His disciples said to him, See, now speak you plainly, and speak no proverb.…
I. THE CONFESSION OF FAITH. "By this we believe," etc. This indicates:
1. Faith in the proper Object. "We believe that thou," etc. They believed in his Person and character, and in the Divinity of his mission. Their faith, even at this time, had not made much progress in spiritual elevation and grasp of its Object; still, this fresh confession of it was encouraging. If not much progress is made, it is cheering to know there is no retrogression.
2. Faith is founded upon intelligent basis. "By this we believe," etc.
(1) The plainness of his speech. In his last words there was no proverb. The revelation is clear. He had promised them this, and now it is partly fulfilled, and fulfilled sooner than they expected. This prompt fulfillment of his promise gives new life to faith.
(2) The Divinity of his knowledge. They are struck with its Divine extensiveness: "all things;" and with its Divine quality. It is not derived through the ordinary human channels of answers to questions, but it is independent of these, and the inherent produce of his own mind. And this they had learnt, not from hearsay and observation, but from experience. He revealed and satisfied their most secret wants and wishes without any questions.
3. Its confession is very confident. "Now we know," etc. This knowledge is experimental, and such knowledge is the confidence of faith. Knowledge is helpful to faith, and faith is helpful to knowledge. Knowledge is the resting-place of faith, and the steps over which it climbs the alpine heights of Divine truth.
4. Its confession is enthusiastic. "Lo, now speakest thou," etc. This is the glow of faith on emerging from darkness into light, its first blush at the sight of a new vision, its enthusiasm on the hill of a newly acquired knowledge. The plainer revelation of Jesus was sudden, and produced in the disciples a triumphant outburst of confidence in the Divinity of his mission. The confession has some light, but more heat. 5. Its confession is united. "By this we," etc. There is not a dissentient voice. One spoke for all, and all spoke in one. It is the chorus of young faith.
II. THE EXAMINATION OF FAITH.
1. It is examined by Jesus. He is the Object of faith, and its only infallible Examiner; the examination is short, but very thorough and improving. "Do ye now believe?"
(1) This question is very important. Important to the Master and the disciples. Every true master feels an interest in the success of his pupils. Jesus was intensely desirous that they all should pass in faith successfully. His reputation as a Master and a Savior was at stake, and he trained them for service which he required, and for which faith was essential. It was still more important to them. "Do ye believe?" This is the first and greatest lesson of Christianity, and the crucial question of Christ to his disciples.
(2) This question naturally anticipates an affirmative answer. Indeed, it had been enthusiastically answered in the affirmative in the confession just made. And this was quite natural and true. Their faith was genuine, and ought to be strong and firm; they had great advantages, and Jesus had taken infinite pains with them.
(3) This question is very searching. Do you believe, and believe now? And not merely Jesus by this question searches them, but inspires them to search themselves. This was highly characteristic of him as a Teacher. He did not cram his disciples with his own thoughts, but rather inspired and helped them to think themselves. He set the mental and spiritual machinery in motion, and this simple question is highly calculated to inspire them to think and reflect and search themselves, and to look about within as to the real and present state of faith.
(4) This question is as tender and sympathetic as it is searching. Worthy of the great Master and suitable to the condition of his disciples. His patience and compassion were Divine. He does not upbraid them with slowness, imperfection, and vacillation of faith in spite of all his tuition. He does not break out into a storm of impatience and recrimination, but tenderly for the moment leaves the question to them, and gradually sends more light so as to bring it fully home to them.
(5) This question involves joy and sorrow. The joy and sorrow of perfect knowledge. He knew that their faith was genuine and would be ultimately triumphant: this was a source of joy. He knew as well that at present it was weak, too weak to withstand the impending storm: this was a source of sorrow. And in this short question the sad and joyous notes are distinctly heard.
2. Faith is examined by Christ in connection with a most extraordinary trial. His own trial, the great tragedy of his crucifixion, which also would be the trial of faith. This is foretold.
(1) It is foretold as being very near. "Behold, the hour cometh," etc. They were within the hour and already within the vortex of the terrible whirlpool.
(2) It is foretold as being certain. There was no doubt about it, and this they would readily believe from the new glimpse they profess to have had of his perfect knowledge of all things.
(3) It is foretold in the interest of faith. Not to discourage and damp its ardor, but rather to break its inevitable fall from the height of present confidence to the depths of momentary doubt and darkness. Over the ladder of his revelation it had climbed up, and ought to remain there; but knowing that it would not, he furnishes it with another ladder to descend, so as not to be destroyed if somewhat daunted. It was foretold in the present and future interest of faith.
III. THE TEMPORARY FAILURE OF FAITH. "Ye shall be scattered," etc.
1. Its failure happened when it was thought to be strong. Think of their enthusiastic confession a short time ago. The gloom of doubt is often at the heels of the glow of faith. The fire often blazes brightly just before it is partially extinguished. When we are weak we are strong, and when we are strong we are weak.
2. Its failure happened when it ought to be firm, and when it was most needed by them and the Savior. When was it needed more than when its Object needed sympathy? It was one thing to be loud in their professions of faith in him during the palmy days of his triumph and miracles, but quite another to cling to him in his apparent defeat. They left him in the storm, when their adherence would be most important and valuable. "A friend in need is a friend indeed."
3. The manner of its failure reveals its real cause. "Every man to his own." The cause of the failure of faith was selfishness. Faith in Christ is essentially a denial of self, but in this hour of severe trial faith for a moment left Christ and clung to self. Is not this a true picture of weak and imperfect faith in all ages?
4. Its failure is very melancholy in its immediate results.
(1) A temporary separation from one another. "Every man to his own." Weakness of faith in Christ tends to dissolve society. Genuine faith in Christ sends every man out of himself to his fellow, and finds strength and happiness in union.
(2) A temporary separation from Christ. "And shall leave me alone." What weakness, inconsistency, and cowardice! And what a sad failure of even genuine faith at the beginning of its glorious career! And this will appear especially when we think that he was a Divine volunteer from the other world come to fight and conquer their foes. They left him in the grip of the enemy, and fled. What British soldier would behave so towards his general? But such was the sad failure of the bravest soldiers of the cross in the ever-memorable battle between self and benevolence.
5. This temporary but sad failure of faith engages his sympathy. We describe it as base and cowardly, and so it was; and so it is in us often under less trying circumstances. But not a harsh word drops from his lips, but words of encouragement and comfort. In order that they might, not be too depressed on account of their cowardly conduct in leaving him alone, he tenderly adds, "Yet I am not alone," etc.
1. Faith may be genuine, yet weak, inconsistent, and temporarily eclipsed. It was so in the case of the first disciples. It miserably gave way in the hour of trial; yet it was genuine, as the sequel amply proves. We must not judge too soon with regard to the reality of faith and its ultimate fate.
2. A severe trial is a test of the strength of faith. But in judging the partial failure of faith we must take into account the severity of the trial. The most heroic faith will often be baffled in a terrible storm. Such was the storm in which the disciples' faith was now.
3. Genuine faith, however weak, wilt benefit by its own failures. This was the case with regard to the disciples. Their faith never gave way afterwards.
4. The partial failure of genuine faith often culminates in a most glorious triumph. Genuine faith seldom sank lower than in the case of the disciples here, but certainly never rose higher in heroism and victory than in their after-life.
5. Although genuine faith may sometimes leave Jesus, he never leaves genuine faith. Hence its ultimate triumph. In his first disciples he nursed faith with the patience and tenderness of a mother, and in its greatest weakness and shame cast on it a tender look of love. Faith can only live on Divine love. And although he set the highest mark before his disciples, and ever encouraged and inspired them on to it, yet he was most sympathetic with their failings, and ever treated them as human. And so successful was his tuition, that eleven out of twelve passed with honors, and the only failure was the son of perdition. This is the greatest encouragement to the weakest faith in him. - B.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.