MATTHEW 26:17-30.NOVEMBER 6.
THESE studies are selected for us in advance. Otherwise our preference would have been to consider the incident connected with our Lord's closing of earth life in the Spring of the year about the season at which that occurred. But Truth is always precious to us and has always profitable lessons.
Jesus was a Jew and was, therefore, obligated to every feature of the Mosaic Law. He came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. Today's study points us to the fulfillment of one feature of the Lawthe Passover; not that it is already entirely fulfilled, but that the type has for more than eighteen centuries been in process of fulfillment and the complete fulfillment, sure to come, is, we believe, near at hand. To appreciate this study we must have clearly in mind the type:
Approximately 3,500 years ago God delivered the people of Israel from the despotic power of Pharaoh, King of Egypt. Time after time Pharaoh had refused to let the people go, preferring to hold them as chattels, slaves. Time after time God had sent plagues upon Egypt as chastisements. Under the influence of each plague Pharaoh repented and through Moses entreated God for mercy upon himself, and for the people relief from the plague. Nevertheless, every manifestation of Divine mercy tended only to harden his heart until finally the tenth plague, the severest of all, was necessary. That plague consisted in the execution of the death sentence against all the first-born of Egypt. But the Israelites in Egypt were exempt from its provisions under certain conditions. Each family was required to have its own lamb, not a bone of which was to be broken. Its blood was sprinkled upon the door-posts of the house and the family, assembled within, partook of its flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, pilgrim-like, with staff in hand, ready for departure out of Egypt in the morning.
When that night the Divine sentence slew all of Egypt's first-borns, the first-borns of Israel were passed over or spared; hence the namePassover. And this ceremony, as a reminder of the great blessing of the Lord upon Israel, was commanded to be observed yearly as a memorial of God's goodness and because it typed, or illustrated, a still greater mercy and blessing yet to come.
Those experiences of the Israelites and their first-born ones were very real and properly very interesting to them; but they are still more interesting to Christians, who themselves are antitypes now being passed over. By Christians we do not mean all who merely make profession, nor all who attend Church, however regularly. We mean merely the saintly few who are now being called and being tested as to faithfulness to the Lord and by faith being passed overfrom death unto life. These are Scripturally styled, "The Church of the first-borns, whose names are written in heaven." (Heb. 12:23.) As the deliverance of the nation of Israel from Egypt took place after the sparing or passing over of the first-born, so, correspondingly, the Divine blessing will come upon the world of mankind directly after the completion of "the Church of the first-born"directly after their passing from death into life, by the power of the First Resurrection. If there is a first-born class it implies that there will be an after-born class. Thus the Scriptures everywhere distinctly teach that the present call, trial, testing, proving and final rewarding of the Church will not be the end of Divine mercy toward humanity, but, on the contrary, will be only its beginning; for since the saintly are spoken of as the "Church of the first-born," or as the Apostle declares, "the first-fruits unto God of his creatures," we are assured thereby that after-fruits are equally part of the Divine Program.
Amongst the Levites were several divisions representing different ranks and grades of the Church of Christ. But the principal division or section of the Levites was the priestly family of Aaron, just as there is a special class amongst the antitypical Levites, the faithful few, known in the Scriptures as the Royal Priesthood.
In Jesus' day the time had come for the fulfillment of the antitype of the Passover. Jesus himself was to be the Passover Lamb. By faith the merit of his sacrifice, his blood, was to be sprinkled upon the door-posts of his people's hearts, and his flesh, the merit of his earthly perfection, was to be eaten or appropriated by them in their minds. With it they were to eat the unleavened bread of the Divine promises and the bitter herbs of trials and adversities, and withal they were to drink wine, the blood of the grape, symbolically implying their participation with the Lamb in his ignominy and sufferings.
The Lamb of God, Jesus, the antitypical Passover Lamb, was slain nearly nineteen centuries ago on the exact anniversary of the killing of the typical lambs. The sacrifice of Jesus needs not to be repeated, for by faith we all sprinkle this same blood today, and in our hearts feed upon the merit of the same earthly sacrifice, and have plenty of bitter herbs of persecution and drink of the bloodshare the Master's spirit and its reward of suffering for righteousness' sake.
Not many have appreciated these privileges during all these nineteen centuriesin all but a "little flock." Nor are there many who envy them their present experiences; nor are there many who appreciate how great will be their reward and blessings in the life to come. Then, instead of suffering with Christ, they shall reign with him in glory, honor and immortality.
Jesus, about to begin the fulfillment of this type by dying as the antitypical Passover Lamb (Christ our Passover is slain for usI Cor. 5:7), instituted for his followers an annual remembrancer which, in their minds, would take the place of the type and continually remind them of the great Antitype. Instead of the literal flesh of the lamb, the Master used bread, and instead of the blood, the fruit of the vine, and instead of a further commemoration of the type, he directed that this be done in remembrance of the antitype"the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world," and the passover coming to the Church of the first-born, as precedent to the great blessings to result for Israel and all the families of the earth.
Our Lord as a Jew was obligated to keep the typical passover, eating of the literal lamb, etc., first; but subsequently, after that passover supper, he instituted with the bread and the fruit of the vine his substitutionary memorial of himself, saying, "Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them; and they all drank of it. And he said, ...Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God"until his second coming in power and great glory to receive the Church as his elect Bride and Joint-Heir in his Kingdom and to shower blessings richly upon Israel and through Israel upon the whole world of mankind.
The hour for the betrayal was drawing near. The Master knew by some power unknown to us who would betray him, etc. Breaking the matter to the twelve, he said, "One of you will betray me." Each asked, "Is it I?" Even Judas brazenly challenged the Master's knowledge of his deceitful course and said, "Is it I?" The answer was, It is as you have saidyou are the betrayer. The Divine programme was carried out by the traitor, and the Scriptures were fulfilled which declare that he should be sold for thirty pieces of silver; but the coincidence marks the Divine fore-knowledge without implying that God in any manner instigated the traitorous conduct, hence the statement, "Woe unto that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!" From this standpoint we are to understand that there is no hope for Judas in a future life. His sorrow and anguish before his death were such as found no compensation in any happiness he had enjoyed in previous days.
In giving the disciples the bread, which represented his flesh, and the cup, which represented his blood, the Master pictorially offered them justification and sanctification, and, as St. Paul explained, he did more than thishe offered them a participation with himself in the sufferings of the present and in the glories of the future (I Cor. 10,16,17; Matt. 26:29.) The antitype of the cup in its higher sense will be the new joys of the Kingdom which all the faithful in Christ will share with the great King of glory, when he shall take unto himself his great power and reign.