by F. B. Meyer
Beyond the Jordan (v. 40)! To the Jew living in Jerusalem that meant banishment. The district there was called Perea, and it was comparatively desert-and destitute of the culture which reigned in Jerusalem.
Why then did our Lord go there? Because Nazareth, Capernaum, Jerusalem and elsewhere were shut against Him by the relentless hate of His enemies. Perea alone offered Him a resting place.
Perea was where John had first baptized. Those desolate hills had been black with crowds gathered from all the land to hear the crying of that trumpet voice; they could tell many a story of the grand young prophet who had met his tragic end in the dungeons of Herod's castle.
And as the disciples wandered over the ground in company with Christ, they recalled seeing John designate Jesus as the Lamb of God. They also recalled that John had performed no miracles-but they gladly emphasized the fact that all things which he had spoken of Christ were true.
To the eye of the casual observer the Baptist seemed to have failed. The crowds who had gathered round the Bridegroom's friend ebbed slowly and steadily away to follow the Bridegroom Himself. The faithful few that gathered around him must have felt that they were the adherents of a dwindling cause, destined to come to an end. And this was only a prelude to the imprisonment of this brave soul within the dark walls of Herod's dungeons.
There, like an eagle with broken wing, the Baptist lay spent and powerless. And there, the captivity, the lack of the ministry, the inability to understand why Christ did not deliver him, led him to ask whether Jesus of Nazareth were after all what He had announced Himself to be: "Art Thou He that should come, or look we for another?"
Finally down the long corridor, the executioner came to his cell, the sword gleamed, the severed head fell from the body, and from that subterranean prison his spirit returned to God.
How sad and disastrous seemed such a termination to a life which had once been the center of the national thought and movement! Was it not all a failure? Had not God Himself deserted His faithful servant? Was it after all a real voice that spoke from the opened heaven?
Then God vindicated His faithful martyr through the tribute which the crowds paid his memory as they gathered in Perea. "John was true," the people said. "What he said has been verified by the event."
He had said that Christ was from heaven, and above all, and it was true.
He had said that Christ was the true Bridegroom of faithful souls, and it was true. He had said that the Father did not give Him the Holy Spirit by measure and it was true.
He had said that He was the Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world, and it was true.
All that John had said about Christ was true, and this strengthened their faith in the Lord Jesus, but it also vindicated the Baptist as the true prophet of the Most High.
Thus it has often been since, and may be for you and me:
Around that mother's grave you may gather and say, "She was not brilliant or greatly remarkable, but she spoke true words of Jesus Christ which will never die." Of some Sunday-school teacher, or minister, who seems to have been a voice crying in the wilderness, and to have passed away before accomplishing any lasting monument: "He did no miracle, but he spoke true words for Christ."
Do not look for success or dread failure. Go on day by day fulfilling the task of the day, and leaving the results with God. You know it not, but you are scattering seeds which will yield harvests when you lie beneath the sod of the valley. Some day, as men recall your memory, if they say that you wrought no miracle, they will also say that whatever you spoke of this Man was true.
These are days in which the Bible is greatly discredited. There are those who appear to delight in hunting out discrepancies in the venerable record of God's dealings with men. The higher critics in many cases appear to me to be devoid of reverence for the Spirit of God. In many points they contradict each other, and few of their decisions are likely to remain unchallenged when a few more years have passed over.
In the meanwhile, doubtless many Christians have been unsettled in their confidence in that sacred volume which they had been accustomed to consider the authoritative Word of the Most High. To read the books which are constantly pouring from the press would take more time than most of us can afford; to understand, and to combat their objections would take greater scholarship than is within our reach.
What, then, can we do?
May we not adopt the method suggested by our text, and vindicate the truth of the Bible by comparing its statements with what we have discovered through personal association with the Lord Jesus?
The Bible says that the peace of God comes to those who trust in Him who died on the cross under Pontius Pilate, and was raised again according to the Scriptures. We have come, and trusted, and found peace. All that the Bible said in this respect is true.
The Bible says that if we open our hearts to the Spirit of God He will infill them with a holy hatred of sin, and with the hunger and thirst of a new life. We have acted upon the suggestion and have been delivered from sins which had cursed and defiled our whole life. All that the Bible said in this respect is true.
The Bible says that if we make our requests known to God through Jesus Christ He will abundantly answer them; and hundreds of answered prayers attest that what the Bible said in this respect also is true.
The Bible says that Christ's gospel is the antidote of death; that for those who believe in Him death is abolished, and the fear of it at an end. Now, we had been all our lifetime subject to bondage, but have forgotten to fear since Christ has shed upon our hearts the rays of immortality and life. In this also what the Bible said was true.
In these and in many other particulars we have verified for ourselves the Word of God, and are able to affirm, from the platform of personal experience, that all it says of Jesus Christ is true, and therefore it shall still be our guide through the unknown.
You may be very discontented with yourself. You may have no brilliant gifts or any special faculty. Your days may be always spent within the same small room, tethered by the same short string, and surrounded by ignorant and uncongenial people. Yet you may live a great life, and one on which angels on their way home to God may loiter to look with admiration.
Set yourself to say true things about Jesus Christ. Perhaps you cannot preach or teach, but you may always set forth what you have known and seen of Him who still manifests Himself to loving and believing hearts. John's main business was to bear witness to the Light, that all men through Him might believe; and this business may be yours and mine also.
Do it privately. Let us use the opportunities of daily life to speak of our dearest Lord.
Do it unostentatiously. John was content to be only a voice, if men would think of Christ. Be willing to be only a voice, a mirror whose surface is lost to view, because it reflects the dazzling glory of the sun; a breeze that springs up just before daylight, and says, "The dawn! The dawn!" and then dies away.
But this can never be till we are altogether absorbed with Christ; and when that happens it will take no effort to speak of Him-nothing unnatural, forced, or strained, no breach of the laws of Christian courtesy.
"You should have told him to mind his own business," said a gentleman to his wife, when she told him that a man of God had spoken to her about her soul. "If you had heard him speak," was the reply, "you would have thought that that was his business."
Do not long after wealth or position. The men who have done most for the world have been those who could truly say, "Silver and gold have I none"; and some of the worst men that ever lived were nobly born, while the uncrowned kings of the race have sprung from the ranks of poverty.
Do not long for genius. It is very doubtful whether mere genius has done much for the world. It is inclined to be spasmodic, fluctuating, unreliable.
Put away self-indulgence, whether of the sense or thought. Embody in heart and life the meekness and gentleness, the purity and truth of the Lord Jesus.
Be content if you can do no miracle; live to give the world a true conception of the unseen Lord.
Do the commonest and smallest things as beneath His eye. Are you beset with chafing irritations and annoyances? Bear them as the martyrs endured the pillory and the torture chamber.
If you must live with uncongenial people, set to their conquest by love.
You may do all these things by the peace of God, and without brilliant talent; and acting thus you will do more real good than:
Rank, with its aristocratic bearing;
Wealth, with its golden shower; and
Genius, with its meteoric flash.
We are doing more good than we know, sowing seeds, giving men true thoughts of Christ, to which men will refer one day as the first things that started them thinking of Him. For my part, I shall be satisfied if, when I am gone, there are those who say: "He wrought no miracles, but he spoke words about Christ which led me to know Him for myself."