About a Stone's Cast
"He went a little farther." (Matthew 26:39)
"He was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast." (Luke 22:14)
A great crisis had been reached in the life of the Lord Jesus. He had not separated Himself from His disciples in this way before, nor had they ever parted company with Him. They would not leave Him, for they could not do without Him. When others turned their backs upon Him, they said: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."
And so bound to Him had they been that He said to them: "Ye are they that have continued with Me in My temptations." They were His lovers and friends, and though they did not understand much of the sorrow that filled His soul, yet there was the sympathy of love in their hearts towards Him, and this was very precious to Him.
But now the parting time had come, if He was to fulfil the will of God. They follow Him to Gethsemane; they had done so many times before, for Jesus oft-times resorted thither with His disciples, and in the past they had watched with Him in the silence of the night beneath those olive trees while He held communion with His Father. But now it was different, and He says to them: "Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder." Who can tell what that "yonder" meant to Him?
He was about to enter the great conflict, and He "looked for comforters," and as Peter and the sons of Zebedee seemed to enter more fully into His thoughts than the other disciples, He takes them with Him. Surely these three could give Him what He looked for, and watch with Him through that terrible hour. But no! He must leave them also; He must go "a little farther," and, alone — or, as we read in Luke, He must be "withdrawn from them about a stone's cast."
In Matthew He is King, and it is the prerogative of David's royal Son to act in His own right; so there He went "a little farther." It is there His own act. In Luke He is the obedient and dependent Man, filled and anointed by the Spirit to do the Father's business. He was completely subject to the leading of the Spirit, and so there He is, "withdrawn from them about a stone's cast," He is withdrawn by the Spirit and the Father's will.
His disciples could not travel with Him now, for though it was but a stone's cast that He was removed from them, in reality the distance was immeasurable, and the road was one which had never been, nor could be, trodden by any other human foot. They were never to be associated with Him again in the old way; that was a chapter that was now closed for ever, the links were broken, and keenly He felt it.
Three times in the midst of His own great conflict in that garden He went back to them; for though they were unable to tread the path that He was treading or watch with Him in it, His love towards them could not change; and they were also to pass through a stern sifting, and He wanted them for their own sakes to watch and pray; but there was no response now to His earnest desire, the comforters He looked for failed Him, "He found them asleep." Then, when they did awaken from that strange sleep, terror-stricken at the sight of His sorrow, "they all forsook Him and fled."
Lover and friend were put far from Him, for mere human sympathy could not help Him now, for no human heart could understand His exceeding sorrow; none had ever known it, it was superhuman, it was the sorrow of the Holy Son of God going to bear our sins in His own body on the tree — to be made sin for us there, and to endure the hiding of God's face until the work was done.
"Alone He bear the Cross,
Alone its grief sustained."
He had told them that this break would be for "a little while." As a tender mother on leaving her fearful child assures it that she will "soon come back," so He assured them that they should see Him again. "A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me: because I go to the Father" (John 16:16). That little while passed; it included that time of sorrow to which we have alluded, and those three days and three nights in which He lay dead in the grave; but it passed, and ere the sun was up on the first day of the week the grave was empty and the Lord was risen indeed.
What triumph must have filled those mighty spirits, those ministers of His that do His pleasure, when the great enemy DEATH lay crushed and defeated at His victorious feet! How gladly would they have celebrated His glorious power and sang His praise to men as once they sang His lowly birth! But this was not the Lord's way. Unattended by angelic host, He went after His broken-hearted and despairing sheep, and gathered them together in one flock in the evening of that day.
We are not surprised to read that "the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord"; for the time of separation was passed, and He was with them again — not on the old footing, however, for He breathed into them, as the last Adam, the life-giving Spirit — and they were bound up with Him in the eternal bonds of a new life. And so are we.
He will never again be removed about a stone's cast from his well-beloved flock, for as the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls, the Leader of their salvation, He has said, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." And they can say, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"
Moreover, He is the Head of His body, every member of which is united to Him in life, and by the Holy Ghost, completely and for ever. He is the Firstborn among many brethren, and they are one with Him in His Father's thoughts and love. He is the Sanctifier and they are the sanctified, and they are one with Him, and for this cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.
We look back to that "little while" when He went "a little farther" in deepest gratitude of heart; for we could not have sung "No separation, O my soul," but for the sorrow that He passed through then.
Now, like the disciples, we are glad; for no dark clouds can now obscure Him from the eyes of faith, and He is near us, a living glorious Saviour, greater than every trial through which His flock may pass. Yea, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil: for He is with us; and it is but a little while and we shall be with Him to whom we are united, in the Father's house on high.
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