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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 26

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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The key phrase in Matthew’s Gospel "And it came about that when Jesus had finished" (Matthew 26:1) indicates another major transition (cf. Matthew 7:28; Matthew 11:1; Matthew 13:53; Matthew 19:1). As usual, it occurs at the end of a major address. In this case it introduces the final and longest continuous narrative section that reaches its climax with another address, in this case a very brief but important one (Matthew 28:18-20). The Great Commission was the King’s final speech that set the final course for His disciples during the age between Jesus’ two advents.

"As the culmination of Matthew’s story, the passion account also constitutes the decisive stage in Jesus’ conflict with Israel (chaps. 26-28). [Note: Footnote 10: For a more detailed treatment of the passion account in Matthew, see Frank J. Matera, Passion Narratives and Gospel Theologies: Interpreting the Synoptics through Their Passion Stories, chs. 4-6; and Donald Senior, The Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.] Here the resolution of this conflict works itself out in dramatic detail." [Note: Kingsbury, Matthew as . . ., p. 84.]

The narrative section consists of two parts, the crucifixion (chs. 26-27) and the resurrection of the King (Matthew 28:1-15).

"Relentlessly the events of the King’s life move toward His death on the cross. He has completed His public manifestation to Israel and the nation has rejected Him. In addition, the disciples have been instructed concerning the rejection of Israel and the spiritual basis of entrance into the earthly kingdom. All that remains is the work of the Messiah to provide the means whereby those who exercise faith in Him may enter His kingdom. This work, the death and resurrection of the King, is recounted very succinctly by Matthew. In a large part Matthew’s argument is accomplished, and these last events form a fitting conclusion to his book since Jesus here moves through defeat unto victory." [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 295.]

A. The King’s crucifixion chs. 26-27

Matthew reported Jesus crucifixion in five scenes: the preparations for it, Jesus’ arrest, His trials, the crucifixion itself, and His burial.

Verses 1-2

Jesus evidently said these words sometime on Wednesday, the same day as His controversy with the religious leaders (Matthew 21:23 to Matthew 23:39) and the Olivet Discourse (chs. 24-25). Jesus predicted that His enemies would deliver Him up to die by crucifixion in two days. The connection between Jesus’ death and the Passover would emerge more clearly when Jesus celebrated that feast with His disciples the next day. Thursday, then, was a day of rest for Jesus, during which He prepared for His great agony on Friday.

Verses 1-5

Jesus’ fourth passion prediction and the plot to betray Him 26:1-5 (cf. Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2)

These verses record the fourth major prediction of Jesus’ death that He gave His disciples (cf. Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:22-23; Matthew 20:18-19). Matthew just finished recording Jesus’ claim to judge humankind (Matthew 25:31-46). Now he wrote that the Judge would suffer condemnation from the condemned. Jesus had warned His enemies about the consequences of hypocrisy (Matthew 23:12-31). Now we learn that they were paying no heed to His warning but were proceeding to crucify Him hypocritically. This irony points out Jesus’ sovereign control over the affairs that led to His death, and it is an example of masterful narrative composition.

Verses 1-46

1. Preparations for Jesus’ crucifixion 26:1-46

There were several events that led up to Jesus’ arrest. Matthew did not present them in strict chronological order but in a logical narrative order.

Verses 3-5

Opposition to Jesus had been rising for some time (cf. Matthew 12:14; Matthew 21:45-46). Matthew’s mention of this plot’s advance toward its climax following Jesus’ prediction (Matthew 26:2) has the effect of showing that His enemies’ conspiracy was ultimately a result of Jesus’ sovereign authority. He was not a powerless pawn under their control. He was really orchestrating His own passion.

The chief priests and elders represented the clerical and lay members of the Sanhedrin respectively (cf. Matthew 21:23). At this time Rome appointed Israel’s high priest. Annas had been the high priest until A.D. 15 when the Romans deposed him and set up his son Eleazar in his place. Eleazar served for about two years (A.D. 16-17) until the Romans replaced him with Joseph Caiaphas in A.D. 18. Caiaphas held the office until his death in A.D. 36. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 524. Compare the list of high priests from the accession of Herod the Great to the destruction of Jerusalem in Edersheim, The Life . . ., 2:702.] His unusually long tenure reflects his political skill and his acceptability to the Roman prefects.

The Old Testament regarded the high priest as high priest until his death. Consequently the Jews still viewed Annas as the high priest. This probably explains why Matthew and John spoke of Caiaphas as the high priest (John 11:49), but Luke said Annas was the high priest (Luke 3:2; Acts 4:6). Annas was Caiaphas’ father-in-law and continued to exercise much power even after the Romans forced him out of office.

The Jewish leaders plotted to execute an innocent man in the very place where justice should have been strongest. The spiritual leader of Israel, the high priest, took a leading role in this travesty. Matthew’s original Jewish readers could not help marveling at this injustice. However the chief priests and elders were representatives of the people, so the people shared part of the blame. The leaders resorted to deceit because they could not trap Jesus with questions and turn the crowds against Him or take Him by force.

"In portraying the leaders throughout the passion, Matthew orchestrates numerous variations both on this theme of ’deception’ and on the related theme of ’self-deception.’" [Note: Kingsbury, Matthew as . . ., p. 123.]

Jerusalem’s population swelled with pilgrims during Passover season. Since Jesus had a large following, especially among the Galileans, the leaders realized that they had to plan to do away with Him secretly and carefully lest popular sentiment turn against them. They did not know how to solve their problem until Judas volunteered to hand Jesus over to them privately.

Verses 6-7

This event evidently happened on the previous Saturday evening (John 12:1). [Note: Hoehner, Chronological Aspects . . ., p. 91.] The reference to two days before the Passover in Matthew 26:2 dates the plot to seize Jesus, not the anointing in Simon’s house. [Note: M’Neile, p. 373; Hendricksen, p. 898; Taylor, p. 527.] Apparently Jesus spent the evening of that Saturday in the home of Simon, a healed leper, with His disciples and other guests. John recorded that Lazarus was there, his sister Martha helped with the serving, and their sister Mary was the woman who broke the vial and anointed Jesus’ head (and feet, John 12:2-3). Perhaps Matthew did not mention them by name to keep Jesus central in his story. John also recorded that the pound of perfume cost 300 denarii, about one year’s wages for a workingman (John 12:3; John 12:5). Matthew and Mark just said it was very expensive. The perfume was nard that probably came from India. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 526.]

Verses 6-13

Jesus’ anointing for burial 26:6-13 (cf. Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8)

Verses 8-9

Evidently Judas Iscariot led the disciples’ criticism of Mary’s act (John 12:4). According to the Gospel records, every time Mary tried to do something for Jesus she was misunderstood. [Note: Wiersbe, 1:95.] The disciples failed to appreciate the significance of what Mary was doing and that such an anointing was appropriate in view of Jesus’ identity as "the Lord’s Anointed" and His impending death (cf. Matthew 16:21-28; Matthew 17:22-23; Matthew 20:18-19). Regardless of Judas’ true motive the other disciples felt that Mary’s gift was inappropriate since so many poor people could have profited from it. They did not realize that the sacrifice that Jesus was about to make would solve the basic need of every poor person throughout all of history. Their objection was not evil but wrong due to lack of understanding. Mary does not seem to have understood that Jesus was going to die any more than the disciples. She evidently made her great sacrifice simply because she loved Jesus.

Verses 10-11

Jesus probably overheard His disciples talking, though His awareness of their thoughts could have been supernatural (cf. Matthew 16:8). Jesus regarded the disciples’ criticism of Mary as a bother to her. He called a beautiful thing what they called a waste. The disciples would always have poor people they could help, but they would not have the incarnate Son of Man with them much longer.

"The disciples’ concern for the poor is by no means incorrect. In this one instance, however, the timing was wrong." [Note: Hagner, Matthew 14-28, p. 759.]

"Implicitly, the distinction Jesus makes is a high christological claim, for it not only shows that he foresees his impending departure but also that he himself, who is truly ’gentle and humble in heart’ (Matthew 11:29), deserves this lavish outpouring of love and expense.

"Jesus is the poor, righteous Sufferer par excellence; and the opportunity to help him in any way will soon be gone forever [cf. Psalms 41]." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 527.]

Verse 12

Normally friends of the deceased would prepare the body for burial after death, but that was impossible in the case of criminals. [Note: D. Daube, "The Anointing at Bethany and Jesus’ Burial," Anglican Theological Review 32 (1950):187-88.] Mary may not have understood the full significance of what she was doing, but Jesus used the situation to remind His disciples of His coming crucifixion.

Verse 13

The "gospel" or good news to which Jesus referred was probably the good news about His death, namely, that it is the basis for salvation (Matthew 26:12). This is probably not a reference to the gospel of the kingdom. In either case Mary’s act has become a part of the gospel story in the larger sense because the Holy Spirit preserved the record of it in Scripture. Jesus introduced this prediction with His characteristic phrase that highlighted something especially important: "Truly I say to you" or "I tell you the truth."

Verses 14-16

The agreement to betray Jesus 26:14-16 (cf. Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6)

Here the word "then" probably identifies a logical connection with what preceded. [Note: Plummer, p. 356; M’Neile, p. 376.] Evidently Judas made these plans the same day that Jesus predicted His crucifixion in two days, namely, on Wednesday (Matthew 26:1-5). None of the evangelists recorded Judas’ motives for betraying Jesus, but Judas may have taken offense at Jesus’ rebuke on the previous Saturday evening (Matthew 26:10-13). Perhaps the fact that Jesus permitted Mary’s extravagant act without rebuke convinced him that Jesus was not the Messiah. [Note: Walvoord, Matthew: . . ., p. 209.] This may have been part of his motivation. The chief priests were the clerical leaders of Israel. They were able to do Jesus in.

The 30 pieces of silver they agreed to pay Judas were a paltry sum and fulfilled Zechariah 11:12. The amount constituted a month’s wages, if the silver pieces were denarii, which seems likely. [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 979.] Matthew did not refer to this as a fulfillment of prophecy here, but he did later in Matthew 27:9-10. Nevertheless he was careful to make the verbal correspondence with the Zechariah passage close here. [Note: Charles C. Torrey, "The Foundry of the Second Temple at Jerusalem," Journal of Biblical Literature 55 (December 1936):249.] This was the price an Israelite had to pay his neighbor if his ox accidentally gored his neighbor’s slave to death (Exodus 21:32). This small amount of money shows the light esteem with which the chief priests and Judas regarded Jesus (cf. Isaiah 53:3).

". . . tragically, Judas, in selling his services to the chief priests to betray Jesus, unwittingly acts in a manner that is the exact opposite of ’servanthood’: Jesus is the servant par excellence, for he delivers himself to death in order that others might gain life; by contrast, Judas delivers Jesus to death in order that he might gain advantage for himself . . ." [Note: Kingsbury, Matthew as . . ., p. 143.]

Verse 17

The first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread would have been Thursday, the fourteenth of Nisan (cf. Exodus 12:18). [Note: For detailed discussions of the chronology of these last days, see Hoehner, Chronological Aspects . . ., pp. 81-93; Carson, "Matthew," pp. 528-32; and France, The Gospel . . ., pp. 980-85.] The Jews commonly spoke of Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread as the feast of Unleavened Bread. [Note: Josephus, Antiquities of . . ., 2:15:1.]

"It was probably after the early meal, and when the eating of leaven had ceased, that Jesus began preparations for the Paschal Supper." [Note: Edersheim, The Life . . ., 2:480.]

Verses 17-19

Preparations for the Passover 26:17-19 (cf. Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13)

Verses 17-30

Jesus’ last Passover 26:17-30

In this section Matthew emphasized the preparations for the Passover meal, Jesus’ prediction of His betrayal, and the institution of the Lord’s Supper.

Verses 18-19

The city was Jerusalem. The identity of the man to whom Jesus referred His disciples, Peter and John (Luke 22:8), was not important enough for any of the evangelists to record. Obviously Jesus was planning this Passover meal carefully (cf. Matthew 21:2-3). To the disciples and the man responsible for the room, the time to which Jesus referred was the time of the Passover. Later the disciples realized that the time Jesus meant was the time Jesus would culminate His mission. They complied with Jesus’ instructions. Perhaps Jesus kept the location of the Passover secret so Judas could not inform the religious leaders.

Verses 20-22

This Passover would have taken place on Thursday evening. I have dealt with the problems involving the harmonization of John 13:1; John 13:27; John 18:28; John 19:14; John 19:36 with the observance of the Passover that the Synoptic evangelists recorded in my notes on the Gospel of John. The Jews did not eat the Passover meal until after sundown. Those of them living in Palestine ate it in Jerusalem or not at all. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 534.] This fact helps us understand that a large number of pilgrims would have been in Jerusalem then. Sometime during the meal Jesus announced that one of the Twelve would betray Him to His enemies. As the significance of this new prediction sank in, each of the disciples present asked Jesus if it was he. The form of the question in the Greek text expected a negative reply.

Verses 20-25

Jesus’ prediction of His betrayal 26:20-25 (cf. Mark 14:17-21; ; Luke 22:14-16; Luke 22:21-30; ; John 13:21-30)

Verse 23

Jesus’ answer did not identify the betrayer specifically. His response meant that the betrayer was someone who had dipped into the same bowl as Jesus had, namely, one of the Twelve, someone close to Jesus. This reply stressed the heinousness of the betrayal and the graciousness of Jesus.

"The whole incident must be interpreted as a gracious attempt on the part of Jesus to make Judas realize his terrible sin and turn from it before it was too late." [Note: Walvoord, Matthew: . . ., p. 213.]

If this was the main course of the meal, the bowl would have contained herbs and a fruit purée that everyone would have been scooping out with bread to eat with the lamb.

"Toward midafternoon of Thursday, 14 Nisan, the lambs (one per ’household’-a convenient group of perhaps ten or twelve people) would be brought to the temple court where the priests sacrificed them. The priests took the blood and passed it in basins along a line till it was poured out at the foot of the altar. They also burned the lambs’ fat on the altar of burnt offerings. The singing of the Hallel (Psalms 113-18) accompanied these steps.

"After sunset (i.e., now 15 Nisan), the ’household’ would gather in a home to eat the Passover lamb, which by this time would have been roasted with bitter herbs. The head of the household began the meal with the thanksgiving for that feast day (the Passover Kiddush) and for the wine, praying over the first of four cups. A preliminary course of greens and bitter herbs was, apparently, followed by the Passover haggadah-in which a boy would ask the meaning of all this, and the head of the household would explain the symbols in terms of the Exodus (cf. M[ishnah] Pesahim Matthew 10:4-5)-and the singing of the first part of the Hallel (Psalms 113 or Psalms 113-14). Though the precise order is disputed, apparently a second cup of wine introduced the main course, which was followed by a third cup known as the ’cup of blessing,’ accompanied by another prayer of thanksgiving. The participants then sang the rest of the Hallel (Psalms 114-18 or 115-18) and probably drank a fourth cup of wine." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 533.]

Verse 24

The Son of Man title here combines Jesus’ messianic and Suffering Servant roles almost equally, as is clear from the context. Likewise Jesus’ "woe" here expressed a combination of compassion and condemnation (cf. Matthew 18:17). Jesus did not identify the Old Testament prophecy that He had in mind. It may have been Isaiah 53:7-9, Daniel 9:26, or a combination of passages such as those dealing with the Passover lamb. The fact that God sovereignly planned for Messiah to die does not mitigate Judas’ human responsibility in betraying Him. Jesus’ death resulted in salvation for many, but it meant personal and eternal ruin for Judas.

Verse 25

Judas’ hypocritical question, which Matthew only among the evangelists recorded, stresses again the awfulness of Judas’ action in betraying Jesus. Probably Judas felt pressure to repeat the question the other disciples had asked or give himself away. "Rabbi" was a respectful title. The other disciples had called Jesus "Lord" (Matthew 26:22). Perhaps the different title indicated that Judas viewed Jesus differently from the other disciples. [Note: Lenski, p. 1019.] Jesus’ reply was sufficiently vague to lead the other disciples to conclude that Judas was not guilty and Judas himself to wonder if Jesus had found him out. "You said it, not I," gives the sense of Jesus’ response. The Greek text reads "su eipas." [Note: Cf. Carr, p. 290; M’Neile, p. 381; Plummer, p. 361.] The NIV translation, "Yes, it is you," is too strong. Jesus later said the identical words to Pilate (Matthew 26:64). Judas then left the room (John 13:30).

Verse 26

"And" introduces the second thing Matthew recorded that happened as Jesus and His disciples were eating the Passover meal, the first being Jesus’ announcement about His betrayer (Matthew 26:21). Jesus took bread (Gr. artos, Matthew 4:4; Matthew 6:11; Matthew 15:2; Matthew 15:26), specifically the unleavened bread on the table before Him (cf. Exodus 12:15; Exodus 13:3; Exodus 13:7; Deuteronomy 16:3), and then gave thanks to God. A traditional prayer that many Jews used when thanking God for food was, "Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth." Perhaps Jesus said some such words. He then broke the bread into parts, distributed it among the disciples, and instructed them to eat it with the words, "This is my body."

The words "this is my body" were not part of the Passover ritual. Jesus’ actions of breaking the bread and then distributing it were both significant. His body, like the bread, would be broken, though His bones were not, and His disciples would need to partake of Him personally. Jesus was linking His sacrifice with redemption history when He instituted this rite during the Passover meal. The Israelites associated their redemption from Egypt with eating the Passover meal. Now Jesus’ disciples were to associate their redemption with Jesus’ death symbolized in this similar meal.

There have been various interpretations of what Jesus meant when He said, "This is my body." There are four main views. Roman Catholics take it as a literal statement meaning the bread really becomes the body of Christ and the contents of the cup become the blood of Christ. This is true when duly authorized representatives of the church conduct the service properly. This is the transubstantiation view. Adherents believe God transfers the body and blood of Christ into the substance of the elements. The bread and wine really become the physical body and blood of Christ.

A second view is not quite so literal. It is the consubstantiation view and, as the word implies, its advocates see the body and blood of Christ as present "in, with, and under" the elements. Christ is really present, though not physically present, according to this Lutheran view. [Note: Lenski, pp. 1026-31.]

The third major view is the spiritual presence view that Presbyterians and other followers of Calvin’s view of the Lord’s Supper hold. For them the spiritual presence of Christ is in the elements and, as in the former views, God ministers grace to the communicant in a concrete way through participation. [Note: John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2:641-711.]

The fourth view is the memorial view. Advocates believe that when Jesus said, "This is my body," he meant, "This represents my body." In other words they understand His statement as completely metaphorical (cf. Matthew 13:19-23; Matthew 13:36-39; John 15:1). A metaphor is a comparison in which one thing is likened to a different thing by being spoken of as if it were that other thing (e.g., "All the world is a stage."). Advocates view the elements as pictures or emblems of the body and blood of Christ. In contrast to the preceding views this one does not see Christ present in any special sense in the elements. Ulrich Zwingli, the Swiss reformer, promoted this view. Today most of the churches from the Anabaptist branch of Protestantism (i.e., Baptists, Methodists, Mennonites, independent Bible churches, Evangelical Free churches, et al.) hold this interpretation. [Note: See Albert H. Newman, A Manual of Church History, 2:312-13. For more information on these views, see articles on the Lord’s Supper and synonymous terms in Bible encyclopaedias.] I believe this view best represents the total revelation concerning the Lord’s Supper in Scripture.

Some Christian groups refer to the Lord’s Supper as one of the "sacraments." They mean the elements minister grace to the participant in a more direct and physical way than those who speak of it as an "ordinance," assuming they are using these terms properly. An ordinance or sacrament is a rite the Lord commanded His followers to observe.

Verses 26-30

Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper 26:26-30 (cf. Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

Verse 27

This cup was probably the third cup drunk in the Passover meal, namely, the "cup of blessing." It contained wine diluted with water. This diluted wine was what the Jews usually drank with their meals. [Note: See Robert Stein, "Wine-Drinking in New Testament Times," Christianity Today 19:19 (June 20, 1975):9-11; Norman Geisler, "A Christian Perspective on Wine-Drinking," Bibliotheca Sacra 139:553 (January-March 1982):46-56.] Jesus then gave thanks again. The Greek word eucharistesas ("gave thanks") is a cognate of euchariste ("thanksgiving") from which we get the English word "Eucharist," another name for the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus commanded all of His disciples to drink from the cup. They had to personally appropriate what symbolized His blood as they had to personally appropriate what symbolized His body. Together these elements represented Jesus Himself. The Eleven learned to appreciate the larger significance of these things after His resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23-28).

Verse 28

Jesus revealed that the sacrificial death He was about to die would ratify (make valid) a covenant (Gr. diatheke) with His people. Similarly the sacrificial death of animals originally ratified the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants with them (Gen. Genesis 15:9-10; Exodus 24:8). In all cases, blood symbolized the life of the substitute sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 17:11). Jeremiah had prophesied that God would make a New Covenant with His people in the future (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Jeremiah 32:37-40; cf. Exodus 24:8; Luke 22:20). When Jesus died, His blood ratified that covenant. This meal memorialized the ratification of that covenant. Messiah saved His people from their sins by His sacrificial death (cf. Matthew 1:21). The resulting relationship between God and His people is a covenant relationship.

"It appears, then, that Jesus understands the covenant he is introducing to be the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecies and the antitype of the Sinai covenant [cf. Exodus 24:8]. His sacrifice is thus foretold both in redemption history and in the prophetic word. The Exodus becomes a ’type’ of a new and greater deliverance; and as the people of God in the OT prospectively celebrated in the first Passover their escape from Egypt, anticipating their arrival in the Promised Land, so the people of God here prospectively celebrate their deliverance from sin and bondage, anticipating the coming kingdom . . ." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 538.]

The Greek preposition translated "on behalf of" or "for" is peri. Mark used the preposition hyper, also translated "on behalf of" or "for" (Mark 14:24). Both Greek words imply substitution, though the force of peri is more on the fact that Jesus died for us. The force of hyper is that He died both for us and in our place. [Note: Richard C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament, p. 291.] The "many" for whom Christ died includes everyone (cf. Matthew 20:28; Isaiah 53:11-12). Evidently Jesus used "many" in its Semitic sense to contrast with His one all-sufficient sacrifice (cf. Romans 5:15-19; Hebrews 9:26-28; Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 10:12; Hebrews 10:14). [Note: See Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. "polloi," by J. Jeremiah , 6:543-45.] Jesus’ death provides the basis for God to forgive sinners. The phrase "for forgiveness of sins" goes back to Jeremiah 31:34 where forgiveness of sins is one of the blessings of the New Covenant. There are many allusions to the Suffering Servant in this verse (cf. Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:8; Isa_52:13 to Isa_53:12).

Jeremiah predicted that God would make a New Covenant "with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah" (Jeremiah 31:31). This is a reference to the nation of Israel. Therefore the New Covenant would be a covenant with Israel particularly (but not exclusively). Jeremiah and Ezekiel predicted many blessings that would come to Israel under the New Covenant. The Jews would experience regeneration (Jeremiah 31:33), forgiveness of sins (Jeremiah 31:34), other spiritual blessings (Jeremiah 31:33-34; Jeremiah 32:38-40), and regathering as a nation (Jeremiah 32:37). Jeremiah also prophesied that this covenant would be everlasting (Jeremiah 32:40) and that Israel would enjoy safety and prosperity in the Promised Land (Jeremiah 32:37; Ezekiel 34:25-31). Ezekiel added that God would dwell forever with Israel in His sanctuary (Ezekiel 37:26-28).

Even though Jesus ratified the New Covenant when He died on the cross, the blessings that will come to Israel did not begin then. They will begin when Jesus returns and establishes His kingdom on the earth. However the church enters into some of the blessing of the New Covenant now. [Note: Cf. Kelly, p. 491; Scofield, The Scofield . . ., pp. 1297-98, footnote 1.] The Apostle Paul wrote of Christians serving under the New Covenant (2Co_3:1 to 2Co_6:10; Galatians 4:21-31; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:25). The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews also spoke to Christians of presently enjoying benefits of the New Covenant (Heb_7:1 to Heb_10:18).

The New Covenant is similar to a last will and testament. When Jesus died, the provisions of His will went into effect. Immediately all people began to profit from His death. For example, the forgiveness of sins and the possession of the Holy Spirit become the inheritance of everyone who trusts in Him, Jew and Gentile alike. However those provisions of Jesus’ "will" having to do with Israel as His particular focus of blessing will not take effect until the nation turns to Him in repentance at His second coming. Thus the church partakes in the benefits of the New Covenant even though God made it with Israel particularly.

"The church’s relationship to the new covenant is parallel in certain respects to its connection with the kingdom promises of Israel. The church is constituted, blessed, and directed by the same Person who shall bring about the literal Jewish kingdom. It also will reign with Christ during the millennial age. In a parallel manner, the church participates in the benefits of the new covenant. Therefore, in instituting the new covenant, Christ makes provisions for this covenant to include the present program of the church as well as the future age of Israel." [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 303.]

Amillenarians and postmillenarians view the relationship of the church to the New Covenant differently. They believe the church replaces Israel in God’s plan. [Note: E.g., Carr, p. 291.] The only way they can explain how the church fulfills all the promises in Jeremiah and Ezekiel is to take them non-literally. Yet the Apostle Paul revealed that God is not finished with "Israel;" it has a future in God’s plan (Romans 11:26). It is very helpful to remember that every reference to Israel in the New Testament can and does refer to the physical descendants of Jacob.

Some premillenarians believe that the church has no relationship to the New Covenant that Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied. [Note: E.g., Darby, 3:281; Chafer, Systematic Theology, 4:325; L. Laurenson, Messiah, the Prince, pp. 187-88; and John R. Master, "The New Covenant," in Issues in Dispensationalism, pp. 93-110.] They see two new covenants, one with Israel that Jesus will ratify when He returns and one with the church that He ratified when He died. Most premillenarians, including myself, reject this view because everything said about the New Covenant can be explained adequately with only one New Covenant.

Verse 29

As the first Passover looked forward to deliverance and settlement in the Promised Land, so the Lord’s Supper looked forward to deliverance and settlement in the promised kingdom. Disciples are to observe the Lord’s Supper only until He returns (1 Corinthians 11:26). Then we will enjoy the messianic banquet together (Isaiah 25:6; cf. Matthew 8:11). Probably Jesus spoke these words after drinking the third cup of the Passover ritual.

"The four cups were meant to correspond to the fourfold promise of Exodus 6:6-7. The third cup, the ’cup of blessing’ used by Jesus in the words of institution, is thus associated with redemption (Exodus 6:6); but the fourth cup corresponds to the promise ’I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God’ (Exodus 6:7; . . .). Thus Jesus is simultaneously pledging that he will drink the ’bitter cup’ immediately ahead of him and vowing not to drink the cup of consummation, the cup that promises the divine presence, till the kingdom in all its fullness has been ushered in. Then he will drink the cup with his people." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 539.]

By referring to drinking the wine anew (Gr. kainon, i.e., new in a qualitatively different way) Jesus meant that He and the disciples anticipated suffering and death, but in the future they would experience the joy of the messianic banquet and kingdom. [Note: Plummer, p. 365.]

This verse shows that Jesus’ death was very near. [Note: M’Neile, p. 383.] It also reveals that God has a definite eschatological program. [Note: Allen, p. 277.] Jesus wanted His disciples to labor for Him in the present age joyfully anticipating reunion with Him in the kingdom. [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 303.]

Verse 30

What Jesus and the disciples sang was undoubtedly the last part of the Hallel (Psalms 114-18 or 115-18; cf. Mark 14:26; Luke 22:39; John 18:1). The Jews customarily sang this antiphonally with the leader, in this case Jesus, singing the first lines and the other participants responding with "Hallelujah!" What Jesus sang included a commitment to keep His vows (Psalms 116:12-13). Another section of the Hallel referred to Messiah’s appearing (Psalms 118:25-26). It is edifying to read these psalms keeping in mind Jesus singing them in the upper room with His disciples.

"The disciples in the immediacy of the moment could not have begun to realize the significance of what Jesus was saying and doing. This they would first do after the resurrection. But by the time Matthew’s readers read this account, the Eucharist had long since become a fixed component in their worship; hence they read the narrative with fuller understanding." [Note: Hagner, Matthew 14-28, p. 775.]

Verse 31

"Then" (Gr. tote) here expresses a logical rather than a temporal connection with what precedes. Jesus emphasized that the disciples would desert Him very soon, that very night. They would find Him to be a source of stumbling (Gr. skandalon, cf. Matthew 11:6). Jesus’ arrest would trip them up, and they would temporarily stop following Him faithfully. They still did not understand that the Messiah must die. By quoting Zechariah 13:7 freely Jesus was telling them again that He would die and that their scattering from Him was something within God’s sovereign plan. This did not excuse their failure, but it prepared them for it and helped them recover after it.

In Zechariah 13:1-6 the prophet spoke of a day when, because of prevailing apostasy, the Shepherd would be cut down and His followers would scatter. The sheep in the prophecy are the Jews, many of whom would depart from the Shepherd, but a third of whom would remain. The disciples constituted the core of this remnant that Zechariah predicted God would bless in the future (Zechariah 13:7-9).

Verses 31-35

Jesus’ prediction of the disciples’ abandonment and denial 26:31-35 (cf. Mark 14:27-31; Luke 22:31-38; John 13:31-38)

Jesus evidently gave this prediction before He and His disciples left the upper room (cf. Luke 21:31-38; John 13:36-38). Matthew and Mark probably placed it where they did in their Gospels to stress the gravity of the disciples’ defection and Peter’s denial. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 540.] Matthew presented Jesus as knowing exactly what lay ahead of Him. He was not a victim of fate, but He deliberately approached His death as a willing sacrifice and prepared His disciples carefully for the trauma of that event.

Verse 32

Jesus assured the disciples that He would meet them in Galilee after His resurrection. Following as it does the announcement of their abandoning Him, this promise assured them that He would not abandon them. He would precede them to Galilee where He would be waiting for them when they arrived (cf. John 21).

Verses 33-35

Peter was ready to suffer martyrdom with Jesus, but he was unprepared for Jesus’ voluntary self-sacrifice. Despite Peter’s claim Jesus explained that his defection was just hours away. The crowing of cocks signals the morning. Peter refused to accept the possibility that he would deny Jesus. The language he used, the rare subjunctive of the Greek verb dei ("I must"), may imply that he really did not think Jesus was going to die. [Note: Ibid., p. 542.]

Verses 36-37

Having left the upper room, traditionally located on the southern part of Mt. Zion, west of the City of David, Jesus took His disciples east out of Jerusalem and across the Kidron Valley to the western slope of Mt. Olivet. [Note: See the diagram of Jerusalem in New Testament Times at the end of these notes.]

"The streets could scarcely be said to be deserted, for, from many a house shone the festive lamp, and many a company may still have been gathered; and everywhere was the bustle of preparation for going up to the Temple, the gates of which were thrown open at midnight." [Note: Edersheim, The Life . . ., 2:533.]

The word "Gethsemane" means "oil press." This olive press was in an olive grove where Jesus and His disciples had been before (John 18:1-2). Peter and the disciples had just boasted of their strength while Jesus told them they were weak (Matthew 26:31-35). In contrast, Jesus sensed His weakness and so made plans to gain strength from His Father. [Note: Plummer, p. 368.] This section of the text is full of contrasts involving strength and weakness (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Jesus left most of the disciples in one part of the olive orchard and took Peter, James, and John with Him to another area (cf. Matthew 17:1; Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51). There He began to release some of the emotions that He had held in check thus far. He became grieved or sorrowful (Gr. lypeisthai) and distressed or troubled (Gr. ademonein). The second Greek word implies, "a restless, distracted, shrinking from some trouble, or thought of trouble, which nevertheless cannot be escaped." [Note: M’Neile, p. 389.]

"No man, in sinful and mortal flesh, can understand the conflict in the holy soul of Jesus who had never experienced the slightest shadow of sin and had never known any barrier between Himself and the Father." [Note: Walvoord, Matthew: . . ., p. 218.]

Verses 36-46

Jesus’ prayer to His Father in Gethsemane 26:36-46 (cf. Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:40-46)

This pericope illustrates the importance of facing temptation with vigilance and prayer. What is more important, it reveals Jesus’ attitude toward what He was about to do. Until now, Jesus seems to have been anticipating His death with calm control and great courage. Here He appears under deep emotional stress. These attitudes harmonize with His being both the Son of God and the Servant who came to give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 1:21: Matthew 20:28). Martyrs can face death bravely, but self-sacrifice demands greater strength. Moreover Jesus knew that God would forsake Him when He died because He would bear the punishment for the sins of humanity. As Jesus’ death was unique, so was His anguish as He anticipated it.

Verse 38

The soul here (Gr. psyche) represents the whole person. Jesus meant that He felt sorrow so deeply that it seemed it would almost kill Him. [Note: Taylor, p. 553.] He did not mean that He was so sad He wished He were dead. Jesus’ words recall the refrain of Psalms 42:5; Psalms 42:11; Psalms 43:5, which He probably had in mind. He shared these feeling with the chosen three disciples to encourage them to watch and pray with Him.

Verse 39

Jesus’ prostrate posture reflected the intense anguish He felt. He addressed God as "My Father" (cf. Matthew 6:9). This title stresses the intimacy that Jesus felt with God (cf. Mark 14:36). This is the only time, according to the Gospels, that Jesus addressed God this way. In view of the limits that His incarnation involved, Jesus may not have known if another way to provide redemption existed (cf. Matthew 24:36), though this seems unlikely.

"We are here in full view of the deepest mystery of our faith: the two Natures in One Person. Both Natures spake [sic] here, and the ’if it be possible’ of St. Matthew and St. Mark is in St. Luke ’if Thou be willing.’" [Note: Edersheim, The Life . . ., 2:540.]

In one sense God can do anything, but in another sense He binds Himself to certain courses of action because of His own purposes. Jesus was asking for a release from having to undergo the outpouring of God’s wrath for humankind’s sins on the cross (cf. Matthew 4:1-11; Matthew 16:21-23). [Note: See Hagner, Matthew 14-28, p. 785.] Notwithstanding, He wanted something more than that. Above all else He wanted His Father’s will to happen. He submitted to suffering and death if this was the only way to provide salvation, but He requested another solution if possible. The "cup" is an Old Testament figure for suffering and death under the wrath of God (cf. Matthew 26:27; Matthew 20:22-23; Psalms 11:6; Psalms 75:7-8; Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 51:22; Jeremiah 25:15-16; Jeremiah 25:27-29; et al.). [Note: See C. E. B. Cranfield, "The Cup Metaphor in Mark xiv. 36 and Parallels," Expository Times 59 (1947-48):137-38.]

This is an excellent model prayer when we do not know the will of God specifically. We can request our preference, as Jesus did, but we should also submit our preference to the will of God, whatever that may be (cf. Matthew 6:10). This does not make prayer meaningless because sometimes our preferences will be within God’s will. He may not give us what we want without our requesting it (cf. James 4:2). If our preference is outside God’s will, denying our request will be a positive answer to our prayer if what we want supremely is His will.

Verses 40-41

Jesus returned to the inner circle of disciples only to find them sleeping. He wakened them and addressed His question to Peter as the disciples’ representative. His question contained a plural "you" in the Greek text. One hour may be a round number, but it is undoubtedly approximate. Jesus urged them to remain spiritually alert (cf. Matthew 24:32-44) and to continue praying for strength to withstand the temptation that He had told them was coming (Matthew 26:31-35). Even though Jesus had told them they would deny Him, their failure could have been even greater. Therefore prayer for God’s sustaining grace in temptation was necessary.

One of the marks of Jesus’ greatness and His compassion is that even in the face of the Cross He still thought of His disciples in their lesser trials and encouraged them.

The contrast between the flesh and the spirit is not between the sinful human nature and the Holy Spirit (as in Galatians 5:17) but between man’s volitional strength and his physical weakness (cf. Matthew 26:35). We often want to do the right thing but find that we need supernatural assistance to accomplish it (cf. Romans 7:15-25).

Verses 42-44

Jesus’ repetition of His request illustrates persistence in prayer, not vain repetition. Persistence expresses the intensity with which we feel the need for our petition and our faith in God’s ability to meet our need. Vain repetition relies on the simple repetition of words to wear God down.

Jesus’ again illustrated the importance of submission to the Father’s will for His disciples. He had taught them the importance of this attitude earlier (Matthew 6:10). By submitting to God’s will Jesus learned obedience (Hebrews 5:7-9). [Note: See S. Lewis Johnson Jr., "The Agony of Christ," Bibliotheca Sacra 124:496 (October-December 1967):303-13.]

"In the first garden ’Not your will but mine’ changed Paradise to desert and brought man from Eden to Gethsemane. Now ’Not my will but yours’ brings anguish to the man who prays it but transforms the desert into the kingdom and brings man from Gethsemane to the gates of glory." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 545.]

"After three assaults had the tempter left Him in the wilderness; after the threefold conflict in the Garden he was vanquished." [Note: Edersheim, The Life . . ., 2:541.]

Verses 45-46

Jesus’ statement, translated as a question in the NASB and NIV versions, though more properly as a statement in the AV, reflected the irony of the moment (cf. Matthew 23:2-3). [Note: C. F. D. Moule, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek, p. 161.] Time that the disciples should have spent praying was past. Jesus’ arrest and their temptation were at hand. They might as well sleep on.

The irony continues. The Son of Man’s betrayer was about to hand Him who is the Messiah over to sinners. Jesus probably saw and heard the group that Judas led making its was across the Kidron Valley and up the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane.

"His hour is come, and He is anxious to fulfill all that is required of Him." [Note: Plummer, p. 372.]

Jesus had prayed and now met His temptation with strength and dignity, and He overcame it. The disciples had slept and now met theirs with weakness and fear, and they fell before it.

Verse 47

The reader, who has been aware of Jesus’ submissiveness to lay down His life voluntarily, may view the large armed mob as unnecessary. However the religious leaders had feared the reaction of the people if they arrested Jesus. The people who accompanied Judas probably did not come along just to restrain Jesus but also His disciples and other sympathizers. They probably thought they were going to have to contend with at least 11 frightened and belligerent disciples. Evidently everyone in this mob was either Jewish, from the Sanhedrin, or Roman (John 18:12).

Verses 47-56

2. The arrest of Jesus 26:47-56 (cf. Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-12)

Verses 48-50

Judas needed to identify Jesus because it was dark and because, even though many people knew about Jesus, far fewer had really seen Him up close. Judas turned the symbol of friendship, a kiss, into a symbol of hypocritical betrayal with his action. His greeting was to mark Jesus, not to show affection and honor Him. Judas kissed Jesus repeatedly, loudly, and effusively (Gr. katephilesen).

Jesus’ greeting, "Friend," was not intimate but gracious. Jesus’ following words could have been either a statement or a question. If they were a statement, they reflect Jesus’ sovereign control in this situation. If they were a question, they offer an ironic rebuke. Of course, Jesus knew why Judas had come.

Verses 51-54

John identified the aggressor as Peter and the wounded man as Malchus (John 18:10). Some have taken the description of this man as "the slave of the high priest" as indicating that he may have been the leader of the soldiers. [Note: E.g., France, The Gospel . . ., p. 1013.] Perhaps the other evangelists did not record Peter and Malchus’ names to focus attention on Jesus. His control of this situation, even though He was the one being arrested, is an obvious emphasis of Matthew’s. Peter’s response was predictable in view of his earlier protestations (Matthew 26:33-35). Peter’s courage was admirable if misdirected. He rushed in to defend Jesus. However, Jesus’ prohibition of violence and His submission to arrest made Peter look foolish. Evidently the disciples had brought two swords with them in view of Jesus’ predictions (Luke 22:38). Probably Judas’ guards did not restrain Peter because Jesus did.

"Peter had argued with the Word, denied the Word, and disobeyed the Word (when he went to sleep). Now he ran ahead of the Word." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:98.]

Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 26:52 showed that violence in defense of Himself was not proper. Jesus did not mean that violence in any situation is wrong. [Note: See Hagner, Matthew 14-28, p. 791.] Jesus had at His disposal more than six thousand angels to assist Him and each of His 11 faithful disciples (Matthew 26:53). He did not need Peter’s help.

"It is characteristic of this gospel that the authority and kingly majesty of Jesus should be suggested at a moment when every hope seemed to have perished." [Note: Carr, p. 295.]

It was necessary for Jesus to experience arrest to fulfill many Scriptures, all that pertained to His death and resurrection. Jesus again voiced His commitment to the Father’s will (Matthew 26:54; cf. Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:42).

Verses 55-56

The mob did not need to arrest Jesus secretly and violently at night. They could have found Him easily any day during the Passover season teaching in the temple courtyard. Their nighttime arrest made Jesus look like a dangerous criminal. Jesus pointed out that their time and manner of arresting Him said more about them than about Him. They were the stealthy ones, not He.

"The Lord not only reprimands His disciple, but He also reproves the crowd which is taking Him. Even in His arrest Jesus is King." [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 306.]

"The characterization of the crowds [in Matthew’s story] develops along two lines: through their interaction with Jesus; and through their being contrasted with their leaders. Until Jesus’ arrest, the reader’s attitude toward the crowds is largely one of approval and sympathy." [Note: Kingsbury, Matthew as . . ., p. 24.]

"On balance, then, the Jewish crowds are ’well-disposed’ toward Jesus but ’without faith’ in him. In being without faith in Jesus, they contrast with the disciples. And in being well-disposed toward Jesus, they contrast with their leaders." [Note: Ibid., p. 25.]

Matthew again pointed out that all these events fulfilled Scripture, a point of particular interest to his Jewish readers (Matthew 26:56). It was imperative that Messiah fulfill prophecy. The writers of the Old Testament Scriptures were prophets, God’s authoritative representatives. By fleeing, the disciples fulfilled one of these prophecies, as Jesus had predicted (cf. Matthew 26:31; Zechariah 13:7).

3. The trials of Jesus 26:57-27:26

Matthew stressed Jesus’ righteousness for his readers by highlighting the injustice of His trials.

"The breaches in law are so numerous as to be unbelievable . . ." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 549.]

". . . even the ordinary legal rules were disregarded in the following particulars: (a) The examination by Annas without witnesses. (b) The trial by night. (c) The sentence on the first day of trial. (d) The trial of a capital charge on the day before the Sabbath. (e) The suborning of witnesses. (f) The direct interrogation by the High Priest." [Note: Carr, p. 297.]

France noted that these rules applied later, as reflected in the Mishnah (at the end of the second century A.D.), so not all of them may have been in force when Jesus was tried. [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 1019.]

It may be helpful to take a brief overview of Jesus’ trials since none of the Gospel evangelists gives the complete picture. There were essentially two trials, one Jewish and one Roman. The Jewish trial, really a preliminary hearing, began when Annas informally examined Jesus late Thursday night (John 18:12-14; John 18:19-23). During this examination, members of the Sanhedrin were evidently assembling. His accusers then brought Jesus before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin who decided He was guilty of blasphemy (Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65). At sunrise on Friday the Sanhedrin decided to send Jesus to Pilate for trial (Matthew 27:1-2; Luke 22:66-71). The Roman trial began with Jesus appearing before Pilate (Matthew 27:11-14; John 18:28-38 a). Pilate then sent Jesus to Herod for interrogation (Luke 23:6-12). Finally Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate for a second examination (Matthew 27:15-31; Joh_18:38 to Joh_19:16). The trials were over and Jesus was at Golgotha by mid-morning, about 9:00 a.m. (Mark 15:25).

Verse 57

Josephus wrote that the building in which the Sanhedrin normally met, the "chamber of hewn stone," stood close to the western wall of the temple enclosure. [Note: Josephus, Antiquities of . . ., 5:4:2.] Part of this western wall is the modern Wailing Wall where Jews go daily to pray. The exact location of this chamber is presently unknown. However this meeting of the Sanhedrin took place in Caiaphas’ house or palace, the location of which is also debated (Luke 22:54). [Note: See the diagram of Jerusalem in New Testament Times at the end of these notes.] While Annas examined Jesus, the Sanhedrin members assembled.

As mentioned earlier, Caiaphas was the official high priest then. He would have presided over the Sanhedrin. He was probably a Sadducee. The Sadducees held the power in Israel then. The scribes were the official teachers of the law, and the elders were the lay representatives of the people. The chief priests, mainly Sadducees, were also present (Matthew 26:59). These were the three groups that composed Israel’s chief ruling body.

Verses 57-68

The trial before the Sanhedrin 26:57-68 (cf. Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:54; Luke 22:63-65)

Matthew omitted Jesus’ hearing before Annas (John 18:12-14; John 18:19-23). Quite possibly Annas lived in one wing of the same building in which the Sanhedrin met. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," pp. 552-53.]

"This is the point at which Jesus’ death is sealed; all that follows involving the Roman prefect is only the formal implementation of a verdict already decided by the Jewish authorities." [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 1016.]

Verse 58

All the disciples had fled and left Jesus (Matthew 26:56; cf. Mark 14:54; Luke 22:54; John 18:15-18), but Peter followed at a safe distance as Jesus’ guards led Him across the Kidron Valley, into Jerusalem, and into the high priest’s house. This house contained an open courtyard in the middle, which was typical. Peter positioned himself inconspicuously, he thought, near a fire in the courtyard to observe what would happen (cf. John 18:15-16). A church now stands over the traditional site on Mt. Zion: the church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, or St. Peter at the Crowing of the Cock.

Verses 59-63

The phrase "whole Council" or "whole Sanhedrin" need not mean that all 70 members plus the high priest were present since only 23 constituted a quorum (cf. Luke 23:50-51). [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 553.] Perhaps Matthew meant that representatives from all parts of the Sanhedrin were present. The chief priests were also the legal experts, so they evidently took the lead in conducting the trial. Matthew wrote that they tried to get false testimony against Jesus. This does not mean they looked for liars, but they looked for witnesses who would validate their conviction that Jesus was a lawbreaker. To do that the witnesses would have to give false testimony.

The Mosaic Law required at least two witnesses in cases of capital offense. The lawyers had to interview several people before they finally found two that would agree on a charge against Jesus. This was another way that Matthew stressed Jesus’ innocence. Interpreting with wooden literalism one might take Jesus’ words as a threat to desecrate the temple, but Jesus had spoken metaphorically (John 2:19-21). He had meant that He was the true temple, the place where people met God and where God met them. Most ancient Near Eastern people regarded the desecration of a temple as a capital offense, and the Jews shared this viewpoint (cf. Jeremiah 26:1-19). Jesus had not, as far as the Gospel records go, said that He would or could destroy the temple. He had only said it would be destroyed. Neither had He said He would rebuild the temple.

Even though the religious leaders oppressed and afflicted Jesus, He did not open His mouth. He was silent, like a lamb going to the slaughter and as a sheep before its shearers (Matthew 26:63 a; cf. Isaiah 53:7).

Verse 63

Frustrated by Jesus’ silence the high priest tried to cut through to the basic issue. Did Jesus claim to be the Messiah or not?

"In terms of the plot of Matthew’s story, this unexpected query raises the problem as to the source from which the high priest has even gotten the idea to question Jesus about being the Son of God. This source is Jesus himself and his narration of the parable of the wicked husbandmen [Matthew 21:33-45]. As the presiding officer of the Sanhedrin, the high priest has knowledge of the claim to divine sonship which Jesus made in telling his parable to the chief priests and the elders. At the trial, therefore, the high priest seizes on Jesus’ own claim . . . and hurls it back at Jesus as a weapon by which to destroy him." [Note: Kingsbury, Matthew as . . ., p. 87.]

Caiaphas demanded that Jesus answer under oath by the living God. "Son of God" was an equivalent title with "Messiah" (cf. Matthew 2:15; Matthew 3:17; Matthew 11:27; Matthew 16:13-20). If Jesus refused to answer, He would break an oath imposed on Him legally by the high priest. If He denied the charge, He would have had no further influence even though the Sanhedrin might acquit Him. If He affirmed the charge, He would appear to be an impostor given the presuppositions of the Sanhedrin. From their viewpoint, the Messiah would not allow others to imprison Him and put His life in jeopardy.

Verse 64

Jesus gave the same answer to Caiaphas that He had given to Judas (Matthew 26:25). It was "affirmative in content, and reluctant or circumlocutory in formulation." [Note: David R. Catchpole, "The Answer of Jesus to Caiaphas (Matt. xxvi. 64)," New Testament Studies 17 (1970-71):226.] Caiaphas took it as a yes (Matthew 26:65). Jesus then proceeded to expand or qualify His response because the religious leaders’ concept of Messiah was inadequate. Jesus claimed to be the Messiah but not the Messiah Caiaphas and his cronies had in mind.

Jesus alluded to Psalms 110:1 and Daniel 7:13 to show that He was not a political Messiah in the popular mold. He was a Messiah who would receive a kingdom from the Ancient of Days and return to reign in great power and honor. This was one of Jesus’ clearest claims of messiahship (cf. Matthew 16:27; Matthew 23:39; Matthew 24:30-31; Matthew 26:29). It constituted both a revelation and a threat to Israel’s leaders. From now on, Jesus claimed, His hearers would not see Him as He stood before them then. In the future they would see Him as the Messiah and their Judge.

Verses 65-66

Rending one’s garments expressed indignation or grief (cf. 2 Kings 18:37). It became a traditional response to blasphemy (cf. Acts 14:14). [Note: Mishnah Sanhedrin 7:5.] However it was illegal for the high priest to rend his garments (Leviticus 21:10). The punishment for blasphemy in the Mosaic Law was death (Leviticus 24:16). At this time, blasphemy consisted of claiming for oneself a unique association with God, reflected in sitting at God’s right hand, not just misusing God’s name. [Note: See Darrell L. Bock, Blasphemy and Exaltation in Judaism and the Final Examination of Jesus, pp. 30-183.] It also included speaking against the temple and Israel’s leaders. [Note: Ibid., pp. 111-12, 206-9.]

Verses 67-68

Jesus’ messianic claims did not impress or intimidate His accusers. They proceeded to humiliate Him for what they considered to be His false pretensions. [Note: See Laurna L. Berg, "The Illegalities of Jesus’ Religious and Civil Trials," Bibliotheca Sacra 161:643 (July-September 2004):330-42; The New Scofield . . ., p. 1042.] Jesus’ passive acceptance of these indignities only reinforced their assumption and encouraged them to be even more hostile (cf. Isaiah 53:7). Mark and Luke recorded that they blindfolded Jesus (Mark 14:65; Luke 22:64). Perhaps Matthew’s omission of this fact suggests that the leaders and or their servants beat Jesus so badly that He could not see who was doing the beating even if they had not blindfolded Him (cf. Isaiah 52:14). If He was the Messiah, He should have been able to tell (prophesy in the sense of revealing something unknown) who hit Him.

Verses 69-70

Peter was warming himself near the fire in the center of the courtyard (Mark 14:66-67; Luke 22:55; John 18:18). The servant girl’s words expressed both curiosity and accusation. She referred to Jesus derogatorily as "the Galilean" (cf. Mark 14:67). Residents of Judea, and especially Jerusalem, regarded Galileans as inferior to themselves because Galilee was mainly rural. Evidently several people overheard her comment and may have joined in her questioning. Peter replied with words similar to a formal legal oath. [Note: Cf. Mishnah Shebuoth 8:3.]

Verses 69-75

Peter’s denials of Jesus 26:69-75 (cf. Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:55-62; John 18:15-18; John 18:25-27)

All four evangelists recorded three denials, but the details differ slightly.

Verses 71-72

Peter withdrew to the gateway leading from the street into the courtyard, perhaps because that area was darker and there were fewer people there. There another girl pointed him out to others standing about as one who had been with Jesus "of Nazareth," another derogatory slur in view of the bad reputation of Nazareth (cf. Matthew 2:23). Peter denied her accusation, this time with an oath. Matthew did not mean that Peter used profanity, but he invoked a curse on himself if he was lying. He appealed to something sacred to confirm his truthfulness (cf. Matthew 5:33-34; Matthew 23:16-22).

Verses 73-75

A third person, one of the high priest’s servants who was a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off in Gethsemane (John 18:26), approached Peter with some bystanders about an hour later (Luke 22:59). They accusingly asked Peter again if he was not one of Jesus’ disciples since he was a Galilean. Galileans had an accent that set them off as distinctive. [Note: Hoehner, Herod Antipas, pp. 61-64; France, The Gospel . . ., p. 1033.] This shows how thoroughly residents of Jerusalem connected Jesus’ ministry with Galilee since it was the site of most of His activity. Most if not all of His disciples were Galileans. The one who may not have been was Judas Iscariot, if "Iscariot" refers to the town of Kerioth in Judah. Peter denied that he knew Jesus a third time using more oaths to confirm his testimony. He may even have cursed Jesus. [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 1034.] Immediately a rooster crowed. Peter heard it and remembered Jesus’ prediction that he would deny Jesus before the cock crowed (Matthew 26:34). Peter left the courtyard and wept bitterly over his cowardice and failure (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:10). This is Matthew’s last reference to Peter.

Matthew probably recorded this incident because it illustrates Jesus’ ability to foretell the future, a messianic characteristic. It also reveals the weakness of the disciples whom Jesus had taken such pains to prepare for His passion but without apparent success. Their concept of the Messiah and the kingdom was still largely that of most people in Israel then, though they had come to recognize Jesus as God. Only Jesus’ resurrection would clarify their understanding of His messiahship and kingdom program.

"The reader is invited to choose between two models of how the man of God behaves under pressure, the one who escapes death but with this spiritual reputation in tatters and the one who will be killed only to live again in triumph; so the reader is reminded that ’anyone who finds their life will lose it, and anyone who loses their life will find it’ (Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:25)." [Note: Ibid., p. 1017.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 26". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/matthew-26.html. 2012.
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