In this Gospel we get not only the testimony to the Jewish people of the Messiah and the message of the kingdom, but the glorious doctrine of the Person of Christ, the rejection of which rendered it more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for them.
In the previous Gospels we have the Lord set before us, as Son of Abraham, Son of David, Son of man, the Messiah, the servant, the perfect Israelite. This Christ-rejecting generation not only broke the law but discarded the promises as well. Abraham’s seed but rebels against Abraham’s God, they who had the promises must now come in on a common level with the Gentile through grace. God is faithful to His word, that is true; but it is only under mercy they can be saved. We have no historical account of Christ in this Gospel—no genealogy, but we are taken back to the beginning of the book of Genesis; and get a truth deeper, higher, and far beyond that of the other Gospels, even the glory of Christ as it ever was, before He became the Incarnate Word: and this is so blessed for us, for we get eternal life in Him—in Him who has life in Himself. It is not the promises we get (though we get them too), but it is the Promiser Himself. It is this blessed One who is our life—life that existed before worlds began. He had a former glory, but this glory of His Person, where is that to be found? In His redeemed, there it will be displayed. Christ came to His own, but they received Him not, and since then they have been treated as reprobates all along. Up to Christ’s rejection God tried man; He left him without law, put him under law, gave him priesthood and prophets, and in due time sends His only-begotten Son. All was without avail. Did they reverence Him? No. This is the heir, said they; we will kill him and the inheritance will be ours, bringing to light that most dreadful truth, “The carnal mind is enmity against God.”
Man would not have the holiness of God, neither would he have the love of God. And now God brings in a new thing—a spring of life, and puts away sin through the death of His Son; and Christ, having died for sin, takes His seat at the right hand of God, victorious over all, and sends down the promised Spirit to enable us to walk before Him.
In chapter 6 we get Christ feeding the multitude who followed Him (and the disciples too).
There are three great feasts spoken of that the Jews always kept—the Passover, the Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. In this last feast the vintage was prefigured, the shewing by a figure they had been a people who had dwelt in booths, but now had rest. Christ could feed them in the wilderness, but He could not go with them to this feast; for before Christ could enter on a rest down here, the work of redemption must be accomplished, and the church must be taken. Therefore He said, “I go not up yet unto this feast, for my time is not fully come.” His brethren may go, but He could not now declare His glory and enter upon His rest. But there was an eighth day, when comes rest: then He would keep the Feast of Tabernacles, then should God’s holy rest be on the earth, God’s church being in the glory.
We get the Spirit spoken of in three ways: first, all saved ones from the beginning to the end are born of the Spirit; secondly, the Spirit in them a well of water springing up; thirdly, rivers flowing out. “In whom, after ye believed, ye were sealed by that Holy Spirit of promise.” The Holy Ghost was not yet given, we read, “because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Mark, before the disciples could receive the Holy Ghost, the work of atonement must be done, and Jesus be a glorified Man, seated up there at God’s right hand. Who? A Man. Why? Sin is put away. Yes; Jesus, as Son of man, is glorified; as Son of God He was ever the glorified One. God was so glorified by the work of His Son that, so to speak, He became His debtor. How did the Son of man glorify God? By suffering for my sins on the cross. God’s judgment was perfectly met, and God perfectly glorified the Man Christ Jesus who endured the wrath. The exaltation of this glorified Man is the witness that my sins are fully put away. What does God say about my sins now? “Their sins and iniquities I will remember no more.”
Where was the truth of God displayed that said, “In the day thou eatest thou shalt surely die,” and Satan’s lie fully proved which said, Thou shalt not die? On the cross Christ died. God is love. The majesty, the holiness, the love of God were magnified on the cross. The question of sin is settled. The Son of man is glorified. God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit have all been occupied about my sin. What a footing I have! Done with sins, no more conscience of them: Christ has taken them clean off. He could not bring us into God’s presence with one sin upon us. No; though they were “as scarlet, they shall be white as wool.” Christ became obedient unto death; and this settles the whole thing, and gives power to the poor sinner. With what holy freedom I can go into God’s presence, when I know Christ is there, seated at God’s right hand, as my forerunner! I have a perfect righteousness, a perfect love, and a perfect obedience to appear in. What comfort and what joy! You could not go into God’s presence with one sin upon you: it would be folly to think of it—madness to attempt it. One sin unpardoned would unfit you for enjoying God. You must be perfectly clean. The blood of Christ does cleanse from all sin, so that the soul in the presence of God can enjoy God—we “joy in God.”
The glorified Jesus, seated in heaven, sends down the Comforter to give us power for fellowship with Him. See the place He has taken, one with the redeemed on earth. Never until after the resurrection does He call His disciples “brethren,” nor does He say, “Peace be with you,” before then. He did say, “Fear not.” (But He had not made peace.) “All mine are thine, and thine are mine” —all are ours in Christ. We have His righteousness; we wait for the hope. We have the earnest; we wait for the inheritance. We have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. And when we view the holiness, the power, the love of God, how delightful is the thought, He is my Father! The love wherewith He has loved His own Son He hath bestowed upon me. No man hath seen God at any time; but we learn what the Father is by the Son. We see in Him the outflowings of the divine fulness; and we must drink at this rock. It is not enough for us to see: we must draw from Him: and there will be the conscious outflowing of what He is. What a character that truth should give us! One with Christ in heaven, “Head of his body, the church “; a living union with Him: God for us, Christ in us, the Spirit’s seal on us. “If any man thirst.”
We must remember we do not drink for others, and other cannot drink for us. I must feel my own want and I must bring my own want to Christ myself. There must be a thirsting before there can be a drinking. Have I a want in my heart that Christ cannot meet? No. Is there a spiritual want in the soul that goes to Christ without finding relief? No. “If any man thirst.” Now there must be a need, and that need must be felt, known, and brought to Christ. Then, no matter what it be, He says, “Come unto me and drink.” “If ye knew the gift of God ye would ask of me, and I would give you living water.” Think, beloved friends, of Christ sitting at a well. Which of us would not gladly go to Him with open hearts, and let Him read out of them all their need? He is not to be put off. He knew her need, and left her not until she felt it, and He met it. If we are to be useful to poor sinners, we must be more like Christ. Why we help them so little is, that we do not come down low enough to them in grace. Think of the place Christ ever took towards them, and follow Him, being partakers of the grace, and remembering the word, “if any man thirst.”
In the last chapter of Revelation we have another word. Now, having this water of life in us, we are in a position to say, “Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” We have not the Bridegroom, we wait for Him; but we have the Spirit, the living water. We can count on the grace and love of God, knowing it will not fail for any who cast themselves on the blood of Jesus.