"As He Had Said"
Confidence in our Master
There is something very helpful when the words of a friend prove true in emergency. When we can look back along the way and can say that events have come to pass just like he said, it deepens and establishes our confidence in our adviser. We feel we have found a friend indeed whose word can well be relied upon.
In these few words "as he had said" the disciples put on record both their amazement and their satisfaction that their Master's words had been so fully verified. Along with him they had come up to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast ‑ a feast which was to remain the most momentous of all their lives. When the day for removing all leaven from their dwellings had come, Jesus selected Peter and John to go on a little in advance, to make ready the place where He purposed to bring his little band, so that, in its quiet seclusion, He and they could commemorate that never-to-be-forgotten night in Egypt. "Go and make ready for us the Passover, that we may eat," said Jesus to the chosen two. "But where shall we go, Master ‑ who shall we ask, about both the room and the food?" "Behold," said Jesus, "when ye have entered into the city, there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water. Follow him into the house where into he goes. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house. 'Where is the guest-chamber, where I shall eat the Passover with my disciples?' And he shall show you a large upper room furnished, there make ready."
To the disciples knowing no better this instruction may have seemed a most haphazard affair ‑ a kind of indefinite goose-chase; a situation which might not happen. Only time would show whether or not they were undertaking a fruitless journey and quest. But they had learned to have some respect for Jesus' word, and obedient to the command the two selected disciples went on their quest. As they entered the city gates, one of the first objects to attract their attention was a man bearing on his head a pitcher of water. The first stage of their instructions was verified. Whether by coincidence or accident, here was a man bearing a pitcher of water as Jesus had said.
Gathering confidence from this first verification of their Master's words, they followed the pitcher-bearer into the house. Explaining this unusual procedure, they told the master of the house that the "didaskalos" (master) had sent them to enquire: "Where is the guest-chamber where I can eat the Passover with my disciples?" Instead of meeting with rebuke for their unbidden entry, the goodman immediately led them up a flight of stairs, and showed them a large upper room furnished with couches, tables, ewers, bowls, which needed only to be set into position for the number expected to gather there. Again the Master's prescient words were fully verified, for here was indeed a room placed at their disposal, without restriction or impediment, and there they were able to "make ready", as Jesus had instructed them. Evidently also, provision was made for their eating too, for "making ready" implied more than the arrangement of the room.
This sequence of connected events made a deep impression on their minds Most certainly Peter felt the influence of the dovetailing stages of the event, sufficient to relate in later days the story to the Church as proof of his Master's Messiahship. From his lips, Luke, the writer of the narrative, obtained an unmistakable insight into the reaction on the hearts of Peter and John which the clear fulfilment of Jesus' words had produced. "They went, and found even as He had said to them." "Even as He had said!" The words may be Luke's, but the amazement and satisfaction was Peter's.
Something similar had occurred a few days previously, when Jesus and his little band were wending their journey to Jerusalem. "Go your way into the village over against you, in the which, as ye enter, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon no man ever yet sat, loose him and bring him. And if anyone ask you, 'Why do ye loose him?' thus shall ye say, 'The Lord hath need of him'." (Luke 19.29-31). The deputed messengers went over to the village, found the colt there, heard the very question, and were able to make the actual reply given to them by their Master, ". . . they that were sent, went away, and found even as He had said unto them".
Just how Jesus came to possess this foreknowledge it is not our purpose to discuss. It is the fact that events did come to pass even as He said they would that is of vital interest to us, just as it was to those early disciples; his words came true. They were fulfilled accurately and precisely. Men's actions and responses occurred in distant places, in full accord with what He said. It was this amazing fact that came to be noted with great satisfaction by the observant little band.
But there was motive and purpose in all these little episodes of life. Jesus was teaching them to believe on him; to take him at his word. He had said many other arresting things to them relating to future days. He had promised them a share with himself in Kingdom honours, and that, if they proved faithful under trial and test, they should be with him when He returned to restore Israel to their place in God's purposes. He had spoken of things associated with the "regeneration", when the Son of Man should sit on the Throne of his Glory (Matt.19.28), and the blessedness of those who should be accounted worthy to attain that age and the resurrection from the dead. These were tremendous things for them to learn, and they were intended to incite the little band to faithfulness and constancy. But these things lay some way ahead along the stream of time, and, as there was a dark future to intervene, the faith and confidence of even the best of them would be tried to the extreme.
They had great need to learn the lesson of trust and confidence in his spoken word. It was necessary to inspire in them the same kind of confidence concerning the bigger things, which they were showing in the smaller things. "Lord, increase our faith" was once their plea, and in these little episodes their Master was making his response to their prayer. He wanted them to accept and believe his words as words of authority and truth; hence, by act and voice he sought to teach them the elements of true faith. Little by little, in this and that experience, he laboured to create in them a deepening certainty that he himself knew fully the truth of those great things of which He spoke.
It was no easy thing to bring forth in these simple hearts the depths of faith commensurate with those eventful days. The nation from which they sprang had failed to appreciate the visit of the Dayspring from on high, and the prevailing unbelief could have been a stumbling block for this chosen few. Events were at hand which would strain their slender faith to the utmost extent. Jesus had said that "heaven and earth may pass away, but my words shall not pass away," yet within a few days they were to see him pass away, and heaven and earth and all his enemies remain.
To find things taking place "even as He had said", therefore, was valuable tuition as they neared the fateful hour when their Master was to be slain. This tuition may be classed as of elementary type, but it was intended to be introductory to the upper standard stage. "Go into the city, and ye shall find a room furnished" may be instruction of a kindergarten kind, but the simple and immediate was intended to lead on to the distant and profound. The same instructive principle was employed when He foretold the "kindly host" and "the waiting ass" as when he spoke of the Kingdom day. "Ye believe in God; believe also in me," He said, in that upper room, even after the shadow of death had fallen across the path. "Believe in me . . . believe in me, for the works I have done, even if not for the words I have spoken," was frequently the theme of his utterances.
Shortly after listening to their Master's caring words the little group fell into deep perplexity and distress. Their Lord and Master was put to death. Their hopes were rudely dashed. "We trusted that He should have redeemed Israel," was their downcast reply. "We trusted!" That slender trust lay crushed and withered, though not quite dead! But when He came triumphant from the tomb they called to mind what He had said before He died. They remembered that He had said He would rise again from the dead. And then, when they beheld him, even as He had said they would, the good seed He had sown in their simple hearts sprang forth to rich fruitage of confidence and trust. From that time forward they had no further doubts or immature faith. They believed him now and in their hearts that deep deposit of faith was laid which has grown into the unwavering confidence and trust of the Christian Church. From their inspired and inspiring words believers of many generations since, have learned to take the words of the Blessed One "even as He said".
There are many ways today in which we may take these simple words and apply them to our own state. The blessed lips spoke many things of this our day; of things about to come to pass, of wars and sorrows and distress; of signs and tokens marking an old world's death, and telling of a new world's birth. His words may seem to us hard to place and difficult to understand, but He wants his waiting people to believe that all these words will surely be fulfilled, "even as He had said". The important feature of such belief lies in the fact that when He comes again there would be but little true faith in the earth (Luke 18.8). Many hearts, once believing, will have grown cold and apathetic towards the Lord and towards the brethren everywhere (Matt.24.12). Disbelief, not faith, will characterise the day of his return, hence but few will be able to appreciate his words and expect them to be fulfilled even as He said. For some, the non-fulfilment of former expectations will prove a severe test to faith. The lengthening time of tarrying here, when all had expected long ago to be gathered to the Lord may be a matter difficult to understand. Disappointment over the protracted delay may be a handicap to faith, but through it all, the Overseer of our lives desires us to take it all on trust. He wants us to believe that the sequence of "Parousia" events will come to pass even as He said, and that if our expectations have not been in full harmony with what He said, by re-attention to his words He wants us to understand that events will come to pass "even as He had said". Such re-scrutiny of his words will result, not in loss of faith, but in its increase. Come to pass they will, and no power on earth can stay their coming for a single day. Some great event, at an appropriate time, will bring the key to unlock the mystery, and as we pass through that event, we shall then stand in holy awe and reverent appreciation of all that He has said. We shall then learn that what He has said was sure and true.
Meantime, to keep our faith alive, and help us wait in patience for the consummation of our desires, our Lord said He would be with his people to the end of the Age. Some have lost faith in this providential presence of their Lord. The chilling influence of dispensational disappointment has dampened the warmth and enthusiasm of many hearts, and with this damping down has gone, in many cases, the quick responsiveness to the shepherd care of the Lord. The disturbed state of mind has led to a disturbed state of heart, which, in its turn, has led to a less reverential and worshipful attitude before the Lord. And thus the many tokens of the loving Shepherd's care are overlooked and become, in time, no longer expected or desired. In this refrigerated state of heart, the little tender endearments of the Lord produce no salutary effect, and joy and happy praise then very quickly decay.
If we had continued to believe that the Christian life would be "just as He had said" it would, this sad consequence could not have come about. We begin the sad decline by forgetting what He has said along pastoral lines, concentrating more upon what He said along dispensational lines. Then when our incorrectly drawn conclusions fail to correspond with the drift of dispensational events, the balance in our hearts is gone. Longing for his appearing has out-weighed the longing for his caress, and when the tokens of his "Parousia" are slow to materialise, the tokens of his shepherding become less apparent as well.
The ripened faith that can trust under darkening skies is not of mushroom growth. It does not grow, like Jonah's gourd, in a single night. It is a balanced thing ‑ a deep assurance that can feed as well on the shepherd care as on the dispensational event. It accepts as fully all that He has said about the pastoral care as about the "Parousia" event. This balanced faith is the most desirable thing in the Christian heart, for when the dispensational fulfilment seems slow to come, it still can feed on the lush grass beside the gently flowing waters of his Providence. The Shepherd still is near. It is better to walk in the dark with him, than to go alone in the light. TH