Matthew 26 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Matthew 26
Pulpit Commentary
And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,
Verses 1, 2. - Final announcement of the approaching Passion. (Mark 14:1; Luke 22:1.) Verse 1. - When Jesus had finished all these sayings; i.e. those comprised in chs. 22-25. This was the close of his public teaching. The other discourses which are preserved by St. John (John 13:31-17:26) were addressed to the chosen apostles Henceforward the narrative sets him forth as Priest, Victim, Redeemer; and Christ himself now distinctly states the day of his death and the person who was to betray him.
Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.
Verse 2. - Ye know. He speaks of a fact well known to his hearers - the day of the Passover Feast. And they had been forewarned of his death (see Matthew 20:17-19). After two days; μετὰ δύο ἡμέρας: post biduum. These words are ambiguous, as it is not certain how the time is reckoned - whether the current day is included or not. If, as is most probable, they were spoken on Wednesday, the phrase means the next day but one, which commenced on the afternoon of Friday. Jesus appears to have passed this day in peaceful seclusion, either in Bethany or its neighbourhood. Is the Feast of the Passover; τὸ Πάσχα γίνεται: the Passover cometh; Pascha fiet. The lambs were slain during the first evening of the 14th of Nisan, and were eaten within twelve hours. The word Pascha is the Greek form of the Hebrew Pasach, denoting "the passing over" of the destroying angel, when he destroyed the Egyptians, but left untouched the houses of the Israelites, on whose door posts was sprinkled the blood of the lamb (Exodus 12.). Etymologically, it has nothing to do with πόσχω, and the Latin patior, passio, etc, though pious writers have seen a providential arrangement in the apparent similarity of the words (see the possible paronomasia in Luke 22:15). Pascha (Pasach) is used in three senses:

(1) the transit of the angel;

(2) the Paschal lamb;

(3) the Feast of the Passover.

It is in this last signification that it is here employed And (equivalent to when) the Son of man is betrayed (delivered up, Revised Version) to be crucified. Christ connects his own death with the Passover, not only as indicating the day and hour, but to mark the typical meaning and importance of this solemnity, when he, our Passover, should be sacrificed for us. The present tense, "is betrayed," denotes the imminence and certainty of the event. He sees the event as actually present.
Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,
Verses 3-5. - Conspiracy of the Jewish rulers. (Mark 14:1; Luke 22:2.) Verse 3. - Then. While Christ was announcing his approaching death, the rulers were plotting its accomplishment. He was certain; they were in doubt and perplexity about it. The chief priests (see on Matthew 16:21). The office of high priest had originally been held for life; but of late the civil power had often deposed one and appointed another, so that there were at times many who had held the post, and who, as well as their deputies, and the heads of the courses, claimed the title of chief priest. These were all members of the Sanhedrim And the scribes, These words are omitted on very good authority by many modern editors. They are not found in the Vulgate, though they occur in the parallel passages in the other synoptists. If genuine, they, in connection with "elders" and "priests," would signify that all the elements of the Sanhedrin were present at this council. The palace (αὐλὴν) of the high priest. This, then, was not a formal meeting, or it would have been held in the hall Gazith, "the hall of hewn stones," on the south side of the court of the priests. It was assembled in the court of the high priest's house, because it comprised persons who were not Sanhedrists, such as temple officials, and connections of the high priest, forming what was known as the priestly council, which was the official medium between the Roman authorities and the people. Who was called Caiaphas. Josephus ('Ant.,' 18:02. 2) speaks of him as "Joseph, who is also Caiaphas;" hence the way in which he is introduced in the present passage. He had been elevated to his high post by the Romans, who found in him a submissive tool. His father-in-law. Annas had been appointed by Quirinius, but after nine years had been deposed; he was succeeded in turn by Ismael, Eleazar son of Annas, Simon, and fourthly by Caiaphas, who superseded his immediate predecessor by the favour of the procurator Valerius Gratus, the tenant of the office before Pontius Pilate. The ex-high priest, Annas, was counted still by some rigorists as holding the office, and he appears to have possessed high authority (see John 18:13; Acts 4:6).
And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him.
Verse 4. - By subtilty. They had decided to put Jesus to death; the question was how to get possession of his Person when there would be no attempt at a rescue, nor any tumult in his favour. The original is literally, They took counsel in order that they might take, etc. They seem scarcely to have reckoned on any legal trial; once they had him quietly in their hands, they would find means to dispose of him.
But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.
Verse 5. - Not on the feast day; ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ: during the feast; i.e. during the eight days of the Passover celebration. The assembled multitudes did not leave the city until the close of the octave, so the danger of a rising was not removed till then. The rulers well knew the stern temper of Pilate the procurator, who was prepared to crush any popular movement with the strong hand, and at festival times had always his soldiers ready to hurl upon the mob at the slightest provication, and to deal indiscriminate slaughter. Hence arose the plan of a clandestine apprehension. It was, indeed, the custom to execute great criminals at the time of the chief festivals, in order to impress the spectacle of retribution upon the greatest number; but in the case of Jesus, after what had occurred during the last few days, and when Jerusalem was filled with Galilaeans, who might naturally favour their countryman's pretensions, it was deemed dangerous to make any open attack. Their fears were relieved in the most unexpected manner by the appearance of Judas among them (ver. 14).
Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,
Verses 6-13. - The anointing at Bethany. (Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8.) This parenthetical episode is introduced by the two synoptists out of its chronological order, with the view of indicating the immediate cause of Judas's resolution to betray his Master, the issue of which they proceed to narrate (see on ver. 14). This anointing must not be confounded with that related by St. Luke (Luke 7:37, etc.), where the scene, the time, and the actor were different, and the significance was of a very inferior nature. Verse 6. - When Jesus was in Bethany. St. John tells us that the incident took place six days before the Passover, i.e. on the Saturday preceding Palm Sunday. It is St. Matthew's custom to describe events not always in their historical sequence, but according to some logical or spiritual connection which in his mind overrides considerations of time or place. (For Bethany, see on Matthew 21:1.) Simon the leper. Not that he was a leper now, but either the appellation was hereditary, in reference to some such malady inflicted on his family, or he himself, having been cured by Christ, retained the name in memory of his cleansing. So St. Matthew is called "the publican" after he had relinquished his obnoxious business (Matthew 10:3), and the revived man is termed "the dead" (Luke 7:15). The frequency of the name Simon among the Jews rendered the addition of a surname expedient; thus we have Simon the Cananite, Simon the tanner, Simon Bar-john, etc. Nothing certain is known about this person. Tradition makes him father of Lazarus or husband of Martha. That he was connected with the holy family of Bethany, either by relationship or close friendship, seems to be well established.
There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
Verse 7. - A woman. St. John identifies her as Mary the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Why the synoptists omit her name is not known; it is equally uncertain why St. John makes no mention of Simon. None of the synoptists notice Lazarus, though St. Luke names Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38, 39). It may have been at the time a matter of prudence or delicacy not to draw attention to them by name. But there is no discrepancy. One narrative supplements the other, and it is best to be thankful for what we have, and not to be over curious concerning points not explained. An alabaster box (ἀλάβαστρον). A cruse or flask made of alabaster, which is a white calcareous spar resembling marble, but setter and more easily worked. These cruses were generally round shaped, with a long narrow neck, the orifice of which was sealed. It may be the breaking of this seal to which St. Mark refers in his account (Mark 14:3), when he says that "she brake the box." Very precious ointment (μύρου). St. Mark calls it "pistic nard," rendered in our version "spikenard." The word in our text seems to be used for any salve or ointment which contained myrrh as one of its ingredients. Nard is found in Syria, the Himalayas, and other parts of India. From its root a strong scented unguent was made, which, being imported from a long distance, was very costly. Poured it on his head. It is to be noted that in the original there is no "it" after "poured;" so there is nothing to imply that the whole was poured upon his head. This helps to reconcile this account with that of the fourth evangelist (Morison). St. John tells that she anointed his feet, which was unusual; she first anointed his head, and then his feet, wiping the latter with her long flowing hair. Anointing the head was not an uncommon way of honouring distinguished guests; but Mary had another thought in her mind which the Lord discerned (ver. 12). As he sat at meat; as he reclined at table. The Jews had adopted the Roman mode of eating (comp. Matthew 22:10, where the word rendered "guests" is "the recumbent"). St. Matthew does not mention that a special supper was arranged for him (John 12:1), as if to do him honour.
But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
Verse 8. - When his disciples saw it. St. John states that the objection came originally from Judas. Doubtless, when it was once made, many concurred in it, not, indeed, from Judas's selfish motive (John 12:6), but because they did not clearly apprehend the Divinity of Christ, nor the unspeakable sacredness of that body which was about to be the instrument of man's redemption. To what purpose is this waste (a)pw/leia)? Wordsworth notes that Judas is called υἱὸς ἀπωλείας (John 17:12). A fitting question truly for him to ask! The objectors saw no practical usefulness in the expenditure of this costly substance. If it was thought proper to show respect to their Master, a much inferior oil would have equally effected this purpose, or a few drops of the more precious unguent would have sufficed. So nowadays one hears complaints of money being expended in the rich decoration of churches, etc., when there are starving multitudes whom it would have relieved. But God himself has sanctioned the use of precious materials and of exquisite workmanship in temples built in his honour, and in the accessories of his public worship; the interests of the poor are not overlooked in such expenditure; they who give of their substance for such purposes are just those who feel all their responsibilities, and know that they serve Christ in ministering to his needy members.
For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
Verse 9. - Might have been sold for much. According to St. John, Judas had accurately estimated the value of the ointment at 300 denarii, equal to about £9 of our money. When we remember that one denarius represented the daily wages of a labouring man (Matthew 20:2), we see that the cost was very large. Given to the poor. And this "much" given to the poor. But piety is not shown only in giving alms; the honour of God has a superior claim. And Mary was rich, and quite able to afford this offering without neglecting her almsgiving. "How often does charity serve as a cloak for covetousness! We must not neglect what we owe to Jesus Christ under pretence of what we owe his members. Men count as wasted what is expended in the outer worship of God, when they love neither God nor his worship. Jesus Christ authorizes it by accepting it at the very instant in which he was establishing religion by a worship the most spiritual and inward" (Quesnel).
When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.
Verse 10. - Understood it. Either their murmurs reached Christ's ears, or he divined their thoughts, and proceeded to defend Mary's action and to give a new lesson. Why trouble ye the woman? The disciples, observed Bengel, were really acting offensively to Jesus in thus censuring Mary; but he passes over this, and blames them only in respect of their conduct towards her. Doubtless, their remarks had reached Mary's ears, and annoyed and embarrassed her. For she hath wrought a good work upon (εἰς) me. A work that proved her zeal, reverence, and faith. Mary had always been devout, contemplative, loving. She had learned much at the grave of Lazarus; she was full of gratitude at the wonderful restoration of her brother's life; she had often heard Christ speak of his decease, and knew that it was close at ham], realizing that which the chosen apostles were still slow to believe; so she was minded to make this costly offering. And Christ saw her motive, and graciously accepted it.
For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.
Verse 11. - Ye have the poor always with you. St. Mark adds, "and whensoever ye will ye may do them good." This was in strict accordance with the old Law: "The poor shall never cease out of the land; therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy in thy land" (Deuteronomy 15:11). The existence of poor gives scope for the exercise of the graces of charity, benevolence, and self-denial; and such opportunities will never be wanting while the world lasts. Me ye have not always; i.e. in bodily presence. When he speaks of being with his Church always to the end, he is speaking of his Divine presence. His human body, his body of humiliation, was removed from the sight and touch of men, and he could no longer be received and welcomed and succoured as heretofore. In a different and far more effectual mode he would visit his faithful servants by a spiritual presence which should never fail or be withdrawn. To the objectors he would say, "You will no longer have opportunity of honouring me in my human form; why, then, do you grudge the homage now paid me for the last time?"
For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.
Verse 12. - On my body, she did it for my burial (πρὸς τὸ ἐνταφιάσαι με, to prepare me for burial). This doubtless was in some sort her intention (see on ver 10). She desired to offer what she could (Mark 14:8) of the offices and attentions due to the corpse of a beloved and revered Friend. Christ interpreted her act, and gave it a solemn significance. By this effusion of the precious unguent site anticipated the embalming of the Lord's body; she showed her reverence for that body which was to be given for the life of the world not many days hence. The full meaning of the mystery of which she was the instrument Mary did not comprehend, but what she had consciously done received a wonderful commendation from the Lord, which has no parallel in the Gospel history.
Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.
Verse 13. - Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached. This weighty promise and prediction is introduced by the emphasizing formula, Verily I say unto you. The gospel is the story of the incarnation of Jesus - his life, teaching, death, resurrection, which implies written documents as well as oral exposition. Our Lord had already (Matthew 24:14) intimated that the gospel of the kingdom should be published throughout the world; he here affirms that Mary's deed shall be enshrined therein for all time. There shall also this, that this woman hath done (λαληθήσεται καὶ ο{ ἐποίησεν αὕτη, that also which this woman did) be told for a memorial of her. The history which records the grudging remonstrance of the disciples contains this remarkable approval of Mary's act, associating her forever with the Passion of the Lord. We may here quote the eloquent comment of Chrysostom, who, however, unreasonably identifies Mary with the sinner who previously anointed Jesus. "Who then proclaimed if, and caused it to be spread abroad? It was the power of him who is speaking these words. And while of countless kings and generals the noble exploits, even of those whose memorials remain, have sunk into silence; and having overthrown cities, and encompassed them with walls, and set up trophies, and enslaved many nations, they are not known so much as by hearsay, nor by name, though they have both set up statues, and established laws; yet that a woman who was a harlot poured out oil in the house of some leper, in the presence of ten men, - this all men celebrate throughout the world; and so great a time has passed, and yet the memory of that which was done hath not faded away, but alike Persians and Indians, Scythians and Thracians, and Sarmatians, and the race or the Moors, and they that inhabit the British Islands, spread abroad that which was done secretly in a house by a woman" ('Ham. 80. in Matthew').
Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,
Verses 14-16. - Compact of Judas with the Jewish authorities to betray Jesus. (Mark 14:10, 11; Luke 22:3-6.) Verse 14. - Then. The time referred to is the close of Christ's addresses, and the assembling of the Jewish authorities mentioned at the beginning of the chapter, vers. 6-13 being parenthetical. It is reasonable to suppose that the loss of the three hundred denarii, at which he would have had the handling, and the reproof then administered, gave the final impulse to the treachery of Judas. This seems to be signified by the synoptists' introduction of the transaction at Bethany immediately before the account of Judas's infamous bargain (see preliminary note on vers. 6-13). One of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot. That he was one of the twelve, the chosen companions of Christ, emphasizes his crime, makes it more amazing and more heinous. To witness the daily life of Christ, to behold his miracles of mercy, to listen to his heavenly teaching, to hear his stern denunciations of such sins as covetousness and hypocrisy, and in spite of all to bargain with his bitterest enemies for his betrayal, reveals a depth of perverse wickedness which is simply appalling. Well may the evangelist say that Satan entered into Judas (Luke 22:3); it was the devil's work he was doing; he followed this evil inspiration, and thought not whither it would lead him. Went unto the chief priests. Their hostility was no secret. Judas and everybody knew of their hatred of Jesus, and of their attempts to get him into their power; he saw his way to carrying out his purpose, and making of it some pecuniary gain. We are not to suppose that this miserable man sank all at once to this depth of iniquity. Nemo repente fit turpissimus. Though the descent to Avernus be easy, it is gradual; it has its steps and pauses, its allurements and checks. Modern criticism has endeavoured to minimize the crime of Judas, or even to regard him as a hero misunderstood; but the facts are entirely in favour of the traditional view. We can trace the path by which the apostle developed into the traitor, by studying the hints which the Gospels afford. He was probably at first fairly sincere in attaching himself to Christ's company. Being a man of business capacity and skill in the management of money matters, he was appointed treasurer of the little funds at the disposal of Christ and his followers. Half-hearted and self-seeking, his undertaking this office was a snare to which he easily fell a victim. He began by petty peculations, which were not discovered by his comrades (John 12:6), though he must often have felt an uneasy apprehension that his Master saw through him, and that many of his warnings were directed at him (see John 6:64, 70, 71). This feeling lessened the love for Jesus, though it did not drive him to open apostasy. He had admitted the demon of covetousness to his breast, and he now adhered to Christ for the hope of satisfying greed and worldly ambition. The teaching and miracles of Christ had no marked influence on such a disposition, softened not his hard heart, effected no change in his evil and selfish desires. And when he saw his hopes disappointed, when he heard Christ's announcement of his speedy death, which his knowledge of the rulers' animosity rendered only too certain, his only feeling was hatred and disgust. The transient expectations raised by the triumphal entry were not fulfilled; there was no assumption of the earthly conqueror's part, there were no rewards for Christ's followers, nothing but enmity and threatening danger on every side. Judas, seeing all this, perceiving that no worldly advantage would be gained by fidelity to the losing side, determined to make what profit he could under present circumstances. Not with the mistaken idea of forcing Christ to declare himself, and to put himself at the head of a popular movement, nor with any notion of Christ miraculously saving himself from his enemies' hands, but simply from sordid love of gain, he made his infamous offer to the chief priests. It was just when they were in perplexity, and had determined on nothing except that the arrest and the condemnation were not to take place during the feast, that Judas was introduced into the assembly. No wonder "they were glad" (Mark 14:11); here was a solution of the contemplated difficulty; they need have no fear of a rising in favour of Christ; if among his chosen followers some were disaffected, and one was ready to betray him, they might work their will, when he was once quietly apprehended, without any danger of rescue and disturbance (see on Matthew 27:3).
And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
Verse 15. - What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? There is no disguise in this vile question. Judas unblushingly reveals his base motive in offering such a bargain; and to enhance its value he, as it were, forces his personality into prominence; as if he had said, "I who am his trusted adherent, I who know all his haunts and habits, will do this thing." They covenanted with him; ἔστησαν αὐτῷ: they weighed unto him. The verb might mean "appointed;" constituerunt ei (Vulgate); and St. Mark has "promised," St. Luke "covenanted;" but there is no doubt that some money was at once paid to Judas, as he seems to have returned it (Matthew 27:3) without any further interview with the Sanhedrin, though they may have given him a portion at once, and sent him the balance on the success of his attempt. Thirty pieces of silver; τριάκοντα ἀργύρια. Thirty shekels of the sanctuary, equivalent to £3 15s. of our money. This was the legal price of a slave gored by an ox (Exodus 21:32), and must have been considered by the traitor but a poor reward for his crime. He found the rulers as covetous as himself, and disposed to treat both him and his Master with the utmost contempt. Christ had taken upon him the form of a bondservant, and was here reckoned as such. The transaction had been typically shadowed forth when another Judas sold his brother Joseph for twenty pieces of silver (Genesis 37:27, 28); when Ahithophel gave counsel against David, his familiar friend (2 Samuel 16.); and when Zechariah wrote, "I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed [ἔστησαν, Septuagint] for my price thirty pieces of silver" (Zechariah 11:12). St. Matthew alone of the evangelists mentions the exact price agreed upon. It may have come naturally to the "publican" to observe the pecuniary aspect of the transaction.
And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.
Verse 16. - From that time. As soon as he had made his bargain. Opportunity. "In the absence of the multitude," St. Luke adds. The Sanhedrin no longer thought it necessary to wait for the termination of the festival (ver. 5). Judas would enable them to seize Christ in his most secret retirement, and at the most opportune moment.
Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?
Verses 17-19. - Preparation for the Paschal Sapper. (Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13.) Verse 17. - The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread; literally, on the first day of Unleavened Bread. We have arrived at the Thursday in the Holy Week, Nisan 13. Wednesday had been spent in retirement at Bethany, and no acts or sayings of Christ on that day are recorded. The festival actually began at sunset of the 14th which was called the day of preparation, because the lambs for the feast were slain in the afternoon of that day, preparatory to their being eaten before the morning of the 15th. Domestic preparation, involving the removal of all leaven from houses and the use of unleavened bread, began on the 13th; hence this was considered at this era "the first day of the Unleavened." Came to Jesus. As the Master of the family, who had the ordering of all the details of the Paschal celebration. They did not know the mind of Jesus on the subject, and desired his directions as in former years. Bethany was considered as Jerusalem for the purposes of the solemn meal, and the apostles thought that preparation was to be made at some house in that village. Prepare for thee to eat the Passover. The preparations were numerous: a proper room had to be found and swept and carefully cleansed from every particle of leaven; tables and couches had to be arranged, lights to be supplied, the lamb and all other necessaries (e.g. bread, wine, bitter herbs) provided. All these preparations took much time, so it was doubtless in the early morning that the disciples applied to our Lord. When they spoke of eating the Passover, they doubtless supposed that Christ meant in due course to celebrate the regular Paschal supper on the appointed day, i.e. on the evening of Friday. But his intentions were different from what they expected.
And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.
Verse 18. - The city. Jerusalem. Jesus was at Bethany. St. Luke says that he sent Peter and John, now first joined together without James. To such a man (πρὸς τὸν δεῖνα). The other synoptists mention certain signs by which they were to recognize the man. At the entrance of the city they would meet a man bearing a pitcher of water; they were to follow him to the house whither he went, and then give their message to the master of the house. There is a great similarity between this mission and that concerning the ass before the triumphal entry. The foreknowledge and the precision in directions are quite analogous. The "good man" was doubtless a disciple, though at this festival all strangers were freely received by any householder who had accommodation. Dr. Edersheim supposes that he was father of Mark, who was the "young man" arrested by the company that took Jesus (Mark 14:51). The secrecy observed in the above-mentioned arrangement was intended to keep the knowledge from Judas, and thus to secure immunity from interruption at the solemn meal. The traitor seems to have sneaked out from the last Supper, and disclosed Christ's retreat to the Jewish authorities, and conducted them to the house; but, finding that Jesus had left the room, he led them to Gethsemane, whither he knew that Jesus often resorted (John 18:1, 2). The Master. A disciple would know who was meant by this title (comp. Matthew 23:8, 10; John 11:28). Whether any previous arrangement had been made with him, we cannot tell; most probably Christ speaks from prevision and his providential ordering of events. My time is at hand. The time of my suffering and death. This fact would make the request more imperative. But the expression was mysterious and indefinite. I will keep (ποιῶ, I keep) the Passover at thy house. The Passover which the Lord was to keep was not the usual Paschal meal, as the lamb could not be legally killed till the 14th, but a commemorative anticipatory feast in which he himself was the Lamb - "the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world." Of that Lamb the apostles did mystically eat when Christ gave them the bread and wine with the words, "This is my body;" "This is my blood." This Supper, which was virtually the new Passover, seems traditionally to have become confounded with the usual Paschal solemnity; hence the language of the synoptists assumes a form which is applicable to the regular Jewish feast. This explanation, if it seems to derogate somewhat from the precise verbal accuracy of the evangelists, would probably be confirmed if we were better acquainted with the customs then prevalent, and with the current meaning of the language employed. The ambiguity in the accounts may be divinely intended to call attention to the fact that the last Supper was not the Jewish Passover, but the Christian Passover - not the sacrifice on the cross, but an anticipation thereof. We may observe in passing that there is no mention of the lamb in the celebration; Peter and John were not enjoined to provide one, nor are they said to have visited the temple - which, indeed, on the 13th would have been useless: and yet to obtain the lamb in any other way would have been a breach of the Law, which we cannot suppose Christ would sanction. We may also notice that the word "feast" (ἑορτή) is nowhere applied to the last Supper, though it is always employed in reference to the Jewish solemnity. St. Paul, in his account of the institution of the Holy Communion (1 Corinthians 11.) makes no mention of any Paschal solemnities or associations, but merely states that it was appointed on the night in which Jesus was betrayed. With my disciples; i.e. the twelve apostles; none but these, not even the master of the house, were present at this solemn scene.
And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.
Verse 19. - Made ready the Passover (see on ver. 17). They got the room ready, provided unfermented bread, wine, bitter herbs, sauce, and some dishes necessary for the feast. They would not eat the Paschal lamb at the legal time tomorrow, so the Lord ordained a commemorative and anticipatory solemnity, in which he appointed a rite which should take the place of the Jewish ceremony. We learn from the other synoptists that the householder was not satisfied with offering Christ and his friends the use of the common hall, which they would have had to share probably with other guests; but he assigned to them his best and most honourable chamber, "a large upper room," already properly arranged and furnished for the feast. Tradition has maintained that this apartment was that afterwards used by the apostles as a place of assembling, and where they received the effusion of the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost.
Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.
Verses 20-25. - The last Supper. Jesus announces his betrayer. (Mark 14:17-21 Luke 22:14, 21-23; John 13:21-30.) Verse 20. - When the even was come; i.e. according to Jewish reckoning, the beginning of the 14th of Nisan; with us, the Thursday evening - the eve of Good Friday. He sat down; he was reclining at table. Originally, the Passover was ordered to be eaten standing, in reference to the circumstances of its first institution (Exodus 12:11); but after the settlement in Canaan the posture had been changed to that of reclining in token of rest alter a weary pilgrimage. The rule that obtained concerning the number in one company of partakers of the Paschal feast was that it never should be less than ten, nor more than the lamb would suffice to feed, though a morsel of the flesh was considered to satisfy all requirements.
And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
Verse 21. - As they did eat. The details of the Paschal feast are expounded by rabbinical authors, though there is little in St. Matthew's account to lead us to conclude that our Lord observed them on this occasion. The ceremonial usually practised was as follows: The head of the family, sitting in the place of honour, took a cup of wine and water mixed ("the first cup"), pronounced a thanksgiving over it, and, having tasted it, passed it round to the guests; the master washed his hands, the others performing their ablutions at a later part of the service; the dishes were placed on the table; after a special benediction had been spoken over the bitter herbs, the master and the rest of the company took a bunch of these, dipped it in the appointed sauce, and ate it; an unleavened cake was broken and elevated with a prescribed formula; the second cup was filled, the history of the festival was proclaimed, Psalm 113-118, were recited, and the cup was drunk. Now began the proper Paschal meal with a general washing of hands; the lamb was cut into pieces, anda portion given to each, with a bit of the unleavened bread and bitter herbs dipped in the sauce, called by St. John (John 13:26) "the sop." At the end of the meal, which was supplemented by other viands (which, however, were probably eaten before the lamb), the third cup, named by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 10:16) "the cup of blessing," was drunk, and the solemn grace after meat was uttered. It would be necessary to examine St. John's Gospel to see how the ritual fitted into the actual details of the last Supper; we have to deal with St. Matthew's account. Verily I say unto you. Christ thus prepares the apostles for the incredible statement which he is about to make. One of you; εϊς ἐξ ὑμῶν. One out of your number, my chosen companions. He had before spoken vaguely of his betrayal (see Matthew 17:22; Matthew 20:18; Matthew 26:2). By thus showing his knowledge of the coming treachery, and yet declining to denounce the traitor by name, he may have given Judas a last chance of repentance before the final act. St. Matthew omits the washing of the disciples' feet, and the strife about pre-eminence.
And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?
Verse 22. - Exceeding sorrowful. Such an announcement filled them with amazement and grief; they scarcely dared suspect one another, but began to doubt their own constancy, though at the time conscious of their integrity. Is it I? Μήτι ἐγώ εἰμι; Numquid ego sum? It is not I, is it? where the negative answer is expected. It is remarkable that the real character of Judas had never been discovered by the fellow disciples who for three years had mixed with him in closest companionship. Either he was a consummate hypocrite, or the other apostles were too simple-minded, good, and charitable to think evil of any one. Thus his peculations passed unnoticed, and the greed and. avarice which wrecked his spiritual life were entirely unsuspected.
And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.
Verse 23. - He that dippeth (dipped) his hand with me in the dish. Even now Jesus does not identify the traitor. Many had put their hands into the dish along with Christ. Judas was one of those who had done so. The fact of eating together made in the Easterns' view, the treachery more monstrous. "Mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me" (Psalm 41:9). The dish was one of large dimensions, from which each guest took his portion with his fingers. It was truly a common meal in which all shared. Our Lord's words were spoken in answer to John's question, "Lord, who is it?" (John xii[. 25). The beloved apostle's position at table, "lying on Jesus' breast," enabled him to ask this without being overheard. There is a mistake commonly made concerning the shape of the table used on such occasions. It was not of a horseshoe form, but oblong. The couches were arranged round three of its sides, and it extended a little way beyond the divans. The Master's seat was not at the top or middle couch, but at the side; and from what occurred we should infer that John sat on the right of Jesus at the end of the couch, and Judas on the left of Jesus, the strife about precedency having been thus settled. (The correct shape of the table, and the places of Jesus, John, Judas, and Peter, are delineated in Edersheim's work, vol. 2. p. 494.)
The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
Verse 24. - The Son of man goeth (ὑπάγει departeth). It is thus that Christ alludes to his approaching death (John 7:33; John 8:21, 22; John 13:3, etc.), declaring thus the voluntary nature of his sufferings. As it is written of him. Every minute detail of Christ's Passion enunciated by the prophets was fulfilled. "The prescience of God," says Chrysostom, "is not the cause of men's wickedness, nor does it involve any necessity of it; Judas was not a traitor because God foresaw it, but he foresaw it because Judas would be so." Woe unto that man by (through) whom the Son of man is betrayed! παραδίδοται ισ βεινγ βετραψεδ. Judas could hear this and the following sentence, and yet retain his iniquitous purpose! It had been good for that man if he had not been born; literally, it were good for him if that man had not been born. Jesus says this, knowing what the fate of Judas would be in the other world. There is no hope here held out of alleviation or end of suffering, or of ultimate restoration. It is a rayless darkness of despair. Had there been any expectation of relief or of recovery of God's favour, existence would be a blessing even to the worst of sinners; for they would have eternity still before them in which to enjoy their pardon and purification; and in such case it could not be said of them that it were better for them never to have been born. On one side of the mysterious problem connected with Judas and such-like sinners we may again quote St. Chrysostom ('Hom. 81, in Matthew'), "'What, then,' one may say, 'though Judas had not betrayed him, would not another have betrayed him?... Because if Christ must needs be crucified, it must be by the means of some one, and if by some one, surely by such a person as this. But if all had been good, the dispensation in our behalf had been impeded.' Not so. For the All wise knows how he shall bring about our benefits, even had this happened. For his wisdom is rich in contrivance, and incomprehensible. So for this reason, that no one might suppose that Judas had become a minister of the dispensation, he declares the wretchedness of that man. But some one will say again, 'And if it had been good if he had never been born, wherefore did he suffer both this man and all the wicked to come into the world?' When thou oughtest to blame the wicked, for that, having the power not to become such as they are, they have become wicked, thou leavest this, and busiest thyself and art curious about the things of God, although knowing that it is not by necessity that any one is wicked."
Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.
Verse 25. - Answered and said, Master, is it I? Μήτι ἐγώ εἰμι; It is not I, is it? as ver. 22. Judas probably had not been one of those who put this question before, and now, availing himself of his proximity to Jesus (see on ver. 23), he has the inconceivable effrontery to make this inquiry privately, as if to assure himself whether Christ was conscious of his treachery or not. It is remarked that he does not call Jesus "Lord," as the other apostles, but "Rabbi," a coldly ceremonious title (so in the garden, ver. 49) The gentle Jeans reproaches him not, but answers him in low tones unheard by the rest (John 13:28, 29). Thou hast said. A common formula, equivalent to "yes." So ver. 64.
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.
Verses 26-29. - The institution of the Lord's Supper. (Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:15-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25.) The endless controversies which have gathered round the Holy Eucharist, for opposite views of the meaning and purpose of which men have fearlessly met death, render it a difficult matter to expound the text succinctly and yet with due regard to clearness and precision. If I do not expatiate upon the diverse opinions which have been held on this momentous subject, it is not because I have neglected to weigh and examine them, but because it is more conducive to edification to have a plain statement of what appears to the writer to be the truth, than to confuse a reader with a multitude of interpretations which in the end have virtually to be surrendered. The points to be specially remembered before trying to expound the section are these:

1. He who institutes the ordinance is Almighty God made man, who is able to set aside one observance and to substitute another in its place.

2. The new ordinance had an analogy with that which it superseded.

3. It was intended to be the one great service and means of grace for all Christians.

4. The interpretation is to he connected with the great discourse of Jesus in the sixth chapter of St. John, where Christ speaks of himself as the Bread of life that came down from heaven, and his flesh and blood as the nourishment of his people. Verse 26. - As they were eating. Before the supper was quite ended, and before the third cup of wine (see on ver. 21) was drunk. Jesus took bread (τὸν ἄρτον, the bread, according to the Received Text). The special unleavened cake prepared for the Paschal meal. The four accounts agree in this detail, and seem to indicate a formal action or elevation, like the wave offering in the old Law. We see here the "High Priest after the order of Melchizedek" bringing forth bread and wine like his great prototype (Psalm 110:4), and by anticipation offering himself as victim. And blessed it. The Received Text here and in St. Mark has εὐλογήσας, which in some manuscripts has been altered to εὐχασιστήσας, in conformity with the wording in St. Luke's and St. Paul's accounts. We find a similar interchange of the words in the miracles of the loaves (see Matthew 14:19; Matthew 15:36; Mark 8:6, etc.). Virtually, the two expressions are identical; the thanksgiving is a blessing, the blessing is a thanksgiving. The usual blessing uttered by the master over the unleavened cake is said to have been, "Blessed be he who giveth the bread of earth." From this benediction on the elements, and the thankful remembrance of Christ's death and the benefits thereof herein connoted, the Holy Communion has from the earliest times been called the Holy Eucharist. And brake it. The fraction of the bread was so important and essential a part of the institution, that it gave its name to the whole rite, and "breaking of bread" represented the cele bration of the Holy Eucharist, the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving (see Acts 2:42, 46; 1 Corinthians 10:16, etc.). Under the old Law the fraction represented the sufferings endured by the chosen people; in Christ's new institution it symbolized his death, when his feet and hands were pierced with the nails and his side with the spear. Gave it (ἐδίδου, was giving) to the disciples. He gave to each of them a portion of the cake in their hand. If they had risen from their couches at the solemn benediction, as we may well suppose they did, they were still standing when the Lord distributed the consecrated bread. That they received it reclining in an easy posture seems unlikely. Take (ye), eat (ye). The two words are given only in our Gospel; St. Mark has "take ye" (φάγετε being there an interpolation). St. Luke and St. Paul omit them altogether. We should infer that Christ did not himself partake of the bread or wine (which would have confused the deep significance of the ordinance), but gave it to his apostles, that by such participation they might be identified with the sacrifice represented by the broken bread, thus transforming the Levitical rite into a new sacrament which did not merely commemorate his death, but conveyed its benefits to faithful receivers. This is my body. "This" in the Greek is neuter (τοῦτο), and therefore is not in agreement with "bread" (ἄρτος), which is masculine. It is to be explained as "This which I give you, this which ye receive." The copula "is" would not be expressed in the Aramaic, which Christ spoke; and yet what a world of controversy has hung on this ἐστι! Some take it as absolutely identifying subject and predicate; others regard it as equivalent to "represents;" others, again, would modify it in some manner, so that it should not logically express the agreement of the two terms of the proposition. It was doubtless a startling statement to those who then heard it for the first time, but it came upon them not wholly unprepared. In his momentous discourse on the Bread of life, after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus had spoken of himself as the Food of his people, and then proceeded to make the amazing assertion, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:53). The meaning of this mysterious warning was not further explained. Now as the Lord distributed to the apostles the blessed morsels with those solemn words, they learned what he meant by eating his flesh and drinking his blood, how he put it in his servants' power to fulfil the injunction. In what sense could "this" be his body? He was there before their eyes in human form, perfect Man; and yet he gives something else, not that which was standing before them, as his body. Stupendous mystery, past finding out! There is no room here for metaphor or figure. He is not figuratively describing himself or his office or his work, as when he calls himself the good Shepherd, the Door, the Vine, the Way: he directs attention to one part of his nature, his body, and that as toed to be eaten. He shows the mode by which we may be participators of this his lower nature, that as, joined to Adam, we die, so thus united to Christ, we live. We must, as before observed, remember that he who said these words was God incarnate, and that he designed to give his Church a means of realizing and receiving those stupendous blessings set forth in his Eucharistic discourse as depending upon due reception of his body and blood. It is obvious that the apostles could not understand the terms literally, but, believing in his Godhead, believing that he could bring to pass that which he said, they apprehended them in a supernatural, mystical sense; they had faith to know that in these holy elements, blessed by their Lord, they received him, ate his flesh and blood, to their soul's health. This was no mere commemorative rite, not simply a way of remembering Christ's death and Passion, but it was a sacrament, an outward sign of an inward reality, something from without entering the recipients and imparting to them that which before they had not. How the outward and inward are joined together we cannot tell. It is, and will always remain, an unfathomable mystery. The presence of Christ's humanity in the Holy Communion is beyond, above, the ordinary conditions of man's nature; it is supernatural, miraculous, even as was his incarnation, which joined manhood and Deity. The substance, indeed, of the elements remains as before, their nature is not changed, but they have a new relation and use and office; they serve as a means of communicating Christ's body and blood, and they are so called before reception, so that the receiver's faith does not make them to. be such, but Christ's own word with power. Attempts to explain this Divine matter hopelessly fail. Hence the Romanist with his transubstantiation, or change of substance; the Lutheran with his consubstantiation, or confusion of substance; the Zuinglian with his irreverent virtualism, alike fall into error and depart from pure doctrine. The only right attitude is to leave all such efforts alone, to believe Christ's word simply but wholly, and to use the sacrament in full faith, that by and through it to the faithful recipient are imparted incalculable benefits. To the words, "This is my body," St. Luke adds, "which is being given (διδόμενον) for you;" and St. Paul, "which is [broken;? genuine] for you." Thus the Lord, before he actually suffered, offered himself as a Victim voluntarily undergoing death, and showed it forth by the broken bread and the poured wine. We are told that the master of the household, when he distributed the pieces of the lamb, said solemnly, "This is the body of the Paschal lamb." Christ transformed this formula to a new use, but in neither case did it introduce a mere symbol of something absent.
And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
Verse 27. - He took the cup. Many good manuscripts have "a cup," and some modern editors omit the article; but this cup was the only one on the table at the time; so the reading matters not. This was probably the third cup at the close of the Paschal meal (see on ver. 21). The wine of the country is what we call a red wine (compare "the blood of grapes," Genesis 49:11); it was mixed with a little water when used at the table. This third cup was termed "the cup of blessing" (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16), because over it was spoken a special benediction, and it was regarded as the principal cup, following, as it did, the eating of the lamb. Gave thanks (εὐχαριστήσας). The thanksgiving was a blessing (see on ver. 26). The celebration of Christ's death and the remembrance of the incalculable blessings obtained thereby may well be termed the Holy Eucharist, the great sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Gave (ἔδωκεν) it to them. The aorist here used would imply strictly that he gave the cup once for all, herein differentiating the action from that employed in distributing the bread. St. Luke's expression, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves," refers to an earlier stage of the supper. In the present connection he nearly agrees with the other synoptists. It is possible that the cup was passed from hand to hand after it had been blessed by Christ. Drink ye all of it. St Mark adds, "And they all drank of it." Strange it is that, with these words written in the Scripture, any Church should have the hardihood to deny the cup to any qualified Christian. The Romanist's assertion that the cup is for priests alone, as it was given to the apostles only, and was destined for them and their sacerdotal successors, would apply equally to the consecrated bread, and then what becomes of the general use of the ordinance? If we would have life in us, we must not only eat Christ's flesh, but drink his blood. We need to be refreshed as well as strengthened in the battle of life, and it may well be that the mutilation of the sacrament carries with it spiritual effects that impede the soul's health.
For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Verse 28. - For. Yes, drink ye all hereof, for it is unspeakably precious. This (τοῦτο, as before, ver. 26) is my blood. This which I here give you. The blood separated from the body represents Christ's death by violence; it was also the sign of the ratification of a covenant. Of the new testament; διαθήκης: covenant. The adjective"new" is omitted by some good manuscripts and modern editors, but it gives the sense intended. The Vulgate has, novi testamenti. The old covenant between God and his people had been ratified at Sinai by the blood of many victims (Exodus 24:5-8; Hebrews 8:8-13; Hebrews 9:15, etc.); the blood of Christ shed upon the cross ratifies "the new or Christian covenant to the world and the Church, and the same blood sacramentally applied ratifies the covenant individually to each Christian" (Sadler). The evangelical covenant supersedes the Judaic, even as the sacrifice of Christ fulfils and supersedes the Levitical sacrifices. Which is shed (is being shed) for many. The Vulgate has effundetur, in reference to the crucifixion of the morrow; but this is tampering with the text. Rather, by using the present tense, the Lord signifies that his death is certain - that the sacrifice has already begun, that the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8) was now offering the eternal sacrifice. The whole ordinance is significant of the completion of the atonement. "Many" here is equivalent to "all." Redemption is universal, though all men do not accept the offer (see on ch. 20:28). Even Calvin says, "Non partem mundi tantum designat, sed totum humanum genus." For the remission of sins. "For without shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22); "The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7). The sacrifices of the Law, the blood of bulls and goats, could not take away sin; at most they gave a ritual and ceremonial purification. But what the Mosaic Law could not effect was accomplished by the precious blood of Christ, who offered himself a spotless and perfect Victim unto God. This is our Lord's most complete announcement of the propitiatory nature of his sacrifice, which is appropriated by faith in the reception of his precious blood. St. Paul adds, "This do ye (τοῦτο ποιεῖτε), as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me [εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν, 'for my commemoration']." These were, of course, Christ's words spoken at the time, and are of most important bearing on what is called the sacrificial aspect of the Holy Eucharist.
But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.
Verse 29. - I will not drink henceforth (ἀπ' ἄρτι) of this fruit (γεννήματος) of the vine. He is about to die. From this moment forward he tastes not the cup. It does not follow that he had partaken of the consecrated wine which he gave his apostles. Probability is against his having done so (see on ver. 26). He used the same words with the first cup at the commencement of the supper (Luke 22:18). Of this he probably partook, but not of the latter. The offspring of the vine is a poetical way of describing wine (cf. Deuteronomy 22:9; Isaiah 32:12, etc.). It is absurd to find in this term an argument for unalcoholic grape juice. Wine, to be wine, must undergo fermentation, and if it is not to putrefy or to become vinegar, it must develop alcohol. When I drink it new (kaino/n) with you in my Father's kingdom. This mysterious announcement has been variously interpreted, and its meaning must remain uncertain. Some refer it to Christ's intercourse with his disciples after he rose from the dead, when e.g. he partook of food with them (Luke 24:30, 42, 43; John 21:12; Acts 1:4; Acts 10:41). But this seems hardly to meet the requirements of the text, though it has the support of Chrysostom, who writes, "Because he had discoursed with them concerning Passion and cross, he again introduces what he has to say of his resurrection, having made mention of a kingdom before them, and by this term calling his own resurrection. And wherefore did be drink after he was risen again? Lest the grosser sort might suppose that the resurrection was a phantasy To show, therefore, that they should see him manifestly risen again, and that he should be with them once more, and that they themselves shall be witness to the things that are done, both by sight and by act, he saith, 'until I drink it new with you,' you bearing witness. But what is 'new'? In a new, that is, in a strange manner, not having a passible body, but now immortal and incorruptible, and not needing food." Some explain it of the Passover, of which he then partook for the last time, the type being fulfilled in him. The solution does not explain the new participation in the kingdom of God. It seems, on the whole, best to understand it as a prophecy of the great marriage supper of the Lamb, and the joys that await the faithful in the new heavens and the new earth. The wine is (he token of the felicities of this dispensation, and it is called "new" in contrast with the obsolete character of that which it superseded. "Novitatem dicit plane eingularem" (Bengel).
And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
Verses 30-35. - Jesus announces the desertion of the apostles, and the denial of Peter. (Mark 14:26-31; Luke 22:34; John 13:36-38.) Verse 30. - When they had sung an hymn. This was probably the second portion of the Hallel (Psalm 115-118, or, if the then ritual was the same as the later, Psalm 136.). Before this, however, the Lord spake the discourses and the prayer recorded so lovingly and carefully by St. John (John 14-17.). They went out. Which they could not lawfully have done had they been celebrating the usual Jewish Passover (see Exodus 12:22). Though it is possible that many modifications of the original ritual had been gradually introduced, yet Christ so strictly observed the Law that he would doubtless have obeyed its injunction in this particular if he had been keeping the legal solemnity. The Mount of Olives. Hither he had resorted every night during the week (Luke 21:37; Luke 22:39).
Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.
Verse 31. - Then saith Jesus. The warning, according to the other evangelists, was given in the upper chamber, unless, as is very unlikely, it was twice repeated (see Luke 22:31-34; John 13:36-38). The "then" of St. Matthew must not be taken strictly as denoting exact chronological sequence, but as marking a change of scene or a new incident. All ye shall be offended because of me (ἐν ἐμοί, in me). There is an emphasis on "all ye;" even ye eleven, who have been steadfast hitherto. One, Judas, had already departed; but Christ warns the eleven that they too shall for a time lose their faith in him, and sin by forsaking their Lord. His apprehension and trial would prove a rock of offence to them. It is written. In Zechariah 13:7, where the prophet's words are, "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the Man that is my Fellow, saith the Lord of hosts; smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." It is here shown that all that happened took place according to "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." That Christ may be the Saviour he must be a sacrifice. In Zechariah the Lord gives the command to the sword; hence Christ can say, I will smite. The Shepherd is Christ, the sheep are the disciples, who, at the sight of the officers coming to seize him, "all forsook him, and fled" (ver. 56). The prophecy in Zechariah is remarkably full of references to Christ, his nature and his position.
But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.
Verse 32. - After I am risen again. He comforts his followers now, as always, with the announcement that after his Passion and death he would rise again and meet them. So in the prophet's words succeeding the quotation there is a similar encouragement, "I will turn mine hand upon the little ones;" i.e. I will cover and protect the humble and meek, even after they fled and were scattered. I will go before you (προάξω ὑμᾶς) into Galilee (Matthew 28:7). The verb is of pastoral signification, as in the East the shepherd does not drive his sheep, but leads them (John 10:4). The apostles, or many of them, after the Resurrection, returned to their old homes in Galilee, but Christ preceded them, and they found him there before them (Mark 16:7; John 21; Acts 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:6). He again gathered around him his little flock lately scattered. True, he had then already appeared to them at Jerusalem more than once; but this was, as it were, fortuitously and unexpectedly. The meeting in Galilee was by appointment, and of most solemn import, Christ then reuniting the apostolic body, and renewing the apostolic commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
Verse 33. - Peter answered and said unto him. This self-confident answer seems to have been made after he had received the warning recorded by St. Luke (Luke 22:31), "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat; but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not." He cannot believe that he, the rock man, can be guilty of such defection. Though all [men] shall be offended because of (ἐν, ver. 31) thee. The addition of "men" in the Authorized Version alters the intended meaning. Peter contrasts himself with his fellow disciples. Though they all should fall away, he, at any rate, would remain steadfast. He could not endure to be included in the "all ye" of Jesus' warning (ver. 31); and as for failing "this night," he will never at any time (οὐδέποτε) be offended in Christ. Commenting on his offence, St. Chrysostom says, "The matters of blame were two: both that he gainsaid Christ, and that he set himself before others; or, rather, a third, too, namely, that he attributed all to himself."
Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
Verse 34. - Peter's boast elicits a crushing reply from his Lord, foretelling the special sin of which he would be guilty, and the very time of the night when it should be committed. This night, before the cock crow. The word "cock" is without the article, so the meaning may be "before a cock crow;" i.e. probably before midnight. Cocks were unclean birds, and not kept by strict Jews, and their voice was not much heard in Jerusalem; though it is quite different now, where barn door fowls swarm round every house. One of the night watches, that about 3 a.m., was known as "cock-crow" (see Mark 13:35). Some think this is what is meant here. Thou shalt deny me thrice. What Peter denied was that he knew anything of Christ, or had ever been his follower (see vers. 69-75; Luke 22:34).
Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.
Verse 35. - Though I should die with thee (κα}ν δέῃ με σὺν σοὶ ἀποθανεῖν, even if I must die with thee). Christ's explanation of his meaning only drew from Peter a more energetic asseveration of his constancy even unto death. "He thought he was able," says St. Augustine, "because he felt that he wished." The other apostles made a similar assertion, and Jesus said no more, leaving time to prove the truth of his sad foreboding.
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
Verses 36-46. - The agedly of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. (Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1.) Verse 36. - Gethsemane (equivalent to "oil press"). Jesus retired thither for privacy and for prayer in anticipation of what was coming. St. John explains, "Where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples." This so called garden was situated a short distance from the bridge over the Kedron, at the foot of the Mount of Olives. It was a plantation of olives; and there are many of these trees, some of great age, still growing in the neighbourhood. The fanciful idea that some of these witnessed the agony of our Lord has no support whatever. In the first place, olive trees do not live two thousand years; and, secondly, it is certain that in the sieges of Jerusalem all surrounding trees were ruthlessly destroyed; and lastly, the exact site of this terrible scene is unknown, though tradition has fixed upon a certain spot now enclosed with walls, and containing a building known by the name of "The Chapel of the Sweat." The disciples. Eight of them - Judas having long ago departed - and three Jesus took with him deeper into the dim recesses of the wood. Sit ye here. Remain here, at the entrance to the olive yard. These might not behold even the beginning of his desolation. Their present faith and love were not equal to the strain. Go and pray yonder. One is reminded of Abraham at Mount Moriah, when he says to the attendants, "Abide ye here, and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you" (Genesis 22:5). When the Lord says "here" and "yonder," he points to the spots indicated. He always retired to pray, even as he tells his followers to enter into their closets when they put up their supplications to their Father in heaven.
And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
Verse 37. - Peter and the two sons of Zebedee. These three had been privileged to behold his transfiguration, and that glimpse of his glory strengthened them to bear the partial sight of their dear Lord's sufferings. Did his human heart crave for sympathy, and did he desire not to be utterly alone at this awful crisis? We may well suppose so, as he was true Man, with all man's feelings and sensibilities. Began to be sorrowful and very heavy (ἀδημονεῖν, to be sore dismayed). This word seems to be used of the dismay that comes with an unexpected calamity. St. Mark tells us that Christ was "sore amazed" (ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι). It is as though the prospect of what was coming suddenly opened to his vision and overwhelmed him. He now set before himself, i.e. his human consciousness, the sufferings which he had to undergo, with all that led to them, and all that would follow, and the burden was crushing.
Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
Verse 38. - My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death (Jonah 4:9). Christ speaks here of the mental agony which he is enduring; he bides not from the faithful three that which weighs upon his heart, so excessive a strain that human nature must fail to endure it. We cannot gauge the anguish; we may suggest some of the causes of this sorrow. It was not merely the thought of bodily pain, though that would be long and excessive; there were other elements which made his sorrow like to no other sorrow. He thought of all the circumstances that led to his Passion; all that would accompany it; all that would succeed it - the malice and perversity of the Jews, the grievous wickedness that brought about his death, the treachery of Judas, the desertion of his friends, the denial of Peter, his unjust condemnation at the hands of the rulers of the chosen nation, the pusillanimity of Pilate, the guilt of the actors in the tragedy, the wilful iniquity of those whom he came to redeem, the ruin which they brought on themselves, their city and nation - such considerations formed one ingredient in the bitter cup which he had to drain. And then the thought of death was unspeakably terrible to the all-holy Son of God. We men become accustomed to the thought of death. It accompanies us through all our life; it looms before us always. But man was created immortal (Wisd. 2:23), his nature shrinks from the dissolution of soul and body; and to the sinless, unfallen Man this experience was wholly unknown and awful. Here was the incarnate God, the God-Man, submitting himself to the punishment of sin, tasting death forevery man, bearing in his own Person the inexpressible bitterness of this penal humiliation. Added to all this was the incalculable fact that "the Lord had laid on him the iniquity of us all." The burden of the sins of all mankind he bore on his sacred shoulders. "Him who knew no sin God made to be sin on our behalf" (2 Corinthians 5:21). What this mysterious imputation, so to speak, involved, we cannot tell; but to a being perfectly pure and holy it must have been anguish unspeakable. Tarry ye here. As ver. 36, "Sit ye here." And watch with me. In his dark hour his human soul yearned for the comfort of a friendly presence; even though these chosen three might not witness the extremity of his agony, their proximity and sympathy and prayers were a support. But he bade them watch for their own sake also. Their great trial was close at hand; they were about to be tempted to deny and forsake him; they could resist only by prayer and watchfulness (ver. 41).
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
Verse 39. - He went a little further. Deeper into the wood, beneath the gloomy shadow of the olive trees, yet so as not to feel absolutely alone. St. Luke names the distance, "He was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast." By some clerical error the genuine reading, προελθὼν, "having gone forward," has been altered in most of the best manuscripts into προσελθὼν, "having approached." There can be no doubt that this latter reading is erroneous; and it is well, as occasion bids, to call attention to possible mistakes in the most important uncials. Fell on his face, and prayed. He prostrated himself on the ground in utter abasement and desolation, yet in submission withal. In this terrible crisis there is no resource but prayer. The shadow of death enveloped him, wave and storm rolled over his soul; yet out of the deep he called unto the Lord. In the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 5:7, 8) some affecting details are added, "Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and having been heard for his godly fear, though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered." O my Father (Πάτερ μου). The personal pronoun is omitted in some manuscripts, but it has high authority. Only on this occasion and in his great prayer (John 17.) does Christ so address the Father, his human nature in the depth of suffering retaining still the sense of this paternity. St. Mark has, "Abba, Father," as if he spake for the Hebrew race and the Gentile world. If it be possible; i.e. if there is any other way in which man may be saved and thou be glorified; if there is any other mode of redemption. It is the cry of humanity, yet conditioned by perfect submission. Let this cup pass from me. The "cup" is the bitter agony of his Passion and death, with all their grievous accompaniments (see Matthew 20:22, and note there). All heroism and manly endurance in the face of pain and death Christ exhibited to the full; but the elements of suffering in his case were different, and fraught with exquisite torture (see above, on ver. 28). Such was the anguish that it would have then separated soul and body - of such rigour that "his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground" - had not an angel appeared from heaven to strengthen and support the fainting human life (Luke 22:43, 44). Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. In this prayer are shown the two wills of Christ, the human and Divine. The natural shrinking of the human soul from ignominy and torture is overborne by entire submission to and compliance with the Divine purpose. So it is said that the Captain of our salvation was made perfect through sufferings, learned obedience by the things which he suffered (Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:8) By this passage the Monophysite and Monothelite heresies are clearly refuted, the two natures and two wills of Christ being plainly displayed. The three apostles saw only some part of their Master's intense agony, and heard only some broken utterances of his supplication; hence there are some slight variations in the synoptical accounts. St. Mark doubtless derived his account immediately from St Peter; the other synoptists from some other source.
And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
Verse 40. - He cometh unto the disciples. He rose from prayer and returned to his three apostles, seeking their sympathy and the comfort of their presence in his lonely desolation. Findeth them asleep; sleeping. The comfort which his man's nature craved was denied him. St. Luke, the physician, says that the disciples were "sleeping for sorrow." Some great mental shock, some poignant distress, often produces a bodily stupor and sleep; but this is scarcely a valid excuse for such insensibility at this terrible crisis, especially as the Lord had urged them to watch (ver. 38). They had had a very trying day; Peter and John had undergone much bodily fatigue in preparing the last Supper; they were all weary, full of grief, and weighed down by foreboding; it was no wonder that they succumbed to these influences, though we might have expected that such as they would have risen superior to them. "The simple law, that extraordinary tension raises the highly developed spiritual life, while it stupefies the less developed, finds here its strongest illustration in the almost absolute contrast of spiritual watchfulness and sleep" (Lange). Saith unto Peter. Peter had been most forward in profession (vers. 33, 35); so Christ addresses him first. The other two, James and John, bad boldly asserted that they were able to drink of Christ's cup of suffering (Matthew 20:22); so they are included in the tender reproach. What (οὕτως), could ye not watch with me? So, could ye not, etc.? Is it so that? Are ye unable to do even this little thing for me? Truly a pathetic reproof! One hour. It may be that this first stage of the agony had lasted for an hour, but the term is more probably indefinite; or it may refer to the whole time of trial.
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Verse 41. - Watch (ye) and pray. A summary of Christian duty. Watchfulness sees temptation coming; prayer gives strength to withstand it. The apostles needed the injunction at this moment; for their great trial was close at hand. That ye enter not (in order that ye may not eater) into temptation. The phrase is usually interpreted to mean either to fall into temptation, to be tempted, or to run wilfully into temptation; but it seems to be better, with Grotius, to take it in the sense of succumbing to, falling under, being vanquished by temptation, like ἐμπίπτειν in 1 Timothy 6:9, "immergi et succumbere." That Peter and the rest were now to be tempted was certain (Luke 22:31, 32), and it was too late to deprecate the trial; but it was right and expedient to ask of God grace to withstand in the evil hour. The spirit (πνεῦμα) indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. This was an added motive for vigilance and prayer. The apostles had shown a certain readiness of spirit when they offered to die with Christ (ver. 35); but the flesh, the material and lower nature, represses the higher impulse, checks the will, and prevents it from carrying out that which it is prompted to perform (see the action of these contrariant forces noticed by St. Paul, Romans 7.). "For the corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthy tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things" (Wisd. 9:15). Our Lord at this very time was experiencing and exemplifying the truth of his saying, though in his ease the weakness of the flesh was entirely overmastered by the willing spirit. It is noted that Polycarp quotes this maxim of Christ in his 'Epistle to the Philippians,' ch. 7.
He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
Verse 42. - Again the second time. A pleonastic expression, as in John 4:54; John 21:16, etc., calling especial attention to "the numerical re-repetition of the Saviour's prayer" (Morison). St. Matthew alone gives the words of this second prayer, which differs in some respects from the first. The possibility of the cup passing away was considered no longer; the continuance of the trial showed that it was not to he. If this cup may (can) not pass away from me... thy will be done. He accepts the cup; his human will coincides with the Divine will; he acquiesces with perfect self-resignation. The cup, relatively to the circumstances, could not pass away from the Saviour.
And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
Verse 43. - He came and found them asleep (sleeping) again. In the best manuscripts "again" is connected with the verb "came." This was his second visit; he was still craving for their sympathy, still desirous of their safety under temptation. Heavy (βεβαρημένοι). Weighed down with drowsiness; St. Mark adds, "Neither wist they what to answer him." He partially aroused them, but they were too overcome with sleep to enter fully into the situation or to attend to the obvious duty before them.
And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
Verse 44. - Saying the same words (λόγον, word, i.e. prayer). Three times he prayed, and his prayer was always of the same import - teaching us by example to be urgent, instant, in supplication, and, though the special request be denied, to be sure that we are heard and that an answer will be given; even as Christ obtained not the withdrawal of the cup, but strength to submit, endure, and conquer. We must compare this threefold prayer and contest with the threefold temptation at the beginning of our Lord's ministry.
Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Verse 45. - Cometh he. St. Hilary comments on these three visits: "On his first return he reproves, on the second he holds his peace, on the third he bids to rest." The contest was over; the human will was now entirely one with the Divine will. Sleep on now (τὸ λοιπόν, henceforward), and take your rest. This is probably to be understood literally. There was a short interval still before the apprehension and the subsequent events; as they could not watch, they might use this in finishing their sleep, and recruiting their wearied bodies in preparation for the coming trial. Many expositors find an irony in Christ's words, taken in connection with those that follow, as if he meant, "In a few minutes I shall be seized; sleep on if you can; you will soon be miserably awakened, make the most of the present." But at this moment the tender Jesus would surely never have condescended to address his friends in such a style. All his words and actions were animated with the deepest love for them and anxiety on their account. A change to irony is really inconceivable under the circumstances. Nor is there any reason to take the sentence interrogatively, "Sleep ye at such a moment?" It is more simple to regard the words as said bona fide, with no mental reservation and no implied censure. We may suppose that a pause ensued before the utterance of the next clause, and that the Lord allowed his fatigued followers to sleep on till the last moment. Behold, the hour is at hand, and (καὶ, equivalent to when) the Son of man is betrayed (παραδίδοται, is being betrayed) into the hands of sinners. He calls all simmers who take part in his apprehension, trial, and death - not the Romans only (as Acts 2:23), but priests, eiders, multitude, who joined in the crowd and incurred the guilt. There is now no sign of wavering; he is ready, yea, eager to meet the sufferings which he foresees.
Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.
Verse 46. - Rise, let us be going. He wilt meet, and he wishes his disciples to meet, the coming attack with alacrity and readiness. So with them he goes towards the entrance of the garden where he had left the eight. Behold. Judas and his companions come in sight.
And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.
Verses 47-56. - Betrayal and apprehension of Jesus. (Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-11.) Verse 47 - Judas, one of the twelve. So called by all the synoptists, as if to enhance his guilt - one of Christ's own familiar friends, who had eaten bread with him. Came. St. Luke tells us that he led the way to Gethsemane. He well knew the place as a favourite resort of Christ (John 18:2); he knew, too, that Jesus was alone there with his apostles, and he had gone with confidence to inform the authorities where they could find him, and to demand a force sufficient to make the arrest. A great multitude. Consisting of some of the Levitical guard, Roman soldiers, Sanhedrists, and elders. The soldiers carried swords, the fanatical herd bore staves, to overcome any opposition which, after the demonstration at the triumphal entry, might be naturally expected. St. John adds that they brought with them lanterns and torches in order to search the recesses of the grove, should Christ have hidden himself there.
Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.
Verse 48 - A sign. As they approached, Judas gave them a sign which would point out the person whom they were to seize. Probably these did not know Jesus by sight; at any rate, amid the crowd he might easily escape detection; it was also night, and even the Paschal moon might not enable the guards to distinguish faces under the shade of the dark olive grove. Whomsoever I shall kiss. In the East such salutation was common among friends, masters, and pupils; and it would awaken no surprise to see Judas thus salute his Teacher. Perhaps he desired to save appearances in the eyes of his fellow disciples. We marvel at the audacity and obduracy of one who could employ this mark of affection and respect to signal an act of the blackest treachery. That same is he whom you have to arrest. Hold him fast. As if he feared an attempt at rescue, or that Jesus might, as before (Luke 4:30; John 8:59), use his miraculous power to effect his escape.
And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.
Verse 49. - Forthwith. The blood money was to become due on the accomplishment of the betrayal; so Judas, now that the opportunity had arrived, lost no time in completing his part of the bargain. Kissed him (κατεφίλησεν, a strong word, kissed him eagerly, or, kissed him much). Judas was more than usually demonstrative in his salutation. "The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords" (Psalm 55:21). So Joab treated Amasa before he murdered him (2 Samuel 20:9, 10). What infinite patience for the Lord to submit to this hypocritical caress! It is a type of the wonderful goodness and long suffering of God towards sinners, how he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good.
And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.
Verse 50. - Friend; ἑταῖρε: companion (see Matthew 20:13; Matthew 22:12). The word seems, in the New Testament, to be always addressed to the evil, though in itself an expression of affection. Here Christ uses no reproach; to the last he endeavours by kindness andlove to win the traitor to a better mind. St. Luke narrates that Jesus called him by name, saying, "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?" Wherefore art thou come? Ἐφ ο{ πάρει. The Received Text gives ἐφ ῷ, which has very inferior authority. There is great difficulty in giving an exact interpretation of this clause. The Authorized Version, as the Vulgate (Ad quid venisti?), takes it interrogatively; but such a use of the relative ο{ς is unknown. If it is interrogative, we must understand, "Is it this for which thou art come?" But Christ knew too well the purport of Judas's arrival to put such an unnecessary question. Others explain, "Do that, or, I know that for which thou art come." Alford, Farrar, and others consider the sentence as unfinished, the concluding member being suppressed by an aposiopesis consequent on the agitation of the Speaker, "That errand on which thou hast come - complete." More probably the clause is an exclamation, ο{ being equivalent to οῖον, as in later Greek, "For what a purpose art thou here!" It is, indeed, a last remonstrance and appeal to the conscience of the traitor. Took him. They seized him with their hands, but did not bind him till afterwards (John 18:2). Whether Judas had any latent hope or expectation that Jesus at this supreme moment would assert and justify his Messiahship, we know not. The histories give no hint of any such idea, and it is most improbable that the apostate was thus influenced (see on ver. 14). We must here introduce the incident recorded by St. John (John 18:4-9).
And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear.
Verse 51. - One of them which were with Jesus. St. John names Peter as the agent in the attack on the high priest's servant; he also alone gives the name of the servant, Malchus. Of the circumstances which led to the subsequent miracle all the evangelists give an account; the miracle itself is related only by St. Luke. Conjecture has attempted to give reasons for these deficiencies in some of the narratives, and the complementary details in others; but it is wisest to say that thus it has seemed good to the Holy Ghost who guided the writers, and there to leave the subject. Drew his sword. The apostles had evidently misunderstood the Lord's words uttered a little while before (Luke 22:36-38), "He that hath no sword, let him sell his cloke, and buy one." Two of them had then exhibited the weapons with which they had armed themselves, as if ready to repel violence And now one of these, thinking that the hour was arrived for striking a blow in his Master's defence, resorted to violence. Physical courage, indeed, Peter possessed, as was proved by his attitude in the face of fearful odds, but of moral courage he and his comrades exhibited little evidence, when, as soon as their Master was apprehended and led away, they "all forsook him, and fled" (ver. 56). Struck a (the) servant of the high priest's. The man was the high priest's servant in a special way - what we should call his bodyservant; he had evidently made himself conspicuous in the arrest, and Peter struck fiercely at his head as the foremost of the aggressors. St. John, who was acquainted with the high priest and his household, gives his name as Malchus, a Syriac word, meaning "Counsellor." Smote off his ear. The blow fell short, but inflicted a serious wound. How the mischief was repaired by the healing touch of Christ is mentioned alone by Luke the physician, for whom the incident would have special interest. We may note, in passing, that this miracle (the last which Christ worked before his death) was wholly unsolicited and unexpected on the part of the recipient, and was performed upon an enemy actually engaged in hostility. What more striking proof of the Lord's mercy and forgiveness could have been given? What better way could there be of demonstrating the nature of the kingdom which he came to establish? Thus he displayed his superhuman power even while surrendering himself to captivity and death. By this immediate action too he secured his followers from reprisal, so that they were allowed to retire unmolested, and Peter, though recognized to have been one of those in the garden (John 18:26), was not punished for his part in the transaction.
Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
Verse 52. - Put up again thy sword into his (its) place. Christ orders Peter to sheathe his sword; but the wording is peculiar, Turn away (ἀπόστρεψον) thy sword; as if Christ would say, "The sword is none of mine; the arm of flesh and the carnal weapon are thine; turn off thy sword from the use which thou art making of it to its proper destination, to be wielded only at God's command." Then he gives a motive for this injunction. For all they that take (οἱ λαβόντες) the sword shall perish with the sword. There is a stress on the word "take," and there is an imperative force in the future, "shall perish." The Lord is speaking of those who arbitrarily and presumptuously resort to violence; and he says, "Let them feel the sword." The word was of wide application, and contained a universal truth; it was, in fact, a re-enactment of the primaeval law touching the sacredness of human life, and the penalty that ensues on its infringement (Genesis 9:5, 6). It enforced also the general lesson that violence and revenge effect no good end, and bring their own punishment. There is no prophecy here (as some suppose) of the destruction of the Jews at the hands of the Romans; nor is Christ intent on soothing Peter by the thought of the future retribution which awaited the enemies whom he was so eager to chastise. Such suggestions are arbitrary and unwarranted by the context.
Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
Verse 53. - Thinkest thou that I cannot now (ἄρτι) pray to (παρακαλέσαι, beseech) my Father? Jesus proceeds to show that he needs not Peter's puny assistance. Η δοκεῖς; An putas? Or thinkest thou? The particle, neglected by the Authorized Version, marks the transition to a new motive. The verb παρακαλεῖν has the special meaning of "to summon with authority," "to call upon as an ally." Peter needed still to learn the lesson of Christ's Divinity, his oneness with the Father; and this is furnished by the right interpretation of this word, which was not, as our version seems to make it, the cry of an inferior to one mightier than himself, but the summons of an equal to his great Ally in heaven. So Jesus virtually says, "Have I not power through my own Godhead to summon my Father to support me?" (Sewell, 'Microscope of the New Testament'). Shall presently give me (παραστήσει μοι ἄρτι). The Authorized Version seems to have read ἄρτι twice, "now... presently." The manuscripts show it only once, but vary its position. It most probably belongs to the first clause. The verb rendered "give" has a more pregnant meaning. It is a military term meaning "to place by the side," "to post on one's flank." Hence the Lord implies that at a word the serried ranks of angels would range themselves at his side, true flank comrades, to defend and support him. Twelve legions of angels. Not a dozen weak men. He employs the Roman term "legion" with intention. He had been arrested by a cohort (John 18:3, 12, σπεῖρα), the tenth part of the legion, which numbered six thousand men; he could, it he chose, call to his aid twelve times six thousand angels, who would deliver their Lord from his enemies. If there was to be an appeal to force, which Peter's rash assault suggested, what could withstand his angelic allies, the heavenly hosts, infinitely more numerous, better disciplined, more effectively officered, prompt and happy to do the will of the great Commander?
But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?
Verse 54. - But how then (οϋν, i.e. if I now resist) shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be! There is no" but" in the original. In what way, Christ asks, shall God's determined counsel be accomplished, if you turn to the arm of the flesh, or if I use my Divine power to save myself? The will of God, as declared in Scripture, was that Jesus should be betrayed, seized, should suffer and die. Christ's will was one with the Father's and one with the Spirit's who inspired the Scripture, and therefore he must pass through each stage, undergo each detail, which the sacred volume specified. It was not merely that events were so arranged that they thus befell; nor merely that prophets of old foretold them; but there was some special moral duty and obligation in fulfilling them, which Christ, as one with the Father and the Holy Ghost, was minded to carry out in all perfection. Here was a ray of comfort for Peter and the other apostles. All was foreordained; its announcement in God's book proved it came from God, was under his control and ordering. Patience, therefore, and silent acquiescence were the duties now incumbent. "Be still, then, and know that I am God."
In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.
Verse 55. - The multitudes. St. Luke says that Christ addressed "the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and elders, which were come against him." He submitted to indignities, but he felt them deeply; he allowed himself to be treated as a malefactor, but was not insensible to the shame of being supposed to have been capable of acting as such. A thief; a robber. One at the head of a band of lawless ruffians, who would resist you with arms in their hands - a sicarius, a cutthroat, who lurked in secret places to murder the innocent. I sat daily with you (πρὸς ὑμᾶς, probably an interpolation from Mark). All the past week, at any rate, Christ had taught quietly and openly in the temple. He had none of the habits of the robber; he had not courted secrecy; he had no company of armed men to defend him; why did they not arrest him then? According to St. Luke, Christ adds, "But this is your hour, and the power of darkness."
But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.
Verse 56. - All this was done (hath come to pass), etc. This is most probably part of Christ's speech, not a remark of the evangelist. He repeats to the multitude what he had said to Peter (ver. 54, where see note), and what he had already intimated at the last Supper (vers. 24, 31). To quote the words of Stier, "Again and again he de. clares that one thing which, nevertheless, Christian theology perpetually refuses to learn from the supreme Teacher and Doctor. He holds firmly to the Scripture, whether speaking to the exasperated Jews or the docile disciples; he puts those to shame in their folly by proofs from Scripture, and strengthens these in their despondency by its consolatory promises. He appeals to Scripture in his vehement disputation with men, as he does in his solemn way of suffering to die for them; he confronts Satan with 'It is written,' and prays to the Father - that the Scripture may be fulfilled." If Christ had been taken prematurely in the temple, and put to death by a tumultuary stoning, prophecy would not have been fulfilled, and his death would not have been the appointed sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Forsook him, and fled. As he had foretold (ver. 31). They saw their Master bound and helpless; they recognized that he would not deliver himself by heavenly aid, and, fearing to share his fate, they looked to their own safety and basely abandoned him in his hour of danger. Now occurred the incident mentioned only by St. Mark (Mark 14:51), which is explained rightly by Edersheim (2:485, 544). Only Peter and John followed the officers to the high priest's palace.
And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.
Verses 57-68. - Jesus before Caiaphas, informally condemned to death. (Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:54, 63-65; John 18:24.) Verse 57. - Led him away to Caiaphas. The synoptists omit all mention of the preliminary inquiry before Annas (John 18:13, 19-24). His palace was nearest to the place of capture, and the soldiers appear to have received orders to conduct the Prisoner thither, Annas having vast influence with the Romans, and being the principal mover in the matter. What passed before him is not recorded, none of the disciples being present at the examination. The synoptists take up the account when Jesus was sent bound to Caiaphas, who St. John (John 18:14) notes was the one who for political reasons had urged the judicial murder of Jesus. Where (i.e. in whose house) the scribes and the elders were assembled. This seems to have been an informal meeting of the leading Sanhedrists, hastily convened, not in their usual place of meeting, but in a chamber of Caiaphas's palace. Some years before this time the right of pronouncing capital sentences had been removed from the council; and hence the necessity of assembling in the hall Gazith (where only such sentences could be delivered) existed no longer.
But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.
Verse 58. - Afar off. Peter had fled at first with the others; but his affection drew him back to see what befell his beloved Master. He followed the crowd at a safe distance, and, joined afterwards by John, reached the palace of Caiaphas. Went in. St. John appears to have entered the court with the guard that held the Prisoner; but Peter remained without till introduced by his fellow apostle, who was known to the servant who kept the door (John 18:16). With the servants. These were the officers of the Sanhedrin, and the high priest's servants They retired from the presence chamber to the open court, and sat round a charcoal fire which they made there. Peter at one time sat with them, at another moved restlessly about, endeavouring to show indifference, but really betraying himself. The end. The result of the examination. This verse is parenthetical, interrupting the course of the narrative in order to prepare the way for the account of Peter's denial (vers. 69-75).
Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;
Verse 59. - The chief priests, [and elders,] and all the council. The words in brackets are probably spurious; they are omitted by the best uncials and the Vulgate. The words cannot imply strictly that the whole Sanhedrin was present and consenting to the present proceedings; for we know that such members as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea did not consent to the infamous deeds of the rest (Luke 23:51; John 19:39). Sought (ἐζήτουν, were seeking) false witness. The Sanhedrists had decided on Christ's death; it only remained to find such a charge against him as would compel the Roman authorities to deal summarily with him. For their purpose the truth of the accusation was immaterial, so long as it was established, according to Law (Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15), by two or three witnesses examined apart. They knew well that Christ could be condemned on no true testimony, hence they scrupled not to seek false. If they had meant to deal fairly, they would have allowed some who knew him to speak in his favour; but this was the very last thing which they desired or would have sanctioned.
But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses,
Verse 60. - Found none. Repeated twice (according to the Received Text), showing the earnestness of the pursuit and the absolute failure of the attempt. What was offered was insufficient for the purpose, or inconsistent (Mark 14:56). The second "found none" is thought by many modern editors to be not genuine, and is accordingly expunged. It does not occur in the Vulgate. At the last came two false witnesses. When the case seemed hopeless and on the point of breaking down, some of the Sanhedrists' own creatures came forward with a distorted account of Christ's words spoken long before. They brought no accusation founded on any of his late utterances in the temple, or when he was charged with blasphemy and threatened with stoning (John 10:33); they remembered keenly how he had discomfited them on such occasions, and they feared to elicit one of his crushing replies or unanswerable questions. They were glad to fall back upon something else, which especially concerned Annas and Caiaphas, and their gainful trading in the sacred courts (see the next note).
And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.
Verse 61. - This fellow (οῦτος). Contemptuously, displaying their animosity by the disrespectful use of the pronoun. I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. This is a distorted account of what our Lord said at his first purgation of the temple, when asked to give a sign in proof of his authority. Speaking metaphorically of his body, he had made this announcement, "Destroy ye this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). At the time the Jews had not understood the words, and they now pervert them into a criminal accusation, which might take the form of charging him with being either an impious fomenter of disturbance, or a pretender to superhuman powers, Divine or Satanic. In either case, the charge would bring him into collision with the Roman authorities, which was the real object of this preliminary inquiry. We must not forget that Christ had twice interfered with the traffic in the temple, which was carried on to the great profit of the avaricious family of Annas, and that the malice of the high priests was on this account greatly embittered.
And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?
Verse 62. - The high priest [Caiaphas] arose. As if in indignation at the outrage offered by this vaunt to Jehovah and the sanctuary. But the indignation was assumed and theatrical; for even this charge had broken down, owing to the disagreement of the two witnesses (Mark 14:59). Something more definite must be secured before any formal appeal could be made to the Sanhedrin or the procurator. Answerest thou nothing? The angry president endeavours to browbeat the Prisoner, and to make him criminate himself by intemperate language or indiscreet admission. What is it which these witness against thee? The Received Text (followed here by Westcott and Hort) divides the high priest's words into two questions, as in the Authorized Version. The Vulgate unites the two into one, Nihil respondes ad ea quae isti adversum te testificantur? Alford, Tischendorf, etc., print, Οὐδὲν ἀποκρίνῃ τί οῦτοί σου καταμαρτυροῦσιν; "Answerest thou not what it is which these witness against thee?" Caiaphas professes a desire to hear Christ's explanation of the words just alleged against him.
But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.
Verse 63. - Jesus hold his peace; ἐσιώπα: continued silent (cf. Matthew 27:12-14). "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth," etc. (Isaiah 53:7; cf. Psalm 38:13, 14). He knew it was of no use, and was not the moment, to explain the mystery of the words which he had used. Indeed, it was unfair to ask him to explain the discrepancies in the alleged testimony. "Attempts at defence were unprofitable, no man hearing. For this was a show only of a court of justice, but in truth an onset of robbers, assailing him without cause, as in a cave or on the road" (St. Chysostom, in loc.). The case was best met by a majestic silence. Answered. Puzzled and embarrassed by Christ's persistent silence, Caiaphas at last proceeds to put to him a question which he must answer, and which must lead to some definite result. I adjure thee by the living God. The high priest now addresses Jesus officially as the minister of Jehovah, and puts him under an oath to make an answer. To such an adjuration a reply was absolutely necessary, and the Law held a man guilty who kept silence under such circumstances (Leviticus 5:1). The Christ, the Son of God. It is not to be supposed that Caiaphas by these words intended to imply that Messiah was one with God, of one nature, power, and eternity. It is not likely that he had risen above the popular Jewish conception of Messiah, which was of one inferior to God, though invested with certain Divine attributes. But he had heard that Jesus had more than once claimed God as his Father, so he now, as he hopes, will force a confession from the Prisoner's lips, which will set the question at rest one way or the other, and give him ground for decisive action, and enable him to denounce Christ either as an acknowledged impostor or a blasphemer. His language is, perhaps, based on the second psalm, vers. 2, 6, etc.
Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
Verse 64. - Thou hast said; σὺ εϊπας (ver. 25); in St. Mark, ἐγώ εἰμι. This is a strong affirmative asseveration, and on Christ's lips carries with it the full meaning of the words used by Caiaphas, "I am the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One, God of God, of one substance with the Father." Nevertheless (πλὴν); i.e. in spite of your incredulity. But there is no direct opposition intended between the previous and the following statements; so πλὴν would be better translated, but moreover, or what is more. Hereafter; ἄπαρτι. From this moment, beginning from now, from my Passion, my triumph and my reign are inaugurated. Shall ye see. Ye, the representatives of Israel, shall see the events about to be consummated, the preludes of the great assize, and the coming of Messiah's kingdom. The Son of man. God and yet man; man now in weakness and humility, about to display and give incontestable proofs of his Godhead. Right hand of power. Of Omnipotence, of Almighty God. Coming in the clouds of heaven (Matthew 24:30). Christ thus distinctly asserts his Divinity, and claims to apply to himself the utterance in Psalm 110:1, and the great prophecy of Daniel (Daniel 7:13, 14). This was the plainest and most specific declaration of his real nature, power, and attributes, made with calm majesty, though he knew it was to seal his condemnation, and open the immediate way to his death.
Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.
Verse 65. - The high priest rent his clothes (τὰ ἱμάτια). His outer garments, not his pontifical vestment, which he would not wear on this occasion. St. Mark notes that he rent his under clothes, his tunic; so probably he tore both outer and inner garments. This was done in assumed horror at Christ's blasphemy (cf. 2 Kings 18:37; 2 Kings 19:1), rabbinical injunctions requiring such an action, and prescribing the nature, extent, and direction of the scissure. "This he did," says Chrysostom, "to add force to the accusation, and to increase the weight of his words by the act." His assessors, though fully agreeing with him, appear not to have followed his example in this particular, taking the high priest's action as typical and sufficiently expressive of the general sentiment. The Fathers see in it a symbol of the rending and destruction of the Jewish priesthood (cf. 1 Samuel 15:27, 28; 1 Kings 11:30, 31). He hath spoken blasphemy. In claiming to be the Son of God, not in a theocratic sense, but by nature. making himself one with Jehovah. This was what Caiaphas had been desiring. No more discussion was needed; Christ was self-convicted. What further need have we of witnesses? He was doubtless relieved to find that the Prisoner had saved him from the trouble of seeking, suborning, and examining any more witnesses. Ye have heard; ye heard just now. All the assembly could now testify to the truth of the allegation.
What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.
Verse 66. - What think ye? He wishes to get a vote by acclamation, not in a formal way, as to the guilt of Christ and the punishment which he deserved. He is guilty of (ἔυοχος, worthy of, liable to) death. This was the punishment pronounced by the Law on blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16); the death was, however, to be by stoning (Acts 7:58). This detail, as they considered it, was now exclusively in the hands of the Romans. We see that this meeting, which virtually doomed Christ to death, was not a regular council of the Sanhedrin; for it was not held in the appointed chamber, and was conducted at night, when criminal processes were forbidden. The meeting next morning (Matthew 27:1) was convened for the purpose of considering how this informal sentence should be executed.
Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,
Verse 67. - The scene that ensued upon the verdict being pronounced is beyond measure hideous and unexampled. When the meeting broke up, Jesus was for a time left to the brutal cruelty and the unbridled insolence of the guards and servants. Involuntarily, by their profanity and coarseness, they fulfilled the words of the prophet, speaking in the Person of Messiah, "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting" (Isaiah 50:6). Did they spit in his face. A monstrous indignity, so regarded by all people at all times (Numbers 12:14; Deuteronomy 25:9; Job 30:10). Buffeted him (ἐκολάφισαν αὐτὸν); struck him with fists. Smote him with the palms of their hands (ἐῥῤάπισαν). There is some doubt whether the verb here means "to smite with a rod" or "to slap in the face with the open hand;" but as we have already had mention of striking with the hands, it is probable that beating with a stick is here intended.
Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?
Verse 68. - Prophesy; divine, guess. They had previously blindfolded him (Mark 14:65; Luke 22:64), and now in derision of his supernatural powers they mockingly bid him to name the person who struck him. Thou Christ. They use the term sarcastically. "You call yourself Christ, the Prophet of God; well, then, divine miraculously, without seeing, who is he that smote thee."
Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.
Verses 69-75. - The three denials of St. Peter. (Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:55-62; John 18:17, 18, 25-27.) Verse 69. - There is much apparent discrepancy in the four accounts of Peter's denials, both as regards the scene, the persons, and the words used. St. Matthew groups them all together in one view without special regard to time and place. The fact doubtless is this - that Peter did not distinctly three times, in three separate utterances, deny Christ, but that on three occasions, and under different circumstances, and in many different words, he committed this sin. There are, as it were, three groups of questions and replies, and the evangelists have recorded such portions of these details as seemed good to them, or such as they were best acquainted with. Peter sat (was sitting) without in the palace (τῇ αὐλῇ). We have seen (ver. 48) that Peter was introduced by John into the open court round which the palace was built, and on one side of which was the chamber in which the examination of Jesus was going on. He was within the palace enclosure, but outside the principal apartment; hence he is said in the text to have been without. Admission to the courtyard was gained by a passage through the side of a house, which formed the vestibule or porch; this was closed towards the street by a heavy gate, having in it a small wicket for the use of visitors, kept by a porter or other servant. A damsel. This was the female porteress who kept the wicket by which Peter was admitted. She appears to have had some suspicion of him from the first, and to have followed him with her remarks from the gate, and to have continued them when he sat down with the servants at the fire kindled in the open court. Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. She says, "Thou also" in reference to John, whom she had first admitted, and who seems to have been in no danger, though Peter had great fears for his own safety. Though the porteress probably had no personal knowledge of the apostle, yet scanning his features by the light of the fire, noting his perturbed aspect and his restless actions, and reflecting on his companionship with John, she conjectured that he was a disciple of Christ, and more than once hazarded the assertion with the view of eliciting a definite answer.
But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.
Verse 70. - He denied before them all. This was the first batch of accusations and denials. The equivocal denial was made vehemently and openly, so that all around heard it. It does not seem that he would have incurred any danger if he had boldly confessed his discipleship, so that this renunciation was gratuitous and unnecessary. I know not what thou sayest. This is virtually a denial of the allegation made, though in an indirect and evasive form, implying, "I do not know what you are alluding to."
And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.
Verse 71. - The porch; τὸν πυλῶμνα. The passage between the street and the court. Peter had walked towards the gate, either in unmeaning restlessness, or with some notion of escaping further questioning. Another maid saw him. We gather from the other accounts that both the porteress and some other domestics assailed him at this time. Jesus of Nazareth. Christ was popularly so known (see Matthew 21:11).
And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.
Verse 72. - With an oath. Assailed on all sides, and fearing that his simple word would not be taken, Peter now to one and all makes a curt denial, accompanying it with an oath. He was thoroughly determined not to compromise himself, and to silence all suspicion. This was the second stage of his fall. I do not know the man. I have no knowledge of this Jesus of whom you are speaking. He calls his beloved Master "the man"!
And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.
Verse 73. - After a while; μετὰ μικρὸν: after a little interval. About an hour, according to St. Luke. Meantime had occurred the examination and informal condemnation of Christ, followed by the brutalities of the attendants, and the Lord's temporary consignment to some chamber or gallery that overlooked the courtyard. The excitement of the trial and its accompaniments having somewhat subsided, attention was again turned upon Peter, who, in his nervous trepidation, could not remain quiet and silent, but aroused observation by his indiscreet movements and garrulity. They that stood by. Among whom, as St. John notes, was a kinsman of Malthus, who indistinctly remembered hating seen Peter at Gethsemane. Probably by this time some rumour of the presence of a disciple of Jesus had spread among the crowd, and there arose an eager desire to discover him. If Peter had not talked, he might have escaped further notice. Thy speech bewrayeth thee; makes thee known. His dialect (for doubtless he spoke Aramaic) showed that he was a Galilaean, and as most of Christ's adherents came from that region, they inferred that he was one of Christ's disciples. The language and pronunciation of the northern district differed materially from the polished dialect of Judaea and Jerusalem, and its provincialisms were readily detected. The Galilaeans, we are told, could not properly pronounce the guttural letters, aleph, kheth, and ayin, and used tau for shin, pe for beth, etc.; they also often omitted syllables in words, occasioning equivocal mistakes, which afforded much amusement to the better instructed.
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.
Verse 74. - To curse and to swear. Peter fortifies this, his third denial, by imprecating curses on himself (καταθεματίζειν) if he spake not the truth, and again (ver. 72) confirming his assertion by a solemn oath. There is a certain gradation in his denials: he first simply asserts; he then asserts with an oath; lastly, he adds curses to his oath. "One temptation unresisted seldom fails to be followed by another; a second and greater infidelity is the punishment of the first, and often the cause of a third. Peter joins perjury to infidelity. Deplorable progress of infidelity and blindness in an apostle in so short a time, only out of fear of some under servants, and in respect of a Master whom he had acknowledged very God. He might possibly have proceeded even as far as Judas, had God left him any longer to himself" (Quesnel). Immediately the cock crew. This was the second crowing (Mark 14:72); the first had been heard at the first denial (Mark 14:68).
And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.
Verse 75. - Peter remembered the word of Jesus. Simultaneously with the crowing of the cock, the Lord turned round, and from the chamber facing the court looked upon Peter (Luke 22:61), singled him out from all the crowd, showed that amid all his own sufferings and sorrows be had not forgotten his weak apostle. What that look did for Peter we learn by succeeding events; it is for the homilist to expatiate thereon. Christ had prayed for him, and the effect of that prayer was now felt. He went out. From the portico where the denial had taken place; he rushed from that evil company into the night, a broken-hearted man, that no human eye might witness his anguish, that alone with his conscience and God he might wrestle out repentance. Wept bitterly. Tradition asserts that all his life long Peter hereafter never could hear a cock crow without failing on his knees and weeping.

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