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III

The Lover Wooing

A Group of Pictures Illustrating How the Wooing Was Done, and How the Lover Was Received

              "Still with unhurrying chase,
               And unperturbed pace,
    Deliberate speed, majestic instancy
               Came the following Feet,
               And a Voice above their beat—
    Naught shelters thee, who will not shelter Me.'"

—"The Hound of Heaven."

"O thou hope of Israel, the Saviour thereof in the time of trouble, why shouldst thou be as a sojourner in the land, and as a wayfaring man that spreadeth his tent for a night?"—Jeremiah xiv. 8.

He came unto his own home, and they who were his own kinsfolk received him not into the house, but left him standing outside in the cold and dark of the winter's night. But as many as did receive him he received into his home, and gave each a seat in the inner circle at the hearthfire of God.—John i. II, 12. Free translation.

III

The Lover Wooing

(John i. 19-xii. 50)

The Mother of all Love-Words.

Brooding is love at its tenderest and best It is love giving its best, and so bringing out the best possible in the one brooded over.

Look into the nest where the word itself was brooded. It is a warm something, warm in itself, not a borrowed warmth. The warmth is its chief trait. It is a soft tender unfailing cuddling warmth. It cuddles and coos, it glows and floods a gentle comforting stimulating warmth. And the best there is lying asleep within the thing so brooded over awakes.

It answers to that creative mothering warmth. It pushes out, against all obstacles, and comes shyly and winsomely, but steadily and strongly, out to the brooding warmth, growing as it comes and growing most as it comes into closest touch with the warm brooder.

Brooding is the mother of all love-words,—friendship, wooing, pitying, helping, mothering, fathering, witnessing, believing. It is the mother-word, from out whose warm womb all these others come, warm, too, and full of gentle strong life. Its mother quality is so strong that we are apt to think of it only in connection with actual mothers, mothers among animals and birds and of our human kind.

But this is only one meaning, really a surface meaning, though such a fine deep meaning in itself. Its real heart meaning lies much deeper. Brooding is the mother of all love. It is its warmth that draws out that fine feeling that makes and marks friendship. It is its tender warmth that draws out that finest degree of friendship which knits with unbreakable bonds two lives into one.

It reaches out most subtly to knit up again the ends that have ravelled out under the sore stress of life. It bends compassionately over those hurt in body, and hurt yet more in their spirit by the greedy rivalry of life, and nurses into newness of life the shivering shredded hurt parts. In the more familiar use of the word it fathers and mothers the newly minted morsels of precious humanity, coming into life with big wondering eyes.

And it warms into highest life that highest love that, through the process of hearing, assenting, trusting, risking, giving the heart's devotion, comes to know God as a tender Father, and Christ as a precious personal Saviour. Whether in close friend, or ardent lover, gracious philanthropist, devoted parent, or earnest witness, it is the same warm thing underneath, at its fine task—brooding.

We think of it most in the mother. For it comes to its highest human perfection there. The true thoughtful mother is first and chiefest a brooder. She broods in spirit till her child looks into her eyes, bearing the image, in face and mental impress and spirit, which the brooding months have given. She broods over the inarticulate days when the babe cannot tell the felt needs except to a brooding mother's keen insight.

She broods over the baby-talk days; over the struggling days when the child would tell its awakening thoughts out in words, but doesn't know how yet; over the wilful days which come so early when the first battles come that decide the whole future.

With a warmth of tenderness and patience, and a strength of gentle wise insistence, more than human, she broods. It takes the very strength of her life, far far more than in prenatal days. So there comes, slowly, but as she keeps true to the brooding spirit, surely, the strong gentle self-controlled life out of the warm womb of her brooding life. So comes the child's higher birth, so preparing the way for the yet higher.

Now all this is at its native best in God. There only does it reach finest fruitage. Some day we shall recognize the meaning of that modest but tremendous little sentence,—God is love. This warm brooding something that comes, gentle as the dawning light in the grey east, fragrant as the dew of the new morning, irresistible in its pervasive persuasive presence as the rays of the growing sun, giving to us warmth, and life, and drawing out from within us warmth and life and beauty and strength, all in its own image, this is the thing called love. This is the thing that God is. As we know it we are getting acquainted with Him.

And if a break comes, instantly love in its grief sets itself with warmth and renewed strength to the new harder brooding task. It gives itself out yet more, regardless of cost, until in place of the broken fragments there comes a finer sort of life out of the warm womb of love, brooding, redeeming, bringing-back-again love. This is God. This is Jesus. John shows us Jesus as a picture of the brooding God.

Five Pictures of Jesus.

There are five wondrous pictures of Jesus in these newer leaves of the old Book. Three of them hang on the walls of Paul's tent-weaving study-room. There's the Colossian picture, the Creator-Jesus, infinite in power, making all things above and below and around, and holding all things together.77Colossians i. 15-17.

Close by it in wondrous contrast is seen the Philippian picture. It is the Man-Jesus, emptied of all the upper-glory native to Him, bowing down low and lower and lowest, till in the form of a slave He hangs on a cross.88Philippians ii. 6-8.

And in contrast yet more striking and startling, close by its side hangs the Ephesian picture. It is the Enthroned-Jesus, back again in the soft, blazing, blinding glory of the Father's presence, seated at His right hand, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named. And as you stand awed before this picture your eye is caught by the artist's remarque sketch at the bottom. It is a broken Roman seal, and an open tomb, and a bird with swelling throat singing joyously.99Ephesians i.19-23.

Then there's John's later Patmos picture of the Present-Jesus, standing now down on the earth in the midst of His candle-holding Church, but seen only by opened eyes. There He is seen as a Man of Fire, ablaze with light, intently watching, with tender but omnipotent touch waiting, ever waiting; with a patience unknown except in Him, still waiting.1010Revelation i. 13-18.

But John's earlier Gospel picture is of the Brooding-Jesus. The word "brooding" here takes in its fine deep significance. Jesus is seen here as a brooding Lover, by the warmth of His wooing love drawing out the warmth of an answering love. This is peculiarly and distinctively the picture of John's Gospel. There is a Man walking towards you in these pages. Turn where you will there He is, and always facing you, with a gentle eagerness in His face and in the bend-forward of His body.

There is always a warmth, a gentle radiating comforting drawing warmth in His presence. This is the thing you feel most, the warmth. But it isn't the only thing. There's the purity. There are ideals that seem out of reach in their great height. There's the insistence on these ideals, rigid stern absolutely unbending insistence. You see these. You can't help it. You feel them tremendously. They seem to leave you clear out of reckoning, they are so high up. But there's the warmth, drawing arousing wooing, irresistible.

You come to find that the warmth of that presence is as irresistible as the ideals and the insistence are unbending. And the warmth woos you. It warms you, till there come the intense admiration of the ideals, and then the eager reaching of the whole being up towards them.

This is John's picture of the brooding wooing Jesus. This is God, in human garb as He comes to us in John's pages. Jesus is God brooding over us to woo out of us the love and purity, the purity and love, that He woos into us by the touch of His own warm presence.

John's little book is put together as simply as his sentences. And as you take it up, it falls apart almost of itself, so simple and natural are its divisions. We had a look at the opening paragraphs of the Gospel, those eighteen brief verses that open the doorway into all the Gospel holds for us. There is given chiefly John's simple vivid tremendous picture of a Person, coming with swift long stride and outreached hands.

Now we turn to the second part of the book. It runs from the nineteenth verse of the opening chapter on through to the end of chapter twelve. It is devoted to the great winsome wooing of this great human Person. Here we see Him on His wooing errand. He woos individual men. He gives the personal touch. He devotes Himself to one person, now here, now there. His skill and tact in personal dealing are matchless. But this is not the chief wooing of these pages. It is the nation He is wooing. With rarest strategy and boldness and persistence He lays loving siege to the nation through its leaders. This is central and dominant in all His movements here. This is the second picture in the gallery of John's Gospel.

It is a good thing to run through these fourteen pages of John's Gospel several times; to run through rapidly, though not hurriedly; to run through them as a story until it stands out in your mind as one simple connected, story. And then it will help greatly, if you are so blest as to have some boy or girl near at hand to whom you can tell it as a story in simple child (not childish) talk.

Pack the whole into one story of ten minutes, or fifteen: the man of the story;1111i. 1-18. how He tried to win the people's hearts;1212i. 19-xii. 50. how towards the end He spent a long evening with those who loved Him;1313Chapters xiii.-xvii. how awfully He was treated by those who hated Him;1414Chapters xviii.-xix. then how wondrously He surprised His friends;1515Chapter xx. and then the little bit at the end where He prepares breakfast and has a walk and talk on the seashore with a little group of those who loved Him most.1616Chapter xxi.

Tell that to a boy or girl as a short story. Use sensible words, but not one that your little listener wouldn't at once understand. Pretty sharp discipline for the story-teller, especially if you stop to put in a simpler word when you've blundered into a big one. The child will be held by it But you will get the most yourself out of the telling.

Warp-Threads.

Now as you read the second part over, it gradually sifts itself into several incidents about which the story is woven. These incidents form the warp-threads of the narrative. Into this warp are woven, sometimes little connecting links, sometimes quarrelsome discussion, sometimes exquisite bits of Jesus' teaching, and sometimes John's comments. And as the story grows it reaches one climax after another, each increasing in intensity, until the intensest is reached.1717   There are nineteen of these incidents:
    1. The official deputation, i. 19-51. 2. Marriage in Cana, ii. 1-11. 3. Cleansing the Temple, ii. 13-22. 4. Nicodemus, iii. 1-21. 5. Dispute about purifying, iii. 22-36. 6. Samaritan woman, iv. 1-42. 7. Nobleman's son, iv. 46-54. 8. Thirty-eight years infirmity, v. 9. Feeding five thousand, vi. 1-15. 10. Walking on water and discussion, vi. 16-71. 11. At Feast of Tabernacles, vii. 12. Accused woman, viii. 1—11. 13. First attempt to stone, viii. 12-59. 14. Man born blind, ix. 1-x. 21. 15. Second stoning, x. 22-42. 16. Lazarus, xi. 17. Bethany Feast, xii. 1-11. 18. Triumphal Entry, xii. 12-19. 19. The Greeks, xii. 20-50.
And these incidents fall naturally into groups. There are three chief groups that seem to stand out as giving the bolder points of the outline, and then smaller groups or single incidents that lie in between.

It is very natural that the story begins with the accounts of the deputation that was sent from Jerusalem by the official leaders of the nation, down to the Jordan bottoms where John the witness was drawing such great crowds. John modestly answers their questions about himself, and then the next day with dramatic intensity points out the Man for whom the whole nation has been looking for so long.

The only response from deputation and officials is a most significant disappointing silence, a silence fully understood both by John1818iii. 32. and by Jesus.1919iii. 11. But five Galileans in the crowd listening to John's reply seek out, or are brought into personal questioning touch with, Jesus, and then yield Him unquestioning belief and personal devotion. And these five come, in after years, to be leaders known wherever Christ's name is known.2020i. 19-51. So there begins the sharp contrast running throughout these pages, between the two sides into which Jesus' presence divides the crowds.

Then John traces the simple way in which the faith of these five men ran its tiny but tough tenacious tendril-roots down into their very vitals. A simple neighbourhood wedding occasion up near the old Nazareth home drew Jesus thither with His kinsfolk and His new-made friends. And then He meets the need of the homely occasion by helping out the shortened supply of wine in such an unusual way as reveals His character. And the conviction takes great fresh hold upon these five men that they have made no mistake. This Man is all they had taken Him for, and He is immensely more than they had thought into at first.2121ii.1-11.

Then comes a little connecting link. After the Cana visit, Jesus runs into the near-by town of Capernaum with His kinsfolk and friends for a few days, a sort of continuation of the neighbourhood courtesies.2222ii. 12.

And then at once John goes to the intensest, and the most significant incident of this whole section of the book. It is the drastic turning out, by Jesus, of the traders in the temple-area at Jerusalem. This touched at once the national leaders' most sensitive nerve, and touched it roughly. It never ceased aching. This turning of the temple-area into a common market-place, which so jarred on the holy atmosphere of the place, and on Jesus' fine spirit, this was by arrangement with these leaders, and yielded them large profit. Here was the sore spot.

With one deft stroke John lays bare the secret of the intense hatred of Jesus by these national leaders, with which these pages teem, and which came to its bursting head at the cross. Long after, when Jesus had died and been raised, these five leading disciples find a new strengthening of their faith in recalling words spoken at this time by Jesus.2323ii. 13-22.

Growing naturally out of this Passover visit comes the Nicodemus incident. Many of the Passover crowds were caught by the power of Jesus shown in the miracles He did, but had not the seasoned thoughtful faith of these first disciples. But one man sifts himself out by his spirit of earnest inquiry. The sharp contrast that runs throughout these incidents stands out here. This man is of the inner upper cultured circle, that controlled national affairs, that sent that Jordan committee, and that had been so upset by the temple cleansing.

Yet not only Nicodemus' earnest search for truth, and the questions asked by him, but the fullness and fineness of spirit truth in Jesus' words to him reveal the true faith of this rare inquirer; and this is verified by his later actions.2424vii. 50, 51; xix. 39. Clearly Jesus found here an opened door. Here is the first of those exquisite bits of Jesus' teaching that mark John's Gospel.2525ii. 23-iii. 21.

These four incidents make up the first group of, what I think of as, the three chief groups of incidents in this section of John. The group begins at the Jordan, and runs up into Galilee, but in its interest and its chief incident, centres in Jerusalem. The action begins with John the witness, and swings naturally to Jesus. The contrast in this group of incidents is intense. With the same evidence at hand, first contemptuous silence and loving allegiance, then the beginnings of bitterest hate and of tenderest personal love, grow up side by side.

Then there is a sort of swing-away-from-Jerusalem group that includes three incidents. After the rejection of John's witness to Jesus2626iii. 11, 19, 32. by the nation's leaders, Jesus withdraws from Jerusalem to the country districts of Judea. There He takes up the sort of work John has been doing, so bearing His witness to John. John had drawn great crowds down to the Jordan and in the neighbourhood of its tributary streams.

Now Jesus helps in arousing and instructing these crowds. There are two men preaching instead of one, and Jesus has the greater crowds. This is used to make trouble. It stirs up gossipy disputings. It is made to look like a jealous rivalry between the two men. And this supposed rivalry and disputing about the various claims of the two men become the uppermost thing. It reflects the characteristic spirit of the leaders. John greatly renews his witness to Jesus with fresh emphasis and earnestness.2727iii. 22-36.

But as Jesus sees that His presence is only being made a bone of contention He quietly slips away from Judea, turning north through Samaria towards Galilee. Then comes the great story of the visit to Sychar, with the exquisitely tactful winning of the sinful woman to a life of purity, and then using her as a messenger to her people. Imbedded in the story is another bit of Jesus' simple great teaching talk.2828iv 1-42.

Then comes a brief connecting link. Finding no acceptance in Judea, His own country, Jesus goes to Galilee, where visitors at the Jerusalem Feast of Passover had been spreading the news of His words and deeds, and so a gracious welcome now awaits Him.2929iv. 43-45.

And here in Galilee He wins the believing love of a roman officer of noble birth, whose son is desperately ill. The father's faith passes through three stages, the belief that comes to ask for help, the deeper belief that rests upon Jesus' word to him and starts back home, and the yet deeper that gets confirmation of Jesus' word and power in the recovery of his son from the very time Jesus spoke the assuring word.3030iv. 46-54.

These are the three incidents in this group away from the Jerusalem district. It is striking that this group away from Jerusalem stands in sharp contrast with that first group centering in Jerusalem. There is rejection by the nation's leaders running from contemptuous silence to the beginning of open opposition. Here with less evidence there is acceptance by a Samaritan and a Roman; the one of no social standing; the other of the highest.

The rejection of Jesus by the leaders stands in contrast thus far with acceptance of Him by five Galileans, by a cultured scholarly aristocrat, a half-breed Samaritan, and a Roman of gentle birth. Acceptance seems to grow with the distance from Jerusalem. Yet everything hinged in Jerusalem. There had been the flood-light. Jerusalem was meant to be the gateway to the world. The irony of sin! The blinding of greed! The self-cheating of being self-centered!

Climbing towards the Climax.

And now, true to his controlling thought, John goes straight back to Jerusalem with his story, ignoring intervening events. There's another feast, not called a Passover, but commonly and probably correctly so reckoned, another crowd-gathering Passover. An extreme chronic case of bodily infirmity draws out the pity and power of Jesus, and the healed man takes his first walk after thirty-eight years.

But the thing is done on a Sabbath day, and gives rise to bitterest and murderous persecution, first on the score of Sabbath observance, and then because Jesus claimed God as "His own Father" in a distinctive sense. Friction fire may send out beautiful sparks. And the opposition brings out one of the choicest bits of Jesus' teaching to be found in John. This incident stands by itself.3131v. 1-47.

And now John reaches over a whole year with only a sentence or two for connection, and comes again to a Passover. The Passover was the pivot of the Jewish year and of Jewish national life. This Passover is made notable by Jesus' absence from Jerusalem, the only Passover absence of His ministry. And the reason is the violence of the persecution by the national leaders.

There is the feeding of the hungry thousands with a handful of loaves and fish. Was this the real Passover celebration? The multitudes fed by Him who was the Lamb of God and the true Bread of life? while the technical observance was empty of life! It wouldn't be the only thing of the sort, in ancient times or modern.3232vi. 1-14.

Jesus withdraws from the crowds who would like a bread-maker for a king, gets a bit of quiet alone with His Father on the mountainside, and then walks on the water in the storm to keep His appointment with the disciples. Then follows a long disputation and another fine bit of Jesus' teaching.3333vi. 15-71. These two incidents make another distinct group, separated from the previous one by a year on the far side and six months on the hither side. And the contrast continues, between the acceptance by the Galilean crowds and the intensifying opposition by the chief group of Jerusalem leaders.

Then comes the second chief group of incidents. About six months later Jesus returns to Jerusalem for the autumn Feast of Tabernacles. He boldly teaches in the temple in the midst of much opposition, bitter discussion, and concerted official effort against Him.3434vii. 1-52. The dramatic incident of the accused woman and the conscience-stricken leaders3535viii. 1-11. is followed by a yet more bitter discussion and by the first passionate attempt at stoning.3636viii 12-59.

Then the incident of the man born blind but now blessedly given his sight leads to the bitterest opposition thus far, and the casting of the man out from all religious privileges; and is followed by the rare bit of sheepfold and shepherd teaching.3737ix. l-x. 21. These four incidents make up the second great outstanding group of incidents, and mark the sharpest clash and crisis thus far.

A few months later at another Jerusalem feast called the Feast of the Dedication, comes a second hotly impulsive riotous attempt at stoning, and then an attempt to arrest, both foiled by the restraint of Jesus' mere presence and personal power.3838x. 22-39. And another connecting link traces His going away beyond the Jordan River, where the crowds gather to Him, and are won to warm personal belief.3939x. 40-42.

Another little gap of a few months passed over in silence, brings the narrative to the third and last chief group of incidents in this part of the book, and so leads immediately up to the great final events of the whole book.

The illness and death of Lazarus draws Jesus back to a suburb of Jerusalem, Bethany. Then the stupendous incident of the raising of Lazarus leads to the official decision to put Jesus to death.4040xi. 1-53. And a connecting link of verses tells of Jesus' cautious withdrawal, of the inquiring crowds coming to the approaching Passover, and of the public notice given that Jesus was under official condemnation.4141xi. 54-57.

It is at the home feast given in Bethany as a tribute of love to Jesus that Judas, coldly criticizing a warm act of tender love, and gently rebuked by Jesus, gets into that bad heat of temper out of which came the foul bargaining and betrayal.4242xii. 1-8. Another brief connecting link lets us see the crowds more eagerly inquiring for Jesus because of the raising of Lazarus, and the determined priests coolly plotting Lazarus' death, too.4343xii. 9-11.

Then comes Jesus' faithful open offer of Himself in kingly fashion to the nation, with the tremendous enthusiasm of the multitudes, and the hardening of the official purpose to do the one thing that will offset this wild-fire enthusiasm.4444xii. 12-19.

And then comes the apparently simple, but in meaning tremendous, incident of the inquiring Greeks. The Jew door is slamming shut, but the outside door is opening. Here the whole world opens its door, its front door, in these Greek representatives of the best culture the earth knew. But Jesus' vision never blurs. He understands; He alone. The only route to Greece and the whole outer world is the underground route, the way through Joseph's tomb.

And as the intense spirit-struggle passes, Jesus quietly goes on with His searching appealing talk to the crowd, and then slips away into hiding till His hour had full come.4545xii. 20-36. And with breaking heart John sadly recalls Isaiah's wondrous foresight of just these days and events.4646xii. 37-50. These are the four incidents in this third chief group.

And so the door shuts. The wooing ceases. This bit of John's story is done. The evidence is all in. The case is made up. The nation's door to its King shuts. The Lover's wooing of the nation ceases. John turns to a new chapter. No further evidence is brought forward. The case rests with the jury. The door had been shutting for a good while. The inside door-keepers had been pulling it hard. But the great Man outside had His hand on the knob delaying the shutting process, in the earnest hope that it yet might be quite stopped. Now His hand reluctantly loosens its hold. The knob is free. The inside pull does its work. The door goes to with a vigorous slam.

The wooing is not wholly done. There is still the indirect, the tacit wooing. There's still opportunity. All through that fateful night from Gethsemane's gate, to the last word at Pilate's seat the Lover is wooing. But it is wooing by action, by presence, by yielding. No pleading word is spoken. The direct wooing is done. Tender, earnest, insistent, patient, tremendous, irresistible in itself save to those who willed to resist anything and everything no matter what or whom,—wondrous wooing it has been. Now it's over. That chapter is done.

Way-marks in John's Narrative.

Out of this simple running account several things sift themselves, and stand out to our eyes. The action of the story swings chiefly about Jerusalem. The other parts seem but background to make Jerusalem stand out big. In this John's Gospel differs radically from the other three. They are absorbed chiefly with the tireless gracious Galilean ministry of Jesus, till the last great events force them to Jerusalem.

And the reason is plain. Jerusalem is Israel. It is the nation. Jesus is wooing the nation through its leaders. Why? For the nation's sake? for Israel's sake? Yes and no. Because these Jews were favourites of God? Distinctly no, though so highly favoured they had been in the wondrous mission entrusted to them. But because Israel was the gateway to a world Yes, for Israel's sake. Through this gateway, so carefully prepared when every other gate was closing, through this out to a world—this was the plan of action. And this will yet be found to be the plan. Through a Jewish gateway the King will one day go out to touch His world. This is the geography of John's story.

The action of the story swirls largely, too, about the great national feasts, the Passovers, the Tabernacles or harvest-home feast of the autumn, and one called "the Dedication," not elsewhere spoken of. To these came great crowds of pilgrim Jews from all quarters of the world, speaking many languages beside their national Hebrew, giving large business, especially to money-brokers and traders in the animals and birds used in the sacrifices. That classical Pentecost Chapter of Acts gives the wide range of countries and of languages represented by these pilgrim thousands. These feasts are the central occasions of John's story.

The time begins with John's preaching in the Jordan bottoms and reaches up practically to the evening of the betrayal. It is commonly reckoned three and a half years. That is, there are some months before that first Passover, and then the events run through and up to the fourth Passover, reckoning the unnamed feast of chapter five as a Passover. This is the chronology of John's Gospel. John's Gospel gives the only clue to the length of Jesus' ministry.

There are three groups of persons. There are the Jews. That is one of John's distinctive phrases. By it he means as a rule the official leaders of the nation, whom in common with the other writers he also designates by their party names, Pharisees, Scribes, Chief Priests, and so on. Among these the name of Caiaphas stands out, and later Annas.

Then there are the crowds, the masses of people that flock together in any new stirring movement. There are Galilean crowds, feast-time crowds including the great numbers of foreign pilgrim Jews, city crowds, and country crowds. They gather to John's preaching. They gather in great numbers in Jerusalem, and on the Galilean visits. They are easily impressionable, swayed by subtle crowd-contagion, stirred up and played upon cunningly by the opposition leaders.

They appeal greatly to Jesus, like unshepherded sheep. And the sick and needy ones, so numerous, draw out His pity and warm touch and healing power. They believe quickly, and almost as quickly are turned away and desert the cause they had so quickly and warmly rallied to. Fickle, unthoughtful, easily-swayed, needy crowds, but with the thoughtful ones and groups here and there who are really helped and who stick. These crowds are always in evidence.

And there are the disciples. There is the inner group of chosen ones who companion with Jesus, sharing His bread and bed, and close witnesses of His gracious spirit and unfailing power, with impulsive heady Peter and faithful steady John always nearest by. What a schooling all this was for them! And there are other disciples, not of this picked circle, but on most intimate personal terms with the Master, some of them, like thoughtful cautious Nicodemus, like the Bethany group of three, and Mary the Magdalene. And there is the larger, looser, changing body of disciples, mingling with the crowds, sometimes deserting, but no doubt with many thoughtful devoted ones among them. These are the leading persons figuring in John's story, grouped about the person of Jesus.

But these are simply interesting incidentals giving local colouring to John's story. We pass by them quickly now to a few things that take great hold of one's heart, that stand out biggest, and give the real action of life to the story.

Tapestry Threads.

As we unravel the fabric of John's Gospel there are three threads that stand out by reason of the distinctness of their colours. There's a thread of clear decided blue. There's a dark ugly black thread that gets blacker as it weaves itself farther in. And then there's a bright yellow glory-colour thread that shines with brighter lustre as the black gets blacker.

Trace the blue first, the thread of a simple glad acceptance of Jesus, and trust in Him. It deepens in its fine shading of blue as you follow it, true blue, the colour true hearts wear. From the very first Jesus is accepted by some, by many. And this continues steadily through to the very last. Some doors open at once to Him. Then under the influence of His presence and gentle resistless power they open wide, and then wider.

It is fascinating to trace the simply told story of growing faith, until one's own faith gets clearer and steadier and has more warm glow to it. To adapt Tennyson's fine lines, as knowledge grows from more to more there dwells in us more of the deep tender reverence of love, until all the powers of mind and spirit chord into one symphony of unending music. And the wheels of our common life move always to its rhythmic swing.

See how the crowds crowd to Jesus, and open up to the appeal of His words and acts and presence. Many of the pilgrim crowds of that first Passover believe, impressed by Jesus' spirit of helpfulness and His unusual power.4747ii. 23. And the Galileans among them give Him warm welcome as He comes up into their country.4848iv. 45. It is a great multitude that follows eagerly up on the east coast of the Galilean sea, hail Him as the long-expected prophet of their nation, talk of plans for making Him their King, and earnestly cry out, "Lord, evermore give us this (true) bread."4949vi. 1-2, 14, 15, 34.

Even in the midst of the bickering discussions at the Tabernacles Feast many of the multitude believed on Him, some as the long-talked-of prophet, some as the very Christ Himself.5050vii. 31, 40, 41. And as He talks to His critics of His purpose always to please the Father, still others are drawn in heart to Him and believe.5151viii. 30. And at this same time, as the criticism gets uglier, many make bold to speak out on His behalf5252x. 20, 21. though it was getting to be a dangerous thing to do. As He feels compelled to withdraw from the tense atmosphere of Jerusalem, and goes away into the country districts beyond the Jordan the people come flocking to Him with open hearts.5353x. 40-42.

The Lazarus incident made inroads into the upper circles of Jerusalem, many of the influential social class with whom these dear Bethany friends seem on close terms, and who had been out there during those stirring days, believe on Jesus, and many of the common people, too, are won by that occurrence.5454xi. 45; xii. 9-12. That tremendous raising of Lazarus had much to do with the great acclaim of the multitudes as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the kingly colt.5555xii 17-18.

It is without doubt a sincere homage that these multitudes from far and near, and the home crowds, render, with their palm branches and garment-strewn roads, and spontaneous outburst of joyous song.5656xii. 12-14. And now as John put his bit of a knotted summary on the end of this part of his story, he points out that even among the members of the Jewish Senate there were many real believers.5757xii. 42.

But a crowd is a strange complex thing. It doesn't know itself. It's easily swept along to do as a crowd what would never be done by each one off by himself. And this works in good ways as well as in bad. Jesus drew the crowds and was drawn by them. He couldn't withstand the pull of the crowd. The lure of its intense need was irresistible to Him. Yet He knew crowds rarely.

He was never blinded by their enthusiasm. His keen insight saw under the surface, though it never held Him critically back from helping. He quickly notes that the belief of those first Passover crowds has not reached the dependable stage.5858ii. 23-25 He is never held back from showing the red marks in the road to be trodden even though many of His disciples balk at going farther on such a road, and some turn away to an easier road,5959vi. 60-66. so revealing an utter lack of the real thing. And even where there's real faith of the sincere sort it is yet sometimes not of the seasoned sort that can stand the storms.6060xii. 42-43.

These crowds seem of close kin to more modern crowds. One touch of a crowd rubs out centuries of difference and shows one family blood in us all. Yet keep things poised. It was out of these crowds that there came the disciples and close friends to whom we now turn. There's gold in the crowds, finest twenty-four carat gold. It's all a matter of mining. Skilful mining gets out the gold. This wondrous Lover used the magnetic-current method of mining, the love-current. The strong warm current, the fine personal spirit current, drew out to Him the fine grains of gold in these human crowds.

Growing Faith.

Now we climb the hill where the disciples are. The crowds are in the bottom-lands. Many have started up the hill. Jesus always woos men uphill. You can always tell a man by where he is standing, bottom-land, hillside, higher-hill-slope, hilltop. We turn now from the crowds that believed to those whose personal acceptance of Jesus drew them into the inner circle.

The first three incidents trace the beginnings of faith in those first close disciples who came to be numbered among the picked inner twelve.6161i. 35-51; ii. 1-11; iii. 13-28. The first story is one of the rarest of John's many rare stories. It is characteristic of the real thing of faith that beginning with two they quickly number five. The attachment of the two to John, the Witness, reveals them as of the earnest inquiring sort, after the very best. John never forgot that talk with Jesus in the gathering twilight by the Jordan. It sends Andrew out for Peter, and John likely for James, while the Master gets Philip, and he in turn Nathaniel. That reveals the real stuff of faith. It has a mind whose questionings have been satisfied, a heart that catches fire, and feet that hasten out-of-doors for others. That's the real thing.

Their faith takes deeper root at Cana. A new personal experience of Jesus' power is a great deepener of faith, the great deepener. This is the only pathway from faith to a deeper realer sturdier faith. A man can get a deeper faith only by walking on his own feet where Jesus leads.

Their faith grows imperceptibly but by leaps and bounds. It grows down deeper and so up stronger and out farther by their companionship with Jesus through those brief packed years. What a school that was! the school of companionship with Jesus, with lessons daily, but the chiefest lesson the Teacher Himself. What a school it is! The only one for learning the real thing of faith: still open: pupils received at any time.

If we would shut our eyes and go with them as they company with Jesus through those wondrous days and events and experiences we may get some hold on how their faith grew. They actually saw the handful of loaves and fishes grow in their hands until thousands were fed. Their own eyes saw Jesus walking on the water.

It was out of their very hearts that they cry out through Peter's lips in answer to Jesus' pathetic pleading question and say, "To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."6262vi. 66-69. And without doubt Thomas acts as spokesman for all when Jesus announced His intention of returning to the danger zone, and Thomas sturdily says, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him."6363xi. 16.

But you are thinking of that terrible break of theirs on the betrayal night, are you? Well, perhaps if we call to mind with what an utter shock the events of that terrific twenty four hours came, intensified the more by the unexpectedness and the suddenness of it; and then if—perhaps—we may call to mind the more recent behaviour of some modern disciples who have had enormous advantages over them in regard to that terrific experience it may chasten our feelings a bit and soften the edge of our thought about them.

But dear faithful John never faltered. We must always love him for that. How humiliating for us if not even one had stood that test. And how their after-contact with John must have affected the others. John pulled the others back and up. And how their faith so sorely chastened and tested came to its fine seasoned strength afterwards.

These very events of the early days now come back with new meaning to them. Jesus' words at the temple cleansing, and the kingly entry into Jerusalem, shine now in a new light and give new strength to their faith.6464ii. 22; xii. 16. But John himself brings us back to this again in that long talk of the betrayal night. So we leave it now. But blue is a good colour for the eyes. It reveals great beauty in the bit of tapestry-pattern John is weaving for us to trace these true blue threadings.

But there's more here, much more, that adds greatly to the pattern. There are faithful disciples and precious intimate friendships outside the circle of these future leaders. Take only a moment for these as we push on.

There's that night visitor of the early Jerusalem days. Aristocrat, ruler, scholar, with all the supercautiousness that these qualities always grain in, Nicodemus actually left the inner circle of temple-rulers who were as sore to the touch as a boil over John's drastic cleansing, and comes for a personal interview. His utter sincerity is shown in the temper of his remarks and questions, and shown yet more in the openness of Jesus' spirit in talking with him. For this is a trait in Jesus' dealings,—openness when He finds an opening door. It must be so, then and now. He can open up only where there is an opening up to Him. Openness warms and loosens. The reverse chills and locks up.6565iii. 1-21.

It is in another just such situation but far more acute, that this man speaks out for Jesus in an official meeting of these same rulers. Timidly? have you thought, cautiously? Yet he spoke out when no one else did, though others there believed in Jesus. A really rare courage it was that told of a growing faith.6666vii. 50-51 with xii. 42, 43. And the personal devotion side of his faith, evidence again of the real thing, stands out to our eyes as we see him bring the unusual gift of very costly ointments for the precious body of his personal friend.6767xix. 39. It's a winsome story, this of Nicodemus. May there be many a modern duplicate of it.

In utter social contrast stands the next bit of this sort following so hard that the contrast strikes you at once. It's a half-breed Samaritan this time, and a woman, and an openly bad life. The Samaritans were hated by Jew and Gentile alike as belonging to neither, ground between the two opposing social national millstones. Womanhood was debased and held down in the way all too familiar always and everywhere. And a moral outcast ranks lowest in influence.

But true love discerns the possible lily in the black slime bulb at the pond's bottom and woos it into blossoming flower, till its purity and beauty greet our delighted eyes. Under the simple tact of love's true touch, out of such surroundings grows a faith, through the successive stages of gossipy curiosity, cynical remark, interest, eagerness, guilty self-consciousness that would avoid any such personal conversation, out and out comes a faith that means a changed life, and then earnest bringing of others till the whole village acclaims Jesus a Saviour, the Saviour.

And the very title they apply to Jesus reveals as by a flash-light the chief personal meaning the interview had for this outcast woman. In one way her faith meant more than Nicodemus', for it meant a radical change of outer life with her. And many a one stops short of that, though the real thing never does, and can't.6868iv. 5-42.

Then the circle widens yet more, geographically. Jew, Samaritan, it is a Roman this time, one of the conquering nation under whose iron heel the nation writhes restlessly. He is of gentle birth and high official position. It is his sense of acute personal need that draws him to Jesus. The child of his love is slipping from his clinging but helpless grasp.

There's the loose sort of hearsay groping faith that turns to Jesus in desperation. Things can't be worse, and possibly there might be help. There's the very different faith that looks Jesus in the face and hears the simple word of assurance so quietly spoken. He actually heard the word spoken about his dying darling, "thy son liveth."

Then there is that wondrous new sort of faith whose sharper hooks of steel enter and take hold of your very being as you actually experience the power of Jesus in a way wholly new to you. As it came to his keenly awakened mind that the favourable turn had come at the very moment Jesus uttered those quiet words, and then as he looked into the changed face of his recovering child, he became a changed man. The faith in Jesus was a part of his being. The two could never be put asunder. So the Roman world brought its grateful tribute of acceptance to this great wooing brooding Lover. The wooing had won again.

And now there's another extreme social turnabout in the circle that feels the power of Jesus' wooing. We turned from Jerusalem aristocrat to Samaritan outcast; now it's from gentle Roman official to a beggaring pauper. It is at the Tabernacles' visit. Jesus, quietly masterfully passing out from the thick of the crowd that would stone Him, noticed a blind ragged beggar by the roadway. One of those speculative questions that are always pushing in, and that never help any one is asked: "Who's to blame here?"

With His characteristic intense practicality Jesus quietly pushes the speculative question aside with a broken sentence, a sentence broken by His action as He begins helping the man. In effect He says, "Neither this man nor his parents are immediately to blame; the thing goes farther back. But"—and He reaches down and begins to make the soft clay with His spittle—"the thing is to see the power of God at work to help." And the touch is given and the testing command to wash, and then eyes that see for the first time.

But the one thing that concerns us now in this great ninth chapter is the faith that was so warmly wooed up out of nothing to a thing of courageous action and personal devotion to Jesus. It is fairly fascinating to watch the man move from birth-blind hopelessness through clay-anointed surprise and wonder and Siloam-walking expectancy on to water-washing eyesight.

It is yet more fascinating to see his spirit move up in the language he uses, from "the man called Jesus," and the cautious but blunt "I don't know about His being a sinner, but I know I can see," on to the bolder "clearly not a sinner but a man in reverent touch with God Himself."

Then the yet bolder, "a man from God," brings the break with the dreaded authorities which branded him before all as an outcast and as a damned soul. And then the earnest reverent cry "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe?" reveals the yearning purpose of his own heart. And then the great climax comes in the heart cry, "Lord, I believe, I believe Thee to be the very Son of God."

And the outcast of the rulers casts in his lot with Jesus and begins at once living the eternal quality of life which goes on endlessly. What a day for him from hopeless blindness of body and heart to eyesight that can see Jesus' face and know Him as his Saviour and Lord! Growth of faith clearly is not limited to the counting of hours. It waits only on one's walking out fully into all the light that comes, no matter where it may lead your steps.

The Bethany Height of Faith.

The Bethany story is one of the tenderest of all. It touches the heights. It's a hilltop story, both in its setting amidst the Bethany blue hills where it grew up, and in the height of faith it records. It has personal friendship and love of Jesus and implicit trust in Him as its starting point. And from this it reaches up to levels unknown before. Faith touches high water here. It rises to flood, a flood that sweeps mightily through the valleys of doubt and questionings all around about.

At the beginning there is faith in Jesus of the tender, personal sort. At the close there's faith that He will actually meet the need of your life and circumstance without limit. The highest faith is this: connecting Jesus' power and love with the actual need of your life. Abraham believed God with full sincerity that covenant-making night under the dark sky. But he didn't connect his faith in God with his need and danger among the Philistines.6969Genesis XV. 6 with xx. 11. Peter believed in Jesus fully but his faith and his action failed to connect when the sore test came that Gethsemane night.

The Bethany pitch of faith makes connections. It ties our God and our need and our action into one knot. This is the pith of this whole story. Jesus' one effort in His tactful patient wooing is to get Martha up to the point of ordering that stone aside. He got her faith into touch with the gravestone of her sore need. Her faith and her action connected. That told her expectancy. Creeds are best understood when they're acted. Moving the stone was her confession of faith. Not that Jesus was the Son of God. That was settled long before.

No: it meant this—that the Son of God was now actually going to act as Son of God to meet her need. Under His touch her dead brother was going to live. The deadness that broke her heart would give way under Jesus' touch. The Bethany faith doesn't believe that God can do what you need, merely. It believes that He will do it And so the stone's taken away that He may do it. God has our active consent. Are we up on the Bethany level? Has God our active consent to do all He would? Is our faith being lived, acted out?

And the feast of grateful tribute that followed has an exquisite added touch. The faith that lets God into one's life to meet its needs gets clearer eyesight. Acted faith affects the spirit vision. There is a spirit sensitiveness that recognizes God and discerns how things will turn out.

Notice Jesus' words about Mary's act of anointing. There is a singularly significant phrase in it. "Let her keep it against (or in view of) the day of My burying." "Keep it" is the striking phrase. What does that mean? We speak of keeping a day, as Christmas, meaning to hallow the memories for which it stands. "Keep it" here seems to mean that. Let her keep a memorial. Yet it would be a memorial in advance of the event remembered and hallowed.

It seems to suggest that Mary thus discerned the outcome for Jesus of the coming crisis, and more, its great significance. The disciples expected Jesus' power to overcome all opposition. She alone sensed what was coming, His death and its tremendous spirit-meaning. And it is possible that the raising of her brother helped her to sense ahead another raising. For there is no mention of her at the tomb, as would otherwise have been most natural.

Her simple love-lit faith could see, and could see beyond to the final outcome. This is the story of the Bethany faith, faith at flood. This highest simplest truest faith, that had come in answer to Jesus' patient persistent wooing for it, opens the way for the greatest use of His power on record.

There's one story more in this true-blue faith list. It is the story of the Greeks. At first it seems not to belong in here. There is no mention made of the faith of these men nor of their acceptance of Jesus. But the more you think into it the more it seems that here is its true place, and that this is why John brings it in, not simply to show how the outside world was reaching for Jesus, but to show the inner spirit of these men towards Jesus.

Whether the term Greeks is used in the looser sense for the Greek-speaking Jews,7070vii. 35. or for non-Jewish foreigners, or, as I think most likely, in the meaning of men of Grecian blood, residents of Greece, the significance is practically the same, it was the outer world coming to Jesus. These had come a long journey to do homage to the true God at Jerusalem. Their presence reveals their spirit.

They were eye and ear-witnesses of the stirring events of those last days in Jerusalem. The stupendous story of the raising of the man out in the Bethany suburb was the talk of the city. And then there was that intense scene of the kingly entry into the city amid the acclaiming multitudes. They knew of the official opposition, and the public proclamation against Jesus. They breathed the Jerusalem air. That put them in touch with the whole situation.

Now notice keenly they seek a personal interview with Jesus. This is the practical outcome of the situation to them. It reminds one of that other man, under similar conditions though less intense, at an earlier stage, cautiously seeking a night interview. Their desire tells not curiosity but earnestness, and the very earnestness reveals both purpose and attitude towards Jesus.

And this is made the plainer by the very words they use as they seek out the likeliest man of the Master's inner circle to secure the coveted interview. They say, "Sir, we would see Jesus." The whole story of conviction, of earnestness, of decision, is in that tremendous little word "would." It was their will, their deliberate choice, to come into personal relations with this Man of whom they were hearing so much.

And it seems like a direct allusion to that tremendous word, and an answer to it, when Jesus, in effect, in meaning, says, "if any man would follow Me." Both the coming under such circumstances, and the form of the request, seem to tell the attitude of these men towards Jesus and their personal purpose regarding Him. It would be altogether likely that they accompany Philip as he seeks out Andrew. It would be the natural thing. And so they are with Philip and Andrew as they come to tell Jesus.

Then this would be the setting of these memorable intense words that Jesus now utters.7171xii. 24-36. He senses at once the request and the earnest purpose of these men seeking Him out. It is for them especially that these words are spoken. And if, as some thoughtful scholars think, Jesus spake here, not in His native Aramaic, but in the Greek tongue, it gives colouring to the supposition. The intense earnestness of His words, and the revealing of the intense struggle within His spirit as He breathes out the simple prayer,—all this is a tacit recognition of the spirit of these Greeks.

The parallel is striking with the Nicodemus interview where no direct mention is made of the faith that later events showed was unquestionably there. It seems like another of those silences of John that are so full of meaning.7272Note the official deputation incident (chapter i.), and the Nicodemus incident (chapter iii.). And the silence seems, as with Nicodemus, to mean the acquiescence of the inquirers in the message they hear.

This then would seem to be the reply to the request. They have indeed seen Jesus. And they accept it and Him, as most likely they linger through the Passover-days at hand and then turn their faces homeward. And so the warm wooing has drawn out this warm response from the cultured Greek world.

So we trace the blue thread in John's tapestry picture, the true faith that is drawn out from nothing to little and more and much and most, under the warmth of the brooded wooing of this great Lover.

The Ugly Thread in the Weaving.

Now for that ugly dark thread, the opposition to, the rejection of, the Lover's wooing. But we'll not linger here. We've been seeing so much of this thread as we traced the other and studied the whole. Ugly things stand out by reason of their very ugliness. This stands out in gloomy disturbing contrast with all the rest. A brief quick tracing will fully answer our present purpose. And then we can hasten on to the dominating figure in the pattern.

The opposition begins with silent rejection, moves by steady stages, growing ever intenser clear up to the murderous end. The sending of the committee to the Jordan to examine John and report on him was an official recognition of his power. The questions asked raise the possibility clearly being discussed of John being the promised prophet, or Elijah, or even the Christ Himself, and this is an expression of the national expectancy. The utter silence with which John's witness to Jesus is met is most striking.7373i. 19-34. Its significance is spoken of by both Jesus and John.7474iii. 11, 32.

The intensity of the resentment over the cleansing of the temple-area can be almost felt rising up out of the very page, in the critical questions and cynical comment of the Jews. One can easily see all the bitterness of their hate tracking its slimy footprints out of that cleansed courtyard.7575ii. 13-20.

The cunning discussion among the great Jordan crowds about the purifying rite of baptism, stirred up so successfully by "a Jew," that is, probably by one of the Jerusalem leaders, would seem to be a studied attempt to discredit the two preachers, Jesus and John, and swing the crowds away. It was shrewdly done and might have dissipated the fine spiritual atmosphere by bitter strife and discussion had not Jesus quietly slipped away.7676iii. 22-iv. 3.

This attitude of theirs is clearly recognized and felt by Jesus. He plainly points out that vulgarizing hurt of sin whereby God's own messenger is not recognized when He comes in the garb of a neighbour.7777iv. 44.

Then things get more acute. The blessed healing of a thirty-eight-year-old infirmity leads to outspoken persecution, to a desire and purpose actually to kill Jesus. It grew intenser as Jesus' claim grew clearer. The issue was sharply drawn. He "called God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." They begin plotting His death.7878v. 16-18.

His prudent absence from Jerusalem at the time of the next Passover reveals graphically how tense the opposition had gotten. But even up by Galilee's shores they have messengers at work amongst the crowds exciting discussion and discontent and worse. In the discussion it is easy to pick out the two elements, the nagging critics and the earnest seekers. And the saddening result is seen in many disciples leaving Jesus and going back again to their old way.7979vi. 30-36, 41-42, 52, 60-66.

Then things got so intense that Jesus' habit of life was broken or changed. He could no longer frequent Judea as He had done, but kept pretty much to the northern province of Galilee. The settled plan to kill made His absence a matter of common prudence. This makes most striking His great courage in going up to Jerusalem at the autumn Feast of Tabernacles. He quietly arrived in the midst of much rumour and hot discussion about Himself, and begins teaching the crowds openly, to the great amazement of many.

At once begin the wordy critical attacks, egged on probably by the warmth with which many receive Jesus' teachings. There are three attempts to take Him by force, including an official attempt at arrest. But, strangely enough, the very officers sent to arrest are so impressed by Jesus' teaching that they return with their mission not done, to the intensest disgust and rage of their superiors.8080vii. throughout.

Early on the morning following there's a cunning coarse attempt to entrap Him into saying something that can be used against Him. A woman is brought accused of wrong-doing of the gravest sort, and His opinion is asked as to the proper punishment for so serious an offense. There's nothing more dramatic in Scripture than the withdrawal of these accusers, one by one, actually conscience-stricken in the presence of the few simple words of this wondrous Man.8181viii. 1-11.

This is followed by the intensest give-and-take of discussion thus far, in which they give vent to their bitterest degree of vile language in calling Him "a Samaritan," and accusing Him of being possessed with "a demon." And then the terrible climax is reached in the enraged passionate attempt of stoning. It is the worst yet to which their fanatical rage has gone.8282viii. 12-59.

Now they reach out to intimidate the multitude, by threatening to cut off from religious and civic privileges all who would confess belief in Jesus as Christ. And their spleen vents its rage on the man born blind but now so wondrously given sight of two sorts.8383ix. 1-x. 21.

The winter Feast of the Dedication a few months later finds Jesus back again in Jerusalem teaching. And again their enraged attempt at stoning, the second one, is restrained by a something in Him they can neither understand nor withstand.8484x. 22-39.

The Lazarus incident arouses their opposition to the highest pitch.8585xi. 47-57. This is recognized as a crisis. Such power had never been seen or known. The inroads of belief are everywhere, in the upper social circles, among the old families, even in the Jewish Senate itself, notwithstanding the threatened excommunication. On every hand men are believing. Things are getting desperate for these leaders. They determine to use all the authority at hand arbitrarily and with a high hand. What strange blindness of stubborn self-will to such open evidence of power!

A special meeting of the Jewish Senate is held, not unlikely hastily summoned of those not infected with belief. And there it is officially determined to put Jesus to death, and serve public notice that any one knowing of His whereabouts must report their information to the authorities.

And as the incoming crowds thicken for the Passover, and the talk about Lazarus is on every tongue, it is determined to put Lazarus to death, too. This is the pitch things have risen to as John brings this part of his story to a close.

The Glory-Coloured Thread.

It is a relief to turn now to the chief figure in this tapestried picture of John's weaving. Here are glory-coloured threads of bright yellow. They easily stand out, thrown in relief both by the pleasing blues and the disturbing blacks. It is the figure of the Man on the errand, intent on His wooing, absorbed in His great task. Thia Man, His tremendous wooing, wins glad grateful ever-growing acceptance. And with rarest boldness and courage He persists in His wooing in spite of the terrific intensifying opposition.

The gentle softening dew persists in distilling even on the hardest stoniest soil. The gentle winsomeness of the wooing stands out appealingly as one goes through those fragments of teaching talks running throughout. The rare faithfulness of it to the nation and its leaders is thrown into bold relief by the very opposition that reveals their dire spiritual plight and their sore need.

The power of it is simply stupendous. As gentle in action as the falling dew it grows in intensity until neither the gates of death nor even the stubborn resistance of a human will can prevail against it. It is power sufficient to satisfy the most critical search, and to make acceptance not only possible with one's reasoning power in fullest exercise but the rational thing.

Look a bit at the power at work here. For in looking at the power we are getting a better look at the Man, and at the purpose that grips Him. Of the nineteen incidents in these twelve chapters fifteen give exhibitions of power. It is of two sorts, power over the human will, and miraculous power.

Eight incidents reveal power working upon the human will. In three of these—Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, the accused sinful woman—the will becomes pliant and is radically changed, so morally affecting the whole life. In five—the temple cleansing, at the Tabernacles Feast, the first and second attempt at stoning, and the kingly entry into the city—the human will is stubbornly aggressively antagonistic to Jesus, but is absolutely restrained from what it is fully set upon doing.

In the other seven incidents the power is miraculous or supernatural. In three—turning the water into wine, multiplying food supplies, walking on the water—it is power in the realm of nature. In four—healing the Roman nobleman's son, the thirty-eight-year infirmity, giving sight to the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus—it is power in the realm of the body, radically changing its conditions.

It will help to remember what those words miraculous and supernatural mean. Miraculous means something wonderful, that is, something filling us with wonder because it is so unusual. Supernatural means something above the usual natural order. The two words are commonly taken as having one meaning. Neither word means something contrary to nature, of course, but simply on a higher level than the ordinary workings of nature with which we are familiar. The action is in accord with some higher law in God's world which is brought into play and is seen to be superior to the familiar laws.

But the power, or the man that can call this higher law into action, is of a higher order. There is revealed an intimacy of acquaintance with these higher laws, and even more a power that can command and call them into action down in the sphere of our common ordinary life, until we stare in wonder. This is really the remarkable thing. Not supernatural action itself simply, tremendous as that is, but the man in such touch with higher power as to be able to call out the action, and to command it at will.

This is one of the things that marks Jesus off so strikingly from other holy men. There are miracles in the Old Testament and in the Book of Acts. But there's an abundance and a degree of power in Jesus' miracles outclassing all others. It is fascinating and awesome to watch the growth of power in these movements of Jesus. It is as though He woos more persistently in the very degree and variety of power that He uses so freely, and with such apparent ease.

Which calls out greater power, creating or healing? making water into wine or healing bodily ailment? Which is the greater, power in the realm of nature or the body? or in the realm of the human will? multiplying food or changing a human will? Which is greater, to induce a man voluntarily to change his course of action, or to restrain him (by moral power only, not by force) from doing something he is dead-set on doing?

This is the range through which Jesus' action runs in these fifteen incidents. Is there a growth in the power revealed? Is there an intenser plea to these men as the story goes on? Is there a steady piling up of evidence in the wooing of their hearts?

Well, creating is bringing into material being what didn't so exist before. Healing does something more. It creates new tissue, makes new or different adjustments and conditions, and it overcomes the opposite, the broken tissue, the diseased conditions, the weakness, the tendency towards decay and death. Clearly there's a greater task in healing, and a greater power at work, or more power, or power revealed more.

Then, too, of course, the human is above the physical. Man is higher than nature. He is the lord of creation. It is immensely more to affect a human will than to affect conditions in nature. The whole thing moves up to a measureless higher level. And clearly enough it is a less difficult task to enlighten and persuade one who seeks the light, and to woo up one who is simply carelessly indifferent, than it is to overcome and restrain a will that is dead-set against you and is bitterly set on an opposite course.

Of course, all of this is not commonly so recognized. It seems immensely more to heal the body than to change a man's course of action, or, at least, it appeals immensely more to the imagination. The man who can heal is magnified in our eyes above the other. The miraculous always seems the greater. It is more unusual. Stronger wills are influencing others daily. That's a commonplace. Bodily healing is rare. And all the world is ill. Things are ripe to have such power seize upon the imagination then and always.

And then, too, there are interlacings here of things we see and things we don't see. There is the element of the use of the human will in all miraculous action, whether in nature or among men. Behind both nature's forces and human forces are unseen spirit personalities, both evil and good. The real battle of our human life lies there in the spirit realm. Victory there means full victory in the realm of nature and of human lives. There is a devil with hosts of spirit attendants. The wilderness was a spirit-conflict of terrific intensity, ending in Jesus' unqualified victory.

Jesus' power was more than simply creative, or healing, or over human wills. It was the power of a pure, strong, surrendered will having the mastery over a giant, unsurrendered, God-defiant will. This underlies all else. But we've run off a bit. Come back to the simple story, and see how the power of Jesus is revealed more and more before their eyes. And in seeing the faithfulness and winsomeness of His power, see His wooing.

Intenser Wooing.

A look at the miraculous power first. The turning of the water into wine was simple creative power at work, creating in the liquid the added constituents that made it wine. The healing of the nobleman's son rises to a higher level. The power overcomes diseased weakened conditions and creates new life in the parts affected.

The healing of a thirty-eight year old infirmity rises yet higher in the scale of power seen at work. The Roman's child was an acute case; this an extreme chronic case of long standing. The acute case of illness may be most difficult and ticklish, demanding a quick masterful use of all the physician's knowledge and skill. The chronic case is yet more difficult eluding his best studied and prolonged and repeated effort. Clearly the power at work is accomplishing more; and so it is pleading more eloquently.

The feeding of the five thousand is creative power simply, like the water-wine case, but it moves up higher in the greater abundance of power shown, the increase of quantity created, and the far greater and intenser human need met and relieved.

The walking on the water was an overcoming one of nature's laws, a rising up superior to it. The universal law of gravitation would naturally have drawn His feet through the surface of the water and His whole body down. He overcomes this law, retaining His footing on the water as on land.

It was done in the night, but an Oriental community, like any country community, anywhere, is a bulletin-board for all that happens. No detail is omitted, and no one misses the news. And this like all these other incidents become the common property of the nation.

It is interesting to note in the language John uses8686"Jesus had not yet come," intimating that they were expecting Him in accordance with an understanding between Him and them. vi. 17. that the motive underneath the action was not to reveal power but simply to keep an appointment. But then Jesus never used His power to show that He had power, but only to meet the need of the hour. Yet each exhibition of power revealed indirectly, incidentally who He was.

There is an instance similar to this in the borrowed axe-head that swam in obedience to Elisha's touch of power to meet the need of the distressed theological student.8787Kings vi. 1-7. In each instance it is the same habit of nature that yields homage to a higher power at work.

But though there is here no increase of power shown yet the action itself was of the sort to appeal much more to the crowd. It has in it the dramatic. It would appear to the crowd a yet more wonderful thing than they had yet witnessed.

The giving of sight to the man born blind is distinctly a long step ahead of any healing power thus far related in John's story. There is here not only the chronic element, but the thing is distinctly in a class by itself, quite outclassing in the difficulty presented any case of mere chronic infirmity.

It was not a matter of restoring what disease had destroyed but of supplying what nature had failed to give in its usual course. It was a meeting of nature's lack through some slip in the adjustment of her action in connection with human action. There is not only the appealing dramatic element, as in the walking on the water, but the appealing sympathetic element in that this poor man's lifelong burden is removed.

And then the seventh and last of these, the actual raising of Lazarus up from the dead, is a climax of power in action nothing short of stupendous. Of the six recorded cases of the dead being raised this is easily the greatest in the power seen at work. In the other five, in the Elijah record,8888Kings xvii. 17-24. the Elisha,8989Kings xiii. 20-21. the Moabite's body at Elisha's grave,9090Kings iv. 32-37. Jairus' daughter,9191Luke viii. 40-42, 49-56. and the widow's son at Nain,9292Luke vii. 11-17. there was no lapse of time involved.

Here four days of death had intervened, until it was quite certain beyond question that in that climate decomposition would be well advanced. Utter human impotence and impossibility was in its last degree. Man stands utterly powerless, utterly helpless in the presence of death. It is not the last degree of improbability. There is no improbability. It's an impossibility. The thing is in a class by itself, the hopeless class. And the four days give death its fullest opportunity. And death never fails in grim faithfulness to opportunity.

It is no wonder that all Jerusalem was so stirred. The common crowds of home people and pilgrims, the aristocratic families, the inner official circles, among all classes, this tremendous event won recognition of Jesus' power and claim, and with recognition personal faith. Nothing like this had ever happened. This is the superlative degree of miraculous power revealed in this matchless wooing of a faithless nation.

Love Wooing Yet More.

Now a look at the power at work in the realm of the human will, really a higher power, or power at work in a higher realm, though not commonly so recognized by the crowd. There are eight incidents here. And again we shall find the steady rise of the power seen at work. Three of these tell of the human will changed, and four of its being restrained against its will from doing that which it was dead-set on doing.

The ruler who withdrew from the midst of the disturbed temple managers for a night-call upon Jesus was radically changed in his convictions and his life-purpose. He had an open mind. The work was begun at that first Jerusalem Passover. Under the holy spell of John's presence he is drawn away from his enraged brother-rulers to seek the night talk. The frankness and fullness of Jesus' talk shows plainly how open he was and how much more he opened and yielded that evening. And the after protest in the official meeting of the rulers, and the loving care for the body of Jesus reveal how radical was the transformation wrought upon his will and heart by Jesus.9393iii. 1-21.

The Samaritan woman is changed from utter indifference to a change of will and purpose that makes her an eager messenger to her people until they hail Jesus as the Saviour of the world. The change involved a radical face-about in habit and life amongst the very people who knew her past sinful life best. It meant more than change of conviction, that change actually put into practice across the grain of the habits of years, and of the lower passions, so hard to change. It is a distinct step up from the change in Nicodemus simply because there was so much more to change. The same power had more to do. And it did it.9494iv. 7-42.

The story of the woman accused of the gravest offense is a double one in the power seen at work. She would naturally be hardened, and stony hard, shameless to the point of hopeless indifference in moral sense, and all this increased by their coarse publicity of her. And so little is said, but so much suggested of a change in her.

The purity of Jesus' face and presence would be a tremendous power of conviction. The gentleness of His quiet question would couple softening of heart with conviction of her sin. The word of counsel as she is dismissed would seem a mirror reflecting the inner longing of her heart and the new purpose stirring within, as memory recalls early days of virgin purity, and a wild hope within struggles towards life that there may yet be a change even for her.

The change in her accusers is, at least, as remarkable though wholly different. Morally hardened, as shameless and coarse as the woman as regards a fine moral sensibility; by their own tacit confession no better in practice than she in the point of morals raised; in their malignant cunning only concerned with the woman's sin as a means of venting their spleen upon the man they hated and feared,—what a hideous spirit-photograph!

Under the strange compelling power of Jesus' word and will, utterly conscience-stricken at being as guilty as she in the particular item under discussion, they turn, one by one, and slink softly out, until the last one is gone. As an instance of one will controlling and changing another will wholly against its will to the point of forcing out confession of personal guilt, it is most remarkable. One wonders if, under that tremendous conviction of personal sin, some of these were later included in those of the Sanhedrin who openly accepted Jesus. It is quite possible. It is not improbable.9595viii. 1-11.

The fact is noted that the very language used here under the English indicates a different authorship of the incident than John's. Possibly a thoughtful delicacy of regard for the woman restrains John's pen if she were still living as he writes. And then later the Holy Spirit, who so tactfully restrains John's pen, guides another to fit the remarkable story in its place in the record.

The drastic turning of bargaining cattle-dealers and bickering money-brokers, out of the temple-area, and restoring it from a barn-yard to a place of holy worship, is a most remarkable illustration of restraint upon antagonistic wills at the point of their greatest concern. These leaders would gladly have turned Him out.

And who was He, this man with flashing eye and quiet stern word? A stranger, unknown, from the despised country district of Galilee. And they have authority, law-officers, everything of the sort on their side. Yet the restraint of His presence and will over them is as absolute as though they were in chains. They weakly ask for a sign and evidence of power. They themselves experienced the most tremendous exhibition of power the old temple-area had known for generations.9696ii. 13-21.

The power of restraint at the Feast of Tabernacles is yet greater. Or it might be more accurate to say that it is a greater antagonism that is restrained by the same power. They are fully prepared now. The cleansing incident took them unawares. It made them gasp to think that any one would dare oppose them like that.

Now they are on guard. Then, too, their antagonism has intensified and embittered to the point of plotting His death. And they have grown more openly aggressive. There are three attempts at His arrest. Yet that strange noiseless power of restraint is upon them. They do not do as they would. Clearly they cannot. They are restrained. The man whose presence so aroused, also held them in check, apparently without thinking about it. His presence is a restraint.9797vii. throughout.

Then a second clash of wills comes a day or so later. Their opposition is yet intenser. There has been no cooling-off interval. His continued open teaching in face of their attempts at arrest puts fresh kindling on the fire. "No man took Him," but clearly they wanted to. Their open relations become more strained. He uses yet plainer speech in exposing their hypocrisies. This stirs them still more. Their hooked fingers reach passionately for the stones that would make a finish at once, and the green light flashes out of their enraged eyes. It's the sharpest clash yet. They are at a high fever point.

It seems to take a greater use of power to restrain. "He hid Himself" is the simple sentence used. This is one of four times that we are told of His overcoming the hostile attack of a crowd by simply passing through their midst and going on His way.9898Luke iv. 30; John viii. 59; x. 39; xii. 36. Perhaps something in the glance of that eye of His, or in the set of His face,9999Mark x. 32; Luke ix. 53. something in Him restrained them as He quietly passes through the uproarious crowd and goes on His way undisturbed. They are held back against their wills from doing the thing they are so intent on doing.100100viii. 12-59.

A few months later He is back in Jerusalem. But the interval seems not to have cooled their passion, only to have heated and hardened their enmity. They at once begin an aggressive wordy attack. Then losing self-control in their rage they again reach down for the stones to kill Him at once. And again they are restrained from their passionate purpose, as Jesus quietly goes on talking with them. Again they attempt to seize His person. And the simple striking sentence used, "He went forth out of their hand," points to the extent of their purpose and to a yet greater use of His power of restraint over their unwilling wills.101101x. 22-39.

The last incident of this sort is the kingly entry into the city amid the enthusiasm of the pilgrim and city crowds. It says not a word about any attempt on their part nor of His restraint over them. But the very boldness of this wholly unexpected move on His part constituted a tremendous restraint. Their hate had gone through several stages of refined hardening during the few months preceding. The formal decision to kill, the edict of excommunication, the public notice that any information of His whereabouts must be made known, and the decision to kill Lazarus also,—all indicate the hotter burning of the flames of their rage.

Yet into just such a situation He quietly turns the head of His untamed unridden young colt of an ass and rides through the city surrounded by the crowds under the very eyes of these leaders and their hireling legal minions. The tenseness of the whole scene, the power of restraint so put forth, the volcano smouldering underfoot waiting the slightest extra jar to loose out its explosion, all are revealed in the little sentence so pregnant in its concealed dynamic meaning, Jesus "hid Himself from, them." There's an exquisite blending of restraint over them and boldness with cautious prudence. He was walking very close to the edge that time.102102xii. 12-19, 36.

So His power, shown so quietly but irresistibly before the eyes of all during those brief years, rises to a double climax nothing short of stupendous. Miraculous power in the realm of nature and of the human body had reached its climax in the raising of Lazarus, attested beyond question. Power over the human will both in affecting a voluntary change, and in actually restraining its action against its own set purpose, had risen to its climax in the bold open entry in broadest daylight into the capital where His death was officially and publicly decreed. The two climaxes touch. And it is tremendously significant that whereas they sometimes question His miraculous power, they could not deny His restraining power over themselves. How gladly they would if only they could.

And all this, mark you keenly, is a bit of His wooing. The wooing is ever the dominant thought in His heart. So He was revealing to them who He was. He claims to be the Son of God, their kingly Messiah. And He lived His claim. Power is the one universally recognized touchstone by which we judge God and man. His power told who He was even more than His tremendous words did. He was acting naturally. His presence among them thus natural, true to the power native in Him,—this was the wooing.

But there was more than power. There was love. There was a perfect blend of the two. With the power went the love. Nay, rather, with the love went the power. Love was the dominating thing. Jesus was love in shoes, God in action. Always there was the tenderness, the gentleness, the patience, the purity, the unflinching ideals, yes, the courage, the utter fearlessness tempered with a wise prudence. All these are the fuller spelling of love.

Always these went in closest touch with the resisted but resistless power. These are the two traits of God, two traits that are one. Men always think most of the power. God Himself always emphasizes most the love. But true power is simply love in action. The power is the outcome of love, and under the control of love.

This is the second of John's great impelling pictures. The first shows us the Person, the Man Jesus, God with us, God making a world, and then, in homely human garb walking amongst its people, one of themselves.

This second shows us the wooing. This Man, so tender in touch, so gentle in speech, so thoughtful in action, so pure in life, so unbending in ideals, so fearless in the thick of opposition, so faithful to the chosen faithless nation,—this Man Himself is the wooing. His words, His actions, His power, His persistence, His patience, this also is the wooing of this great God-Man-Lover. This is God spelling Himself out into human speech, wooing men out and up and in to Himself.

Jesus Recognised by all the Race.

And it is most striking to sit still and think into how this Lover was recognized by men of all nations, and how His wooing was understood and yielded to by men of all sorts. The intense Jew, the half-breed Samaritan, the aggressive Roman, the cultured refined Greek,—that was all the world. And all these recognized Him as some one kin to themselves, bound by closest spirit-ties, to whom they were drawn by the strong cords of His common kinship with themselves. The waves of His personal influence were, geographically, like His last commandment to His disciples. The movement was from Jerusalem to Judea, through Samaria, and out into the uttermost part of the earth and the innermost heart of the race.

And all sorts of men understood. Jesus wiped out social differences and distinctions in the crowds that gently jostled each other in His presence. The aristocrat and the cultured, the student and the gentle folk, mingled freely with simple country folk, the unlettered, the humblest and lowliest, all drawn alike to Him, and all unconscious of differences when under the holy spell of His presence. The wealthy like Joseph of Arimathea, and the beggar like the man born blind, the pure in heart like Mary of Bethany and the openly bad in life like the accused woman of Jerusalem,—all felt alike that this Jesus belonged to them, and they to Him.

The underneath tie of real kinship of heart rubbed out all outer distinctions. The old families of Jerusalem were glad to unlock their jealously guarded doors to Him. And the simple Capernaum fisherfolk were grateful when He shared bread and roof with them. All men recognized Jesus as belonging to themselves.

And the calendar has not changed this, neither Gregorian nor Old Style. Time finds the race the same always. Centuries climb slowly by, but the human heart is the same, and—so is Jesus. I was greatly struck with this in my errand among the nations. The East balks at the ways of the West sometimes. Many books say there is no point of contact between the two. The East balks at our Western organization, our rule of the clock, and our rush and hurry. Our Westernized church systems and our closely mortised logical theologies are sometimes a bit bewildering, not exactly comprehensible to their Orientalized mode of thought.

But they never balk at Jesus. When they are told of Him, and get some glimpse of Him, their eyes light, their faces glow, their hearts leap in response. You book people say there is no point of contact between Orient and Occident? But there is. Jesus is the point of contact. One real touch of Jesus makes all the world akin. No; that can be put better. One touch of Jesus reveals the kinship that is there between Him and men, and between all men.

In Japan it was the Portuguese that first took the Gospel a few hundred years ago. And you still find Japanese churches founded by the Portuguese. Fifty odd years ago it was the English tongue that again brought that message of life to them. But as I mingled among Japanese Christians of different communions and heard them pray, they were not praying in Portuguese nor in English. They had no thought that He was a Portuguese Saviour they prayed to, nor yet an English. They prayed in Japanese. They felt that Jesus spoke their tongue. He belonged to them. He and they understood each other.

As I listened to Manchu and Chinese, to Korean and Hawaiian pour out their hearts in prayer, I could feel the close personal burning touch of their spirits with Jesus. They and He were kin to each other. Their very voices told the certainty in their hearts on this point.

I recall a little old bent-over woman of seventy-odd years up in northern Sweden, a Laplander. She had come a long three days' journey on her snow-shoes to the meetings. Night after night as I talked through interpretation her deep-set black eyes glowed and glowed. But when one night an hour or more was spent in voluntary prayer she needed no interpreter. And as I listened I needed none. I felt that she knew that Jesus spoke Lappish. The two were face to-face in closest touch of spirit.

And so it is everywhere. The flaxen-haired Holland maid kneeling by her single cot knows that Jesus talks Dutch, and her homely hearthfire Dutch, too, at that. And the earnest Polish peasant in his Carpathian cabin bowed before the symbol his eyes have known from infancy is talking into an ear that knows both Polish accent and Polish heart. So with the German of the Saxon highlands, and of the simpler speech of the Teutonic lowlands. So with the olive-skinned Latin and the darker-hued African kneeling on opposite sides, north and south, of the great Central-earth Sea. Wherever knowledge of Jesus has been carried, He is recognized and claimed as their own regardless of national or social lines.

I knew a minister of our Southland, but whose public service took him to all parts of our country. He had been reared in the South and knew the coloured people by heart, and loved them. And when he returned to his Southern home town he would frequently preach for the coloured people. He was preaching to them one Sabbath with the simplicity and fervour for which he was noted.

At the close among others, one big black man grasped his hand hard as he thanked him for the preaching. And then with his great child-eyes big and aglow, he said, "Youse got a white skin, but youse got a black heart." And you know what he meant,—you have a black man's heart, you have a heart like mine. Your heart makes my heart burn.

Now Jesus had a Hack heart. He had a white heart. He had a yellow, a brown heart. He had a Jew heart, a Roman, a Greek, a Samaritan heart. Aye, He had a world heart, He had a human heart. And He has. There's a Man on the throne yonder, bone of our bone, heart of our heart, pain of our pain.

There's more of God since Jesus went back. Human experience has been taken up into the heart of God. Jesus belonged to us. And now belongs to us more than ever, and we to Him. The human heart has felt His tremendous wooing. It has recognized its Kinsman wherever He has been able to get to them, and it has gladly yielded to the plea of His love.

Jerusalem might carpenter a cross for Him, but the world would weave its heartfelt devotion into a crown of love for Him, bestudded with the dewy tears of its gratitude, sparkling like diamonds in the light of His face.


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