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A conspiracy against Christ: precious ointment is poured on his head by a woman: Judas selleth his Master for money. Christ himself foretelleth how he shall be betrayed by one of his disciples: after the passover prepared, and eaten, he instituteth his supper: declareth aforehand the flight of all his disciples, and Peter's denial. Judas betrayeth him with a kiss: he is apprehended in the garden, falsely accused, and impiously condemned by the Jews' council; shamefully abused by them, and thrice denied of Peter.
Anno Domini 33.
Mark 14:1. By craft,— By Surprise.
Mark 14:3. Ointment, &c.— Balsam of spikenard, which was very costly; and she broke open the box, or vessel, &c. See Blackwall's Sac. Classics, vol. 2: p. 166. The spikenard,— πιστικης ναρδου, pure and unadulterated spikenard, was esteemed a very valuable aromatic. Sir Norton Knatchbull, Dr. Hammond, and others maintain, that συντριψασα does not signify that she brake the vessel, but only that she shook it, so as to break the coagulative parts of the rich balsam, and bring it to such a liquidity, that it might be fit to be poured out. Dr. Doddridge, however, and others think the original does not so naturally express this, and therefore they imagine that the woman broke off the top of the vessel in which the balsam was contained. See the note on Mat 26:7 and Stockius on the word συντυριβω .
Mark 14:4. Ointment— Perfume.
Mark 14:8. To the burying,— To its funeral. See John 12:3; Joh 12:50 where I shall enlarge, and compare the accounts of the evangelists.
Mark 14:10. To betray him.— Παραδω,— deliver him up. See Matthew 26:15.
Mark 14:12. When they killed the passover,— When the passover is sacrificed. Campbell.
Mark 14:13. There shall meet you a man, &c.— This is set in opposition to the good-man, or master of the house, Mar 14:14 and consequently means a servant of the lowest rank, or a slave, (Luke 12:36.) it being a servile office to draw water, as appears from Deuteronomy 29:11.Joshua 9:21; Joshua 9:21. As Samuel, having anointed Saul, for the confirmationofhisfaithgavehimseveral predictions relating to some very contingent occurrences that he was to meet with in his journey (see 1 Samuel 10:2-7.); so our Lord seems by these predictions to have intended thesame with regard to his disciples; and also to give them a most important hint, that he foresaw all the particular circumstances which were to befal him at Jerusalem, when he went up thither for the next and last time before his sufferings. The sending them to Jerusalem in this manner seems to intimate, that he did not go thither himself that morning; so that it is probable he spent most of the day in retirement, for meditation and prayer.
Mark 14:22. And as they did eat, &c.— And having eaten. See the note on Matthew 26:26.
Mark 14:24. New Testament,— New covenant.
Mark 14:25. I will drink no more, &c.— "From this instant I will no more drink of the passover-cup, nor have that commemorative and typical ordinance continued any longer in my church, than till it be suppressed and fulfilled (Luke 22:16.) by the greatsalvationwhichIshallbringintothegospel-kingdomuponmy resurrection from the dead, and which is to be afterwards commemorated by a new use of wine in the supper that I have nowinstituted; nor will I so familiarly commune with you again, as I do now in this New Testament ordinance, till we shall have the most intimate fellowship together, in the more excellent entertainments of the heavenly state; which, for their superior and always fresh delight, may in the language of a festival be called new wine." See Guyse, and the note on Matthew 26:29.
Mark 14:26. They went out— At the conclusion of the supper, Jesus and his disciples sung a proper Psalm or song of praise together, as was customary at the close of the passover, and then he set out for the mount of Olives; choosing to retire thither that he might prevent a riot in Jerusalem, and bring no trouble upon the master of the house where he celebrated the passover.
Mark 14:29. Although all shall be offended,— It is most probable that Judas by this timehad slipped away from the disciples, to fulfil his vile contract with the sanhedrim; and Peter missing him vaunted, that though all his fellow-apostles should follow Judas's example; he would stand by his Lord. We may observe, that if St. Mark's Gospel was dictated or reviewed by St. Peter, as the ancients affirm, the latter, out of his deep penitence, represents the event with the highest aggravations; for nothing can be stronger than the expressions in Mark 14:31.
Mark 14:30. Before the cock crow twice,—thou shalt— Thou wilt. See the note on Matthew 26:33; Matthew 26:75. Dr. Owen, in his Observations on the four Gospels, p. 56 has observed further, that as the Jews, in the enumeration of the times of the night, took notice only of one cock-crowing, which comprehended the third watch, (see on chap. Mark 13:35.) so St. Matthew, to give them a clear information that Peter would deny his Master thrice before three in the morning, needed only to say, that he would do it before the cock crew; but the Romans, for whom, and the other Gentiles, St. Mark wrote his Gospel, reckoning by a double crowing of the cock,—the first of which was about midnight, and the second at three,—stood in need of a more particular designation; and therefore St. Mark, to denote the same hour to them, was obliged to say, before the cock crew twice. Juvenal uses exactly the same phrase to specify the same hour. Sat. 9: ver. 107.
Mark 14:33. He began to be sore amazed,— See the note on Matthew 26:38.
Mark 14:37. Simon, sleepest thou?— Jesus calls him by his first name: that of Peter did not then suit him; he was degenerated from it. Heylin.
Mark 14:40. Neither wist they— Neither knew they.
Mark 14:41. Sleep on now, &c.— Some commentators read this interrogatively, Do you sleep on still, and take repose? The passage, however, may be read with propriety agreeable to our version; as much as to say, "My previous conflict is now over, and you may sleep on, because I have no farther occasion for your watching. It is enough; the time is expired in which your watching would have been of any service tome."Theoriginal word απεχει, sometimes signifies an acquittal, or discharge from anydebt or duty, and implies our Saviour's discharging his disciples from the duty and obligation of watching at that time, which he had laid them under by his commands, ch. Mark 13:33; Mark 13:37. See Mill's Greek Testament.
Mark 14:44. A token,— A signal. Take him,—seize him, or lay fast hold of him:— κρατησατε αυτον . See Heylin and Matthew 26:48.
Mark 14:51-52. There followed him a certain young man, &c.— Bishop Pococke, in describing the dresses of the people of Egypt, observes, "that it is almost a general custom among the Arabs and Mohammedan natives of the country, to wear a large blanket, either white or brown, and in summera blue or white cotton sheet; which the Christians constantly wear in the country. Putting one corner before over the left shoulder, they bring it behind and under the right arm, and so over their bodies, throwing it behind over the left shoulder, and so the right arm is left bare for action. When it is hot, and they are on horseback, they let it fall down on the saddle round them; and about Faiume I particularly observed,that young people especially, and the poorer sort, had nothing on whatever, but this blanket; and it is probable the young man was clothed in this manner, who followed our Saviour when he was taken, having a linen-cloth cast about his naked body; and when the young men laid hold on him, he left the linen-cloth, and fled from them naked." See his Description of the East, vol. 1: p. 190.
"I am very much disposed," says the author of the Observations on Scripture, "to think as theBishop does upon this point; and as he has made this remark, I should not have thought of noting it, had I not apprehended some additional observations might not be altogether useless. The account here given relates to Egypt; but Egmont and Heyman inform us, that the inhabitants of Palestine are as slightly clothed now as these Egyptians, and we may believe were so anciently. They observe, that they saw several Arabian inhabitants of Jaffa (called Joppa in the New Testament) going almost naked, the greatest part of them without so much as a shirt or drawers, though some wore a kind of mantle: as for the children there, they run about almost as naked as they were born, though they had all little chains about their legs, as an ornament, and some of silver." The ancients, or at least many of them, supposed that the young man here mentioned by St. Mark, was one of the apostles; though Grotius wonders how they could entertain such an idea; and apprehends that it was some youth who lodged in a country-house near the garden of Gethsemane, who ran out in a hurry to see what was the matter, in his night vestment, or in his shirt, as we should express it. But the word Σινδον, used to signify what he had upon him, denotes also such a cloth as they wrapped up the dead in, and occurs in no other sense in the Old Testament: but the Eastern people do not lie like corpses wrapped up in a winding-sheet, but in drawers, and one or two waistcoats, at Aleppo; and those who go without drawers (as the Arabs of Barbary do, according to Dr. Shaw, and many of the Holy Land, if we believe Egmont and Heyman) sleep in their raiment; and the hyke, which they wear by day, serves them for a bed and covering by night. It might as well then be an apostle in his day-dress, as an ordinary youth wrapped up in that in which he lay; and it is rather to be understood of an apostle in his common clothing, than of a person of figure in his drawers and waistcoat, in which such persons now lay; and which we maybelieve that Dionysius Alexandrinus meant by εν λινω εσθηματι, in his epistle quoted by Grotius. A late commentator takes notice, that though this youth is said to flyaway naked upon his leaving the linen cloth in the hands of those that secured him; yet it is by no means necessary to suppose that he was absolutely naked;—which is indeed very true: is not this precisely the thing, however, that the evangelist designs to intimate,—in order to mark out the extreme fear of this young man, who rather chose to quit his hyke than run the risk of being made a prisoner; though, by doing this, he became entirely exposed? Dr. Lightfoot supposes, as I do, says this author, that he had nothing on under this linen cloth; which he inclines to attribute to mortification or a superstitious austerity. But if he was not an apostle, yet he must be understood to have been a disciple of Jesus, or he needed not to have been afraid. And from ch. Mar 2:18 we learn, that though the disciples of John followed a rigorous institute, those of Christ did not. See the Observations, p. 403, &c. instead of young men at the end of Mark 14:51. Dr. Heylin reads soldiers, as the original word frequently signifies in the best writers.
Mark 14:59. But neither so did their witness agree together.— But neither was their evidence found consistent. Heylin. The original, literally rendered, is, Neither thus was their testimony equal. See Mark 14:56.
Mark 14:61. The Son of the Blessed?— This is a very sublime and emphatical method of expressing the happiness of God. It conveys such an ideaof the divine blessedness, that, comparatively speaking, there is none happy but he. Seethe note on Matthew 26:62-63. It is plain from the parallel passage, Luk 22:67 that the answer of our Saviour, set down by St. Mark as well as St. Matthew, is an answer only to this question, Art thou the Son of God? and not to that other, Art thou the Christ, or the Messiah? which preceded, and which he had answered before; and though St. Matthew and St. Mark connect them together, as if making but one question, and omit all the intervening discourse, yet it is plain from St. Luke, that they were two distinct questions, to which Jesus gave two distinct answers; in the first whereof, according to his usual caution, he declined saying in plain and express words that he was the Messiah, though in the latter he owned himself to be the Son of God: which, though they, being Jews, understood to signify the Messiah, yet he knew could be no legal or weighty accusation against him before a heathen; and so it proved. There was, however, a great deal of craft in the question, which consisted in this, that if Jesus answered in the affirmative, they were ready to condemn him as a blasphemer; but if in the negative, they proposed to have him punished as an impostor, who, by accepting the honours and titles of the Messiah from the people, had deceived them. See Locke's Reasonableness of Christianity, p. 154.
Mark 14:64. Guilty of death.— Worthy of death.
Mark 14:67. Thou also wast with Jesus— This young woman expresses her contempt of Jesus very strongly: for the original runs, Thou also wast with that Nazarene Jesus. See Wynne, and on Matthew 26:73-74.
Mark 14:68. I know not, &c.— That is, "I know not the man, nor do I understand what thou art talking about."
Mark 14:70. And thy speech agreeth thereto.— And your pronunciation is of that country. Heylin.
Mark 14:72. And when he thought thereon, he wept.— Raphelius, and some learned critics, would render επιβαλων, throwing himself out of the company, in a passionate manner, which it is very probable he did: but others, and particularly Elsner, Salmasius, and Bos, with much better authority, would translate it, covering his head, which was a token of mourning and shame, well becoming Peter on this occasion. Compare 2 Samuel 15:30. Est 6:12 and Jeremiah 14:3-4. The expression is elliptical, and should be supplied thus: Επιβαλων ιματιον τη κεφαλη αυτου, as is evident from Leviticus 19:19. LXX. u922?αι ιματιον εκ δυο υφασμενον κιβδηλον ουκ επιβαλεις σεαυτω . Besides, it was the custom of persons in confusion to cover their heads, as in the aforementioned place of Jeremiah; They were ashamed, and confounded, and covered their heads. Wetstein defends, by a variety of instances, our version: but see Duport's excellent "Letters on Theophrastus," p. 232.
Inferences on Christ's apprehension, &c.—Wherefore, O Saviour, didst thou take those three chosen disciples with thee, but that thou expectedst some comfort from their presence? Mark 14:33. A seasonable word may sometimes drop from the meanest attendant; and the very society of those whom we trust, carries in it some kind of satisfaction. Alas! what broken reeds are men! wrapped up in sleep and security, while thou art sweating in thine agony! Admonitions, threats, entreaties, cannot keep their eyes open: thou tellest them of danger; they rather prefer dreams of ease; and, though twice roused, carelessly sleep out thy sorrow, and their own danger.
What assistance hast thou from such followers!—In the mount of thy transfiguration they slept; yea, and fell on their faces, when they should have beheld thy glory. In the garden of thine agony they fall upon the ground for drowsiness; and when they should compassionate thy sorrows, lose themselves in a stupid sleepiness, Mark 14:37. Perhaps even this disregard made thy prayers but so much the more fervent. The less comfort we find on earth, the more we seek above; nor didst thou seek more than thou didst find: an angel supplies the place of men; that spirit was vigilant, while thy disciples were heavy. Happy exchange!
No sooner is this good angel vanished, than that domestic devil appears in view. Judas comes up, (Mark 14:43.) and shews himself at the head of those miscreant troops. He, whose too high honour it had been to follow so blessed a Master, is now the wicked leader of this rabble; the fleece is now cast off; the wolf appears in his own likeness; yet still the bold traitor dares to mix hypocrisy with villainy, and murders with his very salutations and kisses.
O Saviour, this is no news to thee: all those who, under a mere shadow of godliness practise humility, do still betray thee thus. Thou who hadst said, "one of you is a devil," didst not now say, "get thee hence, Satan;" but, friend, wherefore art thou come? And yet all this sunshine of mildness cannot thaw that obdurate heart. The sign is given; Jesus is taken, Mark 14:46.
Wretched traitor! why wouldst thou for this vile purpose be thus attended? And ye, foolish priests and elders, why sent you such a band, and so armed? One messenger had been enough for a voluntary prisoner. Had my Saviour been unwilling to be taken, all your forces, with all the legions of hell to help them, had been too little: when he did but say, I am he, that easy breath alone routed all your troops, and cast them to the earth, (John 18:6.) whom it might as easily have cast into hell! Had he but said, "I will not be taken," what would your swords and slaves have done against Omnipotence?
Those disciples who failed of their vigilance, failed not of their courage: they had heard their Master speak of providing swords, and now they thought it was the time to use them: Shall we smite? They were willing to fight for him now, with whom they were not careful to watch. But of all other, Peter was most forward: instead of opening his lips, he unsheathes his sword;—and instead of "Shall I?"—smites: Mark 14:47. He had noted Malchus, a busy servant of the high-priest, too ready to second Judas, and to lay his rude hands upon the Lord of life: against this man his heart rises and his hand is lifted up; that ear which had too officiously listened to the unjust and cruel charge of his wicked master, is now severed from that worse head which it had mis-served.
I love and honour thy zeal, O blessed disciple: thou couldst not brook the wrong done to thy divine Master! Had thy life been dearer to thee than his safety, thou hadst not drawn thy sword upon a whole troop. It was in earnest that thou saidst, Though all men,—yet not I,—though I should die with thee, yet I will not deny thee, (Mark 14:29-30.) Lo! thou art ready to die upon him that should touch that sacred Person: what would thy life now have been, in comparison of renouncing Him? Since thou wert so fervent, why didst thou not rather fall upon the traitor who betrayed him, than upon the serjeant who arrests him? Surely the sin was so much greater in him, as the plot of mischief is more than the execution; as a domestic is nearer than a stranger; as the treason of a friend is worse than the forced enmity of a hireling. Was it that thou couldst not so suddenly apprehend the odious depth of that villainy, and instantly hate him who had been thy old companion? or was it that, though Judas was more faulty, yet Malchus was more imperiously cruel? However, thy courage was now awakened with thyself; and thy heart no less sincere, than thy hand was rash: Put up thy sword again, &c. Matthew 26:52. Good intentions are no warrant for rash actions: thou, O Saviour, canst at once accept our meanings, yet censure our deeds: warm as was Peter's love, and just as was his quarrel, neither of them can shield him from thy rebuke: thy meek tongue smites him gently, who had furiously smote thine enemy: Put up thy sword.
It was Peter's sword; but to be put up; not used. There is a sword which Peter may use, but it is of another metal: our weapons are, as our warfare, spiritual. When the Prince of peace bade his followers sell their coat and buy a sword, he meant to insinuate the need of these arms, not their improvement; and to teach them the danger of the time, not the manner of repulsing the danger. Can I choose but wonder how Peter could thus strike unwarranted? How he, whose first blow made the fray, could escape from being hewn in pieces by that band of ruffians? This could not have been, O Saviour, had not thy power restrained their rage, had not thy seasonable and sharp reproof prevented their revenge.
Peter's ear is no less smitten now by the mild tongue of his Master, than Malchus's ear by the sword of Peter. "Weak disciple, thou hast zeal, but not according to knowledge. There is not more danger in this act of thine, than inconsideration and ignorance: The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? Thou drawest thy sword to rescue me from suffering: alas! if I suffer not, what would become of thee? What would become of mankind? Dost thou go about to hinder thy own and the world's redemption? Canst thou be so weak as to imagine that this suffering of mine is not free and voluntary? Have I not given thee and the world many undeniable proofs of my omnipotence? Didst thou not see how easy it had been for me to have blown away these poor forces of mine adversaries? Dost thou not know, that, if I would require it, all the glorious troops of heaven (any one whereof is more than troops of men) would presently shew themselves ready to attend and rescue me? My power could have triumphed over the impetuous malice of my enemies; but as I am determined to ransom mankind, my mercy must rather be approved; and this cannot be done without my suffering. Thus then, O Peter, thy well-meant valour is no better than a wrong to thyself, to the world, to me, to my Father."
O gracious Saviour, while thou thus smitedst thy disciple, thou didst heal him whom thy disciple smote, Luke 22:51. Many greater miracles hadst thou done; none that displayed more of mercy and meekness than this last cure. Of all other, this ear of Malchus has the loudest tongue to blazon the praise of thy clemency and goodness to thy enemies. Wherefore came that man, but in a hostile manner to attack thee? And if he had not been more forward than his fellows, why had he not escaped as unhurt as they?
Yet,—even amid the throng of thy enemies,—in the heat of their violence,—in the height of their malice,—and thine own instant peril of death,—thou didst heal that worthless ear, which had been guilty of listening to blasphemies against thee, receiving cruel and unjust charges concerning thee!
O Malchus! could thine ear be whole, and not thy heart broken and contrite with remorse, for rising up against so merciful and so powerful a hand? Couldst thou choose but say, "O blessed Jesu, I see it was thy providence that preserved my head, when my ear was smitten: it is thine Almighty power which has miraculously restored that ear which I had justly forfeited: this head of mine shall never be guilty of plotting any further mischief against thee: this ear shall never entertain any more reproaches of thy name: this heart shall ever acknowledge and magnify thy tender mercies, thy divine omnipotence?"
Could thy fellows see such a demonstration of power and goodness with unrelenting hearts? Unthankful Malchus, and cruel soldiers! ye were wounded, and felt it not: ye still persisted in your bloody impious enterprize:—They that laid hold on Jesus, led him away, &c.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The scene of our Saviour's sufferings now approaching, we have the steps preparatory thereto.
1. The anointing him as he sat in the house of Simon the leper, so called, probably, as having been cured by Jesus of that nauseous disease. Note; When the sin is forgiven, and the backslider restored, the reproach will still frequently abide. While Jesus was at supper, a woman came behind him, and poured upon his head a box of precious spikenard. Some of the disciples, with Judas at their head,* with indignation beheld what they esteemed such unnecessary waste, the value of the ointment amounting to above nine pounds, which they suggested might have been much more profitably employed in charitable uses; but Christ, who knew the secret murmurs they were afraid to utter, reproved their rash censures, and commended the deed as highly praise-worthy; it being intended as a burial unction, which, according to her power, willing to honour her Lord whilst alive, thus she anticipated, as she would not have an opportunity to do it for him after his death. Their care indeed for the poor was commendable, but they being ever present, abundant occasions would offer to relieve them. Therefore, as he was ready to depart, it was the only opportunity of shewing him respect which would be ever afforded her: therefore to her honour shall this be mentioned, wherever in future days the Gospel shall be preached; and this remarkable instance of her faith and love shall for ever accompany the narrative of his death and resurrection. Note; (1.) They who love the Lord Jesus Christ, never think they can do enough to testify their regard for him. (2.) They who honour him, whatever censures others may cast on them, he will honour.
* See John 12:3; Joh 12:50 where I shall compare the evangelists concerning the anointing of our Lord, and fully account for the seeming contradictions.
2. The scheme laid for his betrayal and ruin. Determined upon his death, the chief priests and scribes consulted only on the means of effecting it with the least noise; and at first thought that on the feast day it would be dangerous to arrest him, for fear of the people: but while they were in council, a most unexpected incident fixed their resolutions. Judas, one of the twelve apostles, came and offered to betray his Master. The bargain was instantly struck, the money engaged for, and immediately he set himself to find the properest opportunity to put him into the hands of these his implacable enemies. Note; (1.) Where the love of filthy lucre reigns, whatever profession a man may make, there wants nothing but temptation to draw forth the apostacy of his heart. (2.) The devil often favours his servants with most unexpected success, in order to embolden and harden them in wickedness, and to bind them faster in his chains.
2nd, We have,
1. Christ's celebration of the passover with his disciples. By his orders, two of them had been sent with particular directions where to prepare it; and having accordingly found the person with the pitcher of water and followed him home, they were shewn by the master of the house a furnished room, where they prepared the supper; and in the evening Jesus came with his disciples, and sat down to eat the paschal Lamb. Note; (1.)When we have our Lord's orders, we must go forth depending on his providence, even when we know not whither we go. (2.) The purest societies must not expect to be always without false brethren on this side the great millennium: of twelve apostles, one was a traitor.
2. At the table he startled his disciples with information the most alarming,—that one of them, who now appeared so friendly, would prove a traitor, and betray him into the hands of his enemies. Exceedingly grieved at such an assurance, each, unwilling to suspect another, and unconscious of such design, Judas excepted, began to say, Lord, is it I? I dread the thought of such villainy, and wish not a moment to lie under the suspicion of it. In answer to their question, Christ points out the traitor, by directing them to one of the twelve then dipping in the dish with him, adding a most fearful commination against him, if any thing at last might touch that hardened traitor's conscience. Note; (1.) A zealous soul is grieved but to be suspected of unfaithfulness. (2.) We cannot be too jealous over ourselves. A sincere disciple wishes others to search him, and prays the Lord every day to try the ground of his heart, and shew him if there be any hidden iniquity there, that it may be repented of and renounced. (3.) Not one jot or tittle of God's word can fail: even wicked men, when most invenomed against him, are nevertheless made subservient to his purposes; though this neither extenuates their guilt, nor will at all mitigate their punishment.
3. At the close of the paschal supper, our Lord instituted that ordinance, which in his church should supersede, and supply the place of this solemn feast. Having taken bread, he blessed it, brake, and gave to each of them, to be eaten in remembrance of his broken body, which should procure for them a more glorious redemption than in the passover they commemorated; a redemption from sin, and death, and hell. Then taking up the cup in like manner, after his solemn benediction, he bid them all drink of it, as they did; and this he explains as his blood of the New Testament; by the shedding of which, all the promises of the covenant of grace would be confirmed to them, and to as many as in faith, would receive these instituted seals of that covenant, and cleave to him, faithful unto death. And hereupon our Lord takes his farewel of them, till the day came when they should sit down with him in glory, and drink the new wine in the kingdom of God, partaking of the joys at his right hand for evermore. Then closing the solemnity with a hymn, they departed for the mount of Olives.
4. In the way to the retirement whither Jesus went, he took occasion to warn his disciples of their approaching desertion of him, which the Scriptures had foretold and they were about to fulfil that very night. But to encourage them to return to him again, he lets them know, that though he should be smitten, and they scattered from him, yet, after his resurrection, they should again see him to their comfort in Galilee. Peter, shocked at the thought, confident in himself, and with warmth relenting the suspicion, solemnly engages, that, though every one of his brethren should desert his Master, he never would. And notwithstanding the repeated warnings which our Lord gives him that he would not only forsake him, but deny him before the morning returned; more resolute and peremptory than before, Peter with vehemence insists that he would die with him, sooner than deny him. And all the rest, unwilling to be outdone in assurances of fidelity, declared this also to be their determined resolution. Note; We know not our own hearts, when we confidently boast what we will do. The first temptation may prove our weakness.
3rdly, We have before us in this chapter the amazing scene of the Redeemer's agony in the garden of Gethsemane. Having left eight of his disciples at a greater distance, he took three of them to be nearer spectators of his sufferings.
1. His anguish was unutterable. Amazement and horror seized his soul, and a sense of the divine wrath oppressed him with its intolerable load. Sorrows, like the agonies of death, compassed him about; and pains, like those which the damned feel, gat hold upon him. He acquaints his three disciples with something of what he endured, which words were too feeble to express; and bids them wait there, and watch with him, in this hour of temptation.
We may here, as in a glass, observe, (1.) The dreadful evil of sin; and every pang the Redeemer feels should be a dagger to our hearts, begetting the deepest self-abhorrence and most unfeigned grief for those abominations, which nothing but the sufferings of the Son of God could expiate. (2.) The sure foundation of our faith: the Lord has laid on him the iniquities of us all. (3.) The inexpressibly transcendent love of our Lord and Saviour, willingly resigning himself thus for our sakes: what returns, then, do we not owe him? (4.) The comfort procured for us under our afflictions and trials. Whatever we suffer, Jesus has drank deeper of the bitter cup; and having been thus tempted himself, can tenderly feel for his believing people, and will succour them under their sorrows.
2. His prayer was humble, fervent, importunate, submissive. As man, he could not but wish that the bitter cup might remove; as Mediator, he bowed submissive to his Father's will, content, whatever might be endured, to finish the work which God had given him to do. Thrice he renews the same request, and thrice resigns himself to suffer whatever might be for the glory of the divine justice to inflict. Note; (1.) We are not forbid to mourn, and pray for a removal of our burdens, even when most resigned to suffer God's holy will. (2.) Though our troubles be not soon removed, we must not be weary in waiting upon God. In his time they shall end, and we shall finally receive an answer of peace, if we faint not; either deliverance from our trials, or strength to endure them.
3. On coming to his disciples, he finds them asleep; and therefore rouses them with a just and sharp rebuke, especially addressed to Simon, who had lately appeared so zealous, and promised such distinguished fidelity. How shameful, that they could not watch one hour with their agonizing Master! or if not for his sake, at least for their own, when it was so needful for them to watch and pray; such a temptation being ready to overtake them, as nothing but Almighty grace could enable them to bear: but while he thus upbraids and warns, the tender Saviour pities them, and kindly seeks to excuse what he must condemn. Their spirit was willing; he knew their hearts; but the flesh was weak to withstand the effects of weariness and the oppression of grief: and the infirmities incident to this feeble frame disabled them from doing what they desired. A second time he goes to pour out his sorrows before God; again he returns, and they are asleep, and, when awaked, are unable to answer his just rebuke, after having received such repeated admonition. The third time he retires to redouble his cries, yet finds them on his return sleeping still. Now therefore he bids them sleep on, if they dared any longer; or, will ye sleep yet? when danger was now at the door; he calls them, therefore, to go with him to meet his betrayer. Note; (1.) Slothfulness in prayer is usually the forerunner of sad falls. (2.) Jesus, by his word and providence, is repeatedly knocking at our stupid hearts, to awaken our attention, and rouse us to watchfulness and prayer. (3.) Those who have made the strongest professions, are peculiarly criminal if they act unsuitably. (4.) It is well for us that we have a compassionate High-priest, who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. (5.) They who do not watch and pray when danger threatens, will be unprepared to meet it, and sink under the temptation.
4thly, His internal sufferings in the garden being ended, his external sufferings began; so fast doth billow roll on billow, till all the storms of wrath are gone over him.
1. He is apprehended by a band of men sent from the chief-priests, scribes, and elders, under the conduct of Judas the traitor; who, as it was night, that they might not mistake the person of Jesus, gave them this signal,—that they might know him, by his going up and killing him. And hereupon, with great pretended respect, approaching Christ, he kissed him, and they who were at his heels laid hands upon him. Note; (1.) Apostates ever prove the blackest instruments of hell; and no height of office, or profession, is safe from temptation. We need not stumble at the falls of the greatest apparent Christians, when we see an apostle a traitor and a devil. (2.) The basest schemes of villainy are often crowned with success, and the wicked triumphant; but their time is short.
2. Peter, ever violent, no sooner saw his Master apprehended, than he attempted a rescue; and, drawing his sword, struck at one of the men who had seized Jesus, and cut off his ear: his intention was good, but his zeal intemperate. Note; (1.) Many have more zeal than prudence, and their good intentions are no excuse for their rashness. (2.) In times of persecution, it is much easier to draw the sword and fight, than patiently to bow down and meekly suffer.
3. Christ expostulates with his enemies on this clandestine manner of apprehending him, as if he had been some infamous villain and murderer that needed to be seized, and overpowered with arms and numbers; when they knew that he had every day appeared in the temple, where they might easily have taken him: and now the disciples no sooner saw him submit quietly to be bound, than they all forsook him and fled, glad every one to shift for himself, lest they also should be apprehended. Note; (1.) The most innocent men are often proceeded against, as if they were the vilest of mankind; and such accusations are studiously raised against them, to cloke the malice of their persecutors. (2.) We need not think it strange, if in times when we most need such support, our dearest friends abandon us, through fear of being involved in our troubles. In these seasons we should remember Jesus in the garden.
4. A young man near the garden, perhaps disturbed by the noise, started up from his bed, and ran down with only a sheet about him, or some linen garment, to inquire into the cause; and followed the crowd a little way. Being observed by one of the soldiers, and perhaps suspected for a disciple, they attempted to lay hold of him; but with the loss of his garment he got loose, and fled naked. This incident seems to be related, to shew the inveteracy of those enemies of Jesus: none that looked like his disciples, might expect to receive any quarter from them.
5thly, Our blessed Lord, after being dragged through the streets as a criminal, is now carried before the high-priest and Sanhedrim, in order that some matter of accusation might be found whereon to ground his condemnation: and Peter, now a little recovered from his fright, and prompted by strong curiosity to see the end, at a distance followed the band; and, having got admission into the palace, sat and warmed himself with the servants at the fire, presuming that in such company none would take him for a disciple. We are informed,
1. What pains were taken to suborn false witnesses, in order to have a pretence for putting Jesus to death, this being their bloody resolution, and the process a mere veil to cover the murder. But though many, to please the priests, witnessed against him: and though some, perverting the words which he had spoken of the temple of his body a long time before, and applying them to the temple of Jerusalem, would have represented him as an enemy to their worship and religion; yet all the charges they could muster up, amounted to nothing capital, while the most glaring contradictions appeared in their evidence.
2. Unable to condemn him upon the evidence of others, the high-priest seeks to extort from himself something more material. Finding him silent under all these frivolous and false accusations, and not to be prevailed upon to reply aught to these charges, he rose with vehemence, and solemnly adjured him to say directly, whether he really was, as he pretended, the Messiah, the Son of the blessed God? Then Jesus, undismayed, with dignity becoming his office, asserted his divine character as the Son of God, with an awful warning to them who now thus despised and set him at nought,—that the time would come, when they should tremble at his presence, and behold him executing his temporal judgments on their place and nation, and yet more fearfully meet him at the great day, when they must stand at his tribunal, and perish eternally. The high-priest, hereupon, pretending indignation against what he termed blasphemy, rent his clothes, exclaimed against the need of further evidence, and, branding our Lord as a blasphemer, appealed to the rest for their opinion; who, following such a wicked example, unanimously condemned him to death. Note; (1.) We must not be staggered, if we see the most reverend, aged, wise, and noble, conspiring against the cause of Jesus, and persecuting his people. By such was Jesus himself condemned. (2.) The silence of our Redeemer under every accusation should teach us patience when we are thus reviled, committing our cause to him that judgeth righteously. (3.) It is easy to brand those as blasphemers, who, in the highest, desire to give glory to God. The best men have often been dressed up in the most shocking colours, and blackened with the most opprobrious names, in order to make the persecution of them appear necessary and laudable.
3. No sooner was judgment given against him, than they began to insult him with the most grievous indignities. They spat upon him, blindfolded him, buffeted him, struck him on the face, and in derision bid him exercise his prophetical office, by telling who smote him. Thus did not he hide his face from shame and spitting, that we might be enabled without shame to stand before the tribunal of God.
6thly, Peter's fall had been foretold; and we, in this chapter see the prediction sadly verified.
1. He had rushed needlessly into temptation, and thrust himself into the midst of bad company, and then no wonder that he fell. He was first ashamed of Christ, and that was but one step from denying him. Note; They who care not to be found among the disciples of Jesus, because it is reproachful, and associate with the world in order to gain estimation, and to be thought well of, will pierce themselves through with many sorrows.
2. On the slightest trial Peter repeatedly denied and disowned his Master; and from words descended to oaths, sealing perfidy and lies with foulest perjury. Lord, what is man, when left to himself! A servant-maid confounded an apostle, when trusting for a moment to the strength of his own resolution. Peter's mouth hardly knew how to pronounce an oath, and would before have shuddered at the thought; but, when a lie had first opened the door, profaneness and perjury easily entered. When once men turn aside from the path of truth never so little, they know not to what dreadful lengths they may be hurried. Complicated crimes loaded the apostle's conscience; denial of his Master, falsehood before God, repeated lies, horrid profaneness, and wilful perjury. Yet even this melancholy history may be improved for the good of others. Many a poor sinner might have despaired, if he had not seen such examples, and read in their pardon and recovery the possibility of his own.
3. When he was sunk into the lowest depths of sin, the infinite grace of God once more made him an offer of help. Once had the cock crowed, after his first denial of his Master, and that warning had passed unnoticed. The second time after his repeated crimes this herald of God reminds him of his Master's words, and his dire fulfilment of them. And now in full view his horrid guilt stared him in the face: every reflection shocked him: and, unable to bear that place, he retired to pour out in tears his bitter anguish. Some render the words, covering his face as a mourner, he wept bitterly, with penitential sorrow returning to a pardoning God: and it stands upon record, for the comfort of the chief of sinners, that he found mercy with him.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Mark 14". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany