Christ’s Care Of His Disciples
“If, therefore, you seek Me, let these go their way.”
WE need but hint at the circumstances under which these words were uttered. Our Savior was in the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples when a multitude came with the officers commissioned by the High Priest to seize Him. He went boldly towards them and asked, “Whom do you seek?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” At His words, “I am He,” “they drew back and fell to the ground,” and then Jesus said to them, “I have told you that I am He. If, therefore, you seek Me, let these go their way.”
Now, in a very simple manner, I shall try, first of all, to draw a few lessons from this occurrence and then, secondly, to bring out a great Truth of God which I think is foreshadowed in this utterance of our Redeemer.
- First, let us CONSIDER THE LESSONS OF THE OCCURRENCE ITSELF. Our Savior said to these people, “If, therefore, you seek Me, let these go their way.”
In this incident, our Master proved His own willingness to die. This word of His was a mandate so powerful that none of the disciples were seized, much less put to death. There was Peter, who had drawn his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant. We should naturally have expected that he would have been arrested, or smitten to the earth, but so powerful was the command of Christ that not a finger was laid upon His hasty-tempered disciple. Peter and John later went into the judgment hall–into the very teeth of our Lord’s enemies–but, with the exception of a few jeers, they were allowed to go their way. John did even more than that, for he went within the range of the spears of the Roman soldiers and stood at the foot of Christ’s Cross and wept–yet not a finger was laid on him, nor on any of Christ’s disciples–not for lack of will, for, you remember, they seized a young man who left his garment in their hands, and fled naked–evidently supposing him to have been a disciple of Christ. This shows, then, the power of Christ’s mandate that, in that hour of darkness, not so much as one of His disciples was maltreated, but all were allowed to go their way. If Christ, then, by His simple word, delivered His disciples, how much more could He have delivered Himself? And in His not doing so, you cannot fail to see how willing He was to die. One word threw them to the ground. Another word would have hurled them into the arms of death! But our Savior would not speak the word which might have saved Himself, for He came to save others, not Himself.
There is something very courageous in the Savior’s saying, “If you seek Me.” You know that when Adam sinned, God had to seek the culprit, but, in this case, when Christ stood as the Surety for His people, instead of being sought, He seemed to seek His executioners! “If you seek Me,” He said–and He put in an, “if,” as though it were not so much their seeking Him as His seeking them–for He had come into their very midst to die. Our blessed Lord was well acquainted with the circumstances of His own death. He sat at the table, at the institution of the Lord’s Supper on that memorable evening–why could He not wait and be seized there? But no, dauntless, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” steps out and boldly faces His enemy! He does not wait to be attacked, but goes forth to meet death, to give Himself up for us. Scarcely any martyr has done such a deed as this! God has helped them to die when they have been delivered into the hands of their enemies, but our Savior goes to His enemies and says, “Here I am. If you seek Me, I have come to give Myself up. I will put you to no trouble in searching for Me. There is no necessity to hunt through the length and breadth of Jerusalem to find Me. Here I am. If you seek Me, I am ready to die. Take Me, I have no opposition to make. ‘If you seek Me,’ all I have to say is, ‘Let these go their way.’ As for Myself, I am willing enough to die!”
Learn, then, Christian, the readiness of your Master to suffer for you. He was no unwilling Savior. You have, sometimes, borrowed money from a friend and when you have taken it from him, it was a grief to you to accept it, for he looked upon you as a beggar, or even as a robber who had demanded spoil of him. But when you take Christ’s favors, there is this sweet consideration with them, that they are all given willingly! The blood that you drink and the flesh that you eat, spiritually, is no dole of a strained benevolence, but the voluntary, munificent gift from the heart of Jesus to youand to your brethren. Rejoice, then, in the willingness of Christ to suffer for you!
In the second place, upon the very face of our text we read the care of Christ towards His people. “If, therefore, youseek Me, let these go their way.” Oh, the agony of the Savior’s heart at that moment! A friend in trouble is frequently forgetful–expect not a man in great grief to remember you–the heart is then so full of its own bitterness it has no time to think of others. I would pardon any man for not noticing me in the street if he were ill. I would easily forgive anyone for forgetting anything when loaded with pain and sorrow and surely, Beloved, we might have thought it not hard of Jesus if He had forgotten His disciples in His hour of grief! But mark how kind His heart is–“‘If you seek Me’–I say nothing about how you should treat Me–but ‘let these’–these disciples were the only ones He cared about. He carednot for Himself–‘let these go their way.’”
Like the mother in the snowstorm who takes off her own clothes to wrap around her cold shivering baby–what does she care though the cold blast should find out her inmost soul, and though her body is frozen like ice, if her baby but lives? Her first thought, after she is restored to consciousness, when she has been well-nigh benumbed to death, but chafed to life by kindness, is concerning that baby! It was even so with Jesus. “Let these go their way.”–
“When Justice, by our sins provoked,
Drew forth its dreadful sword,
He gave His soul up to the stroke
Without a murmuring word.
This was compassion like a God,
That when the Savior knew
The price of pardon was His blood,
His pity ne'er withdrew.
Now though He reigns exalted high,
His love is still as great.
Well He remembers Calvary,
Nor lets His saints forget.”
They are all remembered, all borne upon His heart and still cared for. Therefore you are cared for, you lamb of the flock! You are cared for, poor Ready-to-Halt! You are remembered, Miss Despondency! You are regarded with the eyes of love, timid Mr. Fearing! Though you stumble at every stone, yet your Savior’s love fails not! He remembers you, for He cared for His disciples in His hour of greatest sorrow.
In the next place, learn from this incident our Savior’s wisdom. When He said, “Let these go their way,” there waswisdom in it. How? Because they were not prepared to suffer and it would have been unwise to have allowed them to suffer, then, even if they had been prepared–for if they had suffered, then, it would have been thought that at least they shared the honor of our redemption–therefore Christ would have none but thieves upon the mount of doom, lest any should suppose that He had a helper! He tread the winepress alone and of the people there were none with Him. Besides, these disciples were but infants in Divine Grace–they had not received the plenitude of the Spirit. They were not fit to suffer. Therefore Christ said, “If you seek Me, let these go their way.” These raw recruits must not yet bear the brunt of the battle. Let them tarry until, by a greater experience and by greater Grace, they shall be made brave to die and shall, each of them in his turn, wear the crown of martyrdom. But not now. Christ spared His people at that moment since it would have been unwise to have allowed them to die then.
Learn also, Christians, from your Master’s example, the duty of putting yourselves in the way of suffering when youcan save your Brothers and Sisters. Oh, there is something glorious in the spirit Christ manifested in placing Himself first. “If you seek Me, let these go their way.” That is the spirit all Christians ought to have–the spirit of heroic selfsacrifice for the disciples' sake. The mere professor says, “Let me go my way, seek another to be put to death.” But if wewere what we should be, we would, each one, say, “If you seek mego their way.” How many of us would beready to escape martyrdom and allow our Brethren to be burned! That would not be the spirit of our Master. How frequently you are ready to allow ridicule and shame to fall upon the Church if you can but be spared! How very frequently you will allow a Brother to perform a duty, at much inconvenience, which you could do without any trouble to yourself! Now, if you were like your Master, you would say, “‘Let these go their way.’ If there is sufficient ground for it, let me suffer. If there is a painful duty, let me do it. Let others escape, let them go free–lo, I will be, myself, a willing substitute for them in this matter.” Oh, we need, everywhere, more of this spirit to be able to say to the poor saint, “Poverty is seeking you. I will, in some degree, bear the inconvenience that you may be spared. You are sick. I will watch you. You are in need. I will clothe you. You are hungry. I will feed you. I will stand in your place as far as I am able, that you may go your way.”
These seem to me to be the lessons to be learned from our Savior’s words, “If, therefore, you seek Me, let these go their way.”
II. Now I come to notice, secondly, THE GREAT DOCTRINE WHICH THIS INCIDENT SEEMS TO FORESHADOW.
Will you please observe the next verse to the text? “That the saying might be fulfilled, which He spoke, ‘Of them which You gave Me have I lost none.’” If I had quoted this passage in such a connection, you would have told me it was a misquotation. You would have said, “Why, my dear Sir, that has nothing to do with the disciples going their way or not!” Ah, but you would be quite in error if you talked like that! God’s Spirit knows how to quote, if we do not. Very often we refer our hearers to a text which we think is exactly adapted and pertinent to the point before us when it has really nothing to do with the matter. And, often, the Holy Spirit quotes a text which we think unsuitable, but, on closer examination, we find that the very gist of it bears directly upon the subject. This was the beginning of Christ’s deliverances which He would, through eternity, vouchsafe to all His children. Inasmuch as He then said, “Let these go their way,” it was the foreshadowing, the picturing of the greet deed of Substitution whereby Christ would be able to say, “If,therefore, you seek Me, let these go their way.” This point will appear dearly if we look at how Christ treats His people in Providence and at the bar of Justice.
It has always seemed to me as if Christ had borne the brunt of Providence for His people so that now all things worktogether for their good! When Christ came into the world, He did, in spirit, say something like this, “You wild beasts of the field, you are against My people–come, now, be against Me and, then, let these go their way.” This was according to the ancient prophecy–“I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and with the fowls of Heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground.” Christ seemed to say, “Stones, you are enemies to My flock–take Me for their Substitute and be at enmity against Me. And then it shall be written, ‘The stones of the field shall be in league with them.’” Christ, as it were, said to Providence, “Your black and bitter face shall look on Me. Your quiver, full of fiery darts, shall be emptied, and they shall all find their target here in My bosom. Your dread aspect shall be seen by Me, but, ‘Let these go their way.’”
Providence has indicted its evils on Christ and has now only good for God’s people! “What? Only good, Sir?” you say, “why, I am poor, I am sick!” Yes, but it is only good, for that is good which works good. “All things work together for good to them that love God.” Christ even says to kings, “Touch not My anointed and do My prophets no harm.” “Let these go their way.” The kings of the earth have been seeking Christ’s Church, to destroy and to devour it, so Christ lets them find Him and put Him to death! And before He dies, He turns round to the kings, and says, “Touch not My anointed and do My prophets no harm.” He speaks to trouble, to trial, to grief, to accident and to peril as He says, “You have sought Me, now let My people go their way.” We would never have known the sweetness of the Psalm–
“He that has made his refuge God,
Shall find a most secure abode”–
if Christ had not died! The only way that you and I can have a refuge is by Christ bearing the brunt of our trouble. How does a shield save me? It saves me by bearing the blows, itself. The shield does, as it were, say to the swords of the enemy, “If you seek me, let this warrior go his way.” So Christ, our Shield and God’s Anointed, bears the brunt of Providence, the evil and the woe, thereof, and He now says to the mysterious dispensations of God concerning all the children of the Lord, “‘Let these go their way.’ Never, never work ill to them, but let them have only good.”
The other thought is, Christ has said this of His people even to Justice. Before the Throne of God, fiery Justice oncedrew his sword and went out after sinners, to find many and to cast them into the Pit. His sword thirsted for the blood of all that had sinned. But there stood a chosen multitude, reserved by love and chosen by Grace, and Justice said, “They are sinners. I will have them, I will sheathe this sword in their hearts, for they are sinners and they must perish.” Then Christ came forward and asked him, “Whom do you seek?” “Sinners,” answered Justice. Then Jesus said, “They are not sinners. They were sinners, once, but they are now righteous, clothed in My righteousness. If you seek the sinner, here am I.” “What?” said Justice, “are You the sinner?” “No, not the sinner, but I am the sinner’s Substitute. All the sinner’s guilt was imputed to Me. All his unrighteousness is Mine and all My righteousness is his. I, the Savior, am the sinner’s Substitute. Take Me.” And Justice accepted the substitution, took the Savior, crucified Him, nailed Him to that Cross whose agonies we commemorate at the Communion Table. In that hour Jesus cried, “If you seek Me, let these go their way.” Who are they that are to go their way? Why, the very men whose former way was one of iniquity and whose end would have been destruction if the curse had not been made to fall upon the head of Jesus!
“Let these go their way.” Oh, that a wonderful sentence! I never knew its sweetness till I found the Lord, but I did know something of its power. Do you ask, “How was that?” Why, long before you know the Lord, you have some of the power of the blood of Christ resting upon you. “How so?” do you ask? Why, do you not know it to be a fact that–
“Determined to save, He watched o'er our path,
When Satan’s blind slaves, we sported with death”?
And so, some of the benefits of Christ’s death were ours before we knew Him and before we loved Him! The reason why I was not damned before I knew the Savior was that He had said, “Let him go his way. I have died for him.” You would have been in Hell these 20 years, Saint, for you were then unregenerate. But Christ said, “Let him go his way. If you seek Me, he shall go his way, sinner though he is.” And now, when gloomy fears arise, and dark thoughts roll over our mind, let this be our comfort! We are still sinners–guilty and vile–but the same voice says, “Let these go their way.” It is the “let” of command–and who can hinder when God lets in this sense? “Let these go their way.” You are going up Bunyan’s Hill Difficulty and there are lions at the top. Christians remember this message, “Let these go their way.” You will, perhaps, get into Giant Despair’s dungeon. Here is a key that will fit the lock–“Let these go their way.” You will be tumbling about in the Slough of Despond–here is a stone to put your foot on to help you to get out–“Let these go their way.” Why? Because they pray? No. Because they serve God? No–the mandate was given before they did either the one or the other. “Let these go their way” because Christ died in their place!
The day is coming, and shall soon be here, when you and I shall stretch our wings and fly away to the land that is very far off. I think I might picture in my imagination the soul when it has left the body. The Believer speeds his way up to his native city, Jerusalem, “the mother of us all.” But at the gate one stands and he says, “Have you a right to admission here? It is written, ‘He that walks righteously, and speaks uprightly; he that despises the gain of oppressions, that shakes his hands from holding of bribes, that stops his ears from hearing of blood, and shuts his eyes from seeing evil; he shall dwell on high.’ Are you such an one?” “Ah,” says the soul, “I hope by Grace I have been made so; but I cannot claim to have always been so, for ‘I the chief of sinners am.’” “Then how came you here? This gate gives no admission to those who are sinners.” While the angel is thus parleying, I hear a Voice crying, “Let these go their way” and, forthwith, the gates of Heaven are opened and every soul for whom Christ died enters into Paradise!
Come, Saint, close up this simple meditation by looking yonder. See Christ, with Justice, Vengeance, Wrath, all seeking Him. Lo, they have found Him! They have slain Him! He is buried! He has risen again! Oh, see them seeking Him and, as you sit down at His Table, think, “When they sought Him, they let me go my way.” And what a sweet way it is! I am allowed to come to His Table of Communion. Why? Because they sought Him. I am invited to hold fellowship withJesus. Why? Because they sought Him. I am permitted to have a good hope through Divine Grace and, more than that, “I know that when this earthly house of my tabernacle is dissolved, I have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
Why am I to go that way? Why? Because they sought Him and found Him! Otherwise, where had I been now? Myplace might have been on the alehouse bench, or, perhaps, in the seat of the scorner. And what would have been my prospect? Why, that, at the last, I would be in Hell among the fiends and the lost spirits of the Pit! But now I tread the paths of righteousness and the ways of Grace. Oh, let me remember why I do so–it is because they sought You, O precious Lord of mine! They sought You, my dear Redeemer and my God! They sought Your heart and broke it! They sought Your head and crowned it with thorns! They sought Your hands and nailed them to the tree! They sought Your feet and pierced them! They sought Your body, they slew and buried it! And now, though the roaring lion may seek me ever so much, he cannot devour me! Never can I be torn in pieces, never can I be destroyed, for I carry with me this sweet passport of the King of Heaven, “Let these go their way.”
O child of God, take this with you for your safe conduct everywhere! When men travel abroad, they carry with them a permit to go to this town and the other. Take this little sentence, Brother or Sister in Jesus, and when Unbelief stops you, draw it out, and say, “He has said, ‘Let these go their way.’” And when Satan stops you, hold out to him this Divine Mandate, “Let these go their way.” And when Death shall stop you, take out this sweet permit from your Master, “Let these go their way.” And when the Throne of Judgment shall be set and you stand before it, plead this sentence, plead it even before Your Maker, “My Master said, ‘Let these go their way.’”
Oh, cheering words! I could weep them all out, but I will say no more. I hope many of you will enjoy the sweetness of them while we gather around the Lord’s Table, in obedience to His gracious command, “This do in remembrance of Me.”