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THE DATE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER. The point of difficult is the day of the month. Our Lord died on Friday, but from very early times there has been a dispute whether this Friday was the 15 th of Nisan, or the 14 th. The former view places the institution of the Lord’s Supper at the regular time of eating the passover, on the 14 th in the evening (Exodus 13:6-8; Exodus 23:5), the crucifixion taking place on the 15 th, the first feast day, though ‘not the first day of unleavened bread,’ since the leaven was removed on the 14 th (Exodus 12:18-19). The other view is that Christ died on the 14 th, at the time when the Paschal Lamb should be slain (after three o’clock in the afternoon), hence that the Last Supper was eaten a day before the regular time for the passover feasts.
Reasons for preferring the former view:
1 . The accounts given in the first three Gospels undoubtedly make the impression that the Lord’s Supper was instituted during a passover feast at the regular time. They all speak of it as ‘the passover,’ and Mark says (Mark 14:12) that it was the day ‘when they killed’ (or ‘were wont to kill’) ‘the passover,’ while Luke (Luke 22:7) remarks: ‘when the passover must be killed;’ adding, ‘and when the hour was come’ (Luke 22:14). The disciples asked where they should prepare to eat the Passover (Matthew and Mark). An anticipation of the regular time would have been noted, if not by the disciples, by the man at whose house they met.
2 . Christ, who came to fulfil the law, would not have violated it in this instance.
3 . A celebration on the day before would not have been permitted, if it was the custom then to slay the lamb in the temple.
4 . The reasons for the other view are insufficient: ( a) If Christ had been crucified at the precise time when it was customary to slay the Paschal Lamb, some hint would have been given of so important a fulfillment of the Old Testament types. But in fact the afternoon of the 14 th at three o’clock was before the legal time. ( b) The passages in John which occasion the difficulty are not decisive: John 13:1-4, ‘Before the feat of the Passover Jesus riseth from the supper,’ does not necessarily mean the day before. John 13:27: ‘What thou doest, do quickly, was understood by the disciples as meaning, buy what is needed. It is urged that if the feast had begun, no purchases could be made. But if a whole day remained, the word ‘quickly’ seems unnecessary. In John 18:28, John speaks of the fear of defilement felt by the Jews, intimating that early on the morning of the day of the crucifixion they had not yet eaten the passover; but this expression may refer to the continuance of the passover-feast. Besides the defilement would have ceased in the evening, in time to eat the Passover, had the evening of the Friday been the regular time. John twice speaks (John 19:14; John 19:31) of that Friday as a ‘preparation.’ This need not be understood of the day before the Passover, since in all other instances the reference is to the day before the Sabbath, not before a feast-day. The Sabbath would be ‘a high day’ (John 19:31), as the first Sabbath of the Passover time, even thought not the first day itself, as the other view implies. ( c) The Chief priests were present at the crucifixion. But if that had been the time when the paschal lamb was slain, these men should have been present in the temple. ( d) The objection that an execution would not take place on the feast day, is of very little weight. According to Deuteronomy 17:12-13, executions were to be public and of a religious character, and one of the Rabbins distinctly states that they took place on feast days: Further the custom was to release a prisoner on the ‘feast day,’ (Matthew 27:15; John 18:39), and Barabbas seemed to have teen released before the crucifixion (Matthew 27:26).
DATE OF THE ANOINTING AT BETHANY. Matthew and Mark place the anointing at Bethany between the counsel of the chief priests and the treacherous proposal of Judas. John places it just after the arrival at Bethany, ‘six days before the Passover,’ the entry to Jerusalem taking place ‘in the next day.’ We accept the latter, as the correct date.
1 . While the marks of time in the several accounts do not decide which is the more exact, John 12:9 speaks of something as following, which must have occurred previous to the public entry to Jerusalem, while Matthew 26:14, and Mark 14:10, do not necessarily imply that the proposal of Judas immediately followed the Supper at Bethany.
2 . According to John the occasion was a supper made for Jesus, not an accidental eating there. Such an entertainment was more likely to have been given on the triumphal progress to Jerusalem than while Christ was so occupied in His public ministry in the temple. There would scarcely have been time for such a supper on Tuesday evening, as He went to the Mount of Olives at night (Luke 21:37), and then delivered a long discourse. Wednesday evening is too late, for the proposal of Judas followed, and the words of Matthew and Mark: ‘from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him,’ suggest a longer interval than from late on Wednesday night to Thursday night.
3 . There is no reason for John’s displacing it, while a displacement by Matthew and Mark can be accounted for. (a) In history the recapitulation of events is more natural than the anticipation; (b) The prophecy of the speedy death would suggest the anointing of the burial; (c) J udas had murmured (John 12:4), and the rebuke no doubt had its effect in ripening his treachery, which is mentioned at this point by Matthew and Mark. Neither of them speak of Judas as the objecter, but they cannot have been ignorant of the connection between the two events. Matthew is most apt to vary from the exact chronology so as to group together events that have a close relation independent of time.
Matthew 26:1. Had finished all these words, i.e., in chaps, 14 , 15 . The time was Tuesday night, after Wednesday had begun, according to the Jewish reckoning.
Our Lord had finished His public work as a Teacher; from this point He appears as High Priest. Matthew brings out this most fully: The events narrated in this section, though not given in chronological order (see note above), are connected in thought. First comes the more definite declaration of our Lord as to the appointed time of His death (Matthew 26:2). The rulers counsel a postponement (Matthew 26:3-5). But Judas by his treachery (Matthew 26:14-16) is the unconscious means of fulfilling our Lord’s prophecy. The anointing at Bethany, which took place, as narrated by John (John 13:1-8), six days before the Passover, is inserted here, because it helped to bring about this result.
Matthew 26:2. After two days. This means, ‘the day after tomorrow,’ according to Jewish usage. As Wednesday had begun, Friday is the day indicated, beginning at sundown on (our) Thursday.
The passover cometh. On the origin of this feast, see Exodus 12:0. The word ‘passover’ expresses the literal sense of the Hebrew word, which refers to the passing over of the destroying angel, sparing the first-born of Israel in Egypt. It was the greatest Jewish festival; a sacrificial feast (the paschal lamb with its blood sprinkled on the door-posts) and a memorial feast of thanksgiving. The lamb was not consumed on the altar, nor made the portion of the priests, but used as food by the household of the offerer. Other ideas were expressed in the observances connected with it, most of which were typical of ‘Christ our Passover.’ The word ‘passover’ is used in a threefold sense in the New Testament: ( 1 .) The paschal lamb itself; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7. ( 2 .) The sacrificial lamb and the supper, Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:14; Luke 22:11. ( 3 .) The whole feast of unleavened bread, which lasted seven days, which is the sense here, and in Luke 22:1; comp. John 2:13; John 6:4; John 11:15; John 12:1; John 13:1, etc.
Delivered up to be crucified. The prophecy here is of the time. The events had already been foretold. That time was appointed, because our Lord would thus fulfil all that was typified in the Passover.
Matthew 26:3. Then gathered together. The uncertainty of His enemies, despite their hostile desire, is in contrast with His clear statement of what would come to pass. ‘And the scribes ‘is probably inserted from Mark 14:1; Luke 22:2, Yet ‘the scribes ‘formed a part of the Sanhedrin, which was probably assembled on this occasion. Unto the court. Not the palace, but the court it inclosed; comp. Matthew 26:69; Luke 22:55.
Who was called Caiaphas. Josephus says he was originally called ‘Joseph; ‘the form here used may point to an additional name. John (John 11:51; John 18:13) says he was ‘high-priest that same year,’ and son-in-law of Annas, who had also been high priest and was still called so (Acts 4:5). The office was hereditary in the family of Aaron, and held for life; but Antiochus Epiphanes (B. C. 160 ) sold it to the highest bidders, and the Romans removed the incumbent at pleasure. Caiaphas was appointed by a Roman proconsul, his predecessor having been deposed, and was removed by a Roman emperor about six years after this time. Though of the party most hostile to the Romans, he and his associates raised the cry: ‘We have no king but Cesar’ (John 19:15). The direct connection of this event is probably with the close of chap. 23
Matthew 26:4. By subtlety. On account of the impression made by our Lord upon the people, which still continued (Luke 21:38).
Matthew 26:5. Not during the feast, i.e., the Passover week, during which the multitudes (sometimes reckoned at three millions on such occasions) remained at Jerusalem. Most of Christ’s followers were Galileans, and the Galileans were all considered bold and quarrelsome. This feast was often the occasion of insurrection, according to Josephus. They could not take Him when they would (John 10:39), yet must take Him at a time when they purposed not, but which He had predicted (Matthew 26:2). Both the taking and killing took place between the evenings of Thursday and Friday, which made up the first Passover day. Even in the greatest humiliation His power and truth still shine forth.
Matthew 26:6. Now when Jesus was in Bethany. On Saturday evening, see note above.
In the house of Simon the leper. Probably already healed by Jesus, since otherwise he would have been unclean. He must not be confounded with the Pharisee called Simon, at whose house in Galilee a similar anointing had taken place long before (Luke 7:36-50). The two occurrences are clearly distinguished in many ways. One tradition makes this Simon the father of Lazarus; another the husband of Martha, who served on this occasion. Both families may have occupied the same house; or Simon may have been the owner, and Lazarus his tenant.
Matthew 26:7. There came unto him a woman. Mary, the sister of Lazarus (comp. Matthew 10:38-42; John 11:0); not the woman (in Luke 7:0), ‘who was a sinner.’ The latter person is generally, but without reason, identified with Mary Magdalene, and the three women confounded.
Having an alabaster box, or ‘vase.’ Alabaster cruses were considered by the ancients the best receptacle for valuable ointments or fragrant oils. The vessels usually had a long neck and were sealed at the top.
Of very precious ointment. ‘A pound of ointment of spikenard,’ according to John; ‘ointment of spikenard, very precious,’ according to Mark (Mark 14:3, see notes on that passage). It is supposed to have been a rare gum, from India, liquid when taken from the tree. The main point is its preciousness. Comp, the valuation put upon it by Judas (‘three hundred pence ‘= £ 9 or $ 45 , a large amount for those days.)
Poured it over his head. By breaking the neck of the flask, probably by compressing it in her hands. The quantity of ointment permitted her to anoint his feet also (John 12:3). The Oriental custom of reclining at table made the latter easier than the former. The expression used by Mark (Mark 14:3), hints that from the head it flowed over the whole body. It was also usual to wash the feet of honored guests with water, but the anointing of the feet would indicate the highest honor. Mary may have intended only to show this honor, but this action symbolized Christ’s Messiahship, and had a deeper significance, as our Lord points out (Matthew 26:10; Matthew 26:12).
Matthew 26:8. Were sore displeased. Judas was the spokesman, and probably the instigator of this indignation, the others siding with him. The three accounts here show perfect independence. ‘The disciples’ (Matthew); ‘there were some’ (Mark); ‘one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot’ (John). No doubt, all shared the feeling for the time; Mark distinguishes ‘some’ in a company, of which the disciples formed a part; John mentions the author of the objection, and gives his motives. If John and Judas were reclining at this table in the same relative positions as at the Last Supper. John would probably have heard nothing but the remark of Judas.
To what purpose is this waste. Simon the Pharisee, in the similar case, objected to the character of the woman; here the value of the ointment is thought, as Judas suggested, to have been squandered by this act of Mary. Sacrifices, made out of love to Christ, seem wasteful’ to the world, and even to the Church when under the influence of a mercantile spirit.
Matthew 26:9. The best authorities omit ‘ointment’ here, but it is necessary to supply it
Sold for much. Pliny says that a pound of this ointment cost more than four hundred denarii (comp.’ three hundred pence,’ Mark and John).
Given to the poor. This suggestion, put forward by Judas, was with him a mere pretext (see John 12:6); the other disciples may have honestly felt it. Judas may have hoped to get the money in his possession, but not necessarily to make off with it; his intention was scarcely ripe enough for such a scheme. Those who hold trust funds, even for benevolent purposes, are often as unscrupulous in adding to them as in increasing, their private store.
Matthew 26:10. But Jesus knowing it, i.e., the whole case, as is evident. Said unto them. He answers, not Judas, but the others. Yet this was a rebuke to Judas, and helped to ripen his treacherous design.
Why trouble ye the woman? The chief concern is for the affectionate Mary. Her noble act of love had been misjudged, and remarks made which would disquiet or confuse her conscience. (See Mark 14:2.) She is defended and encouraged first of all. The impulses of genuine love to Christ, or His people, are often thus checked, even by real Christians, who for the time being speak the cold and selfish language of the world.
A good work. Christ measured the moral quality of the act by the motive, the disciples by its seeming utility. This utilitarian age presents many temptations to follow the lead of Judas.
Matthew 26:11. For ye have the poor always with you (Mark adds: ‘and whensoever ye will ye may do them good ‘); but me ye have not always. His speedy death is foretold; but the main point is, that this opportunity could never return; while the care of the poor would be a daily ‘duty to humanity down to the end of time.’ The act was justified by the special occasion. It ought not to be cited to defend expensive modes of worship at the cost of neglecting the poor. Such special occasions may, however, recur in our lives. This verse suggests that no reorganization of society will ever banish poverty from the earth. There is but one way of doing this, namely, by Christ’s people recognizing the poor as ‘with them ‘and under the impulse of love like that of Mary, making the care of them the usual expression of that love.
Matthew 26:12. To prepare me for burial. Mary may have been aware of the predicted crucifixion, and thought of His actual burial when she anointed Him. If she was conscious of the meaning of her own act, then her love discerned what the disciples could not perceive; if she was not, then the Lord gives to acts of love a significance beyond the intention. The latter view seems the more probable one, if the earlier date be accepted. The expressions in Mark 14:8; John 12:7, imply that she had a presentiment of an impending crisis, after which anointing would be unnecessary or impossible.
Matthew 26:13. Verily, etc. A solemn, weighty preface.
This gospel. The tidings of salvation, with special reference to Christ’s death, just alluded to.
In the whole world. A prediction of the world-wide preaching of His death.
That also which this woman did shall be spoken of for a memorial of her. Fulfilled to the letter. John, before he tells of this, speaks of Mary as well known on this account (John 11:2). It is right to record and remember the good deeds of those who love Christ, but when the desire to be put on record enters, the ointment is spoiled. This is the only case where such a promise is made; therefore the incident has a weighty lesson and holds up a noble example. Alford suggests, that this prophecy points to a written record: that it shows the Gospels cannot have been made up from some original document now lost; since Luke omits this incident, and such a document would have contained it; Luke could not have seen the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, or he would have inserted this to aid in fulfilling the prophecy.
The confession (Matthew 26:16), and the revelation (Matthew 26:21), constitute an epoch in the training of the Apostles. Despite their little faith and want of understanding, they cling to Him as the Christ of God. He calls for a confession of this. Peter, the usual spokesman, makes it. Then He reveals His passion and the sufferings of His people with Him and for His sake. This revelation was at first rejected, never received by the disciples in its full force until it became a fact. The important statement regarding the foundation of His Church (Matthew 26:18) is not, as many suppose, the central thought. It is however appropriately introduced here, where the confession of the Church (actively with the mouth, and passively through suffering for His sake) is made to centre about His Passion, the ground and motive for that confession. These events occurred in the neighborhood of Cesarea Philippi, and on the way thither the miracle recorded by Mark (Mark 8:22-26), was performed in Bethsaida Julias. On the very edge of the Jewish territory, these great revelations were made. The hostility of the Jews had banished Him thither, but its ultimate effect would be to banish them from the Land of Promise.
Matthew 26:14. Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot. Matthew does not turn aside from his narrative to declare motives or to heap up epithets. The principal motive, as is inferred from the strong expression of John (John 12:6), was avarice. Other views: that he was undecided whether he would betray his Master, and wished to see if the chief priests would offer a sufficient inducement; that he felt it his duty to deliver Jesus up; that he tried an experiment, to see if our Lord would save Himself by a miracle, or establish a temporal kingdom. None of these theories agree with the strong language used by our Lord in Matthew 26:24, and John 17:12, or with the positive statement of Luke, that before the interview with the chief priests, ‘Satan entered into ‘him. The character of Judas laid him open to this Satanic influence, and nothing could do this more effectually than love of gain. Temporal ambition doubtless had a place in his heart, but even this was a part of his avarice; for, being treasurer of the Twelve, he might hope to be treasurer of the kingdom. His practical talent must have been marked, to secure this position for him, and the scene at Bethany shows that he had influence among his associates. Whatever was known to our Lord, whatever the purpose of God, the motive of Judas at the time when the Twelve were chosen, was probably the same as that of the others. The rest were neither well instructed nor highly spiritual, and in outward appearance Judas was probably equal to any of them. All were more or less self-seeking, but over him the love and spirit of Christ had no such influence as over the others. As the Lord drew near to Jerusalem, ever telling of His death, Judas could not fail to manifest his real spirit. This was done at the supper in Bethany. The reproof then administered had its effect (hence the order of Matthew and Mark). The triumphal entry of the next day may have encouraged is false hopes, but the subsequent occurrences only disappointed him the more. Seeing the enmity of the rulers, hearing the denunciations (chaps, 22 , 23 ) upon the class, who as rich and honored filled the stations to which his desires pointed, convinced from the final prediction (Matthew 26:2) that our Lord would be put to death, the hour had come when his sordid soul was ready to listen to the suggestions of Satan; ‘then entered Satan into Judas, surnamed Iscariot.’ The same expression is used by John (John 13:27), at the critical moment when Judas left the Passover feast. His remorse is readily explained. See chap. Matthew 27:3-5. Even that was Satanic.
Chief priests. Luke adds: ‘and captains.’ The latter were the guardians of the temple and its treasures. This probably took place while the Sanhedrin was assembled (Matthew 26:3); but Judas may have made the offer to both, in the hope of getting a better reward.
Matthew 26:15. What are ye willing to give me! No indication of hesitation. Mark (Mark 14:10) says that he went ‘ in order that he might deliver him up to them.’
They weighed unto him. This, which is the correct sense, refers to the actual payment, which probably occurred on the night of the betrayal.
Thirty pieces of silver. Silver shekels, each worth a little more than two shillings, or fifty cents. The price was itself an insult, since this was the price for the life of a slave (Exodus 21:2). Our Lord died the death of a slave and a malefactor, that He might redeem us from the slavery and eternal misery of sin. Comp. Zechariah 11:12, here fulfilled. (Notice Joseph was sold for twenty pieces of silver. Genesis 37:28.) Some think that this was the earnest money. But Judas returned thirty pieces (chap. Matthew 27:3), and the answer then given him indicates that the rulers were done with him.
Matthew 26:16. From that time. Probably Tuesday evening.
Opportunity. A time and place suited to the crafty policy of the Sanhedrin. The ‘opportunity ‘soon offered; only one night intervened.
To betray him, or ‘deliver him up.’ The same word as in Matthew 26:2; Matthew 26:15. Judas was not merely to tell where they could take him, but himself to be the active agent in taking Him and transferring Him into the hands of His enemies (see Matthew 26:47-50; Matthew 26:57). So that ‘betray ‘is the real meaning.
Matthew 26:17. On the first day of unleavened bread. The 14 th of Nisan, when the leaven was removed. In the evening of this day (after the 15 th had begun) the Passover was eaten. (See note on p. 207 ).
The disciples. It is probable that they came with the intention of inquiring on this point, and their thought was answered by the command mentioned in Luke (Luke 22:8), to which they responded: Where wilt thou, etc. As strangers they must join some household in the city. The householder kept the lamb from the 10 th day of the month; he presented it in the temple, ‘between the evenings,’ i.e., between three and six o’clock in the afternoon of the fourteenth, himself slew it. The priests, standing in a row extending to the altar, received the blood in silver basins, which they passed from hand to hand, until at the foot of the altar the blood was poured out, whence it flowed by an underground conduit into the brook Kedron. This took the place of the sprinkling of the blood on the doorposts. The householder then removed the skin and fat from the lamb; the latter was burned on the altar by the priest, the former was carried home bound about the lamb. As the number of lambs was very great the persons bringing them were admitted in detachments. The disciples asked where they should find a householder who was ready to do this, and whom they, as his guests, would assist. The accounts of Mark and Luke intimate that most of the preparations were already made.
Matthew 26:17-19; the preparation for the Passover. Matthew 26:20-25; the actual celebration during which our Lord announces who would betray Him. Matthew 26:26-30; the institution of the Lord’s Supper. On the date, see note at the beginning of the chapter (p. 207 ).
THE PASSOVER RITES. At the Paschal supper among the Jews from ten to twenty persons gathered as one household. The rites of the feast were regulated by the succession of the cups, filled with red wine, commonly mixed with water.
1 . Announcement of the Feast The head of the house pronounced the thanksgiving or benediction over the wine and the feast. In the form used the words, ‘fruit of the vine,’ occur. The first cup was then drunk by him, followed by the others. Then the washing of hands, after praise.
2 . The eating of the bitter herbs, dipped in vinegar or salt water, in remembrance of the sorrows in Egypt. Meanwhile the paschal dishes were brought in the well-seasoned broth (called charoseth), the unleavened loaves, the festal offerings and the lamb. All these things were then explained. They sang the first part of the Hallel, or song of praise (Psalms 113, 114), and the second cup was drunk.
3 . Then began the feast proper (at which they reclined): the householder took two loaves, broke one in two, laid it upon the whole loaf, blessed it, wrapped it with bitter herbs, dipped it, ate of it, and handed it round with the words: ‘This is the bread of affliction, which our fathers ate in Egypt’ He then blessed the paschal lamb, and ate of it; the festal offerings were eaten with the bread, dipped in the broth; and finally the lamb. The thanksgiving for the meal followed the blessing and drinking of the third cup.
4 . The remainder of the Hallel was sung (Psalms 115-118), and the fourth cup drunk.
Occasionally a fifth cup followed, while Psalms 120-127 were pronounced, but this was the extreme limit. Little, however, can be deduced from this order in regard to the mode of celebrating the Lord’s Supper. It is probable that with the first cup our Lord made the announcement of Luke 22:17-18. The second cup may have been devoted to the interpretation of the festal act. The third cup, the cup bf thanksgiving, was probably that of the Lord’s Supper.
Matthew 26:18. Go into the city. Addressed to ‘two of his disciples’ (Mark), ‘Peter and John’ (Luke).
To such a man. The name is not given. Mark and Luke give the sign by which they should find the right person: a man should meet them, bearing a pitcher of water, and following him, they should address the master of the house he entered. Possibly the householder was a believer; of a previous understanding there is no hint. Such hospitality was usual on such occasions. This mode of directing the disciples would prevent Judas from knowing the place in time to betray our Lord at the Passover meal.
The Master saith. The man must have recognized to some extent our Lord’s authority.
My time is at hand. The time of suffering; not the time of my Passover, over against the ordinary time of observing it. How far either the disciples or the householder understood this is uncertain.
Matthew 26:19. Comp, the fuller accounts of Mark (Mark 14:14-16) and Luke (Luke 22:11-13).
Matthew 26:20. Even. Luke: ‘the hour.’ Both point to the regular time.
He was sitting at meat, or, ‘reclining at table.’ The original requirement was, to eat the Passover standing (Exodus 12:11). The Jews altered this when they came to the land of promise and rest.
Matthew 26:21. And as they were eating. The four Evangelists are entirely independent in their accounts of the Last Supper. Luke (Luke 17:15-18) records the expression of our Lord’s desire to eat the Passover with them ; and this seems to have been the first incident, attending the first cup (the announcement of the feast). The washing of the disciples ‘feet is mentioned by John only (Matthew 13:4-12), and this preceded the announcement of the betrayer (John 13:21-30) which our verse narrates. The strife as to who should be greatest, mentioned by Luke only (Matthew 22:21-30), seems to have been the immediate occasion of the washing of the disciples’ feet; hence the probable order was: ( 1 ) the expression of desire; ( 2 )this strife; ( 3 ) the washing of the disciples’ feet; ( 4 ) the announcement that one should betray Him, mentioned by all four Evangelists.
One of you shall betray me. This indefinite announcement would give Judas an opportunity of repentance. But it produced no effect, except to startle and sadden them all.
Matthew 26:22. Is it I, Lord? Comp, the fuller details in John 13:18-30. The Greek form of this question implies a denial; hence the hypocrisy of Judas in asking the question by himself, after the others. Yet every Christian may ask such a question at the Lord’s table.
Matthew 26:23. He that hath dipped the hand with me in the dish. One near Him. There were probably a number of dishes, or bowls, distributed along the table, containing the broth called charoseth, prepared of dates, figs, etc., which was used at the Supper, representing, it is said, the Egyptian bricks or clay. Even this statement may not have definitely pointed out Judas to the others. There is a pathetic tenderness in the language (comp. Psalms 41:9, quoted in John 13:18).
Matthew 26:24. The Son of man goeth, even as it is written of him. Luke: ‘As it hath been determined.’ The prophecy implied the purpose. But. God’s purposes include our freedom (comp. Acts 2:23)
Woe unto that man. Stier: ‘The most affecting and melting lamentation of love, which feels the woe as much as holiness requires or will admit.’ Our Lord seems to forget His own woes in pity for this man.
Good were it for that man, etc. A proverbial expression for the most terrible destiny, forbidding the thought of any deliverance however remote.
Matthew 26:25. And Judas. John, who was next to our Lord (John 13:23), gives a more detailed account of what he saw and heard; which probably took place before the question of Judas, after the giving of the sop. The hypocrisy of that question at such a time is an indication that, ‘after the sop Satan entered into him’ (John 13:27).
Thou hast said it. An affirmative answer (see Matthew 26:64; comp. Mark 14:62), uttered in close connection with the words: ‘What thou doest, do quickly’ (John 13:27). The misunderstanding of these words and the immediate withdrawal of Judas, prevented the disciples from seeing, even now, the purpose of Judas.
Judas not present. Matthew and Mark place the institution after the announcement respecting the betrayal. Luke hints at the latter after the account of the former, but his order is obviously less exact. John shows that Judas went out after the announcement, but does not mention the institution at all. It is therefore most probable that Judas went out (John 13:30) before the institution. As however ‘dipping into the dish’ (Matthew 26:23), indicates that the supper was in progress, which usually began with the breaking of the unleavened bread, it is possible that Judas was present at the distribution of the bread, but not at the giving of the cup. (In that case, the laity in the Romish Church have only Judas’ portion.) The breaking of bread may have been deferred in this case, or, as is more likely still, was an act altogether distinct from the usual distribution of the Passover cakes. The account of Luke favors the latter view. Practical exhortations based on the presence of Judas at the Lord’s Supper are of very doubtful propriety.
Matthew 26:26. As they were eating. During the paschal feast, hence this was probably not the usual breaking of the Passover cakes.
Took bread. The unleavened cakes, used on these occasions, easily broken.
And blessed. As was the custom. Luke and Paul say: ‘gave thanks,’ which is the same thing. The word ‘Eucharist’ (‘thanksgiving ‘) is a common name of the Lord’s Supper, as a feast of thanksgiving. Our Lord probably did not Himself partake.
Take, eat; this is my body. (See note above.)
THE INSTITUTION OF THE LORD’S SUPPER. This feast of love, designed to bind the hearts of Christians to their Lord and to each other, has, like the person of our Lord Himself, been made the occasion of controversies, alike unrefreshing and fruitless. The blessing of the holy communion does not depend upon the critical interpretation of the Gospel accounts, important as this may be in its place, but upon childlike faith, which receives it. The passages to be compared constantly are: Mark 14:22-25; Luk 22:19-20 ; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29. Our Lord on this occasion founded a permanent ordinance in the Christian Church; a sacrament, pointing to His death in the past, to His life in the present, to His coming in the future; of which it is a Christian duty to partake, and a sin to partake unworthily; it being a communion of believers as members of the same body of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). The main point respects the meaning of the words:
‘This is my body’ (Matthew 26:26). ‘This’ in the original is neuter, ‘bread ‘is masculine. ‘This ‘does not mean ‘this bread,’ but ‘bread in this service.’
‘Is,’ may not have been expressed in the Aramaic language used by our Lord. The relation between the words ‘this’ and ‘my body,’ cannot be determined by this verb alone. The four leading views may, however, be classed under two senses given to ‘is: ‘
( 1 ) Literal.
(a) Romanist view.
( 2 ) Figurative.
( 1 ) Literal interpretation.
(a) Romanist view (called transubstantiation): This is (really and essentially) my body. This (and nothing else) involves the changing of the substance of bread into the real flesh of our Lord, the form only remaining. This view does not give a literal sense, but implies: This becomes (not is) my body. As applied to the cup, it is not at all literal. According to Luke and Paul, in giving the cup, our Lord said not, this wine, but ‘this cup is the new testament in my blood.’ This view interprets these words: This wine (our Lord said; ‘this cup’) becomes my blood (our Lord said ‘the new testament in my blood ‘). No literal sense of the whole is possible. This view has led to great abuses: It makes of this Sacrament a sacrifice; it makes it efficacious, whatever be the character or state of the partaker; its tendencies have been to exalt the clergy at the expense of the people, to exalt the Sacrament at the expense of the word of God, to exalt forms at the expense of morality.
(b) The Lutheran view (commonly called consubstantiation). This declares that the body of Christ is present in, with, and under the bread. It seeks to avoid the errors of the Roman doctrine, and yet preserve a literal sense, by interpreting our Lord’s words: ‘This is (in a certain sense and partially, but not exclusively) my body.’ Of course this is not literal, and involves the figure of synecdoche, the additional philosophical difficulty of two substances occupying the same space at the same time, and the ubiquity of Christ’s body.
( 2 ) The figurative or symbolical sense. ‘This signifies my body.’ This view implies that the bread and wine remain bread and wine in substance as well as form. Comp. 1 Corinthians 11:26-28, where the bread which is eaten is spoken of as ‘bread’ three times.
(a) The Zwinglian view: The Lord’s Supper is a memorial service, and nothing more. The objection to this view is that it does not exhaust the phrase as a figure. When Christ says, ‘I am the vine,’ ‘I am the door,’ etc., the lower object used as a figure, has attached to it a higher spiritual sense. In the Lord’s Supper the lower object is made a continued sign, emblem, symbol of the greatest spiritual truth. The consequences of this bald view are shown in the lower estimate of the Sacrament, even as a memorial service, which it has almost invariably produced.
(b) The Calvinistic view. This maintains the spiritual or dynamic presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper over against the literal interpretations, and His real presence over against the Zwinglian view.
Both the figurative views agree, that here where bread is the sign, it is signified: that Christ’s body was broken for us (1 Corinthians 11:24); that it was given for us (Luke 22:19); further that as bread is the usual means of nourishing natural life, so Christ nourishes our spiritual life (John 6:0); the Calvinistic view emphasizes the fact that we, as partakers of the same bread, signify our membership in the same mystical body of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:17). In the Passover the sin-offering was consumed, not on the altar, but as food by the household of the offerer. So in the Lord’s Supper the bread was not only an emblem of this flesh as ‘wounded for the sins of men,’ but also ‘as administered for their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace’ (J. Add. Alexander). The Lord’s Supper is therefore a feast of the living union of believers with Christ, and a communion of believers with each other. It signifies, and also seals, such union and communion, becoming to the believing heart a means of grace, and to the unworthy partaker a means of condemnation (1 Corinthians 11:27-30). By this is not meant that it conveys, in and of itself, grace and condemnation, any more than in the case of preaching, prayer, the reading of the Scriptures, singing Psalms. The language and feelings of Christians, when engaged in the solemn service, assume as much as this.
Practically all may agree, save those who hold that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrifice. This opinion is contrary to the cardinal truth of the gospel, as is manifest not only from a comparison with those passages of the New Testament which speak of the sacrifice of Christ as offered ‘once for all,’ but from the injurious effects of the doctrine, as displayed in the corruptions of the Romish Church.
Matthew 26:27. And he took a cup. Luke and Paul, ‘after supper.’ Although the institution may have been independent of the regular mode of celebrating the Passover, the giving of thanks mentioned here, taken in connection with 1 Corinthians 10:16 (‘the cup of blessing’), indicates that this was a cup of thanksgiving, hence probably the third cup of the Passover feast.
Drink ye all of it. ‘All’ is significant in view of the Romanist usage, which denies the cup to the laity.
Matthew 26:28. For this is my blood of the covenant. The wine, poured-out, is a symbol of the blood of Christ shed for us. Both here and in Mark the word ‘new’ is omitted by the best authorities, though it occurs in the accounts of Luke and Paul. It was still the same covenant, though ‘new.’ Hence as the old covenant forbade the drinking of blood, it could not be commanded here in a literal sense. As Moses (Exodus 24:8) sprinkled blood upon the people and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant,’ our Lord points directly to the shedding of His blood on the cross as ‘the blood of the covenant.’ He thus comforted His disciples by explaining His death to them, and we can find no blessing in it apart from this explanation.
Which is shed (or ‘being shed’) for many unto remission of sins. Our Lord here declares, with reference to His own death, that it was an actual dying for others, to the end that their sins might be pardoned. That death for many is the ground of the forgiveness of each; the partaking of the cup signifies our belief that He thus died for us; the seal of the covenant assuring our believing souls of forgiveness. Both ‘bread ‘and ‘wine ‘set forth Christ in us, as well as Christ for us. The blood is a symbol of life; the wine, the emblem of Christ’s blood, is drunk, to signify also our new life through the blood of Christ, just as the eating of the bread sets forth nourishment derived from Christ, whose body has been broken for us. The central fact is the atoning death of Christ, which we commemorate; the present blessing is the assurance conveyed by visible signs, that we receive, truly though spiritually, Christ, with all His benefits, and are nourished by His life into life eternal. The word ‘many’ seems to hint at the communion of believers with one another.
Matthew 26:29. I shall not drink henceforth. He is done with earthly rites, and at this sad moment points them to a future reunion at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. The ordinance now receives its prophetic meaning (comp. 1 Corinthians 11:26 ‘till He come’), directing believers to the perfect vision and fruition of that time, through the foretaste which this sacrament is designed to give. It is a tame interpretation which finds here only a declaration that the Jewish Passover is superseded by the Lord’s Supper.
Drink it with you new, on some peculiar and exalted festal occasion.
My Father’s kingdom. Not to be weakened into ‘in the Christian dispensation.’ It points to the victory of the Church, not to its conflicts; and the continued celebration of the Lord’s Supper is an expression of assured victory on the part of His militant Church.
Matthew 26:30. And when they had sung a hymn (Psalms 115-118.) , they went out unto the mount of Olives, to Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36). Between the hymn and the going out we must insert the discourse and prayer of John 14-17. The place of eating the Passover was probably kept concealed, to give time for that closing interview, appropriately called, ‘the Holy of Holies.’
Matthew 26:31. All ye. Not without a contrast to Judas who had gone.
Shall be offended; ‘made to stumble,’ ‘fall away.’
In me, i.e., His betrayal and sufferings, this night, would be made by them an occasion of stumbling, a snare; they would forsake and deny Him.
For it is written (Zechariah 13:7). Our Lord, knowing what would come, knew also that it was designed to fulfil this prophecy.
I will smite the Shepherd, etc. In the prophecy: ‘Smite,’ a command. This change suggests that the coming sufferings were not only at the hands of men, but in some proper sense inflicted by God Himself; God smote Him instead of His people (comp. Isaiah 53:4-10). ‘The Shepherd ‘is Christ, and in the original prophecy meant the Messiah (comp. Zechariah 11:7-14; Zechariah 12:10).
And the sheep of the flock; the Apostles, but with a wider reference also to the Jewish people.
Scattered abroad. This occurred both in the case of the disciples, and of the Jews, after they had rejected the smitten Shepherd.
THE PREDICTION OF PETER’S DENIAL. The conversation recorded in Matthew 26:31-35 seems to have taken place on the way across the brook Kedron to Gethsemane. Luke inserts a similar prediction, in connection with the incident about the two swords, which must have taken place before the departure. John too places the prediction before the farewell discourse (chaps, 14 - 17 .), the whole of which must have been delivered in the room. If there was but one intimation of Peter’s denial, it was at the point where it is placed by Luke. The order is: After the singing of the hymn, the prediction about Peter, then the incident about the swords (in Luke), next John 14:0, then a rising to go (John 14:31), then the remainder of the discourse and the prayer (John 15-17.), then the actual going out. Matthew and Mark, however, connect the prediction of Peter’s denial with another important prophecy, not mentioned by Luke and John, and with difficulty fitted into their narratives. They indicate that the prediction about Peter was occasioned by something else, and record a less presumptuous answer from him. It is probable that our Lord gave two intimations on this point, the first mentioned by Luke and John (as above), the second by Matthew and Mark, uttered on the way out to Gethsemane. We then have, what would scarcely be lacking, a conversation on the way. The phrase ‘this night ‘favors this view.
Matthew 26:32. But after I am raised up. The resurrection is again announced.
I will go before you. The figure of a shepherd is continued. Comp, the remaining words of Zechariah 13:7: ‘And I will turn my hand upon the little ones.’
Into Galilee. In Galilee He collected His disciples: chap. Matthew 28:16; John 21:0, 1 Corinthians 15:6. This gathering was the pastoral work after the resurrection, hence the other interviews in Jerusalem are not referred to.
Matthew 26:33. But Peter answered. Instead of laying hold of the comforting part of the promise, Peter reverts to the first part.
If all... I will never be offended. The utterance of affection, yet of self-confidence and arrogance, since ‘all’ refers to the other disciples. Hence he was allowed to fall lower than the rest. This reply differs from that given by Luke and John. Its tone points to a previous declaration respecting his want of fidelity.
Matthew 26:34. Before the cook crow. Mark: ‘Before a cock crow twice.’ The first cock crow is about midnight, and heard by few; the second, about three in the morning, is usually called ‘cock-crowing’ (comp. Mark 13:35). The latter is referred to here: Our Lord meant the actual cock-crowing to be a warning for Peter (Matthew 26:75). It is said that the inhabitants of Jerusalem kept no fowls because they scratched up unclean worms. But this is not certain, and such a prohibition would not affect the Roman residents.
Thrice deny me. Deny knowing me (Luke 22:34), a denial of any relation to Christ, virtually a denial of faith in Him, as the Son of God; in contrast with the previous confession (chap. Matthew 16:16).
Matthew 26:35. Even if I must die with thee. In Luke and John, something like this precedes the prediction of the denial: in Matthew and Mark it occurs at this point. This favors the view that two different occasions are referred to.
In like manner said also all the disciples. The ardent spokesman influenced the rest. Their asseverations were probably not so strong, but were as inconsiderate. So ‘all’ forsook Him (Matthew 26:56), but Peter alone denied Him.
Matthew 26:36. Unto a place called Gethsemane. Luke (Luke 22:39) says in general ‘to the mount of Olives,’ though hinting at a customary place; John (John 17:1-2) tells us that was a ‘garden’ beyond the brook Kedron, known to Judas, ‘for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with His disciples. ‘‘Place ‘means ‘a piece of land,’ ‘field’ (see John 4:5; Acts 1:18, etc.); ‘Gethsemane’ means ‘oil-press.’ It was probably an enclosed olive-yard, containing a press and garden tower, perhaps a dwelling-house. It was at the western foot of the Mount of Olives beyond the Kedron (‘black brook’), so called from its dark waters, which were still more darkened by the blood from the foot of the altar in the temple (see note on Matthew 26:17). The spot now pointed out as Gethsemane lies on the right of the path to the Mount of Olives. The wall has been restored. Eight olive trees remain, all of them very old (each one has paid a special tax since A. D. 636 ), but scarcely of the time of our Lord, since Titus, during the siege of Jerusalem, had all the trees of the district cut down. Dr. Thomson (The Land and the Book) thinks the garden was in a more secluded place further on, to the left of the path. The name has been connected with the bruising of our Lord for our sins.
His disciples. The remaining eight.
Sit ye here, i.e. , ‘stay here.’ These eight would form, as it were, a watch against premature surprise.
While I go yonder. Probably out of the moonlight (the Passover was at full moon); not into a house.
And pray. Our Lord speaks of the coming struggle as prayer. So Abraham (Genesis 22:5), when he, almost on the same spot, was going to the greatest trial of his faith.
THE CONFLICT IN GETHSEMANE.
This conflict presents our Lord in the reality of His manhood, in weakness and humiliation, but it is impossible to account for it unless we admit His Divine nature. (Hence there is no reason for supposing that John omits it because it presents the human weakness of our Lord; especially as John himself frequently alludes to such weakness.) Had He been a mere man, His knowledge of the sufferings before Him could not have been sufficient to cause such sorrow. The human fear of death will not explain it. The conflict of desire and will in Him shows a higher will than mere men have, a will which was so controlled in its ruling purpose, that even the first prayer (Matthew 26:39) breathed entire submission. Our Lord, as a real man, was capable of such a conflict. But it took place after the serenity of the Last Supper and before the sublime submission in the palace and judgment hall. The conflict therefore seems to be a specific agony of itself; the sorrow and grief was not about the future merely, but in and of that hour, though not to be accounted for by the merely human influences which would then affect Him. There was resting upon Him a sense of the world’s sin, which He was bearing, a suffering for us, probably conjoined with the fiercest assaults of Satan. Otherwise, in this hour this Person, so powerful, so holy, seems to fall below the heroism of martyrs in His own cause. The language of His prayers shows that His sorrow did not spring from His own life, His memories or His fears, but was either sent directly from God, or purposely permitted by God. This involves the vicarious nature of the conflict. The agony was a bearing of the weight and sorrow of our sins, in loneliness, in anguish of soul threatening to crush His body, yet borne triumphantly, because in submission to His Father’s will. Three times our Lord appeals to that will, as purposing His anguish; that purpose of God in regard to the loveliest, best of men, can be reconciled with justice and goodness in God in but one way: that which exalts His grace to us. Our Lord suffered anguish of soul for sin, that it might never rest on us. To deny this is in effect, not only to charge our Lord with undue weakness, but to charge God with needless cruelty.
ALL the Evangelists narrate this occurrence with interesting variety in details, showing their entire independence. It shows the glory and majesty of our Lord even in such an hour; the reference to the fulfilment of the Scriptures (Matthew 26:54-56) confirms the view that the preceding conflict was proposed and permitted by God.
Matthew 26:37. Peter and the two sons of Zebedee. These three witnesses of His Divine glory on the Mount, were chosen to witness His human anguish in the valley. Yet they did not witness it (Matthew 26:40). Their nearness seems to have been in some way a comfort to Him, though they could not help Him.
And began to be sorrowful and sore troubled. Two ideas: first, that He was troubled with woe that falls upon Him; second, that He felt forsaken, had a weight of trouble that drove Him into solitude.
Matthew 26:38. My soul is exceeding sorrowful. Comp. John 12:27. A sufferer all His life, His sufferings now increased, even unto death. His human body would have given way under the sorrow of His human soul, had not strength been imparted by the ministrations of an angel (Luke 22:43). Soul and body interacted in Him as in us. Luke. (Matthew 22:44) narrates more particularly the physical effects of this agony.
Tarry ye here and watch with me. He would have friends near Him, but does not say: Pray with me; in this conflict He must be alone. His command was not merely to keep awake out of sympathy with Him, but to be on their guard against coming dangers. Even then He showed care for them.
Matthew 26:39. And he went forward a little. ‘About a stone’s cast’ (Luke 22:41), since that seems to refer to this second withdrawal. Into the Holy of Holies He goes alone. Luke, a physician, gives more vivid statements.
Fell on his face. Luke: ‘kneeled down.’ Kneeling and prostration were scarcely distinguished in the east.
If it is possible. Mark (Mark 14:36): ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee;’ Luke (Luke 22:42): ‘if thou be willing.’ The bitterness of this cup was so great, that He desired its removal, but even this desire was subordinated to the holy will of His Father.
This cup. (Comp. chap. Matthew 20:22.) All His sufferings, including the specific sorrow of that hour. Hope of relief remains in our anguish; but He foreknew all. All the predictions our Lord had previously made and the events of the same evening, show that it was not merely a fear of death.
Pass away from me. God answered the prayer by giving Him strength to drink it. The removal of the suffering was not ‘possible.’ The sorrows were necessary, not for Him, but for us.
Not as I will, but as thou wilt. In this real struggle, His will was still fixed in its obedience to that of His Father. As the God-man He foreknew all the bitterness of the cup, and His human will desired relief, but that will was overruled by the Divine purpose, which coincided with His Father’s will and led to submission.
Matthew 26:40. Sleeping. Not sound asleep, as we infer from Matthew 26:43, but in a dozing, drowsy state. Excessive sorrow has this result (comp. Luke 22:45). Spiritual influences, too, exhaust the body. Their drowsiness does not prove insensibility; they had, however, been warned to watch.
Unto Peter, who had promised most.
What, or ‘so then.’ This indicates disappointment, if not displeasure. His chosen friends had failed to comfort Him in this crisis.
Matthew 26:41. Watch and pray. The care for them, which was involved in the rebuke even, now becomes most prominent. They needed then, and, as the original implies what is habitual, always to watch, to be on their guard, as well as to pray. And that for themselves: that ye enter not into temptation. This includes an entertaining of the temptation. Others explain it: a temptation greater than ye can bear. Luke, whose account is at this point more condensed, inserts this admonition in a different place (Matthew 22:40; Matthew 22:46).
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. ‘The spirit,’ i.e., the human spirit, but only as quickened by the Holy Spirit. Of itself it could have no such willingness. In the Epistles the word ‘flesh ‘generally means the whole depraved condition of man; but here, where it is contrasted with the human spirit, it probably refers to the material part of man’s nature. The human spirit (when acted upon by the Holy Spirit), is willing to do the present duty, but the flesh, the body, which is weak (and weakened through sin), hinders and often produces failure. That was the case with the disciples. Nor is an application to our Lord forbidden. In Him, though weighed down by sorrow, so that the flesh almost gave way to death in its weakness (‘even unto death’), the willingness of the spirit triumphed. Possibly there is a hint of the conflict in believers between the ‘spirit’ and the depraved nature (‘flesh’), even though in this case its actings were through the weary body.
Matthew 26:42. Again a second time. Mark (Mark 14:39): ‘spake the same words.’ The prayer is substantially the same, but the form indicates more fully the resignation and self-sacrifice: the cup had not passed away, He must drink it, and He says: Thy will be done.
Matthew 26:43. For their eyes were heavy. Drowsiness, not deep sleep, is meant; Mark adds (Mark 14:40): ‘and they knew not what they should answer Him.’
Matthew 26:44. The third time, saying again the same words. Now full strength came to enable Him to meet the sufferings before Him.
Matthew 26:45. Sleep on now. Not ‘do ye still sleep? ‘but a permission, i.e., Sleep on now, if you can. It is not ironical; the circumstances forbid that. They could not take their rest, for the betrayer was coming.
Behold, the hour is at hand. The hour of His enemies, the hour of darkness (Luke 22:53), but with special reference to the approach of the betrayer. It is not certain that the band of Judas had already appeared.
Is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Our Lord had predicted (chap. Matthew 20:18-19), that He would be delivered to the chief priests and Gentiles; ‘sinners ‘here includes both. There is special significance in the choice of this word at such a time.
Matthew 26:46. Arise, i.e., rouse yourselves, not simply, stand up.
Let us be going. Both expressions imply haste, not necessarily terror. The conflict is over, the spirit of submission reigns; yet He is anxious that the trial of the moment of His betrayal should be over. His advancing to meet His betrayer may have been to rejoin and protect the eight disciples at the entrance of the garden.
Behold, etc. The band of Judas now appears.
Matthew 26:47. Judas knew the place. He had probably represented to the rulers the ease with which our Lord could now be taken, and overruled their decision to wait (Matthew 26:5). This haste favors the view that avarice was his leading motive.
One of the twelve. Usually thus termed; here the phrase emphasizes the treachery.
With him a great multitude. Composed of a detachment of the Roman cohort stationed in the castle Antonia (John 18:3; John 18:12; ‘the band’); of the Jewish temple-watch (Luke 22:52; ‘the captains of the temple ‘); of others, including servants and dependents of the high-priest (Matthew 26:51) and, in all probability, some fanatical chief-priests and elders also (Luke 22:52), who wished to witness the religious (!) capture.
With swords and clubs; the latter in the hands of the rabble accompanying the armed soldiers. The size of the crowd may have been a recognition of our Lord’s power or designed to produce the impression on Pilate that some great plot was to be crushed, and on the people that Jesus was a great criminal. They had lanterns and torches (John 18:3), for although the moon was full, they expected to take Him in a deep valley, where these might be needed.
From the chief-priests and elders of the people, the national authorities, at whose wish the Roman authorities acted.
Matthew 26:48. Gave them a sign, previously agreed upon; comp. Mark 14:44, ‘had given.’
Whomsoever I shall kiss. The kiss among the ancients was a sign of affectionate and cordial intimacy, and particularly a token of fidelity, Genesis 29:11.
Take him. Judas may have feared He might still elude them, either by some exercise of His acknowledged power, or, more probably, with the help of His disciples. If the incidents mentioned by John (John 18:4-9) took place, as is probable, on the first appearance of the crowd, most of those present already knew which was Jesus. But the signal agreed upon would be necessary to point Him out to the Roman soldiers, who might not have understood the conversation or had orders to act upon this sign. Our Lord had probably rejoined the other disciples.
Matthew 26:49. And straightway. John 18:5, indicates that Judas appeared at first as if not directly belonging to the crowd, but soon moved in advance of them, as they fell back. He was probably excited as well as dissembling.
Hail, Rabbi. A deceitful address.
Kissed him. A stronger word than that used in the last verse (so in Mark’s account). Meyer: ‘The sign was the simple kissing; but the performance was more emphatic, a caressing, corresponding with the purpose of Judas to make sure, and with the excitement of his feelings.’
Matthew 26:50. Friend. Comp. chap. Matthew 20:13. A term of civility, though not necessarily of friendship. Our Lora did not turn away, in holy indignation, from this Judas kiss. His meekness and gentleness under the greatest provocation, surpasses even the standard which He holds up for His disciples; Matthew 5:39.
Do that for which thou art come! A slight change of reading makes the common translation incorrect. The expression is elliptical, and may be either an exclamation or a question: ‘Is it this for which thou art come? ‘The former accords much better with the emotion natural at such a time. In any case it is a stinging rebuke to Judas.
Laid their hands, etc. This does not imply undue violence. He was probably not bound until afterwards (comp. John 18:12).
Matthew 26:51. One of them. Peter, as was well known (John 18:26), but only John gives the name.
Drew his sword. According to Luke (Luke 22:49) the question was first asked: ‘Shall we smite with the sword? ‘Peter did not wait for the answer. They had two swords (Luke 22:38), whoever had the other one was not so rash.
The servant of the high-priest. Named ‘Malchus; ‘ John 18:10.
His ear. The ‘right ear’(Luke and John). Peter was no swordsman, for he missed his blow. In any case carnal weapons used in Christ’s cause deprive His opponents of ‘ears,’ i.e., of willingness to listen to the truth. Christ’s grace may restore this willingness, as it healed this ear. The healing is mentioned by Luke (the physician) only. The double effect of Peter’s rashness, damage to Malchus and danger to himself, were thus removed.
Matthew 26:52. Thy sword; not mine!
Into its place, i.e., the sheath (John 18:11). Peter was still standing with drawn sword.
For all they that take the sword. A general proposition in regard to unwarranted recourse to measures of violence.
Shall perish with the sword. The special reference is to Peter. In taking the sword he had been imprudent, and exposed himself to a superior force; had been revolutionary, for these came with authority; had been cruel, for the mutilation of a human being in a spiritual cause is uncalled for. His life would have been forfeited to the sword, had not our Lord interfered and removed the effects of his blow. Any special application to the armed band who came to take Him seems unlikely. But as a rule, the violent perish violently. The circumstances of this occasion (Peter trying to kill, and the band representing authority, even though abused), as well as a comparison with Genesis 9:6; Romans 13:4, warrant an application to the justice of capital punishment for murder. The great lesson is: The Church, a spiritual body, may use spiritual weapons only (comp. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4); never carnal and violent measures.
Matthew 26:53. Or thinkest thou. An appeal to Peter’s faith, and also a declaration of power and an exhibition of patience.
Even now, at this crisis when all seems to be lost
Twelve legions. He numbers His hosts by ‘legions,’ as did the Romans (in whose hands he was). A legion included more than six thousand men. ‘Twelve;’ probably in allusion to the twelve persons (Himself and the eleven) opposed to this midnight band; a legion for each; a mighty host, all-sufficient to help them. Peter is rebuked, not for distrust of God’s power, but for using force. Were that necessary, it would have come in answer to prayer. Christ, in mercy to men, chose to gain His victory by suffering and long-suffering. When force is needed, Christ will appear with the angels (chap. Matthew 25:31). Before that time, every use of it tends only to evil. Violence against the conscience, as well as against the b ody, reacts upon those employing it.
Matthew 26:54. How then, if I should invoke this aid, which I might do, should the Scriptures be fulfilled? Our Lord shows His patience and submission; even while asserting His majesty.
That thus it must be. According to the counsel of God, for the salvation of a sinful world, as declared in the Scriptures, the Messiah ‘must ‘suffer: that suffering must be ‘thus ‘brought about. Our Lord’s death could not be incidental or accidental. He ‘must ‘suffer (comp. Matthew 26:56; Luke 24:26). This declaration also contained consolation for His terrified disciples.
Matthew 26:55. Multitudes. Especially the rulers and temple-guards (Luke 22:52). Mark (Mark 14:48) says ‘answers,’ i.e., to their actions, not their words. He was probably bound, at this time, but His protest does not imply a desire to resist.
As against a robber, not ‘a thief,’ against whom no such display of force would be needed.
Sat. Unmolested and unlike a robber.
Daily. From day to day, as during the past week.
In the temple, the most public place in Jerusalem.
Teaching. Not unobserved, so that you needed to seek me; nor yet riotous or robbing, as your present conduct implies.
And ye took me not. They dared not (chap. Matthew 21:46); the method now adopted showed the malignity of an evil conscience, and also a deceitful purpose to turn the current against Him.
Matthew 26:56. But all this hath come to pass. The words of our Lord. Mark gives a briefer form of the same thought; Luke, another expression, supplementing this: ‘but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.’ This word of our Lord is therefore His final surrender of Himself to death; a willing offering of Himself for others, in accordance with the purpose of a merciful God.
Then all the disciples forsook him. All who had joined with Peter in his protestation (Matthew 26:35). This forsaking is connected with the last word of our Lord. He says He submits, their courage fails them. Only after Christ died for men, could men die for Him.
And fled. Not absolutely. See Mark 14:51; Luke 22:54; John 18:15. When the eleven forsook the Lord, other disciples, as Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea, took a more decided stand for Him. The Church can never fail; new Christians take the place of the old ones.
Matthew 26:57. To Caiaphas the high priest. Appointed by the Romans, Annas having been deposed, as frequently occurred (comp. Matthew 26:8).
Where the scribes and elders were gathered together. Mark inserts ‘the chief-priests,’ indicating a meeting of the Sanhedrin or council (Matthew 26:59). The examination before Annas would allow time for them to come together. But it was not the final assemblage of that body (see chap. Matthew 27:1-2; Luke 22:66-71).
THE THREE TRIALS. These seem to have been three judicial examinations of our Lord.
( 1 .) An examination before Annas, who, although deposed, was considered the real high-priest by the Jews, while they were obliged to recognize Caiaphas. This is mentioned by John only (John 18:13; John 18:15, etc.), who followed and went into the palace. It was not formal, no witnesses having been called, but rather an attempt to ensnare our Lord in His own words.
( 2 .) The night examination before Caiaphas mentioned in this section. This was formal, in accordance with his official character. Caiaphas, the son-in-law of Annas, probably lived in the same palace with him. This would obviate the difficulties arising from the views of the Jews and the authority of the Romans. The guard seems to have remained in the same palace court during both examinations.
( 3 .) In the morning of Friday the final and formal examination before the Sanhedrin (chap. Matthew 27:1-2; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66). Matthew and Mark give the details of the second examination, Luke of the third, John of the first. Peter’s denials occurred during the period from the first to the close of the second examination. John’s account shows this. The other Evangelists treat that subject as a whole, hence Matthew and Mark put it after, and Luke before the examination. A threefold examination by the secular authorities succeeded on Friday morning. These repeated trials were probably caused by a consciousness of the groundlessness of the whole proceeding.
Matthew 26:58. Peter followed afar off. Not out of curiosity, yet like a mere spectator. Such following leads to danger, not to victory.
Unto the court of the high priest. Not the ‘palace’ (comp. Matthew 26:3), but the area enclosed by the building (which may not have been a ‘palace ‘). The entrance to this was through the ‘porch’ (Matthew 26:71; Mark 14:68). A fire was soon kindled in the court.
Entered in. John (John 18:15-16) tells that he himself, as an acquaintance of the high priest, went in, while Peter stood without; the former procured admission for the latter. The first denial occurred about this time (see next section).
And sat with the officers. Those who had been engaged in the capture (see Matthew 26:47). He remained there for some time, from about midnight to cock crowing (three o’clock).
To see the end. The fire was kindled in the courtyard of the house where Annas lived (according to John), and Mark and Luke, who tell of the examination before Caiaphas, refer to Peter’s warming himself there. Annas and Caiaphas therefore probably lived in the same house.
Matthew 26:59. The whole council. The Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were probably absent (Luke 23:51), since their opposition would have been in vain (comp. John 7:50; John 9:22). It was not the first time this body had consulted against Him. See John 7:45-53; John 9:22; John 11:57; John 12:10.
Sought false witness. Knowing that true witness could not be had, they actually sought ‘false witness.’ Such a sin is greatest in judges.
Matthew 26:60. And found it not, i.e., to answer their purpose.
Many false witnesses came, as was natural; but two witnesses to one specific point were required (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15).
Afterward; after numerous vain attempts to find two, even apparently concordant, witnesses.
Two. The smallest number requisite.
Matthew 26:61. This man. ‘Fellow’ conveys a sneer, not contained in the original.
Said; see John 2:19, for what our Lord really said.
I am able to destroy the temple, etc. The testimony as recorded by Mark (Mark 14:58) differs in form, but the same Evangelist says (Matthew 26:59) their witness did not agree. Differing in minor circumstances, they probably agreed in making the saying one derogatory to the temple. Such were regarded as blasphemous by the Jews (Acts 6:13); the temple being the symbol of their religion. The witnesses were probably guilty of wilful misinterpretation. The Sanhedrin knew what the true sense of the words was (chap. Matthew 27:63), and the witnesses were probably fully aware of it. Our Lord’s zeal in cleansing the temple (chap. Matthew 21:12-13) should have been an evidence to all that He would not speak slightingly of it. Besides, if they supposed He meant the temple in Jerusalem, they heard His promise of restoring it, which could not imply hostility to the temple itself. The words of our Lord are a prophecy of His death, and yet of His ultimate victory; this, in their blindness and fanaticism they could make a ground for condemnation.
Matthew 26:62. And the high priest stood up. With a show of holy horror.
Answerest thou nothing? Silence would be a contempt of important testimony.
What do these witness against thee? Is it true or false? if true, what is its meaning? To make but one question of the high-priest’s language does not suit the vehemence natural to the occasion.
Matthew 26:63. But Jesus held his peace. Before Annas He had spoken (John 18:19-23), but that was not an official hearing. Here under false witness and reproach He (as before Herod) is silent, in patience and confidence of victory. The testimony was false in fact, even if partially true in form. An answer would have involved an explanation, which his opposers either knew already or were too hostile to accept. The silence does not, as early interpreters thought, point to our silence before the judgment seat of God, had He not taken our place and been silent before His judges; for His silence led to their greater judgment and self-condemnation. His claim to be the Messiah was the ground of their hostility and also the only ground on which they could demand His death. His silence implied this, and served to bring the whole matter to an issue.
And the high-priest said. Our Lord’s silence compels the abandonment of the subterfuge. Yet the deceitfulness remained. They would not believe Him, as He afterwards told them (Luke 22:67). They merely offered the alternative of a conviction as a blasphemer or an impostor.
I adjure thee, etc. Gen 24:3 ; 2 Chronicles 36:13. When a judge used this formula, the simple answer yea or nay, made it the regular oath of the witness.
By the living God. In His presence, a witness and judge of the answer.
The Christ, the Son of God. The latter term probably meant more than the former. Mark 14:61, and the question at the third examination (Luke 22:67; Luke 22:70), indicate that Caiaphas used it in a sense similar to that we now attach to it. ‘He and the Sanhedrin wittingly attached to it the peculiar meaning which, on previous occasions, had been such an offence to them (John 5:18; John 10:33); and Jesus, fully understanding their object, gave a most emphatic affirmation to their inquiry. Of all the testimonies in favor of the divinity of Christ, this is the most clear and definite’ (Gerlach).
Matthew 26:64. Jesus saith. Put upon judicial oath our Lord replies. To be silent would be construed as a confession that He was not the Messiah.
Thou hast said. An affirmative answer (Mark 14:62: ‘I am’). This calm response, drawn out by the oath, is a public declaration of His Messiahship. It ensured His death, but laid full responsibility upon them. The Faithful Witness (Revelation 1:0) did not falter or fail.
Moreover, not ‘nevertheless.’ Over and above the confession, which they would not believe, His glory would appear to them as a sign of its truth. He was conscious of His glory in the moment of His condemnation, in His deepest humiliation. This declaration would be a warning to any not hardened in their opposition, but to most, if not all, it was a prophecy of judgment. From henceforth shall ye see. Not simply at some time ‘hereafter,’ but in all the future. Christ’s glorification began as soon as their proceedings against him were finished, and in such a way as to make the Jewish people see His power. The prophecy has been fulfilled ever since.
Sitting as they now sat to judge Him, with a reference to the quiet confidence of His future position in glory.
At the right hand, i.e., the place of honor.
Of power, i.e., of God, who is Almighty. This expression is used in contrast with His present weakness. The whole alludes to Psalms 110:1, which He had quoted to them in the last encounter (chap. Matthew 22:44).
And coming on the clouds of heaven. ‘The sign from heaven’ they had demanded (Mark 8:11). This refers to Christ’s final appearing, but may include His coming to judgment on the Jewish people, at the destruction of Jerusalem.
Matthew 26:65. Then the high-priest rent his clothes, his upper-garment, not the high-priestly robe, which was worn only in the temple. Rending the clothes was a sign of mourning or of indignation (Acts 14:14), but in the former sense was forbidden to the high-priest (Leviticus 10:6; Leviticus 21:10). Instances of the high-priests using this sign of indignation occur in the first Book of the Maccabees and Josephus. The Jews found in 2 Kings 18:37, a precedent for rending the clothes on occasions of real or supposed blasphemy. Such an action, at first natural, became a matter of special regulation, hence more theatrical than real.
He hath spoken blasphemy. This implies: ( 1 .) That our Lord had on oath claimed to be Divine, else it could not be called blasphemy; ( 2 .) that the high-priest, while compelling Him to be a witness in His own case at once declared His testimony to be false, else it could not be called blasphemy. Every one who hears of Jesus now must accept either His testimony respecting Himself or the verdict of the high-priest.
What further need, etc. They had difficulty in getting witnesses. The true witness answered; they refused to believe, but found His confession sufficient for their purpose.
Behold now ye have heard the blasphemy. The high-priest assumes that they all agree with him, the whole verdict being spoken in hot haste.
Matthew 26:66. What think ye? A formal putting of the question to vote.
He is guilty (or ‘worthy’) of death. The answer of all (Mark 14:64). This formal condemnation was, as they imagined, according to the law (Leviticus 24:16 ; comp. Deuteronomy 18:20). The Sanhedrin was forbidden to investigate any capital crime during the night, and according to the Roman law a sentence pronounced before dawn was not valid. This test vote, however, they considered as settling the question; hence the ill-treatment which followed (Matthew 26:67-68). They were scrupulous in holding another meeting in daylight and there passing the final sentence (chap. Matthew 27:1; Luke 22:7). Yet even this was illegal, for a sentence of death could not be pronounced on the day of the investigation. All the examinations took place within one Jewish day, beginning in the evening.
Matthew 26:67. Then did they spit in his face. The guard chiefly, but probably the members of the Sanhedrin also (Acts 7:54; Acts 7:57; Acts 22:2). At all events they permitted it. It was an expression of the greatest contempt. Our Lord was treated as one excommunicated, though the final sentence had not been passed.
And buffet him. Struck Him with their fists.
And some (‘the officers,’ Mark 14:65) smote him. Either with the hand, or ‘with rods,’ probably both. Comp, the similar treatment at the examination before Annas (John 18:22). This probably took place in part when Jesus was led into the court to be kept there until the morning. The officers were probably those warming themselves by the fire, and just then Peter denied Him for the third time, so that our Lord turned and looked on him (Luke 22:61).
Matthew 26:68. Prophesy unto us, thou Christ. His face was covered, and after each b l ow, He was asked who gave it. The lower officials probably continued this scoffing amusement for some time. The Roman soldiers were apt in the same kind of mockery (chap. Matthew 27:28-31). First, condemned as a blasphemer, He was treated as an outlaw. Luke (Luke 22:65) adds: ‘Many other things blasphemously spake they against Him.’ The term ‘Christ ‘is used in mockery of His claims, and His silence would be construed into an evidence that He was an impostor. Brutal views of the Messiah were involved in this brutal play. There is a mocking of Him, which cannot strike His human body, though directed against His Person, His office, His mystical body.
FIRST DENIAL; Matthew 26:69-70.
Matthew 26:69. Now Peter was sitting without in the court, the interior court enclosed by the house. Mark: ‘below in the court,’ i.e. below the room (probably on the ground-floor) where the examination was going on. If this room were open towards the court, as was sometimes the case, then Peter could see something of the trial. John tells (Matthew 18:15-16) how he gained admission. But warming one’s self with Christ’s enemies has its dangers.
A maid. Mark: ‘one of the maids of the high-priest,’ probably the one who kept the door, mentioned by John, since he connects with this denial Peter’s standing by the fire in the court, expressly mentioned by Mark and Luke. But two maid-servants may have made a similar charge on this occasion.
Jesus the Galilean. Probably contemptuous banter, or light ridicule, not with a view to serious accusation. The maid seems to have followed him into the court, repeating the banter, which he repelled in the different words recorded by the different Evangelists.
THE VARIOUS ACCOUNTS of Peter’s denial. All four Evangelists narrate the main facts. Their candid statements respecting what might seem derogatory to the good name of one of the chief Apostles is a guarantee of honesty and presumptive evidence of truthfulness. (Mark, who probably wrote under Peter’s own direction, is very full.) Nor is there in the story an inherent improbability, at least for those who have knowledge of the workings of Divine grace. To objectors it may be said: ‘Thy speech bewrayeth thee.’ Every point of the narrative accords not only with Christian experience, but with the character of Peter as sketched in the New Testament, and with our Lord’s predictions and warnings to him. What befell Peter may befall any Christian who relies on his own strength, especially after self-exaltation (Matthew 26:33-35), lack of watchfulness and prayer (Matthew 26:40; Matthew 26:43), and presumptuous rushing into danger (Matthew 26:51; Matthew 26:58). The account of Peter’s repentance also finds its confirmation in the Christian heart. It was occasioned in part by a natural cause (the crowing of a cock), yet even that was a direct sign from the Lord: by a look of compassion and love; by a remembrance of the Lord’s words, recalling his past sin of pride quite as much as his present denial. All were from Christ, and hence the penitence was genuine. It was sudden as his sin had been; it was secret, sincere, and lasting. This internal evidence of truthfulness shows that the variations in the four accounts are evidences of independence, and not discrepancies. They agree in the main facts, namely, that Peter was recognized on three occasions during the night; that he was on all three a denier of his Lord; but they differ in details. They mention different recognizers, especially in the second and third case, they record different replies and different circumstances. It follows that not one of the four consulted the narrative of the others, or derived his account from the same immediate source. Forgers would have made their accounts agree; writers of legends would have shown a common source; but these differences prove that the occurrences took place and were reported by credible independent witnesses.
It is difficult, however, to construct a single narrative out of the four accounts. Each denial could not have consisted of a recognition by a single person and a single answer by Peter. Peter was in an excited crowd at night, for probably two hours or more. Three single questions and three single answers would not have been all that occurred, but rather three episodes of suspicion and denial. The variations therefore go to prove not only the independence, but also the truthfulness of the narratives. Agreement in every point would suggest collusion; the account of three simple questions and answers would seem improbable. Having four independent, competent witnesses, even if at our distance we cannot arrange all the details, the variations ought not to shake our faith in the entire accuracy of each and all the narratives. The theory of evidence that is most satisfactory accepts three occasions of denial, without counting each answer as a separate denial; the more numerous recognitions may have been nearly simultaneous, and the answers belonging to each occasion, given in well-nigh immediate succession.
Matthew 26:70. But he denied before them all. Before those gathered about the fire.
I know not what thou sayest. On this first occasion he denies, not only his discipleship and knowledge of Jesus (Luke and John), but even that he understood what she could mean (Matthew and Mark); possibly to two different maids. He practised evasion, which leads to direct lying, often to perjury. Christ’s cause is not helped, nor His people defended, by crafty policy. Peter drew his sword in the presence of an armed band, but lied to a bantering maid-servant. In the Bible accounts of the fall of good men, women have usually been the occasion, though not the cause, of the crime. Even the maid at the gate was involved in the crime against Jesus.
SECOND DENIAL; Matthew 26:71-72.
Matthew 26:71. Into the porch. In his embarrassing position, he left the fire, going out to the arched gateway leading from the court to the street; probably no further. Mark mentions a crowing of the cock, while he was there (comp. Mark 14:30). As Peter himself probably informed Mark of this, it was not the cock-crow that brought him to repentance; nor does he conceal his forgetfulness of the signal.
Another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there. This second recognition seems to have been a general one, beginning by the fire (John, who probably stood there and tells what he himself witnessed), recurring in the porch, where this maid attacked him (Matthew, Mark). If the maid mentioned in Matthew 26:69, was not the porteress, then it is possible that she takes up her banter again. Luke tells of a man recognizing him; probably a servant standing in the porch, one of those to whom the maid spoke. At such a time such a charge would awaken further remark.
Jesus the Nazarene. Again, a woman’s weapon, of contempt and ridicule; potent enough, when human weakness is not supported by Divine grace.
Matthew 26:72. Denied with an oath. The oath is mentioned by Matthew alone, and was uttered to the maid in the porch.
I know not the man. From evasion to perjury, one sin leading to another. The expression is even somewhat contemptuous; Peter was now ‘a stone of stumbling,’ not a ‘rock.’
THIRD DENIAL, followed by repentance; Matthew 26:73-75.
Matthew 26:73. And after a little while. ‘An hour’ (Luke), so that the second cock-crowing followed immediately (Matthew 26:74). Peter probably remained in the porch, as a less conspicuous place.
They that stood by. A very general recognition by those in the porch. The second denial had allayed the indignation, but the examination was about concluded, and there was more stir and excitement. The first man who recognized him, was probably the one mentioned by Luke; then the bystanders joined in: Surely thou also art one of them, as if to offset his oath (Matthew 26:72): for even thy speech bewrayeth thee. The Galilean dialect was peculiar, not making a distinction between the guttural sounds, etc.; a ready means of detection. Peter may have talked, while in the porch, with assumed unconcern.
Matthew 26:74. Then began he to curse, or ‘to call down curses on himself,’ if what he said was not true.
And to swear, to call God to witness that it was true. Probably at this time he was recognized by the kinsman of Malchus (John 18:26), who had been in the garden of Gethsemane, and doubtless in the audience room, until our Lord was brought out after the examination, or he would have seen Peter before.
And immediately a cook crew. The second cock-crowing, about three o’clock in the morning. Just then, according to Luke (Luke 22:61), our Lord ‘turned and looked on Peter.’ We infer that this occurred as He was led out after the examination. Peter was in the porch, not the court. This view accounts for the fact of so many having recognized Peter there, and agrees with the requirements of time.
Matthew 26:75. And Peter remembered. His memory was helped by our Lord’s look of reproachful love (comp. Mark 14:72).
The word of Jesus (Matthew 26:34).
And he went out, i.e., from the porch into the street. His departure was not to save himself from his perilous position, but to be alone in his grief. He did not go out into ‘black night,’ for it was moonlight still.
And wept bitterly. Tears of true penitence. The repentance of Judas led him back to the priests, with money in his hand; the repentance of Peter led him to God with tears in his eyes. ‘A small matter (a mean servant) makes us fall when God does not support us; a small matter (the crowing of a cock) raises us again, when His grace makes use of it’ (Quesnel).
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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 26". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12