THE FEET OF JESUS
in Life, Death, Resurrection and Glory
by Philip Bennett Power, 1872
How the demoniac came to be at the feet of Jesus
"When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus' feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid!" Luke 8:33-35
It is a skillful hand which can produce a perfect picture with masses of clouds above, and with darkness in the foreground as well as in the background; the whole of the picture's light being concentrated on two figures with dazzling brilliancy.
This Luke has accomplished here; and he could not have done it had not the material been supplied to him direct from heaven.
Everything here is black—the demons, the swine, the conduct of the Gadarene people—but, lit up with an intense light, is to be seen Jesus, and the man out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at His feet.
This man is to be our study now—
(1) how the man came to be at those feet;
(2) the man as he was there;
(3) the man as he was seen there; and
(4) the man as he was sent away from there.
And in inquiring into how this man, known as "the demon-possessed man," both far and near, came to be found at such a place as "the feet of Jesus," and under such altered circumstances as, "sitting," "clothed," and "in his right mind"—our minds revert to the figures in the picture, with which the chapter opens.
It is by no chance, by no hasty and unskilled manipulation of the brush, that such figures could be produced. There are inherent difficulties which present a resistance to the artist. We might say, there is a preliminary resistance to be overcome, and a preliminary process to be gone through. Both these we find here. Let us, so far as we can, trace the working in of the immediate background, which by its darkness throws out the figures of Jesus and the demoniac sitting at His feet. We shall confine ourselves to this; and, it may be, as we proceed, the reader will find that some of the dark colors which are mixed are those with which he is, from sad experience, only too familiar himself.
This man did not come into his sitting posture at Jesus' feet without preliminary resistance, and that resistance presents us with three important characteristics. It was the resistance of darkness, of effort, and of debased intelligence. We have these three ingredients well defined.
The man was in a state of utter darkness as regards Jesus; not as regards who He was, for Mark tells us that, "when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshiped Him, and cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with you, Jesus, Son of the most high God!" But as regards His character and mission; his only idea of Jesus was that of His being a tormentor.
That the man had an awfully debased idea of Jesus—we shall see presently; but, co-existent with that, was his profound darkness.
When it is put in so many plain words, we are startled at the idea of a man calling Jesus a "tormentor." From our youth up, we have always heard of His sweetness and tenderness, and of His invitations to the weary and the heavy-laden to come to Him, and He will give them rest. And there is scarcely anyone professing to be a Christian, who would not shrink horror-stricken from the blasphemy of calling Him in plain terms so fearful a name; but underneath the thin gilding of nominal Christianity, we soon come to the debased metal of the natural heart; the only real idea of many a one is—that He is his tormentor. This is one of the hard speeches which the hearts of ungodly sinners have spoken against Him; and concerning which He will execute judgment, when He comes with ten thousands of His saints.
It may seem hard to some that, they should be held accountable for speech which they have never uttered with their lips. They say, 'Human laws do not take note of any but overt acts.' But the law which has to do with your souls, takes note of the libels of the heart; it hears a voice out of the depth of the darkness of our inner feelings and desires say of Jesus, as the crucifying crowd said, "Away with Him," or, as the demoniac howled out, "Do not torment me!"
The pressing home of the truth, the immediate and undeniable presence of Christ, the feeling that a man has to do, not with what he has read or heard of Christ—but with His very self, brings out what he really thinks of Him by nature—that He is a tormentor, "do not torment me!"
It is the work of the prince of darkness; it is the great lie of darkness; there, in darkness and ignorance about who Jesus is—does the evil one like to keep the soul; and such is the utterance he delights to hear it make. Indeed, this heavy dull resistance of darkness, and ignorance, is the first great impediment to Christ's true work upon the soul.
No wonder that people do not want to have any close dealing with Him, when they think of torment and discomfort! No wonder that so many young people will have nothing to do with Him, saying, 'If I become what people call a Christian, I shall lose all my pleasures!' And so many older ones say, 'I shall not be able to devote myself so thoroughly to my business, making it all in all to me as it is now. If I answer this claim of a higher love, those who now have my affections cannot have them as thoroughly as they had before. Jesus, we adjure you, do not torment us! We will not do anything openly against you, only do not torment us!'
This poor demoniac did not know, that Jesus never took—but to give; never emptied—but to fill. He had no idea of there being anything beside wandering in the tombs; and thought that to lose even that wretched existence, would be, perhaps, to go out into the deep. He was like many now, who think there can be no change from what they have or are, to what is better; but that the loss of these is the loss of all.
This was one point of resistance which had to be overcome, before the demoniac could be brought to the feet of Jesus. As might naturally be expected, the passive resistance of opinion—issued in the active one of effort. What strength this man had, and indeed it was terrible, he put into his rejection of Jesus—he "cried with a loud voice."
It may seem to us that, there is nothing astonishing in this, seeing the man was a demoniac—that the loud cry is what was to be expected from him. And just because it was what was to be expected, is it likely to escape our notice in the teaching which it has for ourselves. He was under demon rule; and it is the law of demon nature that it should put forth all its strength against Christ.
In this case, the cry was outward and audible; but such cries are now often to be heard in the spiritual world, though, as far as mere human hearing is concerned, all is silent; or there may be even a passive endurance of the presence of Christ.
The ears of Him who can hear the heart's real voice are smitten with the cry, "Have you come to torment me?" "What have I to do with you?" Though men know not what they are saying, they are in truth crying out, 'Leave me as I am! I prefer to be torn and to cut myself with stones, to range the mountains in nakedness, and to dwell among the tombs—to having anything to say to You.'
There is One who judges not after the seeing of the eye, nor after the hearing of the ear; and He hears voices which appear to join in family worship, and to mingle with the psalmody of His Church, crying out from the heart's real depths, "What have I to do with you—Son of the living God?—have you come to torment me?"
There is something very dreadful in the energies of a man's nature being gathered up in resisting Christ—in the loud voice so ready to rise against Jesus; especially when compared with the feebleness of the voices which rise for good.
And in the day of great account, when the history of the soul's transactions with Jesus shall be disclosed, how many will there be who will then for the first time discover, to their horror—the amount of energy they had put into their rejection of Jesus—how loudly they repudiated—how loudly they cried out against Him!
That loud voice of the demoniac, however startling to others, was not so to himself—he was accustomed to "crying;" and so it may be with man now; he may cry long and loud, and yet unabashed, against Jesus. Satisfied with his own state, a man may all the while be crying out against the Son of God, and pouring the blasphemies of the heart into listening ears in the other world.
The resistance offered by the demoniac to Christ was not, however, one of simple violence. The evil spirits, when they entered into the swine, acting in a manner suitable to the nature of the creatures in which they were lodged, impelled them violently down a steep place into the deep; but when in the man, they wrought through a debased mind.
He recognized the existence of distinct and widely divergent paths for himself and Jesus; and embodied the thought energetically in the loudness of his cry. Of all the cries with which that man made the solitude of the graves ring again—there was not one, into which he more terribly put his whole being than this. And although it is not accompanied with loud cries, or is shouted out to the world; yes, even though on the other hand, the spiritual demoniac is a cunning man, rather than a violent man, and tries to hide his principle of action from the world, still he who stands out in opposition to Christ, does so upon a like foundation with the demoniac here.
The foundation of all rejection of Jesus—is the deep inward feeling that we have nothing in common with Him; and, moreover, that we wish to have nothing in common with Him.
A man sees that Christ's ways are not as his ways; and that for him and Christ to come together—is like the meeting of fire and water.
There are numbers of men who would be content to have Christ—if they could keep their sin and old selves also; but they know enough to feel they cannot; and so they bid Him to leave.
This man took up a demoniacal standpoint, from which he viewed himself; putting himself as a demon-possessed, out of the common family of manhood, and denying that he had anything to do with Jesus the Son of the Most High God.
Now from what standpoint did Jesus view this man? He took him, we conceive, in the twofold power of His being the Son of God and Son of man.
This demoniac, when he cried, "What have I to do with you?" put a question to which he thought there could be but the one answer—namely, "nothing," but to which Jesus knew there was another; and in that other lay the man's deliverance and life.
The one thus possessed of devils, and directly challenging Christ with this question, was a man, and Jesus was 'Son of man,' as well as Son of God.
As horrible as was the condition of the devil-possessed, there was a point of common humanity between him and Christ. The human nature thus degraded, was the same as that which sinlessly belonged to Jesus himself. And Jesus recognized the humanity of the man. He said, (Mark 5:8,) "Come out of the man." The man's identification of himself with the devils, "My name is Legion—for we are many"—that, coupling together and intermingling of the "I" and "we," is not recognized by Jesus; He severs the man from the spirits, and sets him free as a man again. "You unclean spirit, come out of him!"
It is well—yes, it is essential to our spiritual life, even to our salvation, to be strong on the subject of the Godhead of Jesus; it is equally necessary that we should be strong on that of His manhood. Nothing is to be gained by our impairing in the slightest degree the perfect humanity, and the completeness of the humanity—of Jesus. On the other hand, there is great loss; for if Jesus is not fully man—human sinfulness apart, the key to infinite treasure is lost. Where is our Sympathizer? Where is our experienced Friend? Where is our very sin-atoning Sacrifice?
To detract from the fullness of Christ's manhood, is as much to disturb the harmony and full proportion of His being, and to wrong and misunderstand Him, as to detract from His Godhead. Touch His perfect Godhead, or His perfect manhood—and you have no longer the Christ of the Bible; nor, we may add, the Christ of your own need.
And descending from Jesus to ourselves, we may repeat a portion of this observation. There is nothing to be gained by impairing the dignity of manhood; even as, on the other hand, nothing is to be had by exaggerating it. There are opposite schools of thought by which each of these errors are taken up. He who would know what man really is, must hold part of what is held by each.
One practical point, however, is suggested to us here by Christ's recognition of the man, and His refusal to acknowledge the obliteration of humanity by the indwelling of the devils. It is this—
As man, with all the great possibilities of manhood, with all its privileges, with all His own community with it, His own interest in it—you are before the Lord. He is predisposed to look favorably upon you. Your very humanity goes for much with Him; it is important in His eyes. Jesus does not acknowledge the right of evil beings or propensities to have possession of you. How completely then have all who would struggle against evil—the sympathies of Jesus on their side! How is He willing that the nature which He Himself bears in all sinlessness should be rescued from evil in every way! How have we with us the Son of God, and Son of man!
And then, forasmuch as our eyes must be kept closely upon Jesus, mark how this man was saved by what was in that Holy One, and not by anything in himself. He was so clouded as to his state, so overridden with evil, that all which came forth from him was the cry of repudiation of any oneness with the Lord. But the clear eye of Jesus saw all; and out of the love and pity of His own heart, He acted, and called back the man to true manhood, yes, and to His own feet. It was Jesus' view of the man's necessity, and not his own, that did it all.
And thus there came an end to the terrible "often" of which we read—the binding with fetters and chains, the plucking asunder and breaking in pieces of those bonds, the futile efforts of man to tame him. All the man's sufferings, his double woe, from the tyranny of the devils, from the discipline of his fellow-men, were ended.
From all suffering there is a voice of comfort, if we are skilled to catch its tones; and they are to be found here.
We know perhaps the meaning of the word "often," sadly know it, in our own history, and in that of dear ones, whom over and over again we have attempted to control—but all in vain.
This "often" is found more or less in the history of every soul; how terribly in that of some! Perhaps, how terribly in our own!
But Jesus can deal with our "oftens" as well as with our "seldoms," the latter frequently as bad as the former.
We mention them as embracing all our need, our omissions and commissions, our violence and our apathy, our all of evil, whatever it may be; therefore, let us take courage.
Man has failed. We have failed with others. We have failed with ourselves. The remembrance of the "often" is overwhelming us. We have expended all known means—fetters and chains—for binding up evil. Let us remember this demoniac's "often," the "often" of his friends, and where we found him at last—at the feet of Jesus.
The Demoniac Sitting at the Feet of Jesus
Even the greatest events often make impressions on us, wholly inadequate to their real importance. We do not care to inquire into how they came about—how wonderful they really are—what great results hang upon them. We are struck by some few of the leading features—but we are not concerned to inquire into the minutiae.
The crowds who line the streets, and fill the balconies, and cluster on the house-tops, when a victorious army is returning to the capital in triumph, are, perhaps, intoxicated with the pageant; it passes amid a whirl of excitement and storm of applause—but how few think of all that it involves—the patient drills, the working together of so many brains, the union of so many hearts and hands and minds, the forethought, the self-denial, and the skill. And still fewer think of all that hangs upon this success—the political changes, the effects upon national character, the misery or welfare of their fellow-men, as the case may be.
And thus exactly is it with regard to the story of the demoniac, who is here presented to us, as sitting at the feet of Jesus. There he is, a sufficiently astonishing object to attract our attention, and excite our wonder; but how few think of all which, as we have seen, happened, before he was brought there; and of all that, for himself and others, hung upon his wondrous change!
We. have seen something of what was involved in the demoniac's coming to be at the feet of Jesus at all; now let us contemplate him as he is sitting there.
The demoniac presents himself to us under three different aspects, he is:
(1) a changed man,
(2) a resting man,
(3) a satisfied man.
He is, as it were, a ray of light emanating from Jesus. And just as a ray, the moment you pass it through a prism, breaks up into a diversity of beautiful colors, so the work of Christ, when examined, divides itself into component parts, each one distinct—but each harmonizing with the other.
The demoniac might easily, as sitting at Christ's feet, be presented to us in as many aspects as there are colors in the prismatic ray; even then the subject of his change would not have been treated exhaustively—but these three will suffice for the purpose immediately in hand.
The demoniac was aCHANGED man indeed. His cure was perfected at once; and so he is presented to our notice, as being a complete and startling contrast to what he had been before. He had been violent—he is now calm; he had been naked—he is now clothed; a few moments before he would have nothing to do with Christ—now he is sitting at His feet. He loved to dwell among the tombs—now he sits at the feet of the One whose voice the dead in their graves shall hear, and live—the spoiler of the sepulcher, the Resurrection and the Life.
We may crouch at the feet of Jesus in abject terror—or sit there in satisfying rest. The man had done the first—and now he does the last. As in many a case, there was a falling—before there came a sitting. It was with him, as it was afterwards with Paul.
The reader will observe that we are speaking of the contrast of a completed cure. And we are anxious to state this, because so many say that nothing is done—unless all is done. We have shown how little sympathy we have with this idea, by tracing the preliminary process through which this man went, and the all importance of his debased humanity being brought into contact with the man Christ Jesus, the Son of the Most High God.
Every approach to Christ is precious, every dealing direct with Him is hopeful. We know not what may come out of it; there may, no doubt, be rejection of Him, as by the Gadarenes—but there may be healing from Him, as there was for the dweller among the tombs.
The demoniac is a changed man in his whole being—externally and internally; he is clothed as regards the body without; he is in his right mind as regards his intellect within.
These two great points of change have their distinct teachings.
As soon as the devils were cast out, the rescued demoniac became the recipient of charitable kindness from those around. From some of those who were present, he doubtless received what was sufficient to clothe his nakedness.
Jesus had wrought, as was His custom, up to the immediate necessity of the case; and just as He commanded that food should be given to the daughter of Jairus when He had raised her from the dead—but did not create any for the purpose; so here He allowed the demoniac to be clothed by the kindness of those who were around.
By this act they took him back into the fellowship of rational manhood; and it may be that, in leaving this part of the poor man's need to them, Jesus meant that there should be some teaching for ourselves. The torn garments of the Gadarene cast from him in his madness—the clothing which, when he would use it, he received from the hands of kindly charity, have their teaching, as well as has that coat without seam, woven throughout from neck to foot, which God, for His own purposes, deemed worthy of being enshrined.
The view in which the rescued demoniac presents himself to us here is that of a recipient of charitable kindness.
Often, after the great work of Christ upon the soul—he who has experienced it needs much charitable help. It may be that this has its place in the deep providence of God. For while none but Jesus can do the great work, He wills that we, in our measure and place, should be fellow-workers together with Him.
When He raises Lazarus from the dead, He says, "Loose him, and let him go!" When He multiplies the bread, He delivers it to His disciples, and through them to the hungry crowd. When He will pay the tribute money, He sends Peter to cast a hook. When He will give them a multitude of fishes, they must cast at the right side of the ship.
In the work of our salvation—the great sacrifice upon the cross—Jesus stands alone; but in other things He is continually drawing His people into fellowship of work with Himself. It may be that, these are some of the bonds which are destined forever to bind together that great family of which Jesus Himself is Head.
There is meaning in what the Lord leaves undone—as well as in what He does.
Often then, as we have said, immediately after Christ's great work, there is need of charitable help. The man upon whom He has wrought is alive to what he so recently was—and he needs kindness, sympathy, the reception into fellowship, the covering over of that recent shame, at which, indeed, he is so much abashed himself.
It is we, such of us as are with Christ, who are to do this for him. We must not want to get him to sit at our feet. Alas! how many in a spirit of partisanship, or patronizing, would do this. His place is at the feet of Jesus! But we are to accept and endorse that restoration of him to true manhood which Jesus has wrought.
The casting out of the old evil spirit leaves a man with many necessities; perhaps if we knew how many—we would try to supply him so far as we are able.
This is one of the teachings suggested to us here. And as this comes to those who are with Christ, His followers and friends, when He does His great work, so the next comes to the person on whom such a work is wrought.
As soon as ever Jesus casts out the evil spirit—a new set of claims arise. The claims which the demons made—were those of violence, and shame, and outragings of humanity in every form; the claims of the man's restored being—were those of decency and order.
We are now only speaking of the demoniac in his external aspect. There is an outward decency, as well as an inward change, belonging to the spiritual life.
Would that it were always more enforced in preaching, more carried out in practice. This history of the demoniac speaks to two opposite sets of preachers—those who on the one hand urge the all-importance of an inward change—but tarrying there, take no heed to inculcate the necessity of a decidedly holy life. On the other hand, there are those who inculcate all preciseness of outward living—but leave untouched the conversion of the heart.
Exorcized by Christ, and sitting clothed at His feet, we have, in a figure, the whole truth—both without and within; and without because within, the blessed change is wrought.
The man did not complain of any irksomeness or hard restraint in wearing the unaccustomed clothing: so far from it, he would not have been contented without it; his condition of nakedness would have been uncomfortable, and out of harmony with his new life; for very shame's sake he would probably have rushed away to the tombs again, no longer, indeed, to delight himself in them—but there to be hidden.
But such an end would have ill-befitted this great work of Christ. The man's destiny was to be something very different from that; he was to sit clothed for awhile at Jesus' feet, and then to go forth clothed into the haunts of men—a robed preacher among his own kin of the wonderworking power of Christ.
Now what has been our experience? What do we feel within ourselves? What aspect do we present to the world?
Is it possible that after Christ's great transformation of us, we can be content to feel and act as we used to do? Surely not! New cravings, new desires, new necessities, have sprung up. As the apostle's converts were his epistle, known and read of all men—so we must be the epistle of Christ's work, read and known of all. The world ought to be able to read Christians even externally. When the Gadarenes came to see what was done—and see him who was possessed with the legion of devils, and had the legion, sitting and clothed, and in his right mind—the evidences of their senses showed that he was a changed man. And that very evidence we should distinctly seek to give to the world. We must give them something to see. Wherever we were known as bad, there let us seek to be known as changed. We may have many failures—but our very effort amid failures will be an undeniable testimony.
The external and the internal change were necessarily conjoined. They were so in the case of the prodigal—when he came to himself, (and in truth he had been beside himself,) before he returned, just as he was, with his shoeless feet and tattered rags, and his father brought forth the best robe, and put shoes on the way-worn feet.
The demoniac was now in his right mind—this clothing was with his full consent; he adopted it. The Gadarenes recognized him as in his right mind, and in truth he was, and that much more than they knew—much more, indeed, if we push the matter to its furthest, than they were themselves.
Outward change was all they could understand—but that they saw. He himself had that which was peculiarly his own; he had received from Jesus something so individual and personal that, like the name in the white stone, none could know it save he who had received it; but there, in his own person, he furnished his countrymen with such evidence of change, as they could receive.
We are bound to do the same. No one on earth ever knew, or could know the secret which was between that man's soul and Christ; but there was that in him which they who ran might read.
Christ wills that we should have secrets between us and Him. What love could there be without secrets? Secrets to be told, and to be heard—involving the delightful consciousness, that no one knows them but ourselves.
There will probably be such secrets even throughout eternity—secrets, if for no other reason—yet because they could not be put into words; they belong to that particular heart; and I can imagine its having a holy jealousy in parting with them; they are witnesses of the individuality of Christ's love with the individuality of our love—perhaps a witness of the personal bond by which we are held to Him.
The demoniac aRESTING man! There he sat at the feet of Jesus, with, in all likelihood, no elaborate feelings—but just simply with consciousness of blessing and enjoyment of rest—a something, the like of which he had never felt before. No doubt if we set ourselves to seek for them, we should find the germs of all sorts of blessed feelings; but the one thing which probably filled his mind was the thankful consciousness of blessing. For well he knew, that it was but a very little while ago since he had been not only unblest himself—but one who hurt everyone on whom he could lay his hands.
Now he had a quiet consciousness that he had entered upon a new phase of existence; and there was a great honoring of Jesus in that calm sitting at His feet.
There are many excellent people who despise, or at any rate do not make very much of a quiet meditation—a calm enjoyment of Christ, like this.
They would drive the man about vehemently again. It is true they would do it with the best motives—but they do not know the value of a quiet resting-time at the feet of Jesus—that every moment there, is, in truth—a laying up of fresh energy, which will develop itself with power by-and-by.
But the demoniac could appreciate this rest; he had but to compare it with previous unrest; and bare rest, even with nothing else, was sweet. It had the charm of a new state, of new feelings; the tempest was over—and this was calm.
It was, indeed, something very new. The devil-possessed man had known of but one acceptable rest, and he had cried aloud for it—it was to be let alone by Christ; but Jesus has another rest for him—it is at His feet. He knew of that, for him, which he could not know or guess of for himself—and He led him to it.
This is how the Lord acts. He hears us bid Him away in our madness—but triumphing over us, makes us love what we but a little time before both hated and dreaded—great closeness to Himself, a place at His very feet.
We do not suppose that there was anything speculative going on in that poor man's mind, that he had much thought at all; the sense of deliverance, of blessing, of what had happened to him, perhaps some vague sense of a relationship between himself and Christ, was all he had—but what an "all" was that!
We often misjudge, and make great mistakes about people who are not out in any open ministry for Christ. We think they are bringing Him no glory and honor. In many cases it may be so—but assuredly not in all. The demoniac, as he sat there, was a glorious spectacle to men and angels; he was a witness to Christ's power; his satisfaction in being at those feet at rest, was a great testimony to Christ's might. For here was displayed the triumph of the immaterial over the material. Material bonds never could have kept the man there—but immaterial did; human restraints, such as cords and chains, could do no more—but Jesus had done all.
Jesus, no doubt, could have restrained the brute force of the man, and caused him henceforth only to gnash his teeth in impotent fury among the tombs; but He went higher, He acted on the outward through the inward; He touched the fountain-head of the evil—and thus brought the afflicted one to tarry willingly at His feet.
In truth, there are many who will be held in by neither bit nor bridle, who will be bound neither with cords nor chains; but there is something stronger than all outward restraint. They know what they can resist—but they do not know what they cannot resist. If Jesus comes indeed, they will be overcome. There may be tearing and rending—but the dealing with the inward will conquer.
Always believe that there is an 'inward' on which to deal—a something in man to which Christ, and he who goes in the name of Christ, can speak.
Jesus would not recognize this man as wholly a devil; and no matter how much a man will, perhaps in reality, or perhaps in bravado, make himself out devilish, he has, nevertheless, that which can be appealed to in the name of Christ.
And this power of Christ to deal with what is altogether beyond our reach, must be our great hope—our hope as regards ourselves and others. It must be the mainstay of ministers in their dealings with souls; of teachers with their pupils; of parents with their children. It is from the heart there proceed all the evils which defile and disgrace a man; and it is Christ's spiritual influence alone—which can get at the heart. Christ works from that which is within, to that which is without.
We have said that the demoniac had probably no elaborate or well-defined feelings while thus, during this brief period, at the feet of Jesus; just the consciousness and enjoyment of deliverance— calm, peace, quiet—these were the main ingredients of his happiness.
Let us not hurry new-born souls, by trying to force a multitude of well-defined, and, perhaps, advanced truths into their minds. In trying to give them more than they can take in, you may deprive them of what they have. Rest affords elements of growth.
And we may remark that, in the spiritual life, it is possible to commit an error in attempting to make every feeling or sensation take a particular and definite shape.
Some feelings are not destined to shape themselves for a season—some are, perhaps, never intended to do so. There is beauty and power, too, in the undefined things of God. Let us respect them; let us not be coarse in meddling with them.
No doubt, there are men who would like never to have anything but a dreamy and undefined religion. But it is not because of that error that we should ignore this truth.
It is very possible that this man had some vague sense of relationship between Christ and himself; there was, at least, that of the healer and the healed; it possibly helped to bind him there to the feet, and we may be sure it energized him when he went to testify to those of his house.
Relationship to Christ!—let us establish that: and who can tell what it will do?
We must add a line upon the aspect of the once demoniac, as aSATISFIED man.
There are two interesting points in which he might be thus contemplated—as satisfied, though he had to part with an entire past; and though there lay before him an unknown future. Looked at in a mere natural point of view, these were calculated to be elements of disquiet; but we must view them from the standpoint of the work of Christ.
He who is truly acted on by Christ—is willing to have the past a past indeed. He judges, he condemns it. He acknowledges that it was his—alas! too surely his sin. But now, at the feet of Jesus, he has to do with it no more. No fruit has he now in those things whereof he is ashamed; the time past suffices in which to have wrought such wickedness. He is not judged only of others, he has judged himself. The separation he wills to be complete; he wishes it to be entirely past. His only remembrance of it he desires to be with horror. He takes up the confession which says, "The remembrance of them is grievous."
Many people cannot understand the willingness of Christ-acted-on men, to part with a whole past—they urge as an objection to receiving Christ that they will have to give up so much; they say, how can I give up this or that? But such as have felt the power of Christ, are satisfied—their will goes with His will.
There lay an unknown future before that man sitting so restingly and quiet at Jesus' feet; but it troubled him not; he sat and was at peace.
It may be that in after days he had to bear persecution, like the blind man whom the Jews reviled; in all probability he did not give that testimony which he was commissioned by Jesus to give, without some hazard to himself; but the future, all unknown and new as it must be, was no concern to him, as he sat at the feet of Jesus.
Nor need it be to us. He who has parted with the past by the power of Christ—shall by that power be preserved in the future. The hand which has cut him off from a past of the evil ones, will bind him to a future of His own.
Therefore, dear reader, do not let the future trouble you with fears. You can meet with no enemy worse than the one over whom Jesus has already given you the victory. He sends you out into the future with great tokens, and pledges of His power. You have received no spirit of bondage—but a spirit of adoption, wherein you cry out, 'Abba, Father!'
We need have no fears of that future into which we go at Jesus' command, and straight from sitting at His feet.
The Demoniac—the Man as Seen at the Feet of Jesus
Before we consider the subject of this man's being sent away from the feet of Jesus, where, as we would think, he might have so fitly been allowed to stay—it will be well worth our while to survey him as seen there by others—by the Gadarenes, his fellow-countrymen—those who had only too good right to know who he was; in whom, from very self-interest's sake, the miracle wrought should have excited other feelings than those which it did.
As soon as tidings of what had occurred got abroad, all the people round about from city and country came together to Jesus. At His feet, they see the former demoniac sitting clothed and in his right mind; they are struck with awe; then they hear again how the wonder had come about, "and concerning the swine," and they beg Him to depart out of their coast.
They came to Jesus, and found the man.
What a sight! Man in the highest form—Jesus; man rescued from the lowest form—a habitation of devils—"the man who had the devils."
Here a great sight was presented to them; and we would have thought that the presentation of that picture—that first sight which struck their eye, ought to have produced an entirely different effect from what it did.
The Gadarenes were unconscious even of that which they might have known. The man now sitting quietly before them was the one who had been the terror of the neighborhood. They had doubtless known plenty of instances of his violence—their wives and children probably trembled at the mention of his name; was it nothing that he should be made harmless, and that men could henceforth "pass by that way" which he had frequented and made unsafe? The blessing even in this light was great—there they might read it, even in a single glance at Jesus' feet; but it does not seem to have come home—it was overborne by the destruction of their swine.
It is amazing how slow men are to perceive, and to acknowledge, even the visible advantages which come from the working of Christ. They see men, who were the pest of the neighborhood, becoming its blessing; those who set the worst example—now setting the best; those who used by their idleness to be a burden to others—now industrious for themselves, and so on; and they will not see how good among them must be the presence of the One by whom such wonders are wrought. The world takes but little note of the great things it owes to Christ's working—in its anxiety to get rid of Christ Himself.
That they should be unconscious of the fullness of the wonderful miracle, we need not be surprised. They could not, indeed, know how complete was the antagonism between Jesus and the devils; but the bare fact of His having power over them might have awakened some other thoughts than those which then filled their hearts. But they did not; and we here see that what we think would be invincible evidence, may often prove inoperative altogether.
We have been amazed that men could not be worked upon, as regards their own souls, when they saw and recognized the change wrought upon some neighbor, or in some member of their family; but that fear of loss, of having to give up, as they think, what they now value, counteracts it all. This is the power of self-interest—to hinder sight, or enquiry.
The Gadarenes found no swine—and this hindered their understanding or valuing what they did find. The wonder of the cured demoniac—that of the presence of One by whom such folk could be cured—could not compete with the value of the swine! That the devils had gone out of the man was more than counterbalanced by their having gone into the swine. They found "a man," where they had known only a 'habitation of devils'—but they did not enter into that reasoning; they had not the spiritual wit to see and accept this great fact, and to refuse to put "a man" in competition with swine!
It is, indeed, amazing how low self-interest will sink us—how it will make us forgetful of high charities; how it will so fill us with its own seen affairs, that we cannot interpret other seen things which are before our very eyes, in which, in truth, our deepest interests are concerned.
Wherever there is a great door open, there are the many adversaries; there is not a thing of earth—but that has in it the capacity for interfering with the things of heaven! Even when Jesus is most manifestly present—are to be found 'many swine!'
Great personal loss is occasioned by lack of spiritual discernment. So is it here. These Gadarenes, if only they had been equal to the occasion, might have argued blessing for their own afflicted ones, or themselves, from the presence of Jesus. Had He cured such a one as the demoniac—then what might He not do for them and their loved ones! But they did not think of utilizing Jesus; they thought only of the swine! They knew not the time of their visitation.
Jesus, with the demoniac at His feet, was a proclamation to them that a Healer was in the midst of them for them; but they failed to hear it, and the opportunity passed away.
We need not be surprised. It is an awful thing to allow 'swine' to come into competition with Jesus. The swine are always more or less present, and more or less attempting to do this; but when with full set purpose men give them the upper place—it is no marvel if Jesus leaves them.
And although it is hoped that the reader of these pages is one who prefers Jesus to all others, (else why has he taken up a book on such a subject as the "Feet of Jesus" at all,) still let him—yes, and let the writer, too, be on their guard against the intrusion of these swine!
We must not depress them into a position of no value, if we are to be taught by the story of the demoniac; for the swine were of value in the eyes of the Gadarenes.
The material things which come into competition with Christ, have their power from their value; and we must overcome that power by a high appreciative standard of who the Lord is, and what He does. We must say, 'such is Jesus—that all competition is forbidden.'
And from His gracious dealings with others, we must draw arguments for ourselves.
Has He received and transformed such and such an one? has He given a blessing to such another? What are these good things which He has scattered here and there—do they belong to the recipients of them alone? Or have they nothing to say to me?
If I have spiritual discernment—they are all for me as well. For these men have not exhausted Jesus. It is true that virtue has gone out of Him, and He has perceived it; but He desires that more virtue still should flow from Him to others.
It is good, then, to see and note what Jesus has done—to understand it—to use it—to see those sights which may now be continually seen in the spiritual world—Jesus, and the demoniac at His feet!
The Demoniac—the Man as Sent Away from the Feet of Jesus
Even in daily life, and in the experiences of our own souls, do we find it true that the Lord's ways are not as our ways, nor His thoughts as our thoughts. An example we find here. Jesus solemnly taking the Gadarenes at their word, moved towards the ship which had brought Him to their shores. That ship had come full freighted with blessing; and now, with the exception of what might be left behind in and through the demoniac, it was about to bear all away again.
There was one, however, from among the Gadarenes, who willed not that Jesus should depart from those coasts, rather that Jesus would have tarried there forever. Need we say that that man was the one so lately known as the demoniac. "As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed kept begging Him to go with Him."
We can imagine the man's distress, perhaps his agony of mind, as he saw Jesus about to embark, and go where he could not follow. As the boat receded from view, he at least would stand upon the shore, with his eye riveted upon it, until it faded from his sight. His eye would strain to secure the last glimpse of the One to whom he owed all; and as His figure became lost amid the others, and the boat itself became indistinct, and disappeared, he would return home disconsolate and alone.
Those who belonged to Jesus were about to embark with Him, and he who gladly would be with Him too, must be separated from Him, to go and live among those who have rejected his deliverer, and, it may be, himself; for it was through his cure—that they lost their swine! To have sat at those feet, and now to see them depart, probably forever from his shores—yes, to see them sent away, may have well grieved him to the very heart!
We need no great powers of imagination to picture to ourselves the feelings of this poor man, as Jesus was about to depart. Love, reverence, gratitude, all the higher and nobler feelings of our nature—were probably putting forth their power in him who had so lately been a habitation of devils.
But other motives also may have had their place.
It was but a very little while before, and this man had been torn by the devils. His memory was filled with the pictures of what he had been. He shuddered at the thought; and also, it may be, at the dread lest those evil ones should find him again; and so entering into the house now swept and garnished, make his last estate worse than the first.
We cannot wonder if this poor man were full of fears. He thought, perhaps, of the wondrous look of Jesus' eye, and of the sound of His voice, as He commanded the evil spirits to leave him, and that he would not be safe away from that eye and voice.
If such thoughts filled his mind, they were natural, though not of necessity true. And it may be observed further, that the self-distrust which such a class of thought exhibits, is far more safe than that overweening confidence which, among many now-a-days is, on their first reception of the truth, so common.
If the poor man before us now had such a thought as we have been speaking of, it was in its measure a true one—for no one is safe out of the reach of the eye, and ear, and voice of Jesus. Only he knew no more than of the natural eye, and voice, and ear; and if so, no wonder if he was afraid to be left behind, far away from reach of them.
It is our happiness to know that we can ever keep within reach of the eye, and ear, and voice of Jesus; and it is our safety to live in the power of this truth. It is well for us to keep steadily in sight—the One by whom we have been delivered; to have all our thoughts centered on on Him; to expect that He who has acted against our enemies, will, if need be, do the like again.
Christians today have this advantage over all who enjoyed His bodily presence on earth for a season—they can ever be with Him, and He with them.
The man had a purpose for himself—he besought Jesus that he might be with Him; but Jesus had other purposes, and His and the man's were not the same.
No doubt he who has been acted upon strongly by Christ, becomes a man of purpose. New thoughts, and desires, and intentions fill his mind; he will do this and that, he will go here and there for Christ—but the Lord often has different purposes for him.
And this is a lesson which we all need to learn—but more especially those who are just brought to Christ. The thought does not come to us naturally, we have to be taught it by God.
It is not of necessity our sin, that we make purposes for ourselves; it is rather ignorance; we have come into a new sphere, where things are managed differently from what they were in the old one; and we know no better than to have our own 'yes, yes,' and our own 'nay, nay,' provided it is for God.
The witness of sincerity is very precious—but we must not content ourselves therewith, we must seek to know the mind of God, rather than our own. We must put ourselves at His disposal—and not think of forming purposes for ourselves.
For with all our sincerity—we may go astray. We may take the wrong turning altogether, or enter on a path, which will not be the one in which He shall be most glorified.
Let us recognize the purposes of God. Let us say, "He has His purposes for me—let me seek to know them."
It may be that we shall have to learn them through our mistakes—but how much better to do so, through our obedience and self-surrender. God will bring His people to a knowledge of what He wills for them, in some way; but the way may depend as to its bitterness or sweetness, much upon ourselves.
Jesus had commanded this man to leave His feet! Surely if ever man could be excused for thinking that Jesus made a mistake, this man might. If he went with Him, walking reverentially, with His apostles beside Him, or, it may be, even behind Him; if he took up his recognized position at the feet of the One who had exorcized him—surely he would be a perpetual trophy of His might, an ever present witness of His mercy and power!
Would not human reason have said, 'It will be well for this man to be ever with Jesus, that men may look at him, and hear from himself and others what he had been, and so believe that Jesus came to overthrow the dominion of the devil.'
Would it not be soothing and strengthening to Christ Himself amid the ingratitude of those He benefitted, and the desertion of many who at hard sayings would drop off, and walk no more with Him—to have one, at least, who would ever sit at His feet, and look up with gratitude at His face, and drink in the sounds of His voice; and perhaps, for all we know, dare the soldiers of the Roman legion; and sit, with bowed head and weeping eyes, at the foot even of the very cross, preferring the feet of Jesus even there, at life's risk—to safety anywhere else!
We would have thought so—but such was not the mind of Christ. When He ascended up on high—He did not back any trophies of triumph from earth. Those who accompanied Him were destined to be a trial to Him, and not a comfort, in the day of His affliction, for they all forsook Him and fled.
But we ask ourselves the question as to whether any lack of tenderness can be discerned in Jesus, or any lack of appreciation, in thus sending this man away from continual personal abiding with Him.
What Jesus did here, He did, as ever—wisely and in love. He destined that man to a higher mission than always sitting at His feet.
It may be, that He who saw farther than any human eye, knew that the man's desire was not the best thing for that man's full blessing. At any rate it leads us to the thought that places of the greatest spiritual privilege, communion with particular godly people, all of which we may deem to be essential to our spiritual happiness, or life, really are not so. In our spiritual life, what we may think is best for us—may be too much to us, and too much for us. Loving the unseen Jesus—is a greater blessing, than looking at the very body of Christ, and loving as we look.
We continually find ourselves clinging to the physical in every possible form. Particular books, preachers, churches, companions— may become hindrances and not helps, because they themselves take the place of the spirit which belongs to them, wherein the true preciousness consists.
We often think it very hard that we are sent away from places of spiritual privilege; but God, who knows our earthly tendencies, orders it all in love.
It was when Jesus was on the very point of ascending, that He said, "Lo, I am with you always—even unto the end of the world."
The materialistic may take a degraded form, as in the power of the swine to hinder the Gadarenes from receiving Christ. It may take a higher and more refined form, as in binding this man, as the only place of safety or of comfort—to the physical human body of the Lord.
As Jesus now sustains His church by His Spirit, and enables it ever by faith to see Him, and repose and rejoice in Him—though His bodily presence is removed. So, perhaps, He meant to sustain this Gadarene, by allowing him to be always with Him, even though His earthly form had taken flight, and was gone.
If only we have faith and spiritual understanding, we shall see that though outward presences depart—that Jesus Himself is not to us, at least, really gone.
He then, who would be ever at the feet of Jesus, or companying with Him, is sent away. "But Jesus would not let him; instead, He told him—Go back home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you."
At first sight, when we hear Jesus not permitting this grateful man to follow Him, and show his love and admiration by so doing—we may think that the Lord did not appreciate the offer; or that it was harsh for Him not to grant the request. But we find the denial accompanied with a command, which shows us that Jesus did not sever Himself from the man's offer of service—but accepted it, only in a different sphere from that which he himself had proposed. He would have been a personal disciple of Jesus—but Jesus made him a missionary to the Gadarenes. The former demoniac received a commission from the Lord; he was left on His behalf a witness for Him in the land where He had been rejected; the only human means through which anything could now be done for the people in those parts. All that could be known of His mercy and love—Jesus entrusted to that man.
In truth, the man who had the devils now received a high commission from the Lord—one which would require as much spiritual strength from above to fulfill—as it needed strength from beneath to be what he had been before.
He was appointed to solitary testimony amid an exasperated people, and those, his own countrymen. He had aimed high in wishing to be always with Jesus—and he is placed high by Jesus.
Though the Lord was going away—the connection between the Gadarene and Himself was not to be severed. The former demoniac was to be appointed to a place of singular honor and responsibility—to that of solitary testimony. He, and he alone, was to be Christ's witness among his countrymen!
Some might say—'Is this all?' But what a 'this' is it! What a trust is it, and what a man to have it reposed in! The place of solitary witness is one from which flesh and blood might well shrink—but it is one of great honor in the sight of God. Jesus does not reject the service of the Gadarene; He only orders it in a different channel from that which he proposed.
The former demoniac was ready to give up home to follow Christ; and herein, perhaps, Jesus found a special suitability for His ministry at home.
It is often the one who is prepared to sacrifice home itself for Jesus—who is privileged to do most there at home! It many a time needs a godly person to do anything among our own friends and family—it is sometimes easier to go to the heathen than to friends. They, perhaps, can taunt us with what they have known us to be—they can say, "you were altogether born in sins, and do you teach us?" We may rest assured that there is ample room for the exercise of the most devoted Christian—in their home town!
That demoniac might have suffered as much persecution from his countrymen, as the apostles who left with Jesus ever did in their more extended field of testimony and labor.
The Lord appears to have recognized here, in this renewed man, a true relationship to his own friends and people. The demoniacal possession had disturbed it; but now that was removed; and being lifted up into a position altogether superior to anything he could ever have had—simply as a Gadarene, he must, in this new sphere, recognize the old relationships, and witness to his friends and relatives of Christ.
There is a peculiar power in the witness of a changed man in his own home, where he, and all about him, is well known. There are diversities of testimony:
There is the testimony of the man who, to all outward appearance, has lived blamelessly.
There is the testimony of the man who has been turned from the evil and error of his way.
There is the testimony of a 'John'—who leaned on the bosom of Jesus, and of a Paul, who persecuted Him.
Whatever power there was in the changed circumstances of this man, Jesus will have him exercise among his friends.
The Lord sends him back to the place from which he had specially fled. There, whence he had been driven forth by the influence of the demons—he returns to by the influence of Christ.
The man was to be restored to the highest instincts of humanity, not merely to companying with Jesus—but to doing good in the name of Jesus.
Perhaps it was needful that this man, who had fled from home and friends, must be returned to both, as a testimony to the completeness of the undoing of the devils' work by Jesus.
Jesus did not take the Gadarene away, because there were still the mountains, and caves, and tombs, and the stones with which he cut his flesh, all remaining where they used to be during the time of his possession by the devils; they remained as they were—but the former demoniac was changed as regards them. He had a mission to his friends—one which would occupy all his powers and energies, in which he could spend all his strength.
We are reminded of how it often is with ourselves. We are obliged to live amid the scenes of old trials and temptations, ever recalling to our memory what we have been. Sometimes we have to live among them, and hear them inviting us to go along with them in sinfulness, as we were before.
But their attraction, and power, and spell are broken. They no longer fit the heart on which Jesus has wrought! That to which they could appeal has gone! They are, and ever must be, the same—but we are wholly changed!
And now let the reader gather for himself some teaching from what has been brought before him. To each one upon whom Christ has wrought—there is a sphere of ministry. It may not be—it probably is not, the one which self would choose—but to Him let us leave the ordering of His own interests; and how we are best to give testimony to His glory.
Let no man despise or neglect his sphere of ministry, because it is that of home. Some of the highest victories of the cross have been won in the home; some of the greatest testimony given to Christ has been there.
And should the reader of these lines be appointed to a place of solitary testimony among his earthly friends, when he would gladly be always with the people of the Lord—let him remember the honor and responsibility of his position.
The Gadarene demoniac was left in that land where Jesus was not received, as in a measure the representative of Jesus Himself. He—rescued, changed, a friend where he had been a foe—was the counteractive to the hard thoughts concerning Jesus—which kept possession of his countrymen's minds because of the loss of their swine.
Strange it may seem that Judas the traitor should be allowed ever to company with the Lord; and that this demoniac, who longed to be with Him, and would, to all appearance, have been a faithful and energetic disciple, is not allowed, as he so earnestly wished, to be with Him. But it teaches us an important lesson. It shows us how little we can argue from external privileges and positions!
Jesus takes sail and goes away—and the Gadarene returns to give testimony among his friends. We hear no more of him; but we may well believe that when the last glimpse of the ship was lost, and he turned his steps home to fulfill the mission with which he had been entrusted, he went in the strength of the Lord, and the remembrance of the power and love by which he had been brought, clothed, and in his right mind—to sit at the 'feet of Jesus.'
The Feet of Jesus—the Place of Personal Suffering
"They have pierced My hands and My feet!" Psalm 22:16
This Psalm in its almost every letter, is so associated with the particular points of our blessed Lord's suffering upon the cross, that we feel a kind of holy jealousy as to the least change in the well known words. Happily the scholarship which appears to necessitate a slight alteration in the passage, does not really rob us of any old familiar thought, or more important still, of a great and precious fact. The verse is best rendered, "They lion-like, have pierced My hands and My feet!"
We are not concerned at the change which seems to be required, for it detracts nothing from the great fact of the piercing, or of its being foretold. It only embodies in imagery the same great fact, suggesting to our minds the activity of the ferocity with which the wounds were inflicted on the hands and feet of Jesus.
Our first subject shall be, The Feet of Jesus—the Place of Personal Suffering.
The lions have indeed encircled Him, they have come into contact with Him; they have done so, in the only way which we could expect them to do—they have torn Him! The nail is driven through His feet, even as it is through His hands—the marks of the wild beast's claws are in both hands and feet! The nails are no mere pieces of iron—but the envenomed fangs of ferocious foes!
Here then we have Jesus in pain—in acute personal suffering, from the piercing and wounding of hands and feet.
We must first pause upon the picture of Christ in pain.
Now, when we come to speak of pain at all, we enter upon profound mystery. The problem of the existence of pain is perhaps one of the most difficult which can be submitted to us for solution. WHY should there be pain? Why should Jesus the Son of God—have suffered it?
We are told that in the far off history of this world—that there was pain. "The leaves of the stone book of geology have written on them not merely records of death—but likewise of pain. The fossil fishes which abound in many of our strata, are not found stretched out in the postures of repose, which they would have assumed had they perished calmly; but like men who die in battle, with agony upon them, their bodies are thrown into violent contortions. Historically, pain is ingrained and inseparably interwoven into the whole fabric of our earthly system."
There is little use in our speculating as to the origin of pain; just as little as in our speculating on the origin of evil; or as to whether the one and the other were always inseparably connected. It is not given to us to know these things. Enough for us to call to mind that the very first mention of the Lord is in connection with 'suffering'—that His heel is being bruised.
The first promise then, connects Jesus with pain. It leaves the problem of evil, and of pain as in connection with it, unsolved—but it does connect Him with it. He is not represented as the unscathed destroyer of pain—as the One, who from the power of stamping on the head of His foe—can escape unhurt himself; but as an endurer of pain—a wounded victor, hurt, and that sorely, in the conflict in which He overcomes His foe!
In this great problem of pain—Jesus is in the midst of it. He has drunk the cup of suffering to the dregs; He has partaken largely of such suffering as falls to the lot of man in the flesh. He who knows all about pain, what it is—what part it plays in the great arena of God's glory—what are its uses—what its mysteries—has let it come upon Himself, and enter His human nature—and do all that it can do against Him.
Now here, the feet of Jesus, be they torn as with a lion's claws, or pierced as they were by the nails upon the cross—come very helpfully to us.
This great problem of pain oppresses me when I think of it, when I feel it. 'Why am I thus?' is a question which many a sufferer has put to himself; and as he cannot answer, dark thoughts cross his mind.
Jesus' disciples ask Him, "Master, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" and Jesus answers, "Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents—but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."
Lazarus' sickness, with its temporary death, and whatever sufferings which he were endured, were for the glory of God—that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
There were plenty of others lying dead, upon whom, as we might have thought, resurrection power might have been shown—without Lazarus, a living man, being made to suffer and to die. But we are told of this particular case that, it was "for the glory of God."
But WHY? Why can God not be glorified without suffering? Ah, there is the problem—and we have no means whatever of even guessing at a solution.
But the pain presses—the pain of others—and our own pain. I am practically in the problem; yet so was Christ! I look at Him in His life sufferings, I see Him on the cross, lion-like enemies besetting His hands and feet during life; and lion-like claws fixed in those nailed feet at His death, and I say, "As He was—so are we in this world."
Pain is in itself sinless; Jesus took it on Himself, therefore it cannot separate me from God. He said, "The cup which my Father has given me—shall I not drink it?" Therefore in suffering this pain, whatever it may be, I am in sympathy with the mind of God. My spirit and my body stagger at being in this place, and under these circumstances of trial—but I am where Christ was—and therefore though I suffer, I need not fear; the working out of the problem of my present suffering, is in the hand of God!
When the feet of Jesus were nailed to the cross—He left all with His Father. He left it thus, as He said, "Father into your hands I commend My spirit!" Even so, we must, if need be, simply suffer, pierced through—yet saying, "Father into your hands I commend my spirit!
Vast and overwhelming as is this problem of suffering, let us remember that, although we cannot grasp its great circumference, we can be sure of one or two matters of immense importance to ourselves.
One is, that there may be great dignity in suffering. Another lesson is that we individually may emerge well from suffering; indeed we may be immense gainers out of it! And a third lesson is that Christ is linked to us in suffering; those pierced feet bind Him to all the piercings of humanity; and, if we might so express ourselves with reverence, hold Him in that position.
And all this is, because so it was with the suffering and piercing of our Lord. We are in fellowship with Him in the mystery of pain!
Thus much in part do we learn from Christ's feet being pierced with those cruel nails, and suffering physical pain.
Now let us consider the Feet of Jesus—as the Means of Escape.
Here we have first of all, the means of escape willingly allowed to be cut off. Jesus knew full well, when He went forth into the garden, that His enemies would come there, that there was one who knew the place, and who would make a dreadful and fatal use of that knowledge.
It was night, and there was every possibility of escape; for the feet which took Jesus to the place of betrayal, might have taken Him from it.
And for anything we know, it may have been a part of the trial of our Lord, to feel that moment after moment was passing, each one lessening the opportunities for escape; that He could go—but that those feet must tarry until Judas came—whose kiss would conduct them to the cross. The feet of Jesus tarried in that garden, not because His flesh and blood would not have desired in themselves to have had them bear Him far away—but because in perfect obedience He was not only to endure suffering when it came—but also to await it while it was coming.
And when at last Jesus hung upon the cross, with hands and feet both transfixed; what was He but a spectacle of utter helplessness—the means of defense and of escape both gone?
Surely, there is something very touching and instructional to us—in this yielding of Himself by Christ to God. How few of us have arrived at that state of subjugation of self which makes one willing to forego struggling—to await the oncoming of the painful dispensation—and to accept the helplessness of the dispensation when it comes. We need every help to enable us to do this; let us accept this one—of a contemplation of Jesus' feet nailed and pierced. Those feet were in their very helplessness, at that time, the embodiment of an amazing will. And have we ever thought that—an amazing will for oneness with the mind of God may be found in our simple readiness to see means of escape fail and come to nothing.
The feet tarrying in Gethsemane and fixed to the Cross, are the same; and the preliminaries of our sorrows, and our sorrows themselves, should be pervaded by the one spirit also.
The position of helplessness is willingly taken up. The time had come for it. Jesus had escaped from His enemies on previous occasions—but now His hour had come, and with it—His will was ready also. Jesus accepts the position of helplessness.
Now, here is a great difference between the sufferings of Jesus—and ours. We too often bear suffering, only because we cannot help it; we, as the saying is, make a 'virtue of necessity,' as our will is not in our trial.
It may be that, we do not think much of the helplessness which it was the will of Jesus to assume for us; how He thirsted and could not get water at the well of Sychar without human help; how He hung upon the cross, nailed hand and foot and could not stir.
Surely Jesus as He thus hung helplessly on the cross—was in this respect, as in many others, a representative man. His people were destined often to be brought into positions of utter helplessness, which they were to accept as fulfilling the will of God. And they could—IF they had only marked the feet nailed to the cross, look back on Jesus hanging there, and in that sight find strength and endurance, and more than resignation, even entire conformity with the Father's mind. When the executioner drove those nails through the feet of Jesus—he wrote many helpful sermons for the church of God—yes, without even knowing it.
Helplessness has trials peculiarly its own. It is a specially humbling condition. It is one into which God has frequently called His people. Jeremiah, Job, Ezekiel, Daniel, Paul—all had trials of it. And few children of God there are—who cannot look back, and see times of helplessness in their past lives.
Perhaps we dread such in the future; we think, 'this my comfort and support will leave me!' Or, 'this means of earning my bread will be taken from me!' Or, 'I shall be put into such circumstances that I shall be totally hedged in!' And we fear that our old energies will be gone and we cannot resist, or stand up as we used to do against such things. We shall be nailed helpless to our cross—and not be able to stir. The cross will enable us to meet all such thoughts—if we know how to use the sight which we see there.
His feet, afterwards free with such a liberty as was never known by mortal man, are now nailed! And as with Jesus so with us—'tis but a little while, and God will deliver and crown us.
There was something peculiarly galling to Jesus—in remaining thus nailed helplessly to the cross. For He knew He had the power to escape. "If You be the Son of God—come down from the cross!" had in it an element of bitterness which the human nature of Jesus must have felt. For He could have come down. He had the power to escape—but there was a higher power—of love to God and man which forbad the using it. Only that could not be revealed to those who were around—so there He hung, His acceptance of that fixing by the nails and bearing of the imputation of being an impostor; for if He came down the Jews said that they would believe.
It was a part of our blessed Savior's trial, that He had to allow Himself to be misunderstood; that when the Jews cried, "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!" that He should abstain from coming, and let them, in their willful blindness, believe Him to be an ordinary man.
There is sometimes a morbid glorying in being misunderstood. Some people when mistreated, they comfort themselves all the while with the thought of their great virtue in quietly bearing to be so abused. They have a spiteful pleasure in the thought that so-and-so is wrong in his opinion, and would not correct him—but would rather that he continued wrong. And so their principle of endurance is one of self-satisfaction and self-exaltation! This is all the more dangerous, because so inwardly hidden.
And it is astonishing how far such a state of feeling will carry a man—how much it will enable him to bear—how much it will take the bitterness out of being misunderstood.
But how was it with Jesus? He had already given His proofs; He had told and shown them what He was. This last proof He could not give them, unless at the loss of His people's salvation—and so He had to bear the imputation of being no Savior at all. This being misunderstood was, no doubt, one of the elements of the bitterness of the cross.
It is true, Christ knew that the righting time would come—but the present was the present to Him for all that—it must have been if His humanity were true.
For the good of others—to patiently to allow ourselves to be misunderstood, when we could easily clear ourselves, is Christ-like indeed. "Come down from that cross!" they said. And had the pierced feet moved at their call—how could we have been saved? But the pierced feet stay still; and a voice comes to us from the foot of the cross, saying, 'You be still also.' Deep pity there doubtless was in the heart of Jesus for those by whom He was misunderstood —pity was what He felt, and not self-satisfaction, or hate—yet the very pity made it the harder to bear. So perhaps it may be with all misunderstandings from which we suffer—but God may provide a clearing time; and we must let that suffice.
Jesus had to veil His power upon the cross. He held that power, not for self-aggrandizement, or self-vindication, or self-deliverance—but for His Father's will; and He had to hear its existence called into question, and yet give no reply. That which was His own, it was His pleasure to consider as in trust; and the carrying out of the trust involved humiliation. "He saved others—but He cannot save Himself."
A very important teaching flows from this, for our daily Christian life. We have much, which, speaking of things in an ordinary way, we say is our own. How far have we attained to the idea of 'our own being in trust'—of our holding it as such? The motionless, pierced feet of Jesus, by the fact of their being motionless, teach us this lesson of power in trust. So, then, it is not because I can do this or that, or have the right to do it—that I can choose to do so. If I have given all to God—I hold all in trust from God, and for Him. It is a blessed experience when we will to hold in trust for God, that, which, speaking in the ordinary sense of words, we might say is our own.
It was an element of Christ's power over Himself, that He knew He had to subordinate all to a purpose—this was one of the human elements of His power. "Don't you know that I must be about my Father's business," was the motto of His life—and also of His death. He had a His Father's will to fulfill; and power and everything else were subordinated to this.
To a like source may be traced the success of many a man in life; if his pursuit has been that of honor, or wealth, or scientific investigation, if he has subordinated everything in his life to it—he has generally succeeded. There is one sense in which it is good to be a man of one purpose. Paul said, "This one thing I do."
In Christ's human character, the power of purpose was supreme—it wrought to its legitimate end. And He calls upon us—to rise under the His example—and be people of purpose; subordinates to purpose—yes, and successful in purpose. That was what Paul was, when he says, in 1 Corinthians 9:27, that "I beat my body and make it my slave." That is what we have not done, and therefore why we have so often failed.
See in the pierced feet remaining motionless on the cross—the power of purpose.
Recognize also in the One hanging helplessly there, the Man of power in Himself—the One stronger than all who were around. The pierced feet could set themselves free—but would not. And no one saw this. The secret was with Christ Himself alone.
We do not see all the strong men in the spiritual world—in all probability, there are very few of them. God's strong ones are often hidden ones. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, He ordains strength.
Perhaps one of the greatest displays of strength that Jesus ever really made, (though man recognized it not) was when He refused to answer the mocking taunt, and disengage the pierced feet from the cross! And who can tell where displays, far less in their degree—but like in kind, are now being made! And we may make them. We may be the strong men of God in our circumstances of weakness; in our times of piercings, down-trodden by the world, and in its estimation; strong ones by the grace of God, and before God.
There are times when the people of God are put in a position somewhat like Christ's; when they could speak—but their tongue is tied—when they could act—but they must not stir—when they could extricate themselves from some unpleasantness—but they must bear it. No one knows the secret of our reticence, but ourselves; and so, no one can administer any comfort to us in what we are enduring, or can help us to hold out. But we are not without a Helper, and a Sympathizer too. Jesus knows all about these painful positions; He presents Himself before us with His feet nailed to the cross. He is taunted, He is called upon to come down—but He stirs not, He endures. He accepts the peculiar bitterness belonging to the situation; and He says to us 'In all your afflictions, I was afflicted; and have suffered in all points like you, only without sin.'
But this position has another side. All sufferings have another beside that which is at first presented to the view, in the aspect of bare endurance.
This position of helplessness was one of peculiar nobility. It was one in which Christ could and did exercise great mastery over SELF—over what would have been the impulses of mere human nature.
Power rightly used—is always noble; and Christ used His power to remain where, and as, He was. There was perfect mastery over 'self.'
Now, it is in this way that we are to look at positions of helplessness. We are not to fret ourselves about, or lament over, our apparent feebleness; we are really altogether above what they seem to be. And it is by this thought that we are to comfort, and strengthen, and calm ourselves, in all our trial times, when the trial assumes this form.
God wills us to have perceptive power for true honor—for that which lies underneath the outward husk and show of things—for that which is so in His eyes. And we may be sure the true honor is to be found in all positions in which He places us; many a sick-bed is a greater place of power than a throne—when the one who lies helpless there, has mastery over his self.
The pierced feet were to all human appearance, in a place of weakness; but they are in reality, a place of power; and so it may be with us. Let us see what underlies our position when we are pierced and helpless; and we shall often become not only contented—but even satisfied with our lot.
This piercing was a part of a great accomplishment. It was not a final position, and Jesus knew this well. It was a part of a great whole; and Jesus put it in its proper place. He knew that for a few hours the feet must be pierced; and as terrible as that piercing was, He appropriated to it its own place—but no more.
And this is the very way in which we are to deal with our piercings, however bitter they may be at the time. They are not final. They do not form a perfect circle in themselves. They are but a part of a great whole; and that great whole means glory to God, and profit and comfort and everything good to ourselves.
Jesus knew that for a little while, that His pierced feet were in the appointed place; but that yet after a little while, and they would come forth from the grave, and ascend from the mount; and that beneath those feet His enemies would be subdued, and become His footstool.
When we allow our sufferings to assume an aspect of finality, and completeness in themselves, we give them a power over us which is not according to the ordinance of God. We put more into the suffering than He ever intended to be there. We throw it out of gear; and looking at it by itself, and as unconnected with other things, we become depressed and confused, and often take up altogether a wrong train of thought with reference to it.
We are living in a fragment in every possible way—in a fragment of time—in a fragment of experience; and if we persist in making a part the whole—we will go altogether astray.
Jesus, we can well believe, assigned to the piercing of His feet—its proper place as a part of the great accomplishment; and let us try to connect our individual sorrows with the great whole. No doubt we have the disadvantage of being ignorant of what the whole is; but we need not be troubled about that. It is in the main—God's glory, and our truest and largest good—good, for the bringing about of which it may be that these sufferings were absolutely necessary, though we know not why.
And thus the cross connects itself in an unexpected way—with our daily life; not only as regards the great sacrifice hanging thereon—but as regards the incidentals of that sacrifice also. Those pierced feet are in connection with sofas and beds, and reduced finances, and trials of many a kind. There are lines of union drawn between them all—and the cross; every one of our piercings has a counterpart in those of Christ.
And especially if we are acting nobly, in intelligent appreciation of God's will and glory in our trial. For all noble things—lead up to the cross. They turn to that, as plants in a dark place to the light. They rise there as incense when set free by fire, ascends in perfumed clouds towards the sky.
There is great strength and uplifting from the consciousness of sympathy with Jesus. We may, if we use the words aright, say 'His head and ours,' 'His hands and ours,' 'His feet and ours.'
Yes! these may be one in the performance of God's will, in sympathy with the Divine mind. We may go through all our sufferings—in this oneness with our Lord, seeing deeper than the world sees, and fulfilling a mission which not only the world—but, perhaps, even our nearest and dearest friends may not understand.
Let us note too, the position of those feet in relation to the enemies of Christ.
His foes thought they had so pinned them to the accursed tree as to bar all future progress. Little did they know future destiny of His feet—the progress which they were to make because they took up this position on the cross. They did not know that His feet would ascend on high; that they would return in power, and stand on Olivet. His feet had a mission as pierced—which they never could have had otherwise; the cross is their starting point. And where do they travel now? Let us rather ask where do they not traverse? It is with pierced feet that Jesus comes to me now; it is with pierced feet He leads me—and the leadings and the visitings of pierced feet are very precious.
It may be that in the hot sunshine of the world—that we seek such leadings but little, and but little care for such visiting. It is not pierced feet we wish to see crossing our threshold, we are not in sympathy with them; but when the glare is subdued, when we are so wrought upon by the Spirit's mellowing influences as to be willing to receive Jesus as He really is, as God sets Him forth, and not as we would have Him—then we rejoice to see the piercings of the feet!
For when Christ with such feet leads on before us—we are willing to follow after. We say, 'Here is one skilled in all of suffering. Here is one experienced in personal trial. He will lead softly, and surely, and tenderly. He will not set the pierced foot down too roughly. And when He comes to me—how gently, how meekly, albeit He is the Lord of glory, will He enter into my house!'
There will be none of the roughness of mere human authority about Him, no heavy tread, no tramp as of an armed man—but the soft step of a pierced foot.
There are many, alas! how many houses, the threshold of which Jesus would not have been allowed to pass with pierced feet. These would remind the dwellers therein, too much of the claims of the suffering One; beside which, they have enough in the world; they have no sympathy with a suffering One, they neither want Him to understand them—nor do they want to understand Him.
They think that the leadings of the One with pierced feet—can only be into piercings for themselves, that He has no paths but those of sorrow, or gloom. But the pierced feet can tread in very pleasant places; they know the way to paths of peace—they cross streams which sparkle, and meadows which flower, and heights from which distant views can be obtained; they know the cool places of the valleys; and here, as well as on rough hard stones, they often lead, and then such places are safe! When the feet of Jesus go before us—we can have no hurt.
We may here note how the pierced feet help to present us with a view of the perfection of the suffering of Christ.
His whole person—from head to foot is marked as it were with these piercings—the head is crowned with thorns; the feet are pierced with nails. And at either end—we find the sounds of mockery. Pilate inscribes over the crown of thorns 'The King of the Jews!' The Jews themselves mock at His feet, saying, "If you are the Son of God—come down from the cross!"
Is this without any meaning for us? Surely a Christ, as perfect as He was from head to foot in suffering, must be especially precious to us who have so many sorrows, and of such various kinds.
Nowhere can trouble come upon us—but that He is prepared with experimental sympathy. The head, the hands, the side, the feet—are all pierced. The whole man bears the marks of woe!
In our many sorrows, let us look at His completeness of suffering. Suffer however we may—let us turn to Him, and there shall we find that He suffered also! Let the spear, or the thorns, or the nails, touch us where it will, we shall be able to say, 'I am sympathized with, and understood by the One with the pierced feet!'
The feet of Jesus—which went about DOING GOOD
When Peter opened his mouth to teach Cornelius and those who were with him, he spoke of 'how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and curing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him." Acts 10:38.
How full that good was, we can see from Matthew 4:23, where we are told that, "Jesus was going all over Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people." Thus, and thus only were the feet of Jesus occupied on earth. In this work they went on long travel—in this they were weary, dirt-stained, and unrefreshed; if the history of each foot-fall could be written, it would contain some portion of the story of His love to man.
And yet these are the feet of which we read here, as pierced and torn—these are the feet which men nailed to the cross! The ingratitude which they showed would be in itself enough to furnish subject matter for long sad thought. And with the ingratitude, the folly, and the madness. For they were recklessly shutting up the means of their choicest blessing; forbidding all other journeys for good; saying that no more would the feet of the Healer travel through their land—to the home of the sick, and the tombs of the dead; no more would those feet of the Teacher go through coast and village, and into temple and synagogues bearing God's last and greatest message to them.
They crowned with thorns—the head which had never thought of them but for good! They pierced with a spear—the heart which had never felt towards them but love! They nailed the hands which had fed and healed them; and the feet, which had journeyed only to carry blessing hither and there throughout their land.
Sin is indeed a guilty madness, and nowhere is it more plainly seen so than here, when sinful man nails his best benefactor to a cross!
But let us turn our attention to one or two other thoughts, from which we get important teaching for ourselves.
And first of all, we observe that this great injury to Jesus, is suffered in the very instrument of blessing to man.
Now this is in itself enough to raise some questionings within our hearts.
Why did not the goodness of Jesus protect Him from this indignity and suffering, and this tragic ending to His mission of doing good?
Jesus came into the world, as it was from its first days of sin—from the time of the murdered Abel, when goodness attracted injury, instead of repelling injury. He was in the world, not 'very good' as He had made it—but evil as it had become. And the evil of man was such—that He was not worthy to live. Now this comes home practically to many of the children of God, and all the more so, the more like they are to Christ.
God's people often allow themselves in very mistaken ideas, with regard to their position in the world.
They expect to be appreciated, to be valued. They think that for their very usefulness and the good they do—that they will find help and not hindrance, honor and not shame. They are vexed at the injustice and the stupidity of those with whom they have to do, in not recognizing the value of their work.
Let them look at the cross; at the head and hands, and feet, which are all pierced there! And when they have looked, say, 'the disciple is not above his master.' Their piercings have this characteristic in common with His.
But we sometimes have thoughts in this matter connected with God Himself. Sometimes in folly, sometimes in bewilderment, sometimes in ignorance, we think when we see health, and property, and position, which were used for advancing good—taken away; and illness, and loss, and the 'antagonism of the world' taking their place—that this ought not to be! We think that all such blessings and opportunities should be spared; in a word, that no cross should be laid on them!
Here is a man who spent the bulk of what he had, in doing good; and now, in a moment—it is all taken from him! All his money has been stolen, and so far as doing good goes—he is nailed hand and foot. Barabbas gets off scot free—but the man of God is practically crucified with his Lord.
The staggering of David comes upon us—and we have need to go into the sanctuary of the Lord to understand this.
Into that sanctuary Jesus doubtless went. Amid the many thoughts which flooded His mind as He hung upon the accursed tree, these, perhaps, may have had place. When the last breath was parting, Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit!" But who can tell what He had been suffering as He hung there!
We may rest assured that there is a solution to all dark dispensations of this kind; they are the mysteries of God. And He who allows them to enter into His plans—can unravel the if He sees fit. They are not out of place, because they are inexplicable.
What is meant by such permissions of evil, we know not now—but we shall know hereafter; but meanwhile, we may understand enough to steady us when we see these things happening; and, perhaps, even to make us enter with some degree of fullness and power into the mind and will of God.
When money, and health, and influence, and the like, are taken away—there is often the mystery of a higher call. So it was with Jesus. His sacred feet are seized, and nailed, and hindered—and man proclaims that they shall move no more.
But in that nailing they received the mystery of a higher call—they were given a wider sphere—the nail which pinned them to the cross enlarged the boundary of their mission, and gave them the world, and not only Judea for a sphere. He belonged to the Jews; but that nail lifted Him off the soil of Judea; and not only were the Jews to look on Him whom they had pierced—but the nations also; and for everyone who believes that He was bruised for our iniquities—that by His stripes we are healed—and that it was our sins, which nailed Him to the accursed tree.
And now with pierced feet Jesus traverses the world. Wherever the story of the cross reaches, so must it come as a tale of many woundings. Thus only can Jesus approach a poor sinner—yes, thus only wills He to approach him; and thus only should he, on his part, wish to see Jesus.
Who can tell what a far-reaching prospect Jesus had from the cross? We are told that for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame—and this may have been one of the helps to His endurance. It was the will of His Father that Jesus should traverse Judea for awhile, bearing with Him blessing wherever He went. But that was to be only for a time—there was a deeper will to be fulfilled; and terrible as were the shame and pain of the cross, the words of Jesus' heart, as His feet were transfixed to it, were these, "I delight to do Your will, O my God!"
And, in truth, when we have served God with what we have had at our disposal, be it health, wealth, position, or anything else—and these are removed, by a providential dispensation, from us—we must not for a moment look upon ourselves as removed from the power to fulfill the will of God, or a high destiny. We must rather seek to have our eyes open to see that we are now called to the fulfillment of a deeper will. And though we see it not, and flesh and blood would choose it not—our call has been in unity with the mind of God, which mind has passed on into something deeper—more for the eternal glory, than anything that has hitherto been revealed as to our career.
The stillness of those feet of Jesus, nailed to the accursed tree, was a fulfillment of the deeper will of the Father. The hour had come—and now His activity must cease for a season, the sandal must be unbound, the nail must be driven and fixed.
And may we see the fulfillment of 'God's will' in all our times of enforced cessation—it may be even painful cessation from service; in all our sad exchanges of that which is pleasant, for that which is hard to flesh and blood.
If we see that which is made ill use of taken away, we are inclined to say, 'it is a just judgment of God!' But if that which is being made a good use of is taken away—we are inclined to be staggered and bewildered. But we shall not stagger, if we say to ourselves, 'I am now going into God's deeper will—obedience is better than sacrifice; it is more to the glory of God that I should fulfill His will by apparent personal extinction, when He appoints that for me—than by any ministry, no matter how much in outward appearance, for His glory. "He must increase—but I must decrease!"
Let us also steadily keep in view—the idea of SERVICE. When these feet of Jesus became pierced, they entered upon a higher form of service than they had yet assumed. The piercing was essential to this. The feet which had done well during life, were not now laid aside, they were placed in service of a different kind.
And as to us, if our will is like the will of Jesus, ready for anything that God wills, we shall never be thrown aside—we shall never be put down to lower service. We may be apparently so—but not really; for He who ordains our service knows what is in it—what of glory to Himself—what of honor to us.
Therefore, should all our instruments of usefulness fail us—even the very members of our body; let us but have faith and obedience, and let the mind which was in Jesus, as He allowed His feet to be nailed to the cross, be in us; and our apparent laying aside may be our highest service.
One more observation we would make. This piercing, which appeared to put an end to Jesus altogether, was, in point of fact, only an end to His human suffering. The long journeys were now all ended—the many wearinesses—the footsore of travel—the goings about far away from His Father's home.
The piercing of those feet was the way to everlasting rest—an unlikely way, to all human appearance; but the best way in the mind of God.
Ah! how little do we know of the way to long, deep rest! How different is our way of seeking it—from that in which God pleases to send it! How often do we think that our great trial can bring us 'no peace', while in very truth, it may bring us our greatest rest.
Sad indeed to every Christian, must be the contemplation of the pierced feet of Jesus; but now as we look back upon the crucifixion, our feeling of sadness may be tempered with satisfaction. We think not only of what the piercings have done for us—but also of what they did for Him—that they ended a life of sorrow, and were the immediate preparations for the commencement of a life of unending and unutterable joy!
The Feet Which Had Been Lovingly Tended
There are no cups of such unmingled bitterness, as not to have in them one drop of what is sweet; and the cup of life which Christ drank was no exception to the rule.
True! His smiles were few, His friends were few, sunshine did not often fall upon Him—but He did rejoice in spirit; there were some who loved Him—there were some homes where He was welcome—there were those who ministered to Him of their substance, who looked on Him with reverence, who poured out their hearts in love to Him.
And so Jesus, fulfilling His lot as man, put Himself even by these small enjoyments under the solemn power of contrast.
These feet which are now pierced with the cruel nails, were once washed with tears, and wiped with the hair of a loving woman's head. They had been tended with unusual evidences of love.
It may have been, that the remembrance of this love came along with the piercing of the nail; and that the mind of Jesus, acute in all its susceptibilities and powers, put the stroke of the executioner, and the tenderness of the woman, side by side.
It was but a little while before, and perhaps the contrast of the 'Hosannahs!' and the 'Crucify Him!' had given Him food enough for melancholy thought; and now the anointing with tears, and the transfixing with nails, may have presented themselves side by side. In that intense rush of true human misery which, though He was the Son of God—yet came to Him on the cross as the Son of man—the weight of this contrast may have been felt.
It is a sad thought that, we cannot have any enjoyment but what carries within it—a seed of possible sorrow. Pure and, so to speak, perfect as regards itself, as we look at it now, and turn it every way, we can see no trouble clinging to it, nor can we see why any should do so. But we are not able to look forward far enough, and to see how it will link itself with some future woe.
The laugh of the curly-headed child which now fills my heart with gladness—may be destined to make doubly bitter the hour when I shall be left alone. The oneness with a heart which beats with my heart, may only make more bewildered and lonely, my condition—when that heart has ceased to beat. We do not say that such thoughts are to be indulged, or to be gone in search of; misery enough will come to meet us—without going to look for it! We only say that in providing one of the two elements necessary for contrast, every present pleasure—has in it the power of pointing with double anguish some future woe.
"By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept—when we remembered you, O Zion." "Oh that I were as in months past," says Job, "as in the days when God preserved me, when His candle shined upon my head, and when by His light I walked through darkness;" and then two whole chapters are filled with an account of what he had been—and what he then was!
In Ezra chapter 3, "When the builders completed the foundation of the Lord's Temple, the priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets. And the Levites clashed their cymbals to praise the Lord."
But there were those who had seen the previous temple, and better days—they were old now—but their memory was young; and the power of contrast came with terrible force on them. "Many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders remembered the first Temple, and they wept aloud when they saw the new Temple's foundation."
If Jesus had never experienced a kindness, never heard a 'Hosanna', never had a Mary to anoint Him, or a John to lie in His bosom, or even a grateful Gadarene to ask to be always with Him—His position on the cross would have been so far ameliorated that, it would have had less in it of this element of contrast.
But would it have been well that it should have been ameliorated, that even one drop of its bitterness should have been diluted, one grain of it removed? We may be sure it would not. Contrast works both ways, as from, joy to sorrow, so from sorrow to joy. Our Lord notes the double action in John 16: "Truly, truly, I say unto you—that you shall weep and lament—but the world shall rejoice; and you shall be sorrowful—but your sorrow shall be turned into joy!" Then He illustrates it from a well-known fact in common life, and adds, "And you now, therefore, have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice—and your joy no man takes from you."
The power which wrought backward—was able to work forward too; and as Jesus endured the cross, the joy set before Him no doubt wrought upon His mind.
It was with Jesus—as we are sure it ever is with His people who suffer with a mind akin to His—the immense and glorious future was able to out-weigh altogether the past joy. The joy of the past was nothing—in comparison with that which was to come. He, as man, shared in the great law of bounty, by which His Father ordains that that which we sow, and allow to die at His command, shall spring up an hundred-fold, and a thousand-fold.
The pierced One sowed a contrast, to reap a contrast—the contrast of the preciousness of the little love He had experienced and His present piercing—with these same piercings and the future adorings of individuals, the love of millions—all those wonders of Revelation chapter 5—the falling down before the Lamb—the mingling of the voices of many angels round about the throne, and the living creatures, and the elders, whose number was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; whose cry was this: 'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing! The response to whose cry came loud and long from all places—for every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, re-echoed the ascription of praise; and said, Blessing and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him who sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever; and the living creatures say amen, and the four-and-twenty elders fall down and worship Him that lives forever and ever.'
As I write of this great glory, I can scarcely believe that a moment ago I was at the cross—and that it is at pierced feet the elders fall down and worship! I too say Amen! You have right nobly won it all, O Christ. Amen and amen!
But now we must come back to ourselves, our little concerns; for in truth they are all-important to us, and our blessed Savior knows that they are so. He will allow us to use His cross, on which He perfected our great atonement, as our teacher, our comforter in the contrasts, in the midst of which we are set.
What a chapter might be written upon such deep condescensions of the cross—how it is our comforter as well as our reprover, our vivifier as well as our destroyer of self; how it heals as well as wounds; how it whispers as well as thunders; how it stoops low beneath the humblest roofs, as well as towers high above the loftiest thrones!
The once lovingly tended—but now pierced feet of Jesus teach me, then, these lessons. When sorrow comes upon me, I must meet the contrast of the present—with the past; with another contrast, even that of the present—with the future.
But to do this I must of course have a future. I am privileged to sorrow, not as those without hope—but then I must have the hope.
And so it will be a good thing to dwell upon future blessedness, even when it is not wanted as a compensation for the present sorrow; to have the blessedness always vivid, always at hand. All thoughts of the future are not to be set down as dreamy and unpractical; our present is always connected with a past and a future; and we should let a blessed future exercise its power.
Alas! the world is full of those who have no future; those, whose chief thought concerning the future is to reduce it to nothingness as far as they can. The future can be no help to them. But it ought to be much to the believer; he should see it as God's antidote to sorrow. What it was to our Lord, it may well be to us.
We may be sure that our heavenly Father allows no trouble to come upon His people, without its own balancings and compensations. As no temptation is permitted without the means withal of escape—so no trouble is permitted without the means of endurance. But, as in the matter of the temptation, the way of escape is not always visible at once, so in that of trouble. We must recollect ourselves; we must call to mind the promised future; we must bring our spiritual being into the trial; and then will come the peace.
Another lesson which I learn is, 'the sobering power of contrast.'
These pierced feet, are those which as we have seen were once anointed with very precious ointment; which were washed with tears; which were even wiped with the hairs of the head. When we remember that thus it was with the Lord—how will it balance us when we seem likely to be intoxicated by present honor, or respect, or wealth, or joy! To attempt to be taken by force one day, to be made a king—and shortly after, to be taken by force to a cross—has its counterpart oftentimes in our life.
Who is there that has not suffered from unbalanced joy; that has not at some time been run away with by the steed on whose neck he flung the rein! We have probably all suffered more or less from not having kept ourselves in check; but we probably have experiences enough to fall back upon, if we will only call them to mind, from which we can choose correctives for the future, able to balance us by the power of contrast.
Another voice which comes to me from this cross, to which are affixed the pierced feet, is this. Let us do all that we can, while we can—yet the time may come when we can no longer work—but must stand helplessly by. Our Lord Himself says, "the poor you have always with you—but me you have not always."
No ointment could be poured on the feet when on the cross—the time had passed for that; those who would have anointed those feet with their life-blood if they could—can now do no more than stand helplessly by.
Even as regards earthly love and its tender ministrations, the cross condescends to teach this lesson. It says, 'Show love while you can! You may have opportunities in abundance today—but you may soon be debarred from doing forever. Even in such little things as these, what bitter thoughts may we lay up for ourselves. As we painfully see some dear one slowly drag one leg after the other; a long day's journey now, from the bed to the sofa, and from the sofa to the bed again—how glad we would now be to walk miles with him; but we recall the time when we refused to go here or there at his request to gratify him. With eyes half closed, some dear one lies all day, and when they are opened it is weariedly and languidly, to be closed again without having taken any notice; and we sit by the bedside and think, how we refused, at some time or other, to show him something, or to gladden that eye with a cheerful look or smile. Perhaps, even in the matter of the day's food—we cared but little to make it palatable; and now we lay dainties beside the sick one's couch—but it is too late, they are untasted—even untouched; the time for being able to minister to him has past—and now it has slipped away beyond their reach.
The cross, in its graciousness of teaching, condescends even to these things, and says, 'In common life—let it not be so.' I would echo the voice of the cross. I would say, 'Lay up for yourself, so far as it may be done in and by things of this life,' strong consolations by a life-long ministry of love. Be sowing seed every day you live, which shall sprout, and ear, and be garnered by the bed side, by the coffin and grave side of those you love. Those who sow deeds of love, shall reap loving memories; and memories shall do wonders when the time comes for them to act. They will sit by the lonely hearth—and people it; they will come into the desolate heart—and sing in it; they will command the desert—to blossom as the rose, and turn the dry ground into water springs.
Fresh herbage carpets the roadside of the one who has yet many milestones to pass alone; and however dusty and hard his daily walk, he may turn aside and journey onwards amid the freshness of the dew of herbs; every loving word and deed in the past is like a grass blade—each one distinct—all offering themselves as a velvet carpet to his tender feet. If to dwell in unity be like the dew of heaven—like what dew, in its sparkling and refreshing, must it be to have dwelt amid perfect and unwearied ministries of love!'
But enough of ourselves, we must turn back again to Christ; the voice of teaching says, 'tend His pierced feet—while you can.'
But how can we, for now His feet are like unto fine brass, as though it was burnished in a furnace.
He Himself has told us how it may be done. "Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren—you have done it unto Me."
Let us picture to ourselves, what our feelings would be—if we were now to see the feet of Jesus nailed to the cross. As we stood by them and looked up into that pain-stricken yet patient face, we would say, 'What can I do for the One hanging there for me?' We would say, 'What can I do—which I have left undone?' We should question ourselves, and no doubt condemn ourselves too.
But we are more favorably circumstanced than this. No doubt we have much to condemn ourselves for—for we have left undone that which we should have done—but as yet there is time to do. Yes, we may, as it were, give comfort to the One upon the cross; we may spend upon Him, we may tend Him. Let us do so while we can. The day will certainly come when we can do so no more—because we shall have passed out of the sphere in which it is appointed that such things may be done. We believe that there will be plenty of glorious service in the life to come; but we believe that all such as is connected with fellowship in Christ's sufferings, must cease.
Much of present service is of this character; if we would perform such ministrations of love—we must do so now.
No doubt, the so doing will bring its own peculiar reward. That reward will probably connect itself with the sweetness of memory's retrospects. We need no vivid imagination to picture it to ourselves. Just think for a moment of looking at those feet in glory with the marks—the ineffable marks of the nails in them; and of being able to hold sweet talk within ourselves about what we did for them, and to them. The time will have passed for all such sayings as, 'We saw You hungry—and fed You. We saw You sick or in prison—and visited You.' We shall know all about that; it will be explained to us how it was, and we [knowing then the connection between Jesus and His people] shall understand it. And we shall feel, 'O how sweet to think that I did not neglect those precious feet—that I eased them, that I honored them, that I anointed, washed, wiped them; that once I rested them, and always, dust-covered as they were, honored them.' Would it not be heaven just to go about saying that to ourselves? and oh, how much more a heaven to hear Jesus saying it to us; and, perhaps, to meet with others, now this one and now that, and to hear from them what they did, and to tell them what we did.
'Stop!' perhaps the reader says, this will foster pride; 'did not the accepted ones humbly say, that they had done nothing at all?' Ah, yes—but as we have said, the time for this has past; they believe what Jesus spoke, when He said how they had done it to His very self; they have no false modesty—any more than foolish pride; all things are now seen in their real light, and they shall know the full value of what they did, and rejoice in it, and perhaps hold sweet communion with each other about it.
With the close of this life, and our passage from this scene of sorrow, ends the opportunity for all this! Let us lay up, then, for ourselves this treasure in heaven—sweet memories, ever to be renewed at the sight of the One who was pierced for us!
There is one more remark to be made before we pass on from this branch of the subject. We must expect vicissitudes even as they were the portion of our Lord.
We would gladly always have the tendings and the tenderness of love—an uncheckered life; but as He was upon the earth, even so are we. Therefore, when the changes come—let us betake ourselves to the cross. Let us sit down, not at the feet of some Gamaliel to teach us philosophy—but at the pierced feet of Jesus, to learn the philosophy of the cross.
To us it may now be a still, calm place; we may just sit there and think—look and think, and think and look again. I say nothing of the thorns in the head, or the nails in the hands, or the wound in the side; I see enough in this my time of woeful change, to calm, and teach, and strengthen my heart, if I use the sight aright, in the once lovingly tended—but now pierced, 'feet of Jesus.'