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HOMAGE TO PERFECTION
Recently, a man of experience in latter middle life, expressed his relief at and joy in finding emphasis on the God-fearing man. He had desired such a pattern, such a way, a mode, an example, and this represented a yearning in his heart, and when focussed, a delight to his spirit.
People are often seeking something to which to give allegiance, commitment, to receive as a pattern, to find as a basis, to believe in as the perfection, the desideratum; and at times, it becomes the lust for glory, when frustrated by machinations and deprivations in the heart. At other times, it becomes the wander-lust of the dilettante, never satisfied, always seeking, like a cat in the garbage can, admittedly with some hope of some sustenance, but of nothing worthy of real commendation! The decline of the disillusioned! it could almost become a pattern of this generation. Seeking amiss, they do not find; not finding, they invent; still not finding, they add passion, and still lacking, they superadd thrust. If the results appal, the way enthrals. It is like a sports car driven blindfold: it may thrill for a little while.
a score of disappointments, they grow in vehemence, or dissolution, often
both. Their zeal may carry them past all facts, to acts of horror, as with
many in the Palestinian-Moslem syndrome of this day, specialising in murder,
aggrandising in shame.
On this, much has been written on this site, on His authenticity, authority and magnificence (cf. SMR Chs. 1, 6, Biblical Blessings Appendix IV, Barbs, Arrows and Balms, Appendix 1 279ff., Repent or Perish Ch. 2, Spiritual Refreshings... Chs. 3 and 5 - and see Index on Jesus).
Yet let us consider it further. In life in general, Christian Apologetics in particular, it is often necessary to TASTE AND SEE, as in a laboratory, yet where in some cases the taste may need to be more metaphorical, in view of the sometimes searing ingredients! Many test these things in the flesh, and are indeed seared. Man's madness with such experiments soars into the depths, if you can imagine for one moment, the lust for the illustrious, passion for glory, combined with the mistaken directions, leading to an exuberant detachment imprinted with passion, descending, descending, as if it were going aloft. One does not need much thought to see the end, and the end of such things litters this earth. This is the spiritual spaces debris, of which less is heard than of the other kind, but far more is to be seen!
Vagrant visionaries wave their flags of arrant and often arrogant mortality, making the charge of the Light Brigade, the valiant 600, seem almost safe by comparison, or well-chosen!
As for Christ, then, let us look at some of the ingredients of His character, the dispositions of His life, the wonders of His expression.
What is to be found here ?
This then becomes:
IMAGE OF PERFECTION,
THE GRACE OF CHRIST,
THE WAY OF GOODNESS:
WHERE IT IS FOUND
1) In Personality
What then is one of the specialised specificities in Christ ? (before lamenting over that verbal combination, consider how likely you are to forget it! and as to Christ Himself, He is the more unforgettable, the world still covered with towers of triumphs in His grace, in word and life).
Him, what was one feature ? A kindly and engaging, dispersive and generous
graciousness, allied with a purity of resolve and an unflagging determination
that crystallised issues, conquered diversions, forestalled dispersions,
overcame evil with simplicity and directness, and this all, without losing
sensitive touch, compassion or composure. From this the record contains
no diversion, no digression, here are no 'satanic verses', and here the
devil gets his come-uppance. We are asked to make zero allowances, need
to find NOTHING for which to make excuse. Instead, the superb prominence
in humility of person, the illustrious majesty that was more to be covered
than displayed, lest false motives should spoil His seeking in truth and
love for His flock. (Cf. SMR pp. 857-866,
How would He be more bountiful than in restoring the cleft ear of the servant of the High Prieist, come to arrest Him for a satanic purpose (Luke 22:50-51).
His natural compassion, stirred at the scene of the 5000 to feed them (Matthew 14:14), yet never was moved to indulgence, as if to suppress the exposure of false motive, wrongfully arising after His gift.
Thus, even after the expression of divine generosity, confirmed by miracle as a continuation and amplification of that of Elisha (II Kings 4:38-44), both in sweetness and health, and in scope of the feast provided, purity still reigned. Therefore, He could on the next day, draw their attention back to salvation, and away from pragmatic and mercenary desires (John 6:26-54) which such liberality can evoke in some, who could corrupt almost anything, however good, if once they were given free reign! Indeed, He could use the act of power to make a testimony, a teaching of salvation, not merely in terms of the love, the mercy shown, but the meaning inherent in the action, linking it to the former acts of the Lord, with Moses, and showing its consummation of meaning in what was to follow. That ? it was His own flesh, given in sacrifice, that better manna.
Further, no mere reflection was here, or even any simple expression of consummation of a trend: rather He used it to give precise form and information concerning His cross, His sacrifice, His giving of His life. It was to be 1) a sacrificial offering 2) one to be taken so personally as to make eating its physical correlate 3) it was to be the sacrifice to end sacrifices, not merely at the direction of God Almighty, but for His personal provision in incarnation - as in Hosea 13:14, Isaiah 52-53, Micah 5:1-3, Psalm 22, John 6:62ff. (cf. Joyful Jottings 21-25, The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 9, No. 8, With Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength Ch. 6).
could and did inspire with majesty, impel with purity, regale with righteousness,
without pomp or pomposity, carnality or compromise, fleshly heat or spiritual discomposure (Matthew 21:1-11), always citing scripture with a pellucid perspicuity, so that under challenge, He was unanswerable, His words like barbs to the barbaric, like swords to the contesting pettifoggers, like pincer movements of the military, when He surged to expose their weakness (Matthew 21:12-46).
But why ? not for lust of argument, not for tempestuousness of triumph did He act , for His words and His works agree in one, as works of truth, peace and compassion, challenge, judgment and appeal, showing the way amid confusion, the light cast like a beam into darkness, and rebuking what was molesting the flock with a severity that tenderness has as its ally in such matters! This was fully exposed in Ezekiel 34, when God execrated the self-seeking pomp and pretentious arrogations of the worldly 'pastors', and indicated that HE WOULD COME AND BE PASTOR HIMSELF! Thus in John 10:1-10, you see this fulfilled, in Luke 11:52 His judgment on the impostors who with merely surreal spirituality, impeded salvation, instead of ministering for it!
And what did those exposed do when so exposed, now by God Himself on earth in person, as He declared would be the case ? They "began to oppose Him vehemently, and to provoke Him to speak of many things, laying wait for Him, and seeking to catch something out of His mouth, that they might accuse Him." Precisely as Israel in many of its power structures, treated the prophets, in spirit, did they seek to bait, endeavour to harass, reject and rage. Even in this they failed, for who in anything could succeed against the Maker of man! This was the nature of the expected case, for God is after all infinitely beyond sin and evil, the predicted case (Isaiah 11, 49:2,6-8, 50:4-9), and the actual case. These three agree in one. Verification delights like lilies in the well-watered pasture, set in sunshine; it is regaled, knows neither limit nor bound.
He was simply unanswerable, a walking harassment of harassment, lethal to to the lethal, by exposing their flanks, exhibiting their follies and exposing the truth in its perfection of bliss, from His own mouth (cf. Mark 11:33). To be sure, He would give power to His own to answer (John 14:12, Luke 21:15), yes His was the author of the authority, and His own practice had no imperfection, flicker of weakness or failure in performance (cf. James 1:17). When God acts in His own being, His perfection is the result, whatever the suffering, whatever the purity, whatever the criteria, whatever the circumstances, the conditions or the counter-force. It is as the small dust in the balance. This is the theology; it is also the practicality. It is the expectation, the imputation and the situation. In Christ, they combine, again, as one.
Indeed, there is no phase or facet which fails, search as one may, and it is like viewing an Old Master painting of the highest kind, only better; for not merely do tests show the quality, but the quality suggests the tests, dimension upon dimension stirring the imagination when it sees what has been done, realising the challenge faced by the conspicuousness of the solution provided.
Christ's rebukes were never stung by merely personal offence, but
therapeutic in heart, solicitous in spirit, or minatory in force. To Jerusalem
His rebuke is surrounded with tears (Luke 19:42ff.), though chaste in containment;
to the scribes His severity does not fail to list the offence to the weak
committed by the pseudo-scholarly abuse of strength, the very contrary
of their office and responsibility. Of hypocrisy He is arch-foe, its intemperate
gluttony of glory with its inherent unservicability being the precise contrast
of His own ways (Matthew 23).
The beauty is severe, sensational, practical, probing (cf. Psalm 45, 110), the peace austere, friendly, composed, profound, the strength always adequate, always at price (cf. Mark 1:35ff., Matthew 17:14-21, Luke 22:39-46, 27:46), and the very agonies did not dim or diminish the tenderness (Luke 23:39-43). There was to be found the peace of the king of eternity, the certainty of the very word of God, the effectuality of the word on mission (Isaiah 48:16), and the power of the Prince of peace, making peace by being it, Himself the focus of the sin that condemns, freely (Isaiah 55:1ff., 53:6). Hence He did not baulk at forgiving sins personally, who in Himself was their cure (Mark 1-12).
Where His graces, mercies and opportunities were sinfully ignored, they could lead to His lament as over Jerusalem; but this was equipped with a realism at His rejection, since in Himself is the essential criterion of life, that nevertheless did not ignore or blush at the results of such denial (Luke 19:44).
Was He not Himself giving His own life for them, to cover ALL who EVER would come to receive it, and not only so, but giving it to mockery, as well as to death, apparent impotence as well as sacrifice, with a purity of motive and inflexible and indefatigable resolve that omitted no grace, no duty, even praying in the very midst of such contempt, for His oppressors, WHILE they still oppressed Him, even at the lethal end of the whole matter, as far as His mortal body was concerned (Luke 23:34). Though it was to be attested as immortal through resurrection, as a man indeed, no less than the Son of God, this transition was to be performed! He had to face its interstices, as sin-bearer, at the end, alone!
After all, His purpose was to give to the uttermost, to bring from the utmost vagrancies all who would be moved.
If He were to be moved, as rarely seen (Mark 3:5), to righteous indignation, its impact was to purify, to enable more liberty for salvation and to overcome that odour of evil which was disposed to sully the ardour and the beauty of holiness, inherent in Himself, maintained for the faithful. Indeed, it is the rallying at the irreconcilable obstruction, obfuscation or intrusion of the merciless in their unspiritual severities, as He did good! It is the surgeon, we see here, having his arm bumped by an odious nurse, while he performs an operation she desires not to succeed; or worse, by an assitant surgeon, miscalled, who is envious of the triumph to come, or doctrinaire, does not want it to work!
So did He scorn and drive out that commercialism in the Temple (John 2:13ff., Mark 11:15ff., Matthew 21:12ff.) which, with spiritual obscenity, dared to 'make a good thing out of' the worship of God! In doing so, His quotations assembled from Isaiah 56 and Jeremiah 7, are completed with one from Psalm 8, all with a seemingly effortless penetration, an indomitable thrust, a dazzling precision.
for all that, He zealously stirred men to use their talents, to be industriously
constructive, intelligently alert, so long as their service was first of
all for God (Matthew 25:14ff., Luke 19:12ff.).
2) IN POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES
There are however many other features on which one could focus. Let us for survey, list some of them.
If then in PERSONALITY WE FIND UNIQUE AUTHENTICITY, AUTHENTIC UNIQUENESS AND IMMEASURABLE MAJESTY, what else is to be considered ?
are with PERSONALITY, also HIS ...
PROCEDURE, in its integrity (Matthew 26:52-56, Luke 22:49-53),
PRINCIPLES for procedure (John 14:12-14, Mark 11:23ff., Matthew 17:18-25, 9:35-38, 12:1-8, Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount),
PROMISES (John 14:19ff.),
PROPHECIES (Matthew 23:34-39., Luke 19:42ff., Matthew 24), on the grand scale,
with THEIR PRECISION, THEIR PHASING (Luke 21:24), as on the more personal side (Luke 22:34, John 21:15-19), there is
POWER (Matthew 4:23-25, 8:14-17,12:15, 8:10-13, 20:29-34, 15:28), distance being a virtual irrelevance to its exercise, time no constraint,
PROMULGATION (Matthew 28:20ff.),
PRESENCE (Matthew 18:19-20, John 14:21-23),
PERFORMANCE (Luke 24:25-29),
and there is in
PROPHETIC FULFILMENT and DETAILING of His own PRINCIPLE PLACE IN THE PROGRAM (Matthew 26:52-56, 11:4ff., Luke 23:28ff.), filled lustrously, with a lordship which never wilted nor merely dictated (Matthew 26:31-46),
REALISM (John 2:19ff.), with that sovereign majesty which could even touch cleansing with fearless manifestation of His identity, reaching to the very heavens in His ascription of assured result, while cleaning the very dirt of earth, and excoriating the audacities of hell, as in the temple case, both its purge and its focus as a symbol of His own body, to be resurrected,
RELISH (John 13:1ff., Matthew 6:28-29),
RELEASE (Matthew 8:14-17, Mark 5:1-30, Luke 4, Matthew 12:22ff., Luke 13:10-17, Matthew 13:14-17, John 9:1-12,35ff., John 18:7-9);
and then again, there is
CURE (Matthew 11:25-30, ),
KINGLINESS (John 7:45-52, Luke 22:67-69),
CLEANNESS (John 8:34-46, Luke 18:23),
CONSISTENCY (John 18:11, Matthew 5:17-20, 26:54-56)
CROWN (Luke 23:43, John 18:34-37, 19:19-22).
On the NEGATIVE SIDE, for what is wrong or inadequate needs negation, there was this list, merely for a swift survey. What then were some of the features which Christ displayed in this dimension.
self-preservation but defeat of death, on the grand scale, facing the negative
and then negating its own negation (Luke 24:25ff.),
Not rotting but resurrection (Luke 24:28-42)
Not delays but direction action (Matthew 12:28, John 9:35-41),
Not popularity dipilomacy but self-denial (John 6:26ff.),
Not achieving greatness but manifesting goodness (Acts 2:22, 3:12-14, 10:38, Matthew 9:35),
Not ascending the social ladder but descending from the spiritual heights (John 3:13, 1:1-14, 8:58),
Not captive of hell, but confronting it (Matthew 12:25-30),
servile to power but of power inherent (John 18:31ff, Luke 23:6ff.),
Not emptily assertorial but singularly declarative (John 7:45ff.),
Not tedious but triumphant (Mark 2:12),
Not ruthless but realistic, in whom realism has its birth and place (Matthew 23:37ff.),
Not subject to circumstances but in humility, holiness and in truth, towering over all scenarios (Mark 2:1-12,23ff., 4:35ff., Matthew 14:22ff., John 2).
here is found the red heart, for there is no heartless violence,
nor the dead heart, for here is
no blind performance,
nor mere routine pragmatic politic,
uninspired and unfired mouthings:
for in THIS politics the KING who is so from eternity, comes INTO time
to present for ALL TIME the offering that makes citizens, Himself
not in a limousine, but on a Cross,
and to show the power all need, not to dictate, but to break death.
As in no other, what He said and did had power to total correlation, so that the balance resembled the beauty of some giant river gum - majestic in symmetry, yet intensely individual in branches, of which the number seems almost illimitable and the flower a sweet cascade of arboreal tresses (cf. John 20:30-31, 21:24-25). He did it in life, He performed it in death, He continued in resurrection; His power comes from afar, but enters into the immense depths of the heart, reviving to this day, empowering with grace, giving grace with power, immersing the inner man with peace and filling the heart with understanding (Ephesians 1:17-19, and the blessed avoidance of the condition depicted in Isaiah 48:18-19, one which however speaks positively by its very omission!
Laughing at limits, He delimited man and properly defined Him. Perfect in person, He is also effective in principle something this worn world in its ways is not - and He leaves a royal power in store, working the world's destiny without removing its will, as well as recoding the hearts of the redeemed, a very necessary performance (Hebrews 8:8-13) - yet one always subordinate to purposes so holy that his world itself cannot contravene them, merely murder those who perform them, while it wallows in blood, and awaits unrepentant, its due judgment. These however who are His, they go on undeterred, using spiritual and not carnal weapons, and their works follow them.
TO HELP IGNITE
THE 'ENGINES' THAT WILL NOT START!
1) Consider now John 14:1-3.
WARMER THAN COMFORT
Having displayed the power, exhibited the presence and shown the authority of God for His ways and words, His life on earth and mission now nearly complete, Jesus the Christ said words both deep and reasonable: "Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me." They believed the unseen source, they must also believe the visible incarnation.
"In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you."
This has a tenderness of reason, an implication of affection, a depth of compassion which is arresting. Words of vacuity, leave to the philosophers who know no God. Thoughts of frozen principle, leave to the mathematical among them. God made persons and is personal; knows thoughts, since He manufactured their kind, and provided for them needful equipment on earth. He does not treat man as material, or material as man.
Projections concerning the future are as natural to man as the ground under his feet. Meeting these, Christ gave ground for man's life, for all who are His.
Does He then ignore the natural human tenor, He who created man ? Of course not. If it were some horrendous life which attaining to rich and mellow meaning, were simply to be cut off, or left into some unknown realms, would not such a fate have concerned the Saviour, or would not such an abortion of reasonableness have been addressed by His power, and such works as were necessary have been performed by His love ? Naturally and necessarily, for He who has come to give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28, 26:28), is not doing it for their death, but to grant escape its just rigours; not acting for their dumping, but for their deliverance; meeting the rigours in Himself, to give them the vigour of truth and the results in eternity of divine enterprise in time. It is for their very lives that He has come.
Nevertheless, while such things are obvious, the words here spoken by Christ are sacred, secure and explicit. It is not left to the imagination, to the deductive facilities; it is manifest. It is stated.
is this all. The PRINCIPLE that loves deigns to use, is also a statement
expressly enunciated. IF
IT WERE NOT SO, I should have told you.
There is not only the ACTUAL provision of assurance; there is the further
confidence given, that any such omission could not be envisaged at all,
would be contrary to His character, a breach of His love, a crack in His
pastoral provision. Does God when acting as a man, overlook
life ? Of course not, and if in anything there were any blemish, would He not have made it clear! "I should have told you ..."
In fact however, He has been given a full, sufficient and efficient sacrifice for sin, and those who are His He will raise up on the last day, to glory (John 6:50-54, 11:25-26, Matthew 25, I John 2:2, Hebrews 9:12-10:14).
in this initial part of John 14, concerned for them as He faces His own
profound trial as a sacrifice for sin, about to strike, He adds this:
It is all eminently personal. He repeats and amplifies the intention to prepare a place for them; He makes conspicuous therefore to them that His words are pondered, processive, reflective, that He will do the one, and then having done it, will do the other.
Nor is this all: He is doing this for a purpose, so that they may accompany Him in heaven, whose hearts accompanied His with joy on earth.
This is more than felicitous; it is larger than comfort. It is exquisite in tenderness, eminent in practicality, gracious in divulgement, complete in scope. His dealings are comprehensive, comprehensible and charitable; His works are sufficient, signal and have His style, that amplitude of survey, that utter profundity of provision and security of strength. Not tyrannical in mode, but good in solicitude, He makes all things clear, satisfies the enquiries we there read as the chapter proceeds, and moves into the realm of life before His return, with provisions and promises anew, like some massive bouquet, garlanded with reason, relished with rapture and abundant in construction.
2) Now let us take John 18:23
KEENER THAN A BLADE
Here we find Jesus before the High Priest. Interrogation is proceeding, at night in that travesty of justice, that quarantine from the people, that forerunner of the secret police abstracting and absconding with persons, in dark corners, seizing prey of which Russia has so long and in so much been a focus during the 20th century.
Christ's remonstrates in the dark court: You have been able to hear Me often enough, My speech has been most public, in synagogues, in the Temple, where the people are. This was its thrust. Why ask Me ? Ask those who heard.
The fact of course that the priests had long been contemplating His murder (Matthew 12:14), being exposed by His words (as in Matthew 23, Luke 11) and vehement in their opposition (Luke 11:53-54), makes the interrogation ring so untrue, as if a cracked bell were sending out its quavering note, where fulsome and sonorous sound was expected, to rejoice the heart. This was merely like an Arctic blast, to freeze it, a thing contrived in ice, and sent in coldness. Do you then feel a pang of sorrow for the priestly figures, clothed in shame ? Why ? Did not many priests believe later (as in Acts 6:7). Might not these have done the same ? Might not some in fact have repented ? Did not Christ even on the last phases of His agonies, call out for His oppressors, Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing, as as we read it in Luke, He kept on so calling (Luke 23:34, imperfect tense).
But, you may wish to pursue it, were they not ensconced in their professions, earning their livelihood, and was there not an authority, the Caiaphas man, and could you really expect them to give up their careers just for the sake of the truth ?
They perhaps were so placed, but truth has a way with it, sometimes to strike the impervious seeming rotter, at times to enlist unforeseen support; BUT IF NOT (as the three friends of Daniel put it (3:18), "let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up."
There is such a thing as courage! Further, you CANNOT be a disciple of Christ unless you are willing to FORSAKE ALL. God is not mocked. He is not a puppet or a plaything; but God Almighty. You serve Him or you do not. Mercifully, there is no real tension, for where all the power is, there also is all the love that endures! As to truth, forsake it and live in a dream. That does not long continue, as is the case with dreams!
So people go to their long home; but not without reason, and that is one reason why God sent Christ, His Christ into the world, His fellow, eternal companion (Micah 5:1-3, John 1:1), the ONLY begotten Son, eternal in being, essential for salvation, into this world, as I John 4 so expressly puts it (4:9, 5:6-7, 4:14). If they reject Him, is some dictation to make them into spiritual robots, then ? Not so. Made in the image of God, they are not to be tyrannised over, for God is truth, and in truth what bears His image has spirit, and is no conditionable unit. If it is MADE to conform, without heart, then it is mere lie.
So they go where they are to go, and if they seek to deface the Christ, whether literally and physically, or scripturally, the end is what does not save. How then are they to be saved who so defile what is salvation! there is no other (Acts 4:11-12)!
Let us however revert to the scene with the High Priest. We turn now to the entourage of power. When Christ had answered, making it clear that His utterances were so public that it should not be difficult to have someone report them to the enquiring authorities, violence struck.
It was quite simple, at the first. On hearing this, one of the officials, struck, or slapped Jesus, asking, in effect, Is this any way to answer the High Priest ?
Has not authority over man spoken from its privileged position; and are yet, here are you ready to act like a reasonable soul, to answer him with some sense of equality before justice ? Is THIS any way to behave! Down cur! This was the thrust of the official's words, which accompanied his striking of Christ's face.
Jesus did not reply in fuming anger, in foolish outrage, nor in abased fear. Instead, He spoke with a sharpness of reason, an inveterate justice, a truth so singular and apt that it comes like the first signs of Spring, after the continuing frosts of some long Winter.
"If, " He responded to this double assault, of tongue and hand, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; bit if well, why do you strike Me ?"
From this scene, we find Him then sent bound from Annas, perhaps as preliminary deputising, to Caiaphas the high priest (John 18:24).
answer which He had given, however, is deliciously simple. Let us seek
to paraphrase the sense and force of it, at least.
(This of course includes, for those who knew the background, tones and overtones both. Let us however proceed with seeking the force of the reply.)
Is then this the manner of justice ? Is this the character of this court, that it will so suffer suffering without even words to establish its right, and prejudge without ground, acting as also in the arrest, on grounds amiss, with case vague and incomprehensible, except to envy! Is the court a minister to outrage of unrepentant heart and that inveterate desire to get rid of God which is such an hypocrisy in the ways of those who for so long have treated the people as a means, and God as a method, rather than God as a source and director: who now seek to slay His only begotten Son!
Such thoughts are readily evoked by the reply, when you consider the guilty consciences of the operatives, the court!
In so little, in such a case, in such circumstances, so much is evoked. It stands as when spoken in condemnation of all the secret police presumptions and cautions, that cause aching hearts and empty homes on the basis of the presumptuous power lusts of those who seek to establish themselves, not justice, to force their own rule, and not righteousness.
That courage, character and composure accompany the thrust of the Messiah, here, goes without saying; that a majesty which knows no cowing, and needs no spuming of anger, is at work, is apparent as the case proceeds, in the confused vexatiousness of the procedure in contrast with the simple regality of the victim, aware of His end on this earth, both the cross and the resurrection, aware of their wickedness, seeing past their pretension and knowing their judgment. Though now in their day of power (cf. John 19:11), they are those who judge, their own judgment, when truth rules (Romans 2:2), except they repent, is not far off.
It is with Pilate, as in John 18:29-38 that the reality of the victim towering over His oppressors is seen in its simple splendour, and unabashed incisiveness. As the Word of God, when rejected, He leaves NO TRUTH. As the truth, He, being sent to death, leaves only the confusion, like a chest cavity without a heart, which human history when ignoring Him, so foully portrays. Betraying truth, it lacks it. Lacking it, it is filled perennially with the evidences of its loss, now mounting like some giant tsunami to envelop the earth.
further on this scene and scenario, see at length Chapter
3) Lastly, we come to John 5:19-23 as background for John 9:39-41.
THE CRITERION AND QUALITY OF JUDGMENT
In the former verses, in John 5, we see that not only is Christ the expression of God in performing perfectly all His will, but the works He does are done in the SAME WAY as the Father does them. This amazing statement of course gives the lie to the error of John Calvin, who, faced with Matthew 23:37 in his Institutes, alas recklessly asserts that the work of Christ and His understanding are moving one way, and the divine thoughts of His Father are not identical. Not as the compassion of the Son is the fashion of the Father. That is utterly wrong. On the contrary, however, when we actually read what is written, to use the GREEK, JUST AS the Father does it, so the Son. It is the Father likewise who in this same spirit WOULD OFTEN have brought the people to repentance, but they would not, they were not willing (cf. SMR Appendix B, The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4, and on Calvin, Predestination and Freewill, Section 2, pp. 79ff., Tender Times for Timely Truths Ch. 2, *1).
No, as also in Colossians 1:19ff., where this is perfectly explicit! It is the love of God which, precisely as in Christ, whom to see is to see the Father (John 14:9), is munificent. Its breach is decisive, but its scope is as in I John 2:2, sufficient for all. Alas for the judgments, however, which follow its ultimate and undeterred demise in the human heart. Of course God foreknew, for what does He not foreknow (Ephesians 1:4, Isaiah 46:10, Acts 15:18); but HOW He foreknew, it is in quality just as Christ expressed it, in terms of teeming love; so that the laments on earth (Luke 19:42ff.) are not without basis in the decisions of eternity. God IS love (I John 4:8).
But JUDGMENT DOES FOLLOW, and this too is foreknown as we often see (cf. Ezekiel 38:17, Isaiah 30:31ff., 37:26-27, Deuteronomy 32). Just as the believer has already passed from a state of death to a state of life so that he does not come into judgment (as in I John 3:9, 5:11-12), so in the resurrection, it is also already clear (as in John 3:18-19,36), that decisive indeed is the division: for the founded soul is never confounded (John 6:40,47), and the evil which never even is born into His kingdom at all (John 3:3,5), these as workers without God, and hence without His goodness, fall foul of the truth, and are condemned.
These things are reflected in no small measure, with exceeding clarity in John 9:39-41. The man healed by the grace of Christ, the ecclesiastical subverters, then in power, would have preferred to have been let lie, it being a day of rest. Their own cows they might lift out of a pit on this day, if they fell in; but not a human!
Persecuting the healed man, as if their own remorselessness was the very work they had to produce, they threw him out of the synagogue, a very clear indication of who was running THAT place at that time!
When Christ met the man, again, He tenderly evoked the expression of faith - DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE SON OF GOD ? came the question.
WHO IS HE ? came the response.
IT IS HE WHO TALKS WITH YOU.
Such was the tenor of the conversation (cf. Romans 10:9).
The man had faith, had found its just and due object, Jesus the Christ, and had exercised it in terms of the power and purity of the testimony, being given grace of heart as well as of body.
What however did Christ THEN SAY! That is the question for the moment.
find it at the end of this reported conversation, to which we now attend
(bold added, for emphasis only).
And Jesus said,
After the tenderness, the solicitude, the eminently and pre-eminently personal understanding shown to the man, whose faith and future is thereby assured, Christ turns to characterise the obstruction to His mercy. The prima facie paradox occurs: the ones who do not see (being, as here physically blind, and in this class one might find those who were so UNASSUMING that they did not already KNOW SO MUCH that further learning was outrageously out of the question!), these people can and do receive sight.
the other hand, those who see (the play on the physical and the spiritual
now being express and explicit), because of their self-assured arrogance,
or their setting of their sights in the culture of the times, not in the
word of God and the just expectations in which it had for so long abounded,
concerning the coming, the power and the ways of the Messiah, yes even
His date of death (as if merely to foretell His death were a small thing):
these will remain tied to their stalls, like shut-in cattle, confined,
in a mess and without light.
This THEREFORE, this word of Christ is filled with judgment, of which He Himself is the criterion (as in John 5:22-23, Acts 17:31). It is not for their sin that hell reaches up to them, for this is readily forgiven from such a profound payment platform as Christ constitutes, His love having impelled Him and His power have propelled the consequence - He being one of the Trinity (John 8:58). It is for their exclusion of remedy, their impenitent prohibition of pardon, their despising (and if a vital medicine is not used when the patient desiring life, has a terminal illness, it IS despised) of the Gospel that they suffer damnation, that inveterate end to inveterate wilfulness; and this is known before all time, and all time apart, by God.
It is He who FOREKNEW whom He PREDESTINATED, and the former is first! (Romans 8:29ff.).
There are no mistakes. There is no lack of love. There is a superabundance of mercy (cf. Micah 7:18ff.). Where however HE is not received, neither is His ransom, and so the SIN REMAINS just where it is. Thus He declared, as we see in John 8:24: "Therefore I told you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."
Hence that pithy and pungent, yet perhaps for many a therapeutic declaration, that He came for judgment (in that category for the moment, in His speech), with this result, that HE JUDGES that what receives Him in trust and in truth IS HIS, and so will see, will enter the kingdom (John 3:3-5), and be HIS; while He equally judges that what is too full of itself to see, excluding itself, retains its sin and its imaginary vision! The sightless see, being sated with the sovereign mercy of the revealing God; the seeing remain sightless, for their pretension is no more sight than is judgment pardon.
In this way, the quality of judgment is surveyed and seen; and it is nothing different from that in John 15:21-23, where indicated this, that BECAUSE He had actually COME and they had actually SEEN and HEARD what was done, beyond all things merely human, and yet had rejected Him, that their sin remained. IF HE HAD NOT DONE SO, NEITHER would their sin be of this damning quality. He KNOWS the heart; He also knows the result. History does not falsify the knowledge of eternity.
It is as in John 3 (cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4, and with it, Cascade of Truth, Torrent of Mercy Ch. 9), that the love of God is shown in the practicalities of the presence of the infinitely costly coming of the Christ, and that it is IN VIEW OF the treatment of this, that the result obtains. WHEN THIS LIGHT, having come, is rejected, then there is no further sacrifice. Its propulsion is in love for the world, nothing less (cf. Colossians 1:19ff.), and its rejection is the criterion of negative judgment, when that is final!
Judgment is not a loveless enormity; but rather is it a result of a truth which is too tenacious to move (and if it did, heaven would move, a mirage for the thirsty), when the mercy which is too insistent to depart, is dismissed. It is not in man's power to determine these things (as in I Cor. 2:13-14), since he is too sick to see (Ephesians 2:1-8, 4:17-19); but he is responsible, since in God's knowledge, sickness is no barrier , nor is it bar or limit. HE KNOWS who are His, as He says (II Tim. 2:19), and sovereignly selects them. Yet this, it is not with balefulness of indifference, but rather with a love which in mercy is more than sufficient, and restricts itself where in His own judgment, its reception has and can have no place. He has not made robots, nor yet autocrats, but it is for mankind He seeks, and He takes what is His.
It is so incisive, so decisive: there is no excuse because of the love. There is no need to repine or complain, for if one wants it (and it is in terms of the loving disposition of God that one should - Col. 1:19ff.), then one has only to stretch out the arm and take it. Yet if one does not desire it, one has only to level the accusation straight at one's own heart: YOU ARE THE MAN. It is you who see, and so who will remain in your sins. You often see this also in the Old Testament where God, no less Himself, speaks His mind:
- " 'Know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing that you have forsaken the LORD your God, and the fear of Me is not in you,' says the Lord GOD of hosts," Jeremiah 2:19.
The full flavour of divine concern and the profundity of heart is here expressed, and made yet more patent in Jeremiah 2:12:
"Be astonished at this, O heavens, and be horribly afraid:
- Be very desolate, says the LORD.
- "For My people ahve comitted two evils:
- They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters;
- And hewn themselves cisterns - broken cisterns that can hold no water .
Is Israel a servant ? Is he a homeborn slave ?"
Israel is cause of desolation in the watching heavens. Christ wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:42ff.). It is one. It is as in Ezekiel 33:11, Lamentations 3:33.
what simplicity Christ here as in John 15:21-23 keeps it personal, His
own person being the criterion, His own love being operative, His own works
being explicit; and with what pungency He seeks to awaken, if so be, the
very dead from their slumbers.
4) THE ROSE AND THE THORNS
One other notorious feature of Christ's judgment is this. Precisely as with all the prophets, their bases do noted, their citations do not escape and their words like a perfectly directed arrow, find fulfilment, aimed and arriving at the centre of the target.
Christ is the culmination of the words of the prophets (cf. Hebrews 1:1-3), the peak of all performance; but more than this, His words are direct, "it has been said, but I say" as in the Sermon on the Mount.
There is nothing more now to be said to mankind, from where He came from; it is HE who is definitive of the message to man. He fulfils; He does not destroy what preceded (Matthew 5:17-10), but it is in HIM that the culmination comes. He is as devoid of servile appeal to tradition as of limitation of His own mission (cf. John 1:14, Colossians 2:8-9, John 1:18, 3:34). Rather in Him, we find truth defined, error delimited, reality revealed. Whether it be a healing, a helping, an assurance, prediction, small (Matthew 17:26-27) or great (Mark 2:1-10), national or international (Luke 19:42ff., 21:24), what He says, goes. There is no other authority of speech but Himself, the living word of the living God. His therefore is judgment as we have seen; and it is given to Him (John 5:19ff.).
His claims are countenanced because nothing counter is ever countenanced, in any domain or feature.
If it were or ever had been otherwise, if any ever His word had been falsified - for the Word of God is not He whose directions, corrections or inspections fail - then there would be no Messiah. It is this which is His (cf. Isaiah 11, 49:2, Psalm 2); and it is only because the heights of His being matched the depth of His dealing, with nothing left over, that He could say, "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves" (John 14:11).
So beautiful is His personality, His Spirit, however, that the works are almost like the thorns on a rose: inescapable but scarcely bloom of the plant! Nevertheless, it is just that they are testable, and many are those who draw blood by their slowness to learn, unwilling for truth, slashed though they may be.
It is when you see the works in the presence of the words, that the total ensemble has its majesty revealed. All other majesty fails but this. This has the perfume of eternity, and it works in time. However, there is little time left for the world now, before He comes (cf. Answers to Questions Ch. 5). Nevertheless there is still time for him who reads, her who ponders, short though it be. If you are standing in the way of an express train, yes, you could reflect if you had the figures, that in precisely two minutes it will hit. There is another way, of course. Man does not need to meet that express.
There is a far better expression than the express!