Solomon’s Song 5: 16
(“Yea, He is altogether lovely”)
All other greatness has been marred by littleness, all other wisdom has been flawed by folly, all other goodness has been tainted by imperfection; Jesus Christ remains the only one of whom, without gross flattery, it could be asserted, “He is altogether lovely”, (S of S: 5: 16). My theme then is the loveliness of Christ.
First of all this loveliness of Christ consists in His perfect manhood. Am I understood? I do not now mean that He was a perfect man, though true, but that He was perfectly man.
In everything but our sins, and our evil nature, He is one with us. He grew in stature and in grace. He laboured, and wept, and prayed, and loved. He was tempted in all points as we are—sin apart. With Thomas, we confess Him Lord and God, we adore and revere Him, but beloved, there is no other who establishes with us such intimacy, who comes so close to these human hearts of ours; no one in the universe of whom we are so little afraid. He enters as simply and naturally into our present day lives as if He had been reared in the same street. How full and how genuine His manhood. Martha scolds Him; John, who has seen Him raise the dear, still the tempest, and talk with Moses and Elijah on the mount, does not hesitate to make a pillow of His breast at supper. Peter will not let Him was his feet, but afterwards wants his head and hands included in the ablution. They ask Him foolish questions, and rebuke Him, and venerate and adore Him all in a breath; and H calls them by their first names, and tells them to fear not, and assures them of His love. In all this He is altogether lovely. His perfection does not glitter, it glows. The piety of Jesus is so warm and human that it attracts and inspires. There is nothing in it austere and inaccessible, like a statue in a niche. The beauty of His holiness is unique.
Jesus receives all kinds of sinners and eats with them—all kinds of sinners. Nicodemus, the moral, religious sinner, and Mary of Magdala, “out of whom went seven devils”—the shocking kind of sinner. He comes into sinful lives as a bright, clear stream enters a stagnant pool. The stream is not afraid of contamination but its sweet energy cleanses the pool.
I remark again, and as connected with this, that His sympathy is altogether lovely.
He is always being “touched with compassion”. The multitude without a shepherd, the sorrowing widow of Nain, the little dead child of the ruler, the demoniac of Gadara, the hungry five thousand—what ever suffers touches Jesus. His very wrath against the scribes and Pharisees is but the excess of His sympathy for those who suffer under their hard self–righteousness.
Did you ever find Jesus looking for “deserving poor”? He “healed all their sick”. And what grace in His sympathy! Why did He touch that poor leper? He could have healed him with a word as He did the nobleman’s sons. Why, for years the wretch had been an outcast, cut off from kin, dehumanised. He lost the sense of being a man. It was defilement to approach him. Well, the unforgettable touch of Jesus made him human again.
Can you fancy Him calling a convention of Pharisees to discuss methods of reaching the “masses”? That leads me to remark that His humility was altogether lovely, and He, the only one who ever had the choice of how and where He should be born, entered this life as one of “the masses”.
What meekness, what lowliness. “I am among you as one that serveth”. He “began to wash His disciples’ feet”. “When He was reviled, He reviled not again”. “As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth”. Can you think of Jesus posing and demanding His rights?
It is in His way with sinners that the supreme loveliness of Jesus is most sweetly shown. How gentle He is, yet how faithful; how considerate, how respectful. Nicodemus, candid and sincere, but proud of his position as a master in Israel, and timid lest he should imperil it, “comes to Jesus by night”. Before he departs “the Teacher of the Jews” has learned his utter ignorance of the first step toward the kingdom, and goes away to think over the personal application of “they loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil”. But he has not heard one harsh word, one utterance that can would his self–respect.
Follow Him to Sychar’s well at high noon and hear His conversation with the woman of Samaria. How patiently He unfolds the deepest truths, how gently yet faithfully He presses the great ulcer of sin which is eating away her soul. But yet He could not be more respectful to Mary of Bethany.
Even in the agonies of death He could hear the cry of despairing faith. When conquerors return from far wars in strange lands they bring their chiefest captive as a trophy. It was enough for Christ to take back to heaven the soul of a thief.
Yea, he is altogether lovely. Now I have left myself no time to speak of His dignity, of His virile manliness, of His perfect courage. There is in Jesus a perfect equipoise of various perfections. All the elements of perfect character are in lovely balance. His gentleness is never weak. His courage is never brutal. My friends, you may study these things for yourselves. Follow Him through all the scenes of outrage and insult on the night and morning of His arrest and trial. Behold Him before the high priest, before Pilate, before Herod. See Him brow–neaten, bullied, scourged, smitten upon the face, spat upon, mocked. How His inherent greatness comes out! Not once does He lose His self–poise, His high dignity.
Let me ask some unsaved sinner here to follow Him still further. Go with the jeering crowd without the gates; see Him stretched upon the great rough cross and hear the dreadful sound of the sledge as the spikes are forced through His hands and feet. See, as the yelling mob falls back, the cross, bearing this gentlest, sweetest, bravest, loveliest. Man, upreared until it falls into the socket in the rock. “And sitting down, they watched Him there”. You watch, too. Hear Him ask the Father to forgive His murderers, hear all the cries from the cross. Is He not altogether lovely? Will you not join with me and say “Yea, He is altogether lovely”?