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Lords Day 30, 2010

I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord.

imageI am a little world
John Donne (15721631)

I am a little world made cunningly
Of Elements, and an Angelike spright,
But black sinne hath betraid to endless night
My worlds both parts, and (oh) both parts must die.
You which beyond that heaven which was most high
Have found new sphears, and of new lands can write,
Powre new seas in mine eyes, so that I might
Drowne my world with my weeping earnestly,
Or wash it if it must be drownd no more:
But oh it must be burnt; alas the fire
Of lust and envie have burnt it hereto fore,
And made it fouler; Let their flames retire,
And burn me ô Lord, with a fiery zeale
Of thee and thy house, which doth in eating heale.

John Donne, Poems and Prose (Alfred A. Knopf, 1995).


John 12:2026

Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; 21 these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, Sir, we wish to see Jesus. 22 Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

image   There is more going on in some peoples minds than we are aware of. The case of the Greeks before us is a remarkable proof of this. Who would have thought when Christ was on earth, that foreigners from a distant land would have come forward in Jerusalem, and said, Sir, we would see Jesus? Who these Greeks were, what they meant, why they desired to see Jesus, what their inward motives were,all these are questions we cannot answer. Like Zaccheus, they may have been influenced by curiosity. Like the wise men from the East, they may have surmised that Jesus was the promised King of the Jews, whom all the eastern world was expecting. Enough for us to know that they showed more interest in Christ than Caiaphas and all his companions. Enough to know that they drew from our Lords lips sayings which are still read in one hundred and fifty languages, from one end of the world to the other.

We learn, for one thing, from our Lords words in this passage, that death is the way to spiritual life and glory. Except a grain of wheat falls into the ground, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

This sentence was primarily meant to teach the wondering Greeks the true nature of Messiahs kingdom. If they thought to see a King like the kings of this world, they were greatly mistaken. Our Lord would have them know that He came to carry a cross, and not to wear a crown. He came not to live a life of honour, ease, and magnificence, but to die a shameful and dishonoured death. The kingdom He came to set up was to begin with a crucifixion, and not with a coronation. Its glory was to take its rise not from victories won by the sword, and from accumulated treasures of gold and silver, but from the death of its King.

But this sentence was also meant to teach a wider and broader lesson still. It revealed, under a striking figure, the mighty foundation truth, that Christs death was to be the source of spiritual life to the world. From His cross and sufferings was to spring up a mighty harvest of benefit to all mankind. His death, like a grain of seed, was to be the root of blessings and mercies to countless millions of immortal souls. In short, the great principle of the Gospel was once more exhibited,that Christs vicarious death (not His life, or miracles, or teaching, but His death) was to bring forth fruit to the praise of God, and to provide redemption for a lost world.

This deep and mighty sentence was followed by a practical application, which closely concerns ourselves. He who hateth his life shall keep it. He that would be saved must be ready to give up life itself, if necessary, in order to obtain salvation. He must bury his love of the world, with its riches, honours, pleasures, and rewards, with a full belief that in so doing he will reap a better harvest, both here and hereafter. He who loves the life that now is so much that he cannot deny himself anything for the sake of his soul, will find at length that he has lost everything. He, on the contrary, who is ready to cast away everything most dear to him in this life, if it stands in the way of his soul, and to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts, will find at length that he is no loser. In a word, his losses will prove nothing in comparison to his gains.

Truths such as these should sink deeply into our hearts, and stir up self-inquiry. It is as true of Christians as it is of Christ,there can be no life without death, there can be no sweet without bitter, there can be no crown without a cross. Without Christs death there would have been no life for the world. Unless we are willing to die to sin, and crucify all that is most dear to flesh and blood, we cannot expect any benefit from Christs death. Let us remember these things, and take up our cross daily, like men. Let us, for the joy set before us, endure the cross and despise the shame, and in the end we shall sit down with our Master at Gods right hand. The way of self-crucifixion and sanctification may seem foolishness and wasteful to the world, just as burying good seed seems wasteful to the child and the fool. But there never lived the man who did not find that, by sowing to the Spirit, he reaped life everlasting.

We learn, for another thing, from our Lords words, that if we profess to serve Christ, we must follow Him. If any man serves Me, is the saying, let him follow Me.

That expression, following, is one of wide signification, and brings before our minds many familiar ideas. As the soldier follows his general, as the servant follows his master, as the scholar follows his teacher; as the sheep follows its shepherd, just so ought the professing Christian to follow Christ. Faith and obedience are the leading marks of real followers, and will always be seen in true believing Christians. Their knowledge may be very small, and their infirmities very great; their grace very weak, and their hope very dim. But they believe what Christ says, and strive to do what Christ commands. And of such Christ declares, They serve Me, they are Mine.

Christianity like this receives little from man. It is too thorough, too decided, too strong, too real. To serve Christ in name and form is easy work, and satisfies most people, but to follow Him in faith and life demands more trouble than the generality of men will take about their souls. Laughter, ridicule, opposition, persecution, are often the only reward which Christs followers get from the world. Their religion is one, whose praise is not of men, but of God. (Rom. ii. 29.)

Yet to him who followeth, let us never forget, the Lord Jesus holds out abundant encouragement: Where I am, He declares, there also shall my servant be; if any man serves Me, him will my Father honour. Let us lay to heart these comfortable promises, and go forward in the narrow way without fear. The world may cast out our name as evil, and turn us out of its society; but when we dwell with Christ in glory, we shall have a home from which we can never be ejected.The world may pour contempt on our religion, and laugh us and our Christianity to scorn; but when the Father honours us at the last day, before the assembly of angels and men, we shall find that His praise makes amends for all.

J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Baker Books, 2007) [Westminster (PB) | Amazon (HC)].

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Posted 2010·07·25 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Expository Thoughts on the Gospels · Gospel of John · J C Ryle · John Donne · Lord’s Day · Poems and Prose (Donne)
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