Then Thomas called Didymus said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, so that we may die with Him."
I. THAT ALL THE MOVEMENTS OF CHRIST ON EARTH HAD AN IMMEDIATE REGARD TO OTHERS.
1. His life on earth was purely vicarious. "For your sakes." Not only his death was vicarious, but his life was equally so. Not only he died for others, but he lived for them as well. His vicarious death was only the natural outcome of his vicarious life. All his movements, his actions, his miracles, his teaching and utterances, the fact and sum of his life, were for others - for mankind generally and for his disciples particularly. "For your sakes."
2. His life on earth was purely self-sacrificing. "For your sakes." He sacrificed every personal feeling, convenience, and consideration for the advantage of others. Had he consulted his own personal feelings - feelings of the tenderest affection and the sincerest friendship - friendship for the dying and the living - nothing would have kept him away from the death-bed of his beloved friend at Bethany; but these tenderest feelings of personal friendship he sacrificed for the sake of others. For their sakes he was not there. This was the great and grand principle of his whole life.
3. The vicariousness and self-sacrifice of his life were to him the sources of the greatest pleasure. "I am glad," etc. He found his highest joy in doing good to his fellow-men, and the greatest delight of his life was spending it for the advantage of others. In benefiting them even his own pain was turned into pleasure, his sorrow into joy, and the greatest self-sacrifice afforded him the greatest satisfaction.
4. His life on earth was one of untiring activity. Nevertheless, let us go unto him. His time for sorrow and joy was very limited. His was to act.
(1) His activity was ever timely. He would ever act in his own time; but his time was always right. Some thought he was too late; but if he went, even to a grave, it was not too late.
(2) His activity was often wonderful in its aim, but ever successful. "Let us go unto him." Lazarus was dead, and his soul in the spirit world; but he was not too far for Jesus to reach him - he was at home there. To human view Lazarus was a prisoner of death, and it was a bold march to go to him through the territories of the king of terrors; but, bold as it was, Jesus undertook it successfully.
(3) His activity was ever inviting and inspiring. "Let us go." The disciples could not go as far as the Master, but let them go as far as they are able. If they can only see, weep, and witness, let them do what they can; he will do the rest. They were inspired to go.
(4) His activity was ever helpful, in consoling, teaching, and quickening.
II. THAT ALL THE MOVEMENTS OF CHRIST ON EARTH HAD A SPECIAL REGARD TO THE GREATEST GOOD OF OTHERS. "To the intent that ye may believe."
1. Whatever he did was done with a definite purpose. "To the intent." He had one great and special aim through life. In every movement and act and utterance of his there was a definite purpose, and he kept this ever in view. It was the inspiration and guide of his movements. In all his various and busy activities there was not a single random shot; but he ever took a definite aim, on which his whole being centered. This is one of the secrets of his ultimate success.
2. Whatever he did was done for the best and highest purpose. In relation to his own mission and the salvation of the world. "That ye may believe." This implies:
(1) That although his disciples had faith, yet it was weak. It was incomplete. This was only to be expected. They were as yet but babes in Christ, and their faith was young and tender. Their wings had net fully grown, and could not soar very high - not high enough as yet to reach and fully rest on the Savior.
(2) That it was capable of, and required growth and confirmation. Genuine faith, however weak and small, will grow by trial, by experience, by a fuller manifestation of its object, and cries out for this. Its growth is certain but gradual.
(3) That the growth and confirmation of their faith involved their greatest good. This alone could bring them into closer union with Christ and with the Father, and open to them the door of the spiritual kingdom, and fully present to their view the grand but real visions of the spiritual empire, and Jesus as the King in his beauty. This was the only true foundation of their character, and the only hope and sure means of its future perfection.
3. Whatever he did was done in the best way to effect the highest purpose. His absence from Bethany served the interest of faith far better than his presence would have done. This implies:
(1) That the death of Lazarus could scarcely take place in the immediate presence of Jesus. This is implied in what Jesus said to his disciples, and in what the sisters said to Jesus. We have no account that death ever took place in his presence. Even at a distance the prayer of faith was sufficient to call forth his triumphant power against it. When he met the "king of terrors" on the highway with a lad, a stranger to Jesus, in his prison-van, he had to give him back to his mother at once: how much more would this be the case with regard to a sick friend! Death could hardly perform his work in the very presence of life. However, Jesus could hardly trust himself, and was glad that he was not there.
(2) That the restoration of Lazarus from death was more beneficial to faith than his preservation from it would have been.
(3) That it was the highest aim of Christ to serve the interest of faith in the most efficient way. He did not expect it to live and thrive on nothing, but furnished it with the strongest proofs, and with the most nourishing diet. He not only produces faith, but supports it. His general aim was to produce faith where it was not, but especially to perfect it where it was. His aim was concentration of influence - the perfection of the few faithful ones, and through them the perfection of the many. "That ye may believe."
4. The confirmation of faith in the disciples produced in Jesus the greatest joy.
(1) This was the joy of a favorable opportunity of doing the greatest good. Such opportunities are rare. Jesus availed himself of it with delight. Faith was struggling in the gloom of a friend's death. But this furnished Jesus with a special opportunity to display his Divine power in the grand miracle of life.
(2) The joy of foreseen success. He foresaw the success of his last great miracle, which involved the success of his life, and through the wail of grief rolled the sweetest strains of music to his soul. What joy is like that of the joy of success in the chief aim of life?
III. WHAT PRODUCES REGRET AND SORROW IN US OFTEN PRODUCES GLADNESS IN JESUS. His absence caused sorrow to the sisters, but joy to him. The same event producing different feelings in different persons, as illustrated in Jesus and the sisters, and why?
1. Jesus could see the intention of his absence; the sisters could not,
2. Jesus could see the ultimate result of his absence; they could not. Jesus could see the restoration of his friend, the display of Divine power, the triumph of faith, and the glory of God. This produced in him gladness. The sisters could not see this, and they were sad.
3. Jesus could see the gain of faith by the death of Lazarus to be immeasurably greater than the loss of the family. They could not see this as yet.
(1) Their loss was only personal, limited to a few. The gain of faith was universal.
(2) Their loss was only physical and social. The gain of faith was spiritual and Divine. Social feelings are nothing to the ecstasies of faith.
(3) Their loss was only temporary, for a short time. The gain of faith was eternal.
(4) Their loss was made up with interest; but the loss of faith for the want of the miracle, who could repair? He was the prepared object of the miracle, and the only one of the family not to begrudge the sacrifice. His death was the occasion of life to faith, and doubtless shared the joy of Jesus at its triumph, and was the willing sacrifice to its life.
1. When the claims of personal feelings come in collision with those of public good, the former are to give way at any cost, and give way with joy.
2. In the strange dealings of Providence we should try to learn the Divine intention; that is our good.
3. This is difficult, if not impossible, often to realize. Therefore let us trust and wall.
4. In the light of results all will be plain and joyful. Jesus was glad in Peraea, while the sisters were sad in Bethany; but at the resurrection they could join with Jesus in the song of triumph and the anthem of life. "All is well that ends well." - B.T.
Then said Thomas which is called Didymus.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)John 1:42; John 9:7) would lead to this conclusion. It is very possible that Thomas may have received this as a new name from his Lord, even as Simon and the sons of Zebedee, certainly, and Levi very probably, received in like manner names from Him. It was a name which told him all he had to fear, and all he had to hope. In him the twins, unbelief and faith, were contending for the mastery, as Esau and Jacob, the old man and the new, wrestled once in Rebecca's womb. He was, as indeed all are by nature, the double, or twin-minded man. It was for him to see that in and through the regeneration he obtained strength to keep the better and cast away the worse half of his being. He here utters words which belong to one of the great conflicts of his life — words in which the old and the new, unbelief and faith, are both speaking, partly one and partly the other; and St. John fitly bids us note that in this there was the out. coming of all which his name embodied so well. There was faith, since he counted it better to die with his Lord than to live forsaking Him — unbelief, since he conceived it possible that so long as his Lord had a work to accomplish, He, or any under His shield, could be overtaken by death. Thomas was evidently of a melancholy, desponding character: most true to his Master, yet ever inclined to look at things on their darkest side, finding it most hard to raise himself to the loftier elevations of faith — to believe other and more than he saw, or to anticipate more favourable issues than those which the merely human probabilities of an event portended. Men of all temperaments and characters were to be found in that circle of disciples, that so there might be the representatives and helpers of all who hereafter, through struggles of one kind or another, should at last attain to the full assurance of faith. Very beautifully says of this disciple, that he who would hardly venture to go with Jesus as far as the neighbouring Bethany, afterwards without Him travelled to the furthest India, daring all the perils of remote and hostile nations.
(Archbishop Trench.)I. HIS DOUBT —
1. As to the victory of life.
2. As to the way to heaven (chap. John 14).
3. As to the certainty of the Resurrection (chap. John 20).
II. HIS FAITH.
1. Prepared by his ardent love to Jesus and the brethren (chap. John 11).
2. Introduced by his longing desire for a higher disclosure (chap. John 14).
3. Decided by his joy at the manifestation of the Risen One (chap. John 20).
(W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
Let us also go that we may die with Him. —
1. Let us with Jesus go.
2. Let us with Jesus suffer.
3. Let us with Jesus die.
4. Let us with Jesus live.
(J. P. Lange, D. D.)I. HE IS AN EARNEST MAN. We might almost conclude this from the fact that he is one of the twelve. Some of them are ignorant, some quiet and simple, some strong and passionate, but all are earnest. Take all the verses that relate to Thomas, they bring before us very different mental states — deep depression, rejoicing, confidence; but they all pre-suppose a spiritual concernedness about himself, his duty, and his Lord. He is sometimes called "unbelieving Thomas," but he is better than worldly Demas, or a vacillating Peter. What hope can there be for a creature like man, intellectual, spiritual, responsible if he will not think. You can do nothing with a man who is not earnest — but you may do much with an earnest man, though a doubter.
II. THIS EARNESTNESS HAS A TINGE OF MELANCHOLY AND IS CONNECTED WITH A DESPONDING DISPOSITION. As a certain vein runs through a geological formation, so a certain disposition runs through a human mind. You cannot expel it. It must be recognized and dealt with. Here Thomas threw himself on to the dark conclusion that all was over, and that nothing now was left to them but to die. This shows how truly he and all had lived for the kingdom and the Master. They all desponded in a while when the death came. It is characteristic of Thomas that he took the alarm sooner than the rest. One in a company will first say, "It is getting colder." One in a family will be the first to see the death shadow, although it may turn out not to be that. So some among God's children are nearer despondency than the rest, more quick to see the world going wrong, more keen to private troubles.
III. WITH WHAT DETERMINATION AND NOBLENESS THOMAS RESOLVES TO DIE WITH CHRIST, SINCE IN HIS OPINION NO BETTER MAY BE. Here is a melancholy man who yet can make the grand resolve that when his dearest visions and hopes are quenched in darkness, though what he cannot but regard as a mistaken judgment of the Master, yet resolves to follow that Master wherever He may choose to go. That purpose was the salvation of Thomas, and not less than that in principle will be the salvation of us. Thomas did not die with the Master. They all forsook Him for a little while. We shall not live up to the height of our best resolutions. But if our purpose be wisely and resolutely formed, and in dependence on Divine help, then we shall not renounce it; and it will be —
IV. THE CONSOLATION AND THE CURE OF OUR DESPONDENCY. You cannot conceive of one abiding in it long whose life is ribbed by a great purpose reaching unto death — whose heart is moved and lifted by a great affection, as sun and moon lift the tide. With Him, come storm or calm! With Him, come life or death! Then the world will be brighter, and we shall go through it more bravely to our home in the world beyond.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
I. THAT IN HIM WE MAY DIE UNTO SIN. In what frame of mind did Jesus enter on that course which led Him to Golgotha? If He knew so well, why did He go? Had He not perfect freedom to follow His disciples' advice, and power to lay His foes at His feet? Why not then use it? Because He only desires to do the will of His Father. Now the hour arrives for Him to be obedient unto death. What urges Him thereto? The desire for reward or glory? No: love to His Father and sinful men. Thank God He went; and thank God we may still in spirit go up to Jerusalem. What for? To admire His heroism? Others have been as brave. To pity His agonies? Others have suffered more. "Weep not for Me, but for yourselves," etc., and for the sin which cost Me so much. The resolution to go with Jesus implies more than reading the story of His passion, singing hymns or praying to Him, or repenting. It means union with Christ in the purpose of His death — the destruction of sin.
II. THAT FOR HIM WE MAY WIN SOULS. Ought we not to feel the sacred duty of gratitude to return His love, and resolve to go with Him, feeling unconcerned about our own death? He went for the purpose of raising Lazarus; let us go that the dead may become alive. Have we no loved friend who sleeps? May the love of Christ constrain us to awaken him.
III. THAT THROUGH HIM WE MAY INHERIT LIFE. If we die in Him unto sin, and for Him win souls, then our whole life shall be a walking in His foot. steps to the Jerusalem above.
(H. O. Mackey.)
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