Jesus prays! The God-Man Mediator -- the Lord of Life -- the Abolisher of Death -- the Being of all Beings -- who had the boundless treasures of eternity in His grasp -- pauses by the grave of the dead, and lifts up His eyes to heaven in supplication! How often in the same incidents, during our Lord's incarnation, do we find His manhood and His Godhead standing together in stupendous contrast. At His birth, the mystic star and the lowly manger were together; at His death, the ignominious cross and the eclipsed sun were together. Here He weeps and prays at the very moment when He is baring the arm of Omnipotence. The "mighty God" appears in conjunction with "the man Christ Jesus." "His name is Immanuel, God with us."
The body of Lazarus was now probably, by the rolling away of the stone, exposed to view. It was a humiliating sight. Earth -- the grave -- could afford no solace to the spectators. The Redeemer, by a significant act, shews them where alone, at such an hour, comfort can be found. He points the mourning spirit to its only true source of consolation and peace in God Himself, teaching it to rise above the mortal to the immortal -- the corruptible to the incorruptible -- from earth to heaven.
Ah! there is nothing but humiliation and sadness in every view of the grave and corruption. Why dwell on the shattered casket, and not rather on the jewel which is sparkling brighter than ever in a better world? Why persist in gazing on the trophies of the last enemy, when we can joyfully realise the emancipated soul exulting in the plenitude of purchased bliss? Why fall with broken wing and wailing cry to the dust, when on eagle-pinion we can soar to the celestial gate, and learn the unkindness of wishing the sainted and crowned one back to the nether valley?
It is Prayer, observe, which thus brings the eye and the heart near to heaven. It is Prayer which opens the celestial portals, and gives to the soul a sight of the invisible.
Yes; ye who may be now weeping in unavailing sorrow over the departed, remember, in conjunction with the tears, the prayers of Jesus. Many a desolate mourner derives comfort from the thought -- "Jesus wept." Forget not this other simple entry in our touching narrative, telling where the spirit should ever rest amid the shadows of death -- "Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard me. And I knew that Thou hearest me always."
Let us gather for a little around this incident in the story of Bethany. It is one of the many golden sayings of priceless value.
That utterance has at this moment lost none of its preciousness; that voice, silent on earth, is still eloquent in heaven. The Great Intercessor still is there, "walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;" loving to note all the wants and weaknesses, the necessities and distresses, of every Church, and every member of His Church. What He said of old to Peter, He says to every trembling believer -- "I have prayed, and am praying for thee, that thy faith fail not!" "For thee!" We must not merge the interest which Jesus has in each separate member of His family, in His intercession for the Church in general. While He lets down His censer, and receives into it, for presentation on the golden altar, the prayers of the vast aggregate; while, as the true High Priest, He enters the holiest of all with the names of His spiritual Israel on His breastplate -- carrying the burden of their hourly needs to the foot of the mercy-seat; -- yet still, He pleads, as if the case of each stood separate and alone! He remembers thee, dejected Mourner, as if there were no other heart but thine to be healed, and no other tears but thine to be dried. His own words, speaking of believers, not collectively but individually, are these -- "I will confess his name before my Father and his angels." "Who touched me?" was His interrogation once on earth, as His discriminating love was conscious of some special contact amid the press of the multitude, -- "Somebody hath touched me!" If we can say, in the language of Paul's appropriating faith, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me," we can add, He pleads for me, and bears me! He bears this very heart of mine, with all its weaknesses, and infirmities, and sins, before His Father's throne. He has engraven each stone of His Zion on the "palms of His hands," and "its walls are continually before Him!"
How untiring, too, in His advocacy! What has the Christian so to complain of, as his own cold, unworthy prayers -- mixed so with unbelief -- soiled with worldliness -- sometimes guiltily omitted or curtailed. Not the fervid ejaculations of those feelingly alive to their spiritual exigencies, but listless, unctionless, the hands hanging down, the knees feeble and trembling!
But notwithstanding all, Jesus pleads! Still the Great Intercessor "waits to be gracious." He is at once Moses on the mountain, and Joshua on the battle-plain -- fighting with us in the one, praying for us in the other. No Aarons or Hurs needed to sustain His sinking strength, for it is His sublime prerogative neither to "faint nor grow weary!" There is no loftier occupation for faith than to speed upwards to the throne and behold that wondrous Pleader, receiving at one moment, and at every moment, the countless supplications and prayers which are coming up before Him from every corner of His Church. The Sinner just awoke from his moral slumber, and in the agonies of conviction, exclaiming, "What must I do to be saved?" -- The Procrastinator sending up from the brink of despair the cry of importunate agony. -- The Backslider wailing forth his bitter lamentation over guilty departures, and foul ingratitude, and injured love. -- The Sick man feebly groaning forth, in undertones of suffering, his petition for succour. -- The Dying, on the brink of eternity, invoking the presence and support of the alone arm which can be of any avail to them. -- The Bereaved, in the fresh gush of their sorrow, calling upon Him who is the healer of the broken-hearted. But all heard! Every tear marked -- every sigh registered -- every suppliant succoured. Amalek may come threatening nothing but discomfiture; but that pleading Voice on the heavenly Hill is "greater far than all that can be against us!" He pleads for His elect in every phase of their spiritual history -- He pleads for their inbringing into His fold -- He pleads for their perseverance in grace -- He pleads for their deliverance at once from the accusations and the power of Satan -- He pleads for their growing sanctification; -- and when the battle of life is over, He uplifts His last pleading voice for their complete glorification. The intercession of Jesus is the golden key which unlocks the gates of Paradise to the departing soul. At a saint's dying moments we are too often occupied with the lower earthly scene to think of the heavenly. The tears of surrounding relatives cloud too often the more glorious revelations which faith discloses. But in the muffled stillness of that death-chamber, when each is holding his breath as the King of Terrors passes by -- if we could listen to it, we should hear the "Prince who has power with God" thus uttering His final prayer, and on the rushing wings of ministering angels receiving an answer while He is yet speaking -- "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory!"
Reader! exult more and more in this all-prevailing Advocate. See that ye approach the mercy-seat with no other trust but in His atoning work and meritorious righteousness. There was but One solitary man of the whole human race who, of old, in the Jewish temple, was permitted to speak face to face with Jehovah. There is but ONE solitary Being in the vast universe of God who, in the heavenly sanctuary, can effectually plead in behalf of His Spiritual Israel. "Seeing, then, that we have a Great High Priest passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, ... let us come boldly to the throne of grace." If Jesus delights in asking, God delights in bestowing. Let us put our every want, and difficulty, and perplexity, in His hand, feeling the precious assurance, that all which is really good for us will be given, and all that is adverse will, in equal mercy, be withheld. There is no limitation set to our requests. The treasury of grace is flung wide open for every suppliant. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name He will give it you." Surely we may cease to wonder that the Great Apostle should have clung with such intense interest to this elevating theme -- the Saviour's intercession; -- that in his brief, but most comprehensive and beautiful creed, he should have so exalted, as he does, its relative importance, compared with other cognate truths. "It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." Climbing, step by step, in the upward ascent of Christian faith and hope, he seems only to "reach the height of his great argument" when he stands on "the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense." There, gazing on the face of the great officiating Priest who fills all heaven with His fragrance, and feeling that against that intercession the gates of hell can never prevail, he can utter the challenge to devils, and angels, and men, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"