Arise, let us go hence. — (John 14:31.)
YOU will remember that the Savior had been sitting at the Paschal table, and He had also celebrated for the first time that ordinance in which throughout all time we are bidden to remember Him. After supper, He began to pour out His heart to His people in that memorable chapter which begins with these comforting words: “Let not your hearts be troubled “; and He was continuing in a strain of consolation — most delightful it must have been to them, and I should think no less pleasing to Himself; for he that makes others happy generally enjoys the operation himself — when just as it were, in the middle of His discourse, having spoken concerning His own obedience to His Father, He seemed to start and say, “Let us go to it at once. A great work is to be done, and a great suffering is to be endured. Let us not tarry. Arise, let us go hence.”
Whether He did arise or not is very questionable. Some have thought that He did, and that the next two chapters were mainly spoken on the road to the garden of Gethsemane. But I hardly think so, and, though one cannot tell for certain, it does look from the 18th chapter, at the 1st verse, as if He did not go then; for the 18th chapter says: “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which He entered, and His disciples.”
Moreover, although it has been said that the chapter about the vine and the branches may have been suggested by the vines through which the Savior passed on the way to Gethsemane, it does not seem to me as if the chapters read like a conversation on the road. There is such a very deep solemnity about them, a quiet and subdued air, and, withal, they are so deep and so full of mystery. There are such pregnant sentences teeming with meaning, that they do not seem to me to be like the discoursings of one who speaks as he walks along, but rather like the deliberate utterances that would be given forth in a chamber in quiet and peace. Perhaps you have never tried it experimentally, but I have, and I know that preaching out of doors is quite a different thing from preaching indoors, and that what you would say to a congregation outside or in conversation with friends on the road is never so profound as that which you would speak to your own familiar acquaintances in the quiet of a room. It seems to me that the conjecture of a great many commentators and expositors is correct. The Savior here seems to start in the midst of His discourse, and He says, “Let us go hence!” And then, rising, perhaps, from the place where He had been speaking, He feels there is still more to say, and, keeping His posture of standing, He goes on to say somewhat more of that last impressive discourse which He intended to utter before He was taken from them.
However, it is not very important: it will mean just the same, whether He did go or whether He did not. It is an explanation dropped by the way; it is a sort of sacred interpolation upon the sense indicating, as a chance word will sometimes do, what is going on within. It seems very natural. It is all the better tell-tale of the internal processes which were going on in the Savior’s Soul.
It seems to me that these words, “Arise, let us go hence,” which, in the original Greek, were only three words, may, first of all, be viewed as our Master’s brave watchword, and then, secondly, for all time they may be accepted as His servant’s stirring motto: “Arise, let us go hence.”
I. First, then, they are the Savior’s brave watchword. In these words He expressed four things.
And, first, He expressed His desire to obey His Father. The clause preceding read thus: “But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.” He was eager to do His Father’s will; but that will was about to be revealed to Him in suffering. O brethren, some of us could willingly enough go to serve the Lord in activity, but to go and serve Him in suffering — we halt, we hesitate, we deliberate. But not so with the Savior.
His sufferings were to be infinitely greater than any that can fall to our lot.
In the garden they were to fetch from His entire body a bloody sweat; they were to consist afterwards of shame and spitting and cruelty and reproach and crucifixion pains, and of death itself. He knew, knew to the full, what it all meant, and, for all that, without the slightest hesitation, He says, “Let us go to it! If My Father hath mixed for Me a cup full of bitterness and gall, shall I not drink it ?”
And he does not sit till the cup is passed to Him, but He goes towards it.
He does not wait until that chalice shall be placed to His lips and the dregs shall be drained forcibly into His throat. Not he! But He rises up, as though He were going to a triumph. He goes cheerfully and willingly, to be obedient unto death, the death of the cross, that He may do His Father’s will. O matchless lesson of patience! Lord, help us to learn that lesson. “The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Pray God help even this poor flesh to glorify Him, if need be, in the way of suffering.
And pray remember, dear friends, that in this suffering, which the Savior was so willing to endure, out of obedience to His Father, there was one peculiar bitterness. It was this; that His Father would leave Him in it. We can bear pain if we are supported by the presence of God. Even death itself is no longer terrible when Jesus softens the couch by His presence. But, O, beloved, to know that a part of our trial will consist in a sense of souldesertion — this is terrible! It must be a solemn abnegation of self-love, a real crucifixion of the spirit, when we can forgo not only all earthly joys, but all Heavenly joys, too, for a time, if we may but endure to the end in obedience, and suffer and perform all God’s righteous will. Child of God, would you be willing, if God should bless you to save others, to be without one comfortable look from His eyes by the month together? Would you be content, if it were needful to qualify you to instruct other saints, to be dragged through the deepest mire yourself, to be made the offscouring of all things, and in the operation to be without any consolation from God?
Perhaps you can say, “Yes “; but if it came to the point, would you act like the Master? Would you rise up from supper and say, with quiet deliberation, “Let us go to this suffering, be it what it may. If the Lord is glorified by it, then ‘ March onward! ‘ is the word we hear, and onward will we march, let the road be rough as it may “?
Remember that it is said in the text that our Lord went to these sufferings, and especially to the peculiar suffering of being deserted by His Father, with this motive “that the world may know that I love the Father.” The man Christ was desirous that beyond all dispute everybody should know that He loved the Father. And assuredly everybody who knows the story of the cross knows that. We, beloved, know that He loves us; but please to notice how He loved the Father. It was not only out of love to man that Jesus died, but out of love to God, to accomplish the Father’s purpose, to satisfy the Father’s longings, to honor the Father’s broken law, to fulfill the Father’s justice and give full channel for the Father’s love. It was for this that Jesus went to the cross, and this sustained Him: “I shall make all men and angels and devils know that I love the Father.” Oh, that we might have some such motive as this in our service, that we could say, “it shall be no question with the world whether 1 love Christ or not. They despise Him, but they shall know that ! adore Him. They cast out His name as evil, but they shall know that there is one who loves every letter of that name and is willing to sacrifice all things for Christ’s sake.” Beloved, ‘tis a glorious motive. It sustained the Savior: may the like motive constrain us to go forward in the path of self-sacrifice, that we may obey God and make all men, whether saints or sinners, know that we love the Father. The first thing, then, that we see in this brave watchword of our Savior is His desire to obey God.
The second thing I see in it is this — His readiness to meet the arch-enemy.
Look at the 30th verse: “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.” Then quick after it comes, “Arise, let us go hence.” Our Lord’s conflict in the garden with Satan was very painful. Who can forget how heavy His soul was even unto death? And the temptations with which He was there assailed were peculiarly trying. But since our Lord knew that He must on our behalf fight with Satan and overcome him, He did not hesitate to go to the fight. There were soldiers in the old days, like the Persian soldiers, who had to be driven to battle with whips. They never won the victory. But the brave Spartan soldiers stepped each man into his place in the ranks with as much alacrity as if he were stepping forward into a marriage ceremony. They rejoiced to fight for their country. Now, our Lord and Master was not driven to the last conflict, but He came forward, a volunteer, for our sake, saying, “Let us go hence.” I can only compare Him to that old Nazarite, the ancient hero, the son of Manoah, who, as he went through the vineyard, heard a lion, and it roared upon him, and he turned aside from his father and mother and received the leaping beast and slew it, as though it had been a kid, and flinging down the carcass, left it there filled with honey which by-and-bye should be his delight. So did our Savior step a little while into that garden of Gethsemane, and there in desperate conflict with the lion of the pit He slew him and left him there overcome; and from that victory you and I tonight gather sweet refreshment — — out of the eater, conquered and slain, cometh honey and sweetness to our soul.
And it seemed so brave of our Master to say, “Let us go hence,” as though He took a step or two in advance to meet His adversary. The Son of Man was not afraid of the dragon of the pit. “Let us go hence,” said He.
But, thirdly, I think this watchword revealed an intense desire in the Savior’s heart for action. You perceive He is communing with those whom He loved best of any upon earth. The eleven were sitting around Him. His big soul is swelling within Him. He has got a work to do, and He wants to be at it. So He breaks off His conversation for a moment, and says to them, “Let us be at it ! Let us go hence.” He had just been discoursing with them upon the sweetest of all subjects, speaking about that priceless gift of the Paraclete, telling them of the promised Comforter. He breaks that off. He feels it is not a time for talking. “Hence forth,” saith He, “I will not talk much with you, for the Prince of this world cometh.” He wanted to act. He feels the pressure of events upon Him. The time has come in which no longer can He use dainty words of love, but He must go to stem deeds of conflict. And it was the communion table, too, that He left, that very table of which He said, “With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” From this He tears Himself away and all its dear associations and solemn feelings. “Arise,” says He, “let us go hence.”
Have you never seen a man who wanted to do good feel as though he could break away from Christian ordinances and sweet means of spiritual profit to get away and do good to others — something of that spirit that stirs the war-horse when the battle draweth nigh, when he smelleth the battle afar off, and he says, “Aha ! aha! “? In the midst of the trumpets he paweth and waiteth for the conflict, with his soul striving within him. It was so with Jesus. With “that stern joy that warriors feel” when they meet with “foemen worthy of their steel,” He longed for the fight, and could give up the joy of fellowship that He might enter into the action, for His soul was hot within Him while He said, “Arise, let us go hence.”
But once more, there was a fourth thing which these words indicate, namely, His intense desire to accomplish our redemption. That is the point which to us comes nearest home. What if I say that up to that moment His elect were unredeemed? Many of them had entered Heaven, but it was by virtue of the foresight of the sacrifice that He offered. But suppose He had never authorized that sacrifice? The supposition does not dare to be dwelt upon, even for a single moment; but where would have been the covenant if it had never been ratified? Where would have been the promises if the stipulations on the part of our covenant head had never been fulfilled?
Where would your hope have been, and mine, dear brethren and sisters? If there had been no bloody sacrifice, how could poor sinners have been washed from sin? Where would have been the atonement to Almighty wrath for our tremendous guilt? If I may so speak, everything was in jeopardy till that hour. “Will He do it? Will He bear it? Will He hold on till He can say, ‘ It is finished ‘? Will He bear the strain? Will He have strength enough? When He passes between the millstones of eternal wrath, will He come out as pure grain, the much finer flour? When He is tested and tried, yea, consumed with fire, will He to the end hold on till all His work is done?”
Oh, the Savior longed to get it through. He wanted to be able to say of His dear children, “I have redeemed them out of the hand of the enemy.” He wanted to be able to say of His spouse, “I have paid her debts as her only kinsman; I have redeemed her heritage and have set her free; and the man Jesus, like the man Boaz in Ruth, could not be at rest until His spouse was all His own and there was none to claim her, for He had fully redeemed her. “Arise,” said He, “let us go hence,” as if He had said to the sheep, “Let the shepherd go and pay the ransom-price for you. Let Me go, and let the sword be sheathed in My bosom, that you, the sheep of My care, may never be touched therewith. Let Me go and bear that you may never bear the whole of the wrath that is due for your sin.”
Oh, it is great love, great love, marvelous love, that makes Him step forward with such alacrity and say, “Let us go hence. Let us go to redeem My people, and finish the work which God has given Me to do.”
II. Now, reflect on that, dear brethren and sisters, at your leisure; and now follow me for a minute or two while I use this short expression as the stirring motto for the Church in all time, “Arise, let us go hence.”
This should be the motto of every new convert. Do I address some who have lately been saved? You have experienced a change of heart within the last few weeks. Now the very first thing you have to do is to come out from the world. In your ear Christ puts it, “Arise, let us go hence ! Come out from among them: be ye separate. Touch not the unclean thing.” It does not mean that you are to go out of the world, or that you are actually to leave friends and relatives, but to come away from all their idle and sinful customs, come away from all their pursuits and all their pleasures — -come right out. You are a child of God: don’t act as the children of Satan do. If you have followed a bad trade, leave it; if you are a member of a corrupt Church, leave it. Your course is plain: separate yourself from them and come straight away and follow your Lord Christ without the camp, bearing His reproach, “Arise, let us go hence,” saith He.
But have you been converted for some time? Have you already trodden the path where believers walk with Christ? Bear their cross then still. The Savior saith, “Arise, let us go hence.” You have got one measure of faith; do not sit down and say, “I have got enough faith.” No, go for twice as much faith. You do love Jesus: do not say, “I love Him enough “; go hence and love Him more. You have a hope that is bright: don’t say, “It is enough for me,” but seek to have it brighter still. Remember, as soon as you are satisfied with yourself, you will never grow any more until that satisfaction is gone. Get rid of it: let this be constantly your idea, “Not as though I had already attained!, either were already perfect, but I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” O beloved, that is the point to aim at. “Let us go hence,” farther on. Advance upon everything that you have done and everything that you have been, from strength to strength, go on, and wrestle and fight and pray — Tread all the powers of darkness down, And win the well-fought day.
The same motto may be used by Christians when they have got into a state of great enjoyment. Perhaps you have been lately favored to feed upon the Gospel more fully than ever. You have come here this evening, and you have been very thankful that the Lord has spoken to your heart, and you feel very happy. Dear brother, if you enjoy God’s presence at the Communion table (which will be best of all), I hope you will hear like the sound of a trumpet behind you, “Arise, go hence !” Where to? Why, back to that cold Church of which you are a member. Try and throw a live coal into the midst of them and warm them up; back to your family, where there are so few that know the Lord. Tell them what you know, and seek their conversion. Go hence, go hence from the Church and table of God in among the ungodly. Go and weep over them; pray for them and seek their salvation. Oh, it is so very easy to sit down at the table, and to sit and hear Gospel sermons, and sing sweet hymns and hear sweet prayer-meetings and say, “It is glorious — My willing soul would stay In such a frame as this!
Ah, that is very lazy and very selfish. Every mouthful a man eats — -the strength of it should be used afterwards for some good end; and every mouthful of spiritual refreshment a Christian gets should either be spent in the patience of suffering or else in the perseverance of service; and if God gives you a specially good meal as He did His .servant Elias, it is because you are to go a specially long journey. He went forty days in the strength of that meal. I say that if you get special food from God, you ought to undertake some special service. Go and do more than you ever thought of doing before. If God has made you strong, don’t go on with boy’s work: undertake man’s work. If you have grown to manhood, do man’s work.
We want some of those that can be leaders, sergeants in the army of Christ, and if the Lord has made you fit for it, don’t be ashamed to take that rank, but come to the very front in the service of your Lord and Master. “Arise, let us go hence.”
I cannot resist the feeling that there are some of my brethren that ought to hear that in thin way while they are sitting here, if they recollect that onethird of the population of this world live in China, and out of all the millions of China there are very few indeed — they might almost be told upon the fingers — who have ever heard of Christ. Men are wanted to go and tell these people about salvation. We heard a dear friend say the other night that they did not want money so much as men, and that simplehearted men that love Christ were just what they wanted. Surely there ought to be a stir throughout the Church of zealous young men who would say, “Arise, let us go hence.”
Then there are others sitting here — men of business that love their Lord, and they can do something for the nation sometimes; but here are sinners perishing and they never think of doing anything for them. I would the Lord would say in their hearts, “Arise, go hence!”
There came into the Tabernacle some few years ago a young Christian man who was everything that could be wished, but he did not do much for Christ. The sermon touched his heart, and he went back to the town where he lived; began to preach in the street, and at this moment he has one of the largest congregations in a certain town, and has built a large tabernacle which he keeps full. I hope he will occupy this pulpit in two or three Sabbath days to come, and you will see what a man can do in business when God does but quicken him in the work.
III. “Arise, let us go hence.” Is not that a call to those Christians who eat the fat and drink the sweet, but send no portion to hungry souls? “Arise, let us go hence.” I should like to sound that in many a village chapel where a few score people meet all the year round to make themselves comfortable over a little snug Gospel. Why not get out in the fields on a summer’s day and preach there, or do as the Methodists do, go up and down the streets singing — anything to get the people in? If the chapels are empty, are the ministers to sit still and say, “We can’t help it”? No, if the people won’t hear us in chapels, let us preach in theaters, or anywhere. The people must hear the Gospel. “Go ye and preach the Gospel to every creature” is a command that cannot be fulfilled by preaching good sermons to empty pews. If you come in here, I thank you for it. It saves me a deal of trouble, for I have not to go after you; but if you would not come after me, I would sooner go after you, by some means or other to get the ears of the people, that they may hear the Word, for this is the motto of the Church, “Arise, let us go hence!” out of our chapels, out of our churches, out of our little snuggeries, down dark alleys and to little meeting houses, and let us go through all England and the United States, and pour out our troops just as in the old crusading days the West poured out its chivalry on to the East to break the Moslem yoke and set the Gospel free.
When men can make money and say, “I will go and preach the Gospel in foreign countries” — when men will step forward and say, “We could earn good positions in the Army or Navy or law, but we will take up the lowest position in the Church for the glory of Christ’s name “ — then will the crusading times come back again with true splendor. O Lord of Hosts, let the Sacred Comforter come into the hearts of all Thy blood-bought ones, and this shall be; and a mysterious impulse shall go through the Church like that which went through the world in former ages when they said, “Deus vult,” God wills it, and the Church shall say, “Arise, let us go hence, far hence unto the heathen.”
As for us as a Church, let us always be going hence; let us break forth on the right hand and on the left; let our forces be scattered that they may be multiplied; let us invent every system of work that ingenuity can devise, and use old systems at the highest possible rate. Let us go hence from all we have done to do something more. Let us arise — that means upward.
Let us go — that means forward. Let us go hence that is, let us leave all behind that we have already done and up and away to something more.
I think the day will come when this word, which I have sounded out as a trumpet-note, will come very softly as though it dropped from the harp or dulcimer, to the ear of each one of us. It may be it will in our lone chamber, or at may be as we walk the streets — but it matters not where — Jesus will come and commune with us very sweetly, and as He is talking with us He will say, “Arise, let us go hence !” and in a moment we shall leave this heavy clay behind us and find ourselves in the gloryland. Might we not long for that whisper — “Arise ! “ — not go alone, but “go with me” — my beloved, my Savior, my sweet companion — “ we will mount together!” Ah, I see some of my dear aged friends longing for that time, and those of us who are younger will go perhaps before the older ones.
Who can tell? 1 never pray “From sudden death, good Lord, deliver me.” Is there a greater blessing for a Christian than sudden death — to shut your eyes on earth and open them in Heaven and know nothing about it — just to wake up in glory and ask, “Where am I ?” to find, instead of wife and children around you, Seraphim and Cherubim with whom you can join your everlasting song? Oh, ‘tis blessed! You might almost say, “Good Master, speak the word now l” “Arise, let us go hence.”
God bless you, for Christ’s sake. Amen.