LOOKING UNTO JESUS
"Looking unto Jesus" – Hebrews 12:2.
It was no little kindness in our God that as one saving object, and one alone, was to engage the attention and fix the eye of the soul, through time and through eternity, that object should be of surpassing excellence and of peerless beauty. That he should be, not the sweetest seraph nor the loveliest angel in heaven, but his own Son, the "brightness of his glory, the express image of his person." God delights in the beautiful; all true beauty emanates from him. What a beautiful picture was this world as it rose from beneath his pencil! What a magnificent piece of sculpture was man, as he came forth from his hands! And despite of the withering blight which has fallen upon all that was once so perfect, how much beauty still lingers around the works and creatures of God! "He has made all things beautiful."
To recur to the thought just advanced, how worthy of himself that, in providing a Savior for fallen man, bidding him fix the eye of faith supremely and exclusively upon him, that Savior should unite in himself all divine and all human beauty; that he should be the "chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely One." Adore the name, O! praise the love of our God, for this. To this peerless object, to this glorious Savior, then, we are now invited to look. And in "looking unto Jesus," let it be remembered that it is not exclusive of the Father, nor of the Holy Spirit. In looking unto Jesus for salvation, we include each Divine Person of the glorious Trinity. We cannot look unto Jesus without seeing the Father, for Christ is the revelation of the Father. "He that has seen me," says Christ, "has seen the Father." Nor can we contemplate Jesus exclusive of the Holy Spirit, because it is the Spirit alone who imparts the spiritual eye that sees Jesus. Thus, in the believing and saving view a poor sinner has of Jesus, he beholds, in the object of his sight, a revelation of each separate Person of the ever blessed Trinity, engaged in devising and accomplishing his eternal salvation.
Oh what a display of infinite love and wisdom is here, that in our salvation one object should arrest the eye, and that that object should embody an equal revelation of the Father, who gave Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit of truth, who leads to Jesus, and that that object should be the loveliest being in the universe! Looking unto Jesus! most refreshing and sweet are these words! What an embodiment of truth! How simple, yet how grand! How brief, yet how expressive! They involve the following points: "Looking unto Jesus," from everything; "Looking unto Jesus," in everything; "Looking unto Jesus," for everything.
First, "Looking unto Jesus," FROM everything. The eye cannot properly contemplate two different objects with equal simplicity and distinctness at the same moment. It is equally contrary to the philosophy of mind, that it can give its supreme study to more than one subject at a time. This will hold good in matters of faith. The object of faith is one, the trust of faith is one, the giver of faith is one, "looking unto Jesus." Now a true spiritual beholding of the Lord Jesus in the great matter of our eternal salvation, requires that we look away from every other object that would divide our attention, to him alone.
We must look from ourselves. This is, perhaps, the most common and insidious object that comes between the eye of the soul and Jesus. When God was ejected from the heart of man, self vaulted into the vacant throne, and has ever since maintained a supremacy. It assumed two forms, from both of which we are to look in looking savingly to Jesus. We must look from righteous self; from all works of righteousness which we can perform, from our almsgivings, from our charities, from our religious observances, our fastings, and prayers, and sacraments; from all the works of the law by which we are seeking to be justified; from all our efforts to make ourselves better, and thus to do something to commend ourselves to the Divine notice, and to propitiate the Divine regard; from all this we must look, if we rightly look unto Jesus to be saved by his righteousness, and by his alone. The noble language of the apostle must find an echo in our hearts: "I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God's law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith."
We must equally, too, look unto Jesus from unrighteous self. Our sins and transgressions and iniquities, red as crimson, countless as the sands, and towering as the Alps, are not for one moment to intercept or obscure our looking unto Jesus for salvation. Jesus is a Savior, as his precious name signifies. As such, he came to save us from our sins, be those sins ever so great for magnitude, or infinite for number. It is impossible that we can look unto Jesus, and feel the joy of his salvation flowing into our hearts, while at the same time we are looking at the number and the turpitude of our sins. We must not look at the sin and at the Savior at the same time; but beholding by faith him who "bore our sins in his own body on the tree," who was "made a sin-offering for us," who was "wounded for our transgressions, and was bruised for our iniquities," who shed his precious blood that the guiltiest may be cleansed, and the vilest saved, and between whom and the penitent sinner, though he were another Manasseh, another Saul of Tarsus, another dying malefactor, no transgression and no crime can interpose an effectual barrier, we shall see the exceeding greatness and sinfulness of sin in a clearer, and more searching and solemn light, than we possibly could viewing it apart from the cross.
Look unto Jesus, then, from your sins; their magnitude and their number interpose no difficulty, and from no real discouragement to your immediate approach to Christ. No argument based upon your unworthiness can avail to exclude you from an interest in his great salvation. He came into the world to save sinners, even the chief. All that he did, and all that he said, and all that he suffered, was for sinners. It is his work, it is his joy, it is his glory to save sinners. For this he exchanged heaven for earth, relinquished the bosom of his Father for the embrace of the cross. He was never known to reject a poor sinner that came to him; he has never refused to take within his sheltering side, to hide within his bleeding bosom, the penitent that sought its protection, fleeing from the condemnation of the law to the asylum of the cross. "Whoever comes unto me I will in no wise cast out." With such a declaration as this, flowing from the lips of Jesus, who can refuse to look from the greatness of his own sin and guilt to the greatness of his love, the greatness of his grace, the greatness of his salvation, "who came into the world to save sinners?"
In "looking unto Jesus," we must also look from churches, as from ourselves. God has placed salvation for a lost sinner in no church upon earth. He has ordained that salvation should exist only in the Lord Jesus. To substitute, then, the church of God for the Christ of God, faith in the church for faith in the Savior of the church, surely were a crime of the deepest guilt, entailing consequences the most dire. The church of God is herself a fallen, sinful, and impotent body. She is pardoned, justified, and accepted alone in her one divine and great Head; and "there is no other name given among men whereby they may be saved," but the name of Jesus. He, then, who is looking to any church, or to church privileges, for salvation, whatever the name by which that church is called, whatever the power it claims, or the authority it assumes, shall as assuredly perish in his vain refuge as Joab perished when he fled from the vengeance of the king, into the "tabernacle of the Lord, and caught hold of the horns of the altar," but fell beneath its sacred shadow, weltering in his blood. Escape, then, from every other refuge, and flee to Jesus, the true Sanctuary and the true Altar, where safety and salvation alone are found.
Second, "Looking unto Jesus," IN everything. In the deep study of the holiness of the law, and the strictness of Divine justice, what a suitable and glorious object for the alarmed and trembling spirit to look upon is he who came to honor that law and to satisfy that justice. Are you agitated by thoughts of the Divine holiness, and your own impurity? Do you tremble as you contemplate God’s determination to punish sin, by no means clearing the guilty? Look unto Jesus, and let your trembling subside into the calmness with which his whisper stills the tempest. He has become "the end of the law for righteousness," to all that believe. His atonement, while it vindicates the majesty of the Father’s government, spreads its mighty shield around the Father’s child; and thus protected, neither the thunder of the law nor the flaming sword of justice can reach him. Oh the blessedness of looking, by faith, to Jesus, from the wrath and the condemnation justly due to our transgressions; to see all that wrath and condemnation borne by him who wept and bled in the garden, who languished and died upon the tree; to see Jesus, with the keys of all authority and power suspended from his girdle, closing up our hell, and opening wide our heaven! In the season of solitude and sorrow, Christian reader, when thoughts of God’s holiness mingle with views of your sinfulness, and fears of Divine wrath blend with the consciousness of your just deserts, darkening that solitude and embittering that sorrow, O! turn and fix your believing eye upon the Divine, the suffering, the atoning Savior, and peace, composure, and joy will lull your trembling spirit to rest.
You are not sick, nor in solitude, nor in sorrow, because there is wrath in God, for all that wrath was borne by your Redeeming Surety. You are so – oh that you could believe it – because God is love. Divine goodness sent the sickness, mingled the cup of sorrow, and marked out your lonely path. It must be, since Jesus so bore away the curse and the sin, that God now brims the cup he emptied with the love that passes knowledge. "My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, neither be you weary of his correction: for whom the Lord loves he corrects, even as a father the son in whom he delights." Your heavenly Father loves you, and delights in you; therefore he chastens and corrects you. "Despise" it not, then, on the one hand; and do not be "weary" of it on the other.
In every position of life, our privilege is to be "looking unto Jesus." God can place us in no circumstances, be they humble or exalted, in which we may not repair to Christ for the wisdom and the strength, the grace and the consolation, those circumstances demand. It is our mercy to know that God adapts himself to every position of his saints. He knows that in times of prosperity, the feet of his saints are apt to slide; and that in times of adversity, they are often pierced and wounded. Thus, in the smooth path, as in the rough, Jesus is to be the one object to which the eye is raised, and upon which it rests. If he exalts you, as he may do, to any post of distinction and responsibility, look unto Jesus, and study the self-annihilation and lowliness of his whole life; and seek the grace to sustain you in the position for which your own powers are most inadequate. If he lays you low, as in his dealings with his people he often does, from the depth of your humiliation let your eye look unto Jesus, who reached a depth in his abasement infinitely beneath your own; and who can descend to your circumstances, and impart the grace that will enable you so to adapt yourself to them as to glorify him in them. Thus you will know both how to abound, and how to suffer need.
In each season of affliction, to whom can we more appropriately look than to Jesus? He was pre-eminently the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. If you would tell your grief to one who knew grief as none never knew it; if you would weep upon the bosom of one who wept as none ever wept; if you would disclose your sorrow to one who sorrowed as none ever sorrowed; if you would bare your wound to one who was wounded as none ever was wounded; then in your affliction turn from all creature sympathy and support, and look to Jesus; to a kinder nature, to a tenderer bosom, to a deeper love, to a more powerful arm, to a more sympathizing friend, you could not take your trial, your affliction, and your sorrow. He is prepared to embosom himself in your deepest grief, and to make your circumstances all his own. So completely and personally is he one with you, that nothing can affect you that does not instantly touch him.
Your temptations from Satan, your persecutions from man, the woundings of saints, and the smitings of the watchmen, all fall upon him. "The reproaches of those who reproached you fall on me." Tender to him are you as the apple of his eye. Your happiness, your reputation, your usefulness, your labors, your necessities, your discouragements, your despondencies, all pass beneath his unslumbering notice, and are the objects of his tenderest love and incessant care. If Jesus, then, is willing to come and make, as it were, his home in the very heart of your sorrow, surely you will not hesitate in repairing with your sorrow to his heart of love.
And when heart and flesh are fast failing, and the trembling feet descend into the dark valley of the shadow of death, to whom shall we then look, but unto Jesus? The world is now receding and all creatures are fading upon the sight; one object alone remains, arrests, and fixes the believer’s eye, it is Jesus, the Savior; it is Immanuel, the incarnate and now present God; it is the Captain of our salvation, the conqueror of death, and the spoiler of the grave; it is our Friend, our Brother, our Joseph, our Joshua, loving, and faithful, and present to the last. Jesus is there to confront death again, and vanquish him with his own weapons. Jesus is there to remind his departing one, that the grave can wear no gloom and can boast of no victory, since he himself passed through its portal, rose and revived and lives for evermore.
Sick one! in your languishing, look to Jesus! Departing one! in your death struggles, look to Jesus. Are you guilty? Jesus is righteous. Are you a sinner? Jesus is a Savior. Are you fearful, and do you tremble? The Shepherd of the flock is with you, and no one shall pluck his sheep out of his hands. How fully, how suitably does the gospel now meet your case! In your bodily weakness and mental confusion, two truths are, perhaps, all that you can now dwell upon, – your sinfulness and Christ’s redemption, your emptiness and Christ’s sufficiency. Enough! you need no more; God requires no more. In your felt weakness, in your conscious unworthiness, midst the swelling of the cold waters, raise your eye and fix it upon Jesus, and all will be well. Do you hear not the words of your Savior calling you from the bright world of glory to which he bids you come, – "Arise, my love, my fair one! and come away." Let your trusting, joyful heart respond,
Jesus! my breath is failing; lead me on
Softly and gently, as my strength can bear;
Draw me to you in closer union,
And for eternal life your child prepare.
Let your love shine upon my soul, and chase
This mistiness and darkness quite away,
Until faith discerns her holy resting-place
Distinctly, in the perfect light of day.
Roll me in snowy clothing; store my heart
With precious jewels from your treasury.
This world is not my rest; let me depart,
And let my ransomed soul return to thee.
Well may I trust you, who yourself have given
To gain for me the peace and bliss of heaven.
Third, "Looking unto Jesus," for everything. A few words must express all that we would say upon this view of our subject. God has but one Treasurer, and the church but one Treasury, the Lord Jesus. He has deposited all fullness exclusively in Christ, that we might, in all need, repair only to Christ. "Looking unto Jesus," for our standing before God; "Looking unto Jesus," for the grace that upholds and preserves us unto eternal life; "Looking unto Jesus," for the supply of the Spirit that sanctifies the heart, and fits us for the heavenly glory; "Looking unto Jesus," for each day’s need, for each moment’s support; "Looking unto Jesus," for the eye that sees him, the faith that beholds the invisible; in a word, "Looking unto Jesus," for EVERYTHING. Thus has God simplified our life of faith in his dear Son. Severing us from all other sources, alluring us away from all other dependencies, and weaning us from all self-confidence, he would shut us up to Christ alone, that Christ might be all and in all. "They shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn." "Look unto me, all you ends of the earth, and be you saved, for I am God, and there is none else."
"For the weakness of faith’s eye" remember that Christ has suitably provided. His care of, and his tenderness towards, those whose grace is limited, whose experience is feeble, whose knowledge is defective, whose faith is small, are exquisite. He has promised to "anoint the eye with eye-salve that it may see," and that is may see more clearly. Repair to him, then, with your case, and seek the fresh application of this Divine ointment. Be cautious of limiting the reality of your sight to the nearness or distinctness of the object. The most distant and dim view of Jesus by faith, is as real and saving as if that view were with the strength of an eagle’s eye.
A well-known example in Jewish history affords an pertinent illustration: the wounded Israelite was simply commanded to look to the brazen serpent. Nothing was said of the clearness of his vision or the distinctness of his view; no exception was made to the dimness of his sight. His eye might possibly be blurred, the phantoms of a diseased imagination might float before it, intercepting his view; no, more, it might already be glazing and fixing in death? Yet, even under these circumstances, and at that moment, if he but obeyed the Divine command, and looked towards, simply towards, the elevated serpent, distant and beclouded as it was, he was immediately and effectually healed. Thus is it with the operation of faith. Let your eye, in obedience to the gospel’s command, be but simply raised and fastened upon Jesus, far removed as may be the glorious object, and dim as may be the blessed vision, yet thus "looking unto Jesus," you shall be fully and eternally saved. And soon – oh how soon! – we shall see him unveiled, unclouded in glory. Until then, let us run the race set before us; looking unto Jesus as the goal which we shall soon reach, and as the prize which we shall forever possess.
Wherefore droops your trembling soul?
Wherefore saddened is your brow?
Clouds around your path may roll,
But your God is present now;
Raise your eyes, the cross is there,
Steadfast still, though tempest frown;
Lift your head and breathe your prayer,
Claim your Savior for your own:
Make through him your strong appeal,
‘Looking unto Jesus,’ kneel.
He, the Author of the faith
Which your spirit shall renew,
In his sacred hour of death
Finished your salvation too;
Learn your Savior’s power to see,
He the ‘life, the truth, the way,’
Interceded e’en for thee
Before your heart had learned to pray.
Lift your heart, and lift your hand,
‘Looking unto Jesus,’ stand.
When the water-floods of grief,
Round your helpless head shall rise,
When there seems no relief,
Look towards the eternal skies.
There behold how radiantly
Beams the star of faith divine;
Yesterday it shone for you,
And today it still shall shine.
Ask no aid the world can give,
‘Looking unto Jesus,’ live.
When you feel by many a token
That the flesh shall soon decay,
And the golden bowl be broken,
And the silver cord give way;
There beyond the darksome veil,
Trust that he your eyes shall bless;
As the light of life shall fail,
Keep the Sun of Righteousness
Ever brightening in your eye,
And ‘looking unto Jesus,’ die!