I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Poem XX. Christ the Light of his People.
Augustus Toplady (1740–1778)
I Lift my heart and eyes to thee,
Jesus, thou unextinguished light:
My lantern, guide, and leader be,
My cloud by day, my fire by night.
Glory of Israel, shine within,
Unshadow’d, uneclips’d appear;
O let thy beams dispel my sin,
Direct me by a friendly star.
The world a maze and lab’rinth is,
Be thou my thread and faithful clue;
Thy kingdom and thy righteousness
The only objects I pursue.
Light of the Gentiles, thee I hail!
Essential light, thyself impart!
Spirit of light, his face reveal;
And set thy signet on my heart.
Thy office is to enlighten man,
And point him to the heavenly prize;
The hidden things of God t’ explain,
And chase the darkness from our eyes.
Shew me I have the better part,
The treasure hid with Christ in God;
Give me a perfect peace of heart,
And pardon through my Saviour’s blood.
—The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady (Sprinkle Publications, 1987).
Christ Walks on the Water
Mt 14:22–23; Mk6:45–52
So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone. 16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. 19 Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. 20 But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
We should notice, in these verses, our Lord Jesus Christ’s humility. We are told that, after feeding the multitude, He “perceived that they would come and take him by force to make him a king.” At once He departed, and left them. He wanted no such honours as these. He had come, “not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matt. xx. 28.)
We see the same spirit and frame of mind all through our Lord’s earthly ministry. From His cradle to His grave He was “clothed with humility.” (1 Pet. v. 5.) He was born of a poor woman, and spent the first thirty years of His life in a carpenter’s house at Nazareth. He was followed by poor companions,—many of them no better than fishermen. He was poor in his manner of living: “The foxes had holes, and the birds of the air their nests,—but the Son of man had not where to lay his head” (Matt. viii. 20.) When He went on the Sea of Galilee, it was in a borrowed boat. When He rode into Jerusalem, it was on a borrowed ass. When He was buried, it was in a borrowed tomb. “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor.” (2 Cor. viii. 9.)
The example is one which ought to be far more remembered than it is. How common are pride, and ambition, and high-mindedness! How rare are humility and lowly-mindedness! How few ever refuse greatness when offered to them! How many are continually seeking great things for themselves, and forgetting the injunction—“Seek them not!” (Jer. xlv. 5.) Surely it was not for nothing that our Lord, after washing the disciples’ feet, said,—“I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done.” (John xiii. 15.) There is little, it may be feared, of that feet-washing spirit among Christians. But whether men will hear or forbear, humility is the queen of the graces. “Tell me,” it has been said, “how much humility a man has, and I will tell you how much religion he has.” Humility is the first step toward heaven, and the true way to honour. “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke xviii. 14.)
We should notice, secondly, in these verses, the trials through which Christ’s disciples had to pass. We are told that they were sent over the lake by themselves, while their Master tarried behind. And then we see them alone in a dark night, tossed about by a great wind on stormy waters, and, worst of all, Christ not with them. It was a strange transition. From witnessing a mighty miracle, and helping it instrumentally, amid an admiring crowd, to solitude, darkness, winds, waves, storm, anxiety, and danger, the change was very great! But Christ knew it, and Christ appointed it, and it was working for their good.
Trial, we must distinctly understand, is part of the diet which all true Christians must expect. It is one of the means by which their grace is proved, and by which they find out what there is in themselves. Winter as well as summer,—cold as well as heat,—clouds as well as sunshine,—are all necessary to bring the fruit of the Spirit to ripeness and maturity. We do not naturally like this. We would rather cross the lake with calm weather and favourable winds, with Christ always by our side, and the sun shining down on our faces. But it may not be. It is not in this way that God’s children are made “partakers of His holiness.” (Heb. xii. 10.) Abraham, and Jacob, and Moses, and David, and Job were all men of many trials. Let us be content to walk in their footsteps, and to drink of their cup. In our darkest hours we may seem to be left,—but we are never really alone.
Let us notice, in the last place, our Lord Jesus Christ’s power over the waves of the sea. He came to His disciples as they were rowing on the stormy lake, “walking on” the waters. He walked on them as easily as we walk on dry land. They bore Him as firmly as the pavement of the Temple, or the hills around Nazareth. That which is contrary to all natural reason was perfectly possible to Christ.
The Lord Jesus, we must remember, is not only the Lord, but the Maker of all creation. “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John i. 3.) It was just as easy for Him to walk on the sea as to form the sea at the beginning,—just as easy to suspend the common laws of nature, as they are called, as to impose those laws at the first. Learned men talk solemn nonsense sometimes about the eternal fixity of the “laws of nature,” as if they were above God Himself, and could never be suspended. It is well to be reminded sometimes by such miracles as that before us, that these so-called “laws of nature” are neither immutable nor eternal. They had a beginning, and will one day have an end.
Let all true Christians take comfort in the thought that their Saviour is Lord of waves and winds, of storms and tempests, and can come to them in the darkest hour, “walking upon the sea.” There are waves of trouble far heavier than any on the Lake of Galilee. There are days of darkness which test the faith of the holiest Christian. But let us never despair if Christ is our Friend. He can come to our aid in an hour when we do not think, and in ways that we did not expect. And when He comes, all will be calm.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.