Sunday, January 9, 2011

Endless Toil, Ceaseless Compassion

(Taken from The Gospel of Mark by Alexander Maclaren. 1826-1910)

When He (Jesus) would carry His wearied disciples with Him for a brief
breathing time to the other side of the sea, and get away from the
thronging crowd, 'the people saw Him departing, and ran afoot out of
all cities,' and, making their way round the head of the lake, were
all there at the landing place before Him. Instead of seclusion and
repose He found the same throng and bustle. Here they were, most of
them from mere curiosity, some of them no doubt with deeper feelings;
here they were, with their diseased and their demoniacs, and as soon
as His foot touches the shore He is in the midst of it all again. And
He meets it, not with impatience at this rude intrusion on His
privacy, not with refusals to help. Only one emotion filled His heart.
He forgot all about weariness, and hunger, and retirement, and 'He was
moved with compassion towards them, because they were as sheep not
having a shepherd, and He began to teach them many things.' Such a
picture may well shame our languid, self-indulgent service, may stir
us to imitation and to grateful praise.

There is only one other point which I touch upon for a moment, as
showing the toil of Christ, and that is drawn from another Gospel. Did
you ever notice the large space occupied in Matthew's Gospel by the
record of the last day of His public ministry, and how much of all
that we know of His mission and message, and the future of the world
and of all men, we owe to the teaching of these four-and-twenty hours?
Let me put together, in a word, what happened on that day.

It included the conversation with the chief priests and elders about
the baptism of John, the parable of the householder that planted a
vineyard and digged a winepress, the parables of the kingdom of
heaven, the controversy with the Herodians about the tribute money,
the conversation with the Sadducees about the resurrection, with the
Pharisee about the great commandment in the law, the silencing of the
Pharisees by pointing to the 110th Psalm, the warning to the multitude
against the scribes and Pharisees who were hypocrites, protracted and
prolonged up to that wail of disappointed love, 'Behold! your house is
left unto you desolate.' And, as though that had not been enough for
one day, when He is going home from the Temple to find, for a night,
in that quiet little home of Bethany, the rest that He wants, as He
rests wearily on the slopes of Olivet, the disciples come to Him,
'Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of
Thy coming?' and there follows all that wonderful prophecy of the
destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, the parable of the
fig tree, the warning not to suffer the thief to come, and the promise
of reward for the faithful and wise servant, the parable of the ten
virgins, and in all probability the parable of the king with the five
talents; and the words, that might be written in letters of fire, that
tell us the final course of all things, and the judgment of life
eternal and death everlasting! All this was the work of 'one of the
days of the Son of Man.' Of Him it was prophesied long ago, 'For
Jerusalem's sake I will not rest'; and His life on earth, as well as
His life in heaven, fulfils the prediction--the one by the
toilsomeness of His service, the other by the unceasing energy of His
exalted power. He toiled unwearied here, He works unresting there.

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