The Gospel and the Church: 32. The Church

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THE MEMORIAL OF THE LORD'S DEATH.
Did His thoughts, whilst eating the Passover with them, travel back, if I may so say, to another night, separated by fifteen hundred years from that one? In that night He had also prepared a table—this very table—for His people in the presence of their enemies, when He went and slew the first-born throughout Egypt, to deliver His people from its bondage. Then cries of death and despair rang through the night, whilst Israel stood and fed in safety. But now the time had come, when the “First-born of all creation” was to be slain—slain by wicked hands; yes, and not only so; He was to be “wounded in the house of his friends.”
But there was more: “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts; smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered,” The Judge of Egypt, the Judge of the whole earth, was to undergo the judgment due to His people, and to you and me, reader! The Deliverer of His people of old was to be delivered by their children into the hands of sinful men, in order to deliver them from their sins. The Lamb of God was to take away the sin of the world, and to die for that nation, “His own, who received Him not.” Messiah was to be “cut off and have nothing.”
But, no! He looks onward, not backward. His words, “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer,” are followed by, “I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And His words, “Take this [cup] and divide it among yourselves,” are followed by, “For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.” Did they understand what He meant by “before I suffer,” and “until the kingdom of God shall come"? Alas! they were dull of understanding, “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken.” They did not know that Christ ought to suffer these things and to enter into His glory! They trusted that it was He who should redeem Israel. Redeem from what? From the consequence of their sins, i.e., the yoke of the Romans. Had they never heard of the words of the angel of the Lord, spoken to Joseph? “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins.” Had they not heard the voice of the forerunner proclaiming, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”? If they had, they had either forgotten or not understood it. But had not the Lord Himself foretold them, “The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him, and the third day He shall be raised again”?
“They were exceedingly sorry,” and Peter even said, “That be far from thee, Lord”! But the cross of Christ, the truth that He must suffer and thus enter into His glory, was entirely beyond the narrow compass of their thoughts, however clearly foretold in the prophets. They “understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, and they perceived it not; and they feared to ask Him of that saying.” The glorious truth of Resurrection was just as far, if not farther still from and beyond their conception. The first tidings of it “seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.” But He who supped with them that night, the Holy, True, and Gracious One, not only forbore with their ignorance (though culpable), but even stooped down and washed their feet, before He was led as a Lamb to the slaughter to suffer and die for them.
The Passover or Supper of the Old Testament approaches its end. All around, the atmosphere of evil is thickening. The prince of this world and of the power of the air is summoning and gathering his hosts of wicked spirits, to inspire, unite, and lead on deluded sinners, Jews and Gentiles, to their common conspiracy and open rebellion around the cross (as he will do at a later period for the final rebellion and battle of Armageddon). His satellites assemble at the house of the high priest; the watchword of treason is whispered, “Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; hold him fast.”
But amidst and above that murky atmosphere of Satan's and men's wickedness, there arises from that upper chamber, where the Good Shepherd had prepared a table for His sheep in the very presence of their enemies, an incense sweeter than that of Mary's precious ointment, ascending to heaven. Hark! the notes of a hymn of praise going up to Him, Who “is good and Whose mercy endureth forever.” It is intoned by the voice of the Good Shepherd before He goes to die; and His sheep, minus the traitor, who know His voice, join in the wondrous song.
Oh, what a song in that night! Was there ever singing like this? At the Red Sea, from the shore of safety, the joyful song of redemption had ascended to God, when Moses and the children of Israel praised the mighty salvation of Jehovah, and Miriam answered with the daughters of Israel. A wondrous choir of praise, indeed, sung by myriads of grateful voices! Such a vast hymn of praise there had never been in this world, nor ever will be, until His people, made willing in the day of His power, will raise the shout of praise, “Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord.” But what is all this when compared to the notes of praise that ascended to God from that upper chamber, sung by those twelve voices? Not Moses, the servant of God, who was faithful in all his house, intoned that hymn, but Christ Himself, the Son over His own house—Jehovah-Jesus, the Deliverer of His people of old, to whom that song of redemption at the Red Sea was addressed! He Himself is leading the song of praise to His little band. The voice, that was soon to appeal to His Father in the agonies of Gethsemane, and then from the cross in that cry, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me”? we hear at that table leading the praises of His little flock; just as if, even before He was heard from the horns of the unicorns, He must in anticipation praise His Father and God (soon to be known as theirs too) in the midst of His “brethren.”
He wept when He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He sings a hymn when He is going to die—to die the death of the cross. Did not He know what Calvary meant? Gethsemane tells us. Oh for ears and hearts to listen to that voice, and to ponder over that song! What an insight it gives into the perfect obedience, and into that perfect love that dwelt in the heart of Jesus! May His word dwell richly in us, in order that “with grace we may sing and make melody in our hearts to” Him, our “Lord,” as He did to His Father and God in that never to be forgotten night!