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The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ
I. In John’s way of living there was the beginning of a gospel spirit.
(b) Nonconformity to the world.
II. In John’s preaching and baptizing there was the beginning of the gospel doctrines and ordinances.
(a) Remission of sin upon a true repentance.
(b) Christ-His preeminence, power, and promises.
III. In John’s success there was the beginning of a gospel church. (M. Henry.)
The beginning of the gospel
This expression suggests-
I. Unexampled love.
II. A glorious epoch. To it all the old converge, from it all the old radiate. It was the planting of a moral sun in man’s heavens, the opening of a living fountain in man’s desert.
III. A magnificent progress. The beginning seemed very unpropitious and unpromising. For remedial truth was shut up in the breast of one lonely man, and He the son of a Jewish peasant. But what has it become? The solitary seed covers many acres with precious grain, the little spring has swollen into a majestic river, bearing on its bosom the soul of the world to a higher civilization, a purer faith, and a diviner morality. (Anon.)
The beginning of the gospel
I. A wonderful thing here begun. The gospel-good news, etc. One might have expected justice and wrath to make an end of sin and sinners, instead of a beginning of a new dispensation of mercy and love.
II. A wonderful beginning of this wonderful thing. So unostentatious-one man preaching in a wilderness; so solemn-one voice disturbing the silence; so novel-a way prepared for another man; so strangely answering to ancient prophecy.
III. This wonderful beginning of the wonderful new, was the beginning of the end of the wonderful old. Yet no one thought that a dispensation so solemnly inaugurated, marked by prophets, sustained by miracles, was having its death knell tolled by that one man in the wilderness. (J. C. Gray.)
The gospel of Jesus Christ
I. Our first theme is the gospel.
1. What is the gospel?
(1) That the word, both in Greek and English, originally means good news, glad tidings. Gospel is good news in the same sense that it was good news when you heard of the recovery of a parent or child.
(2) That it is good news from God to man-from heaven to earth-from the infinitely holy to the lowest depths of human wretchedness and sin. It is not good news from America to Europe; it is a voice from heaven, breaking through the silence or discord of our natural condition. Oh, could the tumult of this life cease to fill our ears, we might hear another sound-good news from God to each of us.
(3) That it is good news in relation to your sins, salvation, and eternity. It remedies the greatest evils and supplies the deepest wants of man.
2. Whose gospel it is. It is not an impersonal or abstract gospel; it is not the gospel of a man, nor yet of a distant God; it is the gospel born of God and man; it is described as the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
(1) It is “the gospel of Jesus,” that is, the good news of a Saviour.
(2) But it is also the gospel of Christ: the anointed Prophet, Priest, and King of His people.
(3) But who is sufficient for these things, or who is equal to the great work shadowed forth by these titles? The necessity of a Divine Person to assume this trust is evident from the nature of the trust itself; the Son of God is the Saviour and Prophet.
II. The beginning of the gospel.
1. Where did it begin of old?
(1) That the gospel as a message of salvation may be said to have begun in the eternal counsel of the Divine will; in the eternal purpose of the God who sent it. We must not regard the gospel as a sort of after thought to make good the failure of another method of salvation.
(2) That the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ was not in the New Testament, but in the Old; it began in the simple first promise to our first parents.
(3) The gospel may be said to have had a new beginning in the preparatory ministry of John the Baptist.
2. Where does this gospel begin now?
(1) That it begins for the most part in religious education-in the simple teaching at maternal knees.
(2) In the moving of the Holy Spirit.
(3) There are providential recommencements of the gospel both to communities and to individuals. (J. A. Alexander, D. D.)
The great scheme started
I. The most wonderful epoch in the annals of time.
II. The most wonderful production in the realm of literature. All the Bible is inspired: both Old and New Testaments:
1. By the meaning of the language used in the Bible when speaking of itself.
2. From the unity of idea underlying the entire record.
3. From the teaching of Christ in regard to it.
This gospel is the most wonderful production in the realm of literature.
1. Because of the age of the book.
2. Because of the number of men who took part in its authorship.
3. The scope and spirit of its teaching.
4. Because of its universal adaptation.
5. Because of the effects it produces. (T. Kelly.)
The origin of the gospel
This short verse contains four great wonders.
1. The greatest wonder of heaven-“the Son of God.”
2. The greatest wonder of humanity-“Jesus Christ the Son of God.”
3. The greatest wonder of all knowledge-“the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
4. The most wonderful era-“the beginning of the gospel.”
I. There was an abstract or absolute beginning to the gospel in the Divine mind. The love, pity, wisdom of God were the sources of the gospel.
II. The gospel had a prophetic beginning in the first revelations made to Adam, the patriarchs and prophets. “To Him gave all the prophets witness.”
III. The gospel had its actual beginning in the ministry of John and the incarnation of Jesus.
IV. The gospel had an efficacious beginning which is to be dated from the death of Christ. Until then nothing efficient was done.
V. The gospel had an operative or practical beginning in the commission given to the apostles after the resurrection-“Beginning at Jerusalem.”
VI. The gospel viewed in its whole history, hitherto is but yet at its beginning. It has only begun to bless and save mankind.
VII. When the great consummation of its triumph is come we shall only be at the beginning of the gospel. It will have no end. Has it had a beginning in you? (The Evangelist.)
Unity and progress of Divine dispensations
I. The gospel has had three beginnings, yet each of them may be spoken of as the beginning.
1. In the Divine counsels, when it was but a thought.
2. In the incarnation, when it became a Person.
3. In believers, when it becomes a new creation.
II. One beginning of the gospel is always introductory to another.
1. The thought.
2. The agent or representative.
3. The result. Divine revelation is always consistent and progressive.
III. No beginning of the gospel can be true and effectual except as it leads to a spiritual consummating. The prophets pointed to John, John to Jesus, Jesus to the Holy Ghost. This shows
(1) The transitoriness of all mere ceremony;
(2) the uselessness of all mere knowledge;.
(3) the possibility of the highest fellowship with God.
IV. Lesson to pioneers. A man only works well in proportion as he knows the measure of his power and the limit of his mission. When the frame maker mistakes himself for the painter, art is degraded. It does not follow that because a man knows the alphabet, he can write a book. The pioneer must never go in the king’s clothes. April cannot do the work of August. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The commencement of the gospel
I. Contemplate the gospel as a progressive revelation.
II. This commencement of the gospel was important
(1) As the only true revelation of God;
(2) as the only true revelation of man.
III. The commencement of the gospel was happy.
1. Because the commencement of the gospel delivered from the tyranny of the law.
2. Because it provided an escape from the dire consequences of sin.
3. Because it unfolded the happy destiny of the race.
IV. The commencement of the gospel was hopeful. Learn-
1. God’s consideration for the need of man.
2. The self-consistency of a gospel thus gradually unfolded.
3. That it should be our continued endeavour to reproduce the gospel in our lives. (Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
The first sentence of this gospel is the title to the whole of it-“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Here again is a characteristic form of expression. This evangelist uses the word “began” over and over again, a score of times at least. Jesus “began to teach” (Mark 4:1); the multitude “began to implore Him to depart” (Mark 5:17); the leper “began to publish” the miracle (Mark 1:45); Christ “began to send out” the twelve (Mark 6:7); the soldiers “began to mock Him” (Mark 15:18); revilers “began to spit on Him” (Mark 14:65). The tale is just full of “beginnings” all through to the end.
I. It began first in the purpose of the Almighty Father. See how Mark brings this out by his double quotation from the old and long-dead prophets. There was certainly a plan of redemption before a man was redeemed-“Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world.” We cannot help thinking Mark knew in the outset what wonderful matters he had to record. For here, all driven up compactly together, is found the finest group of first things in the New Testament: the first sermon on repentance, the first baptism of a convert, the first sensible manifestation of the Holy Ghost, the first voice from heaven in recognition of Jesus’ office and glory, the first fight with Beelzebub, and the first victory over temptation. This did not happen so; it must have been ordered so. Thus the gospel began in God’s purpose.
II. It had a second beginning in the advent of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
III. It had another also in the work of the Holy Ghost. See how Mark shows this clearly by the witness of the dove on the head of Christ as He comes up from the Jordan, and by the use of the energetic word “drive” when describing the urgency with which our Lord was constrained to endure the temptation. The good news of salvation began to be told in the moment when Satan received his defeat; it was the Spirit of God which here brought on the conflict and crowned the Victor with success. It is at this special point that the admonition reaches ourselves. The question above all others for us to ask and to answer is this: How does the work of the Holy Ghost effect the beginning of the gospel in the soul of an unregenerate man? The reply to this is not difficult. Sometimes by a strange disturbance, a sovereignly wrought uneasiness in the heart and conscience; the sinner does not know, perhaps, the explanation of his restlessness, but he becomes sure that his peace is not made, and that it ought to be made, with an offended God. Then also sometimes the Spirit uses the quiet communication of truth. By the slower processes of patient education a child is led on up into the knowledge of God. Then the Holy Ghost moves that awakened life, and unites it savingly to Jesus Christ as the Redeemer. And sometimes this same Divine Agent of regeneration employs dispensations of providence, prosperous or adverse. Some practical lessons are taught us here, and they will be remembered better if they are stated in order.
1. Every good and great thing originates in a purpose as certainly as God’s gospel did in God’s purpose. Every enterprise exists as a thought before it exists as a realization. No man ever became a Christian without as definite a purpose to begin the gospel in his heart as Mark had when he commenced to write his gospel in the Bible.
2. So there is a second lesson to learn: every true life must have a plan. Christ’s life had God’s plan. Any life will accomplish more if it finds the Divine plan and accepts it. If an author is compelled to plan a story with characters in it, in order to even moderate success in managing the unities, must he not likewise be forced to plan a career which he proposes to live out?
3. Put alongside of this another lesson: eminence and excellence come from consistency in matching ends to beginnings. Human beings are reached and moved best by long and steady forces, rather than by those which are intermittent.
4. Now for the best lesson of all: when once the gospel has had its real beginning in any energetic life, nothing can take it away at the end. Heaven is the end. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
The Genesis of the New Kingdom
Intense interest fastens upon “beginnings.” There is large scope for the play of imagination. We gaze with exquisite pleasure on the laughing face of a royal babe, or on the launch of a mail ship, or on the babbling rise of some historic river. Human life is fall of “beginnings.”
I. Christ’s incarnation was a great beginning for humanity.
II. This beginning had its hidden roots in the past.
III. This new creation is both like and unlike the old. It is like, in that it opens with a voice. It is unlike in the fiat uttered. Attention here is challenged for the message, not for the man: it is a voice. The man is a cipher, the doctrine everything.
IV. Beginnings are often attended with pain. The desert life of John, with its ascetic austerities, was painful. It was painful to the natural man-to his social tendencies. Each day begins in midnight darkness. Each year is born in wintry cold and gloom. The life of the plant opens with the fracture of the seed. And the beginning of the gospel’s life in individual souls is attended with sorrow and mortification.
V. The gospel of Christ is a beginning without an end. In the kingdom of Messiah, the prophecy becomes fact-“Thy sun shall no more go down.” Prophets foresaw the fall of the earthly Jerusalem; no prophet has ever foreseen the decay of the heavenly. The gospel is power-infinite power. Is there no limit to man’s development? None. By virtue of Christ’s gospel, we are always beginning. (D. Davies, M. A.)
Of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The author and subject of the gospel
I. Christ Jesus is the author of this gospel. How great, then, is the sin of those who despise, or refuse to believe and obey the gospel. They reject Christ Himself. Take heed we be not guilty of this sin, for God will severely punish it. Yet, how common is this contempt of the gospel nowadays! How little do some care to hear it unfolded in the public ministry: a small matter hinders them. One cause of such contempt is this, that men are not yet thoroughly persuaded that the doctrine, delivered by a frail man like themselves, is, and can be, the doctrine of Christ Himself; they neither see nor feel any Divine power of Christ working in and by this doctrine when it is delivered; therefore they think it to be the word of a man, not the word of Christ Jesus the Son of God. But know this, that Christ Jesus uses the ministry of weak men, yet the word and message which they bring is the message of Christ Himself. And what if we bring this treasure to you in earthen vessels? Yet the treasure is not the less worth.
II. Christ is also the chief subject matter, and argument of the gospel. Whatever is taught in the gospel is either
(1) concerning the Person of Christ; or
(2) concerning His offices, as He is our Priest, Prophet and King; or
(3) concerning the benefits we have by Him, synch as justification, salvation, etc.; or
(4) touching the means of enjoying these benefits from Christ, as faith and repentance. So that Christ Jesus is the sum and main scope of the doctrine of the gospel. (G. Petter.)
How to receive the gospel
How gladly do we entertain good news touching our body, goods, friends, or outward estate! How welcome is it to us! (Proverbs 25:25.)
And shall not this blessed tidings of the salvation of our souls by Christ, which is brought to us in the gospel, be much more welcome to us? Is not the news of liberty welcome to the prisoner; the news of a pardon from the prince, welcome to the condemned malefactor? And what are we by nature, but prisoners under the bondage of sin and Satan-malefactors and traitors before God, guilty of eternal damnation? Oh, then, let us joyfully embrace the doctrine of the gospel, which brings to us the news of spiritual freedom from sin and Satan, purchased by Christ, and of the pardon of our sins procured for us by Him. How highly should we prize this doctrine; how happy should we think ourselves, when we may enjoy the preaching of it; and how tar should we be from despising or neglecting so great salvation! (G. Petter.)
The substance and design of the gospel
I. Its substance.
1. Jesus Christ is the Great Teacher.
2. The Great Atoner.
3. The Great Example.
His life was in harmony with His teaching; reflecting, like a stainless mirror, the purity and benevolence of His precepts.
II. Its design.
1. To reveal the heavenly world.
2. To prepare us for that world.
Enlightenment, forgiveness, and sanctity, are the antecedents of glorification. These things come to us through the teaching, atonement, and example of Jesus. Thus the gospel makes us meet for joyful fellowship with holy angels, before the throne of God and the Lamb. (P. J. Wright.)
The gospel is an anthem from the harps of heaven; the music of the River of Life washing its shores on high, and pouring in cascades upon the earth. Not so cheerful was the song of the morning stars; nor the shout of the sons of God so joyful. Gushing from the fountains of eternal harmony, it was first heard on eateth in a low tone of solemn gladness, uttered in Eden by the Lord God Himself. This gave the keynote of the gospel song. Patriarchs caught it up, and taught it to the generations following. It breathes from the harp of the Psalmist, and rang like a clarion from tower and mountain top, as prophets proclaimed the year of Jubilee. Fresh notes from heaven have enriched the harmony as the Lord of Hosts and His angels have revealed new promises, and called on the suffering children of Zion to be joyful in their King. From bondage and exile, from dens and caves, from bloody fields and fiery stakes, and peaceful deathbeds, have they answered, in tones which have cheered the disconsolate, and made oppressors shake upon their thrones; while sun, and moon, and all the stars of light, stormy wind fulfilling His words, the roaring sea and the fulness thereof, mountains and hills, fruitful fields, and all the trees of the wood, have rejoiced before the Lord, and the coming of His Anointed for the redemption of His people, and the glory of His holy Name. (Dr. Hoge.)
There is only one gospel. There are many religions amongst men: almost all of them are Laws-codes of precepts for the guidance of life; but Christianity is pure gospel-glad tidings of great joy. The angels gave it that name (Luke 2:10), and the experience of multitudes that none can number has approved it. (R. Glover.)
The Bible without Christ
Take Christ away from the Bible and it is immediately destroyed. In ancient times a celebrated artist made a most wonderful shield, and worked his own name into it so that it could not be removed without destroying the shield. It is just so with the Bible and Christ. (Foster)
The Son of God.-
Christ’s Divinity practically proved
The Deity of the Son of God is, to me, not proved merely in propositions. I believe that he who believes in the Godhead of Jesus Christ has all history, all etymology, all philosophy, and all true reading of the case entirely on his side. But I do not look to propositions, to logical formulae, to any bare statements, however exact, for the proof and confirmation that this claim is founded in righteousness. Do you think that I build my hopes of eternity upon some little etymological technicality? Do you suppose that my dependence is founded altogether upon the construction of a phrase or the mood and tense of a verb? We have nothing to fear from that side of the argument, so far as I have been able to collate the testimonies of competent men. But I do not rely upon it in preaching the Deity of the Son of God, and in committing myself to the great claim which Jesus makes on behalf of His own nature. What do I trust then? The moral reach, the spiritual compass, the indefinable and inexpressible sympathy of the Man. When he touched my heart into life, I did not say, “Hand me down the Greek grammar and the Hebrew lexicon, and three volumes of the encyclopaedia, to see how this really stands.” I knew it to be a fact. Nobody ever did for me what He has done. Once I was blind; now I see. I go to other men-writers, speakers, teachers-hear what they have to say, and, behold, they are broken cisterns that can hold no water. I go to the Son of God, whose teaching is written in the New Testament, and it gets into the deep places of my life; it redeems me; it goes further than any other influence, and does more for me than any other attempt that ever was made to recover and bless nay life. It is, therefore, in this great sweep of His, in this reply to every demand that is made upon His resources, this infinite sufficiency of His grace, that I find the exposition and the defence of His Godhead. Some things must be felt; some things must be laid hold of by sympathy, affection, sensibility. The heart is in some cases a greater interpreter than the understanding. There is a time when logic has to say, “I can do no more for you; do the best you can for yourself!” Then love goes forward, and necessity feels it; and it is in that further insight and penetration that the Godhead of the Nazarene, as it appears to me, is vindicated and glorified … As I looked upon the sun this November morning, shining through some beautiful blue clouds, a man called upon me to prove that that sun was, in his judgment, as far as he could make out by “the tables,” about sufficient to light the world. He turned over long pages of logarithms, and tables of various kinds, fractions and decimals, and long processions of figures; he asked me for a slate and a pencil, and he was going to make it out to any satisfaction that the sun was just about sufficient to enlighten a hemisphere at a time. I ordered him off! Why? I saw it; I felt it; the whole thing was before me, and if that man had never been born, and the slate had never been made, I should have known that this great sun poured light upon the earth until there was not room enough to receive it, and that the splendour ran off at the edges and flamed upon other stars! And yet sometimes men call upon us with slates, pencils, sponges, for the purpose of showing us by their calculations that Jesus Christ cannot be God the Son. I have lived long enough to know that He is God enough for me. What more can I want? He raises the dead; He redeems my life from destruction; He fills the mouth with good things; He numbers the hairs of my head; He carries me up hill many a time when I am weary and the wind is bleak; He visits me in my distress and my affliction. My Lord! my God! I will not receive Thee merely through grammars and technical discussions. I will receive Them because when Thou dost come into my heart, I know that all the heaven that I can contain is already within me when Thou art near. My Lord! and my God! (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
The Son of God
The Son of God is no voluntary effect of the Father’s power and wisdom, like the created universe, which once did not exist, and might never have existed, and must necessarily be ever confined within the bounds of time and space. He is the natural and necessary, and therefore the eternal and infinite, birth of the Divine fecundity, the boundless overflow of the Eternal Fountain of all existence and perfection, the infinite splendour of the Eternal Sun, the unspotted mirror, and complete and adequate image in Whom may be seen all the fulness of the Godhead. (R. Watson.)
Christ not A Son, but THE Son
This implies something other than that general fatherly relation which God sustains to all His intelligent creatures. Even among the heathen, great kings, heroes, lawgivers, and patriots are thought to be somehow sons of God. There was also the Oriental mystic, who, imagining himself a part of the universal all, a drop in the great ocean of being, was fond of calling himself a son of God. But Jesus is “the Son.” And one has not to read far, in either of the Gospels, to be able to discover that here the phrase is used in a very definite sense. He is not so named as one who, like other men, bears the Divine image; nor as the object of special affection; nor as the greatest being in the universe next to God. He bears to the Father a more intimate relation. Together with the Father, He is the object of trust, love, and worship; the same in power and glory; to be honoured of all men, even as they honour the Father. The evangelist starts with this view. He whose story he is now to relate, is the incarnate Son of God. (H. M. Grout, D. D.)
The Divinity of Christ
A Divine Christ is the central sun of Christianity; quench it, and all is confusion worse confounded. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
As it is written in the prophets.
The appropriateness of this double prophecy
Its authors were-
I. The first prophet (Isaiah 40:3) and the last (Malachi 3:1.) who wrote. John was the last prophet of the old dispensation and the first of the new who spoke.
II. The one like John was a prophet of hope; the other like him again was the prophet of despair.
III. Isaiah set the door ajar for Christianity which John flung wide open: Malachi began to shut the door on judaism which John closed. (Anon.)
Which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.
Need of preparation for Christ
In the East, few good roads are ever made; and such roads as have been made are generally kept in most wretched repair. Hence, when a sovereign is about to visit any part of his dominions, it is requisite that a messenger be sent on before to get the way made ready. Such, in things spiritual, was John’s mission. Men’s ways were in a wretched state. Encumbrances and stumbling blocks lay everywhere scattered about. Mud and mire were the order of the day. It seemed impossible for anyone to get along through life with unpolluted garments, or without stumbling and falling, and getting bruised and broken. The real preparation that was needed was in the hearts of the people. (J. Morison, D. D.)
How to prepare the way for Christ
How was John to prepare the people to receive Christ?
1. By foretelling them that Christ was to come immediately after him.
2. By preaching the doctrine of Christ, touching His Person and offices.
3. By preaching the doctrine of faith in Christ, stirring up the people to believe in Him as the Messiah.
4. By preaching repentance, exhorting them to turn unto God from their sin, that so they might be fit to receive Christ.
5. By administering baptism. (G. Petter.)
Man’s part in the work of spiritual preparation
Though the preparation of the heart for Christ is the special work of God’s Spirit, yet He requires that we also should do that which lieth in us toward this preparing of ourselves: though God only can work this preparation, yet He will have us use the means by which it may come to be wrought. He does not work in us, as in stocks and stones that have no sense or motion; but He first moves us by His Spirit, and enables us to the preparation of our hearts, so that we being moved by Him may, after a sort, move ourselves in using the means to prepare our hearts.
1. We must labour to be truly humbled in the sense of our sins, and of our natural misery without Christ. We are never fit to embrace Him, till we feel how wretched we are without Him.
2. We must labour to forsake all sin in heart and affection, and we must purge the love of it out of our hearts.
3. We must get a hungering and thirsting desire after Christ.
4. We must use all means to get faith, whereby to receive Christ into our hearts. (G. Petter)
The heart prepared to receive Christ
Labour we daily in preparing our hearts unto Christ: strive we to make Him a plain way, and a straight path into our heart. To this end, remove the annoyances of this way of Christ: thy sins and corruptions are the hindrances: take away these by true repentance, that they stop not up the way of Christ, and bar Him out of thy heart. Labour also for true faith in Christ, that by it thou mayest be fitted to receive Him, and that He may come to dwell in thee. Do not think that ever Christ will come into thy heart to dwell there, or that thou canst ever be fit to receive Him, if thou be not careful of preparing thyself to entertain Him. Will any earthly prince go to take up his lodging in such a house or city, where he knows there will be no preparation for his entertainment? No more will Christ in a heart unready to receive Him. (G. Petter)
Preparing the way of the Lord
The reference may be to the state of the Jewish Church and the Gentile nations. But what is applied generally to the nations is equally applicable to every human heart.
I. There are formidable obstacles to be removed.
1. Prejudice. The gospel is often viewed under a false light, or through a perverting medium. The self-denial, the purity, the separation from the world which Christianity inculcates begets prejudice in many.
2. Carnality. Base desires, carnal affections, etc., present formidable obstacles to the claims of the Lord (Luke 14:18-42.14.20).
3. Hardness of heart. By nature impenitent, blind to its own extreme sinfulness, and, even after confession of sin, unwillingness to forsake them (Isaiah 46:12-23.46.13; Ezekiel 11:19).
4. Self-righteousness. Though spiritually diseased and dying, men imagine themselves “whole,” and without need of a physician. They will not accept salvation by simple faith in the merits of another (Romans 10:1-45.10.2).
II. Repentance is necessary to the removal of these obstacles. (A. Tucker.)
Christ’s way to be prepared, not ours
See what all ministers of the Word must chiefly labour in, even to prepare men for Christ; and this is the main thing to be aimed at in our preaching-we are not to preach ourselves, but Christ; we are not to prepare our own way, or the way of any other, but the way of Christ in the hearts of our people. To this end, we are to speak so to the consciences of our hearers that we may (if possible) by our ministry work faith and repentance in them, and so make way for Christ to enter into their hearts. (G. Petter.)
Preparatory work needful for spiritual progress
When you see a party of men engaged in taking levels and measuring distances along a particular line of country, and a little afterwards, other men laying rails, and building bridges, and cutting tunnels, it is not difficult to guess that the great tide of commerce is about to surge over that region. When loads of wood and stone are laid down on a vacant lot, it is at once evident that a building is about to be erected. So the Old Testament prophecies and John’s preaching showed that the way was being prepared for the coming of Jesus. After the Romans had reduced a country to the position of a province, one of their first cares was to construct a strong military road into it. Thus the way was always prepared for their legions. In the East when some great chief is passing through the country, it is not uncommon to make new ways for his passage. Travellers in unsettled parts of the country soon learn to appreciate as never before the advantages of having roads along which to journey. Ways must be constructed for the progress of Christ’s truth in the world and in the heart. (The American Sunday School Times.)
Road building in the East
To “prepare the way” before a sovereign is, and always has been, so universal a practice in the East that wherever an unusually good spot of road is found, or indeed any piece of way that shows signs of labour, a tradition or fable is almost invariably found to lie along it to the effect that that piece of road was built expressly for the passage of such a royal personage, either the sovereign of the realm which includes the territory, or one of his guests of equal exaltation. On going from Cairo to the pyramids, over an exceptionally good road, the traveller will not fail to be told that it was built for the Prince of Wales, or for the Empress Eugenie, or for the Khedive himself, or even, rarely, for Napoleon the Great. (The American Sunday School Times.)
The law of preparation
God doesn’t need man’s help in anything; but He chooses to call for it in a great many things. And when God does leave a place for man’s work, man must do his part-or take the consequences. God is ready to give a crop to the farmer; but He calls on the farmer to plough and plant and harrow and hoe in preparing the way for God’s sun and shower, and power of increase. If the farmer fails to so prepare the way of the Lord for a harvest, he must prepare for a famine-or starve. God is ready to give a blessing on our homes; but we must prepare the way of the Lord for a blessing there, by our love and our faithfulness and our industry. It is not enough to bang up a framed chromo on the dining room walls: “God bless our home!” As in the field and in the home, so in our hearts. If we want God’s presence and blessing there, we must prepare the way for them. We must plan to find room for the Lord in our hearts. We must make ready to do His bidding We must decide to give up all habits of life that are inconsistent with His service, We must make a proffer of ourselves, of our time, of our talents, of all our posses sloes, to the Lord. If we refuse to do this, we must not wonder that whoever else has a blessing we are without it. (The American Sunday School Times.)
The voice of one crying in the wilderness.
I. Ministers ought to show zeal and earnestness in their office (Isaiah 58:1; Hosea 8:1; 2 Timothy 4:2). A minister of the Word must not do the work of the Lord negligently or coldly, but with zeal and fervency of spirit. This zeal and earnestness consists chiefly in
(1) being affected and moved in his own heart with that which he delivers, feeling the power of it in himself;
(2) labouring so to speak as to affect and move his hearers to the embracing of that which is taught. This is done by the particular applying, and earnest urging and pressing of the doctrine taught, to the consciences of the hearers; when it is not only delivered in general manner, and so left, but particularly applied, for the reproving and convincing of sin in people, and for the stirring of them up to good duties (Ecclesiastes 12:11). The doctrine of the Word (preached by the ministers of it) is compared to nails fastened, to show that it must be driven home, and up to the head (as it were), by the hammer of application.
II. Ministers should also, with courage and boldness of spirit, deliver the word and message of the Lord (Ephesians 6:20; Jeremiah 1:17; Ezekiel 3:9). We deliver not our own message, but that of God; we speak not in our own name, but in the Name of the Almighty. Let us then, with all boldness, deliver God’s message, not forbearing to reprove sin, nor concealing any part of the truth, for fear of men’s displeasure (G. Petter.)
God’s use of man’s voice
The highest praise of a prophet is that he should be simply a “voice” employed by God. God borrows voices still. While the weapons of our warfare are heavenly, the weapons of His warfare are earthly. For the human lips a Divine message must be sought; for the Divine message human lips are requisite. Consecrate thy lips to Him, and He will pour grace into them. (R. Glover.)
The preacher a voice
A preacher should, if possible, be nothing but a voice, which should be always heard and never seen to cry is to preach with such force as is worthy of the truth, without lowering the voice through complaisance. To this end he must not be a man of the world, but one who comes, as it were, out of the wilderness, without relations, without friends, without secular engagements, which may thwart and obstruct his ministry. The first man who appears in the gospel is one entirely dedicated to repentance: the first example and the first precept are an example and a precept of repentance-so necessary is this to salvation l (Quesnel.)
Novelty and mystery
I. A wonderful preacher.
1. The subject of prophecy.
2. The last of the prophets.
3. Choosing a strange place to preach in.
4. Adopting an antiquated garb and manner.
II. A wonderful sermon.
1. Not the exposition of a creed.
2. Not concerning traditions and ceremonies.
3. Personal-as repentance is a personal duty.
4. Practical-as leading to visible results.
III. A wonderful congregation.
1. Strangely composed-of city and country people.
2. All travelling a great distance to hear the preacher.
3. All yielding to the truth-confessing their sins.
4. All submitting to the rite imposed by the desert preacher. (J. C. Grey.)
Christ’s public entrance upon His ministry
I. The need of the human herald of Christ. Though our Lord came in the fulness of the time, the time was not ready for Him, so far as His own people were concerned. The popular heart was intensely cold and unrepentant. A certain measure of national disaster will bring repentance and reformation. People read chastisement in their sorrows. But without spiritual guides there comes on religious indifference. The popular heart was softened. It was prepared for the truth, and to be an honest witness of Christ’s miracles. Here lies the whole philosophy of the Christian ministry. Christ could operate directly on the heart without the human instrument. But He requires of man that he go before Him, and do all that the human voice can do, and then He comes to complete the order of salvation. He gives man as much as he can do and bear in the great work of saving men.
II. The human preparation of Christ for His work.
III. The subjection of the servant to the master. (J. F. Hurst, D. D.)
A rough man for rough work
He had rough work to do; therefore a man of refined taste and delicate organization could not perform it. John is fitted for his work-a coarse man levelling mountains and filling up valleys, sternness in his looks, vehemence in his voice. The truth is-Reformers must despise the conventionalities of society. They have rude work to do, and they must not be too dainty respecting the means they adopt to effect it. Adorn your frontispieces, embellish your cornerstones, but let the foundations be as rugged as you please. Decorations are for the superstructure, strength and solidity for the base. Luther has often been charged with rudeness, coarseness, and even scurrility. The indictment contains, perhaps, too much truth for us successfully to gainsay. But we should not forget that he had a coarse age to deal with, coarse enemies to contend with, coarse sins to battle with. Coarse or not coarse, the question is-Did he do his work? If he did that, who are we to cavil at the means he used? Would our smooth phrases and rounded periods accomplish the task of regenerating half Europe, and of giving the other half a shaking from which it has not yet recovered, nor is likely to recover this century? Regenerate half Europe indeed! Shame upon us! We cannot regenerate half a parish, and who are we to find fault with a mall who regenerated half a continent? Who will go to fell forest trees of a thousand years’ standing with a superfine razor? Is not the heavy axe the fit tool wherewith to cut them down? (J. C. Jones.)
John did baptize in the wilderness.
The age in which the Baptist ministered
The age of Tiberius, spiritually speaking, was not unlike the Victorian age. Some people were still satisfied with the old religious forms. Their piety still flowed through the time-worn channels of creeds and catechisms. There will always be these survivals, what we call “old-fashioned people”; they belong to the past, let them alone, they will get to heaven in their own way. Others-in the days of Tiberius and Victoria-respectable but heartless formalists, really without religion, but apparently full of it, cling to the orthodox forms. You will always find such wooden-headed, stony-hearted supporters of things as they are, without a breath of the new life in them, boasting that they are Abraham’s children. But a surging crowd of restless, eager spirits, sons of the new time, impatient of worn-out creeds, churches, establishments, orthodoxies, what shall I say of these? Ah! these are the disciples of John. These wait for the inner personal appeal, “repent;” the fresh symbol, “baptism”; the spiritual emancipation, “remission of sins”; the new Divine Man; the holy effluence; the fiery chrism. (H R. Haweis, M. A.)
The Baptist’s training
Besides baptizing, he did a good deal else there; for he was “in the deserts till the day of his showing forth unto Israel.” He had the usual good education of a priest’s son, and world know most of the Bible by heart. His father and mother had taught him, as only saintly hearts can teach a child, the wealth of God’s mercy, the grievousness of sin, the promises of God to His people, the hope of a great Redeemer. They had told him the wonders connected with his birth in such a way as not to move his conceit, but to charge his conscience with the sense of a high calling awaiting him. They had told him of a miraculous birth of One whom Anna and Simeon and themselves had been moved by the Spirit of God to hail as the Promised Christ. He had from time to time gone up to Jerusalem to the feasts, and had thus seen and heard enough of the miseries of his people, and of the hypocrisy and worldliness of their priests and leaders, to make him long for the appearing of the promised Redeemer. So he sought calmness and strength and light in the desert with his God. The desert dangers destroyed all fear; the hardness of the desert fare, all love of ease. The writings of the great prophets of the past were the friends whose companionship moulded him. Prayer for his people arose perpetually from his priestly heart. Increasingly he felt that the one misery of man was sin; and the one need of man a Saviour, whose sacrifice would take away its guilt, and whose baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost would destroy evil and create good in them. In the wilderness the great temptations had their fiercest force, but were fought and conquered; the temptation to shrink from the tremendous task; the temptation to despair of men hearing his message or obeying his call; the temptation to fear his own breakdown in faith; the temptations of darkness and doubt, all assailed him there. He could not have come in the power of the Spirit to his work, unless victory over such assaults had strengthened him. He knew that death was the reward which the world had always given God’s prophets. He faced till he ceased to fear it. So, clad in the single garment, still worn by the poorest Bedouin; living on locusts and wild honey, as the extremely poor sometimes still do in the same region; he walked and talked with God until the time was ripe for his coming forth. (R. Glover.)
Solitary communion with God
Every preacher and teacher, to do his work aright, must go into the wilderness. There would be more prophecy if there was more privacy. An ounce of truth discovered by yourself has more power in it than a pound imparted to you by someone else. Do not grudge the time you spend alone with God. He will teach all His scholars what none others can impart. (R. Glover.)
The Baptism of John
Ablutions in the East have always been more or less a part of religious worship-easily performed, and always welcome. Every synagogue, if possible, was by the side of a stream or spring; every mosque still requires a fountain or basin for lustrations. But John needed morn than this. No common spring or tank would meet the necessities of the multitudes who resorted to him for baptism. The Jordan now seemed to have met with its fit purpose. It was the one river of Palestine, sacred in its recollections, abundant in its waters; and yet, at the same time, the river, not of cities, but of the wilderness; the scene of the preaching of those who dwelt not in kings’ palaces, nor wore soft clothing. On the banks of the rushing stream the multitudes gathered-the priests and scribes from Jerusalem, down the pass of Adunimim; the publicans from Jericho on the south, and the lake of Genesareth on the north; the soldiers on their way from Damascus to Petra, through the Ghor, in the war with the Arab chief, Hareth; the peasants from Galilee, with One from Nazareth, through the opening of the plain of Esdraelon. The tall “reeds” in the valleys waved, “shaken by the wind”; the pebbles of the bare clay hills lay around, to which the Baptist pointed as capable of being transformed into “children of Abraham”; at their feet rushed the refreshing stream of the never-failing river. There began that sacred rite which has since spread throughout the world. (Dean Stanley.)
The ministry of John the Baptist
I. His qualifications for his ministry. “He was in the deserts,” etc. He was a meditative man. This love of retirement into nature’s places of impressive solitude is good for the soul. The fountains of thought and religious feeling are best filled thus. The best poems, speeches, sermons, are born under such condition, s. John possessed another good qualification for his ministry in the simplicity of his tastes and habits. “A man who has no wants,” says Burke, “has obtained great freedom and firmness, and even dignity.”
II. The doctrine of his ministry. He proclaimed the need of repentance. Where one man objects to the preaching of searching truth, ten will approve it. Confession of sins is humbling but salutary. He told them of Christ who was about to come and complete his imperfect work. Without Christ repentance is superficial.
III. The characteristics of his ministry. From its extraordinary effect, that mysterious influence of the Spirit, which gives the unction characteristic of all mighty preachers, must have distinguished John’s ministry. The tones of the Holy Christ, with which he was filled from his mother’s womb, were heard in his preaching. Joined to this supreme quality of the preacher, John had other qualities of a remarkable kind. He was a direct preacher. He was a plain and faithful preacher. He magnified Christ to the forgetfulness of himself. (A. H. Currier.)
Nature’s solitude refreshing
There is something in nature’s solitudes most congenial and refreshing to souls of the larger mould. Of William the Conqueror it is said that “he found society only when he passed from the palace to the loneliness of the woods. He loved the wild deer as though he had been their own father.” (A. H. Currier.)
A faithful ministry beneficent
Such plainness of dealing may appear, at first thought, harsh and repulsive. But before this judgment is given, it is well to inquire whether plainness and fidelity on the part of the preacher are any proof of unkindness. Is the keeper of a weather-signal station unkind, who hoists the storm signal, that the shipping may stay in the harbour, or fly to its shelter, when word comes to him from his chief that a storm is at hand? Let him fail once to do his duty. Instead of a plain and truthful signal, let him put out an ambiguous or an unmeaning one, and let the ships, which fill the harbour or cover the adjacent sea, sail forth and go on in entire security, until the tempest comes and catches them in its irresistible grip and scatters their wrecks along the shore. Then see the widows wring their hands and wail, and their fatherless children cry over the lifeless dead, which lie stark and cold on the sand, and say whether it was kind and good to keep back the warning that might have prevented such ill. A child may complain of the robin whose boding note prognosticates the rain which interferes with its play, but a man, able to understand that God sends the rain, will thank the bird for the warning. (A. H. Currier.)
It is not wise to disregard a faithful ministry
They had the good sense to perceive that the truth, though sometimes severe and painful, is nevertheless truth, and not to be run away from. As wisely might the sailor on a dangerous coast, befogged in mist and uncertain of the way, close his ears to the fog bell which warns him of the rocks, as for a sinful man to find fault with and avoid the messenger of God, who proclaims that truth by which his soul is saved. Better is it to charge the messenger to hold back nothing. A reasonable soul fears nothing so much as those false delusions of the mind which soothe men’s alarms and lull concern to sleep-at last to destroy them. (A. H. Currier.)
John the fulfilment of prophecy
The Old Testament is full of prophetic intimations and clear predictions concerning the coming Saviour. Beginning faintly and far away, they grow in distinctness and fulness, until John ushers in the long-expected Redeemer. Like the chorus of bird songs which herald the dawn, which, beginning with the soft chirp of a half-awakened songster, gradually increases and swells till the whole air throbs with melody, so the prophetic strain which tells the coming Christ rises in strength until He appears. (A. H. Currier.)
And there went out to him all the land of Judaea.
The Baptist’s audience
It was a mixed multitude of almost every class. The other Evangelists help us to realize its heterogeneous character. There were Pharisees, whose scrupulous routine of external observance had woven around them a web of self-satisfied pride; and Sadducees, whose reaction from superstition had landed them in a cold and heartless infidelity. Among these there would be followers of Shammai, cleaving to tradition and rigidly orthodox; sympathisers also with his opponent Hillel, just emerging from that slavery to the letter which had taken the very life out of their religion. There were soldiers, too, who, through the lawless rapacity of their generals, had learned to think only of loot and plunder; and the bated publicans, with their overreaching and fraudulent exactions, the byword for all that was lowest and most contemptible-all were there, and for all he had the same message, “Repent.” The Rabbis have a wonderful comment on the import of that message. “If,” they say, “Israel would repent, they would be redeemed.” (H. M. Luckock, D. D.)
What induced them to flock to him thus
1. The excellency of his person.
2. The novelty of his doctrine.
3. The zeal and earnestness of his preaching.
4. The strangeness of the place where he preached.
5. The austerity and strictness of his life. (G. Petter.)
The crowd going out to the lonely man
Notice, the man of the crowd goes to the man of the desert. The publican, the soldier, even the Pharisee. Strange attraction this, yet recurrent. He who knows most of himself, he who has learned himself in solitude, will know most of others. It has ever been thus. The world has gone to the cloister, not the cloister to the world; the city finds solace in the desert, never the desert in the city. A few years ago, all Paris flocked to the Cure d’ Ars an obscure provincial priest, without much learning or preaching power either, but they found in him the fresh springs of comfort, the word of prophecy, the call to repentance, which in every soul’s solitude is the cry most certain to pierce. (H. R. Haweis, M. A.)
Secret of John Baptist’s influence
In one word, it was “reality.” In an age of hollowness and hypocrisy never equalled before or since, such a characteristic was bound to startle men and arrest their attention. The Baptist, if anyone, practised what he preached. His protest against sin was embodied by his example. Take a single illustration from his habit and dress. He came to denounce luxury and soft clothing and sumptuous fare, and he was a living example of the austerity which he called for. (H. M. Luckock, D. D.)
Steps towards conversion.
1. To seek an enlightened guide.
2. To open our heart to him, by acquainting him with our manner of life.
3. To receive directions concerning repentance from him.
4. To baptize ourselves, as it were, by his advice, in tears and works of mortification.
It is an instinct and a duty which is, so to speak, natural, for a man to confess his sins, and to humble himself for them, when once he is touched with a true contrition; but to do this is not at all natural to human pride. Repentance is a pool, or rather a river, which carries our impurities far from us, so as never to be resumed again. Lord, Thou art the only one who can put us into it! (Quesnel.)
The necessity of confession of sins
There is a two- fold confession of sins necessary in the practice of repentance.
I. To God.
1. It must come from a feeling heart, touched with sense of sin and grieved for it: not verbal, or from the teeth outward.
2. It must come from a hatred and loathing of the sins confessed, not from fear of punishment merely. Saul. Pharaoh.
3. From hope of mercy, else we witness against ourselves. Judas.
4. Free and voluntary, not forced from us. God requires a freewill offering, else it is not pleasing to Him.
5. It must not be only in general terms, but there must be a laying open of our particular known sins, so far as we can remember them.
II. To men. Not always necessary, but in some cases only.
1. When by our sins we have offended and scandalized men-either the Church in general, or some particular persons.
2. When any sin lies heavy on our conscience, so that we cannot find ease or comfort. In this case, it is necessary to open our hearts, and to acknowledge that sin which troubles us, to some faithful pastor, or other Christian brother, who may minister spiritual advice and comfort to us. (G. Petter.)
John the Baptist
I. The preacher. Fearless, honest, earnest; and these characteristics are sure to attract public notice and confidence. The secret of his power over men seems to have been that he was fully convinced that he was sent on a Divine mission, and was so engrossed in fulfilling it, that he cared little for anything else. What John the Baptist was was quite as effective preaching as anything he said.
II. But if the preacher was notable, his preaching was equally so. The man’s words caught the colour of his character. They were positive, straightforward, unmistakable, he aimed directly at the great need of his generation. It was not a pleasing style of address. When the Church preaches the simple gospel, men stop to listen and prepare themselves to welcome Christ. The majority of men are not influenced by mere doctrinal speculation, any more than a sham fight can determine the fortunes of a nation. (Sermons by the Monday Club.)
The inspiration of work for God
When he is conscious that he is sent of God as a messenger of glad tidings to the poor and needy, how relatively unimportant all other business appears! When he realizes that all the wealth and blessings of the kingdom of God are to be his forever, how trifling are the few temporary burdens he is called to bear! how petty the sacrifices he is asked to make! It is said that when Pliny saw from a distance the eruption of Vesuvius, he forsook his occupation and launched his boat and rowed toward the flaming mountain, forgetting the labour and the peril in the fascination of the sight; and when one sees, even from afar, the light of the city of God, there is such longing to get nearer the brightness, that approach, at any cost, seems cheap. You remember the old legend, which has been so beautifully done into verse by one of our poets, of the monk who was charmed from his cell door by the singing of a bird, and, though the sweetness of the song was such that it seemed to him that he only walked an hour, yet on his return he found that a hundred years had passed. When we are in such spiritual condition that we hear heavenly voices calling us, no way of duty seems long or hard. The most exhausting service is a delight. What the Church wants is to know, like John the Baptist, that its responsibility is its privilege, and then it will have zeal enough for its opportunity. What the individual Christian wants is to realize the grandeur of his position and the greatness of his mission, and he will need no other urgency to faithfulness. (Sermons by the Monday Club.)
Efficiency more than refinement in work for God
Napoleon was once told by certain professionals that his impetuous methods were uncivil and contrary to all military traditions. His reply to his critics was: “Gentlemen, battles are not to be won by compliance with the rules of etiquette, by postponing action until the enemy is drawn up in line, and his officers, having put on their gloves, stand hat in hand, saying, ‘We are ready. Will you please to fire first?’-and to win the battle is what I am after.” There is danger that the Church may lay so much stress on what it calls the amenities and proprieties, that it may fail to win the battle-the one thing which God has put it into the world to do. (Sermons by the Monday Club.)
And John was clothed with camel’s hair.
Rules for sobriety in diet
1. It must not exceed our means.
2. It must not exceed our station.
3. It is to be taken at fit times-when hunger dictates (Psalms 145:15; Ecclesiastes 10:16-21.10.17).
4. We must use such food as may serve to maintain strength and health of body, not such as tends to the hurt and overthrow of our health.
5. Our food should be such as may make us more fit for performance of the duties of our calling and of God’s service. (G. Petter.)
The Baptist’s plain fare
Coarse meat they were (locusts), but nature is content with little, grace with less. Bread and water with the gospel are good cheer. Our Saviour hath taught us to pray for bread, not for manchet or junkets, but downright household bread; and Himself gave thanks for barley bread and broiled fishes. A little of the creature will serve turn to carry thee through thy pilgrimage. One told a philosopher, If you will be content to please Dionysius, you need not feed upon green herbs. He replied, And if you can feed upon green herbs, you need not please Dionysius; you need not flatter, comply, be base, etc. (John Trapp.)
Why did John Baptist use such mean apparel and diet
1. It was agreeable to the custom of the place were he lived, and easy to be had there.
2. That he might resemble Elias, in whose spirit he was to go before Christ.
3. Because he was a Nazarite from his mother’s womb.
4. Preaching the doctrine of repentance, he practised mortification in his own person.
5. That he might procure reverence to his person, and authority to his ministry.
6. To leave us a pattern and example of sobriety and temperance. (G. Petter.)
Rules to be used in the use of apparel, that it may be sober and moderate
1. According to our ability and maintenance in goods or lands.
2. Answerable to our station and dignity, in that place and calling wherein we live.
3. According to the laudable custom of that country where we live.
4. Such as may serve to express the inward graces and virtues of the mind, such as modesty, humility, etc. Therefore it must be comely and decent, not gaudy or garish.
5. Following the example of the most grave and sober men and women that live in the Church and are of our own rank; not after that of the lightest and vainest sort of the people.
6. Our apparel must be worn and used to the right ends for which it is appointed by God. (G. Petter.)
A good old French bishop, in paying his annual visit to his clergy, was very much afflicted by the representations they made of their extreme poverty, which indeed the appearance of their houses and families corroborated. While he was deploring the state of things which had reduced them to this sad condition, he arrived at the house of a curate, who, living amongst a poor set of parishioners, would, he feared, be in a still more awful plight than the others. Contrary, however, to his expectations, he found appearances very much improved. Everything about the house wore the aspect of comfort and plenty. The good bishop was amazed. “How is this, my friend?” said he; “you are the first man I have met with a cheerful face and a plentiful board. Have you any income in addition to the stipend of your cure?…Yes, sir,” said the clergyman, “I have; my family would starve on the pittance I receive from the poor people I instruct. Come with me into the garden, and I will show you the stock that yields me an excellent interest.” On going to the garden, he showed the bishop a large range of beehives. “There is the bank from which I draw an annual dividend. It never stops payment.”
There cometh one mightier than I after me.
Christ mightier than the Baptist
This not then apparent. As the two met on the banks of the Jordan it appeared the reverse: John the embodiment of matured strength; mighty in word, wondrously successful; the great man of the epoch. Jesus had given no evidence of greatness. But things are not what they seem. Jesus is mightier than John.
I. In His person. “The power of God.”
II. In His preaching. Neither in manner nor matter did John “astonish” as Christ did. Christ’s words were spirit and life.
III. In his works. John did no miracle.
IV. In the permanence of His ministry. We hear the last of John’s disciples in Acts 19:1-44.19.7. Christ’s disciples are an ever-increasing belly today.
V. In His death. Christ’s death really began His ministry: John’s closed his.
VI. In His power over the human heart. John could only move its fears while he was here; Christ can win its love and devotion now that He has gone. (Anon.)
Unloosing Eastern sandals
The custom of loosing the sandals from off the feet of an Eastern worshipper was ancient and indispensable. It is also commonly observed in visits to great men. The sandals, or slippers, are pulled off at the door, and either left there or given to a servant to bear. The person to bear them was an inferior domestic, or attendant upon a man of high rank, to take care of and to return them to him again. This was the work of servants among the Jews, and it was reckoned so servile that it was thought too mean for a scholar or disciple to do. The Jews say: “All services which a servant does for a master, a disciple does for his master, except unloosing his shoes.” John thought it was too great an honour for him to do that for Christ, which was thought too mean for a disciple to do for a wise man. (Burder.)
The Baptist’s humility
The highest buildings have the lowest foundations. As the roots of a tree descend so the branches ascend. The lower the ebb the higher the tide. Those upon the mountains see only the fog beneath them, whilst those in deep pits see the stars above them. The most fruitful branches bow the lowest. The best trees refused to be king, but the bramble affected it (Judges 9:1-7.9.57). (Trapp.)
Retiring with humility in favour of another
He retired with dignity and ease, and with a glowing tribute to our Lord’s Divinity. He had the instinct of the true teacher. That one who would not rather see his disciple surpass him in memorable service for humanity is far too small for his position. Michael Angelo’s monument in the Westminster Abbey of Florence is magnificent, and attracts all eyes; but his humble teacher lies beneath a slab of the church floor, and the very name is worn by the feet of worshippers during the centuries. Who will complain that the two are misplaced? The teacher did his work well, and shines too in the fame of the master. But the disciple had what the master never had. So He who had been baptized by John, possessed what John did not have, and the beauty of John’s ministry lay in a recognition of this fact. He knew as well how to close his life as he had known how to begin it. (Amer. Sunday School Times.)
Shoestrings; humble service
This is what John understood, and what you must understand, that it is an honour to be permitted to do the humblest work for Jesus Christ. If when the queen was riding through our streets, with soldiers before her and soldiers behind, and crowds of people all along the way, you stood there with a little bunch of flowers in your hand and offered them to her, and she took them and thanked you with a smile, I fancy you would be very proud because the queen had been pleased to accept your little service. It was so John the Baptist felt: he felt that there were great, strong angels who would have reckoned it an honour to be allowed to untie the Lord’s shoe latchets, and while the Lord could have such pure servants as these, he felt that he was unworthy the honour. (J. R. Howat.)
Jesus came from Nazareth.
Nazareth of Galilee: The fitness of the spot
1. Its seclusion. It lies in a narrow cleft in the limestone hills which form the boundary of Zabulon, entirely out of the ordinary roads of commerce, so that none could say that our Lord had learnt either from Gentiles or from rabbis.
2. Its beauty and peacefulness. The flowers of Nazareth are famous, and the appearance of its inhabitants shows its healthiness. It was a home of humble peace and plenty. The fields of its green valley are fruitful, and the view from the hill which over shadows it is one of the loveliest and most historically striking in all Palestine. (F. W. Farrar, D. D.)
The village of Nazareth is reached by a narrow, steep, and rough mountain path. But the distant view of the village itself, in spring, is beautiful. Its streets rise in terraces on the hill slopes toward the northwest. The hills rise above it in an amphitheatre around to a height of five hundred feet, and shut it in from the bleak winds of winter. The flat-roofed houses, built of yellowish-white limestone of the neighbourhood, shine in the sun with a dazzling brightness, from among gardens and fig trees, olives, cypresses, and the white and scarlet blossoms of the orange and pomegranate. (C. Geikie, D. D.)
Oh how much hidden worth is there, which, in this world, is either lost in the dust of contempt and cannot be known, or wrapt up in the veil of humility and will not be known! But sooner or later it shall be known, as Christ’s was. (M. Henry.)
Jesus Christ’s early youth and baptism
I. There is here an intimation of the fact, that Christ had hitherto resided in the city of Nazareth, in lower Galilee.
1. The name of this city attached itself to Jesus Christ as a term of reproach.
2. In this city Christ lived thirty years in seclusion, etc.
discharging the humble and homely duties of His station-thus obeyed the law in all its precepts.
II. When Christ was about to show Himself to Israel, He came to John to be baptized. He thus acknowledged the appointment of John, and honoured his office. He was made subject to the law. He thus dedicated Himself to the service of God.
III. The baptism of Christ was signalized by several miraculous and striking accompaniments.
1. The heavens were opened.
2. The Spirit descended.
3. There was a voice from heaven. (Expository Outlines.)
And was baptized of John in Jordan.-
Our Lord’s baptism
It is not possible for us to understand the whole mystery of this act, but we may reverently consider some of the motives which prompted the amazing condescension.
1. It may have been to consecrate water for the remission of sins. Just as the brooding of the Spirit of God upon the face of the waters at the first creation reduced order out of chaos, and prepared that element for all the purifications of the first dispensation; so when the moral re-creation of the world was inaugurated the operation of the same Blessed Agent, descending upon our Lord in the river Jordan, sanctified water to the mystical washing away of sin.
2. It may also have been that He designed thereby to be made one with His brethren, or to taste for their sakes at the outset of His ministry that curse of sin which He felt in all its intolerable burden at the close, before His cry of desolation.
3. Another motive He has expressly revealed. When the Baptist shrank back from an act that must have seemed profane, He pointed out that it was incumbent on Him to show an example of perfect obedience to His Father’s will.
4. Underlying this resolution of obedience was the consciousness of a deep humiliation. His self-abasement reached its lowest depth in His baptism. To be misinterpreted and misunderstood at every step was bad enough; but to be told that by His own confession He was a sinner, one with publicans and harlots, and that by His own act and deed He admitted His guilt and sought to have it removed-such self-abasement is more than man can either measure or conceive. (H. M. Luckock, D. D.)
The public commencement of a great life
I. That it emerged from comparative obscurity. “From Nazareth of Galilee.” Christ’s coming from Nazareth would tend-
1. To correct the proud nations of those to whom He came.
2. It would be a means of self-discipline.
II. That it was characterized by true humility.
1. Humility was shown in appreciating the worth of another man’s work.
2. By giving preeminence to a man of inferior moral worth.
3. By submitting to the ceremonialisms of life.
III. That it was favoured with happy visions-“He saw the heavens opened.”
1. Christ was favoured with a revelation of the unseen world.
2. This revelation was given in the performance of a comparatively trivial duty.
IV. Christ was honoured by a Divine commendation. “This is my beloved son,” etc.
1. This commendation was paternal.
2. It was sympathetic.
1. Comparative solitude is the best preparation for a life of public usefulness.
2. That men are not to be judged by the surroundings of their childhood.
3. That humility is the true adornment of a young man about to commence public life.
4. The happy interchange of sympathy between heaven and a truly pious soul. (Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
The baptism of Christ
I. The time of it-“In those days,” A.D. 28, Jesus thirty years of age, the age at which the Levites began their ministry.
II. The place of it. Either the ancient ford at Succoth or near Jericho.
III. The manner of it. Of John. In Jordan. To fulfil all righteousness.
IV. The blessing that followed it. Credentials of Messiahship. Anointing for ministry with power (Cf. Romans 1:4; Acts 10:38). Tranquility (Dove; see Isaiah 6:6). Expression of Divine favour. (H. Thorne.)
The baptism of Christ: Its significance
Jesus was baptized by His forerunner, who was both the representative of the old economy and the preacher of repentance for the new.
I. In the former relation the Baptist performed on the person of the Christian High Priest the washing which preceded His anointing with the Holy Spirit. The typical high priests were washed before their anointing.
II. In the latter relation the preacher of repentance administered the pledge of penitent washing for the Messiah to One who was also the representative of sinful man. Two ends were thus accomplished.
1. Christ was baptized as the Head and Surety of the human race; assuming in its symbol the transgression of mankind.
2. He was designated as the Messiah, in whom were combined all the offices to which His types were of old anointed. In the former sense, His baptism represented a sin assumed but not shared; He was “numbered with the transgressors,” and “came by water” before He came by “blood.” In the latter it represented the perfect purity which His preeminent ministry required; the water represented not the cleansing, but the absense of the need of purification. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)
The Baptism of Jesus
If we can distinguish between the important and the unimportant in this scene, between the transient and the permanent, we shall not study it in vain. Essential truths do not grow old.
1. Applying this test we find that one of the unessential truths concerning Christ’s baptism is its mode. The exact mode could not be reproduced; none of us can have the Jordan ford for our baptismal font.
2. The heavenly phenomena accompanying the baptism are not among its essential features. The accessories cannot, from their very nature, be universal What then were the essential features?
I. Christ our Lord there set for us a perfect example of perfect obedience. Baptism was an ordinance of God; Christ will not exempt Himself from any duty. Why should I be baptized? Because God commands it. Have you less need than Christ? The King of Glory did not despise it as “a mere form of the Church.” He received baptism as ratifying the mission of His great forerunner, and He also received it as the beautiful symbol of moral purification and the humble inauguration of a ministry which came “not to destroy the law but to fulfil.”
II. That it was his way of publicly renouncing sin and publicly professing religion. Christ is our Example as well as Redeemer. Every true follower of Christ must publicly renounce his sins and confess his faith.
III. The evident approval of the Father in heaven. (Sermons by the Monday Club.)
The baptism of Jesus
I. The baptism of Jesus was the sign of the close of John’s commission as the forerunner. Every ministry has its culmination. Well if it be borne with John’s self-abnegation and humility!
II. The baptism of Jesus was the sign of the opening of Christ’s commission as the Redeemer.
III. The baptism of Jesus was the sign of a new era of spiritual influence. This gift now was the prelude and foretoken of that great pentecostal bestowment.
IV. The baptism of Jesus was the sign of the speedy fulfilment of the Father’s great design of redeeming love.
V. Practical lessons.
1. It should enhance our love to Jesus to see Him identifying Himself with all His sinful people.
2. We have an example of reverance for all God’s ordinances.
3. Baptism significant in connection with Christ’s own baptism. When it is more than a mere ceremony it is our burial with Christ into His death, pledges us to fulfil all righteousness.
4. Christ kept His baptismal vow. He has fulfilled all righteousness, not for Himself alone, but for His people also. (Anon.)
The Saviour’s consecration to His work
I. Our Lord was consecrated to his work by His baptism by the forerunner. The inferior started the superior on His public work. Many a man has received the first open recognition of his mission from one mentally and spiritually lower than himself.
II. Our Lord was consecrated to His work by prayer. St. Luke, who calls attention frequently to the prayers of Jesus, alone mentions this important fact. No great work should be entered on without prayer, especially no work connected with God’s kingdom.
III. Our Lord was consecrated to His work by the gift of the spirit. Outward ordinances, as the laying on of hands, etc., are for this end, etc.
IV. Our Lord was consecrated to His work by the approval of the Father. The approval and blessing of God are essential to a true work. (Anon.)
The coronation of the King
The baptism was, on His part, the assumption of His Messianic office; and on God’s, His anointing or coronation as the King. There are three stages in this lesson: The preliminary dialogue, which explains the paradox of the baptism of the sinless by and with the sinful, the Divine anointing of the King, and the Divine proclamation.
I. The becomingness of the apparently unbecoming baptism. The stern preacher bows in lowliest abasement before his carpenter cousin, and feels that his own character shows black against that lustrous whiteness. Who would have thought, when John was flashing and thundering against sin, that such sense of his own evil underlay his boldness? He clearly feels that Jesus is his superior, and needs no baptism of repentance. How had he come to this conviction? Difficulties have been raised as to the consistency of these words with his declaration that he “knew Him not.” But, not to dwell on the fact that anticipations and expectations are not knowledge, why should this insight into the character of Jesus not have then been granted to him by prophetic intuition, as he gazed on the gentle face? Why should not the Divine voice have then for the first time sounded in John’s heart, “Arise, anoint Him: for this is He”? It is a pure assumption that John had previous knowledge of Jesus. The city in the hill country of Judaea where his boyhood had possibly been passed, was far from Nazareth, and he had very early betaken himself to the desert and its isolation. The circumstances of the nativity may, or may not, have been known to him; but there is no reason to explain this conviction of the inappropriateness of his baptism of Jesus by previous knowledge. The other explanation seems to me both more probable and more accordant with his prophetic office. Christ accepts without demur the place which John gives Him. He always accepted the highest place which any man put Him in, and never rebuked any estimate of Himself as enthusiastic or too lofty. If Jesus had not up till that moment lived a perfectly sinless life, He committed a black sin in tacitly endorsing this estimate of Him. If He had lived such a life, on what theory of His nature is it explicable? A sinless man must be more than man. The same consciousness of blamelessness is put into plain words in His answer to John, which is Jesus’ own explanation of His baptism. It was an act of obedience to a Divine appointment, and therefore it “became” Him. It was the fulfilment of “righteousness;” that is to say, Jesus did not confess sin, but professed sinlessness in His baptism, and submitted to it, not because He needed cleansing, but because it was appointed as the duty for the nation of which He was a member. Why, then, was He baptized? For the same reason for which He was found in the likeness of the flesh of sin, and submitted to other requirements of the law from which as Son He was free, and bore the sorrows which were not the issue of His own sins, and went down at last to the other baptism with which He had to be baptized, though His pure life had for itself no need to pass through that awful submersion beneath the black, cold waters of death. The whole mystery of His identification of Himself with sinful men, and of His being “made sin … for us, who knew no sin,” lies in germ in His baptism by John. No other conception of its meaning does justice to the facts.
II. We have next the Divine anointing or coronation. The symbol of the dove seems to carry allusions to the grand image which represents the Spirit of God as “brooding over chaos, and quickening life, as a bird in its nest by the warmth of its own soft breast; to the dove which bore the olive branch, first messenger of hope to the prisoners in the ark; to the use of the dove as clean, in sacrifice; to the poetical attribution to it, common to many nations, of meek gentleness and faithful love. Set side by side with that, John’s thought of the Holy Spirit as fire, and we get all the beauty of both emblems increased, and understand hew much the stern ascetic, whose words burned and blistered, had to learn. He knew “what manner of spirit” the King possessed and bestowed Meekness is throned now. Gentleness is stronger than force. The dove conquers Rome’s eagles and every strong-taloned, sharp-beaked bird of prey. “The Prince of the kings of the earth” is anointed by the descending dove, and His second coronation is with thorns, and a reed is His sceptre; for His kingdom is based on purity and meekness, is won by suffering, and wielded in gentleness. As is the King, so are His subjects, whose only weapons He has assigned when He bids them be “harmless as doves.” The purpose of this descent of the Spirit on Jesus was twofold. In John’s Gospel it is represented as principally meant to certify the Baptist of the identity of the Messiah. But we cannot exclude its effect on Jesus. For Him it was the Divine anointing for His mediatorial work. A king is king before he is anointed or crowned. These are but the signs of what we may call the official assumption of His royalty. We are not to conceive that Jesus then began to be filled with the Spirit, or that absolutely new powers were given to Him then. No doubt the anointing did mark a stage in His human development, and the accession to His manhood of all that was needed to equip it for His work. But the Spirit of God had formed His pure manhood ere He was born, and had dwelt in growing measure in His growing spirit, through all His sinless thirty years. Since He was a man, He needed the Divine Spirit. Since He was a sinless man, He was capable of receiving it in perfect measure and unbroken continuity. Since His baptism began His public career, He needed then, and then received, the anointing which at once designated and fitted Him for His work of witnessing and atonement.
III. We have finally the Divine proclamation. God Himself takes the herald’s office. The coronation ends with the solemn recitation of the style and title of the King. Two Old Testament passages seem to be melted together in it: that in the second Psalm, which says to the Messianic King, “Thou art My Son;” that in Isaiah 42:1, which calls on the nations to “behold … Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth.” God speaks from heaven, and quotes a psalm and a prophet. Why should He not speak from heaven an illuminating word, which interprets whole regions of the Old Testament? This Divine testimony touches first the mystery of our Lord’s nature. “Son of God” is not merely a synonym of Messiah, but it includes the distinct conception of Divine origin and of consequent Divine nature. The name implies that the relation between Him and the Father is unique. The voice attests the Divine complacency in Him. The form of the verb in the Greek implies a definite past delight of the Father in the Son, and carries back our thoughts to that wonderful intercourse of which Jesus lets us catch some faint glimpse when He says, “Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.” From eternity the mysterious depths of the Divine nature moved in soft waves of love, and in its solitude there was society. Nor can we leave out of view the thought that the Father’s delight in the Son is through the Son extended to all who love and trust the Son. In Jesus, God is well pleased towards us. That complacent delight embraces us too, if we become sons through faith in the only begotten Son. The dove that rested on His head will come and nestle in our hearts, and brood there, over their chaos, if we have faith in Christ. (A. McLaren, D. D.)
The heavens opened.
The Divine Trinity
This was the inauguration and proclamation of the Messiahs, when He began to be the great Prophet of the New Covenant. And this was the greatest meeting that ever was upon the earth, where the whole cabinet of the mysterious Trinity was opened and shown, as much as the capacities of our present imperfections will permit; the Second Person in the veil of humanity; the Third in the shape, or with the motion, of a dove: but the First kept His primitive state; and as to the Israelites He gave notice by way of caution, “Ye saw no shape, but ye heard a voice,” so now also God the Father gave testimony to His Holy Son, and appeared only in a voice, without any visible representment. (Bishop Jeremy Taylor.)
The Spirit like a dove.
Like a dove
A most captivating symbol. The eagle, too, was in our Lord; everything about Him was mingled with the sublime; but the dove was predominant. Not only while on earth, but all along the ages, it is the power of His gentleness and tenderness and meekness-His love, in short, that has been victorious. He has “wooed” and “won”. (J. Morison, D. D.)
Dovelike properties in Christ
I. Innocent and harmless (Hebrews 7:26).
II. Loving and tender hearted (Ephesians 3:19).
III. Meek and gentle (Matthew 11:29). This is matter of singular comfort to the faithful members of Christ: for Christ being innocent and harmless like the dove, yea, pure from all spot of sin, this His purity and holiness is imputed to so many as truly believe in Him; and by it they are accepted, as holy and pure through Christ, though in themselves they are polluted and sinful. Again, Christ being also a loving, gentle, and meek Saviour, He will not deal with us in rigour or wrath; but in compassion, love, and gentleness, accepting our weak endeavours in His service, pardoning our wants and infirmities, and cherishing in us the smallest beginnings of grace (Isaiah 42:2-23.42.3). Strive we to imitate our Saviour Christ in these properties of the dove. (G. Petter.)
The dove temper in the Church
The Holy Spirit came as a dove, a gentle, joyous creature, with no bitterness of gall, no fierceness of bite, no violence of rending claws, loving human houses, associating within one home; nurturing their young together; when they fly abroad, hanging in their flight side by side; leading their life in mutual intercourse; giving in concord the kiss of peace with the bill; in every way fulfilling the law of unanimity. This is the singleness of heart that ought to be in the Church; this is the habit of love that must be obtained. (Cyprian.)
How to improve our baptism
To quicken you to improve your baptism consider-
I. Baptism is a perpetual bond obliging us to repentance and a holy life (Romans 6:2-45.6.4; Colossians 3:8-51.3.9).
II. The improvement of baptism is the best preparation of the Lord’s Supper (John 13:8). Before the Church, none but baptized persons have a right to the Lord’s Table; before God, none but those who have the fruit of baptism have a right to the benefit thereof.
III. If we improve it not, baptism will be a witness against us. One Elpidophorus relapsed into Arianism, and the deacon who baptized him showed him the garments in which he had been baptized, and said, “These shall be a witness against thee to all eternity.” But how shall we improve it?
1. We must personally and solemnly own the covenant made with God in infancy. What was then done for us must now be done by us.
2. Renew often the sense of obligation to God, and keep a constant reckoning of obedience (2 Peter 1:9).
3. Use frequent self-reflection to know whether you are indeed washed from the guilt and filth of sin (1 Corinthians 6:11).
4. Use it as a great help in all temptations (1 Corinthians 6:15). Dionysia comforted her son Majoricus, an African martyr, with this speech, “Remember, my son, that thou art baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and be constant.” Luther, when tempted to despair, used to say, “I am baptized, and believe in Christ crucified.” (T. Manton.)
I. New revelations gained-“The heavens were opened.”
II. New gifts imparted-“The Spirit.”
III. New witness enjoyed-“Thou art My beloved Son.”
IV. New trial imposed-“Tempted of Satan.”
V. New triumphs secured.
VI. New privileges conferred-“And angels ministered unto Him.”
VII. New work assigned-“Preaching the gospel.”
Thou art My beloved Son.
Humiliation and exaltation
It will be well for us to remember that our great Example was most highly exalted just when His humiliation was deepest; that it was when He had made Himself one with the sons of men that He was declared to be the Son-the beloved Son-of God. It is a pledge that the lowly, submissive spirit will be greatly sanctified, and that there is no surer way to win the approval of God than by yielding our wills to the authority of those set over us by the Lord, and striving to carry out the rules of the Church in the spirit of Him who accepted at once what His Father had appointed. “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” (H. M. Luckock, D. D.)
“My beloved Son”
I. An expression of affection and approval. The Father bore witness to the Son. Not for Christ’s sake only, but for ours, came that voice, approving the character and authenticating the mission of the Son of God.
II. An implicit and authoritative appeal for human faith, attachment, and obedience. He of whom the Father thus speaks, is worthy of all our honour, gratitude, and devotion. (Family Churchman)
The Spirit driveth Him into the wilderness.
The temptation of Christ
An awful and mysterious passage in the life of One whose tastes and habits were the very opposite of those of the prophet of the desert-One who loved men and cities, free social intercourse, and scenes of active usefulness. No sooner does Jesus undergo the high consecration of baptism than, instead of stepping forth into public life, He flees to solitude. We cannot unveil the deep mystery of this season of thought and trial. But may we not suppose that when the Spirit descended on Christ, He who had so suffered the limitations of humanity as already to have needed to grow in wisdom and strength, may first have realized, in His human thought, the tremendous import of His mission, and at the same time may first have grasped the superhuman powers with which to work miracles? If so, overwhelmed with the vision before Him, He may well have sought solitude to meditate on His great work, to obtain inward mastery of His own stupendous powers, and to wrestle with and conquer the fearful temptations that would rise up, urging Him to desecrate those powers to selfish purposes.
I. Christ was tempted. He was not only tested as by a touchstone, but by the more searching ordeal of a direct persuasion to evil. In all there is a lower as well as a higher nature, a self-interest as well as a conscience of duty. If Christ was tempted, it follows that
(1) no innocence and no strength can make a soul unassailable by temptation, and
(2) to feel the force of temptation is no proof of guilty compliance.
II. Christ was tempted by Satan. Temptation arises from without as well as from our own hearts. This is why the purest mind is liable to it.
III. Christ was tempted at the commencement of His mission. The greatest obstacles often beset the first steps of a new course-in attempting a new work, in first attacking a bad habit, in entering on the Christian life. This tests genuineness and teaches humility, self-diffidence, and reliance on God. It is a great thing to begin the Christian campaign with a victory in the first battle.
IV. Christ was tempted when under high spiritual influences. “The Spirit driveth Him.”
1. God permits, nay, requires, us to pass through the fire of temptation.
2. Great spiritual elation is often followed by deep depression.
3. New endowments bring new dangers. They who stand highest are in danger of falling lowest.
V. Christ was tempted in the wilderness.
1. John found the desert the best scene for his life and work, Christ found it a region of evil influences. As one man’s paradise may be the purgatory of another, so the haven of refuge of one may be his brother’s most dangerous snare.
2. Christ was tempter in a solitary place. We cannot escape temptation by fleeing from the world; we carry the world with us to our retreat. (W. F. Adeney, M. A.)
This wilderness has been identified, by the voice of tradition, in the Greek and Latin Churches, as that wild and lonely region between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, called in modern geography, Quarantania. It is an extensive plateau, elevated to a considerable height above the plain of Jericho and the west bank of the Jordan; and hence the literal accuracy of the expression in St. Matthew, that Jesus was “led up” into the wilderness. Travellers have described it as a barren, sterile waste of painful whiteness, shut in on the west by a ridge of grey limestone hills, moulded into every conceivable shape; while on the east the view is closed by the gigantic wall of the Moab mountains, appearing very near at hand, but in reality a long way off, the deception being caused by the nature of the intervening ground, which possesses no marked features, no difference of colour on which to fix the eye for the purpose of forming an estimate of distance. Over this vast expanse of upland country there are signs of vegetation only in two or three places, where winter torrents have scooped out a channel for themselves, and stimulate year after year into brief existence narrow strips of verdure along their banks. The monotony of the landscape and the uniformity of its colouring are varied only when the glaring afternoon sun projects the shadows of the ghostly rocks across the plain, or, at rare intervals, when a snowy cloud, that seems as if born of the hills themselves, sails across the deep blue sky and casts down on the desolate scene the cool dark mantle of its shade. A more dreary and lonely scene it is impossible to imagine. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
Man led into temptation for his good
Here we learn that God is our Leader into all things which are good for our souls, and that even temptation may be good for us. The same Holy Spirit who led Jesus into the wilderness leads us thither too.
1. Christ went into a desert to make expiation for the sins which are committed in society.
2. He went to endure fasting for man’s luxury; to suffer want for man’s extravagance.
3. He went into the wilderness immediately after His baptism, teaching us thereby that those who are baptized should die from sin and rise again unto righteousness.
4. It is absolutely necessary for us all sometimes to stand aside from the busy crowd, and to seek quiet and retirement for prayer and self-examination, without which our spiritual life must grow feebler and fainter till it dies. (H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)
Temptation follows blessing
Note that it was immediately after His baptism our Lord was led into the wilderness to be tempted. Satan, like a pirate, sets on a ship that is richly laden; so when a soul hath beer laden with spiritual comforts, now the devil will be shooting at him to rob him of all. The devil envies to see a soul feasted with spiritual joy. Joseph’s parti-coloured coat made his brethren envy him and plot against him. After David had the good news of the pardon of his sin (which must needs fill with consolation), Satan presently tempted him to a new sin in numbering the people; and so all his comfort leaked out and was spilt. (T. Watson.)
I. That they come to the best of men.
1. To test the work and progress of their moral character.
2. To impart to moral character new traits of beauty.
II. That they often follow times of happy communion with God.
1. These altered conditions of soul are often sudden.
2. They are disciplinary.
3. They are unwelcome.
III. That they mark important crises in the spiritual history of the good.
1. They aid self-interpretation.
2. They give insight into the problem of sin.
3. They afford an opportunity of asserting moral supremacy.
IV. That they are frequently followed by the soothing ministries of heaven.
1. These ministries are angelic.
2. They are personal.
3. They are opportune.
4. They are soothing.
1. That temptation should not cause us to depreciate the worth of our moral character.
2. That temptation should increase our knowledge of self, and enhance the progress of our being.
3. That the devotions of the good should prepare them for struggle with evil.
4. That solitude is no safeguard against temptation.
5. That heavenly ministries are at the disposal of a tempted, but prayerful, soul.
6. That man has the power to resist the strongest opposition of hell. (Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
The temptation of Christ
It was not a vision but an actual occurence between a personal Saviour and a personal devil.
I. The circumstances.
1. The time. After His baptism. Before His public ministry.
2. The place. It was solitary, dreary, dangerous.
3. The Divine agency. Appointed and regulated by God.
4. Angelic ministrations.
II. The details.
1. To the use of unlawful means of extrication from difficulties.
2. To presumption on Divine support under self-sought dangers.
3. To spiritual idolatry.
III. Its uses.
1. It tried His character as a man and as a Mediator.
2. It showed His power to overcome the devil.
3. It qualified Him to sympathize with His people.
IV. Its lessons.
1. From the contrast between the issues of the temptation in paradise and of that in the wilderness.
2. From the instrument which was used in repelling the temptation. The sword of the Spirit.
3. From the hopes it inspires of victory over all our enemies. (Various.)
Jordan exchanged for the wilderness
From the baptism He went up, as it were, towards God as the “Beloved Son;” but from the temptation He comes earthward as the Son of Man. The Jordan lies on the heavenly, the wilderness on the earthly, side of Christ. There is a “river,” but there is no wilderness, in heaven. (Dr. Parker.)
Christ tempted of the devil
I. Christ, having received the Spirit, ever after lived under His immediate guidance.
1. Everything that Christ said and did expressed the mind of the Spirit. In this respect He is an example.
2. The intensity with which Christ acted is expressed by the word “driveth.”
3. The Spirit, as a leader, often takes into the wilderness,
II. Christ having been formally anointed to His offices, prepares Himself by fasting and prayer for His work. It was after Christ bad spent forty days in this employment that He was tempted. He afterwards acted in the same manner. Our example.
III. Christ having retired into the wilderness, He allowed Himself to be tempted of the devil.
IV. The temptation of Christ followed close upon the enjoyment of the highest religious privileges.
V. Christ was tempted in a place into which the Spirit had led Him.
VI. It is stated that Christ, during His stay in the wilderness, was with the wild beasts.
VII. On this and other occasions angels ministered to Christ. (Expository Outlines.)
I. Satan, the prince of devils. Numbers of his agents. His apostasy, and ruin of man. His power on earth, a kingdom. Organized. Long almost undisputed.
II. Christ came to dispute his authority. Took an affecting view of human vassalage.
III. Satan, aware of His advent, undertook to conduct His temptation. Made His life an incessant conflict.
IV. The defeat of Satan quite reconcilable with his present prevalence.
V. Called a spirit, to excite our vigilance. An unclean spirit, to awaken our antipathy. His influence over the heart, great. But only exercised with our consent.
VI. The period of his reign limited. (J. Harris, D. D.)
I. Its perils. Eve was tempted when she was alone; the suicide succumbs when he is pushed with the last degree of loneliness; the darkest thoughts of the conspirator becloud the mind when he has most deeply cut the social bond; when man is alone he loses the check of comparison with others; he miscalculates his force, and deems too little the antagonism that force may excite.
II. Its advantages. The risks of solitude are in proportion to its value. Man cannot reach his full stature in the market place or in association with the excited throng. The desert was to Christ a holy place after the initial battle. In the first instance He was led up into it to be tempted; but often afterwards to be comforted. (Ecce Deus.)
Life not all wilderness
Some people see nothing in the world but the wilderness, the devil, and the wild beasts. Resist these temptations, and thou wilt find it full of angels. (R. Glover.)
Tempted of Satan.
The number forty in Scripture
The number forty seems to have had a special mystical meaning. Nine instances in the Bible of events which occurred for forty days or years.
1. The Flood.
2. Bodies embalmed forty days before burial.
3. Israel’s wanderings.
4. Goliath’s defiance of Israel.
5. Elijah fasted.
6. Ezekiel bore the iniquity of Judah.
7. Repentance of Nineveh.
8. Our Lord’s temptation.
9. Interval between resurrection and ascension. (H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)
The word temptation has three meanings in the Bible.
1. A trial of our faith, to bring out some hidden virtue. Thus Abraham was tempted of God.
2. A provoking to anger. Thus we tempt God (Psalms 95:9; Psalms 106:14). So we say of a provoking person that he has a trying temper.
3. A leading into sin. Thus we are tempted of the devil. (H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)
Why does God allow us to be tempted
1. To strengthen our faith. The unused limb becomes weak and tender; the neglected instrument of music gets out of tune; the untouched weapon loses its keen edge. So, many a man knows nothing of self-denial until God tries him by a great sorrow.
2. To bring out latent good qualities.
3. To make us watchful. We must prove our armour. We must learn our weak points.
4. That He may one day give us our reward (James 1:12). (H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)
Christ’s susceptibility to temptation
Did Christ, then, merely suffer in the wilderness as any other man has done? Suffering is a question of nature. The educated man suffers more than the uneducated man; the poet probably suffers more than the mathematician; the commanding officer suffers more in a defeat than the common soldier. The more life, the more suffering: the billows of sorrow being in proportion to the volume of our manhood. Now Jesus Christ was not merely a man, He was Man; and by the very compass of His manhood, He suffered more than any mortal can endure. The storm may pass as fiercely over the shallow lake as over the Atlantic, but by its very volume the latter is more terribly shaken. No other man had come with Christ’s ideas; in no other man was the element of self so entirely abnegated; no other man had offered such opposition to diabolic rule; all these circumstances combine to render Christ’s temptation unique, yet not one of them puts Christ so far away as to prevent us finding in His temptation unfailing solace and strength. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
No sooner was Christ out of the water of baptism than He is thrust into the fire of temptation. So David, after his anointing, was hunted as a partridge upon the mountains. Israel is no sooner out of Egypt than Pharaoh pursues them. Hezekiah had no sooner left that solemn passover than Sennacherib comes up against him. St. Paul is assaulted with vile temptations after the abundance of his revelations; and Christ teaches us, after forgiveness of sins, to look for temptations, and to pray against them. While Jacob would be Laban’s drudge and packhorse, all was well; but when once he began to flee, he makes after him with all his might. All was quiet enough at Ephesus before St. Paul came thither; but then “there arose no small stir about ‘the way.’” All the while our Saviour lay in His father’s shop, and meddled only with carpenter’s chips, the devil troubled Him not; but now that He is to enter more publicly upon His office of mediatorship, the tempter pierceth His tender soul with many sorrows by solicitation to sin. (John Trapp.)
The lion is said to be boldest in the storm. His roar, it is said, never sounds so loud as in the pauses of the thunder; and when the lightning flashes, brightest are the flashes of his cruel eye. Even so he who goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, often seizes the hour of nature’s greatest distress to assault us with his fiercest temptations. He tempted Job when he was bowed down with grief. He tempted Peter when he was weary with watching and heart broken with sorrow. And here, too, he tempts Jesus Christ when He is faint with hunger. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
Subtlety of Satan’s temptations
Satan will lie in wait for the Christian in his time of weakness, even as the wild beasts do at the water side for the cattle coming to drink. Nay, when having resisted manfully, the Christian has driven off the enemy, he should look well that he be not wounded by the vanquished foe, who often makes a Parthian retreat. (J. G. Pilkington.)
Temptation not necessarily hurtful
It is when a child of God is fullest of grace; when he has been declared to be a “son,” even a “beloved son” of God; when he has made a public profession of Christianity, that he is most of all exposed to temptation. It seems strange, at first thought, that it should be so; but a little reflection dissipates the strangeness. Let me try to illustrate this. A toolmaker, I suppose, has finished an instrument, but it is not yet sent forth. Why Because he has not “tested” it. Well! Enter we his workshop. You look in and observe the process. Your first impression is, he is going to break it. But it is not so. Testing is not an injury. The perfect weapon comes out the stronger, and receives the stamp that will carry it over the world. Even so the testing and trying of the Christian is not an injury. He who has formed the believer for Himself is not going to break or destroy the work, the beautiful work of His own hands. He is purifying, fitting, fashioning, polishing. Carry this along with you, and you will understand how it comes about that at the very moment of your being “full” of the Holy Ghost, at the very moment of your announced sonship, you are most violently assailed. (A. B. Grosart, D. D.)
I. Sonship does not exempt from temptation.
II. Temptation does not invalidate sonship.
III. Temptation, rightly considered, makes sonship a life and power. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Our relation to Adam’s temptation and to Christ’s
Adam yielded; Christ overcame. Adam’s sin contains all the sin of his children; Christ’s victory contains all the victories of His people. There was the vice of all sinning in the one, and there was the virtue of all conquering in the other, When we sin we go down to that sin by the same steps which Adam trod, and when we foil the tempter, we do so with the same weapons that Christ wielded. (Dean Vaughan.)
Why men are tempted
Man is like iron fresh from the mine. The worker of the rude metal will thrust a crude bar of it into the blazing furnace, and turn it hither and thither in the glowing fires, and then lay it on the anvil, and beat it with innumerable blows, and crush it between inexorable rollers, and plunge it into the smothering charcoal, and turn and thrust and temper it, till at length it is no longer the hard, brittle, half earthy material, but something different-tougher, stronger, purer, and more valuable. He does this that the worthless may become useful, and that iron ore may be converted into steel. (S. Greg.)
An important interview
At one o’clock precisely on the 25th of June, 1807, two boats put off from opposite banks of the Niemen, at the little town of Tilsit. They rowed towards a raft in the middle of the river. Out of each stepped a single individual, and the two met in a small wooden apartment on the raft, while cannon thundered from either shore, and the shout of the great armies on either side drowned the roar of artillery. The two persons were the Emperors Napoleon and Alexander, met to arrange the destinies of the human race. But how vastly more important the interview of the text; in the persons employed in it, in the nature of the transaction, in the result. (T. Collins.)
Good stronger than evil
Satan would convert Christ; darkness would blot out the light, or throw at least a shadow on its brightness; foulness would cast a stain on the white robe of purity; evil would triumph over good. But no I Light is stronger than darkness; good than evil. The Son looks up to the Father, and in that Divine strength casts the evil one behind Him, and is left alone on the field, more than conqueror. (S. Greg.)
Sinlessness unfolds into holiness
Sinlessness is negative, holiness is positive; and it was requisite that the “second Adam,” like the first, should encounter the devil before His sinlessness could unfold into holiness. (J. C. Jones.)
The force of temptation
Run with the wind and you hardly know it is blowing. Run against it, and you are convinced of the existence of a resisting medium, and in direct proportion to the speed with which you run, will be your consciousness of the force by which you are opposed. Thus as long as you run with the devil and promptly do his behests, you may be inclined to deny his existence; disobey him, and you will be made painfully aware of his presence, and his endeavours to thwart all your efforts after good. (J. C. Jones.)
With the wild beasts.-
Christ with the wild beasts
Is this only one of those graphic touches which this vivid writer so often gives us? Was it a forcible way of describing a total absence of human sympathy? No doubt it served this purpose, but this was not all. When we recognise the correspondence between this and Adam’s temptation, our thoughts fly at once to Paradise, and we remember that he too was with the wild beasts, and that God had given him dominion over them, and that during the brief duration of his innocence he must have exercised it unfearing and unfeared. And we fancy we can see in this short but pregnant sentence a hint that He who came to inaugurate an era of restoration, and bring back the times of man’s innocence, was not unmindful of the lower creatures and their subjection to vanity. It was a promise of what should one day come to pass when broken harmonies should be restored, and the prediction in Job 5:23, receive its fulfilment. It matters little that we can point to no evidence of its accomplishment as yet, because with the Lord a thousand years are but as one day, and one day as a thousand years. There is no question that the hope was created, and that it laid hold upon the mind of the early Christians, in support of which we have the testimony of the Catacombs, where our Lord is so frequently represented in the character of Orpheus attracting wild animals of divers kinds by the sound of his lyre. The same was perpetuated by later legends, which made the surpassing goodness of St. Francis throw a spell of mysterious influence, not only over his fellow creatures, but over birds of the air and beasts of the field. (H. M. Luckock, D. D.)
The power of goodness to tame the animal creation
Before the fall Adam dwelt with the beasts on terms of closest friendship; but on the entrance of evil man grew cruel and beasts grew fiercer. But when Christ appeared, free from the taint of sin, the old relationship revived. The disturbed harmony of Eden was restored in the wilderness. Goodness is an unrivalled tamer of the animal creation, and Christ’s sojourn with savage beasts is an infallible pledge of the millennium. (J. C. Jones.)
And the angels ministered unto Him.-
Reasonableness of belief in the existence of angels
There are many who deny the existence of any spiritual beings save God and man. The wide universe is to them a solitary land, without inhabitants. There is but one filled with living creatures. It is the earth on which we move; and we, who have from century to century crawled from birth to death, and fretted out our little lives upon this speck of stardust which sparkles amid a million, million others upon the mighty plain of infinite space, we are the only living spirits. There is something pitiable in this impertinence. It is a drop of dew in the lonely cup of a gentian, which imagines itself to be all the water in the universe. It is the summer midge which has never left its forest pool, dreaming that it and its companions are the only living creatures in earth or air. There is no proof of the existence of other beings than ourselves, but there is also no proof of the contrary. Apart from revelation, we can think about the subject as we please. But it does seem incredible that we alone should represent in the universe the image of God; and if in one solitary star another race of beings dwell, if we concede the existence of a single spirit other than ourselves, we have allowed the principle. The angelic world of which the Bible speaks is possible to faith. (Stopford Brooke.)
How little we know of the angels
Little is said [in the Bible] of angels. They are like the constellations in space; there is light enough to reveal, to show that they are; but more is needed to reveal all their nature and functions. (Henry Batchelor.)
Association of the angels with Christ
Their airy and gentle coming may well be compared to the glory of colours flung by the sun upon the morning clouds, that seem to be born just where they appear. Like a beam of light striking through some orifice, they shine upon Zacharias in the temple. As the morning light finds the flowers, so they found the mother of Jesus; and their message fell on her, pure as dewdrops on the lily. To the shepherds’ eyes, they filled the midnight arch like auroral beams of light; but not as silently, for they sang more marvellously than when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. They communed with the Saviour in His glory of transfiguration, sustained Him in the anguish of the garden, watched Him at the tomb; and as they thronged the earth at His coming, so they seem to have hovered in the air in multitudes at the hour of His ascension. Beautiful as they seem, they are never mere poetical adornments. The occasions of their appearing are grand, the reasons weighty, and their demeanour suggests and befits the highest conception of superior beings. Their very coming and going is not with earthly movement. They are suddenly seen in the air, as one sees white clouds round out from the blue sky in a summer’s day, that melt back even while one looks upon them. We could not imagine Christ’s history without angelic love. The sun without clouds of silver and gold, the morning on the fields without dew-diamonds, but not the Saviour without His angels. (H. W. Beecher.)
I have ever with me invisible friends and enemies. The consideration of mine enemies shall keep me from security, and make me fearful of doing aught to advantage them. The consideration of my spiritual friends shall comfort me against the terror of the other; shall remedy my solitariness; shall make me wary of doing aught indecently; grieving me rather that I have ever heretofore made them turn away their eyes for shame of that whereof I have not been ashamed; that I have no more enjoyed their society; that I have been no more affected with their presence. What, though I see them not? I believe them. I were no Christian if my faith were not as sure as my sense. (Bp. Hall.)
Ministry of angels
It would require the tongue of angels themselves to recite all that we owe to these benign and vigilant guardians. They watch by the cradle of the newborn babe, and spread their celestial wings round the tottering steps of infancy. If the path of life be difficult and thorny, and evil spirits work us shame and woe, they sustain us; they bear the voice of our complaining, our supplication, our repentance, up to the foot of God’s throne, and bring us back in return a pitying benediction to strengthen and to cheer. When passion and temptation arrive for the mastery, they encourage us to resist: when we conquer, they crown us; when we falter and fail, they compassionate and grieve over us; when we are obstinate in polluting our own souls, and perverted not only in act but in will, they leave us; and woe to them that are so left! But the good angel does not quit his charge until his protection is despised, rejected, and utterly repudiated. Wonderful one fervour of their love, wonderful their meekness and patience, who endure from day to day the spectacle of the unveiled human heart with all its miserable weaknesses and vanities, its inordinate desires and selfish purposes! Constant to us in death, they contend against the powers of darkness for the emancipated spirit. (Mrs. Jameson.)
Now after that John was put in prison.
Hindrances no injury
But John had been doing a good work, doing an important work, doing the very work that God had planned for him to do. Why did the Lord let him be put in prison? Just such interruptions as that to the best men’s work, and just such trials as this to the best of men, are in the Lord’s plan of the progress of his work, and of the training of His people. When old Father Mills, of Torringford, Connecticut, heard that his son, Samuel J. Mills, “the father of foreign missions in America,” had died at sea while his work was at its brilliant starting, the quaint old Yankee preacher said wonderingly: “Well, I declare! The fat’s all in the fire again.” And it did look that way, didn’t it? We can’t understand all this; but we can see its commonness. John the Baptist was a child of promise and a child of prophecy. Jesus says of him: “Among them that are born of women there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist.” Yet just as he was fairly inaugurating the Messiah’s dispensation, and his work seemed more important than almost anyone’s else on earth, “John was put in prison.” Until you can see just why that thing was permitted, don’t worry yourself over some of your little hindrances, or those of your neighbours, asking-as if half in doubt whether or not there is a God, or whether He cares for the interests of His cause and its best friends “What did the Lord let this happen for?” (Sunday School Times.)
The silencing of Christ’s ministers not the suppressing of Christ’s gospel
Out of the ashes of a Faithful God raises up a Hopeful; for the immortal dreamer says: “Now I saw in my dream that Christian went not forth alone; for there was one whose name was Hopeful who joined himself unto him.” Though the enemy burn a John Huss, God is able to raise up a Martin Luther to take his place: end the martyrdom of Ridley and Latimer does but “light a candle in England which shall never be put out.” The casting of the Baptist into prison signalized the commencement of that ministry which unhinged the gates of hell. (Anonymous.)
Impediment changed into new impetus
I. We see a royal ambassador silenced.
II. We see a worthier envoy substituted.
III. We see the deathless energy of truth. No power known on earth can stop her silvery tongue. (D. Davies, M. A.)
John’s position had been one of honour. We now contemplate him as the occupant of a dungeon.
I. The history of John’s connection with Herod is very instructive. It shows-
1. The feeling of the world in certain cases towards the truth of its teachers-they “hear it gladly.”
2. The experience of the faithful reprovers of human sin-a prison.
3. A leading feature of that kingdom which John introduced.
4. This was fitted to undeceive the Jews. Are you satisfied with the gospel economy?
II. No sooner was John cast into prison than Jesus Himself began to preach the gospel.
1. When a servant of God has finished his work, he must be satisfied to retire. We think experience, etc., lost; but no.
2. The world will never succeed in suppressing the truth. Let us not be oppressed with anxiety!
III. The Evangelist records the substance as well as the fact of Christ’s preaching.
IV. As soon as Christ began to preach the gospel He called His disciples.
1. On the fact of His calling His disciples we may remark:
(1) He made provision for the perpetuity of His kingdom;
(2) He brought those who were to be main pillars in the Church under His own training-spiritually;
(3) He placed the apostles in circumstances which qualified them to be witnesses to facts.
2. On the manner of His calling His disciples, we may remark:
(1) He honoured diligence in humble employment;
(2) He chose seemingly weak instruments;
(3) He taught that we must leave all in order to follow Him;
(4) He furnished an example of effectual calling. Have you “left all”? (Expository Discourses.)
Jesus came into Galilee
The season was the spring, with its bright heaven, its fresh sweet earth, its gladsome, soft, yet strengthening air, its limpid living water. And within as without all was springtime, the season of million-fold forces, gladly and grandly creative, of sunlight now clear and blithesome, and now veiled with clouds that came only to break in fruitful showers. (Principal A. M. Fairbairn.)
The vicissitudes of a Godly life
I. That good men are often made the subject of social reproach. “John was put in prison.”
1. Because the inner meaning of their lives is frequently misunderstood.
2. Because the moral beauty of their character excites the envy of the wicked.
3. Because they are often called to rebuke the wickedness of those around them.
II. That useful men are often rendered incapable of work through the tyranny of others.
1. The power of regal authority to hinder the labours of the morally useful is only partial.
2. It is often capable of wise explanation-
(1) It proved that the Baptist was capable of suffering as well as work;
(2) That the history of the Baptist might the more easily merge into that of our Lord;
(3) To give him rest before entering the solemnities of eternity.
3. It is deeply responsible.
III. That though one servant of truth may be removed another is immediately found to take his place.
IV. That the ministry called forth by the emergency is often better than the one removed. (Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
Preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.-
The scope of our Lord’s ministry
I. The kingdom here spoken of.
1. It was the kingdom of God.
2. It was at that time to be established.
II. What must we do to become subjects of this kingdom?
1. Repent of sin.
2. Believe the gospel. Application:
(3) Thankfulness. (C. Simeon, M. A.)
The kingdom of God
This term is used in various senses in the New Testament.
1. The presence of Christ upon earth.
2. The second coming of Christ.
3. His influence upon the heart.
4. Christianity as a Church.
5. Christianity as a faith.
6. The life eternal.
It points out sin to be turned from in sorrow: Christ to be believed in with joy. (T. M. Lindsay, D. D.)
The Kingdom of God: God reigning in men’s hearts
There is great meaning in the words that Jesus was continually using to describe the work that He did for men’s souls. He brought them into “the kingdom of God.” The whole burden of His preaching was to establish the kingdom of God. The purpose of the new birth for which He laboured was to make men subjects of the kingdom of God. Is it not clear what it means? The kingdom of God for any soul is that condition, anywhere in the universe, where God is that soul’s king, where it seeks and obeys the highest, where it loves truth and duty more than comfort and luxury. Have you entered into the kingdom of God? Oh, how much that means! Has any love of God taken possession of you, so that you want to do His will above all things, and try to do it all the time? Has Christ brought you there? If He has, how great and new and glorious the life of the kingdom seems. No wonder that He said you must be born again before you could enter there. How poor life seems outside that kingdom. How beautiful and glorious inside its gates! If I tried to tell you how Christ brings us there, I should repeat to you once more the old, familiar story. He comes and lives and dies for us. He touches us with gratitude. He sets before our softened lives His life. He makes us see the beauty of holiness, and the strength of the spiritual life in Him. He transfers His life to us through the open channel of faith, and so we come to live as He lives, by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. How old the story is, but how endlessly fresh and true to Him whose own career it describes. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)
The kingdom of God an inward state
Many people seem to suppose this means some realm after death, where those who have done nothing but mortify themselves here shall do nothing but enjoy themselves hereafter. But what Christ meant by the kingdom of heaven was a life begun here, passing through the grave and gate of death without any breach of spiritual continuity. Unchanged in essence was the life of His kingdom-changeable only in outward accidents. Its essence depended always not on where, but on what you were. The kingdom of heaven was always a state within, not a place, though it worked itself out here below in a visible Church. (H. R. Haweis, M. A.)
The Galilean ministry
I. When. After John’s imprisonment. One witness of the truth silenced; but another raised up. After Moses, Joshua; after Stephen, Paul.
II. Where. Galilee. Where could He find work so readily as amidst the ceaseless toil and turmoil of these teeming villages?
1. Gospel of kingdom of God. Spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:50); righteous (Romans 14:17); near (Luke 21:31); inward (Luke 17:20-42.17.21).
2. Repentance and faith: thus completing the work of John. (H. Thorne.)
Christ the Evangelical minister
I. The preacher-“Jesus.” But Jesus differed from all other preachers.
1. He was Divine.
2. He was infallible.
3. He was sympathetic.
4. He was most clear and simple. “Common people heard him gladly,” etc.
5. He was most interesting.
6. Most faithful and earnest.
7. He preached most affectionately and tenderly. One of His very last appeals-“O Jerusalem,” etc. He wept over it, etc.
II. His theme. The gospel.
1. He was the subject of His own ministry.
2. He also proclaimed the kingdom of God.
3. The near approach of this kingdom.
4. The sphere of His ministry at this time was Galilee. Now the world is the field of the gospel-“Go ye into all the world,” etc.
III. The special appeal He made.
1. He urged repentance.
2. He demanded faith. The gospel news must be heard and received as true.
1. We have the same Saviour.
2. The same gospel-now complete by His resurrection and gift of the Holy Spirit.
3. Its blessings are ours on the same terms.
4. Men perish by not believing the gospel of Christ. (J. Burns, D. D.)
And saying, The time is fulfilled.
Repentance and faith
I. The import of the exhortation.
1. By the repentance to which we are exhorted we are not to understand merely an external reformation. To the. Pharisees such an exhortation would have been inappropriate and useless. Their outward conduct was exemplary. Nor can we suppose that the repentance to which we are exhorted is a mere sense of sorrow and regret on account of the afflictive and penal consequences to which our transgressions may expose us, either in the present life or in that which is to come. True repentance is “towards God”-“for the remission of sins”-“unto salvation.” Putting all these explanatory terms together, we are led to the conclusion that repentance consists in a sorrowful conviction of our having grieved and provoked God, and in an earnest desire and endeavour to be reconciled to Him, and to secure by the remission of our sins the salvation of our souls. These convictions and desires must be substantially the same in character in all true penitents, but are not in all cases equal in degree. Sometimes the heart is rather melted than broken.
2. But by the faith to which we are exhorted we are not to understand merely a general belief in God as the Almighty Creator, and the gracious Governor of all things. It is not merely a faith in the Divine mission and authority of Christ, and in the truth of that system of doctrine which He taught. The exhortation is “Believe the gospel”-that which is peculiar to the gospel. Those whom our Lord addressed believed in God as the Creator, in the truth of the Old Testament Scriptures; making it a boast that they were “Moses’ disciples.” It must therefore have been something more particularly pertaining to the gospel which they were now exhorted to believe, namely, the doctrine of salvation by Him as their Redeemer-the testimony that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself,” etc. We must do more than yield assent with the understanding to this great doctrine; as it is with a “broken and contrite heart” that man repents, so “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” It is, in other words, to feel what we believe, or to exercise a sure trust and confidence in that which we acknowledge to be true.
3. We have already noticed the close and intimate sequence with which the exhortation to faith in the gospel follows the exhortation to repentance; and we may now further remark upon that head, that the one is thus inculcated in connection with the other-
1. Because for all true penitents there is a gospel, or a message of good news. Had it been otherwise repentance would have been a dreadful thing. Are you guilty? Here is “a fountain opened for sin.” In a word, are you entirely lost? Here is a Saviour “able to save even to the uttermost,” etc.
2. This faith is inculcated in connection with repentance, because it is in the act of cordially believing what the gospel says, that we receive the blessings which the gospel offers.
II. The arguments or motives by which the exhortation is supported.
1. The exhortation to repentance may be regarded as being urged by the assurance that “the time is fulfilled.” To all who bare not repented “the time is fulfilled”-the time, place, and subject we are considering are all favourable. May it not be said of you that “the time” of your own solemn promise and engagement “is fulfilled.” “The time” of God’s special influence and grace is “now fulfilled.” In the case of some of you it may probably be said, “the time is fulfilled,” as you are very near the period when lime is to be exchanged for eternity. “Your days are fulfilled, for your end is come.”
2. Upon the supposition that you are already penitent, you are encouraged to faith in the gospel by the assurance that “the kingdom of God is at hand.” This kingdom is at hand as all things needful for its establishment have been abundantly provided. Indeed, if truly penitent, you are already in a state of preparation for being made by faith the subjects of His “kingdom.” If you are truly penitent, “the kingdom of God is at hand,” for God is this moment waiting to set up that kingdom in your hearts. Let repentance and faith ever be connected. There are persons who, in a certain sense, “believe the gospel” without having ever truly repented; they have a speculative faith in the gospel. On the other hand are persons resting in repentance, and on the mere ground of their repentance are looking to be admitted into heaven. Let one follow the other in the order in which Christ has placed them. (J. Crowther.)
I. The insufficiency of repentance by itself to procure the forgiveness of sin.
II. The suitableness of faith to the being associated with repentance as a condition.
III. The thorough harmony of doth conditions with the blessed fact that eternal life is the free gift of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Many persons who appear to repent are like sailors who throw their goods overboard in a storm, and wish for them again in a calm. (Mead.)
A saint’s tears are better than a sinner’s triumphs. (Secker.)
The tears of penitents are the wine of angels. (Bernard.)
Repentance begins in the humiliation of the heart, and ends in the reformation of the life. (Mason.)
There is no going to the fair haven of glory without sailing through the narrow strait of repentance. (Dyer.)
In 1680, Mr. Philip Henry preached on the doctrine of faith and repentance from several texts of scripture. He used to say that he had been told concerning the famous Mr. Dod, that some called him in scorn “Faith and Repentance,” because he insisted so much upon these two in all his preaching. “But,” says he, “if this be to be vile, I will be yet more vile, for faith and repentance are all in all in Christianity.” Concerning repentance he has sometimes said, “If I were to die in the pulpit, I would desire to die preaching repentance, as if I were to die out of the pulpit I would desire to die practising repentance.”
Repentance a reversal of conduct
A locomotive is rushing at express speed along the main line of a railway, when suddenly, by a pointsman’s mistake, it is switched off into a sideline. Instantly the brakes are applied, and the moving mass is brought to a standstill. Then the engineer lays his hand upon a lever, the motion of the engine is reversed, and the train moves back to the main line, and continues on its course. In human life, such an abandoning of the main line is transgression; such a reversal is repentance. The kingdom of God is like a walled city with a single gate, to which outsiders can only approach by one path. That gate is faith; that path is repentance. An old tower in one of the southern counties of Scotland goes by the name of The Tower of Repentance. A herd boy was one day lying in a field near it, reading his New Testament, when an irreligious gentleman of the neighbourhood stopped and asked him what book he was reading. On being informed, he said with a sneer, “Perhaps, then, you can tell me the way to heaven?” “Oh, yes,” replied the boy, “you must go up through that tower.” This quaint way of expressing the truth, sent the inquirer off in a more thoughtful mood than when he came. If a man is running from the kingdom of God, it is obvious that he must just turn round and run for it, if he wishes to reach it. Just as soon as it is possible for a man to reach the top of a hill by running downhill, will it be possible for the sinner to enter God’s kingdom without repentance. (Sunday School Times.)
Repentance and faith
From these words we learn what it is to preach the gospel.
I. We are to prove that Jesus of Nazareth is He that should come-He of whom all the prophets did write-the very Christ, the Saviour of the world. “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand.”
II. We are to teach men how to receive, and how to act, under these good tidings-“Repent ye,” etc.
1. Repentance: Its importance and necessity. Its nature.
2. Our Lord preached not only repentance, but also faith. So the apostles. In every saved soul these two must and do meet together. Not that God deals alike with every saved soul. “Believe the gospel,”-come to Jesus, that you may have a free pardon, etc. (R. Dixon, D. D.)
Repentance not immediately followed by faith
I have known instances where for years there have been right views of the evil of sin, and of the nature of holiness, and a desire after holiness-and what is this but repentance? imperfect it may be, but still repentance at least in its beginnings: imperfect, it went not far enough, inasmuch as it was without faith. I knew a man a public character, who wrote to me, in youth, many an instructive letter, a man of no common intellect, who, when only a boy, on reading Martin Luther’s book on the Epistle to the Galatians, absolutely rolled in agony on the floor, under a sense of sin and the wrath of God; and though his home influence and his occupation in after life were opposed to his spiritual progress, he never lost his reverence for the Bible and his desire to be religious. It is a fact that it was his habit to read the Bible with a commentary of a night, after he had left his occupation, which was eminently worldly; and he used to say, “it was his greatest comfort in life.” I have, as a boy, listened to his reverential reading of the Bible and that commentary to his family. But the error of seeking salvation by the works of the law prevented his enjoyment of peace, or sense of pardon. It was not till the later years of his life, when the providence of God had removed him from his ensnaring and worldly occupation, that he attained to what the Scripture calls faith-salvation by grace through the faith of Christ-a simple, childlike trust in Christ, as made sin for him, that he might be made the righteousness of God in Christ. For several years of his later time, Archbishop Leighton’s works, especially his commentary on St. Peter’s first epistle, one of the noblest works which ever came from uninspired man, was his daily companion, from which he seemed never weary of making large extracts: and he owned that he now apprehended faith as he had never done before. Like many others, in his zeal for good works he had thought that such sweeping statements about faith alone being needful for salvation were contrary to good works. Whereas he lived to see and know and feel that faith in Christ works by love, and is the fruitful source of all good and holy works. He found that the Twelfth Article of our Church is the truth of God. “Albeit that good works, which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment; yet are they pleasing to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith; insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.” I have no doubt that in the case of my departed friend, as in many others, the Holy Spirit was slowly bringing about His purpose of mercy, through the workings of repentance; and when he had been brought to see that there was no good in him, and that all his strivings after holiness were altogether vain, then came the gift of faith, and he believed to the saving of his soul. As another example of the long separation between faith and repentance, in some souls, I cannot withhold from you the case of one of our greatest literary characters, Dr. Samuel Johnson. His writings have been my companion from my youth up; I early conceived a great admiration of him, not only for his large intellectual powers, but because he stood forth in an immoral age as a friend of revealed religion, and an earnest teacher of morals. I am fully aware of the defects of his character,-they were many and great; but these imperfections were balanced by some great and noble qualities, accompanied by an intellect of the highest order, which to use his own words, at the close of his Rambler, he vigorously employed, “to give ardour to virtue and confidence to truth.” Let me briefly sketch his soul’s religious history. As a young man at Oxford he took up Law’s Serious Call to the Unconverted, expecting to find it a dull book, and perhaps to laugh at it. But he found Law an overmatch for him, “This,” he says, “was the first occasion of my thinking in earnest about religion, after I became capable of rational inquiry.” Nor did he conceal his convictions. He attended church with much regularity; he was indignant when, for political reasons, there was some hesitation about giving the Highlanders of Scotland the Scriptures in Gaelic; he would allow no profane swearing in his presence, and he sternly rebuked anyone who ventured to utter in his presence impure or profane language. To a young clergyman he gave this admirable advice, that “all means must be tried by which souls may be saved”; and in one of his writings he declares, that, compared with the conversion of sinners, propriety and elegance in preaching are less than nothing. Yet, with all this honest earnestness, his religion gave him no peace. His views of the gospel were very defective, and partook very largely of that legal spirit so natural to man. He rested, as he himself says, his hope of salvation on his own obedience by which to obtain the application of the Saviour’s mediation to himself, and then; o repentance to make up for the defects of obedience. “I cannot be sure,” he said, “that I have fulfilled the conditions in which salvation is granted; I am afraid I may be one of those who should be condemned.” He never could be sure that he had done enough. And yet no one can read his meditations and prayers and not be convinced that he had a deep sense of sin and an earnest desire for holiness, accompanied with great self-abasement before God: but all in vain; there was no peace; there was repentance, but no faith. He had yet to learn that “being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” And he was taught this blessed truth by the Holy Spirit in his last illness. All his life long he had looked upon death with the greatest terror; but though late, relief was granted to him. At evening time it was light. It appears that a clergyman was the main instrument in bringing his mind to a quiet trust. In answer to the anxious question, written to him by the dying moralist, “What shall I do to be saved,” the clergyman wrote, “I say to you, in the language of the Baptist, ‘Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.’” That passage had been often read by him, and made but a slight impression; but now pressed home by the gracious Spirit, it went straight to his heart. He interrupted the friend who was reading the letter. “Does he say so? Read it again!” Comfort came and peace. His biographer tells us, “for some time before his death all his fears were calmed and absorbed by the prevalence of his faith and his trust in the merits and propitiation of Jesus Christ.” Now all those years of darkness, fear, and disquiet, would have been saved had he known and received the free grace of God in Christ-in other words, if he had not only repented, but also believed the gospel. (R. Dixon, D. D.)
The call to repentance and faith
I. A motive to genuine repentance, and cordial faith in the gospel, may be drawn from the consideration of that appalling misery which awaits the impenitent and unbelieving.
II. A motive may be gathered from the riches of God’s goodness, especially as dispensed through the merits and intercession of Christ.
III. A motive may be gathered from the promise of the Holy Spirit, and from the countless instances which prove that promise to have been actually fulfilled down to this day. (J. Thornton.)
Christ preaching repentance
I. Christ preached the nature of repentance.
II. Christ preached the necessity of repentance.
1. The universal necessity may be shown from the character of God, as the Ruler of the world.
2. It may be shown from the state of man.
3. From the fact that an impenitent sinner is unfit for heaven.
III. Christ preached the duty of repentance. He pressed it home upon every man’s conscience. He enforced it by rewards and punishments (Matthew 11:20; Matthew 2:2; Matthew 12:41). He encouraged men to it. (J. Carter.)
Gist of the Saviour’s teaching
The whole gospel is practically reduced to repentance. Christ joins it to the hope of heaven, as being the only means of arriving there. Here are four points in His teaching.
1. That His Father does everything according to the order of His adorable designs, in the time prefixed in His eternal predestination, and in the manner described in the Scriptures, prefigured in the shadows of the law, foretold by the prophets, and included in the promises, the time whereof is now fulfilled at His coming.
2. That sin has reigned under the law, but that God is to reign under grace and by it, and that the time of this kingdom of grace and mercy is at hand.
3. That the kingdom of God, and His reign by grace, begins with repentance for past sins.
4. That it is established by submission to the yoke of faith, and of the precepts of the gospel, and by the hope and love of eternal enjoyments which it reveals and promises. (Quesnel.)
Nature and evidence of repentance
I. Repentance is a change of mind concerning
(2) the law;
II. Repentance is manifested by its effects:
(4) self- abandonment. (W. W. Whythe.)
Tokens of repentance
The signs of true repentance are-
(1) Carefulness not to fall into our former sins again;
(2) holy indignation against ourselves for our sins past;
(3) a greater hatred of all sin, than we ever had a love for it;
(4) constant striving against secret sins;
(5) thorough obedience rendered cheerfully to all God’s commands. (G. Petter.)
Jesus in Galilee
I. The preaching of Jesus was spiritual. His theme was the “kingdom of God.” Galilee was full of rabbis who taught for doctrines the commandments of men. Jesus held the minds of men to spiritual themes. His coming was the setting up on earth of the kingdom of God. The countrymen of Jesus looked for that kingdom as one of worldly magnificence. Nothing could deter Him from unfolding its spiritual nature.
II. Jesus preached with authority. He commanded men to repent (verse 16.) He came to be King as well as Saviour.
III. Jesus required not only acceptance of His doctrines but of Himself also - “Come ye after Me.”
IV. Jesus proffers large reward to His followers-“I will make you fishers of men.”
V. Jesus’ words and acts were a revelation of His Divine power. Rebuking the evil spirit, He bade him “hold his peace and come out of him.” That word was irresistible. Lessons:
1. The way to spread the gospel is to tell what Jesus does.
2. If one agency fails to bring men to Christ, let others be employed.
3. Opportunities for greatest duties are found in the discharge of ordinary ones. Jesus was in the synagogue on the Sabbath, and while there occasion was afforded for healing a demoniac.
4. A broad estimate should he had of the kingdom of Christ. How vast was Christ’s view of the kingdom He came to set up. Beings of both worlds were interested in it. (Sermons by Monday Club.)
Jesus in Galilee
I. The entrance to the kingdom. For a sinful man the only way into a kingdom of righteousness, is through repentance and renewal.
II. The ministry of the kingdom. Discipleship means ministry.
III. The demonstration of the kingdom. The gospel of the kingdom is good news for the whole man; mind, heart, will, soul and body. At last the gospel of the heavenly kingdom, in its full realization, shall be only a renewal of the gospel of the kingdom that was spoken in Galilee. “And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying.” (Sermons by Monday Club.)
Repent and believe.
Adams likens Faith to a great queen in her progress, having repentance as her messenger going before her, and works as the attendants following in her train. (J. G. Pilkington.)
The look of repentance backward and forward
Like Janus Bifrons, the Roman god looking two ways, a true repentance net only bemoans the past but takes heed to the future. Repentance, like the lights of a ship at her bow and her stern, not only looks to the track she has made, but to the path before her. A godly sorrow moves the Christian to weep over the failure of the past, but his eyes are not so blurred with tears but that he can look watchfully into the future, and, profiting by the experience of former failures, make straight paths for his feet. (J. G. Pilkington.)
“Sir,” said a young man to Philip Henry, “how long should a man go on repenting? How long, Mr. Henry, do you mean to go on repenting yourself?” “Sir,” was the reply, “I hope to carry my repentance to the very gates of heaven. Every day I find I am a sinner, and every day I need to repent. I mean to carry my repentance, by God’s help, up to the very gates of heaven.” May this be your divinity, and mine! May repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, be Jachin and Boaz-the two great pillars before the temple of our religion, the cornerstones in our system of Christianity. (Bishop Ryle.)
Repentance and faith inseparable
Here is the sum and substance of Christ’s whole teaching-the Alpha and Omega of His entire ministry; and coming from the lips of such an one and at such a time (just after His baptism), we should give the most earnest heed to it.
I. The gospel which Christ preached was, very plainly, a command. He didn’t condescend to reason about it. Why is this?
1. To ensure its being attended to. Many would never venture to believe at all if it were not made penal to refuse to do so.
2. That men may be without excuse if they neglect it.
II. This command is two fold. It explains itself: repent and believe.
1. Repentance. Abhorrence of one’s past life, because of the love of Christ which has pardoned it. Avoidance of present sin, because not one’s own, but bought with a price. Resolution to live henceforth like Jesus. This is the only repentance we have to preach and to practise: not law and terrors, not despair, not driving men to self-murder-this is the sorrow of the world, which worketh death: godly sorrow is a sorrow unto salvation through Christ.
2. Faith. That is, trust in Christ. This goes hand-in-hand with repentance. Neither will be of any use without the other. Trust Christ to save you, and lament that you need to be saved, and mourn because this need of yours has put the Saviour to open shame, frightful sufferings, and a terrible death.
III. This command is a most reasonable one. God only asks of you that which your heart, if it were in a right state, would rejoice to give. You can’t expect to be saved while you are in your sins, any more than you can expect to have a healthy body while there is poison in your veins. And then, as to faith, God surely has a right to demand of the creature he has made, that he shall believe what He tells him:
IV. This is a command which demands immediate obedience. The danger is real; the necessity is urgent. Today is the time God graciously gives you; tomorrow He may claim as His own. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Low in repentance, high in faith
An old saint, on his sick bed, once used this remarkable expression: “Lord, sink me low as hell in repentance, but”-and here is the beauty of it-“lift me high as heaven in faith.” The repentance that sinks a man low as hell is of no use except there is the faith also that lifts him as high as heaven, and the two are perfectly consistent the one with the other. Oh, how blessed it is to know where these two lines meet-the stripping of repentance, and the clothing of faith! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Repentance dear to the Christian
Rowland Hill, when he was near death, said he had one regret, and that was that a dear friend who had lived with him for sixty years, would have to leave him at the gate of heaven. “That dear friend,” said he, “is repentance; repentance has been with me all my life, and I think I shall drop a tear as I go through the gates, to think that I can repent no more.”
Repentance bears sweet fruit
The sweetness of the apple makes up for the bitterness of the root, the hope of gain makes pleasant the perils of the sea, the expectation of health mitigates the nauseousness of medicine. He who desires the kernel, breaks the nut so he who desires the joy of a holy conscience, swallows down the bitterness of penance. (Scholiast in Jerome.)
Repentance and faith twin duties
Faith and repentance keep up a Christian’s life, as the natural heat and radical moisture do the natural life. Faith is like the innate heat; repentance like the natural moisture. And, as the philosopher saith, if the innate heat devour too much the radical moisture, or, on the contrary, there breed presently diseases; so, if believing make a man repent less, or repenting make a man believe less, this turneth to a distemper. Lord, cast me down (said a holy man upon his death bed) as low as hell in repentance; and lift me up by faith into the highest heavens, in confidence of Thy salvation. (John Trapp.)
Repentance a daily duty
He that repents every day for the sins of every day, when he comes to die will have the sins of only one day to repent of. Short reckonings make long friends. (M. Henry.)
The time fulfilled
The same thought as St. Paul’s “fulness of time.” (Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10). The kingdom of God and of heaven. These two formulae are used with a slight difference of meaning.
I. “The kingdom of heaven” stands opposed to the kingdoms of earth: the great world empires that lived and ruled by the strength of their armies and that were, in means and ends, in principles and practices, bad. These had grown out of the cruel ambitions, jealousies, and hatreds of men and States; had created war, bloodshed, famine, pestilence, the oppression which crushed the weak, and the tyranny which exalted the strong. But the kingdom from above was the descent of a spiritual power, calm and ubiquitous as the sun to light: plastic, penetrative, pervasive, silently changing from ill to good, from chaos order, both man and the world.
II. “The kingdom of God” has its opposite in the kingdom of evil or satan, the great empire of darkness and anarchy, creative of misery and death to man. It belonged to God, came from Him, existed to promote His ends, to vanquish sin, and to restore on earth an obedience that would make it happy and harmonious as heaven. (Principal A. M. Fairbairn.)
Now as He walked by the Sea of Galilee.
The call of the first apostles
The call of these men is a strange thing. It is strange that He begins with winning disciples, not working miracles. And it is more strange still that in our poor human nature He should find any fitness to aid Him in His work. You would have thought only heaven could have given the Saviour fellow workers that would be a comfort and a help to Him. But man can be a worker together with God. Several things are noteworthy in connection with this group of apostles.
I. They are not theologians. We do not need high education to fit us to do good.
II. But they had benefited by an excellent training. They came from pious homes; they had good schooling and good knowledge of the Bible; also the excellent training that lies in learning a trade requiring diligence and endurance. What special further fitness they needed for their work would come from intercourse with Christ.
III. They were found in groups. Ties of friendship may assist both consecration and power.
IV. They are enlisted gradually. In no religious matters should we act with haste. Be “like the stars, hasting not, lingering not.” Life is not long enough to let us postpone the discharge of duty a single day after its discovery; but it is quite long enough to give us time to reach calmly every conclusion on which we have to act. (R. Glover.)
Jesus, as Head of the kingdom, calling His helpers
I. The peremptoriness of the call-“Come ye after Me.”
II. The inducement to obey-“I will make you,” etc.
III. The promptness of their obedience-“And straightway,” etc.
IV. The order in which they were called-“Simon Peter” first.
V. The kind of men called. Not idlers. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
God calls men when they are busy; Satan, when they are idle. For idleness is the hour of temptation, and an idle person the devil’s tennis ball, which he tosses at pleasure, and sets to work as he likes and lists. (John Trapp.)
Why should the Lord choose His foremost apostles from among fishermen
1. Their calling had inured them to hardship and danger-the lake on which they exercised their craft being exposed to sudden and violent storms.
2. Their calling, demanding a constant exercise of patience and watchfulness, and being very precarious besides, had made them familiar with disappointment, so that they would not be discouraged by it. Thus their worldly calling would be the best discipline for their spiritual work. They must be prepared to endure hardness, for they had no settled incomes; they must be ready to face death, for at any moment a storm of bloody persecution might arise; they must be patient, both towards churches and souls; and they must be content at times with taking a few converts in their nets, where they might have expected abundant draughts. (M. F. Sadler, M. A.)
The Lord chose
I. Unlearned and ignorant men, that His grace might be made perfect in their weakness. That the then known world should have been, in two or three centuries, subdued to the faith by such men, and by such as succeeded them, was, next to the resurrection of Christ, the greatest miracle of Christianity;
II. Religious men. They had “justified God” by attaching themselves to the ministry of the Baptist. But they were neither
(1) prejudiced Pharisees, who would have had a world of traditional interpretation to unlearn; nor
(2) superstitious men, or they would have shown themselves far readier to look for supernatural action from their Master. (M. F. Sadler, M. A.)
The call to service
I. Honest toil is a preparation for nobler wore.
II. Following Christ consecrates every vocation. Earthly pursuits are the pattern of the heavenly.
III. Secular partnerships are translated to a higher sphere.
IV. True obedience is prompt and practical.
V. Christ’s service always involves sacrifice. (D. Davies, M. A.)
The manner in which Christ attracted men to Himself by making their secular calling typical of spiritual work
I. That good men should take every opportunity for seeking the moral welfare of those with whom they are brought into incidental contact.
II. That good men in embracing every opportunity for the moral welfare of others, might with great advantage appeal to them through their secular calling, making it symbolical of religious work and truth. “I will make you to become fishers of men.”
1. This method of appeal is attractive.
2. It may be opportune.
3. It is effective. (Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
Christ’s election of disciples
I. Whom did he choose? Not the wise and learned; they would have worried the simplicity with endless commentaries, have wrought it into intellectual puzzles, so that the shepherd on the hill could not have understood it. He did not choose the rich; they would have weighted His goodness with the cares of wealth. Did He choose religious leaders? They would dissolve His charity, mercy, in the acid of their theological hatreds. Did He choose the politicians? He would not use political craft.
II. “Come,” He said, “I will make yea fishers of men. And they left all and followed Him.” He was not wrong then in His choice. These men who gave up all at once for Him, had impulse, heart, impetuosity, love; and these were the main things He wanted for His work. It would be a hard task, and no faint-heartedness or questioning could bear its trials. It was this intensity of spirit that Christ stirred in men. When He spoke men arose from the dead. The source of His influence was partly personal; also it was weighted with infinite, Divine, ideal thoughts; He established living truths in the hearts of men. That was His real power. As life went on His thoughts grew before them. So inspired, they went forth into the world. They saw before them a vast ocean, in whose depths men were lost in ignorance and misery. (S. A. Brooke, M. A.)
Christ calling men
I. This call was imperative.
II. It is first given to two obscure men.
III. It is a spoken, not a written, call.
IV. They are commanded to follow a person, not a creed.
V. This call is abrupt.
VI. In all revolutionary movements there have been men who have heard nothing but-“Follow.”
VII. Those who are called are not such at first sight as might have been expected; yet on examination it will be found that they were the only persons who could have been called, in harmony with the whole ministry of Jesus Christ. (Dr. Parker.)
Forsaking all to follow Christ
It is said that the magnet will not draw in the presence of the diamond: the world cannot hold that soul that is susceptible to the superior power of Christ. The eye dazzled with the glare of the sun sees darkness everywhere else. Leather and iron money was, in the early ages, soon cast aside for gold and silver. How soon we part with lamps and candles when the sun rises. (T. Brooks.)
Heart responsive to heart
The call met a deep craving of the heart, and at once they joined Christ the man, without knowing anything of Christ the doctrine. The heart wanted a heart; life demanded life. The world had lived long enough on written promises; the cold parchment was becoming colder day by day. There was an aching at the heart of society-a great trouble-an exciting wonder. The call had a peculiar charm about it in so far as it demanded attachment to a visible person. Not a creed but a Life bade them “follow.” (Dr. Parker.)
The gospel as a fishing net
The net to fish for men is commonly the word truly preached; the threads are the words of persuasion; the knots the arguments of reason; the plummets are the articles and grounds of the faith. This net is to be wove with study and pains, to be let down and loosed by preaching, to be gathered up by calling men to account of what was beard, what they have done upon it; it is washed and cleansed by our tears and prayers, and spread and dried by our charity and mortified affections. And this is the net that we must let down, “though it catch nothing,” and “at His word it is to be let down.” His word is to be the length and breadth, the whole rule and measure of all our sermons, all your actions. Leave off our work we must not, because it does not answer us with success; but do our work again, and see where we erred, and mark it; find what was the occasion of our ill success, our taking nought, and avoid it. (Dr. Mark Frank.)
The estimate Jesus Christ had of humanity in contrast with all the other objects that engaged His attention
The more you study Christ’s life the more you will see how in comparison with the claims of man everything else was regarded as subsidiary and comparatively unimportant. For rank, for wealth, for fame, for all the pursuit of which fills men with fever and the possession of which leaves them in unrest, Christ cared not a jot. But for man He cared everything. He might be poor, despised, wretched; no matter, he was a man! And when He viewed him thus as a king, though discrowned, as an heir whose birthright was immortality, as a brother of the seraphim, though bowed in the ruin of a crushing overthrow, His whole nature went out to him in a passionate intensity of tenderness, and in His annunciation that He had come to seek and save the lost, Christ but proclaimed His estimate of the greatness of humanity. The first thing which any one of us must seek to possess as a qualification for Christian work is the same overmastering sense of the preciousness of humanity. We shall work for man in proportion as we feel that. Get this thought, then, written in your heart, fixed in your memory as with a diamond, that to consecrate your energy, to devote your might to do the work of Christ, as it bears upon the elevation and salvation of man, will do more to replenish your soul with happiness, and to crown your life with honour, than to reap a harvest of wealth or fame. To bring a little child as a lamb to the fold of the Good Shepherd, to raise the fallen out of the mire to the level of a purer life, and to bring men under the saving influences of Christ’s gospel, is a work which angel minds would fain engage in, and one which demands and deserves the highest devotion we can bring to bear upon it. (W. Kelynack.)
Primary and subordinate qualifications that are important to be possessed by all those who essay to do good to others
And I would remark of all knowledge the most important that must be possessed by him who seeks to influence others for good is the knowledge of man. To know books is much, to be familiar with things is well; but large wisdom in these particulars may consist with much ignorance in dealing with human nature. To know man, to work with success on man, you must know his susceptibilities as well as his aversions, his merits as well as his failings. And you must know this in order satisfactorily to deal with the question how best human nature may be approached, and how most effectually it may be converted to the uses you contemplate. To give shape to an iron bar you need a sledgehammer stroke of power. To give form to clay, you need but the deft movements of a vigorous hand. And so, in dealing with human nature; the knowledge on which I insist, leading out to the employment of the right means, is one of great moment in the success of our task. It is of no use for any one of us to go through life with a little code of action like a two-foot rule to be the measure of all character. We must deal with men according to their individual character. Some men we must approach through the medium of their hope, and some through the medium of their fear. Some we must strike, but as the bee strikes the flower when he draws the honey from its heart; and others we must shape as the sculptor shapes the block, which he strikes again and again to disemprison the angel that lies hidden in the slab. Now in this, and then in that form, Christian workers will adjust their movements, guided by the knowledge of human nature of which we are speaking, knowing that if men are sought in the right way, and at the right time, like fish you may catch them, but that if you neglect these very primary qualities, you may almost forecast failure where you should expect success. (W. Kelynack.)
The making of men catchers
Conversion is most fully displayed when it leads converts to seek the conversion of others: we most truly follow Christ when we become fishers of men. The great question is not so much what we are naturally, as what Jesus makes us by His grace: whoever we may be of ourselves, we can, by following Jesus, be made useful in His kingdom. Our desire should be to be man catchers; and the way to attain to that sacred art is to be ourselves thoroughly captured by the great Head of the college of fishermen. When Jesus draws us we shall draw men.
I. Something to be done by us-“Come ye after Me.”
1. We must be separated to Him, that we may pursue His object.
2. We must abide with Him, that we may catch His spirit.
3. We must obey Him, that we may learn His method.
4. We must believe Him, that we may believe true doctrine.
5. We must copy His life, that we may win His blessing from God.
II. Something to be done by Him-“I will make you.” Our following Jesus secures our education for soul winning.
1. By our following Jesus, He works conviction and conversion in men: He uses our example as a means to that end.
2. By our discipleship the Lord makes us fit to be used.
3. By our personal experience in following Jesus, He instructs us until we become proficient in soul-winning.
4. By inward monitions He guides us what, when, and where to speak.
5. By His Spirit He qualifies us to reach men.
6. By His secret working on men’s hearts He speeds us in our work.
III. A figure instructing us-“Fishers of men.” A fisher is
(1) dependent and trustful;
(2) diligent and persevering;
(3) intelligent and watchful;
(4) laborious and self-denying;
(5) daring, and not afraid to venture upon a dangerous sea;
(6) successful. He is no fisher who never catches anything. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The higher discipleship
Following Christ, if rightly understood, is the destruction of selfishness. It casts off the idols of worldly prudence and worldly maxims from the heart, and puts there instead the supreme self-sacrifice of Christ. Well might these two plain men have said, “What! leave all and follow Thee? leave our nets and boats that we have bought with our few savings? ruin our worldly chances, and go forth to we know not what-all for the hope of doing good? Where is the gain, where is the advantage to ourselves?” But the man who receives Christ into his heart cannot reason in that way. Tell him that he is giving up his worldly chances, that he is injuring his strength, that he is working without hope of reward on earth; and he must still reply, “My aim is not the gratitude of men, but the favour of God. I am not working for the regard of men, but for the ‘Well done’ of my Master.” To do that which pleasure prompts, to do that which does not clash with our inclinations-even the world can go as far as that. But the true disciple is he who leaves his nets and boats at the command of Christ; the man who goes out to a foreign land, leaving kindred and home that he may preach the unsearchable riches of Christ; the Sunday school teacher who gives up the hour needed, perchance, for rest, that the ignorant may be taught, and the feet of children led into the narrow way. Christ calls us to the higher discipleship, because it is His purpose that we, under God, should bring back the world to His sway … Let us rise above the low level where we can only read the word “duty,” to that grander height where we can see that all Christian service is a privilege and a joy; and though heart and flesh fail sometimes, let us walk as seeing the invisible. The divinest life that ever the world knew carried its cross every step of the way, and your life will not be worth much unless you carry your cross too. Nothing great or good is ever born into the world without travail and pain. (J. H. Shakespeare, M. A.)
The ministerial office
In fishing, whether in sea or among men, there is wanted-
1. A net. The gospel.
2. Casting the net. Andrew did this first when he caught Peter his brother (John 1:41); Peter did this most energetically afterwards with his splendid work of preaching. In doing this, Christ directs where; otherwise we may toil all night in vain.
3. Dragging the net to land. Confessional; inquiry room, etc.
4. Mending the nets. Heretics and schismatics unite against it, and so break the net. Inside foes are the worst-the dogfish and sharks of the gospel net. Hence a mender is wanted.
5. Counting the fish (John 21:11).
The elect and chosen are many and great; and these do not break the nets.
The apostles change of employment a gain to them
Did those skilled fishermen gain or lose in leaving the lake, the boat, and the net, and becoming the Lord’s apostles? Was it to their loss or advantage that they sacrificed the wealth gathered by the net for the privilege of saving men? Ask Peter on the day of Pentecost: ask him when by his lips the gospel is first preached to the Gentiles, and He gathers the first fruits of a worldwide harvest. Ask John when, at the close of a long life, on the isle of Patmos the heavens opened to him, and the scroll of the future is unrolled, and he with rapt vision is permitted to see the triumphs of the gospel he was called to preach. Ask them now, their names having gone through the world closely associated with Christ, pillars of the Church on earth, and for eighteen centuries sharing with their Lord the glory of the Church above. (P. B. Davis.)
The minister is a fisherman
As such he must fit himself for his employment. If some fish will bite only by day, he must fish by day; if others will bite only by moonlight, he must fish for them by moonlight. (R. Cecil.)
Bait to catch fish
Mr. Jesse relates that certain fish give preference to bait that has been perfumed. When the prince of evil goes forth in quest of victims, there does not need much allurement added to the common temptations of life to make them effective. Fishers of men, however, do well to employ all the skill they can to suit the minds and tastes of those whom they seek to gain. (G. McMichael.)
Rules for fishing
I watched an old man trout fishing the other day, pulling them out one after another briskly. “You manage it cleverly, old friend,” I said; “I have passed a good many below who don’t seem to be doing anything.” The old man lifted himself up, and stuck his rod in the ground. “Well, you see, sir, there be three rules for trout fishing, and ‘tis no good trying if you don’t mind them. The first is, keep yourself out of sight, and the second, keep yourself further out of sight; and the third is, keep yourself further still out of sight. Then you’ll do it.” “Good for catching men, too,” thought I. (Mark Guy Pearse.)
Catching fish a preparation for catching men
Every quality of mind which these fishermen had cultivated will serve the higher purpose now. Their vocation had-
I. Called out their patience.
II. Made a large demand on their inventiveness. Catching men needs sagacity.
III. Kept in lively exercise their observant watchfulness. They found it needful to study all the changes of light and shade; the aspects of sky and sea. To says souls we must be “all eye.”
IV. Had inured them to disappointment. (D. Davies, M. A.)
I have known a congregation so full of kindly Christian workers that in the low neighbourhood in which they worked they got the nickname of “Grippers.” Lowe, hearing the name, thought it must be a new sect, but it only marked the old apostolic quality. All Christians ought to pray for this power of catching souls. It is not violence, loudness, or terror that gives it, but love, goodness, the clear and strong convictions that come from following Christ. (R. Glover.)
And when He had gone a little farther thence, He saw James.
The call of the sons of Zebedee
I. Our first question is, what manner of men were James and John when Jesus summoned them to His service? Is it not suggested that they were free from gross vices; open-eyed to truth and righteousness? Converted profligates have rendered eminent service in the kingdom of God; yet the best achievements have usually come from men who have not saturated their natures with vicious indulgences. Secular experience had helped to make the brothers fit for Christ’s call. The stormy wind was fulfilling Christ’s word, and He was coming to His men walking on the waves of the sea. The qualities of character produced by toil upon the deep were caught up and transfigured in the fulfilment of apostolic tasks. We are shaped by circumstances which look commonplace for future usefulness. James and John had reason to be thankful for helpful communion with others. Their parents must have been a worthy couple, and their companions, Peter and Andrew, were like-minded with themselves. Their thoughts went beyond boats and nets. Their lives looked upward. To the youthful fishermen Christ had already revealed Himself. His spell was on their hearts.
II. The call for which such varied preparations had been made was heard in due course-“He called them,” etc. Though we take it as a matter of course that James and John should make a prompt response, there was the possibility of reluctance and bargaining. Jonah fled. Prompt be our obedience. The call that was heeded involved a purifying fellowship. The men who were named “Boanerges” had dispositions which might have made them men of violent deeds had not Christ assumed the task of refining without weakening the powerful, passionate natures that He won. To be much with Christ is essential to doing well in His kingdom.
III. The service for which the call and culture prepared the way.
IV. The sacrifices which the service required. Zebedee and Salome had their share. For their sons they had made plans with which Christ interfered. Their home was to lose some light, The youths themselves had to endure hardship, but they had love to help them. (W. J. Henderson, B. A.)
The beneficent influence of a Christ-attracted life
Anything but beneficent those lives might have been. Let the seawater which would madden those who drink it be drawn heavenward, and it will descend as wholesome refreshment for beast and bird and tree and man; and so men that would make the world’s life madder become fountains of sweet water after Christ has drawn them into the sky of communion with Himself. You will remember that, and let Him uplift you. To be much with Him is essential to doing well in His kingdom. (W. J. Henderson, B. A.)
A call to discipleship
1. This call uttered by Christ was unique in its character.
2. It was emphatic in its authority.
3. It was important in its designation.
I. The call to discipleship comes to men preoccupied with the secular duties of life.
1. Christ does not often call idle men to discipleship.
2. If man are active Christ does not despise the meanness of their toil.
II. The call to discipleship comes to several in the same family.
III. It involves the subordination of all human relationships.
1. Of trade relationships.
2. Of domestic relationships. (Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
Christ’s insight into character
In a rough stone, a cunning lapidary will easily foresee what his cutting, and his polishing, and his art will bring that stone to. A cunning statuary discerns in a marble stone under his feet, where there will arise an eye, and an ear, and a hand, and other lineaments to make it a perfect statue. Much more did our Saviour Christ, who was Himself the author of that disposition in them (for no man hath any such disposition but from God), foresee in these fishermen an inclinableness to become useful in that great service of His Church. Therefore He took them from their own ship, but He sent them from His cross; He took them weather beaten with north and south winds, and rough cast with foam and mud; but He sent there back soupled, and smoothed, and levigated, quickened, and inanimated with that spirit which He had breathed into them from His own bowels, His own eternal bowels, from which the Holy Ghost proceeded; He took fishermen, and He sent fishers of men. (J. Donne, D. D.)
What the Gospel ministry is
1. Called men: Said to Andrew, Peter, etc., “Follow me.”
2. Separated men: “They left all and followed Him.”
3. Commissioned men: “I will make you fishers of men.”
4. Equipped men: with His presence-with His Spirit. (The Christian Advocate.)
And they went into Capernaum.
The Teacher of humility begins His mission at a town where pride chiefly reigned. Preference is due from ministers to the greatest need, not to the greatest inclination. A minister should always begin by instructing, in imitation of God, who leads men, not by a blind instinct, but by instruction and knowledge, by the external light of His Word, and the internal light of His grace. (Quesnel.)
(the field of repentance, or city of comfort) was a beautiful little town, situated on the western shore of the Galilean Lake, a short distance from its head. Though small, it was a very busy and thriving town; the leading highway to the sea from Damascus on the east to Accho or Ptolemais on the Mediterranean on the west, ran through it, thus opening the markets of the coast to the rich yield of the neighbouring farms, orchards, and vineyards, and the abundant returns of the fisheries of the lake. The townsfolk, as a rule, enjoyed the comfort and plenty we see in the houses of Peter and Matthew. The houses were built of black lava, though most of them were relieved of their sombreness by being whitened with lime. The synagogue, however, which was the principal architectural ornament of the town, and which the centurion built and presented to the Jews of the place, was of white limestone, the blocks of stone being large and chiselled, and the cornices, architraves, and friezes of which, as evidenced by the ruins, were finely carved. The streets of the village radiated from the synagogue, and stretched up the gentle slope behind it, the main street running north, to Chorazin, a neighbouring town not far distant. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
The synagogue carries us back for its origin to the land of the exile. Cut off from the sacrificial worship of the temple, devout Jews gathered together for prayer and hearing of the law, and little sanctuaries were built for their meetings; and after the return from captivity, though the statelier ritual of the temple was restored, synagogues in towns and villages became an integral part of the ecclesiastical system. They claim our interest, not only from their association with our Lord’s preaching and miracles, but as well from the fact that it was from “the eighteen prayers” which were read therein daily except on the Sabbath, that Jesus drew the chief materials for that which the Christian Church has consecrated for daily use as “the Lord’s Prayer.” Now, of all the synagogues in Palestine, perhaps that at Capernaum is fullest of historic reference. Its erection at the sole expense of a large-hearted Roman soldier had earned for him the affection of the inhabitants, for when his servant was sick they pleaded with Jesus on the grounds that the petitioner was worthy of special consideration, because “he loved the people and built us the synagogue.” The discovery and identification of its ruins in later years have awakened no little attention, and have set at rest a long-standing dispute as to the site of Capernaum. At Tell Hum, on the lake, remains of a synagogue of unusual size and beauty have been excavated, the style of which belongs to the Herodian period of architecture. It appears to have been a common custom to carve over the entrance of these buildings an emblem, which, as far as we know, with a single exception, was “the seven-branched candlestick,” indicating that they were designed mainly for illumination or teaching. The exceptional instance is a Tell Hum. The lintel of the chief doorway has a carving in the centre, of “the pot of manna,” which is encircled with the vine and clusters of grapes. And it is this which enables us to identify “His own city,” as well as the building where He delivered one of His most important discourses … It was in this building that our Lord spent the morning of His first Sabbath day in Galilee, and He taught with such novel power that the people were filled with amazement. They had been used to the teaching of the scribes, with their interminable details and puerilities, and their slavery to traditional interpretation. There was no freedom of thought or speech, no departure even by a hair’s-breadth from the decisions of the doctors, nothing but the dry bones of Rabbinical exposition, and we are not surprised that, when Christ came and spoke with “thoughts that breathed and words that burned,” and drew His illustrations from the sights and sounds in which they lived and moved, the very freshness delighted them, and they exclaimed at the novelty and independence of His teaching. (H. M. Luckock, D. D.)
Christ in the synagogue of Capernaum
I. He entered into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
1. The synagogue-origin unknown. There were two divisions, ten officers, etc. The service-prayer, etc.
2. The Sabbath day. Christ honoured ordinances. Sanctioned social worship. He is still in the midst of His people. Where will you find Him on the Sabbath?
II. In the synagogue Christ taught. Not the first time. His sermon not recorded. The Spirit has amply provided for our instruction. Christ still preaches.
III. The effect.
1. They were astonished.
2. They were not converted.
3. Many wonder, who do not believe.
IV. The characteristic of Christ’s teaching was authority.
1. The scribes employed tradition.
2. Christ spoke assured and naked truth-delivered a message from God-awakened the testimony of conscience. (Expository Discourses.)
For He taught them as one that had authority.
Conviction of Christ’s authority through His servant’s teaching
Francis Junius the younger was a considerable scholar, but by no means prejudiced in favour of the Scriptures, as appears by his own account, which is as follows:-“My father, who was frequently reading the New Testament, and had long observed with grief the progress I had made in infidelity, had put that book in my way in his library, in order to attract my attention, if it might please God to bless his design, though without giving me the least intimation of it. Here, therefore, I unwittingly opened the New Testament, thus providentially laid before me. At the very first view, as I was deeply engaged in other thoughts, that grand chapter of the evangelist and apostle presented itself to me (John 1:1-43.1.51): ‘In the beginning was the Word,’ etc. I read part of the chapter and was so affected that I instantly became struck with the divinity of the argument, and the majesty and authority of the composition, as infinitely surpassing the highest flights of human eloquence. My body shuddered, my mind was in amazement, and I was so agitated the whole day that I scarcely knew who I was. Thou didst remember me, O Lord my God, according to Thy boundless mercy, and didst bring back the lost sheep to Thy flock. From that day God wrought so mightily in me by the power of His Spirit, that I began to have less relish for all other studies and pursuits, and bent myself with greater ardour and attention to everything which had a relation to God.”
An earnest Preacher and an astonished congregation
I. The earnest preacher.
1. He recognized the Sabbath as the time for worship.
2. He recognized instruction as the best method of preaching.
3. He discarded all formality.
II. As astonished congregation. “Astonished at His doctrine.”
1. Because it was new to them.
2. Because they instinctively felt it to be true. (Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
The authority of Christ
I. Let us ask how Christ’s authority was asserted and claimed.
1. By the tone of His teaching.
2. By His ministerial acts, e.g., the cleansing of the temple. This assumption of rightful power led to the inquiry of the chief priests and elders-“By what authority,” etc. He was the Lord of the temple because He was Son of God.
3. By His miracles. “With authority and power commandeth He the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”
4. By the exercise of the Divine prerogative of pardoning sin, e.g., in the cure of the paralytic.
II. Consider upon what Christ’s authority is based. Christ’s authority is not based upon force, or craft, or popular regard; but upon right and upon conscience. When questioned, He answered inquiry by inquiry, and boldly declared, “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”
1. His words are authoritative because they are true.
2. His commands, because they are righteous.
3. He wields the personal authority of peerless love. In all, His authority is Divine, as He is.
III. Inquire over whom and over what Christ’s authority extends.
1. Nature knew it.
2. Satan confessed it.
3. Angels recognized it, ministered to His wants, and stood ready to rescue and to honour Him.
4. Men felt it.
IV. Remark the advantages which follow the acknowledgment of Christ’s authority.
1. For the individual, the fulfilment of his true being, the harmony of obedience with liberty.
2. For the human race, its one only sure and Divine hope-“In the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.”
V. Observe how Christ’s authority affects all hearers of the gospel. The message of heaven is, indeed, an invitation and a premise. But it is also a command. (J. R. Thompson, M. A.)
The teaching of Christ
I. The subjects He taught.
1. He taught the doctrines of religion.
2. He taught the nature and necessity of experimental religion.
3. He taught the necessity of practical religion.
He stated that obedience was the only evidence of true discipleship, etc.
II. How He taught these things.
1. With direct plainness.
2. He was a faithful and earnest teacher (Matthew 23:1-40.23.39).
3. He was an affectionate and tender teacher. He did not break the bruised reed, etc.
4. He was a diligent and persevering teacher.
5. He embodied all His instructions in His own blessed example.
1. True Christians are Christ’s disciples. They hear Him. This is both a duty and a privilege.
2. Whosoever will not hear Him must perish-“How shall we escape,” etc. (J. Burns, D. D.)
Christ the model of the Christian ministry
I. His doctrine.
1. View His doctrine of God.
2. His doctrine of man.
(2) Man’s corrupt and sinful state.
II. His manner was in perfect harmony with the matter of His instruction.
1. The leading characteristic of our Saviour’s manner as a public teacher was earnestness.
2. The earnestness of Christ was evinced in the simplicity of His teachings.
3. The earnestness of Jesus was further evinced by the consistency of His life with His doctrine.
4. The earnestness of Jesus was still further manifested in the decision and boldness of His manner.
5. His tenderness. (J. A. Copp.)
The authority of our Lord’s teaching
I. Authority of goodness. Invitations. Beatitudes.
II. Authority of greatness. Claims universal audience. Superiority to Jonah, Solomon, and all the great names of the Jewish Church. Teaching declarative and dogmatic.
III. Authority of solemnity. His peculiar formula. His denunciations of woe.
IV. Legislative authority. Revises the Mosaic code. Asserts His superiority to law. Repeals existing economy. Controls laws of nature Himself, and confers the power on others. “I say unto you,” His new commandment. Not only enacts laws, but ensures obedience. Conclusion: His teaching exempt from all supposable circumstances unfavourable to authoritative teaching. Taught with the perfect conviction of the truth of His doctrine. His example enforced it. Cordial sympathy with it. Knew the ultimate principles on which His doctrines rested. And the supreme value of the truth He taught. The purity of His motives. The ultimate triumph of His doctrine. All this must have clothed His teaching, especially when contrasted with the prevailing mode of Jewish instruction, with commanding power. His disciples should be distinguished by reverence and docility. These dispositions to be sought and found at the throne of grace. (J. Harris, D. D.)
Christ’s authority largely derived from His moral atmosphere
The weight and impressiveness of a man’s words largely depend ripen his air, his atmosphere, the mysterious efflux, exhalation, aerial development of his personality, the moral aroma of his character. This subtle influence can only be felt, and cannot be defined. Enter the assembly when young Summerfield is speaking, and there is upon you a power which it is the highest luxury and dearest blessing to feel. There is incense here, and the smell of sacrifice. It fills the entire space from the rafters downwards to the floor; nay, it pierces the walls and issues from the doors. And what shall we imagine concerning the atmosphere of that wonderful Being, who spoke as never man spake? It was not His look, nor His declamation, nor His fine periods; it was not even His prodigious weight of matter; but it was the sacred exhalation of His quality, the aroma, the auroral glory of His person. This is what invested Him with unimpeachable authority, lent to His words spirit and life, and gave to His doctrine its astonishing power. He took the human nature to exhale an atmosphere of God that should fill and finally renew the creation, bathing all climes, and times, and ages with its dateless, ineradicable power. (H. Bushnell, D. D.)
I. Men will teach well only as they teach under Christ.
II. Authority is impossible apart from association with the Master.
III. Authority of love must come from intensity of conviction.
IV. Hearers know the voice of authority.
V. The Christian teacher is to show his supremacy over all other teachers. (J. Parker, D. D.)
A man with an unclean spirit.
Possessed with a devil
The devil is always endeavouring to work on us, and seizes every advantage offered, and works through
(1) a darkened mind, or
(2) disordered nerves, or
(3) a depraved heart.
In all ages you find him oppressing with his torture all that are so conditioned, especially those with disordered nerves or depraved heart. The time of Christ was an age of wildness and despair. Oppression drove men mad. The man in the synagogue may have merely had disordered nerves, and have been simply a good man plunged into insane melancholy; or he may have had a depraved heart, sinking at last through remorse into despair. For, all badness tends to grow into madness. Some sin lies at the root of five-sixths of all our English madness. Falsehood and selfishness make men madly suspicious; vice softens the brain; drunkenness especially sinks men into madness. “Whomsoever we obey, his servants we are,” and if we obey the devil we soon give him the upper hand over us. (R. Glover.)
The man with an unclean spirit
I. The place to which the Saviour came. “And they went into Capernaum,” etc.
1. The occasion which led Him hither was strange and very distressing. In Nazareth He was in danger of losing His life, they “led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong,” He. So He left them, and directed His steps towards Capernaum, where He now appears.
2. The object which brought Him here was one of great interest and importance. He came to Capernaum to make it His future home. As His headquarters, during His public ministry, it was peculiarly adapted, affording facility of communication, as well by land and lake, with many flourishing towns, and of escape into more secure regions in case of threatened persecution.
3. The character which He assumed here was not that of a private citizen, but of a public Teacher.
II. The individual with whom our Lord came in contact.
1. His miserable condition.
2. The language which this evil spirit employed.
(1) His request. He insisted to be let alone, but that could not be.
(2) His inquiries-“What have we to do with Thee?” As a Saviour they had nothing to do with Him; they are amenable to Him as their Judge.
(3) His confession-“I know Thee who Thou art.” This unclean spirit makes a most accurate, explicit, and full confession; it was also full of alarm.
III. The wonderful power which Jesus displayed. We have here to consider-
1. His authoritative command-“Hold thy peace,” go. He would not accept the commendation of devils. He silenced them.
2. The spirit’s reluctant submission-“And when the unclean spirit had torn him,” etc. In vain he struggled to retain his hold of the poor victim.
IV. The effects which the memorable act produced.
1. It excited the greatest astonishment.
2. It caused His fame to be widely extended. (Expository Outlines.)
The devil in church
I. A devil in church. Synagogue means church. For the time being it was a Christian church, because Christ taught in it. In it was a devil. Devils are found in strange places. In Paradise. “Among the sons of God” (Job 1:1-18.1.22). Notice their infinite impudence. Hard to say whether the man took the devil, or the devil took him. Whichever it was, illustrates his accommodating character. So now a self-righteous devil accompanies men to puff them up with pride; a critical devil to quarrel with the doctrine or the preacher.
II. The devil’s creed. The demon was orthodox. No heresy in hell. What he believed he publicly professed. Many have a better faith who are silent. His confession was rejected. Profession worthless without submission. Impiety of creed without conduct.
III. The devil’s prayer. It was earnest and social, like that of Dives. Possible to pray earnestly and benevolently but in vain. It was prompted by fear and by wickedness. “Leave us alone” to sin and to torment.
IV. The devil’s excommunicating. In coming out he “tore” him, etc., just as an evil-disposed out-going tenant does as much harm as possible in his last opportunity. What an expulsion 1 Public; by a word; in vain, the devil did not repent. This came of his orthodoxy, for it was without fruit; and of his prayer, for it was without faith. (A. J. Morris.)
Holiness is eminently characteristic of Christ
1. As He is God.
2. As through a spotless incarnation He was the grand sacrifice for sin.
3. As His own pure nature was the model to which all that believe in Him are to be renewed by the transforming power of His grace.
4. As He was manifested to destroy the works of the devil. (R. Watson.)
Amazed at the miracles of Christ
Don’t be startled or driven into unbelief by miracles. God is greater than these. They are not the wonders, but the minor incidents, an index of what is in God, and not the full power of God put forth. I have seen a teacher of physics make experiments in the lecture room on the electric battery. He makes the miniature flashes crack off its surface. Very interesting, very beautiful, for every tiny spark is the same as the lightning flash which cleaves the clouds like the sword of an archangel. The same? Yes, but a very small part of the terrific force which awakens the echoes of heaven, and makes the pillars of the earth tremble. You cannot believe in miracles? They are nothing-experiments in the lecture room. Lo! these are parts of His ways: but the thunder of His power who can understand. (T. Morlais Jones.)
Christ casts out a devil
I. Christ’s teaching was enforced by a miracle.
1. Proved His commission and His benevolence to man.
2. Illustrated the objects of His kingdom “to destroy,” etc. Our benevolence should aim at this object.
3. The manner of the miracle showed that He would not receive the testimony of devils, even to the truth. The devil is a liar-his testimony not needed, etc. Let us be as careful as to the means employed as to the end.
4. The manner of the miracle shows that a speculative truth may be in a devilish mind.
5. The people were amazed, but did not acknowledge His Messiahship. We wonder-we need not. Let us be convinced of the need of Divine power to enable us to call Jesus the Christ.
II. Christ’s fame spread abroad.
1. This resulted from His teaching, and still more from His miracles-wonderful, beneficent.
2. The gospel has always united temporal good with spiritual good. Man has sought to separate them-to take one and reject the other.
3. The fame of Christ left the Jewish nation without excuse. (Expository Discourses.)
The two antagonistic powers of the sanctuary
I. There is the satanic power in the sanctuary.
1. Satan is there to interrupt the service conducted by an earnest preacher.
2. To occasion distress to human souls.
3. He is entirely subject to the power of Christ.
II. There is the Christly power in the sanctuary.
1. To instruct souls.
2. To free souls from the tyranny of the devil. (Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
Let us alone; what have we to do with Thee?
The happiness of heaven can only be appreciated by the holy
Even supposing a man of unholy life were suffered to enter heaven, he would not be happy there; so that it would be no mercy to permit him to enter. For heaven, it is plain from Scripture, is not a place where many different and discordant pursuits can be carried on at once, as is the case in this world. Here every man can do his own pleasure, but there he must do God’s pleasure. It would be presumption to attempt to determine the employments of that eternal life which good men are to pass in God’s presence, or to deny that that state which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor mind conceived, may comprise an infinite variety of pursuits and occupations. Still, so far we are distinctly told that that future life will be spent in God’s presence, in a sense which does not apply to our present life; so that it may best be described as an endless and uninterrupted worship. Heaven, then, is not like this world; I will say what it is much more like-a church. For in a place of worship no language of this world is heard; there are no schemes brought forward for temporal objects, great or small; no information how to strengthen our worldly interests, extend our influence, or establish our credit. These things, indeed, may be right in their way, so that we do not set our hearts upon them; still, I repeat, it is certain that we hear nothing of them in a church. Here we hear solely and entirely of God. We praise Him, worship Him, sing to Him, thank Him, confess to Him, give ourselves up to Him, and ask His blessing. And, therefore, a church is like heaven; viz., because both in the one and the other there is one single sovereign subject-religion-brought before us. Supposing, then, instead of it being said that no irreligious man could serve and attend on God in heaven, we were told that no irreligious man could worship or spiritually see Him in church, should we not at once perceive the meaning of the doctrine? viz., that were a man to come hither, who had suffered his mind to grow up in its own way, as nature or chance determined, without any deliberate habitual effort after truth and purity, he would find no real pleasure here, but would soon get weary of the place; because, in this house of God, he would hear only of that one subject which he cared little or nothing about, and nothing at all of those things which excited his hopes and fears, his sympathies and energies. If then a man without religion (supposing it possible) were admitted into heaven, doubtless he would sustain a great disappointment. Before, indeed, he fancied that he could be happy there; but when he arrived there, he would find no discourse but that which he had shunned on earth, no pursuits but those he had disliked or despised, nothing which bound him to aught else in the universe, and made him feel at home, nothing which he could enter into and rest upon. He would perceive himself to be an isolated being, cut away by supreme power from those objects which were still entwined around his heart, Nay, he would be in the presence of that Supreme Power, whom he never on earth could bring himself steadily to think upon, and whom now he regarded only as the Destroyer of all that was precious and dear to him. Ah! he could not bear the face of the living God; the Holy God would be no object of joy to him. “Let us alone! What have we to do with Thee?” is the sole thought and desire of unclean souls, even while they acknowledge His Majesty. None but the holy can look upon the Holy One; without holiness no man can endure to see the Lord. (J. H. Newman, D. D.)
The Holy One of God
Some rest in praising the sermon and speaking fair to the preacher. The devil here did as much to Christ, to be rid of him. (Trapp.)
Jesus rebuking the unclean spirit
“Is Satan bigger than me, father?” asked a child. “Yes,” replied the father. “Than you?” “Yes.” “Than Jesus?” “No.” “Then,” replied the child, “I don’t fear him.” (Anonymous.)
Jesus not wanted
There are those who are possessed by the devil of drunkenness, or of lust, or of foul language, or of dishonesty, and they profess not to believe in Jesus and the gospel; but it is not they do not believe, they are afraid to believe. The man who is killing himself by excess, is told by the doctor that he must change his life, or die. He laughs at the advice, and declares that he does not believe it. But he does believe it, only he is afraid to think of it. So it is with many who are styled unbelievers. I have heard of a man who said to God’s priest who visited him-“We don’t want God in this house.” There are many such houses, places of business and private homes, where, if people spoke all their mind, they would say, “Let us alone; what have we to do with Thee, Thou Jesus of Nazareth? We don’t want God in this house.” It is an awful thought, my brothers, that sometimes God takes us at our word. It is written, “Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone.” Alas for those who find in the hour of sickness, and of sorrow, and of death, that God has left them alone! I wonder how many times that man in the Gospel had attended the services of the synagogue before the day when Jesus healed him. Probably he was a regular worshipper there, but he brought his unclean spirit with him. That is just what so many people do now. They come to the church, or attend their meeting house, and go through the outward forms of religion, but the unclean spirit goes with them. Satan has shut the door of their heart, and no holy word, no pure thought, no tender feeling of remorse and penitence can enter in. This is why so many of our religious services bear no fruit. (H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)
But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever.
The Lord chose as the first of His apostles a married man, and after his election to follow the Lord he did not separate from his wife, but the Lord honours the family by sometimes dwelling in their house. St. Paul implies (1 Corinthians 9:5) that at times, at least, she accompanied St. Peter in his journeys. It appears from a very touching account given by Clement of Alexandria, that they were living together when she was called to martyrdom. “They say, accordingly, that Peter, on seeing his wife led to death, rejoiced on account of her call and conveyance home, and called very encouragingly and comfortingly, addressing her by name, ‘Remember thou the Lord.’ Such was the marriage of the blessed, and their perfect disposition towards those dearest to them.” (M. F. Sadler.)
Miracles are instructive emblems of Scriptural truth
Spiritual truth, to be clearly discerned, often needs to be embodied in the more significant language of action. Christ’s miracles are like mirrors-bringing within easy view objects hard to see or quite out of sight. The famous picture of Aurora by Guido adorns the ceiling of one of the palaces of Rome. The discomfort attending the effort to look up, for the length of time required to study its beauty, is so great, that one could not adequately estimate its merit if there were no other way of viewing it. But a mirror, set up in the room so as to reflect the picture, permits the beholder to view it at his leisure with perfect ease. So the great miracle of the renewing of the soul is above our inspection, but in the mirror miracles of Jesus we have reflections, helping us to the better understanding of that spiritual work. Thus we may gain more good from them, than was imparted to those for whose special benefit they were originally wrought. (A. H. Currier.)
The Great Physician’s skill
I. A scene of domestic trouble.
1. Trouble is widespread and manifold.
2. Earthly kinships are sources both of joy and grief.
3. Domestic trouble should not detain us from God’s house.
II. An application for belief-“Anon they tell Him of her.”
1. It was intercessory prayer.
2. We admire the simplicity of their request.
3. Nor should we overlook their promptness of suit.
III. Gracious interposition.
1. Here is a nearer approach, Though Christ has come near to us He can come nearer yet.
2. Jesus Christ does not refrain from personal contact.
3. Christ’s gracious touch elevates prostrate humanity-“He lifted her up.”
IV. Grateful recompense-“She ministered unto them.”
1. The recipient of Christ’s grace exhibits gratitude in a practical form.
2. Unconsciously she performed good service for others.
3. Jesus Christ stoops to accept service from all.
V. Christ’s healing virtue brings to light society’s manifold sores.
1. The life of men is also their light. Jesus revealed to men, and to society, their needs. Probably no one knew that there was a demoniac in the synagogue, until Jesus began to teach. Men hide their deeper needs even from themselves, until the Healer comes.
2. Men’s minds naturally reason from the special to the general.
3. We must observe how tolerant Christ is of human prejudices and traditional habits. The inhabitants of Capernaum would not bring their sick until the sun had set, i.e., until the Sabbath had closed. Towards human ignorance He is inexpressibly pitiful.
4. The rewards of faithful service are larger service yet. Jesus had blessed a man, a family; now He is required to bless a city. So shall it be in heaven. Fidelity shall be honoured by more responsible service-“Be thou ruler over ten cities.”
VI. The manifold needs of man disclose the hidden glory of Christ.
VII. Christ is the hope of humanity, but the terror of demons. “The whole city was gathered to Him at the door.” Men are more conscious of bodily evils, than of soul malady. But the goodness that attracts men, repels demons. (D. Davies, M. A.)
Jesus as Healer
I. The variety of the cases of healing. Fever. Divers diseases, demoniacal possession. Leprosy. Christ had no specialty; His resources were varied; He can touch all classes of human need.
II. How healing was effected by personal contact-“Took her by the hand.” “Put forth His hand and touched him.”
III. How rapidly the patients were healed-“immediately.” Ordinarily healing travels slowly; here as if by lightning. So in matters spiritual.
IV. How manifest was the reality of the healing. Peter’s mother-in-law “ministered.” Work of Christ in man always seen in its effects. Saul (Galatians 1:23). (H. Thorne.)
A domestic drama
I. What the friends of the sick woman rid.
1. They told Jesus of her. Worth while to be sick to be brought to Him.
2. Anon they told Him of her, i.e., at once.
3. They told Him of her. Often what is everybody’s business is nobody’s.
4. They told Him of her. Prayer is telling Jesus.
II. What Jesus did.
1. He came: at once, but not always at once, for good reasons.
2. He took her by the hand. Without ceremony: familiarly.
3. He lifted her up. Gospel always raises.
4. He healed her immediately. Pardon instantly ours when we grasp Christ’s hand.
III. What the restored woman did. Ministered. We are saved to work: by precept and example. (J. S. Swan.)
The religious uses of time
I. Social service (Mark 1:31).
II. Public ministry (Mark 1:32-41.1.34).
III. Private devotion (Mark 1:35). (J. Parker, D. D.)
Christ’s public and private ministry
Jesus had a public ministry in the synagogue; a private ministry in the domestic circle.
I. The individual case as well as that of the multitudes should receive attention.
II. Bodily diseases as well as spiritual ailments are within the sphere of our solicitude.
III. We are to put ourselves in personal contact with the suffering. We can do little by proxy.
IV. We should never leave a house without leaving a blessing behind.
V. Our visits, like the master’s, should not be mere visits of courtesy. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Simon’s wife’s mother
If Peter was the first Pope, he set them an example in this respect which all the popes and all the clergy would have been wise to follow. Nature never injures grace. It is not desirable to be without parents in our youth, or without wife or husband in our mature life. The love of another heart is not only a quiet resting place, but a great aid to goodness; and he who loves well wife or child wilt love God better for doing so. (R. Glover.)
Simon’s wife’s mother
I. Let us ascertain what it teaches concerning this noted apostle, Simon Peter. “Marriage is honourable in all,” “Let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.”
II. What do we know of this woman who was cured? But there is something to be said concerning the wife herself, and this is of special importance. There is reason to believe that she remained a most faithful companion and fellow worker with Peter, whom Paul always calls “Cephas,” down to the end of her life. For in one of Paul’s epistles an allusion is made to her: he says, “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” This was written more than twenty years after Christ’s resurrection, when Peter was an old man. As a comment upon the verse, Clement of Alexandria adds: “Peter and Philip had children, and both took about their Wives, in order that they might act as their assistants in ministering to women at their own homes; by their means the doctrine of the Lord penetrated without scandal into the privacy of the women’s apartments.”
III. What do we know about the other members of this apostle’s family? There is a beautiful little legend, altogether uninspired, which is found in the history of sacred and legendary art; there is nothing to prevent its being true, and it is certainly worth telling. The story relates that Peter had a lovely daughter, born in lawful wedlock, who accompanied him in his journey from the East. At Rome she fell sick of a grievous infirmity which deprived her of the use of her limbs. One of Simon’s disciples sitting at meat with him said: “Master, how is it that thou, who healest the infirmities of others, dost not heal thy daughter Petronilla?” “It is good for her to remain sick,” replied her father, perhaps thinking of the profitable discipline which the pain might bring to her. But that they all might see the power that was in the word of God, he commanded her to get up and serve them at table-which she did. Then afterwards, praying fervently, the maiden was permanently healed.
IV. It is refreshing to turn from the mere poetry of a legend to the serene majesty of history. And now there is a lesson in almost every particular.
1. Was this woman sick of a great fever? Then we see how Christ is the only help, but always the sure help, in desperate cases. He is able to save bodies and souls “to the uttermost.”
2. Did the disciples go and tell Jesus of her? Then we may note the advantage of faith in the Divine and sovereign Saviour. “None but Jesus can do helpless sinners good.”
3. Are we told that those home friends besought the Lord in her behalf? Then we learn how necessary is fervent prayer. “For all these things will I be inquired of by the house of Israel.”
4. Did our Saviour touch this woman’s hand, and touch it only, for her cure? Then observe how delicate is the ministration of Divine grace in the gospel, and let us be gentle with souls.
5. Was it the interposition of other people which availed to bring this sick creature to health? Then how fine is the office of human means and instruments with God. There is really a glorious share in the work of saving souls which He permits.
6. Do we notice that this woman was also lifted up by Jesus? The miracle is a parable; God never lays a commandment on any soul which He does not aid that soul in performing for Him.
7. Did the cured woman rise at once to begin her grateful service? It is by that we know her healing was perfectly done. The good Lord never leaves body or soul half-delivered from ill.
8. Was Simon’s wife’s mother satisfied to minister to Jesus Christ right off and right there? Then think how much valuable time some impatient people waste in trying to find a field of work for Christ, when most likely the best task lies nearest at hand. This woman entered “the ministry” just as truly as Simon Peter did: he preached, and she served; that was ministry.
9. Were these wonderful privileges misused and perverted by Capernaum? Then let all the world know and remember that it is preeminently a dangerous thing to do, this disregard of the merciful manifestations of the Divine presence among men. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Peter’s mother-in-law cured
I. The sufferer.
II. Her complaint.
III. Her cure.
1. That there was no parade.
2. There was no delay.
3. There was no ground for doubting its reality. (Expository Outlines.)
The best house visitation
I. How grace came to Peter’s house.
II. What it did in Peter’s house.
III. How it flowed forth from Peter’s house. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Wherever Christ comes, He comes to do good, and will be sure to pay richly for His entertainment. (M. Henry.)
Domestic affliction healed by Christ
I. The scene of this domestic affliction.
1. The home of a disciple.
2. The house visited by Christ.
II. The healing of this domestic affliction.
1. It was done tenderly.
2. It was done immediately.
3. It was done easily.
4. It was done effectually.
III. The healing was followed by ministration.
1. It was prompted by the glad impulse of her new strength.
2. It was obligated by a remembrance of her Benefactor.
3. It was required by her relatives.
4. It was not avoided by unreal excuses.
1. Cultivate in your homes the feeling of discipleship toward Christ.
2. Seek Christ as a constant Visitor to your home.
3. Tell Christ of all your domestic sorrows.
4. Let His healing touch be immediately followed by your active ministration. (Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
The afflicted should receive sympathy and succour, and return kindness and help. (J. H. Godwin.)
Instant healing from Christ
By His touch He restored her immediately to health and strength. This no human physician could have done. After a fever a long convalescence ensues before health returns. But in the case of Christ’s miracles, it was with diseases as with the sea. After a storm there is a swell, before the sea sinks into a calm. But Christ reduced the fury of the sea by a word to perfect calm, as He did the rage of the fever to perfect health. She arose and was ministering to Him, thus proving the cure and her own love to its Author. (Bishop Chris. Wordsworth.)
The ministry of women
Became a servant to them. Her work was common women’s work which had simply to do with the physical wants of Christ and His disciples. There are a few women who are called by God to work publicly for Him: but for the most part the ministry of women lies in another direction. We are not to be so much like Miriam and Deborah as like Ruth and Hannah. If we cannot preach we can work for the poor as Dorcas did; we may lend our rooms for Bible readings and prayer meetings, as did Mary the mother of Mark; and like the elect lady we may bring up our children to work in the truth. We can minister to the disciples who are in our house; to ignorant servants; to the sick, and old, and lonely; to those who have few friends and whom other workers overlook. Whatever we are we may do something for Christ. Some can speak for Him, more can sing for Him, and more still can smile for Him. Willing hands will not remain long idle if wedded to thoughtful hearts and observant eyes. (Marianne Farningham.)
And at even when the sun did set.
In ministering to the sick, we follow and find Christ
I. Describe the scene at Capernaum to which text alludes. Presence of Christ among sick. Wonderful change His visit wrought. What happy hearts and homes; what prayers and praises; what jubilant psalms.
II. If we be true Christians, we believe we shall see that same Jesus coming forth to reward those who have done works of mercy in His name. Such works are the only proof of our possessing that charity which is the development and excellence of faith and hope. Such works are within the reach of all.
III. Of such works none can be more merciful than the visitation of the sick. Let us all do our best to prevent disease. Better to keep sickness away than to repair its ravages.
IV. Help those who help themselves, by providing against the time of sickness-life assurance societies, benefit clubs, etc.
V. And those who cannot help themselves. The parish doctor should have less work and more pay.
VI. Do we honour the physician.
VII. And those who nurse and wait upon the sick?
VIII. Do we ourselves visit the sick? So finding Jesus, so taught to suffer and to die.
IX. Appeal in His name and in His words. (Canon S. R. Hole, M. A.)
When one of the greatest of God’s heroes, one of the most illustrious saints of Christendom, made an oration-preached, as we should say, a funeral sermon-concerning a brother, holy and heroic, whose soul was in Paradise-when Gregory of Nazianzum would show unto the people how, though Basil rested from his labours, his works did follow, and he being dead yet spoke-he pointed towards the hospital which Basil had built, and said, “Go forth a little out of the city, and see the new city, his treasure of godliness, the storehouse of alms which he collected; see the place where disease is relieved by charity and by skill, where the poor leper finds at last a home! It was Basil who persuaded men to care for others; it was Basil who taught them thus to honour Christ.” (Canon S. R. Hole, M. A.)
Power to heal
I. Its design twofold.
1. To do good.
2. To prove the Messiahship of Jesus (John 14:11).
II. Its effect twofold.
1. It awakened general interest in Him.
2. It led many to believe on Him.
III. Its all-comprehensiveness.
1. Over material nature-e.g., walking on the water, curing diseases, etc.
2. Over spiritual nature-e.g., expelling demons, etc.
IV. Its lessons for us. We should learn from the miracle working power of Jesus
(1) His real and personal interest in us.
(2) That nothing can baffle His skill or resist His power if we put our case in His hands. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
Christ the restorer of humanity
If we may reverently compare this scene with its modern analogies, it bears less a resemblance to anything that occurs in the life of a clergyman, than to the occupation of a physician to a hospital on the day of his seeing his out-patients. There is, indeed, all the difference in the world between the best professional advice and the summary cure such as was our Lord’s. But we are, for the moment, looking at the outward aspects of the scene; and it shows very vividly how largely Christ’s attention was directed to the well-being of the bodily frame of man. Now it would be a great mistake to suppose that this feature of our Saviour’s ministry was accidental or inevitable. Nothing in His work was accidental: all was deliberate, all had an object. Nothing in His work was inevitable, except so far as it was freely dictated by His wisdom and His mercy. To suppose that this union in Him of Prophet and Physician was determined by the necessity of some rude civilization, such as that of certain tribes in Central Africa and elsewhere, or certain periods and places in medieval Europe when knowledge was scanty, when it was easy and needful for a single person at each social centre to master all that was known on two or three great subjects-this is to make a supposition which does not apply to Palestine at the time of our Lord’s appearance. The later prophets were prophets and nothing more-neither legislators, nor statesmen, nor physicians. In John the Baptist we see no traces of the restorative power exerted on some rare occasions by Elijah and Elisha; and when our Lord appeared, dispensing on every side cures for bodily disease, the sight was just as novel to His contemporaries as it was welcome. Nor are His healing works to be accounted for by saying that they were only designed to draw attention to His message, by certificating His authority to deliver it; or by saying that they were only symbols of a higher work which He had more at heart in its many and varying aspects-the work of healing the diseases of the human soul. True it is that His healing activity had this double value: it was evidence of His authority as a Divine Teacher; it was a picture in detail, addressed to sense, of what, as the Restorer of our race, He meant to do in regions altogether beyond the sphere of sense. But these aspects of His care for the human body were not, I repeat, primary; they were strictly incidental. We may infer with reverence and with certainty that His first object was to show Himself as the Deliverer and Restorer of human nature as a whole: not of the reason and conscience merely without the imagination and the affections-not of the spiritual side of men’s nature, without the bodily; and, therefore, He was not merely Teacher, but also Physician, and therefore and thus He has shed upon the medical profession to the end of time a radiance and a consecration which is ultimately due to the conditions of that redemptive work, to achieve which He came down from heaven teaching and healing. (Canon Liddon.)
A great hospital Sunday near a great city
I. This is the story of a wonderful Sabbath-a true Sunday-“One of the days of the Son of Man.”
II. What a picture it gives us of his power as the healer. And do not these healing powers exerted by Christ declare that there is a spiritual order in the universe outside of the natural order, and beneath whose powers all the natural disorder will be at last reduced to subjection. These miracles are illustrations of the character and intention of God loving us.
III. This is the doctrine; but what is any doctrine without an application? What is the use of faith in Christ without appropriation? Jesus has not come into the world to condemn, but to heal and save it. His love is universal. Fly to the healing of God in Jesus Christ. (E. Paxton Hood.)
The house of mercy
Once it was given to me to see the soul of man as a poor creature out at night in a wild storm and hurricane, flying through the tempest over a wild moor houseless; the wild lightnings blazed across the heath, and revealed one house, and thither fled the soul. “Who lives here?” “Justice.” “Oh, Justice, let me in, for the storm is very dreadful.” But Justice said, “Nay, I cannot shelter thee, for I kindled the lightnings and the hurricanes from whence you are flying.” And I saw the poor spirit hastening over the plain, and the storm flash lit up another house, and thither fled the soul. “Who lives here? Truth.” “Oh, Truth, shelter me.” “Nay,” said the white-robed woman, Truth’s handmaid, “Hast thou loved Truth so much and been so faithful to her that thou canst fly to her for shelter? Not so; there is no shelter here.” And away in weariness sped the soul through that wild night. Still through the gleams of the blue heavens looked out a third house through the drenching storm. “And who lives here?” said the lost soul. “Peace.” “Oh, peace, let me in!” “Nay, nay; none enter the house of Peace but those whose hearts are Peace.” And then near to the house of Peace rose another house, white and beautiful through the livid light. “Who lives here?” “Mercy. Fly thither, poor soul. I have been sitting up for thee, and this house was built for thy shelter and thy home.” I read and hear such lessons as I watch Christ moving through the sick multitude that Sabbath evening in that old city. (E. Paxton Hood.)
These may be divided into distinct classes.
I. Miracles of restoration. Raising up the afflicted from a helpless, incapable state, to a condition of self-help and usefulness. This Christ’s grace is continually doing. Sin works evil results on man’s nature similar to, and worse than, those wrought by fever, paralysis, or impotency, making men vicious, shiftless, indolent, useless. The gospel brings back our fallen nature to its proper dignity and worth.
II. Miracles delivering from evil spirits. Do we not sometimes feel, even the best of us, as demoniacs act? The power of Christ can cure us.
III. Miracles of cleansing. Sin defiles the purity of the soul, and, so far as this defilement is felt and perceived, it separates the sinner from others. He feels that a gulf divides him from the pure and good; his conscience often drives him into voluntary solitude; and if his sin is particularly gross and shameful, the sentiment of society sends him into banishment. The seeds of evil which produce this defilement are hid in every soul. They are the source of evil thoughts and base suggestions which we are glad are not visible to all. Who could bare to expose his secret thoughts to the gaze of the world? Who has not need to pray, “Make and keep me pure within?” Christ’s grace is able to do this. He cleanses from the foulest leprosy of sin. (A. H. Currier.)
There is in man something akin to the diabolical
He is subject to violent and wasting passions, often dominated by a fierce and ungovernable temper; exhibits, upon slight provocation, anger, impatience, hatred, revenge; is ill-natured, moody, capricious, sullen; ready at times to take up arms against all the world, and shunned and detested in turn for his spirit of malicious mischief. We have all seen pronounced examples of this sort-probably have suffered from their malice and ill-temper. They may be persons of great energy and ability. They are not indolent or shiftless. They know how to make money, and how to use it for their own advantage. They are keen, shrewd, and successful in business. Sometimes they bestow magnificent gifts-exhibit strange freaks of generosity; but of true kindness and amiability, or the disposition to make others happy, they have but little. They seem, in short, to be possessed by a devil. The fault may be often due to inherited qualities, or to neglect of early training. They were not disciplined to self-control. One of the princes of the old French monarchy manifested in childhood and youth an unhappy disposition of this kind. But he was placed under the care of a wise and pious teacher, who laboured so successfully to correct his violent temper, that he became one of the most amiable of men. A painstaking Christian mother often amends the faults of nature. (A. H. Currier.)
1. The natural sun set, but the Sun of Righteousness arose with healing in His wings. Evening and morning Christ was at work.
2. Men come to Christ according to the urgency of their want. Here it was physical. It is well if men can feel their need of Christ at any point.
3. When men begin with their lower wants they should ascend to the higher. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The attraction of Jesus
Leaving the Paris exhibition as the sun went down, I noted an electric light that, revolving round and round, shot its ethereal pencilled rays far across the sky, touching with a momentary radiance the vegetation or the buildings across which they passed; and looking up I noted innumerable sparks wavering, vibrating in the illumination. For a moment I could not think what this meant, for there is scarcely any scintillation, and certainly no sparks, thrown off from the electric light. Then in an instant it occurred to me that these bright lights were myriads of insects attracted from the dark ocean of air around, and which, protected from the burning luminary by the strong glass, were safely rejoicing in the ecstasy of those beams. So here, around the beams of spiritual light and love that radiate from the Saviour, the innumerable hosts of suffering, struggling men and women of that day come within the field of our vision. (J. Allanson Picton, M. A.)
Diverse elements in humanity dealt with by Christianity
A wild, strange flame rages in human nature, that in combinations of great feeling and war and woe, is surpassed by no tragedy or epic, nor by all tragedies and epics together. In the soul’s secret chambers there are Fausts more subtle than Faust, Hamlets more mysterious than Hamlet, Lears more distracted and desolate than Lear; wills that do what they allow not, and what they would not do; wars in the members; bodies of death to be carried, as in Paul; wild horses of the mind, governed by no rein, as in Plato; subtleties of cunning, plausibilities of seeming virtues, memories writ in letters of fire, great thoughts heaving under the brimstone marl of revenges; pains of wrong, and of sympathy with suffering wrong; aspirations that have lost courage; hates, loves, beautiful dreams and tears; all these acting at cross purposes, and representing the broken order of the mind. If some qualified teacher by many years of study could worm out a thoroughly perceptive interpretation of sin, or lecture on the working or pathology of mind under evil, he would offer a contribution to the true success of Christian preaching, greater than, perhaps, any human teacher has ever yet contributed. (H. Bushnell, D. D.)
Miracles at Capernaum
I. Christ healing. “And at even, when the sun did set,” etc.
1. The season was interesting. It was on a Sabbath evening.
2. The ailments of the sufferers were various.
3. The excitement produced was great.
4. The number of those who were cured was considerable.
II. Christ praying.
1. When He prayed.
2. Where He prayed.
III. Christ preaching.
1. The importance He attached to its “For therefore came I forth.”
2. The places in which He exercised His ministry-“Throughout all Galilee.”
3. The encouraging indications which appeared-“All men seek for Thee.” (Expository Outlines.)
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day.
If we would pray well, we must pray early
Christians have often to choose between the indulgence of a little more sleep and the time of prayer cut short, and scant and hurried devotion, or between a little self-denial in sleep and the freshest and best hours of the day given to God, and God blessing the self-denial by answering the prayer. (M. F. Sadler.)
Convenience made for private prayer
Christ had no conveniences for securing quiet, but He made them. The hilltop was His chamber, and darkness His bolted door. He had no time for prayer, but He made time, rising “a great while before day.” Say not you have no time or secret place for prayer. Where there is a will there is a way to get both these things. (R. Glover.)
Jesus in secret prayer
I. The bearing of this fact on Himself.
1. It proves the reality of His human nature.
2. It proves that as man He was subject to the same limitations and moral conditions as we are.
3. It proves that even sinless beings, when tried, need Divine help.
II. The bearing of this fact on us.
1. If Jesus prayed, it is neither unscientific nor unbecoming in us to pray.
2. If Jesus prayed, no disciple can become so strong or holy as to be beyond the need of praying.
3. Prayer has positive power with God, and is more than a subjective influence.
4. If Jesus prayed, all ought and need to pray.
5. Having the name of Jesus to plead, everyone may be assured of being heard and answered. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
What an example of swift, unselfish activity. The Saviour cannot forego prayer, it is too important and necessary; but He will not let it interfere with His activity in behalf of others. Keep this in mind when tempted to neglect prayer because time so much taken up with work.
I. Only by combining prayer and work will work be prevented from injuring us.
1. Even spiritual work may not always be beneficial; for it may draw us away from the cultivation of our own personal religious life; or foster within us the spirit of self-elation; or beget within us a feeling of despondency.
2. Secular work, it is easy to see, is likely to affect us injuriously. The wear and tear of the spirit, in the midst of the rush and roar of the world’s business for six days in the week, will seriously unfit a man for spiritual exercises on the seventh. Transition from one order of occupation to the other will require an effort he will be too languid to put forth. No remedy but frequent intercourse with God in the midst of toil.
II. Only thus will work bring true blessing. Prayer brings the Divine blessing down. Even Christ sought it thus. Do all work for God, and seek to have God with you in it all.
III. Only thus will work become a delight to us. This is an important consideration, since with most of us life is filled with work. Would we not have it a refreshment rather than a burden? The most cheerful, patient and heroic toilers are those who are most constant in prayer. Only so can we do our work as it ought to be done, and get from it all the good it is intended to yield. (B. Wilkinson.)
True prayer difficult
Christ was careful to use the best outward helps and furtherances to prayer, such as the opportunity of the morning and the privacy of the place. Whence we may gather, that to pray aright is a difficult work, and not easy to perform. If it were an easy matter, what need for such helps? Christ, indeed, had no need of such helps for Himself: set He used them for our instruction, to show us what need we have of them, and how hard a thing it is to pray well.
1. We have no ability of ourselves by nature to perform this duty (Romans 8:26).
2. There are many things to hinder us in the duty; especially Satan labouring continually to stir up hindrances and disturbances; also our own corrupt hearts, which are apt to be taken up at times of prayer with swarms of idle and wandering thoughts.
3. It is a duty of great excellence and profit, much and often commended in Scripture: no wonder, therefore, if it be difficult, for so are all excellent and precious duties.
4. Prayer is a holy conference with God; and it is hard to speak to God as we ought. Learn from all this the ignorance of those who think it so easy a matter to pray. Because they think it easy they go about it without preparation, without watchfulness over their hearts, and without using any helps to further them in the duty; and the consequence is that they pray in a very slight, perfunctory manner. If they repeat the bare words of the Lord’s Prayer, or some other prayer (though without all understanding and feeling), they think this is enough. Indeed, this is an easy kind of praying, or rather saying of a prayer; for it is not rightly called praying, when only the words of a prayer are rehearsed. Such as know what it is to pray aright acknowledge it to be a difficult work. Let us be more diligent and frequent in the exercise of it, that it may become more easy to us. (G. Petter.)
Early morning communion with God
Colonel Gardiner used constantly to rise at four in the morning, and to spend his time till six in the secret exercises of the closet, reading, meditation, and prayer; in which last he acquired such a fervency of spirit as, says his biographer, “I believe few men living ever attained. This certainly very much contributed to strengthen that firm faith in God, and reverent, animating sense of His presence, for which He was so eminently remarkable, and which carried him through the trials and services of life with such steadiness and with such activity; for he indeed endured and acted as if always seeing Him who is invisible. If at any time he was obliged to go out before six in the morning, he rose proportionally sooner; so that, when a journey or a march has required him to be on horseback by four, he would be at his devotions by two.”
The prayers of Christ
Eighteen times our Lord’s own prayers are alluded to or quoted; but those passages give us only four aspects of His prayers.
I. His habit of prayer. In five passages (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; Luke 5:16; Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46) we have our Lord withdrawing for prolonged private prayer; at a time when involved in the whirl of public work; before appointing His apostles and establishing His kingdom. In a sixth passage (Luke 11:1) this habit so impressed the disciples that they asked Him to teach them how to pray.
II. His thankfulness in prayer. In five more passages, three (Matthew 11:25; John 11:41; Luke 10:21) quote an ejaculation of gratitude. The others (Luke 3:21; Luke 9:28) are on the occasions of His baptism and transfiguration; the one initiating Him into His mission of teaching, the other into His mission of suffering.
III. His intercession in prayer.
1. For His friends (Luke 22:32).
2. For His enemies (Luke 23:34).
3. For Himself and His disciples as one with Him (John 17:1-43.17.26)
IV. His obedience in prayer (Matthew 26:39; Mark 15:34; Luke 22:42; John 12:27). We may draw from these prayers-
1. An argument in favour of our Lord’s divinity. There is no confession of sin. He prays for, never with, His disciples.
2. We may see an example for ourselves in
(1) His belief in the habit of prayer;
(2) the reverent limit He assigned to prayer-“Not My will,” etc.;
(3) His practice of private super-added to public prayer;
(4) His joyful continuance in prayer. (Prof. A. S. Farrar.)
VI. Blissful. (W. H. Jellie.)
I. That the Saviour, though perfectly holy, regarded the duty of secret prayer as of great importance.
II. That He sought a solitary place for it-far away from the world, and even His disciples.
III. That it was early in the morning-the first thing after rising-always the best time, and a time when it should not be omitted.
IV. If Jesus prayed, how much more important is it for us. If He did it in the morning, how much more important is it for us, before the world gets possession of our thoughts; before Satan fills us with unholy feelings; when we rise fresh from beds of repose, and while the world around us is still! David thus prayed (Psalms 5:3). He that wishes to enjoy religion will seek a place of secret prayer in the morning. If that is omitted all will go wrong-our piety will wither, the world will fill our thoughts, temptations will be strong, and through the day we shall find it impossible to raise our feelings to a state of proper devotion. The religious enjoyment through the day will be according to the state of the heart in the morning; and can, therefore, be measured by our faithfulness in early, secret prayer. How different the conduct of the Saviour from those who spend the precious hours of the morning in sleep! He knew the value of the morning hours, etc. (A. Barnes, D. D.)
The devotions of Christ
I. The fact of His praying. It is a wonderful fact that one like Him should pray at all. But it may be explained.
1. He prayed as a Man.
2. He prayed as Mediator.
3. He prayed as an Example.
II. The circumstances of His praying.
1. Early. “His morning smiles bless all the day.”
3. Long. Much of the heart may be thrown into a short prayer. (Various.)
The prayers of Jesus
I. The mystery of the prayers of Jesus. If Jesus is God, how could He pray to God? How were there any needs in His nature on behalf of which He could pray? A partial answer is found in the truth that all prayers do not spring from a sense of need. The highest form of prayer is conversation with God-the familiar talk of a child with his Father. Augustine’s “Confessions” is an example of this. But the only adequate explanation is Christ’s humanity; He was wholly man. Human nature in Him was a tender thing, and had to fail back on the strength of prayer.
II. His habits of prayer. He went into the solitudes of nature. There is a solitude of time as well as of space. It might be an enriching discovery to find out the solitudes in our neighbourhood: silent, soothing influence of nature. Christ prayed in company as well as in secret.
III. The occasions on which He prayed.
1. He prayed before taking an important step in life, as when He chose which men to be with Him.
2. He prayed when His life was specially busy; when He could not find time to eat He found time to pray. We make that an excuse for not praying. Christ made it a reason for praying.
3. He prayed before entering temptation.
4. He died praying.
IV. The answer to His prayers.
1. The Transfiguration was an answer to prayer-“As He prayed,” etc.
2. His baptism was an answer to prayer. Are you a man of prayer? (J. Stalker, M. A.)
Jesus rising early for secret prayer
I. How diligent the Saviour was in the improvement of His time.
II. That no crowd of company or calls of business could divert Jesus from His daily, stated devotions.
III. What care our Lord took to find a place of solitude for His prayers, that He might neither meet with disturbance, nor seem ostentatious.
1. One reason why we should retire to a secret place for solitary prayer is, that we may avoid the appearance of ostentation.
2. That we may be undisturbed.
3. That our minds may enjoy greater freedom in communion with God. (J. Lathrop, D. D.)
Jesus in prayer
I. As simple intercourse with God.
II. View it in relation to His work. So do we need constant prayer in the midst of our work.
1. For calm and holy review.
2. For direction-asking wisdom of God, just as a mariner consults his compass.
3. For qualifications-mental, moral, and even physical.
4. For success. God giveth the increase.
5. For freedom from perverting influences. Our motives are apt to get entangled and our aims confused. In prosperity we are in danger of waxing egotistic, vain, and proud. See it in many a successful business man, and in many a popular minister. In adversity we are tempted to despond. (The Congregational Pulpit.)
I. To explain as exercise of secret devotion. It is little we know of the private life of Christ. In silence there is much instruction. He was often in private retirement (Luke 6:12; Luke 21:37; Luke 22:39; John 6:15).
1. The occasion on which our Lord betakes Himself to this exercise of secret devotion. You observe the connection-after a day of laborious occupation in the public exercises of religion, He sought an opportunity for secret devotion: the one no excuse for the neglect of the other. In the public exercises of religion we most need the private exercises of devotion. There are reasons for this. It is in private that the impressions of the public ordinances must be maintained on the mind. It prevents relapse. Besides, this is a time of peculiar temptation. If a Christian in his public exercises had attained to high enjoyment, every stratagem will be used by Satan to rob him of his treasure. Besides, it is necessary to follow our public services with secret exercises, that we may bring the former to the test. In public we are apt to be excited, but feelings that are excited may be deceitful; and every wise man will test these feelings in the presence of God alone.
2. The next circumstance in this exercise that attracts our attention is the time that our Lord was pleased to choose for it-“In the morning.” His self-denial. The morning is favourable to devotion, our minds are not yet disturbed by the cares of the day. What anxiety to give God the best of His services.
3. The place He sought for it. The works of the Divine hand are aids to devotion.
4. The exercise itself-“He prayed.” Christ as man needed to pray. We can conceive of Adam in innocence praying; but our Lord needed prayer, as being the subject of sinless infirmity; but above all as Mediator. Suggest a few aids to secret devotion-
(3) a determination of future obedience.
Christ came out of His solitude with purposes to do the will of His heavenly Father.
II. I am to enforce the duty of secret devotion by a consideration of its benefits.
1. It has a tendency to produce godliness. Because it brings us into contact with God. It produces simplicity, and godly sincerity, and gentleness.
2. Secret devotion is most favourable to the comfort of the mind. Devotion soothes the mind; it elevates the mind. It imparts joy in religion.
3. Secret devotion is most favourable to usefulness. The secret of usefulness among men is a spirit of piety toward God. (J. Morgan.)
Secret prayer aids social usefulness
In the very manner in which he speaks to everyone he meets, in the very way he discharges every duty to which he is called, his spirit is as it ought to be, and therefore the man is walking up and down in society, scattering blessings “on the right hand and on the left.” On the other hand, suppose him to have neglected the exercises of secret devotion, he comes out into society with a ruffled temper, with a dissatisfied spirit, finding fault with everybody, with everything, dissatisfied with all, because dissatisfied with himself, neglecting opportunities, doing nothing as it ought to be done, losing the opportunity that God in His providence gives him. Again, look at the spirit in which such a man conducts himself towards others. The spirit of the man of God is a spirit of humility Think of the language of the 126th Psalm, “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing his sheaves with him”-the man that goes forth in genuine humility and true modesty, and attempts his work, not in the spirit of intrusion or interference, but simply in the strength of God, is the man who in the end will be successful. It is not only the spirit which he cherishes towards man, but that which he cherishes towards God, that insures success. Towards man, his spirit is modest and humble, towards God it is the spirit of dependence. And then you observe in him great steadfastness. He has been with God in the morning in the exercise of secret devotion, and therefore though he may meet with difficulty during the day, he is not to be stumbled by it; it may retard him, it may distress him, but he knows too well what he was to expect, to be overcome; he acts on that principle assured of its justice, “therefore be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (J. Morgan.)
Dr. Doddridge tells us that to his habit of early rising the world is indebted for nearly the whole of his valuable works. The well-known Bishop Burnett was an habitual early riser, for when at college his father aroused him to his studies every morning at four o’clock; and he continued the practice during the remainder of his life. Sir Thomas More also made it his invariable practice to rise always at four, and if we turn our attention to royalty, we have, among others, the example of Peter the Great, who, whether at work in the docks at London as a ship carpenter, or at the anvil as a blacksmith, or on the throne of Russia, always rose before daylight.
Finding a place to pray
Dr. Milne, afterwards the famous missionary in China, when a youth, after leaving home, was situated in an ungodly family. So he used to retire to a sheepcote, where the sheep were kept in winter, and there, surrounded by the sheep, he knelt on a piece of turf which he kept and carried with him for the purpose, spending many an hour there, even in the cold of winter, in sweet communion with his God. (Anon.)
It is a little difficult, especially when the mornings are dark and cold, to get up sufficiently early to have profitable communion with God. Ask God for getting up grace. A friend told us a few days since that she traced much failure in her religious life to late rising, but God had given her victory over the old habit of lying in bed until the last minute. If Jesus Christ found it necessary to rise “a great while before day,” and depart “into a solitary place” to pray, we have need to be with God before the work of the day begins. Ward Beecher says: “Let the day have a blessed baptism by giving your first waking thoughts to God. The first hour of the morning is the rudder of the day.”
I. That private prayer should be enjoyed in the early morning.
1. Because it insures time for the performance of prayer.
2. Because it is the time when the soul is most free from care and anxiety.
3. Because the world is silent-favourable to the voice of prayer.
4. Because it is favourable to unostentation.
5. Because it is a good husbanding of time.
II. That private prayer should be performed by the busiest life.
1. The neglect of private devotion by a busy life is injudicious.
2. The neglect of private devotion by a busy life is inexcusable.
III. Private prayer should not be interrupted by popularity.
IV. Private prayer will aid and inspire in the continued ministry of life. “And He said unto them, Let us go unto the next towns, that I may preach there also” (Mark 1:38).
1. Thus private prayer stimulates to continued activity in life.
2. Private prayer enables a man to awaken the moral activity of others.
V. Private prayer leads to a high appreciation of the true mission of life. Lessons:
1. That early morning is a good time for prayer.
2. That solitude is favourable to devotion.
3. That the best men need private prayer.
4. That the most busy men have no excuse for the neglect of private devotion.
5. That secret prayer is the strength of all moral life and activity. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Early morning prayer
The most orient pearls are generated of the morning dew. Abraham and Job both rose early to offer sacrifice. The Persian magi sang hymns to their gods at break of day, and worshipped the rising sun. (Trapp.)
The early mornings a friend to the graces
It has been said, The morning is a friend to the muses, and it is no less so to the graces. (M. Henry.)
And when they had found Him.
The desire of humanity for Christ
While rejoicing in Divine solitude, the loneliness in which He left the suffering, toiling people was indescribably painful to them. A man born blind does not realize his deprivation, but if there is given him a brief vision of daylight how unutterable his sense of loss when it fades away again. So these people felt themselves deprived of the fresh interest and hopes with which they had been inspired when they lost the society and communion of Jesus. But the question was asked by all lips: “Where is He?” And most true is it today-be man’s opinions what they may-there is no more universal experience of human kind, whether gentle or simple, scientific or ignorant, barbarian or bond or free, than the hunger for that fulness of life which is in Christ Jesus. (J. A. Picton, M. A.)
An unconscious prophecy
What the disciples said in their wondering delight, shall one day be literally true-all men will be in search of the Saviour of the world. In the first instance the Saviour sought all men, and in the second all men will seek the Saviour. “We love Him because He first loved us.” (J. Parker, D. D.)
Christ the centre of union for all men
“All men seek for Thee.” Yes, they are tired of their sectarian wranglings; they are wearied out with their ineffectual metaphysical analysis; they are sick of the poor results yielded up by material research; they have lost confidence in their own self-will; they prize no longer their self-conceit; they long to be brothers in the embrace of one common Father, and none can bring them together but Christ. “All men seek for thee.” Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (J. A. Picton, M. A.)
The reason for Christ’s apparently unreasonable departures
He had spoken to the people because He desired them to know; and again, He will retire from them, and have His heart set on their well-being as he retires. When you and I have heard the sermon, what remains for us to do? Is it to hear more, or to think about what we have heard? You can learn by hearing, but you can be confused by hearing too much; one sermon may obliterate the effect of the other. So Christ left the people to whom He had been so acceptable, that in the quietude of their homes they might think of that which they had both heard and seen. (J. Cymore Davies.)
I. That this Christian evangelization was preceded by private devotion.
II. That this Christian evangelization was accompanied by an earnest preaching of the truth.
III. That this Christian evangelization made use of the already existing agencies of the Church.
IV. That this Christian evangelization was just in its conception of work, in that it east the devil out of men. Lessons:
1. That evangelistic work requires and is worthy of the best talent that can be obtained.
2. That evangelistic work is ennobling to those who engage in it, as well as to those who are contemplated by it.
3. That evangelistic work has done much to cast the devil out of the masses of our large towns. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Christ, a home missionary
From these words I commend to your notice-
I. The resemblance between your own labours, and the personal ministry of your Lord and Saviour, as performed in the field of home missions.
1. In the scene of your labours. The title of missionary denotes one sent forth, and especially belongs to one whose errand is to propagate religion. Christ was sent from God-“The great Apostle of our profession” (Hebrews 3:1). To bring the glad message to our earth from the far heavens, He emptied Himself of glory, etc. It was to an alien race that he ministered. His personal ministry was far more limited and national in its character than was His message. Whatever His intent, in narrowing the field of His toils as a preacher, the fact is evident that to the land of Canaan, or the bounds of His native country, His ministerial labours were confined, and Jesus Christ, while upon earth, was a Home Missionary. Now a work which occupied the greatest of preachers can never be unimportant, etc.
2. In the commission under which He acted, the message He bore, the manner in which He published it, and the mode in which His labours were sustained.
II. The consequent duty of the Church to continue and abound in the like good work. Whether we look to the advantages which our nation presents for such labour, or to its peculiar necessities; to our duty as Christians, or our interests as men loving their country; to the general obligations of the Church, or our own personal and special privileges and responsibilities-on every hand are teeming incitements to energy and liberality, to perseverance and courageous devotedness. (W. R. Williamson, D. D.)
And there came a leper to Him, beseeching Him.
The cured leper still rebellious
I. His disease.
II. His application.
1. We have here an intelligent appreciation of Christ as the Healer.
2. We have an instance of genuine earnestness.
3. We see here the marks of true humility.
4. A sample of prayer for a special gift.
5. But here is illustrated a very unworthy conception of Christ’s love.
III. His cure-“Jesus spake and it was done.”
1. His method bears proof of Divinity-“I will, be thou clean.”
2. The cure was instantaneous.
3. It was complete.
4. The cure must have been welcome.
IV. His obligation.
1. That obligation covered the whole area of his life.
2. The healer always becomes the sovereign. He who commanded the disease, commanded the patient also.
3. The requirement of Christ was founded in solid reason.
4. The obligation involved public acknowledgment and substantial gift.
V. His contumacy.
1. Complete redemption is not obtained until the will is subdued.
2. This man’s contumacy was thoughtless.
3. This contumacy was fraught with disastrous effects. (D. Davies, M. A.)
The approach of a needy life to Christ
I. The deep need of this man’s life-“And there came a leper unto Him.”
1. It was a need that filled the life of this man with intense misery.
2. It was a need from which no human remedy could give relief.
3. It was a need that brought him into immediate contact with Christ.
II. The manner in which this needy life approached the Saviour.
1. His appeal to Christ was characterized by a truthful apprehension of his need.
2. His appeal to Christ was characterized by an acknowledgment of the Divine sovereignty.
3. His appeal to Christ was characterized by great earnestness.
4. His appeal to Christ was characterized by deep humility.
5. His appeal to Christ was characterized by simple faith.
III. The response which the appeal of this needy life awakened in the beneficent heart of Christ.
1. It awakened tender compassion.
2. It received the touch of Divine power.
3. It attained a welcome and effective cure.
1. That it is well for a needy life to approach Christ.
2. That a needy life should approach Christ with humility and faith.
3. The marvellous way in which Christ can supply the need of man. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
I. Whatever Diviner and sacreder aspect there may be in these incidents, the first thing, and, in some senses, the most precious thing in them is that they are the natural expression of a truly human tenderness and compassion. It is the love of Christ Himself-spontaneous, instinctive-without the thought of anything but the suffering it sees-which gushes out and leads Him to put forth His hand to the outcast beggars and lepers. True pity instinctively leads us to seek to come near those who are its objects. Christ’s pity is shown by His touch to have this true characteristic of true pity, that it overcomes disgust; He is not turned away by the shining whiteness of the leprosy. Christ loves us, and will not be turned from His compassion by our most loathsome foulness.
II. We may regard the touch as the medium of His miraculous power. There is a royal variety in the method of our Lord’s miracles; some are wrought at a distance, some by a word or touch. The true cause in every case is His own bare will. But this use of Christ’s touch, as apparent means for conveying His miraculous power, illustrates a principle which is exemplified in all His revelation, namely, the employment, in condescension to men’s weakness, of outward means as the apparent vehicles of His spiritual power. Sacraments, outward ceremonies, forms of worship, are vehicles which the Divine Spirit uses in order to bring His gifts to the hearts and the minds of men. They are like the touch of Christ which heals, not by any virtue in itself, apart from His will which chooses to make it the apparent medium of healing. All these externals are nothing, as the pipes of an organ are nothing, until His breath is breathed through them, and then the flood of sweet sound pours out. Do not despise the material vehicles and the outward helps which Christ uses for the communication of His healing and His life, but remember that the help that is done upon earth, He does it all Himself.
III. Consider Christ’s touch as a shadow and symbol of the very heart of His work. Christ’s touch was a Priest’s touch. He lays His hand on corruption and is not tainted. It becomes purity. This was His work in the world-laying hold of the outcast-His sympathy leading to His identification of Himself with us in our misery. That sympathetic life-long touch is put forth once for all in His incarnation and death. Let our touch answer to His; let the hand of faith grasp Him.
IV. We may look upon these incidents as being a pattern for us. We must be content to take lepers by the hand, to let the outcast feel the warmth of our loving grasp if we would draw them into the Father’s house. (A. McLaren, D. D.)
Christ touches corruption without taint
Just as He touches the leper and is unpolluted, or the fever patient and receives no contagion, or the dead and draws no chill of mortality into His warm hand, so He becomes like His brethren in all things, yet without sin. Being found in the likeness of sinful flesh, He knows no sin, but wears His manhood unpolluted, and dwells among men blameless and harmless, the Son of God, without rebuke. Like a sunbeam passing through foul water untarnished and unstained; or like some sweet Spring rising in the midst of the salt sea, which yet retains its freshness and pours it over the surrounding bitterness, so Christ takes upon Himself our nature and lays hold of our stained hands with the hand that continues pure while it grasps us, and will make us purer if we grasp it. (A. McLaren, D. D.)
The cleansing of the leper
I. Let us put together the facts of the case.
II. The principal lessons suggested by this narrative.
1. Here is an illustration of the good effects of speaking about religious truth in connection with Christ. The fame of Christ was spread abroad throughout Syria, and found its way to the leper.
2. That doubts are no reason why we should not go to Christ-“Lord, if thou wilt,” etc.
3. That no possible circumstances ought to prevent our going to Christ for salvation.
4. Christ’s love and willingness to save is the great idea of the gospel. (W. G. Barrett.)
Cleansed by Christ
A nun in an Italian convent once dreamed that an angel opened her spiritual eyes, and she saw all men as they were. They seemed so full of uncleanness that she shrank back from them in horror. But just then Jesus Christ appeared among them with bleeding wounds, and the nun saw that whoever pressed forward and touched the blood of Jesus, at once became white as snow. It is so in everyday life. It was Jesus who cleansed that reformed drunkard from the stain of his sin. Years ago he was poor and ragged and unclean. Today he is clean and healthy and well dressed; the grace of Christ has been manifested in the cleansing of the outer as well as of the inner man. (Sunday School Times.)
Cleansing of the leper
I. The pitiable object that is were presented. The malady was one of the most distressing that ever seized a human being. It was usually regarded as produced by the immediate agency of the Most High. The rules prescribed for its treatment were very minute and stringent. Among the many immunities with which we are favoured in this happy land, may be reckoned the entire absence of leprosy. But if bodily leprosy is unknown among us, spiritual leprosy is not.
1. It was hereditary.
2. A representation of sin in the consequences with which it was attended.
II. The application which he made.
1. It was earnest.
2. It was humble.
3. It expressed great confidence in the Saviour’s ability.
4. It indicated some doubt of His willingness to exert the power He possessed.
III. The response he met with.
1. The emotion which the Saviour felt-“Moved with compassion.”
2. The act He performed-“Put forth His hand, and touched him.”
3. The words He uttered-“I will; be thou clean.”
4. The effect produced-“The leprosy departed from him.”
IV. The directions he received.
1. These instructions were necessary. The law enjoined that the priest should pronounce the leper clean before he could enjoy the privileges-whether social, civil, or religious-of which he had been deprived.
2. However needful these instructions may have been, the restored leper, in the fulness of his joy and gratitude, was unable to comply with them. See the ability of Christ to save. A personal application to Him is necessary. (Expository Outlines.)
Christ’s relation to human suffering
Christ presented to us in three aspects.
I. As a worker-“He stretched forth His hand and touched him.” This act was-
1. Natural. The means employed were in harmony with His nature as a human being. Christ felt His oneness with the race.
2. Profound. A common thing apparently, yet who can tell what power was in that “touch.” Doubtless there was the communication of a power invisible to human eyes.
3. Beneficent. Here we have the cure of an incurable.
4. Prompt. The earnest appeal obtained an immediate response. This was characteristic of Christ.
II. As a speaker. “And saith,” etc. This shows-
1. His Divine authority-“I will.” Such a fiat could have come only from the lips of a Divine person-“Never man spake,” etc., “With authority He commandeth,” etc. (Mark 1:28).
2. His consciousness of power. Christ fully knew what power He possessed. Not so with man; consequently how much latent energy lies dormant in the Church of Christ.
3. His possession of power-“Be thou made clean.” At the unfaltering tones of Christ’s voice all diseases fled.
III. As a healer-“And straightway the leprosy departed,” etc. This healing was-
2. Perfect. (A. G. Churchill.)
The Saviour and the leper
No one afflicted with this loathsome disease was allowed to enter the gates of any city. In this case, however, the man’s misery and earnestness led him to make a dangerous experiment. Persuaded of the Lord’s power to heal; longing to put it to the test; almost sure of His willingness; he will rush into the city, and ere ever the angry people have had time to recover from their astonishment at his boldness, he hopes to find himself cured and whole at the feet of Jesus. There was both daring and doubting in his action. The man’s earnestness is seen further in his manner.
1. He knelt before the Lord, and next fell on his face-his attitude giving emphasis to his words.
2. He besought Jesus-in fear, in doubt, in secret dread lest the Lord should see some reason for withholding the boon he craved, but yet in faith. And his faith was great. He did not, like Martha, consider Christ’s power as needing to be sought from God; he believed it to be lodged already in Christ’s person; and he also believed His power to be great enough to reach even his case, although as yet no leper had received healing from Christ.
3. His faith was rewarded. Jesus touched him-no pollution passing from the leper to Him, but healing going from Him to the leper.
4. Instantly the leprosy departed. Nothing is a barrier to the Lord’s will and power. (Andrew A. Bonar.)
As to this disease observe: heat, dryness, and dust, predispose to diseases of the skin everywhere, and all these causes are especially operative in Syria. Insufficient food assists their action; and boils and sores are apt to fester and poison the system. Leprosy is a disease found over a large tract of the world’s surface; it is found all round the shores of the Mediterranean, from Syria to Spain, in a virulent form, and in North and South Africa. It was carried to various countries in Europe by those who returned from the crusades, and became prevalent even in England, in the times when our forefathers had no butcher meat in winter but what was salted, and little vegetable diet with it. In a form less virulent than in Palestine, it exists in Norway, where the government supports several hospitals for lepers, and seeks to prevent the spread of the disease by requiring all afflicted with it to live-unmarried-in one or other of these. Probably, salt fish in Norway forms the too exclusive food of the poor, as it also probably did in Palestine in the time of Christ. Mrs. Brassey found it in the islands of the Pacific. It is so common in India that when Lord Lawrence took formal possession of Oude, he made the people promise not to burn their widows nor slay their children (the girls), nor bury alive their lepers. It was a loathsome disease, eating away the joints, enfeebling the strength, producing diseases of the lungs, almost always fatal, though taking years to kill. It was the one disease which the Mosaic law treated as unclean; perhaps, as being the chief disease, God wished to indicate that all outward misery had originally its root in sin. He that was afflicted with it had to live apart from his fellows, and to cry out “unclean” when any came near him; often, therefore, could do no work, but had to live on charity. He was not permitted to enter a synagogue unless a part were specially railed off for him, and then he must be the first to enter and the last to quit the place. It was as fatal as consumption is with us; much more painful; loathsome as well, infecting the spirits with melancholy, and cutting the sufferer off from tender sympathies and ministries when he most needed them. (R. Glover.)
The leper’s prayer
This prayer is very remarkable. For observe-
I. The case would seem absolutely hopeless. Many could feel that for a Lordly spirit like Christ’s to have control over evil spirits was natural, but would have held the cure of a leper an impossibility; for the disease, being one of the blood, infected the whole system! If onlookers might so think, how much more the leper himself! Every organ of his body infected deeply, how wonderful that he could have any hope. But he believes this great miracle a possibility. Yet note-
II. His prayer is wonderfully calm. In deepest earnest he kneels. But there is no wildness nor excitement. Mark also-
III. How a great law of compensation runs through our lives, and somehow those most grievously afflicted are often those most helped to pray and trust. I once saw a leper at Genadenthal in South Africa-an old woman. “Tell him,” said she to the doctor, who took me to see her, “I am very thankful for my disease; it is the way the Lord took to bring me to Himself.” This man had had the same sort of compensation, and while the outward man was perishing the inward man was being renewed day by day. Copy his prayer, and ask for mercies though they seem to be sheer impossibilities. (R. Glover.)
“Can” and “will”
It is an old answer, that from can to will, no argument followeth. The leper did not say unto Christ, “If Thou canst, Thou wilt;” but, “If Thou wilt, Thou canst.” (H. Smith.)
I. The cure of our souls is the pure effect of the goodness and free mercy of God.
II. Jesus Christ performs it by a sovereign authority.
III. His sacred humanity is the instrument of the Divine operation in our hearts.
IV. It is by His will that His merits are applied to us. Fear, for He does not put forth His healing hand and touch all; hope, for He very frequently puts it forth, and touches the most miserable. (Quesnel.)
The world’s treatment of lepers, and Christ’s
You remember the story of the leper which the poet Swinburne has woven into one of his most beautiful, most painfully realistic, poems. He tells about a lady at the French Court in the Middle Ages, who was stricken with leprosy. She had been courted, flattered, idolized, and almost worshipped for her wit and beauty by the king, princes, and all the royal train, until she was smitten with leprosy. Then her very lovers hunted her forth as a banned and God-forsaken thing; every door in the great city of Paris was slammed in her face; no one would give her a drop of water or piece of bread; the very children spat in her face, and fled from her as a pestilential thing, until a poor clerk, who had loved the great lady a long way off, and had never spoken to her until then, took her to his house for pity’s sake, and nursed her until she died, and he was cast out and cursed himself by all the religious world for doing it. That was what the leper had become in the Middle Ages, and something like that he was among the Jews of our Saviour’s time, hated by men because believed to be hated by God, carrying in his flesh and skin the very marks of God’s anger, contempt, and scorn, the foulest thing on God’s fair earth, whose presence meant defilement, and whom to touch was sin. That was the thing that lay at Christ’s feet, and on which that pure, gentle hand was laid. He stretched forth His hand and touched him, and said, “I will, be thou clean;” and straightway his leprosy was cleansed. (J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)
Christ’s saving touch
I. The wonderful way is which Christ kindled hope in these desperate wretches. He helped men to believe in themselves as well as in Himself. We cannot see how it was done. Nothing had been said or done to give this confidence in his recoverability, yet he has it. You can show a man in a score of ways, without telling him in so many words, that you do not despair of him. A glance of the eye is enough for that. The first step in saving the lost is to persuade them that they are not God-abandoned.
II. Christ’s touch. Christ saved men by touching them. He was always touching men, their hands, eyes, ears, lips. He did not send His salvation; He brought it. Gifts demoralize men unless we give part of ourselves with them. (J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)
The use of personal contact
Our gifts only demoralize men unless we give part of ourselves along with them. Even a dog is demoralized it you always throw bones to it instead of giving them out of your hand. You breathe a bit of humanity into the dog by letting it lick your hand, and it would almost rather do that than eat your bone. What have we done to save men when we have sent them our charities? Almost nothing. We have filled their stomachs, indeed, and lightened their material wants, but have sent their souls still empty away. (J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)
The cleansing of the leper
There are in this case elements which ought to be found in any man who is suffering from soul disease and defilement.
I. A painful consciousness of his true position. He looked at his leprosy; felt its pain; knew its disabling uncleanness. The sinner sees his sin as disgrace, a danger, and a disgust.
II. A proper sense of his present opportunity. Great Healer was approaching; Lord of love and pity was here; representative of heaven passed by. He was drawn to Jesus; prostrate before Jesus; urgent upon Jesus. A present decision; a present acceptance; a present salvation.
III. A plain acknowledgment of the Lord’s power. “Thou canst;” I can’t; others can’t; but Thou canst, I know it, because Thou hast cleansed others; hast power to cleanse; hast come forth to cleanse.
IV. A pressing urgency concerning the Lord’s pleasure. “If Thou wilt.” Perhaps I am too vile. It may be my sorrow may plead. In any case I will take my refusal only from Thee. Observe-
1. The leper makes no prayer. Readiness to receive is in itself a prayer. Uttered prayer may be no deeper than the mouth; unuttered prayer may be evidence of the opened heart.
2. The leper raises no difficulty. He comes-worships-confesses his faith-puts himself in the Lord’s hands.
3. The leper has no hesitation as to what he needs-“Slake me clean.” As to whom he trusts-“Thou canst.” As to how he comes-“A leper.” Misery in the presence of mercy-humility pleading with grace-faith appealing to faithfulness-helplessness worshipping at the feet of power. Such is a leper before the Lord. Such is a sinner before the Saviour. Such should we be to this day of grace. (J. Richardson, M. A.)
The method of spiritual salvation illustrated
I. The leper put himself unreservedly in the hands of the Healer.
II. Christ instantly gave practical expression to His own deep pity.
III. The completeness of Christ’s cure. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Leprosy a symbol of sin
I. From a small beginning it spreads over the entire man.
II. Its cure is beyond the reach of human skill or natural remedies.
III. It is painful, loathsome, degrading, and fatal.
IV. It separates its victim from the pure and drives him into association with the impure.
V. It is a foe to religious privileges.
IV. It can re remedied by the interposition of God. (Anon.)
Christ’s pity shown more in deeds than in words
I doubt whether Christ ever said anything about the Divine compassion more pathetic or more perfectly beautiful than had been said by the writer of the 103rd Psalm. It is not in the words of Christ that we find a fuller and deeper revelation of the Divine compassion, but in His deeds. “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand and touched him,” touched the man from whom his very kindred had shrunk. It was the first time that the leper had felt the warmth and pressure of a human hand since his loathsome disease came upon him. And said, “I will, be thou clean.” (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)
The leper cleansed
I. Sorrow turns instinctively to the supernatural.
II. Christ is never deaf to sorrow’s cry.
III. Christ is superior alike to material contamination and legal restriction. (Dr. Parker.)
Christ’s mission a protest against death
Every healed man was Christ’s living protest against death. The mere fact of the miracle was but a syllable in Christ’s magnificent doctrine of life. Christ’s mission may be summed up in the word-Life; the devil’s, in the word-Death; so that every recovered limb, every opened eye, every purified leper, was a confirmation of His statement, “I have come that they might have life.” (Dr. Parker.)
The cleansing of the leper
I. A melancholy picture to be studied.
II. An excellent example to be copied.
1. He made his application in the proper quarter. He “came to Jesus.”
2. He made his application in the right way.
3. He made his application in the proper spirit, “kneeling.”
III. A sweet encouragement to be taken.
IV. A necessary duty to be performed. Silence and the offering of sacrifice. Gratitude; penitence; consecration.
V. An uncommon mistake to be avoided. “He began to blaze abroad the matter.” (T. Whitelaw, M. A.)
Reasons for silence respecting Christ’s miracles
Our Lord did not mean that the man should keep it only to himself, and that he should not at all make it known to any; for He knew that it was fit His miracles should be known, that by them His Divine power and the truth of His doctrine might be manifested to the world; and therefore we read that at another time He was willing a miracle of His should be made known (Mark 5:19). But Christ’s purpose here is to restrain him-
I. From publishing this miracle rashly or unadvisedly, and in an indiscreet manner.
II. From revealing it to such persons as were likely to cavil or take exceptions at it.
III. From publishing it at that time, which was unfit and unseasonable-
(1) Because Christ was yet in the state of His abasement, and was so to continue till the time of His resurrection, and His Divine glory was to be manifested by degrees till then, and not all at once;
(2) Because the people were too much addicted to the miracles of Christ, without due regard to His teaching. (G. Petter.)
With the charge to tell it to the priest the Saviour gave the charge to tell it to no one else.
I. Christ did not want a crowd of wonder seekers to clamour for a sign, but penitents to listen to the tidings of salvation.
II. The man would be spiritually the better of thinking calmly and silently over His wondrous mercy, until at all events he had been to the Temple in Jerusalem and back. Do not tattle about your religious experience; nor, if you are a beginner, speak so much about God’s mercy to you that you have not time to study it and learn its lesson. This man, had he but gone into some retired spot and mastered the meaning of His mercy, might have become an apostle. As it is, he becomes a sort of showman of himself. (R. Glover.)
I. This unostentatious philanthropy was consequent upon a real cure.
II. Was animated by a true spirit. Some people enjoin silence in reference to their philanthropy-
1. When they do not mean it. Mock humility.
2. Lest they should have too many applicants for it. Selfishness or limited generosity.
3. Others in order that they may modestly and wisely do good. So with our Lord. Much philanthropy marred by its talkativeness.
III. Was not attended with success. Hence we learn-
1. That the most modest philanthropy is not always shielded from public observation.
2. That there are men who will violate the most stringent commands and the deepest obligations.
1. To do good when we have the opportunity.
2. Modestly and wisely.
3. Content with the smile of God rather than the approval of men. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The judicious reserve which should characterize the speech of the newly converted
I. That a wise reserve should be exercised by the newly converted in reference to the inner experiences of the soul. Because unwise talk is likely-
1. To injure the initial culture of the soul.
2. To awaken the scepticism of the worldly.
3. To be regarded as boastful.
4. To impede the welfare of Divine truth.
II. That this wise reserve must not interfere with the imperative obligations of the sanctuary.
1. To recognize its ordinances.
2. To perform its duties.
3. To manifest in its offerings a grateful and adoring reception of beneficent ministry. With this no reserve of temperament or words must be allowed to interfere.
III. That this wise reserve is sometimes violated in a most flagrant manner. How many young converts act as the cleansed leper. We must be careful to speak at the right time, in the right manner, under the right circumstances. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Show thyself to the priest
The reasons for the command are not far to seek.
1. The offering of the gift was an act of obedience to the law (Leviticus 14:10; Leviticus 14:21-3.14.22), and was therefore the right thing for the man to do. In this way also our Lord showed that He had not come, as far as His immediate work was concerned, to destroy even the ceremonial law, but to fulfil.
2. It was the appointed test of the reality and completeness of the cleansing work.
3. It was better for the man’s own spiritual life to cherish his gratitude than to waste it in many words. (Dean Plumptre.)
And they came to Him from every quarter.
Gathering to the centre
I. Of the open or professional coming to Christ. The gospel when it is preached draws many to itself who are not saved by it. Many come to Christ from the lowest motives; to receive benefits; some out of transient enthusiasm. Out of the best haul a fisherman ever makes, there is something to throw away.
II. Of the first real spiritual coming to Christ by faith. Let us try to help those who are coming to Christ. All who come to Christ from every quarter never one was disappointed with Him yet.
III. The daily coming of saved souls to Jesus. They come from every quarter as to mental pursuits; from all points of theological thought; from every quarter of spiritual experience.
IV. That great gathering which is approaching nearer every moment. Saints come to Jesus in glory from every quarter. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Coming to Christ by various roads
Seeking rest and health last week, I seated myself for a little while near a very rustic church which stands embowered in a wood, and as I sat there I moralized upon the various paths which led up to the church porch. Each trackway through the grass came from a different quarter, but they all led to one point. As I stood there this reflection crossed me: even thus men come to Christ from all quarters of the compass, but if indeed saved, they all come to Him. There is a path yonder which rises from a little valley. The little church stands on the hillside, there is a brook at the bottom, and worshippers who come from the public road must cross the rustic bridge and then ascend the hill. Such comers rise at every step they take. Full many burdened ones come to Christ from the deep places of self-abasement; they know their sinfulness and feel it; their self-consciousness has almost driven them to despair; they are down very low, and every step they take to Christ is a step upwards. They have a little hope as they look to Him, and then a little more, till it comes to a humble trust; then from a feeble, trembling trust it rises to a simple faith, and so they advance till when they stand near to Jesus they even reach to the full assurance of faith. Thus from soul distress and self-despair they come to the Lord Jesus, and He receives them graciously. Through the churchyard there was another path, and it ran uphill from where I stood, and therefore everyone who came that way descended to the church door. These may represent the people who think much of themselves; they have been brought up in morality and lived in respectability in the town of Legality; they have never turned aside to the greaser vices, but are among the models of behaviour. Every step these good people take towards Christ is downward; they think less of themselves and still less; regret leads to repentance, repentance to bitter grief, and grief leads to self abhorrence, till they come down to the level where Jesus meets with sinners, by owning that they are nothing, and that Christ is all. The two paths which I have mentioned were supplemented by a third, which led through a thick and tangled wood: a narrow way wound between the oak trees and the dense underwood, and I noticed that it led over a boggy place, through which stepping stones had been carefully placed for the traveller, that he might not sink in the mire. Many a seeker has found his way to Jesus by a similar path. Dark with ignorance, and briary with evil questionings, the path winds and twists about, and leads through the Slough of Despond, wherein a man had need pick his steps very carefully, or he may sink in despair. Those whom grace leads arrive at rest in Christ, but it is through the wood and through the slough. Once more, I remarked another path, which came in from the farmer’s fields, through lands where the plough and the sickle are busy, each in its season; so that those who come from that quarter to worship come across the place of toil, and may fitly represent those who are full of earnestness and effort, but have as much need of Jesus as any. They do not know yet the way of salvation, but they follow after righteousness by the law, and strive to enter in at the strait gate in their own strength. But if they ever come to Christ they will have to leave those fields and the plough and sickle of their own strength, and submit to receive Jesus as their all. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Mark 1". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany