John 8:21

I. INTRODUCTION TO JUDAS. The individuality of Judas comes prominently before us in this chapter. We make his acquaintance in the house of Simon the leper in Bethany. We are introduced to him in connection with the alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; for though not mentioned here by name, we know from the other evangelists that he was among those who felt indignant at the supposed waste of the ointment, and who expressed that indignation by murmuring against the worthy woman who had poured it on the Savior's head. Either Judas had muttered dissatisfaction, and others of the disciples, in their simplicity, concurred, or Judas was spokesman of others who, accustomed to scant ways and means, were surprised at what naturally enough appeared to such men extravagant expenditure. "When his disciples saw it, they had indignation," according to St. Matthew's narrative; "There were some that had indignation within themselves," is the record of St. Mark; "Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?" is the explicit account furnished by St. John. There was only the one single point of contact between Judas and those of the other disciples who agreed with him about the matter of waste. Their motive differed from his; their thoughts were not his thoughts. The large-hearted liberality of this loving woman was, however, rightly comprehended by the Master himself, and justly commended by him. Our curiosity is not gratified by any particulars of information about Simon. Whether he was a brother of Lazarus, or a brother-in-law, being Mary's husband, or some other relative, or only a friend, we neither know nor need to know. The meaning of the epithet πιστικῆς is also little more than a matter of conjecture. Some of the Greek and Latin interpreters understand it to mean genuine or pure, and connect it with πιστός, faithful; others hold the meaning to be potable or liquid, from πίνω; while Augustine derives it from the name of the place whence it came, that is, Pistic nard. The Vulgate and Latin versions render it spicati, and similar, too is our English spikenard, as the name of fragrant oil extracted from the spike-shaped blossoms of the Indian nardus, or nard-grass. The costliness of this unguent was well known among the ancients; hence Horace promised Virgil a nine-gallon cask of wine for a small onyx box of this nard; while the evangelist informs us that the value of Mary's alabaster box of ointment was upwards of three hundred pence, that is, of Roman coinage, each denarius being equivalent to sevenpence halfpenny or eightpence halfpenny of English currency. The amount would thus be about ten guineas.

II. MARY'S LIBERALITY. This liberality of Mary had its origin in deep devotedness to our Lord, but her devotedness was the outcome of enlightened faith. She had a correct understanding of his character and claims. A believer in his Divine commission and in his kingly authority, she did not stumble as many at the prospect of his death. She knew he was to die, and hence she anticipated that sad event by the exceedingly expensive preparation in question. The custom of employing perfumes on such an occasion has an illustration in the record of King Asa in the sixteenth chapter of the Second Book of Chronicles, where we read, "They laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odors and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries' art." The disciples of Christ surpassed the generality of their nation in the knowledge of, and belief in, his person as Messiah; but though they had full faith in his Messiahship, they still clung to the notion of a temporal kingdom, with all its high honors and earthly distinctions. From this arose the difficulty which they had in reconciling themselves to his death, or rather the stumbling-block which his death placed in the way of their faith, as the two disciples to whom Jesus joined himself on the way to Emmaus, after speaking of his death and crucifixion, added, "But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel." Mary's faith excelled theirs as much as theirs excelled that of the Jews in general. Her faith did not fail in prospect of Messiah being cut off, her love was not chilled by the coming coldness of his death, nor did her hope go out like a taper in the darkness of his sepulcher. She believed that as Messiah Jesus would die and revive and rise and reign. She believed, and her faith worked by love. She believed, and therefore she poured the precious ointment ungrudgingly on her Savior's person.

III. THE BESETTING SIN OF THE TRAITOR. Judas is usually hold up as a monster of iniquity, and his sin regarded as something diabolical. While we would not diminish by one iota the heinousness of his sin, nor say one word in extenuation or mitigation of his guilt, we feel that, owing to certain exaggerated representations of his criminality, the lessons to be learnt from his character and conduct are to a large extent lost. On the contrary, if we carefully analyze his character and examine his career, we shall find much to learn, at least by way of warning, from the sad lesson of his life. Of course, by placing him outside the pale of humanity altogether, and regarding him more as a fiend than a man, we leave ourselves without any common measure whereby it is possible to compare his career with that of ordinary mortals. Now, we hold that he was just in roll with common men, though by his sin in its results he rose at last to such an exceptionally bad eminence. He was, as is admitted on all hands, a bad man, a wicked man, and a man as wretched as he was wicked. All the elements of evil in his character, however, may be resolved into one besetting sin, and that sin was avarice. His greed of gain was insatiable, and he loved gold much more than God. This inordinate love of money was the root of the evil in his nature. This love of money is a growing sin, for, as the old proverb has it, the love of money increases as much as the money itself increases - nay, it usually increases much faster. He was naturally avaricious, and he gave full swing to his natural disposition. Here we learn a lesson of the greatest utility and of very general application. In the Epistle to the Hebrews we read of "the sin which doth so easily beset us." The case of Judas exemplifies the baneful tendency and the fatal result of such a single besetting sin. Most people have some propensity in excess, some strong passion, some evil principle in their nature more likely to overpower them than any other. It is of vital importance to ascertain what the weak point is, in what direction it lies, and where the risk of entanglement is greatest. A physician is careful in the very first instance to discover the seat of the patient's disease, and its nature. So we should look carefully into our heart and out upon our life till we find out the source of weakness; and once it is discovered - nor can the discovery be a matter of any difficulty to the honest inquirer - we must be ever on our guard against it, and use every available means to fortify ourselves in that particular quarter. However strong our character may be otherwise and in other respects, one besetting sin, unless resisted and shunned, will ruin all. One weak link will spoil the strongest chain, and no chain is stronger than its weakest link; one small opening in a dam will flood a district, or even a province.

IV. OFFICIAL DIGNITY, OFFICIAL DANGER. It often happens that a man is placed exactly in that situation in life which, owing to his peculiar disposition, is fraught with greatest danger to him. Thus, for good and wise ends, God in his providence is pleased to try us, as gold is tried, that we may be proved and purified and strengthened. When so situated we need to seek daily increase of faith that we may be kept from falling, and constant supplies of grace that it may be sufficient for us. Judas had been clever at finance, and in consequence became bursar of the little society. This situation of purse-bearer was one of extreme danger to a man like Judas; his hand was too often in the purse, his fingers were too frequently on the coins it contained. With such an opportunity without and such a disposition within, what, in the absence of restraining grace, could be expected? His greedy disposition, combined with the temptation of his office, was too much for him; his covetousness developed into thievishness. He failed to check the evil propensity; he did not resist the strong temptation. The first act of pilfering was committed. The Rubicon was crossed; the line of demarcation between honesty and dishonesty became fainter and fainter, and was gradually effaced. Other acts of petty pilfering succeeded; and though we have little reason to suppose that the disciples' purse had ever been a deep or heavy one, or that it ever contained more than supplied the bare necessaries of daily life, yet we have much reason to believe that the paltry peculations of the purse-bearer were a constant drain upon it. "He was a thief," our Lord tells us plainly, "and carried the bag." Here we have a second lesson, which is the absolute necessity of resisting the first temptation to evil; for as the habit grows by indulgence, the power of temptation diminishes by resistance.

V. DISAPPOINTED AMBITION. The chief attraction to Judas had probably been the prospect of a temporal king and earthly kingdom; and thus of some lucrative position or highly remunerative office in the service of that king and in the affairs of that kingdom. Others of his fellow-disciples had been looking forward to posts of honor - to sit on thrones in the future Messianic kingdom. Judas eared less for honor than for profit, and however he may have esteemed such honor, it was mainly as the way to wealth. But now our Lord had referred in terms unmistakable, once and again, to his death and burial, this gave a rude shook to the hopes of the traitor, and seemed to cut off at once and for ever the prospect of worldly gain. This was a bitter disappointment to the greedy spirit of Judas; the cup of plenty was rudely dashed away as he was about to raise it to his lips; the time of discipleship he looked upon as a dead loss; his profits had been small at best, but the prospect of improving his circumstances is now blighted; and his occupation is gone. Tantalizing, and even torturing, as all this must have been to him, another disappointment, though of a minor sort, is added. A sum of three hundred denarii, or more, that is to say, upwards of ten guineas, had been profusely lavished in a way and for an object with which he had not the least possible sympathy, nay, in a manner as he thought highly reprehensible. It was sheer waste, and worse, for no one gained anything; the poor were not benefited - "not that he cared for the poor," except as a matter of hypocritical pretense; he himself missed the disbursement of a sum from which he could have appropriated a percentage that might have been a crumb of comfort in present disastrous times and during the dull days he must now look forward to. But there was even more than this; he must have felt himself by this time an object of suspicion; conscience must have made him aware of this; he must have known that the Master, at all events, saw through the thin disguises that concealed his real character from ordinary eyes. He did not feel at home with the brotherhood; and, his occupation being gone, a spirit of recklessness was creeping over him. Besides, he was stung into hostility by the severe but well-deserved reproof which our Lord now saw right to administer to him. "The poor always ye have with you," said our Lord; and it was thus hinted that it was his duty - part of his duty - part of his office - to look after them, and that opportunity was never wanting for that purpose. Thus wrought on, Judas bethought himself that it was high time to look to his own interests; and, having failed in one direction, to try the opposite.

VI. WARNINGS WASTED. It is truly astonishing what effect the continued indulgence of a single sin has in hardening the heart, searing the conscience as with a hot iron, blinding the mind, and banishing for a time at least all feelings of shame and even of common humanity. The black crime soon to be committed had cast its shadow before. More than one hint had been given, more than one warning note had been sounded; but all to no purpose. The first intimation appears to have been after our Lord had washed the disciples' feet, impressing by that expressive symbolic action the great lesson of humility on all his followers. On that occasion he said, "Now ye are clean, but not all" (John 13:10). In the second section of this chapter, where the traitor is again referred to, words of warning still more distinct are uttered: "One of you which eateth with me shall betray me;" and while all of them, "one by one," as St. Mark particularly mentions, deprecated with surprise and sorrow such an impeachment, asking, "Is it I?" or literally, "It is not I, is it?" Judas had the amazing effrontery to pretend innocence, and ask with the rest, "Is it I?" The intimation about the betrayer being "one of the twelve, he that dippeth with me in the dish," and the individual who should receive the sop, may have been whispered into the ear of the beloved John, and through him to Peter; but the final fearful warning was uttered aloud and in the hearing of all. And yet that terrible sentence, "Woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born," had no effect on him; at all events, it failed to shake his diabolical purpose. It is possible that during the first shower of questions - each asking, "Is it I?" - Judas had sat silent, either sullenly through contempt, or conscious-stricken; that subsequently, with an air of careless coldness, and in order to conceal the confusion of the moment, he asked not, "Lord, is it I?" but "Rabbi, is it I?" when he received the answer, "Thou hast said," in the affirmative, unheard perhaps except by the disciples John and Peter, who sat close by. The expression, too, which our Lord added, namely, "What thou doest, do quickly," though heard by all, was misunderstood, and referred by them to directions about the purchase of requisites for tomorrow's feast, or making distribution to the poor; but it must have been perfectly comprehended by the traitor himself. At all events, on receiving the sop, he went out immediately, and, in spite of all, pursued his foul and fiendish purpose. All these checks, all these warning, were utterly ineffectual. His besetting sin, growing like the mountain snowball, and gathering within its compass other elements, as disappointment, resentment, ingratitude, and envy, had now become too powerful to be overcome. The sin that might have been checked effectually at the first had now become uncontrollable; the evil one, who might have been successfully resisted at the commencement, had now gained complete mastery over this wretched man. To such a fearful extent was this the case, that the evangelist informs us that "Satan entered into him." In no other way, as it seems, could the enormity of his crime be accounted for. No wonder it is added, "And it was night." It was night with earth and sky - night with all its darkness, night with that dark heart of the traitor, night in every sense with that unhappy man! How all this inculcates, as another and a third lesson, the importance of cultivating prayerfulness of spirit, and enforces the necessity of praying frequently and praying fervently, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one"!

VII. ANOTHER SCENE IN THE TRAITOR'S LIFE. We now open another chapter in his history. The bargain is struck, the sum weighed and delivered, and in the paltry sum thus realized we have another proof of the grovelling spirit of this unspeakably mean and mercenary man. He has secured the thirty pieces of silver, or thirty shekels - some £3 15s. of British money. Both parties seem satisfied with the bargain. The chief priests are glad of the promised opportunity of arresting in private him whom the dread of popular tumult or probable rescue prevented them arresting in public. Public opinion was still so favorable to the Prophet from Galilee, and had such force, that, hostile as the Jewish authorities were, they dreaded, and with good reason, the risk of a public apprehension. Judas, too, is content with his pieces of silver. We almost fancy we see him, like Milton's picture of Mammon in the nether world, eyeing with furtive, downcast glance the proceeds of his bargain. But the satisfaction of the wicked seldom lasts long. We scarcely think that Judas at first realized the consequences of his wickedness; we cannot believe that he at all anticipated the sequel of his crime. Perhaps he thought that he who had wrought so many miracles would work one in self-defense, and not allow himself to be apprehended; or perhaps he thought that, if arrested, he would escape out of the hands of those who came to apprehend him; or it may be he thought Jesus would now be forced to set up the expected kingdom. All his calculations are at fault.

VIII. THE ACTUAL BETRAYAL AND APPREHENSION. Some two hours have elapsed from the revelation of the traitor and his departure from that upper room, when a motley multitude of men, armed with swords and staves-some of them Levitical guards from the temple, others Roman soldiers from the tower of Antonia, together with priests and elders - is marching down the hillside from Jerusalem to the valley of the Kidron. Already they have crossed the brook and reached the garden. But what mean those lanterns, for the Paschal moon is at the full? Perhaps the moon was obscured by clouds, or shining dimly that night; or the deep shadows of the hills and rocks and trees made the light of the lanterns necessary. The concerted signal was not really needed, owing to our Lord's forwardness to meet his fate. Had he pleased, he might have frustrated the attempt, as by a word he felled them to the earth (John 18:6); he might have ordered to his help twelve legions of angels, had he been unwilling to suffer. And yet, willing as he was to suffer, he is equally willing to save; his sufferings were in our stead, and for our sake. His ready willinghood to undertake for us and die for us assures us of equal willinghood to have the benefit of those sufferings transferred to us. The traitor's kiss, which was a fervent one (κατεφίλησεν), was the signal for arrest. From this we learn the terms of familiarity and friendship that existed between Christ and his disciples. Nor is he changed, or become colder in his friendship for his true followers; he is as cordial as ever, and still bends on earth a Brother's eye. His address to Judas, however, is too strongly expressed in the Common Version. The term "friends" (φίλοι) he reserves for his true disciples; the word addressed to Judas is ἑταῖρε, which signifies "companion" or acquaintance, and does not necessarily imply either respect or affection.

IX. THE COWARDICE OF SIN. Cowardice is generally associated with sin, so true it is that "sinful heart makes feeble hand." Our first parents, after their sin against God, hid themselves among the trees of the garden. The chief priests and elders, with the captains, are here charged by our Lord with cowardice. "Be ye come out," he asks, "as against a brigand or bandit (λῃστήν), with swords and staves?" Had he been an evil-doer, why did they not apprehend him publicly in the broad light of day as he taught in the temple? Poor, sinful souls! their cowardly spirits shrank from this; the power of public opinion, or the dread of a rescue, or the danger of a riot, they could not brave; but now skulkingly, secretly, stealthily, at the dead hour of night, they came upon the Savior by surprise, with a strong posse of men well armed. Their sin was seen in their cowardice. Our Lord is now in the hands of his enemies. He had healed the servant's ear - the right ear (St. Luke and St. John) - having asked freedom to stretch forth his arm to touch and heal the wounded ear, saying, "Suffer ye thus far;" if the words do not mean - Excuse resistance to this extent. Judas has betrayed him; all the disciples - even John the beloved and Peter the brave - have forsaken him and fled! - J.J.G.







I go My way, and ye shall seek Me, and shall die in your sins.
I. THE WITHDRAWMENT OF CHRIST FROM MEN.

1. Christ had a way — undoubtedly that through the Cross to His native heavens. What a way! It will be the study of eternity.

2. Christ pursued His way voluntarily. "I go." You cannot force Me.(1) This is no extenuation of the guilt of His murderers. "The Son of Man goeth...but woe unto the man by whom He is betrayed."(2) This is the glory of His history. Why has Christ's death the power not only to save humanity but to charm the universe? Because it was free. "I have power to lay down my life," etc.(3) A more terrible calamity cannot happen than this — far greater than the withdrawment of the sun. There is a sense in which Christ withdraws from impenitent men now.

II. THE FRUITLESS SEEKING OF CHRIST BY MEN. This is a repetition of John 7:34. When I am gone, and the judgments of heaven will descend on your country, you will be seeking Me, but you will not find Me; you will have filled up the measure of your iniquity, the things that belong to your peace will be hid from your eyes.

1. The fruitless seeking is possible. The day of grace closes with some men even while they are in the world. In the judgment He will be earnestly sought, but shall not be found. "Many shall say unto Me on that day," etc., etc.

2. This fruitless seeking is lamentable. "Ye shall die in your sins." Sin is like quicksand, the man who walks on it must ultimately sink and be lost. "It sometimes happens on the coast of Britain or Scotland that a person walking on the sand will suddenly find a difficulty in walking. The shore is like pitch, to which the soles of his feet cling. The coast appears perfectly dry, but the footprints that he leaves are immediately filled with water. Nothing distinguishes the sand which is solid and that which is not. He passes on unaware of his danger. Suddenly he sinks. He wishes to turn back, but it is already too late. The slow burial of hours continues: the sand reaches to his waist, to his chest, to his neck; now only his face is visible. He cries; the sand fills his mouth, and all is silent." What a striking emblem of the danger of sin!

III. THE ETERNAL SEPARATION OF CHRIST FROM MEN. "Whither I go ye cannot come." The separation will be complete and irreversible. "Ye cannot come." Christ had said this before (John 7:34), and He refers to it again (John 13:33). So that to Him the words had a terrible meaning. More terrible words than these could not be sounded in human ears, "Ye cannot come." It means incorrigible depravity, hopeless misery. Separation from Christ is hell. The commission of every sin contributes to the construction of the impassable gulf.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

From the time that our Lord left the world down to this day, the expression has been peculiarly true of the Jewish nation. They have been perpetually, in a sense, "seeking" and hungering after a Messiah, and yet unable to find Him, because they have not sought aright. In saying this we must carefully remember that our Lord did not mean to say that any of His hearers were too sinful and bad to be forgiven. On the contrary, not a few of them that crucified Him found mercy on the day of Pentecost, when Peter preached (Acts 2:22-41). But our Lord did mean to say, prophetically, that the Jewish nation, as a nation, would be specially hardened and unbelieving, and that many of them, though an elect remnant might be saved, would "die in their sins." In proof of this peculiar blindness and unbelief of the Jewish nation we should study Acts 28:25-27, Romans 11:7, and 1 Thessalonians 2:15, 16. The Greek expression for "sins" in this verse confirms the view. It is not, literally rendered, "sins," but "sin": your special sin of unbelief. Let us note that —

I. IT IS POSSIBLE TO SEEK CHRIST TOO LATE, OR FROM A WRONG MOTIVE, and so to seek Him in vain. This is a very important principle of Scripture. True repentance, doubtless, is never too late, but late repentance is seldom true. There is mercy to the uttermost in Christ; but if men wilfully reject Him, turn away from Him, and put off seeking Him in earnest, there is such a thing as "seeking Christ" in vain. Such passages as Proverbs 1:24-32; Matthew 25:11, 12; Luke 13:24-27; Hebrews 6:4-8 and Hebrews 10:26-31, ought to be carefully studied.

II. THAT IT IS POSSIBLE FOR MEN TO "DIE IN THEIR SINS," and never come to the heaven where He has gone. This is flatly contrary to the doctrine taught by some in the present day, that there is no future punishment, and that all will finally be forgiven. It is worthy of remark that our Lord's words, "Ye shall seek Me," and "Whither I go ye cannot come," are used three times in this Gospel — twice to the unbelieving Jews, here and at John 7:34, and once to the disciples, John 13:33. But the careful reader will observe that in the two first instances the expression is coupled with, "Ye shall not find Me," and "Ye shall die in your sins." In the last, it evidently means the temporary separation between Christ and His disciples which would be caused by His ascension.

(Bp. Ryle.)

The Evangelist.
Observe the infinite difference between dying in our sins, and dying not in our sins. Lazarus, and Dives the rich man, both died — one in his palace, but in his sins; the other famished at the gate, but not in his sins. Stephen was stoned to death, but not in his sins, for he could say Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," "I see the Son of man," etc.; but Judas, in his sins, went and hanged himself. Ananias and Sapphira died in their sins, but the thief upon the cross cast his last look upon the Saviour, and his sins, though many, were instantly forgiven.

I. Let us contemplate THIS FEARFUL PREDICTION OF THE CERTAIN END OF ALL UNBELIEVERS.

1. They die under the sentence of Divine condemnation for their sins.

2. They die under the dominion or power of them.

3. Under the guilt and misery of sin.

4. They die to experience the immediate and everlasting punishment denounced upon them.

II. THE EXCLUSIVE CONDITION UPON WHICH THIS FEARFUL AND IMPENDING DOOM CAN BE AVERTED. It is involved in the converse of the text — if ye believe not, ye shall die — but if ye believe, ye shall not die.

1. The object of their believing.

2. The nature of their belief. Must be cordial, entire, practical, "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness."

3. The spiritual importance and efficacy of such faith. Saving in its effects by divine appointment.

III. APPLICATION.

1. Let those who have faith exercise it on the glorious object. Appreciate the glory and grace of that Saviour by faith in whom they have life everlasting.

2. Let those who believe not in Jesus remember — ." They are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

(The Evangelist.)

This is a heavy doom, and the very door of damnation. It is a sad thing to die in prison, to die in a ditch, but far worse to die in your sins. Death to the wicked is as a trapdoor to let them into hell; so that it is a just wonder that, foreseeing their danger, they do not go roaring and raving out of the world.

(J. Trapp.)

Charles IX (who gave order for the massacre on St. Bartholomew's day, 1575) expired bathed in his own blood from his veins, whilst he said, "What blood — what murders — I know not where I am — how will all this end? What shall I do? I am lost forever. I know it." Francis Spira, an Italian apostate, exclaimed, just before death, "My sin is greater than the mercy of God. I have denied Christ voluntarily; I feel that He hardens me, and allows me no hope." Hobbes — "I am taking a fearful leap into the dark."

On a very dark, stormy night, out West, the wind blew down a part of a railroad bridge. A freight train came along, and it crashed into the ruin, and the engineer and conductor perished. There was a girl living in her father's cabin near the disaster, and she heard the crash of the freight train, and she knew that in a few moments an express train was due. She lighted a lantern, and climbed up on the one beam of the wrecked bridge, and then on the main part of the bridge, which was trestle work, and started to cross amid the thunder and the lightning of the tempest and the raging of the torrent beneath. One misstep and it would have been death. Amid all that horror the lantern went out. Crawling sometimes and sometimes walking over the slippery rails and over the trestle work, she came to the other side of the river. She wanted to get to the telegraph station where the express train did not stop, so that the danger might be telegraphed to the station where the train did stop. The train was due in five minutes. She was one mile off from the telegraph station, but fortunately the train was late. With cut and bruised feet she flew like the wind. Coming up to the telegraph station panting, with almost deathly exhaustion, she had only strength to shout, "The bridge is down!" when she became unconscious, and could hardly be resuscitated. The message was sent from the station to the next station, and the train halted, and that night the brave girl saved the lives of hundreds of passengers, and saved many homes from desolation. But every street is a track, and every style of business is a track, and every day is a track, and every night is a track, and multitudes under the power of temptation come sweeping on and sweeping down toward perils raging and terrific; God help us to go out and stop the train. Let us throw some signal. Let us give some warning. By the throne of God let us flash some influence to stop the downward progress. Beware! Beware! The bridge is down, the chasm is deep, and the lightnings of God set all the night of sin on fire with this warning, "He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."

(De Witt Talmage.)

Afterwards at the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, many of the desperate Jews did the very thing they here said of our Lord — they killed themselves in madness of despair.()Self-murder was, by the Jews, esteemed the most aggravated of crimes — a crime which sent everyone after death to Gehenna, the place of damnation. Josephus, in the weighty speech wherein he warns his companions in war, who had been hemmed in by the enemy, to refrain from self-murder, says of suicides, "a darker hell receives the souls of such." The Jews, no doubt, perceived very well what Christ meant to say. But, instead of permitting themselves to be humbled, their only purpose was to retort upon Christ the cutting expression, "Ye shall die in your sins," and, therefore, they contemptuously utter the taunt, "Well, if He is determined to take His own life and go to Gehenna, He is indeed correct when He says that no one will follow Him thither."

(Tholuck.)

An abyss separates heaven, life in God, the home of Jesus, and earth the life of this world, the natural and moral home of the Jews; and faith in Jesus could alone have bridged over this abyss. Hence their perdition is, if they refuse to embrace Him, certain, since He alone could have raised them to heaven.()Jesus lived and moved in a different world. His motives were pure, honest, kind, self-sacrificing. His joys were holy, spiritual, expanding, enduring, Divine. He had heaven in His soul, and they had hell begun in theirs. A gulf impassable between them, except by repentance. One must think with Christ, will with Him, toil with Him, endure with Him, and die with Him, so as to dwell with Him forever.

(W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)

The expression is susceptible of two interpretations.

1. Physical or local, in which sense Christ must have meant that He came from the heavenly world, and they had their origin on the earth. But the latter is only true of their bodies; all souls, as did the Divine personality of Christ, come from God.

2. Moral. The language must apply to character, its elevation and degradation. Christ's moral character was from above — lofty, divine: theirs from beneath — mean, selfish, low as hell. In this sense Christ was as distant from His age and all unregenerate mankind as heaven from hell. Concerning this distance, note —

I. IT WAS MANIFESTED IN HIS EARTHLY LIFE.

1. It was seen in the conduct of the Jews and others in relation to Him. The Gospels abound with instances illustrative of the felt disparity between Christ and the people with whom He lived (Luke 4:14-27; Matthew 8:5-13; Matthew 21:12; John 8:1-11). It was thus with the soldiers in Gethsemane, Pilate, the spectators of the Crucifixion. Whence arose this felt distance? It cannot be accounted for on the grounds of —

(1)Social superiority: He was a humble Peasant.

(2)Non-sociality: He mingled with the people. It was —

(3)Simply distance of character. His incorruptible truthfulness, immaculate purity, calm reverence, warm and overflowing benevolence struck them with awe.

2. It was seen in the conduct of Christ in relation to the people. He felt and manifested a moral loneliness. The crowd had nothing in common with Him. What they honoured, He despised; what He loved, they hated. Hence, He only felt akin to those who had kindred sympathy. "My mother and brethren are those who do My will." Hence, too, His frequent withdrawal from the people to pour out His sorrows to the Father. And in His lonely hours He bewails the moral character of His age: "O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee." He was morally above them. They were mere flickering lamps, dim and sooty; He rolled as a bright star above them.

II. IT WAS DEMONSTRATIVE OF HIS REAL DIVINITY. Whence came such a character as this?

1. Intellectually there was nothing, either in Jewish or Gentile mind, to give rise to such a doctrinal system as that propounded by Jesus of Nazareth. His revelation of God's love transcended all human conception.

2. And morally there was nothing in His age to produce such a character. How could immaculate purity come out of an age of corruption — incorruptible truth come out of a world of falsehood — self-sacrificing love out of a world of selfishness? Men's characters are formed on the principle of imitation; but Christ's character could not be thus formed. He had no perfect form to imitate. Even the best of the patriarchs and the holiest of the prophets were imperfect. How can you account for the existence of such a character as His? Tell me not it came of the earth. Do grapes grow on thorns? Did the flaming pillar in the wilderness grow out of the sand?(1) His perfect moral excellence was universally felt, not because there was no effort employed to discover imperfections in Him; the keen eye of His age was always on the watch, to descry some moral defect. And Pilate, who had every facility for knowing Him, and every motive for condemning Him, said, "I find no fault in Him."(2) This moral excellence was retained to the last, not because He was not assailed by temptation. Never came the great tempter to any man in a more powerful form than to Christ. How then shall we account for such a character as this? Only on the principle that He was indeed the "Son of God."

III. IT WAS ESSENTIAL TO HIS REDEEMERSHIP. Had He not been thus morally above mankind, He had lacked the qualification to redeem souls. Holiness has the power to convict, to renovate, to sanctify, and to save. A man who is one with sinners, morally standing on the same platform, can never save them. Because Christ is "above" them, He rolls His moral thunders down to alarm the careless: pours His sunbeams to quicken the dead; rains His fertilizing showers to make moral deserts blossom as the rose. As the well-being of the earth depends upon the heavens, so the spiritual progress of humanity depends upon that Character that is stretched over us like the sunny skies. Conclusion: The subject predicates —

1. The way to true elevation. Men are endowed with aspirations. But what altitudes should they scale to reach true dignity? Commerce, literature, scholarship, war? No; from all these heights man must fall — fall like Lucifer, the sun of the morning. The altitude of imitating Christ is that which conducts to glory. Seek the things "above." Press on to assimilation to that character that is above you. It will always be above you, and so far it meets the unbounded moral aspirations of your heart. "Be ye holy, even as God is holy." Christ's character is everlastingly saying to you, "Come up hither."

2. Reveals the only way by which we can regenerate the world. Keep at a moral distance from mankind. Let the people amongst whom we bye feel that we are morally above them. In this age, what is called the Church is morally so identified with the spirit that moves the world, that it is on the same moral plane as the market, the theatre.

3. Presents motives for the highest gratitude. The grandest fact in the history of our planet is, that a perfect moral character has been here, wearing our nature. Though His physical personality is gone, His character is here still.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

There are three methods of living — from beneath, from within, from above. We none of us live after one single method. There has been but one self-consistent man, Jesus, who followed one method throughout. But no other man is either wholly good or consistently bad. Three distant principles, however, of the formation of character are clearly manifest.

I. LIFE FROM BENEATH we can easily recognize. The world has received Christian education enough to lead it publicly, at least to repudiate the method of the devil, even though they may follow it privately.

II. LIFE FROM WITHIN is good so far as it goes. It is the effort to live as a human being may best live in the powers of his own reason, and out of the motives of his own heart without seeking help from above. And it is fair to say that some who follow it reach admirable results. Christian faith need not make us blind to natural virtues.

III. BUT SCRIPTURE FAILS TO RECOGNIZE THIS INTERMEDIATE METHOD OF LIVING. Yet Jesus must have looked out upon life with as quick an appreciation of anything fair in it as any of us can ever feel, and was always ready to see good where we cannot. Nevertheless, He admits of only two sharply defined principles and tendencies — one of this world and tending towards that which is beneath; and the other like His own higher life rising towards that which is above. This is admittedly a difficulty. We observe a good deal of loveableness and goodness in the world growing out of men's hearts without any religions vitality in it; Christ recognized nothing of the kind. Which is right?

1. Remember that Jesus went beyond all that is temporary in human conduct, and that His judgments have reference to radical principles and final issues. When, therefore, He distinguishes two opposite methods of life only, while human experience shows us a third, the question arises whether life can go on much farther in the halfway fashion? Is not this intermediate way a path that must break off somewhere, and he who follows it be compelled to scale the height or plunge into the abyss? Is it anything more than a provisional method, and so cannot be justified as a necessary and reasonable expedient for a life?

2. It is a great presumption against it that it is an expedient, and cannot possibly be the full, final method of an immortal soul. It is a serious disadvantage that the plan must be held subject to death, and will have to be dropped in the grave. As thinking, acting beings, we want to plan our lives for ages, not for years; and who of us expect to live one single day after death without finding ourselves obliged to take God and the whole kingdom of righteousness into our account of life? I cannot live fifty, one hundred, one thousand years hence, still drifting on in unconcern about the greatest and final realities of the universe.

3. Some will admit this disadvantage, but, however they may wish to believe as their mothers have, say, "I must build my life upon known facts and truths which experience can substantiate." So be it, give me facts to build into the substantial arch of a life, but let me not neglect the Keystone, because life can be carried so high without it, and the temporary scaffolding hold all in place for the present. And if the gospel brings the facts which are necessary to make life entire we ought at once to use them. Is faith in Christ, this Keystone, which completes and secures all, and that with no temporary scaffolding of our own construction, but with the righteousness of God?

4. Let me ask you who are trying to live honourably without religion to search the scriptures of your heart, and of providence, and see if the present fact of a living God is not everywhere pressed upon you? But beside this there is a whole range of Divine facts in the world called Christianity, as positive facts of history as the rocky mountains are facts of geography; and one might as reasonably attempt to engineer a railroad across America without taking the mountains into account as to seek to stretch a purpose across this life without taking Christianity into his plan. From these facts let us specify —(1) The person of Christ. Pilate did not know what to do with it and would wash his hands; but the world cannot evade its responsibility. Christ stands before the judgment throne of every soul, and the final question of our lives, whether we will or no, becomes, "What shall I do with Jesus?" etc.(2) The power of the Holy Ghost in the lives of men. This is a fact which runs through the whole range of Christian history, and is not unknown outside it, or whence those instinctive prayers, great ideas, visions of better things?

5. We must allow that a provisional way of living is justifiable only on the supposition that it is necessary. One may live as well as he can in a tent, provided there is no material of which he can build a house. One may camp out under a mere moral theory of life, provided a religious home is an impossibility. But there are materials sound and ample for a Christian home in life in the Christian Church. Do not then camp out, but come in.Conclusion: Note some considerations which show the completeness of the Christian method of living and the incompleteness of the best method which is not clearly Christian.

1. The Christian method is life from above. Christ finds the lost child and sets him in the midst of the Divine Fatherhood, and thus brings life into union with God.

2. It harmonizes everything in and around us, and the growing harmony of life is the sure proof that the method cannot be wrong.

3. Without these reconciliations the best life must be imperfect, and its method therefore to be eschewed.

(Newman Smyth, D. D.)

Our Lord spoke as One having authority, as a king from the throne, a judge from the tribunal.

I. WHAT IS INCLUDED IN OUR BELIEVING IN CHRIST.

1. A deep sense of our need of Him as the only and all-sufficient Saviour. "They that are whole need not a physician" (Isaiah 27:13; Matthew 9:12).

2. A giving full credit to the gospel revelation concerning Him in His Person, offices, and work.

3. A full conviction of conscience arising —

(1)From a discernment of the excellency of what is revealed.

(2)From the manner in which it is revealed.

4. A removal of all enmity and aversion to Christ.

5. A. powerful attraction of the whole soul to Christ, a closing in with the gospel way of salvation, and a cleaving to Him with full purpose of heart.

II. THE AWFUL CONSEQUENCES OF UNBELIEF (Ezekiel 3:18). Unbelievers —

1. Die in a state of guilt and under condemnation. Their conscience condemns them because they have defiled it; the law, because they have broken it; the gospel, because they have rejected it. This condemnation is now (John 3:18).

2. Die under the power and dominion of sin (Revelation 22:11).

3. Dying in their sins, they sink under everlasting punishment. Those who sin against the remedy perish without it.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

I. TO DIE IN ONE'S SINS IS THE GREATEST CALAMITY. To die is a terribly solemn thing, for it involves separation from home, business, acquaintance, world, the very body itself, and introduction into a mysterious, untried, spiritual state of retribution. But to die in sin adds immeasurably to its solemnity. Sin is the sting of death. To die in one's sins means —

1. To die having misused this life with all its blessings. Life's grand purpose is the cultivation of a holy character. For this —(1) All physical blessings are given: health, time, nature.(2) All social pleasures and happy interchanges of thought, feeling, and soul(3) All mental blessings, literature, science, poetry, schools, etc.(4) All redemptive blessings — the gospel with its soul-saving appliances. He who dies in his sins has abused all.

2. To die with all the conditions of misery-conflicting passions, tormenting conscience, a dreaded God, foreboding anguish. It this is not hell, what is it? Better a thousand times to die in a pauper's hovel or in a martyr's tortures than to die in sin.

II. UNBELIEF IS CHRIST READERS THIS GREATEST OF CALAMITIES INEVITABLE. Belief in Christ, as the Revealer of God, is essential to the deliverance of man from the guilt, power, and consequence of sins.

1. This deliverance requires the awaking in the soul of a supreme affection for God. Love to God only can destroy the old man.

2. A supreme affection for God requires a certain revelation of Him. In what aspects must the Eternal appear to man before this love can be awakened? He must appear personally, forgivingly, and sublimely perfect.

3. This certain revelation is nowhere but in Christ. Belief in Him therefore is essential to a deliverance of the soul from sin.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

1. Heavy with the burden of ingratitude (Luke 17:17).

2. Heavy with the burden of a broken law (Galatians 3:10).

3. Heavy with impending wrath of God (John 3:86).

4. Crimsoned with blood (Isaiah 1:18; Hebrews 10:26; Hosea 1:2).

(W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)

I. IS THE THING THAT SPECIALLY RUINS MEN. All manner of sin may be forgiven. But unbelief bars the door against mercy (Mark 16:16; John 3:86).

II. WAS THE SECRET OF THE JEWS BEING SO THOROUGHLY "OF THE WORLD." If they would only have believed in Christ, they would have been "delivered from this present evil world." The victory that overcomes the world is faith. Once believing on a heavenly Saviour a man has a portion and a heart in heaven (Galatians 1:4; 1 John 5:4, 5).

III. THERE IS NOTHING HARD OR UNCHARITABLE IN WARNING MEN PLAINLY OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF UNBELIEF. Never to speak of hell is not acting as Christ did.

(Bp. Ryle.)

If but one sin be unrepented of, the man continues still a bond slave of hell. By one little hole, a ship will sink into the bottom of the sea. The stab of a penknife to the heart will as well destroy a man as all the daggers that killed Caesar in the senate house. The soul will be strangled with one cord of vanity as well as with all the cart ropes of iniquity: only the more sins, the more plagues and fiercer flames in hell; but he that lives and dies impenitent in one, it will be his destruction. One dram of poison will despatch a man, and one reigning sin will bring him to endless misery.

(R. Bolton.)

A dying woman, after a life of frivolity, said to me, "Do you think that I can be pardoned?" I said, "Oh, yes," Then, gathering herself up in the concentrated dismay of a departing spirit, she looked at me and said, "Sir, I know I shall not!" Then she looked up as though she heard the click of the hoofs of the pale horse, and her long locks tossed on the pillow as she whispered, "The summer is ended."

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

Unbelief stops the current of God's mercy from running; it shuts up God's bowels, closeth the orifice of Christ's wounds, that no healing virtue will come out. "He could not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief" (Matthew 13:58).

(T. Watson.)

The Rev. F.W. Holland in 1867 was encamped in Wady Feiram, near the base of Mount Serbal. He says: "A tremendous thunderstorm burst upon us. After little more than an hour's rain the water rose so rapidly in the previously dry wady (valley), that I had to run for my life, and with great difficulty succeeded in saving my tent and goods, my boots, which I had not time to pick up, being washed away. In less than two hours a dry desert wady, upwards of 300 yards broad, was turned into a foaming torrent from eight to ten feet deep, roaring and tearing down, and bearing everything before it — tangled masses of tamarisks, hundreds of beautiful palm trees, scores of sheep and goats, camels, donkeys, and even men, women, and children, for a whole encampment of Arabs was washed away a few miles above me. The storm commenced at five o'clock in the evening, and at half-past nine the waters were rapidly, subsiding, and it was evident that the flood had spent its force. In the morning a gently flowing stream, but a few yards broad and a few inches deep, was all that remained of it. But the whole bed of the valley was changed. Here great heaps of boulders were piled up, where hollows had been the day before; there holes had taken the place of banks covered with trees. Two miles of tamarisk wood, which was situated above the palm grove, had been completely washed away, and upwards of a thousand palm trees swept down to the sea. The change was so great that I could not have believed it possible in so short a time had I not witnessed it with my own eyes." So sudden, and greater far will be the final ruin of those who build their hopes of eternal life on the sand of human doing, and not upon the "Rock" — Christ Jesus.

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