By S.D. Gordon
Jesus Draws Men.
The great heart-magnet is God. No one is so winsomely attractive as He. His winning power is beyond any other. Man is winsome. But it is because God made him winsome, and re-makes him yet more winsome. He gave him a bit of His own self. That's the secret of all our human winsomeness.
Now Jesus is God to us. We know God only as we know Jesus. Jesus is the heart of God beating in time and tune with human hearts. Nobody is so winsome as Jesus. All the native winsomeness of man and all the divine winsomeness of God combine and blend in Him. He has always drawn men to Himself. And He still does, and always will.
He drew men of all classes when He was down here. The reverent star-students of far-away Babylon were drawn to His birth by a compelling they could not resist. He drew the thoughtful, scholarly men of His own nation, such as Nicodemus of the inner, highest circle. And He drew military officials of high rank and wealth in the service of imperial Rome. By the same power the half-breed, despised Samaritans and the earnest seekers after truth from cultured Greece were drawn to Him.
The plain farmer people of Galilee, and the hardy fisherfolk, and hard-handed laboring-men came as eagerly to him. He drew the pure, fine grained, gentle Mary of Bethany, with her unusual keenness of spirit insight; and drew as well the unnamed outcast woman, steeped in sin, who was forgiven much, and who loved much, and so gave much.
Practical hard-headed men of sharp bargains and shrewd trading, like Matthew, felt His pull upon their hearts equally with men of pure heart and lofty ideals like Nathanael. By special effort, for a special purpose He drew high-bred, high-strung, scholarly, intense Paul, out of his mad enmity into a lifelong devotion.
The crowds came until His daily routine and ministering help were repeatedly and seriously interrupted. And strong men sought Him alone to lay bare the longings and questionings of their hearts. His Roman judge felt the strange winsomeness of His presence and speech, though lacking in the courage to follow his convictions regarding Him. And the Roman officer in charge of His execution was forced to admit the power of His presence.
All the world gathered about His cross. Representatives from all parts, in large numbers, were at the Jerusalem feast; and on that morning, by common consent, they were drawn out to the place where He hung.
He even drew the arch-tempter. He came with his subtlest temptations, and bitterest enmity, and most malignant cunning. Could there be greater evidence, by contrast, of the drawing power of His purity and goodness and steadfast devotion to His mission?
Jesus Draws Out the Best.
And Jesus had the power to draw out of men the best there was in them. Possibilities, traits, and powers that neither they nor their friends supposed they had came out into strong life under the spell of His touch. There seemed to be something in Him that drew the same sort of thing out of them.
Out of Simon, the hot-headed, impulsive fisherman, He drew the steady man of rock. Out of fiery John, the son of thunder, He drew the man of tender, strong love. And out of quiet, retiring Andrew He drew a man with a reputation for bringing others to Jesus.
He drew out of the Sychar outcast a sense of her sin, and then a winner of souls; and out of that other woman of open sin, a longing for purity that paved the way to all else that came. Under His compelling touch there came out of the blind-born man a willingness to sacrifice all for such a Master; and out of James, the other son of thunder, a courage to endure suffering that men had not known he had.
That was when He was down here, a man. And ever since that fleecy cloud received Him out of sight He has been drawing men of all the world. And time would as utterly fail me, as it did the writer of the Hebrews, if I tried to tell of the men He has drawn. Men of every rank, high and low, in every nation, savage and civilized, in every generation of all these centuries have felt the thrill of His power. And they have followed Him at the cost of all that men hold most dear.
And He is just the same to-day. He is as available now in all His drawing power wherever men meet, in city slum and savage wild, in college hall and business street, among the philosophical and cultured, and among the ignorant and untrained. If we will take Him to them, and let Him out through our lips and lives, He will draw men up the heights. He can draw against any power of downward suction, and He will. He promised to draw men, if lifted up. And He has never failed to do it.
Now, it is this drawing Jesus that men need and want. There is an enormous advantage in taking Jesus to men, because there is a something inside men everywhere that responds to Jesus. That something may be choked and covered up, crowded down and fought against, as it is. But it is there. When you take Jesus to a man you may know that you are taking a supply to a demand. You are bringing a man the answer to his heart's questions. It is as the coming together of two parts that belong together, but have been held apart by some hindrance.
That hindrance is stubborn. It has to be fought. It can be overcome. That's the chief task. Then the part in man that answers to Jesus eagerly fits into its place in Him. That coming together is always blessed, beyond words. Everywhere men of all sorts and ranks and degrees of savagery and culture eagerly respond to Him. And they declare that they find in Him the full answer to their deepest longings.
Many Doors, but One Purpose.
It is this marvellous magnet, Jesus, that we are to take to men; not theology, nor education, nor medical skill, nor hospitals, nor industrial helps, except incidentally. These are the tin cup which one is glad to use to give the thirsty traveller water from the spring.
You will understand at once that I have no thought of criticizing theology or of discrediting it, if I could. It has its place. But that place is not out in the thick of the crowd, but back in the quiet hall of study. There must be thorough study and systematic putting together of the truth. There needs to be patient plodding and mental drilling.
You have no need to be told of the immeasurable value of the splendid foundation building of Christian scholars. But this is school work, in the main. It is to make us better workmen. So a man gets his bearings and poise. But the people down in the dust and drive of the crowd don't want theology. They want Jesus. It is striking that everywhere men want to hear about Jesus.
Educational work has played an indispensably great part in the scheme of missions. But the purpose of it, of course, is to make an open door for the entrance of Jesus into men's lives. It is invaluable in itself alone, regardless of any other purpose. But the teacher of any sort of learning in the mission school, who is chiefly absorbed in the teaching itself instead of using it as a means to something higher, is missing the whole purpose of his work.
And what words can be used strong enough in speaking of the blessed work of medical men in foreign-mission lands? These skilled, patient, faithful men and women in hospital and dispensary and private service are doing a work of incalculable value. It should be done even if the bodily results were all. But the underlying purpose through it all is to lead men to know Jesus. And no one has such a short, quick road into a man's heart as he who can relieve his body.
These things are doorways into men's lives; and great doorways, too. They are well worth all the money and lives expended if they went no farther than body and mind and better conditions. But the main purpose in them is to find a way into men's hearts, and take in Jesus; that so men may get the greater as well as the less.
Make it a Story.
Now, how shall we best tell men of Jesus? Well, the modern newspaperman's rule in his work is this: "Make it a story." This is his leading rule in all his writing work. Whatever the occasion may be, whether a meeting of scholars or an accident on the street, it is to be put into story-form. That is the ideal toward which he works. All the descriptions, and quotations, and information, and philosophizings are to be woven into this web. They know that a story is the easiest thing to read and to listen to, and also the hardest to tell well.
That should be our rule here: Make it a story about Jesus. When it comes to talking the Gospel to a group of people, large or small, in New York or Shanghai, make it a story. Wherever you may begin the story, see that its purpose is to lead up to Jesus. You may use twenty-five minutes in getting your story out, and then put the Jesus touch in the last five minutes. But as they go away that last five has given its flavor to the whole half-hour's talk. Or, you may begin with Him, and so run through. But the rule should be: Make it a simple, natural, attractive story, such as people will want to listen to, because it interests them.
That means a lot of hard work in preparation. The simpler and easier and more natural it seems to the crowd the more it will have cost you in study. You will have to study so carefully that they won't guess you have studied at all. You must absorb this Bible story, bit by bit, through and through, until it becomes a bit of yourself.
You must use books that help make this Book clearer and plainer. That is really the mission of biblical books, to make the Book plainer. If they send you to the Bible they have fulfilled their mission. If you stay in them, they have failed.
The Bible is an Oriental book in its way of putting things. Its story is built upon the habits of those Eastern peoples. While it is full of simple teaching easily understood, one needs to understand those habits to get the real meat of the meaning. This means a habit of hard work for him who would be a winner of men. He should have an ambition to know the Bible story thoroughly, and to get it from the Bible itself.
But, whatever your particular message may be at any time, let it lead up by a straight road to Jesus. Follow the rule of the Book itself here. The Old Testament all points to Jesus. It can be understood only as He is understood. And the New is aflame with His presence. Tell the story of Jesus to men. They never tire of that. Tell it accurately. Tell it simply. Tell it with endless variety. Put it in simple every-day words, so they think about the story and not about you or your words.
Tell Jesus' life; His characteristics; how He mingled among men, and talked with them. Take up the Gospel incidents, and give them their natural flavoring and coloring in present-day speech. Tell of the Nazareth life, in home and carpenter shop and village. Go through those wondrous three and a half years, bit by bit.
Go into the temptation wilderness, out on the blue waters of Galilee, and into Gethsemane's olive-grove. Climb that bit of a rise of ground called Calvary. Wherever you are in that story, make sure that the coloring of Calvary gets distinctly in, by word or phrase or climax or somehow.
Now, of course, there will be some theology in your telling. You will make comments and explanations. And preachers call that theology. That is unavoidable. That is the place for such teaching, as it naturally grows out of the story. But the story should be the main thing. Men should be sent away thinking about a Man, Jesus; not about a theory of doctrine.
How Peter Told Paul.
I remember very distinctly one time Mr. Moody was speaking at the Ohio Sunday-school Convention in Cleveland. He was saying that teachers should open up the Bible and make it attractive. Then he told the story of how, in '84, in London he was talking with a lawyer friend who had just come down from Edinburgh. He had been hearing Andrew Bonar preach up there, and was greatly taken with his way of preaching.
Mr. Moody told the story something like this:
"Bonar was preaching in Galatians, where it says that Paul went to Jerusalem to see Peter, and he said that he could imagine Peter saying to Paul, 'Would you like to take a walk?' and Paul said he would, so they went down through the streets of Jerusalem, over the brook Kidron, arm in arm, and Peter stopped and said, 'Look, Paul, this is the very spot where He wrestled and where He suffered, and sweat great drops of blood. There is the very spot where John and James fell asleep, right there. And right here is the very spot where I fell asleep. I don't think I should have denied Him if I hadn't gone to sleep, but I was overcome. I remember the last thing I heard Him say before I fell asleep was, "Father, let this cup pass from me if it is Thy will." And when I awoke an angel stood right there where you are standing, talking to Him, and I saw great drops of blood come from His pores and trickle down His cheeks. It wasn't long before Judas came to betray Him. And I heard Him say to Judas, so kindly, "Betrayest thou the Master with a kiss?" And then they bound Him and led Him away. And that night when He was on trial I denied Him.'
"He pictured the whole scene. And the next day Peter turned again to Paul and said, 'Wouldn't you like to take another walk to-day?' and Paul said he would. That day they went to Calvary. And when they got on the hill Peter said, 'Here, Paul, this is the very spot where He died for you and me. See that hole right there? That is where His cross stood. The believing thief hung there, and the unbelieving thief there on the other side. Mary Magdalene and Mary, His mother, stood there, and I stood away on the out-skirts of the crowd.
"'The night before, when I denied Him, He looked at me so lovingly that it broke my heart, and I couldn't bear to get near enough to see Him. That was the darkest hour of my life. I was in hopes that God would intercede and take Him from the cross. I kept listening, and I thought I would hear His voice.' And he pictured the whole scene, how they drove the spear into His side, and put the crown of thorns on His brow, and all that took place.
"And the next day Peter turned to Paul again and asked him if he wouldn't take another walk. And Paul said he would. Again they passed down the streets of Jerusalem, over the brook Kidron, over Mount Olivet, up to Bethphage, and over to the slope near Bethany. All at once Peter stopped and said: 'Here, Paul, this is the last place where I ever saw Him. I never heard Him speak so sweetly as He did that day.
"'It was right here He delivered His last message to us, and all at once I noticed that His feet didn't touch the ground. He arose and went up. All at once there came a cloud and received Him out of sight. I stood right here gazing up into the heavens, in hopes I might see Him again and hear Him speak. And two men dressed in white dropped down by our sides and stood there and said: "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing into heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven."'"
Then Mr. Moody said, "My friends, I want to ask you this question: Do you believe that picture is overdrawn? Do you believe Peter had Paul as his guest and didn't take him to Gethsemane, didn't take him to Calvary and Mount Olivet? I myself spent eight days in Jerusalem, and every morning I wanted to steal down into the garden where my Lord sweat great drops of blood. Every day I climbed Mount Olivet and looked up into the blue sky where He went to His Father.
"I have no doubt Peter took Paul out on those three walks. If there had been a man that could have taken me to the very spot where the Master sweat those great drops of blood, do you think I would not have asked him to take me there? Now, you ministers, don't you believe the people want preaching like that? They do. They want to hear about the Lord."
I remember that I was sitting in that convention where I could easily see the faces of the people. It was a sight not to be forgotten. I remember that sea of eager upturned faces as distinctly as I remember Mr. Moody's talk. The people sat so still, as though in a spell, with eyes big and shining with something wet, and occasionally a slight twitching of emotion and a handkerchief called into service.
Mr. Moody talked in that natural way of his, so quiet and yet so intense in its quietness. That's what people want--Jesus brought to them, simply and naturally. And Moody knew it. It took years of hard self-discipline for him to be able to talk as he did. Such talking takes study and hard work. But it's all worth while if we can make Jesus plain to men in all His wondrous winsomeness.
"A More Excellent Way."
Then there's another way of telling the story of Jesus to men. It's a yet better way. Tell it with your life. That was Jesus' own plan. He lived what He taught. He proposed coming down into each one of us and living His life over again in us. He does just that now. Then as men meet us they are meeting Him, too, in us. The things that marked Him will be noticed in us.
The intense hatred of sin, the purity, the gentleness and patience, the warm sympathy, the constant self-forgetfulness and self-sacrifice, the eagerness to win men, the tireless going wherever men could be helped--these may be in us as they were in Him, and will be, as we let Him live in us. And men will recognize the Jesus-story being lived in their midst. Jesus wants to reach out through us to men. And He will; He will; more than we ever know or will know. This is the best telling of the story.
I am told that in the Palace of Justice in Rome there is a remarkable chamber where visitors are sometimes taken. The remarkable thing about it is the decorations. The ceiling and walls and even the floors are covered with strangely painted frescoes. That is, they seem strange as one enters. They seem grotesque. They do not harmonize. They are out of touch with each other, and make a bewildering maze of confusion. But there is one spot in the chamber, just one spot upon the floor, where, if you stand, everything falls into place. The artist's conception stands out perfect in perspective and color and beauty.
To the great crowd of men in this old world life seems a good bit like that Roman chamber. Things seem out of harmony--sin, pain, confusion, unsatisfied longings, unconquered weaknesses, broken plans, and disappointed ambitions. But there is one spot, a central point, just one, where all that concerns you will come into harmony, and bring heart-rest.
That one spot is where you take your stand side by side with Jesus. His presence clears everything up. He sweetens the life, and straightens the path, and leads you steadily on toward the dawning of the day. And that's as true for China and the Pacific islanders as for Britisher or American. Men need Jesus. He satisfies them. He is the great magnet. He draws men as no other can. He places Himself at our disposal to be taken to men. They can't resist Him. Let us take Him.
O Jesus Master, thou hast drawn me till I want to be Thy slave forever. Help me take Thee to all other men that they may feel Thy wondrous drawing power, and satisfying power, too.