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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Matthew 26

 

 

Verses 1-75

Only when His prophetic word, with its every dispensational bearing, is complete does the King, in calm, conscious authority, declare to His disciples that the time has arrived for His being betrayed to be crucified, and on the day of the Passover.

The chief priests, scribes and elders assemble together in the high priest's palace, plotting His death, but with other plans than what the Lord has declared.

Having no sense of honour, they plot to take Him by subtlety, but not on the pass over day, because of their fear of the people. Such is the Counsel of men! But "the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand" (Proverbs 19:21).

How precious is the gathering in the house of Simon the leper in contrast to that in the palace of the high priest! Here at Bethany (the house of affliction) the Lord had raised Lazarus from the dead only a few days before. Matthew does not mention (as does John 12:2) that in Simon's house "they made Him a supper" nor that it was Mary who brought the alabaster box of ointment. For Matthew's Gospel is that of the official glory of the King, and the name of the woman is not important. As the Son of God in John, however, His personal interest in her is precious to see.

Again, it is said she poured the ointment on His feet, wiping them with the hair of her head. Matthew and Mark only speak of her pouring the ointment on His head. Of course she did both, but in John the adoration of her heart in worship of the Son of God is emphasized, while in Matthew the anointing of the King is foremost. In Mark His being anointed for service is the important matter.

The indignation of the disciples is a sad comment on their lack of discernment. It was evidently Judas who began this agitation (John 12:4) because of his own greed, but the others too speak of this action of Mary as a waste. The Lord's defence of her stands in precious contrast to their unholy criticism. What she had done was a good work. All the ointment, expensive as it was, was expended on the Lord Himself, not on others, nor even on the Lord's work. He valued such affection for Him. This was virtually her last opportunity of anointing Him, for within two days He would be crucified, and the women who came afterward with their anointing spices and ointments were too late (Luke 23:56; Luke 24:1-3).

The Lord credits the women who had anointed Him with her doing this in view of His burial, whether she fully understood this or not. The disciples could do good to the poor at any time; but they missed the blessing that was hers in giving Him the comfort of true affection at the time of His deepest suffering. In verse 13 He adds a most striking prophecy that wherever the Gospel would be preached in all the world this would be told for a memorial of her. Its importance is impressed on us by the fact that all four Gospel writers record it, and this record is eternal.

Judas learned nothing from His words. If he could not get money by one dishonourable means, he would try another, though it involved treachery to his Master, the direct contrast to the devotion of Mary. She had given freely to the Lord: Judas asks the chief priests, "What will ye give me?"--little realizing that the thirty pieces of silver would only cause his conscience to burn with awful remorse. Sadly, his record is eternal too! He watches for the first opportunity to procure this sordid gain.

The feast of unleavened bread arrives, the day the Passover must be kill (Luke 22:7), the most momentous and awesome day of history. Matthew says little as to the Lord's instructions to the disciples in regard to preparing the Passover but indicates simply that the King is in perfect control, as they obey His word and make ready the Passover feast. Of course the Jewish day began at 6.00 p.m.: the Passover was kept that evening, and in the morning by 9:00 o'clock the Lord was on the cross.

As they are eating the Passover the Lord uses an indirect means first to awaken exercise in the conscience of Judas, "Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me." How good to see that the disciples were "exceeding sorrowful" to bear this, rather than indignant against the guilty man. In fact, in wise distrust of themselves, they ask in turn, "Lord, is it I?" His answer to this was that the betrayer would dip his hand in the dish with the Lord Himself. This act would show a brazen attitude of resisting his own conscience. God's counsels would be fulfilled as regards the Son of Man going to the cross; but He pronounces such a woe upon the betrayer as to indicate it would have been good for him not to have been born.

Since the others have asked the question, Judas can hardly remain silent, but asks, "Master (not Lord), is it I?" For he is stubbornly determined to do his own will, therefore can hardly use the word "Lord." The Lord answers with an emphatic "Thou hast said," implying, "as you suggest, so it stands." The unhappy man., in spite of the Lord's showing him that He knew his plans, would not turn from the folly of his headlong course. Evidently at this point Judas went out (John 13:26-30). Of course, even if he did not, we today are clearly commanded not to break bread with one known to be a covetous deceiver (1 Corinthians 5:11).

In the midst of all the sorrow pressing upon Him now, the Lord takes time to introduce the most precious, simple memorial of Himself in reference to the great sacrifice He was about to make. The Passover feast had been observed, for it pointed forward to the death of Christ. Now the Lord's supper is to take a place of greater importance, for it is to be a memorial of His great sacrifice. The simplicity of it is beautiful. The bread and the cup, for each of which He gave thanks, are the simplest staples of man's sustenance, but how eloquently they speak of the body and blood of Christ. Simple as it is, this observance has proven for more precious to the saints of God than any Passover could ever have been, for its spiritual significance can be well understood by the saints of God since the Lord Jesus has died and risen again.

If the Lord's supper were observed merely as a formal ordinance, this is no better than the Passover. Men may be so blind as to insist that by some strange miracle the bread and the wine are transformed into the actual body and blood of the Lord, but on this grossly literal and material level they miss entirely the spiritual truth and sweetness of this observance. The loaf reminds us of the sufferings He endured in His blessed body; the cup, of His blood shed for many, and Matthew adds, "for the remission of sins." The truth of the trespass offering is not to be forgotten in the remembrance of the Lord, though the peace offering and burnt offering speak of yet higher aspects of the sacrifice of Christ, which have their place of real importance too, as does the sin offering.

Verse 29 shows that He Himself would be absent during the time they would keep this remembrance feast. The wine no doubt speaks of Israel, from whom the Lord Jesus would have no joy until the time of the kingdom. Then He will drink wine "new with you" in the Father's kingdom. The kingdom of the Father is the heavenly side of its character (Matthew 13:43). He will share with His saints in glory the new joy He will have in Israel when she is restored to her place of earthly blessing.

But it is precious that He can sing a hymn with them when the sorrow of His imminent suffering weighs heavily on His heart. Joy and sorrow mingle here, for there was joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). Going to the Mount of Olives He tells them they would all (not only Peter) be offended in Him that very night, in accordance with Scripture prophecy that the smiting of the Shepherd would lead to the scattering of the sheep; but He adds that He will rise again and go before them into Galilee. The Shepherd would regather and lead His sheep, not leaving them in Judea, however, for they would find that Judaism was no longer to bind them. Galilee is connected with a remnant testimony.

Peter protests that though all others should be offended, he would not. Both his own self- confidence and his comparing himself with others were clear indications that he had not learned what his own heart was. The Lord again referred to these things in John 21:15, though gently and in measure indirectly. At this time He positively tells him that he would deny Him three times before the cock crew. Yet Peter emphatically insists that he would die with the Lord rather than deny Him. Observe however that all the disciples said the same.

Matthew says nothing of the words of the Lord Jesus spoken at this time, recorded in John 15:1-27; John 16:1-33, nor of His prayer of John 17:1-26, but describes the scene in Gethsemane, as John does not. Leaving the other disciples, He takes with Him Peter and James and John, previously witnesses of His glory (Ch.17:1-3), now to be witnesses of His profound sorrow. Separated from them only a short distance, having told them to watch with Him, He is prostrate with exceeding sorrow. Knowing well that He would be subjected to the agony of being forsaken of God in bearing the judgment of the cross, He pleads with His Father, "if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." As a true Man He had a will of His own, a will that was in every respect perfectly right. It was right that He should desire to avoid the dreadful suffering of the cross. Yet He asks for the Father's will to be done, rather than His own. How this adds to the blessedness of His great sacrifice!

Later, at the cross, the disciples could have no part whatever in the sufferings of the Lord Jesus; but here He expects some fellowship from them in watching with Him, and finds them sleeping. In times of most pressing need our hearts may be dull and insensitive because we are not concerned to enter into the Lord's thoughts. Is one hour too long to spend in sympathy with His sorrow?

The Lord urges upon the three disciples that they must watch and pray in order to be kept from entering into temptation. He adds that their spirit was willing, as no doubt was expressed in their declaration that they would not be offended because of Him; but the flesh was weak: they were not able to carry out what they intended. Twice more He leaves them and prays, both times returning to find them asleep. His "saying the some words" is instructive for us. It was certainly not mere repetition, which He forbids (Ch.6:7), but His soul so affected that these were the words that expressed His deepest thoughts.

Now having finished His vigil of holy, dependent preparation for the cross, He can tell the disciples, "Sleep on now and take your rest." For their true rest was not dependent on their watching or work, but on His faithfulness even unto death, the death of the cross. He goes forth in the calm consciousness that He has conquered: no possibility of doubt remains that the work will be done.

Verse 46 may seem contradictory, for now they are told to rise and be going, but they may still rest in the fact that He is purposefully going to the cross on their behalf. He knows that Judas is coming, but makes no suggestion of going elsewhere.

Judas appears with a large crowd armed with swords and staves. Having pre-arranged with them the signal that he would kiss the Lord, he goes before in carrying out his dastardly plan. Though he had before seen the Lord reading the very thoughts of men, being utterly without faith, he thinks he can deceive Him in this repulsive way, as though the Lord would not know that his kiss was a kiss of betrayal. Yet the Lord does not speak despitefully, but calls him, "Friend," asking the reason for his coming. Luke tells us that He also said, "Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?" (Luke 22:48). Precious testimony to His own unchanging grace and faithfulness!

As the Lord is taken by the crowd, one of His disciples (John tells us it was Peter-- John 10:10) used his sword to cut off the ear of the high priest's servant. But this did not issue in a fight, for the Lord Jesus, in perfect control of the circumstances, gives the royal command to put up the sword, adding that by taking the sword one is exposing himself to perishing with the sword. His faithful mercy in restoring the ear is not mentioned here, for His authority is more emphasized in Matthew, rather than His grace as in Luke (ch.22:51).

He could have asked the Father for twelve legions of angels. If one angel was able to destroy 185,000 troops in one night (2 Kings 19:35), what could twelve legions do? The Roman legion was 6000 footmen, plus horsemen. However, He was not concerned as to His own defence, but as to fulfilling scripture.

In verse 55 He addresses a searching word to the consciences of the crowd He had taught publicly in the temple in their presence every day, and they did not arrest Him. Now they come to search for Him in the dark of night, as though He had been a thief trying to evade the law. Thus He exposes the unrighteousness of their cause, which they were afraid to engineer in the light of day. However, as v.56 again reminds us, scripture must be fulfilled. Moreover, all the disciples forsook the Lord and dispersed. His word as to this was fulfilled also In spite of their vigorous protests that they would not prove unfaithful.

Though this was late at night, the high priest, Caiaphas, and scribes and elders were gathered together to await the arrival of their victim. They were determined to accomplish their evil ends as quickly as possible, so that no calm, judicious process of law could catch up with them before getting rid of Him. The kind of people who would gather there at night would be the most excitable and most likely to be influenced by the inflamed leaders.

The Lord being taken to the high priest's palace, Peter followed Him there, though following "afar off," and went in and set with the servants, not his customary company, fearful in being present there, but anxious as to the outcome.

The Jewish council, (the Sanhedrin) having decided that the Lord Jesus should be put to death, only lack witnesses of any crime of which they might accuse Him. They seek false witnesses. Many came, but none could offer a concrete charge that could satisfy even men who were trying to find a charge. Of course they wanted a charge with some semblance of truth, and two false witnesses claim that He said He was able to destroy the temple and build it in three days. These were not His words (see John 2:19); but even if they were, no court of law would consider such a charge, and certainly not as a criminal offence.

The high priest, angered because of the Lord's silence, demands that He answer such charges; but there was nothing to answer: He remains silent. Caiaphas, knowing that no charge of evil could possibly stand against Him, changed his tactics and adjured Him by the living God that He declare whether He is the Son of God. Could He be silent then? No; for Leviticus 5:1 is decisive that if one is a witness to a certain fact and hears the voice of adjuration, he must utter what he knows or be guilty. He is required to tell the truth, and He does so "Thou best said", He answers: it is absolute truth that He is the Son of God.

He does not however stop with this, for they needed the truth as to how they themselves would be eventually brought to a place of utter subjection to Him, not only as Son of God, but as Son of Man. They would see Him sitting on the right hand of power, at rest because His great work of redemption had been approved by God; and coming in the clouds of heaven, in supreme victory over all creation. Wonderful declaration of the glory to be given Him as Son of Men. The high priest then makes Christ's true confession the one issue. He rends his clothes, in disobedience to the plain injunction of Leviticus 21:10, and accuses the Lord of blasphemy for answering the question truthfully as to who He is. The scribes and elders agree with him in condemning the Lord as being worthy of death, not for anything He had done, but because of who He is. Of course they had determined before that He must be put to death. now they feel it necessary at least to put on a show of religious zeal

They treat Him then worse than they would a criminal, spitting in His face, striking and mocking Him. Such is the revolting character of men's religious prejudice when they know nothing of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. Little do they consider that their treatment of Christ is their treatment of their Creator!

Peter, sitting with the servants, has been observing from a distance. The words, only of a girl, frighten him when she simply affirms what was true, that he had been with Jesus. Can he now be bold in confessing his identification with one who is condemned by all ? His accustomed courage forsook him as he denied before them all that he knew anything of this man Jesus. Going out into the porch he is seen by another girl, who tells others that he had been with Jesus of Nazareth. But having once lied about the matter, it was too hard for human pride to stand for truth now: he denied again, adding an oath for emphasis, no doubt hoping that this would end the questioning.

Time is left him before the third attack, but he is not yet humbled by the fact of his failure, and this time begins to curse and to swear in denying that he knew the Man. Then the cock crew, the sound of which stunned his inmost soul. He remembered the word of Jesus, nor could he find any strength now to apologize to the Lord's enemies for having lied to them. He went out and wept bitterly. How many of us believers have reason to sympathize with his sorrow?

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Matthew 26:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/matthew-26.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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