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Expositions of Holy Scripture by Alexander Maclaren

Part 3 out of 10

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accept the grammatical remark that I have made or no, we shall, at
least, I suppose, all agree in this, that, in fact, the bond of
kindred that unites a trusting obedient soul with Jesus Christ does in
itself include whatsoever of sweetness, of power, of protection, of
clinging trust, and of any other blessed emotion that makes a shadow
of Eden still upon earth, has ever been attached to human bonds.

Remember how many of these, Christ, and His servants for Him, have
laid their hands upon, and claimed to be His. 'Thy Maker is thy
husband'; 'He that hath the Bride is the bridegroom'; 'Go tell My
brethren'; 'I have not called you servants, but friends.' And if there
be any other sweet names, they belong to Him, and in His one pure,
all-sufficient love they are all enclosed. Fragmentary preciousnesses
are strewed about us. There is 'one pearl of great price.' Many
fragrances come from the flowers that grow on the dunghill of the
world, but they are all gathered in Him whose name is 'as ointment
poured forth,' filling the house with its fragrance.

For Christ is to us all that all separated lovers and friends can be.
And whatsoever our poor hearts may need most, of human affection and
sympathy, and may see least possibility of finding now, among the
incompletenesses and limitations of earth, that Jesus Christ is
waiting to be. All solitary souls and mourning hearts may turn
themselves to, and rest themselves on, these great words. And as they
look at the empty places in their circle, in their homes, and feel the
ache of the empty places in their hearts, they may hear His voice
saying, 'Behold My mother and My brethren.' He comes to us all in the
character that we need most. Just as the great ocean, when it flows in
amongst the land, takes the shape imposed upon it by the containing
banks of the loch, so Christ pours Himself into our hearts, and there
assumes the form that the outline of their emptiness tells we need
most. To many, in all generations, who have been weeping over departed
joys, He says again, though with a different application, turning not
away from but to Himself mourning eyes and hearts, 'Woman, behold thy
Son'--not on the cross nor in the grave, but on the throne--'Son,
behold Thy mother.'

III. Lastly, this relationship requires always the subordination, and
sometimes the sacrifice, of the lower ones.

We have to think of Christ here as Himself putting away the lower
claims, in order more fully to yield Himself to the higher. It was
because it would have been impossible for Him to do the will of His
Father if He had yielded to the purposes of His brethren and His
mother, that He steeled His heart and made solemn His tone in refusing
to go with them.

That group that had come for Him suggests to us the ways in which
earthly ties may limit heavenly obedience. In regard to them the
situation was complicated, because Jesus Christ was their kinsman
according to the flesh, and their Messiah, according to the spirit.
But in them their earthly love, and familiarity with Him, hid from
them His higher glory; and in them He found impediments to His true
consecration, and would-be thwarters of His highest work. And, in like
manner, all our earthly relationships may become means of obscuring to
us the transcendent brightness and greatness of Jesus Christ as our
Saviour And, in like manner as to Him these, His brethren, became
'stumbling blocks' that He had decisively to put behind Him, so in
regard to us 'a man's foes may be those of his own household'; and not
least his foes when they are most his idols, his comforts, and his
sweetnesses. If our earthly loves and relationships obscure to us the
face of Christ; if we find enough in them for our hearts, and go not
beyond them for our true love; if they make us negligent of duty; if
they bind us to the present; if they make us careless of that loftier
affection which alone can satisfy us; if they clog our steps in the
divine life, then they are our foes. They need to be always
subordinated, and, so subordinated, they are more precious than when
they are placed mistakenly foremost. They are better second than
first. They are full of sweetness when our hearts know a sweetness
surpassing theirs; they are robbed of their possible power to harm
when they are rigidly held in inferiority to the one absolute and
supreme love. There need be no collision--there will be no
collision--if the second is second and the first is first. But
sometimes beggars get upon horseback, and the crew mutinies and would
displace the commander, and then there is nothing for it but
sacrifice. 'If thy hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from
thee.' 'I communed not with flesh and blood,' and we must not, if ever
they conflict with our supreme devotion to Jesus Christ.

These other things and relationships are precious to us, but He is
priceless. They are shadows, but He is the substance. They are brooks
by the way; He is the boundless, bottomless ocean of delights and
loves. Shall we not always subordinate--and sometimes, if needful,
sacrifice--the less to the greater? If we do, we shall get the less
back, greatened by its surrender. 'He that loveth father or mother
more than Me is not worthy of Me' commands the sacrifice. 'There is no
man that hath left brethren or sisters, or father or mother, or wife
or children, for My sake and the Gospel's, but he shall receive a
hundredfold _now_, in this time' promises the reward.


'Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and My
sister, and mother.'--Mark iii. 35.

There was a conspiracy to seize Jesus because He is 'mad,' and Mary
was in the plot!

I. The example for us.

(1) Of how all natural and human ties and affections are to be
subordinated to doing God's will.

Obedience to Him is the first and main thing to which everything else
bows, and which determines everything.

If others compete or interfere, reject them.

Out of that common obedience new ties are formed among men.

(2) Of how all these ties may be doubled in power and preciousness by
being based on that obedience.

II. The promise for us.

Of Christ's loving relationship in which He finds delight; in which He
sustains and transcends all these in His own proper person and to


'And when He was alone, they that were about Him with the twelve asked
of Him the parable. 11. And He said unto them, Unto you it is given to
know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are
without, all these things are done in parables: 12. That seeing they
may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not
understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins
should be forgiven them. 13. And He said unto them, Know ye not this
parable? and how then will ye know all parables? 14. The sower soweth
the word. 15. And these are they by the way side, where the word is
sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh
away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16. And these are they
likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the
word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17. And have no root in
themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction
or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are
offended. 18. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as
hear the word, 19. And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness
of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word,
and it becometh unfruitful. 20. And these are they which are sown on
good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth
fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.'--Mark iv.

Dean Stanley and others have pointed out how the natural features of
the land round the lake of Gennesaret are reflected in the parable of
the sower. But we must go deeper than that to find its occasion. It
was not because Jesus may have seen a sower in a field which had these
three varieties of soil that He spoke, but because He saw the
frivolous crowd gathered to hear His words. The sad, grave description
of the threefold kinds of vainly-sown ground is the transcript of His
clear and sorrowful insight into the real worth of the enthusiasm of
the eager listeners on the beach. He was under no illusions about it;
and, in this parable, He seeks to warn His disciples against expecting
much from it, and to bring its subjects to a soberer estimate of what
His word required of them. The full force and pathos of the parable is
felt only when it is regarded as the expression of our Lord's keen
consciousness of His wasted words. This passage falls into two
parts--Christ's explanation of the reasons for His use of parables,
and His interpretation of the parable itself.

I. Christ was the centre of three circles: the outermost consisting of
the fluctuating masses of merely curious hearers; the second, of true
but somewhat loosely attached disciples, whom Mark here calls 'they
that were about Him'; and the innermost, the twelve. The two latter
appear, in our first verse, as asking further instruction as to 'the
parable,' a phrase which includes both parts of Christ's answer. The
statement of His reason for the use of parables is startling. It
sounds as if those who needed light most were to get least of it, and
as if the parabolic form was deliberately adopted for the express
purpose of hiding the truth. No wonder that men have shrunk from such
a thought, and tried to soften down the terrible words. Inasmuch as a
parable is the presentation of some spiritual truth under the guise of
an incident belonging to the material sphere, it follows, from its
very nature, that it may either reveal or hide the truth, and that it
will do the former to susceptible, and the latter to unsusceptible,
souls. The eye may either dwell upon the coloured glass or on the
light that streams through it; and, as is the case with all
revelations of spiritual realities through sensuous mediums, gross and
earthly hearts will not rise above the medium, which to them, by their
own fault, becomes a medium of obscuration, not of revelation. This
double aspect belongs to all revelation, which is both a 'savour of
life unto life and of death unto death.' It is most conspicuous in the
parable, which careless listeners may take for a mere story, and which
those who feel and see more deeply will apprehend in its depth. These
twofold effects are certain, and must therefore be embraced in
Christ's purpose; for we cannot suppose that issues of His teaching
escaped His foresight; and all must be regarded as part of His design.
But may we not draw a distinction between design and desire? The
primary purpose of all revelation is to reveal. If the only intention
were to hide, silence would secure that, and the parable were
needless. But if the twofold operation is intended, we can understand
how mercy and righteous retribution both preside over the use of
parables; how the thin veil hides that it may reveal, and how the very
obscurity may draw some grosser souls to a longer gaze, and so may
lead to a perception of the truth, which, in its purer form, they are
neither worthy nor capable of receiving. No doubt, our Lord here
announces a very solemn law, which runs through all the divine
dealings, 'To him that hath shall be given; and from him that hath
not, shall be taken away even that which he hath.'

II. We turn to the exposition of the parable of the sower, or rather
of the fourfold soils in which he sows the seed. A sentence at the
beginning disposes of the personality of the sower, which in Mark's
version does not refer exclusively to Christ, but includes all who
carry the word to men. The likening of 'the word' to seed needs no
explanation. The tiny, living nucleus of force, which is thrown
broadcast, and must sink underground in order to grow, which does
grow, and comes to light again in a form which fills the whole field
where it is sown, and nourishes life as well as supplies material for
another sowing, is the truest symbol of the truth in its working on
the spirit. The threefold causes of failure are arranged in
progressive order. At every stage of growth there are enemies. The
first sowing never gets into the ground at all; the second grows a
little, but its greenness soon withers; the third has a longer life,
and a yet sadder failure, because a nearer approach to fertility. The
types of character represented are unreceptive carelessness, emotional
facility of acceptance, and earthly-mindedness, scotched, but not
killed, by the word. The dangers which assault, but too successfully,
the seed are the personal activity of Satan, opposition from without,
and conflicting desires within. On all the soils the seed has been
sown by hand; for drills are modern inventions; and sowing broadcast
is the only right husbandry in Christ's field with Christ's seed. He
is a poor workman, and an unfaithful one, who wants to pick his
ground. Sow everywhere; 'Thou canst not tell which shall prosper,
whether this or that.' The character of the soil is not irrevocably
fixed; but the trodden path may be broken up to softness, and the
stony heart changed, and the soul filled with cares and lusts be
cleared, and any soil may become good ground. So the seed is to be
flung out broadcast; and prayer for seed and soil will often turn the
weeping sower into the joyous reaper.

The seed sown on the trodden footpath running across the field never
sinks below the surface. It lies there, and has no real contact, nor
any chance of growth. It must be in, not on, the ground, if its
mysterious power is to be put forth. A pebble is as likely to grow as
a seed, if both lie side by side, on the surface. Is not this the
description of a mournfully large proportion of hearers of God's
truth? It never gets deeper than their ears, or, at the most, effects
a shallow lodgment on the surface of their minds. So many feet pass
along the path, and beat it into hardness, that the truth has no
chance to take root. Habitual indifference to the gospel, masked by an
utterly unmeaning and unreal acceptance of it, and by equally habitual
decorous attendance on its preaching, is the condition of a dreadfully
large proportion of church-goers. Their very familiarity with the
truth robs it of all penetrating power. They know all about it, as
they suppose; and so they listen to it as they would to the clank of a
mill-wheel to which they were accustomed, missing its noise if it
stops, and liking to be sent to sleep by its hum. Familiar truth often
lies 'bedridden in the dormitory of the soul, beside exploded errors.'

And what comes of this idle hearing, without acceptance or obedience?
Truth which is common, and which a man supposes himself to believe,
without having ever reflected on it, or let it influence conduct, is
sure to die out. If we do not turn our beliefs into practice they will
not long be our beliefs. Neglected impressions fade; the seed is only
safe when it is buried. There are flocks of hungry, sharp-eyed,
quick-flying thieves ready to pounce down on every exposed grain. So
Mark uses here again his favourite 'straightway' to express the swift
disappearance of the seed. As soon as the preacher's voice is silent,
or the book closed, the words are forgotten. The impression of a
gliding keel on a smooth lake is not more evanescent.

The distinct reference to Satan as the agent in removing the seed is
not to be passed by lightly. Christ's words about demons have been
emptied of meaning by the allegation that He was only accommodating
Himself to the superstition of the times, but no explanation of that
sort will do in this case. He surely commits Himself here to the
assertion of the existence and agency of Satan; and surely those who
profess to receive His words as the truth ought not to make light of
them, in reference to so solemn and awe-inspiring a revelation.

The seed gets rather farther on the road to fruit in the second case.
A thin surface of mould above a shelf of rock is like a forcing-house
in hot countries. The stone keeps the heat and stimulates growth. The
very thing that prevents deep rooting facilitates rapid shooting. The
green spikelets will be above ground there long before they show in
deeper soil. There would be many such hearers in the 'very great
multitude' on the shore, who were attracted, they scarcely knew why,
and were the more enthusiastic the less they understood the real scope
of Christ's teaching. The disciple who pressed forward with his
excited and unasked 'Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou
goest!' was one of such--well-meaning, perfectly sincere, warmly
affected, and completely unreliable. Lightly come is lightly go. When
such people forsake their fervent purposes, and turn their backs on
what they have been so eagerly pursuing, they are quite consistent;
for they are obeying the uppermost impulse in both cases, and, as they
were easily drawn to follow without consideration, they are easily
driven back with as little. The first taste of supposed good secured
their giddy-pated adhesion; the first taste of trouble ensures their
desertion. They are the same men acting in the same fashion at both
times. Two things are marked by our Lord as suspicious in such easily
won discipleship--its suddenness and its joyfulness. Feelings which
are so easily stirred are superficial. A puff of wind sets a shallow
pond in wavelets. Quick maturity means brief life and swift decay, as
every 'revival' shows. The more earnestly we believe in the
possibility of sudden conversions, the more we should remember this
warning, and make sure that, if they are sudden, they shall be
thorough, which they may be. The swiftness is not so suspicious if it
be not accompanied with the other doubtful characteristic--namely,
immediate joy. Joy is the result of true acceptance of the gospel; but
not the first result. Without consciousness of sin and apprehension of
judgment there is no conversion. We lay down no rules as to depth or
duration of the 'godly sorrow' which precedes all well-grounded 'joy
in the Lord'; but the Christianity which has taken a flying leap over
the valley of humiliation will scarcely reach a firm standing on the
rock. He who 'straightway with joy' receives the word, will
straightway, with equal precipitation, cast it away when the
difficulties and oppositions which meet all true discipleship begin to
develop themselves. Fair-weather crews will desert when storms begin
to blow.

The third sort of soil brings things still farther on before failure
comes. The seed is not only covered and germinating, but has actually
begun to be fruitful. The thorns are supposed to have been cut down,
but their roots have been left, and they grow faster than the wheat.
They take the 'goodness' out of the ground, and block out sun and air;
and so the stalks, which promised well, begin to get pale and droop,
and the half-formed ear comes to nothing, or, as the other version of
the parable has it, brings 'forth no fruit to perfection.' There are
two crops fighting for the upper hand on the one ground, and the
earlier possessor wins. The 'struggle for existence' ends with the
'survival of the fittest'; that is, of the worst, to which the natural
bent of the desires and inclinations of the unrenewed man is more
congenial. The 'cares of this world' and the 'deceitfulness of riches'
are but two sides of one thing. The poor man has cares; the rich man
has the illusions of his wealth. Both men agree in thinking that this
world's good is most desirable. The one is anxious because he has not
enough of it, or fears to lose what he has; the other man is full of
foolish confidence because he has much. Eager desires after creatural
good are common to both; and, what with the anxiety lest they lose,
and the self-satisfaction because they have, and the mouths watering
for the world's good, there is no force of will, nor warmth of love,
nor clearness of vision, left for better things. That is the history
of the fall of many a professing Christian, who never apostatises, and
keeps up a reputable appearance of godliness to the end; but the old
worldliness, which was cut down for a while, has sprung again in his
heart, and, by slow degrees, the word is 'choked'--a most expressive
picture of the silent, gradual dying-out of its power for want of sun
and air--and 'he' or 'it' 'becometh unfruitful,' relapsing from a
previous condition of fruit-bearing into sterility. No heart can
mature two crops. We must choose between God and Mammon--between the
word and the world.

There is nothing fixed or necessary in the faults of these three
classes, and they are not so much the characteristics of separate
types of men as evils common to all hearers, against which all have to
guard. They depend upon the will and affections much more than on
anything in temperament fixed and not to be got rid of. So there is no
reason why any one of the three should not become 'good soil': and it
is to be noted that the characteristic of that soil is simply that it
receives and grows the seed. Any heart that will, can do that; and
that is all that is needed. But to do it, there will have to be
diligent care, lest we fall into any of the evils pointed at in the
preceding parts of the parable, which are ever waiting to entrap us.
The true 'accepting' of the word requires that we shall not let it lie
on the surface of our minds, as in the case of the first; nor be
satisfied with its penetrating a little deeper and striking root in
our emotions, like the second, of whom it is said with such profound
truth, that they 'have no root in themselves,' their roots being only
in the superficial part of their being, and never going down to the
true central self; nor let competing desires grow up unchecked, like
the third; but cherish the 'word of the truth of the gospel' in our
deepest hearts, guard it against foes, let it rule there, and mould
all our conduct in conformity with its blessed principles. The true
Christian is he who can truly say, 'Thy word have I hid in mine
heart.' If we do, we shall be fruitful, because _it_ will bear fruit
in us. No man is obliged, by temperament or circumstances, to be
'wayside,' or 'stony,' or 'thorny' ground. Wherever a heart opens to
receive the gospel, and keeps it fast, there the increase will be
realised--not in equal measure in all, but in each according to
faithfulness and diligence. Mark arranges the various yields in
ascending scale, as if to teach our hopes and aims a growing
largeness, while Matthew orders them in the opposite fashion, as if to
teach that, while the hundredfold, which is possible for all, is best,
the smaller yield is accepted by the great Lord of the harvest, who
Himself not only sows the seed, but gives it its vitality, blesses its
springing, and rejoices to gather the wheat into His barn.


'And Jesus said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a
bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?'--Mark iv.

The furniture of a very humble Eastern home is brought before us in
this saying. In the original, each of the nouns has the definite
article attached to it, and so suggests that in the house there was
but one of each article; one lamp, a flat saucer with a wick swimming
in oil; one measure for corn and the like; one bed, raised slightly,
but sufficiently to admit of a flat vessel being put under it without
danger, if for any reason it were desired to shade the light; and one

The saying appeals to common-sense. A man does not light a lamp and
then smother it. The act of lighting implies the purpose of
illumination, and, with everybody who acts logically, its sequel is to
put the lamp on a stand, where it may be visible. All is part of the
nightly routine of every Jewish household. Jesus had often watched it;
and, commonplace as it is, it had mirrored to Him large truths. If our
eyes were opened to the suggestions of common life, we should find in
them many parables and reminders of high matters.

Now this saying is a favourite and familiar one of our Lord, occurring
four times in the Gospels. It is interesting to notice that He, too,
like other teachers, had His favourite maxims, which He turned round
in all sorts of ways, and presented as reflecting light at different
angles and suggesting different thoughts. The four occurrences of the
saying are these. In my text, and in the parallel in Luke's Gospel, it
is appended to the Parable of the Sower, and forms the basis of the
exhortation, 'Take heed how ye hear.' In another place in Luke's
Gospel it is appended to our Lord's words about 'the sign of the
prophet Jonah,' which is explained to be the resurrection of Jesus
Christ, and it forms the basis of the exhortation to cultivate the
single eye which is receptive of the light. In the Sermon on the Mount
it is appended to the declaration that the disciples are the lights of
the world, and forms the basis of the exhortation, 'Let your light so
shine before men.' I have thought that it may be interesting and
instructive if in this sermon we throw together these three
applications of this one saying, and try to study the threefold
lessons which it yields, and the weighty duties which it enforces.

I. So, then, I have to ask you, first, to consider that we have a
lesson as to the apparent obscurities of revelation and of our duty
concerning them.

That is the connection in which the words occur in our text, and in
the other place in Luke's Gospel, to which I have referred. Our Lord
has just been speaking the Parable of the Sower. The disciples'
curiosity has been excited as to its significance. They ask Him for an
explanation, which He gives minutely point by point. Then he passes to
this general lesson of the purpose of the apparent veil which He had
cast round the truth, by throwing it into a parabolic form. In effect
He says: If I had meant to hide My teaching by the form into which I
cast it, I should have been acting as absurdly and as contradictorily
as a man would do who should light a lamp and immediately obscure it.'
True, there is the veil of parable, but the purpose of that relative
concealment is not hiding, but revelation. 'There is nothing covered
but that it should be made known.' The veil sharpens attention,
stimulates curiosity, quickens effort, and so becomes positively
subsidiary to the great purpose of revelation for which the parable is
spoken. The existence of this veil of sensuous representation carries
with it the obligation, 'Take heed how ye hear.'

Now all these thoughts have a far wider application than in reference
to our Lord's parables. And I may suggest one or two of the
considerations that flow from the wider reference of the words before

'Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed and not
upon a candlestick?' There are no gratuitous and dark places in
anything that God says to us. His revelation is absolutely clear. We
may be sure of that if we consider the purpose for which He spoke at
all. True, there are dark places; true, there are great gaps; true, we
sometimes think, 'Oh! it would have been so easy for Him to have said
one word more; and the one word more would have been so infinitely
precious to bleeding hearts or wounded consciences or puzzled
understandings.' But 'is a candle brought to be set under a bushel?'
Do you think that if He took the trouble to light it He would
immediately smother it, or arbitrarily conceal anything that the very
fact of the revelation declares His intention to make known? His own
great word remains true, 'I have never spoken in secret, in a dark
place of the earth.' If there be, as there are, obscurities, there are
none there that would have been better away.

For the intention of all God's hiding--which hiding is an integral
part of his revealing--is not to conceal, but to reveal. Sometimes the
best way of making a thing known to men is to veil it in a measure, in
order that the very obscurity, like the morning mists which prophesy a
blazing sun in a clear sky by noonday, may demand search and quicken
curiosity and spur to effort. He is not a wise teacher who makes
things too easy. It is good that there should be difficulties; for
difficulties are like the veins of quartz in the soil, which may turn
the edge of the ploughshare or the spade, but prophesy that there is
gold there for the man who comes with fitting tools. Wherever, in the
broad land of God's word to us, there lie dark places, there are
assurances of future illumination. God's hiding is in order to
revelation, even as the prophet of old, when he was describing the
great Theophany which flashed in light from the one side of the heaven
to the other, exclaimed, 'There was the hiding of His power.'

'He hides the purpose of His grace
To make it better known.'

And the end of all the concealments, and apparent and real
obscurities, that hang about His word, is that for many of them
patient and diligent attention and docile obedience should unfold them
here, and for the rest, 'the day shall declare them.' The lamp is the
light for the night-time, and it leaves many a corner in dark shadow;
but, when 'night's candles are burnt out, and day sits jocund on the
misty mountain-tops,' much will be plain that cannot be made plain

Therefore, for us the lesson from this assurance that God will not
stultify Himself by giving to us a revelation that does not reveal,
is, 'Take heed how ye hear.' The effort will not be in vain. Patient
attention will ever be rewarded. The desire to learn will not be
frustrated. In this school truth lightly won is truth loosely held;
and only the attentive scholar is the receptive and retaining
disciple. A great man once said, and said, too, presumptuously and
proudly, that he had rather have the search after truth than truth.
But yet there is a sense in which the saying may be modifiedly
accepted; for, precious as is all the revelation of God, not the least
precious effect that it is meant to produce upon us is the
consciousness that in it there are unscaled heights above, and
unplumbed depths beneath, and untraversed spaces all around it; and
that for us that Word is like the pillar of cloud and fire that moved
before Israel, blends light and darkness with the single office of
guidance, and gleams ever before us to draw desires and feet after it.
The lamp is set upon a stand. 'Take heed how ye hear.'

II. Secondly, the saying, in another application on our Lord's lips,
gives us a lesson as to Himself and our attitude to Him.

I have already pointed out the other instance in Luke's Gospel in
which this saying occurs, in the 11th chapter, where it is brought
into immediate connection with our Lord's declaration that the sign to
be given to His generation was 'the sign of the prophet Jonah,' which
sign He explains as being reproduced in His own case in His
Resurrection. And then he adds the word of our text, and immediately
passes on to speak about the light in us which perceives the lamp, and
the need of cultivating the single eye.

So, then, we have, in the figure thus applied, the thought that the
earthly life of Jesus Christ necessarily implies a subsequent
elevation from which He shines down upon all the world. God lit that
lamp, and it is not going to be quenched in the darkness of the grave.
He is not going to stultify Himself by sending the Light of the World,
and then letting the endless shades of death muffle and obscure it.
But, just as the conclusion of the process which is begun in the
kindling of the light is setting it on high on the stand, that it may
beam over all the chamber, so the resurrection and ascension of Jesus
Christ, His exaltation to the supremacy from which He shall draw all
men unto Him, are the necessary and, if I may so say, the logical
result of the facts of His incarnation and death.

Then from this there follows what our Lord dwells upon at greater
length. Having declared that the beginning of His course involved the
completion of it in His exaltation to glory, He then goes on to say to
us, 'You have an organ that corresponds to Me. I am the kindled lamp;
you have the seeing eye.' 'If the eye were not sunlike,' says the
great German thinker, 'how could it see the sun?' If there were not in
me that which corresponds to Jesus Christ, He would be no Light of the
World, and no light to me. My reason, my affection, my conscience, my
will, the whole of my spiritual being, answer to Him, as the eye does
to the light, and for everything that is in Christ there is in
humanity something that is receptive of, and that needs, Him.

So, then, that being so, He being our light, just because He fits our
needs, answers our desires, satisfies our cravings, fills the clefts
of our hearts, and brings the response to all the questions of our
understandings--that being the case, if the lamp is lit and blazing on
the lampstand, and you and I have eyes to behold it, let us take heed
that we cultivate the single eye which apprehends Christ.
Concentration of purpose, simplicity and sincerity of aim, a heart
centred upon Him, a mind drawn to contemplate unfalteringly and
without distraction of crosslights His beauty, His supremacy, His
completeness, and a soul utterly devoted to Him--these are the
conditions to which that light will ever manifest itself, and illumine
the whole man. But if we come with divided hearts, with distracted
aims, giving Him fragments of ourselves, and seeking Him by spasms and
at intervals, and having a dozen other deities in our Pantheon, beside
the calm form of the Christ of Nazareth, what wonder is there that we
see in Him 'no beauty that we should desire Him'? 'Unite my heart to
fear Thy name.' Oh I if that were our prayer, and if the effort to
secure its answer were honestly the effort of our lives, all His
loveliness, His sweetness, His adaptation to our whole being, would
manifest themselves to us. The eye must be 'single,' directed to Him,
if the heart is to rejoice in His light.

I need not do more than remind you of the blessed consequence which
our Lord represents as flowing from this union of the seeing heart and
the revealing light--viz., 'Thy whole body shall be full of light.' In
every eye that beholds the flame of the lamp there is a little
lamp-flame mirrored and manifested. And just as what we see makes its
image on the seeing organ of the body, so the Christ beheld is a
Christ embodied in us; and we, gazing upon Him, are 'changed into the
same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit.' Light
that remains without us does not illuminate; light that passes into us
is the light by which we see, and the Christ beheld is the Christ
ensphered in our hearts.

III. So, lastly, this great saying gives us a lesson as to the duties
of Christian men as lights in the world.

I pointed out that another instance of the occurrence of the saying is
in the Sermon on the Mount, where it is transferred from the
revelation of God in His written word, and in His Incarnate Word, to
the relation of Christian men to the world in which they dwell. I need
not remind you how frequently that same metaphor occurs in Scripture;
how in the early Jewish ritual the great seven-branched lampstand
which stood at first in the Tabernacle was the emblem of Israel's
office in the whole world, as it rayed out its light through the
curtains of the Tabernacle into the darkness of the desert. Nor need I
remind you how our Lord bare witness to His forerunner by the praise
that 'He was a burning and a shining light,' nor how He commanded His
disciples to have their 'loins girt and their lamps burning,' nor how
He spoke the Parable of the Ten Virgins with their lamps.

From all these there follows the same general thought that Christian
men, not so much by specific effort, nor by words, nor by definite
proclamation, as by the raying out from them in life and conduct of a
Christlike spirit, are set for the illumination of the world. The
bearing of our text in reference to that subject is just this--our
obligation as Christians to show forth the glories of Him who hath
'called us out of darkness into His marvellous light' is rested upon
His very purpose in drawing us to Himself, and receiving us into the
number of his people. If God in Christ, by communicating to us 'the
light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus
Christ,' has made us lights of the world, it is not done in order that
the light may be smothered incontinently, but His act of lighting
indicates His purpose of illumination. What are you a Christian for?
That you may go to Heaven? Certainly. That your sins may be forgiven?
No doubt. But is that the only end? Are you such a very great being as
that your happiness and well-being can legitimately be the ultimate
purpose of God's dealings with you? Are you so isolated from all
mankind as that any gift which He bestows on you is to be treated by
you as a morsel that you can take into your corner and devour, like a
grudging dog, by yourselves? By no means. 'God, who commanded the
light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts in order
that' we might impart the light to others. Or, as Shakespeare has it,
in words perhaps suggested by the Scripture metaphor,

'Heaven doth with us as we with torches do,
Not light them for themselves.'

He gave you His Son that you may give the gospel to others, and you
stultify His purpose in your salvation unless you become ministers of
His grace and manifesters of His light.

Then take from this emblem, too, a homely suggestion as to the
hindrances that stand in the way of our fulfilling the Divine
intention in our salvation. It is, perhaps, a piece of fancy, but
still it may point a lesson. The lamp is not hid 'under a bushel,'
which is the emblem of commerce or business, and is meant for the
measurement of material wealth and sustenance, or 'under a bed'--the
place where people take their ease and repose. These two loves--the
undue love of the bushel and the corn that is in it, and the undue
love of the bed and the leisurely ease that you may enjoy there--are
large factors in preventing Christian men from fulfilling God's
purpose in their salvation.

Then take a hint as to the means by which such a purpose can be
fulfilled by Christian souls. They are suggested in the two of the
other uses of this emblem by our Lord Himself. The first is when He
said, 'Let your loins be girded'--they are not so, when you are in
bed--'and your lamps burning.' Your light will not shine in a naughty
world without your strenuous effort, and ungirt loins will very
shortly lead to extinguished lamps. The other means to this
manifestation of visible Christlikeness lies in that tragical story of
the foolish virgins who took no oil in their vessels. If light
expresses the outward Christian life, oil, in accordance with the
whole tenor of Scripture symbolism, expresses the inward gift of the
Divine Spirit. And where that gift is neglected, where it is not
earnestly sought and carefully treasured, there may be a kind of smoky
illuminations, which, in the dark, may pass for bright lights, but,
when the Lord comes, shudder into extinction, and, to the astonishment
of the witless five who carried them, are found to be 'going out.'
Brethren, only He who does not quench the smoking flax but tends it to
a flame, will help us to keep our lamps bright.

First of all, then, let us gaze upon the light in Him, until we become
'light in the Lord.' And then let us see to it that, by girt loins and
continual reception of the illuminating principle of the Divine
Spirit's oil, we fill our lamps with 'deeds of odorous light, and
hopes that breed not shame.' Then,

'When the Bridegroom, with his feastful friends,
Passes to bliss on the mid-hour of night,'

we shall have 'gained our entrance' among the 'virgins wise and pure.'


'And the same day, when the even was come, He saith unto them, Let us
pass over unto the other side. 36. And when they had sent away the
multitude, they took Him even as He was in the ship. And there were
also with Him other little ships. 37. And there arose a great storm of
wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. 38.
And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and
they awake Him, and say unto Him, Master, carest Thou not that we
perish? 39. And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea,
Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40.
And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have
no faith? 41. And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another,
What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey
Him?'--Mark iv. 35-41.

Mark seldom dates his incidents, but he takes pains to tell us that
this run across the lake closed a day of labour, Jesus was wearied,
and felt the need of rest, He had been pressed on all day by 'a very
great multitude,' and felt the need of solitude. He could not land
from the boat which had been His pulpit, for that would have plunged
Him into the thick of the crowd, and so the only way to get away from
the throng was to cross the lake. But even there He was followed;
'other boats were with Him.'

I. The first point to note is the wearied sleeper. The disciples 'take
Him, ... even as He was,' without preparation or delay, the object
being simply to get away as quickly as might be, so great was His
fatigue and longing for quiet. We almost see the hurried starting and
the intrusive followers scrambling into the little skiffs on the beach
and making after Him. The 'multitude' delights to push itself into the
private hours of its heroes, and is devoured with rude curiosity.
There was a leather, or perhaps wooden, movable seat in the stern for
the steersman, on which a wearied-out man might lay his head, while
his body was stretched in the bottom of the boat. A hard 'pillow'
indeed, which only exhaustion could make comfortable! But it was soft
enough for the worn-out Christ, who had apparently flung Himself down
in sheer tiredness as soon as they set sail. How real such a small
detail makes the transcendent mystery of the Incarnation!

Jesus is our pattern in small common things as in great ones, and
among the sublimities of character set forth in Him as our example,
let us not forget that the homely virtue of hard work is also
included. Jonah slept in a storm the sleep of a skulking sluggard,
Jesus slept the sleep of a wearied labourer.

II. The next point is the terrified disciples. The evening was coming
on, and, as often on a lake set among hills, the wind rose as the sun
sank behind the high land on the western shore astern. The fishermen
disciples were used to such squalls, and, at first, would probably let
their sail down, and pull so as to keep the boat's head to the wind.
But things grew worse, and when the crazy, undecked craft began to
fill and get water-logged, they grew alarmed. The squall was fiercer
than usual, and must have been pretty bad to have frightened such
seasoned hands. They awoke Jesus, and there is a touch of petulant
rebuke in their appeal, and of a sailor's impatience at a landsman
lying sound asleep while the sweat is running down their faces with
their hard pulling. It is to Mark that we owe our knowledge of that
accent of complaint in their words, for he alone gives their 'Carest
Thou not?'

But it is not for us to fling stones at them, seeing that we also
often may catch ourselves thinking that Jesus has gone to sleep when
storms come on the Church or on ourselves, and that He is ignorant of,
or indifferent to, our plight. But though the disciples were wrong in
their fright, and not altogether right in the tone of their appeal to
Jesus, they were supremely right in that they did appeal to Him. Fear
which drives us to Jesus is not all wrong. The cry to Him, even though
it is the cry of unnecessary terror, brings Him to His feet for our

III. The next point is the word of power. Again we have to thank Mark
for the very words, so strangely, calmly authoritative. May we take
'Peace!' as spoken to the howling wind, bidding it to silence; and 'Be
still!' as addressed to the tossing waves, smoothing them to a calm
plain? At all events, the two things to lay to heart are that Jesus
here exercises the divine prerogative of controlling matter by the
bare expression of His will, and that this divine attribute was
exercised by the wearied man, who, a moment before, had been sleeping
the sleep of human exhaustion. The marvellous combination of apparent
opposites, weakness, and divine omnipotence, which yet do not clash,
nor produce an incredible monster of a being, but coalesce in perfect
harmony, is a feat beyond the reach of the loftiest creative
imagination. If the Evangelists are not simple biographers, telling
what eyes have seen and hands have handled, they have beaten the
greatest poets and dramatists at their own weapons, and have
accomplished 'things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.'

A word of loving rebuke and encouragement follows. Matthew puts it
before the stilling of the storm, but Mark's order seems the more
exact. How often we too are taught the folly of our fears by
experiencing some swift, easy deliverance! Blessed be God! He does not
rebuke us first and help us afterwards, but rebukes by helping. What
_could_ the disciples say, as they sat there in the great calm, in
answer to Christ's question, 'Why are ye fearful?' Fear can give no
reasonable account of itself, if Christ is in the boat. If our faith
unites us to Jesus, there is nothing that need shake our courage. If
He is 'our fear and our dread,' we shall not need to 'fear their
fear,' who have not the all-conquering Christ to fight for them.

'Well roars the storm to them who hear
A deeper voice across the storm.'

Jesus wondered at the slowness of the disciples to learn their lesson,
and the wonder was reflected in the sad question, 'Have ye not _yet_
faith?'--not yet, after so many miracles, and living beside Me for so
long? How much more keen the edge of that question is when addressed
to us, who know Him so much better, and have centuries of His working
for His servants to look back on. When, in the tempests that sweep
over our own lives, we sometimes pass into a great calm as suddenly as
if we had entered the centre of a typhoon, we wonder unbelievingly
instead of saying, out of a faith nourished by experience, 'It is just
like Him.'


'They took Him even as He was in the ship.... And He was in the hinder
part of the ship, asleep on a pillow.'--Mark iv. 36, 38.

Among the many loftier characteristics belonging to Christ's life and
work, there is a very homely one which is often lost sight of; and
that is, the amount of hard physical exertion, prolonged even to
fatigue and exhaustion, which He endured.

Christ is our pattern in a great many other things more impressive and
more striking; and He is our pattern in this, that 'in the sweat of
His brow' He did His work, and knew not only what it was to suffer,
but what it was to toil for man's salvation. And, perhaps, if we
thought a little more than we do of such a prosaic characteristic of
His life as that, it might invest it with some more reality for us,
besides teaching us other large and important lessons.

I have thrown together these two clauses for our text now, simply for
the sake of that one feature which they both portray so strikingly.

'They took Him even as He was in the ship.' Now many expositors
suppose that in the very form of that phrase there is suggested the
extreme of weariness and exhaustion which He suffered, after the hard
day's toil. Whether that be so or no, the swiftness of the move to the
little boat, although there was nothing in the nature of danger or of
imperative duty to hurry Him away, and His going on board without a
moment's preparation, leaving the crowd on the beach, seem most
naturally accounted for by supposing that He had come to the last
point of physical endurance, and that His frame, worn out by the hard
day's work, needed one thing--rest.

And so, the next that we see of Him is that, as soon as He gets into
the ship He falls fast asleep on the wooden pillow--a hard bed for His
head!--in the stern of the little fishing boat, and there He lies so
tired--let us put it into plain prose and strip away the false veil of
big words with which we invest that nature--so tired that the storm
does not awake Him; and they have to come to Him, and lay their hands
upon Him, and say to Him, 'Master, carest Thou not that we perish?'
before compassion again beat back fatigue, and quickened Him for fresh

This, then, is the one lesson which I wish to consider now, and there
are three points which I deal with in pursuance of my task. I wish to
point out a little more in detail the signs that we have in the
Gospels of this characteristic of Christ's work--the toilsomeness of
His service; then to consider, secondly, the motives which He Himself
tells us impelled to such service; and then, finally, the worth which
that toil bears for us.

I. First, then, let me point out some of the significant hints which
the gospel records give us of the toilsomeness of Christ's service.

Now we are principally indebted for these to this Gospel by Mark,
which ancient tradition has set forth as being especially and
eminently the 'Gospel of the Servant of God,' therein showing a very
accurate conception of its distinguishing characteristics. Just as
Matthew's Gospel is the Gospel of the King, regal in tone from
beginning to end; just as Luke's is the Gospel of the Man, human and
universal in its tone; just as John's is the Gospel of the Eternal
Word, so Mark's is the Gospel of the Servant. The inscription written
over it all might be, 'Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.' 'Behold my
Servant whom I uphold.'

And if you will take this briefest of all the Gospels, and read it
over from that point of view, you will be surprised to discover what a
multitude of minute traits make up the general impression, and what a
unity is thereby breathed into the narrative.

For instance, did you ever observe the peculiar beginning of this
Gospel? There are here none of the references to the prophecies of the
King, no tracing of His birth through the royal stock to the great
progenitor of the nation, no adoration by the Eastern sages, which we
find in Matthew, no miraculous birth nor growing childhood as in Luke,
no profound unveiling of the union of the Word with God before the
world was, as in John; but the narrative begins with His baptism, and
passes at once to the story of His work. The same ruling idea accounts
for the uniform omission of the title 'Lord' which in Mark's Gospel is
never applied to Christ until after the resurrection. There is only
one apparent exception, and there good authorities pronounce the word
to be spurious. Even in reports of conversations which are also given
in the other Gospels, and where 'Lord' occurs, Mark, of set purpose,
omits it, as if its presence would disturb the unity of the impression
which he desires to leave. You will find the investigation of the
omissions in this Gospel full of interest, and remarkably tending to
confirm the accuracy of the view which regards it as the Gospel of the

Notice then these traits of His service which it brings out.

The first of them I would suggest is--how distinctly it gives the
impression of swift, strenuous work. The narrative is brief and
condensed. We feel, all through these earlier chapters, at all events,
the presence of the pressing crowd coming to Him and desiring to be
healed, and but a word can be spared for each incident as the story
hurries on, trying to keep pace with His rapid service of
quick-springing compassion and undelaying help. There is one word
which is reiterated over and over again in these earlier chapters,
remarkably conveying this impression of haste and strenuous work;
Mark's favourite word is 'straightway,' 'immediately,' 'forthwith,'
'anon,' which are all translations of one expression. You will find,
if you glance over the first, second, or third chapters at your
leisure, that it comes in at every turn. Take these instances which
strike one's eye at the moment. _'Straightway_ they forsook their
nets'; _'Straightway_ He entered into the synagogue'; _'Immediately_
His fame spread abroad throughout all the region'; _'Forthwith_ they
entered into the house of Simon's mother'; '_Anon_, they tell Him of
her'; '_Immediately_ the fever left her.' And so it goes on through
the whole story, a picture of a constant succession of rapid acts of
mercy and love. The story seems, as it were, to pant with haste to
keep up with Him as He moves among men, swift as a sunbeam, and
continuous in the outflow of His love as are these unceasing rays.

Again, we see in Christ's service, toil prolonged to the point of
actual physical exhaustion. The narrative before us is the most
striking instance of that which we meet with. It had been a long
wearying day of work. According to this chapter, the whole of the
profound parables concerning the kingdom of God had immediately
preceded the embarkation. But even these, with their explanation, had
been but a part of that day's labours. For, in Matthew's account of
them, we are told that they were spoken on the same day as that on
which His mother and brethren came desiring to speak with Him,--or, as
we elsewhere read, with hostile intentions to lay hold on Him as mad
and needing restraint. And that event, which we may well believe
touched deep and painful chords of feeling in His human heart, and
excited emotions more exhausting than much physical effort, occurred
in the midst of an earnest and prolonged debate with emissaries from
Jerusalem, in the course of which He spoke the solemn words concerning
blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, and Satan casting out Satan, and
poured forth some of His most terrible warnings, and some of His most
beseeching entreaties. No wonder that, after such a day, the hard
pillow of the boat was a soft resting-place for His wearied head; no
wonder that, as the evening quiet settled down on the mountain-girdled
lake, and the purple shadows of the hills stretched athwart the water,
He slept; no wonder that the storm which followed the sunset did not
wake Him; and beautiful, that wearied as He was, the disciples' cry at
once rouses Him, and the fatigue which shows His manhood gives place
to the divine energy which says unto the sea, 'Peace! be still.' The
lips which, a moment before, had been parted in the soft breathing of
wearied sleep, now open to utter the omnipotent word--so wonderfully
does He blend the human and the divine, 'the form of a servant' and
the nature of God.

We see, in Christ, toil that puts aside the claims of physical wants.
Twice in this Gospel we read of this 'The multitude cometh together
again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.' 'There were many
coming, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.'

We see in Christ's service a love which is at every man's beck and
call, a toil cheerfully rendered at the most unreasonable and
unseasonable times. As I said a moment or two ago, this Gospel makes
one feel, as none other of these narratives do, the pressure of that
ever-present multitude, the whirling excitement that eddied round the
calm centre. It tells us, for instance, more than once, how Christ,
wearied with His toil, feeling in body and in spirit the need of rest
and still communion, withdrew Himself from the crowd. He once departed
alone that He might seek God in prayer; once He went with His wearied
disciples apart into a desert place to rest awhile. On both occasions
the retirement is broken in upon before it is well begun. The sigh of
relief in the momentary rest is scarcely drawn, and the burden laid
down for an instant, when it has to be lifted again. His solitary
prayer is interrupted by the disciples, with 'All men seek for Thee,'
and, without a murmur or a pause, He buckles to His work again, and
says, 'Let us go into the next towns that I may preach there also; for
therefore am I sent.'

When He would carry His wearied disciples with Him for a brief
breathing time to the other side of the sea, and get away from the
thronging crowd, 'the people saw Him departing, and ran afoot out of
all cities,' and, making their way round the head of the lake, were
all there at the landing place before Him. Instead of seclusion and
repose He found the same throng and bustle. Here they were, most of
them from mere curiosity, some of them no doubt with deeper feelings;
here they were, with their diseased and their demoniacs, and as soon
as His foot touches the shore He is in the midst of it all again. And
He meets it, not with impatience at this rude intrusion on His
privacy, not with refusals to help. Only one emotion filled His heart.
He forgot all about weariness, and hunger, and retirement, and 'He was
moved with compassion towards them, because they were as sheep not
having a shepherd, and He began to teach them many things.' Such a
picture may well shame our languid, self-indulgent service, may stir
us to imitation and to grateful praise.

There is only one other point which I touch upon for a moment, as
showing the toil of Christ, and that is drawn from another Gospel. Did
you ever notice the large space occupied in Matthew's Gospel by the
record of the last day of His public ministry, and how much of all
that we know of His mission and message, and the future of the world
and of all men, we owe to the teaching of these four-and-twenty hours?
Let me put together, in a word, what happened on that day.

It included the conversation with the chief priests and elders about
the baptism of John, the parable of the householder that planted a
vineyard and digged a winepress, the parables of the kingdom of
heaven, the controversy with the Herodians about the tribute money,
the conversation with the Sadducees about the resurrection, with the
Pharisee about the great commandment in the law, the silencing of the
Pharisees by pointing to the 110th Psalm, the warning to the multitude
against the scribes and Pharisees who were hypocrites, protracted and
prolonged up to that wail of disappointed love, 'Behold! your house is
left unto you desolate.' And, as though that had not been enough for
one day, when He is going home from the Temple to find, for a night,
in that quiet little home of Bethany, the rest that He wants, as He
rests wearily on the slopes of Olivet, the disciples come to Him,
'Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of
Thy coming?' and there follows all that wonderful prophecy of the
destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, the parable of the
fig tree, the warning not to suffer the thief to come, and the promise
of reward for the faithful and wise servant, the parable of the ten
virgins, and in all probability the parable of the king with the five
talents; and the words, that might be written in letters of fire, that
tell us the final course of all things, and the judgment of life
eternal and death everlasting! All this was the work of 'one of the
days of the Son of Man.' Of Him it was prophesied long ago, 'For
Jerusalem's sake I will not rest'; and His life on earth, as well as
His life in heaven, fulfils the prediction--the one by the
toilsomeness of His service, the other by the unceasing energy of His
exalted power. He toiled unwearied here, He works unresting there.

II. In the second place, let me ask you to notice how we get from our
Lord's own words a glimpse into the springs of this wonderful

There are three points which distinctly come out in various places in
the Gospels as His motives for such unresting sedulousness and
continuance of toil. The first is conveyed by such words as these: 'I
must work the works of Him that sent Me.' 'Let us preach to other
cities, also: for therefore am I sent.' 'Wist ye not that I must be
about My Father's business?' 'My meat is to do the will of Him that
sent Me, and to finish His work.' All these express one thought.
Christ lived and toiled, and bore weariness and exhaustion, and
counted every moment as worthy to be garnered up and precious, as to
be filled with deeds of love and kindness, because wherever He went,
and to whatsoever He set His hand, He had the one consciousness of a
great task laid upon Him by a loving Father whom He loved, and whom,
therefore, it was His joy and His blessedness to serve.

And, remember that this motive made the life homogeneous--of a piece.
In all the variety of service, one spirit was expressed, and,
therefore, the service was one. No matter whether He were speaking
words of grace or of rebuke, or working works of power and love, or
simply looking a look of kindness on some outcast, or taking a little
child in His arms, or stilling with the same arms outstretched the
wild uproar of the storm--it was all the same. To Him life was all
one. There was nothing great, nothing small; nothing so insignificant
that it could be done negligently; nothing so hard that it surpassed
His power. The one motive made all duties equal; obedience to the
Father called forth His whole energy at every moment. To Him life was
not divided into a set of tasks of varying importance, some of which
could be accomplished with a finger's touch, and some of which
demanded a dead lift and strain of all the muscles. But whatsoever His
hand found to do He did with His might and that because He felt, be it
great or little, that it all came, if I may so say, into the day's
work, and all was equally great because the Father that sent Him had
laid it upon Him.

There is one thing that makes life mighty in its veriest trifles,
worthy in its smallest deeds, that delivers it from monotony, that
delivers it from insignificance. All will be great, and nothing will
be overpowering, when, living in communion with Jesus Christ, we say
as He says, 'My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me.'

And then, still further, another of the secret springs that move His
unwearied activity, His heroism of toil, is the thought expressed in
such words as these:--'While I am in the world I am the light of the
world.' 'I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day;
the night cometh when no man can work.'

Jesus Christ manifested on earth performs indeed a work--the mightiest
which He came to do--which was done precisely then when the night did
come--namely, the work of His death, which is the atonement and
'propitiation for the sins of the world.' And, further, the 'night,
when no man can work,' was not the end of His activity for us; for He
carries on His work of intercession and rule, His work of bestowing
the gifts purchased by His blood, amidst the glories of heaven; and
that perpetual application and dispensing of the blessed issues of His
death He has Himself represented as greater than the works, to which
His death put a period, in which He healed the bodies and spoke to the
hearts of those who heard, and lived a perfect life here upon this
sinful earth. But yet even He recognised the brief hour of sunny life
as being an hour that must be filled with service, and recognised the
fact that there was a task that He could only do when He lived the
life of a man upon earth. And so, if I might so say, He was a miser of
the moments, and carefully husbanding and garnering up every capacity
and every opportunity. He toiled with the toil of a man who has a task
before him, that must be done before the clock strikes six, and who
sees the hands move over the dial, and by every glance that he casts
at it is stimulated to intenser service and to harder toil. Christ
felt that impulse to service which we all ought to feel--'The night
cometh; let me fill the day with work.'

And then there is a final motive which I need barely touch. He was
impelled to His sedulous service not only by loving, filial obedience
to the divine law, and by the consciousness of a limited and defined
period into which all the activity of one specific kind must be
condensed, but also by the motive expressed in such words as these, in
which this Gospel is remarkably rich, 'And Jesus, moved with
compassion, put forth His hand and touched him.' Thus, along with that
supreme consecration, along with that swift ardour that will fill the
brief hours ere nightfall with service, there was the constant pity of
that beating heart that moved the diligent hand. Christ, if I may so
say, could not help working as hard as He did, so long as there were
so many men round about Him that needed His sympathy and His aid.

III. So much then for the motives; and now a word finally as to the
worth of this toil for us.

I do not stay to elucidate one consideration that might be suggested,
viz., how precious a proof it is of Christ's humanity. We find it
easier to bring home His true manhood to our thoughts, when we
remember that He, like us, knew the pressure of physical fatigue. Not
only was it a human spirit that wept and rejoiced, that was moved with
compassion, and sometimes with indignation, but it was a human body,
bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, that, wearied with walking
in the burning sun, sat on the margin of the well; that was worn out
and needed to sleep; that knew hunger, as is testified by His sending
the disciples to buy meat; that was thirsty, as is testified by His
saying, 'Give Me to drink.' The true corporeal manhood of Jesus
Christ, and the fact that that manhood is the tabernacle of
God--without these two facts the morality and the teaching of
Christianity swing loose _in vacuo_, and have no holdfast in history,
nor any leverage by which they can move men's hearts! But, when we
know that the common necessities of fatigue, and hunger, and thirst
belonged to Him, then we gratefully and reverently say, 'Forasmuch as
the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he also Himself took
part of the same.'

This fact of Christ's toil is of worth to us in other ways.

Is not that hard work of Jesus Christ a lesson for us, brethren, in
our daily tasks and toils--a lesson which, if it were learnt and
practised, would make a difference not only on the intensity but upon
the spirit with which we labour? A great deal of fine talk is indulged
in about the dignity of labour and the like. Labour is a curse until
communion with God in it, which is possible through Jesus Christ,
makes it a blessing and a joy. Christ, in the sweat of His brow, won
our salvation; and our work only becomes great when it is work done
in, and for, and by Him.

And what do we learn from His example? We learn these things: the
plain lesson, first,--task all your capacity and use every minute in
doing the duty that is plainly set before you to do. Christian virtues
are sometimes thought to be unreal and unworldly things. I was going
to say the root of them, certainly the indispensable accompaniment for
them all, is the plain, prosaic, most unromantic virtue of hard work.

And beyond that, what do we learn? The lesson that most toilers in
England want. There is no need to preach to the most of us to work any
harder, in one department of work at any rate; but there is great need
to remind us of what it was that at once stirred Jesus Christ into
energy and kept Him calm in the midst of labour--and that was that
everything was equally and directly referred to His Father's will.
People talk nowadays about 'missions.' The only thing worth giving
that name to is the 'mission' which _He_ gives us, who sends us into
the world not to do our own will, but to do the will of Him that sent
us. There is a fatal monotony in all our lives--a terrible amount of
hard drudgery in them all. We have to set ourselves morning after
morning to tasks that look to be utterly insignificant and
disproportionate to the power that we bring to bear upon them, so that
men are like elephants picking up pins with their trunks; and yet we
may make all our commonplace drudgery great, and wondrous, and fair,
and full of help and profit to our souls, if, over it all--our shops,
our desks, our ledgers, our studies, our kitchens, and our
nurseries--we write, 'My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me.'
We may bring the greatest principles to bear upon the smallest duties.

What more do we learn from Christ's toil? The possible harmony of
communion and service. His labour did not break His fellowship with
God. He was ever in the 'secret place of the Most High,' even while He
was in the midst of crowds. He has taught us that it is possible to be
in the 'house of the Lord' all the days of our lives, and by His
ensample, as by His granted Spirit, encourages us to aim at so serving
that we shall never cease to behold, and so beholding that we shall
never cease to serve our Father. The life of contemplation and the
life of practice, so hard to harmonise in our experience, perfectly
meet in Christ.

What more do we learn from our Lord's toils? The cheerful constant
postponement of our own ease, wishes, or pleasure to the call of the
Father's voice, or to the echo of it in the sighing of such as be
sorrowful. I have already referred to the instances of His putting
aside His need for rest, and His desire for still fellowship with God,
at the call of whoever needed Him. It was the same always. If a
Nicodemus comes by night, if a despairing father forces his way into
the house of feasting, if another suppliant finds Him in a house,
where He would have remained hid, if they come running to Him in the
way, or drop down their sick before Him through the very roof--it is
all the same. He never thinks of Himself, but gladly addresses Himself
to heal and bless. How such an example followed would change our lives
and amaze and shake the world!--'I come, not to do Mine own will.'
'Even Christ pleased not Himself.'

But that toil is not only a pattern for our lives; it is an appeal to
our grateful hearts. Surely a toiling Christ is as marvellous as a
dying Christ. And the immensity and the purity and the depth of His
love are shown no less by this, that He labours to accomplish it, than
by this, that He dies to complete it. He will not give blessings which
depend upon mere will, and can be bestowed as a king might fling a
largess to a beggar without effort, and with scarce a thought, but
blessings which He Himself has to agonise and to energise, and to lead
a life of obedience, and to die a death of shame, in order to procure.
'I will not offer burnt-offering to God of that which doth cost me
nothing,' says the grateful heart. But in so saying it is but
following in the track of the loving Christ, who will not give unto
man that which cost Him nothing, and who works, as well as dies, in
order that we may be saved.

And, O brethren! think of the contrast between what Christ has done to
save us, and what we do to secure and appropriate that salvation! He
toiled all His days, buying our peace with His life, going down into
the mine and bringing up the jewels at the cost of His own precious
blood. And you and I stand with folded arms, too apathetic to take the
rich treasures that are freely given to us of God! He has done
everything, that we may have nothing to do, and we will not even put
out our slack hands to clasp the grace purchased by His blood, and
commended by His toil! 'Therefore we ought to give the more earnest
heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let
them slip.'


'And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country
of the Gadarenes. 2. And when He was come out of the ship, immediately
there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3. Who
had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not
with chains: 4. Because that he had been often bound with fetters and
chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the
fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. 5. And
always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs,
crying, and cutting himself with stones. 6. But when he saw Jesus afar
off, he ran and worshipped Him, 7. And cried with a loud voice, and
said, What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of the most high
God? I adjure Thee by God, that Thou torment me not. 8. For He said
unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. 9. And He asked
him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for
we are many. 10. And he besought Him much that He would not send them
away out of the country. 11. Now there was there nigh unto the
mountains a great herd of swine feeding. 12. And all the devils
besought Him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into
them. 13. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits
went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down
a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were
choked in the sea. 14. And they that fed the swine fled, and told it
in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was
that was done. 15. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was
possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed,
and in his right mind: and they were afraid. 16. And they that saw it
told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and
also concerning the swine. 17. And they began to pray Him to depart
out of their coasts. 18. And when He was come into the ship, he that
had been possessed with the devil prayed Him that he might be with
Him. 19. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home
to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for
thee, and hath had compassion on thee. 20. And he departed, and began
to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and
all men did marvel.'--Mark v. 1-20.

The awful picture of this demoniac is either painted from life, or it
is one of the most wonderful feats of the poetic imagination. Nothing
more terrible, vivid, penetrating, and real was ever conceived by the
greatest creative genius. If it is not simply a portrait, Aschylus or
Dante might own the artist for a brother. We see the quiet landing on
the eastern shore, and almost hear the yells that broke the silence as
the fierce, demon-ridden man hurried to meet them, perhaps with
hostile purpose. The dreadful characteristics of his state are sharply
and profoundly signalised. He lives up in the rock-hewn tombs which
overhang the beach; for all that belongs to corruption and death is
congenial to the subjects of that dark kingdom of evil. He has
superhuman strength, and has known no gentle efforts to reclaim, but
only savage attempts to 'tame' by force, as if he were a beast.
Fetters and manacles have been snapped like rushes by him. Restless,
sleepless, hating men, he has made the night hideous with his wild
shrieks, and fled, swift as the wind, from place to place among the
lonely hills. Insensible to pain, and deriving some dreadful
satisfaction from his own wounds, he has gashed himself with splinters
of rock, and howled, in a delirium of pain and pleasure, at the sight
of his own blood. His sharpened eyesight sees Jesus from afar, and,
with the disordered haste and preternatural agility which marked all
his movements, he runs towards Him. Such is the introduction to the
narrative of the cure. It paints for us not merely a maniac, but a
demoniac. He is not a man at war with himself, but a man at war with
other beings, who have forced themselves into his house of life. At
least, so says Mark, and so said Jesus; and if the story before us is
true, its subsequent incidents compel the acceptance of that
explanation. What went into the herd of swine?

The narrative of the restoration of the sufferer has a remarkable
feature, which may help to mark off its stages. The word 'besought'
occurs four times in it, and we may group the details round each

I. The demons beseeching Jesus through the man's voice. He was, in the
exact sense of the word, _distracted_--drawn two ways. For it would
seem to have been the self in him that ran to Jesus and fell at His
feet, as if in some dim hope of rescue; but it is the demons in him
that speak, though the voice be his. They force him to utter their
wishes, their terrors, their loathing of Christ, though he says 'I'
and 'me' as if these were his own. That horrible condition of a
double, or, as in this case, a manifold personality, speaking through
human organs, and overwhelming the proper self, mysterious as it is,
is the very essence of the awful misery of the demoniacs. Unless we
are resolved to force meanings of our own on Scripture, I do not see
how we can avoid recognising this. What black thoughts, seething with
all rebellious agitation, the reluctant lips have to utter! The
self-drawn picture of the demoniac nature is as vivid as, and more
repellent than, the Evangelist's terrible portrait of the outward man.
Whatever dumb yearning after Jesus may have been in the oppressed
human consciousness, his words are a shriek of terror and recoil. The
mere presence of Christ lashes the demons into paroxysms: but before
the man spoke, Christ had spoken His stern command to come forth. He
is answered by this howl of fear and hate. Clear recognition of
Christ's person is in it, and not difficult to explain, if we believe
that others than the sufferer looked through his wild eyes, and spoke
in his loud cry. They know Him who had conquered their prince long
ago; if the existence of fallen spirits be admitted, their knowledge
is no difficulty.

The next element in the words is hatred, as fixed as the knowledge is
clear. God's supremacy and loftiness, and Christ's nature, are
recognised, but only the more abhorred. The name of God can be used as
a spell to sway Jesus, but it has no power to touch this fierce hatred
into submission. 'The devils also believe and tremble.' This, then, is
a dark possibility, which has become actual for real living beings,
that they should know God, and hate as heartily as they know clearly.
That is the terminus towards which human spirits may be travelling.
Christ's power, too, is recognised, and His mere presence makes the
flock of obscene creatures nested in the man uneasy, like bats in a
cave, who flutter against a light. They shrink from Him, and
shudderingly renounce all connection with Him, as if their cries would
alter facts, or make Him relax His grip. The very words of the
question prove its folly. 'What is there to me and thee?' implies that
there were two parties to the answer; and the writhings of one of them
could not break the bond. To all this is to be added that the
'torment' deprecated was the expulsion from the man, as if there were
some grim satisfaction and dreadful alleviation in being there, rather
than 'in the abyss'--as Luke gives it--which appears to be the
alternative. If we put all these things together, we get an awful
glimpse into the secrets of that dark realm, which it is better to
ponder with awe than flippantly to deny or mock.

How striking is Christ's unmoved calm in the face of all this fury! He
is always laconic in dealing with demoniacs; and, no doubt, His
tranquil presence helped to calm the man, however it excited the
demon. The distinct intention of the question, 'What is thy name?' is
to rouse the man's self-consciousness, and make him feel his separate
existence, apart from the alien tyranny which had just been using his
voice and usurping his personality. He had said 'I' and 'me.' Christ
meets him with, Who is the 'I'? and the very effort to answer would
facilitate the deliverance. But for the moment the foreign influence
is still too strong, and the answer, than which there is nothing more
weird and awful in the whole range of literature, comes: 'My name is
Legion; for we are many.' Note the momentary gleam of the true self in
the first word or two, fading away into the old confusion. He begins
with 'my,' but he drops back to 'we.' Note the pathetic force of the
name. This poor wretch had seen the solid mass of the Roman legion,
the instrument by which foreign tyrants crushed the nations. He felt
himself oppressed and conquered by their multitudinous array. The
voice of the 'legion' has a kind of cruel ring of triumph, as if
spoken as much to terrify the victim as to answer the question.

Again the man's voice speaks, beseeching the direct opposite of what
he really would have desired. He was not so much in love with his
dreadful tenants as to pray against their expulsion, but their fell
power coerces his lips, and he asks for what would be his ruin. That
prayer, clean contrary to the man's only hope, is surely the climax of
the horror. In a less degree, we also too often deprecate the stroke
which delivers, and would fain keep the legion of evils which riot

II. The demons beseeching Jesus without disguise. There seems to be
intended a distinction between 'he besought,' in verse 10, and they
'besought,' in verse 12. Whether we are to suppose that, in the latter
case, the man's voice was used or no, the second request was more
plainly not his, but theirs. It looks as if, somehow, the command was
already beginning to take effect, and 'he' and 'they' were less
closely intertwined. It is easy to ridicule this part of the incident,
and as easy to say that it is incredible; but it is wiser to remember
the narrow bounds of our knowledge of the unseen world of being, and
to be cautious in asserting that there is nothing beyond the horizon
but vacuity. If there be unclean spirits, we know too little about
them to say what is possible. Only this is plain--that the difficulty
of supposing them to inhabit swine is less, if there be any
difference, than of supposing them to inhabit men, since the animal
nature, especially of such an animal, would correspond to their
impurity, and be open to their driving. The house and the tenant are
well matched. But why should the expelled demons seek such an abode?
It would appear that anywhere was better than 'the abyss,' and that
unless they could find some creature to enter, thither they must go.
It would seem, too, that there was no other land open to them--for the
prayer on the man's lips had been not to send them 'out of the
country,' as if that was the only country on earth open to them. That
makes for the opinion that demoniacal possession was the dark shadow
which attended, for reasons not discoverable by us, the light of
Christ's coming, and was limited in time and space by His earthly
manifestation. But on such matters there is not ground enough for

Another difficulty has been raised as to Christ's right to destroy
property. It was very questionable property, if the owners were Jews.
Jesus owns all things, and has the right and the power to use them as
He will; and if the purposes served by the destruction of animal life
or property are beneficent and lofty, it leaves no blot on His
goodness. He used His miraculous power twice for destruction--once on
a fig-tree, once on a herd of swine. In both cases, the good sought
was worth the loss. Whether was it better that the herd should live
and fatten, or that a man should be delivered, and that he and they
who saw should be assured of his deliverance and of Christ's power?
'Is not a man much better than a sheep,' and much more than a pig?
They are born to be killed, and nobody cries out cruelty. Why should
not Christ have sanctioned this slaughter, if it helped to steady the
poor man's nerves, or to establish the reality of possession and of
his deliverance? Notice that the drowning of the herd does not appear
to have entered into the calculations of the unclean spirits. They
desired houses to live in after their expulsion, and for them to
plunge the swine into the lake would have defeated their purpose. The
stampede was an unexpected effect of the commingling of the demonic
with the animal nature, and outwitted the demons. 'The devil is an
ass.' There is a lower depth than the animal nature; and even swine
feel uncomfortable when the demon is in them, and in their panic rush
anywhere to get rid of the incubus, and, before they know, find
themselves struggling in the lake. 'Which things are an allegory.'

III. The terrified Gerasenes beseeching Jesus to leave them. They had
rather have their swine than their Saviour, and so, though they saw
the demoniac sitting, 'clothed, and in his right mind,' at the feet of
Jesus, they in turn beseech that He should take Himself away. Fear and
selfishness prompted the prayer. The communities on the eastern side
of the lake were largely Gentile; and, no doubt, these people knew
that they did many worse things than swine-keeping, and may have been
afraid that some more of their wealth would have to go the same road
as the herd. They did not want instruction, nor feel that they needed
a healer. Were their prayers so very unlike the wishes of many of us?
Is there nobody nowadays unwilling to let the thought of Christ into
his life, because he feels an uneasy suspicion that, if Christ comes,
a good deal will have to go? How many trades and schemes of life
really beseech Jesus to go away and leave them in peace!

And He goes away. The tragedy of life is that we have the awful power
of severing ourselves from His influence. Christ commands unclean
spirits, but He can only plead with hearts. And if we bid Him depart,
He is fain to leave us for the time to the indulgence of our foolish
and wicked schemes. If any man open, He comes in--oh, how gladly I but
if any man slam the door in His face, He can but tarry without and
knock. Sometimes His withdrawing does more than His loudest knocking;
and sometimes they who repelled Him as He stood on the beach call Him
back, as He moves away to the boat. It is in the hope that they may,
that He goes.

IV. The restored man's beseeching to abide with Christ. No wonder that
the spirit of this man, all tremulous with the conflict, and scarcely
able yet to realise his deliverance, clung to Christ, and besought Him
to let him continue by His side. Conscious weakness, dread of some
recurrence of the inward hell, and grateful love, prompted the prayer.
The prayer itself was partly right and partly wrong. Right, in
clinging to Jesus as the only refuge from the past misery; wrong, in
clinging to His visible presence as the only way of keeping near Him.
Therefore, He who had permitted the wish of the demons, and complied
with the entreaties of the terrified mob, did _not_ yield to the
prayer, throbbing with love and conscious weakness. Strange that Jesus
should put aside a hand that sought to grasp His in order to be safe;
but His refusal was, as always, the gift of something better, and He
ever disappoints the wish in order more truly to satisfy the need. The
best defence against the return of the evil spirits was in occupation.
It is the 'empty' house which invites them back. Nothing was so likely
to confirm and steady the convalescent mind as to dwell on the fact of
his deliverance. Therefore he is sent to proclaim it to friends who
had known his dreadful state, and amidst old associations which would
help him to knit his new life to his old, and to treat his misery as a
parenthesis. Jesus commanded silence or speech according to the need
of the subjects of His miracles. For some, silence was best, to deepen
the impression of blessing received; for others, speech was best, to
engage and so to fortify the mind against relapse.


'He that had been possessed with the devil prayed Jesus that he might
be with Him. 19. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him,
Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath
done for thee.'--Mark v. 18,19.

There are three requests, singularly contrasted with each other, made
to Christ in the course of this miracle of healing the Gadarene
demoniac. The evil spirits ask to be permitted to go into the swine;
the men of the country, caring more for their swine than their
Saviour, beg Him to take Himself away, and relieve them of His
unwelcome presence; the demoniac beseeches Him to be allowed to stop
beside Him. Two of the requests are granted; one is refused. The one
that was refused is the one that we might have expected to be granted.

Christ forces Himself upon no man, and so, when they besought Him to
go, He went, and took salvation with Him in the boat. Christ withdraws
Himself from no man who desires Him. 'Howbeit Jesus suffered him not,
and said, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the
Lord hath done for thee.'

Now, do you not think that if we put these three petitions and their
diverse answers together, and look especially at this last one, where
the natural wish was refused, we ought to be able to learn some

The first thing I would notice is, the clinging of the healed man to
his Healer.

Think of him half an hour before, a raging maniac; now all at once
conscious of a strange new sanity and calmness; instead of lashing
himself about, and cutting himself with stones, and rending his chains
and fetters, 'sitting clothed, and in his right mind,' at the feet of
Jesus. No wonder that he feared that when the Healer went the demons
would come back--no wonder that he besought Him that he might still
keep within that quiet sacred circle of light which streamed from His
presence, across the border of which no evil thing could pass. Love
bound him to his Benefactor; dread made him shudder at the thought of
losing his sole Protector, and being again left, in that partly
heathen land, solitary, to battle with the strong foes that had so
long rioted in his house of life. And so 'he begged that he might be
with Him.'

That poor heathen man--for you must remember that this miracle was not
wrought on the sacred soil of Palestine--that poor heathen man, just
having caught a glimpse of how calm and blessed life might be, is the
type of us all. And there is something wrong with us if our love does
not, like his, desire above all things the presence of Jesus Christ;
and if our consciousness of impotence does not, in like manner, drive
us to long that our sole Deliverer shall not be far away from us.
Merchant-ships in time of war, like a flock of timid birds, keep as
near as they can to the armed convoy, for the only safety from the
guns of the enemy's cruisers is in keeping close to their strong
protector. The traveller upon some rough, unknown road, in the dark,
holds on by his guide's skirts or hand, and feels that if he loses
touch he loses the possibility of safety. A child clings to his parent
when dangers are round him. The convalescent patient does not like to
part with his doctor. And if we rightly learned who it is that has
cured us, and what is the condition of our continuing whole and sound,
like this man we shall pray that He may suffer us to be with Him. Fill
the heart with Christ, and there is no room for the many evil spirits
that make up the legion that torments it The empty heart invites the
devils, and they come back, Even if it is 'swept and garnished,' and
brought into respectability, propriety, and morality, they come back,
There is only one way to keep them out; when the ark is in the Temple,
Dagon will be lying, like the brute form that he is, a stump upon the
threshold. The condition of our security is close contact with Jesus
Christ. If we know the facts of life, the temptations that ring us
round, the weakness of these wayward wills of ours, and the strength
of this intrusive and masterful flesh and sense that we have to rule,
we shall know and feel that our only safety is our Master's presence.

Further, note the strange refusal.

Jesus Christ went through the world, or at least the little corner of
it which His earthly career occupied, seeking for men that desired to
have Him, and it is impossible that He should have put away any soul
that desired to be present with Him. Yet, though His one aim was to
draw men to Him, and the prospect that He should be able to exercise a
stronger attraction over a wider area reconciled Him to the prospect
of the Cross, so that He said in triumph, 'I, when I am lifted up from
the earth, will draw all men unto Me,' he meets this heathen man,
feeble in his crude and recent sanity, with a flat refusal. 'He
suffered him not.' Most probably the reason for the strange and
apparently anomalous dealing with such a desire was to be found in the
man's temperament. Most likely it was the best thing for _him_ that he
should stop quietly in his own house, and have no continuance of the
excitement and perpetual change which would have necessarily been his
lot if he had been allowed to go with Jesus Christ. We may be quite
sure that when the Lord with one hand seemed to put him away, He was
really, with a stronger attraction, drawing him to Himself; and that
the peculiarity of the method of treatment was determined with
exclusive reference to the real necessities of the person who was
subject to it.

But yet, underlying the special case, and capable of being stated in
the most general terms, lies this thought, that Jesus Christ's
presence, the substance of the demoniac's desire, may be as
completely, and, in some cases, will be more completely, realised
amongst the secularities of ordinary life than amidst the sanctities
of outward communion and companionship with Him. Jesus was beginning
here to wean the man from his sensuous dependence upon His localised
and material presence. It was good for him, and it is good for us all,
to 'feel our feet,' so to speak. Responsibility laid, and felt to be
laid, upon us is a steadying and ennobling influence. And it was
better that the demoniac should learn to stand calmly, when apparently
alone, than that he should childishly be relying on the mere external
presence of his Deliverer.

Be sure of this, that when the Lord went away across the lake, He left
His heart and His thoughts, and His care and His power over there, on
the heathen side of the sea; and that when 'the people thronged Him'
on the other side, and the poor woman pressed through the crowd, that
virtue might come to her by her touch, virtue was at the same time
raying out across the water to the solitary newly healed demoniac, to
sustain him too.

And so we may all learn that we may have, and it depends upon
ourselves whether we do or do not have, all protection all
companionship, and all the sweetness of Christ's companionship and the
security of Christ's protection just as completely when we are at home
amongst our friends--that is to say, when we are about our daily work,
and in the secularities of our calling or profession--as when we are
in the 'secret place of the Most High' and holding fellowship with a
present Christ. Oh, to carry Him with us into every duty, to realise
Him in all circumstances, to see the light of His face shine amidst
the darkness of calamity, and the pointing of His directing finger
showing us our road amidst all perplexities of life! Brethren, that is
possible. When Jesus Christ 'suffered him not to go with Him,' Jesus
Christ stayed behind with the man.

Lastly, we have here the duty enjoined.

'Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath
done for thee.' The man went home and translated the injunction into
word and deed. As I said, the reason for the peculiarity of his
treatment, in his request being refused, was probably his peculiar
temperament. So again I would say the reason for the commandment laid
upon him, which is also anomalous, was probably the peculiarity of his
disposition. Usually our Lord was careful to enjoin silence upon those
whom He benefited by His miraculous cures. That injunction of silence
was largely owing to His desire not to create or fan the flame of
popular excitement. But that risk was chiefly to be guarded against in
the land of Israel, and here, where we have a miracle upon Gentile
soil, there was not the same occasion for avoiding talk and notoriety.

But probably the main reason for the exceptional commandment to go and
publish abroad what the Lord had done was to be found in the simple
fact that this man's malady and his disposition were such that
external work of some sort was the best thing to prevent him from
relapsing into his former condition. His declaration to everybody of
his cure would help to confirm his cure; and whilst he was speaking
about being healed, he would more and more realise to himself that he
was healed. Having work to do would take him out of himself, which no
doubt was a great security against the recurrence of the evil from
which he had been delivered. But however that may be, look at the
plain lesson that lies here. Every healed man should be a witness to
his Healer; and there is no better way of witnessing than by our
lives, by the elevation manifested in our aims, by our aversion from
all low, earthly, gross things, by the conspicuous--not made
conspicuous by us, conspicuous because it cannot be hid--concentration
and devotion, and unselfishness and Christlikeness of our daily lives
to show that we are really healed. If we manifest these things in our
conduct, then, when we say 'it was Jesus Christ that healed me,'
people will be apt to believe us. But if this man had gone away into
the mountains and amongst the tombs as he used to do, and had
continued all the former characteristics of his devil-ridden life, who
would have believed him when he talked about being healed? And who
ought to believe you when you say, 'Christ is my Saviour,' if your
lives are, to all outward seeming, exactly what they were before?

The sphere in which the healed man's witness was to be borne tested
the reality of his healing. 'Go home to thy friends, and tell _them_.'
I wonder how many Christian professors there are who would be least
easily believed by those who live in the same house with them, if they
said that Jesus had cast their devils out of them. It is a great
mistake to take recent converts, especially if they have been very
profligate beforehand, and to hawk them about the country as trophies
of God's converting power. Let them stop at home, and bethink
themselves, and get sober and confirmed, and let their changed lives
prove the reality of Christ's healing power. They can speak to some
purpose after that.

Further, remember that there is no better way for keeping out devils
than working for Jesus Christ. Many a man finds that the true
cure--say, for instance, of doubts that buzz about him and disturb
him, is to go away and talk to some one about his Saviour. Work for
Jesus amongst people that do not know Him is a wonderful sieve for
sifting out the fundamental articles of the Christian faith. And when
we go to other people, and tell them of that Lord, and see how the
message is sometimes received, and what it sometimes does, we come
away with confirmed faith.

But, in any case, it is better to work for Him than to sit alone,
thinking about Him. The two things have to go together; and I know
very well that there is a great danger, in the present day, of
exaggeration, and insisting too exclusively upon the duty of Christian
work whilst neglecting to insist upon the duty of Christian
meditation. But, on the other hand, it blows the cobwebs out of a
man's brain; it puts vigour into him, it releases him from himself,
and gives him something better to think about, when he listens to the
Master's voice, 'Go home to thy friends, and tell them what great
things the Lord hath done for thee.'

'Master! it is good for us to be here. Let us make three tabernacles.
Stay here; let us enjoy ourselves up in the clouds, with Moses and
Elias; and never mind about what goes on below.' But there was a
demoniac boy down there that needed to be healed; and the father was
at his wits' end, and the disciples were at theirs because they could
not heal him. And so Jesus Christ turned His back upon the Mount of
Transfiguration, and the company of the blessed two, and the Voice
that said, 'This is My beloved Son,' and hurried down where human woes
called Him, and found that He was as near God, and so did Peter and
James and John, as when up there amid the glory.

'Go home to thy friends, and tell them'; and you will find that to do
that is the best way to realise the desire which seemed to be put
aside, the desire for the presence of Christ. For be sure that
wherever He may not be, He always is where a man, in obedience to Him,
is doing His commandments. So when He said, 'Go home to thy friends,'
He was answering the request that He seamed to reject, and when the
Gadarene obeyed, he would find, to his astonishment and his grateful
wonder, that the Lord had _not_ gone away in the boat, but was with
him still. 'Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel. Lo! I am
with you always.'


And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus
by name; and when he saw Him, he fell at His feet, 23. And besought
Him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I
pray Thee, come and lay Thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and
she shall live. 24. And Jesus went with him; and much people followed
Him, and thronged Him.... 35. While He yet spake, there came from the
ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is
dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? 36. As soon as Jesus
heard the word that was spoken, He saith unto the ruler of the
synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. 37. And He suffered no man to
follow Him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. 38.
And He cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth
the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. 39. And when He was
come in, He saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the
damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. 40. And they laughed Him to scorn.
But when He had put them all out, He taketh the father and the mother
of the damsel, and them that were with Him, and entereth in where the
damsel was lying. 41. And He took the damsel by the hand, and said
unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say
unto thee, arise. 42. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked;
for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with
a great astonishment. 43. And He charged them straitly that no man
should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to
eat.'--Mark v. 22-24, 35-43.

The scene of this miracle was probably Capernaum; its time, according
to Matthew, was the feast at his house after his call. Mark's date
appears to be later, but he may have anticipated the feast in his
narrative, in order to keep the whole of the incidents relating to
Matthew's apostleship together. Jairus's knowledge of Jesus is implied
in the story, and perhaps Jesus' acquaintance with him.

I. We note, first, the agonised appeal and the immediate answer.
Desperation makes men bold. Conventionalities are burned up by the
fire of agonised petitioning for help in extremity. Without apology or
preliminary, Jairus bursts in, and his urgent need is sufficient
excuse. Jesus never complains of scant respect when wrung hearts cry
to Him. But this man was not only driven by despair, but drawn by
trust. He was sure that, even though his little darling had been all
but dead when he ran from his house, and was dead by this time, for
all he knew, Jesus could give her life. Perhaps he had not faced the
stern possibility that she might already be gone, nor defined
precisely what he hoped for in that case. But he was sure of Jesus'
power, and he says nothing to show that he doubted His willingness. A
beautiful trust shines through his words, based, no doubt, on what he
had known and seen of Jesus' miracles. _We_ have more pressing and
deeper needs, and we have fuller and deeper knowledge of Jesus,
wherefore our approach to Him should be at least as earnest and
confidential as Jairus's was. If our Lord was at the feast when this
interruption took place, His gracious, immediate answer becomes more
lovely, as a sign of His willingness to bring the swiftest help.
'While they are yet speaking, I will hear.' Jairus had not finished
asking before Jesus was on His feet to go.

The father's impatience would be satisfied when they were on their
way, but how he would chafe, and think every moment an age, while
Jesus stayed, as if at entire leisure, to deal with another silent
petitioner! But His help to one never interferes with His help to
another, and no case is so pressing as that He cannot spare time to
stay to bless some one else. The poor, sickly, shamefaced woman shall
be healed, and the little girl shall not suffer.

II. We have next the extinction and rekindling of Jairus's glimmer of
hope. Distances in Capernaum were short, and the messenger would soon
find Jesus. There was little sympathy in the harsh, bald announcement
of the death, or in the appended suggestion that the Rabbi need not be
further troubled. The speaker evidently was thinking more of being
polite to Jesus than of the poor father's stricken heart, Jairus would
feel then what most of us have felt in like circumstances,--that he
had been more hopeful than he knew. Only when the last glimmer is
quenched do we feel, by the blackness, how much light had lingered in
our sky, But Jesus knew Jairus's need before Jairus himself knew it,
and His strong word of cheer relit the torch ere the poor father had
time to speak. That loving eye reads our hearts and anticipates our
dreary hopelessness by His sweet comfortings. Faith is the only
victorious antagonist of fear. Jairus had every reason for abandoning
hope, and his only reason for clinging to it was faith. So it is with
us all. It is vain to bid us not be afraid when real dangers and
miseries stare us in the face; but it is not vain to bid us 'believe,'
and if we do that, faith, cast into the one scale, will outweigh a
hundred good reasons for dread and despair cast into the other.

III. We have next the tumult of grief and the word that calms. The
hired mourners had lost no time, and in Eastern fashion were
disturbing the solemnity of death with their professional shrieks and
wailings. True grief is silent. Woe that weeps aloud is soon consoled.

What a contrast between the noise outside and the still death-chamber
and its occupant, and what a contrast between the agitation of the
sham comforters and the calmness of the true Helper! Christ's great
word was spoken for us all when our hearts are sore and our dear ones
go. It dissolves the dim shape into nothing ness, or, rather, it
transfigures it into a gracious, soothing form. Sleep is rest, and
bears in itself the pledge of waking. So Christ has changed the
'shadow feared of man' into beauty, and in the strength of His great
word we can meet the last enemy with 'Welcome! friend.' It is strange
that any one reading this narrative should have been so blind to its
deepest beauty as to suppose that Jesus was here saying that the child
had only swooned, and was really alive. He was not denying that she
was what men call 'dead,' but He was, in the triumphant consciousness
of His own power, and in the clear vision of the realities of
spiritual being, of which bodily states are but shadows, denying that
what men call death deserves the name. 'Death' is the state of the
soul separated from God, whether united to the body or no,--not the
separation of body and soul, which is only a visible symbol of the
more dread reality.

IV. We have finally the life-giving word and the life-preserving care.
Probably Jesus first freed His progress from the jostling crowd, and
then, when arrived, made the further selection of the three
apostles,--the first three of the mighty ones--and, as was becoming,
of the father and mother.

With what hushed, tense expectation they would enter the chamber!
Think of the mother's eyes watching Him. The very words that He spoke
were like a caress. There was infinite tenderness in that 'Damsel!'
from His lips, and so deep an impression did it make on Peter that he
repeated the very words to Mark, and used them, with the change of one
letter ('Ta_b_itha' for 'Ta_l_itha'), in raising Dorcas. The same
tenderness is expressed by His taking her by the hand, as, no doubt,
her mother had done, many a morning, on waking her. The father had
asked Him to lay His hand on her, that she might be made whole and
live. He did as He was asked,--He always does--and His doing according
to our desire brings larger blessings than we had thought of. Neither
the touch of His hand nor the words He spoke were the real agents of
the child's returning to life. It was His will which brought her back
from whatever vasty dimness she had entered. The forth-putting of
Christ's will is sovereign, and His word runs with power through all
regions of the universe. 'The dull, cold ear of death' hears, and
'they that hear shall live,' whether they are, as men say, dead, or
whether they are 'dead in trespasses and sins.' The resurrection of a
soul is a mightier act--if we can speak of degrees of might in His
acts--than that of a body.

It would be calming for the child of such strange experiences to see,
for the first thing that met her eyes opening again on the old
familiar home as on a strange land, the bending face of Jesus, and His
touch would steady her spirit and assure of His love and help. The
quiet command to give her food knits the wonder with common life, and
teaches precious lessons as to His economy of miraculous power, like
His bidding others loosen Lazarus's wrappings, and as to His
devolution on us of duties towards those whom He raises from the death
of sin. But it was given, not didactically, but lovingly. The girl was
exhausted, and sustenance was necessary, and would be sweet. So He
thought upon a small bodily need, and the love that gave life took
care to provide what was required to support it. He gives the
greatest; He will take care that we shall not lack the least.


'And a certain woman ... 27. When she had heard of Jesus, came in the
press behind, and touched His garment. 28. For she said, If I may
touch but His clothes, I shall be whole.'--Mark v. 25, 27, 28.

In all the narratives of this miracle, it is embedded in the story of
Jairus's daughter, which it cuts in twain. I suppose that the
Evangelists felt, and would have us feel, the impression of calm
consciousness of power and of leisurely dignity produced by Christ's
having time to pause even on such an errand, in order to heal by the
way, as if parenthetically, this other poor sufferer. The child's
father with impatient earnestness pleads the urgency of her case--'She
lieth at the point of death'; and to him and to the group of
disciples, it must have seemed that there was no time to be lost. But
He who knows that His resources are infinite can afford to let her
die, while He cures and saves this woman. She shall receive no harm,
and her sister suppliant has as great a claim on Him. 'The eyes of all
wait' on His equal love; He has leisure of heart to feel for each, and
fulness of power for all; and none can rob another of his share in the
Healer's gifts, nor any in all that dependent crowd jostle his
neighbour out of the notice of the Saviour's eye.

The main point of the story itself seems to be the illustration which
it gives of the genuineness and power of an imperfect faith, and of
Christ's merciful way of responding to and strengthening such a faith.
Looked at from that point of view, the narrative is very striking and

The woman is a poor shrinking creature, broken down by long illness,
made more timid still by many disappointed hopes of core, depressed by
poverty to which her many doctors had brought her. She does not
venture to stop this new Rabbi-physician, as He goes with the rich
church dignitary to heal his daughter, but lets Him pass before she
can make up her mind to go near Him at all, and then comes creeping up
in the crowd behind, puts out her wasted, trembling hand to His
garment's hem--and she is whole. She would fain have stolen away with
her new-found blessing, but Christ forces her to stand out before the
throng, and there, with all their eyes upon her--cold, cruel eyes some
of them--to conquer her diffidence and shame, and tell all the truth.
Strange kindness that! strangely contrasted with His ordinary care to
avoid notoriety, and with His ordinary tender regard for shrinking
weakness! What may have been the reason? Certainly it was not for His
own sake at all, nor for others' chiefly, but for hers, that He did
this. The reason lay in the incompleteness of her faith. It was very
incomplete--although it was, Christ answered it. And then He sought to
make the cure, and the discipline that followed it, the means of
clearing and confirming her trust in Himself.

I. Following the order of the narrative thus understood, we have here
first the great lesson, that very imperfect faith may be genuine
faith. There was unquestionable confidence in Christ's healing power,
and there was earnest desire for healing. Our Lord Himself recognises
her faith as adequate to be the condition of her receiving the cure
which she desired. Of course, it was a very different thing from the
faith which unites us to Christ, and is the condition of our receiving
our soul's cure; and we shall never understand the relation of
multitudes of the people in the Gospels to Jesus, if we insist upon
supposing that the 'faith to be healed,' which many of them had, was a
religious, or, as we call it, 'saving faith.' But still, the trust
which was directed to Him, as the giver of miraculous temporal
blessings, is akin to that higher trust into which it often passed,
and the principles regulating the operation of the loftier are
abundantly illustrated in the workings of the lower.

The imperfections, then, of this woman's faith were many. It was
intensely _ignorant_ trust. She dimly believes that, somehow or other,
this miracle-working Rabbi will heal her, but the cure is to be a
piece of magic, secured by material contact of her finger with His
robe. She has no idea that Christ's will, or His knowledge, much less
His pitying love, has anything to do with it. She thinks that she may
get her desire furtively, and may carry it away out of the crowd, and
He, the source of it, be none the wiser, and none the poorer, for the
blessing which she has stolen from Him. What utter blank ignorance of
Christ's character and way of working! What complete misconception of
the relation between Himself and His gift! What low, gross,
superstitious ideas! Yes, and with them all what a hunger of intense
desire to be whole; what absolute assurance of confidence that one
finger-tip on His robe was enough! Therefore she had her desire, and
her Lord recognised her faith as true, foolish and unworthy as were
the thoughts which accompanied it!

Thank God! the same thing is true still, or what would become of any
of us? There may be a real faith in Christ, though there be mixed with
it many and grave errors concerning His work, and the manner of
receiving the blessings which He bestows. A man may have a very hazy
apprehension of the bearing and whole scope of even Scripture
declarations concerning the profounder aspects of Christ's person and
work, and yet be holding fast to Him by living confidence. I do not
wish to underrate for one moment the absolute necessity of clear and
true conceptions of revealed truth, in order to a vigorous and fully
developed faith; but, while there can be no faith worth calling so,
which is not based upon the intellectual reception of truth, there may
be faith based upon the very imperfect intellectual reception of very
partial truth. The power and vitality of faith are not measured by the
comprehensiveness and clearness of belief. The richest soil may bear
shrunken and barren ears; and on the arid sand, with the thinnest
layer of earth, gorgeous cacti may bloom out, and fleshy aloes lift
their sworded arms, with stores of moisture to help them through the
heat. It is not for us to say what amount of ignorance is destructive
of the possibility of real confidence in Jesus Christ. But for
ourselves, feeling how short a distance our eyesight travels, and how
little, after all our systems, the great bulk of men in Christian
lands know lucidly and certainly of theological truth, and how wide
are the differences of opinion amongst us, and how soon we come to
towering barriers, beyond which our poor faculties can neither pass
nor look, it ought to be a joy to us all, that a faith which is
clouded with such ignorance may yet be a faith which Christ accepts.
He that knows and trusts Him as Brother, Friend, Saviour, in whom he
receives the pardon and cleansing which he needs and desires, may have
very much misconception and error cleaving to him, but Christ accepts
him. If at the beginning His disciples know but this much, that they
are sick unto death, and have tried without success all other
remedies, and this more, that Christ will heal them; and if their
faith builds upon that knowledge, then they will receive according to
their faith. By degrees they will be taught more; they will be brought
to the higher benches in His school; but, for a beginning, the most
cloudy apprehension that Christ is the Saviour of the world, and my
Saviour, may become the foundation of a trust which will bind the
heart to Him and knit Him to the heart in eternal union. This poor
woman received her healing, although she said, 'If I may touch but the
hem of His garment, I shall be whole.'

Her error was akin to one which is starting into new prominence again,
and with which I need not say that I have no sort of sympathy,--that
of people who attach importance to externals as means and channels of
grace, and in whose system the hem of the garment and the touch of the
finger are apt to take the place which the heart of the wearer and the
grasp of faith should hold. The more our circumstances call for
resistance to this error, the more needful is it to remember that,
along with it and uttering itself through it, may be a depth of devout
trust in Christ, which should shame us. Many a poor soul that clasps
the base of the crucifix clings to the cross; many a devout heart,
kneeling before the altar, sees through the incense-smoke the face of
the Christ. The faith that is tied to form, though it be no faith for
a man, though in some respects it darken God's Gospel, and bring it
down to the level of magical superstition, may yet be, and often is,

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