The Last Supper.
The jealousy, among the disciples.
Are called benefactors ( εὐεργέται ). Those who were listening knew well how utterly false these high-sounding human titles often were. εὐεργέτης ( Euergetes ) , Benefactor, was the well-known title appropriated by Ptolemy Euergetes and other hated royal tyrants well known to the Jewish people.
Wednesday and Thursday of Passion Week.
Look at that picture—the Son of God awaiting the hour; spending the last day before the arrest and the trial in the deep seclusion of the Bethany home. Over that day the veil of an impenetrable secrecy hangs. One thing only is certain—it was a time in which the shrinking spirit, whilst feeling even unto death the shadow of the exceeding heaviness, nevertheless drank of the brook by the way, the comforting "I am not alone, for the Father is with me." Look at this picture—the priests and scribes, defied and denounced in the temple and in the presence of the people, have resolved that, by fair means or by foul, they must get rid of this "Swift Witness" against them. These men, united by a common hatred, consult ( Luke 22:2 ) how they may kill him. We can imagine the conferences in the dimly lighted chamber—the partial light only casting deeper shadows, and bringing into fuller relief the lines of fierce resentment on the faces of the councillors. There is no debate as to the object; the only and the long debate is simply as to the means of accomplishing the object. Their deliberations are unexpectedly aided. The evangelist informs us of the satisfaction which lightens their countenances as they conclude the bargain with Judas of Karioth, and receive from him the assurance that he will find "the opportunity to betray him to them" ( Luke 22:6 ) without the risk of exciting a tumult. Thus, whilst heaven is calm, hell is agitated at its depths; whilst love is directing its prayer and looking up, pride and envy are laying their plots and meditating the darkest crime which blots the page of history. "Mark the perfect, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace." "But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." The early hours of Thursday swiftly pass. The next day is the great Passover day; and the disciples have begun to press the inquiry, "Where shall we keep it?" In the forenoon (verse 8) Jesus gives Peter and John his instructions. A place is in the Lord's view. That the one to whose house the apostles are directed was a believer may be inferred
1 . Its object. To receive and entertain the Friend, the one to be honored. Is not Christ the Guest ( Revelation 3:20 )?
2 . Its characteristics. The best room. Is he not entitled to the best? A large room. The whole breadth of the life's aims, the whole strength of the heart's love, is due to him. An upper room. Poor and sorry is the life that has no upper room; blessed is the life whose upper room is reserved for him. A furnished room, all in readiness for his presence—a heart and will furnished for every good work.
3 . Its consecration. How realized? On our side, by an unreserved surrender: "The Master saith;" and by the ready-making of faith and love, as symbolized in Peter and John. On his side, by the coming as the Lamb of God with the gospel of forgiveness, and as the Bread of life to have communion with us and we with him. When Jesus enters the room there is a strife for precedence, for the places nearest him. St. Luke places the strife (verse 24) along with the questioning among themselves who would be false to Christ; but his language, "there was also," is inexact, and it seems consistent with the fitness of things that the contention should occur when seats were being taken. The Master, observing it, administers the rebuke recorded in verses 26, 27; and, having so done, he proceeds to comply with the ceremonial of the feast. It was wont to begin with the passing of a cup of wine, blessed and hallowed. The word recorded in verses 15, 16 is spoken before the dispensation of the cup; the word in verses 17, 18 accompanies the dispensation; both words intimating the declinature to partake of the shadowy rite when the substance is so soon to be realized. "Suffer it to be so now, " said Jesus to John at the baptism. The now is exhausted. "I will not any more" is the sentence of the supper-table. As they divide the cup, he rises. He is minded to give them the lesson never to be forgotten, as his sharpest rebuke of all their contentions for priority—the lesson so graphically related in John 13:1-17 . Resuming his place at the table, lo! a troubled look flits across the countenance. A little later in the evening he can no longer refrain. There is one seated near him over whom the heart yearns, though it recoils from his baseness ( John 13:21 ). The hand of the betrayer is with him. "One of you, " Startled, deeply moved, the question passes from one and another, "Lord, is it I?" Simon whispers to John, "Ask who it is;" and John, leaning forward, his head close to Jesus, puts the question. He gets the sign by which the one will be identified—a morsel to be dipped in the dish that is before the Lord will be given to him. It is given to Judas, hitherto silent, something of the better self still struggling within. But, after the sop, the Satanic spirit gains in boldness. He has the effrontery to ask, "Is it I?" What is the answer? "Thou hast said … That thou doest do quickly." O Judas, there is no need to linger; thou art detected. "The Son of man goeth, as it is written: but woe unutterable to thee!" It is difficult to determine the precise stage in the keeping of the feast at which the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was instituted. Matthew makes the departure of the traitor precede the appointment of the ordinance. Luke seems to place the institution of the Supper at an earlier period than the departure. But the fact of the institution is beyond doubt (verses 19-21). The Christian Church, in all ages, has obeyed the command of her beloved Lord, spoken in the guest-chamber when keeping the Passover with his disciples: "This do in remembrance of me." The central point of the interest attaching to the Thursday evening is this consecration of the bread and the cup as the abiding pledges of redeeming love. It is sad to think that over the gracious words of Christ in the consecration so many controversies should have been waged. Why cannot men recognize the language of figure and symbol? Those who insist that in the sentence, "Take, eat; this is my body" there is implied the transubstantiation of the cake of bread held in the hand, claim for that sentence a narrow literalism which they themselves do not observe when they read, "I am the true Vine," or "I am the Door." Let us receive, with all possible oblation of praise, the earthly creatures as, in sacramental use, the hallowed representations to the eye and pledges to the soul of the never-failing nourishment of the body that was broken and the blood that was shed for us. Let all who would feed on Jesus in their heart with thanksgiving reflect on the words of the Thursday evening which mirror his consciousness, and let them examine themselves in the light of this consciousness. "With desire I have desired" (verse 15). O my Lord, if thy desire was thus vehement; if, because of it, thou didst overlook all that lay in the immediate future; if thou didst so long to share thy feast with men, why the want of desire in me? why the backwardness and slowness of my soul to receive thee in the mysteries of thy love? Lord, lead me in thy truth, and teach me. "Until the kingdom of God shall come" (verse 18). O my Lord, how vivid to thee was the future consummation of thy sacrifice! As, in perspective, the distant is often near, the intervening spaces being lost to sight, so was it with thee. Thou didst behold thy kingdom in glory as at hand. and thy soul stretched forward whither thy prayer afterwards pointed,—"Father, that which thou hast given me, I will that where I am they also may be with me." Why beats my pulse so slow and feeble in response to the hope of thy kingdom? Why is my Lord's Supper so much of a mere commemoration, so little of a prophetic joy, of a prayer, as already in the vision of the kingdom? "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly."
"Thou strong and loving Son of man,
Redeemer from the bonds of sin,
'Tis thou the living spark dost fan
That sets my heart on fire within.
Thou openest heaven once more to men—
The soul's true home, thy kingdom, Lord;
And I can trust and hope again,
And feel myself akin to God."
The proper Christian spirit.
Through our Lord's faithful dealing the disciples had been led to wholesome selfsuspicion. They cried out at the possibility of a betrayal of the Master, "Lord, is it I?" But no sooner have their minds been relieved through the singling out of Judas than they swing round again to self-confidence and even base ambition. There, at the table of the Lord, in spite of the hallowed associations, they speculate who is to be greatest in the coming kingdom. Jesus has consequently to check this nascent ambition. He does so by ennobling—
I. THE SPIRIT OF SERVICE . ( Luke 22:24-27 .) Now, the world's idea is that it is noble to exercise authority, to be able to order people about. In fact, the world has come to call men "benefactors" who have done nothing but command other people. What tributes are paid to princes, who have done nothing all their lives but issue orders and receive the homage and service of other people! A blear-eyed world is ready, as Christ here shows, to pronounce such princes the benefactors of their age and country. But he has come into the world to ennoble the opposite idea. Here at this very feast he has been as one that serveth. His whole life, moreover, has been a public service. Everywhere he has just considered how he could serve others. To minister, not be ministered unto, was his continual care. To make the service of others glorious in the eyes of discerning men was one great purpose of his earthly life. This reveals also the very spirit of the Divine life. £ God is Lord of all because Servant of all. He sustains all, as he has created all; and his greatness is the greatness of ministration. It is only Oriental barbarism which supposes greatness to consist in indolent and luxuriant state. Here, then, is the field of genuine ambition. Let us try to be first in the field of service ; let us do our best and most for the benefit of all about us; and then alone shall we become noble and Christ-like.
II. CHRIST INDICATES THE RESULTANT INFLUENCE . ( Luke 22:28-30 .) To these disciples, who continue with Christ in his temptations, he appoints a kingdom. In this kingdom they are to have thrones, and to be judges of the twelve tribes of Israel. In this way our Lord indicates the influence which these men, who entertain his spirit of service, will acquire. And when we consider the history of Christianity, we see that even in the world of humanity these humble servants of God and mankind have become kings and judges. It is by their deliverances in the primitive age that men are judging themselves and being judged. The apostles are pre-eminently the sovereigns of this new and better time. And this posthumous influence on earth is only a faint reflection of their influence in heaven. Now, is not this to encourage every serviceable soul? Let each of us be only content to serve, to do whatever a brother needs, and by our service we acquire influence and kingship. The world is really ruled by obliging, serviceable, meek, and earnest men.
III. CHRIST NEXT POINTS OUT TO PETER HIS DANGER , RECOVERY , AND CONSEQUENT USEFULNESS . ( Luke 22:31-34 .) For, strange to say, temptation is overruled as well as service to the creation of influence. There is in Peter's nature a good deal of pride and vain-glory to be winnowed out. There is wheat within him, but also chaff. Now, Satan had set his mind upon the fall of Peter; but Jesus has already prayed for him that his faith may not fail. Here was Peter's safeguard in the timely intercession of his Master. £
In sending the disciples out on their first missions, Jesus relied on the hospitality of the people as a fitting support for his agents. Going to the people as philanthropists, working miracles, preaching the advent of Messiah, they would meet with such support as would be all-sufficient. This was the policy of confidence—the reliance on the people for entire support. But when the world turned against Christ, and realized how opposed he was to its worldliness, then the disciples would require to exercise all possible prudence. They would require to look out for themselves, and even to fight for their own hand. That is to say, there are times when we may trust the world, and times when we are warranted in distrusting it. When is it, we are inclined to ask, that the prudential temper must take the place of confidence? When the world is determined on injustice. Thus at this time the world is about to reckon Christ among the transgressors, and to do him manifest injustice. The fit of unfairness was upon it, and the disciples should then stand in self-defence. But other days would dawn again, when disciples will be warranted in pursuing a policy of public confidence, and thus giving the world the chance of compensation. Let us wisely consider the "signs of the times," and act accordingly. Christ will guide us to the policy which is best, if we prayerfully ask him.—R.M.E.