WE SEE JESUS
BY: A. P. ADAMS
THE PRE-EXISTENCE OF CHRIST
THE INCARNATION OF CHRIST
THE SACRIFICE AND DEATH OF CHRIST
THE LONELINESS OF CHRIST
In the last paper we discussed the Bible question, “What is man?” and we found that the Bible answer is, Jesus. He is the pattern man of God’s finished creation. The study of Jesus then, in every phase of his character, is important and interesting because of his intimate and blessed relationship to man. He is the Adam of the regenerated race: and “In the dispensation of the fullness of times, God will gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in Him.” (Eph. 1:10) Now we then we ask, who is Christ? What is He? How did He enter into the world, and for what purpose? Why did he die? What is the significance of his resurrection? How did he make an atonement? etc., etc. Questions numberless and momentous clamor for solution as we turn to this wonderful personage this unique and supernatural character, the Lord Jesus Christ. Standing at the confluence of the ages, four thousand years after the creation of man, he appears in majestic and awe-inspiring grandeur, a lone, solitary figure, unparalleled and unapproached by any other created being since the world began. Who is he? “We would see Jesus,” (John 12:21). “What think ye of him? Whose son is he?” (Matt. 22:42). “What shall we do with him?” (Matt. 27:22). The apostle says, “We see Jesus.” Where? Not now, as of old, among the hills of Judea and along the shores of the sea of Galilee, but in the “Scripture of truth;” (Dan. 10:21), let us seek for him there, until from our hearts shall go forth the glad announcement “We see Jesus.”
First let us turn to the Bible for light in regard to
THE PRE-EXISTENCE OF CHRIST
I understand that the Bible plainly teaches that Christ preexisted as the “Word” before his incarnation as the “Son.” I do not intend to go into this thought very largely, for I suppose that all the readers of this paper fully accept this truth; but this naturally comes first in the consideration of the subject before us, so that we will notice it briefly. I understand that Christ had a personal preexistence as the “Logos,” the Word; that he was with God in the beginning when He said, “Let us make man in our image.” All we know of him in this pre-incarnate state is dim and obscure, but that he really had such an existence is plain and positive. On this point see John 1:1, etc., (I shall notice this passage again presently) 6:62; 8:58; 17:5; Col. 1:17, etc., also, see as one of the strongest passages on this point, 2 Cor. 8:9. (I shall have occasion also to notice this passage again.). Of course these passages can be explained away and perverted by those who deny the pre-existence, but that they clearly teach that doctrine I think must be apparent to any unprejudiced mind. There are other considerations that still further confirm this truth that I shall notice as I proceed. We come now to
THE INCARNATION OF CHRIST
The simple Bible declaration is, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us:’’ Before his incarnation he was simply the Word. When he was born of a woman he became the Son of God by creation, as was Adam; see Luke 3:38. At his resurrection he became “the Son of God (in the full, spiritual sense) with power, according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead.” Rom. 1:4. Let us notice these points in detail.
We are sure that Christ is know as the Word in his pre-existent state; but was he not also the Son of God, as the creeds absurdly express it, the eternal son of God? It seems to me that the Scriptures teach that the appellation “Son of God” is not applied to Christ until his incarnation. He became the “Son of God” when he became the “Son of man”; in proof of this see Luke 1:35. When the angel announced to Mary the birth of Jesus, and she asks “How shall this be?” The angel answers, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, THEREFORE [notice this “therefore”] that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called a Son of God.” The definite article “the” is not in the original, but is put in without authority by the translators, both of the common, and of the new version, in order to prop up the doctrine of the trinity and of the deity of Christ as we will notice further on; it should read as above, “a Son of God”; Christ is “the firstborn among many brethren,” (Rom. 8:29), he is one among “many sons” (Heb. 2:10). He became a Son of God at his birth by creation as Adam was a son of God. Now we will notice the force of the “therefore” in the text we have quoted above. Read the text over again and you will see that the meaning is that because Christ was brought forth by the “power of the Highest,” “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man but of God,” and under the overshadowing influence of the holy spirit, therefore he is called a son of God. This plainly implies that before he was thus brought forth he was not called a son of God; if the manner of his incarnation was the cause of his being called a son of God, as is clearly taught in this passage, then of course he was not called a son of God before his incarnation. “What was he then before his incarnation?” some one asks; I do not know I reply; it is not revealed, any further than that he was the divine Logos, possessing unspeakable “glory,” (John 17:5) , and unbounded “riches” (2 Cor. 8:9), and “in the form of God”; (Phil. 2:6). We cannot tell the import of these declarations in regard to the pre-existent Word; they stand as the merest hints of the mysterious fellowship of God and the Word before the world was; out of the wondrous depths of that glory that he had with the Father before the world was, even God’s own self (John 17:5), the word comes, is made flesh, and dwells among us; then, and not till then, “we behold his glory,” we begin to know him, and through him to know God; thus to obtain life eternal [aeonial life] (John 18:3).
We pass on now to notice briefly another thought in connection with the incarnation, how was the Word made flesh? I reply, by the creative power of God and by natural generation. The difference between the creation of Adam and Christ, was that the former was created an adult, in full possession of the faculties and functions of mature manhood, although as yet undeveloped; while the latter was created in embryo, a mere life germ in the womb of Mary, and then generated and brought into the world in the natural way. In proof of this see the passage we have already quoted from Luke 1. Mary asks, on being told that she should bring forth a child and call his name Jesus, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” and the answer is, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, therefore,” etc. Now turn to the prophetical account of the creation in Genesis (l-1-14), and we read that “the spirit of God moved upon (brooded over or “overshadowed”), the face of the waters,” and the outcome is the creation there, set forth in mystic prophecy. Now Christ was the beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy. He is the real Adam of whom the first Adam was only a “figure,” (Rom. 5:14), and so “When He cometh into the world” it is by the brooding of the spirit and the overshadowing of the power of the Highest, and therefore is he a Son of God, by creation, as was Adam. This view is reasonable as well as Scriptural, and does away with the absurd, popish dogma of the so called “Immaculate Conception;” and it also explains how Jesus is bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, “a child born” to the race of man in our own condition and estate, and yet he is “the Beginning of the creation of God,” (Rev. 3:14), the beginning of a new beginning, “the first born of every creature.” Had he been wholly the product of God’s creative power, he would not have been of our race at all, but of another human race. Had he been begotten “of the will of man” and “born of a woman” he would have been no different from the rest of the fallen race of man, but simply “altogether such an one as ourselves,” and the “beginning” of no new order of things. But being the joint product of God’s creative power and of natural generation, he is at the same time, “a Son of God” and “Son of Man”; a veritable member of the fallen human race and yet “the Beginning of the creation of God,” a “new creation,” so that we can say with the prophet, “Unto us a child is born, unto us, as a Son is given.” (Isa. 9:6) O wonderful “mystery of godliness!” Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, and yet “he was made like unto his brethren in all things!” (Heb. 2:17) He is “God manifest in the flesh”; human and yet divine; divine and yet human. Such, as far as I can express it (for these “deep things of God” are “hard to be uttered”), is the mystery of the incarnation, a glorious and blessed manifestation of “the manifold wisdom of God,” and of “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (Eph. 3:8, 10) The next point is
THE SACRIFICE AND DEATH OF CHRIST
The common idea is that the sacrifice and death of Christ was his life of self denial while here on earth and his cruel death upon the cross. But neither of these were the real sacrifice he made or the real death he suffered; these were a part of his sufferings and the believer shares in them, filling up the measure (Col. 1:24), that he may “also reign with him.” (2 Tim. 2:12) So far as these deprivations and physical sufferings were concerned it would be hard to say how Christ sacrificed or suffered any more than many a martyr; indeed such a view of Christ’s sacrifice and death falls far short of the truth, and really belittles both. Paul clearly sets forth the sacrifice of Christ when he says, “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9) This passage positively teaches the pre-existence of Christ and clearly sets forth his sacrifice. The sacrifice he made was not after his incarnation, but before. He left the “glory that he had with the Father before the world was,” and his boundless “riches in glory,” and entered into this fallen state, being “made in all points like unto his brethren.” With this view in mind we can understand the Savior’s words in John 10:17, 18. “Therefore doth my Father love me because I lay down my life that I might take it again? No man taketh It from me but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take It again.” What life is Jesus talking about here? The natural life, most Christians would think. But there is nothing in Scripture to show that Christ laid down his physical life in any sense different from what any martyr might be said to have laid down their life. We read that “he was cut off out of the land of the living,” that the Jews “killed” him, “slew” him, etc. To be sure he gave his life voluntarily, but many a martyr has done the same; Paul, for example, did as much. Moreover we are sure that he did not himself take up his physical life again, for we are repeatedly told that God raised him from the dead. Christ had no power to raise himself any more than any human being has power to raise himself. We have positive evidence to this effect in 1 Cor. 6:1, 4; “God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.” Thus does it appear that Christ neither laid down his natural life in any special sense, nor did he take it again; and yet he says, “I lay down my life of myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again.” What life? Not his natural earth life, but his pre-existent life, even that “glorious” existence that he had before he entered into man’s fallen estate. This is the life he laid down, and this was the life he took again after that “God raised him from the dead.” Now this view is confirmed by the tense of the verb in the passage we are considering. According to the margin of the new version the passage reads, “I lay down my life; no man took it away,” etc. According to this rendering the life that Jesus was talking about was a life he had already laid down. The Sinaitic and Vatican MSS, two of the best authorities, also confirm this view, by rendering the passage, “No man hath taken it from me,” etc. Thus it appears very certain that the life Jesus laid down was his preexistent life, a life he had already sacrificed a Life fully in his own power to lay down and take up according to the “commandment” of his Father. These considerations constitute also a very strong additional argument in proof of the pre-existence of Christ. Those who deny the pre-existence would have great difficulty in explaining what life it was that Jesus laid down and took up again, (as it is certain he did not lay down nor take up his physical life), and why the verb, as we have noticed, should be in the past tense. But all this is in perfect harmony with the view presented above. And now having seen the real sacrifice that Christ made and the true life that he laid down we are prepared to understand the Death he suffered. When Jesus left the glory and riches of his preexistent state and “was made flesh,” what sort of a condition did he enter into? Was it another life? No, it was death. When Jesus became incarnate he entered into a condition of death and remained in that condition all his earth-life; hence the death he suffered was thirty-three and a half years long, even all the time he tabernacle in the flesh; and this was as it should be; when a person lays down his life he enters into death. When Christ laid down his pre-existent-life, as we have seen, he entered into death, this fallen state; he had of course a natural existence but he had nothing in himself (John 6:57), that the Scriptures recognize as life. According to the Word, death is alienation from an ignorance of God; life is harmony with, and knowledge of him. “To be carnally minded is death,” says Paul, “but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Why? “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Rom. 8:6, 7) Here is a positive Bible definition of death. Now see a definition of life; John 17:3. “This is life æonial to know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” From these Bible definitions we can easily gather the meaning, the Bible meaning, of death and life. Death is enmity against God; life then is harmony and union with him. Life is knowledge of God; death then is ignorance of him. In this sense the whole race of mankind are dead; not only sinful, and guilty, and corrupt, but dead, as it is written, “If one died for all then were all dead.” (2 Cor. 5:14) All the life that even the Christian now has is by faith. Says Paul “The life that I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God;” again to the Colossians, “Ye are dead and your Life is hid with Christ in God.” Thus all mankind, including even the believer are as yet lifeless. “Let the dead bury their dead,” says Christ, as though all were dead together, the corpse in the shroud, and those who were bearing it to the sepulcher. This is an important point, and one that we shall notice more at length in some future article, now we refer to it in order that each may understand the real death that Jesus suffered; not the few hours of agony on Calvary, or the three days’ “sleep” in Joseph’s tomb, but the thirty-three years and a half of his sojourn among the lost; from the manger and swaddling clothes of his infancy to the cross and linen winding sheet of his passion, it was death, death, death, the same dark and terrible charnel house as that which imprisons fallen man. We cannot imagine the unspeakable horror of this death to Christ, for we never knew what life is. But coming as he did from “the bosom of the Father” into this dark pit of corruption, his life-long death must have been terrible beyond all human expression or comprehension. Now we are prepared to consider another sadly interesting feature in the life of Christ, and one that will still further show the awful reality of the three and thirty years’ death that he suffered.
THE LONELINESS OF CHRIST
Man is social in his nature; loneliness is a horror; men have been driven mad by simply being left alone for a long period. Persons wrecked on lonely islands, and left alone for years, have lapsed into savagery, and become virtually wild beasts. But everyone knows that it is not necessary to be alone in order to feel lonely: the worse kind of loneliness is oft-times felt when multitudes are around us, but no acquaintance, friend or relative. But still further we may be lonely, and keenly so, from the lack of sympathy and spiritual communion, even when surrounded by our relatives and friends. Many an isolated lover of the truth knows what it is to be lonely from this cause and to long for communion with some kindred soul that this hunger of the spirit might be appeased. Now Christ knew what it was to be lonely from all of these causes, and especially the last. That we may know something of his interior life, let us study this subject prayerfully.
We might begin with his birth. Jesus was born a perfectly unique and lonely being; there never was one like him before or since. He began his earth life lower down than Adam. The latter was created an adult, innocent and sinless, and in possession of the faculties and functions of maturity. Jesus came into the world an infant, in this respect as in all others, “made like unto his brethren” and thus knowing all the helplessness of humanity; he was “made of a woman,” hence a member of the fallen race, “made sin for us,” and as Jesus thus began a lonely being, so all his life was lonely.
His childhood was lonely; no one understood him, no one could sympathize with him, not even his mother, though she hid his strange and wonderful sayings in her heart. The story of his talking with the doctors when he was twelve years old shows this. How strange that Jesus should distress his reputed parents by thus staying away from them! and when they find him and mildly chide him for his truancy, his answer is, “Did ye not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” No, they did not know it, they could not even understand his words then uttered. “They understood not the saying, which he spake unto them; and he went down with them to Nazareth, and was subject unto them,” (Luke 2:49-51) a lonely and homesick child.
Next we come to his baptism; here he was misunderstood, and has been misunderstood ever since. Why was Christ baptized of John? John’s baptism was for “repentance and remission of sins;” but Christ had no sins to repent of, and none to be remitted. The common view is that Christ’s baptism was for the sake of the example, since all Christians must be baptized. But Christ’s baptism of John could not be an example to Christians, for John’s baptism was not Christian baptism at all, as we are well assured from the fact that Christians who had only received John’s baptism, had to be baptized “into Christ,” just the same as though they had never been baptized at all (See Acts 19:1-7). Some think that the baptism of Christ was in the fulfillment of the law regarding the initiation of the high priest into his office; (Ex. 29:4); so Christ, when he entered upon his priestly office, as is supposed, at the beginning of his earthly mission, was “washed” in fulfillment of the law. But all this is a mistake for the one reason that Jesus was not a priest at all while he was on earth; see Heb. 8:4. Jesus had no right to the priestly office while on earth. “For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning the priesthood.” (Heb. 7:13) This is decisive and hence it could not have been in fulfillment of the law that Jesus was baptized. Why was it then? What was the true reason? it was a part of his humiliation; it was one of the “points” wherein he must be “made like unto his brethren.” Although Jesus was not a sinner, yet he was “made sin,” he took the sinner’s place, and hence must begin as low down as the sinner has to when he comes to God. “Repentance toward God” is the first step in the sinner’s upward course. So Christ, although he had no sins to repent of, yet he submits to the humiliation of the baptism of repentance because “thus it became him to fulfill all righteousness,” i.e., since he is our “forerunner” it was necessary that he should tread all the course, from the very beginning to the end, of that way that leads to the “righteousness which is by faith.” Hence we can understand John’s words to Christ when he came to be baptized. John forbade him, saying, “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me;” as though he had said, “you have no sins to repent of; this is not a baptism needful or fitting for you.” “And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him.” How significant is this “now”! It was the period of Christ’s humiliation. He that was to ascend far above all heavens, must first descend to the lower parts of the earth (Eph. 4:9,10); and so Jesus the immaculate, the undefiled, takes his place at the commencement of his earthly ministry with the corrupt, guilty and condemned sinner, whose first step toward God is repentance. He identifies himself in this with that “generation of vipers,” with grasping publicans, by hypocritical Pharisees, and cruel soldiers, as though he was one of them in need of repentance like the others, although in reality he was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” But none of them understood it then, and few understand now how low Christ stooped, and “God in Christ,” to reconcile the world unto himself. We shall measure and appreciate the love of God, as “manifested” (John 4:9) in Christ, just in proportion as we realize the depths to which Jesus descended to redeem us. How fitting and comforting it was of the Father that in this first public manifestation of the humiliation of his son, He should bear witness by a voice from heaven to his perfect satisfaction and pleasure in him. “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water, and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him; and lo a voice from heaven, saying, this is my Son, the Beloved, (N.V.*), in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus is the true David of whom the psalms and other scriptures speak so often. David means beloved; hence the Father says, “this is my Son, the Beloved:” my Son because manifesting my nature, love; the Beloved, because he is the great antitype, the true David, the MAN after God’s own heart, of whom the shepherd king of Israel was only a shadow. And let it be remembered too that in all this Christ was our “Forerunner,” our Leader and “Captain;” those who follow in his footsteps will also come in “due season” to the “perfect man,” God’s beloved, because in God’s image they too shall at last come to opened heavens, the dovelike spirit, and the approving voice. The way to life and perfection is through humiliation, suffering, denial; and yet the Father takes care that we are not tempted above what we are able to bear, but gives us encouragement and blessing in the way, so that we are enabled even to “glory in tribulation,” in the midst of the trial, as well as in the prospect of final deliverance.
Let it be noticed also that in this descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ, we have another Instance of his loneliness. When the Holy Spirit came upon the church it was in the form of “tongues of fire;” but upon Christ, and upon no other, it came in the form of a dove. The dove is the symbol of harmlessness and mourning innocence. Matt. 10:16; Isa. 59:11. Christ alone, of the human beings, could be said to be “holy, harmless, undefiled;” he also was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” although perfectly innocent; hence the spirit descends upon him in the form of a dove. Fire is a symbol of purification and transformation; it consumes the dross and tin of sin, the wood, hay, and stubble of ignorance and folly; “The fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” Every one shall be salted with fire.” “Baptized in fire and holy spirit“ hence the spirit came upon the disciples in a fiery form because they needed purification, purging and transformation. But Jesus had no need of such baptism as he “knew no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth,” the dove was the proper symbol for the spirit to assume when it descended upon him, the meek and lowly, the gentle, tender and unresisting Jesus. Thus far Jesus has been alone, absolutely alone in this respect. But soon others shall “come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto the perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” and then they with Christ shall subdue and tame the race until at last all shall be imbued with the loving spirit of Christ, and “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them;” for “except ye become as little children ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven;” and “the kingdom of heaven is not meat and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the holy spirit.”
We pass now to consider in this same connection the temptation of Christ. Here again he was alone, literally so, having no other companions than “wild beasts.” (Mark 1:13). Why must Jesus be tempted alone? Let us ask first, why was he tempted at all? You will notice in the account it says that “Jesus was led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” This temptation then was under the direct guidance of the spirit and hence was of course necessary and important. What was the reason of it? We have already indicated it in our consideration of the baptism of Christ. It was needful that he should be “tempted in all points like as we are.” For only after being “tempted and tried” shall we receive “the crown of life,” (Jas. 1:12), and this is no less true of the “Head.” than of the “members” of the elect body. Jesus was made perfect through suffering,” (Heb. 2:10) even as “they that are Christ’s” are perfected, (1 Pet. 5:10) and now, “in that He himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.” But why must he be tempted alone? Because he was the only one in all God’s universe who at that time was undergoing the finishing process (1-1-4) by which he was to reach the “perfect” condition. In the last paper, page 33, I used the illustration of the man finishing off one machine as a pattern to go by in the finishing of all the rest. That first pattern machine of course he would finish by itself, alone, but the others he would finish off in lots, having a number in the hands of the workmen at the same time. Jesus was “the beginning of the creation of God,” the pattern man after whom all the rest are to be fashioned, hence of course he must pass through the process alone, but the rest of the race, “every man in his own order,” band or class. Ah, who can tell the horror of that forty days, alone in the desert, “with the wild beasts,” exposed to all the power and malice of “the Prince of this World.” The temptation of Christ was no farce as some theologians would have us believe, but an awful reality; a fiery, fierce ordeal for that lonely Son of man. In Smith’s Bible dictionary we are told that “Christ’s temptation was the trial of one who could not possibly have fallen.” If Christ knew this to be true then he was not tempted at all much less “tempted like as we” any more than you can tempt a person to fly, or to any other impossibility. Not thus do the Scriptures teach. This trial at the commencement of his ministry, and the continual trial all the way through, was to Jesus a dread reality, fearful in its progress, and uncertain in its result; we may be sure of this from what Paul says of Christ in Heb. 5:7-9. “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him out of (N. V.*, margin) death, was heard in, that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered, and being made perfect, he became the author of æonial salvation unto all them that obey him.” Surely this passage shows us something of the awful reality of the trial of Jesus. He knows, as all believers know, that it is to offer up prayers and supplications, with strong crying, tears and fear, and to learn obedience through much suffering. These type of offerings however must come from the heart and not just be a religious exercise. This passage also shows another thing, confirmatory of a truth we have already noticed. viz., that Christ was in a condition of death while here in the flesh. The Father saved him, not from death, but out of death, a death in which he was already involved, and out of the depths of which he offered up his prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, “fearing” lest he should never be delivered from the bondage of corruption. (Acts 13:34) But God “made known to him the ways of life,” and “saved him out of death,” “anointing him with the oil of gladness above his fellows” and constituting him a “priest forever after the order of Melchizedek,” so that now “he ever liveth to make intercession for us,” “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, to-day, and for the ages.
Many other instances in Christ’s history show his loneliness. In his heart experience and inner life he was alone, absolutely, as far as any, human companionship was concerned; there was no one who could sympathize with him. His disciples did not understand the import of his plainest speech. See for example Mark 8:31-33. Jesus told them how he was to suffer many things, and be rejected, and killed, and the third day rise, “and he spake it only (plainly), and Peter began to rebuke him, but Jesus turned and looked upon his disciples, and rebuked Peter, sayings, get thee behind me Satan, for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” Why was it that the disciples did not believe what Christ told them? It was not because they did not understand what he said, nor was it because they mistrusted his word, but they thought him mistaken, downcast, “blue,” as we say, and that he was only talking that way because he felt depressed and discouraged. Peter’s “rebuke” was meant not so much to chide him as to cheer him up; “Be it far from thee, Lord, this shall not be unto thee,” as though he should say, “O no, you must not talk so, Lord, nothing so awful as that will happen, it will all come out right.” They could not enter into his feelings, or sympathize with his experience, or even accept what he said; and Jesus could not explain it to them, they were not able to bear it, he must bear his isolation as best he could alone, with no companion but his Father. Sometimes he seems to chide them for their dullness, as, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken;” or as he said on another occasion to the twelve, “are ye also yet without understanding?” It seems as though Christ longed for some human friend to whom he could open all his heart, and spoke as above, not impatiently, but sorrowfully and regretfully, as time and again he was disappointed. Not even the beloved John understood the Lord, or could enter into his feelings. On one occasion this disciple was very angry with some who did not receive Christ and he says, “Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them even as Elijah did?” “But Jesus turned and rebuked him and said, ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of, for the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” How little of the mission of Christ did these disciples understand! How little of his spirit did they possess! Truly Jesus was alone; there was no one to share his joys and hopes and fears; or to help or encourage him by counsel, advice or sympathy. The only companion he had was his Father. He indicates this when he says, “I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me;” John 8:16. Again he says, “and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me,” John 16:32. He speaks as though he would have been alone had it not been for the Father; as though He were his only companion, and we can see that such was the literal fact. There was absolutely no being in God’s universe, excepting God himself, who could be a true heart companion to the Lord Jesus Christ, because there was no other being like him, none who had ever had the same experience, or knew anything about it. His disciples, even the most loving of them, were of another spirit and knew nothing of the interior life of Jesus; the only relief from this absolute isolation that Jesus had was communion with his Father. Hence we read that “in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place and there prayed;” again we read that “he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and there prayed;” and yet again, “He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.”
Were not these lonely seasons of prayer, in the solitary places, in the wilderness and the mountain, while yet the world was sleeping, were they not the times when into the ear of the eternal Father, the only sympathizer and companion he had, Jesus poured his “supplications with strong crying and tears?” Ah! who can fathom the depths of agony that Jesus endured from this sense of utter isolation. No wonder that, notwithstanding his weariness from his constant travel and toil he was gladly willing to forego his sleeping rest for a few hours’ converse with his Father, and only friend. And let me ask the reader at this point would you know more of Christ’s interior life? do you sometimes wonder what these tearful prayers and supplications were, that Jesus offered up? Would you like to know what he actually said? Very few Christians know that these intense petitions of Christ, some of them at least, are recorded, and yet such is the fact. They are in the book of Psalms. Yes, they are recorded there, many of them. The Psalms of David are prophetical of Christ. The personal pronoun, I, in many of them refer not to the typical, but to the anti-typical David, the true Beloved; see for example Psa. 18:16-24, 43, 44; and many others. In many of these Psalms the prayers of Jesus are recorded, laying open the heart, the interior life of the lonely Son of man. See for example Psa. 22:1-8, 14-31; (with verse 22 compare Heb. 2:12), 69:1-3,7-9,13-26 (with verses 36 compare Isa. 53:10); 88:, especially 118. Read these psalms; noticing how they are referred to in other parts of the Bible and applied to Christ and you will recognize that they are the inspired prophecies of Christ’s heart experience, the record of his prayers, supplications and fears, when alone with God. Is it not blessed thus to know something of Christ’s inner experience and to see how truly he was tempted in all points like as we? Now notice especially Matt. 14:22-27. Seeking for needed rest and quite, Jesus had departed into a desert place, but the people eager to hear his word and to receive his good offices, persistently follow him, and Jesus “was moved with compassion, and healed their sick” and taught them all day. When evening came he miraculously feeds them and sends them away, also sending his disciples away by ship, across the sea to the other side; then “he went up into a mountain apart to pray, and when the evening was come he was there alone.” How sadly suggestive is all this! It appears that Jesus was desirous of being left alone. The clamor and noise of the multitudes were distressing to him, though he endured it that he might minister to their wants. Even his disciples, with their carnal ambitions, their strives as to who should be greatest, and their selfish aspirations after the highest places in his kingdom, would becomes at times “an offence unto him”; he sends them all off, then retiring to a solitary mountain, “a mountain apart,” as though he would seek the deepest solitudes of inanimate nature, as well as relief from the noisy strives of men he is alone in prayer. How intensely pathetic and touching are the surroundings: a desert place on the shores of the restless sea, a solitary mountain, night, the toil worn Savior of mankind, alone in prayer. O blessed Lord, thou wast ever ready to comfort and help the needy and suffering, but who, O who could comfort Thee, thou Man of sorrows! Nearly the whole night he remains alone, and then hastens to rejoin his disciples. Passing down the mountain and across the intervening desert shore he comes to the margin of the sea; without a moment’s hesitation he steps upon the liquid element and passes on as though upon the solid ground. Again how striking the situation! the wind was high (verse 32) , the waves were rough and boisterous, the sky was dark and lowering; and yet Jesus presses calmly on over the tumultuous waves, stepping from crest to crest, straight across the pathless waste to the little ship containing his beloved disciples struggling with the wind and waves in the far distance. As Tennyson, when a school boy, said of Christ’s miracle of changing the water into wine, “The conscious water knew its Lord, and blushed,” so in this instance we may well imagine that the conscious water knew it Lord, Lord of the elements even in his humiliation and though all around, the waves ran mad and foaming, yet about the Savior they hushed their tumult, kissing his toil worn feet in loving reverence, as though dumbly acknowledging his divine supremacy. That lonely walk on the dark water, amid the tumbling, storm swept billows, fittingly symbolizes Christ’s entire earth life. Alone amid the darkness of a living death, he walked among the restless children of men, a King of kings, and yet the servant of all; Master of all forces, and yet resisting none; Possessor of all power, and yet in self-forgetful love using that power only for the good of others. And now he nears the ship and is dimly described by the toiling disciples, who, thinking that they see a phantom, cry out with fear; but quickly from the loving Savior comes the cheerful assurance, “Be of good cheer; it is I, be not afraid,” always cheerful and comforting to others, no matter how sad his lonely hours might be. Then he entered into the ship, and “the wind ceased; and they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, of a truth thou art the son of God.” Yea verily! Our hearts respond thou art the Son of God; in glad homage we bow before thee, as ultimately “every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that thou art Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
There are many other instances in the life of Christ that indicate his loneliness, especially those passages that show how he was misunderstood by others, even by his own disciples. For example see Matt. 11:13-9; Mark 4:36-41, and 8:13-21; John 6:59-71, etc. Jesus very seldom made any attempt to explain, for the simple reason that they could not understand. See John 12:36-41. But we have not space to notice these points further, we pass to the most striking illustrations of the thought we are considering as brought out in Christ’s passion. Gethsemane, Gabbatha, Golgotha were the final witnesses of the cumulative intensity of his loneliness.
Christ was alone in the Garden. All of his disciples accompanied him to the garden on that dark night of his arrest; and now notice how strangely the Savior acted, as though longing for human sympathy and reaching out for it, although at the same time he knew it was not for him. On entering the garden he leaves eight of his disciples as though conscious they could not help him; but still longing for human sympathy he takes with him Peter, James, and John, the three who came the nearest to being companions to him, and retires to a distant part of the garden; and then instead of taking these three disciples into his confidence, telling them what was on his mind and praying together, as one would suppose was his intention, he seems again to realize how vain it is to look for human help, and, simply commanding them to watch, he leaves them to pass through his agony alone. No human ear heard his agonizing, “If it be possible to let this cup pass from me”—no human eye saw his anguish, the bowed form and the bloody sweat—as he had been obliged to drink the cup of death alone during all his ministry, so now he must “wring out” the bitter dregs alone. His disciples could not even watch with him one hour, but stupidly slept while Jesus wept and prayed; and when his enemies came and arrested him and carried him off to his mockery of a trial, they “all forsook him and fled.” Alone he must meet the hatred of the Scribes and Pharisees; alone he must stand before timorous, faint- hatred Pilate; alone he must bear the insults of Herod and his men of war. The spitting and scourging, the crown of thorns and purple robe, the mockery and shame, must all be borne by him alone as best he could without human help or sympathy. But on the cross Jesus touched the lowest depths of his agonizing loneliness. We have seen that during his ministry his only companion was his Father; this was the one solace of the Savior’s earth life to get alone with his Father. But on the cross even his Father deserted him, so that Jesus was more absolutely alone, for that one supreme moment than ever was before or since or ever will be. Can you not perceive the awful significance of the Savior’s cry, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” as though he would say, “I have been alone, excepting Thee, for these three and thirty years, and now in the hour of my direst necessity, Thou hast forsaken me.” This awful experience was the bitter dregs of the cup that Jesus shrank from in the garden, crying out, “if it be possible let this cup pass from me.” But it is not possible, he may not be spared this fierce trial. He must be made “in all things like unto his brethren;” their natural condition is, expressed by such Scriptures as “far from God,” “without God in the world,” “God is not in all their thoughts.” etc. Jesus must know this experience, that, being “tempted in all points, like as we, he might be able to succor them that are tempted;” and so on the cross there is a total separation for a time between the Father and the Son and the agonizing loneliness of Christ reaches it culmination.
O blessed Jesus! we may not be able to fathom the depths of the sufferings, but our tears may fall at the remembrance of them, our hearts may throb in sympathy, now that we can appreciate something of their significance; and with gladness we may “fill up that which is behind of thy afflictions.” (Col. 1:24) that thus being made, in some small degree, “partakers of thy sufferings,” we may by and by become “partakers of the glory that shall be revealed.” (1 Pet. 4:13 and 5:1)
Is it not a sad pleasure thus to see something of the interior life of Christ; and so to creep nearer to his heart of love, and to enter more fully into the “fellowship of his sufferings”? Shall we murmur if, following in his footsteps, we sometimes feel a keen sense of isolation and loneliness, as we are made to realize the truth of Christ’s saying, “Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world?” Should we not rather “count such an experience all joy?” (Jas. 1:2) O ye scattered children of God, his “jewels,” (Mal. 3:16, 17), take these thoughts for your comfort, and you will be able to “rejoice” even in your loneliness, knowing that thereby ye are made “partakers of his sufferings, that when his glory shall be revealed ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (1 Pet. 4:12, 13)
Is it not plain also that Christ’s three and thirty years on earth was a living death, the real death he suffered, after sacrificing his pre-existent life? And “out of that death” (Heb. 5:7) N.V.*, margin), he was not delivered until “God raised him from the dead, now no more to return to corruption.” (Acts 13: 34) When was Jesus in the corruptible state? Not while he was in the grave, for we are expressly told that he “saw no corruption” there. Acts 13:37; and yet he was in the corruptible state at some period of his earthly career, for he was “raised from the dead no more to return to corruption.” He was in the corruptible condition all the while he tabernacle in the flesh; in the “bondage of corruption,” like the “whole creation,” for he was “made sin” and a “curse” for us; (2 Cor. 5:21, and Gal. 3:13), and this was the corruption, the corruption of this fallen state, that he was raised from, now no more to return thereto.
In conclusion I will notice some more passage that incidentally con firms the above view. Read Isa, 53:9, and notice the margin on the word “death” that it is plural, deaths; is not that rather curious? “In his deaths”? Did Christ die more than one death? Yes! We have seen that he entered a condition of death when he laid down his pre-existent life and became incarnate; and he also died physically. Now the passage above cited would not be true if it referred only to his physical death; for he did not make his grave with the wicked in his physical death. He was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathæa who was a “good man,” “who also himself waited for the kingdom of God,” and was one of “Jesus’ disciples” (Luke 23:50, 51 and Matt. 27:57), and yet “he made his grave with the wicked and with the rich in his deaths;” how clear this passage is in the light of the view presented above; when he laid down his pre-existent life and entered into the charnel house of this fallen state “he made his grave with the wicked;” and when he died physically he was laid in the tomb of the wealthy Arimathæan, and thus made his grave “with the rich;” thus the deeper we dig, the more carefully we search, the more firmly is the truth established; we need not be afraid of the most thorough investigation if we are seeking the truth; the smallest particulars as well as the more weighty propositions will equally be found to be in the most perfect accord with any individual truth, and each separate truth will strengthen every other truth.
In the next paper we shall endeavor to “see Jesus” in still other aspects and characteristics.
*i.e. New Version; refers to The English Revised Version of 1881-1885 (RSV)
WE SEE JESUS [A. P. Adams] 1