By J.G. Bellet
I shall take you a little back with me in this Gospel, in order that we may get more of its beautiful spirit to Matthew 22. That chapter, at verse 15, presents to us the last great controversy between Christ and the Jews. The characteristic of the Gospel of Matthew is the controversy between the mind of Christ and Jewish unbelief; and in this we see the last instance of it. We find Him in this chapter assailed by the Herodians, Pharisees, and Sadducees.
How does He answer the question put to Him by the first of these opponents, tempting Him in a way by means of which He at once escapes from the snare laid for Him and gives them a moral lesson? He shows them a penny, points to the image stamped upon it, and tells them to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's; and thus, by this simple but expressive action, He not only defeats their intentions but delivers a great principle to their consciences. They had put themselves into the power of Caesar; they had brought upon themselves his right to be paid tribute. It was then their duty quietly to pay that tribute. The perfect mind of Christ would not be content with merely delivering itself from the Herodians' snare, but it also led Him to propound to them a deep element of profound truth, and not only to them but to us also. The first great action of divine truth upon our souls is the teaching us that our first duty is to bow our heads to the punishment which our sins have incurred. We must take our proper place--that place is the place of sinners. We are addressed as sinners in God's word. The first action of faith in the gospel is that we take our place outside the city, and cry, unclean, unclean.
Our Lord is now assailed by another--the Sadducean form of unbelief. Let us see now the beautiful simplicity of the wisdom of the mind of Christ. He brings them back to the burning bush and the voice of God that spoke from it, telling them that "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." Our natural conscience tells us that He is the God of the living. You have more than the intimation of scripture for that truth, or you do not know it in its power. If you have thoughts of God, you will be able to answer yourself the inquiries of your mind. The witness of the truth of scripture is the mind of Christ in you, as scripture is a transcript of His mind.
In verse 26 we see the question of the Pharisee beautifully answered. Our Lord points him to the germ of the law. On these two phases of the great principle of love--the love of God and the love of our neighbour--hung all the law and the prophets. Right feeling vindicates the mind of Christ in this. Thus, in these three ways, did the Lord answer the challenge of His questioners.
Now we shall see whether they can answer Him. Read from Matthew 22: 36 to the end. In this we see the mind of Christ as it should be in us. He was able to give an answer to all them that asked Him, though His questions in return entirely defeated them.
In Matthew 23 Jesus judges the moral and religious scenery around Him, but He does not take the sword in His hand to do so. He was judging all things morally. There are two kinds of judgment, the one moral, which gives an answer to our souls as to all that we see around; and the other a judicial judgment, that cuts off the wicked. The first, or moral judgment, is that which our Saviour executed as He walked among men. It is not now that He judges men to their condemnation. There is no such thing as temporal judgment by Christ now. He is now sitting at the right hand of God; and if you put the sword into His hand now, you put Him out of His proper place. It is not until He comes forth as the rider of the white horse that He shall take the sword in His hand to execute all we are told of in Revelation 19. He never thought of that judgment which cuts off the wicked. Moral judgment of all He passed through was His place; and this is your place now. If you do not see it, you do not get into the mind of Christ in this particular. You must take that place of moral judgment. You must try the spirits whether they be of God; but you must not hurt nor destroy. While you judge men morally, you must not touch a hair of their heads. If you do not take this place, if you do not use the endowment of moral judgment given you, if you do not try the spirits, if you be not able to give an answer to the Herodians, Pharisees, and Sadducees of the present day--the resistance to the mind of Christ in whatever form it may present itself, you are not treading the path of Christ, you are not following His footsteps.
That which we call Christendom has not learnt this lesson. The religion of the day does not teach its votaries that this place is theirs; but we find it given to us in 1 Corinthians 2. Do you value such an endowment? Do you value the right, which is yours, of subjecting all persons and things to the judgment of the mind of Christ which is in you? The religion of the flesh tells you that in thus judging you take too much upon yourself. The religion of faith tells you that this is precisely your proper place. In this, as in all else, let the mind of Christ be in you.
The time shall come when He will take the sword, but it is not come yet. If you do not see this, if you impute present temporal judgment to Jesus, you disturb dispensational truth; but if you see Christ in this beautiful scripture, with the mind of God in Him, judging the moral and religious scenery around Him, you see His proper place then, and learn yours now as His imitators.
I repeat, this is not presumption, it is a right view of the saint's place. If I do not judge the moral and religious scenery through which my path lies, I have forgotten the mind of Jesus. If I condemn or molest, I anticipate His action. Look at the scenery through which He passes in Matthew 23 He sees it all, He judges it all with the mind of God in Him; but does He take the sword in His hand? He never thinks of such a thing. He is waiting to be gracious, waiting to be gracious to the Sadducees as to others, if haply they might repent.
Now read the close of Matthew 23. Here He writes the judgment of Jerusalem. To this effect He speaks, but it is not His to execute yet. You pass on to Matthew 24 then, and what does it introduce you to? A scene common now, as then, to me, we frequently meet with. The disciples have just heard Jesus pronounce the doom of Jerusalem, and yet they bring Him to show Him the temple . . . . . How little had His faithful and loving disciples entered into His mind! How apprehensive they were! How often do we find this the case, not only with them, but with His true saints at this time! Many of them, who truly and fervently love Him, and to whom His mind delivers itself, speak, act, and think as if that mind had never spoken. Jesus had been in the most solemn way judging every bit of the scene around. The disciples had heard Him, and yet they bring Him to show Him the temple, the tremendous and total destruction, which they have just heard foredoomed, passing from their inapprehensive minds. It is nearly incredible but is established in the mouths of more than one witness. This is a solemn truth, and a warning to us. See the conduct of Jesus in these circumstances. Is He impatient with them? Does He rebuke their slowness to sympathize with--to enter into--His mind? No. He goes over all He has said again, and at great length. He takes His seat upon the Mount of Olives, and with all the gentle patience of His unchanging unwearying love He tells them it all over again. Jerusalem is not more judged in Matthew 24 than in 23. It was judged before, but He repeats it all again for them, so slow of heart to believe.
This chapter is prophetically of much moral value. It shows the present action of the mind of Christ in the exercise of thus gracious patience. This is the second feature of the mind of Christ impressed upon us in this precious scripture. We have seen the first, the moral judgment to be exercised by the saints; the second is the patience they should exercise towards each other. If we have the mind of Christ in us, we shall have His patience in our dealings with the souls of our fellow-saints. If we meet misapprehensiveness, mistake, slowness of perception, we must then in patient love take our seat on the Mount of Olives, and read to each other the blessed lesson again, and again, and again.
There is yet another feature of the mind of Christ in this scripture, and a most important one. We are not only here taught that it is our place to judge all things morally, and to show the like patience as He did, but He shows us that it is also our place to be perpetually watching for His return.
The end of Matthew 24 and the beginning of 25 beautifully exhibit this feature of His mind to us. We are to be faithful copyists of the mind that is in Christ Jesus. I do not speak from experience--God knows I cannot--but I do want to impress it upon your souls and my own, to be imitators, beautiful copyists of the beautiful mind of our Jesus.
Look at Matthew 24: 43, and you will see there how admirably the mind of Christ trains the soul in its watching for His coming. How very graciously He begins! He gives our watching at first a very low character. The good man of the house watches against the coming of "a thief in the night." This portrays the duty in its very lowest form. It represents us as watching for His return, as though it were something against us, an object of dread and apprehension. The mind of Christ meets us here on very low ground, but it does not leave us here; it trains our hearts to reach a much higher elevation, raises our watching to a finer character, and imparts higher beauty to the same features.
Let us look at the watching in its lowest exercise. It is very good, though it expresses dread and apprehension. We should take care it does not surprise us. He does not despise that. "The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom." If we watch in dread lest His coming surprise us, it is morally good; for we shall not go into any place where we should dread His finding us. We shall not engage in any pursuit which we dread His coming finding us involved in. It is well we should be standing ready in the apprehension of an alarmed conscience. It is well that our watching should begin in that attitude, but not end in it; rather that the mind of Christ should train our hearts to a far different watching. Is it the alarmed watching for the thief in the night which your soul experiences? It is all well, it may act as a wholesome check, a great instrument for withstanding temptation. But the Lord does not leave the soul of His saints there; He fills them with the riches of His grace. If I watch for the thief in the night, I am still a watcher in the house. If I watch as the virgins, with the oil in my lamp, for the Bridegroom, I am still a watcher in the house. Let me watch with dread and apprehension, or with affection and joy, I am still a watcher. But our Lord does not leave souls watching with fear of conscience; He trains them to watch with affection and joy of heart, as the desirous virgins. J. G. B.