Online Text Sermon - Matthew ch.26 v.18
|Preacher||Rev. Iain Smith, Tasmania|
|Sermon Title||  (Part 1 Communion Sabbath Morning)|
|Text||Matthew ch.26 v.18 |
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"And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples" (Matthew 26, 18).
I wish to look especially at the words in the middle of the verse - "My time is at hand" (text).
We cannot imagine what it is like to be without time - to be in a timeless environment. I suppose only astronauts in space would be considered as free from the timeframes which govern our lives. We are born into time. All our waking, eating, sleeping and drinking is synchronised with the sun's relation to the earth. When we are young we see time as a hindrance to our ambitious and excited spirits but it is a different story when we are old, as many of you know. When we become old, we would slow time down if only we could; we would put the brakes on many things that are inevitably rushing towards us. Only God is utterly above and beyond the concept of time. To God, a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day. Yet, He invented time and He uses time for His own purpose here on earth. In the incarnation Jesus became so close to humanity that He operated within the same time framework as you and I. He subjected Himself to operate within these time cycles that are so important to us and from which we cannot escape. The apostle Paul, when he refers to the introduction of Jesus on to the scene of time, emphasises this: "when the fullness of the time was come", he tells the church in Galicia, "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law" (Galatians 4, 4). In the ministry of Jesus the passage of time - whether it was hours, days, weeks, months or years - was so very important to Him. On a daily basis particularly, as we can follow His life in the last three years, in what we call His 'public ministry', His Messianic mission was outworked within that strict framework of time, what time seemed to be so important to him. We have examples of this. Perhaps you remember what He said to His mother on one occasion at a wedding when she attempted, as it were, to hasten a miracle when they ran out of wine: He said, "mine hour is not yet come" (John 2, 4). Later on some of His followers urged a confrontation between Him and the religious leaders in Jerusalem. They received a very similar response: "My time", He said to them, "is not yet come" (John 7, 6). Here He is referring to His exodus from the world and He is referring to it in this way: "My time is at hand" (text); my time is now come.
During His ministry, in preparation for this, He paced Himself. He declined any shortcuts offered to Him by men and by devils. If you examine His temptations in the wilderness in detail, this is what the devil was suggesting to Him: to take a shortcut. He knew that Messiah was going to inherit His kingdom and he told Him that He didn't need to go through what was before Him if He just bowed the knee to him (Satan), he would give Him the kingdoms of the earth. But no! Jesus was not going to take any shortcuts. The final conclusion was never in doubt in the mind of Jesus; He knew where He was going, He knew what He had to do to get there and He knew when that would be - the outcome was written in eternal concrete. The throne and crown of cross and thorns were unavoidably decreed for Him in the mysterious counsel of God. It rushed towards Him and He was eager to arrive in that place. Until this juncture it was always, "Not yet! Not yet! Not yet!" His patience and confidence that the time was going to come were borne out of His love to the Father's glory and for the salvation of sinners like ourselves - "My time is at hand" (text). Incidentally, while He emphasised for Himself that there was a period of "Not yet! Not yet! Not yet!" - He insisted that for you and me there is no such period. Jesus said, "My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready" (John 7, 6). The testimony of God's Word, as we know, is that "now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6, 2). The Bible urges this upon us. Those of you who are present here today, who do not know the Lord Jesus as your Saviour, this is the message of God - "To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts" (Hebrews 4, 7). Another man thought that he could postpone this time. He stretched his plans into the future and earned himself that scathing rebuke - "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee" (Luke 12, 20).
"My time is at hand" (text): time for what? Well, it is not merely referring to dying on the cross. Much would take place in the experience of our Saviour in the next twenty-four hours. An incalculable volume of water would flow under the bridge of sorrow before He would eventually say, "It is finished" (John 19, 30). The context here is the Thursday prior to crucifixion morning. He is preparing, as we read, to keep the Passover with His disciples. It is of this Passover He said, "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you" (Luke 22, 15). The translation doesn't bring out the depth of feeling in the words of our Lord. Perhaps a more accurate translation would be - 'with burning desire'; 'with a fervent desire I longed for this Passover'. He was indicating that this Passover, which He was now preparing to celebrate with His disciples, was the last opportunity to see the purpose of God in salvation in terms of type and symbol - the death of the sacrificial lamb. It is as if He was telling them to take note of this Passover, take note of the elements on the table, because very soon type and symbol would be gone for ever. Very soon all of that would be replaced by a more permanent aspect of God's love to sinners, a much more meaningful expression of the everlasting love of God to sinners. That, I believe, is what He has in mind when He says, "But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (v.29). He is talking there about the establishing of the Christian church and the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. No more would Jesus present Himself at a Passover table, no more would He engage in those elements under that old dispensation. The next time would be "in my Father's kingdom" (v.29), in the Christian church here on earth: presencing Himself in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, as we pray He is present here with us today. This is the yearning of Christian people as they prepare to come to the Lord's Supper, that He will be present with us at the feast. "My time is at hand" (text): time to pay the ultimate price for man's sin; time to meet with the wrath of a holy and just God; time to conquer the powers of darkness; time to remove death of its sting; time to shut the doors of hell and open the doors of heaven to whosoever believes in the Gospel of redeeming grace; time to pay the ransom price which the justice of God demanded if His children were to be freed by His grace. Oh my friends, that that ransom could have been paid in the coinage of men, that it could have been paid in pounds, shillings and pence! But the price God demanded, and the price Jesus paid, for your peace and freedom, was infinitely greater than the coinage of men. "My time is at hand" (text).
For all those who love God, all those who believe in the Lord Jesus as their Saviour, all those who rejoice in the Gospel and glory in the cross, we must understand here today that to procure our salvation - to perfect that salvation - the Lord Jesus had to go through, not merely a trial from or by men, but also a trial at the hands of God. In effect, He is here preparing to appear in two trials - one at the hands of wicked men and the other before a just and holy God: one visible, one invisible; one the product of evil and hatred, the other the product of everlasting love. As we read of the sufferings of our Lord in the Gospels, as we preach that Word, we should never lose sight of this dual trial that He had to endure, that He was appearing before God at the same time as men sentenced, condemned and crucified Him. This is one reason why the Christian life ought to be a serious, sober, solemn life. The world, of course, confuses this with pessimism, dreariness and dullness. To be serious, solemn and sober in these things is not to be without humour and light-heartedness; indeed, Christian people can be the most hilarious people in the world. No, my friends, when Christians contemplate their salvation, when Christian people meditate upon the suffering of their Saviour, when Christian people pursue holiness, when Christian people fight sin in their lives - there is no room for hilarity or frivolity; it is a serious, solemn business. Be "sober, just, holy, temperate" (Titus 1, 8), Paul said to Titus. "My time is at hand" (text).
As the hours of that Thursday ticked away, Jesus was drawn to Gethsemane, to Pilot and to Golgotha by the irresistible power of divine decree. Not that He is forced in any way, but He is drawn there nevertheless because it has always been written in the decree of God that this is how it must be. These ominous matters - Gethsemane, Pilot and Golgotha - they no doubt rise before His mind like an unscalable mountain between Him and His great achievement, the salvation of sinners. He, of course, knew from the beginning that for the Gospel to become a vital entity in the world, for people like ourselves to enjoy the peace and love of God in our lives, He first must go to Gethsemane, He must first appear before Pilot, He must first go outside of the walls of Jerusalem and He must first appear before the judgement seat of God. What a thought that is, my friends. Indeed, when His own human will recoiled in horror at the prospect, we read "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt" (v.39). Glory be to God, my friends, that there is a 'nevertheless' written here: "nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt" (v.39). "My time is at hand" (text).
As we follow the ministry of Jesus we see in general terms the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies of various kinds with every step He took from the manger to the cross. But the closest He came to Calvary, the more focussed these Old Testament texts become. Messianic texts began, as it were, erupting before Him with every step He took nearer and nearer to Golgotha. The cruelty He was about to endure from the hands of wicked men would push the limits of human brutality to unheard of extremes. This is when He appeared before the visible judge at the visible trial; this is when men judged Him to be worthy of death. That was no surprise to Him - Jesus knew that this was always written. He knew that the psalmist had written that they were going to pierce His hands and feet (Psalm 22, 16). He knew that the old prophet, Isaiah, had written, "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting" (Isaiah 50, 6). He knew all that was written and He knew they would do it. He knew there would be no mercy from men; that was no surprise to Him. However, He also knew that worse than that was written. "My time is at hand" (text). As they left the upper room to go to Gethsemane, He quoted to them one of the most ominous texts in the Old Testament Scriptures: "All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad" (v.31). Note the words: "I will smite the shepherd". The ominous activity of God in the sufferings of His own Son - "I will smite the shepherd". He would also have been familiar with another text very similar to it: "it pleased the Lord to bruise him" (Isaiah 53, 10). These texts do not mean that God would use means to smite the Shepherd or to bruise His Son, it does not mean that He would use the instrumentality of wicked men to bring this about. No, it is talking about what God Himself would do. It is talking about what only God could do: "it pleased the Lord to bruise him" (Isaiah 53, 10). That word 'bruise' is again not well translated in our English version. A much more accurate translation would be that it pleased the Lord to crush Him. Indeed, it speaks of activity that no mere man could attain to. It demands certain things that neither men nor devils possess. No mere created creature could crush the son of God in this way: "it pleased the Lord to bruise him" (Isaiah 53, 10). It is referring to the sentence of unbending justice by that terrible sword when it was awakened: "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow" (Zechariah 13, 7). The Gaelic word is particularly strong - "dluth companach" - my close companion.
As Jesus endured the penalty of this invisible trial, there are three Messianic prophesies which come together at this juncture: Psalm 22, 1; Psalm 69, 2 and Psalm 142, 4. These three texts provide for us a picture of the cross of Calvary and what our Saviour endured in perfecting our salvation. "My time is at hand" (text) - for these texts to be fulfilled. He approaches the cross with this assurance and confidence rooted in His mind. The Father gave Him a promise recorded by the prophet Isaiah when he speaks of Jesus being given as the covenant of His people. This is a special promise given by the Father to the Son: "I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee" (Isaiah 42, 6). There is Jesus approaching the cross with these words rooted in His mind and soul, that His Father would hold His hand and would keep Him. Then comes that terrible darkness, indicating the execution of the sentence of that terrible and righteous judge upon sin. The picture from Psalm 69 is this: as He says Himself -
I downward in deep mire do sink,
where standing there is none.
Metrical Psalm 69, 2
He pictures Himself being pushed as it were, by that terrible sword falling upon Him - deeper and deeper into that bottomless pit of divine fury, "where standing there is none". The further down He went, the more lonely He became; because He went way beyond what human minds could ever understand. He went way beyond what mere mortals like us could ever follow. That is part of the symbolism of the darkness of Calvary for three hours. Down and down He went, possibly remembering that promise of the Father. The picture is this:
I look'd on my right hand, and view'd,
but none to know me were.
Metrical Psalm 142, 4
Who was He looking for? It wasn't men; He knew they were going to desert Him. He knew what that would be like: to be forsaken by men. But He did not know what it was going to be like to be forsaken by the Father. He was the One Who could provide a refuge for His soul, but He was not there:
I look'd on my right hand, and view'd,
but none to know me were.
Metrical Psalm 142, 4
He is going down further and further into the pit and out of that darkness the cry comes, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" "My time is at hand" (text).
My friends, no nail, no spear, no scourging, no crown of thorns, could ever inflict such terrible pain as that righteous sword of justice penalising our Saviour in our room and stead. Part of our rejoicing, our hope, our joy in the Gospel, is that we will never enter that bottomless pit! We will never have to cry out -
My God, my God, why hast thou me forsaken?
Metrical Psalm 22, 1
"My time is at hand" (text). This, my friends, is the event which affects the life of every rational creature on earth - the Jew, the Gentile; there are no exceptions to this: all of mankind must respond one way or another - either in time or at the Judgement Seat of God voicing their opinion of what happened here at Calvary. For the Jews, their words are recorded - the merciless words, "His blood be on us, and on our children" (Matthew 27, 25). Little did they know that their words would be fulfilled over two thousand years later as the blood of their children still runs in the streets of Jerusalem; all because they rejected Messiah. For Gentiles, the consequence of Jesus time being at hand may not have such national or communal complications but they are no less ominous for that. God has provided a salvation. God has provided a deliverance in the cross of Jesus Christ - for men and for women, for boys and for girls. As His time came to perfect that salvation, so your time must come to respond to that salvation. That old question is still being asked and will always be asked while the sun and moon endures, "What think ye of Christ?" (Matthew 22, 42). What is your opinion of what He achieved on Calvary? Friends sitting at the Lord's Table, you are by virtue of sitting at that Table, expressing your opinion. You are making a statement; you are bowing to what the Bible teaches regarding the suffering of the Saviour, regarding your interest in these matters, your commitment to them and how it has a bearing upon your life - upon how your life is lived on a daily basis; you are making a statement which you will carry with you into eternity.
Let me say a word to you, friends sitting away from the Table. You are making your own statement, a statement I hope and pray you will not take with you to eternity. "My time is at hand" (text) - and so is ours, my friend! We never know what a day or an hour will bring but we do know that God has granted us this day. This is the day God made; a new opportunity to worship Him, to believe in Him, to bow to His claims; a new opportunity for God's people to participate in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, to look upon those elements on the Table before you and to remember Jesus in a very peculiar way. We are always to remember His death and meditate upon His suffering but, surely, He must have had something in mind when He gave us these visible emblems: visible emblems with very solemn words attached to them - "Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you (1 Corinthians 11, 24); "This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you" (Luke 22, 20).
The Lord's Supper reminds us in a very special way of the cost of our peace and of our salvation. He instructs us to take full advantage of it as we go on in this world and prepare for the world to come. We are to participate in all the privileges of the Gospel: we are to sit at His Table in anticipation of sitting at a Table from which we shall never arise, for He Himself will be most certainly with us in a very special way.
I cry'd to thee; I said, Thou art
my refuge, Lord, alone;
And in the land of those that live
thou art my portion.
Because I am brought very low,
attend unto my cry:
Me from my persecutors save,
who stronger are than I.
From prison bring my soul, that I
thy name may glorify:
The just shall compass me, when thou
with me deal'st bounteously.
Metrical Psalm 142, 5-7
These words remind us of something very special and profound about the experience of our Lord at Calvary. When He cried -
My God, my God, why hast thou me forsaken?
Metrical Psalm 22, 1
...He cried to a God Who was present. We usually think of forsakenness as a distancing by one person from another but that is not how it was at Calvary. Perhaps I could illustrate it briefly in this way: when a father - or mother for that matter - chastises a little child, if that father leaves the room or the house perhaps and is absent for a time, it is much easier for that child to cope with the chastisement because there is a natural, inbred hope that father will change in his attitude and chastisement when he comes back. But if the father doesn't leave, if the father chastises the child and remains in the presence of the child and yet doesn't speak to the child and refuses to listen to the child, shuts the child out, as it were, of communion of any kind - that is far harder for the child to bear.. When Jesus was forsaken it didn't mean that God distanced Himself from Him in such a way that He was not present; indeed, the very opposite is true - it is the fact that the Father was present as the righteous Judge which made the penalty so hard to bear. His cry goes out to One of Whom He is fully persuaded is present in that terrible darkness.
I cry'd to thee; I said, Thou art
my refuge, Lord, alone
Metrical Psalm 142, 7
FENCING OF THE TABLE
It is customary for us to conduct a 'Fencing of the Table' and for this purpose we will turn to Galatians 5.
"This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another (Galatians 5, 16-26).
The Christian life, as many of you know - often to our cost - is anything but straightforward. Indeed, it could be described as a life of tension - tension between what Paul here describes as "the flesh" and "the Spirit". Those of you who are sitting at the table - and I may even add, those of you who should be sitting at the table - you know something about this tension, being pulled this way and that way. How often it causes turmoil in your life. This is something you weren't familiar with at one time in your life. You could have had pangs of conscience in your morality and religiosity. Some of us were well brought up in Christian homes; we knew what right was and what wrong was and we did know pangs of conscience. However, that's different from the tensions created by this internal war between the Spirit and the flesh.
The nature of Christian freedom is well set out here by the apostle Paul: Christians are forbidden to do certain things and to live certain ways; they are also obliged to live in a particular manner. I was once in the company of a professing Christian who was under what I can only describe as a liberal ministry. This person said to me, "I like our minister because he is not a 'you must' minister." I was a bit taken aback. I said to her, "But Jesus was a 'you must' minister! Was that not what He said to Nicodemus, "Ye must be born again?" (John 3, 7). She meant by that that her minister was not the kind of minister who told her what to do or how to do it; they were free to do as they pleased. That is not the Christian life, my friends. You are forbidden to do certain things, to live certain ways, to go certain places. That is well itemised for us here by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5, 19-21, but equally so we are obliged to live as he indicates in Galatians 5, 22-23.
Perhaps an example of this tension in the Christian life is given to us by the same apostle writing to the Roman church. You remember how he describes this terrible turmoil in his own life - "The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do" (Romans 7, 19). There is the tension! He describes himself as a wretched man (Romans 7, 24). He knows what is right and good. He knows he has a love for the law of God but he also finds another law at work: "I see another law in my members" - What's it doing? - "warring against the law of my mind" (Romans 7, 23). I am glad that chapter eight follows chapter seven in Romans because I like picturing it as this Christian, in the fog and confusion of his tension - the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit - how he emerges after making the confession "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7, 24). He says, "I thank God" (Romans 7, 25) that there is One to deliver - the Lord Jesus Christ. As though he can't wait, he goes on then to say, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8, 1). Isn't that good? These are the people who sit at the Lord's table, these are the people who should be sitting at the Lord's table. Those, who not only know of the tension, who not only know of the war but who can rejoice in the knowledge that - "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8, 1). Here Paul uses the same idea on two occasions - 'walking after the Spirit'. That is how we would like to proceed - not only to the Lord's Supper this Sabbath Day but to proceed in our lives - walking in the Spirit of God: walking by the Spirit of God, living unto righteousness, pursuing holiness and hating sin, crucifying sin, mortifying the deeds of the body - walking in the Spirit!
We shall continue in our worship as we prepare to celebrate the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. You are already sitting at His table and as we sing from Metrical Psalm 118, 15-19 would others who ought be at the table and have a warrant to be at the table, please make your way forward.
For our warrant to dispense the Lord's Supper we will turn to 1 Corinthians 11 - "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup" (1 Corinthians 11, 23-28). The Lord gave thanks and we shall follow His example - let us bow our heads.
"Gracious God, we bless Thee for this unspeakable privilege of gathering round the Gospel table and round a Sacrament table; that we have this dual blessing in our lives of seeing our blessed Saviour in Word and in sacrament. We confess not only our unworthiness but our inability to fully appreciate such blessing. Thy loving kindness and generosity knows no bounds. Our sin, our guilt and our corruption does not interfere - and could never interfere - with the love of God promised to us in the Gospel. For, how ever much we fall short, how ever much we stagger and stumble, how ever much we go astray, how ever much we backslide - nothing shall take away from us the love of God in Christ Jesus. It is an unbreakable promise and we rejoice that the promises of the Gospel are 'yea' and 'amen' in Him; they are sealed by His blood and we plead them this day. We come on merits not our own, we come in a Name not our own and yet we claim these as though they were our own, for "in Him" we are one with Thee: we are partakers of the divine nature. Oh, how difficult it is for our finite minds to grasp hold of that truth. As we now seek that these earthly elements would be set aside for holy use, give us Lord that Spirit of discernment - the discernment that was so lacking in the Corinthians of old - that we might see, not merely the emblems, but Him Whom the emblems represent. Oh, that we could see Him in His beauty and loveliness, in His comeliness, as we have never hitherto seen Him - that we might be renewed in the inner man to serve Thee with zeal, eagerness and excitement, in anticipation of the greater blessings yet to come. Remember each one of us. Thou knowest our hearts and our situations, and if there be any at Thy table full of fear, doubt and trepidation, oh Lord, bless them that they may be flooded in their minds with the love of God. If there be any away from Thy table in that 'stones throw' distance, grant Lord, if they desire to be with Thy people, that mercy would be theirs and that they might resolve this day to be right with Thee and to never upset themselves again from the rightful place that was bought with such a terrible price. Help us now in Thy mercy and love, for His Name's sake. Amen."
ADDRESSING THE TABLE
As we contemplate the Lord's Supper this morning we are also aware that our Bible speaks of another supper in Revelation 19 and is called the 'Marriage Supper of the Lamb'. "Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19, 9).
There are two things given to us in the context of these words. The first is that we should rejoice: "Let us be glad and rejoice" (Revelation 19, 7). Peter calls this - "joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1, 8). My friends, we can only have it in a little measure in the valley of the shadow of death but we look forward to a time in our experience when we will know what Peter was talking about and we will know it in its fullness.
This chapter emphasises this idea of 'unspeakable joy' by using a very peculiar word, a word which is often flippantly used by the people of the world and by the Christian religion itself. It is the word 'alleluia' - made up of two words: 'praise' and 'Jah-Jehovah'. It is repeated four times in this chapter. If I am not mistaken it is not written anywhere else in the Bible - 'alleluia'. My friends, this is what awaits us - the marriage supper of the Lamb; this is the joy unspeakable - alleluia. We have been praising our God. Here in this world we have many things which we should praise God for - many privileges and blessings - but in the world to come - in the paradise awaiting us, in the house of many mansions - there will be one focal point: the Lamb in the midst of the throne - alleluia! We will be filled with glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Rejoice and be glad in anticipation of the marriage supper of the Lamb.
It is also telling us that there is a preparation: "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready" (Revelation 19, 7) - the Bride of Christ preparing herself for that glorious marriage supper of the Lamb. We are given a measure of insight into this preparation in Revelation 7, 13 where the great question is asked: "What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?" And the answer is given in verse 14 - "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb". Notice these words, notice the preparation: "they...have washed their robes" - but it wasn't 'they' who made them white; it's the blood of the Lamb. Nothing else, my friends, will make us white with the white of pure righteousness and holiness but the blood of the Lamb.
There is a rejoicing, there is a preparation and there is an invitation or a 'calling' if you like. "Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God" (Revelation 19, 9) - they which are 'called'. We will know of two calls, my friend. We will know the call that was made effectual to us in the Gospel; the call that has established us as citizens in the kingdom of heaven here on earth. But we wait another call, a call that will summon us out of the valley of the shadow of death, to enter into that glorious light. A place where there are no shadows, no darkness, no pain, no suffering: nothing that will hurt us, nothing that will be detrimental to us, nothing that will detract from that great joy - alleluia! That call will take us from the scene of time to appear before Him who loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2, 20). The marriage supper of the Lamb.
It is indeed an unspeakable privilege for us to be gathered round the Gospel Word and to further engage in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper where we can look upon and handle the Word of life. This is what He Himself used as an illustration of how He - the Son of God - feeds the soul of His own people: "I," He said, "am the bread of life." Isn't it wonderful how the Lord can take earthly things and make them pregnant with heavenly meaning? We read - "The same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come" (1 Corinthians 11, 23-26) - "the true sayings of God" (Revelation 19, 9).
The Bible emphasises from beginning to end, the importance of the truth and that the truth is found nowhere but in the Word of God; this is the revelation of the mind of God and this is truth - "the true sayings of God" (Revelation 19, 9). It is important to us at various levels and in our instruction that we live at every level according to the truth as it is in Jesus - morally, ethically, religiously, socially and professionally. At every level, live within the parameters of the truth that Jesus set out clearly in the Scriptures. We live in a generation, my friend, where absolute truth is rubbished, where the truth of God as it is revealed in the Bible is abandoned more and more every day. Christian people as they live, as they live their lives in this world, must fight harder than ever to live according to that truth. It is also important for us in our sanctification. This was our Saviour's great plea in the high priestly prayer in John 17, 17: "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth". Sometimes we don't like that process of sanctification by truth, sometimes we don't like to be convicted in the conscience because when ever you are convicted of the truth of God, you must repent; this is the whole idea. Sadly, we don't like repenting! We are far too guilty of harbouring our sins. We are far too guilty in our foolishness of trying to hide ourselves from God - but we cannot. If we do, we will pay the price. If it doesn't convict us by the ordinary means of the application of the truth in the preaching of the Gospel, He will convict us some other way. This is the truth of God. "These are the true sayings of God" (Revelation 19, 9) and we should take advantage of that truth as we prepare ourselves - not merely to live in this world and in this life, but - to live in the life to come. We should learn the meaning of the word 'pilgrim' as it is depicted for us in the Scriptures. This is not our home: "Here we have no continuing city" (Hebrews 13, 14). We are on a journey, glory-bound, and we should long to be home, to take up our eternal citizenship in that peculiar way where we will rejoice with the alleluias of God. Our anticipation, our excitement, is born out of our conviction that this is the truth - "These are the true sayings of God" (Revelation 19, 9). May we take that with us as we leave His table - metaphorically at least - and resume our lives, if we are spared, tomorrow. May we live by that truth and the conviction that however difficult parts of the Bible may be for us to understand, to grasp hold of or unravel, nevertheless, this remains unchanged - it is the truth of God and its sayings are indeed true sayings.
Let us arise from the table with the grace of Christ in our hearts and His praise on our lips, as we sometimes say, and sing Metrical Psalm 103:1-4.
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