"Yea, He is altogether lovely." Song of Solomon 5:16
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 Being of whom, without gross flattery, it could be asserted, "He is altogether lovely.
First, of all, as it seems to me, this loveliness of Christ consists in His perfect humanity.
In everything but our sins and our evil natures, he is one with us. He grew in stature and in grace. He labored 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. There is no other who establishes with us such intimacy, who comes so close to these human hearts of ours: no one else in the universe of whom we are so little afraid. He enters as simply and naturally into our twentieth century lives as if He had been reared in the same street with us. He is not one of the ancients; He is one with us.
How wholesomely and genuinely human He is! Martha scolds Him. John, who has seen Him raise the dead, 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 wash 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 in one breath. And He calls them by their first names, and tells them to fear not, and assures them of His love. In all this He seems to me altogether lovely. His perfection does not glitter; it glows. The saintliness of Jesus is so warm and human that it attracts and inspires. We find in it nothing austere and inaccessible, like a statue in a niche. The beauty of His holiness reminds one rather of a rose, or a bank of violets.
Jesus receives 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.
Moreover, Christ's 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 — all these represented suffering, and whatever suffers touches Jesus' heart. 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 there is in His sympathy! Why did He touch that poor leper? He could have healed him with a word as He did the nobleman's son. Why, for years the wretch had been an outcast, cut off from kin, dehumanized. He lost the sense of being a man. It was defilement to approach him. Well, the touch of Jesus made him human again.
A Christian woman, laboring among the moral lepers of London, found a poor street girl desperately ill in a bare cold room. With her own hands she ministered to her; she changed her bed linen, procured medicines and nourishing food and a fire, making the poor place as bright and cheery as possible. And then she said, "May I pray with you?"
"No," replied the girl, "you don't care for me. You are doing this to get to heaven."
Many days passed — the Christian woman unwearily kind, the sinful girl hard and bitter. At last the Christian said: "My dear, you are nearly well now, and I shall not come again, but as it is my last visit, I want you to let me kiss you," and the pure lips that had known only prayers and holy words met the lips defiled by oaths and unholy caresses — and then, my friends, the hard heart broke. That was Christ's way.
Again, Christ's humility is altogether lovely. Can you fancy His calling a convention of Pharisees to discuss methods of reaching "the masses"? He, the only one who ever had a choice of how 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, reviled not again." "As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth." Can you think of Jesus as posing and demanding His rights?
Further, Christ's gentleness is altogether lovely. It is in His way with sinners that the supreme loveliness of Jesus is most sweetly shown. How tender 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, this master in Israel has learned his utter ignorance of the first step toward the kingdom, and goes away to think over the personal application of the truth, "they loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." But he has not heard one harsh word, one utterance that can wound his self-respect.
When He speaks to that silent despairing woman, after her accusers had gone out, one by one, He uses for "woman" the same word that He used when addressing His own mother from the cross.
Follow Him to Jacob's solitary well 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 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 chief captive as a trophy. It was enough for Christ to take back to heaven the soul of a thief.
Finally, Christ is altogether lovely in the perfect equipoise of His various perfections. We could speak at length of His dignity, of His virile manliness, of His courage. In Him, 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 browbeaten, bullied, scourged, smitten upon the face, spit upon, mocked. How inherent greatness comes out! Not once does He lose His self-poise, His high dignity.
I close with this word of personal testimony: This is my Beloved and this is my Friend. Will you not accept Him as your Saviour and likewise discover His loveliness?
Is He not altogether lovely?
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