II The Wooing Lover (John i. 1-18.)
The Gospel According to—You.
Among all those who felt and answered the call of Jesus was one called John, John the disciple. Jesus drew John close. John came close. John 54ed close. John came early and he stayed late. He stayed to the very end, into the evening glow of life. And all his long life he was under the tender holy spell of Jesus' presence. He was swayed by the Jesus-passion. Always burning, he was yet never consumed; only the alloy burned up and burned out, himself refined to the quality of life called eternal.
Then John came to the end of his long life. And he knew he would be slipping the tether of life and going out and up and in to the real thing of life. And I think John was a bit troubled. Not because he was going to die. This never troubles the man who knows Jesus. The Jesus-touch overcomes the natural twinges of death. But he was troubled a bit in spirit for a little by the thought that he would not be on earth any longer to talk to people about Jesus. And to John this was the one thing worth while. This was the life-passion.
And so I think John prayed about it a bit. For this is what he did. He said to himself, "I will write a book. I'll make it a little book, so busy people can quickly read it. I'll pick out the simplest words I know so common folks everywhere that don't have dictionaries can easily understand. And I'll make them into the shortest simplest sentences I can so they can quickly get my story of Jesus." And so John wrote his little book. And we call it the story of Jesus according to John, or, as we commonly say the Gospel—the God-story—according to John.
And all this is a simple bit of a parable. It is a parable in action. Jesus is brooding over us, giving Himself, warmly wooing us. He woos us into personal friendship with Himself. And then He asks that each of us shall write a gospel. This is the Gospel according to John; and these others according to Luke and Mark and Matthew. He means that there shall be the gospel according to—you. What is your name? put it in there. Then you get the Master's plan. There is to be the gospel according to Charles and Robert and George, and Mary and Elizabeth and Margaret.
And you say, "Write a gospel? I couldn't do that. You don't mean that. That's just a bit of preaching." No, it isn't preaching. It's so. I do not mean to write with a common pen of steel or gold; nor on just common paper of rags or wood-pulp. But I do mean—He means—that you shall write with the pen of your daily life. And that you shall write on the paper of the lives of those you're touching and living with every day.
Clearly, He meant, and He means, that you and I shall live such simple unselfish lovable Jesus-touched lives, in just the daily commonplace round of life, that those we live with shall know the whole story of Jesus' love and life; His love burned out for us till there were no ashes, and His life poured out for us till not a red drop was left unspilled.
Are you writing your gospel? Is your life spelling out this simple wondrous God-story? I can find out, though, of course, I shall not. What I mean is this,—the crowd knows. The folks that touch you every day, they know. This old Bible was never printed so much as to-day, nor issued more numerously. And—thoughtfully—it was never read less by the common crowd on the common street of life than to-day.
That doesn't mean that the crowd doesn't read what it supposes to be religious literature. It does. I wish we church folk read our religious literature as faithfully as this crowd I speak of reads its. It is reading the gospel according to you, and reading it daily, and closely, and faithfully, and remembering what it reads, and being shaped by it.
This Bible I have here is bound in—I think it is called sealskin. I tried to get the best wearing binding I could. But I've discovered that there's a better binding than this. The best binding for the Gospel is shoe-leather. The old Gospel of the Son of God is at its best as it is being tramped out on the common street of life. Its truths stand out clearest as they're walked out. Its love comes warmest, its power is most resistless as it comes to you in the common give-and-take of daily touch in home and shop and street. Are you writing your copy of the Gospel?
You know that sometimes scholars have found some precious manuscripts in old monasteries. They have gone into some old, grey, stone monkery in the Near East, and they have run across old manuscripts hidden away in some dark cell, covered with dust and with rubbish, perhaps. With much tact and diplomacy they have at length managed to get possession of the coveted manuscript. And they have been fairly delighted to find that they have gotten hold of a remnant, a very precious remnant, of one of these Gospels. In just this way much invaluable light has been gotten that made possible these precious revised versions.
I wonder if your gospel—the one you're writing with your life—is just a remnant, a ragged remnant. And perhaps there's a good bit of dusting necessary, and removing of rubbish, to get even at what there is there. And some of the shy hungry hearts that touch you and me need to use quite a bit of unconscious diplomacy perhaps to get even as much as they do. I wonder. The crowd knows. It could throw a good bit of light here. How much of this old Jesus-story are you really living!
Of course, there's a special touch of inspiration in these four Gospels. The Holy Spirit brooded over these men in a special way as they wrote. That is true. These are the standard Gospels. We would never know the blessed story but for these four Spirit-breathed little books. But it is also true that that same Holy Spirit will guide you in the writing of your version of the Gospel.
These four Gospels are different from each other. The colouring of Luke's warm personality, and of his physician habit of thought is in his Gospel very plainly. And so it is with each one of these Gospels. And, even so, there will be the colouring of your personality, your habit of thought, the distinct tinge of the experience you have been through, in the gospel you write with the pen of your life, and bind up in the shoe-leather of your daily round.
But through all of this there will be the simple, subtle, but very real, atmosphere of the Holy Spirit, helping you make the story plain and full, and helping people to understand that story as it is lived, as they never can simply by hearing it told with tongues or read through eyes.
Are you writing your gospel? Is your daily life spelling out the life and love of Jesus, that life that was poured out till none was left, that love that was burned out till even the ashes were burned up, too? This is the Master's plan. And practically it is the crowd's only chance.