(Luke 5:29; John 12:2, 3.)
I find but two cases in which a feast was said to have been made expressly for the Lord; and these two seem to be in designed and beautiful contrast with one another. In the first case we find Him in company with sinners; in the last with saints. In the first case He is come down upon the ground natural to us, where alone He could meet us all; in the second, He has taken us through all that appals nature, and set us down in triumph the other side of it. But in each case His people are feasting Him.
If the hymn we sometimes sing has meaning for us, and "His joys" indeed "our deepest joys afford," this feature in these two cases will attract us surely. It is something to find, in a world so unlike Him, a table now and then really spread for Him. It is blessed to know that we have, if we will, materials wherewith to furnish such a table. Let us briefly look at these two, this way:
Levi's feast we naturally begin with, as simple as it is beautiful in its meaning. A publican had just learned in his own soul a fact of mightiest import beginning to be disclosed, that God was seeking sinners, not the spiritually whole, but "maimed and sick and halt and blind," — and seeking them to save them. It was not the blessing merely he had got, but a disclosure of the heart of God in its innermost depths. The music and the song of the Father's house he had learnt as the echoes of the Father's love making all glad with its own gladness, and here, down here in the world and at his door, was One in whom this love was told out as nowhere else, and, as nowhere else, embodied.
It was little to let into heart and house that which was its joy and sunshine; but Levi knew that where it was let in it must and would be true still to its own character. He who could not enjoy the glories of haven alone, could not be content in Levi's house alone. That house, by the fact of Christ being in it, must become a little picture of the Father's house to which He belonged, and receive its prodigals too with open arms and joyous welcome.
So Levi made Him a feast; and He, as understood and welcomed, took and maintained there His place of Welcomer; was fed in feeding; rested, in giving rest; and the Spirit His witness testifies His satisfaction in the fare He got. For of all who received Him, not all understood Him so; of all who welcomed, not all feasted Him.
And is this our joy in the Gospel still, that the Lord should have His feast with us, which cannot be that unless the door is open and the invitation out, and publicans and sinners are made free to enter? Or is any desolate heart now needing to be made aware of such a Christ so seeking sinners, that where'er He feasts He must have open doors for them? Down in a world of sinners still, still such is He, (though absent), in His Gospel and His Spirit evermore the same!
Here He must begin with us upon our ground, but not to leave us here. The feast at Bethany tells another story. No publicans sat at the table there, and yet do not imagine them excluded, save only as Levi in fact, no doubt, sat there, publican no longer. But a company of people were gathered there, full of wonderful experiences and partakers in a mighty triumph. They had found death no difficulty to Him, with whom Levi's guests had found sin no difficulty. He had made Himself a real crown (not such as human malice was soon to invent for Him) out of the thorns He had taken out of their path of sorrow. And now having seen His victory over the "last enemy," and sharers of the triumph He had achieved in their behalf, they make Him a feast — a supper — once more; and He can feast.
It is all a picture, a type for us: a type of triumph still more assured, still more complete, still more wonderful; announced already in words which, however at the time misunderstood, would interpret themselves yet to the hearts of His own, and so interpret Him. "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and he that liveth and believeth in Me SHALL NEVER DIE."
Lazarus, dead and risen, was our type and yet was not; for our death has been Christ's alone, and His life is ours forever. And in the knowledge of it, its warm flush in our veins, communion, service, worship, have indeed a distinct character, He Himself a central, vital connection with them, and Himself has (who can doubt?) His feast.
If He could feast thus with His delivered ones, with the shadowed cross even then full in view, — if Mary's ointment then (her constant memorial), could anoint Him for His burial, already for His burial, — shall we not feast Him yet, and serve, and worship, when we are with Him in the eternity to us so near?
And now? how many of us are qualified and prepared to make, — yea, more, are actually making Him this supper now?
Not to discourage do I say this; for as soon as the heart turns truly to Him, wherever we are — aye, in Laodicea, — He will come in and sup with us, as well as we with Him. And when we let Him do for us what He would do, be to us what He would be, then we shall give Him a supper; and the joy of it will be the foretaste of eternity.