“And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.”
TALKING things over with Jesus! It is a precious secret! When one has been out in the world, it is delightful to talk over what has happened in the seclusion of the home. We have read of a wife who reserved one room in the house, which no one was permitted to enter but her husband and herself; and there they interchanged their mutual confidences. So it is a blessed habit to talk over everything with Jesus, and to review the events of the past beneath the light of His loving eyes.
“We have had much success, Master,” we cry, “The cities were moved; the devils were subject; the crowds followed us everywhere.” Ah, children, He seems to say, Those who cry
“Hosanna” today will cry “Crucify” tomorrow: the real work of God is not done amid congratulating crowds, but in the heart’s depths, and in the ante-chamber. See that ye dwell not on the excitement of the outward reception, lest you attribute your success to something in yourselves, and pride yourselves upon it, and become unsuitable for My use. All success comes from above.
“We have been greatly persecuted, and our mission seems to have been a failure, Master,” we cry at another time. “Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”
“Care not for it,” the same wise Counsellor replies, “I at least am satisfied; I will see to it that your reward is according to your faithfulness, if not to your success; and there shall be a remnant of good soil that shall repay one hundredfold.”
Thus His loving words extract the poison from success, and rally us from despondency. Oh, Christian workers, get into the secret of His presence, that He may correct, criticize, or encourage as He pleases.
“And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.”
THIS Evangelist twice over calls attention to the Lord’s sighs—
in Mark 7:34, and here. A sigh is one of the most touching and significant tokens of excessive grief! When Nature is too deeply overwrought to remember her necessary inspirations, and has to compensate for their omission by one deep-drawn breath, we sigh, we sigh deeply in our spirit.
Looking up to heaven, He sighed. As the deaf mute stood before Him—an image of all the closed hearts around Him; of all the inarticulate unexpressed desires; of all the sin and sorrow of mankind—the sensitive heart of Jesus responded with a deep-drawn sigh. But there was simultaneously a heavenward look, which mingled infinite hope in it. If the sigh spoke of His tender sympathy, the look declared His close union with God, by virtue of which He was competent to meet the direst need. Whenever you sigh, look up to heaven. Heaven’s light turns tears into jewels!
He sighed deeply. The obdurate and impenetrable hardness of the Pharisees; their willful misinterpretation of His words and mission; their pride and bigotry—wrung the Lord’s heart with bitterness. He turned sorrowfully away. There was no possibility of furnishing help, since on their side there was no desire for it, or belief in Him. Perhaps such sighs still break from His heart, as He views mankind; but through them He is doing His best to bring about the time when all sorrow and sighing shall flee away forever.
The Son of God, in doing good, would look to heaven and sigh; but His sighs were followed by the touch and word of power. Let us not be content with the sigh of sympathy and regret.
“And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.
23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”
YES, there was an if in this sad case. But the father put it in the wrong place. He put it against Christ’s power, “If Thou canst do anything.” But it was really on the side of his own ability to believe. If only he believed, all else would easily be possible. Even though his faith were small, it would suffice; the tiniest seed can appropriate the chemical products of the soil, and transmute them into digestible products; the narrowest channel will suffice for the passage of the waters of the whole ocean if you give enough time. Let us not worry about the greatness or smallness of our faith; the main point is whether our faith is directed toward the living Saviour.
There are many issues to which these words may be applied. If Jesus can save me from the power of sin! No; if thou canst believe, He can. If Jesus can deliver out of a mesh of temptation and perplexity! No; if thou canst believe, He will. If Jesus can revive His work mightily to the upbuilding of His Church and the ingathering of the lost! No; if thou canst believe for it.
Dost thou want that faith? It may be had thus. Look away from difficulty and temptation to Jesus; consider Him; feed thy faith on its native food of promise; familiarize thyself with fellowship with the promises; study what He has done for others: thus thou wilt believe. For every thought of thy little faith take ten thoughts of His faithfulness.
“All things are possible to God,
To Christ the power of God in man;
To me, when I am all subdued,
When I in Christ am formed again,
And witness from my sins set free,
All things are possible to me.”
“And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him,”
THE radiant vision of the Transfiguration was deliberately forsaken, as the Lord took the way of the cross, going to Jerusalem to die. The shadow of His awful exodus had already fallen upon the little group. Behold that resolute figure—the wan face lit up with the fire of an invincible resolve—going in front, climbing the difficult ascent. The apostles cannot keep step with His eager steps, and they fear as an instinctive dread of coming events casts its chilling mantle around them. There was something in their Master they could not understand.
Such moments come to all lives, when Jesus leads us to the cross. How often He asks for a deeper consecration; a more complete crossing of natural inclination for the sake of His Gospel; a more intense purpose. At His bidding we must tear ourselves away from ambitions which had fascinated, and dreams which had allured. We must no longer live on the lower level, however pleasant to flesh and blood, but gird ourselves to go up to Jerusalem.
At such moments He always goes before us. We may not see Him until we begin to follow in the direction of His voice; but so soon as we set ourselves to obey, we become aware of His prevenient grace. He is just in front. He never puts forth His own sheep without going before them. He never asks us to tread a path which has not been trodden by His footsteps. Happy are they who follow Him!
In the first effort to follow Jesus, there may be amazement and not a little fear. The unaccustomed path, the strange look on His face, the shadow of the cross—all dissuade us. But as He dilates on the joy set before Him and us, we learn to think lightly of the difficulties in comparison with the goal.
“And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.”
THIS command might be rendered, “Have the faith of God.” As long as I live, I shall remember this text in connection with my first meeting with Hudson Taylor. He was to preach for me on a Sunday morning, now years ago, and gave out this as his text. But he said that he had always interpreted it as dealing rather with God’s faith to us than ours to Him; so that it ran thus: Reckon on God’s faithfulness.
1. We must be sure that we are on God’s plan. There is a prepared path for us, along which God has stored up all necessary supplies. But if we want those supplies, we must find the path and follow it. Along the track which He has marked out between this world and Home, our Father has erected cairns full of provisions; but we must let His route prevail over our own notions and wishes, if we are to enjoy His preparations.
2. We must be prepared to wait on Him. For these things He will be inquired of. Though He knows what we need, He expects our humble request, that we may be perpetually reminded of our entire dependence on Him. He sometimes appears to tarry to draw out our faith and prayer. But He will never utterly fail.
3. We must walk worthily of Him. God shows Himself strong only on behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him. By His enabling grace we must put away the old manner of life, and be renewed in the spirit of our mind, that we may be such whom the great God shall delight to honour. Let such trust Him to the hilt; they will find Him faithful. He will never put us into positions of peril and responsibility, and leave us to take our chance.
“He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.”
SINCE God spoke of Himself as the God of the patriarchs, centuries after they had been borne to their graves, it stood to reason that they were yet living; and on this ground our Lord met the allegation that there is no life beyond death.
Death is not a state or condition, but an act. We speak of the dead; but in point of fact there are none such. We should speak of those who have died. They were living up to the moment of death; but they were living quite as much afterward. Death is like birth, an act, a transition, a passage into a freer life. Never think of a death as a state, but as resembling a bridge which, for a moment, casts its shadow on the express train, which flashes beneath, but does not stay.
All our dear ones are living. As vividly, as keenly, as intensely as ever: with all the love and faith and intelligence with which we were wont to associate their beloved personality. It may be that they think of us as only half alive, compared with their own intense and vivid experience of the life which draws its breath from the manifested presence of God. Oh, do not fear that they will cease to recognize, know, or love you! Always it remains true, “Without us they cannot be made perfect.”
Those who live on either side of death may meet in God. Those who are present in the body, and those who are absent from it, meet in proportion as they approach God. When we come near Him in thought, and prayer, and love, we are come to the spirits of the just made perfect. God is the glorious centre of all the lines that radiate into all worlds. “Ye are come to God, the Judge of all . . . and to the spirits of the just made perfect.”
“Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:”
NO, we know not. It is better that we should not know. But He must be very near. Even has passed; the beams of His presence had just died off the world, and the after-glow was still lingering in the ministry of the apostles in the early Church.
Midnight has passed; it reached its deepest darkness in the middle ages, when only a few holy souls shone like stars in the surrounding gloom. Cock-crow has passed; Wycliffe and Luther, and others, heralded the morning. And now the morning is upon us; nay, it is shining more and more unto the perfect day. He must be near, even at the doors. Be ready, O virgin souls, to go forth to meet Him!
But may not these words be interpreted in yet another way?
Jesus comes to us in the evening twilight, when the joy of our life seems slowly waning. He comes to us in the deep night of depression, bereavement, and anguish. He comes to us in the hope and expectancy of each new dawn, when we gird ourselves to fresh toils and endeavours. He comes to us in the morning, and satisfies us with His mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all the day.
Only let us watch for His coming, with ears attentive to His lightest footfall, His softest whisper. Then, when He shows Himself through the lattice, or softly whispers, “Come away,” we shall arise and go forth with Him to the beds of lilies and the gardens of myrrh.
Are we quite sure that we belong to His house? “Whose house are we,” says the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews. But there are conditions: we must be born into it by regeneration; we must walk as becometh saints; we must hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end. Christ is Lord over this house, and His will is law (Hebrews 3:1-9).