2733. Christ’s Revealing Himself To Mary Magdalene

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Christ’s Revealing Himself To Mary Magdalene

No. 2733-47:301. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, In The Summer Of 1859, By C. H. Spurgeon, At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

A Sermon Intended For Reading On Lord’s Day, June 30, 1901.

Jesus says to her, “Do not touch me; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.’ ” {Joh 20:17}

 For other sermons on this text:
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2561, “Do Not Touch Me” 2562}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2733, “Christ’s Manifestation to Mary Magdalene” 2734}
   Exposition on Joh 20:11-29 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2475, “My Garden — His Garden” 2476 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Joh 20:1-18 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3067, “Bold Challenge Justified, A” 3068 @@ "Exposition"}

1. This was the first appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ after his resurrection. In various places and at different times, during the ensuing forty days, he appeared to different disciples, showing himself openly to them when they were assembled for worship, and at other times; but this was the first occasion of his being seen by any of his followers after he had risen from the dead. The whole incident is full of consolation, and we, who are poor weary pilgrims through this earthly wilderness, need some words of comfort every now and then to cheer us on the road. May the Holy Spirit sweetly assist us in meditating now on the things of Christ, and may our hearts burn within us as he speaks to us by the way!

2. I. First, IT IS PARTICULARLY ENCOURAGING TO REMEMBER THAT THE FIRST PERSON TO WHOM OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST APPEARED AFTER HIS RESURRECTION WAS MARY MAGDALENE.

3. Mark expressly says, “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven demons.” Roman Catholics will have it that Jesus Christ first of all appeared to the Virgin Mary, his mother, and they have invented some curious stories in order to give her this special honour. This shows that, in their opinion, there was a special favour conferred on the person who first beheld the risen Saviour; and I need not say that their assertion that it was the Virgin Mary is only just another example of their common practice of perverting the truth. Undoubtedly, Mary Magdalene was the first person who saw the Saviour after his resurrection; at least, if the Roman guards saw him when they shook, and became as dead men through fear of the angel who rolled away the stone from the sepulchre, they were not Christ’s disciples; so I mean that Mary Magdalene was the first of his faithful followers who had the honour of seeing him after he rose from the dead.

4. It was a woman, then, who first beheld the risen Saviour. It was a woman who was first in the transgression; it had, therefore, to be a woman who should first behold Jesus Christ when he rose from the grave. If there is — and there certainly is some degree of opprobrium connected with womanhood, because Eve first of all touched the forbidden fruit, there is a far greater degree of glory now connected with it, because Mary Magdalene first of all beheld the Saviour after his rising from the tomb.

5. Not only was it a woman to whom Christ first revealed himself after his resurrection, but it was a woman out of whom he had cast seven demons. I am inclined to think that there were other demons in Mary Magdalene beside those that made her a demoniac. Luther used to say of her, “So many demons, so many sins.” She had been first a sinner, then she became a demoniac, and afterwards Christ changed her into a saint. How strange it was that Jesus should appear first to her! What, give the highest honour to her who had the most of sin! Sweet thought! Then, if —

    “I the chief of sinners am,” —

if I have an interest in the blood of Christ, there is no reason why I should not climb to the greatest heights of fellowship, and enjoy the best of the good things which the Lord has prepared for those who love him. When Jesus takes a sinner to himself, his pardon is so complete, — so totally does God, for Christ’s sake, overlook all previous sin, — that, although he may not be as great a saint as the very chief of the apostles, who did most grievously rebel, so that he only obtained mercy because he did it ignorantly in unbelief, he may be the most highly favoured of the servants of the Lord, and may have very special revelations made to him. The experience of Mary Magdalene should be a great source of comfort for you who, after years of sin, have recently found the Saviour. Do not think that those years that you spent in folly, though they must always make you weep, will be the means of robbing you of fellowship with him. Oh, no! he will restore to you the years that the locusts have eaten, and he will not take away from you the pleasure of enjoying the bliss of God on earth, and certainly he will not diminish your glorious happiness when you shall stand before his throne above.

6. In thinking over this subject, I have come to the conclusion that Mary Magdalene was selected to see Christ first because she loved him most. John loved Jesus much, but Mary loved him more. John looked into the empty sepulchre, and then went away home; but Mary stood there, and wept, until her risen Lord appeared to her. Love, you know, is a keen-eyed grace. People usually say that love is blind. In one sense, the saying is true; but, in another sense, there never were such good eyes anywhere else as those which love carries in her head. Love will look for Jesus, and find him where no one else can. If I ask the unloving to read a chapter in the Bible, they will find no Saviour there; but if I ask the gracious Robert Hawker to read that same portion of Scripture, he finds in it the name of Jesus from beginning to end. If I ask one, who is simply a critical scholar, to study a Psalm, he sees no Messiah there; but if I ask an enthusiastic lover of the Saviour to read it, he sees him, if not in every verse, still here and there he has glimpses of his glory.

7. If you want to see Jesus, and to have sweet revelations of his glory, you must love him. I must add to that remark, that you must weep for him much, you must seek him diligently, seek him in the darkness and the twilight, seek him when the sun has risen, seek him at the sepulchre before the stone is rolled away; you must seek him when you see that the stone is gone; you must seek him in the hollow tomb; you must seek him in the garden; you must seek him in life; you must seek him in death; and then, the more diligent you are in seeking, the greater the probability is that Christ will reveal himself to you, and that you shall rejoice in finding him. Mary Magdalene was one of those who went out bearing precious seed; she went out weeping, but she returned to the disciples rejoicing, bringing her sheaves with her, for she had a joyful message for them. She had sown in tears when she went to seek her Lord, but she wept with joy when she found him in the garden. Happy was that woman who found Jesus, and who believed; truly she might rejoice in him, for she was highly favoured among women.

8. You see, then, that there is much sweetness, far more than I can tell you, in the thought that Mary Magdalene was the first person who was chosen to see the Lord Jesus Christ after his resurrection.

9. II. Secondly, we will notice SOME REASONS FOR THE PROHIBITION GIVEN IN THE TEXT. Why was it that Jesus said to Mary, “Do not touch me?” And why was it that he gave this very strange reason for the prohibition, “for I am not yet ascended to my Father?”

10. There seems to me to be great comfort in this message; I know it has comforted me, so I think I understand it properly. When Mary Magdalene had recognised her risen Redeemer, and had called him “Rabboni, that is to say, Master,” her next impulse was to throw herself on him, and embrace him. But Jesus said to her, “No; do not embrace me”; — for that is the real meaning of the word, — “I have something for you to do for me, so I cannot allow you to stay to reveal your affection; there will be plenty of time to do that another day. I want to send you to my disciples at once with a message; therefore, do not cling to me. The strengthening of my disciples is preferable even to the embracing of your Lord. Do not cling to me, for I am not yet ascended.” It strikes me that Mary was half-afraid that her Master would immediately go away; and she thought, “That is my Master, for I know his voice; but I fear that he will vanish; the Spirit of God will take him away.” She thought concerning Christ just as Obadiah did concerning Elijah. When Obadiah found the prophet, Elijah said to him, “Go, tell your lord, ‘Behold, Elijah is here.’ ” “And he said, ‘How have I sinned, that you would deliver your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me? As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom, where my lord has not sent to seek you: and when they said, "He is not there"; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they did not find you. And now you say, "Go, tell your lord, Behold, Elijah is here." And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from you, that the Spirit of the Lord shall carry you where I do not know; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find you, he shall kill me.’ ” Obadiah expected that Elijah would be spirited away, and Mary thought the same thing concerning Christ; so she said to herself, “I will hold him firmly. This may be my only opportunity; so I will not let him go.” But Jesus said, “I am not going away; I shall be here a little while longer; there will be time enough for embraces yet. The first thing I want you to do is to go to my disciples, and tell them that I have risen from the grave, and that I am about to ascend to heaven.”

11. If you ask, “Why did Jesus speak like this to Mary Magdalene?” I think it is not difficult to explain the reason. Let me suppose that one of you has said, “I will have an hour for quiet meditation; I will get down on my knees; I will open the Word of God; I will seek the Spirit to rest on me; and I will hope that I shall be able to see Jesus, and to clasp him in my arms.” Just as you have formed this resolve, a friend calls, and says that he has an important engagement for you to fulfil. Perhaps he wants you to attend a prayer meeting, or to visit the sick, or to see some enquirer, or to do something for the Lord’s cause; and you say, “There now; I expected to have had this evening for contemplation. Oh, I wish I did not have so much to do with the church, for it robs me of my quiet hours! I love those sweet seasons of retirement when I can embrace the Saviour, and clasp him to my heart. Why is it that I am to go out and feed the flock, and not find time for fellowship and communion so long and frequent as I desire?” Whenever you feel inclined to talk like that, think that you hear your Master saying to you, “Do not embrace me; there will be time in heaven for that. Go to my brethren, and carry to them some words of consolation; for while it is sweet for you to embrace me, it is sweeter for me for you to go and embrace my poor brother, and show him the way into my kingdom.”

12. God forbid that we should say one word against the high joys of contemplation! It is a blessed occupation; but, sometimes, work is better than worship; or rather, work is worship in its best form. Sometimes, it is a higher service to go to see the sick than to be at home on your knees. Sometimes, it is a more devout way of serving God to be busy for the church, even in what seem to be temporal matters, than to be seated at home, like Mary of old, at the feet of the Saviour, listening to his words, but doing nothing for his cause. I believe Martha is at times a great deal more useful than Mary. If Mary had always sat at the Saviour’s feet, she would have deserved no commendation. It was good that she sat there then, for it was a proper occasion; but if she had always sat there, and left Martha to attend to the serving alone, then it would have been an abuse of her privileges. There are times when the Master must say, “Do not embrace me; but go to my brethren, and tell them that I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”

13. III. Now, having noticed these two portions of our text, which I think are full of comfort, — if not for you, they certainly have been for me, I will now endeavour to expound on THE MESSAGE OF OUR LORD TO MARY MAGDALENE.

14. Jesus said to her, “Go to my brethren.” It is a remarkable fact that, the higher Jesus Christ gets in glory, the more sweet are his expressions of love. You know that, before his death, he said to his disciples, “Henceforth I do not call you servants; for the servant does not know what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Yet now that he had risen from the dead, he called them by an even higher name. Possibly, some of them thought, “If he should rise from the dead, he will be ashamed of us poor fishermen. He called us ‘friends’ when he was in his poverty; will he not return to that word ‘servants’ when he rises in majesty from the tomb?” No; when he had risen in dignity, it was just the opposite. The higher his dignity, the lower his condescension. “Go to my brethren.

15. There is another thing to be noted about that sweet word “brethren” as Christ used it then, for his disciples were never in a more sinful condition than they were at that time; or, rather, they had never so grossly sinned as they had done a little before the Saviour’s resurrection. They were with him every day; they were, all of them, in a measure faithful, and never forsook their Master, and never denied him, until he came to die. Yet, all the time they were true and faithful, he called them friends. You would have thought that, when three of them slept in the garden during his awful agony, when all forsook him and fled, and when Peter especially denied him, the Saviour would have said, “I called you friends when you were faithful, I will now see whether I can stretch a point, even to call you servants.” But we see that, the blacker their sin was, the stronger his love was; the more defiled they were, the more sweetly he talked to them: he said to them, in deeds though not in words, “Henceforth, I do not call you friends, for a mere friend has no relationship; but I call you brethren, for my Father is your Father, and my God is your God.”

16. Carry those two sweet thoughts away with you, for they will be sweet indeed to you if the Holy Spirit shall teach you the full meaning of them, — that the higher the Saviour gets, the more free he is in the expression of his love; and that other thought, that the farther the disciples ran away from their Master, the more lovingly he called them back again. This is marvellous and strange, but it is nevertheless true; who cannot derive comfort from such thoughts as these? I know, you feeble followers of Jesus, you have sometimes thought that he loved his people when he was on earth, but that now he reigns exalted on high, he has forgotten such of them as you are; but, be assured that, inasmuch as he has reached the summit of his glory, he now reveals the summit of his love. The more he is exalted, the more he reveals himself.

17. Possibly, some of you are thinking that you have so greatly sinned that you cannot expect him to love you. If so, you can appropriate this thought that the sweetest promises in the Bible are for the very people who deserve them the least. There are promises for those who follow close to their Saviour, and very sweet ones, too; but some of the tenderest promises in the Word of God are for those who have wandered farthest away from him. Take, for example, this gracious message, “ ‘Return, you backsliding Israel,’ says the Lord; ‘and I will not cause my anger to fall on you: for I am merciful,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will not keep my anger for ever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the Lord your God, and have scattered your charms to alien deities under every green tree, and you have not obeyed my voice,’ says the Lord. ‘Turn, oh backsliding children,’ says the Lord; ‘for I am married to you: and I will take one of you from a city, and two of you from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.’ ” Blessed Jesus, when we should have thought that our sins would cause you to speak most harshly against us, we find that you have the softest words for those who have most erred; that our sins, which must make you angry, seem also to make you invite us back again with sweeter words than you use towards those who have not grieved you as much as we have done.

18. Note again, every time our Lord Jesus Christ says anything to his brethren, it is something that requires faith on their part. Why did he not say, “Go and tell my brethren that I have risen from the grave”? Because they did not need any faith for that. He had risen; that was a fact that they could discover by their eyesight, and some of them by their touch. “No,” he says, “I will make larger demands on my people’s faith. Go and tell them that I am about to ascend to my Father; that is something great for them to believe.” Do you know, Christian friends, that the more you have of the revealed presence of Christ, the more faith you require? Have you not often asked to have a promise brought home to your heart by the special influences of the Spirit? Now, remember, the more promises you have, the more faith you will require. The words of Christ demand faith on our part. A revelation from Christ is as truly a demand on our faith as when he hides his face from us. When he hides his face, he still requires us to believe in him even when he says nothing; but when he speaks, he requires us to believe something that he says. The more revelations Christ grants to you, the more is your need for faith.

19. “I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” Luther was right when he said that all the pith of divinity lay in the pronouns. “My Father and your Father.” “He is ‘my Father’ by eternal generation. I was begotten by my Father before any of the worlds were made. He is ‘your Father’ by regeneration. He has begotten you again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He is ‘my Father,’ since I am the Head of the Church, — I call him Father in my Christhood, since I am God and man; and since I am your Representative, and you are all gathered up in me, he is your Father, too: my Father, and your Father.” How sweet is the word Father in such a context! He is our Father because he has the deepest love to protect us; and if we doubt whether his power is equal to his love, let us notice what Jesus next says, “I ascend to my God, and your God.” And inasmuch as God is omnipotent, and the Father is love, you have all the love you need, and all the power equal to that love. It seems sweet to hear Christ calling his Father his God. Since he was a man, the Father was his God; since he was Christ, the God-man, the Father was God over him; and speaking as a man, he could say, “My Father is greater than I,” God the Father being greater than the Mediator, who said, in effect, “As man, I worship him even as you worship him; as man, I look up to him as my Father the same as you do. He is my Father as he is your Father.”

20. I only have to make one other remark, how beautifully the Saviour refers to the believer’s union with himself! The whole Bible, when it is properly understood, points to the believer’s union with Christ, and this sweet verse is full of that blessed truth. Christ and his people have united interests. When Christ calls God his Father, we may call God “our Father,” too. In his inheritance we have a joint interest; he is Heir of all things, and we are joint-heirs with him. In relationship, Christ and his people are closely united. His brethren are our brethren; his Father is our Father. Even in service, as Christ was man, just as he was the Servant of God for our sakes, so the Master whom he served is the Master whom we serve, and we together take the same service on ourselves, believing that we together shall have the same kingdom conferred on us, and shall reign with Christ for ever and ever.

21. An old divine calls Mary Magdalene apostola apostolorum, that is, the apostle to the apostles. An apostle is one who is sent, and Mary Magdalene was sent to those whom Christ subsequently sent to the ends of the earth. In the same way, a poor humble woman may be an apostle to one who shall subsequently be a great divine. Let us hear, then, what this great apostle to the apostles has to say to us. She does not now tell us that Jesus Christ is about to ascend, she tells us that he has ascended; and whenever we gather around the table of our Lord, let us derive sweet influence from the fact that Jesus Christ has ascended. He ascended as a Conqueror, leading captives captive. He ascended as a Forerunner for us, entering within the veil. He has ascended to make preparation for his people, according to his promise, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself; so that where I am, there you may be also.” He has ascended as our Intercessor; there he stands for ever interceding before the throne of God for us, his children, his friends, his brethren. Oh, that we may now put our sincere and constant trust in him who died, putting equal trust in him who rose again, making this our glory, both in his dying and in his rising, that he has ascended up on high, and taken his lawful place at the right hand of God, where he also makes intercession for us!

22. Oh, that those who are dead in sin were quickened by God’s Spirit that they might know something of the preciousness of having a Father in heaven, the same Father whom Jesus Christ had! Sinner, I pray the Lord to teach you to believe in Jesus Christ; and if you have sinned with Mary Magdalene, may he help you to believe with her, so that you may share in her sweet revelations, and have a gracious message like hers to tell some day to the rest of your brethren!

Expositions By C. H. Spurgeon {Isa 40; Mt 16:21-23}

40:1, 2. “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem.

The loss of comfort is no little loss. God would have his people happy. They are in the best condition for serving him, and less likely to be overcome by the temptations of the world, when the joy of the Lord is their strength. Therefore, three times over he tells his ministers to comfort his people. Oh Triune Jehovah, help your servant now to fulfil this commission!

2. And cry to her, that her warfare is accomplished,

After all beloved, you do not have to fight your own battles. Under one aspect, you may have to do so; but the great fight is already over, that fight which is so much greater than all others, that the lesser ones are scarcely worthy of the name of warfare. You only have to scatter the foes whom your great Captain has vanquished, and to march boldly onward because he has cleared the way before you.

2. That her iniquity is pardoned:

Oh, when that is the case, what does it matter about the warfare? Brethren, if you have a sense of sin forgiven, you may well bear the trials of the way. The sting is gone from death itself when sin is pardoned; and, therefore, it is certainly gone from life as well

2. For she has received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.”

If the Lord’s ancient people could be comforted in their seasons of sorrow, how much more may we be cheered when we think of all the blessing which has come to us through the sorrows of our great Covenant-Head! All is settled now. “It is finished,” was our Saviour’s cry from the cross. Our debts are all paid, so we may well be comforted.

3. The voice of him who cries in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

You do not have to turn the wilderness into a garden; you only have to make “a highway for our God.” It is the presence of God that you need, oh sorrowing soul, oh mourning Church! Only let the Lord come to you, and then all shall be well. Your business is to give heed to the cry, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

4. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low:

That is what must happen to you who are very great and highly exalted, you will have to be made low. But as for the lowly ones, they shall be exalted. It is in this way that God comes to his people, marching over hills that have been overthrown, and over valleys that have been filled up, and levelled to make a highway for the King.

4, 5. And the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.”

That is the great purpose and object of nature, of providence, and of grace, that the glory of the Lord may be revealed. It is revealed; but many men do not see it. Yet it is God’s purpose that “all flesh shall see it together.” Do we all see it, dear friends? Are we not far too apt to take glory to ourselves, and to let on that we are strong, that we are wise? Ah! Too often, that is the case, so it is the Lord’s work to put an end to all that folly, so that nothing shall remain but the glory of the Lord, that all flesh may see it, and see nothing else.

6-8. The voice said, “Cry.” And he said, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its goodness is like the flower of the field: the grass withers, the flower fades: because the Spirit of the LORD blows on it: surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”

So, you see, there is a withering work to be done by the Spirit of God, withering up all the glory of the flesh to the intent and purpose that the glory of God’s Word may be revealed, and that Jehovah himself may be seen in his majesty and might. This is the great battle of all the ages. Sometimes men have set up a golden calf to be worshipped; at other times, blocks of wood and stone; but idolatry is universal wherever man is found. We are all far too prone to trust in something else instead of in God; and God is always jealous of these rivals of his, — these Dagons that impiously dare to stand in the presence of the ark of the Lord.

9. Oh Zion, you who bring good news, go up into the high mountain; oh Jerusalem, you who bring good news, lift up your voice with strength; lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”

That is the point which we need to reach, where we may see God, — where we may be conscious of his presence, — where we may trust in his grace, — where we may lean on his arm. And, oh! we need to have the voice very much lifted up before we can hear this cry, “Behold your God!” We run after this sight, and that, and the other, and forget him who is the only One worth seeing. “Behold your God,” you who are sorrowing, you who are perplexed, you who are severely burdened, behold your God, and you shall be strengthened and comforted.

10, 11. Behold, the Lord GOD will come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those who are with young.

This is what the good Shepherd is constantly doing. No one else can do it. Only he can protect the weak, who are his lambs, and help those whose inward sorrows bring them into deep distress; and there is nothing which he cannot do, for he is omnipotent. Then, why do you not trust him? You remember what the Lord himself says, by the mouth of Jeremiah: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good comes; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreads out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat comes, but her leaf shall be green: and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”

Now comes a verse by which we are taught the greatness of God: —

12. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and measured out heaven with the span, and calculated the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?

Who has done all this but God? Then, after that, is there anything too hard for him to do? And who is so worthy of your confidence as this Omnipotent One? Oh, let the thunder of his power make you ashamed of the weakness of your unbelief!

13, 14. Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as his counsellor has taught him? With whom did he take counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and shown to him the way of understanding?

Do you want greater wisdom than his? Are you perplexed because you cannot understand all mysteries? What would your wisdom and understanding be if they were placed side by side with his? A single drop of water, compared with all seas and oceans, has a larger magnitude than all your powers have compared with the greatness of your God, and all his glorious attributes. Trust him, then, and let him lead you wherever he wishes.

15. Behold, the nations are like a drop in a bucket,

All the nations — Jews and Gentiles, the vast multitudes of China, and India, and all other nations, — all these are only like a drop in a bucket, — the one drop that trembles on the bucket’s brim when all the rest of the water is gone.

15. And are counted as the small dust of the balance:

That little imperceptible dust that does not turn the scale of an ordinary balance, and for which you would need the most sensitive scales in order to detect its presence. That is all that all the nations of the earth are in comparison with God; yet, sometimes, we imagine that one man is so great that all must give way to him. Whereas, if we trust in God, and think as God thinks, a whole nation will be to us like a drop in a bucket, or as the unseen dust of the balance. Well did Dr. Watts sing: —

    Great God! how infinite art thou!
       What worthless worms are we!
    Let the whole race of creatures bow,
       And pay their praise to thee.
    Thy throne eternal ages stood,
       Ere seas or stars were made;
    Thou art the ever-living God,
       Were all the nations dead.

15, 16. Behold, he takes up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering.

There, set Lebanon itself ablaze; let all its forests of cedar be the wood to burn the sacrifice, and all its cattle the victims on the altar; yet they are only like a child’s toys in the sight of the all-glorious Jehovah. There is nothing in them that can satisfy his infinite heart.

17, 18. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted by him as less than nothing, and vanity. To whom then will you compare God? Or what likeness will you compare to him?

Now, children of God, do not miss the meaning of this passage by saying that it relates to the heathen. True, it does; but not to them only. When the heathen compare God to stocks and stones, they scarcely act worse than some of his people do; for, sometimes, we do not even think as well of our God as we do of ourselves. You, being evil, are constantly supplying your children’s needs, yet you doubt whether God will supply yours. You compare him to an ungenerous father, or to a forgetful and faithless friend, one who changes with the wind. Oh, dear friends, have you not compared him like that? If so, let the rebuke to the heathen be also a rebuke to you.

This is what the heathen do: —

19, 20. The workman moulds an engraved image, and the goldsmith spreads it over with gold, and casts silver chains. He who is so impoverished that he has no oblation —

No precious metal, —

20-26. Chooses a tree that will not rot; he seeks for himself a skilful workman to prepare a carved image, that shall not be moved. Have you not known? have you not heard? Has it not been told to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits on the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in: who brings the princes to nothing; he makes the judges of the earth as vanity. Yes, they shall not be planted; yes, they shall not be sown: yes, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow on them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. “To whom then will you compare me, or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, —

Look at the stars, —

26, 27. And behold who has created these things, that brings out their host by number: he calls them all by names by the greatness of his might, for he is strong in power; not one fails. Why do you say, oh Jacob, and speak, oh Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God”?

You see, it is another form of that same sin of forgetting God, or thinking little of God. It does not matter much whether it takes the form of atheism or of idolatry, it is the same kind of evil; it is getting away from God, or neglecting him; and, in our case, when we get depressed in spirit, and imagine that God forgets us, it is the same sinful nature working in the same sinful manner. May God help us to forsake every form of evil!

28, 29. Have you not known? have you not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not faint, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He gives power to the faint; —

Come now, faint heart, and swoon away at his feet. Come to him in all your weakness; do not try to conceal it, but trust him to remove it: “He gives power to the faint”; —

29. And to those who have no might he increases strength.

What a mercy it is to have no might so that God may increase our strength! What a curse it is to be so strong in yourself that you do not go to the Strong for strength!

30. Even the youths —

With all their vigour: “Even the youths” —

30. Shall faint and be weary, and the young men —

Though more confirmed in strength: “the young men” —

30, 31. Shall utterly fall: but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

That is their first mode of progression, in which, perhaps, there is more flight than is good for them: “They shall mount up with wings as eagles”; —

31. They shall run, and not be weary;

That is an improvement on flying; but they shall still further improve their pace, for running is not the best pace at which a man can go. Enoch did not run with God, but he walked with him; and so, as we grow in grace, we shall advance, from flying to running, and from running to walking. This is the wise, sober, steady mode of going to heaven.

31. And they shall walk, and not faint.

May the Lord help us to attain to that blessed rate of progression, in which we shall “walk, and not faint,” for his dear Son’s sake!

From Matthew we read:

16:21. From that time on Jesus began to show to his disciples, how that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

He had previously spoken somewhat darkly concerning his death; but it was so sad and so strange a revelation to his disciples that they could not think he really meant quite what he said. But now he began definitely and plainly to tell them about the future, and even to enter into details concerning his death and resurrection. He knew all that the work of redemption would involve for him; he had counted the cost; but —

       When the Saviour knew
    The price of pardon was his blood,
       His pity ne’er withdrew.

It must have been very saddening, but, at the same time, very profitable for the minds of the disciples to be led by their Lord in this direction.

22. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, “Be it far from you, Lord: this shall not happen to you.”

The margin reads, “Pity yourself, Lord,” as though Peter meant to say, “God grant, by his infinite mercy, that this may not be true! How can it be that such a one as you are should die?” He probably thought that Christ’s death would be the end of his kingdom, the ruin of all his people’s hopes, the quenching of the light of Israel; so, in his zeal for his Master’s cause, he cried, “This shall not happen to you.”

23. But he turned, and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan: you are an offence to me: for you are not mindful the things that are of God, but those that are of men.”

Notice the contrast between the 18th verse and the 23rd. In the 18th verse, Christ had said, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church”; and here he is saying, “Get behind me, Satan.” I do not understand our Lord to have called Peter Satan, but to have looked right through Peter, and to have seen Satan standing behind him, and making use of the disciple to be his spokesman. The best of men may sometimes serve the devil’s purpose better than a bad man would. He may speak, through those who love the Lord, words which are completely contrary to the mind of Christ. So Christ sees Satan lurking, as in an entrenchment, behind Peter, and he says, “Get behind me: you are an offence to me.” The idea of pitying himself — the thought of shirking the task on which he had entered — was offensive to him. There was a savour about it of the things of men, — of self-serving and of self-saving, instead of self-denial, and generous, selfless, Godlike self-sacrifice. Oh, that we would always speak, as Christ did on this occasion, whenever anything is proposed to us by which we should avoid the cross that he intends us to carry! When anyone wants us to moderate our zeal, or to tone down our opinions, less we should have to suffer for our faithfulness, let us reply, “Get behind me, Satan.” What has a soldier of the cross to do with avoiding the battle with evil? He should be always ready for the good fight of faith. What has an heir of heaven to do with the saving of himself? Let him say, with the apostle Paul, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

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