Friday, December 19, 2014

The Glories of the Mount by Hamilton Smith (Part 2)

The Sorrows of the Plain
Luke 9:28-62

The Mount, with its foretaste of coming glories, is a happy place for the soul to visit; nevertheless the Plain, with its sorrows, is our daily lot as we journey through this world. But though we have to leave the Mount and face the Plain, we are not called to leave the company of Jesus; for we read, "When the voice was past Jesus was found alone." The vision of glory fades, the cloud is lifted, the voice is silent, but Jesus remains, and remains alone with His disciples.

Jesus had taken the disciples with Him into the Mount; now the disciples will have Jesus with them in the Plain. They face the Plain with the secret of the Mount in their hearts: a secret that in those days they will keep close, for they tell no man of the things which they had seen. The glories they had looked upon, the place they had entered, and the voice they had heard, are beyond the capacity and desires of the natural mind. However, the day will come when Peter will no longer keep these things close, but will tell those who have received like precious faith, of the Majesty of the Lord, of the excellent glory, and of the Father's voice. Peter's disclosure will also speak of the abiding impression made upon the souls of the disciples by their visit to the Mount. Henceforth the lowly Jesus that they follow is One whom they have seen in power and glory, and though their pilgrim path may at times be dark, it is lit up with the light of the glory to which it leads. For ourselves, too, what a difference it makes if we have seen the King in His beauty, and take our journey through the sorrows of the Plain in the light of the Christ of the Mount.

Thus the disciples and ourselves are prepared to face the Plain and its sorrows. Coming down from the hill, they meet "much people," an only child under the power of the devil, and faithless disciples (vv. 37-41). They are face to face with a needy world, the power of the devil, and the unbelief of the flesh.

These sorrows of the Plain find their expression in the pitiful case of the man who beseeches the Lord to look upon his only son. The father's heart racked with distress, his son's body torn by the devil, the crowd unconcerned, and the disciples of the Lord helpless! What a picture is this of the world in which we are! A needy but callous world around us, the devil against us, and the flesh within us. Though like the disciples we have the Lord in all His grace with us, and the Lord with His coming glory before us. It is as if He said, "I have shown you on the Mount the glory to which I will bring you; I will now show you in the Plain the grace that can keep you every step of the journey on the way to the glory."

If, however, we are to learn the exceeding grace of His heart, we must discover our weakness to lean on His strength, our need to draw upon His grace. Hence it is that the Lord discovers to the disciples, and to ourselves, the true character of the flesh (vv. 41-45); the different forms of selfishness that it assumes (vv. 46-56); and lastly, the different ways in which we may be hindered by nature (vv. 57-62).

First we have the exposure of the flesh in its unbelief (vv. 40-41). In the presence of the failure of the disciples to cast out the demon, the Lord has to say, "O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you and suffer you?" (v. 41, N. Tr.). Desperate need was there in the case of the child possessed with the demon; grace was there to meet the need in the Person of Jesus; the professed disciples of the Lord were there, but, alas, the world looks to them in vain. They are helpless by reason of the unbelief of the flesh that renders them incapable of using the power of the Lord at their disposal, and the perversity of the flesh that could not profit by all the marvellous manifestations of His power and grace.

In one brief sentence the Lord indicates the serious result of the unbelief of His professed disciples. He asks, "How long shall I be with you and suffer you?" Words implying that the period of the Lord's presence in grace was drawing to its close; and that the end would be brought about, not by the evil of the world nor the terrible power of Satan, but because those who professed His Name were unable to use the grace and power that Christ had brought into the world. The Lord does not say, "O needy world, how long shall I be with you?" for it was the need of the world that brought Him into it, but He asks of unbelieving disciples, "How long shall I be with you and suffer you?" Solemn consideration for ourselves, for it is not otherwise in this the day of grace. It is the failure of that which professes the Name of Christ upon the earth that will bring the dispensation to a close; as we read, "Toward thee [professing Christendom] goodness, if thou continue in His goodness; otherwisethou also shall be cut off" (Romans 11:22). The dispensation was opened by the power and goodness of God, and will be closed by the incapacity of those who have professed the Name of Christ to use His power and grace.

However, for our comfort, be it noted that the failure of those who profess the Name of Christ only serves to bring to light the unfailing resources of Christ for those who have faith in Himself. Very blessedly this comes to light in this fine scene. Having spoken of our faithlessness and perversity, the Lord immediately adds, "Bring thy son hither." The first portion of the verse exposes our hearts, the latter part reveals His heart. It is as if He said, "However much you fail, you will find in Me an unfailing resource, so that whatever you find in your hearts, and whatever your needs, come to Me, bring them all to Me." The dispensation was drawing to a close, yet as long as the Lord was present, His grace and power were available for all that brought their needs to Him. So today, again, the dispensation fast hastens to its close, the shadows lengthen and the darkness deepens, but as one has truly said, "As long as Christ's grace is at work, if there is only one saint on the earth and everything else failed around, he would find the power of Christ ready to be exercised on his behalf." How comforting then is the truth that underlies these words of the Lord, "Bring thy son hither." May it be our happy portion to profit by them in bringing our needs, our sorrows, our difficulties, and our exercises to Christ. And yet the fact of bringing our exercise to Christ may at times make the difficulties appear greater. As in the case before us, when in answer to the Lord's word they bring the child, we read, "the devil threw him down and tare him." Nothing so enrages the devil as a saint turning to the Lord in prayer. It may become the occasion of a fresh and violent outburst of the devil's opposition which accentuates the very trouble we desire to have removed, but in the end it only magnifies the grace and power that acts for our relief.

But, alas, the display of the grace and power of the Lord becomes a fresh occasion for the exposure of the unbelief of the human heart, for we read, "they were all amazed at the mighty power of God," and again, "they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did." How humbling was this amazement and wonder. How far man must have departed from God if he shows no amazement at the power of the devil, but is amazed when God puts forth His power. Seeing that God was present in the Person of Jesus, the amazing thing would be if He did not act in power. We might well be amazed at the power of the devil and the powerlessness of the disciples, but only unbelief could wonder at the mighty power of God.

Thus the Lord has exposed to us the unbelief of the flesh. Then, having acted in power in casting out the demon, the Lord takes occasion to warn us of another form of flesh — the pride of theflesh — which would seek to take occasion by the display of power to exalt itself (vv. 43, 44). This display of power might lead to the thought that Christ is in honour in this world, forgetting that He is rejected of men. The Lord checks this thought by saying to the disciples, "Let these sayings sink down into your ears; for the Son of Man shall be delivered into the hands of men." The disciples were looking for a kingdom in power, the Lord had before Him crucifixion in weakness. Theirs was the mind to exalt themselves in Kingdom glory and power. His was the lowly mind to humble Himself even to death. They were looking for the display of power before men; He for rejection by men. The Kingdom in power will come, as the scene on the Mount surely tells us, but it is reached through the rejection by men and the suffering of the cross.

Moreover, behind the pride of the flesh there is the ignorance of the flesh; as we read, "they understood not" (v. 45). How little are the words of the Lord even yet understood by many devoted Christians. How much of the effort put forth by Christians is to make some appeal to man by the display of outward power — the power of imposing buildings, the power of music, the power of eloquence, the power of scholarship. How little are we prepared to accept the cross and the rejection of Christ, and take the outside place of reproach and weakness, in company with the poor, and weak, and despised of this world.

Further, behind the ignorance of the flesh there is the distrust of the flesh. Not only were the disciples ignorant, but we read, "they feared to ask Him." They lacked the confidence in Christ that would have led them to express their difficulties to Christ. Alas, we are often like Peter, in the Upper Room, not near enough to the Lord to tell Him all our difficulties. If, like John, we were resting in His love, how easy it would be to take to Him all our hard questions.

Thus in this short passage we have the flesh exposed in its unbelief, pride, ignorance, and distrust. The disciples were faithless as to the power and grace of Christ, ignorant of the mind of Christ, and lacking confidence in the heart of Christ. Nevertheless, for our comfort, we see that if Christ uses the sorrows of the Plain to expose our hearts it is only that He may reveal the grace of His heart. If He exposes our evil it is in the presence of a grace that meets it all.

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