Yet He frequently withdrew to the wilderness to pray.
I. THAT PRAYER BECOMES THE STRONG AND THE HOLY AS WELL AS THE WEAK AND THE GUILTY, Jesus prayed; the One who was holy, harmless, undefiled, he in whom was no sin. He had no guilt to confess, no mercy to implore, no cleansing of heart to seek of the Holy Spirit. Yet he prayed; and prayer was becoming in him because he could:
1. Render adoration to the God whom he reverenced and whom he revealed.
2. Offer gratitude to the Father who ministered unto him even as unto us.
3. Utter his love and his devotedness to him in whom he rejoiced and on whose great errand of mercy he had come.
4. Ask for the guidance and support he needed at the Divine hand for the future that was before him. For such purposes as these prayer will become us as much in the heavenly kingdom as it befits us now. When we have no sins to acknowledge and no forgiveness to obtain, we shall still need to approach the Divine Spirit to express our adoration, our gratitude, and our love; also to ask for the maintenance and the guidance of that strong hand on which, in every age and in every sphere, we shall be dependent as we are to-day.
II. THAT PRAYER IS PECULIARLY APPROPRIATE BEFORE AND AFTER ALL SPECIAL SERVICES. We have good reason to think that these were the circumstances under which our Lord spent much time in prayer. It is probable that he, under the limitations to which he stooped, found it highly desirable if not needful then. Certainly it is so for us.
1. Before special services we are in greatest need - need of strength and inspiration for the work immediately confronting us.
2. After special services we are in greatest danger; for the human spirit is never so exposed to its spiritual adversaries as in that hour when it relaxes after great spiritual excitement.
III. THAT IT IS NEEDFUL TO SEEK AND TO FIND OPPORTUNITIES FOR PRAYER. Jesus Christ could not have poured out his heart to his Father as he did, and gained the refreshment and strength he gained in prayer, if he had remained in the midst of the curious and exacting throngs who waited upon him. He withdrew himself into the wilderness. We have intimation that he had to make a very strenuous effort to escape from the multitudes and to secure the seclusion he desired. But he made it. And we shall be wise if we do the same. If we only draw near to God and have fellowship with him when we happen to be left alone, and when occasions offer themselves to us, we shall be very lacking in our devotion; the flame of our piety will languish on the altar of our heart. We must make occasion; we must seize opportunity; 'we must compel our life to yield the still hour, when, withdrawing ourselves into solitude, we are alone with God.
IV. THAT IF NEEDFUL TO OUR LORD, HOW MUCH MORE NECESSARY MUST SUSTAINED DEVOTION BE TO OURSELVES! If purity needed to pray, how much more need has guilt! if strength, how much more weakness! if wisdom, how much more ignorance and folly! If our Master did not go forth to great trials or temptations without first attuning his spirit and renewing his strength in the near presence of his Father, how much less shall we venture into the arduous and perilous future without first equipping ourselves at the sacred armoury, without first casting ourselves on God and drawing sustaining and overcoming vigour from his infinite resources! - C.
And He withdrew Himself into the wilderness and prayed.
I. THE NEED OF INWARD REFRESHMENT OF WHICH HE MUST HAVE BEEN CONSCIOUS.
1. Christ was full of the truest, tenderest sympathy.
2. His sympathy was invariably practical
3. It was intensely personal; general enough to embrace the multitude; particular enough to fix itself on the individual. We can imagine, therefore, how exhausted He must have been.
II. THE FEELING OF SADNESS WHICH CAME TO HIM IN VIEW OF THE SPIRITUAL APATHY OF THE MULTITUDES WHO WERE SO EAGERLY SEEKING HIM. If we are deeply concerned for the spiritual welfare of men we shall feel something of the same sadness.
III. HIS CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE DANGER TO HIS SPIRITUAL MISSION WHICH WOULD ARISE FROM A PREMATURE POPULARITY. Prayer is the only true preservative against the perils of success. Because of our success we are in danger —
1. Of rushing on too fast.
2. Of becoming self-dependent.
3. Of growing unsympathetic.
(B. Wilkinson,F. G. S.)I. UPON WHAT PRINCIPLES ARE WE TO ACCOUNT FOR OUR LORD'S FREQUENT RETIREMENT FOR SOLITUDE AND DEVOTION? A man, though in blessed and ineffable union with God. Made in all points like unto His brethren, with the exception of His sinless purity.
1. The Redeemer would be impelled to cultivate solitude and devotion by the fervour of His piety.
2. Solitary communion with God was necessary to preserve His holy mind from the contaminations of the world, incidental to the possession of a material body, and his participation of human nature.
3. In solitude and prayer, the Redeemer was invigorated to pursue and to accomplish His great work.
4. Our Lord, by this habit of retired devotion, afforded an example and an illustration of His own doctrine, and condemned the hypocritical and ostentatious worship of the Jewish elders.
II. WHAT ADVANTAGES MAY WE EXPECT TO DERIVE FROM IMITATING THE EXAMPLE OF THE SAVIOUR IN THIS PARTICULAR INSTANCE. To suppose the disciple in less need of perpetual supplies of grace than his Lord were folly and presumption.
1. Solitude is favourable to that calm, reflecting, and pensive state of the mind which is suitable to the higher duties of religion.
2. In devout seclusion, the realities of religion are brought more closely home to our consciences and our hearts, and we feel more deeply our individual concern in their truth and consequences.
3. A life of faith in opposition to a life regulated by the exclusive interests of the present world, can only be sustained by habits of private devotion.
4. It secures an effectual refuge amidst the sorrows and calamities of life.
(W. Hull.)1. In what His prayers for the most part consisted we know not, but we know that one element, which must ever form an important part in our petitions, could have no place in His. He would not say, "Forgive Me My trespasses."
2. But though Christ prayed without seeking mercy, of which He had no need, He still truly and earnestly prayed. His devotions were not simply thanksgivings, utterances of praise and gladness, or ecstatic contemplations.
3. In the prayers of Christ, if in nothing else, we see abundant reason for our prayers.
( E. Mellor, D. D.)
(J. Ogmore Davies.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)— A celebrated performer upon the piano was continually familiar with his instrument, for he used to say, "If I quit the piano one day I notice it; if I quit it two days my friends notice it; if I quit it three days the public notice it." No doubt he correctly described his experience; only by perpetual practice could he preserve the ease and delicacy of his touch. Be sure that it is so with prayer. If this holy art be neglected, even for a little time, the personal loss will be great; if the negligence be continued, our nearest spiritual friends will notice a deterioration in tone and life; and if the evil should be long indulged, our character and influence will suffer with a wider circle. To be a master of the mystery of prayer one must pray, pray continually, pray hourly, pray at all times, pray without ceasing. A Christian should no more leave off praying than the musician should leave off playing; in fact, it is the breath of every spiritual man, and woe be to him should he restrain it!
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(James E. Murdock.)
And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.I. THE POWER OF CHRIST IN THE GOSPEL IS MAINLY A POWER TO HEAL,.
1. It is a Divine power which comes from our Lord Jesus, because He is most surely God. It is the sole prerogative of God to heal spiritual disease.
2. Although our Lord Jesus healed as Divine, remember that He also possessed power to heal because of His being human. He used no other remedy in healing our sin-sickness but that of taking our sicknesses and infirmities upon Himself. This is the one great cure-all.
3. The power which dwelt in Christ to heal, coming from Him as Divine and human, was applicable, most eminently, to the removal of the guilt of sin. Reading this chapter through, one pauses with joy over that twenty-fourth verse, "The Son of Man hath power upon earth to forgive sin." Here, then, is one of the great Physician's mightiest arts: He has power to forgive sin.
4. This is not the only form of the healing power which dwells without measure in our glorious Lord. He heals the sorrow of sin. It is written, "He healeth the broken in heart and bindeth up their wounds." When sin is really manifest to the conscience it is a most painful thing, and for the conscience to be effectually pacified is an unspeakable blessing. Sharper than a dagger in the heart, or an arrow piercing through the loins, is conviction of sin. When Jesus is received by faith, He lifts all our sorrow from us in a moment.
5. Christ also heals the power of sin.
6. And He is able to heal us of our relapses.
II. A second remark arises from the text: THERE ARE SPECIAL PERIODS WHEN THE POWER TO HEAL IS MOST MANIFESTLY DISPLAYED. The verse before us says that on a certain day the power of the Lord was present to heal, by which I understand, not that Christ is not always God, not that He was ever unable to heal, but this — that there were certain periods when He pleased to put forth His Divine energy in the way of healing to an unusual degree. The sea is never empty; it is indeed always as full at one time as at another, put yet it is not always at flood. The sun is never dim, he shines with equal force at all hours, and yet it is not always day with us, nor do we always bask in the warmth of summer. Christ is fulness itself, but that fulness does not always overflow; He is able to heal, but He is not always engaged in healing.
1. On this occasion there was a great desire among the multitude to hear the Word.
2. The healing power was conspicuously present when Christ was teaching.
3. A further sign of present power is found most clearly in the sick folk who were healed by Jesus.
4. The particular time mentioned in the text was prefaced by special season of prayer on the part of the principal actor in it.
III. WHEN THE POWER OF THE LORD IS PRESENT TO HEAL, IT MAY NOT BE SEEN IN ALL, BUT MAY BE SHOWN IN SPECIAL CASES AND NOT IN OTHERS. We do not find that this power was wanting among the publicans; we have an instance here of one of them who made a great feast in his house for Christ. Where, then, was the power lacking? Where was it unsought and unfelt?
1. It was, in the first place, among the knowing people, the doctors of the law. These teachers knew too much to submit to be taught by the Great Rabbi. There is such a thing as knowing too much to know anything, and being too wise to be anything but a fool. Beware of saying, "Oh yes, yes, yes, yes, that is very applicable to So-and-so, and very well put." Do not criticise, but feel.
2. Those, moreover, who had a good opinion of themselves were left unblest. The Pharisees I no better people anywhere, from Dan to Beersheba, than the Pharisees, if you would take them upon their own reckoning.
3. The people who stood by, as one observes, they did not come to be preached at, they came for Christ to preach before them. They did not come for Christ to operate upon them; they were not patients, they were visitors in the hospitals.
4. Those who felt not the healing power sneered and cavilled. When a man gets no good out of the ministry, he is pretty sure to think there is no good in the ministry; and when he himself, for want of stooping down, finds no water in the river, he concludes it is dry, whereas it is his own stubborn knee that will not bend, and his own wilful mouth that will not open to receive the gospel.
IV. In the last place, I want Christian people here to observe that WHEN THE POWER OF CHRIST WAS PRESENT, IT CALLED FORTH THE ENERGY OF THOSE WHO WERE HIS FRIENDS TO WORK WHILE THAT POWER WAS MANIFEST.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)1. The infinitude of Christ's power.
2. The tenderness of Christ's power.
3. The beneficence of Christ's power.
4. The availableness of Christ's power.The conditions on which is secured the outflow of Christ's beneficent power.
1. Helplessness. Leper and paralytic men were unable to relieve themselves.
(P. P. Davies.)
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