"And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, except Jesus only" – Matthew 17:8.
There were occasions in our Lord’s wondrous history when the drapery of his humiliation could but imperfectly conceal the indwelling splendor of His Godhead. Profound as that humiliation was – and to fathom its depth, we must scale the infinite height from when he stooped – it could not intercept all the rays of the Shekinah which slumbered within. Here and there a beam would dart forth from beneath the enshrouding cloud, often overwhelming with its effulgence those upon whom its brightness fell. Such was one of those occasions, a single incident in which has suggested the subject of the present chapter. Our Lord was now transfigured – the unveiling of his glory overpowered the three disciples who were with him in the Mount, who, when the bright cloud overshadowed them, and they heard a voice out of the cloud which said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him," "fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and do not be afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, except Jesus only." Blessed company in which now they found themselves alone! Moses, the type of the Law, and Elijah, the representative of the prophets, had passed away, and no one was left "except Jesus only." All their fears had subsided, for Jesus had calmed them. All their happiness was complete, for Jesus was with them. And is not this still the motto of every true believer, in the matter of his salvation, in the spiritual circumstances of his history, in the yearnings of his heart, in the hour of death, and amid the solemn scenes of the final judgment – "JESUS ONLY?" Let us reflect awhile upon each of these particulars.
In the believer’s salvation, it is "Jesus only." The salvation of man is an embodiment of God himself. We will not merely say that it reveals his love, or that it reflects his wisdom, or that it displays his power, or that it unveils his holiness – it does all this – but much more. Salvation is not merely a demonstration of the Divine perfections; it is a demonstration of the Divine Being. The essence – the heart – the mind – the attributes – the character – the government of God, are all embarked, embodied, and exhibited in the salvation of man. It is a work so surpassingly stupendous, glorious, and divine, we can account for its vast and unique character, and its transcendent results, upon no other principle that its essential demonstration of Deity – "GOD manifest in the flesh." To mix, then, anything extraneous with this great and finished work, to add to it anything of human device, would seem a crime of deepest dye – a sin, the pardon of which might well extend beyond the provision of its mercy. God has, at every point, with a jealous regard for his own glory, exhibited and protected this great truth. Over the cross beneath which as a sinner I stand – inscribed upon the portal of the refuge into which as a sinner I flee – above the fountain within which as a sinner I bathe – upon every object on which as a sinner I believingly gaze, God has written one sentence – solemn, pregnant, and emphatic – "JESUS ONLY." Let us briefly confirm and illustrate it.
Jesus only could stoop to our low estate. He only could stand between justice and the criminal – the day’s-man between God and us. He only had divinity enough, and merit enough, and holiness enough, and strength enough, and love enough, to undertake and perfect our redemption. None other could embark in the mighty enterprise of saving lost man but he. To no other hand but his did the Father from eternity commit his church – his peculiar treasure. To Jesus only could be entrusted the recovery and the keeping of this cabinet of precious jewels – jewels lost, and scattered, and hidden in the fall, yet predestinated to a rescue and a glory great and endless as God’s own being. Jesus only could bear our sin and sustain our curse, endure our penalty, cancel our debit, and reconcile us unto God. In his bosom only could the elements of our hell find a flame of love sufficient to extinguish them, and by his merits only could the glories of our heaven stand before our eye palpable and revealed. Jesus must wholly save, or the sinner must forever perish. Listen to the language of Peter, uttered when "filled with the Holy Spirit," and addressed with burning zeal to the Christ-rejecting, self-righteous Sanhedrin; "The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them." Thus, in the great and momentous matter of our salvation, Jesus must be all. He will admit no co-adjutor, as he will allow no rival. The breach between God and man he will heal alone.
The wine-press of Divine wrath he will tread alone. The battle with the power of darkness he will fight alone. The bitter cup of Gethsemane he will drink alone. The rugged cross to Calvary he will bear alone. The last conflict with the power of hell he will sustain alone. The passage through the grave he will tread alone. Man’s sins and sorrow, the sinner’s curse and woe, he will endure singly and alone; "of the people there shall be none with him." What majesty gathers around the work and conquest of Jesus, thus accomplished and achieved single-handed and alone! What an impressive view does the fact present of the inconceivable mightiness of the work, and of the unparalleled almightiness of him who wrought it! Salvation was a word distancing all created power. It could only be secured by a power essentially and absolutely Divine. Jesus undertook the work alone, and alone he accomplished it.
What is the deduction, rigidly logical, and scripturally true? JESUS IS DIVINE. Here is the key to the mystery of the whole. Deity in alliance with humanity – the Deity supplying the merit; and the humanity the vehicle of atonement – singly and unaided wrenched the prey from the destroyer, broke the chain of the captive, and brought salvation and glory within the reach of the vilest of Adam’s race. And because the Son of God wrought the stupendous achievement alone, alone "he shall bear the glory." Not a note shall swell to the praise, not a monument shall rise to the honor, not a beam shall irradiate the brow of another, from the work of our redemption. To Jesus only shall the anthem be sung, to Jesus only shall the honor be ascribed, to Jesus only shall the glory redound, Jesus only shall wear the crown. Hark! How they chant his high praises in the heavenly temple: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing." Oh yes, in heaven it is "Jesus only."
It follows, then, from all this, that salvation is a finished work. Precious is this truth to the believer’s heart. And yet, how much is it practically overlooked! The judgment unequivocally admits it, but the doubts and tremblings which enslave and agitate the heart, and which, like ripples upon the surface, impart and unevenness to the peaceful serenity of the Christian’s life, too evidently betray the feeble hold which his faith has upon this truth. But the doctrine remains substantially and unchangeably the same. The obedience, with which he answered the claims of justice, formed the two cognate parts of that mighty and illustrious work, of which, when he bowed his head in death, he exclaimed, "IT IS FINISHED."
Believer in Jesus! Remember all your confidence, all your hope, all your comfort flows from the finished work of your Savior. "Jesus only." See that you unwittingly add nothing to the perfection of this work. You may be betrayed into this sin and this folly by looking within yourself rather than to the person of Jesus; by attaching an importance too great to repentance and faith, and your own doings and strivings, rather than ceasing from your own works altogether, and resting for your peace and joy and hope, simply, entirely, and exclusively in the work of Jesus. Remember, that whatever we unintentionally add to the finished work of Christ, mars the perfection and obscures the beauty of that work. "If you lift up your tool upon it, you have polluted it." Nothing have we to do but, in our moral pollution and nakedness, to plunge beneath the fountain, and wrap ourselves within the robe of that Savior’s blood and righteousness who, when he expired on the tree, so completed our redemption, as to leave us nothing to do but to believe and be saved.
"It is finished!" O words, pregnant of the deepest meaning! O words, rich of the richest consolation! Salvation is finished! "Jesus only!" Look from fluctuating frames, and fitful feelings, and changing clouds, to "Jesus only." Look from sins and guilt, from emptiness and poverty, to "Jesus only." The veil of the temple was rent in twain, and you may pass into its holiest, and lay upon the altar the sacrifice of a broken and a contrite heart, which shall be accepted through him who "gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet-smelling savor."
"It is finished!" Let devils hear it, and tremble! Let sinners hear it, and believe! Let saints hear it, and rejoice! All is finished. "Then, Lord, I flee to you, just as I am! I have stayed away from you too long, and ‘am nothing bettered but rather grown worse.’ Too exclusively have I looked at my unworthiness, too absorbed have I been with my penury, too bitterly have I mourned having nothing to pay. Upon your own finished work I now cast myself. "Save, Lord and I shall be saved!" Before this stupendous truth, let all creature merit sink, let all human glory pale, let all man’s boasting vanish, and Jesus be all in all. Perish forms and ceremonies – perish rites and rituals – perish creeds and churches – perish, utterly and forever perish, whatever would be a substitute for the finished work of Jesus, whatever would be attempt to add to the finished work of Jesus, whatever would tend to neutralize the finished work of Jesus, whatever would obscure with a cloud, or dim with a vapor, the beauty, the luster, and the glory of the finished work of Jesus! It was "Jesus only" in the councils of eternity – it was "Jesus only" in the everlasting covenant of grace – it was "Jesus only" in the manger of Bethlehem – it was "Jesus only" in the garden of Gethsemane – it was "Jesus only" upon the cross of Calvary – it was "Jesus only" in the tomb of Joseph – it was "Jesus only" who, "when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty of high." And it shall be "Jesus only" – the joy of our hearts, the object of our glory the theme of our song, the Beloved of our adoration, our service, and our praise, through the endless ages of eternity. O, stand fast, in life and in death, by the FINISHED work of Jesus.
"Tis finished!" see the Victor rise,
Shake off the grave, and claim the skies;
You heavens, your doors wide open fling;
You angel choirs, receive your King.
"Tis finished!" – but what mortal dare
In the triumph hope to share?
Savior, to your cross I flee;
Say, "Tis finished!" and for me.
Then will I sing, "The Cross! The Cross!"
And count all other gain but loss:
I’ll sing the cross, and to your tree
Cling evermore, blest Calvary.
In the spiritual exercises of the believer’s soul, still it is "Jesus only." In the corrodings of guilt upon the conscience, in the cloud which veils the reconciled countenance of God from the soul, where are we to look, but to "Jesus only?" In the mournful consciousness of our unfaithfulness to God, our aggravated backslidings, repeated departures, the allowed foils and defeats by which our enemies exult, and the saints hang their heads in sorrow, to whom are to turn, but to "Jesus only?" In the cares, anxieties, and perplexities which troop around our path, in the consequent castings down of our soul, and the disquietude of our spirit within us, to whom shall we turn but to "Jesus only?" In those deep and mysterious exercises of soul-travail, which not always the saints of God can fully understand – when we see a hand they cannot see, and when we hear a voice they cannot hear; when we seem to tread a lone path, or traverse a sea where no fellow-voyager ever heaves in sight; the days of soul-exercise wearisome, and its nights long and dark – oh! to whom shall we then turn, save to "Jesus only?" Who can enter into all this, and understand all this, and sympathize with all this, but Jesus? To him alone, then, let us repair, with every sin, and with every burden, and with every temptation, and with every sorrow, and with every mental and spiritual exercise, thankful to be shut up exclusively to "Jesus only."
And whom does the heart in its best moments, and holiest affections, and intensest yearnings, supremely desire? Still the answer is, "Jesus only." Having by his Spirit enthroned himself there, having won the affections by the power of his love and the attractions of his beauty, the breathing of the soul now is, "Whom have I in heaven but you, and who is there on earth beside you?" Blessed is that soul, the utterances of whose heart are the sincere and fervent expression of a love of which Christ is the one and supreme object. Oh to love him more! Worthy, most worthy is he, of our first and best affection. Angels love him ardently and supremely; how much more should we, who owe to him a deeper debt of love than they; for whom he has done infinitely more than for angels! Would that this night be our motto, our principle, our life, – "To me to live is Christ." Let the love of Christ, then, constrain us to love him in return with an affection which shall evince, by the singleness of its object and the unreserved surrender of its obedience, that he who reigns the Sovereign Lord of our affections is – "Jesus only."
And when the time draws near that we must depart out of this world, and go unto the Father, one object will fix the eye from which all others are then receding, it is – "Jesus only." Ah! to die, actually to die, must be a crisis of our being quite different from reading of death in a book, or from hearing of it in the pulpit, or from talking of it by the way-side. The world fading in the view – life congealing at its fount – the brain swimming – the eye fixing – and yet conscious that in a few hours, or moments, the soul will take the tremendous leap, and bound away to a world unknown; rushing through suns and systems and scenes all new and strange and wondrous – Oh it is a solemn, an appalling thing to die!
But to the believer in Jesus, how pleasant and how glorious! "Absent from the body," he is "present with the Lord." Jesus is with him then. The blood of Jesus is there, cleansing him from all his guilt; the arms of Jesus are there, supporting him in all his weakness; the Spirit of Jesus is there, comforting him in all his fears: and now is he learning, for the last time on earth, that as for all the sins, all the perils, all the trials, and all the sorrows of life, so now as that life is ebbing fast away, and death is chilling, and the grave is opening, and eternity is nearing, "Jesus only" is all-sufficient for his soul.
And when the trumpet of the archangel sounds – waxing louder and louder – and the dead in Christ arise, and ascend to meet their Savior and their Judge, as he comes, in majesty and great glory, to receive his Bride to himself, – then, oh then, will every heart, and every thought, and every eye, of that ransomed church, be fixed and fastened and centered upon one glorious object – "JESUS ONLY." Believer! look to him – lean upon him – cleave to him – labor for him – suffer for him – and, if need be, die for him. Thus loving and trusting, living and dying for – JESUS ONLY.
Why should I fear the darkest hour,
Or tremble at the tempest’s power?
Jesus vouchsafes to be my tower.
Though hot the fight, why quit the field,
Why must I either flee or yield,
Since Jesus is my mighty shield?
When creature comforts fade and die,
Worldlings may weep, but why should I?
Jesus still lives and still is night.
Though all the flocks and herds were dead,
My soul a famine need not dread,
For Jesus is my living bread.
I know not what may soon betide,
Nor how my needs may be supplied;
But Jesus knows, and will provide.
Though sin would fill me with distress,
The throne of grace I dare address,
For Jesus is my righteousness.
Though faint my prayers and cold my love,
My steadfast hope shall not remove,
While Jesus intercedes above.
Against me earth and hell combine,
But on my side is power Divine;
Jesus is all, and he is mine.