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Hidden Wells of Comfort
— BY –
Rev. Louis Albert Banks, D. D.,
GREAT ARCHERS AND THEIR WEAPONS,
F. M. BARTON, Publisher,
706-712 CAXTON BLDG.,
CHRIST THE SINGER.
"And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives.” Matthew 26:30.
It is a strange thing to me that no great artist has given us a picture of the first magnitude portraying Jesus Christ as he stood up to lead the singing of that last hymn, sung at the Passover feast, immediately before the dark hours of Gethsemane. Surely there is all the dramatic quality needed for a great picture in that memorable scene. Try for a moment, by the aid of the imagination and the facts that have been recorded for us, to bring it to your inner vision. You must remember what has gone before. Early in the evening Jesus and his disciples had come to the house which had been taken for them for the Passover feast, and Jesus had taken his position on the couch at the head of the table. After a little he had noticed that there was an almost angry debate between his twelve friends. They were having a vexed discussion as to who should have the highest position at the table. Judas, who always looked out for number one, had managed to get into a place of honor at the left hand of the Master, and we can well believe that Jesus himself had drawn John down beside him at his right hand. The meal opened with a very uncomfortable feeling because of this unpleasant envy and jealousy. As the meal proceeded Jesus rose from the table, and, taking a towel and a basin of water, came to them, and, kneeling down before them, like a servant, began to wash their feet. We can imagine how they were overwhelmed with astonishment, though most of the twelve submitted silently, being awed by their Lord's action. But when he came to Peter, that impulsive disciple exclaimed: "No, you shall never wash my feet!” “Then,” said Jesus, smiling sadly, "you have no part with me.” Peter broke down at this and cried, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head !"
What a wonderful sight it must have been! I imagine no man in that room, except Judas, had dry eyes. When the service was over, Jesus said gently to them: “Ye call me your master, as indeed I am. Yet I, your Lord and master, have washed your feet. Wash ye one another's feet! Is the servant greater than his Lord ?” What a lesson in humility!
And then, as they turned themselves again to their meal, Jesus said: “One of you shall betray me.” And I can imagine the anguished cries as they start up with whitened faces on all sides, horrified at such an accusation, and inquiring tremulously, “Lord, is it I? Is it I ?" In that moment of awful strain Peter beckoned to John, and indicated that he should ask Jesus who it was, and John no doubt whispered to Jesus, who probably whispered back to him the reply. Seeing this, Judas, whose guilty purpose was burning in his heart, in order to hide his confusion, leaned over to help hiniself to some more of the food in the dish sitting before Christ. Jesus dipped a piece of bread in the gravy with which the pascal lamb had been served, and handed it to Judas. As Judas accepted it he rose from the table, and Jesus said to him, “What you are to do, Judas, do quickly."
When Judas has gone Christ turns to the rest and begins to talk to them tenderly, saying "Love one another! Remember how I have loved you." Then Peter inquires, “Whither goest thou, Rabbi?" And when Jesus tells him that he cannot follow him now, Peter protests, "Why not? I will lay down my life for thee!" But Jesus sadly answers, “Thou shalt deny me, Peter, before the cock crows." What a scene there must have been again—the astonishment and grief on the faces of all, and the indignation in Peter's face, as he is so sure in his own heart that he will not.
Finally, as the evening is passing, Jesus takes the Passover loaf in his hand, and, after blessing it, breaks it, and hands it to them, saying: “This is my body which is broken for you. Take, eat.” Then he pours the wine into the paschal cups. “This is my blood which is shed for you. As oft as ye shall drink it, remember me.” And with tears raining down their cheeks they eat and drink, but so awed are they that they ask him no questions.
As Jesus looks around upon the little group and sees their sorrow, he sets himself to comfort them. And did ever words fall from human lips so full of comfort as those he uttered then ?—“Let not your heart be troubled," he said. “Ye believe in God, believe also in
In my Father's house are many mansions : if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” And he went on to comfort them by declaring that he would not leave them comfortless but would send the Comforter unto them. They should have trouble in the world, but if they kept good cheer, they should overcome the world in his name. He urged them to be good to one another; and to have the same kind of love for each other that he had shown toward them.
And when the conversation is over, Jesus leads them in prayer a wonderful prayer, in which he pours out his heart to God for these friends, and for all that shall believe on him through their words; coming down to our time and beyond, until the end of the world, praying for all who shall love him and seek to serve him. And when the prayer is over they rise to their feet to sing the closing hymn.
The hymn was doubtless the Psalm which was usually sung on such occasions, the one hundred and eighteen, as the Psalms are arranged in our Bible. No doubt Jesus led the singing. How sweet the words must have sounded as that most melodious voice ever given to man, the one voice in the world that has been absolutely perfect, led that ringing cry under the shadow of the cross:
“O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good;
For his mercy endureth forever." As Jesus stood there singing, what thoughts must have possessed his mind. He looked forward to the coming hours and days of shame and disgrace, of pain and grief, of dying and the grave. But he looked beyond it all, and in infinite love still continued to sing stronger than ever :
"Out of my distress I called upon the Lord :
Oh give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good :
For his mercy endureth forever." Let us think for a moment of some of the characteristics of this closing hymn in the life of Jesus, suggested both by the contents of the song and the occasion.
First, then, it was a song of sacrifice. Jesus was preparing to offer himself as a sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world. He was in the throes of the pain and sorrow of that offering at this very