A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, JULY 27TH, 1905, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON,
ON LORD’S-DAY EVENING, MAY 2ND, 1875. “Take up the cross, and follow me.”-Mark 10:21.
YOUR mind’s eye can see that procession yonder. Notice it carefully. Atthe head of it there walks One whom we rightly call Master and Lord; youmay know him by the prints of the nails in his hands and feet. I observe thathe carries a cross, and that it is a very heavy one. Do you see the long linefollowing him? They are all those of whom the world was not worthy. Thatline has been continued even to this day, and will he continued until thepresent dispensation shall close. As you watch these different followers ofChrist in the procession, one thing will strike you, — that, however muchthey differ in some respects, they are all alike in one thing, — every one ofthem carries a cross. There is no exception to this rule; from the Masterdown to the last disciple, it is a procession of cross-bearers. The day willcome when there will be a transformation scene, and you will se all thesecross-bearers transformed into crown-wearers. But, rest assured that theold motto, “No cross, no crown,” is certainly true, and those who refuse tocarry the cross after Christ on earth shall never be permitted to wear thecrown with the in the land that is beyond the stars.
The chief business of a Christian is to follow Christ. You may sum up allhis life in that expression. He has Christ in him, Christ gives him new lifefrom day to day, and the very way in which that life expends its force is in
the following of Christ. I would, dear friends, that you and I would aim atso following him, as to gain a distinction for the closeness of our walk; forthere are some in heaven of whom it is written, “These are they whichfollow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.” There are He who seem tofollow him but partially. There are many wanderings and manyinconsistencies in their life; but thrice blessed shall he be who, like Caleb,follows the Lord fully, and with purpose of heart puts his foot down in thevery footprints of his crucified Lord. If you are a disciple of Jesus, yourchief business is to follow Jesus. But there are difficulties in the way, andthese difficulties are what is meant by “the cross.” There are difficulties inthe way of making a profession of faith in Jesus, and of walking worthy ofit; and these difficulties are a burden too heavy for flesh and blood to carry. Only grace can enable us to take it up; and when we do take it up, we arefulfilling the words of the text, “Take up the cross, and follow me.”
I am going to, urge you to ask yourselves, each one, firstly, “What is mycross?” secondly, “What shall I do with it?” and, thirdly, “What shouldencourage me so to do?”
I. First, then, WHAT IS MY CROSS?
I have said that the meaning of the cross is, principally, that which isinvolved by difficulties in following Christ. To some, the cross they willhave to carry, if they become Christians, is that of reproach and rebuke forChrist’s sake. Perhaps they have relatives who hate all true religion, sothat, if they should profess to be converted, they would be sneered ate,ridiculed, and misrepresented. All their action would be twisted tomischievous ends, and motives would be imputed to them which theythemselves abhor. It is very hard for young people, especially in ungodlyfamilies, to dare to avow themselves as followers of the Crucified; nor is iteasy for a working-man, in the workshop, to bear that perpetual “chaffing”,as his companions call it, which they delight to inflict on those who arebetter than themselves. The same kind of thing takes place in other glassesof society, though it is not generally done quite so overtly. There is thecold shoulder, there are suggestive hints and innuendoes, and there areavoidances of the company of those who come out decidedly on the Lord’sside. Some of you do not know much about this style of treatment. Youwere dandled on the lap of ease in this respect, for your parents rejoicedover you when you were converted, and all your Christian acquaintanceskept high holiday, as it were, when they heard that you had decided to be a
follower of Jesus. I wonder whether you would have been quite as firm aswe might have wished if your first speech upon religious matters had beenmet with an oath, or if some brutal father had proceeded yet further, anduttered horrible threats against you; and there is many a child who has hadto bear all that. Or if you had had a coarse, drunken husband, who hatedthe very name of Jesus, I wonder whether you would have been able tobear it, as I have known some good women do from year to year, enduringa lifelong martyrdom for the sake of Jesus Christ. Now, dear friend, whoever you may be, if anybody will sneer as you, or think the less of you, orsay hard things about you because you become a Christian, that is yourcross, and Christ says to you, in our text, “Take up the cross, and followme.”
Sometimes the cross comes in another shape. A man is converted to God,and he then discovers that his position in life is not one which a Christianought to hold, — certainly not one in which piety is likely to flourish. Thiscase often comes under my notice. A man often comes to me, and he says,“Sir, I trust I love the Lord. I am at the Tabernacle as often as possible; butI am sorry to say that I have half a dozen girls behind the bar servingpeople with drink, all I cannot bear the thought of it; it is a trade that Icannot now endure, and I must get out of it.” Often has this difficulty comebefore, me, and I have been gratified when I have seen men, who haveloved the Lord so much that they have said, “This business must no longerbe carried on by me; I love my Lord to well for that. How can I bow myknee to him, and ask his blessing on such business as this?” And they haveescaped from it as fast as they possibly could. And there are many positionsinto which a man may get in trade in which he becomes entangled in evil. Ifhe were quite free, he could do the right and straightforward thing; but hispartner, perhaps, will do the opposite, and he knows that it will not do forhim to be always throwing the blame of doing a wrong thing upon anotherman, and then pocketing his half of the profits; so he says, “Come whatmay, I must get out of this business; for it would be better for me to enterinto life as poor as the poorest beggar than, having a prosperous but sinfulbusiness, to be cast into hell.”
And many, too, suffer losses in business, because, as soon as they becomeChristians, they have to make a great many alterations. “Sunday is ourbest day for business,” says somebody. Well, then, so much moreopportunity is there for you to make a greater sacrifice to prove your loveto Jesus. Up with the shutters; and mind that you do it at once. If you have
to lose anything, in any way, for Christ’s sake, in order to be hisconscientious disciple, that is your cross, and he says to you, “Take up thecross, and follow me.”
Sometimes, however, the cross may be of a somewhat different kind. Itmay be the giving up of some pleasure, or habit, which has beenpeculiarly gratifying to you. The Christian man discovers that, althoughthis habit may to allowable for others, it is not so for him; it would injurehim, it would ruin him. He cannot pray, he cannot think of divine things, aslong as he clings to this habit. It is his duty, if there be anything that hindersthe growth of his soul, or his fellowship with Christ to shake it off at onceas Paul shook off the viper into the fire; but some have found it difficult todo this. Dear friend, if that is your case, pluck out your right eye, cut offyour right hand, rather then keep them, and perish in your sin. Better loseeverything else than lose your soul; better give up everything else than giveup the hope of life eternal.
With some, however, the cross does not assume that shape. If we are to beChrist’s disciples at all, he demands of us that we give up ourselves whollyand unreservedly to him. Jesus Christ will not have the half of a man; hewill have the whole of him, body, soul and spirit. You cannot be Christi’sdisciple unless you are prepared to renounce everything you have at hisbidding. For instance, if it should come to pass that, to be a Christianrequired of you imprisonment for Christ’s sake, you must be willing to liein prison and to die for him. If it required, as once it did, that you should bedragged into the amphitheatre to be drain by wild beasts, you must bewilling to do as the Christians did then, — to die such a death, if need be,for Christ. My Lord and Master will not be content with the shell of a man,he must have his heart and soul, his entire being; and he, who will not thusgive himself up to Christ cannot be his disciple. This is a cross to many,who want to make some little reserve, or some provision for the flesh. Ifthis is your cross, I pray you to take it up, and follow Christ.
We must not forget that the cross, as far as Christ was concerned, was notmerely a matter of shame and reproach. It was that towards men; but,before God, when Jesus carried his cross, he was bearing a burden whichit pleased the Father to lay upon him. So, to some, the cross is poverty;they strive hard, but they can never rise above grinding poverty. To others,it is a body which, from their earliest childhood, has been weak and feeble. To some, the cross is a proneness to disease and pain; to others, a wearing
sickness which scarcely permits them to leave their bed; to others, anaffliction which, while it allows them a considerable measure of bodilyvigor, yet, nevertheless, frequently gnaws at their very heart, and they feelas if they could die from the weariness of a long life of pain. Oh, how manyof God’s children have to carry this cross! Or if it is not that, perhaps thecross takes the form of an ungodly husband or an ungrateful child. But Ineed not try to make a list of your crosses. We have a saying that there is askeleton in every house and, certainly, there is a crook in every lot. “Shall Simon bear the cross alone, And all the rest go free No; there’s a cross for every one, and there’s a cross for me.”
We all know what our own cross is; and if our Heavenly Father hasappointed it for us, we must take it up, and follow Christ. II. Now, secondly, WHAT AM I TO DO WITH THE CROSS?
Well, first, let me never try to make a cross of my own. I know somepeople who do that. They have pretty nearly everything that heart couldwish for, yet they are dissatisfied. They are of a fretful, discontenteddisposition, and they can always see something to trouble them even whennobody else can see it. I charge you, friends, to watch against that state ofheart which leads a man, when he looks up to the sun, to say, “Ah, it hasspots on its surface;” and when he observes the beauty of the moonlight, todraw only this reflection, “This light of the moon is very cold.” If he wereto look at the greenest landscape in the world, he would say that hebelieved there was an extinct volcano somewhere underneath it, and,perhaps, it might not be quite extinct, all might burst out again. Wheneverhe reads the Bible, he always likes to read about the pouring out of thevials, and he is particularly fond of the star called Wormwood, and almosthopes to see the day when there shall be wars and rumors of wars,earthquakes in divers places, and I know not what besides. Some peopleseem to have a little trouble manufactory as the back of their houses. Theyappear to be always engaged in making new crosses. I have often said thathome-made troubles are like home-made clothes, — they seldom fit, andthey are likely to last a very long while. O child of God, do not make yourlife one continual groan! Better far make it one happy song of praise, onejoyful psalm of thanksgiving to the Most High. Do not make a cross foryourself.
And, next, do not try to choose your cross. Of course, you cannot do it;but there are many people who wish they had So-and-so’s lot. Ah, you donot know how heavy his cross is! Have you never heard the fable that,once upon a time, all the cross-bearers were invited to come and bring theircrosses, and put them in one heap, and each man might take up the crossthat he liked best? So, of course, nobody took the one that he had brought,but each one went away with his neighbour’s cross on his back. But, beforemany hours, they were all back again, asking to have their old crosses, forthey found that the cross they had carried before had so worn theirshoulders that they had become used to that particular burden; but the newcross was galling them in fresh places; so they were glad, each one, to puthis neighbour’s cross down, and go away with his own. On the whole, mybrasher, you have the best lot that you could have; for, if you had a betterone in some respects, it would be worse for you in other respects. Besatisfied as you are, and do not wish to choose another man’s cross. Christsays, “Take up the cross, and follow me.” He does not say, “Desire to haveanother man’s cross.”
Observe, too, that Christ does not say, “Murmur at your cross.” That isthe very reverse of taking it up. As long as a man is alive, and out of hell,he cannot have any cause to complain. Be he where he may, — be heplaced in the most abject position conceivable, — the man is better off thanhe deserves to be. Let not a single murmur, then, ever escape our lips. Blessed is the grace of patience, but hard is it to be acquired. May theLord, of his infinite mercy, teach us to bear all his holy will, and bear itcheerfully, and so to take up our cross for Jesus sake!
Christ does not tell us to run away from our cross. There are some who tryto do that. I have often observed that, when people change their position inorder to escape from trial, the old saying has been fulfilled to them, forthey have leaped out of the frying-pan into the fire. I have known some ofthem emigrate because of the difficulties of living in this country; and, inabout six months, they have thought that this old country is about the bestunder heaven, as I reckon it is, after all; and glad would they have been ifthey could only have gone back to the place whence they came out. If youexpect to go to a land where you will have no trial to bear, there is but onesuch place that I know of, except heaven, and that is the fool’s paradise,and I would not advise you to attempt to enter that. Oh, no! we were borninto this world that, in the sweat of our brow, we might eat bread; and thesweat must be on our brow in some form or other, and the burden must be
on our back. If thorns and thistles grow in your garden, it is no use for youto move into the next street, for they will grow there also; and it is no usemoving to another country, for you will have thorns growing in France aswell as in England, — in Australia as well as in the British Islands it is nouse to try to run away from your cross, and it is also cowardly. Do asChrist bids you, “Take up the cross, and follow me.”
And, dear friends, there is another thing which we are rather apt to do, andthat is, to faint under our cross, or to feel that it is too heavy for us tocarry. Do I address anyone in such a condition? Dear brother, there aremany promises suited to your cave. “Underneath are the everlasting arms.”“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mountup with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shallwalk, and not faint.” “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to betempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make away to escape, that ye may to able to bear it.” ‘I will never leave thee, norforsake thee.” Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shallthy strength be.” Let these texts lee like a cordial to your Spirit, and say, “Iwill not faint, after all. There is hope for me that I shall yet to revived.”How can a man despair who can lift up his eyes to heaven, and call God hisFather?
What, then, is meant by taking up the cross, but this? First, dear brethren,if following Christ will involve you in any scoffing and shame, bear it, andbe glad to hear it. If it will cause you any loss, say, with Paul, “Yea,doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of theknowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss ofall things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ and be foundin him.” Does anyone cut your acquaintance because you belong to Christ?O my dear friend, will you go to hell for the sake of an earthlyacquaintance? I hope not. Let the acquaintance to cut, rather than cut youracquaintance with Christ. Will worldlings scowl at you? Let them scowl, solong as Jesus smiles. Will men put you out of their synagogue because youare a Christian? Let them put you out, for Christ will find you; and if heshall welcome you, it will not, matter who casts you away. Therefore, forChrist’s sake, boldly bear whatever has to be borne, and to faithful in yourfollowing of him even unto death.
Taking up the cross means, next, be resigned to those afflictions whichcome to you from God your Father. It is easier to say this, my dear friends,
than to do it, as you will find. But, still, there is the cup which ourHeavenly Father has filled for us, so shall we not drink it? He has madethat cross for us to carry; so dare we say, “We will not carry it”? You willfind that a disobedient spirit will be sure to bring upon you a dreadfulchastisement; but the kindly yielding spirit of an obedient child will makethe cross lighter than it would otherwise have been. May God grant us thatyielding spirit! I love to see it, and how often one does so it in God’s poor,sick children! We pity them, for their pain is great, and they can scarcelybear it; but when we speak to them about their Heavenly Father, they havenot a word to say against him, but they have a thousand words to say forhim. They tell us how he sustains them, — how, in the dreary night, theirheart is gladdened by the presence of Jesus, — how, when it seems as ifthey could not suffer any longer the pain which has become so intense, thepresence of Jesus has flooded their souls with delight. It is a blessed thingto see Christians take up their cross resignedly, accepting the will of theirFather in heaven; and this is what we are called Upon to do. I trust that, inboth senses, namely, in a bold willingness to suffer for Christ’s sake andthe truth’s sake, and in a patient willingness to accept the divine will,whatever it may be, we may take up our cross, and follow Christ.
But this is the great point, in carrying our cross, we are to follow Christ. We must keep on doing that. Through floods or flames, we must followhim. In life or in death, we must follow him, and never, never start aside. And what an honor it is for us to be allowed to follow such as Lord! I wasthinking, just, now, that if the glorified spirits in heaven, for whom Jesusshed his precious blood, had all gone there, along a smooth pathway,without a tear or a sigh, — if they had never suffered anything for his sake,— I can almost picture them gathering round their Lord in heaven, andsaying, “Dear Master, is it not possible for us to have the opportunity ofsuffering somewhat for thee. We were allowed to do something for thee onearth; we, preached, and we prayed; but we never suffered.” And the devilmight whisper from his infernal den, “Had these men been tried, — if Godhad put forth his hand, and touched their bone and their flesh, — theywould have cursed him to his face.” But, dear friends, the devil can neversay that, for they have been touched in their bone and in their flesh. Takedown Foxe’s “Book of Martyrs” when you are at home, — I hope you allhave it, for that book ought to be kept in every Christian’s house, to theeverlasting shame of the Church of Rome; — take it down, and look at thelong list of martyrs who counted not their lives dear unto them. It was one
of the noblest sights upon which the eye of Jesus ever rested when hecould look upon them, and see them gladly die for his dear sake. I think theangels must have crowded the battlements of heaven, and looked down,and said, “See have they love their Lord! See have bravery they die forhim! See how the timid, trembling women come forward, and are stretchedupon the rack without a groan, and then are fastened to the stake, andburnt there, smiling as they die, and saying, ‘None but Jesus! None butJesus!’” I do not think that all the cherubim and seraphim in heaven everpraised God as they have done who have died in prison for Jesus’ sake, orat the stake have poured forth their blood rather than deny him. Be gladthat you may prove your love by suffering for Christ. The ruby crown ofmartyrdom is not within your reach to-day, but be thankful if some jewelsof suffering may be yours, and count it all joy when you can endure thiscross for the name of Jesus Christ. III. Now, for a few minutes, I want to answer the last question. WHAT SHOULD ENCOURAGE EACH ONE OF US TO TAKE UP HIS CROSS, AND FOLLOW CHRIST?
First, I cannot be Christ’s disciple unless I do this; and, oh, I must be hisdisciple! He is such a Master that I must follow him; such a Lord that Icannot but servo him; and if 08 service should involve the carrying of thecross, I say, “Welcome cross! Lord, put it on my back.” I would gladlybear the burden which goes with his service.
Let each one of us encourage himself with the next reflection, “Betterpeople than I am have carried a heavier cross than I have to carry.” Iknow, dear sister, that your cup is one of peculiar bitterness; but there aresome who have drunk a far bitterer cup than yours, and they were betterpeople than you are. Think of them, I have alluded to them already, — thenoble army of martyrs and sufferers for Christ’s sake. Will you refuse thecup which is not, after all, so filled with gall as theirs was? Think, too, howmuch more severe were the trials of your Lord and Master. What are allour griefs compared with his? If we were to heap up the whole mass ofhuman woe, it would be a molehill compared with the great Alpine peaksof his griefs and woes. “His way was much rougher and darker than mine; Did Christ my Lord, suffer, and shall I repine?”
They say that, when the Greeks marched into Persia, and the soldiers grewthirsty and weary with the long march, Alexander did not ride onhorseback, and he did not drink. Although there was always water for thegreat king, he refused to drink till his soldiers did; and when they saw him,hot and weary, marching side by side with them, every man said, “I mustnot complain, for the king is suffering as much as I am; I must bear it if hedoes.” So, sufferers, behold your King! In all your afflictions he wasafflicted; he was tempted in all points as you are; so be not ashamed of thatcross which once your Savior’s shoulders bore.
Furthermore, we may well take up the cross because grace will he given tous to bear it. You say that you cannot bear the cross which is coming uponyou, but you shall have more grace when you get it on your back. Godnever gives his children any grace to throw away. He gives them strengthsaccording to their day; and if their burden becomes heavier, their shouldersbecome stronger. In order to get more grace, one might be quite willing tocarry a heavier cross.
Remember, too, that the cross will be blest to you. A thousand good thingscome to us by the way of suffering and reproach. I think the sweetestletters which God ever sends to his children are done up in black-edgedenvelopes. You will find, in many of those bright envelopes of his, somechoice silver mercies; but if you want a great banknote of grace, it mustcame to you in the mourning envelope. It is when the Lord covers theheavens with clouds that he sends the showers of blessing upon the earth. Be glad of the clouds for the sake of the rain.
This thought, too, should help you to carry your cross, — that Jesus willbe honored by it. Yes, poor woman, I know that I am talking to you. Veryseldom do you get a bright hour by yourself. Your lot is a very hard one;but if you bear it as a Christian should, Christ is honored through you. Helooks down from heaven, and he says, “See how she loves me, that, for mysake, she is willing to bear all this “Yes, young man, I know you are hardlypressed but you have stood well, and your Master has marked your braveconduct. He lets you go on being tried as our English king did with his sonwhen he was fighting the French; he did not send relief to him because hedid not wish to diminish the glory of his victory. So Christ often leaves hispeople, supported only by his grace, to let the world see what a Christianreally can do. That was a notable duel between Job and the devil. Satansaid, “Only give me the opportunity to take away his riches, and to kill his
children, and he will curse God to his face.” But after Satan had done allthat, Job still said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessedbe the name of the Lord.” Then the devil was permitted by God to coverpoor Job with sore boils from the crown of his head to the heel of his foot. He who has ever had one boil of that kind knows how painful it is; but tobe covered from head to foot with such boils, to have to scrape yourselfwith a potsherd, and to have a foolish wife urging you to curse God anddie, and so-called “friends” standing around you, and aggravating yourwoe, is a very terrible trial. Yet Job survived it, and I do not think that thedevil ever meddled with him any more. He found that he could not managehim at all, so, at last, he went away; he was probably never so beaten byanyone until he met Job’s Lord and Master in the wilderness, and he beathim still more effectually. I believe that the Lord takes delight in theprowess of his suffering saints. “There,” he seems to say to the prince ofdarkness, “I let you have your will with Job; but what have you made ofhim? Is he not still a perfect and an upright man, and more than a match foryou?” Well, if God might so be glorified My us, you and I might be willingto be tried as Job was. The time will come, dear friends, when you will bepleased with the cross. If God will give you sufficient grace, you will cometo be satisfied, and even pleased, to suffer for Christ’s sake. Rutherfordused to say that the cross he carried for Christ had become so sweet to himthat he was sometimes afraid that he might love the cross better than heloved Christ himself; that shows the heights to which a gracious soul mayattain.
Lastly, in a very short time, the cross will be exchanged for the crown. It issaid that, when Princess Elizabeth carried the royal crown in someprocession during the reign of her sister, she complained that it was veryheavy; and someone said that she would find it much lighter when she hadit on her own head. So, some of us are carrying a great cross here, and wefind it very heavy; but we shall be well repaid when we receive our crown. MARK 10:17-45. Verses 17, 18.And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thoume good? there is none good but one, that is God.
This was a hint that Christ was more than man. If he was really worthy ofthe title that the enquirer gave him, he was God as well as man, for “thereis none good but one, that is God.”
19, 20.Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
Possibly, in the ordinary sense of the words, he had observed thesecommandments, but Christ tested the reality of his declaration. 21, 22.Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
Thus he proved that he had not kept either table of the law perfectly, for hedid not love the Lord with all his heart, nor did he love his neighbor ashimself. 23-27.And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.
It is impossible for man, unaided by the Spirit of God, to enter the kingdomof heaven, but that which is impossible to man by himself is made possibleby the grace and power of God. 28.Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
He spoke as if they had done what the rich man had failed to do, andevidently he thought they should be rewarded, for, according to Matthew,he added, “What shall we have therefore?”
29-31.And Jesus answered and said, Verily, I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospels, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions, and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.
In the final account, it shall be found that no man has been a loser throughgiving up anything for the Lord Jesus Christ though he has his own methodof deciding who are to be first and who are to be last. 32.And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem;
It was well known to them all that the crisis of our Savior’s history wasclose at hand and a sort of indefinable dread was upon them all. Thebravest spirit in the whole company was their blessed Lord and Master. Heknew that he was going up to Jerusalem to die, so you may view him as theSacrifice going to the altar, or as the Hero going to the conflict in which hewould die and yet conquer. They were in the way going up to Jerusalem;—
32.And Jesus went before them:
The disciples might well have been filled with holy courage as their Leaderwas in the van. This is true concerning the whole life of all the saints: Jesuswent before them.” What if trials lie beyond, and the dark river itself is infront of them, yet Jesus goes before them, so they need not fear to follow. 32.And they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid.
They did not know much about what was to happen, but a great depressionwas upon their spirits. They must have wondered at the cheerful bravery oftheir Master when all of them were ready to turn back from this mournfulmarch. 32-34.And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him, Saying, Behold we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: and they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spitupon him, and shall kill him, and the third day he shall rise again.
He thought it right that the twelve, who led the way, should be betteracquainted than the rest with the sad history that was so soon to beenacted. So he tells them about it in private, and I want you to notice howhe dwells in detail upon his sufferings. He does not describe them ingeneral terms, but he brings out into strong relief each separate set ofinfamy: “they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit uponhim and shall kill him;” — from which we learn that our Savior knew allthat he had to endure, yet he went bravely forward to bear it for our sakes. For this reason, we should admire his divine courage and complete self-sacrifice. Mere men may promise to do a certain thing without knowingwhat it will involve, but —
“This was compassion like a God, That when the Savior knew The price of pardon was his blood, His pity ne’er withdrew.”
I think, too, that as our Lord thus dwells upon each point, he means us alsoto dwell upon the details of his redeeming griefs. We should not bestrangers at the cross-foot, nor in Gethsemane; but should hear each one ofthese notes ring out its sorrowful yet joyful music: “They shall mock him,and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him.”
But what a glad note that concluding one is: “and the third day he shall riseagain.” Death cannot hold him in her bands, the sepulcher cannot continueto enclose him in her gloomy prison This is the glory and boast of ourChristianity, our hope and our joy, for —
“As the Lord our Savior rose, So all his followers must.” 35, 36.And James and John, the son of Zebedee, come unto him saying Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?
Our Savior’s question suggests to us the prudent lesson, never to promisein the dark. If anyone shall say to you, “Promise that you will do whateverI ask,” follow the example of Christ and first ask, “What would you that Ishould do for you?” Otherwise, you may entangle yourself with your ownwords. These young men evidently needed to have this question put to
them, for they had not themselves thoroughly considered what they wereasking their Lord to do for them. 37.They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.
There was, undoubtedly, much that was wrong about this request, and youhave often heard that view of the matter dwelt upon, so I will call yourattention to that which was right about it. These disciples showed theirfaith that this same Jesus, who was to be mocked, and scourged, and spitupon, and killed, would yet reign; and I think it was wonderful faith that,after they had heard from his own lips, in sorrowful detail, the descriptionof how he should die, yet nevertheless they so fully believed in his kingdomthat they asked to have a share in its honors. It is true that they wereambitious, but their ambition was to be near the Savior. It would be well ifall those, who ask for right hand and left hand places, wanted them at theright hand and the left hand of the Savior. 38.But Jesus unto them, Ye know not what ye ask:
Has the Lord ever said to us, when we have been praying, “Ye know notwhat ye ask”? I suppose that is usually true in a certain sense; we do notfully understand the compass of the most of our prayers, and sometimes weask so unadvisedly that we prove that we know not what we are asking. 38.Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?
“Can ye share my drinking in Gethsemane and my sinking on Golgotha?”
39.And they said unto him, We can.
They knew not what they said, but they felt that such was the strength oftheir love, that they could share anything that had to do with Christ! Histhrone! Yes, they would like to sit at the right hand of it. His cup! Yes,they can drink of it. Immersion into his suffering! Yes, they can endure thatbaptism. 39.And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:
And so they were, for James was soon put to death, and John lived, the lastand longest of the apostles, a life-long martyrdom for the Master’s sake. 40, 41.But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is, prepared. And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John.
Why were they displeased? Because they were of the same spirit as Jamesand John. As they were displeased with James and John, it is evident thatthey wanted those places themselves, and many a man is thus displeasedwith his own faults. Did you ever see a dog bark at himself in a glass? Youand I have often done that; we have even grown very angry with what was,after all, only our own image. 42-46.But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Christ instituted bishops, that is, overseers; but never prelates. He neverhad any idea of setting some men in his Church over the heads of others,but he put all his servants upon an equality. They are to exercise nolordship the one over the other, nor to seek it, for the truest honor in theChurch of God is found in service. He that serves most is the greatest Hethat will occupy the lowest office, he that will bear patiently to be the mostput upon, he that is readiest to be despised, and to be the servant of all,shall be the chiefest of all. The way to rise in the kingdom of heaven is todescend, for even so was it with our Lord himself. God give to all of us thehumble and lowly spirit that will make us willing to be the least of all!
HYMNS FROM “OUR OWN HYMN BOOK” — 751, 658.
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