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The Power and Peril of a Divine Symbol

The Power and Peril of a Divine Symbol

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"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." MATT. xxvi. 26.

"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." MATT. xxvi. 26.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jun 04, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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THE POWER AD PERIL OF A DIVIE SYMBOL BY REV. J. G. GREEHOUGH, M,A. "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." MATT. xxvi. 26. JESUS never went far for sermon text and illustra tion. The material out of which He wove His inimitable discourses was always waiting at His feet, or within reach of His hand. A small mind only sees grandeur in the grand. A great mind finds something infinite in the least thing. Jesus needed only a field flower, or a mustard seed, or a grain of wheat, or a well of water, or a child s face, or a piece of bread, to suggest thoughts, and words, and truths, which can never die. He let a beam of heaven s light fall upon them, and straightway they were heavenly and divine. Here they were eating the Passover feast. It was an old custom. It had been done for a thousand years in Israel, and the disciples knew every feature and item of the ceremony as well as they knew their own names. At a certain stage of the feast, he who presided always took a 159 160 THE POWER AD PERIL piece of bread, gave thanks to God for it as the creator of all good things, and then broke it into two pieces, and ate one of them along with a portion of the lamb which had been slain. Jesus went through the prescribed forms here, save that there is no mention of the lamb. He Himself was the lamb at that Passover feast, and He was not yet
slain. The bread was sufficient, their own thoughts were to supply the rest, they were to eat the bread and think of Him as the accompanying meat. Think of this broken loaf as My body, which is broken for you, and eat ye all of it. It was the old form with an entirely new meaning. The Paschal lamb of Egypt, and the deliverance which it typified, had passed out of sight, and in place of that was the great divine sacrifice which was to take away the sin of the world ; and, henceforth, that simple breaking of bread was to be the symbol of the world s redemption, and to keep for ever fresh and sweet the memories of Calvary, and the thoughts of an infinite and bleeding love. We are reminded here of I. The mighty and deathless power of a symbol. The thing in itself is insignificant. Its intrinsic worth would not be equal to the widow s mite, but OF A DIVIE SYMBOL 161 faith touches it, hope shines upon it, love glorifies it, precious memories are woven around it, great thoughts take shape about it, and then it is some thing which all the gold in the world could not purchase, and for which men will willingly suffer and die. A piece of broken bread what is it? ext to nothing, except when men are famishing. It is the commonest thing in the world, for it is seen everywhere where man is seen. It is the crumb which falls unnoticed from the rich man s table, the fragment thrown into the dust-bin, the crust which the beggar insolently flings away, the morsel which the very dog refuses unless he has fasted incon veniently long. You see it lying in the street and
the gutter, wasted, despised, and a thing of nought. Yet such a thing did Christ touch, bless, consecrate, and exalt into a symbol of divinest mysteries ; and now that piece of broken bread can carry us back two thousand years, and bring up our highest, deepest thoughts, and awaken in us everything that is nearest divine. Men are moved and swayed by such symbolic things more than by the greatest visible facts and forces in the world. It is not what a thing is, but what it represents, that lays hold of the imagination. Behind the visible is the in visible, and it is by the invisible that we are all consciously or unconsciously ruled. The smallest thing which has gathered around itself a cluster 162 THE POWER AD PERIL of sentiments, affections, and dear memories can work miracles. Men will toil and slave, indeed, for knowledge, wealth, honours, and crowns ; but they will do more, they will bear wounds and meet death for things which have no value in themselves, but are made glorious by their associations. A revered name will do greater wonders than the mightiest magician that ever lived. You would give your right hand, and your left hand too, rather than sell that tiny ring on your fingers which speaks to you of vows that must never be broken. A sham rock leaf it is no more than other leaves, it is worth no more than a blade of grass or a bit of waste paper ; but convert it into a symbol, let it stand for a nation s history, let it carry the thoughts back into a hoary past, let sacred memories be written on its delicate green lines, and it can inspire poets, and create patriotism, and thrill hearts with unspeakable emotion, and kindle fires of devotion and heroism. A weather-beaten, shot-torn piece of bunting, a mere rag which the rag-gatherer would

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