Lord���s Day 36, 2010
I was glad when they said to me, ���Let us go to the house of the Lord.���
Abide in Him
Horatius Bonar (1808���1889)
���Tecum volo vulnerari
Te libenter amplexari
In cruce desidero.������Old Hymn.
Cling to the Crucified!
His death is life to thee;
Life for eternity.
His pains thy pardon seal;
His stripes thy bruises heal;
His cross proclaims thy peace,
Bids every sorrow cease.
His blood is all to thee,
It purges thee from sin;
It sets thy spirit free,
It keeps thy conscience clean.
Cling to the Crucified!
Cling to the Crucified!
His is a heart of love.
Full as the hearts above;
Its depths of sympathy
Are all awake for thee:
His countenance is light,
Even in the darkest night
That love shall never change,
That light shall ne’er grow dim;
Charge thou thy faithless heart
To find its all in him.
Cling to the Crucified!
���Horatius Bonar, Hymns of Faith and Hope, First Series (James Nisbet & Co., 1878).
Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 18 I do not speak of all of you I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ���He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.��� 19 From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.���
If we would understand the full meaning of these verses, we must mark carefully where they stand in the chapter. They follow right after the remarkable passage in which we read of Christ washing His disciples��� feet. They stand in close connection with His solemn command, that the disciples should do as they had seen Him do. Then come the five verses which we have now to consider.
We are taught, for one thing, in these verses, that Christians must never be ashamed of doing anything that Christ has done. We read, ���Verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.���
There seems little doubt that our Lord���s all-seeing eye saw a rising unwillingness in the minds of the Apostles to do such menial things as they had just seen Him do. Puffed up with their old Jewish expectation of thrones and kingdoms in this world, secretly self-satisfied with their own position as our Lord���s friends, these poor Galileans were startled at the idea of washing people���s feet! They could not bring themselves to believe that Messiah���s service entailed work like this. They could not yet take in the grand truth, that true Christian greatness consisted in doing good to others. And hence they needed our Lord���s word of warning. If He had humbled Himself to do humbling work, His disciples must not hesitate to do the same.
The lesson is one of which we all need to be reminded. We are all too apt to dislike any work which seems to entail trouble, self-denial, and going down to our inferiors. We are only too ready to dispute such work to others, and to excuse ourselves by saying, ���It is not in our way.��� When feelings of this kind arise within us we shall find it good to remember our Lord���s words in this passage, no less than our Lord���s example. We ought never to think it beneath us to show kindness to the lowest of men. We ought never to hold our hand because the objects of our kindness are ungrateful or unworthy. Such was not the mind of Him who washed the feet of Judas Iscariot as well as Peter. He who in these matters cannot stoop to follow Christ���s example, gives little evidence of possessing true love or true humility.
We are taught, for another thing, in these verses, the uselessness of religious knowledge if not accompanied by practice. We read, ���If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.��� It sounds as if our Lord would warn His disciples that they would never be really happy in His service if they were content with a barren head-knowledge of duty, and did not live according to their knowledge.
The lesson is one which deserves the continual remembrance of all professing Christians. Nothing is more common than to hear people saying of doctrine or duty,������We know it, we know it;��� while they sit still in unbelief or disobedience. They actually seem to flatter themselves that there is something creditable and redeeming in knowledge, even when it bears no fruit in heart, character, or life. Yet the truth is precisely the other way. To know what we ought to be, believe, and do, and yet to be unaffected by our knowledge, only adds to our guilt in the sight of God. To know that Christians should be humble and loving, while we continue proud and selfish, will only sink us deeper in the pit, unless we awake and repent. Practice, in short, is the very life of religion. ���To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.��� (James iv. 17.)
Of course we must never despise knowledge. It is in one sense the beginning of Christianity in the soul. So long as we know nothing of sin, or God, or Christ, or grace, or repentance, or faith, or conscience, we are of course nothing better than heathens. But we must not overrate knowledge. It is altogether valueless unless it produces results in our conduct, and influences our lives, and moves our wills. In fact knowledge without practice does not raise us above the level of the devil. He could say to Jesus, ���I know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God.��� The devils, says St. James, ���believe and tremble.��� (James ii. 20.) Satan knows truth, but has no will to obey it, and is miserable. He that would be happy in Christ���s service must not only know, but do.
We are taught, for another thing, in these verses, the perfect knowledge which Christ has of all His people. He can distinguish between false profession and true grace. The Church may be deceived, and rank men as Apostles, who are nothing better than brethren of Judas Iscariot. But Jesus is never deceived, for He can read hearts. And here He declares with peculiar emphasis, ���I know whom I have chosen.���
This perfect knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ is a very solemn thought, and one which cuts two ways. It ought to fill the hypocrite with alarm, and drive him to repentance. Let him remember that the eyes of the all-seeing Judge already see him through and through, and detect the absence of a wedding garment. If he would not be put to shame before assembled worlds, let him cast aside his false profession, and confess his sin before it is too late. Believers, on the other hand, may think of an all-knowing Saviour with comfort. They may remember, when misunderstood and slandered by an evil world, that their Master knows all. He knows that they are true and sincere, however weak and failing. A time is coming when He will confess them before His Father, and bring forth their characters clear and bright as the summer sun at noon-day.
We are taught, finally, in these verses, the true dignity of Christ���s disciples. The world may despise and ridicule the Apostles because they care more for works of love and humility than the pursuits of the world. But the Master bids them remember their commission, and not be ashamed. They are God���s ambassadors, and have no cause to be cast down. ���Verily, verily,��� He declares, ���He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth Me; and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me.���
The doctrine here laid down is full of encouragement. It ought to cheer and hearten all who lay themselves out to do good, and specially to do good to the fallen and the poor. Work of this kind gets little praise from men, and they who give themselves up to it are often regarded as miserable enthusiasts, and meet with much opposition. Let them however work on, and take comfort in the words of Christ which we are now considering. To spend and be spent in trying to do good, makes a man far more honorable in the eyes of Jesus than to command armies or amass a fortune. The few who work for God in Christ���s way have no cause to be ashamed. Let them not be cast down if the children of the world laugh and sneer and despise them. A day comes when they will hear the words, ���Come ye blessed children of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.��� (Matt. xxv. 34.)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.