“Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”
THE seal is the mark of authentication. The Book of Esther often refers to the importance of the royal seal as giving validity and authenticity to documents to which it was appended.
So at the waters of Jordan God authenticated our Lord; firstly by the voice that spoke from heaven, and secondly by the holy anointing that came upon His head, setting Him apart for holy service. What the Father did for His Son, He does for His sons.
“He that stablisheth us with you into Christ, and anointed us, is God, who also sealed us.” In other words, God waits to authenticate us to ourselves and to the world, as His beloved children, in whom He is well pleased.
The conditions of sealing: In the case of our Lord there was entire subjection to the Father’s will, although it involved His leaving the blessed home of Nazareth and identifying Himself with the sins and sorrows of men, by baptism in waters where they had confessed their sins. We, too, must be prepared to obey utterly, even to death.
The agent of sealing: The Spirit descended and abode upon Him; He was filled with the Spirit, and returned in His power to Galilee.
We, too, are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise; who stamps us with the die of our Saviour ’s image and superscription.
Simultaneously with His gracious work upon us, we may detect His loving voice within us, witnessing with our spirits that we are children of God.
The effect of sealing: Secrecy, safety, and assurance. Secrecy, Song 4:12. Safety, Mat 27:65-66. Assurance, Rom 8:15, Rom 8:16, Rom 8:17. There is also a daily assimilation, though we know it not, to the glorious likeness of our Lord; so that those who see us bear witness that His name is on us.
“(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)”
CALVARY must precede the Ascension, and both must come before Pentecost. The glorified Lord was the text on which the Spirit was to discourse, and the text must be complete before the sermon can commence. Moreover, it was only when our Lord had ascended to the right hand of the Father, that He could receive or transmit the Divine Comforter. It was needful for Him to be by the right hand of God exalted, before He could ask for and receive, and shed forth the Holy Spirit of promise. The one Paraclete must finish His work, and be withdrawn, ere the other could come to take up and finish His work on earth. The Son must sit down on the throne, or the Spirit could not descend to sit on each of the disciples.
But there is a deep inner lesson for us all in these words. We sometimes wonder why we have not received the Spirit, and why our lives are not channels through which He pours in mighty rivers to make desert hearts and lives blossom and sing. How gladly would we part with all beside, if we might be conscious that not tiny streamlets, not one river of holy influence merely, but that rivers were issuing from us as the waters from the temple threshold!
Is not the reason to be sought in our neglect to glorify Christ?
We have never yet abandoned ourselves to Him, content to live the branch-life, with no other aim than to realize the one purpose of His most blessed life, the glorifying of the Father. We have never seriously made it our life-purpose to glorify the Lord Jesus. There has been no triumphal entry into our hearts, no enthronization, no challenge to the gates of our soul that they should lift themselves up to admit the King of Glory.
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;”
1. WE shall be approved as Christ’s disciples. “Then are ye truly My disciples.” Of some the Master asks, “Why call ye Me, Lord, lord, and do not the things which I say?” And He drives these from Him, saying, “I never knew you.” His words are the supreme test—the fire which detects the ore; the winnowing-fan that finds out the wheat. Our treatment of our Lord’s words discriminates us: He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, is he that loveth Me.
2. We shall know the truth. God teaches us differently from men.
They deal in peradventures and surmises; He with certainties—“Ye shall know the truth.” They talk about the truth; He gives us the thing itself, and we know because we possess. They deal with circumstances and externals; He with the heart and root of matters.
They give to the mind and soul; He to the spirit. We know the truth, because the Truth is in us, and we are in the Truth. “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true.”
3. We shall be free. “The truth shall make you free.” Just as we are free from the terrors which belief in witchcraft and ghosts was wont to breed, because we know that the spirits of the dead do not haunt dark and dangerous places; just as we no longer fear the fatuous light over the marsh, or the death-tick, because science has attributed these to natural causes; so, as Jesus teaches us the truth about God, and the future, and the forgiveness of sins, and the broken power of Satan, and the impotence of death, we are delivered from the bondage of fear, and walk with God in perfect peace.
“I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”
IS not this exceedingly tender and beautiful? The Lord does not hesitate to describe Himself as specially designated to do a certain work. In every part of this Gospel He speaks of Himself as the sent One; but He graciously conjoins His disciples and friends in it, saying, We must work. It is as though He said, “I have a designated work which must needs be done; but I cannot do it alone. We must do it, you and I, together.”
Fellowship with God the Father is the law of all industry. Every crop that goldens in the summer wind is due to the summons of the God of Nature to the husbandman, “Come and let us work together, thou and I.” Every achievement in factory or mill of textile fabrics is due to the combination of the Divine laws and the human agency. We must work, is God’s constant appeal.
Fellowship with the Son is the law of the Kingdom. We have been called into the fellowship or partnership of the Son of God.
He does not say, Go, but come; not, Do this, but, Let us do it. He has set His heart on the glory of the Father, and He calls us to cooperate with Him in bringing back men to God. In some way we must contribute to the final result on which Christ has set His heart.
Fellowship with the Holy Spirit is the law of all successful service. The closing words of the benediction that refer to the communion of the Holy Spirit are specially significant. “We are witnesses, and so is also the Holy Ghost.” The Spirit and the Bride say Come. As Peter began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell. Oh for pure hands and a clean heart, that we may be worthy of this Divine confederacy!
“And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true.”
THIS is full of rare interest and beauty. John the Baptist had been dead some two years at least, and the memory of good men is apt quickly to pass from the mind of their contemporaries, especially when they are eclipsed by some greater successor. Who thinks of the morning star when the sun has risen! But as the crowds came back again on the spot so closely identified with Christ’s forerunner, he was recalled to mind; and they used of him the words ascribed to them in our text.
Your life may be without miracle. It may pass on with nothing to distinguish it above the lives of myriads around. There is no sensation-making note in your voice; no extraordinary intellectual calibre in your mind; no aptitude for wielding vast influence over the crowds. The years pass on with even monotony. Life is one dead level.
But mind you, speak true words of Jesus Christ. Point to Him and say, Behold the Lamb of God! Say of Him, This is He that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. Announce Him as the Bridegroom, and be content to be the Bridegroom’s friend. Say that He has His winnowing-fan and axe in hand. Be careless what men think of your accent, your gestures, your way of stating the truth; but go on bearing witness to what you have known, tasted, and handled of the Word of Life.
After your death, your words may come to mind again, and be the means of bringing souls to the Lamb of God. As corn-seeds, buried in mummy-cases, now bloom on English soil, so may words be carried in the memory through long years, and bear fruit after the speaker’s death. What an epitaph for the grave of a Christian minister or teacher!
“Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?”
YES, we shall see the glory of God. We shall see the graves give up their dead—not only at the last day, but now. Thousands around us are dead in trespasses and sins, in which they walk according to the course of this world. Alas! more than this, they stink in the putridity of their lives and speech. Around their graves gather their friends and relatives, bathed in tears, but unable to arrest the progress of decay. But, if we will believe, we shall see the glory of God.
But how shall we believe in this? It seems easy for some to believe.
The Marys who sit at the Lord’s feet, feeding on His words, find the life and light of faith in His beloved presence. But others, like Martha, are distracted with so many things, that faith seems impossible. And this is the very point where this story is so abundantly helpful. Jesus must have the cooperation and sympathy of someone’s faith before this miracle could be wrought—and these He found, not in Mary, as we might have expected, but in Martha, the harassed housewife.
In educating Martha to this stupendous act of faith,
(1) The Lord gave her a distinct promise: “Thy brother shall rise again.”
(2) He drew her attention from Lazrus to Himself, who lay beneath and behind them: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”
(3) He forced her to confess her faith. To express it would confirm and increase it: “Believest thou this?”
(4) He compelled her to act on the faith He had created, by allowing the bystanders to remove the stone. All her soul woke up as she remarked these preparations for her brother’s resurrection.
She believed; and in her faith gave the Lord the pivot on which His leverage might rest.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”
THE East came to the cradle; the West to the Cross. Sunrise becomes the Orient; sunset the Occident wave. These were not Hellenist Jews, but pure-blooded Greeks, whose life and philosophy were in the present, in as much joy as nature, art, and amusement could yield. It was startling to be met with the grave announcement of death. But how wise to send them to read that earliest divine book of nature. Hear the parable of the corn of wheat.
Its loneliness: Before sowing, it is by itself alone. It lies on the barn floor, beside myriads more, but there is no vital contact between it and them. They are just so many isolated units: as foreign to each other as the stars, between which millions of dividing miles intervene. So if you save your life, nursing it in selfishness, dreading and avoiding all that savors of self-denial and self-giving, you will be utterly and drearily lonely.
The falling into the ground to die: If we compare ourselves to a corn of wheat, we may say that the seed-germ cannot bury itself; but it can choose burial. It can be willing to be cast forth. It is not a pleasant experience for the little seed. As soon as it finds itself entombed, it is seized upon by chemical agents, which pierce and tear its delicate waterproof sheath, and eat their way to its vitals.
Death is no child’s play.
The fruit-bearing: Presently the rootlet shoots downward, the tiny frond upward, and, almost without knowing it, the stalk begins to blossom and bear fruit, which, with every sowing, reduplicates itself. Such may your life become, if you will let God have His way. Via Crucis, via lucis. The Way of the Cross is the Way of Light.