These verses, and indeed the whole chapter, shew how the saints are viewed apart from this world. There was a scene around which was plotting against them. They were not to fear— “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.” But there was something in it that they were to fear; they were to beware of hypocrisy (v. 1), for all would be disclosed. He presses that they should have their treasure in heaven. It is not as people often say, “Where your heart is, there is your treasure”; but, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” They were taken out of the world to serve in it; and He encourages them to have entire confidence in the care and love of God watching over them, and tells them that in God’s mind and thought they were of value—of value to God. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without His care. “Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” He is your Father— “Fear not, little flock; it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” You must trust Him. For the present they were obliged to have their loins girded. This was not rest. They were to be tucked up ready for work and service; their lights burning, and they watching—ready for their Lord.
While that was their character in this world, there was a world that belonged to them—to the Father, and He was occupied with them about that world, though taking care of them through this. We have thus the constant abiding of His love. The Son of God has taken “the form of a servant,” and He will never give it up. He is the Lord Jesus Christ, one with the Father, God over all, blessed for ever; but that gives the more force to His being a servant. He has had His ear pierced through with the awl at the door-post. The Hebrew servant, when he had served seven years, if he said, “I love my master, I love my wife, I love my children, I will not go out free,” became a servant for ever; his ear, the sign of obedience, was bored. That is what He has done, and it is His glory—outward humiliation, but divine glory and love.
Love always delights to serve, but selfishness to be served. He is love, and He delights to serve; but if He is to serve us, He must come down low, and He comes in a love that is above everything that hinders; and the more He humbles Himself, the more I can see a love that can only be of God! It is this that is so touching in His life. He sits weary with His journey on the well, and says, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and”— not, who it is that speaketh to you, but— “who it is that saith to thee” (who it is that has come low enough to say), “give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of mm, and he would have given thee living water.” He was a divine Person sitting talking to her, and He was her servant. He says again, “I am among you as he that serveth.” He was their only Master and Lord, but being above all, He has the privilege of taking the title of servant; and having refused to go out free, He has taken this place of serving love, for ever. It is His glory, and has nothing to do with His Godhead, except to shew His unutterable grace.
We find in Philippians 2 His coming down to take this place. “He made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant.” He served God; served us too in grace. He took the place in willing love. “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.” And He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He lays the form of the glory of Godhead aside (Godhead He never could lay aside), and thus we find His perfect, infinite love. Where should we have been if He had not taken the form of a servant? Lost for ever. But there was love enough in Him to come to this place. He goes to death, and there I find the power of divine love in His service. Nothing stopped it; Satan’s power was there; man’s bitter and base ingratitude, as He says in that beautiful fiftieth of Isaiah, “When I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer?” He goes on: “Is my hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? Behold, at my rebuke, I dry up the sea,” etc. As Jehovah— God—He did as He pleased. He not only did miracles Himself; but what proved His divine power much more, He gave others power to do them. “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto my father,” John 14:12. He is working in that perfectness of love in this world, and nothing stops it at all. “The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.” I have not ceased to be Jehovah, but I have taken the place of a servant, to take up every sorrow you are in. And see the return—men found it an occasion to reject Him! “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” Nothing stopped Him—death did not stop Him. He came to die; and felt what it was to die as none of us can; for He has taken the sting out of it. He came to be “made sin,” and felt how dreadful it was; for He was holy. He came to bear the wrath, and felt what it was; for He knew His Father’s love. Desertion was there and betrayal, and the cup He had to drink was there. He felt it all; but in it all, divine love was there to serve and go through it, to serve us wretched sinners.
There was the power of divine love, when everything was gone (for God had forsaken Him), except bitterness and death, Satan’s power, and the wrath of God. There you get divine love, and service too. It is a divine power and a power of love to us—to His Father, but to us too—a power that carries Him through everything, when everything was against Him; divine love that made Him serve through it, till it was finished. Then I adore the love that led Him to be made sin for me. There was the full testing of the love that carried Him through all. It is deeply instructive, though very dreadful to see there what man is. What do I expect of my friends if I am on trial? At least that they will not forsake me. They all forsook Him, and fled! In a Judge? I expect him to protect innocence. Pilate washes his hands of His blood, and gives Him over to the people! In a priest, what do I expect? That he will intercede for the ignorant and for them that are out of the way. They urge the people, who cry, “Away with him, away with him!” Every man was the opposite of what was right, and that One man was not only right, but in divine love He was going through it all!
First, I get Him serving me in His life; then, when He served us in death, in spite of ourselves (for man was against Him), there He was alone, all forsook Him, and God hid His face from Him. He went into the desert (Mark 6), and had no time to eat, but when the people come He ministers to them; “He could not be hid.” If He is in agony on the cross, there is a poor thief to be attended to. He tells him, “This day thou shalt be with me in paradise.” If He sits weary on a well, and a poor wretched woman comes, He waits on her. All through He takes the sorrows of human nature—weariness, hunger; but with a heart that never was weary when a service of love was to be performed; a Man who does not shrink from all the vileness and wretchedness of the world; a Man in all the perfection of holiness, carrying divine love to serve every need. It was, what was divine, in a Man who took the lowest place, and there is nothing like it. It is most sweet and blessed to see it, and to see He had no will of His own in it. When they tell Him, “He whom thou lovest is sick,” we should have thought He would have started off at once. No, He abode two days still where He was, He had no commandment from His Father. We see it was to shew His Godhead. Still, as a servant, He had no word, and He did not stir. It seemed very hard. His home, if He had one on earth, was that house at Bethany. You never find Him going out of the place of a servant, and He was never anything but the perfection of love in it. That service He took, and performed, and finished, and now His service is over, and He is going to glory; Luke 12. In John, where we find more the divine side than the servant’s side, He shews that His going to the Father does not change His service, save the character of it. He is not serving among men, but He is serving His people up there. When He was going away, there came the thought that, now He is in the glory, His service is ended. That would not do for His heart. He says, In the glory I am not going to stop serving those poor things. Could His heart stop serving them? No, it could not! He is the Advocate, we find in the Epistle of John, and that is not in the world. He does not take it up till He goes to heaven. How could a heavenly person know the sorrows, temptations, and trials of us, poor sinful beings? He comes down here, sinless, of course; and, after being acknowledged by the Father, He is led of the Spirit to be tempted in the wilderness, because we were there. As soon as He has given the pattern of the place in which we are by redemption (Matt. 3:16, 17), He says, I must go there; and He is led of the Spirit (we are often led by other things) into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Now (John 13) He is going to glory, having so glorified God here as to have an earned place there, as well as having a rightful one there—an official place as well as a moral one. The world will not have me. I cannot stay here with you. You cannot have rest here; it is polluted. I can serve, but not rest here. He must go up to God. I must go on serving. He says, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” I cannot have part with you in this sinful place, and I must fit you to have part with Me on high. Though we are washed so as to have part with Him, we pick up dirt by the way; but He is our Advocate, and is still serving. He brings the heart to be humbled and broken at having dishonoured His name, and it is restored. His blood is on us, but He is still washing our feet. I must make you clean, according to my idea of cleanness. That is what He is doing now. It is blessed love, but it is service. Is He going to give up this satisfaction of His heart in serving us (it makes us adore Him)? He is not going to give it up, and never will. He is a Man, and a Man for ever; that is what we have in this chapter. He is more than that, for in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
There is one thing new for God, and that He could only do: to come down a Man here. No angel could do it; but God could come down, acting in divine supremacy and love. I cannot take the form of a servant, for if I am not a rebellious sinner, I am a servant. (I may have got into rebellion as one— that is another thing.) A divine Person can “take” on Him the form of a servant, and that is what He has done.
He says, “Let your loins be girded.” Here I am in the middle of a world that says, “To-morrow shall be as yesterday, and yet more abundant.” I am to be expecting Christ; the world goes on (He alone knows how long); but “the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night, for when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them.” That is the character given it. “As in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the Son of man.” (There is sin, and still more now, but that is not the point.) I believe that—not that it is the portion of believers—then I must have my loins girded. I cannot go on loosely with a world that is not going on for ever. There ought to be a better motive: the heart drawn out to Him—oh! if it were only that. They go on saying, “To-morrow shall be as yesterday,” etc., and yet terror is in their hearts; for there is uncertainty—nothing to reckon on for a day, or a week, or a year. He calls all Christians to take their places with their lights burning—the distinct, unequivocal testimony of what they are, carrying their lights as servants, and not going on with a careless world that is going to judgment. You cannot say when it is coming. The saints will be with the Lord before then. Can you say that it is the first thing the Lord will do—take you up in the air, to be for ever with Himself? Can you tell what day He is coming? Are you ready for Him? You do not know what hour He is coming. I believe it is hastening on rapidly. The saints were converted to wait for God’s Son from heaven, and when they lost that, all the mischief came in. It is their character—not a bit of knowledge, that is stuck up as a chief thing in teaching; but that is what you are to be. If you were constantly waiting for Him, would it not change you? Finding duties to do, and doing them—quite right; but would people be heaping up money or treasures when they know He is coming? They enjoy themselves while they can, and then comes death, and they hope it will be all right. If you are expecting the Lord and ready to open to Him, it gives a character, “Ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord “—like a man that has his hand on the lock of the door; “that when he cometh and knocketh they may open unto him immediately.” The Lord keep us in that readiness of condition and heart as servants, waiting! That is our present condition when the Lord is not come. You cannot float down the stream of the world that is going to the ocean of judgment. You are to be looking for Him. If, by His first coming, I have been saved and justified, I look for Him to come again, that I may be where He is. Here we get what the believer’s portion is who is waiting for Him.
Now, what follows? The characteristic of a person who has his ear open to the Lord, is watching. “Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat (that is a figure), and will come forth and serve them.” I find Him serving then, in divine love, still in the same character. He comes and brings us to heaven—to His Father’s house, that where He is, there we may be also. While you were in that wicked world, He says, I was obliged to keep you on the watch, in a state of tension, with diligent earnestness to keep the heart waiting, but I bring you to a place where you are to sit down, and it will be My delight to minister to you.
It is one of the greatest comforts to me that I shall not want my conscience in heaven. If I let it go to sleep for a moment now, there are temptations and snares; there, there is no evil, and the more my heart goes out, the more good it is. Here I dare not let it, but I must watch and pray. I shall not need that in heaven. The full blessedness of it is, the Lord being there, of course; and next, the saints being perfect. What does the heart desire that cares for the Lord’s people? That they should be just what Christ’s heart would have them. That will be there; He will see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied. Then there is after that this comfort, that my heart can go out—here it cannot—to God and the Lamb, and to the saints in measure too; but then, roam as it will, there is nothing to roam over but a Paradise where evil never comes, and it can never go wrong.
He comes then, and takes us there, and what heaven can find there for the heart to feed on is spread on the table of God. You shall rest there and feed on it, He says, and I will gird Myself and come forth and serve you. I am not going to give up My service of love. Thus, while I have the blessedness of feeding on what God has to give, I have increased satisfaction, that if I put a morsel of divine meat into my mouth, I receive it from the hand of love that brings it to me.
When He brings us there, all is turned round. Here He says, you must have your lights burning, and be watching; when I get My way, I must put you at ease, and make you happy. “Then shall the Son also himself be subject.” He was serving here. It was man’s perfection to serve—the very thing the devil tried to get Him out of. If he had, it would have been doing His own will; but “thou he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things that he suffered.” But when all things shall have been subdued unto Him, He is subject after that. In the meanwhile He has been on His own throne; now He is on His Father’s throne, our High Priest; but He will take His own throne and power, and reign, bringing everything into subjection. Then it is not serving, but reigning: afterwards He gives up the kingdom in that sense to His Father, for everything is brought to order. In the millennium it is a king reigning in righteousness; but then it is a new heavens and earth, wherein dwells righteousness. Innocence dwelt in the first Paradise; sin dwells in the present earth; and then, in the new heavens and earth, it will be “wherein dwelleth righteousness.” He gives up the mediatorial kingdom, as it is called, to God, and takes His place as a Man, “the first-born among many brethren.” He never gives up a place, in which He can own us as associated with Himself in the blessedness of first-born of many brethren. As all was ruined in the first Adam, all shall be blessed in the Last. “As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” Then I find myself enjoying everything that God can give to the objects of His love, and enjoying it with Christ then at the head of everything—Son of God and Son of man; we associated with all the blessedness, and He administering it to us, so that the heart can taste His love. And He does not just bring us there, but it is to all eternity. He has purchased us too dearly to give us up. His love will be in constant exercise towards us. It leads us to adore Him more than anything that can be thought of; but we can trust a love that never ceases in heaven.
You see here His heart going out to do it. Then you must have your lights burning. “Let your light (not your works) so shine before men,” that they may know where your works come from, and “glorify your Father which is in heaven,” that they may attribute them to God. I do whatever God tells me to do, and it is a testimony to Christ; people say, that is what comes from a man being a Christian! It is that there may be no uncertainty as to what we are, a well-trimmed lamp, the testimony of the life of Christ, that it may be manifested what I am, and what I am about—a pilgrim and a stranger, in a thousand different circumstances, the ordinary duties of life to perform, but one service, to be the epistle of Christ. I may be a carpenter, or a shoemaker, I must be a Christian. In various relationships, servants, masters, in eating or drinking, in our houses, wherever it is, I must be a Christian.
What characterised these servants was waiting, and they got the blessing. “Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find so watching.” Ah, beloved friends, are you watching, waiting for Christ practically? I cannot be watching, and going on in my own way. Are our lights burning, or have we slipped down to the ease and comforts of this world like other people? That is not having our loins girded. And it is not as a doctrine we are to have it only.
He refers to serving in verse 43, but the reward is connected with another thing—made ruler over all that He hath; it is the kingdom, the lower part. In my calling, I look up; in my reigning, it is looking down. It is better to look up than down. The watching person gets the Person he is watching for. The calling is better than the inheritance— “Heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” You find in Revelation 4 the elders sitting on thrones (“seats” they put in, for they thought it too much for us to be seated on “thrones” and crowned when He is there, but that is what it is); but when the nature of God is proclaimed, they leave their thrones, and that is the higher place. When they were on their thrones they had their own glory; when they are prostrated, they adore His glory. So, in “the transfiguration, the voice came out of the cloud (the cloud was always the sign of Jehovah’s presence in Israel), and they went into the cloud; that was more than the kingdom. A voice came from the excellent glory, and where it came from, they went into. It was a great thing to be standing there on the mountain, but still greater to go into the cloud—the Father’s house, and they were afraid. It is a wonderful thing that the ruling is for us (v. 44); but it is not the greatest thing. His love takes us into the enjoyment with Himself of every place He has—not the Godhead of course— but of everything He has received from the Father as Man. He, in divine love, gives it to us; He gives not as the world gives. It gives liberally sometimes, but it gives away. Christ does not give away; He takes us where He is, and gives us what He has—His own peace, His glory.
It seems strange to Peter that the Lord should wash his feet. But where should we be if He did not wash our feet? In one sense we ought to be ashamed; but where should we be? If He were not a servant now, we should have our feet dirty, poor creatures that we are. Then it will be fulness of joy, His ministering of God’s table in heaven to us, and half the happiness would be lost if it were not that. Now the Lord takes pains to assure us of His love, to persuade us of His love. “You are of more value than many sparrows.” He says, do not fear, and then gives the strongest motive to serve Him. In the epistle of John He does not say we ought to love Him, because He first loved us—it is quite true; but He says, “we love him.” Where there really is the sense of the Lord’s love to us, there is the return of it. If you hear a child saying— oh! if you only knew my mother, her patience, her love, I am so tiresome, she never fails in affection, I cannot tell you what she is! I say, that child loves its mother; it has the sense of its mother’s love in its soul, and that is love. It is the going back of the heart in the consciousness of the blessed love He has to us. The inflow of the love, with a new nature capable of receiving it, is the love.
How sweet and blessed is it thus to see how He has come down! He has not loved us from on high. He never says to the poor sinner, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,” till He had come to them. He never called for confidence in His love, till He had come to them Himself, however vile they might be. It will surely make us adore Him. A divine Person come to be a servant, that our hearts may know His love, and He wants us to know it. Does the Father say, This is My Son whom you ought to love? No, He tells His affection for Christ to lead us into it. Therefore, we are in fellowship with the Father. What is that? It is having the same thoughts and joys in blessing, the same feelings and affections in blessing. Depend on it, if you get near to God, it will not make you think lightly of Him. If you get near to the greatest man in the country you will find out his foibles; but being near to God will never give you want of respect to Him; you find out what God is. It is not dangerous, as people often say, to be on the mount; but to have been there. When Paul got out of the third heaven, he wanted the thorn in the flesh. Then there was a danger of his saying, no one but you, Paul, has been there. Everything is dangerous for the flesh to get hold of—law, gospel, and everything. Being near to God, never lets the flesh in.
If the Spirit is the spring of our thoughts and feelings, He can never give us anything but thoughts of the Son. We are poor, feeble things, and He is infinite, there is that exception, of course; but if I look at Christ’s death I say, Look at that obedience; there is love to the Father, and giving up Himself, and love to us. Look at His devotedness, obedience, and giving up of self—love beaming through the agony of the cross if ever it did! Did not the Father delight in it? To be sure He did! Of course, all our thoughts are poverty itself; but He brings His love down to us in grace, and then takes us up to the glory. We learn the power of His obedience when nothing stopped Him. He brought it to us in grace here; washes our feet by the way, and then will serve us in glory up there. The Lord give us to have our loins girded and our lights burning, that we may be found watching: living in this town, or in any other, in our common every-day life; but that we may be there with our loins girded and our lights burning, and we like men that wait for their Lord, that when He comes and knocks we may open to Him immediately. “Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching.” “He shall gird himself and make them sit down to meat, and come forth and serve them.”
May the Lord’s love and approbation be the things that govern us; and not the things that fade away!