HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.-Matthew 14:16
The Christ of Every Occupation
One recognises how in that crowd there would be folk of very various occupations. Every trade and calling would be there. When a regiment goes marching down the street, every marching unit is a soldier. And sometimes we have processions through the city composed entirely of women. How different–how utterly dissimilar–how unlike the ordering of the regiment–this miscellaneous gathering in Gadara. The dresser of the olive tree was there, and there the keeper of the vineyard. There was the tenant farmer from his barren patch and the muscular and hardy fisherman. And the Master says of all of them, no matter what their occupation be, “They need not depart.” It is one of the wonderful things about our Lord that He is the Christ of every occupation. He is the Christ of the policeman as surely as the Christ of the professor. And by that, I mean that we can have His comradeship, and His delightful presence, and His grace, no matter what our occupation be. That is why Paul counsels the Corinthians to abide in the callings wherein they have been called (1Corinthians 7:20). There was no need to leave them to find Christ. It would not be easier to be a Christian anywhere. Just where we are, whatever be our task, whether we be on the bridge or at the desk, we can have the fullness of the fellowship of Jesus.
Christ Equal to the Needs of All
One recognises again how in that crowd there would be folk of the most various outlook. There would be points of view as different as the morning is different from the evening. It is a curious thing that we regard the Jew as a very shrewd and calculating bargainer. As a matter of fact, there never was a nation more intensely susceptible to poetry. And in the crowd that evening was poetic souls, dreaming dreams and seeing visions, just as there were prosaic men of business. For some of them, it was heaven to be alive, for they were lovers, and the world was full of music. They did not want the voices of the angels if they could have the voice of their beloved. For others, the world was strangely empty, for the lamp was quenched, and the golden bowl was broken, and the beloved was sleeping in the grave. I think it was this which touched the heart of Christ as He looked round upon that multitude–this strange diversity, this differing outlook, this various reaction and experience. And the beautiful thing is that the universal Lord is equal to the needs of all, and says authoritatively, “They need not depart.”
Let me share something I read a few weeks ago, The writer said he had a man who joined the church with him. He was married and had one sweet baby. And when he asked him why he wished to join, he said, “Sir, my cup is running over.” And then he thought of what Dr. Whyte a minister once told me of a young fellow who came to join with him, and when the doctor asked him why he wished to join, he said, “Sir, I was engaged to be married, and she died.” The one with a chalice that was brimming; the other with a chalice that was empty. The one radiant in the love of heaven; the other desolate and sitting among ashes–yet both felt that in Christ was what they needed.
That universal heart of Jesus ought ever to be heard beating in the Church. There must be room in the Church for the most various outlooks, as there was in the breast of the Redeemer. There are a thousand avenues to Him. On every side of the city, there are gates. The curse of the Church is the tyranny of type.
Christ Can Do Something for Everybody
One recognises again how in that crowd there would be folk of the most various character. That is always true of crowds, whether in Gadara or Glasgow Green. Some were travelling to Jerusalem to make their offerings and keep the feast. They sang the Psalms of David as they journeyed, and the fear of God was in their hearts. Others there were worthless characters, men who had broken every commandment, and whose hearts were just as false as hell. Does the Lord suggest that some should go away? Does He sift and separate the crowd? Does He carefully exclude the non-elect before He shows His power and works the miracle? Perplexed by the fore-orderings of Heaven, how comforting it is to take our stand beside Him, and hear Him say of all that varied multitude, “They need not depart.” The best need not depart, for He has always better than their best. The worst need not depart, for He is the one Saviour of the worst, with His abundant pardon for the past, His power to set the feet upon a rock, His love that will never let them go. Some of my readers, outwardly respectable, have a past that has been one long lie. And sometimes they tremble lest they should hear one day, “Depart from me, ye cursed.” May I say to them, in all the love of brotherhood, and yet with all the authority of Gadara, “Ye need not depart.”
Christ Sufficient for Every Age
One recognises, lastly, how in that great crowd there were folk of very various ages. The Gospels leave us in no doubt of that. We read that there were children there; probably the mothers could not come without them. We know, too, that there were schoolboys there, from the presence of the lad who gave his lunch. One likes to think of the children in the crowd, wondering at everything and knowing nothing, and of the schoolboys rejoicing in a holiday. Little feet and little brains were there, and dirty, pushing, irritating boys; and some who had just left school and started life, and some who had quite recently been married; and many in the midtime of their lives, and some who were going down into the grave–and the Lord looks around, and says of all of them, “They need not depart.” There are books that charm us when we are one-and-twenty, but when we are fifty they have lost their charm. There are teachers who thrill us in our youth but leave us cold when we come to know what life is. But Christ, the Friend of childhood, is the Guide and Guardian of maturity, and the Rod and Staff in the valley of the shadow. He never bids us leave Him. He never passes us on to higher masters. Living, dying, wakening beyond death, we need not depart. For I am persuaded that neither life nor death, nor things present, nor things to come, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.