And he sends forth two of his disciples, and said to them, Go you into the city…
We might expect that Christ, knowing to how great effort the faith of His followers was about to be called, would, in His compassionate earnestness for their welfare, keep their faith in exercise up to the moment of the dreaded separation. He would find or make occasions for trying and testing the principles which were soon to be brought to so stern a proof. Did He do this? And how did He do it? We regard the circumstances which are now under review, those connected with the finding the guest chamber in which the last supper might be eaten, as an evidence and illustration of Christ's exercising the faith of His disciples. Was it not exercising the faith of Peter and John — for these, the more distinguished of the disciples, were employed on the errand — to send them into the city with such strange and desultory directions? There were so many chances, if the word may be used, against the guest chamber being found through the circuitous method prescribed by our Lord, that we could not have wondered had Peter and John showed reluctance to obey His command. And we do not doubt that what are called the chances were purposely multiplied by Christ to make the finding the room seem more improbable, and therefore to give faith the greater exercise. Again, there would have been risk enough of mistake or repulse in accosting the man with the pitcher; but this man was only to be followed; and he might stop at many houses before he reached the right. But Christ would not be more explicit, because, in proportion as He had been more explicit, there would have been less exercise for faith. And if you imagine that, after all, it was no great demand on the faith of Peter and John that they should go on so vague an errand — for that much did not hinge on their finding the right place, and they had but to return if anything went wrong — we are altogether at issue with you. There was something that looked degrading and ignoble in the errand, which required more courage and fortitude than to undertake some signal enterprise. And the apparent meanness of an employment will often try faith more than its apparent difficulty; the exposure to ridicule and contempt will require greater moral nerve than the exposure to danger and death. We believe that it is very frequently ordered that faith should be disciplined and nurtured for its hardest endurances, and its highest achievements, through exposure to petty inconveniences, collisions with mere rudeness, the obloquy of the proud, the sneer of the supercilious, and the incivility of the ignorant. Nowhere is faith so well disciplined as in humble occupations; it grows great through little tasks, and may be more exercised by being left to the menial business of a servant than by being summoned to the lofty standing of a leader. And we do earnestly desire of you to bear this in mind; for men, who are not appointed to great achievements and endurances, are very apt to feel as though there were not enough in the trials and duties of a lowly station for the nurture and exercise of high Christian graces. Whereas, if it were by merely following a man bearing a pitcher of water that apostles were trained for the worst onsets of evil, there may be no such school for the producing strong faith as that in which the lessons are of the most everyday kind. But there is more than this to be said in regard of the complicated way in which Christ directed His disciples to the guest chamber where He had determined to eat the last supper. He was not only exercising the faith of the disciples by sending them on an errand which seemed unnecessarily intricate, and to involve great exposure to insult and repulse — He was giving strung evidence of His thorough acquaintance with everything that was to happen, and of His power over the minds whether of strangers or of friends. You must consider it as a prophecy on the part of Christ that the man would be met bearing a pitcher of water. It was a prophecy which seemed to take delight in putting difficulties in the way of its own precise accomplishment. It would not have been accomplished by the mere finding the house — it would have been defeated had the house been found through any other means than the meeting the man, or had the man been discovered through any other sign than the pitcher of water; yea, and it would have been defeated, defeated in the details, which were given, as it might have seemed, with such unnecessary and perilous minuteness, if the master of the house had made the least objection, or if it had not been an upper room which he showed the disciples; or if that room had not been large; or if it had not been furnished and prepared. And whatever tended to prove to the disciples their Master's thorough acquaintance with every future contingency, ought to have tended to the preparing them for the approaching days of disaster and separation. Besides, it was beautifully adapted to the circumstances of the disciples that Christ showed that His foreknowledge extended to trifles. These disciples were likely to imagine that, being poor and mean persons, they should be overlooked by Christ when separated from them, and, perhaps, exalted to glory. But that His eye was threading the crowded thoroughfares of the city, that it was noting a servant with a pitcher of water, observing accurately when this servant left his master's house, when he reached the well, and when he would be at a particular spot on his way back — this was not merely foreknowledge; this was foreknowledge applying itself to the insignificant and unknown. Then, again, observe that whatever power was here put forth by Christ was put forth without His being in contact with the party on whom it was exerted. Christ acted, that is, upon parties who were at a distance from Him, thus giving incontrovertible proof that His visible presence was not necessary in order to the exercise of His power. What a comfort should this have been to the disciples. It is easy to imagine how, when His death was near at hand, Christ might have wrought miracles and uttered prophecies more august in their character. He might have darkened the air with portents and prodigies, but there would not have been in these gorgeous or appalling displays the sort of evidence which was needed by disquieted and dispirited men. But to ourselves, who are looking for the guest chamber, not as the place where the Paschal lamb may be eaten, but as that where Christ is to give of His own body and blood, the pitcher of water may well serve as a memento that it is baptism which admits us into Christian privileges; that they who find a place at the supper of the Lord must have met the man with the water, and have followed that man — must have been presented to the minister of the Church, and have received from Him the initiatory sacrament, and then have submitted meekly to the guidance of the Church, till introduced to those deeper recesses of the sanctuary where Christ spreads His rich banquet for such as call upon His name. Thus may there have been, in the directions for finding the guest chamber, a standing intimation of the process through which should be sought an entrance to that upper room, where Christ and His members shall finally sit down, that they may eat together at the marriage supper.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.