In the verses before us we have Mark’s inspired account of the last supper our Savior ate with his disciples the night before he as crucified. No doubt, we have all wondered what that last meal must have been like. What solemnity, what anxiety, what fears must have filled the disciples’ hearts! What love, what grace, what compassion dropped from the Savior’s every word and gesture! What demonic hypocrisy, what cold hatred, what spiritual hardness possessed the betrayer! What reverence the picture before us in this passage of Scripture demands! May God the Holy Spirit teach us the things revealed in this portion of Holy Scripture.
A Question To Face
As the Lord Jesus and his disciples sat together at the passover table, the Master announced that one of them would betray him. When he did, they all asked, “Is it I?” (vv. 17-20).
“And in the evening he cometh with the twelve. And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me. And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I? And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish.”
Matthew informs us that, after hearing all the others ask, “Lord, is it I?...Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I?” (Matthew 26:21-25).
Judas is held before us throughout the gospels as a beacon, warning us to beware of religion without Christ. Judas was a man whose heart was as hard as it was hypocritical, as stony as it was sinful, and as proud as it was base. His religion gave him a cloak for his wickedness. His barren familiarity with the things of God made him twofold more the child of hell than he was before. But do not forget, this hellish man appeared to be very pious to all who observed him. Even after he agreed to betray the Son of God with a kiss, he kept up the appearances of sincerity. Judas convinced all the disciples that he was a true believer, one truly devoted to the Savior. None were even slightly suspicious of him. To the very end they all thought Judas was alright. Perhaps Judas even convinced himself that he was genuine. He knew he had done wrong; but he may not have known he was a lost man, a child of hell, the son of perdition. The Scripture says, “Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.”
The betrayer’s heart was hard beyond imagination. He had just returned from his meeting with the chief priests, with whom he arranged to betray the Son of God with a kiss. Yet, he took his place with the other apostles at the table, pretending to be one of them, pretending to be a true worshipper of God, utterly devoted to Christ. What obduracy of heart hypocrisy produces!
Matthew tells us that the other disciples asked, “Lord, Is it I?” But Judas did not call him “Lord.” Judas called him “Master,” saying, “Master, Is it I?” The word “Master” is a title implying a closeness and affection that is not conveyed by the more reverential title “Lord.” While asking the question merely to give the appearance of sincerity, Judas chose the word “Master,” rather than “Lord,” because he wanted to show his love for and allegiance to the one he was arranging to betray!
Judas’ behavior should convince us to examine ourselves continually and honestly. I do not know how to deal with the matters of examination and assurance as they ought to be dealt with; but I do know that faith in Christ is neither proud presumption nor dread despair. Assurance is neither a fleshly familiarity with God, nor a slavish fear of God. The believer’s hope lies somewhere between that carnal security that says, “Once saved always saved,” and that blind, stoic fatalism that says “If I’m one of the elect, I’ll be saved, if not I won’t.”
In the Word of God we are constantly hedged in on two sides. On the one side, we have the many promises of God, lest we despair. But on the other side are countless warnings, lest we presume. On the one side, we see sinful men and women kept by the power of grace, assuring us of immutable grace. On the other side, we see apostate after apostate, warning us that we must endure to the end if we would be saved. Therefore we are to examine ourselves and make our calling and election sure (2 Corinthians 13:5; 2 Peter 1:2-11).
A Conflict Resolved
“The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born” (V. 21; Matthew 26:24; Luke 22:22). — The question is often asked, “Did Judas have a choice in this matter?” The Scriptures clearly state that our Lord Jesus died according to the purpose and decree of God. The Scriptures manifestly prophesied Judas’ betrayal of the Lord Jesus. Surely, then, he cannot be blamed and held accountable for what he did. Such reasoning may suit our puny brains; but such reasoning is entirely wrong. Whether we can understand it or not, we must bow to the Word of God. These two are facts plainly revealed in Holy Scripture: (1.) God almighty is totally sovereign and always does exactly what he will (Isaiah 14:26-27; 46:9-10; Ephesians 1:11); and (2.) Every man is totally responsible for his own sin. While the actions of wicked men and women never thwart, but only fulfill the purposes of God, God does not compel, coerce, entice, or tempt any man to evil (James 1:13-18). Reprobation and judgment are always presented to us in the Word of God as matters of justice and divine retribution. Salvation, grace, and eternal life are always presented as the sovereign prerogative and gift of God (Romans 6:23).
The Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the will, decree and Word of God (1 Corinthians 15:1-3). He died according to the purpose of God revealed in the Word, according to the promises of God throughout the Word, according to the prophecies of God in the Word, and according to the pictures of grace in the Word. And one of the means used by our God to accomplish his purpose of grace in redemption was Judas’ willful betrayal of the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:23).
A Picture of Redemption
“And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, 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 unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many” (vv. 22-24).
The Lord Jesus did not bless the bread and wine in the sense of consecrating them, making them holy, or changing their substance. He blessed them in exactly the same way we bless them, or bless a meal, in the sense of giving thanks to God for them.
The breaking of the bread and distribution of the wine, by the Lord Jesus was expressly intended to convey the spiritual lessons of his body being broken and his blood shed. Peace and pardon come to sinners in and through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all his people.
The unleavened bread represented our Redeemer’s holy humanity, his body, which was especially prepared by God the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary to put away our sins (Hebrews 10:1-5). It was a body without sin, in which righteousness was established by our Lord’s obedience, and the body sacrificed for us.
The cup of wine represented the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ by which we are redeemed (Hebrews 9:22). It is the blood of the new covenant, the blood by which all the blessings of the covenant of grace flow to chosen sinners (Hebrews 9:11-16; 13:20). The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is infinitely meritorious, effectual, sin-atoning, precious blood. All the blessings of the covenant were set forth and sealed in his blood. And we are specifically told by Christ himself that his precious blood was shed not for all, but for many. It was not shed for those who are forever lost in hell. It was shed for God’s elect, those who were actually redeemed by his blood when he died to redeem them. The words Joseph Irons penned 200 years ago on this subject accurately describe the common delusion of our day.
“The common delusion of the day in which we live is to think of and speak of Christ as if He were merely a Savior who had done all he could to save all mankind, but after all, had left it quite uncertain whether any will be eventually saved; whereas, his official character (Prophet, Priest, King, Messiah, Redeemer, Mediator, Covenant Head, Surety, Lord), and consequent covenant engagements, render the salvation of all his church a matter of infallible certainty.”
Eating the bread and drinking the wine is a picture of that God given faith by which we personally receive Christ for ourselves (John 6:51-58). All who eat and drink the flesh and blood of the Son of God live forever. It is written, “Believe n the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!”
An Ordinance to Keep
“And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, 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 unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (vv. 22-25).
The institution of the Lord’s Supper as soon as the paschal feast was finished, as Robert Hawker observes, “intimates the superseding of the one, in the establishment of the other.” We are not left to guess about this. The apostle Paul, writing by divine inspiration, tells us that our Savior here established the blessed ordinance of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-29).
The Lord’s Supper is not a sacrament, a means by which we obtain grace. It is an ordinance by which we celebrate grace bestowed upon us through the precious blood of Christ. Justin Martyr wrote, “The Lord’s Supper is food made up all of thanksgiving.” As often as we come together to observe the Lord’s Supper, let every believer examine himself, and then eat the bread and drink the wine in faith, “Discerning the Lord’s body,” understanding what Christ accomplished for us by his incarnation and death as our Substitute. Let us eat the bread and drink the wine with humility, gratitude, love and hope, “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 21). There is a day coming when we shall drink new wine with our Savior in the kingdom of God.
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