Our Lord Jesus Christ, said Isaiah, would be "despised and rejected of men" (53.3). So He was; so He still is. But there have always been those who have appreciated Him, and who have been able to say something beautiful and true about this lovely Man.
Sometimes it is "out of the mouth of babes and sucklings" that the Lord perfects His praise (Mt 21.16) - those who as yet are uninfluenced by the hardened opinions and the fashionable prejudices of the grown-ups. There are also those of mature years who willingly take the place of babes, having decided to eschew the wisdom of this world. To them their heavenly Father reveals Himself and reveals His Son (Lk 10.21).These say, "We believe, and therefore speak" (2 Cor 4.13). Out of the abundance of their hearts (Mt 12.34) they speak well of Christ Jesus their Lord.
There have been other times, however, when people who owned absolutely no allegiance to Christ have nevertheless said about Him something which is beautiful and true, describing some aspect of His wonderful person or His perfect work. At least four such persons are found in the Gospel records. Compelled by the overwhelming evidence before their eyes they said about "this man" words which could not be more accurate had they been spoken by an apostle on earth or an angel from heaven.
The centurion at Calvary
Near the end of that mornings cruel executions this Roman army officer said, "Truly this man was the Son of God" (Mk 15.39). We do not know what if any encounter He had had with Jesus of Nazareth before this. We do not know, we can only speculate, about his pagan background and what he understood about God or gods. But he had now become convinced about who Christ was, convinced alike by what his eyes had seen and his ears had heard. He had watched the lonely Sufferer on the middle cross enduring such agony, bearing such a load, dying such a death without a murmur, complaint, or accusation. He had never seen anything like this before. Luke records that he said also: "Certainly this was a righteous man" (23.47).
What an accurate testimony to the One who was crucified as the rejected King of the Jews. He was a righteous Man; He was the Son of God. Three days later the empty tomb would declare these facts more loudly and permanently, and the risen Son of God would become the life-giving "Saviour of the world".
A dying thief
At Calvary there was also a dying thief who spoke well of Christ. At first he blasphemed and railed on Him, like his companion in crime and in execution. Then something made him change his mind. He too had noticed there was that which was very different about this Man now hanging next to him. Turning to the other thief, and contrasting so vividly the unique Sufferer on the central cross to himself and his companion in crime, he said, "But this man hath done nothing amiss" (Lk 23.41). He was convinced about what Christ had done: He was that One who had done nothing wrong, in fact He had done everything perfectly.
Now God had promised the sceptre and the throne to the one who loved righteousness and hated iniquity (Ps 45.6,7). So this Man was that King. The dying thief anticipated His coming coronation and kingdom, and, as an undeserved result of his repentance and faith, received a place in paradise with Christ that very day. He depended, as do we, on the perfect finished work of this perfect Man.
The Scribes and Pharisees
Earlier during His public ministry there was a time when scribes and Pharisees criticised Him for the company He kept. They said, "This man receiveth sinners" (Lk 15.2). They would not do such a thing! Coldly but truly they remind us of whom Christ sought. They did not realise that Christ came to call sinners to repentance, and so salvation passed them by - because they chose to let the Saviour pass them by to receive those who felt their need of Him.
It has ever been so. He seeks and saves the lost. He rescues the perishing, and cares for the dying. He receives those who receive Him. He opens the eyes of those who acknowledge that they are blind, but to those who say, "We see", He has to say, "Your sin remaineth" (Jn 9.41).
On another occasion Jewish officers, possibly temple "police", were sent to apprehend Him because the authorities were concerned about His great claims. These officers heard Him speaking. They listened to Him crying on that great last day of the feast, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink" (Jn 7.37). They returned without laying hands on Him, saying, "Never man spake like this man" (v.46). They had been moved by what Christ said and how He said it. Were they also deceived, the Pharisees wondered. The division among the people because of Him and because of His words had reached even to them.
Later, others would distort His very words to try to bear false witness against Him. But others still, men and women who had heard Him, would treasure those same words and record them so that we might read them, words which are eternal and abiding, spiritual, and life-giving.
What do we say?
Think about what these four classes of people said about the Lord Jesus, and then ask, "What do we say about Him?". Our words matter. We should know far more about Him than they ever knew. We ought also to appreciate Him far more than they ever could. Out of the abundance of our hearts our lips should speak well of "this Man".
In our witness to the world around will we search out acceptable words to testify clearly of Him (Eccl 12.10)?
In our conversations among the saints, and in our ministry to them, will we use wholesome words to build up each other in Him (Eph 4.29)?
As we worship our God and Father will we speak readily those things which we have made touching the King (Ps 45.1)?