His disciples said to him, See, now speak you plainly, and speak no proverb.…
I. THE DISCIPLES PROFESSED TO BELIEVE, BUT THEY DID NOT KNOW WHY.
1. Here was a great, though natural mistake.
(1) It was a vast conclusion to draw from Christ's knowing what was passing in their minds now, that He came from the Father, and know all things. Any man present that evening might have known that. They had worn their hearts on their sleeves!
(2) They made another mistake. They thought that Christ spoke plainly now and therefore believed, when in fact He had (John 14:2, 12, 28; John 15:26; John 16:20) said the same thing before. We all know how easy 'tis to reflect ourselves upon the speaker, and, if we think we comprehend his meaning better than we did, to attribute it to his improved lucidity of exposition. But in thinking that they understood him, they were mistaken also. It would be impossible to discover the precise ideas they affixed to Christ's language. But it is clear that they did not think of His dying or rising at all. Christ's words on these subjects are clear enough to us, for we look at them through plain history; but they were anything but clear to those who looked at them through beliefs entirely incompatible with their occurrence.
2. And yet they did believe. They believed more than they thought, and better. They knew the Teacher, if not the lesson. While they were basing their faith on knowledge of His meaning, they had a faith already built on a surer foundation than that; and while they were rejoicing in a confidence which had no support but a mistake, they felt a deeper, stronger confidence which rested on no mistake at all. We too feel more than we understand. It were a poor thing if our confidence in Christ and Christianity were based on learning and logic, or even distinct opinions. A man may believe in Christ, and cleave to Him, and follow Him, and yet be miserably at a loss if asked for a scientific or a satisfactory exposition of his faith.
II. THEY BELIEVED, BUT THEY DID NOT KNOW HOW. Christ did not mean to question the reality of their faith but its intensity. They always had believed, and, under the influence of this affecting scene, and thinking that they understood His meaning, believed more than ever. But they little knew how frail and feeble was their faith in comparison with the burden it would have to bear. They felt strong, like a convalescent invalid, but as soon as strain and pressure were on them, their strength was that of a little child. Apply this thought —
1. To the faith of contemplation and the faith of action; to man looking on truth as an object, and obeying it as a claim. While the disciples had Christ before them, and had only to listen to and behold Him, they believed; but when they had to follow Him, to show their practical regard, "they all forsook Him and fled." And still there is a difference between the quiet thought of truth, and its embodiment in act. "Faith worketh by love." No other faith can save a man. How "can faith save," if it does nothing? How can it save from sins, if it does not destroy sin? Truth is given us, not to be a pleasant object but a living power. The Word of God is "a lamp to the feet," not only to the eye. It is very possible to have faith in Christ when beholding the graces of His character, the credentials of His mission, and the glory of His work, and to be sadly wanting in loving and daily obedience to His will; possible to have faith in propositions, with practical unbelief in duties; and yet the faith which is "more precious than gold," must bear the test of gold.
2. To the faith which receives Christ in peace and prosperity, and that which receives Him when His claims conflict with our fond beliefs and wishes. We can think calmly and speak eloquently of the goodness and equity of Providence when "the lines are fallen to us in pleasant places," but how mysterious it becomes when He "destroyeth the hope of man." What was a pleasant study becomes s perplexing, perhaps insoluble problem. We can recommend so persuasively the cheerful drinking of the cup of sorrow when in the hand of others, but what wry faces we make when put into our own! It is as it was in that upper room: Jesus in peace and safety, speaking of a dear Father, His joyful home, His love to His disciples, and great comforts in store for them, is one Christ; but Jesus betrayed and seized is quite another.
3. To faith in enjoyment of strong and stimulating privileges and faith deprived of them. There was everything in that upper room to excite and gratify every religious and Christian feeling. As men, the disciples were with brethren; as Jews, they had observed one of the most solemn and delightful festivals of their nation; as friends of Jesus, they had seen Him open His heart as He had never done before. But when this scene had passed as a dissolving view, and wintry barrenness had taken the place of summer loveliness — when the spell had been broken, and nature was left to its ordinary action — faith failed. We know what times of unwonted spiritual impression and excitement are, when the spiritual world seems opened to our view; when "alone" with Jesus, "He expounds all things to His disciples;" and when they "know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge." But these times do not last. And how soon the fair vision vanishes! A return to the worldly lot and the society of man dissipates it all; and it requires all our effort and care not to "leave," in heart, the Jesus we had felt to be our "Life," and "Peace," and "Hope." Conclusion: The subject teaches us how to try ourselves and others. Not by clearness of views or sensibility of feelings, but life.
(A. J. Morris.)
Parallel VersesKJV: His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.