Then came the Jews round about him, and said to him, How long do you make us to doubt? If you be the Christ, tell us plainly.…
We are dealing with the truth of the Divinity of the Christ, as it has been proclaimed by Christendom ever since the day when He lived and died on this earth. We are endeavouring to test the weight of evidence in favour of such a tremendous claim. And in order to do this effectually we are summoning certain witnesses before us that they may bear their testimony for or against it. The works of a man, like his character and words, are very eloquent. They speak for or against him. The works of the Christ. This, then, is our witness today. They are the works of One the beauty of whose character and words is acknowledged by all men whose judgment is worth having. "They bear witness of Me," says the Christ. What do they say? Do they justify or condemn, do they speak for or against Him?
I. And, first of all, we want to know WHAT THIS WITNESS IS. The works of the Christ are many and manifold. There are works of love, of sympathy, of mercy; there are works of wisdom, of power, of greatness; there are works of warning, of judgment, of condemnation. Which of these shall we summon as our witness today? No; our Lord Himself narrows the issue for us. He points to certain of His works and by them will be judged, "The works that I do in My Father's name." It is quite clear that He is speaking of His miracles. The miracles of the Christ! "Oh," some will say, "no one believes in miracles nowadays. If you have no ether witness but this your case must surely fall to the ground. Miracles do not happen!" Why is a miracle impossible? Hume denies the possibility of a miracle because "it is contrary to all experience." Mr. Mill, the greatest of modern logicians, shows theft after all this statement is really worth nothing. He tells us that it only means that you cannot prove a miracle to a person who does not believe in a Being with supernatural powers. If by all experience he literally means "all" he is simply begging the question. No one ever supposed for a moment that miracles have been experienced by all. The philosopher Rousseau tells us that objections to miracles from their improbability cannot reasonably be urged by any man who seriously believes in a living God. But others urge, a miracle is impossible because it is a violation of the laws of nature. But is it? Let us ask what is meant by violating nature's laws. What is a miracle? It is a lower law suspended by a higher. And who shall say this cannot be? To say so were to contradict daily experience. For instance, we can, we do continually counteract the great law of gravitation by a higher law. A miracle is impossible. No, not to any man who believes in a God at all. And we are taking this for granted. Very few deny it. Yea more, we live in a world of miracles. "We cannot see," writes James Hinton, who was at once a man of science and a philosopher, and they do not always go together, "that we walk in the midst of miracles, and draw in mysteries with every breath." A miracle is impossible. Nay, the miracles of the Christ are not a discredited witness: they are not impossible or improbable. On the contrary, miracles are natural and reasonable, and under certain circumstances they are to be expected. But, you say, were not His character and His words enough? Nay, they might be for us, but not for them. In those early days many among men knew but little of His character, and heard only a few of His words. There was need of other credentials in those days, plainer and more striking, to support the claim which Jesus made. We need them not. The miracles of the Christ were like the bells of the Church, that ring before the service begins, and call men by their music to come and worship. But the bells cease when the congregation has assembled and the act of worship commenced. And so we say that it was to be expected that a supernatural revelation, brought by a supernatural Teacher, should, in the absence of all earthly power and greatness, be accompanied by supernatural signs, to attest the truth of the Messenger and of the message He delivered unto men. If, then, these miracles are neither impossible nor improbable, what can we learn about the nature of the witness they give? First, then, I would have you bear in mind that they, too, like the other witnesses we have called, are well-authenticated facts. They are facts which His disciples believed in, and who were so likely to know as they? They are facts, for even His enemies admitted their reality. The Jews did not deny them. Secondly, the miracles of Christ are to be expected. They were the natural accompaniments of His mission of love, the embodiments of His character and words, in harmony with all else that we are told of Him. "They were perfectly natural and ordinary in Him, they were His δυναμεῖς, His powers or faculties, His capacities, just as sight and speech are ours." Thirdly, the miracles of the Christ are unique. No other religion was ever founded upon miracles, as is Christianity. "Whence, then, hath this Man this wisdom and these mighty works?" Christendom answers, "He is the Son of the Living God." Yea, Jesus Himself tells us, "The works which the Father hath given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me that the Father hath sent Me." But as in the first days of Christianity, so still men refuse to believe this. They offer us other solutions instead. Renan, for instance, says He deluded His disciples. Others tell us that the Christ was enabled to do His miracles by His greater know. ledge of the laws of science. But can we accept this solution? Or, again, we are told that these miracles are the outcome of the imagination of the disciples — that miracles were in the air, so to speak. Moreover, are we really entitled to take for granted, as do so many, that at the time the Gospels were written there was a predisposition in the minds of men to accept what was extraordinary? In his book on miracles Mr. Litton writes with considerable force, "No mistake is greater than to suppose that the period at which the Gospels appeared was favourable to imposture of this kind. It was an age of literature and philosophy, the diffusion of which was promoted by the union of the civilized world under one sceptre. In Palestine learning had especially taken the form of critical inquiries into the integrity and genuineness of ancient books." But there are others who accept the force of this reasoning, and say the miracles of the Christ are the creation of a later age. But, as has been well pointed out by the same writer, such a man must have been a forger surpassing all the world has ever known in cleverness. Once more, it is said that the results attributed to miraculous power were in reality brought about by the forces of His personal qualities. His strength of will, His beauty of character, His personal attraction, influenced men, and worked upon them wonderful cures. But even if it were so with the miracles of which men and women were the subjects, how will this account for the stilling of the storm or the withering of the fig tree. There is only one alternative. Jesus Himself tells us what it is, "If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not." Shall we believe Him or shall we reject Him?
(C. J. Ridgeway, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
WEB: The Jews therefore came around him and said to him, "How long will you hold us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."