. ................. Book Index ................
The Life of Christ
Organising His Church
This volume is based on:-
Matthew 9:9-17; Mark 2:14-22; 3:13-19; Luke 5:27-39; 6:12-16
It is recommended that you read these before you read the book.
© You may freely copy this book as you desire.
The language of the Scripture quotes has been modernised for easier understanding.
The kingdom of heaven
"Whereunto," asked Christ, "shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?" Mark 4:30.
He could not employ any of the kingdoms of the world as a likeness. In society He found nothing with which to compare it.
This was because earthly kingdoms rule by the ascendancy of physical power; but from Christ's kingdom every carnal weapon, every instrument of force, is banished.
His kingdom is to uplift and ennoble humanity. God's church is the court of Holy life, filled with varied gifts and endowed with the Holy Spirit. The members are to find their happiness in the happiness of those whom they help and bless.
Organising His church
The tax gatherers
Of the Roman officials in Palestine, none were more hated than the publicans or tax gatherers. The fact that the taxes were imposed by a foreign power was a continual irritation to the Jews, being a reminder that their independence had departed.
And the tax gatherers were not merely the instruments of Roman oppression; they were extortioners on their own account, enriching themselves at the expense of the people. A Jew who accepted this office at the hands of the Romans was looked upon as betraying the honour of his nation. He was despised as an apostate, and was classed with the vilest of society.
To this class belonged Levi-Matthew, who, after the four disciples at Gennesaret, was the next to be called to Christ's service. As a Levite he should have been a worker in the temple and so was doubly a traitor in Jewish eyes. Numbers 1:48-51.
The call to a tax gatherer
The Pharisees had judged Matthew according to his employment, but Jesus saw in this man a heart open for the reception of truth. Matthew had listened to the Saviour's teaching. As the convicting Spirit of God revealed his sinfulness, he longed to seek help from Christ; but he was accustomed to the exclusiveness of the rabbis, and had no thought that this Great Teacher would notice him.
Sitting at his toll booth one day, the publican saw Jesus approaching. Great was his astonishment to hear the words addressed to himself, "Follow Me."
Matthew "left all, rose up, and followed Him." There was no hesitation, no questioning, no thought of the lucrative business to be exchanged for poverty and hardship. It was enough for him that he was to be with Jesus, that he might listen to His words, and unite with Him in His work.
They trusted Him
So it was with the disciples previously called. When Jesus bade Peter and his companions follow Him, immediately they left their boats and nets. Some of these disciples had friends dependent on them for support; but when they received the Saviour's invitation, they did not hesitate, and inquire, How shall I live, and sustain my family? They were obedient to the call; and when afterward Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, and scrip [knapsack], and shoes, lacked you anything?" they could answer, "Nothing." Luke 22:35.
The same test comes to all
To Matthew in his wealth, and to Andrew and Peter in their poverty, the same test was brought; the same consecration was made by each. At the moment of success, when the nets were filled with fish, and the impulses of the old life were strongest, Jesus asked the disciples at the sea to leave all for the work of the gospel.
So every soul is tested as to whether the desire for temporal good or for fellowship with Christ is strongest. See also Matthew 19:16-24.
Principle is always exacting.
No man can succeed in the service of God unless his whole heart is in the work and he counts all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ. No man who makes any reserve can be the disciple of Christ, much less can he be His co-labourer. When men appreciate the great salvation, the self-sacrifice seen in Christ's life will be seen in theirs. Wherever He leads the way, they will rejoice to follow.
The calling of Matthew to be one of Christ's disciples excited great indignation. For a religious teacher to choose a publican as one of his immediate attendants was an offence against the religious, social, and national customs. By appealing to the prejudices of the people the Pharisees hoped to turn the current of popular feeling against Jesus.
A chance for others
Among the publicans a widespread interest was created. Their hearts were drawn toward the divine Teacher. In the joy of his new discipleship, Matthew longed to bring his former associates to Jesus. Accordingly he made a feast at his own house, and called together his relatives and friends. Not only were publicans included, but many others who were of doubtful reputation, and were proscribed by their more scrupulous neighbours.
The entertainment was given in honour of Jesus, and He did not hesitate to accept the courtesy. He well knew that this would give offence to the Pharisaic party, and would also compromise Him in the eyes of the people. But no question of policy could influence His movements.
With Him external distinctions weighed nothing. That which appealed to His heart was a soul thirsting for the water of life.
Jesus sat as an honoured guest at the table of the publicans, by His sympathy and social kindliness showing that He recognised the dignity of humanity; and men longed to become worthy of His confidence. Upon their thirsty hearts His words fell with blessed, life-giving power. New impulses were awakened, and the possibility of a new life opened to these outcasts of society.
A good lesson
At such gatherings as this, not a few were impressed by the Saviour's teaching who did not acknowledge Him until after His ascension. When the Holy Spirit was poured out, and three thousand were converted in a day, there were among them many who first heard the truth at the table of the publicans, and some of these became messengers of the gospel.
To Matthew himself the example of Jesus at the feast was a constant lesson. The despised publican became one of the most devoted evangelists, in his own ministry following closely in his Master's steps.
When the rabbis learned of the presence of Jesus at Matthew's feast, they seized the opportunity of accusing Him. But they chose to work through the disciples. By arousing their prejudices they hoped to alienate them from their Master.
It was their policy to accuse Christ to the disciples, and the disciples to Christ, aiming their arrows where they would be most likely to wound. This is the way in which Satan has worked ever since the disaffection in heaven; and all who try to cause discord and alienation are actuated by his spirit. Revelation 12:9-10.
"Why does your Master eat with publicans and sinners?" questioned the envious rabbis.
Sacrifice versus mercy
Jesus did not wait for His disciples to answer the charge, but Himself replied: "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go you and learn what that means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
The Pharisees claimed to be spiritually whole, and therefore in no need of a physician, while they regarded the publicans and Gentiles as perishing from diseases of the soul. Then was it not His work, as a physician, to go to the very class that needed His help?
But although the Pharisees thought so highly of themselves, they were really in a worse condition than the ones they despised. The publicans were less bigoted and self-sufficient, and thus were more open to the influence of truth. Jesus said to the rabbis, "Go you and learn what that means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." Thus He showed that while they claimed to expound the word of God, they were wholly ignorant of its spirit.
The Pharisees were silenced for the time, but only became more determined in their enmity. They next sought out the disciples of John the Baptist, and tried to set them against the Saviour.
These Pharisees had not accepted the mission of the Baptist. They had pointed in scorn to his abstemious life, his simple habits, his coarse garments, and had declared him a fanatic. Because he denounced their hypocrisy, they had resisted his words, and had tried to stir up the people against him. The Spirit of God had moved upon the hearts of these scorners, convicting them of sin; but they had rejected the counsel of God, and had declared that John was possessed of a devil.
Now when Jesus came mingling
with the people, eating and drinking at their tables, they
accused Him of being a glutton and a wine-drinker.
The very ones who made this charge were themselves guilty of it. As God is misrepresented, and clothed by Satan with his own attributes, so the Lord's messengers were falsified by these wicked men.
Why Jesus mingled
The Pharisees would not consider that Jesus was eating with publicans and sinners in order to bring the light of heaven to those who sat in darkness. They would not see that every word dropped by the divine Teacher was a living seed that would germinate and bear fruit to the glory of God. They had determined not to accept the light; and although they had opposed the mission of the Baptist, they were now ready to court the friendship of his disciples, hoping to secure their co-operation against Jesus. They represented that Jesus was setting at nought the ancient/ traditions; and they contrasted the austere piety of the Baptist with the course of Jesus in feasting with publicans and sinners.
This was before John died
The disciples of John were at this time in great sorrow. It was before their visit to Jesus with John's message. Their beloved teacher was in prison, and they passed their days in mourning. And Jesus was making no effort to release John, and even appeared to cast discredit on his teaching. If John had been sent by God, why did Jesus and His disciples pursue a course so widely different?
The disciples of John had not a clear understanding of Christ's work; they thought there might be some foundation for the charges of the Pharisees. They observed many of the rules prescribed by the rabbis, and even hoped to be justified by the works of the law. Fasting was practised by the Jews as an act of merit, and the most rigid among them fasted two days in every week. The Pharisees and John's disciples were fasting when the latter came to Jesus with the inquiry, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples fast not?"
Very tenderly Jesus answered them.
He did not try to correct their erroneous conception of fasting, but only to set them right in regard to His own mission.
And He did this by employing the same figure that the Baptist himself had used in his testimony to Jesus. John had said, "He that has the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled." John 3:29.
The disciples of John could not fail to recall these words of their teacher, as, taking up the illustration, Jesus said, "Can you make the children of the bride-chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?"
The Prince of heaven was among His people. The greatest gift of God had been given to the world.
Joy to the poor; for Christ had come to make them heirs of His kingdom.
Joy to the rich; for He would teach them how to secure eternal riches.
Joy to the ignorant; He would make them wise to salvation.
Joy to the learned; He would open to them deeper mysteries than they had ever fathomed; truths that had been hidden from the foundation of the world would be opened to men by the Saviour's mission.
John the Baptist had rejoiced to behold the Saviour. What occasion for rejoicing had the disciples who were privileged to walk and talk with the Majesty of heaven! This was not a time for them to mourn and fast. They must open their hearts to receive the light of His glory, that they might shed light upon those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death.
The shadow of the cross
It was a bright picture which the words of Christ had called up, but across it lay a heavy shadow, which His eye alone discerned. "The days will come," He said, "when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days." When they should see their Lord betrayed and crucified, the disciples would mourn and fast.
In His last words to them in the upper chamber, He said, "A little while, and you shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and you shall see Me. Verily, verily, I say to you, That you shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and you shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy." John 16:19, 20.
When He should come forth from the tomb, their sorrow would be turned to joy. After His return to heaven He was to be absent in person; but through the Comforter He would still be with them, and they were not to spend their time in mourning.
Christianity is joy
This was what Satan wanted. He desired them to give the world the impression that they had been deceived and disappointed; but by faith they were to look to the sanctuary above, where Jesus was ministering for them; they were to open their hearts to the Holy Spirit, His representative, and to rejoice in the light of His presence.
Yet days of temptation and trial would come, when they would be brought into conflict with the rulers of this world, and the leaders of the kingdom of darkness; when Christ was not personally with them, and they failed to discern the Comforter, then it would be more fitting for them to fast.
The Pharisees sought to exalt themselves by their rigorous observance of forms, while their hearts were filled with envy and strife. "Behold," says the Scripture, "you fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: you shall not fast as you do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? [I dont!]" Isaiah 58:4, 5.
The true fast is no mere formal service.
The Scripture describes the fast that God has chosen, - "to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke;" to "draw out your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul." Isaiah 58:6, 10.
Here is set forth the very spirit and character of the work of Christ. His whole life was a sacrifice of Himself for the saving of the world. Whether fasting in the wilderness of temptation or eating with the publicans at Matthew's feast, He was giving His life for the redemption of the lost.
Not in idle mourning, in mere bodily humiliation and a multitude of sacrifices, is the true spirit of devotion manifested, but it is shown in the surrender of self in willing service to God and man.
Continuing His answer to the disciples of John, Jesus spoke a parable, saying, "No man puts a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new makes a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agrees not with the old."
The message of John the Baptist was not to be interwoven with tradition and superstition. An attempt to blend the pretence of the Pharisees with the devotion of John would only make more evident the breach between them.
Widen the gap
Nor could the principles of Christ's teaching be united with the forms of Pharisaism. Christ was not to close up the breach that had been made by the teachings of John He would make more distinct the separation between the old and the new.
Jesus further illustrated this fact, saying, "No man puts new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish." The skin bottles which were used as vessels to contain the new wine, after a time became dry and brittle, and were then worthless to serve the same purpose again.
In this familiar illustration Jesus presented the condition of the Jewish leaders. Priests and scribes and rulers were fixed in a rut of ceremonies and traditions. Their hearts had become contracted, like the dried-up wine skins to which He had compared them.
While they remained satisfied
with a legal religion, it was impossible for them to become the
holders of the living truth of heaven.
They thought their own righteousness all-sufficient, and did not desire that a new element should be brought into their religion.
Salvation does not depend on works
The good will of God to men they did not accept as something apart from themselves. They connected it with their own merit because of their good works.
The faith that works by love and purifies the soul could find no place for union with the religion of the Pharisees, made up of ceremonies and the injunctions of men. The effort to unite the teachings of Jesus with the established religion would be vain.
The vital truth of God, like fermenting wine, would burst the old, decaying bottles of the Pharisaical tradition.
The simple truth
The Pharisees thought themselves too wise to need instruction, too righteous to need salvation, too highly honoured to need the honour that comes from Christ. The Saviour turned away from them to find others who would receive the message of heaven. In the untutored fishermen, in the publican at the market place, in the woman of Samaria, in the common people who heard Him gladly, He found His new bottles for the new wine.
The instruments to be used in the gospel work are those souls who gladly receive the light which God sends them. These are His agencies for imparting the knowledge of truth to the world. If through the grace of Christ His people will become new bottles, He will fill them with new wine.
Not really new
The teaching of Christ, though it was represented by the new wine, was not a new doctrine, but the revelation of that which had been taught from the beginning. See Hebrews 4:1-3. But to the Pharisees the truth of God had lost its original significance and beauty. To them Christ's teaching was new in almost every respect, and it was unrecognised and unacknowledged.
Jesus pointed out the power of false teaching to destroy the appreciation and desire for truth.
"No man," He said, "having drunk old wine straightway desires new: for he says, The old is better." All the truth that has been given to the world through patriarchs and prophets shone out in new beauty in the words of Christ. But the scribes and Pharisees had no desire for the precious new wine.
Until emptied of the old traditions, customs, and practices, they had no place in mind or heart for the teachings of Christ. They clung to the dead forms, and turned away from the living truth and the power of God.
This is still true today
It was this that proved the ruin of the Jews, and it will prove the ruin of many souls in our own day. Thousands are making the same mistake as did the Pharisees whom Christ reproved at Matthew's feast. Rather than give up some cherished idea, or discard some idol of opinion, many refuse the truth which comes down from the Father of light.
They trust in self, and depend upon their own wisdom, and do not realise their spiritual poverty. They insist on being saved in some way by which they may perform some important work. When they see that there is no way of weaving self into the work, they reject the salvation provided.
A legal religion can never lead souls to Christ; for it is a loveless, Christless religion. Fasting or prayer that is actuated by a self-justifying spirit is an abomination in the sight of God.
The solemn assembly for worship, the round of religious ceremonies, the external humiliation, the imposing sacrifice, proclaim that the doer of these things regards himself as righteous, and as entitled to heaven; but it is all a deception. Our own works can never purchase salvation.
The message for today
As it was in the days of Christ,
so it is now; the Pharisees do not know their spiritual
destitution. To them comes the message, "Because you say,
I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel you to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness do not appear." Revelation 3:17, 18.
Faith and love are the gold tried in the fire.
But with many the
gold has become dim,
and the rich treasure has been lost.
of Christ is to them as a robe unworn,
a fountain untouched.
To them it is said, "I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come to you quickly, and will remove your candlestick out of his place, except you repent." Revelation 2:4, 5.
The acceptable sacrifice
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." Psalm 51:17.
Each one must be emptied of self before he or she can be, in the fullest sense, a believer in Jesus. When self is renounced, then the Lord can make us into a new creature.
New bottles can contain the new wine. The love of Christ will animate the believer with new life. In the one who looks to the Author and Finisher of our faith the character of Christ will be manifest.
He Ordained the Twelve
"And He went up into a mountain, and called to Him whom He would: and they came to Him. And He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach."
It was beneath the sheltering trees of the mountainside, just a little distance from the Sea of Galilee, that the twelve were called to be apostles, and the Sermon on the Mount was given. The fields and hills were the favourite resorts of Jesus, and much of His teaching was given under the open sky, rather than in the temple or the synagogues.
No synagogue could have received the throngs that followed Him; but not for this reason only did He choose to teach in the fields and groves. Jesus loved the scenes of nature. To Him each quiet retreat was a sacred temple.
He had always been there
It was under the trees of Eden that the first dwellers on earth had chosen their sanctuary. There Christ had communed with the father of mankind. When banished from Paradise, our first parents still worshipped in the fields and groves, and there Christ met them with the gospel of His grace.
It was Christ who spoke with Abraham under the oaks at Mamre (Genesis 18:1); with Isaac as he went out to pray in the fields at the eventide (Genesis 24:63); with Jacob on the hillside at Bethel (Genesis 28:11-19); with Moses among the mountains of Midian (Exodus 3;1); and with the boy David as he watched his flocks (1 Samuel 17:15).
It was at Christ's direction that for fifteen centuries the Hebrew people had left their homes for one week every year, and had dwelt in booths formed from the green branches "of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook." Leviticus 23:40.
As in nature, so in grace
In training His disciples, Jesus chose to withdraw from the confusion of the city to the quiet of the fields and hills, as more in harmony with the lessons of selflessness He desired to teach them.
And during His ministry He loved to gather the people about Him under the blue heavens, on some grassy hillside, or on the beach beside the lake. Here, surrounded by the works of His own creation, He could turn the thoughts of His hearers from the artificial to the natural.
In the growth and development of nature were revealed the principles of His kingdom. As men should lift up their eyes to the hills of God, and behold the wonderful works of His hands, they could learn precious lessons of divine truth. Christ's teaching would be repeated to them in the things of nature.
So it is with all who go into the fields with Christ in their hearts. They will feel themselves surrounded with a holy influence. The things of nature take up the parables of our Lord, and repeat His counsels. By communion with God in nature, the mind is uplifted, and the heart finds rest.
Simple beginnings for a simple church
The first step was now to be taken in the organisation of the church that after Christ's departure was to be His representative on earth. No costly sanctuary was at their command, but the Saviour led His disciples to the retreat He loved, and in their minds the sacred experiences of that day were forever linked with the beauty of mountain and vale and sea.
Jesus had called His disciples that He might send them forth as His witnesses, to declare to the world what they had seen and heard of Him.
Their position was the most important to which human beings had ever been called, and was second only to that of Christ Himself.
They were to be workers together with God for the saving of the world. As in the Old Testament the twelve patriarchs stand as representatives of Israel, so the twelve apostles were to stand as representatives of the gospel church.
He knew what He was getting
The Saviour knew the character of the men whom He had chosen; all their weaknesses and errors were open before Him; He knew the perils through which they must pass, the responsibility that would rest upon them; and His heart yearned over these chosen ones.
Alone upon a mountain near the Sea of Galilee He spent the entire night in prayer for them, while they were sleeping at the foot of the mountain. With the first light of dawn He summoned them to meet Him; for He had something of importance to communicate to them.
They were already workers
These disciples had been for some time associated with Jesus in active labour. John and James, Andrew and Peter, with Philip, Nathanael, and Matthew, had been more closely connected with Him than the others, and had witnessed more of His miracles. Peter, James, and John stood in still nearer relationship to Him. They were almost constantly with Him, witnessing His miracles, and hearing His words.
John pressed into still closer intimacy with Jesus, so that he is distinguished as the one whom Jesus loved. The Saviour loved them all, but John's was the most receptive spirit.
He was younger than the others, and with more of the child's confiding trust he opened his heart to Jesus. Thus he came more into sympathy with Christ, and through him the Saviour's deepest spiritual teaching was communicated to His people.
At the head of one of the groups into which the apostles are divided stands the name of Philip. He was the first disciple to whom Jesus addressed the distinct command, "Follow Me." Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. He had listened to the teaching of John the Baptist, and had heard his announcement of Christ as the Lamb of God. Philip was a sincere seeker for truth, but he was slow of heart to believe. Although he had joined himself to Christ, yet his announcement of Him to Nathanael shows that he was not fully convinced of the divinity of Jesus.
Though Christ had been proclaimed by the voice from heaven as the Son of God, to Philip He was "Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." John 1:45. Again, when the five thousand were fed, Philip's lack of faith was shown. It was to test him that Jesus questioned, "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" Philip's answer was on the side of unbelief: "Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little." John 6:5, 7.
Jesus was grieved. Although Philip had seen His works and felt His power, yet he had not faith. When the Greeks inquired of Philip concerning Jesus, he did not seize upon the opportunity of introducing them to the Saviour, but he went to tell Andrew.
Again, in those last hours before the crucifixion, the words of Philip were such as to discourage faith. When Thomas said to Jesus, "Lord, we know not where You go; and how can we know the way?" the Saviour answered, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.... If you had known Me, you should have known My Father also."
From Philip came the response of unbelief: "Lord, show us the Father, and it suffices us." John 14:5-8. So slow of heart, so weak in faith, was that disciple who for three years had been with Jesus.
In happy contrast to Philip's unbelief was the childlike trust of Nathanael. He was a man of intensely earnest nature, one whose faith took hold upon unseen realities. Yet Philip was a student in the school of Christ, and the divine Teacher bore patiently with his unbelief and dullness. When the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the disciples, Philip became a teacher after the divine order. He knew whereof he spoke, and he taught with an assurance that carried conviction to the hearers.
While Jesus was preparing the disciples for their ordination as apostles, one who had not been summoned urged his presence among them.
It was Judas Iscariot, a man who professed to be a follower of Christ. He now came forward, soliciting a place in this inner circle of disciples. With great earnestness and apparent sincerity he declared, "Master, I will follow You wherever You go." Jesus neither repulsed nor welcomed him, but uttered only the mournful words: "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has not where to lay His head." Matthew 8:19, 20.
Judas believed Jesus to be the Messiah; and by joining the apostles, he hoped to secure a high position in the new kingdom. This hope Jesus designed to cut off by the statement of His poverty.
The disciples were anxious that Judas should become one of their number. He was of commanding appearance, a man of keen discernment and executive ability, and they commended him to Jesus as one who would greatly assist Him in His work. They were surprised that Jesus received him so coolly.
The disciples had been much
disappointed that Jesus had not tried to secure the co-operation
of the leaders in Israel. They felt that it was a mistake not to
strengthen His cause by securing the support of these influential
men. If He had repulsed Judas, they would, in their own minds,
have questioned the wisdom of their Master.
The after history of Judas would show them the danger of allowing any worldly consideration to have weight in deciding the fitness of men for the work of God. The co-operation of such men as the disciples were anxious to secure would have betrayed the work into the hands of its worst enemies.
There was hope for him
Yet when Judas joined the disciples, he was not insensible to the beauty of the character of Christ. He felt the influence of that divine power which was drawing souls to the Saviour. He who came not to break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax would not repulse this soul while even one desire was reaching toward the light.
The Saviour read the heart of Judas; He knew the depths of iniquity to which, unless delivered by the grace of God, Judas would sink. In connecting this man with Himself, He placed him where he might, day by day, be brought in contact with the outflowing of His own unselfish love. If he would open his heart to Christ, divine grace would banish the demon of selfishness, and even Judas might become a subject of the kingdom of God.
Come as you are
God takes men and women as they are, with the human elements in their character, and trains them for His service, if they will be disciplined and learn of Him. They are not chosen because they are perfect, but notwithstanding their imperfections, that through the knowledge and practice of the truth, through the grace of Christ, they may become transformed into His image.
Judas had the same opportunities as had the other disciples. He listened to the same precious lessons. But the practice of the truth, which Christ required, was at variance with the desires and purposes of Judas, and he would not yield his ideas in order to receive wisdom from Heaven.
God rejects no one
How tenderly the Saviour dealt with him who was to be His betrayer! In His teaching, Jesus dwelt upon principles of benevolence that struck at the very root of covetousness. He presented before Judas the heinous character of greed, and many a time the disciple realised that his character had been portrayed, and his sin pointed out; but he would not confess and forsake his unrighteousness. He was self-sufficient, and instead of resisting temptation, he continued to follow his fraudulent practices. Christ was before him, a living example of what he must become if he reaped the benefit of the divine mediation and ministry; but lesson after lesson fell unheeded on the ears of Judas.
Jesus dealt him no sharp rebuke for his covetousness, but with divine patience bore with this erring man, even while giving him evidence that He read his heart as an open book. He presented before him the highest incentives for right doing; and in rejecting the light of Heaven, Judas would be without excuse.
Instead of walking in the light, Judas chose to retain his defects. Evil desires, revengeful passions, dark and sullen thoughts, were cherished, until Satan had full control of the man. Judas became a representative of the enemy of Christ.
When he came into association with Jesus, he had some precious traits of character that might have been made a blessing to the church. If he had been willing to wear the yoke of Christ, he might have been among the chief of the apostles; but he hardened his heart when his defects were pointed out, and in pride and rebellion chose his own selfish ambitions, and thus unfitted himself for the work that God would have given him to do.
No one was perfect
All the disciples had serious faults when Jesus called them to His service. Even John, who came into closest association with the meek and lowly One, was not himself naturally meek and yielding. He and his brother were called "the sons of thunder." Mark 3:17. While they were with Jesus, any slight shown to Him aroused their indignation and combativeness.
Evil temper, revenge, the spirit of criticism, were all in the beloved disciple. He was proud, and ambitious to be first in the kingdom of God.
But day by day, in contrast with his own violent spirit, he beheld the tenderness and forbearance of Jesus, and heard His lessons of humility and patience. He opened his heart to the divine influence, and became not only a hearer but a doer of the Saviour's words. Self was hid in Christ. He learned to wear the yoke of Christ and to bear His burden.
Jesus reproved His disciples, He warned and cautioned them; but John and his brethren did not leave Him; they chose Jesus, despite the reproofs. The Saviour did not withdraw from them because of their weakness and errors. They continued to the end to share His trials and to learn the lessons of His life.
By beholding Christ, they became transformed in character.
The apostles differed widely in habits and disposition. There were the publican, Levi-Matthew, and the fiery zealot Simon, the uncompromising hater of the authority of Rome; the generous, impulsive Peter, and the mean-spirited Judas; Thomas, true-hearted, yet timid and fearful, Philip, slow of heart, and inclined to doubt, and the ambitious, outspoken sons of Zebedee, with their brethren.
These were brought together, with their different faults, all with inherited and cultivated tendencies to evil; but in and through Christ they were to dwell in the family of God, learning to become one in faith, in doctrine, in spirit.
They would have their tests, their grievances, their differences of opinion; but while Christ was abiding in the heart, there could be no dissension. His love would lead to love for one another; the lessons of the Master would lead to the harmonising of all differences, bringing the disciples into unity, till they would be of one mind and one judgment.
Christ is the great centre, and they would approach one another just in proportion as they approached the centre.
When Jesus had ended His instruction to the disciples, He gathered the little band close about Him, and kneeling in the midst of them, and laying His hands upon their heads, He offered a prayer dedicating them to His sacred work. Thus the Lord's disciples were ordained to the gospel ministry.
As His representatives among men, Christ does not choose angels who have never fallen, but human beings, men of like passions and experiences with those they seek to save.
Christ also took upon Himself humanity, that He might reach humanity. Divinity needed humanity in which to show the example for others to follow; for it required both the divine and the human to bring salvation clearly to the worlds eyes. Divinity also needed humanity that humanity might afford a channel of communication between God and man, for as we have seen, the Father reaches us through the man Christ Jesus.
So with the servants and messengers of Christ. Man needs a power outside of and beyond himself, to restore him to the likeness of God, and enable him to do the work of God; but this does not make the human agency unessential.
Humanity lays hold upon divine power, Christ dwells in the heart by faith; and through co-operation with the divine, the power of man becomes efficient for good.
He still needs us
He who called the fishermen of Galilee is still calling men and women to His service. And He is just as willing to manifest His power through us as through the first disciples. However imperfect and sinful we may be, the Lord holds out to us the offer of partnership with Himself, of apprenticeship to Christ. He invites us to come under the divine instruction, that, uniting with Christ, we may work the works of God.
"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves." 2 Corinthians 4:7, R. V.
This is why the preaching of the gospel was committed to erring men rather than to the angels. It is then clear that the power which works through the weakness of humanity is the power of God; and thus we are encouraged to believe that the power which can help others as weak as ourselves can help us.
And those who are themselves "compassed with infirmity" should be able to "have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way." Hebrews 5:2. Having been in peril themselves, they are acquainted with the dangers and difficulties of the way, and for this reason are called to reach out for others in like peril. There are souls perplexed with doubt, burdened with infirmities, weak in faith, and unable to grasp the Unseen; but a friend whom they can see, coming to them in Christ's stead, can be a connecting link to fasten their trembling faith upon Christ.
Co-operate with angels
We are to be labourers together with the heavenly angels in presenting Jesus to the world. With almost impatient eagerness the angels wait for our co-operation; for man must be the channel to communicate with man. And when we give ourselves to Christ in wholehearted devotion, angels rejoice that they may speak through our voices to reveal God's love.
................... Text only ................... "Word" version