“LET US ALSO FEAR”
It is well that the Lord’s people strive to live a rejoicing life, giving thanks always to the Father in all things, and rejoicing to be counted worthy to suffer shame, etc., for the cause of Christ. But as the Apostle elsewhere declares, Let us rejoice with fear: let not our rejoicing be of that reckless, self-satisfying kind which might ensnare us and entrap us; let our rejoicing be in him who loved us and who bought us and who is ever present with us, our best Friend and truest Guide. Let us rejoice, not in feelings of our own strength and courage and wisdom, but in the fact that we have a Savior and a great one, who is able to deliver to the uttermost all that come unto the Father through him. Thus may the Lord be our strength, our confidence, our shield, our buckler. In our Lord’s case we read that “He trod the winepress alone, of the people there was none with him.” In his very saddest hour, when he most needed comfort and consolation, it was not possible for even the closest and dearest of his earthly friends to enter into his feelings or sympathize with him. How different with us! We are not so different from others that they cannot enter into our joys and sorrows, our hopes and fears, if they have been begotten of the same Spirit and instructed in the same school of Christ. With us human counsel and sympathy are both possible and proper. Indeed, this is the divine provision as set forth in the Scriptures, which assure us that the Lord desires that we should comfort one another and build one another up as members of the body of Christ. Nevertheless we should never neglect the throne of heavenly grace in personal interview with our Father and glorified Lord. Whatever of earthly companionship we may have, the Lord’s companionship must never be underestimated or forgotten. The Lord sometimes sends his angels to us to comfort us, to give us the assurance of his love and to point out to us the sureness of our confidence, our hope. But it is not necessary any longer to send a heavenly messenger, for already the Lord has on the earth angels–messengers, members of the body of Christ –imbued with the Master’s Spirit and love, and ready always and anxious to speak the kind word, to bind up the broken heart, to pour in the oil and wine of consolation and joy, and in every way to represent to us the Master himself. What joy often comes through such ministries, what blessing we have received in this manner, and what a privilege we have when occasion offers to be thus used of the Lord as his ministers of joy and peace and blessing to the fellow-members! Let us be on the alert that no such opportunity pass us by. The Apostle intimates that we have need of fearing the same thing that Jesus feared when he says, “Let us also fear lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of us should seem to come short of it.” As New Creatures we have tasted of the new life, the heavenly life: our eyes of understanding have to some extent been opened to see the grandeur and beauties of the heavenly things which God hath in reservation for them that love him. And we, too, realize that our attainment to the glory, honor, immortality and joint-heirship with the Lord depends upon our faithfulness to our covenant of sacrifice. If faithful, we know that he is faithful who has promised; if unfaithful, we know that we shall fail of that prize. What manner of persons ought we then to be under these conditions? Let us fear the loss of such a wonderful prospect of glory, honor and immortality, in the sense that we will seek constantly to fulfill our covenant and to abide in our Father’s love and in our Redeemer’s favor and smile. All who are thus walking carefully may have their moments in which they will experience something of the shadows of Gethsemane loneliness, for their testing, for their proving, and to develop in them the proper fear necessary to their full knowledge, to their appreciation of the situation and to faithfulness.
“SLEEP ON NOW”
During that hour of intense mental agony our Lord prayed and prayed again, and in the interim came to his disciples, doubtless craving such sympathy as they would be able to give; but he found them asleep, their eyes being heavy from sorrow, says the Evangelist. The hour was midnight; they were sharing his sorrows, but unable to appreciate them rightly. The Master chided, probably especially Peter, when he said, “What, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” The noble Peter had but a short time before declared, “Lord, though all men forsake thee, yet will not I,” and even now he had the sword which he subsequently used in seeking to defend the Lord, and yet he did not realize the importance of the hour; he knew not, as the Master did, how serious were the testings and how close; he knew not that it was a very short time until the Master’s words would be fulfilled. “Before the cock crow twice thou shalt deny me thrice.” Ah, had he realized as the Master did the trials that were near, how vigilant he doubtless would have been! And is it not so with us to-day? Are we not as the Lord’s people in this harvest-time drawing close to the Gethsemane hour of the Church? Are we not already in the hour of temptation to a considerable extent? Will not the last members of the body soon follow the Head unto complete sacrifice? How ready are we for the ordeal? Are we asleep, or are we heeding the words of the Apostle, They that sleep sleep in the night, but we who are of the day should be awake, sober, putting on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand in this evil day, in the time of trial already upon us, and in the still severer trials which no doubt will be ours in the near future? Are we prepared for the time when there will possibly be a general scattering, as these “all forsook him and fled”? How courageous we will be in our hour of trial will probably depend much upon our following the Master’s example and securing first of all that positive conviction that we have the divine approval. Let us not then avoid the Gethsemane moment if it come to us in the Lord’s providence, but let us also with strong cryings and tears look up to him who is able to save us out of death by the glorious First Resurrection, and let us remember that we have an Advocate, we have a helper. The Lord is our angel who speaks to us the Father’s message, telling us that if we abide in his love all will be right in the end, and that he is able and willing to bring us off conquerors, yea, more than conquerors through his own merit.
“THE SPIRIT IS WILLING, BUT THE FLESH IS WEAK”
This was our dear Redeemer’s comment upon his disciples. He appreciated the fact that at heart they were loyal to him–he was not unmindful of their forsaking all to be his followers, he is not a hard Master, but on the contrary ever willing to accept our heart intentions, even where the flesh fails to come up to the perfect standard; and doubtless, therefore, his words, “Sleep on now, and take your rest,” were not meant as sarcasm, but in very truth he wished that they might get a little rest, refreshment, in view of the ordeals of the day approaching. But not long did they rest until the trial was upon them. Judas guided a multitude seeking for Jesus–not Roman soldiers, but a multitude, a rabble of the curious, with certain servants of the High Priest, who was also a Judge. These, then, were court officers, an impromptu sheriff’s posse, that came upon Jesus in the garden and arrested him by night, fearing that an arrest in daylight would create a disturbance at a time when the city was full of visitors to the Passover, and when disturbances were rather to be expected, and by the officers of the law sought to be carefully avoided. Judas either knew the garden as a spot frequented by Jesus and the disciples, or had learned at the Supper where the company intended to go subsequently. When Satan entered into him and he resolved to earn the thirty pieces of silver by betraying the Lord, he left the gathered company at the Passover Feast and went to the chief priests and bargained with them, and now, as the result of that engagement, he came forward in advance of the multitude mentioned to meet Jesus and to indicate to the soldiers the one they wished to apprehend. As he approached he saluted, saying, “Hail, Rabbi,” and kissed him. The Greek indicates that he kissed him repeatedly. Jesus received these expressions that belong to love, and knew that they were traitorous, yet made no evil retort. Instead he most kindly and respectfully said, “Friend, do that for which thou art come.” The word “friend” does not signify loving friend–it is not from the Greek word philos, beloved, but from hetaire, which signifies comrade or partner.
AVOID THE JUDAS SPIRIT
Truly every disciple of Christ, realizing that the issue is with himself, will desire to follow such a course as will insure against his ever becoming a Judas to the Lord and his cause. God’s foreknowledge that one of the twelve would prove a traitor, not only receiving the grace of God in vain, but using it in a most villainous manner, was not the cause of Judas’ fall. The Apostle says, “The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (`2 Tim. 2:19`.) It is for us to determine how the favors of God shall be received and used, and God’s foreknowledge in no sense of the word influences us. We have every reason to suppose that Judas at the beginning of his career as a disciple was sincere. We may safely conclude that the gross deflection of his heart and character manifested at last came upon him gradually–that it began with the merest suggestion and ended with the most awful tragedy. The suggestion was probably along the line of selfishness; that he was not sufficiently honored amongst the twelve; that our Lord seemed to have a preference for Peter, James and John, and thus showed his lack of superior knowledge and ability–discernment. Doubtless Judas encouraged his own spirit of criticism. Self-complacent, he no doubt thought he saw places where Jesus and the others erred in judgment, failed to take advantage of opportunities, probably said the wrong word at the right time, etc., etc. Such a heady spirit, such a critical spirit, such a self-satisfied spirit, such a selfish spirit always go before a fall. The history of the Church as well as our individual experiences attest this. When Judas perceived that the cause of Christ was not prospering–that Jesus not only did not respond to the suggestions of the multitudes here and there that he become a king, but that on the contrary his mind turned in another direction, anticipating violence from the rulers of the Jews, the suggestion probably came to Judas that it was time to begin to “feather his own nest,” so that when the disruption would come he would be one of the party who would gain and not lose by his experiences as a disciple. Thus selfishness was in control of his mind and led him to pilfering, as it is written, “He was a thief, and carried the bag.” That is to say, he was the treasurer of the little company, and appropriated some of the funds to his own personal account. We can even suppose that in his perfidy he exonerated his theft with the thought that he had been giving his valuable time to the cause, and that what he took would not more than reimburse him the value thereof. Such is the spirit of selfishness, the very reverse of the Spirit of the Lord–the spirit of self-sacrifice and whole-souled service to the Truth. Whoever has this spirit in any measure has the Judas spirit to that extent, and the result will surely be evil whether it amounts to such an awful result as that of Judas or not. Our Lord declares that his faithful members in the world represent him, and that anything done against them is done against him. We may be sure, therefore, that the Judas spirit of selfishness even today might lead to betrayal of the Lord by the betrayal and injury of one of the least of his followers. Nor should it surprise us that these representatives of the Judas spirit follow his course even to the extent of betraying with a kiss, and ofttimes profess great love and respect for the members of the body of Christ, whom they secretly smite for their personal gain, or in an endeavor to gain place or influence or other selfish aggrandizement. Let each follower of the Lord apply to himself exactly Judas’ words, saying, “Lord, is it I?” And let us each examine our own hearts to see to what extent anything of this Judas spirit might be lurking there, seeking a favorable moment to entrap us and destroy us as New Creatures.