“And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.”
IF we may judge from the familiar way in which Matthew speaks of the sons of this Cyrenian, who the soldiers brutally compelled to carry our Saviour’s cross, we should infer that from this hour he became a Christian. He had little suspected such a thing in the early morning, when he left his lodging to attend to his business; but, being constrained to go to Calvary, he lingered there of his own accord through those anxious hours, and was led to feel that such a sufferer, to whom even Nature paid such homage, was worthy henceforth to receive his loyalty.
But how many of us are carrying our cross because we are compelled! There seems no alternative but to carry the dead weight of our cross with us everywhere, only wishing a hundred times each day that we might have respite. Dear soul, that cross is yet going to be the greatest blessing of your life if it leads you to the Crucified, and you find in Him what will transform it into the ladder which links earth with heaven, swaying beneath angel tread.
If Simon became a Christian, with what rapture must he have reviewed that incident in his life! How easy it would have been to carry the cross had he known Jesus as he came to know Him afterward! He would have needed no compelling! So if you saw the will of Jesus in your cross, and that you were carrying it with Him, how much easier it would be! But that is so. He is in it. Bear it with Him; out of the cross will fall a shower of flowers.
There is no such thing as chance in our lives. It might have seemed such that Simon was coming into Jerusalem at that moment. It was shown, however, to be part of the Eternal counsel.
Dare to believe in the Divine purpose which orders your cross.
“And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.”
THE emphasis is on the pronoun “ye”. The angel meant, As for these sentinels that are quaking in dread and becoming as dead men, it is meet and natural that they should do so. They are strangers to Him whom ye seek, and are set here to do the work of His foes. But there is no need for those that seek Jesus to fear.
Are you seeking the forgiveness of your sins through His blood?
Fear not ye! Do not fear that they are too many to be forgiven. Do not fear that you have not the right faith. Do not fear that you will find His door shut. Do not fear that He will always be reminding you of what you have cost Him. Do not fear that He will let you drift from Him again. Ye seek the Lord who was crucified. Fear not!
Are you seeking a closer identification with His death? Fear not!
There is no possibility of realizing the life which is life indeed, except through identification with the death and grave of Jesus. We must sink deep down into reunion with Him who lay there as our representative. But as God takes us at our word, and begins to strip us of all we had taken pride in; as the fear of what may be involved crosses our hearts with its chill dread—again we may be assured as we hear the angel say, “Fear not, ye who seek Jesus that was crucified.”
And when at last you are seeking to follow Him through the valley of shadow—Fear not! You will never see Him as He is, till this mortal is surrendered, and the house not made with hands entered. But if the heart faints, and the flesh fails, fear not ye, who through that mysterious change seek Jesus that was crucified, but now liveth forevermore at the right hand of God.
“And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.”
IN what different circumstances is the last Adam to the first! He began in a garden which the Lord God had planted; but his great Antitype in a wilderness, the thorns of which spoke of that primal sin. But whereas the first Adam transformed the garden into a wilderness, the last will convert all desert places into gardens—
whether they be in the heart, or the world around—so that they shall blossom as the rose.
To Adam the beasts came, that he might name them; but at the coming of the last Adam they were wild. “He was with the wild beasts.” Yet they were tame to his pure manhood. “He had dominion over the works of God’s hands.” On his brow the crown of royalty over the inferior races, which man had lost, was already placed. Is it not also true that holy men still have power over the lower creation? Certainly Francis of Assissi had. And in the ages, yet future, the children shall play, unhurt, amid the wild beasts of the forest.
Again it is true of thee, O son of man, that, like thy Lord, thou art between the wild beasts and the angels. On the one side thou touchest the lower, and on the other the higher. At every moment thou art called to choose between these twain. Thy body calls thee this way, and thy spirit that. Be sure to deny the lower appetites; rule them; be king and lord in the realm of thy soul. Make them crouch around thee, as the lions of Daniel’s den. Get thy Lord to master them for thee. Else thou wilt miss the angels of God, who come to encamp around thee, and minister to thee, as one of the heirs of salvation. Was it here that Christ learned to contrast His homelessness with the lairs of the beasts?
“And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.”
AH, our Lord! Thou hast been speaking of the bridegroom and His coming to the Feast. Thou remindest us of the olden comparison of Thy love as better than wine, and of Thy first miracle at Cana of Galilee. May Thy love be poured into our hearts as the fresh juice crushed from the grapes! We have no love of our own to offer Thee: but, oh, pour Thy love into hearts that yearn to love Thee with Thy love. And let it not be only the memory of the love that was, but the living, fresh enjoyment of the love that is ever new. The new wine of Thy love is what we long for, that it may sweep into our hearts as the spring tide along the golden sands, which it frees from their accumulation of debris and waste.
Oh for the constraints of Thy love—new, fresh, living!
But the Master says, Children, if you have your request, the new wine may refuse to take on with the old shapes; it will make for itself new channels and forms of manifestations; when others fast, you will feast; when others feast, you will be sad. You will be counted eccentric and peculiar. Men will murmur at you, and find fault. They may even cast you out of their churches and social circles.
There is but one answer: Leave us not to ourselves. Permit us not to follow the promptings and suggestions of our undisciplined wills; but provide for us the new wine-skins also. Show us what Thou wouldst have us be and do; and let the methods in which our hearts’ devotion shall express itself be so lovely, so befitting, so helpful to the world, and so full of God, that men may recognize Thy hand, and adore Thee. Let not Thy love be spilled, but stored for the refreshment of others through our lives. Oh, give us love!
“And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,”
THIS is the threefold work of the Church, and of each disciple.
That we might be with Him: The Master dearly loves our company. Let us seek it more. Not necessarily praying, or praising, or learning—but just being quietly with Him. It was said of a holy man, Mons de Rentz, that his union and converse with God were so wonderful, that after he had spent several hours therein, he found himself in the end as if he had only then begun it, except only that he had then yet more desire to continue it. And at length he arrived to that height that it seemed as though he never ended it at all; being wholly and constantly in inward recollection and application to God. After whose example let us press, that we may enjoy like near approach to God, and our lives be suitably ordered for His glory.
That He might send them forth to preach: He cannot come forth from the secret chamber of eternity to preach, as once He was wont to do; and therefore He is ever raising up voices, witnesses, lips which He teaches how to speak, and touches with His live coal.
Has He not sent you forth, if not by lip, yet by life to bear witness to His love? Like the seraphim, if you have two pair of wings for reverent modesty, you have at least one pair for flight. Oh, breathe the prayer, “Send me.”
That they might have authority over demons: The power of Satan is strong; it mastered Adam, but it met more than its match in the Christ-nature. If that nature is regnant in you, you, too, will have power over all the power of the enemy. Nothing shall by any means hurt you, and you will be able to deliver others who have long been held captive.
“And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”
THERE is enough nutriment in the land for the thorns alone or for the wheat alone, but not for both; and so there is a brief struggle for mastery, in which the sturdy weed prevails against the slender wheat, and chokes it. Nourishment which should go to its support is drained away from it; and though it does not actually expire, it leads a struggling existence, and becomes unfruitful.
What are these weeds?
For the poor man—Cares: The Greek word for care is Division.
Cares divide our heart, and distract it in many different directions.
What shall we eat? What shall we drink? Wherewithal shall we be clothed? How shall we meet our rent and other expenses? It is almost impossible to settle to our prayer, or Bible-study, or Christian work, or to the culture of the soul-life, while questions like these intrude. What shall the poor man do to prevent the Word from becoming unfruitful? He must take his cares to his Father, and by one act deposit them in His safe-keeping. And thereafter, as a care tries to break in on the peace of his heart, he must treat it as a positive temptation, handing it over to God.
For the prosperous man—Riches: They will distract as much as anxiety does. How much they amount to! Oh, the endless figurings in the brain—how to keep, or invest, or increase. The case for him is to look on all he has as a stewardship for God, deducting only a moderate percentage for himself.
For us all—Lusts: Strong and inordinate desires for what may be right in itself, but which we follow with extravagant zest. What is right in itself may become wrong if we put it in God’s place, and allow it to monopolize us unduly. Oh, Great Husbandman, root up the thorns by Thy Holy Spirit!
“While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?”
WHAT hopelessness! They had watched the sweet flower fade, till no color was left on the pale cheek, and the merry voice was still; and then they thought of the Galilean Teacher: “Why cost Him time and trouble? His visit will be useless now! It was very kind of Him to be willing to come! But it is now of no use! Very kind; but no use.”
We go to God in comparatively small trials, and think He can help us. But there are times when we say: It is no use troubling further, we must just bear our trial as well as we can; God Himself cannot help us. Can He give back that twin-soul? Can He restore the love that has died out? Can He undo this unhappy marriage?
Can He deliver from that lifelong paralysis? Life is extinct; hope is dead; the light has dipped below the horizon. It is no use to trouble God or man. We have no alternative but to suffer till eternity explains the mysteries of time.
But Jesus knows the way out. He says in His sweet undertone,
“Fear not! Only believe.” He has the keys of death. He never would have let things come to this awful pass by His delay unless He had known that, even if the worse came to the worst, all would end well. He has purposely delayed till this, that He might have the better opportunity of showing you what God can do. Fear not! The hand of the Almighty Saviour has yours within its grasp. He will not let you stumble as you go down this dark staircase by His side.
Only believe: have faith in Him. All may seem very mysterious now, but you will come to see that it was the wisest and best after all. You shall yet clasp to your heart the lost one, arrayed in resurrection beauty.