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JULY 12TH.-Christ's CHARGE To His APOSTLES.
First. THE WORK WHICH APOSTLES WERE TO DO.
The work in which Christ was now employing his disciples, is stated in verses earlier than the lesson, ver. 7, 8. They were to tell publicly that the day of the Messiah had come; that ancient prediction was being fulfilled, and that the blessings of the gospel were now freely bestowed.
These things they were to make known publicly to all to whom they might come. And to confirm the truth of what they so proclaimed, they were to perform miracles like those which they had seen their Master perform.
This errand and work was full of mercy. The disciples were to seek the lost; to show how blessings and enjoyments might be obtained, which could not otherwise be had. And this in every case is the work of those who make known the gospel. All need the gospel. The gospel brings life to the perishing, and salvation to the lost. If you know the gospel yourselves, and love it, make it known.
Secondly. WHERE THE APOSTLES WERE TO WORK.
The field assigned to the disciples as preachers of the gospel at that particular time, is marked out, ver. 5, 6.
In that field Jesus himself was; there multitudes eagerly pressed to hear him. There were good reasons why the gospel should be made known first to the Jews-reasons undoubtedly good and merciful, for the restriction was Christ's. One reason obviously was, that by their former religious instruction from Moses and the prophets, they were more prepared for the gospel than other people were. Afterwards, as we see in Luke x., it was sent to Samaritan towns and villages. The Jews were to hear it first, but it was not for them exclusively. It was intended for all people. Thank God for the gospel. Receive it; value it; rejoice in the salvation which it brings.
Thirdly. The DIFFICULTIES WITH WHICH THE APOSTLES WOULD MEET.
Jesus points out the difficulties and dangers to which the work of the disciples would expose them, ver. 16-22. They would meet with enemies everywhere, just as sheep in a wilderness abounding with wolves. Forms of law would be employed against them. The kindness which the various relations of life usually involved, would be withholden from them, or changed into hostility, ver. 21.
If all the difficulties here pointed out were not met with during the then particular mission of the twelve, they were abundantly realised afterwards, and they have been mot with in almost every ago since.
The disciples must not be surprised; the Master was thus treated --what wonder that his followers should be? ver. 24, 25. They must not desert their work, for foes could do them but little practical or permanent mischief, ver. 28. Never shrink from serving Christ because of opposition.
Fourthly. The HELP AND PROTECTION WILCH THE APOSTLES MIGHT EXPECT. .
God would have the disciples under His care, and would in due time vindicate their character, ver. 26.
Their souls and eternal interests were safe. He numbered the hairs of their heads. He took care of sparrows, though of little worth. These are figurative expressions, but they indicated God's care of those who should serve Him.
And when before courts, let them not tremble; God would help them then, ver. 19. He did help Peter and John, Acts iv. 8–12; and Stephen, Acts vi. 15, and vii.; and Paul, Acts xxvi. ; and He has often enabled His servants to confound adversaries.
We are in no such peril now as Christ speaks of, and, therefore, are not likely to need the special help which the disciples had; but we may be confident of protection from God while we are faithful to Him. Never be afraid in God's service. Never shrink from declaring your love to Him, and your zeal for His honour, ver. 32, 33. Fifthly.
THE REWARD APOSTLES WERE TO ANTICIPATE. The Saviour leads the thoughts of his disciples onward to the great day. Then he would acknowledge those who fearlessly acknowledged him, ver. 32. Their sufferings in his cause should be followed with eternal life ; while if they renounced him, and so thought to escape trial and suffering, they would incur what would be infinitely worse than all present obloquy and pain.
In that day such as befriended them should not be unrewarded ; surely they themselves would not be overlooked. Perserere in duty through trials. Acknowledge everywhere that you are Christians, and act like Christians. Confide in God's care while you serve Him. Tremble and be filled with dismay if you do not serve Him, ver. 28, 33.
JULY 19TH.—THE DEATH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST.
First. John's FIDELITY,
John was a man of great fidelity, as we learn from the account given of his preaching, Luke iii. 7-14. The holiness of his character commanded the reverence of even Herod, ver. 20. But
his fidelity gave offence, if not to Herod, to the woman with whom Herod was unlawfully living.
John was right in reproving vice, especially as in all probability he was on such terms with Herod, that he could do so, ver. 20. Herod was accustomed to listen respectfully to what John said. And no doubt, however unflinching John's reproof was, he spoke with all becoming respect.
Herodias was more offended than Herod. She saw, perhaps, that what John said produced a painful effect on Herod's mind, and rendered her position uncertain. She might be afraid of John's influence. She was mortally angry, and would at once have procured the death of John, but that Herod durst not so far gratify her, Matt. xiv. 5. He put John in prison, thus doing him a first wrong,
from which all the rest was likely to follow. One wrong act often makes way for others. She, however, watched her opportunity, and at last it came. Never connive at sin. Reprove with tenderness and respect, as well as with fidelity.
Secondly. Joun's MARTYRDOM.
Herodias had to wait for months ere she could have her revenge on John. But at length a festive occasion came, which afforded the opportunity she had looked for so long. Her daughter had greatly pleased Herod and those who feasted with him, whereupon he made her an extravagant and foolish promise. The girl sought her mother's advice, and now the grudge against John was remembered. The king, when he found what Salome asked for, regretted his promise.
He knew what John was. He had watched him closely ; such is the meaning of the word translated observe. Some, however, interpret this word as indicating that Herod kept John safely from the violence of Herodias. Herod had followed John's counsel in some matters,
doubt had been the better for it. He was quite aware, too, that John was in high repute with the people, so that to put him to death might occasion a disturbance, and probably he shrunk for a moment from the crime.
Still he fancied his oath bound him. He was afraid of the charge of fickleness or cowardice from his unprincipled companions, and this fear overcame his scruples. Suddenly, and for no reason to justify the deed, John was beheaded. He had been faithful, and so incurred hatred, which was not to be appeased but by his death.
See the folly and wickedness of rash promises. The weakness and crime of being guided by the opinions of the ungodly.
Thirdly. HEROD'S FEAR, .
Herod had little peace after he had perpetrated the deed which the wicked Herodias and Salome required. Every rumour respecting John, which reached him, increased his uneasiness. His conscience was burdened. People were talking of Jesus, and of what Jesus did. The image of John immediately presented itself to Herod.
For what could John's spirit have come back, if not to take vengeance ? Herod's crime started up to his affrighted imagination. His court probably partook of his alarm.
John had resigned himself to the sword of the executioner without dismay or murmuring. His murderer was torn with anguish. John's afflicted disciples went to Jesus with their grief for consolation, Matt. xiv. 12. Herod had no one to whom he could tell the anguish he felt with any hope of comfort, Psa. xiv. 5; Prov. xxviii. 1.
Notice here—The power of a guilty conscience. In the trouble which guilt brings, we should seek consolation from the Saviour.
JULY 26TH.-A SUPPER IN THE FIELDS WITH Jesus.
For Repetition.—Mark vi. 41-44. Reading Lesson.—Mark vi. 30-44.
Notes of an Elementary Class Lesson.
INTRODUCTION.-When I was a little boy I had a very kind schoolmistress, and in the summer-time she used to give us what we thought grand treats. She would take us out into the country round about our school, and give us all tea in the woods. The servants used to carry a great kettle of water, cups and saucers, milk, and plenty of bread and butter. Ah! those were happy afternoons, I can tell you. There was plenty of tea and bread and butter, I say; for if there had not been enough for us hungry boys, it would have sadly spoiled our enjoyment; for there were no shops near where we could have bought anything.
Now, we are going to read this afternoon about a great feast out in the fields, in which everybody had enough to eat, and yet none of the party had brought sufficient food with them!
Yes, it was a supper out in the fields, and a long way from any place where bread could be bought; and yet no one had to go away, saying, "I am so hungry," or, "I did not have as much as I wanted.” Was not that strange ?
You know dear children, how the crowds of people used to run after the Lord Jesus when he was on earth. Through the fields, and along the roads, and over the hills, they used to follow him, listening to his wise and beautiful words, and eager to see his wonderful works. Do you remember any time when great crowds of people are said to have gone after Jesus? (When Zacchaus got up the tree; when Jesus went into the boat to teach.) Yes; and have you not sometimes thought how very, very tired and weary Jesus must have been? How he must have wished the people would go away for a little while, and leave him to rest and to be quiet? And yet he never spoke roughly to them-never said, “Go away, you tiresome people! Do you not see that I am very tired, and want to be by myself ?” Jesus never spoke in that way to them. But you shall hear how he spoke, and what he did one day, when the people had been following him so closely, that the Bible says Jesus and the men who were always with him—his disciples-had not time even to eat.
EXPOSITION.- Picture out the scene. Sun setting in the distant sky-night coming on-Jesus, the disciples, crowds of men and women, and boys and girls, too. Jesus, tired with preaching so long and so many times that day-disciples wishing the people would go home-people all very tired with walking so many miles -many lying about on the grass—but still eager to be taught more from those kind lips. The first verse (ver. 34) tells us how Jesus felt for these poor people.
(ver. 34 read. Explain “moved with compassion,"_"as sheep not having a shepherd.")
Now let us look again. The disciples go up to Jesus, and begin to talk to him. Then they speak to one another, shake their heads, look perplexed, and come to Jesus again. What can they be talking about? Let us read on and see.
ver. 35, 36. What did the disciples ask Jesus to do? Why should the people do that? How was it that all these people and their children were out then so late with nothing to eat? Whai ! did they think more of hearing Jesus than of having their meals ? I wonder whether we should have done the same? I have known some little children who would rather go without their breakfasts or dinners than be late at their Sunday school; and I have known them cry bitterly if they were obliged to stay at home instead of hearing their kind teachers. Are there any such boys and girls here in this class ?
Does Jesus ever teach now? How can we hear him now? What ought we to do when Jesus teaches us? Are you—JohnFrederick-Thomas-doing what Jesus says?
ver. 37. What did Jesus tell the disciples to do to the people? What did they answer? Six sovereigns is a good deal of money