Judas said to him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?…
I. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN CHRIST AND HIS WORDS.
1. Christ and His words are both very fully made known to us. This is not always the case with the teachers of the race.
(1) Sometimes we may have a great personality who has stirred his own and subsequent generations, but we have few or none of his words. His secret has died with him, as in the case of Pythagoras, Noah, Enoch, Abraham.
(2) We may have great and noble words from a man, but we may know little of his personality — as in the case of Homer, Shakespeare, Plato, Isaiah, and many of: those prophets.
(3) But in Christ both the personality and the words have been brought out into the clearest and fullest illumination. We should have felt unsatisfied unless we had heard the law of love from His own lips, and our wish is met. And with the words God has given us the life, as never a life was given, by those four, each different, yet each the same, a separate mirror to take in the side presented to it, but all disclosing in life-like harmony the one grand person — each so absorbed in his theme that he himself is forgotten.
(4) The words of Christ, then, and Christ Himself, are both fully made known to us. The gospel has its expression in His words, but its power and spirit are in His life. He is Himself "the Word made flesh" — the greatest utterance in the greatest person.
2. There is a perfect harmony between Christ and His words.
(1) He and His words are in agreement, else they could not co-exist and coalesce as He says they must do. This is not always the case with a man and His words.
(a) Sometimes we can love and esteem a man, and yet his words carry neither conviction to the understanding nor moving power to the soul.
(b) Or, we may admire the words, but we cannot love the man. It is with pain that we turn from the words of Bacon to his life, and from the scorn of worldly ambition by the author of the "Night Thoughts" to his eager pursuit of it in courtly circles. One of the most melancholy contrasts is between the words of the wisest of men and the exemplification which he himself gave of wisdom. How different when we come to Christ! Our deepest moral nature sets the seal of approval on His words. "Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into Thy lips." When He inculcates humility, He Himself "is among the disciples as one that serveth." When He speaks of purity, "He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth." When He urges the law of kindness, "He goes about doing good."(2) While the words and life are in harmony, yet the life is greater than the words. A man should always be more than his expression. We feel that whatever some men may say or do, they are capable of something above it. This is preeminently true of Jesus. This superiority of the person to the words of Christ is not destructive of harmony; it is the highest reach of it. In all things that perfectly agree there must be a great and a greater, in some such way as God agrees with His universe, which is His expression of Himself, while yet He remains an infinity behind it. It is one of the most important steps a man can take in his spiritual history when he passes from listening to the sayings to looking up into the face of Christ, and learns that the words are only rays from the countenance of the "Eternal Life," the natural breathings from Him who is "the Word made flesh." "Now we believe, not because of thy saying, but because we ourselves know that this is indeed the Christ."
II. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN LOVING CHRIST AND KEEPING HIS WORDS. Note —
1. The central truth of Christian doctrine, viz., that there must be a change of heart before there is a change of life. Christ is the lawgiver of God's world, and before we can obey His laws we must be on terms of amity with Himself. God's friendship must come before God's service. Now, it is frequently taught — that there must be service before there can be friendship, and that peace can only be purchased by obedience. But who can do anything that will bear the look of service in a spiritual sense until the heart is in it? Love to Him, however, can face every duty, dare every danger, endure every sacrifice, when it sees His self-sacrifice to save him from the most terrible of all evils, exclusion from the favour and life of the God. Less than this cannot explain either the Epistles or Gospels, neither can it, in the last extremity, bear the weight of what Christ requires of those who own His allegiance.
2. The Christian philosophy of morality.
(1) The superiority of the morality of Christianity, candid men who profess to stand outside generally admit. But what is often overlooked is that this superiority does not consist so much in its details as in its central principle of action. There is no system but Christianity that has gathered all the grand motives to morality round a person, and made the strength and essence of them spring from love to Him.
(2) There would be a fatal objection to this if Christ were less than God. For then His claim of implicit obedience would be impious, and if He had done less for man than save him from the lowest depth, He could not require all his nature to be given up to Him. Here, again, the morality of the gospel is seen to be closely connected with its doctrines. The Divinity of Christ forbids the charge of assumption on His part, and His atonement prevents the feeling that there is over-exaction from us. This view makes Christian morality and doctrine cohere; and those men who speak of detaching the gospel morality from the gospel doctrine are as rational as the men who would pluck a blossom from a tree and think to have it come to fruit.Conclusion: There are only three conceivable ways in which morality can be thought of as springing up in man.
1. By instinct. But how feeble, fluctuating, contradictory, this is when left to itself; and if it were perfect, morality by instinct would be morality mechanical.
2. By reason. But reason can never furnish sufficient motive power; it becomes weakest when passion is strongest. Hence reason, in morality, is much more a thing for the philosopher in his closet than for the mass of men in the struggle and strain of life.
3. By love, and love going forth to a person. It is this way that Christianity has chosen.
(J. Ker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?