Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:John 2:1
Melanchthon wrote to Camerarius on January 19, 1550—'When I heard yesterday that Fasoltus had returned [from Prussia] I went to call on him, that I might ask his servant about our children [i.e. his motherless grandchildren, who were with their father, George Sabinus, at Königsberg; and the young son of Camerarius]. The servant was away somewhere, but when your name was mentioned, Fasoltus showed me the letter addressed to you by Sabinus. I thought it better not to open it, although I beg that you will read as many as you like of those addressed to me. I hope it contains no news of death or sorrow, and with my whole heart I pray that the Son of God who, as Irenæus says, is always present with the Church, may preserve both your family and mine. He knows how great is the weakness of the human race, as we are reminded by the reading of the Gospel for today, in which it is recorded that a marriage was held in Cana, i. e. in a place of reeds [in Arundineto] as even Aurogallus interprets the word. This poor human nature is more fragile than reeds, but in this place of reeds the Son of God is present.'
—Corpus Reformatorum, vol. vii., col. 538.
What destinies turn on marriage!—destinies so multiplied that it is profanation to characterise a marriage as a commonplace episode.
I. Marriage is a Divine institution. It was established in Eden. The Bible says much of this God-ordained rite. God founded this honourable estate, and to violate it is to rebel against the law of our Maker. Nothing is more sinister than the depreciation of marriage in some quarters today. It is an evil omen indeed. Beware of such a tendency. Nothing is more necessary for the well-being of a State than a firm adhesion to the Divineness of the ordinance of marriage.
II. If this institution is to bring happiness there are laws which must be observed, qualities which must be cultivated. (1) Religion is the most urgent condition of true marriage happiness. A marriage without Jesus has an unprosperous outlook. (2) Honest and deep love is essential to a happy marriage. Love alone has the key of the treasure-house of happy marriage. (3) Fidelity is an inexorable necessity of marriage. (4) Mutuality is indispensable to a happy marriage. Once there is the shadow of suspicion, peace and joy depart. Dr. Dale admonishes against 'diminution of mutual interest' and the admonition is. seasonable. The loss of interest is the blight of love. (5) There must be a sustained expression of affection if marriage is to be a day of brightness. Queen Victoria declared that the Prince Consort was a 'lover' all through their married life. Love that is never uttered dies. (6) The homely quality we call common sense is another essential of a happy marriage. (7) Thrift, which is but an aspect of common sense, is necessary for permanent married happiness. (8) Unselfishness is a grace peculiarly needed in the state of marriage.
III. I can but add a little cluster of counsels which may contribute to a noble ideal and a happy experience of marriage. Let there be no secrets between husband and wife. Scorn and dread all jealousy. Be courteous, and that always. Do not overlook any element of attractiveness in your home. Practise always the calm strong virtue of forbearance. Keep a lovely temper, or if you possess it not seek by the grace of Christ to possess it. It will help to ensure the blessedness of marriage that those who contemplate it anticipate the retrospect. Live as you will wish you had lived. Do not, like Carlyle, have to shed bitterly reminiscent tears. Read the literature of marriage. Study what the Scripture saith. Rely upon God's promised guidance.
—Dinsdale T. Young, Messages for Home and Life, p. 93.
Reference.—II. 1.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. i. p. 177.
Nathanael had been promised the vision of greater things in Jesus, and this opening scene of the ministry forms the first revelation of the new order which was being inaugurated. It was to be free from the narrow and arbitrary abstinence of asceticism. Unlike John the Baptist, Jesus took His disciples freely to a country wedding, as if to mark the genial spirit of His religion. The significance of the incident, in this aspect, does not need to be underlined. But it acquires additional and unsuspected emphasis if we connect it with the words immediately preceding it in the first chapter of the Gospel. There, as was suggested in an earlier series of these notes, Nathanael seems to be regarded as a better Jacob, to whom, as 'Israel' or 'seeing God,' a better union of the Divine Being is vouchsafed. Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. The allusion is not to any appearances of angels but to the life of Christ on earth regarded as a continuous revelation and communication of God to men. 'La vie de Jésus va ȇtre comme une continuelle révélation du ciel, un commerce pareil à celui que vit Jacob dans sa fameuse vision, où les anges allaient et venaient pour accomplir les ordres de Dieu. Ce commerce a été inauguré par l'incarnation du Verbe et la descente de l'Esprit; il ne cessera plus désormais tant que durera sur la terre la manifestation du Christ. Les anges sont donc le symbole reel de l'assistance divine qui éclatera dans les miracles du Sauveur' (Loisy).
Now the interesting thing is that this Jacob, whose vision of God at Peniel is thus employed to figure forth the fuller revelation of the Son of man to Christians, was regarded by Philo as the typical ascetic. In some circles of Jewish Hellenism, ascetic discipline was held to be the supreme condition of beholding God. Anti-social rigour was the motto of the elect. The body had to be kept down, social ties broken, and all joys sternly crushed, if the soul was to attain the beatific vision of the things Divine. Philo, who voices this feeling, displays real ingenuity in interpreting Jacob's life along this line. To him 'Jacob,' says Dr. M. Friedländer (in Die religiösen Bewegungen innerhalb des Judentums im Zeitalter Jesu, 1905, pp. 256 f.), 'is the ascetic κατ’ἐξοχήυ who has to fight hard against all that is earthly, in order to attain the vision of God.' The stone on which he pillows his head at Peniel (Genesis 28:11) represents the rigour of life which prepares one for the sight of God. So Philo argues (de Somn. i. 446), if the ascetic is eager in the practice of this discipline, then instead of being called Jacob the supplanter, he will be hailed as Israel ὁ θεὸυ.
This association of Jacob's vision with asceticism would obviously lend point to the promise of Jesus in John 1:51, as well as to his action in 2:2 f. The conditions of beholding God's glory were no longer to be considered as implying a strict, unsocial asceticism, which was possible only to an élite of distinguished pietists or recluses like the Therapeutæ.
References.—II. 1, 2.—R. W. Church, Village Sermons, p. 36. T. H. Ball, Persuasions, p. 39. Expositor (7th Series), vol. v. p. 475. II. 1-11.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 110.
The Social Life of the Christian
I. Christ's Example.—The narrative of the marriage at Cana in Galilee shows us clearly that our Lord did not disdain the festive board. He went to the wedding-feast and took His disciples with Him. There is no reason why His disciples of today should abstain from social entertainments, but we must be quite sure that we can take Him with us. It is a matter of common experience that there are social engagements to which we are invited where, our own instinct tells us, He would not, if I may so express it, feel at home. Where the Master cannot go is no place for the disciple.
II. Some Cautions.—But when we go into society let us beware lest, by our own act, or by assenting to the actions of others, we may do harm.
1. Pride may come there (St. Matthew 23:6).
2. Vanity may come there. Vanity of dress, vanity of face, vanity of manners, vanity of conversation. Souls have been lost in society, having acquired there the habit of turning everything to account for one end—self-display.
3. Charity may not come there. It comes not, or it stays not, where scandal is—discussion of other men's affairs, conduct, character.
4. Even reverence may be wanting. How often has a jest pointed and winged by Scripture—a ludicrous quotation, or a humorous allusion—planted in some memory an association not to be lost, ruinous to the future use of a whole text or context of inspiration!
III. Positive Duties.—But in all watchings against evil there should be a positive striving after good. Let a high aim and a Christian motive go with us into society, and we shall not be there like men armed for self-defence or chained against offending, but rather as free and large-hearted friends, fearing no evil, because God is with us. We must go as Christians.
1. Earnest prayer for a special blessing will be the preliminary and safeguard of all. This will fulfil itself most often in undesigned and unstudied ways. A Christian man in society does not always talk of sacred things. He never forces religious conversation; but, on the other hand, he never shrinks from the avowal of distinctly Christian sentiments. More often, however, he is called rather—and it is no easy duty—to judge as a Christian, and to speak as a Christian, upon matters not religious. 'If any man speak,' says St. Peter, 'let him speak as it were oracles of God'; such words as have truth in them, and faith, and wisdom, however common the topics to which they appear to have regard.
2. There are many other ways in which he may speak and use influence for his Master.
a. He can win others by the charm of a thoroughly Christian and therefore powerfully attractive spirit.
b. Sometimes a word, or scarcely a word or his, will not only check the running down of some maligned character, but even rectify the misapprehension from which slander had started.
c. Sometimes in a crowded reception-room, that which could not, without obtrusiveness, have been said at the table, has been uttered with saving power to an individual guest.
The effect of a Christian man's presence in common society should be to make others feel that they were in a good atmosphere.
Our subject to-night is holy matrimony. I fear with many young people the emphasis is not placed on the word holy, but on the word matrimony. This fact may account for so many unhappy unions, and for much of the misery in the wedded lives of the rich and the poor alike. It is very hard to get young people to realise the importance, and the solemnity of the step they are about to take, when they enter into the married state. For weal or for woe it is the most important step in life that any man or woman can take. I would therefore ask you to consider marriage, both from its heavenly and from its earthly sides. We are too apt to consider the earthly side alone.
I. Marriage is a Divine institution. It was the first appointed ordinance after the creation of man. It was adorned and beautified with the presence of Christ, at the first miracle which He wrought in Cana of Galilee. Just in so far as we enter into this holy estate in the fear of God—'marrying in the Lord,' as the Apostle Paul saith—in so far will we find it a state of happiness and peaceful joy.
II. Marriage has its earthly or human side. Da not allow yourselves to 'drift' into it. Deep, true, honest love on both sides is the only bond that will bear the strain of married life. Such love can only be founded on character and mutual respect. It deepens and grows as the years roll on, and the faces become furrowed, and the hair whitened with the snows of many winters. Beware of secret marriages. 'Honour your father and mother' is a law that requires to be observed more than it is, where love, courtship, and marriage is in question.
III. The purpose of marriage. 'It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort that the one should have of the other both in prosperity and adversity.' Here we have the two aspects of marriage—the heavenly and the earthly—combined. There is to be a holy emulation between them in helping each other forward in that higher and holier life of the spirit, as well as to be a help to each other in the things pertaining to this earthly life. You remember in the Paradiso of the great Italian poet, that he (Dante) had as his leader through those happy regions his beloved Beatrice. He tells us that he only knew of his ascent into the higher and holier plains of Paradise, not by conscious motion, but by the growing beauty on the face of Beatrice. So we, too, in many a home, may trace the upward ascent of husband and children, to higher and holier heights of character, by the growing beauty, the sweet and holy influence, of wife and mother.
Young men, abjure all 'low' views of marriage. Seek a good woman rather than a clever woman.
—T. J. Madden, Addresses to all Sorts and Conditions of Men, p. 53.
References.—II. 2.—S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (2nd Series), vol. i. p. 72; ibid. vol. i. p. 105.
On the Terrace of Envy, in the Purgatorio (13:25 f.), Dante hears voices in the air which whip the soul to generosity. One is Mary's sentence, 'They have no wine.' It is a simple and homely act of kindly forethought to save her neighbour's shame or confusion. Perhaps the suggestion is right that it is meant as a corrective of the envy with which women too often regard the lavish preparations and display made in other women's feasts. An envious woman would have a secret joy in the breakdown of the arrangements; to the Virgin's kind and neighbourly heart it only causes pain.
—J. S. Carroll, Prisoners of Hope, p. 188.
References.—II. 3.—H. R. Gamble, The Ten Virgins, p. 40. II. 3, 4.—H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p. 33. II. 4.—S. H. Fleming, Fifteen Minute Sermons for the People, p. 148. J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas to Epiphany, p. 407. Bishop Westcott, Village Sermons, p. 68. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 93; ibid. (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 106.
The Lesson of Obedience
Mary, the mother of our Lord, speaks only on three occasions (in the sacred records), and those three utterances of hers are like three clear notes of a bell—of metal sound, and rich. 'Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.' Here her words reveal the disciple's perfect loyalty. But her words need some explanation. Where had she learned the necessity of men yielding this implicit obedience? Where, but in that quiet home-life at Nazareth. There she had studied Him with a love that became more and more filled with reverence; there she realised the mystery of His nature; and among other things, that there were meanings He intended to convey which could not be set forth in words, but must be displayed in action; that only by doing His will, even when it was darkest, could she and others truly come to the light which she knew was in Him. Her words here, then, were not what they may seem at first sight, the utterance of despair, but their tone is that of hope. She does not mean to say, 'We cannot know Him,' but 'He must take His own way to make us know Him, to make Himself known to us. We cannot understand His words. Let us see what He does. Let us put ourselves into action by obedience, and we shall understand Him.' Surely she struck there the note of all the best Christian experience that has come down through all the ages since. How familiar has become the simple attitude of the puzzled soul which cries: 'Lord, reveal Thyself in dealing with me; I will not hinder Thee; I will obey Thee. Whatsoever Thou sayest unto me, I will do it' In submissive acceptance of God's will we shall understand that which no mere study of His words could teach us. But yet the words of Mary here do not allow us to forget that all true waiting for Christ's self-revelation is of an active and not merely of a passive sort. 'Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.'
I. There is something to be done, in order that Jesus may show out completely what He is trying to make manifest. (This is His will in His dealings with us.) And acts become little or great only according to the degree in which God manifests Himself and works through them. It was not because she knew that they would have wine or something better, it was because her Son would surely show Himself through their obedience, if they obeyed, that Mary cared what these servants did. Our Lord, then, will not perfectly reveal Himself except in His action on and through obedient men.
II. But another question comes. 'Intelligence comes by obedience; but can I obey Him till I first know what He has to say? Can I admit the right of another to bid me obey?' Now here it is necessary to distinguish clearly between 'faith' and 'sight'. Faith is the knowledge of a person; sight is the perception of a thing. To believe anyone on faith is to believe it because that person is trustworthy. To believe anything on sight is to believe it because we ourselves perceive it to be true. We see then what a perfect right one has—one who knows Christ by a true experience, as Mary here—to bid others obey Him, even though they know not what orders He may give.
III. But it is not often that a man who seriously desires to know His will can be in doubt about it. If Jesus were at hand, you would go out and ask Him: 'Is it Thy will, O Lord, that I should do this or that?' Can you not ask Him now? Is that act right? Would He do it? Would He have it done? Will it help my soul? If the answer to these and suchlike questions is 'Yes,' and if the heart and conscience be clearly convinced, it is His bidding; it is His command as clearly as if His gracious Form stood visibly before you, and His Finger pointed to the task; and when, perhaps, the act is of itself obviously right, it is more than ever His command, just because it is the reassertion, the enforcement of essential duty. He does not make righteousness; He reveals it; and when the loving soul obeys it is conscious that it is doing at His command what it was bound to do. I know what He, there in His glory, here in my heart, wants me to do today, and, if I seek Him in prayer, I know that I shall not be mistaken in my knowledge. It is no guess of mine. It is His voice that speaks to me. In obedience to Him lies the real bond of union between this life and the life that lies beyond the grave. There obedience will be the essence and delight of life. Let us seek to do whatsoever He saith unto us now, that we may be ready for the higher duties which He will give in eternity.
—The late Bishop Phillips Brooks, The Light of the World.
References.—II. 5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2317. II. 6.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 262.
Four Points of Good Service
And they were wise and faithful servants. They could little have thought when they did their duty so heartily that this their good deed should be told wherever the Gospel should be preached in the whole world. They might have said, Who is this stranger that presumes to give us orders? They might have gone about their work listlessly and half-heartedly—just putting in a little water, and giving themselves no further trouble. But no. 'Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.'
I. Few people seem to think what a great Christian virtue this heartiness is. 'Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.' We read the blessing of the 'true in heart' over and over again in the Psalms. Never be deceived or deceive yourselves that it does not much matter how you do little duties. The prophet says: 'If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, how canst thou contend with horses?'
II. Learn another thing from this text. God gives us graces, according to the preparation we make for them. If these servants had only half-filled the pitchers, their master would have had only half as much wine.
III. 'Draw out now.' So whatever He gives us, He gives us to this end not that we should keep it to ourselves, but that we should share it with others. Freely we have received, freely give. If He has given us time which we may spend for the good of others—draw out now. If He has given us money of which we can spare—draw out now. If He has given us influence—draw out now. I say those servants were good servants in four particulars. First, they obeyed. 'They filled the waterpots with water.' Secondly, they obeyed heartily. 'They filled them up to the brim.' Thirdly, they did not desire to keep what they had themselves. 'He saith unto them, Draw out.' Fourthly, they did it at once. 'Draw out now,... and they bare it'
—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College Chapel, vol. l p. 73.
Jesus Christ in the Daily Life
I. Notice, first of all, the simplicity of the action of Jesus Christ. Men sometimes speak as if it were incumbent upon the Almighty to work His miracles before a select company of savants, who shall criticise, and then shall give their verdict as to the miracle But the miracles of our Lord Jesus Christ were no State splendours; they were not performed with a flourish of trumpets in the midst of the great city of Jerusalem. No, He commences to work His miracles here in an obscure village. (1) Are you and 1 willing to work in secret, willing to work where our work may be but little recognised? It is from the nooks and corners that will come forth some of the greatest workers, and it is there that will be found those who will turn the widow's water into wine. (2) Let us learn that Christ is as much with you in the Cana of your home life as He is in the Capernaum of business, or as He is in the Jerusalem of public service. This is the glory of our Christianity—that our Christianity comes into the common daily life.
II. From this miracle of our Lord I see how He comes to ennoble our joys, and I see how He comes to sanctify our sorrows. (1) He ennobles our joys. I know it is a common idea that the Lord Jesus Christ will banish all the joys of life, that the Christian must not laugh or sing, that his religion is the religion of asceticism and the desert. But oh, how different is the truth! He comes into the daily life, and He would not exclude the innocent with the harmful, the genial with the baneful. But remember this: that as you study this incident, you will see there are two or three provisos put upon the Christian's joys: (a) They must be such joys that he can invite the Lord Jesus Christ to them. (b) And then secondly, a very homely hint. The pleasures of the Christian are always in keeping with his purse, (c) Remember that Jesus Christ must be called always to the marriage. (2) He also sanctifies the sorrows. You will notice here the model prayer for the Christian when he is in any sorrow. Mary went to our Lord and said, 'They have no wine'. That was all. Learn to trust Him—not to worry; but put the case before Him, and then stand ready to hear whatsoever He shall say to His servant.
III. You have here also how He deals with our daily duties. (1) Whenever God is about to give us a blessing, He always prefaces it with a command. It is so here—'Fill the waterpots with water'. (2) These commands are not to be questioned. They are to be obeyed. We may not see the connection between the command and our necessity, but—'Deep in unfathomable mines He hides His sovereign will'.
—E. A. Stuart, The New Creation and other Sermons, vol. iii. p. 81.
Reference.—II. 7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi. No. 1666.
May the New Year be full of happy days to you!—365 in a row, like the waterpots at the marriage at Cana—each of them holding a good deal, say two or three firkins apiece, and all of them filled to the brim with the water of gladness; or if any of them should be filled with the water of grief, you know One who can turn that water into wine.
—W. B. Robertson of Irvine (in a letter.)
References.—II. 8.—H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. p. 66. II. 9.—Bishop Gore, The New Theology and the Old Religion, p. 205. J. W. Burgon, Servants of Scripture, p. 58. II. 9, 10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v. Nos. 225 and 226. Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 33.
The Best Wine Last
Why did this saying so impress John that it lingered ineffaceably in his memory? Was it merely because of the pleasure it evoked to hear his Master's handiwork so praised? I think there was a deeper reason. John was by nature an idealist, loving to find the abstract in the concrete. In the particular instance of the moment, he was quick to see the universal law. And it flashed on John, hearing this chairman speak, that he was speaking more wisely than he knew. Was it not true wherever Christ was active that the best wine was kept until the end? In other words, take man apart from God and always it is the worse which follows; but take God in any of His thousand energies, and always the best is kept until the end. It is on these two truths I wish to speak.
I. And first on the sadder and more sombre of them. (1) Think, then, for a moment of life itself, unsustained by the hope we have in God. First comes childhood, then follows youth and opening manhood. Then come the heat and battle of mid-life, and the weakness and the weariness of age. Is this the gallant youth of long ago, this bent and tottering and palsied form? (2) Or think again of life's relationships on which the blessing of God is never sought. When character is unchastened and unpurified, how often do the years bring disappointment! (3) Once more you will think how true this is of sin. Sin is so fair and pleasant at the outset, and hides its afterward with such consummate mastery, that the reckless heart becomes an easy prey. (4) And I cannot leave this darker side of things without asking, must all that stop at death? I wish most passionately I could believe it did: but I see no reasonable ground for that assurance. If sin conceals the worse behind tomorrow, may it not conceal the worst behind the grave?
II. But now I turn, and I do so very gladly, to the energies and activities of God. Wherever God in Christ is working, the best wine is kept until the end. (1) Think first of creation. First there was chaos and the formless deep: then light, and the ingathering of the waters. Then the first dawn of life in lowliest form, mounting into the power of bird and beast. And then at last came man, capable of communion with his Maker: greater, by that spark of God within him, than sun and moon and all the host of heaven. (2) The same is true in the sphere of revelation, the revelation of the Divine to men. (3) I think, too, we may apply this thought to the life of the incarnate Lord Himself. (4) Is not this true also of our Christian calling? Every act of obedience that we do gives us a new vision of His love.
—G. H. Morrison, The "Wings of the Morning" p. 1.
References.—II. 10.—J. Cameron Lees, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 4. J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas to Epiphany, pp. 421 and 441. W. P. S. Bingham, Sermons on Easter Subjects, p. 178. W. H. Simcox, The Cessation of Prophecy, p. 98. II. 11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvi. No. 2165. H. Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. p. 93. J. S. Bartlett, Sermons, p. 12. H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. iii. p. 16. H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 49. W. H. Hutchings, Sermon-Sketches, p. 37. R. W. Hiley, A Year's Sermons, vol. i. p. 48. Bishop Magee, Sermons at St. Saviour's, Bath, p. 1. H. Alford, Sermons on Christian Doctrine, p. 82. C. J. Ridgeway, The King and His Kingdom, p. 71. Bishop Westcott, Village Sermons, p. 74. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 114. II. 12.—Expositor (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 31. II. 13.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. v. p. 116. II. 13-22.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 197. II. 16.—Ibid. vol. i. p. 386. II. 16.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 123. II. 17.—T. G. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, xlvi. p. 299. G. H. Morrison, The Scottish Review, vol. i. p. 152. J. Stalker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. p. 179.
The Temple of His Body
Strange words these to come from the lip of oar Lord. It is our Lord's first intimation of His coming Passion and Resurrection.
I. What did our Lord Mean?—He meant surely that His body was the habitation of God, through which He dwells among men and would dwell to all eternity. What was the purpose in Old Testament days both of the Tabernacle in the wilderness and of the Temple at Jerusalem? Was it just to afford to Israel a place to worship in our modern sense, a house of prayer for God's people Israel? No, that was not their primary purpose. Their primary purpose was to afford a habitation for God in which and through which He might dwell among His people. Certainly God's house was to be a house of prayer. The gracious God who dwelt with Israel was One Who kept open house for all who came to Him, but God's house was no more built primarily as a house of prayer for Him than our houses are built to be houses of prayer for us. Do we say to ourselves that it was a childish conception, that it was an idea suited for the childhood of the world, but one that has no meaning for ourselves? Do we say that God is everywhere, that He is immanent in all the world and in all human life, and that He cannot be in one place more than any other? Solomon himself told us that we could set no limit whatever to the presence of God. But he knew what I think we sometimes forget, that the omnipresence of God is no mere physical omnipresence, like that of ether of which science tells us. God's presence is ever a presence that depends on God's will. It is given as He wills, and where He wills. Solomon's prayer was that it might be given to men in that beautiful house of His as it was given nowhere else. And it is surely exactly the same thought that was in the mind of our Lord when He spoke of the temple of His body.
II. What He meant was that God's Presence was there given to Man as it was given nowhere else. In Christ, our Lord God came down to the world as He had never come before. 'The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,' 'tabernacled among us,' St. John's word is. God dwelt with us in Jesus Christ as He had dwelt in the Tabernacle of old. Certainly we believe that God's presence is everywhere in the world that He has made. We Christians do not so misuse our belief in the Incarnation of our Lord as to disparage God's presence everywhere else. We look upon every lower gift of the presence of God as the promise and prophecy of the higher, and we look at the Incarnation as the climax and crown of them all. Nevertheless, we do believe that in our Lord Jesus Christ God came down to us, as He had never come before. We believe that that Divine presence which fills all the world and which nevertheless comes as God wills and where He wills is given to us in our Lord in a way absolutely unique. We believe, as St. Paul tells us, that in Him there dwells all the fullness of the Godhead under bodily conditions, and that when the Jews destroyed our Lord's body they were guilty not merely of murder, but of sacrilege, and that the destruction of their temple was a righteous penalty for their destruction of God's. This is surely the first thought we want to bring with us to the contemplation of our Lord's Passion. That body that we see there being marred and scourged and crucified is the temple of God.
III. We are tempted very often to forget the Uniqueness of the Way God dwelt in our Lord Jesus Christ.—Certainly it is well for us that we should find God everywhere. The immanence of God in the world and in human life was a doctrine of Christianity from the very first Certainly we can find God in Nature, and we can find God in man if we first know what God is and so know what to look for. But if we do not know God, then we shall never find God in Nature and in man as we can find Him in our Lord Jesus Christ. The iron law of Nature and the wild confusion of our human life will only obscure to us the God Who is immanent in them, and we shall never find God as we need to find Him at all. God's power and God's intelligence are manifested in Nature and in man. But God as love, God as we need to know Him, is not manifested there as we need that He should be manifested to us.
Truly when we remember that the great stones were then pure white, that the platform above them was surrounded by four marble cloisters, one at least of which was larger and higher than York Minster; when we remember, moreover, that these cloisters embraced a building of marble and gold, approached by a porch or gateway 150 feet in height, higher, that is, than the facade of St. Peter's at Rome, we feel... the greatness of Him who so profoundly realised the nothingness of all material splendour in comparison with the things of the Spirit, that He could exclaim with deep conviction concerning this marvel of His eye: 'Destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands'.
—H. Rix, Tent and Testament, p. 223.
References.—II. 19.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 199. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. John, p. 133. II. 19, 20.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. i. p. 90. II. 19-21.—J. Keble, Sermons for Easter to Ascension Day, p. 54. II. 19-22.—D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 257. II. 21.—J. Bannerman, Sermons, p. 287. J. Monro Gibson, The Scottish Review, vol. iii. p. 76. J. B. Brown, The Divine Life in Man, p. 197.
Christ's View of Faith
You see the double action. How foolish we have been! We have said, Believe, and Jesus will come to you, and as it were dandle you on His knee; He will abide with you, you will have long and blessed holiday. This false doctrine has been preached too long. Let us carefully read the text, for it seems to be a text that is self-balanced. 'Many believed in His name... but Jesus.' That is strange reading; what is the meaning of that disjunctive? Surely we must have read it wrong. 'Many believed in His name... but Jesus.' When was the difficulty ever with Jesus? What has He to do with these buts and shadows and fears and sudden darkenings of the sky? It surely should have been 'And Jesus'. Yet it is not; we cannot change the 'But'; it is a chilling word. There is more than criticism in it, that is to say, more than grammatical criticism; there is another kind of criticism in it. Criticism means judgment, criticism is not an exercise in words, in grammar, in literature in any form. Criticism in the heart of it means insight, penetration, estimate of qualities, judgment. Let us read the text again. 'Many believed in His name..., But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them.' It is very instructive to know that the word 'believed' and the word 'commit,' though so different in English, are the same word in the original tongue. How then may the text be varied, if not amended? 'Many believed in His name.... But Jesus did not believe in them.' To be worth anything, faith must be mutual. Faith is not an action on one side. It is not whether we believe in Christ, but whether Christ believes in us. He stands aloof from some men; they professedly adore Him, and He says, 'I do not know you'. In Thy name we have done many wonderful works. 'I do not know you.' We have made a livelihood out of Thy name, we have delivered courses of lectures upon Thee, we have gathered great congregations to hear us lecture upon Thee and upon Thy ministry. 'I do not know you.' 'Many believed in His name.... But Jesus did not believe in them.'
I. Do not let us, therefore, run away with some simple, shallow conception of what is meant by faith. Christianity is not a process of voting for Jesus, as if in the uproar and the sham of a general election. Faith means a double action. It might be expressed thus: Man believes in Jesus, and Jesus believes in the believing man. Then is the sacrament complete, the whole history is radiant with inner and outer light, and the redeemed man and the redeeming Christ walk in tender fellowship and make each other glad with a new, deep, strange gladness. How did the 'many' come to believe in him or in His name? The text tells us: 'Many believed in His name when they saw the miracles which He did'. Jesus will not have it, He will not have a toy salvation, He will not have a faith that is built upon mere mechanics, circumstances, and outward incidents. Faith is not an applauding of something outside and visible; faith is an outgoing of the whole soul, be the consequences what they may. Then is the soul of Christ satisfied, Jesus did not believe in them, 'because He knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man; for He knew what was in man'.
II. Is this a new doctrine, that Jesus Christ does not respond to faith? It is as old as the 'oldest records of the redeemed Church. When was the Church redeemed? Before it was a Church. We must get into the use of holy paradoxes if we would understand the Scriptures. 'This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart'—what does it matter about the heart? If the lips are singing, if there is a great noise, if there is a musical uproar, what about the heart? To God the heart is everything. 'Son, give Me thine heart,' and I will find a voice for thee; give Me thine heart and I will attune thy throat to sweet music. But there must be a gift of the heart; as I have given thee My heart, so thou must give Me thine heart. Will not God stoop to accept any kind of worship? No. What sacrifice does the Lord God Almighty require? The sacrifice of sincerity, white-heartedness, frankness of true faith. Will He stoop to accept that from a king? Yes, and from the king's peasant, and the king's lowest servant God is no respecter of persons; God abhors the sacrifice where not the heart is found.
III. We think we confer an honour upon God when we believe the Gospel. As a matter of fact we do nothing of the kind; it is not in our power to confer any honour. I must ask myself some searching questions. I believe, but what does believe mean? I believe in Jesus Christ, but does Jesus Christ believe in me? I would not for the world be without a piece of furniture called a pew in a church. What will that do for me? Nothing; it may rise up in judgment against me.
Suppose, then, we turn round the whole inquiry, and instead of saying, Do you believe in Jesus? we should say, Does Jesus believe in you—you whited sepulchre? That would empty the church, and the sooner the better, if there be not the real soul-faith in us. Weakness cannot win the battle, insincerity cannot wear, and usefully wear, the armour of God. The man who does not draw the arrow with his soul will never smite the king.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. iv. p. 175.
Reference.—II. 23-25.—H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. p. 21.
And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.
When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days.
And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;
And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.
And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?
Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?
But he spake of the temple of his body.
When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.
Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.
But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,
And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.