Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Christ's constancy of love.
I. ITS OBJECTS. Whom did he love, and love unto the end?
1. They were "his own," i.e. those who were called and chosen by him, who were loved and purchased by him. His own possession and property, his own spiritual kin, these friends of Jesus were attached and devoted to him, conformed to his character, participators in his spirit.
2. They were "in the world." This expression is significant, as implying that Christ's disciples were the objects of his affection, notwithstanding that they were encompassed by life's difficulties and temptations, notwithstanding that in their character they bore traces of this world's influences and assaults.
3. The language used is applicable to others beside the immediate disciples of our Lord. He felt towards others and prayed for others (John 17.) as he felt towards the twelve and prayed for them. All are "his own" who truly trust and love and obey him; and all his own have an interest in his purposes of pity and of grace.
II. ITS WONDER. Marvelous indeed is it that the affection of Jesus should outlast the many trials to which it was put by his disciples, to which it has been put by all of us. There was very much in his followers which was fitted to check, to kill, the love of Jesus.
"Could we bear from one another 1. Slow to understand his teaching. 2. Slow to appreciate his nature and his mission. 3. Unworthy in their character of his fellowship and his Name. 4. Inconstant, as was shown by their afterwards forsaking him in the depth of his distress and humiliation. Amazing was the love which endured when so tried! Amazing is the love which we and all Christ's people have experienced from him, notwithstanding our unfaithfulness and coldness! III. ITS MOTIVE AND EXPLANATION. 1. The constancy of our Savior's affection is not attributable to any qualities in his disciples, which could deserve and retain his interest and attachment. So far as we are concerned, our need, our dependence upon him, are all that have to be taken into account. If Jesus were not faithful to us, where would be our strength, our safety, our hope? 2. For the explanation of this marvelous constancy we must look to Christ's own character, to his faithful, unchanging nature, free from every caprice, from every unkindness. It is his nature to love, and to love without fickleness or weariness. IV. ITS PROOFS. 1. In the lessons he taught. Christ's was a love that first and chiefly contemplated the highest good of its objects. His aim has ever been the spiritual welfare of those whom he befriends, he teaches (1) by words; (2) by symbols, as in the context, where, first by washing the disciples' feet, and then by instituting the Lord's Supper, he evinces his affectionate interest in his disciples' well-being by imparting to them pictorial and sacramental lessons which were intended to perpetuate to all generations the memory and the blessing of his unchanging love. 2. In the sufferings and death to which he was about to submit. Only constant, unchanging friendship could account for our Lord's willingness to lay down his life for his own. And no one who studies this record can doubt that the sacrifice was willing and cheerful; that our Lord, the good Shepherd, "laid down his life for the sheep." V. ITS DURATION. "To the end," says John the evangelist, who had good reason to know the Master well. To the approaching end of his own earthly ministry and life, and to the end of his disciples' period of probation and of education. Christ's love is "faithful, free, and knows no end." It is not only mighty; it is immortal. T.
1. Slow to understand his teaching.
2. Slow to appreciate his nature and his mission.
3. Unworthy in their character of his fellowship and his Name.
4. Inconstant, as was shown by their afterwards forsaking him in the depth of his distress and humiliation.
Amazing was the love which endured when so tried! Amazing is the love which we and all Christ's people have experienced from him, notwithstanding our unfaithfulness and coldness!
III. ITS MOTIVE AND EXPLANATION.
1. The constancy of our Savior's affection is not attributable to any qualities in his disciples, which could deserve and retain his interest and attachment. So far as we are concerned, our need, our dependence upon him, are all that have to be taken into account. If Jesus were not faithful to us, where would be our strength, our safety, our hope?
2. For the explanation of this marvelous constancy we must look to Christ's own character, to his faithful, unchanging nature, free from every caprice, from every unkindness. It is his nature to love, and to love without fickleness or weariness.
IV. ITS PROOFS.
1. In the lessons he taught. Christ's was a love that first and chiefly contemplated the highest good of its objects. His aim has ever been the spiritual welfare of those whom he befriends, he teaches
(1) by words;
(2) by symbols,
as in the context, where, first by washing the disciples' feet, and then by instituting the Lord's Supper, he evinces his affectionate interest in his disciples' well-being by imparting to them pictorial and sacramental lessons which were intended to perpetuate to all generations the memory and the blessing of his unchanging love.
2. In the sufferings and death to which he was about to submit. Only constant, unchanging friendship could account for our Lord's willingness to lay down his life for his own. And no one who studies this record can doubt that the sacrifice was willing and cheerful; that our Lord, the good Shepherd, "laid down his life for the sheep."
V. ITS DURATION. "To the end," says John the evangelist, who had good reason to know the Master well. To the approaching end of his own earthly ministry and life, and to the end of his disciples' period of probation and of education. Christ's love is "faithful, free, and knows no end." It is not only mighty; it is immortal. T.
I. THE SPECIAL KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST. This was the knowledge respecting his death. Its speciality lies, not in his knowing the fact that he would die, but in certain circumstances connected with it, the knowledge of which was calculated to pain and discourage him.
1. He knew the time of his death. This is wisely hid from us; but he knew the hour and the minute.
2. He knew that the time of his death had already come. "Knew that his hour was come," etc. Comparatively speaking, he was already within the deadly hour, and had only a few minutes between him and the last conflict.
3. He knew the awful circumstances of his death. He knew that it would be by crucifixion, with all its physical torture, public shame, and insult. Earth and hell competed in making his death as painful and ignominious as possible, and his physical sufferings were but a faint shadow of his mental and spiritual, which could only be known to and fully realized by himself. He acted through life in the full knowledge of these, which would naturally paralyze his actions and dry the springs of his energy.
4. But in his knowledge there were some alleviating features.
(1) He knew that his death would involve his escape from an evil and hostile world. He had lived in it now about thirty-three years. He had spent a quiet youth, and the greatest portion of his manhood seemed to have been peaceful and happy; but the last three years he had borne the heat and burden of the day, and experienced the most hostile opposition of the world which he had come to benefit. He knew that his death would involve his escape from this, which in itself would doubtless be a relief.
(2) He knew that his death would be only a charge of state, and not an extinction of existence, nor a cessation of life. He speaks of it, not as an extinction or expulsion, or even a flight, but a departure. The commotion, extinction, and hurry were only outward; in the inner regions there was only a quiet walk into other scenes.
(3) He knew that his death would involve his going home. We can well imagine this world, even to a wicked man, becoming so disagreeable as to make death comparatively sweet. A leap is delightful, even in the dark; but Jesus knew absolutely whither he was going - that he was going to a happy and to a loving Father. It is sweet to come home from everywhere, even from the brightest scenes and the most delightful society; but sweeter still to go home from a hostile country and a rough voyage. This was what Jesus was conscious of now. To him death was a felt gain and a royal exchange - a hostile world for a happy home, the most cruel treatment for the bosom of an indulgent Father, and the wild execrations of the mad throng for the sweet music of golden harps.
(4) He knew that his death would involve the greatest benefit to the world. Its cruelty could only be surpassed by the invaluable spiritual blessings which shall ever flow from it.
II. THE SPECIAL LOVE OF JESUS. "Having loved his own."
1. The special objects of his love. "His own." The world was his own - it was made by him, and now he had become its tenant. The inhabitants of the world were his own - he had created them in his image; and what sad impressions were his as he saw on every hand the Divine image marred and disregarded! The Jewish nation were his own, but they disowned and rejected him. But his disciples were specially his own.
(1) By special love. All material objects, the earth, planets, moon, stars, and sun, are the children of his power and wisdom. But his disciples were the children of his care and mercy, the produce and property of his love.
(2) By his Father's gift. They were given to him to redeem, save, and perfect.
(3) By purchase. They were bought with a price; the price was paid - he laid down his life for them.
(4) By mutual choice. He chose them, and they voluntarily chose him. They were his willing slaves. He had loved them so much as to bind them to himself and engage their faith, obedience, and service.
(5) They were his absolutely and forever. Nothing could separate them from him. He would dispense with all his property rather than this. They were specially his own and the objects of his special love.
2. Some of the special features of his love. His love to his disciples must be somewhat distinguished from his love to the world.
(1) It is the love of relationship. He was their Savior, and they the saved. He was their King, and they his loyal subjects. He was their great Benefactor, and they his grateful dependents. They were his brethren, and he their elder Brother. There was a family feeling.
(2) Love of complacency. He could faintly see in them his image and that of his Father. He could hear the music of heaven in their voices, and detect the language of Paradise in their conversation.
(3) The love of value. The esteem of property according to its value. These disciples, although few and poor, were to him infinitely valuable. An infinite price had been paid for them, and infinite benefits would result from the purchase in relation to the grand purposes of his love. They were his jewels, the seed with which to sow his laud, the handful of corn on the tops of the mountains, the foundation-stones of the Church, the twelve gates of the heavenly city, and the furniture with which Jesus commenced his life on earth.
(4) Love excited by trouble and opposition. "His own which were in the world." The world was hostile to and hated them, and the more they were hated and opposed by the world the more they were loved and befriended by Jesus.
3. The perfection of his love. "Unto the end."
(1) Perfect in nature. Pure, disinterested, and self-sacrificing.
(2) Perfect in degree. It was human in manifestation, but Divine in quality and quantity. His love, as indicated by the sacrifice, was infinite and full to overflowing - an ocean without a bottom or shore. The sacrifice of his love was infinite, its care most tender and watchful, its protection most powerful and safe, and its supplies most benevolent and free. He loved them to the uttermost.
(3) Perfect in constancy and duration. "Unto the end." Many circumstances cause human love to flag.
(a) Unworthiness in its objects. But this had no effect upon the love of Jesus. His disciples were weak and imperfect; one of them denied him, and all left him in the hour of trial; but he remained faithful to them.
(b) The trouble of the parties - of the lover and the objects of his love. But this had no disparaging effects upon the love of Jesus. The trouble of his disciples increased his love for them, and it was intensified by his own. Indeed, on account of his love for them he was crucified. He knew beforehand that his death would be most cruel; still, this knowledge, so far from causing his love to flag, made it most heroic, and to blaze with increasing brilliancy through the gloom.
(c) Separation of the parties. With human love, it is often "out of sight out of mind." But separation brought Jesus nearer to his disciples than before. The arms of his love embraced them through death, and he carried them away in his heart. He could not go home all the way without sending back two white-robed messengers to direct and comfort them. The distance between heaven and earth only made them nearer.
4. The elevation of one of the parties. The chief butler of Pharaoh forgot Joseph after being restored to royal favor. But this was far from being the case with Jesus. He was exalted to the highest position and glory, but forgot not his earthly friends. He ascended, in fact, to receive gifts for them, and, faithful to his promise and punctual to the minute, sent back to them his Holy Spirit, the greatest Gift of his love, and the Executor of his purpose in them. Amidst the music and happiness of heaven he will not cease to love his friends till their faith is complete and their character perfect.
LESSONS. Contemplation of the love of Christ should inspire his disciples:
1. With the profoundest gratitude to him.
2. With the most devoted and self-sacrificing consecration to his Person and service.
3. With the most humble but implicit confidence in their salvation through him. Such love must secure every needful grace, ultimate perfection of character, and full and eternal felicity. - B.T.
circumstances the confidence of a human leader might well have wavered, and his purposes might well have faltered. But Jesus could look forward to what he was about to endure with a touching equanimity, because he knew whence he had come, whither he was going, what was the nature and authority of his mission.
I. CHRIST'S CONSCIOUSNESS OF HIS ORIGIN. He was aware:
1. Of his Divine nature.
2. Of his Divine mission.
3. Of his Divine qualifications.
II. CHRIST'S CONSCIOUSNESS OF HIS DEPARTURE AND DESTINATION. He knew that he was not going into annihilation, into oblivion; that he was not to fail in his work, though he was to die in its execution.
1. His departure was to secure the accomplishment of God's will.
2. And the achievement of man's redemption, which was the special purpose of the Father.
3. And the manifestation of the Father's acceptance. He went to God to be received as God's beloved Son; and he was raised from the dead, and taken to heaven, that it might be evident to all the world that the Father approved his work.
III. CHRIST'S CONSCIOUSNESS OF HIS UNIVERSAL AUTHORITY.
1. In the hour of his suffering and humiliation he knew full well that his hands were all-comprehending and all-powerful, that all power was given to him in heaven and on earth, that his was a supreme and universal sway.
2. He knew, too, that his power should be exercised for the salvation of his people. They should scatter and flee, but he should rally them. He was to be their High Priest, and at the same time their King.
1. The security of those who trust in One so wise and so mighty.
2. The strength of those who work for such a Master.
3. The hope which is before those who seek and wait for his salvation.
4. The encouragement which all who need his countenance and help are at liberty to take from him. - T.
I. AN EXPRESSION OF LOVE. John puts this first in the narrative. Those whose feet Jesus washed were not comparative strangers. Jesus loved them simply as human beings, knowing sin, suffering, and sorrow. But beyond all this was the added love coming from many days of close companionship. And now the very last day had come. To-morrow the Shepherd will be smitten, and the sheep scattered. Soon, very soon, according to the flesh, he would cease to know these disciples. They were to stop in the world and do his work. Years of toil, anxiety, and suffering were yet before them. But Jesus was going to the Father. A few more hours, and he would stiffer his last pain, know his last trial. We can easily imagine how, in years long after, and in lands far distant, when some of these apostles had finished a weary day of walking for Christ's sake, and had got their travel-stained feet washed, their thoughts would go back to that last night, recollecting how the Master went from one to another in the little company, washing their feet, and looking in their faces with his own unutterable look of affection and interest.
II. AN EXPRESSION OF STEADFASTNESS IN LOVE. Jesus was just on the point of stepping from humiliation to glory, just about to cast aside the veil of his flesh, and appear in all his heavenly splendor; but it made not the least difference in his gentle, unaffected way of treating his disciples. We reckon it one of the greatest things to be said in praise of any one who has risen in the world, that he remains just the same sort of man, not made proud by being lifted up. The washing was a kind of intimation that Jesus looked on himself as being a Minister as much as ever. They were servants to him, but he was Minister to them; they did his work, and he supplied the needs that made them fit for the work. He who in the flesh was ever at the beck and call of needy men and women, is at their beck and call still. His power to help is greater, but his willingness cannot be greater.
III. A PRACTICAL ASSERTION FROM JESUS THAT MEN CANNOT DO WITHOUT HIM. Not only does he minister, but he must minister. Peter thought Jesus was not doing a fitting act. But it is perilous work criticizing what Jesus does. How should we find out, all at once, on the first glance, the full aim of any act of his? Jesus knows what he can do for us, what he ought to do for us, and what we, in all humility and obedience, ought to accept from him. If Jesus comes not to minister, what need is there for him to come at all? Jesus must cleanse every human being as far as he needs to be cleansed.
IV. THE GREAT EXEMPLARY AIM IN THIS ACT. It is plain that Jesus recollected what disputings the disciples had among themselves as to which should be greatest; and just at this moment, when it is beginning to be settled conclusively that Jesus is far above them, he tries to show by his own example that the spirit of ministry is a part of real greatness. Distinction does not make happiness. God means all of us to be as happy as we can be. Jesus came to minister to us, in order that we might minister to others, and if we are not ministering lovingly, diligently, joyfully, then that is a proof that the ministry of Jesus himself has not yet been truly accepted by us. - Y.
I. THE CLAIM OF CHRIST.
1. Wheel it is.
(1) Jesus claims to be the authoritative Teacher, the Master of his people and of mankind, lie reveals and communicates the truth of God to men. He bids us learn of him.
(2) He claims to be the Lord who rules. His authority is not merely over men's beliefs; it is over their actions. He issues laws, and requires homage and obedience. In both these respects Christ is unrivalled and supreme. "One is your Master."
2. On what it rests.
(1) On grounds of native right. The Deity of our Lord's Person, the Divinity of his attributes, his appointment by the Father, give him a right to teach and. to govern his people.
(2) On grounds of moral fitness, His wisdom and insight are such that none is so qualified to instruct; his moral authority is such that the conscience bows before him as before none other.
(3) Christ's claim rests upon tenderer grounds - upon his love toward his people. What he has done and suffered for us is proof of his disinterested affection, and gives his claim to our devotion an efficacy quite unique.
II. HIS PEOPLE'S ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF CHRIST'S CLAIM.
1. The character of this acknowledgment. It is sincere and practical; opposed to resistance and rebellion, and equally opposed to pretence and hypocrisy. The repudiation of the rebel, the enemy, and the pretence and dissimulation of the hypocrite, are alike detestable to Christ.
2. The methods of this acknowledgment. Practical submission to Jesus means the studying and reception of his doctrines, and obedience to his commands. Yet there are certain definite ways in which we may recognize Christ's lordship, e.g. by honoring his holy Name, and by discountenancing and rebuking profanity; and again by devoutly observing his ordinance, concerning which he said, "Do this in remembrance of me."
3. The advantages of this acknowledgment. It tends
(1) to the improvement of the individual Christian character;
(2) to the unity of the Church, which needs to think less of human leaders and more of the Divine Head; and
(3) to the illumination and conversion of the world. On these accounts they "say well" who sincerely recognize Christ's just demands upon them, and. prove their sincerity by their docility and. their obedience. - T.
I. OUR RESEMBLANCE TO THE DISCIPLES IN USING THE NAME. These men called Jesus "Lord," and were known as his helpers and agents. As long as Jesus remained in the flesh there was no difficulty in looking upon him as Master. All their doings had been sufficiently easy, consisting, as they did, for the most part, of outward actions. But in due season the visible Master became the invisible, and one by one the first servants also died away and went into the invisible. Thus generation has succeeded generation, ever getting further and further from those first days when the visible Master stood among his servants, appointing their tasks. But we have not yet lost the habit of using the Master-name. We also say, "Lord," and Jesus might well ask what we mean by using the name. Is it to be a mere title of honor, with the recollections of power and duty that first caused it to be given emptied out of it? Or is there a real mastery and a real service still? We cannot say, "Lord, Lord!" too often, if the saying helps in serving and in bringing others to serve.
II. It may be we resemble the disciples in using the Master-name without knowing from a deep experience WHAT IT IS TRULY TO HAVE JESUS FOR MASTER. Empty compliments do Jesus no good, any more than mere names of abuse do him harm. The first disciples did not become the true servants of Jesus just because of what they did for him in the days of his flesh. Only when Jesus had passed through all those experiences which put him at God's right hand did his disciples really comprehend what Jesus wants from men, and what men can do and are bound to do for Jesus. The Lordship of Jesus is a spiritual thing, and has to be spiritually discerned. This is emphatically a matter in which none of us is to be taken on his bare word. We are not the servants of Jesus because we say we are or think we are. The service truly acceptable to him does not lie in a quantity of talking or even of doing. With Jesus, quality goes before quantity, and where there is quality, quantity never fails. Character and inward life, - these constitute the richest service to Jesus. Jesus expects every one of us to do much for him, but it is by being much. Jesus does want our service, our best, fullest, heartiest service, and he will not leave us in any doubt as to whether we are doing just what he wants. No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost, and where the Holy Ghost is there must be true service.
III. THE SERVICE IS ONE CONDITIONED BY OUR PRESENT LIFE. We are here in the flesh. Our fellow-creatures in need can see us, but they cannot see Jesus. We are to furnish bodies through which the spiritual Jesus can bless mankind. We are even to do greater works than Jesus did in the days of his flesh. Preaching the gospel of spiritual salvation and renewal to sinners, with demonstration of the Spirit and of power, is a far greater work than the resurrection of Lazarus. This makes our obligation, our privilege, and our abundant opportunity. As long as there are sinners in the world there will be no lack of opportunities for serving the Lord Jesus. We have each to find our own opportunity. Doing what lies nearest us is our wisdom. Because it lies nearest us we are more responsible for it than any one else. We serve as the lighted lamp serves, and it is not expected to give light to those a mile away. - Y.
I. THE HINDRANCES TO HUMILITY. Christ would not have been at such pains to inculcate this lesson unless there was danger of its remaining unlearned. The fact, that he upon a solemn occasion, a crisis in his ministry, deigned to wash his disciples' feet, with no end in view except the inculcation of lowliness and self-forgetting helpfulness, proves that in his view there was urgent need for such instruction. No one who knows human nature can doubt that the lesson is hard to learn. There are dispositions deeply rooted in man's sinful character which are altogether opposed to that humility which our Lord enjoins upon his disciples. Especially is pride, or a high opinion of self, an obstacle to be dealt with. There is also selfishness, or the disposition to concentrate all interest and all effort upon personal enjoyment and enrichment. On the other hand, there is a tendency in human nature to disregard others in proper-lion as self is magnified. The proud and selfish man is likely to be indifferent to the welfare of his neighbors, to be indisposed to undertake any labor, or submit to any self-denial, with a view to their good. This spirit may degenerate into a positive hatred especially of any who may have been injurious. Such basenesses as malice, envy, and jealousy may thus enter into and defile the soul.
II. THE NATURE OF HUMILITY. What is the disposition and habit of mind which our Lord thought it so needful to impress upon his disciples as essential to true discipleship? What is the example which he set them for their imitation? As we examine the narrative in connection with our Lord's conversation, we find that the character and conduct here commended have two aspects.
1. With regard to self, the Christian is called upon to cherish meekness and lowliness. If our Divine Lord did not disdain to minister to his friends, if he did not deem it derogatory to act as a servant, his followers may well lay aside those sentiments of vanity and self-importance which are so ruinous to a noble character. If men would but think of their own infirmities and imperfections, of their dependence upon their fellow-men, and above all of their obligations to their Creator and Redeemer, it would not be so hard to abase self.
2. With regard to others, the Christian should cultivate the habit of consideration and sympathy. What beauty and force is there in the apostolic admonition to look upon the things of others! Some are "all eyes" for their own interest, but very blind to the concerns of their neighbors. Christianity is not unreasonable. Comte bids men "live for others," as if regard to self were sinful. But Christ bids us "love our neighbor as ourself;" and the welfare of mankind will be best secured by compliance with this twofold admonition.
III. THE PRACTICAL MANIFESTATIONS OF HUMILITY. Looking at these in the light of the context, we may say that true Christ-like lowliness will be displayed in:
1. Services of social courtesy. There may, indeed, be superficial politeness without Christian humility. But the danger with many is lest there should be a foolish and proud bluntness of manner in intercourse with others. There have been those who have deemed it a duty literally to copy the Lord's example by washing the feet of the poor; sovereigns, ministers of state, and popes have endeavored by such acts to atone for much pride and haughtiness. The form of Christian courtesy will be determined by the manners and customs of the age. Acts which are natural and beautiful in one country and one state of society may become forced and grotesque in another. It is the spirit which is all-important; this will reveal itself in forms suitable and appropriate to circumstances.
2. Services of mutual help. The washing of the feet was regarded as necessary to comfort and propriety; it was, therefore, a real service, life doubt there is a difference of magnitude in the benefits conferred by members of human society upon one another. And there is a difference of kind. But every day brings some opportunity of rendering service of some kind or other to those with whom we associate; the Christian, so far as he follows his Master, will take advantage of such opportunities. Pride, indeed, will counsel thus: "Let others serve you; it is beneath your dignity to minister to them." Humility will offer very different advice: "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ."
IV. THE MOTIVE TO HUMILITY. There are doubtless many motives; but one is so supreme as to leave scarcely any room for any other, i.e. in the Christian's heart. The example of the Lord Jesus is to him all-powerful, all-persuasive. This is so when we think:
1. Of Christ's native greatness, and of his voluntary humiliation in his incarnation and advent.
2. Of Christ's whole conduct during his earthly ministry, which, as recorded, affords so many instances of condescension, compassion, and loving-kindness. He took the form of a servant, and he lived the life of a servant.
3. Of Christ's obedience unto the death of the cross, in which he" tasted death for every man." If the Lord of glory deigned to die for men, it is scarcely possible for any disciple of Christ to render service to his fellow-men which shall fairly express the devotion to the Master and the consecration to his service which he has a right to expect. It is in Christ that the Christian finds the motive and the model of unselfishness, humility, and benevolent service.
V. THE REWARD OF HUMILITY.
1. Peace of conscience is one happy consequence of this disposition and habit. Pride is the cause of restlessness and of wretchedness. But the meek and lowly spirit finds true and lasting rest.
2. Honor and exaltation by God himself. He abases the proud; he exalts the lowly and meek. He that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Before honor is humility. - T.
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS IN VIRTUE OF WHICH CHRIST IS AN EXAMPLE TO MEN.
1. He was faultlessly perfect. Although the Bible gives us many examples of virtue and piety, it has often been noticed that both in Old and New Testament Scripture human character is represented as imperfect. In Christ alone no sin was found. His friends can find no words warm enough to praise him; his enemies can find no faults with which to charge him. How fitted, then, is Jesus, our Redeemer, to be also our Model! If we are to have a model and a master, let us choose the highest and the best. Christ always towers above us, and above all his rivals and all his followers.
2. His example is singularly comprehensive. It must have occurred to the student of Scripture biography that human exemplars are usually quoted as illustrating one or a few excellences; Abraham of faith, Job of patience, Jacob of earnestness in prayer, Moses of wisdom and meekness, Joshua of courage, David of devotion, Daniel of fearlessness, Peter of fervor, Paul of zeal, John of love. In Christ, and in Christ alone, all goodness is conjoined. It is sometimes supposed that our Savior exemplified only the softer and milder virtues; but this was not so, although for wise reasons this aspect of his character is dwelt upon most fondly by the evangelists. There was in him Divine harmony and symmetry of character, such as can be found in none beside.
3. His example was divinely authoritative. We base this statement upon his own language: "Learn of me," "Follow me," etc. And upon apostolic teaching: "Walk even as Christ walked," "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example," etc.
II. THE RESPECTS IN WHICH CHRIST IS AN EXAMPLE TO MEN. There are respects in which we cannot imitate him. For example, in his superhuman knowledge and power, and consequently in his voluntary humiliation.
1. But we may imitate the Lord Christ in his consecration to his Father's will. He came to do the will of him who sent him, and he pleased not himself. This same principle and law it is open for us to adopt; life may be to us high and holy, being devoted unto God.
2. In his personal purity. Jesus lived in a sinful world, and mixed freely with sinful men; yet he was unspotted by the contact. His goodness was not negative only, but positive; every virtue was perfected in his life. Can ordinary men, in the busy life of this workaday world, be imitators of Christ? There are abundant illustrations of the possibility; the example of Jesus is one which it is practicable to follow.
3. Especially in his humility and condescension. This is the virtue to which in this passage express allusion is made. The lesson which the Lord wished to convey was a hard one; accordingly he taught it, not simply by precept, but by example. A literal fulfillment is not expected, but the spirit of Christ's example may be truly shared.
4. In his benevolence. In the Savior was not only a kindly disposition, but a habit of active beneficence, a readiness to forgive injuries, and to deal patiently and forbearingly with the slow of heart and the unsympathizing. In these very difficult virtues there is room for Christ's disciples to imitate their Lord. The work of copying the perfect model is to be a progressive work. It will not be completed here; and this fact points on to the future. The perfect conformity is to be attained in heaven, where we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. - T.
I. KNOWLEDGE. Man is made to know. It is his privilege and prerogative to exercise his understanding and reason. Truth is within man's reach - not all truth, but certainly such as is most necessary for his well-being. Of all knowledge, none is so valuable as the knowledge of God in Christ. The highest truth is presented in our Lord's life, his deeds arid words, his sufferings and glory. He is the one great Lesson for mankind to study and to learn. The twelve had abundant means of knowing Christ, of becoming acquainted with his character and his will. But through our possession of the New Testament we have sufficient opportunities of learning Christ. In order that our knowledge may be complete, as far as our position allows, we must study the Savior and his revelation of himself, his declaration of his will, with reverence and meekness, with faith and prayer.
II. PRACTICE. Our nature is not only intellectual; it is also active. Our life is not one of pure contemplation; it is eminently practical. Knowledge without corresponding conduct is vain, is even worse than ignorance. It is like steam which is generated in the boiler, but which is not brought to bear as motive power upon an engine. It is like the blossom which in itself is beautiful, but which is followed by no fruit. Those who believe that there is a revelation should receive it. Those who are convinced that Christ is the Son of God should live by faith in him. Those who are persuaded that Christ's law is the highest standard of morality should obey that law and conform to that standard. Those who believe that there is a future life, and that they are accountable to a righteous Judge, should prepare for judgment and for immortality. Knowledge without corresponding conduct is seen to be useless in every department of life; how reprehensible must it be in religion! A young man may study law through a long series of years, and under the superintendence of able practitioners; of what avail is his knowledge if, when the time comes for him to act for himself, he cannot draw a deed in chambers, or construct a defense for a client in court? The pupil of an engineer may have a good knowledge of mathematics, may be able to make accurate drawings of other men's work; but is his theoretical ability of service to him in practice? That is the important question; for no one will employ a man to build a bridge, or to bore a tunnel, unless he has shown himself capable of carrying out such works. A cadet may pass the preliminary examinations, may study the art of fortification, the laws of projectiles, the tactics adopted by famous generals in historical campaigns; but all this is preparatory to actual warfare, and he will have studied to good purpose only if, when the time comes, when some unexpected responsibility falls upon him, he is able to lead a force or to defend a city. In like manner young people are taught the Scriptures, are made familiar with the doctrines, the principles, the laws of Christianity. To what end? Surely with the intention that they may not merely call Jesus Master and Lord, but that they may do the things which he bids.
III. BLESSEDNESS. It is wrong to make happiness the one great end of life. Yet happiness is a merciful addition to life - an ornament and a recompense appointed by a benevolent Providence. It is remarkable how often the Lord Jesus pronounced those happy who shared his character and obeyed his will. The pursuit and acquirement of knowledge are attended with happiness; but the truest happiness is the fruit of obedience.
1. This appears from the consideration that those who know and do Christ's will employ all their powers in true harmony. The capacity for knowledge and the faculty for action in such a case work together towards an end, and such co-operation he who made our nature has designed to be productive of a tranquil joy. "This man," says James, speaking of the doer of the work, "shall be happy in his doing."
2. They who know and do Christ's will are happy, because they have a good conscience. If a man feels and says, "I know that I ought to follow such a line of conduct, but I confess that I do not carry out my convictions," how can he have peace? The conviction and reproof of the inward monitor will not let him rest. On the other hand, when there is no schism between knowledge and practice, the voice of conscience speaks approval, and such approbation is blessedness indeed.
3. Obedience as the fruit of knowledge is accepted and commended by the Lord Christ. His approving smile rests upon his true and loyal disciple and servant, who takes up his cross, when so summoned, and follows his Lord. Hereafter the blessedness shall be perfect, for Christ shall say to the faithful servant, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." - T.
I. ONCE MORE JESUS PROVES HIS DESIRE FOR HUMAN HAPPINESS. This is amply proved by his putting the thought of human happiness in the forefront of his teaching in the sermon on the mount. There he evidently made it his business to show men, in a way not to be misunderstood, that human happiness is not a mere subordinate result of Christianity, a something that may be present or absent. Human happiness is an essential part of Christianity. If Christ is not making his people happy, increasingly and exuberantly happy, there is something wrong in their connection with him. For this is just one of the aims of Jesus, to take away misery and dullness and ennui, and put happiness in their place.
II. THERE IS NO HAPPINESS IN MERE KNOWLEDGE. There may be a great deal of pleasure in the acquiring of it, but it is quite possible that so much time may have been spent in acquiring knowledge that other things may have been neglected. We may very easily shut ourselves up from our fellow-creatures, and lose many an opportunity of doing good that would have made us far happier than any pleasure of the mere intellect.
III. WE MUST TAKE CARE THAT WE DO REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT JESUS WANTS us TO Do. His words are not as maps of the country through which we have to travel; they are rather finger-posts showing the direction. Each finger-post sends you on to another. -The words of Jesus are meant to secure within us a certain inward spirit; if that be secured, the proper outward actions will follow as a natural consequence. We have not yet comprehended one very important warning to Christian disciples unless we have been made to feel, from reading the Gospels, how easy it is to misunderstand Jesus. His most important words, his most significant deeds, were to be meditated over, seen in their position as parts of the living whole of truth.
IV. THERE IS NO HAPPINESS IN MERE DOING. To leave the right thing undone, and to do the wrong thing, equally lead to misery. Increase of activity, unless the right principles and methods underlie it, only means increase of mischief and misery. We must not be deceived by mere external activity. There may be a great deal of real doing - doing such as Jesus counts doing, where there is little to show men. The right spirit must pervade and suffuse the doing, and it can only pervade and suffuse what is right in itself. - Y.
I. DISCIPLESHIP MAKES TREACHERY POSSIBLE. It was sad enough for Jesus to know that, among those to whom he ministered, there were many who were incredulous as to his teaching and claims, and hostile to his plans. "He came to his own, and his own received him not." But it was sadder that, in the circle of his chosen and trusted companions, there should be those who, whilst professing allegiance and attachment, were in heart estranged from him, and were ready, when opportunity should offer, to desert and to betray him. And it must be remembered that, although there were enemies without, traitors could only arise from within. An open foe one knows how to treat; one may evade or overcome. But a secret foe, in the court, in the camp, in the household, is far more dangerous. He has, by reason of the confidence with which he is treated, opportunities of injuring a leader, a cause, which no other can use. If all men were either avowed foes or sincere friends of Christ, there would be no danger, for there would be no possibility of treachery. Judas knew the place and the time for finding the Master unprotected; and the open enemies of Jesus made use of the knowledge of his professed friend, who led them to the garden, pointed out the object of their hostility, and betrayed the Son of man with a kiss.
II. DISCIPLESHIP MAKES TREACHERY DOUBLY BLAMABLE. For:
1. The disciple knows the Master, and accordingly knows his excellences and his just claim to reverence and fidelity. There were those among our Lord's enemies who wronged him, not knowing what they did. They had no real perception of his goodness and the Divine beauty of his character. Since they knew nothing against Jesus, they were grievously to blame for the part they took against him. Still they did not sin against clear, full daylight. But Judas was in constant association with his Lord, and knew how perfectly Jesus merited the warmest attachment and devotion. Yet he betrayed him whom he should have honored and defended; and on this account his guilt was greater. It may be said of many who have been trained in the Christian Church, who have enjoyed many opportunities of studying Christ's character, and who yet have deserted and calumniated their Lord, that their sin is without cloak. They knew how holy and how compassionate was the Savior against whom they spoke and acted, and theirs is the greater sin.
2. The disciple has been graciously treated by the Master, and this fact aggravates the guilt of him who, having been so treated, proves traitor. Judas was admitted to the Savior's intimacy, was even promoted to an office of trust, was permitted to provide for Jesus' wants, and to administer Jesus' charity; yet he betrayed the Lord who had so exalted him. How many are there who, as disciples, have listened to Christ's words, eaten at his table, companied with his friends, yet, in the hour of temptation, have fallen, and have betrayed the dear Lord, whose kindness should have been with them as a sacred amulet to preserve them from defection!
1. Let the history of Judas remind us of human infirmity and liability to sin.
2. Let the tempted remember that Christ's knowledge of his people is complete. Whilst he knows the hypocrisy of the false, he knows the danger of the sincere and true friend.
3. Let every disciple hold fast to the Savior, for in his fellowship only is safety. The peril lies in consorting with Christ's foes, in entering into any complicity with such, in even hearkening to their plans. Better to be in the garden with Christ, than in the council-house with Christ's foes. - T.
I. A SEVERE TROUBLE.
1. The trouble of Jesus. He was troubled in spirit. This was no ordinary trouble, but it was unique in its circumstances, cause, and painfulness. He was troubled in the highest regions of his nature.
(1) Because he was about to be betrayed. The betrayal in itself was painful. Its personal and general results are not taken into account here, but the black deed in itself, apart from the perpetrator.
(2) Because he was about to be betrayed by one of his disciples. "One of you shall betray me." It is not a foe or a distant acquaintance, but one of his nearest and dearest friends. "One of you." This made the edge of the betrayal all the keener, and its poison peculiarly loathsome and deadly.
(3) Because he was about to be betrayed by one whom he had done all in his power to reclaim. He had given him warning after warning, but gave it in such a general way as not to cause suspicion to point to him and cause him to lose his self-respect. He was not exposed, and was not excluded from the society - he was treated with the same kindness as the rest, and perhaps with more. His indignant objection to the anointing of Jesus was not explained, but left to pass with the remark which was addressed to all the disciples, "Let her alone." The betraying disciple's feet had just been washed by the kindly hand of the Master. All that affectionate and Divine love could do to avert the calamity had been done, but to no effect.
(4) Because of the awful consequences of the deed to the betrayer himself. Keen as Jesus felt it in his own soul, as severe as it affected him, we venture to say that he felt more, after all, for the traitor himself. He who could weep for a wicked city could not contemplate the self-ruin of even this wicked and inexcusable man without experiencing groaning which could not be uttered. He could not bear to lose anything, and the loss of even the "son of perdition" gave him a most severe pang of anguish. The betrayal, as it affected himself, was not so painful to him as its terrible effects on the traitor himself.
(5) All this plunged him in the greatest trouble. The betrayal wounded his very spirit, and the betraying kiss was to him more agonizing than the piercing of the sharpest nails or that of the most pointed spears. It was the trouble of a wounded spirit, and that spirit was pure benevolence. It was the trouble of being betrayed by a professed near friend - the trouble of insulted, checkered, and wounded love; trouble arising from the terrible doom of an old disciple, a trusted official, the treasurer of the society.
2. The trouble of the disciples. (Ver. 22.) They were in doubt, perplexity, and bewilderment. In fact, they were in trouble similar to that of Jesus, only theirs was as a drop compared to the ocean.
(1) Theirs was the trouble of conscious innocence.
(2) The trouble of conscious weakness.
(3) The trouble of personal sympathy.
II. AN AWFUL REVELATION. The personality of the betrayer was revealed.
1. This revelation was made in consequence of a request. (Vers. 24, 25.)
(1) This request was direct. "Lord, who is it?" Each had asked before, "Lord, is it I?" The charge assumed a general form, and the inquiry was made in a general and indirect way. But now the question is put directly, "Who is it?" "Who is the betrayer?"
(2) It was reasonable. The charge, as it had been several times made, was general, and it might apply to any of the twelve - to loving John, or honest Peter, or to any of the group. Now they could stand it no longer; they request a definite information at any cost, and it was quite reasonable. This is admitted by the revelation of Jesus.
(3) It was timely. The disciples were ready for it. Jesus was ready. The awful secret troubled his spirit, and struggled for publicity. He could scarcely keep it any longer. The betrayer was ready. He was ripe for revelation, and, if it was delayed much longer, he would have revealed himself by performing the terrible deed.
2. The revelation was made by a sign. "He it is to whom I shall give a sop when," etc. We can well imagine all the disciples, save one, looking at their Lord with bated breath, and watching every look and movement of his with beating hearts; but there was one there keeping his countenance better than any of the rest, and more himself than one of them, and amid the silent but stirring excitement Jesus gave the sop to Judas, the son of Simon, etc.
(1) The traitor was revealed in a most considerate and tender manner. By a sign, and privately. Judas could not know that anything referred to him unless his guilty conscience made him suspicious.
(2) He was revealed by an act of kindness. "It is he to whom I shall give the sop," etc. The sign was an act of kindness. What was a revelation of a foul traitor to the disciples was a deed of love to the traitor himself. One would think that he would be pointed out in a voice of thunder and in looks of lightning. This would be manlike; but as Jesus was God-like, Jesus was kind to Judas to the last. He was determined to the utmost to block up his course with kindness, and that no act of his could furnish him with the faintest shadow of excuse for his foul deed. This was the last kindness of Jesus to Judas, but would not be the last if he had the least chance.
(3) The participation of this kindness led to a foul entrance. "After the sop Satan entered into him." Jesus only could see this. He could see that dark form by Judas's side, waiting for admission; he had been there a long time fanning the temptation and ripening the dread resolve and preparing the place. The hypocritical participation of Jesus' kindness completed the necessary preparations, and he entered and took lull possession. What Jesus did to stop his entrance cleared the way for him to enter. Satan entered, and Jesus was left out, and the last sop of love was introductory to the final possession of the demon of hatred and avarice.
3. The revelation was wade directly and publicly to the betrayer. "What thou doest," etc., implies:
(1) The present actuality of the deed. It was inwardly done, therefore actually done to Jesus, as confirmed thoughts are deeds to him. It was too late to repent, he had gone too far to retreat; the demon of treachery was on the throne, Satan was in his soul, and his soul was in the bag.
(2) The mysterious utility of a speedy execution. "Do quickly." Once an act is a real thought and resolve, execution is an advantage. It was better for Judas, because the sooner he faced the inevitable the better. Where there is a spiritual conception, birth cannot be too soon; sin is better out than in. There is a ventilation, and any remaining good has a better chance for development. If you are going to hell, the sooner the better you arrive. Better for Jesus. Delay to him was painful once it was an actuality. Better for all concerned. To a certain point he retarded a wicked deed, but when that point was reached he hastened it.
(3) The readiness of Jesus. The traitor might think that he was taken unawares and unprepared, but he was mistaken. Jesus was ready, far readier for his fate than Judas was. So ready was he for it that he advises or commands speed. "Do quickly." He hails it with confidence, if not with satisfaction. The guilty deed of Judas fitted in with the eternal purposes of God and the mission of Jesus better than he would think. Jesus can say to every schemer of evil, every sinning designer of harm, "That thou doest, do quickly." He is ready whenever they are. There is no evil without good; the good will not come till the evil is complete, for good the sooner the better.
4. The relation of the traitor was not fully understood by the disciples.
III. A SAD DEPARTURE. (Ver. 30.)
1. The departure of an old disciple from the kindest of Masters and from his only Savior. He could have really no cause for this, the reason was entirely in himself. In Jesus he had every reason for continued attachment and love, but he went out immediately, and walked with feet newly washed by the hands of that Master he was now deserting, and with strength invigorated by his kindness.
2. It was the departure of an old disciple for the vilest purpose - to betray his Master, and sell him to his foes for the meanest consideration.
3. It was the departure of an old disciple, never to return again. It was his last farewell to a loving Savior. He came to him again, not as a disciple, but as a traitor. He was leaving for the last time, not to buy provisions for the feast, but to sell his Master to his enemies.
4. It was the speedy departure of an old disciple immediately. Judas was now ready for the deed; the command of Christ was timely, and it was echoed in Judas's soul. He was ripe for the dark deed. The presence of Jesus was now painful to him, and it was a relief to depart. Once Satan gets full control of the reins, he is a furious driver; once the rapids of the Niagara are reached, the velocity is increasingly swift, and the terrible falls are soon reached.
5. It was the departure of an old disciple for a terrible doom. "He went out." And whither? The answer is in the foul controlling spirit within; once that spirit had full possession of his soul, he would soon lead him to his own place. John significantly adds, "And it was night." Night seems to be in harmony with the dark deed. When it reached its climax on Calvary, the day was so out of sympathy with it that it turned into night. But it was now night. There could scarcely be any stars in the sky, as they had fled from the treacherous act, and if there were, they would have welcomed a cloud as a veil. But the darkest night was within and before the poor traitor's soul. He left the day, and the last ray of the Sun of Righteousness was extinguished before the entrance of the prince of darkness. And with regard to his dark deed, his sad condition, his precipitated departure, and his terrible doom, volumes could not say more than the incidental but significant sentence of the evangelist, "And it was night."
1. The most terrible fall is a fall from Christ, and the saddest departure is the departure of an old disciple from the Savior.
2. This is a terrible possibility as instanced by Judas. Whatever he fell from, he fell from being a disciple to be a betrayer, from being a treasurer of the Christian society to be the traitor of his Lord.
3. The higher the position the greater is the danger and the greater is the responsibility. Only an apostle could fall so terribly as Judas.
4. This case is highly calculated to teach the professed followers of Jesus humility, watchfulness, and godly fear. - B.T.
I. THIS FRIENDSHIP WAS THE MEANS BY WHICH THERE HAS BEEN PROVIDED FOR US A MEMOIR CF CHRIST DISTINGUISHED BY A REMARKABLE CONGENIALITY BETWEEN THE BIOGRAPHER AND HIS DIVINE SUBJECT. If the first three Gospels contain the popular tradition concerning Jesus, the Fourth Gospel records the impressions received during an association of the closest character, lasting throughout our Lord's public ministry. It is to this fact that we owe the record of conversations and discourses not preserved by the other evangelists, and more particularly of our Lord's wonderful revelations, promises, and prayers preceding his betrayal and crucifixion. The difference, which cannot but be noticed by every reader as distinguishing John's Gospel from the others, must be mainly attributable to John's peculiar opportunities of knowing Christ, and to that congeniality of spirit which enabled him to limn a portrait of his Friend in outlines so clear, in colors so true.
II. TO THIS FRIENDSHIP WE OWE DOCUMENTS PECULIARLY STEEPED IN THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST'S CHARACTER AND EXAMPLE. No one can study John's three Epistles and the Book of Revelation without recognizing, in the compositions of their author, the influence of the Redeemer's companionship and teaching. Not only did John (the eagle of the Christian symbolists) soar into the heavenly, the spiritual world, and discern the Deity and the eternal glory of his Master; he also, by association with him in his humanity and his humiliation, so shared his spirit, that we seem, in reading some of John's words, almost to be reading the words of Jesus himself. Especially is this apparent in the constant inculcation in the First Epistle of the incomparable virtue of Christian love.
III. THE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN THE MASTER AND HIS DISCIPLE AFFORDS US AN INSIGHT INTO THE VERY HEART OF CHRIST. Our Lord's perfect humanity is here brought very strikingly before us. There are several intimations of Christ's capacity for human love. He loved the young ruler who appealed to him for spiritual direction; he loved the family at Bethany; and he loved the disciple who was wont to recline upon his breast at their social meals. John's was not only the place of distinction and honor; it was the place of affection. We delight to remark our Lord's perfect participation in our human nature, with its sympathies, its tenderness, its personal affections. Jesus appreciated the noble, ardent, affectionate nature of the son of Zebedee; and he appreciated still more the growth and completeness of his own Divine image in the character of John. All this makes our Savior more real and more dear to his admiring people.
IV. THE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN OUR LORD AND HIS BELOVED DISCIPLE IS AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO SEEK A CLOSE AND AFFECTIONATE INTIMACY WITH THE REDEEMER. There is nothing on Christ's side to preclude the possibility at present of such a friendship as that recorded to have existed during his earthly ministry. The conditions of hallowed fellowship with Jesus are such as all Christians should aspire to fulfill. "Ye are my friends," said our Lord, "if ye do whatsoever things I command you." There is no caprice, no favoritism, in our Lord's intimacies. The reverent, the lowly, the obedient, are encouraged to aspire to his precious friendship. His love of compassion is towards us all; that love may become towards any disciple who does his will and seeks his Spirit - a love of complacency, sympathy, and delight. - T.
I. MUTUAL LOVE IS THE COMMANDMENT OF CHRIST.
1. Who are they of whom this mutual love is required? The admonition here is not to general philanthropy, but to affection towards brethren in the spiritual family. Notwithstanding social differences, notwithstanding diverse tastes and habits, Christians are bound together by ties stronger than all forces which disunite.
2. What kind of love is this which the Savior here enjoins? It is a disposition contrary to that old nature which displays itself in coldness, suspicion, malice, and envy. It is a disposition which reveals itself in good will, confidence, and mutual helpfulness.
3. Is it reasonable for love to be commanded? Must not love ever be spontaneous and free? The answer to this question is that Christian love may be cultivated by the use of means appointed by Divine wisdom.
4. In what sense is this a new commandment? Not absolutely; for the Old Testament enjoins mutual kindliness and benevolence. But it is new as a law of Christ for the government of society at large, new in its range and scope, new in its spiritual sanction and its Divine prototype.
II. MUTUAL LOVE IS MOTIVED BY AND IS MODELLED UPON CHRIST'S LOVE FOR HIS PEOPLE.
1. The motive. It is observable here, as elsewhere, that our Lord refers all duty and virtue to himself. To the Christian, Jesus is the Master in all conduct, the spiritual Power that accounts for the renewed character in all its phases. He loved us with a love in which he identifies his people with himself. We may show our devotion to him by loving his people as himself.
2. The model. Christ alone is the perfect Example; he loved his people with a constant, patient, and forbearing love; with a love active, practical, and self-sacrificing. As he loved us, so he expects us to love one another.
III. MUTUAL LOVE IS A PROOF OF CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP. This is the test which the Master himself has chosen.
1. It is a proof to the Christian himself. "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren."
2. It is a proof recognized by fellow-Christians. Love is a means of recognition; it is the language which tells that we have met a fellow-countryman. It is a claim for sympathy, a summons to responsive kindness.
3. It is an argument which tends to convince the world. The exhibition of mutual love was, as is evident from the well-known passage in Tertullian, early recognized as distinguishing Christians from the unbelieving world. It was felt that Christianity was a new and beneficent power in human society. "Your Master made you all brethren!" Such was the exclamation forced from the beholder. Often as this ideal has been unrealized, still its life and force have not departed, and Christianity must now be acknowledged as the one only moral power which can change hatred into love, and warfare into amity. - T.
I. IN ITS IMPORT.
1. That the disciples of Christ should love one another. "That ye love one another."
(1) Man must be a disciple of Christ ere he can come under this law of Christian love. He must be a Christian disciple ere he can exercise Christian love towards another, and ere he can lawfully expect it from another towards him. This command was given by Christ to his disciples, and as such they were expected to obey it. It is true that Christians are to love mankind generally, and even their enemies, but not in the same way and degree as they are to love one another as the disciples of Christ. What is commanded here is Christian love.
(2) This love is to be mutual. It is the duty of all, the duty of each disciple to love his fellow-disciple, and the equal duty of that fellow-disciple to love him. It is a universal duty of the Christian school and brotherhood, and there is no exception. If a man is a disciple of Christ, this command is binding on him.
2. That the disciples of Christ are to lore one another as Christ loved them. "As I have loved you." In order to know the full import of this command, we must know what Christ's love to his disciples was.
(1) It was great and self-sacrificing. To know the fountain, look at the stream. To know the love of Christ, look at it in its gift, sacrifices, and miracles. The gifts of his love were princely, the exploits of his love were miraculous, and the sacrifice of his love was infinite. He loved his disciples more than himself. "He made himself of no reputation." To understand and imitate the love of Christ to some extent, his disciples' love must be great and self-sacrificing. They must love one another more than themselves.
(2) His love was purely unselfish. He loved his disciples while poor and unworthy. The motives of his love were derived from himself, and not from them. He loved them in their weakness, errors, and backslidings, and his love was strongest when they least deserved it. One of them betrayed him, but he loved him still. Another denied him, and he loved him all the more. One sternly and stupidly disbelieved his identity and resurrection, and he suffered him to put his fingers into the prints of the nails. What but love the most unselfish would do this? So the disciples are to love one another. We are to help the weakest, succor the most needy, and love a brother, not on account of what he has, but what he is - a fellow-disciple.
(3) His love to them was practical; it was not a mere profession or sentiment, but reality; it was perfect love. Love is not prefect till it appears in action. It is but seed in principle, but ripe fruit in action. Christ's love was active. It walked in his feet, spoke in his tongue, worked in his hands. The hands of his love washed his disciples' feet, the feet of his love walked about doing good, the eyes of his love wept tears of compassion with the two sisters at their brother's grave, and the voice of his love summoned him back to life. The care of his love asked, "Children, have ye any meat?" Every impulse of his kindly heart was manifested in a corresponding deed or word of kindness. His disciples' love to one another should be practical. Love, like faith, without works is dead.
(4) His love to them was devoted and constant. (Ver. 1.) Like the sun, he shone upon them all, but with more constancy, as his love was never under a cloud, and never set, but shone full-orbed to the last, and shines still. His disciples' love should be devoted, constant, and unchangeable.
II. IN ITS IMPORTANCE AND OBLIGATION. It is important and obligatory:
1. As it is the natural law of spiritual life in, Christ. This is love. It naturally arises from their relationship to him and to each other. This relationship is the nearest, dearest, and most sacred and lasting, and from each of these considerations love is the essential law, and the essential law is specially binding and important. Not to observe it is a contradiction of our real relationship to Jesus and to each other. It is a universally acknowledged law - the higher and nearer our relationship, the greater is our obligation to love and succor each other. If so, how great is this obligation with regard to the disciples of Christ!
2. As the specially expressed will of Jesus. Expressed in a positive form and in a most solemn command, given at a most solemn hour, on the eve of his departure from them, under the shadow of death and the stroke of enmity, he gave the command of love, and his express will is in perfect harmony with the law of spiritual life in him, which is supreme love to one another. The voice of the law within is echoed by the voice of the lawgiver without, "That ye love one another."
3. As it is renewed and revived by the life and death of Christ. On this account it is properly called a new commandment.
(1) New in its complete expression. The first and the old edition was published on Sinai through Moses, but the new was published by Christ on his way to Calvary. He had given fragments and hints of it before to his disciples during his ministry, but the full edition is given them now in solemn command.
(2) New in its perfect example. The old example was self-love: "Love thy neighbor as thyself;" but the new and perfect example is the love of Christ. He loved them more than himself. This example was wrought out towards them; it was not merely within their observation, but within their experience and consciousness. They were the immediate objects of his love. "As I loved you." Not, "As I loved the world at large, or your forefathers, but you personally and individually;" and he gave himself as a Sacrifice for them, as a matchless and perfect Example of self-sacrificing and unselfish love.
(3) New in its inspiring motives - motives arising from their ultimate relationship to Christ, from his matchless love towards them, and their indebtedness to him in consequence. Christ loved them in order that they should love one another. In order to teach and inspire them to this, and in his life and death, he threw a new life and force to the command of love, that it was the experience of his followers afterwards, "The love of Christ constraineth us." The command of love was getting old and withered amid the thunders and lightnings of Sinai and the formality of the former dispensation, but it assumed a new life and vigor in Gethsemane and on Calvary. What can inspire love so well as love itself? and what love so potent and inspiring as the pure and self-sacrificing love of Christ to us? This makes the command really new and original to him, and, as a motive power, is exhaustless and irresistible.
4. As it is the outward sign of Christian discipleship. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
(1) By this we can be and know ourselves that we are his disciples. Brotherly love is set forth in the New Testament as a test of discipleship - of love to God and transition from death to life. "We know that we have passed from death unto life," etc. "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother," etc. Thus you see that brotherly love is a test-point, and on it depends the momentous issues whether we love Christ, and have Fussed from death into life or not.
(2) By this can others know that we are his disciples. It is not only an inward proof to Christians themselves of their condition. but also an outward proof to others. Different classes of people are distinguished by different outward marks. The soldiers of different countries and their various regiments are known by their uniform. The public schools of antiquity had their public signs by which they were known. The Pharisees and Sadducees had their distinguishing phylacteries and ceremonies, and various kingdoms have their coats of arms. But Jesus of Nazareth chose as" the coat of arms" of his disciples "love to one another." "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." Not if ye have this or that dress, not if ye have wealth or learning, not if ye have a long face, or a groaning tone, or a pious whine; but if ye have love one to another. A man may possess many good qualities without being a disciple of Christ. A man cannot be a disciple of Christ without studiously respecting the laws of morality; but a man may be moral in the popular acceptation of the term without being a disciple of Christ. There are moral infidels, moral atheists, moral worldlings, and even the devil himself can appear very decent and proper and assume the garb of an angel of light. He can even believe, tremble, and profess; but he cannot love, because the essence of his nature is malice, envy, hatred, and revenge. Jesus chose as the sign of Christian discipleship a thing which the devil and his followers can never do, never wish to do, viz. love. They can imitate anything, but cannot love. If we wish to be known as the disciples of Christ, we must be distinguished by that which distinguished him, viz. love for others. If we wish to impress others that we are under his tuition, we must wear the badge of our Teacher and the insignia of his school. "By this shall all men know," etc. By this they have been known in every age and country. The followers of the Lamb, as set forth in the Book of Revelation, had their Father's Name written on their foreheads; and this was brotherly love, for God's Name cannot be written with anything but love, for God is love. In primitive times their affection for each other was so intense and conspicuous that the persecuting pagans exclaimed with astonishment, "See how these Christians love one another!" What a convenient sign of Christian discipleship is this in every age and under every circumstance? When Christians were most cruelly hated and persecuted, then the truth of their religion and their union with Christ were most clearly seen by others. If they could not meet to worship, to commemorate his love, and sing his praise, they could love him and love one another; they could wave this flag from the blazing faggots, and embrace and kiss each other in the flames. "By this shall all men know," etc. It is all-important, not merely that we should realize our Christian discipleship, but that others should know it, that they may be taught to respect and obey our laws; and the most efficient way to communicate this knowledge to them is by loving each other as he loved us. Thus the most charming feature of the Master will be ever seen in his disciples. - B.T.
them He could not lay down his life for Christ until Christ had laid down his life for him. Peter did sincerely aspire to obedience and consecration. But much was necessary before he should be able to realize his aspirations. He must needs learn his own Weakness, and prove the strength and grace of his Lord. When these lessons had been learned, he was ready enough to take up his cross and to follow the Master, even unto death.
I. THIS QUESTION REVEALS A JUST CONCEPTION OF THE RELIGIOUS LIFE.
1. It consists in personal relation, as is apparent from the use of the terms "I" and "thee." In order to a right course, it is necessary to understand and to feel that the individual soul has to be brought into conscious and immediate contact with Christ Jesus. The experience of the Apostle Paul may be quoted as exemplifying this: "Are loved me, and gave himself for me." If Jesus be the Son of God and the Savior of mankind, as a personal and living Benefactor, he must be approached in spirit and by faith by every one who would know his power and feel his love.
2. It consists in following Christ. We must confide in him, admire and love him, in order that we may follow him. By "following him" - an expression frequent in the New Testament - is to be understood imitating his example and doing his will. Such conduct is the proof of the reality of the personal relationship presumed. It is not a simple act, but a constant habit, that is intended by this phrase. To follow a guide, a man must follow him in every stage of the journey, until the end is reached. So is it with the Christian's relation to his Lord. It may be that to follow Christ will involve the taking up of his cress, sharing his persecution, perhaps even his death. This Peter learned in after-years. But the question for Christ's disciple is not - Whither will this resolve lead me? but rather - Am I in the way of obedience? in the footsteps of my Lord?
II. THIS QUESTION IMPLIES THE IMMEDIATE CLAIM OF RELIGION. "Even now" - such is the language of Peter's ardent spirit. The summons of God is to prompt, unhesitating obedience: "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found." The possibility of blessing is assured upon compliance with the requirement of immediate application: "Now is the accepted time." The promise is to those who give heed without delay "Today if ye will hear his voice." It may be urged upon the young that theirs is the period of life in which it is wise to resolve upon the path of earth's pilgrimage. It may be urged upon the old that the present is almost the only time left for them to obey the voice of Heaven. Some for the first time hear the truth with conviction of the understanding, with emotion of the heart; let such take advantage of this new enlightenment and enthusiasm, lest the unheeded voice of conscience be hushed. Others have often acknowledged the justice of the Divine claim, but have hardened themselves against it by worldliness and sin; let such remember that now may be their last opportunity, and beware lest it pass away and leave them unblessed.
III. THIS QUESTION SUGGESTS THE CONSIDERATION OF THE REASONS WHY HEARERS OF THE GOSPEL DO NOT FOLLOW JESUS EVEN NOW. Of course there are many who have no disposition to seek what is good; but even amongst such as do not deny the claims of Christ, and are not indifferent to those claims, there are to be found some who do not arise and undertake the Christian pilgrimage. This may be explained in one of two ways.
1. On the part of some there is unwillingness to give up the service of sin. The emoluments or the pleasures of sin may have a stronger attraction for them than the voice of Divine love counteracts. Not insensible to the nobility and blessedness of a religious life, they yet suffer themselves to be drawn into what they know is an inferior path, by the fascinations of carnal joys, of sinful society, of worldly interest. There may be in their minds a hope that at some future time, when these attractions have lost much of their power, another course may be taken, a better part be chosen.
2. On the part of others there is a habit of indecision and procrastination. A want of depth of nature, a disinclination for serious deliberation, a weak susceptibility to various distractions, or a habitual fickleness, prevent some from following Christ, in following whom they would be acting in conformity with their highest convictions and with the impulses, of their better nature. They are far from denying the truth, from deliberately rejecting the Savior, from willfully despising their opportunities, from ridiculing the offers of the gospel; yet they are so foolish as to put off a practical acknowledgment of the claims of Christ until "a more convenient season."
IV. THIS QUESTION SUGGESTS REASONS WHY ALL MEN SHOULD FOLLOW JESUS EVEN NOW.
1. They may. The invitations of the Word of God are many and plain and persuasive. What words were more frequent and emphatic on the Nips of Jesus than such as these: "Come unto me!" "Follow me!"
2. They can. Christ does not call men, and then withhold the grace which is needed to obey the call. The help of the Holy Spirit is necessary, and that help is graciously bestowed.
3. They ought. Obedience to the voice which speaks from heaven, to the voice which speaks within, to duty, to conscience, to God, requires us all to follow Jesus "even now." - T.