by Isaac Ambrose (1604-1664)
Looking unto Jesus — Hebrews 12:2
The most excellent subject to discourse or write of is Jesus Christ. Augustine,1 having read Cicero’s works, commended them for their eloquence; but he passed this sentence upon them: “They are not sweet because the name of Jesus is not in them.” And Bernard’s saying is near the same: “If thou writest, it doth not relish with me, unless I read Jesus there; if thou disputest or conferrest, it doth not relish well with me, unless Jesus sound5 there.” Indeed all we say is but unsavory, if it is not seasoned with this salt: “I determined not to know any thing among you,” saith Paul, “save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1Co 2:2). He resolved with himself before he preached among the Corinthians that this should be the only point of knowledge that he would profess himself to have skill in, and that, in the course of his ministry, he would labor to bring them to. This he made “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of his knowledge (Eph 3:18). “Yea, doubtless,” saith he, “and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phi 3:8).
In this knowledge of Christ, there is an excellence above all other knowledge in the world. There is nothing more pleasing and comfortable, more animating and enlivening, more ravishing and soul contenting. Only Christ is the sun and center of all divinely revealed truths. We can preach nothing else as the object of our faith, as the necessary element of your soul’s salvation, which doth not some way or other either meet in Christ or refer to Christ. Only Christ is the whole of man’s happiness: the Sun to enlighten him, the Physician to heal him, the Wall of fire to defend him, the Friend to comfort him, the Pearl to enrich him, the Ark to support him, the Rock to sustain him under the heaviest pressures, as “an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land” (Isa 32:2). Only Christ is that between earth and heaven, the Mediator6 between God and man (1Ti 2:5), a mystery, which the angels of heaven desire to pry, peep, and look into (1Pe 1:12). Here is a blessed subject indeed: who would not be glad to pry into it to be acquainted with it? “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (Joh 17:3). Come then, let us look on this Sun of righteousness (Mal 4:2); we cannot receive harm but good by such a look. Indeed, by looking long on the natural sun, we may have our eyes dazzled and our faces blackened; but by looking unto Jesus Christ, we shall have our eyes clearer and our faces fairer. If “the light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart” (Pro 15:30), how much more when we have such a blessed object to look upon? As Christ is more excellent than all the world, so this sight transcends all other sights. Looking unto JESUS is the epitome of a Christian’s happiness, the quintessence8 of evangelical duties.
In the text, we have the act and object. The act in the original is very emphatic—aphorontes eis—the English doth not fully express it. It signifies an averting or drawing off the eye from one object to another. There are two expressions, apo and eis: the one signifies a turning off the eye from all other objects, the other a fast fixing of the eye upon such an object and only upon such. So it is both a looking off and a looking on. On what? That is the object: looking unto Jesus, a title that denotes His mercy and bounty, as Christ denotes His office and function.
I shall not be so curious as to inquire why Jesus and not Christ is nominated; I suppose the person is aimed at, which implies them both. Only this may be observed: Jesus is the purest gospel-name of all other names. Jesus was not the dialect12 of the Old Testament; the first place that ever we read of this title as given to Christ is in Matthew 1:21: “Thou shalt call his name JESUS, for he shall save his people from their sins.” Some observe that this name Jesus was given Him twice: once until death (Mat 1:21) and afterwards forever (Phi 2:10).
The first was a note of His entering into covenant with God to fulfil the Law for us and to die for our sins; the second was a note of so meritorious a person, Who for His humility was more exalted than any person ever hath been or shall be. First, Jesus was the humble name of His deserving grace; now Jesus is the exalted name of His transcendent glory. At first, the Jews did crucify Jesus and His name; and the apostle did then distrust whether Jesus was the true Jesus: but now God hath raised Him from the dead and “hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth” (Phi 2:9-10).
My meaning is not to insist on this name, in contradiction to other names of Christ: He is often called Christ, Lord, Mediator, Son of God, and Emmanuel. Why? Jesus is all these, Jesus is Christ, as He is the anointed of God; and Jesus is the Lord, as He hath dominion over all the world; and Jesus is Mediator, as He is the reconciler of God and man; and Jesus is the Son of God, as He was eternally begotten before all worlds; and Jesus is Emmanuel, as He was incarnate, and [is therefore,] God with us. Only because Jesus signifies Savior—this name was given Him upon that very account: “for he shall save his people from their sins”—I shall make this my design: to look at Jesus more especially as carrying on the great work13 of our salvation from first to last. This, indeed, is the glad tidings, the gospel, the gospel privilege, and our gospel duty—looking unto Jesus.
From Looking unto Jesus: A View of the Everlasing Gospel, Sprinkle Publications