The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 2
But oh, these are but words! When we have said these things - and we would all agree that they are true - we are still so helpless, because it is the thing that matters - not talking about it! If only, by the Holy Spirit - and there is no other way, no other means - we could catch a new glimpse of His greatness, how may problems that would solve, questions that would answer, needs that would meet! How overwhelming it would be! - and when I say 'overwhelming,' I mean, how much would be overwhelmed! A mighty tidal wave, making all these rocks, upon which we threaten to founder, as nothing, they are sunk beneath it, disappear from view.
Now that is not just language. Look - who is writing this? It is the Apostle John. The Apostle John? Yes, that man who walked with Jesus of Nazareth, listened to Him, watched Him at work, and, at supper, and at other times, sat next to Him, and put his head upon His shoulder - the most familiar picture of a man alongside of a Man, in close, devoted, affectionate association. John always called himself 'the disciple whom Jesus loved': it showed that there was a sacred, holy familiarity between John and Jesus, marked by very human terms and language.
Yet that same man said: 'When I saw Him I fell, as one dead.' It is the same Jesus, and the same man; but - 'I fell to the ground as one dead.' And if that One had not, in His great mercy, come and laid His hand upon him, saying, 'Fear not, John: I am the First and the Last; I am the Living One,' John would have been there as a dead man. It was the same Jesus - but look at the transition from the 'Jesus of history' to the Christ of glory! That is the difference. From the John of the Gospel to the John of the Revelation it is a marvelous and mighty movement! He never felt like that when he walked with Jesus, devoted as he was. With his fullest consciousness of who Jesus was, he was at most perhaps sometimes awe-struck and awe-inspired. It was not until he saw Him glorified that he went down, helplessly prostrate, like a dead man. It was a great transition from the Jesus of history to the Christ of glory.
Now, I take nothing whatever from the value and blessings of the Gospels, when I say that I am sometimes afraid that we may dwell too much upon the Jesus of history, and fail to remember that the men who wrote those four Gospels wrote them long after Jesus was glorified. You notice, they did not, at some point toward the end of His life, when they perhaps began to sense that He would not be with them much longer, get away and decide to write the story of that life - of His birth, and His manhood, and His teaching, and His miracles - as a mere human, earthly story. When they wrote, they had all the mighty facts and realities of His resurrection, ascension and heavenly glory, which they were seeking to crowd into that story of His life here, as those who would say: 'That One was This One! That was not just Jesus of Nazareth - that was the mighty Son of God from Heaven!' They were crowding every incident with the fullest apprehension that they had of the glorified Christ - Christ, Who was now there at the right hand of God! They were not just writing a human story.
That is the only way in which to preach the Gospel from the Gospels. Do you notice, when after His ascension and His glorification they preached or they wrote, how little, how remotely little, they ever said about the three-and-a-half years? - just a fragment here and there. They said very little about His teaching and His miracles and His walk about Palestine. They were all occupied with this One Who had been 'crowned with glory and honor' - that was their message. Yes, there was that other One - Jesus of Nazareth, 'Who went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed with the devil' - a sort of passing reference to that earthly phase, a summary ...'But God raised Him!' God honored Him, this One! It will not get us very far just to be occupied with the incidents of His earthly life, however precious they are. If we are going on and going through, we need an apprehension of that fullness of glory that is His now - the greatness of Christ.
It is, indeed, just because men have robbed or stripped Him of His essential greatness, that we find, down the centuries, the deplorable conditions that have obtained. Our 'liberal' theologians have stripped Him of His Deity; with what result? Oh, devastating results in the impact of Christ upon this earth! They have made Him a lesser Christ than He is. The philosophers have just made Him one in their gallery of great and wise men. It was against that tendency even with the Christians in Corinth that Paul raged in his first letter - taking something from the Lord Jesus, and just putting Him among other great men. The gnostics of Colossae - what were they doing? They had a theory of angelic ranks and orders, from the highest order of angelic beings down to the lowest subordinate; and they put Jesus, perhaps at the top, but as nothing more than an 'angelic being,' robbing Him of His essential Person. He is VERY GOD!
The 'comparative religionists,' all along and in our own day, are saying, Well, there are great founders of religions - there is Buddha, and Confucius, and Mohammed, and Jesus ... and so on. You see the subtlety? - a comparative, not an absolutely Supreme and unique! And then there are the humanists of our time, inflating and glorifying man and humanity to such a point that, after all, humanity will be deified one day, will reach God-head - and Jesus is only, after all, the Super Man! So it goes on, and it is all these things, this satanic work, to reduce the size of Christ, to make Him less than He is, that has done so much mischief. If we lose, or fail to have, the essential greatness of Christ in our consciousness, ours is going to be a lesser spiritual life than it could be, and we shall break down under the stress and the strain of adversity. The only thing for every need is the recovery of His greatness.
(continued with # 3)