This entry is part of 21 in the series article 27

" Jesus then lifted up his eyes and saw a great company." JOHN 
vi. 5. 

THE sight of a crowd of human beings always is 
impressive. The crowd may be of any sort and 
gathered on any occasion. It may be a great, rapt 
multitude listening together to exalted and exalting 
music. It may be a mob, wild and tumultuous with 
passion. It may be an army marching like one great, 
marvellous machine, to meet the enemy. It may be 
the chance gathering of passengers whom some ac- 
cidental obstruction has stopped upon the street. 
Whatever be its cause, it is a crowd ; and it is inter- 
esting to any truly human soul that stands and 
watches it. It is not simply for the special thoughts 
which it suggests. It is not Xerxes weeping at the 
sight of the army of which in a few years no man 
will be left alive. It is not so definite as that. It 
is the general sense of human life, the very essence 
of this mysterious and mighty thing, apart from 
particular conditions, apart from curious specula- 
tions upon it. It is the fact of life laid on the heart 
of the living man that makes the interest of a great 
crowd. A sensitive child will feel it. It is in some 
sense the personal impression broadened and deep- 
ened and richened ; but there is also something in it 
which no contact with the individual produces, a 
pure impression of humanity, as if you were able to 
extricate from all its entanglements the one essen- 
tial, universal quality which makes a man a man ; 
and, making it concrete and visible, yet preserving 
all the broadness of abstraction, to hold it before 
your eyes and let it impress itself upon your heart. 
This is the general impressiveness of a crowd. 
But, no doubt, the impression cannot be uniform. 
It must vary with the character of the observer, of 
the human being upon whom the impression falls. 
In the words of my text, Christ is the Observer. He 
has crossed the sea of Tiberias with His disciples. 
He is sitting on a hillside of the Eastern country. 
He has been pondering, and perhaps praying. By 
and by He lifts up His eyes and sees a great com- 
pany. The multitude whom He left beyond the 
lake has followed Him across, and He is face to face 
with them again. He cannot escape from men. 
Then He accepts them into His life and deals with 
them. And we can feel, I think, that as they im- 
press themselves on Him we are getting, as it were, 
the largest and truest impression which humanity 
has ever made on man. That which I tried to say 
just now of the essential life making itself known, 
must have been more real with Jesus Christ than 
with any other watcher of his fellow-men that ever 
lived; for here was Man in His completeness re- 
ceiving men in their completeness. More and more 
we come to see that this was what the Incarnation 
meant. It was the Son of man, in whom the whole 
of all the life of man was gathered up, who sat and 
watched the multitude and first realized Himself in 
them, and then knew them in Himself as they had 
never been known before. 

Let us think for a while about Christ looking upon 
a crowd of men. And first, let us try to see the 
picture which is in the words with which the scene 
is introduced to us. It is an old Bible phrase, one 
that recurs very often in the Bible story, in which 
the Saviour is described as "lifting up his eyes" to 
see the people. The picture is of a man sitting with 
his eyes bent down. He is in thought and contem- 
plation. He is seeing with the inward sight. He 
is seeing the invisible. He is looking at truth. He 
is questioning Himself. So sitting, Jesus is the type 
of all introspection and meditation and study, of all 
that occupation of mankind which is turned away 
from active human life and is dwelling on the unseen 
things. We recognize at once the quiet, absorbed 
Figure on the hillside. 

Do we not also recognize at once the quick re- 
sponse with which, in answer to the bustling feet of 
the approaching crowd, Christ turns and looks up, 
and listens and is ready for them, and gives Himself 
in answer to their claim. He is theirs. No self- 
indulgence, even in the deepest thought or highest 
vision, even in prayer to His Father, must make 
Him deaf or blind to human life appealing to Him and 
requiring His help. Therefore He lifts up His eyes. 

Could the conditions and obligations of our human 
life be more vividly set forth than here? There is 
no study or dream, no meditation or prayer, which 
must not hold itself subject to the demand of men. 
It is not simply that the dream or study is less im- 
portant, and must sacrifice itself when the human 
need requires ; it is more than that. It is that the 
study and the dream need for their rectification 
and fulfilment this readiness to report themselves to 
man and his nature. They must justify and know 
themselves before the face of human life looking to 
them out of its anxieties and hopes. 

The illustrations of this are everywhere. Philoso- 
phers study and ponder to adjust their system of 
the universe to man. They cannot, they must not, 
be satisfied with their systems till they have lifted 
up their eyes and seen the "great company." Will 
their philosophy watch the world and explain it? 
they ask themselves. Can they tell man what his 
life is, and how to live it? The abstract student of 
political science must sooner or later see before him 
men waiting to be governed. The military theorists 
must tell how this especial battle is to be fought and 
won. The medical inquirer must know that there 
is sickness crying out to be cured. The theologians 
must be aware of eager souls appealing to them with 
the pathetic question, "What must I do to be 
saved?" The safety of man, the rescue of the 
thinker from the perils of his thought, the assurance 
that the farthest and deepest shall always be at the 
service of the immediate and pressing, lies in this 
readiness of all true men to lift up their eyes and 
see the "great company." 

There are students and dreamers and theorists 
enough who are not ready. Sometimes their ab- 
sorption and irresponsiveness makes other men 
rudely and crudely denounce all meditation and 
speculation, and say that the far-off heavens shine 
only for their own luxury, and have no light to give 
to the darkened earth. But such vexation is slight 
and temporary. The crowd looks to the scholar and 
the dreamer and the saint, and does not look in vain. 
It is a history full of instruction and encouragement 
that He who saw the deepest vision and prayed the 
holiest prayer was the very first to turn away from 
both, to lift up His eyes and see the multitude, and 
love them, and come down to break for them the 
bread of life. 

But let us, before we come directly to the thought 
of how Christ looked upon the crowd, consider some- 
what more fully what the sight of a host of his fellow- 
beings may be to any man who looks them in the 
face. May it not be summed up by saying that a 
crowd may be to any man a mirror into which he 
looks and sees what he is, and what he ought to be. 

There is, first, the revelation of what a man is 
which comes to him in the presence of a crowd. I 
mean of what he is essentially, intrinsically, behind 
and separate from the countless accidents of his 
existence and the peculiar characteristics of his lot. 
This belongs with what we saw of the power which 
a great crowd has to present essential and absolute 
humanity to our minds. Facing that great presen- 
tation, many things which are not essential drop off 
and fall away. You go out from your individual 
life, from your self-absorbed existence, and stand 
face to face with a great host of your fellow-men, 
and as you stand there (have you not felt it ?) all that 
is really human in you throbs with vitality. It is 
alive with sympathy, while that which is not human 
manifests its weak vitality and begins to die. Your 
artificialnesses are exposed. You feel what shams 
your shams are, how selfish are your selfishnesses. 
Thus you see yourself in the mirror. 

In the same mirror, in the face of the same crowd, 
you see also what you ought to be. For, along with 
the sense of how thoroughly your humanity is one 
with that of the crowd on which you look not in- 
terfering with it, but increased and deepened by it, 
there is the other sense of how distinct your life is 
from the lives of all these men. You are a separate 
being. There are some things which specialize in 
you the universal human life. The gifts and endow- 
ments which you possess become real to you ; all the 
privileges of your life grow clear. You are entirely 
unable to be proud of them. They are yours for 
the sake of this multitude. They become the 
personal expression of the universal life, bound to 
restore themselves in service to those human neces- 
sities which look into your face with their appeal 
out of this one great face of the crowd. 

I think that no man of true sensitiveness has come 
forth from his studies and contemplations into the 
storm and host of human living, without this becom- 
ing his revelation. He was himself for all of these. 
They claimed all that he was and had. If he was 
rich when they were poor, it was their riches that he 
held. If he was wise when they were ignorant, it 
was their wisdom. Who was it that had made him 
to differ? Even the Father who had first made him 
one with them. And so humility and responsibility, 
which are so often in contention and stand apart 
from one another, meet in the heart of the true man 
who stands face to face with the crowd of his fellow- 

It is these things, then, which all true men find, 
and which Jesus Christ, we cannot doubt, found in 
the presence of a multitude, self-revelation and 
noble impulse these two together. When He saw 
the gathering in the Temple at the time of the 
journey which He made there in His boyhood, when 
He looked upon the host who were waiting for their 
baptism at Jordan, when He came down from the 
mountain and found the crowd waiting in the plain, 
when He preached in the thronged synagogue at 
Capernaum, when He walked the streets of Jerusa- 
lem or stood in the courts of the great Temple, 
everywhere these two things were taking place : He 
was knowing how truly He was one with man, and 
He was feeling that that in Him which was more 
than man was being claimed by the human need. 
The woods and mountains could not do these things 
for Him ; therefore He turned from mountains and 
woods to the places where men were. 

We cannot picture Christ to ourselves as a mere 
dreamer. The Oriental standard of the holy man 
the mystic sitting in rapt, useless meditation year 
after year wholly fails in Him. The nature-wor- 
shipper, listening to what the trees and streamlets 
have to say, drinking in, after our modern notion of 
him, the unarticulated wisdom of the clouds and the 
flowers, that is not the Jesus of the Gospels, the 
Jesus of the Christian faith. He is a man of men. 
Any day the murmur of a crowd will draw Him from 
the silence of the hillside. For the deep know- 
ledge of Himself and the impulse of service pour 
into Him out of the eager faces and the pictures 
of suffering and joy which throng upon Him. 

These are the elements out of which character is 
made. And so it is in presence of the world, in 
contact with the world, that character has birth. 
This was the truth which Goethe taught, the truth 
of a talent shaping itself in stillness, but a character 
in the activity of life. It is character, not talent, 
for the lack of which the world suffers. It is be- 
cause of too little character, not because of too little 
talent, that the careers of human beings come to 
wreck. Therefore that which makes character must 
always be the true salvation of mankind. Therefore 
man, and not nature, is the true school of Human 

With this general truth concerning Christ's rela- 
tion to the multitude of men clear in our mind, we 
are prepared to go on and speak of two or three of 
the special effects which it produced in Him. And 
the first which I ask you to observe is this : the per- 
fect mingling of respect and pity in the way in which 
He felt about mankind. It would be useless to 
deny that pity, as we ordinarily know it, has in it 
almost always a mixture of contempt. It is not re- 
spectful to the nature of the man whom it pities. 

That is the reason why it is resented almost as if it 
were insulting. "Do not pity me," the proud man 
cries. "Neglect me if you will; abuse me, but do 
not pity me." It is not simply that pity declares of 
necessity the misfortune of him on whom the pity is 
bestowed. That is inevitable. It is that pity, as 
we give it, seems to interpret and comment on mis- 
fortune. It seems to say that the man must be not 
worth much who could come to this. It seems to 
set the pitier over against the pitied in an assertion 
of superior desert. 

Your friend has passed into some one of the great 
clouds of sorrow which darken the houses and the 
hearts of men. You, from outside the cloud, radi- 
ant with the sunshine of prosperity, speak in to him 
and tell him how you pity him. Do you not know 
the feeling of suspense with which you listen to hear 
how he will receive your words? Do you not know 
how hard it is, first to keep, and then to make him 
know that you keep, a true respect for him through 
all his suffering ; and that there is no slightest latent 
spark of the consciousness of superiority in the 
commiseration which you offer him? The Book of 
Job, with the supercilious comfort of the prosperous 
friends, repeats itself in countless homes of sorrow. 

It is the absolute absence of all this in Jesus Christ 
which makes the wonder of His life. There is never 
a touch of contempt in His dealing with distress. 
When He touches the blind man's eyes and gives 
him sight; when He steps across the threshold of 
the dead girl's chamber; when, by the Pool of 
Bethesda, He probes the intention and desire of the 
sick man s soul; when He calls to the buried Laza- 
rus at Bethany; everywhere, do you not feel the 
infinite and exquisite reverence which is in His 
touch and His voice for the human nature to which 
His word is spoken, or on which His hand is 

It is not merely that Christ is a sufferer Himself. 
It is not merely that He is poor, and so is in special 
sympathy with poverty and distress. That would 
make Him the friend of a class, almost the partisan 
of a party among men the party of the wretched 
and distressed. It is something larger and deeper 
than that. It is the reverence of the Lord of human 
nature for the human nature which He rules, nay, 
of the Creator of man for the man whom He created. 
Who knows the wonder and mystery of the organ 
like the man who built it, who piled pipe on pipe, 
each with its capacity of various sound? And so, 
who is it that shall touch the jarred and untuned 
organ, and call it back to harmony, like him in 
whose soul the organ's primitive and ideal harmony 
forever dwells, and to whom all its discord and dis- 
order is a sadness and a shame? 

Therefore it is that Jesus Christ pities not merely 
the sorrow and the poverty which He knows by 
fellow-feeling, by being sorrowful and poor himself. 
He pities far more the sin and meanness and moral 
misery which He knows by its contrast with His own 
soul, and its departure from that purpose of human 
nature which lies always in the depths of His divine 
and human soul. He pities sorrow, but He pities 
sin far more. Pilate and Herod and Judas and the 
Pharisees, these are the truly pitiable creatures of 
the earth for Him. And yet, even for them the 
reverence is not lost in the pitifulness. The mys- 
tery and richness of their human nature still abides 
behind their cowardice and selfishness. Can you 
not feel it in the marvellous loftiness and courtesy 
of that conversation at the judgment seat? Does it 
not tremble even in the simple words with which, at 
the Last Supper, the Lord dismisses the traitor to 
his dreadful work? 

The work of the Gospel on the soul which it 
saves, bears the conclusive witness of the respect 
which mingles with the pity which is the power of 
salvation. Where is the soul, rejoicing in the work 
which Christ has done for it, that has not wondered 
when it saw how the very visitation of Divinity 
which made its sin manifest, and bowed it down with 
penitence, also made manifest its preciousness, and 
opened visions of its possible attainment ! You 
knew how you needed salvation when you met 
Christ. You knew how worth saving you were when 
you met Christ. The awe which a soul feels be- 
fore itself as its spiritual capacity is being revealed 
in its conversion, what is it but the reflection and 
echo of the reverence which is in the heart of Christ 
for the soul which He is saving by His grace? 

What the soul feels the world feels. There is a 
certain insolence in most reformers. It hinders the 
triumphs of reform. It sullies the splendor of much 
of the noblest progress which the world has made. 
The leader stands before the host, and bids them to 
the battle almost with a taunt and a jeer. There is 
nothing of that in Christ. There is a profound rev- 
erence for the army which He leads. Therefore the 
army has followed Him as it has followed no other 
captain. And when He leads it into its final victory, 
the victory will be sure. 

Let me pass on to another impressive point in the 
way in which Christ looks at the crowd of men. It 
is something which we feel rather than see ; but I 
do not think that we can be mistaken regarding it. 
It is the way in which the individual and the com- 
bined life do not hinder, but help each other, to His 
mind. To us the individual loses himself in the 
crowd, and we cannot find him. A new being the 
multitude takes his place. We cannot think that 
it was so with Jesus. We are sure that, to Him, 
each person in the crowd remained distinct, in spite 
of the host by whom He was surrounded. 

Nay, more than that, are we not sure that the 
person was more distinct because of the host in 
whose midst his life was set? There was one token 
of this being so in one event of Christ's life. Do 
you remember where the poor Syrian woman crept 
up and laid a timid finger on His robes, and, when 
Christ recognized and owned it, His disciples almost 
rebuked Him with their surprise? " Master, the 
multitude throng Thee and press Thee ; and sayest 
Thou, who touched me?" The blurring of the 
single face in the great sea of faces, the loss of the 
one in the many, the sacrifice of personality to so- 
ciety, all this, with which we are familiar, we think 
of as wholly absent from the life of Jesus Christ. 
When the great company came pouring up the hill 
upon the other side of Gennesaret, it was as a 
whole, making each part of which it was composed 
more vividly distinct, that Jesus saw the advancing 
multitude when He " lifted up His eyes." 

We wrestle with the problem of socialism and in 
dividualism, the problem of the many and the one ; 
and we wonder which of the two must be sacrificed 
to the other, which of the two shall ultimately over- 
come the other arid remain the triumphant principle 
of human life. Let us be sure that to Christ, to 
God, there is no problem. Let us be sure, there 
fore, that in the end it shall not be by the victory 
of either over the other, but by the perfect harmo- 
nizing of the two, that the perfect condition of hu- 
man life shall be attained. When society shall be 
complete, it shall perfectly develop the freedom of 
the individual. When the individual shall be per- 
fect, he will make in his free and original life his 
appointed contribution to society. 

Therefore and here is what it is good for us to 
remember it is not by elaborate plans for the build- 
ing of the social structure ; nor, on the other hand, 
by frantic assertions of personal independence ; but 
by patiently and unselfishly being his own best self 
for the great good of all, that every man best helps 
the dawning of the Golden Age. Many a patient 
and unselfish worker is making valuable contribution 
to the great end who never dreams of what he is 
doing. Every man makes such a contribution who 
looks upon the crowded swarm of human life as 
Christ looked upon it ; neither losing the man in the 
multitude, nor the multitude in the man ; neither 
letting the forest drown the trees, nor letting the 
trees dissipate and destroy the forest. 

Sometimes, when for a moment we catch the view 
of Christ and share His vision, there comes great 
clearness into our spiritual experience, and that 
which has sometimes been the source of confusion 
and obscurity becomes the fountain of enlightenment 
and strength. Do you not know how, sometimes, 
it is because of the countless multitude of souls that 
the experience of each soul grows vague and unreal? 
In such a host does the great Captain know and care 
for every soldier? Does God feed and guard and 
educate me, individually, when all these millions 
are His children? Does the Holy Spirit bring His 
special gift to this one nature among all the in- 
numerable natures which must have His grace? 
And at the last, shall this one little life, which goes 
trembling out of this familiar existence through the 
vast door of death, be surely kept sacred, and sepa- 
rate, and precious, and imperishable in the great 
world of life beyond? These are the haunting 
questions which beset our souls. Where are the 
answers to them, except in this which we believe to 
have been true of Jesus Christ, that the more men 
there were, the more clearly did each man stand out 
distinct to Him who knew and loved them all. The 
crowd intensified and not obscured the individual. 

Let that truth of the Incarnation be true in all 
the care of God for man, and does not our anxiety 
what is sometimes almost our terror pass away? 
Because I am one among millions of needy souls, 
the Holy Spirit shall the more surely find me with 
my own peculiar food. Because no man can num- 
ber the immortal, therefore my immortality is the 
more certain, and He who keeps all spirits will keep 
mine. With such assurance I look up and face the 
overwhelming multitude of life, and am not over- 
whelmed, but filled with buoyant faith and carried 
onward as on a flood of strength. 

One other impression of the " great company" 
upon the mind of Jesus, I may allude to in a few 
words. He must have been filled, as He looked at 
them, with a sense of danger, and a sense of hope 
together. Danger and hope, so it would seem, be- 
long together in this world where we are now living. 
Sometime a world may come where hope may be 
conceived entirely apart from danger; but now and 
here, when man looks far ahead and dares to antici- 
pate great things, the certainty that great evil as 
well as great good may come starts up at once and 
will not be forgotten. It started up to Christ, and 
He never tried to forget it. No eyes ever saw more 
distinctly than His eyes saw the peril of human life. 
He read it in every human face. He had learned 
it in the temptation in the wilderness. Only, be- 
cause He was God and knew the evil to be weaker 
than the good, He always kept the hope behind and 
within the danger. Because man had in him the 
power to be this dreadful thing, therefore he also 
had in him the power to be this splendid thing. I 
know that, if we had been in Jerusalem, and had 
met the blessed Saviour in the street, we should 
have read all this in His features: the fear and 
hope together, the hope intensified by the fear, but 
always conquering it and making Him eager to 
call every human creature with the invitation of 
the divine Love, whose might He knew. 

Shall we not see all that in His face as He looks 
at us? We have not begun to know our danger as 
He knows it. He is anxious for your soul as you 
never began to be. But He hopes for you as you 
never hoped for yourself. Let His hope take pos- 
session of you ! Lift up your heart and know, as 
He knows, how perfectly you can be saved ! 

Thus, then, it is that Jesus Christ looks upon 
the crowded world : with reverence and pity ; with 
the sight of the whole and also the recognition of the 
single life ; with the sense of danger and the sense of 
hope. The result of it all, in Him, is that glorious 
consecration of His whole Being to the world, by 
which He is its Saviour. Let us see mankind as 
nobly as He does, and we shall be consecrated like 
Him ; and in some true, deep, blessed way, we shall 
share His Saviourship, perhaps by the sharing of 
His Cross, but we shall share His Saviourship. 
What more could man ask than that?
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