The Sympathies of Jesus and His Isolated Position Among Men: Part 2

Matthew 3; Matthew 4:1‑11  •  20 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Lecture on Matt. 3; 4:1-11, followed by an extract from an exhortation.
It is God whom I first see in the person of Jesus; but God in the circumstances which the flesh repels, because it is wicked. To know God the flesh must be entirely mortified, and grace, in our hearts, must lead us to value the love of God, in spite of the flesh. This is the history of Christian life.
Outwardly, Jesus was only a poor Nazarene; but perfection was in His ways and in His heart, and it manifested itself in the midst of every difficulty, of all contempt, and of all that was false. Faith alone could discern the ways of Jesus through want and every misery. The broken heart saw this perfection of goodness manifesting itself in the midst of every care. It is necessary our hearts should see also, in that despised man, God Himself, who reveals Himself to our souls, and takes His place in our midst.
Then Jesus comes to John to be baptized. John forbad Him, because he owned the dignity of His person. “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?” Jesus then “said unto him, Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” Whom do I find here? It is the Lord Jesus and His person owned; but in spite of that, His will is to take His place with the least of the saints. “Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” Who are they, these we? It is John and Himself. Where does He place Himself? He places Himself there, in connection with the first movement of His Spirit in the heart. I place myself with those who repent, said Jesus. There are some who come to be baptized; I also, I come to be baptized. As soon as there is a movement of repentance in the heart of the sinner—a response to the testimony rendered by the word, Jesus takes His place there with that heart. It is not only that He manifests as an object that which, by faith, becomes the crucifying of the flesh, but He goes with the heart also, and the poor heart sees all that; and what a consolation for us! The One in whom the fullness of the Father was manifested is there, and it is the Son Himself. If a soul is broken down—well! Jesus is with it. If it is in fear, because already “the ax is laid unto the root of the trees,” He is there to encourage it and to show unto it His grace. He takes His place with His people, and thus we see the perfect goodness of God. It was He Himself who produced this movement of repentance in that heart, and He takes His place with that soul; Jesus is there. If He is to us the most high God, the One who manifests all this light, He is there also as man, meeting the least of our feelings. He is with us, believers, in all our misery and in all our circumstances.
The consequence of the baptism of Jesus is that the heavens are opened unto Him. It is not only the God incarnate, but heaven is opened over Him; He has the full approbation of God, and thereby we see all the extent of that grace presented to sinners. Never was heaven opened before. God had sent messengers, but never had there been on earth a man upon whom heaven opened.
When Jesus has accomplished the work of atonement, He places us in the same position as Himself. “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and your God.” Heaven is open. There is no longer any veil on our heart.
As man, Jesus was perfectly righteous, and although He placed Himself in the position of those poor sinners who drew nigh to God, He was none the less acceptable to God; and, indeed, never was Jesus so acceptable to God, as when He bare our sins on the tree. It was at the moment of His death that He perfectly glorified God, in all that He was as man, and that He also, at the same time, bore testimony to the perfect and infinite love of God towards sinners.
Heaven is opened on Jesus—well! it is also entirely opened on us. No sin can be tolerated before God; all that is not of Christ, on whom heaven could be opened God beholds and He cannot tolerate sin. But there is no longer a veil as to us: we look on His glory in Jesus, with unveiled face; and the glory of God shines on man, as he is in Jesus, just as it shone on Jesus Himself. All that is not Christ is condemned. All that is reprobate is manifested by Himself.
There is another consequence of the acceptance of Jesus; it is the Spirit of God, who descended upon Him like a dove, and the voice from heaven, which made itself heard, “saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Such is the position Jesus takes. He manifests His grace in testimony to man when he is in his sins. He adapts Himself to the circumstances of the sinner in his lowest state; He identifies Himself with him in the first step he takes under grace, but at the same time, we see as to Himself that there is a voice “saying, This is my beloved Son.” This is the perfect man, in the presence of God—the friend of poor sinners, and the expression of all that God loves to see in man in the midst of the world.
But, further (Matt. 4), if we are the children of God, His beloved children, as we believe, loved as Jesus is loved (as He said Himself: “That the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them"), we are, through grace, in the same position as Himself in the sight of God. But it is needful that this perfectly beloved person should be tested. It is needful that we also should be tested (not merely to know if we are children of God, nor as sinners, as such; we have already been tested, and we know we are lost). It is needful that grace should work, and when it is a question of grace, it is always the perfect grace of God toward sinners. All that is good must be on God's side, for in man there is nothing. The light manifests that in God there is nothing but that which is good, and in us no good thing. This love of God, in us, produces a new life. We are in the position of children of God, like Jesus; but then, the Spirit of God being in us, we must be put to the test. There are many things which hinder us from enjoying the love of God. There is selfishness, self-love, levity: therefore we must be put to the test, as Jesus Himself was. Paul says, “We glory in tribulations also and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.”
Thus we are conscious of being children of God, being looked upon by Him as Jesus Himself. Then, all is begun; but all is not finished. As to acceptance, indeed, all is finished. The child God may have just given me is truly my child, though its education be not gone through; but it is as much my child, though just born, as when he will be twenty.
Jesus, owned of God, takes His place according to our weakness, and He is “led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” What Satan always seeks is to make us forget our position as children. In ourselves, we are slaves of the devil; but we have been set free by God. Satan wanted man to abandon his first estate which he had in Eden; and he succeeded. There were “angels which kept not their first estate,” neither did Adam keep his. Whatever the position in which man was placed, he always failed. Nadab, Abihu, Solomon, were not able to keep the estate in which they had been placed. Satan always seeks to make us fall. Hence, although God brings into blessing, He brings us also into trial; yet we know that “He who hath begun the good work will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” If Jesus leads His sheep out, “He goeth before them.” Satan rises up to make us fall if he can; but man must, in this world, undergo the temptations of the devil. Well, Christ also underwent them, and in that position He acted as we ought to do ourselves. He does not at first say to Satan, “Get thee hence;” but He places Himself in the same position as ourselves, and he fasts forty days and forty nights. But He is there with Him who said to Him, “This is my beloved Son.” He was conscious of being the Son of God; yet, as man, Satan begins to tempt Him. Do something, he says, inconsistent with your position, something that is not obedience, to please yourself, to satisfy your own will. “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” But Jesus answers him, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
If Jesus had obeyed Satan, as the first Adam did, He would have fallen; but He could not. Grace places Him in all the difficulties in which we may be found ourselves. What is precious for us (it matters little in what circumstances) is that in Jesus we find not only life, but also the maintenance of that life.
I have life, because God gave it to me; but, in a practical sense, if I do not eat I cannot live. (John 6) There is not in our souls one single spiritual quality but what comes from God. And, besides, see how Jesus acts practically. There is not a single word in the book of God which cannot feed our souls, and therefore it is important for us to know how to handle that word by the power of the Holy Ghost, in order to be enabled to keep Satan at a distance. “Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, if thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” Satan quotes to Him a promise, but Christ will not abandon the position of obedience, and He answers him “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” We have here a principle of the utmost importance. We have indeed the whole word of God, as a means to gain the victory over Satan; but it is in the most simple obedience that we find strength. If Christ has not a word from God, He does nothing. He came to do the will of His Father; and if that which He is asked to do is not according to that will, He does not act.
The true affection of Martha and Mary leads them to beg of Jesus to come, saying to Him, “He whom thou lovest is sick.” This appeal was very touching; but the Lord does not respond to it immediately: He had received nothing from God, and He does not go. He does not listen to His natural affections. He had indeed healed others that were sick; but if He had healed Lazarus, Martha and Mary would have learned nothing more. Jesus then suffers Lazarus to die, and allows their heart to feel all the bitterness of death, that they may learn that the resurrection and the life are there.
Such is the obedience which is the principle of the life, and not the rule only; and as a Christian, I ought to do nothing but what God wants me to do.
But I find here, besides, another important principle, which is, that I should have in God such perfect confidence that I never need to make a trial of it. It is tempting God not to have the certainty that He loves us. I ought so to reckon on His love and faithfulness as not to need even to think of it.
Again, Satan says to Jesus, “Cast thyself down.” Ah! I need not do it, thought Jesus; I know full well that God will keep me. The Jews said, “Is the Lord amongst us, or not?” Well, in that they tempted Jehovah. We ought to have such assurance in God as to be able to think of nothing else but His will.
As soon as the devil said to Jesus “and worship me,” then it is plainly Satan, and the Lord answers, “Get thee hence Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
The two great principles in which Jesus walked are obedience to the word, without having any will, and perfect confidence in God. We also can reckon upon God, because we are sure to have Him for us.
I would also call your attention to the way in which Jesus placed Himself in our position. We see Him taking His place with sinners who needed repentance, but in the act which was the beginning of the divine life in them, uniting Himself with them in that baptism where their heart responded to the testimony of God about their sins. They were truly the excellent of the earth, those poor publicans and sinners.
Jesus is found in the position of the obedient Son, and thus fulfilling all righteousness. Heaven opens. Is the temptation there? Jesus is found there also. He is everywhere in order to sympathize with sinners. When He presents Himself in this world, it is God Himself who comes, and He shows in Him all that He would put in us. It is a God who has placed Himself in such a position that flesh finds nothing there. One must absolutely learn that it is the heart which must value God in His love, in His holiness, and in the midst of a world entirely lying in the wicked one.
How blessed to have Jesus! He puts Himself in our place; and we have to do with a God who has manifested Himself in the midst of the world, and who would have us for Himself, but without sin. Having put away our sins, He draws us to Himself; but without sin. Having put away our sins, He draws us to Himself, to bring us to enjoy what He is, in spite of every obstacle, and of all that is in the flesh. He would have us to enjoy perfectly that God whom, by His grace, we have known as He is.
May God grant unto us to value the perfect beauty of that Jesus, who came to us! We know Him! Ah! how happy are we to be enabled to say, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded he is able to keep that which I have committed to him!”
May God show us all the perfection of Jesus, and that even in temptations; for we shall find the beauty of One who will not forsake us up to the time He will have placed us in the same glory with Him!
ON John 13:1-381Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. 2And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him; 3Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; 4He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. 5After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. 6Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? 7Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. 8Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. 9Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. 10Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. 11For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. 12So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. 15For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. 16Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. 18I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. 19Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. 20Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. 21When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. 22Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. 23Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. 25He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? 26Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. 28Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. 29For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night. 31Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him. 33Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. 34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. 36Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. 37Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. 38Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice. (John 13:1‑38).
It is evident that Jesus here addresses the disciples who then were around Him; but what we see there of Jesus draws the soul to Him. That which draws the sinner, which gives him confidence, is what the Holy Ghost reveals of Jesus.
I desire we should consider what is found in verse 1; that is the constancy of Christ's love—a love that nothing damped nor weakened. If we think what the disciples were, and the world, and the adversaries, we shall find that Jesus had a thousand reasons putting a stop to His love. We see round Him three kinds of persons—the disciples, the indifferent, and the adversaries. The latter are more especially the children of the devil. They are those who, when they saw the Lord was going to take the kingdom and reign over those things, said, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” There are some who, from the bottom of their hearts have the certainty that Jesus is the Christ, and who will not have Him. The adversaries may draw away the indifferent. All that was in this world was of a nature to destroy Jesus' love, had it not been perfect and invariable: for there is nothing that wounds love more than indifference.
We naturally love sin, and we would make use of all that God has given us to satisfy our lusts. Jesus saw all that. He saw the disgusting state of this world and said, “How long shall I....suffer you?” When we are in the light of God, it is thus we judge sin.
Where are the parents who would not desire their children should avoid the corruption they know themselves? It was because Jesus knew the sad state of man that grace led Him to come to take him out of it. God sees everything. In His compassion He takes cognizance of everything in order to meet our wants. But what does He meet with? Indifference of heart. The heart of the natural man sees in Jesus something contemptible. He cannot acknowledge his own state, and he will not be a debtor to God to get out of it. He prefers remaining in indifference with respect to that God who loves him; and, again, let us remember that there is nothing that discourages love more than indifference.
Jesus met with hatred also. All those who loved not the light, because their deeds were evil, hated Jesus. Pride, carnal assurance, self-will, everything in man, repelled God! There was nothing in this uncleanness, this indifference, and this hatred, that could attract the love of Jesus. That love might have been led to give all up when, for instance, Jesus saw that Judas was betraying Him.
If a person were going to betray us, we should be too much occupied with ourselves to think of those who will not betray us. This was not the case with Jesus.
Although iniquity abounded, Jesus spewed all His love; and finally, His disciples themselves forsake Him also! Those who loved Him were so selfish and so much the slaves of the fear of man that it was impossible for Jesus to reckon upon them. Such is the heart of man that, although a man may love Jesus, yet his heart is worthless. Jesus had to love in presence of a hatred which never relented. He loved us even when we were covered with uncleanness, indifferent, full of hatred for the light and having denied it a thousand times. He who knows himself best knows best how true this is. If we were to treat a friend as we treat Jesus, friendship would not last long.
What a contrast we shall find, if we consider how different that which Jesus found on earth is from what He enjoyed in heaven! There He found the Father's love, and in presence of that perfect love, the purity of His own could not be manifested, because it found no obstacle. But here below, remembering what He had left, He loves His own, even in their uncleanness; this itself draws out upon them His compassion. The object of grace is iniquity and evil. The indifference of His own proved to Jesus all the extent of their misery and the need they had of Him! Even the hatred of man skewed that man was lost. God came to seek man, because he was not in a state to seek God. How many things God has borne with! What indifference, what betraying, what denials! One would be ashamed to act with Satan as one acts with the Lord. Nevertheless, nothing stops Jesus: He loves His own unto the end. He acted according to that which was in His heart, and all the wickedness of man was for Him only the occasion of manifesting His love.
The Lord has done all that is necessary to re-establish the soul in relationship with God. Sinners as we are, the grace of God came to seek us. Righteousness and the law require that evil and the wicked. be removed. John the Baptist required repentance; it was the beginning of grace. But pure grace (far from saying to man, Leave thy state and come to me) comes itself to man in his sin; it enters into relationship with him, that God may be much more manifested, than if there had been no sin.
Grace applies what is in God to the need which is produced by the ruin where we are. Jesus loves unto the end.
What consolation to know that Jesus is all that is needed for all that we are. This places us in that which is true, and leads us to confess the evil which is in us, and not to hide it. Grace alone produces sincerity. (Psa. 32:1, 21<<A Psalm of David, Maschil.>> Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. (Psalm 32:1‑2).) A man who has a profession to follow wants to appear strong even when he is weak. Grace produces truthfulness—makes us acknowledge the weakness and infirmity in which we are. If we were in the place of Peter, we would do what Peter himself did, if we were not kept. Jesus loves His own “in the world,” in their pilgrimage and their circumstances, in spite of their misery, of their selfishness, and of their weakness. All that Satan could do, and all that was in man, was quite of a nature to hinder Jesus' love: nevertheless, “he loved them unto the end.”
Can you say, “I have a share in that love, in spite of my weakness? I have understood the grace and the manifestation in Jesus of the love of the invisible God.” Have you acknowledged that it was necessary that Jesus should come into the world, in order that your soul might not go to the place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth?” Have we made up our mind to acknowledge ourselves to be what we are? This is disagreeable to the flesh, it is painful; like the thorn of Paul, it is something that continually tells him, Thou art weak; and that is precisely why God allows it to remain. Is the flesh sufficiently mortified in us for us to be content that Jesus should be all, and ourselves nothing, and for us to rejoice in seeing our weakness, since it is to manifest the strength of God in us?
Jesus has not forgotten any of our wants. The heart which is free from selfishness thinks only of that which love would do. Thus it is that Jesus, on the cross, does not forget His mother, but commends her to the disciple whom He loved.
(Concluded from page 25.)