Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
the house was filled with the odor of the ointment," and it has been beautifully said that" the Church, which is the house of God, still smells the fragrance, of that woman's spikenard;" for how wonderfully have the words of Jesus, which we may borrow from another Gospel, been fulfilled, "Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be told for a memorial of her"! And how does the consciousness of his own Divine authority burst forth in these words of Jesus! Who else was ever certain that by a simple word he could make an action memorable till the end of time? Consider -
I. THE MOTIVES OF MARY'S ACT OF HOMAGE. One of them at least lies on the surface. Jesus had not been in Bethany since he raised Lazarus from the dead; and when Mary saw her brother sitting at the same table with him who turned her mourning into joy, could any gift be too great or precious to express her gratitude?
"Her eyes are homes of silent prayer, II. THE GENERAL MURMUR. While the house was filled with the odor of the ointment, a murmur of dissatisfaction arose. It came first from the lips of the traitor. "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred pence [about £10], and given to the poor? and this he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief," etc. This picture of the son of perdition is almost too painful to dwell upon. His blindness to the moral loveliness of Mary's action. His vexation at losing an imagined chance of plunder. His avarice, his jealousy; and, worst of all, his mask so readily assumed of zeal for the cause of the poor! So ripe was he for Satan's last temptation, that the next thing we read of him is his stealing away to the priests at Jerusalem to bargain with them about his Master's blood, and sell his own soul. "When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." But while Judas stood alone in his covetousness and hypocrisy, we learn from the Gospel of Matthew that others joined him in his censure of Mary of Bethany. The disciples said, "To what purpose is this waste?" Their common thought was, "This sacrifice is too great, too costly for the occasion. The spikenard is of great price. Surely it would have been better to bestow its value on the poor. To spend it on an evanescent fragrance is extravagance and waste." Here pause for a moment. Are we certain that, had we ourselves been present, we might not have joined in the rising murmur? At all events, how often has the spirit of the censure broken out afresh? It is not so long ago since the Churches of our own country awoke to the duty of preaching Christ to the heathen world. But missions are costly things, and often they produce but little visible fruit for many days. They seem to spend their fragrance on the desert air. And how long and loud was this complaint! - "'To what purpose is this waste?' Might not the money and labor of Christian people be better bestowed? Are there not poor at home to be fed and clothed? and are there not home-heathen to be taught? Let such duties as these be exhausted before thinking of 'the regions beyond.'" No! Utility is one standard of action; but both in the service of God and man it is far from being the only standard. III. THE VERDICT OF JESUS. "Let her alone: against the day of my burial hath she kept this." Instead of directly rebuking the disciple, he contents himself with vindicating her whom they were wounding with their words. But there is more in his words than meets the ear. "Let her alone," he seems to say to Judas," for there is nothing in common between her and you, between a child of light and a child of darkness. And let her alone, ye unthinking disciples. Allow her gratitude to flow unchecked in the channel which it has worn for itself. Why trouble ye the woman at such a moment as this? She hath done what she could, and she hath done more than any of you are aware of, for my hour is near at hand. If ye saw her do this on the day of my burial, would ye say to her then, To what purpose is this waste? Would ye think then of balancing the claims of common charity against the claims of unbounded gratitude? But since she has come beforehand with her offering, it is all the more precious in my sight. She alone has grasped the thought that my earthly ministry is drawing to a close. The poor ye have always with you; she alone has laid it to heart that me ye have not always." Thus Judas was silenced, and the disciples were overawed, and Mary was comforted, and the poor were not forgotten. What lessons are taught by this episode in the gospel history? In its outward form and substance the act of Mary can never be repeated. It stands alone. A few days came and went, and never again was Jesus to be indebted to the sons of men for a place where to lay his head; never again were his feet to be wearied with the hot and dusty paths of this world. Henceforth those who knew Christ in his humiliation were to know him so no more; and we need not say that to idolize his empty sepulcher, or to pray towards it as some do, or, saddest of all, to waste the blood of Christian nations in fighting for its possession, is at best to seek the living among the dead. "Hearts on high!" was the watchword of the ancient Church. "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him." 1. But ask yourselves - Have you anything of Mary's spirit in your hearts - the spirit of love and gratitude to the Redeemer? Where that spirit exists it will tend to diffuse itself over the ordinary duties and charities of life, so that what you do you will "do heartily as to the Lord, and not unto man." But more than this. It is of the nature of love to be ingenious and original in its ways of expressing itself, and opportunities will sometimes occur of honoring Christ in ways which no one could prescribe to you - it may be in supporting his cause, it may be-in showing kindness to his people; and these you will think it a privilege to embrace simply for his sake. Nothing was further from Mary's thoughts than the fame which followed her action; any such calculation of consequences would have spoiled the sacrifice. And so it will ever be with the good works that spring from love to Christ. The impulse which inspires them comes from within, and not from the world without. Hence they will evermore be spontaneous and free, and yet all the more, in the apostle's language, they will be as "the odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable and well-pleasing to God." 2. When you witness any act of self-sacrifice in a great or good cause, beware of the spirit of jealousy and detraction. Let a work be ever so good, it is always possible to find fault with it on one ground or another - to call generosity extravagance, and zeal ostentation. Ah! there is a kind of criticism which sees some mote in the most honest eye, some vein of selfishness in the kindest heart, which is quick to detect unworthy motives, and "vaunteth itself" in its own acuteness in so doing. Verily this wisdom cometh not from above, and yet how strangely congenial it is to our fallen nature! It was in a moment of hallowed enthusiasm that Mary poured her spikenard on Jesus' feet; but even Jesus' disciples murmured till the Master stamped the offering with the broad seal of his approbation, and called it "a good work"! 3. We do no dishonor to the affecting words, "Me ye have not always," if we allow them to suggest to us the homely counsel, "Be kind to your friends while you have them." Are there not some who have nearer, dearer claims on you than all others? It may be an aged parent, a brother or a sister, or one closer to you still. Providence marks out that person for your special sympathy, for a tenderness to which the rest of the world has no claim. Do what you can for that friend. The tie may any day be broken, and only the memory of it remain. See that no negligence or impatience on your part may yet tinge that memory with self-reproach. "The poor ye have always with you," but no kindness to the outside world will atone for the neglect of personal claims. There are those who will not be with you always. Christ seems to say to you, "Remember them." - G.B.
II. THE GENERAL MURMUR. While the house was filled with the odor of the ointment, a murmur of dissatisfaction arose. It came first from the lips of the traitor. "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred pence [about £10], and given to the poor? and this he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief," etc. This picture of the son of perdition is almost too painful to dwell upon. His blindness to the moral loveliness of Mary's action. His vexation at losing an imagined chance of plunder. His avarice, his jealousy; and, worst of all, his mask so readily assumed of zeal for the cause of the poor! So ripe was he for Satan's last temptation, that the next thing we read of him is his stealing away to the priests at Jerusalem to bargain with them about his Master's blood, and sell his own soul. "When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." But while Judas stood alone in his covetousness and hypocrisy, we learn from the Gospel of Matthew that others joined him in his censure of Mary of Bethany. The disciples said, "To what purpose is this waste?" Their common thought was, "This sacrifice is too great, too costly for the occasion. The spikenard is of great price. Surely it would have been better to bestow its value on the poor. To spend it on an evanescent fragrance is extravagance and waste." Here pause for a moment. Are we certain that, had we ourselves been present, we might not have joined in the rising murmur? At all events, how often has the spirit of the censure broken out afresh? It is not so long ago since the Churches of our own country awoke to the duty of preaching Christ to the heathen world. But missions are costly things, and often they produce but little visible fruit for many days. They seem to spend their fragrance on the desert air. And how long and loud was this complaint! - "'To what purpose is this waste?' Might not the money and labor of Christian people be better bestowed? Are there not poor at home to be fed and clothed? and are there not home-heathen to be taught? Let such duties as these be exhausted before thinking of 'the regions beyond.'" No! Utility is one standard of action; but both in the service of God and man it is far from being the only standard.
III. THE VERDICT OF JESUS. "Let her alone: against the day of my burial hath she kept this." Instead of directly rebuking the disciple, he contents himself with vindicating her whom they were wounding with their words. But there is more in his words than meets the ear. "Let her alone," he seems to say to Judas," for there is nothing in common between her and you, between a child of light and a child of darkness. And let her alone, ye unthinking disciples. Allow her gratitude to flow unchecked in the channel which it has worn for itself. Why trouble ye the woman at such a moment as this? She hath done what she could, and she hath done more than any of you are aware of, for my hour is near at hand. If ye saw her do this on the day of my burial, would ye say to her then, To what purpose is this waste? Would ye think then of balancing the claims of common charity against the claims of unbounded gratitude? But since she has come beforehand with her offering, it is all the more precious in my sight. She alone has grasped the thought that my earthly ministry is drawing to a close. The poor ye have always with you; she alone has laid it to heart that me ye have not always." Thus Judas was silenced, and the disciples were overawed, and Mary was comforted, and the poor were not forgotten. What lessons are taught by this episode in the gospel history? In its outward form and substance the act of Mary can never be repeated. It stands alone. A few days came and went, and never again was Jesus to be indebted to the sons of men for a place where to lay his head; never again were his feet to be wearied with the hot and dusty paths of this world. Henceforth those who knew Christ in his humiliation were to know him so no more; and we need not say that to idolize his empty sepulcher, or to pray towards it as some do, or, saddest of all, to waste the blood of Christian nations in fighting for its possession, is at best to seek the living among the dead. "Hearts on high!" was the watchword of the ancient Church. "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him."
1. But ask yourselves - Have you anything of Mary's spirit in your hearts - the spirit of love and gratitude to the Redeemer? Where that spirit exists it will tend to diffuse itself over the ordinary duties and charities of life, so that what you do you will "do heartily as to the Lord, and not unto man." But more than this. It is of the nature of love to be ingenious and original in its ways of expressing itself, and opportunities will sometimes occur of honoring Christ in ways which no one could prescribe to you - it may be in supporting his cause, it may be-in showing kindness to his people; and these you will think it a privilege to embrace simply for his sake. Nothing was further from Mary's thoughts than the fame which followed her action; any such calculation of consequences would have spoiled the sacrifice. And so it will ever be with the good works that spring from love to Christ. The impulse which inspires them comes from within, and not from the world without. Hence they will evermore be spontaneous and free, and yet all the more, in the apostle's language, they will be as "the odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable and well-pleasing to God."
2. When you witness any act of self-sacrifice in a great or good cause, beware of the spirit of jealousy and detraction. Let a work be ever so good, it is always possible to find fault with it on one ground or another - to call generosity extravagance, and zeal ostentation. Ah! there is a kind of criticism which sees some mote in the most honest eye, some vein of selfishness in the kindest heart, which is quick to detect unworthy motives, and "vaunteth itself" in its own acuteness in so doing. Verily this wisdom cometh not from above, and yet how strangely congenial it is to our fallen nature! It was in a moment of hallowed enthusiasm that Mary poured her spikenard on Jesus' feet; but even Jesus' disciples murmured till the Master stamped the offering with the broad seal of his approbation, and called it "a good work"!
3. We do no dishonor to the affecting words, "Me ye have not always," if we allow them to suggest to us the homely counsel, "Be kind to your friends while you have them." Are there not some who have nearer, dearer claims on you than all others? It may be an aged parent, a brother or a sister, or one closer to you still. Providence marks out that person for your special sympathy, for a tenderness to which the rest of the world has no claim. Do what you can for that friend. The tie may any day be broken, and only the memory of it remain. See that no negligence or impatience on your part may yet tinge that memory with self-reproach. "The poor ye have always with you," but no kindness to the outside world will atone for the neglect of personal claims. There are those who will not be with you always. Christ seems to say to you, "Remember them." - G.B.
I. AN EVIDENCE OF GRATEFUL LOVE. Mary had many reasons for regarding Jesus with affectionate thankfulness. To him she was indebted for many precious lessons in spiritual knowledge. Sitting at his feet, she had imbibed his incomparable teaching. To him she was indebted for a brother restored to life and home. That she appreciated what Jesus had done for her is abundantly apparent from her conduct on this occasion. And her love is a rebuke to the cold-heartedness with which many of our Savior's professed disciples regard him to whom they owe every privilege in the present, and every prospect for the future.
II. AN INSTANCE OF CHRIST-LIKE SELF-SACRIFICE. Although the circumstances of the family of Bethany may be presumed to have been easy, still the costly gift of perfumed unguent here described was the fruit of self-denial. Mary did not offer a common gift, did not give of her superfluity, did not part with what cost her little or nothing. Our offerings to Christ's cause too seldom in this respect resemble hers. But if we give our hearts to Jesus, it will be natural in us to render to him offerings which shall be meet expressions of our consecration, to serve him with our best.
III. THE WILLINGNESS OF JESUS TO ACCEPT THE OFFERING OF A FRIEND. One of our Lord's disciples looked with cold disapproval upon this act of ardent love, grudging a gift evidently costly but not, in his view, evidently useful. To Jesus himself the tribute was welcome, for it was the sincere and genuine tribute of affection. Christ had, and has, a human heart; and he can understand and sympathize with the disposition which is not satisfied unless treasure can be poured out at his feet. He found a meaning in the gift deeper than any of which the giver was conscious. He saw in the perfumed unguent the offering for his embalming, for he knew that his death and burial were at band. They who bring to the Lord Christ any gift which the heart dictates and the judgment approves, need not fear lest he should repulse them. Since he seeks and desires their love, it must needs gratify him to receive its genuine expression, whatever form it may assume. It may be said that this is to take a somewhat simple and childlike view of religion. Be it so; still the language and conduct of Christ here recorded assure us that it is a view which the Lord himself approves. - T.
I. THE OFFERING OF LOVE. "Then took Mary," etc.
1. This offering of love is made to its Object. Jesus was the Object of Mary's supreme love, and him she now anoints. We may look at her act as:
(1) An expression of her profound personal esteem. Esteem for his character, his life, and his Person.
(2) An expression of her profound gratitude. Gratitude for many acts of kindness, for many words of Divine wisdom, comfort, and guidance, and especially for his matchless miracle of power and friendship in the restoration to life of a dear brother.
(3) An expression of her profound homage and submission. She anoints Jesus as the Sovereign of her heart, the King of her soul, the Lord of her life, the Messiah of the nation, and the Savior of men. Inward love will ever find an outward expression.
2. This offering of love somewhat corresponds with the love it expresses. Think of this ointment, the offering of Mary's love.
(1) Think of its quality. It was most precious and genuine; the best that could be found even in the East, the land of delightful perfumes.
(2) Think of its costliness. It was very costly. According to Judas's valuation (and who knew better?) it was worth "three hundred pence " - about £10 of our money.
(3) Think of its quantity. "A pound." A pound of many things would not be much, but a pound of this genuine and costly ointment was a large quantity. But it was not too genuine in quality, too costly in value, and not too much in quantity, to satisfy the loving impulses of Mary's heart. Doubtless there was a tear of love trembling in her eye at the time, because the offering was not worthy of her affections, and especially not worthy of their supreme Object.
3. This offering of love was made in a very suitable and interesting manner.
(1) It was deliberately made. Whether the ointment was originally bought for the purpose of anointing Jesus or for private use cannot be decided. The latter supposition adds value to the offering. In any way, it was either deliberately bought, or preserved and appropriated as an offering of love to Jesus. It was not an accident or an impulse of the moment.
(2) It was most heartily made. "She took a pound," etc., or, according to another account, "she brake the box." Some think that all was not used. If so, it is strange that Judas did not propose to sell the remainder. This supposition is rather against the narratives, and certainly against the genius of genuine and burning love. A heart broken with love for its object naturally breaks the box over his head.
(3) It was most self-obliviously and gracefully made. "She wiped his feet with her hair." Self-oblivious, forgetful of the laws of etiquette, unmindful of the presence of those around her, and not having a towel at hand, not one at least in her esteem worthy of the occasion, she so wiped those feet, at which she so often sat, with the long tresses of her hair - an act of tender womanly kindness, unsurpassed in the richest records of romance and the finest fancies of poetry. Love often rises above the rules of social etiquette, and dares to be original and natural, and consequently most pleasing and attractive. What a picture we have here of the offering of simple and ardent love! Never feet had a softer towel, and never a towel had worthier feet to wipe than those of him who went about doing good.
II. THE OBJECTION OF AVARICE.
1. It came from an unexpected quarter. "Then saith one of his disciples," etc. One would think that any token of love to the Master would be hailed by the disciples with satisfaction and joy; but it was not so. It came from one of them, but our surprise is lessened when we are told that this disciple was no other than the betrayer.
2. It was most indignant.
(1) It commenced within. The soul of Judas took fire, his passions were all ablaze, and this was to some extent contagious.
(2) It soon found outward expression. In angry looks, in disapproving gestures, in condemnatory whispers, and at last it thundered forth in the betrayer's question, "Why," etc.?
(3) The mouthpiece of the question was its originator. Judas was the originator as well as the mouthpiece of this foul objection. The breaking of the box broke his heart. The sweet perfume of the ointment stank in his nostrils, and burnt in his soul, and broke out in burning indignation. The other disciples were but his innocent victims.
3. It was most plausible.
(1) It was apparently an unprofitable act. Christ was not better after than he was before it was performed.
(2) An unprofitable act at a great expense. Three hundred pence were wasted to no purpose.
(3) There was a worthy cause for which the money might have been appropriated - the ever worthy and crying cause of the needy poor. What cravings of hunger might be satisfied with what, was spent merely to please a woman's whim! What a glaring and an unpardonable offence was the whole affair! The objection is most plausible, and worthy of a benevolent philanthropist. We are not surprised that it moved the other innocent disciples into indignation, and emboldened the traitor to make it with confidence of being justified in the eyes of his Master.
4. It was most false and selfish. "This he said, not," etc. The objection in itself is natural, but as coming from Judas it was most selfish and insincere. When he said the poor he really meant himself. In this fair garb of philanthropy lurked the vile demon of sordid gain and selfish avarice. It is one of the mysteries of iniquity that it can speak the language of holiness. Avarice can utter the sentiments of benevolence. "All is not gold that glitters." Judas valued the ointment more highly than he valued his Master. The former he would not sell under three hundred pence, but sold the latter for thirty pieces of silver. His nature was miserably false and selfish. This act of love ripened and revealed his character. The loss of the ointment hurried him to sell his Master. Thus we have the stench of avarice in the same room as the perfume of love.
III. THE DEFENCE OF JESUS. "Then said Jesus," etc. This defense is addressed, not to Judas but to the other disciples. Jesus could now scarcely hope to extinguish the fire which was raging in Judas's soul, but could stop it from damaging other premises. In his defense:
1. A sound advice is given. "Let her alone." There is implied here:
(1) The goodness of the deed. This is expressed by another evangelist. Jesus could not tolerate evil, not even let it alone.
(2) His sympathy with the performer. Her feelings were hurt, and he at once stood between innocence and the foul tongue of slander, and between love and the cold touch of avarice.
(3) The proper conduct of the disciples. "Let her alone." When we cannot understand and agree with our brethren in their way of manifesting their love to the Savior, our duty is clearly to let them alone. Between them and him:
2. Love's offering is explained.
(1) As having a reference to his death and burial. "Against the day of my burying," etc. How far the death of Christ was understood and believed by Mary we cannot say. However, it is evident that she was now inspired by love to perform on him an act which he looked upon as a befitting preparation for his burial.
(2) As having a symbolic reference to his resurrection. The symbolic language of the offering rhymed with that of prophecy concerning him, "that his soul should not be left in hell," etc.
(3) As having a symbolic reference to the benefit of his death and his sovereignty over men. He was anointed as their King. She brake the box on Jesus. Jesus brake the box of Divine love on Calvary. "The house was filled," etc. The world will be filled with the odor of his sacrifice - the infinite sacrifice of Divine love. Mary did what the nation ought to do, and what the world has been gradually doing ever since. She was partly unconscious of what she did. Love to Jesus is often blind, blinded by its own dazzle - especially by the dazzle of its glorious Object; but its instincts and its intuitions are very strong, correct, deep, and far-reaching. Jesus can see in the offerings of love more than the offerers themselves. They may often ask, "When saw we thee an hungered," etc.? but he answers, "Inasmuch," etc.
(4) As being made to the proper Object. To him, and not to the poor. For:
(a) In any act of kindness to him the poor were recognized. Who was poorer than he? And yet he was the poor man's Friend. When love pours the ointment on him, it shall return to them with interest. Whatever is done to the poor, Jesus counts as done to him; would not they willingly now return the compliment?
(b) Opportunities to serve the poor were many and permanent. "The poor ye have always," etc.
(c) Opportunities to honor Jesus personally were few and brief. He was a Pilgrim in the land, only just passed by. Any act of personal kindness to him must be done at once or never.
(d) When the claims of the poor come into collision with those of Jesus, the former must give way. While their claims are fully admitted, his are supreme. They are to be ever helped, but he is to be anointed King of the heart and enthroned in the affections. The claims of the poor and these of Jesus can never come into collision but by the cunning opposition of avarice, or the thoughtless blunders of friendship.
(5) As being made in time. The offerings of genuine and ardent love are never after the time; they are often before, as in this case. Mary performed an act of kindness to her living Savior. Many mourn over the graves of those they worried in life; but Mary anointed her living Lord. She was determined that he should taste the sweets of human kindness and smell the perfume of human, love and homage ere he passed away, and, being inspired with the thought that this might be the last opportunity, she poured the ointment on his sacred head and feet.
1. No genuine offering of love to Christ can be a waste. It was not so in this case. To Mary it was a most delightful exercise; to the disciples a most important lesson; to Christ a most gratifying deed; to the world a most beneficial teaching. It was only waste to him who was the son of waste.
2. Those who manifest self-sacrificing love to Christ must ever expect opposition. Opposition even from quarters they would least expect. There is a Judas in most societies, and avarice is eternally opposed to benevolence, and selfishness to love.
3. Any objection to the offerings of love, however plausible, should ever be regarded with suspicion. Avarice can often argue better than benevolence. Benevolence is often too timid to defend itself, but is bold enough to break the box of ointment. Let it do this, and Jesus will ultimately and successfully defend it. The offerings of love are more than a match for all the objections of avarice; the latter petrify, and are increasingly obnoxious; while the former are increasingly odorous and sweet - they fill the house and the soul of Jesus with their sweet odor. Avarice never yet found an object worthy of its generosity. It is ever shifting. An offering which has the preponderating appearance of love, listen to no objection against it. If you cannot heartily commend, let it alone.
4. We can well afford the objection of others if we have the approval of Jesus. What need had they to care after Jesus said, "Let her alone," etc.?
5. Those who are in responsible positions should be on their guard. Office tests, forms, and reveals character. The "bag" is a tree of life or death to all who have to do with it. How many can trace their ruin to a bag? Judas can do so. He began to take what was in it; little thinking that what he took from the bag was small compared with what the bag took from him - took his soul. The bag was the greatest thief; but Judas was the responsible one.
6. Rather than be too hard upon Judas, let us humbly and prayerfully examine ourselves. We are also men. The most courteous opponent Judas ever met was Jesus. Instead of meeting his selfish objection in the scathing language it justly deserved, he met it with peculiar mildness. Judas has suffered most from himself and his family. The celebrated Judas of history has been a scapegoat for many modern ones. Their denunciations of him have been only a cover to do the same, and something even worse. - B.T.
1. Jesus, within about a week of his death, and distinctly apprehending what was before him.
2. His host, Simon the leper, not mentioned here, but mentioned by Matthew and Mark - a man who, in all probability, had his own occasion of gratitude to Jesus.
3. Lazarus, just brought back from the grave, and in company with Jesus, who was going down to it.
4. Martha and Mary.
5. The disciples. So the company was neither a small nor a commonplace one, and in its midst there was done a deed which Jesus said should be told as a memorial of the doer wherever the gospel was preached.
I. MARY HAD THE VERY STRONGEST REASON FOR DOING SOMETHING. No doubt Mary had done all she could in the way of words. But just because words are so easy and inadequate, the real grateful heart wants to do something in addition. Araunah offered David a place for an altar, and oxen for burnt offerings; but the king replied in a way that was kingly and right: "I will not offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing." And so Mary seems to have said, "I will not offer to my Master and Benefactor thank offerings which cost me nothing." The occasion, the raising of a brother from the dead, certainly was not beyond the deed. And we too have occasion for something great in the way of thank offering to Jesus. Doing nothing, or next to nothing, for Jesus, we give a pretty clear proof that Jesus has not been allowed to do his great work for us. Mary had yet a richer thank offering to make for a greater service. Jesus had to bring back Mary herself from another death, even her own death in trespasses and sins, and in due time she would learn to present her own self a living sacrifice, a reasonable service.
II. THE FAULT FOUND WITH MARY'S THANKSGIVING. Judas, it is very plain, looked upon Mary's act as one that had robbed him of a fine chance of thievish gain. But at this time the disciples had not found him out. We read in Matthew, that the other disciples had indignation, and said, "To what purpose is this waste?" Judas was doubtless the leader, and the others readily chimed in. As it has been said, "Censure infects like a plague." Nor must we look only at the positive fault-finding. If no fault had been found, still there would have been lack of appreciation. The absence of blame is not the presence of praise. It was peculiarly a woman's way of showing gratitude. It took a Being like Jesus, who understands all the movements of the heart, in woman as in man, to appreciate the gift and act of grateful Mary. Even Martha would hardly understand Mary, though it was not an occasion for her to say anything.
III. MARY FINDS A MIGHTY DEFENDER IN JESUS. "The Lord God is a Sun and Shield." Jesus had risen, a true Sun of quenchless light, on the dark, dark night of Mary's sorrow - a night that seemed without a single star; and now he comes as a Shield, to shelter her from the darts of an avaricious foe. Mary did her best, according to knowledge and opportunity. Jesus eared very little for the fragrant spikenard in itself; the perfume from a thousand gardens is his. The fragrance was not in the gift, but in the giving. And who can tell but what Mary was really helping the poor? If she spent three hundred pence and more with the growers and makers of spikenard, that would help to prevent them getting poor. It is better to do this than help the poor when they are poor. But Mary was also doing more than she knew. The deep impulse of love was also an impulse from above. Jesus indicates how we are to show our gratitude. Judas helped him to the hint. We can do nothing for Jesus according to the flesh. Gratitude to Jesus is now to be service to men. The One that could be anointed went from the earth long ago; but the One that can be served and pleased in a thousand ways is here still. - Y.
I. THE ATTRACTION OF JESUS. "Much people of the Jews," etc.
1. He was attractive in his work. In the sick he had healed, the blind to whom he had given sight, and the dead he had restored to life, especially in his last miracle on Lazarus. In this he manifested:
(1) His complete mastery over death. Death had done its work completely; decomposition and corruption had set in. Lazarus had been in his grave for four days. The mastery of Jesus over death was complete in the miracle.
(2) His complete mastery over life. This was the secret of his mastery over death, because he possessed all the resources and energies of life. As the Prince of life alone he could be the Master of death. Death will only yield to almighty life.
(3) His unquestionable Divine power and mission. If this would not prove the Divinity of his Person and mission, no act of power ever could. It had this effect on all who were open to conviction. The supernatural and the Divine brought to counteract the forces of nature are ever attractive. They were pre-eminently so in this instance.
2. His work was attractive in him. Lazarus restored to life was his immediate and undeniable work, and Lazarus was attractive, and the people came, "not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also," etc. Lazarus was attractive:
(1) As the subject of the most wonderful changes. From life to death, and from death back to life again; and all the changes had taken place in a short period of time. He had only just returned from the land of death. A most wonderful phenomenon!
(2) As the subject of supposed strange experiences of life and death and restoration. His experience, perhaps, could not be related. All to him was like a pleasant dream of flitting beauty - broken music and delightful sensations which could scarcely be reproduced in human language but in very general and indefinite terms. He was only a babe four days old in the spirit-life. The first thing, probably, he could distinctly remember was to hear the voice of Jesus say, "Lazarus, come forth!" Many questions were doubtless put to him on the subject of his strange experiences, but nothing is recorded only as, having experienced such dispensations, he attracted many.
(3) As the living monument of the most wonderful Tower - the power of Jesus of Nazareth. They came to see Lazarus also, but he was attractive on account of what Jesus had done to him. He had many monuments, but this was his masterpiece, and from it every reflective and earnest mind would turn with reverence and awe to the great Artist.
3. He was very attractive at this time.
(1) He attracted very many people. "Much people of the Jews," etc. They came to know where he was. The miracle of Bethany had stirred up Jerusalem. He could not be hid. His fame now blazed with peculiar brilliancy.
(2) He attracted many in spite of difficulties. There was much popular prejudice and unbelief. He had the bitterest opposition of the leading spirits of the nation; wealth, learning, power, and authority in Church and state were against him. Every obstacle to the flow of the populace to him was placed in their way, but in spite of all, Bethany mightily attracted Jerusalem in those days.
(3) He attracted many to faith. "Many of the Jews believed on him." To attract attention, curiosity, general interest, and personal presence and attendance was but little to him, after all. Many came to Jesus, but believed not on him; they admired and even believed the work, but not on the Worker; but he attracted many to real faith - faith which was spiritual and lasting.
II. THE OPPOSITION OF HIS FOES. "The chief priests," etc.
1. Their opposition was really to Jesus.
(1) They opposed Jesus in Lazarus. The Master in the disciple; the great Operator in his work. They had nothing personally against Lazarus; but thought that they could not so effectively strike Jesus as through ]aim. He became the target of their hatred. This is not the first time, and certainly not the last, Jesus is persecuted in his followers, and his followers persecuted on his account.
(2) They opposed Lazarus because he was a loss to them. Because on his account many of the Jews went away - left them. The miracle of which Lazarus was the living monument attracted many from them. Their ranks were quickly thinned, and their reputation on the wane. This enraged their anger against Lazarus.
(3) They opposed Lazarus because he was a gain to Jesus. Many on his account left them and believed on Jesus. This, after all, was the sting of his offence. They could bear their own loss better than his gain; their own ebb than his flow. They would rather backsliding adherents should take any direction than this. This was a mortal offence. In connection with Jesus Lazarus had become intolerable.
2. Their opposition was most wicked and cruel.
(1) It involved murder. The taking away of life. This was the bitter end. They could go no further. They had no right to this. Life is sacred.
(2) It involved willful murder. "They consulted how," etc. Anyhow, only let Lazarus be put to death. It was not the impulse of the moment, the outburst of passion, but the deliberate and united act of the will. "They consulted," etc.
(3) It was the willful murder of the innocent. Jesus was innocent; but if to perform miracles and attract the people constituted real guilt, he was guilty. But what had Lazarus done? Was it an offence to be raised from the dead and breathe the old air, mix with old acquaintances, and enjoy the old life once more? True, he was a most genuine and dear friend of Jesus; but a most quiet and undemonstrative one, much beloved by his nation in life and mourned in death. In a sense he was the passive monument of a most benevolent and Divine power. And what could he help that his miraculous restoration engendered faith in Jesus? Blind and cruel bigotry could scarcely select a more innocent victim, nor contemplate a more wicked deed.
3. Their opposition was increasingly wicked and cruel.
(1) The death of Jesus was already determined. His life was already doomed as far as the Jewish authorities were concerned. There was a reward already offered for his capture.
(2) The death of Lazarus was now contemplated. Lazarus was the first contemplated martyr for Jesus on record. We have no proof that they carried out their purpose; probably not. They had Jesus, and this satisfied them for the time, and Lazarus escaped.
(3) One sin leads to another. Sin generates and multiplies very fast. The determination to murder Jesus led to the determination to murder Lazarus.
(4) The capacity to do the greater involves the capacity to do the less. If they can put Jesus to death, they can easily put Lazarus. The violent death of Jesus made the violent death of his follower a comparatively easy matter.
4. Their opposition was most foolish. Reason was off its throne. For:
(1) The death of Lazarus could not undo the miracle and its results. The miracle by this time was an established and an admitted fact. It had in a sense gone from Jesus and Lazarus and was a public property, and, whatever would become of them, the miracle would still remain. It was well known to these authorities, and there is no attempt to deny it, but a most foolish attempt to destroy it.
(2) The death of Lazarus could not prevent the performance of another miracle. It is foolish to attempt to dry the stream while the fountain is still springing. It was foolish to put Lazarus to death whilst Christ was still alive. They could not send his spirit so far to the invisible world that his voice could not reach and recall it. They could not hope to mangle his body to such an extent that the chemistry of his Divine power could not reunite it. He could cause Lazarus to appear before them and scare them, till they would be only too glad to let him alone.
(3) Lazarus was not the only monument of Christ's Divine power. He had hosts of them throughout the whole country. The destruction of all these monuments would involve such a massacre as would be beyond their power and authority to perpetrate. Their opposition was foolish.
5. Their opposition was pitiably futile.
(1) Physical death cannot destroy Divine life and energy.
(2) Physical death cannot destroy Divine purposes. They flow on like a mighty river, increasing in magnitude and force, and sweeping every opposition before them. The futile devices of priests and stratagems of Pharisees are seen carried away on its crested and sweeping flood.
(3) Physical death cannot destroy spiritual principles, but rather increase and intensify them. Faith, hope, and love can thrive in chains, feed on flames, and leap with life, even in death. If Lazarus were put to death and fell a martyr to these priests and never again return, thousands would leap to life from his grave and feed upon his ashes. The futility of physical opposition to truth was aptly expressed by the Pharisees, when some of that sect said, "Perceive ye not," etc.?
6. Their opposition came from an unexpected quarter. "The chief priests."
(1) They were in the best position to examine the genuineness of the miracle and understand its meaning. As a class they were educated and highly privileged. They were the leaders of religious thought, and one would naturally expect that they had sufficient philosophical insight and integrity, apart from their religious position, to inquire into such a strange phenomenon and accept its plain and inevitable teaching.
(2) They should be the foremost to accept the claims of Jesus, see in him the promised Messiah, the fulfillment of prophecy, and the substance of all sacrifice - the Lamb of God.
(3) What ought to breed faith bred in them murder. The reason which led others to believe in Jesus, led them to hate and oppose him. The miracle of life revived in them the vilest passions for death. What stronger proofs of Christ's Divinity and Divine commission could they wish or have? How could faith be satisfied better than by an outward sign? And yet the reason for faith they want to destroy, and the light of faith they want to extinguish; the monument of faith they want to overthrow, and the object of faith they want to murder. What moral depravity and blindness does this reveal!
1. The leaders of the people have often been the bitterest opponents of truth and progress. They have opposed every true reform, and instead of leading the people to the light, they have stood between the people and it, and have attempted to extinguish it.
2. If the leaders of the people are so opposed to truth, what can be expected of the people themselves.
3. When they will not lead the people, the people should lead them and help themselves.
4. All people, learned and unlearned, rich and poor, have a true Leader in Jesus. - B.T.
I. WHAT PRECEDED THIS TRIUMPHAL ENTRY. All the Galilsean and other ministries outside of Jerusalem must have contributed to this enthusiastic demonstration. It is often taken as an illustration of popular fickleness that the multitude said "Hosanna!" one day, and the next day, "Crucify him!" But it is very doubtful if the component elements of the multitude were the same. Those who cried "Hosanna!" were people who had seen Jesus do wonderful works in their own cities and villages. Some of them, doubtless, had known in their own persons his healing power. More still would have occasion to be thankful and happy for mercies vouchsafed to their relatives. Those whom Jesus blessed directly and indirectly during his ministry of flesh and blood must have been indeed a multitude. To them the kingdom of God had indeed come in power, and they had the best right to expect still greater and deeper manifestations when things were ripe for them.
II. THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE PEOPLE. They had been blessed individually. Now they wanted to be blessed as a people, nationally, collectively. Praise and prayer would be combined in their "Hosanna!" They would welcome Jesus as already a royal Victor, and at the same time signify their belief that he had greater victories yet in store.
III. JESUS ACCEPTING THE HONOR. Jesus was now doing what he had declined to do in John 7:6. His time had fully come - the time of crisis and publicity. The time had come for Jesus to take to him his great power and reign. Therefore, though he knew well how deluded the people were as to the true nature of his mission, yet he accepted their homage and jubilation as directed toward the right Person, and offered at the right time. Not, of course, that Jesus cared for this exhibition in itself. His true joy and satisfaction were clearly from purer sources than the applause of the multitudes. But this triumphal procession was symbolical of that glad, triumphant attitude which the true people of Jesus are ever able to maintain. The kingdom of God in Christ is ever coming; and the multitudes who watch and acclaim its growth are ever swelling in numbers, and uttering louder and heartier shouts of welcome. What Jesus has done, truly measured, may well make us confident of his resources for the mighty work that has yet to be done. - Y.
I. WHAT PROMPTS THE DESIRE TO SEE JESUS? To answer this question we must consider:
1. The spiritual impulse. Man is so made as that he desires "to see good," and that, if his soul be really awakened to newness of life, be desires to see the highest and the purest good. They who have seen many earthly objects and persons have come to understand that all which this world can give is in its very nature unsatisfying. If sought as the supremely excellent, worldly good cannot fail to disappoint. Thus there remains an aspiration which is unquenched, and, so far as earthly streams are concerned, is unquenchable. But we must consider:
2. The attractiveness of Christ. The Greeks had heard something, perhaps much, of Jesus of Nazareth; in any case they had heard enough to induce them to seek a personal interview and acquaintance with the great Prophet. When the gospel is published, and the spiritual charms of the Savior set forth, he is portrayed before men's eyes as the "chief among ten thousand,... the altogether lovely." To hear of him "with the hearing of the ear" is, where there is any susceptibility to spiritual excellence and beauty, to desire closer knowledge and fellowship. Thus the preaching of Christ is designed to lead to the very application made by these inquiring Greeks.
II. WHAT IS INVOLVED IN THE DESIRE TO SEE JESUS?
1. A longing for acquaintance with the personal, historical, Divine Savior. They who ask to see Jesus imply by their request that there is "one Jesus" who may be known; not a fiction of the imagination, but a real and living Being, who may be approached and studied.
2. A readiness of faith to find in Jesus all that he declares himself to be. The desire in question is not merely for speculative satisfaction; it is for spiritual enrichment. The soul hopes to see in him a mighty Savior and a gracious Friend.
3. An earnestness, candor, and teachableness of spirit, such as become those who have nothing when they draw near to One who has all.
III. HOW DOES JESUS REGARD THE DESIRE TO SEE HIM?
1. He is willing to be sought. Never during his ministry did he hide himself from those who really wished to have an interview with him. He was ever accessible to the needy, to the suffering and sorrowful, to the sinful and penitent.
2. He is ready to befriend and bless and save. Do men ask to see Jesus? his answer is, "Look unto me, and be ye saved." Do men timidly approach Jesus? he encourages them by saying, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest."
IV. To WHAT ISSUES MAY THIS DESIRE LEAD?
1. It may lead to the action to which the soul is encouraged by the Savior, i.e. to true spiritual approach to himself.
2. It may then lead to the enjoyment of the blessings which, through the knowledge and fellowship of the Lord Jesus, may be experienced by the soul that sees the Savior with the gaze and vision of true faith. The eyes of the understanding being opened, the illumined nature looks upon the Lord; and to look upon him is to live.
V. WHAT MAY CHRIST'S CHURCH DO TO SATISFY THIS DESIRE? The Greeks came to the disciples, and the disciples introduced the strangers to the Lord. They themselves could give no satisfaction to the inquirers, but they could lead them to him in whom such satisfaction was to be found. Thus those who themselves have seen Jesus, and who know him, may point to him whom they know and love, and may say in the hearing of others, "Behold the Lamb!" - T.
cradle, so before his death the Greeks came from the West unto his cross.
I. THERE WAS IN THE HISTORY OF IMMANUEL A CRISIS OF SUFFERING.
1. This was a fixed, a certain, an expected hour. If our Lord's birth was in "the fullness of time," it is reasonable to believe the same to have been the case with his death. Hitherto Jesus had said, "My hour is not yet come;" henceforth his language was, "My hour is at hand, is near, is come." He was prepared for it, and for all it might bring.
2. This was a solemn and momentous hour. There are great and memorable hours in the history of nations - as when a great act passes the legislature; when a mighty revolution is accomplished; when slavery ceases; when, after a long war, peace is concluded; when some momentous decision upon national policy is formed. So this approaching hour in the Savior's life was that for which all others had prepared, which had been foretold, expected, and waited for.
3. This was the hour of the apparent success of Christ's foes. The conspiracy was successful; the innocent was condemned; seemingly the work of Christ was brought to a close and proved a failure.
4. This was the hour of humiliation and of woe. Jesus alone could fully appreciate the magnitude of the crisis, the mysterious import of the great transaction. It was the hour of sacrifice and of redemption.
II. THIS CRISIS OF SUFFERING WAS TO CHRIST'S PROPHETIC MIND A CRISIS OF GLORY. He saw not as man sees. Satan appeared victorious; Christ's enemies seemed to have succeeded in their malignant schemes; his disciples and friends seemed overwhelmed with consternation and despair. But Jesus looked beyond the cruel cross to the immortal crown! The hour was at hand when Jesus should receive his personal glorification the Son of man. As the Word, the Son of God, this exalted Being had enjoyed glory with the Father before the world was. But now his humanity was to be glorified. He loved to call himself the Son of man; in this capacity he was about to be raised to immortal majesty.
2. His glory was to be shown as the accepted of the Father in his resurrection from the dead. God raised him from the dead, and gave him glory. In his ascension Jesus Christ was "received up into glory." There was evident humiliation in the cross, and. as evident glory in his exaltation to the throne.
3. His official glory was to be displayed in his kingship and dominion. In heaven he was to receive the homage both of angels and of glorified men; upon earth he was to extend, by his Spirit and by his Word, the empire be had founded by his death.
4. Christ's truest glory was to consist in the salvation of multitudes of the human race by means of his sacrifice and intercession. The highest glory of an earthly monarch consists in the number and loyalty of his subjects. No earthly king has ever exercised a sway so wide, so beneficent, so enduring, as that of Christ. The kingdoms of this world are to become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ. All foes shall be put beneath his feet. The inclusion of Jews and Gentiles in the "one new humanity" is a triumph of Christ's spiritual kingship. On his head are many crowns. To an enlightened and spiritual mind there is no proof of royal majesty secured by sacrificial love so convincing as this - the subjugation of human hearts and lives to his moral authority, whose "kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." - T.
I. THE LIFE OF THE WORLD'S SPIRITUAL SEED. Imagination can see in an acorn all which may arise from it - an oak, a ship, a navy; for the acorn has a life-germ which is capable of increase and multiplication. Imagination can see in a handful of seed-corn carried to a distant isle, a nation's food. So in one Person, the speaker of these words, there lay - though only Omniscience could clearly foresee this - the spiritual hopes of a whole race. Jesus himself knew that this was so, and foresaw and foretold the results of his obedience unto death. In the coming of these Greeks he discerned the earnest of a glorious future; and the prospect of approaching suffering and of future victory stirred and troubled his soul with a mighty emotion. The explanation of this marvelous potency is to be found in the fact that Christ was Life - the Life of men. His Divine nature, his great vocation, his faultless character, his gracious ministry, his spiritual power, his unrivalled love, his incomparable sacrifice, are all signs of the possession by him of a wonderful life. Only a divinely commissioned and qualified Being could become the world's Life. Because he was the Son of God, it was possible for him to bring to this human race what none other could confer - spiritual vitality and fruitfulness. The claim which Jesus made may have seemed to an observer of his ministry incredible or even presumptuous. Yet as a tiny seed- may produce a majestic tree, because in the seed is a germ of life, so in the lowly Nazarene was the promise of a new and blessed life for this humanity. "I am come," said he, "that they may have life, and may have it abundantly." Such sayings, from his lips, were the simple, literal truth.
II. THE DISSOLUTION OF THE WORLD'S SPIRITUAL SEED. To one unacquainted with the mystery of growth, it must seem that the strangest use to which a seed could be put is to bury it in the ground. Death is the unlikeliest road to life. Yet experience teaches us that dissolution is necessary to reproduction. The substance of the grain dissolves, and nourishes and protects the living germ, which by means of warmth and moisture puts forth the signs of life, grows and develops into a corn-plant or a tree. Had not the seed been planted, it would have remained by itself alone and unfruitful. The law obtains in the moral realm. Our race gains its best of knowledge, experience, progress, happiness, virtue, not from the prosperous and the peaceful, but from those whose life is a life of toil, endurance, patience in suffering, and sacrifice. The world is infinitely indebted to its confessors, its martyrs, its much-enduring heroes. The highest exemplification of this law is to be found in the sacrifice of the world's Redeemer. His life of labor and weariness was closed by a death of shame and anguish. He gave up his body to the cross and to the tomb. His whole life was a death unto self, unto the world; and he did not shrink from that mortality which is the common lot of man. This death did not come upon him by accident; he several times distinctly foretold it - it was part of his plan. He is not to be numbered among the many who might have been spiritual forces for highest good, but who remained fruitless because they dared not die. The ignominious cross has ever been a stumbling-block to many; but to multitudes, spiritually enlightened, and touched in the heart by his Spirit, it has been the supreme revelation of God. The cross and the grave are to the unspiritual an offence; but to Christians they are a glory and a joy, the power of God and the wisdom of God. Via crucis, via lucia. Christ's body did not indeed see corruption; yet his life's close was an exact correspondence to the dissolution of the seed. A bystander might naturally have said, "Here is the end of the professions and the work of Jesus! But God's ways are not our ways.
III. THE FERTILITY OF THE WORLD'S SPIRITUAL SEED. One grain of wheat, if sown, and its produce resown, may in time produce a vast, all but incalculable crop. One grain seems thrown away, but millions are gathered and garnered. Much fruit rewards the faith of the husbandman. Our Lord teaches us that, in the spiritual realm, a similar result follows a similar process. He knew that he was about to die; but he knew also that his death should be rich in spiritual fruit. The immediate results verified his prediction. In a short space of time after our Lord's death, the number of his disciples was not merely increased, it was multiplied. The fruit borne upon the day of Pentecost was the firstfruit of a rich, abundant harvest. Not only in the Jewish world, but among the Gentiles also, it was speedily manifest that Jesus had not died in vain. Israel had conspired to kill him; but he became the Savior of the true Israel - the Israel of God. The Romans had put him to death; but in a few generations the Roman empire acknowledged his supremacy. The world had cast him out; but the world was saved by him. The history of Christendom is the story of one long harvest - a harvest yielded by the spiritual seed which was sown on Calvary. The future has yet to reveal the vastness of the work which Christ has wrought. He shall draw all men unto himself. "Many shall come from the East and from the West." A great multitude, whom no man can number, shall join in the grateful praise and reverent adoration of heaven.
1. Our indebtedness to Christ.
2. Our identification with Christ.
3. Our hope in Christ. - T.
glorified by his death and resurrection, could he open his arms to receive them. Hence he regarded the request of the Greeks as a sign that the crisis of his course was at hand; not that he needed such a sign, but he hailed it and welcomed it as it came, even while his "soul was troubled" as he looked through the vista which opened up between him and the joy set before him. "The hour is come," etc. (ver. 23). For Christ's way to glory was through death. Yet a few days, and his own disciples and the inquiring Greeks, and all who loved and admired him, would be appalled by the dread spectacle on Calvary. How, then, was our Lord to speak of what was coming in the presence of the people who surrounded him? How should he foreshadow the glory of his cross and the everlasting fruitfulness of his precious death and burial? He chose to do so in words dark indeed and mysterious at the moment they were uttered, but which would cling to the memories of those who loved him, and which were soon to be explained for them and for all mankind.
I. Our Lord's first saying is this, that HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION HAVE A PERPETUAL EMBLEM IN THE KINGDOM OF NATURE. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die," etc. This language is, of course, popular and familiar (for it takes no notice of the invisible germ in such a seed that does not die). But plainly a grain Of wheat must cease to be a grain, it must undergo a death-like change, a death-like transformation, before it springs up and bears its appointed fruit. Suppose one such seed carried to some region of the earth, if such there be, where wheat is still unknown; let it be kept and treasured up as a precious thing, and year after year it abides alone, perfect in itself but fruitless for mankind. But let the same seed fall into the ground" taste cold and darkness and oblivion there," and ere long it will enter on a higher life and bear fruit and multiply itself, and in after years it may be said that all the harvests of the land sprang from that single seed. With the words, "Verily, verily!" with a twice-repeated "Amen!" our Lord applies to himself this mystery of nature. In him was treasured up the life of the world - "the bread of God that cometh down from heaven." But only by the sacrifice of himself could he impart this life to others. Without death his ministry would have remained unfulfilled for its highest ends. His bright and beautiful example taken by itself would have founded no kingdom. Had he abode on earth on some mount of transfiguration, and then been translated like Enoch, so that he should not see death, then, like a golden grain of wheat, he would have remained alone, without a ransomed Church on earth or a triumphant Church in heaven. But such was not the object of his mission. His heart was set on bearing much fruit, and even now he foresaw the harvest. Looking down the stream of time and abroad on the great world, he saw the Churches of the Gentiles, each with its company of believers springing into life through his death and resurrection, and spreading in wider and still wider circles in the regions beyond. In crowded cities and in quiet villages, in far-off lands and in the islands of the sea, they should be found. And as in nature the fruit ever resembles the seed, so it is in the kingdom of grace. Christ's spiritual offspring must needs bear his image and likeness. This was the harvest that filled our Lord's field of vision - a great multitude, which no man can number, each one of them washed by his blood and sanctified by his Spirit. This was the joy that he set before him when he endured the cross and despised the shame. Dying, he should rise again, and bear much fruit.
II. Our Lord's second saying is this, that HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION HAVE A PERPETUAL LESSON IN THE KINGDOM OF GRACE. (Ver. 25.) "He that loveth his life shall lose it; but he that hateth his life," etc. Now, no doubt when we read these words, we naturally think first of all of the noble army of martyrs, each of whom added his dying "Amen!" to them. We cannot forget that in many ages and in many lands certain of Christ's disciples have been called literally to drink his cup and to be baptized with his baptism, sealing with their own blood their testimony to his cause. This they did on the faith of his promise, believing that where Christ is there shall also his servants be. And we may well remember, too, how fruitful their example has been. The blood of the martyrs has been called, from early times, the seed of the Church. Not in vain did they lay down their lives. "Fear not, brother Ridley," said Latimer, on the way to the stake; "we shall this day light a candle in England which will never be put out." But this sharp paradox is not merely a watchword for the forlorn hope of the army of the faith. In one form or another it was repeatedly on Jesus' lips, addressed too, as it is here, to all his disciples. Its meaning is this - "The life that is hoarded up for selfish ends must needs be a lost and barren one; and it is only hating such a life that we can bring forth fruit for God and eternity." But even thus explained this is a hard saying. For what is the kind of life which Christ's disciples are forbidden to love? Surely our Lord does more than condemn a life of vicious indulgence and wild extravagance, or of grasping greed and oppression. It needs no paradox to impress on us that such a career is self-ruined and thrown away. No] he is speaking more widely and sweepingly of a life of self-seeking and self-pleasing - such a life, in fact, as is natural to us all. We need no one to teach us how to lead it. The spirit of the present world fosters it and feeds it, and even natural conscience offers all too feeble a protest against it. The self-centered enjoyment of an earthly portion seems to the multitude the one thing needful, and their posterity approve their sayings. You all know the parable which describes this favorite type of happiness and success - the busy prosperous worldling who heaped up treasure for himself, and was not rich towards God; and many of you may remember Tennyson's poem founded on the parable -
"I built my soul a lordly pleasure-house, APPLICATION. Now, this great lesson of Christ's appearance among us is one which Christians are never done with in this world. 1. Beware of forgetting it in the day of prosperity. When projects succeed, and riches increase, "and men are praising thee because thou doest well unto thyself," remember that your true life consists not in the abundance of the things that you possess, but in receiving Christ's fullness and being inspired by his Spirit. How shall you be preserved from abusing the kindness of Providence, and from wasting and spoiling God's common gifts and mercies? Where shall you find a perpetual motive to being rich in good works, patient in service, unwearied in well-doing? Think of your Master and of what he has done for you. No doubt you are softened into gratitude and love when you meet with others at his table, and take into your hands the memorials of his body and blood. But these emotions, if they are true, will ripen into deep principles within you. Think what an example he has left, that you should follow in his steps. He was certainly no ascetic like John the Baptist, dwelling in a lone wilderness estranged from social life and the companionship of friends. But "even Christ pleased not himself." Wherever he went some blessing fell. The aim he kept in view was not his own ease nor his own glory, but the will of him that sent him. Oh! put on the Lord Jesus Christ if you would spend and be spent in the service of God and man. 2. Remember this lesson in the day of sifting trial. You are by no means called to invent crosses for yourselves, or perversely overstep God's providential path in quest of them. But there are times in the life of every disciple when the plain path of obedience is hard. Christ may call you to forego for his sake some friendship, some advantageous opening, and you may think this a cruel sacrifice. His voice may summon you to leave your quiet nest of coveted repose, and spend time and sympathy on ungrateful people and amidst uncongenial scenes. Unbelief whispers that you will only labor in vain, and spend your strength for naught. Why impoverish your life for such uncertain returns? Why scatter precious seed in such unpromising soil? Yet think again what a world it was to which he came, and how poor you would be without him; and listen to his own words, "If any man serve me, let him follow me, and where I am there also shall my servant be." - G.B.
APPLICATION. Now, this great lesson of Christ's appearance among us is one which Christians are never done with in this world.
1. Beware of forgetting it in the day of prosperity. When projects succeed, and riches increase, "and men are praising thee because thou doest well unto thyself," remember that your true life consists not in the abundance of the things that you possess, but in receiving Christ's fullness and being inspired by his Spirit. How shall you be preserved from abusing the kindness of Providence, and from wasting and spoiling God's common gifts and mercies? Where shall you find a perpetual motive to being rich in good works, patient in service, unwearied in well-doing? Think of your Master and of what he has done for you. No doubt you are softened into gratitude and love when you meet with others at his table, and take into your hands the memorials of his body and blood. But these emotions, if they are true, will ripen into deep principles within you. Think what an example he has left, that you should follow in his steps. He was certainly no ascetic like John the Baptist, dwelling in a lone wilderness estranged from social life and the companionship of friends. But "even Christ pleased not himself." Wherever he went some blessing fell. The aim he kept in view was not his own ease nor his own glory, but the will of him that sent him. Oh! put on the Lord Jesus Christ if you would spend and be spent in the service of God and man.
2. Remember this lesson in the day of sifting trial. You are by no means called to invent crosses for yourselves, or perversely overstep God's providential path in quest of them. But there are times in the life of every disciple when the plain path of obedience is hard. Christ may call you to forego for his sake some friendship, some advantageous opening, and you may think this a cruel sacrifice. His voice may summon you to leave your quiet nest of coveted repose, and spend time and sympathy on ungrateful people and amidst uncongenial scenes. Unbelief whispers that you will only labor in vain, and spend your strength for naught. Why impoverish your life for such uncertain returns? Why scatter precious seed in such unpromising soil? Yet think again what a world it was to which he came, and how poor you would be without him; and listen to his own words, "If any man serve me, let him follow me, and where I am there also shall my servant be." - G.B.
I. SEASONS WHEN THE WORDS ARE SPECIALLY SUGGESTIVE.
There might be an ecclesiastical calendar according to the order of nature. Jesus would have us think specially of his death at the sowing-time, when the corns of wheat are being scattered abroad over so much of the surface of God's earth. What an immense quantity of grain finds its way into the soil the wide world over! And every one sowing, and every one who sees the sowing, is invited to consider that most wondrous of all seed-corns laid away in the soil when Jesus breathed his last natural breath. And as to natural emblems and reminders of the resurrection, there is a long time in which to study them. The moment we see the delicate blades timidly peeping above the surface, then the word comes to our hearts that Jesus also rose from the dead; and then at last, when, instead of the seed that was sown, we behold the stalk with its hundredfold, why, we are helped to feel what a difference there is between Jesus in the days of his flesh and Jesus according to his resurrection from the dead.
II. WE MUST LOOK AS CLOSELY AS POSSIBLE AT THE WORDS. The more closely, the more encouraging and inspiring they will be. Put a corn of wheat away in a drawer. Leave it for twelve months, and then look. It is there still, abiding alone. But put that corn of wheat into a flower-pot. Let it grow till it is ripe, and then you have a great company of grains of wheat exactly similar to the one you sowed. This indicates just what Jesus wants as the greatest result of his presence among men. He wanted to see countless multitudes with a spirit and a character like his own - holy as he was holy, loving as he was loving, and becoming fit for the glory to which he himself was going. During the days of his flesh, he remained like the unsown corn of wheat, alone. He produced nothing like himself. People would not say of his disciples when they met them, "What good, holy, lovable men these are!" How could anybody say that of them, seeing that not long before their Master's death they were wrangling which should be the greatest? But what a difference when Jesus has died and risen again! Jesus no longer abides alone. He is truly the Firstborn among many brethren. If we be true Christians at all, we are more like Christ than we are to those of our fellow-men who are not Christians. Jesus sees great differences where we see great resemblances, and vice versa. It is demanded of all the children of the heavenly Father that they should be fruitful, and to this end they are to be as branches in the vine. And he who is peculiarly the Son of the Father sets the example that makes our fruitfulness possible. The risen Savior himself brings forth much fruit. A handful of corn has been sown in the earth on the top of the mountains, and the fruit thereof shakes like Lebanon. There is a double resurrection. Not only did Jesus rise again in his own proper personality; he has also risen again in that great multitude concerning every one of whom this is true, "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." There is no way of making Christians except through the Spirit of the living Christ working in them. A stalk of wheat cannot be got save by sowing the seed from which it is to spring. And so, too, Jesus himself must be the principle in us of a new, a holy, and an eternal life. - Y.
condescension to our human ignorance and imperfection. The Master makes use of language drawn from human relations and human experiences.
I. WHAT CHRIST REQUIRES.
1. Service. This is not equivalent to bondage, but to personal ministration. It is a just and helpful view to take of the' Christian life, to regard it as consisting of a personal attendance upon the Lord Jesus, and a reverent and affectionate obedience to him. A Savior he is; but he is also the kindest and the best of Masters. The twelve felt this, and their life was a practical acknowledgment of it, both during the Lord's ministry and more especially after his departure. The Greeks, whose coming suggested this language, may have cherished some desire and hope of being admitted into the number of Christ's servants. It is the highest ambition any man can cherish to be counted an adherent, a retainer, a minister, of Jesus.
2. Following. This involves:
(1) Obedience to Christ's commands. His people obey him from love, but still they do obey him.
(2) Conformity to his character. He not only says, "Do what I bid you!" but, "Be what I am!"
(3) Endurance of the trials incident to his service. It is for Christ's people to bear their Leader's cross.
II. WHAT CHRIST PROMISES. It is observable that Jesus addresses to his followers no promise of worldly or carnal advantage, such as Mohammed, for example, made use of to allure and inspire his adherents. Jesus invited men to become his, even when he saw the cross before his eyes. There was sublimity in such an invitation given in such an hour. And as the service to which he invited men was not without its perils, so the recompense he offered was unworldly and spiritual.
1. His own fellowship and society. They who know and appreciate Christ deem it the highest and purest happiness to be "with" him, to share his conflict, to hear his encouraging voice, to participate in the glory of his victory.
2. The honor of the Father. The honor which men seek from their fellow men is often inadequate, often misplaced, often pernicious. There are no such disadvantages attaching to the Divine Father's approbation. It is indeed well with him "whom the Lord commendeth." What brighter prospect can there be than this, "Then shall every man have praise of God"? - T.
I. THE CRISIS OF THIS CONFLICT. The approach of the Greeks marks "the beginning of the end." Now the Son of man began to feel by anticipation the burden of the cross. Opposition and persecution were at hand. He was about to tread the winepress alone. Pain, humiliation, sorrow, death, were close upon him. The "hour" which he had long foreseen was now nearly marked upon the dial of his life; it was the hour of his enemies' power and of the prince of darkness.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THIS CONFLICT.
1. On the one side was personal feeling, which expressed itself in the cry, so human, so touching, so sincere, "Father, save me from this hour!" This was the voice of human weakness, to be repeated afterwards in the form, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me!" This shrinking from all that was involved in the sacrifice was real. Our Lord's human nature was reluctant to endure the anguish of Gethsemane, the agony of Golgotha.
2. On the other side was the perception that all the past experience of his humanity led up to just this distressful burden, the pressure of which he was now beginning to feel. He had consented to live in order that he might consent to die. The baptism of sorrow must overwhelm him, the bitter cup must be drained to the dregs, in order that his ministry might be complete. The Incarnation itself contemplated, and virtually included, the sacrifice. The past would prove to have been endured in vain, if the future should be evaded; and the life of the Savior, with the cross left out, if such a conception be possible, would be all but powerless in the spiritual history of humanity.
3. Hence the distraction of mind evinced in the exclamation, "What shall I say?" The two wishes were inconsistent with each other. With which of them should the deliberate and decisive resolve identify itself?
III. THE DECISIVE CRY OF THE CONFLICT. The issue of the struggle within the Savior's Spirit was apparent when he uttered the exclamation, the prayer, "Father, glorify thy Name!" For this revealed the fact that Jesus was turning away from himself and from his own feelings, and was turning to his Father. He was sinking the consideration of himself and his sufferings in a filial regard to his Father's honor, to the Divine purposes which underlay the whole of his mission. God was exalted in the completion of the Mediator's work. Jesus learned obedience, and displayed obedience, in the things which he suffered. Our salvation was assured when the decision was reached, when the cry was uttered, when the Father's glory, by its dazzling brightness, its burning radiance, consumed all beside.
IV. THE CLOSE OF THE CONFLICT. The solemnity and grandeur of the crisis is shown by the audible interposition with which the Father responded to the cry of his beloved, chosen Son.
1. The voice from heaven was a reminder. How the Father had glorified his Son we know from the record of what took place at the baptism and at the Transfiguration. But to the spiritually enlightened and discerning there had been apparent, all through our Savior's ministry, a moral glory which was hidden from the thoughtless world.
2. The voice from heaven was a promise. The further glory of the Father in his Son was to be manifested in all the events to follow the perfect obedience unto the death of the cross. Especially in the resurrection of Christ did God "give him glory." The Ascension, the marvels of Pentecost, the signs accompanying the preaching of the gospel, were evidences that the Divine purposes were in course of fulfillment. The whole dispensation of grace is "rather" - i.e. in a superior measure and degree - "rather glorious." The establishment of the kingdom of God among men, the introduction of a new and higher life into our humanity, the salvation of untold myriads of sinners, the peopling of heaven with the redeemed from every nation, - these are signs that the Lord has seen of the travail of his soul and is satisfied, that the purposes of the Father are accomplished, that the glory of the Father is secured. - T.
I. JESUS IN TROUBLE. He was not a stranger to trouble, but this was a special one.
1. Trouble arising from a vivid realization of his approaching death and sufferings. They already cast their awful shadows upon his pure soul. The unparalleled tragedy of his death, with all its sinfulness on the part of his foes, and all its cruelties, agonies, and shame, was now acted in his soul, and it caused him to shudder. He was far from being a coward, but quite so far from being a heartless Stoic. He was courageous, but human; most heroic, but still most sensitive.
2. Trouble arising from the immediate effect of his death on others. The Gentiles were already knocking at his door for admission; but the opening of the door involved his death and the rejection of that people whom he came to save. The more remote joy of his death was hushed in its immediate effects upon his own nation. This judgment which his death involved troubled him.
3. Trouble which affected his Whole nature. "Now is my soul troubled," etc. The soul here represents his whole human nature, of which it is the highest and most important part, and most capable of refined and spiritual sufferings, and even his flesh quivered at the prospect of such treatment at the hands of those from whom he expected and deserved kindness. There is a close connection between the soul and the body - sympathy between them. Suffering is contagious.
II. JESUS IN PRAYER.
1. It was a prayer in trouble, and trouble sent him naturally to his Father for succor. Inward and outward trouble naturally drives the devoted soul to God. It had this effect on Jesus now. And who could approach God with such confidence and certainty of success as he? He had not brought the trouble upon himself, but bore it for others in accordance with the eternal will.
2. It was a prayer in which he found it difficult to express himself. "What shall I say?" This difficulty arose:
(1) From the troubled state of his soul. When a man is in great trouble, accurate expression to God or man is difficult. It will be inaccurate, or he must pause and ask, "What shall I say?"
(2) From a severe conflict between the flesh and the spirit. Jesus was thoroughly human, and was now young and in the bloom of life, and also innocent and pure. In him the claims of life and the terrors of death would be naturally great. There was a severe conflict between the weakness of the flesh and the readiness of the spirit; and the natural prayer of the former would be, "Father, save me from this hour," etc.
(3) From the conflict between the possibility of escape, and the law of obedience in his heart. The possibility and advantages of escape were now doubtless presented to his mind - one of the last temptations of the prince of this world. The temptation in the wilderness was not the only one he encountered. It was only the introduction. He was tempted through life. His own power and superiority were used as instruments of temptation. The possibility and present advantages of escape were presented to him to the last; and, if such a consideration triumphed, his natural prayer would be, "Father, save me," etc.
(4) The ruling principles of his soul immediately triumphed. The question, "Shall I say, Father, save me from this hour?" The loyalty of his soul immediately answered, "No, I shall not say that, because for this cause came I to this hour." Such a prayer would be a contradiction to his whole spirit and history before and after the incarnation; would be against the very purpose of his coming, which was well known to him; would be a victory for the enemy. But his loyalty triumphed, and the prince of this world was cast out.
3. It is a prayer, the burden of which is his Father's glory. "Glorify thyself." This implies:
(1) An intense desire that his Father should be glorified. This is the prayer of his soul and the soul of his prayer, and the affectionate cry of his agonies, that the Divine power, wisdom, goodness, justice, mercy, and love, should be crowned, and the reputation of the Divine name should be advanced.
(2) An intense desire that his -Father should be glorified in him - in his life and death; that he should be the medium of his glorification; that in his incarnate life and death his Father's glory should be increased here and everywhere.
(3) A self-sacrificing submission to his Father's will. He is entirely lost in the Divine will. His prayer is not, "Father, save me," but "Glorify thyself." In what is coming never mind me; take care of thy Name. He would not be saved at any risk to the Divine Name. He offers himself a willing Sacrifice on the altar of his Father's glory. Selfishness is conquered, and love is all ablaze.
(4) The highest note of devotion. "Glorify thy Name." This, as uttered by our Lord, is the highest note of human devotion, the climax of human worship, and the sweetest music of self-sacrifice.
III. THE PRAYER OF JESUS ANSWERED.
1. The answer is full and direct. "I have both," etc. We have here the glorification of the Divine Name in Jesus.
(1) In relation to the past. "I have," etc. His past life and work had been in the highest degree acceptable and efficient, and satisfactory to the Divine Being, and served the highest interests of the Divine nature.
(2) In relation to the future. "And will," etc. Jesus's past is only an earnest of even a brighter future. In him the Divine Name will be ever glorious, the Divine glory will ever shine, and the Divine attributes blaze with special and increasing brilliancy. In him the Divine nature will reach its highest and brightest manifestations.
2. The answer was immediate. "There came a voice," etc. There was no delay. The prayer went up in agony, and immediately came back in glory. Jesus was near heaven when on earth, and heaven was near him, and ever ready to respond. Heaven is ever near and responsive to the prayers of earnest faith.
3. The answer was audible. "A voice," etc. The prayer went up in a voice, and in a voice the answer returned. This was the third time Heaven spoke audibly respecting Christ - at his baptism, transfiguration, and now at his Passion.
(1) All heard it. "The people who stood by and heard." It was loud enough for all to bear. This is like Heaven; when it speaks, it speaks in clear and mighty tones. When the material heaven speaks, it often speaks in storms and thunders.
(2) A few only understood it. To the majority it was a mere sound like thunder. To some it suggested the broken articulations of an angel, whilst to the disciples, and perhaps many others, it was the very voice of God. John fully understood it, and copied its Divine meaning, and handed it down to us. Only those who have ears to hear can hear and understand what the Spirit saith. John had a good ear for the Divine voice. What seems to us only thunder may be the immediate voice of God.
4. The answer was audible for the sake of others. Jesus required no voice from Heaven. He understood the language and thoughts of Heaven intuitively. Christ was not dependent upon the human voice as a medium of revelation. He knew what was in man; he was conscious of what was in God. God spoke in him; but man requires a voice, and Heaven supplied it now.
(1) As a public testimony to the life and death of Christ.
(2) As a test and confirmation of faith.
(3) As a Divine indication of the special importance of the hour which included the Passion of Christ. Its importance to earth, to heaven, to the Gentiles, to Jesus, to the Father, and to the universe. - B.T.
I. THE DESIRE OF JESUS FOR HIS FATHER'S GLORY. Jesus did not seek that the eyes of men should be fixed in admiration on him. With powers such as never belonged to any other being of flesh and blood, he never used them for his own advancement among men. The pleasures of human ambition and human fame were far from his heart. No one truly glorifies Jesus unless he glorifies the Father of Jesus. Jesus was glad to find men drawn to him in ever-increasing numbers; he would be glad to find such as these Greeks who had just been inquiring for him; but all the time he felt how there was another Name and another power to which human attention needed to be increasingly directed. The name of Jesus had been already made glorious after a fashion; men had made it glorious. They talked about Jesus; no name would be better known through the land than his; but all the time Jesus felt that he was getting the fame which was only his in part. It was right and serviceable that men should talk of him; but that talk would only lead into delusion and disappointment unless they could talk of his Father also.
II. THE EFFORTS OF JESUS TO GLORIFY HIS FATHER. HOW he kept the Name of his Father before his disciples! He talked of the Father as of One with whom he was in constant and most familiar connection. But men could not see the Father as they could see Jesus, and hence the Father-Name remained but a name. And thus we have this strange fact to notice, that whereas Jesus came to reveal the Father, he rather seemed at first to hide him. The fact was that Jesus hid the revelation of the Father for a while in himself, just as the revelation of the full-developed plant is hidden in the seed. Jesus had to speak of things which his audience understood not as yet; but those same things would by-and-by be unveiled, and not only unveiled, but the brightest light of heaven would be cast upon them.
III. THE FATHER GLORIFYING HIS NAME. The hour was impending when Jesus would appear to the natural man utterly weak, shorn of his habitual strength and resources, just as Samson was when he lost his locks. Many a one would be puzzled to reconcile the Jesus, so mighty in doing wonderful works in Galilee, with the Jesus seemingly so helpless in the hands of his enemies at Jerusalem. But eclipse is not the same thing as destruction. Jesus went into obscurity for a little while that the glory of the Father might more distinctly appear. When Jesus breathed his last, the Father got the opportunity, to be fully used, of glorifying his Name. And then the Church entered fully upon its privilege, and was permitted to behold the Father glorifying himself in the Son, and the Son correspondently glorified in the Father. - Y.
I. WHO WAS HE WHO LOOKED FORWARD TO A PROSPECT SO GLORIOUS? This must be asked, because the words used are such as from ordinary lips might naturally be deemed but vain boasting. How often have conquerors hoped to subdue the world, thinkers to convert all mankind to their opinions, preachers and promulgators of religious systems to win the empire over the hearts of the race! Experience has dispelled many such illusions; and we are slow to accept claims to universal dominion. Who, then, was he who uttered this confident expectation - that all men should be drawn to him? To all outward appearance a peasant, a teacher, a healer, a reformer, a benefactor of his fellow men. What prospect was there of one in such a position realizing a hope so vast? And how, if he was about to be crucified, could he find the cross a means to such an end? The thing seemed incredible, even to his own adherents and friends. If Jesus had been a mere man, although a saint or a prophet, such language would have been egotism. But Jesus knew the purpose of the Father, and felt within him the consciousness of power to achieve a work so great. And the events which followed - the Resurrection and Ascension, and especially the Pentecostal outpouring - opened the eyes of his disciples to the glory of their Master's Person, the power of his Spirit, the certainty of the prospect he beheld,
II. WHAT WAS THE CONDITION OF THE EXERCISE OF THIS SUPERHUMAN' POWER? The expression, "lifting up," as applied by Jesus to himself, is interpreted for us by the evangelist. Used three times, it denotes, in each instance, the manner of Christ's death, the lifting up upon the cross. This was, indeed, to be followed by the lifting up to the Throne of empire and of glory. As a Savior, Jesus was crucified; as a Divine Savior, he was exalted. The wisdom of God, the power of God, were to be displayed in this triumph of humiliation, suffering, and death.
III. WHAT WAS THE NATURE, THE ACTION, OF THIS ATTRACTIVE POWER? It is very significant that the "drawing" which Jesus exercised displayed itself even whilst he hung upon the tree. The multitude gathered around; and if the soldiers viewed the scene with indifference, there were women who watched and wept, and there were among the people those who smote their breasts in sorrow and in fear. But we have to notice, not the curiosity or the natural emotions excited by the spectacle of one suffering crucifixion, but the spiritual attraction of Calvary. The incomparable love and pity manifested by the Crucified possess a mysterious charm. It is the Shepherd smitten for the flock he came to save, it is the Friend laying down his life for his friends, who exercises this Divine magnetism. They who discern in the Lord's sufferings and death the appointed means of man's redemption, who know that "with his stripes we are healed," can understand how a spiritual force emanates from the cross as gravitation from a central sun. Man's nature is such as to be affected by the exhibition on Christ's part of love stronger than death, of compassion worthy of a God. That the sacrifice of our Redeemer had its bearing upon the government of God - this is clearly taught in Scripture. But here our Lord lays stress upon its bearing upon the heart of man, upon human society and human prospects.
IV. WHITHER DOES THE CRUCIFIED ONE DRAW THOSE WHOM HIS INFLUENCE AFFECTS? The suffering, the glorified Redeemer draws men away from sinful affections and sinful courses; he draws them unto safety, peace, and life. But it is observable that Christ declares his purpose to draw them "unto himself," i.e. to enjoy his fellowship, to participate in his character. A personal power draws men to a personal Savior, Friend, and Lord. Men are drawn by the cross, not to Christianity, but to Christ.
V. WHAT IS THE RANGE OF THIS ATTRACTION? Jesus is a universal Savior. He proposes and promises to draw all men unto himself. The firstfruits of this harvest were yielded whilst he still hung upon the tree. The conversion of the dying malefactor, the enlightenment of the centurion, were an earnest of greater victories. It was the intention of Christ to save friends and foes, Jews and Gentiles. And the facts of history are a proof of the extent to which this intention has already been fulfilled. The idolater has forsaken his "gods many;" the Jewish rabbi has abandoned confidence in the "letter," and has learned to rejoice in "the Spirit;" the philosopher has found the wisdom of God better than the wisdom of this world. Human beings of all grades have felt and yielded to the Divine attraction of the cress. The young and the old, the profligate and the ascetic, the tempted, the aged, and the dying, are day by day being drawn unto the heart of Immanuel. The marvels of Pentecost were an omen of a new life for all nations of mankind. The apostles themselves witnessed enough to convince them of the truth of their Master's words, the depth of their Master's insight, the vastness of their Master's prophetic view. Looking back, and looking around, we learn to look forward with an inspiring confidence to the realization of a promise so benevolent and so glorious as this from the lips of him who was about to die. - T.
I. IN SOME OF ITS CHARACTERISTIC FEATURES.
1. It is the influence of the greatest Person. "And I," etc. To know something about influence, let us ask who influences?
(1) The Son of God. The eternal Word, who was in the beginning with God, and is God. Thus the source of the influence is Divine, infinite, and exhaustless.
(2) The Son of God in human nature. The eternal Word manifested in the flesh, assumed the nature he came to save, and in that nature taught men by precept and example, and manifested before them the most powerful and fascinating attributes of the Divine and human, in a beautiful combination, and led them on to their highest destiny.
(3) The Son of God in personal contact with the human race, with a full knowledge of, and an intense sympathy with their spiritual wants, inspired with the purpose of salvation, and a passionate desire to advance their spiritual welfare. Thus the fallen human nature is brought again within the moral attraction of the Divine.
2. The influence of the greatest Person, having made the greatest sacrifice. "And I, if I be lifted up." The incarnate Word laid down his life as a sacrifice for sin. This sacrifice is infinite, perfect, and matchless.
(1) It is the manifestation of the greatest love. Divine love for the salvation and happiness of the fallen human family. The tongues of men and angels together could not set forth the greatness of the Divine love so eloquently as the Divine sacrifice offered on Calvary. If it be asked how great is God's love towards fallen man, the most expressive answer is in the words of the evangelist, "God so loved," etc.
(2) It removes all difficulties to reconciliation with God. In it all Divine claims are satisfied, and human enmity slain, and the mightiest hindrances to Divine attraction are removed.
(3) It furnishes the most powerful motives to reconciliation. In the light of this sacrifice sin appears most hateful, its consequences moat disastrous, while virtue appears most charming, and God most attractive. As an instrument it is calculated in the highest degree to arouse the conscience in condemnation of sin, to melt the heart, to bend the will, and to attract the whole nature from sin to holiness, from the kingdom of darkness to that of light. The supreme and all-conquering motive furnished by it is God's love.
(4) It procures the most powerful helps to reconciliation. The Holy Spirit, with all his influences, gifts, and blessings. All that man requires in order to return to God is furnished through Christ and the sacrifice of his blood.
3. The influence of the greatest person in the most advantageous position. The lifting up from the earth refers to the consequent exaltation as well as to the crucifixion.
(1) A position of the most complete triumph, a triumph achieved under the most disadvantageous circumstances, on a cross, achieved over the mightiest foes of God and man, and achieved on behalf of God and man. Man now has only a conquered foe to encounter.
(2) A position of the highest honor and glory. Glory won through shame, life procured by death, the glory of victory and self-sacrifice. If he achieved so much on a cross, what can he not do under a crown?
(3) A position of the greatest authority and power. Authority and power native and acquired. "All power is given me," etc. All the realm of spiritual forces, good and bad, is under his control.
4. The influence of the greatest Person exercised in the most efficient way. "I will draw," etc. Man is to be drawn, not driven. The saving influence of Christ is voluntary, not compulsory; it is moral and spiritual, influences man through his mental and spiritual nature, and binds the heart and will with the cords of love, and gently draws them Godwards.
II. IN ITS GLORIOUS TRIUMPH. This we see if we consider:
1. The objects of its attraction. In order to estimate the drawing power of any influence, let us consider who are drawn, and from what.
(1) The greatest sinners sunk in the deepest sin.
(2) Inspired with the deadliest enmity against God and virtue.
(3) Backed up by the mightiest spiritual opponents of God and virtue. But in spite of all, "I will draw," etc.
2. The completeness of the drawing. "Unto me," etc.
(1) Unto faith in him.
(2) Unto his character and likeness.
(3) Unto his position and society. The drawing will be most complete; hence the glory of the influence - his triumph.
3. The extensiveness of the attraction. "All men," etc. Jews and Gentiles? More than these. We shall not, in the presence of the cross of our Lord, venture to limit this phrase, but let it tell its simple but grand tale of the glorious triumph of saving grace through Christ.
(1) This extensive idea is in perfect harmony with human need. All have gone astray from God, and require to be drawn to him. The greater the want, the greater the mercy.
(2) It is in perfect harmony with the Divine will. "Who willeth that no man should perish, but that all should turn," etc.
(3) It is in perfect harmony with the infinitude of the sacrifice. Is it not naturally adapted to draw, and does it not deserve to be universally successful?
(4) It is in perfect harmony with our highest notion of the supreme Being as a God of infinite love.
(5) It is in perfect harmony with many other expressions of God's revealed will.
(6) It is in perfect harmony with our highest motions of the ultimate glory of God.
4. The certainty of the attraction. This lies:
(1) In the Divine purpose.
(2) In the Divine provision.
(3) In the Divine promise. Jesus has not promised to do more than he has purposed, is willing, and fully able to do.
1. What the foes of Jesus thought would punish him, was the very thing to advance his interests. They said, "Crucify him, and his influence will be at an end." He said, "Crucify me, and I will draw," etc.
2. Time and eternity are on the side of Christ, and also the superior power of Divine principles. Truth is more powerful than error, good than evil, and the attractions of Jesus mightier than the evil one. Let Christ have time, and his promise will be fulfilled, and Divine love triumphant.
3. It is better for the sinner to yield now than to battle with Divine love. It would be far better for the prodigal to return soon after leaving his father's house, than after experiencing the keenest pangs of hunger. Return he did at last. - B.T.
I. THE AIMS AND HOPES OF JESUS DIFFERENT FROM THOSE TO WHOM HE SPOKE. Those who questioned and criticized him cared for no country but their own. Not that they were ignorant of other Countries, for they went to live in them, but they still kept communion and close touch with Jerusalem. The Jew liked to make money out of the Gentile, and so he would go and live in the Gentile city, but it never seemed to strike him that the God of the Jew was God also of the Gentile, and that the Christ for whom the Jew waited was needed by the Gentile just as much. But Jesus, being himself the Christ, longed inexpressibly for the hour when he should begin to draw all men to himself. Even in the days of his flesh he began to draw the Gentiles. For even as Jews went to dwell in Gentile lands, so Gentiles came to dwell in the Jewish land; and when Jesus went about doing good, humanity in all its pressing need overleaped the bounds of nationality, and came to him for help.
II. OUR AIMS AND HOPES ARE ALSO DIFFERENT. Most part of men certainly do not care to be drawn to Jesus. Jesus is interested in everybody, while our deep, underlying desire is to get as many people as possible interested in us. We are mightily grieved if other people do not think almost as much about us as we do about ourselves. But it is not quite so much a matter of course to be interested in other people. And to be interested in Jesus, to set ourselves in real sober earnest to find out all we can about him, may strike us as an eminently unpractical thing.
III. Look AT THIS DRAWING POWER IN THE EXERCISE OF IT.
1. The purpose of Jesus is clear. He made that abundantly plain while he lived under the conditions of ordinary humanity. The times of retirement and avoidance of men were only exceptional. The miracles of Jesus were advertisements in the best sense of the word. His wondrous works were things that people talked about, and were meant to have this effect.
2. The motive also is clear. All were to be drawn, because of the need of all. We all need Jesus, just as every growing plant in the field needs the sunshine and the rain. As none can live the natural life without air and food, so none can live the higher life without Jesus. We can never be what we were meant to be, until Jesus the Christ is using us for himself. We are like unlighted candies, and Jesus alone can light us. The glory of a candle is in its burning, and the glory of a human being is in his shining Christianity. We ourselves feel the paramount claim of need upon us, and shall Jesus not feel it?
3. The means must be noticed. Drawing, not driving. The only effectual compulsion is that of love. We must be drawn because we cannot help it. So long as we prefer self-indulgence, ease, mere drifting, we shall not be drawn. We must come within the circle of which Jesus is the Center. Then shall we ever tend more and more toward that Center. - Y.
I. THE DESIGNATION APPLIED TO JESUS. The expression, "Son of man," was familiar to the Jews.
1. In the Old Testament it was used as equivalent to "man." It is applied in the Book of Ezekiel to that prophet himself, in about eighty passages. There is one passage in the Book of Daniel in which the Messiah is introduced as "like a Son of man."
2. In the New Testament the expression occurs eighty-two times, and in almost all instances it is used by Jesus of himself. It is found in all four Gospels. Here only in the Gospels is it used by others of our Lord, and as if it were desired to understand the full meaning of the phrase. Stephen, when threatened with the martyr's, death, made use of this appellation, which shows that it was well known and current among the early Christians. The same is apparent from its employment by John in the Apocalypse, when describing the ascended Christ.
3. There are passages from which it would seem that "Son of man" was regarded as almost equivalent to "Son of God." Thus in Peter's great confession, in answer to Christ's inquiry (see Matthew 16:13-16). And again in Caiaphas's interpretation of our Lord's language (see Luke 22:69, 70).
4. To the Christian the designation is suggestive of great and distinctively Christian doctrines. The Son of man is to him incarnate Deity, and yet Deity in participation with our nature, in priestly fellowship with our life, in human sympathy with our feelings, in humiliation and sacrifice. And on the other hand, the Son of man assures us that he is our Representative above, our Mediator and Friend, our Lord and Judge.
II. THE QUESTION ASKED CONCERNING JESUS. "Who is this Son of man?"
1. It is a question which is prompted by our acquaintance with the facts of Christ's ministry. The record of what Jesus did, suffered, and said, is the most amazing record in the history of humanity. Is it possible, seriously and thoughtfully, to make acquaintance with the facts of his life, death, and resurrection, without being urged to the inquiry, "Who is this?"
2. It is a question upon the answer to which great issues depend. Was Jesus an impostor, or a fanatic, or an altogether mythical personage? Upon many questions we can afford to suspend our judgment; but not upon this. It makes all the difference to the world, it makes all the difference to ourselves, whether or not Jesus be the Savior from sin, and the Lord of righteousness and life.
3. It is a question which admits but of one reply. Reason and conscience alike are satisfied, and can find rest, when the assurance is given that the Son of man is Son of God. - T.
The Jews were naturally perplexed at Jesus' saying (ver. 32) concerning his approaching death, and the mysterious power which in and after his death he should exercise over men. No wonder that they asked who this Son of man could be. Jesus did not want to discourage them from this inquiry as one of great speculative interest; truth, especially upon the highest themes, must be reverently and earnestly sought. Yet it was the desire of Jesus that the Jews should remember the practical bearing of his language. His ministry among them was a probation to those who were brought into contact with him. Some used that probation aright; many misused it. Now that the light shone, it was for those favored with its shining to walk by its celestial guidance.
I. AS INJUNCTION.
1. What is the light in which we are directed to walk? Undoubtedly the spiritual light shed upon the world by Christ and his gospel - the light which is Divine, glorious, unsetting, and sufficient for the illumination of all men. This is the clear light of knowledge, the pure light of holiness, the bright light of joy, the welcome light of counsel and of safety.
2. What is it to walk, having the light? It is in the first place to accept the true and Divine light in preference- to false, delusive lights of earth. Then to be practically guided by it so as to escape the errors and follies and sins into which men are prone to be misled. Then to learn by experience so to love the light as to partake its very nature, and so to become the children of the light.
II. A WARNING. "That darkness overtake you not." A traveler in a lonely desert or a dangerous country is anxious to travel by daylight, and to reach his halting-place or his destination before nightfall. Making use of this similitude, our Lord enjoins all who value his counsel to speed their onward way, lest, if they be slothful and inattentive to Divine guidance, they be overtaken by the night of judgment and destruction. The darkness to be dreaded is the darkness of spiritual insensibility. The soul that shuns the light learns to hate the light. And such a moral failure to use aright the precious advantages conferred involves the privation of privilege. Thus the unfaithful is brought into the darkness of Divine displeasure and death. How the warning of Christ was fulfilled in the experience of Israel as a nation, history has recorded. The destruction of Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the once favored nation, show that "darkness overtook" them. No more solemn warning exists against negligence and unfaithfulness. - T.
I. A HINT THAT HE IS MAKING NO PROGRESS. We are in this life like travelers, who have so much of their journey to do in so many hours. There is ample time if only they will keep steadily on, remembering that the sun does not stop, waiting on their convenience and their indolence. While these Jews were disputing, doubting, and deferring, their opportunities were slipping away. They talked as if their decision affected Jesus rather than themselves, as if the validity of his position depended on their assent, whereas it was the validity of their own position that came in question. Jesus was the Christ; he needed not to discuss that point among men, save as discussion made it clearer to them. And if men in their perversity chose to deny that Jesus was the Christ, assuredly they would get no other. We have to come to Jesus at last. We may think we have light among us, but if that light be darkness, then how great will that darkness be. We may be moving, but mere move-merit is not progress. Year after year finds no advance; we are older, that is all; but nothing nearer to the reward and crown of all true work.
II. WHAT MUST HAPPEN WHERE THE LIGHT OF JESUS IS TRULY USED. That light is not merely to exhibit what would otherwise be dark and hidden. Light comes that we may use our eyes, but use of eyes leads to use of hands and also use of feet. The word of Jesus here must be compared with his similar word in John 9., where he says, "The night cometh, when no man can work." The light of Jesus is given to us that we may make safe and speedy progress in all the activities of life. Thus we make the very best that can be made out of life's short opportunities. - Y.
Luke 16:8 the Lord Jesus contrasts with the children of this generation the sons of light. In this passage he holds out the prospect before those who believe on the Light that they will become sons of light. Paul, in Ephesians 5:8, admonishes Christians to walk as children of light, and in 1 Thessalonians 5:5 assures Christians that they are all sons of light. The designation is instructive and appropriate as indicating -
I. THEIR ORIGIN; FOR THE GOD OF LIGHT IS THEIR FATHER. God is Light; he is the Author of natural light, for he first said, "Let there be light: and there was light." He too "hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
II. THEIR ILLUMINATION; FOR CHRIST BY THE HOLY SPIRIT ENLIGHTENS THEM. In the forty-sixth verse it is recorded that Jesus said, "I am come a Light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me may not abide in the darkness." Not only does Christ as the Light of the world shine upon us in spiritual glory; but the Holy Spirit illumines the inner nature by opening the eyes of the understanding to perceive the truth and grace of heaven.
III. THEM CHARACTER; FOR THEY ARE LIGHT IN THE LORD. Christians possess the light of knowledge, distinguishing their state from the darkness of ignorance; the light of holiness, by which their condition contrasts with that of those who love and do the works of darkness; the light of happiness and spiritual joy, for they are delivered from the gloom of despondency and of fear.
IV. THEIR CALLING AND WORK; FOR THEIR MISSION IS TO SHINE UPON A BENIGHTED WORLD.
"Heaven doth with us as we with torches do - V. THEIR FINAL GOAL AND HOME; FOR THEY ARE PREPARING FOR AND HASTENING UNTO THE HEAVEN OF LIGHT. There is a sense in which this present state is the night, which is far spent; the day is at hand. The fullness of light is where God is in his glory, and where he purposes that his people shall be with him, and see his face. The prospect before the sons of light is none other than "the inheritance of the saints in light." - T.
V. THEIR FINAL GOAL AND HOME; FOR THEY ARE PREPARING FOR AND HASTENING UNTO THE HEAVEN OF LIGHT. There is a sense in which this present state is the night, which is far spent; the day is at hand. The fullness of light is where God is in his glory, and where he purposes that his people shall be with him, and see his face. The prospect before the sons of light is none other than "the inheritance of the saints in light." - T.
I. WHAT THEY DID. They believed, but did not confess. If they confessed not, how did John know their belief? We find the answer in a very common experience; people will say things in private which you never can get them to utter in public. The now numerous companions of Jesus would be in constant communication with the outside world. Thus they knew how there was really a great deal of secret admission that Jesus was the Christ. And this is just what we might expect. If Jesus did these things he is reported to have done, with ample means for knowing it by multitudes of people, then certainly many must have been convinced, whatever they did with their convictions. We are never to estimate the lodgment Jesus has in the minds of men just by the number who confess him. Many feel in their hearts that Jesus is right. They know that if only they were brave and resolute, and counted truth as dear a treasure as human heart can hold, then they would come out and be on his side. Those who know they ought to be Christians, and yet are not, must be very many indeed.
II. WHY THEY DID IT. John goes into the whole matter, right down to the bottom of it. There is the reason people themselves would be ready to give, and there is also the real reason deep underneath the surface. People would be quite willing to admit that they dare not risk being put out of the synagogue. To express it in modern language, they would be excommunicated. They would be shut out from certain religious privileges. The doorkeepers of the temple would have orders to turn them away. The Pharisees knew what they were doing when they sent out word that if any man confessed Jesus to be the Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Though they could not stop people from believing, they might stop them from confessing. Nothing considerable has ever been done for Jesus without stirring up a nest of hornets. But John knows there is a deeper reason than the fear of excommunication. Our attitude to Jesus is determined as much by what we love as by what we fear. Those who believed and did confess were drawn to Jesus by an irresistible affection. The same excommunication hung over them, but it did not deter. The disciples might not yet have come to the perfect love that casts out fear; but they knew this much - that faithful fellowship with Jesus was a pearl of great price, worthy to be kept, though in the keeping all visible possessions and temporal interests had to be surrendered. Love, not fear, must rule in our hearts, if we are to keep faithful to Jesus. Jesus himself was always above the threatenings of men, and he must lift his followers to the same elevation. When we really love Jesus, nothing can separate him from our love. Threats operating powerfully upon the man of this world never move the Christian.
III. THE RESULTS OF THIS SMOTHERED CONFESSION. Some present gain, but an incomparable future loss. The evil day has only been put off, to be more evil than ever. What most who hear the gospel need is courage and decision. And those who do confess had better look into things, and make sure that their confession is grounded in reality. It must not be a mere external and temporary consequence from the gregarious nature of mankind. We never can know the abiding gain without being ready for the passing loss. - Y.
peace, strength, and hope; and to the human life and lot meaning, stability, and grandeur. Without it, man is not truly man; with it, he is a son of God himself. Yet this faith is not easy to any of us; to multitudes it is, in their state, barely possible, perhaps not possible at all. God knows this, and pities our infirmity. Hence his interposition on our behalf, his revelation of himself to our ignorant, necessitous, and helpless souls. His mercy, his compassion, his Fatherly counsel, have provided for this emergency. The supreme manifestation of himself is not in lifeless matter or in living forms, is not even in the universal reason and conscience of mankind. He has come unto us, and spoken in our hearing, and made himself known to our spirits, in the Person of his Son. In him he appeals to us, summoning and inviting us to faith. No longer is he hidden from our sight, no longer distant from our heart.
I. CHRIST'S PRESENCE AMONG MEN IS THE PRESENCE OF GOD. This, indeed, is the meaning of the incarnation of our Lord. God's works we see on every side, proofs of "his eternal power and Godhead" - witnesses without which he has never left himself. But God himself no man hath seen at any time. Yet he would have us know him; not only know something about him, but know himself. Hence "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." He is "the Image of the invisible God," "the Brightness of his glory, and the express Image of his Person." Christ was conscious of this relation, and both assumed and declared it. Nowhere in language more definite and simple than here: "He that seeth me sooth him that sent me." What wants were met in this manifestation! One fancies the exiled Hebrew, panting forth his heart's deep want, exclaiming in religious fervor, "My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God! When shall I come and appear before God?" Some glimpse of his majesty and his grace the devout psalmist might hope to gain in the temple, which was the scene of his presence, his service, and his praise. But what language would that ardent spirit have found to express its wondering gratitude, could the vision of Immanuel have flashed upon it? One fancies the Athenian philosophers, "seeking the Lord, it haply they might feel after him and find him;" the Athenian poet, by a stretch of imagination and in a rapture of natural piety, rising to the conviction, "We are also his offspring." But what satisfaction, what joy, would have come to such hearts, yearning for the unknown God, had the Divine Man come to them, with the declaration of marvelous simplicity and grace, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father"! But this was a revelation, not only for saints and prophets, for sages and for poets, but for all mankind. When the husbandman hailed the rising sun, and the seaman gazed upon the steadfast pole-star, this question must have arisen - Is this the handiwork of God? When the father looked upon the lifeless form of his beloved child, what thought could soothe and temper the bitterness of his bereavement and his woe, except his confidence in the supreme Father's care and love? And when the old man came to die, what could light up the dark future into which he was hastening, save the uncreated light which comes from the unseen? In their manifold questionings and doubts, sorrows, infirmities, and fears, men have looked above, and we do not say they have not received some tokens of Divine sympathy and love; they have ' cued unto God with their voice," and he has heard and succored them. But how dim has been their vision! How faint their faith! How inarticulate the response which has reached them from afar! They would fain have believed; from many a soul went up the eager and intense inquiry, "Who is he, that I might believe?" Nothing did they so deeply desire as to see him, who is the Author of all being and the Arbiter of all destinies; but as they strained their vision, it was as those peering into the scarcely penetrable twilight, with eyes suffused with tears. Who can by searching find out God, or know the Almighty to perfection? Why this want was at once awakened, and allowed to remain so long unsatisfied, we cannot tell. It is one of those mysteries upon which eternity may shed some light; for time has little to yield. It is enough for us that "in the fullness of the time God sent forth his Son," that this Son of God is the one Object of human belief, the Center attracting the gaze of all eyes, and the love and reverence of all hearts. In human form, through human life and death, with human voice, God, the unknown, makes himself known to us; God, the unseen, makes himself visible to us. For we can believe on Christ, our Friend, our Brother; we can behold him, the human Immanuel. We greet him as he comes to us from heaven; we listen to him as he speaks to us in earthly language. For us the problem is solved, the chasm is bridged, the impossible is achieved; as Jesus says, "He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that sooth me sooth him that sent me." Some persons have found it hard to believe that "God was manifest in the flesh." But it seems far harder to believe that God was not in Christ, that Christ was not "God with us." It seems hard to imagine how otherwise we could be brought to realize the unspeakable nearness of our heavenly Father, how otherwise we could look into his face, recognize his voice, love him and delight in him. God is in nature; but can it be said, "He that believeth in physical law, that sooth material glory, believes in and beholds the Father above"? He spake by the prophets; but could Moses assert, or Elijah, "He that sooth me sooth him that sent me"? The incongruity must strike every mind; such language from human lips would send a shock through every Christian heart. There are good men living now; will the best of them stand up before the world, and, claiming to come from God, declare, "He that seeth me sooth him that sent me"? But how naturally do such words come from Jesus of Nazareth! How simple! How free from exaggeration and assumption] And how justly and confidently do many hearts rest in his Divine, his welcome, his precious, his authoritative assurance, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father"!
II. CHRIST'S WORDS ARE THE WORDS OF GOD. This is indeed the meaning of the ministry of Jesus, as a ministry of teaching. In the context this truth is brought out with special distinctness and power. "I have not," says the great Teacher, "spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak Whatsoever I speak, therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak." It is true that all human language is imperfect, and that, if it is not capable of expressing all the thoughts, and especially all the feelings of men: it is not reasonable to expect that it shall utter in completeness the mind of the infinite God. This objection is brought by some against a revelation in words - against the Bible itself. But it is no valid objection. Because the most high and eternal God cannot make himself fully known to man, inasmuch as no means by which he can communicate can do other than partake of human imperfection, shall he therefore refuse to commune with us at all? His fatherly pity will not consent to this. He "spake to the fathers by the prophets," and "in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son." And what words they are in which our Lord has addressed us! Who can believe them without believing the Father, who sent as Messenger his own honored and beloved Son? He is indeed "the Word," being, in his own faultless Person and sacred ministry, the very speech of the Divine mind, appealing to humanity with the summons, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." His words were true. Of himself he could speak as "a Man who telleth you the truth." The unbeliever may come to believe his words, and so to believe in himself; the Christian believes in him, and therefore receives his utterances with an unquestioning faith. On the highest themes, on themes of the deepest and most imperishable interest for man, Christ has spoken; and his words are final, never to be questioned, never to be disproved. His words are words of power. As he himself declared, "The words which I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." His words are immortal. "Heaven and earth," said he, "shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." His words are more than human; The officers were conscious of the authority of his teaching, when they returned and said, "Never man spake like this Man!"
III. CHRIST'S LOVE IS THE LOVE OF GOD. This is the meaning of the ministry of Jesus as a display of character and disposition, as a constant extension to men of healing, pardon, grace, and help. Our Savior struck the key-note of his ministry in the words he addressed to Nicodemus: "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." The worst evils which men suffer they inflict upon themselves; the greatest blessings which they experience are given them by God. How could men be convinced that God is a Savior? The best answer to this question is the fact that they have been so convinced by the mission and the ministry of Christ. As he "went about doing good;" as "he healed all manner of sickness and disease among the people;" as he pronounced to the contrite and believing sinner the gracious words, "Be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee!" - men felt, as they had never felt before, that God was visiting and redeeming his people. Human sorrow awakened the response of Divine sympathy, and human sin the response of Divine clemency and forgiveness. It was not the timely but casual interposition of a human friend; it was the one typical eternal intervention of a God. The ministry of our Redeemer in Judaea and in Galilee was the outward and visible sign of the unchanging pity of our Father's heart. It was "the acceptable year of the Lord," but it was a year that has no end. In Christ, the God of all grace is forever addressing mankind in the language of an unfailing gospel, and is saying, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins?
IV. CHRIST'S SALVATION IS THE SALVATION OF GOD. This is the meaning of Immanuel's death and sacrifice. What it is wished especially to draw from this passage, as elucidating redemption and salvation, is this - that in the cross of Christ we do not so much behold Christ reconciling us unto God, as God in Christ reconciling us unto himself. The gospel is the setting forth and publication in time of the great truth and reality of eternity - that God is a just God and a Savior. To believe in Christ is to believe in God's purposes of mercy; God's method of mercy; God's promise of mercy. What follows from the truths now stated? How do they practically affect us?
V. THE ACCEPTANCE OR REJECTION OF CHRIST IS THE ACCEPTANCE OR REJECTION OF GOD. These words were uttered at the close of our Lord's public ministry in Jerusalem, probably on the Wednesday of the Passion week. On the whole, Christ's teaching had met with unbelief and hostility. Pharisees and Sadducees had been rather silenced than convinced. Many of the chief rulers, indeed, believed on Jesus, yet they had not the courage and honesty to confess him. In this very chapter, whilst we read that "many believed" on Jesus, we are informed of others that "they believed not on him." It is clear that there was general interest in Christ's teaching and claims; but that those who acknowledged the Prophet of Nazareth as the Messiah were few and timid, whilst his opponents were bold and bitter and determined. It was the very crisis of our Lord's ministry. His "hour was come." The cycle of his public teaching and beneficence was complete. He had now only to lay down his life, and thus to carry out his fore-announced intentions, and to finish the work his Father had given him to do. And these words and those which follow are Christ's final testimony to the Jews. He sums up in a brief compass the truth concerning himself, and then the practical bearing of that truth upon his hearers. He has come from God. He has come, with Divine authority, as the world's Light, and as the world's Savior. He has come with everlasting life in his hands, as Heaven's choicest gift. Yet he sees around him, not only those who hear, believe, and receive him, but those also who reject him. It is not for him to judge; for he has come to save. But judgment awaits the unbeliever. And what is the witness which the compassionate Savior bears as his last solemn message to mankind? How does he bring home to their souls the awful responsibility of association with him, of enjoying a day of Divine visitation? He does this in this sublime statement, in which he identifies himself with the Father from whom he came. No one can disbelieve and reject him, can close the eye to his glory, without in so doing rejecting God, turning away from the sight of God, and stopping the ear against the voice of God. This was, and is, a truth at which men may well tremble. Here we are brought face to face with the great probation, the great alternative, of human life and destiny. Only those who are thoughtless or hardened can think of this truth without the deepest seriousness and solemnity. It may justly be said to men, "You have been so framed by the Divine Maker of all that you must either accept or reject him. In either case it must be your act, and you must be answerable for it. And there is no third course open to you; for not to acknowledge, honor, and trust the Christ of God, to be indifferent to him and to his salvation, - this is to spurn the most sacred privilege, to neglect the most precious opportunity with which God himself can favor you. It is to shut the eyes to the light of heaven; it is to disbelieve and to reject the eternal God himself." - T.
I. THE MISSION OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO FAITH.
1. Faith in the Son involves faith in the Father. "He that believeth on me, believeth not on me [only]."
(1) Christ reveals the Father as the supreme Object of faith. The Son as yet was a Revealer of the Father as the supreme Object of faith.
(2) His mission naturally and directly led faith to the Father.
(3) Faith in him was as yet a stepping-stone to faith in the Father. The introduction - the first resting-place of faith on her upward flight to the Supreme. There would be a time when Christ would be revealed as the special Object of faith; but now the Father is revealed as such, and the Revealer keeps in the background.
(4) Yet faith in Christ involves faith in the Father. No one can believe in Christ without believing in the Father. There is such an essential and official connection between the Sender and the Sent that faith in one involves faith in the other. When faith embraces the Son it finds the Father.
2. A spiritual vision of Christ involves a spiritual vision of the Father. "He that seeth me," etc.
(1) Christ is the express Image of his Person.
(2) The express Reflection of his character and attributes.
(3) The express Revelation of his will and purposes.
3. Faith in Christ alone made full faith in the Father possible.
(1) Knowledge is essential to faith. We must know God to some extent before we can exercise an intelligent faith in him. Indeed, appropriated knowledge is faith. "This is life," etc.
(2) Christ alone fully revealed God to mankind, and furnished them with knowledge concerning him. "I am come a Light into the world."
(3) Faith in Christ, as the Light, alone can result in faith in the object which it reveals. "That whosoever believeth on me," etc. The enjoyment of light can alone save us from darkness, and bring us face to face with the objects around us. The enjoyment of Christ by faith alone can bring us to enjoy the Father.
II. THE MISSION OF CHRIST IN' RELATION' TO UNBELIEF.
1. Unbelief develops itself in two ways.
(1) In attentive hearing but non-observance. (Ver. 47.)
(2) Entire rejection. (Ver. 48.)
2. Both these classes incur judgment.
(1) Not directly by Christ. "I judge him not."
(2) The primary purpose of Christ's mission was not judgment.
(3) Its primary purpose was salvation.
3. The unbeliever's judge is Christ's message. "The Word that I spake," etc.
(1) Judgment is the secondary result of Christ's Word. Its primary and natural result is eternal life. Man turns it into judgment by rejection. When it fails to save on account of unbelief it judges and condemns.
(2) The judgment of the Word is partly present. "He hath," etc. Now the unbeliever is condemned by his own reason and conscience, and in the light of the Word he is self-condemned.
(3) It is more suitable that the Word should judge now than if Christ were to do so. He could not directly judge and save at the same time. But his Word must condemn when it fails to benefit.
(4) The final and full judgment of the Word will be in the .future. "At the last day," etc. Then the judgment by the Word will be published, and reach its finality. The Word, like Christ, is unchangeable. The rejected Word will judge. It will be the same at the last day as now, and will deliver its final verdict.
III. THE MISSION OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO HIMSELF AND THE FATHER.
1. His mission was purely Divine.
(1) It was not self-derived. "I have not spoken of myself," etc. This in his case would be an impossibility, for he and the Father are one.
(2) It was not a mixture of the human and the Divine.
(3) It was purely the will of the Father.
2. His mission was minutely defined.
(1) It was embodied in a Divine command. (Ver. 49.)
(2) This command embraced the minutest details of his mission. "What I should say and speak," etc.
(3) This command was ever present to him in his inward consciousness, written as a law in his heart. It was the inspiration of every thought and the burden of every word. It was, in fact, a part of himself.
3. His mission was fully understood by him. "And I know," etc.
(1) Understood in its natural results. "Life everlasting."
(2) Understood in its awful importance. The fate of the human family hung on his message.
(3) Understood most absolutely. "I know." It is not "I think or believe."
4. His mission was most faithfully discharged.
(1) Without any additions.
(2) Without any deductions.
(3) With the most devoted fidelity. With regard to its substance and spirit, it was discharged with the greatest care. There was no partiality for favors, no evasions on account of frowns, no pandering to taste, no fishing for praise; there was no attempt to please any one but his Father.
IV. THE MISSION OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO ITS LAST PUBLIC NOTES.
1. There was intense earnestness. "He cried," and why?
(1) There was great danger. Judgment was at hand.
(2) There was a slight possibility to avert it. There was a little intervening time. It was brief, but must be used, and his message must be published.
(3) It was his last opportunity. His farewell sermon to the public.
2. A special effort is made. "He cried."
(1) He was intensely desirous to gain hearing and attention.
(2) He was intensely desirous to be understood.
(3) He was intensely desirous to be believed. Hence he did what was unusual for him - "he cried;" and the ministry to this day is the echo of that cry of Jesus. - B.T.