He sets free a woman caught in adultery
…JESUS WENT OFF to the Mount of Olives.
Early next morning he returned to the Temple and the entire crowd came to him. So he sat down and began to teach them. But the scribes and Pharisees brought in to him a woman who had been caught in adultery. They made her stand in front, and then said to him, “Now, master, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. According to the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women to death. Now, what do you say about her?”
They said this to test him, so that they might have some good grounds for an accusation. But Jesus stooped down and began to write with his finger in the dust on the ground. But as they persisted in their questioning, he straightened himself up and said to them, “Let the one among you who has never sinned throw the first stone at her.” Then he stooped down again and continued writing with his finger on the ground. And when they heard what he said, they were convicted by their own consciences and went out, one by one, beginning with the eldest until they had all gone.
Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing where they had put her. So he stood up and said to her, “Where are they all—did no one condemn you?”
And she said, “No one, sir.” “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus to her. “Go home and do not sin again.”
Many years later…
THEY ARE WALKING THE BEACH, hand in hand; the breeze off the Mediterranean is cool against their cheeks; they are smiling; silent. It is early morning. The waves roll in in their slow gentle succession, tossing ashore. The gulls and terns are resting yet.
Behind the aging couple walk their four lovely daughters, whispering quietly to each other. They are considering the beauties of the day; what it will bring. They enjoy their fellowship. They regard their parents, ahead, with a great affection.
They can’t hear the words their mother is saying to their father.
“Philip?” she says.
Her husband turns to her: “Yes, love?”
“When you think of him—when you really, truly, deeply think of his face, his presence—what is it that you think of?”
The husband ponders. “Probably of those last forty days,” he says. “Of the way he’d suddenly appear to us, and then disappear.”
“Do you feel him now as strongly as you did then?”
“Many days, yes. But sometimes others, no. Those are the days when I go away to meet again with him…” Philip grows thoughtful. “And how about you, my love?”
“When do I go to meet with him?”
“No, your first question. When you’re thinking of him, what is it that you think of?”
She casts her eyes over the sea before turning back.
“I think of how he was when I first saw him for myself. Of that morning—it was cool and fresh like this one. And I always think of the look in his eyes.”
Philip smiles. “As do I, my love.”
After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white.
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead
The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.
BY G. K. CHESTERTON
“The mystery of His incarnation is forever unfathomable. Christ did not only work miracles, He was himself a miracle, He is the miracle of all miracles, the original archetypical miracle. We must recognize the truth of His humanity and the truth of His deity. In Christ we have a man on this earth who perfectly carried out the will of God. In Him it became clear what God meant when He said: 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness' (Gen. 1:26). Christ’s life on earth is the perfect explanation of the meaning of the creation of man.
“How encouraging and refreshing it is to know that this perfect Man has given us the proof that it is possible to live in faith here on earth, in our present circumstances, in such a way as perfectly to glorify God. When we look at His heavenly priesthood from this point of view, how effective and vital it becomes. 'For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin' (Heb. 4:15).
“For this reason meditation on the humanity of the Incarnate One is not a speculative problem of Christian theological philosophy, but a subject for serious contemplative thought for the believing heart, so that it may be encouraged to go on in the way of practical sanctification. Our Lord’s example is given to form and educate us. The picture of Jesus given us in the Gospels should not be used exclusively for evangelistic purposes, that is, chiefly for those who are 'without' in order to win their souls; it should be used just as much for ourselves to teach us practical faith in life and sanctification. This applies both for the regular devotional Scripture readings of the individual and for public ministry in the church.”
In the Arena of Faith
It is a warm languid early-afternoon; you are sitting amidst the trees and flowers in a slight clearing. The ground is nearly flat; it rises just above you, following the climbing of the Mount of Olives; Gethsemane is just below. A patchwork quilt of patchwork quilts carpets over the meadowgrasses; all the followers of Jesus have carried up their lunches. The sun is just past the meridian point; the warmth of the air is restful; everyone is eating; it is a lovely sort of early-afternoon.
Jesus sits near the center of these concentric picnickers.
He is eating some bread and meat, holding them with His nail-scarred hands...
* * *
When was the last time that I simply sat with Jesus—out in the open air, under the trilling of the birdsong, in the wash of the sunlight, breeze, and bright blue skies—and relished how wonderfully alive and present to me He is? Is that the look in the eyes of my “Christianity”?
“All our attempts to crucify the flesh, or to keep it crucified, are vain: we need the light and joy of the Holy Spirit to show us what is ours in Christ, what has been given in our union with him, and what he himself will make true in our experience. The very thought of having to keep the flesh crucified may be, very often is, as of a burden, and a strain, and an impossibility: the knowledge and acceptance and faith of the indwelling Spirit makes it part of the great salvation God effectually works out in us.
“Believer, you have the Spirit of the living God dwelling in you. All we tell you of the cross and the crucified life and the crucifixion of the flesh is not to tell you what you are to do, but what you may confidently expect the Holy Spirit to do in you. It is to show you what his work is, that you may in deep humility and entire dependence, but also with joyous faith, claim and receive it. Do begin, at once, to believe, to praise God, to rejoice that you can do nothing but through the Spirit, that you are sure that you can do all things through Christ’s Spirit strengthening you.”
Andrew Murray, The Cross of Christ
"...attainment of the kingdom is possible."
The Compendium of Theology
(These are the last words he ever wrote.)
“The true understanding of Jesus is the understanding of will acting on will. The true relation to Him is to be taken possession of by Him. Christian piety of any and every sort is valuable only so far as it means the surrender of our will to His…
“What Christianity needs is that it shall be filled to overflowing with the spirit of Jesus, and in the strength of that shall spiritualize itself into a living religion of inwardness and love, such as its destined purpose should make it. Only as such can it become the leaven in the spiritual life of mankind. What has been passing for Christianity during these nineteen centuries is merely a beginning, full of weaknesses and mistakes, not a full-grown Christianity springing from the spirit of Jesus.
“Because I am devoted to Christianity in deep affection, I am trying to serve it with loyalty and sincerity. In no wise do I undertake to enter the lists on its behalf with the crooked and fragile thinking of Christian apologetic, but I call on it to set itself right in the spirit of sincerity with its past and with thought in order that it may thereby become conscious of its true nature.”
Out of My Life and Thought
“Jesus is God spelling Himself out in language that man can understand. God and man used to talk together freely. But one day man went away from God. And then he went farther away. He left home. He left his native land, Eden, where he lived with God. He emigrated from God. And through going away he lost his mother-tongue.
“A language always changes away from its native land. Through going away from his native land man lost his native speech. Through not hearing God speak he forgot the sounds of the words. His ears grew dull and then deaf. Through lack of use he lost the power of speaking the old words. His tongue grew thick. It lost its cunning. And so gradually almost all the old meanings were lost.
“God has always been eager to get to talking with man again. The silence is hard on Him. He is hungry to be on intimate terms again with his old friend. Of course he had to use a language that man could understand. Jesus is God spelling Himself out so man can understand. He is the A and the Z, and all between, of the Old Eden language of love.
“Naturally enough man had a good bit of bother in spelling Jesus out. This Jesus was something quite new. When His life spoke the simple language of Eden again, the human heart with selfishness ingrained said, ‘That sounds good, but of course He has some selfish scheme behind it all. This purity and simplicity and gentleness can’t be genuine.’ Nobody yet seems to have spelled Him out fully, though they’re all trying: All on the spelling bench. That is, all that have heard. Great numbers haven’t heard about Him yet. But many, ah! many could get enough, yes, can get enough to bring His purity into their lives and sweet peace into their hearts.
“But there were in His days upon earth some sticklers for the old spelling forms. Not the oldest, mind you. Jesus alone stands for that. This Jesus didn’t observe the idioms that had grown up outside of Eden. These people had decided that these old forms were the only ones acceptable. And so they disliked Him from the beginning, and quarrelled with Him. These idioms were dearer to them than life—that is, than His life. So having quarrelled, they did worse, and then—softly--worst. But even in their worst, Jesus was God spelling Himself out in the old simple language of Eden. His best came out in their worst.
“Some of the great nouns of the Eden tongue—the God tongue—He spelled out big. He spelled out purity, the natural life of Eden; and obedience, the rhythmic harmony of Eden; and peace, the sweet music of Eden; and power, the mastery and dominion of Eden; and love, the throbbing heart of Eden. It was in biggest, brightest letters that love was spelled out. He used the biggest capitals ever known, and traced each in a deep dripping red, with a new spelling--S-A-C-R-I-F-I-C-E.”
Quiet Talks About Jesus
“A rule I have had for years is to treat the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal friend. His is not a creed, a mere empty doctrine, but it is He Himself we have. The moment we have received Christ we should receive Him as a friend. ”
Anecdotes & Illustrations
"'Jesus Christ yesterday, to-day, and for ever' (Heb. xiii, 8), says the Apostle. From the beginning of the world He was, as God, the first cause of the existence of souls. He has participated as man from the first instant of His incarnation, in this prerogative of His divinity. During the whole course of our life He acts within our souls. The time that will elapse till the end of the world is but as a day; and this day abounds with His action. Jesus Christ has lived and lives still. He began from Himself and will continue in His Saints a life that will never end. O life of Jesus! comprehending and extending beyond all the centuries of time, life effecting new operations of grace at every moment; if no one is capable of understanding all that could be written of the actual life of Jesus, all that He did and said while He was on earth; if the Gospel merely outlines a few of its features; how many Gospels would have to be written to record the history of all the moments of this mystical life of Jesus Christ in which miracles are multiplied to infinity and eternity. If the beginning of His natural life is so hidden yet so fruitful, what can be said of the divine action of that life of which every age of the world is the history?...
"I will now become Your disciple, and will frequent no other school than Yours. Like the Prodigal Son I return hungering for Your bread. I relinquish the ideas which tend only to the satisfaction of mental curiosity; I will no longer run after masters and books but will only make use of them as of other things that present themselves, not for my own satisfaction, but in dependence on the divine action and in obedience to You. For love of You and to discharge my debts I will confine myself to the one essential business, that of the present moment, and thus enable You to act..."
Jean-Pierre de Caussade
Abandonment to Divine Providence
He appears to His disciples—Thomas is gone
Luke 24:36-49 & John 20:24-25
AND WHILE THE TWO from Emmaus were still talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be to you all!”
But they shrank back in terror for they thought they were seeing a ghost.
“Why are you so worried?” said Jesus, “and why do doubts arise in your minds? Look at my hands and feet—it is really I myself! Feel me and see; ghosts have no flesh or bones as you can see that I have.”
But while they still could not believe it through sheer joy and were quite bewildered, Jesus said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of broiled fish and part of a honeycomb which he took and ate before their eyes. Then he said, “Here and now are fulfilled the words that I told you when I was with you: that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must come true.”
Then he opened their minds so that they could understand the scriptures, and added, “That is how it was written, and that is why it was inevitable that Christ should suffer, and rise from the dead on the third day. So must the change of heart which leads to the forgiveness of sins be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
“You are eye-witnesses of these things. Now I hand over to you the command of my Father. Stay in the city, then, until you are clothed with power from on high.” …
…But one of the twelve, Thomas (called the Twin), was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples kept on telling him, “We have seen the Lord”, but he replied, “Unless I see in his own hands the mark of the nails, and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe!”
In the moment…
A MAN IS WALKING the narrow alleyway that ends at the base of an outside flight of stairs; he is arms-full with a load of food, bread, wine. His inner biceps strain near the elbow with the weight of it all. He begins climbing the stairs, unseeing of each step: the breadloaves blocking his view: up he goes. At the landing he knocks the door with the top of his forehead, awkwardly. The door swings open, inwardly.
The man is absolutely unprepared for what he sees in this upper room.
Faces full of shock.
Eyes weeping happy tears.
Men, women and children all embracing.
A familiar personal scent seeming to hang in the air.
The man sets his load on the table at the center of the room.
“Well,” he says, “—what is it that I’ve missed?”
* * * *
He appears to Thomas & the other disciples
JUST OVER A WEEK LATER, the disciples were indoors again and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood in the middle of them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your fingers here—look, here are my hands. Take my hand and put it in my side. You must not doubt, but believe.”
“My Lord and my God!” cried Thomas.
“Is it because you have seen me that you believe?” Jesus said to him. “Happy are those who have never seen me and yet have believed!”
Forty years later…
HE CAN FEEL THAT THE END is drawing near. The crowds breathe it. They press closer and closer; their eyes lit with growing rage. Some have spears and short daggers in hand. The tips of the spears and blades of the knives flash with sunlight. Their robes are peculiar and multicolored. They flap like butterfly wings, snapping loudly, whenever they raise their arms.
The man begins to pray in his spirit:
“Lord, I am prepared today to come to you—receive me. Let these, my killers, see the grace of a death died in you. Forgive them. May they all come to know you; to receive you. Let them know your face without seeing. May their faith trump mine.”
As he prays, he is looking past the crowds at the waters of the Kalinga Sagar: turquoise blue, with low white-topped waves coming in, row on row. It is an infinite sea compared to the little one where this all started…
He feels the crowd drawing closer…
He raises his hands, as if to bless, as they begin to strike him…
"When at last the disciples awakened the sleeping Christ, He asked them a question. You remember it well! It was, 'Where is your faith?' Where was it? Had it dropped into the depths of the sea on which they sailed? Had it fled on the shoulders of the storm? Had it been dissolved in the spray that washed their boat? Their Faith was with them all the time. The mistake they made was in forgetting the fact of His presence, while discerning the fact of the storm! Their Faith was not far away. Remember the words of our Lord, 'Without me ye can do nothing.'
"Then Jesus advanced to the bow of the boat. He looked into the face of the tempest and hurled His command into the teeth of the storm. The waves obeyed. The wind halted in its tracks. Jesus had spoken, and the disciples stood awed in the presence of His power. Where was their faith? Do you not know? Can you not see? It was just as near to them as it is to you and me; for let me assure you that the fact of the storm does not mean that He has gone! To be needy is no proof that you have been deserted. It may be the door that leads to a miracle! It may be God’s method of making you say, 'What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the seas obey Him?' ...
"Roll on, blue waves of Galilee! Blow and moan, ye winds that rage, and ye tempests that blow. You laugh at my seeming helplessness. You ridicule my endeavors to stand in the midst of the rocking of the boat. You ask me where my faith is. You taunt me about my condition. My Faith is not far away! He sleeps awhile, to teach me to rely upon Him. He sleeps, that confidence in self might be turned to trust in His promise and in the power of His presence. No, my Faith is not far away. I look at Him and smile; for His voice whispers to this poor heart of mine, and tells me that if He can rest in the midst of the tempest and the storm, then I can sweetly rest in Him."
Charles S. Price, The Real Faith
"How good it would be if we could learn that God is easy to live with. He remembers our frame and knows that we are dust. He may sometimes chasten us, it is true, but even this He does with a smile, the proud, tender smile of a Father who is bursting with pleasure over an imperfect but promising son who is coming every day to look more and more like the One whose child he is.
"Some of us are religiously jumpy and self-conscious because we know that God sees our every thought and is acquainted with all our ways. We need not be. God is the sum of all patience and the essence of kindly good will. We please Him most, not by frantically trying to make ourselves good but by throwing ourselves into His arms with all our imperfections, and believing that He understands everything and loves us still."
A.W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous
You are walking through a narrow, winding slot canyon in the western Galilee; the walls of the canyon rise sharply upward on either side of you. There is just enough room for you and Jesus to walk through shoulder to shoulder. You have been walking along and talking. You are asking Him a particular question. “What exactly is repentance?” you ask of Him.
He stops in the pathway; faces toward you; takes you by both shoulders; manually turns your body in the opposite direction, back from whence you’ve just come. “Now stay there for a moment,” He says to you.
Then He takes a few steps westward, walking away. (You don’t see Him going: you are obeying His command to stay put upon that spot.)
Then He says, “Turn. Follow Me.”
He is smiling as you approach Him. “That,” He says, “was the whole thing.”
"Do not confound work and fruit. There may be a good deal of work for Christ that is not the fruit of the heavenly Vine. Do not seek for work only. Oh! study this question of fruit-bearing. It means the very life and the very power and the very spirit and the very love within the heart of the Son of God—it means the heavenly Vine Himself coming into your heart and mine.
"You know there are different sorts of grapes, each with a different name, and every vine provides exactly that peculiar aroma and juice which gives the grape its particular flavor and taste. Just so, there is in the heart of Christ Jesus a life, and a love, and a Spirit, and a blessing, and a power for men, that are entirely heavenly and divine, and that will come down into our hearts. Stand in close connection with the heavenly Vine and say:
"Lord Jesus, nothing less than the sap that flows through Thyself, nothing less than the Spirit of Thy divine life is what we ask. Lord Jesus, I pray Thee let Thy Spirit flow through me in all my work for Thee.
"I tell you again that the sap of the heavenly Vine is nothing but the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the life of the heavenly Vine, and what you must get from Christ is nothing less than a strong inflow of the Holy Spirit. You need it exceedingly, and you want nothing more than that. Remember that."
Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender
He heals a blind man
THEN, AS HE WAS APPROACHING Jericho, it happened that there was a blind man sitting by the roadside, begging. He heard the crowd passing and enquired what it was all about. And they told him, “Jesus the man from Nazareth is going past you.” So he shouted out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”
Those who were in front tried to hush his cries. But that made him call out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!”
So Jesus stood quite still and ordered the man to be brought to him. And when he was quite close, he said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, make me see,” he cried.
“You can see! Your faith has cured you,” returned Jesus. And his sight was restored at once, and he followed Jesus, praising God. All the people who saw it thanked God too.
THEY ARE AN INTERESTING SIGHT—this wild-eyed man, gazing at everything with frenzied, half-crazed countenance; and this other: calm, smiling, delighted—as they walk onward toward the city of Jericho. The former will sprint ahead, and then come back to the latter.
“What are those distant upward places?” he asks.
“Hills,” says the other.
“And what is their color called?”
“Brown. Or, perhaps…sandy-brown.”
The wild-eyed man has hit upon a pattern, he realizes.
He looks up. “And this, I imagine, is the ‘sky’ I’ve heard so much about?”
The other nods.
“And what do you call this color I see?”
“And those soft-looking things that move across its blue and stain the ground with blackness?”
Then he begins, without explanation, to point to different trees, plants and bushes. The other man, knowing his meaning, simply lists the name of each toward which he points: “Palm… Almond… Pine… Olive… Date… Papyrus reeds…”
They are now arriving at the outside edge of Jericho.
A street or two in, they happen upon a shop of fineries. The quiet man escorts the other inside; into the cool, dark interior.
The two men stand and look into a bronze mirror, housed within a gaudy gilded frame. There they are, reflected: the wild-eyed man and the smiling other.
“And, you see,” says the latter, “that’s you.”
“To be conformed to the image of Christ is not an ideal to be striven after. It is not as though we had to imitate him as well as we could. We cannot transform ourselves into his image; it is rather the form of Christ which seeks to be formed in us (Gal. 4.19), and to be manifested in us. Christ’s work in us is not finished until he has perfected his own form in us...
“His life on earth is not finished yet, for he continues to live in the lives of his followers. Indeed it is wrong to speak of the Christian life: we should speak rather of Christ living in us. ‘I live, and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Gal. 2.20). Jesus Christ, incarnate, crucified and glorified, has entered my life and taken charge. ‘To me to live is Christ’ (Phil. 1.21). And where Christ lives, there the Father also lives, and both Father and Son through the Holy Ghost. The Holy Trinity himself has made his dwelling in the Christian heart, filling his whole being, and transforming him into the divine image.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
“If thou art a writer, write as if thy time were short, for it is indeed short at the longest. Improve each occasion when thy soul is reached. Drain the cup of inspiration to its last dregs. Fear no intemperance in that, for the years will come when otherwise thou wilt regret opportunities unimproved. The spring will not last forever. These fertile and expanding seasons of thy life, when the rain reaches thy root, when thy vigor shoots, when thy flower is budding, shall be fewer and farther between. Again I say, Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth. Use and commit to life what you cannot commit to memory.”
Henry David Thoreau, from his journals
* * *
I read those words a couple weeks back and was stirred by how readily they might be shifted—changed in their context—so that they ring with an even higher truth. Try this on for size:
If you are a follower of Jesus, live today as if your time is short, for it is indeed short—even at the longest. Improve each occasion, for His living presence dwells in your soul. Be the vessel of His direct inspiration to everyone you meet. Fear nothing but to be temperate when it comes to His Spirit, for each day of each year of your life is an improvable opportunity for His divine purposes. Your earthly life will not last forever. His presence and nearness in your life, when His Spirit reaches low inside you, when He is a wellspring, when you are bearing His fruit, is as available today as it’s ever been. Again I say to you, Abide in Him and He in you. Use and commit this day not to memories of Him, but to His alive life actually dwelling inside you.
“The Lord would have us to be walking epistles of His word. Jesus is the Word and is the power in us, and it is His desire to work in and through us His own good pleasure. We must believe that He is in us. There are boundless possibilities for us if we dare to act in God and dare to believe that the wonderful virtue of our living Christ shall be made manifest through us as we lay our hands on the sick in His name.
“The exceeding great and precious promises of the Word are given to us that we might be partakers of the divine nature. I feel the Holy Ghost is grieved with us because, when we know these things, we do not do greater exploits for God. Does not the Holy Ghost show us wide-open doors of opportunity? Shall we not let God take us on to greater things? Shall we not believe God to take us on to greater manifestations of His power? His call for us is to forget the things that are behind, and reach forth unto the things which are before and to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Smith Wigglesworth, Ever Increasing Faith
“It is a blessed thing for a man, when he has brought his desires into a focus, so that they all centre in one object. When he has fifty different desires, his heart resembles a mire of stagnant water, spread out into a marsh, breeding miasma and pestilence; but when all his desires are brought into one channel, his heart becomes like a river of pure water, running swiftly to fertilize the fields. Happy is he who hath one desire, if that one desire be set on Christ, though it may not yet have been realized. If Jesus be a soul’s desire, it is a blessed sign of divine work within. Such a man will never be content with mere ordinances. He will say, ‘I want Christ; I must have him—mere ordinances are of no use to me; I want himself; do not offer me these; you offer me the empty pitcher, while I am dying of thirst; give me water, or I die. Jesus is my soul’s desire. I would see Jesus!’
“Is this thy condition, my reader, at this moment? Hast thou but one desire, and is that after Christ? Then thou art not far from the kingdom of heaven. Hast thou but one wish in thy heart, and that one wish that thou mayst be washed from all thy sins in Jesus’ blood? Canst thou really say, ‘I would give all I have to be a Christian; I would give up everything I have and hope for, if I might but feel that I have an interest in Christ?’ Then, despite all thy fears, be of good cheer, the Lord loveth thee, and thou shalt come out into daylight soon, and rejoice in the liberty wherewith Christ makes men free.”
Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening
“It is by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ that death is trampled underfoot, [and] it is clear that it is Christ Himself and none other Who is the Archvictor over death and has robbed it of its power. Death used to be strong and terrible, but now, since the sojourn of the Saviour and the death and resurrection of His body, it is despised; and obviously it is by the very Christ Who mounted on the cross that it has been destroyed and vanquished finally. When the sun rises after the night and the whole world is lit up by it, nobody doubts that it is the sun which has thus shed its light everywhere and driven away the dark. Equally clear is it, since this utter scorning and trampling down of death has ensued upon the Saviour’s manifestation in the body and His death on the cross, that it is He Himself Who brought death to nought and daily raises monuments to His victory in His own disciples. How can you think otherwise, when you see men naturally weak hastening to death, unafraid at the prospect of corruption, fearless of the descent into Hades, even indeed with eager soul provoking it, not shrinking from tortures, but preferring thus to rush on death for Christ’s sake, rather than to remain in this present life? If you see with your own eyes men and women and children, even, thus welcoming death for the sake of Christ’s religion, how can you be so utterly silly and incredulous and maimed in your mind as not to realise that Christ to Whom these all bear witness, Himself gives the victory to each, making death completely powerless for those who hold His faith and bear the sign of the cross? No one in his senses doubts that a snake is dead when he sees it trampled underfoot, especially when he knows how savage it used to be; nor, if he sees boys making fun of a lion, does he doubt that the brute is either dead or completely bereft of strength. These things can be seen with our own eyes, and it is the same with the conquest of death. Doubt no longer, then, when you see death mocked and scorned by those who believe in Christ, that by Christ death was destroyed, and the corruption that goes with it resolved and brought to an end.”
Athanasius of Alexandria
Early 4th Century
“Plato has told you a truth; but Plato is dead. Shakespeare has startled you with an image; but Shakespeare will not startle you with any more. But imagine what it would be to live with such men still living, to know that Plato might break out with an original lecture tomorrow, or that at any moment Shakespeare might shatter everything with a single song. The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living Church is a man always expecting to meet Plato and Shakespeare tomorrow at breakfast. He is always expecting to see some truth that he has never seen before.”
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
* * *
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son...” (Hebrews 1:1,2a)
* * *
I’ve been thinking about that Chesterton quote for the last couple of weeks. And thinking, in light of Hebrews 1, of how it might most clearly read for us:
“Jesus is the truth; and Jesus is alive. Jesus has startled us by being the image of the invisible God; and Jesus may startle us at any time and in manifold ways. Just imagine that we may live with such a Man living, and know that He is always speaking, always teaching, and that at any moment He can shatter everything with a single word. The man or woman who lives in contact with what we know to be a Living Christ is a man or woman expecting Him today and tomorrow at breakfast. He or she is always expecting to see Him, to hear Him, just as clearly as those disciples did at the beginning.”
“Would Jesus Christ have made [union with Himself] the most perfect and necessary way had there been evil or danger therein? No! all can travel this road to blessedness; and all are called thereto, as to the enjoyment of God, which alone is beatitude, both in this world and the next. I say the enjoyment of God Himself and not His gifts which, as they do not constitute essential beatitude, cannot fully content an immortal spirit: the soul is so noble, so great, that the most exalted gifts of God cannot fill its immense capacity with happiness unless the Giver also bestows Himself. Now the whole desire of the Divine Being is to give Himself to every creature, according to the capacity with which it is endued; and yet, alas! how reluctantly man suffers himself to be drawn to God! how fearful is he to prepare for Divine Union!
“Some say that we should not attempt, by our own ability, to place ourselves in this state. I grant it: but what a poor subterfuge is this? since I have all along asserted and proved that the utmost exertion of the highest created being could never accomplish this of itself: it is God alone must do it. The creature may, indeed, open the window; but it is the sun himself that must give the light...
“Since then none can attain this blessed state save those whom God Himself leads and places therein, we do not pretend to introduce any into it, but only to point out the shortest and safest road that leads to it: beseeching you not to be slowed in your progress by any external exercises, not to sit down a resident at the first inn, nor to be satisfied with the sweets which are tasted in the milk for babes. If the Water of Eternal Life is shown to some thirsty souls, how inexpressibly cruel would it be, by confining them to a round of external forms, to prevent their approaching it, so that their longing shall never be satisfied but they shall perish with thirst!
“Let us all agree in the way, as we all agree in the end, which is evident and incontrovertible. The way has its beginning, progress, and end; and the nearer we approach the end, the farther is the beginning behind us: it is only by proceeding from one that we can ever arrive at the other...”
A Method of Prayer
'Holiness is the very nature of God, and that alone is holy which God takes possession of and fills with Himself. God’s answer to the question, How could sinful man become holy? is, “Christ, the Holy One of God.” In Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, God’s holiness was revealed incarnate, and brought within reach of man. “I sanctify myself for them, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” There is no other way of our becoming holy, but by becoming partakers of the holiness of Christ. And there is no other way of this taking place than by our personal spiritual union with Him, so that through His Holy Spirit His holy life flows into us. “Of God are ye in Christ, who is made unto us sanctification.” Abiding by faith in Christ our sanctification is the simple secret of a holy life. The measure of sanctification will depend on the measure of abiding in Him; as the soul learns wholly to abide in Christ, the promise is increasingly fulfilled: “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly.”'
Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ
Later, Jesus spoke to the people again and said, “I am the light of the world. The man who follows me will never walk in the dark but will live his life in the light.”
This made the Pharisees say to him, “You are testifying to yourself — your evidence is not valid.”
Jesus answered, “Even if I am testifying to myself, my evidence is valid, for I know where I have come from and I know where I am going. But as for you, you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. (Note to you, dear reader: Keep that last phrase in mind.) You are judging by human standards, but I am not judging anyone. Yet if I should judge, my decision would be just, for I am not alone — the Father who sent me is with me. In your Law, it is stated that the witness of two persons is valid. I am one testifying to myself and the second witness to me is the Father who sent me.”
“And where is this father of yours?” they replied.
“You do not know my Father,” returned Jesus, “any more than you know me: if you had known me, you would have known him.” (From John 8)
To me, what’s fascinating in these back-and-forth comments is what Jesus’ words imply, rather than directly say. What does He say gives His testimony validity? “I know where I have come from and I know where I am going.” And where did He come from; where is He going? He tells us in verses 16 and 18: “the Father who sent me.” And the reason the Pharisees “have no idea” where He comes from or where He is going? He explains in verse 19: “You do not know my Father…”
Do you see?
For Jesus, the launching-point and destination for His life were one and the same: “the Father.” And, at all times, and in every situation, He was utterly surrounded: “the Father who sent me is with me.” There was never a moment when He was out of touch, out of alignment, out of step with His source, His goal, His climate: the life of the Father was His life.
The same is true – can be true; must be true! – for us: life is only to be found in the life of the Father as expressed to us in Jesus. The same totality of experience is well-expressed in that famous opening of Hebrews 12: “Surrounded then as we are by these serried ranks of witnesses, let us strip off everything that hinders us, as well as the sin which dogs our feet, and let us run the race that we have to run with patience, our eyes fixed on Jesus the source and the goal of our faith.”
What a joy that the goal of our faith is also the source of our faith: Jesus is our climate as the Father was His!