HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the Passover? And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at thy house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the Passover–Matthew 26:17-19
Christ’s Perfect Composure
What first impresses us in the narrative of the Lord’s Supper is the perfect composure of the heart of Jesus. There is no moment in our Lord’s whole life when we realize so fully the meaning of His peace. It was the night on which He was betrayed. The shadows were deepening into the dark of Calvary. The last great agony of struggle was begun that was to close in the crucifixion and the grave. Yet the heart of Jesus was supremely calm. We trace no fever and no fret in it. The Lord is still “at leisure from Himself,” and institutes this memorial for His own. Does not that teach us that nothing in heaven or earth can check the love of Jesus for His children? If He thought of them and planned for them that night, He will think of them and plan for them forever. We sometimes wonder how Christ can remember us, in the midst of His vast transactions on the throne. The fear arises lest He may forget us when men crucify the Son of God afresh (Hebrews 6:6). But when we recall the night of the betrayal, such fears take to themselves wings and fly away. If ever a heart might reasonably have been self-centred, was it not then? Yet Jesus took and brake and gave to the disciples.
Christ’s Quiet Confidence in the Future
Equally notable is the quiet confidence of Jesus in the future. Some of the disciples had already begun to wonder if the life of Jesus were more than a fine dream. Slowly, and after many a hint and lesson, they were beginning to grasp the approaching crucifixion, and there was not one of them at the table that night but pictured crucifixion as defeat. Then in the city were the priests and scribes, triumphant at last and only waiting for the signal. And if they were sure of anything it was of this, that the death of Jesus would mean the end of everything. There was not a soul in Jerusalem that evening that dreamed of a glorious future for our Lord. And it was then that Jesus instituted the supper. His name was to last as long as the sun endured. From age to age His memory would be cherished, and men would love Him and would serve Him and would die for Him through the long years until He came again. I cannot help feeling that this is more than human. I know of no parallel to this in history. Cicero was deeply concerned to think what men might say of him six hundred years after his death. Cromwell believed his institutions would last. Napoleon knew that the world would wonder at him, but he knew perfectly that it would never love him. Christ only–Christ betrayed and crucified saw the love and the worship of the centuries. Men were to show His death “until He comes.”
The Simplicity of the Memorial
Again we are arrested by the great simplicity of this memorial There is no pomp and no elaborate ritual about it. It is a simple and humble and very homely deed. In the Old Testament, things were very different. There we have striking and startling exhibitions. Altars were raised and the blood of beasts was shed, and there were a thousand significant details. But in the New Testament all that is done away. The sacrament is simplicity itself. And I do not think we should have difficulty in understanding the meaning of that change. When your father is trying to describe to you some family friend whom you have never met, he tells you everything he can about him, and he puts it in the brightest and the plainest words until you feel you will know him when you meet. But when you have met, and the family friend is your friend, you have no need for that detailed description. The smallest token of his love to you, or even the pronouncing of his name, will bring him to your remembrance instantly. So in the Old Testament Christ was yet to come; no eye had yet seen Him in the flesh. But in the New Testament men have seen and known Him, and the simplest thing will serve as a memorial.
He Saw His Body and Blood in Bread and Wine
Again, I think it was a very Christ-like thing to see His Body and His Blood in bread and wine. It speaks of the royal hopefulness of Jesus that He found such meanings in a piece of bread. On Oliver Goldsmith’s monument these words are written: Nihil tetigit quod non-ornavit–He touched nothing that he did not adorn. That may have been true of Goldsmith, but in nobler senses, it was true of Jesus. When He went to Cana He found water there, but the water was wine before the feast was ended. Now He takes the wine upon the table and exalts it into the symbol of His blood. From water to wine and then from wine to blood–you see the upward trend in Jesus’ action? No wonder the world began to bud and blossom under a gaze that understood things so. If a mustard seed is the Kingdom in disguise, what may not the poorest boy or girl become? If broken bread speaks of His sinless body, there is still a chance for broken characters. It is quite true that we are saved by hope. The hopefulness of Jesus Christ is wonderful. It is that which makes Him the ideal Comrade for the brave young hearts that still are dreaming dreams.
The Feast Spoke of His Death
Then lastly, note that this feast speaks of His death. It was His death that Jesus chose for special remembrance. He might have chosen His birth (perhaps we think), or else His baptism. He might have bidden us commemorate some miracle. But instead of that, He chose His death on Calvary. “Ye do show the Lord’s death until He comes.” Now if there is one scene that sensitive hearts would shrink from, it is the awful scene of the crucifixion. We could never have endured looking on Calvary, and yet it is Calvary that we commemorate. Is not that strange? A story I heard will explain it. There was a lady who was very beautiful–all excepting her hands, which were misshapen and marred. And for many a long day, her little daughter had wondered what was the meaning of these repulsive hands. At last, she said to her: “Mother, I love your face, and I love your eyes and your hair, they are so beautiful. But I cannot love your hands, they are so ugly.” And then the mother told her about her hands: how ten years ago the house had taken fire, and how the nursery upstairs was in a blaze, and how she had rushed to the cradle and snatched the baby from it, and how her hands from that hour had been destroyed. And the baby saved was her little listening daughter. And then the daughter kissed the shapeless hands (that she used to shrink from before she knew their story), and she said: “Mother, I love your face and your eyes and your hair; but I love your hands now best of all.”