Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.Mixed Motives
These words may be read with marked and suggestive differences of emphasis. 'Not for Jesus' sake only 'would seem to be the natural emphasis; 'Not for Jesus' sake only' would seem to convey another suggestion and meaning.
I. Take the words thus: 'Not for Jesus' sake only,' though that might be the principal reason, but also for another reason, namely, that they might see the man whom Jesus Christ had raised from the dead. They did not want to exclude Jesus, but they wanted to see some one else. So they went for a double motive. How difficult it is in life to come squarely down on one simple direct motive or purpose! The subject, therefore, may well be Mixed Motives—coming not for one reason, but for another reason, and for a third reason that may not take upon itself the form of words—that other reason that always lies back of everything, that will not come to the front, that influences the whole intellectual and spiritual movement, and is yet an unconfessed or unavowed reason. Then what wonder that we should be the subjects of mixed motives in relation to the Christian religion when we act under mixed motives in our own household economy, in the whole circle of friendship, in the whole position and activity of commercial life, in political life, and in all the spheres and aspects of human development.
Now let us apply this test to everything in life, and we shall find how merciful God is in taking us at our best For example, in making a Christian profession we do not always make it 'for Jesus' sake only'. There are many reasons why some men attach themselves to the Church. A man may be in the Church and out of it at the same time; the soul may be far away from the very altar at which the knees are bent. We are here today, as on every other day, under the influence of divers feelings, mixed feelings, and God knows where the manhood is weakest and where it is strongest. Throw yourselves into the hands of God, and even your imperfect prayers and professions may be completed according to the scale of God's benevolence.
So it is in the matter of general Christian service. Who dare analyse his motives for preaching? Who dare analyse his motives for opening the doors, lighting the lamps, and helping in the general economy of the Church? None. We are in this respect as in others, wounds and bruises and putrefying sores. We dare not analyse our own motives; we sometimes, so to speak, slur them over, encouraging, it may be, the best of them, but still being profoundly conscious of the worst of them. My dear brother, engaged in any department of Christian service, preaching, or music, or visiting, or writing books, or doing anything whatsoever, take heart of grace in this thought, that God knows all about it. It is better to fall into the hands of God than into the hands of men. When you hear the voices of hostile criticism do not be too much cast down by it; there is another voice—God grant that we may hear it!—saying, well done so far, try again, you have not yet attained, but keep on pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ; though you are faint, yet be pursuing, and though there may steal in upon your most spiritual moments some secular anxieties and degradations, leave all to God, and He will be just, gracious, and tender exceedingly.
II. The people went 'Not for Jesus' sake only'. Observe that 'only'; there is a saving point even in that solitary word. They went to see Jesus and to see Lazarus also; we might read the text thus, and escape the whole idea of mixed motive as in any sense weakening or degrading spiritual life; but the text is not read in that easy way, it has in it a hesitation, a point of doubt, a curious and inexplicable uncertainty as to the motive, so that if you had detained some of these people and said to them, 'Now, answer distinctly and directly, for what purposes have you come?—from a single and unmixed motive?' no man could tell. The question ought not, indeed, to be put by man; there are some questions that should be spoken only by the lips of God. It is God that searches the heart, it is God that knows the weight of the prayer, it is God that knows how many tears there are in the psalm, how many sighings and groanings in the poor sobbing prayer; it is therefore not for man, whatever his dignity, his name, his profession, or his function, to ask certain great penetrating spiritual questions. We answer to God: that we are in the house of God itself is a good sign, to be anywhere near the temple of God is a hopeful indication of anxious religious progressive life. Why did you open the Bible? You cannot give a simple crystal reason that has in it no speck or flaw, but the very fact that you did open the Bible is itself a hopeful sign. Why go to that book where all is about God and truth and life, and duty and responsibility, and sin and redemption and immortality? Perhaps you did not go to it very lovingly, you went to it under some measure of constraint: do not vex yourself with such a question as that, you did go to the Book, the book-form of the Jesus, the Bible-form of the cross, and mayhap in the opening of its pages, though you had no intent of it, you may have come upon the very Christ who is the jewel of the Book, the Sun of that grey sky.
References.—XII. 9.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 173. XII. 10.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 87. XII. 12, 13.—W. J. Hills, Sermons and Addresses, p. 29. W. J. Brock, Sermons, p. 273. XII. 12-26.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John p. 125. XII. 13.—Bishop Winnington-Ingram, The Men who Crucify Christ, p. 48. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 130. XII. 16.—W. R. Hutchings, Sermon Sketches (2nd Series), p. 1. XII. 16.—J. Keble, Miscellaneous Sermons, p. 417. XII. 19.—John Thomas, Myrtle Street Pulpit, vol. iii. p. 317. XII. 20.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. ix. p. 127. XII. 20, 21.—G. A. Sowter, From Heart to Heart, p. 159. XII. 20-22.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 175. XII. 20-24.—Ibid. p. 298.
This is, in the first place, the cry of the scholars and the students of the world. We sometimes feel inclined to be annoyed, angry, with scholars or students who put before us some different reading or account than we are accustomed to. But do let us do them justice. Although often they make a mistake, for the last fifty years what the scholars and the students of Europe have been trying to do is to see Jesus: it is to get back behind what they think later traditions, what they think accretions on the old faith, what they think disfigurements in art; back to the real Jesus, the real Jesus who walked the streets of Jerusalem and climbed the hills of Galilee. 'Sir, we would see Jesus,' is the cry of the modern student today.
So it is the cry of this great multitude in our city. I have lived for nine years in the poor parts of London; and I stand here, to bear witness that among the people themselves I have never heard a word against Jesus Himself, except in the lips or through the lips of some professional Secularist lecturer; I have never heard a word uttered among the poor people against Jesus Himself, though in their minds they are constantly contrasting church or chapel with Jesus Himself, and they seem to say to us: 'Stand aside; sometimes you misrepresent Him. Hush your quarrels about doctrine, hush your quarrels and disputes about Church government. We would see Jesus. Stand out of our way; we want to see Him with our own eyes.'
I. To see Jesus and to be Jesus to the world is the absolute vocation for which every one of us was born. I mean, when you look into the trouble which God has taken with the world; when you think over what was the object of the Incarnation—the astounding Incarnation which we take so lightly, we who have been taught it since childhood; when you ask why it was that God revealed the first great mystery, what there was behind the veil, and showed Himself in the Person, in the faith of Jesus Christ; why it was that He had to lie upon the cross and pour out. His precious blood; why He rose again and broke the powers of death; why the great windows of heaven opened again, and down came the falling of the Holy Ghost; why to barbarous Britain was sent in the power of the Spirit the Christian Church; why in fullness of time you were born upon this planet and in this generation, and were baptised into that Christian Church, and many of you confirmed in it and received Communion in it?—there is only one answer: that the object of being alive at all, the whole point of being a breathing, living person on this globe, is that you may see and be Jesus in the world.
II. But, you say, How am I to see Jesus? It is true what you say, He is far off. I come to church; I have not given up religion; but He is far off from me; how am I to see Jesus? And we look to see what those, for there are thousands upon thousands of such, who clearly see Him every day, to whom He is clearly the greatest reality in life, you look to see how they manage it. I know two young men both brilliant, one a brilliant scholar, both University men, and both still young, who are quite certain in their own minds that they have had a vision quite independently of Jesus Christ, and in consequence of which they are both ordained, and are probably two of the most powerful preachers in the Church of England. But apart from any question of a vision, what is it that those whom we know, among the poor, quite as much as among the educated, who clearly see Jesus, what is it which has enabled them to see? I notice, as I study them, three things. First, an immense belief in the Holy Ghost They really believe that the Holy Spirit takes of Christ and shows Him to us. I notice next a touching study of the photographs of Jesus Christ in the Bible I have, as one of my dearest relics, the well-thumbed, well-used Bible of Bishop Wilkinson himself, and the very marks in it, the very appearance of it shows how he was down with these photographs on his knees whenever he could, looking at the five photographs, the four Gospels, and the Epistles of St Paul, the five photographs of his Master. And then, next, I notice about them a desire to put every thought into capacity with Christ. These are the secrets of seeing Jesus; and not one of these things is impossible with us. The Holy Ghost has no favourites. Every layman, every woman can kneel down; the Holy Ghost, hovering over them, longing to sanctify them, will show them Jesus if they ask. In other words, prayerful dependence upon the Holy Ghost is possible for every one.
—Bishop Winnington-Ingram, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxvii. p. 97.
We Would See Jesus
I want to ask you why it is that we should desire to see Jesus.
I. He Wishes Us to See Him.—In the first place because the whole tenor of Scripture makes it plain that He wishes us to do so. Surely He who said 'Look unto Me and be saved, all ye ends of the earth,' and blamed His ancient people because they looked not to the Holy One of Israel—surely we cannot expect Him to have changed in this respect Who can doubt that He will welcome everybody who strives to see Him as He is?
II. He is Now on the Throne of Grace.—And the second reason why we should desire to see Jesus is that He is now seated on the throne of grace, whereas one day we must see Him seated on a throne of judgment. You may depend upon it that, if ever you and I are to die in peace, it can only be on the ground of having seen Jesus us our sanctification, righteousness, and redemption. As we pass through life we see many people and things, and these all impress our characters; but what if, when we come to the dark valley at last, we have never seen Him Who alone can safely guide us through the dark valley?
III. A View of the Saviour Transforms the Soul.—A third reason why we should desire to see Jesus can be stated thus: Because a view of the Saviour transforms our souls and moulds them into His likeness. 'Beholding as in a glass'—which means, strictly speaking, one of the blurred mirrors of the ancients—'the image of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord'. As I read my Bible I find a hundred instances of the operation of this law. I find in the Old Testament when Moses had been forty days and nights in communication with Almighty God he had to veil his face before the people. If you turn to the New Testament you will find that a view of the Saviour produces moral and spiritual, as well as physical, results. How else can you account for the fact that when the rulers of the Jews beheld St. John and St. Peter, and took note of their boldness, they immediately said, 'These men have been with Jesus and they have learnt of Him'. Or again, we read how Stephen cried,' Behold, I see the heavens opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of God'. What was the result on the dying martyr? Unconsciously he at once framed himself to the example of the Saviour, and prayed for the forgiveness of his murderers. If you want to live the Christ life strive to see Jesus and study His character.
IV. Is the Desire Capable of Fulfilment?—Is this desire to see Jesus capable of fulfilment in our present state, and, if so, how? The promise I want particularly to speak of is, 'He that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father... and I will manifest Myself to him'. 'If a man love Me,' said our Lord, 'He will keep My words, My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our abode with him.' This shows that the vision is made to the heart and soul, and it is made to the man who walks steadily in the path of obedience. Do not lose sight, of the condition. We must cultivate that holiness without which, we are told, no man shall see the Lord. Each one of us has an enemy whose ceaseless object it is to hinder us from seeing Jesus. 'The God of this world hath blinded the eyes of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ should shine into their hearts.' What light that throws on the fact that too often our desire to see Jesus is not gratified. Do not put this matter off till a more convenient season. Seek Him earnestly—very earnestly—in the pages of His Holy Word, where He does reveal Himself, and if only you do this persistently and believingly you must succeed.
'You take a journey to Olympia to see the famous statue by Phidias,' says Epictetus, 'and you all think it a misfortune to die without having seen things like that. But when you need take no journey, when a man has God's works before him wherever he is, will you not desire to see and understand them? Will you not perceive either what you are, or what you have been born for, or why you have received the faculty of sight? But, you may say, there are disagreeable and troublesome things in life. And are there none at Olympia? Are you not scorched, crushed by the crowds, wet by the rains, dinned with noise and clamour and the rest of it? Yet, I imagine, you set off these against the splendour of the spectacle, and so put up with them. Well then, and have you not got faculties to make you to bear life's chances? Have you not been endowed with greatness of soul, with manliness, with endurance?'
References.—XII. 21.—R. J. Campbell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. p. 385. G. Matheson, The Scottish Review, vol. ii. p. 162. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Holy-tide Teaching, p. 48. R. J. Campbell, A Faith for To-day, p. 167. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 235. XII. 22.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. v. p. 120. XII. 23.—H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, p. 216. XII. 23, 24.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. liii. No. 3024.
In every corn of wheat that finds no congenial soil there are undeveloped possibilities of harvest; and that suggests to me the question that often vexes us, the question of undeveloped lives. Perhaps it is in the presence of early death that the thought reaches us with its full pressure. For the tragedy of early death is not its suffering: it is the blighted promise and the hope that is never crowned. I scarcely wonder that in wellnigh every cemetery you shall see a broken column as a monument. It is hardly Christian, but it is very human, and I do not think God will be hard on what is human. Wherever death is there you have mystery. But in the death of the young the mystery is doubled. The great mystery of the early grave is the sorrow of undeveloped lives. One of the first things to arrest me in Christ Jesus is His influence in developing the lives He touched. Jesus touched nothing which He did not adorn. What, then, were the great forces Jesus used in developing undeveloped life?
I. The first was His central truth that God is love. We all know how love develops character. That was the first power that Jesus used. He said to a repressed and fearful world, 'God loves you'.
II. But there was another power that Jesus used. It was the human instinct of self-surrender. It is the glory of Jesus that He called self-surrender into the service of our self-development.
III. Lastly, and this is the crowning inspiration, our Lord expanded life into eternity. Our life shall go on developing for ever, under the sunshine and in the love of God. I know no thought more depressing, as life advances, than the thought that all effort is to be crushed at death. But if death is an incident and not an end, if every baffled striving shall be crowned, if 'All, I could never be, All, man ignored in me,' is to expand into actuality when I awake, I can renew my struggle after every failure. It is that knowledge, given us by Jesus, that has inspired the development of Christendom.
—G. H. Morrison, Sunrise: Addresses from a City Pulpit, p. 84.
Life Out of Death
John 12:24I. We must die to ourselves in order to receive life from Christ.
II. The life of the Christian is a daily dying.
III. The death of the Christian is the road to a nobler life.
The missionary Krapf, after the death of his beloved wife on the coast of East Africa, wrote home to the Committee of the Church Missionary Society: 'Tell our friends at home that there is now on the East African coast a lonely missionary grave. This is a sign that you have commenced the struggle with this part of the world, and as the victories of the Church are gained by stepping over the graves of her members, you may be the more convinced that the hour is at hand when you are summoned to the conversion of Africa from its eastern shore.'
References.—XII. 24.—H. Bonar, Short Sermons for Family Reading, pp. 168 and 175. T. G. Bonney, Death and Life in Nations and Men, p. 20. H. Jeffs, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxii. p. 44. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 165.
The Sacrificial Symbolism of Nature
In the first of these verses the great Teacher indicates the need there is for His own vicarious death; and in the second, He asserts a practical principle which must have its place in the lives of His followers, a principle which borrows its crowning sanction and its energising motive from His own death.
I. Jesus affirms a necessary connection between His own death and the triumph of His cause: 'Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone'. 'Much fruit' The metaphor points to the vast discipleship which shall yet gather round His person, and respond to the spirit of His matchless life. Jesus did not desire a nominal discipleship, however influential and widely extended. There must be moral oneness, the sense of a common life, participation in the same great experience. (1) This saying does not directly raise the abstract question of the nature or necessity of a redemptive sacrifice, but it implies the human mind is so constituted that some such doctrine is a primary demand in any system which aims at deep and worldwide success. (2) The need that Jesus should die to vivify others with the principles of His own life does not rest only upon the constitution of the human mind, but has its Divine side also. God could not bless, accept, and sanctify a sinful world, bringing it into mystic union with Himself, apart from the processes of an atoning death.
II. Jesus lays aside the symbolism of the seed-corn, and states a plain principle of sacrifice through which the lives of the disciples must be conformed to His own. Whilst affirming a common law of surrender for Himself and His disciples, Jesus in no sense obliterates the stupendous dividing line between His sacrifice and the self-abnegation of those whom He fills with His spirit. Redemption was a solitary act to which one holy and unspotted Being alone was equal, and we are neither called upon nor competent to lay down our lives to redeem men. Vivified by Christ's death and made to share His spirit, we ourselves must become a seed-corn, and go into the darkness and humiliation of the earth, to continue for others the life we ourselves have received. We must sacrifice the lower allurements to taste the higher joy and blessedness of our Lord.
References.—XII. 24, 25.—D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 328. XII. 24-26.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 226. XII. 25.—H. Bonner, Sermons and Lectures, p. 133. Expositor (5th Series), vol. iv. p. 460.
I want to deal with the missionary life from this point of view: that the missionary life gives an opportunity for the exactest imitation of the life of our Lord Jesus Christ I want then to put before younger men the nobility of the missionary call. Now, you have in this verse these three things: the missionary call, the missionary promise, and the missionary reward.
I. You have the missionary call. 'If any man serve Me.' If you want to follow Christ exactly, the missionary life gives you opportunities for so doing which you cannot have elsewhere. (1) Notice, first of all, the call to follow Christ implied in some cases the giving up of every other calling. As Jesus Christ called the disciples from all their secular calling, so the missionary is called from all his secular calling to go forth and to follow Christ. (2) Or again. In another instance the call to follow Christ was a call to leave all earthly wealth. (3) The call to follow Christ implies, in some cases, the leaving of friends and family, and those whom you hold most dear. (4) The call to follow Christ is sometimes a call to self-denial.
II. And what are the promises? The promises are many. (1) In the first place, you read in the fourth chapter of St. Matthew, and in the nineteenth verse, that if we follow Him He will make us to become fishers of men. There will be result to our labours. (2) Then our Lord promises that if we follow Him, and give up all earthly wealth, we shall have treasure in heaven. (3) And then we are told that if we give up friends to follow Christ we shall have in this world brothers and sisters and friends, even an hundred-fold, as well as life in the world to come. (4) But the greatest promise is that which you have here in this verse, that 'Where I am, there shall also My servant be'.
III. The missionary reward. 'If any man serve Me, him will My Father honour.' You will not expect to find much honour here. We have not yet learned to honour our missionary brethren as we ought. But the honour will be hereafter.
—E. A. Stuart, Elisha's Call, and other Sermons, vol. viii. p. 129.
References.—XII. 26.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii. No. 463; vol. xlii. No. 2449; vol. xlv. No. 2651; and vol. 1. No. 2874. Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p. 209. J. H. Holford, Memorial Sermons, p. 204. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 185. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 131. XII. 27.—H. Bonar, Short Sermons for Family Reading, p. 108. Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 333.
The Prayer for Strength
There are three great fundamental suggestions in this prayer: First, the suggestion of the humanity of Jesus. Second, the mission of Jesus. Third, the identification of Jesus with His Father.
I. The Humanity of Jesus.—First, the humanity of Jesus; and we will get it in part by coupling the introductory statement, 'My soul is troubled' with 'Save Me from this hour'. In the use of this word 'trouble' we get a glimpse of the humanity of Jesus. There are people who say that trouble is sin, but that is because they confuse trouble with worry. It is one thing to be troubled. It is another thing to worry. Jesus was both God and man. He was a perfect man, and He was all God. There were times in His life when He divested Himself of His Godship in order that He might show the world the life of perfect man, and there were times in His life when He divested Himself of His humanity, that He might show the world all of God. And in order that we may properly interpret the life of Jesus we have to keep carefully in mind this very delicate line of separation between His humanity and His Deity.
In this connection Jesus is speaking as a perfect man. We need not expect to get to a place in our life as Christians where we will be free from trouble. If we are not troubled when we look upon the sin that Jesus faced, then there is something radically wrong with our heart and life.
Why was Jesus troubled? He was troubled because of what He saw. He saw a picture of the world's sin. He saw blighted humanity, and it troubled Him. He was troubled because He saw what we cannot see. He saw through the eye of Deity what was ahead. He saw the cross.
II. Trouble v. Worry.—A woman came to me and said: 'Pastor, my son is unsaved, and is as wicked a boy as ever lived. I have been praying in great agony over him, but, thank God, I have come to the place now where I am not troubled one whit about him or anything that he does.' I said: 'If you speak the truth you reveal the saddest condition of the human heart that can possibly be revealed. You reveal two things: that you have lost the mother-heart—and God pity a boy who has a mother without a mother-heart; and you reveal the fact besides that you do not know the passion of Jesus.'
Jesus looked out into the future and saw Gethsemane; and I think the thing that He saw in Gethsemane that weighed heaviest upon His heart, that troubled Him most, was the non-concern of His disciples.
Then, too, He saw the cross; and Jesus was a man even though He was God; and the cross with all its hideousness cut to the core of His heart. He felt all the disgrace, the humiliation, the shame, the jeers, the sneers and the mocking of the mob, and it troubled Him.
Now in that troubled moment Jesus prays, 'Father save Me from this hour'. What hour? Why, the hour that is ahead; the hour of His lonesomeness in Gethsemane, the hour when He shall sweat drops of blood, the hour when He is to conquer His will to the will of God, the hour of the cross where He is to pay the price of the world's sin. 'Father, save Me from this hour of suffering.'
III. Christ's Mission.—Jesus came to this earth for what? To teach men how to live a perfect life? Yes, in part; but that is not the main mission upon which He came. Just the mission upon which Jesus came is set forth in this second declaration of His prayer, 'For this cause came I unto this hour'. What hour? The hour of the cross; the hour in which the penalty of the sins of the earth are to be met by the atoning work of the cross of Calvary. That is the hour, and that is the mission that brought Christ to this earth, not to live, but to die. When He came from heaven to this earth, He was occupied with one thought—the cross; and all through His life from the first day until the day when He was nailed upon it, the cross stood out before Him as the one thing for which He had come to this earth. If we have left out the cross, on which the penalty of the sins of the world was nailed with Jesus, we have left out the one supreme purpose that Jesus had in His earthly ministry.
IV. The Father was resigned to the cross, but more than that, He was identified with it He agreed with the Son, and in it He and His Father were one. It was not a mere submission; it was the voluntary going of Father and Son to the cross, paying the penalty for the world's sin. Jesus and the Father were one It must be so in order that their glory may be equal. If it were not so the Father is seen and the Son is lost, or the Son is seen and the Father is lost. Hence Jesus prayed, 'Father, glorify Thy name'. 'Blend Thy name with the glorification of the Son, that the glory of the Son and the Father may be one.'
—Len G. Broughton, The Prayers of Jesus, p. 91.
References.—XII. 27, 28.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. i. p. 274. XII. 28.—G. A. Johnston Ross, The Baptist, vol. lxxi. p. 650. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi. No. 909, and vol. xxiv. No. 1391. W. Robertson Nicoll, Sunday Evening, p. 137.
1. There are many things to which we can give lower or higher meanings, and we see how clearly this is illustrated in the scene from which I have taken our text. There came a voice from heaven: it was the voice of God. And to some it was nothing but the roll of thunder, there was nothing miraculous or supernatural about it; but to others, gifted with finer sense, and among them it may be the shepherds who had been on the hills at Bethlehem, there was something in the sound that was inexplicable unless it had fallen from the lips of angels. It was the same note that struck on every ear. It was not the same note that struck on every heart. At the back of all we see and hear there is our character, and our character reacts on everything that reaches it. Now I might illustrate this truth in many spheres. (1) Let me ask you to think of the world of Nature. It is the same world to every one of us, yet to every one of us how different it is. To a poet there is a voice in every breeze, sermons in stones, books in the running brooks; but to Eugene Aram, cursed with a sense of guilt, every branch in the forest seemed to point a finger, and every zephyr whispered of detection. One world—yet some will call it a machine, and others will find it instinct with Divinity. (2) Or turning from Nature we might think of human life, the common life we are all leading. It is very surprising, when you get deep enough, to discover the oneness of all human hearts. But then the strange thing is that men should take that life, that common stock and harvest of experience, and should view it so differently and give it such different colourings as it passes through the alembic of their characters, that for one man life becomes a glory and for another man life becomes a curse. (3) Then I often think of our text and of its bearings when I read the Gospel-story of the life of Jesus. What a moral test and touchstone was that life—take some of His great miracles and see what happened. 'He casteth out devils by Beelzebub,' the scribes said; and His friends and relatives said, 'He is beside Himself. But the common people when they saw the miracles, immediately glorified the God of Israel. II. It is when we give such things their higher meaning that we are nearer to the truth. Now I ask you to observe in the passage of our text that none of the bystanders gauged the voice correctly. Whose was the voice that spake? It was the voice of God. The chances are that in nine-tenths of our judgments, you and I like these Jews are quite astray. But whatever you are judging, lean to the nobler side. If it is thunder or angels, vote you for the angels.
—G. H. Morrison, The Unlighted Lustre, p. 198.
References.—XII. 29.—R. Collyer, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. p. 104. C. F. Aked, The Courage of the Coward, p. 187. XII. 31.—C. F. Aked, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 197. J. M. Whiton, Beyond the Shadow, p. 165. Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 224. XII. 31, 32.—G. Campbell Morgan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lx. p. 69. XII. 31-33.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2338.
The Magnetism of the Uplifted Lord
I. Our Lord declares that it is in the energy of His transcendent sacrifice that His personal magnetism is to be found. The energy of His love as displayed in His life, compared with the energy of His love as displayed in His death, is as dispersed sunshine compared with focussed sunshine, sunshine concentrated in a burning heat. And it is this focussed sacrificial energy of His death, 'The lost pregnant syllable of God's great utterance of love,' which our Lord declares is to be the ministry of attraction, by which all men are to be drawn to Him. There is nothing like that magnet (1) Test it by the individual testimony. Nothing so overcomes the deathly and the deadly in men as 'the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified'. (2) Test the energies of this magnet by the testimony of history as to what is the power which has most conspicuously swayed great masses of mankind. No one has ever moved the multitudes except the men with the magnet of the uplifted Lord.
II. In the energies of this sacrificial Christ we are not only to find the dynamic of redemption, but the secret of human brotherhood. If men are drawn to Him they will be drawn nearer to one another. The secret of brotherhood is found in common nearness to the Lord.
—J. H. Jowett, The British Congregationalist, 9th May, 1907, p. 438.
The Attraction of the Cross
We shall do well to consider the appeal which the cross has made to the world; to see why it is that in all ages when Christ has called to His disciples to follow Him, they have joyfully responded to the summons which has drawn them to share His cross and to be partakers of His sufferings. The Christ of Thorwaldsen, beautiful as it is, the tender Christ of Leonardo's art, do not make the same appeal as the outstretched arms of the Crucified. No royal diadem of gold and precious stones is so venerable as the Crown of Thorns. No imperial throne is so magnificent as the rugged wood of the cross. The power of the Crucified is still living. May we reverently inquire, as far as we may, what is the secret of this power, why it is that Christ has only to ask for disciples, and disciples come to Him? What is the secret of His attraction? What is the magnetic power of His appeal?
I. It is surely, first of all, the appeal of sympathy. It is in the face of a suffering world that the cross is raised. It has been said that our Blessed Lord never experienced human sickness. It may well be that the Lamb without spot and blemish might not experience this sign of human imperfection. But He did feel and did bear the extremity of physical, mental—yes, even spiritual—pain, so that His sympathy is literally the suffering with those towards whom He exercises His tender love: and this is wide and far-reaching. 'The infinite goodness has arms so wide,' says the great poet, 'that it receives all who turn to it.' Did we but know it, there is many a soul sick with anguish, even amidst the joyous brightness of this world's fairest scene. If it be hid away it is no less there, on which that suffering face looks down, and which that tender appeal alone can reach. 'Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'
II. But the appeal of the Crucified is also the appeal of power. The supreme appeal of the cross is the Divine atonement for sin. Christ draws all sinners unto Him by an exhibition of power which triumphs over the malice of sin, and by a system of grace which abounds in fuller volume where sin did much more abound.
III. But it is only right to say, of course, with the Apostle, that the appeal of Christ crucified is to certain men only a stumbling-block and foolishness. The figure which demands our adoration is the figure of a homeless man, stripped and naked, utterly poor. No wonder it was an offence, the Jews wanted an earthly king, and the Greeks wanted some one who at least would start a Republic or write an Utopia, and they were not prepared for a beggar or a propounder of paradoxes. And yet this is the lesson which dominates the religion of the Crucified. 'To gain one's life is to lose it: to lose our life is to find it.' The great appeal is made in sympathy and in power, and men find that behind the paradox there is peace, that poverty is the true riches, shame the abiding glory, and sorrow the truest joy.
—W. C. E. Newbolt, The Church Times, 10th April, 1908, p. 494.
The World's Magnet
I. Christ upon the cross is the pledge of the fellowship of all mankind—of men as men. We say commonly that all men are brethren as descended from a common father—brethren as heirs of a common nature—brethren as condemned to a common death. Much more are they brethren for whom Christ died.
II. Not only is Christ crucified the point of union of mankind. In a more peculiar sense He is the centre of Christendom. For this let us thank God heartily. And exactly as our faith is lively and our hope steadfast, when we are brought face to face with error, sorrow will take the place of anger, love will take the place of bitterness, zeal will take the place of strife. We shall not cherish the truth which we hold less fervently, we shall not hate the falsehood which Christ hates less sincerely, but withal we shall rejoice to know that beyond and below all our differences there lies this foundation which none can shake, even Christ crucified. We shall hail this beginning as the sign of a glorious future when His promise shall have a full accomplishment.
III. Christ crucified, Who is the bond of mankind, the bond of Christendom, is in a yet closer sense for us the bond of this His family here assembled to seek His presence and to commemorate His death.
—Bishop Westcott, Village Sermons, p. 128.
References.—XII. 32.—J. Fleming, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p. 261. J. Keble, Sermons for the Holy Week, p. 173. J. B. Brown, The Divine Mystery of Peace, p. 42. A. C. Laidlaw, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. p. 156. C. Bickersteth, The Gospel of Incarnate Love, p. 167. A. M. Fairbairn, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p. 225. G. T. Newton, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xii. p. 340. A. Stewart, Eden and Gethsemane, p. 11. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii. No. 139, and vol. xiii. No. 775. G. H. Morrison, Scottish Review, vol. i. p. 589. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. i. p. 214. C. S. Home, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvii. p. 4. W. Robertson Nicoll, Sunday Evening, p. 263. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. pp. 62, 65; ibid. vol. x. pp. 117, 134. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 140. XII. 32, 33.—C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 338. J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons, p. 203. A. Ainger, Sermons Preached in the Temple Church, p. 62. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix. No. 1717. XII. 33. J. Bowstead, Practical Sermons, vol. ii. p. 58. XII. 34.—R. J. Campbell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. p. 385. Ibid. A Faith for To-day, p. 167. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 375; ibid. (6th Series), vol. v. p. 74. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 150. XII. 35.—W. H. Evans, Sermons for the Church's Year, p. 1. Expositor (5th Series), vol. viii. p. 372; ibid. (6th Series), vol. ix. p. 233. XII. 35, 36.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 162. XII. 36.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xli. No. 2413. XII. 37.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 64; ibid. (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 71. XII. 37-41.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi. No. 1844. XII. 38.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. p. 369. XII. 39-41.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1619, p. 1. XII. 40.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 20; ibid. vol. ii. p. 372; ibid. (6th Series), vol. x. p. 362.
'I have been tired with the applause of the world,' said Mrs. Fry towards the end of her career, 'and none knows how great a trial that has been, and the deep humiliation of it; and yet I fully believe it is not nearly so dangerous as being made much of in religious society. I have sometimes felt it was not so dangerous to be made much of in the world as by those whom we think highly of in our own society.'
Undue solicitude about popular estimation is a weakness against which all real Christians must guard with the most jealous watchfulness. The more you can retain the impression of your being surrounded by a cloud of witnesses of the invisible world, to use the Scripture phrase, the more you will be armed against this besetting sin—for such it is—though styled the last infirmity of noble minds (Wilberforce to his son Samuel).
References.—XII. 44-60.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 141. XII. 45.—J. Johns, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xix. p. 356. XII. 47.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i. p. 121. W. R. Inge, All Saints' Sermons, 1905-1907, p. 1. XII. 47, 48.—H. P. Liddon, Sermons Preached on Special Occasions, p. 138.
Christ and His Mission
I. There was no uncertainty in the mind of Jesus Christ. The Evangelist John tells us distinctly that He knew that He had come from God and went to God. He Himself said, when nigh death, that He was going to Him that sent Him.
II. He had come from God, and had come from God with a great purpose attached to His life. If we may say it reverently, He was God's great Missionary, the one 'sent' of God, the one commissioned of God to enter the dark places of the earth. One of the chief and prominent traits in John's portrait of the Master is of One with a great mission attached to His life. God had sent Him into the world; not by force—that would be to rob Him of His glory. Christ was not forcibly compelled to enter this world; His was a voluntary sacrifice. The Father sent Him, but it was also love which drew Him—love for men.
III. And what was this mission? There are various ways in which we can express it, but there is one broad expression which we may give to this mission, and it is to save the world, to redeem humanity. All He was, all He spoke, all He did, all He suffered, contributed to give to His life the great character of Saviour.
IV. Is there this mission attached to our lives? Yes. He was greater and holier than we; but, nevertheless, His mission is ours. He saves men through men.
—J. Alford Davies, Seven Words of Love, p. 108.
There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him,
Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?
This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.
Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.
For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.
Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.
But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death;
Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.
On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,
Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.
And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written,
Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt.
These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.
The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record.
For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle.
The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.
And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:
The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.
Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.
And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.
Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.
Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.
The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.
Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.
Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
This he said, signifying what death he should die.
The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?
Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.
While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.
But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:
That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?
Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,
He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.
These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.
Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:
For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.
And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.
I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.
And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.
And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.