So He sent two of His disciples and told them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him,
The festival of "unleavened cakes," or "unleavened bread," commenced on the night of the 14th of Abib or Nisan (Exodus 12:16
) after sunset; that day, corresponding to our 16th of March, was therefore popularly called the first of the festival, because it was the preparation day for it. This preparation of the Passover, i.e.
the killing of the lamb, etc., had to take place between three and six o'clock, the ninth and twelfth hours of the solar day. "Sacrificed," or "killed," has the force of "accustomed to sacrifice or kill." The room was to be "furnished," literally "strewn," i.e.
the tables and couches were to be laid; and it was to be ready, i.e.
cleansed, etc., in conformity with ceremonial purifications. A considerable amount of work had to be carefully gone through ere all things would be ready. The lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs, wine, and "conserve of sweet fruits," had to be purchased; the lamb had to be slain by the officiating priest in the temple; and then it had to be roasted with the herbs. From the circumstances connected with this preparation in the case of Christ and his disciples we see -
I. THE REPRESENTATIVE HEADSHIP OF CHRIST. The disciples looked to him for direction. They spoke of him, and not themselves severally, as being about to observe the Passover, which indicated, not that they themselves were not going to observe it, but that they ranged themselves under him as constituting, so to speak, his household· That they should have to seek his direction at the last was no proof of carelessness, but only of habitual dependence upon him; and it pathetically suggested how closely their circumstances corresponded with the typical character of the first celebrants, who as strangers and sojourners partook of the hasty feast. Fittingly enough, he who sought at birth the shelter of an inn, goes to such a place to observe the Passover with his disciples, in a separate and distinct capacity from that of any other household in Israel. They were to ask, "Where is my guest-chamber?" it was he who was to entertain.
II. His REGARD FOR THE OBSERVANCES AND INSTITUTIONS OF THE LAW. This is shown in the careful attention he gave to the details of the feast. Whether the arrangements made were due to the exercise of supernatural foresight, or merely to the natural forethought and human care of Christ, it is impossible to determine. In the former case, the "man bearing a pitcher of water," who was to meet them, would be indicated as a Divine token; in the latter, the man would be simply arranged for with the master or "goodman" of the hostelry. Either way, the feast was really prepared for by Christ, and no regulation was neglected. When the poverty, homelessness, and personal danger of the Savior are remembered, his observance of the Passover will be seen to possess an emphasis and intention quite special.
III. THE CONTINUITY IN WHICH THE "LORD'S SUPPER" STANDS. It was a "moment" or stage of the Paschal feast, and therefore a portion of the same celebration. Doubtless the feast would be protracted, or at any rate the actual eating of the lamb would be distinguished in time from the partaking of the bread and wine, which came a little later, as a new commencement after Judas had withdrawn at the bidding of the Master. In this way the retrospective character of the eating and drinking is quite natural. The two great feasts of Judaism and Christianity are thus vitally connected, the new celebration being a survival of the old one, and a perpetuation of its spiritual meaning. In such instances do we see the continuity of essential ideas, observances, and institutions throughout the varying phases and progressive stages of religious development.
IV. THE SPIRITUAL PREPARATION OF CHRIST FOR THAT WHICH THE PASSOVER SYMBOLIZED. It is just in the attention to these minute details, paid by One to whom in general the "spirit" was ever of so much more consequence than the "letter," that the inward preparedness of the Savior is suggested for his great sacrifice. The whole typology of the sacred festival had been spiritually realized by him, and its connection with his own death. In Matthew's Gospel this foreboding consciousness of doom, elevated into a higher mood by spiritual willinghood, is expressed: "The Master saith, My time is at hand," etc. - M.
Go ye 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.
Sunday School Times.
There are no chance meetings in this world. They all are providential. They are in God's plan. On many of them great possibilities hinge. You enter a railroad car, and take your seat among strangers. A proffered courtesy brings you into conversation with a fellow traveller. An acquaintance is the result. Years of helpful Christian co-work follow in the train of that first meeting. You visit a place of winter resort for health seekers. At the dinner table you meet a man unknown to you until then. An entire change in the aim and conduct of his life is one consequence of that meeting; and his labours for good may be far more effective than yours in your whole lifetime. You look in upon a celebrated preparatory school, where two hundred young men are at their studies. One face impresses you. Your meeting with him affects your course and his for all time, and involves the interests of a multitude. Your meeting of another young man in a Sunday school where you are present only for that one session has more influence over his life than all other agencies combined — and scarcely less over yours. You may even meet on the street one whom you wished not to see, one whom at that moment you were seeking to avoid; and as a result more lives than one are affected in all their human course, and in their highest spiritual interests. All these illustrations are real incidents; and there are thousands like them. It behooves us to consider well our duty in every meeting with another. We can fail to improve our opportunity and lose a blessing. We can fill our place just then, and have reason to rejoice eternally that we did so. Lord, what wilt thou have me to do — when next I meet one whom thou hast planned for me to see?
"The Master saith!" Has the charm of the Master's name vanished in these latter days? Are we, men and women of the nineteenth century, children of a modern life and civilization which is ever extending itself with feverish restlessness and painful throes of new birth, are we grown familiar with strange voices, with forces unknown in that ancient world, and those ancient days spent under the blue Syrian sky; are we become superior to the claims, the force, the beauty, and the authority of a great personal life? Have we relegated Jesus of Nazareth merely to a place, however great, in the development of history? Is He merely the product of social forces and political and historical traditions? "The Master saith!" Being dead, doth He yet speak; yet so as through the faint vibrations of memory — of memory which grows weaker as the ages roll behind us into the eternity of the past; or is it a living voice still which I hear — a voice which no results of time can shake with the tremulousness of age? Do not our own hearts — we who have become disciples, we who, constrained by a force which we could not resist, have exclaimed, "Master, Thou art the Christ who hast conquered me, Thou art the Christ who hast died for me" — do not our own hearts passionately exclaim, "He liveth still to make intercession for us, and to rule us with the supremacy of perfect love"? Will ye also admit the Master within? Will ye hear Him? Will ye let Him talk with you? This night, as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, I bring the word to you also: "The Master saith!" The voices of all His disciples are but weak echoes of the mightier and abiding voice which is His. "The Master saith!" But where? Hath His voice a local habitation and a name? Doth He reach me through the channel of my senses, or how doth He touch my living spirit? It is here that "the Master saith!" — even now. These poor temples of ours, they are for the most part but shapeless structures of stone and lime, yet they are clothed with the spiritual and unfading beauty of a Divine guest chamber; a voice which is not my voice overpowers my struggling will, subdues by gentle and beautiful processes my efforts to make my own will my law and arbiter of duty, and speaks through me. And most of all is it of infinite moment to know that there is one called "Master," and who does speak. This is what I need to know and feel. In Jesus of Nazareth life and duty are reconciled. In Him I recognize the Master whom I need. To Him, in whom gentleness was so perfectly blended with strength, I come, craving to touch but the hem of His garment, contented in that I have seen my Lord. "The Master saith!" If His voice is the voice of an authority, sublimely enforced through self-denial, patience, gentleness, suffering, and death, why should I crave more? Shall I not say, It is enough; He calleth me, and I must answer? He bids me arise, and I must arise. For me the highest virtue is obedience, for it is the Master who saith.
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