THE TRIAL, "NEVERTHELESS . . . HEREAFTER"!
"And the high priest answered and said to him, I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus said to him, You have said: nevertheless, I say to you, Hereafter you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" (Matt. 26:63, 64).
The close of the trial is, on Jesus' part, exceedingly solemn and sublime. The malicious and paltry charge, in reference to destroying the temple and raising it up in three days, has proved not in the least serviceable to His prosecutors. The witnesses could not agree among themselves; and Jesus, when questioned on the subject, maintains a dignified silence. The high priest, therefore, at last despairing of success by any of the methods hitherto tried, now appeals with consummate hypocrisy to God Himself, and commands the prisoner, as on His oath, and as before God, to speak the truth. "The high priest answered, and said to him, I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God."
Thus appealed to by His Father's name and knowing that His hour has come; willing, also, by His own act, to surrender Himself to death for "this commandment received He of his Father," Jesus, with all simplicity and dignity, admits His personal glory as the Son of God and His official mission as the Christ, referring the high priest, however, to a future day for the final and no longer mistakable demonstration of the truth of His avowal: "Jesus said to him, You have said; nevertheless, I say to you, Hereafter shall you see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven."
What a ray of glory this is falling, unlooked for, on the darkness of the scene, contrasting so singularly with the shame and humiliation of Jesus, a prisoner at the bar of man! How startlingly near this brings the two utmost opposites—the depth of abasement of the humbled Son of God, standing before sinners laden with a criminal charge and the climax of His glory when He shall sit a judge upon the throne of His Father, and all nations shall be gathered before Him! The case against the prisoner may be closed immediately and carried against Him. "Nevertheless," He takes his protest and appeal to a high tribunal, where his murderers need to appear; where all necessary extracts bearing on the decision shall be found safely lodged in the records of Omniscience; and where the throne shall be filled by this prisoner Himself, whose protest shall then be justly settled and disposed of, when "every eye shall see Him, and those also who pierced Him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him."
Now, the introduction of this sublime allusion to the great day of the Lord may be viewed in reference either to Jesus or Caiaphas.
I. And in reference to Jesus, it is manifestly the fitting comfort in the hour of accusation; the suitable compensation for this special portion of His sufferings. What is the fair counterpoise or reward for Christ's humiliation in consenting thus to stand a criminal at the bar of man, the mark and butt of false accusers? See the shame that covers Him, while slander is on every side, reproach and shame and dishonor! See the Son of the Blessed, set forth as son of Belial! standing as a humbled panel at the bar! What shall be the due reward? What but His elevation to the throne—the tribunal of the final, the universal judgment? "The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool." And all the tribes of the earth "shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
For it is to be observed that not only is it true as a general principle that "because He humbled Himself, therefore God also has highly exalted Him"; but this principle extends and realizes itself even into minute particulars and details, so that the component elements, or successive eras and stages, of Christ's deep abasement, have their parallel and corresponding passages of glory in His high reward. The crown of thorns is replaced by the crown of glory; yes, "many crowns are on His head." The cross on which He suffered becomes the true car of victory, in which He rides forth conquering and to conquer, subduing the antipathies of His people, renewing their wills, and securing their supreme affection. The chains in which He was led away a captive to Annas and Caiaphas entitled Him to have a triumph decreed Him, in which He is seen spoiling principalities and powers, making a show of them openly, carrying captivity captive, wresting the prey from the mighty, and breaking off from His people's souls the chains of Satan and sin, of hell and death; thus vindicating for them a glorious liberty which the captive Jesus obtained for them by temporarily surrendering His own. Even so, the shameful bar of Caiaphas is replaced and rewarded by the throne of judgment. For the special shame to which as the panel He has now submitted, the special joy set before Him is the glory of sitting on the tribunal of final retribution. And reflecting on that joy set before Him, He is content to despise this shame.
Hence it is observable that He speaks of this splendid prerogative not as an inalienable right belonging to Him as the Son of God and in virtue of His Godhead, but as a reward conferred upon Him as "the Son of man," and in glorification of His human nature. "You shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power." As the Eternal Gcd, in unity of substance with the Father and the Spirit, the Son of God is, and cannot but be, the judge of all the earth. Nor can any but a Divine person possess those qualifications of infallible knowledge and heart-searching omniscience, of infinite wisdom and righteousness, without which the procedures of eternal judgment could not in unerring rectitude be conducted. But the elevation of the human nature, in its indissoluble union with the Godhead, to the tribunal of the final judgment, so that it is the man Christ Jesus who shall judge the quick and the dead, and God "shall judge the world by that man of whom He has given assurance in raising Him from the dead "—this it is that presents to us the infinite majesty in which Jesus shall appear on the great day of reckoning as a reward conferred upon Him by the appointment of His Father, as well as a prerogative belonging to Him by the necessity of His Godhead. And thus we read in His own words that "the Father has given Him authority to execute judgment also because He is the Son of man" (John 5:27).
Who shall enter into the mind of Jesus at this wondrous moment, when despised and rejected as a criminal, His feelings all trampled on and outraged, His good name and reputation loaded with dishonor, His liberty restrained; His person smitten, stricken, and afflicted, and sentence of condemnation about to pass upon Him, even unto death? What unspeakable depression! What gloom, what sadness! But He thought of his Father's righteousness and His own sure reward. He thought of the joy set before Him. His mind fled for refuge to the recompense of the reward. And from Caiaphas the high priest's bar, He transferred Himself, in the anticipation of faith, to His Father's glory and throne as the judge of all the earth. "Fret not Yourself," O meek and lowly One, "because of evil-doers." To You, as the firstborn among many brethren, who shall enter the kingdom of heaven, like You, through much tribulation, to You as to them, to You preeminently above them, belongs the promise: "Commit Your way unto the Lord, and He shall bring it to pass; and He shall bring forth Your righteousness like the light, and Your judgment as the noonday." You shall be seen "at the right hand of power, coming in the clouds of heaven," and all Your maligned and afflicted, Your meek and contrite saints, along with You (Psalm 37:1-4).
II. But it is especially in its bearing on Caiaphas, His rude interlocutor, that this sublime reply is to be considered. The substance and theme of it, considered as material for consolation to the afflicted prisoner, might have served their object, and been, in the joy of them, sufficiently before Him in secret thought and meditation; and, indeed, how often is the Christian borne through a trying position by the hidden influence of considerations that strengthen his action into power or subdue his soul into patience, without the utterance or any manifestation to man, of what these considerations are. Thus the anticipation of His coming glory as the judge might have been cherished secretly in Jesus' mind, as the sufficiently counterbalancing consideration to the present shame. But for the sake of Caiaphas, and with a view to its bearing upon him and his responsibility, this awful thought must be expressed.
And as in reference to Jesus Himself this prospect held the place of a counterbalance or compensation, so in reference to Caiaphas the utterance of it ought, in the first place, to have served for an explanation; and, in the second place, to have been submitted to as an awful remonstrance; and failing these uses, in the third place, it sufficed as a closing remit, with certification, to the final decision, when the end shall come!
1. And in the first place, as an explanation, this solemn statement contained in it, if Caiaphas would but so have regarded and received it, no small amount of merciful design. For in thus addressing him, Jesus took out of the way a stumbling-block on which the high priest might be apt to fall, and on which, not having had it pointed out to him, he might have been afterwards disposed to rest his vindication. How can this be any other, he might be saying to himself, how can this be any other than some wild adventurer, some stray fanatic, practicing on the credulity of the people or practicing even on His own, in putting forward a claim so great as that of being the Son of God? If He really were so, how would His Father suffer Him to be in such lowly guise, in such deep distress and degradation? And would He not Himself have called legions of angels from heaven, rather than have fallen into our officers' hands, and allowed Himself to be dragged here as a prisoner? What, he might have said, turning to the afflicted humble man before him, What! shall one brought down into the depths so low as You, put forward claims so lofty? Are You not ashamed to call Yourself the Christ, the King of Israel, the Son of the Blessed, when thus fallen into disgrace, thus destitute of honor, wealth, friends, power, liberty; when thus impoverished, forsaken, sorrowful, a captive moving to and fro, a prisoner, a panel? How can such as You claim the sacred honor of Messiah's glorious name?
Jesus said to him, I am the Christ, the Son of the Blessed. It may seem inconsistent with this honor that I should be clothed with reproach and revilings. I may be humbled unto suffering and shame, and such humiliation may seem to prejudice, or even to extinguish, the evidence of My Divine Original and My Divine Commission. Nevertheless, I speak the truth—the truth that shall yet be vindicated from all suspicion, from all semblance of inconsistency; that shall yet be justified before all flesh, for "Hereafter you shall see the Son of man at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."
Now, viewed in this light, Christ's sublime reference to the future may be regarded as a very gracious interposition, fitted to save His persecutor from falling on what might naturally enough, in his state and temper of mind, have proved a stumbling-block. Jesus substantially reminds him that a state of suffering, yes, of shame, cannot in itself disprove the sufferer to be the Messiah; that, on the contrary, the Messiah of the prophets is to be identified expressly by sufferings, followed by glory (1 Pet. 1:11), and that the adverse hour in which He, this lowly and afflicted sufferer, now stands before His proud accuser, is one that shall be followed and be recompensed by a glory that shall sweep away the shame. Thus warned to judge on a larger basis of particulars, or on a fuller range of view, especially warned to leave room in his imagination for the countervailing facts that might yet occur to prove this lowly one no pretender, though all things do seem to be against Him now; and warned above all to admit the light of eternity and eternal judgments on this matter, Caiaphas might have escaped the snare of the devil. If he did not, it was not because an explanation was refused, an explanation that might have been serviceable, and ought to have been sufficient. Nor could he afterwards plead in self-defense the prisoner's shameful and forsaken estate; for he was assured that "nevertheless" He was the Christ, the Son of God, and should "hereafter" be vindicated as such on the throne of universal judgment, on the right hand of power.
2. But not only may this be regarded as a very important explanation set before the high priest's mind, well fitted to guide his judgment and modify his opinion: it ought to have been felt as a very solemn remonstrance to keep him back from his purposed line of proceeding. For just as Caiaphas might vindicate his own opinion in rejecting the claims of Jesus, on the ground of His evident humiliation and helplessness, so might he be justifying to himself his own conduct in condemning Him and compassing His death on the same grounds. Yes, in the bare fact that heaven interfered not to prevent him from executing his evil purpose might Caiaphas perversely read a sort of toleration for what he was about to do, or at least a proof that what he was about to do was nothing so dreadful as the crucifixion of the Lord's anointed. It seems very much to this state of mind, and which, in the essence of it, and in the principle involved, is by no means an uncommon one—that Christ's sublime expostulation addresses itself.
You may think that the very power you have over Me at present disproves My claims and allows you, at least, lightly to set them aside and follow your own desires and devices. You may suppose that were My claims really valid, were Messiahship Mine, and Sonship to God; My Father, who sent me into the world, would render it impossible for you to injure Me; would interpose for My relief; would force you to perceive your error and constrain you to abandon your course and case against Me. Nay; but it is not now that the irresistible demonstration shall be given. If you are resolved to reject Me now, you may: you shall be allowed to do so; yes, to condemn, to crucify, the Lord of glory. It is not yet that unquenchable conviction shall be flashed on the understandings of all men and disbelief rendered an absolute and physical impossibility. Your king comes to you now, meek and lowly. "He does not cry nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the streets." He speaks in a still small voice, the most powerful of all in convincing the meek and lowly, the humble and contrite in heart—the most effective in filling them with the full assurance of understanding and the infallible certainty of divine faith. But pride, and prejudice, and passion, these He will not perforce overrule or overwhelm. The proud shall have scope given them to err, to fall backward and be broken and be snared and taken, for the evidences of His truth and commission shall not be such as to compel and overbear men's convictions; nor are they such as will compel or overbear yours. The time for leaving you without even the semblance of objection, and without even the appearance of excuse, that time is not yet come. But it will come. Meantime, it would appear that nothing but irresistible restraint, nothing but overpowering physical control, can keep you from the guilt of imbruing your hands in innocent blood, the blood of the Christ, the Son of God! Be it known that no such restraint shall be exercised. You are allowed another sort of moral scope of action, another sort of moral play to your passions, than such limitation would allow. You may condemn Me and crucify Me. "Nevertheless, hereafter you shall see Me at the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven." Then there will be no more scope for error—no more freedom of your own will then. The overpowering convictions will then come, and the impossibility of doing Me injustice then! Meantime, though I summon not the right hand of power to free Me, nor gather round Me for concealment, nor for glory, the clouds of heaven now, still I say unto you, I am the Christ, the Son of God; and though this absence of forceful, physical, unsparing proof may embolden you to take such liberties with Me, "Nevertheless, I say to you, Hereafter"—it shall not be so.
And what but this is the style of remonstrance which the proud sinner needs again and again to have addressed to him? You seem to think sin is less sinful because it is left to your own option to sin. You think it cannot be so dreadful an evil or so infinitely hateful to God, else your way would be more effectually and painfully hedged up against it. If God's claims on you were really so strong as the Bible says, He would make it far more impossible for you to mistake or be misled concerning them. If this really were the Christ who is knocking at the door of your heart, the sound would be louder, or He would force an entrance without ceremony and without delay, and leave you not in doubt for a moment of His Messiahship and Sovereignty. But then you see nothing so striking, you hear nothing so overwhelmingly convincing. If a hand seems to be laid upon you to restrain you from iniquity, it is not so strongly laid upon you but you can contrive to shake it off. If you are forbidden to follow your evil courses, you are not so effectually prevented but that many an open door is still left before you. If this holy law of God asserts its prerogatives and claims, it speaks so quietly, it seems to be now in disguise, almost in disgrace. There is so little of the thunder and the lightning of Sinai: and the fence erected seems so easily broken through, that surely it could not be a Divine hand who placed it there. And then this law of God: it stands over you in the aspect of a judge, no doubt, but it seems so neglected; the multitudes around pay so little regard or respect to its demands—it seems almost, like Christ Himself, a prisoner at the bar, forsaken on all sides and wholly in your power. And the very option that you have of silencing its requirements and setting aside its honor almost emboldens you to do so with the hope of impunity, if not with the air of innocence itself.
3. Ah! but be it known to you, this is precisely the feature of a state of probation. For in reality it is far more Caiaphas that is on his trial than Christ. It is far more your moral state and temper and character before God that are tried and brought to light than the claims of that law and that God and Savior whom you refuse to hear, that Redeemer whom you may be even venturing to reject and crucify afresh. It is far more your probation than His that is in progress. And the very principle at work is this, that sin and disbelieve you may: it is in a sense allowed to you; there is scope and possibility for it. God will not interfere to overwhelm you into obedience or to constrain and compel your repentance and faith. No; you may do the evil, but it is with a drawback and a certification; it is with a "nevertheless" and with a solemn remit to the great "Hereafter." What! Do you think that because God has not made sin impossible, because you have it in your choice and power to sin, because between your purpose to sin and the action of sin He does not interflash His mighty hand, warning you back and keeping you perforce and physical restraint from achieving your designed iniquity; because you simply can sin and are not paralyzed before doing so, simply because God leaves it possible for you to sin and allows your sin to pass without immediate retribution, do you think on that account that the sin is less sinful or that you have done with it and it has done with you? No; the warnings of conscience may have been feeble; the restraints of providence may have been not insuperable; the strivings of the Spirit may have been quite resistible, and been by you effectually resisted, and so you have gone on your way. "Nevertheless, I say unto you, Hereafter . . ."
Ah! how often this takes place! Men would like to be prevented from sinning by sheer force: they will sin and sin and sin because God does not make it impossible for them to sin. Balaam was dealt with so as to make his sin all but literally impossible. The ass turned aside into the field, for she saw the angel's flaming sword, but Balaam smote her, and forced his way forward on his covetous and sinful mission. And again the ass bruised his foot against the wall. But again he urged on against all restraint. And once more the awe-stricken brute falls down beneath her secure, presumptuous master, and in that master's kindled wrath and madness he is well-near slain. Then "the dumb ass, speaking with man's voice, forbade the madness of the prophet." Last of all, his eyes being opened to see the angel of the Lord with a drawn sword, and the angel assuring him that he is come out to withstand him because his way is perverse, what says the wayward and the perverse prophet? "If it displeases you, I will turn back" (Num. 22:22-34).
"If it displease you"! Can he question that? And this conditional promise of obedience—"I will turn back if it displease you." Can he dare to put it in such a form? What does he mean but simply that he will cease from his perverse course only if God will make it utterly impossible for him to pursue it; that he will yet hold on if God will only withdraw his restraints and leave him an open path? Nothing but downright force will he yield to. Nothing but another peremptory command, backed by a freshly threatening wave and flash of the angel's sword before his face will secure his relinquishing the path of sin. No; God will not give him that. He has gotten exceedingly abundantly enough already to demonstrate that the course he has taken "displeases" the Lord. Any loyalty of heart towards Jehovah would have kept him clear and safe from evil from the first. But a heart at enmity to God leads him astray even to the end. For the heart of a child will accept the Father's will, though instructed only by His eye: "I will guide you with My eye." The heart of an alien, a stranger, or a foe, will withstand every influence and disobey if disobedience still be possible. Balaam will go because he is not sternly, and to the end, and forcibly prevented. And the angel retires and leaves the way open for him, and Balaam goes with the princes. "Nevertheless . . . hereafter!"
Forbearance now and judgment afterwards: these are the elements of a probationary state. There is no probation at all if faith is forced and disobedience rendered impossible. Men must have scope, amidst a varied play of interests and motives and temptations, to display what spirit they are of; and, alas! simply because they have scope for this they show that their spirit is evil. Because sentence against an evil work is not speedily executed, the children of men have their hearts fully set in them to do evil. "Nevertheless . . . hereafter!"
Yes, this drawback, this certification, this "Nevertheless," always accompanies sin. And well should it be weighed and pondered. No human eye beholds your secret wickedness: Nevertheless! Your godly mother's voice is silenced when she would dissuade; her kind hand, that never did you harm, is easily shaken off when it would in love detain you from going out on the evening's frolic and the folly, and you go: Nevertheless! Your own conscience speaks a little—at least a little—and you whistle as you go, to silence it, and brace yourself up to brush its remonstrances aside or put them down, and so, onward you go: Nevertheless! The clamor and the mirth of wild companionship gives you, in a little while, the victory over every scruple; and as the crackling of thorns under a pot, your mirthful voice is heard, loudest among the loud, where God is forgotten and the thought of living soberly and righteously and godly in this present evil world would be resented as impertinent if even mentioned among you, and you are all as joyous as if there were no "Hereafter." Nevertheless!
What! Is this worldliness—is this wickedness—all? Does it end here? Have you done with it? Rather, has it done with you? No, it meets you again. It treasures itself up; secretly, perhaps; steadily, however; growingly, accumulating; a cup filling up, filling up always, filling up silently; making no noise about it. "Nevertheless, hereafter, you shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, and every eye shall see Him, and those also who pierced Him shall wail because of Him." "Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth, and walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment." Always this "Nevertheless"—always that terrible "Hereafter." "Remember the days of darkness, for they shall be many."
But before the darkness comes you have today as a day of visitation. Jesus summons you now to examine and prove His claims—to search and try His power and willingness to bless you. He consents to put Himself, as it were, at the bar; and you are to pronounce on whether He shall have your acquiescence in His mission and His message; your acceptance of His terms and righteousness and grace; your reverence, your gratitude, your love. He will not overflash your whole soul with evidence of His infinite preciousness, and His infinitely perfect power to make you blessed. That style of convincing men pertains not to the dispensation of preliminary probation, but to final judgment. He will give you sufficient proof to satisfy every sincere inquiry. He will sufficiently dispel, or at least disarm, every semblance of a ground or reason for doubt. He will more and more fully advance your conviction to the full assurance of understanding. But if you refuse Him because He comes to you meek and lowly—not crying nor lifting up His voice—speaking only by His word, which you may silence, if you please, by shutting it and putting it away, or calling you only by His ambassadors, and these men of like passions with yourselves, mere earthen vessels, in which you may refuse to recognize divine treasure of excellency of power from on high, then you must be allowed your own way, even as a willful man will have his way. Only, in parting with you, Christ, by His word and Spirit and messengers, and vicegerent in your own conscience within—Christ in many ways protests, and remits you to the final judgment bar. He leaves you to your course, but it is with certification that the whole case must be overhauled again, where there shall be no more remitting of it, and no remission of sin; for "Nevertheless, Hereafter" you shall stand before the judgment-seat of Christ!
Ah, Caiaphas! you fancy that if this case were so important, visible beams of glory would glow around that prisoner's head, and flashing swords of wrath from heaven would warn you to lay no rude hand upon Him. No, but you must be allowed the liberty of sinning even this length, if your carnal mind in enmity against God will have it so; and only "hereafter" will it be suitable to give those vindications of the Son of God which you would demand as preliminary to your letting Him alone. But those vindications will come. He shall one day be the judge who is now at the bar. "Hereafter you shall see Him coming in the clouds of heaven."
And you, O unfixed and wavering, procrastinating soul! you are waiting for a better season, and a stronger influence, and a clearer demonstration that Jesus is the Christ; or at least for a more powerful conviction that an interest in Him is the one thing needful. Ah! you are waiting for the time when by some new and unheard-of instrumentality—some strange and weird influence, as of one rising from the dead—you will find it no more possible to waver or no more possible to wait. Beware! You have all the evidence and all the means you will ever have; and in waiting for something more to make your unbelief impossible, you are waiting for what will never come till the great and irretrievable "Hereafter." Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, now; and His true faith and holy religion is assuredly the one thing necessary, in however gentle strains it commends itself to your acceptance or however rude the repulses and refusals it consents to endure at your hands. You may refuse it; you may neglect the great salvation. You are at liberty, if you please, to overlook all the considerations whereby it can abundantly attest its intrinsic excellence, its exact suitableness and rich sufficiency. You may set aside the Messiah's claims. If you think that Baal is God you are not hindered from serving him; and if sin and the world be your chosen portion, it is not in the gospel to frighten you away by force. But you must carry with you, as a sting which can never be plucked out, this distressing drawback on your pleasures, which will embitter all your enjoyment of them as often as it is allowed to speak—this strange and painful and secret protest, which Christ nails on the door of that heart where He has knocked in vain—this ominous, this burdensome, this haunting "Nevertheless," this unsilenceable appeal, this inevitable complaint and remit, which always hands you onward to a dark "Hereafter." "Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth, and walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these things the Lord shall call you into judgment."
You may refuse to repent and believe the gospel. You may put away from you the call to take your Bible in your hand, and in your closet cry to Him who sees in secret, and there submit yourself to the Savior's righteousness and surrender yourself to the Savior's service. You may, time after time, reject the Christ. "Nevertheless!" "Hereafter!" "Hereafter you shall see Him sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven."
How very different is the style and kind of that "Hereafter" to which Jesus will point you, if you come to Him as a contrite and sincere believer, as an earnest soul seeking life and salvation, having done with all duplicity, desiring no more to deceive yourself, and resolved no more to be deceived! Are you thus in secret seeking the Lord? Have you made a point of truly considering Messiah's claims, treating Him not as a helpless prisoner at your bar but as He really is, your Lord and King? And have you sought an ear to hear and a heart to understand that gospel of salvation which was sealed in the depths of His abasement, that office of the priesthood, with all its riches secured for the poor by His poverty, by His unmurmuring obedience and silent suffering, even as a sheep before her shearers is dumb? Are you coming to Him sincerely, seeking to find Him that Christ to you which He has been to those who have put their trust in Him, who have looked to Him and been lightened, been unburdened, cleansed, comforted and blessed? And when invited to taste and see that He is gracious, do you without duplicity, and without delay, yield obedience to the call, "Come and see"? (John 1:46-51). Then the heart of Jesus yearns over you. Behold," says He, "an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile." Do you say to Him, "Rabbi, how do You know me?" Ah! long before they knew Him, "the Lord knows those who are His." "When you were under the fig tree I saw you." While your secret prayer ascended with groanings that could not be uttered; while your burdened soul labored to throw off its anxious load; when your weary wandering spirit first looked abroad, affrighted, on the ocean of influences and powers of the world to come on which it is afloat, seeking some polestar, seeking some chart, seeking some haven of rest, seeking some pilot skilled and powerful, gracious and faithful and true; when struggling with thoughts too great for you to understand and desires too deep for you to express; with questions of eternal interests fairly raised, and none but God now evidently able to solve them to your satisfaction and your salvation; when thus, as a little child, no longer bracing up in pride, or braving it out in presumption, but breaking down in helplessness and contrition, as one by father and by mother and by all forsaken, you fled to the Lord to take you up; then, "under the fig-tree," in that scene of tears, in that agony of thought, in that crisis of awakening, in that birth-place of faith and penitence, in that hour of prayer, "I saw you," says Jesus Christ the Lord. My Spirit it was who led you there and made intercession with those groanings which could not be uttered; and, unknown to you, I made you Mine; and now that you are taking Me as yours, is it not because "I prevented you in the day of your calamity," because "I considered your trouble and knew the soul in its adversity"—because I anticipated you secretly with My grace, and girded your soul in its weakness, and strengthened your soul in its woe?" Thus does the Savior reply to you. And now, recognizing Christ's kind and gracious eye as having been upon you in all your spiritual anxiety and prayers, and Christ's kind and gracious Spirit as having inspired and secretly guided and controlled them all, you say to Him, for a new light has broken over your own heart and history from Messiah's presence with you, and Messiah's glory falls upon all your life and destiny now: "Rabbi, You are the Son of God, You are the king of Israel!"
"And Jesus answered and said to him, Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig-tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these. Truly, truly, I say to you, Hereafter you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." Yes, your "Hereafter" shall be bright and brightening. It shall be like Jacob's, as infefted at Bethel into the Covenant of your God, into the family of grace, into the fellowship of heaven—that fellowship of the spirits of just men made perfect, and the innumerable company of angels, and the heavenly Jerusalem, and Mount Zion, the city of the living God; in which, living even now by faith as raised up together with Christ and made to sit with Him in heavenly places, you shall find the Son of God the medium and the mediator of all holy communion with your God and heavenly privileges with all the brethren, the strong Daysman in whom you have a constant standing in in heaven's favor, and the love and unseen service of heaven's ministering holy ones. "Hereafter" you shall have a growing insight into the intercourse which the Son of man is the medium and the means of maintaining between heaven and earth. "Hereafter" you shall see with growing clearness your own place in the household of faith, and the path of life (your own open path) onward and upward to the household in heaven.
Ah! this is another "Hereafter" such as the believer may delight to anticipate: very different indeed from that which was denounced to Caiaphas—no burdensome, no ominous, no heavy-sounding summons, coming forward as it were from the dark unknown, but a glad and delightsome thought, telling of the darkness as now passed and the true light now shining, and shining more and more unto the perfect day. Viewed in its large and truly comprehensive aspect, the believer's future, the believer's "Hereafter," comes on step by step, bringing with it nothing dreadful, nothing doubtful, nothing really to shrink from. "You shall guide me by Your counsel and afterwards receive me to glory." Even in your future course on earth, "Hereafter you shall see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of man." A stone may be your pillow—the cold earth your bed. You may be leaving your father's home and going to the land of the stranger. Nevertheless, in reality, your "Hereafter," in its spiritual essence, in its abiding elements, in its really great and important features, shall be a seeing more and more into heaven, as a home opened for you and kept open by the intervention of the Son of God, the King of Israel, in whom you are an heir of the kingdom and in whom you are truly blessed.
You must either side with Caiaphas in rejecting the Christ or with Nathaniel in receiving Him. Each of them has his "Hereafter." And the question is, which of these two "Hereafters" do you prefer? "Today, while it is called today," you have your choice! "Behold, now is the accepted time: behold, now is the day of salvation."
From The Shadow of Calvary, by Hugh Martin