Jesus Christ is many things. He was the greatest moral and religious teacher this world has ever known. But, says the Bible, he was, and is, much more than that.
He is the only Priest with direct access to God. He alone can forgive sins. And, as the personal stories printed in this paper testify, many have found him the best of all friends. So how can he help us today?
Jesus Christ can be our protector. Consider his words concerning the people of first-century Jerusalem: ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing’ (Matthew 23:37).
In these words we see Christ’s compassion. He longed that these people, guilty though they were of rejecting God’s messengers, should nevertheless be delivered from judgement.
The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A. D. 70 fulfilled his foreboding. But he still desires to save men from the even greater and eternal judgement that will come upon the world at the end of time. But can he do so?
The power of Christ
The Bible answers ‘yes’. Consider how his words reveal the glory of our Lord’s person. He said: ‘I have longed to gather your children together’. By ‘children’ he meant the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Suppose the city had half a million inhabitants. ‘I would have gathered them under my wings’, said Jesus.
What kind of man is this? 500,000 souls gathered, metaphorically, under his wings! This must be the one of whom David wrote in Psalm 91: ‘He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in him I will trust … He shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you shall take refuge’.
It is hard to conceive of a huge crowd, numbering half a million people. Who, then, can gather them securely with as much ease as a hen gathers half-a-dozen chicks under her wings? The answer is Jesus Christ, the mighty God.
For those who trust in him, he provides both an overruling providence in all the affairs of life and, even more important, protection from the eternal death our sins deserve. How great is the power of Christ to keep and to save!
Although he saves multitudes, Jesus Christ does not deal with us as a crowd, but individually and personally.
In the Old Testament story of Ruth, her mentor Boaz says to her: ‘a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge’ (Ruth 2:12).
Like Ruth, we too can find a personal refuge under the wings of God. How? By trusting in Jesus Christ, who was God manifest in the flesh and who redeemed his people with his own blood when he died on the cross.
‘Let all Jerusalem come to me’, he said in effect. ‘I have such competence, and such power. I have such authority and such love. I have such capable grace that I can give the population of this whole city, individual by individual, complete and eternal protection.
‘Let every man leave the dark streets of rebellion against God, and come to me with his antagonisms. Let every woman bring her fears and sorrows; every teenager and all the children too; let them come. I can protect them all’.
Mercy to sinners
The outstretched wings of Christ’s saving grace are so broad and strong that absolutely nothing can harm those who shelter there. This powerful God of Boaz and of David is unspeakably tender and compassionate.
Such is his mercy that he is willing to gather, close to his heart, even those who killed the prophets and stoned God’s messengers. Think how he dealt with Saul of Tarsus, a man who bitterly persecuted the followers of Christ in the early church.
God changed this man and brought him out of his darkness. The ascended Christ revealed himself on the Damascus Road and transformed this erstwhile enemy into his servant, the apostle Paul.
Are you a notable sinner like Saul? Have you rejected God’s message, like the people of Jerusalem? Jesus still bids you come to him for refuge from the judgement you deserve.
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah calls you: ‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon’ (Isaiah 55:7).
Secondly, Jesus Christ can satisfy our deepest longings. Consider these words in John 7:37: ‘On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”.’
Once again, this invitation is personal. Jesus spoke similar words to a single individual: ‘If you knew the gift of God’, he said, ‘and who it is who says to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water … whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life’ (John 4:10-14).
What is this ‘water of life’ that so satisfies the soul? It is the gift of God’s Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts, bringing with him all the blessings of Christ. Just as water satisfies our thirst, so the presence of Christ by his Spirit satisfies the soul as nothing else can do.
Who is this that bids multitudes come and draw everlasting refreshment from his person? The Old Testament calls him ‘the fountain of living waters’. That is a title of the living God.
‘My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water’ (Jeremiah 2:13).
Christ is that Fountain, and to those who do not forsake him, he says: ‘the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life’.
How strange, then, to find this Fountain nailed to a cross between two thieves and crying out, ‘I thirst’! The very fountain of living waters was athirst!
Why? Because on the cross Christ bore our sins in his own body, and died that we might be forgiven. He was forsaken by his Father in heaven that sinners like us might be accepted by the Father ‘in the beloved’, that is, in Christ.
One of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and there came out blood and water. The hymn-writer explains the spiritual import of this:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
The Lord Jesus spoke some great words in John 6:37: ‘All that the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out’. This verse is a sheet-anchor to troubled souls.
The preacher James Durham was on his deathbed and had little comfort or peace, but he said to a friend: ‘Do you think I can venture my soul on this: “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”?’ His friend replied: ‘If you had a hundred souls you could venture them all on that word’.
So much for the grace of the word, but think of its glory. Who would dare say these words if he were merely a man? Here is someone higher by far than every other, and he says: ‘If they come to me I will not cast them into hell’. This is divinity speaking.
A seventeenth-century Christian called John Owen reminds us that if we go to someone for help we must be sure of two things: ‘Is that person willing to help us? Is that person able to help us?’
People in need should know that Christ is both willing and able to meet their need, and should doubt no more. In the light of all that Christ has done, what will he not do for us?
He humbled himself, coming down from heights of glory to take our finite nature into union with his infinite nature. He gave his life as an atonement for sin. He rose victorious over death and the grave. He ascended to the throne of God. Having done all this, will he not meet our every need?