The Sacred Breast
John 13:18-30
I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled…

Attention should be called to the different words (different in the original as well as in the English) used in the text to denote that part of our Lord's most Sacred Person: "bosom" in ver. 23, "breast" in ver. 25. Strictly speaking, the latter word alone denotes part of the person; the "bosom" is that part of the dress which covers the breast. Ancient dresses consisted of two pieces, a tight-fitting inner garment, and a shawl or outer wrapper thrown over it. And this shawl was so arranged as to fall in a large full fold over the breast, this full fold constituting the bosom or lap of the dress. This bosom or lap was sometimes used as a purse, to contain money or valuables; which explains that expression of our Lord, "Good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom" (Luke 6:38). And when a parent or nurse carried a young child, the child would more or less repose in this fold of the dress, which would be drawn over its head. The subject having been thus opened, we will speak to you first of the Bosom in which our Lord Himself lay from all eternity; secondly, of the moral attitude of His faithful and beloved ones, who "lean on His Bosom," or "lie on His Breast;" and lastly, of the glorified Breast of the risen and ascended Saviour.

I. And, first, of THE BOSOM IN WHICH HE HIMSELF LAY FROM ALL ETERNITY, "before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world were made." "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John 1:18). The earthly image chosen to convey the heavenly truth is drawn from the parental relationship upon earth, and from the loving services which human parents do for their children in the earliest and most dependent stage of existence. They fold them in their bosom; they carry them in their arms; according to that word of Moses (Numbers 11:12). This doctrine lights up Christian theology with bright and consolatory lights. First, the God of Christian men, as distinct from the God of the Deist and Unitarian, is not to be thought of as ever having dwelt apart or in solitude. And then, secondly, this doctrine of our Lord's eternal generation gives us such an assurance as we could not otherwise have of the tenderness and strength of God's love to ourselves. He who gave up for us, and who giveth to us, the Son of His love, to be "unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30), what may we not expect Him to do for us, to give to us; how can we suppose that He will withhold from us any good thing? O Lord and Heavenly Father, may we open our hearts to this fatherly love of Thine, in faith, in confidence, in filial love reciprocating it!

II. THE MORAL ATTITUDE OF THOSE FAITHFUL AND BELOVED ONES WHO LEAN ON HIS BOSOM OR LIE ON HIS BREAST. It is said especially of St. John the Evangelist, "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 20:2; John 21:7, 20). The expression has reference, as is well known, to the arrangement of the guests at an ancient supper. They did not sit round the table in our modern fashion, but reclined on broad couches, leaning on the left elbow, and helping themselves with the right hand. Each couch usually accommodated three guests, and the central place on it was the most distinguished. It was a privileged position, you will say, not granted even to all the Apostles; and there. fore, in applying the passage, nothing can be founded upon it as to the spiritual privileges of ordinary Christians. But I find a Messianic prophecy of Isaiah, which surely enlarges the purview of this privilege, showing it to be a privilege designed for all, sad more especially for the weaker members of Christ's flock. "He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" (Isaiah 40:11). Yes; "He shall carry them in His bosom." He Himself, we have seen, was carried from all eternity in the bosom of the Father. And our attitude and relation towards Him is to be that which He Himself bears to the Father. But now let us develop in particulars the moral attitude which it behoves us to have towards the Saviour, as pictorially represented in those words, "leaning on Jesus' bosom," "lying on Jesus' breast."(1) And first, he who leans on Jesus' bosom in a spiritual sense has a trustful repose in Him. Activity indeed must characterize the Christian life; and there is a blessedness and a healthfulness in work for God; but it must be a calm activity, without solicitude, without wearing anxiety, an activity which, while it works, knows also how to lean, and lie still, and to say, "the Lord will provide." "Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God," etc. (Philippians 4:6, 7). To taste this peace, at least in a measure, is to lean on Jesus' bosom, to lie on His breast.

(2) Secondly; he who leans on Jesus' bosom in a spiritual sense has an assurance of the Saviour's nearness to him and love for him — a love which will cling to him to the end. Oh for an assurance, independent of the senses — the assurance of faith — that Christ is near to us at all times, more especially in public prayer, where two or three are gathered together in His name, and in the Sacred Supper, in which He makes every faithful recipient a partaker of His body and blood!

(3) Thirdly; he who leans on Jesus' bosom in a spiritual sense cultivates St. John's type of character, a quiet contemplativeness, in which he may hear the whispers made by the Divine Master to the soul. The present is an age of activity, of material progress, of rapid movement. Under these circumstances it becomes more than ever necessary, as an antidote to the spirit of the times, that devotional retirement should be insisted upon as a condition of all healthy spiritual life. Let things drop ever and anon, even when the strain of work and worry is most severe, and lean back as it were on the bosom of thy Lord, and look up into His face, and seek from Him the guidance or the help or the comfort which thou needest, and, if thou doest this faithfully, thou shalt not fail to hear the whispers of His voice within. But how can those whispers be heard in the rapid whirl of business, in the tumult of affairs, without an inward silence and a hush in the soul?

III. We are to speak, lastly, of THE GLORIFIED BREAST OF THE RISEN AND EXALTED SAVIOUR. In that magnificent vision of the glorified Son of Man at the opening of the Revelation. "Being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about at the breasts" (so it is in the Revised Version) "with a golden girdle." Three points are observable in this part of the grand vision, which throughout is full of deep and edifying significance.

(1) He appears "girded;" and to the angel of the Church of Ephesus He describes Himself as "walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks" (Revelation 2:1). The girding and the walking are both expressive of the ceaseless activity of the exalted Saviour, an activity which shows itself not only in His intercession, but in His close inspections of the Churches as to their spiritual condition and progress.

(2) He appears girded at the breasts, not at the loins; the golden cincture is swathed around Him high up the person, below the armpits. This is explained by what Josephus tells us about the girdle of the high priest, and the part of the person on which it was fastened. This girding at the breast, then, being the sacerdotal way of wearing the girdle, and obviously a more dignified, reposeful, and majestic way than merely tying it tight round the loins, as was done when men addressed themselves to secular and common work, indicates that He who wears the girdle thus is the "great high priest, that is passed into the heavens," there "to appear in the presence of God for us," and to give effect to His sacrifice by pleading it on our behalf in the heavenly sanctuary. But if by the position of the girdle the high priestly character of the wearer is indicated, why is it not also indicated by the materials, which here are all gold, whereas the curious or (embroidered) girdle of the ephod, though it had gold in it, yet was made also of "blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen?" This is to indicate the kingly character of Christ united with the priestly, He being not only a priest, but "a priest upon His throne," a priest exalted to universal government.

(3) But what shall we say of this remarkable feature of the vision, that the Saviour appears in it with the breast of a woman, not of a man? That there is a profound and beautiful significance in this trait, whatever be its significance, I make no manner of question. He was the Seed of the woman, not of the man, and, as being descended only from a mother, might be expected to show all that tender side of human character which woman more especially exemplifies. He has the breast of a woman, that is, the heart of a woman, in susceptibility to the sufferings of His people, and in sympathy with them, when they are called upon to suffer.

(E. M. Golburn, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: I don't speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen. But that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'He who eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against me.'

The Practical Uses of Christ's Troubles
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