"Jesus saith unto them, my meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work."John 4:34.
is peculiarly pleasing to the Christian to observe the interest which God the Father takes in the work of salvation. In our earlier days of childhood in grace, we conceived the idea that God the Father was only made propitious to us through the atonement of Christ that Jesus was the Savior, and that the Father was rather an austere Judge than a tender friend. But since then, we have learned the Father through the Son: for it was not possible we could come unto the Father except through Jesus Christ. But, now, having seen Christ, we have seen the Father also, and from henceforth, we both know the Father, and have seen him, since we know the love of Christ, and have felt it shed abroad in our hearts. It is always refreshing then, to the enlightened Christian, to call to mind the intense interest which the Father takes in the work of salvation. Here you find in this verse it is three times hinted at. Salvation-work is called the Father's will. "It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish;" but more, it is his will that his chosen, the blood-bought ones of Christ, should every one of them be redeemed from the ruins of the fall, and brought safely home to their Father's house. Note, again, we are told that Jesus was sent of the Father. Here, again, you see the Father's interest. It is true that Jesus rent himself away from the glories of heaven, from the felicities of blessedness, and voluntarily descended to the scorn, the shame, and spitting of this lower world. But, yet his Father had a part therein. He gave up his only begotten Son; he withheld not the darling of his bosom, but sent away his well-beloved, and sent him down with messages of love to man. Jesus Christ comes willingly, but still he comes by his Father's appointment and sending. A third hint is also given us. Salvation is here called God's work: "It is my meat to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." We know that when this world was made, the Father did not make it without reference to the Spirit, for "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," brooded over chaos, and brought order out of confusion. Nor did he make it without the Son; for we are told by John the Apostle, "Without him was not anything made that was made." Yet, at the same time, creation was the Father's work. So also is it in salvation; the Father does not save without the Spirit, for "the Spirit quickeneth whom he will." He doth not save without the Son, for it is through the merit of the Redeemer's death that we are delivered from the demerit of our iniquity. But, notwithstanding this, God the Father is the worker of salvation as much as he is the worker of creation. Let us look up then, with eyes of delight, to our reconciled God and Father. O Lord our GOD, thou art not an angry one! Thou art not an austere ruler! "Thou art not merely the Judge but thou art the grand patriarch of thy people! Thou art their great friend! Thou lovest them better than thou didst thy Son! For thou didst not spare himthou didst send him down to suffer and to die, that thou mightest bring thy children home. "Glory be unto the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end."
The particular contemplation of this morning will be however, to describe Christ Jesus as he manifests himself as doing his Father's will, and finishing his Father's work. Our Lord and Master had but one thought, but one wish, but one aim. He concentrated his whole soul, gathered up the vast floods of his mighty powers, and sent them in one channel, rushing towards one great end: "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work."
1. In bringing out the great truth of Christ's entire devotedness to the work of salvationa devotedness so great that he could say, "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up,"I shall want to call your attention first of all to the fact, verified be the gospels, that his soul was in all that he did. Mark our Master when he goes about doing good. The task is not irksome to him. There are some men who if they distribute to the poor, or if they comfort the fatherless, do it with such reserve with such coldness of spirit, that you can perceive that it is but the shell of the man that acts, and not the man's whole soul. But see our divine Lord. Wherever he walks, you see his whole self in flame. his whole being at work. Not a single power slumbers, but the whole man is engaged. How much at ease he seems among his poor fishermen! You do not discover that his thoughts are away in the halls of kings; but he is a fellow with them, bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. He walks in the midst of publicans and harlots, and he is not ill at ease; not like one who is condescending to do a work which he feels to be beneath him; he is pleased with it, his whole soul is in it. Mark how he takes the little children on his knee, and though his disciples would put them away, yet his whole spirit is set truly with the poor, with the sinful, whom he came to save, that he says, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Look up into that face, and there is a whole-soured man there; not one whose thoughts are set on dignity and power, and who is schooling himself down, toning down his mind to the circle in which he moves, as a matter of constraint and duty. His vocation becomes his delight. His Father's service is his element. He is never happy when he is out of it. He casts his whole being, his whole spirit, into the work of man's redemption.
2. As a further proof of his devotedness, you will observe that whatever a man takes to heart as being the object of his life, it always makes him glad when he sees it succeeding. How you notice in our Savior's life, that when he goes into a pharisee's house to eat bread he always seems under constraint. In any chapter which records what Jesus said in the house of a pharisee there is a want of vivacity. He speaks solemnly, but evidently his spirit is spell-bound, he is unhappy. He knows that he is watched by cavillers who resist his good work, and he there saith but very little, or else his discourse hath but little joy and brilliance therein. But see him among publicans; when he is sitting down with Zaccheus, or when he is come into some poor man's house and is sitting down to his ordinary meal; there is Jesus Christ with His eyes flashing, his lips pouring forth eloquence, and his whole soul at ease. "Now," says he, "I am at home; here is my work; here are the people among whom I shall succeed." How the man snaps his chain! You see the Lord Jesus Christ as the child-man, no more restraining himself before the watchers, but speaking out of his full soul all that his heart thinks and feels. Now you generally know when a man's heart is in his work, by the joy he feels in it. You see some preachers go up into their pulpits as though they were going to be roasted at the stake; and they read their sermons through as if they were making their last dying speech and confession. What do you think they call it?why, doing their duty. True ministers call preaching pleasure, not duty. It is a delight to stand up to tell to others the way of salvation and to magnify Christ. But mere hirelings cannot go higher than the idea of doing their duty when they are telling out this glorious tale. Jesus Christ was none of these. "My meat is" he said, "to do the will of him that sent me." The only times that Jesus ever smiled and rejoiced are the times when he was in the midst of poor sinners. At that time "Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." Let him see a penitent, let him hear the groan of a sinner mourning over his evil way, let him discern a tear trickling down the cheek of one of his hearers, and Jesus Christ begins to be glad, and the Man of Sorrows wears a smile for a moment upon that pale and sorrowful face. At all times there is a travailing in birth for souls: he is only happy when he sees the family of God enlarged.
3. There is another test by which you may know when a man's spirit is in his work. When a right noble lord, some little time ago, stood up in the House of Lords to speak against the infamous productions and prints of Holywell Street, I felt quite sure that his lordship was thoroughly in earnest, because he grew angry. After some person had ventured to defend the filth that comes forth from that street, as if it had some connection with the glories of art, his lordship replied in a very tart speech, which at once let you see that he meant what he said, and that he felt the work upon which he had entered to be an important one. Now, our Lord Jesus Christ sometimes grew warm in speech, but he was never angry except with men who opposed the good work with which he came, and not even with them if he saw that they opposed it through ignorance, but only with those who stood up against him on account of pride and vain glory. Did ye ever read such a mighty tirade of threatening as that which roars from Christ when he is speaking against the Pharisees? "But woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him two-fold more the child of hell than yourselves. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? "Methinks I see his holy cheeks glowing with a divine furore, when he hurls his thunderbolts about him, and denounces the men who shut up the gates of heaven, and will not enter in themselves, and they that would enter in they hinder. Now, you can see that his soul is in it, because the man grows warm. The loving spirit of Jesus, who was trodden on like a worm, who would never defend himself who had not a spark of resentment towards his persecutors, but "when he was reviled, reviled not again," who gave blessings for cursesoh! how he kindles into a flame when he sees enemies! in the way of his poor people whom he has come to save! Then, indeed, he spares no words. Then can he ply the lash with a mighty hand, and let them see that the voices of Jesus can be as terrible as thunder, while, at other times, it can be sweet as harpers harping with their harps.
4. A sure evidence that a man has espoused some mighty purpose, and that his purpose has saturated his whole soul, and steeped him in its floods, is, that if he be unsuccessful, he will weep. Now, see our Lord. Were there ever such tears shed as those which he poured forth over Jerusalem? Standing on the hilltops, he saw its towers and its glittering temple, and he discerned in the dim future the day when it should be burned with fire, and the ploughshare of destruction should be driven o'er its once fair, but then desolate, foundations and he cries, "O Jerusalem! Jerusalem I how often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, end ye would not!" Oh that wail of his,"O Jerusalem! Jerusalem!" Does it not remind you of those words of God in one of the old prophets, where weeping over Ephraim, he saith ''How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together." Jehovah's bowels yearned to clasp his Ephraim to his breast. And so with Jesus. They may spit in his face, and he weeps not. They may drag him out of the synagogue and seek to cast him headlong down the brow of the hill, but I find not that he sighs. They may nail him to the cross, and yet there shall be ne'er a tear. The only thing that can make him weep is to see that they reject their own mercy, that they put away from them their only hope, and refuse to walk in that only way of peace. This alone might serve as a proof of the intensity of Jesus' soul in his great purpose. He must save others; and if they be not saved, he will weep. If others oppose their salvation he will grow angry; not for himself but for them. Careless of what happens to himself, he has no fear, no anger for injuries that are poured on him, but his whole spirit is given up to the one great work of rescuing souls from sin, and sinners from going down into the pit.
5. It often happens, however, that when we are really earnest about some purpose, some enemy will rise up. Unconscious, perhaps, of the nobility of our purpose, he will misconstrue our motives, vilify our character, and tread our fair name in the dust. There is a strong temptation at such seasons to defend one's self. We want to say just a word about one's own sincerity and heartiness of purpose. The temptation comes very strongly on us, because we think that we ourselves are so wrapped up, so intimately connected with the work, that perhaps, if our name be injured that work may suffer also. How many good and great men have fallen into this snare, so that they have left their work in order to take care of themselves, and have at least diminished some little of their ardor, or commingled the ardor which they feel for those objects with another fervency of spiritthe fervency of self-defense. Now, in our Lord Jesus Christ you see nothing of this. He is so set upon his purpose that when they call him a drunkard he doth not deny it; when they say he is a Samaritan and is mad, he takes it silently and seems to say, "Be it so; think so, if you will." Now and then there is a word of complaint, but not of accusation. When it is really for their good he will rebuke them, and say, "How can Beelzebub cast out Beelzebub?" But there is no elaborate defense of his character. Christ has left on record, in his sermons, no apology for anything he said. He just went about his work and did it, and left men to think what they pleased about him. He knew right well that contempt and shame from some men are but another phase of glory, and that to suffer the despite of a depraved race was to be glorified in the presence of his Father, and in the midst of his holy angels. Yet we might wonder (if we did not know who he was) that some little personal animosity did not sometimes creep in; but you never detect a shade of it. Many there were, I dare say, whom he knew to be his dire enemies; he has not a word to say against them. Some would come up in the street to insult him; I do not find that he took the slightest notice of them. Many there were, too, that spread all manner of ill reports, but he never told his disciples to try and stop the ill tale that was abroad. He treated with silent pity the calumnies of men, and walked on in the majesty of his goodness, defying all men to say what they pleased, for all their devices could no more make him turn aside from his course than the baying of the dog can make the moon stand still in her orbit. And so, too good to be selfish, too glorious to care for any one's esteem, he could not and would not turn aside, bus as an arrow from the bow of some mighty archer, he sped on his way towards his destined) target.
6. Then, mark again, another proof qf the full devotedness of Christ to his ministry namely, that you always see him laboring. The three years of Christ's ministry were three years of ceaseless toil. He never rested: one wonders how he lived at all. It is but little marvel that his poor body was emaciated, and that his visage was more marred than that of any man. What with stern conflicts with Satan in the desertconflicts so severe, that, if you and I were to undergo them, they might make our hairs turn grey in a single night; what with conflicts with the crowd of men who all seemed to rise up at once against him, like warriors armed to the teeth, while he stood like a defenseless lamb in the midst of cruel wolveswhat with preaching, with more private teaching, with healing the sick and the lepers, restoring the maimed, the deaf, the blind; going about everywhere doing good, and never ceasing in his journeys, walking every inch of his way on foot, save when he was tossed on the stormy bosom of the lake, in some small boat which belonged to his disciplesnever having a home wherein to dwell, crying, "the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head"surely never man labored like this man. That three years of our Savior's ministry reads like the history of three centuries. It is the life of a man who is living at a matchless rate. His minutes are all hours; his hours all months; his months all years; or longer still than that. He does enough in one day to give a man eternal fame, and yet, thinking nothing of it, he goes to something yet more arduous; and on, and on, and on, he toils his whole life through. The most hard working man among us has his hours of sleep. Give us but sleep and we can do anything, we rise up from our beds like giants refreshed with new wine, to run our course anew. But Jesus sleeps not.
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