THE DIVINE EPITOME OF THE SHEPHERD’S TESTIMONY
The mouth of every man shall be stopped one day, and all shall be compelled to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord unto the glory of God the Father. That will be the final stopping of the mouths of evil men, who deny the Son of God, having come into the flesh. That will be the final vanquishing of the Antichrist and of all antichristians who are in the world.
Such a moment there is also here in our text which reads, “Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand.” Here we see the futility of unbelief thwarted; the frustration of unbelief is exposed in all its poverty and helplessness over against the Christ of God. It is the helplessness of those whose mouths had been shut.
But there is more here in this almost trite and factual statement of the Evangelist John. Here is the proof of the sum of all that Christ has said about Himself as the good Shepherd. None would take His life from him! He had been sent and empowered of the Father to lay down His life for the sheep and also to take it again. He will die in no other way than in His voluntary death on the cross as the expiation of the sins of the people. With great longing Jesus longs for that moment when He may eat the final passover with his disciples and drink the wine new in the kingdom of his Father. For the Son of man must suffer the sufferings of the cross, and thus be perfected; and God will thus bring many sons to glory. And when Christ went out from among the hands of wicked men, who would seize Him to kill Him, He is keeping the avenues open so that He may presently walk the Via Dolorosa. He is and remains the good Shepherd, and continues in the obedient role of the One sent of the Father throughout.
The verb in the Greek for “to take” is “piatsein”, and it means literally: to seize, to take, to capture. In the Gospel of John it refers to the act of placing in a state of arrest, and thus the beginning of a judicial process. In this case it would lead inevitably to the stoning of Jesus, notwithstanding that all the arguments of the Jews had been met, and all their accusations had been shown to be without ground. It would simply have been the only answer of unbelief whose mouth had been shut by the evidence. Their is nothing reasonable in unbelief. Evil men are ever unreasonable men. They do not believe in law and order, and will not bow before the highest authority and majesty of the Word of God! Such has been the bloody history of all who persecuted the righteous, even from the time of Abel, the first martyr, till the time of Zachariah, the son of Berechiah!
Hence, they would take Jesus. As the conjunction “therefore” indicates, these Jews would take Jesus because they had been bested in the argument; and this is their only argument, as it was of evil men in the days of Henoch. He too was sought and they found him not, for “God took him.” But here is a greater than Henock. God did not take him, but he is very God in the flesh. He is the good Shepherd of Israel. Wherefore He “escaped’ out of their hands.
There seems to be no proper word in the English language, or in any language, to express exactly what took place here. Here was evidently more than met the eye. For here is One Who can summon twelve legions of angels to His defense if He so desired. When He is brought into the world of inhabited men, the Lord says: let all the angels of God worship him! The Holland translation has “ontging uit hunne handen”. The fact is only related. The manner is not told us by John.
However, we are told repeatedly of Jesus departing from the midst of the Jews who would seize Him. In some instances the manner is not told us, but the deep reason and motive is given. Thus we read in John 7:33that the reason why the deputies, sent of the Sanhedrin, do not take Jesus into custody is that “never a man spoke as this man”. It was simply the power and authority, the kingly mien which held the deputies at bay. For He spoke as one having authority and not as the Scribes. And this authoritative speech these Jews had just heard. They must too have felt the impact of this reasoning, the power of the Scriptures, the conviction of the Holy Spirit, convicting of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Of judgment because they believed not in the Son of God. It will only be later in Gethsemane that these men will be able to take Jesus when He gives Himself willingly into their hands. But they will there too fall prostrate to the earth merely upon His Word, “I am He”, I am Jesus of Nazareth whom ye seek to bind and kill.
Behold, then, here the divine epitome of God’s testimony concerning His Son. The very conclusion of this incident here, this confrontation of these Jews with the Christ of God, the good Shepherd, is such that He is the One sent of the Father into the world, and Who says: “I and the Father are one!”
Presently when His hour is fully come He will willingly give His hands to be tied, and being bound He will be led to the judgment hall of Caiaphas. Then will He be condemned to death because He said: “I am the Lord of glory, I am the Son of God.’ He will then be bound with the oaths of God to the cross. There shall the Shepherd of Israel be slain, and all the sheep shall be saved from the wolves of Satan’s legions and cohorts!
THE POSTHUMOUS CONFESSION CONCERNING JOHN’S PREACHING
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. The bearer of the precious seed of the Word may weep as he sows, and meet the death of the martyr. But from Abel onward, although they have died, they still speak. The Word of the Lord does not return void, but performs that unto which He sends it. The true preachers of the Word are aways a sweet savour to God.
Thus it was with John, the Baptist. He was a man sent from God. His name was “John,” that is, through him the grace and mercy of God would effectually be administered to the Israel of God. He will, under God, turn the hearts of the children to the fathers, and the disobedient will be brought to the wisdom of the just, and a people would be prepared for the Lord. When this labor is finished John is taken away to his reward as a prophet who spake the Word of God.
The rule for measuring a true prophet from a false one is given us in the Scriptures. The words of true prophets are verified from heaven by God Himself. Not so of the false prophets. In the days of Elijah fire from heaven verified the work of that righteous man. But here is the greater Elijah. Here is the Elijah who will reconstitute all things, pointing out the Christ of God, and manifesting Him to the people at the occasion of Jesus’ baptism. And John preached the coming of the Kingdom; he preached repentance from sin, and a sanctification which was more than mere ceremonial and external cleanliness. There must be a bringing forth of fruits meet for repentance.
It was the time of Reformation!
The Old Testament priesthood of Levi must give way as a priesthood which had perfected nothing. He points out the Lamb of God which will take away the sin of the world. He sends his disciples away from himself to Jesus; the latter must increase and he must decrease. John is but the friend of the Bridegroom. He is not worthy to unloosen Jesus’ shoe latchet. Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Pentecost will come! All John’s preaching was “concerning’ (peri) Christ. John is the messenger before the face of the Lord. There is about to be the ushering in of the better Covenant. Thus John had preached. And this preaching had not fallen altogether upon deaf ears. There were some who had ears to hear. And they came confessing their sins and they were baptized. Principally they were, therefore, committed in their minds and hearts to the things which Jesus preached concerning Himself. Such were the people in Perea, beyond Jordan. These were the people who “were saying” (elegon) that they are confirmed in their faith by the things which they “see and hear” in Jesus. The blind receive their sight, the lame walked, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life, and the poor (in spirit) have the gospel proclaimed to them! All that John said concerning “this one” is true. It is all real. They have not placed their hopes upon a phantom, a mere mirage in the desert; God has visited His people and the kingdom has come upon them. The promises of God, spoken to the prophets and the fathers, are being fulfilled, and the time foretold, that the Gentiles too would be joint-heirs of the promises, is at hand. Great and wonderful things are “at hand”. Their spirits are lifted. John and his disciples may have had their doubts whether he is the “One to come’, but these people harbor no doubt.
Not one of John’s words will fall to the ground as so many idle tales and false hopes. “All things’ which John spoke concerning “this one’ are real and true. “This one” and none else is the fulfillment of the promise. This is God’s beloved Son in Whom He is well pleased. Thus it had sounded from heaven at Jesus’ baptism. It is all so real to them.
The sheep hear the voice of the forerunner, and they acknowledge the Shepherd. Christ’s sheep hear His voice and they follow Him. “They believed on him there.” And those who believe are “many’. Christ had many sheep beyond Jordan. He abides among them till the time appointed. How long we do not know. It was long enough. The mission was accomplished there, and will be accomplished at his exodus at Jerusalem. And when Pentecost is come, they will see the words of John verified when fire comes from heaven to baptize them, the fire of the Holy Ghost.
Then all the sheep will come from the East and from the West and from the North and the South; the four winds will blow upon the earth. It will be from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth! Then shall the great and good Shepherd in Israel be manifested. The Chief Shepherd shall appear, Immanuel, God with us. And He shall go before us. A table He prepares for us before our enemies, and He will cause the cup of all the sheep to overflow, and He will dwell with them forever!
Blessed faith of simple folk beyond Jordan.
Faith in the good Shepherd of Israel!