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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Gospels

Chapter 59 - John 3:29 - The Filling Up of Joy Light & Truth: The Gospels by Bonar, Horatius




The Filling Up Of Joy.


"This my joy therefore is fulfilled."-John 3:29



     These are among "the last words" of John; just as he is about to step into Herod's prison. His was a brief life and ministry, yet was he the greatest among the prophets. His last words carry us back to Jacob's (Genesis 49), "I have waited for thy salvation"; to Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), "A prophet shall the Lord raise"; to David's (Psalm 72:20), "The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended"; to Simeon's (Luke 2:29), "Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." They are the words of the martyr about to enter the prison, and to lay his neck under the sword of the executioner. They are the last words of the shortest, but perhaps most important ministry on record.

     They are an answer to the jealous appeal of his own disciples. Hitherto he had been the man of the time; all crowded to him. Now the crowds were leaving him for Jesus. This tried the faith of his disciples, and roused their jealousy. "All men come to him" (verse 26), were the words of disappointment and envy. But John has no such feeling; nor had ever said aught to produce or foster it (verse 28).

     In his answer he first tells who he is not. "I am not the Christ." Why wonder at the crowds now going past me? "I am not the bridegroom," the bride belongs not to me; why wonder at the crowds flocking to the Bridegroom? Is not this just what you should expect and rejoice in? Next he tells us who he is. He is the, foresent one. This is all he can say for himself. His honour is not his own, but comes from Him whom he heralds. He is the friend of the Bridegroom; the groomsman; like the virgins in attendance on the bride. As the foresent one he has been looking out for the Christ; should he not then rejoice that He has come? As the friend of the Bridegroom, he is watching for the Bridegroom's arrival; should he not rejoice when he hears His voice? For thus his errand terminates; his great mission is consummated; his joy fulfilled; his life no longer needed.

     But the figure here used carries us back very strikingly to the Song of Solomon; chapter 2:8, "The voice of my beloved"; 2:10, "My beloved spake, and said"; 2:14, "Let me hear thy voice"; 5:1, "Eat, O friends"; 8:13, "Cause me to hear it." So with the words, bridegroom and friend. They are from the Song; and John the Baptist, no doubt, had its figures before his eye.

     John's feelings are therefore just what we should have expected of a true man, a true friend, a true forerunner in such circumstances. Negatively, they are-

     (1.) Not disappointment. His mission has not failed; he is not a disappointed man. Theme is no bitterness in his words.

     (2.) Not distrust. As if he knew not whereunto all this would grow; as if he dreaded the result.

     (3.) Not envy or jealousy. Whatever jealousy might be in his disciples, there was none in him. He envied not.

     (4.) Not pride. It is not wounded pride that speaks in him. He is the forerunner of the meek and lowly One; and pride has been cast out. Self-love and self-esteem have ceased. Self has passed away in the presence of the Son of God. He is content to be nothing.

But, positively, they are the feelings of one-

     (1.) Who admires and loves the Bridegroom. His admiration and love are true. Hence that Bridegroom is ever uppermost in his thoughts. There is no attractiveness save in him.

     (2.) Who has been eagerly looking for Him. In John we have the true personification of one "waiting for Christ," "looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God." And when He for whom he is looking comes, his joy is full.

     (3.) Who has actually found him. "I found him whom my soul loveth." "We have found the Messiah." John has found him, and rejoices.

     (4.) Whose delight is in his voice. He long listened; it came at length; "the voice of my beloved"! He stands and listens to the conversation of the marriage party,-specially of the bridegroom. It is His voice that he delights in. It is converse with Him that is his joy; "he standeth and listeneth."

     (5.) Whose joy is in Him alone. All his springs are in Him. Apart from Him joy exists not to him; nay, is an impossibility. It is joy unspeakable and full of glory.

     (6.) Who is content to be nothing. "He must increase; I must decrease." This is no hardship. He is glad to vanish and give way to the greater and more glorious one.

     Thus, in this answer we have the full acknowledgment of what John is, and of what he knows Jesus to be. What are we?

     We are friends of the bridegroom, if believers in the name of Jesus. Friends! Like John. Like the virgins who went forth to meet Him. By nature we are friends of the world. We break with it, and become friends of the Bridegroom. We hear a good report of this Bridegroom, his love, his loveableness, his beauty, his glory, and so we betake ourselves to Him. We accept the Father's testimony to Him; the Holy Spirit's testimony to his person and his work. We join ourselves to the number of his friends. He at once admits us as such.

     If "friends" (as Jesus himself calls us) then the following things will mark us as they did John.

     I. Admiration for Christ as the Bridegroom. For himself as "altogether lovely"; the perfection of beauty. We admire His person, His life, His work; all these separately, and all of them together. We count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ. We love and admire; we admire and love. The more we know, the more we love; the oftener we gaze, the more we admire. What think ye of Christ? Do you admire Him? Do you love Him? We love Him because He first loved us; yes, loves us to the end, with the love that passeth knowledge.

     II. Delight in his voice. John stood and listened as one entranced. He heard (as well as saw) no man save Jesus only. The Tones of his voice are sweet; but the words are unutterably precious; each word a gem, a treasure, a joy. This is my beloved Son, hear Him! Yes, hear Him in these days of uproar and confusion; hear his voice amid the chaos of human views. Say to Him, "Let me hear thy voice." His "speech is comely"; "honey and milk are under his tongue"; his lips "drop sweet smelling myrrh"; his "lips drop as the honeycomb"; "into his lips grace is poured."

     III. Joy in his glory. He has now "increased"; He is crowned with glory and honour. This is our joy; yea, in this our joy is fulfilled. He is now blessed and glorified. And He will yet be more so when He comes again. We joy in what He is; we joy in what He shall be. He comes to be glorified in his saints and admired in all them that believe. Behold the Bridegroom cometh, let us go forth to meet him!