“Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.”
MANY had called her by that name. She had been wont to hear it many times a day from many lips; but only One had spoken it with that intonation. In His mouth its familiar syllables had a sweetness and tenderness which lingered in her heart; as the fragrance of the Roumanian rose valley clings for many a day to the clothes of those who have entered it.
Her eyes had deceived her. Startled by the sudden glad expression which had passed over the features of the angels, who sat sentry in the sepulchre, she had turned herself back to see the source from which the radiance had gleamed; but even with that hint to help her, she had failed to recognize her Lord. But her ear could not mistake; the voice carried immediate recognition.
We sigh sometimes for “the touch of a vanished hand, and the sound of a voice that is still”; but we shall hear those voices again.
Our mortal body is to be fashioned according to the body of Christ’s resurrection; and evidently in that body there were the old familiar tones. May we not, therefore, certainly infer that the voices which welcome us on the other side will be those that hushed us with their lullabies when we were babes: asked us for our love and assured us of theirs when we attained maturity; whispered their dying messages in our ears, and sent us their Godspeed as we went down into the river?
The Master knows our names, and calls His own followers by them. There is one response, which He waits to elicit, one which alone will satisfy Him; one in which the love and devotion of a life may be summed up. Like Mary, let us turn and say to Him: Rabboni! that is, Master!
“Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.”
THIS miracle was also a parable. When we go fishing apart from Jesus, we may indeed toil all the night and take nothing.
But when through the darkness Jesus comes, and speaks to us across the wave, and tells us where to let down the nets; when we are in blessed partnership with Himself; when, though we see Him not, we obey His slightest promptings—then the nets are filled to their uttermost.
Those who are loved, love: It was the consciousness that Jesus loved him which made John the Apostle of Love. Love casts such a wondrous spell over its objects, that they begin to shine in its rays and reflect them. Nothing will make a coal glow with heat but to plunge it into the heart of the fire. Do you want to love the Lord Jesus?—dwell on His love to you.
Those who love Christ see Him: Not Peter, the man of eager action, but John, the man of devoted love, saw the Master amid the haze that lay on the lake shore. Love will penetrate every disguise; will detect Him by the slightest sign; will strip from our eyes the film that sense and sin draw over them. If you loved Him more, you would see His hand in that disappointment, that crushing sorrow.
Those who seek Christ cannot keep it to themselves: They must tell it out to their next companion, with beating heart and thrilling speech. John said unto Peter, It is the Lord. How often has the affirmation of a pensive, quiet heart been the torch to ignite all the soul of another, who was more fitted to execute than plan? Is not this what we may all experience as we draw near to eternity? Shall we not see Jesus standing on the shore, with preparations beyond all thought, to welcome us as we arrive from the night cruise
“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”
THIS is the mission of Immanuel. He came, not as the Jews expected, to break the yoke of Caesar and re-establish the kingdom of David; but to break the yoke of sin, and set up the sinless kingdom of God. The Church has too often misunderstood the object of His advent, as though He meant simply to save from the consequences and results of sin. This were too limited a programme for the Son of God. To cancel the results and leave the bitter cause; to deliver from the penalty, but not from the power; to rescue His people from the grasp of a broken law, but confess Himself unable to deal with the bad virus of the blood—this were to fail. No; dare to take this announcement in its full and glorious meaning, written as it is on the portico of our Saviour’s life.
What an admixture of blood flowed through His veins! Let your eyes glance through the list of His genealogy. Men and women, notorious for their evil character, lie in the direct line of His descent. This was permitted, that He might fully represent our fallen race; that no sinner, however bad, should be abashed to claim His help; and that it should be clearly shown how powerless sin was to tarnish or taint the holiness of His sinless nature. Made in the likeness of sinful flesh, He knew no sin. The germs of corruption could find no welcome in His heart.
Art thou one of His people? Hast thou accepted His rule, and allied thyself with Him? For if so, He shall save thee. Though possessed with seven devils, He will drive them out.
“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”
GOLD is for the king. It is meet that Matthew should tell this story: for his is pre-eminently the royal Gospel. Long before the Lord was born, these Eastern sages must have been started on their way, whither and to worship whom they knew not: but an ancient prophecy had foretold that to this babe should be offered of the gold of Sheba, and that kings should bring Him the riches of the Gentiles.
How useful this gold was to Joseph in the following months! It helped him to defray the cost of the journey into Egypt and back, and to maintain his precious charges there. The Heavenly Father knew what those needs would be, and met them by anticipation. If you concern yourself in the affairs of His kingdom, and will obey the warnings and directions He gives; if you dare to step out on the path of literal obedience—you will find that God will become responsible and defray all costs. Gold is naught to Him. He can make it out of common dust by a word.
It is sweet to think of all the gold presented to Jesus in after ages. The wealth of the rich, the golden ornaments taken from the person, the tiny pieces of gold which represent the patient savings of the poor—all these have made up the flowing river of which those golden gifts of the Magi were the first trickling drops. Have you given gold to Him, you who know Him, not as the babe only, but as the Man of the Cross; not as man merely, but as the Son of the Highest? You may have given Him copper in abundance, and silver in handfuls; but let your future gifts to Him be of the best.
Or, if poverty restrains you, let the philosopher’s stone of Love turn the meaner metals to gold.
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,”
THE Evangelist is fond of the present tense, “cometh.” Yes, these records are true for all time. You tell me that they happened nineteen centuries ago. Certainly; but they happened yesterday, and are happening today. Remember that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He was, and is, and is to come. Christ was born into the world, but He is always being born into the hearts of men in Regeneration. John preceded and announced His advent in the wilderness of Judaea; and He is always preparing His way into the hearts and lives of men. It is doubtful whether Jesus ever comes into the heart of mature manhood without the previous work of a John the Baptist. Of days of conviction of sin, of remorse, of repentance, we may truly say, “In those days cometh John the Baptist.”
John the Baptist is sadly needed today. Much of what we call Christianity is but Christianized heathenism. It glozes over covetousness, luxurious self-indulgence, compliance with fashion and worldliness; it admits into its high places men who thrive on the oppression of the poor; it condones the oppression of the native races, the sale of opium and spirits, the shameless traffic in impurity; it rears the ideals of the world in the place of the changeless cross of the slain Christ with its divine sorrow and blood. Ah, we need that John the Baptist should come with his stern words about the axe, the winnowing-fan, and the fire.
Nothing less will avail to prepare the way for a new coming of Christ.
Each age has had its John the Baptist. Now St. Bernard; now Savonarola; now John Knox. With sonorous, ringing voice the herald has prepared the way of the King: “He cometh to judge the world!”
“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.”
YESTERDAY, the open heavens; today, the burning cinders of the wilderness of temptation. Then the voice of the Father owning Him as the Well-beloved; now the hiss of the tempter. Then the teeming crowds; now the desert solitude and silence, broken only by the cry of the wild beast. Then the Spirit as a nesting dove, but now as a compelling force. Wherever there is the Christ-life, it passes through these same experiences. The Holy Spirit often anticipates coming trial by granting some great revelation of God; but He who gives the one leads into the other, that the precious bestowments of God’s grace may be rendered permanent.
Would you give the bread of life to thousands? You must refuse to use your opportunity to make bread for your own gratification.
You cannot use your power for others and for yourself. If you elect to use it for them, you must be content to wait till the Father sends His angels to minister to you. In the meanwhile live by faith on His words.
Would you teach the magnificence of a faith that can trust God to preserve it, though it steps from the mountain brow on to thin air? You must refuse to use it for purposes of ostentation; and wait till God, not Satan, calls.
Would you win the kingdoms of the world? You must obtain them, not by methods which commend themselves to human prudence, but through the death on the cross and the falling into the ground to die. There are two mountains in the Gospel: this, as it opens; that of the Ascension at its close. The valley of death lies between. But the traversing of this valley was necessary, ere Christ could say, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.”
“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
WE are made sons by regeneration, through faith in the Son; but we are called to make our calling and election sure—to approve and vindicate our right to that sacred name. We can only do this by showing in word and act that the Divine life and principles animate us.
Jesus teaches that the life of God in the hearts of His children will show itself in pure and unaffected love. He says in effect,
“God is good: God forgives: God bears with wrong and sin: God loves those who hate Him, blesses those who curse, bestows His favours on the false and unjust, suffers long and is kind; believes, hopes, bears all things. Therefore, if you are His children, do as He does, as I do: follow Me: live as I live: become as a bird, a lily, a little child: be pure, merciful, lowly, gentle, strong in righteousness—and you will be called the sons of God; yours will be the kingdom of heaven.”
There were several things the Lord could not say fully in this opening statement. That obedience to His precepts would inevitably conduct them to a cross; that the strength for such a life could only be secured through the coming of the Comforter; that the progress of the Kingdom would be slow and arduous—these things were for the time veiled and hidden. But His main object was to teach that Christianity must be a life after the model of God’s. Christian disciple, art thou living this life? Not by a creed, a ritual, a profession; but by living the life, is thy true nature discerned, whether thou art wheat or tare, child or hypocrite.
Sometimes we are called to be as the sun, ripening souls by our genial love; at other times we refresh them as rain watering the grass.
“That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”
HOW fondly Jesus repeats these words (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18).
Though compelled to live so much in the public gaze of men, His heart was always sighing for the secret place of fellowship with His Father, who waited for Him there.
Of course, the main object of these paragraphs was to withdraw His disciples from the excessive outwardness of the age in which He spoke, and which necessarily detracted from the singleness, directness, and simplicity of the religious life. It is impossible to perform our religious duties before men, without insensibly considering what impression we are producing, and how far their estimation of us is being enhanced. And in so far as we seek these things, the stream is contaminated with mud and silt, and becomes turbid. We have just as much religious life as we show to God in secret—just that, no less, no more. Whatever is not wrought between thee and God, with no record but His eye, is chaff which the wind driveth away.
Here is a test for our alms, our prayers, and our fasting from sin and self-indulgence. If we do any of these to maintain or increase the consideration that men have of us, they count for nothing in the eye of God. But whatever is done for Him alone will secure His inevitable notice and reward. Dwell on that very definite assurance:
“Shall recompense thee.” There is no doubt about it. For every petition breathed into His ear; for every sigh and tear; for every abstinence from sin and self—there will be a certain recompense, after the Divine measure. Such seeds shall have a prolific harvest.
Seek then the secret place; where prying eyes cannot follow, and curious ears cannot overhear.
“For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
THIS is an invariable principle. Christ did not make it true by saying it; He said it because it was true. There are at least three policies of life—that of the churl, who never gives unless he is compelled; of the niggard, who metes out from the tiniest measure on which he can lay hands; of the bountiful man, who is ever meting out his stores with lavish hand. If he gives, it is to his uttermost; if he loves, it is with all his heart; if he forgives, he crowns the forgiven one with loving kindness; if he puts his hand to constructing aught, every part of it bears trace of the wealth of his taste, and gift, and self-sacrifice.
It might be supposed that such a policy would lead to bankruptcy of resources and speedy impoverishment; and for fear of this most refrain from adopting it. They either do not give, or give stintingly and fearfully. But the remarkable fact is, that when a man is using this large measure toward others, they catch it up and fill it with their bountifulness toward him. They mete out their love and gifts according to the measure of his giving. This is an invariable principle: begin serving men with a miser’s hand, and they will do the same to you; begin, on the contrary, by serving men without stint, and they will do the same to you.
Live a royal life, child of God, as becomes such a Father. Give, expecting nothing again, with full measure, pressed down, and running over. Give, not so much money, as love, and tenderness, and human sympathy: give as one who is always receiving from the boundless resources of God. And, provided always that thy motives are pure, it will come back to thee. God will see thee bountifully rewarded.
“For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.”
THE centurion’s faith set Christ marvelling. First, because it was found in such an unlikely place. Here was a Gentile who had come from the West, and was sitting down with Abraham in the Kingdom of God. Secondly, because of its greatness: “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.”
This Roman officer applied to our Lord principles with which he was cognizant through his connection with the army. He knew that he had no power over other men in his individual capacity, or apart from his organic connection with the machinery of government. If he said to one man Come; to another Go; to his servant Do this, and his command was immediately obeyed—it was entirely due to his own obedience, in turn, to the authority which was over himself. So long as he obeyed that authority, he represented it; and it passed through him to compel obedience to his commands. This is the principle he applied to our Lord.
He recognized that Jesus of Nazareth was always acting under the authority of His Heavenly Father, and he inferred, therefore, that He could wield the power of God as he could that of Rome. As the authority of the Caesars flowed through his own yielded life, so the authority of God over diseases, demons, and all else, would flow through Christ’s.
What a profound principle is here! Learn to obey, and you shall rule. Yield yourself absolutely to God, and God’s power shall pass through your heart and life. Be under Divine authority, and you shall be able to say, Go, come, do this. All things serve the man who serves Jesus Christ. Absolute consecration to God, as a soldier is surrendered to his country, is the condition of power.
“But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.”
WHOLENESS and holiness are identical: the one of the body; the other of the soul. They are closely related to the word Health, and all may be procured through faith. Holiness, wholeness of heart, health—and all by faith. There are three steps to this blessed state—of wholeness of soul.
First, we must believe that it is attainable. For we never feel morally bound to do, attempt, or choose, what we do not believe to be within our reach. But all questions on the matter are settled forevermore by such words as, “Be ye holy, for I am holy”; and
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”
Second, we must consecrate ourselves to God. In other words, by the help of the Holy Spirit, we must determine and resolve that we will be wholly the Lord’s. We must come to a fixed resolve to break off from every known sin; to walk, so far as we know them, in the way of God’s commandments; to be and do and suffer all His righteous will. This must be our deliberate resolve for all coming time; and if we are unable to make the resolve, through the frailty of our nature and the strength of our old sins, we must at least tell God that we are willing for this to become our unvacillating attitude.
Third, we must believe, absolutely, that God does accept the consecration we have made, and will do all that He has promised, by infilling us with His Holy Spirit, and working in us that which is pleasing in His sight. Nay, we must not only believe that He will do it, we must ask and claim that He should do it; we must, like this woman, touch Christ and obtain His healing virtue.