“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,”
AS the Lord emerged from the waters of baptism, the heavens were opened, and the Spirit in a bodily shape descended upon Him and abode. Then His mouth was opened, and His public ministry commenced. Now He stepped forth into the world, saying:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor: He hath sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovering of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty them that are bruised, To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
The Spirit was given Him without measure, as the power in which He was to cast out devils, preach the Gospel, and glorify His Father by His human life and ministry.
What that scene was in the life of the Lord, Pentecost was for the Church. Then she was anointed for her Divine mission among men; the unction of the Holy One rested upon her, to be continued and renewed as the centuries slowly passed. What happened for the Church should take place in the history of each member of it. This anointing is for all, is to be received by faith, and is especially intended to equip us for work. Hast thou had thy share? If not, art thou not making a mistake in attempting God’s work without it? If Jesus did not put His hand to this work till He was conscious of His anointing, though He was one with the Holy Spirit in an especial sense, how much less should we! Hast thou known it?
Seek it on the threshold of each new enterprise. Be satisfied with nothing less than to be anointed with fresh oil.
“And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.”
THIS leper, as the physician-evangelist remarks, was full of leprosy. It was a very aggravated case. He lay in the dust before Jesus. What a contrast! Loathsomeness and Divine beauty; disease and health; humanity at its worst and best; sinner and Saviour; one of Satan’s most miserable victims, and the Almighty Deliverer. So, my reader, if thou art conscious of a heart and life which are full of sin, I would have thee meet thy Saviour now.
There is no doubt about His power—even the leper recognized that.
The only doubt was about the Saviour’s will: there is, however, no doubt on this score now, since He has healed myriads, and promises healing to all who would come. Throw thyself, then, at His feet, and ask for cleansing.
“He stretched forth His hand, and touched him.” No one else would have dared to do as much. To touch that flesh, according to the Levitical code, would induce uncleanness. But Jesus shrank not. On the one hand, He knew that the ceremonial restrictions were abolished in Himself: on the other, He desired to teach that sin cannot defile the Divine holiness of the Saviour. Whatever be the stories of sin that are breathed into His ear; whatever the open bruises and putrefying sores which are opened to His touch; whatever the sights and scenes with which He has to cope —none of these can leave a taint of evil in His sinless heart. It would be as impossible for sin to soil Christ as for a plague to contaminate flame. And He will heal thee. Dare to claim it.
“Break up the heavens, O Lord, and far,
Through all yon starlight keen;
Draw me, thy bride—a glittering star,
In raiment white and clean.”
“The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.”
WE are not perfected yet. There is a great chasm between our highest and our Master’s lowest; between where we stop and He begins; between our light, which is twilight at best, and His meridian glory. When we compare ourselves with ourselves, or with our neighbours, our standard is altogether too low; we should compare ourselves with Him, the beloved Master. Job, who was reputed perfect, abhorred himself, and repented in dust and ashes when he had seen God, of whom he had formerly only heard.
But we shall be perfected one day. That when has a hopeful ring.
But to what period does the Master point? Not till sorrow, sanctified by God’s grace, has done its work; not till the snow and frost, the light shower and the bitter wind, the earth and sun, have contributed their shares to the desired quota. Not till the perfect image of Jesus has emerged from the sculptured stone; not till the molten metal reflects each lineament of the glorified Lord.
When we are perfected we shall be as our Master. “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” It seems altogether too much to expect! To think that we shall be changed into His image; that we shall bear His impress; that we shall be as like Him as Gideon’s brethren to Gideon, of whom the princes of Midian testified that they were like the children of a king. Yet it shall be so.
The Lord Jesus became like unto us in our low estate, that we should become like Him in His glory. There must ever be the limitations of the creature as compared with Him by whom all things were made. But in our measure there shall be the same perfect beauty—His beauty upon us—for a mountain lake may as perfectly reflect the wide blue heaven as an ocean.
“And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.”
NO widow stands by the bier of her only son, no mother by the empty cot of her babe, no lover beside the fading beauty of his beloved—but the Son of Man, unseen but glorious, is at hand, seeing, understanding, touched with compassion, and saying, in His tenderest tones, Weep not!
Weep not: Love is eternal. Hast thou forgotten that there are three things which abide forevermore, the greatest of which is love? Is it likely that those blessed ties which have woven us to others can be snapped by death, which can only touch the body, but is not able to reach the soul? Is not love of God—and can God’s love change, and pass away? No; though severed from your sight, the dear ones that are gone are thine today, and have not forgotten, but love thee still. Without us they cannot be made perfect.
Weep not: Recognition of the beloved dead is certain. Did not Mary and the women, Peter and five hundred more, recognize Jesus after His resurrection? Is He not the same Man? Are we not to be like Him? Recognition went so far, in His case, that the Magdalene recognized the very tones of His voice, when He said Mary, and she answered Rabboni. Yes, though refined and purified, the face thou hast loved shall smile, and the tones that have made thy heart-music shall speak again. Weep not!
Weep not: They shall rise again, nevermore to be separated. The Lord raised this youth to life; but there had to be another parting, when his mother or he died. But when thy dear ones are reunited to thee, there will be no more partings. There shall be no more sea.
Thy heart shall find its mate. Thou and he shall go no more out.
“And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.”
AMID the pressure of the crowd that crushed on Him from all sides, Jesus detected the light touch of one thin hand, which drew from Him healing virtue. We may be very near Christ, and throng Him, without touching; but no one can touch Him, however lightly, without deriving the very grace needed.
We think of Jesus today amid the thronging crowds of angels and spirits of the just made perfect. Amid their voices will ours be heard? Amid the pressure of their attendance on His sacred person will He stay to recognize our poor trembling touch? Amid the vast interests that depend on Him, the government of the universe, the holding together and consistence of all things, is there any likelihood of our need asserting itself successfully? See, He is hastening on to raise the dead; there is the daughter of many a Jairus waiting for His summons, in the cemeteries and sleeping places of the dead. Will He stay for me? Yes, always.
There is the touch of prayer and faith. Thou canst never exercise it, however simply, without eliciting an immediate response. The conductor can detect the tiny note of a piccolo in an orchestra; and Christ is moved by a whisper, a sigh, a tear, a touch. There may be a good deal of mistake and superstition, as there was in this woman, who seemed to have thought that virtue clung to His robes; but He will distinguish the soul of holy trust amid many false ingredients. There is also the touch of affection. He knew when the woman crept to kiss His feet. He did not instantly speak of it, but said afterward, “From the time I came in she hath not ceased to kiss My feet.” Not one loving expression from thy heart to His is lost on Him!
“And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias:”
WHAT a spectacle this was, on the slopes of Lebanon, with light transcending that of the moonlight shining in the upper heights! And what converse! Possibly that transfiguration was an example of the way in which Adam and all his race might have passed into heaven, had not death come on us all through sin; and therefore it was the greater proof of the love of our dear Lord, when He deliberately turned from all the radiant light and took the way of the cross. His death is here called an exodus: such is the Greek word rendered decease. How much these two great souls, Moses and Elijah, had to say about it: the one representing the law, the other the prophets.
Moses would remind Him of the lamb that would be slain before the children of Israel could escape from Egypt, of the rock that must be smitten, before the water could flow forth for the thirsty crowds; of the serpent that must be fixed on the pole, before the dying Israelites could look and live.
Elijah would remind the Lord of Psalm 22, beginning with a wail and ending with praise; of Isaiah 53:1-12, finishing with a burst of triumph; and many other sacred and familiar passages.
And after all it was only an exodus, the going forth of His spirit from the Time-sphere to the Eternal; from contact with a very weary world to victory and joy-mending. Lighted by the Shekinah glory; following through the Red Sea of Blood; hastening to the morning, with its vision of enemies strewn dead on the seashore.
The memory of this talk so far robbed death of its terror, in the heart of one of the disciples at least, that afterward he described his own death as an exodus (2 Peter 1:15).
“And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.”
THIS was Christ’s vision of the effect of His work in man’s nature, and on man’s behalf. For ages Satan had vaunted his power over man; but now and henceforward the demon-nature was to be vanquished by the name and nature of Jesus Christ. “The demons are subject to us in Thy name.” Whenever you are tempted by the demon of alcohol, of passion, of jealousy, or any other, claim instantly the protection of the Name which is above every name; make the Name and Nature of Jesus your strong tower into which you shall run and be safe; realize all that He stands for and you will find that the demons will be subject to you. In your life also, Satan will fall from heaven, and be trodden under your feet.
And what is true in your own life is true also of your influence over others. If you dare to live in the risen Christ, you share His empire and all the fruits of His victory over Satan. He gives you authority over serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. The Christ nature within you becomes the dominant, triumphant power to which all power must ultimately yield. Dare to use it. In conflict with the demon spirits that haunt so many lives; in antagonizing the giant forces that are so strongly entrenched in our natural life, the ravages of vice—be sure to rely, not on numbers or organization, but on the name of Jesus, used not as a charm, but as representing His living and ascended might.
And let it be carefully noted that as the success of these disciples over a few demons in the villages and towns of Israel reacted on the balance of power in the heavenlies, so there is no victory won anywhere by any lonely disciple, or handful of disciples, that does not react on the entire battlefield.