him.
(2) From the attacks of the powers of darkness.
(3) From the hiding of the Divine countenance.
3. The effects of the agony. He fell to the ground, overwhelmed, prostrated, and sweat as it were, great drops of blood.
III. THE PRAYER WHICH HE OFFERED. “He prayed more earnestly.” Observe--
1. The matter of His prayer. It was for the removal of the cup (Luke 22:42). As man, He had a natural aversion to pain and suffering.
2. The spirit of His prayer was that of holy submission, devout resignation.
3. The manner of His prayer.
4. The intensity of His prayer. The success of His prayer.
1. Learn the amazing evil of sin.
2. The expensiveness of our redemption.
3. The sympathy of Christ (Hebrews 4:15).
4. The necessity of resignation to the will of God. (J. Burns, D. D.)
The Saviour’s bloody sweat
I. THE CAUSES OF THE BLOODY SWEAT.
1. A vehement inward struggle.
(1) On the one hand He was seized by fear and horror of His passion and death.
(2) On the other hand He was burning with zeal for the honour of God and redemption of men.
(3) How great will be the anguish of the sinner at the sight of everlasting death and the endless pains of hell!
2. The representation of all the sins of the past, present, and future.
3. The consideration that His passion would prove useless to so many.
II. THE MANNER OF HIS SWEATING BLOOD.
1. He sweat blood in the strict sense of the word.
(1) Natural blood.
(2) In a natural way.
2. He was full of sorrow.
3. He fell upon His face. (J. Marchant.)
The witness to the power of prayer
I. AN ACT OF REAL PRAYER IS GREAT, POWERFUL, AND BEAUTIFUL; a spirit in an energy of pure, subdued, but confident desire, rising up and embracing, and securing the aid of the mighty Spirit of God. If we can believe the power of prayer, we may put forth the force of the soul and perform that act. How then can we learn that power? My answer is, From Christ. Everywhere Christ is the Representative Man. This in two senses.
1. He is human nature in sum and completeness as it ought to be. To see humanity as God imaged and loved it, to see humanity at its best, we must see our Master.
2. And Christ represents to us perfect human conduct. To see how to act in critical situations we must study Christ. In critical situations? Yes! there is the difficulty, there also the evidenced nobleness of a lofty human character. I need hardly say (for you know who Christ was) the most critical moments in human history were the moments of the Passion. Oh, perfect example! Oh, severe and fearful trial! Christ knelt alone amidst the olives, in the quiet garden, in the lonely night, and Dear, His weary, sleepy followers. It is a simple scene, but Christ’s spirit was in action. What was the significance of the act? It was very awful. It was an “agony,” a life-struggle, a contest. Much was involved in that moment of apparent quietude, of real struggle; but one lesson at any rate is important. Examine it. Here we have a witness to the power of prayer.
II. THE AGONY WAS LITERALLY A CONTEST. What was the nature of the struggle? It was a contest with evil; of that we are certain, although the depth and details are wrapped in mystery. Anyhow the struggle was with a force of which, alas! we ourselves know something. No one can live to the ago of five-and-twenty, and reflect with any degree of seriousness on himself or on the world around him, without knowing that evil is a fact. We find its cruel records in the blood-stained pages of history. We listen, and amidst whatever heavenly voices, still the wail of its victims is echoing age after age down the “corridors of time.” Our own faults and follies will not efface themselves from the records of memory; in the brightness of the flaring day of life they may fade into dim and shadowy outline, but there are times of silence--on a sick-bed, in the still house at midnight, in the open desolation of the lonely sea--when they rise like living creatures, spectral threateners, or blaze their unrelenting facts in characters of fire. Their force was not realized in the moment of passion. But conscience bides its time, bears its stern, uncompromising witness when passion is asleep or dead. Sin is a matter of experience. It has withered life, in fact, in history, with the deathly chill and sadness of the grave. Somehow all feel it, but it is prominent and stern before the Christian. He can never forget, nor is it well he should, that we are in a world in which, when God appeared in human form, He was subjected to insult and violence by His creatures. That is enough. That is, without controversy, the measure of the power, the intensity of evil. If there is to be a contest with evil, it is clearly a contest with a serious enemy.
III. HOW CAN WE THROW BACK SO FIERCE A POWER? THE ANSWER BROADLY IS, RELIGION. Religion is a personal matter; it must hold a universal empire over the being of each of us; it must rouse natural forces only by being in possession of supernatural power. Brothers, to possess a religion which can conquer sin we must follow our Master in the severity of principle, of conviction, of unflinching struggle. The external scene of His trial was simple, but He fought, and therefore conquered. Certainly He fought with evil, “being in an agony.”
IV. “FOUGHT WITH EVIL.” “What do you mean?” you ask. Evil! Is evil a thing, an object, like the pyramids of Egypt, or the roaring ocean, or an advancing army? Evil is the act of choice of a created will. It is the rejection by the creature of the laws of life laid down, not as tyrannical rules, but as necessary truths, by the Creator. Evil takes three active forms, so says Scripture, so we have learned in the Catechism: the accumulated force of bad opinion, that is “the world”; or the uncertain revolt of our own corrupt desires, that is “the flesh”; or a living being wholly surrendered to hatred of the Creator, that is “the devil.” Think of the last. You realize the severity of the contest in remembering that you fight with a fiend. Satan is a person. In this is he like ourselves. Of man it is said “he has thoughts of himself.” This is true of Satan; he can think of himself, he can purpose with relentless will, he can plan with unparalleled audacity. There are three specific marks of his character--
1. He is inveterate in his hatred of truth, lie is a liar.
2. He is obstinate in his abhorrence of charity, pure intention, and self-sacrificing devotion. He is a murderer.
3. He shrinks from the open glory of goodness. He is a coward. To “abide in the truth,” to “love good,” and “love one another with a pure heart fervently,” and to have holy fearlessness in the power of God is to be in direct opposition to him. From this it is evident that our contest is with a tremendous enemy, and that against us he need never be victorious. My brothers, there are two shadows projected over human life from two associated and mysterious facts--from sin, from death. In that critical moment when the human will is subjected to the force of temptation and yields to its sway, in that solemn moment when the human spirit is wrenched away for a time from its physical organism, there is a special power dangerously, not irresistibly, exercised by the being who is devoted to evil. A hint of this is given in Scripture in the allusion to the spirit “that now worketh in the children of disobedience,” a hint of this dark realm certainly in the prayer by the grave-side that we may not “for any pains of death fall “ from God. There is a shadow-land. How may we contemplate it without hopeless shuddering, how think of entering it without despairing fear? Now here is a primary fact. Christ our strength as well as our example boldly entered, and in the depths of its deepest blackness conquered the fiend. “He was made sin”; “He became obedient unto death”; and for all who will to follow Him, His love, His devotion is victorious. “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Yes! In union with Christ we can do what He did. O blessed and brave One! We may follow His example and employ His power. His power! How may we be possessed of it? In many ways. Certainly in this way. It is placed at the disposal of the soul that prays. This is in effect the answer of Christ’s revelation to the question, Why should we pray? Two facts let us remember and act upon with earnestness.
1. The value of a formed habit of prayer. Crises are sure to come and then we are equally sure to act on habitual impulse. Christ learned in His humanity and practised Himself in the effort of prayer, and when the struggle reached its climax, the holy habit had its fulfilment. “Belong in an agony He prayed.” And--
2. It is in moments of contest that real prayer rises to its height and majesty. “When my heart is hot within me,” says the Psalmist, “I will complain”; and of Christ it is written, “Being in an agony He prayed more earnestly.” Prayer, too, as the Christian knows, is not always answered now in the way he imagines most desirable, but it is always answered. If the cup does not pass, at least there is an angel strengthening the human spirit to drain it bravely to the dregs. Subjectively, there is comfort; objectively, there is real help. What might have been a tragedy becomes by prayer a blessing; desire which if misdirected might have crushed and overwhelmed us, becomes when truly used with the Holy Spirit’s assistance a raw material of sanctity. Certainly from prayer we gain three things: a powerful stimulus, and strength for act or suffering; a deep and real consolation; and the soothing and ennobling sense of duty done. (Canon Knox Little.)
Our Lord’s bloody sweat
There are some who only suppose that by this phraseology the mere size of the drops of perspiration is indicated. But the plain meaning of the language is that the sweat was bloody in its nature; that the physical nature of our Lord was so deranged by the violent pressure of mental agony that blood oozed from every pore. Such a result is not uncommon in a sensitive constitution. The face reddens with blood both from shame and anger. Were this continued with intensity, the blood would force its way through the smaller vessels, and exude from the skin. Kannigiesser remarks, “If the mind is seized with a sudden fear of death, the “sweat, owing to the excessive degree of constriction, often becomes bloody.” The eminent French historian, De Thou, mentions the case of an Italian officer who commanded at Monte-Mars, a fortress of Piedmont, during the warfare in 1552 between Henry II. of France and the Emperor Charles V. The officer, having been treacherously seized by order of the hostile general, and threatened with public execution unless he surrendered the place, was so agitated at the prospect of an ignominious death that he sweated blood from every part of his body. The same writer relates a similar occurrence in the person of a young Florentine at Rome, unjustly put to death by order of Pope Sixtus V., in the beginning of his reign, and concludes the narrative as follows: “When the youth was led forth to execution, he excited the commiseration of many, and, through excess of grief, was observed to shed bloody tears, and to discharge blood instead of sweat from his whole body.’” Medical experience does so far corroborate the testimony of the Gospels, and shows that cutaneous hemorrhage is sometimes the result of intense mental agitation. The awful anguish of Him who said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death,” was sufficient cause to produce the bloody perspiration on a cold night and in the open air. (J. Eadie, D. D.)
The angel who strengthened Jesus
On a certain occasion, when the Rev. J. Robertson had been preaching one of a series of sermons, on “Angels in their revealed connection with the work of Christ,” Dr. Duncan came into the vestry and said: “Will you be so kind as to let me know when you are going to take up the case of my favourite angel?” “But who is he, Doctor?” “Oh! guess that.” “Well, it would not be difficult to enumerate all those whose names we have given us.” “But I can’t tell you his name, he is an anonymous angel. It is the one who came down to Gethsemane, and there strengthened my Lord to go through His agony for me, that He might go forward to the cross, and finish my redemption there. I have an extraordinary love for that one, and I often wonder what I’ll say to him when I meet him first.” This was a thought Dr. Duncan never wearied of repeating, in varied forms, whenever the subject of angels turned up in conversation.
Succoured by an angel
In the Ecclesiastical History of Socrates there is mention made of one Theodorus, a martyr put to extreme torments by Julian the Apostate, and dismissed again by him when he saw him unconquerable. Rufinus, in his History, says that he met with this martyr a long time after his trial, and asked him whether the pains he felt were not insufferable. He answered that at first it was somewhat grievous, but after awhile there seemed to stand by him a young man in white, who, with a soft and comfortable handkerchief, wiped off the sweat from his body (which, through extreme anguish, was little less than blood), and bade him be of good cheer, insomuch that it was rather a punishment than a pleasure to him to be taken off the rack. When the tormentors had done, the angel was gone.
The only child of a poor woman one day fell into the fire by accident, and was so badly burned that he died after a few hours’ suffering. The clergyman, as soon as he knew, went to see the mother, who was known to be dotingly fond of the child. To his great surprise, he found her calm, patient, and resigned. After a little conversation she told him how she had been weeping bitterly as she knelt beside her child’s cot, when suddenly he exclaimed, “Mother, don’t you see the beautiful man who is standing there and waiting for me?” Again and again the child persisted in saying that “the beautiful man” was waiting for him, and seemed ready, and even anxious, to go to him. And, as a natural consequence, the mother’s heart was strangely cheered. (W. Baxendale.)
The safeguard against temptation
“Satan,” says Bishop Hall, “always rocks the cradle when we sleep at our devotions. If we would prevail with God, we must wrestle first with our own dulness.” And if this be needful, even in ordinary times, how much more so in the perilous days on which we are entering? Whatever we come short in, let it not be in watchfulness. None like to slumber who are expecting a friend or fearing a foe. Bunyan tells us “that when Hopeful came to a certain country, he began to be very dull and heavy of sleep. Wherefore he said, ‘Let us lie down here, and take one nap.’ ‘By no means,’ said the other, ‘lest sleeping, we wake no more.’ ‘Why, my brother? Sleep is sweet to the labouring man; we may be refreshed, if we take a nap.’ ‘Do you not remember,’ said the other, ‘that one of.the shepherds bid us beware of the Enchanted Ground? He meant by that, that we should beware of sleeping.’” “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” Slumbering and backsliding are closely allied. (R. Macdonald, D. D.)
Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss
The traitor’s kiss
A TRAITOR AMONG THE DISCIPLES. Many of them were weak in faith and carnal in apprehension, but only one a traitor.
II. THE CHARACTERISTIC OF HIS TREASON. Betrayed Lord into cruel hands of foes. Professed followers of Christ may betray Him to the scorn of the world, giving the sceptic arguments for his infidelity, and the worldly excuses for rejection of Christ.
III. THE MANNER OF THE BETRAYAL. A kiss.
1. It was the accepted token of affection.
2. It was here prostituted to the basest of uses.
3. It was received with lamblike meekness by Him who knew it meant treachery.
IV. THEY BETRAY THE SON OF MAN WITH A KISS WHO--
1. Compliment and deny Him with the same lips,
2. Profess to be united with Him at His table, and then act as lovers and servants of the world.
3. Exalt His humanity to the skies, and deny His rightful divinity and the efficacy of the atonement. (Homiletic Review.)
Christ betrayed by Judas
I. BY WHOM CHRIST WAS BETRAYED. “Judas, one of the twelve.” Not an occasional disciple who had fastened himself upon the Lord’s company, not one of the seventy who had been sent forth by two and two; one of the called, the chosen; one singled out from the great mass of mankind for the office of a foundation-stone in the Church of God.
II. Let us consider SOME OF THE AGGRAVATIONS OF THIS PERFIDIOUS CONDUCT ON THE PART OF JUDAS. Judas was not only equal with the rest of the apostles, but he was allowed to carry the bag, which would certainly appear to invest him with a sort of official superiority.
III. THE ENDS FOR WHICH CHRIST’S BETRAYAL WAS PERMITTED. That it was of mere permission we know. God has abundance of snares for taking the wise in their own craftiness; He has ten thousand accidents at command by which to mar a well-concerted plot. Yea, even after the capture had been effected, twelve legions of angels waited the bidding of Christ to rescue Him from the traitor’s power. But God will not avail Himself of these means.
IV. Let us now consider some of the MORAL LESSONS which seem to be conveyed to us by this history.
1. We see how needful it is that we, each one of us, look well to the state of our own hearts. Here is a man who knew the truth, who had preached the truth, who had wrought miracles for the sake of the truth; and yet became a castaway. Now, why was this? He “held the truth in unrighteousness.” The man who has been a hypocrite in religion is very rarely recovered; he deceives others, but yet more fatally does he deceive himself.
2. Again: the history teaches us how little security against our falling away, there is in the possession of eminent spiritual advantages. “Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve.”
3. Again: we learn from this history how insensible and unperceived is the progress of the downward course in sin. When a man once enters on the way of transgression, he can never tell where he shall stop. Neither wickedness nor holiness attain to their full stature all at once. We cannot suppose that Judas had the remotest thought of his treachery when he first accepted the invitation to become one of the apostles.
4. The enslaving power of the love of this present world. (D. Moore, M. A.)
The treason of Judas
1. Hence in the first place we learn, that the greatest professors had need be jealous of their own hearts, and look well to the grounds and principles of their professions.
2. Learn hence also, that eminent knowledge and profession puts a special and eminent aggravation upon sin. To sin against clear light is to sin with a high hand. It is that which makes a sad waste of the conscience.
3. Learn hence, in the third place, that unprincipled professors will sooner or later become shameful apostates.
4. Moreover in this example of Judas you may read this truth--that men and women are never in more imminent danger than when they meet with temptations exactly suited to their master-lusts, to their own iniquity. O pray, pray, that ye may be kept from a violent suitable temptation. Satan knows that when a man is tried here, he falls by the root.
5. Hence, in like manner, we are instructed, that no man knows where he shall stop when he first engages himself in a way of sin.
6. Did Judas sell Christ for money? What a potent conqueror is the love of this world! How many hath it cast down wounded? What great professors have been dragged at its chariot-wheels as its captives? Pliny tells us that the mermaids delight to be in green meadows, into which they draw men by their enchanting voices; but saith he, there always lie heaps of dead men’s bones by them. A lively emblem of a bewitching world! Good had it been for many professors of religion if they had never known what the riches, and honours, and pleasures of this world meant.
7. Did Judas fancy so much happiness in a little money, that he would sell Christ to get it? Learn, then, that which men promise themselves much pleasure and contentment in, in the way of sin, may prove the greatest curse and misery to thorn that ever befel them in the world.
8. Was there one, and but one, of the twelve that proved a Judas, a traitor to Christ? Learn thence, that it is a most unreasonable thing to be prejudiced at religion, and the sincere professors of it, because some that profess it prove naught and vile.
9. Did Judas, one of the twelve, do so? Learn thence, that a drop of grace is better than a sea of gifts. Gifts have some excellency in them, but the way of grace is the more excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31). Gifts, as one saith, are dead graces, but graces are living gifts. There is many a learned head in hell. These are not the things that accompany salvation. It is better for thee to feel one Divine impression from God upon thy heart than to have ten thousand fine notions floating in thy head. Judas was a man of parts, but what good did they do him?
10. Did the devil win the consent of Judas to such a design as this? Could he get no other but the hand of an apostle to assist him? Learn hence, that the policy of Satan lies much in the choice of his instruments he works by.
No bird, saith one, like a living bird to tempt others into the net. Austin told an ingenious young scholar the devil coveted him for an ornament. He knows he hath a foul cause to manage, and therefore will get the fairest hand he can to manage it with the less suspicion.
11. Did Judas, one of the twelve, do this? Then, certainly, Christians may approve and join with such men on earth whose faces they shall never see in heaven.
12. Did Judas, one of the twelve, a man so obliged, raised, and honoured by Christ, do this? Cease then from man, be not too confident, but beware of men. “Trust ye not in a friend, put no confidence in a guide, keep the door of thy lips from her that lieth in thy bosom” (Micah 7:5). (J. Flavel.)
I. LET US TARRY AWHILE, AND SEE OUR LORD UNGRATEFULLY AND DASTARDLY BETRAYED.
1. It is appointed that He must die, but how shall He fall into the hands of His adversaries? Shall they capture Him in conflict? It must not be, lest He appear an unwilling victim. Shall He flee before His foes until He can hide no longer? It is not meet that a sacrifice should be hunted to death. Shall He offer Himself to the foe? That were to excuse His murderers, or be a party to their crime. Shall He be taken accidentally or unawares? That would withdraw from His cup the necessary bitterness which made it wormwood mingled with gall.
(1) One reason for the appointment of the betrayal lay in the fact that it was ordained that man’s sin should reach its culminating point in His death.
(2) Beyond a doubt, however, the main reason for this was that Christ might offer a perfect atonement for sin. We may usually read the sin in the punishment. Man betrayed his God. Therefore must Jesus find man a traitor to Him. There must be the counterpart of the sin in the suffering which He endured. You and I have often betrayed Christ. It seemed most fitting, then, that He who bore the chastisement of sin should be reminded of its ingratitude and treachery by the things which He suffered.
(3) Besides, brethren, that cup must be bitter to the last degree which is to be the equivalent for the wrath of God.
(4) Moreover, we feel persuaded that by thus suffering at the hand of a traitor the Lord became a faithful High Priest, able to sympathize with us when we fall under the like affliction.
2. Now let us look at the treason itself. You perceive how black it was.
(1) Judas was Christ’s servant, what if I call him His confidential servant.
(2) Judas was more than this: he was a friend, a trusted friend.
(3) The world looked upon Judas as a colleague of our Lord’s.
(4) Our Lord would look upon Judas as a representative man, the portraiture of many thousands who in after ages have imitated his crime.
3. Observe the manner in which Christ met this affliction.
(1) His calmness.
(2) His gentleness.
II. Grant me your attention while we make an estimate of the man by whom the Son of Man was betrayed--JUDAS THE BETRAYER.
1. I would call your attention, dear friends, to his position and public character.
(1) Judas was a preacher; nay, he was a foremost preacher, “he obtained part of this ministry,” said the Apostle Peter.
(2) Judas took a very high degree officially. He had the distinguished honour of being entrusted with the Master’s financial concerns, and this, after all, was no small degree to which to attain. The Lord, who knows how to use all sorts of gifts, perceived what gift the man had.
(3) You will observe that the character of Judas was openly an admirable one. I find not that he committed himself in any way. Not the slightest speck defiled his moral character so far as others could perceive. He was no boaster, like Peter.
2. But I call your attention to his real nature and sin. Judas was a man with a conscience. He could not afford to do without it. He was no Sadducee who could fling religion overboard; he had strong religious tendencies. But then it was a conscience that did not sit regularly on the throne; it reigned by fits and starts. Conscience was not the leading element. Avarice predominated over conscience.
3. The warning which Judas received, and the way in which he persevered.
4. The act itself. He sought out his own temptation. He did not wait for the devil to come to him; he went after the devil. He went to the chief priests and said, “ What will ye give me?” Alas! some people’s religion is grounded on that one question.
5. We conclude with the repentance of Judas. He did repent; but it was the repentance that worketh death. The man who repents of consequences does not repent. The ruffian repents of the gallows but not of the murders and that is no repentance at all. Human law, of course, must measure sin by consequences, but God’s law does not. There is a pointsman on a railway who neglects his duty; there is a collision on the line, and people are killed; well, it is manslaughter to this man through his carelessness. But that pointsman, perhaps, many times before had neglected his duty, but no accident came of it, and then he walked home and said, “Well, I have done no wrong.” Now the wrong, mark you, is never to be measured by the accident, but by the thing itself, and if you have committed an offence and you have escaped undetected it is lust as vile in God’s eye; if you have done wrong and Providence has prevented the natural result of the wrong, the honour of that is with God, but you are as guilty as if your sin had been carried out to its fullest consequences, and the whole world set ablaze. Never measure sin by consequences, but repent of them as they are in themselves. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Treachery to Christ
I. Observe, THE PERSON ADDRESSED--Judas. One on whom the Saviour had conferred many benefits, and who had made an open profession of His name. Betrayest thou!
II. Observe, the PERSON SPEAKING--Jesus. The title which Jesus here assumes, in calling Himself the Son of Man, may teach us the following things--
1. That He is really and properly Man, as well as truly Divine.
2. The phrase, Son of Man, seems intended to denote the meanness of Christ’s origin, and the poverty of His outward condition.
3. Christ’s assumption of this character may teach us to consider Him as the Saviour of all nations; or of all that ever will be saved, out of every kindred, tongue, and people: He is not the Son of this or that particular people, but the Son of Man, and the Saviour of all them that believe, by whatever name they may be distinguished.
4. The term Son of Man seems to have been prefigured and foretold as a title which belonged to the expected Messiah.
III. THE QUESTION WHICH JESUS PUTS TO THE TRAITOR: “Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?” Improvement:
1. We have here a loud call to be jealous of our own hearts, and to exercise a holy watchfulness over them. More especially, if we regard our immortal interests, let us carefully avoid the following things--
(1) Self-confidence. The fear of falling is a good security against it.
(2) The secret indulgence of any sin: this was the ruin of Judas.
(3) Beware of a profession without principle, the form of godliness without the power. Those who have no root in themselves will soon wither away.
2. We see how far a person may go in the way to heaven, and yet fall short of it.
3. Let us admire and adore the infinite wisdom of God, who brought so much real good out of so much aggravated evil. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
He touched his ear, and healed him
Jesus the Restorer
Jesus wrought a miracle to repair the mischief which Peter had done. Thus, by one act, in one moment, Christ made Himself the repairer of the breach. The evil, which His follower had done, was cancelled; and, through the kind interposition of a special act, the injured man was none the worse--but rather the better--and the harm, of which a Christian had been the occasion, was neutralized by his Master. I do not know what we should any of us do if we might not hope that this is still one of the blessed offices of Christ. We go through life meaning to do good; but oh! how often--through some ignorance, or indiscretion, or self-will-doing exactly the reverse! Happy is it for us if we might believe that Christ comes after us to undo the harm--nay, that by one of His gracious transformations, He comes afterwards to turn to benefit the very thing which we have done hurtingly. In the retrospect of life there was, it may be, a long period before you knew God--when your influence was all on the wrong side; your example and your words were always for the world, and sometimes for what was positively sinful! How many a bad and well-nigh deadly “wound” must you have been making during those years upon the minds of those among whom your remarks and your actions were being flung about with such utter carelessness! How many a young companion, years back, may have learnt then to carry with him a life-long scar through some idle word of yours. Through the infinite patience, and the abounding grace of our God and Saviour, you have become a Christian; and you now love the Lord Jesus Christ as you love nothing else in earth or heaven; and, at this moment, you could not have a bitterer thought than to think that you had ever done anything to keep a soul from Jesus; or to give a moment’s pain to one of His little ones. Now, may you take it as one of the wonderful provisions of your new state--as one of the blessings into which you have been admitted--that the Christ, whom you now call yours, will prevent the consequences of what you did in those days of sinful blindness--that He will restore what you destroyed, that fins bloom to that delicate conscience, it may be, of one of your early friends; that He will rectify the ill--that He will “touch” with His own virtue the afflicted part, and that He will “heal” all that “wound.” Why may we not believe all this? Was not that the spirit of the Man, that night, when He stood upon the Mount of Olives? And is He not the same Restorer now? Do not think because man made your trouble, therefore God will not deal with the trouble. It rests with you. If you bring a sin to Christ believingly, He will take away that sin. If you bring a sorrow to Christ believingly, He will take away that sorrow. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Peter followed afar off
Decision of character enforced
WHAT IS IMPLIED IN FOLLOWING THE LORD AFAR OFF. Not giving the whole heart’s affection to Him.
II. WHAT USUALLY INDUCES ANY PERSONS TO DO SO.
1. The fear of man.
2. The love of the world.
III. WHY WE SHOULD DETERMINE TO FOLLOW HIM FULLY.
1. It is dishonourable to God to follow Him afar off.
2. It is ruinous to our peace to be undecided in religion.
3. To follow the Lord afar off is injurious to the general interests of religion.
Allow me, in closing, to inquire--
1. Do you follow the Lord at all?
2. If you are following the Lord, how are you following Him? Is your heart in your professed subjection to Jesus Christ.? What motive influences your conduct? (W. Mudge.)
I. THE MAN. A man of great natural audacity and force; coarse, homely, rugged, stout, tenacious, powerful, of that class of men, not large, who break down old wails, and bring in new ages. And yet a man of variable impulses, and of changeful moods. Under strong excitement, he stood firm as a granite rock. Hence his surname, “Peter.” But the quick heat might be quickly chilled. And then the granite crumbled. The rock became a sand-heap. His judgment could not always be trusted. His greatest strength was sometimes his greatest weakness. His large, warm heart over mastered him. It was hard for him to be parted from his friends. It was hard for him to go against the wishes and opinions of his associates. Even those with whom he might be casually in contact, had undue power over him; not from lack of positive convictions of his own, but because his great, hungry heart craved sympathy and fellowship. He wanted men to think well of him, and feel kindly towards him. An over-weening love of approbation was his one great weakness. And so he lay, as such men always do, very much at the mercy of his companions and his circumstances.
II. THE SIN OF PETER. There was really no excuse for it. Its was in no personal danger. All he had to fear was a momentary contempt from servants and soldiers. Yet the paltry desire of standing well in the estimation of those who happened to be about him, menials as they were, caused him to prove false to his Lord. Miserable man! It makes us blush to think of him; so brave in meeting swords and clubs, so cowardly in meeting sneers.
III. HIS REPENTANCE. The reproving look of Christ, standing meek among His buffeters, and soon to start for Cavalry, was too much for the false and recreant disciple. “He wept bitterly,” they tell us; and we may well believe it, for he was at heart a good, true, brave man, and when he came to himself he despised and abhorred himself for the momentary weakness which had allowed him so basely to deny his Lord … And so his character stands before us in proportions that do not appal and mock us as something quite miraculous and above our reach. While we stand in awe of him as an apostle, we are able to embrace him as a man, and walk on after him towards heaven. Nay, our interest in him is altogether peculiar. Majestic in his original endowments, we admire him. Inexcusable in his fall, we pity him. Elastic and fearless in his subsequent career, we accept it as a full and glorious atonement for every slip and every error of his life. If he was cowardly in the courtyard of Caiaphas, he made up for it by being a hero at his crucifixion, when he asked his tormentors to nail him to the cross with his feet turned upwards into heaven.
IV. THE PRACTICAL BEARING OF OUR SUBJECT is direct and obvious. It might not be quite right theologically, to thank God for Peter’s sin. But since he did sin, we certainly ought to be very thankful for the record of it. Had Judas alone offended, afterwards perishing by his own hands, and sinking to his own place, Christians, once sinning, might well grow desperate. Had Peter stood, as John did, unshaken and unsullied, our hard struggle with manifold infirmities would be far harder than it is. But now we have a sinning Peter before us; an apostle grievously sinning, but grandly recovered. And while we blush to look upon him, there is comfort in the sight. Be encouraged, my feeble, imperfect, wavering brother, not indeed to sin, nor yet to think lightly of sin; but if you have sinned, to go and sin no more. Remorse belongs to Judas. Penitence to Peter. Penitence, and a better life. (R. D. Hitchcock, D. D.)
The Lord turned and looked up in Peter
Peter’s sin and restoration
I. A grievous sin.
1. Its elements.
2. Its aggravations.
(1) His close connection with Christ.
(2) His recent special privileges.
(3) The repeated warnings given him.
(4) His strong professions of devotion
(5) The urgent demands of the time and place.
3. Its instigations.
(1) The failure was surprisingly sudden;
(2) of brief duration;
(3) never repeated.
4. Its chief causes.
(2) Blindness to near danger.
(3) Neglect of precautions.
(4) The fear of derision.
II. A GRACIOUS RESTORATION.
1. How was it brought about?
(1) By a predicted coincidence (Luke 22:60).
(2) By the Saviour’s penetrating glance (Luke 22:61).
(3) By the action of memory.
2. What proof have we of its genuineness?
(1) His contrite sorrow.
(2) His amended life.
1. The weakness of the strongest.
2. The sufficiency of Christ’s grace. (M. Braithwaite.)
The repentance of St. Peter
First we learn the possibility of perfect repentance after grace has been forfeited; of a return to God from sin committed after special favours and gifts of love. Further, there was a wonderful mercy overruling St. Peter’s fall, bringing out of it even greater good. It was made to teach him what otherwise he seemed unable to learn. He needed to learn distrust of self. And thou who despondest at some past fall, hast thou no similar lesson to learn of deeper humility, of closer dependence on God? Hast thou had no self-trust? Has thy strength always been in prayer and watching? And the key-note of his Epistles is--“Be clothed with humility.” “Be sober, and watch unto prayer.” May not this be thy case--that the foundations of thy life need to be laid lower, in a more perfect self-abasement; a deeper humility: a more entire leaning upon God, a more complete abandonment of all high thoughts, independence of will, self glorying, vanity, spirit of contradiction, and such-like; that beginning afresh, these hindrances being removed, thou mayest hide thyself from thyself, hide thyself in a perpetual recollection of the Divine presence and support, as the only stay and safeguard of thy frail, ever-falling humanity? Moreover, St. Peter is not merely the assurance to us of the possibility of a perfect restoration after falling from God, he is also the model of all true penitents. The first main element of St. Peter’s recovery was a spirit of self-accusation, a ready acknowledgment of sin and error. Here, then, is one essential element of true repentance--self-accusation at the feet of Jesus. And how needful a lesson to learn well. The saddest part of our sin is, that we are so slow to confess it. Sin ever gathers round it an array of self-defences. Subtleties and evasions, special pleadings, shrinkings from humiliation, lingerings of pride, all gather round the consciousness of sin, and rise up instantly to hinder the only remedy of guilt, the only hope of restoration. Again, from St. Peter we learn that faith is a main element of restoration, preserved to him through the intercession of his Lord--“I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” Now faith is not the belief of any particular dogma, nor is it the same as a spirit of assurance, neither is it any peculiar feeling appropriating some special promise; but it is the bent, the aim of the whole soul. It is the prevailing direction of all the powers of man toward God; it is the apprehension of the inner man embracing, grasping the invisible; living in things which are unseen and eternal, and raising him out of the sphere of sight which lives in things that are temporal. Faith may lay hold of one particular promise at one time, of another at another. And thus he had learnt to regard sin in the light of another world--sin abstractedly in itself, as a loss of spiritual life, as a thing abhorrent to God, as an utter contrariety to all that his soul was aspiring after. To rise thus above all the worldly consequences of sin, all its mere temporal effects, to read one’s sin in the light of God’s countenance, to view it as we shall view it on our death-bed, stripped of all accidents, with its awful consequences, as we pass into eternity--this is the attribute of faith; and through the preservation of his faith, as our Lord assures us, St. Peter arose from his fall. Oh! how much need have we to pray, “Lord, increase our faith”; that we may see our sins in their true form and colour. The sense of sin depends on our view of sanctity. As we grow better, we see sin clearer. As we have more of God, we realize evil more vividly. The greatest saints are therefore the deepest penitents. The bright light of purity in which they live sets off more vividly the darkness of the spots which stain the field of their souls’ life. The more they advance, the more truly they repent. As, e.g., we see more the power of truth, the more we are ashamed of our deceits. As we perceive love and largeness of heart, so we despise our selfishness. The more God shines into us, the more we loathe our own vileness. We judge by the contrast. There is one more feature of a true repentance which is exhibited in St. Peter. His repentance turned upon his love of the person of Christ. This had been long the moving principle of his life. His indignation at the idea of his Master’s suffering: his refusing to be washed before the administration of the blessed Sacrament; his taking the sword, and then striking with it; his entering the judgment-hall--were all impulses of a fervent, though unchastened, love--a love to our Lord’s person. And this was the secret power of that look which our Lord, when He turned, cast upon him. It may seem as though St. Peter’s love to our Lord were too human, too much that of a man toward his fellow. It did indeed need chastening, increased reverence, more of that deep, adoring awe which St. John earlier learnt; and which St. Peter learnt at last in the shame and humiliations of his fall. But love to our Lord must needs be human--human in its purest, highest form. The Incarnation of God has made an essential change in the relations between God and man, and so in the love that binds us. He took our nature, and abideth in that nature. He is Man eternal, as He is God eternal. He loves, and will evermore love us, in that nature, and through its sensations, and He draws us to love Him through the same nature, with the impulse of which humanity is capable. He loved with a human love, and He is to be loved in return with a human love. He consecrated the human affections to Himself in His human form as their proper end, so that through His humanity they might centre upon the eternal Godhead. Love is of the very essence of repentance, and love is ever associated with a person, and the true movement of the deepening and enduring love of penitents circles around the Person of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. In conclusion, I would briefly point out two habits of devotion necessary to be cherished, in order that the grace of such a repentance as we have been contemplating may be the more worked in us. One is the habit of meditation on the Person of Jesus Christ. Again, love can be cherished only by habitual intercourse, or ever-renewed inward feeding on the beloved object. If there be no converse, or communion of thought, love must decline and die. And how can an invisible person become the object of love, except by inward contemplation? But it is not in the nature of the human heart to love another, unless that other become a constant companion, or unless his beauty and amiableness become strongly impressed on the soul, and be borne always in remembrance. The grace of God moves and operates according to the laws of humanity. Grace is above nature, but it is according to nature. It acts on nature, and raises nature up to tile level of God, but is human still. What, then, would stir the heart to love according to nature, the same will stir the heart to love above nature. And what is this but the contemplation of the object, followed by an habitual feeding upon it? The second point is this: we must learn to measure the guilt of our sins by the sorrows of God in the flesh. We have no proper rule of our own by which to measure the guilt or sin. Sin has ruined this lower creation of God. Sin brought the flood and the fire of Sodom, and it has in its train disease, and famine, and war. It has created death, and made death eternal. All these are as certain rules and proportions by which we can form some estimate of the guilt of sin. But they are partial and imperfect measures, after all. The only true and adequate measure is the blood of God Incarnate and the sorrows of His sacred heart. Learn, then, to look at sin in this connection--not sin in the aggregate, but individual sins. Measure by this price the special besetting sin of thy nature. Weigh it in the scale against the weight of the sacrifice which bowed to the cross the Incarnate God. (Canon T. T. Carter)
Peter’s presumptuous sin and sorrowful repentance
I. CONFIDENCE AND PRESUMPTION ARE VERY UNPROMISING SIGNS OF STEDFASTNESS AND PERSEVERANCE IN RELIGION. Trust in God is one thing, and trust in ourselves is another; and there is reason to think that they will differ as much in the success that attends them as they do in the powers upon which they are founded. It is in vain for you to promise yourselves a superiority under trials and temptations, unless you lay the right foundation, by imploring the aid and assistance of God’s Holy Spirit, whose province only it is to confirm the faithful to the end.
II. From this example of St. Peter we may learn also WHAT LITTLE REASON THERE IS TO PROMISE OURSELVES SUCCESS AGAINST TEMPTATIONS WHICH ARE OF OUR OWN SEEKING. St. Peter had warning given him, and was told by One whose word he might have taken, that he was not able to undergo the trial, which he seemed so much to despise. But try he would, and learnt to know his own weakness in his miscarriage. God knows our strength better than we ourselves do; and therefore, when He has warned us to avoid the occasions of sin, and to fly from the presence of the enemy, it is presumption to think ourselves able to stand the attack, and our preparations to meet the danger must be vain and ineffectual. When we strive not lawfully, even victory is dis-honourable, and no success can justify disobedience to orders.
III. From the example of St. Peter we may learn now GREAT THE ADVANTAGES OF REGULAR AND HABITUAL HOLINESS ARE. Good Christians, though they may fall like other men through passion, or presumption, or other infirmities, yet the way to their repentance is more open and easy; their minds, not being hardened by sin, are awakened by the gentlest calls, and the sense of virtue revives upon the first motion and suggestions of conscience. St. Peter fell, and his fall was very shameful; but his repentance was as surprising and remarkable as his fall.
IV. You may observe that THE SINS OF THE BEST MEN ARE EXPIATED WITH THE GREATEST SENSE OF SORROW AND AFFLICTION. It is impossible to have a sense of religion, to think of God and ourselves as we ought to do, without being affected with the deepest sorrow for our offences. When men are truly concerned, they do not consider what they are to get by their tears, or what profit their sorrow will yield. The soul must vent its grief; and godly sorrow is as truly the natural expression of an inward pain as worldly sorrow, however they differ in their causes and objects. (Bishop Sherlock.)
Peter’s sin, and Peter’s repentance
I. PETER’S SIN.
1. The sin itself. It was the denial of his Lord. He denied that he knew Jesus. He was ashamed to own his connection with Jesus. And he yielded to the impulse of his shame and base fear.
2. But, secondly, let us attend to the circumstances of Peter’s sin. We cannot take the measure of it, or see it in a just light, till these are considered. The circumstances are of two sorts.
(1) In the first place, there are the aggravating circumstances--
(a) The first circumstance of an aggravating nature was the rank he held among the followers of Jesus. Peter was more than an ordinary disciple. He was one of the twelve. He was an apostle. Moreover, he was one of the three nearest to the Lord in intercourse and love.
(b) The second circumstance of aggravation was, that Peter had been warned of his danger.
(c) It was also an aggravating circumstance in the case, that Peter had made great professions. When we read the sad story of his threefold denial, we are disposed to exclaim, What can this mean? Is this the bold confessor who was the first to avow his faith in the Messiahship of Jesus?
(d) Fourthly, Peter’s sin took aa aggravation from the circumstance that it was committed in the presence of Jesus.
(e) Peter denied his Lord at a time of love. He had just received the Holy Communion. And now the Passion of the Saviour was begun:
(2) The extenuating circumstances in Peter’s case. It is no less important to mark these, than to consider, as has been done, such as were of an aggravating nature.
(a) First, then, it was an extenuating circumstance that he was surprised into the commission of his sin. The denial of his Lord was not deliberate.
(b) Secondly, an important circumstance of extenuation was, that the sin was contrary to the tenor of Peter’s life.
(c) It should not be overlooked, that it seems to have been Peter’s love for Christ that exposed him to the temptation by which he was overcome.
(d) Fourthly, Peter was comparatively ignorant. Some allowance must be made, in the case of our apostle, for the prejudices which affected the universal Jewish mind. We must not judge him as if he had understood, as we do, or as he himself did afterwards, by what means it was that the peculiar work of Jesus, as the Messiah, was to be accomplished.
(e) It is fit we should remember that the hour and the power of darkness were come.
II. PETER’S REPENTANCE.
1. Its origin.
(1) Christ’s prayer was the procuring cause of it.
(2) The instrumental cause.
(a) Christ’s look.
(b) Christ’s word.
(3) The influence of the Spirit of God was the efficient cause.
2. The signs, tokens, and manifestation of Peter’s repentance.
(1) He went out. A change came over his feelings, and he could remain no longer in the society of the irreligious servants and officers.
(2) He deeply mourned for his sin.
(3) He sought the society of Christ’s disciples.
(4) His love to the Lord revived.
3. The acceptance of Peter’s repentance.
(1) A message sent through the holy women.
(2) Christ’s interview with him alone.
(3) The more public interview in Galilee.
4. Peter’s repentance thus graciously accepted, what were the issues of it? He was the boldest of the bold, from that time forward, in confessing Christ. There was less boasting than there had been before; but he never flinched again. There were no more denials. (A. Gray.)
I. First, LET US LOOK AT THE LORD, WHO LOOKED UPON PETER.
1. I see in that look, first, that which makes me exclaim--What thoughtful love! Jesus is bound, He is accused, He has just been smitten on the face, but His thought is of wandering Peter. He looked to others, but He never looked to Himself. I see, then, in our Lord’s looking upon Peter, a wondrously thoughtful love.
2. I exclaim next, what a boundless condescension! He had acted most shamefully and cruelly, and yet the Master’s eye sought him out in boundless pity!
3. But then, again, What tender wisdom do I see here! “The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.” He knew best what to do; He did not speak to him, but looked upon him.
4. As I think of that look again, I am compelled to cry out, “What Divine power is here! This lock worked wonders. I sometimes preach with all my soul to Peter, and, alas! he likes my sermon and forgets it. I have known Peter read a good book full of most powerful pleading, and when he has read it through, he has shut it up and gone to sleep. I remember my Peter when he lost his wife, and one would have thought it would have touched him, and it did, with some natural feeling; yet he did not return to the Lord, whom he had forsaken, but continued in his backsliding. See, then, how our Lord can do with a look what we cannot do with a sermon, what the most powerful writer cannot do with hundreds of pages, and what affliction cannot do with even its heaviest stroke.
II. LET US LOOK INTO THE LOOK WHICH THE LORD GIVE TO PETER. Help us again, most gracious Spirit!
1. That look was, first of all, a marvellous refreshment to Peter’s memory, “The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.” He saw the Man whom he loved as he had never seen Him before. This was He who called him, when he was fishing, to become a fisher of men; this was He who bade him spread the net, and caused him to take an incredible quantity of fishes, insomuch that the boat began to sink, and he cried out, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord”; this was He who had made him walk on the water, and at other times had rebuked the winds, and raised the dead. This was He with whom Peter had been upon the Mount of Transfiguration!
2. Next, that turning of the Master was a special reminder of His warning words. Jesus did not say it in words, but He did more than say it by His look. “Ah, Peter! did not I tell you it would be so?”
3. Surely it was, also, a moving appeal to Peter’s heart.
4. What do you think that look chiefly said? My thought about it, as I turned it over, was this: When the Lord looked upon Peter, though He did refresh his memory, and make an appeal to his conscience, yet there was still more evidently a glorious manifestation of love. If I may be permitted humbly and reverently to read what was written on my Master’s face, I think it was this--“And yet I love thee, Peter, I love thee still! Thou hast denied Me, but I look upon thee still as Mine. I cannot give thee up.”
5. Again, this look penetrated Peter’s inmost heart. It is not every look that we receive that goes very deep.
6. One fact may not escape our notice: our Lord’s look at Peter was a revival of all Peter’s looking unto Jesus. The Lord’s look upon Peter took effect because Peter was looking to the Lord. Do you catch it? If the Lord had turned and looked on Peter, and Peter’s back had been turned on the Lord, that look would not have reached Peter, nor affected him. The eyes met to produce the desired result.
7. This look was altogether between the Lord and Peter. Nobody knew that the Lord looked on Peter, except Peter and his Lord. That grace which saves a soul is not a noisy thing; neither is it visible to any but the receiver.
III. Now I must go to my third point: LET US LOOK AT PETER AFTER THE LORD HAD LOOKED AT HIM. What is Peter doing?
1. When the Lord looked on Peter the first thing Peter did was to feel awakened. Peter’s mind bad been sleeping.
2. The next effect was, it took away all Peter’s foolhardiness from him. Peter had made his way into the high priest’s hall, but now he made his way out of it.
3. The look of Christ severed Peter from the crowd. He was no longer among the fellows around the fire. He had not another word to say to them; he quitted their company in haste. It is well for believers to feel that they are not of the world. Oh, that the arrows of the great Lord would this morning pierce some soul even as a huntsman wounds a stag! Oh, that the wounded soul, like Peter, would seek solitude! The stag seeks the thicket to bleed and die alone; but the Lord will come in secret to the wounded heart, and draw out the arrow.
4. That look of Christ also opened the sluices of Peter’s heart; he went out, and wept bitterly. There was gall in the tears he wept, for they were the washings of his hitter sorrow.
5. Yet I want you to notice that that look of Christ gave him relief. It is a good thing to be able to weep. Those who cannot weep are the people that suffer most. A pent-up sorrow is a terrible sorrow. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Condemned by a look
When Sapores, King of Persia, raised a violent persecution against the Christians, Usthezanes, aa old nobleman, a courtier, that had served in Sapores’ government in his minority, being a Christian, was so terrified that he left off his profession. But he, sitting at the court-gate when Simon, an aged holy bishop, was leading to prison, and rising up to salute him, the good bishop frowned upon him and turned away his face with indignation, as being loth to look upon a man that had denied the faith: Usthezanes fell a weeping, went into his chamber, put off his courtly attire, and broke out into these words: “Ah, how shall I appear before the great God of heaven whom I have denied, when Simon, but a man, will not endure to look upon me; if he frown, how will God behold me when I come before his tribunal?” The thought of God’s judgment-seat wrought so strongly upon him, that he recovered his spiritual strength, and died a glorious martyr. (Spencer.)
Dr. Moody Stewart was once praising some preacher to Dr. Duncan, who said, “He’s too unbroken for me; plenty of learning and talents, but too unbroken yet.” You speak about being broken in business, do you know anything of being broken in heart? The man who has been broken himself will he tender to other broken men. There is a story told in the Early Church how, if the cock crowed when Peter was preaching and the echoes came into the Church, he could go no further. The sermon was cut short; but when he began again there would be an unction and tenderness in it which would satisfy the most broken sinner in the congregation. (J. Whyte.)
God connects His moral commands with natural objects
Instead of giving His moral command as a mere abstract announcement addressed only to the ear, which would then be in danger of being forgotten, He linked His words with objects which appealed to the eye, and were fitted to call up, when the eye rested upon them, the moral ideas connected with them. Though driven out of Eden, God has pursued the same plan in educating and disciplining man out of the consequences of the fall, as He pursued in Eden to keep him from falling. He connected his whole moral history as closely as before with the objects around him. Everything with which he deals preaches to him. The thorns and thistles coming up in his cultivated fields remind him of the curse; and the difficulties and disabilities which he finds in earning his daily bread are proofs and punishments to him of his sin. As truly as God made the tree of life to be a sacrament, as it were, in the midst of Eden, to keep alive in Adam’s heart perpetually the conditions of life; as truly as Jesus associated the moral lesson to Peter with the crowing of the cock, so truly does God still make nature one of the great powers by which dead consciences and sluggish memories are awakened. Our moral experiences and actions are thus as closely linked with the trees and flowers as they were in Paradise. In our progress through life we are continually impressing our own moral history upon the objects around us; and these objects possess the power of recalling it, and setting it before us in all its vividness, even after the lapse of many years. Our feelings and actions pass from ourselves and become a part of the constitution of nature, become subtle powers pervading the scenes in which we felt and performed them. They endow the inanimate earth itself with a kind of consciousness, a kind of moral testimony which may afterwards witness for or against us. We cannot live in any place, or go through any scene, without leaving traces of ourselves behind in it; without mixing up our own experiences with its features, taking its inanimate things into our confidence, unbosoming ourselves to them, colouring them with our own nature, and placing ourselves completely in their power. They keep a silent record of what we are and do in the associations connected with our thoughts and actions; and that record they unfold for us to read when at any time we come into contact with them. And hence the significance of God’s own words, “He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people.” There is a moral purpose, as I have said, in all this. It is not for the mere vivifying of our feelings of pleasure or pain that the objects of nature are endowed with this strange power of association. God meant it to perform a most important part in our moral training. He meant it to remind us of sins which we should otherwise have forgotten, and to awaken our consciences that would otherwise have slumbered. By associating our sinful thoughts and actions with outward objects, He designed that they should be brought and kept before us in all their reality in order to produce the proper impression upon us, instead of allowing them to sink into the vague, ghostly abstractions which past sins are apt to become in the mind. And not seldom has this silent power of witness-bearing, which lurks in the scenes and objects of nature, been felt by guilty men, bringing them to a sense of their guilt. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
The effect of an external agency, in order to quicken a dead conscience and reuse a torpid memory
George MacDonald, in his story of “Robert Falconer,” relates a well-authenticated incident of a notorious convict in one of our colonies having been led to reform his ways, through going one day into a church, where the matting along the aisle happened to be of the same pattern as that in the little English church where he worshipped with his mother when a boy. That old familiar matting vividly recalled the memories of childhood, “the mysteries of the kingdom of innocence,” which had long been hid and overpowered by the sins and sufferings of later years. An unfortunate outcast, sunk in misery and vice, wandering in the streets of a large city, meets suddenly a child carrying a bunch of some common wild flowers--hawthorn, cowslips, or violets. A chord is touched which has long slumbered in the outcast’s bosom. The innocent past comes back; the little child sitting on the fond mother’s knee; the long, happy wanderings in the summer woods and hawthorn-shaded lanes; the cottage home, with all its old-fashioned ways and dear delights; all this sweeps over her like a blissful dream at the sight or smell of these humble wild flowers. Overpowered by the recollections of the past, and the awful contrast between what she was and might have been and what she is now, she turns away and weeps bitterly, perhaps to see at that moment the tender, reproachful eye of Him whom she has long denied, fixed upon her, and to hear His words of pity, “Go in peace, and sin no more.” Two young men are spending their last evening together amid the rural scenes in which they have been bred. They are going up to the great city on the morrow to push their fortunes, and are talking over their plans. While they are conversing, one of those little Italian boys who penetrate to the remotest nooks with their hurdy-gurdies, comes up and plays several tunes, which attract their attention, and draw from them a few coins. The young men part. One prospers by industry and talent; the other gives himself up to dissipation, is sent adrift, and becomes a wreck. Worn out with debauchery, and in the last stage of disease, he sends for his former friend. They meet; and at that moment the sound of a hurdy-gurdy is heard in the street. It is the little Italian boy playing the same tunes which he played on that well-remembered evening when the friends bade farewell to the country. It wanted but this to fill up the cup of the dying man’s shame and sorrow. All that he has hazarded for the pleasures of the city comes rushing upon his memory. He has lost his money, his health, his character, his peace of mind, and his hope of heaven; and he has gained in exchange sorrow, pain, privation, an insupportable weariness of life, and a dread of death. That sound of the Italian hurdy-gurdy comes to him like the crowing of the cock to Peter. It is the turning point of his life. It awakens within him “the late remorse of love”; and he dies in the peace of Divine pardon and acceptance. All these are not mere fancy pictures; they are true to life; they have often happened, and the number of them might be indefinitely increased. Such examples impress upon our minds the solemn truth that there is nothing really forgotten in this world. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
Lessons from the fall of St. Peter
1. Mark and admire the honesty and impartiality of the sacred historians. All four state this blot on Peter’s character; and their combined account presents it fully and with many dreadful aggravations.
2. Let the example of Christ, in this case, teach us to pity and to seek to restore the fallen.
3. Let us consider Peter’s denial of his Lord as a warning to us all. We may soon become very guilty, and be exposed to shame in an unguarded moment; and there is hardly any sin we may not be guilty of, if left to ourselves.
4. Let us be on our guard against the particular causes that led more immediately to Peter’s fall.
(3) Fear of man.
(4) False shame.
(5) Bad company.
5. Let those who, like Peter, have fallen, imitate Peter in his repentance. (James Foote, M. A.)
The repentance of Peter
I. PETER’S REPENTANCE.
1. The repentance of Peter is ascribed, in the first instance, to a circumstance apparently unimportant. The crowing of a cock. How observant then ought we to be o! all which surrounds or befals us; and how anxious to obtain from it instruction in righteousness!
2. The text ascribes it also to the interposition of Christ. Without this, the warning voice of the cock would have been heard in vain.
3. But what followed the look which the compassionate Saviour directed towards His fallen apostle? It was a look of the mildest reproof and the tenderest pity, but the lightning’s flash could not have done more. Piercing his heart, it produced there that serious reflection from which his contrition sprung.
II. PETER’S SORROW.
1. His sorrow was of a softening nature. “He wept.” It was not that horror of soul, which has its origin solely in fear, and leaves the heart as hard as it finds it. It was the sorrow which springs from love, and fill the breast with the tenderest emotions, while it disquiets and humbles it.
2. But the sorrow of Peter was acute, as well as softening. He not only wept, but he wept” bitterly.” And bitterly does every sinner weep, who really bewails his transgressions.
3. The sorrow of Peter was, further, a secret sorrow; a grief which sought retirement. “He went out” when he wept. Not that he was now afraid to acknowledge Christ, or unwilling to condemn himself for the crime which he had committed; but like penitent Ephraim, “he was ashamed, yea, even confounded”; and he sought where to give vent to his sorrow unseen, and to implore undisturbed that mercy which he so greatly needed. And every real penitent is often “sitting alone.” Flying from scenes of vanity which he once loved, and from society which his folly once enlivened, he retires to his closet, and there, when he has shut his door, he communes with his heart, prays to his offended Father, and weeps.
III. WHAT EFFECTS PETER’S REPENTANCE AFTERWARDS PRODUCED.
1. An increasing love for his Lord.
2. Greater zeal and boldness in the service of Christ. (C. Bradley, M. A.)
I. THE LOOK OF JESUS. We cannot picture to ourselves the countenance he exhibited, or the point and pungency of the sentiment it conveyed; but I observe it was doubtless the look of offended dignity; it was the look of insulted friendship; it was the look of betrayed confidence; it was the look of keen and humiliating reproof, and such reproof the whole of Peter’s conduct justly merited. I observe, further, that the look of Jesus was a look which conveyed conviction. And, once more, it was a look of compassion. What a conflict of feeling must have been produced by the emotions displayed on this deeply interesting occasion. Humbled by reproof, pursued by conviction, melted by love, what tongue can describe his grief, or what artist give a hue sufficiently deep to the manifestation of his contrition I These are the feelings--a knowledge of which must be acquired in the most impressive and affecting school in the world. These are feelings--a knowledge of which must be acquired on Mount Calvary. The man who has been brought to look on Him whom he has pierced has an idea more clear, a conception more strong of the feelings of Peter than the art of eloquence, or the line of the pencil can convey.
II. THE RECOLLECTIONS WHICH THE LOOK OF JESUS REVIVED.
1. The recollection of previous obligation.
2. The recollection of oft-repeated and solemn protestations of fidelity and affection.
3. The recollection of the scene at the Last Supper.
III. THE EFFECTS PRODUCED.
1. The retirement he sought. True repentance flies to solitude, and shrinks even from sympathy.
2. The depth of his sorrow.
1. Consolation to those who, like Peter, weep bitterly in secret. Special news of Christ’s resurrection sent to Peter: “Seek him in his solitude, and tell him that the Lord waits with open arms to receive him.”
2. But remember that the great moral of the whole is caution. Learn, therefore, by way of application in the first place, the necessity of guarding vigilantly against the approaches of temptation. Learn, secondly, from this subject, the necessity of prudence in making a profession, but of integrity in acting up to it when it is made. Learn, then, in the last place, the necessity of decision of character in matters of religion. (J. Thorp.)
The Saviour’s look upon Peter
Doubtless it was a look of blended significance. There must have been in the Saviour’s countenance an expression of mingled emotions. At a single glance there may have been conveyed to Peter what would have required many words to express.
I. It doubtless spoke to him REPROOF. An impressive reminder of the great wrong he had done.
II. It was, too, a GRIEVED LOOK. Such a look as a kind mother turns upon a wayward son who has wronged her.
III. It was, at the same time, A PITYING LOOK. The Saviour felt for Peter in his wretched condition. Forgetting His own great impending sorrows, He had it in His heart to sympathize with poor, unhappy Peter. He knew that, notwithstanding all he had done, he was a genuine disciple, and that the time of reflection would soon come, when he would be overwhelmed with grief.
IV. And, still further, it was a FORGIVING LOOK. The Lord knew how deep would be Peter’s self-reproach and anguish of soul when he came to himself, and that he would be tempted to despair of forgiveness. So by this look he would inspire him with hope. (Christian at Work.)
Knowledge of self through Christ
He remembered. He realized under the eye of Jesus what he had been doing. A glance of God into his soul revealed his loss of himself. Beholding his Lord, as he stood in the calm triumph of His Divine manhood looking into his timid soul, he could not help knowing himself in his weakness and shame. Not a word was spoken. God does not need to speak to judge us. He will only need to look upon us. One look of divinity is enough to convince of sin. Peter the denier, under the eye of the Son of God, became at once Peter the penitent. And we know how afterwards Peter the penitent became Peter the man--firm as the rock--the true Peter, hero of faith, and made worthy at last of meeting and returning with joy the look of the risen and ascended Lord among the sons of God on high. These effects of Jesus’ flashings of God upon Peter show very simply and plainly Jesus’ method of convincing men of sin, and of lifting them up through repentance to real and everlasting manliness. No man ever felt Jesus’ eye upon him, and went away without a look into his own heart which he had never had so clearly before. Some men went away from Christ to the judgment. The thoughts of many hearts, as Simeon foresaw, were revealed by him. Jesus’ gospel, therefore, being thus intensely personal, real, and revealing, is the most honest thing in this whole world. It is no form, no fiction of life, no exaggeration of feeling, no mere speech about God and the world to come; it is the one essentially and perfectly honest thing in this world of words and forms and fictions of life. Now let me specify two or three particulars which are brought out in Jesus’ revelation of men to themselves. He made men, whom His divinity searched, understand that they were personally responsible for their own real characters. He did not allow His disciples to condemn men for their misery, or their misfortunes, or the consequences of their circumstances, or any of those influences which meet from beyond their own wills in men’s lives. But He made every soul of man realize that within life’s circumstances there is a living centre of personal responsibility. Jesus made men understand, also, that in their sinning they have to do with personal beings. We do not sin against abstractions, or against a system of commandments only; we are persons in a society of persons of which God is the centre and the source. All sin is against the realities of a most personal universe. Sin strikes against beings. Peter sinned against the Lord who had chosen him, and who was about to die for him. The sinfulness of sin is not that it is simply a transgression of a law; but it beats against love. All sin is against love, against all love; for it is sin against the living, personal being of God. Again, as Jesus Christ showed men themselves in their sins, he showed them also that those sins of theirs are something which God cannot endure for ever. They must not be. They shall not be. God cannot always endure them, and be the God He is. Jesus said He did not come to judge the world; and yet again He said, “Now is the judgment of this world.” God on high cannot suffer us to go on in this way for ever. He must redeem us and make us like Himself, or He must do something else worthy of Himself with us. This is morally certain. And one thing more is clear as a star in the mystery of Godliness. There is one thing more which we need to know which Jesus makes as bright as day in His gospel of God to man. When Peter was at Jesus’ knees saying in the first honest instinct of a man who saw himself, “I am a sinful man,” Jesus stood over him radiant like a God, and said, “Fear not.” Such is God’s lovely attitude towards every penitent at the feet of His Almightiness! Fear not! Sin is forgiven and all its darkness made bright in the love which reveals it. The cloud of our sky becomes a glory at the touch of the sun. If we will not come to the light to be made known and to be forgiven, then we remain in tile darkness. Penitence is holding ourselves up in God’s pure and infinite light, and letting Him shine our darkness away. Fear not; sin is vouchsafed forgiveness in the same love which it shows to sin, and condemns it. (Newman Smyth, D. D.)
Peter went out, and wept bitterly
I. OBSERVE HOW NEAR THE SIN OF PETER COMES TO THAT OF JUDAS.
1. Peter, like Judas, surrenders his Lord to His foes.
2. The sin of Peter, like that of Judas, was the act of an intimate and confidential friend.
3. This denial by Peter occurred immediately after the Supper, and after witnessing the agony of Christ in the garden.
4. Peter’s denial was in the face of his own protestations to the contrary, and of Christ’s recent and explicit warning.
5. Peter’s denial was aggravated by repetition, and at each repetition he contracted deeper guilt.
6. This sin of Peter was committed in the very presence and hearing of the Lord.
II. YET, WITH ALL THESE AGGRAVATIONS, THE SIN OF PETER MUST BE DISCRIMINATED FROM THAT OF JUDAS.
1. For instance, Peter’s sin was sudden, under strong temptation; while the sin of Judas was deliberate and long-premeditated.
2. Then, too, the motives by which the two were prompted--Peter, by a natural fear and the instinctive love of life; Judas, by the most sordid of all the passions that move the human heart--the base love of gold.
3. In Peter’s case there was no heart-denial of his Lord; it was only of the lips.
4. In Peter there was only the suppression of his discipleship.
III. CONSIDER THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE TWO MEN AFTER THEY ARE BROUGHT TO A RECOGNITION OF THEIR GUILT.
1. Judas is judicially abandoned; Peter, only temporarily deserted.
2. In the case of Judas there was only remorse; in that of Peter, sincere repentance.
3. In Judas there was a total and final rejection of Christ; in Peter, a loving return to Him.
4. Judas sealed his guilt by his suicide; Peter sealed his repentance by a life of consecration to his Master’s service.
1. You have the plainest evidence, in all the actions of Judas and of Peter, that they were flee and responsible, acting under the power of motives.
2. We see in Peter’s fall the wonderful discipline by which he was graciously prepared for his work, revealing to us that paradox of the gospel, how grace, in its power, brings evil out of good, and transmutes the poor, fallen, erring sinner into the accepted messenger of God.
3. These two, Judas and Peter, are the types, respectively, of the only two classes of sinners. The difference between sinner and saint is found in the behaviour of the two in respect to their sins--the one persisting in it, the other weeping bitterly. (B. M. Palmer, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Luke 22". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28