Glory of the Son, the Valley of Dry Bones, and the Mount of Olives: Part 1

John 6
I desire to mark an analogy which exists between the prophecy of Ezekiel, and the earlier part of the Gospel by John, in reference to the ways of the Son of God, when presenting Himself to Israel and Jerusalem, both in the temple and at the national feasts; in other words to point out (and in a yet fuller sense) the correspondence between “the vision of the glory” which appeared to the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans; and “the glory of the only-begotten of the Father” when beheld by John, in the person of the Son Himself, sent forth from God and come into the world.
In this light, the object of Christ's coming and the work that was given Him to do were twofold-embracing all that God had spoken, and promised by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began; and comprehending also the secret counsels and purposes bound up in the Son of the Father, which lay bidden in God from before the foundation of the world. Even Moses was taught somewhat of this difference, when he said, “the secret things belong unto the Lord our God, but those things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever,” &c. Indeed such a manifestation as “the Word made flesh and tabernacling amongst us” was necessary, in order to embody and accomplish all that the Spirit of prophecy had foretold of the earthly and heavenly relations between God and His people in and through Christ Jesus. Upon this hangs, likewise the ultimate blessing of the whole creation, which was made subject to vanity not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope; for creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.
The Son who lay in the bosom of the Father could alone declare Him. He was “the One whom God had made strong for himself,” and it was He alone who could as the Christ of God make every promise and type; “yea” even as He has by His death, and exaltation in the glory put His “amen” to all the hidden counsels that were from everlasting, prepared in Him as the second Adam. The Gospel of John opens, as is evident, with the glory of this person who was with God, and who was God, and who was in the beginning with God. The glory of the incarnation brought Him into our midst as the great mystery of godliness, “God manifest in the flesh,” and in this grace to us He took His place in the human family, and entered upon, His relations with the eons of men. The Baptist's testimony to Israel, that this was likewise the Messiah-Jesus, by the visible descent of the Holy Ghost upon Him like a dove, identified Him with, and yet put Him far beyond the typical “likeness of the glory of the Lord” in Ezekiel's vision; which is content to fill its place as a lesser light, and to be eclipsed in the presence of the opening glories of the Christ of God. Indeed this was the characteristic feature of all prophetic ministry, and we may say of the prophets themselves; for however willing the people were for a season to rejoice in the light they kindled, yet the “greatest of them that were born of women” said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John rejoiced greatly to hear the bridegroom's voice, and to point Him out to the hopes and expectations of the people, adding, “this my joy therefore is fulfilled,” as he withdrew into obscurity.
The glory in the vision of Ezekiel was a pattern of the intimacy which existed between Jehovah and His people; and became therefore the test as to how this intercourse had been maintained on their part, while it abode in their midst as the outward witness of the favor of God. Measured by this standard of responsibility, the glory was offended and grieved as it took its course through the land of Immanuel, and beheld the temple with all its abominations, the city filled with idolatry and its corruptions; till, hovering alternately over one and the other, it abandoned the guilty scene, and took its flight from the Mount of Olives, up to its own place on high, in hope of a future day. (Ezek. 11:22, 2322Then did the cherubims lift up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. 23And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city. (Ezekiel 11:22‑23).)
Since those typical times the Son of God in His manhood-glory has traversed the same path, “as the fulfiller of all righteousness” on their behalf if they could so receive and welcome Him; but He was grieved in His turn by the hard-heartedness of the people, and hid Himself when they took up stones to kill Him. His only refuge was in ascending up to where He was before; and Jesus, knowing that His hour was coma that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, was also received up in glory from the mount called “the mount of Olives;” till in the coming day of His millennial power His feet shall stand there again, and ten thousands of His saints with Him. Israel too shall be willing in the day of His power.
It exercises and humbles the soul to discover how everything which came forth from God to men has been thus either grieved or refused, and compelled to retire into the heavens till another day—whether set up in type and figure, or as since in substance and by personal appearance; for where is Christ?
The beginning of the Gospel of John held out a promise of something different, for when the forerunner said, “behold the Lamb of God” to two of His disciples, they left all and followed Him. The glory of the only-begotten of the Father was thus acknowledged, and our Lord became the new center of gathering upon the earth. They abode with Jesus that day and only left the house to tell others what they had found, and gather them also to the Lord in this new place of blessing. The activities of love which dwelt in the bosom of our Lord led Him the day following to go forth in other glories, into Galilee, in the devotedness of the willing and obedient servant. It was this personal acquaintance with the Lord in the house that became the spring of testimony in the two disciples who had enjoyed it. Besides their own peace in His dwelling, they were able to tell others who the Christ was they had found, as answering to all that Moses and the prophets had written in the scriptures, concerning Him. The words “come and see,” which had gathered them to Christ, put Nathaniel also into this pathway of life and blessing. Jesus saw him coming, and said, “behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile.” The question, “whence knowest thou me?” got its answer from the Lord, “when thou wast under the fig-tree I saw thee,” and on this Nathaniel confessed Jesus to be “the Son of God, and the king of Israel.” The first ripe fruit from under the national fig-tree, where Nathaniel was sitting, was gathered by the Lord; and the secret was divulged to this Israelite indeed, of “the opened heavens, and the angels of God [henceforth] ascending and descending upon the Son of man,” the gathering point for Israel and the world, and the uniting link between the heavens and the earth. Precious revelation of a yet future day, when the nation shall be ready like its Nathaniel, to own the person and glorious titles of the anointed Christ, and be born in a day Prophetically we know, that Israel itself will be delivered from all guile, and be no longer a hypocritical nation. God will turn to them a pure language, and put His laws into their hearts, and make them to be His peculiar people. In that day saith the Lord of hosts, ye shall call every man his neighbor under the vine and under the fig-tree, and great shall be the peace of His people.
The marriage in Cana was beautifully in keeping with these exhibitions of the personal glories of Christ, and His royal title as Son of God, and king of Israel, and opens out the works by which He was to be acknowledged. “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory, and his disciples believed on him.” In this two-fold character does He, pass before us, into the further revelation of this Gospel; that (being accredited by the glorious majesty and grace of His person, on the one hand, and by the manifestation of His power in miracles on the other) He might be owned and accepted in Israel. He comes to Jerusalem, as in spirit Ezekiel had been carried in his day (see chapter viii.) to the city of the great king, to see if she is ready to arise from the dust, and put on her beautiful garments now that her light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon her. There is a promise of joy in the land, for Jesus was called and His disciples to the marriage; but alas! the vine of Israel and its grapes are like the fig-tree with its one Nathaniel, and prove unequal to the occasion. “The mother of Jesus saith unto Him, they have no wine,” and how can they celebrate the wedding, or make Him a feast? The Israelite without guile, sitting under the typical fig-tree, left it for the “Immanuel,” when He was walking through the land; and now the One who came up to the wedding must take His place in another character, and act as the Lord of it by turning the water into wine. The time of figs was not yet, nor did the vine send forth a goodly smell. He had come into His garden, but the winter was not over, nor was the time of the singing of birds yet come. Made of the seed of Abraham and David, He had appeared in their midst at the marriage; but the words He spake to His mother, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come,” show how He felt the barrenness of Israel in those relations according to the flesh; and that to meet this need He must manifest forth His glory in far deeper words and mightier works than as the royal Son of David and king of Israel. The Bridegroom would be taken away from them, and the children of the bride-chamber fast, till in their millennial day they say, “blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Then Israel shall blossom and bud and fill the face of the whole earth with fruit. Jesus leaves the vines and the fig-trees, and comes out of His garden into the city of Jerusalem, for the Jews' passover was at hand.
This center of light and blessing, the beautiful temple, is next to be tested whether she is suited for the reception of her Lord, and may be found more in keeping with the character and ways of the Son of God, who comes into it that He may fill it with His glory? Will she open her gates, that the Lord of hosts, the king of glory, may come in? The “hole in the wall” to Ezekiel, in the vision of the glory, or the visit of the Messiah to the door of the temple, only disclosed its abominations. Alas! for the house of prayer, it had been turned into a house of merchandise, and had become a den of thieves. Jesus made a scourge of small cords, and drove them all out of the temple, poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables, saying to those that sold doves, Take these things hence. The feasts of the Lord with His people could not be established in the harlot city, and its temple—all—must be cleansed, and the people baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire. The zeal for His Father's house had eaten Him up, and He who drew Nathaniel out from under the fig-tree, and turned the water into wine at the marriage of Cana, now presents Himself in the temple in the mystery of His decease, saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” This spake He of His body. An exceptional Israelite, one without guile, had been found, and in faith confessed the Word made flesh; but as to all else, Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men. The light of the world had walked in their midst, and the glory had shone upon the heart and ways of man, and this is the condemnation from His lips, “who knew what was in man;” that when known in this searching light he is not to be trusted, Jesus did not commit Himself to them.
This verdict was substantiated even to Nicodemus, a man of the Pharisees, who came to Jesus by night, owning Him as a teacher come from God, and as one with whom God was, because of miracles which He did. But He who knew what was in the man, knew that the ruin and alienation in which man and Israel stood from God lay far deeper than ignorance, which might be met by a teacher come from God—and by such a teacher! This man of the Pharisees, though a ruler of the Jews and a master of Israel, yea (and because he was all this), must not hold his intercourse with Jesus upon the mere footing of God's wisdom and man's ignorance—and is put back. Nicodemus, a first-class man (and this is very important, now that “the true light” shineth) is told that he will not do, with all his standing and attainments, for the kingdom of God. He must be born again, born of water and the Spirit, and enter in by the cross—through the knowledge of the Son of man lifted up, as the antitype of the brazen serpent, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life. This master of Israel must disown his standing in the flesh as tested by the glory and accept a new one with Christ, through redemption by His blood and the quickening power of the Spirit.
A question of purifying is attempted by the Jews, in this chapter but purification of the flesh, which was characteristic of Judaism, had produced nothing. At the cross of Christ man as he was in the flesh has been discovered and disowned, for the last Adam was upon it in death; and Christian purification is only by means of that death, which has put an end to the flesh forever: “ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit.” Nathaniel was drawn out by the glory of the person; now Nicodemus is shut up to the efficacy of His work on the cross—and the water and the Spirit—that he may thus get rid of himself, and be born again, and enter into the kingdom of God.
The man of the Pharisees when at his best is set aside, and at Jacob's well the woman of Samaria who met Jesus when at her worst was accepted, so that the disciples marveled when He talked with her. The light of the glory in which He walked, and into which He brought her, shone in upon her conscience, and in that searching light she owned herself and her state. “He told me all things that ever I did,” and confessed Him, “Is not this the Christ?” Precious discovery of herself and of Him! But He came to do much more than this, “if thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water” —and with this He filled her vessel. The cross for the master of Israel, and the living water for the woman of Samaria, showed that the grace and truth come by Jesus Christ could be no respecter of persons. The temple, having likewise been superseded by the body of Christ, necessitated a corresponding change as to worship. It could no longer be restricted to places, any more than to persons; and thus Jerusalem and Samaria are set aside. The new order of worship is this: God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Christ being come as the true light, and giving eternal life to them that believed on Him; the religion suited to man in the flesh, in the temple at Jerusalem or elsewhere, goes away with it; and the true worshippers are they that worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. The way to see and to enter into the kingdom of God had been shown to Nicodemus; and now the Samaritan is to be sanctified as a worshipper of the Father, and drawn away from her water-pot and Jacob's well, as Nathaniel the “Israelite indeed” had been drawn out from under the national fig-tree, and Nicodemus from his Pharisaism. The light and the life are doing their work in love, wherever the ear is opened to hear His words, or the eye anointed to behold His glory.
Israel's unbelief and unpreparedness to receive the king into the city, or the glory into the temple, force Him to gather around Himself into His own solitude and counsels, any who could lift the veil of “the Word made flesh,” and say with the Samaritans “this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
The pool of Bethesda and its multitude of impotent folk, waiting for the moving of the water, might have risen up to condemn the nation and its priests and rulers, who lay under the heavier pressure of God's displeasure, and yet waited not for the Lord of that pool to deliver them. The blind and the halt and the withered watched for Bethesda's angel to come down, though only one out of the crowd, and be the first who stepped in after the troubling of the water, was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. The Word that was with God, and was God, must needs come to this place; and He calls out the man, who told the disappointing tale of many a one “stepping down before him.” But He, before whom all the angels are but worshipping spirits, had come to heal the people of all their sicknesses and diseases, and was at the pool where they lay, if they would but let Him take the place as greater than the angel.
Jesus said to the impotent man “rise, take up thy bed and walk, and immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed and walked, and on the same day was the sabbath.” Man can rest, and be at home in a ruined state of things with which he has grown familiar; but there God can only work to rescue him from the misery he is under. A feast of the Jews, the pool of Bethesda, and the sabbath were together, in strange connections, through Israel's transgressions; for in its normal state God had said, I will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt upon you, and will take away all sicknesses. Into this scene of wretchedness the Lord of the sabbath entered, not to rest, but in quickening power to deliver out of the ruin of the old, and to bring into the new. As the life and the light, and full of grace and truth, He proclaims the great fact “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” He passes through their midst, as the quickener into life, and the raiser of the dead. In this chapter He walks in the majesty of His own person as one with the Father, going under our entire wretchedness in divine power and grace, to raise up those who were bound in fetters of iron. “He that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.”
Israel with its ordinances and feasts of the Jews and the sabbath on the one hand, confronted and contradicted by the pool of Bethesda and its multitude on the other, give occasion to the Lord to identify Himself with the Father in the counsels which brought Him into the world, and to exercise that almighty power by which the morally dead could be quickened. The old creation is before the Lord, with the vineyard which He had chosen, and the pleasant plants and noble vine which He had brought out of Egypt, and placed therein. Such cultivation as He had unweariedly bestowed had not produced grapes; the boar of the wood, and the wild beast of the field, had devoured it. Forgetfulness of God, and satisfaction with a state of things suited to themselves only led them to throw over all this moral evil the covering of the sabbath, and impugn the right of Christ to work recovery in their midst or even to alleviate their misery. They vainly use the law against Him that made it and magnified it, and sought in violation of the law to slay Him whose power and grace in healing the impotent man they could not deny.
New and divine sources of life-giving power are here opened up; for as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. The Father hath given Him authority to execute judgment likewise, because He is the Son of man. Death and the grave are also in prospect overcome, in the righteous title of “the Word made flesh.” The hour is coming when all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.” To Him as the Son of man the Father has thus given authority over all flesh (upon its proved incapacity and ruin, under ordinances) to give eternal life, to them that believe, whilst in His own prerogative as equal with God, whatsoever the Father doeth, those things also doeth the Son likewise; for as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself. Having thus passed through this valley of dry and dead bones, and presented Himself as the quickener and the raiser of the dead, if they will accept Him and take deliverance and thus enter into the rest of God in Christ; He quits the scene, saying, I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. As in the vision of Ezekiel, so in fact with Jesus in their midst, the bones were not only dry, but very dry.
(To be continued)