The Reserve of Christ
John 16:12-15
I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.…


1. They are the expression of the deepest and purest earnestness. There is no aim at any outward demonstration; yet in reading and reflecting upon them, they sink into your deeper life, they gain upon your reason, sentiment, and conscience, until at last they leaven you with their spiritual life, and you become His disciples through their life-power. This earnestness made Him despise all artifice and cunning concealment, and led Him to present His thoughts and sentiments natural and openly, without varnish and pomp.

2. They are the expression of the highest wisdom. Solomon uttered many wise proverbs; but Christ's sayings contain the wisdom of life, of salvation, which Solomon and other wise men never pretended. He is the wisdom of God.

3. They are of perpetual and universal power and authority. The sayings of wise men like coins lose their weight and value in their use, because they are not essential for life and happiness, for all times and places; but the sayings of Jesus remain in their weight and authority, because we ever need them to guide and comfort us. Before anything which belongs to men can be of perpetual authority and fitness, it must —

(1) Be comprehensive of all nature, and have provision to meet it in all its phases and relations, which is one reason why the sayings of Jesus remain the same.

(2) Harmonize with all essential laws outside itself, which is another reason why the sayings of Jesus perpetuate their power and authority. Essential laws change not. In vain all artificial powers try to prop a thing contrary to the laws of the universe and the constitution of our mind. The unnatural will perish by the hand of nature.

(3) Be capable of new development and application, which is another element constituting the permanent authority of Christ's sayings. They are ever deeper than our plummet, and loftier than our highest reach. Like rich grapes, the more they are squeezed the richer and sweeter is their sap. The sayings of Jesus are like seed buried for a while, but which, by suitable agencies, will be restored to new life and fresh application.

4. They are expressions of His love. Love may be shown by tears, by gifts, and by sacrifices, as Jesus showed His; but the most common expressions of rational minds are words; these remain when tears are dried, and gifts and sacrifices are forgotten. Christ spoke as never man spoke, for He spoke from a true heart to the heart of humanity, according to the law of truth and love, which will abide for ever, and so He still speaks.

II. THE RESERVE OF JESUS. It was a reserve —

1. In the surplus which was beyond and above the immediate need of His disciples. They had every way more than actually they needed to meet their present necessity. He had already told them more than they understood; He had given them work more than as yet they performed; He had declared already of privileges and blessings greater than they enjoyed; and their difficulties and persecutions were as numerous and heavy as they could well bear without speaking of more. It does not appear requisite on any ground to tell them more at present. They must master their present lessons before they are fit for more.

2. Was dictated by wisdom, to educate their Christian graces and character. He was a wise Master; He did not cram all into one lesson. There may be things which belong to this hour only that demand to be told as complete as they are, and that because we are fit to comprehend and use them now, and shall be unfit at any other time. But a system of spiritual education demands to be revealed little by little. If all the evil of the future were told us, it would discourage and distract all our life; or if all the good, it would partly destroy its enjoyment. The reticence of Christ was intended to keep alive their expectation for future blessings, and thus preserve them from flagging and weariness in their toil and trial, and to preserve their freshness of faith and experience.

3. Was inevitable because of the inexhaustibleness of His resources. Every true teacher has always something more to say. He never says all in any lesson or sermon. How could such riches of knowledge and love be bestowed all at one time, and that to feeble minds and contracted sympathies? The light was greater than their eyes, the cloud was larger than the field, the shower richer than the blades, and the ocean immeasurably greater than their cups.

4. Was a reticence of anticipation. What was unsaid should be declared another day with a comment.

III. THE PRESENT UNFITNESS OF THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD TO BEAR THE SAYINGS OF JESUS. It is the general misfortune of every great teacher to be misunderstood. The unfitness of the present age consists in —

1. A want of greater sympathy with His teaching, and more insight into its meaning. As it is in any branch of knowledge, so is it with truth and character; without some sympathy to begin with in the object of our search, or faith, we shall not acquire an insight into it. Sympathy with the things of the Saviour is quite a different thing from certain attachments to certain appellations and certain acquired opinions. What we need is that deep attachment of our spirits with something that is common to all, and unchangeable in all times, in the person, life, and sayings of Jesus.

2. Overweening and preconceived attachment to other and contrary things to His sayings. This may be opinion, pleasure, worldly aggrandisement, self-indulgence, or any other wrong and sinful way. Or it may be some contracted habits, which have sunk into the very root of our nature, so that we have lost the power to renounce them. It may be associates who are loved more than Him; or it may be careless and blind indifference of all truth and goodness. Even what is right, if used in the wrong way, and the truth if misapplied or not used rightly, may unfit for His teaching and truth. Whatever absorbs the attention of the soul, so that it cannot listen fully and impartially to Him, unfits to bear His truth and spirit.

3. The many discordant voices that are heard. There is such a contradictory crying, "Here is Christ, and there is Christ." Not that these voices are altogether false, for there is some Christ doubtless in all. But their great wrong is in the pretension that He is all with them, and none with others. These things perplex many, and keep them away from listening to the sayings of the Saviour; and until men will love Christianity more than sects, and the spirit of the Saviour more than habits and opinion, they will continue.

4. The materialistic spirit of the age. This world is the kingdom of most; they neither have taste nor time to think and trouble themselves about any other; and the love of the world is enmity against God.

5. An unwillingness to see our own wrong, and be corrected and directed rightly. The teaching of the Saviour is too spiritual, high, and searching, to suit our sensuous desire and self-indulgent view and feeling. This is the condemnation, &c.

6. The breadth and catholicity of His teaching. He is a teacher of truth, and not of party; He claims mankind as His suitable audience, and not a small portion of it. Such teaching is too lofty for men of narrow conceptions and small hearts.

7. The weakness of our powers and the imperfect character of the present state. "For now we see through a glass darkly," &c.

(T. Hughes.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

WEB: "I have yet many things to tell you, but you can't bear them now.

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