Chapter 1: “Behold My Servant”

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I feel, beloved friends, led, I trust of the Lord, to bring before you, even though it be only partially, something of the ministry and service of our Lord Jesus Christ in this world. That subject could never be an unimportant one, not only from the preciousness and blessedness of the ministry itself, as I trust we shall be able to see, but also because God was pleased in His grace to devote one of the four narratives concerning the life of our Lord Jesus Christ in this world, distinctly to that purpose—and so distinctly, as I hope to show you, that it characterizes the whole of Mark’s writing from beginning to end. The omissions, the additions, put entirely out of the question that which used to be a very favorite occupation in past times—harmonizing the gospels. It has been well said that they never disagreed; you cannot harmonize that wherein there never was the absence of harmony at any time. But I tell you what happens in connection with it when you do not read by the gracious teaching and leading of the Spirit of God, you lose the distinctness of design of the blessed God Himself in presenting in each gospel history the features and the characteristics of our Lord Jesus Christ, in all the various paths and positions that He was pleased to walk in and fill in this world. I know of no gospel wherein that is more distinctly manifested than in this very Gospel of Mark. The first verse, for instance, carries with it convincingly to the heart at once the theme, the great thesis of the Spirit of God through this gospel, namely, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Nothing could be more simple than that, if our hearts were only simple to take it in, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” That is the whole pith and substance of this wonderful epitome of His service and work down here in this world.
But before we look a little at the way it is introduced in the verses we have read in this first chapter, I want you to take into account two or three facts that we must ponder over and dwell upon for a moment before we can rightly understand it. It is a great thing rightly to apprehend the bearing and meaning of words, and when we speak of our Lord Jesus Christ as the great servant-prophet, and as the great minister and teacher, we must remember this, beloved friends, we cannot speak of Him as our servant it would lower His dignity and His glory to speak of Him as our servant. Granted that He serves us, and He served all here; yet He was the servant of God, He was Jehovah’s servant, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth.” And you will find that distinctly throughout this gospel, He is the servant-Son; servant is the great characteristic that marks all His path throughout this gospel; and when we come to it presently I will give you a very striking instance of that in the record. But I say again we could not speak of Him as our servant. We can rejoice in His service, we can bless and praise Him for the manner and way in which He served us here in this world, served us all through His life, served us on Calvary’s cross, and serves us now from glory, for He is the girded servant. He came down here and became a man that He might be a servant, and He has taken manhood up to the throne of God in the heavens and will never cease to serve in heaven. You have one blessed remarkable instance of this in the Gospel of Luke, when He says to His disciples, in that beautiful ch. 12, that in that day when He will have it all His own way, when all the present order of things is passed and He will have everything according to His own mind in glory, He will come forth even then as the girded servant to serve those whose hearts were so captivated by Himself that they watched for Him, and waited for Him, and served Him in that watching spirit here. It is not here, beloved friends, that He leads us to expect anything from Him except the joy of walking in His path of rejection, and scorn, and shame; but in that day which is coming, in that bright glory to which He has given us through grace a title to be with Himself, in virtue of all His work, when He has everything there according to His own mind, and most of all when He has all His own there around Him in that scene, could anything be more affecting or more touching to our hearts than that even there in that glory He will come forth girded? “Verily, I say unto you, he shall gird himself” are His own words in that precious chapter; there is the servant distinctly, servant attire, servant form, servant manner, servant way—and will come forth, and serve them.” I take it that having that combined with the Gospel of Luke, where He is most of all presented to us as the man, it is the man who is the servant; it is He who became a man amongst men, and whose genealogy in that gospel as you remember, is traced up to Adam, so that we have His connection through incarnation with the race of men, albeit it was in that miraculous and peculiar way in which God has guarded the humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the man who is the servant. And, beloved friends, that is very wonderful for us to think of, because God has ever had servants; there are the angels that do His pleasure, and we are told of those angels in Heb. 1 that they are all “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” but what ministry of angels can come up to the ministry of the man, the servant, He who having taken part in manhood, having become a man, being truly and really a man here in this world, the One that came from heaven—shall I say it, beloved friends? I will say it with joy—the heavenly Man here in this world, the Man out of heaven, yet truly having become a man—oh what ministry, what service like the service of that heart to us, what ministry of angels what ministry of creatures far in intelligence beyond us, could speak to our hearts, could be so affecting to our hearts, as the ministry of Him who became a man, and who, in all the blessed tenderness, and grace and sympathy of His heart, let out here in this world those perfections of feeling, of sympathy, of tenderness peculiar to a man. It is this combination, I repeat, which is set forth in the Gospel of Luke, where He is the Man—and which we have often had before us here in times past, it is the combination of His manhood with His service, although it was performed in divine power, as I hope to show you, and although He was when a man just as truly as He ever was, “God over all blessed for evermore,” still, in that character of service and ministry which He rendered here, it is that combination, beloved friends, which is one of the most precious and one of the most comforting things to the heart that I know of; that He draws near to us in all the grace and love which in the first instance brought Him down here; that, as we have often said, He did not love us at a distance, and He does not serve us at a distance. It was not mere power bestowing upon us that which our needs called forth, but there was love. I quite grant you there was omnipotence of power, but there was omnipotence of love in combination with omnipotence of power. Therefore, when we think of Him as servant, we must always think of Him as God’s servant, Jehovah’s servant, “Behold my servant.”
Now, beloved friends, I think that is a very important point for us to keep in mind, so as to guard and protect by God’s grace everything like a true and proper estimate of the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let me give you one instance from the history of this gospel just to sustain that thought, that He was not our servant, though He served us; but He was Jehovah’s servant here in the midst of Israel, and also serving man, but always Jehovah’s servant, serving in power. If you compare at your leisure the account of the transfiguration for instance—or rather, not compare, but contrast, because that is really the word—if you will contrast the account of the transfiguration: as it is given us in Matt. 17, with the account given us in Mark 9 you will see a remarkable instance of just what I am about to bring before you now. In the Gospel of Matthew, when he recounts the transfiguration, he does so in connection with the subject which it was the design of the Spirit of God the evangelist should relate. And hence it is the manifestation of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, the kingdom here in this world; it is the manifestation of the kingdom; “kingdom” is the ruling word in Matthew. Whereas when you come to Mark you will find that left out altogether. What you find in Mark is this, There be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power. “Power” is the word in Mark. Why? Because it is connected with His ministry. “Kingdom” is the word in Matthew, because it is the dispensational record.
Now that is exceedingly interesting, and puts its character at once upon both the writings. I have spoken of His love, I delight to dwell upon the fact of His power, but the power is what you find continually all through the Gospel of Mark. And therefore you will find the miracles, those marks and signs of power, you will find, I say, the place they get all through the gospel, you will see how continually miracle after miracle is referred to and brought before us. Why? Because it marked the wonder-working power of the great Servant- prophet in the midst of men. He was the One who was there in wonder-working might, in omnipotence of power, but in all the omnipotence of tender love as well in the midst of men, and hence the prominence that is given to all this, which is characteristic of this gospel throughout.
There is another observation I would like to make in connection with the gospel, which will also help to show how distinctly this is ever the subject. Have you ever thought how striking it is that the very one who was selected by God and by His Spirit to give us this ministry and service of Christ, was the man who in his own first essay at service broke down? For this Mark was the very one who turned aside from the service and from the testimony which he was going to carry forth with the others, and went to Cyprus, his native place. And I think it is very striking that this is the one who writes the history of the service and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. And why? Do you think there is no design in Mark being selected? Do you think there is no distinctly important point in Mark being the one that was fixed upon to give us this account? I believe the reason of it is simply this, that we might be able to see the contrast between Jesus, the Servant-prophet and all else beside. There is a touch in that very fact of great preciousness to my heart—Jesus is supreme wherever you see Him, Jesus is unique wherever you see Him, Jesus is perfect wherever you see Him; not merely in His manhood, not merely in His path, and walk, and testimony here, but in the distinctive features of His service. He is the perfect servant, and (I say it with all holy reverence) He is the ideal Levite, the One who served in all the truth and reality of service in the tabernacle among men, and finally, voluntarily laid down His life as the greatest act of service that He performed either to God or to men in this world. I believe that is one reason, beloved friends, if not the main and principal reason, why the person who was selected to give us this ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ in this world, should be the man who broke down and failed himself, and whose history is beautifully presented to us afterwards, when the apostle says, “Take Mark, and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” Thank God for that! Because, I may add in passing, God records in scripture not merely the failures and the breakdowns, and the im- perfections, and the shortcomings of His servants, but He records as well their restoration; for, beloved friends, it is His grace that secures the one, as it is His power that can rescue from the other. That is the reason, I have no doubt, why Mark’s history is brought before us there.
Let us take one other point which comes to one’s heart at once in reading this gospel, and which I would like to dwell on for a little, and then we shall pass on to look at three great points in the verses themselves; and it connects itself properly with what I have already said with regard to Mark. If you take the work and service of men here in this world—it matters not who; take the apostles, or take Paul, who followed the Lord Jesus Christ nearer, not only in path, but in testimony, than any man before or since, and whose path was closest, we might say, in tread upon the path here of our blessed Lord—we find that we cannot too microscopically examine the service of any man, we cannot look down, so to speak, into the minutia of the service of any man; it will not bear it, the blots are too many, the failures are too great. We do not well, beloved friends, when we commit ourselves to that. And I am pressed in spirit to say this to my beloved brethren to-night. If we do so, it is because we have but a poor idea on the one hand of the perfection of the only perfect servant, and on the other hand, of the feebleness of an earthen vessel. And again I say, beloved friends, let us not take the microscope and examine too closely into the particulars of a man’s service; but remember that what you cannot do with regard to mere human service you can do with regard to the service of Christ. Now here is what is so precious. You cannot examine His service too closely; it will bear the closest examination, the strictest scrutiny, because it is perfect. I do not know anything that is more comforting or precious to my heart than that I can look over all His blessed service and see in every part of it the perfection of the One who was perfect. Let the objects of His service be ever so difficult subjects, let it be that the objects of His service are ever so far away in need and want, let the case be ever so trying, let the need be ever so great, let the opposition to His gracious ministry be ever so increased, let all the hindrances be ever so magnified, yet they will only bring out in the case of our Lord Jesus Christ the perfection of His service and the perfection of the servant. Now that brings me back again for a moment to that beautiful verse I have already quoted in part, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon Him; He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.”
Oh what a contrast to every other man in service! What a contrast in His position is the beloved of God! What a contrast as well in His place of lowly retirement amongst men! What a contrast in all the silent power that marked Him, so that as He passed along in this poor world, there was no voice, no cry, no sound, nothing, as such, to call attention to Him; it was all patient, retiring, blessed, unwearied ministry, yet in power. I love to think of that verse, I was thinking of it only a little time past with great delight and comfort, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth”—the man, as far as this world was concerned, out of the despised region and place—“how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” O how blessed to dwell on that, beloved friends! how blessed to be allowed to contemplate this ministry of our own dear Lord and Master here in this world, to see what it was to God, what God received in that—not merely what man got, but how God was served by Him, the true Servant.
Now let us observe one important feature in what I have already spoken of. If there is anything that comes out distinctly in His service, it is this, that just as truly as He ever kept His place as man, having been pleased to become man, so He ever truly kept His place of servant, having taken upon Him the form of a servant. Let us never forget that. Let us cherish, beloved friends, these touches that we find in scripture that set our adorable Lord and Master before us in the truth of His Person as God and Man. Do not let us look at one part of His glory and lose sight of another part of it. And do not let us allow ourselves to be entrapped by the enemy, that because He was “God over all blessed for ever,” that He was not equally man, as truly and as really a man in perfection here as He ever was God over all. Let our hearts by grace adoringly embrace both and adore Him as both, as we see that He who was God was pleased to become man, and also equally see that He, having become man, and taking upon Him the form of a servant, as man kept that place of service and subjection to the very close.
Now for one proof of it, and then I pass on. And this, beloved friends, is one of the most striking proofs of it I know of in the gospel, and it is both interesting and arresting as I believe we shall find. You remember now that the blessed Lord, when speaking of the day of His coming, the day when He should be manifested, says in the gospels. “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven”—Mark alone puts in this, and it gives its character to his gospel—neither the Son, but the Father” {Mark 13:3232But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. (Mark 13:32)}. Now why is that omitted in the other gospels, and inserted in Mark? Do we read carelessly, my beloved friends? do we read without divine intelligence or thought? That is the way, I am grieved to say, a great many read the word of God, as if there were no design in its additions and omissions in various parts. Do you read it with the eyes of God the Holy Ghost, or do you read it according to the bias of your own mind? There may be a great deal of will in the way we treat scripture—do not let us forget that. You may have the fixed determination in your own mind to find so-and- so there. I remember well, years ago, how when I read the word of God, I never could divest myself of the idea that I saw things in it that I know now are not in it at all; and yet you could not persuade me that they were not in it. Why? Because my will was to have them so; and my will being determined to have things so, I saw them in the light of my will here in scripture, as I vainly thought, instead of really reading according to the instruction and guidance and direction of God the Holy Ghost. Now how striking this instance is, “neither the Son.” Why, beloved friends, is that brought into Mark? Because the Son in Mark is the servant- Son. The very essence of the perfection of a servant is simply to be at the absolute control of the Master. The very essence of a good servant is not to have a mind of his own. I should not apply to the blessed Lord the word “will of His own,” for He had no will but the will of God as the secret motive and spring of all that was in His heart; but He received everything direct from God in the servant character, and He was distinctly energized by God the Holy Ghost, as we shall see presently in His servant character. Mark those words I have already quoted, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil”—why? because they needed it? no; but because “God was with him.” There is the servant, He is Jehovah’s servant, He is upheld by Jehovah, He has got Jehovah’s Spirit on Him, and He moves through men, through their needs, their sorrows, their wants, and their woes with a heart that felt for everything, a heart that was touched and that entered into everything.
I have often said here—and I feel it now more than ever—that we all live too far away from human misery to know much of what it is. We do not know what the desolations of this world are. What do we know about the heart-breaks, the sorrows, the griefs, the blighted hopes and blasted prospects found in it? We could not endure it. It is a great mercy of God that we do not know it; it would be enough, perhaps, to send some of us away entirely out of the haunts of men, it would be too overpowering. But oh! what a comfort it is to think that there was one who passed as servant through it all, knew it all, measured it all, entered into it all, understood it all, felt for it all, and knew how, as God’s servant, to meet it. That is what you have in the ministry and service of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord by His grace and Spirit grant that these few introductory sentences may help us in connection with our gospel as we turn for a moment to study the way in which His service is introduced here. Now I am about to speak of three points, and I will be as concise and brief as I can.
The first great point that I see in the verses we have read is that the service is introduced without any formal array of any kind. It is what we might call suddenly introduced; there is no preface; it is all very concise; “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God that is all. Now, beloved friends, there is something very blessed in that expression. I think God, in His infinite grace, would give your heart and mine just to recount here a little of the treasure that is in that expression, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” How blessed that is! It is the good news. “O yes,” you say, “good news, that is the meaning of the word gospel.” But contrast it with what is past. There was no good news in Judaism. Is there any good news in the modern inventions? Judaism had a killing law; that is all it had, a condemning letter, a claim that left man more hopeless than he was before it met him. I do not stop to inquire about what is suggested at the present time, beloved friends, it is too puerile, too contemptible, to waste a thought upon. But mark this for a moment. The greatest comfort to the heart when I read that verse, “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” is that now here is something that comes from heaven. You say “it is good news,” but let me ask where from? From heaven, and that, beloved friends, is what is so blessed and so wonderful about it. This is the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, this precious Servant, but this divine Servant, the Messenger who has come from heaven, and has come from heaven with good news. Do not your hearts rejoice in that? It is not a claim, it is not a demand, it is not a fiery law that strikes terror into the soul, but it is the announcement of glad tidings; and that which is so precious, it is the announcement of it in His own person, even Jesus Christ the Son of God, it is the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And therefore, observe the way in which His service is introduced to us here is by making Himself prominent and we are left, as it were, with Him in that way. If I know anything of the glory of His Person, I know what to expect from “the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.” If I know anything of the love and tenderness of His heart, I know exactly how to fill in that expression, “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” I do not know whether I have conveyed to you, beloved friends, the thought that is in it, but it is to me an exceeding precious reality, that whilst it is the gospel and the service, as we have said, it is so connected with the Person who was rendering it that He is made prominent, and you are allowed to form a divine conception by the Spirit of what that good news would be in fulness, and in plenteousness, and in blessedness, when it is so connected with Himself, “Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Now that is the first thing I see here.
Secondly, you have in the verses we have read what I may call, I think correctly, the preparatory messenger. I will not dwell very long upon that, because we have had it before. But there is a preparatory messenger who goes before the face of the One who is coming, according to the prophetic scriptures. There are two scriptures quoted here, Mal. 3 and Isa. 40, and those two scriptures pointed to John the Baptist. who was to go before the face of the One that was coming, “to prepare his way,” that is the expression, and then when John utters his message himself, he says, make his paths straight.”
Now the first thing that comes before us in that preparatory message is a very important one for all our souls, and I desire earnestly to dwell upon it. God will have, however great His grace in meeting us, and however full and large the manner of His service towards us in His blessed Son, but let us never forget this, beloved brethren, God will have in our state reality. I know very well, and feel it too, that in our ministry and service, if there is anything we overlook it is just that. I believe in my soul that the defi- ciency, the disappointment, the little effect produced by servants of God, should be laid at that door, that they have not considered the state of those they minister to. If we do not take it into account, I believe we shall find that God always takes it into account. Do you think He is purposing to have a great mass of unreality? Do you think that the blessed God will, as it were, send out His message of love and of truth, and communicate His mind, to a great mass of unreality? Do you think it is the hard, dry brains of men He wants? I tell you He would have us think of their souls. Do you think it is the mind of man that God desires? He works on his conscience, He wants his affection, He wants his heart penetrated by means of his conscience. And therefore, when God sends His blessed Son into this world, and the Lord Jesus Christ comes in this ministering servant character that we have spoken of, the very first thing you find in the forerunner is this, John’s whole ministry was to this effect,—You people of Israel call yourselves the people of God, you count up your genealogy and trace yourselves up to Abraham, you are proud of Abraham, exactly as people now live upon the respectability of their ancestors who have no respectability themselves; so you go back to Abraham, and you say. “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man, how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?” Do you remember what the Lord’s answer to them was? “He that committeth sin is sin’s slave.” And that is exactly what their moral condition was, they were the slaves of sin. It is a great thing to give words their true and proper meaning, they were the Roman slaves in one sense, politically; they were sin’s slaves and the devil’s children morally. That was their condition. Now, beloved friends, you see what a solemn order of things that is. Do not let us think for a moment, “Oh! well, of course that was the condition of Israel, and I quite understand how solemn that is, and quite enter into the distinctness of it”: but do not let us think that it has no voice for us. Do you mean to tell me that there is no danger in that very direction for Christians at the present moment? I dare not hold back what I believe to be the truth of God to please any man, and therefore I avow that I believe God has a controversy with us Christians because of our moral state. You know there is one thing we seem to be wonderfully clever and wonderfully skilled in, and that is, to put the cause of feebleness and departure anywhere and everywhere but where it really lies; we like to find it away from us, of course we do, I can quite understand that. “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” It is as old as Adam, the principle of removing the onus, the weight, off ourselves, and to try and find some cause that will liberate us; that is quite natural. And therefore I see here a very solemn voice, that before this blessed ministry is accomplished, before the Lord Jesus Christ Himself exercises it directly in person, this preparatory messenger announces this great fact—God must have, and God will have, reality as to moral condition before Himself. Hence he talks of “straight paths.” Why? Because theirs were crooked paths, deceitful ways; but he goes down to the root of the matter, and touches the hidden things and the people really where they are.
And more than that, observe how the preparatory messenger not merely announces this by word of mouth, but that he himself in His own Person was the expression of it. I think that most interesting and solemn. When John the Baptist occupies this place of breaking up the way and making the path plain, it is not merely by his word and testimony, but in his own person. Nay more, first of all he is in his position here the testimony of it personally; secondly, he is in his apparel the testimony of it; and thirdly, he is in his diet, his manner of life, the testimony of it. You find all those things here. He is in the desert, not in Jerusalem, not in the city but outside. Beloved friends, let us take that to heart, “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Why not in the city, why not in Jerusalem, why not amidst the haunts of men? Clearly, that standing outside he might be in his position there the living testimony of how God regarded the state of things in the city that is the reason why. Then it is not insignificant to point to his apparel; the man is dressed suitably to his occupation there is a severity about him; it reminds one when we read it of the asceticism of the Essene. You will say, What an ascetic he is, how severe the man is in his appearance, his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins. And why? Because God would have reality in His people, that is the reason. It is indicative of their moral condition. Even his dress is to bear testimony to the terrible low state of God’s people. And then we find the diet of the man, his meat was “locusts and wild honey,” the plainest fare that could be conceived. And then you have further his, even a call to repentance a breaking up of the fallow ground.
Now it will, I believe, strike you in looking at it, how John’s testimony exactly brought out what the prophet Jeremiah complained of in ch. 8. You remember what the prophet says of this subject. Let us never forget it, for it is amongst the most touching words of the Old Testament scriptures. It is the lamentation of the prophet over the condi- tion in which the people of God were during the time of his ministry. “They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace, where there is no peace.” The prophet brings home this great fact to them; there is a wound there, and there were ecclesiastical nostrums and quacks of that day who attempted to heal slightly that wound. And how? By presenting a message that was not in keeping with the state. If God comes and deals with us, beloved friends, He must have reality, He could not add to a festering sore or wound, if it is there, in our moral being. “Peace, peace,” was building up a rotten order of things, and God is too faithful, and too holy, and too gracious not to meet exactly the condition of things as it really is before Him. Hence John’s ministry was in that sense preparatory to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Just one other point. We have that ministry closing, as it were, and Jesus Himself directly introduced to us. Hence we have Him coming down and accepting John’s baptism, or rather, inviting John to baptize Him in the river Jordan. I trust most here understand what the meaning of it is, for it is very precious, because it shows out His grace. If there was a listening to the preparatory message of the servant, if there were any hearts touched and wounded with the true sense of their whereabouts, if there was any turning to God in the midst of His own people, if there was any looking at things really as they were—and John’s baptism was the expression of it on the part of all that came—Jesus Himself must be there too. O what grace! He associates Himself with the returning remnant of God’s people, with that which is really of God. He fulfils righteousness where they confessed sins: “thus it becometh us,” we read in another gospel, “to fulfil all righteousness.” That is the meaning of His baptism. He identifies Himself with the first effect of grace in His people, and He goes down and submits, for the fulfilment of righteousness, to baptism at the hands of John in the Jordan.
Now you get that word which is peculiar to Mark, “straightway,” “and straightway coming up out of the water.” It is striking how often the word occurs in Mark, and that under various significations: it is characteristic of the gospel. There is one Greek word all through, but various translations of it: “immediately,” “straightway,” “instantly.” “And straightway coming up out of the water,” now mark the expression that is used, “he saw the heavens rent asunder,” that is the meaning of the word “opened,” they were rent asunder. I could not convey to you, beloved friends, the preciousness of that expression to me. It was as if God hasted to proclaim what His heart had found in His own Son; He rends the heavens. I have thought of that word many a time, O that thou wouldest rend the heavens and come down.” But look here, the heavens are rent asunder to let the whole mind of heaven out in its ineffable delight in Jesus Christ. It is one of the most striking and beautiful expressions I know of anywhere in scripture, “the heavens were rent asunder.”
And then you have the seal, the Holy Ghost descends on Him. Mark the words, “the Spirit like a dove descending upon him,” that is the form the descending Spirit took, no doubt expressive of what He was in His own Person. The dove, as you know, was the bird of sorrow and the bird of love, and therefore it was a fitting type of what our Lord Jesus Christ was in His own holy, precious, glorious Person. He is marked off by even the bodily shape that the blessed Spirit was pleased to take. Some one has observed, and I think it is a very precious thought too, that not only was this dove-like form of the Spirit expressive of His Person, but there were in the dove the silver wings, and there was also the sheen of gold there. But I believe most of all and first of all, there was that which our Lord Jesus Christ was personally set forth in the dove-like form the blessed Spirit was pleased to take.
But not only this, but now we have the Father’s voice, and that is one of the most beautiful things connected with His coming up out of the Jordan. “There came a voice from heaven saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom is all my pleasure.” Now, beloved friends, there were two precious realities in that. First of all—and I know nothing more comforting to the heart to dwell upon—there is the intimation which He gives us in that blessed scene, this proclamation that comes from heaven, this utterance of the Father’s voice. Could anything be more blessed than that He should be pleased to let us know how that Jesus is everything to Him? Have you the sense of this in your souls, that you and I are privileged in that beautiful scene to be the intimates of the blessed God, that He allows us into that nearness so that we should have communion with Him in His thoughts about His beloved Son, that Jesus is the Father’s object, that Jesus is God’s delight, that Jesus is all His pleasure, that He finds all in Him. I believe that is the first great thing in that intimation, that God Himself in His grace is pleased to bring us into this place of holy intimacy and holy communion, that we can share the Father’s delight and the Father’s thoughts about the one in whom the Father found all His pleasure. There is only one thing more, and then I finish. There is our place now that redemption has been accomplished according to all the grace and goodness of God. Jesus has that place Himself; the heavens were opened to Him, the Holy Ghost descends in a bodily shape like a dove and abode upon Him, and the Father’s voice proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son.” Oh! beloved friends, is not the veil rent for us, and have not we got the Holy Ghost, and cannot we say, Abba, Father? It is the very figure of our place as Christians, it belonged to Jesus in virtue of what He was and who He was, and He has in infinite grace made that place true for us by His redemption.
Well now, I only pray that the Lord in His grace would be pleased to bring those things before us, and connect our hearts in living power with them. Most of all do I press those two points, that which relates to state I earnestly press upon you. I feel that there is a crying voice of God at this present moment as to our state. Believe me, no amount of religiousness, or quasi-piety that has at the bottom of it a desperate amount of flesh, will do for God. There must be reality; God will have reality, and therefore there is the breaking up, “break up your fallow ground.” The fallow ground of the heart must be broken up, and when it is, then comes, as I trust we shall see another evening, the suited condition for that most precious of all ministries, that He can minister, namely, He has “sent me to heal the broken- hearted.” Ah! but God must break down first, though, “to set at liberty them that are bruised.”
The Lord in His infinite grace grant that what has passed before us may be for profit to us as we dwell upon it, and ponder over it, and meditate upon it. If I am made a means in God’s hand of supplying you with food for meditation, how thankful I shall be. I feel how poorly I have presented it, but if any little thought should be in His grace food for this, so that your heart should get the comfort of it, to Him be all the praise through Jesus Christ.