He could not be hid–Mar 7:24
It Was Impossible to Conceal Christ
Jesus was in retirement at this time. He had sought seclusion in the coasts of Tyre. It was perilous for Him to be seen just then, and the hour of His cross had not yet come. The tetrarch Herod had become suspicious. The Pharisees made no concealment of their hatred. The people who were so enthusiastic lately had taken deep offence at Jesus’ teaching. And our Lord, recognizing the danger in all this, withdrew for a time to a half-heathen territory, where occurred that exquisite and precious incident–the visit of the Syrophenician woman. Now there was one thing which deeply impressed the disciples there. It was the impossibility of concealment for their Master. Quietly He had stolen away. No vision of Messiah stirred these villagers, for they were pagans and outside the covenant. Yet even there Jesus could not be hid–there were hearts which recognized Him as the Christ–and it was that which made so deep a mark on the watchful minds of the disciples. It is very probable that as the years went on that thought would grow in meaning for the twelve. John would recall it on the shores of Patmos; Peter amid the crowds of Babylon. And when they were wearied out with opposition, or crushed by the might and mockery of heathendom, it would come to them sometimes like cheering music, that Christ could not be hid. On that thought I wish to speak. I want to show you how grandly true it is. Firstly, we shall consider Jesus in the flesh. Secondly, Jesus in the world. Thirdly, Jesus in the heart.
Jesus in the Flesh
First, then, considering Jesus in the flesh let us dwell for a moment on His lot. It would be hard to imagine any lot that offered a surer promise of obscurity. He was the child of a secluded village–a village that was not held in much repute. There He lived and there He humbly labored till He was some thirty years of age. And so deep was the retirement of these years, so void of rumors of the coming glory, that Nathanael, who belonged to Cana in the neighborhood, seems never to have heard a whisper of Him. Most men who are to come to greatness are on the road to it before the age of thirty. They have left their native village long ere that; they are out in the world and battling with its powers. But at thirty Christ was still at Nazareth, still toiling for His daily bread there, still acting as a father to His brothers, for His mother Mary was a widow now. Wealth is able to open many doors, but in the cottage at Nazareth there was no wealth. Influence is powerful in advancement, but what influence had a village carpenter? Learning can beat a way through every barrier, and bring a man into the court of kings, but to the laborious learning of His day, Jesus was utterly indifferent.
Have you ever thought again how much in Jesus’ character seemed to promise nothing but obscurity? I say that with the utmost reverence–you all know what our Lord means for me. There is not a trace in Him of lust of power, so often the characteristic of the great. If He had ever felt it He had crushed it down, as you may read in the Temptation narrative. There is not a sign in Him of any passion for fame–the spur that the clear spirit doth raise, as Milton puts it. And as for ambition, if He were ambitious, ambition should be made of sterner stuff. Christ was gentle. Christ was tenderhearted. Christ was compassionate to all the failures. And when men would have made Him a king He slipped away. He had a habit of slipping away from demonstrations. And He loved solitude, and lowly life, and the quiet beauty of pasture and of hill. And He was never happier than with His own, where the waves were lapping on the shore. There were men who became powerful then as now by taking the lead in patriotic movements. Christ never once identified Himself with any popular or patriotic movement. He stood apart a little from them all; went His own way in sunshine and in shadow; and, with a character of perfect poise, kept at the heart of all a perfect love. It is not usually characters like that which break through every barrier of concealment. It is men who are determined and aglow; who are intense even to narrowness. And it seems to me that the very poise of Christ, and His meekness, and the beauty of His love, are just the elements we might have reckoned on as making for the shelter of obscurity.
Yet we all know that that was not the case. Jesus could not be hid. No prophet who ever lifted up his voice created such intense interest as Jesus. Wherever He went, crowds hung upon His steps. Wherever He was known to be, crowds gathered. He was talked of in the castle of the Herods. He was the conversation of the cottage. And there were some who loved Him, and there were some who scorned Him, and there were some who wished Him dead; but there were none who could be quite indifferent. And it was not just His miracles that did it, though His miracles deepened the impression. Nor was it just the wonder of His speech, although the charm of it was irresistible. It was the feeling, born they knew not how, and spreading mysteriously and steadily, that here was One who stood apart from all, and in whose being were unfathomed depths. You will never understand the life of Christ until you waken to that great impression. There was something about Him that suggested God, and men, detecting it, were awed. It shone through every veil that wrapped Him round–poverty, lowliness, suffering, and death–till those who loved Him knew, nothing could ever hide the Christ of God.
Jesus in the World
So much then about Jesus in the flesh; now shall we think of Jesus in the world? Our text is as true of the big world of Rome as it had been of the little world of Palestine. You know how powerless one often feels on entering a great city as a stranger. That is often a moment of great loneliness, and of an overwhelming sense of insignificance. And I think the apostles must have felt like that when they went out from the land of their nativity, and entered the cities of the Roman Empire, carrying the simple message of the Christ. Everywhere around them was philosophy, and they were ignorant of all philosophies. Everywhere were temples to the gods, and the only temples they had were themselves. Everywhere they were confronted with a powerful faith which was rooted in an immemorial past, and they had to preach the happenings of yesterday–the death of Jesus and the resurrection. Roman patriotism was against them, for every patriot clung to the old gods. Pride was against them, for it was intolerable that one should worship a Jew who had been crucified. And immorality was rampant everywhere, and superstition was a tremendous power, and every act of soldier or of emperor was interpenetrated with ancient ritual. What chance had Jesus in a world like that? He had an excellent chance of being buried. Roman historians made so little of Him that they could not even spell His name correctly. It was a gallant sight to see those eastern preachers carrying the message of their Christ abroad; but everyone was certain that in a dozen years Jesus Christ would be buried in oblivion.
Yet the fact is, that is what never happened. The strange thing is, Jesus could not be hid. In the might of a power that was the power of God, Jesus rose conspicuous in Rome. They tried to hide Him by ignoring Him, but Jesus can never be ignored. They tried it by awful persecution, but persecution was powerless to do it. They tried to hide Him in the cloak of ridicule, wrapping Him in the motley of derision; but the more they tried it, taunting Him with folly, the more He silently showed Himself a King. His name became familiar in the markets. It was whispered by the soldiers in the camp. Where no philosopher had ever entered, Christ entered with His power and His peace. Until at last to the remotest west, and from the cottage to the court of Caesar, there was not a woman but had heard of Calvary, and not a man but knew the name of Jesus. Explain it as you will, these are the facts. That is what happened on the stage of history. Out of an obscurity like night, Christ rose into the gaze of every eye. And it just means that Jesus in the world was the very Jesus who had lived in Galilee. In Rome and Lyons, as in the coasts of Tyre, Jesus could not be hid.
And is not the same thing eminently true as we survey the ages till today? The verdict of all the centuries is this, that there is that in Jesus which is irrepressible. I have seen a rock cleft into twain by a seedling-birch that rooted in the crannies. A seed had fallen, and the spring had quickened it, and it rent its prison-house and rose in beauty. And so in the ages has it been with Christ–He has been buried out of sight a thousand times, and a thousand times when hope was almost dead, the world has learned that He could not be hid. That is the meaning of the Reformation, when Christ stepped forth again out of the darkness. That is the meaning of every revival, when Christ is uplifted and every eye beholds Him. That is the meaning of all social effort, which is so earnest in our land today; for it is Christ who is moving in it all, and He cannot be hid. We have had, in the generation that is passing, an unparalleled criticism of the Bible. Did it not seem as if Christ were to be hid in the clouds of dust from the critics’ chariot-wheels? Yet to how many of us Christ is nearer now, and His grace more real, and His love more wonderful; to how many the Bible is a more precious book, because it is the avenue to Him. Science has been powerless to hide Him, though it has lengthened time by millions of years. Astronomy has been powerless to hide Him, though it has cast the earth out of her central place. It is to Christ’s ideals we still are working. It is by Christ’s standards that we still are judging. It is in Christ’s Spirit that we still are hoping for the weakest and the worst of human kind. Heaven and earth have passed away since Galilee, yet every letter you write, you date from Jesus. Commerce is vast and intricate and keen, yet commerce ceases the day when Jesus rose. On every hospital Christ is written large. On every orphanage His name is graven. Through every provision for friendless and for fallen, the pity of His heart is shining still. Think what you will of Christ, there is the fact, that history has been powerless to hide Him. You cannot avoid Him; He confronts you everywhere; He is magnificently and universally conspicuous. And yet this Christ was very meek and lowly, and shrunk from popularity and clamor, and was never happier than with His own, where the waves were lapping on the beach.
Jesus in the Heart
And now in closing, and in a word or two, shall we think of Jesus in the heart? In the heart within as in the world without, Jesus cannot be hid. Of course there is a very real sense in which, when He is ours, He is concealed. He is our life–and can you fathom life? Can you find its secret in the tiniest weed? Search for it, and it lurks within the shadows. Probe for it with the lancet, and it dies. Of every flower which blossoms that is true; and it is true of every Christian man. There must always be a secret in religion–something you cannot tell to anybody. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him–always a secret between Him and you. And so the Christian has a hidden life, and it is fed by thanksgiving and prayer, and no one shall ever know how deep it is, until the day when secrets are revealed.
But if Christ in the heart is always hidden thus, it is just as true that He cannot be hid. If Christ be in you, everything is possible, except to hide Him from the light of day. You can never crush Him down and keep Him so. If you can do it, it is not the Christ. The power of the resurrection is within you, and it is mightier than human weakness. Slowly the Master will reveal Himself, like a root out of a dry ground, until at last, over the field of character, there is the swaying of branches in the wind. In one He will be seen in added strength; in another, in unexpected tenderness. One will be filled with a desire to serve; another with a new desire to pray. And some will walk in a new path of rectitude; and some will cease to fret and become happy; and some will no longer be rebellious, but will take up their cross, and be at peace. We may never be aware of what is happening. Moses wist not that his face shone. We shall cry to the last day we live, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” Yet if we trust Him, and if we long to be like Him, and if we have taken Him to be our own, Christ will use us, and He will not be hid in us, any more than in the coasts of Sidon.