‘He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father … and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.’
Our Blessed Lord had been speaking of His own impending departure and of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and He had pointed out that the Holy Spirit would really be a further manifestation of Himself to His Church. But the disciples noted that this further manifestation which should bring Him nearer to them would be a hiding of Himself from the world. Up to this time our Lord’s ministry had been marked by a note of frank publicity. But now all this was to come to an end.
I. The question asked.—And here comes St. Jude’s question. What does it mean? Why this change? ‘Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself to us, and not unto the world?’ is the question of a man who is honestly perplexed, and is at the same time zealous for his Master’s honour. This difficulty has been by no means confined to the holy Apostles. It is a difficulty felt by devout believers in every age. The things of God, the things of the spiritual life, are to us so tremendously real, yet to the world they mean nothing. They are but as empty words, less important than the result of a cricket match or the event of a horse-race. Strange, most strange. And sometimes the question takes a sharper and more pathetic ring. It is no longer the children of God asking about the children of this world. The trouble has come nearer home. It is the husband asking about the wife, it is the wife asking about the husband. The husband asks, ‘What does it mean? These spiritual verities to me mean so much—death and judgment, and God, and immortality; they are with me when I rise up and when I lie down, when I go forth and when I come in. But to her, my wife, they seem to be less than nothing—they do not touch her, they do not interest her; and yet she is not a bad woman, that is the strangest part of it—in so many respects far better than myself, I know it well: a little light, perhaps, a little pleasure-loving, but not a bad woman; faithful, loyal, pure, affectionate. What does it mean?’ Or it is the wife who cries in the bitterness of her spirit, ‘Oh, my God, give me my husband’s soul! In all other respects we are true husband and wife, but with regard to the things of the spiritual life, I know it well, there is a barrier, invisible, impalpable, but real, hard as adamant. I could trust him among ten thousand; yet here, in the deepest things of life, where above all I desire to be one with him, we are in different worlds, we are so far apart we can hardly hear one another speak. What does it mean?’
II. Christ’s answer.—And then there comes Christ’s answer, an answer strange, enigmatical. ‘If any man love Me he will keep My sayings, and I will come to him and make My abode with him.’ It is not the answer we should have expected, not perhaps the answer we should have desired, and yet they are words of truth, and we may well dwell upon them and search out their meaning. Our Lord lays down the principle that the revelation of God always demands moral co-operation on our part. God never leaves Himself without witness, let us be sure of that. He appeals to every heart and conscience. He is that inner voice which calls us to strive upwards and onwards, and if we respond to that voice, if heart and conscience are willing to attend, He will manifest Himself to us more fully. The manifestation of God requires moral co-operation on our part. Christ, when He comes, comes with a searching power. He demands that we should cast out of our lives all that is inconsistent with the friendship of the Holy God. He demands, first of all, repentance. Take, for instance, the story of Samuel and Eli. The little Temple servant could hear the voice of God, the wise old priest could not. He had neglected a duty, he had not restrained his sons. John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Christ. How did he prepare it? By calling them to repentance. The Holy Spirit comes that He may convince us. How does He begin? By convincing the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.
III. Our Lord’s words come to us—
(a) With wonder. If we feel that our own religion is mere outward formality, that we do not really possess Christ and are not possessed by Him, then let us look to it lest sin lie at the door. Before we answer that we are not as other men, let us look to it and see if our first need is not the need of repentance.
(b) With encouragement.—We may well bear the encouragement in mind in dealing with other men. It may be that your husband, your wife, your dear friend, does not seem to be in the ordinary sense of the term religious. You have often sorrowed and interceded with God for them. But if there be in them the genuine love of goodness, if they are striving upwards and onwards for purity and truth and morality, and all that is noble, then our Blessed Lord seems to say to us that they really love Him though they know it not, that there is in their case the necessary condition for the further manifestation of Himself to them. Those of us who know Christ as a personal Saviour would never admit for one moment that the love of goodness means the same thing as the personal possession of Jesus Christ. It cannot mean the same thing, yet in the case of those who are not outwardly religious, but love purity and truth and goodness, we can afford to be patient, we can afford to wait. Christ will come to that soul, and He will possess it, and once having possessed it He will keep it in His safe and holy care.