“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.”— Matthew xxvi. 26.
WE are all agreed upon this one point, that the Lord’s supper is an emblem of the death of Jesus Christ, and of the way by which we receive benefit from him. The bread sets forth his broken body, and the cup his shed blood; these, separated from each other, show forth his death. The way by which we receive this bread and this wine is by eating and drinking, and this sets forth the way by which we receive the merit and the virtue of the Lord Jesus Christ, by a faith which is like eating, by a trust which is like drinking, by the reception of Christ spiritually into our hearts, even as we naturally receive the bread and the fruit of the vine into our bodies.
These two words, then, “Take, eat,” are the practical directions concerning the Lord’s supper, and spiritually understood, they are the gospel of the grace of God. Every disciple of the Lord Jesus may hear a spiritual voice saying to him, concerning Christ, “Take, eat;” and you who fear that you are not his disciples, if you wish to be, if there is a craving in your heart to possess him, if you are beginning to feel after him, I venture to say to you also, “Take, eat.” This is the way to have Christ, take him, partake of him, and he is yours.
You probably remember the extraordinary story of the conversion of Augustine, who, after a life of sin, was stricken with compunction of conscience. His sorrow of heart was very great, and he could not find peace till he heard a voice, which may possibly have been that of a child on the other side of the wall,— I cannot tell,— but such a voice, he heard saying over and over again, “Tolle, lege; tolle, lege; tolle, lege;” that is, “Take and read; take and read;” and he took the Book, and read it, studied it believingly, and found peace with God. I have prayed that there may be some young Augustine here to-night. At present, his name may be “dis-gusting”, for he is living in sin and iniquity. I pray that he may be troubled in his conscience, and that he may be led to Christ by these words of the text, “Take, eat.” May this command come home to you, and may you catch at it, and put it in practice, and may my Master make a great saint out of some great sinner, even an Augustine, who shall valiantly defend the gospel of God’s grace, though now he sins desperately against almighty love! Oh, that it may be so!
With that end in view, I come to my text. We cannot have many divisions to it, can we? There are but two words on which I wish specially to speak, so they shall be the divisions of my subject. First., “Take,” and secondly, “eat”
I. The first word I want you to notice is, “TAKE.” Just as a doctor might write at the beginning of a prescription, “Take such and such things,” so the Lord Jesus said to his disciples, “Take.” The word is often translated in our New Testament, “Receive.” Jesus holds out the bread in his hand, and says, “Receive it; let it come into your hand.” “Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it,” and then, holding it out to his disciples, he said, “Take, take, take,” and they took it, and the bread became theirs. This is the way that saints get blessings; they take them. This is the way that sinners also get blessings; by the grace of God, they take them. They do not make them, nor earn them, nor deserve them, but they take them Jesus Christ says to them, “Take,” and they obey his voice, and take.
Nobody at the table said, “Lord, I dare not take;” but when Jesus said, “Take,” they took. Nobody said, though perhaps everybody felt, “I am not worthy to take,” but as Jesus said, “Take,” they took. It is always the best plan to accept any good thing that is offered to you. If you are a very poor man, and anybody offers you a shilling, I venture to give you this piece of advice; you take it. Do not stand, and say to him, “My dear sir, I think that indiscriminate charity is wrong; you have never enquired into my character, you do not know whether I really am one of the unemployed.” If there is a shilling held out to you, my friend, you had better take it. If you are very hungry, and there is bread about, you had better eat it if it is given to you. If it is freely presented to you, freely take it. If that were my case, I would ask no questions, not only for conscience sake, but for my necessity’s sake; and especially would I do so when, by the grace of God, the gift is presented to me by the Lord Jesus Christ. If he says, “Take,” I will take. There is nothing freer than a gift, surely, except that perhaps I should be freer to take than I might be to give; for our poor natures are contracted, and we may not always be free in giving; but, surely, even selfishness might make us free in taking. A holy desire for your own good, and your own salvation, might prompt you to say, “Ay, Lord, if thou dost freely give, I without question will freely take!”
And I do not suppose that the Master stood holding that piece of bread to Peter for half-an-hour. He said, “Take,” and Peter took it. “Take,” he said to John; and John took it. “Take,” he said to Philip; and Philip took it at once. Blessed are they who accept Christ the first time they hear about him. Blessed are all they who accept him at all; but thrice blessed are they who, when he says, “Take,” through his grace, promptly answer, “Ay, Lord, that I will; and thank thee, too, most heartily!” Remember those words that we have so often sung,—
“Life is found alone in Jesus,
Only there ’tis offered thee—
Offer’d without price or money,
His the gift of God sent free;
Take it now, and happy be.”
I anticipate that someone will say, “Am I then to have Jesus Christ by only taking him?” Just so. Dost thou need a Saviour? There he is; take him. Dost thou desire to be delivered from the power of sin? Ho can deliver thee; take him to do it. Dost thou desire to lead a holy, godly life? Here is One who can wash thee, and enable thee to live thus. Take him, he is as free as the air: thou hast no more to pay for Christ than thou hast to pay for the next breath that goes into thy lungs. Take him in; take him in; that is all that thou hast to do. If I hear thee say, “I can hardly think that I, a poor unworthy sinner, such as I am, and just as I am, may take Christ,” I answer,— That is the gospel which I have to give thee, for Jesus said, “Take, eat.”
The Lord Jesus said to his disciples, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Well, then, first of all, see how free Christ must be to sinners, because he had a body. Once, he had no body, the blessed Son of God was pure spirit; but he condescended to be born of Mary. I think I see him as an infant cradled in the manger. The Lord of all stooped so low that he hung upon a woman’s breast, and allowed himself to be swaddled like any other babe. The Lord of life and glory has taken human nature; he lives at Nazareth as a child, he grows up as a labouring man, the reputed Son of a carpenter. Working-man, thy God became a Carpenter for thee! Take him. Surely, the very fact that he came amongst men, and took a body like our own, should encourage us to feel that we may freely take him. His name is Immanuel, God with us; and if he be God with us, bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, if he has come so far to bless us, let us not doubt that we may freely take what he has come to bring.
Having taken a body, moreover, remember, next, that in that body he suffered. If I had to tell you that Jesus Christ would die to redeem you, I should perhaps try your faith; but when I have to tell you that he has died, that the work of your redemption is accomplished, that Jesus cried, “It is finished,” ere he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost, that to the utmost farthing he has paid your debt, and borne your sins in his own body on the tree, this is good news indeed; for it leads me further to say that, if he has done all this, and died, “the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God,” we may freely take him, depend upon that. God has set forth his Son to be the propitiation for sin; therefore let us hear him say, “Take, take, take,” and let us take what is so freely presented to us.
My dear friends, remember also that, as Jesus Christ had a body, and in that body died, the object of that death must be outside of himself. He could not have become a man to gain anything by it. He could not have died for any purpose that had to do with his own glory alone. He was under no necessity to veil the splendours of his Godhead in a mortal body, and in that body to die; so he must have died for other people; therefore, take him, take him. Dost thou not see that these fruits are not on the tree for the tree itself, but for the passer-by who, being hungry, may lift his hand, and take and eat? Oh, that you might have the sense to see that Christ, for sins not his own, hath died to atone, and that, therefore, you may take him, and take him most freely!
Besides, Jesus himself gives what we are hidden to take. Note how this verse runs: “Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat.” What Jesus gives, thou mayest truly take. I may not go and take another man’s goods; but I may take what he gives me. If I were arrested for stealing something, and I could truly say, “This man gave it to me,” I should be no thief, should I? And if Jesus Christ gives thee grace, and thou dost take it, thou art no thief; in fact, no man ever does lay hold on Christ without a lawful right to do so. If a dog runs into a butcher’s shop, and steals a joint of meat, the butcher may perhaps take it from him, and not let him eat what he has stolen; but there was never a dog of a sinner who came and laid hold on Christ’s mercy, and then Christ took it away from him. Take it, sinner, and thou hast secured it; if thou darest to seize it, God makes the seizing by faith to be a proper thing, for he bids thee do it. Thou canst never have any right to Christ except this right, that he doth freely give to those who need, according to the riches of his grace. Wherefore, hear this word which says, “Take, take, take.” Receive, accept, grasp, appropriate, take.
Jesus Christ, when he said to his disciples, “Take,” was their Master, and Christ’s word was law to the disciples. There was not one of them who could have said, “I will not take,” without being guilty of disobedience. Oh, that some poor soul here to-night would say, “Is there a Saviour? Then I will have him; I will take him.” May the Spirit of infinite love move upon your mind to make you say, as by a kind of holy desperation, “I will even now take him. Whether I may or may not, I will take him. Though my sense of sin says, ‘You must not,’ and though the devil says, ‘You dare not,’ yet I will take him. I do believe, I will believe, I must believe, that Jesus died for me; and I will take him to be my Saviour; I will rest myself wholly and alone on him.” If thou doest this, thou shalt never perish; for to thee, and to everyone who is Christ’s disciple, or who will become his disciple, there comes this word of command, “Take, take, take, take, take.” Oh, blessed news, and sweet command, may the Divine Spirit lead you now to obey it, and to take Christ as your Saviour!
II. The second head of the sermon is, EAT: “Take, eat.” Eating is such a very simple thing that I do not think I shall try to explain it. Go home to your supper, and you will understand it; every hungry man, nay, every living man, knows what it is to eat. Well, what is eating?
To eat, is the innermost kind of reception. It is taking into your very self the food set before you. Well, now, take Christ, you who are his disciples; take Christ himself, his work, his blood, his righteousness; take them right into you. Say, “This is for me; I take it for myself I have no partner in anything I eat; what I have eaten, I have eaten for myself. You cannot eat for your wife or your child; you have to do that for yourself. Now, dear heart, be brave enough to take Christ all to thyself! Say, “This dying Saviour is mine, this risen Saviour is mine. I hope that multitudes of others will have him; but, as for myself, I am going to have him.” When I eat, I am doing an action for myself; it must be so. And now, by faith, I take this blessed Son of God, who became man, living, dying, risen, I take him for myself unto myself. I beseech you to do that to-night. “It is a selfish action,” you say. Ah, but it is a necessary action! You have personally sinned; and you must personally take Christ. You are personally hungry; and you must personally eat. Who is to condemn you for that? You cannot act unselfishly towards others if you do not yourself eat, because you will not be alive long to be either selfish or unselfish. See you to this, then. “Take, eat.” Receive Christ by the innermost kind of reception. Eating is also a very familiar kind of reception. It is a thing that can be as well performed by a working-man as by a nobleman; indeed, I think it is often better done by the working-man than by the nobleman. How they can eat, some of them! And how simple-hearted people, when they come to Christ, can eat! If you want to see eating, do not bring “my lord and my lady” to the choice dainties of a feast; but invite a lot of poor, hard-working men, I mean, men who have not had sufficient to eat for a month; and there are plenty of that sort about. Set them down to a good joint of meat, and see W they will eat.
Eating is a very familiar kind of action; and, therefore, we say, concerning the great salvation of Jesus Christ, “Take, eat;” take him right into you; you can do this as you take your meals, as you hungry, famished ones devour your food, so take in the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting him, receiving him into yourself, and saying, “He is, he shall be, altogether mine.”
Now, when food is to be eaten, it is not only taken in, but it has to be masticated. It is in the mouth, and it is turned over and over so that the flavour of it is discerned. Now, in this way think much of the Lord Jesus Christ, and his redeeming work. Bead, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the truth. If you feel that you cannot believe, think much of what is to be believed, and of him in whom you are to believe. That mastication will be an admirable way of feeding upon the heavenly food. Jesus died for sinners, Jesus died for sinners, Jesus died in the room and place and stead of sinners. Masticate that great truth, and turn it over and over; chew that great doctrine with the teeth of your thought, until you get the very marrow and essence of it into your soul.
Then there is an inward assimilation that goes on with food. Passing into our innermost parts, it begins to build up our body, till the food that was bread a little while ago becomes flesh and blood. Retain Christ in thy thought, in thy faith, in thy heart, till at last Christ gets to be one with thee, and nourishes thy soul, even as thy food builds up thy body. “Take, eat.” You know, the whole business of eating is, after all, to get the food into yourself. That is the main point, to get it so into you that it becomes your own, and becomes part of yourself. Now, do that with the blessed Lord Christ and all his wonderful work for sinners. Take it till it gets right into yourself, and becomes part and parcel of yourself, and you live through it. “Take, eat.”
I imagine that I hear some one saying, “Oh, but it seems too extraordinary that I, a poor, unworthy one, am to take Christ to be mine, as much as I take a piece of bread to be my food!” Well, listen: he lids you do it; that is warrant enough. If I am the most unworthy one yet out of hell, if Jesus bids me trust him, I may trust him. His bidding is sufficient warrant for my doing it. O child of God, O thou who dost desire to be his child, he bids thee eat; I beseech thee, hesitate not, but let his bidding be thy warrant!
Jesus Christ condescends to compare himself to bread; but what is the good of bread except for it to be eaten? Why is it made into bread, except that it should be eaten? Why does it stand in rows in the bakers’ shops? To be looked at? What! Hungry men in the streets, and bread there as an ornament to be looked at? Nay, the very making of bread means food for men; and when the Lord Jesus Christ compares himself to bread, he means that he has put himself into such a shape and form, in the covenant of grace, that he intends us to receive him. Bread that does not get eaten, what can become of it? The manna in the wilderness that was not eaten, but laid up, bred worms, and stank. Our Lord Jesus Christ is of no use unless sinners are saved by him. A Saviour who saves nobody! Why he is like a man who opens a shop, and never sells any goods; or a doctor who comes to a town, and never has any patients! Christ must save sinners, he wants sinners, he longs to save sinners. Come and take him, then. Come and eat of that bread, which misses its purpose, and design, and end, if it be not eaten. Christ as bread, yet not eaten, becomes Christ dishonoured.
“Take, eat.” Well, what does this mean— this eating? I will tell you. When two men, in the East, took a piece of bread, and broke it, and one ate one piece, and the other another piece, it meant friendship. I go into an Arab’s tent, and I cannot tell what kind of a fellow he may be. He may kill me in the night, and rob me; but if he hands me a piece of bread, and I eat with him, he will not hurt me. The rights of hospitality have secured my safety, there is friendship between him and me. Now, see, God takes a great delight in Jesus Christ; will not you also take delight in him? Then, you see, you have broken bread together, for you delight in the same Person. God trusts his honour with Christ; will you trust your soul with Christ? Then you have broken bread with God. “Take, eat,” saith Jesus, and the moment that thou hast done it, there is the friendship, nay, there is the covenant established between thee and the great Father. I know that God loves Jesus Christ better than I do; but I think that I can almost say that he does not more truly love him than I do. Oh, what a Christ he is to my soul! And God loves him, too, so he and I are agreed about one thing; we are agreed about a precious Saviour, and there is a place where we strike hands, and we are friends for ever. Over the sacrifice of Christ is our covenant made. The moment that thou hast eaten of Christ by faith, there is an eternal friendship established between thee and thy God.
Again, when Jesus says, “Take, eat,” his words set forth to us that he is to become the true nourishment of our soul. Souls have to be nourished by the truth of God, that is their spiritual meat; and the Lord Jesus Christ, when we think of him, meditate upon him, believe in him, and receive him, becomes the food of our heart, the sustenance of our spirit. Do think much of him then; do trust him much; do meditate upon him much; for thus shalt thou grow strong in the Lord, and be built up so as to attain unto the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus. This is what is meant by the text, “Take, eat.”
This also pictures the wonderful union that there is between Christ and his people. That which a man has fed upon, becomes indissolubly joined to himself. You cannot get away from him that which he ate yesterday, it has become a part of himself. I have heard of a priest, who took away the New Testament from a little Irish boy. The boy said, “There are ten of the chapters you cannot take away.” “Why?” asked the priest. “Because I have learnt them by heart.” And so, when you receive Christ into your heart, he cannot be taken away from you. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? There is such a union between Christ and the believer that there cannot be a separation between them without the destruction of Christ, and the man, too. They are so interwoven, intertwisted, and intermingled, that there is no possibility of separating them. So, the Saviour says to you, who are his disciples, and to you who wish to be, “Take, eat.” As you will see us, presently, at the communion-table, take the bread, and eat it, so do you take Christ, and feed upon him, for he commands you so to do. “Take, eat.” Dear hearts, there is nothing said about earning it, nothing said about buying it, nothing said about being prepared for it; come then, take the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is yours.
“Oh!” says one, “I will trust Christ, I will take him now.” You young men and young women here to-night, the first Sabbath of my return after my rest, it would be a very happy night for me if you would dare to take Christ. When I was in distress of soul, it seemed to me as if I must not take Christ. Years ago, when I was a boy of fifteen, that used to be my trouble. I dared not think that Christ died for me, and I was afraid to trust him with my soul. It gradually dawned upon me that, if I dared to do it, I might do it; and that, if I did do it, it would be done, never and would be undone, that if I seized the opportunity of Jesus Christ passing by, and touched the hem of his garment, though it would be an awful piece of presumption as it seemed, yet it would be a holy and hallowed presumption, and Christ would not be angry with me for it. And I know that, when first I believed, I seemed as if I was a thief, and had stolen a cure; but then the Lord Jesus never took it away from me. I ventured, I risked, I dared to say, “I do believe that he can save me, and that he has saved me.” I rested myself on him, and then I found peace. Do so to-night. Jesus said, “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” He has it now, and it is everlasting, he shall never lose it. He that believeth in Jesus Christ is not condemned, notwithstanding all his past guilt and sin. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Now I have given you the whole gospel; that is how the Master put it, and I have left out no clause of it. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
“Take, eat; take, eat; take, eat.” I should like to say those words so that you people up in the top gallery there would hear them in twenty years’ time, if you are alive; so that, as you recollect these lamps, and these tiers of people, you might still seem to hear a voice crying, perhaps, from my grave, “Take, eat.” But do not wait twenty years, “Take, eat;” do it to-night. God help you all to do it, for Jesu’s sake! Amen.