III. Pitching Tent on Olivet
(chapter 3 of 3)
Do you remember the last time that the Master was with His disciples? I don't know what time of the day it was. It may have been in the early morning when the dew was fresh on all the flowers and the grass. It may have been in the evening time in the twilight. They have been down in the city together. The Master said, "Let us take a walk," and they walk down the narrow city street, and out the gate, and up the hill, and now they are on Olivet's top. There the Master says the last word that He spoke; and there I want you, for a moment, to take your stand with the Master on Olivet's top.
A man should live with his tent pitched on Olivet, the place with the ringing cry of "All power." You cannot stand on Olivet without seeing, down yonder, a bunch of trees in a depression of the ground; and you know that is Gethsemane, where the touch of sin, in anticipation, came so strong as almost to bear the Master down; where the strain of spirit was so great, as He thought of coming into touch with sin — aye, of becoming sin for us — that the thread of life almost snapped, and special prayer had to be made that the life might be held till the great service was done. Olivet always includes in its perspective yonder Gethsemane, the place of the lone soul struggle, because of the sin of the world.
Then beyond is the old grey wall of the city, you can see it a bit, and there just outside is Calvary, where the Man of the race, who was more than man, climbed the hill of the Cross, and took our place, acted as our Substitute, in our stead, and with the keenest pain of body, and yet keener pain of spirit, until His heart broke, poured out His life-blood for all men, and for us and for our sin.
And over on the other side is Bethany, the place that had the prophetic glimpse of the marvelous resurrection power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Hearing The Last Word
We want to step, just a moment, to Olivet and hear the Master's last word. But remember this: you cannot stand on Olivet without seeing Gethsemane, and seeing Calvary, — suffering spelled out twice to the deepest degree; and seeing Bethany, — power spelled out prophetically beyond what mere man has ever known. It is the last time they are together. He's going away — but coming back pretty soon, they understand. They don't know just how soon; but they do know this, that while He is gone they are to be as He, they are to take His place. And so they stand, eagerly looking into His face, and listening for His words, and wondering what the last word will be.
There's Peter, the man of rock, who slipped so badly, but who came back and was forgiven. There are John and James, the sons of thunder and of fire, who are to burn their lives out now for their Master. Here is the guileless man, and the others, grouped around the Master. But you hardly notice them, if you notice them at all. Your face quickly turns to Him, the Man in the midst, with a face torn by the thorns and cut by the thorns, scarred and marred by suffering for sin — other men's sin, but with a wondrous glory-light shining out of eyes and face.
And, as they listen, the Master says this — it is His last word, it contains the whole pent-up passion of His heart, it should be the first word with every follower of His. Simply it is, "Go ye." "All power hath been given unto Me, therefore go ye, and make disciples of all the nations." While that word is ringing in their ears, they are startled to notice that His feet are off the ground, and He keeps moving up, and up, and up, by a new law of gravitation upward, until by and by a cloud — not a rain cloud — a glory cloud, sweeps down out of the blue and conceals His form. And, as He goes away, the one word that rings and burns in ear and heart is this, "Go ye. All of you go. Go to all. Go with all you have. Go all the time there is. Because I have the power, you go, in My power, out to the farthest reach of the earth."
A friend in my country has supposed the scene that he thinks might have taken place when the Master went back. The last you and I see is the glory cloud that sweeps down out of the blue and conceals His form. And the old earth has not seen Him since, though the Book does say this: that some day He's coming back in just the same way as He went. Some of us are very strongly inclined to believe it will be exactly as the Master said, in that regard, and the time may be not so far off as some think. But have you thought of what took place on the other, the upper side, the glory side of the cloud? He's been down there a long time, over thirty years away from home; and they're fairly hungry for or a look at the blessed face of the Master again. Talking in human language, I have imagined them coming down to where they might catch the first glimpse of face and form.
The friend I speak of has imagined this: that after the first flush of feeling has spent itself, — this is the way we would talk about such things on earth — and the master is walking down the golden street, with Gabriel, talking earnestly, quietly, Gabriel says, "Master, you died for the whole world, did you not?" "Yes." "You must have suffered very much." "Aye, Gabriel, I cannot talk about that even to you; it goes too deep." "And do they all know about it down there?" "Oh, no; just a little handful in Syria know about it thus far." "Well, Master, what is your plan? What plan have you made to tell the world that you have died for them? What arrangements have you made?" And the Master is supposed to reply, "Well, I asked Peter, and James, and John, and some more of them down there, just to go and make it the business of their lives to tell the others. And the others are to tell others, and the others yet others, and still others beyond, till the last man in the farthest reach has heard the story, and has been caught, thrilled and thralled by the power of it."
A Serious Question
And you know, Gabriel knows us folks pretty well. We are no strangers to him. He has made more than one journey to the earth, and knows the kind of stuff that is in us folk down here. His brow knits a bit, and he looks a bit troubled, as if he could see difficulty in the Master's plan. And he says, "Yes, but, Master, suppose, after a while, Peter forgets. Suppose John, after a bit, loses his enthusiasm, and simply doesn't tell the others. Suppose their successors away down there in the twentieth century get so busy with things — some of them good things: church things maybe; some of them may not be quite so proper things — suppose they get so busy that they do not tell the others, what then?" And his eyes are big with their eagerness, for he is thinking of the suffering; and he is thinking, too, of the difference to the man who doesn't know about the suffering and the dying. "What then?" And back comes that quiet voice of the Lord Jesus. Nobody ever talked so quietly as He. He says, "Gabriel, I haven't made any other plans. I am counting on them. That is a bit of this friend's imagination, it is quite true; but it is the Gospel story, page after page. The Master has made that plan; He has not made any other plan; He's counting on us. I think if I could emphasize one sentence more than another, it would be that sentence, He's counting on us, each in his own sphere, in his own place, as comes best to you. Simply that, but all of that. And as you listen with your hearts — if you fail Him, if someone fails the Lord Jesus in making the one dominant purpose of his life telling the others, if you fail — just that far, you make the Lord Jesus Christ's dying a failure practically, so far as concerns those whom you touch, or whom you can touch. Yes, I know that sounds serious. I'd rather not be saying it. But I am sure; by the Book it is true; and I know only what I find in the Book. And so the Master is counting on us.
He has given to us three things, at least, to use in carrying out His plan. He has given us, first, the life — what we are. The greatest thing any man has is his life. And, even though you stay here, your life is the greatest thing you have in reaching both the world you touch directly, and the whole world you cannot touch directly. First, the life; what we are, simply, in a pure, clean, sweet, unselfish Christ-controlled life.
He has given us a second thing — gold, what we possess, the power to earn. It is a marvelous trust. Gold has a strange power of transmutation. By the golden finger a man can reach around the whole world. It is a strange power; and I think the Church of Christ has never begun to realize the power there is in gold. It is almost omnipotent today. When you get beyond the line of this life, it is utterly worthless — simply to be cast out like the saltless salt, and no more. But now it is almost omnipotent.
He has given us a third thing, and that is prayer, which I want to define anew in this way, — the power to take, in the Lord Jesus' Name, what He has won.
And the Master is counting on us to use the life, and the gold committed to our trust, and the power of prayer, to go out and take! to the very end of the earth. I remember my heart catching fire, one time, as a friend told me a very simple tale of one of our southern American cities. It was during a time before our civil war, when the sanitary conditions in the south were very poor. A plague came to a city, a plague of disease, and wrought great havoc. The city's death-cart was rolling in the streets almost all the time; and hardly a home but had the tear, and the sorrow, and the vacant room and the empty chair. Into one very poor home the disease came and did very rapid work. They were all carried out, one after another, until there remained a mother — the mother and her baby boy, of five years, it may be, or so.
The story says that he crept up on his mother's knee, with his baby face very close to hers, and he said, "Mother, father's dead, and brothers and sister are dead. Suppose you die! What will I do?" What could she say, with the face so close to hers? She must keep brave. Her heart had thought of it. What could she say? She was a Christian woman, and as she swallowed hard, she said, as quietly as she could, "My boy, if I should die, the Lord Jesus will come for you." And that was quite satisfactory to him. He had been trained from the earliest months, to know about this Saviour, how good He was. The boy went about his playing on the floor, thinking, "It is all fixed. If mother should die, Jesus will come, and that will be all right."
And his question proved all too prophetic. The disease did quick work; they were carrying her away; he followed and saw where she was laid. He came back to the house, and in the excitement of the time he was forgotten, and was left alone in the poor humble home. He tried to sleep that night, but couldn't, so rose and dressed himself as best he could. He found his way down the street and out upon the road to where they had laid her. Finding the spot, he threw himself down upon the freshly thrown-up earth, and wept until nature kindly stole away his consciousness in sleep.
Early the next morning, just at the break of day, a Christian gentleman was coming down the road from some errand of mercy that had kept him out all the night. As he came along the road, past the graveyard, he saw the boy and quickly guessed the heart-breaking story. He called him and said, "My boy, what are you doing here?" The boy raised himself, rubbed his eyes, and said, " Well, father is dead, and brothers and sister dead, and now mother's dead! and she said that if she did die, Jesus would come for me. And He hasn't come, and I'm tired waiting." And the man swallowed hard; and then said very quietly, as he tried to control his voice, "Well, my boy, I've come for you." And the boy looked up with his baby eyes big, and said, "You've been a long time coming!"
A Long Time Coming
When I listen to my missionary friends, there comes before my eyes a vision that keeps coming all the while, and I cannot get rid of it, day and night — I don't want to — a great sea of faces from South Africa, and North Africa, from Japan, and China, and India, and the Levant, and South America, and the Isles of the Sea; a great crowd of brothers, with their eyes big, and their faces gaunt, from the hunger of their lives, and their hands outstretched. And they say, "You are a long time coming!" Over against that vision, there is the other of the Man with the scarred face, on Olivet. And the two are answering each other: "Go ye" — "You are a long time coming!"
I wish we might quietly bow in prayer and say, "Master, all anew we will give ourselves to Thee, to send, to give, to obey as Thou shalt lead, that this cry of hungering nations may be stopped, and they may have the wondrous Jesus Christ."
As we quietly pray shall we just continue those two visions before our face — the Master, who is our Master, with His ringing cry, "Go ye"; and then the other cry coming up from our blood-brothers of the far-away lands, "You are a long time coming."
And I suggest that we might make this prayer just in secret, "Lord Jesus, I will obey Thy voice with my life. Teach me what 'obey' means. I'll obey with life, and gold, and all the power Thou dost give. Lord Jesus, I will plan to put prayer first, and to take what Thou hast won, as Thy Spirit guides, day by day. First, to obey; and, second, to pray. I will hold everything I am, and everything I have, subject to Thy call, as Thy Spirit shall guide.
Nearer my God to Thee,
Nearer to Thee;
E'en though it be a cross,
That raiseth me."