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The time was drawing near when Jesus was to die-to give His life a ransom for many. All had been foreseen from eternity, and He had come to earth for this express purpose. Yet as the hour drew near His holy soul was deeply moved.
And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified. Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people, (vv. 1-5)
Having completed His last public discourse, the dark shadow of the cross was falling athwart His spirit as He spoke of the coming feast of the Passover, after which He was to be betrayed and crucified. He alone knew the real meaning of that Passover, for He was the antitypical Paschal Lamb, whose blood was to provide a shelter from the judgment of God for all who put their trust in Him.
Meantime, the chief priests, scribes, and elders were meeting clandestinely in the house of the wily Caiaphas, who was the high priest that year through the favor of the Romans. There they plotted how best and with greatest safety to themselves they might get Jesus into their power in order to put Him to death. In their zeal for the Jewish religion, which they felt was threatened by His teaching, they were ready to go to any lengths to get Him out of the way, provided it did not embroil them in a conflict with the people. They considered it best not to attempt to take Him on the approaching feast day as that would most certainly provoke an uprising against them.
It is refreshing indeed to turn from consideration of these nefarious, scheming murderers to the beautiful account of Mary’s devotion, as narrated in verses 6-13.
Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, there came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. (vv. 6-13)
We know nothing of Simon the leper. His name is recorded here, with the added word telling of the disease to which either he was subject still, or, more likely, from which he had been healed by the Lord. There is also the possibility that he had passed away. Although the house was designated as his, John’s account would seem to make it the home of the two sisters, Martha and Mary, and their brother Lazarus. If this be true, Simon may have been the father of the three devoted friends of Jesus, none of whom are mentioned by name, however, in Matthew’s account.
We know that the woman who brought the alabaster box of ointment and anointed Jesus was Mary. John tells us she anointed His feet. Matthew and Mark mention the anointing of His head. Both, of course, were true. It was an act of loving devotion. To Mary, Jesus was the King. As He sat or reclined at the table, her spikenard fdled the room with its fragrance (Song of Solomon 1:12; see also v. 3). To Mary, there was nothing too precious for Jesus. She lavished her best upon Him.
The disciples, led in this instance by Judas (John 12:4), demurred, complaining of what seemed to them to be a waste. The ointment might, they reasoned, have been sold for a great sum, and the proceeds given to the poor. Judas could not understand a love like that of Mary’s, which would lead her to pour her choicest treasure upon the head and feet of Jesus. To him it was a great waste.
Jesus rebuked the complainers and vindicated the woman, declaring she had wrought a good (literally, “a beautiful”) work on Him. They had always the poor to whom they could minister. As the law had said, they would never cease out of the land; but He was about to leave. Mary, who perhaps understood more clearly than any of the rest what was about to take place, had anointed His body for His burial. Her devotion was appreciated so deeply that Jesus added, “Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.”
Is Christ Himself so real and precious to us that we are ready to make any sacrifice in order to show our devotion to Him?
In vivid contrast to Mary’s love and faithfulness, the treachery of Judas now comes into view.
Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him. (vv. 14-16)
The wretched traitor left the festive scene and sought out the cabal of priests with whom he had been familiar, evidently, already. He demanded a definite amount to be paid over to him on condition that he should betray Jesus into their hands. Without seeming to recall the prophecy of Zechariah in regard to this very thing, the betrayal of the Shepherd of Israel, they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12). With all their boasted knowledge of Scripture, they were fulfilling them unwittingly in the bargain to which they agreed.
Judas returned to the company of Christ and His apostles and continued to consort with them, waiting for a convenient opportunity to carry out his part of the agreement-a covenant with hell, which must at times have caused his guilty conscience to protest sternly against the awful course upon which he had entered.
The next section tells us of the last Passover.
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. Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born. Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said. (vv. 17-25)
“The first day of the feast of unleavened bread.” This feast lasted seven days. On the first day the lamb was slain and the prescribed meal took place. During all the seven days no leaven was permitted in the homes of the Israelites.
The Jewish day began at sunset, so the Passover was “between the two evenings” (Exodus 12:6 RV, marg.). Jesus kept the feast after the first sunset of Passover day and died as the true Passover Lamb before the next sunset.
“I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.” It was considered a pious thing by the inhabitants of Jerusalem to reserve a guest-chamber, where visitors in the city might observe the feast. Jesus availed Himself of this privilege. Tradition says that it was in the home of John Mark that the last Passover was held by the Savior and His disciples.
“They made ready the passover.” They spread the table with the roasted lamb, the bitter herbs, and unleavened bread, as God had directed. What must all this have meant to Jesus, who knew He was the One prefigured by this typical feast! (1 Corinthians 6:7-8).
“He sat down with the twelve.” Judas had not yet gone out into the night. He who had already agreed to betray his Lord sat with the rest.
“One of you shall betray me.” He who knew all things was aware of the wicked plot into which Judas had entered, but He gave him space even yet to repent, had his conscience been active.
“Lord, is it I?” We are told that every one of them asked this question, eleven in real sorrow and bewilderment and one with the guilty knowledge that he had entered deliberately into a covenant to do this wicked thing. How sin does harden the heart and sear the conscience!
“He that dippeth his hand with Me in the dish.” Up to the last Judas was permitted to enjoy the tenderest expressions of the love of Jesus, even sharing with Him in the dish of bitter herbs.
“It had been good for that man if he had not been born!” These words destroy the vain hope of the universalist, for they tell us of one man at least for whom it had been better not to have lived. This could not be true if Judas were ever to be saved.
“Thou hast said.” Evidently feeling he was the object of the suspicion of the rest, Judas asked again with ill-concealed fear and yet manifest effrontery, “Master, is it I?” Jesus answered in the affirmative and yet in such a way that the rest either did not hear or did not understand. According to John’s gospel, it would seem that at this juncture Judas hastily arose and left the room (John 13:30). If this be correct, he was not actually present when the next event took place but went out after the Passover. This has long been a disputed point, however.
Next followed the institution of the Lord’s Supper, that sacred ordinance which in the Christian church takes the place of the Passover among the Jews. The two are intimately linked together, for it was after the celebration of the paschal feast that Jesus offered His disciples the bread and the fruit of the vine, and tenderly requested them to partake of them as setting forth His body about to be offered on the cross and His blood so soon to be shed for the remission of sins. Nearly two millennia have elapsed since that solemn night, during which untold millions of grateful believers have partaken of these memorials in remembrance of Him who loved them even unto death.
The Communion (1 Corinthians 10:16) is not in any sense a sacrifice. It commemorates the one perfect Sacrifice offered by our Lord once for all when He gave Himself for us on Calvary. Neither should it be celebrated with any thought of its having saving value or inherent merit. It is the reminder that when we were utterly lost and helpless, Christ died for us to redeem us to God. It is true that the sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15) should ever accompany it as we contemplate the great cost at which we were saved, and rejoice that He who endured such grief and shame for us is now alive forevermore, never again to have to submit to the pain of death. We call Him to mind as the “Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2), from whence He shall soon return to claim the purchase of His blood. Until then we keep this feast with worshipful hearts, while we look back to the Cross and on to the coming glory (1 Corinthians 11:26).
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake 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 ye 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 unto 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. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives, (vv. 26-30)
“Take, eat; this is my body.” Jesus took one of the unleavened loaves into His hand, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, bidding them eat it as His body. Manifestly, there was no transubstantiation there, for He sat before them in His actual body and they ate of the bread. It was as when one shows a portrait and says, “This is my mother.” The one represents the other.
“He took the cup.” We are not told exactly what was in the cup. We know from the next verse that it was “the fruit of the vine,” but whether fermented wine or the juice of boiled raisins (it was too early for fresh grapes), the record does not say, nor should we quibble about it. It is what is signified that is important.
“This is my blood of the new testament.” That precious blood had not yet been shed, but Jesus was speaking of it as though the work of the Cross were accomplished already. The cup did not contain His blood, but that which would call it to mind in after years when it had been shed for the remission of sins.
“When I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Jesus did not participate in that which was to be a memorial of His own death, but He looked forward to the time when, as a result of that sacrifice, He would have all His own gathered about Him in the Father’s kingdom to celebrate together the full glorious fruitage of redemption. Then He will see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied (Isaiah 53:11).
“When they had sung an hymn.” Tradition says this was Psalms 135:0, known to the Jews as the little Hall-El, celebrating Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, or, as others think, Psalms 115-118.
The memorial feast of love, the central ordinance committed to the church, is designed to bring Jesus Himself before the soul. It is an appeal to the affections. He was going away. He did not want to be forgotten by those He loved so tenderly. So He instituted this holy Supper that wherever and whenever it was observed it might recall Him vividly to mind. His was a love that was even stronger than death, which the many waters of judgment could not quench (Song of Solomon 8:6-7). He needs no symbols in order that He may remember us. But our love is very inconstant. We forget so soon. Therefore the need of that which may quicken our affections and revive our thoughts of Him. Then, like Mary, we shall bring our alabaster boxes and break them in His presence, pouring the perfume of our worship and adoration upon Him until the house is filled with the fragrance that is thus set free. It is fitting that the story of her devotion to Christ should precede that of the Supper He instituted.
It is only unconfessed sin that should hinder a Christian from partaking of the holy Supper, and the sooner that sin is judged in the light of the Cross, the sooner one will be restored to communion. David said, “My meditation of Him shall be sweet” (Psalms 104:34). Do we delight to sit at His table, and think of His love?
The Romish doctrine of the Mass and the Real Presence of Jesus in the Sacrament is the very opposite to the truth. To teach that under the form of bread and wine the very body and blood of Jesus are offered continually upon an altar as a sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead, is to deny Christ’s personal absence, because of which we remember Him, and also impugns the perfection of His one offering on the cross, never to be repeated.
Rightly observed, we approach the Lord’s Table as those redeemed to God by His blood, who now desire to call anew to mind His glorious person and His all-prevailing love in giving Himself a Sacrifice upon the cross for our sins. It is the blood of Christ that makes us worthy to partake of the Lord s Supper. But we need to beware lest we participate unworthily, that is, in a light or careless manner.
Observe how the two comings of the Lord Jesus are linked together by the feast of remembrance. We show His death until He come (1 Corinthians 11:26).
As they passed slowly along the way from the place where these things had transpired to the Mount of Olives, where Jesus resorted so often with His disciples, He began to warn them of what was to take place soon, and to impress upon them the untrustworthiness of their own hearts.
Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples, (vv. 31-35)
It was another of Zechariah’s prophecies to which Jesus referred when He told the disciples that all should be stumbled, or scandalized, because of Him that night. For long ago this prophet, speaking by the Spirit of God, had said, “[I will] smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered” (Zechariah 13:7). These words were about to have a literal fulfillment, though at the moment they all felt it could not be that any of them would forsake Him whom they loved so dearly. But no man can ever sound the depths of evil in his own heart, which grace alone can overcome.
Jesus added the reassuring promise, which however at the moment was meaningless to them, that when He rose again He would go before them into Galilee. There He would keep a sacred tryst with them.
Peter, not realizing the weakness of his flesh, protested that although all the others should be stumbled, it would not be so with him. But Jesus declared that before cockcrow-that is, before early dawn-he would deny his Master three times. Self-confident Peter insisted this should never be. Even though called to die for Jesus, he would never deny Him. In this they all shared. Alas! How little they knew themselves! Their self-confidence led them to make protestations they found themselves unable to carry out when the hour of trial came. The flesh is prone to declare its own goodness (Proverbs 20:6).
Reaching the Mount of Olives, they came to the garden on the western slope where Jesus often had prayed and communed with His Father.
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and flndeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me. (vv. 36-46)
Gethsemane! What depths of woe, what bitter grief does the word suggest! It seems to express, as nothing else could, the inner meaning of our Lord’s words, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” (Luke 12:50). It was there in the garden, where so often He had resorted with His disciples (John 18:2) and where so frequently He had enjoyed uninterrupted communion with His Father, that He was to enter into His soul’s agony as He contemplated the reality of being made sin on our behalf, “that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 RV) As He looked forward to it, He exclaimed, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause came I unto this hour” (John 12:27 RV, marg.).
Psalms 102:0 has been often designated “The Gethsemane Psalm.” As we read it, we hear the breathings of our Savior’s heart as He entered into a sense of the loneliness of One forsaken of God and despised by the very men whom He came to save. This was the cup from which His holy, human nature shrank. That He, the perfect One, in whom the Father had ever found His delight (Luke 3:22; Luke 9:3Luke 9:3; Luke 9:5Luke 9:5), should be treated as an outcast, because taking the sinner’s place, was unspeakably horrible and appalling. True, He had come from heaven for that very purpose. He had assumed humanity that He might die in our stead. But as the hour drew near when He was actually to undergo the baptism of divine judgment against sin, He would not have been the Holy One whom He was if He had not shrunk from so terrible an ordeal. Yet we need to remember that the suffering endured in Gethsemane was not in itself atoning for sin. It was at Golgotha, on the cross of shame, that our sins were laid upon Him, and He endured the full penalty that should have been ours, if God had not intervened in grace and “sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Gethsemane was anticipatory to Calvary, where He drained to the dregs the cup of wormwood and gall that our iniquities had filled.
“A place called Gethsemane.” The name means “the oil press.” It was a garden of olives, just across the brook Kedron. It was easily reached from the city of Jerusalem. Jesus left eight of His disciples near the entrance, while He went deeper into the grove to pray.
“Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.” These words were addressed to the eight who were left near the entrance. It is evident that all the disciples did not have an equal sense of love and sympathy.
“He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee.” There was a closer tie with these than with the rest, because they seemed to understand and appreciate Him more. To them He expressed the perturbation of spirit under which He was laboring. These three shared the more intimate experiences of Jesus on other occasions (see 17:1; Luke 8:51). They saw that Jesus was in great sorrow, though they could not really understand the cause.
“Tarry ye here, and watch with me.” The time came when they, too, had to be left behind, but they were commanded to watch and pray lest the coming trial be too great for their faith (Luke 22:40).
“My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” His words must have perplexed them greatly, for they still did not realize what was involved in that of which He had spoken to them earlier-His betrayal, death, and resurrection.
“He went a little farther.” They could not follow as He poured out His heart to His Father, saying, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” His resignation to the Father’s will was perfect, but He pleaded that if by any other means salvation might be procured for sinners, it would be revealed.
“What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” Returning to the three, He found them all asleep, their very grief for Him having overpowered them. He gently reproved Peter for lack of watchfulness, inasmuch as he had spoken so strongly of his love and loyalty (John 13:37).
“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus recognized the devotion of His followers, but He also realized the untrustworthiness of the human heart, even in the best of saints. So He bade them “watch and pray” that temptation might not take them unawares. He besought them to be on their guard and to ask help of God lest in the hour of testing they fail to stand. He well knew that in their spirits they desired to be true, but he warned them of their weakness as men still in the body.
“If this cup may not pass … except I drink it, thy will be done.” His was a perfect resignation to the Father’s will, no matter what sorrow and agony this meant to Him. He had come into the world for this very purpose (Hebrews 10:7; John 4:34). There was no conflict of wills. Jesus acquiesced in whatever pleased the Father. No matter how bitter the cup, He would drink it if salvation for lost sinners could be obtained in no other way.
“He came and found them asleep again.” They did not realize what He was going through on their behalf, and so they failed to watch with Him in the hour of His soul’s distress. Our Lord was as truly Man as He was God, and as Man He craved human sympathy and understanding. He looked for some to take pity (Psalms 69:20). His dearest disciples failed Him, thus adding to His grief.
Let us challenge our own hearts as to how far we have entered into the fellowship of Christ’s suffering. Are we able to watch and pray in this time of His rejection by a godless world? No man will be able to stand in the moment of severe temptation who has been slothful instead of watchful and indolent instead of prayerful. If only we realize that prayerlessness is as truly sin against God as cursing or swearing, because it is positive disobedience to His Word, would we not be more alert to use the opportunities He gives to draw from heaven needed grace for testing times?
“He… found them asleep again.” It was a sad commentary on poor, frail human nature, even at its best, as seen in those who really loved Jesus but could not rise to the seriousness of the occasion.
“Prayed the third time.” Again Jesus bowed alone before the Father, in perfect submission, though with His holy soul shrinking from the awful ordeal before Him-an ordeal which our poor hearts are too deadened by sin ever to understand in its fullness.
“Saying the same words.” Vain repetitions, in the sense of useless ejaculations, He, Himself, had condemned (Matthew 6:7). But importunate prayer He had shown to be according to the mind of God (Luke 11:6-10). In this He is an example for us as He repeatedly spread out His concern before the Father.
“Sleep on now, and take your rest.” So the Authorized Version reads. Another translation turns His words into an exclamatory sentence, “Sleeping still, and taking rest!” And this, with the betrayer almost in view! How little they understood the solemnity of that hour of testing! While they were so drowsy that they did not realize their danger, the emissaries of the priests were entering the garden.
“He is at hand that doth betray me.” There was no effort to escape. His hour was come, and in perfect calmness Jesus went forth to meet the betrayer and the rabble horde who had come to arrest Him. The agony was over. He was now perfectly composed as He went forth voluntarily, like a lamb to the slaughter, to meet those who were seeking Him in order to destroy Him.
The utter resignation of Jesus to the Father s will shines out in all these closing experiences, but particularly in that of Gethsemane. While the horror of becoming the great sin offering, being made sin for us, overwhelmed His human soul and spirit, yet, as we have seen, He was perfectly subject to the divine will and had no thought of turning aside. There are depths here that our minds can never fathom, but all is perfection on His part. If He could have contemplated all that was involved in the sacrifice of the Cross with equanimity, He would not have been the perfect Man that He was. But knowing it all and realizing there was no other way by which He could become the Captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10), He faced the ordeal unflinchingly in order that God might be glorified and sinful men saved from judgment.
The meaning of the cup. It is not simply of death or of physical sufferings that the cup speaks. Jesus did not shrink from these. But it was the fierce indignation of Jehovah against sin, which filled that cup about to be presented by the Father to His holy Son, that caused the bitter agony of soul which so affected His body that the bloody sweat was forced through the pores of His skin. Some have intimated that the cup consisted in the fear that Satan might kill Him before He reached the cross, or that He might be driven insane by satanic power and so not be able to offer Himself voluntarily as a sacrifice for sin. But these are unworthy suggestions, which fail to take into account the fact that Satan could have no power against Him except as allowed of God, and none could take His life until He laid it down of Himself (John 10:17-18). He had bound already the strong man (Matthew 12:29), and He did not fear him in the Garden.
The cup of wrath is mentioned in the Old Testament. It is reserved for the wicked (Psalms 11:6); it is a cup of divine indignation against sin (Psalms 75:8); it is a cup of trembling (Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 51:22Isaiah 51:22); it is the cup of Jehovah’s fury (Jeremiah 25:15). All this, and more, was involved in the cup which our Lord had to drink in order that we might have the cup of salvation (Psalms 116:13).
Death and the curse were in that cup,
O Christ, ’twas full for Thee;
But Thou hast drained the last dark drop,’
Tis empty now for me.
The holiness of Jesus is seen in His shrinking from drinking the cup of judgment, which involved His taking the sinner’s place and bearing the weight of our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5-6). Because of His infinite purity, He could not contemplate with other than horror all that it would mean to be made sin for us-that is, to become the antitypical sin offering-in order that God might receive to Himself in peace all who should avail themselves of the offer of life through His death, and justification through His condemnation. It is this that explains His agony, which was as much an evidence of the perfection of His humanity as was His utter submission to the will of His Father. Gethsemane made it evident that He was the unblemished, spotless Lamb whose blood could avail to cleanse from sin and shield from judgment.
“If it be possible.” In Gethsemane was settled once and for all the impossibility of sin being atoned for in any other way than by the infinite sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross. Had there been any other method which would have met the case and satisfied the claims of divine justice, it would have been revealed then, in answer to the impassioned prayer of our blessed Lord. But there was none. God has shut all men up to Christ and His finished work. No other name is given (Acts 4:12), no other way is known (Acts 13:38-39), whereby guilty sinners can be justified before the throne of God.
Let me repeat: It was not in Gethsemane, but on Calvary, that the sin question was settled and expiation made for iniquity. But the agony in the Garden was a fitting prelude to the darkness of the Cross. In order to make an adequate propitiation for our sins, it was necessary that the substitute be a man, but more than man; otherwise his sacrifice could not have been of sufficient value to be a ransom for all. He must be a man on whom death and judgment had no claim; therefore one who had been tested and proved to be absolutely sinless-one who had never violated God’s holy law in thought or word or deed. But this very sinlessness of Jesus explains the suffering He endured in the contemplation of being made sin on our behalf. There was no conflict of will, though. He was prepared to carry out the Father’s purpose, whatever the awful cost to Himself.
It is noticeable, and an evidence of divine design in Scripture, that while in the three Synoptic Gospels our attention is focused on Christ’s agony in the Garden, there is no mention of this in the gospel of John, just as in his gospel there is no word about the transfiguration or the rending of the veil when Jesus died. In the Synoptics, emphasis is placed upon the humanity of our Lord. In John’s gospel it is His essential Deity that is before us. The glory is seen shining out there in every act of His life and in every word that He spoke. All is perfect, for Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16).
The account of the midnight arrest of Jesus follows, when all His disciples forgot their promises and fled, leaving Him alone.
And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled. (vv. 47-56)
What were the thoughts of Judas as he stealthily led the chief priests, elders, and the rabble with swords and staves (that is, clubs) to the rendezvous where he was certain he would find Jesus in prayer? If deeply perturbed, as he would have been if conscience were at all active, he gave no outward evidence of it as he brazenly led the multitude to where he saw Jesus standing with the three disciples. He had given them a sign saying, “Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.” One feels horror-stricken as he contemplates such infamy, yet it is that of which every deceitful, natural heart is capable.
Boldly Judas stepped up to Jesus, and exclaiming, “Hail, Master!” kissed Him repeatedly, as the original really has it. Calmly Jesus looked upon him and asked, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” Then He permitted His enemies to lay hold of Him and to arrest Him.
Suddenly, spurred by intense emotion, one of them, whom we know was Peter, drew his sword, struck a servant of the high priest’s, and cut off his ear. Peter was asleep when he should have been alert, watching unto prayer. Now, when he should have been calm and trustful, he was excited and active. But it was the activity of the flesh. Slashing about with the sword, he cut off the ear of Malchus, one who had very little responsibility, as far as the matter of arresting Jesus was concerned. Nothing was really accomplished that would tend to avert the catastrophe Peter evidently dreaded.
Jesus rebuked him for his unwise act, bidding him sheath his sword. Carnal weapons were not needed to protect or defend the Christ of God. He had only to ask of the Father to have twelve legions of angels sent to deliver Him. But how then should Scripture be fulfilled which foretold His death as a substitute for sinful men?
Turning to the mob surrounding Him, Jesus inquired, “Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and clubs?” He reminded them that He might have been found any day in the temple, teaching. There was no necessity for this strange midnight foray. But in all these things the Word of God given through the prophets was being fulfilled.
As He yielded Himself submissively to them, the disciples became panic-stricken and every one fled from the scene. Had He not submitted voluntarily to this indignity His enemies would have been helpless before Him. But He gave Himself into their hands that the will of God might be carried out. We may see in this submission the expression of His love, both to the Father and to those for whom He was about to die.
In defiance or forgetfulness of their own law, which forbade the trial of any person charged with crime between the hours of sunset and sunrise, those who had arrested Jesus hurried Him to the house of Caiaphas shortly before cock-crowing, answering to our three o’clock after midnight, where a group of the leaders had been waiting in order to pass speedy judgment upon Him. His teaching had caused many to lose confidence in their authority; and they feared He might gain a large following if He was not soon put out of the way.
And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end. Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; but found none yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? What is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee? (vv. 57-68)
Peter, who had recovered from his first fright, joined the company, following Jesus at a distance to see what the result might be of all these unlawful proceedings. He entered the corridor of the high priest’s palace and sat with the servants in a place where he could see what was transpiring within.
Witnesses were hastily summoned to give testimony against Jesus, but they were all men prepared to perjure themselves in order to curry favor with the leaders in this plot against Jesus. Even so, their witness did not agree. Finally, two men were brought in who testified that Jesus had said on one occasion, “I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.” A half-truth is a whole lie. Jesus had said something that seemed akin to this, but they so reported His words as to completely subvert His meaning.
Like a lamb led to the slaughter and a sheep before its shearers, as Isaiah had prophesied (Isaiah 53:7), Jesus attempted no defense. He opened not His mouth. This so annoyed Caiaphas that he exclaimed, “Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?” But Jesus did not deign to reply until the high priest put Him on oath, adjuring Him by the living God that He say whether He was the Christ the Son of God or not. Then the Lord solemnly declared, “Thou hast said.” That is, it is as you have said. “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” This was a clear, positive declaration of both His messiahship and His Deity as the Eternal Son. To Caiaphas it was blasphemy. Forgetting the admonition of the law which forbade a priest to rend his garments (Leviticus 21:10), he tore his robe in two, signifying by this very act, though he did not realize it, that his priesthood was ended. God no longer recognized the priests of the Levitical economy. With a great pretence of reverence for God, he charged Jesus with blasphemy and declared no more witnesses were needed. He appealed to the rest of the council saying, “Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye?” And they all replied, “He is guilty of death.” In fact, they had already prejudged the case and settled on the verdict.
Then in the most shameless way, these men, who should have been the guardians of the rights of the poor and defenseless, began to spit in the face of Jesus and to beat and buffet Him in the most insulting manner, even slapping Him with their open hands as they taunted Him, saying, “Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?” He did not answer, but bore all patiently.
Meantime, Peter sat in the court of the palace, giving no sign of his interest in the holy Sufferer whom they were contemning.
Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly, (vv. 69-75)
A maid servant, who had been eyeing him, came boldly up to Peter and charged him with having been in the company of Jesus of Galilee. Taken unawares, he did not have the courage to confess that it was indeed true. On the contrary, he denied before them all, insisting that he knew nothing of what was being said.
Going out into the porch, he was challenged by another maid who exclaimed, “This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.” With an oath Peter again denied all knowledge of the Man who was enduring such suffering inside the palace. Later a man spoke up and said, “Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee.” Peter’s Galilean brogue branded him before them all as a man from the north country. Excited and thoroughly frightened, Peter lost all control of himself and began to curse and to swear, again taking an oath that he knew not the Man. He did not even call Him by name. To what depths can even a child of God sink when he is out of communion with his Master and is under the domination of the flesh!
Even as the poor backslidden disciple spoke, he was startled to hear a cock crow. The words that Jesus had spoken came back to him. Realizing something of his terrible failure, he left the company assembled there and went out into the darkness, weeping bitterly. Those were grateful tears, for they told of the work of restoration begun in his soul. “Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of” (2 Corinthians 7:10), and this was the beginning of true contrition that was to result in full restoration of soul after Jesus rose from the dead.
There is a difference between apostasy and backsliding. Judas was an apostate. He had never known the reality of the new birth. Though chosen as an apostle, he was a devil (John 6:70-71). For him there was no recovery. But in Peter we see a typical backslider. He was a real child of God who failed through self-confidence and lack of prayerfulness but was afterward restored and became a faithful witness for Christ. Apostasy is giving up truth that one formerly professed to believe. Backsliding is spiritual declension from an experience once enjoyed. The difference is immense. To see this distinction clearly will save from much confusion of thought.
The Mass Versus The Lord's Supper
By Dr. Harry Ironside
The Pastor learned late in the previous week of the possibility of holding a great Protestant Rally in the Moody Church, with Mr.H.A.Ironside as speaker, on the Sunday following the Eucharistic Congress held in Chicago. The time was much too short for extensive advertising, but through announcement in the Saturday papers, and the co-operation of a large number of city ministers, many of whom were present at the Rally, the effort became known to a great many. Pastor John O'Hair and Pastor James Gray, very kindly mentioned the meeting to their radio audiences. The former presided at the Rally. More than 3,500 people attended.
It is possible, as I speak to you to-day, that I may use the word "Catholic" as opposed to "Protestant." If I do, it is simply a slip of the tongue, for I maintain that every true Protestant is a real Catholic, that every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is a member of the one Holy Catholic Church, purchased by the precious blood of the Son of God. But I distinguish between a Catholic and a Romanist. When I was speaking, on one occasion, to a Roman Catholic priest whom I met in a train in California, he asked me what my profession was and I said, "I am a Catholic priest."
He looked at my collar and said, "You are surely jesting with me."
I said, "No, I never was more serious in my life. I am a priest in the Holy Catholic Church. I mean that I am a member of that holy and royal priesthood composed of all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and together forming the Holy Catholic Church." So if I use the word "Catholic" when I mean "Romanist" you will understand me.
I am not here to say anything unkind against the Roman church. As my friend, Brother O'Hair, has reminded you, our Government guarantees to every man the right to full liberty of conscience in regard to religious privileges. As we wish to enjoy that liberty ourselves, we are glad to accord it to others. But I simply desire to examine some of the teachings of the Church of Rome and compare them with the teaching of the Word of God, particularly on the great central doctrine of that church, which is called the Sacrament of the Blessed Eucharist, or the Sacrament of the Mass.
THE CRUX OF THE MATTER
Every Roman Catholic priest will tell you that all the claims of the Church of Rome stand or fall with the doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Mass. If the bread and wine used in the Sacrament of the Mass, when consecrated by the priest, are changed in some mysterious way into the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ so that the communicant receiving the bread actually takes into his mouth and eats and digests the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ-if this is true, then the Church of Rome is the true church of Christ and every one of us should be members of it. But if it is false, if it is absolutely opposed to the teaching of the Word of God, then the Church of Rome is an apostate church and every faithful believer should come out of her in order that he might not be held accountable for her sins.
It was because the great reformers of the sixteenth century saw this clearly and were assured in their own hearts that the doctrine of the Church of Rome in regard to the Eucharist or the Mass was absolutely opposed to the Word of God and was not only blasphemous but idolatrous, that they came out in protest against that apostate system and they won for us at tremendous cost of Christian blood the liberty that we now possess. And yet we, unworthy children of such worthy sires, are frittering away our liberty and we are allowing our children to be ensnared again by this evil system from which our fathers escaped with such tremendous effort.
I want to call your attention first of all to a passage in the 10th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews which may not seem at first sight to have any reference to the subject in question, but I think we shall see that it not only has reference to it but presents the basic truth in regard to it. The 10th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, beginning with verse 11:
"And every priest (the Apostle is referring to the Levitical priesthood) standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man (that is, the Lord Jesus Christ who as to the mystery of His person is both God and man in one blessed, glorious person never to be divided), after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God: from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that He had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more."
Now here is the crucial text that I want you to get:
"Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin."
CHRIST’S FINISHED WORK
In the Epistle to the Hebrews the apostolic writer contrasts the ritual system of the Old Testament dispensation with the glorious work achieved by Jesus Christ when He offered Himself on Calvary's cross for our redemption. He draws our attention to the fact that under the old economy the priest's work was never done because the sin question was never settled. No sacrifice had been found that was of sufficient value to atone for the sins of the world and so whenever men sinned afresh they had to come with a new sacrifice. One offering followed another constantly, therefore there was not even provision made for the priest to sit down in the tabernacle or in the temple of the Lord. The priest's work was never done for sin was never put away. But he goes on to say that in those sacrifices there was an acknowledgment again made of sin from year to year. That is, the worshiper under the Old Testament dispensation came to God in faith, confessing his sin, and brought his animal sacrifice, whether a bullock from the herd, a sheep from the flock, or two birds. He confessed his sin and these sacrifices were offered for him. They did not cancel his guilt. They did not cleanse his heart. They were rather in the nature of a note that a man gives to his creditor for a debt. A man is owing a certain sum of money. He makes out a note for that sum. He is unable to pay when it is due, so he makes out another note, and in those notes there is an acknowledgment again made of the debt from year to year. So in the sacrifices of old there was simply an acknowledgment of sin made year after year. Sometimes when a man must give a note for a debt he has a wealthy friend who is good enough to endorse that note for him. By endorsing that note his friend says, "If you are not able to pay when the note becomes due, I pledge myself to pay for you."
THE SIN QUESTION SETTLED
When these people of old gave their notes to God by bringing their sacrifices again and again, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son still ex-carnate, endorsed every note and He said,
"Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God."
In the fulness of time He came, made of a woman, made under the law, and He went to Calvary's cross and there, may I say, gathered up and settled for all those notes of the past, and undertook the full responsibility for every believer to the end of time and offered Himself a sacrifice for the sins of men. By that one all-sufficient offering of Himself upon the cross, He has settled the sin question to God's satisfaction so that now God can be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.
The sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ had both a backward and a forward aspect. It put away all the sins of the past that had only been covered by the blood of the sacrifices and made ample provision to put away all the sins of the future for every one who would believe on Him. The means by which needy sinners avail themselves of an interest in the finished work of Christ is very simple. The sinner has to take his place before God as a lost. guilty man, owning his iniquity and putting his trust in the Man who died on the cross; for
"By Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by Moses' law."
In this New Testament economy Christ is the only sacrificing priest. He is the one all-sufficient victim. Christ having made atonement for sins, rose from the dead and God has manifested His righteous satisfaction in the work of the cross by seating Him in heaven at His own right hand.
A FEAST OF LOVE
Our Lord Jesus before He went away, foreseeing all this, gave to His disciples that feast of love which we commonly call "The Lord's Supper." In the Lord's Supper this mystery of redemption is wonderfully and beautifully pictured. I want to read to you the various scriptures in the New Testament that refer to it. I am going to read each passage that speaks of this feast of love in order that you, hearing them, may compare them in your own mind with the celebration -- the idolatrous celebration -- which you have either seen or of which you have been reading during recent days, and I ask you to put the questions to yourself: Is there anything here that is remotely connected with this ceremony that myriads have been so occupied with during this past week? Is there in this a sin offering? Is there a sacrificing priest? Is there any provision here for incense, any provision for worshipping the Virgin Mary, any provision for a great hierarchy with their brilliant garments? I read the other day that $200,000.00 worth of priestly garments were ruined by the rain during the celebration at Mundelein. You could put all the apostles, and the 500 who saw the Lord after His resurrection, and all the Christians in the early days, out in the rain and hail and they would not ruin $10.00 worth of priestly vestments! Is there anything that compares with the ceremony that has been enacted in this city and its environs in the last few days and which is supposed to be the continuation of that of which our Lord speaks here?
In the 26th chapter of Matthew-our Lord had just eaten the Passover with His disciples -- we read, beginning at verse 26:
"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake 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 ye 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 unto 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. And when they had sung an hymn they went out into the mount of Olives."
How beautiful in its simplicity is this first celebration of the Lord Supper! How different to this mysterious ceremony which is the very center of the Roman Catholic system!
Now turn to the Gospel of Mark and get his account of the same Supper. See if there is anything which Matthew left out which he has inserted which might give some ground, some basis, for the doctrines that have gathered round the so-called Sacrament of the Mass. St. Mark 14:22:
“And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And He took the cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And He said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.”
“And as they did eat.” I would draw your attention to that. Every Roman Catholic is instructed to take the Sacrament of the Mass fasting. Have you read that after “they did eat, Jesus took bread.” They were just concluding the Passover meal. And “Jesus took bread.” Mark you, not some special cake marked with the mystic letters “I.H.S.” which are supposed to mean “Iesus Hominum Salvator”, but that might just as wall mean the Egyptian deities “Isis”, “Horus”, “Seb”, as they did ages ago in a similar ceremony.
Now I turn you to the account given by our brother Luke, Doctor Luke, the beloved physician. Luke’s Gospel 22:19:
“And He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”
The Apostle John does not give us any account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, but after Christ’s ascension and after the conversion of Saul of Tarsus when he became the Apostle Paul, a special revelation was given to him, and in the 11th chapter of 1st Corinthians we get the full account of it. Read from verse 20:
“When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What! have ye not houses to eat and drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. For I have received of the Lord (the risen, ascended, glorified Lord) that which also I delivered unto yen, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed (the night in which He was to know experimentally the untrustworthiness of the human heart) took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake 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 ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come."
Observe how this feast links together the two great facts of Christianity, the death of Christ and His second coming. The Lord's Supper is taken in remembrance of One who died, but as we take it we look forward and wait for His coming again.
TILL HE COME
A friend of mine, giving some lectures at a church not long ago, spoke of the second coming of the Lord and the pastor came up to him after the service and said, "I am sorry that you touched that subject. We don't believe here in the second coming of Christ."
"Oh, you don't?"
"What is that table that you have down there in front of the pulpit?"
"That is the Lord's Table."
"What do you do with it?"
"We use it when we take the Lord's Supper."
"What do you take the Lord's Supper for?"
"Because the Word of God tell us to."
"How long are you going to take it?"
"As long as we are here, I suppose."
"What does the Bible say?"
"I don't know what you mean."
" 'As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do show the Lord's death till He come.' If you don't believe He is coming again you'd better cut that out. It is a witness that the Christ who died is coming again. He says, While you are waiting for Me, do this in remembrance of Me."
"Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shah be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord."
Then in the 10th chapter of the same Epistle we read in verse 16:
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" Verse 21: "Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils."
THE TEACHING IS CLEAR
I have read all these passages because they give you every verse in the New Testament that definitely refers to the Lord's Supper. You can see just what they teach. Our blessed Lord was going out to die and before He left His disciples He gave them this memorial feast. There is a striking passage in the book of the prophet Jeremiah in which he is predicting dire judgments coming upon Israel and he says that so many people will die that there will be none left to break bread for them (that is the marginal reading), nor to give them the cup of consolation. It evidently referred to an old custom that when somebody died loving friends gathered together with those who were left and they sat down and ate and drank in memory of the loved one, probably talked of his virtues and tried to comfort his loved ones.
Now our Lord Jesus Christ has come to the end of His thirty-three wonderful years here upon earth. He is about to go out to die. He came for that purpose. He said, "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." Now He has His little company of disciples gathered about Him. They have kept the Pascal feast, the last Passover that God ever recognized. Actually, they kept the Passover and Christ died on the same day, because the Jewish day began in the evening and went on until the next evening. So the Lord ate the Passover with His disciples on the first evening and before the next evening -- between the two evenings -- He died on the cross, Christ, our Passover, sacrificed for us.
A MEMORIAL FEAST
Our Lord, with all this before Him, takes a piece of bread -- just common bread, the bread they were using at the Passover -- probably unleavened bread, although there is no scripture that definitely indicates that it must be that. I don't find that the Word of God has been careful to legislate whether the bread should be leavened or unleavened, whether the wine should be fermented or unfermented. I think we may see the wisdom of God in it, for there are circumstances under which, if there were such a rule, many of God's children could not partake. But He took bread and held that bread in His hand and said to the disciples, "This is my body which is given for you," Observe: There He sat at the table. He is not indicating that any change takes place in the bread. He is there in His perfectly human body and He holds this bread in His hand and He says, "This is my body." Surely any one must be blind who cannot see what He is telling them is this: This bread, I want you to understand, is to bring before you the truth that my body is to be sacrificed for sin. He had not yet been sacrificed and yet He speaks as though it had already taken place. "This do in remembrance of Me." And He passes the bread around to them. There is no mysterious priesthood; there are no costly vestments; there are no candles burning in a ceremonial manner; no smoking incense ascending. They have partaken of one meal and then He gives them this beautiful memorial feast. He does not even appoint a clergyman to preside there. He addresses them as brethren and He saps, "This do in remembrance of Me."
SIMPLE AND BEAUTIFUL
I think, my brethren, the simpler we can be in our thoughts of the Lord's Supper the better. I read some time ago of a Hindu who was living in a village when a missionary came for the first time and they said to him, "Come. You must see So-and-So."
The missionary went to this man's house. When he saw a white man coming with a Bible he rose to greet him and bowed at his feet. The missionary said, "Stand up. I am just a man like yourself."
"Oh," said the Hindu, "you have come with the Book. I have waited for it for twenty years."
"How is that?"
"Well, twenty years ago I took a long journey. I heard a man in the market place (he looked like you) read from a book. He told the story of the Great God of Love who sent His Son to die for sinners. I bought a book." He produced a copy of Matthew's Gospel all worn so that hardly a leaf was whole. "I took it home. I have eaten that book. I have read it over and over. I have read it to all the people in the village. I have been praying that God would send somebody to tell me more."
He asked him to eat with him. Now the host was a little embarrassed. He had a bowl of rice and he turned to the other man and said, "Before we eat, I always do as Jesus said."
The missionary did not understand. But he said, "Go ahead. Don't let me interfere."
The Hindu closed his eyes, thanked God that Christ had died for him, and then he said, "I eat this rice because the body of my Lord Jesus was nailed on the cross for me." Then he took the common drink of the land and said, "I drink of this because my Lord Jesus died for me," and he gave some to the missionary, as he had given the rice, and they ate and drank together.
The missionary said, "How long have you been doing this?"
"For twenty years."
"And how often!"
"Every time I eat a meal."
He saw nothing in the Book that would tell him how often. So I repeat, the simpler we can be the better. It is a memorial-- that is all.
WHAT DOES "EUCHARIST" MEAN?
You ask, Do you not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist? Some may not know the meaning of the term Eucharist. It is "thanksgiving." Oh yes, dear friends, every instructed Christian believes in the real presence in the Eucharist, but He does not believe that the bread ceases to be anything but bread and he does not believe that the wine ceases to be anything but wine. He does not believe in a strange, mysterious transformation of cereal bread and of wine into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. But he believes this: "Where two or three are gathered together in My name (as Jesus said) there am I in the midst." Some of the sweetest moments of my life have been spent at the Table of the Lord, communing with the Blessed One who of old said, "Do this in remembrance of Me," and faith's eye could discern Him there standing in the midst, showing His wounds and spreading His hands.
A Roman Catholic layman in St.Louis who does much to put Protestants to shame because of his zeal in advertising his religion, recently put out an advertisement like this: "Catholics believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist; Protestants believe in the real absence." But that is false. Protestants do not believe that the bread and wine undergo any mystic change, but they do believe that as you eat and drink in remembrance of Christ, Christ is present in His sweet and wonderful way, manifesting Himself to the hearts of His beloved people so that by faith they are enabled to feed upon Him. We feed upon Him in remembrance. We look back and think of the sorrows He bore. We contemplate His cross and bitter passion, and as we do, we eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, and as we feast on Christ we find our love for those things for which Christ died upon the cross becoming less, and our love for those blessed things into which He would lead us through the new and living way, through the veil into the holiest, becoming greater, for we become like that upon which we feed.
NO DISTINCTION BETWEEN CHRISTIANS
In this feast Christ gives the bread and then He gives the wine. He did not separate believers into a clergy and a laity and say to the clergy, "The wine is for you: the bread is simply for the laity." There is no such distinction made in the Bible. For two centuries and a half after Christ's gospel began to be preached in this world you will search reputable church history in vain to find such a distinction. There were officials in the church; there were elders and there were deacons; elders who had a special oversight, but no such distinction as the dividing of Christians into the laity and the clergy, the clergy having special access to God and special authority in dispensing divine mysteries. This was unknown in the early days of Christianity, and in those early days the Lord's Supper was observed in simplicity. We have distinct records of it.
If you care to look it up you will find that the Younger Pliny, when Governor of Bythinia, wrote to the Emperor Trajan asking what offense the Christians had committed for which they should be exterminated. He said in substance, "I have been trying to get all the information I could regarding them. I have even hired spies to profess to be Christians and become baptized in order that they might get into the Christian services without suspicion. Contrary to what I had supposed, I find that the Christians meet at dead of night or at early morn, that they sing a hymn to Christ as God, that they read from their own sacred writings and partake of a very simple meal consisting of bread and wine and water (the water added to the wine to dilute it in order that there might be enough for all). This is all that I can find out, except that they exhort each other to be subject to the Government, and pray for all men."
Pliny could not understand why they should be persecuted. He knew nothing of a gorgeous altar, of a sacrificing priest, nothing of a special cake upon the altar which the faithful were to fall down and worship as the Incarnate God, but his spies found Christians partaking together of a very simple meal of bread and wine and water.
Justin Martyr, who wrote about the same time, gives us a very clear account of the way in which the Lord's Supper was observed. He knew of no priesthood, no altar, no mystic change. He certainly knew of no prayers to the Virgin Mary. He knew nothing of ascending incense or anything of the kind, but he describes just such an observance of the Lord's Supper as you would find in any evangelical company of Christians to-day. He speaks of one of the elders presiding, of the people singing together, of giving thanks for the bread and wine, of distributing these elements among the faithful and sending portions to any who were not present because of illness-beautiful in its simplicity, as is the account given in the gospel.
WHEN THE CHANCE OCCURRED
But you go down through the Christian era a few centuries and you find everything is changed. You enter a Christian church. The Lord's table is conspicuous by its absence. Instead of a table you have an altar. An altar in a Christian church! The altar belonged to Judaism. But the altar is typical of Christ Himself whose glorious person sanctifies the offering He gives, and second, it typifies the cross upon which He was uplifted. The Christian's altar is the cross of Christ, but in these churches of the centuries after Constantine we find an altar again and, serving there, is a priest with special vestments, not such as were used by the Jewish priesthood, but vestments which were identical with those worn by the priests of Babylon centuries before. What had brought about the change? Simply this: As long as Christianity was persecuted, as long as the Christian company was under the ban of the Roman Government, simplicity and reality prevailed. But the day came when the state become the patron of Christianity and an effort was made to unite the ancient heathen religion and the Roman Empire with the new Christianity. The result was that little by little pagan forms and ceremonies were brought in and displaced the early Christian forms which were so simple, so beautiful and so scriptural. The altar was not even taken from Judaism, for no such altar as the altars of Judaism was ever found in so-called Christian churches.
A few years ago I had a company of Indian youths in Oakland, California, that I was educating. I was teaching these young men church history, and one day, to give them a practical lesson, I took them to San Francisco through three Chinese temples and then I took them through two Roman Catholic churches. After our visits I said to these youths, "Now tell me what you saw in each place," And they wrote it all out. They said, "In each building we found holy water at the door. Each building had an altar. Each building had priests in costly vestments bowing below the altar. Each building had candles and incense. In each building a bell rang when the worshipers were to kneel down." The Romanist and pagan temples were practically alike.
Any one who familiarizes himself with the history of the ancient heathen cults can see where all these forms and ceremonies came in that are now linked up with what is called the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The identical customs were practised by Babylonish priests over 500 years before Christ. There was in the Babylon temples and on the altars an image of a woman with a child in her arms. This woman was said to be the Queen of Heaven. Her child was called the Seed, which was evidently Satan's imitation of the truth involved in the words, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." To this woman was sacrificed a bloodless offering consisting of round moon-shaped cakes, and these being presented to her were put upon the altar and the faithful bowed down in reverence before them.
In the 44th chapter of Jeremiah the people had read of the same cult transferred to Palestine and observed afterwards among the dispersed Jews in Egypt:
"Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger."
In the 44th chapter of Jeremiah the people had turned from their idolatry, but they declare that they are going back to it. In verse 15 we read:
"Then all the men which knew that their wives had burnt incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying, As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee: but we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil."
This ancient custom of offering these round cakes was taken up by the apostate church. They said,
"The best way is to get all the different religions into one and we can take this heathen rite and turn it into a Christian ceremony. This round cake we will call the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ." That is what is called the host. It must be absolutely round. It is taken into the church and the priest blesses it. If it has a piece broken off of it, anybody can eat it; it is just bread.
The Roman Catholic church will tell you that this is taught by our Lord when He said, "This is my body which is given for you." But as He said that He was there with them. No part of it was broken for them. He handed them this bread and they partook of it, clearly giving us to understand that the bread was God's wonderful way of illustrating the value of feeding upon Christ. We feed upon bread and we get physical strength. We feed upon Christ and we get spiritual strength.
But now they tell us that the bread is changed when the priest blesses it. We charge that to fall down and worship that piece of bread is an act of idolatry. The Roman Catholic church says that bread is actually Christ. We say, "Do you mean us to understand that - that bread is literally the body of Christ, literally the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ?"
"No, not literally, but mystically it becomes such."
It is a well-know fact that Roman priests have been poisoned at the altar drinking wine that had been blessed and was supposed to be turned into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ, when some enemy had poured poison into it. It has been known that the host has been poisoned. They understand that no such change as they declare, actually takes place. But they say that at the moment of consecration Christ comes and enters it.
Here is a man making images. You say, "Are these images actually gods?"
"No, not yet."
"When will they become gods?"
"When the priest takes them and blesses them and consecrates them to the deity they represent. Then the deity will come and dwell within them so that when the worshiper bows down he is not worshipping the image but the soul of the divinity that dwells within."
BLASPHEMY AGAINST CHRIST’S SACRIFICE
Is there any difference between that and the Romish doctrine? None whatever. The bread was bread until the priest blessed it, and then in some mystical way Christ's body, blood, soul and divinity became identified with it. Worship in the New Testament is only given to God the Father and God the Son in the energy of the Holy Ghost. Then the Roman church tells us that this host is a continual unbloody sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead. Christ died once on the cross, but Christ is offered daily upon the altars of the Roman church. This, we maintain, is a denial of the all-sufficiency of the one offering of our Lord Jesus Christ. As long as sacrifice had not been found that could put away sin, it was necessary for one offering to follow another, but when Christ came into the world and offered Himself without spot unto God, then the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, thus signifying that the way into the holies is made manifest and every believer is entitled to enter into the very presence of God, washed from every sin and justified from all things through the infinite value of the atoning work of the Son of God. Now, to talk of any man on earth offering a continual sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead is not only blasphemy against the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, but if is absolute nonsense, for the Word of God says, "Without the shedding of blood is no remission of sins." It is worthless because being bloodless it has no value to atone for sin and because it isn't needed to atone for sin for Jesus' atonement has already been made.
PROTESTANTS NEED REVIVAL
Therefore, I say, there is a tremendous chasm between the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Mass and the Bible doctrine of the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper is a memorial feast. Christians, members of the body of Christ, come together to remember the One who died for them and who put away their sins, and do this because their sins have been put away. No instructed Christian would approach the Lord's Table to get forgiveness. I come because my sins have been forever put away by the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus and I desire gratefully to remember the One who offered that mighty sacrifice and so fitted me for the presence of a holy God.
There can be no compromise between the two systems. While Protestant churches have been sleeping Rome has been stealing the fruits of the Reformation. While they have been quarreling about the most trifling things Rome has been getting a great many week Protestants who have looked in vain for spiritual help because they have not been hearing the precious gospel of the grace of God.
But let there be a revival of doctrinal preaching; of the proclamation of the great truths of the Reformation; of the universal priesthood of all believers, doing away with anything like a special priesthood; of the membership in the body of Christ of all who have been washed in the blood of Jesus, justified from all things, by faith in the one offering that has forever settled the sin question; of the Lord's Supper not as a sacrament but a memorial feast. Let these great truths be re-emphasized and wherever the Word is preached in faith and dependence upon the Holy Ghost God will use it to bring joy and peace and gladness to souls as in Reformation days.
LUTHER LIT THE TORCH
Let me just remind you of Luther. When he was still a monk of the Augustinian order he went to Rome to transact business for his Order. He was delighted to go. A restless, unhappy man, having tried everything the church had to offer and yet without peace with God, he said, "If I go to Rome, the holy city, I will find all I want." So he went, earnestly counting on meeting God. Giving his testimony afterwards he says, "Rome living would have made me an infidel, but Rome dead kept me a Christian."
When he arrived there and saw the simony of the priests and the corruption of the church his soul was filled with horror. He said, "In Rome they sell everything for money, forgiveness, the right to commit sin-- everything. In Rome they would sell the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost!"
Then at last, as he wended his way through the city, he came to the church of St.John Lateran and he learned that in it there was supposed to be the very staircase down which Christ walked from Pilate's judgment hall. It was said that if one would go up that staircase on his hands and knees he would get great spiritual blessing by the time he reached the top. So earnest was this German monk that he was ready to do anything that might give peace, and he started up that staircase, until suddenly in the midst of it all a passage of scripture came rushing down into the depths of his soul: "The just shall live by faith."
He sprang to his feet and said, "What a fool I am. If 'the just shall live by faith' what am I doing climbing this staircase?"
He went back to Germany to light that torch which for hundreds of years has been the light of all our Protestant lands and which it is Rome's persistent and determined effort to put out if it possibly can. Rome wants religious liberty and we gladly accord the liberty we want ourselves, but let Rome become supreme again in this country or any other Protestant country and we will no longer have an open Bible, or a public school, or any of the institutions that we have learned to value. God wake us up that we may not leave to our posterity a land of bondage out of which God mercifully delivered our forefathers.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Matthew 26". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30