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OUR LORD’S EATING THE LAST PASSOVER WITH HIS DISCIPLES
Luke 22:14-16. 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.
SUPPOSING the Holy Scriptures to have been written by divine inspiration, and Jesus Christ to have been the Son of the Most High God, we should expect that every thing related of him would have the stamp and character of his perfections. There would be a consistency in all that belonged to him: in what belonged to him as God, he would appear as God; and in what belonged to him as man, he would be found altogether pure and spotless. This consistency we do find; nor does he ever for a moment say or do any thing which is not worthy of himself. The time is come for his celebration of the Passover, on the very night previous to his death. He orders his Disciples to go into the city, and make ready for him. But where shall they go? He bids them enter into the city, and inform a person whom they shall meet bearing a pitcher of water, that their Master would eat the Passover at his house; and he assures them that the person will, without hesitation, shew them a large upper room furnished, and affording every accommodation that they can wish. Nor need they send any person to tell him what house they are at, as he will be in no danger of wanting any such information. Here we see him, as the omniscient God, declaring with infallible certainty the most contingent events: and when he comes to his Disciples, behold, he forgets all his own approaching sufferings, and is intent only on promoting their eternal welfare. The last evening was arrived, when he was to conflict with all the powers of darkness, and to be delivered into the hands of sinners. This he well knew; and therefore, one would suppose, should have greatly dreaded the approaching hour: but, instead of dreading it for himself, he earnestly desired it for their good: “With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I will not eat any more thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
Here two inquiries arise; and they will afford a profitable subject for our present contemplation?
Why did he so desire to eat the Passover with them at that time?
Many reasons doubtless conspired to make him so desirous of it. It would afford him a valuable opportunity
Of manifesting his love to them—
[Parting friends are usually anxious to give to each other some lasting token of their mutual regard. Our blessed Lord, in particular, was glad to avail himself of the opportunity which the Paschal feast would afford him for this purpose. That feast was attended with repeated washings of the hands of him who presided at it: but our Lord, having his Disciples alone with him, instead of washing his own hands, took a towel, and girded himself, and washed their feet: nor would he suffer any one of them to decline accepting this token of his love: so anxious was he to convince them all, that “having loved them, he loved them to the end [Note: John 13:1.].” Nor did he by this action merely express to them his own love, but shewed them what sentiments they should entertain towards each other, and towards all his people to the end of time: they should account no service too humiliating to perform for the lowest member of his mystical body; but every one should make it the summit of his ambition to become the servant of all.]
Of conveying instruction to their minds-
[They had been frequently informed of his approaching sufferings and death; insomuch, that though they did not fully comprehend these predictions, they were much troubled and perplexed in relation to them. They were now, like ground that has been ploughed up, and watered with plenteous rains, prepared to receive into their bosoms the good seed, the word of life, Our Lord therefore now opened to them, more fully than on any other occasion, all the deepest mysteries of his religion. He told them plainly who he was, even one with the Father, insomuch that “whosoever had seen him, had seen the Father.” He told them also, whither, and for what end, he was going; even to his Father’s house, “to prepare places for them.” He told them, that his departure was altogether “expedient for them;” so that if they considered it aright, instead of mourning on account of it, they would rejoice: for that he would send to them the Holy Ghost to be their abiding Comforter and Guide: yea, he himself would hear and answer every petition that they should present to the Father in his name; nay more, though removed from them as to his body, he would come and manifest himself to them, and even dwell in them, by his Spirit. He opened to them also the nature and intent of his death, which was to procure “for them the remission of their sins;” and shewed them, that, notwithstanding his removal from them, they should be united to him as branches to the vine, and, by constant communications of grace and strength from him, be enabled to bring forth the fruits of righteousness to his praise and glory. In a word, in his discourses at this feast, he brought forth every subject which their necessities required, and presented it in such a view as should most conduce to their lasting edification and comfort [Note: Read attentively the I3th, 14th, 15th, and 16th chapters of St. John.].]
Of commending them to God in prayer—
[Doubtless he had oftentimes prayed with them: but this last prayer was peculiarly tender and impressive. It is the delight of pious friends, when parting to meet no more, to commend each other into the hands of their common Father, in the hope and prospect of seeing each other again in a better world. Thus did our blessed Lord on this occasion. He had taken the charge of his Disciples in this world, and had kept them all in safety, the traitor alone excepted, according to the predictions concerning him: and now he entreats his Father to keep them; that, through their ministrations, his name may be made known to the ends of the earth; and, through their exalted love and piety, the whole world may have an evidence, both of the truth of his mission, and of the sanctifying efficacy of his religion. And, that they might have the fuller assurance of meeting him again in a better world, he prays, or rather, I should say, he declares it to be his unalterable will, that they all should be with him in that kingdom to which he was going, and should behold his glory there for ever and ever [Note: See the 17th chapter of St. John.]. Surely they never could forget that prayer so solemnly offered, so tenderly expressed, so richly fraught with instruction and heavenly consolation.]
Of preparing them fully for his departure—
[His approaching sufferings must of necessity prove a great stumbling-block in their way. But when they should recollect what he had told them previously to his death, their hopes would revive, and they would be encouraged to expect the full accomplishment of all his promises. To produce this effect was a very principal object of this last discourse [Note: See John 13:19; John 14:25; John 16:4; John 16:33; John 17:13.]: and how completely it was attained, the Apostles themselves inform us: they thought his former discourses had been obscure parables in comparison of this: but this appeared to them simple and intelligible; insomuch that it removed all remaining doubt from their minds respecting his Divine mission [Note: John 16:28-30.]. It is true, we find, that, on the apprehension of their Lord, they all forsook him and fled; and for some time they scarcely knew how to believe the joyful tidings respecting his resurrection from the dead: but, from the moment that they were convinced of that fact, we see a steadfastness in them which was evidently the result of these previous instructions; and their whole future lives demonstrated what unspeakable benefit they had received from them.]
Such were the grounds, we conceive, on which our Lord so earnestly desired to eat the Passover with them at that time. We are next to inquire,
Why he determined to eat it with them no more—
If he had pleased, he might have continued upon earth after his resurrection, or come down again from heaven at that season of the year to eat it with them again. But, independent of many other considerations, there were two reasons in particular, why he would not celebrate with them that ordinance any more:
Because it was now about to be fulfilled and abrogated—
[The Passover was instituted only for a time, till the more perfect dispensation of the Messiah should be introduced. For both the occasion of that ordinance, and the ordinance itself, were altogether typical. The occasion of that ordinance was the redemption of Israel out of Egypt, which was typical of the redemption of the world from sin and Satan, death and hell. The Paschal Lamb also, which was to be roasted, and eaten with bitter herbs, and not a bone of which was to be broken, was typical of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was to endure the extremest agonies both of soul and body as a sacrifice for sin, yet was not to have one bone of his body broken. To the completion of this type in the Lord Jesus Christ the Apostle Paul bears witness, saying, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast.” This therefore was the deliverance which was henceforth to be celebrated in the Church; and in comparison of it the deliverance from Egypt was no more to be remembered [Note: Jeremiah 23:5-8.] — — — From this time the shadows were to flee away, seeing that the good things which they prefigured were now arrived: the new covenant, with every thing relating to it, was now established; and therefore the old covenant, with all its carnal ordinances, having waxed old, was to vanish away [Note: Hebrews 8:13.].
Now it was of great importance to the whole Church that this matter should be fully understood: and therefore our blessed Lord informed his Disciples, that, since “the Passover would now be fulfilled in the kingdom of God,” or in the dispensation which he was about to introduce, there would be no more occasion for the Jewish rites and ceremonies, not even for that which was the most solemn and sacred of them all [Note: The word “until” does not import, that our Lord would keep the feast after it had been accomplished in him, but that he never would keep it again. It is an Hebraism, frequent in the Scriptures.].]
Because other memorials of his love were now to be established—
[The Lord’s Supper was now instituted for the purpose of exhibiting to the world the wonders of his love, and of perpetuating in the Church the remembrance of it to the end of time. In the breaking of the bread, was represented the rending of his body on the cross; and in the pouring out of the wine, the effusion of his blood: and the partaking of those sacred elements which nourish the body, represented the nourishing of our souls by a believing application to Christ as our atoning sacrifice. This is the feast which his people are now to keep: of this all are to partake, provided they desire to have redemption through his blood, and can partake of it with the bitter herbs of real humiliation. This feast he will keep with us; not indeed by his bodily presence, but by that which is infinitely more important, his spiritual presence with our souls: “I will come unto you,” says he, “and sup with you, and you with me.” Nor was this the privilege only of his own immediate Disciples, but of all who shall believe in him through their word: “Lo,” says he, “I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.”]
How earnestly should we desire communion with Christ!
[Did he forget all his approaching sufferings, that he might instruct and comfort his Disciples? O how should we rise above all considerations, whether of pain or pleasure, to enjoy fellowship with him! How should we seek instruction from him as the first and greatest of all blessings! I am far from saying that we should neglect any earthly duty whatever; but we should consider every thing in this world as altogether worthless in comparison of him: joys should be no joys, any further than they will consist with a sense of his love; nor should sorrows be regarded for a moment, if they be endured for his sake, or can be rendered subservient to his glory. To hear his voice, and learn his will, and taste his love, and follow his steps, and secure a participation of his glory, this should be our one desire, our continued labour, our supreme delight.]
How delighted should we be with the thoughts of death!
[At death, this whole work of redemption will be fully completed. In Christ it is completed now; in us it will not be fully completed, till all the remains of sin are done away. That will take place at the moment of our release from this mortal body: and then we shall keep the feast in a better manner. Our Lord has taught us to expect a renewal of this feast in the realms above: he has told us, that “he will drink of new wine with us in his Father’s kingdom [Note: Matthew 26:29.].” O what a feast will that be! We need not envy then the beloved Apostle, who at the Last Supper lay in his Saviour’s bosom: for we ourselves shall, like Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, recline upon the bosom of our blessed Lord. Should we not then look forward to that time with holy desire, “looking for, and hasting unto, the coming of our Lord?” Should not the language of us all be, “Come Lord Jesus, come quickly?” Let not death, which is to introduce us to such bliss, be formidable in our eyes: but let us be anxious only to be counted worthy of that honour which he has prepared for us, and be “longing to be dissolved, that we may be with Christ.”]
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF OUR LORD’S DEATH FORE-ORDAINED
Luke 22:22. Truly the Son of Man goeth, as it was determined [Note: Another exordium might be to this effect:—[Persons educated in the Christian religion, take for granted that it is true; whilst yet they know but little how to defend it against the assaults of infidels. But it is desirable that we should all be conversant, in some degree at least, with the evidences of its truth. I will therefore set before you somewhat of the evidence that arises from the accomplishment of prophecy, and especially in reference to the death of Christ as being altogether decreed and determined by God.]].
THE doctrine of predestination is very mysterious. If it be so held as to destroy the free agency of man, it must be pernicious and false: but it cannot be denied without denying also the omniscience and immutability of God; nor, if properly understood, is it at all inconsistent with the responsibility of man. If we know not how to reconcile all the difficulties that arise from this doctrine, it is not therefore false. Certain it is that Judas was punished, and that eternally [Note: Mark 14:21.]; nor can we doubt but that the Judge of all the earth will do right [Note: Psalms 145:17.]: yet his sin was among the things which had been fore-ordained. To this effect St. Peter speaks respecting the Jewish nation at large [Note: Acts 2:23.]: to the same purpose our Lord speaks of Judas in particular [Note: The text.].
Our Lord’s death in general was fore-ordained—
No unprejudiced person can entertain a doubt of this truth: there are innumerable proofs of it in the Holy Scriptures.
Our Lord’s death was fixed before the foundation of the world—
[God foresaw the fall of man from eternity: he from eternity also determined to restore man again to his favour. The mean, by which he resolved to effect it, was the death of his own Son. Hence the Apostle speaks of Christ as “fore-ordained,” &c. [Note: 1 Peter 1:20.]—]
It was predicted soon after man had fallen—
[God denounced a curse against the serpent. In that denunciation he foretold the destruction of Satan himself: he foretold it as to be effected by the death of Christ [Note: Genesis 3:15.].]
It was shadowed forth in a variety of types—
[The paschal lamb represented it [Note: 1 Corinthians 5:7.]: it was prefigured by the daily sacrifices [Note: John 1:29.]: it was typified by the offerings on the great day of atonement [Note: Hebrews 9:13-14.]. The serpent in the wilderness was a striking representation of it [Note: John 3:14.].]
It was foretold by all the prophets—
[The prophetic writings are full of declarations respecting it. Isaiah seems rather to have composed a history than a prophecy. To quote particular passages is needless. St. Peter mentions it as foretold by all the prophets [Note: Acts 3:17-18.]—. Our Lord himself speaks to the same effect [Note: Luke 24:25-27.]—.]
A body was prepared him on purpose that he might die—
[He freely undertook to suffer in our stead [Note: Psalms 40:6-8.]. This was the ground on which a body was provided for him [Note: Hebrews 10:5-7. The Apostle explains the expression in Psalms 40:6. “Mine ears hast thou opened,” by other words to the same effect, “A body hast thou prepared me.” The boring the ear of a servant bound him to his servitude for ever; Exodus 21:6. And the preparing of a body for Christ fixed him to his engagements.]. This reason for his incarnation is often noticed in the Scriptures [Note: Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 2:14.]—.]
It was foreknown and consented to by our Lord himself—
[Our Lord often spake of it to his Disciples [Note: Luke 18:31-33.]: it was the subject of his conversation with Moses and Elias [Note: Luke 9:31.]. He could have delivered himself from his enemies if he had chosen it [Note: He had frequently done so, Luke 4:29-30. Joh 8:59 and he could easily have done it then, John 18:6. Matthew 26:53.]: but it was a season he greatly longed for [Note: Luke 12:50.].]
Hence we may conclude, that though the agents were guilty, as having acted freely, the actions themselves were fore-ordained [Note: Acts 4:28.]. But there was not merely a decree respecting our Lord’s death in general;
Every particular respecting it was determined—
It would be endless to enumerate all the predictions respecting Christ, and to compare them with his history [Note: Matthew alone quotes above thirty passages that refer to Christ.]; but we will point out a few that relate more immediately to his death:
Those that were immediately to precede his death—
[It was foretold by whom he was to be betrayed [Note: Psalms 41:9.]. Our Lord himself applies this prediction to Judas [Note: John 13:18.]—. The price that should be paid for his blood, together with the disposition of the purchase-money, was accurately foretold [Note: Zechariah 11:12-13.]. This very sum (the price of a slave) was paid, and afterwards so applied [Note: Matthew 27:6-10.]. It was moreover foretold that he should be scourged [Note: Psa 129:3 and Isaiah 53:5.]. This was complied with to prevent his death [Note: Luke 23:22.]. He was also destined to be mocked, spit upon, and smitten [Note: Isaiah 50:6.]. His enemies vented their indignation in this very way [Note: Matthew 27:26-30.]—.]
Those that were to accompany his death—
[It was foretold that he should be nailed to a cross [Note: Psalms 22:16.]. The accomplishment of this was very singularly effected [Note: John 18:31-32. Crucifixion was not a Jewish, but a Roman punishment: yet he was put to death for a crime of which the Roman law would not have taken cognizance.]. He was to be crucified with others, malefactors [Note: Isaiah 53:12.]. The fulfilment of this also is particularly noticed [Note: Mark 15:27-28.]—. He was to experience fresh insults here [Note: Psalms 22:6-8.]. This was fulfilled in the most literal manner [Note: Matthew 27:41-43.]. He was also to suffer the hidings of his Father’s face [Note: Psalms 22:1.]. David’s words were those used by Christ under his dereliction [Note: Matthew 27:46.]—. He was to have vinegar offered him to drink [Note: Psalms 69:21.]: he would not resign his breath till this was accomplished [Note: John 19:28-30.].]
Those that were immediately to follow his death—
[He was to be pierced [Note: Zechariah 12:10.]. This was fulfilled in a very remarkable manner [Note: John 19:34; John 19:36.]; yet he was not to have a bone broken [Note: Exodus 12:46. This was very unlikely to be fulfilled, seeing that many of his bones were out of joint, Psa 22:14 and the bones of those who were crucified with him were broken.] This, too, received its accomplishment [Note: John 19:32-33; John 19:36.]. The manner in which his clothes were to be disposed of was also foretold [Note: Psalms 22:18.]. The fulfilling of this strongly marked the overruling hand of God [Note: John 19:23-24.].]
We may say of every the most minute circumstance, as St. Matthew does [Note: Matthew 26:56.]—
How certainly is Jesus the true Messiah!
[Such a variety of circumstances could not have concurred but from the express determination of Providence. Let us then receive Jesus as the promised Messiah: let us welcome him with acclamations and hosannas: let us depend upon his death as a sure ground of hope — — —]
How cheerfully may we leave ourselves to God’s disposal!
[How were the malice of Satan, the envy of the priests, the treachery of Judas, the cowardice of Pilate, &c. overruled for the effecting of the Divine purposes! Thus may God overrule the most adverse circumstances for our good. Let us then in all states rely on that gracious declaration [Note: Romans 8:28.]—.]
REWARD OF FAITHFULNESS
Luke 22:28-30. Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
AT the close of his life, our blessed Lord was peculiarly engaged in comforting and encouraging his Disciples. This appears particularly in the 14th, 15th, and 16th chapters of St. John’s Gospel. But in the passage before us it appears still more remarkably; because he had, at this time, great reason to be displeased with them: and yet he overlooks their offence with the most slight and transient notice; and administers consolation to them, as if they had deserved nothing but applause. Yet we are not to suppose that the words of my text are to be confined to them: they are applicable to all Christ’s faithful servants. And, to place them in their true point of view, I must consider them,
As addressed to the Disciples then before him—
[There are difficulties in the words: but those difficulties will vanish, if we bear in mind the precise circumstances under which the Disciples were, at the time when these words were delivered.
Our Lord had now kept the Passover with his Disciples; and had instituted his Last Supper, which, under the Christian dispensation, was to supersede the Passover. In explaining to them the nature and intent of this new ordinance, he had compared the bread, which he brake, to his body, which was to be broken on the cross; and the wine, which he poured forth, to the blood which was about to be shed upon the cross for the sins of the whole world. But, in speaking of these things, he twice mentioned “the kingdom of God, which was about to come,” and which was to be the completion and consummation of all that he had undertaken to effect [Note: ver. 16, 18.]. The Apostles, passing by all that their divine Master spake concerning his own sufferings, caught hold of the idea of “the kingdom of God,” in which they hoped for advancement upon earth; and immediately began to contend with each other for pre-eminence in that kingdom; each specifying the grounds on which he himself claimed a priority above the rest. Our Lord reproved this ambition in the same kind of way as he had before done [Note: Matthew 20:20-28. with ver. 25–27.]; but still forbore to dwell upon it, that he might comfort and support them under the accumulated weight of trouble which they were now immediately to sustain. He told them, that, whilst many had forsaken him, they had continued with him through all his temptations; and that therefore he would act towards them as the Father himself had acted towards him; and would fulfil all their desires to an extent of which they could now form no conception. Did they desire pre-eminence in his kingdom? They should all be admitted, not to the table of earthly princes merely [Note: 2 Samuel 9:9-10; 2 Samuel 19:28.], but to the table of the King of kings, to eat and drink in his presence: yea, they all should possess kingdoms, and sit on thrones: and, though they should themselves stand for a time at the tribunal of wicked men, and receive a sentence of condemnation from them, they should have all the tribes of Israel, standing as it were, at their tribunal, and receiving, to a certain degree, their sentence from them, who, as assessors with Christ, should approve and applaud the sentence passed upon them. This I conceive to be the true sense of the last clause of my text; which was intended to fortify them against all which was about to be realized in their Lord, and which they themselves also were, in due time, destined to experience.]
But we must further consider these words,
As addressed to his faithful followers in every age—
There is, between them and the Apostles, a great resemblance:
They answer to the same character—
[Though Christ himself is out of the reach of men, his word, his cause, his people, are treated precisely as he was in the days of his flesh. “Was he despised and rejected of men?” So is his Gospel, wherever it is proclaimed. It is “to some a stumbling-block, and to others foolishness,” as much as ever. Nor is there, in the whole universe, a faithful servant of his who has not a cross to bear for his sake. But they are all firm in their Master’s cause: they suffer nothing to turn them aside from following him: yea rather, instead of being intimidated by sufferings, they rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer shame, or even death itself, for his sake — — —]
For them, also, are reserved the same honours—
[At the table of the Lord above is Abraham sitting, and Lazarus next to him, with his head, as it were, reposed on Abraham’s bosom [Note: They reclined on couches at their feasts.]. And there shall every true Disciple feast with his divine Master for evermore [Note: Revelation 19:9.] — — — To them, also, shall be assigned “thrones and kingdoms,” even as God the Father has assigned them to his well-beloved Son. It is by an express covenant that these were given to Christ [Note: This is the force of διατίθεμαι.]; and by covenant does Christ also confer them on his people: they “inherit a kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.” And they, too, shall be assessors with Christ in judgment. Of this there can be no doubt. St. Paul says to the Church at Corinth, “Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world? yea, know ye not that we shall judge angels [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:2-3.]?” What then shall influence us, or what shall we regard in comparison of these things? Let us be content to hunger now, if we may but feast then: and if called to surrender thrones and kingdoms, and to lay down our lives as martyrs, let us willingly make the sacrifice, knowing how abundantly we shall be recompensed through eternal ages — — —]
Suffer ye now, brethren, a word of exhortation—
Adhere with firmness to the Lord Jesus Christ—
[Many forsook him in the days of his flesh — — — and many, at this day, like the stony-ground hearers, fall away in a season of temptation and persecution. But “be ye steadfast and immoveable,” even to the end; “following the Lord fully,” and “cleaving to him with full purpose of heart” — — —]
Expect with confidence his promised blessings—
[Think of the state to which many whom you once knew on earth are now exalted in heaven: and think in how little a time you also will be partakers of the same blessings. Know, that, if ye be Christ’s, all these things are yours, secured by a covenant that cannot be broken. What glory can this world give you, in comparison of this? Contemplate this: follow this: anticipate this: and you need not fear what either men or devils can do unto you.]
THE MEANS OF SECURITY FROM SATAN’S MALICE
Luke 22:31-32. And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.
THE agency, or even the existence, of evil spirits is scarcely credited amongst us; but there is nothing more certain than that they exist, and act in the world. To conflict with them, constitutes a principal part of the Christian’s warfare [Note: Ephesians 6:12.]; and to be aware of their devices is no inconsiderable attainment in Christian knowledge [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:11.]. There is however a Being who is able to counteract their agency: and of this we have a proof in the history before us. Satan, the prince of the devils, meditated the destruction of Peter. Our Lord with affection and earnestness warned Peter of his designs; and, by his own intercession, secured him against his assaults.
The malice of Satan—
Satan is the great adversary of mankind—
[He was once as bright a morning star as any in heaven. But he rebelled against the Most High, and incurred his displeasure [Note: 2 Peter 2:4.]. Full of hatred against God, he sought to efface his image from our first parents. Through subtlety he prevailed to the destruction of them and us [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:3.]. Nor does he cease to assault those who through grace are restored.]
He desires to agitate and distress them—
[This is evidently implied in the expression in the text. He has various ways of effecting his purpose. He may harass us with temptations and persecutions: he may perplex us by artful insinuations and suggestions. His efforts were exerted against all the Apostles [Note: Ὑμας.]: but the more eminent any are, the more they are hated by him. Peter was distinguished for his knowledge and intrepidity [Note: Matthew 16:16.]: yea, he had had a peculiar honour conferred on him [Note: Matthew 16:18.]. On this account Satan’s malice raged against him more especially.]
But his ultimate end is to prove them hypocrites, or to make them apostates—
[This was evidently his design in assaulting Job [Note: Job 1:9; Job 1:11; Job 2:5.], and in asking permission to try the Disciples [Note: Ἐξῃτήσατο seems to imply a kind of challenge, as in the case of Job, wherein he undertook to prove them to be but chaff, if God would suffer him to make the trial.]. Nor would he leave one faithful person upon earth. “As a roaring lion he seeks to devour all”. He can do nothing indeed but by Divine permission [Note: He could not afflict Job more than God saw fit to suffer him: nor could he enter into the swine without our Saviour’s permission, Matthew 8:31.]: but if suffered to fulfil all his will, he would destroy every soul. His influence on the herd of swine shews what he would do to men [Note: Matthew 8:32.]: not one vassal of his would escape the fate of Judas [Note: Compare Luke 22:5. with Matthew 27:5.].]
But God has not left his people without means of resistance—
Our security from his assaults—
God has both armed his people for the combat, and given them a great Deliverer—
Faith is the grace whereby he enables us to maintain our stand—
[It was by faith that we were translated from Satan’s kingdom into Christ’s [Note: Galatians 3:26.]. It is by that also that our daily warfare is to be carried on [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:24.]. Yea, through that are we to attain our full and final salvation [Note: 1 Peter 1:5.]. Faith is the shield whereby alone we can ward off the darts of Satan [Note: Ephesians 6:16.]: if that fail, we are exposed to the fiercest assaults of our enemy. If we lose our hold of the promises, we shall be driven away as chaff: we shall have no point around which to rally our scattered forces. Whereas, if faith be strong, we shall hope even against hope [Note: Romans 4:18; Romans 4:20.]; and, though wounded, we shall return with fresh vigour to the combat. Nor shall our great adversary be able to prevail against us [Note: Romans 10:11.]. Hence that earnest caution against unbelief [Note: Hebrews 3:12.] — and that express direction respecting the mode of opposing Satan [Note: 1 Peter 5:8-9.]—]
But the intercession of Christ is necessary to uphold our faith—
[Peter’s faith would have failed utterly, if he had been left to himself; but through the intercession of Christ he was preserved. Thus we also should “make shipwreck of our faith.” But our prevailing Advocate pleads for us also [Note: John 17:20.]: as our High-Priest he bears us on his breast-plate before the throne [Note: Exodus 28:29.]: he obtains for us fresh supplies of the Spirit. In this way he, who has been the author of our faith, will also be the finisher [Note: Hebrews 12:2.]. Hence the encouragement given us to rely on the intercession of Christ [Note: Romans 8:34.]— Hence the encouragement given us to regard it under every backsliding [Note: 1 John 2:1.]— Hence the encouragement given us to rest assured of Christ’s power to save [Note: Hebrews 7:25.]—]
What need have we to be ever on our guard!
[Perhaps at this moment Satan may be desiring to sift us. And what if God should give us up into his hands? If suffered to exert his strength, he could soon dissipate whatever is good in us; nor should our past zeal in God’s service remove our apprehensions; that would rather provoke Satan to more activity against us. Let us then “not be high-minded, but fear.” Let us follow the salutary advice which our Lord has given us [Note: Matthew 26:41.] Let us plead with fervour those important petitions [Note: Matthew 6:13.]— At the same time let us “put on the whole armour of God,” and prepare, as God has taught us, for the assaults of our enemy [Note: Ephesians 6:13-18.].]
What a mercy is it to have an interest in Christ!
[They who know not Christ, are wholly under the power of Satan [Note: 2 Timothy 2:26.]; but they who are Christ’s, have a watchful and almighty guardian. Our Lord provided for Peter’s safety, before Peter even knew his danger. Thus “will he keep the feet of all his saints.” He will suffer none of them to be plucked out of his hand [Note: John 10:28.]. If he permit Satan to sift them, it shall be only for the removing of their chaff [Note: Compare 2 Corinthians 12:7. with Hebrews 12:10-11.]. He has pledged his word for the security of the weakest of his people [Note: Amos 9:9.]. Let us therefore commit ourselves entirely into his hands. Let us beg him to remember our unworthy names in his intercessions, and to deal with us as with Joshua of old [Note: Zechariah 3:2-4.]—]
CHRIST’S SUFFERINGS IN THE GARDEN
Luke 22:39-46. And he came out, and went, as he was was wont, to the Mount of Olives; and his Disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being m an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his Disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, and said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
IT was foretold of the Messiah, that he should be “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief:” and we are informed that he had scarcely come into the world before his life was sought for, and he was carried by his parents a fugitive to a foreign land, in order to escape the cruel effects of Herod’s jealousy. During the four years of his ministry, much is told us of his trials: but the principal scene of them was reserved for the close of his life. We propose to contemplate them, from their commencement in the garden of Gethsemane till the time that he expired upon the cross. At present we shall confine our attention to the words before us; in which we may see,
The tremendous sufferings of our Lord—
Now, beyond any former period of his life, “were the troubles of his heart enlarged.” That I may bring them before you the more distinctly, I will call your attention to three things;
The terms by which his sufferings are described in the inspired volume—
[If we look into the Prophets who foretold those sufferings, we shall see that they almost exhaust the powers of language in order to convey some idea of their inconceivable greatness. The Psalmist, personating the Saviour, says, “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid: the sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me [Note: Psalms 18:4-5.].” “My heart is sore pained within me; and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me; and horror hath overwhelmed me [Note: Psalms 55:4-5.].” “The waters are come in unto my soul: I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God [Note: Psalms 69:1-3.].” To mention only one passage more, the Saviour complains, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death [Note: Psalms 22:14-15.].” Who that reads such passages as these, is not prepared for that distressing appeal, “Was ever sorrow like unto my sorrow, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger [Note: Lamentations 1:12.]?”
The Evangelists also, in their report of these sufferings, vie with each other in the extraordinary force of the words by which they endeavour to express them. St. Matthew speaks of him as so surrounded with grief, as to be brought by it into the utmost dejection and consternation [Note: περίλυπος, Matthew 26:38. with Psalms 42:5.]. St. Mark uses one term which implies a high degree of fear, and terror, and amazement [Note: ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι.]; and another denoting the utmost excess of grief and anguish [Note: ὰδημονεῖν, Mark 14:33. See Bishop Pearson on the Creed, p. 190.].” St. John also expresses his sufferings by a word of exceeding strength to denote the extremity of his troubles [Note: τετάρακται.]; and St. Luke, in my text, tells us he was in an agony, in the greatest possible straits in his conflict [Note: ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ.]. In fact, “his soul was exceeding sorrowful even unto death.” And the depth of his sufferings will further appear from,]
The effects produced by them—
[It must be remembered that as yet no man had inflicted on him any pain at all. Yet we behold him deprecating his present sufferings in the most earnest way imaginable, even “with strong crying and tears [Note: Hebrews 5:7.],” renewing his entreaties again and again, not only on his knees, but in a posture of the most abject prostration [Note: Matthew 26:39.]: yea, and we see him “sweating great drops of blood” from every pore of his body through the excess of his agony. What an idea does this give us of the intensity of his sufferings!
It will be asked perhaps, Why should he, whom we believe to be God, as well as man, betray such a fear and dread of sufferings, which thousands of martyrs have sustained with cheerfulness; and why, when he had voluntarily undertaken to endure them, should he afterwards deprecate them with such extreme fervour? I answer, Martyrs in their sufferings have had to bear only what could be inflicted by men; whereas the Saviour had to endure the wrath of God, even the penalty which was due to the sins of the whole world: and, in deprecating that misery, he acted precisely as it became him to act both as a man, and as a good and holy man. As man, it was quite allowable to him to deprecate sufferings which he had not deserved; and as a good man, it became him to deprecate the wrath of God. These two things therefore he did: but he did them with most unreserved submission to the will of God; and thereby gave to us the most perfect pattern of resignation under sufferings of whatever kind.
But we may further learn the greatness of his sufferings from,]
The means used for his support—
[At the commencement of his ministry, when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, “angels were sent from heaven to strengthen him [Note: Matthew 4:11.]” And thus it was in this his last hour, which was more especially “the season when all the powers of darkness assaulted him [Note: ver. 53.];” an angel was sent from heaven to administer to him that strength and consolation which he needed after so severe a conflict [Note: ver. 43.]. What an idea does this give us of his sufferings, when he who was God as well as man, needed such assistance to sustain and support him in that dread hour!]
But how were his three favoured Disciples occupied in the mean time? He had bidden them to watch and pray with him: and “had gone only about a stone’s cast from them,” that he might with the more liberty pour out his soul before God. But alas! the Saviour’s sorrows were yet further increased by,
The lethargic indolence of his Disciples—
It might have been supposed that they, at such a season as this, would have been particularly wakeful and earnest in prayer—
[Their Lord had counselled them to employ this time in prayer, not only in interceding for him, but in imploring strength for themselves, that they might be able to sustain the trials which were now coming fast upon them. But they were so overpowered with sleep, that notwithstanding they were again and again wakened by their Lord, they were no sooner left to themselves than they fell asleep again. “Not a single hour could they watch with their Lord,” notwithstanding all their recent protestations and professions. The fact was that they were “overcome with sorrow,” which, in some cases, when it is exceeding deep, operates as a blow, that, for a season, only stuns and stupifies. The whole of our Lord’s late conversations with them respecting his approaching sufferings and death had altogether oppressed their minds, so that they were no longer able to exercise their faculties as the occasion required. “Their spirits were willing; but their flesh was weak.”]
This ill-timed somnolency added yet further to the sufferings of their Lord—
[He did indeed administer reproof to them with the utmost tenderness, and even apologize for them, as he afterwards did for his very murderers. But to be so neglected by them in this his last extremity, and to behold them so indifferent about him, and so careless about themselves, after all the exhortations he had given them, must have occasioned him the most poignant grief; and still the more, when he saw that the time for prayer was now lost, and that the traitor, with his armed bands, was at hand, to deliver him up into the power of his blood-thirsty enemies.
We are told indeed, that “they knew not what to answer him [Note: Mark 14:40.].” And well might they be confounded, when they saw how shamefully they had violated their obligations to their divine Master, and how regardless they had been of their own eternal interests. And what shall we ourselves answer in the last day, when called to account for our present carelessness in the midst of all the warnings that are given us, and the dangers to which we are exposed? Verily, whatever excuses we may now make, our mouths will then be shut: and to all eternity shall we reproach ourselves, that when we could watch whole nights about our temporal concerns, as the Apostles had done with their nets, we have not been able to “watch with Christ one single hour” in fervent and persevering prayer; so “stupid have we been and brutish, even as beasts before him.”]
May we not see from hence, my brethren,
How terrible we shall find it to bear the penalty due to sin!
[If it so oppressed and overwhelmed our incarnate God, what will it effect in us? “If it so consumed the green tree, how will it burn up the dry [Note: Luke 23:31.]!” I tremble to think how careless all around us are, when in a few more days or hours they may have to sustain without any alleviation, and to all eternity, the wrath of God. Dear brethren, though your Lord bore in his own sacred person all your sins to make atonement for them, his atonement will be of no avail to you, unless you repent of your sins, and plead the merit of his blood for the expiation of them. No indeed, all that the Saviour has done and suffered for you will but aggravate your guilt, if you lose your present opportunity of calling upon him for the pardon of it. Do not, I pray you, give way to a sleepy careless state of mind. You have been again and again called, in order to awaken you; and if you continue with folded arms to waste, as it were, your day of grace, death will ere long come, with irresistible energy, like Judas with his armed bands, and transport you to the bar of judgment, where nothing but condemnation will await you, and the wrath of an offended God. O that to-day, while it is called to-day, you may arise and call upon your God, that so iniquity may not be your ruin! But, if you will “sleep on now and take your rest,” wonder not if you be left, like Peter, to deny and forsake your Lord, and to perish with Judas, under an accumulated load of guilt and misery.]
How different a cup God is willing to put into our hands!
[Our blessed Lord prayed, that, “if it were possible, the cup of bitterness might pass from him.” But God had decreed, that, “without shedding of blood there should be no remission of sins;” and therefore if the Lord Jesus would be a surety for us, he must discharge our debt; and consequently, if he would take the cup out of our hands, he must drink it for us. And drink it he did, even to the very dregs. And now, brethren, he puts into our hands the cup of salvation, with all its inconceivable and eternal blessings. O drink ye of this, and let your souls live for ever! I will not promise that you shall never in this life taste of the Saviour’s cup of sorrows. You may taste of it; you may even drink deeply of it, in order that you may be the more conformed to him. But of this I assure you, that, however bitter a cup God may at any time put into your hands, there shall be no wrath in it, no, not a drop of wrath: it shall all be sweetened with love: it shall be altogether medicinal, and not penal. And, to counteract its bitterness, there shall be put into your hands “a cup of which the Lord himself shall be the portion [Note: Psalms 16:5.].” Yes, the Lord Jesus drank the one, that you might drink the other. Only believe in him; and trust in him; and cleave to him; and watch and pray with him; and all the blessedness of heaven shall be yours. And when the cup of God’s wrath shall be put into the hands of the impenitent and unbelieving to drink to all eternity [Note: Revelation 14:10.], the cup of salvation shall be yours, and “the pleasures which are at God’s right hand for evermore.”]
THE TREASON OF JUDAS
Luke 22:48. Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?
VIRTUE is best discerned when it is subjected to the heaviest trials. The stroke of the hammer displays the excellence of the diamond; and the furnace ascertains the purity of the gold. Meekness and patience are mere dormant qualities, till injuries or misfortunes call them into exercise. Let our character be blasted, our interests ruined, our person injured; and then it will appear how far these qualities exist within us, and to what extent they will enable us to support our burthens. Had our blessed Lord himself been viewed in a season of perfect tranquillity, his unrivalled glories would have shone only as the sun behind a cloud: but when he laboured under severe and complicated afflictions, then his brightness beamed forth in its meridian splendour. His circumstances were peculiarly painful at the time when he uttered the words before us. He had been sustaining a conflict with all the powers of darkness, and drinking that cup of wrath which his Father had put into his hands. He had seen with grief the supineness of his three Disciples, who, notwithstanding his repeated warnings, had consumed in sleep the time which should have been spent in watchfulness and prayer. To add to his sorrows, Judas now approached him at the head of an armed band, and by a treacherous kiss betrayed him into their hands. Behold then our Divine Master under these accumulated troubles! What might we expect to hear from him on this occasion? Methinks his address to Judas, whose treachery he was aware of, could be no other than that of Paul to Elymas the sorcerer, “O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness,” art thou come to betray me? But however this address became an Apostle, when zealous for the honour of his Lord, the Saviour himself, when personally interested, saw fit to speak in milder accents, that he might set an example to his followers to “shew all meekness to all men:” “Friend,” says he, “wherefore comest thou?” “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?”
We shall consider these remarkable words,
In reference to the traitor Judas—
That we may have a just view of the wickedness of Judas, let us notice,
The light he resisted—
[He had attended our blessed Lord during the whole course of his ministry: he had heard all his discourses; and had received from him in private a further exposition of the truths which had been more obscurely delivered to the proud, captious, and malignant auditors that flocked around him. He had seen innumerable and most beneficent miracles wrought in confirmation of the Messiahship of Jesus: so that there could be no doubt upon his mind but that Jesus was “the Son of Man,” “the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” Had he entertained any secret suspicions that Jesus was an impostor, he would have had some excuse for his treachery: or if he had enjoyed but few opportunities of instruction, his guilt would have been less heinous. Pilate, who was an ignorant Heathen, sinned grievously in not executing strict justice: but the sin of those who had delivered Jesus unto him was incomparably greater [Note: John 19:11.], because of the superior light which they enjoyed. In this view therefore the sin of Judas was exceeding great.]
The obligations he violated—
[Judas was “one of the twelve,” who were called to a more intimate acquaintance with our Lord; and was selected from among them to be his purse-bearer and almoner. He had been sent out, like all the other Apostles, to preach the Gospel, and to work miracles in the name of Jesus. He had seen diseases and devils yielding to his word; and had probably been instrumental in converting others to the faith of Christ. How was he bound then to “shew all good fidelity,” and to maintain to the uttermost his Master’s cause! But besides all this, Jesus, within the space of a few hours, had acted towards him the part of a menial servant, and had condescended to wash his feet: should not such love have called forth his tenderest and most faithful regards? Moreover, Judas had, on that very occasion, pledged himself to die with Jesus rather than deny him: yet behold, this man, almost immediately after uttering these words, leaves the room, in order to betray his Lord! What impiety was here! If woe was denounced against Chorazin and Bethsaida for not improving the mercies vouchsafed to them, what woes must belong to this unhappy man for violating the strongest obligations which could lie upon him!]
The manner in which he violated them—
[Jesus, it should seem, had permitted his Disciples to express their regards to him by the affectionate and endearing token of a kiss: and this was the sign by which Judas undertook to betray him into the hands of his enemies! What horrid perfidy! to make an expression of love and friendship a signal for his apprehension!
But mark the peculiar aggravations with which this perfidy was attended! It was altogether a voluntary act. The Chief Priests and Elders could never have entertained a thought of prevailing on one of Christ’s own Disciples to betray him: they could expect nothing from them but the most vigorous and determined opposition. Methinks they could scarcely believe their own senses when they heard the traitor Judas making the proposal. If indeed they had seized on Judas, and threatened to put him to extreme torture if he would not further their designs, we might offer some little excuse for him: but who could conceive that the proposal should originate with him, and that he should be a volunteer in such a service?
It was immediately after he had received an express warning respecting it. Our blessed Lord had, but a few hours before, told his Disciples that one of them would betray him: and upon being interrogated by each of them, “Lord, is it I?” he told them all, that it was the person to whom he should give the sop [Note: John 13:26.]; and told Judas in particular that it was he; and that since he was thus bent on the commission of this sin, it would have been better for him that he had never been born [Note: Matthew 26:21-25.]. Would one not have supposed that such a warning should have diverted him from his purpose? Yet, instead of being checked by it, he went out “immediately” under the cover of the night, that he might execute his plot without delay.
We cannot but be astonished for how small a consideration he was induced to do this. Had he been promised great riches, sufficient to keep him in opulence and splendour all his days, we should have wondered less at the power of the temptation: but it was only “thirty pieces of silver [Note: Compare Zechariah 11:12-13. with Matthew 26:15.],” (the price of a slave,) that he was to receive for his recompence: so little a value did he set upon his master’s life.
The diabolical malignity which he expressed on the occasion, is a yet further aggravation of his guilt. When agreeing with the Chief Priests, he gave them a strict charge, “Take him, hold him fast, lead him away safely [Note: Matthew 26:48. Mark 14:44.].” As Ahithophel, the treacherous friend of David, counselled the rebellious Absalom: “Give me twelve thousand men, and I will come upon him while he is weary and weak-handed, and I will smite the king only [Note: 2 Samuel 17:1-2.];” so did Judas respecting the true King of Israel: he reminded the Chief Priests how often he had escaped out of their hands; and, that they might secure him now, he charged them to use the utmost vigilance and circumspection.
Such was the sin of Judas; a sin unparalleled in the annals of the world.]
Let us now extend our views, and consider the text,
In reference to traitors of every description—
Though the precise sin which was committed by Judas never was, nor will be, committed by any other, yet are there too many who follow his steps, and betray the cause and interests of their Divine Master. There are different kinds of traitors:
[Many pretend to be followers of Christ, and yet deny every fundamental truth of his religion. The fall of man, and the guilt and corruption consequent upon it; the substitution of our Lord Jesus Christ in the place of sinners, and our reconciliation to God by the blood of his cross; the regenerating and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, together with all the inward life and power of godliness; all these, I say, are denied and held up to ridicule and scorn: and yet the people, who thus expunge from their system almost every doctrine that distinguishes our holy religion, will call themselves Christians. But are they really friends of Christ? Are they not rather enemies and traitors? Even the followers of Mahomet express as much regard for Christ as they: the Mahometan allows that Christ was a prophet; and what do these infidels allow him more? Truly their kisses are perfidious; their professions are a lie.]
[There are two kinds of Antinomians; systematical, and practical: the former are very zealous for the peculiar doctrines of Christianity; but they carry them to an undue extent; and erase from their system all the obligations of the moral law. We hope and believe, that all who embrace this system are not so regardless of the law in practice, as they are in theory: nevertheless their sentiments are most pernicious; and their professed attachment to Christ is constructive treason. It is certain that, however exemplary some of these persons may be, others (and we fear by far the greater part of them,) take encouragement from these licentious tenets to live in sin. If they do not give way to those grosser propensities which would expose their profession to universal contempt, they are at least distinguished by a proud, contentious, worldly spirit, and by irreverence and undue confidence in their transactions with God.
As for practical Antinomians, the great majority of nominal Christians are of this class. They object not to the leading truths of the Gospel: having been educated in the belief of them, they acknowledge them as points which they are not disposed to controvert. But to yield to their influence, and to bring their souls to a state suited to them, they have no mind. They wish for nothing beyond this world; they think of nothing but what relates to the body. Whether their outward conduct be more or less correct, they consider it as of very little importance. Some can run to the greatest excess of riot, being wholly addicted to worldliness or dissipation, and yet account themselves very good Christians. Others, who are restrained from such excesses, can content themselves with “a form of godliness, while they utterly deny its power;” and though they never smite upon their breasts with contrition, never flee to the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy, never devote themselves in earnest to the service of their God, they imagine that all is well, and that they are to be reckoned among the friends and followers of Christ. But their profession serves only to lower Christ in the estimation of the world, and in many instances to till heathens themselves with an utter abhorrence of his name.
We must acknowledge, indeed, that neither the one nor the other of these characters have the malignant designs of Judas: but the ultimate effect of their conduct is to betray him with a kiss.]
[These come the nearest of all to the character of Judas: and many there are to whom this designation properly belongs. In every age there have been some who have joined themselves to the Church, while yet they felt only transient impressions, and had no root of grace in their hearts. Of them, some cast off all profession of religion, and go back again to the world: others continue their profession, but indulge habits altogether inconsistent with it [Note: Ezekiel 33:31.]. Hence they are found deceitful in their words, dishonest in their dealings; and less worthy of confidence than the generality even of avowed worldlings. For a time they wear the mask with success: but at length their true character appears; and they make religion “to stink in the nostrils” of all who know them. It is almost superfluous to say that these are traitors: for they not only deliver up Jesus to the scorn and contempt of his professed enemies, but lay a stumbling-block in the way of his friends, and cause many to wax cold in their attachment to Christ, if not also utterly to renounce him. “Woe unto the world because of them! but woe be more especially to those by whom the offence cometh!” In a little time, if they repent not, they will “go to their own place,” and participate with Judas the just reward of their deeds.]
Let us not be offended with religion on account of the faults of those who profess it—
[It would manifestly be absurd to make the treachery of Judas a reason for rejecting Christ: for the Scriptures, yea and Christ himself, foretold, that “one who should eat bread with him should lift up his heel against him.” And do not the Scriptures both of the Old and New Testament declare, that “false brethren should come in,” and that “by means of them the way of truth should be evil spoken of?” The very existence therefore of traitors and hypocrites in the Church, is a proof of the truth of our religion; and should confirm, rather than weaken, our attachment to it. If indeed the Gospel gave licence to such characters, that very circumstance would be a just ground for doubting its Divine authority, and withholding from it our approbation: but if it invariably inculcate holiness both in heart and life, then let the blame of hypocrisy rest on those only who are guilty of it; and let the offence that is occasioned by some, be a stimulus to others to adorn the Gospel.]
Let us watch against our besetting sin—
[Judas from the very beginning was addicted to covetousness. To gratify this propensity, he took advantage of his office as the purse-bearer to steal from time to time a part of the money entrusted to his care. Had he been told on the first occasion to what this covetous disposition would ultimately lead, how little would he have been able to credit the assertion! But thus it is with sin; it is like a breach in a bank, which, if not stopped at first, will soon be widened by the current, till the whole country is overflowed. When once a man harbours any secret lust, it will gather strength, and gradually obtain an entire ascendant over him. Whatever, then, be our besetting sin, whether lewdness, or covetousness, or any other, let us watch and pray against it; lest we prove at last a scandal to our profession, and, after having instructed others, ourselves be cast away.]
Let us get a real and firm attachment to Jesus Christ—
[There is a sense in which we may say to all of you, “Kiss him, apprehend him, hold him fast.” The Psalmist bids us to “kiss the Son, lest he be angry;” St. Paul speaks of “apprehending that for which he had been apprehended of God in Christ Jesus;” and exhorts us to “lay hold on the hope set before us.” We are commanded also to “cleave unto the Lord with full purpose of heart.” And should not we be as earnest in this good work as Judas and his band were in their evil work? If they plotted by day, and watched by night, to destroy the Lord Jesus, should we be averse to labour and watchfulness, to obtain an interest in his salvation? Let us get a love to him in our hearts as deeply rooted as their enmity against him was, and we shall account nothing too much to do or suffer for him; nor will the whole world be sufficient to suspend or lessen our fidelity in his service.]
THE HEALING OF MALCHUS’ EAR
Luke 22:50-51. And one of them smote the servant of the high-priest, and cut off his right ear. And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him.
IT is but too common for even good persons, who are of a sanguine temper, to ask instruction or advice, while by their conduct they evince that they have very little disposition to receive and follow it. We do not wonder that Pilate should ask, “What is truth?” and go away before an answer could be given him: but it is grievous to see one of Peter’s eminence, who had been favoured with so many opportunities of divine instruction, affecting to seek direction from his Lord, and instantly prosecuting his own unhallowed will. In considering the instance recorded, it will be proper to notice,
The indiscretion of Peter—
Peter, in striking Malchus with the sword, was evidently actuated by a love to his Master, and a zeal for his service; yet his mode of discovering his affection was certainly deserving of blame. It argued,
A want of Christian temper—
[Christianity does not preclude men from taking the sword in defence of their country, when called to it by imperious necessity, and authorized by the civil magistrates: but it enjoins individuals rather to suffer patiently the persecutions with which they are assaulted, and gladly to endure the loss of all things, even of life itself, for the Gospel’s sake. As for taking up arms against the civil power, it is an extremity which perhaps not any thing can justify. Yet this is the very thing that Peter did; and as he did it without any express command, he was rebuked by our Lord, and told that “all, who should take the sword in that manner, however they might think they were fighting the Lord’s battles, should perish with the sword [Note: Our Lord in his answer to Peter pointed out the various sources of his misconduct. See Matthew 26:52-54.].”]
An ignorance of the prophetic writings—
[It had been foretold that “one, who had eaten bread with our Lord, should lift up his heel against him;” and that, in consequence of his treachery, he should be “led like a lamb to the slaughter,” and “be numbered with transgressors.” Had Peter fully understood those prophecies he would not so rudely have contradicted our Lord on a former occasion [Note: Matthew 16:22-23.], or so impetuously defended him on this; but would have submitted to the will of God, saying, “The cup which his Father hath given him shall he not drink it?”]
A forgetfulness of our Lord’s character—
[Often, yea, but a few minutes before, had Peter seen his Lord performing the most stupendous miracles [Note: John 18:5-11.]. If these had been wrought by the Father’s power, could not Christ call upon him now, and have more than seventy thousand angels sent for his defence? If Christ wrought them by his own power, could he not deliver himself out of their hands without Peter’s interposition? But if Christ were abandoned by his Father, and reduced to a state of impotence himself, could Peter protect him against a band of armed men? Was not his furious assault rather calculated to increase their rage, and to make them destroy Jesus and all his Disciples upon the spot? In every view his conduct was wrong; for if aid was needed, his was insufficient; and if it was not needed, it was officiously and imprudently obtruded.]
The contrast between Christ’s conduct and Peter’s will appear by considering,
The remedy which our Lord applied—
Jesus would give no just occasion of offence to the civil magistrate, and therefore set himself instantly to remedy the evil that had been committed—
[Peter had cut off the ear of the high-priest’s servant, probably because he was most active and forward in apprehending our Lord. But Jesus would not suffer even that small injury to be sustained on his account: he therefore “touched” the wound, and restored the ear to its perfect state. What a marvellous return was this for all the indignities which this miscreant had offered him! If Jesus had chosen to work a miracle on this occasion, one would rather have expected that it should be such an one, as should make the “ears of all that heard of it to tingle.” But mercy was his delight; and the more unworthy the objects of his mercy were, the more did he glory in displaying “the unsearchable riches of his grace” — — — Would one not at least hope that this miracle should disarm his enemies, and make them desist from their purpose? But, alas! nothing can prevail with those who are given up to judicial blindness [Note: e. g. Pharaoh was alike uninfluenced by judgments or mercies.] — — — The manner of working the miracle was scarcely less remarkable than the miracle itself: for he not only performed it unsolicited, but even asked permission to perform it; saying to those who were binding him, “Suffer ye thus far,” “loosen my hands for one moment, that I may exercise them in one more act of benevolence before your eyes.” What astonishing meekness and condescension! — — — Thus, while he more than recompensed the injury that Peter’s indiscretion had occasioned, he shewed to his enemies, that his surrender of himself was voluntary; and left to his people a most perfect pattern for their conduct when persecuted by an ungodly world.]
From this history we may learn,
To guard against an indiscreet unhallowed zeal—
[Zeal properly directed, is amiable and praiseworthy [Note: Galatians 4:18.]: but a “zeal without knowledge” is most injurious to the Christian cause. Paul’s conduct in his unconverted state, and the request of two of our Lord’s Disciples, may serve to put us on our guard against the fatal mistakes into which even good men may fall [Note: Gal 1:13 Luke 9:54.]. Let our zeal be ever tempered with love, and regulated by the Holy Scriptures; else, while it carries us too far on some occasions, it will prove, like Peter’s, miserably defective upon others [Note: Mark 14:71. Such persons are compared to “a cake not turned,” which, instead of being equally penetrated with heat, is burnt up on one side, and scarcely warmed on the other. See Hosea 7:8.].]
To exercise love towards our most inveterate enemies—
[The Christian’s “weapons are not to be carnal,” nor must he “war after the flesh.” He is to turn the right cheek to him that smites him on the left,” and, by rendering good for evil, to “heap coals of fire on the head of his enemies.” “Instead of being overcome of evil, he is to overcome evil with good [Note: Romans 12:19-21.].” Christians, see if this be your conduct — — — And remember that “Christ set you an example that you should follow his steps [Note: 1 Peter 2:20-23.].”]
To trust in Christ for the healing of the wounds which sin has made—
[No sword can inflict so deep a wound as sin has made. It were a light matter if it had merely killed the body: it has inflicted a mortal wound on our souls. But Jesus can heal us; nor should any sense of unworthiness prevent our application to him. Let us go to him, and he will add us to the number of those whom he has made monuments of his almighty power and his unbounded mercy — — —]
PETER’S FALL AND REPENTANCE
Luke 22:61-62. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shall deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
THE fidelity of the sacred historians is a strong argument for the truth of what they wrote, and for the divine commission which they bore. Had they been impostors, they would never have recorded all their own failings in such an artless and faithful manner. A greater blemish could scarcely exist in the character of an Apostle, than that which is here exposed: and yet it is not only mentioned by all the four Evangelists, but St. Mark, who wrote his Gospel under the immediate inspection of St. Peter himself, is most diffuse in aggravating the crime, and most reserved in noticing the repentance: he tells us of Peter’s oaths and curses; but observes only, that he wept: whereas St. Luke, who omits the former, tells us, that he wept “bitterly.” The immediate occasion of Peter’s repentance is mentioned only by St. Luke. It should seem, that his heart was affected by the expressive look which our Lord gave him.
It will be useful therefore to inquire,
What that look expressed—
We may be certain that there was nothing vindictive in it—
[Never on any occasion did our Lord assume a menacing tone towards those who injured him: “when he suffered, he threatened not.” When Judas came to betray him, he saluted the traitor by the tender appellation of Friend; “Friend, wherefore art thou come [Note: Matthew 26:50.]?” When the people came to apprehend him, he only asked whom they sought? and then told them, that he was the person. Yea, in the midst of all the torment and ignominy of crucifixion, he extenuated the guilt of his very murderers, and prayed to his heavenly Father to forgive them. Justly indeed might he have looked on Peter with anger, and have intimated, by an indignant aspect, that he, who now thus basely denied his Master, should speedily he denied by him at the bar of judgment. But, as no such words ever escaped his lips, so no such disposition ever manifested itself in his looks: he was altogether meek and silent, like a sheep before her shearers, or a lamb led to the slaughter [Note: Isaiah 53:7.].]
Nevertheless it, doubtless, conveyed a reproof to Peter—
[We may conceive, that our Lord intended to remind him of his folly in boasting, and of the presumption he had manifested, in declaring that, though all the Disciples should deny their Master, he never would; and, that he would rather die with him than deny him. Such a reproof was necessary: but still it was expressed only in a look: and how different was it from the rebuke given him on another occasion! When Peter, though in real kindness, desired to divert his Lord from the thoughts of suffering, Jesus, in righteous displeasure, said, “Get thee behind me, Satan, thou art an offence unto me [Note: Matthew 16:23.].” But, when Peter wished to shrink from sufferings himself, even though, in order to avoid them, he denied his Lord with oaths and curses, the severest reproof that Jesus gave him, was, a look, a gentle intimation, that he had fallen by his own vain confidence and self-dependence.]
But the principal thing expressed in that look, we apprehend to have been pity and compassion—
[Having nothing revealed respecting this, we can only speak from conjecture. But, if we may be permitted thus to interpret a look, which perhaps no words could fully express, we may suppose it to have intimated somewhat to this effect: ‘Ah! Peter, see the sad consequence of trusting in yourself. See how you have not only dishonoured me, but wounded your own soul. But still, though your sin is so great, do not give way to despair. You will soon hear, into what a dreadful measure Judas has been precipitated, through a sense of guilt, and a despair of mercy: but be sure you do not imitate him. I told you before, that I had prayed for you [Note: Luke 22:32.]; now then go, and pray for yourself: only repent, and you shall even yet find mercy, yea, and be restored to the office which you have so disgraced: return, and I will heal your backslidings, and love you freely [Note: Hosea 14:4.]: go instantly, and cry unto God for pardon; and all shall yet be well with you, both in time, and in eternity.’]
That something inexpressibly moving was intimated in that look, cannot be doubted, if we consider,
What effect it produced—
A voice from heaven could not have been attended with a more instantaneous or powerful effect on the mind of Peter:
It brought his sin to remembrance—
[It is astonishing to see how awfully the conscience even of a child of God may, on some occasions, be lulled asleep. David, after his fall, seemed wholly insensible of his wickedness, for no less than nine months. While he was disposed to punish, with most excessive severity, a crime of infinitely less enormity than that which he had committed, he appeared unconscious of having himself contracted any guilt at all [Note: 2 Samuel 12:1-7.]. Thus it was with Peter on this occasion. He had denied his Master; he had repeated that denial with yet greater vehemence; and no less than an hour had clapsed without his discovering any signs of penitence and contrition [Note: ver. 59.]. His heart even seemed to be more and more hardened: for, not contented with continuing to deny his Lord, he added oaths to his protestations, and perjury to lies.
And is it not thus with too many professors of religion, who allow themselves in pride, envy, malice, wrath, covetousness, impurity, or some other secret evil, and go on from year to year without being sensible that they have done any thing amiss? Perhaps there may be instances, wherein even a follower of Christ has acquired unjust gains, defrauding his customers by false weights and measures, or by bad commodities: defrauding the revenue too by withholding customs, and taxes, that were clearly due. O that the consciences of all such persons might be awakened from their lethargy, and be excited to remonstrate against such unchristian practices!
But this look of Jesus brought to Peter’s mind the warnings he had slighted, the vows he had broken, and the complicated evil he had just committed, All his conduct now appeared in its true colours; and he saw himself, as in a mirror, a base, cowardly, perjured apostate.
And such is the effect, which the testimonies of Christ’s compassion will produce on all who duly receive them [Note: Ezekiel 16:60-63.] — — —]
It filled him with compunction and contrition—
[Instantly his heart bled with a sense of sin, and was tortured with the bitterest anguish. Had Jesus reproached him with severity, it is probable he would have yielded to despondency, and sought refuge in suicide, from the horrors of a guilty conscience. But the look that pierced his soul poured also a healing balm into the wound. He could now no longer continue in the company of the ungodly, or indulge a vain curiosity respecting the issue of his Master’s trial: his heart was now full; and he sought retirement, that he might give vent to his feelings, and implore that mercy which he so greatly needed.
Thus will a view of God’s merey operate on us. Even a wicked Saul, when he saw the lenity and forbearance of David, was overcome with a sense of the kindness shewn him, and lifted up his voice and wept [Note: 1 Samuel 24:16.]. How much more should the tender mercy of our God abase us in the dust, and cause the tears of penitence to flow apace! Yes, doubtless, it will instantly lead us from the scenes of folly and dissipation to the more suitable employments of meditation and prayer [Note: Ezekiel 7:16. may, in an accommodated sense, be applied to this.] — — —]
To improve this subject, let us consider,
To what a shameful state the most exalted Christian may be reduced, if he be left to himself one single moment!
[Who, that had been witness to Peter’s confession of Christ [Note: Matthew 16:16.], or had seen him jump into the sea to embrace his Master [Note: John 21:7.], or had beheld him wielding a sword in his defence [Note: John 18:10.], and above all, had heard his promises of being faithful unto death [Note: Mark 14:31.], would have supposed that, in so short a time, this most favoured Apostle should so grievously transgress? Let this then be a lesson to us all. “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:12.].” Let every one of us remember, that there is not any sin whatever, which we shall not commit, if we be left to ourselves; and let our daily prayer be, “Hold thou up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not; hold thou me up, and I shall be safe [Note: Psalms 17:5; Psalms 119:117.]”]
How connected and precipitous are the ways of sin!
[Peter began by indulging a confidence in his own strength: then he followed Jesus “ afar off [Note: ver. 54.]:” then he mixed himself needlessly with ungodly company [Note: ver. 55.]: then he yielded to the fear of man: and then he denied his Lord with oaths and curses. And have not we also found that we have proceeded from one sin to another; and that, when once we have given advantage to the enemy, he has prevailed against us in a far greater degree than we ever could have imagined? Let us then inquire, whether there have not been some warnings given us of which we are unmindful; some resolutions, which, having been made in our own strength, we have violated in the hour of temptation? Let us inquire, whether we be not at this moment walking at too great a distance from our Lord? whether we be not influenced by the fear of man? whether we be not associating too much with the enemies of our Lord? or whether there be not some other sin, which we allowedly indulge? Let us remember, that to descend is easy; and that, when we enter on the downward road, none but God can tell where we shall stop [Note: Compare Ecclus. 9:1, with Proverbs 28:18.].]
How unbounded is the compassion of our blessed Lord!
[Well might our Lord have exposed Peter to those whom he feared: or rather, well might the insulted Jesus have looked him dead upon the spot, even as Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead with a lie in their mouths [Note: Acts 5:1-10.]. But that compassionate Saviour cast only on his apostate servant a look of love and pity; yea, and that too, in the very midst of his sin.
And may we not suppose, that he is at this very moment looking in the same manner on some amongst us, who have dishonoured their profession, and grieved him by their unworthy conduct? Let us endeavour to realize this thought. Let us examine whether there be not a cause, which our blinded consciences have been too backward to condemn? And, if we can find any thing that has grieved his soul, let us instantly go home, and “weep bitterly,” till he forgive us. Let us then think on our ways, and turn unto God’s testimonies: let us make haste, and not delay, to keep his commandments [Note: Psalms 119:59-60.].]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Luke 22". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany