Gateway to the Classics: St. Mark by J. Paterson Smyth
St. Mark by  J. Paterson Smyth


Preparation for Death

St. Mark XIV. to v. 26.

"I lay down My life for the sheep."

N OW drawing near the end—the Cross and Passion. This is the Saturday before Palm Sunday, when the dinner party given in Bethany. Chief priests and Scribes, growing more bitter, determined to kill Him. Just because He was too good, and rebuked their wrong-doing. Wanted all along to do it. Now especially, since He had raised Lazarus (John xi. 45-53). Why not arrest Him? So they said: "Put it off till after Passover." But Judas promised to manage it for them without waiting, and to arrest Him alone when people not there. So God's purpose was brought about unintentionally at right time and "Christ, our Passover, sacrificed for us."

§ 1. Mary

Dinner party at whose house? Supposed that Simon was husband of Martha, or father of the Bethany family. See St. John xii. 1-8. Perhaps this party was rejoicing about Lazarus's resurrection. Who brought the box of ointment? (John xii. 3). Lovely perfume like otto of roses, very costly. But poor Mary thought nothing too costly for the Lord. Who grumbled? Who began it? (John xii. 4). Why? Were they right? People grumble thus still when money used for missionary work or beautifying church. Would it be right to neglect orphans and poor to do this? No; but the people who thus give generally give to poor also. Not deprive the poor, but deprive themselves to give to God. So God, who loves self-sacrifice, loves such gifts.

Was the Lord pleased? Nice to feel that somebody cared so much for Him when all were against Him. So pleased that He said something about "memorial of her." Ever see memorial pillar, or tomb, or inscription? What for? What was Mary's memorial? Just a deed of love. Was it as good as a pillar or inscription to make her remembered? Yes, to this day, through the whole world it is talked of. Beautiful deeds are the best of all memorials. (Florence Nightingale, Grace Darling, Carey the missionary, etc.)

§ 2. Judas

Awful contrast. Mary and Judas. The one sacrificing herself for Christ, the other——? Why did Judas grumble? (John xii. 6). Awful to think that he could be so bad in our Lord's company. Puzzling questions. Why did Christ, who knew his heart, let him in amongst the Apostles? Perhaps because of His love, that "hopeth all things," and hoped he might repent. Why did Christ, knowing his weakness, let him have the bag? Perhaps to give him the opportunity of splendid victory. Great victory can only be won at risk of great loss.

Which would be better for Judas's character—to take away the temptation, or to let him conquer it? So, if bag taken away, he would not steal, because he could not. But would he be any better for that? No. So with your temptations to untruth, or temper, or any sin. Temptation good for making character. It is by conquering temptations that men grow holy. Do temptations always do good? Why not? Did the temptation of Judas? What did he plan? Then they could seize Him and kill Him, and Judas would get how much for his treachery? About £4. Beggarly price for such a sin. It is but a beggarly price that we get for any sin. Almost everyone feels that when repentance sets in.

§ 3. The Last Supper

An upper room. The Lord and the Twelve sitting at the Passover, or rather reclining. (Explain the way of reclining round the table.) It is their last night together, and they are saddened and troubled. And He, too, is burdened in heart. Think of the sorrow to Him who knew all things. Knew that these twelve whom He had chosen to be His closest friends would all fail Him—Peter deny—Judas betray—all the rest run away from the danger, and leave Him. How that great love was disappointed then. And now  also. But He is thinking of their sorrow, not, of His own. St. John tells us how He comforted them (St. John xiv. 1). How like Him—never to think of Himself, but only of others.

Suddenly a startling announcement. "One of you shall betray Me." Did they suspect Judas? Or each other? (v.  19). Wonderful humility and brotherliness. Each only mistrusted himself. Could it possibly be me? Surely none of us would do it! Judas, too, asks, "Is it I?" He wants to see if the Lord is as unsuspicious as his brethren. And in a low voice, unheard by the others, Jesus answers him (Matthew xxvi. 5). Should not this have startled him into giving up his sin? Still more awful words followed (v.  21). Think of the awful fact, which is true of some today also. Be solemn and earnest, and pray that God will save you from it.

Now wine-cup passed round. Bread and bitter herbs eaten. Now a pause. Something very solemn happening? (vv.  22-24). He was now putting an end to Jewish Passover. It pointed in type to Him through all the centuries. He was the Lamb who should be slain. And now the type was about to be accomplished and done with. Instead of it, He would make a new and different festival. He took plain bread and plain wine, and blessed them, and by His mighty power decreed that when this was done by His Church in the days to come, it should be a means of receiving spiritual strength, receiving in some wonderful way His own self into our souls. What says Catechism? What is the outward part? Inward? Benefits of which we are partakers there? You can't understand all this mystery; but you can understand at least one of the reasons why people should be regular communicants, and why you should when admitted to it after Confirmation. "Do it always," He said, "in remembrance of Me."  "Don't forget Me. Let this be always the reminder to you of My love, and of the lives I want you to live for Me."

Imagine a dying mother saying to her children: "Do this  in remembrance of me. Once every year put fresh flowers on my grave." What a shame if neglected! How it would disappoint and sadden her if she could know. But that is a common sin with careless Christians. Think of this when you see the Holy Table arranged for Communion, and let it remind you of that night in upper room, and of the many who, like the disciples, disappoint and sadden the Lord. Say, "Lord, help me not to sadden or disappoint Thee. Lord, when I am old enough to be allowed to Thy Holy Table, I will try regularly to come in remembrance of Thee."

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