Christ's Loyalty to Spiritual Methods

John 6:15.---' When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.'

The result of our Lord's early ministry was astounding. He leapt at once into an amazing popularity. As the records plainly show, Jesus had a whole body of the people at His heels like a flock of sheep. Even His enemies---dubious of Him but fascinated, their hostility still half-dormant---could not tear themselves from His influence. Every village for miles around sent its quota each day to swell the multitude. The crowds about Him were insufferable in their pressure, and beleaguered Him day and night, so that often He had to steal away to a mountain-top or a desert place, not only for private prayer, but for sheer rest. But perhaps with Him these two were one.

Have we ever considered how little private life Jesus had at this time? We know what private life means to us. Anyone who lives in the public eye realizes that some private life may mean the salvation of his soul---a stolen moment in the day---a corner of the home which he can call his own and where he may relax and become his natural self. But Jesus had no private life. Even when the prying eyes of the crowd were off Him, there were the speculating eyes of these twelve big men. He was hedged round with eyes---kindly or critical, adoring or questioning, reverent or cynical. We read so often that they 'watched' Him. None the less, the amazing thing is how simple, how unconsciously unaffected, how serenely natural He remained through it all. He was always Himself, never the official prophet. That in itself is something that needs to be accounted for.

Unfortunately, His popularity was based on false hopes, founded on crude popular misconceptions and 'baseless dreams.' The people were grasping for a worldly kingdom, a free Jewish empire, a nation that could revive the lost glories of the past, and they imagined that they saw in Jesus the type of leader they wanted, the very Messiah they desired! Had they forgotten what He had always said: 'The kingdom of heaven cometh not with observation'; 'The kingdom of heaven is within you'?

His gospel of the Kingdom had always been plainly stated and was unmistakably spiritual. He dwelt, for instance, on the nature of the Kingdom. It is within you, He said, and it comes with no outward appearance or pretension. . . . As faithfully, He announced its terms and its objects. Its terms---repentance, faith, and a childlike heart. Its objects---the salvation of the human soul and the salvation of the world of human souls. And even more pointedly, He unfolded its demands---the good life lived in God, love and charity to others, and a life of gracious sacrifice.

He deliberately limited Himself in the working of His wonders. There is no record or suggestion of any great deed wrought by Him for display, for personal pleasure, or for its own sake. If we examine His works of grace, we shall find that He never exercised His power except at the call of urgent need or from the passion of His own love. The temptation to use His mysterious powers, or to dazzle the multitude by display, had been faced and settled in that lonely struggle in the desert. Still more, He always sought to keep a firm control of public enthusiasm. Whenever it grew too ardent or threatened to become unreasoning, He quietly withdrew Himself to other towns, as if to allow the simmering passion to cool. Again and again, in this same connection, He cautioned grateful people whom He had helped not to publish or blazon His reputation abroad. It is remarkable how often the records tell us that He warned this one or that one to 'tell no man.' These injunctions of silence are part or a reasoned policy---His desire to win acceptance for the truth of His message alone, not for the startling deeds which might so easily inflame the unbalanced popular imagination.

They came by force to make Him a King. Was it not possible that our Lord could so rearrange His own ideas that He might make use of this great leverage for the ends of His Kingdom? Might He not use this unique chance, purified of course, for the ends of God? Let us think of it for a moment. Although the movement was selfish so far as the Jews were concerned, might this not be a way to reach their hearts? Into a great social and political crusade He could have introduced His own redeeming passion. Had He accepted the supreme authority He could have brought to the crowd whom he loved an immense social betterment, changed the conditions which made it difficult for them to live an upright and devout life, brought home to them in the most effective way the power and the beauty of His teaching concerning God and God's relations to mankind, and the relations of men to each other? Would not the visible realization of the principles and spirit of His teaching in the actual order and life of a nation have invested His gospel with an irresistible charm and been a decisive demonstration of its Divine origin?

Why did our Lord refuse to reign? He came to offer men one thing only---God. From the outset He dwelt entirely on the spiritual issues of God's claim. He preached God alone---God's love, God's forgiveness, God's Fatherhood. But God is a personal offer to a man's soul, and must be personally and intelligently accepted. We can never force a man to accept God against his reason. We might as well compel an astronomer to believe that the sun moves round the earth. Jesus therefore refused to use His power to subdue the world, because, even if He had subdued it, He could never subdue it to God. The good life in God is something that must be deliberately chosen. To save the mass is an impossibility. We can only save the individuals who are in the world. Salvation is a personal matter. We are saved when we turn to God in our great need and choose Him as Lord and Savior.

Christ never put social and political programs first, nor even temporal welfare. He did not despise these things, or deny them their due importance and place. No one cared more for people and their temporal welfare than our Lord. He fed hunger: He healed disease: He declared justice: He preached a clean, pure life. But His was a love big enough to wish the best, not the second best. He knew that the supreme thing a man needs is a heart right with God and touched by His love. As an immediate social consequence, we know that when the heart is truly right with God that gives us the finest vision of man.

So we will not find any social or political programs in Jesus. We may find much in His teaching and life that may help and inspire us. He gave the inspiration for all good programs, for He gave the love of God, man, truth, justice, peace, and equality. But though programs die the inspiration remains. And that is why, when all our modern platforms are demolished, Jesus will be eternally used as the buttress of every good scheme. He alone gives the love, the truth, and the passion that makes men work for a coming Kingdom. He gives God, the secret of all progress.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha