Translate

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

THE GREATEST PROPHET

THE GREATEST PROPHET


One of the utmost glories of the Hebrew nation was its long line of prophets. The function of the prophet may be gathered from the varied names by which these men were called. One or two instances will suffice. The prophet was called “a seer," (1 Sam 9:9) that is, simply, one who sees. He was also called “man of God," (1 Sam 9:6) that is, a man wholly devoted to God, and therefore speaking with authority the messages of God. And yet again, he was called “man of the Spirit," (Hosea 9:7) that is, one through whom the Spirit declared the will and purpose of Jehovah. The prophetical order commenced with Samuel, and in the marvelous succession were such men as Elijah, and Elisha, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. Splendid as was this succession, none among them was greater than the last of the long line, John the Baptist, who was also the immediate forerunner of Jesus.
In common with all his predecessors in the prophetic office, John's message resulted from his vision. He saw clearly, and therefore spoke with authority. The message which aroused the whole nation was the outcome of the clear seeing of this man, wholly devoted to the will of God. Undeceived by the accidental and external in the condition of his nation, HIS VISION WAS OF THE TRUE MORAL CONDITION, and gave birth to his message. When his work was approaching its termination, A NEW VISION, that of the Savior, was granted to him, and his last and mightiest utterances were concerning the sent Christ. It is of deep in­terest and undoubted value to consider his view of Christ, at this crisis in his work.
How important this vision is, may be argued from the manner in which Luke introduces him. "Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturxa and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came unto John." (Luke 3:1-2) One Roman emperor, one Roman governor, three tetrarchs, and two high priests are all made use of, to mark the hour in which the word came to John.
Incidentally this is an illuminative illustration of the Divine perspective in human history. To the men of the day, any one of the great men named would have counted for far more than the man of the wilderness; but in the economy of God, they are simply used to mark the hour in which the most important event of the period hap­pened, that namely of the coming to a man of the word of God, which announced the advent of His Son. The greatness of John in the estimate of heaven, is revealed by the fact that the word of God passed emperor, governor, tetrarchs, and high priests, and came to him; and the men­tion of these facts proves how important was the message of this man, to whom was given the high honor of utter­ing the word which announced the fulfillment of the aspira­tions of the past, and the merging of one dispensation of government into a new and a better.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

PHYSICAL PERFECTION

PHYSICAL PERFECTION

"There is no beauty that we should desire Him;" Isa. 53:2


Now let us turn to the PHYSICAL PERFECTION of Jesus. When will some inspired artist give us a true picture of this glorious Man? He is almost always depicted as frail in physical form, having long hair, and lacking in bodily beauty. Perhaps the German artist, Hoffmann, has come nearest to the true ideal. It may be argued that the prophet Isaiah declared, "There is no beauty that we should desire Him;" (Isa. 53:2) but surely the prophet did not mean that He would be devoid of beauty, but rather that men would be blind and would not  recognize the true type of Divine beauty. I strenu­ously hold that He was perfect in physical form and pro­portion. The body is the outward and visible sign of the inward and invisible spirit, and the perfect spirit of Jesus would form a perfect physical tabernacle in which He passed the probationary life.
In the letter to the Romans the apostle urges the saints "to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." (Rom. 12:1) That is the marginal reading, and catches the real thought of the writer. The spirit worships through the presentation of the body. The spirit expresses itself through the body. It will read­ily be conceded that the most plain and commonplace faces become transfused with light, when the spirit is in com­munion with God; and to grant the spiritual perfection of Jesus is of necessity to admit bodily perfection likewise. Marred with the furrows of sorrow and of pain His sacred face most surely was, yet in form and feature and fashion it was the fairest face of man the world has ever seen. Perhaps bent, and even at the last faltering with weariness, that sacred tabernacle of His spirit, and yet the boasted perfections of Greek gods were but human abortions by the side of the perfectly balanced physique of Jesus. In Him spirit was dominant, and all bodily powers were perfectly under control, within the sphere appointed in the Divine economy.
It follows that every piece of work that Jesus did in physical strength under the control of spiritual intelligence, was perfect work and this because He perfectly understood His work, was perfectly-able to do it, and rendered it in the perfect love of His heart to God. How delightful it is to meditate upon Him as He bent over His bench and made yokes and ploughs for the cultivation of the fields He so dearly loved, which stretched around the little village where He lived. It is worthy of remembrance that He used both plough and yoke as illustrations in His preaching. Think for a moment of the wonderful skill with which He would carry out His work. His knowledge of nature was such that He knew exactly the best wood to use for any given piece of work; and in the tree lying before Him, He read all the story of its growth, and knew the precision of its method, and so understood just how to cut it so as not to spoil it in the process. He knew, moreover, how to join it, so that in the joint the strength of each part should minister to the new strength of union. He was a perfect Workman, doing perfect work.
Perhaps apart from the Master, one of the most wonder­ful illustrations the world has ever had of perfection of spirit producing perfection of work was that of Stradivarius, the great, and may it not be said, the only, maker of the violin. Certain it is that his instruments have never been improved upon. When he was at work on them, he would pass into the woods, and placing his hands upon the trees would know by the very touch, which wood was best for each part of the musical mechanism. He discovered the tones of music in the fiber of the wood, with the result that he made a perfect instrument. In him there was the development of spirit on the side of music.
Now lift the thought, and remember that Jesus of Nazareth was not developed upon one side only, but was perfect in His understanding of all the methods of God in creation. See then how His work would be most perfect, every piece of carpentry passing from His shop, if men had but been able to appreciate it, thrilled with the energy of perfect manhood.
In Him there was an utter absence of disease. He had strength enough for the accomplishment of the divinely ordained work of the day. No more than that, for He was Man. Tired was He when the day was over, because His strength had been used for the day for which it was given. Tiredness is God's call to sleep which is Nature's sweet restorer. O perfect Man, perfect in spirit, having learning, loving always, obeying ever; perfect in body, with face of rarest beauty, and form of finest mold, express­ing in common daily tasks the thoughts of God and the perfections of eternity!
Then finally, and in a word, let it be remembered that He passed from those thirty years of privacy, PERFECT IN SPITE OF TEMPTATION. His had not been a life free from temptation. The old question asked in Eden was surely asked of Jesus, "Has God imposed limitations?" and the suggestions, listening to which the first of the race was ruined, were made to Him also, "This limitation of the carpenter's bench is cruel bondage." And yet there He remained while days multiplied into weeks, and weeks grew into months, and months passed on, until years had multiplied themselves to thirty. And even when perhaps the understated temptation of all came, the temptation to hurry on His own greatest work,  the temptation which coming to Moses and mastering him postponed deliverance for so long, He still remained, there  also learning obedience by the things which He suffered (Heb. 5:8), and  growing in favor with God, and men; until, responsive to the inward call, He left the seclusion and the privacy, and standing on the threshold of public work, with the waters of a death bap­tism, which He had shared in the grace of His heart with man, still clinging about Him, the silent heavens  broke into the language of a great music, as  the Almighty Father declared, "This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased."


Monday, January 15, 2018

PERFECT MAKEUP OF JESUS

PERFECT OF SPIRIT - EMOTION - WILL


We commence with SPIRIT, for that is the essential fact in man. For an understanding of the perfection of His Spirit again let the analysis of INTELLIGENCE, EMOTION, and will be accepted. In all of these, and in their combination, Jesus of Nazareth realized the Divine thought, and there­fore was ABSOLUTELY PERFECT.
In Him intelligence was unclouded. In the Divine economy there are three ways in which men may know God, through creation, through revelation, and through direct communication.
All these avenues were open to Jesus, and through them He saw all that was to be seen. To Him creation was an open book, revelation was radiant, and communication with God was immediate and uninterrupted. These things can be said of no other. Creation is not an open book to man. God is allowing him by the slow and tedious proc­esses of the centuries to learn to read its secrets. To Jesus all these secrets were apparent.
The REVELATION OF THE SCRIPTURES, while perfect in themselves, are not perfectly understood because of the clouding of man's intelligence, and it is out of his limitation that all the misinterpretation and misunderstanding of the cen­turies have risen. To Jesus all the words of revelation rang with the meanings of God, and He knew Him and understood His message in the holy writings.
The communication of men with God even of the saints, is intermittent and partial interfered with often by moods and frames. His was perpetual, the Divine voice sounding in the deepest consciousness of His soul, and He, answering with the naturalness of a child, in the immediate presence of the Father.
In this connection hear the testimony of the men of Nazareth. To this little village on the hills He had been taken as an infant on the return from Egypt, and there for the next twenty-eight years the greater part of His life was spent. At the age of twelve He had been taken to Jeru­salem, and in all probability had visited the Holy City each subsequent year; but most likely all the remaining months of the years were passed in Nazareth. The people of Nazareth would know Him perfectly. It was a little town standing out of the run of the ordinary traffic of the country. So far is it removed from the ordinary course of events that it seems as though no invading army has ever touched it; and there is great probability that the syna­gogue standing today is the very one in which the Lord read the words of the law. It was a small and unimpor­tant place, where in all likelihood everyone knew everyone else, and would be perfectly familiar with the boy who had grown up in the shop of the village carpenter, and had finally Himself succeeded His reputed father in the work of that shop.
At about thirty years of age, He had turned His back upon the village. After an absence of a few months He returned, and as His custom was, visited the synagogue on the Sabbath day. But now what He did was unusual and unexpected—He opened His mouth and began to speak to them, and as they listened to Him they were astonished; and immediately someone asked the question, "Whence hath this Man these things? And, what is the WISDOM that is given unto this Man?" (Mark 6:2)
To gather the full force of the question it is necessary to understand what they meant by WISDOM. According to Trench the word so0za, signifies clearness of understand­ing, and is a word used only "as expressing the highest and noblest." As these men of Nazareth listened to Him, what surprised them was that they heard in His teaching, such wisdom as was proof at once of great intellect, and great goodness.
There is a yet more remarkable statement recorded about Him in the Gospel of John. Coming from Galilee to Jerusalem He taught in the temple. Speaking here was a very different thing from speaking in the synagogue at Nazareth. Here were gathered and centered the light and scholarship of the day. Here a false accent, or a misquo­tation of ignorance, would immediately have been detected. When Savonarola came to Florence for the first time, his magnificent eloquence of conviction was counted nothing, because of the objectionable Lombardy accent. When Jesus passed from the villages to the metropolis, and opened His mouth to teach, surrounded by the most critical ears of His day, "the Jews therefore marveled, saying, How knoweth this Man LETTERS, having never learned?" (John 7:15) Now this word grammata, translated "LETTERS," is a most sig­nificant one. It only occurs in one other place in the New Testament, "And as he thus made his defense, Festus saith with a loud voice, Paul, thou art mad; thy much learning is turning thee mad." (Acts 26:24) Festus meant by the word "LEARNING" exactly what these men meant by "LETTERS." Festus detected in the speech of Paul, all that he had gained from his careful training. There was the accent of the school of Gamaliel, and it was this tone of knowledge that the Jews were astonished at in Jesus when they spoke of His knowing letters. "When they said, How knoweth this Man letters, having never learned,” they meant that He had never studied in the schools, and yet possessed all that the schools could give Him. The remarkable thing was that Jesus showed Himself familiar with the literary methods of His time, which were confined to the disciples of the popular teachers. He did not speak amongst them as an earnest and yet ignorant Man; but by His use of language, and His evident familiarity with the philosophies of the schools, He impressed the Jerusalem crowds, and in astonishment they exclaimed, "How knoweth this Man letters, having never learned?"
Men have to learn, to study, to go through processes of training, to obtain what He possessed without these proc­esses. To return to the Gospel of John, notice that He answered their question: "My teaching is not Mine, but His that sent Me. If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself." (John 7:16-17) While that passage is generally quoted as declaring a philosophy of Christian dis­cipleship, and while it has that application, it should never be forgotten that the first intention of the words is that of an answer to a question of the Jews, and is our Lord's ac­count of His knowledge of the things that astonished His hearers. The Man Who perfectly does the will of God is the Man Who understands all mysteries; and is familiar with facts which ordinary men only understand by long effort and study. The secrets that lie hidden in Nature, fallen man with clouded intelligence must search after; but God's unfallen Man will read them upon the open page of Nature, discovering immediately the deepest philosophy ­of life. Never let Christ be robbed of the royalty of intellectual kingship. He was in no sense ignorant or illiterate He never learned, for there was no necessity, for learning. LEARNING IS A PROCESS MADE NECESSARY BY THE FALL OF MAN, AND THE SIN OF THE RACE. God's perfect and unfallen Man needed no such.....process, being sinless; He knew letters without having learned. In Him was most perfectly ful­filled the wonderful words "The secret of Jehovah is with them that fear Him." (Psa. 25:14) THIS KNOWLEDGE IS POSSIBLE FOR OTHER MEN.
This intelligence operated not only in the realm of Na­ture, but in keen and marvelous accuracy of understanding of the inner secrets of other human lives. As John de­clares, “He needed not that anyone should bear witness concerning man; for He Himself knew what was in man." (John 2:25) Telepathy and thought-reading are great mysteries to the mind of men today, mysteries towards the solution of which a few are bending all their mental power, while the rest watch, and smilingly imagine that they are either playing tricks, or are themselves being tricked. And yet this whole realm of the communication of the mind of man with the mind of man is part of the estate lost through sin. In it Jesus was at home. He knew the thought of sin, and the lustful desire, and the hidden malice, and the trembling aspiration after God; and to watch carefully His dealings with the varied men and women, who crossed His pathway, is to see the method of an intelligence the caliber of which cannot be understood, for He read the inner thought of the heart of each as an open book.
Let workers for God in dealing with individual souls ever keep this in mind. He knows the secret of the heart of the one to whom the worker is talking. There are times when in dealing with men of intellectual mold there has come the temptation of imagining that Jesus of Naza­reth was not able perfectly to satisfy the capacity of their great minds; shame on all such unworthy doubt. Be it ever remembered that Jesus, the Son of Mary, was Prince of scholars, Master of learning, King of wisdom, His ene­mies being His witnesses. He had the gpammata, the wisdom of letters, which they so coveted, though He never passed through human process to reach the human result.
He was moreover perfect in His EMOTIONAL NATURE. His affection was undivided.  Unclouded intelligence issued in perfect consciousness of God. Seeing God perfectly in the ways and works of God, He loved God perfectly. Herein is the deepest meaning of His own words,"Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." (Matt 5:8) Himself pure in heart, He saw God perfectly, and this was to realize the Divine unity. Let this sequence be carefully noted. First, unclouded intelligence producing perfect consciousness of God; secondly, perfect consciousness of God reveals the unity of God and of all things in God; thirdly, this discovery capturing the whole heart and neces­sitating perfect love.
This unity of God was the central fact for the understand­ing of which the Hebrew nation had been created. "Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah." (Deut. 6:4) To see and know God as Jesus saw and knew Him is to discover this unity, and therein to discover the unity of all the purposes of Deity,—that through the ages one increasing purpose runs, And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns.
This vision of the unity of God captures the heart of man. The consciousness of the One Who creates and maintains unity, is the perfection of love in the soul of man. Thus the passage already quoted in Deuteronomy concerning the unity of Jehovah is immediately followed by the command, "And thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." Jesus knowing with unclouded intelligence was perfectly conscious of the character of God, and the unity of His purpose, and loved Him with all His heart. The Man of unclouded intelligence was the Man of undivided affection.
Then follows the fact of the UNOPPOSING WILL. The will is the citadel against which all the forces of temptation are directed, and within this citadel Jesus repelled these temptations in the light of unclouded intelligence, and the power of undivided affection. He saw God perfectly, and there­fore He loved God perfectly, and therefore He obeyed God perfectly, and was able to say, "I do always the things that are pleasing to Him." (John 8:29)
In this analysis of the SPIRITUAL PERFECTION of Jesus, there must ever be kept in mind the interaction of these three facts within the spiritual nature. Love, through light, appealed to will. Will, responding, strengthened love and increased light. That is the perpetual process in human life. Yielding to God, light falls upon the pathway, and creates love. Love suggests obedience. The will, impulsed by love, yields to light. The experience that follows obedience increases love and light, and thus there is perpetual prog­ress, growth, development in the grace that makes men grow in favor with God and man.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

DIVINE APPROVAL

LIGHT ON THE HIDDEN YEARS AT NAZARETH


The baptism of Jesus separated between His private and public life. At that baptism the opened heavens, the descending Spirit, and the voice of the Father alike bore testimony to the perfection of the Son.
The Divine voice had special significance as a declara­tion concerning the character of Christ as He emerged from the seclusion of the hidden years. Three times during the period of public ministry did this Divine voice break the silence of the heavens, announcing the Father's approval of the Son of His love. On each occasion the silence was so broken for the bearing of testimony to the perfection of Jesus.
The first occasion was the one now under consideration, when the voice declared, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." (Matt 3:17)
The second was when upon the mount of transfigur­ation, the same voice was heard saying, "This is My be­loved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him." (Matt 17:5)
The third was when Jesus, drawing near to His Cross, the shadow and sorrow thereof failing over His life, prayed, "Father, glorify Thy name," and the answer came, "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." (John 12:28)
In each case the breaking of the silence of the heavens was for the announcement of God's commendation of Christ, as in some fresh crisis of life He set His face towards the death, which was to culminate the work of redemption, according to the purposes of God. He went into the waters of Jordan, and was numbered with the transgressors in the baptism of repentance, taking His place with them in that symbol of death, as He would finally associate Himself with them in actual death. So far as the Person and character of Christ were concerned, He had no need of the baptism of John. The prophet was perfectly right when he said, “I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?” (Matt. 3:14) By His action He signified His consent to identification with sinners, even to death. Here then, at once becomes evident the value of the Divine statement. It was a declaration of the perfection of Jesus, and conse­quently of the value of that sacrifice which He would ulti­mately offer.
This indeed was the signification in each of the three cases quoted, for on the mount of transfiguration, He spoke with the heavenly visitors of His coming exodus, thus in the light of that wondrous glory facing His death for men. And on the third occasion it was when He troubled in Spirit, at the prospect of death, yet deliberately declared that for death He had come unto that hour, and prayed only for the glorification of the Divine name. In three crises He faced and consented to death, and on each occasion heaven sealed the sacrifice as being perfect, and therefore of in­finite value.
This statement of the perfection of Jesus made at His baptism is a window through which light falls upon His Person and character in the years that had been spent at Nazareth.
In the account of the creation in Genesis, it is declared that man, created in the image of God was appointed master of all created things, the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, and the beasts of the field. He was, moreover, placed in the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it, that fact indicating that all the wonderful possibilities lying within the new creation were to be realized by the atten­tion and work of man. The psalmist, overwhelmed by the majesty of the heavens, asks in astonishment,
“What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?” and then answers his question in words that recall the Di­vine intention as revealed in Genesis: "For Thou hast made him but little lower than God, And crownest him with glory and honor.
Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands;
Thou hast put all things under his feet:
All sheep and oxen,
Yea, and the beasts of the field,
The birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
Whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas." (Psa. 8:4-8)
Man, in the first Divine intention, is master of creation. He is born to have dominion. This psalm is quoted by the writer of the letter to the Hebrews:
“But one hath somewhere testified, saying,
What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that Thou visitest him?
Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownedst him with glory and honor, And didst set him over the works of Thy hands:
Thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet.
For in that he subjected all things unto him, he left nothing that is not subject to him.” (Heb. 2:6-9) That is a declara­tion of the original purpose of God. The writer then proceeds, “But now we see not yet all things subjected to him. But we behold . . . Jesus." Without seal­ing with the full purpose or intention of the writer's argument, it is evident that he intends to declare, that while man as he is today has failed to realize the Di­vine intention, this Man was an exception to the general failure, in that He perfectly realized it. To Him all things were in subjection. He was Master of the fish of the sea, and knew where to find them, when the disciples had been baffled in their all-night fishing. He understood the habits of the birds of the heavens, and drew some of His sweetest lessons from them. The very beasts of the field recognized His Lordship. Of this there is a glimpse in the account of the temptation as chronicled by Mark, "He was WITH the wild beasts;" (Mark 1:13) the preposition used indicating close contact, and therefore also suggesting that He was unharmed by them. He was indeed God's perfect Man, having dominion over the things of His Father's creation.
To facilitate the meditation on the perfections of Jesus as Man, fall back upon the simplest analysis of human personality that of spirit and body, dealing with the mind as the consciousness of this compound personality. In­ferentially the New Testament has much to say concern­ing the perfection of Jesus in spirit and body during those years of seclusion in Nazareth.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

THE CEREMONY COMING BETWEEN

THE CEREMONY COMING BETWEEN
  


 Between these periods there came the solemn and significant ceremony of the baptism. As Jesus left that in His life which was preparatory, and entered upon the actual work of the ministry, He devoted Himself to the ul­timate issue of His work, that namely, of identification with men even to death. His being baptized was an act by which He consented to take His place among sinners. John's baptism was that of repentance. There was no room for repentance in Jesus, and yet because of His de­votion to their redemption, He took His place with them. This will be referred to again in subsequent considerations. It is named here as helping to explain the value of the su­pernatural manifestations accompanying the baptism. As in the act of baptism He yielded Himself, a sacrifice and an offering; the opened heavens, the descending dove, the living voice, each having its own significance, unite in the attestation of the perfection of the One so yielding Him­self, to the mightiest phase in the purpose of God, that of redemption by the way of sacrifice. The significance of this threefold fact may be considered briefly.
THE OPENED HEAVENS suggest the perfections of the thirty years, and declare in sacred sign and symbol that no act of His has excluded Him from the fellowship of the perfect. Heaven which must forever exclude whatsoever is imper­fect could have enfolded Him without the violation of any principle of the Eternal Holiness.
THE DESCENDING SPIRIT in the form of a dove was a recog­nition of the character, the Spirit, the disposition, of this Man, which lay behind the outward expression in conduct. Never anywhere else, is it recorded that the Spirit de­scended in the form of a dove. It rested upon Christ as the symbol of purity and of meekness. And yet it was also His anointing for the work of the three years. Seeing that the Spirit of anointing, which was preparation for the future, came in the form of a dove, which sealed the past; the fact was signified that the ministry in public would be exercised in the strength of, and carried forward in the Spirit of, the purity and the meekness which had character­ized the past.
Superadded to these signs there was THE SOUND OF THE LIVING VOICE. First in identification of this Person as the One Who was referred to in the prophetic writings, and in the words of the Psalmist,
“I will tell of the decree:
Jehovah said unto Me, Thou art My Son;
This day have I begotten Thee . . .
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish in the way." (Psa. 2:7, 12)
The great word coming out of the old economy is "the Son." Now at the baptism God says, "Thou art My be­loved Son." (Luke 3:22)
Thus the description has reference to His office, and appointment and anointing for service. The second part of the Divine pronouncement declares that God is well pleased in Him. This sets the seal of the Divine appro­bation upon the thirty years, and declares therefore the perfect fitness of the approved One for the carrying out of the work of the three.
Thus the thirty years of privacy merge into the three years of publicity, by the way of solemn and significant ceremony.
By these last articles the baptism is placed in its relation to these two periods in the ministry of Jesus. The next article will deal more fully with the perfections of the thirty, and the following one will indicate more fully the true meaning and value of the three.


Friday, January 12, 2018

HIS THREE PUBLIC YEARS

HIS THREE PUBLIC YEARS

“Jesus began both to do and to teach." (Acts 1:1) 


Turning now to the three years which were public, there may again be considered the facts and the characteristics. Here everything is different. Silence has given way to speech, privacy to publicity; submission to human authority has been changed into authoritative teaching and deeds, in the midst of human affairs. His induction to public ministry is re­corded by Luke. Returning to the synagogue, with which He was so familiar, and taking up the book of the prophet, He  read Himself into His sacred office. From the prophecy of Isaiah He read the marvelous description of the mis­sion of the Servant of God, and then in awe-inspiring and quiet majesty announced that "today hath this Scripture been fulfilled in your ears." (Luke 4:16-21) There was no one to introduce Him, for no one appreciated the meaning of His mission. Passing from the life of privacy to the days of publicity, He definitely and positively claimed that He was the One, anointed of God, for the fulfillment of the dreams, and the realization of the hopes, of the ancient people.
The description of the following years is all crowded into the brief descriptive statement, with which Luke opens his second treatise. “Jesus began both to do and to teach." (Acts 1:1) For the purposes then of gathering the general impression of the facts of the three years, they may be considered under that twofold heading, of His do­ing and His teaching.
There is no necessity here to attempt to record the deeds. It will be sufficient to state concisely their character again in the words of Luke. “Jesus of Nazareth . . . went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him." (Acts 10:38) That covers the whole fact concerning the deeds of Jesus in the three years of public ministry. Doing good means infinitely more than being good, or doing good things that are right. The phrase indicates ACTIVE BENEFI­CENCE. He was, in the richest and fullest sense of the word, a Benefactor. He lived a life in which there was the constant activity of deeds of goodness and kindness to­wards other people. The goodness referred to is positive and relative, assuredly the goodness of character, but also that manifested in conduct, not merely the rightness of inward attitude, but the beneficence of outward act. His vocation during the hidden years had been that of a carpen­ter. When He laid that calling aside, He entered upon the vocation of doing good, serving others, scattering blessing. All life now was an opportunity for benefiting someone. His journeying, His ordinary deeds, the miracles of His power, are all contained within the phrase "doing good." He was pouring out of His own rich treasury upon other people, scattering gifts, bestowing benefits. He went about doing good.
Then as to His teaching. This consisted in the an­nouncement of the principles of human life, and was a revelation of the convictions and conditions lying behind true conduct. It is almost impossible to summarize the teach­ing of Jesus, and yet the attempt must be made, though the result will of necessity be imperfect.
As in the Gospels four facts are revealed concerning the Personality of Christ, so also these Gospels reveal four phases of His teaching; and the whole system of the teaching of Jesus can only be understood, as these phases are all present to the mind, and their harmony and balance are discovered.
THE TEACHING OF MATTHEW HAS TO DO WITH THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD. It is teaching concerning the Kingdom. In it lies that most matchless document, the Manifesto of the King. Afterwards there occurs His commissioning of His first messengers, with yet fuller revelation of the true meaning of the Kingdom. Then in perfect harmony of deed with word, illustrations and explanations of the benefits and values of the Kingdom are given. Then in­cidentally scattered through the Gospel there are illumina­tive illustrations, and ever broadening teaching, concerning the powers and perfections of the kingly authority. The people, who have listened, have become antagonized, and as in the beginning of the teaching, there were the Beatitudes, so towards its closing, so far as the crowd is concerned, the woes are pronounced, the stern and awful denunciations of such as reject the Kingdom of God. Towards the close of the three years, the program con­cerning the final movements of the Divine economy, in the casting out of evil, and the establishment of the King­dom is announced. Along the entire pathway incidental teach­ing, great parables, and revealing deeds, unite in making clear the great facts concerning the Kingdom of God, yet to be set up on the earth, and spoken of almost invariably, therefore, through Matthew, as the Kingdom of heaven.
IN THE GOSPEL OF MARK, the teaching is of a different character. There is very little of it. HE IS REVEALED AS TO HIS PERSON, AS THE SERVANT, ALWAYS GIRDED, ALWAYS BUSY, STRIPPED OF ROYALTY, AND CONSECRATED TO DUTY. Incidental accounts which had to do largely with that aspect of truth, fall from His lips. A special section is devoted to the charge He delivers to His servants, concerning their work, and in which He speaks of the final things.
IN LUKE again the character of the teaching is different, harmonizing as it does with the Person of Jesus as therein presented. In this Gospel there is no consecutive body of teaching. THE SON OF MAN, THE UNIVERSAL SAVIOR, SPEAKS AS OCCASION DEMANDS, OF THE GREAT SUBJECTS THAT ARE EVER ON HIS HEART. First the Gospel contains in condensed form some of the mighty sayings contained within the Manifesto of the King, as recorded by Matthew. Then there are general instructions, and solemn warnings uttered to His apostles, as He equips them for their work. That however which is peculiar to Luke is His wonderful teaching con­cerning publicans and sinners, their lost condition, and the redemption He has come to accomplish for them. In Luke there is the parable concerning the lost sheep, the lost silver, and the lost son. It is a parable of the lost. It is a parable of the lost sought. It is a parable of the lost found. And that parable of Jesus may be said to reveal His teaching concerning humanity in the light of His mis­sion more perfectly than it is revealed in any other of His recorded words. In this Gospel moreover, is contained the denunciation of the Pharisees, the parables of service, of the talents, and yet again, words concerning the final things.
Coming to THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, in some senses the greatest of all, because PRESENTING JESUS AS TO HIS DEITY, there is the most wonderful teaching of all. From first to last the teaching of Jesus in John may be spoken of as THE SPEECH OF HEAVEN TO EARTH. There are the wonderful con­versations with Nicodemus, and the woman at the well; the remarkable discourses, delivered in the hearing of the crowds, concerning His unity with the Father; His dis­course on the sustenance of the life of the spirit, as being of infinitely greater importance than the feeding of the physical; a declaration of the meaning of His mission, as being that of providing life for those who need it, by the liberation of His own, through the mystery of death. Finally, the great Paschal discourses, in which He prom­ises to His Church the coming of the Spirit, and declares the meaning and the method of that great advent.
It is in John that there is the repetition so constantly of the Divine title, "I am," linked to simple symbols of things human, and in that very fact is a key to the whole teaching of Jesus, as contained in the Gospel of John. It is the speech of heaven to earth, of God to men. It is but to pass through the Gospel reading His "I am's," and their setting, to discover this key. "I am the bread." (John 6:35) "I am the Light." (John 8:12) "I am." (John 8:58) "I am the door." (John 10:7) “I am the good Shepherd." (John 10:11) “I am the resurrection." (John 11:25) “I am the way, and the truth, and the life." (John 14:6) "I am the true vine." (John 15:1) Here is a growing revelation. Here is a declaration of the whole meaning of His gracious mission. The human symbols are simple. The Divine title ever thrills with the infinite music unfathomable. Yet in their combination is heard the voice from heaven; the Logos, the Word of God.
How different these three years from the thirty. The characteristics of the thirty, and those of the three, make a striking contrast. In the thirty, depending on human will. In the three, uttering authoritative speech, and performing deeds of power. In the thirty years, the commonplace duty a daily call. In the three, manifesting Himself as the Lord of duty, demonstrating the dignity of the Son of Man by the miracles of His power, and the glory of the Son of God in the matchless magnificence of His Person, and the infinite wisdom of His teaching. In the thirty years, a life lived strictly within human limitations, a life in which there was constant relation to the Divine, but the relation of de­pendence, submission, fellowship. In the three years while this continued, yet the life was evidently broadening out into a spacious and conspicuous cooperation with the Divine, until the utmost consciousness left upon the mind is that of the movements of God through the deeds and words of man. The thirty years were those of the long silence in which the Son of God was seen stripped and emptied of all royalty, excluding that of His perfect Manhood. The three years are the years of the brief speech, in which the Son of Man is seen clothed in authority, filled with power, speak­ing in the tone and accent of the Son of God.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

THE FIRST THIRTY YEARS

THE FIRST THIRTY YEARS

"And the child grew, and waxed strong, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him." Luke 2:40


With regard to the thirty years, it will be best first to gather the statements of Scripture concerning them, thus coming into possession of the facts, and then to consider the characteristics of those years, as therein revealed.
The facts chronicled concern the infancy, the childhood, the youth, and the manhood of Jesus.
Concerning the infancy, the following facts are recorded.
“And when eight days were fulfilled for circumcising Him, His name was called JESUS, which was so called by the angel before He was conceived in the womb."(Luke 2:21)
"And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought Him up to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord." (Luke 2:22)
"Now when they were departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise and take the young child and His mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I tell thee: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy Him. And he arose and took the young child and His mother by night, and de­parted into Egypt; and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet. Saying, Out of Egypt did I call My Son." (Matt. 2:13-15)
"But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, Arise, and take the young child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead that sought the young child's life. And he arose and took the young child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither; and being warned of God in a dream, he with­drew into the parts of Galilee, and came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophets, that He should be called a Nazarene." (Matt. 2:19-23)
In exact fulfillment of the requirements of the Hebrew Law Jesus was circumcised at the age of eight days. He was thus brought into the outward and visible manifes­tation of His relationship to the covenant of God with Israel.
The second fact is that of His presentation in the temple, and dedication as the firstborn child of His mother, to the purpose and service of God.
The third fact chronicles the flight into Egypt, and the fourth the return from there to His own land and people.
Thus in connection with the infancy there is a record of suggestive facts, the identification of Jesus with the covenant people of God, by the symbol of separation and purity, His dedication to special and specific work by His presentation in the temple, the carrying into Egypt, as part of a Divine program of protection for One set apart to Himself, and the return to Nazareth for the entry upon that life of obscurity, in which the human is to make its progress from innocence to holiness, in the place of such ordinary testing as comes to man, and which is necessary for His development.
Concerning the childhood of Jesus, all the recorded facts are in the Gospel of Luke, and are as follows:
"And the child grew, and waxed strong, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him." (Luke 2:40)
"And His parents went every year to Jerusalem at the feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up after the custom of the feast; and when they had fulfilled the days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and His parents knew it not; but supposing Him to be in the company, they went a day's journey; and they sought for Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance: and when they found Him not, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking for Him. And it came to pass, after three days they found Him in the temple, sit­ting in the midst of the teachers, both hearing them, and asking them questions: and all that heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. And when they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said unto Him, Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us? behold, Thy father and I sought Thee sorrowing. And He said unto them, How is it that ye sought Me? Knew ye not that I must be in My Father's house? And they understood not the saying which He spake unto them. And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth; and He was sub­ject unto them: and His mother kept all these sayings in her heart." (Luke 2:41-51)
The whole story of the childhood of Jesus from infancy to His religious coming of age, is contained in one verse The main statement of the verse is, “the child grew." Then follows an explanation of the statement, in what may be spoken of as an analysis of the lines of His growth. The whole fact of His human nature, physical, mental, and spiritual is recognized; the PHYSICAL development in the words, He “waxed strong”; the MENTAL development in the words, “becoming full of wisdom” (see margin); the SPIRITUAL development in the words, “the grace of God was upon Him." Thus the development of Jesus was not one-sided. Under the careful training of His mother, the ad­vancement was a perfect harmony of progress in the whole fact of His life.
The other fact of His childhood recorded, is that of His religious coming of age. It is altogether to miss the im­portance of this story to think of it as accidental. The purpose of the coming to Jerusalem on the part of Mary, was undoubtedly primarily that of fulfilling the require­ments of the law, the bringing of Jesus to His confirma­tion. At this point the boy was supposed to enter upon that period of life when He should have immediate deal­ings with the law, receiving it no longer through the in­struction of His parents; but having been brought by them into a knowledge of its requirements, He would now take upon Himself the responsibility. The rite which is still in existence, consists in the preparation by the candidate of certain passages of the law, which are to be recited, and his presentation to the rulers and doctors, that in conver­sation with him, they may ask him questions, testing his knowledge, and he may submit to them questions arising out of his training. It was to this ceremony of confirma­tion that Jesus was brought at the age of twelve.
The picture of Christ here is very full of beauty, although too often the natural fact is obscured, by false ideas concerning the attitude of Jesus towards the teachers. A very popular conception of His action here is that of a boy delighting to ask questions that will show His own wisdom, and puzzle the doctors. This would seem to be utterly contrary to the facts. Jesus, a pure, beautiful boy, physically strong, mentally alert, spiritually full of grace, moving into new and larger experiences of His life, answered the questions of the doctors with a lucidity that astonished them, and submitted problems to them which showed how remarkable was the caliber of His mind, and how intense the fact of His spiritual nature, so great an opportunity was this to Him that He waited behind, still talking with these men.
Supposing Him to have been with the company, His parents had started on the homeward journey, and missing Him, returned. Here again violence has been done to the character of Christ by the tone in which His question has been repeated. There was no touch of rebuke in what He said to His mother. It is far more probable that there was a tender expression of surprise that she from whom He had received His training, and under whose direction His mind had developed, and His spiritual nature been nurtured, should not know how “the things of His Fa­ther" were to Him the chief things.
So far of course Jesus is seen in the development of His human nature along the ordinary lines. The difficulty suggested in a previous article, how there could be growth and advancement, or why training was necessary if He was indeed God, admits of no explanation except that of repeating the fact that while He was very God, He was actual Man. His human life was lived wholly within the realm of humanity. The Son of God in His Deity refrained from giving to the human fact in its testing and develop­ment, any assistance other than was originally at the dis­posal of unfallen man. It cannot be over-emphasized or too often repeated, that this is a mystery defying explana­tion. Yet to deny it is to create a new mystery on either of the sides of the Personality of Jesus, involving the rout of the reason, in that there is discovered a marvelous effect, of which the only possible cause is denied.
The conclusion of the story of the confirmation is that He went down with His parents, and was subject unto them.
Concerning the youth of Jesus, that is, the period from His confirmation to His young manhood, there is one statement.
“And Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." (Luke 2:52)
Here again there is no detail, but the bare declaration of His advancement, and that advancement is revealed as being balanced, and including the whole of His nature, "in wisdom, in stature, in favor with God and men." The application of this statement, very often lost sight of, is that He grew in favor not only with God, but with men. It is not a sign of being in the grace of God when one is out of favor with men. It was not the Personality and character of Jesus that alienated the crowds from Him, but the teaching which rebuked their sin, and called them to repentance. It is very stunning to read that in those long years at Nazareth Jesus was a favorite. No details are given, and yet it is quite possible to sit down in front of the statement, and imagine various facts included within it. One could almost picture the children going to Him, taking perhaps their toys for Him to mend; and the young men, visiting Him to talk out some of the problems that were vexing their hearts. And the old people, bent with sorrow, and loving to hear the tones of some strong and yet tender voice, sitting while He talked to them. Let this never be forgotten “He grew in favor with God and men." Jesus was a favorite in His own village until the days came when, in fulfillment of His Father's will, He had to speak such words as alienated them from friendship, and made the very men of Nazareth attempt His murder, long before it was accomplished by the priests of the nation.
There yet remains one fact recorded concerning the years, that namely, of the occupation of His Manhood.
“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us? And they were offended in Him." (Mark 6:3)
The question was asked in the days when the enmity of the men of Nazareth was stirred against Him, because of His superior wisdom, and authoritative teaching. And yet it lights up facts of those past years. He was the village carpenter. The Greek word tektwv, here translated car­penter, etymologically means a producer, but specifically, and in its use in that country, it indicated a craftsman in wood. The declaration reveals Him to us as One Who learned a trade, becoming Master of the tools of His craft. All this is to be dealt with more fully in the next articles.
These facts, brief as is the account of them, reveal the characteristics of the life of Jesus. Through the process of training, He lived in dependence upon the guidance of other human wills. He trod the path of a daily duty. Toil was not to Him merely the taking up of work for the sake of amusement. It was His response to stern ne­cessity. He labored for the bread which was to sustain physical life. Through all the years, His life was con­ditioned within human limitations. These limitations were of course, such as were part of an original Divine plan. There was a difference throughout between the experience of the Man Jesus, and the experience of fallen men. Their intelligence is darkened. His shone clearly, and yet in ever increasing capacity. Their emotion is prostituted. His was ever set upon highest things, and responsive to the most perfect. Their will is degraded, because under the dominion of a false governing principle. His was ex­ercised within the true realm of submission to the highest of all. The thirty years were the years of the long silence, in which the Son of God is seen stripped and emptied of all royalty, except that of a victorious manhood.