By S.D. Gordon
The Parable of the Finger-Posts.
Waiting is harder work than working. It takes more out of you. And it puts more into you, too, of fine-grained, steady strength, if you can stand the strain of it. And if, to the waiting is added perplexity, the pull upon your strength is much greater. It is harder to hold steady, and not break. And if the thing you've put your very life into seems at stake, that taxes the wearing power of your strength to the utmost.
Such a time, and just such a test, came to the little band of disciples after the resurrection, and before the ascension. The story of it is told in that added chapter of John's Gospel. You remember that last chapter is one of the added touches. The Gospel is finished with the finish of the twentieth chapter. Then John is led by the Spirit, to add something more. That added chapter becomes to us like an acted parable, the parable of the added touch. There is always the added touch, the extra touch of power, of love, of answer to prayer. Our Lord has a way of giving more. The prayer itself is answered, and then some added touch is given for full measure. So it is in all His dealings, when He is allowed to have His own way. He is the Lord of the added touch. He does exceeding abundantly above what we ask, or think, or expect.
These disciples were now to have one of these added touches. It was a time of sore perplexity. The crucifixion had left them dazed, stupefied. It was wholly unexpected. They were utterly at sea, with neither compass, nor steering apparatus of any sort. That Saturday to them was one of the longest, dreariest, heaviest days ever spent by any one. They had all proven untrue to their dead Friend, save one.
Then as unexpectedly came the resurrection. They're dazed again, this time with joy. They haven't taken it in yet. To say that the two shocks, each so radically different from the other, shook them tremendously, is stating it very mildly. They don't know themselves. They haven't found their feet. They haven't adjusted yet to their swiftly changing surroundings. They don't know what next. They don't know what to do.
So the old impulsive Simon in Peter proposed something. Simon, the unsteady, was much in evidence those days. Peter the rock-man hadn't arrived yet. This was Simon Peter's specialty, proposing something. He said, "Well, I'm going fishing." And the others quickly said, "We'll go along." The mere doing something would be a relief. But they caught nothing. It was a poor night. The morning brought only heavy hearts with light nets and boats. They had failed at following; now they were failing even at their old specialty, fishing. Couldn't they do anything?
In the dim light of the breaking dawn there's some One standing on the beach, a Stranger. He seems interested in them, and calls out familiarily, "Have you caught anything?" And you feel the heaviness of their hearts over something else in the shout "No." And the gentle voice calls out, with a certain tone of quiet authority in it, "Throw over on the right there, and you'll get some fish." And they cast the nets out again, feeling a strong impulse to obey this kindly Stranger, without stopping to think out why.
And at once the ropes pull so hard that it takes all their strength to hold them. It's John's quick insight that recognizes the Stranger. With his heart in his throat, in awe-touched voice, he quietly says, "It's the Lord." That's enough for Peter. He takes the shortest way to shore. He has some things to talk over with the Master. And as the seven tired men landed the fish, they found breakfast waiting on the sands. Who built that fire? Who cooked that fish? Who was thinking about them and caring for their personal needs, when they were so tired and hungry? And when breakfast was finished, there's the quiet talk together, about love and service, while the sun is climbing up in the east. It is addressed to Peter, but it is meant, too, for those who were so fleet-footed a few nights before.
All this was the answer to their perplexity. They were willing and waiting to follow, but they had failed so badly. They were not quite sure where they stood. They had no finger-posts. Now the finger-posts were put up to show the way. This fishing scene was an acted parable, the Parable of the Finger-posts.
The Lineage of Service.
Look at these finger-posts a little. There was the Lord Jesus. They didn't recognize Him. But He was there. He had a plan. He took authoritative command of their movements. He gave directions. They obeyed Him. Then came the great haul of fish. Then came the quiet talk about love and service, but with the emphasis on love.
The love was the chief thing. The service was something growing out of love. "Lovest thou Me?" Then thou mayest serve, thou hast the chiefest qualification. Our Lord gave them the lineage of service that morning. These are the generations of true service. A sight of Jesus begets love, a tender, gentle, strong, passionate thing of rarest beauty that is immortal, but must have the constant sight of its father's face for vigorous life. And love at once begets obedience, which grows strong and stout and skilled, as long as it stays in its father's presence. And obedience begets service, untiring, glad, patient service.
There are some outsiders that have come into this family, but they do not have the fine traits of blood-kin. "Duty" is one of these. It serves because it must. And at times it renders fine, high service. But its service comes out of the will, rather than out of the heart. It is ruled more by a sense of propriety, never by a passion of the heart.
"Privilege" is near of kin to duty, and it is a high-born, fine-grained thing. It serves because it is an honour to do so. It is enjoyable to be so highly connected. But it constantly needs proper recognition and appreciation of its work and skill. But these are really outsiders. They have married in, and do not have the real family traits. The one word, and the only one, that may properly be used for true service is that fine word, "passion." True service is a thing of love, a thing of the heart, a flame that pervades and permeates and envelops the whole life within and without, a fire that consumes and controls.
The Lord Jesus, His presence, His plan, His authoritative leadership, their obedience, love thrice asked and given, service because of love,--these are the finger-posts for these perplexed men. They can be put into very simple shape for our guidance. Three finger-posts hung up will include all of them,--clear vision, a spirit of obedience, a heart of tender love. These are the three great essentials of all true, full following. And there will not be, there cannot be, true full following without all three of these. There may be much earnest, honest service, much faithful plodding, and hard work, and much good done. But there's always less than the best. There is less than should be. The best results are not being got for the effort expended, except where these three are blended.
A clear vision means simply a clear understanding of things as they are, and of what needs to be done, with all the facts in that belong in. A spirit of obedience means not only an obedience in spirit, a spirited obedience, but an obedience that fits into the spirit of the Leader and His plans. And through these as a fine fragrance breathes a heart of tender undiscourageable love.
Not Quite In Is Outside.
These three things must be kept in poise. So the Master plans. This is the parable of the fishing. There are many illustrations of one only of these, or two, in action. And the bad or poor result that works out can be plainly seen. The Holy Spirit with great plainness and faithfulness has hung up cautionary signs along the road.
There may be clear vision without obedience. That is, a clear understanding of the Master's plan, but a failure to fit in. That will mean a dimming vision. And if persisted in, it will mean spiritual disaster. The great illustration of this is Judas. Judas had as clear a vision, in all likelihood, as the others when he was chosen for discipleship, and later for apostleship. There was the possibility of a John in Judas, even as there was the possibility of a Judas in John. Both are in every man. But Judas was not true to the vision he had. He wanted to use the Master to further his own plans and advantage. And the vision slowly blurred and dimmed, as the under nature was given the upper hand. The Master's clear insight recognized the demon spirit that Judas had allowed to come in, though Judas did not. Then came the dastardly act of betrayal. And Judas has been held up to universal scorn and condemnation.
But Judas isn't so lonely, if you think into the thing a bit. He only put personal advantage above loyalty to the Lord Jesus. He simply preferred his own plans to the Master's plans. That was all. And he tried to force his own through, without suspecting how the thing would turn out, and how tremendously much was involved. The great events being worked out have thrown his contemptible act into the limelight of history. But the act itself wasn't uncommon. Possibly you may know some one living quite near, with some of this same sort of trait.
One of the saddest things in the record of Christian leadership is just this, clear vision with a gradually lessening obedience, then a gradually dimming vision, and that decrease of both increasing, as the slant down increases. The old-time motions in public ministering continue, more or less mechanically, but the power has long since passed away. And sadder yet, like the strong man of old, these shorn men wist it not. One's lips refuse to repeat the word "Judas" of them, even in the inner thoughts. Yet these class themselves under the same description,--clear vision without full obedience to it; personal plans and preferences put above loyalty to the Master.
A second illustration is that of King Saul. Clear vision, failure to obey, forcing himself to wrong action to keep his popularity, rebellion, stubbornness,--these are the simple successive steps in his story. And the black night falls upon the utter spiritual disaster of his career, as he lies prone on the earth before the witch.
These two characters become formulas; they need only to be filled in with other names to make accurate modern biography of some.
There may be clear vision with make-believe or partial obedience. It hurts to speak of such a thing. The word "hypocrisy" is a very hard one to get out at the lips. It should never be used except to help, and then very, very sparingly, and only in humblest spirit, and with earnest, secret prayer. Ananias and Sapphira quickly come to mind here. They wanted men to think them wholly surrendered, though they knew they were not. That was all; not so unusual a thing, after all. There are sore temptations here for many. The swiftness of the punishment that came does not mean that their wrong was worse than that of others who do the same thing. That modern religious lying of this sort is not as quickly judged merely tells the marvellous patience of God.
There may be clear vision and obedience without love. This means a hard, cold, stern righteousness. It is truth without grace. Nothing can be made to seem more repulsive. One incident in Elijah's career furnishes the illustration here. Let us say such a thing very softly of such a mighty man of God, and say it in fewest words, and only to help. He was a man of marvellous faith, and prayer, and bold daring, in the midst of a very crooked and perverse generation. Israel was at its very lowest moral ebb thus far.
Elijah had a clear understanding of what should be done to check the awful impurity which was sweeping over the nation like a flood-tide. He was true to his conviction in sending the four hundred priests of horribly licentious worship to their death. But was he brokenhearted over them? Was he utterly broken down with grief as he led them to the little running brook of Kishon for the nation's sake? God touched the sore spot, when, down at Horeb, the mount of thunder and fire, He spoke to this man of fire and thunder in that exquisitely soft sound of gentle stillness. This was a new revelation of God to this stern prophet of righteousness.
There may be a sort of letter-obedience, a formal obedience to the vision you have. In one's own estimation, there may seem to be a knowledge of what is right, and a self-satisfied doing of it. There may be a painstaking attention to the forms of obedience, and a self-righteous content in doing the required things. Is this the underlying thought in Peter's self-complacent remark, "Lo, we have left all and followed Thee. We're so much better than this rich young ruler who couldn't stand the test you put to him. We----"? Poor, self-confident Peter! When the fire test did come, and come so hot, how his "we" did crumble!
"Light Obeyed Increaseth Light."
There may be obedience without clear vision. That is, there may be a doing of what is thought to be right, but without a clear understanding of what is the right thing to do. This results in fanaticism. Moses killing the Egyptian and hiding his body in the sand had no clear vision of God's plan. He knew something was wrong, and that something needed to be done. And so he proposed doing something. And the poor Egyptian who happened in his way that day felt the weight of his zeal. It's a not uncommon way of attempting to righten wrongs. He forgot that there is a God, and a plan, and that he who does not work into the plan of God is hitting wrong. There has been a lot of wreckage scattered along this beach.
Saul persecuting the Christians is another illustration here. He is a sad, striking example of conscientiousness without sufficient knowledge, of earnestness without clear light. He was conscientiously doing the wrong thing, as earnestly as he could, supposing it to be the right thing. John wanted to call down fire from heaven and burn up some people that didn't fit in with their plans. Earnest intensity without sufficient light has kindled a good many fires of this sort.
Sometimes this does not go as far as hurtful fanaticism, but leads to blundering and confusion and delay. Abraham was acting without clear light when he yielded to Sarah's plan of compromise for getting an heir. A bit of quiet holding of her suggestion before God for light would have cleared his mind. The result was wholly bad,--a confusion in his own mind, a mental cloudiness about God's plan and promise, an element of discord introduced in the tribal life, and a delay of many years, apparently, before the conditions were ripe for the coming of the heir of faith, on God's own plan.
Peter eating with his Gentile Christian brothers, and then refusing to eat with them, when some Jewish Christians came down from Jerusalem, made very bitter feeling in the Church at Antioch, for a time. Paul's clearer light helped. Time spent in waiting for clearer light is always time wisely spent, even though we may seem slow.
There may be love without clear vision. The love makes intense desire to do something, but with no clear idea of what would best be done. Peter's awkward sword-thrust was an attempt to help, because of real love in his heart for his Master, now in personal danger. The Master's quiet healing touch recognized the love, and also rebuked and corrected the hasty, ill-advised action. But there's worse yet here, mean contemptible cowardice. Peter actually denying his relation with his Friend and Master, and making his denial seem more natural by the addition of the oaths that the maid well knew no follower of this Jesus could have uttered--what mean contemptible cowardice! But go gently there in using such hard words. He was only afraid of being hurt. He merely wanted to save himself. That isn't such an uncommon thing. Haven't you sometimes known something of this sort--among others?
The cowardly nine, making a new record for fleet-footedness, down the road, in the dark, were only doing the same thing in more cowardly, less-spirited fashion. These men loved Jesus. No one may doubt that. But there was no clear understanding of that night's doings, though the Master had faithfully and plainly tried to tell them. Fear for their own safety overcame the real love in their hearts for the Man they forsook that dark night.
Clear vision and love without obedience is--impossible! Where there is no obedience, or faulty obedience, either the vision has blurred or dimmed, or the love is burning low.
Clear vision and loving obedience mean power, sweet, gentle, fragrant, helpful power. It means a grateful crowd, and a pleased Master, who has been able once again to reach the crowd.
Clear vision and love as a passion, an intense passion, means irresistible power. That is to say it means a perfect human medium through which our Lord Jesus can act and manifest Himself. And this is the real meaning of power, power to the full,--Jesus Christ in free action. John, the fisherman, had a gradually but steadily clearing vision. He did not understand fully. But he understood enough to know that there was more to come which would clear things up. He could follow where He did not understand. His love for the Man controlled, while his understanding was clearing. He went in "with Jesus" that awful night. I imagine he never left His side. Can we ever be grateful enough that at least one of us was true that night!
There was the same danger as with the others, and it was made more acute by His simple, open stand at his Friend's side. But love, with at least some understanding, held him steady. He could understand that Jesus must be doing the right thing, even though he could not understand the run of events that centred about Jesus.
The intensity that would call down fire, changed, under the influence of the changing, clearing vision, into an intensity of love. It was a mellower, gentler, evener, but not less intense flame. The disciple whom Jesus loved became the disciple of love. Love and vision worked upon each other from earliest times with him. Love made the vision clearer, the clearing vision made the love stronger, till they worked together into a perfect blend.
Paul's unmistakable vision on the Damascus road brought a passion of love, and an answering obedience, that swept him like a great flame. The fire-marks of that flame could be found all over the Roman Empire. He made mistakes doubtless, but these but made the trend of his whole life stand out the more. Paul was a wonderful combination of brain and heart and will, held in remarkable poise. The finest classic on love is from his pen. John could love. Paul could love, and could tell about love.
But a peculiar tenderness comes into one's heart as we remember that there was just one Man who held these three in perfect poise. And let us not forget that though He was more than man, yet it was a man, one of ourselves, who so held these three in such fine balance. It was a human poise, even as planned by the Father for the human life. The clear vision early began coming to Him, and it became clearer and fuller and unmistakable until it had had its fulfilment. Obedience was the touchstone of all His life, from Nazareth to Olivet. And who, like Him, had the heart of tender love, the heart that was ever moved with compassion at sight of need, the heart that broke at the last under the sore grief of its burden of love?
The Olivet Vision.
Shall we take a moment more to look at these three finger-posts a little more closely? Just what is meant by a clear vision? I could say at once that it means a vision of our Lord Jesus Christ. And yet that language has sometimes been used in a vague sort of way. And some of us have taken it in a vague indefinite way, and not thought into its practical meaning. Clear vision here means an understanding of who Christ Jesus is, and what He is, and what plans He has. Then it means that that understanding is so clear that it becomes intense, intense to the point of being overwhelming. That is, it becomes the dominant thing that controls your thinking, and affections, and actions,--your life.
I think I may say correctly that the place for getting such a clear, full vision of Christ Jesus is Olivet. Olivet is a good place to pitch your tent for a little while, until your vision clears. Then you'll not stay there, though you may return to keep the lines of your vision clear and clean; you will be down in the valleys with the crowds.
One day the Master led His disciples out to the Mount of Olives. It was the last time they were together. And the group of men stand there talking, the eleven grouped about the One. He is talking with them quietly and earnestly. Then, to their utter amazement, His feet are off the ground, He is rising upward in the air, then higher, and higher, until a bit of cloud moves across, and they see Him no more. This is all you would see at a distance.
But let us come a bit nearer, and stand with them, and listen, and watch. Olivet is the last bit of earth to feel the presence of the Master's feet. Off yonder to the west, down in the valley, you see a clump of trees; that is Gethsemane, the place of the bloody sweat and the tense agony of spirit. Across the valley, still looking west, lies the city, outside whose wall is the little knoll called Calvary, where Jesus gave His life out. Over here to the east and south lies little Bethany, which speaks of His resurrection power. And a bit farther off are the bare wilds sloping down,--that is the place of the sore temptation. Far away to the north, up in the clouds, lies the snow-clad mountain, beyond your outer vision, yet coming now to your inner vision, where the God within shined out through the Man.
But while a quick glance takes all this in, your eyes are caught and held by the Man in the midst. His presence embodies and intensifies all that these places suggest. His face bears the impress of the Wilderness, and of the Garden. The scars plainly there tell of Calvary, as no piece of geography ever can. His mere presence tells unmistakably of the resurrection. And you know who He is, and what. He made the world and breathed His breath of life into man's nostrils. Later He came in amongst us as one of ourselves. He was tempted like as we, suffered like as we never suffered, gave His life for us, went down into death, rose up again out of death. This is the Jesus of Olivet.
But the action of His face and pose are part of the sight. His eyes are looking outward. The set of His face is out. His hands point out. And He is talking; listen: He is talking about a "world". And the outward turn of face and eyes and pointing hand become the emphasis of that word, "world." He died for a world. He is thinking about a world. He has a plan of action for a world.
But another word gets your ear--"ye." He is thinking about these disciples, about His followers. He has a plan of action for them. And these two plans, for the world, for their lives, these two are tied up together. And a third word stands out--"I." "I am with you, I am in command." And now three things stand out together, a world-plan, a plan for the follower's life fitting into the world-plan, and in the midst--Jesus, the Christ, my Saviour, my Lord. This is the Olivet vision. This, the clear, full vision: of Jesus, crucified, risen, empowered; of His world-plan; of His plan for my life as part of the world-plan.
Olivet faces four ways. Backward, it points to the sympathy, the humanness, the suffering, the cross, of Jesus. Upward, it looks to Himself, now sitting above the clouds at the Father's right hand, "far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named," with "all things in subjection under His feet." Outward, it reaches to the world He died for, and plans for, and is still brooding over with more than a mother's love. Forward, it anticipates eagerly the time when He will come back to finish up what He began, and we are to continue. When He returns it will be to this same Olivet. He picks up the line of action exactly where He left it. Olivet is to know a second pressure of those feet.
This is the clear, full vision, the three-fold vision we need and must have for true following: Himself, His world-plan, His plan for each one's life. This means seeing things as they are. They fall into true perspective. You see how disproportioned and grotesque the common perspective of earth is. You see things through His eyes. His eyes take out of yours the personal colouring, the colour blindness of personal interest and advantage which so strangely and strongly affect all our sight.
We need frequent visits to Olivet's top, until constant looking at its outlooking landscape, at Himself, fills and floods our eyes. We need the quiet time alone with Himself and His Word, and some map-picture of His world, as a habit, until these, Himself, and His word, and His world, are burned into eyes and heart, until they fire as a sweet fever the whole life.
The Spirit of Obedience.
Out of the vision comes the spirit of obedience. We have spoken of the act of obedience, and the habit of obedience, but deeper down is the spirit of obedience, which lies under act and habit. I have used the words, "spirit of obedience," rather than simply the word, "obedience," because obedience sometimes stands for a bondage to rules, a slavery to things. The obedience itself must be deeper than rule or outward thing. The spirit of obedience sees into the spirit of the rule, and through the outward thing, and floods it with a new spirit of life. This spirit of obedience is the one finger-post found oftenest along this road. So only can we be true to the vision. And obedience itself is not true obedience, nor true to the vision, save as it is a love-obedience. Real obedience breathes in the spirit of the One being obeyed. It breathes out the love-spirit of him who obeys.
The touchstone of the "Follow Me" life is not need, nor service, nor sacrifice. The need is felt to the paining point. The service is given joyously to the limit of strength. The sacrifice is yielded to to the bleeding point. But these all come as they come, through and out of obedience. Yet need is the controlling thing, too, but not the need as we see it, but as He sees it, who sees all, and feels most deeply. The need is best met, the service best given, the sacrifice most healing in its power, as each grows out of obedience.
The standard of obedience is three-fold, the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and one's own judgment and spirit-insight. These three are meant to fit together. This is the natural result when things are, even measurably, as they should be. When God is allowed to sway the life as He wishes, these three fit and blend perfectly. The Word of God taken alone will lead to superstitious regard for a book and to a cramped judgment and action. To say that we are guided by the Spirit, without due regard for the Book He has been the principal one in writing, leads to fanaticism, or at least to ill-advised, unbalanced, unnatural opinions and action.
Naturally one's own judgment and spirit-insight play a large part, for they make the personal decision, they interpret both Word and Spirit to us. It is through one's judgment and spirit-insight that the Holy Spirit and the Word influence the decision and action. The great essential is the habitual, quiet, broad, thoughtful study of God's Word, with the will and life utterly yielded to the Holy Spirit. So one's spirit is trained to understand, and one's judgment to form its conclusions. The Holy Spirit makes us understand God's purpose as revealed in His Word, and fits this into the need of practical life. Obedience, intelligent and full, depends upon the quiet time alone with God over His Word.
I want to add something more here. It is something startling. There are no break-downs in the path of obedience. I say that very softly, as a guilty sinner in the matter of break-downs. I remember that the record of Christian service is like one continuous record of break-downs, broken bodies, wrecked nerves, sometimes wrecked minds. And I am not saying it to criticize any one, except it be myself. Out of a long personal experience of constant going, unwise overwork, and serious break-downs, I am but confessing my own sins, when I say there are no break-downs in the path of obedience. Does that mean that there is much earnest service that we have not been told to do? And the answer must be a very gentle, but very clear, "Yes."
But the Man in command has perfect knowledge of what you can do. And He never asks you to do anything beyond your strength. Or, if He does need you to meet some emergency beyond your strength, He gives the strength required. He sends in a fresh supply of resurrection life to repair the waste of your body, and then, too, He calls into use strength, resources, talents, that you have not known you had. Now I know that if this be taken seriously, it will lead some to a heart-searching time alone with the Master. I am sure that if obedience alone is to be the key-note, it will mean many a readjustment. And it will mean, too, a new flood stream of power flowing through and out as the connecting parts are re-adjusted.
There's a helpful literal reading of a verse in Hebrews. "Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, with the blood of an eternal covenant, put you in joint [with Himself] to do His will in every good work, working in you [or through you] that which is well-pleasing in His sight." Obedience puts us in joint with Him, if we are out. It keeps us in joint; then the power flows from Him, through that joint, out where our life touches.
Obedience is really a music word. It is the rhythmic swinging together of two wills, His and ours. Rhythm of action is power. Rhythm of colour is beauty. Rhythm of sound is music. But it's really all music. For power is music of action. Beauty is music to the eye. Rhythmic sound is music to the ear and heart. If there might be more of this music, He and we in perfect accord, how the crowds would be caught by its melody and come eagerly to listen.
The Heart of Love.
And out of the vision comes the heart of love. The sight of the Lord Jesus' face begets love; and love begets obedience. But obedience never can keep true away from its father. It is never true full obedience except it have the throbbing heart of love in it. This is the unfailing mark. It's so easy to fail here. Yet "love never faileth." The classical Thirteenth of First Corinthians becomes an indictment. We know it better in the Book than in life. "Love suffereth long, ... envieth not ... is not puffed up; doth not behave itself unbecomingly or inconsistently, seeketh not even its own, is not provoked." Love "beareth" with "all things" in the one loved, which it would gladly have different, "believeth all" possibly good "things" of him, "hopeth" for "all" desirable "things" in him, "endureth all things" in him that hurt and pain. "Love never faileth." In conversation one day with an unusually earnest worker in the Orient, we were talking of these things. His work was beset by many sore perplexities. "Ah," he said, "there is where I have failed. I have not had the heart of love." And I thought how many of us could say the same thing.
There are in the Bible three great illustrations of the heart of love. As Moses came down from the presence of God, and found the people dancing about the golden calf, he was hotly indignant. But as he goes back to plead with God, the greatness of his love and grief comes out. In God's presence their sin is seen to be so much greater. He cries, "Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now if Thou wilt forgive their sin----" And a great sob breaks the sentence abruptly off, and it is never finished. The possibility seems to come to his mind, in this holy presence, that such sin, by these so greatly blest, could not be forgiven. And that seems to him unbearable. "And if not," if it cannot be forgiven, "blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy Book; but don't blot them out."
In the beginning of the great Jew section of Romans, Paul is speaking of the intense pain of heart he had over the unbelief and stubbornness of his racial kinsfolk. He says, "I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren's sake, my kinsmen," that so they might not be accursed. Yet neither Moses nor Paul could so sacrifice himself for another's sin. "No man can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him." But Jesus, the pure, sinless one, was blotted out. He was made a curse. Moses and Paul would if they could. Jesus both could and did. Was there ever such a heart of love! And that heart was greatest in its action of love when it broke.
A simple story has come to me, I cannot remember where, of a woman in southern China in the province of Kwangtung. She had a serious illness and was taken to a mission hospital in Canton for treatment. There for the first time she heard of Christ, of His love and death. And that story coming so new and fresh transformed her, as she opened her heart to the Saviour. And a great peace came into her heart, and showed plainly in her face. Then her thought began turning to her own village. Not a soul there knew of this wondrous Saviour. If they but knew. But what could she do, her illness was very serious.
The next time the physician came by she asked him how long she would live if she stayed there. He said that he did not know, but he thought about six months. And how long if she left the hospital and returned home. He didn't know; maybe three months. And after he had gone she quietly announced that she was going home. And those about her were greatly astonished. "Why," they said, "you'll lose half your life!" And the tears came into her eyes, as a gentle smile overspread her poor worn face, and she simply said, "Jesus gave His whole life for me; don't you think I'm glad to give half mine for Him?" I don't know how long she lived. The story didn't say, but it did tell that most of the people in her village knew a long life, even an everlasting life, because of her simple telling of the Gospel story.
There were the three essentials, though never so thought of or analyzed by her. She had the vision of Jesus Christ her Saviour, then of those who had never heard of Him, and then of her own part in the plan of telling them. The impulse to tell them was obeyed gladly. And the heart of love counted not her life dear unto herself if only others might be told of this wondrous Christ Jesus.