Light in the Darkness
Christ craved the sympathy and love of his friends at all times; but as the darkness deepened about him, he turned to them with special yearning. He wanted to have them near him. He wanted to lean upon them, and to receive strength and inspiration from them. Before he entered the awful experiences of the cross, he wanted to eat with them and by this close fellowship be made more ready to endure, and so he called them together to eat the first Lord's Supper.
There is in this, a wonderful revelation of the human-heartedness of Jesus. We all turn instinctively to human friendship for help as we find ourselves in the midst of trials. We want someone near us when we have to suffer. We clasp the hand of one we love, and feel upheld and strengthened by the warm, faithful clasp.
There is a wonderful mystery in this influence of life upon life. Nothing in this world is so terrible as the desolation of loneliness — reaching out in the darkness and finding no human hand to touch or clasp. And there is no other earthly help so real, so true, as that which we get, in such hours, from the presence of friends.
How human it makes Christ seem to us, how near of kin to us, to see him longing so for the strength he might get from a quiet hour with his disciples! But Christ was thinking of the disciples as well as of himself. He wanted to comfort their hearts before he left them. During three years he had been with them, he had drawn them to his bosom and held them close to his heart. He made them the sharers of all his life, and they had learned to lean upon him. All their hopes rested in him. They could not live without him. But now he was to leave them.
We can never altogether understand the trial through which the disciples had to pass when they saw their Master torn away from their head and led to his cross. It was more than any mere sorrow of human love when the dearest friend is taken away. Remember what a friend Jesus was — spotless, faultless and pure, rich to divine fullness in all tender affections. There never was such another friend. Then remember, too, that besides being their friend, he was their Savior. All the hopes of their souls rested upon him, and they had not yet grasped the hope of his resurrection. His cross was the extinction of every light of joy and love to them.
Jesus understood all this. He saw them on the edge of the black chasm, as they were about to enter its gloom. He yearned for them, and most intensely desired to eat this last Passover with them, that he might impart consolation and strength to their hearts and thus prepare them for passing through the deep darkness.
This was the great desire of Christ as he gave his life in unselfish sacrifice. He poured out his own holy blood — that he might fill a cup of infinite blessing for sinners. But here is a blessing within a blessing. While preparing eternal salvation for his people, he sought to comfort his friends, during the few hours of starless night which must hang over them before morning could break in full glory. He desired to strengthen them to endure the sorrows which he saw coming upon them.
We remember how he used that hour with the disciples. First, he ate the paschal meal with them. Then he gave them the Lord's Supper, as a memorial. Then he opened his heart to them in the most wonderful farewell words that ever fell upon sorrowing spirits. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid!" John 14:1-3, 27
Thus he hung, as it were, a thousand stars in the sky for them, to shine down into their hearts while the awful night would wrap them around in its folds of gloom. The poor, weak disciples found the trial terrible enough, with all these sweet comforts in their hearts; but who can tell what it would have been for them, if he had not eaten this Passover with them, and spoken such words of strength and hope? Who can tell if they might not all have sunk away in utter despair, had it not been for the help thus given them in advance? Amid all the gloom, who knows how their hearts may have been kept from fainting by the memory of his sweet promises and counsels, and the visions of the Father's house and its many mansions, floating now in the night above them?
Jesus longed for the Passover to fortify his own soul for the conflict of Gethsemane and Calvary; but still more he longed for it, that he might gird his frail disciples for their coming sorrow. Even now, in the gathering of the storm that was to burst over him, he gave more thought to his disciples than to himself.
Does not Jesus always foresee the coming trials of his disciples and make provision in advance to enable them to pass through in safety? Before the years of famine come, he sends years of great plenty, that the storehouses may be filled to feed men's hunger. While it is bright all around, he puts into our hearts the lamps of promise and of comfort, that when grief or trial comes, and the sun of earthly joy goes down, these hidden lights may shine down like stars when the day has gone. We are wise if we always take whatever lamp of gladness Christ puts into our hands. We may not see its need at the time — but tomorrow it may be the only light to guide us in safety through ways of peril or death.