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Let us go back to the history of the Lord's life, and to the last days of this blessed life. Two days after was the passover, and the chiefs of the Jews sought to kill Him; nevertheless they feared to stir up a tumult amongst the people, because they felt that His doctrine and miracles had produced a powerful effect in their hearts; they said, "Not on the feast day, lest there be a tumult among the people." This was their opinion, but not God's. The Lord must die as a true paschal lamb slain for us. Besides, He must die the very day of the passover, to surpass the sacrifice of the law, which commemorated the deliverance from Egypt, and which prefigured an infinitely more precious deliverance; that is, the deliverance from guilt before God, and from the dominion of sin. The Saviour's death drew near, and feelings of affection and of iniquity developed themselves on one side and the other. Here we see Mary, who used to sit at Jesus' feet to listen to Him and to understand His words. There her heart had drunk in the instruction which flowed from Jesus' heart; and Jesus, the source of all blessings, was the object which had fixed her heart, and she had felt it in her affections. The grace and love of Jesus had produced love for Him, and His word had produced spiritual intelligence. Now this love for the Saviour made her sensible of the increasing hatred of the Jews. The disciples knew that these sought to kill Him, but Mary felt it; not that she was a prophetess, but her heart felt the presentiment of that which man's hatred desired, and she did what she could as a witness of her contrary sentiment; and the Lord makes this act of love speak wherever the gospel is announced in the world. It is sweet to enter into the house where this family dwelt (here this was done in the house of Simon the leper), this family beloved of the Lord, for it was the refuge of His heart when, rejected by the people, He could no longer recognise the city which He had loved so long: He was accustomed to live with this beloved family. Martha, who seems to have been the eldest of the sisters, occupied with much serving, faithful and beloved of the Lord, but not very spiritually-minded, understood but little of that which filled His heart. Mary used to sit at His feet to hear His teaching; and the Lord had raised from the dead their brother Lazarus. Thus Mary's heart attached itself to the Lord, and became the expression of the little remnant which, united to Jesus Himself, followed the progress of God's ways; it did not stop at the hopes or thoughts of the Jews, but although the intelligence which the Holy Spirit would give was still wanting, it followed the Lord closely, and thus was ready to receive all when the revelation should be made. 315 It has been remarked that this Mary was not at the sepulchre seeking a living Saviour among the dead. It is always thus; hearts attached to Jesus for the love of being near Him receive from Himself the revelation of His wisdom and glory, when the time comes for it. It is blessed to remark also that the Lord, although He were God Himself (all the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Him) was really a man, perfect and holy in everything, and in every thought; nay, He was the source of every good thought. He was not on this account insensible to these intimate affections; there was the disciple whom Jesus loved, and He loved to speak of it; the Lord loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, and their house gave a rest to His heart when an ungrateful world and a rebellious people had rejected Him. A fruit of His grace without doubt, but none the less dear to His heart on that account. But alas! that which is a savour of life unto life is a savour of death unto death. That which Mary expended in love to the Lord awoke the avarice of Judas, for it was a loss to him. Others also fell under Judas's influence, led away by his evil thoughts; but the Lord justifies the woman. "She hath done what she could," says the Lord, full of grace; and her devotedness to the Lord should be recognised in all ages. When the Lord in His divine love gave Himself, she by grace did all that a heart consecrated to Him could do, and her name must accompany the Lord's in the act which is the most powerful testimony to His eternal love. Although that which she could do were but little, a little is never forgotten of the Lord when the heart is faithful. Verses 10-12. Now all hastens on to the end. Judas, urged on perhaps by the force of the bribe, but in reality urged on by the devil, goes away to betray the Lord. Good and evil are accomplished; they are accomplished at the cross. No conscience, no fear of God arrests the chiefs of the Jews on their way of iniquity and opposition to the Lord of glory; they consent together with Judas to give him money to betray the Lord. He seeks occasion to give up the Lord into the hands of the priests without too much noise - a wretched employment truly! 316 Verses 12-16. But in the meantime the Saviour must explain to His followers the manner in which He gave Himself for them, and He institutes the precious memorial of His death, in order that we may always think of it; and that not only we may believe in the efficiency of this sacrifice accomplished once and for ever for us upon the cross, but that our hearts may be attached to the Saviour who loved us and gave Himself for us; thinking of Him and shewing forth His precious death till He come. We Christians are placed between the cross and the Lord's coming, securely founded upon the finished work of the former, and looking forward always anxiously to the moment when the latter shall take place. Although the Lord had now arrived at the time of His deepest humiliation, the glory of His person and His rights over all things remained always the same. He tells His disciples to enter into the city, where they should find a man bearing a pitcher full of water. In the house where he would enter, they would find a heart prepared by grace to receive the Lord. To him they should say, "The Master saith, Where is the chamber where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?" He knows all circumstances and all hearts: the disciples find the man as He had told them, and prepare the passover. Verses 17-21. The Lord, when it was evening, came with the twelve. It was the commemoration of the deliverance of the people out of Egypt; but the Lord was going to accomplish a better redemption, and He institutes an infinitely more excellent memorial. But for this He must die. They were all at the table together, and the Lord Jesus, full of love, looking upon His disciples felt deeply the fact that one of them who had lived in His holy presence should betray Him. He knew well who would be the traitor, but He expresses the anguish of His heart when He says, "one of you shall betray me." He wished to prove their hearts again and to bring to light that which was within. They believed the Lord's words, and each one full of trust in Him and of holy distrust of himself said, "Lord, is it I?" A fine testimony of upright and tried hearts thinking of the fact and of the possibility of such a crime with more confidence in Jesus' word than in themselves. 317 But the Lord must suffer all these sorrows - He does not proudly hide them, but desires to lay His sorrows as a Man in human hearts; love counts upon love. There were sorrows which could not be poured into the hearts of men, and nevertheless it was God's will (blessed be His name for ever!) that we should know the sufferings of His Son; which, although beyond our reach, are nevertheless presented to our hearts. Thus we hear the Lord crying, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" And if we cannot reach the depths of His sufferings, we can understand that they were infinite. Now at the table the Lord announces to them His departure from the world according to the scriptures and the terrible judgment of Judas; for the accomplishment of God's counsels does not take away the iniquity of those who fulfil them; otherwise how could God judge the world? For all work together to accomplish His counsels. Men's evil will too is always active in doing evil. The Lord's object, as we find written in this gospel, is not to point out the person who should commit the crime, but to make them feel that it was one of the twelve who should do it. Verse 22. Now the Lord institutes the supper, a precious sign and memorial of His love and of His death. Up to that time, the passover had been the commemoration of the deliverance of the people out of the captivity in Egypt, when the blood of the Lamb was put upon the doors of the houses where the Israelites were. Now the blood of a more excellent Lamb has been sprinkled upon the mercy-seat in heaven, before the eye of God; when Christ, the Lamb of God, accomplished everything for the glory of God and for the salvation of all believers. The work has been done: in the sacrifice of the cross Jesus drank the cup of malediction and cannot drink it again; He perfectly glorified God about sin; it is impossible to add anything, as though anything were wanting to complete the perfection of this work. He has borne the sins of many, and can never bear them again; He cannot offer Himself again, He is for ever seated at the right hand of God; Heb. 9:24-26. He would have had to suffer often, if His one offering upon the cross had not taken away for ever all the sins of all believers; without shedding of blood there is no remission. The forgiveness of sins for believers is full, perfect, and eternal through the work of Christ. If we sin after having received the forgiveness of our sins, Christ prays for us and is our Advocate in virtue of this propitiation and appears in God's presence for us, as our righteousness (1 John 2:1, 2); and the effect of His intercession for us, is that the Holy Ghost works in our hearts; we are humbled, we confess our faults to God, and our communion is re-established with the Father and the Son. But the sin is not imputed as a crime, for Christ has already borne it - it has been imputed to Him. As was the case in the passover in Egypt; God said, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you." The blood of Christ is ever before the eye of God, ever present to His memory. Thus Christ washes our feet with the water of the word, as He has saved us by His blood, when by grace we have believed. But if God does not ever forget the blood of Christ shed once for ever, He does not wish us to forget it. The Lord Jesus in His boundless grace wishes us to think of Him, to remember Him. Precious manifestation of love for us, that the Saviour should delight in our remembrance of Him, and that He has left us a touching memorial of Himself and His love. Oh, happy thought that Jesus wishes us to think of Him, because He loves us! The sacrifice cannot be repeated, but its value is ever the same before God; and Jesus is seated at God's right hand awaiting the time when His enemies shall be set as a footstool beneath His feet; and we await Him until He come to take us with Him to the Father's house; and in the supper we shew forth His death till He comes. 318 It is important to remark that there is no sacrifice in the present time, and that the Lord is not personally present in the bread and wine. The church of Rome says that the Lord's supper (or rather the mass, as they call it) is the same sacrifice as that which was accomplished upon the cross. But when the Lord said, "This is my body . . . do this in remembrance of me," He was not yet upon the cross. His blood was not yet shed, and when He broke the bread He did not hold Himself in His hands, still less Himself crucified, for He was not yet upon the cross. There is no such thing now as a crucified Christ; He is seated at God's right hand, and there is no shedding of blood now. It is a blessed fact that there is a sign, a commemoration of this, but that it should be so really and substantially is impossible; there is no such thing now as a dead Christ. 319 We shew forth in the supper His death and His blood shed for us: but a glorified Christ cannot be a sacrifice; cannot come down from heaven to die; and if the bread be changed into His body, and there be a soul in it, it must be another soul; this is absurd. They say that the Godhead is everywhere, and that the substance of the body is there; but the soul is individual: this lives, feels, loves, is a single individual soul. According to Romish teaching the soul of the Lord Jesus leaves heaven; but it cannot be the same soul, and if it is another, it is absurd. The Lord says in Luke, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood": - that is, it represents the blood - for the cup itself is not the new covenant. Thus the bread presents to us in the most striking way the body of the Lord crucified upon the cross, and the wine His blood shed for us. Lastly, the Lord gives to His disciples of the fruit of the vine to drink; and it is called this after that the Lord had said in verse 24, "This is my blood of the new covenant." It is quite clear that when he says, "I will drink no more of it," He speaks of wine in its natural sense. After Supper they sing a hymn, the Lord being perfectly calm in spirit. They go out to go to the Mount of Olives. The Lord warns His disciples that this night they shall all be offended because of Him, and that they would leave Him according to Zechariah's prophecy, "I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." But He announces to them His resurrection, and that "after he is risen, he will go before them into Galilee." We find a difference between the Lord's appearing in Galilee and in Bethany: the latter is related in Luke's gospel. It was from Bethany that He ascended to heaven. In Galilee the Lord is always looked upon as being on the earth, although risen from the dead; and He gives to His disciples the commission to preach the gospel to, and baptize all nations. This service was not accomplished by the apostles - later on they left it to Paul (that is, the preaching the gospel to the nations) having recognised the Lord's election and sending out for this work. We see that the commission in Mark is still different; it is connected with the Lord's heavenly power. The Lord's own work was done chiefly in Galilee; and the Jewish remnant is recognised as gathered together and accepted; then it is sent out to bring the Gentiles into the blessings which were expected from God. The announcing of heavenly blessings, salvation revealed by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven when Christ ascended there, is quite another thing. But whether the blessings be earthly or heavenly they cannot be brought in by the first man; the second Man is the only possible foundation of everything. 320 Now the Saviour must be quite alone in His work and sufferings, and man must shew what he is when he is not kept by God. The disciples were warned, but Peter, full of confidence in his faithfulness (and he was sincere), trusting to his own strength, would not believe the Lord's words. But the flesh cannot resist the power of Satan. The Lord would find Himself abandoned and denied; and man, however sincere he might be, would have to recognise his utter weakness: a humbling lesson, but a very useful one, and one which makes the Lord's grace and patience shine out. It is very important to recollect - and we learn it clearly here, that sincerity is not enough to keep us right; it is quite a human quality! and we need as well the Lord's strength against the wiles of the devil, and the fear of the world. If the Lord be not there, a young girl can upset an apostle. The fear of man is a dreadful snare for the soul; and this fear worked mightily in Peter's heart. Even when he had received the Holy Spirit, he dissembled at Antioch, when some Jewish believers had come from Jerusalem. Remark how the Lord prepared the two greatest apostles for His work! Paul tried to destroy the name of Christ from off the earth, and Peter denied Him openly after having known Him, and after having done miracles in His name. Thus it was not possible for them to talk of anything but grace: and all the false confidence in self was destroyed in their hearts. They could strengthen others by the consciousness of the Lord's grace which had borne with them and forgiven them; also they had learnt by experience what the evil of the human heart is, and how weak man is, even the Christian, without the help of divine grace. Thus the Lord says to Peter, "When thou art converted [that is, repented of thy fault], strengthen thy brethren." He failed again afterwards in such a manner that Paul had to resist him to the face; and Paul himself had to have a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to buffet him, lest he should be exalted. The flesh is never improved: how necessary then is it for weak Christians to watch, to have ever present the consciousness of their weakness, and to seek that strength which is made perfect in weakness, that precious grace of the Lord which is sufficient for us. It is not necessary that we should fall, for God is faithful and will not allow us to be tempted above that we are able; but we must watch, that we enter not into temptation. 321 In the scene before us, whilst the Lord was praying in agony, Peter was sleeping; when the Lord submitted Himself like a lamb which before her shearers is dumb, Peter used the sword to strike; when the Lord confesses the truth calmly and firmly before His enemies, Peter denies Him. This is what the flesh is, and the fruit of false confidence in self! Peter, too, had been fully warned. The Lord had said for the second time that, before the cock should crow twice, he would deny Him thrice. But Peter trusts in himself: "If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise." We know that Satan's wiles were there, for Satan wanted to sift Peter like wheat; but the Holy Ghost here directs our attention to the false confidence of the flesh of the human heart. But let us turn our attention towards the blessed Lord, the example of perfect faithfulness, just as Peter was that of false confidence and of the weakness of the flesh. We see in Jesus a true Man, although divine power were necessary in order that the human nature should endure all that He suffered without failing. The Lord desires three disciples (those who were especially with Him and who were to be pillars in the church later on) to be with Him, and to watch while He prays. The anticipation of the cup which He was to drink, weighed upon His spirit; death, the expression of the judgment of God against sin, was before His eyes, and Satan made all this to lie heavily upon Him in order to prevent His accomplishing the work of salvation, if it were possible. The Lord felt all, and was faithful in everything; He began to be sore amazed and to be very heavy. There was no agony in Stephen's death; it was a triumph full of peace and love; he goes to his Lord who was expecting him at the right hand of God in heaven, praying all the while, like his Lord, for his enemies. The Lord is full of anguish at the prospect of death; and here we see what death was for Him; the reality of His work, when He bore our sins in His body upon the cross. At this moment (in the garden of Gethsemane) He was not yet bearing them, but the feeling of that which was before Him weighed upon His heart; the weight of sin and of the curse was being felt by His spirit with God, for He was still in communion with His Father. He must not only submit Himself to the righteousness of God as made sin for us before Him, and bear the penalty of it; but also He had to suffer "for His piety," in that the anticipation of the penalty weighed upon Him before He bore it. He offered Himself willingly but in obedience, for the glory of His Father, and for us in grace; He was obedient unto death. His name be praised! and it shall be eternally praised. 322 Stephen rejoiced, because Christ had suffered and had opened the way into heaven for him by bearing the judicial punishment of death for him; and He has done so for us also. We can understand the value of His death in the eyes of God, and we can look up to Him as Stephen did when full of the Holy Ghost, looking steadfastly into heaven. The Lord had left the disciples, except Peter, James and John, at the entrance into the garden; but He had taken these three with Him, and told them to watch whilst He prayed. He prays that the hour may pass from Him, if it be possible. He had borne all the cups of suffering from the hand of sinners without complaining of them. His Father's favour was sufficient for Him! But this cup, was the being made a curse; the just One made sin, the finding Himself (who had always been in the Father's bosom the object of an infinite love) forsaken of God. On account of His piety, He wished to draw back from this if possible. But if we were to escape the penalty of sin, He must bear it for us. This penalty, however, was but an occasion and a proof for the Saviour of perfect submission and obedience. But still He says, "Not that which I will, but that which thou wilt." He felt all, He lays everything before His Father, so that He goes through all as a trial in perfect submission to His Father. As a trial, all was over: the will of God was manifested, and the Lord's obedience was perfect, although the work itself was still to be accomplished. The disciples were unable to cross even the shadow of the trial; and all men His enemies. Satan was there in all his power, and above all, there was the curse to be borne for sin, before Him. All was trial, but He, in subjection to His Father's will, shewed forth His love to Him. We are allowed to witness the exercise of heart of the Saviour, and to take part, in our weakness, in the anguish of His heart, although He was alone in the trial itself: immense grace! In the work He must be quite alone: and here too He is alone, but with adoring hearts we can listen to the Saviour's cry when He opens His heart to the Father about His sufferings. Ah! may our hearts be kept watchfully attentive by the Holy Spirit to the holy sighs of the Saviour! We are invited to look upon Him, to understand what He has done for us, to enjoy the feelings of His human heart and His perfection, as a true Man for us. Thus, in John 17 we are permitted to hear Him when He presents Himself to the Father, placing us in His own position of favour before Him, and of testimony before men. If the peace which we possess belonging to this new position founded upon His finished work is so great, the privilege of hearing His cry of anguish is no less so. 323 Remark with what gentle words the Lord reproves His disciples. He shews Peter in the kindest way the difference between fervent courage when the enemy was not present, and the incapacity to watch one hour with his agonized Master; and He excuses the disciples with loving words - "the spirit is ready but the flesh is weak." At the same time being full of the solemnity of the moment, He warns them also to watch and to pray lest they enter into temptation. We never find the Lord's own sufferings preventing Him from thinking of others. On the cross He can think of the thief, just as though He were not suffering Himself: If He had not time to eat, still He always had time enough to announce the truth to the crowd which followed Him; tired at Jacob's well, His heart does not grow weary of speaking of the living water, nor of looking into the poor Samaritan woman's conscience. He was never tired of doing good; and He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. But the time was come: the last time He finds them sleeping like the other times. He must experience that moral solitude in which He found Himself amongst men even in the midst of His own disciples. There is a solitude in the which one is quite alone morally, although others be there actually. The traitor was coming near; "Sleep on now," says the Lord. "Rise up, let us go, he that betrayeth me is at hand." The Lord must receive the last witness to the weakness of man's heart when left to itself, and hardened by Satan. Judas betrays Him with a kiss, so terrible is the hardness of his heart! "Take him," says he, "and lead him away safely." But the Lord, who had gone through all in His soul with God, is in perfect peace before men in these unparalleled circumstances. He speaks to the crowd which had come out to seize Him: He had been with them daily in the temple, and they had not taken Him - but the scripture must be fulfilled. The Lord wishes to bear witness to the authority of the scriptures; if these announced His death, He must die. The scriptures are the revelation of God's counsels and purpose as well as of all His thoughts. The Lord too, as a man upon earth, took them as the rule and motive of all that He did and said, although He was always in unspeakable communion with His Father. They are the revelation of God's thoughts for the earth and for man upon the earth; and they reveal too, his heavenly destination, and what heavenly things are. What an immense blessing to possess them! 324 The disciples all forsake Him, and flee. Later on, Peter followed Him afar off, and was brought into the high priest's palace. The Lord submits in perfect calmness; all had been weighed already in His Father's presence; His will made everything simple for the Lord; but no one could follow Him into the valley of death, nor stand up before the enemy's power, except the faithful Saviour Himself. It was the hour when the wicked one was allowed to have power, that the Lord might give Himself into the hands of the impious for us. The disciples fled, a young man wished to follow Him, but the more the will ventures in this path, the more it is obliged to retreat with shame. They wished to lay hold of the young man, and he fled naked. Poor Peter went further, to fall still lower, learning at the same time for his own good, what we all are. It is a good thing to think of the Lord's anguish before God, when He opens all His heart to His Father; and we see His deep sufferings, His perfect calmness before men, the fruit of His perfect submission: men counted as nothing in it; Satan could do nothing - for the Lord had taken the cup from His Father's hands. This is most important teaching for us. We must understand that the Lord's condemnation was a determined thing: the chiefs of the Jews sought but the means to consummate iniquity and murder under the show of justice. They sought witness against Him to put Him to death; but it was false, and the witnesses did not agree together. Many were ready to give witness, but their testimony availed nothing: the Lord must be condemned upon His own witness. It is grievous to look upon the enmity of the human heart against the Lord, who had never done anything but good to men; who had healed the sick, given the hungry to eat, raised the dead, cast out devils, and manifested divine power in doing good. 325 When the Son of man came, divine power, which was sufficient to drive out all the consequences of sin upon earth even to death itself, was manifested; Christ worked according to this power: He bound the strong man in the wilderness, and plundered his house: there was a power upon earth sufficient to drive away all the effects of sin; for the power of God manifested itself in goodness. But this only awakened the natural enmity of the human heart against Him: there was no motive for the death of Jesus: this enmity was the only cause. That which took away the grievous effects of sin, did not take away the sin itself from man's heart, but manifested God enough to awaken the natural enmity of the heart, and thus to shew what this heart is. In Luke it is said also (chap. 4:13), that "the devil departed from him for a season"; but then he comes back again as the prince of this world; he had nothing in the Lord, but that the world might know that He loved the Father, and as the Father gave Him commandment, even so He did; John 14:30, 31. The devil could say to Jesus, 'If thou dost persevere in sustaining the cause of men, I have the right of death against thee.' Indeed the curse of God weighed down upon them, and the Lord must pass through death, and drink the cup of God's curse upon sin, if He is to liberate man. Did He draw back from this terrible penalty of death and the curse? He felt it, but He drank it for love to His Father and us, and in perfect obedience. He entered where we were in sin and disobedience, in obedience and grace; He who knew no sin was made sin for us; the Lamb without blemish offered Himself to God for us. Here in this chapter we find the Lord as a lamb who is dumb before her shearers. He does not answer to the accusation of His enemies; they were there with the intention of putting Him to death and He knew it; and He was there in order to give His life a ransom for many. He does not answer the accusations full of malice and falsehood, but when the chief priest asks Him if He is the Christ the Son of the Blessed, He gives full testimony to the truth. He is rejected and crucified for His own witness to the truth; but although He recognises the truth according to the high priest's question, nevertheless He does not go beyond His position of Messiah amongst the Jews. 326 He added again His testimony to His position as Son of man, the position He was just going to assume at that time. We have seen that He had forbidden His disciples to say that He was the Christ, telling them that the Son of man must suffer. Now we find the fulfilment of this, for Christ is recognised as the Son of God according to Psalm 2, but from this time forward He takes the new position of Son of man according to Psalm 8. They should see - no longer the promised Christ amongst them in grace, rejected as He is in Psalm 2, but - the Son of man sitting at the right hand of God, coming in the clouds of heaven, and manifesting His power in judgment. Only He waits, seated at God's right hand according to Psalm 110, until His enemies be placed under His feet as a footstool. We now see Him in heaven, having accomplished the work which the Father gave Him to do; we see Him at God's right hand, our sins abolished, waiting until His enemies shall be made His footstool. The Lord confesses the truth when superior authority demands it, He is absolute perfection - the truth itself. Satan can do nothing in this case, except indeed to bring the truth into evidence in the Lord's mouth, and to be the instrument of accomplishing the work of redemption which God wished to be done: eternal thanks be to Him! As to men, the Lord is held to be guilty of death because He speaks the truth, and the truth as to the work of God's love in the sending of the Son. God's truth, as well as the person of the Son of God, and God Himself are the objects of hatred of man's heart; but the truth came by Jesus Christ, and grace in the sovereign power and wisdom of God was fulfilled by means of this hatred, a hatred in which man shewed himself to be a slave of Satan. What a contrast between religious, ecclesiastical man, and the truth and grace of God! But let us think of the blessed Saviour who submits as a sheep which is dumb before her shearers, to the outrages which men heap upon Him without offering any resistance; He might have had twelve legions of angels, but He did not use His power. He was in a state of patient love and obedience. The most painful thing for Him was to find Himself denied by His disciple, and this was far more so than the outrages heaped upon Him by brutal and ignorant men. But whatever His suffering might have been, the weak disciple's failure did but draw down upon him the Lord's look to encourage his faith, to sustain his confidence in Him, and to produce in his heart tears of repentance instead of despair. The Lord's sufferings, however great they were, did not hinder the action of His wondrous heart. May His name be eternally blessed!

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