Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people. Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them. And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray him unto them in the absence of the multitude. Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat. And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare? And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.
Jerusalem, with all its religious festivals and ordinances, was externally what it had ever been. Year by year these festivals came round and found the people in the same beaten path, strictly attentive to the outward act, and meticulously so in a superincumbent mass of details nowhere prescribed in God’s law. It has ever been the case, that a religion decaying in vitality increases its external rites as well as its painstaking in attending to them. It would seem as if conscience were accusing the inner heart, on account of its decline, and that in order to silence its reproofs, it would make up for the lack of internal vitality by external ceremonies. It is in this way that a form of godliness is so deceptive. It looks all the more beautiful for the absence of life, just as the polished marble, which takes in not one ray of the sun's warmth, reflects its beams all the more brightly. The corpse looks often much more beautiful than previous to the departure of the spirit from its tabernacle. So it is often with religion, in its external form.
So it was with Jerusalem, its religion was not only a decaying thing, it had decayed. The life, the true life of God, had gone out of it. It was the body without the soul. How do we prove this? The opening words of this chapter show us: “And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him.” Jesus was, Jesus is, the life of all true religion. They would not have Him. They sought to kill Him.
Yet, He must be killed. The feast of the Passover drew nigh. At the feast God’s own word had delivered that the people should “take to them every man a lamb” that it should be slain in the evening; that its blood should be struck “on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.” The day and the hour came round. Where was the lamb? Where is the blood? Where’s the flesh to eat? Jesus must needs be slain. He was the Lamb, His the blood, His the flesh to eat. God was providing the lamb, while these chief priests and scribes were the blind instruments. They were planning, plotting, working hard, while God was overruling. Each and every step of theirs was carrying out God’s end, while blindly imagining they were carrying out only their own.
But who was to betray the Saviour?—a Disciple. Where was He to be betrayed?—in the Church. Yes, it has ever been that the Lord has been betrayed in the Church. Had the Church been true to Him, how His cause would have triumphed! But He and His cause have been betrayed in the Church. There the betrayer has arisen, there the cause has suffered.
Satan is first in the scene here, is he not in every scene? He is the ruling spirit at all times in the world, but he never appears in his true character as when he enters the Church, or when he is displayed in a disciple. The betrayal of the Lord Jesus came not from the world; it came from a disciple. What a humbling thought! Therefore we are told that in him, especially, the devil was seen. The very contrast of discipleship only made this the plainer. The disciple can do what the world cannot—betray the Master! The disciple has means and ways to carry out this end that the world has never thought of. Surely, Satan is conspicuous there in a way that he is not among even the “chief priests and captains!”
Yes, the Devil, he is the actor, the disciple the instrument and so, as is always the case, the Saviour suffers and dies. But we are told something of this disciple, in words sufficiently ominous, at the very outset: “Then entered Satan into Judas, surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.” It is as if the Spirit of God would say, ‘he had no other part with the Lord's people than being of the number.’ The numerical part was the only connection between him and the Saviour, or between him and the Lord's people.
Satan is never at rest; where he enters it is to work, to be active. Therefore it is said that when he entered into Judas “he went his way.” It is called his way. How so, if he were the blind instrument of another? Because he, in the first place, yielded himself; and “to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey.” Our yielding makes us responsible for every act of the one to whom we yield ourselves. Therefore the way Judas took is not said to be Satan's way, but his own.
Whenever the disciple leaves the presence of Jesus to make the world “glad,” Christ must suffer in His cause as well as in the heart of that disciple. We cannot leave the presence of Jesus to go into the world, without making it richer and ourselves poorer; without making it "glad" and ourselves sorrowful. Nor can we go back to the presence of the Saviour from the world without carrying the spirit of the world along with us. Judas made the enemies of the Lord “glad.” He came back to the presence of Jesus, bringing in his heart what he had not when he left the side of Jesus—a powerful stimulant to sin in the reward offered by the world.
What a scene was displayed in that upper room! What a picture of the world in which we live. There was one as near to Jesus as a saint can ever be, whether in heaven or earth—on His bosom. There was another as far off as man can be, even possessed by the very person of Satan! In the very presence of the Lord Himself, in the holiest of all assemblies, there was a traitor. Oh, may there not be such a traitor in the heart of the holiest! May we not, in the midst of our holiest things, have a heart that is nourishing a traitor! Even where the Lord is, there stands Judas.
Let us now turn and look at the preparation for the Passover: “Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the Passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the Passover, that we may eat. And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare?” The disciples must not only do God’s work, but do it where He would have it done. If the Master is to feast with us, it must be in the place and in the way He appoints. We must follow His bidding, in dependence on His word; and He will Surely guide us to the right path, the right man, the right house, and the right room. Going forward, as the disciples did here, with His instructions in memory and heart, and following these and these only, we shall Surely have the Saviour to feast with us: “I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
“And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in.” Two striking truths are brought before us in the passage just quoted. The first, How far should a Christian follow the leadings of providence? In an answer to the question, “Where wilt Thou that we prepare?” the Lord Jesus simply directs them to go into the city, and when they were there, they should be directed. They were to see a man bearing a pitcher of water. We see here, however, that the first step was obedience to the Lord's word; afterwards they should see the signs He had pointed out. First of all, obedience to the word, and then they should see and might follow the leadings of providence.
Before a Christian can feel himself justified in following the leadings of providence, he must be in the same place as the disciples were here. They were in the presence of Jesus, listening to His instructions, treasuring them up in memory and heart, and acting implicitly on them. These things comprise nearness to Jesus, looking to Jesus, trusting in Jesus, and obedience to Jesus. This is the state of heart a man must be in if he would safely follow the leading of providence. To follow providential leadings without this, we shall follow what we think is the leading of the Lord, but only because it accords with some favorite plan we had chalked out for ourselves. How often are such leadings followed, and we come to find they have been but the following out of our own inclinations or likings. We have decided on some course, and anxiously look out for some favorable turn in circumstances to give it sanction. Some coincidence happens, rather strange and unexpected, and this is looked upon as a voice from heaven, as a leading of providence! We come to find, in after years, that it was a mistake; and although God makes “all things,” even our mistakes, “work together for good to them that love God,” we have to reap the bitter fruits. We followed our own heart’s secret wish or liking, perhaps unconsciously, and fondly persuaded ourselves it was the Lord’s way, made now very plain!
Yes, dear Christian reader, such mistakes as these you will always be making unless you are in the place of the disciples here. If you are not, you have no warrant whatever for expecting any such manifestation on your behalf. You sin in expecting it. They to whom such plain providential leadings were accorded here, when they should enter the city, were men who loved the Saviour, followed Him, were in His very presence, listening to His word, and going forth through the world with that word hid within them, and with it only as their guide.
Is this the case with you, reader? Do you follow Jesus; follow Him through evil report and through good? Do you live in His presence? Are you near to His side, listening to His word, following its instructions in all things? Then indeed you will be safe in expecting the Lord to give you some gracious tokens of the way, in giving you some providential evidence that you are right, that you may go onward in the path. You shall not miss the way then, nor will you be ready to take as the Lord’s leading any coincidence because it happens to favor a preconceived plan or some secretly cherished wish. Rest assured, the heart that is not living near to God is in no fit state to judge what are leadings of providence. It will, it must, go wrong. It requires faithfulness of heart, sincerity of purpose, a single eye to God’s glory, and a well balanced mind and judgment, to decide on the leadings of providence; and these things are only to be had by a life spent in God’s presence. Say not; ‘this is hard, this is too high a standard.’ Enoch walked with God under far less light than you have and with as many cares on his back. What he did, all God's people may do. Sit not still, Christian, rest not satisfied with present attainments, whatever they may be. Higher and higher still! Nearer and yet nearer to Jesus! Press towards the mark. Press on through the world, the flesh, the devil. Press through sins and failings, through wanderings and weaknesses, through shadows, and clouds, and darkness. Oh press on nearer and yet nearer to Jesus!
We are taught another important truth in this verse; that the Lord will make His way plain after our obedience. We often ask like the disciples here, “Where wilt thou?” What course shall I adopt, where shall I go, what will be the issue of this? What is the Lord's answer? “Go into the city,” take the first path open before you; leave the future. Follow the Lord, obey implicitly His word. Take the first step before you, though you only see that one. You walk by faith, and therefore one step at a time is quite enough. Take this step. God will make every other plain. When the disciples had gone into the city; then, but not till then, they saw the man with a pitcher, the house, the Goodman, and the room. Do you the same and depend upon it the same result will follow; you will be guided to the right place, and you will find that in following the Lord fully, He has brought you into a guest chamber, where He will sup with you and you with Him. The joy of the Lord will be yours.
“Follow him into the house where he entereth in.” Here we have another important truth brought before us. When the Lord Jesus seeks a place in our hearts and homes, He does not force us against our wills. He does not ask us to go another way, or to go to another house, or to lay down the pitcher and take up some other duty. No, grace never does this, it says; carry your pitcher, go to your house, but let me go along with you. Grace would only sanctify our callings and duties. It would ask for a place in them all. We shall have all the better duties, all the happier homes, all the more joyful guest chambers, for having Jesus along with us. And there should be no duty, no calling, no home, no guest chamber, where He cannot be taken, where He cannot be glorified. O reader, remember this, and cling to Jesus! Go nowhere, do nothing, say nothing, unless you can have Him with you. Live for Him—for Him only. Is there anything else worth living for? Oh, nothing! Live for Him, with Him, in Him! They only, who live such, truly live. Life without Jesus as the chief moving spring is sleep, slumber, death!
However, though there are no compulsions in true religion, though the Lord asks us only for a place in everything, yet where He comes, He comes to reign; where He is admitted, He will only enter as a sovereign. “And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?” The word is, “The Master saith.” Into that heart or home where He is about to take up His abode, He will enter only as “The Master.” All within must bend to His will. All must subserve His glory. He, and only He, must sit on the throne there and every will; all affections, plans, every duty, must become His subject. Yea, the husband, the wife, every child, every relative, every servant within that house must come under the influence of his laws. The Goodman of that house must know, and know it from the Lord Himself, that in his own house and home there is a Master, even over him.
Mark another truth taught here, from the message of the Lord to this “goodman” and to this house. “Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?” Mark, reader, the inseparable connection between Christ and His disciples; It is not where I shall eat the passover. No. That is never the message of Jesus. It is “where I shall eat…with my disciples?” Where the Lord Jesus finds a heart and a home, there, too, must His people find the same hearty welcome. He will not dwell where they cannot find a welcome. Think you, dear reader, that He who said, “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you” would have entered that dwelling except on this condition; “with my disciples?” Listen to His own words, applicable as much to the present time as to the future, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.”
Dear reader, if yours be not a heart or home that can joyfully admit the disciple, there the Master will not dwell. Say not, he is so peculiar, or he holds views so different from mine, or he is so opposed to any own particular system that I cannot take him to my heart. O narrow hearted soul! Go and see if you can carry that spirit into the presence of God! These are the very things that will prove the character of your religion. These are the things that will test your forbearance, and patience, and love. If your religion be good for anything, it will stand this test. If it has the stamp of heaven, it will bear all for the Master's sake. O reader, ask for this large heartedness! Ask for this love to the Master, which will overleap every barrier. Ask for that large heart and loving spirit that will scorn to let such paltry differences come between thy soul and Jesus. Remember the word of the Lord Jesus to thee—“I and my disciples.”
Yes, reader, this word is to thee. Mark the individuality of it in this passage; “And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber?” Reader, have thou a place in your heart for the Master? Is there a chamber there for Him which He can make a guestchamber? Or is thy heart like the inn of Bethlehem, which had room for everything and everyone but Jesus? The message comes now to thee, as Surely as it did of old, “Where is the guestchamber?” Where is it, reader? Is it in thy heart? Is it in thy household? The voice that cried of old unto Adam; “Where art thou?” still cries aloud to each heart, “Where is the guestchamber?”
With eternity before thee, with the awful concerns of a never dying soul hanging on the issues of this question, I ask thee solemnly, before God, hast thou a place in your heart for the Master? Oh! It will be a sad case for thee if thou hast not. Turn not away from looking this matter in the face. Say not; ‘this was a well prepared, furnished room, but my heart is not prepared, my heart is not furnished. It is all sinful, and vile, and wretched.’ Jesus will enter in if you are ready and willing to take Him. He will make it fit for Him. He will furnish it for Himself. He Himself is all that is needed to make the chamber “all glorious within.”
You can not make it ready yourself. You can not furnish it by any amount of effort of your own. Every such effort is sin. Christ is standing at the door; let Him in, and all will then be done. He will then make that chamber a guest chamber, a place of joy and gladness, a place of song and victory. Only, sinner let Him in. Take Him as thy Saviour. Look at Him as having forgiven all thine iniquities, as having pardoned all thy sins. Look at the cross and see it all done, and done, sinner, for thee. Cease from all thine own doings, and accept, just as you are; a poor, bankrupt soul, the finished work of Jesus. Take this finished salvation, this all sufficient, ever loving Saviour, into thine heart now. Listen to the sounds of redeeming love ringing in thine ears from heaven, in answer to the deep-seated inquiry in thy soul, “what must I do to be saved?”—“It is finished.” Nothing to be done to save thyself; you have been saved by the doing of another. Fling thine own doings to the winds. Receive, and receive now, the doing of another— Jesus. He has done the work. He has saved thy soul; “It is finished.” Can you not receive it! Oh listen, believe, and rejoice!
Master of a household, head of a family, owner of an establishment with servants under you, and for whose moral as well as spiritual welfare you art responsible, “The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber?” Are all the members of thy household children of God? Are thy children daily trained up, “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Are thy servants taught that they serve not you but the Lord Jesus Christ? Art thou living before them as a witness for Jesus? Is there something of heaven about thee, and thy children, and thy household? Master! Master! “The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber?” What answer canst thou make to God in these matters? Say not, I pay them well, I work my servants none too hard, they have plenty of opportunities of attending to these things; I don't meddle with their religion, it is entirely a matter between their own souls and God! Master, say not so! Thou art deceiving thyself. Thou art responsible, in no small degree for the state of their souls. On thee, master, be visited their blood if you see not to this matter. The ruin of their souls will only drag thee down if you dismiss the matter in this way. Hast thou done all thou canst to set Christ before them? Hast thou, without forcing or intruding injudiciously, spoken to them about their never dying souls? Hast thou set the truth before them, and set them in the way of the truth, as well as thou art able to do it? Master, you are responsible, and one day thou wilt see it. “See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh.”
Minister of Christ, “The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber?” Is there a place in thy heart and home for Jesus? Ah! Thou wilt never speak to the hearts of others if Jesus be not living and abiding in your own heart! Art thou living near to Him, living in the light of His countenance? Does thy spirit pant for Him? Can thou bear to live outside of His sweet, solemnizing, holy presence? Is Christ carried with thee into the pulpit, into the parish, into the cottage, to the dinner table and the drawing room? Christ in thy heart, Christ on thy lips, Christ in thy conduct? Minister, of whatsoever denomination thou art, “The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber?”
O reader, I earnestly beseech thee to ponder these things. Live not on without Christ in thy guest chamber! Make room for Him and His, though everything else be shut out! Let not the world, or the flesh, or the devil make a fool of you by shutting out your nearest and dearest Friend. The world shuts Him out—Oh, take Him in. The world will have none of Him—Make Him thy all. It is but for “a little while!” Oh, to meet Him with His brand upon our brow and His right glad welcome in our hearts! “Heir of God,” may this be for thee and me!