I Delight To Do Thy Will
Sacramental Meditation XX
By John Willison, Practical Works (London: Blackie & Son, 1844), 273-4; minimally edited
“Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth…” (Jn 18:4)
Christ foreknew all His sufferings, with all their ingredients, before they came upon Him; yet He willingly and resolutely went forth to meet them. He will not flee, nor hide Himself from His persecutors, but cast Himself in their way. He saw the cup of wrath mixed and ready for Him, and now, as it were, He reaches forth His hand to take it. When the people would have forced Him to a crown, He hid Himself from them (Jn 6:15). But when they would force Him to a cross, He offered Himself to them, knowing that His hour was come to fulfil His suretyship for us, and complete our redemption. Upon this account He made His sufferings welcome, and the passover that introduced them. “With desire have I desired to eat this passover” (Lk 22:15). He abhorred all counsels that tended to hinder Him, and rebuked Peter as smartly for dissuading Him from suffering, as He would have done Satan himself (Mt 16:23). And though all His disciples would have dissuaded Him (Jn 11:8), He marched with great forwardness to Jerusalem, where He foretold the bloody tragedy was to be acted. He hastened to the field of battle, and place of suffering. Yea, He went so fast to it, that His disciples were amazed at it, and afraid to follow Him (Mt 20:18; Mk 10:32). They were behind Him, and would have fallen behind altogether, had it not been for shame, and let Him go alone; they were amazed to see a man hasten so fast to a bloody death. But He would not stop, though they had all left Him, as they did afterwards. And when His time was come to be apprehended, He would neither let Peter defend Him, nor angels rescue Him, though there were twelve legions at His call. One angel would have been sufficient to do it, or one word from His mouth; but, says He, “The cup my Father hath given me to drink, shall I not drink it?” Wherefore, when they accused Him of blasphemy against God, and of enmity against Caesar and Moses’ law, and things He was perfectly innocent of, He would make no legal defence to save His life before Pilate, but held His peace, in so much that Pilate marvelled greatly. He might think it was easy for Him to answer all they said, but He knew not the reason of our Lord’s silence, namely, that He would do nothing to hinder the elect’s redemption, which He had undertaken. And as He was silent before Pilate, so was He before Divine justice, and would do nothing to divert the stroke. Soon might He have rescued Himself when justice drew the sword, by saying, “Father, these sins are not mine.” No, He is silent, and takes the charge, as if He had committed them all. On me, saith He, be the curse, I will be the sacrifice for these lost sheep. Oh love unspeakable!
The reasons of my Saviour’s willingness to suffer are obvious: He knew it was His Father’s will He should suffer, and therefore He said, Psalms 40, “I delight to do thy will, O my God.” He knew it would greatly display the glory of the divine attributes that was sullied by our sins; it would highly magnify His love to His sheep. “I lay down my life for the sheep” (Jn 10:15). I do it of myself, freely, without compulsion. It was necessary to make His sacrifice acceptable and well pleasing unto God. The heathens would not offer a sacrifice to their gods that came struggling to the altar; so every sacrifice offered to the true God must be a freewill offering, if we would have it of a sweet smelling savour unto Him. This Christ has taught us by His example, and upon this account God has twice proclaimed from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Oh, was Christ’s willingness to suffer for sinners so well pleasing to the Father, and shall it not render Him most amiable and lovely to us! Surely the Mediator’s frank and cheerful undertaking to suffer so much for us, when unrequired by us, is a favour infinitely kind, and does command raptures of love and praise. What a moving sight is it to the eye of faith, to behold our glorious Emmanuel engaging cheerfully to go through Satan’s buffetings, death’s pangs, and hell’s flames for us! With what elevated thoughts and raised affections, should we admire, love, and praise a crucified Jesus, who did all this willingly and unrequired for us! Oh, He never had so good will to eat when hungry, as He had to suffer and satisfy justice for us! Hence He said, “my meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work” (Jn 4:34). Here is food most delicious for faith to feed upon at the Redeemer’s table. Again, from this willingness of Christ to suffer for us, I have good ground to conclude His willingness to receive us, when we come to Him by faith to partake of the fruits of His sufferings. Oh how can any believer, or sensible sinner, doubt of Christ’s willingness to help and save them? Surely, He is far more willing to save, than any sinner is to repent or believe. And from this I will take my encouragement to come to Him. Since my loving Jesus came willingly as a lamb to the slaughter for sinners, I will venture with humble confidence, to go to Him for pity and help in the time of my need, trusting He will not reject me, nor any that comes to Him upon His call in the gospel. “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.”
Oh, did Christ suffer the pains of death and hell so willingly for us, and shall not we be willing to suffer the reproaches or revilings of men, or any other persecution for Him? And when any such injuries are done us, shall we not bear them with meekness and patience after Christ’s example, who submitted cheerfully to every thing He knew to be His Father’s will? Though He was perfectly innocent, and met with the greatest provocations from wicked men, yet He patiently bore them; taking all as out of His Father’s hand, who had mingled the cup for Him. Therefore, when He was reviled, He reviled not again; He could have told Pilate, Caiaphas, and other persecutors, what sort of men they were, yet He opened not His mouth, but went willingly as a lamb to the slaughter. Oh that we could imitate the meekness, patience, and willingness of the Lamb of God in all the sufferings He calls us to!
Oh did Christ delight to do His Father’s will, and go willingly through the most hard and difficult task of sweating, bleeding, and dying for us? And shall we find so little delight in doing His will, and performing the duties which lead to communion and fellowship with Him, as prayer, praise, reading, hearing, or communicating? Did Christ come so cheerfully to die for us, and shall we go so backwardly and unwillingly to His table to enjoy fellowship with Him, when He invites us to it; oh what a shameful requital is this! May not Christ say, “Is this your kindness to your friend?” When the Father called me to suffer, and drink the cup of trembling for thee, how readily did I echo back, “I come, lo, I come, to do thy will I take delight!” But when I call you to pray or communicate, how backward and dead-hearted you are in that work? I did not weary so soon in the garden, as you do in the church! I did not weary so soon on the cross, as you do in your closet! I was longer in my agony, wrestling under the wrath of God for you, than ever you were in wrestling in prayer for your soul.
Did Christ offer His sacrifice so willingly for us; oh, then, let me go to God my Saviour, with the sacrifice of myself and my duties, with a ready and cheerful heart. “God loveth a cheerful giver.” As Amaziah offered Himself willingly unto the Lord, 2 Chronicles 17:16; and David says, “Accept of the freewill offerings of my mouth” (Ps 119:108). Oh that with the like willingness I could offer myself, my heart, and my sacrifices of prayer and praises unto the Lord. Surely it is much for the honour of God and the credit of religion, as it is most just and reasonable in itself, to serve God with joyfulness, who has willingly given us the unspeakable gift of His dear Son to die for us. The wicked and profane are ready to reproach religion as a sour and melancholy thing, when we serve God in a dead-hearted manner; and God Himself is highly displeased with us for it, as is evident from that long and terrible chapter, the 28th of Deuteronomy, that is full of curses and threatened judgments (v. 47), where the cause of all is given, “Because you served not the Lord thy God with joyfulness and gladness of heart.” Since the sacrament is called the Eucharist, or thanksgiving, let me go to it with a joyful and thankful heart, blessing God for Christ. “Oh thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.” Amen. W