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I have now traced some of the features of Christ. He represented man to God-man as he ought to be, and God rested in him.
This moral perfectness of the man Christ Jesus, and God’s acceptance of him, was signified by the meat-offering, that cake of fine flour, which was baked either in oven, pan, or frying-pan, with its oil and its frankincense (Lev. 2).
When the Lord Jesus was here, and thus manifested is man to God, God’s delight in him was ever expressing itself He grew up before him in human nature, and in the exhibition of all human virtues; and he needed nothing at any one moment to commend him but himself, just as he was. In his person and ways man was morally glorified, so that when the end or perfection of his course came, he could go “straight-way” to God, as the sheaf of first-fruits of old was taken directly and immediately, just as it was, out of the field, needing no process to fit it for the presence and acceptance of God (Lev. 23:1010Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: (Leviticus 23:10)). The title of Jesus to glory was a moral one. He had a moral right to be glorified; his title was in himself. John 13:31-3231Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him. (John 13:31‑32) is the blessed setting forth of this in its due connection. “Now is the Son of Man glorified,” the Lord there says, just as Judas had left the table; for that action of Judas was the sure precursor of the Lord’s being taken by the Jews, and that was the sure precursor of his being put to death by the Gentiles. And the cross being the completeness and perfection of the full form of moral glory in him, it was at this moment he utters these words, “Now is the Son of Man glorified.” Then he adds, “and God is glorified in him.”
God was as perfectly glorified then as the Son of Man was, though the glory was another glory. The Son of Man was glorified then, by his completing that full form of moral beauty which had been shining in him all through his life. Nothing of it was then to be wanting, as nothing from the beginning up to that late hour had ever mingled with it that was unworthy of it The hour was then at hand when it was to shine out in the very last ray that was to give it its full brightness. But God was also glorified then, because all that was of him was either maintained or displayed. His rights were maintained, his goodness displayed. Mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, were alike and equally either satisfied or gratified. God’s truth, holiness, love, majesty, and all beside, were magnified in a way, and illustrated in a light, beyond all that could ever have been known of them elsewhere. The cross, as one has said, is the moral wonder of the universe.
But then again the Lord adds, “If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself; and shall straightway glorify him.” This is his recognition of his own title to personal glory. He had already perfected the full form of moral glory through life and in death. He had also vindicated God’s glory, as we have seen. Therefore it was but a righteous thing that he should now enter on his own personal glory. And this he did when he took his place in heaven, at the right hand of the majesty there, as in company with God himself, and all that at once, or “straightway.”
God’s work as Creator had been quickly soiled in man’s hand. Man had ruined himself; so that it is written, “God repented that he had made man” (Gen. 6). A terrible change in the Divine mind, since the day when God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good! (Gen. 1). But in the Lord Jesus, the Divine complacency in man was restored.
This was blessed! and the more acceptable, as we may say, from the previous repentance. It was more than first enjoyment, it was recovery after loss and disappointment; and that, too, in a way exceeding the first. And as the first man, upon his sin, had been put outside creation, as I may say, this second man, (being, as he also was, “the Lord from heaven,”) upon his glorifying of God, was seated at the head of creation, as at the right hand of the majesty on high. Jesus is in heaven as a glorified man, because here on earth God had been glorified in him as the obedient One in life and death. He is there indeed in other characters. Surely we know that. He is there as a Conqueror, as an Expectant, as the High Priest in the tabernacle which God has pitched, as our Forerunner, and as the Purger of our sins. But he is there also, in the highest heavens glorified, because in him God had been here on earth glorified.
Life and glory were his by personal right, and by moral title. One delights to dwell on such a truth, to repeat it again and again. He never forfeited the garden of Eden. Truly indeed did he walk outside it all his days, or amid the thorns and briers, the sorrows and privations, of a ruined world. But this he did in grace. He took such a condition upon him; but he was not exposed to it. He was not, like Adam, like us all, on one side of the cherubim and the flaming sword, and the tree of life and the garden of Eden, on the other. In his history, instead of angels keeping him outside or beyond the gate, when he had gone through his temptation, they come and minister to him. For he stood where Adam failed and fell. Therefore, man as he was, verily and simply man, he was this distinguished man. God was glorified in him, as in all beside he had been dishonored and disappointed.
In one sense, this perfectness of the Son of man, this moral perfectness, is all for us. It lends its savor to the blood which atones for our sins. It was as the cloud of incense, which went in to the presence of God, together with the blood, on the day of atonement (Lev. 16).
But, in another sense, this perfection is too much for us. It is high, we cannot attain to it. It overwhelms the moral sense, as far as we look at it in the recollection of what we ourselves are, while it fills us with admiration, as far as we look at it as telling us what he is. The personal judicial glory, when displayed of old, was overwhelming. The most favored of the children of men could not stand before it, as Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; and Peter and John experienced the same. And this moral glory, in like manner exposing us, is overwhelming.
Faith, however, is at home in the presence of it. The god of this world blinds the mind to the apprehension and joy of it; but faith welcomes it. Such are the histories of it here among men. In the presence of it, Pharisees and Sadducees together asked for a sign from heaven. The mother, through vanity, mistakes it, and the brethren of the Lord through worldliness (John 2:77Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. (John 2:7)). Disciples themselves are under constant rebuke from it. The oil olive beaten for this light was too pure for any; but it was ever burning in the sanctuary, or “before the Lord.” The synagogue at Nazareth strikingly lets us learn the unpreparedness of man for it. They owned the gracious words which proceeded out of the Lord’s lips; they felt the power of them. But quickly a strong current of nature’s corruption set in and withstood this movement in their hearts, and overcame it. God’s humbled, self-emptied witness, in the midst of a proud, revolted world, was discovered; and this would not do for them. Let “Joseph’s son” speak as he may, good words and comfortable words, he will not be accepted — he is a carpenter’s son. (Luke 4) It is wonderful — wonderful witness of the deep inlaid corruption. Man has his amiabilities, his taste, his virtues, his sensibilities, as this scene at Nazareth in Luke 4 may tell us. The gracious words of Jesus raised a current of good feeling for a moment; but what was it all, and where was it all, when God tested it? Ah! beloved, we may still say, in spite of this, our amiability and respectability, our taste and emotions, that in us (that is, in our flesh) “dwelleth no good thing.”
But again, I say, faith is at home with Jesus. Can we, I ask, treat such an one with fear or suspicion? Can we doubt him? Could we have taken a distant place from bin’ who sat at the well with the woman of Sychar? Did she herself take such a place? Surely, beloved, we should seek intimacy with him. The disciples, who companied with him, have to learn their lessons again and again. We know something of this. They had to make discovery of him afresh, instead of enjoying him as already discovered. In the 14th of Matthew they had to cry out, “Of a truth, thou art the Son of God.” This was discovering him afresh. Had their faith been simple, they would have slept in the boat with him. What a scene it was, to their shame and his glory! They spoke insultingly or reproachfully to the Lord, as though he were indifferent to their danger: “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” He awoke at the sound of their voice, and at once set them in safety. But then, he rebukes them, not however for the injustice their hard words had done him, but for their want of faith.
How perfect was this! How perfect, surely, was everything; and each in its generation! — the human virtues, the fruits of the anointing that was on him, and his divine glories. The natures in the One Person are unconfused; but the effulgence of the divine is chastened, the homeliness of the human is elevated. There is nothing like this, there could be nothing like this, in the whole creation. And yet the human was human, and the divine was divine. Jesus slept in the boat: he was man. Jesus quelled the winds and the waves: he was God.
This moral glory must shine. Other glories must give place till this is done. The Greeks, who had come to worship in Jerusalem at the feast, inquire after Jesus, desiring to see him. This savored of the kingdom, or of the royal glory of the Messiah. It was a sample of that day, when the nations shall come up to the city of the Jews, to keep holy day; and when, as King in Zion, he shall be Lord of all, and God of the whole earth.
But there was a secret deeper than this. It needs a juster sense of God’s way, than simply to be expecting a kingdom. The Pharisees needed that, when in Luke 17 they asked the Lord when the kingdom should appear. He had to tell them of another kingdom, which they did not apprehend — a kingdom within, a present kingdom, which had to be entered and known, ere the glorious manifested kingdom could appear. The disciples needed it in Acts 1, when they asked their Lord if he would at that time restore the kingdom to Israel. He had to tell them also of another thing, ere the restoration could take place; that they were to be gifted by the Spirit, for testimony to him all the world over.
So here in John 12. The Lord lets us know that moral glory must precede the kingdom. He will surely shine in the glory of the throne by and by, and the Gentiles shall then come to Zion, and see the King in his beauty; but ere that could be, the moral glory must be displayed in all its fullness and unsulliedness. And this was his thought now, when the Gentiles had inquired after him. “The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified.” This was his moral glory, as we have said before, in John 13:31-3231Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him. (John 13:31‑32). It had been shining all through his ways, from his birth hitherto; his death was to be the completeness of it; and therefore the hour was then at hand, when it was to shine out in the last ray that was to form it, and give it perfection. The Lord thus supplies or introduces on this occasion, as he did, as we have seen, in Luke 17 and in Acts 1, the truth, the additional truth, which needs the richer, juster sense of God’s ways to apprehend. The moral glory must be fully displayed, ere Messiah can show himself in royal glory to the ends of the earth.
It is, however, his, and his only. How infinitely distant from one’s heart is any other thought I When the heavens opened, in Acts 10, the sheet was seen descending ere Peter was commanded to have fellowship with it, or ere it ascended and was lost or hid again on high. The contents of it had to be cleansed or sanctified. But when the heaven was opened in Matthew 3, Jesus on earth needed not to be taken up to be approved there, but voices and visions from on high sealed and attested him just as he was. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
And when the heavens were opened again, as in Matthew 27, that is, when the vail of the temple was rent in twain, all was finished, nothing more was needed, the work of Jesus was sealed and attested just as it then was. An opened heaven at the beginning shone out in the full acceptance of his person; an opened heaven at the end shone out in full acceptance of his work.
And let me close in saying, that it is blessed and happy, as well as part of our worship, to mark the characteristics of the Lord’s way and ministry here on the earth, as I have been seeking in measure to do in this paper; for all that he did and said, all his service, whether in the substance or the style of it, is the witness of what he was, and he is the witness to us of what God is. And thus we reach God, the blessed One, through the paths of the Lord Jesus, in the pages of the evangelists. Every step of that way becomes important to us. All that he did and said was a real, truthful expression of himself, as he himself was a real, truthful expression of God. And if we can understand the character of his ministry, or read the moral glory that attaches to each moment and each particular of his walk and service here on earth, and so learn what he is, and thus learn what God is, we reach God, in certain and unclouded knowledge of him, through the ordinary paths and activities of the life of this divine Son of man.
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