The All-Sufficiency of Christ
The first lesson we had to learn was that the Lord Jesus Christ is necessary to us. This we were slow to learn. Independence is that which is ingrained in every one of us and for years we thought we were all that. We could manage without God or Christ we thought until a need was begotten in us by the Holy Spirit. Then the same grace that awoke us to that need, drew us by the strong compellings of divine love to Him who alone could meet it.
The woman with the issue of blood and the man with the demon possessed son—She tried many physicians before she came to Chris—He said “I brought him to Thy disciples and they could not.” Reprovingly He said, “O faithless generation! How long shall I be with you? Bring him to Me.” but He was the last resource sought.
It is one thing to learn He is necessary but another thing that He is sufficient and indeed still further that He is all-sufficient, for time as well as eternity.
This lesson is learnt in our having to do with Christ in our personal need.
Besides an individual history we have in association with others, a corporate need—if you will there is a church need. Education is necessary for us before we learn that He is necessary, indeed, sufficient—yea, all-sufficient for the church’s need.
The church is left in a hostile world in the face of a vigilant inveterate foe, and needs protection. It is also left in a desert world where there are no supplies. The needs of the church are incident on it being His church. Divine supplies are required and the world cannot supply them. Hence before the Lord left the world He began to educate His disciples to this end that He would be all-sufficient for them in every sort of need.
There is nothing that tests us like need, but where we are tested He is proved.
Sufficiency. In John 6 we find the Lord teaching His disciples what to do and where to look in their need which would be acutely felt by them when He was gone. His first lesson was in connection with His sufficiency and the next of His supremacy. The time when this testing and instruction took place is better seen in Matthew 14, though John 6 supplies us with some significant and affecting little touches.
Note His test question to Philip and the infinite resources that were with Him. “From whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?—This He said to prove him for He knew what He Himself would do!!” He seems to be saying in this test question “Now which way will you look?”
Philip is at once oppressed by the greatness of the need—Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them for each to take a little.
Andrew on the other hand when he speaks shows that what oppresses him is the littleness of the supply.
Philip looked on the multitude in their need but Andrew could not see beyond the bread basket and the boy—“Five barley loaves and two small fishes.” What are they among so many?
This was typical of the church’s need when Christ would leave the world. Now He teaches them what He Himself would do. What will He do? Will He perform a wonderful miracle and turn the stones of the desert into bread to meet their need? What an occasion it would have been to show this wonderful power for them. “He said bring them to Me.” He immediately showed them which way to look. He took the loaves and fishes and looked up to heaven! He connected their poverty of supply with heaven’s bounty. Observe He used what they had! It seems as if He would lessen the wonder of His own miracle of turning stones into bread rather than not use what they had.
He teaches us that what He wants to use is the bit we have. It may not be much that I have but I will put it at His disposal and into His hands.
Don’t think for a moment that this ministry is limited to people who preach.
An old costermonger used to drive a donkey and cart up and down these streets. I have bought many an orange from him just to hear him say “Do you know, my boy, I was just thinking before you came up of that there verse”—and then I would get some share of his barley loaf that I verily think had been put into the Master’s hands, perhaps ere he started away in the morning. A dear old doctor that I knew used to say each morning “Lord bring us into touch with some anxious soul today and give us something to minister to them.”
Do we do anything like that? Have we heart enough for Him to bring Him into the day’s work? “Does the word of Christ dwell in us richly” as in that old costermonger?
Supremacy. Now we come to the next lesson He has to teach them in preparation for their being left in a ruthless world and with a tireless enemy.
Here is a dark night, a stormy sea and an absent Lord! but it was He who sent the disciples away. They had previously suggested to His compassionate heart that He should send the multitude away, hungering and faint with no supplies.
Now in turn He sends the disciples away across the sea, and when they get into the midst of the sea a storm rises. Now they are in difficulties and are as resourceless as were the multitudes before.
It is a picture of the godly Jewish remnant left tossing on the sea of nations and Christ away on the hill top in intercession. When He went away He left a remnant of godly Jews. These left the camp of a Christless Judaism and went out to Christ, just as Peter left the boat and walked upon the water to go to Jesus. When He returns in His glory He will find a godly remnant of this same nation looking for Him, though before His coming to them they will have to know and taste the power of Satan—the prince of the power of the air, who will lash the nations into fury against them and endeavour to blot them out of existence. Christ comes to them walking across the stormy sea. Supreme over all the power of Satan, and no sooner He gains the ship than they are at the land and the storm over and the desired haven reached.
In another way we may say all the Lord’s people are crossing the stormy sea of life and are buffeting with adverse circumstances. The wind is high and the cross currents are strong, and for those who will live godly there is the assured persecution, but there is one cheering word here. “He saw them toiling in rowing for the winds were contrary . . .” What a comfort that has been to many a storm-tossed saint. A watchful sympathetic eye is watching them from His place of intercession, or as the hymn puts it, “Jesus knows all about our struggles!” The coming of the Lord will bring it all to an end and we shall find ourselves in the desired haven on the lovelit homeland shore, there to praise for ever His all-sufficiency for His people.
There is still another way of looking at this picture—or rather one feature of it is worthy of our attention, and that is Peter’s action in leaving the boat. He goes ahead of the rest and reaches Christ and proves His all-sufficiency for such faith and also His complete supremacy over all that is adverse.
To the rest in the boat He was an apparition that brought fear, but to Peter there was something in Him to draw. “If it be Thou bid me come!”
There is no possibility of walking such a path if Christ is lost sight of. There can be no support from any other. All depends on whether it is the Lord that is calling. Faith only can walk that path.
The Boat is not a help to faith, but rather it helps to do without faith. It is one of seen things and we walk by faith and not by sight.
Peter here goes beyond the position of the remnant of Israel, and he represents that faith that will leave the boat and all its known and seen means of support to walk with Jesus—a bold undertaking, but faith works or is active by love.
This is the true position of the church. Faith in Him and affection for Him leads us to leave every human support to have His company and to walk with Him.
Are we clinging to the boat, some human device to supersede or supplement what needs no supplementing, the all-sufficiency of Christ for faith? That is the sin of Christendom. Boat-building is the effort of the day, and we can understand it when Christ and His Spirit are lost sight of. There came a moment in Peter’s walk when perhaps if the boat had been a bit nearer he would have been glad to clamber back again but he was evidently nearer Christ than that and his cry only served to prove afresh the sufficiency of Christ for his need and His hand of power made him test the Supremacy of Christ over the powers that lashed the sea into a storm.
Losing sight of Jesus: and seeing the waves and the storm he lost power—“Never lose sight of Jesus!”
If it is to Christ I am gathered—then Christ will never fail! If it is to something short of Christ, no matter how good, I shall break down. Good pasture, wonderful teaching, gifted men—all may fail, but Christ won’t fail. The machinery of Christendom was all introduced bit by bit as men lost sight of the all-sufficiency of Christ and His Spirit for His church. If love to Christ and faith in Christ does not hold us we shall turn to other things that will supersede Him and shut Him out.