As the day of His ascension approached, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
I. OUR WISDOM IN FRONT OF APPARENT EVIL. At this time our Lord had before him the dark days which would bring his ministry to a close. The contemplation of them had evidently gone down deep into his own mind, but he found none to share the thought or to sympathize with him in the prospect. He asked his disciples to let these things "sink down into their ears" (ver. 44), but they understood him not. He was the sole possessor of the great secret of his coming sorrow, struggle, and death. How did he face it? With an immovable resoluteness of soul. "He steadfastly set his face to go up to Jerusalem." What reason have we to be thankful for that holy and noble tenacity of spirit! Could anything less strong than that have carried him, unscathed, through all that followed? And if there had been any, even the slightest failure, what would have been the consequences to our race? When we have to face a future of pain, or of separation and attendant loneliness and single-handedness of struggle, or of strong and sustained temptation, in what spirit shall we face that? In the temper of calm and devout resoluteness; with a full and fixed determination to go bravely and unfalteringly through, shrinking from no suffering, enduring the worst that man can inflict, yielding nothing to the enemy of our soul. An unflinching resoluteness will do great things for us.
1. It will save us from much suffering; for cowardice and apprehension do not simply add to human wretchedness; they multiply it.
2. It will save us from the chief peril and go far to secure us the victory. The greatest of all perils before us is that of recreancy, uufaithfulness to our own convictions. An unstable mind is only too likely to be guilty of it. A resolute spirit is almost certain to escape it.
3. It will place us by the side of our Divine Leader and of the noblest of his followers. We shall be treading in the footsteps of him who "steadfastly set his face," etc., and who went up to that city of martyrs and gloriously triumphed there.
II. OUR DUTY IN THE PRESENCE OF A PROFESSED PROPHET. "They did not receive him;... They went to another village." How much is contained, in these simple words, of human folly and privation! These villagers were profoundly prejudiced against Christ, and declined absolutely to see what he could do, to hear what he would say. They would not "judge for themselves" on the evidence ready to be furnished. Anti consequently they suffered a great privation. The great Healer and Teacher of mankind went another way; their sick went unhealed, their souls went unenlightened, while Divine tenderness and truth found other hearts and homes. Often since then has Christ gone, in the person of some one of his prophets or spokesmen, to the city, to the village, to the home, to the individual heart, and offered his truth, his grace, his salvation. But deep-seated prejudice, or strong material interests, or keen love of pleasure, has barred the way. He has not been received. And as he does not force an entrance anywhere, he has gone elsewhere; he has passed by, and all the treasure of his truth has been unpossessed, all the blessedness of his salvation unknown. Of what unimaginable good, of what highest heritage, does human folly deprive itself!
III. OUR DANGER OF MISTAKING THE LOWER FOR THE HIGHER FEELING. The apostles, James and John, gave vent to a burst of strong resentment, and proposed to have a severe punishment inflicted. They supposed themselves to be actuated by an honourable and acceptable indignation. But Jesus "turned, and rebuked them;" they were entirely mistaken; their feeling was not that of pure indignation, it was tainted by an unholy irritation against men who would not receive them and their Master; moreover, the desire for immediate punishment was to give place, under Christian teaching, to a determination to win to a better way. Not extinction but reformation, not the infliction of the death which is due but the conferring of the life which is undeserved, not rigorous exaction but patient pity, not the folded fist of law but the open and extended hand of helpfulness, is the Christian thing. When we find ourselves giving way to wrath and proposing punishment, we do well to ask ourselves whether we are sure we know the "spirit we are of," and whether there is not a "more excellent way" for Christian feet to tread. - C.
He steadfastly set His face to go to JerusalemI. THE PERFECT CLEARNESS WITH WHICH ALL THROUGH CHRIST'S LIFE HE SAW THE INEVITABLE END.
II. OUR LORD'S PERFECT WILLINGNESS FOR THE SACRIFICE WHICH HE SAW BEFORE HIM.
III. THERE WAS IN CHRIST A NATURAL HUMAN SHRINKING FROM. THE CROSS. That steadfast and resolved will held its own, overcoming the natural human reluctance. "He set His face." All along that consecrated road He walked, and each step represents a separate act of will, and each separate act of will represents a triumph over the reluctance of flesh and blood. We are far too much accustomed to think of our Saviour as presenting only the gentler graces of human nature. He presents those that belong to the stony side just as much. In Him is all power, manly energy, resolved consecration; everything that men call heroism.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)John Huss when he went to the Council of Constance with the Emperor's safe-conduct in his belt; or as a condemned heretic would have been in the old days if he had gone and stood in that little dingy square outside the palace of the Inquisition at Rome, and there, below the obelisk, preached his heresies. Christ had been condemned in the council of the nation; but there were plenty of hiding-places among the Galilean hills, and the frontier was close at hand, and it needed a long arm to reach from Jerusalem all the way across Samaria to the far north. Knowing that, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and, if I might use the expression, went straight into the lion's mouth. Why? Because He chose to die.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
1. It teaches that we should never shrink from a path of duty, however many may be the obstacles we encounter.
2. Such an uncompromising religion must not expect any help or hospitality from the world. Jesus found Himself on hostile soil as soon as He set foot in Samaria.
3. It was probably about the time of His repulse by the Samaritans that Jesus delivered those solemn injunctions to His followers about taking up their cross daily if they would be His disciples. He drew a sharp line, and made a clean issue. It is a religion of this fibre that the times demand. Such living brings happy dying. Dean Alford asked that it might be inscribed on his tombstone:
(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
Sunday School Times.Oliver Cromwell's men just before the battle used to look at their general, and whisper to each other, "See, he has on his battle-face." When they saw that set, iron face they felt that defeat was impossible. Determined striving towards one point is the best way of gaining that point. Try to walk in a straight line over a field of snow, keeping your eyes fixed on the ground as you walk. When you look back on the track, you find it far from straight. Walk over the field again, this time keeping your eye fixed on some definite point ahead. That will keep you in the straight line, and will save you from fruitless wandering on this side or that. Jesus, keeping the end of His work in view, set His face towards it. So should we do with our work.
(Sunday School Times.)
Wilt Thou that we command fire?
I. LET US ADMIRE, AND IN OUR SPHERE AND MEASURE IMITATE, THE NOBLE FIRMNESS DISPLAYED BY OUR LORD AND MASTER ON THIS OCCASION.
II. LET US BEWARE OF RESEMBLING THESE SAMARITANS IN NOT RECEIVING THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. Though they were not immediately destroyed, yet their sin was great; nay, the very circumstance of the merciful forbearance shown towards them, manifests, with peculiar clearness, the heaviness of the guilt they incurred by rejecting such goodness.
III. Let us observe how plainly EVERY KIND AND EVERY DEGREE OF PERSECUTION ARE HERE FORBIDDEN. Fire from heaven might prove a doctrine to be true; but fire kindled under any such pretence, by men, or any other species of persecution, could prove nothing but their own bigotry and cruelty. Indeed, such is the constitution of the human mind, that it is ready to call in question, or to suspect, even the truth itself, when any attempt is made to support it by such means.
IV. In all we do, and especially in what we do under the name of religion, LET US CAREFULLY CONSIDER WHAT MANNER OF SPIRIT WE ARE OF. "The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men."
V. LET US BE VERY THANKFUL WHEN WE THINK OF THE GRACIOUS PURPOSE FOR WHICH THE SON OF GOD IS HERE SAID TO HAVE COME INTO THE WORLD.
(J. Foote, M. A.)
I. PIONEERS — "He sent messengers before His face." Pioneers in every sphere are those who go in advance and prepare the way, or act as heralds and announce the coming of those who are to follow. His coming is anticipated by the many and varied mercies and blessings of life, even as the glory of day is heralded by the early dawn. The loving Saviour we may be sure is close to the bounties of Providence and the privileges of the gospel. Education, too, is always in advance of Him. He sends it forth on its beneficent mission to give men right ideas, and to awaken in them a sense of need and longing. Education, too, like the sappers and miners, goes forward to remove obstructions, to cut down wild, luxuriant growth, to make a way through the wilderness, and to bridge over the ugly, dangerous chasms. The mercy of grace, religious instruction, the service of the sanctuary, the preaching of the Word — these are like the predictions which went before the Saviour, like the stars of the morning, true harbingers of the coming day. Yes, Jesus Christ is near the Temple and the teaching there — near the institutions and ordinances of worship. He is not far from pain and sorrow, from affliction, bereavement, and death. Now all these pioneers have come to you, my friends; have come to you with a mission in the interests of Christ, and for your eternal good. The question, therefore, arises: How have they been received? What has been the result of their visits?
II. PREPARATION — "TO make ready for Him." The pioneers in all time have gone before Christ to prepare His way, and the things of which I have spoken, and which come into our every life, are sent not only to herald the approach of the Saviour, but to help men to realize His nearness with their deep and present need of Him. When the light of the morning comes peeping in at the window, it tells the world that the sun has arisen and will soon flood the earth with brightness and glory. The dawn ever predicts the day, and prepares for it, and it ever seems to say to men, "Give it welcome; up with the blinds; open the windows, and let the light of the day come in." When the blade, the leaf, the blossom appear, they speak of the coming summer and harvest, and suggest that every barn and granary be got ready. And so when Christ sends His messengers in advance of Him, He desires that they should prepare for Him. There are three things which the pioneers of Christ seek to do — inform, awaken, and command, and all are intended to prepare for a full and hearty reception of Christ. They inform — tell men that Christ, that infinite goodness and love are in the events, in the experiences of life, and that Christ is coming near through them — is thus visiting to bless. They say, "He is coming," and the soul asks, "Who is He?" Zaccheus, hearing that Christ was to pass that way, had his curiosity aroused, and was thus moved towards the sycamore tree, that He might see Jesus, who He was. They command — coming from Christ and for Him, they declare His will, His requirements; they tell men to make ready for Him, and to give Him welcome and entertainment, to put away prejudice and indifference, to turn out all intruders, and to let the rightful owner of their spirits in; and that they would rightly regard these visitations, and the voices which speak — for they are in truth the voice of Christ — and their message may be summed up in one verse, "Behold! stand at the door and knock."
III. PREJUDICE — "They did not receive Him." The Samaritans did not because of their antipathy to the Jews; they allowed prejudice to overcome discretion, and even reason itself; but they did not know Christ, or they would not have acted thus, nor were they conscious of what they lost by rejecting Him.
IV. PASSING — "They went to another village." Jesus went from those who were unwilling, to others who were disposed to entertain Him, and this He is doing to-day. Anxious to enter every heart, He passes by the indifferent and obstinate. He does not force Himself upon man.
Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.1. We may notice here, in the first place, the power and evil of prejudice. The Samaritans seem in general to have been very favourably disposed towards our Lord, as was seen on various occasions. Why, then, did they now refuse to receive Him? It was because He was going up to Jerusalem to the Passover. They claimed that Mount Gerizim was the place where men ought to worship; but our Lord was on His way to worship at the Temple, on Mount Zion, and thus showed that He favoured their old enemies the Jews, and declared His preference far their religion. When Christ came from Judaea to Jacob's well they kindly received Him. If He would renounce the Jews, become a Samaritan prophet, and teach in their synagogues, they would have welcomed Him most cordially; but forasmuch as "He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem," they would have nothing to do with Him. Thus they lost their last opportunity of hearing Jesus, for He was now on His way to be crucified. Nor were the disciples much better in the spirit they displayed than the Samaritans.
2. We may notice, secondly, the mischiefs of a wrong interpretation of Scripture. "Wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, as Elias did?" Now Elias' conduct was very different from theirs, and his example gave no sanction to their proposed vengeance. Upon a perversion of Scripture, the supreme divinity of Jesus has been denied, the atonement rejected, good works pronounced unnecessary, a future punishment discarded; yea, all the thousand forms of error, and all the monstrous sects of Christendom have been based upon just such a mistake as these disciples made, in pleading the seeming sanction of Elijah's example, for that which it did not warrant.
3. We have, in the third place, in our Lord's conduct on this occasion, a beautiful lesson of tolerance towards those who are in error.
4. We may also learn from our Lord's treatment of these Samaritans, how to estimate the comparative evil of error.
5. We have in the conclusion of this history, the glorious end of the Saviour's mission. "He came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them." His whole work was one of salvation. His miracles were those of healing. His teaching was for the saving of the soul.
(W. H. Lewis, D. D.)I. NOTICE WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THE PROPOSAL OF THE TWO DISCIPLES.
1. This proposal discovers at least some acquaintance with the writings of the Old Testament, for it refers to an event which happened many centuries before, and which is remarkable in the history of Elijah.
2. It appears that the disciples had some distrust of their own judgment, and were willing to submit to Christ's direction. Their language is, Lord, wilt Thou that we should do this? They would do nothing rashly, nothing but what He approved; and in this they furnish an example worthy of imitation.
3. The language implies strong faith: "Wilt Thou that we command fire from heaven?" The disciples felt persuaded that if the Lord gave authority, the miracle would be performed. They had commanded unclean spirits out of persons, and were obeyed; and why might they not expect the same, if they called for fire from heaven?
4. They had a zeal for God, though not according to knowledge; it was sufficiently fervid, but not well directed. It was promised to the disciples that they should be baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire; that they should be endowed with extraordinary gifts and extraordinary zeal, yet not for the purpose of destroying men's lives, but to save them.
5. Their zeal expressed great indignation against sin, and in this it was commendable.
6. It was a zeal which expressed great affection for their Lord and Master. To see Him slighted and insulted, shut out of doors, and denied the common necessities and civilities of life, was more than they could bear; they therefore wished to resent such churlish behaviour.
7. There was, however, too much asperity in their zeal, and a want of Christian meekness and charity.
II. OBSERVE THE TREATMENT THEY MET WITH FROM THEIR LORD: "He turned and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of." There is a mixture of mildness and severity in this reproof. He upbraids them with ignorance, and especially ignorance of themselves, and of the motives by which they were influenced.
1. They were unacquainted with the infirmities of their own spirit, the temper they derived from constitutional causes, and which had been insensibly confirmed by habit.
2. They were not aware of the principles and motives by which their present conduct was influenced. The springs of action ought at all times to be severely inspected, because if an action be materially good, it is not morally and intrinsically so, unless it, principle be good also. A corrupt motive depraves and renders unacceptable to God the most laudable actions.Conclusion:
1. From the instance before us we see what a mixture of good and evil there may be in the same persons.
2. If Christ's immediate disciples, who had the advantage of such instructions and such an example, did not know what manner of spirit they were of, no wonder that so many misapprehensions and mistakes are found amongst us. Who can understand his errors?
3. We see that particular actings of the mind may be wrong, even where the general frame and temper of it is right.
4. Though the disciples did not well know the motives by which they were influenced, yet Christ did, for He searcheth the reins and the heart. He knoweth what is in man, and needeth not that any one should testify. All the Churches shall know this, and He will give to every man according to his works (Matthew 9:4; Mark 2:8; Revelation 2:23).
(B. Beddome, M. A.)be furnished with the right credentials. But how delightful it is to set fire to somebody else! The dynamitard is a character in ancient history. Would it not be convenient for the Church always to have in its pocket just one little torpedo that it could throw in the way of somebody who differed in not what manner of spirit ye are of." The spirit of Christianity is a spirit of love, a spirit of sympathy, a spirit of felicity, a spirit that can weep over cities that have rejected the Son of Man. Then said He, or said the historian — the words might be His, for they are part of His very soul — "For the opinion from somebody else! The Lord Jesus will not have this; He said, "Ye know Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (ver. 56). Tell this everywhere. Go ye into all the world and say to every creature, "The Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." The strongest man amongst us might devote his life to that sweet, high task. The brightest genius that ever revelled in poem or picture might devote all its energies to the revelation of that sacred truth. There are destroyers enough. Nature itself is often a vehement and unsparing destroyer. We are our own destroyers. There needs to be somewhere a saviour, a loving heart, a redeeming spirit, a yearning soul, a mother-father that will not let us die.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. THE OPPOSITION OF THIS SPIRIT TO THE TRUE SPIRIT AND DESIGN OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
1. This spirit which our Saviour here reproves in His disciples, is directly opposite to the main and fundamental precepts of the gospel, which command us to "love one another," and "to love all men," even our very enemies; and are so far from permitting us to persecute those who hate us, that they forbid us to hate those who persecute us. They require us to be "merciful, as our Father which is in heaven is merciful"; and to "follow peace with all men," and to "show all meekness to all men."
2. This spirit is likewise directly opposite to the great patterns and examples of our religion, our blessed Saviour and the primitive Christians.
II. THE UNJUSTIFIABLENESS OF THIS SPIRIT UPON ANY PRETENCE WHATSOEVER OF ZEAL FOR GOD AND RELIGION.
(H. W. Beecher.)
What is enthusiasm? What can it be
But thought enkindled to a high degree,
That may, whatever be its ruling turn,
Right or not right, with equal ardour burn
That which concerns us, therefore, is to see
What species of enthusiasts we be."
Here was enthusiasm, and enthusiasm for Christ; but it was expending itself in unchristian, and even anti-Christian channels. We are constantly meeting, in our every-day experience, with instances of misdirected enthusiasm. The important thing to do is to discover Christ's idea of Christianity, and to let our enthusiasm go forth into the same channels in which His was wont to flow. If this be our earnest and constant endeavour, then, although we may sometimes make mistakes, although we may, like the Boanerges, incur the rebuke, "Ye know not what spirit ye are of," it will be a gentle rebuke — one of pity rather than of condemnation.
(Prof. Momerie, M. A. , D. Sc.)
(J. Vaughan, B. A.)I. THE SPIRIT OF WAR IS CONDEMNED BY THE GENIUS OF CHRISTIANITY,
1. It very often springs from vainglory.
2. Or revenge.
3. Or sordid ambition.
II. THE SPIRIT OF PEACE IS INCULCATED BY OUR RELIGION, AND IN PROPORTION AS CHRISTIANITY PREVAILS WILL THAT SPIRIT OF PEACE RE DIFFUSED AMONG MANKIND.
1. It tends to the preservation of human life, and happiness, and property, and social order.
2. It allows of the development of all good and great principles, and the progress of mankind in virtue, morality, and piety.
3. Christianity must be on the side of peace, because of its Divine Author and Exemplar.
III. PRACTICAL CONCLUSIONS.
1. Let us cherish the spirit of peace. The great thing is to have the right temper.
2. Let us pray that our national councils may at all times be controlled and permeated by the spirit of peace.
3. We should labour for Christianity for this amongst other reasons, that it is only through Christianity, and the spread of it, that we shall ever attain to an era of universal peace.
(Dawson Burns, M. A.)I. Persecution for conscience' sake — that is, inflicting penalties on men merely for their religious principles or worship — is plainly founded on an absurd supposition, that one man has a right to judge for another, in matters of religion.
II. Persecution is also evidently inconsistent with that obvious and fundamental principle of morality, that we should do to others as we might reasonably desire they should do to us.
III. Persecution is likewise in its own nature absurd, as it is by no means calculated to answer the ends which its patrons profess to intend by it.
IV. Persecution evidently tends to produce a great deal of mischief and confusion in the world.
V. The Christian religion, which we here suppose to be the cause of truth, must, humanly speaking, be not only obstructed but destroyed, should persecuting principles universally prevail.
VI. Persecution is so far from being required or encouraged by the gospel, that it is directly contrary to many of its precepts and indeed to the whole genius of it.
(P. Doddridge, D. D.)
1. It has done this by overthrowing the tenets and destructive rites of heathenism.
2. By contributing to the civilization of society, it has, in many ways, spread a shield over human life.
3. Add to this the mighty advances which have been made under the fostering sway of Christianity, in every department of science.
4. There is, however, a far higher sense, in which our Lord might affirm that He had come to save human life. You are to bear in mind that death, bodily death, had entered the world, as the direct and immediate consequence of Adam's transgression, and that the counteracting this consequence, was one chief object of the mission of our Redeemer.
5. Now we have treated our text as though the word "life" were to be Literally taken, or interpreted with reference exclusively to the body; but it is often very difficult to say whether the original word denotes what we mean by the immortal principle and spiritual part of man, which never dies, or merely the vital principle — that, through the suspension of which the body becomes lifeless. And if the words before us may be applied to the destruction and the salvation of the soul, as well as of life in the more ordinary sense, it is indispensable that we say something of them in this their less obvious meaning. "I live," said the great apostle, "yet not I, but Christ liveth in me"; and life indeed it is, when a man is made "wise unto salvation" — when, having been brought to a consciousness of his state, as a rebel against God, he has committed his cause unto Christ, who "was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification." It is not "life" — it deserves not the name, merely to have power of moving to and fro on this earth, beholding the light and drinking in the air. It may be life to the brute, but not to man — man who is deathless, man who belongs to two worlds — the citizen of immensity, the heir of eternity. But it is "life," to spend the few years of earthly pilgrimage in the full hope and certain expectation of everlasting blessedness — to be able to regard sin as a forgiven thing, and death as an abolished — to anticipate the future with its glories, and the judgment with its terrors, and to know assuredly, that He who shall sit upon the throne, and "gather all nations before Him," reserves for us a place in those "many mansions " which He reared and opened through His great work of mediation. It is life to live for eternity; it is life to live for God; it is life to have fellowship with what the eye hath not seen, and the ear hath not heard. And this life Christ came to impart; He came to give life to the soul.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)I. THE NATURE OF CHRIST'S MISSION.
1. TO open up a new era under a dispensation of unbounded mercy.
2. This mission of our Lord's did not interfere with the course of nature, or natural law. It refers to our spiritual life.
II. THE DUTIES WHICH THESE WORDS LEAD US TO INFER.
1. The first is that of not being satisfied with any other life than that which Christ came to give or to save.
2. Another duty is that of encouraging feelings of charity towards others.
3. That the object of our Saviour's mission has been fulfilled, is being fulfilled, and will be so hereafter, is indisputable.
(W. D. Horwood.)
I. WAR. The late Dr. Dick calculated, in 1847, that from the earliest period down to that year 14,000,000,000 of human beings had fallen in battle. Christianity condemns war and inculcates peace.
II. SLAVERY. Here we have another great scourge of human life. Christianity sets its face against this monstrous iniquity. True that Christ and His apostles did not in a direct manner attempt to abolish it. Nevertheless, I affirm that Christianity is opposed to slavery, and will prove its death. Jesus Christ came to liberate the captive.
III. HEATHEN IDOLATRY and its human sacrifices.
IV. INTEMPERANCE. Sixty thousand deaths annually result from the use of intoxicating liquors. Christianity condemns intemperance. Sobriety is enjoined as a Christian virtue.
I. NEGATIVELY. Life is exposed to destruction. By sin it was forfeited. By law it is condemned. By justice it is demanded. By death it is claimed.
II. POSITIVELY. The Son of Man is a Saviour. He came to reveal salvation. He came to procure salvation. He came to bestow salvation. He is coming to perfect salvation.
III. THE ASSURANCE THE SINNER HAS OF CHRIST'S INTEREST IN HIS SALVATION. Of God's readiness to give salvation. Of the Spirit's power to apply salvation. Of the joy a personal salvation secures. "Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation."
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