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Oct 10 1920


Now a bugle call has two different meanings for two different classes of people. To the civilian it is simply an intimation that some movement of troops is afoot; to the soldier it is a signal for definite action. It brings the housewife to her door in dust-cap and apron to see what is going on.

But to the soldier it comes as a command to perform some particular duty.

To Jesus, John Baptist's bugle calls woe as to a soldier. He did not go down to the Jordan to gratify a curiosity; he went in2 response to a signal for action. I do not mean that he went in obedience to the signal. The bugler is not a commander. Rather He went with the step of a Field Marshall to take over His command.

For whatever His Baptism may have brought in the way of extension of His vision or of intensification of His sense of mission, it is certain that He approved it with the clear-eyed purpose of one who knows exactly what he is doing and why he is doing it. This is evident from the words with which He meets the protest of the Baptist's humility, when John hesitated, saying, "I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?"

He does not meet this as a new point of view worthy of consideration. He does not even argue the matter with John. The New Commander simply puts the objection courteously aside, as one whose plan of action is not open to debate, and says, "Let it be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness."

The ceremony was performed forthwith. And as the dripping form of Jesus rose above the waters of the Jordan and He lifted His heart in prayer, He saw the heavens rent asunder and the Holy Spirit descending as a dove and coming upon him, while a voice came out of the heavens, "Thou art My Son, the Beloved. In thee is My delight" (Mark 1, Moffatt's translation).

In this sentence, short and simple though it is, Jesus is invested with an office of surpassing magnitude. These words do not merely express a sentiment; they convey a title -- a double title, more ancient and exalted than that of any King-Emperor that men have ever crowned.

The words "Thou art my Son" are taken from the first of the Messianic Psalms(Psalm 2:7).

yet I have set my King
Upon my holy hill of Zion.
I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said unto me, 'Thou art son; This day have I begotten thee.
Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance,
And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.'

When the words "Thou art my son" are uttered over Him, the foster son of Joseph is crowned as the Divine Son of David, the Messiah-King of Israel.

The declaration, "In thee is My delight," is from the opening sentence of a still more remarkable passage in prophecy (Isaiah 42- Sir George Adam Smith's translation) -- that which in Isaiah describes the Suffering Servant of Jehovah. And as these words unseal that mystic scroll, the highlights of it flash across his soul.

Behold My Servant, whom I uphold;
My Chosen, in whom my soul delighteth.
I have put My Spirit upon him;
He shall bring forth justice to the nations.
A bruised reed shall he not break,
The failing wick shall he not quench;
He shall bring forth justice to the people.
He shall not fail, nor be broken,
Till he have set justice in the earth:
And the isles shall wait for his law.
I the Lord have called thee
To open the blind eyes,
To bring out the prisoners from the prison,
And them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
I will also give thee for a light to the nations,
To be My salvation to the ends of the earth.

(Isaiah 49)

And then the low lights surge into his heart—
"Surely he hath borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows:
Yet we did esteem him stricken,
Smitten of God and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:
The chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Therefore I set him a share with the great,
And with the strong shall he share the spoil;
Because he hath poured out his life unto death,
And hath borne the sin of many."

(Isaiah 53:4-5-12)

In that tremendous moment the young carpenter of Nazareth saw in himself the incarnation of the prophet's spectral figure.

This then was His Commission -- to be the longed-for, God-sent King of Israel, and the Suffering Servant of God and men. It was for Him to unite in one the two ideals, and to show that only by service and sacrifice can even a God reign in the hearts of son and become the Saviour of a wilful world.

What do the words of this commission mean to men today? There is a sense in which Jesus Christ is "the only-begotten son of the Father," the "unique" Son of God, as an Italian translation puts it. In Him alone do we see the perfect likeness of the character of God? There is another sense in which He was "the firstborn of many brethren." To as many as receive Him, to them gives He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name. We are not meant to go through the war of life as privates, bullied by Sergeant Sin and put through futile fatigue duties by Corporal Circumstance. A Commission is waiting for each of us at Headquarters. It entitles us to mess with the Commander-in-Chief, Himself, and to receive orders direct from Him. It makes available for us His priceless direction and support in all notions offensive and defensive and assures to us advancement in rank as rapid as grace -- enlarged capacities may permit.

There is a sense in which Jesus Christ stands alone as the Suffering Saviour of the World. As our great High Priest He offered Himself once for all time and for all men as a sacrifice to take away sin, and to open, up the lines of communication with Headquarters.

Here he stands alone. But He Himself said the officers of His Staff: "As the Father hath sent me into the world, so send I you" (John 1118). To those who accept this commission at His hands, the privilege is given of suffering far others for sake, The Master Himself said, "He that doth not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me" (Matt. 10:38). "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23).

Peter accepted this condition of service and wrote to his fellow-believers, "If when ye do well and sufferer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps" (I Peter 2:20-21)

And Paul frequently uttered the same truth. "For unto you it is given (as a gift of God's grace)… not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for his sake." (Phil. 1:29). "I, Paul,... who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions in my flesh for His body's sake, which is the church" (Colossians 1:24). "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us" (II Timothy 2:12). "Heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together"(Romans 8:17).

Never before has the world been so thrilled with the glory of vicarious sacrifice or seen it made with such amazing gladness as in these our days. And deeper than any hatred of the enemy has been growing the calm conviction that it is only by such whole-souled sacrifice of self that the priceless things of life are won and kept, or their value recognized.

How absolutely modern are the exalted aspirations of this ancient prophecy. It is particularly appropriate for our time that it presents a national ideal rather than an individual one. And now comforting through all the appalling cries of the recent Titanic struggle was the ringing assurance that justice and liberty and righteousness shall triumph in the reign of the King.

1 The Table of contents of Calvin's book can be found with letter W-MCP2-3b.035.

For chapter 1, see Box 04-028.

For chapter 2, see Box 04-029.

For chapter 3, see Box 04-030.

For chapter 5, see Box 04-032.

For chapter 6, see Box 04-033.

2 At the bottom of the first page was a "footnote" which did not appear to be directly linked to the text and which reads as follows:

Then Jesus came on the scene from Galilee, to get baptized by John at the Jordan. John tried to prevent Him; "I need to get baptized by you," he said, “and you come to me!" But Jesus answered him, "Come now, this is how we should fulfil all our duty to God." Then John gave in to Him.

Now when Jesus had been baptized the moment He rose out of the water the heavens opened and He saw the Spirit of coming down like a dove upon him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son the Beloved, in him is my delight.

Matthew 3:13

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