THE SUFFERINGS WHICH BELONGED TO CHRIST, AND THE GLORIES AFTER THESE
Reading with Ron F. Gregory
1 Peter 1:10-11
Song of Songs 5:9-11
Matthew 16:21, 17:5-8
RFG I wondered if we might seek help from the Spirit of God in pondering “the sufferings which belonged to Christ, and the glories after these.” I suggested reading from the Song of Songs, thinking particularly of those verses which refer to His head, His hands and His feet. Our dear brother read the whole section, so we need not be limited, but I wondered if we might speak of His head, and get impressions of the glory that attaches to Him in the realm of His headship; and enquire whether in very truth this One of Whom the beloved speaks is lifted up as a banner by all of us.
For what is particularly in my mind is the urgent need – for we are surely very near the end of this dispensation – that we might, old and young, be the more conformed to Christ’s image (Rom 8:29). I suggested the passage in Matthew 17, very well known to us, just to think a little of the universal glory of Christ in relation to a universe for God, and I preceded that, as you will have noticed, by the reference to His sufferings in the chapter before; so in Matt 16 we have His sufferings anticipated, and in Matt 17 we have His glories.
When we come to Mark’s Gospel, I wondered if the woman, in her service, did not represent what I hope all of us, old and young, will arrive at as the fruit of our reading together this afternoon. She came into an environment which was hostile, and she poured out what she had on the blessed head of the One that she had learnt to love, and that memorial is to be perpetuated, as we well know. But whilst it is a matter for our contemplation, yet I do hope we shall arrive at a real challenge, at the end of a reading like this, as to whether we have done what the woman has done. Is the appeal of His sufferings, and the glories after these, such that we cannot help but yield our all to Christ? That is simply my impression for the reading.
Ques. So while there are sufferings which belonged to Christ uniquely, and in which we cannot share, there are sufferings for Christ, and for the testimony here, in which we can participate. Do you feel that, undergoing these sufferings, we would be sharpened in our affections for Christ and appreciate His glory more?
RFG That is right. And at the same time, we would be helped to feed a little more on the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that has come into evidence based on those sufferings.
Rem. Perhaps you might open up a little for us the different categories of sufferings to which the Lord was subjected, so that we can be widened in our scope and in our apprehension of what He endured.
RFG Well, I am thinking particularly of what He suffered at the hands of men, and I am thinking of the urgent need to be utterly separated from a world which treated Him as it did – and which another has said is ten thousand times worse now – because finally they murdered Him. And we live in a very difficult age, and our hearts go out particularly to those that are young, that in such an age they may know what it is to experience, with the presence of the Lord, not only how He feels about things, but the glory of the divine objective to which all suffering tends.
I am not thinking of the atoning sufferings – they may come into our conversation, but I am thinking of the need to be unreservedly committed to Christ. The note says in Song of Songs 5:10, ‘Lifted up as a banner.’ It says elsewhere that when evil comes in like a flood, the Spirit of Jehovah lifts up a banner against it (Isa 59:19). Now the banner is Christ glorified, and I am raising the question with us all, as to how far we are displaying that banner in the light of the victory that Christ has won.
Ques. It says, “The sufferings which belonged to Christ” (v11). Can we take them on therefore?
RFG He came into this world to suffer and to die, did He not? He came into an environment that was utterly hostile to Him. Think of how He felt it. None could ever feel it as He did. In the perfection of His manhood He felt all that came upon Him, for instance, “He came to His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). Now we need to be careful, brethren. It is all very well to sit here and talk about such Scriptures, but He has come to all of us. He has come to all of us in our opening hymn (460); that is as sure as sure can be. Now, what is our answer to His coming to us thus? Is it to be that we are going to lift up the banner of triumph that He has given us in the light of victory, in the light of the day of coming glory, or are we those who are not prepared to make way for Him as we might do? After all, it was said to the remnant of Israel that He was “despised and left alone of men” (Isa 53:3). Now, Christians can treat Him like that sometimes.
Ques. Did not our Lord feel the sufferings from men, because they were largely from His own people?
RFG That is right.
Rem. Those who had the light of the testimony of God, and those who were in the position of God’s people in that day.
RFG Just so. I think we need constantly to remind ourselves that He felt them in the uniqueness of a body prepared for Him by His God. We sing sometimes, ‘Holy vessel’ (hymn 30). What did He feel, coming into a world that was full of unholiness? And yet He demonstrated the love of God on every hand, and moved on in a pathway of suffering, devotedly and unreservedly committed, because of what was going to be secured by way of glory ahead, for Him and for us.
Ques. Is there something intimate and unique in regard to the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, even at the hands of men? I was thinking of this section in v11, of the sufferings which belonged to Christ; as if, though wicked hands were laid upon Him, and did all things evil would do, yet there was something that belonged to Him in suffering.
RFG Yes. I think JND puts in the word “belonged” to help us to understand the text – as we know, it is in square brackets, so it is not part of the original text. But the sufferings belonged to Him – He came to suffer and to die, and as we just ponder that, and perhaps move on into the Song of Songs, I believe He will become very, very precious to us.
Ques. Would we see a quick result? To the two on the way to Emmaus the Lord said, “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26).
RFG Very good; say some more, please.
Rem. I thought that they were disconsolate, thinking that things were lost. We are in difficult days, and we may become disconsolate, but our stimulation is in contemplation of the sufferings of Christ. But the ultimate thing is glory; there is no beauty for the believer other than in glory. So, if we look forward to that as those who contemplate the glory of Christ, we become like Him.
RFG That is right, and that is a very wonderful favour, do you not feel – to be let into God’s secret, that He has before Him a universe patterned after the Man of His pleasure, “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:29)? I have been praying, and I am quite free to say this, that as we converse on this theme now, we might, in effect, gaze “on the glory of the Lord,” and be “transformed according to the same image” (2 Cor 3:18), going back, as it were, to the very original thought of God, that He would make man in His image and in His likeness. “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness” (Gen 1:26). Think of men, divinely capacitated under the hand of the Spirit to be filled to all the fullness of God (Eph 3:19)!
Rem. So “the sufferings of this present time” that we might go through “are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18).
RFG Very true; very good.
Ques. Do you think we should seek an appreciation of the sufferings that Christ went through in Isaiah 53:4? Although it goes on to His atoning sufferings, it says, “Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” Every time the Lord healed someone who was lame, or blind, or deaf, He felt, and suffered, the effects that sin had on the human race.
RFG Just so. And He not only felt and suffered, but He bore that burden on Himself. So with every blessed footstep that led Him nearer to Calvary, the burden on Him grew greater. The hymn writer says, ‘O Lord, what burdens Thou didst bear!’ (hymn 415). Think of the might of that work that was carried out at Calvary. But that was not particularly in my mind, though I appreciate your reference from Isaiah 53 – I am thinking of what we sometimes speak of as testimonial sufferings, the reproach that attaches to the testimony, the reproach that He bore, and the manner in which He bore it, with the light of glory ahead.
Ques. “The reproaches of them that reproach Thee have fallen upon Me” (Rom 15:3, Ps 69:9). It was how things affected God, do you think?
RFG Yes, I do. Go on, please.
Rem. Well, I was thinking of the perfection of Christ’s manhood, how He ever considered for God. He lived by every word of God, He had God before Him, He set Jehovah continually before Him. It was the first consideration for Him, and that brought Him into suffering.
RFG That is right.
Ques. So, there is an expression in the Lamentations, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow” (Lam 1:12). Do we have to take account more of the sufferings of Christ, and what it cost Him?
RFG That is right, that is just the impression in my mind.
I thought we might go on to the Song of Songs, because that is particularly in my mind. I was thinking, as I said earlier, of three references: His head, the finest gold; and then His hands, gold rings; and His legs on bases of fine gold (v15). It is not on my mind at all to go into the rest of the section. We have a very wonderful treasury in CAC’s outline, which will do far more than I could ever do in the opening up and understanding of the blessed worth of this glorious Man (CAC, “Outline of the Song of Songs”). So it says, “What is thy beloved more than another beloved, thou fairest among women?” Now I wonder what we would all say to that. What would our young friends here say to that? What is it that holds your heart to Christ? Is it knowledge of Him? Very good thus far, but we need to acquire a real, vital, living link with the Saviour. Because, I repeat, it is the divine intent that we should all be conformed to His image (Rom 8:29). So, it says, “My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the finest gold.” “Thou hast set a crown of pure gold on His head” (Psalm 21:3).
I must confess, in thinking and turning over in my mind this reference to “finest gold,” that my mind went back to the temple. Perhaps it may seem strange to link the temple with the theme that is in mind, but I do not think so; I think there are glories in the Old Testament that shine in the lustre, and over against the light, of what is brought to us in the New Testament. But inside the temple every bit of it was the finest gold. No matter which way you looked, there was gold. Those marble stones plastered on the inside, then lined with cedar, were finally covered with gold. The olive-wood doors, leading into the holy of holies, carved as they were in infinite detail – as they were covered with the gold, the gold but illuminated the carving. We have the table of showbread, we have the altar of incense, we have the candlesticks – all of gold. It all speaks of Christ. “Whose house are we,” says the beloved apostle, “if indeed we hold fast the boldness and the boast of hope firm to the end” (Heb 3:6). So from that point of view, I am thinking of this head of finest gold, and thinking of Christ’s glorious headship, “Head over all things to the assembly” (Eph 1:22). I wondered if we might not just ponder that very sobering reference in Matthew’s Gospel where, the young people will remember, having given our Saviour a reed, with that very reed that His hands had created, Matthew tells us, they “beat Him on His head” (Matt 27:29‑30). See what I mean, brethren, in linking it with the glory of this head of fine gold? That is the glory that is consequent on suffering, as I think of what has been secured for the divine pleasure, all things to be headed up in Christ (Eph 1:10).
Rem. When they smote Him on the head, He had His head already crowned with a crown of thorns. That intensified the suffering. The question that you raise with young people is one that can be raised with us all, that appreciation of the sufferings of Christ is all going to help me to love the Lord, because it was for me.
RFG Just so. It is important to see that as we ponder these sufferings, we were the persons in mind for blessing. Perhaps at times we are far too general, but I believe the appeal of His sufferings and the light of His glory should just freshly rapture every one of our hearts towards Him.
Ques. Would you connect the head with that passage in John 13:3, “Jesus, knowing … that He came out from God and was going to God,” and then the personal act of love to the feet of the disciples?
RFG Yes, I would very much. Say some more, please.
Rem. Well, I was thinking of all that was in the Lord’s mind to accomplish in relation to the will of God, and how essential each one of us is to the fulfilment of that will.
RFG Just so. So, in what we are saying, there is an appeal to old and young to be the more decidedly committed to Christ. I think the barometer of our Christianity practically is the manner in which we are conformed to Christ’s image. I think that needs to be said. It is not a question (though I would not for a moment set it aside) of knowledge by itself – knowledge puffs up (1 Cor 8:1). It is not a question of anything else – the barometer of my practical Christianity is the manner in which I am formed after Christ’s image by the Spirit.
Ques. Do you think there are two sides to the believer? One is, he suffers for Christ, and the other is, he suffers with Christ. That is, there is the public side, holding the lordship of Christ, and confessing His name; that will bring suffering, will it not?
RFG Just so.
Rem. But suffering with Him is that you are with Him in all that He is feeling in regard to the testimony at the present time.
RFG Quite so.
Rem. And there is an answer to that – the glory.
RFG That is right.
Ques. Is the refusal to allow Christ’s headship to operate today really smiting Him on the head?
RFG Yes, very true. The point is just to enquire as to whether in my personal witness, my personal confession, I am unreservedly committed to the One Who was thus treated, and is still being treated like that. There is something dramatically wrong somewhere in our lives of practical Christianity if the world begins to take over; there is something adrift.
Ques. And if I am with Him in that sense, I will be concerned that I might be moving under His personal influence. That is headship, is it not? Both individually, and as a company.
RFG That is very true.
So it says, “The chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the finest gold.” I have referred already to the crown of pure gold upon His head in Psalm 21. “His locks are flowing, black as the raven.” That, of course, as we have been well taught, is the energy of devotedness. But then the next point I wanted to come to was, “His hands gold rings, set with the chrysolite” (v14). Now, what is the answer to the sufferings of Christ? I believe it is the appreciation of His hands, gold rings set with the chrysolite. Remember that this chrysolite is one of the gems on the foundation stone of the heavenly city (Rev 21:19‑20). Remember too that the temple was adorned with every manner of precious stone (1 Chron 29:2, 2 Chron 3:6).
But here I was thinking of the glory of those hands, and that the Father loves Him so much that He has committed everything into those blessed hands (John 3:35); and we would raise the question yet again, I feel – have we committed everything into His hands? Is my life entirely committed to Christ? He is the One Who would take me by my hand, and never let me go. His hands, it says, gold rings (v14). I believe He brought into testimony by way of His hands the ocean of the love of God. The blessedness of the divine favour shining out in the way that He used His blessed hands! And yet the world’s appreciation – what was it? They nailed those hands to a cruel cross! We are told that those nails were barbed nails, the only nails that were known at that time, and with those barbed nails they nailed His precious body to the Cross. Some months ago a dear brother was telling us at the gospel locally that the uplifting at Calvary, with the weight of the body on the two nails, one through each hand, brought the most awful anguish that it was possible for the human body to suffer. It put all his bones out of joint (Ps 22:14); the crown of thorns was on His head. Those hands that had ministered to my wants, those hands that had ministered to the wants of untold millions, those hands that are engaged in service manward and Godward now – those hands were pierced and nailed to the Cross.
Rem. The glory of those hands is that they were the only hands that were wholly trustworthy in relation to God.
RFG I do think it is an interesting study, and we would like to encourage our young people – and they will not be cross with me if I say this – to study more. I have found quite a little help in taking these certain references – not particularly those occupying us this afternoon, but other references – and examining them in some depth. But I believe the Spirit of God helps. For instance, take the question of the Lord’s hands. Think of the way that they have been employed in creatorial majesty. Think of the way that they have been employed in opening up the ocean of God’s love. Think of the service to the leper, and so on. We can think of the glory of the service of those hands in other ways. And they brought into expression, as it were, an eternity of love. I think that is what these gold rings represent. And then there is chrysolite. The chrysolite was a golden gem. I think it shines in all its blessed lustre in everything He did.
Rem. Those hands are also hands that would bring in comfort and blessing, washing His disciples’ feet. That is another feature that we experience, and we can begin to understand these glories that attach to Him.
RFG Quite so.
Ques. I was thinking of the reference to “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things to be in His hand.” The first example of what that means came out in the next chapter, did it not? Very unlikely material; and then we have to see that that is the material that God in grace and wisdom has seen fit to work with.
RFG Quite so. May I just say, for the sake of those that are young, that our brother is quoting what I was quoting from John’s Gospel, chapter 3:35. The unlikely material with which those blessed hands worked was John’s Gospel, chapter 4:4-30.
Then finally it says, “His legs, pillars of marble, set upon bases of fine gold” (v15). That is His blessed feet, the bases of fine gold. It will not be long, brethren – if the Rapture were to be this afternoon, it will not be long before those blessed feet are seen touching the Mount of Olives. And as we have been so often reminded, as His feet touch the mountain, the mountain range will split in half from the top to the bottom (Zech 14:4), and a way of escape will be made for the repentant remnant. Now I am desirous, brethren, that those blessed feet might touch all our hearts this afternoon.
Rem. As you go through the Gospels, you find persons who bowed the knee to those feet. I was thinking of the woman in Luke 7, how she was affected by what was going to take place.
RFG You mean in the washing of His feet?
RFG Very true. It is another little illustration, is it not, of the manner in which the truth of the Lord’s Person, and the glory that attaches to it, can open up to us as we go over these references, and relate them the one to the other. The blessedness of His feet!
Ques. There is a great need, is there not, of an awareness of the stability that attached to the Lord Jesus Christ in the way we are thinking of Him? His hands are gold rings set with the chrysolite, and now His legs, pillars of marble, set upon the bases of fine gold. He is the Man of reliability, He alone, is He not?
RFG Quite so.
Ques. In everything that He says and does, and imparts by way of impressions – it is stable, it is sure, it is lasting, it is eternal, is it not?
RFG That is right.
Ques. And so we would come to the end, that He is altogether lovely. What more can a young, or an older, person say of the Saviour in this way?
RFG Very true. These bases of fine gold – I am not at all sure that you could take this back exactly to the temple, but I had wondered about Jachin and Boaz; they were brass, of course (1 Kings 7:15,21). But might these bases of fine gold relate to His being the stability of our times (Isa 33:6) – the blessed manner in which He stood steadfast against all that the enemy would bring in? “Bases of fine gold” – the way in which every footstep pleased the One Whom He loved to serve, the reason why that lovely pathway is laid up for ever under the eye of God, because His feet were as fine gold!
Ques. Do you think that there is an answer to the Lord’s beautiful feet in Romans 10? The apostle says, “How beautiful the feet of them that announce glad tidings of peace, of them that announce glad tidings of good things” (Rom 10:15), so that there is then the answer in us practically, as we have been stressing, to that which was demonstrated so blessedly in the Lord himself.
RFG Very true.
Ques. His hands and His feet are both prominent in His presentation to His own in Luke 24, and it is the taking account of them that turns their trouble into joy (vv38‑41). Would that be so for us as well?
RFG That is another reason why I would quote the lines of the hymn,
There from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flowed mingled down
I think the appeal of His sufferings in the light of His glory would have its own particular charm to us, do you not?
Rem. You have spoken to us of the glory of this blessed Person. The Lord Himself speaks to an assembly, and says, “I counsel thee to buy of Me gold” (Rev 3:18).
RFG That is good. Gold is the glory of the divine nature being worked out practically.
Ques. Were not His actions with His hands and His feet the expression of His heart?
RFG Yes, quite so. And there again, of course, we hardly need to be reminded, but I think we need to pause and think of the uniqueness of that body that hung on Calvary, and remember that nails were driven through His feet. Luke guards against the possibility of any sentimentality entering into our thoughts, but the One so gloriously great, the One Who was altogether, Who is altogether, lovely, the One Who is lifted up as a banner, the One Who is the chiefest among ten thousand – this is the way that He went to demonstrate His love for me. Now, what am I doing to demonstrate my love for Him?
Ques. And Satan thought that by nailing those hands and those feet to the Cross, he would cause those hands to cease their operation, and those feet to cease their operation, did he not?
RFG Quite so.
Ques. Far from ceasing their operation, He lifted up His hands in blessing as He left the scene (Luke 24:50). And the word was that He would come in like manner as they had seen Him going (Acts 1:11), therefore He would come with blessing in His hands, would He not?
RFG That is right; just so.
Rem. It was when John saw Jesus as He walked that he said, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:36).
RFG Go on. You mean the employment of those blessed feet?
Ques. Would we see perfectly in the verses referred to at the end of chapter 5 what God really thought in regard of this glorious Person? And we would do well to consider these features and seek help from the Spirit to learn more, that we might be conformed to His image.
RFG Yes, just so. “His bearing as Lebanon,” for instance – what stability, what firmness, what dignity! And then it says, “Excellent as the cedars” (v15). Now, you cannot attach to the cedar naturally any form of infection: it has an oil in it that is resistant to any form of insect penetration. Think of the glory of that spotless humanity – I believe the cedar speaks of that. And yet the cedar was overlaid with gold – the cedars of Lebanon, overlaid with gold. Ponder that, and think of the manner in which those cedars had to be cut after being transported in logs, cut to size and then erected, and then covered with the gold, and the gold brought out all the infinite perfection in the cedar.
Well, if we can go on to Matthew 16, we have this same glorious theme – suffering, and glory following. We read verse 21: “From that time Jesus began to shew to His disciples that He must go away to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised.” Peter begins to rebuke Him – that is extremely sad. But the answer to the sufferings of Christ in v21 surely is the Mount of Transfiguration, as we speak of it, in Matthew 17, and the particular reference that was so much in my mind is this reference: “And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus alone” – there was no-one else in the sight of the bride in the Canticles; no-one else in Peter’s view when he wrote as he did to comfort the dispersion; no-one else, I trust, in our view.
Rem. Peter seems to come to it in his epistle – “For to this have ye been called; for Christ also has suffered for you, leaving you a model that ye should follow in His steps” (1 Pet 2:21).
RFG And that is primarily a model in suffering.
Ques. We would often speak of the assembly as the product of suffering, but these things are very practical, and, do you think, raise the question of what we know of discipleship?
RFG Yes, I certainly do. And then another thing, you know: I fear sometimes that some of our young friends get a little bit worried at the working out of the truth of separation, as if it is something they have to arrive at. Separation is based on confession. Put it to the test, and see. Confess Christ at school – you will soon know what separation is. Confess Him in the office. One Who is lifted up as a banner, One Who means everything to you – confess His blessed name, and you will soon know what separation is. Speak to the passer-by, and again you will know what separation is. See what I am trying to say, just to encourage those that are young, it is not something they have to get to; they do have to come to a judgement of the world out of which their Saviour has been cast, but their practical salvation lies in the confession of His name.
Rem. And when that takes place, the Spirit seems to give to your soul a sense of divine approval, and you do not forget it.
RFG No, quite true.
Rem. So what you are really saying is that if we are faithful, there are those who would separate from us, rather than it being necessary for us to separate from them.
RFG You will have proved that.
Rem. I think that is the practical working out.
RFG “Whosoever shall lose his life for My sake shall find it” (Matt 16:25). Am I prepared to let my so-called, so-thought-of, reputation go, in order that Christ may be confessed by me?
Let us go on to chapter 17 just for a minute. The detail of this is so well known; that is why I suggested reading just the few verses that we touched. “He was transfigured before them. And His face shone as the sun, and His garments became white as the light; and lo, Moses and Elias appeared to them talking with Him” (v2‑3). I remember reading, many years ago now, as to Moses and Elias. I understand that the scene here stands related to the gathering up of the totality of God’s work. Elias represents those who go into glory by way of translation. Moses represents those who go into glory by way of death. Now if that be something for us to consider, I think that is a lovely suggestion. It is not my thought. But when one thinks of the gathering up of the work of God in its totality, and this voice from out of the cloud overshadowing them, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I have found My delight: hear Him,” I would like to suggest, brethren, without in any sense being fanciful, that on the basis of the very Scriptures we have read together this afternoon, we do well to quietly hear Him. What is He saying to us? What is in mind for our blessing? Hear Him.
Ques. In addition to hearing Him, they saw Him. Is it interesting that, in order to see Him, they had to elevate their gaze (v8)? He has eclipsed every other object from their view, but they need to elevate their views to see Him. Do you think that is what we need to do?
RFG Just so. It is a very wonderful sight, this is – a blessed Man Who is supreme in God’s universe; none to compare with Him; He Who comes into our circumstances this afternoon and appeals to all our hearts is supreme in God’s universe. He suffered and died that the place that is His and His alone in our hearts should be given to Him, and given to Him here and now.
Rem. Just before that event, He touches them. He touched them and said, “Rise up” (v7); then they lifted up their eyes. It seems as if there is the approach from the divine side that gives the touch of response, that gives the power to them.
RFG It would not be saying too much, would it, to hope and to pray that the Spirit of God might touch all of us this afternoon in relation to the glory of what has been before us?
Ques. I am sure that is so, because the touch of Jesus upon the heart just releases every affection we have got. It just expands and enfolds every one in the whole of the universe that God has for His pleasure. If it is so, that is the Spirit’s sway, is it not, in our hearts?
RFG That is right.
Ques. And we wish to be more under the power of these things, do you not think? The touch of Jesus, that we may behold His glory.
Ques. Would you say that expansion should be normal with us in our appreciation of the Lord? When Peter writes his epistle, he speaks of having beheld His majesty (2 Pet 1:16).
RFG “Eyewitnesses of His majesty,” “being with Him on the holy mountain.” Very good.
Ques. That is expansion, is it not?
RFG That is right. So all the discipline of the ways – which is another point we would like to make, would we not? You know, there are problems about these days, and maybe they are aired too much in front of those that are young, and it does not do any good. But I do feel that there is a need for a guide by those of us who are older which helps to consolidate and to confirm the faith of the young. I think that is very urgently needed just now.
Rem. Unfortunately, we have no young locally, but we see how necessary these things are, and I am sure what you are bringing before us is very necessary for this day.
RFG Quite so, but if you have no young locally, you do have them universally.
Ques. Is your point that we should have a fresh appreciation and constant appreciation, both of His sufferings and of His glory? Peter had both, did he not? He was a witness of the sufferings of the Christ (1 Pet 5:1), as well as an eyewitness of His majesty, and although in one sense it was historical, yet it seemed to be living freshly with Him, did it not? That would preserve us from being over-occupied with problems that there may be, and keep us occupied with Him.
RFG Quite so, because He is the answer to all the problems.
Ques. Is there a suggestion in what the voice says that the Father wants to share with us His appreciation of His Son?
RFG That is a lovely suggestion; say some more.
Rem. Well, the Father is seeking those with whom He can have part, those who are in tune with His heart, who would share His appreciation of the glory of His son (John 4:23). It gives the Father great joy when He finds such hearts.
RFG Quite so. There again, I take it that these three disciples are representative men. They stand for the whole scope of the truth, and – He points to Christ – “This is My beloved Son” (v5). He would point to Him this afternoon, and touch all our hearts with that appeal. This is the One Who wants to come in, Who may be knocking at the door of our hearts now, to secure us unreservedly for His pleasure.
Ques. Could you expand, then, what these three men represent, for the help of us all, young and old?
RFG Well, as far as I am able to suggest, I think that Peter represents the kingdom side of the truth, and John represents the family side of the truth. I am not too sure about James, whether it would be right to suggest that he is the practical brother that holds both those sides of the truth together.
I felt that, as far as I am aware, these three men represent, as it were, the scope of the truth, and it is rather remarkable that that has to centre round one glorious Man: “This is My beloved Son … hear Him.” So in the circumstance that came upon them it says that they lifted up their eyes, and saw no one but Jesus alone (v8). I would like us to get towards the end of our meeting by lifting up our eyes, under the hand of the Spirit, and seeing no-one, save Jesus alone.
Now, the reference in Mark’s Gospel, chapter 14. Again, we have the sufferings in verse 1: “The chief priests and scribes were seeking how they might seize Him by subtlety and kill Him. For they said, Not in the feast, lest perhaps there be a tumult of the people.” And in that environment, “And when He was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, as He lay at table, there came a woman having an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard” (v3). I did wonder if there was perhaps a little link, a veiled link, between this pure nard, which we understand to be spikenard, and the spikenard that the bride had in the Song of Songs (Cant 1:12). But whatever it is, she comes into this environment, and she is determined to break this alabaster flask, and she does, and she pours it out upon His head.
It raises the question, brethren, whether, at the end of our reading together, we are prepared, come what may, to do just this. Not only to subscribe to the truth of it, not only to enjoy what is said about it, but to have our living part in doing it. The breaking of this flask is obviously the breaking of herself – she was the flask. All other thought gone, she must somehow or other get to the One Whose sufferings secretly she had learned to understand, and indeed to love. She anticipated those sufferings. She anticipated the glory of His headship. She could not have read Colossians and Ephesians in relation to headship, she would not have had the Scripture; but nevertheless there was some way in which the Spirit of God had wrought with this dear soul, that she comes as spiritually intelligent; and it says that having broken the alabaster flask, she poured it out upon His head.
Ques. Would that bring out our appreciation of Christ at the supper?
RFG Yes, very true. But then, not only at the supper. I think we need to see that what this woman does is quite evidently, again, in an environment that was quite hostile.
Rem. So it was a testimony to everybody.
RFG That is right.
Ques. So, what you would encourage us to do is to get into an understanding of the Lord’s feelings, and therefore become more responsive to Him?
RFG Quite so. And to see whether or not we know what it is to have this alabaster flask. It is a question of our transparency in relation to our link with the Lord. I know I worried my parents for years in my late teens, I say it to my shame; they did not know whether I loved the Lord or not. They thought I was fully committed, but in point of fact, for a time I was not. I did not have an alabaster flask, and it was not filled with the sufferings of Christ. Mercifully, I think I can say soberly, I have found one since, and known a little of what it is to be full of Christ’s sufferings, this liquid myrrh.
Ques. But we are enabled to do it, are we not? That is the wonderful thing of it all, and she gets the acclamation, “What she could she has done” (v8). As if, you know, the very token of her act, which was so in keeping with the Person there, touched the affections of the Lord to such a degree. What He recognised in her was that full response that He is looking for.
RFG Just so. Someone once said as to this, that this section in Mark 14 is the proper result of the gospel. I suppose that is right, blessedly right. But I think that what you refer to is an encouragement, and again we may feel we are little able to qualify on this line, but let us do what we can. A simple word of confession always helps. What about the distribution of a tract, and so on? It is some little while now since I was in a train and there was a gentleman next to me, and he was reading a tract, and the tract was ‘Safety, Certainty and Enjoyment,’ and we were squashed together, so I gave him a bit of a nudge and said, ‘A good book you have got there!’ He said, ‘Yes,’ and he opened up and he was thoroughly enjoying it. I said, ‘Where did you get it?’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘Sir, I am a porter, and I was sweeping up the platform at St. Pancras, and I found it lying on a seat.’ If you feel you cannot do very much, you can always leave something on a seat, can you not?
Rem. Well, I think it costs us something to testify to the Lord in circumstances which are opposed and hostile, but that very fact that it costs us something is appreciated by the Lord Himself. It was a hostile environment here – the disciples were indignant (vv4‑5) – but real love for Christ would break through the hostility and the opposition.
RFG That is very true. And, of course, what this woman did is the means of our practical preservation in the path of Christian fellowship.
Ques. Here it is the Lord’s head, in Luke 7 it is His feet. What would you say about that, in view of what you have been saying?
RFG Well, in Luke 7 did she not treasure those blessed feet – every footstep that they took was moving nearer to Calvary, and she would refresh those feet by the way, would she?
13 October 1990