For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached you fell on me.
Amongst the Roman Christians there was a great strife about a very small matter. Might a Christian eat meat, or must he live on herbs? And we maybe certain that there would be the loud assertion of individual rights, and everywhere self would be very conspicuous. It must have grieved the apostle to be compelled to take part in any such strife. He must have been conscious of a deep descent when he came down from the heights of chap. Romans 8 into the arena where professed Christians were engaged in such a dispute. But he brought the power of the Cross to bear upon it, and instantly lifted it into a higher region. He showed the contending men that in connection with their very differences there were glorious possibilities of maintaining Christ's own spirit and growing up into Christ's own likeness (vers. 1-3). Note —
I. THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST. The motto of selfish human nature is "Every man for himself, and God for us all"; and there are some of us who would change the latter part of the motto, and whose joy would be greater if they could believe that God is a great deal more for them than He is for others. The spirit of Christ was the very reverse of this. With Him thoughts of others were first, thoughts of self were last. He came into this world of which He had been the Creator, and of which He was the rightful ruler, "not to be ministered unto," etc. Wherever He was found He was there for the good of others.
1. Look at His miracles. Who can fail to discern there a care for others that never sleeps? In connection with this it is very significant that our Lord's first temptation was to work His first miracle for His own relief. A little while afterwards the Jews were in the wilderness. They had not fasted forty hours, and we do not read that any of them complained of hunger. But Christ made a feast for five thousand who would not turn one stone into bread for Himself. He that came to minister, etc., must not strike the wrong keynote of His life by making His first miracle a miracle for His own personal relief. In our Lord's triumph over the next temptation you can see the same thoughtful love for the good of others. He could have cast Himself from the pinnacle of the temple, and no doubt it would have brought Him great applause, but whose tears would it have wiped away? So He kept His Divine resources in all their virgin freshness and fulness till presently the lepers crossed His path and He could cleanse them. We remember where the glory first broke forth. He who the other day would not turn stones into bread to appease His own hunger turned the water into wine to relieve His friends from embarrassment. Put the first temptation and the first miracle side by side, and how there flames out this ever blessed truth, "Even Christ pleased not Himself."
2. After His first journey of mercy He went back again to Nazareth. He had gone to Capernaum, etc., and had conferred many blessings; but He returned as poor as He had left it. The people had heard what He had done: He knew what was in their hearts. He said, "Ye will say to Me, Physician, heal Thyself." Why did not He who had done so much for others better His own circumstances? We must not be astonished at their incredulity. Here was a new thing in the earth. Here was a man unspeakably rich in resources, unspeakably lavish in His gifts; and He lived and died in deepest poverty.
3. As in life, so in death Christ pleased not Himself. When His burden of woe was becoming so heavy that His heart was like to break, the soldiers led by Judas went to seize Him; He put forth His power and they fell to the ground. He soon made it manifest that the deed of gentle violence had not been wrought for His own deliverance, but for the deliverance of others. "Take Me and let My disciples go their way." The daughters of Jerusalem dropped their tears upon His way of grief. He bade them stay their tears, not because He spurned their sympathy, but because He would have them keep their energies for their own sorrow. How many more instances there are in that crucifixion that one might cite to the same purport! The cup of sorrows was held up to Him. Many and diverse were the elements in that cup. Judas put into it all the poison of his treachery, Peter the bitterness of his denial, the people the foul stream of their ingratitude, the soldiers their cruelty, the priests and Pharisees their deadly malignity, Herod his mockery, Pilate his unrighteousness, and the crowd, aided by the malefactor, their brutal and blasphemous revilings. And there were other bitter elements there, the reality and terribleness of which are testified to by Scripture. Yet He drank that cup that sinners might live.
II. THE DUTY OF THE DISCIPLE. Lay stress on the word "even."
1. Surely if any one could have done it wisely, and safely, and beneficially, He could have done it. He had no thought but what was wise, no will but what was good, no fear but what was sinless, no desire but what was honourable, and yet He hesitated not to take His thoughts, desires, and will, and bind them with cords for sacrifice, and lay them upon the altar. If Christ could deny Himself, what passion of ours is too noble, what pleasure too precious, what desire too honourable, what prejudice and prepossession too precious to be fastened to the Cross for ever, if the will of God and the claims of brotherly kindness and charity demand the sacrifice?
2. A Christ without self-denying love could not have saved the world. A church without self-denying love cannot carry on the work of Christ.
(1) And if our selfishness give birth to uselessness He will visit it with the punishment of perpetual uselessness. The man that did not use his talent, that did not employ his power for doing good, was punished in part by having the capacity for doing good taken away.
(2) On the other hand, if our generous love give birth to usefulness, our usefulness shall be rewarded by greater capacity and wider sphere for service. The man that had turned his talent into six talents, he was not welcomed into rest, he was welcomed into wider work.
Parallel VersesKJV: For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.