OUT OF TOMES
The writings of theologians and pastors who have come before us can serve as an invitation to think more prolongedly and with greater specificity on God, and His glorious works and ways. In this ongoing series, I cull quotations on passages of Scripture from Christian Classics Ethereal Library to help spur your consideration, discernment, mediation, and worship. You can link to the full sources below or start your own search on a biblical text here.
Christ may not have been the Savior many of the Jewish people were expecting. A. W. Pink wrote, “For more than fifteen centuries the Coming of the Messiah had been the one great national Hope of Israel. From the cradle the sons of Abraham were taught to pray and long for His advent. The eagerness with which they awaited the appearing of the Star of Jacob is absolutely without parallel in the history of any other nation. How then can we account for the fact that when He did come He was despised and rejected?” Christ did not come in the desired glory of kingship—this is reserved for His second coming. He was glorified after His display of ultimate servanthood.
Isaiah foretold that the Lord would come humbly to experience sorrow, and this has been called the saddest fulfillment of prophecy. Do you not mourn too when reading about the coming of the precious Lord to suffer? One way to think about Christmas is to dwell upon what the Lord was willing to undertake for His people—and allow those thoughts to lead to worship.
Because of how He first came—to suffer—He can be praised as our humble Savior, in addition to our mighty King. J. C. Ryle wrote: “It is impossible to conceive a Saviour more suited to the wants of man’s heart than our Lord Jesus Christ—suited not only by His power, but by His sympathy—suited not only by His divinity, but by His humanity.” For us He came as a servant—if not for removal of all of this earth’s present afflictions in a grand display of kingship, then certainly for all of what He has deemed our dearest wants and needs. He came in order to save us from ourselves and then out of this world.
If you know what it is to apply to the Lord Jesus for spiritual comfort in earthly troubles, you should well remember the days of His flesh, and His human nature.
You are applying to One who knows your feelings by experience, and has drunk deep of the bitter cup, for He was “a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” (Isa. liii. 3.) Jesus knows the heart of a man—the bodily pains of a man—the difficulties of a man, for he was a Man Himself, and had flesh and blood upon earth. He sat wearied by the well at Sychar. He wept over the grave of Lazarus at Bethany. He sweat great drops of blood at Gethsemane. He groaned with anguish at Calvary.
He is no stranger to your sensations. He is acquainted with everything that belongs to human nature, sin only excepted.
(a) Are you poor and needy? So also was Jesus. The foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, but the Son of man had not where to lay His head. He dwelt in a despised city. Men used to say, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John i. 46.) He was esteemed a carpenter’s son. He preached in a borrowed boat, rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed ass, and was buried in a borrowed tomb.
(b) Are you alone in the world, and neglected by those who ought to love you? So also was Jesus. He came unto His own, and they received Him not. He came to be a Messiah to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and they rejected Him. The princes of this world would not acknowledge Him. The few that followed Him were publicans and fishermen. And even these at the last forsook Him, and were scattered every man to his own place.
(c) Are you misunderstood, misrepresented, slandered, and persecuted? So also was Jesus. He was called a glutton and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans, a Samaritan, a madman, and a devil. His character was belied. False charges were laid against Him. An unjust sentence was passed upon Him, and, though innocent, He was condemned as a malefactor, and as such died on the cross.
(d) Does Satan tempt you, and offer horrid suggestions to your mind? So also did he tempt Jesus. He bade Him to distrust God’s fatherly providence. “Command these stones to be made bread.” He proposed to Him to tempt God by exposing Himself to unnecessary danger. “Cast Thyself down” from the pinnacle of the temple. He suggested to Him to obtain the kingdoms of the world for His own, by one little act of submission to himself. “All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.” (Matt. iv. 1-10.)
(e) Do you ever feel great agony and conflict of mind? Do you feel in darkness as if God had left you? So did Jesus. Who can tell the extent of the sufferings of mind He went through in the garden? Who can measure the depth of His soul’s pain when He cried, “My God! my God! why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Matt. xxvii. 46.)
It is impossible to conceive a Saviour more suited to the wants of man’s heart than our Lord Jesus Christ—suited not only by His power, but by His sympathy—suited not only by His divinity, but by His humanity. Labour, I beseech you, to get firmly impressed on your mind that Christ, the refuge of souls, is Man as well as God. Honour Him as King of kings, and Lord of lords. But while you do this, never forget that He had a body and was a Man. Grasp this truth and never let it go. The unhappy Socinian errs fearfully when he says that Christ was only Man, and not God. But let not the rebound from that error make you forget that while Christ was very God He was also very Man.
Listen not for a moment to the wretched argument of the Roman Catholic when he tells you that the Virgin Mary and the saints are more sympathizing than Christ. Answer him that such an argument springs from ignorance of the Scriptures and of Christ’s true nature. Answer him, that you have not so learned Christ as to regard Him only as an austere Judge and a being to be feared. Answer him, that the four Gospels have taught you to regard Him as the most loving and sympathizing of friends, as well as the mightiest and most powerful of Saviours. Answer him, that you want no comfort from saints and angels, from the Virgin Mary or from Gabriel, so long as you can repose your weary soul on THE MAN CHRIST JESUS.
Who has believed thy word,
Or thy salvation known?
Reveal thine arm, Almighty Lord,
And glorify thy Son.
The Jews esteemed him here
Too mean for their belief;
Sorrows his chief acquaintance were,
And his companion, grief.
They turned their eyes away,
And treated him with scorn;
But 'twas their grief upon him lay,
Their sorrows he has borne.
'Twas for the stubborn Jews,
And Gentiles then unknown,
The God of justice pleased to bruise
His best-beloved Son.
"But I'll prolong his days,
And make his kingdom stand;
My pleasure," saith the God of grace,
"Shall prosper in his hand."
["His joyful soul shall see
The purchase of his pain
And by his knowledge justify
The guilty sons of men.]
["Ten thousand captive slaves,
Released from death and sin,
Shall quit their prisons and their graves
And own his power divine.]
["Heav'n shall advance my Son
To joys that earth denied;
Who saw the follies men had done,
And bore their sins, and died."]
For more than fifteen centuries the Coming of the Messiah had been the one great national Hope of Israel. From the cradle the sons of Abraham were taught to pray and long for His advent. The eagerness with which they awaited the appearing of the Star of Jacob is absolutely without parallel in the history of any other nation. How then can we account for the fact that when He did come He was despised and rejected? How can we explain the fact that side by side with the intense longing for the manifestation of their King, one of their own prophets foretold that when He did appear men would hide their faces from Him and esteem Him not? Finally, what explanation have we to offer for the fact that such things were predicted centuries before He came to this earth and that they were literally fulfilled to the very letter? As another has said, “No prediction could have seemed more improbable, and yet none ever received a sadder and more complete fulfillment.”
They expected a pompous Messiah, one that should come with state and glory, becoming the king of Israel. But when they saw him in the form of a servant, coming in poverty, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, they utterly rejected him: “We hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not,” Isa. 53: 3. Nor is it any great wonder these should be scandalised at his poverty when the disciples themselves had such carnal apprehensions of his kingdom, Mark 10: 37, 38.
Christ came down from heaven (John 3:13), but the Anti-christ comes up out of the Bottomless Pit (Rev. 11:7). Christ came in Another’s name (John 5:43), but the Anti-christ will come in his own name (John 5:43). Christ came to do the Father’s will (John 6:38), but the Anti-christ will do his own will (Dan. 11:36). Christ wrought in the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14), but the Anti-christ will be energized by Satan (Rev. 13:4). Christ submitted Himself to God (John 5:30), but the Anti-christ will defy God (2 Thess. 2:4). Christ “humbled” Himself (Phil. 2:8), but the Anti-christ will “exalt” himself (Dan. 11:36). Christ honored the God of His fathers (Luke 4:16), but the Anti-christ will refuse to do so (Dan. 11:37). Christ cleansed the Temple (John 2:14–16), but the Anti-christ will defile the temple (Matt. 24:15). Christ ministered to the needy (Luke 4:18), but the Anti-christ will refuse to do so (Zech. 11:16). Christ was rejected of men (Is. 53:3), but the Anti-christ will be accepted by all the world (Rev. 13:4). Christ “leadeth” His flock (John 10:3), but the Anti-christ will “leave” his flock (Zech. 11:17). Christ was slain for the people (John 11:51), but the Anti-christ will slay the people (Dan. 11:44). Christ glorified God (John 17:4), but the Anti-christ will blaspheme God (Rev. 13:6). Christ was received up into Heaven (Luke 24:51), but the Anti-christ goes down into Hell (Rev. 19:20).