True Greatness.

Luke 22:14-30.

1868 6 I do not know that there is a more touching lesson in any of the words or ways of our Lord Jesus Christ than that which comes before us at the last supper.

First of all His desire is to eat that paschal feast with His disciples. He was the only One who knew what it meant — the One to whom it spoke of such a burden as never was nor could be borne by mere man. And yet with desire He desired to eat of that passover before He suffered. He knew it was the immediate harbinger of His death upon the cross. Yet there was not one of the disciples that so desired to eat it with Him, as He desired to eat it with them. This is love, and love is self-sacrificing.

It was this cup that He told them to divide among themselves — not that of the Lord's supper. Our Lord Jesus never partook of His own supper. He partook of the paschal supper, but not of His own. For this is for us, being the witness of a redemption which He wrought for us (not for Himself, of course). The paschal supper was for Him as well as for the disciples, and He desired to eat it along with them. On the occasion of the passover, after its cup was passed round, He institutes His own supper; but before that He says He was no longer to drink of the fruit of the vine till the kingdom of God was come. He had done with the earth and had no fellowship more with men in flesh and blood. He took the supper, to Him not a sign of joy, but of the deepest suffering. The Lord's supper, which speaks to us of perfect peace through His suffering, He needed not: He gave it all to us.

But this very thing forthwith brings out, as grace invariably does, whatever is unjudged in nature. The more love you show, if there is not a heart that answers to it, it is but provoked by it, and takes advantage of it. The very perfection of Christ's love brought out whatever was unjudged in the disciples. As for one of them, there was nothing at all in him but unjudged self, and he betrayed his Master. As for the others, what were they doing? They were striving at that precise moment which of them should be the greatest. That was the question in their minds. Jesus was going to show that He would become the least and lowest of all, that they might be exalted; yet this was just the moment in which they had this discussion which should be the chief among them. But our Lord turned it to infinite profit, bringing out for us the character of true greatness. Self is never great, and it has the consciousness of its own littleness. Persons strive to be great, when they have no greatness in reality; whereas when the soul has found Christ and when Christ is the object of the soul, our satisfaction in His greatness forms our affections. Accordingly, here with the disciples, self was their object. Thus they were totally inconsistent with what Christ had made them. Had they had Christ, not only as their life before God, but as the object of that life, there would have been, without a thought about it, the real greatness which properly belongs to the child of God.

True greatness at the present time is shown by being nothing at all. Greatness can go down; greatness, instead of seeking to be served, serves others: greatness now, in an evil world far from God, shows itself in the resources of grace known in Christ before God, and going out of that fulness which it possesses in Christ. Everything in the world is founded on the exact opposite; and the deeper runs the stream of the world, the greater is the desire to be something, and the desire to parade whatever we think we have. This is flesh in its littleness; and flesh and the world always keep company together. Self likes the world: it holds hard what it has got, and seeks to make a bargain with the world to get more. The knowledge of Christ delivers from all this. But a Christian who does not know that he is a Christian, who does not know that he has got Christ and eternal life in Christ is entirely inconsistent, and all else must be out of course. In order to have practical power, I must not only have the thing, but know that I have it. Supposing a man possesses all the wealth of India and does not know that he has got it, it is practically useless to him. The consequence is that the man, after the manner of men, is miserable; he can do nothing, serve nothing, help nothing. The possession of the things of this life never makes a man happy; but Christ does, and we possess all in Him.

Why was the poor widow who gave the mites the richest of all, as the Lord Jesus marks her out with His eye of love? She was the only one who had such consciousness of what she hoped for from God, that all that she had in the world was but an offering for the Lord. And we rob ourselves as well as defraud Him if we do not exercise this ennobling faith. Conscious of what we possess in Christ, all that we have is at the Lord's disposal. The consciousness of the grace of Christ imprints its own character upon us; and instead of seeking, it gives, and instead of seeking to be served by others, it loves to serve. There is not one of us that is free from this tendency to self, but there is not one that may not have a complete victory over it. Let my heart be only towards Christ and set upon Christ, and it will be impossible for Satan to get me into anything mean or selfish. But let my eye be off Christ, and there is nothing I may not do, nothing too low or too unworthy that Satan may not slip in by.

What is the Bible? The history of the struggle between God and the devil. This one thing runs from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation. It is not merely a question of man, but of Satan working by man to dishonour God. The earth was the place where the battle was fought. The first Adam comes, but falls; and all the history of the Old Testament is the failure of the first Adam with promises and predictions of the triumph of the Second. Then the New Testament comes; the battle is over, the triumph is won. We are put with the Second Adam, and Christ looks that we should be victorious. But we are never victorious except so far as Christ is our object, when He is before our eyes at each moment, in each difficulty or trial that comes before us here below. When are we happy? When Christ is before our eyes — not when we are looking back to the happiness of yesterday. Satan would have us look back upon past happiness, and perhaps date our blessing upon such or such a day. But it ought not to be so. I am, of course, to have a joyful recollection of all that the Lord shows me, and I shall certainly not forget the first moment of blessing from Him. But how miserable if this only be our comfort and stability now, and our assurance that we shall be with Christ! Nay; it is a living Christ that we have — a Christ that died and is alive again, and a Christ that would imprint His own character upon us, making us truly great. It is holding fast what Christ has given us that delivers us from littleness, and holding it fast in Christ Himself.

The Lord grant that, strengthened of His grace, we may be enabled thus to do. Then each word of Christ will have its own power over our souls, will be clothed with His own love; it will come to us not as some great draught upon us, as if the Lord could be enriched by us, save only in such honour to Him as really blesses our own souls. It is the consciousness that we have such blessing, such wealth, such dignity in Christ, which gives and keeps us in the feeling that all that is of this world would rather detract from us than add anything to us. It is not only that we have got Christ, but that there is nothing but Christ that is a real honour or power or glory to the saint of God. And the bright day will come when Jesus will tell us what He told the disciples, "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations." This was after the discussion of who should be the greatest, after He had before Him the treachery of one disciple, and the unworthy vanity of the others; after it all that He says, "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations." But knowing all that they had been in the past, the trial they had been to Himself, their many weaknesses and failures, yet He puts it as an honour to them, "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations." It was He who had continued with them, who had sustained and kept them in spite of themselves. Yet see how love delights in saying to us, "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me: that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom."

The Lord give us then to be stedfast. It is but a little while. Soon the time of our trials and temptations will close. Soon the time of Christ's dishonour in this world will give place to a throne of glory, and every eye shall see Him, and every knee bow before Him. May we be faithful to Him for this little while. Bright will be the remembrance of suffering for Him in His presence for ever!