Fellowship: Its Bond and Power

(The following pages have been extracted from a little book bearing the above title.)

In such a state of things (Luke 22:1-6), Luke records the new fellowship, of which the Supper is the outward sign and bond, while John gives the inward and intimate link. In the moment when man gave Him up, the Lord drew closer to His own, and drew His own closer to Himself. Here in Luke it is the Lord who proposes to them to go and prepare the Passover: the record in the other Gospels begins with their asking, "Where wilt Thou that we prepare?" Here, too, He speaks of His desire to eat this Passover with them before He suffers. I see in this, that at the moment of His rejection, when Satan had put it into the heart of Judas to betray Him, and He well knew the violence and wickedness that was going on in the city (Psalm 55:9-12), and when the Passover was about to be fulfilled in the kingdom of God, how the Lord drew His own closer to Himself and drew closer to them, uttering those wonderful words of love with which He instituted the memorials of Himself in death, by which we are drawn together in the fellowship of that death!

There is not one Christian in this room that does not understand the benefits of His death; but do you understand that He died? As George Herbert said, "Have you not heard that my Lord Jesus died?" And when He was about to pass out of this scene as refused here, He drew them together, and gave them the bread and wine, after they had eaten the Passover Supper, which spoke to the Jew of redemption from the iron bondage of Egypt, and hence laid the basis for Jewish thoughts and associations.

What is the ground of our fellowship here but the great fact that the Lord Jesus died? We have the bond that linked the disciples' hearts together when the Jew, the world, would not have Him. We often eat the bread and drink the wine as a solace to our own hearts, and many a heart gets the comfort of what He did for us; but that is not the proper thought of the Supper as commemorating the death of Christ. It is the great fact that the Lord Jesus died here, and His death becomes the great bond that links together our hearts with Himself in the fellowship of that death. We see that when He died He passed out of all connected with Judaism, and then He links His own with Himself as about to die.

How do we look at the Lord's Supper? It would have immense force in our souls if we looked at it according to His thoughts and mind. In the Church of England the Supper is made individual, but 1 Cor. 11 teaches that it was a question of uniting them in the new fellowship of His death outside Jewish associations. There could be no other fellowship for us, for He has been refused and rejected in this world, and therefore I believe the Supper lays the basis for all our Christian fellowship, and rightly begins the week. Every meeting in the week is linked with it; we gather together at all times as those who are in the fellowship of His death. The door is thus closed on our old associations, and the Lord feeds us in new pastures. We worship and we read the Word together, we pray together, as those who are in the secret of association with Him whom the world refused, and as knowing the value and fulness of His name.

In the day in which this was instituted, Jew and Gentile were apart, but what put them together was the death of Christ; both were reconciled to God in one body by the cross. But now I come closer home than Jew and Gentile. If there were two men in the same business, living side by side, and the customers of one leave him and go to the other, would it not create a feeling of distance between them? But supposing I am in the power of this fellowship, would it create any distance then? I speak of it to show what a little thing would hinder us, except as we own that we have nothing here, and that our living links are elsewhere. If Christ were here I would stop here very happily, but "hast thou not heard that my Lord Jesus died?" We might be wise enough not to notice it in the case I have supposed, and say "I ought not to mind it," but after all, you do mind it; and what will set you free? The death of Christ. He died out of this world; He is lost to us in it; we cannot have Him here. All we have here is a memorial of Him, which becomes our bond of fellowship. All here is set aside by the cross, and the ground of association is that death which severs us from all here. Christ has drawn us outside the scene here because He is outside it.

The Lord felt His rejection, the enmity of the Jew, the treachery of Judas, lover and friend failing. He had said as to Jewish associations: "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not!" Did He not feel it? And then He gathers these disciples around Him, and draws them closer to His heart. Dear brethren, do we remember how we belong to the Lord, that He loved us, and gave Himself for us - that He died to redeem us from our former vain conversation, and to unite us together in the fellowship of His death?

The Supper is more the outward character of this fellowship; not that it has not an inward power - I do not mean that at all - but it lays the basis of our new association. It was a great thing for the Lord. He would have gathered Israel if it had been possible, but every earthly association was broken, and He felt it, and therefore draws His own together in the bonds of love and gives them the memorials of His death. They are known to belong to Him now that the world has rejected Him; He has us for the comfort of His own heart. He said, "With, desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you."

Now I turn for a moment to John 13, where the same thing comes out, only it goes further; the Lord drawing our hearts into association with Himself. Not only is there an association of believers in His death as still in a hostile world, but we are shown how He could draw us to have part with Him where He is. The Lord's Supper is here in a certain sense, though we eat it as those who have been brought on to heavenly-ground. It is as being actually in this scene, that two might be separated by jealousy, but are drawn close together as being in the fellowship of His death, and know the love of the Lord drawing them to Himself. John 13 mentions the same details, the Passover Supper, the betrayal; but beyond all that, Jesus knew He was about to depart to the Father; He was entering another scene.

In the Assembly Christ makes His presence known, but it is the presence of One who has left this scene and gone to the Father. In John 13 you have the service of love, by which He fits you for companionship with Him. In chapter 14 He makes known the place where He is gone, and you are so drawn into His company by the service of His love, that you follow Him where He is. His great thought is to draw them to the other side by washing their feet. It is the down-stooping of love. He was going to the Father, and He stoops down to wash their feet. By the Spirit God gives us the sense of the Lord Jesus Christ stooping down to wash our feet. Why the feet? Because it is a question of where you walk. Is it to be that your feet walk in this world, or do they carry you direct to Him where He is? It is beautiful to see the Lord in the consciousness of going to the Father, though rejected here, addressing Himself to this service of love.

People apply the washing of John 13 to actual faults, but at that moment the disciples must have been ceremonially clean to eat the Passover, so it was not that there was any uncleanness on them, but it involved the whole character and place of their walk. They had walked in Judaism; the very fact of the Passover recalled the great privilege of Judaism; but He rises from Supper and begins to wash their feet. His death broke the links with the earthly people.

The thought of the water is, that it brings home the truth of His death to our hearts; that He has gone out of this world to the Father, and thus He takes them off Jewish ground and earthly associations. They were clean enough for earthly association, but heavenly association is another thing.

We little know how much we need to be cleansed from earthly associations… Christ is not here, He has gone out of the world. If even a worldly person had lost a friend, a near relation, and he were asked to go to the theatre, he would say, "Oh! no. I have lost my mother, my friend." It would not be the thought of the thing being wrong, but mere outward propriety would forbid it. We do not think enough like that of the death of the Lord. How often we are entangled and held back by earthly association! We are in the fellowship of His death; the Supper perpetuates it to us, but we do not keep true to it. People do not feel that His death has cast its shadow on this scene. It ought to affect our hearts if there is love for Him. I doubt not that John was greatly affected by the washing of his feet, for we see him on the bosom of the Lord immediately after, and in the intimacy and secret of that place He is sheltered; so that, without any doubting, he can say, "Lord, who is it?" when Jesus said, "One of you shall betray Me."

Thus we have the down-stooping love which addresses itself to that with which we touch the earth, where our Lord was delivered up, and put to death, applying to us in the tenderest way the truth of His departure by death out of this world; so that our hearts might be drawn close to Him, as gone to the Father; and as we are drawn close to Him, so shall we be knit together in love. Washing one another's feet is following the Lord in the lowly place of love; for the service of love to each other must bring with it the intimacy of love.

So in 1 Cor. 13 we have all the gracious way of love, after the outward bond of fellowship in the Supper has been given in chap. 11. Nothing can produce intimacy so much as to be served by love, and the character of this service is shown us in John 13. May the Lord give us to respond to it! T. H. Reynolds.