THE FEET OF JESUS
in Life, Death, Resurrection and Glory
by Philip Bennett Power, 1872
The Feet of Jesus—the Place of Worship
Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me." Matthew 28:9-10
Krummacher may well attribute to that saying in John 20:17, "a depth of meaning which has never yet been explored by man." There Jesus says to Mary, "Do not hold on to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and tell them that I am ascending to My Father and your Father—to My God and your God."
But a very short period had elapsed since the positive prohibition to Mary to touch Him, and now we find no hindrance put in the way of these disciples; they hold Him by the feet and worship Him.
The events of the forty days after the resurrection are very full of mystery—more so than any period in our Lord's life; the forty days' temptation in the wilderness alone coming near them in mystery. None, we may imagine, if imagination might have any place here, would the Lord have been better pleased to allow to touch Him than this one to whom He had been so gracious, and whom He loved so well; but to her came the decided prohibition, "Do not hold on to Me."
We could not pass by some consideration of this refusal of Mary's touch; because one of the first questions which would suggest itself to the Mind on reading this touching by the disciples in the passage before us, would be, "Why were they allowed to touch Jesus—and why was she forbidden?"
The idea of Mary, then, being that she was to have her Lord, even as He had been to her before—Jesus had to meet that mistaken thought, and He does so at the fittest time, and in the best way.
Jesus had spoken marvelously to this favored woman when He uttered her name—the simple word "Mary." He had come near her with an inward living voice and thrill, and now He immediately retreats from her again, for she interprets humanly—what He interprets divinely; she in an earthly—but He in a heavenly sense. It is as though He said, "The relation between us is somewhat changed; my former life with you will return no more—but after a brief time of transition my elevation to the Father will come—all this from the beginning you must know and ponder well."
Let us return to Mary in the garden. She sees Jesus alive once more before her. She hears Him, as of old, call her by her name; He is hers, she thinks, again—hers as He had been before; hers not to be torn from her again. All the warmth of those former days of familiar friendship filling her glad heart, she offers Him not the homage of a higher worship—but addresses Him as He did her; "Rabboni," she says—my own, my old, my well-loved Master. She makes some gesture as of embracing him. Gently—but firmly our Lord repels the too warm, too human, too familiar approach. "Do not hold on to Me, Mary. You think of me as given back to be to you the same exactly that I was before. You are mistaken; our relationship is changed; our method of fellowship must be altered. You must learn to think of me and to act towards me differently from what you ever did before; I am here—but it is only for a short season. I am on earth—but I am now on my way to my Father; my home is no longer with you and the others here below, it is there with my Father, up in heaven; still shall I feel to you and all the others as tenderly as I ever felt, not ashamed to call them still my brethren. Touch me not, then, Mary; stop not to lavish on me an affection that has in it too much of the human, and too little of the divine; but go to my brethren, and say unto them, 'I ascend to my Father, and to your Father, and to my God and to your God; my Father and my God in a sense in which He is not and cannot be yours; but your Father and your God in a sense in which He could not have been yours had I not died and risen, and been on my way now to sit down with Him on the throne of glory in the heavens."
We see, then, that there were good reasons why Mary should not be allowed to touch the Lord; but no such reasons existed in the case of these women. They were in the act of fulfilling the commission given to them by the angels, when He met them with greeting, saying, 'Greetings.' It was the same Jesus who thus acted so differently, forbidding even a touch to one; and permitting what might be called a long holding to others.
The like thing happens continually now in the fellowship between Jesus and His people.
It is the same Christ who acts—but the actings are in opposite directions. Sometimes we stumble at this. We measure what He does—by our slight knowledge of people's circumstances, feelings, dangers, temptations, and we think we know what indeed is only known to Him. We may be certain that in every instance there is a specific adaptation to the individual need. The permitting to one may seem very large, and the withholding to another very strict; and, moreover, we may think that the one from whom a heart's desire is withheld, is the very one to whom it should be given. But let us say, 'It is the Lord, shall He not do as He will with His own, shall He not act out of the fullness of His own knowledge, both as regards us and the interests of His kingdom?'
Jesus thus dealt differently with people who seemed apparently to be in much the same position. They all loved Him, they were all bereft, they were all disciples. But the sameness of position is very often only apparent, there is fundamental difference. We may safely leave it to Jesus—how to treat the case of each disciple and loved one.
And is it not a great comfort to know that He will wisely decide? What would become of us if He did not—how exalted some would become, how set in slippery places; and how depressed others, how cast into gloom.
All things here seem jumbled up together; but with Him and in His dealings with us, there will be wise and particular dealings.
Only let us make sure that it is 'the Lord' with whom we have to do; and that point secured, all will be well.
We perceive, too, that there is that permitted (because it could be done so harmlessly) to those in the way of active duty—which may be dangerous to one whose soul is simply filled with pious feelings.
The Lord requires of us all, that we should not find our rest in the moments of sweet communion with Him, not seek, as it were, to touch Him in love too much mingled with selfish ingredients—but go forth with our commission into life, to do the work for which He sends us.
Indeed this holding thus permitted to these women while in the activity of a high ministry, even the bearing of a message of the resurrection to the disciples, occupies a particularly safe and happy place. It is preceded by a "Greetings!" it is followed by a "Do not be afraid." It was made safe to them by the position in which it was bestowed, and by the command to them to proceed in the mission on which they were. To them this privilege might have been no more safe than to Mary, had not the command to be up and speed upon their way been quickly given. It is the balance of the Christian life—we are not constructed for communion without activity, nor for activity without communion—the mingling of the two is Christian life. David connected them then together, "I will run the way of your commandments, when you shall enlarge my heart."
We see here, also, one of the surprises of the spiritual life. There are such, even as in the life natural. What could be such a joyful surprise as this appearance of the Savior to the disciples on the road? Surely the spiritual life is not the dull and uneventful one which some suppose. The people of the world look upon it as one of monotony, with no events, no changes, no pleasures, no healthy excitements—but this is only because they do not know it. No doubt it has its alternations from joy to sorrow—but also those from sorrow to joy. If there are heavy days for Zion when her children sit down by the waters of Babylon and weep, there are others where the Lord, having turned their captivity, they are like unto them that dream.
We are reminded also of the blessed confirmations which there are in the spiritual life. The angel's words, "He is not here, he is risen," are assured as true to them by the Lord Himself. It was the highest confirmation which they could get.
The wonders which the Samaritan woman told her people, were attested by the Savior, so that they believed, not because of her word—but because of the confirmation which they received with their own ears. And, surely, among His dealings of blessing with His people, this confirmation is not to be forgotten. We hear from ministers, we read in books, this and that good thing about Him; who can confirm them to us like Himself?
If we simply believe, (however much amazed and confused we may be)—and obey—for being found in the path of obedience is everything, then our faith shall receive confirmation. It may be in an unlikely and unexpected way—but it will be in God's way. God has His own confirmations for those who are in the path of active faith, as suitable to us at the particular time and under our particular circumstances—as wonderful, as gracious as this permission to the women to hold the Savior by the feet and worship Him.
The Feet of Jesus—the Place of Comfort
"Having said this, He showed them His hands and feet." Luke 24:40.
We have seen the Lord prohibit a touch in the case of Mary, and permit it in the case of those whom He met in the way, and who fell at His feet and worshiped Him. Now we see Him even offering Himself to the touch of all who were gathered together in that guarded chamber, saying, "Look at My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself! Touch Me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have. Having said this, He showed them His hands and feet."
We can easily in some degree imagine the terror of these disciples at this sudden apparition of their Lord.
The solemn and wonderful events of the last few days, following each other in such quick succession— the strange matters unaccounted for, and unaccountably connected with the resurrection— had left them in anything but a favorable condition for the reception of their Lord with any degree of calmness, coming as He did in so mysterious a way.
There has been much controversy as to the Lord's entrance through the door—as to the nature of His body, and as to how He entered. Some think He knocked and was given admittance, some that He entered immediately after the Emmaus disciples, before the door was again shut; but the whole tone and words of the narrative point to a silent, sudden manifestation of Himself—"He Himself stood among them." Connected with these speculations as to how the Lord entered the room, are others connected with the nature of His body. We need not for our purpose enter upon these.
Let us take up a few thoughts of practical teaching and comfort for ourselves.
Observe here, one calm One—and many agitated ones; and the calm One ministering out of Himself to the agitated ones. Such is the picture presented to us here, and the like is often reproduced in the church, and in individual souls. If we could have seen the horror-stricken countenances of the apostles and disciples, and the calm, sweet look of Christ—these would have taught us more than all that could be written on the subject.
The church is privileged to rejoice in the presence of an ever calm, collected Lord. Conscious of His power, and dignity, and feelings, and of what He is, and what we are—He is ever calm—not uninterested, but not anxious; not nervous—yet not nerveless; above all agitations—but not above feeling for those who are subject to them.
We accept this picture as a typical one; we would realize it in all the agitations and weaknesses, and affrights of our spiritual, yes, and even our temporal life. In all our agitations, our soul will crave the presence of some calm one on whom we may lean. Our own friends and relatives will very possibly not supply all our need—and even if they do in some measure, that 'some' will not be enough. We shall have to go deeper than they; we shall have to hear Jesus saying, 'Look to Me!'
And how is it that Jesus ministers to our fears? When the disciples were in the boat tossed with waves, and He came to them, and they thought it to be a ghost, He said, "It is I—do not be afraid;" and now He says here, "It is I, myself!"
Surely it would be a wonderful sight, if we could see Jesus thus ministering now—revealing Himself, His intense reality, His human sympathy and feelings to multitudes of fearful ones scattered here and there. In Himself He contains a well-spring of peace and comfort enough for all. He would have us, at all these times, still our souls with a deep and thorough consciousness that it is His very self with whom we have to do, "Behold my hands and my feet!" "He showed unto them his hands and his feet."
It was by this manifestation that the Lord set right, the thoughts which had arisen in the hearts of this terrified company. Their "thoughts" had reference doubtless to that which they saw before them—but could not understand. There is no reason to suppose that they thought that this was any other than Jesus, or that they were not aware that it actually was Jesus; but then what was He exactly, appearing under these strange circumstances? They evidently thought Him to be a spirit—not a ghost as in Matt. 14:26—but the actual Lord Himself, only without a body.
The disciples believed that it was Jesus—but one different from their own well-known Jesus.
Now the Lord meant to reassure them—to show them that He was not pure spirit—that He was His very self, and consequently their very own Jesus.
For these two thoughts are bound together: if He showed them that He was His very self—He would at the same time show them that He was their very own. The tie between them had been broken only so far as death could break it, and now Jesus shows that death's doings have been undone, so He gives visual demonstration—He shows them "his hands and his feet."
These were pierced—and it was the will of Christ that He should present Himself to His disciples, even as He does to all now, as "the crucified One."
It was in relation to Him as the crucified One, that they were to stand for the future, and forever; they, in common with the whole church; the proof therefore which He condescends to give in the first case is the exhibition of the marks of crucifixion.
It is thus, indeed, that Jesus wills ever to be recognized! "I am indeed the same One who was with you before death, it is my whole human personality, and not merely as a spirit."
The disciples have now to comprehend and take in the idea of their Lord's new and risen life—but as a life bound up with the past. And thus it is to be with us. The new, the resurrection, the ascension life of Jesus is ours; but in all our graspings after realizing it, we must steadily keep in view the old life—its trials and its cross.
Surely the crucified feet should be to us, at least, who can calmly look back upon the whole history of Jesus—the best exposition of the present glory of the feet burning like unto fine brass, glowing in a furnace. All the manifestations which we shall have throughout eternity of the Lord—will be connected with His piercings. The many crowns which are on His head are all linked to the many piercings of that one crown of thorns which the soldiers plaited, and with which they mockingly adorned His brow.
"It is I Myself," said Jesus; and then immediately there comes the showing of the wounds. Oh what a stilling to all heart fear—'He and His wounds!' Oh blessed thought that henceforth He never can be separated from those wounds!
Just so, He presents Himself to all of us, so would He have us present Him to all others—saying to them, "It is He Himself—behold His pierced hands and feet!"
And when thoughts arise in our hearts—as from time to time they will—fears, and qualms, and surmisings, and doubtings, coming unbidden, coming we know not whence, brooding thoughts, disturbing thoughts—thoughts impossible to grasp, which by their very shadowy nature terrify us, or depress us—then, for these, Christ has for all time provided an antidote in the incident which we have been considering now. Against all such thoughts—He presents something solid—so solid that even our gross natures need require no more: He speaks—He shows—He says, "It is I myself," He shows His pierced hands and feet.
The Feet of Jesus—the Place of Manifested Glory
"His feet were like fine bronze glowing in a furnace!" Revelation 1:15
At length we come to a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ, in manifest, unclouded, and perfect glory.
We have seen Him wayfaring in Judea, lying in a grave, and giving to His people but fitful glances of Himself after His resurrection— but now He is manifested in fullness of light.
It is true, this manifestation is of but partial use to us; for as yet we can but little understand anything of His great glory; but what little we can gather up and comprehend, is of great value. That vision of the once travel-stained—but now glorious feet, may be very helpful to us even in what remains to us of our pilgrimage through the dusty paths of life.
The glory manifested to us here is magnificent. It is as complete as grand. It presents Christ from head to foot. In the midst of the seven candlesticks is "One like the Son of Man, dressed in a long robe, and with a gold sash wrapped around His chest. His head and hair were white like wool—white as snow, His eyes like a fiery flame, His feet like fine bronze fired in a furnace, and His voice like the sound of cascading waters. In His right hand He had seven stars; from His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was shining like the sun at midday!" Revelation 1:13-16. Was it any marvel that when John saw Him—that he fell at His feet as dead?
Apart from the consideration of who it is that embodies in Himself this glory, such a sight could have but one effect upon man, and that is dread and repulsion. All that the beholder could say, is, "Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips—Woe is me, for I have seen the Lord in his glory!" But that gracious act of the Glorious One—His laying His right hand upon John, and saying, 'Fear not!'—His telling him who He was; not only that He was the First and the Last—but that He was the One who lives and was dead, and is now alive for evermore, brings him and us—who would contemplate this glory along with him, into a new position altogether.
This sight is no longer one of repulsion—but of attraction. Jesus binds heaven and earth together—binds them for us in the only way in which they can be bound—in the bond of connection made by Himself—the One who has been on earth, who is in heaven.
This glory, then, of Jesus, we must look at, not as repellent—but as attractive; not as that with which we have nothing to do, as being immeasurably beyond us—but as that with which we have the highest interest. For if Jesus is ours, is not this the beauty of our Christ? Have not we a connection with Him, which makes His glory to be dear to us, even as our sufferings are dear to Him?
Moreover, we can never look at Him without learning. All this book of Revelation is for teaching. "Blessed," it says in verse 3, "is he who reads," and that blessing belongs to him who considers the "feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace!"
We have already, it is to be hoped, learned something from considering the feet of the Lord on earth, and in the tomb, and as risen from that tomb. We cannot but hope for teaching from the consideration of them in heaven. As a mere abstract sight, the revelation which we have here of Him is wonderful—but its value consists in its connection with ourselves.
First then, let us gather up some thoughts from the feet of Jesus being in glory at all.
This picture is in all particulars, that of a man. A provision is here made for the manifestation of the unbroken humanity of the Lord—as a man He walked the earth, as such He is in heaven. He had walked among men, as a man, before His death; as a man He died and was buried; after resurrection He expressly asserted His manhood, pointing out that a spirit had not flesh and bones, as the disciples saw that He had—thus He ascended, and thus now is He seen by John in glory.
The believer should admit in thought, no break in the manhood of his Lord. We should keep Jesus before us in that wondrous connection with us to which it pleased the Father that He should condescend; if we do not, we shall find two evils come upon us—one weakening for the present, and another, clouding for the future.
The believer derives his present power from union with a Christ who walked an evil earth, sinlessly—from One who felt sorrow, and pain, and need—just as the believer does himself; and if that Christ has gone away to heaven, and has left His manhood, and manhood's feelings behind Him—where is the tried believer to look for that sympathy upon which it is so essential that he should lean?
The natural tendency of the mind would be not to connect heavenly glory, and human nature together—to think that when earth is ended with, that which is human should be left behind; but God knows that we need human sympathies in our High Priest, and there they are in the man Christ Jesus, with full manhood in heaven.
No man can be a strong believer, a strong sufferer—who does not gather his strength, be it with more or less of consciousness, from the presence of the man Christ Jesus in glory.
Moreover—if we know nothing of Christ in this light, the connection between the present and the future is far less real for us than it ought to be—than God has made it—we are making ourselves other than what God has done. Surely it is as such we expect to see Him, and to be with Him, and to think of Him evermore.
No doubt there is a great difference between the aspect which Jesus presented to John in glory, and that which He did when the beloved apostle lay upon His breast—but the essential nature of the Lord was unchanged.
Yes! Christ's preserved manhood in glory tells us not to want to make ourselves other than what God has designed us to be. Some talk as though heaven were the getting rid of all that belongs to manhood and the like; they talk of so-and-so being an angel, and of glorified spirits; but did Jesus get rid of manhood? and what can we aim at higher than what He is? Not one among the angels will hereafter equal glorified man, of whom the head is the Son of God (both God and man) Himself.
The interest which we have in heaven is not only on account of Godhead—but manhood.
When our business lies in insisting on, arguing for, or unfolding one side of a truth—we are very apt to be taxed by unthinking people with denying its other side. So it may be well to guard ourselves against any misconception by stating the fullness of our belief in the essential Godhead of Jesus, and His oneness with the Father—very God of very God—begotten, not made. But that truth fully stated, our chief concern now, lies with the human side of His being—His human nature in glory.
We have a distinct interest in heaven, not only because of the presence of the Father there, and of the Son in His Godhead—but on account of the Son in His manhood.
Christ Himself develops this class of interest, by the particular manifestation which He here gives of Himself. Nothing is detracted from the glory of His Godhead—that remains as grand as ever; yet how much is unfolded of His manhood!
Does God will us to have an interest in heaven—in Christ as there now, on account of manhood? Yes—for man was very dear to Him.
Our original redemption proved this—the whole bent of God's mind towards us proved it; if we want to know how dear man was to God, we have only to look at His Son as a man in glory.
The feet of Jesus as a man pierced and fixed to the cross, have a teaching for us on this head—as on earth; the feet of Jesus glorious like unto fine brass, have the same for us—as from heaven.
This particular manifestation of our Lord shows us further, that it is the Father's will that manhood should not be separated from His Son. They cannot be so separated forever. Jesus has taken upon Himself the human nature for eternity. The idea wrought out in death, resurrection, and ascension, was not to get rid of manhood—but to exalt it, as we see by this manifestation of it in glory.
God does not will us to deny our nature; He made us men, and He means us to continue men for ever; how great, then, our interest in humanity glorified in heaven!
Surely this ought to make heaven and glory more real to us; it ought to make our ideas and our hopes more definite than they are; it ought to make us more earnest in striving to be holy as men. Instead of connecting the future with being rid of the nature which God has given us, and in which it is His will that He shall be eternally praised and glorified—we shall desire Him to be glorified in it now, as much as can be on the earth, and we shall look forward to glorifying Him in it forever. This will animate us as men; this will make our daily human life real; this will keep us from those strange and dreamy notions which from their very undefinedness, help to weaken the influence which the next life should have on this.
It is true Paul desired to be delivered from the body of this death, and now we groan being burdened; but all that we would be rid of—are the sorrow, and pain, and burden, and decay, which belong to sin; human nature, and the human form glorified, await us hereafter!
For observe next:
This drawing near, this drawing in of manhood to God, is shown to us very clearly by Christ's appearance as a man in glory. He is there as our representative head, and He would be no representative, if He had after ascension entered a phase of being altogether different from ours. Therefore we learn two things from this magnificent appearance of Christ—one is, that God wills to have man very close to Himself, and the other, that He will have him very exalted.
There was a terrible alienation from God—in the case of the first man, Adam—there is a glorious drawing in by the second man, Jesus Christ. And should not this dispel a whole multitude of fears and doubts—as to God's good will concerning us? When we feel human nature in its weakness, and short coming, and decay—should we not look away from what we feel in ourselves, to what are the great intentions of God for us? Should we not see that whatever may be our weakness, it shall not countervail His strength? Shall not we, who are one with Christ by God's own way of faith, behold Him passed through His sufferings to glory, and believe that we shall be brought triumphantly and safely through ours?
Jesus, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame; and when we think of the capacities of our human nature—of the drawing near of it to God by and by—let us bear with whatever may be our lot here. Let us refuse to be down-pressed beyond measure; let us spring at the thought of the possibilities which exist for the very nature in which we are suffering.
And let us seek now, and here. It was in human nature that Jesus was holy—it was to Him as in human nature that Satan came and tempted Him—it was as man, that He hungered and thirsted, and people sought to entangle Him in His talk; and now in that very victorious nature He is glorified in heaven. Surely it will be helpful to us, if we say, 'as a man, I am to be with God forever, therefore as a man will I seek after being holy now.'
We have already spoken of the power of contrast in the mind of the Lord Jesus Christ; now this idea of contrast comes in again. There it was the contrast between suffering and ministration, between execrations and Hosannahs. Here it is the opposite; between glory and shame—rest and weariness—the light of burning brass, the dust-stain of travel.
We must fix our eyes again upon the manhood of the Son of God. This is the aspect of man in glory before God; contrasted—yet connected with His aspect on earth—the same man in both instances—the man Christ Jesus.
These are the very feet which were sorely weary, which were dust-stained, which were pierced, which needed and accepted human ministration; and now they are like unto fine brass, glowing in a furnace. What a contrast to the Lord himself! The past—His past will never be effaced from His mind—no, not the smallest incident of it; and contrast will work by the law of its own nature, and will call up in Him all the thoughts which properly belong to it.
And there is another who remembers all the past, that is—the Father. All things of Christ are remembered by Him. And why they were so, is remembered also. All the humiliation and suffering of the Son is connected with His oneness with the Father's mind—with His obedience—with His saying, 'I delight to do Your will,'—with His 'not my will—but Your be done,'—with His full entrance into the purposes of grace by which God was to be glorified in the salvation of man.
When we think of that glory, and that it consists of redemption, is it any wonder that the Redeemer, should be found in glorified human nature in heaven?
We can well believe that this contrast will be recognized by the Father also. His rejoicing is in the Son—it is on the Son He looks with infinite delight—the Son's interests are His; and we can well believe that the Father rejoices in the contrast between the feet like unto fine brass glowing in a furnace, now that redemption is accomplished, and those feet weary and pierced while it was being wrought out.
A contrast will be presented to the Father's eye throughout eternity by those who have been redeemed by the Son, and who are one with Him—who according to their capacity shine after His image in glory. But how different the contrast which they present and that which is shown by Jesus. He has come to His glory through sinless sorrow, and travail, and pain—they through that which was full of sin! Christ's robe was never stained, ours can only be white as washed in His blood. This, however, will not hinder God's glory in our contrast, nor our own joy. The death of Christ involved it, purchased it; we shall throughout eternity acknowledge it. We, who have been sinners, shall in our light reflect the glory of Him who died for our sin.
Let this prospect cheer us now. Let us look forward with great longing and assurance to that time when we also, no longer in sinful—but in glorified manhood, shall be with the One who now has the headship of humanity in glory. Yes! let such a light as this cheer us in our sorrow, make us content when we are in severe trials, enrich us in our seasons of poverty, and raise us when we are depressed. We are not always to have dusty and toil worn feet; we are not always to be amid the depressions and sin veilings of a clouded humanity—there was joy set before Jesus, and in the power of it He endured His cross, and despised its shame—there is joy set before us, and let us try and do something in the power of it after the example of our Lord.
Oh, yes! often let us look upward, often onward—often away from the present gloom—to the future light; and the present unrest—to the future peace. It is partly for this purpose that the future is unveiled in any degree—it is meant to be an uplifting power in our present spiritual life. And there is no sphere so lowly—but that it may enter into it.
Poor toiling Christian men and women engaged in the lowest occupations may raise their eyes from the midst of them, and look at the glorified Savior, and at His feet shining like fine brass. He was revealed to John, not for himself alone, but for us—the eye of the apostle saw for the universal church. Let us distinctly refuse to allow any earthly occupation, if a lawful one, to degrade us by pinning us down to the dust amid which we must walk and work. This is an animating sight, and introduced into the common affairs of daily life may enable us to do our work in them amid the shining of heaven's own light.
Let us next note the fullness of this revelation—it shows us Christ from head to foot—from the head and the hairs white like wool, as white as snow, down to these feet like unto fine brass, glowing in a furnace.
This, then, is the manifestation in glory of a whole Christ. It might seem at first sight that we should not need any exhortation, to avail ourselves of the privilege of contemplating a whole and full Christ. But in truth we do.
We are so one-sided, so narrow-minded, and so apt to fix upon parts of a truth, without their relation to the whole—that we are apt to violate or to miss the harmonies of truth—that we need to be reminded that even of Jesus, a part is not the whole; and that no one part of His character or beauty was intended to satisfy our souls.
Many of our mistakes in the Christian life come from partial views of Christ, from missing the harmony, symmetry, and perfect proportion of His character. That mistake never can be made in glory.
Here you find one Christian fixing on Christ's humility, another on His zeal, another on His holiness, another on His unworldliness, and so on—and perhaps bending all their energies to attain that particular grace by which they have been so much struck. But while doing so, the other beauties of Jesus are unperceived, unsought, and unattained.
Now, here is Christ with God in heaven—and we see how He is with His Father, and how He is viewed by Him, namely, in harmonious entirety.
In Daniel's image the head was resplendent of fine gold—but the body passed through a series of deteriorations, until at length the feet were only a mixture of iron and clay. Here, where all human might was combined, and the image presented was that of earthly dominion and beauty at its best, gradual failure is what we see—the perfection of the head was not sustained—the feet were not perfect even after their kind; with the iron was a mingling of clay.
The deterioration is a leading characteristic of all earthly excellence. We find it in ourselves—whatever we may have attained to, there is always a tendency to deteriorate.
But the man Christ Jesus was above and deterioration or failure. His life was in its fullness, that "path of the just which shines more and more unto the perfect day." The head was glorious, and the feet too—there was perfection in carrying out thought into action—harmony between the thoughts of the head, and the actings of the hands, and the walkings of the feet.
And let this thought weigh with us now; it is full both of comfort and instruction—of comfort, because we see we have to do with a Christ who does not content Himself with simply good intentions. He thought much of His disciples on earth, and then said, "I go to prepare a place for you!" With Him action was the natural consequence of thought. And so, we have not to do with a Christ of mere intentions. We shall find His doings equal to His thinkings. And if we do so here, where we must live amid cloudings and drawbacks of many kinds, and where the actings of Christ are to a great extent His helping us amid hindrances, how much more shall it be the case in that land where hindrances are done with forever! Then we shall see what it is to have an acting Christ—one whose thoughts and deeds go together—one who proves that He loves not in word only—but in deed and in truth.
And from this contemplation of the Lord, it will be instructive to look for a moment to ourselves. May we have grace given to us to be harmonious from head to foot in our Christian life—neither to think without acting, nor to act without thought. Let us not content ourselves with good thoughts without good deeds—the head without the feet. We have often failed in this respect, and so come short of the glory of God; let us look on Christ, let us think of what He will make even these feet of ours by and by, and let us be up, and in our daily walk glorify Him with them now!
The thought also comes into our minds—how should we serve a Being thus all holy, all bright—the very feet like fine brass, glowing in a furnace. Let us look at that head, and glance downward to those feet—and then think nothing small, nothing to be neglected in our walk and life. Let us try with all holiness to serve—to copy—to be so far as we can worthy of a Being all holy. One writes this with shame—for what have we been in the past? what are we now? yes, what can we ever hope to be while in the flesh? But we must not withhold on this account; we must set the pattern before us—and try to become as like it as we can.
The head and the feet are both glorious in light, and so the eye cannot fix upon any part in which there is imperfection or short-coming in the glory of the Lord—any part in which there can be the least sympathy with evil; but we need not be discouraged on that account. Though He has no sympathy with sin, He has with the poor sinner—He knows our frame, He is experienced of our temptations, He is well aware that we are open to attack from head to foot, and that we are weak all over, and that our feet are set in slippery places. And He who has feet like unto fine brass glowing in a furnace—will hold up our feet as they travel Zionwards, until at last He sets them down upon the land where there are none to hurt or destroy, and where there is the rest which now "remains for the people of God."
Another blessed thought suggested to us by this mention of Christ from head to foot in glory is this. The saints shall see, and shall rejoice in a whole Christ in heaven.
Such a view we have not now. We seem unable to take in much about the Lord at once. And in consequence our joy is not full. Our view may be great in one contemplation and another of the Lord—but it is not full. In heaven we shall rejoice in everything belonging to Christ. All His character will be presented to us in its variety of beauty; and if we know what it is to feel joy at the realization of any one of His manifestations of Himself here, how much more shall we feel it when He dwells with us in full gracious manifestation of Himself there.
Then shall His people know how wholly He was theirs in the past; they shall do so, by feeling how wholly He is theirs now. Yes! that is the way we shall read our past—all was His patience, and tenderness, and righteous and loving dealing with us. We shall know much of our own histories then, and they will be full of Christ. We shall wonder then at the greatness of the gift of God in giving us a whole Christ, and that, when we were in a world and a body of sin.
We cannot enjoy a whole Christ as we are now circumstanced, because the flesh is ever pulling us down to a low standard, and entering into conflict with this and that which was glorious in Jesus; but then all these impediments are removed, the head, the feet, the hands, all are ours, even as all of us is His!
And that will satisfy the longings of our intensest love. Intense absorbing love, does not willingly lose anything of the one that is loved; it craves the ministry of the head, and hand, and foot; of thought, and deed. We could no more do without the feet of Jesus in glory, than we could without His head; without the instruments and symbols of His long travel, than that of His loving thought on our behalf. If so, we would say, "Where are the feet which were weary, which were pierced, which accepted the sacrifice of a woman's love, at which the afflicted were cast and made whole?" We shall not have so great a loss—as this missing of the feet of Christ. The Father has given Him unto us a whole Christ; as a whole Christ He offered Himself on Calvary; as a whole Christ He is our representative and sacrifice now, saying on our behalf, "They pierced my hands and my feet;" and less than a whole Christ we could not do with in heaven.
The feet of Jesus may well be taken to represent all that was most humble and lowly. The unloosing of the shoe latchet—the covering of the foot was the humblest task which John the Baptist could represent himself as doing for Jesus. And when the Lord Himself would stoop to the humblest and lowest act of service, and teach His disciples to do the same—the washing of feet was the one He chose.
That His own feet should now be thus gloriously exalted in heaven is not without some teaching for us in this direction. We find, then, that which was most lowly on earth—is exalted in heaven, and that with intensity of brightness. The feet are sharers with the head, they occupy a position of association.
No doubt Jesus during His earthly walk saw all humble and lowly deeds in both their true present and future dignity. He knew how and why it was that He who would be greatest—must be the servant of all. He connected service and reward together. And in His mind all lowly deeds associated themselves with high thoughts; they were invested with a dignity with which His knowledge of the mind of the Father enabled Him to clothe them.
And it is just here that we fail. We have little power of association. We isolate things and deeds—from principles and thoughts, and then our services become burdensome, and our duties become toil—and failure is too often the result.
Jesus never did a humble deed, or took up a menial position, or uttered a lowly speech, without a consciousness of the true nobility attached to them. By the very fact of their lowliness they had other world connections; they linked themselves with the head and the hair white like wool, with the girding of the golden belt, with the eyes as a flame of fire, and the feet like unto fine brass, glowing in a furnace. With what joy, with what power did Jesus perform all His humble deeds under these conditions! He was always dealing with what had been kindred to glory—association with heaven—oneness with His Father—connection with His own future high position.
Let us try to bring all lowliness into association. Let us try and see the capacities of expansion which exist in lowly deeds. They are like little seeds which can produce something very unlike themselves; let us think not only what they appear on earth—but what they really are in heaven; yes, and what they will be by and by, when the full time for development shall have come.
No one can get a right idea of a thing by looking only at a part of it; we certainly do not get a right idea of the blessedness of lowly deeds, thoughts, or ways, by going no farther than this life.
Let us bind heaven and all of heaven to our humble duties and walks on earth; let us look at our Great Head and see the glory which is now His; let us believe that in our measure and according to our capacity so shall it be with us.
What could be more humble than a little child—but He presented such in a position of dignity, saying, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." The kingdom of heaven! in its bright eternal meaning let it touch and gild all the service of earth—let the light from the feet of brass shine upon us, as well as that from the eyes which are as a flame of fire. Let us remember that our now all-glorious Redeemer, His earthly service now ended, once said, "I am among you as the One who serves." Luke 22:27
Let us realize the nobility of our lowly service, of our humble places, and positions, and opportunities at once. We have only to take the nobility which God has already attached to them, and it is done. Let us not call anything common—if it be the way in which we are to serve God. Let us be afraid of no soiling—except that of sin. Mud and dust there are in plenty here; and few steps can we take without encountering and perhaps being troubled with the one or the other; but that is the very service out of which will come the brightness of the future, and the rest of the people of God.
Life, and common every day service and duties—will wear a new aspect to us—when we see them tending to such a glorious consummation! And we shall have fresh heart and energy for our humble gospel labors. We shall be more content with humble things, and more willing to bear the mis-judgings of the world; and we shall take up many a sphere which otherwise would have been left unfilled. The future will compensate abundantly for the present humble services—for the joy which is set before us.
The lowly ministries and ministers of God—we shall exalt and not despise; and we shall see in many a washer of feet one who himself shall hereafter stand with glorious feet in heaven.
Thus much, then, from the bare fact of having a mention made of the feet of Jesus in heaven—that which is lowliest of man in the very abode of God. May those feet which went about doing good during His sojourn on earth, still minister to us from the height of glory—so that abiding in Him, we may walk even as He walked, and at last be with Him where He is.
The head and the feet are both glorious in light. And so we see the impossibility of fixing on any imperfect part in Christ which can sympathize with evil.
This is one of the great differences between Him and the holiest people on earth. The purest and the best here have some sympathies, however small, with evil. None of them can say as Jesus did, 'the prince of this world comes—and has nothing in me.' We may not be aware ourselves that this sin and shortcoming, or excess whatever it may be in which the sin consists, comes not merely from a temptation—but from our inward sympathy with evil; but were it not for that measure of sympathy with evil, the temptation could do nothing. But Jesus was triumphant, sin found no sympathy in Him. Neither in the thought of the head, nor the affection of the heart, nor the way of the feet, did it find seed-ground on which it could sprout.
There are two thoughts in connection with this which concern us much. One is, we must take a whole Christ; the other, we must submit the whole of our self to Christ.
Many men have part Christs. What they have is true as far as it goes; but it is only a whole Christ that can save us, or that can lift up our moral natures. Therefore let us dwell in our minds on all of Jesus; let us think of what He was, and what He felt, and what He did, and how He did it; and what He would not do, and how and why He left it undone—of Jesus in this relationship, and that, everything that we can learn about Him, in every way. He exists as 'the man' Christ Jesus. He is in glory as the man Christ Jesus, not only for Himself—but for us; the soul that has any adequate conception of what Jesus is, knows as the bride says in Canticles, that He is altogether lovely, and therefore altogether to be desired.
Moreover, we must desire—nay, if we think thus of Christ, we cannot help thus willing that He should take the whole of us. Our desire will be the whole of Him for us, and the whole of us for Him. We could not so to speak, take a whole Christ to ourselves, unless our whole selves were given to Him.
No doubt many of our spiritual sorrows, and some of the fretfulness of our spiritual life, come from the not submitting (not perhaps designedly) of some part of our whole self to Christ. We hold on to that to which is unsavory, and unsanctified, and troubles the fineness of our spiritual sense, and disturbs the balance of a perfectly healthy spiritual constitution. The sanctification of the whole body and soul is accomplished by the fitting to us a whole Christ—it is in a whole Christ that we shall be presented without spot or blemish or any such thing.
There are, it may be quite unconsciously on our part, some withholdings, be they more or less, in all of us, from Christ; something to which we do not want Him to submit to Him. Out of these withholdings come weakness, and sin, and sorrow. And so it will be well for us often to speak to Christ on this matter—to say, 'O my Savior take me altogether. I want to be wholly yours. You have purchased me altogether; You gave Your whole self for my whole self, therefore it is all Yours, and as Yours take it.'
This will be fully after God's mind, for His way of raising us is not by contenting Himself with only a part of us—but by bringing our total self into connection with One who is perfect.
We often seek to attain our end by lowering the standard to accommodate our self; God never lowers His standard but He gives strength whereby that standard may be reached.
And here the ideal which God puts before us is a real one also. It has the immense advantage of being the reality; not the dream of a poet, or the abstruse figure of the painter—but a life of fact.
We are not then to lose ourselves in any of our contemplations of our Lord, His life, His death, His present life in glory—His whole self is to be a living reality to us. The present life in glory is ours, just as much as was the life of suffering, and the death of shame. Let us look upon the feet burning like fine brass in the light of as solid a reality for us, as those same feet when sitting wearily at Sychar, or hanging pierced on Calvary.
We do not rejoice as we ought at the perfection of Christ's holiness, we do not admire it as we should, namely, with a consciousness of self-interest therein.
The thought of His holiness ought not to affright us; what He has He gives to us; it should be a source of gladness. I admire it in Him, and He says, 'What is mine—I give to you.'
All that He has in manhood, He has for His people—therefore the light and glory of His feet—of His holy ways, of His completeness is mine. That head, and those eyes, are wonderful—but not more so to me, nor are they of deeper concern to me than these "feet like unto fine brass, glowing in a furnace."
The Feet of Jesus—the Place of Manifested Power
"His feet like unto fine brass, glowing in a furnace." Revelation 1:15
There never was a greater mistake made with regard to our blessed Lord, whether considered in his life of humiliation on earth, or of glory in heaven—than to think of him as One whose loving-kindness had anything in it akin to weakness. The perfection and balance of His character forbade that.
We ourselves seldom possess a specific virtue in any striking degree, without its filching from something else; very often it is not anything positive in itself—but rather a negation of something else.
And judging of Christ after our own imperfect standard, we not infrequently exalt some one of His perfections, at the expense of another.
Now here Jesus is represented as One standing in great strength. His feet are like unto fine brass. There is no yielding, no element of weakness here—nothing for mere maudlin sentiment to indulge in.
And this strength had a twofold relation—one to us and one to Satan; and towards each it is put forth.
And first as regards ourselves. Now when we think of Christ, it is generally only in our relation to sin—namely, as our Savior from sin's curse. It is to be feared that many of us think little comparatively of His being to us a Savior from its power. Even of His sufferings in our behalf, how much more we think of the physical than of the mental part. We are melted at the thought of the buffetings, and spittings, and scorn, of the blood flowing from the wounds; we smite our breasts and say, 'Woe is me—that I was the cause of all this!' We think little of the mental anguish—of the meaning of 'My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?'—of the loading down of the guilt of my sin on Him who was of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, on Him who shrank in horror from even its slightest stain.
It is indeed well that our ideas of Christ's strength should associate themselves with immense power to love, immense to save, immense to help—but all is inharmonious, incomplete, unless we see that strength in His manifested holiness also.
The way to slay sin in our daily life—is to live day by day with a holy Savior—to feel that our closest contact is with one who cannot bear sin—to realize that we are living in the presence of One, whose ordinary manifestation of Himself is one of strength in holiness.
Effort in the spiritual life is good—but it is doubtful whether we do not in some degree take wrong views about it. We think more of holiness by effort—than holiness by habit. The latter is what is presented to us in the feet burning like fine brass. There Christ stands in the calmness of strength and light; and He would have the power and glory of His position operate on us.
We shall never know the power of Jesus—if we look only at His cross, and forbear the looking at Himself. His cross was only of avail because of what He was. If we have accepted it, we may pass beyond its violence into the calm of His present life, and draw strength for our spiritual life, not only from Christ's death for sin—but from His life in holiness; each day may be spent in the presence of the calm, brilliant power of the Holy One—"the feet like unto fine brass" being practically put with heavy tread on our rising sin—the manifested holiness of Jesus acting on us and for us with great strength.
We must conquer sin, not only by negative—but by positive means—not only by our view of Christ's death—but of His life. God meant us to go on from the cross when it had done its work, to live with a living Christ—yes, we are privileged not only laboriously to find out how holy He was in this and that acting in life—but to look at Him as now fully revealed in the holy place itself.
This sight will do wonders for us in our seekings after a holy life. We shall have all the power which belongs to companionship with the living—all the mighty influence which belongs to example—all that appertains to a presence. We shall take heed to our ways when we think of the feet like unto fine brass—to where we set our feet, when we think of His feet.
And when sin rises up like a winding snake, and, perhaps before we know anything about it, has risen so high that we cannot put our foot upon it, then are we not without help—then let us call to mind the feet of brass—their exaltation, their vantage ground, their strength, their purity; and they shall crush the head of the monster we dread, and we shall escape!
Let us in imagination, lay the filthy thing beside the feet like unto fine brass, glowing in a furnace—and many a dark temptation, when thus exposed by that light, shall perish by the development of its own vileness; but if it should still put forth its strength, we may invoke the power of the feet to crush it—and they will.
Let us not be afraid of the holiness of these feet—or think that we do them wrong by asking that they may come into contact with, and stamp upon our sin. His feet—even as His hands, and head, and all points of His humanity—are for us; there is nothing in the human form, or human mind, or exalted human position of Jesus, which does not fit into something human belonging to us. We may look at all and each, and say, 'What is this, and this, and this—to me?'
On Satan especially will this power be brought to bear. Antichrist is to be destroyed with the brightness of the coming of the Lord. And as to Satan himself, he was doomed from the beginning to be destroyed by the crushing of these feet. On those feet was the bruised heel—and it was the bruised heel that was to be crusher or bruiser of the serpent's head. There was to be a place of brightness—but it was first to be a place of suffering.
And, in truth, it was thus with Jesus, as it was to be with His church. It is through sorrow, that we pass to joy; we pass through gloom to light. Our places of suffering shall be places of brightness. There is something very teaching and comforting in the bruising of the heel, and the brightness of the foot. Let us make use of it.
Let us connect the very seat of trial with thoughts of joy; His head and those hairs are white like wool, as white as snow; and elsewhere we read that on that head were many crowns. The voice that cries, 'My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?' is now as the sound of many waters—the pierced right hand has in it many stars—the visage marred more than that of any of the sons of men, is as the sun shining in its strength; the body first clothed with a mocking purple robe, and then stripped for crucifixion, is clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the chest with a golden belt. For our weary foot or hand, for our pierced heart, for our aching head—there is an opposite of blessedness and joy for every grief they have respectively endured.
But we are now to speak of the power brought to bear on Satan. It will indeed be a crushing one. The brightness of Jesus is not manifested now in this world of shadow and gloom. Gleams of it are seen here and there—but the day of full manifestation has not yet come. But when Jesus shall be revealed, Satan shall be struck down. That evil spirit has come into conflict with power many times, and with power in many forms—but it was always that with the element of human weakness and sin somewhere in it. But when he stands face to face with perfect holiness—it will smite him. He fled from it after the encounter in the wilderness, when Jesus was weak from fasting; how much more will he have to flee when there shall be no reason why Jesus should veil His power in any way—when the time for crushing shall have come.
This will be the triumph of holiness. The light will drive the prince of darkness back into his own abyss. Not only will he not come to the light because his deeds are evil—but he will flee from it, he will be driven before it. Great are the powers of light in nature, and equally great, yes, greater, in grace; the coming of the One with the feet like unto fine brass glowing in a furnace, will be the full sun-rising of which we now have only feeble dawnings here and there.
Let us take courage, then, however great may be the present power of Satan either in the world, or in our own hearts. Let us have all the confidence inspired by the knowledge that we are on the winning side. Let us feel that we are contending with a doomed enemy. Let us hail every glimpse of the dawn of the brightness which shall destroy not only the devil's antichrist—but the devil himself; and let us look forward to the full manifestation of the Sun of Righteousness Himself. It is only by His coming that the night-clouds will be dispelled, and the nations of the earth shall walk in light.
But we need not wait for a long-distant future before we can receive light ourselves. We, too, must look to the future for full revelation—but Jesus may be brightening to us every day.
And thus our evil shall be consumed. Let us say, 'O my Savior, be so bright in my soul that evil shall not be able to live in Your presence—come with light, ever more light, that the evil may appear dark—thus shall Satan be crushed in us, meeting in every believer a foretaste of his final and perfect doom.'
These feet of Jesus are thus shining in the way of final development. Christ always knew where and to what He was going; the future always had its power with Him. He looked to the end—He remembered the joy which was set before Him. His Father did not expect Him to go through the world, and His mission in it, without having light before Him. He also had respect unto the recompense of reward.
We may remember that we do not serve God for nothing, and that remembrance may exercise its influence on our life. It is God's plan always to set something before us—that we should be people of hope, and reach forth to the object of our hope.
None who looked upon the way-worn feet of Jesus could have known that, wrapped up in those travelings, and wearinesses, and nail-piercings, was the brightness. They were as unlike it as the hard bud is unlike the unfolded flower, gorgeous in color, and sweet in its scent. But they were the germs which were to develop. Only they must develop in the proper time and way. Christ could not hurry the development of His own life into its eventual glory. Its bud, like all other buds, must unfold, it must not be picked to pieces. And so He passed through all His trials—He spent long years before He came out into ministry at all; He rejected the premature glory of sovereignty which men would have thrust upon Him; He did not judge the world, for His time of judgment had not yet come.
To many, the present might have seemed to be thrown away, to be all lost time; nothing to all human appearance was coming of it; but the future was maturing—that future of which in this passage we have a glimpse.
The present always has its use; it is never lost, never being thrown away, unless we will have it to be so. Let us look at it in this light—ever saying, 'This, and this, and this is an unfolding.'
Alas! what a fearful unfolding lies before many—to what a final development are they going! They will be landed by a natural process, in a terrible future!
And now a word or two upon Christ's ability to bring light with Him. He has light in Himself, and light for us.
Jesus walked in light Himself while He was upon the earth, though men did not see that such was His path—His was that path of the just, which shines more and more unto the perfect day. "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men, and the light shines in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
But what could not be revealed on earth, is revealed in heaven—we are allowed to see what the feet and path of Jesus really are.
In all Christ's comings to us now, in all His ways with us, in all His leadings into duties—He comes with feet all light and bright. The duties and dispensations may seem dark—but if He is with us, His feet will bring light into them. The light will come in its own time. Jesus does not change dispensations—sorrow remains sorrow; but He comes with his own light into them, and then the sorrow remains a sorrow, and yet is turned into joy.
Let us believe, then, in Christ's ability to bring light into all darkness. Let us seek to see the feet—and all will be well; let our anxiety be, not lest we should fall into any trouble; but lest if we do, Jesus should not be in it.
There lies before me a place of shadows—the valley of the shadow of death. That valley I cannot enter without Christ. But with Him, even of that place I may say, "Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."
The feet of light are what I hope for there—the feet light, and the footfalls on before me light also—so that I need not be afraid. I shall know that they are the once-pierced feet, and, therefore, they are mine—they are the feet which lay in the grave, and are now all glorious, and all for me, coupling the darkness of the tomb with the radiance which lies beyond.
The Feet of Jesus—the Place of Strength
"When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man! He laid His right hand on me, and said, Do not be afraid! I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hell." Revelation 1:17-18
We commenced this volume with the consideration of 'many' at the feet of Jesus, we now conclude it with the consideration of 'one'. The 'many' were all sorts and conditions of men, who in mind and body were afflicted; the 'one' is the beloved apostle—he who lay in the bosom of his Lord, and who now was in exile for His sake.
We are glad that it should be so—that whether through 'many' or 'one' it should be the same story—all mercy—all love. His cradle was love, His cross was love, His living was love, His death was love—it was all love when he was in this world. And what is more fit, than that we should be presented with a picture of love when the eternal world is unveiled to us also.
The apostle hearing suddenly behind him the voice of a great trumpet, and seeing the glory of this wonderful Being, is overwhelmed by both sound and sight. He was simply and purely in the flesh; and as such could not stand up in presence of this majesty and overwhelming glory.
Though it was his beloved Lord—yet it was that Lord in glory; and that glory produced its natural result—the apostle fell at the feet of Christ.
There was no opportunity of reasoning, or of self reassurance; the amazing brilliancy and majesty of the Being before him, precluded that; the apostle fell at His feet like a dead man! Not even at the feet, could he have recovered strength if left to himself—for, as we have just seen, they were flashing with light and glory. They could not be held or embraced as in the times of Christ's flesh, or even of that body, of whatever nature it was, in which he lived for awhile on earth between the resurrection and ascension. And now, even they, though the feet of Jesus, with their furnace-like glory—were enough to scorch the stoutest heart!
Under these, as under all circumstances of difficulty and distress—the relief comes from Christ Himself; and from Christ, by the manifestation of Himself. He speaks to the beloved apostle, reassures and comforts him by touch and word, saying, "Do not be afraid! I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hell."
Let us place in the following order the few thoughts which the nature and design of this volume suggest on this the last appearance in scripture of the feet of Jesus.
I. The apostle fallen as dead at the feet.
II. The apostle not allowed to remain as dead.
III. How the apostle was aroused from that death state—and comforted.
I. The position of John at the feet of his glorified Lord, is that of one as dead.Let us keep clearly before our minds that John, though the beloved apostle, was still simply a poor mortal in flesh and blood; and as such, had no inherent power to stand up beneath any spiritual manifestation, much less under such an overwhelming blaze of glory as that which he now saw. No doubt there will be abundant strength for sustaining such manifestations hereafter—but not now, unless there is special strengthening. John was conscious that he was flesh and blood, with all its sinfulness; and his acting was exactly conformable to the circumstances in which he found himself. When Paul had that wonderful vision, and heard sounds which it was not lawful for a man to utter, he had some suitability of nature given to him at the time, and for the time; for whether he was in the body or out of the body he could not tell. But John knew well enough that he was in the body, and that without any preparation of any kind be had seen the Lord in His glory.
Such were the natural effects of a vision of the Lord in His glory. We may pause for a moment to ask what will be its effect on the wicked, when the days of mercy are ended, and the only revelation of Jesus will be for judgment? It is a fearful thought. He will be able to destroy them, with the brightness of His appearing. When every eye shall see Him, and those also who pierced Him; what will be their sensations, when they look upon His body, as that which they bruised, pierced, insulted, scoffed, spat upon, and despised. For all such fearful deeds are laid to the account of the rejectors of the Lord; and now must they reckon concerning them with Him, as in His glorious body.
And touching His body of glory—and our sin—the more special, the more glorious the manifestation of Christ to us; the more must it ever, from its very nature, waken in us a consciousness of our inability in ourselves—to stand before Him. We are ever panting after knowing more and more of Christ; and what, if some manifestation like this be sent to us—if, instead of seeing Him by the well-side weary, or with feet being anointed, or pierced, or manifesting themselves in witnessing love, as to the disciples—we are called upon to behold them burning like brass; and even then, only as parts of a great perfection of glory!
We cannot see anything of His glory and purity without being smitten with a consciousness of our sin—we must fall before Him.
We may well tremble at our being only in the flesh; and if left to ourselves might wish never to have any vision of Christ here, beyond what we believe flesh to be capable of bearing.
But Jesus gives revelations from time to time, which the merely human body never could bear—which it never was constructed to bear; and for all such revelations, He will always give something which is beyond what is merely human in the way of strength. As is your day—so shall your strength be; as is your sorrow, as is the immense revelation of the divine majesty and your demerit, the one infinitely high, the other infinitely low—so shall be your strengthening and upholding from the Lord.
The practical point which I wish to impress upon the reader is this: beloved as he may be of the Lord, yes, let me say of his Lord—there may come that upon him in his spiritual life, which as a manifestation of his Lord's glory, yes, even of his Lord's love, may be altogether too much for him.
It may be that, the reader's experiences in Christian life have partaken more of the character of gloom than brightness; and that what he fears for the time to come is overwhelming from that source. Well, the same observation, holds good for him. This dead and overwhelmed state is not one in which it is the mind of Christ that any man should remain. Saul of Tarsus fallen to the ground—must not remain there. It may be necessary that we should fall to the ground, as the very physical frame will faint; but falling to the ground and staying there are two very different things. This is taught us in the fact that—
II. The apostle was not allowed to remain as one dead.And so our minds are at once brought back to Jesus again. It is the same Jesus on earth—and in glory, showing kindness to those who by any means are brought to His feet.
"By any means"—and so there is great security—security in the immense diversity of experiences of the people of God—of all; from the poor creature who, falling there, says, "God be merciful to me a sinner," up to a beloved apostle, or any disciple, overwhelmed with the majesty of the One he loves. Can we imagine any two people under more different circumstances than Saul of Tarsus—and John of Patmos? The one caught red-handed in murder, falls to the ground; and the other, in suffering for the very Lord who appeared, falls likewise. Of neither is it the will of the Holy One, that he should lie prostrate; to the trembling and astonished Saul the Lord says 'arise!' and on John lying at His feet like one dead, He lays His hand and says, 'Do not be afraid!'
Diverse indeed are the acquaintanceships with the feet, and made in diverse ways. Everyone has its place; and all together they form a great ministry for the Church, for they help to give a more perfect image of Christ.
And now this—the last one with which we are presented in the Scripture—comes in very beautifully. For though of necessity it shows Christ, the One whom we have known, admired, and loved so long in suffering—as brilliant beyond all the power of human sight to bear, still it shows us man lifted up so as to bear it; the very One who Overcame by His glory, giving the strength by which the vision of that glory could be borne.
It shows us more than this—even the man thus cast down raised up, for lengthened communion with the glorified One. We shall be lifted up to sustain the sight of the glorified One, and to hold communion with Him. We cannot imagine a manifestation of glory being pushed farther than this, or a mortal's being in more need of support; the support is given—a witness to us that even poor disciples shall never be allowed to be overborne, no not even by the glory and majesty of their Lord.
The position of the apostle was as that of one dead. It was not the mere fact that he saw a vision of the world of glory, which overwhelmed him.
No doubt, at all times such visions have been too much for flesh and blood. Ezekiel, Daniel, Job—all were overcome by such sights; but here it was just the immensity and intensity of the glory which were too much for John.
Perhaps it was needful for our instruction that he should have thus fallen; that the nothingness of the flesh in itself, its lack of power even in the most favored should be proved; that we should learn that when there is about to be most filling, there shall be most emptying first. "Who is sufficient for these things?" was the teaching which John received before the wonderful visions were unfolded before his eyes.
And now that the apostle lies prostrate at the feet, shining like unto fine brass, glowing in a furnace; we ask, 'of what use would it have been to Christ, to the Church, to himself—had he been allowed to remain prostrate?'
That falling had its place, but the apostle rose from the feet of Jesus a deeply self-emptied man, to receive for His Church the fullness of the things He was about to reveal.
No man is intended to occupy a position in the Church which makes him useless. Continued paralysis from fear would be no glory to Christ, no good to man. Every dispensation which comes upon us is not for ourselves alone; the union of the members of the body makes the experience of one to be at least the teaching of all.
III. Jesus quickly lays His right hand upon the Apostle.
The apostle is raised, not by any coming to of himself, not by any acquired familiarity with the sight which at first overwhelmed him—but by a special and personal act of Christ.
When we are so devastated, that we cannot reason, being perhaps so overwhelmed as not to be able to say, 'this is my own Lord, therefore He cannot hurt me, He can only do me good;' then we may be sure the Lord Himself will act for us. We may safely leave ourselves in all prospective trials, be they of light or darkness, in His hands. Thus we shall get rid of the depressions of weakness—of all fears of the failing of mental powers, yes, even of faith itself. We may come to such a state that sustaining faith will leave us; perhaps intense bodily weakness, perhaps heavy cloudings of Satan will cause this, then we shall be little better than one dead; but the life and the light are in Jesus, and life will act, and light will shine. The right hand conferring fresh life will be laid on us by the One at whose feet we have fallen as dead.
John, then, being utterly self-emptied, and made even like a dead man, is vivified for great and important service. It was with him as with Saul, as with almost if not indeed actually with all—in proportion as God was about to fill him with the revelation of His own things, did He self-empty him—for what self-emptying could go further than the apparent loss of life itself?
But in this, so thoroughly accomplished, no time is lost; the spell is quickly removed, the right hand is laid upon the Apostle, the word of strength is spoken. Jesus says, "Do not be afraid"—then He proceeds to say who He is, and what He will have the Apostle do. "Write," He says to him. It is the Lord's will, not only that the Apostle should live—but that he should do so with comfort and in peace; with an unbroken sense of union with his Lord; with a high capacity for service.
It is indeed no poor slavish life that Christ wills us to lead in presence of His glory. We think too much of the overwhelmings of majesty—we think it the humblest and safest position—is to lie as dead. But Jesus wills us life, and peace, and usefulness—yes, honor—He lifts us from our own depressions to set us in the liberty of His own high service.
Remember that, dear reader. The enlarging of the heart and the running in the way of the commandments go together. In what sense, then, ask yourselves, are you now engaged—what emptyings have you had—what fillings? Do you know the mind of Christ concerning you, that it is, that fear should vanish, that you should be partakers of the strength of His right hand? "Now I know," said David in Psalm 20, "that the Lord saves His anointed, he will hear Him from His holy heaven, with the saving strength of His right hand." That right hand's saving strength is ours—oh, that we may be ever saying with the Psalmist, "Now I know! Now I know!"
And what a glimpse does this give ns of the glory of future service. John was shown here his connection with the glorious One—and was given commission to write for Him—and all that he did was as for the One who had been dead—but was now in light and life. So shall it be hereafter. We shall serve in conscious connection with the glorious One. Here, when we serve Jesus, our service is often undervalued. No one sees Him; the honor of the Master is unknown, and, by consequence, little comes to the servant; and we ourselves are so absorbed in the actual working, or, perhaps, so cast down by the unpleasant surroundings of the work, that, we are but little elevated by the consciousness of the glory of connection with the Lord.
But by and by, all service—its honor, and dignity, glory, and its immediate connection with the Lord—will be seen and felt.
Meanwhile, let us seek, each of us after our opportunities and according to our commission, to serve. Let us see that Christ wills to be glorified by our life, and not by our death—by our freedom, and not by our fear. The Son sets us free, oh! may we feel that we are free indeed. However it may have been with us in time past, may we henceforth be privileged to look upon our glorified Lord with the consciousness of being in union with Him, and of being partakers of His strength. But should we be overwhelmed by the greatness of the evil in ourselves, or of the glory in Him, or of both combined—then will He surely deal with us in like grace to that with which He dealt with John—who "fell at his feet as dead."
Thus, dear reader, we have traveled together through some of the scenes in which we find the Feet of Jesus, and gathered up some thoughts of teaching therefrom; leaving, I doubt not, far more behind than we have borne away!