"Who Is Jesus?" (2 – “Gospel Messenger” Series) (16pp)
"BUT who is Jesus?”
"Oh, do ·you not know that, my dear? He is a great Spirit."
You will think, dear reader, that these words must have been spoken in another tongue, and in some far distant heathen land, where the Bible is an unknown book, and where men and women live and die without once hearing the blessed, and, to us, oft-told story, that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life," and that when this Son of God was about to be born into this world, God said, by the mouth of His messenger, "Thou shalt call his name Jesus (Jehovah the Saviour), for he shall save his people from their sins." But no, the words were spoken in our own highly favoured England, in this age of boasted progress and enlightenment; and not by some poor little city Arab, whose only home had been the streets, or some den of vice and infamy, but by those whose entire ignorance on this, the greatest and most important, as well as most blessed of all subjects, quite bewildered as well as appalled me.
The first speaker was, a young, respectable-looking, married woman, about three-and-twenty, the wife of a bookbinder, with good wages. The second speaker, who seemed a little ashamed that the other should display such ignorance before me, was her mother-in-law, an active-looking, decently-dressed woman, about five-and-forty.
I could not then, and cannot now, account for this utter ignorance, for the younger woman had been in the hospital ward, in which I met her, a fortnight before this conversation took place, and it was the daily custom for a portion of the Scriptures to be read in the ward, and a prayer said; and even this, I should have thought, would have made her acquainted with the blessed name of Jesus. I had noticed her pleasant, cheerful face several times as I had gone in and out, but the ward was so very large, and I knew so many in it, that the time for leaving had always come without my being able to make her acquaintance.
On this day, however, as I passed her bed, to go to a dying woman in the corner very near to her, she smiled and said, "Will you not try to give me a visit to-day?"
I promised to come back to her after I had seen my friend in the corner, about whom I was very anxious, for I knew death was nearly approaching her, and to her, He was still the "king of terrors," as she had been trusting to her own good deeds for acceptance with God, and had just awoke to the discovery that they would avail her nothing as a ground of entrance to Heaven, of which she had all her life before felt secure.
When I came back to Mrs. N—— (my new friend), it was quite with the hope of finding a Christian, for I thought it was surely for that reason she wished to speak with me; and after she had spoken calmly of her illness, which it was feared would prove an incurable one, and moreover was a very trying one, I said, "But you know what it is to have Jesus as your Saviour and Friend, do you not, making all your bed in your sickness?"
Then came the words which so utterly astonished me, that I can never forget them, "But who is Jesus?" and the answer of her mother-in-law, who had been allowed to come in to see her, though it was not the usual visiting-hour, "Oh, do you not know that my dear? He is a great Spirit."
I had met those who hated, those who despised the things of God, or those who were careless and indifferent about them, but never before had I met one, beyond the age of childhood, who knew no more of the story of the life and death of the Son of God, than the one who heweth down a tree, and "burneth part thereof in the fire . . . and the residue thereof he maketh a god . . . and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me, for thou are my god'' (Isa. xliv. 16, 17).
For a few moments I felt quite bewildered; then sitting down by her side, and in my heart asking the Lord for suited words, I tried to put before her, as simply as to a child, the story of man's utter ruin, and of God's wondrous love—the old, old story, yet ever fresh and new. She listened with eager attention. I read to her Luke xxiii., and she wept when I came to the part where the dying, suffering Son of Man, yet Son of God, prayed for his murderers, and promised the Paradise of God, in company with Himself that day, to the thief dying by His side, who had recognized the glory of His person, and owned Him Lord and the coming King, though hanging between heaven and earth on a cross of wood, nailed there by wicked hands.
It was all new to Mrs. N——, and it thrilled and captivated her heart. "Did God then love me?" she said, "and did His Son die like this—die such a cruel, cruel death for me? And yet I never knew it till to-day, and I have never thought about Him, never loved Him. Oh, I do love Him for it. I do love Him to-day. I must tell my husband; he cannot know, or he would have told me. Mother, did you know God loved us, and God gave up His Son to die instead of us? And Jesus is God too, and yet He died! Oh, He died such a cruel death for us—for you and me, mother. Oh, is it not strange, He died for me, and yet I never heard about it until now?"
The love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, won her heart; she listened to God's Word, telling of His Son's work, and she received it and believed it like a little child. She pondered over it all, and wondered at it, but she never thought of doubting it.
I offered to leave with her my little Testament, which had good print, but then I found she could not read, did not even know her letters. "You will come back soon and tell me more," she said. When I went in next, I took with me a large card with the alphabet and tiny words printed on it and offered to begin to teach her to read. She was very grateful and got on with surprising rapidity. The first name she wanted to learn to spell was the name of Jesus, and then she used to lie for hours trying to find out in the New Testament wherever that name, now become so precious to her, occurred.
She was full of her newly found joy and could not hold her peace. She spoke of it to the patients in the beds on each side of her; she spoke of it to the nurses, as well as to her husband, and to each one who came in to see her—"Jesus died for me! God gave Him, and I never knew it—never loved Him. Oh, I love him for it now. I do not mind about getting well now; I shall see the One who loved me and died for me."
Even when afterwards, in the light of God's presence, she learned more of the utter evil of her own heart, Satan could never shake her confidence.
"He loved me; He gave Himself for me," was always her rest and her joy. It was not her need that drove her to Him, it was "His mighty love" that attracted her and took her heart captive—"a captive in the chains of love."
Before she went out of the hospital, four months after, she could spell out verses quite nicely by herself, and often learned them by heart, and would say to me all her new ones, and ask me to find out others for her, that she might go over them by herself when I had gone.
She left for her home in the month of April, not cured—there was no hope of that—but her condition ameliorated for the time, it was hoped; but before the year had run its course she was back there again, and this time she came back to die. Yet not to die, but there to be put to sleep by Jesus, in the "sure and certain hope" of being raised again by Him; and, meanwhile, of resting with Him, waiting with Him, for the day for which He waits, the day of the gladness of His heart, when He will have every one of His blood-bought ones with Himself.
"My husband has promised to meet me there with Jesus," she cried; "I have nothing now to keep me here. I wanted to tell him all. He could not see it at first; he thought his sins must keep him from the Saviour; but now he sees the Saviour died on purpose for those sins, and he trusts Him. Mother, you will yet learn to trust Him entirely too," she added, turning round to the one I had first seen with her, her husband's mother.
With the older woman, the case had been very different. The Lord began to work in her heart from the day her daughter-in-law received the truth so simply; but she had gone through months of doubt, and trouble, and distress, and, as yet, the question of sin was unsettled between her and God; for to her the Bible was no new book, as it had been to her daughter-in-law. As a young woman, she had been a Bible reader, though not herself converted, but she married a godless man, and through his influence, gave it up, and sank to the level of those about her. Her husband did not believe in the Bible, so there had been no Bible in her house. Her son had been brought up like his father. They had prospered, and God was utterly forgotten. Her first trouble came with the illness of her son's wife, to whom she was much attached.
Thus, with her, the first work of the Spirit of God had been to convince her of sin, and for months, she had groaned under the burden of it. While her daughter's constant words were, “He loved me; He gave Himself for me," hers were, "Oh, my sins, my sins; they are too great." The entrance of the one into eternal rest was the means of giving rest of conscience to the other. By her dying daughter-in-law's bed, she saw that the blessed One, who had so entirely captivated her child's heart and attached her to Himself, had also met every claim of God about sin; that His great work had been to remove sin from God's sight, as well as to save the believing sinner; that God is satisfied with the blood of Christ, that it meets every claim of His holiness, every demand that righteous judgment could make; yea, that God can be just, and yet "the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus."
She saw that the blood, in the efficacy of which the Sin-bearer ascended in righteousness to the very throne of God, must first have cleared sin away. She saw that God looked on Jesus and is satisfied; she looked and was satisfied too.
"Mother," said the dying one, "I had nothing to pay. He frankly forgave me. 'He loved me and gave Himself for me.' He will frankly forgive you too."
"He has, dear; he has. I see it all now. I owed the great debt, and you the little one; but He forgave both. I owe Him most. It is much forgiven with me; may He get much love now.''
We had read Luke vii. together many times, and it was to the latter part of this the two women referred. It had been a favourite portion with Mrs. N——, as were all the portions that spoke of the Lord ·Himself—His own acts, His own words, details of His love and grace.
Mrs. N—— closed her eyes with a little contented smile, and her lips moved slightly as though in thanksgiving. I could see, when I left, the end was very near, and my thought proved correct. I never saw either again. The younger went home to the Lord, who had loved her, and whom she loved, that night. The old woman went back to her country home at once with her son, taking with them the body of their loved one, to commit it to the dust in the quiet little cemetery near to which they dwelt, and I soon after, left the city.
So, we all separated, I doubt not, to meet again in the Father's house, the house prepared for us by Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.
Reader, can you say, like this dying woman, "I had nothing to pay; He frankly forgave me. He loved me, and gave Himself for me?" X.
“The Messenger of Peace” 1884