The disloyal disciples

The disloyal disciples

The Bread of Life.

(The Gospel History, Section 64)

These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.

Many therefore of his disciples, when they heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it? But Jesus knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at this, said unto them, Doth this cause you to stumble? What then if ye should behold the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who it was that should betray him. And he said, For this cause have I said unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it be given unto him of the Father.

Upon this many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

The disloyal disciples

(The Saviour of the World, Vol IV, Book I, Poem XXVIII)

A man pours out his all—his love, his light,
His health or wealth it may be, all his ease,
At the shrine of one he loves; who looks askance,
Nor estimates his gift, but goes away
Half-insolent, half-careless, leaving all.
Rejected, smarting, cowers he in his place:—
What’s left for him? Is’t naught to recollect
The unsearchable riches by our Master spread
In that synagogue of Capernaum—all the good
A man might need—and they rejected all
Nor cared to weigh its worth? The Lord, He knows
The pain of the rejected.

See them go,—
His cherished own disciples, who went with Him,
Sat at His feet and learnéd at His lips,—
With sullen shoulder, turn their back on Him,
And, dogged, choose their path, away from Him,
As though some wrong He had done them! “Wrong enough,”
Say they, “to wreck men’s lives on groundless hopes,
To offer them hard sayings of ‘bread’ and ‘life,’
A bread man cannot eat, too hard a life,—
And this, in lieu of grace should come to them
In the royal court of their King!” “Why, who is this,
We’ve taken for Messias! All His boons
Are like fair clouds of sunset none may grasp!
How measure all this talk of ‘flesh’ and ‘bread’
And ‘life’ and ‘resurrection’! As a child
Who plays at armies, courts, and royal pomp,
The while there’s nought to give or take away,
So hath He talked, and we, deluded, heard
And thought to prosper on those empty words!”
That synagogue—Gethsemane found Him there.

We grieve us at the hardness of men’s hearts
Whose faith the Lord had built through many days,
Till now, they should perceive! Had we been there!
But ill-success, hard words, sore baffled hopes,—
Is our faith proof ’gainst these things? Have we left
Our all to follow Christ, and yet found nought,
Nor fails our faith at all? Ah, well with us,
Who come to feed on Him in days of dearth!
For, see you, Christ is King; one claim hath He—
The loyalty of subject-souls. Gem chaste,
Set in conspicuous place—man’s loyalty;—
But there be foes the poor man would deprive
Of that, his ornament. How guards he it
From the base marauder? Well he knows the signs
That herald depredation; murmurings rise;
Nought is quite good enough for his deserts,—
Nor food, nor friend nor season,—no, not God!
Who murmurs is not loyal. ’Tis well we grieve
That Christ, aggrieved, cried to those murmuring men,—
“Doth this then make you stumble? What, and if
Ye saw the Christ ascend to God’s right hand
To be there where He was ere time began?
I tell you, saw ye this supremest sight,
It were no more than words I speak to you,—
No more divine.

“These things be real things,

Not dreams as ye suppose. Nought else is true.
But, say ye, ‘Our concern is not with these;
We care not whether Thou be King of Heaven—
’Tis King on earth, who prospers, clothes and feeds
The men who serve him, we would have for Lord!’
I tell you, ye are wrong! The flesh ye serve,
Live but to cherish with solicitous care,—
It profiteth not, that flesh, nor matters it
What ails it or what helps; of small account
Is the body and its clamorous needs before Him
Who is a Spirit. The Words I spake to you,
They too are spirit, life to quicken you,
Feed you with hope and joy and bread of love.”

Ah me, that by the might of Him, our Lord,
We might perceive, if for a little while,
That our prosperings, failings, are of small account—
Touch not the life dealt out to us by Him
Who is our Life! Only a saint of God,
Like him of Assisi, doth rise at times
To show the worth of things,—and which be life!

Christ looks on them—the false, the loyal souls,
And challenges the faithless:—“There be some
Of you, disciples, who have heard My words
These many days, have witnessed many signs,
And ye believe not yet!” Unmasked, they shrink
From His discerning eye; no more halt they
’Twixt two opinions; probation’s past for these!
Disloyal souls, they go, to walk no more
With Him, their Master; reprobate, they turn.

And we, allowed to “walk with” Him betimes,
(As village lover walks with chosen maid),
Do we hold back and keep us in reserve
For higher bid of the world? Who nothing gives—
’Twould seem that the Christ of God cannot bestow
On that sordid soul and poor!

St. John vi. 59-66.

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