The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive you how you prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.
Like the prediction of Caiaphas and the inscription of Pilate, an unconscious prophecy is hidden in these words. What the Pharisee affirmed hyperbolically Christ's friends may now affirm almost literally. Note —
I. THE PROGRESS OF THE GOSPEL. Four important facts concerning this pro-gross are admitted by friends and foes.
1. That during the first four centuries it was rapid and extensive.
2. That its human instruments were few and feeble.
3. That it was in spite of bitter and persistent opposition.
4. That it was not achieved in the dark, but in the most enlightened age of antiquity, and in the most populous and polished of ancient cities. The company of one hundred and twenty soon became three thousand, then five thousand men alone, then multitudes in Jerusalem only. In less than half a century Christian Churches were planted in all the chief cities of the Roman empire; in less than three centuries more, it was the religion of that empire. And from that day it has continued to spread until the most civilized nations are Christian and become Christian.
II. THE EFFORTS OF INFIDELITY TO STOP THAT PROGRESS. Such was the nature of the opposition to Christianity that if our standpoint had been the first instead of the nineteenth century we should be forced to the conclusion that it would fail.
1. The Jewish world opposed it. The rulers crucified its Author but that effort was unavailing, for Christ rose again. They killed Stephen and James, but the disciples, driven in every direction, spread the gospel. Wherever the apostles went the Jews stirred up the people against them; but being persecuted in one city they fled to another preaching until thousands of Jews, including many priests, became obedient to the faith.
2. The Gentile world opposed it. Polytheism was so firmly enthroned in the hearts of the people, and so completely interwoven with the government, the arts and trade, that Christianity was regarded as treason against religion, the state, common sense and good taste. First, the Christians were slandered and ridiculed, then slaughtered in thousands. But all the efforts of the empire and paganism combined prevailed nothing.
3. The modern world has opposed it. Changing its tactics, infidelity, instead of assaulting men bodily, has assailed their minds and hearts, and marshalled its hosts under the banners of science and literature. But still it prevails nothing.
III. WHY INFIDELITY HAS FAILED. The Christian answer is because the hand of God is in the progress of Christianity. The answer of infidelity — in human instrumentality — refutes itself. Infidelity has failed because —
1. It has dashed itself against the Rock of Ages. There is no successful arguing against such a character as Christ.
2. The evidences of Christianity are too convincing, intelligent people would not continue for nineteen centuries to use a remedy that never cures.
3. Infidelity has no substitute for Christianity.
(W. B. Stewart, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.