How beyond all our wonder and praise is the Person of the blessed Lord! As an apostle could say, and more, because he knew it better “Great is the mystery.” But in one respect Paul was one with us all, great as his revelations were—no man knows the Son. Yet He lets us see that He is that which no man knows. Who could say but there ‘ God is known in death’? Is it not there love, God’s love is known, never known really till known there? Yet it is weakness, and, as to His place as man, the very end of man. But in Himself God is known in love by His being down here with sinful men—by that love reaching even to us. He made Himself of no reputation, emptied Himself—not that He could be other than God—there is the mystery—but as to the form of God he did. Hence having taken the form of a servant, He is always such—receives all. Even when He takes the kingdom, He goes a long journey to receive a kingdom, and, when, by His perfection in power He has subdued all, He gives it up to God even the Father. He gives up His own spirit when the time comes, but recommends it to His Father—raises up the temple of His body, but is raised by the glory of the Father— grows in wisdom, speaks what He knows, but He is the wisdom of God; He can do nothing of Himself—is obedient, but He is the power of God, and quickens too whom he will; created all things and upholds them by the word of His power. And this was His perfection, with the whole power of” evil against Him, never to go out of the path of dependence and obedience —never to use power by His will. Thus He bound the strong man as in the wilderness—in death how much more even—He could have had, even in dependence, more than twelve legions of angels, but it would not have been obedience fulfilling the Scriptures.
But what an emptying that was when He who was God could come into death, through suffering, through obeying, bring all that God was in His moral perfection into death, and then when it was needed, in man’s extremity through sin, in man’s weakness, in the place of Satan’s power, there glorify it—love, righteousness, majesty, truth, all found glorified there. God is glorified in Him, yet it was in death, and because it was death in all it meant for God; but it was all the power of love, i.e., God, in the emptying. I do not turn to John’s writings here, already elsewhere spoken of, where the Divine nature of the Lord is so distinct,39 where He comes out as God—not genealogic from—takes the place of receiving everything. It is contemplation of the wondrous and unsearchable fact I seek, not Adam or Abraham or David—and yet, as made flesh, always proofs which are everywhere where He is.
But I would weigh some facts in the Gospels as to the manifestation of God in Him. When the blessed Lord had to do with unbelievers whom He knew and had to treat as adversaries, though His being God comes out—save His knowing all men, as yet, not judging—what God is does not come out at all; it is only when driven, by the wilful blindness and hostility of the human heart, to speak of things as they are, that forced and driven to the necessity of it, so to speak, the fact of His being God comes out, “Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at Him, but Jesus hid himself.” There is no revelation of Himself in John 8. He does not come to judge, and the woman is not condemned—she is to go and sin no more. He gives Divine power to the law, or rather. He is, by His word, Divine power in the conscience— no grace is in question, and they all go away one by one— Divine power in the Word awakes the conscience. He is the Light of the world, and he who follows Him does not walk in darkness. But here there are none such, it is simply the Light shining in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not.
But Christ is divine—He can bear witness of Himself, yet He says “as the Father has taught me “as ever, in John, receiving all. Nothing inconsistent with grace, but the simple absence of all contrary to it. He could not contradict Himself, but He is only Light in darkness. As Man He hardly appears here, for that is grace; other cases present themselves where grace is at work. We may first take the woman of Samaria— but here away from Jerusalem, where with the Jews (not the people) He is always in judgment—where the great change of leaving them and having to do with the world, and bringing men to have to do with the Father and with God spiritually, and that by life in the power of the Spirit, is brought out, and where Christ is the rejected Man and feels it, but is thereby thrown into the consciousness that He is the Divine Giver of eternal life in the power of the Spirit. But here we have the Lord fully as a Man; the Jachin and Boaz of Christian truth had been set up in chapter 3—Man or Jew was naught, must be born again, and the Son of Man must be lifted up. God had loved and had given. Christ was a rejected Christ—He left Judaea where the Pharisees were jealous and would none of Him. Christ must be a rejected Christ for us to have part with Him—sad thing to say, but so it is—if it die not it abides alone. No doubt He could always quicken whom He would, but without His death we could not righteously see God, and if a man received a new nature without His death, there would be no putting away of the old; we must be risen as well as quickened—a new place and a new life—and that is only by His death. But He was rejected, felt it, afterwards wept over the city, felt it deeply as none of us could feel—we see Him comforted, as rejected by His own to whom He came, by fields white to harvest.
He was weary with His journey and sat alone in the world— O wondrous place! The world He had created, but more, into which He was come in love: and here only a weary Man feeling the rejection of His love, but, as to the place He had taken, dependent for a drink of water—He who had made it— upon this poor sin-wearied woman. But He had come where He could only come in grace; salvation was not of Samaria but of the Jews—promises were theirs, but they had rejected all—grace had its work outside, but then it was humiliation and on rejection He must needs pass through Samaria. He submits to human circumstances and conditions—He acts in divine grace. Here therefore where grace, free grace, works, we find Him fully Man—a weary rejected Man, bound in spirit on a way He must needs take, and waiting on the kindness of another for a drink of water. Grace is in the humbled and obedient Man—there it is that what God is shines out. It is not “before Abraham was I am,” but “if thou knewest the gift of God,” i.e., grace, and who it is that saith to thee, give me to drink.” It is not the supreme God forced, so to speak, to say He is so to heartless adversaries without conscience, but God revealed in what He was in a lowly Man, and by His being a lowly Man; and surely if grace is, that is grace.
What heart is in the words! What a need to win the confidence of a weary soul! Yet the simple expression of what His own heart was full of, of God as goodness and brought out, as to circumstances, by the pressure on that heart of the rejection by His beloved people which He was suffering under! How wonderful to hear Him saying just then “Salvation is of the Jews! “Perfect owning of God’s counsels and ways! But in His rejection in them grace flowing freely out—the natural expression of what He was full of, but as that was love, love which seeks to bring a weary soul to confidence in God by bringing that love down to lay its wants at the feet of such an one, to win confidence in a love that could do it. “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith”—there He was— “give me to drink”—come even there—“thou wouldest have asked”—He would have given, for He was the giver. What a scene! Such a lowly place! And to learn what God is in it! Yea, what He is by it!
There is no feeling like that of the perception of the Person of Christ, and His words and He are one—He was what He said, always. Yet it is thoroughly in human nature I look at Him here, yea, that is the way and here I learn it. With adversaries He is simply God—in grace He is a Man yet God, and only precious as a Man because He is, and, as a Man, dependent. Yet we have seen the Father in Him.
I do not go into the state of the woman, that is another part of the question of the chapter. But He is the object of adoration for eternity.
I turn then to the Syro-Phcenician; here it is “He could not be hid.” It was not the flowing out of a pressed heart to sorrow and need, but what God, so to speak, must be where faith is—Himself—He cannot deny Himself. Still grace rises above all promise and curse, and God is revealed. It is not as in John 4 where the pressure on His heart of the rejection of His beloved people, and all it implied had brought out what was in that heart; deeper still, the divine overflowings of goodness not meeting promise, but finding its comfort in going out in free grace to need where no promise, no title was— rejected love making new channels for itself; God giving, and hence naturally where need, not where promise was, and giving eternal life and bringing to God in Spirit and in truth, for God, as He is was revealed, and so the Father seeking worshippers. This was John 4, and hence we find the opened heart of the Samaritans wider than promise, knowing more than appropriating pride, own Him as the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
But in the Syro-Phoenician woman it was different; He goes to the borders of His earthly mission, retired to be alone (Mark 7) and would not have it known. Here it is not His own rejection, He labours among the poor of the flock—His mission according to prophecy: and as to Israel the designs of God, He is servant of this mission, nothing more, as to the place He takes; He is not rejected by proud Jerusalem, but sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But He is in His mission, but in His divinely traced, not free path, He goes out of the sphere of active service to the borders of the curse without.
Meanwhile moral truths had come largely out; ceremonial observances contrasted in Israel with divine commandments, but, still further, the heart of man, called in question in contrast with all such mere ordinances, lost in importance, not merely in contrast with divine commandment, but in their nature as merely external; God looked at what came from the heart, not what went into the belly—a simple truth, but which for man is hard to learn. God goes to the true nature of things in respect of man—what comes out of the heart— what he is; but what did come out of it? Murders, evil thoughts, all manner of evil, and the Lord had no more to say. Then He leaves this scene of labour, is alone personally—as Man in position He would not have it known; but it was. Then we come to what was known; He goes, as I have said, to the borders of the curse—the place which served Him as an example of hard-heartedness—the people on whom God’s curse rested as compared with Israel. What wondrous elements are all brought together here! But He sought to be alone, i.e., out of His sphere of labour. His mission, as a sent one, a servant, He insists on. But a want was there, a want which sought goodness in power, and God was there; the poor woman drawn by it, though purposely repelled to prove her faith (the disciples would have got rid of her—neither owned promise, nor in fact exercised love as above all promise) draws out what is above all promise, what recognises fully the right to possess where promise was, but appeals to goodness as, after all, reaching over it, fully recognising man’s complete misery and wretchedness without a title—a vile dog, which there was saying everything that was unclean and vile, but appealed to a riches in goodness which could reach in mercy even to that. Could Christ say “No! God is not that”?
No! God was there manifested and faith had all it sought for—it had found Him; there was no need of claim or goodness, but the confession of worthlessness and absence of all title—a need whose resource was in the goodness of God. The Servant who held Himself to His mission, as service He had to do, was after all the God of all grace, and God revealed in Him, and while owning God’s ways in Israel, standing alone in the presence of the curse and the absence of all claim, what faith owned, but therein found God and infinite goodness— Israel’s servant was God manifest in the flesh, was goodness, above all evil, above all curse, was God and God manifested. What God is is known in His being revealed in Man—being a Man; for that was infinite love.
But there was more than the revelation of His Person and the exercise of His power; I turn to another case, Luke 7, the Pharisee and the sinner. Here we have not the rejected state of man and free grace rising above it all, but actual degrading sin in contrast with human righteousness—a legal condition as man stands in it, and what this blessed One was for sinners. Three hearts—man as he stands in his own righteousness—God’s in Man—and the poor and degraded sinner touched by grace and won, in a certain sense unconsciously (i.e., with no dogmatical knowledge) by what was manifested in the Lord, what He was in blessed love first, then forgiveness. The legal man thought to judge, by human competency, if the Lord, this Preacher going about the country, were really a prophet, but he judged according to human righteousness—what man should be for God, but only in an outward way; his own heart, God’s heart and light, and even this poor woman’s heart unknown—light and love, light and conscience, and love in the heart, i.e., God, alike wholly unknown. God was in his house, in light, as He shewed, and love, and he never found it out—despised Him—had no civilities or courtesies for Him—and judged from his own heart—while He was not like it He could be no prophet. Here self-righteousness, divine grace and sin come together in fullest juxtaposition and contrast, and divine light which makes all things manifest too, and that in the Person of the lowly Preacher, the Son of God. The Pharisee is wholly blind—says he sees—judges from his own heart, and sees neither the manifestation of God in Christ, nor the work of grace in the woman. Light and love are alike wholly foreign to him.
The Lord shews fully that He is the light that makes all manifest—knows what is in the Pharisee’s heart—knows the woman’s sins—and what the Pharisee was thinking of Him and her. But more—His grace, the grace that was in Him had attracted the heart of this poor sinful woman—her need was great, her shame great, her sin deplorable, to no human eye could she turn that would not scorn her but One, and that was God; there her heart found confidence—the more she was distressed and brought low, the more was her comfort in finding that heart; there, in that mercy, her shame could hide itself, for it was grace to her—scorn was not there. But all this, through grace, had won her to hate and own her sin. It was the meeting point of sin and grace, confession of a convicted heart through confidence in goodness in Jesus—sin seen and God seen, and because God was seen in love. Divine sight was there, not blindness, divine love had brought in divine light, so that God and sin in self were both known, and God trusted, and a guileless heart produced because grace was trusted. How deep a work to bring a soul to God, and have sin judged and God known! And then Christ was all— she thought little of Simon and his guests save One, Jesus was there and that absorbed her, she was delivered from her shame even as to all the rest, but not her shame before God. Then a silent heart wept, and washed His feet with her tears. There was boldness in her confidence, yet lowliness and thanksgiving in the boldness, she kissed His feet too, and spent what she had of precious on Him. Then as He had occupied that heart with Himself in grace, He occupies Himself with that heart—He has done with Simon and the rest—to such a heart He must give peace. But first He takes her part in that which shows not only that He knew Simon’s heart and all about it, but there was that of which Simon knew nothing— besides blindness as to His Person—forgiveness. God, happily for her, knew all her sins and had forgiven them—wondrous revelation! The grace that revealed love and goodness, had brought forgiveness with it—relief, full and perfect, from God— when sin had confounded the soul before God, was seen as sin because God was seen and in grace, the grace could tell that it was all gone—before God forgiven.
The Person of Christ had drawn—she loved much. The grace of God in Christ had forgiven—of that, of God, Pharisaism knows nothing. The Lord takes up the woman’s case in presence of the Pharisee’s contempt, and shews what he was—what she was—what God was—what He was in Himself. Then He occupies Himself with the woman alone, “Thy sins be forgiven thee”; their remarks do not arrest Him, “Thy faith hath saved thee—go in peace.” He had sounded the Pharisee’s heart, sounded and brought to light her’s—revealed God’s, and conferred forgiveness. Confession of sin and forgiveness of sin (and that is the Cross for us) are the meeting place of the sinner in truth and God in love. Here again we have God revealed in a man, but specially in respect of sin.
In the first case He does not come to judge, but He is simply with adversaries, and is simply in result “I am.” In the woman of Samaria, He is rejected of the Jews and grace flows out giving life, going up to eternal life above, bringing to the Father—God known as a Spirit—and this by grace going out where promise gave no salvation and no claim to righteousness, but sin and need.
In the Syro-Phoenician, where faith comes, grace rises where grace is gone above all barriers—God is revealed to faith, and must be above them all, must be what He is in grace, cannot deny Himself, and faith pierces through all barriers, urged by need to appeal to what God is in Himself, in grace, and He cannot but be what He is, or be kept in by the barriers when that was reached, though He was there in One serving as sent where promise was; still God was there.
Luke 7 goes deeper and light is there—Pharisaism and sin brought fully to light; the utter and deplorable blindness of Pharisaism manifested what man in self-righteousness is—no perception of God at all, nor of anything in Him. Then to the sinner a deep true perception of what He was as grace meeting need, and hence brought to God according to the power of His presence, and the grace of His nature, He being known, humbled fully before Him, but brought to Him according to what He was, the bond of the heart with Him formed, with Him known, and forgiveness, peace, and salvation received. It is deeper, because it goes into the full moral question of the state of man with God—light in the heart and soul of man as he was.
The case of the palsied man in Matthew 9 is somewhat different. It is not God revealed in His nature of goodness, what He is in Christ for men; it is relative—Jehovah of Psalm 103, manifested in Israel, His ways in Israel in grace, but relative—what He was, of course, but according to promise and prophecy.
I do not again enter into the full bringing out of the three hearts in Luke 7:36 to end, the Pharisee’s, the sinner’s looking to Christ, and, blessed be His grace and name, God’s own heart already spoken of; light and love were there, neither the least known to Simon—he was blind, thinking he saw. Christ, in whom it is revealed, is the subject of our adoration. I only notice now “Thy faith hath saved thee”—how God owns as, that which He sees in the heart of the poor convicted believer, what He has wrought. Tears and repentance were there, true love to the Saviour, excellent fruits of faith; but faith by grace gave her Christ; hence faith saved her—God’s work in the heart, by which Christ was seen and appreciated. Her heart was thus shown, what God indeed had wrought in it, but in it; but then it was what it was, fixed it wholly on another, it was not objectively itself nor reflectively—it knew Christ only. It produced lovely fruits, most lovely, which the Lord owns, but it saved because it saw Christ only. But what is lovely here, that Christ owns, attaches value to what was in her heart, wrought there surely, but was in it; its action on Him as its object gives us to see divine appreciation of the state of the heart thus having Him for its object. He does not say, “Grace has saved thee,” though true, “My work, My blood-shedding has saved thee,”—that would have been speaking of something in God, of His own work; but He speaks to her of divine value for something in the heart of the poor woman. This is unspeakable goodness, divine tenderness and favour. If it be a wonderful picture in presence of Pharisaism, we have to leave the Pharisaism to itself, as the Lord did, and see the Lord owning what was of God in the heart that turned to Him. The poor, desolate, and lonely woman could go away and say, “I have His approbation on what is in my soul”—the comfort of His approbation, yet thinking of Him still, not of herself, for thinking of approbation, a father’s approbation, is not thinking of what is approved, or of self. Faith had saved her, and she could go in peace—she had it from Christ—and her faith in His Person gave divine weight and grace to His words.
39 John 5 gives plainly this position of the Lord; chapter 6 is more distinctly as man, still He comes down and goes up again.