CHRIST’S HEALING AND INFLAMING MINISTRY 

Now, Sibbes’ second point is “Christ will not ‘break the bruised reed,’” nor “quench the smoking flax, or wick, but will blow it up till it flameth.”[1]  To explain the nature of this ministry, Sibbes speaks of the names and offices of Christ.  These names point to the tenderness of his care.  He is a lamb and a hen.  Christ does deal with his people in a gentle and tender way like a hen over her young.  The offices of Christ point to the same.  At his baptism the Holy Spirit descended as a dove “to shew that he should be a dove-like, gentle Mediator.”[2]  As a prophet he spoke words of comfort and consolation, not negating his words of judgment.  Jesus is a great high priest who “never turned any back again that came to him…He came to die as a priest for his enemies.”[3]  Jesus is lastly the true King of Israel.  However, this king, “he is meek king…a king of poor and afflicted persons.”[4] 

Sibbes insightfully shows that these thoughts of Christ were meant to comfort Christians.  Jesus is far more gracious than we would allow him to be.  In one remarkable passage, Sibbes adds, “He is a physician good at all diseases, especially at the binding up of a broken heart; he died that he might heal our souls with the plaster of his blood, and that by death save us.”[5]  Jesus, being infinitely wise and a master at his trade, specializes in healing the broken hearted sinner.  He covers over their wounds and sins like a builder does a hole in a wall.  He does so “with the plaster of his blood.”

Understanding that Jesus is a gentle and gracious Savior, should cause us “‘to come boldly to the throne of grace…in all our grievances.’”[6]  Knowing the nature of Jesus’ ministry to his people aright should not drive us away, but should melt our hearts by his love to come boldly to the throne of grace.  Sibbes says, “Never fear to go to God, since we have such a Mediator with him, that is not only our friend, but our brother and husband.”[7]  After some sin, Satan would depict Jesus to us in an angry way, but all along we should not fear to come to before his throne. 

Those who think themselves to be bruised in some way should remember that it is God’s usual way of workingto first bruise, then to heal.[8]  This truth should bring us comfort and stability in the midst of some trail or sin.  God will often time bring pain into our lives, so that afterward he might comfort us with his love (2 Cor 1:3-7). 

Rightly perceiving the ministry of Jesus should cause us to “See the contrary disposition of Christ, and Satan and his instruments.”[9]  That roaring lion, the devil, does usually attack us when we are at our weakest moment, but Christ is the exact opposite, he “as a mother tendereth most the most diseased and weakest child, so doth Christ most mercifully incline to the weakest.”[10]  Jesus’ bent is to mend and heal the most broken heart.  He cares for the worst of sinners and the smallest of children.  Satan is the converse; he attacks these with fierce anger. 

Christ’s service to his people is not only not to break the bruised reed, but not to quench the smoking flax.  Sibbes elaborates, “That in God’s children, especially in their first conversion, there is but little measure of grace, and that little mixed with corruption, which, as smoke, is offensive.”[11]  Sibbes’ aim here is help believers see the evidences of grace in their lives through the smoke screen of sin, so that they might have assurance and comfort in their salvation. Because there is this mixture within a believer, Sibbes says,

“the people of God have so different judgments of themselves, looking sometimes at the work of grace, sometimes at the remainder of corruption, and when they look upon that, then they think they have no grace; they love Christ in his ordinances and children, yet dare not challenge so near acquaintance as to be his.”[12]  

Sibbes explains that when a Christian begins to be very introspective about their sin, then they loose hope that there is any grace at all at work in their lives.  So, in doing this, they are scared to come to this meek Savior, Jesus Christ.  They picture him as a fierce judge.  They perceive him as an unbeliever should see him.  He instructs them not to ignore their sin, but to focus more upon the small workings of God’s grace to be comforted. 

In some instructions to pastors and civil leaders, Sibbes describes the church as a hospital saying, “The church of Christ is a common hospital, wherein all are in some measure sick of some spiritual disease or other that we should all have ground of exercising mutually the spirit of wisdom and meekness.”[13]  What a comforting word this is; in the church all are sick to some degree.  No one is perfect or glorified.  Jesus being the great physician of souls welcomes the weakest and most diseased of people.  He turns none away that seek healing from him.  Also, by way of application the members of his church should also welcome in others who are sick to find the same remedy they have. 

Towards the end of this second main point, Sibbes lays out some specific instructions for downcast Christians.  The first is not to neglect the means of grace that God has prescribed in his word for our comfort.  Pertaining to this instruction, Sibbes adds, “to keep our hearts closer to God, seasoning them with heavy meditations in the morning, storing up good matter that our heart may be a good treasury, and begging of Christ his Holy Spirit to stop the cursed issue.”[14]  So, here Sibbes would encourage Christians to begin the day with heavy meditation upon the word of God.  This he calls “seasoning the heart.”  To awake to sweet thoughts of God by meditation upon his word is no better way to start the day, since we will enter into a world, which is backward from that word of Christ.  We need this encouragement from God everyday.  We need daily bread from his word to survive this spiritual wasteland. 

Sibbes would also encourage a weak Christian not to give up on duties that God has called us to.  Sin, Satan, and trails should not keep us from using our gifts within the body of Christ.  Therefore, Sibbes explains, “Some are loath to perform good duties, because they feel their hearts rebelling…Christ looketh more at the good in them that he meaneth to cherish, that the ill in them that he meaneth to abolish.[15]  It is the aim of Satan to destroy the work of Christ through the Christian.  So, if he can by guilt drive us away from ministry than he has succeeded, but if by the mercy of God we persevere, God will be glorified.  Additionally, Sibbes says, “That which is won as a spoil from our corruptions will have such a degree afterwards…Feeling and freeness is oft reserved until duty is discharged; reward followeth work.”[16]  Those who have tasted what Sibbes is describing know the truth of his words.  There is immense joy in doing that which God has created you to do, especially when we overcome our flesh, being obedient when the flesh would tempt us with guilt. 

Sibbes reserves the last few pages of this second point of emphasis for those who would reject such a merciful Savior.  Concerning this group, he warns, “Such must know that the Lamb can be angry, and they that will not come under his scepter of mercy, shall be crushed in pieces by his scepter of power.”[17]  Jesus came to seek and save, not to be served, but to serve, but those who reject his service and refuse to be washed, will be swept away under his fierce anger.  He came once to save, next he comes to destroy.  There is nothing to rouse his wrath more “than when kindness is churlishly refused.”[18]

 

 


 [1] Ibid., 45, 49.

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid., 45.   

[4] Ibid., 45.  

[5] Ibid., 45. 

[6] Ibid., 46. 

[7] Ibid., 46. 

[8] Ibid., 46.   

[9] Ibid., 46.  

[10] Ibid., 46.   

[11] Ibid., 49.   

[12] Ibid., 50.   

[13] Ibid., 57.  

[14] Ibid., 64.  

 

[15] Ibid., 65.  

 

[16] Ibid., 67.   

[17]Ibid., 73.   

[18]Ibid., 73.

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