John 14:9

John 14:9  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 10
There are innumerable incidents in the Bible, which, although they may not bear directly on central doctrines or upon the great principles of dispensational truth, are nevertheless most instructive and often peculiarly precious. The most conspicuous of these are naturally such as concern our blessed Lord—His ways, His words, or His silence. Side-lights these, so to speak, but not less luminous than the central rays. To pursue the figure, one might compare the broad stream of dispensational truth of divine doctrine generally to beams of undivided light, whereas in these minute touches we have the blue and the purple and the scarlet of the refracted ray. In short, each has its own place and beauty, as the Holy Spirit alone can lead our hearts into the enjoyment of both. The great doctrines of Christianity, we know, are of supreme consequence; nor are those to be trusted who affect admiration of the lovely traits disclosed in a Joseph or Daniel, and still more in Christ Himself, while they slur over or ignore the emphatic warnings of the scriptures as to sin and coming judgments. But when the conscience has bowed to the solemn truth, and the heart believed, and the mouth confessed, then truly we do well to mark every attitude of the Son of God, and to note every word that fell from the lips of Him, “Who spake as never man spake.” Such are found especially in the scriptures that seem, not so much to unfold truth about Him, as to present Himself.
Hence I propose to dwell for a moment upon part of the verse indicated in the heading of this paper: not on the whole of it; nor, as intimated above, in its central aspect. The great truth, that the Lord Jesus is the sole Revealer of the Father, cannot indeed be enforced too frequently. It is insisted upon by our Lord in emphatic words in the verse before us; it is stated with wonderful precision and majesty in the first and third of the synoptic Gospels. It is always supposed, whatever the special doctrine under consideration. The revelation of the Father by and in the Son is without controversy the keystone of the entire arch of revealed truth.
But the object now is of less wide and far-reaching compass, though what it may gain in limitation is balanced by the necessity for peculiarly reverent handling. Indeed the writer might almost apologize for attempting any more than just calling attention to the words themselves—so closely do they touch the very sanctuary, if one may so say, of the Lord's Person. Comment too often tends to enfeeble, and that in proportion to the loftiness of the theme. Most of all is this the case in dwelling, not so much on the doctrine or even the works, but on the words and manner of the Son of God. Yet after all the record is divine, and so cannot be touched by the infirmity of human language.
“Have I been so long with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip”? They were but a brief period, the years of that holy ministry—the time was short even if we reckon from our Lord's birth. He was crucified just a little past the age when a Jew was considered to have attained full manhood. But to Him (and what spiritual mind can wonder?) it was a long time—long to bear the contradiction of sinners, if not the slowness of heart of His chosen. Nor is this the only occasion on which we learn indirectly what this world must have been to Him, Whose natural home was heaven, but Who had emptied Himself of every glory save that alone which was inseparable from Him,—the glory of His infinite moral perfectness. “How long shall I be with you, and suffer you?” was His exclamation as recorded by Mark, when pursuing His course of beneficent healing. And how much “virtue” must have proceeded from the blessed Lord during those wonderful years! Time indeed is rightly measured by the work accomplished and the sacrifices endured, and the love expended, even in the case of a mere man. He lives longest who serves God. There may be much activity that is merely beating the air. But how infinitely filled up with good works (but which He showed them from the Father) was the life of the blessed Son! It was not merely the “sinless years, that breathed beneath the Syrian blue,” but the untiring self-surrender of the Word made flesh, the Servant-prophet, but withal Jehovah. Moreover (but here silence is more becoming than words), did not the shadow of His coming passion lie before Him? “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished” (Luke 12:5050But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! (Luke 12:50))!
See then the contrast of Philip, tenderly but unhesitatingly rebuked by Christ for not having known Him. Does it not teach us for the hundredth time how inadequate is human exactitude and reflectiveness in matters that must be spiritually discerned? For we have evidence that Philip was exact and observant as a man, and, perhaps we might add, as a saint. He it was (as an eminent writer1 has remarked) who so clearly defined the characteristics of the Messiah to Nathanael, who was convinced that two hundred pennyworth of bread would not suffice for the hungry multitude, nay, who recommended Nathanael to come and see for himself the wonderful Person, with whom he had made acquaintance. It was not the impulsive Peter or the despondent Thomas who failed in this respect, but the very apostle who seemed particularly observant. Thus all must be the Holy Spirit, or it is vain. We note too a touch of pathos in the Lord's words, underlying the grandeur of the truth He declared and which He emphatically was—and is.
Unlimited truly are the virtues that open out for learning in reading and meditating on the pages of scripture. It has often struck the writer that we do not dwell as much as we might on what may be called the objective aspect of sacred incidents, particularly such as are recorded in the Gospels. Have we not here, as it were, an endless gallery of divine portraits? Thus it is wise to neglect no part of Holy Writ, to study and ponder again and yet again the great doctrines of individual salvation, of the church, the coming of the Lord and the kingdom; but not to overlook that inmost shrine of blessed truth, which reveals most nearly the ways and words of our adorable Lord. R. B., Jr.