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CONSPIRACY AGAINST JESUS
Mark 14:1-2 ; Luke 20:1-2 ; Matthew 26:1-5 . “And it came to pass, when Jesus finished all these discourses, He said to His disciples, You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of man is delivered to be crucified.” It is now late Wednesday afternoon, after our Lord has preached constantly all day, beginning in the temple and bidding it adieu about noon; halting and preaching to the Greeks waiting for Him at the gate; and going on over to Mount Olivet, where He delivered that indescribable and inimitable sermon on the judgments. Though He now tells them, as He had so frequently and so positively done, that He is to be crucified, they do not understand it.
“Then the chief priests, scribes, and elders of the people were assembled in the hall of the high priest, called Caiaphas. And they issued a verdict that they would take Him by stratagem, and kill Him. But they said, Not at the feast, lest there may be an uproar among the people.” Luke: “For they were afraid of the people.” This conspiracy of the rulers took place Wednesday evening, in the Sanhedrin hall on Mount Zion, in which they passed an edict for His arrest and execution. They were in a serious dilemma because of His popularity, fearing that the people would arise in an incorrigible mob and take Him out of their hands.
THE SUPPER AT BETHANY
Matthew 26:6-13 ; Mark 14:3-9 ; John 12:2-8 . “Then they made for Him a supper there, and Martha served; and Lazarus was one of those sitting along with Him.” Matthew and Mark say that this supper was in the house of Simon the leper, at Bethany. I was in that house four months ago. It is still in quite a state of preservation, like so many houses in Palestine, being located in a cave at the base of Mount Olivet, which is utilized in the construction of the edifice, whose walls are adjusted to the dimensions and capacity of the cavern. We know nothing about Simon the leper, but he is believed to be one of the numerous lepers healed and saved by the blessed Benefactor.
John 12:3 . “Then, Mary, taking a pound of ointment of pure spikenard, very valuable, anointed, the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, the one about to betray Him, says, Wherefore was not this ointment sold for three hundred denaria, and given to the poor?” The English word “penny,” E. V., is misleading in this passage, as our penny is only one cent. The denarion was a Roman coin, worth fifteen cents in our money. Hence the estimate of this ointment, which is here said to be very valuable, was forty-five dollars. The spikenard, from which this valuable myrrh was manufactured, was not indigenous in Palestine, but in Arabia Felix, where the ointment was made and exported.
“He said this, not because there was a care to him concerning the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the purse, and was accustomed to carry the contributions.” Why was Judas a thief at that time? Because he had already made up his mind to sell Jesus for money. How was that stealing? Because he had no idea that they could take Him, as he had seen them try it over and over, and never could put their hands on Him. Frequently He suddenly disappeared, passing unseen through the great wall of the temple, and recognized on the other side. Unfortunately for Judas, he held the most dangerous office ever conferred on mortal man i. e., that of treasurer which proved his ruin, because he gradually yielded to the love of money till he finally concluded to sell Jesus for filthy lucre, in that respect being guilty of stealing the fifteen dollars for which he sold Him, as he had no idea that they could take Him; but believing them to be a set of scoundrels, he concluded that he would just as well get their money when he had a chance.
“Then Jesus said, Let her alone; she hath kept it unto the day of My burial; for the poor you have always with you, and Me you have not always.” In less than two days from that supper, He was in the sepulcher and numbered with the dead. Hence the idea is that this anointing is really for His burial, which is now at hand.
Mark 14:8 . “She hath done what she could.” O what a deep significance in this terse statement! Are you doing what you can for Jesus? If you can not go to Greenland, Ethiopia, or China, you can do some small part in the support and encouragement of those who can go. If you cannot preach like Paul, nor exhort like Apollos, you can go into the slums, pray for the dying, and tell the broken-hearted of Jesus. If you can not be a flaming evangelist, you can be an humble altar-worker. “She came beforehand to anoint My body for the burial. Truly I say unto you, that wherever this gospel may be preached in all the world, that which she did shall be told for a memorial of her.” Notoriety is a powerful incentive. Actuated by it, men have led armies, besieged cities, and desolated great countries. Erostratus burned down the great Temple of Diana at Ephesus, one of the seven wonders of the world, which was two hundred years in building, as he confessed under the gallows, for sheer notoriety. By this little, simple act of loving appreciation, thus manifested to the Prince of life, Mary immortalized her name, securing a commendatory mention in the pulpit throughout the whole earth, as the gospel moves on, peregrinating every land and brightening every sky.
TREASON OF JUDAS
Matthew 26:14-16 ; Mark 14:10-11 ; Luke 22:3-6 . “But Satan entered into Judas, called Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.” There is not an intimation against Judas till about the close of the second year of our Lord’s ministry. (John 6:64-71) Judas had faithfully preached these two years with the other eleven, his financial office infelicitously conducing to that fatal development of money-love. This whole year he has been gradually wrought upon more and more by Demon Avarice. Now, he even has the impudence to speak out overtly at the supper condemnatory of Mary for her lavish prodigality in pouring forty-five dollars’ worth of Oriental myrrh on the head of the Savior. Of course, this bold step encouraged Satan, who had long been tinkering with him and pulling on him, so that he proceeded at once to enter into him, thus gaining a decisive victory, and taking possession of him.
“And having gone away, he spoke with the high priests and captains as to how he might deliver Him to them.” These captains were the officers of the temple guards. The holy Temple Campus is said to contain thirty-five acres. Most of it is open pavement, where the Moslem millions now assemble on their great religious anniversaries; but where the children of Abraham, in the good olden time, used to gather, not only from all parts of Canaan, but from their Gentile dispersions in all the ends of the earth. As Jesus was a native Jew, He was never prohibited from coming into this holy area. At present, any Jew entering that holy place would be instantly killed. I have entered it twice, and both times guarded by Turkish soldiers, with loaded guns, so long as I remained in the sacred inclosure. Hence that holy place, from the days of David and Solomon, has been constantly guarded by soldiers. Of course, these temple guards were subject to the ipse dixit of the hierarchy.
“And they rejoiced, and contracted with him to give money [ i. e., thirty pieces of silver, as Matthew says]. And he promised them, and continued to seek opportunity to deliver Him to them without a mob.” Such was the popularity of Jesus with the common people, that they constantly anticipated and feared that, in case of an attempt to arrest Him, a mob would rise, take Him out of their hands, and do them violence.
PREPARATION FOR THE PASSOVER
Matthew 26:17-19 ; Luke 22:7-13 ; Mark 14:12-16 . It is now Thursday morning, the Passover beginning properly on the following Sabbath; but these two preceding days are occupied in preparation for the great national solemnity. Josephus says it was not uncommon for them to slaughter two hundred and fifty thousand lambs during a single Passover. O what a wonderful symbolization of Calvary’s bleeding Lamb! “On the first day of unleavened bread, when they were accustomed to slay the Passover, His disciples say to Him, Where do You wish that, having gone, we may prepare that You may eat the Passover? And He sends two of His disciples, and says to them [Peter and John see Luke 22:8 ], Go ye into the city, and a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you; follow him. And whithersoever he may go in, say to the landlord that the Teacher says, Where is the guest-chamber, where I may eat the Passover with My disciples? And he will show you a large upper room, furnished, ready; there prepare for us. And His disciples departed, and came into the city, and found as He said to them, and prepared the Passover.” They escorted me, during both of my tours in Jerusalem, to a large upper room in the City of David, on the summit of Mount Zion, which they claim to be identical with the one here mentioned, which received imperishable notoriety for the Last Supper, the winding up and abolishment of the Passover, which had been so prominent since that memorable night when they began their exodus out of Egypt, no longer slaves, but a free and independent nation, Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, having broken every chain; meanwhile its celebrity was augmented by the imperishable memories of the wonderful Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost and fire fell on the disciples, the full-orbed gospel dispensation, under the auspices of entire sanctification, pouring down from heaven like a deluge, converting three thousand, and in a day or two five thousand more, giving a boom to the Church of the Nazarenes which shook the world with the tread of an earthquake, and, glory to God! It is still heaving and quaking.
Matthew 26:20 ; Mark 14:17 ; Luke 22:14-18 . It is now about 6 P. M. on Thursday preceding our Lord’s crucifixion, when they proceed to eat the Passover meal. “And when the hour arrived, He and His twelve apostles along with Him sat down at the table. And He said to them, With desire I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffered; for I say unto you, that I no more eat of it until it may be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” This is really not only His last Passover meal, but the last of all that He ate before He laid down His life. I do not wonder that He intensely desired to enjoy this Passover with His disciples, an institution so significant to every faithful Jew, commemorative of their national birth, and of course pre-eminently significant to the Savior, because it emblematized His expiatory death, then looking Him in the face, as the swift hours rolled on and brought the bloody morrow. As the lamb died to provide that meal for the teeming thousands of Israel to feast upon, so the Lamb of God must die in order that the millions of earth may not starve through all eternity, but feast upon that Passover meal through the flight of eternal ages. The Passover “was fulfilled in the kingdom of God” when Jesus bled and died on the cross, the Great Antitype typified by the millions of bleeding lambs the last fifteen hundred years. O what rivers of blood quantity symbolizing quality!
“And receiving the cup, blessing it, He said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I say unto you, that I shall no more drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God may come.” There is a sense in which the kingdom of God has been in the world from the days of Eden, as the redemptive scheme was launched before the expulsion out of Paradise. The advent of Jesus into the world was a glorious epoch in the kingdom; but you must remember He came to die to redeem the lost. Hence His first advent culminates at Calvary, the grandest and most important epoch in the kingdom of God, and here denominated the coming of the kingdom.
DESIGNATION AND WITHDRAWAL OF JUDAS
Matthew 26:21-25 ; Mark 14:18-21 ; Luke 22:21-23 ; John 13:21-35 . “Jesus, saying these things, was troubled in spirit, and witnessed and said, Truly I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me. Then the disciples began to look toward one another, being at a loss concerning whom He speaks. [Mark says, “They began to be in great trouble.” ] And one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved, was leaning on the bosom of Jesus.” This is John himself, too modest to call his own name, and so beloved of the Lord that he always sat next to Him, frequently reclining on His bosom. “Therefore Simon Peter beckons to him, to ask Him who might be the one concerning whom He speaks.” They were all sitting round the table, Peter being off at the other end, and requested John, who was next to Him, to ask Him which one of them He means. This utter uncertainty of the eleven illustrates the duplicity of Judas, who had been so faithful and dutiful, and outwardly all right every way, that even his comrades had not suspected him. After the fiery baptism of Pentecost they became wonderful readers of human character.
“And he, reclining on the breast of Jesus, says to Him, Lord, who is he? [Speaking in an undertone.] Jesus responds, He to whom I shall give the morsel, having dipped it.” Mark 14:20 : “And responding, He said to them, One of the twelve who dippeth with Me in the dish.” The Orientals, even now, have one large dish, in the center of the table, into whose gravy they dip their bread.
Mark 14:21 . “The Son of man goeth, as has been written concerning Him; but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It were good for him if that man had not been born.” Matthew 26:25 : “Judas, the one betraying Him, said, Master, whether am I the one? He says to him, Thou sayest it.” A familiar Oriental affirmation, which evidently Jesus spoke to Judas in an undertone, as the others did not understand it. How awfully Satan-manacled must Judas have been to survive all this! It furnishes a striking illustration of diabolical infatuation.
John 13:26 . “Having dipped the morsel He gives it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.” Among the Orientals this selection of a choice bit of some edible on the table, dipping it in the gravy, honey, or vinegar in the dish used in common, and handing it to some one i. e., putting it in his mouth with your own hand is significant of especial affection, kindness, and courtesy. You see, in this way, Jesus definitely pointed out Judas before he betrayed Him a clear confirmation of His Divinity, as no human being could have done it.
“And after the morsel, then Satan entered into him.” So he is now completely under the bidding of Satan, who knew Jesus, and that He had come into the world to take it out of his hands, and who had been doing his best all those years to stir them up to kill Him, spiritually blind to the prophecies, and believing that the death of Jesus would end the war in his favor, and give him this world as a grand addition to hell, and the desired enlargement of his contracted dominions.
“Then Jesus says to him, What you are doing, do more quickly [ i. e., “You have now for some time been plotting, maneuvering, and contemplating My betrayal; so now hurry up this matter; do not be so tardy; but what you are doing, consummate speedily”]. And no one of those sitting by knew this, for what He said to him. For some thought that, since Judas had the purse, Jesus says to him, Purchase some of those things of which we have need for the feast, or something which he may give to the poor.” There is no doubt but Jesus spoke to him in an undertone, so the eleven did not understand what He said, except John, who was next to Him, and the only one of the four who has written this.
“Then, taking the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night.” So Judas is gone off to perpetrate the bloody treachery and sell his Lord for filthy lucre. O what a tremendous following Judas has this day preachers and members selling out Jesus for paltry pelf The dark night is a vivid symbol of the black darkness of the deed.
“But when he went out, Jesus says, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.” This is spoken proleptically, as the glorification took place the next day, when He died on the cross. “If God is glorified in Him, truly God will glorify Him in Himself and He will glorify Him immediately.” When Jesus died to redeem a guilty world, God was glorified in Him, because He had perfected the stupendous work of human redemption for which God sent Him into the world. Then when He ascended up to heaven, the Father received Him with perfect and glorious approval, enthroning Him at His right hand, and assuring Him that He will make His enemies His footstool.
“Children, yet a little while I am with you. You shall seek Me, and as I said to the Jews, that whither I go you are not able to come, I now say it unto you. I give unto you a new commandment, that you must love one another with Divine love; as I loved you with Divine love, in order that you may also love one another with Divine love. In this shall all know that you are My disciples, if you may have Divine love among one another.” This new commandment is an addition to and completion of the Decalogue. The law says, “Do and live;” the gospel says, “Love and live.” “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10) So the crowning glory of the gospel dispensation is perfect love. We are all fallible and full of infirmities, so we can do no perfect work; but, praise the Lord! He is ready to give us all perfect love. So when our will is lost in God’s will, and we want to do everything just right, but fail through ignorance or mistake or physical inability, in condescending love He takes the will for the deed, giving us credit, not simply for what we do, but what we want to do for Him; as He rewarded David for building the temple, though he never struck a lick at it. Remember, this new commandment does not specify the human philia, but agape, Divine love. There is but one way to get it. “The Divine love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us.” (Romans 5:5) This we receive in regeneration, realizing an inward conflict between this Divine love and the malevolent affections till the latter are consumed by the sanctifying fires of the Holy Ghost. Here you see our Savior specifies this love for one another as the differentia of His people in all ages and nations, regardless of race, color, sect, or creed.
THE LORD’S SUPPER
Mark 14:22-25 ; Luk 22:19-20 ; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 ; Matthew 26:26-29 . “And while they were eating, Jesus taking bread and blessing it, broke it, and gave it to His disciples, and said, This is My body;” i. e., our Lord’s body in symbol, there being no argument here either for the Romish transubstantiation or the Lutheran consubstantiation. Joseph said, in the interpretation of the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief baker and chief butler, “The three vines are three days,” “The three baskets are three days,” simply signifying that they represent three days. “And taking the cup, and blessing it, He gave to them, saying, Drink you all from this; for this is My blood of the New Covenant, which is poured out for many unto the remission of sins. And I say unto you, that I shall no more drink of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I may drink it new with you in the kingdom of My Father.” Here you see that the Eucharist, on this occasion instituted by our Lord, was prospective as well as retrospective, looking forward to our Lord’s return in His glorious kingdom, when it will actually be celebrated through all the millennial centuries down to the end of time, our glorified Lord being here with us. Hence you see the deep and thrilling interest of this institution, which our Savior established at this memorable epoch, the very night of His betrayal and arrest; not only retrospecting the tragical scene of Calvary, when He gave His body and His blood a vicarious offering to redeem the whole world, and sustain the spiritual life of the saints by faith drinking His blood i. e., appropriating perpetually its cleansing and sanctifying efficacy, and feeding on His body each fleeting moment and by faith apprehending and appropriating the wonderful promises of the resurrection, translation, transfiguration, and assimilation of our mortal bodies to His glorious body; but sweeping on beyond His second advent into the happy centuries of the glorious Millennial Theocracy, when our Lord will again abide with His saints on the earth, enveloping the globe with the glory of His kingdom, Satan having been ejected and imprisoned, and will, as He here says, again celebrate this wonderful Eucharist with His disciples, this memorial institution running on down to the end of time. Now, you must not confound the Passover meal, which they all ate while Judas was with them, with the Eucharist, which our Lord instituted after the supper, Judas having gone away and joined His enemies, the former being the closing out of the memorable Passover, which they had celebrated fifteen hundred years, now normally evanescing, as all the emblematic lambs are verified in the great Antitype the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world; the latter being a new institution, vividly commemorative of bloody Calvary, and equally and lucidly pointing down to our Lord’s glorious return to this world, when, as He here says, He will again join with His saints in the celebration of this institution, a perpetual and vivid reminder of the stupendous redemption of the whole human race.
Matthew 26:30-46 ; Mark 14:26-42 ; Luke 22:39-46 ; John 18:1 . “ Jesus speaking these things, went out with His disciples beyond the brook Kidron, where was a garden, into which He and His disciples went.” This is the Garden of Gethsemane, which means “oil- press,” as evidently it had some celebrity for the manufacture of olive-oil, corroborative of which the olive-trees there still abound. They look very venerable. Since the olive-tree ordinarily lives five hundred to a thousand years, there is a degree of plausibility in the tradition that the identical trees under which Jesus and His disciples frequently sat still survive, as several trunks from the same root are still green and flourishing, some looking old and others young, favoring the conclusion that as the old die, others grow up, thus perpetuating the tree from the same root. “Garden,” in the Old World, is: frequently synonymous with “park” in this country; e. g., “the Garden of Eden.”
Matthew 26:30 ; Matthew 26:36-37 . “ And having sung a hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus comes with them into a place called Gethsemane, and says to His disciples, Sit here, until, having gone, I shall pray yonder. And taking Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to give way to sorrow and dejection.” You see how He compliments Peter, James, and John by taking them with Him to the exclusion of the rest. He did the same on the Mount of Transfiguration, and also at the resurrection of Jairus’s daughter evidencing a deeper insight into spiritual things on the part of the apostolic trio. The unfallen humanity of Jesus, never callused by sin, is intensely emotional, feeling infinitely more acutely than we are likely to apprehend.
Luke 22:41-44 . “ And He departed from them about a stone ’ s cast, and putting down His knees, continued to pray, saying, Father, if this cup wishes to pass from Me.” This was spoken proleptically, implying a desire on the part of His humanity to retreat from the terrible ordeals of blood, insult, treason, abuse, and death which His Divinity saw in diabolical panorama moving before His eyes. “ Moreover, not My will, but Thine be done.” Here you see He prefers the Divine will to his own human will, giving us an exceedingly profitable example. The human will of Jesus recoiled from the horrific tragedy coming to meet Him. So will ours under all circumstances. Hence we are to sink away into the Divine will, always keeping the human meekly acquiescent.
“ And an angel appeared unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him.” While there was no retreat from the appalling and horrific maelstrom which opened its in hellish malice, yet the loving Father sends awful crisis. Hence you see the pertinency of prayer amid all of our temptations and trials; not that we will always be delivered from them, but that our Heavenly Father will send an angel to strengthen us, giving us the needed patience, resignation, forbearance, and perseverance adequate to the conflict. “ And being in agony, He continued to pray the more fervently. And His perspiration was like drops of blood falling down upon the ground.” All efforts to explain this agony of His human soul are utterly vain. Millions of martyrs have gone singing to the burning stake, and shouted triumphantly amid the wreathing flames. Then why did Jesus agonize so intensely in contemplation of His martyrdom? You must remember that all comparison is really impertinent and utterly out of place as to any attempted exegesis, from the simple fact that none of the martyrs atoned for the sins of the world. The Divinity could neither suffer nor die, but only served as the altar on which the humanity was immolated to atone for the sins of a guilty world. Hence the innocent Man Jesus carried upon His spotless soul all the mountains of sin committed by the guilty; race in all ages, from Adam to the latest generation. Consequently, we are utterly incompetent to know or to realize the agony which He endured in the garden. There the battle was fought between the human and the Divine will, the latter triumphing. Gethsemane was the consecration and Calvary the sanctification. In the case of the latter, we see Him nailed to the cross, and pouring out His blood, and hear nothing of humanity’s recoil from the appalling tragedy, the battle having been fought and the victory won in Gethsemane. Hence the soul seeking sanctification must first pass the Gethsemane of consecration, where the human utterly and eternally submits to the Divine will. Then you are prepared cheerfully to let the Holy Ghost nail Adam the First to the cross, and let him bleed and die. The followers of Jesus must all pass through Gethsemane on their way to Calvary. This bloody sweat is unparalleled in all the history of human suffering, illustrative of the fact that the world has never seen but the one Savior, who actually carried upon His spotless soul all of its guilt and crime.
Mark 14:38-39 . “ And He comes and finds them sleeping, and says to Peter, Simon , do you sleep? Were you not able to watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest ye may enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” They had been constantly on foot and their attention engaged so long that drowsiness and nervous relaxation proved irresistible. “ And again having gone away; He prayed, speaking the same word. And returning, He found them again sleeping; for their eyes were heavy, and they knew not what they respond to Him.”
It is about midnight. The apostles were stout, muscular men who, in case of nervous collapse, found drowsiness irresistible. “ He comes the third time, and says to them, Do you sleep on and take your rest. It is over: the hour has come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us be going; behold; the one having betrayed Me draweth nigh.” Jesus having seen all the maneuvers of His enemies, who, under the escort of Judas, have tracked them making inquiry of the people on the streets
from the upper room where they had taken the supper on Mount Zion, through the long way of the city to the east wall, and out across the Valley of Jehoshaphat and the brook Kidron to this garden, where Jesus had so often resorted with His disciples while Judas was with them, and who consequently kept His track, leading the mob, and also having seen all the hurry and bustle of His enemies, parading the temple guards and hiring the street rabble to accompany them, now, that they are coming right into the park, and knowing they are going to arrest Him, He commands the Eleven all to wake up, and goes to meet them.
JESUS PREDICTS THE FALL OF PETER AND THE DISPERSION OF THE APOSTLES
Matthew 26:31-35 ; Mark 14:27-31 ; Luke 22:31-38 ; John 13:36-38 . N.B. They are all still at the supper-table except Judas, who, at nightfall, went away alone and not alone, for Satan went with him. “Simon Peter says to Him, Lord, whither art Thou going? Jesus responded to him, Whither I go, thou art not able to follow Me now; but shall follow Me hereafter. Peter says to Him, Lord, wherefore am I not able to follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thee.” Peter absolutely and sincerely meant all he said, and yet in a few hours denied Him, illustrating the horrific instability of unsanctified humanity. After Peter received the fiery baptism, he was more than a match for earth and hell, living a hero and dying a martyr. What an admonition is Peter’s case to all to get sanctified!
Matthew 26:31 . “Then Jesus says to them, All you will be offended in Me this night. For it has been written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.” (Zechariah 13:7) The application of this is very plain and simple, as it was fulfilled in Gethsemane about three hours after this utterance. “And after I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.” Jesus had repeatedly predicted to them that He would meet them in Galilee, His native land and that of most of His apostles, whither they all went soon after His resurrection, and He met them on the bank of the Galilean Sea, after a night of toil in dragging their nets through the waters; but then, to their unutterable surprise, pursuant to His mandate, casting the net on the right side of the ship, they caught one hundred and fifty-three large fish. He also met them on one of the mountains of Galilee, not named.
“Peter, responding, said to Him, If all shall be offended in Thee, I will never be offended.” Peter was no hypocrite. He meant all he said; yet before the crowing of the cock that very night, he denied that he knew Him.
Luke 22:31 . “The Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan sought after you, to sift you like wheat.” Here the pronoun “you” is humas, the plural number, including not only Peter, but all of the apostles. All the depravity in human nature belongs to Satan, because he put it there in the fall. All sin is the crop of Satan’s own sowing. So long as there is anything in you which Satan can sift out, you are not ready for heaven. Satan could not sift Jesus, because when he came to Him, he found nothing in Him belonging to him. After the apostles were all sanctified at Pentecost, Satan’s sifting was fruitless toil, as the celestial flame had consumed all the chaff, straw, cheat, cockle, and trash, leaving nothing but the pure wheat, ready for the Lord’s mill. “But I prayed for you, that your faith may not fail.” “You” is in the singular number, meaning Peter alone, as the especial subject of the Savior’s prayer in this case, lest he might be gobbled up by Satan. Jesus here tells them, “You will all be offended in Me this night.” This word is from scandalon, “a stumbling-block,” showing that they all ran over a great stumbling-block, which jostled them exceedingly, and Peter, the most sanguine of all, became more seriously upset than any of his comrades. This word, however, does not convey the idea of a total apostasy, but a stumbling and temporary backsliding, the prayer of Jesus prevailing, so that the faith, though terribly tried, did not utterly let go. “And you, having turned, then strengthen your brethren.” “When thou art converted,” E. V., is too strong a rendering of epistrepsas, which simply means “having turned,” being in the active voice; i. e., “Having turned from your backsliding, strengthen your brethren.” Peter was the senior apostle, his house in Capernaum being headquarters of Jesus during the two and a half years of His ministry in Galilee. Therefore he wielded a very potent influence over his brethren, who, of course, being jostled by his backsliding, would need confirmation by his confession and testimony. “And he said to Him, Lord, I am ready to go with Thee to prison, and to death.” Mark 14:30 : “And Jesus says to him, Truly I say unto thee, that this night, before the cock crows twice, thou shall deny Me thrice. And he continued to say the more positively, If it may be necessary for me to die along with Thee, I will not deny Thee. And all the others said likewise.” You see how sanguine Peter was, feeling perfectly sure; and yet when the emergency came he failed. A significant illustration of the bold utterances of unsanctified Christians, believing indubitably that they will do just what they say; but signally failing, because they have an indwelling enemy stronger than they.
Luke 22:35-38 . “And He said to them, When I sent you out without purse, valise, and sandals, did you lack anything? And they said, Nothing. Then He said to them, But now, let the one having purse take it, likewise also valise; and let every one not having a sword, sell his cloak and purchase one. For I say unto you, that it behooveth that which has been written yet to be fulfilled in Me, And He was numbered with the transgressors [Isaiah 53:12 ]; and those things concerning Me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And He said to them, It is sufficient.” While our Savior was with them on the earth, He miraculously fed, clothed, and protected them when it was necessary. Consequently they could go without these provisions, incident to human life, indiscriminately. But now that He is going away to leave them, they must take heed and give the necessary attention to the temporalities essential to their physical support and protection. The Orientals wear two garments the cheiton, interior, and the himation, exterior. The outer garment they frequently carried while traveling and laid aside when at labor, keeping it for night and storms. Jesus here tells them, if necessary, to sell the himation and buy a sword. I never could understand why He told them to take a sword till I traveled in that country and saw the necessity of carrying weapons. I did not carry any, as I did not know how to use them; but a sanctified preacher in our company carried a revolver, our dragman also being armed with a revolver and a dagger. In some places we were compelled to hire an armed escort to keep the robbers off. “Why were you compelled to do it?” Our guide refused to go without the armed escort. Going round in Jerusalem, men, as a rule, had no visible weapons; but traveling through the country, all we met were armed with guns, swords, or huge clubs, almost as large as an American rifle, and convenient to kill a man with a single stroke. The guide-books advise all travelers to go armed, but not to use their weapons, their utility being that of intimidation, as robbers abound everywhere, who do not content themselves by simply taking your money, but take everything you possess, leaving you utterly destitute of clothing, baggage, etc. In that day there were no firearms, the sword being the most common weapon of defense; also regarded as a badge of itinerancy. You see, when they pointed out these two swords, He said they were sufficient. The presumption is that the sword was a prudential, peace, and safety provision, for the intimidation of robbers and for personal security in case of emergency, as persons openly avowing the absence of all protecting weapons in their peregrinations would soon fall a prey to the robbers. Along the road from Jerusalem down to Jericho, where the traveler (Luke 10:0) was attacked by the robbers, the Roman Government had a garrison of armed men to protect the travelers, as the robbers were so troublesome.
Matthew 26:47-56 ; Mark 14:43-52 ; Luke 22:47-53 ; John 18:2-12 . “ And Judas, the one betraying Him, knew the place, because frequently, Jesus, with His disciples, had resorted thither. Then Judas, taking a band and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, comes thither with lanterns, torches, and arms.” The lantern was a closed- up light of some kind, fortified against the wind, while the torches were large, blazing flambeaux. Though the moon was very bright, as she was nearly full, it was exceedingly important to have plenty of light as a fortification against the liability of mistaking the wrong person, as they surmised that an effort would be made on the part of the disciples to elude them in that way; their great confidence, however, being in Judas, who was so intimately acquainted with Him. Thus they had taken every precaution to make sure that they arrested the One whom they had been pursuing these three years, and who had baffled them so frequently by rendering Himself invisible, and in various ways eluding their grasp till His work was done.
Mark 14:43 : “ And immediately, He speaking, Judas, being one of the twelve, comes, and a great multitude with him, with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, scribes, and elders.” A huge club, four or five feet long, is an exceedingly common weapon in that country now. I saw persons incessantly thus armed quite a formidable weapon in the hands of a stalwart man.
John 18:4-9 . “ Then Jesus, knowing all things which are coming upon Him, having gone out, said to them, Whom do you seek? They responded to Him, Jesus the Nazarene. Jesus says to them, I am He?” Never did the world see another such a man as Jesus. When they came to crown Him King, He fled away; but when they came to kill Him, He went out to meet them. “ Judas, the one betraying Him, also stood with them. Then, when He said to them, I am He, they went back, and fell upon the ground.” This is His last miracle, except healing the amputated ear, which speedily followed. Though He boldly comes out from the dense shade of those great olive-trees into the clear light of the moon, shining so brightly from that cloudless, Palestinian sky, and also into the strong light of a hundred flambeaux, so that it was as bright as day, and there was no trouble about recognition, yet, lo! an awful panic strikes them, so they retreat back and fall upon the ground like dead men. How easily He could have utterly baffled and defeated them, striking them all with the paralysis of incorrigible terror! But the time has come for Him to meet the bloody avalanche from the bottomless pit, and lay down His life for a lost world.
“ Then again He asked them, Whom do you seek? And they said, Jesus the Nazarene. Jesus responded, I said to you that I am He. If then you seek Me, let these retire in order that the word which He spoke may be fulfilled, That I lost none of them whom Thou hast given Me.” They did not consider His disciples sufficiently important to deserve their attention at that time, as they were satisfied if they could only get the One who had given them so much trouble, and whose life they had so long been seeking in vain. Really, all their energies, aspirations, and wits were laid under contribution to secure the arrest and execution of Jesus.
Matthew 26:48-50 . “ And the one having betrayed Him gave them a sign, saying, Whom I shall kiss is He; hold Him fast. And immediately coming to Jesus, he said, Hail, Master; and kissed Him copiously. Jesus said to him, Comrade, for what do you come? Then they, coming, laid hands on Jesus, and bound Him.” John 18:12 . “ Then the band, the chiliarch, and the officers of the Jews took Jesus and bound Him.” Such was their fear, solicitude, and anxiety for success that they all united in arresting and binding Him. John 18:10 : “ Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the servant of the high-priest, and cut off his right ear. And the name to that servant was Malchus.” Matthew 26:52 :
“ Then Jesus said to Peter, Put up thy sword into its place; for all taking the sword shall perish by the sword.” (Genesis 9:6.) Of course, those who use the sword are all liable to perish in that way. Luke 22:51 : “ Jesus said, Hold on a little, and touching his ear He healed it.” The moment Peter smote Malchus, Jesus ordered him to put up his sword, stepped instantly to the wounded soldier, touched his ear and healed it, thus in His last miracle manifesting His loving kindness even to His enemies, who had that moment arrested Him, and He knew they were going to take His life. You see in the assault Peter made on the enemies of Jesus a brilliant manifestation of his native heroism. He feared the face of no man, but was brave enough to fight that whole army. It is a great mistake to conclude that he was deficient in natural courage because in the subsequent events of that awful night he displayed so signal cowardice. All this was because Jesus would not let him fight, and consequently he felt he was at the mercy of His enemies, who knew no mercy.
Matthew 26:53-56 . “ Do you not think that I am able now to call on My Father, and He will send Me more than twelve legions of angels? How then can the Scriptures be fulfilled, because it behooveth it thus to be?” Those angels were ready, hovering around, and eager for the opportunity to snatch Him away from the cruel manacles of the bloodthirsty rabble and bear Him on pinions of light to the home of the glorified. Right there at Jerusalem a solitary angel had slain a hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrian soldiers in one night. Doubtless the same angels who ministered to Him when tempted in the wilderness were hovering round. “ At that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, You have come out as against a thief with swords and clubs to take Me. I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you laid not hands on Me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled. Then all of His disciples, leaving Him, fled.” When the mob first came they surrounded them altogether. Now that they have secured the only One they wanted, they break ranks, leaving an opening for the others all to run away, as they did not want to be encumbered with them at that time. If Jesus had not risen from the dead, thus creating a great popular sensation and weakening the hands of His enemies, they would have arrested and executed every one of His apostles, except Judas, as accomplices in the criminality in which they had falsely implicated Jesus. Now the apostles see that He is arrested and bound, completely in the hands of His enemies; hence, yielding to desperation and affright, they flee away.
Luke 22:53 . “ But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” His enemies had repeatedly tried to arrest Him, stone Him, and destroy Him in any way they could; but invariably suffered utter defeat till now, when He is turned over to the powers of earth and hell to execute their vilest venom against His innocent person, and He thus becomes the vicarious substitute for every guilty sinner.
Mark 14:51-52 . “ And one certain young man follows Him, clothed with a linen cloth on his naked body. The young men arrest him; but he, leaving the linen cloth fled from them in a state of nudity.” It is believed that this young man was none other than the Apostle John and it is said that he fled away to the house of Rabbi Amos in the city, and there procured the robe of a Jewish priest, invested in which he returned, and remained with the Savior in all of His troubles, walking by His side to the tribunal of Annas, thence to the judgment-hall; of Caiaphas, thence to Pilate’s bar and to Herod’s tribunal, then back to Pilate, and on His way to Calvary. Standing by His side when He hung bleeding on the cross all this time hoping that He would revive, exercise His wonderful power, and extricate Himself from the hands of His enemies, till the Roman soldier came along and plunged the spear into His side, thus tearing His heart to pieces. It is said that when this cruel deed was done, all hope of His reviving taking its flight, John, yielding to despair, fainted. Let this be as it may, we see here that John was with Him after the flight of the other ten.
ARRAIGNMENT OF JESUS AND DENIAL OF PETER
Matthew 26:57-75 ; Mark 14:53-72 ; Luke 22:54-62 ; John 18:13-27 . “ And they led Him first to Annas; for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.” It is said that there was a controversy between the Jews and Romans in reference to the high-priesthood, the latter favoring Annas and the former Caiaphas. I visited the house of Caiaphas and the judgment-hall during both my tours in Jerusalem. The presumption is, the tribunal of Annas was in the same house, as it is very large. N.B. All the houses in Jerusalem are stone.
Hence their durability.
“ And Caiaphas was the one counseling the Jews that it is profitable for one man to die for the people.” This is an example in which God, at least momentarily, imparted the gift of prophecy to an unconverted man, his official position giving him a prominence highly conducive to the efficacy of his prophecy.
“ And Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. And that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the judgment-hall of the high priest.” You see here, John is speaking of himself, as he never calls his own name. Gnostos, “known,” is claimed also to convey the idea of kinship. From considerations, doubtless, of this character, Caiaphas permitted him to go along with them by the side of Jesus, the soldiers mistaking him for a Jewish priest, because of the robe with which it is said he was invested, having procured it at the house of Rabbi Amos, a friend of Jesus. Such was the affright of the other nine that they kept hidden away at a distance, Peter leaving them, and venturing to follow along with the crowd after Jesus; while, as you see, John remained with him unmolested, and of course not recognized except by Caiaphas, or he would have gotten into the same trouble which overtook Peter.
“ And Peter stood at the door without. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came out, and spoke to the porter, and led in Peter. And the servants and officers having made a fire because it was cold, were standing round it, and warming themselves.” They have no chimneys to the houses in Jerusalem; but as this was April 13th, about 2 A.M., it was quite chilly, and they built a fire in the open court of the great quadrangular building, and were warming round it, while Jesus stood at the tribunal of Caiaphas in the judgment-hall.
“ And Peter was standing with them warming. Then the damsel porter says to Peter, Art thou not one of the disciples of this Man? He says, I am not. And Simon Peter was standing warming; then they said, Art thou not of His disciples? He denied, and said, I am not.” Mark 14:68-70 : “ And he went out into the portico, and the cock crew. And the damsel seeing him again, began to speak to those standing by, This man is one of them. And he denied it.” John 18:26-27 : “ One of the servants of the chief priest, being a kinsman of him whose ear Peter cut off, says, Did I not see thee with Him in the garden? Then Peter again denied, and immediately the cock crew.” Now, see that you get this whole matter clear in reference to Peter’s denial. Remember, the building is a large quadrangular, with an open court in the center, roofless. Here, while Peter is warming by the fire, the damsel doorkeeper identifies and interrogates him. He positively denies that he is one of the disciples of the Man then on trial in the contiguous judgment- hall. Then Peter goes away from the fire, and is standing in the portico leading from the open court into the judgment-hall. There the same damsel porter again recognizes and interviews him, certifying that he is one of that Man’s disciples. Again Peter denies, with an oath (doubtless of affirmation). Now, after a few minutes, while Peter is still in the portico, the kinsman of Malchus, whose ear Peter had cut off with a sword, accuses him, very positively identifying him obviously.
Matthew 26:74 . “ Then he began to anathematize and swear, I know not the Man. And immediately the cock crew.” The E. V. “curse and swear” is very likely to mislead the reader into the conclusion that Peter indulged in blasphemy and profanity, which is unwarranted in the original, which simply conveys the idea that he anathematized; i.e., confirmed his statement by invoking an anathema on himself, and used an oath of affirmation. The idea that he cursed and swore, after the manner of wicked people, indulging in blasphemy and profanity, is not sustained by the Greek. You must remember, however, that Jesus condemns all sorts of swearing, except the oath of affirmation administered by persons in authority, as you see He Himself responded when under oath administered by Caiaphas. Of course, Peter was guilty of falsification in a very aggravated form, augmenting it by the invocation of an anathema and by the oath of affirmation, in all probability using some trivial oath, like swearing by the temple. The solution of the matter is, Peter felt that his life was in danger, more especially when accused the third time by the kinsman of a man whose ear he had cut off. Peter’s courage was all right till Jesus made Him put up the sword and let His enemies alone; then a reaction took place, intensified by these accusations, so that he gave way to fear, and acted foolishly and wickedly, denying his Lord and confirming his denial by an oath.
Luke 22:60-62 . “ And immediately, he still speaking, the cock crew.” And the Lord, turning, looked on Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He said to him, Before the cock crows, thou shalt deny Me thrice. And having gone out, he wept bitterly.” Mark 14:72 : “ And having gone out, he continued to weep.” The third denial was there in the portico, where the people were standing aside a little, when Jesus, turning His head, looked on him so impressively as to remind him of everything He had told him about the three denials, simultaneously breaking his heart, and inundating him with gushing penitential tears, so that he rushes out of the crowd, and, as Mark says, “ continued to weep,” Mark and Luke adding their testimony that he wept bitterly. Precipitation was Peter’s great and prominent infirmity, and when manipulated by Satan a terrible stumbling- block as in the above case, when, giving way to fear, he denied his Lord; not, as E. V. would lead you to infer, indulging in blasphemous oaths, horrific to think of and especially on the part of an apostle, yet not only certifying that he knew Him not, but even confirming his repudiation by solemn imprecations and an oath of affirmation. But when sanctified by the Holy Ghost, this thunderbolt impetuosity became a mighty enginery, pre- eminently qualifying him for the apostolical seniority and leadership with which the Holy Spirit honored him on the day of Pentecost as well as subsequently. We may recognize this fact, somewhat in his favor, that he followed on, manifesting a desire to help his Lord if possible, while the other nine fled away, seeking places of safety. We are no apologists for Peter’s cowardly repudiation of his Lord, even under these trying circumstances; yet we do believe that the popular verdict against him, as a rule, is more condemnatory than he deserves. His unworthy conduct, however, demonstrates the crying necessity of the second work of grace. After his Pentecostal baptism, we see him serving as apostolical speaker, facing the combined authorities of Church and State, preaching all day, and spending the ensuing night in jail. From that notable hour, on Sunday morning, when the Holy Ghost and fire descended on them from heaven, till he was nailed to the cross on the Campus Martius in Rome, he was never known to flicker an iota, amid the combined antagonism of earth and hell. He truly lived a hero and died a martyr.
JESUS CONDEMNED BY THE SANHEDRIN
Matthew 26:59-68 ; Mark 14:55-65 ; Luke 22:63-71 ; John 18:19-24 . “ Then the high priest asked Jesus concerning His disciples and teaching. Jesus responded to Him, I spoke boldly to the world. I always taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, where all the Jews come together, and I spoke nothing in secret. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; behold, they know the things which I said. He, speaking these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, Do you thus answer the high priest? Jesus responded to him, If I spoke wickedly, testify concerning the wickedness; but if truly, why do you smite Me? Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.” Evidently, Annas and Caiaphas had their tribunals in the same great quadrangular building standing on Mount Zion, and now visited by the thirty thousand pilgrims annually going to Jerusalem. Having first been arraigned at the tribunal of Annas, He is now, about day-dawn, led bound to the tribunal of Caiaphas. You see how the high priest endeavored to make Him confess, hoping to utilize His own testimony against Himself, as they had no witnesses to amount to anything, and thus condescended to a very cowardly stratagem, which even if he had succeeded, the law pronounces the weakest of all evidence. It was awfully barbaric for that officer to smite a prisoner in bonds. You see, Jesus vindicates Himself reminding the man of the criminal impropriety of this uncouth assault upon a defenseless prisoner illustrating the right of all His followers to vindicate themselves from false accusation, violence, and tyranny, and refuting the idea somewhat prevalent that we are never to advocate our rights and vindicate ourselves against the oppression of the wicked.
Luke 22:66 . “ And when it was day, the eldership of the people, the chief priests, and the scribes were assembled, and led Him into the Sanhedrin.” As they had been on His track, like bloodhounds, three years, eager to take, His life (but restrained by the fear of the people; and well they might be, because a bloody civil war would have broken out immediately), such is their fear of the people that they attack Him at midnight, aiming to secure the death-warrant and kill Him before day. In this they are disappointed and woefully disconcerted, being unable to convene the Sanhedrin till day dawn, though keeping couriers running at race-horse speed all night, (notifying and urging them up. The Sanhedrin was the highest court of the politico-ecclesiasticism, the successor of the eldership organized by Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, during their wilderness peregrinations.
Mark 14:55-59 . “ And the high priest and all the Sanhedrin continued to seek testimony against Jesus to put him to death, and they found none.” Matthew says “false testimony.” Of course, they preferred true testimony if they could get it; but as there was none, they were anxious to take any kind they could get. “ For many continued to testify falsely against Him, and their testimonies were not equal,” i. e., they contradicted one another, which in law invalidates both, so that they are thrown out of court. “ And certain ones, rising up, falsely testified against Him, saying, We heard Him saying, That I will destroy this temple, made with hands, and in three days I will build another, made without hands. Indeed their testimony was not equal;” i. e., they contradicted one another. Perhaps some of the witnesses gave it correctly; but you have only to look at John 2:19, “ Destroy this temple, and I will build it in three days,” to see that the above witnesses were false, as they testified that He said, “ I will destroy this temple, made with hands, and build another, made without hands.” By comparison, you see that these witnesses did not quote Him correctly, as their testimony would make it mean that great stone edifice standing on Mount Moriah; while He did not mean that at all, but the temple of His body. Why did He not correct them when so grossly misrepresenting Him? Because it would have done no good, as Satan was in them, and they were thirsting for His blood.
Matthew 26:62-66 . “ The high priest, standing up, said to Him, Do You answer nothing? What are they witnessing against Thee? And Jesus was silent.” Under temptation, the better policy is, like Jesus, to keep silent. You should never speak while under severe provocation. “ The high priest, responding, said to Him, I assure Thee by the living God, that Thou mayest tell us if Thou art the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus says to him, Thou sayest it.” That is an Oriental form of affirmation. Here, you see, Jesus answers while under oath of affirmation, administered by the high priest. Hence you see His indirect approval appertaining to the civil oath of affirmation. Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:23) administers a solemn oath to the Thessalonian saints to read his letter to all the members of the Church.
“ Moreover I say unto you, Hereafter you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven.” The first clause of this wonderful prophecy of our Lord was fulfilled when they saw Him rise from the dead and ascend up to heaven from Mount Olivet; while the second clause, “coming in the clouds of heaven,” will be fulfilled when Jesus shall ride down on a cloud and receive all the kingdoms of this world (Daniel 7:9-14) and reign forever. In this wonderful sentence there is not so much as a comma, yet those two clauses are separated by many centuries, the former being verified in a few days, and the latter still pending.
“ Then the high priest tore His robes, saying, That He blasphemed; what need of testimony have we yet? Behold, now , you have heard His blasphemy. What seems good to you? And they, responding, said, He is worthy of death.” Mark says this verdict was unanimous, So here you see the issue of His prosecution before the Sanhedrin They unanimously condemned Him to die for blasphemy, according to the law of Moses. (Leviticus 24:16.) Thus you see, good and just laws become vehicles of tyranny and persecution when in the hands of bad men, and are no guarantee of fight and justice when the devil is in the administrators. Jesus died under the verdict of Divine law, and so did all the martyrs, there being no trouble about the law; but Satan was in the preachers and ruling elders. So it is this day. Some of the brightest saints that walk beneath the skies, have been excommunicated, while drunkards, libertines, blasphemers, and thieves have been retained without impeachment. Such was the case in the days of Luther and Wesley, and always will be so when Diabolus gets into the clergy and official laity.
Luke 22:63-65 . “And the men who had charge of Jesus began to mock Him, beating Him; and covering Him, continued to strike His face, and ask Him, saying, Prophesy, who is the one smiting thee? And blaspheming Him as to many other things, they continued to speak against Him.” The truth of it is, Jesus had no trial, it was a mockery; to their infinite shame, barbarically abusing Him while a prisoner in chains, which is revolting to the very idea of civil, not to say ecclesiastical administration. Nicodemus certifies that Jewish law never condemned a man till he met his accusers face to face, and had a fair and impartial trial. Festus, the Roman proconsul, makes the same statement in reference to imperial law. Hence, Jesus was mobbed and outlawed. But did He not come into the world to die? Most assuredly; and He would have died to redeem the world from sin, death, and hell if neither Judas nor Caiphas had ever been born. Yet that is no apology for the diabolical treason, perfidy, and murder which they committed, overtly, without excuse.
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Godbey, William. "Commentary on Matthew 26". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30