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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Matthew 26

 

 

Verses 1-75

Matthew 26:2. After two day is the passover. This is the literal import of the Greek word πασχα pascha, and the Hebrew word פסח pesach, because the Israelites, after eating the paschal lamb, passed over the Red sea. The jews had a tradition, probably from the prophets, that they should be delivered at the passover, which tradition is still in the Cabalists. And it is very remarkable, that Christ should redeem the world at the very festival when he redeemed the Hebrews from Egypt. He is our passover, and not a bone of him was broken. See the Reflections on Exodus 12.

The passion week was observed in the primitive church with an augmentation of the offices of piety; they were not willing to be eclipsed by the devout jews in their purifications for the passover.

1. Dominica, the Lord’s day, on which the Saviour entered Jerusalem.

2. The second holy day was that in which he caused the figtree to wither.

3. The third day was a feast day.

4. The fourth was the market day.

5. The fifth day, that which preseded the day of unleavened bread, when the passover was prepared: Matthew 26:17.

6. The sixth day, being the first day of unleavened bread, when the Saviour, after instituting the last supper, was slain as our passover.

7. The sabbath, or day of repose in the sepulchre.

8. Dominica, the Lord’s day, on which he rose from the dead.

Matthew 26:3. Then assembled together the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people. The sanhedrim comprehended these three orders of men. In Acts 5:41 we find the council only were assembled, which consisted of twenty three members. This convention met two days before the passover, as is stated in Mark 14:1. Every city also had a bench of elders.

Matthew 26:5. Not on the feast day: τη εορτη the feast. The word day is added as an expletive, but it disturbs the sense, as the festival comprised seven days, during which they ate unleavened bread. Herod, equally wary, designed to put Peter to death after easter. Acts 12:4. But God, more watchful than they, so overruled their counsels, and all other events, that Christ our passover was sacrificed for us at this festival, that the hallowed type might not be superseded.

Matthew 26:6. Now when Jesus was in Bethany. See John 12., where the account is full.

Matthew 26:12. She did it for my burial. The Holy Spirit having prompted her to do what she but imperfectly understood, she became a prophetess of the sufferings and the glory of Christ, leaving the less instructed apostles in the shade.

Matthew 26:14. Judas Iscariot. This man associated with our Lord, not because his heart was contrite for his great wickedness, but through terror of conscience; and the glorious works of the Saviour amused him, for the time, while an abyss of depravity slumbered in his breast. Not having a relish for divine employment, he preferred being treasurer to the little flock; and being professedly honest, his frequent embezzlements of the sacred store were not suspected by his fellow disciples. Oh vile crime, to rob the altar, and defraud the poor! Covetousness was his character, and it ultimately gained the entire ascendancy over him. This vilest of men knew that the jewish council awaited an opportunity to imprison the Lord and Saviour; and it is apparent that the traitor did not expect his condemnation to die. He instantly calculated on his gain, on the secresy of his treason, and on the enjoyment of his fortune. Avarice so completely obscured his reason, that he forgot the prophetic character of his Master, and the account he must give to God. But hypocrisy is the finishing trait in his character.

This man came to eat bread at his Master’s table, as though he had still been among his fastest friends. And what did the Lord do? He conveyed a hint to him, that he was acquainted with his treason, but so prudently, that every disciple suspected himself rather than the traitor. He permitted Satan to infatuate him to destruction, by the very passion he had always indulged. He detected this Achan, and purified his little family ere he left them in the world. — Beware then, oh man, of dallying with thy besetting sin. Is it drunkenness? Is it impurity, or uncleanness? Is it covetousness? Does the miser exclaim against prodigality? Does he plead the wants of a family, the winter of old age, and the privilege of having a mite for the poor? Judas availed himself of similar excuses. He was wounded when the woman poured the box of ointment on our Saviour’s head, and made the poor his plea. But mark how his punishment corresponded with his crime. When he saw that Jesus was condemned, his slumbering conscience awoke in all the terrors of an anticipated hell. He knew his die was cast. Mercy he did not ask, for he felt no desire. The sight of his silver he could not bear, it seemed all coined into daggers for his soul. He cast it down at the feet of the council, rather to excite their anguish, than to relieve his own mind. Existence to him was intolerable, nor had he the power to take it away. But finding his misery incessant, he made the desperate leap, to try whether the torments of the invisible world were milder than those of time.

Matthew 26:26. This is my body. The jews ate unleavened bread at this feast, and usually said, this is the bread of affliction which our fathers did eat in Egypt. Alluding to the paschal supper St. Paul says, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” Hence, when our Lord said, this is my body, it marked a change from the old to the new covenant, as was fully expressed when he took the cup. “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for you for the remission of sins.” Now as bread is broken to eat, so his body was wounded to give life to the world; and as wine is poured into the cup to revive the spirits, so his blood was shed on the cross to cheer the guilty gloom of man.

Again, when he said, this is my body, he superseded the paschal lamb which had designated his body; and when he said, this is my blood, he superseded the blood of bulls and of goats, and all the shadows of the ceremonial law. Yet because Jesus said, this is my body, the doctrine of trans-substantiation has been invented to give an undue power to the priesthood. How could any minister ever imagine that his prayers could change real bread into the real body of Christ! He said indeed this is my body; but he said with equal force, I am the vine — I am the door — I am the way. It is sufficient, if while eating the mortal bread, we discern the immortal body of Christ.

Then, oh my soul, what dost thou not see in the most expensive supper of the Lord. All the footsteps of redeeming love are unfolded to thy view. The sublime and mysterious, the all-availing atonement is presented as the balm of thy guilty conscience. Thou art taken from the dunghill, thy rags are changed for robes, and thou art allowed to feast in heaven with Christ. The Master, taking the cup, speaks of drinking the next draught of wine in his Father’s kingdom. He talks of his ascension, of preparing mansions more glorious than those which already exist — of the Comforter, and of his second coming. With these words he cheered his weeping friends, and left them not till he had ratified his covenant with blood. Then, oh my soul, repose on that covenant as on the rock of ages, till thou shalt see him in the clouds of heaven.

Matthew 26:29. Until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. These words show the certainty of eternal life, and the divine enjoyments of that happy world. Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Matthew 26:30. And when they had sung a hymn they went out. In the Hebrew feasts it was common to sing a hymn of praise and thanksgiving, on account of which the Lord’s supper is frequently called the holy eucharist.

Matthew 26:34. Thou shalt deny me thrice. See the note on Jeremiah 36:3.

Matthew 26:38. My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. Other martyrs went to the theatre of conflict as the heroes of the church; but Jesus who was not yet in the hands of his enemies, who made himself a willing offering, and to whom death approached without the terrors of guilt, cried, prayed, and wrestled beyond the powers of language to describe. Why was all this difference? It was because the anguish and death due to a guilty world seized his soul. The sorrows of death compassed him about, and the pains of hell gat hold upon him. Divine justice stood arrayed in all the terrors of righteousness, with the bitter cup of anguish and death in his hand, the death menaced to man before the fall; and either the Saviour or the sinner must drink the very dregs. Justice could abate nothing of the ransom, for now all heaven must be instructed in the righteousness of God in man’s redemption. Oh then, it was not the fear of the cross, but the pangs of human guilt and human punishment which made the Saviour weep and cry. The conflict was tremendous. His sweat was tinted with gore; thrice he fell, and thrice he rose; but life was granted on the sanctifying basis of his death. May my soul tremble at the scene, and learn to sin no more. It pleased the Lord to bruise him, and put him to grief, when he had made his soul an offering for sin. How shall I dare then to fly in the face of justice and transgress his holy law. Ah, surely it is fools, and fools of the last degree, who make a mock at sin. They know neither its nature nor its consequences. They know not the terrors of the Lord, against whom they have transgressed.

Matthew 26:39. Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. This was the hour and power of darkness. Oh mysterious agony! Beyond conception, and above all comment. He offered up strong cries and tears to the Father. The fiends of hell were let loose on his soul, ere his body was delivered to the tormentors. This is the dark valley which no martyr ever trod. The prince of darkness loaded him with all the anguish and crimes of a guilty race; he drenched him with the bitter cup. God spared not his own Son. Oh sin: oh death! Suffice it to say, the sun shone, leaving the Saviour victorious in the field.

Matthew 26:41. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. This is an admirable copy of the human heart. Man wishes to resemble God, and to be a hero in the hour of temptation; but that is the time when he very often most dishonours God and himself. Hence our Saviour speak this, not to excuse negligence and sin, but to excite watchfulness and prayer, lest we enter into temptation. Let us set a tenfold guard against the weak part, and always run for shelter to him who is always conqueror. It is far better to keep our bones whole, than to undergo the painful process of healing and knitting them again.

Matthew 26:49. Hail, Master; and he kissed him. This consummate audacity was a proof that Satan had entered into him with the sop. The officers bowed themselves to the earth, the usual mark of respect, in arresting an illustrious person. During the Irish massacre of the protestants, a papist girl had a protestant grandmother concealed in the house. When the murderers came with the usual threats, the girl betrayed her trust, and ran up stairs to the hidingplace and fell down on her knees to obtain the kiss of pardon! On being reproached with treason, she cried, oh grandmamma, what could I do? I could not damn my own soul!

Matthew 26:52. All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. No nation allows of private war. Justice must not be administered by faction, fury, and passion. The judge who bears his sovereign’s sword will punish assassins with death. They also who employ the sword against the innocent, as the jews now did against Christ, shall perish by the sword. So it happened when the Romans cut them off. This text is generally applicable to wars, as well as to other aggressions. The victorious sing the Te Deum, for God is on their side. But in the next campaign, victory recoils like the tide; then the Te Deum is sung in the enemies’ capital, for God is now on their side also! No, no, sinful nations. God is against you both, and making you a dreadful scourge one to the other because of your avarice, pride, impiety, and crimes. Hasten therefore to make peace, and implore the divine mercy and protection.

Matthew 26:53. Twelve legions of angels, a legion to defend each of the apostles, and the Saviour. These would be able to destroy all the unbelievers in a moment. There is then, Peter, no need of thy rash help. In Alexander’s time a Grecian legion was reckoned to be six thousand six hundred and sixty six. The Romans retained the Greek word, and so do all the versions, because in military arrangements we have no correspondent word. But had such interposition been admitted, how should the scriptures be fulfilled, which speak of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.

Matthew 26:75. He went out and wept bitterly. The consideration of this case is reserved to John 21., where we find the unhappy apostle restored to the love of Christ, and to his ministry.

REFLECTIONS.

We now enter on tragic ground. The great theatre of human crimes and of human redemption opens to our view. The prophets, appalled by an obscure and distant sight, searched diligently to decypher the import of the Spirit which spake of the salvation to come unto us. A throng of angels crowded round to pry and look into the mysteries of man’s redemption.

First, here is the victim presented before us, the Lord Christ, who had finished his ministry, appointed his apostles, and foretold the circumstances of his death. The immaculate Lamb, in preparation for his work, spent the nights of Monday and Tuesday on the mount of Olives. So he gave an example to dying saints, that abstracting themselves from the cares of life, they might converse with heaven alone.

Next, here is Caiaphas, who had bought the highpriesthood of Valerius Gracchus; and simony leads to destruction. Acts 8:20.

Third, here is the council who had rejected the miracles of Christ; and from the resurrection of Lazarus, had determined on his death.

Lastly, here is Judas, who assuredly plunged his own soul into endless destruction, by betraying his Master for filthy lucre. These are the leading characters in the tragic scene; for the Romans and the populace do but fill up the shades of this instructive portrait.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 26:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/matthew-26.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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