The Secret of Gladness
Mark 2:18-20
And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say to him…

I. THE BRIDEGROOM. The singular appropriateness in the employment of this name by Christ in the existing circumstances. The Master of these very disciples had said "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom," etc. Our Lord reminds them of their own Teacher's words, and so He would say to them, "In your Master's own conception of what I am, and of the joy that comes from My presence, you have an answer to your question." We cannot but connect this name with a whole circle of ideas found in the Old Testament; the union between Israel and Jehovah was represented as a marriage. In Christ all this was fulfilled. See here Christ's self-consciousness; He claims to be the Bridegroom of humanity.

II. THE PRESENCE OF THE BRIDEGROOM. Are we in the dreary period when Christ "is taken away"? The time of mourning for an absent Christ was only three days. "Lo, I am with you alway." We have lost the manifestation of Him to the sense, but have gained the manifestation of Him to the spirit. The presence is of no use unless we daily try to realize it.

III. THE JOY OF THE BRIDEGROOM'S PRESENCE. What was it that made these rude lives so glad when Christ was with them? The charm of personal character, the charm of contact with one whose lips were bringing to them fresh revelations of truth. There is no joy in the world like that of companionship, in the freedom of perfect love, with one who ever keeps us at our best, and brings the treasure of ever fresh truth to the mind. He is with us as the source of our joy, because He is the Lord of our lives, and the absolute Commander of our wills. To have one present with us whose loving word it is delight to obey, is peace and gladness. He is with us as the ground of perfect joy because He is the adequate object of all our desires, and the whole of the faculties and powers of a man will find a field of glad activity in leaning upon Him, and realizing His presence. Like the apostle whom the old painters loved to represent lying with his happy head on Christ's heart, and his eyes closed in tranquil rapture of restful satisfaction, so if we have Him with us and feel that He is with us, our spirits may be still, and in the great stillness of fruition of all our wishes and the fulfilment of all our needs, may know a joy that the world can neither give nor take away. He is with us as the source of endless gladness in that He is the defence and protection for our souls. And as men live in a victualled fortress, and care not though the whole surrounding country may be swept bare of all provision, so when we have Christ with us we may feel safe, whatsoever befalls, and "in the days of famine we shall be satisfied." He is with us as the source of our perfect joy because His presence is the kindling of every hope that fills the future with light and glory. Dark or dim at the best, trodden by uncertain shapes, casting many a deep shadow over the present, that future lies, except we see it illumined by Christ, and have Him by our side. But if we possess His companionship, the present is but the parent of a more blessed time to come; and we can look forward and feel that nothing can touch our gladness, because nothing can touch our union with our Lord. So, dear brethren, from all these thoughts and a thousand more which I have no time to dwell upon, comes this one great consideration, that the joy of the presence of the Bridegroom is the victorious antagonist of all sorrow — "Can the children of the bride chamber mourn," etc. The Bridegroom limits our grief. Our joy will often be made sweeter by the very presence of the mourning. Why have so many Christian men so little joy in their lives? They look for it in wrong places. It cannot be squeezed out of worldly ambitions. A religion like that of John's disciples and that of the Pharisees is poor; a religion of laws and restrictions cannot be joyful. There is no way of men being happy except by living near the Master. Joy is a duty.

(Dr. McLaren.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?

WEB: John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, and they came and asked him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples don't fast?"

The Presence of the Bridegroom a Solace in Grief
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