George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
The Winsomeness of Jesus
And all...wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth--Luk 4:22
Christ's Manner Was Gracious
Our text tells us that the words of Christ were gracious words, and in every sense of the word gracious that is true. But the exact meaning of the terms which are here used is a little different from what we commonly imagine. His hearers were not referring to Christ's message; they were referring rather to Christ's manner. They marveled, not at the grace of which He spake; they marveled at the grace with which He spake. In other words, what so arrested them as they gathered round and listened to the Master was what I would call the winsomeness of Jesus. It is on that theme I wish to dwell. I desire to speak on the winsomeness of Christ. I shall try to unveil to you a little of that charm which was so characteristic of the Lord. And I shall do so in the one hope--to use the prophetic words of the old psalmist--that we may behold the beauty of the Lord.
Winsomeness Radiated from His Whole Life
You will note that this winsomeness of Jesus was not by any means confined to His discourse. It was in His speech that men felt the spell most powerfully, but it radiated out from His whole life. The moment He was baptized, on to the last agony on Calvary--at the marriage feast--at the table of Zacchaeus--out in the meadows where the lilies were--everywhere, in every different circumstance, men felt not only the holiness of Jesus; they were arrested also by His winsomeness. It was indeed this very winsomeness that was a stumbling block to godly Jews. It was so different from all that they had read of in the men whom God had sent to be His messengers. Had Christ been stern, and lived a rugged life, and dwelt apart in fellowship with heaven, they would have been swifter to recognize His claims. It was in such guise the ancient prophets lived. It was in such guise that John the Baptist lived. He was a rugged man of fiery speech, and he fared coarsely, and loved to be alone. And then came Jesus moving with delight among the homes and haunts of common people, and what I say is that this very winsomeness was a perpetual riddle to the Jews. They could not understand His childlike interest in every flower that made the meadow beautiful. They could not understand His love for children nor His quiet happiness in common life. Reverencing the old prophetic character as that of the true messenger from God, they were baffled by the winsomeness of Jesus.
Winsome in Spite of His Stupendous Claims about Himself
Now if you wish to feel the wonder of that winsomeness there are one or two considerations which are helpful. You have to think of it, for instance, in connection with the stupendous claims which Jesus made. One of the commonest features of the winsome character is a certain delightful and engaging diffidence. It is extremely rare to discover charm in anybody who seems a stranger to the grace of modesty. And though of course not for a single instant would I suggest that Christ was such a stranger, yet the fact remains that there never lived a man who made such amazing and stupendous claims. "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me" (Joh 14:6). Tell me, was there ever heard from human lips such amazing and unbounded self-assertion? And the wonderful thing is that with a note like that ringing like a trumpet through the ministry, men should still have felt that Christ was winsome. The fact is that unless Christ had lived men would have called His character impossible. So to assert, yet all the while to charm, is almost beyond credence psychologically. And it is just this glorious self-assertion sounding through the ministry of Christ that makes His winsomeness to thinking men such a baffling and amazing thing.
Winsome in Spite of His Loyalty to Truth
Again the wonder of Christ's winsomeness is deepened when we remember His loyalty to truth. Christ did not say, "I speak the truth"; He said, "I am...the truth." Now it is one of the sad things about the winsome character that it is not always the most truthful character. There is often more of truth in the blunt man than there is in the charming and attractive man. The former takes a sturdy pride in telling out exactly what he thinks; the latter, by his very temperament, is in peril of prophesying smooth things. When truth is unpleasant, the winsome character is continually under temptation to conceal it. There may still be a compliment upon the lip, although there is a curse within the heart. And that is why men are generally readier to trust one who is bold and blunt and rugged than one whose distinguishing attribute is charm. They have a lurking conviction that the winsome man, for all his winsomeness, is not quite sincere. They question if he be really genuine when in every society he is so delightful. And this is the wonder of Christ's winsomeness, not that men felt it and acknowledged it, but that they felt it in One who stirred them to the deeps by His passionate loyalty to truth. "I am ... the truth," said Jesus Christ; and He lived that out to the last syllable. Not by a hairbreadth did He ever swerve from all that had been given Him from heaven. And the strange thing is that, with such sublime fidelity to Himself and His brother and His God, He should yet have been so infinitely winsome. "We beheld his glory," says the Apostle John, "and it was full of grace and truth." That was the wonder of it in apostolic eyes, and that has been the wonder of the ages. There are men who are splendidly truthful and not gracious. There are men who are finely gracious and not truthful. This was the wonder of the Son of God, that He was full of grace and truth.
Winsome in Spite of His Trials
The wonder of that winsomeness is deepened also by the experiences of Christ's life on earth. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and men hid as it were their faces from Him. Had He always lived among the hills at Nazareth we might more easily have understood His charm. Dreaming His dreams there, where the world was beautiful, we might have expected a character of beauty. But Christ deliberately left that quietude, and flung Himself into the battle of humanity, and it is when we think how awful was that battle that we marvel to find Him winsome still. If ever there was a life to make one stern, it was the life that Jesus had to live. It was so hard, so misinterpreted, so ringed about with diabolic malice. Yet in spite of every lip that taunted Him, and every heart that hungered for His tripping, Christ never lost, whether in word or deed, the winsomeness that so attracted men. To be suspected as Jesus was suspected is not the common road to charm of character, it is not often that life blossoms out in an atmosphere of suspicion and of treachery. Yet every day Christ rose, there were the Pharisees, and there was Judas with his eyes of malice, and men said; "He is mad; he hath a devil"--and Jesus through it all was winsome still. Still had He eyes for the lilies of the field. Still was He happy in the home at Bethany. Still was He in love with little children, and happy-hearted and pitiful and courteous. It is this contrast between the outward lot and the infinite and inward grace of the Redeemer that makes so wonderful to thinking men what I call the winsomeness of Christ.
The Moral Beauty of Christ
Observe too, that to the very end Christ never lost that moral beauty. It did not pass away as the dew passes, under the burning heat of the high sun. I know few things in life more saddening than to meet again some comrade of our youth, and to discover how the years have marred the likeness which we cherished in our memory. As we remember him, in school or college, he was one of the most delightful of companions. There was a charm in him, a happy winsomeness, that made him a universal favorite. And now after the lapse of years we meet him again, it may be unexpectedly, and we discover, in an afternoon, that the years have robbed him of his best. He is no longer the happy-hearted comrade whom we remember in the golden days. He is irritable or heavy-hearted now, or he is worldly and cynical and bitter. Everybody called him winsome long ago; nobody could call him winsome now. He has gone out to his battle with the world, and the grim world has beaten him. My brother, Jesus Christ entered that battle, and for Him the struggle was terrific. And it grew fiercer every year He lived, till the last hour of agony and blood. And I shall tell you what convinces me that He came out victorious at the end: it is that on to the end He never lost the sweet and winsome beauty of the morning. No bitterness, even in the thick of it. No cynicism, even at the darkest. No cold suspicion of His brother man, though He knew man as he was never known. No forfeiting of deep and happy peace; no dimming of the mystic radiance, even when under the olives of Gethsemane the bloody sweat was dropping to the ground. With words of grace His ministry began, and there were words of grace upon the cross. With a deed of grace His ministry began, and there were deeds of grace in the resurrection garden. I want you to feel as you have never felt before the magnificent persistence of Christ's winsomeness, that you may be ashamed at what the years have been plundering from you.
The Importance of the Home
Now if you ask me what were the sources of this unequalled winsomeness of character, I think I should answer that they were chiefly two, and the first was the influence of home. We do not know much about the home in Nazareth--God in His wisdom has hung a veil on that--but we know enough from the Gospels to assure us that it was a home of happiness and peace. Martin Luther could never think of home without a certain shuddering of heart. There was no gladness for him in his Pater Noster, so loveless were his memories of his father. But Jesus, all through His stormy years, turned to His home with infinite delight, and clothed His deepest thoughts of God and man in the tender and sweet memories of Nazareth. There had He seen the woman sweep the house. There had He watched the hands that used the leaven. There had He learned, with innocent, childish lips, to run to the workshop and cry Abba Father. Out in the battle, with evil eyes upon Him, His thought went flashing back to happy Nazareth, and at the darkest He never lost His winsomeness, because He never lost the influence of home. There are homes where it is well-nigh impossible that the children ever should be winsome. There is so much bitterness in them, so much worldliness, so much unkindly and unguarded talk. There is so little of that gracious reverence that ought to encircle the great years of childhood, when the foot of the angel is still upon the ladder, and every bush is burning with its God. Out of such homes may come successful men, or smart and clever and fashionable women; but never, from such a barren childhood, is there built up the temper that is winsome. It takes a Mary to make a winsome son. It takes a home of reverence and of love. It takes a depth of fatherhood and motherhood that has never lost the hallowing of prayer. Men marveled at the grace with which He spake, and they said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" That was their difficulty, and, as often happens, at the heart of the difficulty was the explanation. They would have marveled less had they but known how quietly beautiful was that home in Nazareth, where those lips which were to draw the world stammered the first syllables of speech.
The Importance of Fellowship with the Father
But the winsomeness of Jesus had another source than the kindly influence of Nazareth. It was His knowledge of the Heavenly Father and His unbroken fellowship with Him. It was Charles Kingsley, was it not, who as he lay dying was heard murmuring, "How beautiful God is!" His heart was quieted in the dark valley by his vision of the beauty of the Lord. And no one, I think, can read the Gospel story and learn what Jesus saw of the divine, without echoing the words of Kingsley, and murmuring, "How beautiful is God." One would not call the God of Sinai glorious. He dwelt in the light that no man could approach, and He was infinite in holiness and majesty. But the God of Jesus is something more than that, as every page of the four Gospels shows us. He is not only infinitely holy, He is also infinitely winsome. He does not dwell apart in awful majesty; it is He who clothes the lilies of the field. His care is not limited to mighty empires; it is He who caters for the sparrow. And He makes the rain to fall on the evil and the good, and when we ask for bread He will not give a stone, and He has a ring and a robe and a sweet kiss of welcome for the poor battered son from the far country. Aristotle pictured an ideal man, and one of his marks was that he should never run. But the father, when he saw the prodigal far off, ran and fell upon his neck and kissed him. My brother, do you not feel the charm in that--the charm that has wooed and won through all the ages? There is more than authority in such a God; there is the grace of winsomeness as well. Christ felt, as man had never felt, the unsurpassable winsomeness of God. To that He clung with a faith which never faltered, in the teeth of everything that contradicted it. And I think it was that winsomeness of God, learned in the intimacy of a perfect sonship, that was one secret and unfailing spring of the winsomeness of our Redeemer. If God be holy, and nothing else than holy, those who trust in Him will be holy. His righteousness may make them righteous. It takes a God of love to make men lovable; a God of perfect grace to make them gracious. So that God in His infinite glory must be winning if men who know His name are to be winsome. It was that discovery which Jesus made. He walked in sonship with a winning God. All that He had ever seen at home was reinforced by what He saw in heaven. Until at last, reflecting as a mirror the sweet and kindly fatherhood of God, He lived in a winsomeness the world could never give, and at its dreariest could not take away. We cannot hope to repeat that. It is too high and wonderful for us. But at least we can pray, as the psalmist prayed of old, "Let the beauty of the Lord be upon us." And so it may be that as the days go by, not without many a pitiable failure, we too may come to show a little of the winsomeness of our Master and our Lord.
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