YE DID IT UNTO ME
By D. M. PANTON, B.A.
One of the most wonderful of the revelations of the Bible is the identity of Christ with His disciples, a unity as close as our own body - head and hands and feet - is one. The wonder of the revelation lies in its consequence, which our Lord has thus expressed Inasmuch as ye did it unto my brethren, ye did it unto me (Matt. 25: 40). We suddenly realize that loving action, given to a suffering brother, is actually felt by Christ; and we discover a method of repaying - in a slight degree - the infinite love the Lord Jesus has for us. The Son of God actually announces Himself as our debtor - if and when we comfort a suffering brother.*
[* Even these least (see Greek). Our own belief is that the least brethren are the Jews when spiritually restored, but still universally persecuted; but the spiritual lesson of the parable is only enforced in the case of greater brethren. The Lords chief brethren are the sons of Mary (Matt. 12: 46); His greater brethren are the members of His Church (ver. 49); and His least brethren are the Jews regenerated after the Day of Grace is past. That it is a judgment of the Gentiles makes this certain.]
First we observe a most revealing physiological fact. The nerves of sensation all centre in the brain: every pain, every pleasure in the body, is telegraphed instantly to the head; and so, if the head is drugged, or unconscious, the deepest wound in the body is not felt. Now see: Ye are the body of Christ, and severally individually members thereof (1 Cor. 12: 27); for Christ is head over all things to the church, which is his body (Eph. 1: 22). For all purposes of joy and sorrow, for all conscious life and experimental sensation, Christ and His Church are regarded as one man: one, that is, not so that the Body suffers all that the Head suffers, but that the Head suffers all that the Body suffers. So tremendously important is this vital unity of Christ and His Church, that Paul, the selected channel for this truth, was told it in the very hour of his conversion Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou - not, my church, but me? (Acts 9: 4). For both He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all OF ONE: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren (Heb. 2: 11).
Now it follows froin this that our Lord has three great physical sufferings in the world to-day:- want, loneliness, and disease. In the judgment, looking backward, He says:- I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was naked, and ye clothed me. Now, giving to a hungry brother is most stringently commended. If a brother or sister be naked, or in lack of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled, and yet ye give them not the things needful to the body, what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself (Jas. 2: 15). Some one beautifully says, - Many love at their tongues end we are to love at our fingers end: or, as an old writer said fifteen hundred years ago,‑The bread, which you hold back, belongs to the hungry: the shoe which is mouldering away in your wardrobe belongs to the shoeless (Basil). So our Lord promises reward to the minutest practical assistance given to a child of God. Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only - a mere glass of water in the name of a disciple - as one Christian to another he shall in no wise lose his reward (Matt. 10: 42). But the amazing revelation in Matt. 25 is, that Christ hungers when His people have to go without bread and, when they are clothed in sheepskins and goatskins, He shivers. In all their afflictions he is afflicted: therefore, in relieving the destitute child of God, the act is done, not only for Christ, but to Christ. Christ is more amongst us than we dream. The puzzled hearers ask:‑When saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? And Jesus unveils the wondrous revelation:- inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, YE DID IT UNTO ME.
We turn to another need of Christ. I was a stranger, and ye took me in. The word used beautifully suggests a coveit allusion to church fellowship. A stranger to the church - but a saved soul, that is, I in him you took Me along with you, you introduced Me into the family circle. We may remember the reply of Miss Matthews, of Worthenbury, to her friends when they objected to her marrying Mr. Philip Henry, father of the immortal commentator, because he was a stranger, and no one knew where he came from. True, she said, but I know where he is going, and I should like to go with him. Our Lord says it elsewhere, quite distinctly,‑Whoso shall receive one such little child in my name - as one Christian receiving another RECEIVETH ME. (Matt, 18: 5). How this hallows and ennobles all church reception! But doubtless it refers chiefly to individual loneliness. I was a stranger. See, parenthetically, what dignity this puts upon the lonely soul: it is a loneliness that Christ so peculiarly shares that what is done to the lonely soul is done to Christ. Many Christians have been left by circumstances wonderfully lonely: others find themselves in a totally strange neighbourhood: others, like missionaries, are scattered through foreign lands. We can be far too chary of strangers. The command is Forget not to show love unto strangers (Heb. 13: 2). Gaius, 'you remember, is praised because thou doest a faithful work in whatsoever thou doest toward them that are brethren and strangers withal (3 John 5); and one qualification for a deaconess was that she, had used hospitality to strangers (1 Tim. 5: 10).
We find yet another need of Christ. I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. I was sick - how strangely that comes from the lips of our Lord! It is deplorable that, because in the modern church visiting is mainly left to church officers - to which only one passage in the whole New Testament refers - it has been forgotten that it is the commanded duty of us all. Listen. Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world (Jas. 1 : 27). Some are too poor to feed and clothe others: none are too poor,to visit. Christ does not say, I was sick and ye did not cure me; I was in prison, and ye did not release me: all He asks is a visit; and while this is cheaper from a worldly point of view, it is more costly from a spiritual. The love to a stranger, and the visits to the sick and the imprisoned, require something more costly than money they require self-sacrifice of time, rest, comfort, and sympathy. Gifts that are coined out of flesh and blood are more valuable than those which bear the imprint of the Royal Mint; and the amazing thing is that these are gifts which we can all confer ON CHRIST. In the writers experience throughout fifty years, it is by the sick bed he has been most conscious of the presence of Christ. I was sick, and ye visited me. It is Christ who lies on the sick bed where we minister: in times of persecution we find our Lord in a prison cell or a concentration camp.
Love of Christ
Let us, in summing up, burn these thoughts deeply into our minds. One - the invisible Lord whom we love is easiest found among the poor of His people. As, in the days of His flesh, Jesus was always surrounded by the obscure and the despised and the sick, so He is thronged by them here and now; and even in the glory of the gathered nations, He draws them round Him still These my brethren. Two - the Lord is actually suffering in the sufferings of His people. I was hungry: I was a stranger: I was sick: I was in prison. In a dreadfully real sense the sufferings of Christ have lasted for well nigh two thousand years: as Paul says,- in my sufferings I fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of the Christ in my flesh for His bodys sake, which is the church (Col. 1: 24). Every smart the Body feels, the Head suffers. Three - therefore it is actually possible to tend Christ in the person of His people. What would we do if Jesus were here amongst us, underfed, ill-clad, sick and lonely? How exquisite is the discovery that - in a real sense, so real as is known only to God - we can do actually what the holy women did of old - minister unto Him of our substance (Luke 8: 3). We can feed and clothe and cheer and love Him, as He wanders through the bleak and cheerless world to-day, by reaching Him through them, an opportunity that will never recur for all eternity. One profound reason why Christ lets us all suffer is that, by bearing one anothers burdens, we may all prove our love to Him. Finally - the Lord never forgets a kindness done to Him in the person of His child. It will amaze us to find every transient item, every forgotten sympathy, every practical kindness tabulated and restored to us in the Light of Glory; and happy is that disciple who goes before the judgment Seat clothed in the intercession of the comforted sufferer. YE DID IT UNTO ME.
An old legend expresses it exquisitely. A knight from the Round Table travelled over deserts and mountains in search of the Holy Grail, the cup our Lord used at the Lords Supper. Distressed and exhausted, he returned after a futile search; and as he was nearing the gate of Camelot, he saw a poor man writhing in the ditch, evidently dying. Descending from his steed, and procuring a cup, he handed the water to the dying man; and as he did so, the cup flamed as with the sapphire of the New Jerusalem - it was the Holy Grail!
Christ as King of kings will
reward those who comforted His suffering Body.
It is said that Ivan of Russia used sometimes to disguise himself and go
out among his people to find out their true character. In the suburbs of