. ................. Book Index ................
The Life of Christ
The Last Supper
This volume is based on:-
Matthew 26:20-29; Mark 14:17-25; Luke 22:7-24; John 13:1-30.
It is recommended that you read these before you read the book.
© You may freely copy this book as you desire.
The language of the Scripture quotes has been modernised for easier understanding.
The Lamb of God
In the upper chamber of a dwelling at Jerusalem, Christ was sitting at a table with His disciples. They had gathered to celebrate the Passover.
The Saviour desired to keep this feast alone with the twelve.
He knew that His hour was come; He Himself was the true Passover lamb, and on the day the Passover was eaten He was to be sacrificed. He was about to drink the cup of wrath; He must soon receive the final baptism of suffering.
But a few quiet hours yet remained to Him, and these were to be spent for the benefit of His beloved disciples. The whole life of Christ had been a life of unselfish service. "Not to be ministered to, but to minister," (Matthew 20:28), had been the lesson of His every act.
But the disciples had not yet learned the lesson.
At this last Passover supper, Jesus repeated His teaching by an illustration that impressed it forever on their minds and hearts.
A troubled Saviour
The interviews between Jesus and His disciples were usually seasons of calm joy, highly prized by them all. The Passover suppers had been scenes of special interest; but upon this occasion Jesus was troubled. His heart was burdened, and a shadow rested upon His countenance.
As He met the disciples in the upper chamber, they perceived that something weighed heavily upon His mind, and although they knew not its cause, they sympathised with His grief.
As they were gathered about the table, He said in tones of touching sadness,
"With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: for I say to you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God."
"And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come."
Christ knew His timetable
Christ knew that the time had come for Him to depart out of the world, and go to His Father. And having loved His own that were in the world, He loved them to the end. He was now in the shadow of the cross, and the pain was torturing His heart. He knew that He would be deserted in the hour of His betrayal. He knew that by the most humiliating process to which criminals were subjected He would be put to death. He knew the ingratitude and cruelty of those He had come to save. He knew how great the sacrifice that He must make, and for how many it would be in vain.
Knowing all that was before Him, He might naturally have been overwhelmed with the thought of His own humiliation and suffering. But He looked upon the twelve, who had been with Him as His own, and who, after His shame and sorrow and painful usage were over, would be left to struggle in the world. His thoughts of what He Himself must suffer were ever connected with His disciples. He did not think of Himself. His care for them was uppermost in His mind.
They had a problem
On this last evening with His disciples, Jesus had much to tell them. If they had been prepared to receive what He longed to impart, they would have been saved from heartbreaking anguish, from disappointment and unbelief. But Jesus saw that they could not bear what He had to say. As He looked into their faces, the words of warning and comfort were stayed upon His lips.
Moments passed in silence.
Jesus appeared to be waiting.
The disciples were ill at ease.
The sympathy and tenderness awakened by Christ's grief seemed to have passed away. His sorrowful words, pointing to His own suffering, had made little impression. The glances they cast upon each other told of jealousy and contention.
There was "a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest." This contention, carried on in the presence of Christ, grieved and wounded Him. The disciples clung to their favourite idea that Christ would assert His power, and take His position on the throne of David. And in heart each still longed for the highest place in the kingdom.
They had placed their own estimate upon themselves and upon one another, and, instead of regarding their brothers and sisters as more worthy, they had placed themselves first. The request of James and John to sit on the right and left of Christ's throne had aroused the indignation of the others. Matthew 20:20-21. That the two brothers should presume to ask for the highest position so stirred the ten that alienation threatened. They felt that they were misjudged, that their loyalty and talents were not appreciated. Judas was the most severe upon James and John.
Their feelings showed
When the disciples entered the supper room, their hearts were full of resentful feelings. Judas pressed next to Christ on the left side; John was on the right. If there was a highest place, Judas was determined to have it, and that place was thought to be next to Christ.
And Judas was a traitor.
Another cause of dissension had arisen.
At a feast it was customary for a servant to wash the feet of
the guests, and on this occasion preparation had been made for the service.
The pitcher, the basin, and the towel were there, in readiness for the feet washing; but no servant was present, and it was the disciples' part to perform it.
But each of the disciples, yielding to wounded pride, determined not to act the part of a servant. All manifested a stoical unconcern, seeming unconscious that there was anything for them to do. By their silence they refused to humble themselves.
What to do?
How was Christ to bring these poor souls where Satan would not gain over them a decided victory? How could He show that a mere profession of discipleship did not make them disciples, or insure them a place in His kingdom? How could He show that it is loving service, true humility, which constitutes real greatness? How was He to kindle love in their hearts, and enable them to comprehend what He longed to tell them?
The disciples made no move toward serving one another. Jesus waited for a time to see what they would do. Then He, the divine Teacher, rose from the table. Laying aside the outer garment that would have impeded His movements, He took a towel, and girded Himself.
With surprised interest the disciples looked on, and in silence waited to see what was to follow. "After that He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded." This action opened the eyes of the disciples. Bitter shame and humiliation filled their hearts. They understood the unspoken rebuke, and saw themselves in altogether a new light.
So Christ expressed His love for His disciples. Their selfish spirit filled Him with sorrow, but He entered into no controversy with them regarding their difficulty.
Instead He gave them an example they would never forget.
He knew His job
His love for them was not easily disturbed or quenched. He knew that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He came from God, and went to God. He had a full consciousness of His divinity; but He had laid aside His royal crown and kingly robes, and had taken the form of a servant. One of the last acts of His life on earth was to gird Himself as a servant, and perform a servant's part.
Before the Passover Judas had met a second time with the priests and scribes, and had closed the contract to deliver Jesus into their hands. Yet he afterward mingled with the disciples as though innocent of any wrong, and interested in the work of preparing for the feast. The disciples knew nothing of the purpose of Judas.
Jesus alone could read his secret. Yet He did not expose him then.
Jesus hungered for his soul. He felt for him such a burden as for Jerusalem when He wept over the doomed city. His heart was crying, "How can I give you up?"
The constraining power of that love was felt by Judas. When the Saviour's hands were bathing those soiled feet, and wiping them with the towel, the heart of Judas thrilled through and through with the impulse then and there to confess his sin. But he would not humble himself. He hardened his heart against repentance; and the old impulses, for the moment put aside, again controlled him.
Judas was now offended at Christ's act in washing the feet of His disciples. If Jesus could so humble Himself, he thought, He could not be Israel's king. All hope of worldly honour in a temporal kingdom was destroyed. Judas was satisfied that there was nothing to be gained by following Christ.
After seeing Him degrade Himself, as he thought, he was
confirmed in his purpose to disown Him, and confess himself deceived.
He was possessed by a demon, and he resolved to complete the work he had agreed to do in betraying his Lord.
Nothing shall offend the Christian
Judas, in choosing his position at table, had tried to place himself first, and Christ as a servant served him first. John, toward whom Judas had felt so much bitterness, was left till the last. But John did not take this as a rebuke or slight.
As the disciples watched Christ's action, they were greatly moved. When Peter's turn came, he exclaimed with astonishment, "Lord, do You wash my feet?" Christ's condescension broke his heart. He was filled with shame to think that one of the disciples was not performing this service.
A worldly attitude
"What I do," Christ said, "you know not now; but you shall know hereafter." Peter could not bear to see his Lord, whom he believed to be the Son of God, acting the part of a servant. His whole soul rose up against this humiliation. He did not realise that for this Christ came into the world. With great emphasis he exclaimed, "You shall never wash my feet."
Solemnly Christ said to Peter, "If I wash you not, you have no part with Me."
The service which Peter refused was the type of a higher cleansing. Christ had come to wash the heart from the stain of sin. In refusing to allow Christ to wash his feet, Peter was refusing the higher cleansing included in the lower. He was really rejecting his Lord. It is not humiliating to the Master to allow Him to work for our purification. The truest humility is to receive with thankful heart any provision made in our behalf, and with earnestness do service for Christ.
At the foot of the cross
At the words, "If I wash you not, you have no part with Me," Peter surrendered his pride and self-will. He could not endure the thought of separation from Christ; that would have been death to him. "Not my feet only," he said, "but also my hands and my head. Jesus said to him, He that is washed needs not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit."
These words mean more than bodily cleanliness. Christ is still speaking of the higher cleansing as illustrated by the lower. He who came from the public bath was clean, but the sandaled feet soon became dusty, and again needed to be washed. So Peter and his brothers had been washed in the great fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. Christ acknowledged them as His. But temptation had led them into evil, and they still needed His cleansing grace.
When Jesus girded Himself with a towel to wash the dust from their feet, He desired by that very act to wash the separation, jealousy, and pride from their hearts. This was of far more consequence than the washing of their dusty feet. With the spirit they then had, not one of them was prepared for communion with Christ.
Preparation for the supper
Until brought into a state of humility and love, they were not prepared to partake of the Passover supper, or to share in the memorial service which Christ was about to institute. Their hearts must be cleansed. Pride and self-seeking create dissension and hatred, but all this Jesus washed away in washing their feet.
A change of feeling was brought about.
Looking upon them, Jesus could say, "You are clean." Now there was union of heart, love for one another. They had become humble and teachable. Except Judas, each was ready to concede to another the highest place. Now with subdued and grateful hearts they could receive Christ's words.
Still the same
Like Peter and his brethren, we too have been washed in the blood of Christ, yet often through contact with evil the heart's purity is soiled. We must come to Christ for His cleansing grace. Peter shrank from bringing his soiled feet in contact with the hands of his Lord and Master; but how often we bring our sinful, polluted hearts in contact with the heart of Christ!
How grievous to Him is our evil temper, our vanity and pride! Yet all our infirmity and defilement we must bring to Him. He alone can wash us clean. We are not prepared for communion with Him unless cleansed by His efficacy.
One remained unclean
Jesus said to the disciples, "You are clean, but not all." He had washed the feet of Judas, but the heart had not been yielded to Him. It was not purified. Judas had not submitted himself to Christ.
After Christ had washed the disciples' feet, and had taken His garments and sat down again, He said to them, "Know you what I have done to you? You call Me Master and Lord: and you say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you."
"Verily, verily, I say to you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him."
Christ would have His disciples understand that although He had washed their feet, this did not in the least detract from His dignity. "You call Me Master and Lord: and you say well; for so I am." And being so infinitely superior, He imparted grace and significance to the service.
No one was so exalted as Christ, and yet He stooped to the humblest duty. That His people might not be misled by the selfishness which dwells in the natural heart, and which strengthens by self-serving, Christ Himself set the example of humility. He would not leave this great subject in man's charge.
Of so much consequence did He regard it, that He Himself, One equal with God, acted as servant to His disciples. While they were contending for the highest place, He to whom every knee shall bow, He whom the angels of glory count it honour to serve, bowed down to wash the feet of those who called Him Lord.
He washed the feet of His betrayer.
The law of life
In His life and lessons, Christ has given a perfect presentation of the unselfish ministry which has its origin in God. God does not live for Himself. By creating the world, and by upholding all things, He is constantly ministering for others. "He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Matthew 5:45.
This ideal of ministry God has committed to His Son. Jesus was given to stand at the head of humanity, that by His example He might teach what it means to minister. His whole life was under a law of service. He served all, ministered to all. Thus He lived the law of God, and by His example showed how we are to obey it.
Not easily seen
Again and again Jesus had tried to establish this principle among His disciples. When James and John made their request for pre-eminence, He had said, "Whoever will be great among you, let him be your minister." Matthew 20:26. In My kingdom the principle of preference and supremacy has no place. The only greatness is the greatness of humility. The only distinction is found in devotion to the service of others.
Now, having washed the disciples' feet, He said, "I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you." In these words Christ was not merely enjoining the practice of hospitality. More was meant than the washing of the feet of guests to remove the dust of travel.
Christ was here instituting a religious service.
By the act of our Lord this humiliating ceremony was made a consecrated ordinance. It was to be observed by the disciples, that they might ever keep in mind His lessons of humility and service. This ritual is Christ's appointed preparation for the Lord’s Supper.
While pride, variance, and strife for supremacy are cherished, the heart cannot enter into fellowship with Christ. We are not prepared to receive the communion of His body and His blood. Therefore it was that Jesus appointed the memorial of His humiliation to be first observed.
Join with Him
As they come to this ritual, the children of God should bring to remembrance the words of the Lord of life and glory: "Know you what I have done to you? You call Me Master and Lord: and you say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say to you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If you know these things, happy are you if you do them."
There is in man a disposition to esteem himself more highly than his brother, to work for self, to seek the highest place; and often this results in evil surmisings and bitterness of spirit.
The ordinance preceding the Lord's Supper is to clear away these misunderstandings, to bring man out of his selfishness, down from his stilts of self-exaltation, to the humility of heart that will lead him to serve his brother.
The Spirit will be present
The holy Watcher from heaven is present at this season to
make it one of soul searching, of conviction of sin, and of the blessed
assurance of sins forgiven. Christ in the fullness of His grace is there to
change the current of the thoughts that have been running in selfish channels.
The Holy Spirit quickens the sensibilities of those who follow the example of their Lord.
A time to remember
As the Saviour's humiliation for us is remembered, thought links with thought; a chain of memories is called up, memories of God's great goodness and of the favour and tenderness of earthly friends.
Blessings forgotten, mercies abused, kindnesses slighted, are called to mind.
Roots of bitterness that have crowded out the precious plant of love are made manifest. Defects of character, neglect of duties, ingratitude to God, coldness toward our brothers and sisters, are called to remembrance. Sin is seen in the light in which God views it.
Our thoughts are not thoughts of self-complacency, but of severe self-censure and humiliation. The mind is energised to break down every barrier that has caused alienation. Evil thinking and evilspeaking are put away.
Sins are confessed, they are forgiven.
The subduing grace of Christ comes into the soul, and the love of Christ draws hearts together in a blessed unity.
Only the beginning
As the lesson of the preparatory service is thus learned, the desire will be kindled for a higher spiritual life. To this desire the divine Witness will respond. The soul will be uplifted. We can partake of the Communion with a consciousness of sins forgiven. The sunshine of Christ's righteousness will fill the chambers of the mind and the soul temple. We will "behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world." John 1:29.
To those who receive the spirit of this service, it can never become a mere ceremonial.
Its constant lesson will be, "By love serve one another." Galatians 5:13. In washing the feet of His disciples, Christ gave evidence that He would do any service, however humble, that would make them heirs with Him of the eternal wealth of heaven's treasure.
It will bring unity
His disciples, in performing the same rite, pledge themselves in like manner to serve their brothers and sisters. Whenever this ordinance is rightly celebrated, the children of God are brought into a holy relationship, to help and bless each other. They covenant that the life shall be given to unselfish ministry.
And this, not only for one another.
Their field of labour is as wide as their Master's was. The world is full of those who need our ministry. The poor, the helpless, the ignorant, are on every hand.
Those who have communed with Christ in the upper chamber will go forth to minister as He did.
Jesus, the served of all, came to be the servant of all. And because He ministered to all, He will again be served and honoured by all. And those who would partake of His divine attributes, and share with Him the joy of seeing souls redeemed, must follow His example of unselfish ministry.
All this was comprehended in the words of Jesus, "I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you." This was the intent of the service He established. And He says, "If you know these things," if you know the purpose of His lessons, "happy are you if you do them."
The Passover ended
"The Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me."
"After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood: this do you, as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of Me."
"For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord's death till He come." 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
Christ was standing at the point of transition between two economies and their two great festivals, the changeover of two dispensations.
He, the spotless Lamb of God, was about to present Himself as a sin offering, that He would thus bring to an end the system of types and ceremonies that for four thousand years had pointed to His death.
As He ate the Passover with His disciples, He instituted in its place the service that was to be the memorial of His great sacrifice.
The national festival of the Jews was to pass away forever. The service which Christ established was to be observed by His followers in all lands and through all ages.
The same meaning
The Passover was ordained as a commemoration of the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. God had directed that, year by year, as the children should ask the meaning of this ordinance, the history should be repeated. Thus the wonderful deliverance was to be kept fresh in the minds of all.
The ordinance of the Lord's Supper was given to commemorate the great deliverance wrought out as the result of the death of Christ. Till He shall come the second time in power and glory, this ordinance is to be celebrated. It is the means by which His great work for us is to be kept fresh in our minds.
At the time of their deliverance from Egypt, the children of Israel ate the Passover supper standing, with their loins girded[dressed to travel], and with their staves in their hands, ready for their journey. The manner in which they celebrated this ordinance harmonised with their condition; for they were about to be thrust out of the land of Egypt, and were to begin a painful and difficult journey through the wilderness. But in Christ's time the condition of things had changed. They were not now about to be thrust out of a strange country, but were dwellers in their own land.
A change of situation
In harmony with the rest that had been given them, the people then partook of the Passover supper in a reclining position. Couches were placed about the table, and the guests lay upon them, resting upon the left arm, and having the right hand free for use in eating. In this position a guest could lay his head upon the breast of the one who sat next above him. And the feet, being at the outer edge of the couch, could be washed by one passing around the outside of the circle.
Christ was still at the table on which the Passover supper had been spread. The unleavened cakes used at the Passover season were before Him. The Passover wine, untouched by fermentation, was on the table. These emblems Christ employed to represent His own unblemished sacrifice.
Nothing corrupted by fermentation, the symbol of sin and death, could represent the "Lamb without blemish and without spot." 1 Peter 1:19.
No one is rejected
"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My body. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it; for this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."
Judas the betrayer was present at the sacramental service. He received from Jesus the emblems of His broken body and His spilled blood. He heard the words, "This do in remembrance of Me." And sitting there in the very presence of the Lamb of God, the betrayer brooded upon his own dark purposes, and cherished his sullen, revengeful thoughts.
At the feet washing, Christ had given convincing proof that He understood the character of Judas. "You are not all clean" (John 13:11), He said. These words convinced the false disciple that Christ read his secret purpose.
Now Christ spoke out more plainly. As they were seated at the table He said, looking upon His disciples, "I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me."
Even now the disciples did not suspect Judas. But they saw that Christ appeared greatly troubled. A cloud settled over them all, a premonition of some dreadful calamity, the nature of which they did not understand.
As they ate in silence, Jesus said, "Verily I say to you, that one of you shall betray Me." At these words amazement and consternation seized them. They could not comprehend how any one of them could deal treacherously with their divine Teacher. For what cause could they betray Him? and to whom? Whose heart could give birth to such a design? Surely not one of the favoured twelve, who had been privileged above all others to hear His teachings, who had shared His wonderful love, and for whom He had shown such great regard by bringing them into close communion with Himself!
Is it me?
As they realised the import of His words, and remembered how true His sayings were, fear and self-distrust seized them. See Jeremiah 17:9.
They began to search their own hearts to see if one thought against their Master were harboured there. With the most painful emotion, one after another inquired, "Lord, is it I?"
But Judas sat silent.
John in deep distress at last inquired, "Lord, who is it?" And Jesus answered, "He that dips his hand with Me in the dish, the same shall betray Me. The Son of man goes as it is written of Him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born."
The traitor revealed
The disciples had searched one another's faces closely as they asked, "Lord, is it I?" And now the silence of Judas drew all eyes to him. Amid the confusion of questions and expressions of astonishment, Judas had not heard the words of Jesus in answer to John's question. But now, to escape the scrutiny of the disciples, he asked as they had done, "Master, is it I?" Jesus solemnly replied, "You have said."
In surprise and confusion at the exposure of his purpose, Judas rose hastily to leave the room. "Then said Jesus to him, That[which] you do, do quickly..... He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night." Night it was to the traitor as he turned away from Christ into the outer darkness.
The close of probation
Until this step was taken, Judas had not passed beyond the possibility of repentance. But when he left the presence of his Lord and his fellow disciples, the final decision had been made. He had passed the boundary line.
Wonderful had been the long-suffering of Jesus in His dealing with this tempted soul. Nothing that could be done to save Judas had been left undone. After he had twice covenanted to betray his Lord, Jesus still gave him opportunity for repentance. By reading the secret purpose of the traitor's heart, Christ gave to Judas the final, convincing evidence of His divinity.
This was to the false disciple the last call to repentance. No appeal that the divine-human heart of Christ could make had been spared. The waves of mercy, beaten back by stubborn pride, returned in a stronger tide of subduing love. But although surprised and alarmed at the discovery of his guilt, Judas became only the more determined. From the sacramental supper he went out to complete the work of betrayal.
A purpose for the exposure
In pronouncing the woe upon Judas, Christ also had a purpose of mercy toward His disciples. He thus gave them the crowning evidence of His Messiahship. "I tell you before it come," He said, "that, when it is come to pass, you may believe that I AM." Had Jesus remained silent, in apparent ignorance of what was to come upon Him, the disciples might have thought that their Master had not divine foresight, and had been surprised and betrayed into the hands of the murderous mob.
A year before, Jesus had told the disciples that He had chosen twelve, and that one was a devil. Now His words to Judas, showing that his treachery was fully known to his Master, would strengthen the faith of Christ's true followers during His humiliation. And when Judas should have come to his dreadful end, they would remember the woe that Jesus had pronounced upon the betrayer.
And the Saviour had still another purpose. He had not withheld His ministry from him whom He knew to be a traitor.
The disciples did not understand His words when He said at the feet washing, "You are not all clean," nor yet when at the table He declared, "He that eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me." John 13:11, 18. But afterward, when His meaning was made plain, they had something to consider as to the patience and mercy of God toward the most grievously erring.
Though Jesus knew Judas from the beginning, He washed his feet. And the betrayer was privileged to unite with Christ in partaking of the sacrament. A long-suffering Saviour held out every inducement for the sinner to receive Him, to repent, and to be cleansed from the defilement of sin.
This example is for us.
No separation on our part
When we suppose one to be in error and sin, we are not to divorce ourselves from him. By no careless separation are we to leave him a prey to temptation, or drive him upon Satan's battleground. This is not Christ's method.
It was because the disciples were erring and faulty that He washed their feet, and all but one of the twelve were thus brought to repentance.
Christ's example forbids exclusiveness at the Lord's Supper.
The Lord’s table
It is true that open sin excludes the guilty. This the Holy Spirit plainly teaches. 1 Corinthians 5:11. But beyond this none are to pass judgment.
God has not left it with men to say who shall present themselves on these occasions. For who can read the heart? Who can distinguish the tares from the wheat? "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup."
For "whoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord."
"He that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." 1 Corinthians 11:28, 27, 29.
Many unseen guests
When believers assemble to celebrate the ordinances, there are present messengers unseen by human eyes. There may be a Judas in the company, and if so, messengers from the prince of darkness are there, for they attend all who refuse to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Heavenly angels also are present. These unseen visitants are present on every such occasion.
There may come into the company persons who are not in heart servants of truth and holiness, but who may wish to take part in the service. They should not be forbidden. There are witnesses present who were present when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and of Judas. More than human eyes beheld the scene.
Christ by the Holy Spirit is there to set the seal to His own ordinance. He is there to convict and soften the heart. Not a look, not a thought of contrition, escapes His notice. For the repentant, brokenhearted one He is waiting. All things are ready for that soul's reception. He who washed the feet of Judas longs to wash every heart from the stain of sin.
None should exclude themselves from the Communion because some who are unworthy may be present. Every disciple is called upon to participate publicly, and thus bear witness that he accepts Christ as a personal Saviour.
It is at these, His own appointments, that Christ meets His people, and energises them by His presence. Hearts and hands that are unworthy may even administer the ordinance, yet Christ is there to minister to His children.
All who come with their faith fixed upon Him will be greatly blessed.
All who neglect these seasons of divine privilege will suffer loss. Of them it may appropriately be said, "You are not all clean."
Making a promise
In partaking with His disciples of the bread and wine, Christ
pledged Himself to them as their Redeemer. He committed to them the new
covenant, by which all who receive Him become children of God, and joint heirs
By this covenant every blessing that heaven could bestow for this life and the life to come was theirs. This covenant deed was to be ratified with the blood of Christ. And the administration of the Sacrament was to keep before the disciples the infinite sacrifice made for each of them individually as a part of the great whole of fallen humanity.
Not a sad time
But the Communion service was not to be a season of sorrowing. This was not its purpose.
As the Lord's disciples gather about His table, they are not to remember and lament their shortcomings. They are not to dwell upon their past religious experience, whether that experience has been elevating or depressing. They are not to recall the differences between them and their brothers and sisters.
The preparatory service of feet-washing has embraced all this.
The self-examination, the confession of sin, the reconciling of differences, has all been done. Now they come to meet with Christ. They are not to stand in the shadow of the cross, but in its saving light.
They are to open the soul to the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness. With hearts cleansed by Christ's most precious blood, in full consciousness of His presence, although unseen, they are to hear His words, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I to you." John 14:27.
He is alive
Our Lord says, "Under conviction of sin, remember that I died for you. When oppressed and persecuted and afflicted for My sake and the gospel's, remember My love, so great that for you I gave My life. When your duties appear stern and severe, and your burdens too heavy to bear, remember that for your sake I endured the cross, despising the shame. When your heart shrinks from the trying ordeal, remember that your Redeemer lives to make intercession for you."
It is prophetic
The Communion service points to Christ's second coming. It was designed to keep this hope vivid in the minds of the disciples. Whenever they met together to commemorate His death, they recounted how "He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it; for this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."
In their tribulation they found comfort in the hope of their Lord's return. Unspeakably precious to them was the thought, "As often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord's death till He come." 1 Corinthians 11:26.
These are the things we are never to forget.
A time of union
The love of Jesus, with its constraining power, is to be kept fresh in our memory. Christ has instituted this service that it may speak to our senses of the love of God that has been expressed in our behalf. There can be no union between our souls and God except through Christ. The union and love between brother and brother must be cemented and rendered eternal by the love of Jesus. And nothing less than the death of Christ could make His love efficacious for us.
It is only because of His death that we can look with joy to His second coming. His sacrifice is the centre of our hope. Upon this we must fix our faith.
We need to wake up
The rituals that point to our Lord's humiliation and suffering are regarded too much as a form. They were instituted for a purpose. Our senses need to be quickened to lay hold of the mystery of godliness.
It is the privilege of all to comprehend, far more than we do, the atoning sufferings of Christ. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness," even so has the Son of man been lifted up, "that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:14, 15.
To the cross of Calvary, bearing a dying Saviour, we must look. Our eternal interests demand that we show faith in Christ.
Physically true as well
Our Lord has said, "Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you..... For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed." John 6:53-55.
This is true of our physical nature.
To the death of Christ we owe even this earthly life. The bread we eat is the purchase of His broken body. The water we drink is bought by His spilled blood. Never one, saint or sinner, eats his daily food, but he is nourished by the body and the blood of Christ. The cross of Calvary is stamped on every loaf. It is reflected in every water spring.
All this Christ has taught in appointing the emblems of His great sacrifice. The light shining from that Communion service in the upper chamber makes sacred the provisions for our daily life. The family dining table becomes as the table of the Lord, and every meal a sacrament which is why we say a thankful prayer for it.
And how much more are Christ's words true of our spiritual nature. He declares, "Whoso eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, has eternal life." It is by receiving the life for us poured out on Calvary's cross, that we can live the life of holiness. And this life we receive by receiving His word, by doing those things which He has commanded. Thus we become one with Him. "He that eats My flesh," He says, "and drinks My blood, dwells in Me, and I in him. As the living Father has sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eats Me, even he shall live by Me." John 6:54, 56, 57.
This Scripture applies to the holy Communion in a special sense.
As faith contemplates our Lord's great sacrifice, the soul absorbs the spiritual life of Christ. That soul will receive spiritual strength from every Communion. The service forms a living connection by which the believer is bound up with Christ, and thus bound up with the Father. In a special sense it forms a connection between dependent human beings and God.
As we receive the bread and wine symbolising Christ's broken body and spilled blood, we may in imagination join in the scene of Communion in the upper chamber. We can seem to be passing through the garden consecrated by the agony of Him who bore the sins of the world. We can witness the struggle by which our reconciliation with God was obtained. Christ is set forth crucified among us.
Looking upon the crucified Redeemer through the symbols, we can more fully comprehend the magnitude and meaning of the sacrifice made by the Majesty of heaven. The plan of salvation is glorified before us, and the thought of Calvary awakens living and sacred emotions in our hearts. Praise to God and the Lamb will be in our hearts and on our lips; for pride and self-worship cannot flourish in the soul that keeps fresh in memory the scenes of Calvary.
He or she who beholds the Saviour's matchless love will be elevated in thought, purified in heart, transformed in character. He or she will go forth to be a light to the world, to reflect in some degree this mysterious love.
The more we contemplate the cross of Christ, the more fully shall we adopt the language of the apostle when he said, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world." Galatians 6:14.
................... Text only ................... "Word" version