Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover.Sacramental Thoughts
It seems almost unjust to these words to speak them loudly. Oh, that we had the power to whisper into the most distant, ear without raising the voice at all! There are far-reaching whispers. The Holy Spirit may now take up our poor weakness and whisper to each listening soul this mournful but most thrilling text.
We cannot get rid of the blood-shedding, because it was Jesus Himself who told us about the blood, and His own blood, and why it was shed, and for whom it was shed. That is the simple scene.
I. Let us notice, first, that it was all of Christ's own suggestion. The disciples suggested nothing—they were wise. Who would offer suggestions to the Eternal? It was Christ that said, Let us make a bigger and greater passover than the one that has been celebrated outside, let us have an inner and spiritual passover, let us get at the reality and the true music of the passover historic, let us dwell in the secret places of the tabernacles of the Most High. Everything is of Christ's suggestion, if we could but hold ourselves and not deafen ourselves with our own noises. The morning is a sacrament, and the evening star, and all growing things, and all things beautiful and living. Oh, how they do err, with such strange obliquity amounting almost to criminality, who have made this dear table now standing before us into something of a priestly kind! I love the white cloth. It has a symbolic meaning, and I love the redness of the cup, because it does suggest the redness of blood; the bread is the staff of life—Oh, give it to me, and let me eat it as my Lord's body! This was not an afterthought; this is not an anecdote in a history of surprises: the tree out of which the sacramental board was cut was growing before the forests were planted. This is the voice of eternity; this is the vision of things ineffable.
II. Then notice that all this was done in anticipation of the death. I repeat, this is not the general order. It was, however, Christ's order, and that is enough for us. Have we seen the picture in its vivid and impressive reality? Here is a Man celebrating his own death, doing something on the way to the final excruciating agony. Christ established a great preventive ministry, a great ministry that outran events and waited for them. He gave His followers bread lest they should faint by the way.
III. Now my Lord speaks a word which is seldom quoted, and which ought to rule the administration of the whole feast, when we come together in one place for one purpose. What said He? 'Take this, and divide it among- yourselves. Was He ever so simple, was He ever so little mechanical? This was a mutual feast, a mutual covenant-making. Take this cup, take this bread, and divide it among yourselves, and you will find, what I showed you a little while ago, that you can never give the bread all away, and you can never empty the chalice.
Such simple things the Lord gave us. He said in reality, If you want to outdress Solomon cover yourselves with lilies—no, take one white-faced lily, and Solomon will be ashamed of his finery, if it be a question of competition, rivalry, and social envy. And now He says, the supper being ended, 'This is My body, and My blood'. There are people who wish to understand it. It never can be understood; no man can enter the kingdom of heaven by understanding it. He may think he has some initial notion of the meaning, and he will feel a strange warming of the heart, quite a glow in the innermost places of the soul, but he can never tell it in words; and yet some people have taken brush and paint and colour and have written what they believe, they have detailed their faith into a catalogue. Believest thou? The act is one, thrilling, consummating, self-attesting. God answers by fire.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. vi. p. 136.
References.—XXII. 15.—H. D. M. Spence, Voices and Silences, p. 235. J. Keble, Miscellaneous Sermons, p. 498. Expositor (5th Series), vol. viii. p. 90; ibid. vol. x. p. 250.
Christ Giving Thanks At the Supper Table
Let us remember how Jesus came to be engaged at this time as He was. The occasion of His instituting the rite which was to keep His memory fresh in the hearts of His followers was the observance of the most sacred of Jewish usages. No service—outside the Temple ritual—was so full or detailed as this; and amongst that little company, as in all the homes of the city that night, the unleavened cakes had been broken, the bitter herbs partaken of, and the cups raised, the prayers offered, and the Hallel sung, as had been done at the same annual season from time immemorial. But of all this we have here scarcely a trace. In the view of the writers of the Gospels all that had passed away, had been overlaid and obliterated by more sacred associations still. Nevertheless—and the more just on this account—it is needful to remember that the new was attached to the old, was its lineal descendant, and inherited various of its features.
I. Thus with regard to this giving of thanks; it appears in our Christian Sacrament, but it was a feature of the earlier ordinance also. At a certain point, towards the close of the ceremony, the cup was raised, and what was of the nature of a grace before meat was said in acknowledgment of the bounty of the Giver of all good. So that we have the example of Jesus Christ for what is amongst the most ordinary of the religious acts of our lives. It is characteristic of true religion not to ignore the Divine aspect of common things, but to seize upon it, and to dwell with relish upon their spiritual significance.
II. The ordinance He and the rest were engaged in celebrating was commemorative of the past, of those great events and experiences in which the history of the Chosen People had had its origin, and the entire ritual was full of reminiscences of these things. We are free to say that, besides what we have pointed out, that thanksgiving included a devout and adoring acknowledgment of the purpose of God's grace towards His people, which in these early days had been embodied in so express a deliverance from outward oppression, and which was waiting a fuller accomplishment on a more wonderful scale and after a more wonderful manner still.
III. And further I cannot but think that there was included in this act of praise something in respect of which He drew from His own heart alone. It does not do justice to the Spirit of Jesus to say that notwithstanding His own suffering share in it He rejoiced that the Father's will was being brought to fulfilment. It was not in spite of the part He was to play in it that He rejoiced, but in a certain strange way because of it. For this also He gave thanks: 'I delight to do Thy will, O My God: Thy law is within My heart.'
—A. Martin, Winning the Soul, p. 299.
Reference.—XXII. 17-20.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 243.
The Demand of Christ
Luke 22:19I. Notice Christ's longing to live in our memory. Love cannot bear to be forgotten. The heart would fain be solaced ere it ceases to beat by the assurance that its dear ones will turn with pensive pleasure to the pale shadow of the days that are no more.
II. Notice too Christ's lofty consciousness of His place in the world's history. He speaks not to a generation but to all time and all the world, and claims their remembrance.
III. Notice Christ witnessing to His death as the centre point of His work.
IV. Notice Christ's requirement of personal attachment to Him as true religion. He demands loving remembrance. He has remembered us, and shall we forget Him; He has given us everything, He asks only for our love; He has poured out His blood and He beseeches us that we despise it not. How blessed are they to whom the memory is full of Jesus!
Carlyle, summing up the theatrical displays of the French Revolutionaries at Lyons and elsewhere (French Revolution, vol. ii. bk. i. ix.), reflects: 'How true also, once more, that no man or Nation of men, conscious of doing a great thing, was ever, in that thing, doing other than a small one! O Champ-de-Mars Federation, with three hundred drummers, twelve hundred wind-musicians, and artillery planted on height after height to boom the tidings of it all over France, in few minutes! Could no Atheist-Naigeon contrive to discern, eighteen centuries off, those Thirteen most poor mean-dressed men, at frugal Supper, in a mean Jewish dwelling, with no symbol but hearts god-initiated into the "Divine depth of Sorrow," and a Do this in remembrance of Me;—and so cease that small difficult crowing of his, if he were not doomed to it?'
References.—XXII. 19.—E. White, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 253. H. Bell, Sermons on Holy Communion, p. 1. C. Stanford, The Evening of Our Lord's Ministry, p. 52. E. S. Talbot, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. p. 342. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2038. Expositor (5th Series), vol. i. p. 120. XXII. 19, 20.—Bishop Bethell, Sermons, vol. i. p. 465. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. pp. 70, 77; ibid. (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 379. XXII. 20.—A. B. Bruce, The Galilean Gospel, p. 180.
The Hidden Life (For St. Bartholomew's Day)
We know almost nothing of St. Bartholomew. His saintly life was hidden in the knowledge of his Lord, and we may believe that he was content to have it so. There was a time when he was found disputing with the others which of them was the greatest—a sin which he would have looked back upon with shame and sorrow. What though our life is unknown amongst men, if it is hidden with Christ in God?
I. Temptation to become Notorious.—Yet our conscience tells us that perhaps this temptation to have our name known, to have our good works applauded before the public, is a temptation that is very real. Over how many of our churches, and our gatherings of Church workers; over how many of our guilds and societies, where Christians meet together, is there not good reason to say, 'And there was also a strife among them which of them should be accounted greatest?' We are so human. Yet if our work is done because we wish to stand well with our clergy, or because it brings us into a certain prominence, or because we seek praise from human lips, then it is time for us to stop and consider our position.
II. Is our Life hid with Christ in God?—Are we content to let the world go by? If so, happy indeed are we. When we are quite alone and no human eye can see or lip can praise, we do sometimes fall down and pray long and pray earnestly. A life hid with Christ in God, that is grander than anything that the world can give. So St. Bartholomew found it, and so may we.
What Unites to Christ?
Luke 22:24I. Faith and Love to Jesus, not knowledge nor perfectness, unite us to Him.
II. The faith which unites us with Christ may co-exist with much imperfection.
III. Notice the Lord's demeanour as the exhibition of the principle that Christ bears with and cleanses those who love Him.
IV. Partial faith will go on to perfection.
References.—XXII. 24.—Phillips Brooks, The Law of Growth, p. 236. T. F. Crosse, Sermons (2nd Series), p. 129. XXII. 24, 25.—H. P. Liddon, Sermons on Some Words of Christ, p. 296. XXII. 24-37.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 217. XXII. 25.—Expositor (7th Series), vol. v. p. 84. XXII. 25, 26.—A. Maclaren, After the Resurrection, p. 219. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 224. XXII. 27.—Bishop Winnington-Ingram, Under the Dome, p. 99. J. Keble, Sermons for the Saints' Days, p. 319. H. Bonar, Short Sermons for Family Reading, pp. 64 and 70. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No. 2514. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 25; ibid. (6th Series), vol. iii. p. 105. XXII. 28.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 231. XXII. 28-30.—F. B. Meyer, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p. 72. XXII. 29. J. Eames, Sermons to Boys and Girls, p. 75. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 355. XXII. 29, 30.—Bishop Boyd-Carpenter, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 129. XXII. 30.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. i. p. 279.
Now, about a week or fortnight after this, I was much followed by this Scripture, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you. And sometimes it would sound so loud within me, yea, and as it were call so strongly after me, that once above all the rest, I turned my head over my shoulder, thinking verily that some man had, behind me, called me: being at a great distance, methought he called so loud. It came, as I have thought since, to have stirred me up to prayer and to watchfulness; it came to acquaint me that a cloud and storm was coming down upon me; but I understood it not.
—Bunyan, Grace Abounding, sec. 93.
References.—XXII. 31.—C. Perren, Sermon Outlines, p. 289. E. A. Stuart, His Dear Son, and other Sermons, p. 161. Expositor (6th Series), vol. i. p. 238.
Strengthen the Brethren
It is, I suppose, hardly possible to imagine a greater contrast in history than the two scenes presented to our minds as these words are read out as our text to-night. Our Lord Jesus Christ and His little band of disciples met together in a small province of the Roman Empire, insignificant, unknown, on the brink of a dread, mysterious separation; and, on the other hand, the enthusiastic band of Church workers gathered together from all parts of this great diocese, in a cathedral planted in the very heart of the busiest city of the world, members of a Church which bears not only the name of national, but which represents in a very real sense the witness, the fortunes, and the characteristics of the widespread and progressive Anglo-Saxon race; a body of Church-workers who, with a long history and deep spiritual experience behind them, are in no dread of separation from their Lord, but rejoice in permanent communion with Him in prayer, in worship, in sacrament. And yet, though that is true, as we read our Lord's words to St. Peter, perhaps for the thousandth time, how fresh and vivid they seem, how true they are for all time.
I. What is life, as we have known it so far, but a sifting by the enemy? The Tempter desires to have us. He tries every ingenious device to induce the enlisted soldier to depart from his allegiance. What a discipline it is, this sifting that we receive from the hands of the enemy! How good for us! How impossible it is to be a hypocrite, especially, I imagine, in the struggle of this great city! We find out whether our faith will stand attack, whether our lives will bear inspection at close quarters. We cannot be too thankful for the enemy. He makes it impossible for us to live in a fool's paradise. We cannot, for instance, when He is dealing freely with us, imagine that we are really Christians if we are not working desperately hard for Christ.
II. There is a good side to having to fight for your Christianity. But the real danger is lest our faith should fail. Our Blessed Lord knew that would be the danger with St. Peter: twelve ignorant and unlearned men against Greek philosophy, the Jewish hierarchy, and the Roman Empire. And that is the danger with us. The problems are so vast, they are so complicated. If things are better in one way they get worse in another. There are so many contradictory remedies; there are such divisions, alas! even amongst Christians. There are voices, insistent voices, which say, 'Your Christian remedy has been tried and it is a failure'. There are men who prophesy new worlds for old; and, so far as I can make out, the new are more heartless, more dismal, and more forlorn a great deal than the old. Men feel the pressure of these tremendous tasks more perhaps in South London than anywhere else. Nowhere is it more necessary to call up to memory our Lord's words, 'I have prayed for thee, I have made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not'. The personal Christ, with His individual call and His prayer for each one of us—that is our only hope now as then.
III. And then we read that our Lord turned from the individual life, its call, its conflict, its discipline, its faith, to the place of the individual in the corporate life. There is nothing, surely, which so stamps the teaching of our Lord as Divine as the natural, confident way in which He is always able to turn from one side of the truth to the other, giving its full weight to both, and holding both in due proportion. The best of His followers, alas! except on very rare occasions, did not get further than exaggerating the one side of the truth to the depreciation of the other. Here we have in one verse the most distinctive singling out of the apostle, the leader, the one man, the one soul, and then the placing it—the polished, chiselled, shining jewel—in its setting in the diadem: the disciplined, the trained worker in his place in the Church. And do thou, when once thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren, stablish thy brethren, place them on firm ground.
—L. H. Burrows (Bishop of Lewes), Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxviii. p. 317.
References.—XXII. 31, 32.—J. Bunting, Sermons, vol. i. p. 389. T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 114. W. P. Balfern, Lessons from Jesus, p. 181. C. Bradley, The Christian Life, p. 410. Expositor (6th Series), vol. iii. p. 204 XXII. 31-34.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 1.
Our guides, we pretend, must be sinless: as if those were not often the best teachers who only yesterday got corrected for their mistake.
When thou art converted [or hast turned, R.V.], strengthen thy brethren. But first, the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.
References.—XXII. 32.—A. Shepherd, The Gospel and Social Questions, p. 147. J. Keble, Sermons for the Saints' Days, p. 296. J. A. Alexander, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 233. Bishop Westcott, Village Sermons, p. 92. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2035, and vol. xlv. No. 2620. A. Maclaren. Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 240.
You know the Liar; you must have seen him diminishing, until he has become a face without features, withdrawn to humanity's preliminary sketch (some half-dozen frayed threads of woeful outline on our original tapestry-web); and he who did the easiest of things, he must from such time sweat in being the prodigy of inventive nimbleness, up to the day when he propitiates Truth by telling it again.
References.—XXII. 34.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. i. p. 471. XXII. 35.—Church Family Newspaper, vol. xv. p. 979. XXII. 35, 36.—Newman Smyth, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. p. 283. XXII. 36.—C. S. Home, London Signal, No. 36, p. 1. XXII. 37.—John Kelman, Ephemera Eternitatis, p. 75. Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. p. 369. XXII. 39, 40. —Expositor (5th Series), vol. v. p. 114. XXII. 39-46.—J. Laidlaw, Studies in the Parables, p. 177. XXII. 39-53.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 247.
Truly this thing is to this day of such weight and awe upon me, that I dare not, when I come before the Lord, go off my knees until I entreat Him for help and mercy against the temptations that are to come.
—Bunyan, Grace Abounding, sec. 239.
References.—XXII. 41-43.—R. Higinbotham, Sermons, p. 149. XXII. 41-44.—C. J. Vaughan, The Prayers of Jesus Christ, p. 83.
My man, dare to look up to God and say: Deal with me henceforth as Thou wilt. I am of Thy mind. I am Thine. I refuse nothing that pleases Thee. Lead me where Thou wilt.
—Epictetus, Diss. 11. 16.
In one of Harriet Martineau's tales a mother says to her son: 'They soon had a new and delicious pleasure, which none but the bitterly disappointed can feel—the pleasure of rousing their souls to bear pain, and of agreeing with God silently, when nobody knows what is in their hearts'.
References.—XXII. 42.—F. B. Cowl, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xvii. p. 525. H. M. Butler, Harrow School Sermons (2nd Series), p. 204. Bishop Westcott, Village Sermons, p. 120. XXII. 43.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlviii. No. 2769. XXII. 43, 44.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. ii. pp. 405, 421.
Labour, wide as Earth, has its summit in Heaven. Sweat of the brow; and up from that to sweat of the brain, sweat of the heart; which includes all Kepler calculations, Newton meditations, all sciences, all spoken epics, all acted heroines, Martyrdoms—up to that 'agony of bloody sweat,' which all men have called divine!
—Carlyle, Past and Present.
References.—XXII. 44.—Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 184. W. P. Balfern, Lessons from Jesus, p. 195. J. H. Jellett, The Elder Son, p. 153. H. Bushnell, Christ and His Salvation, p. 198. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. No. 493 and vol. xx. No. 1199.
In his funeral sermon for Juxon, Archbishop of Canterbury, Jeremy Taylor used these words: 'As the Apostles in the vespers of Christ's passion, so he, in the eve of his own dissolution, was heavy not to sleep, but heavy unto death; and looked for the last warning, which seized on him in the midst of business; and though it was sudden, yet it could not be unexpected or unprovided by surprise, and therefore could be no other than that εὐθανασία, which Augustus used to wish unto himself, a civil and well-natured death, without the amazement of troublesome circumstances, or the great cracks of a falling house, or the convulsions of impatience.'
References.—XXII. 45.—G. Matheson, Scottish Review, vol. ii. p. 384. XXII. 46.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. viii. p. 431. XXII. 47.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 227. XXII. 47-48.—J. C. M. Bellew, Sermons, vol. iii. pp. 163 and 174. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. No. 494.
Hypocrisy, the deadly crime which, like Judas, kisses Hell at the lips of Redemption.
References.—XXII. 48.—W. P. Balfern, Lessons from Jesus, p. 199. C. Bosanquet, The Consoler and the Sufferer, p. 146.
Saint Peter asked permission to strike Malchus, and struck before having the answer; Jesus Christ answered afterwards.
Reference.—XXII. 49.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. ix. p. 73.
If the sword turns preacher, and dictates propositions by empire instead of arguments, and engraves them in men's hearts with a poniard, it must needs be unsafe to try the spirits, to try all things, to make inquiry.... This is inordination of zeal; for Christ, by reproving St. Peter drawing his sword even in the cause of Christ, for his sacred and yet injured person, teaches us not to use the sword, though in the cause of God, or for God Himself.
Reference.—XXII. 51.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 114.
A Transient Hour
Their hour—appropriate for their deeds: the hour in which they had it all their own way. But even in the very expression there lies concealed the ideas:—
I. Of their apparent triumph being permitted them by Divine decree.
II. Of the brevity of their triumph. The hour seems to be yours. But tomorrow is mine.
III. The transiency of the antagonistic forces that resist Christ.
References.—XXII. 53.—H. H. Almond, Sermons by a Lay Head Master, p. 253. Expositor (5th Series) vol. v. p. 106. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 254.
Why does Christ turn as they lead Him to the guardroom, and gaze into the lights and shadows of the court? 'And the Lord turned and looked on Peter.' For one brief instant their eyes met. And if ever, since man was man, there was life in a look, there was life for Peter in that look of Jesus.
I. For in the first place it brought back all the past The Lord looked and Peter remembered. There are some hours when we forget everything. There are seasons of crisis, there are times of panic, when all that a man has won seems to be blotted out, and he descends to the level of the beasts again. So all the past was swept from Peter's memory as he went headlong downward to the mire. But sometimes in a shipwreck when men are panic-stricken, the touch of a hand will bring them to themselves. And sometimes in a fire, when women are beside themselves, the cry of a child will quiet them again. So Peter, panic-stricken and beside himself, had one look from Christ, and it brought back all the past to him.
II. But there was more than memory in that look of Jesus. It was a look of unutterable tenderness. There come some moments in the education of the soul when the strongest power in heaven or earth is tenderness. A harsh word and the spring clicks—the heart is shut. A gentle word and heaven is in the eyes. The Lord turned with never a chiding word and looked on Peter, and the look was so full of pity and of yearning, so full of pain and yet so full of hope, that it broke Peter's heart, and breaking, saved it, and like a summer tempest came his tears.
III. And that look in the High Priest's court was the last look that Peter had from Jesus before Calvary. They never met again before the cross. When Jesus was crucified, Peter was not there. But on the third day, when Jesus rose, do you remember His commission to the angels? 'Go, tell the disciples and Peter that He is risen from the dead.' Tell the disciples and Peter—then Christ's first thought on rising was of Peter. And who can tell what hopes went thrilling in the heart of Peter as he heard of the Lord's singling out of him. Then came that memorable morning by the Sea of Galilee, and the thrice-repeated question, Lovest thou Me? And Peter found how full was Christ's forgiveness when Christ commanded him to feed His sheep.
—G. H. Morrison, Eden and Gethsemane, p. 93.
References.—XXII. 54-62.—G. Jackson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p. 284. XXII. 54-71.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 264. XXII. 60-62.—W. Brock, Repentance, False and True, p. 32. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2034.
It is very easy to underrate the character of Simon Peter; it is very easy for us to adopt a superior kind of air, and criticise him as if we should have done so very much better in his place.
I. Let us first then look at his virtues. What did Jesus have in Peter which made Him undoubtedly love him very much, trust him very much, and allow him constantly to be the leader and spokesman of the rest? (1) He had first a man of undoubted personal loyalty. (2) He had in him a friend of undoubted courage. (3) Jesus had in this friend of His a quick and apt pupil.
II. Are we quite sure, before we go on to think of Peter's faults, that we have his virtues? (1) Have we got that touching sense of personal devotion? (2) Or, again, take his courage. (3) Or, again, are we apt pupils?
III. Face the sad question why a man who had all this could have failed as Peter did at the crucial point. (1) First, no doubt, from his besetting sin of self-confidence. (2) And side by side with that, as always happens, went his dread of adverse criticism. (3) And so, from his self-confidence, the brave man became a coward.
IV. Now, the advantage of Peter's story is that it preaches itself. (1) Few of us have to look far for the fault of egotism. What is the figure which rises most often before the horizon of your mind? Is it not the image of yourself, rich, or famous, or universally popular? (2) Does not this same self-love often make us very sensitive as to what people say? (3) It unfits us to stand alone.
V. But there is just time to look for our comfort at the beautiful finish of the story. Notice—(1) How humbly he answers back when Christ in His mercy gave him his second trust: 'Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?' He asserts nothing, boasts nothing: he uses the less strong word for love in his reply than his Lord had used, 'Thou knowest that I love Thee'. (2) Notice the power he became when he was trained at last to trust to the Holy Spirit and not to himself. (3) Notice the unflinching courage with which he went alone to death. It gives us a hope that it is not too late for any of us to pass from egotistical, weak, and undecided disciples into humble and decided men of God.
—Bishop Winnington- Ingram, Christ and His Friends, p. 39.
The Look of Christ (For St. Peter's Day)
With that look St. Peter's penitence begins. It was not with him a first repentance. It was restoration; a recovery from a fall. 'Conversion' certainly it was, for Christ calls it so—'When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren'. But conversion—in the sense in which we all want to be converted every day of our lives—a turning round; a coming back from a wandering and a separation.
I. It was the Penitence of a Fallen Believer.—The 'cock' had just 'crowed twice,' and St. Peter, according to tradition, had just denied his Master three times. St. Peter's fall had been very gradual. First, as always, came the pride of self-confidence—a feeling of superiority to other men: 'Though all men be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended'. 'Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee.' And with it there was the putting aside of a kind and needful warning. Then came the rashness of undisciplined zeal. And then the reaction, the reaction which always comes at the dread of cowardice. Then the running into danger with unguarded and indolent mind. Then the fear of man. Then the hasty speech. Then the climax and the wretched baseness, thrice repeated, though each time more reckless and more violent and unfaithful to Him to whom he owed every joy and every hope of his soul. Then cursing and swearing! And then treachery and lies! Oh, how deep the precipices of our grandest heights! How tremendous the temptations of saints! How mean the defeats of the bravest heroes! How awful the sins of Christians! See St. Peter at that moment. He stood in the presence of his outraged Master and his insulted Friend, a dastard at heart, a traitor before men to his Master's cause: 'And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter'.
II. What a Delicate and Sensitive Thing is Memory!—We all have found that a touch will awaken it. A breath, an accent, a flower, a scene. And it is one of the best offices of the Holy Spirit to stir up and strengthen memory. Where would many of our holiest memories be but for this? And is it not very often He who gives the power to those little things to wake the sleeping memories? No wonder that the eye of Jesus woke the half-slumbering affection of the disciple whom Satan had too truly—as Jesus told him—'sifted as wheat'. I say half-slumbering—never quite asleep! Had it altogether slept, had love ceased in that heart, how would he have known that Jesus was looking? Would his eye have met his Master's eye? Oh, strange fascination! St. Peter, in the depths of his sin, was looking at Jesus! That 'look' was enough. It was all-eloquent, needing nor word, nor act, it went straight to St. Peter's soul. The past all lived again, and, in sad contrast, the bad, the bitter present. 'And he went out' Was it that he could not trust himself another moment in that place? Was it to seek for John? Was it that there were feelings too deep and sacred for public gaze? Was it to pray? 'Peter went out, and wept bitterly.'
III. Another Scene.—St. Peter is once more restored. Christ, for the first time, alluded to his fall. But how delicate, with what a touch of sadness, with what a gush of affection, with what faithfulness to the sin, going to its very root: 'Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?' There is the point. Have you shown your love? Was it so superior? Was it real? Would you now say, 'Though all men should be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended?' Every word told, and every word did its intended work. There were no more comparisons. There is a manifest modesty. And there is the testimony of a clear conscience, a love simple and sincere. 'Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee.'
IV. How well St. Peter Fulfilled the High Trust Committed to Him—how he fed Christ's lambs; how he tended the flock; how characteristically he 'strengthened his brethren'; how he endured the confinement and the shame assigned to him; how he bore himself in persecution, even to the death; how, if tradition is true, feeling himself unworthy even to follow his Master's dying, he begged to be crucified on an inverted cross; how patient, how self-restrained, how calm in energy, how holy, how bold, how honoured, and yet how humble Peter was; how he uses all his experience of sin and pardon and sorrow and comfort for others' good, and how he always magnified his dear Master only, let the Acts of the Apostles, let his own most strengthening, feeding epistles, let early Church history testify. There never was such an instance, so teaching, so comforting to any of us, how a besetting sin may all turn to grace; how what was wrong in nature may by Divine power be all sanctified to the greater usefulness and the higher attainment in the Christian life. But he owed it all, where we must owe it all, to the marvellous way in which Christ acts with penitents; to His jealous care of His own fallen ones; to His unwearied patience and His unswerving faithfulness.
The Lord's Look
I. The Lord's Look.—Has there ever been a painter who had genius enough—it would have to be genius direct from heaven—to paint the look that Christ cast upon St. Peter? There would be, at least, three things in that look—sorrow, love, and encouragement. Sorrow that St. Peter, after his promise 'I am ready to go with Thee both to prison and to death,' should prove so sorry a coward. And love—a love so great, so strong, that it cannot be quenched even by a denial such as this. And encouragement—'I have prayed for thee'. Has there ever been a poet—the man who is supposed to know most about the human heart—who could write down on paper what St. Peter must have felt when the Lord turned and looked upon him?
II. The Denial.—Now what is the use of a story like this? You say, if I had been in St. Peter's place I should not have acted as he did. But you are not in St. Peter's place: you are here. St. Peter denied Christ. Do we ever deny Christ today? Every time we do Christ turns and looks upon us. On the first Good Friday, Pontius Pilate asked the question: 'Which do you choose, Jesus or Barabbas'. Which do you choose today? It is no good just saying you choose Christ. It is so easy to say it. There were men who called out one day, 'Hosannah! Hosannah!' and a few days after, just as cheerily cried, 'Crucify Him! Crucify Him!' With all of us who make the chief aim of our life other than this—trying to become perfect like God—it is a choosing of Barabbas, it is a denying of Christ. That same Christ turns and looks upon us as He looked upon Peter of old.
III. The Right Choice.—If we only all chose Christ, what a bringing down of that great city the Holy Jerusalem out of heaven there would be! And when we do so choose Him, the Lord turns and looks upon us; but the look is altered. It is no longer a sad one; it is a glad one. We say we love Christ. Do we not want to make Him glad? And so, when the great question is put to us—and it is always being put, every day—'Are you this man's disciple?' we will turn a deaf ear to our passions which urge us to deny the Master, and range ourselves bravely on the side of Christ, calling upon our great Elder Brother to help us to make our lives worthy of the children of the Father which is in heaven.
References.—XXII. 61.—J. Keble, Sermons for Septuagesima to Ash Wednesday, pp. 270 and 281. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 270.
We find here four outstanding characteristics of the state of penitence:—I. It is a Divine thing. It began with God. Peter did not turn. But 'the Lord turned and looked upon Peter'. Now the result of this distinction is this: that there are two kinds of sorrow for sin. And these are different in their origin, in their religious value, and in their influence on our life. (1) The commoner kind is when a man does wrong, and, in the ordinary sense of the word, is sorry that he has done it. But it is no true sorrow for sin. It is sorrow that we were weak enough to sin. (2) Contrast with such a penitence the publican's prayer of penitence in the temple. It was no chagrin nor wounded pride with him. The difference between the publican's penitence and the first-named sorrow is just the difference between the Divine and the human. The one is God turning and looking upon man, the other is man turning and looking upon himself.
II. But now, secondly, we come to the sensitiveness of penitence. There is nothing more sensitive in all the world than a human soul which has once been quickened into its delicate life by the touch of the Divine. Men seldom estimate aright the exquisite beauty and tenderness of a sinner's heart. There is a text in the Psalms which uses the strange expression, the gentleness of God. Coarse treatment never wins souls. Here, then, are two great lessons—the gentleness of God, and the gentleness of the soul—the one as Divine a marvel as the other.
III. We learn from Peter's recovery that spiritual experience is intense. Peter wept bitterly. And this short sentence for ever settles the question of emotion in religion. Every sin that was ever done demands a bitter penitence. And if there is little emotion in a man's religion, it is because there is little introspection. Religion without emotion is religion without reflection.
IV. l'enitence is a lonely thing. Peter went out. Men know two kinds of loneliness, it has been said—a loneliness of space and a loneliness of spirit. Peter's was loneliness of spirit. But what gave the beauty to Peter's loneliness was this—that he took God's time to be alone. Peter's penitence was not only an intense thing and a lonely thing, it was an immediate thing. When God speaks He speaks so loud that all the voices of the world seem dumb. And yet when God speaks He speaks so softly that no one hears the whisper but yourself.
—Henry Drummond, The Ideal Life and other Addresses, p. 201.
A great captain profits, we are told, by the mistakes of his enemy; he is yet greater who can profit fearlessly by his own.
—From Lady Dilke, The Book of the Spiritual Life.
References.—XXII. 61, 62.—E. A. Bray, Sermons, vol. i. p. 137. W. P. Balfern, Lessons from Jesus, p. 39. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlviii. No. 2771. XXII. 63.—H. H. Almond, Sermons by a Lay Head Master, p. 253. XXII. 63-65.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlix. No. 2825.
Excepting in one word, the betrayal of Jesus, the defection of Peter, the examination before Pilate and Herod, and the crucifixion, are recorded, as Spedding notices, without any vituperation. The excepted word, not named by Spedding, is 'blasphemously' (Luke 22:65). Even this word disappears in the Revised Version, where the Greek is translated 'reviling Him'.
References.—XXIII. 1-12.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 279. XXIII. 2.—W. P. Balfern, Lessons from Jesus, p. 202.
And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people.
Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.
And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them.
And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money.
And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray him unto them in the absence of the multitude.
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.
But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.
And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!
And they began to inquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing.
And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.
Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations.
And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me;
That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.
And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.
And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.
Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.
And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.
And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,
And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him.
But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?
When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?
And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear.
And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him.
Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves?
When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.
Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off.
And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.
But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him.
And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not.
And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not.
And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean.
And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.
And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him.
And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?
And many other things blasphemously spake they against him.
And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying,
Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe:
And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go.
Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.
Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am.
And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.