Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world to the Father…
Christ's "hereafter" has a large scope. In this case it might mean —
1. Presently — as soon as He had taken His garments and was set down again (vers. 12-15).
2. The later life of the apostle — when the Holy Spirit had led him into all truth, and he began to see in this act an epitome of all Christ's life, work, and teaching.
3. That haven of everlasting repose, where every mystery shall be read aright in the sunshine of the Saviour's presence. Let us now apply the text to —
I. CHRISTIAN ORDINANCES.
1. Which of us has not asked himself, in taking part in the services of the Church, What is the meaning, hope, use of this entering a particular building, kneeling at certain rails, hearing and uttering of sounds, eating bread, drinking wine, sprinkling of a little child with water?
2. We can answer these questions most satisfactorily in these words of Christ. The operation of the Holy Spirit is observed not in the agency, but in the effect. It is mere impatience to say, Because I cannot see which way the Spirit came or went, I will not believe. Or, because I cannot see the connection between this word of God and my soul — because I cannot understand how my poor voice can make its way into the Eternal Presence, etc. — therefore I will forsake the assembling of Christians together, and trust that grace, the only real thing, will come to me all the same in solitude.
3. We hope that the hereafter thus promised is the nearest of the three. If a man will earnestly set himself to use the ordinances of the gospel, we trust that he will be enabled very soon to know what Christ does in them. And certainly, if we never find any good from any of them, we have cause for anxiety and self-suspicion. Every service ought to send us home saying, Lord, it was good for us to be there; it has enabled me to hold converse with Thee, and to go on my way rejoicing.
II. That which is true of ordinances is no less true of DOCTRINES.
1. There are many things which Christ teaches, and which the teaching of Christ presupposes as already communicated that we know not. We receive them; they lie on the surface of the intellect — unharmonized particulars — but they do not enter into our thoughts and feelings as truths grasped and realized. When we re-examine them they are each time as difficult as before, and we despair of ever fitting them into our plan of truth. There are some which we could wish away; the doctrines, e.g., of grace and freewill, of the existence of evil, of the atonement, of the Spirit.
2. In regard to all this "hereafter" is nearer and a more distant.
(1) The first sound of these difficulties is daunting, yet, when we look into them we see a ray of light soon. Few, if any, are created by the gospel. Most certainly the existence of evil had place before, and would have place without, the gospel. Each, when tried not by the intellect but by the heart, diminishes almost into nothing, and is qualified by such accompaniments, that practically its force is almost nothing, as regards piety and life. It may be a hard saying, "Whom He will He hardeneth;" but if along with that there stands the promise, "Ask, and ye shall have — If any man thirst, let Him come unto Me and drink," we see at once that the object of the doctrine is rather attraction than repulsion.
(2) And what I know not now I shall know hereafter. Life is troubled and confused; its opportunities of Divine study are rare and brief, its distractions many, the illusions of its sight and thought powerful, the gaze of the intellect into God's heaven dim and unsteady. But eternity will be free from all these interruptions: and when God Himself, revealed in open vision, becomes the instructor, we shall advance apace in that science of sciences, which is "the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
III. The text is no less true of PROVIDENCES. There are many things in the conduct of this world, whether in the affairs of empires or individuals, which are difficult to make consistent with the truth of a Divine Ruler. We make, some of us, too free a use of the word mysterious in our judgments upon Providence. There is nothing mysterious in the removal of a good man to his paradise, even though it leave a neighbourhood sad and a family fatherless, nor in any event which instructs the living or makes heaven more real to us, reflection easier, or repentance more resolved. The mysterious thing is, when evil is allowed to spread unchecked; when souls are lost in sin for which Christ died; when unprepared men are hurried to judgment without a moment for thought; when the Gospel of Christ seems to make so little progress. It is concerning these things that we have to say, "What I do," etc. And though we must not call affliction in its commoner forms a mystery, yet there is a sense in which even to it may be applied these words, and the Christian mourner, or watcher, or wrestler, with indwelling corruption, may be bidden to look up, and say, The time is at hand, for my Master tells me so, when I shall know why I was so buffeted and tempted. Even in the near hereafter I may be able to say, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; in the great boundless hereafter I shall certainly read all clearly, and be satisfied when I awake in His likeness."
Parallel VersesKJV: Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
WEB: Now before the feast of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that his time had come that he would depart from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.