The final message by Mr. Madsen at the conference in Switzerland, September, 1969.
|July — August, 1970||Vol. 48, No. 4|
“But now I go unto him that sent me; and none of you asketh me,
Whither goest thou?” (John 16:5).
JESUS is here speaking from heaven and saying what He hears His Father say. Because He has heard His Father say it, He says: “None of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?” This is quite remarkable, because if you read John 13:36 you will find that Peter did ask the Lord: “Lord, where goest thou?”, and if you read John 14:5 you will find that Thomas also asked the Lord where He was going: “Lord, we know not whither thou goest, how know we the way?” Peter and Thomas had asked the way, but, according to Jesus, they had not asked anything at all!
Jesus said of Himself: “I am from above: ye are of this world” (John 8:23), so the questions we ask are of the earth and not in the realm of the Spirit. Therefore you very seldom find that our Lord Jesus answered the questions put to Him. Again and again in John’s Gospel we see that people asked Him questions and He said something which seemingly had nothing to do with the question.
Nicodemus was one of these questioners. He put this question to the Lord: “How can a man be born again?” Had he put that question to us we would have answered: ‘One, if you do this and that, and, secondly, you must do something else, and, thirdly, you must testify to people, and, then, fourthly, the Lord will give you new birth.’ But the Lord Jesus did not answer Nicodemus’ question! He said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Nicodemus asked further: “How can these things be?” Again if he had asked us that question, we would have answered with four more points, and said: ‘And then it happens!’ But the Lord did not do that. He said: ‘If you do not believe when I speak of earthly things, how can you believe when I speak of heavenly things?’ If you read chapter three of John’s Gospel, you will have great difficulty in finding an answer to that question that you will like. That is because Nicodemus asked his questions as an earthly man, but the Lord never answers questions as an earthly man, so what He says fails to satisfy man’s mind.
It was the same when the Greeks came and said: ‘We would like to see Jesus.’ What an answer the Lord Jesus gave them! “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified” (John 12:23). Is that an answer? Not to our minds!
It is always like that with the Lord. He does not answer questions. He cannot do so, for an answer which we would understand would be a means of keeping us in our world. It would be a hindrance to man if the Lord answered his questions according to his mind. The Lord wants to draw the earthly man out of his world, so He cannot give him an answer that he would understand for that answer would keep him in his earthly world. The Lord knows what is in man and is not in need of his questions! We often feel that our questions are very important but the Lord knows better. Our questions are not vital. Deep down underneath the many questions there is something that the Lord knows, and that is what is vital. It might be a hidden sin; it might be pride; it might be fear of man: it might be superficiality; or it might be some kind of bondage. Therefore the Lord does not answer questions, and it is as though we do not ask anything at all.
The Lord’s answer is, of course, the word of the Cross, and the Cross does not answer the questions of earthly-minded people. It was an answer the disciples had never expected, for it did not answer their questions, but was a shock to their whole being. The Cross does not accept the earthly man and his questions, but does away with them. It is as if the Lord from the Cross says: ‘You are nothing and your questions are nothing. You have never asked one question that is valid with Me!’ That is the way in which the Lord answers questions, and it seems as if He does not speak at all to the earthly man.
In 2 Corinthians 2:17 Paul gives a remarkable definition of preaching: “… but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ.” Where is his audience? Is that not very important? You cannot find an audience here in Paul’s definition of the preaching of the Cross! He speaks “in the sight of God”, and not in the sight of men. That is very important, because we are so interested in applying the truth to the status of men. We are always thinking of those who ask the questions and say to them so kindly: ‘I will do what I can to understand you, and if I say something that you do not understand, please ask me to explain. Do [84/85] you understand now? Can I make it clearer? Shall I write it down?’ Then we have all these points, one to four, and (a) and (b), and at last they understand everything — and it has not changed them a bit! All that has just been a means of keeping them where they were! Paul was much more interested in God’s presence. For him it was not so much: ‘Do you, my audience, understand me?’ but: ‘I am speaking in the sight of God. Does His Spirit give His ‘Amen’ to what I say?’ That is the all-important thing; and the more you make things plain to the earthly man, the sooner the Spirit’s ‘Amen’ disappears.
So the Lord said: ‘None of you has asked Me whither I go.’ If Peter or Thomas had interrupted and said: ‘Don’t you remember, Lord, that I asked you that question an hour ago?’ He would have said: ‘We cannot speak to one another from two different worlds. I am helping you out of your world into Mine, because all that you do and say in your own world is as nothing. I speak from above. My words are not a declaration; they are life and spirit. They go deeper than answers to your questions, Peter. Can you not, even now, sense that My word is something quite different?’
I think the Lord has graciously allowed us to have this word among us this week. Many have come with questions, and possibly they have not been answered. Or perhaps the Lord has said something so surprisingly different from your question that it is as if He spoke of something that had no relationship whatsoever to your problem. Hold on to that word very strongly! In this week the Lord has not been in need of our questions, because He knows every one of us here. I have been speaking with quite a number of you at meal-times and a question that has come up several times is this: ‘How do we build the Church?’ The Lord has not answered with four points and then said: ‘Now you have the Church!’ I am sorry we have not had such a clear answer! Would it not be wonderful if we could go back to our different places and say: ‘One … two … three … four … and then we have the Church’? If we ask the Lord: ‘Lord, how do I build the Church’?’ He will answer thus: ‘Go and visit that troublesome old saint down there!’ or: ‘Pray for those who persecute you!’ or: ‘Greet that man in the street whom you do not like!’ Then we would say: ‘But, Lord, that is no answer to my question. How do I build the Church?’ To that the Lord would say: ‘You ask questions from the earth, and I can never give you an answer on that level. But I will give you an answer, and if you have an ear to hear what the Spirit says, then you will recognize that this is the answer.’ That is a creative answer, an answer with, and in, life.
The word of the Cross is the word from above, and that is like rain from heaven. It does not return to the Lord void, but it fulfils that for which He has sent it. Be sensitive to that word which we have heard this week! It may not answer our questions, but it does answer the cries that come right from our innermost being.
So anyone who came with such a cry, or — to speak in modern language — with an existential cry, knows that only the word from above does away with all our questions and touches our spirit. It is that word that satisfies the crying heart, and we are grateful for it. It is that word we want to keep: and it is that word, and only that word, which we want to give to our generation.
It can be done, and it shall be done! – P. M.