Christ And His Table Companions
“And when the hour was come, He sat down, and the twelve Apostles with Him.”
THE outward ordinances of the Christian religion are but two–and those two are exceedingly simple–yet neither of them has escaped human alteration. And, alas, much mischief has been worked and much of precious teaching has been sacrificed by these miserable perversions! For instance, the ordinance of Baptism, as it was administered by the Apostles, represented the burial of the Believer with Christ and his rising with his Lord into newness of life. Men had to exchange immersion for sprinkling and the intelligent Believer for an unconscious child–and so the ordinance is slain! The other sacred institution, the Lord’s Supper, like Believers' Baptism, is simplicity itself. It consists of broken bread and wine poured out–these items being eaten and drunk at a festival–a delightful picture of the sufferings of Christ for us and of the fellowship which the saints have with one another and with Him. But this ordinance, also, has been tampered with by men. By some, the wine has been taken away altogether, or reserved only for a priestly caste. And the simple bread has been changed into a consecrated host. As for the table, the very emblem of fellowship in all nations–for what expresses fellowship better than surrounding a table and eating and drinking together? This, indeed, must be put away and an “altar” must be erected! And the bread and wine which were to help us to remember the Lord Jesus are changed into an “unbloody sacrifice,” and so the whole thing becomes an unscriptural celebration instead of a holy institution for fellowship!
Let us be warned by these mistakes of others never either to add to or take from the Word of God so much as a single jot or tittle! Keep upon the foundation of the Scriptures and you stand safely, and have an answer for those who question you. Yes, and an answer which you may render at the bar of God! But once allow your own whim, or fancy, or taste, or your notion of what is proper and right to rule you, instead of the Word of God, and you have entered upon a dangerous course! And unless the Grace of God prevents, boundless mischief may ensue. The Bible is our standard authority–none may turn from it. The wise man says in Ecclesiastes, “I counsel you to keep the King’s commandment.” We would repeat his advice and add to it the sage precept of the mother of our Lord, at Cana, when she said, “Whatever He says unto you, do it.”
We shall now ask you in contemplation to gaze upon the first celebration of the Lord’s Supper. You perceive at once that there was no “altar” in that large upper room. There was a table. A table with bread and wine upon it, but no altar!And Jesus did not kneel–there is no sign of that–He sat down. I doubt not, after the Oriental mode of sitting, that is to say, by a partial reclining, He sat down with His Apostles. Now, He who ordained this Supper knew how it ought to be observed. And as the first celebration of it was the model for all others, we may be assured that the right way of coming to this Communion is to assemble around a table–and to sit or recline while we eat and drink together of breadand wine in remembrance of our Lord!
While we see the Savior sitting down with His 12 Apostles, let us enquire, first, what did this make them? Then,secondly, what did this imply? what further may we legitimately infer from this?
- First, then, we see the Great Master, the Lord, the King in Zion, sitting down at the table to eat and drink with His 12 Apostles–WHAT DID THIS MAKE THEM?
Note what they were at first. By His first calling of them they became His followers, for He said unto them, “FollowMe.” That is to say, they were convinced by sundry marks and signs, that He was the Messiah and they, therefore, became His followers. Followers may be at a great distance from their leader and enjoy little or no communion with him, for the leader may be too great to be approached by the common members of his band. In the case of these disciples, their following was unusually close, for their Master was very condescending. But still, their communion was not always of the most intimate kind at first and, therefore, it was not at the first that He called them to such a festival as this Supper. They began with following and this is where we must begin. If we cannot enter as yet into closer association with our Lord, we may at least know His voice by His Spirit and follow Him as the sheep follow the shepherd. The most important way of following Him is to trust Him and then diligently to imitate His example. This is a good beginning and it will end well–for those who walk with Him today shall rest with Him hereafter–those who tread in His footsteps shall sit with Him on His Throne! Being His followers, they came next to be Hisdisciples. A man may have been a follower for a while and yet may nothave reached discipleship. A follower may follow blindly and hear a great deal which he does not understand, but when he becomes a disciple, his master instructs him and leads him into truth. To explain, to expound, to solve difficulties, to clear away doubts and to make truth intelligible is the office of a teacher among his disciples. Now, it was a very blessed thing for the followers to become disciples, but still, disciples are not necessarily so intimate with their Master as to sit and eat with Him. Socrates and Plato knew many in the Academy whom they did not invite to their homes. My Brothers and Sisters, if Jesus had but called us to be His disciples and no more, we would have had cause for great thankfulness. If we had been allowed to sit at His feet and had never shared in such an entertainment as that before us, we ought to have been profoundly grateful. But now that He has favored us with a yet higher place, let us never be unfaithful to our discipleship! Let us daily learn of Jesus! Let us search the Bible to see what it was that He taught us and then, by the aid of His Holy Spirit, let us scrupulously obey! Yet there is a something beyond.
Being the Lord’s disciples, the chosen ones next rose to become His servants which is a step in advance, since thedisciple may be but a child, but the servant has some strength, has received some measure of training and renders somewhat in return. Their Master gave them power to preach the Gospel and to execute commissions of Grace–and happy were they to be called to wait upon such a Master and aid in setting up His Kingdom! My dear Brothers and Sisters, are you all consciously Christ’s servants? If so, though the service may at times seem heavy because your faith is weak, yet be very thankful that you are servants at all, for it is better to serve God than to reign over all the kingdoms of this world! It is better to be the lowest servant of Christ than to be the greatest of men and remain slaves to your own lusts, or be mere men-pleasers. His yoke is easy and His burden is light! The servant of such a Master should rejoice in his calling–yet there is something beyond even this.
Towards the close of His life, our Master revealed the yet nearer relation of His disciples and uttered words like these–“Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knows not what his lord does, but I have called you friends,for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you.” This is a great step in advance. The friend, however humble, enjoys much familiarity with his friend. The friend is told what the servant need not know. The friend enjoys a communion to which the mere servant, disciple, or follower has not attained. May we know this higher association, this dearer bond of relationship! May we not be content without the enjoyment of our Master’s friendship! “He that has friends must show himself friendly,” and if we would have Christ’s friendship, we must befriend His cause, His Truth and His people! He is a Friend that loves at all times–if you would enjoy His friendship, take care to abide in Him!
Now note that on the night before His Passion, our Lord led His friends a step beyond ordinary friendship. The mere follower does not sit at table with his leader. The disciple does not claim to be a fellow commoner with his master. The servant is seldom entertained at the same table with his lord. The befriended one is not always invited to be a guest. But here the Lord Jesus made His chosen ones to be His table companions. He lifted them up to sit with Him at the sametable, to eat of the same bread and drink of the same cup with Himself. From that position He has never degraded them–they were representative men and where the Lord placed them, He has permanently placed all His saints! All the Lord’s believing people are sitting, by sacred privilege and calling, at the same table with Jesus, for “truly, our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” He has come into our hearts and He sups with us and we with Him! We are His table companions and shall eat bread with Him in the Kingdom of God!
II. So now we shall pass on, in the second place, to ask, WHAT DID THIS TABLE COMPANIONSHIP IMPLY?
It implied, first of all, mutual fidelity. This solemn eating and drinking together was a pledge of faithfulness to oneanother. It must have been so understood, or otherwise there would have been no force in the complaint, “He that eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.” Did not this mean that because Judas had eaten bread with his Lord, hewas bound not to betray Him, and so to lift up his heel against Him? This was the seal of an implied covenant–havingeaten together, they were under bond to be faithful to one another! Now, as many of you as are really the servants and friends of Christ may know that the Lord Jesus, in eating with you at His table, pledges Himself to be faithful to you. The Master never plays the Judas–the Judas is among the disciples. There is nothing traitorous in the Lord–He is not only able to keep that which we have committed to Him, but He is faithful and will do it. He will be faithful, not only as to the great and main matter, but also to every promise He has made! Know then, assuredly, that your Master would not have asked you to His table to eat bread with Him if He intended to desert you! He has received you as His honored guests and fed you upon His choicest food and thereby He does as good as say to you, “I will never leave you, come what may. And in all times of trial, depression and temptation, I will be at your right hand and you shall not be moved–and to the very last you shall prove My faithfulness and truth.”
But, Beloved, you do not understand this Supper unless you are also reminded of the faithfulness that is due from you to your Lord, for the feast is common and the pledge mutual. In eating with Him, you pledge your faithfulness to the Crucified. Beloved, how have you kept your pledge during the past? You have eaten bread with Him and I trust that in your hearts you have never gone so far aside as to lift up your heel against Him–but have you always honored Him as you should? Have you acted as guests should have done? Can you remember His love to you and put your love to Him side by side with it–without being ashamed? From this time forth may the Holy Spirit work in our souls a jealous fidelity to the Well-Beloved which shall not permit our hearts to wander from Him, or suffer our zeal for His Glory to decline!
Again, remember that there is in this solemn eating and drinking together, a pledge of fidelity between the disciples, themselves, as well as between the disciples and their Lord. Judas would have been a traitor if he had betrayed Peter, or John, or James. So, when you come to the one table, my Brothers and Sisters, you must henceforth be true to one another. All bickering and jealousies must cease and a generous and affectionate spirit must rule in every bosom! If you hear any speak against those with whom you have communed, reckon that as you have eaten bread with them, you are bound to defend their reputations. If any railing accusation is raised against any Brother in Christ, reckon that his character is as dear to you as your own! Let a sacred Freemasonry be maintained among us, if I may liken a far higher and more spiritual union to anything which belongs to common life. You are members, one of another–see that you fervently love each other with a pure heart. Drinking of the same cup, eating of the same bread, you set forth before the world a token which I trust is not meant to be a lie. As it truly shows Christ’s faithfulness to you, so let it as really typify your faithfulness to Christ and to one another!
In the next place, eating and drinking together was a token of mutual confidence. They, in sitting there together,voluntarily avowed their confidence in each other. Those disciples trusted their Master. They knew He would not mislead or deceive them. They also trusted each other, for when they were told that one of them would betray their Lord, they did not suspect each other, but each one asked, “Lord, is it I?” They had much confidence in one another and the Lord Jesus, as we have seen, had placed great confidence in them by treating them as His friends. He had even trusted them with the great secret of His coming sufferings and death! They were a trustful company who sat at that Supper table. Now, Beloved, when you gather around this table, come in the spirit of implicit trustfulness in the Lord Jesus. If you are suffering, do not doubt His love, but believe that He works all things for your good. If you are vexed with cares, prove your confidence by leaving them entirely in your Redeemer’s hands. It will not be a festival of fellowship to you if you come here with suspicions about your Master. No, show your confidence as you eat of the bread with Him. Let there also be a brotherly confidence in each other. Grievous would it be to see a spirit of suspicion and distrust among you. Suspicion is the death of fellowship! The moment one Christian imagines that another thinks badly of him, though there may not be the slightest truth in that thought, yet straightway the root of bitterness is planted! Let us believe in one another’s sincerity, for we may rest assured that each of our Brothers and Sisters deserves to be trusted more than we do. Turn your suspicions within and if you must suspect, suspect your own heart! But when you meet with those who have communed with you at this table, say within yourself, “If such can deceive me and, alas, they may, then will I be content to be imposed upon rather than entertain perpetual mistrust of my fellow Christians.”
A third meaning of the assembling around the table is this, hearty fraternity. Our Lord, in sitting down at the tablewith His disciples, showed Himself to be one with them, a Brother, indeed. We do not read that there was any order of priority by which their seats were arranged. Of course, if the Grand Chamberlain at Rome had arranged the table, he would have placed Peter at the right hand of Christ–and the other Apostles in graduated positions according to the dignity of their future bishoprics! But all that we know about their order is this–that John sat next to the Savior and leaned upon His bosom. And that Peter sat a good way off–we feel sure he was because it is said that he “beckoned” unto John. If he had sat next to him, he would have whispered to him–but he beckoned to him–and so he must have been some way down the table, if, indeed, there was any “ down” in the arrangement of the guests. We believe thefact was that they sat there on a sacred equality–the Lord Jesus, the Elder Brother among them–and all else arranged according to those words, “One is your Master, even Christ, and all you are brethren.” Let us feel, then, in coming to the table again at this time, that we are linked in ties of sacred relationship with Jesus Christ who is exalted in Heaven, and that through Him our relationship with our fellow Christians is very near and intimate.
Oh, that Christian brotherhood were more real! The very word, “brother,” has come to be ridiculed as a piece of hypocrisy and well it may, for it is mostly used as a cant phrase and, in many cases means very little. But it ought to mean something. You have no right to come to that table unless you really feel that those who are washed in Jesus' blood have a claim upon the love of your heart and the activity of your benevolence! What? Are you to live together forever in Heaven and will you show no affection for one another here below? It is your Master’s new command that you love one another–will you disregard it? He has given this as the badge of Christians–“By this shall all men know that you are My disciples”–not if you wear a gold cross, but–“if you have love, one to another.” That is the Christian’s badge ofhis being, in very truth, a disciple of Jesus Christ! Here, at this table, we find fraternity. Whoever eats of this sacred Supper declares himself to be one of a brotherhood in Christ, a brotherhood striving for the same cause, having sincere sympathy, being members of each other and all of them members of the body of Christ! God make this to be a fact throughout Christendom even now, and how will the world marvel as it cries, “See how these Christians love one another!”
But this table companionship means even more–it signifies common enjoyment. Jesus eats and they eat the samebread. He drinks and they drink of the same cup. There is no distinction in the food items. What does this mean? Does it not say to us that the joy of Christ is the joy of His people? Has He not said, “That My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full”? The very joy that delights Christ is that which He prepares for His people! You, if you are a true Believer, have sympathy in Christ’s joy–you delight to see His Kingdom come, His Truth advanced, sinners saved, Grace glorified, holiness promoted, God exalted–and this also is His delight! But, my dear Brothers and Sisters and fellow professors, are you sure that your chief joy is the same as Christ’s? Are you certain that the mainstay of your life is the same as that which was His meat and His drink, namely, to do the will of the Heavenly Father? If not, I am afraid you have no business at this table! But if it is so and you come to the table, then I pray that you may share the joy of Christ. May you joy in Him as He joys in you and so may your fellowship be sweet!
Lastly on this point, the feast at the one . It is the child’s place to sit at the tablewith its parents, for affection rules there. It is the place of honor to sit at the table. “Martha served, but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table.” But the honor is such as love and not fear suggests. Men at the table often reveal their minds more fully than elsewhere. If you want to understand a man, you do not go to see him at the Stock Exchange, or follow him into the market, for there he keeps himself to himself–you go to his table and there he reveals himself. Now, the Lord Jesus Christ sat at the table with His disciples. ‘Twas a meal, 'twas a meal of a homely kind–intimate communion ruled the hour. I am afraid, Brothers and Sisters, we have sometimes come to this table and gone away again without having had communion with Christ–and then it has been an empty formality and nothing more. I thank God that coming to this table every Sabbath, as some of us do, and have done for many years, we have yet for the most part enjoyed the nearest communion with Christ here that we have ever known, and have a thousand times blessed His name for this ordinance!
Still, there is such a thing as only eating the bread and drinking the wine and losing all the sacred meaning thereof. Do pray the Lord to reveal Himself to you. Ask that it may not be a dead form to you, but that now, in very deed, you may give your heart to Christ while He shall show to you His hands and His side, and make known to you His agonies and death wherewith He redeemed you from the wrath to come! All this, and vastly more, is the teaching of the table at which Jesus sat with the twelve. I have often wondered why the Church of Rome does not buy up all those pictures by one of its most renowned painters, Leonardo da Vinci, in which our Lord is represented as sitting at the table with His disciples, for these are a contradiction of the Popish doctrine on this subject! As long as that picture remains on a wall and as long as copies of it are spread everywhere, the Church of Rome stands convicted of going against the teaching of the earlier church by setting up an “altar” when she, herself, confesses that before it was not considered to be an altar of sacrifice, but a table of fellowship at which the Lord did not kneel, nor stand as an officiating priest, but at which He and His disciples sat. We, at least, have no rebukes to fear from antiquity, for we follow and mean to follow the primitive method! Our Lord has given us commandment to do this until He comes–not to alter it, but just to “do this,” and nothing else, in the same manner, until He shall come again!
III. We will draw to a close by asking WHAT FURTHER MAY BE INFERRED FROM THIS SITTING OF CHRIST WITH HIS DISCIPLES AT THE TABLE?
I answer, first, there may be inferred from it, the equality of all the saints. There were here 12 Apostles. TheirApostleship, however, is not concerned in the matter. When the Lord’s Supper was celebrated after all the Apostles had gone to Heaven, was there to be any alteration because the Apostles had gone? Not at all. Believers are to do this in remembrance of their Lord until He shall come. There was no command for a change when the first Apostles were allgone from the Church. No, it was still to be the same–bread and wine and the surrounding of the table until the Lord came. I gather, then, the equality of all saints. There is a difference in office, there was a difference in miraculous gift and there are great differences of growth in Grace, but still, in the household of God, all saints, whether Apostles, pastors, teachers, deacons, elders, or private members–being all equal–eat at one table. There is but one bread, there is but one juice of the vine here!
It is only in the Church of God that those words, so politically wild, can ever be any more than a dream–“Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.” There you have them where Jesus is–not in a republic, but in the Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ where all rule and dominion are vested in Him! And all of us willingly acknowledge Him as our glorious Head and all we are brethren! Never fall into the idea that older Believers were of a superior nature to ourselves. Do not talk of Saint SaintJane sitting over yonder–for if they are in Christ, they are as truly saints as those first saints were! And I think there may be some who have even attained to a higher “saintship” than many whom tradition has canonized! The heights of saintship are, by Grace, open to us all and the Lord invites us to ascend! Do not think that what the Lord worked in the early saints cannot be worked in you. It is because you think so that you do not pray for it–and because you do not pray for it, you do not attain it! The Grace of God sustained the Apostles–that Grace is not less today than it was then! The Lord’s arm is not shortened! His power is not straitened. If we can but believe and be as earnest as those first saints were, we shall yet subdue kingdoms and the day shall come when the gods of Hinduism and the lies of Mohammed and of Rome shall as certainly be overthrown as were the ancient philosophies and the classic idolatries of Greece and Rome by the teaching of the first ministers of Christ! There is the same table for you and the same food is there in emblem–and Divine Grace can make you like those holy men, for you are bought with the same blood and quickened by the same Spirit! Only believe, for “all things are possible to him that believes.”
Another inference, only to be hinted at, is that the needs of the Church in all ages will be the same and the suppliesfor the Church’s needs will never vary. There will still be the table–and the table with the same items upon it–bread, still bread–nothing more than bread for food. Still wine, nothing less than wine for drink. The Church will always need the same food, the same Christ, the same Gospel. Out, you traitors who tell us that we are to shape our Gospel to suit this enlightened 19 th Century! Out, you false-hearts who would have us tone down the everlasting Truth of God that shalloutlive the sun, moon and stars to suit your boasted culture which is but varnished ignorance! That Truth of God which of old was mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, is still mighty, and we will maintain it to the death! The Church needs the Doctrines of Grace today as much as when Paul, or Augustine, or Calvin preached them! The Church needs justification by faith, the substitutionary Atonement, regeneration and Divine Sovereignty to be preached from her pulpits as much as in days of yore! And by God’s Grace she shall have them, too!
Lastly, there is in this Truth, that Christ has brought all His disciples into the position of table companions, a prophecy that this shall be the portion of all His people forever. In Heaven there cannot be less of privilege than on earth. It cannot be that in the celestial state, Believers will be degraded from what they have been below. What were they, then, below? Table companions. What shall they be in Heaven above? Table companions and blessed are they that shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God! “Many shall come from the East and from the West, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of God.” And the Lord Jesus shall be at the head of the table! Now, what will His table of joy be? Set your imagination to work and think what will be His festival of soul when His reward shall be all before Him and His triumph all achieved! Have you imagined it? Can you conceive it? Whatever it is, you shall share in it–I repeat those words–whatever it is, the least Believer shall share in it! You, poor working woman, oh, what a change for you, to sit among the princes of Christ’s palace of Glory, near to your Lord, all your toil and needs forever ended! And you, sad child of suffering, scarcely able to come up to the assembly of God’s people–and going back, perhaps, to that bed of languishing–you shall have no pains there, but you shall be forever with the Lord! In the anticipation of the joy that shall be yours, forget your present troubles, rise superior to the difficulties of the hour and if you cannot rejoice in the present, yet rejoice in the future which shall so soon be your own!
We finish with this word of deep regret–regret that many here cannot understand what we have been talking about–and have no part in it. There are some of you who must not come to the table of Communion because you do not love Christ. You have not trusted Him. You have no part in Him. There is no salvation in what some people call “sacraments.” Believe me, they are but delusions to those who do not come to Christ with their heart! You must not come to the outward sign if you have not the thing signified. Here is the way of salvation–“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” To believe in Him is to trust Him. To use an old word, it is recumbency–it is leaning onHim, resting on Him. Here I lean on this platform rail. I rest my whole weight on this support before me. Do so with Christ in a spiritual sense–lean on Him. You have a load of sin, lean on Him–sin and all! You are all unworthy, weak and, perhaps, miserable. Then cast on Him the weakness, the unworthiness, the misery and all! Take Him to be All-in-All to you–and when you have thus trusted Him, you will have become His follower! Go on by humility to be His disciple, by obedience to be His servant, by love to be His friend and by communion to be His table companion!
May the Holy Spirit so lead you, for Jesus sake! Amen.