Click here to learn more!
THE LAST PASSOVER.
Luke 22:1, Luke 22:2
Short explanatory introduction.
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. These words show that many of the readers for whom this Gospel was intended were foreigners, who were unacquainted with Jewish terms such as the "Passover." Passover (τὸ πάσχα, חסף) means, literally, "a passing." The feast so named commemorated the manner in which the chosen people were spared in Egypt when the destroying angel of the Lord passed over all Israelitish houses, which had been sprinkled with the blood of the lamb, without slaying the firstborn. Dr. Farrar suggests that the Greek word πάσχω is a transliteration, with a sort of alliterative allusion to the Greek πάσχω, "I suffer." This greatest and most important of the Jewish feasts, which ever brought a great host of pilgrims to Jerusalem, was kept in the first month of the Jewish year (Nisan), from the 15th of the month, the day of full moon, to the 21st. Roughly, this corresponded to the end of our March.
And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people. The determination, long maturing, had, during the last few days of public teaching, been come to on the part of the Sanhedrin. They had determined to put the dangerous public Teacher to death. The bitter hatred on the part of the Jewish rulers had been gradually growing in intensity during the two years and a half of the public ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. The raising of Lazarus seems to have finally decided the governing body with as little delay as possible to compass the Reformer's death. The temporary withdrawal of the Lord after the great miracle deferred their purpose for a season; after, however, a retirement for a few weeks, Jesus appeared again, shortly before the Passover, and taught publicly in the temple, at a season when Jerusalem was crowded with pilgrims arriving for the great feast. Never had his teaching excited such interest, never had it stirred up such burning opposition as at this juncture. This decided the Jewish rulers to carry out their design on the life of the Galilaean Teacher with as little delay as possible. The only thing that perplexed them was how this could safely be accomplished, owing to the favor in which he was held by the people, especially by the crowds of pilgrims from the provinces then in Jerusalem.
Judas Iscariot betrays his Master. Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them. And they were glad. This was their chance. In the very heart of the Galilaean Teacher's own company a traitor showed himself, one who knew well the plans of his Master. With his help the Sanhedrin and the priestly party would be enabled to effect the arrest privately. They then must trust to Roman jealousy to help them to carry out their evil design. The expression, "Then entered Satan into Judas," is a strong one, and definitely shows that, in the opinion of these inspired compilers of the Gospels, there was a person who bore rule over the powers of evil. The character and history of the faithless friend of Jesus is mournfully interesting. For one to whom such splendid chances were offered to fall so low, is an awful mystery. It is clear that the betrayal was no sudden impulse. He set up self as the one object of all his thoughts, and followed Jesus because he believed that, in following him, he could best serve his own interests. His ambition was cruelly disappointed by his Master's gradual unfolding his views respecting his kingdom, which was not to be of this world. He was still further shocked by the undisguised announcement on the part of his Master, whose greatness and power Judas recognized from the first, that he would be rejected by the nation, and even put to death, has been suggested, as an explanation of the betrayal, that at the last he seems to have fancied that he could force the manifestation of Christ's power by placing him in the hands of his enemies; but the acceptance of a reward, miserable though it was, seems to point to vulgar greed, and to the idea of making friends with the dominant party in the state now that his Master evidently looked forward to a violent death, as the real motives of the betrayal. The question has been asked whether Christ, in his choice of Judas as one of the twelve, read the inmost depths and issues of his character. Canon Westcott, in a profound note on John 13:18, writes "that the records of the gospel lead us to believe that the Lord had perfect human knowledge realized in a human way, and therefore limited in some sense, and separable in consciousness from his perfect Divine omniscience. He knew the thoughts of men absolutely in their manifold possibilities, and yet as man, not in their actual future manifestation." These mysteries "underlie all religious life, and, indeed, all finite life—for finite being includes the possibility of sin and the possibility of fellowship between the Creator and the creature Thus we may be content to have this concrete mystery as an example—the most terrible example—of the issues of the two fundamental mysteries of human existence."
The disciples Peter and John are directed to prepare for the last Passover.
Then came the day of unleavened bread. This was the Thursday, Nisan 13. On this afternoon all leaven was carefully and scrupulously put away; hence the name.
Go and prepare us the Passover, that we may eat. The three synoptists unite in describing this solemn meal, for which Peter and John were sent to prepare, as the ordinary Paschal Supper. But, on comparing the record of the same Supper given by St. John, we are irresistibly led to a different conclusion; for we read that on the following day those who led Jesus into the Praetorium went not in themselves, "lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover" (John 18:28); and again it is said of the same day, that "it was the preparation of the Passover" (John 19:14). So the time of the Supper is described by St. John (John 13:1) as "before the Feast of the Passover." It appears that our Lord was crucified on the 14th of Nisan, on the very day of the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb, a few hours before the time of the Paschal Supper, and that his own Last Supper was eaten the night before, that is, twenty-four hours before the general time of eating the Passover Supper. The most venerable of the Fathers preserved this as a sacred tradition. So Justin Martyr: "On the day of the Passover ye took him, and om the day of the Passover ye crucified him" ('Dial. cum Trypho,' ch. 3.). To the same effect write Irenaeus ('Adv. Haer.,' 4.23) and Tertullian ('Adv. Judaeos,' ch. 8). Clement of Alexandria is most definite: "The Lord did not cat his last Passover on the legal day of the Passover, but on the previous day, the 13th, and suffered on the day following, being himself the Passover". Hippolytus of Portus bears similar testimony. The question—as to whether the famous Last Supper was the actual Passover Supper, or the anticipatory Paschal Feast, which we believe it to have been—is important; for thus the language of St. Paul (1 Corinthians 5:7), "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us," is justified. "The apostle regarded not the Last Supper, but the death of Christ, as the antitype of the Paschal sacrifice, and the correspondence of type and antitype would be incomplete unless the sacrifice of the Redeemer took place at the time on which alone that of the Paschal lamb could legally be offered" (Dean Mansel).
And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare? It is probable that the disciples, in asking this question, concluded that the Passover was to be eaten by them and their Master at the same time with the rest of the Jews on the following day; but our Lord gave directions for its being eaten the same evening.
And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you. The name of the man who should meet them was omitted—purposely, think Theophylact and others, lest the place of meeting should be prematurely known to Judas. Bearing a pitcher of water. This would be an unusual sight in an Oriental city, where the water is drawn by women. It is probable that the "man" whom the Master foretold John and Peter would meet, was the master of the house, who, according to the Jewish custom on the 13th of Nisan, before the stars appeared in the heavens, had himself to go to the public fountain to draw the water with which the unleavened bread for the Passover Feast was kneaded.
And he shall show you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. The house which possessed so large an upper chamber must have been one of considerable size, and evidently belonged to a man of some wealth and position, possibly to Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathaea. That it perhaps belonged to St. Mark's family has also been suggested. It had evidently been prepared beforehand for the purpose of the feast, in obedience to a previous direction of Jesus. "Furnished" (ἐστρωμώνον,) applies specially to carpets spread over the couches for the reception of guests. "In this large upper chamber thus prepared,'' said the Lord, "make the necessary arrangements for the Paschal Supper; procuring and preparing the lamb, the unleavened bread, the herbs, and other customary dishes." It seems probable that this" large upper room," evidently belonging to a disciple, or at least to one friendly to Jesus, was the same room which, in the happier hours after the Resurrection, witnessed the appearance of the Risen to the eleven, and, later, the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost.
The Last Supper.
And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. The preparation had been made in the "large upper room," and the Lord and the twelve sat down, or rather reclined on the couches covered with carpets, the tables before them laid with the dishes peculiar to the solemn Passover Supper, each dish telling its part of the old loved story of the great deliverance. There was the lamb the Paschal victim, and the bitter herbs, the unleavened bread and the reddish sweet conserve of fruits—commemorating, it is said, by its color the hard labors of brickmaking, one of the chief burdens of the Egyptian bondage—into which the Blaster dipped the sop, and gave it to the traitor-apostle (John 13:26). The Lord reclined, probably, at the middle table; St. John next to him; St. Peter most likely on the other side; and the others reclining in an order corresponding more or less closely with the threefold division of the twelve into groups of four. The Supper itself had its special forms and ceremonies, which the Lord transformed as they proceeded in such a way as to change it into the sacred Supper of the New Testament.
And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. This peculiar expression, "with desire," etc., is evidently a reproduction by St. Luke of the Lord's very words repeated to him originally in Aramaic (Hebrew), They seem to be a touching apology or explanation from him to his own, for thus anticipating the regular Passover Supper by twenty-four hours. He had been longing with an intense longing to keep this last Passover with them: First as the dear human Friend who would make this his solemn last farewell. (Do not we, when we feel the end is coming, long for a last communion with our dearest ones?) And, secondly, as the Divine Master who would gather up into a final discourse his most important, deepest teaching. We find this teaching especially reported by St. John in his Gospel (Jn 13-17.). And thirdly, as the Founder of a great religion, he purposed, on this momentous occasion, transforming the most solemn festal gathering of the ancient Jewish people, which commemorated their greatest deliverance, into a feast which should—as age succeeded age—commemo-rate a far greater deliverance, not of the old chosen race only, but of every race under heaven. These were three of the reasons why he had desired so earnestly to eat this Passover with them. "To-morrow, at the usual hour, when the people cat their Passover, it will be too late for us." This he expresses in his own sad words, "before I suffer."
For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. There was yet one other reason for the Master's special desire once more to eat the solemn Passover with his chosen disciples. He would, by some significant action and word, show that the great Jewish feast, for so many centuries the central act of the ritual observances under the Mosaic Law, from henceforth would be superseded by a new and a yet more solemn religious rite. The Jewish Passover was to give place to the Christian sacrament. He, their Master, would with them share in the Passover meal that evening for the last time. The next time that he would partake would be still with them, but it would be in the kingdom of God, that is to say, in the Church of God, which was to be founded after his resurrection. The kingdom of God commenced with the resurrection of Jesus. The constant celebration of the Holy Eucharist commenced from that time; it is more than probable that our Lord partook of it, after his resurrection, with his own (see Luke 24:30; Acts 10:41). I will not any more eat thereof, until … I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until, etc. These statements, which speak of a final partaking (eating and drinking), are closely parallel to the command contained in Luke 22:19, Luke 22:20. The first statement seems solemnly to close the celebration of the Passover Feast; the second, to institute with equal solemnity a new feast in its place—
"With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15); for—
The Passover Feast is solemnly put an end to.
"I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God" (Luke 22:16).
"I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come" (Luke 22:18).
The Holy Eucharist is solemnly instituted.
"He took bread,… and brake it, and gave unto them: … This do in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19).
"Likewise also the cup after Supper" (Luke 22:20).
It was in the course of the great ritual Supper on some of the occasions when the cup was passed round, and the unleavened bread formally broken or dipped in one of the Passover dishes, that the Lord found his opportunity solemnly to announce the formal abrogation of the old Paschal Supper and the institution of the new communion feast. The above literal interpretation of the Lord's mystic words, "until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matthew 26:29), or, as St. Luke reports them, "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come "—which literal interpretation in the main is that preferred by Dean Mansel (Commentary on Matthew 26:29); see, too, St. Chrysostom in Matthew Hom. 72., who adopts the same literal interpretation—does not exclude a yet deeper and more spiritual meaning which lies beneath the surface, and which speaks of another and spiritual banquet in the heavenly realm, which not only the Redeemer, but also his redeemed, will partake of. Heaven-life under the form of a banquet was imagery well known and often painted by the Jewish masters in the old rabbinic schools before and contemporary with the earthly life of Christ. The New Testament writers in several places have adopted the similar imagery, notably in Matthew 8:11; Luke 22:30; Revelation 19:9. How widespread and well loved was this Jewish representation of the heaven-life under the form of a banquet is clear from the three above-quoted references taken from SS. Matthew, Paul (Luke), and John.
Luke 22:19, Luke 22:20
And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gays unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. Around these words, and the parallel passages in SS. Matthew and Mark, for more than a thousand years fierce theological disputes have raged. Men have gone gladly to prison and to death rather than renounce what they believed to be the true interpretation. Now, a brief exegetical commentary is not the place to enter into these sad controversies. It will be sufficient here to indicate some of the lines of thought which the prayerful earnest reader might wisely follow out so as to attain certain just ideas respecting the blessed rite here instituted—ideas which may suffice for a practical religious life. Now, we possess a Divine commentary on this sacrament instituted by our Lord. It is noticeable that St. John, whose Gospel was the latest or well-nigh the latest of the canonical writings of the New Testament, when at great length he relates the story of the last Passover evening and its teaching, does not allude to the institution of that famous service, which, when he wrote his Gospel, had become part of the settled experience of Church life. He presupposes it; for it had passed then into the ordinary life of the Church. In another and earlier portion of his Gospel, however, St. John (John 6:32-58) gives us a record of the Lord's discourse in the synagogue of Capernaum, in which Jesus, while speaking plainly to those who heard him at the time, gave by anticipation a commentary on the sacrament which he afterwards instituted. The truth which was taught in thin discourse is presented in a specific act and in a concrete form in the Holy Communion. In the fifty-third verse of that sixth chapter we read, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." How is this now to be done? We reply that our Lord has clothed these ideas and brought them near to us in this sacrament; while, by his teaching in the sixth chapter of St. John, he guards this sacrament from being regarded on the one hand as an end in itself, or on the other as a mere symbol. Certain truths, great landmarks laid down in this discourse, have to be borne in mind.
(1) The separation of the flesh of the Son of man into flesh and blood (John 6:53) presupposes a violent death submitted to for the sake of others (John 6:51).
(2) Both these elements, the flesh and the blood, are to be appropriated individually by the believer (John 6:56).
(3) How appropriated? St. Bernard well answers the question which he asks: "What is it to eat his flesh and to drink his blood, but to share in his sufferings and to imitate the life he lived when with us in the flesh?" (St. Bernard, on Psalms 3:3). "If ye suffer with him, ye shall also reign with him." The Holy Eucharist is from one point of view a great truth dramatized, instituted for the purpose of bringing before men in a vivid manner the great truths above alluded to. But it is something more. It brings to the believer, to the faithful communicant, to the one who in humble adoring faith carries out to the best of his ability his Master's dying charge—it brings a blessing too great for us to measure by earthly language, too deep for us to fathom with human inquiry. For the partaking of this Holy Communion is, first, the Christian's solemn public confession of his faith in Christ crucified; his solemn private declaration that it is his deliberate wish to suffer with his Lord and for his Lord's sake; that it is, too, his firm purpose to imitate the earthly life lived by his Lord. The partaking of this Holy Communion, too, is the Christian's most solemn prayer for strength thus to suffer and to live. It is, too, his fervent expression of belief that this strength will be surely given to him. Further, the partaking of this Holy Communion is, above all, the Christian's most solemn prayer for living union with Christ—"that Christ may dwell in his heart by faith." It is, too, his fervent expression of belief that "then we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us; we are one with. Christ, and Christ with us." This confession, declaration, and prayer he constantly renews in obedience to the dying command of his Master. It is difficult to understand how any belief in a physical change in the elements of bread and wine, such as is involved in the theory of transubstantiation held in the Roman Church, or of consubstantiation in the Lutheran community, can be supposed to enhance the reverence of the communicant, or to augment the blessing promised. The words of the Lord, "This is my body … my blood," cannot surely be pressed, seeing that the same Divine Speaker was in his discourses in the habit of using imagery which could not literally be pressed, such as "I am the Bread of life," "I am the Door of the sheep," "I am the true Vine," etc. Nothing that can be conceived is more solemn than the simple rite, more awful in its grandeur, more Divine and far-reaching in its promises to the faithful believer. Human imaginings add nothing to this Divine mystery, which is connected at once with the Incarnation and the Atonement. They only serve to envelop it in a shroud of earth-born mist and cloud, and thus to dim if not to veil its Divine glory.
The Lord's sorrowful allusion to Judas the traitor.
But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. This is the second mention of the traitor in St. Luke's account of the Last Supper. From St. John's recital, we gather that Jesus returned several times in the course of that solemn evening to this sad topic. That one of his own little inner circle, so closely associated with him, should so basely betray him, was evidently a very bitter drop in the Lord's cup of suffering. In his dread experience of human sorrow it was needful that the Christ should fulfill in his own experience what even the noblest of the children of men—David, for instance—had felt of the falseness of friends. What suffering can be inflicted on a generous heart comparable to it? Surely he of whom it was written, "Whose sorrows are like unto my sorrows?" must make trial of this bitterness. Chrysostom thinks that the Master, in some of these repeated allusions during the "Supper," tried to win Judas over to a better mind.
Woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed! We seem to hear a wailing in this woe, although the denunciation was so firmly pronounced. St. Matthew, in his account, here adds some more words spoken by the Master, "It had been good for that man if he had not been born." Dean Plumptre, on this saying of Christ, very suggestively remarks, "Awful as the words were, they have their bright as well as their dark side. According to the estimate which men commonly form, the words are true of all except these who depart this life in the faith and fear of God. In his applying them to the case of the traitor in its exceptional enormity, there is suggested the thought that for others whose guilt was not like his, existence even in the penal suffering which their sins have brought upon them may be better than never to have been at all."
And they began to inquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing. That all the disciples, on hearing this statement of their Master, should at once question their own hearts with the "Is it I?" (of St. Matthew's Gospel), shows with what cunning skill the arch-traitor must have concealed not merely his plans but his very sentiments. No suspicion on their parts ever seems to have fallen on Judas, their companion for so long a time. The direct colloquy of the Lord with the traitor, reported at length in the other Gospels on the occasion of dipping the sop into one of the Paschal dishes, was most probably carried on in a whisper (see John 13:26-29, where mention is specially made of the disciples' ignorance of the dread meaning of their Master's words to Judas).
The jealousy, among the disciples.
And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. The Lord's words in these verses are peculiar to St. Luke. The strife among the disciples which suggested the Lord's corrective sayings was evidently no mere dispute as to precedence in their places at the supper, but some question as to their respective positions in the coming kingdom of which their Master had said so much in the course of his later instructions. It is closely connected with the "feet-washing" related at length by St. John (John 13:4-17). This has been well described as a parable in action, exhibited to illustrate forcibly the novel and sublime truth which he was teaching them, the world-teachers of the future, that in self sacrifice consisted the secret of true greatness. In the kingdom of heaven this would be found to be conspicuously the case.
Are called benefactors (εὐεργέται). Those who were listening knew well how utterly false these high-sounding human titles often were. Εὐεργέτης (Euergetes), Benefactor, was the well-known title appropriated by Ptolemy Euergetes and other hated royal tyrants well known to the Jewish people.
Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. But after the gentle rebuke of their jealous ambition, which rebuke was veiled in the great instruction, their Master, with the tenderest grace, referred to their unswerving loyalty to him. Their faithfulness stood out at that hour in strong contrast with the conduct of Judas. It is always thus with their Master and ours. Every good deed, every noble thought, each bit of generosity and self-forgetfulness on our part, is at once recognized and rewarded a hundredfold now as then.
And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me. This promise refers to earth and this life. They and their successors in his Church would bear sway over men's hearts, His kingdom would be administered by them. With strangely literal accuracy has this promise been fulfilled. From the hour when the despised Master, already doomed to a shameful death, uttered this seemingly improbable prediction, his kingdom over men's hearts has been extending. Then at most the kingdom numbered a few hundreds; nine it can only be reckoned by millions. For centuries the story of the civilized world has been the story of this kingdom.
That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. While the words just considered (Luke 22:29) referred to a success and a reward, the scene of which was to be this world, the Master now continues his promises of reward to his chosen faithful followers—a reward which will be their blessed portion in eternal life, which will follow this. First, the endless bliss to be shared with him is pictured under the old favourite Jewish image of the heavenly banquet; and second, in that heavenly realm a special place of honor and a distinct work is promised to these his chosen faithful servants.
The Lord foretells Simon Peter's fall. He tells She disciples of the hard times coming on them.
And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. The majority of the more ancient authorities omit the words, "and the Lord said." These words were possibly inserted at an early date to obviate the abruptness of this sudden change in the subject-matter of the Lord's discourse. The more accurate translation would be, "Satan obtained you by asking that he," etc. Bengel comments with "not content with Judas." This saying of Jesus is a very mysterious one; it reveals to us something of what is going on in the unseen world. A similar request was made by the same bitter, powerful the in the case or Job (Job 1:12). Are we to understand that these are examples of what is constantly going on in that world so close to us, but from which no whisper ever reaches our mortal ears? Such grave thoughts lend especial intensity to those words in the prayer of prayers, where we ask "our Father which is in heaven" to deliver us from evil, or the evil one, as so many of our best scholars prefer to translate ἀπὸ τοῦ πονήρου. Satan asks that he may test and try the apostles. Judas he had already tempted, and he had won him. Possibly this signal victory emboldened him to proffer this request. We may imagine the evil one arguing thus before the Eternal: "These chosen ones who are appointed to work in the future so tremendous a work in thy Name, are utterly unworthy. Let me just try to lure them away with my lures. Lo, they will surely fall. See, one has already."
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not. The prayer of Satan apparently was not refused. Jesus, however, says, that for one of that loved company, who he knew from his peculiar temperament was in especial peril, he had prayed. The prayer was answered thus: the temptation came to all the apostles; all fell; Peter, though, more disastrously by far than his brethren, but the result of the fall was not hopeless despair as in the case of Judas, but bitter remorse and a brave manly repentance. "It is said by Roman divines (e.g. Maldonatus, a Lapide, and Mai, here) that this prayer and precept of our Lord extends to all bishops of Rome as St. Peter's successors, and that in speaking to St. Peter our Lord spoke to them. Would they be willing to complete the parallel, and say that the bishops of Rome specially need prayer, because they deny Christ? Let them not take a part of it and leave the rest" (Bishop Wordsworth). When thou art converted. "Converted" must not be understood here in its technical sense; it should rather be translated, "And thou, when thou hast turned (i.e. to God) strengthen thy brethren."
And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. This kind of confident enthusiasm is usually a sign of weakness. Jesus, the Heart-reader, knew too well what such a wild protestation was worth, and went on at once to predict his friend's and servant's awful fall, that very night.
Luke 22:35, Luke 22:36
And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything. And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip; and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. The Lord speaks one more word to his own before leaving the upper room, More occupied with the future trials of his disciples than with his own tragic destiny, which he knew was about to be fulfilled, he reminds his friends of the comparatively quiet and serene existence they had been spending during the last two years and a half with him. In that period, generally speaking, they had been welcomed and kindly entertained by the people, sometimes, they would remember, even with enthusiasm. But they must prepare now for a different life—cold looks, opposition, even bitter persecution, would be their lot for the future. They must order themselves now to meet these things. No ordinary prudent forethought must be omitted by them. He had more than hinted that this future lay before them in his words, "Behold I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves;" now he plainly tells them what kind of life awaited them in the immediate future. Of course, the advice as to the sword was not meant to be taken literally. It was one of those metaphors the Lord used so often in his teaching. For a similar metaphor still more elaborately developed, see Ephesians 6:17, and following verses.
For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors. Here he shows them what he meant. They, as disciples of One treated as a malefactor, had surely nothing to expect but hatred and persecution. Stier remarks that this is the first time that the Lord himself directs us to the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, that most pre-eminent and complete text of the Passion. For the things concerning me have an end. The tragic end of his earthly ministry is close at hand. The prophetic description of the suffering Servant of the Lord will soon be found to have been terribly accurate.
And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough. As so often, the disciples took their Master's words with curious literalness, and, as a reply, produced two swords, as if these two poor weapons could help them in the coming times of sore need. If they were to stand firm in the long trial-season which lay before them, they must surely provide themselves with very different weapons to these; their arms in the campaign of the future must be forged in no earthly workshop. But our Lord sadly declined then to enter into further explanation. His meaning would be all clear to them soon, so he closed the dialogue with the words, "It is enough." This verse was curiously perverted in the famous Bull of Pope Boniface VIII., "Unam sanctam," to prove his possession of both secular and spiritual power: "Dicentibus apostolis, ecce gladii duo, in Ecclesia scilicet, quum apostoli loquereutur, non respondit Dominus nimis esse, sed satis … Uterque ergo in potestate est Ecclesiae, spiritualis scilicet gladius et materialis."
The agony in the garden. This eventful scene is recounted in detail by all the three synoptists. St. Matthew's account is the most complete. St. Mark adds one saying of the Lord's containing a deep theological truth, "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee." These remarkable words, occurring as they do in the midst of the most solemn scene of prayer in the Redeemer's earth-life, tell of the vast possibilities of prayer. What may not be accomplished by earnest supplication to the throne of grace?
St. Luke's account is the shortest, but it contains the story of the angelic mission of help, and the additional detail of the "bloody sweat."
St. John alone of the four omits the scene; but, as in other most important recitals where he refrains from repeating the story of things thoroughly known in his Master's Church at the period when he committed his Gospel to writing, he takes care, however, often to record some hitherto unrecorded piece of the Lord's teaching, which is calculated to throw new light upon the momentous twice and thrice told incident, the story of which he does not deem it necessary to repeat. So in John 2:1-25. he throws a flood of light upon Christian baptism. John 6:1-71. is a Divine commentary on the Holy Eucharist. While in Luke 12:23-28 he gives us, in his Master's words, a new insight into that awful sorrow which was the source of the agony in Gethsemane.
Canon Westcott suggests that the succession of the main events recorded by the four evangelists was as follows:—
The agony. The betrayal. The conveyance to the high priest's house, probably adjoining "the Booths of Hanna."
The preliminary examination before Annas in the presence of Caiaphas.
About 3 a.m
The examination before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin at an irregular meeting at "the Booths."
About 5 a.m
The formal sentence of the Sanhedrin in their own proper place of meeting—Gazith or Beth Midrash (Luke 22:66; Matthew 27:1, πρωΐ́ας γενομένης; comp. Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66, ὡς ἐγένετο ἡμυέρα. The first examination before Pilate at the palace.
The examination before Herod. The scourging and first mockery by the soldiers at the palace.
The sentence of Pilate (John 19:14, ὥρα ἦν ὡς ἕκτη).
The second mockery of the condemned "King" by the soldiers.
The Crucifixion, and rejection of the stupefying draught (Mark 15:25, ἦν ὥρα τρίτη).
The last charge.
And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the Mount of Olives. In the other evangelists we find the place on the Mount of Olives described as Gethsemane. The word Gethsemane signifies "oil-press." It was a garden; one of the many charming gardens which Josephus tells us old Jerusalem abounded with. It perhaps belonged to a friend of Christ, or else was with others of these gardens, or "paradises," thrown open at the great festival seasons to the faithful pilgrims who on these occasions crowded the holy city and its suburbs. There is at the present day just beyond the brook Kedron, between the paths that go up to the summit of the mount, about three quarters of a mile from the Jerusalem wall, an enclosed garden called Gethsemane. It belongs to the Latin community in Jerusalem. In it are eight very ancient olive trees. When Henry Maundrell visited the spot, in 1697, these eight aged trees were believed to be the same that stood there in the blessed Savior's time. Bove the botanist, in Ritter's 'Geography of Palestine,' vol. 4., quoted by Dean Mansel, says these venerable olive trees are two thousand years old. Josephus, however, relates that in the great siege the soldiers of Titus cut down all the trees in the Jerusalem suburbs. Even if this be assumed, these soldiers, from some feeling of awe stirred up by the tradition which hung, of course, round this hallowed spot, might have spared this little sacred grove; or they might at the time have been still young saplings, of no use for the put-pose of the siege operations. "In spite of all the doubts that can be raised against their antiquity, the eight aged olive trees, if only by their manifest difference from all others on the mountain, have always struck even the most indifferent observers. They will remain, so long as their already protracted life is spared, the most venerable of their race on the surface of the earth. Their gnarled trunks and scanty foliage will always be regarded as the most affecting of the sacred memorials in or about Jerusalem—the most nearly approaching to the everlasting hills themselves in the force with which they carry us back to the events of the gospel history".
Pray that ye enter not into temptation. The temptation in question was the grave sin of moral cowardice into which so soon the disciples fell. Had they prayed instead of yielding to the overpowering sense of weariness and sleeping, they would never have forsaken their Master in his hour of trial and danger.
Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. The three synoptists give this prayer in slightly varying terms; "but the figure of the cup is common to all the three; "it was indelibly impressed on tradition. This cup, which Jesus entreats God to cause to pass from before (παρά) his lips, is the symbol of that terrible punishment, the dreadful and mournful picture of which is traced before him at this moment by a skillful painter with extraordinary vividness. The painter is the same who in the wilderness, using a like illusion, passed before his view the magical scene -f the glories belonging to the Messianic kingdom" (Godet). If thou be willing. He looked on in this supreme hour, just before "the Passion" really began, to the Crucifixion and all the horrors which preceded it and accompanied it—to the treason of Judas; the denial of Peter; the desertion of the apostles; the cruel, relentless enmity of the priests and rulers; the heartless abandonment of the people; the insults; the scourging: and then the shameful and agonizing lingering death which was to close the Passion; and, more dreadful than all, the reason why he was here in Gethsemane; why he was to drink this dreadful cup of suffering; the memory of all the sin of man! To drink this cup of a suffering, measureless, inconceivable, the Redeemer for a moment shrank back, and asked the Father if the cross was the only means of gaining the glorious end in view—the saving the souls of unnumbered millions. Could not God in his unlimited power find another way of reconciliation? And yet beneath this awful agony, the intensity of which we are utterly incapable of grasping—beneath it there lay the intensest desire that his Father's wish and will should be done. That wish and will were in reality his own. The prayer was made and answered. It was not the Father's will that the cup should pass away, and the Son's will was entirely the same; it was answered by the gift of strength—strength from heaven being given to enable the Son to drink the cup of agony to its dregs. How this strength was given St. Luke relates in the next verse.
And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. The Lord's words reported by St. Matthew were no mere figure of rhetoric. "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." The anguish and horror were so great that he himself, according to his humanity, must have before the time become the victim of death had he not been specially strengthened from above. This is the deep significance and necessity of the angel's appearance. So Stier and Godet, the latter of whom writes, "As when in the wilderness under the pressure of famine he felt himself dying, the presence of this heavenly being sends a vivifying breath over him,—a Divine refreshing pervades him, body and soul, and it is thus he receives strength to continue to the last the struggle."
And his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Some (for instance, Theophylact) understand this "as it were" to signify that the expression, "drops of blood," was simply parabolic; but it is far better to understand the words in their literal sense, as our Church does when it prays, "By thine agony and bloody sweat." Athanasius even goes so far as to pronounce a ban upon those who deny this sweat of blood. Commentators give instances of this blood-sweat under abnormal pathological circumstances. Some, though by no means all, of the oldest authorities omit these last two verses (vv.43, 44). Their omission in many of these ancient manuscripts was probably due to mistaken reverence. The two oldest and most authoritative translations, the Itala (Latin) and Peshito (Syriac), contain them, however, as do the most important Fathers of the second century, Justin and Irenaeus. We have, then, apart from the evidence of manuscripts, the testimony of the earliest Christianity in Italy and Syria, Asia Minor and Gaul, to the genuineness of these two famous verses. They are printed in the ordinary text of the Revised English Version, with a side-note alluding to their absence in some of the ancient authorities.
Luke 22:45, Luke 22:46
He found them sleeping for sorrow, and said unto them, Why sleep ye rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The events of the past evening; the long excitement stirred up by listening to such words as their Master had been speaking to them during the sad hours of the Last Supper; the sure consciousness of coming sorrow; then the walk through the silent city:—all predisposed them to sleep. Commentators are never weary with pressing these excuses for the slumber of the eleven at that awful moment. But all these things, though they may well have predisposed them to slumber, are not sufficient to account for that strange heavy sleep which seems to have paralyzed the eleven in Gethsemane. In spite of their Master's solemn injunction to watch and pray, he finds them, several times during that dreadful watch of his in the garden, asleep, in spite of his asking them for sympathy and prayer, in spite of his evident longing for their sympathy—each time he cast his eyes on them, he sees them, not watching, but sleeping! Many a time in their work-filled lives those fishermen he loved so well, John and Peter and Andrew, had toiled all night with their nets; but on this night of sorrow, when their pleading voices were listened for, possibly their hand-press waited for, their silent sympathy certainly longed for, they slept, seemingly forgetful of all save their own ease and comfort. Surely on this night of temptation they were influenced by some invisible power, who lulled them to sleep during those precious moments when they should have been agonizing with their Master in prayer, and so arming themselves against the supreme moment of temptation just coming upon them. But swayed by the power of evil of whom the Lord had been warning them, but in vain, they let the moments slip by, and the hour of temptation came on them unawares. We know how grievously they all fell.
"'Forsake the Christ thou sawest transfigured! him
Who trod the sea and brought the dead to life?
What should wring this from thee?'—ye laugh and ask.
What wrung it? Even a torchlight and a noise,
The sudden Roman faces, violent hands,
And fear of what the Jews might do! Just that;
And it is written, 'I forsook and fled:'
There was my trial, and it ended thus "
(Browning, 'A Death in the Desert.')
The arrest of the Redeemer. All the four evangelists tell the story of the last hours, in the main the same, though the language is often quite different, and fresh and important details appear in each memoir.
The general effect on the thoughtful reader is that the Crucifixion and the events leading up to it were very far from being the result of the counsels of the Jewish leaders, the outcome of their relentless enmity. The death and all the attendant circumstances took place in their solemn order, then, when the public teaching of the Redeemer was finished, because it had been determined by some higher and grander power than was possessed by Jerusalem Sanhedrin or Roman Senate.
So St. Matthew, in his account, twice (Matthew 26:54, Matthew 26:56) gives the ground for the arrest, "That the Scriptures might be fulfilled." And the Scriptures were but the echoes of that other and grander power.
And while he yet spake, behold a multitude. Different to his disciples, their Master, who had prayed and received as an answer to his prayer the angel's visit, was now, when the hour of mortal danger struck, in possession of the profoundest calm. No. thing disturbed his serenity any more. With calm majesty he advanced to meet the traitor as he guided his Master's deadly enemies into the garden. From this hour Jesus welcomes the cross, from which for a brief moment he had seemed to shrink. The corn-pony who was thus guided to Gethsemane to effect the arrest in the dead of the night was composed of Roman legionaries detailed for this duty from a cohort on guard in the Antonia Fort by the temple, and of Levitical guards belonging to the temple—an armed force of police, part of the temple watch at the disposal of the priests. He that was called Judas, one of the twelve. Each of the evangelists mention the presence of the traitor. It was evidently a strange and startling detail for the writers of these memoirs that one of the chosen twelve should have been the betrayer! And drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. This was the sign agreed upon between Judas and his employers. They knew that it would be night, and that Gethsemane was shaded with olives, and that therefore some conspicuous sign would be necessary to indicate to the guards which of the company of twelve was the Master whom they were to seize. But the signal was superfluous, for, as St. John tells us, Jesus of his own accord advanced before the others, telling those who came for him who he was. Because of this kiss the early Christian Church discontinued the customary brotherly kiss on Good Friday.
And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. The name of the disciple who smote the servant of the high priest is given by St. John: it was Peter. He gives, too, the servant's name, Malchus. John wrote many years later, when Jerusalem had long ceased to exist; Peter, too, had passed away. Before this incident, St. John relates how the Roman and Jewish guards "went backward, and fell to the ground." What overawed the party of armed men is un-certain-whether some supernatural or merely a natural cause; possibly something of majesty in the Lord's appearance impelled these men to retire and reverently to salute him they were ordered to seize. St. John mentions this to show that it was of his own free will that he rendered himself up.
Suffer ye thus far. The exact meaning of these words has been much debated. They probably were addressed to the company of armed men, and contained a plea for the mistaken zeal of his disciple Peter. "Excuse this resistance." And he touched his ear, and healed him. This miraculous cure of the wound inflicted by the zealous disciple is related by the physician Luke.
When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness. These words of the Lord may signify, "It was from a cowardly fear of the people whom you felt were my friends that you did not dare to arrest me in the full light of day." But it is better to take the last clause as possessing a deeper meaning: "I have often been in your power before, when, without concealment, I taught publicly in that sacred house where you are the appointed guardians; you never dared to lay hands on me then. But this, I know, is your hour, the moment God has given up to you to effect this sad triumph, and this (i.e. the power by which you work) is the power or' darkness (i.e. the power of the spirit of darkness)."
The denial of Peter.
Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off. There has been some discussion here on the question of harmonizing the separate accounts. There is, however, no real difficulty if the following historical details be borne in mind. The actual high priest at this juncture was Caiaphas, son-in-law to Annas, who was the legal high priest, but had been deposed by the Roman power some time before. Annas, however, although prevented by the Roman government from bearing the high priestly insignia, was apparently looked upon by the people as the rightful possessor of the dignity, and evidently exercised the chief authority in the Jewish councils. It seems that he and his son-in-law Caiaphas, the Roman nominee, occupied together the high priest's palace. There were three trials of our Lord by the Jews:
(1) Before Annas (John 18:12-18).
(2) Before Caiaphas and what has been termed a committee of the Sanhedrm.
(3) Formally before the whole Sanhedrin at dawn.
The thrice-repeated denial of Peter took place:
(1) On his first going in (he was admitted through the influence of John, who was known to the officials) to the court-yard of the high priest's palace, in answer to the female servant who kept the door (John 18:17).
(2) As he sat by the fire warming himself, in answer to another maid (Matthew 26:69) and to other bystanders (John 18:25 : Luke 22:58), including the kinsman of Malchus (John 18:26).
(3) About an hour later (Luke 22:59), after he had left the fire to avoid the questioners, and had gone out into the porch or gateway leading into the court-yard, in answer to one of the maids who had spoken before (Mark 14:69; Mat 16:1-28 :71), and to other bystanders.
And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. We know that the arrest in Gethsemane was followed by the flight of the eleven apostles. John and Peter, however, once out of reach of the armed band, seem in some way to have recovered from their first panic, and to have followed their Master and his guards into the city. Arrived at the high priest's house, John, who was known to the high priest, had no difficulty in procuring admission for himself and his companion. Peter's motive in pressing into what he knew for him was a locality full of peril, is given by St. Matthew (Matthew 26:58), "to see the end." There was no doubt there was in the heart of the impulsive, loving man, sorrowful anxiety and deep sorrow for his dear Master's fate. But, alas! with the feverish sad expectation to see what he felt would be the end, there was no earnest prayer for guidance and help. The fire is mentioned because, generally speaking, the nights in the Holy Land about the Passover season are warm. The cold on this night appears to be spoken of as something unusual. Peter sat down among them. "St. John (it must be supposed) had passed on into the audience-chamber, so that St. Peter was alone. St. John, who remained closest to the Lord, was unmolested; St. Peter, who mingled with the indifferent crowd, fell" (Westcott).
But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. Comparing the several accounts of the evangelists together, we see how naturally the incidents followed each other. As he entered, the portress first thought she recognized him as one of the followers of the well-known Teacher just arrested on a capital charge. Then as, weary and chilled, he drew near the fire, the firelight shone on his face, a face known to many who had listened during the last few days to his Master as he taught, with his disciples grouped round him in the temple-courts before crowds of listeners. Thoroughly alarmed, he drew aside from the friendly warmth of the fire into the outer shade of the gateway; yet he could not tear himself away from the neighborhood of the spot where his dear Master was being interrogated by his deadly foes; and even there, while lurking in the shadow, he was recognized again, and then, just as he was in the act of fiercely denying, with oaths and curses, his friendship for and connection with Jesus, came the Master by, after the second examination before Caiaphas and certain members of the Sanhedrin, being conducted by the guard to another and more formal court. And as the Master passed, he turned and looked upon his poor cowardly disciple.
For he is a Galilaean. The strong provincial dialect of the fisherman of the Lake of Galilee at once told these Jerusalem Jews, accustomed to the peculiar pronunciation of the Galilee pilgrims at the Passover Feast, that the man whom they suspected certainly came from the same province as Jesus the Accused.
And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. As he was passing from the interrogation before Caiaphas to be examined before the Sanhedrin assembled in solemn council, he heard his servant's well-known voice raised and accompanied with oaths and curses, assuring the by-standers he had no connection with and knew nothing of Jesus of Nazareth. Then, as he passed, the Master turned and looked on his old friend, that disciple who so lately had declared that even if all others deserted the Lord, he never would! The glance of Jesus was full of the tenderest pity; it was not angry, only sorrowful; but it recalled Peter to his better, nobler self. SS. Matthew and Mark (Peter's own Gospel) record how, when he heard the cock crow, which St. Luke tells us happened as our Lord turned to look on the recreant disciple, he remembered all, and burst into bitter weeping. We meet him again on the Resurrection morning in company with St. John (John 20:3), whence, it would seem, that in his bitter sorrow he had turned to his old friend, who had probably heard his denial. St. John, who briefly in his narrative touches upon the "denial," omits to mention the repentance, but, according to his custom, specially illustrates it in the scene by the lake (John 21:15, and following verses).
After the second examination, the officials of the Sanhedrin mock and ill treat Jesus as one doomed to death.
And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him. The position of the Redeemer when the cruelties took place, described in this and the two following verses, was as follows: After the arrest in Gethsemane, the guards, Jewish and Roman, escorted the Prisoner to the palace of the high priest in Jerusalem. There both Annas and Caiaphas apparently lodged. In the first instance, Jesus was brought before Annas, who was evidently the leading personage of the Sanhedrin of that day. Details of the preliminary examination are given apparently by John 18:13, John 18:19-24. In this first and informal trial Caiaphas was evidently present, and took part (John 18:19). At the close of this unofficial but important proceeding, Annas sent him to Caiaphas. The true reading in John 18:24 is ἀπέστειλεν οὖν, "Annas therefore sent him." That is, at the close of the first unofficial examination, which took place in Annas's apartments in the palace of the high priest, Annas sent him to be examined officially before Caiaphas, the reigning high priest, and a committee of the Sanhedrim This, the second trial of Jesus, is related at some length by St. Matthew (Matthew 26:59-66) and St. Mark (Mark 14:55-64). The priests on that occasion sought false witnesses, but their witness did not, we know, agree. Jesus kept silence until Caiaphas arose, and with awful solemnity adjured him to say whether he was the Christ, the Son of God. So adjured, Jesus answered definitely in the affirmative. Then Caiaphas rent his robe, and appealed to the assembly, who answered the appeal by a unanimous cry," He is guilty of death." After this hearing before Caiapnas and a committee of the Sanhedrin, the condemned One was conducted before the full assembly of the Sanhedrim While being led across the court, he heard Peter's third denial. It was during the interval which elapsed before the great council assembled, that the mocking related in these verses (63-65) took place.
And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee? The Jews, in this terrible scene, were unconsciously working out a literal fulfillment of Isaiah's picture of the righteous Sufferer (Isaiah 1:6; Isaiah 53:3-7).
The third trial before the Sanhedrin.
And as soon as it was day. The Sanhedrin as a council could only meet by day; all the preliminaries had been settled and the course of procedure fully arranged when the legal time for the meeting of the state council arrived. The elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes earns together, and led him into their council. These were the three constitutional parts of the Sanhedrin. The name of the famous Sanhedrin, curiously enough, is a Greek, not a Hebrew or Aramaic word, being derived from συνέδριον, an assembly. We first come on the word, says Dr. Farrar, when this state council summoned before them Hyrcanus II., son of Alexander Jannaeus. In the time of our Lord, the Roman government had taken from them the power of carrying out capital sentences; hence their bringing Jesus before Pilate. There is a remarkable tradition that the council left their proper place of assembly, Gazith, and sat in another chamber (forty years before the destruction of the temple). Now, it was forbidden to condemn to death except in Gazith. Dr. Westcott quotes from Derenbourg ('Essai sur l'Histoire et la Geographie de Palestine'), who suggests the probability of the night sitting of Anrias and Caiaphas and the members of the Sanhedrin favorable to their policy (the second trial) being held at "the Booths of the Sons of Hanan" (Annas), These booths, or shops, were under two cedars on the Mount of Olives (Jerusalem Talmud, 'Taanith,' 4.8). There were four of these booths, which were for the sale of objects legally pure. In one of these pigeons were sold for the sacrifices of all Israel. Derenbourg conjectures that these booths on the Mount of Olives were part of the famous Booths of the Sons of Hanan (Annas), to which the Sanhedrin retired when it left the chamber Gazith.
Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe. In his answer Jesus evidently refers to something which had preceded this interrogation on the part of the Sanhedrim He referred, no doubt, to that night examination before Caiaphas and certain chosen members of the council—the meeting passed over by St. Luke, but recounted by SS. Matthew and Mark. In this earlier trial, which we (see above) term the second, a similar question had been put to Jesus, but, as Lange and Stier point out, now the political significance of the charge, the claim to Messianic royalty, is brought into prominence. They were desirous to formulate an accusation which they could bring before the Roman tribunal of Pilate. The words, "Son of God," which the fury of jealous anger had wrung from Caiaphas (Matthew 26:63), is here left out of sight, and is only brought forward again by the fierce Jewish wrath excited by the Lord's quiet words telling of his "session at the right hand" (verses 69, 70). If I tell you, ye will not believe. If you, who have seen my life, have heard my words, and seen my works, believe not, to what end is it to say it again now?
And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me. The Lord here especially refers to those public questions of his put to members of the Sanhedrin and others in the last days of his public ministry, such as we find in Matthew 22:45, to which the rulers had attempted to give no answer.
Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God. Jesus decided to put an end to this weary and useless trial, and supplied his judges with the evidence they were seeking to extort from him. The Master's words would recall to the teachers of Israel, sitting as his judges, the words of their loved prophet Daniel (Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:14). These solemn words of his were, and they perfectly understood them as such, a claim on the part of the Prisoner who stood before them—a direct claim to Divine glory.
Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? Now bringing forward the loftier title formerly suppressed (in Luke 22:67). "And art thou, then, dost thou, poor Man, vain in thy imagining, dost thou assert thyself to be the Son of God?" So Stier. And he said unto them, Ye say that I am. This form of reply is not used in Greek, but is frequent in rabbinic. By such an answer the one interrogated accepts as his own affirmation the question put to him in its entirety. We have, then, here, in the clearest possible language:
(1) A plain assertion by our Lord of his Divinity.
(2) The reply of the Sanhedrists, showing that they for their part distinctly understood it as such, but to make it quite clear they asked him if that was his meaning, i.e. the assertion of his Divinity.
(3) We have the Lord's quiet answer, "Yes, that was his meaning." The next verse (71) shows that they were satisfied with the evidence which they pro, ceeded without delay to lay before the Roman governor, Pilate.
Wednesday and Thursday of Passion Week.
Look at that picture—the Son of God awaiting the hour; spending the last day before the arrest and the trial in the deep seclusion of the Bethany home. Over that day the veil of an impenetrable secrecy hangs. One thing only is certain—it was a time in which the shrinking spirit, whilst feeling even unto death the shadow of the exceeding heaviness, nevertheless drank of the brook by the way, the comforting "I am not alone, for the Father is with me." Look at this picture—the priests and scribes, defied and denounced in the temple and in the presence of the people, have resolved that, by fair means or by foul, they must get rid of this "Swift Witness" against them. These men, united by a common hatred, consult (Luke 22:2) how they may kill him. We can imagine the conferences in the dimly lighted chamber—the partial light only casting deeper shadows, and bringing into fuller relief the lines of fierce resentment on the faces of the councillors. There is no debate as to the object; the only and the long debate is simply as to the means of accomplishing the object. Their deliberations are unexpectedly aided. The evangelist informs us of the satisfaction which lightens their countenances as they conclude the bargain with Judas of Karioth, and receive from him the assurance that he will find "the opportunity to betray him to them" (Luke 22:6) without the risk of exciting a tumult. Thus, whilst heaven is calm, hell is agitated at its depths; whilst love is directing its prayer and looking up, pride and envy are laying their plots and meditating the darkest crime which blots the page of history. "Mark the perfect, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace." "But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." The early hours of Thursday swiftly pass. The next day is the great Passover day; and the disciples have begun to press the inquiry, "Where shall we keep it?" In the forenoon (verse 8) Jesus gives Peter and John his instructions. A place is in the Lord's view. That the one to whose house the apostles are directed was a believer may be inferred
(1) from the word which the three synoptists represent the Lord as using, "The Master saith" (verse 11); and
(2) from the confidential character of the message. The two are commanded to go in advance of the party, and have all in readiness for a celebration of the Paschal meal, which probably anticipated by one day the usual celebration of the Lord's Passover. Christ and the remaining ten apostles follow in the evening. Nothing is told us of that journey, whether, e.g., it was private, or whether, as usual, Jesus was accompanied by a multitude of people. It is the last time on which the feet of the Christ who had been known after the flesh shall press the grassy slope of the hill he loved. But he had spoken to his own of another day, that foretold in prophecy, when "his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east … the day when the light shall not be clear nor dark, but one day known to the Lord. And living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea;… and the Lord shall be King over all the earth" (Zechariah 14:4-9). All that is reported is this: "When the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him" (verse 14). The details of that memorable evening are full of interest; and, regarding them, the narratives of the evangelists are singularly explicit. "The four streams that go forth to water the earth in that tale meet in a common channel; the four winds of the Spirit are in it, united and one." The scene is (verses 11, 12) "a large upper room"—the guest-chamber of the house. (For distinction, emphasize " the guest-chamber.")
1. Its object. To receive and entertain the Friend, the one to be honored. Is not Christ the Guest (Revelation 3:20)?
2. Its characteristics. The best room. Is he not entitled to the best? A large room. The whole breadth of the life's aims, the whole strength of the heart's love, is due to him. An upper room. Poor and sorry is the life that has no upper room; blessed is the life whose upper room is reserved for him. A furnished room, all in readiness for his presence—a heart and will furnished for every good work.
3. Its consecration. How realized? On our side, by an unreserved surrender: "The Master saith;" and by the ready-making of faith and love, as symbolized in Peter and John. On his side, by the coming as the Lamb of God with the gospel of forgiveness, and as the Bread of life to have communion with us and we with him. When Jesus enters the room there is a strife for precedence, for the places nearest him. St. Luke places the strife (verse 24) along with the questioning among themselves who would be false to Christ; but his language, "there was also," is inexact, and it seems consistent with the fitness of things that the contention should occur when seats were being taken. The Master, observing it, administers the rebuke recorded in verses 26, 27; and, having so done, he proceeds to comply with the ceremonial of the feast. It was wont to begin with the passing of a cup of wine, blessed and hallowed. The word recorded in verses 15, 16 is spoken before the dispensation of the cup; the word in verses 17, 18 accompanies the dispensation; both words intimating the declinature to partake of the shadowy rite when the substance is so soon to be realized. "Suffer it to be so now," said Jesus to John at the baptism. The now is exhausted. "I will not any more" is the sentence of the supper-table. As they divide the cup, he rises. He is minded to give them the lesson never to be forgotten, as his sharpest rebuke of all their contentions for priority—the lesson so graphically related in John 13:1-17. Resuming his place at the table, lo! a troubled look flits across the countenance. A little later in the evening he can no longer refrain. There is one seated near him over whom the heart yearns, though it recoils from his baseness (John 13:21). The hand of the betrayer is with him. "One of you," Startled, deeply moved, the question passes from one and another, "Lord, is it I?" Simon whispers to John, "Ask who it is;" and John, leaning forward, his head close to Jesus, puts the question. He gets the sign by which the one will be identified—a morsel to be dipped in the dish that is before the Lord will be given to him. It is given to Judas, hitherto silent, something of the better self still struggling within. But, after the sop, the Satanic spirit gains in boldness. He has the effrontery to ask, "Is it I?" What is the answer? "Thou hast said … That thou doest do quickly." O Judas, there is no need to linger; thou art detected. "The Son of man goeth, as it is written: but woe unutterable to thee!" It is difficult to determine the precise stage in the keeping of the feast at which the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was instituted. Matthew makes the departure of the traitor precede the appointment of the ordinance. Luke seems to place the institution of the Supper at an earlier period than the departure. But the fact of the institution is beyond doubt (verses 19-21). The Christian Church, in all ages, has obeyed the command of her beloved Lord, spoken in the guest-chamber when keeping the Passover with his disciples: "This do in remembrance of me." The central point of the interest attaching to the Thursday evening is this consecration of the bread and the cup as the abiding pledges of redeeming love. It is sad to think that over the gracious words of Christ in the consecration so many controversies should have been waged. Why cannot men recognize the language of figure and symbol? Those who insist that in the sentence, "Take, eat; this is my body" there is implied the transubstantiation of the cake of bread held in the hand, claim for that sentence a narrow literalism which they themselves do not observe when they read, "I am the true Vine," or "I am the Door." Let us receive, with all possible oblation of praise, the earthly creatures as, in sacramental use, the hallowed representations to the eye and pledges to the soul of the never-failing nourishment of the body that was broken and the blood that was shed for us. Let all who would feed on Jesus in their heart with thanksgiving reflect on the words of the Thursday evening which mirror his consciousness, and let them examine themselves in the light of this consciousness. "With desire I have desired" (verse 15). O my Lord, if thy desire was thus vehement; if, because of it, thou didst overlook all that lay in the immediate future; if thou didst so long to share thy feast with men, why the want of desire in me? why the backwardness and slowness of my soul to receive thee in the mysteries of thy love? Lord, lead me in thy truth, and teach me. "Until the kingdom of God shall come" (verse 18). O my Lord, how vivid to thee was the future consummation of thy sacrifice! As, in perspective, the distant is often near, the intervening spaces being lost to sight, so was it with thee. Thou didst behold thy kingdom in glory as at hand. and thy soul stretched forward whither thy prayer afterwards pointed,—"Father, that which thou hast given me, I will that where I am they also may be with me." Why beats my pulse so slow and feeble in response to the hope of thy kingdom? Why is my Lord's Supper so much of a mere commemoration, so little of a prophetic joy, of a prayer, as already in the vision of the kingdom? "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly."
"Thou strong and loving Son of man,
Redeemer from the bonds of sin,
'Tis thou the living spark dost fan
That sets my heart on fire within.
Thou openest heaven once more to men—
The soul's true home, thy kingdom, Lord;
And I can trust and hope again,
And feel myself akin to God."
The special word to Simon.
Its solemnity is indicated by the twice- repeated "Simon." Observe, when the warning is given, this is the name used; afterwards (Luke 22:34), in reply to the disciple's protestation, "I am ready to go both to prison and to death," the name is changed, "I tell thee, Peter." How gentle, how pathetic, the irony! Of the Peter, the rock, it is to be said, "The cock shall not crow until thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me." Note three points in the word of Christ.
I. THE TEMPTATION. To him the personality of the tempter is always real. Real, in respect of his own temptations: "Get thee hence, Satan;" "The prince of this world cometh." Now we are reminded that it is real in respect of the temptations of men. Beware of foolish speaking and jesting in connection with the actual existence of the Satan. "Behold!" says Jesus All is vividly present to him; he would have the agency of the adversary vividly present to his follower. The expression employed is very striking (see the Revised Version, "Satan asked to have you"). The phrase recalls the scene in Job 2:1-13. But this is memorable—the tempter recognizes the proprietary of the Lord. Of Judas it is said, "Satan entered into him." Of Simon it is said, "He asked to have you." This is one over whom he has no right. He belongs to the Son of God—a man given him by the Father. And he makes request that the disciple be sifted. In the margin of the Revised Version it is put as an alternative reading: "He obtained you by asking." All is so suggestive. The Christian Father speaks of the Christian's fasting-days. Such days are often part of the experience of God's people. The sieve, as if with God's permission, is applied. The tempter obtained the Lord himself by asking, and the sieve was applied to him. It was similarly applied to his apostle; it is similarly applied, in one form or another, to those who are his. God will have his wheat winnowed. Remember, there is the sieve: "Watch and pray."
II. THE INTERCESSION. It is spoken of (verse 32) as past, and as a transaction accomplished in the invisible world. And who knows what transactions are there realized? How blessed is the assurance that
"Where high the heavenly temple stands.
The house of God, not made with hands,
A great High Priest our nature wears,
The Guardian of mankind appears"!
"I made intercession for thee." Ah! in the day when all secrets are declared, with what marvellous light will this word be illumined! Ye Simons of all ages, thyself, O my soul, what a reflection it is that between the one tempted and the outer darkness there is the intercession of the ever-living and ever-mighty One, who is able to "save to the uttermost"! What is the intercession? Not that the sieve be withdrawn, that the sifting fail? It is needful. Simon would not have been the Peter he became without the sieve and without the discipline. The tempter and the trial are used as discipline. He who world not pray that his own be taken out of the world, will not pray that the Satan-request be refused. No; but he intercedes that the "faith fail not" (verse 32). The great feature of Simon was his confidence in Christ. Why should he have been selected as the Rock-man, who was so often rash, and who so weakly denied his Master? Through all there was still the faith. He had quicker insight into the secrets of his Master's power and presence than any of his fellows; he had a higher and fuller perception of and trust in him. Were this to fail, all would fail. And the fruit of the intercession was evidenced in the springing back of his faith—nay, in its rising to a still higher measure of knowledge on the ruins of the old self-confidence; there was created the new heart that by-and-by was ready to go to prison and death.
III. THE EXHORTATION. Simon will turn again. When the Lord turns, in the day of the trial, and looks on the apostate disciple, there is born a godly sorrow which works repentance not to be repented of. Out of this repentance there comes the earnest, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." And the charge is, "Do thou, when once thou hast turned again, stablish thy brethren" (verse 32, Revised Version). The most helpful man is he who has himself been tempted, who has passed, not without scars, through the fight of faith. It is the sympathy of the soul that has come through great tribulation that has the delicate touch, the magnetic force, the faculty of establishing the brethren. All discovery of the Lord is to be utilized in the way of strengthening, cheering, building up human souls in the kingdom of God. What we receive we hold in trust for others, and, in giving as we receive, what we have gained becomes doubly ours.
"Heaven does with us as we with torches do.
Not light them for themselves."
Experience of God and his love is the best teacher. What we learn, even through falls and failures, turns most to the profit of poor human nature. Simon, after the sifting, through the turning again, was the confirmer of the brethren.
It is now dark. On the way to the Mount of Olives, the customary retreat of Jesus (Luke 22:39), at the point where the upward slope begins, there is a shady place, belonging, perhaps, to one of those who believed in him, whither "Jesus had often resorted" (John 18:2). The site of the garden of Gethsemane may, with sufficient accuracy, be identified. It may not have been the exact spot, overshadowed by the eight venerable trees, which immemorial tradition has distinguished as the scene of the lonely vigil, but it must have been close to that spot. It was a place where there were many olives, and, as the name suggests, an oil-press; a place of perfect quiet and seclusion, where, beyond the voices of rude men, there was the peace of heaven. To this place he who had uttered the high-priestly prayer brought the high-priestly sacrifice; and there he began the walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The tale of the sore amazement and exceeding heaviness is told, with more fullness of detail, by the Evangelists Matthew and Mark (see homiletics in loc.). Here, without enlarging on the meaning and scope of the features of the narrative, note—
I. THE AGONY. (Verse 44.) It has always been felt that in this there is immeasurably more than a mere revolt from imminent pain and death. The anguish is marked by an intensity for which this revolt cannot account. A brave man, however sensitive, can face, with unflinching fortitude, a high enterprise, even though its fatal consequence is evident. "The sweat becoming as it were great drops of blood," speaks of a conflict in the soul for which the impending physical dissolution cannot account. Some references supply us with suggestions.
1. The announcement made at the Supper-table (John 14:30), of the coming of the prince of the world, speaks to us of a temptation, intensified by the circumstances of the hour, in the line of the wilderness-temptation, to grasp the power of the Messiah otherwise than through the suffering of the cross (see, in this connection, Matthew 26:53).
2. The sorrow which cast its shade over his countenance when the betrayal was mentioned (John 13:21); the horror with which he regarded the perfidy (verse 22; Matthew 26:24); the utterance by which he awoke the disciples, marking out the betrayal as the bitterness of the hour at hand (Matthew 26:45); the appeal to Judas (verse 48);—these things indicate the amazement and pain caused by the action of the son of perdition.
3. The word of the Son to the Father as to the cup so full of woe that he humbly besought its removal, reminds us of a region beyond all that our thought can trace, in which the Christ of God was treading the wine-press alone. Better, in view of this, a holy reticence than a zeal which is eager with explanations. If we must speak of the special fearfulness and trembling of Gethsemane, let us simply say that there, in all its crushing weight, was realized the bearing of the sin of the world.
II. THE PRAYER.
1. Observe its characteristics.
(1) Humility. He kneeled down.
More strongly still St. Mark says (Mark 14:35), "He fell on the ground." It was the attitude of deepest reverence, of entire prostration. In the high-priestly prayer, "he lifted up his eyes to heaven;" but now, in human weakness and dependence, he is prostrate before his Father. Sign of the "godly fear" (Hebrews 5:7) for which he was heard.
(2) Importunate repetition. Thrice he prayed, "saying the same words" (Matthew 26:44). It is not the eloquence, but the sincerity of desire in the prayer which God regards.
(3) Increasing earnestness. "Being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly." The greater the pressure on the soul, the more fervent became the cry. The sorrow of the disciples sent them to sleep; his sent him to the Father. "Love overmasters agony," not agony love. Let the disciple learn, of the Master.
2. Observe its subject-matter. (Verse 42.) "Remove this cup from me; or (as in Matthew 26:30), "Let this cup pass from me." It was the pleading of the sensitive human soul. And we may be assured that to plead for the removal of a cup of pain, for relief from burdens which seem greater than we can bear, is in the way of the child's privilege; only there must be the spirit of entire dependence. "If thou be willing." There is to be no "if" where God's promise is absolute. We do not need to say, If thou be willing, make thy grace sufficient." His pledge as to this is distinct and unequivocal: "My grace is sufficient.'' From this, on this resting, we pray. But when we desire that concerning which we have no definite assurance of the Father's mind, then all is to be subordinated to him. This is to abide in the Son as he is revealed in Gethsemane. "If we ask any thing according to God's will, he heareth us." The godly McCheyne spoke of getting into tune for prayer. We get into tune when we learn Christ's "if it be possible;" "If thou be willing."
"Renew my will from day to day;
Blend it with thine," etc.
3. Observe its answer. The answer is manifest:
(1) In the righting "Nevertheless." (Verse 42.) In the prayer the soul realized "God my Rock." From what might have been self-seeking, it was delivered.
"Do thou thy holy will:
I will lie still; I will not stir,
Lest I should break the charm."
"In the day when I cried, thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul."
(2) In the comforting angel. (Verse 43.) The holy one, sign of the sympathy in heaven above. For to the one who prays in an agony the heavens are not brass. There are ministries of love. God's angels are all ministering spirits. In visible form the angel may not appear; but we know that he is with us in the comfort and peace. Have we not the Comforter himself?—
"A gracious, willing Guest,
While he can find one humble heart
Wherein to rest."
And thus, though the cup does not pass, the will of the Son is strengthened into perfect harmony with the will of the Father. He rises up from prayer, ready, "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might."
III. Observe, finally, THE REMONSTRANCE. Very touching the word to Peter (Matthew 26:40). The one hour never again to come, the one hour of watching, lost in sleep! And now (verse 46). May not the pathetic question ring in the ears of the Christian?
Why do we sleep—we whom the Son of man has associated with himself in his prayers and pains? We asleep, and he toiling! We asleep, and the world lying in darkness! Ah! in the solemn light of Gethsemane, what is the utmost Christian activity but a slumber? and how many who claim to be Christ's are fast asleep, not for sorrow, but in self-indulgence and sin! Oh that the gentle, reproachful "why?" may be as an alarum-clock to conscience, a continual incitement to will and heart! The spirit may be willing, but the flesh is ever weak. "Rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation!"
Luke 22:47 Luke 23:46
Thursday night to Friday evening.
It is time to be going. The footfall of the coming host has already been heard, and the gleam of the lanterns and the flashing of the swords have been detected at no great distance. Guiltily, under shadow of night, the conspirators have approached. "While Jesus is yet speaking." (Luke 23:47), the traitor is bending forward to give the salute of friendship. Note the question, so full of gentle dignity, "Companion, wherefore art thou come? Betrayest thou the Son of man, with a kiss?" Note what follows down to the flight of the apostles, when to them it seems that the end has come. "We trusted that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel;" and now? Betrayed into the hands of sinners, he is "led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep dumb before her shearers." Priest, Pharisee, scribe, he who scourged you with the whip of his holy indignation is now the Prisoner on whose bleeding body the furrows of your scourge may be made long. No legion of angels will interpose. The Son of God only waits to die. There are:
(1) a precognition by Annas;
(2) an arraignment before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin; and, finally
(3) the deliverance to the judicature of the governor.
Briefly trace the narrative.
I. THE PRECOGNITION BY ANNAS. Annas, or Hanan, to whom first the fettered Jesus is borne, occupied at the time a peculiar position. His son-in-law, Joseph Caiaphas, was the actual high priest. But Annas, having been deposed by the Roman governor, was still regarded as the priest jure divino, and his influence seems to have been immense. Five of his sons and his son-in-law were raised to the pontifical throne. It was under the last of his five sons that James, the brother of our Lord, was put to death. He was an unscrupulous, intriguer. A Sadducee, who had been mixed up in foul plots and conspiracies, the head of "a viper brood," as a Jewish chronicler says, which amassed wealth by unlawful gains. Farrar has called attention to the fact that, when the capture of Jesus is determined, the Pharisees disappear from the scene; his implacable enemies are the chief priests and scribes. Before this Annas Jesus stands (John 18:13-23). Some questions are put as to his disciples and doctrine. And these, as has well been remarked, Jesus answers "with dignified repulsion"—a repulsion so sharp that the first blow inflicted on that sacred face was bestowed by one of the menials of the court. "Answerest thou the high priest so?" How complete the self-restraint expressed in the only action which followed—the reply, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if not, why strikest thou me?"
II. THE ARRAIGNMENT BEFORE CAIAPHAS AND THE SANHEDRIM. All that Annas could do was to order his Prisoner to be still more tightly bound, and to send him to the portion of the temple court which was occupied by the priest, his son-in-law, Caiaphas. The morning had not yet dawned, and until dawn no meeting of council could be convened. It was during this interval that the predicted denial of the Lord by Peter occurred (verses 54-62). The clock marks the hour of six, when Caiaphas and his assessors confront the Nazarene. Their object is to establish a charge of blasphemy, and suborned witnesses are cited. They are clumsy perjurers, who contradict one another and contradict themselves. And the evidence breaks down. Then the tactics are changed. The high priest, directly addressing the Prisoner, demands a "yea" or "nay" to the interrogation, "Art thou the Christ?" Jesus has been silent, but now (verses 60-71), calmly and solemnly, he answers, "Thou hast said;" and adds that, by-and-by, they should see "the Sou of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God." It is enough. "Blasphemy!" is the shout, and he is condemned as worthy of death. And there ensues a scene of brutal ferocity. The wretches in attendance spit on the face, buffet, strike him with the palms of their hands, and rend the air with ribald cries. For the world shows its baseness when a man is down; then the many rush forward to have their fling and kick.
III. JESUS IS DELIVERED TO THE JUDICATURE OF THE GOVERNOR, What priests and elders could do has been done. The procurator alone could inflict the sentence of death. Their next movement must be to coerce him into the carrying out of their plan. And they know that in Pontius Pilate, stained with violences the report of which to his imperial master would cost him his government, if not his life, they have the ruler whom they can rule. Two appearances (ch. 23.) of our Lord before the governor are recorded, and between them stands the episode with which the name of Herod is associated. There is nothing more sad than the record of the expedients, the shufflings to and fro, the efforts to save One whom Pilate felt to be guiltless, whilst yet he dared not give effect to his convictions. A record most sad, but most instructive. Is it not a portrait, many of whose features suggest cowardly concessions, timidities, struggles between conscience and policy in which conscience is worsted, with which, in one form or another, too many of us are familiar? A character-sketch, like that of Pilate in the trial, gauges the directions and the possibilities of the human nature which is common to us all. In the afternoon of Friday the Savior of sinners was crucified. An incident on the way to Calvary is related by the evangelist, which is touching in itself, and which reminds us of the attitude of mind, the kind of feeling towards him, the Crucified, which he denies and accepts. We are told that he was "followed by a great company of women, who bewailed and lamented him" (verses 27-31). Observe his saying, most tenderly prefaced by the phrase, "Daughters of Jerusalem." Virtually, he declines tears and cries, which express only sorrow over his fate. He wishes those who bewail to estimate the significance of the spectacle, to realize what it foreboded for them and theirs; to weep not for him, but with him in his sadness concerning Jerusalem, in his baffled longing to gather its children together, in his thwarted purpose to save and bless. The events of that day were the prophecy of a doom not to be long delayed: in his thought and emotion as to this doom, and in this alone, he sought their sympathy. And so, remember, Christ desires not a luxury of sentiment, which ends in lamentations on account of his suffering. He desires partnership in his suffering. His cross is to be our cross. We are to hold ourselves identified with him in it. The apostle's words are the interpretation of the genuine Christian sentiment: "I was crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me;" "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Piety, pedantry, and formalism.
Of all those who in any and every way were responsible for the death of Jesus Christ, the largest share of guilt lies at the door of the religious leaders of the time. The Roman soldiers were only the immediate instruments of it; the Jewish populace were only the blind agents of it; but these scribes and chief priests were the guilty instigators of it: they brought it about. It was they who first conceived the idea; it was they who suggested and urged it; it was they who ceased not to agitate and direct until the dark deed was done. How came they to go so far astray? How came it to pass that while "all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple for to hear him" (Luke 21:38), thus bearing witness to the sincerity of their discipleship and their desire to know the truth he taught, they, the leaders of the land—scribes who were familiar with every letter of the Law, priests who were daily occupied in the services of the sanctuary, learned doctors, and pious ministrants—were actively and earnestly compassing his death? The fact is that—
I. RELIGIOUS PEDANTRY MAY BE VERY LEARNED, AND YET WHOLLY WRONG. These men knew their Scriptures with a fullness and nicety of detail that surpasses the knowledge we have of our sacred writings; and they had also a perfect familiarity with the teachings of traditional lore. They despised the ignorance of the common people in these respects (see John 7:47). Yet they were not wise with the wisdom of God; they entirely failed to understand the Divine will and the way to eternal life. The religion they taught and lived was utterly heartless; it was a service without any soul in it, a mechanism without any life in it; it was an elaborate error, a great and sad misconception of the mind of God; it was a surrender of freedom that did man no good and gave God no pleasure; it was a toilsome and torturing imposition that neither satisfied the intellect, nor cleansed the heart, nor elevated the life. And it so perverted the judgment that, when the Truth himself came to reveal the Father, these learned bat unwise leaders, instead of being eager to hear him like the people (Luke 21:38), were "seeking how they might kill him."
II. RELIGIOUS FORMALISM WILL GO TO GREAT LENGTHS OF WRONG-DOING. If the scribes were men of pedantry, the chief priests represented the evil and error of religious formalism; and the latter were in no way behind the former in either spiritual blindness or malevolence. They, too, failed to recognize their Messiah, and were actively engaged in compassing his murder. In every age and land religious formalism has been blind and cruel; it has failed to recognize the reformer when he has come to speak in God's name; and it has been forward to accuse and to slay him. Such has been its spirit and its course, that the home of love and mercy has been converted into the hotbed of hatred and of cruelty. It is another illustration of the truth that the corruption of the best becomes the worst of all; the piety that runs into ordinances, utterances, abstinences, formalities, will in time degenerate into utter error and shameful wrong. This is a truth which applies to many more Churches than one; it is, indeed, more or less applicable to all religious circles. There lies a deep-seated tendency in our nature which accounts for the facts in our Lord's time and in every age since then. Let us, therefore, learn that—
III. TRUE PIETY IS FOUND IN RECTITUDE OF HEART AND LIFE. Not in holding and professing certain correct formulae; not in going through certain ceremonies or observing a number of rules and regulations. These have their place in the kingdom of God, but they do not by any means assure us of our place in it. It is rightness of heart toward God our Father and our Savior, and consequent integrity of life, which make us to "stand before God" as his loyal subjects now, and will make us "worthy to stand before the Son of man" when he shall call us to his nearer presence.—C.
The deepest wound, etc.
When everything has been allowed for Judas that the most ingenious and the most charitable have begged us to consider, we must judge him to be a man whose conduct is to be solemnly and seriously condemned. It is Divine Love itself that decides this question (see Luke 22:22; Matthew 26:24; John 17:12). The text suggests to us—
I. THAT OUR DEEPEST WOUNDS ARE THOSE WE RECEIVE AT THE HAND OF OUR NEAREST FRIENDS. How much force is there in the parenthesis, "being of the number oft he twelve"! What deep pathos is in those sad words of the Lord, "Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me" (Matthew 26:21)! This was a "sword that entered into his soul," a keen distress, one of the very bitterest of all the sorrows of the Son of man. That one whom he had admitted to his intimate fellowship, of whom he had made a friend, who had partaken of his confidence and shared his strong affection,—that he should be the one to betray him to his foes! There is no trouble possible to us so great as that which lies open to us on the side of our purest and strongest affections. It is not our avowed enemy, nor the man to whom we are indifferent, but it is our dearest friend, who has it in his power to lacerate our soul with the sharpest thrust, and to spoil our life by throwing over it the darkest shadow (see Psalms 41:9).
1. Be slow to admit to the inner sanctuary of the heart; for he who has entrance there holds your happiness in his own right hand.
2. Realize the responsibility of intimate friendship; it is not only a privilege, but an obligation; it gives you power to gladden and to bless, but also opportunity to mar and to destroy.
II. THAT MONEY PLAYS A LARGE PART, FOR GOOD OR EVIL, IN HUMAN LIFE. They "covenanted to give him money." It seems hardly credible that any man who had lived in the society of Jesus Christ, and had witnessed his kindness and his purity, should take money for betraying him. Other motives—those of resentment or ambition- are far less shocking and revolting than this mercenary one. To betray his Master, his Friend, for thirty pieces of silver, fills us with wonder and excites the deepest reprobation. But for what has not money been responsible in human history? How large a part it plays in the great drama! What untold good it is instrumental in effecting! What admirable virtues it is the means of illustrating I To what deeds of folly and even of infamy the desire to obtain it has conducted! It is clear that men who have been trained to hate immoral and criminal behavior with an intense hatred have been induced to part with every principle they have honored, and to do the worst deeds they have denounced, in order to obtain money, when they have found themselves pressed for its possession. Probably no man who has not felt it knows the deadly force of the temptation. Who shall say that he is safe from this powerful snare? It is probable that to obtain money more evil deeds have been done than under any other inducement whatever. Therefore let every man beware lest he subjects himself to this strong and fell temptation. Let neither an overweening ambition nor extravagance of habit lead where the possession of more money becomes an imperative demand. Moderation in desire and economy in habit save men from a temptation in which, it may be, their souls would be entangled and their very life taken away.
III. THAT EARNESTNESS IS SURE TO SEEK ITS OPPORTUNITY UNTIL IT FINDS IT. He "sought opportunity to betray him." By whatever motives inspired, Judas was intent on compassing the act he had undertaken. And he did not wait idly until an opportunity offered itself. He sought it. If evil is thus in earnest, how much more so should righteousness and mercy be! These should surely be about their holy and loving work "with both hands earnestly." Opportunity to raise, to help, to redeem, to restore,—this is not to be passively waited for, but to be actively sought out. There is a very marked difference between readiness to work when we are invited and even urged to do so, and that noble zeal which will not be contented without finding material for activity. It is the difference between a goodness that you do not blame and a goodness that you admire; between a life that will not stand condemned and a life that will be crowned with victory and honor. If there are those who, in the interest of error and of evil, will set about diligently to promote these ends. shall we not put forth our utmost energy on behalf of truth and heavenly wisdom? If men can be found who will "seek opportunity" to betray, shall not we with deeper devotedness "seek opportunity" to honor our Lord?—C.
Luke 22:15, Luke 22:16
The Passion, from two standpoints.
I. As IT LOOKED TO OUR LORD WHEN HE WAS APPROACHING IT. It was to him a terrible trial, which he was eager to reach and pass through. "With desire he desired" the time to arrive when he should suffer and should complete his work. He did not wish to escape it; he was not looking about for an alternative; he knew that he could not save himself if he would save the world; and he longed for the trial-time to come and to be passed. Here was the heroic, and here was also the human. Here was the determination to endure, and, at the same time, the natural, human anxiety to know the worst and to exchange an almost intolerable suspense for the suffering that awaited him.
1. Having chosen the path of self-sacrifice, and having entered upon and pursued it, it behoved him to continue and to complete his appointed work. He could not turn back without suffering defeat; he accepted the dark future that was before him as a sacred duty. From it there must be no turning aside to other ends; and there was none. He never wavered in his purpose from beginning to end. "This shall not be unto thee," from Peter, appears to have been. a strong shock of temptation to him (Matthew 16:21-23). But nothing induced him to turn aside by a single step from the path of sacrificial service.
2. Yet we have here a glimpse of the extreme severity of the trial he underwent. He knew that his "suffering" would immediately follow this Passover, and he "earnestly desired" that Passover to come, that the sufferings might follow. With perfect reverence we may say that he could not realize what they would include, for they had never before been experienced; they stood absolutely by themselves, and could not be known until they were actually felt. And this element of suspense and uncertainty must have added a great weight of trouble to the sorrows of our Lord. "How bitter that cup no heart can conceive;" not even his heart did conceive until it was in his hands.
(1) Like our Lord, we should go on without faltering to the darkest future which we feel it becomes us to face.
(2) As with him, the uncertainty of the actual elements of our grief may oppress our spirit and fill us with eager desire for its coming (see also Luke 12:50).
(3) We shall find, as he found, all needful Divine help when the hour does actually arrive.
II. AS HE WOULD HAVE US REGARD IT NOW. That is, as a completed work of redeeming love. That last Passover has been "fulfilled in the kingdom of God." All that the Passover prophesied has been fulfilled. The "Lamb of God" has been slain—that Lamb "which taketh away the sin of the world." Everything in the way of sacred endurance, of Divine preparation, is now completed, and the way into the kingdom is open. Those sufferings to which Jesus was so eagerly looking forward, to which he had now come, with nothing between them and him but that Passover Feast, had to he endured (see Luke 24:26); and now they have been endured. Everything predicted in sacred rite or solemn utterance has been "fulfilled," and we wait for nothing more. We sit down to no predictive Passover Feast, because "Christ, our Passover, is slain for us." What we have to do is gratefully and eagerly to avail ourselves of the "finished" work of our redeeming Lord; to let that suffering, that death, that sacrifice,
(1) evoke our humility;
(2) call forth our faith;
(3) kindle our love and command our obedience;
(4) inspire us with sacred and abiding joy, inasmuch as his "sorrow unto death" is the source of our eternal life.—C.
Luke 22:19, Luke 22:20
The Lord's Supper.
A very simple rite as first observed was the Lord's Supper. But for certain passages in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles, we should not have known that Jesus Christ intended to create a permanent institution. But though the simpler the ceremony is the more scriptural it is, yet are the ideas associated with it and suggested by it many and important. They are these—
I. THE NEAR PRESENCE OF OUR LORD. Not in the elements but presiding over the company. It is a table at which he entertains his friends; and can he, the Divine Host, himself be absent?
"Around a table, not a tomb,
He willed our gathering-place should be;
When going to prepare our home,
The Savior said, 'Remember me.'"
And at that table, meeting and communing with his friends, we may feel sure and can realize forcibly that our living Lord is, in spirit and in truth, "in the midst of us."
II. CHRIST OUR STRENGTH AND OUR JOY. The chosen elements are bread and wine, the sources of strength and of gladness. He, our Lord, is the one constant Source of our spiritual nourishment and strength, of the joy with which our hearts are for ever glad.
III. CHRIST OUR PROPITIATION. The broken bread, the outpoured wine—of what do these speak to our hearts? Of the "marred visage," of the weariness, of the poverty and privation, of the toilfulness and loneliness of that troubled life, of the griefs and pains of that burdened and broken heart, of the shame and the darkness and the death of the last closing scene. We stand with bowed head and reverent spirit at that cross and see—
"Sorrow and love flow mingled down."
And our hearts are full as we ask—
"Did e'er such love and sorrow meet;
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?"
And we realize that that sorrow was borne, that death died for us. "This is my body, 'given for you;' my blood, 'shed for you.'" It is the Propitiation for our sins.
IV. OUR INDIVIDUAL APPROPRIATION OF OUR LORD'S GREAT WORK. Each one eats of that bread and drinks of that cup. As he does so, in and by that act he declares his own personal need of a Divine Savior; he affirms his conviction that the sacrifice was offered for him; he renews his faith in the Divine Redeemer; he recognizes the claim of him that loved him unto death; he rededicates himself to Jesus Christ and to his service; he rejoices, in spirit, in his reconciled Father, in his Divine Lord and Friend.
V. HAPPY AND HOLY COMMUNION WITH ONE ANOTHER. Gathered round one table, in the felt presence of our common Lord, all invited to drink of the same cup (Matthew 26:27), we are drawn to one another in the bonds of Christian love. We realize our oneness in him as a strong bond which triumphs over all the separating influences of the world. Faith, joy, love, are kindled and" burn within us;" and we are strengthened and sanctified, built up, enabled to "abide in him."—C.
Luke 22:21, Luke 22:22
Jesus and Judas; our Lord and ourselves.
The ordinance of the Lord's Supper was closely connected, not only in time but in apostolic thought, with the act of the betrayal (see 1 Corinthians 11:23)—the institution of the greatest privilege with the commission of the darkest crime. Oar Lord's demeanour on this occasion is well worthy of our most reverent thought.
I. JESUS AND JUDAS.
1. His length of sufferance. After knowing that Judas was seeking to betray him (Luke 22:6), Jesus might well have expelled him from his society. He might have done so, acting judicially, as being no longer worthy to be classed among his apostles. He might have done so, acting prudentially, as one
(1) whom it was not wise to admit to his counsels and his plans; and as one
(2) whose association with the eleven would be a source of evil. He might very appropriately have declined to acknowledge him as an officer and a friend. But Jesus did not press his right. On the contrary, he let him continue as one of the twelve, he let him come under the same roof with himself, he permitted him to share the Paschal feast: the hand of him that was betraying him was "with him on the table." To such a length as that his longsuffering went.
2. His dignity in rebuke. He did not break forth into passionate invective; he did not use words of natural and permissible vehemence; he quietly said, "Woe unto that man," etc.! Matthew tells us that he added, "It had been good for that man if he had not been born." What a transcendent calmness and serenity of spirit we have here! What a contrast between two children of men! One man preparing to betray his Teacher, his Friend, his Master; the other compassionating his betrayer for the depth of his fall and the sadness of his doom. Jesus went on to his sacrificial death and to his throne; Judas went out into the night (John 13:30)—into the dark night of guilt, of shame, of despair, of death.
II. ONE LORD AND OURSELVES.
1. The wrong against our Lord it is still open to us to commit. We cannot betray him as Judas did; yet may we do that which answers to, and is almost if not quite as deplorable as that sad and shameful act. Let us consider that:
1. We know more about Jesus than Judas then did; for we have all the light of his resurrection and of the teaching of his apostles.
2. He has granted to us mercies as many and as great in intrinsic value as those he bestowed on Judas.
3. Owing him as much as Judas did, we may do even greater injury to his cause than the traitor did. The act of Iscariot ultimately issued in the all-sufficient sacrifice; this did not extenuate or lessen his guiltiness by a simple grain; but it nullified the mischief of the crime. We may do incalculable and irreparable mischief to the cause of our Master by our unfaithfulness, our infidelity, our disobedience, our criminal negligence.
4. By such disloyalty we may wound and grieve his Spirit almost as severely as his betrayer did. Wherefore let us:
(1) Be humble-minded. "Let him that thinketh he standeth," etc. If we could find the man who has smitten Christ and his cause the severest blow that was ever struck, it is probable that we might easily find an hour in that man's history when he would have shrunk with holy horror from such a guilty act.
(2) Be prayerful; ever looking heavenward with the supplication, "Hold thou me up," etc.
(3) Be diligent in the field of earnest Christian work. It is the idler in the vineyard whom the tempter will assail. It is the faithful workman who is in a position to say, after his Lord and Leader, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me" (John 14:30).—C.
Greatness after Christ.
Three things claim our attention.
I. APOSTOLIC FAILURE. When the apostles of our Lord came to look back on this most memorable evening, how pained and how ashamed they must have felt as they recollected this unseemly contest (Luke 22:24)! At the very hour when their Lord was manifesting his love and his forethought for his Church in two most striking and touching ways—at the very hour when his heart was torn with distracting sorrow by the desertion and treachery of one of his chosen band, and when he might well have been looking for some consolation in the attachment and the obedience of the others, they must needs show their unlikeness to himself and their unworthiness of their position by an untimely dispute about their own importance in connection with that condescending service of their Lord's, how small such a controversy seems! And in connection with such a trial as that through which he was passing, how unbecoming and ill-timed was any anxiety about their own affairs! It was in their power to render to Jesus Christ a most helpful sympathy, and, instead of doing that, they grieved him by the exhibition of a contentious and an ambitious spirit. It was a sad failure on their part. How often do his disciples fail him now! How often do they let the opportunity of loving and effective service pass unused! When the hour strikes for faithfulness, or for courage, or for self-sacrifice, or for humility, or for energetic action, is there not found unfaithfulness, or timidity, or selfish time-serving, or pride, or a culpable inactivity, that loses everything and leaves behind nothing but failure and regret?
II. WORLDLY VANITY. (Luke 22:25.) What a poor thing indeed is mere official dignity, or even arbitrary power, or servile flattery! Official dignity without moral worth is a miserably hollow thing. Arbitrary power, exercised in caprice and apart from a pure desire to do good and to enrich, is an evil thing; it is injurious to the possessor and it is burdensome to the objects of it. Servile flattery is a false thing. It is simply contemptible on the part of those who pay it; it is morally ruinous to those who accept it. Let the "Gentiles" act thus if they must; but "ye shall not be so." Ye who care to be true, to be loving, to be humble—ye shall not sit on that seat of honor, ye shall not run into that serious temptation, ye shall not pursue such a worthless prize. Other and better things are within your reach; for you there is—
III. CHRISTIAN GREATNESS. (Luke 22:26, Luke 22:27.)
1. Jesus Christ, the greatest One, was the Servant of all. He came to serve; it was his holy, heavenly errand; he came to seek and to save the lost. He lived to serve. That act of menial service in which he had just been engaged (John 13:1-5) was only a picture and illustration of the whole spirit and substance of his life; to bear the burden of others was the law of his life (Galatians 6:2). He lived to heal, to help, to comfort, to enlighten, to redeem; his life from end to end was a loving ministry, a gracious and generous service (Mark 10:45). He suffered to serve. He died to serve. He had a perfect right to say,, I am among you as he that serveth."
2. We are nearest to our Lord as we live to serve; we rise towards the spiritual stature of Jesus Christ as we are filled with this his spirit and as we live this his life. There is a path for ambition to tread in the kingdom of Christ; but it is not the path that leads to high office and official dignity and popular applause: these things may come unsought, and be used for good. But the one road along which true Christian greatness travels is the way of self-forgetting service. To be touched and moved by the sorrows and the sins of our fellow-men; to be stirred to helpful, earnest, sacrificial effort on their behalf; to pity the poor and needy; to seek and to save the lost; to breathe the air and to do the work of an unpretentious but effective kindness, to have the right to say, "I am among you as he that serveth; "that is greatness after Christ himself.—C.
Fidelity and its reward.
The lesson of the text is the bountiful reward of faithfulness to Jesus Christ; but taking these words of his in connection with the position in which he well knew himself to be, they speak to us of—
I. THE MAJESTIC CONFIDENCE OF OUR LORD. "I appoint [bequeath] unto you a kingdom … that ye may sit on thrones." And who is this thus calmly disposing of kingdoms and thrones?—a reigning emperor, a brilliant conqueror? Only a poor, homeless, soldierless Prophet! One who knew that he was about to be taken, tried, convicted, scourged, crucified! Yet he meant it all. What majestic confidence in God, in the power of his gospel, in his own integrity! With what reverent homage shall we bow before him who could make such royal offers when the shadow of the cross already rested on his path! And what nobler sight is there to be seen among men than that of one (missionary, minister, teacher, reformer, etc.) calmly going on his way when every one and when everything is against him, confident in the triumph of the cause for which he pleads] Taking these words of Christ in connection with the preceding verses, we see—
II. THE QUICKNESS WITH WHICH HE PASSED FROM CORRECTION TO COMMENDATION. Seeing that his apostles were not only silenced, but humbled by the rebuke he had administered to them (Luke 22:24-26), and wishing to reassure and revive them, our Lord turned to the fidelity they had shown toward himself, and spoke words of praise and of promise. "You are wrong altogether in your spirit and behavior in this matter; I blame you for this. But be not cast down; I do not forget your constancy toward me in all my times of trial, and I will reward you." Such was, such is, the gracious, considerate, generous Master.
"His anger is so slow to rise.
So ready to abate."
It is the flying shadow which the wind-driven cloud casts upon the field, chased by the hastening sunshine. "O slow to strike and swift to spare!" might well have been written of him. Can it be said or sung of us, in our relations with one another? But the main truth here is—
III. THE REWARD OF FIDELITY IN THE MASTER'S SERVICE. Our Lord wished to assure his disciples that he was by no means unmindful or unappreciative of their faithfulness; and he found the best proof of this in their constancy toward himself in his times of trouble. Through all poverty, all persecution, all desertion, all apparent failure, they had been true and loyal—they had shared his sorrows, had kept step with him through the dark shadows; they had ministered to his bodily necessities (John 4:8), and (so far as they could) had sympathized with him in his spiritual conflicts. "Ye are they who have continued with me in my trials." And what a reward he was prepared to give them (Luke 22:29, Luke 22:30)! Not understanding these words literally, we take it that their Lord held out before them:
1. Fulness of joy. "Eat and drink at my table."
2. Signal honor. "Sit on thrones."
3. Large and abiding power and influence.
"I appoint unto you a kingdom." This promise has been already fulfilled, though in a different form from that which they then expected—in the exalted privilege of being the first to publish the gospel of his grace to mankind; in the glorious work of writing those memorials and letters which show no sign of age and are esteemed the one absolutely invaluable literature of the world; in the celestial joy, dignity, influence, which they have long inherited.
(1) What are the best proofs of loyalty we can give? These are
(a) showing tender sympathy and untiring helpfulness towards his people (see Matthew 25:40);
(b) having continual regard to his will in all the duties and details of our life (see John 14:15, John 14:21, John 14:23);
(c) being practically concerned for the progress of his kingdom.
(2) What is the reward he will grant us? A goodly measure of joy,—of sacred joy in worship, fellowship, work, life; of honor,—the esteem which purity and love rarely, if ever, fail to win; of quiet power,—the holy and blessed influence which spiritual beauty and earnest testimony exert on heart and life, which they transmit from generation to generation. This reward here; and hereafter joy, honor, power, such as we must wait to see and must resolve to experience.—C.
Luke 22:31, Luke 22:32 (first part)
The worth of man.
These verses afford incidental but valuable evidence of the surpassing worth of the human spirit, and should help us to feel of how much greater account are we ourselves than anything that merely belongs to us. This is brought out by—
I. THE DESIGNS THAT ARE LAID AGAINST US. It was evidently in a very solemn and earnest strain that Jesus said, "Satan desired to have you [plural], that he may sift," etc. The evil one longed with eagerness, and strove with strength, to pass the apostles of Christ through the sieve of temptation, that he might compass their overthrow. And Peter, at a later hour, tells us that that is his attitude and habit in regard to all Christian disciples (1 Peter 5:8). We may take it that:
1. All the unholy intelligences of the spiritual realm are bent on securing our overthrow.
2. In this malign intention they are supported by human agents. And this, not only because evil naturally propagates evil, and because the wicked feel stronger and more secure as they are more numerous, but because they recognize the value of one human spirit and the advantage secured by gaining it to their side. Hence there is a deliberate and determined design often made upon the individual man by the forces of evil. This is a fact by no means to be overlooked. As we go on our heavenward way there may be an ambush laid for us at any point; at any time strong spiritual foes may do their utmost to contrive our fall. The possibilities of evil and of ruin are manifold. We may fall by error and unbelief, by pride, by selfishness, by worldliness and vanity, by intemperance or impurity, by departure in spirit from the fear and love of God. There is room, there is reason, for vigilance on the part of him who believes himself well on the way toward or even nearing the gates of the celestial city.
II. THE SOLICITUDE OF OUR SAVIOUR ON OUR BEHALF. "I have prayed for thee." The strain of our Lord's address, "Simon, Simon," and the fact of his interceding on Peter's behalf, speak of a tender solicitude on his part for his disciple. Jesus knew well all Peter's infirmities; but he also knew how ardently he could love, how devotedly he could serve, how much he could be. Hence the intensity of his desire that he would not be overcome. And for this reason we may be sure that our Lord is regarding us all with a Divine interest. He knows the worth of any and every human spirit—how much it can know and can enjoy; whom and what it can love; what graces it can illustrate, and what truth adorn; what influence it can instil; what good, and even great, work it can accomplish for God and man. He knows also what sorrow it may bring upon itself, what shame, what ruin; and also what irreparable injury it may do. We need not hesitate, but should accustom ourselves to think that Jesus Christ is regarding us with a very tender interest; is following the choices we are making and the course we are pursuing with holy and loving solicitude; is grieved when he sees us wander from the way of wisdom, rejoices in us and over us when he sees us take the upward path.
III. THE REALITY OF OUR HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY. Jesus Christ prayed that Peter's faith might not fail. And it did not—we should naturally expect. But in part it did. It did not utterly break down as that of Judas did, but it failed to keep him loyal in a very trying hour. It did not save him from the act of denial and from the sorrow which succeeded the sin. It did not in any way relieve the apostle of his individual responsibility. He continued to "bear his own burden," as every man must. Not the very highest privilege, not even the intercession of the Lord himself, will relieve us of that. It must rest with us, in the last resort, whether we will strive and win, or whether we wilt yield and be lost.—C.
Luke 22:32 (latter part)
The privilege of spiritual maturity.
"When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." This forward-looking injunction of Christ reminds us of—
I. OUR NEED OF STRENGTHENING POWER. Such are the manifold and effective forces opposed to us, invisible as well as visible and human (see Ephesians 6:12); so strong and so subtle are the temptations that beset us on every side; that we urgently need, not only the presence of resisting principles within us, but the aid of friendly and helpful auxiliaries around us. We want, indeed, the help which is from above; that is the first thing to seek. And, having besought that, we do well to avail ourselves of all the strength we can gain from other sources. For the battle is severe, and we are often hard pressed by our vigilant and relentless foes.
II. THE HELP WE CAN FIND IN MAN. God is, as stated, the Source of spiritual strength. He renews our strength by the direct communications of his Divine Spirit. But man helps us also. "A man shall be as an hiding-place … as rivers of water … as the shadow of a great rock." Paul went through the region of Galatia, "strengthening the disciples" (Acts 18:23). Peter was to "strengthen his brethren." We can and we should do much to strengthen one another, to build one another up on our holy faith. We can do this:
1. By the force of a beautiful and attractive example.
2. By the utterance of invigorating truth.
3. By the inspiration of a cheerful, hopeful, loving spirit.
III. THE INCOMPETENCE OF INEXPERIENCE. Peter was not in a position to afford spiritual strength then. He was too inexperienced. He had not yet learned what the fierceness of the fire of temptation meant. He did not then understand where his true strength lay. He had not yet graduated in the school of experience. It is they, and only they, who know what spiritual struggle means who can impart to others the help they need. We must have passed through the waters before we can undertake to teach others how to swim the strong stream of trial and temptation.
IV. THE UNFITNESS OF UNFAITHFULNESS. Peter was about to fall. A few hours would find him in the power of the adversary. Before another day dawned he would have to reproach himself as a disloyal disciple. He was about to rest under the shadow of great guilt, and he would have to wait until he came forth from that shadow. Not until he "was converted," not until the spirit of overweening self-confidence had given place to that of humble trust in God, not until the knowledge of Christ "after the flesh" had passed, had risen into a knowledge of him that was truly spiritual and real,—not till then would he be fitted to "strengthen his brethren." His case was strikingly parallel with that of David (see Psalms 51:11-13). We have similar experiences now. When the Christian disciple loses ground spiritually and morally, it becomes him to "return unto the Lord" himself, and "then to teach transgressors" the way of God; it becomes him to undergo a change of spirit, to be "renewed in the spirit of his mind," and then to speak the helpful and sustaining truth of Christ. Unfaithfulness to our Lord, departure and distance from him,—this has no teaching function; its first duty is penitential; then it may think of useful work. But we should understand that all true usefulness rests on the foundation of spiritual integrity; it can find no other footing.
V. THE PRIVILEGE OF CHRISTIAN MATURITY. Peter was to look forward to a not distant future, when, having learnt truth by what he suffered, he should strengthen his brethren in all that was true and wise and good. This he did, and in this he found a noble heritage. To this we may look forward as the reward of spiritual struggle, as the goal of earthly good. What better portion can we ask for than to be the source of spiritual strength to our brethren and sisters as they bear the burdens and fight the battles of their life?—C.
Luke 22:33, Luke 22:34 (with 55-62)
The apostle's fall.
From this most memorable incident, recorded with noticeable candour by all the evangelists, many lessons spring.
I. HOW IGNORANT OF HIMSELF EVEN A GOOD MAN MAY PROVE! (Luke 22:33.) Peter believed himself to be capable of daring and enduring the very last extremity in the cause of his Master. He would have utterly ridiculed the idea that the sneer of a servant-girl could draw from him a denial of his Lord. The event showed how entirely he mistook himself. We ought to know ourselves well; but, in fact, we do not. We suppose ourselves to be strong and steadfast, when we are feeble and unreliable; or to be humble-minded, when we are proud of heart; or to be generous, when we are essentially self-seeking; or to be devout, when we are really unspiritual; to be near to God, when we are afar off (Revelation 3:17; 1 Corinthians 10:12; Psalms 19:12, Psalms 19:13; Psalms 139:23, Psalms 139:24).
II. How PERFECT THE KNOWLEDGE OUR MASTER HAS OF OUR HEART AND LIFE! (Luke 22:34.) Jesus knew how weak his disciple was, and he foresaw his speedy failure. He knows us altogether. He knows our heart; how sincere is our purpose, how frequent are our efforts, how many our disappointments, how faulty is our nature, how wounded and weak is our spirit. He knows also our life. He sees it as it lies before his all-beholding eye; he "knows the way we take," the path we are about to pursue. It is to One who has a thorough and complete knowledge of us that we belong, and it is to him we draw nigh in our best hours.
III. FROM WHAT A HEIGHT a GOOD MAN MAY FALL! This erring one is no other than the Apostle Peter, the very man who had made the great confession, and upon whom or upon whose testimony Christ would build his Church (Matthew 16:13-19). It is he who had been admitted to such close fellowship with Christ, and been allowed the high privilege of rendering him constant personal service. There is no office, however high it may be in the Christian Church, which will ensure to its occupant spiritual integrity. And even he who has been "raised up to heavenly places," and has known even the raptures of an exalted spiritual experience, may fall under the power of temptation. It is not the lofty but the lowly that stand on safe ground in the kingdom of God.
IV. How STEEP IS THE DESCENT OF SIN! From a presumptuous and blind self-confidence Peter fell to a half-hearted following (Luke 22:54); from that he fell to untruthfulness and denial of his Lord (Luke 22:57); from that to a more deliberate and repeated denial (Luke 22:58, Luke 22:59), accompanied even (as Matthew tells us) with profanity. Sin is a slope which seems slight at the summit, but it becomes steeper and yet steeper as we go on our downward way. And it too often happens that we reach a point where we cannot arrest ourselves, but are compelled against our own desire to continue. Shun the first step in the downward course!
V. HOW MERCIFUL IS CHRIST'S METHOD OF CONVICTION[(Luke 22:61.) Not a blow that smote him to the ground; not even burning words of condemnation that should sound ever afterwards in his soul; but one reproachful glance—the look of wounded love. So merciful and so pitiful is our Lord when we are unfaithful or disloyal to him now. He bears long with us; he seeks to win us back through added privilege and multiplied mercy; he deals very patiently and gently with us; only when other and milder methods fail does he mercifully afflict us, that in some way and by some means he may redeem us from folly and from ruin.
VI. WHITHER CHRIST SEEKS TO LEAD THE ERRING. (Luke 22:62.) He seeks to lead us, as by his reproving glance be led his fallen disciple, to a pure and saving penitence. He would have our hearts filled with a worthy and a cleansing shame, with a purifying sorrow; that this may lead us into a condition of
(1) abiding humility, of
(2) living faith, of
(3) thorough reconsecration to himself and to his cause.—C.
There is no teacher who has been so well beard, and none that has been so much honored and obeyed, as Jesus Christ. Yet there can have been few who have been so much misunderstood as he has been. We have our attention drawn by the text to—
I. CONTEMPORARY MISUNDERSTANDING.
1. By the apostles themselves.
(1) On this occasion their Lord wished to intimate to them, in strong and forcible language, that to whatever perils and straits they had been exposed before, the time was now at hand when, he himself being taken from their side and the saddest foreshadowings being fulfilled, they would be subjected to far severer trials, and would be (in a sense) cast on their own defences. The apostles, mistaking his meaning, put a literal interpretation on his words, and produced a couple of swords, as perhaps meeting the emergency!
(2) On a previous occasion (Matthew 16:5-8) the Lord warned them against "the leaven of the Pharisees;" and they supposed him to refer to their neglect in forgetting the bread!
(3) They completely failed to apprehend his meaning when he foretold his own sufferings and death (Luke 18:31-34).
2. By his disciples generally.
(1) They could not comprehend what he meant by "eating his flesh and drinking his blood (John 6:60).
(2) They completely misunderstood the end he had in view, the character of that "kingdom of heaven" of which he spoke so much.
(3) They did not enter into the great redeeming purpose for which he came.
3. By his enemies.
(1) In so small a matter as his saying recorded in John 2:19;
(2) in so great a matter as that recorded in John 18:37.
II. SUBSEQUENT MISUNDERSTANDING. In how many ways has the Church of Christ, since apostolic days, misunderstood its Lord! It has done so in regard to the meaning of particular words; and in regard to the great end he had in view (the nature of his kingdom); and in regard to the means and methods he would have his friends employ. How pitifully and how painfully has it misunderstood him when it has interpreted his reference to the sword of the text (John 18:36), and his use of the word "compel" (Luke 14:23) as justifying every conceivable cruelty in the furtherance of his cause!
III. MODERN MISUNDERSTANDING. Judging from what we know has been, we conclude that it is likely enough that we also misunderstand our Master.
1. We may fail to reach the true significance of his words; we may find out, further on, that they have another and a larger meaning than that we have been ascribing to them.
2. We may mistake his will as to the object we should work for, or as to the right and the wise methods we should adopt to secure our end.
3. We may be wrong in our judgment of what Christ is doing with ourselves and with our life; we may misread his Divine purpose concerning us. There are three principles which we shall do well to keep in mind in our endeavor to understand the Divine Teacher. The thought of Christ is
(1) profound rather than superficial:
(2) spiritual rather than sensuous;
(3) comprehensive and far-seeing (reaching through time to immortality) rather than narrow and time-bounded.—C.
As we enter "the place which is called Gethsemane," we pass into the "holy place," the nearest of all to "the holy of holies"—that is, to Calvary itself. Thither our Lord went on this most memorable evening; and "his disciples followed him"—the eleven who remained faithful to him. But even of these only three were counted worthy to attend him into the secret place of prayer and struggle, and to witness his agony. Such sorrow as he was then to know seeks the secret place and chooses only the very closest and dearest friendship for its ministry. Then fell upon our Divine Lord a sorrow and a temptation; an agitation and agony of soul for which our language has no name, our heart no room, our life no experience. We ask—What was that intolerable and overwhelming anguish, which the Savior asked might pass from him, and which had so marvellous and so terribly significant an effect on his bodily nature (Luke 22:42-44)? Our completest answer leaves much to be said, much to be explained.
1. We barely touch the outer line of the whole circle of truth when we speak of the apprehension of coming torture and death as events in the natural, physical sphere. It is an irreverent and wholly unworthy conception that what many men—many who have not even been good men—have faced without flinching, our Lord and Master shrank from with an overmastering dread.
2. We come nearer to the center of the truth when we think that the whole shadow of the cross, with its spiritual darkness and desolation, then began to rest upon him … Something of that shadow had been darkening his path before (Mark 10:38; Luke 12:50; John 12:27). And this shadow darkened and deepened as he drew near to the dread hour itself. At this point the cross immediately confronted him in all its awful severity, and he knew that this was the time when he must finally resolve to endure everything or to retrace his steps. This, then, was the critical hour; then was "the crisis of the world." Great and terrible was the temptation to decline the fearful future now at hand; it was a temptation he struggled against with a spiritual violence that showed itself in the drops of blood; it was a temptation he only overcame by tearful supplications to the Eternal Father for his prevailing succor (Hebrews 5:7).
3. But we miss our true mark if we do not include the thought that he was then bearing something of the burden of human sin. Whatever was intended by "bearing our sins in his own body," by "making his soul an offering for sin," and by expressions similar to these, we believe that Jesus Christ was then in the very act of fulfilling these predictions when he thus strove and suffered in the garden. As we look upon him there we see "the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world." The scene may teach us very varied lessons and affect us in many ways; but it is certainly well fitted to be—
I. AN ATTRACTION TO SOULS STILL DISTANT FROM THE SAVIOUR. It says, "Behold how he loved you!"
II. AN INVITATION TO PRAYER FOR FAITHFULNESS IN THE HOUR OF TRIAL. Both before and after, the Master exhorted his disciples to pray that "they entered not into temptation'' (Luke 22:40, Luke 22:46). He himself triumphed through the strong efficacy of prayer (Luke 22:41). Prayer, appropriate at all times, is urgently needed as we enter the shadow of temptation; but it is positively indispensable when the greater trials of our life assail us.
III. A SUMMONS TO STRENUOUS AND UNFALTERING PERSEVERANCE. Christian pilgrim, Christian workman, do you weary of your way or of your work? Does the one seem long and thorny, or the other tedious and unsuccessful? Do you think you must sleep as the disciples did, or that you must put down the cup as their Master did not? Do you talk about giving up the journey, about retiring from the field? Consider him who went quite through the work the Father game him to do, who strove and suffered to the very last; consider him, the agonizing but undaunted, the suffering but resolving Savior; consider him, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
"Go, labor on, spend and be spent,
Thy joy to do the Father's will;
It is the way the Master went,
Should not the servant tread it still?"
Luke 22:42 (latter part)
"Not my will, but thine, be done." These words are suggestive as well as expressive. They suggest to us—
I. THE ESSENTIAL NATURE OF SIN. Where shall we find the root of sin? Its manifold fruits we see around us in all forms of irreligion, of vice, of violence. But in what shall we find its root? In the preference of our own will to the will of God. If we trace human wrong-doing and wrong-being to its ultimate point, we arrived that conclusion. It is because men are not willing to be what God created them to be, not willing to do what he desires them to do; it is because they want to pursue those lines of thought and of action which he has forbidden, and to find their pleasure and their portion in things which he has disallowed,—that they err from the strait path and begin the course which ends in condemnation and in death. The essence of all sin is in this assertion of our will against the will of God. We fail to recognize the foundation truth that we are his; that by every sacred tie that can bind one being to another we are bound, and we belong to him from whom we came and in whom we live, and move, and have our being. We assume to be the masters of our own lives and fortunes, the directors of our own selves, of our own will; we say, "My will, not thine, be done." Thus are we radically wrong; and being radically wrong, the issues of our hearts are evil. From this fountain of error and of evil the streams of sin are flowing; to that we trace their origin.
II. THE HOUR AND ACT OF SPIRITUAL SURRENDER. When does the human spirit return to God, and by what act? That hour and that act, we reply, are not found at the time of any intellectual apprehension of the truth. A man may understand but little of Christian doctrine, and yet may be within the kingdom of heaven; or, on the other hand, he may know much, and yet remain outside that kingdom. Nor at the time of keen sensibility; for it is possible to be moved to deep and to fervent feeling, and yet to withhold the heart and life from the Supreme. Nor at the time of association with the visible Church of Christ. It is the hour at which and the act by which the soul cordially surrenders itself to God. When, in recognition of the paramount claims of God the Divine Father, the gracious Savior of mankind, we yield ourselves to God, that for all the future he may lead and guide us, may employ us in his holy service; when we have it in our heart to say, "Henceforth thy will, not ours, be done;"—then do we return unto the Lord our God, and then does he count us among the number of his own.
III. THE HIGHEST ATTAINMENT OF CHRISTIAN ENDEAVOUR. When do we reach our highest point? Not when we have fought our fiercest battle, or have done our most fruitful work, or have gained our clearest and brightest vision of Divine truth; but when we have reached the point in which we can most cheerfully and most habitually say, after Christ our Lord, "Not my will, but thine, be done;" when under serious discouragement or even sad defeat, when after exhausting pain or before terrible suffering, when under heavy loss or in long-continued loneliness, or in prospect of early death, we are perfectly willing that God should do with us as his own wisdom and love direct.—C.
Luke 22:47-52, Luke 22:63
Christianity and violence.
The use of the sword by Peter, and the presence of "swords and staves" in the hands of the officers, suggest to us the connection between Jesus Christ (and his disciples) and the employment of violence; and this both by them and against them.
I. THE UNSEEMLINESS OF VIOLENCE USED AGAINST JESUS CHRIST AND HIS DISCIPLES. It is true that there was something worse than the weapons of violence in that garden; the traitor's kiss was very much worse. We may be sure that Jesus was conscious of a Far keener wound from those false lips of Judas than he would have been from the hands of those armed men had they struck him with their strength. The subtle schemes and the soft but treacherous suggestions of false friends are deadlier in their issue, if not in their aim, than the hard blows of open adversaries. But:
1. How unseemly was open violence shown to Jesus Christ! To come with sword and stick against the Gentle One from heaven; against him who never used his omnipotence to harm a single adversary; against him who "would not break the bruised reed" among the children of men; against him who had been daily employing his power to relieve from pain, to raise from weakness, to remove privation, to restore from death!
2. How unseemly is such violence shown to Christ's true disciples! His true disciples, those who are loyal and obedient to their Lord, are men and women in whom a patient and loving spirit is prevailing; they are peace-makers among their brothers and sisters; they have "put away bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, railing;" they walk in love; they seek to win by a gentle manifestation and by a gracious utterance of the truth. How entirely inappropriate and unseemly is violence shown to them! And it may be added, how useless is such violence employed against the cause they advocate! It has never happened yet that sword and stave have crushed the living truth. They have smitten its champions to the ground, but they have only brought out into the light the heroic courage and noble unselfishness which that truth inspires. "So that those things [those persecutions] have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel." Cruelty strikes at its enemy, and smites itself.
II. THE UNLAWFULNESS OF VIOLENCE EMPLOYED ON BEHALF OF CHRISTIANITY. How vain and how foolish the act of "smiting with the sword" (Luke 22:49)! It was an act of intemperate and ill-considered zeal; it was calculated to do much more harm than good. Its effects had to be undone by the calm interposition and the healing power of Christ (Luke 22:51). It was rebuked by the Master in decided terms (Matthew 26:52). And from that hour to the end of apostolic history the use of physical violence disappears. Well would it have been for the cause and kingdom of our Lord if it had never been revived. The sword and the stave have no place in the Christian armoury. The weapons of its warfare are not carnal. Such instruments do not, they cannot, serve it; they gain a momentary victory at the sad and great expense of entirely misrepresenting the spirit and the method of Jesus Christ. Compulsion is utterly out of place in connection with the Church of Christ; it loses immeasurably more than it gains by that resource. Let the disciples of Christ be assured that
(1) the utterance of Divine truth, especially the truth that relates to the redeeming love of the Savior himself;
(2) living a life of blamelessness and beauty, of integrity and kindness;
(3) dependence on the aid of the Divine Spirit to make the spoken Word and the living influence effectual and mighty;—that these are the weapons which will conquer the enemies of Christ, and will place him upon the throne of the world.—C.
The power of spiritual darkness.
As our Lord, declining to avail himself of the physical forces at his command, surrendered himself to the will of his assailants, he used an expression which was full of spiritual significance. "This is your hour," he said, "and the power of darkness." By this he intimated
(1) that the hour of his enemies' triumph had arrived—the brief hour of their outward success and inward exultation, the dark hour of his humiliation and visible defeat; and
(2) that this passing hour was simultaneous with the prevalence of the power of darkness. Wicked men were to triumph because the forces of guilty error were for the time prevailing. We look at—
I. THE POWER OF DARKNESS.
1. Its spiritual nature. It is a state of spiritual blindness. We may not, with a great Greek philosopher, resolve all evil into error; but we may say that sin is continually, is universally, springing from inward blindness. Men do not see the truth; they call good evil, and evil good; they have the most false imaginations concerning all objects, from the Divine Being himself to the lowliest human duty; and hence they go far astray.
2. Its most glaring manifestations. It lays its unholy hand on innocence, on Divine Love itself, and leads it away to trial and crucifixion. It conducts the devoted servant of Christ to the brutal judge, to the shameful scaffold, to the devouring flame. It arms a vast multitude of men and leads them forth to a vain and useless strife, shedding human blood and wasting human labor, as if Christ would be pleased or could be served by such means as these. It covers with the sacred name of religion a system that holds millions of human beings in a degrading bondage. It sanctions all the sinful institutions the world has seen and suffered from.
3. Its most deplorable effects. These are not found in the deeds and the sufferings of men, but rather in their souls; the worst issue of spiritual misconception is in the utter darkness of spirit in which it ends. "If the light that is in us be darkness, how great must that darkness be!" It means—
(1) False thoughts. Here were men who should have known better thinking the worst things of Jesus Christ—judging him to he a criminal, to be a traitor, to be a blasphemer; and there are men amongst us who, under the power of error, think altogether wrong thoughts of God and of the Savior—thoughts which do him wrong, which misrepresent him to the mind, which repel rather than attract the soul.
(2) Bad feelings. Here were men indulging in feelings of positive and perfect hatred against Jesus Christ; and there are men, misled by the power of darkness, hating instead of loving the Father of spirits, repelled from instead of being drawn towards good and true souls whom they have grievously misunderstood.
(3) Wrong purposes of heart. Under this malignant influence men are purposing to injure their fellow-men. Instead of resolving to rescue, to raise, to ennoble them,-they determine to put them down or to hold them down, to lay a hard hand upon them and keep them harmless because helpless. It is in the blinding, misleading, deteriorating effects upon the soul itself that the very worst results of darkness are to be seen.
II. OUR HOPE CONCERNING IT. The "power of darkness" was coincident with "the hour" of the enemies of our Lord. And that was but an hour; it was limited to the brief period of the Passion. Then came Christ's glorious hour—the hour of his resurrection; the hour of his ascent to the right hand of Power. The prevalence of this evil power of darkness is limited in time; it will not last for ever. Innocence, purity, truth, love, righteousness, may be led away to trial and death, as they were then in the Person of Jesus Christ; but the hour of their resurrection and their triumph will arrive. Let faithful labor do its noble part, and let calm and Christian patience bring its priceless contribution, and another hour will strike than that of the foes of Christ, and another power than that of moral darkness will take the scepter and rule the world.—C.
"Peter followed afar off."
1. In this we find something that was commendable. The impulsive and energetic Peter did not exhaust his zeal in that unfortunate sword-stroke of his; nor was it quenched by the rebuke of his Master. Though it was far from an ideal discipleship to "follow afar off," it was discipleship still. We do not read that the others did as much as that; they probably sought their own safety by complete retirement. Peter could not do that; his attachment to Christ did not allow him to disconnect himself any further than was involved in a distant following. But:
2. In this we find something that was incomplete. The disciple desired to be near enough to his Master to know what the end would be, but he wished to be far enough off to be secure from molestation. He took counsel of his fears, and was so far from the scene that he was showing no sympathy with his Friend, and was running no risk from his enemies. It is not at all unlikely that this timidity, from which he succeeded in partially and momentarily shaking himself, was the beginning and the explanation of his subsequent failure.
I. GENUINE DISCIPLESHIP. this is found in following Christ.
1. Owning his claim as Lord and Leader of the soul; owning it by a willing and entire submission of our will to his will, a consecration or our life to his service, a perfect readiness of heart to say, "Lord, I will follow thee."
2. Endeavouring to walk even as he walked—in reverence, in righteousness, in love.
3. Striving to live this Christian life not only after him, but unto him.
II. DISTANT DISCIPLESHIP. We follow "afar off" when we are:
1. Lacking in devotion, lie who is only found irregularly and infrequently with God, in the attitude of praise and prayer, and in the act of studying his holy will, must be at a great distance from that "beloved Son" who spent so much time with his Father, and found so much strength in his conscious presence and loving sympathy.
2. Wanting in purity, lie whose spirit is much entangled with the cares, absorbed in the pursuits and prizes, hungering and thirsting for the pleasures of this world, and certainly he whose soul is to any considerable degree affected and tainted by the lower temptations of the flesh,—is a long way behind the holy Savior; is far off from him who was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sin," from him "in whose mouth no guile was found."
3. Failing in generous and practical kindness. He who is only sparingly offering his resources, spiritual or material, to the cause of human comfort and elevation, who is drawing the line of his service at the point of self-sacrifice, and declines to go across it,—is surely a very distant follower of that gracious and generous Friend of man who suffered the very last and the very worst that he might redeem us from sin and restore us to truth, to holiness, to God. This distant discipleship is, in every aspect, to be deplored.
(1) It is unfaithfulness to ourselves. A departure from the position we took when we first "yielded ourselves unto God, as those alive from the dead."
(2) It is perilous to our own souls. That way failure lies; and failure here means utter and disastrous defeat; it means suffering and shame; it may even mean death.
(3) It is disappointing to our Divine Lord. He looks for a close following on our part; he wants us to be at his side, to be serving him with all our strength, to be like him in spirit and in character and in life.
And when he sees us "afar off," he is grieved with us instead of rejoicing in us.
(1) Let those who have been abiding in him, and there-fore following him closely, be watchful and prayerful that they do not "drift away" and lag behind;
(2) and let those who have to reproach themselves as distant disciples draw near to their Lord in renewed penitence and devotedness of spirit.—C.
The look of our Lord.
"And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter." What was there then, and what is there now, in the glance of Jesus Christ?
I. HIS LOOK OF PENETRATION. We read of one of the earliest disciples being convinced by our Lord's discernment of him under the thick foliage of the fig tree; he was then told to look for greater things than that (John 1:50). And surely one of those greater things was found in that penetration which saw through the thicker covering of the human flesh and of human speech and demeanour to the very thought of the mind, to the very desire of the heart, to the inmost secrets of the soul. He knew what was in man. It was his knowledge of men that directed him in his varying treatment of them; it is his penetrating insight into men now that determines his dealing with us all.
II. HIS LOOK OF COMPASSION. What did the sick and the suffering, the fevered and the paralyzed and the leprous, the men and women who had left afflicted ones behind them at their homes—what depths of tender compassion did these sons and daughters of Israel see in the eyes of Jesus Christ? And what inexhaustible fullness of pity, what unbounded sympathy, may not the stricken and the sorrowing souls who are badly bruised and wounded on life's highway still find in "the face of Jesus Christ"!
III. HIS LOOK OF SAD REPROACH. Sometimes there was that in the glance of Jesus Christ from which the guilty shrank. When "he looked round about on them with anger," we may be sure that his baffled enemies quailed before his glance. And when "the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter," what keen sorrowful reproach was then apparent in the face of Jesus Christ! how that look gathered up all possible words and tones of solemn expostulation, of sad disappointment, of bitter sorrow! It was a look which wrought great things in the apostle's soul, the remembrance of which, we may be sure, he carried with him to the end. Christ has all too many occasions now to turn toward us that reproachful glance.
1. When we fail to keep the promises we made him at the time of our self-surrender.
2. When we fail to pay the vows we made him in some hour of discipline.
3. When we fall seriously short of the allegiance which all his disciples owe to him—in reverence, in obedience, in submission. Let us, who are professing to follow him, ask ourselves what we should see in his countenance if we stood face to face with him to-day. Would it be the benign look of Divine commendation? or would it be the pained look of sorrowful reproach? To those who are inquiring their way to life it is a source of blessed encouragement that they will see, if they regard their Lord—
IV. HIS LOOK OF TENDER INTEREST. When the rich young man came and made his earnest inquiry of the great Teacher, he was not yet in the kingdom, and was not yet fully prepared to enter it; but he was a sincere and earnest seeker after God, and "Jesus, beholding him, loved him" (Mark 10:21). With such tender regard, with such loving interest, does he look down on every true suppliant who looks up to him with the vital question on his lips, "Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"—C.
Luke 22:63, Luke 22:64
The patience of Christ.
In these touching words, which we cannot read without a sentiment of shame as members of the human race, we have—
I. A PICTURE OF SUPREME ENDURANCE. How much our Lord was called upon to endure, we shall be best able to realize when we consider:
1. The greatness of which he was conscious (see Luke 22:70). He knew and felt that he had a right to the most reverent homage of the best and highest, and was thus treated by the worst and lowest.
2. The power which he knew he wielded: with what perfect ease could he have extricated himself from these cruel insults!
3. The character of the men who were maltreating him—the lowest amongst the low.
4. The nature of the indignities to which they subjected him; these went from bad to worse—from binding him to beating him, from beating him to spitting upon him, from this most shameful indignity to the yet more cruel sneer at his holy mission," Prophesy unto us," etc. They vented upon him the very last extremes of human contumely and shame.
II. A PICTURE OF SUBLIME PATIENCE. He bore it all with perfect calmness. Here shone forth in its full lustre "the meekness of Jesus Christ." "When he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not;" "As a sheep before her shearers," etc. And wherein shall we find the source and explanation of this sublime patience?
1. He was bent on bearing, to the full and to the end, his Father's will.
2. He was determined to complete the work he had undertaken, and of that work those sufferings were a part. He was then "wounded for our trangressions," then he was "bruised for our iniquities," and by those "stripes were we healed."
1. Like our Divine Master, we ore called upon to endure. In doing those things we believe to be right of which others do not feel the obligation, also in abstaining from those things we feel to be wrong, which other people allow, we come into conflict, we excite displeasure, we incur odium, we suffer censure, opposition, ridicule; we "bear his reproach." Thorough loyalty to our Lord and to our own convictions means exposure to the assaults and indignities of the world.
2. We have the highest incentives to endure.
(1) As with our Master, it is the Father's will that we should suffer.
(2) As with Christ, it is an important part of the testimony we are to bear and the work we are to do in this world.
(3) Only thus can we completely follow our great Leader; he who does not go with Christ into the valley of humiliation does not follow him all the way he trod.
(4) So doing, we are building up a strong Christian character, and are thus preparing for fuller and higher service.
(5) Then are we especially, pleasing our Master, and "great is our reward in heaven" (Matthew 5:10-12).—C.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The last Passover of our Lord.
After the significant survey of Jerusalem's fate which is given in the previous chapter, Jesus seems to have remained quietly at Bethany, or in the Mount of Olives, until the time for the Passover. The season of solitude was brief, but all the more important in consequence. Every moment was utilized by our Lord that he might be ready for his great ordeal. But if he was making preparations, so were his enemies. Accordingly, we have an account here of the treason which led up to his sacrifice. We have, consequently, to consider—
I. THE TREASON OF JUDAS. (Luke 22:1-6.) The Sanhedrin was in session, anxious to seize on Jesus and get him removed; for they feared that an attached populace would declare for him rather than for the old leaders. It was a vain fear. The people were fickle, and as ready to cry out for his crucifixion as they had been to cry "Hosanna!" Yet the fear of losing popularity goaded the Church leaders to desperation. Being beaten in debate by the Master-Mind who tabernacled among them, they can only expect by treachery to secure their purpose. They find their ready instrument in Judas. And here consider:
1. The worldliness of Judas. He had evidently joined the cause of Jesus in hope of a place in a world-kingdom. But our Lord's prophecies of his speedy suffering and death have blighted all these hopes. How can he best make his peace with the world, which is getting the upper hand, and before which Jesus is going down? Judas believes that he can best do this by betraying Jesus to his enemies, and, to make the transition the easier for himself, he consents to do the shameful work for thirty pieces of silver—the mean price of the life of a slave! It was not covetousness pure and simple which led Judas to such a bargain, but astute worldliness. He was making his peace with the world on the most liberal terms.
2. Notice the Satanic inspiration under which Judas acted. It is evident that Scripture represents the sphere of evil as under the domination of a great personality called Satan. He can enter into men and take possession of them. But we are not to suppose that he has the same intimate access to the human spirit which God the Holy Ghost enjoys We have reason to believe that Satan moves men by presenting in all their attractiveness the worldly motives such as we have noticed. Further, the Satanic impulse is such as in no way to relieve the subject of it from responsibility. No one will be able to plead "not guilty" on the ground of Satanic temptation.
3. Notice the mean prudence under which the traitor acted. Had the band come in open day, when the entranced populace hung upon the lips of Jesus, there would have been a dangerous emeute, and life been lost. Accordingly, Judas seeks to betray Jesus "in the absence of the multitude." There is a meanness and cowardice about most of the diabolic wickedness which goes on in the world; a cowardice, moreover, which is generally overtaken by just and terrible retribution.
II. PREPARATIONS FOR THE LAST PASSOVER. (Luke 22:7-13.) Jesus meanwhile directs the two disciples, Peter and John, to make ready the Passover. He so times the celebration as to have it over on the Thursday night of the Passover week, and without haste, to secure the further preparation which his spirit required. And here we have the facts set before us
(1) that he owed accommodation to the consideration of a stranger; and
(2) that his supernatural knowledge guided the disciples in their quest of a guest-chamber. There, then, in the guest-chamber of a stranger, without taking the lamb to the temple, but in the primitive fashion, the two faithful men made ready for their Master. It was a recurrence to the primitive ritual.
III. THE PASSOVER FEAST. (Verses 14-18.) With the twelve accordingly he comes at the appointed hour, and sits down to the significant feast. He tells them with what desire he had contemplated this last Passover before he should suffer. He will not again eat of it till it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. The order of celebration was first the passing round of the wine-cup; next, the bitter herbs, dipped, as salad would be, in a red sauce made of almonds, nuts, figs, and other fruits; next, another wine-cup, after which the father of the family explained the nature of the rite; then came the morsel of unleavened bread and the piece of the roast lamb, made palatable by the aforesaid sauce; the last act was the passing round of a third wine-cup (cf. Godet, in loc.). It must have been a touching and tender type in the eyes of him who was so soon to be offered. We should have listened to his explanations on that occasion with peculiar interest. His references must have been somewhat veiled in presence of the betrayer, yet sufficiently explicit to have broken ordinary hearts. It was a marvellous feast—the Paschal Lamb himself partaking of the Passover; the Antitype experiencing a special benefit through the study of the type! What a solemnity, moreover, is thrown over the whole scene through his indication that it is all shortly to be fulfilled!
IV. THE INSTITUTION OF THE LORD'S SUPPER. (Verses 19, 20.) Upon the more formidable feast, which is to pass away on fulfilment, Jesus founds a simpler feast, to be celebrated till he comes again. It is to consist of bread and wine, two of the elements there at the table. The bread is to represent his body, which is to be broken for his people; and the wine his blood, which is for them to be shed. In this way a memorial more lasting than brass or marble is to be reared, and his gracious presence is to be experienced in the Christian Church. The new institution was a promise of the most gracious kind, regarding the season when he would be absent from them.
V. THE INTIMATION OF THE BETRAYAL. (Verses 21-23.) Along with the solemn joy there is dashed profoundest sorrow at the intimation of betrayal by one of the apostolic band. A traitor is there, and they should know it. Good sign in that each man suspects himself! They all, except Judas, ask Christ if it is he. Last of all, it would seem, came the inquiry of the real traitor. But this unearthing of the false one does not shake him from his foul purpose. Christ could not do more for him than he here does, even though it does not saw him. How salutary is self-suspicion! How dangerous self-confidence!—R.M.E.
The proper Christian spirit.
Through our Lord's faithful dealing the disciples had been led to wholesome selfsuspicion. They cried out at the possibility of a betrayal of the Master, "Lord, is it I?" But no sooner have their minds been relieved through the singling out of Judas than they swing round again to self-confidence and even base ambition. There, at the table of the Lord, in spite of the hallowed associations, they speculate who is to be greatest in the coming kingdom. Jesus has consequently to check this nascent ambition. He does so by ennobling—
I. THE SPIRIT OF SERVICE. (Luke 22:24-27.) Now, the world's idea is that it is noble to exercise authority, to be able to order people about. In fact, the world has come to call men "benefactors" who have done nothing but command other people. What tributes are paid to princes, who have done nothing all their lives but issue orders and receive the homage and service of other people! A blear-eyed world is ready, as Christ here shows, to pronounce such princes the benefactors of their age and country. But he has come into the world to ennoble the opposite idea. Here at this very feast he has been as one that serveth. His whole life, moreover, has been a public service. Everywhere he has just considered how he could serve others. To minister, not be ministered unto, was his continual care. To make the service of others glorious in the eyes of discerning men was one great purpose of his earthly life. This reveals also the very spirit of the Divine life. £ God is Lord of all because Servant of all. He sustains all, as he has created all; and his greatness is the greatness of ministration. It is only Oriental barbarism which supposes greatness to consist in indolent and luxuriant state. Here, then, is the field of genuine ambition. Let us try to be first in the field of service; let us do our best and most for the benefit of all about us; and then alone shall we become noble and Christ-like.
II. CHRIST INDICATES THE RESULTANT INFLUENCE. (Luke 22:28-30.) To these disciples, who continue with Christ in his temptations, he appoints a kingdom. In this kingdom they are to have thrones, and to be judges of the twelve tribes of Israel. In this way our Lord indicates the influence which these men, who entertain his spirit of service, will acquire. And when we consider the history of Christianity, we see that even in the world of humanity these humble servants of God and mankind have become kings and judges. It is by their deliverances in the primitive age that men are judging themselves and being judged. The apostles are pre-eminently the sovereigns of this new and better time. And this posthumous influence on earth is only a faint reflection of their influence in heaven. Now, is not this to encourage every serviceable soul? Let each of us be only content to serve, to do whatever a brother needs, and by our service we acquire influence and kingship. The world is really ruled by obliging, serviceable, meek, and earnest men.
III. CHRIST NEXT POINTS OUT TO PETER HIS DANGER, RECOVERY, AND CONSEQUENT USEFULNESS. (Luke 22:31-34.) For, strange to say, temptation is overruled as well as service to the creation of influence. There is in Peter's nature a good deal of pride and vain-glory to be winnowed out. There is wheat within him, but also chaff. Now, Satan had set his mind upon the fall of Peter; but Jesus has already prayed for him that his faith may not fail. Here was Peter's safeguard in the timely intercession of his Master. £
In sending the disciples out on their first missions, Jesus relied on the hospitality of the people as a fitting support for his agents. Going to the people as philanthropists, working miracles, preaching the advent of Messiah, they would meet with such support as would be all-sufficient. This was the policy of confidence—the reliance on the people for entire support. But when the world turned against Christ, and realized how opposed he was to its worldliness, then the disciples would require to exercise all possible prudence. They would require to look out for themselves, and even to fight for their own hand. That is to say, there are times when we may trust the world, and times when we are warranted in distrusting it. When is it, we are inclined to ask, that the prudential temper must take the place of confidence? When the world is determined on injustice. Thus at this time the world is about to reckon Christ among the transgressors, and to do him manifest injustice. The fit of unfairness was upon it, and the disciples should then stand in self-defence. But other days would dawn again, when disciples will be warranted in pursuing a policy of public confidence, and thus giving the world the chance of compensation. Let us wisely consider the "signs of the times," and act accordingly. Christ will guide us to the policy which is best, if we prayerfully ask him.—R.M.E.
After the Passover and the address given in John 14:1-31., he led the disciples out through the vineyards, where most likely John 15:1-27. was delivered to them, and John 16:1-33., until he reached his usual rendezvous in Gethsemane, part of the Mount of Olives. Here let us suppose the high-priestly prayer given in John 17:1-26. took place, which being ended, he retired to an adjacent and secluded place for further prayer. Gethsemane was thus his preparation for suffering and death, as the Transfiguration had been for work. And here we have to notice—
I. HIS DREAD OF THE DENOUEMENT WAS NOT A DREAD OF PHYSICAL PAIN AND DEATH. His cry for escape, if possible, was not prompted by physical fear. He always showed himself brave before danger of a mere physical kind. Socrates seems the braver man before he drank the hemlock, but this was because Socrates could not see the issues that were before him as Christ foresaw his fate. The cup he shrank from was not like that of Socrates. It was no literal cup, but the apprehension of isolation from his Father. Not the trial, nor the mockery, nor the physical pain, but the isolation from God, the sense of forsakenness, the constraint to cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" which prompted the cry to escape. Now, the very elevation of his being rendered the dread of separation even for the shortest season from his Father intensely painful. Vulgar souls can take separation from others quietly, but the elect souls pass through deepest pains in consequence. That darkness which came on when Son was separated from Father because of the sin-bearing was what Jesus dreaded, and would gladly have escaped. Want of fellowship with the Father seemed to this holy Child Jesus something to be escaped if at all possible.
II. THE INTENSITY AND EFFICACY OF HIS PRAYER. Just as Jacob had to wrestle at Peniel to obtain the blessing, so had the Saviour in the garden. He was in an agony of earnestness, and was in consequence bathed in a bloody sweat. Time after time he prayed thus earnestly. And we are expressly told, "He was heard in that he feared" (Hebrews 5:7). His prayer was efficacious. Now, let us consider what he prayed for. It was for deliverance from isolation from God—deliverance from death without a sense of the Divine fellowship. And when we consider the sequel, we find that he was heard, and his prayer answered. For
(1) he enjoyed an angelic visit and was strengthened by it (verse 43);
(2) he was granted light and fellowship with the Father before death supervened; and
(3) he was saved from death by resurrection. In these ways the Father undoubtedly heard and answered the cry of Christ in Gethsemane.
III. NOTICE THE DISCIPLES' SLEEP OF SORROW. For sorrow often induces sleep, while at other times it makes sleep impossible. In the present case the disciples ought to have been praying for Jesus, for themselves, seeking preparation for the trial he had forewarned them was at hand. Instead of doing so they slept. Here we have to notice:
1. Opportunity for showing spiritual sympathy was missed. Jesus, as we know, was most anxious they should watch with him. He needed and he sought their sympathy; but they, in thoughtlessness, denied it to him. It would be well it deepest consideration were exhibited for noble souls that are greatly tried.
2. Opportunity for private preparation was missed. They themselves needed spiritual help more than Christ. They could less afford than he to meet the crisis prayerlessly. Yet this was their condition when the trial fell upon them.
3. Physical effort was their only resource when the crisis came. They could lay on with the sword. It does not take much prayer to help men to fight. But other and better weapons were needed than Peter's sword, but they could only be taken out of the armoury by prayer.
IV. THE BETRAYAL. Judas and his band were upon them before the sleepy disciples had time to pray. He had planned the capture as only a coward can. He betrays Christ with the semblance of friendship, trying to give the Master the usual kiss. To this offer Jesus simply replies, "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?" Force behind deceit is apparently overpowering the spirituality which had its home in that place of prayer.
V. THE DEFENCE OF THE DISCIPLES AND THE MIRACLE OF THE MASTER, The disciples, spiritually off guard, betake themselves to the carnal weapon, and Peter lays round him with the sword. He succeeds in cutting off the right ear of the high priest's servant. Here is fresh trouble created. If this servant has to go back thus wounded, a warrant will soon be out for the disciples, and the whole issue thrown into perplexity. Our Lord accordingly interposes, heals the sufferer's ear, and advises Peter to put up his sword. In this way Jesus rescues the disciples from the liability incurred through their own imprudence. It was a wonderful consideration manifested when his own troubles were rising to their height.
VI. THE REBUKE ADMINISTERED TO HIS ENEMIES. Why had they come out against him as against a thief? Had he not confronted them time after time in open day? They had not dared to lay hands upon him then. He thus convicted them of cowardice. It was "their hour, and the power of darkness." A deed of darkness dare not be done in open day. Thus was it that our Lord bravely met his adversaries. He was prepared, though the disciples were not.—R.M.E.
Christ's trials in the high priest's palace.
The agony of Gethsemane is over, and our Lord has met his enemies in the calmness of real courage. He allows himself to be led to the palace of the high priest, and we have now to consider all the trials through which he passed there. The first of these is from Peter. Love to the Master keeps the disciple in the train of the procession, and even leads him to linger without until through John's good offices he gets into the hall. But, alas! instead of keeping near the Master, he lingers near the fire which was kindled in the hall to keep the cold at bay. And here let us notice—
I. PETER'S TEMPTATION. (Verses 54-60.) It was identification with a lost cause. Here is Jesus down; no hope apparently lingers about him; he cannot now be saved. What use is there in further identifying himself with Jesus? Instead of responding boldly to the challenge and confessing Christ, he is tempted to deny him. And the denials are repeated, the last time with an oath. Peter's distant view of his Master and of his cause leads him to the fatal conclusion that it is safest to cut the connection and deny that he has ever known him. It is, alas! the temptation of men still. In the blazing light of society, when worldliness seems so strong and comfortable, it is convenient to ignore the Master and his cause. Peter's temptation is constantly repeated, and his fall has its counterpart continually in the cowardice of souls.
II. PETER'S RECOVERY AND REPENTANCE. (Verses 61, 62.) The Master in warning him had given him a sign, that of the cock-crow. It acts as an alarum upon the dull ear of Peter. Along with this there comes the look ineffable of the loving Lord. The great heart is broken, and Peter passes out to weep bitterly. We have a great contrast between the sorrow of Peter and that of Judas. It is the sorrow of the world which worketh death in the one case; it is the sorrow which is godly and saving in the other. As Gerok, in an admirable discourse upon the subject, says,
(1) Peter's sorrow proceeds upon his sin, Judas's upon the consequences of his sin;
(2) Peter's sorrow turns him from the world, Judas's turns him towards the world; and
(3) Peter's sorrow leads him to life, Judas's leads him to death. £ Peter's repentance was thus the consequence of his Master's love, and the sign of his recovery. How sensible he must have been of the mighty wrong he had done the Master! Jesus knew when Peter slunk away out of the palace that he was safe in his bitter sorrow, and that he would come forth from it a better man. Our Lord's trial through Peter's faithlessness terminated when the disciple's heart was broken.
III. THE BUFFET-GAME. (Verses 63-65.) The heavy hours till morning must be spent, and so the soldiers determine to get some amusement out of their notable Prisoner. They make Jesus, consequently, the centre in what is now known as the buffet-game. Blindfolding him, they proceed to strike him, and call upon him to tell who has inflicted the blows. They are terrible liberties they thus take with the Son of God. But they are unable to irritate this meek and lowly Man. Their blows are lost upon his magnificent meekness. They must have been struck at the majestic carriage of the Prisoner under their brutal horse-play. Yet the blows of the soldiers were less a trial, we may be sure, than the faithlessness of the disciple. But we are surely taught how essentially degrading it is to manufacture mirth out of the humiliation of others! The soldiers never were so brutal as when they treated Jesus in the style they did.
IV. HIS TRIAL BEFORE THE SANHEDRIN. (Verses 66-71.) In the morning the Jewish authorities assembled, and their line of examination was as to the nature of his Messiahship. As we have seen, it was not a Divine, but a military Messiah the Jews desired. To their question he replies first that they will not believe him if he answers them truthfully. They will only believe what they like. In other words, faith is largely a matter of the will as influenced by emotion. They were not prepared to accept truth and follow it to its consequences. After this preliminary, Jesus goes on to declare, "From henceforth shall the Son of man be seated at the right hand of the power of God" (Revised Version). That is to say, his Messiahship is to be a heavenly reign, not an earthly and temporal one. At once they saw in this a claim to Divine Sonship. Hence they challenge him upon the point, and get his manly reply that he is. On this ground they condemn him. It is plain, therefore, that this Divine Messiah was not what suited their fancy. It was not deliverance from such impalpable foes as sin and anxiety and suffering they desired, but from the Romans. They wanted a military leader—a pasha; and when God gave them his Son as their heavenly King, they condemned him to an ignominious death. It is thus that men despise their greatest blessings, and do their best to put them out of the way.—R.M.E.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Luke 22". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent