From Tabor To Capernaum.
by Henry Varley
THE summit of the mountain was reached in company with the Lord of Glory.
Heights usually give out the expanse and the glory of the scene below. Here, however, the order is reversed. Tabor's crown had become a base for manifestation; the scenes below, for the time forgotten, give place to the "excellent glory" that rests upon and bursts forth from the lowly Jesus. "And He was transfigured before them, and His raiment became shining exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them, and there appeared unto them Elias with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus." Past memories crowded upon these faithful servants, as they looked upon their transfigured Lord—the "Bush" and "The Chariot of fire, alike exceeded now by the brightness of the Father's glory. His "Well done," and their joyous welcome, only hushed to reverent silence by the mighty voice of His Father and our Father—"This is my beloved Son, hear Him." How blessed, when fallen upon our faces in the dust, to be called to arise and listen to the Lord, His gracious words dropping as honey, "causing the lips of those that are [ancient, margin] asleep to speak!" (Sol. Song vii. 9) We need not wonder that the Trio, of Consecrated Ones, should say, "Master, it is good for us to be here;" or that the energetic Peter (The Rock Man) should want to build. ‘Twix the fear and the glory, he wist not what to say, but surely to localize the glory, if possible, were as natural as for Paul to say, "I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better." (Phil. i. 23)
The vision is past, and the glory, again enshrined within the temple of His body, "JESUS only with, themselves," such is the precious testimony. However "good to be there," 'twere better to descend, and it is as Jesus, He comes down, the Saviour aspect in blessed prominence. Hark! the noise of the multitude tells that He has reached their midst; strange, wondrous contrast, the glory of the summit, and the noise of the crowd, and yet Jesus has chosen the latter. The distracted father and the poor devil-possessed boy have a stronger claim upon the Blessed Master's heart than the glory up there.
Ah, sirs, if 'twere good to be there, it is good to be here also. His unwritten record is sculptured at Tabor's base: "It is more blessed to give than to receive.'' (Acts xx. 35.) Surely, it will be well if 1874 is spent in faith's rest and glory in the transfiguring heights of communion and home, alternated with conscious descents for toil, conflict, and victory among the multitudes of our fellow-men. Ere we go forth, let us take our place, and listen to the teachings of Him of whom we heard on the summit. "This is My beloved Son, hear Him." You may leave out the questioning scribes and the noise of the contentious ones, and let our thought concentrate upon one group, one theme.
And one of the multitude said, "Master, I have brought unto Thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit, and I spake to Thy disciples that they should cast him out, but they could not." Jesus answered him and said, "O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you, how long shall I suffer you; bring him to Me." These are the first words spoken by Jesus after his descent—words, be it remembered, of solemn rebuke. And well might He thus speak. For of these same disciples, it is written in the 6th chapter, 7th verse, of this Gospel, "And He called the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two, and gave them power over unclean spirits." And in the 13th verse, "And they cast out many devils, and anointed many with oil, and healed them;" and yet, though now gathered together, their united force is not equal to one devil. "Oh, how is the fine gold become dim, how are the sons of Zion esteemed as earthen pitchers?" (Lamentations iv. 1) "Is there not a cause," said David to Eliab, when, though but a ruddy youth, he left his father's sheep, to behead the wolf that terrified the hosts of Israel? And is there not a cause that these to whom Christ had delegated power, should hear the mocking crowd, Aha, they could not? We need not stay to the detail of the outcasting by our Great Lord, or the trial of the father's faith, strong in its hold upon the compassion and help of Jesus, nor do more than mark the ground upon which the poor boy lay prostrate, as the spirit rent him sore. The devil is out of him—that is the point and forbidden to re-enter. 'Twere worth falling to the earth to be lifted up by the delivering Saviour.
From public rebuke, we pass to private instruction. "And when He was come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, 'Why could we not cast him out?' And He said unto them, 'This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting.' "
Are there devils more tenacious, more powerful than others? Yea, doubtless; and we need to bear in mind their strength. We would not affirm their power to injure as in the case of the sons of Sceva (Acts xix. 14); but their silent contempt of us might find expression in the words of the fifteenth verse, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are ye?" Must I take choice of two, I think I would rather the devil struck me than treated me with silent contempt. Resistance, steadfast in the faith, begets a fleeing devil at every point (James iv. 7; 1 Peter v. 9). Hence, we are reminded of Christ's words, "O faithless generation, how long shall I suffer you?" There had come to the disciples a lapse of faith, the power that they did possess is gone, the hands once strong are hanging in weakness now, the heart once full of power and grace reminds as though some subtle paralysis had issued therefrom and overspread the soul. All this the Master knew. "And He came to Capernaum, and, being in the house, He asked them, 'What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?' But they held their peace (significant silence), for by the way, they had disputed among themselves who should be the greatest." (Luke says, silent for shame.) Ah! sirs, here is the cause of failure. The devil's pride and lust for power were, for the time, enthroned in the hearts of these men, and, though able to dispute and quarrel among themselves about the chief place, they had no power to displace the evil spirit from the child. Surely not. The devil is not a tactician of this sort, that he casts himself out. For the time he was in possession among the disciples, and of them it may be said, "This kind goeth not forth by prayer and fasting." We have often been struck with Gal. vi. 1: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness." Spiritual men only are fitted to restore, all others are fallen themselves, though they may have too much pride to acknowledge it.
Let me see how the Divine Master takes account of their condition, and again hear the voice of the beloved Son: "And He sat down and called the twelve and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all." Seeing this spirit of pre-eminence was often showing its unsightly front, we may notice it again in the tenth chapter, where the sons of Zebedee make requests for chief places. We may ask, which is the worst—the request of the two, or the indignation of the ten? The Master's answer is blessed (v. 42): "Ye know that they which think good to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and their great ones exercise authority upon them." But He adds, "So shall it NOT be among you, but whosoever will be great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all."
These are Christ's principles. He will never alter them. Greatest of all, servant of all. The world gets its heroes, and, placing them upon a pedestal, says, "Now, you common men, worship these great men." Christ says, "So shall it not be among you." The forerunner John, hit the mark when he cried, "He must increase, I must decrease."
Our rapid sketch would scarcely be complete did we fail to notice John's word in verse 38: "Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name, and we forbad him because he followeth not us." What! following John? Do you mean the contention? the self-will? the unbelief? the failure? Surely, 'twere better to ascertain the cause of failure in ourselves than stay the workers, who, though they follow not us, are recognized and used of the Lord.
Again comes the timely rebuke: "Forbid him not, for there is no man which shall do a miracle in My name that can lightly speak evil of Me." We may add, if the Master's glory on the mount be followed by so much rebuke on His return; if His transfiguration precipitate, as it were, the evil workings in the vale below, we who long for purity and power, need not be surprised that He sits as a refiner, purifying to Himself His servants, searching out hidden evils that blight our characters, in order that we, as purged vessels, may be unto honour, meet for the Master's use, prepared unto every good work. (1 Tim. ii. 21)
From Tabor to Capernaum—it seems to us you might call it the pathway of light and fire—not the fire of wrath, but His burning, of whom it is written, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire, whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor"—the Master's insearching, outgathering, and burning up in the fire of His love and holiness. They were serving Him, but not acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (Heb. xii. 28) Hence, a consumption is determined on, "For OUR God is a consuming fire." From the snow-exceeded purity of His glory, He descends into the surroundings of darkness, unbelief, pride, weakness, strife, and devilish possession. His gold in His disciples almost coated over by the excrescences of indulged of spiritual wickednesses; the purity and light of the Holy Child shows it out; His eyes as a flame of fire declares it, whilst His feet, like unto fine brass, are as if they burned in a furnace. (Rev. i. 14-15) The fervent heat of His Divine love is kindled now, its fierce but purifying flame takes hold. False, deadly spiritual lusts, like noxious gases are burning. Pile them on, pile them on—pride, self-will, strife, unbelief, jealousy, love of pre-eminence, carelessness of Christ's little ones, inability to rejoice in another's success, and, let us add, love of ease and sensuousness in every form.
No easy matter this, to drag these shameful forces from their secret hiding, and ask the vigour of His fire to salt the sacrifice; but mark ye well, 'tis not the fire of hell, but the fire of the Master's house; not of wrath, but of divinest love; not to consume thee, but to purify thee. Not to hinder, but to help, art thou asked to cut off and pluck out offending members, rather than they yield thee occasion to fall? Better Christ's fire for thy purity in His house, than the circling millstone anchoring thee in the caverns of the sea. Causes of offence in hand, or eye, or foot, covering, as these do, the whole detail of thy being, cut off, pluck out; better thy wrist a stump, thine eye-socket a hollow space, than a hand for torment, an eye to look out upon thine eternal loss.
There seemeth a mighty contrast between Tabor's glory and the Master's voice in the fire. They are, however, parts of one whole—love on the summit, love in the valley, love in the dispossession, love in the rebuke, love on the way, love in the fire. "For everyone shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt;" but, mark, the Refiner's fire declineth, for it is the purity He wants, and not the flame. Let us read the issue in the final writing. "Have salt in yourselves and have peace one with another" (v. 50). The practical outcome of the Lord's teaching and discipline was not lost upon these disciples, for Peter, years afterwards, wrote:—"Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth, through the Spirit, unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently." (1 Pet. i. 23) Long since, have we discovered how much easier it is to realize truth as an intellectual perception, than a purifying fire; a matter of theory or memory, than a big life expressing its hold upon our entire being. And yet, this latter is the need of our time. Overhanging the land are heavy clouds of blessing; are we prepared, like living trees, to send out the attractive force, and win the rain? Should the living Lord send out His breath and quicken to eternal life, are we ready to nurse the newborn souls, and tend to healthy manhood, the babes in Christ, or are they in our view as unwelcome children, their care and love irksome to our impatience, and troublesome to our love of ease?
Surely, there are sounds of His coming! How shall He find us? Long since has He been exalted to the right hand of the Father, long since hath He shed forth the mighty Spirit as our Comforter and our life's power. Have we so received and are we thus realizing Him? Is it true to affirm in our experience, as Paul did in his, "Striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily"? (Col. i. 29) Are we courting His indwelling by full surrender by every part of our being? Having no part dark, is the light of God permeating every faculty we possess? (Luke xi. 36) Are our members yielded as weapons unto God, that He may use us in the pulling down and overthrow of evil, and for the furtherance of His Kingdom, "according to the good pleasure of His will?" Such thoughts cluster to the front as we reach the final stage in our journey to the city honoured as the residence of the Son of God.
O Capernaum, how melancholy are thy memories! Called to listen to the gracious words of the beloved Son, how camest thou to reject Him? Why make His grace thy speedier casting down? The winds from yonder inland sea, send their refrain over thy mute desolation, as they breathe to us, in tender warning, "See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh."
"The Christian's Pathway of Power" 1874