WHAT HAS BEEN PREPARED
1 Corinthians 2:6-16
AWGS What is in mind in reading these Scriptures is the thought of what has been prepared. In John 12 it is what the household in Bethany prepared. In Luke’s Gospel it is what Peter and John prepared; also, it says in Matthew and Mark it is what the disciples prepared. In John 14 it is what the Lord has prepared. And in 1 Corinthians it is what God has prepared. We can get, I think, only a little of what these Scriptures may have for us, because in themselves they are very full.
In John 12 it says they made Him, or prepared Him, a supper. And there were, in that household, three persons: Lazarus, Martha and Mary. Here it is that Martha served without any complaint, as under the Lord’s hand. She served as one who was amenable and one who was quite prepared to do what she was asked. Lazarus sat at table. It is interesting why he did that, as he obviously was very much at home with those at table, which would include the Lord. Mary has a unique part in the service here; what she prepared was in relation to the Lord’s burial. She is, as has often been pointed out, possibly the most spiritual sister in John’s Gospel – maybe in all the Gospels. She knew exactly where the Lord was about to tread, and she knew where He was going, and also, I would suggest, she knew the truth of resurrection.
I read the whole paragraph, not to refer to the central part but to get the context, and we find that there is a fragrance in the whole house: it filled the house. I think, beloved brethren, particularly on Lord’s day morning, that there is a fragrance given out which the Lord appreciates, as He appreciated the action of Mary here. It fills the house. Whether this fragrance has ever gone from the house would be a question, because it says in another Gospel that it was to be spoken of for a memorial of her (Matt 26:13, Mark 14:9).
In Luke’s Gospel we have what the disciples did in preparation for the Passover. It is the last meal, or feast, that the Lord would have had with them. The room was already set out for them, a large upper room already furnished. It was there laid out, showing that the master of the house also had some part in that preparation. The Lord uses persons under His authority. I love to think of the Lord Jesus as the Master in relation to these few verses in this chapter: the Master directing affairs in relation to this last supper. What was prepared in the large upper room was all laid out for them. There was also the man carrying the pitcher of water – a very strange thing, I suppose, in that day. Yet, it was all prepared, prepared for the Lord to be there with His own at this last occasion. It did not only involve the twelve – we may have the mistaken idea that there were just the twelve there. Where was the master of the house? Was he there? I think he was there, and others were there too. Scripture does not refer to women being there, but I think, beloved brethren, they were there. Not just the disciples, the apostles, as it says, but I think that there were more there, taking account of the way the Lord was speaking to them and instituting the supper, as we know it, and that was done in preparation for the service that lay ahead, which comes right down to our own day. [Evidence that there were more than the twelve there comes from the Lord’s own words, “One of the twelve” (Mark 14:20), suggesting that more than the twelve were present but the betrayer was not one of those others.]
John 14 is a chapter which we all love. It is what the Lord has prepared: “I go to prepare you a place … that where I am ye also may be.” He has not forgotten those words. He is going to fulfil them, and soon! We had a conversation in the car on the way across, as to certain factors that are occurring in this country, and I do not think our entrance into that place is too far distant!
“I go to prepare you a place … that where I am.” The place is not so important, but I think that “Where I am” is. He goes on to stress that no one comes to the Father except by Him, and speaks of the way in which the Father has been made known.
We come to 1 Corinthians and it is what God has prepared. There are certain things prepared. Paul in the First Epistle does not mention, interestingly enough, what those things may be. I do not think he could. But when you come to the Second Epistle, you get the promises of God in chapter 1 (v20), you get the new covenant in chapter 3 (v6), and you get reconciliation in chapter 5 (vv18‑20). And there are one or two other factors that are there in the Second Epistle that God has prepared for those that love Him. I think it is far wider than that, but those are just some of the things that God has prepared for those that love Him. As Paul says in that chapter of the First Epistle, they are understood and known by the Spirit.
That is what was in mind, and I know that the chapters are very full! We can only touch them lightly, but there may be something in them for us.
MJC I think that is very helpful. It seems to me, as we have read these Scriptures, that preparation has in mind enjoyment and rest.
AWGS Yes, it does. Which Scriptures did you have in mind?
MJC I was just thinking of them all, really. In John 12 it is what is for the Lord’s enjoyment, what is particularly for Him. Preparation had taken place in the hearts of all of the three persons.
AWGS It reminds you of what we read this morning (John 12:3): the fragrance was set free and rest was there. I think rest is something that we need to appreciate in the day in which we live, because there is so much unrest in the world, so that when we come into the Christian sphere, peace and rest are something that we need to enjoy. These three, as you said, entered into it as having prepared for the Lord. What Lazarus did we are not told, but I think he was there in a spirit of thanksgiving.
TJK They had something to prepare with, they made a supper. How do we provide in our day?
AWGS I think you have to go back to the previous chapter, because certain preparations had taken place in the Lord’s teaching of the apostles. I do not know whether it was significant, but I think this supper would be, in measure, a thanksgiving for the resurrection of Lazarus.
TJK In our day, how do we accumulate spiritual wealth in order to have something with which to prepare?
AWGS I think that is a continuous matter through the week. Others can help here, but JBS once said that you do not chirp like a sparrow during the week and sing like a canary on Lord’s day morning (Volume 2, page 269). It is preparation all through the week, so that we can sing like a canary, if you like to put it that way, on Lord’s day morning. Does that help?
TJK Yes, it does. Hymn 4 says,
Faithful Thy grace o’er our pathway has waited.
Do we have something to bring up because we have appreciated that?
MJC In 1 Corinthians the apostle says, “Whenever ye come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation” (1 Cor 14:26). That assumes preparation, does it not?
AWGS I think it does, and I think as we get older and have more responsibility, we need to set time apart for a measure of preparation. Most of us still lead busy lives, maybe, but I think there is a great need of preparing for the Lord. It is for Him. And it is for Him in this chapter. It is not for those that were there – it includes them, but what Mary poured out here was for Him.
KHW I think your reference to John 11 is important for us, to see that they were being prepared. So what comes out in John 12 is something spontaneous that is really the result of true affection for Himself. Sometimes I am challenged, as to whether I can view the circumstances of the pathway that the Lord allows for me as a preparation for what is to be released for Him by way of response.
AWGS And by that, not only are you enriched, but you have something to present to Him, and the whole company is enriched thereby. So we come freighted with what is of Christ but secured through pressure, maybe. The psalmist says, “In pressure thou hast enlarged me” (Psalm 4:1).
PKL There is a simplicity about this. We do not get the impression that they laid on a lavish table. He came to their circumstances.
AWGS That is interesting, because a supper is the last meal of the day. It is when the family are at rest. I am often reminded that God came to Adam and Eve in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8), not in the heat of the day when things were difficult, but He came in the cool of the day. I do not say it is exactly like this, but the same inference is here, that the Lord came at supper time, the work of the day was done, completed; whatever He was doing in those six days, that work had been finished, completed, for that day, and He came and sat down with these three and the others who were there, and received what they had prepared, particularly what Mary had gathered up. It is, I think, the important factor of these few verses, what Mary had gathered up, and she certainly gathered it up under pressure.
MJC Do you think in any way that in these three persons, the brother and the two sisters, the preparation in each of their souls is of a slightly different character, and they would speak to us as a whole?
AWGS Go on, what do you have in mind?
MJC Well, I was thinking that with Lazarus the preparation was newness of life. With Martha it was preparation for rightly serving, and with Mary it was preparation in relation to the Lord’s death.
AWGS Yes. And where did she learn that part? It says, at His feet. She “has chosen the good part” (Luke 10:42). And that answers the earlier question as to where she got it from – only one place! The Lord says that whatever Martha might say, that part was not to be taken from Mary. I think it is a good place for us all to be, at His feet.
JPW Could I put a word alongside that, what Miss Stenbock said to that brother in Berlin as they were going up to the breaking of bread, “Who shall ascend into the mount of Jehovah? and who shall stand in His holy place?” (Psalm 24:3). Does that stand alongside that?
AWGS Yes. Go on.
JPW I was thinking, too, of Psalm 23: “Thou preparest a table.”
AWGS I thought of reading that Psalm. We think of the preparation of that table, and the preparation of that table was by the Lord Himself, which would relate, I think, more to John 14 than to what we have here. But I think in what you say as to the going up to the supper together, there is preparation taking place.
DEM I was just wondering, is this giving individual or collective?
AWGS I think it is Mary as an individual here, but the whole company had the benefit of it. When you come to Luke 22, that is more collective, because the whole twelve disciples had part in the preparation in Matthew’s Gospel, “The disciples did as Jesus had directed them” (Matt 26:19). In Mark it is two of His disciples. In Luke it is Peter and John specifically. That brings in the collective thought. But here what I had in mind was the household scene. Some of our brethren break bread in houses, and they enjoy a household situation.
GKB Is there something very fine, though, in the fact that the three of them did work together? They were individuals. We are not told exactly what they did, but the result was the supper. It was for the Lord; as we have said, it was the end of the day and He was able to relax, speaking carefully. He was away from the crowds generally and the chief priests and others were not around. It was an occasion for Him just to be at home.
AWGS And would you say that He enjoyed their company?
GKB I am sure He did.
AWGS And is that not what should take place in our occasions? We enjoy His company, but should He not enjoy our company, too? Is that going too far?
GKB No, I am sure that is right. We know that in chapter 11 the Lord wept at the grave of Lazarus. How much He would enjoy having the man, who was now alive through what He had done, at table with Him!
AWGS Absolutely. And Martha, possibly, did all the practical work: it does not say that Mary served. Mary just had that vessel which she was about to pour out upon His feet.
GKB It does say, “There therefore they made Him a supper.” I like to think of them each doing their own little bit.
KHW Is this the way in which the house is filled?
AWGS Go on.
KHW There is the working together and there is the preparation which you are speaking of. When we come together, if there is to be something for the Lord, it has to be something by way of soul experience, something that is the result of the Spirit’s work. We do not just come together and expect to receive. What have we got that we can contribute that merges together so that the heart of Christ is satisfied?
AWGS You have summed up what was in my thoughts; the Lord is to be satisfied with what He receives. He protects Mary here. That would be very precious to her. She was one who had experienced His protection before, but she had a real appreciation of the love of the One Who was going to Calvary’s cross. It is His feet that are anointed here – it is not His head, it is His feet. Where were they going? She knew already where they were going. Is that not why she disappears here off the pages of Scripture? She is not mentioned again, is she? She disappears here, at what I would say is this very high point.
MJC She goes out of sight and the house is filled with the odour of the ointment. No one person is prominent, and yet there is wonderful enjoyment. You read to us this morning the verses in the Song of Songs (2:12). The thought there was really the Lord’s enjoyment of the company.
AWGS That is the voice of the turtle-dove. In one sense you get the voice of the turtle-dove – that peaceful, restful element – entering into these few verses. The Lord had to deal with what imtruded there, and did deal with it. John in his faithfulness mentions it. Chapter 12 in John’s Gospel is one of the chapters that stands out in the whole of Scripture. It thrills the heart of the believer because of what Mary did there – would we not like to replicate it?
WRT It says, “Of Thine own have we given Thee” (1 Chron 29:14 KJV). So it is only what we gain from the Lord in our private reading and prayer that we shall be able to bring.
AWGS So it is pure nard. It is not something with a lack of value attached to it. What you are saying is very important, because we gather up what is of value.
WRT This would have been acquired over a period.
AWGS Could we put today’s value on it materially?
WRT I do not think so.
AWGS So she gathered it up. Someone once said it would have been a year’s worth of salary for those days. That is putting a material value on it, which we do not want to do. It is what is for the Lord.
In Luke 22 we get Peter and John going up, but I think we have to carry forward in our thoughts what Matthew and Mark say as to it, that all the disciples were actually involved in it, because He asked them all to go in Matthew’s Gospel. It is just the setting in Luke and how it is presented. Mark is the Servant’s Gospel, so two disciples are mentioned there: disciples are servants. But here the Lord selects these two to do this service, to prepare the Passover. I feel that if the Lord selects one and another to do a service, they have to do it to the best of their ability and in relation to His wishes. That is exactly what Peter and John did. They went into the city, they saw this man carrying an earthen pitcher of water, and then – Luke does not put in a word that is not necessary – “And he” – emphatic – “will shew you a large upper room,” and it is already furnished. They did not have to do that, somebody else had gone before and done it, and there “they prepared the Passover,” the last supper which the Lord was to take with them. I think, sometimes, we need to take our preparation in a serious way.
WRT Is it not also that “obedience is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam 15:22)? They followed the Lord’s instructions. There is a need to provide, but it was the fact here that they were obedient to the Lord’s word.
AWGS I am pleased you have referred to that, because it is a very important feature of Christianity – obedience. They were obedient to what He said, they did not deviate from one bit of it. They set up this last feast of remembrance so that the Lord could institute the supper for the purpose of its going right down the centuries of time until today.
MJC Do you think that it is put this way that the upper room was furnished and made ready, but the real objective of meeting was to celebrate the Passover (v13)? Is that to give due prominence to the matter of the Passover?
AWGS Yes. The Lord says to Peter and John, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, … he will shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready.” They did not have to furnish the room, it was done, the master had already done it. What instruction he received we are not told, but something had been indicated to him that this room was going to be needed for this supper, and then, as you rightly point out, “they prepared the Passover.” Peter and John did it, and as our brother said, they were obedient to what the Lord required them to do. I think that is a word to all of us because we need, all of us, to be obedient to the Lord’s command: “This do in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19).
MJC I think this is helpful. And again, on a practical note, although we are thankful for a meeting room, it is not the bricks and mortar that matters, it is the saints. It is the Passover that is important.
AWGS It is. As you well know, the Passover was always celebrated – and it is not called here “the feast of the Jews” (as in John 6:4). The Lord would have felt this in His spirit, would He not? He would know what this Passover really meant for Him.
TJK Could you tell us how the Passover relates to us today? “For also our Passover, Christ, has been sacrificed,” Paul says (1 Cor 5:7), but does not explain; can you do so please?
AWGS Well, I will tell you a little story. A brother once called on CAC on a Saturday evening and his housekeeper said, ‘I am sorry, you cannot see him, he is eating the Passover.’ That was in preparation for taking the Lord’s supper.
TJK So what did he do? Was he praying and reading the Bible?
AWGS Exactly. He was taking account of what, maybe, had occurred during the week and going over it with the Lord, as we all need to do. And so, to go back to what JBS said, it is so that we can be happy on the Lord’s day morning. The Passover is not only the eating of the sacrificed lamb, the killed lamb, it is the other side, too: unleavened bread and bitter herbs. That is the side of the Passover that tests me most.
KHW You cannot do this preparation on your own, can you?
AWGS Go on.
KHW You realise that you need to be with the Lord. There is the man here who is carrying the pitcher of water. I often reflect on this passage as to what men would describe as the coincidence, but it is not a coincidence. It is the Lord’s perfect ordering that went alongside this preparation.
AWGS And it was all there in the divine calendar, right from the time the Lord came in, even before then; it was all ordained by God that this would happen, that the Lord was crucified.
TAH I am interested in what you are saying, because I probably find it harder than most, preparing myself. I was thinking, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your intelligent service” (Rom 12:1). It is one thing knowing it, but it is another thing putting it into action.
AWGS I think what you are saying is very important. We sit in a meeting room like this and speak over these truths, but what happens afterwards? Is it just a fine conversation? Or do we take it to heart? As was prayed at the beginning of this occasion, there should be a result. And Who is the result for? Is that not the point?
JPW “They found it as He had said to them.” Does that remind us of the release of the colt? They found it: someone had gone before.
AWGS Yes, that is interesting, because they followed the man with the earthen pitcher of water. And it was to follow him to the house, and then they had to ask a question. The Lord gives them the question to ask; it is not just any question: “Where is the guest chamber?”
MJC What does it suggest?
AWGS Well, the owner of this house was about to entertain the greatest Person that he would ever entertain. When we come together on Lord’s day morning it is not exactly entertaining the Lord; He comes to His own and He comes in, and He is given His rightful place. But, where is the guest chamber?
MJC It is the best room.
AWGS Exactly. Do we give Him the best one?
MJC It is a test, is it not?
AWGS It would just underline, as we have been saying, that not everything was ordained and realised. The Lord, as has been suggested, had gone before, but also He used these two men who became pillars in the assembly, who had been with the Lord in certain incidents and areas to which others had not gone: on the mount of transfiguration, into Gethsemane. These two were also chosen to do this service in Luke’s Gospel. It does not say it in the others. I think that might bring in a connection, maybe, with Pauline ministry. Paul had a large influence, I think, on the way Luke wrote.
PKL How does the preparation save us from unsuitable thoughts? When they actually ate the supper, there was also strife as to which should be first, at the supper (v24)! And on the previous occasion in John, the disciples did not like the waste, in their eyes, that Mary had spent on the Lord. I wondered if the preparation would help to get those thoughts out of our minds.
AWGS I think so. I think that is a part of eating the Passover. We all know and agree with JND’s line in that hymn –
No infant’s changing pleasure
Is like my wand’ring mind
And that happens at the supper. I think a brother who was a builder once said that he had built many a house during the breaking of bread! It just shows that we do have certain measures of weaknesses, as you say, and I think it is only right to depend and rely solely upon the Spirit of God and the great Shepherd of the sheep Himself.
GKB But in spite of all our weakness the Lord says here, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you” (v15). We do not know who, other than the eleven, was there but, as you said earlier, every one loved the Lord.
AWGS Is that not the important factor?
GKB I think so, yes.
AWGS But the desire was His. It does not say that they had the desire. And that brings us to John 14, because it is a desire of His that we should be with Him in the place that He has prepared. “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe on God, believe also on Me. In My Father’s house there are many abodes; were it not so, I had told you: for I go to prepare you a place.” That preparation would involve His entrance into death, His resurrection and His ascension. “I go to prepare you a place.” He had not gone that way when He said these words, but that is the way He had to take so that this place might be made available for those who have trusted in Him. And He says, “I am coming again” – wonderful words!
KHW So has the preparation been completed?
AWGS I think so. It is all ready in that sense, and it is just waiting, is it not, for one thing?
MJC The upper room is furnished.
AWGS It is all ready and available.
MJC That takes us to Revelation 19, “Rejoice and exult, and give Him glory; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready” (v7) – that is another preparation – “And it was given to her that she should be clothed in fine linen.”
AWGS Why is she a wife before she is a bride?
MJC Well, that is a big question, but I think that today, in the day in which we live, wifely features are being prepared and exercised by the assembly during the absence of Christ.
AWGS So the bridal display is not yet. But we experience it when we come together on a Lord’s day. Bridal affections are always fresh. The wife makes herself ready because she is wife during His absence. Proverbs 31 gives us the woman of worth who was preparing for her husband’s return (vv10‑31).
KHW The freshness of affections will be sustained eternally. That is the thought of the bride, is it not?
AWGS So we have not only the scene prepared, but also, “I am coming again and shall receive you to Myself, that where I am ye also may be.” And then we have Thomas’s question. I am very glad of Thomas here, asking this question.
MJC It is very often a question that can bring out very much what is in the mind of God for us.
AWGS The Lord’s answer is very interesting, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” The place that He has prepared is ready, furnished, but He is the way to it. He is the only way to it. There is no other way to that realm, but Him.
MJC I think it is good that we have been taught to see that the Lord comes to us here, particularly when we remember Him, in order that He may take us to Himself where He is. That is the Lord’s desire at the breaking of bread, is it not? He comes to our affections to take us to be where He is.
AWGS That is why we break bread first, to demonstrate our affection for Him. He comes to us, He takes us to His own scene, as you have said. To repeat some of the teaching we have had, we go onto the ground of the resurrection and we do not turn from that ground until we have finished the meeting. We are in His own scene, His own sphere. And what He delights in is the voices of affection and love for Him. We should not go back into the wilderness setting after the supper.
AJC Could you explain what that means, please?
AWGS The wilderness setting is where we are during the week, and we frequently speak – and rightly so – of our need of Him in relation to our failures. That is the wilderness setting, it is the setting of testing, the setting of trials. You know what those are. When we come to the Lord’s day morning, we break bread in the wilderness, in that setting, but then the Lord takes us over into His own scene, into His own sphere.
TJK There is a little phrase at the end of the hymn that was given out,
In each, made meet, yet training
You are saying, as I understand it – and I agree with it – that we are training during the week, but on Lord’s day morning we are as made meet. Both apply all the time, but it is a question of emphasis and what is appropriate – is that right?
AWGS Yes, we break bread in the wilderness, using Old Testament language, but then we go into ‘land conditions,’ we go over the Jordan. That is Old Testament language. In our language, yes, we break bread in this world, and we are taken out of it into the Lord’s own scene.
KHW It is beyond failure, is it not?
KHW And beyond breakdown. So when you come into the joy of that place of Christ risen, you are beyond all that. And when you come into the Father’s house, you can approach with boldness, because you have been clothed in the worth of Christ. There is no failure attached to that at all. Our praises should be in the sense of the deliverance that that provides.
AWGS Exactly. Those are some of the things that God has prepared for us, and they are understood only in the power of the Spirit.
GKB “I desire that where I am they also may be with Me, that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me” (John 17:24). That is what we seek to touch, is it not?
AWGS It is a beautiful request of the Lord to the Father that we might behold His glory. That is the glory of our Lord Jesus. He goes on, in John 17, to speak of the love that the Father had for Him, and also that love resting in those that love the Saviour. Those are further beautiful verses showing how the Lord appreciates, and the Father appreciates, our love for that Person, however little that love might be.
MJC The test to me, I feel, is, ‘Do I get there? Or do I sit still on my seat,’ if you know what I mean?
AWGS I know exactly what you are saying. A Christian once knocked on my father-in-law’s door. During the conversation the Christian said, ‘Well, you must live in another world.’ His answer: ‘I do.’ Now, that is a test, is it not? I think it marked him. It is a test, but if we do not have it as an objective before us and, as we have been reminded, have that experience, I think we shall be lacking. We know where we are by the power of the Spirit.
MJC What have you in mind about 1 Corinthians?
AWGS I read that only because of the things that God has prepared. It is not exactly what the Lord has prepared, it is what God has prepared, showing how God cares for those whom Christ has secured. He has given them things. Paul, here, does not explain what they are. They may include those items that we have in 2 Corinthians, and would certainly include the blessings of Ephesians.
MJC We have been enjoying much help together in Bromley on the Book of Joshua, which is really about what God prepared for His people.
DEM You have to take possession of it though.
AWGS And do we not have to take possession of these things?
AWGS That is quite an interesting point you make. It is no good just listening, we have to energetically take possession. That is what they had to do, take possession of the land. They could not sit back and say, ‘It will all be done for us.’
PKL Is it a good thing, if we do not understand, to ask a question? You were referring to Thomas’s question. That gave the Lord the opportunity to say a further word on one of the cardinal truths of Christianity.
AWGS It is interesting you should say that about asking questions, because my father once said to me, ‘Andrew, you did not say anything in the reading tonight, you did not ask a question.’ I said, ‘No.’ He asked, ‘Do you know it all?’ So keep asking questions! Because I think that not only do you learn, but we all learn. I trust that those of us who may be slightly older are on our mettle to be able to answer them clearly and precisely. Is that right?
DEM It is absolutely right.
RPM These things that God has prepared are spiritual things.
AWGS It is very much so. I think that is what we need to lay hold of. It is outside this world. It is the world of which Christ is the centre.
PKL Philippians helps there.
AWGS Go on.
PKL Well, it says, “Whatsoever things are just … pure … amiable … of good report … think on these things” (ch 4:8).
8 July 2012