2 Corinthians 5:15
And that he died for all, that they which live should not from now on live to themselves, but to him which died for them…
I. OF CHRIST.
1. Is not that the same as wanting to forget the Saviour's humanity? Should we have only a glorified Christ as the object of our contention? No. Paul simply refuses to boast, as did those false teachers who troubled his ministry, of having known Christ in Judaea; he knows Christ only according to the spirit — i.e., as his Saviour, which is the essential thing.
2. Let us draw from this thought an important lesson. Who has not envied Christ's contemporaries? It seems to us that had we seen and heard Him, our hearts would have been more moved, and doubt would have been impossible.
(1) Now listen to Christ Himself. A woman cries out, "Blessed is the womb that bare Thee." He answers, "Rather blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it." A man says, "Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without." He answers, "My mother and My brethren are those who hear the Word of God and do it." His apostles would like to retain Him. He says, "It is expedient for you that I go away." Mary Magdalene would lay hold on Him. Jesus answers her, "Touch Me not!" What does all this mean if not that it is by the soul, before everything, by faith that Jesus would be known and possessed. This, then, is the consoling conclusion, that neither time nor distance hinders Jesus from being known and His presence felt. And is not all this bright with evidence? Was not the Church which saw Christ feeble, timid, and sluggish, and did not Christ have to leave her that she might receive the baptism from on high? Did His discourses ever produce the wonderful effect which they have produced since? Why, He touches more hearts in a single day now than during the three years of His ministry!
(2) You envy the privilege of His disciples. Are you certain that His mean condition would not have turned you from Him? Who knows if you would not have denied Him? Supposing, however, that you had remained faithful to Him, would you have understood His work? Would you not have been attached to His earthly person more than to His Divine mission — would you have loved Him according to the spirit, as He would have Himself loved?
3. What is knowing Christ after the flesh to-day? This: To melt at the recollection of Jesus with an emotion entirely human; to weep over Him as the victim of human fanaticism; to honour His relics and memory. He is known according to the spirit. When at the foot of His Cross, it is not over Him, but over ourselves, that people weep; when in His death they contemplate not His sufferings merely, but more especially His sacrifice; when they act in union with His work, rejoice in His triumphs, and prepare for His coming.
II. OF MEN.
1. A signification has been given to these words which provokes a righteous protest. We see Christians, under the pretext of an imaginary perfection, break in sunder all the ties of flesh and blood, renounce their families, and, having put before them the wall of monastic vows, say to them, "I know you no longer!" Spiritual heroism, people exclaimed — brilliant triumphs gained over the flesh! Is that what the gospel teaches us? No! St. Paul tells us that the Christian who neglects his kindred is worse than an infidel. If, then, under pretext of renouncing the flesh, people should violate or neglect natural laws, they have against them not only Nature's voice, but God's. There will be cited here the numerous passages in which our Lord unsparingly condemns all those who, before following Him, consult flesh and blood. "If any man hate not," etc. But He speaks of choosing between duty and delight — between the law of God and the affections of the family. Here our conscience gives Christ a full assent. But far from this be the system which condemns the life of the heart, the joys of existence and the flesh, as evil in themselves.
2. What must, then, be understood by "I know no one after the flesh"? In every man there are two natures — flesh and spirit. To the eyes of flesh you are rich, poor — a master, a servant, etc.; to the eyes of the spirit you are a child of God. Now, St. Paul declares to us that henceforth what he would know in every man is the spiritual and immortal nature. Before Christ, what was a poor man, a slave, a publican? Now, to the eyes of Jesus the soul of the lowest harlot weighs as much when put in the scales as the soul of Caesar. Everywhere He only sees sinners to be saved; to all He offers the same language, grants the same love. In the school of Christ Paul learnt to see in the Festuses and Agrippas only lost souls, whom he will cause to hear the truth which saves without being preoccupied with their sceptre or their crown; it is there that he learnt to preach the gospel to an Aquila and a Lydia, with the very same love as had it been the soul of the Pro-consul Sergius or the Governor Publius. It is thus that we must know men. The world has its distinctions of rank, of learning, of fortune, and they are necessary. Should you overturn them to-day they would reappear to-morrow. Let us respect them. But let us know men by what they have that is great and immortal.
(E. Bersier, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.