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Tuesday, June 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 26

Watson's Exposition on Matthew, Mark, Luke & RomansWatson's Expositions

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Introduction

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

1 The rulers conspire against Christ.

6 The woman anointeth his feet.

14 Judas selleth him.

17 Christ eateth the passover:

26 instituteth his holy supper:

36 prayeth in the garden:

47 and being betrayed with a kiss,

57 is carried to Caiaphas,

69 and denied of Peter.

Verse 1

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

All these sayings — All these discourses.

Verse 2

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Is the passover. — This was one of the great annual festivals of the Jews, instituted with great solemnity by Divine direction, to commemorate the PASSING of the destroying angel OVER the houses of the Israelites, and their deliverance from Egypt. It was a grand instituted TYPE of our redemption, and therefore Christ is called our PASSOVER sacrificed for us.” The paschal sacrifice derives its appellation from פסח , which signifies, to pass, by or over. In the Septuagint and the New Testament το πασχα signifies both paschal lamb, and also the paschal feast. The institution is explained Exodus 12:27: “It is the sacrifice of THE LORD’S passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.” The victim was to be a male of the first year, without blemish, from the sheep or from the goats. It was chosen on the tenth day of the month Abib in every year, kept till the fourteenth day of the same month, and then slain in the evening. A lamb or a kid was killed in each family; and if the number of the family was not sufficient to eat it, they might associate two families together. It was eaten with unleavened bread, and was followed by the seven days of unleavened bread, so that the whole feast lasted eight days.

These words seem to have been spoken by Jesus on the fourth day of the week, that is, on Wednesday in the afternoon; and on Thursday in the evening, that is, on the evening which followed the fifth day, the passover began, and was continued from Thursday evening to Friday evening, when the Sabbath, or seventh day, began.

Is betrayed. — Will be delivered up; the present being put for the future, as a significant manner of denoting a certain and approaching event.

Verse 3

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

The palace of the high priest Caiaphas. — Αυλη , rendered palace, properly signifies an enclosed area, open to the air; but is often applied, as here, to the whole mansion or palace of kings, or persons in authority. Caiaphas was the high priest at this time, and during the whole period in which Pilate was governor. He married a daughter of Annas, who also is called high priest, because he had long enjoyed that dignity. From Acts 5:17, it appears that Caiaphas was of the sect of the Sadducees.

Verses 4-5

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

That they might take Jesus by subtlety, &c. — Ordinarily great criminals, and especially false prophets and raisers of sedition, were reserved for execution till the time of their great feasts, because the concourse of people at Jerusalem being so great on those occasions, it was thought that the example would be more influential. But in the case of our Lord they were anxious to dispense with this custom, and to put him to death by stratagem. But they said, Not on the feast, lest there should be an uproar, a popular tumult, among the people. At these festivals it appears from Josephus that tumults of a formidable kind often took place, a seditious and restless spirit having long been nursed by the peculiar political circumstances of the nation. And doubtless had our Lord designed to proclaim himself a king, and to assume the earthly attributes with which they invested the Messiah, and which probably they feared, and had he laid any plans for that purpose, vast numbers of the people, as especially those from Galilee, would have declared in his favour. His enemies therefore appear to have designed to leave the matter until the festival of the passover and unleavened bread, which together occupied a space of eight days, had terminated, and the mass of the people had dispersed.

Our translators have rendered, μη εν τη εορτη , not on the feast day; thereby confining it to the day of the passover merely; whereas it ought to be extended to the seven succeeding days of unleavened bread, and have been simply rendered the feast, the reason which they give for not apprehending Christ being equally forcible throughout the whole duration of the festival. The plan was changed by the offer of Judas to betray him, and the whole was overruled by Heaven to accomplish its own purposes; which were, not that Christ should be put to death privately by assassination, or even by regular trial, when there should be comparatively few to witness his death, and the strange signs which accompanied it; but that there should be multitudes of witnesses of this event, that it should take place when many thousands of Jews and proselytes from all parts were assembled at Jerusalem, and that the account both of his crucifixion and resurrection should be transmitted by these means to distant places, and finally, as one has well observed, that infidelity should never have it to allege that these capital events, which constitute the very basis of our religion, were “done in a corner.”

Verse 6

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, &c. — The time when this transaction took place is not particularly marked by St. Matthew, and appears to have been mentioned here in connection, as an introduction to the treachery of Judas, because he was the first and loudest to murmur at the waste of the costly unction by which our Lord was anointed. In this, St. Mark follows St. Matthew; but St. John fixes the time six days before the passover, and manifestly describes the same transaction. The principal apparent discrepancy is, that the other evangelists say that it took place in the house of Simon the leper, that is, Simon who had been a leper; whereas in the narrative of John, Martha is represented as “serving,” from which it has been concluded that the entertainment was made for him in the house of Lazarus. But St. John only says that “he came to Bethany,” and that “they made him a supper,” without mentioning the house in which it was provided. That it was not in the house of Lazarus, appears almost certain from the remark of the same evangelist, that “Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him;” words which designate him as a guest rather than as the host. And as this Simon was evidently a friend of our Lord, and neighbour to the family that “Jesus loved,” or perhaps a relation also, there is no improbability that Martha should serve in honour of such a guest, and that her sister Mary should anoint him. That St. Matthew and St. Mark should not mention Mary by name, arose probably from their having omitted all account of the raising of Lazarus, which appears to have been designed by the Holy Spirit to be related by one of the four only, that we might possess it in that more extended form and interesting particularity in which it appears in the affecting narrative of John, who was an eye witness.

Some critics, however, think that St. John does not assert that this unction of our Lord occurred “six days before the passover,” but only asserts that at that time “he came to Bethany,” where he was afterward anointed two days before the passover, as it is most natural to infer from the narrative of St. Matthew. To this it may be answered, that the note of time in St. John, “six days before the passover,” appears to be introduced for no purpose except to mark the period of the entertainment given to Christ at Bethany. On this often controverted point, the observations of Koinoel appear most satisfactory: “Since Matthew himself has not noted the time explicitly, but has used a phrase not indicative of definite time, του δε Ινσου γενομενου εν Βηθανια ; since John has narrated the event more copiously and elaborately; since from the general style of composition in this passage of Matthew, it is plain that he is hastening to describe the treachery of Judas, and the last fate of his Master; since moreover Mark, especially when hastening to any other subject, is accustomed to write concisely, omit various circumstances, and neglect the order of time; therefore I apprehend that respecting the order of time, John is to be rather attended to, who seems to have supplied what Matthew had omitted, in order to indicate the motive which impelled Judas to the deed; namely, avarice.” The anointing of our Lord in the house of Simon the Pharisee, as recorded in Luke 7:37, is quite a distinct transaction, done at a distant place, and at a much earlier period, and by another person.

Verse 7

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

An alabaster box of very precious ointment. — The alabaster is thought to have been a species of onyx, of which vessels for holding the more precious kind of perfumes were at first made, and the name was retained when afterward they were made of gold, or any other substance.

St. Mark says, she brake it; but this is to be understood of breaking the seal by which the mouth was stopped, in order to pour out the contents. It is the custom in eastern countries still to stop the bottles which contain essences, with cotton, and to seal them with wax; in which form that costly perfume, the attar of roses, is still imported into this country. To anoint the head and the feet of guests was a mark of respect at considerable entertainments. It was done frequently in honour of the rabbins; but in this case the action was remarkable, as done, not by the host, but by Mary the sister of Lazarus, one of the guests, and also from the very valuable kind of unction made use of, and the abundance which she poured not only on our Lord’s sacred head, but also, as appears from St. John, on his feet. The whole was the result of Mary’s fervent affection for her Lord and Master.

Verses 8-9

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

They had indignation, &c. — They all strongly exclaimed against what appeared to be an unnecessary waste of so precious an oil, and the profusion with which it was expended. All were sincere in objecting that its value might have been given to the poor as a more pious work, except Judas. He, indeed, appears to have been foremost and loudest in expressing this sentiment, and therefore he is represented by St. John as speaking for the rest; but we have in this the key of his character, and of that act of treacherous folly and wickedness which he was now meditating to commit. “This, he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” Judas fell therefore by the blinding and infatuating sin of covetousness, which led him first to fraud, then to treason. The disciples, in Mark, estimate the value at “three hundred pence,” or denarii, upward of nine pounds of our money. This is not incredible, although the vessel might not be of large size; for a very small phial of attar of roses is sold at Constantinople for six pounds; and this “oil of nard,” if not the same, appears to have been highly concentrated and equally precious. See note on Mark 14:3.

Verse 10

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Why trouble ye the woman? she hath wrought a good work upon me. — It was a work of LOVE, and therefore determined by our Lord to be a good work. The benevolence of our Lord’s character here also shines forth: he would not suffer this excellent woman to be troubled by the objections of his disciples, as tending to render it doubtful to her conscience whether she had done right or wrong; and he hastens therefore to give her the grateful assurance of his acceptance of her deed. But the WISDOM of his defence of her conduct is as conspicuous as its kindness. He defends it as a singular act performed in peculiar circumstances, but not so as to relax the obligation of the great duty of caring for the poor: for ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always, “These words,” as Whitby acutely remarks, “wholly destroy the doctrine of transubstantiation,” and the corporal presence of Christ in the sacrament; for, in that case, indeed, Christ would be always with them, and they might pay him marks of respect.

Verse 12

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

She did it for my burial. — Not intentionally on the part of Mary; but as the anointing was so profuse and costly, it might well appear to be a funeral rite, in which great expense was allowed by custom in the case of distinguished persons. “And they buried him in his own sepulchres, which he had made for himself in the city of David, and laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odours and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries’ art; and they made a very great burning” of odoriferous substances “for him,” 2 Chronicles 16:14. So, also, in the case of our Lord, “they returned, and prepared spices and ointments, and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment,” Luke 23:56. Our Lord’s death being so near, he speaks of it as already come: “Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this,” John 12:7; thus representing the act of Mary as the embalming of a deceased friend, and justifying its profusion by their own customs. So affectingly present and certain was his approaching death to his mind, and with such calm dignity and resignation did he advert to it, although as he knew the time so he knew all its circumstances of pain, ignominy, and desertion!

For my burial. — The word ενταφιαζειν includes all the rites and customs which usually preceded or attended the actual burial, as washing, anointing, embalming, &c. St. Mark has it, “She hath done what she could,” she hath in this act put forth the utmost strength of her affection; “she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.”

Verse 13

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

This Gospel. — By the Gospel our Lord doubtless means his doctrine or religion; and when he declares that the history of this particular event should be made known wherever that should be preached, a tacit intimation is given that a written record of his life, embracing this incident, should also accompany it; for the memory of this transaction could only thus be preserved. From this we may conclude that it was always in his intention that a body of sacred Scriptures should accompany the oral proclamation of his doctrine in every place; and that as the inspired writings were not designed to render preaching unnecessary, so the living ministry was never intended to exclude the inspired writings.

A memorial of her. — The meaning is, an honourable memorial. It brings to mind the amiable and devout character of Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his words with an attention which absorbed every other care; as one of a family specially honoured by our Saviour’s friendship, and who, in this instance, from the fulness of her grateful love, paid him special honour in acknowledgment of his dignity as the true Messiah, and for the spiritual benefits which she had received. Hers was in truth an “everlasting deed,” bound up in the immortality and unchanging endurance of the imperishable record in which it is commemorated, not for her sake only, but to show in how benign and condescending a manner our blessed Lord accepts every thing which is done from an affectionate regard to him as our Teacher and Redeemer, and to honour him in the presence of the world. The lovely picture of simple and elevated piety in Mary stands for ever in the record, for the imitation of all. Docility, attention, spirituality, and affection, are its characteristics.

Verse 14

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Then one of the twelve. — The adverb of time, τοτε , is of indefinite signification. Here it is not certainly to be understood as indicating that, immediately after the anointing of Jesus by Mary, the traitor departed upon his unholy errand: for we have seen that this account is introduced chiefly to afford a key to his character, and that it took place in fact some days before. The τοτε rather connects what follows with verse 3, where the chief priests, &c., are said to have assembled in the palace of Caiaphas, to consult how they might by stratagem put Christ to death. To this assembly, it would seem, Judas went, and made the offer of betraying his Master into their hands. That which rendered this overture acceptable to them was, that by his means they would be able to discover his retirement, and so apprehend him while the people remained ignorant of it. Hence St. Mark observes, “they were glad, and promised to give him money;” and St. Luke, “that he sought opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of the multitude.”

Verse 15

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

What will ye give me, &c. — Every thing here is in keeping with the character of Judas. Avarice was his leading passion; and he is anxious to make a good and secure bargain before he ventures upon his villany. What will ye give me? And however strange and inexplicable his conduct may at first sight appear, the fact of his being under the dominion of this absorbing passion will sufficiently account for it. His state was probably at first that of a sincere and teachable disciple; or it is difficult to conceive that our Lord would have called him into the number of his apostles. But his carrying the bag which contained the common stock of money for themselves and the poor, and which appears to have been replenished from time to time by the offerings of a few more opulent disciples, who ministered to our Lord of their substance, became, it is likely, the first cause of his fall. As he is called “a thief,” he probably began by applying part of this common stock to his own private use; and his natural avarice being thus awakened and fed, his heart became obdurate, his conscience, seared, and his judgment blinded. The very circumstance of our Lord’s declining to avail himself of so many favourable opportunities of declaring himself a king, and turning the tide of popular feeling in his favour, might also operate upon his earthly and disappointed mind, and lead him greatly to doubt or utterly to disbelieve that he was the Messiah he once believed him to be.

With all this there was the busy agency of Satan. “The unclean spirit had gone out” of this man; but finding “the house from which he had gone out swept and garnished” by this worldliness of temper, avarice of gain, and indulgence of a petty dishonesty, he again entered, and his “last state became worse than the first.” Of the truth of this parable the wretched Judas was an awful instance, and warns all against returning again to the dominion of any one guilty passion. “Then entered Satan into Judas, surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them,” Luke 22:3-4. Several conjectures, as to the motives by which Judas was influenced, have been indulged in by commentators; as, that he thought that Jesus would deliver himself by miracle, and so he should cheat the priests out of their money, and his Master sustain no injury; or that he might compel his Master, by putting him into the hands of his enemies, to show forth his power and declare himself a king. But the fair inference, from the account of the evangelists, is, that he entered upon an act of deliberate treachery toward Christ himself, under the influence of his own covetousness and the agency of Satan.

Thirty pieces of silver. — These were shekels, of the value of about four drachmas, or about two shillings and sixpence. The whole sum would therefore be about three pounds fifteen shillings. Some MSS. instead of αργυρια read στατηρας ; but the value of the shekel and the stater was the same. Thirty pieces of silver, or shekels, was the usual price of a slave.

Hence it was enacted, Exodus 21:32, “If an ox shall push a man servant or maid servant, he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver.”

But as so small a sum appears to have been too inconsiderable to induce Judas to this act and such as the chief priests would scarcely think of offering to accomplish an object they had so much at heart, some have thought the pieces of silver were the Talmudic mina, each of the value of three pounds, and more especially as it might seem that this sum was sufficient to buy the potter’s field. But the field, having been dug up for potteries, and exhausted, was probably of little value. The sum, however, actually paid, might be but an earnest of a larger reward, should he fulfil his engagement. This is the view of Rosenmuller and Michaelis; and it might be restricted to the thirty pieces of silver by an overruling Providence in order to fulfil a prophecy, which is quoted in the course of the history by the evangelist, and which will, in its proper place, be considered. See Matthew 27:9. The guilty bargain being concluded, from that time he sought ευκαιριαν , a favourable opportunity to betray him. Nor was he long in finding what he sought; for occasions of sin soon present themselves to those disposed to sin.

Verse 17

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

The first day of the feast of unleavened bread. — This was in the morning of the day, in the evening of which the passover was killed before the setting of the sun. The obligation to abstain from unleavened bread did not properly commence till the paschal supper; yet, for fear of offending the law, the Jews put away all leavened bread from their houses on the fourteenth day of the month Nisan, before the lamb was killed. This day appears, therefore, to have been popularly called the first day of unleavened bread. As the Jews began their day in the evening, the fifteenth day, when the paschal supper was eaten, commenced on the evening of the fourteenth, according to our mode of computing days. Lightfoot, on Jewish authorities, thus describes the manner of killing the paschal lambs: “The lambs are killed only in the temple, in the usual court of other sacrifices, on the fourteenth of the month Nisan, after noon, and after the daily sacrifice. The Israelites bring the lambs on their shoulders; the trumpets sound; the priests stand in order; the Israelites kill each a lamb; a priest receives the blood in a silver or golden phial, and gives the full phial to the next, who returns him an empty one. Thus the blood is handed to the altar, and sprinkled or poured out against the foot of it. The lamb is flayed, the fat burned on the altar, and the body carried back and eaten where they sup.” It is, however, doubtful whether the priests had this immense labour imposed upon them. Philo, in three places of his works, expressly says that “by the appointment of the law every Jew was permitted to kill his paschal lamb, and to be so far his own priest, though in no other instance. In this Philo and Josephus appear to be at issue, the latter assigning that office to the priests; and nothing can be clearly gathered from the law on the subject, Exodus 12:6; Exodus 12:8, and Deuteronomy 16:6, but that it was to be killed in the evening of the fourteenth day, and eaten that night, “in that place only where God should place his name;” that is, where the tabernacle was first placed, and then where the temple was erected.

A difference of opinion exists among commentators on the question whether our Lord actually ate this Jewish passover, or instituted the eucharist at a common supper; or anticipated the usual time of the passover by a day; or ate it at the same time as the rest of the Jews. Nothing theologically important depends upon the solution of these points, some of which are certainly attended with a little difficulty. It must, however, be fairly concluded, from the three first gospels, that he not only ate the paschal, and not a common supper, but that he did so at the same time in which it was eaten by, at least, the generality of the Jews. It is certain, from St. Matthew’s account, that the disciples made ready the passover previous to the evening on which he instituted his own supper. St. Mark characterizes “the first day of unleavened bread,” on which the disciples were commanded to prepare the passover, as the day “when THEY,” that is, the Jews, “killed the passover;” and St. Luke says, “then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed,” εν η εδει θυεσθαι το πασχα , Luke 22:7. All these three evangelists therefore agree,

1. That on this day, Thursday, the Jews killed the passover.

2. That the disciples of Christ, under his direction, prepared it for him; and,

3. That he supped upon it in the evening, saying, “With desire have I desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” The only difficulty, therefore, consists in reconciling this statement with John 18:28, where the Jews are said, early on Friday morning, to refuse to go into the judgment hall, “lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the passover;” and to John 19:14, where the noon of Friday is called “the preparation of the passover.”

To explain this, it has been said that it appears from the Talmud and rabbinical writings, that, in cases of doubt respecting the time of the appearance of the new moon, from which they commenced their monthly reckoning, the passover was permitted to be holden on both of the days between which the doubt lay; for the Jews did not regulate their months by astronomical calculations, but by the actual appearance of the new moon, which sometimes created disputes; and Dr. Cudworth quotes Epiphanius to show that there was a contention respecting the time of the passover this very year. It is therefore inferred that though a part, probably the greater part, of the Jews celebrated the passover on the same day as our Lord, yet others, as many of the scribes and Pharisees, did it on the day following. Against this solution there lie, however, several objections; as, that the senate sat in form to receive the report of witnesses who had seen the new moon, and that by their decision upon their testimony the feasts were regulated. Nor is there any indication in the gospels of any difference of opinion on the subject on the year in question; which negative evidence is probably stronger than the assertion of Epiphanius at so great a distance of time. Nor is the conjecture probable that, in our Lord’s days, on account of the immense numbers assembled at this feast, necessity compelled them to occupy two days. For the law is express as to the day on which the whole assembly were to perform this solemn rite. These obvious objections may not be fatal to the above solution of the difficulty; but they render it less satisfactory.

But the passages just referred to in St. John’s gospel are capable of another explanation, which seems fully to meet the case. On the day following the passover, and throughout all the days of unleavened bread, sacrifices of sheep and oxen were daily offered in abundance, and feasted upon. “Thou shalt sacrifice the passover unto the Lord thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose,” Deuteronomy 16:2. This passage not only shows that sacrifices from the flock and herd were offered at that season, but the whole ceremonial, including these offerings, is called THE PASSOVER, no doubt because of its immediate connection with what was properly such. In Numbers 28:18, &c., we find that for the day following the proper paschal feast particular offerings were prescribed, and this day and the seventh are particularly distinguished as days of “holy convocation;” and in the account of the celebration of the passover in the time of Josiah, 2 Chronicles 35:1-27, not only are the “lambs and kids” for the paschal sacrifice, but the “oxen” and other cattle for the offerings on the days of the feast, called “passover offerings.” When, therefore, St. John tells us that the Jews entered not into the judgment hall, “lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the passover,” he uses the term, as Dr. Campbell well observes, in the same latitude as Moses and the writer of the Chronicles; and “no more is meant by eating the passover than partaking in the sacrifices offered during the days of unleavened bread.” The other passage in this evangelist, when, speaking of the day of our Lord’s crucifixion, Friday, he remarks, “and it was the preparation of the passover,” ην δε παρασκευη του πασχα , Dr. Campbell renders, “Now it was the preparation of the paschal Sabbath;” and observes,” the word παρασκευη in the New Testament denotes always, in my opinion, the day before the Sabbath, and not the day which preceded any other festival, unless that festival fell on the Sabbath.” he gives his reasons at length; to which may be added that Nonnus, the Greek paraphrast of this gospel, seems to have understood the word παρασκευη in the same manner, and to have used a Greek copy which had not του πασχα in it.

He paraphrases the passage, the sixth day of the week, which they call πρασαββατον , the preparation of the Sabbath. The “preparation of the passover” it could not be; for although we should allow, contrary to Campbell’s opinion, that the day preceding any feast was called its preparation, then if Friday, the day of our Lord’s crucifixion, was the day of the passover properly so called, it could not be the preparation of the passover. Either, therefore, we must render the words, “the preparation of the paschal Sabbath,” with Campbell, or adopt a different reading with Nonnus. Thus the account of John is in perfect harmony with that of the other evangelists; and the conclusion of the whole is, that our Lord not only ate the paschal feast with his disciples, and that on the Thursday evening, the evening before his crucifixion; but also at the same time as the rest of the Jews, according to the obvious sense of the narrative in the three first gospels. Several commentators appear to have been misled on this point by an anxiety to make the death of Christ to correspond with the very time when the paschal lambs were slain, in order to show a more exact correspondence between the type and the antitype. But this is being “wise above what is written,” and shows an anxiety to establish a circumstance by no means important. It is enough for us to know that, during the feast of the Jewish passover, Christ our passover was sacrificed for us; and that by engrafting upon this commemorative feast that of his own commemorative supper, he has indubitably marked the typical relation between them.

Verse 18

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

To such a man. — Whether our Lord mentioned his name or not, does not appear; the means of finding him was, however, appointed. From the other evangelists we learn that the signal was to be their meeting a man with a pitcher of water, probably a servant; and, following him, they were to bespeak “a guest chamber” from the owner of the house into which he should enter; a proof to the disciples of their Lord’s perfect knowledge of future contingencies. The disciples had previously inquired, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover? for they might make use of any house where there was room, the inhabitants of Jerusalem affording their rooms gratuitously to all who applied at this festival; and the Jews say in praise of their ancient city, “A man could never say to his friend, I have not found a fire to roast the passover lamb in Jerusalem; nor, I have not found a bed to sleep on, in Jerusalem; nor, The place is too strait for me to lodge in, in Jerusalem.” The master of this house was probably favourable to our Lord, or the house was selected for privacy, for sometimes two companies ate their passover not only in the same house, but in the same room. Our Lord celebrated the passover at the head of his disciples, as his family; for though it was properly a family office to be performed by the natural head, yet when the family was small two or more were united, and in other cases individuals agreed to make up a passover company who stood in no natural relation to each other. In this case one presided, as though he had been master of the house.

My time is at hand. — Those who think that this expression indicates that our Lord ate the passover at a different time from the rest of the Jews, a time of his own appointing, forget that this is precisely the mystical phrase which he often used to intimate his death and passion. Neither his disciples nor the master of the house can be supposed to have at that time comprehended its import.

Verse 19

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

They made ready the passover. — They purchased one of the lambs which were on sale, and which had previously undergone the inspection of the priests, had it killed, and the blood sprinkled at the foot of the altar, brought it to the house, provided the bread, wine, bitter herbs, the sauce in which the herbs were dipped, and all other necessary things for the due celebration of the rite.

Verse 20

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

He sat down. — He reclined, ανεκειτο ; for the recumbent posture at meals, and even at the paschal supper, had long been introduced, although the Israelites were at first commanded to eat it standing, with staffs in their hands, as persons setting out on a journey. The rabbins justified, and indeed enjoined, this departure from the original institution on the ground that this recumbent posture was symbolical of that rest in the land of Canaan, to which the Israelites at first were but setting out, but which they had attained.

With the twelve. — Judas, having transacted his infamous bargain with the chief priests, had now returned and taken his place with the rest, little reflecting that he and all his secret negotiations were well under the eye of his omniscient Master.

Verse 21

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

One of you shall betray me. — That he said this in a very solemn and impressive manner, appears not only from the effect produced upon all except Judas, but from the words of St. John 13:21, “He was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.”

Verse 22

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

They were exceeding sorrowful. — Sorrowful that he should be betrayed; more so that the traitor, whoever he might be, should be one of themselves. Each, save Judas, appears to have been thrown back upon himself, searching himself whether he could be capable of so great a wickedness; and every one of them, Judas not excepted, but he hypocritically, began to say, Lord, is it I?

Verse 23

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish. — The custom of taking food by the hand out of the same dish is still practised in eastern countries where knives and forks are not in use. This was the case at common meals; but the paschal feast was not prepared to be eaten in this manner. It is true that there were several small dishes served up containing a peculiar kind of sauce, תרוסת , into which they dipped unleavened bread, and the bitter herbs used with the passover; and it was in one of these that our Lord dipped the sop he gave to Judas, by which act he pointed out the traitor to the other disciples; but this was done subsequently, and the text is to be understood generally to intimate that some one who familiarly ate with him should be his betrayer, which agrees with the words of St. Mark, “And he answered and said, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish.” Thus Judas was not yet particularly pointed out; but as we learn from St. John, Peter after this prompted the disciple “whom Jesus loved,” to ask, of whom he spoke; and when this disciple, who was St. John himself, and was “lying on Jesus’s breast,” that is, reclining on the same couch and next to him, said, “Lord, who is it?” Christ answered, and probably in an under voice, “He it is to whom I shall give a sop,” a portion of the unleavened bread, “when I shall have dipped it” in the sauce provided as usual for the paschal supper. It was after this, that Satan, whose influence had already been exercised upon Judas, — who now had added to all his former wickedness, that of playing the hypocrite on this occasion, by affecting to be sorrowful, as well as the rest of the disciples at the news of Christ being about to be betrayed, and had inquired like them, “Lord, is it I?” — more fully possessed that unhappy man, who had willingly surrendered himself to his power; and then, impelled by Satan through his own passions, Judas went out to perpetrate his villany, having probably first learned that Christ, after the supper, intended to retire to the mount of Olives; a favourable solitude for his apprehension.

Verse 24

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

The Son of man goeth as it is written of him, &c. — He goeth, υπαγει , that is, to death, he departs, a euphemism for dying; and that this is the sense here, appears from the reference made to the prophetic writings which speak of that event. It was predicted that he should die; and designed that he should die, but this did not excuse or palliate the acts of the instruments of his death. They followed freely their own will, and gratified their own malignity, and were therefore guilty of the most aggravated crime of religious persecution and murder which ever was or could be committed. Hence our Lord adds with respect to Judas, But wo unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed; for the foreknowledge of God cannot any more influence human actions as foreknowledge, than afterknowledge. To know, is one thing; to influence and compel, another.

St. Chrysostom therefore well observes that “Judas was not a traitor because God foresaw it; but God foresaw it, because Judas would be so.”

It had been good for that man if he had not been born: — It had been better for him, (the positive being used for the comparative,) never to have had an existence than to be doomed to eternal shame and punishment. This passage is conclusive against Judas’s repentance and forgiveness in this life, and equally cogent to prove the doctrine of the eternity of future punishment. For if all lapsed intelligences are to be restored to happiness, then Judas must be among the number; and if so, since, however long the punishment may be, it is but temporary, and the ultimate felicity eternal; it could not be said that it had been better for him not to have existed.

Verse 25

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Thou hast said. — Judas addresses Christ, not by the usual term, κυριε , Lord, but by the title of rabbi. Some think that he was thereby disposed to show our Saviour less respect than the other disciples: but, on the contrary, he feigned to show him greater; for κυριος , though capable of the highest sense as applied to God, was in general use as a term of ordinary civility to any superior, or even equal; and when used without intended and obvious inference, often answers to our SIR. But rabbi was exclusively used as a title of high reverence; and the application of it here to our Lord by Judas, was in perfect correspondence with the rest of his conduct at the supper, when he affected to disguise his designs by an apparent sorrow that he should think himself in any danger, by endeavouring to clear himself like the rest, and in this instance by giving our Lord a flattering title which he did not usually receive. — Christ’s reply, Thou hast said, is a Jewish form of assent or affirmation, equivalent to It is thou. This was probably said in a low voice, so that the rest did not distinctly hear it, like the answer of our Lord to John, when he pointed out the traitor; for as, when Judas went out as soon as he had received the sop, the other disciples thought, because he was thee purse-bearer, that he was gone to procure things necessary for the feast; this would have been a most improbable supposition, had the words been uttered in their hearing. For the same reason we may conclude that what our Lord said to John when, upon the suggestion of Peter, he asked who should betray him, was not only heard by the beloved disciple alone, but kept in his bosom, except that he might intimate it to Peter. — That after this Judas should remain and be present at the celebration of the eucharist, is highly improbable. From St. John we learn that, as soon as he had received the sop, which was during the eating of the passover, he went out; and though it has been supposed that he returned, because St. Luke introduces our Lord’s words, “Behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table,” after his account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper; yet, as that evangelist manifestly brings in several miscellaneous discourses which appear to have been uttered at different intervals during the paschal supper, it is probable that he recorded this observation of our Lord without intending to mark the precise time of the evening when it was delivered.

The mode of celebrating the passover, as given by Maimonides, may form a proper introduction to the institution of the Lord’s Supper, as mentioned in the following verses.

1. They mingled a cup of wine with water, and gave thanks.

2. They washed their hands.

3. The table was furnished with two cakes of unleavened bread, with bitter herbs, and with the paschal lamb roasted whole; all which were appointed by the law; also with other meats, as the remains of chagigah, or peace- offerings of the preceding day; and with a thick sauce made of dates, figs, raisins, vinegar, &c., mingled together, named charoseth, to represent the clay of which their ancestors made bricks in Egypt.

4. They ate first a small piece of the sallad of bitter herbs, and explained to the children the nature of the feast.

5. They took a second cup of wine, repeating Psalms cxiii and 114. These two Psalms were the first part of the hymn or hallel, which was composed of five Psalms, from Psalm cxiii to cxviii, inclusive.

6. Their hands were again washed, and the master proceeded to break and bless a cake of the unleavened bread, reserving a part of it under a napkin for the last morsel; for the rule was, to conclude with eating a small piece of the paschal lamb, or, after the fall of the temple, of unleavened bread.

7. The rest of the cake they ate with the charoseth or sauce and the bitter herbs.

8. Then the flesh of the peace-offerings, and the flesh of the paschal lamb were eaten; after which they again washed.

9. The third cup of wine, or cup of blessing, was filled, over which they gave thanks, and drank it.

10. Over the fourth cup of wine they completed the hallel or hymn of the five psalms, offered a prayer, and concluded.

Verse 26

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, &c. — Some commentators render εσθιοντων αυτων , when they had eaten; but Rosenmuller, more consistently with the sense, toward the end of the supper. The paschal lamb had been eaten, but the bread which was reserved to be eaten last remained, and either the third cup, or cup of blessing, or the fourth concluding cup, or both were probably yet to be drunk; for that the paschal supper was now finished in all its ceremonies is evident from the concluding prayer being offered and the concluding hymn sung by our Saviour, after he had instituted his own ordinance. It appears, then, that after every thing pertaining to the passover as it was prescribed in the law had been observed, namely, the flesh of the lamb eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, our Lord dispensed with the customary additions to the ceremony, on which the law was silent, and took that part of the remaining bread which was usually reserved to be the last mouthful, and the cup which was with the Jews the third cup, or cup of blessing, and with these elements he instituted his supper. Instead, also, of the usual prayer, he offered that which is recorded in John xvii, and then sung the hymn, or concluding part of the hallel, which consisted of Psalms 115:1-18; Psalms 116:1-19; Psalms 117:1-2; Psalms 118:1-29, inclusive; than which nothing could be more appropriate to the new ordinance, since they contain the strongest evangelical allusions. Previously, then, to the usual concluding ceremonies, Jesus took bread, τον αρτον , the bread, or CAKE, for in this form the bread of the Jews was made; and if there is any force in the article before αρτον , which is omitted in the parallel passages of St. Mark and Luke, but ought probably to have been retained, it points out the cake as that which had been reserved from the former part of the feast according to custom, but which was now to be employed to a higher purpose, as the emblem of the body of our Lord.

This bread was unleavened; which has given rise to a dispute whether the Lord’s Supper ought not still to be celebrated with unleavened bread. At an early age of the Church we find this regarded as an unimportant circumstance, and the Greek Church, and many of the reformed Churches use leavened bread without hesitation, while the Roman and Lutheran Churches make a point of using unleavened bread or wafers. As unleavened bread was the only kind at hand during the passover, and no allusion at all is made in the institution to it with respect to its quality as being without leaven, it is not probable that our Lord intended any importance to be attached to this circumstance. BREAD, considered as FOOD, appears to constitute the mystic emblem. Taking the bread, he blessed. Our translators have inserted IT; but this act of blessing was an act of thanksgiving to God, according to the practice of the Jews, who took no food or wine without first offering thanks to God. This was the office of him that presided at the feast. “He blesses,” say the rabbins, “and then he breaks.” — The rule also was, “If they sit at the meal, every one blesses for himself; but if they lie along,” which marked a more formal meal, “one blesses for them all.” To bless is to give thanks; hence St. Paul, when describing the institution of the supper of our Lord, instead of the term blessings, says, “when he had given thanks, he brake and said, Take, eat,” &c. Whether our Lord used the same words in blessing God before this distribution of the bread, or others suited to the occasion of a distinct institution, immediately following the eating of the passover, does not appear. The probability is, that he did; for, as the bread had been broken, and distributed during the proper paschal supper, and eaten with the flesh of the lamb according to the law, he had, as the Master of the feast, already used the usual Jewish form of blessing, both over the bread and the wine; and now probably varied it in accordance with the rite which he was about to substitute for ever for the Jewish passover.

And brake it. — The object of the verb is here properly supplied, but there was nothing in the act of breaking peculiar to the eucharist. This was the manner in which bread was distributed in their common meals when one presided; the cakes being thin and brittle, and knives not being in use, nor indeed convenient for the purpose. As to the breaking of bread at the passover, the Talmud gives it as the rule, “The master of the house breaks neither a small piece, lest he should seem to be sparing; nor a large piece bigger than an egg, lest any should appear to be famished.” Our Lord broke the bread, both when he fed the five thousand, and the four thousand; so that no mystery in the Lord’s Supper appears to have been hidden, as some suppose, under this action. The bread was broken simply for convenient distribution to every one; so that there appears not the least reason to assume that breaking of bread is at all essential to the right administration of the ordinance. However the portions may be separated from the cake or loaf, is obviously a matter of indifference. It is true that St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:23, &c., makes the words of Christ to be,” Take, eat; this is my body which is BROKEN for you,” which might seem to indicate that the broken bread was made an emblem of his wounded and torn body; but St. Paul’s words can be no more than equivalent to those of the first institution, which, according to St. Luke, were “my body which is GIVEN for you;” so that the circumstance of being broken is used not in any emblematical sense, but with reference to the giving of the body of Christ for every one, as bread is broken to be given to every one at the same table. If the breaking of the bread had been a symbolical circumstance, all notice of it would scarcely have been omitted by the three evangelists, who record the institution with so much particularity.

Take, eat; this is my body. Here the great and true mystery of this holy sacrament commences. The bread is distributed to every one; every one is to take; every one is to eat; and that which is thus taken and eaten, is the body of Christ; but the whole is emblematical. That the bread was not the real body of Christ, but only its emblem is proved equally to sense as to reason; for if it had been the body of Christ, or transubstantiated into his very body, then was the body of Christ eaten by the eleven apostles, while yet their Lord remained before them; and if the body of Christ was thus eaten by the disciples, what was it that Judas betrayed and delivered into the hands of the officers of the chief priests a few hours afterward? If the body of Christ had been disposed of by being eaten, that body could not have been taken into custody; and so Judas betrayed and Pilate crucified, not the body of our Lord, that is not our Lord himself, but a phantom; on the contrary, if the real body of Christ was betrayed and crucified, then it could not be eaten, except in emblem, at the first supper. Still farther, if the body of our Lord was not really and truly transubstantiated into the bread, and eaten at the first supper, as administered by Christ himself, as we see it could not be, then this transubstantiation could take place at no future time; for this is proved from the words of Christ, “This do in remembrance of me.” Do what? Eat bread and drink wine; but if this was all they did at the first supper, and all they were to do at every succeeding celebration, then they could not, as the advocates of the real presence contend, eat bread, but flesh; not drink wine, but blood; and that under the appearance of both.

So completely confuted is the monstrous fiction of transubstantiation, by the circumstances of the first supper; and with this convincing evidence of its utter and shocking absurdity, it is almost trifling to attempt to show critically that the words, This is my body, are equivalent to, This bread SIGNIFIES, or REPRESENTS, my body, which is given for you. For since these words cannot, by any possibility, mean that the bread was really the body of Christ, for the plain reasons before given the body of Christ could not be corporally given in the first supper to be eaten by the disciples: and if this is essential, as the papists pretend, to the true sacrament of the Lord’s supper, then was not the first supper a true sacrament; and if the priest has now the power, by what is called “consecration,” to transmute the bread and wine into the true body of our Lord, he pretends to do what our Lord himself did not, nor ever promised that his disciples should do; and so that which the believers in the real presence call the sacrament of the eucharist, is on their own principles something quite distinct from that instituted by our Lord; something, the origin of which cannot be traced to any institution of his, and on which the New Testament is not only silent, but to which it is opposed. Whatever meaning therefore may be attached to the phrase, This is my body, the meaning forced upon it by the transubstantialists cannot for a moment be entertained, being directly contradicted by the circumstances of the transaction itself. Nor less does this argument conclude against the doctrine of consubstantiation, or the real presence of the flesh and blood of our Lord WITH the elements of bread and wine in intimate union, though not changed into the same substance; which notion is represented under the comparison of the intimate, permeating presence of fire and red-hot iron, which is nevertheless not changed into the substance of the metal.

For no such diffusion of the body of Christ could take place at the first supper, or a part only of our Lord’s person was betrayed and crucified; and that defined and circumscribed body of our Saviour, which the disciples saw and conversed with was not his whole person; and it must follow among other absurdities, that the body of Christ was partly visible and partly invisible, partly defined, and partly indefinitely extended, with various consequences as revolting to reason and to the senses as those involved in the doctrine of transubstantiation itself. The words used by our Lord have, however, no real difficulty. Bishop Law has remarked that there is no term in the Hebrew language which expresses to signify or denote; and that the Greek here naturally takes the impress of the Hebrew or Syriac idiom, IT IS being used for IT SIGNIFIES. Hence the similar use of the substantive verb in various passages, “The three branches are three days,” Genesis 40:12. “The seven kine are seven years,” Genesis 40:26. “The ten horns are ten kings,” Daniel 7:24. “The field is the world,” Matthew 13:38. “The seven candlesticks are the seven Churches,” Revelation 1:20. But there is no need to resort to this form of speaking, as though it were peculiar to the Hebrew or Syriac of our Lord’s age. It is a natural mode of expression common to most languages, and occurs constantly in our own; for, in pointing to a portrait, for instance, instead of saying, “This REPRESENTS the person for whom it is taken,” we far more frequently use the shorter and more spirited form, “This IS the person himself.” Still farther, it is to be remarked that our Lord’s mode of speaking on this occasion was constantly used in the passover; for of this the Jewish writers afford sufficient evidence. The paschal lamb is, in many passages, produced by Buxtorf, called by them, “THE BODY of the passover;” and the master of the family said on breaking the bread, “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in Egypt,” by which he could only mean that the former REPRESENTED or was an EMBLEM of the latter.

But it is time to turn from this gross anti-Christian perversion of Christ’s holy ordinance to its noble and mystical import. Instead of this sacred rite being a carnal feeding upon the body of Christ, which in itself could have no connection with the sanctification of the heart and affections, it is a spiritual participation of the effect and benefits of his death, by which life and strength are given to the soul. Our Lord did not take the flesh of the paschal lamb, and make that an element of his own institution. That was all previously eaten according to the law, which He who came “to fulfil all righteousness,” was scrupulous to observe. Moreover, this might have appeared indicative that animal sacrifices were to be continued under the new dispensation; whereas his “offering of himself once for all,” abrogated them for ever. He therefore took the element of BREAD, which, by calling it his body, that is, the emblem or sign of his body, given for us, preserved as explicitly the essential idea of the sacrificial nature of his death, as if he had made the flesh of the paschal lamb the instituted sign. The connection of the emblem of bread with his “flesh,” that is, his sacrificial death, is strongly marked in John 6:51, &c.: “And the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world;” words which plainly signify that men live by the death which he was voluntarily to endure as an atonement for their sins, and as the meritorious means by which all the blessings included in “life” were to be procured for them.

As, therefore, the bread itself was an emblem of his body offered for our sins, so the taking and eating of the bread must be figurative in its import also, and denotes that reception of Christ’s sacrifice, by which its benefits are personally communicated; which, as we are taught, throughout the whole New Testament, is done by a true FAITH. Thus, therefore, to believe or trust in the sacrifice of Christ, is to “eat his flesh and drink his blood;” and from this results LIFE, which includes restoration to the Divine favour; the nourishment of the soul in spiritual vigour, — “He that eateth me, even he shall live by me,” John 6:57; and life or felicity in the world to come, — “He that eateth of this bread shall live for ever,” John 6:58. All these expressions show that it is the life of the soul of which our Lord speaks; which could not be affected by a carnal eating of the real body of our Lord; but which is communicated through that vital and renewing influence of God upon the heart which is procured for us by the meritorious death of our Saviour, effected by the agency of the Holy Spirit, and received by the instrumentality of trusting in Christ as the true and only sacrifice for sin: “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me shall live by me.” Of this vital influence the Father is the source; and it flows into man, through Christ, by the instrumentality of eating or believing on him. Of these spiritual acts, the eating of bread and the drinking of wine in the Lord’s Supper, are the established emblems; and he who truly receives those elements, discerning their intent, and exerting faith in the great object represented, which is Christ’s sacrifice for sin, not only thus publicly and statedly professes his acceptance of that sacrifice as the only ground of his hope of salvation, and his sole dependence upon it, but actually derives to himself its stupendous benefits.

Verse 27

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

And he took the cup. — The Jews, in celebrating the passover, took four cups of wine mixed with water, which the master divided among those who composed the passover company. St. Luke mentions one cup taken and given by our Lord to the disciples before this, which he used in instituting his own supper. The cup, whether it were the third or fourth usually partaken of by the Jews in celebrating the passover, contained the other element by which his sacrificial death was emblematically represented in this ordinance; and this, like the remaining portion of the unleavened bread, was applied by Christ to a higher purpose: for this cup was not, by the law of Moses, made essential to the observance of the passover; and it is therefore noted by St. Luke, that he took “the cup after supper.”

Drink ye all of it. — Since the cup was administered to ALL as well as the bread, the withholding of the cup from the laity by the priests of the papal Church, is a manifest corruption of this sacred rite, and destructive of the very nature of the ordinance itself. And if the cup ought to be withheld from the laity on the weak pretence that Christ made the apostles priests at this ordinance, and that it was to be confined to them, for the same reason the bread ought to be eaten by the priests only, and so this sacrament be confined to priests only, and the laity be excluded from all participation of either kind. The Romanists do not, however, err in mixing the sacramental wine with water, which was the custom at the passover. This was practised by the early Christians. The Jews used only red wine at their passover; which is to be preferred also for the Christian ordinances.

Verse 28

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

For this is my blood of the New Testament. — As the bread was the emblem of the body of Christ given to death for us, so the wine was the emblem of the blood, of Christ shed for us. He was not to die a natural death, which might have been without shedding of blood, but a violent death; which marks its sacrificial character, for, like the ancient sacrifices, he was to be PUT TO DEATH, and his blood, like theirs, poured out before the Lord as an oblation. His blood is therefore called the blood of the New Testament, της καινης διαθηκης , of the NEW COVENANT, for so ought the word to be rendered; (see preface;) in which allusion is made, not to those heathen rites which some commentators have adduced to illustrate the passage; but to that solemn transaction in which Moses, having taken “the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people,” took also “the blood, and sprinkled it upon the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you,” Exodus 24:7-8. This “book” contained the covenant made between God and the Church and nation of the Israelites. It was the record of the promises made on the part of God, and the engagements of obedience to his revealed will on the part of the people of Israel; thus it was a covenant or solemn engagement between both; and as covenants were anciently ratified by sacrifices, so here the blood of the victims was sprinkled upon the book, to denote at once that its covenanted blessings were procured by that blood of the true sacrifice of which the ancient sacrifices were the type, and as confirming the continued performance of the whole to the people upon their continued observance of the conditions.

We see then the import of our Lord’s words in this allusion. He calls the dispensation of his religion the NEW covenant, in opposition to this old covenant, which was in its nature introductory and temporary; and in reference also to the prediction in Jeremiah 31:31: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a NEW COVENANT with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.” This dispensation has the nature of a covenant, because it contains the “great and precious” promises on the part of God, the forgiveness of sins, the renewal of the heart in holiness, and the all-comprehensive engagement, “And I will be their God, and they shall be my people,” an engagement which includes not only all blessings which “pertain to life and godliness,” but, as we learn from our Lord’s discourse with the Sadducees, the resurrection of the body and the felicity of an endless future life. See note on Matthew 22:32. All this is promised by God; and on the part of man are required “repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,” by the merit of whose death alone we can claim these blessings and in sole respect to which, as a satisfaction to Divine justice, God places himself in the bond of this covenant to bestow them.

This covenant, the blood of Christ, that is, the pouring forth of his blood as a sacrificial victim, at once procured and ratified; so that it stands firm to all truly penitent and contrite spirits who believe in him: and of this great truth, the Lord’s Supper was the instituted sign and seal; and he who in faith drinks of the cup, having reference to its signification, that blood of Christ which confirms to true believers the whole covenant of grace, is assured thereby of its faithfulness and permanence, and derives to himself the fulness of its blessings. To this there is no exception; for the new covenant, unlike the old, is universal; and hence our Lord adds to the words, “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed εκχυνομενον , poured out, περι πολλων , for MANY,” that is, for all mankind, according to the undoubted use of the word by St. Paul in Romans 5:15, &c., — for, εις , in order to the remission of sins, and of necessity all the penal consequences of human transgression in a future life.

Such then is the nature and import of this great institution. It is COMMEMORATIVE: “This do,” is added by St. Luke, and by St. Paul, “in remembrance of me;” and as a commemorative institution, observed from the time of its appointment by all Christians, it is an irrefragable demonstration of the grand historical fact of our Lord’s death and passion. It is EMBLEMATICAL, setting forth the sacrificial nature of the death of Christ; the benefits which accrue from it: and the means by which those benefits are received. It is FEDERAL. In its first institution the perfected covenant of grace with true believers was proposed, accepted, and ratified; and in every succeeding celebration, as there is a renewed assurance of God’s love to us in Christ, so there is a renewed acceptance of the covenant on the part of all spiritual recipients, with its blessings on the one hand, and its obligations to love and obedience on the other. And, finally, it is a public CONFESSION of our faith in Christ, in all those views and relations in which he is represented to us in his own doctrine; and of our COMMUNION with him, and with his universal CHURCH. As to the names by which it is distinguished, they have all their significance. Though not properly a supper, because separate and distinct from the paschal supper, which was a sacred meal or feast, and because it was instituted after the “supper was ended,” it is called THE LORD’S SUPPER, because it was manifestly appointed by our Lord to supersede the supper of the passover, and enjoined as a commemoration of a greater redemption than that of the Israelites from Egypt, upon Christians to the end of time: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come,” 1 Corinthians 11:26. — It is called the EUCHARIST, from ευχαριστειν , “to give thanks,” because of the joyful thanksgivings to God with which its celebration by the followers of Christ has always been accompanied. By the Greek fathers it is often called a MYSTERY, from its emblematical character, and the truths which lay hidden under its visible elements. In the western Church, it is more usually described as THE SACRAMENT of the Lord’s Supper, from sacramentum, which signified a sacred ceremony; and particularly the Roman military oath, which was considered as a very solemn, religious act, this term being adopted to indicate that pledging of ourselves to fidelity to Christ which enters into the due celebration of this ordinance. Occasionally it is called THE COMMUNION, from that fellowship of the saints with each other which this participation of mystic food, at the same common table of the Lord, so beautifully exhibits.

Verse 29

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, &c. — The opinions of both ancient and modern commentators, on this passage, are very various. Some take the words to mean that he would not henceforth eat or drink with the disciples until after his resurrection; others, that he intended to announce the substitution of the eucharist, in which he would participate with them in a spiritual manner, for the Jewish passover; others, that he intended to intimate his speedy departure, which would prevent him from partaking in any future solemnity, until he and his disciples should celebrate the heavenly feast together; figures from earthly entertainments being used to express the joys of heaven. In determining the sense, it is, however, necessary to ascertain the time when these words were spoken. St. Luke gives these as words of Christ, spoken during the paschal supper, after he had taken one of the cups of wine, probably the first or second cup which was used during that ceremony, and PREVIOUSLY therefore to his instituting the eucharist; and there are two reasons which make it probable that St. Luke has, in this instance, more closely followed the order of time than St. Matthew. — The first is, that the wine of which our Lord had been partaking, must have been that of the paschal supper, and not of the eucharist, because of the latter he could not be a participant. This was to be done in REMEMBRANCE of him, and therefore done by others, not by himself; or, if considered as a FEDERAL rite, he was not a PARTY to the covenant, but the Mediator coming in between the parties, and could not perform every act which was proper either to the stipulating or to the assenting party. These considerations appear conclusive against our Lord either eating of the bread or drinking of the wine of the eucharist.

The second reason in favour of St. Luke’s order is, that that evangelist has stated this part of the conversation of our Lord with greater particularity than St. Matthew; and as his attention was more fully directed to it, it is the more probable that he has assigned it its proper place in the narrative. His words are: “And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. — And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: for I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.” These words appear to be the same as those recorded by St. Matthew, though with the addition, until that day when I shall drink it new with you, and with the variation of, “in my Father’s kingdom,” for “until the kingdom of God shall come;” the sense of which is the same, and not otherwise varied than as translations into Greek by two different persons from the language in which our Saviour spoke, which was the common language of the country. — But if a similar observation was not made twice during the transactions of the evening then the words in question are clearly, by St. Luke, referred to the celebration of the passover itself, and not to the eucharist. In this case, the meaning of our Lord’s words is sufficiently obvious. The passover commemorates the redemption from Egypt; but that was a type of the Christian redemption, the completion of which is in the heavenly state. Our Lord therefore declared that he would no more eat of the passover, “until it was fulfilled,” accomplished, “in the kingdom of God;” that is, the type should no more be celebrated; but he and his disciples would meet in a state of future felicity, and they with him would celebrate the full and perfected redemption of the Church glorified. — In like manner we are to understand his remark as to the wine: he would not drink of the fruit of the vine, until “the kingdom of God should come;” or as it is expressed by St. Matthew, until he drank it new with them in the kingdom of his Father.

This is a mode of expression not uncommon among the Jews, who spoke figuratively of “the wine of the world to come,” as also of “sitting down at a feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” making use of the festivals of earth to represent the felicities of heaven. It is thus that our Lord makes use of earthly things to prefigure heavenly, and raises the thoughts of his disciples to the joy of meeting him in the world to come. — In this view the words of St. Matthew have also an easy interpretation: Until I drink it with you in my Father’s kingdom; where NEW wine is to be taken in the same sense as “new heavens,” “new earth,” “new man,” &c, to denote wine of a different nature, spiritual refreshment, and spiritual joy, in which both the Saviour, who will then “see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied,” and the disciples were to participate for ever.

This is one method of interpreting the text; but there is another, which, without supposing what is wholly incredible, that our Lord partook of the elements of bread and wine as instituted in his supper, will allow that both St. Luke and St. Matthew are equally exact as to the order of time in which the occurrences at the last supper are stated. The words of St. Matthew agree in sense with those of St. Luke; but, as stated above, there is an addition to them, which makes it probable that St. Luke omits what St. Matthew has recorded, and St. Matthew what is related by St. Luke. In this case we must suppose that the remark of our Lord, as stated by St. Matthew, that he would not “drink henceforth of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom,” was made not only during the paschal supper, as recorded by St. Luke, but also after he had delivered the eucharistic cup. Still, if this be allowed, all the difficulty which the common notion involves, that our Lord partook of the eucharist with his disciples, may be easily avoided. For although we should allow that he ate of the bread and drank of the wine with which he instituted the peculiar and distinct ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, neither the bread nor the wine became the elements of that institution, until they had passed from him to the disciples with his own declaration of THE INTENT and significancy with which he delivered them to the disciples, and with which they were to receive them. As part of the paschal solemnities he ate the bread, and drank “the cup of blessing;” but before he distributed the bread, and “divided” the cup among his disciples, he gave them a NEW AND PECULIAR SIGNIFICANCY, under which not he himself, but his disciples only received them. Without, therefore, involving the notion that he either ate the bread or drank the wine sacramentally, he might repeat his former observation, that he would no more drink of this fruit of the vine, until he drank it new with them in a higher and figurative manner in the kingdom of his Father; that is, that after THAT EVENING he would no more be associated with them, either in commemorating the Jewish passover, or in administering his own; but that the fruit and effect of his great redemption should be enjoyed mutually by them, when the purposes of his mediatorial office should be accomplished, and the glorious fruits of his undertaking should be enjoyed in the kingdom of “the Father,” where “God shall be all in all.” Of the two interpretations I have suggested, the latter is probably the most satisfactory.

This fruit of the vine. — Γεννημα τουαμπελον is a periphrasis for wine, and is the mode of expression used in the form of giving thanks upon taking the passover cup; for then the master of the house said, “Blessed be he that created the fruit of the vine.”

Verse 30

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Sang a hymn. — The paschal psalms were from the hundred and thirteenth to the hundred and eighteenth inclusive, and were called the great Hallel; of which the Jews themselves remark, that they allude to the sorrows of the Messiah, and the resurrection from the dead. This Hallel, or song of praise, was not sung all at once, but in parts, the last of which was sung at the close of the passover.

Verse 31

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Then saith Jesus unto them, &c. — The time was probably as they were proceeding to the mount of Olives. The term offended here, as in several other places, signifies, to be so discouraged and affrighted by the sufferings to which men would be exposed for Christ’s sake, as to forsake him, as men do a rough and dangerous path. When they saw their Master arrested, they feared the consequences as to themselves, and for the time forsook him.

For it is written, I will smite, &c. — Although this quotation is not introduced with the more lengthened formula, “that it might or may be fulfilled,” the particle γαρ sufficiently shows that our Lord represented the scattering of his disciples, like a flock of timid sheep, to be the proper accomplishment of the prophecy to which he refers, and not, as so many understand it, as warranting the application of an apt proverbial expression. The passage referred to, and in fact quoted, is Zechariah 13:7: “Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.”

The section of prophecy in which this passage stands has a reference both to nearer and more distant, and manifestly evangelical, events; and, like all other prophecies of this class, it contains passages, the peculiar phrase of which shows that they can only be applied to our Lord himself. In the former part of the text quoted by our Lord, he against whom the sword of God is summoned to awake, is called my shepherd; which indeed might apply to any ruler raised up by him to rule his people the Jews; but when this shepherd is called “THE FELLOW” of the Lord of hosts, no one can be intended but Him who was “equal” with God, and yet by becoming man, and a substitute for guilty men, he voluntarily exposed himself to the sword of the rectoral justice of God, to make atonement for the sins of the world. With the smiting of the shepherd, the prophet connects the scattering of the sheep; and the event both in time and manner signally answers to the prophecy: when our Lord was apprehended, all the disciples “forsook him and fled.” But why, it may be asked, should this apparently minor circumstance have been noticed, since no great blame appears to have been attached to them simply for this act, and had they remained with Christ they could have afforded him no assistance, nor indeed did he need any power save his own, had he chosen to exert it? The reason probably was, not only to record an instructive incident, but to direct attention to the whole of an illustrious prophecy, which not only predicts the sufferings of Messiah, and the desertion of his immediate followers, but inscribes in the strongest character the doctrine of his Divinity, — THE MAN, THE FELLOW OF JEHOVAH, and by consequence the vicarious nature of his sufferings; for to such a being suffering must have been voluntary, and endured for others; and though inflicted by men in the exercise of their free agency, yet thereby accomplishing the counsel of God: the sword was the Lord’s; the hand that wielded it, as far as the sufferings were external, the hand of man.

Verse 32

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

But after I am risen again, &c. — So plainly did our Lord speak of his resurrection; and yet so little did they comprehend his meaning, as to be quite unprepared for that event when it actually occurred. Either through the agitation of their minds at this season, they paid little attention to these words, or they understood him as speaking figuratively of delivering himself out of the hands of his enemies. I will go before you into Galilee; where he chose to give them the most signal proofs of the truth of his resurrection, as he had made that country the scene of his most constant labours. It is unnecessary to lay any stress upon προαξω υμας , I will go before you, as though, the pastoral metaphor in the preceding verse were here continued. The words appear to mean simply, “I will PRECEDE YOU again into Galilee, and meet you there.”

Verse 33

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Peter answered and said, &c. — He said this in great sincerity: the genuineness of Peter’s attachment to his Master, and the fulness of his conviction that he was the true Messiah, were equally undoubted. But he knew not himself fully, nor the power of strong temptation upon over confident and unwatchful minds. Judas’s sin was deliberate, Peter’s a sin of surprise; Judas’s the result of an habitual state of heart, Peter’s was an act contrary to his habitual feelings and principles. Judas’s fall produced nothing upon reflection but despair and horror, all gracious feelings having been extinguished by avarice; but Peter’s fall awoke the sorrows of a generous and affectionate nature, which, but in this sad instance of the effect of sudden fear, had never wavered in its clear and simple devotedness to his beloved Master. No characters could be more unlike; as contrary to each other, indeed, as their respective ends.

Verses 34-35

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice, &c. — St. Mark says, “before the cock crow twice;” St. Luke and St. John, “the cock shall not crow,” &c. Cock-crowing was used to express two periods, midnight and the third watch, or about three in the morning; and the second being more noticeable: than the first, was often so called by way of eminence, and is usually the time meant by αλεκτοροφονια , or cock- crowing. St. Mark refers to this as the second crowing of the cock, and therefore says, “Before the cock crow TWICE.” The other evangelists, referring only to that which was popularly observed and spoken of as the cock-crowing, take no notice of the former period, and speak as if the latter were the only time of cockcrow; and thus the apparent discrepancy is reconciled. The Talmud says that “cocks were not kept in Jerusalem, because of the holy things.” But if this be not a superstitious invention of later times, and the Jews in our Lord’s time were equally averse to keeping this species of fowl within the walls, there was a sufficient number of Romans and other Gentiles resident there who had no such scruple; and the learned labours of Reland and Schoettgen, to prove that a cock might crow outside the walls, and yet be heard by Peter, might have been spared. How accurately were these words of our Saviour accomplished! After Peter’s third denial, “the cock crew the second time.” Then, indeed, Peter remembered the words of the Lord, which unhappily, for the time, made no impression upon him, though so solemnly delivered. So resolutely proof against the cautions of wisdom is the self-confiding spirit. Peter, instead of being warned, reiterates his professions, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee; and whereas before he spoke in his own name, now he speaks as the mouth of the rest, — likewise also said all the disciples, who yet were stricken with the same cowardice, though they did not so formally, and with imprecations like him, deny their Lord.

Verse 36

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

A place called Gethsemane. — Some take this to have been the name of a village at the foot of the mount of Olives; and so χωριον is rendered in the Ethiopic, Arabic, and Vulgate Latin versions: but if Gethsemane were a village, the particular place into which our Lord entered was a GARDEN belonging to it; for so it is described by St. John. As no gardens were allowed within the walls of Jerusalem, they abounded in the suburbs. Gethsemane signifies the place of oil presses, and was probably so called from the presses there used to obtain the oil from the olives, which give its name to this celebrated mountain and district. In one part of this secluded garden he commanded all the disciples to sit down, while he went to pray at a distance, no doubt in some part of the garden still more retired, and less liable to intrusion. It was a place, however, known to Judas; for, as we learn from St. John, “Jesus oft resorted thither with his disciples,” no doubt for confidential instruction, and devotional exercises. Whole nights, as we gather from different parts of the history, had been spent there by our Lord; but no such night as that which now overshadowed him.

Verse 37

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Began to be sorrowful and very heavy, &c. — In this deeply solemn and affecting account of our blessed Lord’s agony, several particulars call for our attention, on which all may profitably meditate, without, as too many have done, pressing too boldly upon this mysterious scene. For it is not without instructive meaning to us, that the body of the disciples were kept at a distance, and even the favoured three who accompanied our Lord were oppressed with sleep, and witnessed not all the particulars which were afterward very generally and briefly revealed, in order to their being recorded. Imagination may indeed be busy here; but imagination must be reined in by humility and sobriety, for we are at a distance while our Lord prays and agonizes “yonder;” and as a veil is thrown over all but the prominent passages of this wondrous scene, human imagination has no light to dispel the darkness, and probably always perverts where she pretends to discover. We may, however, notice,

1. The terms employed to express our Lord’s mental sufferings, which have been so justly called his agony. He began to be sorrowful, and very heavy, λυπεισθαι και αδημονειν , to be pierced with sorrow and filled with anguish. St. Mark uses another term, amazed, εκθαμβεισθαι , to be so overwhelmed with anguish as to absorb the faculties, or, to use the expressive phrase of the Old Testament, to drink up the spirit. In the next verse our Lord uses the term περιλυπος , where the intensive force of the preposition is well expressed by our translators by exceeding sorrowful; and yet it is added, in awful accumulation of the emphasis, εως θανατου , even unto death, expressive of an overwhelming anguish, threatening the instant and violent extinction of life itself.

2. The circumstance added by St. Luke, still more strongly than the language employed, powerfully emphatic as it is, marks the intenseness of Christ’s inward struggle. In the human nature he derived strength from the ministry of an angel; and then, “being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly,” as though the strength thus imparted was but renewed strength to suffer, and “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Even if we adopt the opinion, that a mere comparison of the profuse and heavy sweat to clots of blood was intended, this itself, considering that there was no bodily exertion to produce it, and that the time was night, when the heat of the day had passed, could not have been produced but by the strongest conflict and commotion of spirit. But unless more was intended, it is difficult to conceive why clotted blood should have been fixed upon as an illustration of the rolling down of great drops of sweat. It is certainly unusual, and to any one who attempts to compare the one with the other, will appear inapt.

It is not, however, necessary to suppose that this sweat was altogether a profusion of blood, which is the error some have fallen into on the other side. And though some heathen writers have been quoted by the critics who mention bloody sweats, and a modern instance or two of this, as the effect of the strong emotion of fear, has been given, all that can fairly be understood by these accounts is, that by a rupture of some of the finer blood vessels in some parts of the body, the sweat became tinged, and, to a certain extent, bloody. This is probably what Galen means in the passage quoted by Dr. Mead: “Contingere interdum, poros ex multo aut fervido spiritu usque adeo dilatari, ut etiam exeat sanguis per eos, FIATQUE SUDOR SANGUINEUS.” Thuanus, too, in his History, having mentioned an Italian gentleman thrown into great horror of a public execution, says: “Observatum, tam indignæ mortis vehementi metu adeo concussum animo eum fuisse, ut SANGUINEUM SUDOREM toto corpore fundaret.” But whatever may be thought of these extraordinary cases, in the instance of our Lord, the most natural inference from the words of the evangelist is, that his profuse and heavy perspiration was thus tinged with blood which had burst from the smaller vessels, so that “his sweat was ωσει , like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” So that not only was the perspiration, but blood also, forced out by the conflict within.

3. The weight of that load of sorrow, laid upon our Lord in his agony, is farther indicated to us from the circumstance of his praying so earnestly that, if it were possible, that cup might pass from him. Grotius and others, who take the cup to be a figurative expression for death, understand our Lord as praying, if it were possible, to be excused from going through his undertaking, and suffering the penalty of death, This notion, however, contradicts the whole character of Christ, who not only knew that it was not possible for the world to be redeemed in any other way than by his dying for its sin, but throughout exhibited a calm and unmoved courage in anticipation of that event, which came not upon him unexpectedly, but was ever present to his mind, as appears from the many declarations respecting it which he had made during his ministry. In the language of the Old Testament, the portion of men, both of good and evil, is called their cup; and the administration of the Divine judgments is frequently expressed under the same figure. Hence we read, “the cup of trembling,” “the cup of the Lord’s fury;” and a mixed or empoisoned cup is represented as in the Lord’s hand, which his enemies should be obliged to drink. The cup here spoken of by our Lord was his present bitter anguish and unspeakable sufferings. This is plain from comparing the accounts of the evangelists.

St. Matthew says, THIS cup, that which he was then drinking; nor does he pray that the cup of death might not be administered; but, Let this cup, then put into his hands, pass, παρελθετω , from me. St. Mark expresses the same thing without a figure: “he prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him,” clearly meaning that the duration of his sufferings might be shortened. And St. Luke, still uttering precisely the same idea in somewhat varied phrase, states the prayer of Jesus to be, “If thou be willing, REMOVE this cup from me.” Mightily as he had been strengthened to suffer, he was sinking under a deadly anguish, and prayed that, “if it were possible,” if it were consistent with the Divine purpose, if it could be done without impairing the efficacy of his atonement and vicarious undertaking, that bitter cup, that cup of trembling and horror, might pass away from him; yet with entire, submission, leaving it to his Father to judge of the fitness of the request, and the measure of suffering which his justice was to exact from one who was now in the room and place of a guilty world, bearing their transgressions; and who, by that substitution of himself in their place, had given up all right to decide this question for himself. And it was possible, not for the cup to be withheld from him, but for that cup, after he had drunk so largely of its bitterness, to pass away from him. This we know from the fact: he was relieved from his agony, and rejoined his disciples in a state of composure which itself, from its suddenness, indicated a supernatural interposition: and we know it also from the words of St. Paul, “Who, in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared,” Hebrews 5:7.

Such are the declarations and circumstances which mark the PECULIAR and UNPARALLELED mental sufferings of our Lord in his agony. On the causes of those sufferings many superficial and even misleading conjectures have been offered by commentators both ancient and modern, often influenced by false or by imperfect views of the true nature of the passion and death of Christ. His sorrows on this occasion have been referred to a natural horror of death; to the sense he had of the ingratitude of the Jews; to his foresight of the ignominy with which he was about to be treated; to his sympathy with his country, whose terrible calamities he had foretold; to a sense of the evil of sin, to a conflict with the powers of darkness, and other causes equally inadequate to account for the fact; for mysterious as it is, it is plain that the true cause lay deeper than any of these, or all of them collectively, although they might contribute somewhat to increase the pressure of the load. The true key to the case is in the fact that this sorrow and anguish of our Lord was purely MENTAL, except as his body might be consequentially affected by them: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful,” &c. That he did not inflict them upon himself is certain; that he was not yet delivered into the hands of men to injure him is equally certain; and the conclusion must therefore inevitably be, that they were inflicted by his heavenly Father.

Now of this agency of God is the passion of Christ, as well as the subsequent agency of men, both types and prophecies are full; and of the latter none need be referred to in proof but the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, where it is not only said that “he was despised and rejected of MEN;” but that “it pleased THE LORD to bruise him; HE hath put him to grief.” Now though it be granted that sometimes the Lord is said to do what he permits to be done by others, this can scarcely apply to a prophecy where the different agents are kept so distinct; and the fact that Christ did endure an agony of suffering quite independent of men, and which in the history itself is expressly referred to the agency of God, as the cup given him by his Father to drink, and which his Father only could make to pass from him, confirms this as the sense of the prophecy. Now, whether we can understand in any degree or not, how the Father “BRUISED him” and “put him to GRIEF;” that he did so is both the subject of the prophecy and the declaration of the history. We cannot indeed comprehend what was meant by the Father forsaking him upon the cross; but we see there a poignant suffering as the result of this, quite distinct from his bodily tortures. In like manner we are unable to form any adequate conception of the manner in which the sufferings in the garden were inflicted upon the “soul” of Christ; yet they resulted either from denying to the human soul of Christ that which had upheld and felicitated it, or the production of a positive misery by supernatural intercourse and influence. In one word, he had put himself in the place of sinners; and as to the penalty of sin, though not as to aversion to his person, he was treated for the time as a sinner.

In their penal consequence our sins were laid upon him: “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” the griefs and sorrows which we must otherwise have borne and carried ourselves: and as the penalty of sin is not only inflicted upon the body but upon the soul; as that is made to feel an insupportable load of anguish when God arises to judgment, and is overwhelmed with fear, because of the terrors of the Lord; so our Lord drank of this cup of the most poignant bitterness, and took it out of the hands of offended justice, that it might never be placed in ours. That, according to the theory of some, he endured the same measure of punishment in a degree equal to that which would have been extended through all eternity to the elect had they been lost, is not only an unnecessary hypothesis, because it affords no explication of the doctrine of the atonement, but is obviously impossible. The merit of the sufferings of Christ is not to be estimated by the quantum endured, but by the dignity and glory of the sufferer; and yet there was to be suffering, so severe, so marked, in words so unutterable, that, in this method of accepting an atonement for human transgression, there should be an awful DEMONSTRATION of the rectoral justice of God, his infinite hatred of sin, and his respect for the honour and authority of his laws. Here our Saviour was made not only to bear the burden of our offences in their penal results but to faint and sink under it, so as to need a special interposition on the part of God to relieve him for a time from it, that he might fulfil the measure hereafter, and pay “the rigid satisfaction, death for death.”

Nor is it any objection to this view that our Lord never ceased to be the beloved of the Father. Personally, he always remained the beloved Son; so, and the more so, because of this very act of substituting himself in the place of the guilty, from his infinite love to us: but as taking our place, and offering in his own person the redemption price, he was treated accordingly; “it was exacted, and he was made answerable;” and this good pleasure of the Father remained perfectly consonant with his severity. So these two ideas, irreconcilable to some, are exhibited in union by Isaiah: “YET it PLEASED the Lord to bruise HIM:” that is, notwithstanding the perfect excellence and moral loveliness of his character, as stated in the preceding verses. On this subject it may finally be added that Christ’s agony can no otherwise be accounted for than on the principle that he not only suffered for our benefit, but vicariously in our room and stead. The derogating doctrine of those who deny his Divinity and atonement can furnish no explication of the fact which does not detract from that character of the highest virtue which they are nevertheless anxious to ascribe to him. Were he only a great and virtuous man, how, upon the supposition that his agony was occasioned by the fear of death, can we account for his approaching death with less courage not only than many of his persecuted followers, who endured it in forms as terrible, as far as corporal tortures go; but also than many heathens? how was it that, unlike other excellent men under persecution, he brought no comfort to his spirit from reflecting upon his integrity and uprightness? and how that prayer to him was not the instrument of a cheerful sustaining intercourse with his heavenly Father; but in the garden an earnest passionate pleading for mere mitigation of suffering, and upon the cross a vehement complaint that God had forsaken him? The Christian doctrine, that he died the just for the unjust to bring us to God, explains all these otherwise inscrutable particulars, and shows that they all stand in exact harmony with the purpose of God, and his own voluntary surrender to be a sacrifice for the sins of others; but, upon any other theory, they remain without a reason, and draw a veil over the character of Christ in his last passion which nothing can withdraw.

Verse 38

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

And, watch with me. — In the duty of watching he included prayer, as appears from verse 41. If prayer was necessary to the Master much more to the disciples, who were to have their hour of temptation and danger.

Verse 39

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

And he went a little farther. — Leaving them behind to engage in the devotions proper to their condition. St. Luke marks the distance: “And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast.”

And fell on his face. — The humblest and most earnest posture of supplication; and an action probably produced by the oppressive load upon his spirit, which prostrated him to the earth.

If it be possible, &c. — See the note on verse 37. In the parallel passage of St. Mark we read, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee;” but in this there is nothing inconsistent: God is the object of prayer, because all things are possible to him, as the, schoolmen say, per se; but we are taught to put this limitation upon our prayers, and to add, if it be possible, that is, not inconsistent with the Divine wisdom or other attributes of his nature or purposes of his holy and perfect will. We may therefore consistently say that things may be at once possible with God and impossible; possible, physically, because he can do all things; impossible, morally, because he cannot do that which is not wise and right. Of the latter possibility, in many cases, we are imperfect judges, and must therefore pray conditionally. With our Lord the case was, in this respect, different: he indeed knew all things, yet now being in the place of the sinner, he would not be the judge in his own cause, (see the note just referred to,) but honoured the justice of the Father by leaving it to that strict attribute to exact all that was necessary for the manifestation of its own purity, while at the same time he appealed to the Divine compassion. He therefore adds, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt;” yielding himself with absolute submission to the Divine appointment, and affording us in a state of suffering, as in all other circumstances, a perfect example, that we, in our measure, and by the aids of his powerful grace, should “tread in his steps.”

Verses 40-41

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

And saith unto Peter, &c. — Peter is here singled out from the others, and specially cautioned, as having been foremost to profess his zeal, and about to be specially proved by the temptation which awaited him. When our Lord says, Watch and pray that ye enter not, μη εισελθητε , into temptation, he means not that they might be preserved from circumstances of trial and danger, but that they might not fall under their power. So St. Paul uses the phrase, “fall into temptation,” 1 Timothy 6:9, for being overcome by it. When our Lord adds, The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak, he has been generally thought to make a kind apology for the drowsiness of his disciples; but the remark has by some been considered as a motive to the duty, implying that a willing spirit ought to remember the clogs and hinderances which the frailty of flesh hangs upon it, and exert itself the more vigorously to prevent its being brought into bondage to its influence. When, however, it is recollected, as stated by St. Luke, that their great drowsiness was heightened by their sympathizing emotions occasioned by their Master’s distress, — for he says, “he found them sleeping for sorrow,” — the former interpretation is to be preferred. They knew not the full extent of his griefs: he separated himself from them, but they could not be unobservant of his trouble; and he might not be so far distant, but that in the stillness of the night they might hear his “strong crying,” and when he returned to them after each part of the mighty conflict, might observe his “tears.” They at least so far knew the moving and mysterious case, as to partake so deeply of his sorrows, that their animal spirits were exhausted, through the mixed and painful emotions which oppressed them; and they were thus the more readily overpowered with sleep. All this he knew; and a kind excuse seemed to be called for, by a fault into which they were in part led by the strength of their affection for their Master.

Verse 44

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And prayed the third time, using the same words. — The petition in each case was the same, and the expressions of meek resignation with which it was accompanied. But at each time it would seem that the intensity of his feelings was heightened, and his sorrows became more pressing; for after one of these acts of supplication, “there appeared to him an angel from heaven strengthening him,” lest he should wholly sink under his sufferings; and thus strengthened, “being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly.” See the note on verse 37.

Verse 45

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Sleep on now, and take your rest. — Because our Lord almost immediately adds, Rise, let us be going, these words have been taken interrogatively; but the import is, “I no longer enjoin it upon you to watch; the season is now past for this duty, and the time of trial, for which watchfulness and prayer would have better prepared you, has arrived.” Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. By sinners, αμαρτωλοι , it has been argued that the Romans must be understood, because all heathens were so specially denominated by the Jews; but it is not probable that our Lord would, on an occasion which particularly marked the extreme wickedness of the leading Jews, countenance that proud and exclusive language which implied that they were not “sinners of the Gentiles.” The weight of criminality in the most unjust and cruel conduct experienced by our Lord rested upon them; and this strong term was therefore their fitting designation.

Verse 46

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Rise, let us be going. — These words do not indicate any intention of escape. Our Lord wished to rejoin his disciples in the less retired part of the garden, and to meet those whom Judas was leading to this his well known retreat, in order to apprehend him according to his infamous contract.

Verse 47

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A great multitude. — These were composed of a “band,” and “officers from the chief priests and Pharisees,” John 18:3. The force employed indicated their fears that a rescue might be attempted, should they meet with any considerable body of those who had so lately welcomed him as the King Messiah into Jerusalem.

Swords and staves. — Both the swords and staves, or clubs, appear to have been borne by this “multitude,” composed of the “officers” of the Jewish magistrates and those who followed them promiscuously. For though St. John uses the term “band,” σπειρα , which was one of the divisions of the Roman legion, less than a cohort, it is probably used in a vague sense, for any body of men employed by authority to apprehend a prisoner. As yet we have no clear indication of the presence of the Roman soldiery.

Verse 48

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Gave them a sign. — This was agreed upon with them by the traitor, that they might not mistake another person for Jesus, the time being night, and, though moonlight, the place shaded with trees.

Verse 49

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And kissed him. — A customary mode of salutation among the Jews at departing or meeting again, and used also as an expression of reverence to a superior.

Verse 50

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Friend, wherefore art thou come? — Εταιρε was an ordinary but general form of address, marking somewhat of courteous distance and strangeness. The interrogation may be considered either as a calm inquiry as to the purpose of Judas, or as conveying in the mildest words the most poignant reproof: εφ’ ω , against whom art thou come? Against him whom thou hast acknowledged as thy Master and Lord, followed as his disciple, receiving the benefit of his instructions, and by whom thou hast been placed among the number of his friends, and raised to the rank of an apostle; art THOU come against HIM? Several MSS. read εφ’ ο ; which rendering is adopted by Griesbach, Tittman, and others. The authorities for each reading are, however, nearly balanced.

Verse 51

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One of them which were with Jesus, &c. — This, as we learn from St. John, was Peter; always forward and impetuous until experience and the richer supplies of grace new moulded and renewed his spirit. He not improbably thought of setting an example of courageous resistance to the other disciples, having faith in his Master’s power to enable to conquer many by a few, as in the instances of the Old Testament. But this act of mistaken zeal, and of faith exercised without authority or warrant, gave occasion for a new display of the mild and merciful character of our Lord, and for teaching several important lessons. He healed the wound inflicted upon the servant of the high priest, probably by reuniting the parts, and taught that his cause was not to be maintained by a warfare of carnal weapons; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Some refer this to the Jews, as though the reason given to Peter to sheathe his sword was, that God himself would take vengeance upon Christ’s enemies in due time, so that those who employed the sword against him should perish by the sword of the Romans. But this interpretation does not well cohere with the occasion; and the words more naturally refer to Peter, who was reproved for using force, by the general principle laid down, that all who took the sword, meaning as he took it, should perish by it.

These words were not designed to prohibit the use of the sword on every occasion; or why should our Lord have permitted his disciples to wear swords or hangers as Peter did, according to the custom of the Jews on travel, to defend themselves against robbers? So also the magistrate, when he “beareth not the sword in vain” fulfils his duty; and it would be difficult to prove from the New Testament, that strictly defensive national wars are unlawful. But our Lord manifestly designed to teach that injuries for the sake of RELIGION are not to be repelled by retaliative violence, but submitted to with patience; and that his cause was not to be maintained or promoted by the strifes of an earthly warfare, or by civil coercion: “If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight;” words which show that such as is the nature of the kingdom are the means by which it is appropriately upheld and maintained. In both these views the lesson was most important:

1. To the disciples so long as Christianity should be under persecution. In no instance were they to resist or “return evil for evil, but contrariwise, blessing;” after the example of him who healed the wound of Malchus, although one of those who had “come out against him.” By the opposite conduct they would take their cause out of the hand of God, and yet would not escape danger; there was a sword still to which they would be exposed; after the sword of man, certainly the sword of God, “He that saveth his life,” by such or any other unlawful means, “shall lose it.”

2. The lesson was equally important to the Church, and no doubt looked onward to the time when Christianity should become powerful and triumphant. He who foresaw all things knew that the time would come when his servants would fight for his kingdom as though it were a civil, not a spiritual institution, and when compulsion and persecution would be the instruments to which they would resort under pretence of repelling Christ’s enemies, or increasing the number of his adherents. The doom of persecuting Churches and persecutors is here, therefore, forewritten by him who, from the first, disclaimed such officious disciples, even when so far sincere as to believe they were “doing God service.” “They that take the sword shall perish by the sword;” by the awakened vengeance, often of injured communities debarred of the rights of conscience, or the slower but still certain vengeance of Him who especially abhors all zeal which is not animated by the mild flame of charity.

Verse 53

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Twelve legions of angels. — Peter’s distrust in the wisdom and care of God is here reproved. “Is my Father less concerned for my safety than thou? And were it necessary, would he not in answer to my prayer, even now, αρτι , in this very juncture, surround me not with a few weak disciples, but with twelve legions of angels?” The Roman legion, to which the allusion probably is, was composed, at this period, of six thousand men.

Verse 54

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But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled? &c. — Peter’s ignorance of the Scriptures is also reproved; the predictions and types of which most unequivocally declare that “the Messiah should be cut off,” and that even by the instrumentality of unjust men, he should “pour out his soul unto death, and make intercession for the transgressors.” But by thus referring to the declarations of the prophets, our Lord not only reproved Peter, but placed a support beneath the faith of his disciples, which might otherwise have been fatally shaken by the occurrences which followed, to them so mysterious and unexpected.

Verse 55

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As against a thief, &c. — This is a trait of dignity. While he submitted to it, he spurned the degradation of the manner of his apprehension, hunted out by night with torches and lanterns as a thief who was hiding himself from justice, and dared not appear by day. He reminds them, therefore, that he had appeared among them openly, daily teaching in the temple, his whole conduct and doctrine being made manifest to all, when he might have been apprehended had any just charge been laid against him. Thus were their treachery and cowardice reproved.

Verse 56

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But this was done, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. — This is not a remark of the evangelist thrown into the account, as the division of the verses would intimate, but the continuance of the address of Christ to those who came to apprehend him; not indeed designed for their instruction, but for ours. Those scriptures were fulfilled by the circumstances of our Lord’s apprehension, which foretold the treachery of Judas, the leader of the band, and by all those also which refer to his humiliation in being accounted and treated as the lowest criminals. Thus, as to Judas, Psalms 41:9: “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.” And, with reference to his being treated as a transgressor, and as a thief, Isaiah’s words, he was “numbered with the transgressors,” may apply both to his apprehension in the manner of criminals of this class, and his being placed between two of them on the cross; although, doubtless, it has also a more extended meaning. The desertion of the disciples, immediately added, fulfilled another scripture before quoted from Zechariah. — The shepherd being smitten, the sheep were then scattered.

Verse 57

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To Caiaphas the high priest. — He was led first to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas; but as nothing of importance took place there, this circumstance is omitted by all the evangelists except John. Why he was first taken to Annas, who had been deposed from the high priest’s office by the Romans, does not appear. He, however, sent him bound to Caiaphas, in whose palace the great council had assembled to determine his case.

Verse 58

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Peter followed him afar off. — Between the period of Christ’s being taken to Annas, and thence to Caiaphas, Peter, and also John, appear to have recovered their fright, and to have followed their Master to his place of trial; but Peter afar off, as fearful of being discovered; and it was probably this parleying with his fears which increased them, and led to those shameful acts which followed.

The high priest’s palace. — The word αυλη properly signifies an open court, but sometimes is used for the building also to which it is attached. Here it seems to signify the interior court in the middle of a large oriental house, which was generally in the form of a square, enclosing this area. The court itself was open at the top.

Verse 59

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Sought false witnesses. — They sought them among the by- standers, probably offering bribes by their officers, or inviting those who were zealous for their law to come forward to secure the condemnation of so great a reputed subverter of it. False prophets, seducers of the people to idolatry, and blasphemers were to be put to death; and the object was, to obtain witnesses to prove either that he was a false prophet or a blasphemer; but as the law required that, in capital cases, two or three witnesses should agree in their testimony, and it was necessary also to lay something like consistent and plausible evidence before the Roman governor, in order to secure his confirmation of their sentence, they kept up some appearance of regard at least to their forms of justice. These, however, appear, from Maimonides, to have been extremely lax in the cases of persons charged with the spiritual offences above mentioned. “The judgment of a deceiver is not as the rest of capital punishments: his witnesses are hid, and he has no premonition or warning as the rest of those that are put to death; and if he goes out of the sanhedrim acquitted, and one says, I can prove the charge against him, they turn him back; but if he goes out condemned, and one says, I can prove him innocent, they do not put him again on his trial.” Of these loose notions in the administration of justice, on such occasions, the Jewish council appear in the case of our Lord to have largely availed themselves, to proceed against him in the most unjust and malignant manner.

Verse 60

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They found none. — They found many willing, but none who said what was to their purpose; many ready to pervert some acts or words of our Lord to support a criminal charge, but all so vague or incredible, that even they could not receive their testimony; and thus his real innocence was made the more apparent from the encouragement held out to present charges against him.

At the last came two false witnesses, &c. — Two who seemed to be agreed to depose that he had said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. To speak against the temple was deemed a capital offence. For prophesying against the city and temple Jeremiah was said to be worthy of death by the priests and prophets of his day, Jeremiah 26:11-12. And it was one of the capital charges laid by the false witnesses against Stephen, that he had spoken “blasphemous words against this holy place.” “Yet,” adds St. Mark, “their witness did not agree together.” It was a perversion of his words, “Destroy this temple,” meaning the temple of his body, “and in three days will I raise it up;” their version of which was, I WILL destroy, or, as St. Mark has it, I am ABLE to destroy, the temple of God; two different propositions, which point out the discrepancy of those two witnesses, if we suppose St. Matthew to give the words of one, and St. Mark those of the other. Even had the words been as they stated, yet, as the declaration as to the destruction of the temple was accompanied with the promise to build it up again in three days, the words could not fairly be construed into speaking AGAINST, or blaspheming the temple because of the promise of its restoration. All this, however, availed nothing; and, his condemnation being resolved upon, the high priest assumes that the witnesses had deposed a consistent capital charge; and, seeing no eagerness in our Lord to reply, he arose, as if for the purpose of intimidation, and in order to draw from Christ something which, by his own perverse handling, might corroborate the accusation, and demands, Answerest thou nothing to what these witness against thee?

Verse 63

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But Jesus held his peace, &c. — The silence of our Lord has been often accounted for by interpreters, from his perceiving that this unjust tribunal was determined upon his destruction; but that would have been a reason for his preserving the same silence throughout the trial. His silence had a deeper meaning: he knew that the wisdom of God had appointed that he should be found guilty upon a charge which was in fact the great truth by which he was glorified, namely, that he professed to be the Son of God; and his silence wholly baffled the intention of the high priest, who evidently was not quite bold enough to pronounce sentence upon so vague a charge without fortifying it by what he might draw forth from our Lord himself. To that charge therefore our Lord answered nothing; and the high priest wholly quits it in order to question him upon a higher and graver matter, as to whether, as had been commonly reported, he had professed to be, not merely the Messiah, but the Christ, the Son of God. No one appears to have been present who had heard our Lord make this profession, although he had done it on a few occasions publicly; and this gives the reason why the high priest, who knew how certainly this would decide the case against him with the sanhedrim, laid him under so solemn an adjuration, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. This was a Jewish mode of placing a witness under oath; and after such a sanction, when adjured by a magistrate, the answer of the witness was, as we should express it, upon oath. By some it is affirmed that an accused person so adjured, was obliged to answer; but this does not certainly appear from any authority adduced. Silence would, however, after so solemn a form, tend greatly to increase suspicion against him. Our Lord, however, hesitated not, but answered under the oath laid upon him: a sufficient proof that his own command in the sermon on the mount, Swear not at all, did not relate to judicial oaths; for he himself submitted in this respect to the practice of the Jewish courts.

Verse 64

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Thou hast said. — This is a Hebrew form of assent or affirmation, equivalent to, “It is truly so as thou hast said;” I am the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Nevertheless I say unto you. — Πλην ought here, as the connection shows, to be rendered not nevertheless, but moreover; for Christ in addition to this confession uttered a solemn prediction of his coming in glory to judge the world.

The right hand of power. — That is, the right hand of God; for in the language of the Jews God is sometimes called POWER. St. Luke has “the power of God.” The meaning is, at the right hand of the powerful or almighty God.

The clouds of heaven. — This phrase not only marks the majesty and glory of Christ’s advent, making as it were “the clouds his chariot, and riding upon the wings of the wind;” but shows that he referred to the celebrated prophecy in Dan. vii, “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like unto the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom,” &c. This prophecy our Lord applied to himself, and declared that as THE SON OF MAN, as well as THE SON OF GOD, having received this universal kingdom, they who now sat as his judges should see him invested with its glories, and armed with its sovereign authority; and that thus his claims both as the CHRIST, and THE SON OF GOD, should be established, to the confusion and punishment of those that rejected him.

Verse 65

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Rent his clothes. — The high priest was forbidden by the law to rend his garments; but this appears to be intended only of funeral occasions. Upon the hearing of blasphemy the Jewish canons of more modern times obliged every Israelite to rend his clothes, as a token of indignation, astonishment, and grief; and the judges of a court, upon a trial for blasphemy, were enjoined, upon hearing the words of the blasphemy, as repeated by the witnesses, to stand up and rend their garments. In this, therefore, Caiaphas probably followed the custom of his age, or else, by this affectation of peculiar and passionate indignation, gave rise to it in future times. The dress of the high priest out of the temple was not different from that of other Jews, so that the proper pontifical garments were not on this occasion rent.

Blasphemy. — That species of blasphemy which consisted, not in denying God’s attributes, or using reproachful and irreverent language against him, but in attributing to himself, deemed by them a mere man, the majesty and glory peculiar to God.

Verse 66

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He is guilty of death. — He is ειοχος , obnoxious, liable to death; that is, he deserves to die. This is to be considered as the sentence of the council, to whom, as the president, the high priest put the case, artfully, however, endeavouring to influence their suffrages, by assuming that he had spoken blasphemy, and that there was now no need of witnesses. In all civil cases the power of life and death had been taken away from the Jewish courts by the Romans; but in matters of their religion they had still the power to inflict capital punishments, yet the sentence of the sanhedrim was to be confirmed by the Roman governor before it could be executed. The proper punishment of a blasphemer by their law was stoning; but they were anxious to have our Lord crucified, which was a Roman punishment: they therefore not only sought from Pilate a confirmation of their sentence; but set themselves to induce Pilate to treat him also as an enemy to Cesar, and a seditious opposer of the Roman government, in order that the Roman soldiery might have the charge of his execution. Their motive probably was the fear lest the populace, who favoured him, should, upon seeing him led out to be stoned, accompanied only by a civil force, attempt to rescue him; which they dared not attempt when the Roman garrison was under arms to carry his crucifixion into effect. But in this the overruling providence of God was manifest: for he was to endure the most shameful and torturing death, and to fulfil the words of Scripture, “Cursed is every one that is hanged on a tree.”

Two questions may now be briefly considered: What was the alleged blasphemy for which our Lord was condemned? and in what did the guilt of his judges consist? As to the first, nothing can be more plain than that he could not be condemned simply for professing to be the Messiah, against which there was no law; and it would have been most absurd for a people who were anxiously waiting from age to age for the appearance of Messiah, to have made it capital for any one to profess himself to be the Messiah. Nor was he condemned because, professing to be the Messiah, he failed to prove himself so, and was therefore “a deceiver;” for no proof was demanded, no trial of his claim established; but from his own simple confession of what he was, not even with reference to the deposition of the two witnesses respecting his threatening to destroy the temple, he was adjudged “guilty of death.” If then it was not because he said, I AM THE CHRIST, that he was so condemned, it follows that it was because he added to this the profession that he was the Son of God, and would be demonstrated as such by the dignity and glory of his second coming in the clouds of heaven. And as we find that on having previously professed himself to be the Son of God, the Jews took up stones to stone him as a blasphemer, it is clear that they understood that this profession implied an assumption of Divinity; which our Lord himself never treated as a mistake, by explaining the phrase in any lower sense than they understood it in either on the occasions referred to, or on his trial.

This then was the alleged blasphemy for which our Lord was sentenced to death by the sanhedrim: and this was acknowledged by the Jews themselves, who urged his death, and mocked him upon the cross, “because he said he was the Son of God.” Thus our Lord witnessed to this great truth before his judges, not only that he was “the Son of man,” and the Messiah; but also, as implying the lofty claim of Divinity, that he was THE SON OF GOD. As to the second point the guilt of his judges, it may indeed be said that, believing him to be a mere man, and yet hearing him assume to himself a claim and a title of Divinity, on their own principles and views they could do nothing less than convict him. But this plausible palliation has no foundation. The trial was for an alleged spiritual offence, and involved therefore theological principles to be determined solely by their own scriptures. Our Lord professed to be the Messiah; there could be no blasphemy simply in that: and if he added to that the claim of “Son of God,” and declared also that he would come “in the clouds of heaven,” their own scriptures had entitled the Messiah “the Son of God,” as in the second Psalm; and had declared that he should come in the clouds of heaven, as in the prophecy of Daniel, to which our Lord referred. Both these passages their most ancient commentators, authorities in their own Church, refer to the Messiah; and the whole question, therefore, between the sanhedrim and Jesus, had his trial been conducted with any thing like honesty and fairness, was whether he had given, or could give, sufficient proofs of his being the Messiah; for if so, the rest, according to their Scriptures, the only law they could follow in this case, necessarily followed: he was the Son of God, according to David; and he would come in the clouds of heaven, according to Daniel.

Instead, however, of proceeding in this manner, they closed their eyes upon all the proofs he had given of his being the Messiah, — upon the evidence especially of that stupendous miracle which he had so lately wrought in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, the raising of Lazarus; of which, indeed, it is probable that some of the council had been witnesses, and of which none could be ignorant: nor did they seek on the occasion of his trial any new or more satisfactory proof; but surrendering themselves at once to their prejudices and hatred, first assumed that he was an impostor, then suborned witnesses to substantiate a charge of blasphemy, and finally determined his own confession to be blasphemous; which it could not be, provided he was the Messiah, — the grand point on which the whole turned, but which they determined not to investigate. Thus justice could not be more violently outraged by a court; and the fierce determination with which they sought his death is the strongest proof that the truth of his professions, and consequently his innocence, was a subject on which they not only did not desire information, but on which these blood-thirsty persecutors determined to admit none. The circumstances of the case also demonstrated this: their bargaining with one of his disciples to betray him; their apprehension of him secretly in the night, although he was, as he himself alleged, daily in the temple; and the indecent haste with which they proceeded on so important a trial, beginning and completing it in the night, contrary to the Jewish canons, which enjoined that “capital causes should be tried in the day, and finished in the day;” and, finally, the tumultous manner in which they resisted all the efforts of the Roman governor to save him, — preferring the liberation of a notorious and pestilent robber, to one who had gone about doing good, and against whom they could find no consistent accusation.

Verse 67

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Spit in his face. — This, in all nations, has been held to be an expression of the utmost contempt and abhorrence. The persons who inflicted this and other indignities were probably the officers and creatures of the sanhedrim, then in attendance, to whose rudeness he was surrendered as soon as the sentence of guilty had been pronounced.

Buffeted him; and others smote, &c. — Κολαφιζειν signifies to smite with clenched fist; ραπιζειν , to strike with the palm of the hand. And to blows, no doubt severe, they added derision of his prophetic character; for, having blindfolded him, they said, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is it that smote thee? Such is the first affecting scene of our Lord’s humiliation and passion: and yet in these minor circumstances of contumely and insult, with what astonishing particularity were the words of prophecy fulfilled, and that by the perfect free agency of these violent men! “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”

Verse 69

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A damsel came to him. — This female servant was the portress of the gate, the same who had let in Peter through the intercession of John who was already in the court: this circumstance probably made the woman conclude that Peter as well as John was a disciple of Christ; for if John obtained admission, he was “known to the high priest,” John 18:15; and it could scarcely be unknown that for several years he had been in attendance upon Christ. St. Matthew makes the damsel directly charge Peter with being a disciple: St. John speaks interrogatively; but the interrogation there is not to be understood as used for inquiry, but as a stronger mode of putting an affirmation.

Verse 70

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Denied before all. — Before all the officers of justice, and others who were in the court, and that in the most explicit manner: I know not what thou sayest, being a common form of denying any knowledge of a fact or person. The publicity of this denial was a great aggravation of Peter’s sin.

Verse 71

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And when he was gone out into the porch. — The porch, πυλων , was the vestibule or hall in which the trial of our Lord was conducted, and opened into the interior court in which Peter was, at the fire, with the servants. In this place and company he still was at his second denial, John 18:25; and St. Matthew’s words, εξελθοντα δε αυτον εις τον πυλωνα , ειδεν αυτον αλλη , may indicate no more than that he was in the act of going, or gave indications of his intention to go, into the hall where the court sat, when a second maid challenged him with being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth. From Peter’s reply, as recorded by St. Luke, “MAN, I am not,” it may be presumed that the maid’s challenge was taken up by the bystanders, in whose presence it was made, and to whom the information was indeed given, and by one of the men it was pressed more eagerly than the rest, and to him therefore Peter’s denial of the maid’s allegation was directed. This denial was, however, accompanied by an oath: he denied μεθ’ ορκου , thinking, no doubt, that a second accusation needed to be rebutted by a solemn appeal to Heaven; his fears and a carnal policy hiding, for the moment, from his conscience the enormity of the foul crime of a direct perjury.

Verse 73

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

They that stood by. — Peter, according to St. Matthew and St. Mark, was the third time charged with being a follower of Jesus, by those “that stood by;” but as all did not probably speak at once, but having observed, no doubt, something peculiar, in Peter’s manner, as was natural, considering his circumstances, they prosecuted their scrutiny into the strongly suspected fact, by putting one forward to urge their suspicions upon him. St. Luke therefore relates generally that another man now charged him; and St. John, with greater particularity, tells us that this man was the kinsman of Malchus, whose ear Peter had cut off. From St. Luke we learn that about an hour elapsed between Peter’s second and third denial: yet that space had not brought him to any due sense of the great fault which he had committed; for he now began to curse and to swear, I know not the man. The charge had indeed been brought so close to him, that he probably thought that only the most desperate course could extricate him from present danger, the fear of which absorbed every other consideration. What indeed could he say? “Truly, thou art one of them, for thy speech bewrayeth thee;” his most intimate followers are known to be Galileans, and thy speech shows that thou art a Galilean; and besides, did I not see thee in the garden with him? — a shrewd hint that he suspected him to be the man who had cut off the ear of his relative; and this no doubt increased Peter’s terror.

Thus was this once bold but frail man placed in circumstances in which he must take the risk of suffering and dying with his Lord, or of sinning in a high and almost desperate degree. He failed again in the trial; for no man gains strength to resist greater evils by complying with the lesser, but is, on the contrary, the more powerfully disposed to add one offence to another. On the first charge he simply though explicitly denies; on the second, he appeals by an oath to God; on the third, he adds violent and gross profaneness to perjury: Then began he to curse and to swear, to accompany his appeals to God with imprecations upon himself if he spoke falsely, when he declared, I know not the man. Καταναθεματιζειν is to declare any one to be καταναθεμα , accursed and execrable, and therefore liable to the greatest punishments in this and the future world; and when used of a man’s own self, is, under same condition, to imprecate the Divine vengeance upon himself. — Many MSS. read καταθεματιζειν , but the sense shows that a mistake must have occurred in transcription; for the softer import of this word not only does not agree with the swearing which is also ascribed to him, but is contrary to Mark 14:71: “But he began αναθεματιζειν και ομνυειν , to curse and to swear;” as in the text, only without the intensive κατα . Ομνυειν is to swear by the name of God. So deep and shameful was the fall of Peter!

It is recorded by all the evangelists; and is both a striking proof of their integrity, and a lasting admonition to all to beware of the two fatal evils, self confidence and unwatchfulness. “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.”

Thy speech bewrayeth thee. — Bewray is an Old English word, which signifies to reveal or discover. Thus Spenser: —

“Man by nothing is so well bewray’d As by his manners.”

St. Mark has it, “Thou art a Galilean; and thy speech agreeth thereunto;” the dialect of Galilee being more rude than that of Judea. Hence the Talmudists say, “The law was confirmed in the hands of the men of Judah who were careful of their language; but not in the hands of the men of Galilee, who were not careful of their language.” — Peter was therefore known to be a Galilean by his style and pronunciation, just as the men of Ephraim were detected by the test word Shibboleth.

Verse 74

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

And immediately the cock crew. — And at the fulfilment of this signal, we learn from St. Luke that “the Lord turned and looked upon Peter.” The interior of the vestibule or hall in which our Lord was enduring his trial was within view of those who were in the court, so distant that they could not hear distinctly what was said, but near enough for our Lord to convey by his look to Peter that he KNEW what had occurred, that he FELT that he had committed the sin against which he had warned him, and to fix his attention upon the crowing of the cock as the accomplishment of his prediction. This was the last cock crow, or about three in the morning.

Verse 75

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

And he went out, &c. — Overwhelmed by remorse and shame, he left the place, going out of the court probably into some secret place, and wept bitterly; the depth of his sorrow, and the abundance of his tears, poured forth from a truly broken and a contrite spirit, answering to the greatness of his offence. St. Mark has expressed this with inimitable pathos and simplicity: “And when HE THOUGHT THEREON, he wept.” See note on Mark 14:72.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 26". "Watson's Exposition on Matthew, Mark, Luke & Romans". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwc/matthew-26.html.
 
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