"Follow thou Me."

Substance of an Address at Rothbury,

6th August 1945.

Scriptures read: John 21 and Revelation 3:20.

I see no reason to depart from the usual interpretation of this passage of Scripture (John 21); but I wish to give it a special application, and I am assured as "By faith our eyes are seeing Christ at Thy right hand in heaven," it is a legitimate one.

The passage, as usually taken, is prophetic, and refers to the great Gentile gathering in the last days. I doubt not the 153 fishes refer to 2 Chronicles 2:17-18. All is on earth of course: there are seven disciples, a spiritually complete number of Israel will be the fishers. Their boat will not sink, nor their nets break, as in Luke 5. Neither will the haul be put into the boat, but dragged to the shore. But it is at the crisis of the history I would touch it.

They had toiled all night, the risen Saviour stood on the shore in early morn. Had they any meat? "No." "And He said to them, Cast the net at the right side of the ship and ye shall find." Now they can no longer draw it for the multitude of fishes. "It is the Lord" says the disciple whom Jesus loved, first now manifested in this character so familiar to us. Now, brethren, what have we to show for our fishing during the night of His absence? Look at the professing Assembly. Is it not enough to humble us? Unless we take sectarian ground, it is impossible not to be humbled. Where is "His beautiful flock?" What permanency has there been? Has not the history been one of defection, scattering and sorrow from this point of view? Deeply so: indeed, it is just this very thing, pressed upon the spirit, which finds its answer in this passage. What have we? Nothing: my heart thoroughly submits itself to the thought, the conviction. But, "I know WHOM I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." And what at once comes before the heart? A glorious work is going on from the right hand of God, where Christ sits. The net is full: no breaking there; nor is the haul put into a boat. Never mind our little "administrations," brethren. I believe we can get obsessed with them — a subtle form of selfishness and indeed, sectarianism. We are passing — administratively, so to speak, from this scene; and as one passing thus obtains a view of what is unseen to mortal vision, so may we indeed get one of that glorious "administration of the fulness of times," when "He will gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and on earth: in Him."

Nor do I say these things to, for one moment, weaken our necessary, absolutely necessary, separation from evil on the one side, and the thorough and honest recognition of the unity of the assembly on earth on the other. Indeed, the whole thought of such separation is that we may truly recognise, and practically own that fact; while it humbles us in the dust, as I have said. No, but the heart needs comfort when it honestly faces the situation, and surely the blessed Lord would give it us in this passage, without us wresting its interpretation; and we can see a glorious work going on, silently, surely. Not one of the least of the labourers, or their labours, will be forgotten; for while full provision meets the fishermen in the blessed grace of their Master, it is also at once said, "Bring of the fish ye have now caught." O brethren, "our labour IS NOT IN VAIN IN THE LORD." What inducement, in the sense of His grace to labour still, unknown, isolated, facing the "going away" it may be of this one or that. And what is the next thing? Is it not "THE LORD HIMSELF?" Is not this the touchstone to our hearts? And is it not this that brings to light in his true, full character, "the disciple that Jesus loved?

Well, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou Me," makes it surely appropriate to the present moment; for whatever abides, if it abides, does so in the sovereign "If I will" of Christ. We do well to thoroughly adjust our thoughts to that. Peter is the "Mr Will-be-will" of John Bunyan. Well, if so (and both principles are here), "Follow thou Me." John is as the shadow to the substance — "the disciple whom Jesus loved … who also leaned on His breast at supper and said, Lord, who is it that betrays Thee." Where else could he be than "following?" (John 21:20). C. Norman Snow.

'Tis not far off — the hour
When Christ will claim His Own!
We soon shall hear that voice of power,
The Lord Himself shall come!