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THUS JESUS ENTERS UPON HIS KINGDOM.
Before attempting to expound this most momentous section of the gospel history, we must make up our minds concerning the solution of the difficulties which are involved in some details in the account of the Supper. The supposed discrepancy between the narrative of the synoptists and that of St. John has exercised the minds of commentators from the earliest times unto the present, and enormous ingenuity has been expended in endeavouring to harmonize what are regarded as conflicting statements.
The two chief difficulties are these: According to the synoptists, as generally understood, our Lord and his apostles ate the Passover, i.e. the Paschal lamb, when he instituted the Holy Communion; according to St. John, the death of Christ took place before the Passover was celebrated. Hence arise the questions—Was the last Supper the regular Paschal meal? Was Christ crucified on the 14th of Nisan or on the 15th? In the time of our Lord, the festival commenced on the evening of the 14th of Nisan, originally the day of preparation, but now considered part of the feast. "Between the evenings" of this day—i.e. from the time of the sun's decline to its setting—the lambs were killed in the temple courts. The 15th, commencing on the evening of the 14th, and lasting till the evening of the 15th, was the great day of the feast. All the accounts agree in stating that our Lord was crucified on Friday, the day before the sabbath, but the day of the month is not so clearly defined. The year seems to be settled as A.U.C. 783, A.D. 30, the sixteenth year of the Emperor Tiberius. In this year, astronomers tell us, the 14th of Nisan fell on a Friday; and as for typical reasons at least we should expect that Christ would die at the hour when the Paschal lamb was slain, we at once see the fitness of this date and day, if they can be safely maintained It is incredible that the events immediately preceding and accompanying the execution of Christ should have occurred on the actual feast day; it is also incredible that, as some critics suppose, the Pharisees altered the legal day in order that they might be free to accomplish their wicked design. These considerations lead us unhesitatingly to adopt the account given by St. John (himself an eyewitness, and certain to have noted and remembered the exact date of this stupendous event), and to assume that Christ was crucified on the 14th of Nisan, dying at the hour when the lambs were legally slain. The notes of time afforded by St. John are found in John 13:1, John 13:29; John 18:28; John 19:14, John 19:31. Attention to these passages will show that, according to the Fourth Gospel, the Passover had not been eaten when our Lord was crucified, and that in that year the Passover coincided with the sabbath. To meet the difficulty of the synoptists' assertion, that Jesus ate the Passover at the last Supper, two suggestions are put forth. It is said that he anticipated the legal time by some few hours, being greater than the Law, as he had often shown himself greater than the sabbath. If this were so, how was the lamb procured? The Paschal victims were not legally slain till the afternoon of the next day, the 14th; how could the twelve have obtained one of these on the 13th? This question is met by the assertion that the lambs could not have been sacrificed in the time appointed, and that a large proportion of the animals were killed and eaten both before and after the strictly legal time. There is no evidence whatever to support this notion, nor can we imagine that Christ, who came to fulfil the Law, would have connived at such a manifest infringement of its provisions. Another solution is that the meal of which he partook with his disciples was a solemn supper in anticipation of the Feast of the Passover, but without the lamb. He himself was the true Passover, the Lamb of God, and in instituting at that time the Holy Eucharist, he gave himself as the spiritual food of his followers. This new festival superseded the Jewish solemnity, and it is possible that, in oral tradition, the two were confused and were counted as occurring together. This solution seems more probable than the former, and would doubtless be confirmed if we were better acquainted with many details well known in the apostolic ages, now unhappily obscured. Some of the difficulties will, we hope, be seen to be reconcilable, as we proceed in our Exposition. How the perplexity concerning the enormous number of lambs required for the teeming population gathered together was met, we know not. Doubtless time and circumstances had modified the rigorous adherence to the prescribed ritual, and possibly many householders (all being in this matter priests unto God, Exodus 19:6 and Revelation 1:6) slew and prepared their Passover at their own houses or outside the sacred precincts on the legal day and hour. But there is no tradition of any unauthorized alteration of these points in the ordained ceremonial, and we cannot doubt that the Lord would not by his own practice endorse such laxity.
Matthew 26:1, Matthew 26:2
Final announcement of the approaching Passion. (Mark 14:1; Luke 22:1.)
When Jesus had finished all these sayings; i.e. those comprised in chs. 22-25. This was the close of his public teaching. The other discourses which are preserved by St. John (John 13:31-26) were addressed to the chosen apostles Henceforward the narrative sets him forth as Priest, Victim, Redeemer; and Christ himself now distinctly states the day of his death and the person who was to betray him.
Ye know. He speaks of a fact well known to his hearers—the day of the Passover Feast. And they had been forewarned of his death (see Matthew 20:17-19). After two days; μεταÌ δυìο ἡμεìρας: post biduum. These words are ambiguous, as it is not certain how the time is reckoned—whether the current day is included or not. If, as is most probable, they were spoken on Wednesday, the phrase means the next day but one, which commenced on the afternoon of Friday. Jesus appears to have passed this day in peaceful seclusion, either in Bethany or its neighbourhood. Is the Feast of the Passover; τοÌ Παìσχα γιìνεται: the Passover cometh; Pascha fiet. The lambs were slain during the first evening of the 14th of Nisan, and were eaten within twelve hours. The word Pascha is the Greek form of the Hebrew Pasach, denoting "the passing over" of the destroying angel, when he destroyed the Egyptians, but left untouched the houses of the Israelites, on whose door posts was sprinkled the blood of the lamb (Exodus 12:1-51.). Etymologically, it has nothing to do with ποìσχω, and the Latin patior, passio, etc, though pious writers have seen a providential arrangement in the apparent similarity of the words (see the possible paronomasia in Luke 22:15). Pascha (Pasach) is used in three senses:
(1) the transit of the angel;
(2) the Paschal lamb;
(3) the Feast of the Passover.
It is in this last signification that it is here employed And (equivalent to when) the Son of man is betrayed (delivered up, Revised Version) to be crucified. Christ connects his own death with the Passover, not only as indicating the day and hour, but to mark the typical meaning and importance of this solemnity, when he, our Passover, should be sacrificed for us. The present tense, "is betrayed," denotes the imminence and certainty of the event. He sees the event as actually present.
Conspiracy of the Jewish rulers. (Mark 14:1; Luke 22:2.)
Then. While Christ was announcing his approaching death, the rulers were plotting its accomplishment. He was certain; they were in doubt and perplexity about it. The chief priests (see on Matthew 16:21). The office of high priest had originally been held for life; but of late the civil power had often deposed one and appointed another, so that there were at times many who had held the post, and who, as well as their deputies, and the heads of the courses, claimed the title of chief priest. These were all members of the Sanhedrim And the scribes, These words are omitted on very good authority by many modern editors. They are not found in the Vulgate, though they occur in the parallel passages in the other synoptists. If genuine, they, in connection with "elders" and "priests," would signify that all the elements of the Sanhedrin were present at this council. The palace (αὐληÌν) of the high priest. This, then, was not a formal meeting, or it would have been held in the hall Gazith, "the hall of hewn stones," on the south side of the court of the priests. It was assembled in the court of the high priest's house, because it comprised persons who were not Sanhedrists, such as temple officials, and connections of the high priest, forming what was known as the priestly council, which was the official medium between the Roman authorities and the people. Who was called Caiaphas. Josephus ('Ant.,' 18.2. 2) speaks of him as "Joseph, who is also Caiaphas;" hence the way in which he is introduced in the present passage. He had been elevated to his high post by the Romans, who found in him a submissive tool. His father-in-law. Annas had been appointed by Quirinius, but after nine years had been deposed; he was succeeded in turn by Ismael, Eleazar son of Annas, Simon, and fourthly by Caiaphas, who superseded his immediate predecessor by the favour of the procurator Valerius Gratus, the tenant of the office before Pontius Pilate. The ex-high priest, Annas, was counted still by some rigorists as holding the office, and he appears to have possessed high authority (see John 18:13; Acts 4:6).
By subtilty. They had decided to put Jesus to death; the question was how to get possession of his Person when there would be no attempt at a rescue, nor any tumult in his favour. The original is literally, They took counsel in order that they might take, etc. They seem scarcely to have reckoned on any legal trial; once they had him quietly in their hands, they would find means to dispose of him.
Not on the feast day; ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ: during the feast; i.e. during the eight days of the Passover celebration. The assembled multitudes did not leave the city until the close of the octave, so the danger of a rising was not removed till then. The rulers well knew the stern temper of Pilate the procurator, who was prepared to crush any popular movement with the strong hand, and at festival times had always his soldiers ready to hurl upon the mob at the slightest provication, and to deal indiscriminate slaughter. Hence arose the plan of a clandestine apprehension. It was, indeed, the custom to execute great criminals at the time of the chief festivals, in order to impress the spectacle of retribution upon the greatest number; but in the case of Jesus, after what had occurred during the last few days, and when Jerusalem was filled with Galilaeans, who might naturally favour their countryman's pretensions, it was deemed dangerous to make any open attack. Their fears were relieved in the most unexpected manner by the appearance of Judas among them (Matthew 26:14).
The anointing at Bethany. (Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8.) This parenthetical episode is introduced by the two synoptists out of its chronological order, with the view of indicating the immediate cause of Judas's resolution to betray his Master, the issue of which they proceed to narrate (see on Matthew 26:14). This anointing must not be confounded with that related by St. Luke (Luke 7:37, etc.), where the scene, the time, and the actor were different, and the significance was of a very inferior nature.
When Jesus was in Bethany. St. John tells us that the incident took place six days before the Passover, i.e. on the Saturday preceding Palm Sunday. It is St. Matthew's custom to describe events not always in their historical sequence, but according to some logical or spiritual connection which in his mind overrides considerations of time or place. (For Bethany, see on Matthew 21:1.) Simon the leper. Not that he was a leper now, but either the appellation was hereditary, in reference to some such malady inflicted on his family, or he himself, having been cured by Christ, retained the name in memory of his cleansing. So St. Matthew is called "the publican" after he had relinquished his obnoxious business (Matthew 10:3), and the revived man is termed "the dead" (Luke 7:15). The frequency of the name Simon among the Jews rendered the addition of a surname expedient; thus we have Simon the Cananite, Simon the tanner, Simon Bar-john, etc. Nothing certain is known about this person. Tradition makes him father of Lazarus or husband of Martha. That he was connected with the holy family of Bethany, either by relationship or close friendship, seems to be well established.
A woman. St. John identifies her as Mary the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Why the synoptists omit her name is not known; it is equally uncertain why St. John makes no mention of Simon. None of the synoptists notice Lazarus, though St. Luke names Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38, Luke 10:39). It may have been at the time a matter of prudence or delicacy not to draw attention to them by name. But there is no discrepancy. One narrative supplements the other, and it is best to be thankful for what we have, and not to be over curious concerning points not explained. An alabaster box (ἀλαìβαστρον). A cruse or flask made of alabaster, which is a white calcareous spar resembling marble, but setter and more easily worked. These cruses were generally round shaped, with a long narrow neck, the orifice of which was sealed. It may be the breaking of this seal to which St. Mark refers in his account (Mark 14:3), when he says that "she brake the box." Very precious ointment (μυìρου). St. Mark calls it "pistic nard," rendered in our version "spikenard." The word in our text seems to be used for any salve or ointment which contained myrrh as one of its ingredients. Nard is found in Syria, the Himalayas, and other parts of India. From its root a strong scented unguent was made, which, being imported from a long distance, was very costly. Poured it on his head. It is to be noted that in the original there is no "it" after "poured;" so there is nothing to imply that the whole was poured upon his head. This helps to reconcile this account with that of the fourth evangelist (Morison). St. John tells that she anointed his feet, which was unusual; she first anointed his head, and then his feet, wiping the latter with her long flowing hair. Anointing the head was not an uncommon way of honouring distinguished guests; but Mary had another thought in her mind which the Lord discerned (verse 12). As he sat at meat; as he reclined at table. The Jews had adopted the Roman mode of eating (comp. Matthew 22:10, where the word rendered "guests" is "the recumbent"). St. Matthew does not mention that a special supper was arranged for him (John 12:1), as if to do him honour.
When his disciples saw it. St. John states that the objection came originally from Judas. Doubtless, when it was once made, many concurred in it, not, indeed, from Judas's selfish motive (John 12:6), but because they did not clearly apprehend the Divinity of Christ, nor the unspeakable sacredness of that body which was about to be the instrument of man's redemption. To what purpose is this waste (ἀπωìλεια)? Wordsworth notes that Judas is called υἱοÌς ἀπωλειìας (John 17:12). A fitting question truly for him to ask! The objectors saw no practical usefulness in the expenditure of this costly substance. If it was thought proper to show respect to their Master, a much inferior oil would have equally effected this purpose, or a few drops of the more precious unguent would have sufficed. So nowadays one hears complaints of money being expended in the rich decoration of churches, etc., when there are starving multitudes whom it would have relieved. But God himself has sanctioned the use of precious materials and of exquisite workmanship in temples built in his honour, and in the accessories of his public worship; the interests of the poor are not overlooked in such expenditure; they who give of their substance for such purposes are just those who feel all their responsibilities, and know that they serve Christ in ministering to his needy members.
Might have been sold for much. According to St. John, Judas had accurately estimated the value of the ointment at 300 denarii, equal to about £9 of our money. When we remember that one denarius represented the daily wages of a labouring man (Matthew 20:2), we see that the cost was very large. Given to the poor. And this "much" given to the poor. But piety is not shown only in giving alms; the honour of God has a superior claim. And Mary was rich, and quite able to afford this offering without neglecting her almsgiving. "How often does charity serve as a cloak for covetousness! We must not neglect what we owe to Jesus Christ under pretence of what we owe his members. Men count as wasted what is expended in the outer worship of God, when they love neither God nor his worship. Jesus Christ authorizes it by accepting it at the very instant in which he was establishing religion by a worship the most spiritual and inward" (Quesnel).
Understood it. Either their murmurs reached Christ's ears, or he divined their thoughts, and proceeded to defend Mary's action and to give a new lesson. Why trouble ye the woman? The disciples, observed Bengel, were really acting offensively to Jesus in thus censuring Mary; but he passes over this, and blames them only in respect of their conduct towards her. Doubtless, their remarks had reached Mary's ears, and annoyed and embarrassed her. For she hath wrought a good work upon (εἰς) me. A work that proved her zeal, reverence, and faith. Mary had always been devout, contemplative, loving. She had learned much at the grave of Lazarus; she was full of gratitude at the wonderful restoration of her brother's life; she had often heard Christ speak of his decease, and knew that it was close at ham], realizing that which the chosen apostles were still slow to believe; so she was minded to make this costly offering. And Christ saw her motive, and graciously accepted it.
Ye have the poor always with you. St. Mark adds, "and whensoever ye will ye may do them good." This was in strict accordance with the old Law: "The poor shall never cease out of the land; therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy in thy land" (Deuteronomy 15:11). The existence of poor gives scope for the exercise of the graces of charity, benevolence, and self-denial; and such opportunities will never be wanting while the world lasts. Me ye have not always; i.e. in bodily presence. When he speaks of being with his Church always to the end, he is speaking of his Divine presence. His human body, his body of humiliation, was removed from the sight and touch of men, and he could no longer be received and welcomed and succoured as heretofore. In a different and far more effectual mode he would visit his faithful servants by a spiritual presence which should never fail or be withdrawn. To the objectors he would say, "You will no longer have opportunity of honouring me in my human form; why, then, do you grudge the homage now paid me for the last time?"
On my body, she did it for my burial (προÌς τοÌ ἐνταφιαìσαι με, to prepare me for burial). This doubtless was in some sort her intention (see on Matthew 26:10). She desired to offer what she could (Mark 14:8) of the offices and attentions due to the corpse of a beloved and revered Friend. Christ interpreted her act, and gave it a solemn significance. By this effusion of the precious unguent site anticipated the embalming of the Lord's body; she showed her reverence for that body which was to be given for the life of the world not many days hence. The full meaning of the mystery of which she was the instrument Mary did not comprehend, but what she had consciously done received a wonderful commendation from the Lord, which has no parallel in the Gospel history.
Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached. This weighty promise and prediction is introduced by the emphasizing formula, Verily I say unto you. The gospel is the story of the incarnation of Jesus—his life, teaching, death, resurrection, which implies written documents as well as oral exposition. Our Lord had already (Matthew 24:14) intimated that the gospel of the kingdom should be published throughout the world; he here affirms that Mary's deed shall be enshrined therein for all time. There shall also this, that this woman hath done (λαληθηìσεται καιÌ ὁÌ ἐποιìησεν αὑìτη, that also which this woman did) be told for a memorial of her. The history which records the grudging remonstrance of the disciples contains this remarkable approval of Mary's act, associating her forever with the Passion of the Lord. We may here quote the eloquent comment of Chrysostom, who, however, unreasonably identifies Mary with the sinner who previously anointed Jesus. "Who then proclaimed if, and caused it to be spread abroad? It was the power of him who is speaking these words. And while of countless kings and generals the noble exploits, even of those whose memorials remain, have sunk into silence; and having overthrown cities, and encompassed them with walls, and set up trophies, and enslaved many nations, they are not known so much as by hearsay, nor by name, though they have both set up statues, and established laws; yet that a woman who was a harlot poured out oil in the house of some leper, in the presence of ten men,—this all men celebrate throughout the world; and so great a time has passed, and yet the memory of that which was done hath not faded away, but alike Persians and Indians, Scythians and Thracians, and Sarmatians, and the race or the Moors, and they that inhabit the British Islands, spread abroad that which was done secretly in a house by a woman" ('Ham. 80. in Matthew').
Compact of Judas with the Jewish authorities to betray Jesus.
Then. The time referred to is the close of Christ's addresses, and the assembling of the Jewish authorities mentioned at the beginning of the chapter, Matthew 26:6-13 being parenthetical. It is reasonable to suppose that the loss of the three hundred denarii, at which he would have had the handling, and the reproof then administered, gave the final impulse to the treachery of Judas. This seems to be signified by the synoptists' introduction of the transaction at Bethany immediately before the account of Judas's infamous bargain (see preliminary note on Matthew 26:6-13). One of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot. That he was one of the twelve, the chosen companions of Christ, emphasizes his crime, makes it more amazing and more heinous. To witness the daily life of Christ, to behold his miracles of mercy, to listen to his heavenly teaching, to hear his stern denunciations of such sins as covetousness and hypocrisy, and in spite of all to bargain with his bitterest enemies for his betrayal, reveals a depth of perverse wickedness which is simply appalling. Well may the evangelist say that Satan entered into Judas (Luke 22:3); it was the devil's work he was doing; he followed this evil inspiration, and thought not whither it would lead him. Went unto the chief priests. Their hostility was no secret. Judas and everybody knew of their hatred of Jesus, and of their attempts to get him into their power; he saw his way to carrying out his purpose, and making of it some pecuniary gain. We are not to suppose that this miserable man sank all at once to this depth of iniquity. Nemo repente fit turpissimus. Though the descent to Avernus be easy, it is gradual; it has its steps and pauses, its allurements and checks. Modern criticism has endeavoured to minimize the crime of Judas, or even to regard him as a hero misunderstood; but the facts are entirely in favour of the traditional view. We can trace the path by which the apostle developed into the traitor, by studying the hints which the Gospels afford. He was probably at first fairly sincere in attaching himself to Christ's company. Being a man of business capacity and skill in the management of money matters, he was appointed treasurer of the little funds at the disposal of Christ and his followers. Half-hearted and self-seeking, his undertaking this office was a snare to which he easily fell a victim. He began by petty peculations, which were not discovered by his comrades (John 12:6), though he must often have felt an uneasy apprehension that his Master saw through him, and that many of his warnings were directed at him (see John 6:64, John 6:70, John 6:71). This feeling lessened the love for Jesus, though it did not drive him to open apostasy. He had admitted the demon of covetousness to his breast, and he now adhered to Christ for the hope of satisfying greed and worldly ambition. The teaching and miracles of Christ had no marked influence on such a disposition, softened not his hard heart, effected no change in his evil and selfish desires. And when he saw his hopes disappointed, when he heard Christ's announcement of his speedy death, which his knowledge of the rulers' animosity rendered only too certain, his only feeling was hatred and disgust. The transient expectations raised by the triumphal entry were not fulfilled; there was no assumption of the earthly conqueror's part, there were no rewards for Christ's followers, nothing but enmity and threatening danger on every side. Judas, seeing all this, perceiving that no worldly advantage would be gained by fidelity to the losing side, determined to make what profit he could under present circumstances. Not with the mistaken idea of forcing Christ to declare himself, and to put himself at the head of a popular movement, nor with any notion of Christ miraculously saving himself from his enemies' hands, but simply from sordid love of gain, he made his infamous offer to the chief priests. It was just when they were in perplexity, and had determined on nothing except that the arrest and the condemnation were not to take place during the feast, that Judas was introduced into the assembly. No wonder "they were glad" (Mark 14:11); here was a solution of the contemplated difficulty; they need have no fear of a rising in favour of Christ; if among his chosen followers some were disaffected, and one was ready to betray him, they might work their will, when he was once quietly apprehended, without any danger of rescue and disturbance (see on Matthew 27:3).
What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? There is no disguise in this vile question. Judas unblushingly reveals his base motive in offering such a bargain; and to enhance its value he, as it were, forces his personality into prominence; as if he had said, "I who am his trusted adherent, I who know all his haunts and habits, will do this thing." They covenanted with him; ἐìστησαν αὐτῷ: they weighed unto him. The verb might mean "appointed;" constituerunt ei (Vulgate); and St. Mark has "promised," St. Luke "covenanted;" but there is no doubt that some money was at once paid to Judas, as he seems to have returned it (Matthew 27:3) without any further interview with the Sanhedrin, though they may have given him a portion at once, and sent him the balance on the success of his attempt. Thirty pieces of silver; τριαìκοντα ἀργυìρια. Thirty shekels of the sanctuary, equivalent to £3 15s. of our money. This was the legal price of a slave gored by an ox (Exodus 21:32), and must have been considered by the traitor but a poor reward for his crime. He found the rulers as covetous as himself, and disposed to treat both him and his Master with the utmost contempt. Christ had taken upon him the form of a bondservant, and was here reckoned as such. The transaction had been typically shadowed forth when another Judas sold his brother Joseph for twenty pieces of silver (Genesis 37:27, Genesis 37:28); when Ahithophel gave counsel against David, his familiar friend (2 Samuel 16:1-23.); and when Zechariah wrote, "I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed [ἐìστησαν, Septuagint] for my price thirty pieces of silver" (Zechariah 11:12). St. Matthew alone of the evangelists mentions the exact price agreed upon. It may have come naturally to the "publican" to observe the pecuniary aspect of the transaction.
From that time. As soon as he had made his bargain. Opportunity. "In the absence of the multitude," St. Luke adds. The Sanhedrin no longer thought it necessary to wait for the termination of the festival (verse 5). Judas would enable them to seize Christ in his most secret retirement, and at the most opportune moment.
Preparation for the Paschal Sapper. (Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13.)
The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread; literally, on the first day of Unleavened Bread. We have arrived at the Thursday in the Holy Week, Nisan 13. Wednesday had been spent in retirement at Bethany, and no acts or sayings of Christ on that day are recorded. The festival actually began at sunset of the 14th which was called the day of preparation, because the lambs for the feast were slain in the afternoon of that day, preparatory to their being eaten before the morning of the 15th. Domestic preparation, involving the removal of all leaven from houses and the use of unleavened bread, began on the 13th; hence this was considered at this era "the first day of the Unleavened." Came to Jesus. As the Master of the family, who had the ordering of all the details of the Paschal celebration. They did not know the mind of Jesus on the subject, and desired his directions as in former years. Bethany was considered as Jerusalem for the purposes of the solemn meal, and the apostles thought that preparation was to be made at some house in that village. Prepare for thee to eat the Passover. The preparations were numerous: a proper room had to be found and swept and carefully cleansed from every particle of leaven; tables and couches had to be arranged, lights to be supplied, the lamb and all other necessaries (e.g. bread, wine, bitter herbs) provided. All these preparations took much time, so it was doubtless in the early morning that the disciples applied to our Lord. When they spoke of eating the Passover, they doubtless supposed that Christ meant in due course to celebrate the regular Paschal supper on the appointed day, i.e. on the evening of Friday. But his intentions were different from what they expected.
The city. Jerusalem. Jesus was at Bethany. St. Luke says that he sent Peter and John, now first joined together without James. To such a man (προÌς τοÌν δεῖνα). The other synoptists mention certain signs by which they were to recognize the man. At the entrance of the city they would meet a man bearing a pitcher of water; they were to follow him to the house whither he went, and then give their message to the master of the house. There is a great similarity between this mission and that concerning the ass before the triumphal entry. The foreknowledge and the precision in directions are quite analogous. The "good man" was doubtless a disciple, though at this festival all strangers were freely received by any householder who had accommodation. Dr. Edersheim supposes that he was father of Mark, who was the "young man" arrested by the company that took Jesus (Mark 14:51). The secrecy observed in the above-mentioned arrangement was intended to keep the knowledge from Judas, and thus to secure immunity from interruption at the solemn meal. The traitor seems to have sneaked out from the last Supper, and disclosed Christ's retreat to the Jewish authorities, and conducted them to the house; but, finding that Jesus had left the room, he led them to Gethsemane, whither he knew that Jesus often resorted (John 18:1, John 18:2). The Master. A disciple would know who was meant by this title (comp. Matthew 23:8, Matthew 23:10; John 11:28). Whether any previous arrangement had been made with him, we cannot tell; most probably Christ speaks from prevision and his providential ordering of events. My time is at hand. The time of my suffering and death. This fact would make the request more imperative. But the expression was mysterious and indefinite. I will keep (ποιῶ, I keep) the Passover at thy house. The Passover which the Lord was to keep was not the usual Paschal meal, as the lamb could not be legally killed till the 14th, but a commemorative anticipatory feast in which he himself was the Lamb—"the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world." Of that Lamb the apostles did mystically eat when Christ gave them the bread and wine with the words, "This is my body;" "This is my blood." This Supper, which was virtually the new Passover, seems traditionally to have become confounded with the usual Paschal solemnity; hence the language of the synoptists assumes a form which is applicable to the regular Jewish feast. This explanation, if it seems to derogate somewhat from the precise verbal accuracy of the evangelists, would probably be confirmed if we were better acquainted with the customs then prevalent, and with the current meaning of the language employed. The ambiguity in the accounts may be divinely intended to call attention to the fact that the last Supper was not the Jewish Passover, but the Christian Passover—not the sacrifice on the cross, but an anticipation thereof. We may observe in passing that there is no mention of the lamb in the celebration; Peter and John were not enjoined to provide one, nor are they said to have visited the temple—which, indeed, on the 13th would have been useless: and yet to obtain the lamb in any other way would have been a breach of the Law, which we cannot suppose Christ would sanction. We may also notice that the word "feast" (ἑορτηì) is nowhere applied to the last Supper, though it is always employed in reference to the Jewish solemnity. St. Paul, in his account of the institution of the Holy Communion (1 Corinthians 11:1-34.) makes no mention of any Paschal solemnities or associations, but merely states that it was appointed on the night in which Jesus was betrayed. With my disciples; i.e. the twelve apostles; none but these, not even the master of the house, were present at this solemn scene.
Made ready the Passover (see on Matthew 26:17). They got the room ready, provided unfermented bread, wine, bitter herbs, sauce, and some dishes necessary for the feast. They would not eat the Paschal lamb at the legal time tomorrow, so the Lord ordained a commemorative and anticipatory solemnity, in which he appointed a rite which should take the place of the Jewish ceremony. We learn from the other synoptists that the householder was not satisfied with offering Christ and his friends the use of the common hall, which they would have had to share probably with other guests; but he assigned to them his best and most honourable chamber, "a large upper room," already properly arranged and furnished for the feast. Tradition has maintained that this apartment was that afterwards used by the apostles as a place of assembling, and where they received the effusion of the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost.
The last Supper. Jesus announces his betrayer. (Mark 14:17-21 Luke 22:14, Luke 22:21-23; John 13:21-30.)
When the even was come; i.e. according to Jewish reckoning, the beginning of the 14th of Nisan; with us, the Thursday evening—the eve of Good Friday. He sat down; he was reclining at table. Originally, the Passover was ordered to be eaten standing, in reference to the circumstances of its first institution (Exodus 12:11); but after the settlement in Canaan the posture had been changed to that of reclining in token of rest alter a weary pilgrimage. The rule that obtained concerning the number in one company of partakers of the Paschal feast was that it never should be less than ten, nor more than the lamb would suffice to feed, though a morsel of the flesh was considered to satisfy all requirements.
As they did eat. The details of the Paschal feast are expounded by rabbinical authors, though there is little in St. Matthew's account to lead us to conclude that our Lord observed them on this occasion. The ceremonial usually practised was as follows: The head of the family, sitting in the place of honour, took a cup of wine and water mixed ("the first cup"), pronounced a thanksgiving over it, and, having tasted it, passed it round to the guests; the master washed his hands, the others performing their ablutions at a later part of the service; the dishes were placed on the table; after a special benediction had been spoken over the bitter herbs, the master and the rest of the company took a bunch of these, dipped it in the appointed sauce, and ate it; an unleavened cake was broken and elevated with a prescribed formula; the second cup was filled, the history of the festival was proclaimed, Psalm 113-118, were recited, and the cup was drunk. Now began the proper Paschal meal with a general washing of hands; the lamb was cut into pieces, anda portion given to each, with a bit of the unleavened bread and bitter herbs dipped in the sauce, called by St. John (John 13:26) "the sop." At the end of the meal, which was supplemented by other viands (which, however, were probably eaten before the lamb), the third cup, named by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 10:16) "the cup of blessing," was drunk, and the solemn grace after meat was uttered. It would be necessary to examine St. John's Gospel to see how the ritual fitted into the actual details of the last Supper; we have to deal with St. Matthew's account. Verily I say unto you. Christ thus prepares the apostles for the incredible statement which he is about to make. One of you; εἶς ἐξ ὑμῶν. One out of your number, my chosen companions. He had before spoken vaguely of his betrayal (see Matthew 17:22; Matthew 20:18; Matthew 26:2). By thus showing his knowledge of the coming treachery, and yet declining to denounce the traitor by name, he may have given Judas a last chance of repentance before the final act. St. Matthew omits the washing of the disciples' feet, and the strife about pre-eminence.
Exceeding sorrowful. Such an announcement filled them with amazement and grief; they scarcely dared suspect one another, but began to doubt their own constancy, though at the time conscious of their integrity. Is it I? Μηìτι ἐγωì εἰμι; Numquid ego sum? It is not I, is it? where the negative answer is expected. It is remarkable that the real character of Judas had never been discovered by the fellow disciples who for three years had mixed with him in closest companionship. Either he was a consummate hypocrite, or the other apostles were too simple-minded, good, and charitable to think evil of any one. Thus his peculations passed unnoticed, and the greed and. avarice which wrecked his spiritual life were entirely unsuspected.
He that dippeth (dipped) his hand with me in the dish. Even now Jesus does not identify the traitor. Many had put their hands into the dish along with Christ. Judas was one of those who had done so. The fact of eating together made in the Easterns' view, the treachery more monstrous. "Mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me" (Psalms 41:9). The dish was one of large dimensions, from which each guest took his portion with his fingers. It was truly a common meal in which all shared. Our Lord's words were spoken in answer to John's question, "Lord, who is it?" (John 13:25). The beloved apostle's position at table, "lying on Jesus' breast," enabled him to ask this without being overheard. There is a mistake commonly made concerning the shape of the table used on such occasions. It was not of a horseshoe form, but oblong. The couches were arranged round three of its sides, and it extended a little way beyond the divans. The Master's seat was not at the top or middle couch, but at the side; and from what occurred we should infer that John sat on the right of Jesus at the end of the couch, and Judas on the left of Jesus, the strife about precedency having been thus settled.
The Son of man goeth (ὑπαìγει departeth). It is thus that Christ alludes to his approaching death (John 7:33; John 8:21, John 8:22; John 13:3, etc.), declaring thus the voluntary nature of his sufferings. As it is written of him. Every minute detail of Christ's Passion enunciated by the prophets was fulfilled. "The prescience of God," says Chrysostom, "is not the cause of men's wickedness, nor does it involve any necessity of it; Judas was not a traitor because God foresaw it, but he foresaw it because Judas would be so." Woe unto that man by (through) whom the Son of man is betrayed! παραδιìδοται is being betrayed. Judas could hear this and the following sentence, and yet retain his iniquitous purpose! It had been good for that man if he had not been born; literally, it were good for him if that man had not been born. Jesus says this, knowing what the fate of Judas would be in the other world. There is no hope here held out of alleviation or end of suffering, or of ultimate restoration. It is a rayless darkness of despair. Had there been any expectation of relief or of recovery of God's favour, existence would be a blessing even to the worst of sinners; for they would have eternity still before them in which to enjoy their pardon and purification; and in such case it could not be said of them that it were better for them never to have been born. On one side of the mysterious problem connected with Judas and such-like sinners we may again quote St. Chrysostom ('Hom. 81, in Matthew'), "'What, then,' one may say, 'though Judas had not betrayed him, would not another have betrayed him?… Because if Christ must needs be crucified, it must be by the means of some one, and if by some one, surely by such a person as this. But if all had been good, the dispensation in our behalf had been impeded.' Not so. For the All wise knows how he shall bring about our benefits, even had this happened. For his wisdom is rich in contrivance, and incomprehensible. So for this reason, that no one might suppose that Judas had become a minister of the dispensation, he declares the wretchedness of that man. But some one will say again, 'And if it had been good if he had never been born, wherefore did he suffer both this man and all the wicked to come into the world?' When thou oughtest to blame the wicked, for that, having the power not to become such as they are, they have become wicked, thou leavest this, and busiest thyself and art curious about the things of God, although knowing that it is not by necessity that any one is wicked."
Answered and said, Master, is it I? Μηìτι ἐγωì εἰμι; It is not I, is it? as Matthew 26:22. Judas probably had not been one of those who put this question before, and now, availing himself of his proximity to Jesus (see on Matthew 26:23), he has the inconceivable effrontery to make this inquiry privately, as if to assure himself whether Christ was conscious of his treachery or not. It is remarked that he does not call Jesus "Lord," as the other apostles, but "Rabbi," a coldly ceremonious title (so in the garden, Matthew 26:49) The gentle Jeans reproaches him not, but answers him in low tones unheard by the rest (John 13:28, John 13:29). Thou hast said. A common formula, equivalent to "yes." So Matthew 26:64.
The institution of the Lord's Supper. (Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:15-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25.) The endless controversies which have gathered round the Holy Eucharist, for opposite views of the meaning and purpose of which men have fearlessly met death, render it a difficult matter to expound the text succinctly and yet with due regard to clearness and precision. If I do not expatiate upon the diverse opinions which have been held on this momentous subject, it is not because I have neglected to weigh and examine them, but because it is more conducive to edification to have a plain statement of what appears to the writer to be the truth, than to confuse a reader with a multitude of interpretations which in the end have virtually to be surrendered. The points to be specially remembered before trying to expound the section are these:
1. He who institutes the ordinance is Almighty God made man, who is able to set aside one observance and to substitute another in its place.
2. The new ordinance had an analogy with that which it superseded.
3. It was intended to be the one great service and means of grace for all Christians.
4. The interpretation is to he connected with the great discourse of Jesus in the sixth chapter of St. John, where Christ speaks of himself as the Bread of life that came down from heaven, and his flesh and blood as the nourishment of his people.
As they were eating. Before the supper was quite ended, and before the third cup of wine (see on Matthew 26:21) was drunk. Jesus took bread (τοÌν ἀìρτον, the bread, according to the Received Text). The special unleavened cake prepared for the Paschal meal. The four accounts agree in this detail, and seem to indicate a formal action or elevation, like the wave offering in the old Law. We see here the "High Priest after the order of Melchizedek" bringing forth bread and wine like his great prototype (Psalms 110:4), and by anticipation offering himself as victim. And blessed it. The Received Text here and in St. Mark has εὐλογηìσας, which in some manuscripts has been altered to εὐχασιστηìσας, in conformity with the wording in St. Luke's and St. Paul's accounts. We find a similar interchange of the words in the miracles of the loaves. Virtually, the two expressions are identical; the thanksgiving is a blessing, the blessing is a thanksgiving. The usual blessing uttered by the master over the unleavened cake is said to have been, "Blessed be he who giveth the bread of earth." From this benediction on the elements, and the thankful remembrance of Christ's death and the benefits thereof herein connoted, the Holy Communion has from the earliest times been called the Holy Eucharist. And brake it. The fraction of the bread was so important and essential a part of the institution, that it gave its name to the whole rite, and "breaking of bread" represented the cele bration of the Holy Eucharist, the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving (see Acts 2:42, Acts 2:46; 1 Corinthians 10:16, etc.). Under the old Law the fraction represented the sufferings endured by the chosen people; in Christ's new institution it symbolized his death, when his feet and hands were pierced with the nails and his side with the spear. Gave it (ἐδιìδου, was giving) to the disciples. He gave to each of them a portion of the cake in their hand. If they had risen from their couches at the solemn benediction, as we may well suppose they did, they were still standing when the Lord distributed the consecrated bread. That they received it reclining in an easy posture seems unlikely. Take (ye), eat (ye). The two words are given only in our Gospel; St. Mark has "take ye" (φαìγετε being there an interpolation). St. Luke and St. Paul omit them altogether. We should infer that Christ did not himself partake of the bread or wine (which would have confused the deep significance of the ordinance), but gave it to his apostles, that by such participation they might be identified with the sacrifice represented by the broken bread, thus transforming the Levitical rite into a new sacrament which did not merely commemorate his death, but conveyed its benefits to faithful receivers. This is my body. "This" in the Greek is neuter (τοῦτο), and therefore is not in agreement with "bread" (ἀìρτος), which is masculine. It is to be explained as "This which I give you, this which ye receive." The copula "is" would not be expressed in the Aramaic, which Christ spoke; and yet what a world of controversy has hung on this ἐστι! Some take it as absolutely identifying subject and predicate; others regard it as equivalent to "represents;" others, again, would modify it in some manner, so that it should not logically express the agreement of the two terms of the proposition. It was doubtless a startling statement to those who then heard it for the first time, but it came upon them not wholly unprepared. In his momentous discourse on the Bread of life, after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus had spoken of himself as the Food of his people, and then proceeded to make the amazing assertion, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:53). The meaning of this mysterious warning was not further explained. Now as the Lord distributed to the apostles the blessed morsels with those solemn words, they learned what he meant by eating his flesh and drinking his blood, how he put it in his servants' power to fulfil the injunction. In what sense could "this" be his body? He was there before their eyes in human form, perfect Man; and yet he gives something else, not that which was standing before them, as his body. Stupendous mystery, past finding out! There is no room here for metaphor or figure. He is not figuratively describing himself or his office or his work, as when he calls himself the good Shepherd, the Door, the Vine, the Way: he directs attention to one part of his nature, his body, and that as toed to be eaten. He shows the mode by which we may be participators of this his lower nature, that as, joined to Adam, we die, so thus united to Christ, we live. We must, as before observed, remember that he who said these words was God incarnate, and that he designed to give his Church a means of realizing and receiving those stupendous blessings set forth in his Eucharistic discourse as depending upon due reception of his body and blood. It is obvious that the apostles could not understand the terms literally, but, believing in his Godhead, believing that he could bring to pass that which he said, they apprehended them in a supernatural, mystical sense; they had faith to know that in these holy elements, blessed by their Lord, they received him, ate his flesh and blood, to their soul's health. This was no mere commemorative rite, not simply a way of remembering Christ's death and Passion, but it was a sacrament, an outward sign of an inward reality, something from without entering the recipients and imparting to them that which before they had not. How the outward and inward are joined together we cannot tell. It is, and will always remain, an unfathomable mystery. The presence of Christ's humanity in the Holy Communion is beyond, above, the ordinary conditions of man's nature; it is supernatural, miraculous, even as was his incarnation, which joined manhood and Deity. The substance, indeed, of the elements remains as before, their nature is not changed, but they have a new relation and use and office; they serve as a means of communicating Christ's body and blood, and they are so called before reception, so that the receiver's faith does not make them to. be such, but Christ's own word with power. Attempts to explain this Divine matter hopelessly fail. Hence the Romanist with his transubstantiation, or change of substance; the Lutheran with his consubstantiation, or confusion of substance; the Zuinglian with his irreverent virtualism, alike fall into error and depart from pure doctrine. The only right attitude is to leave all such efforts alone, to believe Christ's word simply but wholly, and to use the sacrament in full faith, that by and through it to the faithful recipient are imparted incalculable benefits. To the words, "This is my body," St. Luke adds, "which is being given (διδοìμενον) for you;" and St. Paul, "which is [broken;? genuine] for you." Thus the Lord, before he actually suffered, offered himself as a Victim voluntarily undergoing death, and showed it forth by the broken bread and the poured wine. We are told that the master of the household, when he distributed the pieces of the lamb, said solemnly, "This is the body of the Paschal lamb." Christ transformed this formula to a new use, but in neither case did it introduce a mere symbol of something absent.
He took the cup. Many good manuscripts have "a cup," and some modern editors omit the article; but this cup was the only one on the table at the time; so the reading matters not. This was probably the third cup at the close of the Paschal meal (see on Matthew 26:21). The wine of the country is what we call a red wine (compare "the blood of grapes," Genesis 49:11); it was mixed with a little water when used at the table. This third cup was termed "the cup of blessing" (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16), because over it was spoken a special benediction, and it was regarded as the principal cup, following, as it did, the eating of the lamb. Gave thanks (εὐχαριστηìσας). The thanksgiving was a blessing (see on Matthew 26:26). The celebration of Christ's death and the remembrance of the incalculable blessings obtained thereby may well be termed the Holy Eucharist, the great sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Gave (ἐìδωκεν) it to them. The aorist here used would imply strictly that he gave the cup once for all, herein differentiating the action from that employed in distributing the bread. St. Luke's expression, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves," refers to an earlier stage of the supper. In the present connection he nearly agrees with the other synoptists. It is possible that the cup was passed from hand to hand after it had been blessed by Christ. Drink ye all of it. St Mark adds, "And they all drank of it." Strange it is that, with these words written in the Scripture, any Church should have the hardihood to deny the cup to any qualified Christian. The Romanist's assertion that the cup is for priests alone, as it was given to the apostles only, and was destined for them and their sacerdotal successors, would apply equally to the consecrated bread, and then what becomes of the general use of the ordinance? If we would have life in us, we must not only eat Christ's flesh, but drink his blood. We need to be refreshed as well as strengthened in the battle of life, and it may well be that the mutilation of the sacrament carries with it spiritual effects that impede the soul's health.
For. Yes, drink ye all hereof, for it is unspeakably precious. This (τοῦτο, as before, Matthew 26:26) is my blood. This which I here give you. The blood separated from the body represents Christ's death by violence; it was also the sign of the ratification of a covenant. Of the new testament; διαθηìκης: covenant. The adjective"new" is omitted by some good manuscripts and modern editors, but it gives the sense intended. The Vulgate has, novi testamenti. The old covenant between God and his people had been ratified at Sinai by the blood of many victims (Exodus 24:5-8; Hebrews 8:8-13; Hebrews 9:15, etc.); the blood of Christ shed upon the cross ratifies "the new or Christian covenant to the world and the Church, and the same blood sacramentally applied ratifies the covenant individually to each Christian" (Sadler). The evangelical covenant supersedes the Judaic, even as the sacrifice of Christ fulfils and supersedes the Levitical sacrifices. Which is shed (is being shed) for many. The Vulgate has effundetur, in reference to the crucifixion of the morrow; but this is tampering with the text. Rather, by using the present tense, the Lord signifies that his death is certain—that the sacrifice has already begun, that the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8) was now offering the eternal sacrifice. The whole ordinance is significant of the completion of the atonement. "Many" here is equivalent to "all." Redemption is universal, though all men do not accept the offer (see on Matthew 20:28). Even Calvin says, "Non partem mundi tantum designat, sed totum humanum genus." For the remission of sins. "For without shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22); "The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7). The sacrifices of the Law, the blood of bulls and goats, could not take away sin; at most they gave a ritual and ceremonial purification. But what the Mosaic Law could not effect was accomplished by the precious blood of Christ, who offered himself a spotless and perfect Victim unto God. This is our Lord's most complete announcement of the propitiatory nature of his sacrifice, which is appropriated by faith in the reception of his precious blood. St. Paul adds, "This do ye (τοῦτο ποιεῖτε), as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me [εἰς τηÌν ἐμημνησιν, 'for my commemoration']." These were, of course, Christ's words spoken at the time, and are of most important bearing on what is called the sacrificial aspect of the Holy Eucharist.
I will not drink henceforth (ἀπ' ἀìρτι) of this fruit (γεννηìματος) of the vine. He is about to die. From this moment forward he tastes not the cup. It does not follow that he had partaken of the consecrated wine which he gave his apostles. Probability is against his having done so (see on Matthew 26:26). He used the same words with the first cup at the commencement of the supper (Luke 22:18). Of this he probably partook, but not of the latter. The offspring of the vine is a poetical way of describing wine (cf. Deuteronomy 22:9; Isaiah 32:12, etc.). It is absurd to find in this term an argument for unalcoholic grape juice. Wine, to be wine, must undergo fermentation, and if it is not to putrefy or to become vinegar, it must develop alcohol. When I drink it new (καινοìν) with you in my Father's kingdom. This mysterious announcement has been variously interpreted, and its meaning must remain uncertain. Some refer it to Christ's intercourse with his disciples after he rose from the dead, when e.g. he partook of food with them (Luke 24:30, Luke 24:42, Luke 24:43; John 21:12; Acts 1:4; Acts 10:41). But this seems hardly to meet the requirements of the text, though it has the support of Chrysostom, who writes, "Because he had discoursed with them concerning Passion and cross, he again introduces what he has to say of his resurrection, having made mention of a kingdom before them, and by this term calling his own resurrection. And wherefore did be drink after he was risen again? Lest the grosser sort might suppose that the resurrection was a phantasy To show, therefore, that they should see him manifestly risen again, and that he should be with them once more, and that they themselves shall be witness to the things that are done, both by sight and by act, he saith, 'until I drink it new with you,' you bearing witness. But what is 'new'? In a new, that is, in a strange manner, not having a passible body, but now immortal and incorruptible, and not needing food." Some explain it of the Pass. over, of which he then partook for the last time, the type being fulfilled in him. The solution does not explain the new participation in the kingdom of God. It seems, on the whole, best to understand it as a prophecy of the great marriage supper of the Lamb, and the joys that await the faithful in the new heavens and the new earth. The wine is (he token of the felicities of this dispensation, and it is called "new" in contrast with the obsolete character of that which it superseded. "Novitatem dicit plane eingularem" (Bengel).
Jesus announces the desertion of the apostles, and the denial of Peter. (Mark 14:26-31; Luke 22:34; John 13:36-38.)
When they had sung an hymn. This was probably the second portion of the Hallel. Before this, however, the Lord spake the discourses and the prayer recorded so lovingly and carefully by St. John (John 14-17.). They went out. Which they could not lawfully have done had they been celebrating the usual Jewish Passover (see Exodus 12:22). Though it is possible that many modifications of the original ritual had been gradually introduced, yet Christ so strictly observed the Law that he would doubtless have obeyed its injunction in this particular if he had been keeping the legal solemnity. The Mount of Olives. Hither he had resorted every night during the week (Luke 21:37; Luke 22:39).
Then saith Jesus. The warning, according to the other evangelists, was given in the upper chamber, unless, as is very unlikely, it was twice repeated (see Luke 22:31-34; John 13:36-38). The "then" of St. Matthew must not be taken strictly as denoting exact chronological sequence, but as marking a change of scene or a new incident. All ye shall be offended because of me (ἐν ἐμοιì, in me). There is an emphasis on "all ye;" even ye eleven, who have been steadfast hitherto. One, Judas, had already departed; but Christ warns the eleven that they too shall for a time lose their faith in him, and sin by forsaking their Lord. His apprehension and trial would prove a rock of offence to them. It is written. In Zechariah 13:7, where the prophet's words are, "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the Man that is my Fellow, saith the Lord of hosts; smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." It is here shown that all that happened took place according to "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." That Christ may be the Saviour he must be a sacrifice. In Zechariah the Lord gives the command to the sword; hence Christ can say, I will smite. The Shepherd is Christ, the sheep are the disciples, who, at the sight of the officers coming to seize him, "all forsook him, and fled" (verse 56). The prophecy in Zechariah is remarkably full of references to Christ, his nature and his position.
After I am risen again. He comforts his followers now, as always, with the announcement that after his Passion and death he would rise again and meet them. So in the prophet's words succeeding the quotation there is a similar encouragement, "I will turn mine hand upon the little ones;" i.e. I will cover and protect the humble and meek, even after they fled and were scattered. I will go before you (προαìξω ὑμᾶς) into Galilee (Matthew 28:7). The verb is of pastoral signification, as in the East the shepherd does not drive his sheep, but leads them (John 10:4). The apostles, or many of them, after the Resurrection, returned to their old homes in Galilee, but Christ preceded them, and they found him there before them (Mark 16:7; John 21:1-25.; Acts 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:6). He again gathered around him his little flock lately scattered. True, he had then already appeared to them at Jerusalem more than once; but this was, as it were, fortuitously and unexpectedly. The meeting in Galilee was by appointment, and of most solemn import, Christ then reuniting the apostolic body, and renewing the apostolic commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
Peter answered and said unto him. This self-confident answer seems to have been made after he had received the warning recorded by St. Luke (Luke 22:31), "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat; but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not." He cannot believe that he, the rock man, can be guilty of such defection. Though all [men] shall be offended because of (ἐν, verse 31) thee. The addition of "men" in the Authorized Version alters the intended meaning. Peter contrasts himself with his fellow disciples. Though they all should fall away, he, at any rate, would remain steadfast. He could not endure to be included in the "all ye" of Jesus' warning (verse 31); and as for failing "this night," he will never at any time (οὐδεìποτε) be offended in Christ. Commenting on his offence, St. Chrysostom says, "The matters of blame were two: both that he gainsaid Christ, and that he set himself before others; or, rather, a third, too, namely, that he attributed all to himself."
Peter's boast elicits a crushing reply from his Lord, foretelling the special sin of which he would be guilty, and the very time of the night when it should be committed. This night, before the cock crow. The word "cock" is without the article, so the meaning may be "before a cock crow;" i.e. probably before midnight. Cocks were unclean birds, and not kept by strict Jews, and their voice was not much heard in Jerusalem; though it is quite different now, where barn door fowls swarm round every house. One of the night watches, that about 3 a.m., was known as "cock-crow". Some think this is what is meant here. Thou shalt deny me thrice. What Peter denied was that he knew anything of Christ, or had ever been his follower (see Matthew 26:69-75; Luke 22:34).
Though I should die with thee (κἀÌν δεìῃ με συÌν σοιÌ ἀποθανεῖν, even if I must die with thee). Christ's explanation of his meaning only drew from Peter a more energetic asseveration of his constancy even unto death. "He thought he was able," says St. Augustine, "because he felt that he wished." The other apostles made a similar assertion, and Jesus said no more, leaving time to prove the truth of his sad foreboding.
The agedly of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. (Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1.)
Gethsemane (equivalent to "oil press"). Jesus retired thither for privacy and for prayer in anticipation of what was coming. St. John explains, "Where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples." This so called garden was situated a short distance from the bridge over the Kedron, at the foot of the Mount of Olives. It was a plantation of olives; and there are many of these trees, some of great age, still growing in the neighbourhood. The fanciful idea that some of these witnessed the agony of our Lord has no support whatever. In the first place, olive trees do not live two thousand years; and, secondly, it is certain that in the sieges of Jerusalem all surrounding trees were ruthlessly destroyed; and lastly, the exact site of this terrible scene is unknown, though tradition has fixed upon a certain spot now enclosed with walls, and containing a building known by the name of "The Chapel of the Sweat." The disciples. Eight of them—Judas having long ago departed—and three Jesus took with him deeper into the dim recesses of the wood. Sit ye here. Remain here, at the entrance to the olive yard. These might not behold even the beginning of his desolation. Their present faith and love were not equal to the strain. Go and pray yonder. One is reminded of Abraham at Mount Moriah, when he says to the attendants, "Abide ye here, and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you" (Genesis 22:5). When the Lord says "here" and "yonder," he points to the spots indicated. He always retired to pray, even as he tells his followers to enter into their closets when they put up their supplications to their Father in heaven.
Peter and the two sons of Zebedee. These three had been privileged to behold his transfiguration, and that glimpse of his glory strengthened them to bear the partial sight of their dear Lord's sufferings. Did his human heart crave for sympathy, and did he desire not to be utterly alone at this awful crisis? We may well suppose so, as he was true Man, with all man's feelings and sensibilities. Began to be sorrowful and very heavy (ἀδημονεῖν, to be sore dismayed). This word seems to be used of the dismay that comes with an unexpected calamity. St. Mark tells us that Christ was "sore amazed" (ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι). It is as though the prospect of what was coming suddenly opened to his vision and overwhelmed him. He now set before himself, i.e. his human consciousness, the sufferings which he had to undergo, with all that led to them, and all that would follow, and the burden was crushing.
My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death (Jonah 4:9). Christ speaks here of the mental agony which he is enduring; he bides not from the faithful three that which weighs upon his heart, so excessive a strain that human nature must fail to endure it. We cannot gauge the anguish; we may suggest some of the causes of this sorrow. It was not merely the thought of bodily pain, though that would be long and excessive; there were other elements which made his sorrow like to no other sorrow. He thought of all the circumstances that led to his Passion; all that would accompany it; all that would succeed it—the malice and perversity of the Jews, the grievous wickedness that brought about his death, the treachery of Judas, the desertion of his friends, the denial of Peter, his unjust condemnation at the hands of the rulers of the chosen nation, the pusillanimity of Pilate, the guilt of the actors in the tragedy, the wilful iniquity of those whom he came to redeem, the ruin which they brought on themselves, their city and nation—such considerations formed one ingredient in the bitter cup which he had to drain. And then the thought of death was unspeakably terrible to the all-holy Son of God. We men become accustomed to the thought of death. It accompanies us through all our life; it looms before us always. But man was created immortal (Wis. 2:23), his nature shrinks from the dissolution of soul and body; and to the sinless, unfallen Man this experience was wholly unknown and awful. Here was the incarnate God, the God-Man, submitting himself to the punishment of sin, tasting death forevery man, bearing in his own Person the inexpressible bitterness of this penal humiliation. Added to all this was the incalculable fact that "the Lord had laid on him the iniquity of us all." The burden of the sins of all mankind he bore on his sacred shoulders. "Him who knew no sin God made to be sin on our behalf" (2 Corinthians 5:21). What this mysterious imputation, so to speak, involved, we cannot tell; but to a being perfectly pure and holy it must have been anguish unspeakable. Tarry ye here. As Matthew 26:36, "Sit ye here." And watch with me. In his dark hour his human soul yearned for the comfort of a friendly presence; even though these chosen three might not witness the extremity of his agony, their proximity and sympathy and prayers were a support. But he bade them watch for their own sake also. Their great trial was close at hand; they were about to be tempted to deny and forsake him; they could resist only by prayer and watchfulness (Matthew 26:41).
He went a little further. Deeper into the wood, beneath the gloomy shadow of the olive trees, yet so as not to feel absolutely alone. St. Luke names the distance, "He was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast." By some clerical error the genuine reading, προελθωÌν, "having gone forward," has been altered in most of the best manuscripts into προσελθωÌν, "having approached." There can be no doubt that this latter reading is erroneous; and it is well, as occasion bids, to call attention to possible mistakes in the most important uncials. Fell on his face, and prayed. He prostrated himself on the ground in utter abasement and desolation, yet in submission withal. In this terrible crisis there is no resource but prayer. The shadow of death enveloped him, wave and storm rolled over his soul; yet out of the deep he called unto the Lord. In the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 5:7, Hebrews 5:8) some affecting details are added, "Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and having been heard for his godly fear, though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered." O my Father (Παìτερ μου). The personal pronoun is omitted in some manuscripts, but it has high authority. Only on this occasion and in his great prayer (John 17:1-26.) does Christ so address the Father, his human nature in the depth of suffering retaining still the sense of this paternity. St. Mark has, "Abba, Father," as if he spake for the Hebrew race and the Gentile world. If it be possible; i.e. if there is any other way in which man may be saved and thou be glorified; if there is any other mode of redemption. It is the cry of humanity, yet conditioned by perfect submission. Let this cup pass from me. The "cup" is the bitter agony of his Passion and death, with all their grievous accompaniments (see Matthew 20:22, and note there). All heroism and manly endurance in the face of pain and death Christ exhibited to the full; but the elements of suffering in his case were different, and fraught with exquisite torture (see above, on verse 28). Such was the anguish that it would have then separated soul and body—of such rigour that "his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground"—had not an angel appeared from heaven to strengthen and support the fainting human life (Luke 22:43, Luke 22:44). Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. In this prayer are shown the two wills of Christ, the human and Divine. The natural shrinking of the human soul from ignominy and torture is overborne by entire submission to and compliance with the Divine purpose. So it is said that the Captain of our salvation was made perfect through sufferings, learned obedience by the things which he suffered (Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:8) By this passage the Monophysite and Monothelite heresies are clearly refuted, the two natures and two wills of Christ being plainly displayed. The three apostles saw only some part of their Master's intense agony, and heard only some broken utterances of his supplication; hence there are some slight variations in the synoptical accounts. St. Mark doubtless derived his account immediately from St Peter; the other synoptists from some other source.
He cometh unto the disciples. He rose from prayer and returned to his three apostles, seeking their sympathy and the comfort of their presence in his lonely desolation. Findeth them asleep; sleeping. The comfort which his man's nature craved was denied him. St. Luke, the physician, says that the disciples were "sleeping for sorrow." Some great mental shock, some poignant distress, often produces a bodily stupor and sleep; but this is scarcely a valid excuse for such insensibility at this terrible crisis, especially as the Lord had urged them to watch (verse 38). They had had a very trying day; Peter and John had undergone much bodily fatigue in preparing the last Supper; they were all weary, full of grief, and weighed down by foreboding; it was no wonder that they succumbed to these influences, though we might have expected that such as they would have risen superior to them. "The simple law, that extraordinary tension raises the highly developed spiritual life, while it stupefies the less developed, finds here its strongest illustration in the almost absolute contrast of spiritual watchfulness and sleep" (Lange). Saith unto Peter. Peter had been most forward in profession (verses 33, 35); so Christ addresses him first. The other two, James and John, bad boldly asserted that they were able to drink of Christ's cup of suffering (Matthew 20:22); so they are included in the tender reproach. What (οὑìτως), could ye not watch with me? So, could ye not, etc.? Is it so that? Are ye unable to do even this little thing for me? Truly a pathetic reproof! One hour. It may be that this first stage of the agony had lasted for an hour, but the term is more probably indefinite; or it may refer to the whole time of trial.
Watch (ye) and pray. A summary of Christian duty. Watchfulness sees temptation coming; prayer gives strength to withstand it. The apostles needed the injunction at this moment; for their great trial was close at hand. That ye enter not into temptation. The phrase is usually interpreted to mean either to fall into temptation, to be tempted, or to run wilfully into temptation; but it seems to be better, with Grotius, to take it in the sense of succumbing to, falling under, being vanquished by temptation, like ἐμπιìπτειν in 1 Timothy 6:9, "immergi et succumbere." That Peter and the rest were now to be tempted was certain (Luke 22:31, Luke 22:32), and it was too late to deprecate the trial; but it was right and expedient to ask of God grace to withstand in the evil hour. The spirit (πνεῦμα) indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. This was an added motive for vigilance and prayer. The apostles had shown a certain readiness of spirit when they offered to die with Christ (verse 35); but the flesh, the material and lower nature, represses the higher impulse, checks the will, and prevents it from carrying out that which it is prompted to perform (see the action of these contrariant forces noticed by St. Paul, Romans 7:1-25.). "For the corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthy tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things" (Wis. 9:15). Our Lord at this very time was experiencing and exemplifying the truth of his saying, though in his ease the weakness of the flesh was entirely overmastered by the willing spirit. It is noted that Polycarp quotes this maxim of Christ in his 'Epistle to the Philippians,' ch. 7.
Again the second time. A pleonastic expression, as in John 4:54; John 21:16, etc., calling especial attention to "the numerical re-repetition of the Saviour's prayer" (Morison). St. Matthew alone gives the words of this second prayer, which differs in some respects from the first. The possibility of the cup passing away was considered no longer; the continuance of the trial showed that it was not to he. If this cup may (can) not pass away from me … thy will be done. He accepts the cup; his human will coincides with the Divine will; he acquiesces with perfect self-resignation. The cup, relatively to the circumstances, could not pass away from the Saviour.
He came and found them asleep (sleeping) again. In the best manuscripts "again" is connected with the verb "came." This was his second visit; he was still craving for their sympathy, still desirous of their safety under temptation. Heavy (βεβαρημεìνοι). Weighed down with drowsiness; St. Mark adds, "Neither wist they what to answer him." He partially aroused them, but they were too overcome with sleep to enter fully into the situation or to attend to the obvious duty before them.
Saying the same words (λοìγον, word, i.e. prayer). Three times he prayed, and his prayer was always of the same import—teaching us by example to be urgent, instant, in supplication, and, though the special request be denied, to be sure that we are heard and that an answer will be given; even as Christ obtained not the withdrawal of the cup, but strength to submit, endure, and conquer. We must compare this threefold prayer and contest with the threefold temptation at the beginning of our Lord's ministry.
Cometh he. St. Hilary comments on these three visits: "On his first return he reproves, on the second he holds his peace, on the third he bids to rest." The contest was over; the human will was now entirely one with the Divine will. Sleep on now (τον, henceforward), and take your rest. This is probably to be understood literally. There was a short interval still before the apprehension and the subsequent events; as they could not watch, they might use this in finishing their sleep, and recruiting their wearied bodies in preparation for the coming trial. Many expositors find an irony in Christ's words, taken in connection with those that follow, as if he meant, "In a few minutes I shall be seized; sleep on if you can; you will soon be miserably awakened, make the most of the present." But at this moment the tender Jesus would surely never have condescended to address his friends in such a style. All his words and actions were animated with the deepest love for them and anxiety on their account. A change to irony is really inconceivable under the circumstances. Nor is there any reason to take the sentence interrogatively, "Sleep ye at such a moment?" It is more simple to regard the words as said bona fide, with no mental reservation and no implied censure. We may suppose that a pause ensued before the utterance of the next clause, and that the Lord allowed his fatigued followers to sleep on till the last moment. Behold, the hour is at hand, and (καιÌ, equivalent to when) the Son of man is betrayed (παραδιìδοται, is being betrayed) into the hands of sinners. He calls all simmers who take part in his apprehension, trial, and death—not the Romans only (as Acts 2:23), but priests, eiders, multitude, who joined in the crowd and incurred the guilt. There is now no sign of wavering; he is ready, yea, eager to meet the sufferings which he foresees.
Rise, let us be going. He wilt meet, and he wishes his disciples to meet, the coming attack with alacrity and readiness. So with them he goes towards the entrance of the garden where he had left the eight. Behold. Judas and his companions come in sight.
Betrayal and apprehension of Jesus. (Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-11.)
Judas, one of the twelve. So called by all the synoptists, as if to enhance his guilt—one of Christ's own familiar friends, who had eaten bread with him. Came. St. Luke tells us that he led the way to Gethsemane. He well knew the place as a favourite resort of Christ (John 18:2); he knew, too, that Jesus was alone there with his apostles, and he had gone with confidence to inform the authorities where they could find him, and to demand a force sufficient to make the arrest. A great multitude. Consisting of some of the Levitical guard, Roman soldiers, Sanhedrists, and elders. The soldiers carried swords, the fanatical herd bore staves, to overcome any opposition which, after the demonstration at the triumphal entry, might be naturally expected. St. John adds that they brought with them lanterns and torches in order to search the recesses of the grove, should Christ have hidden himself there.
A sign. As they approached, Judas gave them a sign which would point out the person whom they were to seize. Probably these did not know Jesus by sight; at any rate, amid the crowd he might easily escape detection; it was also night, and even the Paschal moon might not enable the guards to distinguish faces under the shade of the dark olive grove. Whomsoever I shall kiss. In the East such salutation was common among friends, masters, and pupils; and it would awaken no surprise to see Judas thus salute his Teacher. Perhaps he desired to save appearances in the eyes of his fellow disciples. We marvel at the audacity and obduracy of one who could employ this mark of affection and respect to signal an act of the blackest treachery. That same is he whom you have to arrest. Hold him fast. As if he feared an attempt at rescue, or that Jesus might, as before (Luke 4:30; John 8:59), use his miraculous power to effect his escape.
Forthwith. The blood money was to become due on the accomplishment of the betrayal; so Judas, now that the opportunity had arrived, lost no time in completing his part of the bargain. Kissed him (κατεφιìλησεν, a strong word, kissed him eagerly, or, kissed him much). Judas was more than usually demonstrative in his salutation. "The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords" (Psalms 55:21). So Joab treated Amasa before he murdered him (2 Samuel 20:9, 2 Samuel 20:10). What infinite patience for the Lord to submit to this hypocritical caress! It is a type of the wonderful goodness and long suffering of God towards sinners, how he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good.
Friend; ἑταῖρε: companion (see Matthew 20:13; Matthew 22:12). The word seems, in the New Testament, to be always addressed to the evil, though in itself an expression of affection. Here Christ uses no reproach; to the last he endeavours by kindness andlove to win the traitor to a better mind. St. Luke narrates that Jesus called him by name, saying, "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?" Wherefore art thou come? Ἐφ ὁÌ παìρει. The Received Text gives ἐφ ᾧ, which has very inferior authority. There is great difficulty in giving an exact interpretation of this clause. The Authorized Version, as the Vulgate (Ad quid venisti?), takes it interrogatively; but such a use of the relative ὁÌς is unknown. If it is interrogative, we must understand, "Is it this for which thou art come?" But Christ knew too well the purport of Judas's arrival to put such an unnecessary question. Others explain, "Do that, or, I know that for which thou art come." Alford, Farrar, and others consider the sentence as unfinished, the concluding member being suppressed by an aposiopesis consequent on the agitation of the Speaker, "That errand on which thou hast come—complete." More probably the clause is an exclamation, ὁÌ being equivalent to οἷον, as in later Greek, "For what a purpose art thou here!" It is, indeed, a last remonstrance and appeal to the conscience of the traitor. Took him. They seized him with their hands, but did not bind him till afterwards (John 18:2). Whether Judas had any latent hope or expectation that Jesus at this supreme moment would assert and justify his Messiahship, we know not. The histories give no hint of any such idea, and it is most improbable that the apostate was thus influenced (see on verse 14). We must here introduce the incident recorded by St. John (John 18:4-9).
One of them which were with Jesus. St. John names Peter as the agent in the attack on the high priest's servant; he also alone gives the name of the servant, Malchus. Of the circumstances which led to the subsequent miracle all the evangelists give an account; the miracle itself is related only by St. Luke. Conjecture has attempted to give reasons for these deficiencies in some of the narratives, and the complementary details in others; but it is wisest to say that thus it has seemed good to the Holy Ghost who guided the writers, and there to leave the subject. Drew his sword. The apostles had evidently misunderstood the Lord's words uttered a little while before (Luke 22:36-38), "He that hath no sword, let him sell his cloke, and buy one." Two of them had then exhibited the weapons with which they had armed themselves, as if ready to repel violence And now one of these, thinking that the hour was arrived for striking a blow in his Master's defence, resorted to violence. Physical courage, indeed, Peter possessed, as was proved by his attitude in the face of fearful odds, but of moral courage he and his comrades exhibited little evidence, when, as soon as their Master was apprehended and led away, they "all forsook him, and fled" (verse 56). Struck a (the) servant of the high priest's. The man was the high priest's servant in a special way—what we should call his bodyservant; he had evidently made himself conspicuous in the arrest, and Peter struck fiercely at his head as the foremost of the aggressors. St. John, who was acquainted with the high priest and his household, gives his name as Malchus, a Syriac word, meaning "Counsellor." Smote off his ear. The blow fell short, but inflicted a serious wound. How the mischief was repaired by the healing touch of Christ is mentioned alone by Luke the physician, for whom the incident would have special interest. We may note, in passing, that this miracle (the last which Christ worked before his death) was wholly unsolicited and unexpected on the part of the recipient, and was performed upon an enemy actually engaged in hostility. What more striking proof of the Lord's mercy and forgiveness could have been given? What better way could there be of demonstrating the nature of the kingdom which he came to establish? Thus he displayed his superhuman power even while surrendering himself to captivity and death. By this immediate action too he secured his followers from reprisal, so that they were allowed to retire unmolested, and Peter, though recognized to have been one of those in the garden (John 18:26), was not punished for his part in the transaction.
Put up again thy sword into his (its) place. Christ orders Peter to sheathe his sword; but the wording is peculiar, Turn away (ἀποìστρεψον) thy sword; as if Christ would say, "The sword is none of mine; the arm of flesh and the carnal weapon are thine; turn off thy sword from the use which thou art making of it to its proper destination, to be wielded only at God's command." Then he gives a motive for this injunction. For all they that take (οἱλαβοìντες) the sword shall perish with the sword. There is a stress on the word "take," and there is an imperative force in the future, "shall perish." The Lord is speaking of those who arbitrarily and presumptuously resort to violence; and he says, "Let them feel the sword." The word was of wide application, and contained a universal truth; it was, in fact, a re-enactment of the primaeval law touching the sacredness of human life, and the penalty that ensues on its infringement (Genesis 9:5, Genesis 9:6). It enforced also the general lesson that violence and revenge effect no good end, and bring their own punishment. There is no prophecy here (as some suppose) of the destruction of the Jews at the hands of the Romans; nor is Christ intent on soothing Peter by the thought of the future retribution which awaited the enemies whom he was so eager to chastise. Such suggestions are arbitrary and unwarranted by the context.
Thinkest thou that I cannot now (ἀìρτι) pray to (παρακαλεìσαι, beseech) my Father? Jesus proceeds to show that he needs not Peter's puny assistance. ἨÌ δοκεῖς; An putas? Or thinkest thou? The particle, neglected by the Authorized Version, marks the transition to a new motive. The verb παρακαλεῖν has the special meaning of "to summon with authority," "to call upon as an ally." Peter needed still to learn the lesson of Christ's Divinity, his oneness with the Father; and this is furnished by the right interpretation of this word, which was not, as our version seems to make it, the cry of an inferior to one mightier than himself, but the summons of an equal to his great Ally in heaven. So Jesus virtually says, "Have I not power through my own Godhead to summon my Father to support me?" (Sewell, 'Microscope of the New Testament'). Shall presently give me (παραστηìσει μοι ἀìρτι). The Authorized Version seems to have read ἀìρτι twice, "now … presently." The manuscripts show it only once, but vary its position. It most probably belongs to the first clause. The verb rendered "give" has a more pregnant meaning. It is a military term meaning "to place by the side," "to post on one's flank." Hence the Lord implies that at a word the serried ranks of angels would range themselves at his side, true flank comrades, to defend and support him. Twelve legions of angels. Not a dozen weak men. He employs the Roman term "legion" with intention. He had been arrested by a cohort (John 18:3, John 18:12, σπεῖρα), the tenth part of the legion, which numbered six thousand men; he could, it he chose, call to his aid twelve times six thousand angels, who would deliver their Lord from his enemies. If there was to be an appeal to force, which Peter's rash assault suggested, what could withstand his angelic allies, the heavenly hosts, infinitely more numerous, better disciplined, more effectively officered, prompt and happy to do the will of the great Commander?
But how then (οὖν, i.e. if I now resist) shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be! There is no" but" in the original. In what way, Christ asks, shall God's determined counsel be accomplished, if you turn to the arm of the flesh, or if I use my Divine power to save myself? The will of God, as declared in Scripture, was that Jesus should be betrayed, seized, should suffer and die. Christ's will was one with the Father's and one with the Spirit's who inspired the Scripture, and therefore he must pass through each stage, undergo each detail, which the sacred volume specified. It was not merely that events were so arranged that they thus befell; nor merely that prophets of old foretold them; but there was some special moral duty and obligation in fulfilling them, which Christ, as one with the Father and the Holy Ghost, was minded to carry out in all perfection. Here was a ray of comfort for Peter and the other apostles. All was foreordained; its announcement in God's book proved it came from God, was under his control and ordering. Patience, therefore, and silent acquiescence were the duties now incumbent. "Be still, then, and know that I am God."
The multitudes. St. Luke says that Christ addressed "the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and elders, which were come against him." He submitted to indignities, but he felt them deeply; he allowed himself to be treated as a malefactor, but was not insensible to the shame of being supposed to have been capable of acting as such. A thief; a robber. One at the head of a band of lawless ruffians, who would resist you with arms in their hands—a sicarius, a cutthroat, who lurked in secret places to murder the innocent. I sat daily with you. All the past week, at any rate, Christ had taught quietly and openly in the temple. He had none of the habits of the robber; he had not courted secrecy; he had no company of armed men to defend him; why did they not arrest him then? According to St. Luke, Christ adds, "But this is your hour, and the power of darkness."
All this was done (hath come to pass), etc. This is most probably part of Christ's speech, not a remark of the evangelist. He repeats to the multitude what he had said to Peter (Matthew 26:54, where see note), and what he had already intimated at the last Supper (Matthew 26:24, Matthew 26:31). To quote the words of Stier, "Again and again he declares that one thing which, nevertheless, Christian theology perpetually refuses to learn from the supreme Teacher and Doctor. He holds firmly to the Scripture, whether speaking to the exasperated Jews or the docile disciples; he puts those to shame in their folly by proofs from Scripture, and strengthens these in their despondency by its consolatory promises. He appeals to Scripture in his vehement disputation with men, as he does in his solemn way of suffering to die for them; he confronts Satan with 'It is written,' and prays to the Father—that the Scripture may be fulfilled." If Christ had been taken prematurely in the temple, and put to death by a tumultuary stoning, prophecy would not have been fulfilled, and his death would not have been the appointed sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Forsook him, and fled. As he had foretold (Matthew 26:31). They saw their Master bound and helpless; they recognized that he would not deliver himself by heavenly aid, and, fearing to share his fate, they looked to their own safety and basely abandoned him in his hour of danger. Now occurred the incident mentioned only by St. Mark (Mark 14:51), which is explained rightly by Edersheim. Only Peter and John followed the officers to the high priest's palace.
Jesus before Caiaphas, informally condemned to death. (Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:54, Luke 22:63-65; John 18:24.)
Led him away to Caiaphas. The synoptists omit all mention of the preliminary inquiry before Annas (John 18:13, John 18:19-24). His palace was nearest to the place of capture, and the soldiers appear to have received orders to conduct the Prisoner thither, Annas having vast influence with the Romans, and being the principal mover in the matter. What passed before him is not recorded, none of the disciples being present at the examination. The synoptists take up the account when Jesus was sent bound to Caiaphas, who St. John (John 18:14) notes was the one who for political reasons had urged the judicial murder of Jesus. Where (i.e. in whose house) the scribes and the elders were assembled. This seems to have been an informal meeting of the leading Sanhedrists, hastily convened, not in their usual place of meeting, but in a chamber of Caiaphas's palace. Some years before this time the right of pronouncing capital sentences had been removed from the council; and hence the necessity of assembling in the hall Gazith (where only such sentences could be delivered) existed no longer.
Afar off. Peter had fled at first with the others; but his affection drew him back to see what befell his beloved Master. He followed the crowd at a safe distance, and, joined afterwards by John, reached the palace of Caiaphas. Went in. St. John appears to have entered the court with the guard that held the Prisoner; but Peter remained without till introduced by his fellow apostle, who was known to the servant who kept the door (John 18:16). With the servants. These were the officers of the Sanhedrin, and the high priest's servants They retired from the presence chamber to the open court, and sat round a charcoal fire which they made there. Peter at one time sat with them, at another moved restlessly about, endeavouring to show indifference, but really betraying himself. The end. The result of the examination. This verse is parenthetical, interrupting the course of the narrative in order to prepare the way for the account of Peter's denial (verses 69-75).
The chief priests, [and elders,] and all the council. The words in brackets are probably spurious; they are omitted by the best uncials and the Vulgate. The words cannot imply strictly that the whole Sanhedrin was present and consenting to the present proceedings; for we know that such members as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea did not consent to the infamous deeds of the rest (Luke 23:51; John 19:39). Sought (ἐζηìτουν, were seeking) false witness. The Sanhedrists had decided on Christ's death; it only remained to find such a charge against him as would compel the Roman authorities to deal summarily with him. For their purpose the truth of the accusation was immaterial, so long as it was established, according to Law (Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15), by two or three witnesses examined apart. They knew well that Christ could be condemned on no true testimony, hence they scrupled not to seek false. If they had meant to deal fairly, they would have allowed some who knew him to speak in his favour; but this was the very last thing which they desired or would have sanctioned.
Found none. Repeated twice (according to the Received Text), showing the earnestness of the pursuit and the absolute failure of the attempt. What was offered was insufficient for the purpose, or inconsistent (Mark 14:56). The second "found none" is thought by many modern editors to be not genuine, and is accordingly expunged. It does not occur in the Vulgate. At the last came two false witnesses. When the case seemed hopeless and on the point of breaking down, some of the Sanhedrists' own creatures came forward with a distorted account of Christ's words spoken long before. They brought no accusation founded on any of his late utterances in the temple, or when he was charged with blasphemy and threatened with stoning (John 10:33); they remembered keenly how he had discomfited them on such occasions, and they feared to elicit one of his crushing replies or unanswerable questions. They were glad to fall back upon something else, which especially concerned Annas and Caiaphas, and their gainful trading in the sacred courts (see the next note).
This fellow (οὗτος). Contemptuously, displaying their animosity by the disrespectful use of the pronoun. I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. This is a distorted account of what our Lord said at his first purgation of the temple, when asked to give a sign in proof of his authority. Speaking metaphorically of his body, he had made this announcement, "Destroy ye this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). At the time the Jews had not understood the words, and they now pervert them into a criminal accusation, which might take the form of charging him with being either an impious fomenter of disturbance, or a pretender to superhuman powers, Divine or Satanic. In either case, the charge would bring him into collision with the Roman authorities, which was the real object of this preliminary inquiry. We must not forget that Christ had twice interfered with the traffic in the temple, which was carried on to the great profit of the avaricious family of Annas, and that the malice of the high priests was on this account greatly embittered.
The high priest [Caiaphas] arose. As if in indignation at the outrage offered by this vaunt to Jehovah and the sanctuary. But the indignation was assumed and theatrical; for even this charge had broken down, owing to the disagreement of the two witnesses (Mark 14:59). Something more definite must be secured before any formal appeal could be made to the Sanhedrin or the procurator. Answerest thou nothing? The angry president endeavours to browbeat the Prisoner, and to make him criminate himself by intemperate language or indiscreet admission. What is it which these witness against thee? The Received Text (followed here by Westcott and Hort) divides the high priest's words into two questions, as in the Authorized Version. The Vulgate unites the two into one, Nihil respondes ad ea quae isti adversum te testificantur? Alford, Tischendorf, etc., print, ΟὐδεÌν ἀποκριìνῃ τιì οὗτοιì σου καταμαρτυροῦσιν; "Answerest thou not what it is which these witness against thee?" Caiaphas professes a desire to hear Christ's explanation of the words just alleged against him.
Jesus hold his peace; ἐσιωìπα: continued silent (cf. Matthew 27:12-14). "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth," etc. (Isaiah 53:7; cf. Psalms 38:13, Psalms 38:14). He knew it was of no use, and was not the moment, to explain the mystery of the words which he had used. Indeed, it was unfair to ask him to explain the discrepancies in the alleged testimony. "Attempts at defence were unprofitable, no man hearing. For this was a show only of a court of justice, but in truth an onset of robbers, assailing him without cause, as in a cave or on the road" (St. Chysostom, in loc.). The case was best met by a majestic silence. Answered. Puzzled and embarrassed by Christ's persistent silence, Caiaphas at last proceeds to put to him a question which he must answer, and which must lead to some definite result. I adjure thee by the living God. The high priest now addresses Jesus officially as the minister of Jehovah, and puts him under an oath to make an answer. To such an adjuration a reply was absolutely necessary, and the Law held a man guilty who kept silence under such circumstances (Le Matthew 5:1). The Christ, the Son of God. It is not to be supposed that Caiaphas by these words intended to imply that Messiah was one with God, of one nature, power, and eternity. It is not likely that he had risen above the popular Jewish conception of Messiah, which was of one inferior to God, though invested with certain Divine attributes. But he had heard that Jesus had more than once claimed God as his Father, so he now, as he hopes, will force a confession from the Prisoner's lips, which will set the question at rest one way or the other, and give him ground for decisive action, and enable him to denounce Christ either as an acknowledged impostor or a blasphemer. His language is, perhaps, based on the second psalm, Matthew 26:2, Matthew 26:6, etc.
Thou hast said; συÌ εἶπας (Matthew 26:25); in St. Mark, ἐγωì εἰμι. This is a strong affirmative asseveration, and on Christ's lips carries with it the full meaning of the words used by Caiaphas, "I am the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One, God of God, of one substance with the Father." Nevertheless (πληÌν); i.e. in spite of your incredulity. But there is no direct opposition intended between the previous and the following statements; so πληÌν would be better translated, but moreover, or what is more. Hereafter; ἀìπαρτι. From this moment, beginning from now, from my Passion, my triumph and my reign are inaugurated. Shall ye see. Ye, the representatives of Israel, shall see the events about to be consummated, the preludes of the great assize, and the coming of Messiah's kingdom. The Son of man. God and yet man; man now in weakness and humility, about to display and give incontestable proofs of his Godhead. Right hand of power. Of Omnipotence, of Almighty God. Coming in the clouds of heaven (Matthew 24:30). Christ thus distinctly asserts his Divinity, and claims to apply to himself the utterance in Psalms 110:1, and the great prophecy of Daniel (Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:14). This was the plainest and most specific declaration of his real nature, power, and attributes, made with calm majesty, though he knew it was to seal his condemnation, and open the immediate way to his death.
The high priest rent his clothes (ταÌ ἱμαìτια). His outer garments, not his pontifical vestment, which he would not wear on this occasion. St. Mark notes that he rent his under clothes, his tunic; so probably he tore both outer and inner garments. This was done in assumed horror at Christ's blasphemy (cf. 2 Kings 18:37; 2 Kings 19:1), rabbinical injunctions requiring such an action, and prescribing the nature, extent, and direction of the scissure. "This he did," says Chrysostom, "to add force to the accusation, and to increase the weight of his words by the act." His assessors, though fully agreeing with him, appear not to have followed his example in this particular, taking the high priest's action as typical and sufficiently expressive of the general sentiment. The Fathers see in it a symbol of the rending and destruction of the Jewish priesthood (cf. 1Sa 15:27, 1 Samuel 15:28; 1 Kings 11:30, 1 Kings 11:31). He hath spoken blasphemy. In claiming to be the Son of God, not in a theocratic sense, but by nature. making himself one with Jehovah. This was what Caiaphas had been desiring. No more discussion was needed; Christ was self-convicted. What further need have we of witnesses? He was doubtless relieved to find that the Prisoner had saved him from the trouble of seeking, suborning, and examining any more witnesses. Ye have heard; ye heard just now. All the assembly could now testify to the truth of the allegation.
What think ye? He wishes to get a vote by acclamation, not in a formal way, as to the guilt of Christ and the punishment which he deserved. He is guilty of (ἐìυοχος, worthy of, liable to) death. This was the punishment pronounced by the Law on blasphemy (Le Matthew 24:16); the death was, however, to be by stoning (Acts 7:58). This detail, as they considered it, was now exclusively in the hands of the Romans. We see that this meeting, which virtually doomed Christ to death, was not a regular council of the Sanhedrin; for it was not held in the appointed chamber, and was conducted at night, when criminal processes were forbidden. The meeting next morning (Matthew 27:1) was convened for the purpose of considering how this informal sentence should be executed.
The scene that ensued upon the verdict being pronounced is beyond measure hideous and unexampled. When the meeting broke up, Jesus was for a time left to the brutal cruelty and the unbridled insolence of the guards and servants. Involuntarily, by their profanity and coarseness, they fulfilled the words of the prophet, speaking in the Person of Messiah, "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting" (Isaiah 50:6). Did they spit in his face. A monstrous indignity, so regarded by all people at all times (Numbers 12:14; Deuteronomy 25:9; Job 30:10). Buffeted him (ἐκολαìφισαν αὐτοÌν); struck him with fists. Smote him with the palms of their hands (ἐῤῥαìπισαν). There is some doubt whether the verb here means "to smite with a rod" or "to slap in the face with the open hand;" but as we have already had mention of striking with the hands, it is probable that beating with a stick is here intended.
Prophesy; divine, guess. They had previously blindfolded him (Mark 14:65; Luke 22:64), and now in derision of his supernatural powers they mockingly bid him to name the person who struck him. Thou Christ. They use the term sarcastically. "You call yourself Christ, the Prophet of God; well, then, divine miraculously, without seeing, who is he that smote thee."
The three denials of St. Peter. (Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:55-62; John 18:17, John 18:18, John 18:25-27.)
There is much apparent discrepancy in the four accounts of Peter's denials, both as regards the scene, the persons, and the words used. St. Matthew groups them all together in one view without special regard to time and place. The fact doubtless is this—that Peter did not distinctly three times, in three separate utterances, deny Christ, but that on three occasions, and under different circumstances, and in many different words, he committed this sin. There are, as it were, three groups of questions and replies, and the evangelists have recorded such portions of these details as seemed good to them, or such as they were best acquainted with. Peter sat (was sitting) without in the palace (τῇ αὐλῇ). We have seen (verse 48) that Peter was introduced by John into the open court round which the palace was built, and on one side of which was the chamber in which the examination of Jesus was going on. He was within the palace enclosure, but outside the principal apartment; hence he is said in the text to have been without. Admission to the courtyard was gained by a passage through the side of a house, which formed the vestibule or porch; this was closed towards the street by a heavy gate, having in it a small wicket for the use of visitors, kept by a porter or other servant. A damsel. This was the female porteress who kept the wicket by which Peter was admitted. She appears to have had some suspicion of him from the first, and to have followed him with her remarks from the gate, and to have continued them when he sat down with the servants at the fire kindled in the open court. Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. She says, "Thou also" in reference to John, whom she had first admitted, and who seems to have been in no danger, though Peter had great fears for his own safety. Though the porteress probably had no personal knowledge of the apostle, yet scanning his features by the light of the fire, noting his perturbed aspect and his restless actions, and reflecting on his companionship with John, she conjectured that he was a disciple of Christ, and more than once hazarded the assertion with the view of eliciting a definite answer.
He denied before them all. This was the first batch of accusations and denials. The equivocal denial was made vehemently and openly, so that all around heard it. It does not seem that he would have incurred any danger if he had boldly confessed his discipleship, so that this renunciation was gratuitous and unnecessary. I know not what thou sayest. This is virtually a denial of the allegation made, though in an indirect and evasive form, implying, "I do not know what you are alluding to."
The porch; τοÌν πυλῶμνα. The passage between the street and the court. Peter had walked towards the gate, either in unmeaning restlessness, or with some notion of escaping further questioning. Another maid saw him. We gather from the other accounts that both the porteress and some other domestics assailed him at this time. Jesus of Nazareth. Christ was popularly so known (see Matthew 21:11).
With an oath. Assailed on all sides, and fearing that his simple word would not be taken, Peter now to one and all makes a curt denial, accompanying it with an oath. He was thoroughly determined not to compromise himself, and to silence all suspicion. This was the second stage of his fall. I do not know the man. I have no knowledge of this Jesus of whom you are speaking. He calls his beloved Master "the man"!
After a while; μεταÌ μικροÌν: after a little interval. About an hour, according to St. Luke. Meantime had occurred the examination and informal condemnation of Christ, followed by the brutalities of the attendants, and the Lord's temporary consignment to some chamber or gallery that overlooked the courtyard. The excitement of the trial and its accompaniments having somewhat subsided, attention was again turned upon Peter, who, in his nervous trepidation, could not remain quiet and silent, but aroused observation by his indiscreet movements and garrulity. They that stood by. Among whom, as St. John notes, was a kinsman of Malthus, who indistinctly remembered hating seen Peter at Gethsemane. Probably by this time some rumour of the presence of a disciple of Jesus had spread among the crowd, and there arose an eager desire to discover him. If Peter had not talked, he might have escaped further notice. Thy speech bewrayeth thee; makes thee known. His dialect (for doubtless he spoke Aramaic) showed that he was a Galilaean, and as most of Christ's adherents came from that region, they inferred that he was one of Christ's disciples. The language and pronunciation of the northern district differed materially from the polished dialect of Judaea and Jerusalem, and its provincialisms were readily detected. The Galilaeans, we are told, could not properly pronounce the guttural letters, aleph, kheth, and ayin, and used tau for shin, pe for beth, etc.; they also often omitted syllables in words, occasioning equivocal mistakes, which afforded much amusement to the better instructed.
To curse and to swear. Peter fortifies this, his third denial, by imprecating curses on himself (καταθεματιìζειν) if he spake not the truth, and again (Matthew 26:72) confirming his assertion by a solemn oath. There is a certain gradation in his denials: he first simply asserts; he then asserts with an oath; lastly, he adds curses to his oath. "One temptation unresisted seldom fails to be followed by another; a second and greater infidelity is the punishment of the first, and often the cause of a third. Peter joins perjury to infidelity. Deplorable progress of infidelity and blindness in an apostle in so short a time, only out of fear of some under servants, and in respect of a Master whom he had acknowledged very God. He might possibly have proceeded even as far as Judas, had God left him any longer to himself" (Quesnel). Immediately the cock crew. This was the second crowing (Mark 14:72); the first had been heard at the first denial (Mark 14:68).
Peter remembered the word of Jesus. Simultaneously with the crowing of the cock, the Lord turned round, and from the chamber facing the court looked upon Peter (Luke 22:61), singled him out from all the crowd, showed that amid all his own sufferings and sorrows be had not forgotten his weak apostle. What that look did for Peter we learn by succeeding events; it is for the homilist to expatiate thereon. Christ had prayed for him, and the effect of that prayer was now felt. He went out. From the portico where the denial had taken place; he rushed from that evil company into the night, a broken-hearted man, that no human eye might witness his anguish, that alone with his conscience and God he might wrestle out repentance. Wept bitterly. Tradition asserts that all his life long Peter hereafter never could hear a cock crow without failing on his knees and weeping.
The shadow of the cross.
I. THE PROPHECY.
1. The end of the Lord's public teaching. "Jesus had finished all these sayings." There was precious teaching yet to come; but that would be private, in the upper room, addressed to the little circle of the twelve. This Tuesday was the last day of the Lord's public teaching. Now he had finished all these sayings—the controversies with scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees, the great discourse delivered on the Mount of Olives, the parables of judgment, the awful prophecy in which he describes himself as the great King, who shall sit on the throne of glory, who shall judge all the nations of the world. Now he passes from the prophetic to the priestly office. The work of public teaching is ended; the work of atonement is beginning. We are approaching that tremendous sacrifice, the one most awful scene in the whole history of the world, when the high Son of God, who for our salvation's sake became the Son of man, offered up himself the one sufficient Propitiation for the sins of the whole world. It becomes us to draw near with reverence and godly fear, with deep self-abasement and adoring love.
2. The near approach of his death. "After two days," he said, "is the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified." It was his second clear announcement of the form of death which he was to suffer. It was to be the death of the cross, of all deaths the most horrible. He would indeed sit on the throne of glory with all the holy angels round him; but the cross must come first. He knew it; he knew the day and the hour; he looks forward with sweet, holy calmness to that cruel death. "The Son of man is delivered up," he said—is being delivered; even while he was speaking the treason was being planned; it would soon be consummated. The greatest festival of the Jewish year would be desecrated by the foulest crime which the world has ever seen; but that crime would, by God's overruling providence, bring about the great sacrifice of which the Passover was the type. "Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us." Mark the quiet composure with which the Lord spoke of his coming Passion, and learn of him to contemplate the approach of death with calmness and tranquillity.
II. THE BEGINNING OF THE FULFILMENT.
1. The assembly in the house of Caiaphas. Caiaphas was, by the appointment of the Roman governor, high priest that year. He had already (John 11:50) urged the Sanhedrin to seek the death of Christ, prophesying unconsciously "that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." Now the chief priests and elders assembled in the court of his house to take counsel as to the best means for carrying out their wicked purpose.
2. Their fears. The Lord's words and actions had made a great impression upon the people; they had observed his victories over the Pharisees and Sadducees; they had listened to his reaching with interest, and were very attentive to hear him. Many of them had. taken part in the triumphal procession which had escorted him into Jerusalem, and had recognized him with "Hosannas!" as the King Messiah. The leading Jews dared not attempt to take him openly by force; they feared lest the people should rise in his favour, especially as large numbers of Galilaeans always came to the Passover. They consulted, therefore, that they might take him by subtilty; but they determined to defer the execution of their assign till after the feast day. It was not from reverence for the sanctity of the Passover season; they did not shrink from desecrating it, when the treachery of Judas enabled them to do so without danger. They feared the multitude. There was an immense concourse in the city. The people, always inflammable, were more so than ever at the Passover, partly through the excitement of numbers, partly through the national spirit aroused by the festival. They might, the chief priests thought, side with Jesus; they might support his claims to the Messianic dignity. The attempt to seize him might evoke a burst of popular sympathy, and lead him to put himself at the head of the multitude. So they determined to defer their guilty design.
1. The Lord had finished his public teaching; the Pharisees and chief priests had heard it; it had increased their condemnation. Take heed how ye hear.
2. The Lord was about to die. We must die soon. Let us learn to think and speak of our death calmly as he did.
3. The chief priests feared danger; they did not fear the wrath of God. Let us learn of Christ to fear not death, but him who is able to cast both soul and body into hell.
The supper at Bethany.
I. THE ANOINTING.
1. The house of Simon the leper. The Lord was always welcome there. It may be that he had healed Simon of his leprosy. He had raised Lazarus from the dead; he was regarded with the utmost reverence and affection by Martha and Mary. St. John tells us that Jesus, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany. "There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him." St. Matthew is evidently relating the same events, but, like St. Mark, he gives no note of time, and apparently neglects the chronological order. Very possibly the two evangelists may have had some reason for omitting the names of Lazarus and his sisters which did not exist when St. John wrote. It was a memorable supper. One sat there who had been dead, who had known those awful secrets which we shall one day know—those secrets so full of deep mysterious interest, so attractive, but so inscrutable. And One was there who is the very Life, without whom there is no life, who had again and again given life to the dead, who one day will call all the dead from their graves as he had a short time before called Lazarus from his; who, though he is the Life and hath life in himself, was yet about to die, to lay down his life of himself, that the dead in sin might live through him who by death abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light. He sat there at supper in his infinite condescension, as now he deigns to sup with those whom he hath raised from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness (Revelation 3:20).
2. Mary. The two sisters were at the supper. Martha served, as she had done before; Mary could think only of the Lord, and of his late wondrous mercy vouchsafed unto the family.
"Her eyes are homes of silent prayer,
Nor other thought her mind admits
But, he was dead, and there he sits,
And he that brought him back is there."
She showed her thankful devotion. She brought an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it first (it seems) on his head, afterwards on his feet, as he sat at meat. It was a very costly gift, but it Was not waste, for it was an act of worship. It signified the exceeding sacredness of the holy body of the Lord Jesus Christ. That body was, in the truest sense, the temple of the most high God; it was the tabernacle wherein abode the Word of God, God the Son, One greater than the temple at Jerusalem, the most Holy One for whose worship that temple was built. That temple was rightly held in reverence; the Lord Jesus himself was zealous for its honour. How much greater reverence was due to that holy body in which he had manifested himself! That anointing was a solemn act of worship, a pure unbidden rite of adoration.
II. THE MURMURINGS OF THE DISCIPLES.
1. Their complaint. It was a waste, they said; "the ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor." St. John gives us to understand that it was Judas who had excited this dissatisfaction. Not that he cared for the poor; his talk about the poor was mere pretence to hide his dishonest avarice. So people often talk now when they blame acts of generous liberality which seem to condemn their own selfishness and want of charity. In their narrow avaricious temper they cannot understand the free generous love which prompts faithful men to give largely for the glory of God, and they impute unworthy motives. The murmurings of Judas seem to have led astray, for a time, several of the other disciples. Men are too ready to listen to disparaging criticisms, too ready to form unfavourable views of their neighbours. Let us judge carefully our own motives, and learn to believe the best of others.
2. The Lord's reproof. "Why trouble ye the woman?" Judas was rude, unmannerly; he and the other disciples had vexed the gentle, shrinking Mary by their criticisms of her conduct. But, indeed, her act was not a waste; it was a beautiful deed of unselfish generosity. It is good to help the poor; those who blamed Mary would always have opportunities of doing that, if they were so minded. But there are other ways in which Christian love will show itself. It was good to honour the sacred Person of the Lord Jesus; it is good to give freely, largely, to church building and other such objects, if the end in view is the true Christian motive—the glory of God. Such was Mary's motive, and it was an especially fitting time to show her love to Christ, for he was about to depart. His death was very near at hand. He had told the disciples; they knew it; probably Mary knew it; she had loved to sit at his feet and hear his word. The gifts which the Wise Men from the East offered at the Saviour's cradle are thought to have a mystic meaning; the myrrh had a reference to his death. Mary's gift of the precious ointment, offered just before that death, spoke yet more distinctly of death and burial. She may have been unconscious, or only dimly conscious, of the meaning of her act. But certainly it was an act of loving adoring worship, and it should have its reward; it should be told throughout the world as a memorial of her. Christ knew that "this gospel," the good tidings of his death and resurrection, would be preached. in all the whole world. He who was despised and rejected of Pharisees and Sadducees looked forward to a world wide empire over the hearts of men. Wide as the gospel would spread, so widely should this good work of Mary be made known. There is no fame like that which the gospel gives; the fame of monarch, warrior, statesman, poet, is not to be compared with the honour granted to the lowly Mary. She sought only the praise which cometh from God. She hath also the praise of all faithful Christians. Her conduct is an example to us; it teaches us that acts of generous, self-forgetting love are beautiful and noble, precious in the sight of God. The odour of the ointment; which filled the house at Bethany (John 12:3) has spread through the great Christian Church, keeping alive the sweet memory of Mary, urging countless Christian men and women to follow her example.
III. THE BETRAYAL.
1. Judas. There was one to whom the fragrance of that perfume was a savour of death unto death. He bore an honoured name, a name of religious significance. "Now will I praise the Lord," said Leah, when she gave that name to her fourth son. And he was one of the twelve, as all the evangelists tell us, to mark the strangeness, the exceeding guilt, of his sin. Yet we suppose he must have been like the others when the Lord first chose him to be near unto himself. He must have been, we think, full of bright promise. Certainly he, like the rest of the apostles, forsook all and followed Christ (Matthew 19:27). The good seed had been sown in his heart, and it soon sprang up; but there were thorn roots there too; and they, alas! shot up into evil luxuriance, and choked the good seed, and dominated the whole life. Probably he had been fascinated by those dreams of earthly splendour and an earthly kingdom which the apostles entertained so long. He had hoped, like James and John, for some high place near the King; but his ambition was more selfish than theirs. And when the Lord would not claim the throne of David, when he would not allow the enthusiastic multitudes to make him a King, when he spoke of seeming failure, of impending death, and that the death of the cross, Judas was hurt, offended, disgusted with the service which he had chosen. And, St. John tells us, there was one ruling sin in his heart—the degrading vice of avarice. Judas had shown, perhaps, an aptitude for business; he had been entrusted with the bag which contained the alms of those who ministered to the Lord of their substance. Perhaps he had sought the office of purse bearer; and, alas! it was a snare to him, for he was a thief. Probably he had been long brooding over disappointments, fancied vexations, covetous hopes; for no one becomes utterly base in a moment. A year ago the Lord had spoken of him in words of awful warning (John 6:70). He did not heed the Master's voice; probably he went on in his evil ways, feeding his secret vice by acts of petty dishonesty, till it became a tyrant passion ruling the whole man, debasing the whole character. He had yielded himself little by little to the power of Satan; at last he had become his captive; now any little temptation would be sufficient to lure him to his doom. The offering of Mary proved to be that last temptation. Satan, in his malice, brings evil out of good. Judas blamed her generosity. It was wasteful profusion, he said; that large sum ought to have been better spent. He wanted it, not really for the poor, but for the bag which he carried; he would have appropriated it, in part at least, to his own use. The Lord's reproof chafed him still more. His mention of his approaching burial crushed the last hopes, if any hopes remained, of an earthly kingdom. Judas determined to forsake his Master. Nothing, he thought, could be gained by faithfulness; something might be gained by treachery. What an awful picture of the deceitfulness of sin, especially of that soul destroying sin of avarice!
2. His agreement with the chief priests. He went to them as soon as he could, perhaps four days after the supper at Bethany; his disappointment had been rankling in his mind ever since. He was ready now to deliver his Master to death, and that for money. "What will ye give me?" he said, openly manifesting that miserable vice which he had hidden under the cloke of care for the poor. Alas! that one of the chosen twelve could say such words, could think such thoughts! He had heard the Lord's solemn question, "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange tot his soul?" And now he was going to sell his soul for a paltry bribe. They weighed unto him thirty pieces of silver; the price which God, speaking by the Prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 11:13), denounces as "a goodly price that I was prised at of them." Probably they did not think of the prophet's words, or they would not have become the instruments of fulfilling them. It was the price of a slave (see Exodus 21:32), far less than the value of the offering of Mary, which had been the occasion, not the cause, of this awful treachery. For this poor bribe he sold his Master, "and from that time he sought opportunity to betray him."
1. No offering is too costly for the Lord's service. Let us imitate Mary in her loving gifts.
2. Men will scoff at Christian generosity. Let us seek only the praise which cometh from God.
3. One of the twelve fell into deadly sin. Let none presume upon their spiritual privileges.
4. "The love of money is the root of all evil." Let us learn to love it not.
The last Supper.
I. THE PREPARATION.
1. The question of the disciples. It was now the first day of Unleavened Bread, "when the Passover must be killed"; apparently, therefore, the fourteenth of Nisan, which seems to have been sometimes regarded as the beginning of the feast (see Josephus, 'War of the Jews,' Matthew 5:3. Matthew 5:1), though the fifteenth was legally the first day. It is possible, therefore, that the disciples may have come to our Lord at the beginning of the fourteenth, according to the Jewish reckoning, that is, after Sunset on the evening of the thirteenth; and thus the last Supper may have taken place a day before the legal time for the Passover. This is, perhaps, the most probable explanation of the apparent differences between St. John and the first three evangelists. The disciples asked the Lord where he would have the Passover prepared; they may have thought that he would keep it at Bethany, which was reckoned within the limits of Jerusalem for the purposes of the feast.
2. The Lord's directions. He sent Peter and John to Jerusalem, giving them a sign whereby to find the house which he had chosen. They were to say to the good man of the house, "The Master saith, My time is at hand; I keep the Passover at thy house with my disciples." There was a mysterious power in the Lord's message; the house was freely lent now, as the ass had been lent on the previous Sunday. There was a mysterious meaning in the words, "The Master saith, My time is at hand"—a meaning into which neither the disciples nor the householder could enter. Possibly, also, those words may imply that the Lord would keep the Passover before the appointed day, for his time was at hand—the time when he must depart unto the Father.
II. THE CONVERSATION AT THE SUPPER.
1. The Lord's prophecy of the betrayal. "When the even was come, he sat down with the twelve." The Lord showed his holy lowliness; the twelve showed the workings of human pride even at that solemn hour. He washed the disciples' feet; but among them there was a strife, which of them should be accounted the greatest. Strange that these petty jealousies could have found room in apostles' hearts at such a time, in such a presence, after such warnings of the coming cross. Pride is one of our deadliest spiritual enemies; it has wrought sad evil in the Christian Church. We feel its power in our own hearts; we must crush it down if we would follow Christ. He taught them the blessedness of humility by word and by example; and then, as if to humble them still further, he told them the sad truth, "One of you shall betray me." It may be that the words were spoken, not only in sorrow, but also in love; it may be that even now the Lord would have called Judas to repentance, as he would have gathered the hard-hearted Jews unto himself, but they would not; and now Judas would not. He had yielded himself to the tempter; Satan had entered into him (Luke 22:3), and there was hope no longer. The Lord's holy soul was filled with the deepest sorrow; this awful treachery wounded his holy human heart with the acutest pangs; in the mysterious union of the human and Divine he knew its dreadful issues.
2. The questions of the disciples. The Lord's sorrow communicated itself to the disciples; they were exceeding sorry. Sorrow has a humbling effect. The disciples felt now the influence of the Lord's holy sorrow. They did not answer, like St. Peter afterwards, with passionate assertions of their faithfulness; but they whispered each one, even Peter, it seems, with trembling anxiety and self-distrust, "Lord, is it I?" Not, let us observe, "Is it this man or that man?" but, "Is it I?" The Lord did not answer at first with that distinct intimation which be gave shortly afterwards to St. John (John 13:26). He said in general terms that the traitor was one of those nearest to him—one who sat at the same meal, was using the same dish. Perhaps it was said in tenderness; he would even now, if it were possible, win that guilty soul to a sense of sin, to sorrow and repentance. Therefore he continued, in tones of deeper awfulness, to speak of the impending treachery. "The Son of man goeth;" so it was written in the Scriptures; so it was determined in the eternal purpose of God. But God's foreknowledge is not inconsistent with the free will of man. The man does what must be, for it was foreordained; yet his will is not forced. The will of man is sacred, it is free; we feel the truth of this in our hearts, though we cannot see through the veil of awful mystery which bangs around. "Woe unto that man!" It is an utterance of sorrow, as in Matthew 24:19, not an imprecation. "Woe unto that man through whom the Son of man is betrayed!" It was through Judas; he had sold himself to Satan. Christ saw that evil figure behind him, prompting him to his hellish crime. He would have warned him even now; he tells him of the dreadful consequences of the sin which was in his thoughts. "Good were it for that man if he had not been born!" How it must have rent the loving heart of the most merciful Saviour to say those awful words! But the sternness was the sternness of love; he gave the traitor a glimpse of the tremendous future, to save him, if it were possible, in spite of himself; to save others from the like fearful doom. But Judas would not heed; he had not yet joined in the questions of the disciples. But now he too said, "Master, is it I?" Perhaps he felt forced to do so; to say nothing, while all the rest were asking the question, seemed to separate him from the others; it might look like an acknowledgment of guilt. Perhaps it was said in wantonness, or bitter scorn, or in that desperation which is the last stage in atrocious guilt. The Lord answered simply, "Thou hast said." It was an ordinary form of affirmation, yet it seems to refer the traitor to his own evil heart—he would find the answer to his question there.
III. THE INSTITUTION OF THE HOLY COMMUNION.
1. The bread. The Lord passes from the old covenant to the new, from the Passover to the Holy Communion. He did so "as they were eating," during the protracted ceremonies of the Paschal supper, while they were thinking of God's great deliverance vouchsafed to their forefathers. He announced himself as the true Lamb of God, the one Sacrifice of which all the sacrifices of the Law were but figures. He took bread, and blessed. He gave thanks for the fruits of the earth, as was customary at the Passover. He blessed God the Father who giveth our daily bread, who giveth the Bread of life; he blessed bread and. wine, consecrating them by his words for this new sacred use. He gave thanks (St. Luke and St. Paul), and by that thanksgiving made the Holy Communion to be a Eucharist—a service of thanksgiving. He brake the bread, and himself "gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body." He had prepared them to receive these wonderful words. A year ago in the synagogue at Capernaum he had announced the great truth that the food of the Christian soul is the flesh and blood of Christ. Then he had promised that spiritual food ("The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world"); no w he gives it. "This," he said—"this which I give you, is my body." He stood before them, his natural body yet unbroken, his flesh and blood not yet separated, as he gave them the holy food. He had taught them in that great sermon which had offended so many of his disciples, that "it is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing." He had told them, "He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." They would understand. that "the body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after a heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith." They would understand as much as is given to us men to understand of that which must ever remain a sacred mystery. It was God incarnate who spake those holy words. His words, his actions, must have a deep, wide-reaching, mysterious meaning, passing our poor intellect. It is enough for us to know and believe that the body and blood of Christ are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper.
2. The cup. Afterwards the Lord took the cup, the third probably of the four cups which, at that time, were drunk at the Paschal supper; that third cup was called "the cup of blessing". Again he gave thanks, making it a Eucharist, and bade them all drink of it: "For this," he said, "is my blood of the new covenant." "The cup of blessing which we bless," says St. Paul, "is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?" "To such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ; and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ." The old covenant made between God and his chosen people was ratified and inaugurated by the blood of sacrifices. "Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold, the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you" (Exodus 24:8). It was necessary that the new covenant which the Lord had promised by his prophet (Jeremiah 31:31) should be inaugurated with blood, for "with out shedding of blood is no remission." The Lord Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant, being both Priest and Victim; his blood is the blood of sprinkling, which can purge the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. It is the blood of the new covenant—the blood with which the covenant of grace was inaugurated. The partaking of that cup in repentance, faith, and love brings home the blessings of the new covenant to each believing soul. That blood was now being shed, the Lord said; the hour of his death was so near at hand that he regarded it as already present. He gave himself now in solemn purpose, in voluntary self-sacrifice, to die for men, as he gave his body and blood to be forever the spiritual food of the Christian soul. It is shed "for many," about them, with reference to their needs; for all in a true sense, for "he died for all," he is the Propitiation for the sins of the whole world; for many, in a deeper, holier sense—many, not all, alas! wash their robes, and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. And it is shed for the remission of sins; for that blood purgeth the conscience, that blood cleanseth from all sin, that blood is accepted as a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. Then with what grateful love, with what fervent hope, ought all Christian people to come to the Holy Eucharist! for the bread and wine which the Lord hath commanded to be received become by his ordinance the means whereby the body and blood of Christ are received after a heavenly and spiritual manner by the faithful. And that body is the bread of life, and that blood is the blood of the new covenant, sealing the blessings of the covenant of grace to those who in faith partake of that holy /bed. Thus coming, may we experience in our inmost souls the truth of the well known words, "O my God, thou art true; O my soul, thou art happy" (see Hooker, 'Eccl. Pol.,' ch. 67, sec. 12).
3. The new wine of the kingdom. The Holy Eucharist looks not only backward, to the death of Christ, but forward also, to the marriage supper of the Lamb. For the Lord said that he would drink no more of that fruit of the vine, till that day when he shall drink it new with his chosen in the kingdom of his Father. Then the wine shall be new, not the new wine of this world, but a fountain of gladness and rapture such as hath never entered into human heart. The Lord shall share that gladness with his redeemed. He rejoiceth in their salvation; they rejoice in his most precious love. "Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb."
4. The departure. The last Supper was over. They sang a hymn, the conclusion, probably, of the Hallel. The Lord and his disciples chanted the praise of God in those precious psalms, which, from the time of David onward, have ever been the Church's treasury of devotion. They sang of that cup of salvation which, in a Christian sense, they had just received. They sang (and surely they must have felt that those sacred words had now a deeper meaning than ever) how "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." They sang of the Stone which the builders refused, soon to become the Headstone of the corner. They repeated the "Hosanna!" of Palm Sunday, and ended their high chant of praise with the solemn refrain, "O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever." As the Lord was with his disciples then, singing with them, so may he be with us, in our hearts, singing with us, when we chant the praises of God in the sanctuary. His presence, his inspiration, make praise and prayer acceptable. And now the last psalm was sung, and they went forth into the night. So should the Christian soul, strengthened and refreshed by the holy sacrament, go forth to meet the Lord.
1. Hate pride; remember your sins; earnestly seek the grace of lowliness.
2. Say, "Lord, is it I?" Do not think of your neighbours'sins, but of your own.
3. Come often to the Holy Communion. Come; for it is the Lord's commandment. Come; for it is the food of the soul.
4. Seek to realize the presence of the Lord in prayer and praise.
The Mount of Olives.
I. THE CONVERSATION BY THE WAY.
1. The Lord's prediction that all should forsake him. Partly in the upper room, partly on the way, the Lord had uttered those most sacred and precious words which St. John was led by the Holy Spirit to preserve in those chapters which have well been called the holiest of the holy. St. Matthew relates only one thing which passed as they went in the late evening, in the solemn light of the Paschal moon, their hearts, we may be sure, filled with awful forebodings and strange mysterious anticipations, to the well known spot. The Lord had said long ago, "Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me." The people of Nazareth had been so offended (Matthew 13:57); now, he said, his chosen disciples would be offended, and on that very night. He who should become the Headstone of the corner would be for a time even to them a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. It must be so, the Lord said, for so it had been written, applying to himself that prophecy of Zechariah which has so many mysterious allusions to the Passion, "I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad." The disciples would remember afterwards that that Shepherd in the prophecy is called by the Lord of hosts "the Man that is my fellow;" and they would feel that those words could be true only of One who, "being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." That very night the sheep would be scattered, but only for a short time; for it is written in the same place, "I will turn mine hand upon the little ones." The Lord would rise again. He would gather together his little flock; he would go before them, as a shepherd goeth before his sheep. They should see him again in Galilee.
2. Peter's assertion of his fidelity. Peter, self confident as ever, asserted his unshaken loyalty; he, at least, would never be offended. And when the Lord repeated his warning, showing his knowledge of the future even in its minute details, he became more earnest and excited, "Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee." "Likewise also said all the disciples." Let us learn to distrust ourselves. When we are weak, then we are strong.
1. The agony. The Lord, in the full knowledge of his coming Passion, sought a place for solitary prayer. He came to the well known garden whither he "ofttimes resorted." He took with him the three best beloved of the apostles, bidding the others rest. Then came that awful and mysterious agony: "He began to be sorrowful and sore troubled." He bade the disciples remain at a distance; even the three chosen ones, whose companionship and sympathy he desired, might not draw too near to the Lord in his anguish. "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me." Where apostles might not walk, we may not presume to intrude. We cannot comprehend the full meaning of that most awful agony. We are sure that it was not the mere fear of death which so crushed the holy Saviour's soul. He shared, doubtless, perfect Man as he was, our human horror of death; and in him, we must remember, that horror would be increased by his complete foreknowledge of all the circumstances of that bitter Passion which was now so close at hand. Again, the shrinking from death seems to stand in some relation to the sense of life; the feebler that sense of life, the less men fear to die. But the Lord was not only in the full strength of early manhood, with a bodily frame which had never been weakened by sickness; but he was the Life, the essential, self-existent Life; he had life in himself, therefore it seems the conflict with death must have been in him far more terrible than in ordinary men. Moreover, death must have had an awful aspect in the sight of Christ, because it is the wages, the consequence of sin; and this close connection with sin must have invested death with a horrible character to the All-holy One. But it was not the fear of death which caused that bloody sweat, that utter anguish. Saints and martyrs, and even ungodly men, have met death without flinching; and we know with what calm majestic fortitude the Lord endured the cross. On Palm Sunday the impenitence of Jerusalem had wrung from him a burst of holy tears; and now, when the intense wickedness of men, the wickedness of his own apostles, of the leaders of his own chosen people, was gathering round him, he may well have recoiled in horror from that dark and wretched prospect. He had loved those unhappy men, even Judas, even Caiaphas. He had come down from heaven to save them, and they were rushing into deadly sin, into utter ruin. They had rejected his love and mercy. Alas! thousands more would do the like, would crucify the Lord afresh, would sin wilfully against knowledge and against light, and would die in their sins. He knew it would be so, and he was "exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." And he saw, behind Judas and Caiaphas and the rest, the awful form of the evil one. Satan had entered into them. "The prince of this world cometh," he had said. Satan had nothing in Christ, no hold upon that pure and spotless innocence; but all around he exercised his terrible power with fiendish malignity, by the agency of those wicked men whom he had ensnared to their ruin. It may well be that the nearness and activity of the evil spirit helped to bring that shuddering horror over the Saviour's soul. But, once more, "He was made sin for us, though he was without sin." We cannot penetrate into the awful mysteries which those words seem to imply. We know that "the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all." We know that he "bare our sins in his own body on the tree," and we believe that it was that terrible burden of sin—the sin of the whole world—that crushed him to the earth. Sin was to his pure soul most utterly loathsome, most horrible; and, in some mysterious way, it now came close around him, enveloping him with its hateful nearness: all the sins of the whole world, from the first sin of Adam to the last sin with which the last of living men will pollute the creation of God, all came in one burden of accumulated horror upon "the Lamb of God, which taketh away [beareth] the sins of the world." It was a burden which only he could bear. Only the Sinless One, only he who, though he became perfect Man, was in the truth of his being, perfect God, could put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Only he could bear that crushing burden; but it caused him the most intense suffering, unutterable anguish. It was not good for most of the apostles to witness that agony; they could not bear it. He left them at the entrance of the garden. He took the three with him. They had seen the glory of the Transfiguration; the recollections of that effulgent brightness, of those glimpses of the Godhead, might strengthen them in the presence of this more than human sorrow. It seems that the sympathy of these loved and trusted friends, even their very nearness, was some relief to the suffering Lord, as it is with us in our own hour of deep distress. Dying men love to have their dearest friends present with them, watching with them, though they can give no help beyond that sympathizing presence. So it was with Christ the Lord, so true was his humanity. But the extremest anguish he must bear alone; the prayer of completest self-sacrifice he must pray alone. Only the Father and the blessed angels might behold that bloody sweat and hear that most earnest prayer. Not even the three might follow him now. He would have them near; he came to them again and again, as if for sympathy; but the most dread struggle he must face alone. He went a little further into the garden. "He was withdrawn from them," St. Luke says, "about a stone's cast." The evangelist uses a strong word—he tore himself from them. It seems as if the dear Lord could scarcely endure that awful loneliness, and yet he must be alone. That bitter anguish reveals to us the greatness of his blessed love.
2. The threefold prayer.
(1) The first prayer. The Lord kneeled down upon the ground; then he fell upon his face in the intensity of his supplication. "O my Father," he said, "if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. The Lord is an example to us in all things. In this overpowering, agony he offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears pain and trouble bring, the Christian to his God. The greater the pain, the more heartrending the trouble, the more earnestly he will pray. The Lord prayed that the cup of anguish might pass from him, if it were possible. The other evangelists give a slightly different report of his words: "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me" (St. Luke); "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take await this cup from me". With God all things are possible. But it was not possible to take away that cup of woe if men were to be saved, as God willed them to be saved, through the cross and Passion of the Lord. It was not possible, for the cup passed not away. There were, it seems, inscrutable reasons which made that tremendous sacrifice necessary for the salvation of man and the glory of God. God will not always take the cup of suffering from us. It may be necessary that we should suffer, for our own good or for the good of others; our sufferings may be contained in God's eternal purpose. Yet we may pray for their removal; we may ask God to spare us this or that trial, which seems too great for us to bear. Only we must pray all the Lord's prayer, not part only. His perfect human nature involved a human will. That will was distinct from the Divine will; it was a pure, holy, human will; but, like our will, it shrank from pain and death. The Lord yielded it up in entire submission to his Father's will: "Not as I will, but as thou wilt." He who is learning to pray that prayer from the bottom of his heart is very near to Christ.
(2) The return to the three apostles. There is a restlessness in intense grief which, like other sinless human weaknesses, was experienced by our Lord. He came to the disciples as if seeking for their sympathy, their affection, in his loneliness and exceeding sorrow But they were asleep. The same three had slept upon the Mount of the Transfiguration. It seems very strange. But we must remember that it was now very late at night, and the spiritual strain upon the apostles during that Thursday evening had been immense. They had heard the Lord speak again and again, clearly and certainly, of his own approaching death; they had heard of the treachery of one of their own number. They had listened, it must have been in rapt awe-stricken attention, to those wondrous utterances of exhortation, comfort, instruction, recorded in St. John's Gospel. Now the three were left alone, in the silence of the night; they were worn out with excitement, sorrow, watching; and they slept. It must have been a perturbed sleep, like the deep sleep of Abram, when the horror of great darkness fell upon him. The Lord came to them; he found them sleeping, just when his holy human nature, sorely tried, needed the affectionate sympathy of human friends. He addressed the one who a short time before had expressed his love so strongly. "What!" he said to Peter, "could you not watch with me one hour?" The words imply a lengthened prayer. The evangelist has recorded only the essence, the central petition, of that long prayer of agony, The Lord had prayed already for a full hour. They imply too that the Lord, in his perfect humanity, felt some comfort, some stay, in the thought that those earthly friends who were dearest to him were not only near at hand, but awake, watching; as men in extreme sickness, in great suffering, like to feel that these who watch in the sick chamber are awake, conscious of their state, even though unable to help them. But the good Lord thought not only of himself, as we too often do in sickness; he thought of his disciples. Temptation was close at hand. They needed watchfulness; they needed prayer. They must keep all their faculties awake; they must be thoughtful, vigilant, prepared for the hour of danger. And they must pray. True prayer implies the vigorous exercise of all the highest faculties. It is not easy, but often very difficult; it requires effort, thought, sustained attention. It needs the constant aid of God the Holy Spirit, the great Teacher of prayer. The apostles needed now all the help of prayer and watchfulness, lest they should enter into temptation. The temptation must come; nay, it was already at hand. But they must pray not to enter into it, not to yield themselves to it, not to enter with their own will and consent into the snare which Satan was laying for them. The mere fact of temptation does not imply sin. The Lord himself was tempted. The sin lies in entering into it with our eyes open, with the consent of our will. And the remedy is watchfulness and prayer; a man cannot enter into temptation in this sense while he prays, if only his prayer is the waking, thoughtful, earnest prayer of faith. "At once to pray and to sin," says Stier, "is impossible. Who could with a wakeful and recollected spirit say unto God, 'Not as thou wilt'? Who, when the word of Jesus bids us watch, and the Spirit of Jesus teaches us to pray, may answer him and say, 'Lord, but I cannot, I am too weak'?" The Lord adds the reason which makes watchfulness and prayer so necessary the weakness of the flesh. It was weak even in himself, though in him that flesh which he had graciously assumed that he might save us, was without sin; he had come "in the likeness of sinful flesh;" but in him the flesh was only weak, it was not sinful. It was weak; it shrank from pain and death. Even he, in the days of his flesh, offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears. How much more necessary are prayer and watchfulness for us, whose flesh is not only weak, but also sinful, defiled by many sins? The spirit is willing. In him it was more than willing; it was ready, zealous. It will be so with his saints in proportion as the spirit, the highest part of our composite human nature, which was breathed into man by God himself, realizes its powers and its privileges, offering up itself to be dwelt in and purified by the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit of God, and, by means of that gracious indwelling, living in that fellowship which is with God the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. But with us the spirit is not always willing. The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and, alas! we are not always led by the spirit, but often by that sinful flesh of ours. And even when in some sense the spirit is willing, when "to will is present with me," how often do we find in our hearts that conflict so wonderfully described in Romans 7:1-25., "how to perform that which is good I find not;" "for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I" I Then what need have we, whose flesh is not only weak, but exceeding sinful, to obey Christ's commandment, to follow Christ's example: "Watch and pray"!
(3) The second prayer. The Lord found no help in human sympathy; again he sought it in communion with his Father. His second prayer was calmer. The angel, of whom St. Luke tells us, appeared, perhaps, after the first prayer, strengthening him. "He was heard in that he feared" (Hebrews 5:7). As the angels ministered to him, the Almighty Son of God, after his temptation, so now in his agony one angel comforted him, the Comforter of all. He submitted to receive strength and comfort from his angels. They will calm our spirits in our death agony if we are truly his. The Lord offered up the prayer of holy resignation, "O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done." Perfect peace can be found only in perfect resignation to the blessed will of God. Again he came to the three disciples, seeking their sympathy, and doubtless seeking to prepare them against the coming temptation. But again they were asleep, for their eyes were heavy. God can comfort; his angels can by his appointment succour and defend us; man can do little for us in the hour of death.
(4) The third prayer. "He went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words." His people often follow his example. They are conscious of great poverty of thought; they find it hard to express the yearnings of their souls in words, especially in times of deep affliction. Often they can only repeat again and again the same simple ejaculation. It is enough. God regards not the form of words, but the earnestness of the supplication. Again, for the last time, the Lord returned to the three apostles. "Sleep on now," he said, "and take your rest." He needed their sympathy no longer; the time for watching with him was past. His hour was come, and he was ready. He had schooled his human will by a mighty effort into complete resignation, into absolute harmony with the Father's will. The struggle was over; he had "trodden the wine press alone;" he was calm in perfect self-mastery. The disciples could help him no more, even by sympathy; they might take their rest while they could. The Lord, in his tenderness, had compassion on their weakness. Possibly there may have been a certain interval of time between those words and the appearance of the traitor. The Lord, perhaps, stood or sat watching his sleeping apostles, and awaiting the approaching band. When he saw them near he roused the sleepers: "Rise," he said, "let us be going;" and he went forward in majestic calmness to meet the danger.
1. The Lord's dread agony calls upon us for deep and reverent sympathy.
2. It calls upon us for confession and hatred of those sins which added to his burden of woe.
3. It calls upon us for resignation and submission of our earthly will to the holy will of God.
4. It teaches us in our extremest sufferings always to pray—to pray more earnestly.
The apprehension of our Lord.
I. THE BETRAYAL.
1. The approach of Judas. The three evangelists describe him as "one of the twelve." They add this description, not for the sake of accurate identification, for his treachery had been already mentioned, but to set forth the blackness of his guilt. Holy Scripture commonly uses a certain stern simplicity in speaking of great offences. There is a depth of meaning in those few simple words, "one of the twelve." He was the most conspicuous person among the advancing group; his sin was the deadliest. He knew the perfect holiness of the blessed Master; he had been admitted into his friendship; he had listened to his words of heavenly wisdom, and seen his works of almighty power and love; he had lived for two years and more in the immediate presence of that life of wondrous purity and beauty. And now be is to teach us the solemn lesson that the heart of man is indeed deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; that it can continue hard and selfish and impenitent in spite of the greatest possible religious privileges. He came, and with him a great multitude—Roman soldiers, officers of the temple, servants of the chief priests. It may be they feared resistance from the Galilaeans or other adherents of the Lord; it may be they feared him. Many of them had heard of his miracles; Judas knew that he had stilled the tempest, that he had raised the dead. He trusted, it seems, to numbers, to earthly weapons. Strange folly, almost incredible in one who had known so much of Christ; but he was blinded by Satan, to whom he had sold himself.
2. The traitor's kiss. He gave them a sign. The Roman soldiers, perhaps others also, did not know the Person of the Lord. The sign was to be a kiss. The traitor had known the Lord intimately; he had been, it seems, on the same footing of affectionate friendship with him as the rest of the twelve. He would kiss him now for the last time; but that last kiss would be, not the kiss of peace, but the deadly breath of hellish treachery, the cold, wicked kiss of hypocrisy—the kiss of death. He came; he said, "Hail, Master!" and he dared to pollute the face of the Lord with his unholy kiss. He kissed him. The Greek word seems to imply that he did it with an affectation of earnestness, with much warmth of manner, perhaps out of excitement, perhaps in fear; perhaps he thought, in his madness and folly, that he might be able to conceal his sin. Christ and the apostles might think that he was coming simply to join them, and might not discover his connection with the band that followed. But the Lord went forth, "knowing all things that should come upon him." He knew the evil heart of Judas. "Companion," he said—he could not call him "friend;" and the Greek word has something of sternness in it, as in Matthew 20:13 and Matthew 22:12—"is it this for which thou art come?" "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?" He showed his Divine knowledge; he showed his almighty power. At the words, "I am he," "they went backward, and fell to the ground." But then he meekly yielded himself to suffer and to die. One word of wrath would have swept his assailants into utter death. He would not speak it; for he came to lay down his life for his sheep. "Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him."
II. THE SWORD OF PETER.
1. The blow. Two of the disciples were armed with swords (Luke 22:38). They thought for a moment of resistance; "Lord," they said, "shall we smite with the sword?" Peter, always impetuous, did not wait for an answer, but at once struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear.
2. The Lord's reproof. Mark his majestic collectedness, his thoughtfulness for others; in the immediate presence of danger and death he cared for the wounded man, he cared for the erring apostle. "Put up thy sword into his place," he said, as Peter stood with his drawn weapon, ready to repeat the blow; "for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." The kiss of Judas and the sword stroke of Peter stand in diametrical opposition; the one was the act of cold, selfish, hateful treachery; the other, of bold, ardent, self-forgetting zeal. Both were wrong, though in widely different degrees. The one was the act of a devil (John 6:70); the other, the act of a saint, though not a saint-like act. Christians may not use the sword for the defence or for the propagation of the gospel. Sometimes mistaken zeal, sometimes more unholy motives, have led to persecutions and to so called religious wars. The Lord distinctly condemns the use of force; he himself refrained from the exercise of his power. He was King of kings and Lord of lords; he could have subjugated all the kingdoms of the world at once, by one act of omnipotence; he might have had around him now, not eleven disciples, but more than twelve legions of angels. But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled? The salvation of man was to be brought about, not by force, not by a display of power, but by holy teaching, by holy example, by suffering, by self-sacrifice, by the cross. The forces to be employed were not physical, but moral and spiritual. Christ would not terrify men into obedience. What he seeks is not the forced service of slaves, but the willing obedience of love. And love cannot be forced; it can be gained only by love. It is the love of Christ manifested in his incarnation, in his holy life, in his precious death, which constrains his faithful followers to live no longer unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again. The Lord asked not for the twelve legions of angels; his followers must not use the sword to propagate the gospel.
III. THE LORD'S ADDRESS TO THE MULTITUDE.
1. The needless display of force. There was much hesitation in the action of the soldiers. They had felt the Lord's power (John 18:6); evidently they regarded him with some awe, with some indefinite terror. Hence he had time to heal the wound of Malchus, to speak to Judas, to Peter, to the multitude. He asked them now why they had come out as against a robber? He had long sat quietly teaching in the temple; he had not sought to escape. But they did not seize him then; they did not interfere with his teaching. Why did. they now seem to regard him as a dangerous robber? Why these swords and staves? The good Lord felt the cruelty of their conduct, the indignity with which they were treating him.
2. The real cause of the Lord's sufferings. The Lord knew, they did not know, the deep necessities which lay under all this show of human violence. The Scriptures of the prophets must be fulfilled. Those wicked men were ignorantly working out the eternal purpose of God. They were guilty, all of them, more or less; their will was free. But yet, in the mystery of the Divine foreknowledge and the overruling providence of God, which is so infinitely above our reach, they were bringing to pass the utterances of God through the prophets. The Scriptures must be fulfilled. St. Matthew dwells reverently upon that great truth. He recurs to it again and again. Let us remember it, and treasure it in our hearts for warning and for encouragement.
3. The flight of the disciples. They had looked, perhaps, for some exertion of power. But the Lord did not resist; he meekly yielded himself to die. And their heart sank within them. Fear became stronger than love. "They all forsook him, and fled." Even Peter, who had just drawn the sword in his defence; even John and James, the sons of thunder—all fled. Alas! for human nature; how much weakness and cowardice and selfishness there is even in the best of us! Let us learn to distrust ourselves, to recognize our own weakness, to trust in him whose strength is made perfect in weakness.
1. Many knew Christ after the flesh; and yet they were not saved. Let us pray to know him by faith through the presence of his Spirit.
2. The kiss of Judas could not hide his treason. Outward reverence will not conceal a selfish, wicked heart.
3. We must use gentle means to win hearts to God.
4. Apostles fled. Let us beware of self-confidence; let us watch and pray.
The palace of Caiaphas.
I. THE PRELIMINARY TRIAL.
1. The meeting of the Sanhedrin. St. John tells us that our Lord was led first before Annas, for a hasty informal examination. Perhaps it was thought that the astute Annas, with that snake-like cunning which was attributed to him, might elicit something which might tell against the Prisoner. But the craft of the old high priest and the brutality of his officers were alike unavailing; and the Lord was sent to Caiaphas. The Sanhedrin had assembled at his house. In their haste and malice they violated the rules of their court. They met in the night; they assigned no counsel to the Prisoner; they called no witnesses in his favour; they passed judgment of death at once.
2. The witnesses. In their intense wickedness they deliberately sought false witness to destroy the Innocent; they could not find it. Even the perversion of the Lord's words, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up," could not be sustained. "Neither so," says St. Mark, "did their witness agree together." The Lord preserved a calm and holy silence amid this falsehood and calumny. We flash into indignation when we are unjustly accused. Let us learn meekness of our Lord.
II. THE INTERVENTION OF CAIAPHAS.
1. His questions. He started up in fierce excitement. He urged the Lord to speak. And when Christ still answered nothing, he put him upon his oath, and addressed to him directly the awful question, "Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" It was a flagrant violation of all the rules of judicial procedure. The judge constitutes himself the accuser; he tries to force the Accused to acknowledge the charge. He had, at a previous meeting of the Sanhedrin (John 11:49-52), maintained the necessity of putting Jesus to death. Did he think that Jesus was indeed the Christ; and, thinking this, did he seek to slay him? Was his guilt like the guilt of Herod, who sought to destroy the young Child that was born King of the Jews? Certainly Caiaphas had "prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation." But probably that prophecy was unconscious; probably he did not understand the full meaning of his words. If he understood it, his guilt would be too awful to contemplate; it would be beyond the limits of human guilt; it would be hellish, Satanic.
2. The Lord's answer. When he was adjured by the living God, put upon his oath solemnly by the high priest, the Lord kept silence no longer. "Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said;" or, in the equivalent words of St. Mark, "Jesus said, I am." Standing bound before his judge, knowing that he was pronouncing his own death warrant, he asserted in simple majesty the tremendous truth. He was the Son of God. Caiaphas should one day know it—in that day when "he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him." Caiaphas should see him then, the Son of God, but manifested as the Son of man (for it is as the Son of man that he shall execute judgment, Matthew 25:31; John 5:27; Daniel 7:13), "sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."
3. The condemnation. Caiaphas had gained his point now. He rent his clothes (an action forbidden to the high priest, Leviticus 21:10) in affectation of horror. There was no further need of witnesses, he said; for the Sanhedria had heard the awful words—awful words, which he called blasphemy; which we know were the truth of God. Caiaphas at once put the question to the council; and at once, without hesitation, and, it appears from St. Mark, unanimously, they condemned him to be guilty of death. He was condemned to death who is the Lord of life—the Life of the world. He was condemned who is the All-holy One, who knew no sin. He was judged who is the Judge of all; before whose judgment seat quick and dead must one day stand; who shall say to some, "Come, ye blessed;" and, alas! to others, "Depart from me."
4. The mocking. They spat on his face; they buffeted him; they derided his sacred office; they bade him prophesy; they called him "Christ" in bitter mockery. Fearful guilt, horrible brutality, Satanic cruelty. We shudder as we read the words; we feel shame for our fellow creatures, for our common human nature. They covered that face which is the light of the world; they spat upon him whom all the angels of God worship; they buffeted him who had gone about doing good; they scoffed at him whose holy soul was filled with sacred. love, who had come down from heaven for them, who was ready to die for them that they might live. What a contrast!—their rough, savage brutality, and his sweet, heavenly dignity; their violence, and his meekness; their noisy clamour, and his calm holy silence. May we learn of him the lesson which he taught, "Blessed are the meek"!
III. THE DENIALS OF ST. PETER.
1. The first denial. He had followed afar off when the disciples fled. He had been vehement, as usual, in his protestations of fidelity and steadfastness. For a time he had stood true to his words; he only had attempted resistance; he only had drawn the sword, and struck a bold blow in defence of his Lord. It was a daring action. Resistance was evidently useless. The Lord interfered; he saved his apostle from the consequences of his rashness. But he yielded himself to his enemies. And then at once St. Peter's courage failed him. He shared the panic fear of the disciples; he fled like the rest. But he soon turned from his flight. He deeply loved the Lord, and he was full of anxiety for him; he followed afar off. St. John, it seems, was able to procure his admission into the hall of the high priest's palace. He sat there with the servants, warming himself at the fire (small details like this give a human interest to the narrative, and evince its simple truthfulness), anxious to see the end. He had thrown himself into danger, as he had done once before on the Sea of Galilee; and again the event proved that he had miscalculated his courage, his endurance. A damsel came to him, saying, "Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee." It was not a soldier, only a damsel; and she seems to have addressed him out of curiosity. He was in no more danger than St. John, whom, it seems, the damsel knew as a disciple of Jesus. But at once he lost courage. He denied before them all, saying, "I know not what thou sayest." His first words, as reported by St. Matthew and St. Mark, are not a direct falsehood. He begins by equivocating, shuffling, pretending not to understand words which were plain to any one. His fall shows us how dangerous it is to tamper with the truth; an evasion soon leads to falsehood, to a wicked oath; it shows us the need of watchfulness and prayer, the danger of self-confidence. It is a sad picture of vacillation, cowardice, falsehood. Very strange too it would be, were it not that we find the like instability in our own weak, wavering, sinful hearts. It was sad for Peter that he overestimated his firmness, and went into the high priest's palace; but his weakness has turned to the good of the Church. This precious episode is full of sacred lessons. It tells us of our utter weakness, of the need of constant watchfulness and constant prayer. And it tells of the blessed love of Christ, of the constraining power of his loving, mournful look fixed upon the faithless disciple.
2. The second denial. Peter went into the porch; he feared to linger among the crowd of servants round the fire; he was anxious to escape from those inquiring eyes, from those busy tongues. But he had thrust himself into temptation, and the temptation thickened around him. He was not left alone in the porch. Another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, "This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth." And now he sinned more deeply than before. He denied with an oath, "I do not know the Man." And this was Peter, the rock-like apostle, to whom the Lord had entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven; Peter, who a few hours before had said, "Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee;" Peter, who had drawn the sword in his Lord's defence! The trembling self-distrustful question, "Lord, is it I?" is more becoming in a Christian than that proud self-confidence which so often goes before a fall.
3. The third denial. Satan had desired to have him, and Satan would not easily let him go. He still lingered about the door. He had sinned exceedingly, but his sin had not wholly driven his love for his Master out of his heart. He trembled for his life; and yet a strange fascination kept him in that dangerous place. An hour longer, St. Luke tells us, he remained there—a most miserable hour it must have been. But he was to fall more deeply yet. He talked, it seems, to hide his terror. His provincial accent showed the Galilaean. "Surely thou also art one of them," they said again; "for thy speech bewrayeth thee." Then, alas! for our poor human nature, Peter "began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the Man." This was the climax of his guilt—first the evasion, then the false oath, then this awful result of the first equivocation, cursing and swearing.
4. His repentance. Peter swore, "I know not the Man." But the Lord knoweth them that are his; he knew his sinful follower still. "The Lord turned and looked upon Peter." We may well be thankful to the Evangelist St. Luke for having recorded, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that touching fact. The Lord was in the hands of his enemies, condemned to death, mocked, buffeted; but he thought of his apostle. He had saved him from the swords of the soldiers; now he saved him from Satan. That holy, loving, mournful look went straight to Peter's heart. The crowing of the cock, heard at the same time, brought to his remembrance the warning words of Christ; "and he went out, and wept bitterly." Oh that we might have faith to know and feel that that loving, mournful look is now fixed upon us! Still the Lord looks round about upon all things. He reads the hearts. How often does he even now see sins like St. Peter's—cowardice, falsehood, blasphemy—and that among men who are called by his Name, who have been baptized into his Church! How often do men even now deny the Lord that bought them, sometimes in words, still more commonly by their life and conduct] He sees us out of heaven. Oh that we could realize that look of mournful tenderness, of yearning, compassionate love! The consciousness that that look is seeking us out, that it has found us, that it is fixed upon us in longing affection, must surely bring us to our knees, to true repentance, to those blessed tears which are precious in the sight of the angels of God; for they tell of a sinner that repenteth. "The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter." Look on us, O Lord; and by the power of that holy look win our souls from sin unto God, from selfishness to thine own most blessed love.
1. "Rend your heart, and not your garments." Caiaphas rent his clothes; it was mere affectation. Let us come to God with a penitent heart, confessing our sin.
2. The Lord was cruelly mocked and derided. Let us learn of him the blessedness of Christian meekness.
3. Peter denied the Lord, and that thrice. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
"Ointment poured forth."
This incident has a unique honour set upon it by our Lord, who promises it worldwide and lasting fame. Thus accentuated, it claims our closest attention. Why does Christ desire honour to be given to the memory of so simple a deed as is here recorded?
I. ONE WHO TRULY LOVES CHRIST WILL RECKON NO GIFT TOO COSTLY TO BE OFFERED TO HIM. Mary's adoration was prompted by adequate motives. She had often sat at the feet of Jesus, and she had learned to appreciate his goodness as far as any human being could do so. Her brother had just been restored to her from the grave by this wonderful Friend. Jesus had dropped dark hints of his approaching departure. Then all her love and adoration were gathered up in an enthusiasm of devotion for this last typical act. The reason why the incident is so exceptional is that the Marys of Bethany are rare. The real wonder is that the Church of Christ should be so slow to pour out her treasures at his feet, that calculating economy and grudging meanness should cripple the efforts of any Christian people in sacrificing themselves and giving their offerings for the glory of their Lord.
II. JESUS CHRIST ACCEPTS COSTLY OFFERINGS GIVES TO HIMSELF. The hypocritical objection of Judas was cleverly invented. The traitor knew the simplicity and unselfishness of his Master, and he knew that the heart of Jesus was always with the needy. Why, then, did not our Lord take the same view of his enthusiastic disciple's action? Because he would not hurt the feelings of Mary, would not grieve her love. Still, even that painful course must have been taken if her conduct had been unacceptable to Christ on account of any blameworthy extravagance. It is plain that he did accept adoration. This was seen on Palm Sunday, when he received the "Hosannas!" of the multitude, and defended the children from the rebukes of the interfering Jews. It is right to give honour to Christ, for he is good and great; but above his human excellence his Divine glory makes this homage supremely fitting.
III. WE SHALL BEST SERVE OUR FELLOW MEN WHEN WE ARE MOST DEVOTED TO CHRIST. He was not robbing the poor in order to accept a luxury for himself, as Judas rudely insinuated. We must set this incident over against our Lord's recently spoken words about the kindness shown to others being really given to himself (Matthew 25:40). There is no rivalry between the two kinds of gifts. Mary would not be the less charitable to her neighbours because of her expenditure on her Master. It is more likely that her heart would flow out in richer kindness towards them. Devotion to Christ is the greatest inspiration for sympathy with suffering fellow men. What is spent on the cause of religion does not detract from the help of the poor. The reason is that the fund of possible generosity is never exhausted. We have not such a limited amount to give away. Few contribute a tithe of what they ought to give. But when the heart is moved to offer directly to Christ, its new warmth of love will prompt it to be more liberal in giving to all other good objects. It is not a fact that, for the most part, those people who refuse to help religious objects are the most generous in charity to their neighbours. The poor would not be grateful to be handed over to the tender mercies of the Judases. On the other hand, we find that those men who are foremost in supporting the cause of Christ are most earnest in human charity. The very people who maintain foreign missions do most for the suffering poor at home.—W.F.A.
The betrayal of Christ.
This is one of the saddest scenes in the life of the Man of sorrows. Leonardo diVinci has commemorated it pictorially, although his famous fresco is fast fading from the walls of the refectory of the monastery at Milan. Familiar copies of this wonderful picture must have impressed the scene upon all our memories. It is alive with heart searching lessons for all time.
I. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR A DISCIPLE OF CHRIST TO BETRAY HIS MASTER. We might have thought that the spell of Christ's presence would have effectually prevented such a fall. That there should be a Judas in the college of the apostles is a startling fact.
1. Jesus does not hold any by force. This is not a case for considering the scope of omnipotence. Here we trench on the awful region of the human will. God does not override that mysterious power. If he did, he would destroy the man himself; he would crush the personality in which alone true service can be rendered to God.
2. It is possible to know much of Christ, and yet to escape from his influence. Judas appears to have been a man of great intelligence. He had heard the wonderful teachings of One who "spake as never man spake," yet they had made no final impression on his character. We are not saved by our knowledge of Christ. We may be disciples without being Christians; scholars in the school of Jesus, and yet not saints in his household.
II. NO CHRISTIAN CAN BE SURE THAT HE WILL NEVER BETRAY HIS MASTER. It is pathetic to see these humble men each putting the anxious question, "Is it I, Lord?" But the very utterance of the question suggests the wisdom of those who breathed it. We do not know ourselves. There are volcanic depths which may reveal themselves in sudden explosions, fires that slumber far beneath the green fields and the flowery gardens. The rose and the lily bloom on the surface; but who shall say what will happen when the eruption takes place? No one has fathomed the depth of the hidden possibilities of evil in his own heart; and no one can tell what force of temptations he will be called upon to face. For aught we know, any one of us might become a Judas.
III. THE ONLY SECURITY AGAINST BETRAYING CHRIST IS TO BE FOUND IN A HUMBLE TRUST IN HIS GRACE. The disciples acted wisely in uttering their anxious question This was the best way to get a negative answer. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed, lest he fall." The very fear of falling will be a help against falling, by inducing a spirit of watchfulness.
1. We need to be on our guard against unfaithfulness The danger comes when it is least expected. He who is anxious lest he shall betray his Master will be the first to detect the temptation that points the way of treason.
2. Christ can keep his people faithful. We are not left to be the victims of chance, nor are we entirely committed to the charge of our own wayward wills. Christ will not keep any from falling by force, apart from the concurrence of their own will. But he can and he does preserve those who seek his grace and trust his aid. He is able to keep such from falling (Jude 1:24).—W.F.A.
The Lord's Supper.
We must never forget that this central ordinance of our Christian worship was instituted by our Lord himself. It is an indication of his foresight and forbearance; for it shows first that he saw we should need to be repeatedly reminded of what he is to us, and then that he condescended to help the infirmity of our wandering natures by providing the most impressive means for continually presenting the great central facts of his work before our minds and hearts. He enlists the services of the three senses of sight, taste, and touch, to aid the sense of hearing in bringing before us the vital truths of his gospel.
I. THE CHRISTIAN FEEDS UPON CHRIST.
1. Christ himself. These elements do not represent abstract doctrines or moral precepts; the theory of redemption or the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount. They represent Jesus. He is our Life.
2. Christ received as food. We eat the bread and drink the wine. Christ is the Bread of life. We must personally participate in Christ, and receive him into our lives, in order to profit by his grace.
3. Christ as every day food. Jesus chose the common bread and wine of the country, such as were always at hand. He does not wish to be a rare luxury for wedding feasts and kings' banquets. He will be the poor man's bread, and his daily bread. Yet this is what is most essential. Some people look for rare delicacies in Christ, but they will not make him their daily Bread. Then they will starve. We must live upon Christ.
II. CHRIST BECOMES AS FOOD TO OUR SOULS IS HIS INCARNATION. These elements do not represent the soul of Jesus. They stand for his body and his blood. Strange speculations have risen around this fact, and some have imagined that the properties of the spiritual, of the Divine nature itself, were transferred to the body of our Lord. It is straining the words of Jesus, and putting an unnatural meaning on his language, to suppose any such miraculous transformation of his body to have taken place. In a simpler way we may understand that it is through his incarnation that he becomes our food. Food must be in some way like what feeds on it in order that it may be fully assimilated and absorbed. Christ becomes one with us in his incarnation. We can come near to him in his earthly life. We can touch him, and sympathise with him, and understand him in some degree. Thus we feed on his body and blood, and so receive him.
III. CHRIST GIVES HIMSELF TO US IN HIS DEATH. The bread is broken; the wine is poured out; and these two elements are taken separately. Thus our Lord sets before us the thought of his death. He could not be our Life if he had not given up his own life. It is not the body of Christ in his earthly ministry, it is the body on the cross, that feeds us. It is not the blood in the veins, it is the blood shed, that saves us. The Lord's Supper was instituted on the night before Jesus was betrayed. It pointed on to the cross. It is now the great memorial of Christ in his sacrifice for us.
In conclusion, let us consider how we may approach this sacred feast. We cannot eat and drink "worthily" if we are to be worthy of Christ or free from all sin before we come. This is impossible, and it is not required of us; for Christ is himself the Saviour from sin. What we want is to recognize him as our Life, to trust in him as our Saviour, to surrender to him as our Lord. Then we can come to his table at his own invitation, and refresh our souls with his grace.—W.F.A.
"The blood of the new covenant."
This verse is intensely interesting, because it contains one of our Lord's rare sayings about the purpose of his death. For the most part the New Testament teachings on that great theme come from the apostles, who reflected on the event after it had passed into history, and with the light of the Resurrection upon it. Still, it is not just to say that the apostles originated the doctrine of the atonement. Not only is that doctrine foreshadowed in Isaiah 53:1-12.; in the institution of his Supper our Lord distinctly sets it forth. Before this he spoke of his life being given as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28), and he called himself the good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:15).
I. JESUS SPEAKS WITH STRANGE EMPHASIS OF HIS BLOOD. In the present day some people shrink from all reference to the blood of Christ. They are disgusted with the coarse and unmeaning language of a certain class of preachers to whom the mere physical image seems to be more than the truth typified. But our Lord himself directs us to the subject in the wine of the Communion. We must interpret his meaning in the light of Jewish ideas. The Jew taught that the blood was the life (Le Isaiah 17:11). Then Christ gives us his essential life. The blood was shed in the sacrifice of the victim at the altar. Christ is the great Sacrifice for our sins, and as such he sheds his blood; i.e. the blood signifies Christ dying for us; and then, beyond the mere act of dying, it signifies the preciousness of his life given to us.
II. THE BLOOD OF CHRIST SEALS HIS NEW COVENANT. He was instituting a new order, a fresh relationship between man and God. The old covenant of the Jewish Law was obsolete. Men had outgrown it, and were ready to receive something larger and more spiritual. Jesus himself teaches that he institutes the fresh relation. As a covenant signifies certain terms and arrangements, this new covenant of Christ's has its new conditions. His whole teaching about the kingdom of heaven is expository of his covenant. Preparations in prophecy (e.g. Jeremiah 31:31) and explanations in apostolic writings help us further to understand it.
1. It is for all nations, not only for Jews.
2. It is of grace, not of law.
3. It is spiritual, not of "carnal ordinances."
III. THIS NEW COVENANT BRINGS REMISSION OF SINS.
1. Christ forgives sins. By exercising his right to do so our Lord roused early antagonism among the defenders of the old religion. But the world has since seen that here lay the very root and core of his work. Here is the essence of the gospel for us today—it promises forgiveness of sins.
2. This forgiveness springs from the death of Christ. We may find it difficult to trace the connection; but it is not an invention of human speculation, for we find our Lord himself speaking of it. It is Christ's own teaching that our sins are forgiven through the shedding of his blood.
IV. THE REMISSION OF SINS IS OF WIDE APPLICATION. Jesus says it is "for many." He did not die merely to save an elect few. He had large aims, and he will not "see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied" until he has brought many souls out of darkness into light. Therefore the very institution of the Lord's Supper is an encouragement for the penitent to seek the pardon which Christ is so bountiful in bestowing.—W.F.A.
The Man of sorrows.
Although this name is found in Messianic prophecy (Isaiah 53:3), it would be wrong to suppose that there was no gladness in the life of Christ. He spoke of his joy (John 15:11), and he delighted to do the will of God (Psalms 40:8). So pure a life spent in doing good to men must have had a gladness which no earthly pleasure could bestow. Yet Jesus had sorrows which no man can measure. It is easier to understand the glory of the Transfiguration than the agony of the garden.
I. THE GREATNESS OF THE SORROWS. Many bitter ingredients entered into the cup of anguish which it was the Father's will that Jesus should drink.
1. The horror of death. Jesus was young and in health; it was natural for him to shrink from a premature and violent death.
2. The dread of shame. Jesus was of the most refined and sensitive nature; in his Passion he was to face insult and ignominy.
3. Apparent failure. He came to set up his kingdom, to redeem Israel, to save the world; and his mission was rejected. Instead of the throne, he was to have the cross. All his efforts seemed to be ending in darkness. This was the earthly aspect of them. During his humiliation he must have felt it.
4. The faithlessness of friends. One had betrayed him; another was about to deny him; nearly all would flee in selfish cowardice.
5. Spiritual depression. At last Jesus seemed to be deserted by God.
II. THE SOURCE OF THE SORROWS. We must look deeper than these immediate occasions of the grief of Christ. The fundamental source is beneath and behind all of them.
1. The world's sin. They all result from sin. The world's sin rose up against God's Holy One, and smote him with all its fury. It was the dark cloud of this mass of sin that hid from him the vision of God. Jesus was bearing the load of sin, and it was breaking his heart.
2. The goodness of Christ. Bad men do not feel the world's sin very acutely.
(1) The holiness of Jesus was horrified at its black and hideous enormity.
(2) The love of Christ was grieved at its shocking cruelty towards himself, and at its own fatal and suicidal influence in the world. He saw it as the cause of misery and ruin and death.
III. THE ENDURANCE OF THE SORROWS. HOW did Jesus meet them?
1. With natural shrinking. He was no fanatical lover of martyrdom. He proved his humanity by feeling acutely and desiring to escape. Therefore he can sympathize with sufferers.
2. With prayer. The Gethsemane of agony is Christ's most sacred oratory. He teaches us to bring our griefs to God. His example shows that prayer is the soul's consolation in trouble.
3. With trustful submissions. He desired God's will to be done, whatever that might be. He prayed for deliverance, but he never complained, much less did he rebel. Here he is the example for us whose greatest sorrows never approach the tragic terror of his.
IV. THE FRUIT OF THE SORROWS.
1. Christ's victory. He triumphed by submission. In obedience to God, he attained to the desire of his heart. Through his Passion and crucifixion he won the "Name which is above every name." His sorrows led to his glory. By the via dolorosa he reached his throne.
2. The world's salvation. No selfish motive of personal gain inspired our Lord's endurance. His very reward was to see the world saved. His suffering was all for others; if the world may rejoice in hope, this is owing to the fact that Jesus suffered in the darkness of a dreadful death.—W.F.A.
The curse of the sword.
It was natural that the impetuous disciple should try to defend his beloved Master. But his action was a piece of madness, and, if persisted in, it must have led to a needless slaughter of the followers of Christ. It was not on this account only, however, that our Lord promptly checked it, although doubtless his keen perception and wise judgment detected the strategic weakness of the situation. A much deeper thought flashes out from his words, and sheds a light on the character of his kingdom and the method of his work.
I. THE CAUSE OF CHRIST CANNOT BE ADVANCED BY THE SWORD. Mohammedanism is its very opposite in this respect. Charles the Great made a fatal blunder when he drove the Saxons into the water of baptism by a charge of his fierce warriors.
1. Christ aims at inward conviction. A religion of external observances may be imposed by force; but you cannot compel a man to believe as you wish. The persuasion of force may induce a particular course of action to be followed; it will never spread the idea it champions.
2. Christ desires to win love. He has not conquered a soul if he has only brought it to silent submission. He seeks much more. He would have the hearts of his people. But the use of force is directly opposed to any such results. You cannot make a man love you by half killing him with sword thrusts. This method might advance a superstition of fear; it could never aid a gospel of love.
II. THE RIGHTS OF CHRIST CANNOT BE DEFENDED BY THE SWORD. At first sight it might seem to be reasonable to defend Christian truths and institutions by force, even although they could not be planted in this way. Constantine thought so, when he brought the whole machinery of the state to support the Nicene party in its opposition to the Arians. But the subsequent change of his own policy, and the long triumph and tyranny of Arianism, proved that he was mistaken. Here is the fatal error of the persecutor in all ages. Nothing is so injurious to a religious cause as the forcible suppression of its enemies. The religion that persecutes exchanges the love and devotion with which it may once have been regarded for horror and aversion. The dreadful Marian persecutions did more to destroy the power of the pope in England than all the assaults of the Protestants. The same fate would follow the same policy if it were pursued in defence of the purest form of the gospel of Christ.
III. THE WORLD AT LARGE SUFFERS IMMENSELY FROM THE SWORD. Occasionally there is a righteous war, as that which resulted in the suppression of slavery in America. But in the vast majority of cases, a war is an almost unmitigated evil to all who are engaged in it. It causes immeasurable sufferings, and it encourages the worst passions. The words of Christ are true in a deeper sense than superficial readers discover. Not only is the fighting man liable to be killed in battle. His behaviour endangers his better nature. The spirit of hate and revenge is fatal to all that is good in him. Thus he perishes by the sword—not alone by the sword of his antagonist, which he provokes, but by the sword which he wields in his own hand. He is a suicide. In defending his body, too often he kills his own soul.—W.F.A.
Christ and Caiaphas.
Jesus now stands face to face with the head of the old Jewish religion. The official leader of the nation is for the first time confronted by the Man who claims to be its true King. Caiaphas could not but look upon Christ with the jealousy a selfish man in power feels for his rival. But Jesus was more than a rival of the high priest. He laid claim to a rank which Caiaphas never dreamed of assuming. We do not wonder that the ecclesiastical judge examined his Prisoner with bitter prejudice.
I. THE ADJURATION. Caiaphas charged Jesus, on oath, to declare whether he was the Christ, the Son of God.
1. It is most important to know what Jesus Christ claims to be. We have an interest in the high priest's question quite apart from the judicial process. Our religion is centred in Christ. It is mere than an outgrowth of his life and teaching. It rests upon his Person; it lives in him; it is what he is. We cannot wholly disregard him without abandoning Christianity itself. An imperfect knowledge of Christ may be found with a true and saving faith in him. Still, the faith must be in him, and therefore we must know enough of him to trust him.
2. The greatest question about Christ is as to his Divinity and Messiahship.
(1) Is he the Christ? If he is, he is able to save; if he is, he has a right to claim a loyal following.
(2) Is he the Son of God? If he is, he comes to us clad with Divine power. Then we may trust that he cannot fail, and we have the best of all reasons for submitting to his kingly rule. Such questions as these about his nature and authority cannot be set aside as of merely speculative interest.
II. THE REPLY. Jesus did not usually assert his Messiahship; much less did he directly confess his Divine nature, except on certain rare occasions. But he was now at the end of his life, and therefore his revelation of his nature and office could not hinder his work. Moreover, the high priest had a legal right to test his claims, and Jesus never opposed the execution of the law.
1. Jesus accepted the highest names ascribed to him. Could he do this if he did not know they were his by right? He was calm and reasonable, simple and humble, generous and unselfish. Yet he consented to be called "the Christ, the Son of God."
2. Jesus foresaw and predicted his own second advent. It is wonderful that a peasant from Galilee should speak thus before the greatest dignitary of his nation, amid all the pomp and splendour of the high priest's palace, and in view of his own rejection and death.
III. THE RESULT. Caiaphas took the words of Christ as if they were blasphemy and on this account pronounced him to be worthy of death.
1. His conduct was determined by an unjust prejudice. He assumed that the claims of Christ could not be true, and therefore he judged them to be blasphemous. Thus he approached Christ with a closed mind. If we have already made up our minds adversely to the claims of Christ, it is useless for us to examine them. but the only fair method is to approach him with an open mind, ready to weigh all he teaches, ready to accept all that he may give us good warrant for believing.
2. On his own assumption he was right. If the high claims of Christ were false, he was guilty of blasphemy. Caiaphas was more consistent than those people are who reject the Divine claims of Christ, and yet honour him as the best of men.—W.F.A.
St. Peter denying his Lord.
It says much for the veracity of the Gospel narratives that the evangelists have not shrunk from recording an incident which is to the shame of the chief of the apostles. And yet we may be sure that the charity which covers a multitude of sins would have buried this sad story in eternal oblivion if it had not been full of important lessons for all ages. These things are not written for Peter's shame, but for our instruction. No doubt the first record of the story was derived from the confession of the penitent apostle's own lips.
I. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR ONE WHO LOVES CHRIST TO DENY HIM. In the case of Judas we have seen that knowledge does not prevent treason; here we see that love does not secure one against the weakness of denial. The disciple betrayed his great Teacher, the friend denied his beloved Saviour. The offences were utterly different. Yet St. Peter's is distressing because it overcame the loyalty of love. The emotional and impetuous are in an especial danger of lulling before sudden temptations.
II. SELF-CONFIDENCE INVITES TEMPTATION. We pray, "Lead us not into temptation." Yet St. Peter boldly walked into it. His love for his Master kept him near to Jesus. While almost all the rest of the disciples—all but St. John—had fled, Peter hung on to the outskirts of the procession as Jesus was carried off under arrest to Jerusalem. For this we admire him. He was braver than the apostles who had not a chance of denying their Lord, because they had escaped from the dangerous scenes. It is not just, therefore, to say that he wilfully put himself in the way of danger. But if his heart drew him near to Christ, his humility and self-distrust should have warned him to be on his guard. Our loyalty to Christ may call us into difficult places; but then we should recognize that they are difficult, and pray for grace that we may walk circumspectly in them.
III. COURAGE IN EXCITING DANGERS IS OFTEN FOLLOWED BY COWARDICE UNDER QUIETER CIRCUMSTANCES. in the garden St. Peter was brave as a]ion, slashing at the high priest's servant with his sword. In the palace courtyard he cowers before a waiting maid's joke. It is a great man's house, and St. Peter is an uncouth fisherman; Christ has been seized, and his cause is apparently lost; the watch is long, the night chill, the disciple weary. All these things tend to undermine courage. But it is among such circumstances that we most need to be on our guard. Then there is no excitement of the battle to sustain us. In the hour of depression our danger is great.
IV. ONE FALL LEADS TO ANOTHER. If St. Peter can deny his Master once, it is not at all wonderful that he should deny him thrice. The descent to evil is an inclined plane, which grows steeper as we proceed along it. Therefore it is most needful to resist the tempter at his first onslaught. Like St. Peter, Christ was thrice attacked by the tempter. But unlike his servant, he worsted the foe at the first attack, and met him with the added strength of victory at the subsequent assaults.
V. THE TRUE CHRISTIAN WILL REPENT OF HIS UNFAITHFULNESS. The crowing cock reminds St. Peter of his Master's warning. Then his repentance is sudden and bitter. Christ's servant cannot sin without suffering. But his tears are healing. Though he fall, he shall rise again.—W.F.A.
HOMILIES BY MARCUS DODS
Matthew 26:14-25, Matthew 26:47-50
By piecing together what the various Gospels tell us about Judas, we can see the process by which our Lord separated him from the rest.
1. Our Lord indicated that among the disciples there was a traitor. Unable to detect the conscious look of guilt in the face of any of his companions, each, conscious of the deep, unfathomed capacity for evil in his own heart, can but frankly ask the Master, "Lord, is it I?" But there was one of them who did not join in the question.
2. Jesus answered, "He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me." The circle of suspicion is thus narrowed.
3. Almost simultaneously with this Peter beckons to John, who puts at last, in a whisper, the definite question, "Who is it?" and Jesus, in the ear of the beloved disciple, whispers the reply, "He it is," etc. (John 13:26). The look that accompanies the giving of the sop, as well as the act itself, shows Judas that his treachery is discovered. He therefore mechanically takes up, in a somewhat colder form, the question of the rest and says "Master, is it I?" His fear subdues his voice to a whisper, heard only by John and the Lord, and the answer, "Thou hast said. That thou doest do quickly," is equally unobserved by the rest. The sin of Judas presents us with one of the most perplexed problems of life and character. Let us, first of all, look at the connection of this betrayal with the life of Christ. Why might Jesus not have been taken without the help of a traitor? Possibly the reason was that it was needful that Jesus should be made perfect through suffering, that so he might be s merciful High Priest. He had already suffered in a variety of ways in body and mind; but till he was brought into close contact with a man who could accept his love, eat his bread, press his hand with assurance of fidelity, and then sell him, he did not know the misery that one human being can inflict on another. In conjecturing the character of Judas, we must start from the idea that with extraordinary capacity for wickedness he had also more than ordinary leanings to what was good. He was an apostle, and had been called to that office by Christ. He was himself so impressed with Christ as to follow him. It is possible he may have hoped to receive wealth and honor in the new kingdom, but this motive mingled with the attachment to Christ's Person which all the apostles had. That Judas was trusted by the other apostles is manifest. Even to the end he is unsuspected by them, and to the end he has an active conscience. He is overwhelmed with remorse and shame; his sense of guilt is stronger even than the love of money that had hitherto been his strongest passion: he judges himself fairly, sees what he has become, and goes to "his own place." If we ask what precisely it was in the crime of Judas that makes us so abhor it, manifestly its most hateful ingredient was its treachery. It is also invested with a horror altogether its own by the fact that this Person whom he betrayed was the Son of God and the Saviour of the world—the best beloved of God and every man's Friend. After three years' acquaintanceship and observation of the various ways in which Christ could bless people, this was all he could get from him. And there are still such men—men who can find nothing in Christ that they sincerely care for, though calling themselves his followers.
I. The sin of Judas teaches us the great power and danger of the love of money. It infallibly eats out of the soul every generous emotion and high aim. It can be so easily and continuously gratified, and it is notoriously difficult to extirpate. Covetousness is more a sin of the will than sins of the flesh or of a passionate nature. There is more choice in it, and therefore it above all others is called idolatry, because it above all others proves that the man is in his heart choosing the world and not God.
II. Disappointment in Christ is not an unknown thing among ourselves. Men attach themselves to Christ in a loose, conventional way. They are not wholly and heartily his, but merely seek to derive some influences from him. The result is that they one day find that through all their religious profession and apparently Christian life their characteristic sin has actually been gaining strength. And finding this, they become aware that they have lost both this world and the next. They find that the reward of double-mindedness is the most absolute perdition.
III. The most comprehensive lesson is the rapidity of sin's growth, and the enormous proportions it attains when the sinner is sinning against light. The position Judas enjoyed and by which he might have been forever enrolled among the foremost of mankind, one of the twelve foundations of the eternal city, he so skilfully misused that the greatest sinner feels glad that he has yet not been left to commit the sin of Judas.
We may, then, walk with Christ, and yet be no Christians after all. Frequently we think and act as if the knowledge of our duty and the occasional good feelings and impulses that we enjoy were themselves saving, whereas it is this that makes our sin and our danger so much the greater. It is possible that the only result of our knowing Christ may be that we betray him.—D.
The crime of Judas.
I. CHARACTER OF JUDAS. Though Judas had extraordinary capacity for crime, he must also have had more than ordinary leanings to what was good. He was an apostle. This implies on Christ's part discernment of some qualities in Judas likely to make him useful to the Church. It implies on Judas's part a willingness at least to put himself in the way of what was good. It is true he might follow Jesus as a speculation, expecting advancement and wealth as the result. But this motive mingled to some extent in the discipleship of all the apostles. And probably along with this unworthy motive there was in him, as in them, some mixture of higher purpose. He may have felt the elevating influence of Christ's fellowship, and may have wished to feel it more. And it is something in his favour that he remained so long in Christ's company. Yet this man, with his intelligence, his occasional good impulses, his feeling of affection for Christ, his favouring circumstances, committed the greatest crime it has been possible for any to commit.
II. HEINOUSNESS OF HIS CRIME. The most hateful element in the crime is its treachery. Caesar defended himself till struck by the dagger of a friend; then he covered his face, and accepted his fate. One can forgive the open blow of a declared enemy, but the man who lives with you on terms of intimacy, and thus learns your past history, your ways and habits, and the state of your affairs, the man you so confide in that you communicate to him what you keep hidden from others, and who, while you still think well of him, uses his knowledge of you to blacken your character, damage your prospects, and ruin your family,—this man is a criminal of a different dye. So Judas used his knowledge of Christ's habits—his hour and place of prayer, etc. The circumstance, too, that he made money by his treachery is an aggravation. The best use he could think of to put Jesus to was to sell him for five pounds. After all be had seen and known of Jesus, this was all the benefit he thought he could derive from him.
III. ATTEMPTED PALLIATIONS OF HIS CRIME. So diabolical does the crime seem, so difficult is it to believe that any one who had known and lived with Jesus could find it in his heart to give him up to his enemies, that attempts have been made to account for the act on less damning motives. Especially it has been urged that it was the purpose of Judas merely to force the hand of Jesus—to compel him to resort to force in self-defence, and erect the standard of the new kingdom. He was weary of the inactivity of Jesus, and sought to bring matters to a crisis. Some plausibility is given to this view by the subsequent remorse and suicide of Judas. This, it is said, proves that he did not intend the death of his Master. But to argue thus is to forget that in all cases sin committed looks very different from sin in prospect. Doubtless Judas did not clearly foresee the terrible guilt of giving up his Master to death; but this does not imply that he did not intend to give him up to death. Before we sin, it is the gain we see; after we sin, the guilt.
IV. SOURCES OF THE CRIME. His discipleship bad put him in the way of temptation. He had carried the bag of the small community. His covetousness had increased upon him. And now he saw clearly that no great scope for money making was to be found in the company of Jesus. He was a disappointed, embittered man. He felt he must break with Christ, but in doing so would win what he could, and would revenge himself on those who had kept him poor, and at the same time, by exploding the society and annihilating it, would justify his own conduct in deserting the cause.
1. The power and danger of the love of money. All that we do in the world day by day has a more or less direct reference to money. This passion of covetousness is therefore always appealed to. Other evil propensities allow intervals of freedom, periods of repentance and amendment; but this is constant. Judas's fingers were always in the bag; it jingled as he walked; it lay under his pillow as he slept.
2. The enormous growth a sin makes when committed against light. Everything in Judas's position to win him from worldliness. But the uuworldliness of his company only led him to take greater advantage, and did not infect him with generosity. Had he passed his days as a small trader in Kerioth, he could only have reached the minor guilt of adulterating his goods and giving them out in false measures; but in Christ's company his sin acquired abnormal proportions. Inducements to righteousness and opportunities of good provoke in the sinner a strong and determined bent to sin.—D.
The words, "Rise, let us be going," are not inconsistent with those just uttered, "Sleep on now, and take your rest." These latter words had rather a moral significance than a physical. They meant, "I have no longer any need of your watching." But just as he utters them, he catches the gleam of arms through the trees, and exclaims, "Rise." Describe the scene—the measured tread of the Roman cohort; the glare of torches and lanterns, and the swarming rabble come out to see an arrest and take part in a riot; the traitor in front, guiding the party to the well known retirement of Jesus; the kiss indicating the Person of the Lord, lest he should escape or lest some of the disciples should give themselves up in his stead; the reply of the Lord, the emphasis being on the words," Betrayest thou?" the sudden panic among the captors; and the violence of Peter.
I. This arrest is THE RESULT OF CHRIST'S EFFORTS TO DO GOOD. His conduct had been conciliatory to the point of meekness. He had been wise, gentle, patient, and persistently beneficent. And this is the result. And every one who has new truth to declare, new methods to employ, reforms to introduce, should recognize that he will be opposed by the combined forces of ignorance, pride, self-interest, and sloth. It is the consolation and encouragement of those who endeavour to improve matters around them, and meet with contempt and ill-treatment for doing so, that they share the lot of him whose reward for seeking to bless mankind was that he was arrested as a common felon.
II. THE MAGNAMIMITY OF CHRIST UNDER ARREST, as shown by his healing Malchus and shielding his disciples. When efforts to help other men have only brought calamity on one's self, there is strong provocation to resentment and bitterness. It is only the few who, when misinterpreted and ill used by ignorance and malignity, can retain any loving care for others.
III. Observe how the various elements of THE DOCTRINE OF THE ATONEMENT find an actual place in the life of Christ.
1. His substitution is pictured in his now giving himself up and shielding his disciples. The Jews clearly understood that he was the head of the movement. Peter's obtrusive violence did not divert their attention for a moment. He was not the kind of man to lead a great movement. Jesus was the dangerous Person. And on his side Jesus acknowledged they were right. It was he who had gathered these men together. But for him, they would have been dreaming at their nets on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus therefore steps to the front, and takes upon himself all the responsibility. And in this the disciples see a picture of his whole work of substitution. This night in the garden represents to them the hour of darkness; and always in every hour of darkness they see Jesus stepping to the front, and saying, "If ye seek me, let these go their way."
2. The voluntariness of his sacrifice is also brought out. It was at this point it was especially brought out whether or not he was willing to die, whether he would flee, hide, fight, or surrender himself. Everything is proof of his willingness—his going that night as usual to the garden, his definite resignation to God's will, his meeting his captors, his avowal that he was the Person they sought, his refusal to allow Peter to defend him. Voluntariness was an essential element in his work of atonement. In order to atone for our sin, he had to submit himself to the penalty of sin, to accept as righteously inflicted what was due to sin. Obviously it was needful that he should be a perfectly free agent in doing so. Had his death been compulsory, we could not know whether he was accepting it as righteously inflicted or not.—D.
Christ before Caiaphas.
The key to the examination of our Lord by Caiaphas is found in the fact that Caiaphas was the person who had declared it to be expedient that one man should die for the people. This, reduced from the high-sounding phraseology of an abstract maxim to its practical significance as a policy, meant that justice to individuals must not be too scrupulously cared for if the good of the state seems to require injustice; that at any cost of injustice to an individual the Jewish people must ingratiate themselves with Rome. If any bewildered counsellors disliked the idea of putting an innocent man to death, Caiaphas had his answer ready, "Ye know not anything; could we have a better opportunity of showing our zeal for Rome than by sacrificing a Person who claims to be King of the Jews? What though he be innocent? He is a poor Galilaean, whose death is of no consequence. He is connected with no good family which can expose us. By his execution we shall merit the confidence of Rome." Thus Jesus was made a scapegoat, on whom might be laid much treachery and infidelity of which the Romans justly suspected the Jews. An examination begun from this point of view was of no significance as a means of evincing truth. Jesus was prejudged. His death was a much desired boon to the community. But some show of legal form must be gone through. Cite the legal process in capital cases, and show how it was transgressed, and in what points adhered to. Significance of the silence of Jesus. It is beneath him to reply to questions put under pretext of examining, but really for the purpose of betraying the accused into some expression which might condemn him. The false man is best replied to by silence. His conscience is more likely to be stirred. Such seems to have been the result in Caiaphas's case. At least there is an appearance of sincerity in the words, "I adjure thee," etc. (verse 63). He seems to have been impressed by the manner of Christ. He had probably never before had an opportunity of studying him, and he has discernment enough to see that this is no ordinary fanatic nor demagogue. To this appeal Jesus at once replies. And on this reply, on his own confession, and not on anything witnessed against him, he is condemned. Jesus' confession, that he is the Christ, the Son of God. Nothing could exceed the solemnity of the circumstances in which the confession was made. There is no doubt that Jesus laid claim to superhuman dignity; to a dignity which it was blasphemy for any mere man to claim. It was for this he was condemned. Comparing the conduct of the high priest with that of the servants who mocked and abused Christ, we gather two suggestions for practical teaching.
1. How much wrong we may inflict upon Christ by resisting conviction.
2. How much wrong we may do him in ignorance—by adopting the judgments passed upon him by others, and declining the duty of considering his claims ourselves.—D.
Peter's denial of Jesus.
Describe the scene—the arrangement of the palace, which admitted of Jesus in the judgment hall seeing what was passing in the court, the rooms being built round a court open to the sky. Describe also the three denials.
I. SINS ARISE FROM UNSUSPECTED QUALITIES IN US. Peter, the bold, venturesome, straightforward disciple, fell by cowardice and lying; as Moses the meek by anger, and Solomon the wise by folly. Often our most flagrant transgressions arise from parts of our character we have not suspected. We have thought ourselves truthful and honest, and we are betrayed into prevarication and double dealing. We thought ourselves staunch friends, and have fallen into selfish and inconsiderate actions. We considered ourselves cool, almost phlegmatic, but some mastering combination of circumstances arrived, and we spoke the word or wrote the letter which has broken our life past mending.
II. SIN MUST EXPRESS ITSELF IN ORDER TO ITS ERADICATION. These sins that so distress and perplex us disclose unthought of evils, and put us on our guard. Peter was to become a leader in the Church, but he would have misled the Church had he not had this self-confidence rooted out. His self-confidence is here allowed to betray him, to bring him to what is most fitted to destroy it, to shame and a sense of weakness.
III. CRITICAL CONDITION OF THE SINNER THUS BETRAYED. All depends on the course we adopt when we are thus betrayed into unexpected sin. All men are so betrayed at one time or other; the difference arises in the manner in which we deal with ourselves after such sin. As John Morley has said, with characteristic wisdom, "The deepest part of us shows in the manner of accepting consequences." Can we accept the situation; can we humbly own that since evil has appeared in our life it must first have been in ourselves? "I did not think I was capable of such wickedness; but now I see what I am." Can we thus go out with Peter and weep bitterly? Thus to face the truth is the beginning of all good. Without this we can come to no good. We must start here, with a clear acknowledgment of our actual character. To blind ourselves to our true character is not to alter it.
IV. DIFFICULTY OF THUS HUMBLING OURSELVES. We say to ourselves, "We have been deceived by circumstances"—"betrayed into sin." Peter would say, "Why did not Jesus look at me before I sinned, and so prevent it? Why had I no inkling of the enormity of the sin till it was committed. My reputation is now gone. May I not as well go back to my fishing and renounce all these perplexing spiritualities?" But Peter was man enough to reject these fancies. He saw that he was a sinner, and that he must not run away from his sin, but face it and defeat it.
V. PETER'S SPECIAL SIN WAS MORAL COWARDICE. A weakness rather than a sin, and yet it is probably as prolific of great crime as any of the more vigorous passions of our nature. The natures it is found in are often in other respects admirable—sensitive, sympathetic, intelligent, inoffensive, kindly. The circumstances it is displayed in: man in business finds his expenditure exceeding his income, but is unable to bear the shame of frankly knowing his position and curtailing his expenses, and so, to keep up appearances, is led into dishonest practices; or a minister, finding his faith diverging from the Creed he has subscribed, is yet unable to proclaim this change of opinion, because he cannot face the public astonishment, the severe denunciation of one party, and the equally distasteful because ignorant and canting sympathy of the other; or a parent cannot bear to lose the good will of his child, and refrains from punishing him as he ought; or the schoolboy, afraid to be thought soft and unmanly, stands by and sees cruelty, or lying, or wickedness perpetrated without a word of manly rebuke.—D.
HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD
God's plans and man's plots.
The "sayings," "words," or discourses of Jesus here "finished," were begun on the Mount of Olives (see Matthew 24:1), and continued till he came to Bethany (see Matthew 26:6). They were spoken, it would seem, publicly, while the sentence following was privately spoken "unto his disciples" (Matthew 26:2). The matter of this sentence is intrinsically intensely interesting, and it is interesting also from its relation to the consultation of the Sanhedrin next mentioned (Matthew 26:3-5). The subject remarkably illustrates two things, viz.—
I. THAT GOD'S PLANS ARE WISE AND BENEFICENT.
1. Here note the prescience of Jesus.
(1) He clearly and circumstantially foretells his death. Mark the contrast in his revelations: "The Son of man shall come in his glory" (ch. 25:31); "The Son of man is delivered up to be crucified." The literal fulfilment of the latter pledges the certainty of the former.
(2) He had already very particularly foretold his death. Now he precisely indicates the time: "After two days," i.e. on the third day, or with one full day intervening (cf. Hosea 6:2). This was Wednesday; on Thursday night he was betrayed by Judas; Friday morning he was condemned by the Sanhedrin, and two hours later crucified by Pilate.
(3) The calmness with which Jesus anticipated the horrors so soon to be experienced is truly admirable. It is explained by the prescience which carried him further (cf. Matthew 25:31; Hebrews 12:2).
2. This prescience is clearly Divine.
(1) The chief priests and rulers had for some time meditated his death, and it was within the range of probability that they might accomplish their purpose. But what human forecast could have seen the circumstances and the time of the event?
(2) These particulars, as he anticipated them, were against human probability. The plot was to destroy Jesus secretly, and therefore the execution of the purpose was to be deferred until after the feast (verse 5). Then the multitude would have dispersed, and the Galilaeans in particular would have returned to their homes.
(3) It was not until Judas made his overture that the plotters altered their plans, and resolved to risk the "tumult among the people." But the treachery of Iscariot was fully within the prescience of Jesus (see verses 21-25).
3. It is the prescience of wisdom and beneficence.
(1) Jesus was sacrificed at the Feast of the Passover as the antitype of the Paschal lamb.
(a) This God distinguishes as especially his: "My sacrifice" (see Exodus 23:18), viz. because it was instituted by him to be a special type of "the LAMB OF GOD that beareth away the sin of the world" (see 1 Corinthians 5:7).
(b) The Paschal lamb was "a male of the first year," the symbol of excellence in its prime. So was Jesus, in the prime of his peerless manhood, when offered up.
(c) It was "without blemish." He was immaculate in his birth, and in his life and death he fulfilled all righteousness.
(2) Wisdom is also seen in the time.
(a) The word here construed "betrayed" is in the New Version rendered "delivered up," the reference being to the setting apart of the lamb rather than to the treachery of Judas. It refers to something accomplished. The lamb was taken on the tenth day of the first month (see Exodus 12:1-3); and on this day Jesus entered Jerusalem (see John 12:1, John 12:12, John 12:13).
(b) The lamb was then to be kept "until the fourteenth day of the same month" (see Exodus 12:6). On this day the true Paschal Lamb was sacrificed. There is reason to believe that in this case, two days were kept, and the right day was that upon which Jesus was offered up.
(c) The time of the day also was exact, viz. "between the two evenings", i.e. between the sun's declining west, at noon, and his setting, at about six in the afternoon. Jesus was crucified at noon, and expired three hours later, exactly between the evenings (see Matthew 27:46-50).
(3) The beneficence of this wisdom is seen in the purposes. As the blood of the Paschal lamb redeemed Israel from Egypt, and redeemed his firstborn from the sword of the destroyer, so are we redeemed from sin and death by the sacrificial blood of Christ.
II. THAT HE MAKES MAN'S PLOTS SUBSERVIENT TO THEM,
1. We see God's purposes in the assembly.
(1) Who are they? "The chief priests . and the elders of the people." Little did they think that they were giving effect to the truth of prophecy; for it is written that "the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his Christ" (see Psalms 2:2; Psalms 41:7). It is also specified that the Paschal lamb should be offered by the whole congregation: "The whole assembly of the congregation shall kill it" (Exodus 12:6). Here was the very Sanhedrin.
(2) What a lesson of human depravity is here! "The chief priests," and probably Caiaphas the high priest at the head of them. Sacredness of office is no security against rascality. "The rulers," who were members of the great Sanhedrin because of their influence, whether of wealth, or birth, or abilities. Men the most reputable as seen by their fellows, may be the most odious as seen by God.
2. We see God's purposes in their measures.
(1) Their policy is to have Jesus secretly killed. This was manifestly from the devil, who would give sceptics the pretext to say, "This thing was done in a corner." The Sanhedrin feared the uproar of the people.
(2) But the devil outwits himself. Iscariot appears upon the scene, and his proposals induce them to hazard the bolder policy. It was customary at festivals to execute malefactors publicly, "that all Israel might see and fear" (see Deuteronomy 17:13; Acts 12:4).
(3) Thus, then, the Passion of Christ became a matter of the utmost celebrity. He suffers openly amidst thousands of witnesses. His death was notorious, which gave emphasis to the notoriety of the subsequent event of the glorious resurrection from the dead.
(4) Thoughts of the suffering Christ sustain the suffering Christian, suffering for him and with him. And "if we suffer with him, we shall be also glorified together."—J.A.M.
Troublers of the good.
Jesus and his apostles were entertained at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper. Simon probably had once been a leper, and was miraculously healed by Jesus (see Matthew 11:5), and became a disciple of the great Physician. Bishop Newcome has admirably harmonized the accounts of the anointing at Bethany given by the evangelists Matthew, Mark, and John. This Simon prepared a supper, to which he invited Lazarus, his neighbour if not also his relative, who by the same glorious Worker had been raised from the dead. The sisters of Lazarus also were present (John 12:2, John 12:3).
I. MARY FIGURES IN THIS HISTORY AS A BEAUTIFUL TYPE OF GOODNESS.
1. In her love to Christ.
(1) It was love to him as a personal Friend. He had been intimate in the house of her brother (see John 11:1-44). Blessed is that family in whose home Jesus is a familiar, welcome, and beloved Guest? Love to a Person. Let us beware of sinking the personal Jesus in abstractions, however admirable. His Personality is not the less real because he is invisible to us and in the heavens (see John 20:29; 1 Peter 1:8).
(2) It was love overflowing with gratitude. Her heart was especially bound to him by that miracle of grace in which he restored to her family circle her estimable brother alive from the tomb (see John 11:2-5). Pure and beautiful is the love of a grateful heart.
(3) It was love exalted by reverence. She had precious opportunities of estimating his wonderful character, every human attribute of which was radiated by the splendours, and exalted and intensified by the tenderness, of the Divine. We also have our precious opportunities. He is with us in his Word and in his Spirit. Mary, in her improvement of her opportunities, is an example to us.
2. In the expression of that love.
(1) She had a pound of ointment of spikenard, very precious, contained in an alabaster cruse or flask. This vessel she brake or opened, and poured the contents upon her gracious Lord, first anointing his head and then his feet, wiping them with her hair, the odor of the ointment filling the house.
(2) Note here the unselfish profuseness of heart love to Christ. Nothing is too precious to be expended upon the Blessed One who has shed his most precious blood for us. In Mary's just appreciation of his infinite worthiness, there was no place for the cold and nice calculations as to what good might otherwise be done with this costly nard.
"Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so Divine,
Demands my life, my soul, my all."
(3) Note also the indefinable spiritual insight and foresight or presentiment which works in an exalted love to Christ. Jesus himself brings this out, as his own Holy Spirit works it in: "Against the day of my burying bath she kept this" (John 12:7); "She is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying" (Mark 14:8); "In that she poured this ointment upon my body, she did it to prepare me for burial;" "None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand" (Daniel 12:10).
3. In the influence of that love.
(1) The fragrance of Mary's love filled more than the house of Simon. Deeds of love to Christ come into every godly family as a delightful odour. So likewise do they come into the Churches, or brotherhoods of the saints. "Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there this that this woman hath done shall be told." So far reaching is the perfect love.
(2) "Shall be told for a memorial of her." The loving are immortalized by their intimate association with the immortal Christ of God.
(3) Note here a manifestation of the Divinity of our Lord. We see it:
(a) In his prescience of the wide notoriety of this action of Mary.
(b) In the providence which ensured it.
(c) In the inspiration which moved the evangelists to record it.
II. YET SHE ENCOUNTERED TROUBLERS EVEN IN THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH.
1. Foremost amongst these was Judas Iscariot.
(1) To him the fragrance of Mary's spikenard was nauseous. All the virtue he could discover in it was its commercial value. "Three hundred pence!" As a typical Jew, he knew the price. "To what purpose is this waste?" So lightly did he value the Son of God, that he could bargain away his life for thirty pieces of silver, or about £4 10s.—the miserable price of a slave.
(2) This man of commerce had no heart to see what Mary saw so clearly, viz. that nothing can be "waste" that is lovingly done to the honour of the gracious Saviour of mankind. Any demur to this great truth came as a trouble to her noble heart. It is ever a pain to a generous soul to be denied the opportunity of doing good, or when a proffered kindness is refused.
(3) Judas had no eyes to see—which perhaps Mary in her modesty had not thought of, but which Jesus saw so clearly—that this action of hers had a moral significance which made it worthy of the attention of the universe and of the ages. The material commercialist is blind to spiritual values. His arithmetic cannot weigh the soul against the world (see John 16:26).
(4) Judas set up the general claims of the poor in opposition to the personal claims of Christ, as though these claims were inimical. Who has done most for the poor—Judas or Jesus? Is not Jesus, even in his absence, ever present representatively in the poor? Are not the poor eared for by his true disciples for their Lord's sake?
(5) But this plea for the poor was a cover for covetousness. "This said he, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein" (John 12:6). How commonly do the covetous evade appeals, say for foreign missions, by suggesting the counterclaims of the "heathen at home," or of "poor relations," or vaguely "so many calls," none of which are, in fact, considered! How Judas-like!
2. With Iscariot were others who came under his evil influence.
(1) Some think that Judas was the sole troubler of Mary. They contend that the plural is in this narrative to be taken as singular, according to a Hebraistic usage (cf. Matthew 27:44, where "the thieves also" is put for one thief; and Matthew 28:17, where "some doubted" means one—Thomas). So "when his disciples saw it, they had indiguation," is taken to mean one of them—Judas.
(2) No doubt Judas was the chief offender. Hence John speaks of Judas only as troubling Mary, which was sufficient for his purpose; but it must be noted that, in quoting the words of Jesus in the sequel, the plural is used as in the other evangelists.
(3) The persistent use of the plural throughout the narrative in Matthew and in Mark can scarcely be explained away upon the principle of an enallage, as the rhetoricians call this substitution of the plural for the singular.
(4) While, then, it may well be doubted that the whole college of the apostles were compromised in this unenviable distinction of being troublers of the gentle and loving Mary—John, at the least, may be excepted—yet that some of them so came under the evil influence of Judas as to share with him in Christ's rebuke is evident. Are there not still in our Churches many too easily imposed upon by representatives of the covetous traitor, who artfully plead specious pretexts of charity to the grieving and troubling of the spiritual kindred of Mary?
(5) There is this great difference, however, between Judas and those apostles who sided with him, viz. they were moved by a real though misplaced concern for the poor, while his only concern was to gratify the greed of his thievish heart. Let us beware how we listen to those who affect to set up philanthropy to the disparagement of religion. Let us beware how we depreciate or discredit the services of the people of God whose methods may differ from our own.—J.A.M.
The Lord's Supper.
The institution of the Holy Supper was in connection with the eating of the Passover. The occasion was most appropriate and significant; for the Jewish feast had been instituted to foreshadow what the Christian festival was founded to commemorate (see 1 Corinthians 5:6-8). The two sacraments of Christianity express all that was expressed in the entire circle of the ceremonial law, and more. All the washings are embodied in the sacrament of baptism; all the sacrifices and feasts in the Eucharist. Consider—
I. THE JEWISH PASSOVER.
1. The lamb typified Christ.
(1) It was a male of the first year, to set forth the excellence and the maturity of his humanity. He was "the Son of David," viz. that Son in comparison with whom the other sons of David are nowhere. He was "the Son of man," viz. in comparison with whom no other son of Adam may be named.
(2) It was "without blemish." He was in his birth immaculate, in his life and death perfectly righteous. In all points unique in purity, wisdom, and goodness.
(3) It was taken from the flock, to show that the humanity of Christ was to be real. It was accordingly no phantom. He was "bone of our bone."
2. Its sacrifice foreshadowed his Passion.
(1) "Taken from the flock" in order to be sacrificed, it became a vicarious victim. It became the substitute for those that were spared in consequence of its selection. So Christ, having identified himself with our race, was "taken" as our Substitute.
(2) In the original institution the blood of the lamb sacrificed, and sprinkled in faith upon the door posts and lintels of the houses, protected the inmates from the sword of the destroyer. So is there life and salvation where by a sure faith the blood of the Lamb of God is sprinkled.
(3) The place of the sacrifice was ordained to be that which the Lord should choose. Jerusalem was that chosen place.
(4) The time was the fourteenth day of the month Abib (cf. Exodus 12:1-51. (6-10; John 18:28). "Between the two evenings," viz. the "ninth hour," when Jesus cried with a loud voice and gave up the Ghost.
(5) Even the direction respecting the preservation of the bones of the lamb from fracture had its prophetic meaning (cf. Exodus 12:46; John 19:36).
3. The feast anticipated his communion.
(1) The Egyptian had no right to the Passover. It was not for the idolater, but for the believer. So neither are the blessings of redemption in Christ designed for the obstinate sinner, but for the humble believer.
(2) It was to be eaten with unleavened bread. Leaven, being a kind of corruption, was an emblem of insincerity and falsehood. The faith which saves is not that of the hypocrite, but that of the true man (see 1 Corinthians 5:8).
(3) It was to be eaten "with bitter herbs." The unleavened bread and bitter herbs together made the "bread of affliction." So if the sinner would commune with Christ, he must come with contrition and repentance.
II. THE CHRISTIAN INSTITUTE.
1. The elements of the sacrament.
(1) Bread. This was to represent, signify, or be an emblem of the body of Christ.
(a) It was not his very body. "This is" equivalent to a common Hebrew idiom (cf. Genesis 40:12; Genesis 41:26; Daniel 7:23; Daniel 8:21; 1 Corinthians 10:4; Galatians 4:24).
(b) Bread signifies all food which supports the life of the body. So is the body of Christ, discerned by faith, the sufficient and necessary food of the spirit.
(2) Wine. This was to represent his blood.
(a) "This is" cannot be literally taken. For in Luke (Luke 22:20) the words are, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood," which it will not be contended is to be literally taken. The drinking of literal sacrificial blood was a custom amongst idolaters. But this was never practised in the service of Jehovah (see Psalms 16:4).
(b) Blood, viz. of the vegetable kind is chosen to set forth the life of the resurrection of Christ, which is that in which the true Christian has communion with him.
2. The treatment of the elements.
(1) The blessing. This was observed both in respect to the bread and the wine. This was no miracle of transubstantiation. It was, as explained in the evangelists, "giving thanks." The cup used was the "cup of blessing" of the Passover. Christ, as Man heading the table of the redeemed, gives God thanks. True believers will all say "Amen" to this benediction and thanksgiving.
(2) The breaking of the bread and pouring out of the wine vividly call to remembrance the prominent features of the Passion. And forasmuch as Christ himself broke the bread and poured the wine, he evinced the voluntariness of his suffering for us. But that this breaking of the bread and pouring of the wine was not the actual suffering of Christ as the transubstantiationist must maintain, is evident, for Christ said," With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer' (see Luke 22:15).
(3) The participation. This set forth the believer's communion with Christ, his assimilation to Christ, his incorporation with Christ, and his union in spirit with the Lord. He gave the elements to his "disciples"—mark, not as apostles, which they were, but as disciples, viz. that "all" disciples might claim this privilege. Bread to strengthen; wine to gladden. The cup is by Ignatius called ἀìγαπη, as it was the symbol of love. By Paul it is called the "communion" (see1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 10:16).
(4) The description. "My blood of the covenant." It is the sign and seal of the "better promises" of the "new," or excellent, and "everlasting" covenant.
(5) The hymn. Praise at such time is to us most fitting. "Christ, removing the hymn from the close of the Passover to the close of the Lord's Supper, plainly intimates that he intended that the ordinance should continue in his Church, that is, it had not its birth with the ceremonial law, so it should not die with it" (Henry).
(6) The departure, immediately afterwards, to the Mount of Olives, was also significant. For he was destined thence, after his actual Passion, to ascend into heaven to receive for us the blessing of the covenant.
3. The admonitory incident.
(1) "As they were eating, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me." As at its institution the Passover separated between Israel and Egypt in mercy and judgment, so now at its transformation into the Christian sacrament, mercy and judgment were to separate between the spiritual and sordid Israel. Judas was the type of his nation also when his wickedness recoiled upon him, as the wickedness of the Egyptians had recoiled upon them.
(2) The presence of treachery in the Church is an occasion of sorrow to the true believer. "They were exceeding sorrowful:" for the Lord, that his great love should be requited with villainy; for their college, that its credit and influence should be compromised.
(3) It is also an occasion for heart searching. "They began to say unto him every one, Is it I, Lord?' The search of true self-examination is particular and special. The evil concealed in us can be fully discovered to us only by the Lord. "He that dippeth," etc. (verse 23; cf. Psalms 41:9). External communion with Christ in his ordinances is an aggravation of treachery to him.
(4) "The Son of man," etc. (verse 24). It had been foretold that Messiah should suffer (cf. Isaiah 53:3; Daniel 9:26). But though Divine mercy brought infinite good out of that suffering, those who inflicted it were none the less criminal. How resolute is the devil of hypocrisy! "Judas answered and said, Is it I, Rabbi?"—J.A.M.
Strength and weakness.
After the admonitory incident of the last Passover, which separated the unhappy Iscariot from the apostleship, Jesus, journeying with the eleven towards the Mount of Olives, proceeded to caution them against the weakness which he discerned in them. He is not our truest friend who conceals from us our faults.
I. IN JESUS WE SEE THE ENSHRINEMENT OF DIVINE STRENGTH.
1. In his all-comprehensive knowledge.
(1) What was "written" was perfectly familiar to him. He was supremely "mighty in the Scriptures." The "Sword of the Spirit" is a trusty weapon, both for defence in parrying the thrusts of Satan and for offence in putting the armies of the aliens to the rout.
(2) He knew himself to be the "Shepherd" of Israel. That Shepherd is Jehovah (see Psalms 23:1; Psalms 80:1). That Shepherd is Messiah (see Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:23; Zechariah 13:7). Jesus identifies himself as that glorious Personage (see John 10:11; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4). As the Shepherd here is the "Fellow" of the "Lord of hosts," he only can be intended who is "equal with God."
(3) He knew everything about his sheep. He could foretell the incident of the denial by Peter. He could oppose the limit before the second cock-crowing of that night to Peter's "never." He could forecast his desertion by "all." He knows us infinitely better than we know ourselves.
(4) Knowledge is power. Perfect knowledge can never be taken at a disadvantage. It cannot be surprised. It has boundless resources.
2. In his all-enduring compassion.
(1) With what patience does he endure the unfaithfulness of his disciples! Though he knew they would desert him, yet does he not spurn them from his presence. His kind heart can see, even in the excess of their self-confidence, a sincere and warm affection. The case is different from that of Judas. His sin was deliberate; Peter's was a sin of surprise. That of Judas arose from the state of his heart; the act of Peter was against his habitual feelings and principles. Though he foresaw that all the disciples would leave him to tread the winepress alone, his gentleness made no rejoinder to their protestations of devotion to him even to the death.
(2) The Shepherd submits to be smitten for the sheep. For himself he had no need to die. The formidableness of that "sword" of Divine justice now "awaking" from its slumber of forbearance was fully in his view. He saw the malignity of those human hands into which it was given to be wielded against him. Yet did he not seek to evade its edge. He could already see those "wounds in his hands" with which he was to be "wounded in the house of his friends" (see Zechariah 13:6). He could have avoided them; but his sheep must be redeemed.
(3) The "scattered" ones must again be gathered into their fold. To this end the smitten Shepherd must rise again from the dead. "But after I am raised up I will go before you into Galilee." This implies that he would deliver himself out of the hands of his enemies and theirs. "I will go before you," equivalent to "I will bring my hand again to the little ones" (see Zechariah 13:7). "I will go before you," viz. as the Shepherd before his gathered flock (see John 10:4). "Into Galilee." He even mentioned the particular hill which was to be the place of their meeting (see Matthew 28:16).
(4) We have "strong consolation" in the "mercy" which "endureth forever."
II. IN THE DISCIPLES WE SEE AN EMBODIMENT OF WEAKNESS,
1. Their weakness appears in their self-confidence.
(1) Peter had more faith in himself than he had in the Scriptures of God. They anticipated the offence which the sheep were to take when the Shepherd should be smitten. In the face of this Peter said, "If all shall be offended in thee, I will never be offended." It is easy to talk boldly and carelessly of death at a distance.
(2) "If all shall be offended." Those who think too well of themselves are apt to be suspicious of others (see Galatians 6:1).
(3) Peter's self-confidence grew with his unbelief. For when Jesus said unto him," Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter saith unto him, Even it I must die with thee, yet will I not deny thee." He should have been diffident in respect to words which never failed when the most stupendous miracles depended on them.
(4) The foremost in self-confidence are the first to fall. Such was the case with Peter. Then—
"Beware of Peter's word,
Nor confidently say,
'I never will deny thee, Lord,
But, 'Grant I never may.'
Man's wisdom is to seek
His strength in God alone;
And e'en an angel would be weak
Who trusted in his own."
2. Their weakness appears in their unbelief.
(1) They could see that Jesus was in peril of his life. This they inferred rather from their knowledge of the hostility of the rulers than from their faith in the Scriptures of prophecy or from the prophetic words of Christ. They could not see who it was that was in peril. Had they seen the Father in the Son, the peril would not have affrighted them. Note: Offences will come among the disciples of Jesus in times of peril. The cross of Christ is evermore the stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:23). Satan is busy when our faith is weak.
(2) They could not see what it truly is to die with Christ. To die with him is to die to self and the world—voluntarily to crucify our entire evil nature. Because, for lack of faith, they were unprepared thus to die with Jesus, they "forsook him, and fled." The heart can await the hour of temptation when the truth is rooted in it.
(3) They could not see that their Lord would rise again from the dead. This unbelief was not for want of being told about the Resurrection, either by the prophets or by Christ himself. They were foolish in the slowness of their hearts to believe (see Luke 24:25, Luke 24:26). Had they understood and realized the resurrection of Christ on the third day after his Passion, their faith would have steadied them (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58).
(4) If all the apostles forsook their Lord, who has not reason to fear? Did not the apostles represent all the flock which they were afterwards to bring together? Who can boast? The Lord permits us to be tried, that we may see ourselves as we are, and be humbled by our experience. The strength of pride is but for a moment.—J.A.M.
The agony in the garden.
Jesus, with his apostles, after the eventful moonlight walk from Jerusalem, came to a place at the foot of the Mount of Olives, called "Gethsemane," or the oil presses. Here he entered upon a scene the moral grandeur of which is only exceeded by that of Calvary. The olive in the oil press, like the grape in the wine press, was trodden (see Micah 6:15). The sufferings of the Lord in the garden were purely mental; those on the cross were physical also. Meditate upon the trouble of his soul—
I. IN ITS TERRIBLE SEVERITY.
1. This is expressed in his references to it.
(1) A few days earlier he said, "Now is my soul troubled" (John 12:27); but here the storm of temptation sets in in earnest.
(2) The expression, "to be sorrowful" (Matthew 26:37), conveys the idea of horror. The "horror of great darkness" (see Genesis 15:12). This was the setting in of that last and darkest cloud of temptation which finally descended so low as to darken the earth at the Crucifixion (see Matthew 27:45).
(3) The word rendered "to be very heavy" (New Version, "sore troubled") implies the loss of pleasure derived from other things. This is characteristic of very deep human grief. Our Lord was truly human.
(4) The suffering increases. "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." The nature of this sorrow also was human, but its severity was beyond all human comprehension. For the love from which he contended was Divine love for the whole human race. What must have been the agony of that sense of death!
2. It is expressed in the agony of his prayer.
(1) "He fell on his face." Great anguish is expressed as rolling in the dust (see Micah 1:10). Job, in his great grief, fell on the ground.
(2) His prayer was importunate. "If it be possible." Mark gives it thus: "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee" (Mark 14:36). To God all things are not morally, though physically all things are, possible. "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." Here is the human will of Christ, in the extremest circumstances, deferring to his Divine will.
(3) His supplication was with "strong crying and tears" to be saved from this fearful death sorrow (see Hebrews 5:7). These cries reached the hearing of the disciples, and they observed his tears when he came to them in the moonlight.
(4) The petition was thrice repeated. Paul expresses his own importunity in the words, "I besought the Lord thrice" (see 2 Corinthians 12:8). Perhaps the iteration of the prayer of Jesus implied as many distinct temptations. They were, however, related to the same "cup."
II. IN ITS VARIOUS SOURCES.
1. It partly arose from the contradiction of sinners. (See Hebrews 12:3.)
(1) The treachery of Judas was working to its issue. He sorely felt the ingratitude of that "familiar friend in whom" once he worthily "trusted," but who was now desperately fallen (el. Psalms 41:9; John 13:18; Acts 1:25).
(2) The treachery of the Jews was working with Judas, their type. This also afflicted his patriotic heart. See that wonderful description in the hundred and ninth psalm of the sorrows of Messiah in connection with the treachery of Judas and of the Jews.
(3) The wickedness of the world at large was also before him in all its enormity. A specimen of that enormity was soon to be displayed in the conduct of the Roman governor and his men of war. For this he felt acutely, as having taken upon him that humanity which is common to all.
2. It partly arose from the weakness of his disciples.
(1) They were slow of heart to believe fully in him. This, notwithstanding all the pains he had taken to instruct them, notwithstanding all the miracles to confirm his teaching which they had seen.
(2) But they were full of self-assertion. This he had that day witnessed in their professions of readiness to die with him. And though he, in the spirit of prophecy, rebuked it, still they remained self-confident; for they slept when they should have watched.
(3) When David wept at this Mount of Olives, all his followers wept with him (see 2 Samuel 15:30); but when the Son of David was there in tears, his followers were asleep. Yet was not their sleep without sorrow (see Luke 22:45). Still it was open to rebuke. "He saith unto Peter," who had been foremost in promising to die with him, "What, could ye not watch with me one hour?"
(4) This evidence of their weakness Jesus uses to press upon them the urgent need of their watching and praying, that they might not yield to the approaching temptation. If prayer against the hour of temptation was needful for the Master, how much more so for the servants! "Prayer without watching is hypocrisy; and watching without prayer is presumption" (Jay).
(5) "Sleep on now." This is the same as "Why sleep ye?" as it is given in Luke 22:46; a rebuke, e.g. "I no longer enjoin upon you to watch; the season is now past for that duty, the time of trial for which watching and praying would have prepared you has arrived." He watched and prayed, and received strength to drink the bitter cup (cf. Luke 12:43; Hebrews 5:7); they slept away the precious moments, and the hour of trial found them without strength.
3. It partly arose from the malignity of Satan.
(1) The devil was in Iscariot (cf. Luke 22:3; John 13:2, John 13:27).
(2) The devil was in the Jews. The prevalence of demoniacal possession at the time of Christ's sojourn amongst them was a sign of the condition of the nation.
(3) The devil was in the Gentile nations. He was, and still is, to a fearful extent, "the god of this world."
(4) That was emphatically "the hour of the power of darkness"—the crisis in which Satan was permitted to put forth all his strength in his conflict with the "Seed of the woman." For the sufferings on the cross were but the complement and sequel of those in the garden.
4. It principally arose from the anger of God. We may here make the general observation, viz. that the terrible "cup" which Jesus had to drink was given to him by the hand of his Father (cf. Luke 22:39; John 18:11). The subject will be more particularly considered as we meditate further upon the trouble of the soul of our Lord.
III. IN ITS AWFUL VICARIOUSNESS.
1. He shares his sorrows with those he loves best.
(1) To the college of the apostles he said, "Sit ye here, while I go yonder and pray." Rome are able to go only so far with Christ in his sufferings.
(2) "And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee" to whom he said, "Abide ye here, and watch with me." "Sit ye here" (Luke 22:36), and "Abide ye here" (Luke 22:38), mark a law of progression in following.
(3) To these he said, "Watch with me." Watch while I watch. Watch as I watch. The temptations directed against Christ are those directed against his Church.
(4) But who were these? They were the three formerly chosen to be the witnesses of the Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1). Those are best prepared to suffer with Christ who have seen his glory. So likewise those who suffer with him may expect to reign with him. The sons of Zebedee had offered themselves to drink of his cup (see Matthew 20:20-23).
2. But there is a limit to their companionship.
(1) "Tarry ye here." Beyond this the best and most perfected cannot go. Christ had lately prayed with his disciples (see John 17:1); now he prays alone. Note: Our prayers with our families must not be pleaded to excuse the neglect of secret devotions.
(2) But why did he now pray and suffer apart? Because his sufferings now were vicarious, and in these he could have no sharer, for he only was sinless, and he only was Divine. In his pleadings he makes no mention of his virtues, for he was suffering as the Sin bearer for the world.
(3) That this agony in the garden was for us is evident, else One so great and glorious as he was would never have "feared" as he did. His fear was not for the loss of natural life to himself. That, to one who on the third day after his death was to rise again, is clearly out of the question. His "godly tear" (see Hebrews 5:7, New Version) was for the loss of spiritual and eternal life to the whole world. May it not also have been lest, if the death sorrow in the garden should prove fatal, the fulfilment of the Scriptures in respect to his death by crucifixion might be imperilled?
(4) The "cup" was the Passion which was now beginning, but had to be completed on the cross. The allusion may be to the poison cup given to criminals. To this Paul possibly alludes when he says, "Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death forevery man" (Hebrews 2:9). Here the whole world is represented as standing guilty and condemned before the tribunal of God. Into every man's hand is placed the deadly cup, and he is required to drink off the poison. But Jesus enters, takes every man's cup out of his hand, drinks off the poison, and thus tastes or suffers the death which every man otherwise must have suffered (see A. Clarke, in loc.).—J.A.M.
The submission of Jesus.
After the third time praying in Gethsemane, Jesus came to his slumbering disciples, and said, "Sleep on now, and take your rest"—the opportunity for watching is past. Note: Opportunities pass, never to return; therefore we should never fail to improve them in their passing. "Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners"—the hour of trial is come for which watchings should have prepared. "Arise, let us be going," not to run away from the crisis, but to meet it (cf. John 18:4). "Behold, he is at hand. that betrayeth me. And while he yet spake, lo, Judas," etc. Note here, and admire—
I. THE SUBMISSION OF JESUS TO JUDAS.
1. He might have avoided him.
(1) He knew of his coming (see Matthew 26:45, Matthew 26:46). Every particular of the tragedy was vividly presented to his prophetic spirit.
(2) The Miracle worker had not lost his resources. On a former occasion, when hurried by an infuriated rabble to the brow of the hill at Nazareth, that they might throw him headlong, he knew how to pass through the midst of them (see Luke 4:30). How he did this we are not informed—whether he shut their eyes or overawed them by the sense of his majesty. But Judas knew the fact, and was probably influenced by the recollection of it when he nervously said, "Hold him fast." Instead of avoiding the traitor:
2. He endured his kiss.
(1) A kiss is the token of allegiance and friendship (see Psalms 2:12).
(2) With Judas the token of friendship was made the sign of treachery. The kiss of Judas came to be an expression for the greatest of all hypocrisies—the betrayal of innocence by simulated love. The "angel of light" seeks hellish ends in heavenly means.
(3) By enduring that infamous kiss Jesus permitted the traitor to show himself up. God's permission is judicially given to the sinner to sin. "Do that for which thou art come." Sin is its own chastiser.
3. He called him "friend," or "companion."
(1) Thus he identified himself as the Ahithophel of prophecy (cf. 2 Samuel 15:12; Psalms 41:9; Psalms 55:12-14).
(2) He was "one of the twelve." The vilest wretches lurk in the best company.
(3) Once, probably, Judas had been as sincere a friend to Jesus as Ahithophel had been to David. The Heart searcher would not have chosen him for a disciple and promoted him to the apostolate unless he had then been a true man.
(4) But how fearfully bad he fallen! A leader of the flock of Christ has become the leader of a mob of ruffians against his life. Apostates from religion become its bitterest foes. Julian and Judas are notable examples.
(5) There is truth in the irony of the term "friend." The working out of the redemption and salvation of men was the great purpose cherished in the heart of Christ. Judas, therefore, unwittingly befriended him in furthering his sufferings. Jesus called Peter "Satan" for hindering him (see Matthew 16:22, Matthew 16:23). God brings good out of the evil working of the wicked.
II. THE SUBMISSION OF JESUS TO THE RABBLE.
1. He might have resisted them.
(1) With what authority did he drive the throng of sacrilegious traders from the temple (see Matthew 21:12, Matthew 21:13)!
(2) He was the same Miracle-worker still. At the utterance of the words, "I am he," they were so overpowered that "they went backward, and fell to the ground" (see John 18:6). They never could have approached him without his consent. The power that restored the ear of Malchus could not have been controlled by that of Malchus and his company.
(3) He might have had "more than twelve legions of angels." Note:
(a) The "innumerable company of angels" are marshalled into ranks.
(b) The angels were to Elisha "chariots of fire and horses of fire," not only to secure him, but to consume his assailants (cf. 2 Kings 1:10-15; 2 Kings 2:11; 2 Kings 6:14-17; Psalms 104:4).
(c) If a single angel could destroy a hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians at a stroke (2 Kings 19:35), what might not "twelve legions" do?
2. He forbade an appeal to the sword.
(1) Had he made such an appeal, there would have been a popular response. The people were disposed even forcibly to make Jesus their Warrior-King (see John 6:15). They readily followed false Christs who relied upon the sword. Peter was in sympathy with his nation when he weilded the sword.
(2) But Jesus rebuked the impetuosity of Peter. He struck without asking, "Shall we smite with the sword? "(see Luke 22:49). Peter did not intend evil, but intemperate zeal is often evil in its results.
(3) He reproved him for appealing to the sword.
(a) It was needless, for Christ could have received succour from his Father. God has no need of our sins to bring about his purposes.
(b) It was dangerous, viz. both to himself and his fellow disciples. For "he that; takes the sword shall perish by the sword."
(c) It evinced ignorance of the Scriptures. They teach that the way to glory is through suffering rather than through fighting. Peter would have the end without the means
(d) Peter's unsanctified zeal was another step toward his fall, by increasing his subsequent fear of detection.
(4) To show that he did not wish to be defended by carnal weapons, the Lord healed the ear of Malchus (see Luke 22:51). The soldiers of Christ do not war after the flesh (see 2 Corinthians 10:3, 2 Corinthians 10:4).
3. Instead of resisting, he reasoned.
(1) "Are ye come out as against a robber, with swords and staves?" Judaea at this time was infested with thieves, and every one will lend a hand to stop a thief.
(2) The "swords" were those of the "cohort" of the chiliarch, or "chief captain"—probably Roman soldiers from the Tower of Antonia (cf. Matthew 26:45; John 18:12). The "slaves" were those of the creatures of the high priest. These classes were usually at variance; but, like Pilate and Herod, they find a point of agreement in hostility to Christ.
(3) Thus they treated as a robber him that came to "restore" that he "took not away" (see Psalms 69:4). He became a prisoner that he might set us at liberty. "If therefore ye seek me, let these go their way" (see John 18:8, John 18:9).
(4) "I sat daily in the temple teaching, and ye took me not." How comes this change in your conduct? Is it not unreasonable and inconsistent? Why come clandestinely in the night? Who looks most like the criminal?
III. THE SUBMISSION OF JESUS TO GOD.
1. For the vindication of his truth.
(1) "How then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?" Jesus carried the Law of God in his heart.
(2) They were "a great multitude" that came to arrest him, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled which saith, "Lord, how are they increased that trouble me!" (Psalms 3:1).
(3) By being pursued as a thief, "he was numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12). This Scripture met a further accomplishment when he was afterwards crucified between two malafactors.
(4) He was shamefully deserted by his disciples. In their conduct they evinced
For why should they through fear of death forsake the Fountain of life (see John 6:67, John 6:68)? But this desertion was to be a part of Messiah's suffering (cf. Job 19:13; Psalms 38:11; Isaiah 63:3-5).
(5) The Scripture must be fulfilled that Christ should be "led as a lamb to the slaughter" (Isaiah 53:7). Had he summoned the angels, he would not have been so led. Note: Nothing must be done against the fulfilment of the Scriptures.
2. For the vindication of his goodness.
(1) The sword of the Lord was drawn against Christ (see Zechariah 13:7). The Great One had to be smitten that the "little ones" might go free.
(2) The Redeemer of mankind had afterwards to become the Intercessor for the salvation of believers.
(3) He had to become the Example of the triumph of patience, of the victories of suffering. He accordingly denounced the human doctrine of victory by the sword, by asserting the converse, viz. "All they that take the sword shall perish by the sword."
(4) History has given its verdict. The Jews who put our Lord to death by the sword of the Romans perished by the same Roman sword. The Romans who used the sword against Christ perished by the sword of the Goths. The doom of persecuting Churches and of persecutors also is pre-written here (see Revelation 13:10).
Reflect: Are there not still found among the disciples:
1. Those who betray Christ and his cause?
2. Who deny him and his people?
3. Who abandon him, his cause, his people, and his truth?—J.A.M.
The demoralized council.
The tribunal before which Jesus was arraigned was composed of "all the chief priests," with the high priest at their head, and all the "elders and scribes." It was the Sanhedrin, by the Jews claimed to have originated in the time of Moses, and by learned critics acknowledged to have been at least as ancient as the time of Jonathan Maccabaeus. Once a venerable judicial assembly, it had now degenerated into a cabal.
I. ITS COUNCILORS ARE MURDERERS.
1. They had beforehand plotted the death of Jesus.
(1) The faithfulness of his preaching had mortified their pride. The spirit of murder was in the hatred and resentment which they cherished toward him.
(2) After the raising of Lazarus, they consulted together what they must do to the Miracle worker, and Caiaphas gave forth his memorable decision. In advising assassination, be prophesied under an inspiration which he did not understand. His accomplices understood him only as he intended. "So from that day forth they took counsel that they might put Jesus to death" (see Joh 12:45 -53). "Man proposeth; God disposeth."
(3) Fear from the popularity of Jesus alone prevented them from procuring his assassination without even the semblance of a trial (see Luke 20:19; Luke 22:2). How questionable is the virtue that is fostered by fear!
(4) Judas knew his market. He knew where "blood money" could be procured (see Matthew 27:3-8). Satan, in the councillors, was "glad" to "commune" with "Satan" in the traitor (see Luke 22:3-6).
2. They assembled to carry their plot into effect.
(1) They first resolve to ruin Jesus, then seek out the means to do it. So notorious was this that it is recorded as an historic fact (cf. Matthew 26:59; Acts 6:11-13).
(2) There is murder in their haste. The Jewish canons enjoin that "Capital causes should be tried in the day, and punished in the day." But with indecent haste, in the same night that their treachery succeeded in seizing Jesus, the court is gathered. They were evidently waiting for the summons. And he is condemned in the night. It was "the hour" as well as "the power of darkness."
(3) Note: That gate of the city looking toward Gethsemane was called "the sheep gate," because the animals appointed for sacrifice were led that way. Admire the providence which ordained that through this gate also the very Lamb of God should be led to the slaughter. The Law prescribed that the victims for sacrifice should be led to the priest (see Le Matthew 18:5). Herein also is a prophecy. One evangelist records that Jesus was first led to Annas (see John 18:13). This was to honour Annas, and to gain time for the assembling of the council. God makes the subtlety of the devil in men to praise him.
II. THE WITNESSES ARE LIARS.
1. They cannot give a consistent testimony.
(1) No man could be legally condemned upon the testimony of a single witness (see Deuteronomy 17:6). The witnesses must also agree in their testimony. They must speak with "one mouth." The unsupported testimony of a single witness is stronger than the conflicting testimony of many.
(2) The number of the witnesses against Jesus was sufficient. The retainers of the priests knew that "they sought false witness against Jesus, that they might put him to death," and "many false witnesses" accordingly "came".
(3) But their testimony was conflicting. Suborned men are bound to say something for their hire. But "the legs of the lame are not equal." This would be evident under cross-examination from Joseph of Arimathaea; and possibly Nicodemus also was found to be a protestant (see Luke 23:50, Luke 23:51; John 19:39).
2. They fail to prove an offence against the Law.
(1) Blasphemy was an offence against the Law, punishable with death (see Le Matthew 24:16). But what is blasphemy? To speak evil of God, or maliciously to rail against or deny his work.
(2) The Jews had a traditional disposition to account it blasphemy to predict the destruction of the temple (cf. Jeremiah 26:11, Jeremiah 26:12; Acts 6:13, Acts 6:14). The Pharisees also confounded their traditions with the Law.
(3) By means of this tradition, then, they sought to fasten the crime of blasphemy upon Jesus. Two witnesses deposed, "This Man said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days." Here note:
(a) They were in a strait when they had to go back to what had passed three years before.
(b) This allegation was, in effect, a falsity; for it suppressed some words of Christ, with the action which explained them, and added words he had not spoken. False testimony lays hold on some basis of truth. Half-truths are often the most vicious lies.
(c) In perverting the meaning of the words of Jesus, his enemies unconsciously bring about their fulfilment.
3. The judges themselves became lying witnesses.
(1) Jesus had maintained a dignified silence while the other witnesses gave their evidence. It was too manifestly frivolous and malicious to require explanation or refutation. "There is a time to speak, and a time to keep silence."
(2) Caiaphas then sought to make Jesus a witness against himself (see Matthew 26:62). Still he held his peace (see Psalms 38:12-14; Isaiah 53:7). The personal Word, like the written Word, declines to answer questions that are idle and insincere.
(3) Unable to make the testimony matter for the charge of blasphemy, Caiaphas had to shift his ground. He now had recourse to adjuration. This was the refuge of rage at the rebuke of that silence which stung him to the quick. What a temper in which to make an appeal to the living God!,
(4) Jesus now at length responded. For
(a) had he refused to answer when adjured, they would have accused him of contempt for the Name of God. Note: Persecutors take advantage of the consciences of good men.
(b) He responded for an example to others of reverence for such a solemn form.
(c) He answered because now it was no longer a question of admitting or denying a false accusation, but of admitting or denying a great truth—to confess whether he were the Christ or not (Matthew 26:64). The "nevertheless" should rather be "moreover: Not only do I confess myself the Christ, but you yourselves will have to confess it when he who now appears before you as in weakness will be revealed in power" (see Revelation 1:7).
(5) Then came the climax of rage when he was adjudged worthy of death for speaking blasphemy" (see Matthew 26:65, Matthew 26:66).
III. THE JUDGMENT IS INIQUITOUS.
1. It ignored the reasons of the claims of Jesus.
(1) The Jews expected their Messiah to be the Son of God. In so expecting they were justified by prophecy (see Psalms 2:7, Psalms 2:12). The terms of the adjuration acknowledged this. And they understood the title to express Divinity. To call himself the Son of God was, in their estimation, to make himself equal with God (see John 10:33).
(2) Therefore, unless Jesus were Divine, he could not have been the Christ. Otherwise his claim to be "the Christ, the Son of God," would indeed have been a blasphemy. But he had vindicated his claim by infallible proofs. He verified in himself the prophecies concerning Messiah, and wrought many miracles, as his judges very well knew (see John 11:47).
(3) Before proceeding to condemn him, it was their duty to answer the argument from prophecy and miracle. But this they never attempted. Rage and violence were their substitutes for justice and truth.
(4) And they aggravated their crime by delivering the Blessed One to the insolence of their myrmidons, who blindfolded him and smote him, and asked him to prophesy as to whose fist was lifted against him (cf. Matthew 26:67; Isaiah 50:5, Isaiah 50:6; Luke 22:64). He well knew; but he refuses to prophesy when men close their ears against the truth. The wretches also spat in his face, which was a mark of the most profound contempt (see Numbers 12:4; Job 16:10; Job 30:10; Isaiah 1:1-31.Isaiah 1:6; Micah 5:1).
2. It will be reviewed at another tribunal.
(1) "What contrasts are here! The Deliverer in bonds! The Judge of all attainted! The Prince of glory scorned! The Holy One condemned for sin! The Son of God accused of blasphemy! The Resurrection and the Life sentenced to die! The High Priest forever condemned by the high priest for a year!" (Steir).
(2) To the eternal confusion of the unrighteous council, God ordered it that our Lord should be condemned on the very evidence of his own innocence, purity, and truth. In accusing him of blasphemy they were the blasphemers.
(3) They will yet have to answer before him for their injustice and cruelty. He will one day come with the clouds of heaven, as the Prophet Daniel has described him (cf. Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:14). The terrors of that judgment day will be a sensible conviction to the most obstinate infidel.—J.A.M.
Sin in sequence.
From the trial of Jesus before the council the evangelist turns to the trial of Peter's faith. How striking is the contrast! Jesus, forsaken of his friends, and unjustly condemned and cruelly treated by his enemies, betrays no sign of fear or resentment, while Peter, with his Master's exalted example before him, shrinks from the slightest glance of recognition. The history of Peter's fall remarkably illustrates the principle of sequence in sits. We are forcibly reminded—
I. THAT PRIDE COMETH BEFORE A FALL.
1. Some men are constitutionally self-reliant. Within proper limits, self-reliance is an admirable quality.
(1) It conduces to nobleness. For it saves men from the meanness of hanging on to their fellows.
(2) It inspires enterprise. Nothing can be accomplished that is not undertaken. The achievements of the strong are the astonishment of the weak.
(3) It is an element of greatness. The weak will submit to the strong. The feeble will serve the mighty. Where self-reliance is strong, other things being equal, there you have a leader of men.
2. But such are especially in danger of presumption.
(1) Self-assertion may be immoderate, ungenerous, and invidious. "Though all men forsake thee, yet will not I;" "I will never be offended;" "Even if I must die with thee, yet will I not deny thee" (see Matthew 26:33-35).
(2) Excessive sell-confidence leads to the neglect of prayer. Peter's sense of self-security blinded him to his need of Divine help. So he slept in the garden when he should have prayed. Even when exhorted by his Lord to pray, still he slept.
(3) It leads to rashness in action. Peter's pride led him rashly to support his strong professions by volunteering the use of his sword. So was he as wanting in watchfulness as he was in prayer. He so looked in as to neglect to look up and look around.
(4) After proving his weakness by his shameful flight, his presumption still carried him after his Master into the place of trial, "to see the end." But he "followed at a distance," fearful of being discovered. This dallying with his fears increased them. His case is a standing warning to Christ's disciples never without a call to run into dangers which they may not have strength to meet.
II. THAT SIN MAKES OCCASION FOR SINNING.
1. One sin leads to another.
(1) Peter was found in questionable company. Having followed Jesus "afar off," he fell in with the "officers" of the high priest and of other enemies of his Master. "Evil communications corrupt good manners." Bad company leads to bad deeds (see Psalms 119:115). He was now in the arena of temptation.
(2) Here a maid came unto him, saying, "Thou also wast with Jesus the Galilaean." Here was a noble opportunity for Peter to have shown zeal for the Truth suffering under insolence. But he missed it and disgraced himself. It is a disgrace to miss an opportunity of doing right. It leads to the further disgrace of doing wrong.
(3) "He denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest." The strong man is thrown over by the breath of a maid. "A damsel," literally, one damsel. And probably wishing him no harm. But how great was the sin which sprang from so slight a cause! The publicity of this denial was an aggravation of the sin.
(4) The temptation was slight so far as the girl's question went, but greater in regard to the bystanders. We all wield unconscious influence. They probably had no desire to imperil Peter. The careless ones of this world often do more harm or good to the saints than they imagine.
2. The progress of sin is accelerating.
(1) In the first instance, we find Peter giving the simple emphatic denial, his words being equivalent to "What thou sayest is utterly false" (cf. Luke 22:57). In how few words may one commit a grievous sin (see Matthew 12:24; Acts 5:8)! Peter now went into the porch, or portico (Matthew 26:71), doubtless to secure himself from further observation, being now also ashamed of his weakness, if not of his sin. For the enormity of sin is hidden from the conscience by fear and carnal policy. No man gains strength to resist greater by complying with lesser evils.
(2) In the second instance, Peter added an oath to his denial. The damsel's pride being now stirred by having the lie turned upon her, she appears to have confided her mortification or indignation to "another maid," with whom she followed Peter into the portico; In his hearing this second maid said, "This man also was with Jesus of Nazareth," upon which a man of the company laid the accusation directly against him. "And again he denied with an oath, I know not the Man." The liar, by the suspicion he naturally has, having forfeited his self respect, that his testimony is not credited, is induced to swear.
(3) In the third instance, Peter added cursing to swearing. Probably he had been addicted to swearing before he came under the influence of John the Baptist and of Christ. Old habits are readily revived. Between the second and third temptations an hour elapsed. But time spent without prayer brings no strength to the soul. The charge is now brought close home to him. It is generally preferred by "those that stood by," who marked his Galilaean accent. The rabbins say that the speech of the Galilaeans was broad and rustic. Some say it inclined to the Samaritan and Syriac, and that they did not pronounce gutturals well, and changed sh into th. Better would it have been for Peter had he held his tongue. But the kinsman of Malchus increased his terror by calling to his remembrance his act in cutting off the ear (see John 18:26). His denial, therefore, becomes more vehement as the accusation proceeds. To curse is to imprecate Divine vengeance on himself if he spoke falsely, and the profanity of swearing added to this cursing is the language of passion and of the enemies of Christ. "None but the devil's sayings need the devil's proofs" (Henry).
(4) An apostle fallen! How great that fall! Lucifer in hell! In the fall of Peter we are admitted to a view of our own tendency to fall, and consequent need of watchfulness and prayer.
III. THAT THE SEQUEL IS DESTRUCTION OR REPENTANCE.
1. In the case of Judas it was destruction (see succeeding homily).
2. In the case of Peter it was repentance.
(1) When he had the third time denied his Lord, "straightway the cock crew." During the long hours in which he waited in the palace, his memory and conscience slept until startled by "the cock's shrill clarion." The words of Christ now rushed into his mind and pierced his heart, and made the crowing of the cock a very John the Baptist to the sinner. Note: The mercy of Christ comes sometimes at the cock crowing. Since Peter fell through fear of a maid, let us never think contemptibly of the feeblest tempter. Since he rose through the crowing of a cock, let us never think contemptibly of the humblest means of grace.
(2) When the cock crew, "the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter" (see Luke 22:61). Note here the kindness of Christ. Being in bonds, he could not, without a miracle, have gone to speak with Peter. Had he called to him, the disciple would have been discovered to the malice of his tempters. The glance is sufficient. Peter's denial comes in as a part of Christ's sufferings. Nothing more deeply grieves a genuine penitent than the reflection that he has grieved his Lord.
(3) Peter "went out," viz. from the scene of his temptation and humiliation, deeply sorrowing that he had ever entered into it, and that he might "mourn apart" (cf. Zechariah 12:11, Zechariah 12:12).
(4) He wept bitter tears of repentance for his presumptuous sin. Mark says, "When he thought thereon he wept" (Mark 14:72). Those who have sinned sweetly must weep bitterly, if not in penitence, in despair; for sin is bitterness itself. The more bitter the tears of repentance, the sweeter the delight of the regenerated life. His grief and weeping were of long duration. Tradition says he never heard a cock crow but it set him weeping.
(5) Peter afterwards confessed Christ openly, and made all the house of Israel know what he thought of him. He confessed him openly both in life and death with watchfulness and prayer.—J.A.M.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
The final devices of our Lord's foes.
It appears that the priest party, under the lead of Caiaphas, had resolved to secure our Lord's death in a council held immediately after the raising of Lazarus (John 11:47-53). But it proved to be a much more difficult matter than they imagined, and weeks passed and found them no nearer to the accomplishment of their purposes. At last they were set upon securing their end by assassination. They tried to devise some way of "taking him by subtlety and killing him."
I. WHY WERE THEY SET UPON NEW DEVICES? Because not only had all their previous devices failed, but they had failed in such ways as had humiliated and angered those who devised them. They could not get an accusation, they could not secure his Person, they would not leave him alone.
1. They tried open arrest; their officers were so impressed by him that they dare not touch him.
2. They tried to make him say such things as they could twist into accusations; they only succeeded in entangling themselves, and humiliating themselves before the people.
3. They had been made the object of our Lord's fiercest denunciations, and this they felt to be so intolerable that they resolved not to lose an hour in seeking their revenge. When men are humbled, they give up their self willed ways. When men are humiliated, they push their wilful ways through to the bitter end.
II. WHAT DIFFICULTIES HAD THEY YET TO OVERCOME? Two special ones.
1. The good will of the people, and especially of the visitors to the feast. If they attempted public arrest, there would be a rescue that would mean a riot, and it would bring down on them the vigorous hand of the Romans, and give Pilate another chance of showing his hatred.
2. The approaching feast time. It was hardly possible to get a good plan arranged before the feast; nothing could be done during the least; and Jesus would slip away from the city after the feast. We can imagine their delight when the difficulties were got over by the treachery of Judas.
III. WHAT REVELATIONS ARE MADE BY THESE DEVICES? They show up both the times and the people.
1. They reveal the estimate formed of our Lord by the people. They always delight in a man who can fearlessly resist official scheming and wickedness.
2. They reveal the prejudiced, malicious, and unreasonable character of the priest party. Personal feeling was allowed to carry away judgment.
3. They reveal the character of Christ. He could not be dealt with as a criminal.—R.T.
The law of waste.
"To what purpose is this waste?" It is interesting to notice that St. Matthew speaks generally, and says, "his disciples;" St. Mark speaks carefully, and says, "some had indignation;" St. John speaks precisely, and singles out the spokesman—it was the man with the narrow, covetous soul, it was Judas Iscariot. His indignation, partly real and partly affected, was perhaps honestly shared by some of the disciples, especially by those of the third or practical group. To see the point and interest of the woman's act—and we understand the woman to have been Mary, the sister of Lazarus—we must keep in mind the Eastern love of perfumes, and the feast customs that relate to perfumes. Easterns set value on scents that seem to us too strong. Women keep special scents as treasures. A present of perfumes is a mark of reverence and honour. The present sent by Cambyses to the Prince of Ethiopia consisted of "a purple vest, a gold chain for the neck, bracelets, an alabaster box of perfume, and a cask of palm wine." To sprinkle the apartments, and the person of a guest, with rosewater and other aromatics is still a mark of respectful attention. Point out that Mary's perfume would really have been wasted, if it had been kept after so good a use for it came into view. For there is a waste in keeping idle and useless, as well as a waste in spending, and losing by spending. Whether it is or it is not waste to give depends on—
I. THE OBJECT THE GIVER HAS IN VIEW. Mary had a most distinct object before her. It was one that glorified her act. She wanted to find suitable expression for her thankfulness to him who had brought back her brother from the dead; and for her personal love to him who had been to her the dearest and noblest of friends. Words would not suffice her; she wanted something that had self-surrender in it. Her treasured perfume was not wasted when it did so much.
II. THE WAY IN WHICH THE RECEIVER TAKES THE GIRT. Jesus did not think it waste. To him it seemed richer with meanings and affections than even Mary thought it was. She had, unconsciously, fitted to his mood of feeling. It could be no waste that comforted Jesus in that sad hour.
III. THE POINT OF VIEW FROM WHICH THE OBJECTOR CRITICIZED THE GIFT. He thought the only poor folk were those persons who had no money. Christ was "poor" in a far higher sense. The gift was given to the poor.
1. Mary gave up what she prized.
2. Mary gave up without reserve.
3. Mary gave up in order to find expression for thankful love.—R.T.
The crime of Judas.
"What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you?" The sin of treachery is almost lost sight of in view of the exceeding meanness of his trying to make a little money out of the treachery. It is this that reveals the man, and shows the covetousness which, for Judas, was the worm at the root. Loyalties, reverences, and friendships were nothing to him if only he could make a little money. "The history of his base and appalling lapse is perfectly intelligible. He had joined the discipleship of Jesus, as the other apostles also did, in the hope of taking part in a political revolution, and occupying a distinguished place in an earthly kingdom. It is inconceivable that Jesus would have made him an apostle if there had not at one time been some noble enthusiasm in him, and some attachment to himself. That he was a man of superior energy and administrative ability may be inferred from the fact that he was made the purse bearer of the apostolic company. But there was a canker at the root of his character, which gradually absorbed all that was excellent in him, and became a tyrannical passion. It was the love of money. He fed it on the petty peculations which he practised on the small sums which Jesus received from his friends for the necessities of his company, and for distribution among the poor with whom he was daily mingling. He hoped to give it unrestrained gratification when he became chancellor of the exchequer in the new kingdom" (Stalker). Illustrate by the tiny mountain spring swelling into the flooding river; or by the taint in the blood producing a spot on the skin, this growing into a boil, then developing into a virulent, deadly carbuncle.
2. THE CHIME OF JUDAS IN ITS FAINT BEGINNINGS. Self was more interesting than Christ. To get gave more pleasure than to serve. This was the trickle through the reservoir-bank which would grow into a flood. Safety lies in putting Christ first, and counting serving him best. The root wrong, was interest in the mere possession of money. To have money for use is healthy? to have money to possess breeds moral disease.
II. THE CRIME OF JUDAS IN ITS STAGES OF GROWTH.
1. It fashioned unreasonable expectations.
2. It was annoyed by delay in their realization.
3. It was fostered by acts of petty unfaithfulness.
4. It made personal advantage appear to be the thing of supreme value.
III. THE CRIME OF JUDAS PROVING TO BE FOLLY AS WELL AS CRIME. For it was the ruin of Judas, and the blasting of all the schemes on which he had set his heart. Covetous Judas ruined himself.—R.T.
Asking the Lord what weshould ask ourselves.
Phillips Brooks sees in the questioning of our Lord by his disciples a state of mind and feeling of which he can approve. "Each man's anxiety seems to be turned, not towards his brother, but towards himself, and you hear them asking, one after another, 'Lord, is it I?' Peter, Bartholomew, John, James, Thomas, each speaks for himself, and the quick questions come pouring in out of their simple hearts, 'Lord, is it I?' Certainly there is something that is strange in this. These men were genuine. There could not be any affectation in their question. A real, live fear came over them at Jesus' prophecy. And it was a good sign, no doubt, that the first thought of each of them was about the possibility of his own sins." This, however, is what lies on the surface; closer study of character reveals something that is not so commendable. The turning of these disciples to question their Lord concerning themselves illustrates the constant disposition of men to shift their responsibilities, and especially the responsibility of searching into and duly appraising themselves. No doubt, self-examination is difficult work, unpleasant, humbling work; but if a man is to be a man, he will have to do it. Over the Greek temple they wrote, "Know thyself." It is man's hardest, it is man's noblest, work.
I. REFERENCE TO CHRIST OF WHAT WE CANNOT DECIDE OURSELVES IS GOOD. It would have been all right if these disciples had done a little self-examination first, and then, bewildered and uncertain, had sought their Lord's help. Instead of that, impulsively, inconsiderately, exciting one another, hardly knowing what they said, they all said the same thing at once.
II. CHRIST WILL BE SURE TO THROW SUCH QUESTIONERS AS THESE BACK ON THEMSELVES. There was no answer for each one. There was a general answer for all. "He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish." But they all did that. That told nothing save to a very keen observer, who might notice that Judas's hand went into the dish at the same moment as the hand of Jesus. Jesus, in effect, bade them ask themselves the question which they were so impulsively asking him.
III. DISCIPLES MIGHT HAVE ANSWERED THEIR QUESTIONS THEMSELVES. Suppose they had begun to examine their own motives, what would the eleven have found? and what would Judas have found? The eleven might have gained satisfaction; for treachery was no natural fruitage of the relations in which they were standing with their Master.—R.T.
Blood for remission.
"This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." The word "covenant," not "testament," is almost everywhere the best equivalent for the Greek word. It is manifest that our Lord was using a figure of speech. The liquid in the cup was wine, not blood; our Lord made it represent his blood—the outpouring of his life—which was to be the seal of the new covenant. This is a subject whose treatment must depend on the theological school to which the preacher belongs. The suggestion now made is not intended to fit to any theories, nor is it antagonistic to any other views. It is but one of the sides of a many-sided subject; but it is possible that it may prove suggestive and helpful to some minds. The incident recalled by our Lord's figure is evidently that recorded in Exodus 24:4-8. Moses sealed the covenant between God and the people by sprinkling the representative pillars and altar with blood, which involved the life of a victim. So Jesus undertook to negotiate between God and the people, in order to secure the remission of sins. He conducted that negotiation; he brought it to a satisfactory conclusion; he secured the acceptance of the covenant; he sealed it, signed it, in the name of God and in the name of man, with his own blood. Jesus was the Mediator of the new covenant, as Moses had been mediator of the old. Moses could not seal his covenant with his own blood. He sealed it with the representative blood of living creatures. Jesus could, and did, seal his covenant with his own blood. He could, for God and for man, pledge life upon faithfulness.
I. COVENANTS BETWEEN GOD AND MAN ARE MADE THROUGH MEDIATORS. See cases—Noah, Abraham, Moses. So Christ mediated a covenant.
II. COVENANTS INVOLVE THE TAKING OF MUTUAL PLEDGES. In the new covenant, the pledge on God's side is forgiveness and life; on man's side, the obedience of faith. Christ took the pledges, both in the name of God and in the name of man.
III. BLOOD WAS THE PROPER SEAL OF THE COVENANT. It meant the dedication of the life to faithful keeping of the covenant. Christ stamps the seal in his bloodshedding; his yielding life in keeping covenant.
IV. DRINKING THE WINE IS SYMBOLICAL RENEWAL OF COVENANT. This is needed only on man's side. We take, ever afresh, the solemn pledge that we will stand to the covenant Christ has made in our name.—R.T.
Self-knowledge and Divine knowledge.
Jesus knew Peter better than he knew himself. Any observant man would have told wherein lay peril for such an repulsive, hastily outspoken, warm-hearted man. Our Lord divinely "knew what was in man," and foresaw the coming danger. We are all keen enough at estimating the character of others, but we cannot do it with any certainty, because we can only make our experience of ourselves our standard of judgment. And oftentimes those who are most ready to judge others are the least efficient in appraising themselves, and so their standard is incomplete and unworthy. Divine knowledge is perfect. So the truehearted can say, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my ways."
I. SELF-KNOWLEDGE CAN NEVER BE GOT AT IMPULSIVELY. Impulse can only express a passing mood or feeling; and that may have its explanation in temporary circumstances and excitements. A man acting or speaking on impulse may act or speak in strict harmony with his real self. He may; but it is equally true that he may act or speak otherwise than he would if he could quietly resolve. Impulse is good, but it is perilous. Distinguish from the power of quick judgment and decision. Impulses tell the hour; they seldom tell the real man.
II. SELF-KNOWLEDGE CALLS FOR CAREFUL THOUGHT. We find great differences in characters. Some are easy to read, they belong to recognized classes. Some are very difficult to read; we must watch them a long time; their individuality is more marked than their classification. And men find similar variety in themselves. Some may read themselves easily. St. Peter might, if he had tried. Some never feel quite sure that they know themselves.
III. SELF-KNOWLEDGE IS ALWAYS SUBJECT TO DIVINE CORRECTIONS. The apostle thought he knew himself when he made his stout assertion. But he came into Divine correction. This is often given us by the discipline of disappointment and failure; and often by the providence which offers us work for which we could not have thought that we were fitted.
IV. DIVINE CORRECTIONS SHOULD LEAD TO A RE-READING OF OURSELVES IS THE NEW LIGHT. If we fail to do this, we shall have to go on with St. Peter, and learn to know ourselves through a bitter experience.—R.T.
Truths learnt in Gethsemane.
A little garden on the side of the Mount of Olives is now shown to travellers as the garden of Gethsemane. It is enclosed with a wall. A few olive trees remain, possibly the descendants of those that covered Jesus with their shade. This spot is, however, too close to the city, and too near a main road, to have provided our Lord with the seclusion that he sought. Dr. Thomson tells of gardens a little further off, less than a mile from the city, and says that he found one, in a sheltered vale, suiting exactly our Lord's purpose, only a few hundred yards northeast of the exhibited site. Three things are impressed on us by the scene in Gethsemane.
I. WE GAIN IDEAS CONCERNING OUR LORD'S HUMANITY. It was Divine-humanity, so we may expect to find some unusual elements. But it was veritable humanity, so we may expect to find more likeness to us than diversity from us. Brotherliness of feeling and experience is seen:
1. In the restlessness of Christ's spirit. We know what it is to be restless when we have forebodings of coming calamity.
2. In our Lord's desire to be alone, and yet longing to have some one to be present and sympathize with him.
3. In our Lord's resistance of anticipated physical sufferings.
4. In his gentle way of dealing with disciples who were weak rather than wilful, and therefore failed to watch. Gethsemane helps us to feel "he was in all points tempted like as we are."
II. WE GAIN IDEAS CONCERNING THE CAUSE OF OUR LORD'S SUFFERINGS. No doubt he felt, as no one ever felt before,
(1) the separation between God and man; and
(2) the hatefulness of sin.
And he estimated, as no one else ever has, the awful curse and penalty which wilful sin has brought upon humanity. The woe he had so seen to pass through seemed to reveal the penalty to him. This made the burden of deliverance so heavy—made it involve so much. It all crowded on his mind and heart, and forced the earnest cry and prayer.
III. WE GAIN IDEAS CONCERNING OUR LORD'S WILLINGNESS TO SUFFER. The soul offering—the will offering for sin—was made in Gethsemane. God required the full sacrifice of a completed, tested obedience. Calvary completed the testing. Christ was a perfect offering. He freely, willingly, gave himself unto God.—R.T.
Gethsemane a representative conflict.
Wherein does the scene of Calvary differ from the scene of Gethsemane? It would be easy to point out the sameness, the essential oneness, of the two scenes. But there is a difference. It lies in this: At Calvary the physical suffering is prominent. Our thought is sympathizingly occupied with our Lord's bodily agonies, and bleeding, breaking heart. At Gethsemane the physical is subordinate, the mental and spiritual are prominent; we are in the presence of an awful soul struggle. Life is everywhere a conflict. Earth is a great battlefield. What does it all mean? Conflict in the heart. Conflict in the home. Conflict in the nation. Conflict everywhere. If we get light on the mystery anywhere, we get it in the garden of Gethsemane, where the Son of man is seen in bitter, almost overwhelming conflict.
I. THE CONFLICT OF LIFE IS REALLY A CONFLICT OF WILLS. God is the supreme will; and his will ought to be supreme with his creatures. But to man has been entrusted a limited free will. That free will man has exercised until it has become masterful, and is constantly setting itself against God's will. Bodily conditions, the slavery of the senses, the attractions of the seen and temporal, all help to the strengthening of man's will, man's wilfulness, so that the fight sometimes becomes severe. Our Lord, in taking on himself our human nature, took on him our sense-conditioned human will. And this in Gethsemane tried a wrestling with the will of God.
II. THE TRIUMPH IN THE CONFLICT OF LIFE IS YIELDING OUR WILL TO GOD'S WILL. This is the triumph of Gethsemane. Our Lord did not want the Divine will to be altered. He wanted to gain the full surrender of his whole nature—body, mind, soul—to the acceptance of the will. Man never gives up his will save as the issue of a fierce struggle. What force can renew and strengthen man's will so that it shall accept God's will, and make it his?
1. The truth as it is in Jesus.
2. The work wrought through for us by Jesus.
3. The grace won for us and given to us by Jesus.
4. The actual present power exerted on us by Jesus.
5. The constrainings of the love of Jesus.
Christ came to make the will of God infinitely attractive to us. He is the gracious Persuader of the human will.—R.T.
The recognition of good intentions.
"The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Our Lord dealt very tenderly with these disciples. No reproachful word passed his lips. He was considerate of the influence which bodily frailty can exert upon the will; and did not immediately take up the idea that the will had swerved. "The priests on duty in the temple were expected to keep awake all night, and were severely punished if the temple captain found them asleep. Peter and James and John could not watch for one-tenth part of that time, yet their Lord upbraids them very gently, and ascribes their seeming indifference to physical exhaustion." When God refused to permit David to build his temple, he graciously recognized his good intention: "Thou didst well that it was in thine heart." And yet we have a familiar proverb showing the uselessness of "good intentions:" "Hell is paved with good intentions." On what conditions, then, can our intentions be recognized and accepted? We can ourselves see that an intention may be sometimes right and sometimes wrong.
I. WHEN AN INTENTION IS A MERE SENTIMENT, IT IS WRONG. It need not be wrong as a sentiment; it is wrong if it is treated as an intention, and its acceptance is expected as such. It is a mere sentiment when there is
(1) no resolve of will in relation to it; and
(2) when there is no watching for opportunity of carrying it out.
Our intentions are revealed as mere sentiments whenever we let the chance of fulfilling them pass. This we are constantly doing, and this fact has created the proverb.
II. WHEN AN INTENTION IS A REAL PURPOSE, IT IS RIGHT. Then it is thought. fully, not impulsively, formed. Due account is taken of circumstances and abilities. Fitting occasion is watched for, and energy is shown in overcoming difficulties.
III. AN INTENTION IS NOT MADE WRONG BY BEING HINDERED IN EXECUTION. People often mistake by assuming that failure shows our purpose to have been wrong. But there are other things to take into account beside our intentions. We can always have this assurance, God knows whether we would have done what we intended if we could.—R.T.
The place for the sword.
"Put up again thy sword into his place." We need not suppose that our Lord intended to give any general directions concerning the use of the sword. The question of the lawfulness or unlawfulness of warfare cannot even be connected with our Lord's expression to St. Peter. Our Lord's words strictly fit the occasion. "Resistance at that time would have involved certain destruction. More than that, it would have been fighting, not for God, but against him, because against the fulfilment of his purpose." It is rather strange to find St. Peter with a sword. No doubt he had anticipated a conflict, and therefore provided the weapon. It is not likely that he knew how to use the sword, and he evidently slashed with it very dangerously.
I. THE SHEATH IS NOT ALWAYS THE PLACE FOR THE SWORD. We may wish that it could be kept there, but while human nature is what it is; while society finds it needful to guard itself against itself; and while nations will press claims against other nations, the sword can neither be kept in its sheath nor turned into a ploughshare. We can see three types of persons who must still, on occasion, take the sword out of its sheath.
1. The executioner, who carries out the decisions of the law in relation to criminals, disturbers of the public peace, who have been fairly tried and honourably condemned.
2. The vindicator, who must take the sword out of its sheath to avenge public wrongs, ill treatment of ambassadors, etc., as lately at Manipur.
3. The defender, who meets the foe who would rifle his home or imperil his nation's liberty.
II. THE SHEATH IS ALWAYS THE PLACE FOR THE CHRISTIAN SWORD. The "weapons of our warfare are not carnal." We triumph by submission, not by resistance. "In whatever other cause it may be lawful to use carnal weapons, it is not wise or right to draw the sword for Christ and his truth" (Plumptre). Christ's law is "Resist not evil." Christianity has found a strange, but a triumphant, method of dealing with evil. It lets it do its worst. This was our Lord's way. He yielded, gave himself up, endured, let evil show itself fully; and the consequence is, the whole world knows how utterly bad and base evil is.—R.T.
Peter's time of strain.
"But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest." The nature of Peter's sin has been so fully dealt with that we may safely venture to inquire what can be said on behalf of him, and in mitigation of his very grievous fault, it is not wise to say harsh and inconsiderate things concerning our erring brethren. It is well to remember the counsel, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." No temptation took Peter but such as is "common to men." Even a Cranmer repeats his story in these latter times. We do not excuse Peter's sin when we try kindly to estimate the time of strain through which he passed. Every man has such a testing time put somewhere into his life. Sometimes it comes in the opening manhood, but perhaps it is more usually reserved for the advanced middle life, as we see in the cases of Abraham and of David. In some way the life principle is proved, and it is seen whether the will has become dissociated from the principle professed, so that the principle is only weak sentiment that can stand no strain. On behalf of Peter, it may be urged—
I. THAT HE WAS PHYSICALLY OVERWROUGHT. Long hours of watching and anxiety must have wearied him out; and that sleep in the garden was not refreshing. Body prepared a way for temptation.
II. THAT HE WAS DOING A VERY VENTURESOME THING. Making his way actually into the court of the palace, and among the high priest's guard and servants. It was a noble thing to do, but it was a very perilous one. He did not know whether the scheme against the Master included the servants; but he risked the danger because of his longing to see what became of the Lord he loved. No doubt he thought that showing a bold front was the best way to escape observation, tie would have managed well if it had not been for his Galilaean brogue.
III. THAT HE WAS DISAPPOINTED IN HIS HOPES CONCERNING JESUS. He had thought that an earthly kingdom was to be set up; the arrest of Jesus dashed that hope to pieces forever. He was in the hands of his foes. This did not affect Peter's personal feeling toward Christ, but it did suggest that he had better not profess open connection with him.
1. There is a test time forevery man.
2. It is a self-revelation.
3. It is a culture.
4. The test time is precisely relative to every man.
5. The relativity is the thing to discover.—R.T.
Quick penitence revealing character.
St. Peter had become entangled through making one false step. He had never anticipated what happened. He began with half a lie, which he excused as merely a putting aside of uncomfortable and even perilous questions. but the "beginning or evil is as the letting out of water." Soon the tempter plunged poor Peter over head and neck in evasions lyings, cursings, and swearings. Then came the moment when Jesus was passing from the council chamber, and as he passed he turned, and gave Peter a look, only a look, but we can imagine the wealth of pitying that was in the look. It went right home; it recalled warning words; it revealed, as by a lightning flash, the darkness into which Peter had fallen; and he rushed out of the place, and could not restrain the tears that told of bitterest shame and humiliation. What does this penitence tell concerning Peter?
I. HIS SENSITIVENESS. When we see how quickly he responded to Christ's "look," we begin to understand how he came to respond so readily to the peril which the maid's question brought him. He was too sensitive; he responded too soon; he was always in danger of speaking and acting before he had time to criticize his own impressions. There are many among us like him. They feel too soon. They respond too quickly. And they respond to evil suggestion and to calamity as readily as to good and success. We call it highly nervous organization.
II. HIS AFFECTIONATENESS. We must keep in mind how truly he was attached to his Lord; and how open that attachment made him to all influences exerted on him by Christ. It was his safeguard in that sad time, that he had personal love to Christ. That disposition often brings men round right again after they have gone astray. Fathers and mothers know the anchor hold that a child's affectionate disposition gives to them.
But there is a gushing and impulsive penitence that is not good. Sometimes there is too easy confession of sin—confession before the really humbling sense of sin is felt. Easy penitence is little more than regret; and it is usually very gushing in expression. Easy penitence has little force on the moral nature. Penitence needs to be made deep and searching by the help of serious thinking.—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Matthew 26". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany