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Home » Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Gospels ! Chapter 70 - John 11:40 - The Honour Given to Faith Light & Truth: The Gospels by Bonar, Horatius
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The Honour Given To Faith.
"Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?"-John 11:40.
That which alone is worth the seeing; that which fills and gladdens the soul, when seen and known; that, without which we must remain unsatisfied and unblest for ever; that, in comparison with which all other sights are as nothing,-is "the glory of God."
That which righteous men of old desired to see, but saw only in glimpses and at intervals; that, for the seeing of which Moses prayed, saying, "Shew me, I beseech thee, thy glory"; that to which the eye of every creature should turn, in longing earnestness,-is "the glory of God."
That which every thing in heaven and earth is intended to reveal, for the "heavens declare the glory of God," and the earth everywhere shews it forth; that, for the beholding of which our eyes were made, and for the appreciation of which our minds were formed; that, for the unfolding of which sin came in, and is yet to be expelled by holiness, and death came in that it may yet be succeeded by more blessed life; that, for the revelation of which the Son of God took flesh, and died, and was buried, and rose again,-was "the glory of God."
It is not God Himself that Christ here speaks of our seeing, though in another place He says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." It is his "glory," or the revelation of that which is in Him,-some visible display of the invisible excellencies that are in Him. In one sense we "shall see God"; in another, we cannot see Him; for no man hath seen nor can see Him; only the Son of God, who is in the bosom of the Father, can see and declare Him. But without noticing this point farther, we observe that it is His "glory" that is spoken of here as that which we are to see.
The glory of God is that which shews Him to be the glorious being that He is; and it is through the knowledge of His glory that we reach the knowledge of Himself. This glory is spread out before us in all His works; it is written out at length for us to read in the Scriptures of His truth; and it is centered and embodied in his incarnate Son, who is the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person.
But the one special point of which our Lord here speaks, is His glory as the bringer of life out of death. It was this that the Son of God came so fully to reveal, and did reveal, both in His own person, as the dying and rising One, and in the works of his hands. Elsewhere He speaks of this glory being manifested in his opening the eyes of the blind, and so bringing light out of darkness; here He speaks of shewing it in the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and so bringing life out of death and the grave.
That this was a signal display of divine glory is evident from the greatness of the thing itself, and from the stress which the Bible lays on resurrection and the power needful to accomplish it. To remove the penalty of death; to undo the work which death had done; to conquer him that had the power of death; to swallow up death in victory;-these are things in the accomplishment of which man could have no share. They are altogether the doing of God; and their accomplishment is the special manifestation of his glory.
Resurrection, then, is that which Christ has taught us to regard as one of the most signal revelations of the glory of God. How it is so, I do not now ask; I take the statement of Scripture as to the fact itself. And if in the resurrection of one that glory was to be so conspicuously seen, how much more so in the resurrection of the millions of the saints in the day of the Lord. The glory that God is to get from the resurrection of his saints, is, next to that from the resurrection of his Son, the greatest that He shall receive. Whatever we may have seen or known of this glory before that, will be as nothing when compared with the abundance and the brightness of the glory to be manifested then. One Lazarus raised from the dead was to shew His glory, what will not myriads do?
That which had blotted the work of God, which had marred that which God pronounced good, which had seemed to bring discredit upon God, and to call in question his power, his wisdom, his foresight, his goodness, was death. It seemed to have come in spite of God, and to possess the power of undoing all that God had done; it seemed to intimate the existence of a being stronger than God, and capable of throwing down all that God might build up; it seemed to track the footsteps of the Creator, so that wherever He went to create, it followed to destroy. From this what glory could accrue to God? Did not death seem to mock Omnipotence, and bring his excellency to shame? It did; and hence the stress that is laid upon the undoing of death and the emptying of the grave. Hence the glory that is said to be brought to God by resurrection; and hence the name which Christ takes to himself, "the Resurrection and the Life," and the work which he is specially said to have accomplished, viz., to have brought "life and immortality to light." It is in life, not in death, that the glory of God is seen; and it is to Him specially as the bringer of life out of death that we are to look, in order to behold his glory.
Let us look more minutely at the words of the Lord before us.
I. God's purpose to reveal his glory. To shew Himself is his design in creation; still more so in his work of resurrection and redemption. Man may hide himself, because he possesses nothing of his own at all; but God cannot do so; forth at which is in Him must of necessity come forth, seeing all his fullness is his own, borrowed from none, either in heaven or earth. For his own sake, and for the creature's sake, He must shew himself. Not to do so would be to wrong both Himself and the creature. Were the sun to withdraw its shining, how grievous the loss to us; yet not half so terrible as were God to refuse to reveal himself It is God's purpose to shew himself, to manifest his glory, that thus he may rejoice in the honour flowing to him from all that He does, and that the creature may be gladdened, and comforted, and blessed in beholding the glory thus presented by God for him to gaze upon.
II. Christ's desire is that we should see the glory of God. He is the revealer of the Father, and as such He came to earth. Sin had hidden the Father from our world, as the dark, thick cloud blots out the face of the sun. Christ came to unveil the Father's face, to make known the Father's character, to manifest the Father's glory, to roll off the clouds that covered the face of the Sun. This was his errand; and his desire is to speed in his errand, and to shew us the glory that He came to reveal. Love to the Father makes Him desirous of this, for He desires the Father's glory; love to us makes Him desirous of this, for He seeks our blessedness, and He knows that the creature's blessedness is in beholding the glory of God. O man! What are you without this glory? A world without a flower, or tree, or blade of grass; a sky without a sun or star. Will you not behold it? The Son of God longs to shew it to you. For this end He came into the world, and died and rose again. Will you not turn your eyes to this blessed object, that in beholding it, your soul may be filled with heavenly light and gladness? To say that Christ desires your salvation, and your holiness, and your comfort, is indeed to say much; but to say that He desires your beholding of the glory of God, is to say more than all this; for it is to tell you that He longs to shew you that which, as soon as beheld, would bring life, and gladness, and consolation, and holiness to your soul. When He says, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest," He means to say, "Come unto me, and I will shew you that which will at once give you rest." When He says, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink," He means to say, "Let him come unto me, and I will shew him that, the sight of which will be more refreshing to him than all the waters of earth."
III. It is unbelief that hinders our seeing this glory. The thing of which the Lord most complained, not only among the people, but among his disciples, was unbelief. They were slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken; they put away from them the good news of God's free love in visiting them from on high; and they shut both eyes and ears against the wonders done and spoken by the Son of God in the very midst of them. Had their unbelief shewn itself in putting away from them the evil day, and rejecting the message of judgment, it would not have been so marvelous or unaccountable. But it shewed itself in refusing the tidings of good; in rejecting the grace vouchsafed so abundantly; and in discrediting the signs and wonders displayed so blessedly by Christ before them,-signs and wonders in which God was revealing himself to them, and unfolding the marvels of his glory.
It was this unbelief that obstructed their vision of the glory; and it is this same unbelief that does the same evil work still to us. Let us see how it does so.
(1.) It hinders Christ from working those works which shew the glory. This seems a strange saying, and one which we could not have ventured to utter had it not been written down for us by inspired men. That a child's hand held up against the sun should hinder it from shining; that a withered leaf thrown into a stream should stay its flowing or dry up its source; that the breath of man, breathed up against the sky, should quench the light of its myriad stars;-these things would not really be so marvelous as that man's unbelief should prevent God's power from being sent forth, and the Son of God from doing those things which would reveal the glory of the Father. Yet we find the strange truth thus recorded. The evangelist Matthew thus writes,-"He did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief" (13:58); and Mark uses still stronger language,-"He could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk and healed them; and he marveled because of their unbelief" (6:5, 6). The sad and all but incredible truth is thus explicitly declared, that the sinner's unbelief does really hinder Christ from working. His hand is not stayed from working by our unworthiness, or by the multitude of our sins, but simply by our unbelief. It was this that arrested Christ's miracles in Galilee; it was this that (if we may so speak) almost hindered the raising of Lazarus from the dead. It was to this that Christ referred when He said to the father of the demoniac, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth;" and it was on the acknowledgment of this that the man so eagerly replied, "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:23, 24). Yes, it is unbelief that lays its arrest on Christ's hand, and says, Work not; it is unbelief that thrusts away alike the power and the grace of God; it is unbelief that says, "Depart out of our coasts."
(2.) It hinders us from perceiving the glory that is in the works, even when they are wrought. Christ's hand was not always stayed by man's rejection of his love and power. It did work the works of God before human eyes; works in which the glory of God did shine most brightly. Men saw the works, but they saw not the glory. They saw the healing of the leper, but they saw not the glory of God revealed in that. They saw the opening of the eyes of the blind, the unstopping of the ears of the deaf, the giving feet to the lame, the casting out of devils; but they saw not the glory of God in these,-even as they saw not either God Himself, or his glory in Him who did these works. In the case of the feeding of the multitude, they saw the miracle, they partook of the food, yet they did not see God in this at all; nay, they followed Jesus for a while because of the wondrous supply thus administered by Him, but they perceived nothing glorious or divine in it. "Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled" (John 6:26).
The glory wrapped up in these miracles could only come forth to faith. To unbelief they appeared common things, or, at the most, only striking facts in which there was little meaning. It was faith that pierced beyond the shell; it was faith that drew aside the veil; it was faith that saw God in all of these, and drank of the living waters of his grace, of which each of these miracles was the blessed well.
(3.) It hinders us enjoying the glory even after we have in some measure seen it. Christ's disciples saw the glory shewn forth in his miracles; yet, after all, they realized it but little. It seemed to come to them in glimpses and at intervals, not continuously. Like men with a telescope at their side, and sometimes looking through it, and sometimes closing it up; so these disciples entered but little into the glory which they yet acknowledged, and at times enjoyed. Faith was not always in exercise. There was more of unbelief than of faith in their history. They had faith enough to shew them something; but their unbelief hid more than their faith revealed. And it is even more so with us than it was with them. For the full glory has been manifested now in the dying and rising of Him who is the brightness of Jehovah's glory. Our eye rests on it, and at times we can say truly, "We beheld his glory"; yet how faintly does it shine to us! How much oftener is it hidden than revealed! How seldom do we receive from it the joy, and the comfort, and the quickening which it should unceasingly impart! We get but a few rays when we might get the whole sun. We get but these rays at intervals when we might have unbroken sunshine every hour. Ought not Christ's words to rebuke us and to recall us to faith? "Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God."
IV. Christ's reps of unbelief and call to faith. Both of these things are implied in the words, "Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?" He is evidently not giving this reproof for the first time. He is but repeating what He said to them oftentimes before; and He is reminding them of his former lessons and exhortations, which they were on the point of forgetting: "Said I not unto thee." The words are simple, and the rebuke is gently spoken; but not the less on that account is the question fitted to reach the conscience and humble the unbelieving spirit. "Said I not unto thee," i.e. "Have I not, not only on this occasion, but often at other times, told you what faith would do for you, and what unbelief is shutting you out from; and shall I say it all in vain?"
Yes, it is to faith that the Son of God is here calling us; it is against unbelief that He is warning us. Unbelief never did aught for a soul, and never will; faith has done wonders in time past, and will do so in all present time, as well as in all time to come. "Have faith in God"! "Only believe." Be not faithless, but believing. Trust God for everything, and say, even in the most unlikely circumstances, Is there anything too hard for the Lord?
The circumstances in which the two sisters of Bethany were placed were trying. What could they hope for? Had the Lord arrived in time, they might have hoped that He would have healed their brother. But He had, apparently, arrived too late. Lazarus was dead; and were they to hope for resurrection? Our Lord did not exactly say this; but He evidently meant to tell them that, if they would but trust Him, they would find that He would do something for them far beyond what they could ask or think,-that there was nothing which He would not do for them,-no length to which He would not go in the putting forth of his power to shew them the glory of God. Their position was, after all, not more trying than Abraham's, when called on to offer up his son; and if he believed and staggered not, if he hoped against hope and was strong in faith, giving glory to God, why should not they? As children of believing Abraham, to whom the "God of glory" appeared, might not the Lord well address them, "Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God."
In these words of Christ there is a tone of sorrowful complaint, nay, we may say of vexation and disappointment, because of the slow faith of his disciples. It is like that indicated in his words to the disciples, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?" He expected something else; and He had reason to do so. He looked for confidence, and He had given them full ground for such confidence. Might He not well be disappointed at the poor result? What, after all He had said and done, still as hesitating, as suspicious, as distrustful as ever! Could He have expected this at their hands?
Let Christ's words shame us out of our unbelief. The rebuke is mild, but all the more fitted to find its way into our hearts. Be ashamed of your hard thoughts of this gracious One, after all that He has done. Be ashamed of your misgivings, your doubtings, your dark distrust. Trust Him wholly and fully. Trust Him according to this infinite trustworthiness. Trust Him in everything. Trust Him now. Trust Him in your days of darkness, as well as in your days of light. Trust him in your sorrows as well as your joys. Say not, My case is hopeless, my wound is uncurable; I may bear it; but as to deliverance, or blessing, or glory as the result, that is impossible. Your case is not more hopeless than that of her whom the Lord thus rebuked for her unbelief; "Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God."
Good out of all evil, life out of all death, glory out of all shame, joy out of all sorrow; this is God's law and purpose for every one who believes in his name. Time may be needed for the unfolding of the issues; patience may be long and sorely tried; the results may be long of emerging from beneath the dark surface under which they were pressed down; but of the end there can be no doubt. Let faith hold fast; let patience have her perfect work; and, according to our faith and patience, nay, far beyond them, shall be the recompense. Hannah found it so; and was made to rejoice in a long-sought son. Naomi found it so; and her old age was brightened beyond all her hopes or fears. Job found it so; for, having held fast his confidence, he lived to see his latter end better than his beginning. Yet we forget this gracious law of the kingdom, and oft times lose heart, when the trial is long and the shadows hang thickly over us. We take hold, and again we lose hold. We are cheered, and again we despond. How continually we need to be reminded of the sure reward of faith, and to have the Lord's words spoken to us, "Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe thou shouldest see the glory of God."
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