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For homiletic purposes the narrative may be used to show the features which will characterise the day of Christ's recognised royalty. When Christ's royalty is fully recognised
(1) All possessions will be consecrated to his service. Jesus Christ gave his disciples a word whose power was to overcome all hesitation on the part of the owners of the colt; that word was "The Lord hath need of them." The expression itself is peculiar. Why should the Lord have need? Strange combination of ideas lordship and necessity! Yet, on the other hand, what necessity can he have who has but to express it in order to have it satisfied? By a legitimate exercise of fancy, we may amplify the idea and include all orders of men, all degrees of talent, all capacities of endurance and activity. Say to the poet, the painter, the musician, the orator, the rich man, the man of influence, "the Lord hath need of thee," and there will be instantaneous and grateful response!
When Christ's royalty is fully recognised
(2) All the services of Christ will become the subjects of ardent and universal praise. According to Luke, "the whole multitude began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen." (1) The true worker will eventually be recognised; (2) works will be the basis of just and permanent elevation; (3) God will be praised as the fontal source of all true benefaction, the multitude praised God.
When Christ's royalty is fully recognised
(3) His essential greatness will overcome his momentary humiliation. "Blessed be the King that cometh." (Trace Jesus Christ's life, and show how much there was in it to depress and crush; yet, through all, there is a shining of his divine lustre.) In addition to doing this a contrast may be drawn between what is transient and what is permanent in the Messianic life: poverty, sorrow, humiliation, all kinds of social and temporal disadvantage, on the one hand; on the other, riches, rapture, exaltation above every created height, and all the honour and homage of the universe.
When Christ's royalty is fully recognised
(4) Religious enthusiasm will overwhelm or absorb all Pharisaic formality. According to Luke, "Some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples; and he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out." Enthusiasm is natural; stoicism is unnatural. When the soul is inspired, the lips must speak. About enthusiasm three things should be remarked: (1) That it is essential to success in all pursuits; (2) that it reaches its highest intensity in the development of the religious life; (3) that its suppression would excite the reproaches of nature.
The whole scene shows the effect of a true view of Jesus Christ upon the heart of man. Such a view transports the soul with the holiest delight, and draws the worshipper, even while in the poverty and feebleness of the body, nearly into the ecstasy of the heavenly worshippers. The scene gives a hint of the joy which shall one day fill the hearts of all men.
12. And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:
13. And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.
14. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.
This incident may be homiletically used to show: (1) The doom of those things which do not meet the wants of the time; (2) the terrific prospect of meeting a disappointed Christ; (3) the perfect dominion of the spiritual over the material; (4) the vast possibilities of undoubting prayer.
Olshausen has some striking observations as to the cursing of the fig-tree: "The difficulty is diminished here, if we understand by it that kind of figs which remain hanging on the branches all winter, and are gathered in early spring. In that case, the sense of the words would be this while the common kind of figs were not yet ripe, and the time for gathering them in had not come, Jesus yet perceived that this tree on which he sought for figs belonged to that other kind, which bore at that time ripe and refreshing fruit, and thus he could rightly expect figs on the tree."
15. And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;
16. And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.
17. And he taught, saying unto them. Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.
18. And the scribes and chief priests heard it. and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.
19. And when even was come, he went out of the city.
These verses, taken in combination, present a vivid view of Christ's twofold method of conducting his ministry: that method was first destructive, then constructive. About the cleansing of the temple four things are noticeable: (1) Jesus Christ did not connive at abuses for the sake of securing popular favour; (2) Jesus Christ did not allow abuses to be continued on the ground that the circumstances were temporary, he knew that the temple was soon to be destroyed; (3) Jesus Christ showed that man's convenience was to be subordinated to God's right, "my house is the house of prayer" ( Luk 19:46 ); (4) Jesus Christ showed in this, as in all other cases, that the right one is morally stronger than the wicked many. The healing "the blind and the lame" ( Mat 21:14 ) occurs most impressively in this connection; after anger came peace; after an assault upon strength came a gentle ministry upon weakness. The incident may be separately treated, as showing: (1) That the temple is spiritual not in an exclusive but in an inclusive sense, the wants of the spirit include the necessities of the body; praying included healing, but money-changing did not include praying; and (2) that society should be taught to connect the temple with the most benevolent, practical, and spiritual ideas. It is a great error in any community to shut up the house of God six days out of seven. When society is penetrated with true Christianity, the house of God will be a library, a hospital, a school, and a prayer-house, all in one.
The Silent Looks of Christ
This is one of the passages of Scripture that the reader may easily pass without allowing his attention to be sufficiently arrested. The singularity of this act will not escape your notice now that the verse is read as a text. Jesus Christ entered into the city, and into the temple; merely looked round about upon all things, and went out. The comprehensiveness of this act will make you feel as if you were girt about with eyes. Jesus Christ entered into the city and into the temple, and looked round about upon all things. The great things, and things minute and obscure and comparatively worthless. If he thought it worth while to create the daisy, will it be beneath him to stop and look at the little beauty which he painted? We do not look upon all things. We look upon faces, surfaces, transient aspects of things; but Jesus looks into spirit, purpose, motive, heart, impulse, will, and all the secrets of that supreme mystery amongst us called human life.
The silence of this act will almost affright you. Jesus came into the city, looked round about upon all things, and did not say one word. That is terrible! When men speak to me, I can in some measure understand what they are aiming at. But there are some looks, even amongst ourselves, that are mysteries; there are some glances shot from human eyes that trouble the beholder! Can guilt bear the lingering enquiring gaze of innocence? Does not the corrupt man fear the eye of the just man more than he would fear the lightning at midnight? May not that look mean so much, even if it be a look of unsuspicion and of entire ignorance, so far as the immediate circumstances are concerned? Yet it may mean so much; and that potential mood is the hell of the bad man.
You see, then, that our text leads us to look, not at the miracles and words of Jesus Christ, but to study his looks, as indications of his character. And it may be profitable, after we have spent some time in examining the eyes of the Saviour, to enquire how we should return the looks that are so full of meaning. The subject is, The Silent Looks of the Son of God!
In reading the Evangelists, have you ever noticed that Mark above all the other writers, takes note of the looks of the Saviour? Different men see different phases of the same object. Luke began his Gospel by saying that he was going to tell Theophilus everything. Who can tell everything about the Son of God? I speak not only for myself, but for every minister in this house, and, I believe, for the whole Church of God, in saying that, after we have written our sermons and our books, the thing that strikes us most is their emptiness. We seem to have missed the very point we intended to indicate, and when we have ceased our talk and our effort, there comes upon us a sense of having ill done what we aimed to do, and we feel as if we had not yet begun the story that is as a centre without a circumference.
"And Jesus looked round about" ( Mar 10:23 ). It would appear that Jesus Christ's look was, then, a circular look. Instead of fixing his eye upon one point, he fixed his vision upon all points, and, as it were, at the same moment of time. "And Jesus looked round about." This is an action specifically by itself. "And having looked round he saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of heaven!" The look of the preacher should mean something. Earnest men should have a look peculiarly their own. What, my friend, if thy sermon has failed to take effect because thy face gave the lie to thy voice? There are looks and looks. When will men discriminate between things that differ? when will they cease to regard all things as alike? and when will the time come when men can see meanings even in unlikely things? I have seen on the plainest faces looks that had soul in them. I have seen poor people look at me, in telling the story of their trouble, in a way that has gone to my very heart, and melted it in tender sympathy with their sufferings. I have seen persons to whom intelligence of a startling nature has been brought intelligence of broken fortune, of expired friends who could not say one word, and yet I had rather seen a tiger than the look of disappointment and shame and fear and pity that I have seen upon some human faces. Go and tell a man who is laughing innocently laughing that his only child has been found dead on the roadside. The man does not talk to you, except with his eyes and his face. There is no storm so terrible as the darkening and the raining of grief! Jesus Christ accompanied his words with a look, and sometimes left his look unaccompanied by a word.
"But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter." He looked them all into attention, and then gave them the lesson. Is he not looking here to-day? Should there be any turned heads amongst us, any indifferent eyes, any careless hearts? I thank God I believe that so many people as I see before me would not come together at twelve o'clock without earnestness in their hearts regarding this ministration of the gospel. Observe the peculiarity of the occasion. "When he had turned about, and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter." The look was a general caution; the rebuke was an individual application. The look was as a common judgment; the rebuke was a personal law. Jesus looks when he does not rebuke, but he never rebukes without looking. My friend, thou wouldst see more of the eye of God if thou wouldst drop the scales from thine own. But my subject is the silent looks of the Saviour. Luke, in his twenty-second chapter, indicates a remarkable instance of such looks viz., " The Lord turned and looked upon Peter." Did he speak? No. Did he cry out, "Shame!" No. What did he do? He turned and looked upon Peter, and broke the man's heart. May he break our hearts in the same way ere he cut us in pieces with the sword of his anger, and utterly slay us with the breath of his judgment! He had told Peter that before the cock crowed he would deny his Master three times. Peter had just given the third denial; immediately the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked upon Peter, and Peter's heart of rock melted into a river of tears. What was there in the look? Does the eye of Jesus look memories at us? broken vows, oaths, pledges? Is the eye of the Saviour like a mirror, in which a man may see himself? Is the eye of Jesus Christ terrible as a sword of judgment, that it can cut to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrow of a man?
Mark gives us another silent look in his third chapter and fifth verse. "And when Jesus had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand." He said nothing to the individuals themselves; he only looked round about on them with anger. I have heard of the sword that flamed in Eden, that moved from the east to the west, and back again, night and day. But oh, I could have run through that sword, methinks, compared with this circle of fiery anger which now surrounded the Son of God! anger of the most terrible kind, anger arising out of grief The anger of malice who cares for? The anger of mortified pride, vanity, ambition who heeds it? The anger of mere selfishness, what is the meaning of that? But when grief turns to anger; when love itself becomes wrath, who can abide the day of its coming? Is there anything so terrible as "the wrath of the Lamb " that greatest contradiction in words, apparently, yet that consummation of purest anger in reality? "The Lord looketh on the heart." The Lord is always looking. He looketh from heaven, and beholdeth the children of men. The Lord looked to see if there were any that feared him, and that honoured his name. There is no protection from his eye. This is a terrible statement to be delivered to the bad man! You are never alone! When you think you are alone, your solitude is but relative. You can take the thinnest veil and hide yourself from men, but who can hide himself behind impenetrable curtains and screenings from the eye of fire? All things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do! "Whither shall I flee from thy presence?" The question is unanswered and unanswerable. God fills the universe, overflows infinitude, and thou canst not escape his eye! I think I have heard something before of this silent look. You may recall it. When I read in the Apocalypse, as I have just read our morning lesson, about John seeing, on the Isle of Patmos, eyes like a flame of fire, I felt that I had read something like that before. Where? Can you tell me? Young friends, who are supposed to have just read the Bible, you who have the youngest, tenderest, freshest memories, can you tell me? Where? You read something like it in the Book of Exodus. The eye of the Lord never dims. If you have once read of it, you never can forget it; if you have once seen it, it is an eternal presence!
When the Egyptians pursued Israel, and there was a halt made, a cloud came between the Israelites and the Egyptians; the one side was brightness that is on the side towards the Israelites and the other side was darkness; and the Lord looked out of the cloud and troubled the Egyptians! Have I your attention? Do you follow me? The Lord looked out of the cloud and troubled the Egyptians, and his glory struck off the iron from the wheels of their chariots, and they were dismayed! Not a word was spoken; there was no thunder in the air. What was it then that troubled haughty Egypt, proud of her resources, fat with the marrow of her accursed victories over a bound people, what was it that troubled the haughty queen? It was a look, a silent look! An argument could have been answered mayhap: if not answered, it could have been replied to. But a look! who could return it? When the lightning strikes a man, who can look at it? Ay, when the summer sun goes behind a cloud, as it were, and suddenly strikes down upon the lookers up, who can bear the sting of his fire. So, then, you will find that the eyes of the Lord are often spoken of in the holy Book. Are these eyes terrible then? May any one look at them? Herein is the mercy of the Lord seen. What is terrible is also gentle. "Our God is a consuming fire!" "God is love!" "He numbereth the stars!" "He bindeth up the broken in heart!" He walketh upon the wings of the wind, and the clouds are as the dust of his feet, and his utterance shakes the kingdoms and dominions of the universe! Yet not a sparrow falleth to the ground without your Father's notice! If the looks are terrible they can also be benign. Hear the proof of this: "I will guide thee with mine eye." Lord, what is the history of thine eye? the eye that troubled Egypt, and struck off the iron from the chariot-wheels of the host of Pharaoh? the eye that divided the waters, and made them stand back, that the Lord might pass in the person of his chosen one? "I will guide thee with mine eye." The eye that makes day, and summer, and beauty, and the eternal light! Behold the goodness and severity of God! "I have heard," said the Psalmist, "that power belongeth unto God!" And he trembled, and he took up his pen again, and wrote, "To thee also, O Lord, belongeth mercy!" Omnipotence in the hand of mercy is the idea of righteous government. So the eyes of the Lord are very terrible. Flames of fire are the only symbols by which they can be likened amongst us; but they are also gentle, melting with dewy tenderness, yearning with unutterable pity; looking out for us; watching our home coming, looking over the hills and along the curving valleys, if haply they may see somewhat of the shadow of the returning child!
Will it not be profitable for us now to enquire: If such be the looks of God the Father and the Son, how should we return looks that are so full of significance and purpose? Are we not able to use our eyes to advantage? Hear the Word of the Lord. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth." How? Look not with the eyes of the body, nor with curiosity; but with reverence, with eagerness of heart, with determination of love, with all the urgency and importunity of conscious need. He asks us to look; to look at himself; to look at himself, not on the Throne of Judgment, but in his capacity as" Redeemer and Saviour of the world. Have you looked? Pause! There is no need to be in haste. Have you looked? Observe our earliest lesson this morning viz., there is looking and looking. I have seen a dog look towards the sun, but he saw it not! The beast always seems to be looking upon the flowers of the meadow, but it is not seeing them! Have you looked with your heart, with your hunger, with your urgent need? Have you looked with that expectant, piercing look that means, "I will see"? "Yes," says one of my hearers, "I have looked, and I have a comfortable sense of having seen the Lord; but I get so weary, and jaded, and worn out by the difficulties, frets, temptations, and chafings of this earthly life, that sometimes I do not know what to do." Then let me tell you what to do. If, for a moment, I have the advantage of you, I will use my advantage to teach and comfort you, if I can. You are weary, worn, dispirited, tempted, discouraged, and do not know how to go on. Go on thus looking unto Jesus! You will see how the various texts belong to one another, and constitute one piece of solid religious teaching. Looking unto Jesus. Returning the look of the Saviour. Not a hasty glance, but a steady, importunate, eager, penetrating "looking for." And he is only behind a veil. If you did but know it, there is hardly a cloud between! He will come from behind, and say to the heart that has waited for him, "For a small moment I have forsaken thee, but with everlasting mercies will I gather thee." It was better to have that small moment. There may be a monotony of kindness, a monotony of light. Better to have a momentary sense of orphanage, and then to be embraced with a still fonder clasp by the infinite love of the eternal heart!
Look unto Jesus even through your tears. Tears are telescopes. I have seen further through my tears than ever I saw through my smiles. Laughter hath done but little for me; but sorrow and a riven heart have expounded many passages in the inspired volume that before were hard, enigmatical reading. Blessed be God, we can see Jesus through our tears. He knows what tears are. Jesus wept! The eyes that John saw as a flame of fire the Jews at the grave of Lazarus saw as fountains of water. "And coming near unto the city, when he beheld it, he wept over it." No man can fathom the depth of that river, or tell the bitterness of that sorrow. You have tears. Every man amongst us has his tearful times. But we use our fears wrongfully if we do not lift up our eyes and look through them unto Jesus in the heavens! So much for the comfortable side of this. Dare I turn to the other side? Surely, for I am a steward only. May I say another word that shall not be so tender? Surely, for I am an echo, not a voice. Am I here to make a Bible for the comforting and soothing of men, and not to expound a Bible that looks all ways, and pierces all things? If I now speak with apparent harshness, believe me that it is a cry of pain, that I may bring some men to consideration and decision in a right direction. My subject is the silent looks of the Saviour the silent looks of God and the method in which men are to return the glances of the divine eyes. Let me say that those who will not look now shall look! The great sight shall not perish from the horizon without their beholding it. Hear these words "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced! They would not look upon me, but they shall do so!" The great cross shall not be taken up and set away in the heavens as a centre of holy fellowship without those who despised it having one look at it! What will be the consequence of their looking? They shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and mourn! The look was too late; the look was not in time. You have put your fingers in your ears while the sweet music of the Gospel has been appealing for the attention of your heart; you have shut your eyes when the king has come in to show you his beauty. But he says he will not break up this scheme of things without every eye beholding! Every eye shall see him, and they also that pierced him shall look upon him. Shall I add another word that no human tongue is fit to speak? How shall I utter it? If I could let my heart say it, I would. But it must be spoken with all the incompetence and brokenness of the voice. There shall be a cry in the latter time, and the cry shall be this "Hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne!" Hide us! What from? "The sword?" No. "The terrible phenomena?" No. But from the face that anguished face, that smitten face, that insulted face! Oh! I see the marks the thorns made! I see the red streaks upon it that I made when I smote him in the face and said, "Prophesy!" Oh, hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne! Shall it come to this? Is he not the fairest among ten thousand and altogether lovely? Is there any one whose beauty is to be compared with his? You say, "Our God is love." Yes, "Our God is a consuming fire!" You say, "The eyes of the Lord are a comfort to his people." So they are. But the eye of the Lord struck off the iron from the wheels of the Egyptians on the night I have just spoken about.
We shall have to look: the only question is, how? Are we prepared for his coming? How are we prepared for his face? By going to his Cross. He proposes that we should meet him in his weakness. He appoints the place. He says, "Meet me where I am weakest; when my right hand is maimed, and my left, when my feet are pierced with iron, and my side is gashed with steel, and my temples are crushed with cruel thorns, meet me there!" Then having met him there, when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all his holy angels with him, he will be the same Saviour, as gentle and as pitiful as ever. And now, the Lord's hands are his again, he will use them for the opening of the door of his kingdom, and the lifting up of all who put their trust in him!
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Mark 11". Parker's The People's Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27