The Personal Service of Christ

Edward Robinson, Exmouth

Category: Exposition

During the life on earth of the Lord Jesus, we read of those who came under His personal ministration. Many were sick in body; there were those raised from the dead; some were sorrowing, as the two going to Emmaus, unaware of His glorious resur­rection. Now ascended and exalted, He lives and serves in intercession having an unchangeable priesthood. This we gladly receive, and are pre­served each in our measure of service to God and to Christ. But there is something peculiarly precious today in coming under the present personal service of Christ. Of course, at con­version we each had personal dealings with the Lord when we came to know Him as Saviour, but since, how much do we know of coming under this ministration? This communion with Him in the everyday pathway is open to any simple believer, not just to some who may have advanced further in the understanding of the truth. Let us look at three instances of such a service of Christ to His own after His resurrection as recorded in John's Gospel.

(1) Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb while it was still dark, 20. 1 : because of the divine intervention, she found the stone had been taken away from the sepulchre, of which she in­forms Peter and John. We read later, "the disciples went away again unto their own home", "But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping", vv. 10,11. There is here a contrast, and a lesson for us. Affection reaches things first: Mary sees more than Peter and John had seen. They had no vision or communication with the two angels in white to whom Mary says, "they have taken away my Lord", v. 13; she had said earlier to the two disciples that they had taken away the Lord, only a slight difference but not without significance. Similarly, it is re­corded that the two disciples ran both together "and the other disciple {whom Jesus loved) did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre", v. 4. The divine Author of the Scriptures does not put everything on the surface, as He says, "It is the glory of God to con­ceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter", Prov. 25. 2. The disciples may have had greater intelligence, but Mary, marked by spiritual instincts and great affection for the Lord, remains at the sepulchre. She sees Jesus whom she thinks to be the gardener and says, "Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away". (One Person only filled her mind : she does not name Jesus). The Lord asked why she wept (but under­stood fully) and then says only one word, sufficient to enlighten her, "Mary". She turns, also with one word full of meaning "Rabboni", John 20. 15, 16. Others had addressed Him as Rabbi (Master) but she as my Master (Teacher), surely an outstanding in­stance of the way the Lord Jesus answers to affection by making Him­self known and indeed serving one to whom He means so much. He then entrusts her with that great weighty and meaningful message to His own, "go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God," v. 17. In this way would He honour one who may have had but an insig­nificant place amongst those to whom the message was sent.

(2) Still on that eventful first day of the week, Jesus comes to the assem­bled disciples and shows to them His hands and His side, they being glad when they saw the Lord, vv. 19, 20. But Thomas, called Didymus (a twin), was not with them on the occasion and would not believe their testimony to the resurrection of Jesus. How much we may miss if we fail to be present (when possible) at the celebration of the Lord's Supper; this was in­augurated in divine wisdom, and is an occasion calculated to rally in a fresh way our affections for the Lord Him­self. Again, in the faithfulness of His grace, Jesus comes to them the follow­ing week and Thomas is found amongst them, v. 26. The Lord re­membered that in spite of his unbelief, Thomas in true affection had said to the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him", 11. 16. It is a great encouragement for us though we may fail; the Lord, in His grace, will perhaps single us out for His personal service towards us. He invites Thomas to put his hand into the print of the nails and his hand into His side. No wonder Thomas is broken down, and the ex­perience doubtless left him greater in true affection for the Lord than before his reaction to the joyful news of the resurrection. He now responds spon­taneously with what can only be des­cribed as a deep note of worship, "My Lord and my God".

(3) Again there is a manifestation of the Lord when seven disciples, in­cluding Peter and Thomas, are to­gether and Peter proposes that they go fishing. It is a fruitless expedition until under the direction of the Lord they catch 153 great fishes. What a differ­ence when we bring Him into our cir­cumstances ! No doubt this great num­ber (so exactly specified) is figurative of the converts {great fishes) of Peter and Andrew to whom He said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men", Matt. 4.18,19. This manifestation, it is stated, is now "the third time that Jesus showed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead", John 21. 14. In the following verses 15-22, Peter has a private interview with the Lord. Three times he had denied his Lord, and three times the Lord asks him, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?". This passage illus­trates the force of the two Greek words phileo and agapao for "to love", and Peter's replies to the questions. Each time he uses the former word (which might be translated "thou knowest that I am attached to thee"), whereas the Lord on the first two occasions uses the latter word (agapad), but on the third time comes down to the word used by Peter. The disciple is com­missioned to feed His lambs and His sheep. The true basis for thus serving the Lord and His people is therefore personal affection and attachment to Christ Himself.