“Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.”
HEAVEN desired: We often say it. When the pressure of life seems unbearable; when the door opens just wide enough to admit our dearest, and shuts before we can follow; when we want to see Him whom we love—we find ourselves using Peter’s words again: “Why not now?”
Heaven delayed: “Thou canst not follow Me now.” The emphasis is on the cannot. It is as though the Master said, “The hindrance is not in some arbitrary edict of Divine power, but in the infinite knowledge and wisdom that cannot err.” Peter was not fit to go. There were lessons of the utmost importance waiting for him to acquire in the near future. He must learn to know himself, and Christ, and the grace of the Holy Spirit. When he proudly vaunted that he would lay down his life for Jesus, he gave incontestable evidence that he did not know himself; and there was every reason to think that he was similarly deceived when he supposed that he was fit to quit earth’s discipline, and enter on heaven’s blessed enjoyment. He must exchange his own strivings and resolvings for the gracious indwelling of the Spirit of Pentecost; he must learn the glorious energy of the indwelling Saviour; he must be girded by another, and carried whither he would not; and only then would the time of his putting off of the tabernacle of the body arrive.
Heaven guaranteed: “Thou shalt follow afterward.” There could be no doubt about it, since Jesus had said it; and often, in after days, these words must have been as a cordial, “Thou shalt follow afterward.” But what the Master said to Peter He says to each who believes, Thou shalt follow Me afterward, “unto fountains of waters of life.”
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.”
WERE we less familiar with these words, we should be more startled by their immeasurable meaning. One who seems a man asks all men to give Him precisely the same faith and confidence that they give to God. He would not abate His claims, though He was the humblest and meekest of men. And the irresistible conclusion is forced on us, that He was and knew Himself to be “God manifest in the flesh.”
1. Faith in Jesus is the cure of heart trouble. It is of little use to say, “Let not your heart be troubled,” unless you can add “Trust Christ.” Only if we can trust can we be still. Only if we can shift the responsibility of our life on the care of our never-failing Redeemer can weeping be exchanged for radiant and unspeakable joy.
2. Faith in Jesus conducts to the knowledge of God. “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.” Philip said,
“Show us the Father.” Jesus answered, “Believe, and thou dost behold.” The world says, Seeing is believing; Jesus says, Believing is seeing. The true way to know God is, not by arguing about or seeking to verify His existence by intellectual processes, but by obeying the precepts of Jesus; following the footsteps of Jesus; holding fellowship with Jesus.
3. Faith in Jesus will make our lives the channel through which He can work. “He that believeth on Me, the works,” etc. (John 14:12-14). The Gospels are included in the one clause; the Acts and all the marvels of the following ages in the other. Jesus is always the worker; and the man who yields himself most utterly to Him in obedience and faith, will become the channel through which He will work most mightily.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”
THE unity between the Lord and His members is beautifully set forth in this exquisite parable; which was perhaps suggested by the swaying of a vine in the evening air, as they essayed to go from the upper room toward Gethsemane. In certain conservatories the plant branches are trained along roof or wall for vast distances; yet one life pervades the whole plant, from the rugged root to the furthest twig and leaf and cluster. Thus there is one holy life pervading all who have belonged, or shall belong, to Jesus. They live because He lives. His life is theirs.
We are in Christ by grace; but we need to realize and accentuate the union by meditation and prayer. We need to
wait more absolutely for His impulses in intercession and action.
be silent for Him to speak.
draw on Him by the constant appeal of faith, which becomes as natural as breathing.
look away to Him for His commendation.
seek only His verdict on what may have been said and done.
be so closely joined to Him, that He may produce in and through us whatever fruit He will for the refreshment of men and the glory of God.
We are in Christ forever, so far as our standing is concerned; but we may be “taken away,” so far as our opportunities of ministry are concerned. How many of us have failed to be what He desired, so that He has had to bestow elsewhere the luxury of ministering to Him!
We are in Christ, not because we hold Him, but because He holds us; therefore we must expect the Father’s pruning. Yet do not dread the knife. It is His Word, wielded by a Father’s hand; and if we will yield to the golden pruning knife of the Word, we shall escape the iron one of sorrow.
“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:”
THRICE in these closing words the Master refers to that day (see John 14:20). Without doubt He refers to the Day of Pentecost, and the era it would introduce.
The Holy Spirit reveals the relation between the Father and the Son (John 14:20). And this not as a matter of speculation merely, but for our holy living. The model of our union with Jesus is His union with the Father. As He is in His Father in perpetual and most blessed union, so are we to be in Him.
The Holy Spirit’s presence answers our questions. “Ye shall ask Me nothing” (John 16:23). Whilst the Lord was with them, they were constantly breaking in on Him with their questions: “Lord, are there few that be saved?” “Wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom?”
“When shall these things be?” This is always the symptom of the earliest stage of the religious life—perpetual questioning and worrying. But when the Spirit comes, His presence is the sufficient answer. He does not teach our intellects to know the truth, but gives the truth to our hearts. We need not question, because we see; we possess; we can taste and handle for ourselves.
The Holy Spirit’s indwelling teaches us how to pray. “In that day, ye shall ask in My name” (John 16:26). To pray in Christ’s name is to let His nature pray in and through our lips. Of course such prayer prevails.
The one condition of successful prayer is to bring yourself into a line with the thoughts of God, to breathe His spirit, to be swayed by His impulses; this is only possible through the gracious operation of the Spirit of God. Has the blessed Day of Pentecost broken upon you? Do you live in its light? Have you received all it was meant to bring you?
“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:”
IN one form or another we are constantly asking the Father to glorify us. Glorify me, O Father, we cry, by giving me the largest congregation in the town; by commencing a great revival in my mission, by increasing my spiritual power, so that I shall be greatly sought after. Of course, we do not state our reasons quite so concisely; but this is really what we mean. And then we wonder why the answer tarries. Is it not because our Father dare not trust us with glory? He knows that we would become proud and self-conscious; that we would ascribe our success to the strength of our arm and the swiftness of our foot. Nothing would be more harmful to our Christian growth. But when we desire glory only that we may be able better to glorify Jesus, then there will be no stint in what He will confer on us. Glory, like a golden river, will pour into our hearts and lives.
Oh for this absorbing passion for the glory of Jesus! To be able to pray “Thy kingdom come,” without reference to our share in securing its advent. To be as glad when another scores a great success, as though it had been ourselves who had won the laurels.
To pray as eagerly for the success of others as of ourselves. Here is an ideal which seems inaccessible, as it ridicules all our natural attempts to win it. To be pleased to suffer, to fail, to be counted nothing and nobody, if only our dear Lord is extolled, exalted, and made very high—is this possible?
Do you choose it? Then be of good cheer. This is the hunger which God has promised to satisfy. He never shows you your lack of a grace without pledging Himself thereby to realize it for you.
Yes, this blessed experience shall come even to you. You shall be taught the blessed lesson of perfect love.
“Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.”
WELL might Pilate ask if Jesus was a king. Thou poor, weary, rejected Nazarene, art Thou a king? A strange contrast, surely, to the Herod that built those halls of judgment! Thy people, at least, fail to recognize Thy royalty! But Jesus did not abate His claims. “Thou sayest that I am,” He answered, “a king.” And as the ages have passed they have substantiated His claim.
The origin of His kingdom—“My kingdom is not of this world.”
The Lord did not mean, as His words have been too often interpreted, that His kingdom had nothing to do with this world; but that it did not originate here. The “of” means out of. Jesus is King, not by earthly descent, or human right, but by the purpose and counsel of the Father, who said, “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee: yet will I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion.”
The method of its promulgation—It is not spread by armed force. His servants do not fight. They are priests clad in the white robes of immaculate purity, and bearing aloft their banner with the inscription, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Like their Master, they bear witness to the truth; and as they do so those who are of the truth are attracted to the Lord as steel filings to the magnet.
There is true royalty in bearing witness to the Truth. Humbly we may appropriate our Master’s words: to this end were we born, and of this cause are we left in the world, that in every act and word we might bear witness to the Truth. As we do so, we manifest a royalty which is not of human gift or descent, but which has been communicated by the reception of the Christ-nature, through the regenerating grace of the Holy Ghost.
“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”
COMPARING the Gospels, we discover that these words were said “with a loud voice.” It was the shout of a conqueror, who has fought through a long and terrible day, but greets victory as evening closes in.
Finished, the long line of sacrificial rile: From the gates of Eden the blood of sacrifice had begun to flow, augmented by the confluent streams of the years. From that moment, however, not another drop need be shed. The types were finished now that the Antitype had been realized.
Finished, His fulfilment of prophecy: How contradictory some had seemed! Ancient of Days, yet a babe; the Mighty God. yet marred of visage, and led to the slaughter; Son of Man, yet scion of David’s stock; ruling in the midst of enemies, yet a bruised and broken Sufferer. But all of them, even to the last pathetic intimation of His dying thirst, fulfilled.
Finished, His mortal life: Never again to be weary, hungered, tempted, buffeted, or to bear the contradiction of sinners. Never again to sweat the bloody sweat, or bear the accumulated faults of men. Nevermore to die.
Finished, a world’s redemption: He had wrought out and brought in a perfect salvation. The world, so far as God could make it so, was already reconciled. Sin was put away.
Finished, the perfect obedience: He alone of all born of woman was able to say that there was nothing which the Father had asked that He had not given; nothing that the Father had imposed that He had not gladly borne. He had finished the work given Him to do.