Call to Worship January 27 2019
Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke
J.C. Ryle Luke 22:1-13
“We see, firstly, in these verses — that high offices in the church do not preserve the holders of them from great blindness and sin. We read that ‘the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill Jesus.’
The first step in putting Christ to death, was taken by the religious teachers of the Jewish nation. The very men who ought to have welcomed the Messiah — were the men who conspired to kill Him. The very teachers who ought to have rejoiced at the appearing of the Lamb of God — had the chief hand in slaying Him. They sat in Moses’ seat. They claimed to be ‘guides of the blind,’ and ‘lights of those who were in darkness.’ (Romans 2:19.) They belonged to the tribe of Levi. They were, most of them — in direct succession and descent from Aaron. Yet they were the very men who crucified the Lord of glory! With all their boasted knowledge — they were far more ignorant than the few Galilean fishermen who followed Christ.
Let us beware of attaching an excessive importance to Christian ministers because of their office. Ordination and religious office confer no exemption from error. The greatest heresies have been sown, and the greatest practical abuses have been introduced into the church — by ordained men! Respect is undoubtedly due to high official position. Order and discipline ought not to be forgotten. The teaching and counsel of regularly appointed teachers, ought not to be lightly refused.
But there are limits beyond which we must not go. We must never allow the blind to lead us into the ditch! We must never allow modern chief priests and scribes, to make us crucify Christ afresh. We must test all teachers, by the unerring rule of the Word of God. It matters little who says a thing in religion — but it matters greatly what is said. Is it scriptural? Is it true? This is the only question. ‘To the law and to the testimony — if they do not speak according to this word — it is because there is no light in them.’ (Isaiah 8:20.)
We see, secondly, in these verses — how far men may fall after making a high profession. We read that the second step toward our Lord’s crucifixion, was the treachery of one of the twelve apostles, ‘Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.’ These words are particularly solemn. To be tempted by Satan is bad enough. To be sifted, buffeted, led captive by him — is truly terrible. But when Satan ‘enters into a man,’ and dwells in him — the man becomes indeed a child of Hell!
Judas Iscariot ought to be a standing beacon to the church of Christ. This man, be it remembered, was one of our Lord’s chosen apostles. He followed our Lord during the whole course of His ministry. He forsook all for Christ’s sake. He heard Christ preach, and saw Christ’s miracles. He preached himself. He spoke like the other apostles. There was nothing about him to distinguish him from Peter, James, and John. He was never suspected of being unsound at heart.
And yet this man turns out at length to be a hypocrite, betrays his Master, helps his enemies to deliver Him up to death, and dies as ‘the son of perdition.’ (John 17:12.) These are fearful things. But they are true.
Let the recollection of Judas Iscariot constrain every professing, Christian to pray much for humility. Let us often say, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart — try me, and know my thoughts.’ (Psalm 139:23.)
At best, we have but a faint conception of the deceitfulness of our hearts. The lengths to which men may go in religion, and yet be without saving grace — is far greater than we suppose!
We see, thirdly, in these verses — the enormous power of the love of money. We are told that when Judas went to the chief priests and offered to betray his Master, they ‘agreed to give him money.’ That little sentence reveals the secret of this wretched man’s fall. He was fond of money, He had doubtless heard our Lord’s solemn warning, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness!’ (Luke 12:15.) But he had either forgotten it, or given it no heed. Covetousness was the rock on which he made shipwreck. Covetousness was the ruin of his soul.
We need not wonder that Paul called the love of money, ‘the root of all evil.’ (1 Timothy 6:10.) The history of the church is full of mournful proofs, that it is one of the choicest weapons of Satan for corrupting and spoiling professors of religion. Gehazi, Ananias and Sapphira are names which naturally occur to our minds. But of all proofs, there is none so melancholy as the one before us. For money, a chosen apostle sold the best and most loving of Masters! For money, Judas Iscariot betrayed Christ!
Let us watch and pray against the love of money. It is a subtle disease, and often far nearer to us than we suppose. A poor man is just as liable to it, as a rich man. It is possible to love money without having it — and it is possible to have it without loving it.
Let us be ‘content with such things as we have.’ (Hebrews 13:5.) We never know what we might do, if we became suddenly rich. It is a striking fact, that there is only one prayer in all the Book of Proverbs, and that one of the three petitions in that prayer, is the wise request, ‘Give me neither poverty nor riches — but give me only my daily bread.’ (Proverbs 30:8.)
We see, lastly, in these verses — the close connection between our Lord Jesus Christ’s death, and the Feast of the Passover. Four times we are reminded here that the evening before His crucifixion was the time of the great Jewish feast. It was ‘the day when the Passover lamb must be killed.’
We cannot doubt that the time of our Lord’s crucifixion was overruled by God. His perfect wisdom and controlling power arranged that the Lamb of God should die, at the very time when the Passover-lamb was being slain. The death of Christ was the fulfillment of the Passover. Jesus was the true sacrifice to which every Passover-lamb had been pointing for 1500 years! What the death of the lamb had been to Israel in Egypt — Jesus’ death was to be to sinners all over the world. The safety which the blood of the Passover-lamb had provided for Israel — Jesus’ blood was to provide far more abundantly for all who believed in Him.
Let us never forget the sacrificial character of Christ’s death. Let us reject with abhorrence, the modern notion that it was nothing more than a noble instance of self-sacrifice and self-denial. It was this no doubt — but it was something far higher, deeper, and more important than this. It was an atoning sacrifice for man’s transgression. It was the killing of the true Passover Lamb, through whose death destruction is warded off from sinners believing on Him. ‘Christ our Passover Lamb,’ says Paul, ‘is sacrificed for us.’ (1 Corinthians 5:7.) Let us grasp that truth firmly, and never let it go.”