Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE VINE IN ITSELF IS A SUITABLE EMBLEM OF CHRIST. Its beauty, as planted, trained, or trellised; its grateful shade; its fruit, whether fresh and luscious or dried; its wine," that maketh glad the heart of man;" -all render it not only interesting, but suitable to set forth in symbol the excellence of the Redeemer, his nobility, beauty, preciousness, and use to man. Palestine was a land of vineyards: witness the grapes of Eshcol; Judah binding his foal to the vine, etc. Hence most naturally the vine was used in Old Testament Scripture as an emblem of the chosen nation, and hence Jesus in his parables put the noble plant to the same use. No wonder that our Lord applied to himself and to his people a designation so instructive.
II. THE VINE IS AN EMBLEM OF CHRIST, ESPECIALLY AS THE SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE.
1. He is the divinely appointed Root and Stem upon which the branches depend; the Superior with which they, the inferior, are related in dependence. The vine-stock survives even if the branch be cut off and left to die. We are dependent upon Christ; he is not dependent upon us.
2. A close and vital union joins the branches to the vine, and Christians to their Lord. The life which is naturally Christ's becomes ours through our union by faith with him.
3. Yet it is a mutual indwelling. As Jesus himself has said, "I in you; you in me." What condescension and kindness in this marvelous provision of Divine wisdom!
III. THE BRANCHES ARE INDEBTED TO THE VINE FOR THEIR FRUITFULLNESS; SO ARE CHRISTIANS TO THEIR LORD. The branches of the living vine evince the life and health of the plant first by their vigor, their verdure, their luxuriance, their comeliness; signs of spiritual life are manifested in the Church of God by the peace, the cheerfulness, the spiritual prosperity, of its members. But the great aim of the husbandman's care and culture is that fruit may be yielded in abundance. What shall we understand by spiritual fruit, the fruits of the Spirit?
1. Perfection of Christian character.
2. Abundance in Christian usefulness.
IV. THE TREATMENT OF UNFRUITFUL AND FRUITFUL BRANCHES FIGURES THAT OF THE NOMINAL AND THE REAL DISCIPLES OF CHRIST.
1. The cause of unfruitfulness is stated. "Severed from me ye can do nothing."
2. The doom of unfruitfulness is anticipated. To be cast out and burnt, like the vine-parings in the Kedron valley.
3. The condition of fruitfulness is mentioned. Close union with Christ.
4. The means of increased fruitfulness is also explained. Divine pruning and discipline, i.e. affliction and trouble tending to spiritual strength and fertility.
V. THE MOTIVES TO CHRIST-ABIDING AND FRUIT-BEARING ARE URGED. Stress is laid here upon two.
1. Thus the heavenly Husbandman, the Divine Father, is glorified.
2. Thus Jesus secures for himself true and worthy disciples. What powerful motives to induce Christians to be "neither barren nor unfruitful"! - T.
I. THE DIVINE HUSBANDMAN'S CARE OF THE VINE AND THE VINEYARD.
1. He plants the Vine. That is to say, he appoints that his own beloved Son shall assume our human nature, and shall introduce into this world the principle of spiritual life, with all its fruitful and blessed results.
2. He watches over the Vine which he plants. "I the Lord do keep the vineyard; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day" (Isaiah 27:3). As Jehovah cared for and tended the vine which was brought out of Egypt, for which he prepared room, and which he caused to take deep root, so that it filled the land; so he watched over and blessed "the true Vine" which he with his right hand planted in the soil of earth.
II. THE DIVINE HUSBANDMAN'S TREATMENT OF THE VINE-BRANCHES.
1. Of those which are unfruitful. As the worthless branches of the vine are removed, cast into the fire, and burned, so is it with the lifeless and only apparent members of the organism constituted in the Person and ministry of Jesus Christ. The fate of the Jews is the best illustration of our Lord's meaning; they were like a branch that brings forth wild grapes, bitter clusters.
2. Of those which are fruitful. It might be supposed that for such, seeing that they are the occasion of satisfaction, there can be no severity. But as the vine is always carefully, closely, and unsparingly pruned by the skilful gardener, so is it with the faithful and fruitful Christian. Divine discipline is a fact, and it is the best and indeed the only explanation of much of human suffering. Religion does not make the sorrows of life, but it explains them, and it gives strength to bear them, and wisdom to profit by them.
III. THE DIVINE HUSBANDMAN'S ULTIMATE PURPOSES.
1. The fruitfulness of all the living branches of the living Vine.
2. The promotion of his own glory; for the result is such as to bring out clearly the wisdom and the power of the Lord of all. - T.
I. CHRIST AS THE TRUE VINE. We have here:
1. The idea of an importation. It is a foreign vine, and not indigenous to this soil; for it is the "true Vine," and whatever is absolutely true must come from the other side, from the sphere where all is absolutely true and real. This world lost its truth when it severed itself by sin from heaven. Then this plant withered, and would not grow; but God left not the earth, but opened a new communication between it and heaven, and proceeded to create a new earth and a new heaven, and make all things new, a new life, a new vine, a new man - the germ of a new and true vegetation altogether. Jesus. as the true Vine, is evidently not entirely the produce of this world, but the produce of another clime and a Diviner Soil; but still the produce of a Diviner soil is transplanted and wedded to this, so as to make it most natural and real. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." The Divine vine was planted in the soil of humanity, so as to make it true, whether looked upon from the Divine or human point of view.
2. The fulfillment era natural symbol.
(1) Nature is full of Divine symbolism. In the mineral kingdom there are the pearl, the rock, and the stone; in the animal kingdom there are the lion and the lamb; in the material kingdom there are the stars and the sun: and in the vegetable kingdom there are the rose, the lily, and the vine. Judaism was a system of Divine symbolism, and shadows of good things to come; but there is an older, more original and permanent system of Divine symbolism than this - the system of nature, which is full and vital of Divine ideas, images, and shadows.
(2) Christ is the Fulfillment of all this. He is the Pearl of great price, the precious Stone, and the Rock of ages. He is the Star of Jacob and the Sun of Righteousness; the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Lamb of God; the Rose of Sharon, the Lily of the valleys, and the true Vine. He is the Truth of everything in nature which has in it the shadow of truth. He is the Truth of the vine. In him the natural vine finds the fulfillment of its prophecies - its highest meaning and Divinest significance.
(3) He is the real, and the only real, Fulfillment of this. Others tried, but failed. Israel, under the great Husbandman, had a trial. It was a vine, but failed to interpret and embody the vine-ideal - failed to speak the vine-language, and failed to live the vine-life. The vine still cried for a truer fulfillment and interpretation. Christ came and said, "I am the true Vine," and his Person, life, and history fully confirm his claim. The vine is satisfied and highly honored.
(1) This was his most distinguishing feature. The vine is a most fruitful plant. Its wood is not of much value. Apart from its fruition, it is insignificant; but its fruitfulness is marvelous. Think of Christ as Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter's Son; he appears as a. root out of a dry ground, without form or comeliness. But his glory was in his fruitfulness. He lived, not for himself, but for others - for God, for man, and for the universe.
(2) Fruitfulness of the highest kind and most satisfying nature. His fruit was Divine and spiritual, satisfying the spiritual nature of man. In this the natural vine is incomplete, and, compared with Christ, false; for nothing is absolutely true in relation to man which does not supply and satisfy the whole of his being. The vine can only partly supply and satisfy man's physical nature and wants; but Christ, in his vicarious life and death, satisfies his spiritual nature, and develops it into final perfection.
(3) Fruitfulness of the highest kind and most satisfying nature in abundance. Think of his earthly life in relation to God; in it was perfectly manifested obedience, filial love, and submission to the Divine will in all things. Think of his life in relation to men with whom he had to do; his. whole human life, from the cradle to the grave, was full of grace and truth - full of gracious words and mighty and benevolent deeds. Think of his representative and official life as the Author of salvation. As a Prophet, he shed Divine light on all subjects pertaining to God and man which are essential to his spiritual advancement and happiness. As a King, he reigned with authority, yet with equity and mercy within and in perfect harmony with the laws of the soul and those of God. And as a High Priest, he offered himself as an infinite atoning Sacrifice for the sins of the world. With this justice was satisfied, the Law honored, and all the Divine attributes crowned with glory and harmony; while the vilest of sinners plucked from the branches of the true Vine rich clusters - of pardon, justification, sanctification, spiritual life, as well as every reviving and comforting grace. And there is abundance for all.
(4) Fruitfulness which makes all connected with him fruitful. The vine is a propagating and diffusive plant, and sends its branches forth on the right and left. It is difficult to know how many branches even a single stalk, by proper dressing and cultivation, is capable of supporting and making fruitful. Jesus, the true Vine, has sufficient life and sap to incorporate in himself, by faith, all the human family, and make them spiritually alive and fruitful. He sends forth his branches to every part of the globe; and they climb up and creep even over the wails of the heavenly city, and drop there their rich clusters of fruit.
II. THE FATHER AS THE HUSBANDMAN. "And my Father," etc. We have here:
1. Divine ownership. The husbandman is not always the owner of the vine; but in this case he is. He is the Owner and the Husbandman. Christ, the true Vine, confesses this with delight. The Vine owns the branches and the fruit; but the Divine Husbandman owns the Vine altogether. "We are Christ's but Christ is God's."
2. Divine and closest relationship. "My Father," etc. There is more than mere ownership here - the closest and dearest relationship. The Son and the Father are one, in nature, essence, life, purposes, and will; so that between Jesus as the Vine and his Father as the Husbandman there is the closest unity, and a relationship which cannot exist in any other 'husbandry.
3. Divine cultivation. Much depends upon proper cultivation with regard to the prosperity and fruition of the vine. This requires a good husbandman. If left to itself, undressed and uncultivated, deterioration and even barrenness will soon follow. The "true Vine" will not suffer on this account; it has not been left to strangers and to the fortunes of mere self-interest, but is under the constant and tender and most efficient care of the Divine Father. No one knows but Christ himself what he owes, in his mediatorial life and work, to the Father; to him he attributes his all - his life, his success, his support, triumph, and glory. He refers here to his union with the Father as a most important fact. "My Father is the Husbandman." The true Vine has a true Husbandman; this will ensure for the Vine and the branches the highest cultivation and the most glorious results. - B.T.
I. THE STATEMENT OF CONNECTION BETWEEN JESUS AND HIS PEOPLE. The connection is neither nominal nor artificial; it is a living union. The life of our Lord goes out to us every day. He is full of the noblest life - that which is nourished and developed by Divine love; and because he lives, we are to live also. There is to be the most entire community of life between Jesus and us; his affairs are our affairs, and our affairs are his affairs. He is interested in all of us. No step we take but he regards it with anxious eye; no true success we gain but what gladdens him as much as it gladdens us. He loves us all, the worst as well as the best. The true mother has a tender heart for all her children; for the stubborn, headstrong boy as much as the docile and yielding one; for the vain and giddy daughter as much as the quiet and gentle. All are in the family, and so are we. Sometimes we play sad havoc with the profession of believers in Christ Jesus. Some very sour grapes appear on our particular branch. But Christ will be very patient with us. He who is long-suffering with the fruitless fig tree will be long-suffering with the fruitless branch.
II. WE MUST LABOR TO CONTINUE IN THIS CONNECTION.
1. We are to receive Jesus altogether. It will not do to take what we like and reject what we like. We must receive him in every relation which he declares himself to sustain to us. We are not to say, when we come across any hard saying, that it must be practically expunged because we cannot understand it. The real hardness is not in the sayings; it is in our own heart. Time and a change of experience make a difference in many of our impressions; and we alter, while Jesus and the Scriptures remain the same. There is a softening of the stony heart, a susceptibility to the powers of the world to come. When we feel the need of Jesus, there is no difficulty about taking him just as be is.
2. There must be constant communion. The first act of real prayer makes the first step towards this. A prayerless life means a life without Christ, without faith, without work, without consistency. On such a branch the husbandman looks with suspicion. Christ wants to shine out in the life, so that people may say the branch is worthy of the trunk. He cannot bless us without our consent, or without our active approach to him.
III. THE ULTIMATE RESULT OF THIS UNION. The more we abide in Christ the more he abides in us, and then the constant and powerful influx of his energy causes a great putting out of fruit. Just as the sap from the trunk makes every day a difference in the branch, causing it to shoot forth twigs, and buds, and leaves, and flowers, so the presence of Christ in our souls makes us to grow and to manifest the fruit of that presence. - Y.
doctrine ye can do nothing;" important though it is that Christian people should apprehend and receive his truth. Nor does he say, "Apart from my Church ye can do nothing;" though, if we understand the term "Church" aright, this would be manifestly true. But he says, "Apart from me." Christ is, then, himself everything to his people. He is the Power, the Wisdom, the Salvation, of God, and consequently, could we be sundered from him, we should be rendered poor and powerless.
I. TO BEAR FRUIT, IS THE END OF TRUE RELIGION, AND THE RESULT AND PROOF OF SPIRITUAL LIFE. When substituted for faith, "doing" is bad; but when it is the effect of faith, it is good and precious. Where do we look for evidence of the goodness of the tree? Is it not sought in fruit, good fruit, much fruit? The doing, or fruit-bearing, here commended by the Lord Jesus, is the performance of the will of God, is the imitation of the Master's own example, is the fulfillment of the behests of an enlightened conscience. It comprises personal holiness and active usefulness.
II. SEVERANCE FROM CHRIST RENDERS MEN POWERLESS FOR GOOD WORKS. The conduct and service which are distinctively Christian are only possible through personal union with the Savior.
1. This assertion places in a clear light the unequalled dignity of the Lord Jesus. This is a declaration which none but he could make. Yet, being the Son of God and the Source of spiritual life to men, he could justly advance a claim so vast. The disciple is nothing without his master, the servant nothing without his lord, the soldier nothing without his commander, the hand nothing without the head, the Christian nothing without Christ.
2. This assertion brings out into clear light the absolute dependence of Christians. Without our Lord's teaching and example, we, should have no conception of the highest moral excellence. Without his love, we should not feel the mightiest motive that can influence the soul to consecration and service. Without his mediation, we should not enjoy the favor of God, our Ruler and Judge. Without his Spirit, we should be strangers to the spiritual power which alone can enable feeble man to do the will of God. Without his promises, we should lack the encouragement and inspiration we need to cheer us amidst the difficulties, perplexities, and trials from which no earthly life is ever exempt. Without him, there would be no deliverance from the bondage of sin, and no prospect of what is truly the eternal life. "Neither," says Peter, "is there salvation in any other."
III. UNION WITH CHRIST IS THEREFORE UNSPEAKABLY PRECIOUS, AND FOR THE CHRISTIAN ABSOLUTELY NEEDFUL. As to the nature of this connection, there should be no misunderstanding. External privileges and professions are all insufficient. A spiritual and vital union is necessary, such as in the vegetable kingdom joins the branch to the vine-stock, such as in architecture unites the temple to its foundation. This union is effected on the human side by a believing reception of the gospel of Christ; on the Divine side by the impartation of the quickening Spirit of God. Such union is capable of increase in degree; a closer spiritual fellowship with the Divine Redeemer is the means of increased fitness for holy and acceptable service. The experience of the Apostle Paul was an illustration of this principle. He could say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me." He who would work more diligently, and wait more patiently, must come nearer to Christ, and so obtain the spiritual power he needs.
1. If this union with the living Vine be not formed, let it be formed at once.
2. If it be suspended or enfeebled, let it be renewed.
3. If it be existing and vitally active and energetic, let it be prized and cultivated. - T.
I. IN ITS NATURE AND SOME OF ITS LEADING FEATURES.
1. It is spiritual It is not physical and material, neither is it based on the same principles as the unions of this world, which are carnal and corrupt; but the principles of this union are spiritual, such as love, faith, and hope. It is the union of the human with the Divine, the spirit of man with the great Father of spirits - the union of life with life - the life of the soul with the life of the Savior, by faith and a Divine birth. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power," etc.
2. It is vital and real. It is not the union of a stone with a stone in a building, nor the union of an atom with an atom in a material body, but the union of life as that of the vine and the branches, the union of believing souls with the Almighty Savior, and that of living spirits with the ever-living Christ. It is real, though on the part of believers at best imperfect. It is not imaginary, but a fact - as real in spiritual growth as the union of the vine and branches in natural growth.
3. It is mutual. As the vine and the branches. Mutuality underlies and conditions every union. There is mutual affinity, adaptation, and willing consent. There is in this union a willing blending of Divine and human life and energies. It is mutual, and mutual conditions must be observed. Both are dependent on each other; but with this difference - the branches are more dependent on the vine than the vine on the branches; a branch may wither and fall, or be lopped off, but another will grow instead. The disciples are more dependent on Christ than he on the disciples. He will have other disciples, but they will never have another Savior.
4. It is natural. It is the natural consequences of things; as natural as the union of the vine and branches. The vine is in the branches, and the branches are the natural outgrowth of the vine. Christ is the Life and Support of believers, and they are the natural outgrowth of Christ. The union is not arbitrary, but according to the laws of spiritual growth. A vine without branches, and the great Teacher without disciples, would be unnatural; but the vine and the branches, and Christ and believers in real union, is most natural and beautiful.
5. It is very near. No union can be nearer than that between the vine and the branches. It is apparently and more permanently near than that of parents and children. The children may leave the parents and form other connections, and still go on in prosperity. But this can never happen with regard to the vine and the branches. Such is the union between Christ and believers. It is so near that they are ever in him and he in them, imparting to them his grace and Spirit in a continual flow, and through them carries on his grand purposes of love and salvation.
II. IN ITS IMPORTANCE. This will appear if we consider:
1. That this union is essential to fruit-bearing. "As the branch cannot bear fruit, except it abide," etc.; "Without me ye can do nothing."
(1) There is no spiritual life. There can be no life when it is disconnected with its only Source and Author.
(2) There is no spiritual support. Life must be supported ere it can thrive and be healthy. Apart from Christ there is no support and nourishment for the soul.
(3) There is no true inspiration. The very principle and stimulus of spiritual life is wanting; the very breath of it is gone.
(4) There is no real fruit. Luscious, strengthening, healing, and reviving grapes are the real fruits of the vine. Life-giving and inspired actions are the fruits of the soul united with Christ; but, apart from him, these are not merely absent, but impossible. "Ye can do nothing." Apart from him, we are ciphers in relation to the spiritual world, however active we may otherwise be.
2. Fruit-bearing is the essential consequence of vital union with Christ. "The same beareth much fruit." Let the condition be faithfully observed - abiding in him - and the consequence will inevitably follow. It would be as easy for the stream to cease to flow while the fountain springs, or for the earth to be in darkness while the sun is in its meridian splendor, as for believers to be barren while in living union with Christ. And this is all-important. If the branches fail in fruitfulness, they fail in all that is valuable; and so with regard to man.
3. Discontinuance of this union is attended with the most terrible consequences. "If any man abideth not in me, he is cast forth," etc. This implies:
(1) The awful possibility of being connected with Christ and yet be severed from him. This is illustrated by the vine and the branches. Many a branch, after bearing some fruit and long connection, becomes entirely withered and barren. In relation to the true Vine Judas was a striking instance of such a branch.
(2) The cause of this severance is in the disciple, and not in the Master. "If any man abide not in me," etc. It is not said, "If I will not abide in him." This must follow at last but as the effect. The cause of the withering is not in the vine, for other branches are still flourishing and fruitful, and it retains the withered one till it falls of itself, or is lopped off by the dresser; and even then a wound is left behind which will take some time to heal. This is true of the "true Vine." Look how he retained Judas till he left of his own accord; and Jesus on this account was often sorrowful. The cause of the sad severance is entirely in man, and the blame and responsibility are his.
(3) This severance is attended with terrible consequences. "They gather them, and cast them into the fire," etc. The terrible process is gradual - the unfruitfulness, the withering, the casting forth, the gathering, the casting into the fire, and the final burning; but, although gradual, it is certain. In relation to Christ as to the vine, it is the natural and inevitable consequence of the discontinuance of union with him. It is spiritual failure, waste, and destruction. Hence the supreme importance and duty of continued and unbroken union with him.
III. IN ITS HAPPY RESULTS. Consider these:
1. In relation to believers.
(1) The highest end of being is attained. The highest end of the branches is fruitfulness. The highest end of man's being is the same, and is attainable in vital union with Christ, and thus alone. "The same beareth much fruit."
(a) It is visible and practical. It is fruit, the visible evidence of a Divine union and life, and is embodied in a useful form, in holy thoughts, devotional aspirations, and noble deeds - deeds of faith and charity; self-sacrificing deeds, which glorify God and benefit man.
(b) It is genuine in quality. It is fruit, the real outgrowth of the soul in union with Christ, and the same in quality as the fruit of Christ himself, and fit for use.
(c) It is great in quantity. "Much fruit." The soul is developed into its utmost capacities, and this is genuine fruition, the highest end of life, and the happy result of union with him who is the Life.
(2) Complete success in prayer. "Ask whatsoever ye will," etc. United with him, we pray in him. When we really pray in him, our petitions are according to his will, and in the interest of the highest end of our spiritual being. All these will certainly be answered. Union with Christ ensures to the soul all spiritual blessings. "Ask. and ye shall receive."
(3) Complete and permanent discipleship. "And so shall ye be my disciples." Union with Christ results in fruit-bearing, and fruit-bearing results in permanent discipleship. "So shall ye be," etc. Not probationers, but full disciples; not only in name, but in reality; not for a time, but for ever. This is a high honor and an inestimable privilege, to be under the direct and constant tuition of the Master, and within the circle of his guidance, light, and love, now and forever.
2. In relation to the Father. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye," etc. The Vinedresser is glorified, honored, and satisfied by the fruitfulness of the vine; his heart is gladdened at the time of vintage. The Father, as the Husbandman of the "true Vine," is specially glorified when the branches bear fruit, and much fruit. The greater the fruit, the greater is his glory and joy; he is infinitely happy to see his labor not in vain, his fatherly love, watchfulness, and expense are not for naught, but return with interest in fruitful branches. He rejoiceth over one sinner that repenteth, over one branch bearing a single fruit; what must be his over the "much fruit "? Our greatest good is inseparably connected with his greatest glory.
3. In relation to Christ. "So shall ye be my disciples." Complete discipleship is a great honor and blessing to the believer; fruitful discipleship is a great satisfaction and joy to Jesus. The branches bear fruit through the vine, and the vine through the branches. The disciples bear fruit through Christ, and Christ bears fruit through them; their fruit is really his. It is through them chiefly he blesses and saves the world; they are the mediums of his love and life, and in them he sees the travail of his soul, and is satisfied. They are proud of him, and he is proud of them, and refers to them with delight as his disciples; so that the Husbandman, the true Vine, and the branches together reap the benefit of, and are highly satisfied with, the happy results of the happy union.
1. This union on the part of Christ is perfect. Its bases are perfect, and its conditions are perfectly fulfilled. Its discontinuance will never happen on account of any lack in him as the true Vine, or in his Father as the Husbandman.
2. On our part it is as yet imperfect. It is at best and of necessity so. We are imperfect beings, and perfection under the best conditions and advantages is not attainable at once.
3. To make this union perfect is our most solemn duty, and demands our best effort. For it is all-important, involves our highest interest, and by neglect is in danger of being destroyed. In vain we attempt to realize the end of our existence - fruit-bearing - apart from him. Our solemn duty is, by diligent faith, watchfulness, and prayer, to abide in him, and all besides will follow. - B.T.
I. PAST SATISFACTION. How Jesus here lifts up his disciples by a recognition of the good thing in them! The Father loved the Son; found in Jesus of Nazareth what he could not find in any other being of flesh and blood. And so the Son loved his disciples, finding in them a spirit of obedience and recognition of himself which promised great results in due season. To us it may seem as if Jesus must have been painfully impressed with the faults of his friends. In many things they were so ignorant and slow of heart; in many things their motives were so narrow and unworthy. But, with all their faults, they were fundamentally true; better far than Pharisees; better far than the common run, who as yet followed Jesus only when they could get the loaves and be filled. And so Jesus loved them for this. What a view this gives us of the aspect of Jesus towards men! All are sinners and need salvation; they are loved with the love of pity; they have their share in that great declaration concerning God's love to the world (John 3:16). But, so far as inclination towards God is concerned, all are not equally loveless; some are near the kingdom, like that man on whom, when Jesus looked, he loved him. These disciples still had far to go and many difficulties to overcome; but surely it was no small matter to have reached the happy stage when Jesus could say that, as the Father loved him, so he loved them. Look into the expression, and you will see it is a very strong, encouraging, appreciative one.
II. PAST MINISTRY OF JESUS TO HIS LOVED ONES. The love of the Father to the Son was not an empty sentiment. The Son being what he was, he became the Agent of a compassionating omnipotence to do good to men. The Father's love to the Son was proved by what he did for him and through him. But the Father could not have done these things for and through anybody. He could not have done through a Moses, or an Elijah, or a John the Baptist, what he did through a Jesus. And as the Father found what he wanted in the Son, so the Son found what he wanted in his disciples. As the Father loved the Son, so the Son loved the disciples; and as the Father ministered to the Son, so the Son ministered to the disciples. The Son was willing and able, to the full, to receive the fatherly ministry; and in like manner the disciples were sufficiently able to receive the ministry of Jesus, to make it possible for him to speak with such complacency of them. They listened to his teaching; they left their home and work and went about with him; and so Jesus had been able to do something for and in them, more indeed than as yet distinctly appeared to any one but himself.
III. THE CONDITION OF CONTINUED AND RICHER MINISTRY. What good the disciples would get out of Jesus in new and altogether different circumstances depended upon themselves. Jesus would be the same, in disposition and in power; the question remained, would they give him the opportunity? What a thought, that the overflowing love of Jesus, meant to direct so much power and wisdom, should be serviceable to us just as we choose to make it so! A spirit of docility, obedience, and constant expectation would open up to us treasures of heavenly loving-kindness beyond anything we at present possess. The key, so to speak, is with us, yet we notice it not; and meanwhile the lock is getting all stiff for want of frequent use. To know the full riches of Divine love, we must live as Jesus would have us study to live. - Y.
I. THE ELEMENTS OF OUR SAVIOR'S JOY. His was:
1. The joy of self-sacrifice, which is unknown to the world, but of which Jesus has given us the one sublime example.
2. The joy of benevolence. He lost himself in those for whom he lived and died; their salvation was the inspiration of his endurance and the joy of his anticipation.
3. The joy of harmony with the Father's purpose and of securing the Father's approval.
II. THE IMPARTATION OF OUR SAVIOR'S JOY.
1. It comes through the identification of the disciples, through faith, with the Master.
2. It consists in living sympathy with his mind and purposes.
3. It increases and is fulfilled through their active employment in his service. The joy of the Lord is commenced in fellowship of labor, and consummated in the vision and recompense of heaven.
III. THE SUPERIORITY OF OUR SAVIOR'S JOY. If it is contrasted with the joy of the worldly and sinful, such a comparison will bring out its immeasurable superiority.
1. For it is joy dignified and worthy of a moral and spiritual nature, whilst worldly joy is largely that of the inferior part of our being.
2. It is satisfying, whilst he that drinketh of the springs of earth thirsts again.
3. It is eternal, being not only progressive upon earth, but consummated in heaven. "Earth's joys grow dim, its glories fade away." But Christ's joy is the joy which is immortal. - T.
I. THEIR DIFFERENCE.
1. One is the fountain; the other is the stream. All the joy of the disciples sprang from his. Apart from his joy there would be none for them. Although there is an inseparable connection between the fountain and the stream, between the cause and effect, between the sun and its light and heat, between the joy of Jesus and that of his disciples, yet there is a distinction, and such a one that the fountain will ever be a fountain, and the stream will ever be a stream. The joy of Jesus will ever be his own, and that of the disciples will ever be theirs as the stream from the fountain of joy.
2. One is independent; the other is not. The joy of Jesus, which was specially his own, was independent of that of his disciples; but theirs was dependent on his, as the stream is dependent on the fountain, and the branches on the vine. The sun would be a sun if all the planets were blotted out and all the stars fell. So much cannot be said of the planets and stars if the sun were extinguished. Jesus had a joy which was absolutely his own. As he had a glory with the Father before the world began, so he had joy which he could not but experience apart from human consequences and relationships. But the disciples had no such joy; theirs was dependent on, as it was derived from, his.
3. One is infinitely capacious; the other is not. It is finite. Jesus' joy, like himself, was infinite. No vessel can hold more than its fill. Thus the joys of men differ in degree according to their different capacities. The Divinity of Christ, the greatness and vastness of his work, the glory and dignity of his Person, and the perfection of his character, made him capable of infinite and boundless joy, compared with which the greatest joy of the most perfect disciple would be but a drop to the ocean, a ray to the sun, and an atom to the universe.
4. One is ever full; the other is not. The joy of Jesus was absolutely full and complete - a continual flow with- out an ebb. True, he was "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." But this was not his own. "Surely he bore our griefs," etc. His soul was continually joyous, and his nature continually happy. And now, when his earthly work was not actually completed, with the terrible battle and more than human pain before him, his soul was full of joy. The sorrow and grief were only waves on the surface, and dashing on the human side of his being; but down in the depths of his nature there was only joy in all its serenity, purity, and fullness. But not so the joy of the disciples. It was essentially incomplete. Only a spark, a flickering flame, already threatened with extinction by his departure.
II. THEIR SAMENESS. Although distinct, so as to be spoken of separately as "my joy" and "your joy," yet there is a similarity and a sameness.
1. They are the same in nature. The stream is of the same nature as the fountain, the drop as the ocean, the fruit as the tree. The joy of the disciples is of the same nature as that of Jesus.
2. They are the same in effect. Joy as an emotion is, pleasant, buoyant, happy, and inspiring. These were its effects in Jesus, and in a degree in his disciples. In the degree they experienced it, it made them happy in trouble, hopeful in sorrow, buoyant in depressed circumstances, and joyous even in tribulation. Pure joy is the same in its effects in the heart of the creature as in that of the Creator, in the heart of the disciple as in that of his Master.
3. They are the same in their sources. What were the sources of Jesus' joy, or what joy was his?
(1) The joy of conscious union with his Father. He was ever conscious of this. It never left him, even in the darkest hour and severest trials. "Ye shall leave me alone: but I am not alone, because the Father," etc. This ever filled him with confidence and joy.
(2) The joy of perfect obedience. Obedience to his Father's will and commands, loyalty to his Father's throne, and consecration to his Father's work.
(3) The joy of perfect love. Love to his Father, to his disciples, and love of compassion to the world. The central passion of his heart and the ruling law of his nature was love, and this inevitably produced joy and happiness. His obedience was happy and joyous. It was the obedience of love. He could say, "Lo, I come to do," etc. It was delightful to come and do the Divine will while the law was in his heart of love. There is no joy without love; and in the degree we love we are joyous.
(4) The joy of perfect self-sacrifice. The love of Christ was not of the ordinary kind, but of the highest kind - the greatest and most disinterested, resulting in the greatest self-sacrifice. And the greater the self-sacrifice the greater the joy. In Christ both were perfect.
(5) The joy of unswerving confidence of triumph and success. He never had the least doubt as to the ultimate success of his mission and the result of his coming, although no one was ever so severely tried. His own rejected and crucified him; but, in spite of this, his joy was unruffled, his happiness was unmarred, and his confidence in God, and the justice and success of his cause, was unshaken. These were the sources of his joy; and they are the sources of the joy of all his followers - the joy of union with him and the Father, of obedience to him and his commands, of love to him and each other, of self-sacrifice even to suffering and death for him, and of perfect conviction of the righteousness of their cause, the rectitude of their principles, and complete triumph at last. Thus the joy of the disciples and that of the Master proceeded from the same fountain. Although one is a small stream and the other a sweeping Amazon, yet they spring from the same sources, and flow on through parallel channels to the same ocean of infinite joy.
III. THE PERFECTION OF THE DISCIPLES' JOY.
1. The perfection of their joy was not yet attained. This could not be expected. They were young disciples, ignorant and imperfect. Their training was as yet only partial, and there were intervening severe trials. Their Master was about to leave them by death; and their permanent Teacher and Sanctifier, the Holy Spirit, had not yet fully come. Between his departure and the coming of the Spirit there was sadness. They were doubtless greatly surprised at his speaking of his joy and theirs at such an hour; still they had the elements of spiritual joy to an extent they had not yet realized. The development of these was necessarily gradual, and as yet incomplete.
2. The perfection of their joy was attainable. "That my joy may be in you, and that," etc. This was to be attained:
(1) By continual realization of their union with him. This union was made. It was a glorious fact. They had only to continue it and realize it in a greater degree. And with increased realization of the union there would be an increase of joy - the joy of being connected with a Divine life, the joy of infinite care and support. Christ rejoiced at his union with the disciples, and they ought to rejoice at theirs with him. If it was a source of joy to the Bridegroom to be united with a poor bride, certainly it ought to be a greater source of joy to the bride to be united with such an infinitely rich and kind Bridegroom.
(2) By continual participation of his joy. "That my joy may be in you;" not about or near, but in them as a perennial well of living water. His joy was full and perfect, and it was ever at their disposal; and they are invited to partake of it, as the branches partake of the life and sap of the vine. And his words and promise are as telegraphic wires to convey the messages of his love to the soul; as golden pipes to convey the wine of his life, joy, and fellowship to the heart. Joy was in him in inexhaustible fullness. And his disciples are to be filled with joy by continual participation of his fullness, and the more they take the more they will get.
(3) By careful imitation of his example. "That my joy may be in you, and that your joy," etc. In him they found an Example which was most perfect, helpful, and inspiring. In one sense his joy in relation to believers is a specimen, and a most efficient help to procure the same themselves. He helps them that they may help themselves, and make their own spiritual fortunes. He pointed out to his disciples the founts of happiness, and revealed to them by precept and example the path of duty as the only path of real joy. Let them tread it as he trod it. Let them abide in him as he abode in his Father. Let them obey as he obeyed, love as he loved, self-sacrifice as he self-sacrificed; then his joy would be in them, and theirs would be fulfilled in him and in themselves. His joy would be theirs, and still his own; his own, and still practically theirs. The joy of the Master is fulfilled in that of the disciple, and that of the disciple in the Master.
3. The perfection of joy, although partially attained now, is fully attained in the future. Christians of all ages have experienced this joy in a high degree; and even the sorrowful disciples, a short time after this, left the Sanhedrin with bleeding flesh, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ's Name. They sang in prisons, and even in the most painful death. But this joy cannot reach perfection here, for its perfection wilt be the perfection of religion, and the crown of life, which cannot be fully attained but under heavenly and fixed conditions; when the union between Christ and the believing soul will be complete; when the tortuous stream shall at last reach the ocean, and the joyous disciple shall enter into the joy of his Lord.
4. The perfection of their joy now was Jesus chief concern. "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy," etc. lie was specially anxious, not merely that they should enjoy him, but that they should enjoy him in the highest sense, in the fullest measure, and in the most inspiring, cheering, and effective way. "That my joy may be in you." He does not bequeath unto them sorrow. He takes that upon himself, and gives them his joy. He makes an exchange - gives his disciples his joy, and bears their grief. They have the advantage. All he said and did was that they may realize his happiness, and make it practically their own, and fulfill it in their own experience, even to perfection.
1. There is no pure and lasting joy apart from Jesus. Every other joy is false, empty, and transient, unworthy of man as an immortal being, and will end in sorrow. In union with him alone there is real joy.
2. The religion of Jesus is a religion of pure joy. To charge it with being melancholy is utterly false. The religion of man is a melancholy one, but that of Jesus is ever joyous. The new birth is a circumstance of joy. The marriage of the soul to the merciful Savior is a source of ecstatic delight. Its sorrow is only accidental and for a season, its joy is essential and eternal. And there is joy even in its sorrow, songs in its sighs, and heaven in its tears. If it begins in a sigh, it ends in an eternal song.
3. Let us make our life joyous by a living union with the ever-joyous Savior. Let us abide in his love, appropriate his joy; then duty will be delightful, and life ever musical, and will naturally melt at last to that fullness of joy which is at his right hand, and the everlasting pleasures of his presence. - B.T.
I. CHRIST'S FRIENDSHIP TOWARDS HIS PEOPLE IS A WONDERFUL FACT, DECLARED BY HIMSELF. The wonder is apparent when we consider who we are; when we reflect that we are poor, sinful, and helpless beings, who could not, apart from his assurances, venture to claim or to hope for the friendship of Christ. For who is he? Jesus is not merely the best of beings; he is the Son of God. It is hard for us to realize that "God is Love." But in the Person of Christ the eternal and supreme Lord comes down to our level, walks our way, dwells on our earth, reveals to us his love. He is the friend, the Well-wisher, of sinners; he is the Friend, in a fuller sense, of those who know and love him. If this is a wonderful truth, it is also a delightful truth.
II. CHRIST'S FRIENDSHIP IS PROVED BY HIS INTIMACY AND HIS CONVERSATIONS. Men's talk with one another often indicates their relationship. There is conversation which is ordinary and casual, and there is conversation which is confidential and intimate. There is the speech of acquaintances, upon common subjects; there is the speech of the master to the servant, conveying orders; there is the speech which is distinctive of close and affectionate friendship, upon matters of personal interest and concern. Now, the intimacy between the Divine Father and the Divine Son is of the most confidential and unreserved nature. The Son is "in the bosom" of the Father, i.e. is in possession of the counsels and feelings of his mind; he is "one" with the Father. it is very observable that, according to our Lord's own declaration, he, having perfect knowledge of the Father's thoughts, communicates those thoughts to his people. As the Father has no secrets from the Son, so the Son has no secrets from his disciples. This is a conclusive proof of our Lord's friendship for us. He makes known to us "all things" which the Father purposes that bear upon our salvation and eternal life. This accounts for the unexampled power of our Lord's language, its sublimity, its tenderness, fits authority. The words of the Redeemer are the communications of his friendship, the tokens of his brotherly love. To the unspiritual and unsympathetic, Christ's words are now, as they were when they were first spoken, uninteresting and without value. But the true friends of Jesus feel their sweetness and their might; applied by the Spirit of God, they are the lessons, the counsels, the promises, of a Divine and faithful Friend. How could he better prove his friendship than by revealing to us in his words the thoughts and the purposes of the Father's heart? There is one way even more effective, and this our Lord describes.
III. CHRIST'S FRIENDSHIP IS FURTHER PROVED BY HIS SELF-SACRIFICING BENEVOLENCE. Self-denial is a recognized element in true love and friendship. Men are found willing to give up money, time, rank, etc., for the benefit of their friends. But it is the highest proof of love when one is found ready to resign life to secure the life of a friend. "Peradventure for a good man one would even dare to die." This is the proof of self-sacrificing friendship which the Lord Jesus was resolved to give. He laid down his life for the sheep. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Jesus not only gave us knowledge by his teaching; he gave us salvation by his death. This willing sacrifice was in order to win our hearts, to make us his friends indeed, to bring to bear upon our nature a spiritual, principle and power, to bind us to himself for ever by the chains of gratitude and devotion.
IV. CHRIST'S FRIENDSHIP IS PROVED BY HIS WHOLE DEMEANOR AND HIS WHOLE TREATMENT OF US NOW THAT HE HAS ASCENDED. In his ministry he taught us, by his death he saved us, in his mediatorial life he blesses us. He is a sympathizing Friend, touched with a feeling of our infirmities. He is a forbearing and patient Friend, who is not repelled by the imperfect response he meets with on our part. He is a practical and helpful Friend, who expresses his friendship in deeds and spiritual ministrations. He is an unchanging and eternal Friend. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" - T.
I. OUR FRIENDSHIP FOR CHRIST IS SHOWN IN THE FEELINGS OF OUR HEARTS TOWARDS HIM.
1. We admire his character. In varying degree we admire the principles, the dispositions, the conduct, of our earthly friends. But inasmuch as there is no imperfection in the character of Immanuel, there is no qualification in our love towards him.
2. We are attracted by the congeniality of his nature. There is a "drawing" of heart towards him, which originates in some sympathy of disposition, and which issues in a more complete sympathy.
3. We delight in his society. Great was the privilege of the chosen twelve, who were permitted to enjoy the company of their Lord during his earthly ministry. But this fellowship is a privilege open to us, who, not having seen Jesus, yet love him. The above are ordinary manifestations of friendship. But the relation between Jesus and his people is unique, and evokes feelings altogether special. Thus:
4. We revere his Divine dignity and glory. This is growingly apprehended with growing knowledge of Christ and with growing conformity to Christ. As we approach a mountain we realize its magnitude; the nearer we draw to Christ, the more majestic and venerable does he appear to our spiritual vision.
5. We are grateful for his love and sacrifice. Gratitude does not enter as an element into ordinary human friendship, which is rather interfered with than promoted by obligations. But our indebtedness to the Lord Jesus is immeasurable, and gives its own color to the friendship subsisting between him and us.
6. We cherish devotion to him. As Christ is infinitely the superior in this spiritual kindred, it is natural that he should receive from us the consecration of heart and life.
II. OUR FRIENDSHIP FOR CHRIST IS SHOWN IN OUR OBEDIENCE TO HIM
1. This is a paradox. It seems at first sight altogether incongruous that obedience should be required of friends. The master commands his servant, but he does not command his friend. And in this very passage Jesus says, "I call you not servants, but friends"
2. Yet Jesus makes this service and submission a proof of his disciples' friendship. "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." Our Lord cannot divest himself of his authority. Our Friend is a King, and he does not cease to be a King even when he toils and suffers for us.
3. The Divine law is this: Love is the best motive to obedience, and obedience is the best proof of love. A forced, mechanical service is not what Christ wants, is not what Christ will accept. It is a willing, cheerful, cordial service which he asks, and without which no worthless words and formal acts can satisfy him. It is the part of the Christian to serve his Master, but not in the spirit of a bondman; rather in that of a grateful and affectionate friend.
III. OUR FRIENDSHIP FOR CHRIST IS THE BASIS OF OUR MUTUAL FRIENDSHIP AMONG OURSELVES.
1. Here we find the motive to the friendship which is appointed as the mark of true discipleship. It is our Lord's new commandment that his disciples love one another. In this love all is comprised; it is the fulfilling of the Law. The true Church of Christ is the society which is cemented by reciprocal confidence and by brotherly love.
2. Here, too, we find the model of Christian friendship. "As I loved you." Such is the rule, such is the appeal, of our Savior. The powers that tend to separation, to distrust, to enmity, are many and mighty. ' A great, comprehensive, constant power is needed to counteract and vanquish these. This power we have in the manifested love and the uttered commandment of our redeeming Lord. - T.
I. JESUS CALLS HIS DISCIPLES FRIENDS, BUT NONE THE LESS WERE THEY SERVANTS. Jesus wanted these very men for special service. Many true and loving friends he must have had besides them - men like that Lazarus whom Jesus once described as "our friend." But these few were wanted for special service; not that a few were enough, but Jesus began with a few that there might be all the more afterward. While Jesus was in the limitations of the flesh he could only have companionship with a few. But Jesus needs all the servants he can get. The idea of ample and efficient service underlies the parable at the beginning of the chapter. The branches are the servants of the vine-trunk. Note that those who are called friends do not therefore feel at liberty to speak of themselves as such. Paul, beginning his Epistle to the Romans, does not say, "Paul, the friend of Jesus Christ," but "Paul, the servant of Jesus Christ." The apostle's mind is full of the work he has to do as a servant of Jesus. Whatever names we have the right to bear, whatever privileges we enter into, never let us forget that we are here for service. He who is not the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, he who is not conscious of something in his life that is work for Jesus, never can be the friend of Jesus.
II. JESUS CALLS HIS DISCIPLES FRIENDS THAT THEY MAY BE BETTER SERVANTS, The work needs the best qualities in the highest degree. He who would do the best work for Christ must be likest him. He serves Jesus best who serves the neediest of men in their greatest need, and this can only be done when the heart is purged of self-seeking in all its forms. In all the work these disciples had hitherto been doing, they were thinking of themselves rather than of Jesus and others. That is the way of service according to a worldly spirit. We must learn to act as Jesus himself would act if he were one of his own servants; and that can only be done when we give Jesus full opportunity of opening himself' to us as a man opens himself to a friend.
III. THOSE WHOM JESUS CALLS FRIENDS HE REALLY TREATS AS FRIENDS. All this concluding discourse proves the depth and tenderness of the feeling. He could not so have spoken before. Partly such words were best with a farewell flavor in them. Partly the disciples had to grow into fitness for hearing them. And even when they did hear, much was appreciated in a very imperfect way. Still, Jesus treats them as friends; for all things he has heard from his Father he makes known to them. His disciples shall be sharers in his purposes and plans as far as they are able. It is as if the person for whom a great house is being built should call together all who are to be concerned in the erection, and show to them the plan and explain the purpose. Apostles and prophets lay the foundation-stone. Thousands of those whom Jesus honors with the title and treatment of friend are joined in building it, and then, when all is done, Jesus and his friends are to dwell in it together. - Y.
I. THE DIVINE SELECTION. Notwithstanding that the Lord Jesus had just expressly repudiated speaking of and treating his disciples as servants, and had just designated them his friends, it is plain that nothing could be further from his thought than any intention to place them upon an equality with himself. They were given clearly to understand that, if they were his friends, it was because he had chosen and designated them to this position. This relation is indeed not arbitrary, being, like every Divine act, the expression of perfect wisdom. Yet it is impossible for us to comprehend the reasons why Jesus chose those whom he did choose in preference to others. Not all were worthy of his choice, and amongst those who adhered to him there were degrees of attachment, degrees of merit, degrees of usefulness. Considering the case of the twelve, we observe:
1. Their call. This took place early in the Lord's public ministry. And it was by the presentation of his own Person, by the utterance of his own voice, that Jesus called his apostles. There was not only the outward call; there was the inner, the spiritual summons, which they felt in their souls, and the authority of which they readily recognized.
2. Their appointment or ordination. This was a gradual choice, but it was formally completed when, after our Lord's resurrection, he expressly commissioned them to go among Jews and Gentiles, proclaiming the gospel of salvation by faith and of obedience unto life eternal.
3. There is what corresponds to this gracious election in the experience of all Christ's friends and servants. It is his summons which bids them forsake their sins and their self-confidence, and follow him. Thus their spiritual life begins by a holy and an effectual calling. He calls, and the souls of his people respond to the voice from heaven. And whilst Jesus calls his people to the privileges, he calls them also to the consecrated service of the new life. There is a ministry, a mission, though not an apostleship, for every true Christian. Our work for Christ is only authorized by Christ himself.
II. THE PURPOSE OF THE DIVINE SELECTION. The first apostles were chosen and ordained for a purpose. The design of the Lord was that they should "go and bear fruit." This involves:
1. Effort and activity. To go, when sent, is to acknowledge the authority of the Sender, and to put forth endeavors to do his will. Religion does not consist in simply receiving truth and enjoying privilege; it comprises what is done in response to truth received and privilege enjoyed.
2. Fruitfulness, as may be learned from the earlier verses of the chapter, consists in a holy character and life, and in benevolent and Christ-like labors for the welfare of our fellow-men. Divine choice and ordination have respect to the Church universal and to the world. Men are elected to posts of honor, of service.
3. The permanence of this fruit is the sign of a veritable election by God. Some work is only apparent and temporary, but that which God blesses and approves is real and lasting. The life which is rooted in God issues in fruit which remains in time and eternity. The fruits of the Spirit endure forever.
III. THE PRIVILEGE INVOLVED IN THE DIVINE SELECTION. This is the assured answer to prayer. The connection appears to be this: the purpose of election being that fruit may be borne to the Divine glory, grace is obviously needed in order that this purpose may be realized, that a blessing may rest upon faithful toil; and Christians are assured that whatsoever they may need in order to this end is within their reach. The wonderful language in which our Savior assures us of this privilege demands our careful attention.
1. On God's side the promise is unlimited. "Whatsoever ye shall ask" shall be given. This corresponds with the munificent provision of Divine bounty assured in the statement, "All things are yours."
2. On man's side there is a stipulation and condition imposed by Christ as of indispensable necessity; what is asked must be asked in Christ's Name. That is to say, requests must be in accordance with his will, must be presented in reliance upon his advocacy, and will be granted for his sake. - T.
them. They would have liked in most things, practically in all things, to get their own way; and this was just what they could not do. Jesus did not visit the world to fall in with the wishes of ignorant and short-sighted men. Underneath all our choices, and all the changes of our moods, there is the purpose, the choice, and the expectation of Jesus. We have -
I. JESUS DECIDING. It was all the doing of Jesus. These men were to be stamped with his sending. They were in his employment. The call of the Lord Jesus constituted their authority and their claim. And the essence of this choosing still remains. Every one trying to do work for the sake of Jesus and in the Name of Jesus must have something of this feeling that he has been chosen; that a constraining hand has been upon him, first of all arresting his footsteps in the old way, and then pointing them into a new one. In ranging ourselves under Jesus, we indeed cannot escape a great decision, but it will be made with a feeling that we could not help making it; and this feeling will only deepen as the years of service and devotion roll on. Christians never have any misgivings about the right of Jesus to grasp and direct. If any profess themselves never to have felt that Jesus wanted them, never said "Follow me," such must be asked whether the truth does not lie here, that they are fertile in the spirit of excuses. There will at least be an indubitable picking out, by-and-by, of the sheep from the goats. Effort and self-denial are required to find out what Jesus has a right to claim, and what he really wants. There is such a thing as having ears and yet not being able to hear.
II. JESUS PROVIDING. As Jesus claims the right of deciding, so he also takes the responsibility of providing, lie has so situated and surrounded his servants, that they may bring forth fruit, and abiding fruit. Every branch in the vine has its own place, but all are provided for in a common life and a common growth. The decision and the provision go together. Jesus is not really Decider unless he is also allowed to be Provider. Each soldier of the army is not allowed to make provision for himself. If he had this to do, his fighting would be of little use. The king who sends the army out makes provision for the sustaining of the army. Christians have to be more than others, do more than others, and thus their resources must exceed those of others. How is the grape of the wilderness to become the grape of the vineyard, unless it is planted in the vineyard? Wild fruit, growing as it will, can never become like the fruit that is cultivated and watched.
III. JESUS EXPECTING. The disciples were full of vexation because of hopes and imaginings overthrown; but Jesus knew what would come. Jesus is above all clouds that darken the present and prevent a right view of the future. These very men, so troubled now, would before long be joying and rejoicing abundantly that they were counted worthy to suffer for their Master. What great things may be expected, what usefulness and happiness are at the dawn, when once self gets an effectual crippling! The branches of this vine will be as the stars of the sky for multitude, and as the sand, by the sea-shore innumerable. - Y.
I. EVIDENCES OF THE WORLD'S HATRED OF CHRISTIANS.
1. We are constrained by facts to rank with the world, in this respect, the adherents of the Jewish system. As his own countrymen were our Lord's opponents and in truth his real murderers, so were the Jews the earliest opponents of the Church of Christ. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles exhibits the hostility of the leaders of Israel to the society which was called by his Name whose crucifixion they had brought about. The Jews attempted to silence the first preachers of Christianity. And this they did under the influence of hate towards Christ himself. They regarded the new religion - for such it seemed to them - as subversive of their own, not discerning that it was the fulfillment of what was Divine in Judaism. And they hated a doctrine which, by laying stress upon the personal and spiritual elements in religion, imperiled their own rulers' authority, and the whole system of form and ceremony with which they were associated.
2. Our Lord doubtless looked forward to the time when the vessel of the Church should quit the narrow straits of Judaism, and should sail out into the open seas of the world, there to encounter fiercer storms. Then he foresaw the hatred of the world should take a more formidable, though not a more virulent, shape. In the Roman empire, Christianity, we know as matter of history, encountered fierce hostility mainly because of its exacting, exclusive claims, because of its open hostility to all that savored of idolatry, and because of its rapid, and (to the heathen) unaccountable progress. Hence the several persecutions which arose under successive emperors, verifying the predictions uttered by the Divine Founder of our faith. Hence the long roll of confessors and martyrs who sealed their testimony with their blood.
3. But it must not be overlooked that, where persecution is impossible, hatred often prevails, and manifests its presence and power in many distressing forms. There are at the present time, even in the midst of professedly Christian communities, not a few who are suffering from that hate which our Lord here foretold.
II. EXPLANATIONS OF THE WORLD'S HATRED OF CHRISTIANS.
1. The world knows not God, and hence hates the Church which is in possession of this knowledge. Had the world known God, it would have recognized among Christians the tokens of the Divine presence and operation.
2. Christians are not of the world. The world loves its own, but hates that which is out of harmony with it. If Christians do not adopt the world's spirit and language and habits, this singularity and nonconformity naturally excites dislike and provokes to ill treatment.
3. It cannot but be that the world must be rebuked by the presence of the Church, confronting and reproving it. Whether by a public protest against the world's sins, or by the silent protest of a pure and upright life, Christians are bound to a course of action which will bring down upon them, now and again, the enmity and the anger of the world.
III. CONSOLATION FOR CHRISTIANS UNDER THE WORLD'S HATRED. All true comfort comes from that personal relation to the Lord Jesus upon which such stress is laid in these discourses recorded by St. John, and which is exhibited as the inspiration not only of consecrated activity but also of patient endurance.
1. The hatred which besets Christians was first directed against Christ himself.
2. The servant must expect to follow in his Master's steps, and to meet with the same treatment.
3. When Jesus says, "For my Name's sake," he presents to us a motive to patience which is divinely fortifying and persuasive. - T.
I. THOSE WHO POSSIBLY MAY BE HATED. Christians may be hated because of their Christianity. Private malice is not at all in the question. Some of these disciples may have had enemies already; if not, they were very likely to have them in abundance soon. Observe how Jesus puts the thing hypothetically. Much depends on ourselves. If we are consistent, resolute, lively, energetic, perfectly uncompromising and open in our attachment to Jesus, we must make ready for hatred; but if, professing to love Jesus, we do not love him with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, the world will not trouble to hate us. It may despise us and laugh at us, but it will not hate. Why should the world hate us, if we do nothing to inconvenience it, nothing to peril its aims, its possessions, and its pleasures? This is a very astonishing thing, that the world should hate us the better we are. If our hearts are filled with the spirit of love, if we desire only the good of everybody, why should we be hated? The truth is, Jesus understands human nature far better than the shrewdest of us. He, the best that ever trod the earth, was treated as if the worst. And similar experience, in a less conspicuous way, happened to his servants, e.g. Paul at Philippi and at Ephesus. And, underlying all these illustrations, there lies one common cause for the hostility in this - that Jesus must, by the very nature of his light-bringing work, interfere with the vested interests of men in darkness.
II. THE PECULIAR DESCRIPTION OF THE HATERS. They are described compendiously as the world. They are not to be singled out in their individual capacity. Individuals are constantly passing over from the world to the side of Jesus, but the spirit of the world remains unchanged, unchangeable. And this spirit is to be dealt with indirectly for the most part. Argument, expostulation, and entreaty are not the main weapons of success. The victory that overcometh the world is mainly to be gained in our own character. Jesus wants opposition to be swallowed up in reconciliation to him and to his truth. What we want to bear up against the world's hatred is:
1. Faith. We live amidst an unbelieving world, as it were amidst east winds and north winds, and all sorts of unfavorable climatic conditions. The colder the weather is, the more must we look after everything that will keep up vital heat. When earth is dull and stubborn to us, we must refresh ourselves from heaven.
2. Courage. We must go on. So we shall find out what a poor, foundationless thing the opposition of the world is. Its first appearance is its best appearance. It may hurt the outer skin, but cannot touch the heart and citadel of life. We must needs know the worst of the world in order that we may know the best of Jesus.
3. Meekness. Faith and courage, bathed and penetrated with gentleness - this is to win the world. The world has no gentleness, unless fair-spoken craftiness be so called. Our main spirit must be that of Jesus on the cross: "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do." - Y.
I. THE MANIFESTATION OF UNBELIEF. This is to be seen in the open rejection and persecution of the Lord Jesus.
II. THE CAUSE OF UNBELIEF. This is not intellectual difficulty, but moral repugnance. The Jewish enemies of Jesus hated his holy character, his denunciations of their worldliness and hypocrisy, his lofty and spiritual standard of teaching, his claims to supreme authority.
III. THE GUILT OF UNBELIEF. This is especially to be recognized in what unbelief of Christ involves. Hatred of the Father, God, and consequent hatred of his holy Law and his benevolent purposes, - such is the charge which Jesus brings against his foes. In rejecting Christ, they were showing themselves to be out of sympathy with the mind and will of him who is eternal righteousness and goodness. This was their sin and condemnation.
IV. THE INEXCUSABLENESS OF UNBELIEF. As powerfully set forth by Jesus Christ in this passage, this is to be observed in three respects.
1. Christ's words, his incomparable teaching, were a witness to his authority, and should have been received with reverence, gratitude, and faith. It should have been an all-sufficient witness to him who spake as never man spake. The truths he revealed, the laws he imposed, the promises he gave, were all such as would have commanded the respect of those morally prepared to appreciate the utterances of One who came from heaven.
2. Christ's marvelous works were well fitted to second the impression produced by his words. They, indeed, appealed to an inferior faculty of human nature, but they were necessary in order to the completeness and justice of the impression to be made upon the minds of our Lord's contemporaries. His enemies did not deny the reality of our Lord's miracles, but they misinterpreted them, attributing them, by an absurd ingenuity, to an infernal source.
3. The hatred, enmity, and unbelief of the Jews were inexcusable because they were "without a cause." By this we must understand, not that there was no motive in the minds of his foes, but that there was no justification for their conclusions or for their conduct. - T.
I. AS A SIN OF THE GREATEST ENORMITY. There are degrees in sin as in virtue. The sin of rejecting the Savior is the greatest. It stands alone in the black category. "If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not," etc. What does this mean? Whether that they would not have that particular sin? or that, in comparison with this, ethers are small, and almost fade into nothingness? Its enormity will appear if we consider:
1. It is the greatest insult to the greatest and best Being. Who is disbelieved and rejected? The eternal Son and the eternal Father - the supreme Being whom they professed to acknowledge and worship. For the rejection of the Son involves the rejection of the Father. "He that hateth me," etc. No one can so insult and grieve the Father as by insulting his Son; and the greatest insult to the Son is the rejection of his Person, Word, and redemptive grace. Thus the Divine truth and honor are impugned. "He that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not," etc.
2. It is the greatest insult to the supreme Being while in the nearest contiguity to them. The Father was in the Son; and the Son was in the flesh, in their very nature; therefore God was in their nature, speaking and acting among them. He was never so near before. They never had such a vision of him. He was face to face with them. He could not come physically nearer, neither could they have a clearer physical vision of him. So clear it was that our Lord could with propriety say, "They have seen me and my Father." In him the Father was seen, and yet they rejected him. Thus the insult was most direct and daring. They insulted him to his very face.
3. It is the greatest insult to the supreme Being, under circumstances which were calculated in the highest degree reproduce different effects. The circumstances we have already indicated, and they are quite unique. Even in the wonderful history of the Jewish nation, and in the history of the nations of the world, they were such as they alone enjoyed, and involved such Divine light and evidence as were calculated in the highest degree to produce the readiest faith in and the warmest reception of the Son of God. It was the natural conclusion of the Divine Father: "They will honor my Son." Although they have maltreated my prophets, yet they will honor my Son. In his life and actions they saw the Father, yet rejected him, and sinned against the greatest light.
4. It is the greatest insult against the supreme Being in the very attempt of conferring upon them the greatest benefit. And this involved the exercise of the greatest condescension and love. The object in view and the love manifested are set forth in the familiar but matchless words," God so loved the world, that he gave," etc. Can imagination conceive of a greater sin and insult than the rejection of the manifestation of such Divine love, whose object is to save from the most inevitable and terrible ruin, and the bestowment of the greatest and most undeserving gift? Sin against the truth, justice. and holiness of the supreme Being, separately considered, is nothing to the sin against Divine and self-sacrificing love. Jesus was the incarnation of Divine love, manifested to bless and to save; but while in the very act of salvation he was most insultingly rejected.
5. It is the greatest insult to the supreme Being, assuming the most malignant form. "And hated both me and my Father." While this indicates the cause of their rejection, the enmity of the carnal mind against God, it also reveals its extreme malignity. It is not merely negative and defensive, but most malignantly aggressive and decided. And hatred is the most virulent form of rejection, the most daring form of unbelief, the most insulting resistance to the supreme Being, and the most fatal defiance to Divine love, which in this case resulted in the cruel crucifixion of the Son of God.
6. The greatest insult to the supreme Being, which resulted in the most fatal consequences. By their malignant rejection they made the greatest general blessing the greatest personal curse, turned the greatest boon into the greatest bane; so that it would be infinitely better for them if the Son of God had not come to them at all - their sin would be less, and their fate less disastrous. They attempted to stem and poison the river of life in its flow to fallen humanity, and succeeded as far as they were concerned. They set an unparalleled example of unbelief and moral obduracy to all succeeding ages, the result of which was social and spiritual ruin.
II. AS A SIN OF THE GREATEST ENORMITY WITH THE LEAST EXCUSE. What excuses are supposable in this case?
1. If he had not come to them at all. This would be a complete excuse. But he came, appeared to them, and dwelt among them.
2. If he had no right to come. They would have a perfect right to reject an intruder and an impostor, who had no right to their faith and acceptance. But Jesus was not such. He had an absolute right to come. He came in accordance with the Divine will, as well known to him, and well known to them as revealed in their Scriptures. He came in the way and at the very time and for the purpose indicated. And his coming was absolutely right and essential in order to fulfill the Divine plan and satisfy human need.
3. Want of adequate knowledge of him. This would be a valid excuse. But this they could not plead. He not only sent the Baptist to herald his immediate coming, but came himself in person, and spoke to them, taught daily in their streets and synagogues, availed himself of every opportunity to address them in the most homely and clear language as to his Divine origin and mission as the Son of God and their Messiah. And he taught "as One having authority;" and it was the testimony of all his unprejudiced hearers, "Never man spake like this Man."
4. Want of adequate proofs of his claims. Although his teaching was full, clear, and Divine, yet, without the further evidence of miracles, there would be a legitimate excuse. Jesus allows this. "If I had not done," etc. They demanded a sign. This demand was most fully and readily granted:
(1) In such works of power and mercy as no other man had ever before performed. They professed to believe Moses and the prophets on the evidence of miracles; but their miracles were very few in number, and inferior in quality as compared with those performed by him whom they rejected.
(2) In such works of power and mercy as were in perfect keeping with his claims and character as their Messiah and Savior. There was a perfect correspondence between his teaching and his works. He suited the word to the deed, and the deed to the word. His testimony was complete.
(3) In such works of power and mercy as clearly revealed him and the Father - revealed him as the Son of God, and God as his Father. His works were so Divine that even they themselves could not deny their supernatural character; but, rather than admitting their natural conclusion, attributed them to a demon. So transparently Divine were his works, that in their light, not only he as the Divine Son could be seen, but also his Divine Father; still they malignantly rejected both.
5. Want of natural ability to comprehend the evidences of his claims. The deaf have a sufficient excuse for not hearing, and the blind for not seeing. The want of common intelligence and natural ability would be an excuse for intellectual and moral unbelief. But they could not plead this, neither did they. And when our Lord hinted at their moral blindness they were greatly insulted, and asked with contempt, "Are we also blind?" Our Lord tacitly accepts their explanation, but pointed them to the inevitable consequence, "Your sin remaineth." They were entirely responsible, and claimed it. It was not because they could not, but because they would not.
6. Any really objectionable qualities in his character or conduct. They would be justified in rejecting a cruel tyrant, a vile impostor, or a vicious teacher; but they had none of these excuses in the least degree. Not only they had no reason to hate him, but the strongest reasons possible to love and welcome him with delight. His character was divinely transparent, and his life absolutely pure. His discourses were pregnant with life and light, and his words and actions full of grace and truth. His conduct towards all was invariably respectful and tenderly kind, and even to his most inveterate foes he was most patient, indulgent, and forgiving. There was no cause for hatred in him. It must have been entirely in them; and his experience was that of the psalmist, recorded in their Scripture, "They hated me without a cause." They could not find an excuse for their sin, neither could Jesus find one. In spite of his terrible indictment against them, he seems to be in search of an excuse for them. "If I had not come," etc.; "but now," etc. As far as they were concerned, he almost wished he had not come and spoken to them. He who prayed on the cross, "Father, forgive," etc., was ever ready to find the least legitimate excuse for sinners, and even for his most inveterate foes; but in this case could find none. There was none, and there is none.
1. The gospel, with regard to the rejecters of Christ, reveals a terribly corrupt state of the heart. The gospel does not cause sin, but reveals it, and in relation to the disobedient occasions the greatest guilt. It would be better for them not to have enjoyed its light.
2. With regard to its rejecters, it reveals a terrible Tower of the corrupt will to resist the Divinest evidence and refer the most loving overtures of Heaven, as well as its own highest good.
3. Although it would be far better for the disobedient if Christ had not come and spoken to them, yet those who sigh for and are ready to receive him are not deprived of him on this account. Shall not the sun rise because many evil-doers prefer darkness, and may avail themselves of but little of its light? And shall Jesus keep away because many will disobey, and even hate him? No; let him come and save.
4. The world's awful responsibility under the gospel. The responsibility of increasing light and grace. Our destiny hangs upon our receiving or not receiving Christ. Beware of rejecting him. Beware of the excuseless sin.
5. Our great Advocate can find an excuse for every sin but this. For this there is no defense; for he is rejected for whose sake God alone can forgive. There is in him no cause of hatred or rejection; but there is in him an infinitely extending pardon to the vilest penitent. Some of his murderers availed themselves of this. And it is ever available and infallible: "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord," etc. - B.T.
I. THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD TO CHRIST.
1. This is a Witness Divine in origin and nature. He proceedeth from the Father, and all his acts and operations are Divine.
2. This is a Witness possessing the very highest qualifications. This appears even from the appellations by which he is here mentioned: "The Spirit of truth," whose special office it is to make the Word of God, the gospel of salvation, real, living, and powerful over the nature of man; "the Comforter," or Advocate, who comes to the feeble and helpless disciple of Christ, and pours into him celestial strength and wisdom.
3. This is a Witness commissioned by Christ to testify of himself. What authority does the Lord Jesus claim, when he says, "Whom I will send unto you;" and how distinct is the declaration of the purpose of his mission in the promise, "He shall testify of me"!
II. THE WITNESS TO CHRIST BORNE BY HIS OWN DISCIPLES.
1. Their qualifications.
(1) They were competent witnesses to Christ, for they had for years been in his society - were, in fact, his closest companions.
(2) They were effective witnesses, for they were in sympathy with him to whom they bore testimony. His spirit had entered into them; they were penetrated with his ardent compassion for sinners; they partook his disposition of unselfishness and consecration.
(3) They were copious witnesses; for, on account of their opportunities of beholding their Master's works, and listening to his discourses and conversations, they had much to tell of what their eyes had seen, their ears heard, their hands handled, of the Word of Life.
2. The method of their testimony. The apostles and other disciples of Jesus bore witness to him:
(1) By the unconscious, unuttered language of character, principles, and life. By reason of their participation in their Master's spirit, men "took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus."
(2) By their preaching and teaching. Their witness was by the living voice, to Jew and Gentile. Christianity was a religion, as it still remains, marked by this peculiarity; it is promulgated by the utterance of those who themselves are convinced of its Divine authority and its adaptation to the needs of men.
(3) By written record. It was in fulfillment of this promise, which was also a command, that the evangelists and apostles wrote those treatises which remain to this day the memorials of our Savior's humiliation and glory, and the inspired application of Christian facts and doctrines to the necessities of human life. In fact, the whole of the New Testament is an act of obedience to this authoritative direction of the Master, "Ye shall bear witness."
3. The matter of their testimony. Chiefly, if not exclusively, their witness was to relate to Christ himself.. This was an appointment of Divine wisdom; for the Lord Jesus was incarnate Wisdom, Truth, Pity, and Benevolence. It has ever been found in human experience that those who have received the inspired witness to Immanuel, have received with him all the spiritual and immortal blessings which God made him the Medium of carrying to human souls.
APPLICATION. The Holy Spirit is still witnessing in the Church to him who is its Savior and Lord; and it is the part of all who receive this witness in the power of the same Spirit to repeat and extend the testimony. - T.
I. THERE MUST BE THE RIGHT SPIRIT IN THOSE WHO LISTEN TO THE TESTIMONY. The minds of men may be set against truth and the search for truth, and then where will the witnesses be? The gospel presumes on the part of man an awakening to the need of reality, stability, and continuance in all that he may rightly aim to make his own. Men have believed the world and believed their own hearts, and they have been disappointed; and now, if they seek Jesus, it is with the assurance meeting them that they shall not be disappointed again. If men fail to be attracted by Jesus or profess to be disappointed with him, it is because they are disinclined to take the trouble of seeking deep enough.
II. EACH WITNESS HAS HIS OWN TESTIMONY. There is a witnessing by the Spirit of Jesus which cannot be effected by any multiplication of human witnesses. And similarly a testimony comes by reading the evangelists and Epistles, which is felt to be something independent of the force which comes on us by the operation of the Spirit. How many, reading the New Testament just with thoughtful earnestness, have said to themselves, "Here is something to be searched into. Here is a part of some great possibility, and I must seek for the other part "! Careful and repeated reading of what apostles have written is very likely to drive a man to his knees, seeking to have the full body of testimony completed, by what the Holy Spirit will impress on his heart. We should ever be on the outlook for testimony to Jesus and his truth. The more we expect it the more it will come, fortifying us against our own doubts, cheering us with hopes of coming certainties, and making us more ardent in persuading others to like precious faith.
III. THE RESPONSIBILITY THUS LAID ON US. Unbelief deludes itself with the plea that there is lack of evidence. Nay, in its more arrogant forms it will even maintain that the evidence is the other way. What if we be in the position of those who clamor for more, and will not use what they have? If we are not to be persuaded by the joint witnessing of the Spirit and the apostles, neither shall we be persuaded though one rose from the dead.
IV. OUR OWN WITNESS-BEARING. We may and ought to be joined to the cloud of witnesses. If Jesus told the first company of disciples that they were to be witnesses, then assuredly there must be something of the witness-bearing faculty in us. - Y.