Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
The word "tempt" has two different meanings, which come from two different sources:
(1) To try, as God tempted Abraham;
(2) to entice, as Satan tempted Christ. God's trials are all for good, Satan's always for evil. Concerning the Temptation, notice—
I. The Time. It was after the heavens had opened, and the Holy Spirit had come (chap. 3:16, 17). It was after Paul had been caught up to the third heavens that the messenger of Satan was sent to buffet and try him. Note the order:
(1) Owned by the Father, "This is My Son."
(2) Anointed by the Spirit.
(3) Tempted by the devil. Some know little of the tempting because they know little of the anointing.
II. The Place. The wilderness. Adam was tempted in the garden, surrounded by every outward comfort. Christ in the lonely desert, among the wild beasts. All Christ's battles had to be fought alone—alone in the wilderness with the devil; alone in the garden with the cup of death; alone on the Cross, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46). Soul battles are all solemn.
III. The Tempted One. Jesus, the Son of God. This shows how truly human Jesus was. God cannot be tempted. He was tempted in "all points, like as we are" (Heb. 4:15). But just as highly musical ears feel more keenly painful discords, so much more must He, the pure and undefiled, have felt the force of this trial. The more intense our devotion to God the more intense will we feel the approach of sin.
IV. The Nature. It could only be from without, because Satan could find nothing in Him. It was threefold:
1. To Self-Satisfaction. "Command these stones to be made bread." The answer of the hungry Christ shows that there is something more precious than bread—the Word of God. Eternal life is in it.
2. To Self-Destruction. "Cast Yourself down." The devil's elevations are all with the view of self-destruction. Pride goes before a fall. Satan seeks to destroy in every Christian their sense of divine sonship.
3. To Self-Glorification. "Worship me." I will give you all. He suggests an easy way whereby He might possess the kingdom of this world without dying for it. An unredeemed world Christ would not fake. Beware of the devil's easy paths.
V. The Tempter. The devil. He is a person, a person of great power. Was the whole world his to give? Why did Christ call him "the prince of this world?" (John 12:31). Is he not the god of this world? Does the whole world not lie in the lap of the wicked one? The world will be Christ's when He comes again.
VI. The Fight of Faith. The means of Christ's warfare, the Word of God. "It is written." He trusted in God. As a tempted man He fell back on the divine promise. Where else can we go? What else need we do? Fight the good fight of faith.
VII. The Victory. "The devil leaves Him, and angels came and ministered unto Him." His faith is rewarded with strength from Heaven. The Christian's position, like Christ's, is between the love of God and the hate of the devil. Greater is He who is for us.
CHARACTERISTICS OF CHRISTIANS.
He who spoke in times past by the prophets now opened His mouth. These first words of the Great Teacher, come from God, reveal the way of happiness—not through doings, but being. Happiness is found not in what we have, but in what we are. This blessedness belongs to every Christlike character.
I. The Christian's Character.
1. He is Poor in Spirit (v. 3). Not spiritually poor, because that through the poverty of Christ be is made rich. The humble spirit is indwelt by the God of grace and glory (Isa. 57:15).
2. He Mourns (v. 4). Not for fear of missing the kingdom, but over everything that hinders his greater growth into the image of Christ; over the sins of others; over the enemies of the Cross.
3. He is Meek (v. 5). He would not be like his Master if he was not meek and lowly (Matthew 11:29). Not rendering railing for railing, but contrariwise (see v. 39). A peculiar people.
4. He Hungers and Thirsts (v. 6). Not after the pleasures of sin and worldliness, but after righteousness— righteousness unto God These cravings are the natural desires of the new man.
5. He is Merciful (v. 7). He delights to show mercy because he himself has had great mercy showed him Christ prayed for His enemies, so does he.
6. He is Pure in Heart (v. 8). His heart is right with God. Wholly yielded up to His holy will. Delighting in all that is pleasing to Him. Cleansed by the blood, and open to the light.
7. He Makes Peace (v. 9). He loves peace because he has the peace of God ruling in his heart. He seeks to make peace by beseeching men to be reconciled to God.
8. He Suffers Persecution (v. 10, 11). If any man will live godly he must suffer persecution. "They persecuted Me; they will persecute you." Notice that these characteristics present us with a true portrait of the life of Jesus Christ. Are we like Him?
II. The Christian's Prospects. Each Christ-like characteristic, you observe, has its own special reward. It is always so.
1. He Shall be Comforted (v. 4). This is the hour and power of darkness. Being poor in spirit the kingdom is sure, and all the comforts of the kingdom will yet be given.
2. He Shall Inherit (v. 5). The saints have not much of the earth just now, but when He comes they shall inherit it (Rev. 20:6). There is a good time coming (Dan. 7:22).
3. He Shall be Filled (v. 6). "They shall hunger no more." We shall be satisfied when we awake in His likeness. Filled with all the fulness of God. Present hunger is the evidence of future filling. There is satisfaction for every holy longing.
4. He Shall Obtain Mercy (v. 7). The mercy of God, which covered his sin, can cover every fault and failing. Blameless.
5. He Shall See God (v. 8). Because his heart is pure he is an holy one (Heb. 12:14). Holy eyes see holy things; a holy heart shall see a holy God. Holiness is capacity for God.
6. He Shall be Called a Child of God (v. 9). The world says, "pestilent fellows." Christ says, "Sons of God." Every one like the children of a king (Judges 8:18).
7. He Shall be Rewarded (v 12). "Great is your reward in Heaven." Reviled on earth; rewarded in Heaven with an eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17). Let not the fear of man rob you of your reward.
Salt and light represent what every Christian should be— a penetrating and illuminating influence, something both to be seen and felt, a power to attract and transform. Notice the—
I. Twofold Sphere.
1. The Earth. "You are the salt of the earth." The earth is the place of the curse, and may represent the heart of man as the seat of his affections and the source of his desires "Thy will be done in earth" (Matt 6:10)—in the heart of man as in Heaven Purify the spring (2 Kings 2:21).
2. The World. "You are the light of the world." The world here may mean the sphere of man's mind and thought. Apart from the light of revelation, this is a world of spiritual darkness. "No light in them."
II. Twofold Action.
1. It Permeates Like Salt. Invisible, but effectual in its working. Must first get into touch with the corruptions of ungodliness before it can heal. It represents unconscious influence.
2. It Illuminates Like Light. This is something to be seen. The light is not something put on. It is the outcome of a flame kindled The Christian's life is the light. The life is the light of men. If there is abundance of life there will be a brightness of light. A living Christ within will make a steady light without.
III. Twofold Nature.
1. The salt must have savor. Salt is good, but savorless salt is good for nothing. The mere name and form without this is powerless. The savor is an emblem of the Holy Spirit. We may bear the name Christian and have the form of godliness, but without the Holy Spirit we are savorless salt, "good for nothing." "Have salt in yourselves" (Mark 9:50). Salted with the fire of the Holy Spirit. It is the savor that is precious and powerful. "Be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18).
2. The candle must have light. Here again the mere name and form are useless without the living flame. A candle must be lighted; it cannot light itself. God hath shined into our hearts, giving us the light. "Thou hast lighted my lamp, O Lord."
IV. Twofold Purpose.
1. To Salt the Earth. If Christians lose their savor, with which shall it be salted? If the world does not see Christ in the Christian, where will it see Him? If the ungodly don't feel the power of Christ's presence in the actions of His people, how will they feel it?
2. To Glorify the Father (v. 16). The light is to shine, not that men may praise the light, but that they may be led to trust and glorify the Father. Let your light so shine.
V. Twofold Hindrance.
1. In Losing the Savor. "If the salt lose its savor, it is thenceforth good for nothing," trodden under foot of men. Sad picture of a powerless Christian! A withered branch. Samson was savorless salt when the Spirit departed from him (Judges 16:20). Quench not the Spirit.
2. In Hiding the Light. If God has shined in our hearts, it is to give the light (2 Cor. 4:6). Let it shine forth in a bold, steady testimony for Christ. The fear of man is often the bushel that hides the light, or the bed of selfish ease. Remember that a covered light may be suffocated.
THE TWO WAYS.
Matthew 7:13, 14.
There are only two religions in the world—that which has emanated from the heart of man, and that which has come out of the heart of God. The one is only an imagination, the other is a revelation. In these verses we notice two gates, two ways, two companies, and two ends. Specially observe two ways—
I. The Way into Life. What does this life mean? "The gate" suggests the idea of a city, a place of safety, fellowship, and plenty. The life which is in Christ is a life of—(1) Safety from sin and wrath; (2) of fellowship with God; (3) of satisfaction in the fulness of God. There must be a passing from death into life.
1. It is an Open Way. It may be strait, but, thank God, it is not shut. "Behold, I have set before thee an open door" (Rev. 3:8). This way was closed up by sin, and fenced up by the law. Christ opened it through bearing our sins and becoming obedient unto death. It is a new and living way consecrated (set apart) for us. There are no back doors into the kingdom of God (John 14:6).
2. It is a Narrow Way. "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way." Perhaps the gate on the side-walk may be referred to, where even camels were sometimes dragged through after stripping them of everything. Men needs a stripping to enter here. Self-righteousness is not admitted. This gate is as narrow as the new birth. The straitness is not with God, but in man's utter unfitness. If the way be narrow it leads to a large place.
3. It is the Way of the Few. "Few there be that find it," because few there be that seek it. "Seek, and ye shall find." There are few on it, because many shun it, preferring the darkness to the light, because their deeds are evil. Some put off, others hope to stumble into it by chance. This is no chance work. "Strive to enter." "Ye shall find Me when ye shall seek Me with all your heart" (Matthew 6:33).
II. The Way of Destruction. The word "destruction" here means "loss," and is awfully significant. It is the loss of that which alone can save and satisfy. Like a watch losing its mainspring, like a plant losing the earth from its roots, a man losing all his privileges and hopes. This way is:
1. A Broad Way. It suits the carnal mind. There is plenty of room in it for all the sinner's likes and pleasures. The world, the flesh, and the devil have full scope here. It is broad enough for the staggering drunkard, for the dishonest and the unclean, for the scoffer and the proud and haughty religious formalist.
2. A Crowded Way. "Many go in thereat." It is easy going downhill. Generally man's first choice is the "broad way." The heart of man is deceitful and wicked, and naturally prefers the pleasures of sin to the fellowship of God. Some are being pushed along in the crowd without any serious thought. All are without God and without hope.
3. A Fatal Way. There is but one only possible end to this way—"Destruction." As sure as a stone sinks in the sea will the man perish who loves and follows sin. "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). "Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?" (Ezek. 31:11). "Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death" (Jer. 21:8). Choose life.
THE TWO BUILDERS.
The sermon on the mount begins with the blessedness of the poor in spirit, and ends with the ruin of the proud, self-confident professor. The end of this sermon is the end of all Christian teaching. Life and death, righteousness to those who believe and obey, ruin to those who do not obey.
I. A Suggestive Comparison. He that hears and doeth is likened to a wise man. The connection between hearing and doing is very vital. Those who have the blood-sprinkled ear must also have the blood-sprinkled foot (Lev. 8:24). These sayings of Christ are for the doings of His people. The hearer only is a fool. He is like a man taking shelter in the plans of a building instead of in the house. The hearer only is like a cake unturned; like a man rowing with one oar. If the hearing does not affect the fingers and the feet it profits nothing.
II. A Common Need. A house. A house is one of the common necessities of man. "A wise man built his house." There is responsibility resting upon every man with regard to his own house. A house is:
1. A Place of Shelter. Man needs a hiding-place from the storm and the tempest of Jehovah's wrath against sin. The wrath of God abides upon every unbeliever (John 3:36).
2. A Place of Rest. A resting-place is needed from the busy, bustling, bothering cares and sorrows of this present life. A man might as soon find heat in an iceberg as rest in disobedience to the sayings of the Son of God.
3. A Place of Fellowship. Man's needs will never be fully met until he is brought into fellowship with the Father and the Son.
III. An Indispensable Prerequisite. A Rock. Before a house of safety can be got the Rock must be found. "That Rock was Christ" (1 Cor. 10:4). The Rock is within the reach of all if men would only dig deep enough (Luke 6:48). This Rock is strong enough to bear all. None doubt their foundation who build on Christ. Until He is found all building is vain and ruinous.
IV. A Threefold Trial. Rain, floods, winds beat upon the house. The rain tries the roof, the floods the foundations, the winds the whole structure. Every stone built on this Rock, that is, every deed done for Christ's sake, every act of trust in Him will be tried by the threefold enemy of the soul—the world, the flesh, and the devil. The foundation holds.
V. A Presumptuous Effort. Building on the sand. This man is wise enough to know that he needs a place of shelter, but fool enough to believe that he can have it without getting into touch with the great, eternal Rock. He has no faith in what is out of sight. His whole work is a matter of appearance. What a sad picture of all those who trust their works without having a grip of the invisible Christ (Heb. 11:27). The life may be right and beautiful in the sight of others, yet have no connection with Christ the Rock.
VI. An Irreparable Mistake. It fell, and great was the rain of it (see Luke 6:49). It fell in the time of his greatest need. He hoped it would save him but hoping, without Christ, is vain and ruinous. The more beautiful the life and works are, without Christ the foundation, the more dangerous and fatal. The greater the house the greater the ruin. Take heed where ye build (1 Cor. 3:11).
THREE SUGGESTIVE ATTITUDES OF JESUS.
I. Toward the Willful Impenitent. "Woe unto you" (v. 21),
1. Think of their Privileges. What mighty works were done among them! How many miracles had they witnessed! And Christ Himself had lived among them. What are your privileges? Have you not seen His mighty works in others? Christ only knows the awful consequences of rejection.
2. Think of their Doom. "Woe unto you." Our responsibility will be according to our privileges.
II. Toward the Purpose of God. "I thank Thee" (v. 25). He thanks the Father for two things:
1. For Hiding these Things from the Wise. Much divine wisdom is this. What would unrenewed men do with these holy things? Pearls before swine.
2. For Revealing them unto Babes. To those willing to receive, to trust, and be thankful (Matthew 18:3).
III. Toward the Heavy-laden Sinner. "Come unto Me." The sovereignty of God is no excuse for the sinner's delay.
1. The Invited. (1) Laborers—those trying to earn rest by their works, a poor-paying business. (2) Burdened ones—those staggering, helplessly and hopelessly, under the weight of sin and guilt.
2. The Promise. "I will give you rest." He gives the laborer rest by doing the work for him. "It is finished" (John 19:30). He gives the burdened ones rest by carrying their load. He bore our sins in His own body.
THE GRACE THAT GLADDENS.
2 Corinthians 12:9.
Notice Paul's testimony. He has had a revelation from the Lord and a messenger from Satan. Revelations and buffetings, visions and thorns, make up much of the Christian's experience.
I. The Promiser. He said, "My grace," He who cannot lie, He into whose lips grace has been poured, He will give grace and glory—He, the God Man, Mediator, in whom all fulness dwells.
II. The Promise. "Grace sufficient." Sufficient.
1. To Save. It is made perfect in weakness. It delights to forgive, to deliver, and keep.
2. To Supply. To meet all need (Phil. 4:19). It is a stream sufficient to turn every mill, to satisfy every longing of the trustful heart.
3. To Support. It bears up in midst of all trials and temptations, all the thorns and thistles in life; enables also to bear the unspeakable revelation without pride.
4. To Overcome. It slays the power of sin within, resists the devil without, and turns the dark shadows of death into forerunners of glory.
III. The Result.
1. Gladness. Most gladly will I glory. Glad because everything needed is promised by such a loving and faithful one (Rom. 8:32).
2. Power. Power of Christ resting upon him, because he rejoiced in his weakness, the weakness that enabled him to lean all the more on His mighty promise.
All men have not faith; some have no faith (Mark 4:40); some have little faith (Matthew 6:30). This Centurion was one who had great faith. Those who have faith are rich. Faith will buy anything from God. This man's faith was—
I. Great when you think of who he was. He was a Roman Centurion—not a Jew, familiar with the Scriptures. How would his faith grow so great if he had not believed all that he heard of the truth concerning Jesus? Great faith is often fostered in the midst of the greatest difficulties. Poor circumstances are not specially favorable for poor faith. If your faith would grow exceedingly it must be exercised abundantly.
II. Great when you think of the occasion of it.
His slave was sick. He believed that Christ's compassion was deep enough and broad enough to reach the poor and the ignorant. Not like the Pharisee (Matthew 9:11). Great faith always brings the little and the disputed things to Jesus. Little faith never carries little troubles to God. It takes great faith to bring the trifling details of life to Him in prayer. Beware of the little foxes.
III. Great when you think of the need mentioned. "His servant was sick of the palsy, grievously tormented." Afflicted both in body and soul, a helpless incurable, as far as human skill and power were concerned. But his faith in Jesus surmounted all. Nothing is too hard for Him. Great faith lays hold on the greatness of Christ. The power of Christ is sufficient for all the emergencies of a believer.
IV. Great when you think of the request made. "Speak the word only." No visit asked; no means trusted. All his desire will be met with His word only. It is always so. Great faith asks for no signs, but is satisfied with the promise alone, knowing that He is faithful.
V. Great when you think of the argument used, "I am not worthy; I am a man under authority." Great faith is always humble, for it sees so much grace and goodness in Jesus that proud, boastful self is ashamed. "Speak the word only, and the demon and disease will go as quickly as my servant obey me." Great faith is the most childlike of all. "Lord, increase our faith."
VI. Great when you think of the results that followed. "As you have believed, so be it done unto you" (v. 13). His simple but large-hearted faith was answered at once, and answered to the full. There was nothing left to be desired. So wonderfully gracious is our loving Lord He never sends the hungry empty away.
VII. Great when you think of the commendation given. "I have not found so great faith." Jesus knows exactly the measure of our faith. What a precious thing it is in His sight! He does love to be trusted. He is so pleased with it that He saves all who believe (Acts 13:39). "Without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Heb. 11:6). Give Him this pleasure.
EVIL: ITS NATURE AND REMEDY.
This incident has been sneeringly called "The pig affair." But in these two demon-possessed men we have some of the most terrible and heart-humbling revelations that we have in all the Bible. Look at evil as personified in these wholly-possessed ones.
I. Evil may be Closely Connected with Man. These men were "possessed" (v. 28). Evil takes possession of the sinner, controls his actions and thoughts, and completely masters his whole life. Sin is an awful tyrant, a perfect despot; it claims and affects every power and faculty of the being.
II. Evil is Allied with Death. "They dwelt among the tombs" (v. 28). They preferred the company of the dead to that of the living. They loved darkness rather than the light. Such is the effect of an evil heart. The things that holy men dread are loved. The company of those who are dead in sin is chosen rather than the company of those who are alive unto God. They love death; separation from God.
III. Evil is the Enemy of Liberty. "No man could pass that way" (v. 28). Sin always hinders true liberty. There are many still who are afraid to pass the tomb (grave) because of evil. As long as there is unforgiven sin in the heart there will be fear. Perfect love casts out fear.
IV. Evil Shuns the Presence of Christ. "What have we to do with Thee?" (V. 29). All living in sin, and satisfied with it, hate the holiness of God. They will have nothing to do with Christ, yet they are afraid of being tormented by Him. They can see no hope in the Holy One of God.
V. Its Influence is only Toward Destruction. When the demons entered the swine they did with them what they were trying to do with the men—drove them quickly into destruction. Evil always chooses the shortest and steepest way to ruin. It is easy running downhill.
VI. Its Power is too Great for Man. Those possessed ones had no power of resistance whatever; they could do nothing to save themselves. No more can you. Sin, like a poison, becomes an integral part of the being; it cannot be shaken off like a viper.
VII. Its only Cure is to be Cast Out. It cannot be tamed or reformed, Christ said to the demons, "Go." The mighty, never-failing, cleansing Word of the Son of God alone can change the heart and separate the sin from the soul, as the demons were separated from the men. He speaks, and it is done.
VIII. Its Conqueror is often Unwelcomed. "They besought Him to depart out of their coasts" (v. 34). Those who don't want victory over their sins don't want the Lord Jesus. If you want sin put away, receive the Lord Jesus. If you want to die in your sins, let Him depart, and He will go. Welcome the sin-separating Savior.
THE CALL OF THE PUBLICAN.
Great multitudes followed Jesus (chap. 8:1), but He knew the worthlessness of mere popularity. This river of public favor would soon dry up. "He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). Let us see here the—
I. Call of Grace. "Jesus said unto him, Follow Me" (v. 9). If Christ had been seeking popularity among men He never would have called a hated tax-gatherer as a personal friend. He cannot but be true to Himself. Grace came by Jesus Christ. As water seeks the lowest place, so grace seeks the neediest soul. He saves, not because we are rich, or righteous, but because we are sinners. All men are at liberty to follow Him, but He calls sinners to repentance.
II. Obedience of Faith. "He arose and followed Him" (v. 9). Matthew may have known and heard much about Jesus before this. Now the call comes for instant decision for Christ. It is possible to believe much about Him, and yet in heart not to be one with Him. "He left all and followed Jesus." Following is the evidence of faith. Discipleship may often mean "a leaving all." It was so with Abraham. He believed God and went out.
III. Proof of Love. "He made Him a great feast" (Luke 5:29). "Jesus sat at meat in his house." Feasting and following Christ have a wonderful heart-opening effect. It is a blessed experience—Jesus resting with us in the home of the heart. "If any man open the door I will come in." Jonathan loved David, and stripped himself (1 Sam. 18:4). Let us lay all at His feet—this gives refreshing to His soul.
IV. Place of Hope. "Many came and sat down with Him" (v. 10). The place of hope for sinners is at the feet of Jesus. There is room and welcome for all here. There is mercy with Him. Sit down with Him in His rejection, and you will sit with Him in His resurrection glory.
V. Manifestation of Pride. "The Pharisees said, Why eats your Master with publicans and sinners?" (v. 11). Why did they not ask the Master Himself? The self-righteous never like to plead their own cause before God. Pride blinds the eyes from seeing the great depths of divine grace. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. Are you a seeker or a faultfinder?
VI. Condition of Need. "The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick" (Mark 2:17). The Pharisees, like thousands still, were not sin-sick, but self-satisfied. Such have no room for Jesus. Like the Laodiceans, they have need of nothing; or, if they do want Christ, it is as a teacher, not as a Saviour. Christ's work is a great remedy which can only have effect where there is disease.
VII. Purpose of Christ. "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice" (v. 13). He will have mercy on sick sinners. He will not have the sacrifice of the self-righteous. Take the place of the guilty, then you come in for His mercy. Ye who would be saved by your works "Go and learn what this means."
COME, TAKE, LEARN.
This invitation of Christ implies His deep, conscious fitness to bless all men in all ages. He knows every need of man, and He knows, as none else can, the great and holy claims of God. Put these two sayings together, "All things are delivered unto Me of My father" (v. 27). "Come unto Me" (v. 28).
I. We are Invited to Rest. What an opportunity for a sin-burdened heart! Jesus gives rest from guilt, from the fear of death, and the dread of judgment. He gives it; He does not sell it. He does not give it as a prescription, but as an actual, conscious possession. This rest is for heavy-laden ones, whether they be saints or sinners. Weary workers, disappointed and downcast because of fruitlessness, hear Him say unto thee, "Come unto Me." Everything that is a burden to us should bring us to Christ for rest and relief. Are you feeling your task heavy upon your heart and strength? Take advantage of this loving offer.
II. We are Invited to Serve. "Take My yoke upon you." There are different yokes. Yokes we put upon ourselves, and Satan's yoke. What is Christ's yoke? It is the yoke He Himself willingly took on, the yoke of His Father's will. "I delight to do Your will, O My God" (Psa 40:8). To take on this yoke means a life of entire submission to the work and will of God. Paul had this yoke on when he prayed men, in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God. The yoke of Christ means yoked with Christ, co-workers together with Him. We take it upon us when we come to the help of the Lord against the mighty. Every soul who has received rest from Him may find a life of restful activity in His yoke. His yoke is easy to the willing mind; His burden is light to the loving heart. The yoke of service is not thrust upon us; we are invited to take it. It will be to our eternal loss if we do not.
III. We are Invited to Learn. "Learn of Me." To learn of Christ we must get close to Him. To get close to Him we must needs be yoked with Him. The yoke of service comes before spiritual wisdom. We learn best while in the yoke. Paul had to cry out, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6) before he received his divine commission. In the school of suffering and testimony for Christ the deeper things of God are learned. The reason why many Christians make no progress in grace and heavenly-mindedness is because they are ashamed of Christ's yoke; and not keeping company with Him, they cannot be taught by Him. We enter the school of Christ when we enter the yoke of Christ. There are many branches of learning here. With Him we learn to be patient in suffering, to walk humbly, to trust implicitly, to love intensely, and to rejoice exceedingly (Eph. 4:20-23).
THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST.
In these verses we have a beautiful and correct photograph of our Divine Lord. Taught by the Spirit of God, their clear eyes saw Him distinctly, although afar off. Sirs, if ye would see Jesus, look at Him standing before you here as—
I. The Chosen One. "My Servant whom I have chosen." This choice was made before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). It was a choice constrained by infinite grace—chosen as the Lamb to be slain. Although men disallowed Him, He is still the chosen of God, and precious. Let us fall in with God's choice.
II. The Obedient One. "Behold My Servant." This is the Servant who could neither fail nor be discouraged (Isa. 42:4). He delighted to do His Father's will. He said at the beginning of His service, "I must be about My Father's business" (Luke 11:49); and at the close, "I have finished the work which You gave Me to do" (John 17:4). "He was obedient unto death" (Phil. 2:8), because His love was stronger than death.
III. The Beloved One. "My Beloved, in whom My soul is well pleased." There is strong consolation for us here; in that Christ was, as the Servant of God and in the likeness of men, well-pleasing to the soul of Jehovah. It opens wide the door whereby we may be accepted in the Beloved.
IV. The Anointed One. "I will put My Spirit upon Him." At Jordan this Scripture was fulfilled when the Spirit as a dove came upon Him. There and then He was sealed by God the Father (John 6:27), owned and fitted for the great work He had to do. This every Christian needs.
V. The Revealing One. "He shall show judgment." The truth is made known through Him, because He is the Truth. To come into contact with Christ is to come into the judgment (truth) of God, both concerning ourselves and Himself. Christ as the wisdom of God speaks the words of God (John 3:34).
VI. The Lowly One. "He shall not strive nor cry." How could He, when He had committed Himself unto Him who was able to keep. He never sought the favor of men for His own sake. "I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29). When a Christian strives and cries it is an evidence of weakness and unbelief. "The servant of the the Lord must not strive" (2 Tim. 2:24).
VII. The Sympathizing One. "A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench. He will not break the bruised reed of a weak, feeble, musicless Christian life. In tenderness and patience He will bind up. He will not quench the smoking flax of a flickering, powerless, Christian testimony, but will pour in a fresh supply of the Spirit of Grace. The lack of oil (Spirit) makes a smoky testimony.
VIII. The Conquering One. "He shall send forth judgment with victory." His truth shall triumph. "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied" (Isa. 53:11).
IX. The Trustworthy One. "In His Name shall the Gentiles trust." His Name is as a nail in a sure place; it bears all that is hung upon it. Not like the rotten pegs men make and fix for themselves (Acts 4:12).
Matthew 13:1-8; 18-23.
The Sower is the Son of Man; the seed is the Word; the soil is the human heart. The Sower! What a beautiful name for the Preacher! He went forth to sow; not to criticize, or make a display. All who are burdened with precious seed long to scatter it. The prophets of old knew what the burden of the Lord meant. May His message so burden us that we shall go forth weeping! The four different kinds of ground represent four distinct ways in which the Word of Life is treated by those who hear it.
I. The Wayside, or Indifferent Hearer. The "wayside" is—
1. A Hard Place. The indifferent hearer may be a regular hearer, but his heart is like a public footpath, open to every passer-by, and beaten hard with the feet of selfish thoughts. The heart that is open for the pleasures of sin will be hard for the Word of God.
2. A Dangerous Place. Exposed to the "fowls of the air" and the feet of every passer-by. No matter how precious the seed, it can only fall on it; it cannot fall into it. The seed is always in danger of being lost until it is hid (Psa. 119:11). Birds have quick eyes. The wicked one detects the precious Word lying on the thoughtless heart and "caches it away." The loss is never felt, because its worth has never been enjoyed.
3. A Hopeless Place. Here the living seed can find no shelter. Although it may remain for a time, it has had no entrance, and so can show no life. Indifferent hearers can profit nothing.
II. The Stony Ground, or Emotional Hearer.
Here the word is—
1. Joyfully Received (v. 20). There being no depth of earth it is easily moved. The shallow-hearted hearer is often very emotional. Their thin layer of feeling is easily wrought upon. Tears are quickly shed, and as quickly dried up. They hear the Word gladly; but, alas! their heart seems to be in their eyes.
2. Quickly Starved. There is "no root." It soon sprang up, but its life was all on the outside. No downward growth, because there was no deepness of earth. Beneath the thin covering of emotional feeling there lies the hard, unyielding rock of a stubborn will. No room for the root of the matter.
3. Completely Scorched. "It was scorched and withered away" (v. 6). There being no inward nourishment it is soon overcome by outward circumstances. Unless the heart is filled with love to God the Word will not root and grow, and stand "rooted in love." Persecution soon withers the pretentious. But what withers the rootless strengthens the rooted.
III. The Thorny Ground, or Double-Minded Hearer. Here we have—
1. Soil Abundant. Where there is plenty of depth for thorns there is depth enough for seed. In the heart of the double-minded the plough of the convicting Spirit may have been, for there is readiness to receive the Word of the kingdom, but only to give it a place with the thorn of worldly things.
2. Soil Preoccupied. "Thorny ground." That which is first is natural. The thorns and the briers usually have the first place in the heart of man. But that which is first must be taken away if that which is second and spiritual is to possess and prosper. "You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24).
3. Soil Unfruitful. The seed will not choke the thorns, but the thorns the seed. The sins that are allowed to harbour in the heart will surely manifest themselves, although they may be out of sight for a time, like the thorns covered by the passing plough. "Cares," which choke the hopeful Word, are deadly enemies, although often excused. Cast out those murderers if you would be fruitful in every good work.
IV. The Good Ground, or Honest Hearer. This is—
1. A Prepared Heart. "Good ground." Ground that has been the object of special care. A heart that has been ploughed and torn by the Spirit of God. Here the weeds and thorns have been cut up at the roots and gathered out. The heart that is truly anxious for spiritual things has no room for the "cares" and "riches" that hinder the one thing needful.
2. An Understanding Heart (v. 23). If the seed of the Word is to be fruitful it must have full liberty in the soil of the heart. It must have soil congenial to its nature. Without meditation the Word will get pot-bound (Psa. 1:2). The understanding of the Word is the germinating of the seed.
3. A Fruitful Heart. "Some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty." There are degrees of fruitfulness even in good ground. The individual seeds of special truth will be better conditioned in some hearts than others. The same truth in one man's life may bring forth an hundredfold, while in another only thirty. The measure of understanding has much to do with the measure of fruitfulness. The character of the fruit betrays the nature of the soil. The great object of the Sower is fruit. All is loss and failure that is not fruitful. Let us abide in Christ, and our lives shall not be barren (John 15:7, 8).
Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43.
In the parable of the tares we have a revelation of the kingdom of Heaven in the field of the world. Christ's own interpretation of it is beautifully clear and simple. The kingdom represents the dispensation of the grace of God. It came with Christ Jesus, and continues till the end of the age.
I. The Sower, or Planter of the Kingdom, is the Son of Man (v. 37). All the affairs of this kingdom are in the hands of Jesus Christ. As precious seed it was brought forth as a burden in His bosom. It is not of this world, but from Heaven. It is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. It is the ministration that exceeds in glory (2 Cor. 3:9).
II. The Field, or Place of the Kingdom, is the World (v. 38). The world is called "His field" (v. 24). The field is great, but He has seed enough for every corner of it. His large, compassionate heart and eye take in the whole (John 3:16). Much of the field is still in waste. May the world of our inner being be possessed by it!
III. The Seed, or Subjects, are the Children of the Kingdom (v. 38). The seed with which He sows the field has cost Him much—redeemed with His own precious blood. Every seed is a living one, and as closely connected with the Sower as children are to a parent. Each seed is sent forth into the soil of the world to grow and manifest His own hidden life and beauty. To this end it must die. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone" (John 12:24). We must die unto sin before we can live unto God.
IV. The Tares, or Hinderers, are the Children of the Wicked (v. 38). Where did the tares come from? "An enemy hath done this" (v. 28). There is everlasting enmity between the tares and good seed (Gen. 3:15). The title "children" reveals their very close connection with the devil (Eph. 2:2). While growing together in the field there may be a seeming likeness, but their origin and character are entirely different. Regeneration is the only remedy for the tares (John 3:5).
V. The Enemy, or Usurper, is the Devil (v. 39). It was while men slept he sowed the tares. He loved the darkness rather than the light, because his deeds were evil. It is when Christians cease to watch that the devil comes, and his awful work is silently and quickly done. When the tares spring up many say, "There's your Christians." No! An enemy hath done this. Every seed sown by the Son of Man is good.
VI. The Harvest, or Separation, is the End of the World or Age (v. 39). "Let both grow together until the harvest" (v. 30). So the grace of the Master spares the tares for a time; but sparing grace is not saving grace. While abiding among the wheat their privileges are the same, but the nature of the tares unfits them for the heavenly garner. The end will come as sure as the seedtime, when all that offend shall be gathered out.
VII. The Reapers, or Servants, are the Angels (v. 39). They said, "Wilt Thou that we gather them up?" He said, "Nay! the reapers are the angels." These impartial servants will in no wise be hindered in their mission. Their first work is to put away all scandals and them which do iniquity.
1. They are Gathered. The offensive and the worthless are brought together. No comfort, no hope, because they are many.
2. They are Bound into Bundles. As straw binds straw, so both doth evil and evil-doer. No more liberty or fellowship with the wheat.
3. They are Cast into the Fire. A fearful plunge: eternal separation; awful doom! The tares are not made for the fire, but the fire for the tares. The Lord knows them that are His.
THE MUSTARD SEED.
Matthew 13:31, 32.
Where there is life there is growth. The kingdom of Heaven, as represented in the Person of the Lord Jesus, is a living thing. Notice its—
I. Outward Appearance. "The least of all seeds." The kingdom of Heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself was the living grain. His kingdom was the least of all kingdoms. It began with a handful of illiterate men. He was despised and rejected of men. No beauty in Him for the carnal eye.
II. Inward Vitality. It is a seed, not a stone. There is within it a vital principle capable of wonderful manifestations. A seed needs to be planted under favorable conditions before its hidden power and fruitfulness can be seen. The living seed of the truth as it is in Jesus Christ must fall into the soil of a broken and believing heart before its life-giving power will be realised. In the life of Jesus we see the blade; in His resurrection the ear; and on the day of Pentecost the full corn in the ear. The atmosphere of worldliness is not favourable for the development of this tender plant. The power of this seed lies in the presence of the quickening Spirit.
III. Manifest Progress. "It became a tree." Its vitality is apparent to all now. The corn of wheat has fallen unto the ground and died. Much fruit has appeared. Every soul quickened from the dead is a branch. The fowls of the air lodge in the branches. But the fowls are no part of the tree; they are only lodgers. The tree is perfect without them. The tree of the kingdom has many lodgers—those who identify themselves with it only for their own convenience. Are you a branch or a lodger?
Two different methods of interpretation have been applied to this parable. Much depends on how we view these seven parables, whether separately or dispensationally.
I. The General Interpretation. Looked at separately, it is said—
1. That the Meal is the World—something bad, and all alike bad, needing a new and transforming principle put into it.
2. The Leaven is the Gospel, and must be hid within before it can effect any change.
3. The Woman is the Preacher, the one who hides the Gospel in the hearts of men.
4. The Result—"the whole is leavened." The world becomes permeated with the Spirit of Christ. As an exhibition of Gospel truth all this is beautiful, and may be much blessed. But as an exposition of the parable it may be very faulty.
II. The Difficulties in the Way of Accepting this View.
1. It changes the Scriptural use of meal and leaven. It makes the meal bad and the leaven good. Everywhere else meal is good and leaven is bad.
2. The meal is very favorable to leaven, whereas the world is for ever opposed to the Spirit of the Gospel of Christ.
3. The Hiding of it suggests secrecy and craft, a thought never associated with the preaching of the Word, but closely connected with the work of Satan, who sowed the tares "while men slept."
4. The Manner in which leaven works is more suggestive of sin than grace. It mixes with the meal, and gradually operates by the law of contagion. We do not see sinners converted in this way. Grace does not run in the blood. We do not see whole streets, and towns, and cities being leavened with the Spirit of Jesus.
5. The Purpose of Leavening also suggests the idea of making the meal, or bread, more palatable to man. The great purpose of the Gospel is to make men more favorable to God.
III. The Other Interpretation views the kingdom in this parable as in a state of further development in the course of time, and may represent things as they are pretty much in our own day. Those who look at it in this way see—
1. The Leaven, as a good thing that has become polluted; as the truth of God, perverted by the carnal wisdom of men.
2. The Meal, as a good thing that has been corrupted by the leaven of false teaching. As the meal is very susceptible to the leaven it may represent professing Christendom being corrupted by doctrines that are not of God. This corrupting process does work like leaven.
3. The Woman who hid the leaven in the meal, as typical of those who are acknowledged as religious teachers. It was the woman's work to hide leaven in meal. Their business is to hide, to promulgate things contrary to Christ while acting as the servants of Christ.
4. The Result. "The whole was leavened." They see here the universal corruption of Christendom as such—a Church that has become unfaithful, and so unfit for the Lord's use; a Church saying that it has need of nothing, while Jesus Christ stands without (Rev. 3:17-20).
Some seem to see in this parable: (1) The Field, as the Scriptures, that must be searched; (2) The Treasure, as salvation that must be found; (3) The Selling All, as the condition on which salvation is possessed. We much prefer to put it thus—
I. The Field is the World. It is expressly called so in verse 38. It is a large field, loved by God (John 3:16), and claimed by Jesus Christ (John 1:10). He is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. He bought the field. Satan offered it to him on the cheap, but He would not have it on such conditions (Matthew 4:8, 9).
II. The Treasure is the Church. The people of God are called His own "peculiar treasure" (Exod. 19:4-6). The Lord's treasure is His people. This treasure was hid in the field of the world, but promised to Christ before the world was. "All that the Father hath given me shall come to Me." Those which Thou hast given Me "out of the world" (John 17:6).
III. The Price was Himself. "He sells all that He hath, and buys the field." Salvation cannot be bought by anything the sinner can sell. "The gift of God is eternal life" (Rom. 6:23). Jesus did sell "all that He had" to purchase the treasure of His believing people. "He who was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" (2 Cor. 8:9). "Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it" (Eph. 5:25). He purchased it with His own blood (Acts 20:28). The hiding of the treasure may suggest the mystical character of His body—the Church known to Him, but not yet manifested to the world.
Matthew 13:45, 46.
The scope of this parable is very much the same as the last; but there is this marked and beautiful difference, that while the "treasure" is His possession, the "pearl" is for personal adorning. The Church here is not only a "purchased possession," but a pearl of great price and beauty to adorn His person and reflect the glory of His character. If Christ is the pearl, then the sinner, as the merchantman, has to buy Christ by selling all that he has. It is quite clear that this is not the teaching of the Scripture. The price is paid by Jesus Christ as the Redeemer, not by man, the already bankrupt sinner (1 Peter 1:18, 19).
I. The Merchantman is Christ. He is a merchantman, a man well up in the business of carrying on heavenly trade. He has a great business on hand. "Don't you know not that I must be about My Father's business?" (Luke 11:49)—seeking goodly pearls.
II. The Pearl is the Church. The Church is the Lamb's wife, and has been purchased with a great price. As Boaz found Ruth, and redeemed her to himself, the Bride of Christ is a priceless pearl to Him. She will be to Him as diadem of glory through all the coming ages. "Come, and I will show thee the Bride, the Lamb's wife" (Rev. 21:9-27). "A purchased possession" (Eph. 1:14).
III. The Price was His Own Life. "He sold all that He had" (2 Cor. 8:9). He died for us. "You are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:20). "Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men" (1 Cor. 7:23). Christ may truly say of His Church:
"I've found the pearl of greatest price,
My heart does sing for joy."
The key to this parable has been laid beneath the door (v. 49). It is the last of a series of seven parables, bringing us up to the close of the period of the kingdom; to the end of the age, when the whole system will be tested and judged.
I. The Net. The net is something prepared and fitted for a special purpose—to catch fish. It is emblematic of the Gospel of the grace of God. The net itself makes no distinction of the fish, for it receives all who come. The invitation of the Gospel is universal; it is to every creature. Whosoever will may come. Like the sunshine and the rain, it comes to both bad and good.
II. The Sea. The net was cast into the sea. The sea represents the sphere in which men live and move, and corresponds with the "earth" and the "field" in the other parables. It indicates a state of changeableness, restlessness, and danger. Into this sea the net of the Gospel, prepared by the grace of God, has been cast. The purpose is to gather out a people unto His Name.
III. The Gathering. "And gathered of every kind" (v. 47). Was this the intention of the great Fisherman? Was the net made for both "good and bad?" Does it not seem that the net is put to a wrong use when used, as here, for a drag-net? When the Lord told His disciples to cast their net on the right side of the ship they did not get one bad fish. The Gospel is put to a wrong use when it gives an equal place to both good and bad. In these days quantity, not quality, is the aim of the net-spreaders. But the sifting-time is coming.
IV. The Time of Drawing. "When it was full they drew it" (v. 48). The net of God's saving grace will not always be in the sea of this world. There is a time—it may be near at hand—when it will be full. This time will be the end of this age, when the fullness of the Gentiles be come in (Rom. 11:25). When the Gospel net is drawn, then present privilege and opportunity of salvation will be gone.
V. The Place of Sifting. "They drew to the shore" (v. 48). The bad and the good could sport together while in the sea, but it will be different on the shore. The wheat and the tares were allowed together until the end came. As they came near the shore the more did the bad and the good crowd together. There is a great cry for union in the present time. Let us take care it is not the crushing together caused by the net being drawn out.
VI. The Separation. "They gathered the good, and cast the bad away" (v. 48). So shall it be at the end of the age. They shall sever the wicked from among the just (v. 49). Their character determines their destiny—good or bad. The Lord knows them that are His. The bad may boast, while in the sea, that they are just as good as their neighbors, but they shall not escape.
VII. The Final Destiny.
1. The Good are put into vessels. These vessels were prepared for them before the net was drawn. "In My Father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2).
2. The Bad were cast into the fire (v. 50). "Cast the bad away." Oh, think of it! Away from what? Away to what? "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7).
THE UNEXPECTED APPEARANCE.
The hungry multitude had just been fed and sent away. His own soul now hungers for secret communion with His Father. "Man shall not live by bread alone" (Matthew 4:4). He constrains His disciples to go before Him to the other side, and when the evening is come we see Him alone on the mountain. Here is a picture of Christ's present position and of His Coming again. Jesus is now on the mount of intercession before the Father. His disciples are still being tossed with tempest on the sea of this troublous world. But one day He will appear again and deliver His Church out of all its troubles. As Peter went to meet Him on the waters, so shall we meet Him in the air (1 Thess. 4:17). When Jesus came back to the boat He brought Peter with Him. When He shall appear then we also shall appear with Him in glory. Then those who see Him will also confess, "Of a truth You are the Son of God" (v. 33). This is a very fruitful theme. Let us gather some practical lessons—
I. The Obedient will be Tried. "Jesus constrained them to go before Him unto the other side" (v. 22). Perhaps it was with reluctance that they went, but they obeyed, and while doing His will they were severely tested. The trial of your faith is precious, more precious than tried gold. Observe the nature of their trials—
1. That in which they Trusted was likely to Fail Them. "The ship was tossed with waves" (v. 24). Every object of the believer's confidence will have a tossing. Jesus Himself had it. The little ships of our own making are too slim to bear the stress of strong temptation. In following Jesus let us beware of trusting anything apart from Himself. The arm of flesh, our own understanding or past experience, if trusted, can only bring the soul into dread and danger.
2. That which might have Helped was an Actual Hindrance. "The wind was contrary" (v. 24). We, too, while seeking to do the will of our Lord may expect to meet with many a storm of opposition. The wind which wafted them across the lake now hinders their progress. The favor of men, which may have helped us at one time, may press against us at another. It is as fickle as the wind. But there is a deep need for every contrary wind in the experience of God's people. It only hindered these disciples from getting beyond the sphere of His own wonder-working power. It made them tarry till He came. Blessed detention!
3. That their most Strenuous Efforts were of Little Avail. "He saw them toiling in rowing" (Mark 6:48). Ignorant of the Master's purpose to bless them among the billows, they toiled and struggled as earnest, honest men to save themselves. But they spent their strength in vain, as every one will do who seeks deliverance by their own works (Rom. 3:20).
II. The Obedient will be Helped. "Jesus saw them toiling in rowing," and made haste to their help. Comforting thought! He sees every stroke of the oar. He hears every groan of the heart, every half-choked sigh, and is an eye-witness to every bitter tear. Our fruitless efforts may prove a blessing by bringing Jesus Christ into closer touch with us. He came—
1. At an Unexpected Time. "In the fourth watch." As in nature, so may it be in our spiritual experience—the darkest hour is the hour before daybreak. He came in the hour of their greatest need—when their strength was exhausted, when all hope was gone. In perplexity cast the anchor of faith, and wait for the day.
2. In an Unexpected Way. "Walking on the sea." The great, surging billows, the source of the disciples' fear and dread, were now under His feet. He comes as the Overcomer to their help. They found their salvation where you and I will always find it, not in toiling, but in trusting. "My ways are not yours."
3. With an Unexpected Blessing. "Be of good cheer. It is I; be not afraid." He does not at once remove the cause of their trouble (wind and waves), but He gives them rest in the midst of the storm. He may not take away the thorn, but He makes His grace sufficient (2 Cor. 12). He did not save from the fiery furnace, but He walked with them in it. This is the greatest blessing.
A SUPERNATURAL WALK.
Jesus appeared to His storm-tossed disciples walking or the sea. To this purpose of His followers the wind was contrary, but the contrary wind was an opportune time for the Lord. They saw His wonders in the great deep of their distress.
I. A Bold Request. "Peter said, Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water" (v. 28). This was a great petition, but not too great. "If it be Thou." He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask. Should our love to Christ not constrain us to walk even as He walked? What although other disciples shrink from such a prayer; let us seek the privilege of walking with Him, even where human wisdom and fleshly feelings cannot find a footing.
II. A Gracious Invitation. "He said, Come" (v. 29). The door is now open for the faith of Peter. He is invited to walk where none but the feet of faith dare go. The Christian's walk is a supernatural one, He walks by faith. This, in the eyes of the wise men of the world, is like walking on the sea. They cannot understand it. Every believer is invited by Christ to walk with Him on the deep as He walked.
III. A Successful Venture. "Peter went out of the ship, and walked on the water" (v. 29). The seemingly impossible can be accomplished through simple faith in the Word of Christ. There must be a going out if there is to be a going on. The life of faith implies the complete abandonment of every other source of confidence—out of the ship of self on to the Word of Christ. Jesus is not fully trusted until both hands are off every earthly prop.
IV. A Momentary Failure. "When he saw the wind boisterous he was afraid" (v. 30). Perhaps he expected the storm would cease when he stepped out on the invitation of the Lord Jesus. Our troubles don't all cease the moment we trust Christ. Our faith will be tried. Peter was afraid, and began to sink, because he was getting more concerned about himself than the Word of his Master. Even walking in Christ's ways will become a terror and a labor when our eyes are off Christ Himself.
V. An Earnest Prayer. "Lord, save me" (v. 30). "Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." Let him who is falling not hesitate to cry out for salvation. Out on the depths of the life of faith, where no unbeliever ever stood, Jesus will make us realize that, apart from His continual help, we can do nothing but tremble and sink. Peter was wise in crying as soon as he began to sink. Many wait until they are up to the neck.
VI. A Speedy Deliverance. "Immediately Jesus caught him" (v. 31). Instant confession brought instant salvation. He leaps to the help of His needy ones (Song of Songs 2:8). Peter was not sent back to the ship. There is no help for the troubled and tempted believer in the old life. Jesus caught Peter, so he found refuge in the "arms of Jesus." These strong and willing arms are still outstretched (Psa. 138:7).
VII. A Gentle Rebuke. "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" (v. 31). The tenderness of Jesus is very manifest. He will not break the bruised reed. We might think Peter's faith was anything but little when he boldly stepped out on the swelling waves. Oh, how precious a thing faith is! If we have trusted Christ let us trust Him wholly. None perish that Him trust. Abraham staggered not, but was strong in faith.
VIII. A Blessed Result. "When they were come to the ship the wind ceased" (v. 32). Peter now walks with Jesus—saved from fear, where before he had feared and sank. His walking to Jesus was a testing time, but his walking with Him is calm and peaceful. The wind is still as boisterous as ever, but he fears no evil, for the Lord is with him. The near presence of Christ is the secret of a restful and triumphant Christian life. When Jesus came into the ship the wind ceased. Let Him into the heart; He makes the storm a calm.
THE WOMAN OF CANAAN.
Jesus had said, "Him that comes unto Me, I will in no wise cast out" (Matthew 11:28); but difficulties have often to be faced and surmounted in the coming.
I. Her Character. With regard to her nationality, she was—
1. A Woman of Canaan. A representative of a class that were without hope, having no promise, and without God in the world (Eph. 2:12). Such were some of us.
2. A Woman in Deep Anxiety, "Her daughter was vexed with a devil" (v. 22). Her own soul was thereby grievously vexed. Her great need and conscious helplessness drove her to Jesus. Blessed thirst that draws us to such a fountain. Our poverty, like the prodigal's, is often the means of driving us home to the house of plenty.
II. Her Request. Such soul-agony must cry out. It was—
1. A Cry for Mercy. "Have mercy on me" (v. 22). The prayer will always be short when mercy is felt to be the first need. Secure His mercy and you have lifted the sluice for the outflowing of infinite blessing. If mercy is your first plea it will not be your last.
2. A Cry to the Lord. "Have mercy on me, O Lord" (v. 22). "To whom can we go but unto You? You have the words of eternal life." Mother Nature is deaf to the cry of the needy.
III. Her Difficulties. The first trial she met with was—
1. The Silence of Jesus. "He answered her not a word" (v. 23). Does it not seem alarmingly strange that Jesus should hold His peace at such a time? There is a needs be. We must not deal with Jesus as one would do in trying an experiment. The silence of the Savior may lead to deeper searchings of heart. Although He gives no word we may still hope in His character. Other difficulties were—
2. The Conduct of the Disciples. "They said, Send her away" (v. 23). Between the silence of Jesus and the surliness of His followers her faith would be severely tested. The conduct of many of Christ's disciples is more likely to drive away than attract to the Master; their words and actions are sad representations of His gracious character. Are we commending Him by showing love for the perishing?
3. Her own Unworthiness. "Jesus said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (v. 24). She did not belong to the house of Israel; therefore as a heathen Gentile she had no claim on Him as the Son of David. She was knocking at a closed door. If as sinners we would buy from Him, we must buy without money. "Nothing in my hand I bring."
4. The Righteousness of God. "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs" (v. 26). Deep ploughing this; yes, but the shafts are in the hands of Infinite Love. The promises given only to saints will not be cast to sinners. God cannot be unrighteous, even in saving a soul. She was not a Jewish child; therefore by birth she had no hope. In Christ we meet with a just God and a Savior.
IV. Her Argument. "Truth, Lord; yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall" (v. 27). As much as to say, "That's the truth, but as Lord Thou canst give me also what I need." This was a powerful plea, because it was—
1. The Argument of Faith. "O woman, great is thy faith" (v. 28). She laid fast hold upon His character, not as Son of David, but as the Son of God—as Lord over all, blessed for ever. It was also—
2. The Argument of a Broken Spirit. She humbly took her place among the undeserving dogs, that the grace of the Lord might reach even to her. Grace delights to flow down and fill the needy. A broken and a contrite spirit He will not despise.
V. Her Success. Hers was the triumph of faith.
1. She Gained the Needed Blessing. "Be it unto thee even as thou wilt" (v. 28). Her "Lord help me" is answered by His offer of Omnipotent fulness. Faith may be tested, but it will not be disappointed. Though He tarry, wait. She knew His Name, and trusted in Him, and He did not forsake her (Psa 9:10).
2. She Embraced a Passing Privilege. While Jesus was passing by she "came out and cried" (v. 22). This was her only opportunity, and she made the most of it. Take heed lest you are letting yours slip. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2).
THE GREAT PHYSICIAN.
Christ's public ministry began with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Does not every real ministry begin with this? His first recorded utterance is, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He hath sent me to heal, to recover the sight of the blind, and to set at liberty the bruised" (Luke 4:18). This is His diploma.
I. The Position of the Healer. "He went up into a mountain and sat down" (v. 29). The actions as well as the words of Christ were prophetic. While He sat upon the mountain great multitudes came unto Him, and He healed them all. What a picture of Christ's position and power! He has gone up into the mount of Heaven, and is sat down at the right hand of God to give gifts unto men. Whosoever will may come. None are cast out. He heals them all. He now sits as He did on that mount by the Sea of Galilee, waiting to be gracious. No question asked, no fee required, no prescription given, but instant help and healing imparted. Before God Jesus sits as the only hope and health for a perishing world. "Look unto Me and be ye saved, for I am God" (Isa. 45:22).
II. The Character of the Healed.
1. The Lamb. Those whose legs are unequal, and whose walk is very unsteady, who have many an up and down. There are many lame Christians vainly trying to walk like those whose legs are equal. It is no use trying to conceal the limp. If there are failure and weakness bring them to Jesus. He makes the lame to walk.
2. The Blind. Those who walk in darkness. Their outward life may be without a limp, but their minds are darkened. They have no assurance; they know not where they are going. They depend on human hands to guide them; they have not the eye-salve of the Holy Spirit. He can make the blind to see for themselves.
3. The Dumb. This is a type of those who can both see and walk, but whose lips are sealed. They know the truth, and their actions may be faultless, but their tongues are dumb for God—moral beauties, but spiritual dummies. This great Physician can also make the dumb to speak.
4. The Maimed. This is a very plentiful class, and very pitiful. They once had hands and feet and tongues for God, but sin has maimed and marred their members, so that they are now useless in the service of Christ. They once had power, but the Holy Spirit is grieved, and their testimony is maimed (see Judges 16:20). "I will heal your backsliding" (Jer. 3:22).
5. The Nondescript. "And many others." Among this lot there would likely be found "all sorts"—the sick, the sad, the fevered, and the broken-hearted. Christ can heal every ailment. Everything that hinders our joy in God and our testimony for Him may be confessed as a disease. Is it care, anxiety, temper, fear, despondency? He healeth all thy diseases.
III. The Place of Healing. "They cast them down at Jesus' feet" (v. 30). The place of blessing is at the feet of Him who is able to tread upon the surging waves of humanity's sorrows (Matthew 14:25). Those bleeding feet on Calvary's cross proclaim victory through His blood over every sin to all who believe. The way into this place of perfect healing is to get down, down to Jesus' feet.
IV. The Results that Followed—
1. The Healed Bore Testimony. They saw the dumb speaking, the lame walking, the blind seeing, the maimed to be whole. Every one used the gift received to the glory of the Great Healer. What a change! The power of Christ could not be hid in the lives of the healed ones.
2. The Multitude Glorified God (v. 31). Why has the multitude ceased to wonder and glorify God now? Have we not the same all-sufficient Savior today waiting to make us perfectly whole, that our lives might be worthy of His Almighty grace and healing power. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
THE TRANSFIGURATION AND ITS LESSONS.
Jesus had just begun to show unto His disciples how He must suffer many things, and be killed (Matthew 16:21); but before the awful darkness gathers over the Cross He here gives them a passing glimpse of His great glory. We need such manifestations to support us in the hour of sorrow and trial. When we come to this mount we are apt to be so blinded with the "glory of the light" that we cannot see the helpful lessons we might learn. We might learn that—
I. To be Alone with the Lord is a Glorious Privilege. "Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and was transfigured before them" (vv. 1, 2). "They went apart with Him to pray" (Luke 9:28); and, while alone with Him, they beheld His glory, and were eye-witnesses of His majesty. This was a premature outburst of the hidden glory of the Man whose face was more marred than any man's. If we would know Jesus Christ in all His glorious fullness, let us be much alone with Him on the quiet mount of prayer. We hope to be alone with Him in eternity; why not seek much of His presence now?
II. The Lord is Infinitely more Glorious than Men see Him to be. "While He prayed His face did shine as the sun, and His clothing was white as the light" (v. 2). There was a double glory—that which shone out of Heaven from the Father, and that which shone out of Himself as the image of the Father. The carnal eye saw no beauty in Him, but He was glorious within all the same. The hidden glory of Christ and the hidden glory of the Christian will both in one day yet be manifested. The same "Lord the Spirit" who has transfigured our souls will also transfigure our bodies (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 John 3:1, 2).
III. The Death of Christ is the Most Important Subject under Heaven. "Moses and Elijah talked with Him" (v. 3); and Luke says, "They talked about the decease to be accomplished at Jerusalem." The death of Christ had a wonderful significance—to Heaven, earth, and hell. Think of the contrast between the subject of their talk and the appearance of the One appointed to die on a cross. What would Moses and Elijah think of our present-day religious talkers who deny the atoning death of Jesus?
IV. The Glory of the Lord can be but Little Appreciated in our Present State. "The voice that must accompany the glory terrified them. They fell on their face, and were sore afraid." Moses had to be hid in a cleft of the rock to see the back parts of the divine glory; Paul, caught up into Paradise, heard and saw what was unspeakable. The High Priest never attempted to explain the "Shekinah glory." Enough for us that God graciously gives us as we are able to bear.
V. The Lord only is Sufficient to Comfort the Troubled heart. "He touched them, and said, Be not afraid... They lifted up their eyes, and saw Jesus only" (v. 8). When the living Word of God touches the sorrowful or terrified soul it is enough. Although all else should fail, and every comfortable feeling flee, "If I've Jesus, Jesus only, then my sky will have a gem." The touch and the word of Jesus are sufficient to bind up every wound.
VI. The Resurrection of the Lord is the Foundation of the Gospel. "Tell the vision to no man until the Son of Man be risen from the dead" (v. 9). The Gospel of the glory must come after the Gospel of the Cross. "If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain" (1 Cor. 15:14). But Christ is risen; therefore tell out the vision of His glory. He is exalted to be a Prince and a Savior.
VII. To Hear the Word of the Lord is a Divine Command. "This is My beloved Son, hear ye Him" (v. 5). We should hear Him because the Father is "well pleased" with everything He says. Hear—
1. The Voice of His Word. He is a great Teacher come from God, with God's message to sinful men.
2. The Voice of His Works. "The works that I do bear witness of Me" (John 5:36). Works of miracle and mercy. "Believe Me for the very works' sake" (John 14:11).
3. The Voice of His Blood. The blood that speaks better things than that of Abel. Jesus' blood speaks of satisfaction to God and peace to man.
4. The Voice of His Spirit. That Spirit who makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered, and who seeks to transform us into the image of Christ. Hear ye Him, and be made like Him.
THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT.
Peter had just been asking, "How often shall I forgive?" and even hinted that he was willing to go the length of seven times. But Christ's seventy times seven would teach us to exercise the love that was after His own heart— the "charity that never fails." In this parable two great truths are brought out: (1) The need of being forgiven; (2) the need of forgiving others.
I. His Deplorable Condition. His true state was only discovered when he began to reckon with his Lord. A day of reckoning will come when every hidden thing will be revealed. See him—
1. As a Great Debtor. "He owed ten thousand talents" (v. 24), about three million pounds. Our debt to one another may be measured by one hundred pence, but our debt to God is infinite. How much do you owe your Lord? You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. How much of His goods have we squandered?
2. As a Helpless Bankrupt. "He had not with which to pay" (v. 25). In the eyes of his fellow-men he is rich and honorable; in the presence of his Lord he is a wretched insolvent. He has sinned, and has come short, far short. To meet all the demands of a holy Lord God by our own selfish efforts is a miserable and hopeless task. "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight" (Rom. 3:20). Without strength.
3. As One under Condemnation. "His lord commanded him to be sold" (v. 25). All his past service only merited his condemnation. This is a sharp rebuke to the self-righteous. This is the revelation that comes to us when by the Holy Spirit the soul is brought face to face with the righteous claims of God. "By the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20).
4. As an Earnest Petitioner. "He fell down, saying, lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all" (v. 26). He is in downright earnest, but it is a self-righteous and presumptuous prayer. He is not able to pay, yet he only pleads for patience. He makes confession of his failure, and promises to do better in the future. It, is the old trick of the carnal and unbelieving heart, which refuses to ask forgiveness. He still hopes to be justified by his works. But when will an imprisoned man be able to pay his debt? Not of works.
II. His Merciful Lord.
1. Had Compassion on Him. "His lord was moved with compassion" (v. 27). It was good for him that he met his lord in a day of grace. Poor debtor, in his reckoning he left no place for the love of his lord. "Behold, now is the accepted time" (2 Cor. 6:2). Let us bless God that we have seen and felt His infinite compassion through the grace of His Son.
2. Pardoned Him. "He forgave him the debt" (v. 27). This was much more than he expected. This was the only remedy, and it was a gracious one. Not a word of rebuke, not a word about continued patience. Ah! He knows what we need, as poor, penniless paupers in His sight. "He forgives all your iniquities" (Psa. 103:3). "Your sins and iniquities will be remembered no more" (Heb. 10:17). "Who is a God like our God, who pardons iniquity, transgression, and sin?" (Micah 7:18). He is now saved by grace.
3. Delivered Him. "He loosed him" (v. 27). He not only got his debt cancelled, but he was, as a matter of course, loosed from the sentence of condemnation passed upon him. Being forgiven, he is now free from the law. Blessed change! Not under the law, but under grace. Salvation is twofold: (1) He forgives all their iniquities; (2) He redeems your life.
III. His Selfish Behavior. "He took his fellow-servant by the throat, saying, Pay me that you owe." He had mercy shown him, but he shows no mercy. The spirit of his lord had not possession of him, and not being filled with his spirit he soon has to forfeit the fellowship and favor of his master. As those who have received mercy, let us take heed lest we frustrate the grace of God, and as a servant become a castaway. We may learn here the—
1. Manner of Brotherly Forgiveness. "Should not you have had compassion;... from your hearts forgive." If the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts we will have compassion on the erring, and be willing to forgive them from the heart. Freely you have received, freely give.
2. Example of Brotherly Forgiveness. "Even as I had pity on thee." May the pity of the Lord Jesus Christ toward us fill up the measure of our pity for others. "As the Father loved Me, so have I loved you, so ought ye also to love one another. By this shall all know that ye are My disciples, if ye love one another" (John 13:34, 35).
3. Misery of the Unforgiving. "The lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors." The unforgiving servant cannot abide in the fellowship of his Lord. One hard, unkindly thought toward a fellow-Christian worker is enough to bring the soul into the hands of the tormentors, and to rob us of the smile of the Master's face. Sin always betrays us into the hands of the tormentors. The torments of an evil conscience and a proud, covetous heart are neither few nor small. "Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Eph. 4:32).
THE LABORERS; Or, Lessons for Christian Workers.
Those who leave all for Jesus will find their all in Jesus (chap. 19:27). Peter said, "What shall we have therefore? Seeing we have left so much, how much shall we get?" This savors too much of the language of the mere hireling. To labor only for reward is a mean motive for serving Christ. To correct this groveling spirit, and to enlighten the darkness that fosters it, this parable seems to have been given. Notice—
I. Some Things about the Laborers. The—
1. Place of Labor. "His vineyard" (v. 1). This is the place where much patient labor is urgently needed, or much fruit will be lost. Those who labor among the trailing vines must be careful about their walk. The tender grapes must be gently handled. To gather fruit for Christ the gentleness of Jesus is needed. Note, further, that every laborer in the vineyard must have the Master's call.
2. Hiring of the Laborers. This was done at five different times. Look at it dispensationally, "early in the morning" (v. 1) may represent from Adam to Noah, the third hour from Noah to Moses, the sixth hour from Moses to David, the ninth hour from David to Christ, the eleventh the present, till He comes again. Or it may suggest the various stages of life from youth to old age. How few are found at the eleventh hour, but even then the full reward of eternal life is given to all who believe and obey.
3. Rewarding of the Laborers. "Call and give them their hire." Every one called to labor shall be called to their reward, "beginning at the last." The most hopeless at the eleventh hour becomes the most hopeful in the evening. Here grace reigns. Labor on. Idlers in the market-place are less responsible than idlers in the vineyard.
4. Dissatisfaction of the Laborers. "The first supposed that they should have received more." These find their counterpart in the "elder brother" mentioned in Luke 15; those hired at the eleventh hour in the prodigal son. We cannot anticipate disappointment in Heaven; but are there not many on earth who grudge the chief of sinners an equal share of the grace of God with themselves?
II. Some Things about the Master. Here observe His—
1. Justice. "Friend, I do you no wrong" (v. 13). The selfish servant cannot understand the grace of Christ. Those who labor only for wages cannot enjoy the favor of God. If we knew Him better, we would murmur less at His doings. "I have not the gifts of So-and-so." "Friend, I do you no wrong."
2. Faithfulness. "Did you not agree with me for a penny? Take that is yours" (v. 14). He gave all that He promised. The penny seems to have been their own terms; the others went on His terms, "Whatever is right I will give you," and had no desire to grumble. Trust His grace, and you will have good cause to praise and rejoice.
3. Sovereignty. "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own?" (v. 15). What unhallowed feelings arise in our hearts when we see a brother or a sister, with scarcely any experience—just an hour in the vineyard—being more honoured of the Master than we are, who have borne the burden and heat of the scorching drought. So it seems good in Your sight.
4. Judgment. "Is your eye evil, because I am good?" (v. 15). The evil eye can see but little good in the grace of Christ. "An evil eye makes a darkened body" (Matthew 6:23). It contrasts badly with the unmerited goodness of the Master. Our thoughts at the best come far short of the exceeding riches of His grace. Lord, give us the single eye to Your glory.
THE TWO BLIND MEN.
"Behold two blind men." There are many important lessons for us in this short narrative. Here we see—
I. A Sorrowful Picture. "Two blind men." They were—
1. Poor. They sat by the wayside, evidently begging. They were men who had no promise to live on, no prospect to cheer them. Such were all of us, at that time having no promise, and without hope. All who are without Christ are poor indeed.
2. Blind. They had no eyes even to look on the passing Savior. Picture of those who are destitute of spiritual vision, walking in darkness, and having no light.
3. Helpless. Although there were two of them, the one could in no wise help the other. All are alike guilty and impotent before the Lord. Help must come from above.
II. A Passing Opportunity. "Jesus passed by." In the coming near of the Son of God lies man's only chance of getting deliverance from the power of darkness. These men embraced their opportunity by putting themselves "in the way." Jesus has come near by the light of His Word. Flee not from Him by preferring the darkness (Hosea 7:13).
III. An Earnest Prayer. "They cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord." See their—
1. Boldness. "They cried out." It was nothing to them who heard their voice. They were poor men, crying out of the depths of their dire and conscious need.
2. Faith. "They cried, saying, Lord." They acknowledge Him as Messiah and Master. Do you believe on the Son of God? Have you confessed Him?
3. Petition. "Have mercy on us." They confess their helplessness and need by begging for mercy. The prayer of the self-righteous is, "I am not as other men" (Luke 18:11), or, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you" (Matthew 18:26). "God be merciful to me." (Luke 18:23).
4. Wisdom. "When they heard, they cried." They did not wait for a more convenient season. "Faith comes by hearing" (Rom. 10:17). "Hear and your soul shall live" (Isa. 55:3).
IV. A Rebuking Crowd. "The multitude rebuked them." Anxious and inquiring sinners are often rebuked by a multitude of false fears and feelings, but perhaps a greater obstacle lies in the multitude of inconsistent disciples—those who outwardly follow Christ, but who have no sympathy with Him in His great work of saving sinners. Do with the hindrances that arise through the failings of some professing Christians what these blind men did with the rebuking multitude, "Cry the more."
V. A Willing Savior. "He wills not the death of any." He—
1. Stood. The cry of need has a magical power to arrest the passing Savior, and draw out the living waters of divine compassion. He stood. What a privilege! "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" (Rev. 3:20).
2. Called. Liberty of access is now given. Nearness invited, He seeks the fellowship of those whom He blesses. He who stands at the door and knocks still calls, "If any man hear My voice, and open the door" (Rev. 3:20). He has made room for you; make room for Him.
VI. A Gracious Offer. "What will you that I should do unto you?" (v. 32). He invited them. Now He throws the door of infinite fullness open before them, that all their needs may be fully met. Oh, what a wonderful Savior is Jesus! The rebuking multitude cannot hinder Him from pouring out the treasures of His love and grace upon all who come, "Come unto Me, and I will give ye—. "What will you?
VII. A Perfect Cure. God's remedy for needy man is a wonderful compound of infinite love and precious blood. The order here is very beautiful—
1. He had Compassion. The need of the blind men touched the very depths of His heart, and His whole soul moved out in mighty, misery-melting mercy.
2. He Touched their Eyes. The presence of Jesus is always a conscious presence. To be blessed we must come within His touch. Here the dead live, and sin is blotted out. His gentle yet almighty hand is laid on the cause and source of their misery. He opened Lydia's heart.
3. They Received Sight. What a change! Old things have passed away, all things became new. Salvation is a very great and conscious blessing we know.
4. They Followed Him. He touched them. Now they keep in touch with Him. Blessed life! "Follow Me!" "Will you go with this Man?" (Gen. 24:58).
THE TWO SONS.
This parable begins with Christ's "What think ye?" and is eminently fitted to make us think. Some perish for want of thought, and many more for wrong thinking. The priests and elders had been asking Him, "By what authority doest Thou these things?" Christ answers their question by holding up this parable as a mirror before their eyes that they might be convinced of their sins. The way to understand the authority of Christ is to discover our real state before Him. Those who pride themselves in their own supposed goodness will always remain in ignorance of Christ's authority and saving power.
I. What the Father Commanded. "Son, go work today in My vineyard" (v. 28). The Father's vineyard needs workers; who should be more interested than the Son? Observe the—
1. Ground of the Father's Claim. "Son," (v. 28). Plenty of hirelings may be got for wages, but love ought to constrain a son. "The love of Christ constrains us" (2 Cor. 5:14). If we are the sons of God, surely our Father has the first claim upon our time and strength and substance. Our Father may hire strangers to serve Him (Isa. 7:20), but sons are commanded.
2. Desire of the Father's Heart. "Work" (v. 28). What a grief it must be to our God to see so much work to be done and so many of His sons idle! Work is pleasing to the Father, good for the vineyard, and profitable for the Son. The idle soul shall suffer hunger (Prov. 19:15). Our Father has a multitude of talkative sons, but the laborers are few.
3. Urgency of the Father's Request. "Today." The time for serving the Lord is always now. Some of the younger sons say, "Wait until I get a little more experience." Some of the older sons say, "It is not worth my while beginning now;" or they are thinking about retiring from the vineyard. Go, work today, this present day of salvation, for "the night comes when no man can work" (John 9:4). "Wherefore the Holy Spirit says, Today" (Heb. 3:7).
II. What the Sons Said. In the case of the first we have—
1. A Decided Refusal. "I will not" (v. 29). This language reveals the spirit of selfish indifference to the Father's desire. In plain words it is this: "I have something else of my own to look after, and have not time to work in your vineyard." What cares the selfish Christian for the perishing millions, or the grieving of the Father's heart, if their own little plans and purposes can only be attended to. This language also betrays a heart in open rebellion. "I will not." A life opposed to the Father's will and out of sympathy with the Father's purpose. The other son answered with—
2. A Ready Consent. "I go" (v. 30). He speaks with marked respect, "I go, sir." Judging from his talk he has a great reverence for his father and a great zeal for his work. His words are smoother than butter. The descendants of this oily-lipped professor have not yet ceased from among us. Yet his instant decision and prompt reply to the father's urgent command should be copied by every son. "If ye love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15).
III. What the Sons Did. There is often a vast difference between a man's profession and his actions. "Whither of them twain did the father's will?" It is not which of them talked the best or made the loudest profession? By their deeds are they justified or condemned. His Word is fulfilled in our doing of it, not in our talking about it.
1. The One Repented and Obeyed. Repentance always precedes the doing of the will of God. The bold, self-willed rebel is the first to yield and obey. Don't despair of the restoration of the loud-mouthed, disobedient backslider, or of the conversion of the defiant sceptic. "Afterward, he repented and went." Those who go willingly into the vineyard of God's service will find grace sufficient and a holy joy in pleasing Him.
2. The Other Promised and Failed. "He said, I go, sir, and went not." All who go not at God's bidding into the field of service for Him are disobedient and rebellious children, no matter how nicely they may talk about "the Lord's work." Talking about ministers, churches, and religion is not working for God any more than warming your hands at the fire is gathering grapes. Not every one that says, "Lord, Lord," shall enter into the kingdom, but he who does the will of My Father. "Whatever He says unto you, do it" (John 2:5).
THE WICKED HUSBANDMEN.
In this parable Christ rebukes the unfruitful profession of the rulers of His people. They had rejected the Cornerstone, as builders, and their work had come to naught. So the veil of their temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and the kingdom of God was taken from them and given to another nation (the Gentiles, v. 43). Religious knowledge, enthusiasm, and scrupulous observances are all empty and lifeless when Jesus Christ is rejected or denied His proper place—a lamp without a light, a body without a spirit. We observe here—
I. Labor Expended. The householder himself was at all the expense of the "planting," "hedging," "digging," and "building" (v. 33). Think of what God had done for Israel as a nation. He dug them out of Egypt, planted them in a good land, and hedged them about with promises and privileges, yet it proved an empty vine. God, as the Householder, wrought all this work—there were none to help Him. Think of the labor expended by our Lord Jesus Christ, that we might bring forth fruit to the praise of His Name. Oh, what praying, suffering, groaning, sweating, dying, He gave Himself.
II. Privilege Enjoyed. "He let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country" (v. 33). These husbandmen did not purchase the vineyard; through the grace of God it was let out to them. Israel was honoured, as being the tenant of divine wisdom and knowledge, but because of unfaithfulness they have been expelled. This privilege now belongs to all who are in Christ Jesus. While the Master is in the far country these priceless blessings are let out to us by the grace of God. We have not bought them; we do not deserve them; they are the gifts of God—the tokens of His infinite love.
III. Fruit Expected. "He sent his servants, that they might receive the fruits" (v. 34). Although the Master is in the far country (Heaven) He is still mindful of His vineyard. In asking the fruits He is only asking His own. The vineyard was His. "Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:19, 20). The much labour of Christ for us should produce much fruit through us.
IV. Selfishness Exhibited. "The husbandmen took his servants, and beat, and killed, and stoned them" (v. 35). There is here no sign of gratitude for great privileges bestowed; no concern about the Master's interests. The grace of God has been in vain to them. It is sad to find this same selfish spirit among those who profess to be the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are ready to take every earthly blessing and advantage God may give them, but they will yield Him nothing. They will even wear the Name of Christ for their own personal interests.
V. Forbearance Manifested. "He sent other servants, and last of all He sent His Son" (v. 36). What long-suffering, what patience with insult and cruelty, what willingness to forgive, what reluctance to punish! What a hideous contrast between the selfish greed of man and the loving-kindness of God! "They will reverence My Son." The appearance of His Son brought out the awful enmity of the human heart against God. Such is grace—giving His best gift to the least deserving.
VI. Rebellion Declared. "When they saw the Son they said, This is the Heir; come, let us kill Him, and let us seize on His inheritance" (v. 38). "We will not have this Man to reign to reign over us." "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15). So Jesus, as the Son of Sovereign Grace, is cast out, and the Father, as the Householder, is defied. We will reign as gods without Him is still the language of many a highly-favoured but God-hating sinner. Yet, O the depth of the mystery, that through the death of the Son we may indeed seize on His inheritance. Heirs of God.
VII. Destruction Assured. "He will miserably destroy those wicked men" (v. 41). Privilege may exalt to the gate of Heaven, but if neglected and abused will crush into the depths of hell. These 1880 years' wanderings of the Jews on the face of the earth, without a king and without a country, is a divine and solemn witness and warning that God will judge sin. When the Lord Himself appears to reckon with the husbandmen it will be a time of dreadful awakening to those who have been in the vineyard only for their own selfish ends. Carefully note that the Householder asked for the fruits before He came. His coming was the time of judgment for His servants. "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in His body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10).
THE MARRIAGE FEAST.
The scope of this parable is very wide; it seems to embrace the whole of this present dispensation. The "certain King" is God the Father; the "Son," Jesus Christ; the "marriage," the new relationship into which the Son was about to enter; the "servants," the apostles of Christ; "those that were bidden," the Jews, who, as a nation, had received notice long before; the "other servants," perhaps those who went forth after Pentecost; the "dinner," the provision made by God in the death of His Son for hungry, perishing souls; they "made light of it, "the rejection of Christ by the Jews, His called ones; the "city burned," destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans thirty years later; "Go into the highways," the universal invitation of the Gospel; the "wedding furnished," the calling out and completion of the Church; "the King came in to see the guests," the second Coming of Christ; "Bind him, and cast him into outer darkness," the separation of the chaff from the wheat; He shall thoroughly purge His floor. The Gospel of the grace of God is here beautifully set forth. Observe the—
I. Provision. "Behold, I have prepared My dinner; all things are ready; come" (v. 4). The provision was wholly His own. "My oxen, my fatlings are killed." He spared not His own Son, but freely gave Him up to the death for us all. "Behold the Lamb of God." The provision was very great; it included "all things." All things are yours if you are Christ's. Those who came to this feast found what sinners find on coining to Christ—
1. Rest on a Princely couch.
2. Shelter under a Princely roof.
3. Satisfaction at a Princely table.
4. Fellowship with Princely friends.
II. Invitation. "Come unto the marriage" (v. 4). This invitation is for all. Whoever will may come; both bad and good were called. The Gospel invitation takes no notice of our character; the vilest as well as the most virtuous must accept the invitation on equal terms. None deserve it. It is the goodness of God freely offered to all. The pompous prince and the poverty-stricken beggar are both alike indebted to the mercy and grace of God for salvation. Because of this many "make light of it." To make light of the invitation is to make light of the God who gives it. That is no light matter.
III. Inspection. "The King came in to see the guests" (v. 11). All who accept the invitation expect to see the King; with joy they wait for His Coming. Those who are living in rebellion against His will, despising His grace, may well dread His appearing. He comes to see and to welcome all those who have believed His Word through His servants. Jesus Christ manifests Himself to those who yield to His call, and accept His offered mercy. Believe, and thou shall see the glory of God.
IV. Detection. "He saw a man which had not on a wedding garment" (v. 11). Only one, but the quick eye of the King soon found him out. The man was conspicuous, not for what he had, but for what he had not. "A wedding garment." The garment was part of the King's provision, bat he refused it. It is not enough that we merely believe the invitation of the Gospel; we must lay hold of the righteousness of God, which is offered us in Christ Jesus, and upon all them that believe. Remember that mingling among the people of God does not fit us for meeting the King. You may escape the detection of the servants, but the Searcher of hearts will find you out.
V. Interrogation. "Friend, how did you come in hither, not having a wedding garment?" (v. 12). He does not take him by the throat. This is the language of tenderest compassion, but he is faithful and just. It was not the King's fault, but perhaps he was priding himself in his own good-looking garments, prepared for the occasion, and all duly paid for. He belongs to the family of those "who go about to establish their own righteousness" (Rom. 10:3). "Prepare to meet thy God" (Amos 4:12).
VI. Conviction. "He was speechless" (v. 12). He was self-condemned before a court from which there was no appeal. He may have been making fine speeches before the King came in, but now his mouth is stopped. There is no one to plead his cause; in his behalf all his friends are speechless. Oh, friend, boast of nothing now that you will not rejoice in when the King comes. This man does not even ask for mercy, so utterly hopeless is his case now. It is a solemn moment when all the refuges of lies are swept away by the power of His presence, "What will you say when He shall punish thee?" (Jer. 13:21).
VII. Expulsion. "Then said the King, Bind him, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness" (v. 13). The man who despises the King's garment will never taste His feast. Think of what he was taken away from. Away from all his opportunities and companions, into the outer darkness, the darkness of hopeless despair, that is, outside the kingdom of God's dear Son. What a change! What a disappointment! Out from the presence of a feast into the place of weeping. There will be great and sudden changes when He shall appear. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
THE LAST DAYS.
"But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the Coming of the Son of Man be." Then, according to the teaching of Jesus Christ, Noah was a real person, the flood was a great fact, and the second Coming of Christ as the Son of Man will be an unfailing certainty. What the state and conditions of the world will be when He comes is here clearly revealed, "As the days of Noah were, so shall the Coming of the Son of Man be." Nothing could be more simple than this.
I. As there was great and growing wickedness in the days of Noah, so shall also the Coming of the Son of Man be. The world did not go on growing better and better up till the days of Noah. No, but it grew worse and worse, till God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen. 6:5). So shall it be when the Son of Man comes. "As in the days of Sodom" (Luke 17:29, 30). In the last days, "Perilous times" (2 Tim. 3:1); "Not endure sound doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:3); "Damnable heresies" (2 Peter 2:1); "Strong delusion" (2 Thess. 2:11); "Scoffers, walking after their own lusts" (2 Peter 3:3); "Many departing from the faith."
II. As there was faithful warning in the days of Noah, so shall also the Coming of the Son of Man be. Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). For a hundred and twenty years, while the Ark was a preparing, "he condemned the world" (Heb. 11:7). Every board put in the Ark was a note of warning that judgment was coming. So shall also the Coming of the Son of Man be. There never was a time in the history of the Church when the "Coming of Christ" was so generally believed and so clearly preached as now. The cry, "Behold, the Bridegroom comes!" (Matthew 25:6) is being heard by the waiting virgins.
III. As they were overtaken with sudden and universal surprise in the days of Noah, so shall also the Coming of the Son of Man be. "They knew not until the flood came and took them all away" (v. 39). They were marrying and giving in marriage until Noah entered the Ark and the Lord had shut the door. They believed not the testimony of Noah. The habits and sins of society remained unchanged and unrepented. So shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. When He comes shall He find faith in the earth? He shall come suddenly. "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the Coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:27). Who shall stand when He appears?
IV. As all who entered the Ark in the days of Noah were saved, so shall also the Coming of the Son of Man be. The Lord said, "Come thou and all thy house into the Ark" (Gen. 7:1). Noah and his family obeyed the call; then "the Lord shut him in"—"kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" (1 Peter 1:5). So shall it be when the Son of Man cometh. "Caught up... to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:17). All who are now in the kingdom of God's dear Son shall be taken away before the judgment of God falls upon the disobedient and the unbelieving. "They that are Christ's at His coming" (1 Cor. 15:23). Just as Lot was taken out of Sodom before the deluge of fire came. He who has this hope purifies himself.
V. As all outside the Ark were visited with judgment in the days of Noah, so shall also the Coming of the Son of Man be. "The flood came and swept them all away" (v. 39). The Ark, as a means of salvation, was beyond their reach whenever the door was shut. Their day of opportunity was now gone. So shall also the Coming of the Son of Man be. Selah—pause and think. "Tribulation and anguish" (Rom. 2:9); "Weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth" will be the portion of every Christ rejecter when He comes. Those who have not on the wedding garment when the King comes will be cast forth into outer darkness. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked." "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be when the Son of Man comes."
From the closing verses of the preceding chapter we learn that the purpose of this parable is to teach the servants of God the necessity of being always ready for their Master's appearing, and that readiness consists not in idly staring into Heaven, but in actively doing those things that are pleasing unto Him. They are always ready who are always doing His will: "Blessed is that servant whom when his Lord comes shall find so doing" (Matthew 24:46). The good wife may watch for her husband because she longs to see him, but if he, when he comes, finds the house untidy and the supper unprepared, would he be satisfied with her watching? These foolish virgins represent those who have the appearance of being ready, but who will be found unprepared. Notice their—
I. Blameless Character. They were "virgins," their characters were without reproach, blameless in the sight of men; they are typical of a large class of professing Christians whose outward life and conduct are unstained with iniquity. They are found in every sphere of Christian work; their motives are never for a moment questioned. They love the company of the virtuous and the wise, and even the truly wise love to have their help and fellowship; they are very courteous, congenial, and liberal-minded.
II. Noble Intention. "They went forth to meet the Bridegroom" (v. 1). The others are going, so they go too. They would like to see the Bridegroom, and to share the marriage feast. They make some little sacrifice for the hope that is in them; they never question their fitness. The counterpart of these is still to be found among us; religious people whose moral lives are beautiful, who have been good all their days, who never question their condition before God, nor imagine that they must be "born again." Their intentions are good, but they are blind to their own real need.
III. Thoughtless Neglect. "They took no oil with them" (v. 3). All their hope was in their lamps of profession. This could only last for a very brief season. They would not go without their lamps—lamps could be seen, but the invisible oil was unheeded. Type of those satisfied with an outward resemblance to the real while strangers to the Holy Spirit of promise. Oil in the vessel is suggestive of the Spirit of God in the heart, which is the true witness that we are the children of God. This will stand when all outward evidences faint and fail.
IV. Helpless Indifference. "They all slumbered and slept" (v. 5). The Bridegroom tarried, and they grew tired, and sank into a state of insensibility. The waiting time is a testing time for all. The time the Bridegroom tarried was a time of grace and opportunity for the foolish virgins; now was their time to go and buy the oil they needed, but they slept. Even a little lawful indulgence with self-satisfaction may prove ruinous. Our Lord has tarried now for more than 1900 years; what a long opportunity for lamp-trimming! When the wise sleep, it is no wonder that the foolish become unconscious of their danger. "What meanest you, O sleeper? "
V. Anxious Request. "Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out" (v. 8). The midnight cry is an awakening cry. There will be many alarming discoveries made when Jesus comes. The midnight cry of warning is followed with the cry of alarm, "Give us of your oil." No oil, and the Bridegroom at hand. No fitness to go in, and the door of Mercy about to close. This oil cannot be borrowed; it must be bought of Him who alone can sell it (Luke 11:13). No mortal can give to another that which will fit him for the appearing of the Lord. "Buy of Me" (Rev. 3:18), says He. "One thing you lack" (Mark 10:21).
VI. Earnest Endeavor. "They went to buy" (v. 10). They are indeed in dead earnest as they run to the nearest village, wiping the sweat from their faces, but their earnestness does not save them, for "while they went to buy the Bridegroom came." They were busy seeking when they should have been rejoicing. Men may use the right means at the wrong time. Those that were ready went in; those who were getting ready were shut out. Hoping to be ready is no fitness for His coming. "Behold, now is the accepted time" (2 Cor. 6:2). "Be ye also ready" (Matthew 24:44).
VII. Fearful Disappointment. "Afterward came the other virgins, but the door was shut" (v. 11). The only answer that came to their urgent appeal, "Lord, Lord, open to us," was, "I know ye not." Notice, a personal acquaintance with Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit is the prime necessity for future fellowship with Him. The foolish virgins hoped to get in, but they were shut out. Out among the scoffing and the unclean, who never expected to be in, their virgin names did not save them. Only those who had met the Bridegroom entered with Him. "Acquaint now yourself with Him, and be at peace" (Job 22:21). "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" (Roman 8:9).
In the parable of the "virgins" we are taught the great necessity of individual readiness when Christ comes. This parable teaches the need of trading with His gifts till He comes. In both we are shown the twofold attitude of waiting and working. The man who hid his talent in the earth was also waiting, and may have been longing for his Lord's coming, but, like the foolish virgins, found himself unprepared. In gathering up the truth taught here, observe the—
I. Calling of the Servants. "He called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods" (v. 14). Those called to this more honored service were His own servants —those who had previously given themselves to Him. They were the disciples of Jesus Christ, whom He called and delivered unto them His goods ere He took His journey into the far country of the Father's presence. His servants are not sent a warfare on their own charges. In John 17 we see what these goods were, the "words," the "joy," and the "glory." With these they were to occupy His place on the earth till He came. "As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you" (John 20:21). The power to trade with His goods was given at Pentecost.
II. Measure of the Gifts. "To every man according to his several ability." All have not the same ability, because all have not the same faith. Great faith is great ability. If the man who got only one talent had got the ten he doubtless would have misused them all. It is the Lord Himself who divides to every man. He knows how much our faith is able to receive and use for His own glory. "Unto him that has shall be given." Even one talent is a great gift. Every gift of God is precious. "According to your faith, so shall it be unto you."
III. Using of the Talents. All who receive the gift of God are compelled to do something with it—either to trade with it or bury it. He who received the five and he that received the two used them, and in the using they were doubled. Think of the two great talents God has given us—His Son and His Spirit. What spiritual wealth and power are here! The more we use them in our life and testimony the more will their preciousness and blessing be multiplied in our personal experience. But one "hid his Lord's money." Was it pride or shame that made him bury it in the earth? Are there not many still who bury the gift of the Spirit in the earth of a worldly life—those who deliberately hide their spiritual gift from the eyes of men, who trade with their own natural talents, and so cover up their Lord's money.
IV. Coming of the Lord. "After a long time the Lord of these servants cometh, and reckons with them." The Lord will come again. Nineteen hundred years may seem a long time, but it is a time of grace and opportunity. The Lord's money is enough for His servants to trade with till He does come. When He comes it is first to reckon with His servants, not to judge the ungodly (2 Cor. 5:10). Those who are always trading with the Master's gifts are always ready for His appearing. If we would succeed in the Master's business we must see that we trade with the Master's money. His grace is sufficient.
V. Rewarding of the Diligent. "Well done, good and faithful servant." Eternal life is the gift of God to all who believe, but rewards are only for the servants who have been "good and faithful." The promise is not to the successful, but the good and faithful servant will in God's sight always be successful. This reward was threefold—
1. Commendation. "Well done." An abundant entrance.
2. Exaltation. "I will make you ruler." A place of distinction and honor.
3. Communion. "Enter into the joy of your Lord." A condition of fulness of blessing. Happy fellowship.
VI. Doom of the Unprofitable. "Cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness." He was a servant, but as such his life and work were failures, because he used not the gift bestowed upon him by his gracious Lord. This is the secret of every servant's unprofitableness to God— neglecting the gift of the Spirit. There are seven steps in the downward career of this man. Look at the privilege he enjoyed. Numbered with His servants, and the possessor of a special gift from his Lord. The steps are—
1. Willful Neglect. He hid his Lord's money.
2. Hard Thoughts about his Lord. "I know you an hard man."
3. Slavish Fear. "I was afraid."
6. His Talent Taken from Him.
7. Cast Out. As a fruitless branch he was cut off. Like the foolish virgins, he did not enter into the joy of his Lord.
We then, as workers together with Him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
The supper was finished, the precious words recorded in John, chapters. 14, 15, 16, and 17, having been spoken, Christ and His disciples pass over the brook into the quiet seclusion of the garden. In a garden the first man fell through yielding to the wicked one, in a garden the Second Man conquered through yielding to the Holy One. May the calm of Gethsemane pervade our spirits, as we in thought follow our Lord's footsteps thither. This place called Gethsemane was to Him—
I. A Place of Great Heaviness. "He began to be sorrowful and very heavy" (v. 37). Mark adds, "Sore amazed." Heaviness of spirit laid hold of Him. Who can tell the weight of this burden to Him? "The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). What a burden! To us the sense of sin is about as natural as the clothes we wear. To the sinner sin is but a trifle, to the Holy Son of God it was very heavy. "It bowed Him to the earth with grief."
II. A Place of Intense Suffering. "He began to be sorrowful" (v. 38). Then says He, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" Now that the blessed Lord is entering into the relationship of the sinner's substitute He begins to be sorrowful. Sin and suffering have been joined together by the righteousness of God. The sufferings of Christ were the sufferings of sorrow, heart sufferings. This sorrow was not the result of the fear of death neither was it the sorrow of regret or failure, but of pure love and sympathy. He was in deep sympathy with the holiness of God and the helplessness of man. May our eyes be opened to see, and our hearts touched to appreciate the "beautiful sadness" of the Son of God! (Isaiah 53:3, 4).
III. A Place of Solemn Loneliness. "Tarry you here and watch with Me... What, could you not watch with Me one hour?" (v. 38). The tender heart of the Man of Sorrows yearned for fellowship in His sufferings, but they "could not." They slept even while He was in agony, sweating as it were, great drops of blood. He looked, but there was none to help Him. No; man cannot help the Lamb of God to bare away the sin of the world. "I looked for some to take pity, and for comforters, but I found none" (Psalm 69:20).
IV. A Place of Agonizing Prayer. "He fell on His face and prayed, saying, O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me" (v. 39). "He prayed the third time, saying the same words" (v. 44). "He offered up prayer and supplications with strong crying and tears, unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared" (Hebrews 5:7). What a contrast between this prayer and the one in John 17! This awful cup contained desertion and death, a most repulsive portion to the loving, holy, obedient Son of God. Around this prayer there is a halo of mystery, both deep and glorious, into which the carnal thoughts cannot enter. We bow in adoration, saying, "Behold, what love!" (1 John 3:1).
V. A Place of Entire Resignation. "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will" (v. 39). My will, not Your, be done, opened the flood gate of sin, and turned man out of the Paradise of God. In the wilderness, while tempted of the devil, the will of Christ was as firm and unyielding as the mountains. We will be strong to resist evil in proportion as we are willing to resign to the will of God. In every crisis in our spiritual experience let us remember these words of our Lord. Who can tell what tremendous consequences may hang on our "Not as I will, but as You will."
VI. A Place of Special Support. "There appeared an angel unto Him from Heaven, strengthening Him" (Luke 22:43). Blessed be God for this. The place of entire surrender to the will of God will always be the place of special support from the Lord. "I will glory in my infirmity, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). The angel of His sufficiency will minister perfect strength in our weakness. Be not anxious about the angel, let His promise suffice.
VII. A Place of Heartless Betrayal. "Behold, he is at hand that does betray Me. While He yet spoke, lo, Judas came" (v. 46). Could anything be more heartrending to the Son of God than this? Kissed with traitor lips while yet the agonizing sweat is on His brow. Christ had just accepted the awful cup in man's room and stead, and all the reward He receives at the hands of men is a hypocritical salutation, condemnation, and death. It is possible to play the Judas while sitting at the Lord's table. Salute Him with a holy kiss. Let our whole souls gush in love through our lips while we confess Him as our Lord before men.
THE GOSPEL OF AN ANGEL.
Who can reckon up all the omnipotence of grace enrapt up in these words, "The power of His resurrection." The tragedy of the Cross is over, the sympathetic women still stand gazing on the lifeless form of their Beloved. They fear and watch lest His sacred body should be flung into Tophet, the common grave of the outcast and unclean. They see Him laid in a new tomb. Early in the morning of the first day of the week they come with precious spices to embalm His body and preserve the dead Christ. O how foolish we become when we forget His words! (John 2:19). Unless His words abide in us our devotion is apt to become zeal without knowledge. Earthquakes and angels work havoc to the plans of men; the sealed stone is rolled away before their eyes. From this angel those women received—
I. A Word of Encouragement. "Fear not you, for I know that you seek Jesus which was crucified" (v. 5). "Fear not"—
1. Because you Seek Jesus. Those who are intent on seeking Jesus will not be satisfied in finding angels. This great and holy angel that so much frightened the keepers did not alarm or satisfy the seekers. "Sir, we would see Jesus." Jesus the Savior, my weary, sin-smitten soul needs. "Fear not"
2. Because you Seek Jesus which was Crucified. Those who seek Jesus apart from the crucifixion may well fear. Only those who knew the Crucified One found the Risen One. To His disciples alone did He appear after His resurrection. If we will not die with Him neither will we rise with Him. "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live" (Galatians 2:20).
II. A Startling Announcement. "He is not here, He is risen" (v. 6).
1. He is not Here. Mary said, "If you have taken Him away tell me where you have laid Him, and I will carry Him hence" (John 20:15). "Why seek you the Living One among the dead?" (Luke 24:5). How many there are still on this vain search. Seeking the right thing in the wrong place. Seeking life among dead forms, dead works, and dead feelings. These are wells without waters. Graves.
2. He is Risen. Hallelujah! Yet the slow of heart to believe are blinded with the glory of the light. Mary stands weeping because she thinks they have taken away her Lord. Our own thoughts and natural opinions hinder us from receiving at once the great things of God. May we have the open face and the honest heart to believe without questioning all that the Lord has spoken. "He is risen" (Matthew 28:6), and we are risen in Him.
III. A Tender Invitation. "Come, see the place where our Lord lay" (Syriac) (Matthew 28:6). He is Lord also of the angels. Let us take our stand in the place of death and solemnly meditate on—
1. His Great Humility. He who was in the bosom of the Father was laid in this borrowed grave—the Son of God buried.
2. His Spotless Character. Holy, harmless, undefiled. No sin in Him. Yet the iniquity of us all laid upon Him. Without spot or blemish, yet made a curse for us. Crucified and slain.
3. His Manifold Sufferings. "Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow" (Lam. 1:12). "A Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). "He made His grave with the wicked."
4. His Mighty Power. "He is risen," not "He is raised." I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again (John 10:18). His death was voluntary. He died and rose again.
5. His Glorious Victory. "Through death He has destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14). "O death, where is your sting. O grave, where is your victory?" In laying aside His grave clothes He laid aside all that belonged to sin, death, and the grave. He rose a glorified Savior.
6. Our own Privileges and Prospects. "He was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification" (Romans 4:25). Through His precious blood a wide door and effectual has been opened for all. This ladder of salvation reaches from earth to Heaven.
7. The Grave from which there is no Resurrection. "The wicked shall be turned into Hell" (Psalm 9:17). Here the great gulf is fixed, so that they which would pass from hence to you "cannot" (Luke 16:26).
IV. A Plain Commission. "Go quickly and tell" (v. 7). This angel from Heaven did not preach any other Gospel than that preached afterwards by the great apostle. Here it is: (1) Fear not; (2) Come and see; (3) Go quickly and tell. Christ is risen, this is the glorious Gospel. Come and see it, and know the power of it; then go and tell it out, and go quickly, for the need is great. There are so many sad and disconsolate and broken-hearted, and the time is short.
He is risen to save, be entreated. He is risen to intercede, be comforted. He is risen to judge, be warned.