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altogether different from that of ours. For instance, we read: 'Into Thy hands I commend My Spirit'; and He gave up the Spirit.' We have hints of a similar nature in the very swiftness of His death and unexpected brevity of His suffering, to be accounted for by no natural result of the physical process of crucifixion. The fact is that Jesus Christ is the Lord of death, and was so even when He seemed to be its Servant, and that He never showed Himself more completely the Prince of Life and the Conqueror of Death than when He gave up His life and died, not because He must, but because He would. There is a scene in a modern book of fiction of a man sitting on a rock and the ocean stretching round him. It reaches high upon his breast, but it threatens not his life, till he, sitting there in his calm, bows his head beneath the wave and lets it roll over him. So Christ willed to die, and died because He willed.
There was also a voluntary resurrection by His own power; for although Scripture sometimes represents His rising again from the dead as being the Father's attestation of the Son's finished work, it also represents it as being, in accordance with His own claim of power to lay down My life, and to take it again,' the Son's triumphant egress from the prison into which, for the moment, He willed to pass. Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,' but also Jesus rose from the dead by His own power.
There was also a voluntary ascension to the heavens. There was no need for Elijah's chariot of fire. There was no need for a whirlwind to sweep a mortal to the sky. There was no need for any external vehicle or agency whatsoever. No angels bore Him up upon their wings. But, the cords of duty which bound Him to
earth being cut, He rose to His own native sphere; and, if one might so say, the natural forces of His supernatural life bore Him, by inverted gravitation, upward to the place which was His own. He ascended by His own inherent power.
Thus, by a voluntary death, He became the Sacrifice for our sins; by the might of His self-effected resurrection He proclaimed Himself the Lord of death and the resurrection for all that trust Him; and by ascending up on high He draws our hearts' desires after Him, so that we, too, as we see Him lost from our sight, behind the bright Shekinah cloud that stooped to conceal the last stages of His ascension from our view, may return to our lowly work with great joy,' and set our affection on things above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.'
IV. So, lastly, we have here the dwelling again with the Father.
But that final dwelling with God is not wholly identical with the initial one. The earthly life was no mere parenthesis, and He who returned to the Throne carried with Him the manhood which He had assumed, and bore it thither into the glory in which the Word had dwelt from the beginning. And this is the true consolation which Christ offered to these His weeping servants, and which He still offers to us His waiting children, that now the manhood of Jesus Christ is exalted to participation in the divine glory, and dwells there in the calm, invisible sweetness and solemnity of fellowship with the Father.
If that be so, it is no mere abstract dogma of theology, but it touches our daily life at all points, and is essential to the fullness of our satisfaction and our rest in Christ.
•We see not all things put under Him, but we see Jesus. Our Brother is elevated to the Throne, and, if I might so say, He makes the fortunes of the family, and none of them will be poor as long as He is so rich. He sends us from the far-off land where He is gone precious gifts of its produce, and He will send for us to share His throne one day.
Christ's ascension to the Father is the elevation of our best and dearest Friend to the Throne of the Universe, and the hands that were pierced for us on the Cross hold the helm and sway the sceptre of Creation, and therefore we may calmly meet all events.
The elevation of Jesus Christ to the Throne fills Heaven for our faith, our imagination, and our hearts. How different it is to look up into those awful abysses, and to wonder where, amidst their crushing infinitude, the spirits of dear ones that are gone are wandering, if they are at all; and to look up and to think ‘My Christ hath passed through the Heavens,' and is somewhere with a true Body, and with Him all that loved Him. Without an ascended Christ we recoil from the cold splendours of an unknown Heaven, as a rustic might from the unintelligible magnificence of a palace. But if we believe that He is ‘at the right hand of God,' then the far-off becomes near, and the vague becomes definite, and the unsubstantial becomes solid, and what was a fear becomes a joy, and we can trust ourselves and the dear dead in His hands, knowing that where He is they are, and that in Him they and we have all that we need.
So, dear friends! it all comes to this—make sure that you have hold of the whole Christ for yourselves. His earthly life is little without the celestial halo that rings it round. His life is nothing without His death. His
death without His resurrection and ascension may be a little more pathetic than millions of other deaths, but is nothing, really, to us. And the life and death and resurrection are not apprehended in their fullest power until they are set between the eternal glory before and the eternal glory after.
These four facts—the dwelling in the Father; the voluntary coming to earth; the voluntary leaving earth; and, again, the dwelling with the Father—are the walls of the strong fortress into which we may flee and be safe. With them it'stands four square to every wind that blows.' Strike away one of them, and it totters into ruin. Make the whole Christ your Christ; for nothing less than the whole Christ, 'conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, ... crucified, dead, and buried, ... ascended into Heaven, and sitting at the right hand of God,' is strong enough to help your infirmities, vast enough to satisfy your desires, loving enough to love you as you need, or able to deliver you from your sins, and to lift you to the glories of His own Throne.
GLAD CONFESSION AND SAD WARNING
His disciples said unto Jesus, Lol now speakest Thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now are we sure that Thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask Thee : by this we believe that Thou camest forth from God. Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.'-JOHN xvi. 29-32.
The first words of these wonderful discourses were, Let not your heart be troubled.' They struck the key-note of the whole. The aim of all was to bring
peace and confidence unto the disciples' spirits. And this joyful burst of confession which wells up so spontaneously and irrepressibly from their hearts, shows that the aim has been reached. For a moment sorrow, bewilderment, dullness of apprehension, had all passed away, and the foolish questioners and nonreceptive listeners had been lifted into a higher region, and possessed insight, courage, confidence. The last sublime utterance of our Lord had gathered all the scattered rays into a beam so bright that the blindest could not but see, and the coldest could not but be warmed.
But yet the calm, clear eye of Christ sees something not wholly satisfactory in this outpouring of the disciples' confidence. He does not reject their imperfect faith, but He warns them, as if seeing the impending hour of denial which was so terribly to contradict the rapture of that moment. And then, with most pathetic suddenness, He passes from them to Himself; and in a singularly blended utterance lets us get a glimpse into His deep solitude and the companions that shared it.
My words now make no attempt at anything more than is involved in following the course of thought in the words before us.
I. Note the disciples' joyful confession.
Their words are permeated throughout with allusions to the previous promises and sayings of our Lord, and the very allusions show how shallow was their understanding of what they thought so plain. He had said to them that, in that coming day which was so near its dawn, He would speak to them ‘no more in proverbs, but show them plainly of the Father'; and they answer, with a kind of rapture of astonishment,