<< John XIII-XVIII: The Last Supper >>
THE day for the Passover had come, and in the evening each household would gather for the sacred feast, or two households together, if they were small. The Lord’s disciples were His family, and He sent Peter and John from Bethany to prepare the Passover for them to eat together. They saw, as the Lord told them, a man carrying a jar of water. They followed him to the house, and the large upper room was ready. We have learned how the lamb was killed at the temple and how unleavened bread was made ready, and hitler herbs, and a preserve of fruits, and wine. Towards evening -it was Thursday—the Lord came with the other disciples from Bethany and they reclined at the table together.
But even there, after all the Lord had taught them and shown them about being humble and serving, they disputed who should be greatest, and the Lord gave them one more example of loving service. He washed their feet, Then, too, the Lord told the disciples that one of them would betray him. Leonardo da Vinci’s wonderful picture shows the disciples at the moment, when they are asking. “Lord, is it I?”
While they were still about the table the Lord taught them how to keep the Holy Supper, the Christian Passover. He blessed the bread and wine and gave them, and told them to keep the Holy Supper in remembrance of Him. He says that the bread and wine are His flesh and blood; as we take them reverently, He strengthens our souls with something of His own love and wisdom. Psalms were sung during the Passover, and, at the end, Psalms cxv. to cxviii.: “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.” This was probably the “hymn” which the disciples sang together before they went out with the Lord to the Mount of Olives. Let us read so much of the story.
Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat. And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare? And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.
And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. 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.—Luke XXII. 7-20.
Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.
So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.
Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.—John XIII.
The Lord went on to comfort the disciples, and spoke the Divinely tender words of the fourteenth chapter of John.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know….
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.—John XIV. 1-4, 27-31.
As we read the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth chapters of John we think of the little company leaving the upper room and passing through the street and out by the city gate and across the Kidron, to the garden where they had often been together, on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing…..
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world….
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.—John XV. 1-5; XVI. 33; XVIII. 1.
Author: William L. Worcester 1904
The bread and wine of the Holy Supper >> The heavenly love and heavenly thought which we all need to receive from the Lord >> The Lord’s spiritual flesh and blood
Eating at the table with the Lord >> Receiving good affection and thought from Him
Peter and John were sent to make ready for the feast >> The understanding and will, the thought and love, which must work together to make ready for the Lord
The disciples followed a jar of water and found the place where the feast should be kept >> The truth of repentance and good life which leads us to the state of union with the Lord, which this eating with Him represents
The upper room >> A holy heavenly state
The Lord’s washing the disciples’ feet in the upper room itself >> A further cleansing, of a deeper kind
The water for spiritual washing >> The plain truth of right and wrong, that helps us to know what is evil and to separate it from our lives
The Lord’s pouring water into a basin >> His adaptation of His Divine truth of life to our simple comprehension and natural needs
He used the towel wherewith He was girded >> The principles which He applies to us are the same which are the controlling principles of His Divine life
The feet >> The daily walk of life, the outward deeds and conduct
To wash the feet >> To make the conduct clean and right
The Lord washes our feet >> We let Him help us to put away evil things from our daily life
Peter >> Faith and the difficulty of bringing faith down to practical good life
“Not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” >> The greater ease of thinking what is true than of doing it, of having good intentions than of carrying these out in practical good life
Hands >> Like the feet, correspond to types of action, but the feet especially stand for the most external, practical plane of life, where repentance must be practiced
“He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit,” >> When one has entered upon the way of regeneration, what he needs is to be earnest and faithful in making right the steps of daily conduct
“Thou shalt know hereafter.” >> All developments of heavenly life forever rest upon repentance practiced in this world
“I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you.” >> An example of modest, loving service >> Our duty, like the Lord, to help others to do right, to judge kindly of them and to help them to lay aside the wrong that clings to them from the world
Judas Iscariot >> A type of self-love which values even the Lord and holy things for selfish advantage
Judas’ dipping with the Lord in the dish and receiving the morsel from His hand >> The acceptance of holy things from the Lord in the spirit of hypocrisy and betrayal
“The devil” >> The name of evil collectively, especially of this evil of self-love, which Judas allowed to whisper in his heart and whose promptings he obeyed
“Let not your heart be troubled.” >> In the conjunction with the Lord, there is trust and peace, which takes away fear and trouble from the heart
“In My Father’s house are many mansions.” >> The many homes of heaven, which the Lord prepares in His great love >> Heavenly uses, as many as there are kinds of good men and women, or can be to eternity, for each angel’s home is in his use >> All heavenly uses and joys are in the Lord’s great love and joy of use
The grapevine >> Spiritual intelligence leading to good uses that are sweet with heavenly charity
A vine needs pruning >> Intelligence must be checked from running wild, and its strength must be concentrated upon the best uses
The Lord was the true vine >> He gained all spiritual wisdom
The true vine was pruned and corrected by the Divine Husbandman >> The Lord gave up all idle enjoyment in intelligence, and devoted the power only to doing the works of the Divine love, and to doing them fully and perfectly
He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing >> We may receive from the Lord something of spiritual intelligence, something of the wisdom of good heavenly uses, and may do uses from Him but all this fruitfulness, with the strength and the joy of it, is from the Lord, not from ourselves
The abundance of such fruit >> Endless possibilities and joy
JUDGMENT AND DELIVERANCE.
BESIDES these deeper tendencies which He was exploring for judgment, there yet remained to be completed the judgment upon the Jewish Church, and upon that which He had in common with them. The judgment and rejection of this in Himself was also the judgment and rejection of the deeper tendencies which He had already explored in Himself, and which would appear with the development of a maturer rationality in the church. The historical events recorded in the coming chapters relate to both, and describe the judgment upon the Jewish Church, while they represent the judgment upon the Christian Church.
The Passover was at hand the feast which from the time of its institution in Egypt had commemorated both judgment and deliverance. The forces of appropriation to self were gathered together to destroy the Divine of the Lord, which would only serve and minister.1 ” In Bethany” the Lord was, on the Mount of Olives in the lowly states of those who would know the merciful love of God. ” In the house of Simon the leper,” is with those in the good of faithful worship who are conscious that their worship has not brought conjunction with the living God, but to whom the merciful love of God is present and is becoming known in the Lord Jesus. The woman who anointed Him is the affection for the truth of the new life of charity from God. The ointment is the symbol of the Divine with which He was anointed from the Lord Jehovah.
The alabaster box may represent the facts of her own experience of it. Her pouring it on His head signifies her recognition of the Divine in Him and in all His life. The protest of the disciples reveals the tendency of the church to make gain to self of the Divine love of her Lord. But in the eyes of the Lord such grateful acknowledgment of the Divine in Him is an essential of His church which will always be recorded and remembered.
Judas now separates himself from the others, as representing the desire for advantage to self from the holy good and the holy truth of the Divine in the Lord’s Human. He allied himself with the chief priests, because this spirit in the Christian Church is the same as in the Jewish. The thirty pieces of silver represent the small account it makes of the saving work of the Lord. (AC 2966) His betraying the Lord to the priests, means the giving up of this redeeming work, that the love of advantage to self might still live.
The whole history of the Christian Church shows at how low a price the Lord’s redemption from evil has been valued, and how this has been waived that the love of making gain of holy good and holy truth might live and profit by Him. The experience of every one who reflects will show how strong this tendency still is.
But the feast of unleavened bread, betokening the reception of pure good from the Lord, was also to be celebrated. And in this He instituted a visible memorial of Himself which should be as Himself when He should not be visible. For He would be present in it with His love of service in the bread, and His thought for the good of men in the wine. They should testify, as they do testify, that the Divine Human of the Lord is ever with us, a redeeming, saving Presence to every one who will receive it.
To the Lord Himself the time was at hand for the laying off of the last remnant of self, and the infilling with the Divine. After which from the fulness of the Divine Spirit in Him all might drink, and in their drinking He would drink with them. (Author: John Worchester, 1898. Matthew’s Gospel.)
1 ” Not on the feast day” is equivalent to ” in the absence of the multitude,” because the simple good believed in Him.
Pictures: James Tissot —-Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum