George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
The Ladder of Promise
I will love him, and will manifest myself to him .... we will come unto him, and make our abode with him--Joh 14:21-23
The Ascending Scale of Promise
Out of all the riches of these verses, let us take what the Lord says about Himself. Let us select the words He uses of Himself. We may not disentangle in experience the acting of the Father and the Son, but often we may disengage in thought what we cannot disentangle in experience. So here we may reverently lay aside, in thought, what the Lord says about the Father and think only of what He says about Himself. When we do that, how beautiful it grows! We see a gradually ascending scale of promise. We see the Master adding thought to thought till He reaches at last a magnificence of climax. And all this in glorious response to the great waves of doubt and depression which must have rolled over the hearts of His disciples. Let us try, then, to view this ladder of promise from their standpoint.
His Departure Did Not Separate Them from His Love
I take it that the primary dread within their hearts was that, departing, He would cease to love them. He was going away far beyond their presence, and His love would be nothing but a memory. So long as He had companied with them, His love had made all the difference in the world. It had wrapped them round and sheltered them. It had been their refuge and their tower. Now He was about to leave them--to pass over into another realm--and that love would be nothing but a memory. They knew perfectly that for full rich life something more than memory is needed. Left with memories of love and nothing more, how could they be strong to face the future? And then the Lord said (for He knows our thoughts), "Children, I will love you, in the future just as in the past." His love was not to cease when He was slain. It was not to cease when He went home to heaven. It was to be as real, as watchful, and as comforting as in the dear dead days beyond recall. What a joyful message for these poor disciples aware that something awful was impending, dreading the bitter thought of separation!
His Love Would Manifest Itself to Them
Then would follow another wave of doubt: He will love us, but shall we ever know it? Separated from us and far away in glory, if He loves us shall we be conscious of it? Many a congregation loves its minister, but it never tells him of that love. Many a husband loves his wife, but the years go by and the husband never utters it. And I suppose the disciples, in that parting season when their Lord assured them He would love them still, fell to doubting if they would ever know it. When He was with them, they knew it every hour. He showed His love in innumerable ways. Now He was going home, and though He loved them still, would there be any apprehension of that love? And it was then that the Lord, the Master of the heart and of all the swift questionings of the heart, said, "Children, I will manifest Myself to you." That is, not only was He going to love them, but He was going to show them that He loved them. He was going to make His love as clear and manifest as in the days when He walked with them in Galilee. And one can picture the gladness of His own and the new light that would leap into their eyes when they heard that second promise of their Lord.
His Promise to Come to Them Personally
But a new wave was on the point of breaking. Doubts and difficulties had not vanished yet. Would the showing of His love include His presence? If not, the past was richer than the future. Men can tell their love by letter. They can tell it and be a thousand miles away. Many a young fellow in the war did that, and the letters are cherished to this hour. At home and living in the house, they never told their mothers how they loved them, but they wrote it from faraway places. Now try to get inside the hearts of the disciples; they were hearts extraordinarily like our own. Would they not instantly begin to speculate how the Lord was going to show His love? And I daresay, being Jews, they thought of the mediators of the ancient law, and began dreaming of angelic messengers. Tidings would be flashed from far away. White-robed ministers would bring the news. The Lord, remote, in the land of the far distances, would have His means of showing that He loved them. And immediately every one of them would feel that this was something less than the dear past when they had His presence in the fields of Galilee. Then, in early morning, He had come to them. He had come to them across the sea. He had come in the hour of their utmost need as from the mountain of Transfiguration. And our blessed Lord, understanding perfectly these thoughts that were surging in their hearts, said thirdly, "Children, I will come to you." I am not going just to send a message, telling you that My love is still unaltered. I am not going to commission any angel. As in the old days, when My presence went with you and gave you rest, I am going to come to you Myself.
His Promise Was to Come and Stay
But when we love somebody very much it is not enough that he should come to us. We want him--do we not?--to stay with us. Now, then, think of these disciples. The Lord had promised that He would come to them. But if He came and swiftly went away again, how their house would be left unto them desolate! And yet what more could they expect, a little band of very lowly folk, now that their Master was the King of glory? If the government was on His shoulder, if He was seated at the right hand of power, if He was in control of the whole universe and Captain of the hosts of heaven, how much of His time could they expect, a little handful of humble Galileans? At the most, a brief glance, a passing word--and before, they had had Him all the time. At the most, a coming for a few blessed moments, followed by the sadness of farewell. And then the Lord, reading all their thoughts and, it may be, smiling at their childishness, said, Children, I will abide with you. I will love you. Yes, Lord, we believe it, but what if we should never know it? I will show my love to you. Yes, Lord, we believe it, but Thou mightest be very far away and show it. I will come to you. Yes, Lord, we believe it, but think of the darkness when Thou goest away again. Foolish children, I will abide with you. There is nothing more to be said. It is all there. Love's questionings and anxieties are silenced. The ladder of promise is complete.
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