Sell Your Garment and Buy a Sword
AN ABSENT LORD AND A SUPPER OF REMEMBRANCE.
A LIFE OF WITNESS AND A PERFECT PATTERN.
A SUBTLE FOE AND A CEASELESS INTERCESSOR.
A LIFE OF CONFLICT AND A GREAT COMPENSATION.
Let our thoughts dwell upon the farewell supper and last talk that the Lord had with His disciples before He went into death for them. He had exercised His rights as the Messiah for the last time, and sent them to demand on His behalf an upper chamber in which He could eat the passover feast with them, and pour out His heart in a last farewell before He suffered; and at that supper He clearly showed them what their position in the world during His absence would be, and what resources they would have (Luke 22).
They loved Him, but He loved them more; and it was His desire, not theirs, that had brought them together for that sacred occasion. The passover feast commemorated the deliverance of Israel from Egypt; the lamb roast with fire upon which they fed year by year turned the eye of faith forward to His coming. And now He had come, and there He sat to share with them that meal which spoke so eloquently of what He would do ere once more the sun sank down over the western sea.
It was at the passover feast that He instituted the supper, which we know and love as THE LORD’S SUPPER (1 Cor. 11); and this He did entirely in view of His absence from them. One of the chief features of this period in which they and we are called to witness for Him is that He is absent from this world; they were to serve, and we are to serve, an absent Lord.
AN ABSENT LORD AND A SUPPER OF REMEMBRANCE
He was to be no more with them, and they would miss His blessed company; and the measure in which they would miss Him would show the measure of their love to Him. And so it is now; the Lord is not here, He has no place in the world; its politics, social circles, pleasures, and schemes of reconstruction have no room for Him; are we conscious of His absence, and of this? If we love Him we shall miss Him and shall long for the time when He shall come to take us to His Father’s house, that where He is we may be also.
Christ is not here. What other than this is the meaning of those words we prize so highly, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them”? If He were here, why gather in His Name? But why is He not here? There are two reasons: The world hated Him and slew Him; and He loved us and died for us. These are the two sides of the Lord’s exit from this world by death.
The world is so seductive and can put on so fair an exterior that we soon forget that the Cross of Christ is the witness of its awful hatred of Him, and that whoso will be a friend of the world is an enemy of God; we little realize that when all things are normal and right with us the cross of Christ is our only glory, and that by it the world is crucified to us, and we to it.
The Lord’s Supper brings before us the fact that He is not here—we show the death of our Lord until He returns—and one reason why He is not here is the world cast Him out. This that was written had to be accomplished in Him: “And He was reckoned among the transgressors.” His name was blotted out from David’s royal line and inscribed on the criminal roll of Jerusalem. Yes, if the criminal roll of that proud city for that eventful year could be discovered the name of Jesus of Nazareth would be found along with the names of thieves and murderers. We remember our Lord in death in the Lord’s Supper, and from the world’s side that is how He died.
But He died for us. He made us His own for ever by a love that gave Himself for us. How easily we forget this. If He stood in our midst and showed us His wounded hands and side, as He did to His disciples on the resurrection day, His love would without doubt be a great reality to us; but “out of sight” is so liable to be “out of mind,” so fickle are we; and knowing this He instituted His Supper, which should be a constant and perpetual reminder to us of a love that is stronger than death.
How necessary it is that we should have this eucharistic feast, this supper of love, which expresses so blessedly to us what our Lord is, and our fellowship together—the fellowship of the Lord’s death—the one only true fellowship of the many members of one body! What a joy to recall Him whose love many waters could not quench! With the storm gathering thickly about Him His thoughts spanned the whole of the time of His absence and He then and there gave us a supper of remembrance until He comes again!
A LIFE OF WITNESS AND A PERFECT PATTERN
Those disciples were to witness for Him, and we are to witness for Him during His absence; we are to be His letter of commendation before the world; to shine as lights. But how unlike Him we are by nature, just like those disciples indeed who, even at that supper table, with these farewell words of the Lord sounding in their ears, were quarrelling as to who should be the greatest amongst them. They needed, and we need, to have set before us a perfect pattern if we are to understand what our witnessing must be.
He set Himself before them; they were not to be like the Gentiles but like Him; they were not to exercise lordship over one another, but to follow His example and serve one another in love. Let us incline our ears to hear His words. He said to them, “I am among you as he that serveth.” Consider what these words meant when they awoke in the morning. He had been awake before them and prepared their breakfast; they never needed a servant if He was near; His love made Him watch for opportunities to labour on their behalf, and if there was one task more menial than another that was the task He undertook. He, the Lord of glory, was the servant of those rude, unlettered fishermen; His love bound Him with unbreakable fetters to a life of service. He is our pattern, and our witnessing for Him must be after that pattern. He who loves most serves most, and He who would be most like his Lord must take the lowest place amongst his brethren, that he might serve all.
THERE IS A TIRELESS FOE, BUT AN ALL-PREVAILING INTERCESSOR
Now if we are to witness for Christ, there will be opposed to us a sleepless and subtle foe; and the greater our determination to witness faithfully for Him, the more we shall be challenged and attacked. “Simon, Simon,” said the Lord, “behold, Satan hath desired to have YOU that he may sift you [all the disciples] as wheat.”
What could Simon do in the presence of Satan—poor, impetuous, self-confident Simon? And what can we do who are as foolish and weak as he? Satan’s effort was and is to separate the souls of those whom Jesus loves from Him to destroy them; and what easy prey he would have if it were not for the blessed fact that we have an Intercessor, whose ceaseless and blessed activities on our behalf are all-prevailing. He has died to make us His own; He ever liveth to maintain our faith in witness for Himself during His absence.
How cheering are the words, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” He had anticipated that fierce trial through which Simon was to pass; He had gauged the power of the foe and the weakness of His well-meaning disciples; and He had spoken to God, His Father, about it all, and secured for Simon all the grace that was needed. Simon failed; he was allowed to do so, for he had lessons to learn; but his faith did not fail, and he came out of the distress and the dishonour to strengthen his brethren, and to storm the devil’s stronghold at Jerusalem and take captive for Christ thousands who hitherto had been Satan’s lawful captives.
The intercession of our Lord is not less effectual for us; He is even at the right hand of God for this purpose. There, amid the glory of the throne, He pleads for us so that we may be more than conquerors through Him that loves us (Rom. 8:34, 39).
A LIFE OF LABOUR WITH A BLESSED RECOMPENSE
But these disciples of the Lord had to learn also of what sort their lives would be as witnesses of Christ in the midst of a world that hated Him. Hitherto it had been an easy matter to serve Him, for He had exercised His authority as Messiah on their behalf, and they had gone forth without purse or scrip, or shoes or staves, and they had lacked nothing. Their feet did not weary, and wherever they went their needs were most abundantly met; but now all was to be changed; He was to be rejected; to be cast out as a malefactor, and they were henceforward to be identified with that Name, which was dishonoured by man though honoured of God in heaven. Theirs was to be a life of toil and conflict.
They had to sell their garments and buy a sword. The garment spoke of ease and comfort and the sword of hardship and conflict. They had to exchange the one for the other.
It has been thought that the Lord spoke here of an actual sword; indeed so thought these disciples, for they said, “Lord, behold, here are two swords.” And He said unto them, “It is enough.” But if He had meant an actual sword, He would not have said, “It is enough.” He would have said, “It is not enough, you will want one each.” The fact is, they did not understand then the spiritual significance of His records. But Paul understood them afterwards when he described the Christian life, not in the language of the drawing-room or couch of ease, but in the language of the battlefield. Mark well how he speaks of “the good fight,” of “enduring hardness as a good soldier,” of “wrestling not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” We are told by him “to watch and be sober,” to “put on the whole armour of God”; to withstand and to stand.
How we shrink from this hardship and the sacrifice that witnessing for Christ involves! We labour to save our own lives often, for we so little appreciate the love of Christ that made Him die for us; and it is only as that love of His constrains us, that we shall do any other; but when that love takes full possession we sell the garment and buy the sword, and go forth to witness for our Lord regardless of the consequences to ourselves. In this there is compensation; the compensation of the Lord’s company in this present time, and in the future to reign with Him, for if we suffer with Him we shall also reign with Him (2 Tim. 2). “I appoint unto you a kingdom,” said the Lord to these men, who afterwards sealed their testimony for Him with their blood, these true martyrs of our Lord. May we be like them through His grace.