Our blessed path, while waiting for God's Son from heaven, is to feed upon Him as the living bread. In the midst of the toils, and tossings, and buffetings which belong to God's people in this world, where they must be for a little while, He gives Himself as the food of our hearts, and all that He was as a man here below becomes most precious to us. We must see Him crucified to be able to feed upon Him as the incarnate Saviour.
In the gospel of Luke you get the Lord Jesus especially brought before you as the Son of man. I have often remarked the contrast there is between John's gospel and Matthew's. In John's gospel He is the Son of God - a divine Person. Whether in Gethsemane or on the cross you get no suffering at all. It is the same scene, and you will find that, when the band of men come to take Him, He says, "I am He." They fell to the ground when they heard this, and if He had walked away He might have left them lying there; but He gave Himself up freely to them, and shows His loving care of His disciples by saying, "If ye seek me, let these go their way." He puts Himself forward in the gap that they might escape.
When on the cross you do not get in John's gospel any mention of "Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" He gave up His own Spirit. He said, "It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost." In Matthew you get the other side in Gethsemane, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me," etc.; and on the cross, "Why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
When I turned to Luke, I was struck in reading what might appear a difficulty to the mind. It brought out Christ in a special way, so I speak of it now. In Luke's gospel you have more suffering in Gethsemane than in any other gospel, and on the cross none at all. Why is this? Why do I find Him on the cross above it all? It brought home to my soul all the blessed truth of how thoroughly He was man. "Handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have." He would have us remember this. He wants us to recollect for the precious comfort of our souls how perfectly He is man. (See chap. 22:39.) He went as He was wont to the mount of Olives, and when He was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast He kneeled down and prayed. In Luke you find Him constantly praying as man. Perfect man, obedient and dependent. We get Him all night in prayer to God in Luke 6:12. We get Him again going up into a mountain to pray, and as He prayed He was transfigured. (9:28.) Here He prays, saying, "Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup." Mark, then, how in this gospel you get more development of the sufferings of Christ in Gethsemane than in any other.
"Being in an AGONY He prayed more earnestly." The more He felt the depths of this dreadful cup the more earnestly He prayed. With us too often the trouble that fills our minds turns us away from God, but it drew His soul out as man more earnestly, and brought Him to God. "His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. . . . And when He . . . was come to His disciples, He found them sleeping for sorrow." The poor disciples were sleeping for sorrow, while He was praying more earnestly in an agony.
We have here a threefold picture of man. In the disciples we see what man is in his infirmity; in Judas, man in his hatred and wretched wickedness; and in Christ, man in His perfection. When we come to the cross we find no trace of the agony or sorrow. He had gone through it all in spirit in Gethsemane, and He is above it all. (I am not speaking now of His atoning work, for we do not get that here.) There is no mention of the cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Here I find the perfectness of Christ as man. "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit." You have the perfect unclouded consciousness of the Man giving up His spirit in full confidence to His Father. You see that characterizes all that Christ was on the cross. (See chap. 23:34.) We see Him entirely above all the circumstances by which He was surrounded, so completely above them that His occupation is with others. His first word is, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
The wretched malice and wickedness of man had led Him to His crucifixion, but the poor Jews did not know what they were doing.
It is not judgment here, not simply a divine Person suffering as a man yet above it all, but one who could say, "Father, forgive them." Go through all the insults here recounted which they heaped upon Him. They parted His raiment and cast lots; they derided Him, saying, "He saved others; let Him save Himself?" The soldiers also mocked Him, and the very malefactors railed on Him, and what do I find? That He is above it all. He can turn to the poor thief beside Him with these words, "Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise." There was a blessed work going on in the poor malefactor's heart when he said, I am dying, and You are dying, but "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom."
The Lord could tell this poor thief TODAY, though he had asked Jesus to remember him when He returned in His kingdom. He believed in the kingdom when the King was rejected. Blessed faith! But the Lord was now showing the present place He was taking as man, and that he should not wait for that day of manifested glory, but that very day he should be with Him in paradise. Blessed compassion of the spirit of the man Christ Jesus.
"And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness." In this gospel the blessed truth in Matthew and in Mark is passed over when He uttered that wondrous cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Here we find that "when Jesus had cried with a LOUD voice" (which is specially noted here), He said, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit," shewing, as a man, perfect faith and confidence in His Father. If we have seen Jesus at the right hand of God, we can say as Stephen did, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit"; but He could say, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit." This blessedness He had as man, that passing through the bitterness of the cup of wrath, we see Him go into its fullest depths. The agony such that His sweat was as it were great drops of blood, yet He passed through it all with God, so that when He came to the cross we find no mention of suffering. He is above it all!
In a certain sense this is our place, if we could only be like Him. In our little conflicts and little sorrows, if we go through every trial with God beforehand, as He did, we shall have all settled according to God, and be really above the trial when it comes. Ours are little trials, no doubt, when compared with His; still they test us and try us; but the principle is the same. We have to follow in His steps. He had but one path, and whatever the sorrow or trial may be, if we could only go on through it with God, even if it put us into an agony as it may (for presenting it to God makes it more acute), still, if I carry my agony to God, I shall be quite above the circumstances, having gone through them perfectly with God. As we see in the epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 2, He was the perfectly tried One, but always perfect in the trial. All is perfect in Him, and it does us good to meditate upon Him; to study what Christ was. "He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him." If we want to be like Him, we must see Him as the bread that came down from heaven. In studying what Christ is, we are taught by the Spirit of God. If you want to get the graciousness of Christ, if you want to grow in likeness to Him, you must feed upon Him. "Being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
The Lord give us to feed upon Christ, and to dwell continually with Him, to get our hearts filled with the consciousness of what the Lord was, that we may be able more and more to understand the love and grace of God! J. N. Darby. (1868).