| CHRIST'S SILENCE (Part 1)|
CHRIST'S SILENCE (Part 1)
'A time to keep silence and a time to speak'
We can draw a great deal of instruction from Christ's silence.
'Let Christ's word and silence too
Dwell in thy heart,'
a Moravian hymn says. Silence as to things we would like to know about Christ is a different thing from Christ Himself keeping silence. Do we ever in the four Gospels find Christ calling any man Lord? Never. He carried about with Him the constant consciousness of His divinity. Isaac is the type of the silent Christ. Let us notice two instances of Christ's silence.
I. His silence at Nazareth for thirty years.There was no noise made about His coming into the world. He slipped into it we may say, until a choir of angels made it known. A few weeks after, we hear the tramp of Herod's horsemen, and we see the babe fleeing into Egypt. Then we hear nothing of Him (with one exception) for thirty years. This Plant of renown grew up silently before the Lord, and spread out His branches to be suffused with divine fragrance. He did all for God only, and this is true service for child or man. He broke the silence once that He might tell us what He was engaged in. 'Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?' Christ never refers to these thirty years. Why did He keep silence? To teach us the real nature of obedience. Is it not doing everything under God's eye and for Him, not drawing the attention of others to what we are, and to what we are doing? He was teaching us to be content with the Father's approval, that the way to please the Lord is by our obedience. Is God's approval enough for you though all men should ignore you or even despise you? Christ lived for thirty years with the two tables of the law unbroken. Learn to take in much of Christ's obedience into your thoughts. It claims for us merit, and we have by it a claim to the favour of God. There is a lesson here for afflicted ones. What if they are giving the best obedience by their quiet suffering? They are doing the hardest thing that any one can be sent to do. These thirty years ended at Christ's baptism, when the heavens were opened and the voice said, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased' the Father's seal to His thirty years' obedience.
II. His silence at the marriage in Cana.He says nothing to the guests, as we would have expected Him to do. Sitting in the midst of them the first of His miracles is done in silence. He spoke by His presence. A good man's presence in a company may be a great blessing, if his presence is also the presence of the Master. As Christ sat there He silently changed the water into wine.
'God spake once when He all things made,
But saved us when He nothing said.'
We may apply these words to this miracle. What a ray of divinity there was in it! He can think and it is done, as well as speak and it is done. There is no noise in the sunrise in the morning, but there is a burst of light! Christ was teaching the secret of power. It is the presence of the Lord that is the secret of power. It is that we need in order to have blessing. In providence He likes to work in silence. There is no voice in the affliction, but there is in the very silence of it. It is the Lord's way to make us think upon divine things when He means to give us blessing. 'He has made His wonderful works to be thought upon.' He works in this way still in convincing of sin and righteousness. Real conviction comes when the soul is quietly alone with God. No one in the church knows what you are feeling, but the Lord is working in the might of His divinity. We are to stand under the cross and look at the Crucified One. 'Behold Me! Behold Me!' A striking picture makes us silent while looking at it, but what after-thoughts it may rouse in us! So looking quietly on the Lord Jesus the water may be changed into wine, the hard heart will be melted!
Transcribed from Reminiscences of Andrew A.Bonar D.D. first published
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CHRIST'S SILENCE (Part 2)
'Have I not held my peace even of old, and thou fearest me not?
IT is, as we would say, an old custom of God's to keep silence when we would have expected Him to speak. Of old God's silence was meant to lead men to fear. We need not wonder that when Christ came He acted in the same way.
I. Christ's silence in receiving sinners.The woman who washed His feet with her tears was a great sinner, a notorious sinner, so much so that Simon wondered He could let her touch Him. Christ did not speak about her sins. He allowed her in silence to come and weep at His feet. There was no 'casting up' of her old sins, no upbraiding. Without His speaking a word she knew she was forgiven. All this woman's sinsand they were manyHe dropped into the deep, and welcomed her to Himself. Does He not do this to us? The fountain opened for sin washes sin away, but there is no voice in the waters. In silence the waters wash the soul. Christ 'held His peace,' and the woman 'feared' Him. Had He upbraided her, her heart might have been broken by sorrow, but would she have been drawn to Him? His silent gentleness drew her with the cords of love. Look at the woman we read of in the eighth of John. When Christ had heard what her accusers said He turned away, and stooping down, began to write on the ground as if to give a silent rebuke to them. When He lifted Himself up and looked at them, He did not say one upbraiding word to the woman, but a searching word to those round her. When He looked up the second time her accusers had all disappeared. Then He said to the woman, 'I do not pronounce condemnation on thee, but pardon. Go, and sin no more.' He did not rebuke her. He was there as the Sin-bearer, and in the very act of saying 'Go, and sin no more,' He was casting her sins into the depths of the sea, and giving her the power to sin no more. It was not because her sin was small. It was because it was such that He turned away His eyes from her, that He hastened to cast it into the depths of the sea. He took it on Himself and so put it out of sight of God and man. It is so with Him still. You may take your sin to Him at once, and He will not reproach you. He will not upbraid you. He will 'in no wise cast you out.' Some of you may think that God does not notice your sin. Do you not know that God is silent that He may give you time for repentance? There will be a day when He will 'speak out,' as there has been a time when He has kept silence.
II. Christ's silence in dealing with His disciples.He did not hasten to speak. It is one thing that can be said of Christ, though it cannot be said of all His disciples, He was not censorious. How He kept silence is remarkable. How often His disciples did inconsistent, stupid things through ignorance, and the worst that Christ said to them was, 'O ye of little faith.' Sometimes He did not speak at all, but only by a sigh showed that He was vexed.
We don't do much good by speaking too much about the faults of others. If we could learn Christ's solemn way of speaking a little, we would be much more likely to reach our end. He never talked to others about the faults of His disciples, and, when others tried to find fault with them, He was very quick to defend them. When they were blamed for plucking the ears of corn, He interposed and gave a defence for them. When they were blamed for not fasting, He gave good reasons why they should not. When 'they all forsook Him and fled', He was not offended in them. We never read of His upbraiding them. When Peter denied Him did He utter a word of reproach? He only gave Him a look that was silent, but how it touched Peter's soul! When He said to Him by the Sea of Galilee three times 'Lovest thou Me?' there was evidently an allusion to his thrice-repeated denial. Doubtless Peter longed to have Him speak of it, that he might have the opportunity of confessing his sin and being forgiven. But Christ never said more about it than that. When He speaks about His disciples in the seventeenth of John, you would think these men were faultless! He says they have kept His word, they have believed on Him, they are not of the world, even as He is not. He never speaks of their failures, He just speaks of their faith. O believer, what a Saviour you have! How He will hide all your sins, and speak only of your faith to the Father. It is not that He does not see wherein you fail, but it is just His exceeding loving-kindness. The very height of this is seen in His dealings with the beloved John. Never man had a sorer heart than John when he came back and stood at the Cross for some hours before his Master died. John, who used to lay his head on Christ's bosom, had forsaken Him and fled! But Christ has not a word of rebuke for him. He looks upon him, and before the end comes He says to him, 'There is My mother; she is your mother now. Take her home with you. I forgive you, I can trust you, John.' Such is grace. If it were not that we know all this, I don't know how we could take our places in glory before the throne. Our worst sin will be completely gone, and no holy angel will be more welcome than we will be!
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CHRIST'S SILENCE (Part 3)
JOHN the Baptist lay in prison unnoticed, and we may say uncared for, for nearly a year. How mysterious! No wonder he sent to ask the Master if there was any explanation of this. 'Art Thou He that should come? Is this like the Messiah?' Christ's answer to the disciples of John was, 'Tell your master what I am doing, and have been doing. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed.' With this message they were dismissed, only that the Master said as they left, 'Tell John not to be stumbled at My dealings with him. Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.' Infer from other things, not from circumstances, how you stand toward the Lord, and how He stands toward you. Learn the heart of the Lord by what He has done for you. Think of Him who gave Himself for us, and trust Him. Never distrust the Father, never distrust the Son, but confide in their wisdom and lovingkindness. Wait till you see the end of all affliction. Learn to read your title to the family of God by what God has said, not by a special message to yourself. It would be so satisfactory to us if we could get an individual message from the Lord; but He does not do this. He did not do it to John the Baptist. Notice particularly:
I. The circumstances of John's death.The one incident we hear of in John's imprisonment is the message sent by his disciples. It is curious that at the very time John was in prison, Christ sent out His twelve disciples to preach. He left His Forerunner in prison and sent out the twelve! 'Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.' There John lies in prison,the man who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, but no chariot of fire carried him upward without tasting death. No, he sank in loneliness into the grave. Yet there had not arisen 'a greater prophet than John the Baptist.' Who is the man who is greater than others? The man who has most of Christ in his heart. This is God's test. What place has Christ in your heart? That will determine how you stand before God. You may be neglected, you may pass through the world, and the world may not take much notice of you, and God's people may not. God may give you the treatment He gave to the Baptist. Instead of letting him think he deserved any honour at the hand of the Lord, the Lord was emptying him of self and putting him on the level of other sinners. It was just as He did with Moses. The man who wrought such wonders might have been tempted to think he stood upon a higher footing than the people of Israel. So when he sinned, God made him feel it was the sin of a highly-favoured man; it was more than an ordinary sin. So he was self-emptied. God may use a man to do great things, but that does not give him any merit. It gives him responsibility.
II. Christ's silence regarding John's death.'The disciples went and told Jesus.' He said nothing, He made no mourning. They mourned thirty days for Aaron, but when the greatest of the prophets died there was no mourning. There was always meaning in Christ's silence, as there was at Bethany. It was not that He felt little, but because His heart was full. 'Come ye yourselves apart into the desert-place,' He says, 'and let us talk over it, and think over it.' But He said nothing more. He did not send any threatening message to Herod. He left him without a word. He gave him up. It is not a man's death that is so important in Christ's eyes. It is his life and his resurrection. John in his prison heard the sound of mirth and revelry above him in the palace, when suddenly he is ushered into the presence of his Lord, and hears the songs of the redeemed above! The head that was so mocked is now crowned with glory. Whatever may happen to you in another year, will you be able so to trust the love of the Lord? Though you should be in abject poverty, or in bodily pain, still you will be able to say with Paul, 'I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.'
III. Christ's thoughts of John.John's death is like Abel's, silent, lonely, unheeded. Yet Jesus calls him 'righteous Abel.' It is like Antipas in Pergamos, condemned, put to death; and God says, 'My faithful martyr.' He says of John, 'He was a burning and a shining light.' He says, 'It was not for nothing you went outnot to see the reeds by the Jordanno, you sought a man worth seeing. You saw a real prophet, the greatest of them all.' The prophet prophesied of by Malachi! And remember you may be greater than he in the coming kingdom of glory; you in heaven may be greater than he on earth.
He says of John's influence, 'From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence,' etc. (Matt. 11:12), such was the earnestness he awakened, such vehement desire. And his shall be the honour (Dan. 12: 3).
He says of the peculiar fulness of his preaching (Matt. 11: 13,14 and Luke 16:16), all others only foretold what was coming. He stood and pointed out the reality come. He preached the King and the Gospel of the kingdom. He says, in a word, that he was truly an Elias. In him the prophecy of Malachi 4: 5 had got a first fulfilment. How Christ's heart toward John is seen in these words! Ah, is not this the way He will speak of each faithful one at His coming? 'Well done, good and faithful servant!' 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!'
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