Masterful Dying.
But Jesus' part -- ah! that was just begun. John lays emphasis on the mastery of Jesus here. It is marked, and reveals to John's faithful love-opened eyes the dominating purpose of Jesus in yielding to death. Strong, thoughtful, self-controlled, anticipating every move, He was using all the strength of His great strong will in yielding. He was doing it masterfully, intelligently.

This is marked throughout. At the arrest He walks frankly out to meet those seeking Him, and restrains them in that strangely powerful way till He was quite ready. He makes the personal plea to Pilate for Pilate's sake, impressing him so greatly, but interposing nothing to change the purpose of His accusers. When Pilate's final decision is given John notes that Jesus "went out bearing the cross for Himself," though provision had been made for this.[123] His influence upon Pilate is seen in the accuracy of the kingly inscription that hangs over the cross. In the midst of the excruciating bodily pain He thinks of His mother, and with marvellous self-control speaks the quiet word to her and to John that insures her future under his filial care.

And then John significantly adds, "Jesus, knowing that all things are now finished."[124] With masterly forethought, and self-control and deliberation He had done the thing He had set Himself to do. Never was yielding so masterful. Never was a great plan carried out so fully through the set purpose of one's enemies. His every action bears out the word He had spoken, "No man taketh My life away from Me, I lay it down of Myself."[125]

So now His great work is done, and thoroughly done. His lips speak the tremendous word, "It is finished." And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. It was His own act. The self-restraint was strong upon Him till all was done that was needed for the great purpose in hand. Then His head is bowed, His great heart broke under the terrific strain on His spirit as He allowed His life to go out.

From that moment no indignity touches His body. The Jews with their wearisome insistence on empty technicalities would have added further indignity to crucifixion. But that body is sacredly guarded from their profane hand by unseen restraint. John with solemn simplicity points to the unmistakable physical evidence, in the separation of blood and water, that Jesus had actually died; no swooning, but death. And reverently he finds the confirmation of Scripture.

Only tender love touches that body now. Two gentlemen of highest official and social standing and of large wealth, brothers in their faith in Jesus, and also in their timidity, now take steps at once to have the precious body of their dear friend tenderly cared for without regard to expense. So He is laid away in a new tomb in a garden among the flowers of the spring time. The last touch is one of tender love. So His greatest wooing was done, and begun; the great act done, its tremendous wooing influence only just begun.

Jesus died deliberately. This is quite clear. It was done of love aforethought. It was His own act fitted into the circumstances surrounding Him. This makes His death mean just what He meant it to mean. Run back through His teachings rather carefully and that meaning stands clearly out.

He was the Father's messenger; simply this; but all of this. The ideals of right so insistently and incessantly held up and pressed were the Father's ideals. His mere presence told the Father's great love for men. They two were so knit that when the one suffered the other suffered, too.

It was the love for men in His own heart that drew Him down here and drove Him along even to the Calvary Hill. He died for men, in their place, on their behalf. This was His one thought. Through this their bondage to sin and to Satan would be broken and they would be set free.[126] And they would be drawn, their hearts would be utterly melted and broken by His love for them.[127] The influence would reach out until all the race would feel its power and respond; and it would reach into each one's life who came till the life he lived was of the abundant, eternal sort.

The devil was a real personality to Jesus. This whole terrific struggle ending at the cross was a direct spirit-battle with that great spirit prince. So Jesus understood it. All the bitter enmity to Himself traces straight back to that source. That enmity found its worst expression in Jesus' death. The pitched spirit-battle was there. But that prince was judged, condemned, utterly defeated and cast out in that battle, and his hold upon men broken.[128]

And so this was the greatest wooing of all. It was greatest in its intensity of meaning to the Father looking eagerly down. It revealed His unbending, unflinching ideals of right, and the great strength and tenderness of His love for men. He would even give His Son. It was greatest in its intensity of meaning to the Son. It meant the utmost of suffering ever endured, the utmost of love underneath ever revealed; and it would mean the race-wide sweep of His gracious power.

It was greatest in its intensity of meaning to Satan, the hater of God and man. It told his utter defeat, and loss of power over man. So it broke our bonds and made us free to yield to the wooing. And it was greatest in its intensity of meaning to us men. For it showed to our confused eyes the one ideal of right standing out clear and full. It set us free from the fetters of our bondage, gave us the tremendous incentive of love to reach up to the ideal of right, and more, immensely more, gave us power to reach it.

It was the greatest wooing in the out-reach of its influence, for all men of all the earth would be touched.[129] And it was greatest in the in-reach to all the life of each one who came under its blessed influence. The whole ministry taught this. It would mean newness of life in body, in mind, in social nature, in spirit, and in the eternal quality of life lived here, and to be lived without any ending.

And all the world has responded to this greatest wooing as they have come to know of it. That three-languaged inscription on the cross was a world appeal and a world prophecy. In Hebrew the religious language of the world whose literature told of the one true God, in Latin the language of the masters of the world, in Greek the language of the culture of the world, that message went out to all the world. This Jesus is our Kinsman-King, our Brother-Ruler, our Love-Autocrat. He revealed His love for us in His death for us.

And men answer to Jesus' great plea. With flooded eyes and broken hearts, and bending wills, and changed lives, men of all the race bow gratefully at the feet of Jesus, our Saviour and Lord and coming King.

wider wooing
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