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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Jesus, the Christ; Malice; Meekness; Prayer; Prisoners; Thompson Chain Reference - Meekness; Meekness-Retaliation; The Topic Concordance - Perishing; Violence; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Persecution;
Verse 52. Put up again thy sword into his place — Neither Christ nor his religion is to be defended by the secular arm. God is sufficiently able to support his ark: Uzzah need not stretch out his hand on the occasion. Even the shadow of public justice is not to be resisted by a private person, when coming from those in public authority. The cause of a Christian is the cause of God: sufferings belong to one, and vengeance to the other. Let the cause, therefore, rest in his hands, who will do it ample justice.
Shall perish with the sword — Instead of απολουνται, shall perish, many excellent MSS., versions, and fathers, have αποθανουνται, shall die. The general meaning of this verse is, they who contend in battle are likely, on both sides, to become the sacrifices of their mutual animosities. But it is probably a prophetic declaration of the Jewish and Roman states. The Jews put our Lord to death under the sanction of the Romans-both took the sword against Christ, and both perished by it. The Jews by the sword of the Romans, and the Romans by that of the Goths, Vandals, c. The event has verified the prediction-the Jewish government has been destroyed upwards of 1700 years, and the Roman upwards of 1000. Confer with this passage, Psalms 2:4; Psalms 2:9; Psalms 110:1; Psalms 110:5-6. But how came Peter to have a sword? Judea was at this time so infested with robbers and cut-throats that it was not deemed safe for any person to go unarmed. He probably carried one for his mere personal safety.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 26:52". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/matthew-26.html. 1832.
151. The arrest of Jesus (Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-11)
In the strength of the victory won at Gethsemane, Jesus went to meet his enemies. Judas knew the garden, for Jesus had often met there with his apostles. In the middle of the night, Judas took a group of temple guards and Roman soldiers to seize Jesus. By working under the cover of darkness, he kept the operation hidden from any who were likely to be sympathizers with Jesus. But Jesus needed no supporters to defend him, and Judas needed no force to arrest him. The armed men who came with Judas fell to the ground when they met Jesus, but he surrendered himself to them. He requested only that they not harm his friends (Matthew 26:47-50; Luke 22:47-48; John 18:2-9).
The apostles, however, wanted to fight. Jesus told them that if they practised violence they would suffer violence. Moreover, if Jesus wanted defenders he could draw upon supernatural forces (Matthew 26:51-56a; Luke 22:49-53; John 18:10-11). A scuffle apparently broke out and the apostles all fled. The soldiers managed to grab a young man who had followed Jesus to the garden, but he escaped (Matthew 26:56b; Mark 14:51-52).
From early Christian times the common belief has been that the young man of this story was Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark. It appears that his family home was the house of the upper room (where Jesus had just come from) and that it became a common meeting place for the apostles in the early days of the church (see Mark 14:14-15; Acts 1:12-14; Acts 2:1; Acts 12:12).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 26:52". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/matthew-26.html. 2005.
Then saith Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into its place: for all they that take the sword shalt perish with the sword.
This place should not be taken as a rejection of the sword's true place in society, but rather as a recognition on the part of Christ that an ordinary citizen should not resist lawful arrest by constituted authority. Christ did not command Peter to throw his sword away, but to put it in "its place." In a word, that is Christ's teaching on the entire subject. Paul described him that beareth the sword as a "minister of God unto thee for good" (Romans 13:4). In this scene there were two swords, that of the authority and that of Peter. Christ recognized both the legitimate authority of the first and the potential need and place for the second.
Our Lord's merciful healing of Malchus' ear was a marvelous evidence of his power and divinity that went unnoticed in the excitement and stress of that moment. One cannot help wondering about Malchus and the memories which he thenceforth carried from his contact with the healing touch of Jesus. The necessity for this miracle rose from the prospect that Peter's action might have drawn a warrant from the authorities and resulted in a trial which could only have confused and complicated the higher issues of Jesus' own approaching trials.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Matthew 26:52". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/matthew-26.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
The account of Jesus’ being betrayed by Judas is recorded by all the evangelists. See Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-12.
Judas, one of the twelve, came - This was done while Jesus was addressing his disciples.
John informs us that Judas knew the place, because Jesus was in the habit of going there with his disciples. Judas had passed the time, after he left Jesus and the other disciples at the Passover, in arranging matters with the Jews, collecting the band, and preparing to go. Perhaps, also, on this occasion they gave him the money which they had promised.
A great multitude with swords and staves - John says that he had received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees.” Josephus says (Antiq. b. 20 chapter iv.) that at the festival of the Passover, when a great multitude of people came to observe the feast, lest there should be any disorder, a band of men was commanded to keep watch at the porches of the temple, to repress a tumult if any should be excited. This band, or guard, was at the disposal of the chief priests, Matthew 27:65. It was composed of Roman soldiers, and was stationed chiefly at the tower of Antonia, at the northwest side of the temple. In addition to this, they had constant guards stationed around the temple, composed of Levites. The Roman soldiers were armed with “swords.” The other persons that went out carried, probably, whatever was accessible as a weapon. These were the persons sent by the priests to apprehend Jesus. Perhaps other desperate men might have joined them.
Staves - In the original, “wood;” used here in the plural number. It means rather “clubs” or “sticks” than spears. It does not mean “staves.” Probably it means any weapon at hand, such as a mob could conveniently collect. John says that they had “lanterns and torches.” The Passover was celebrated at the “full moon;” but this night might have been cloudy. The place to which they were going was also shaded with trees, and lights, therefore, might be necessary.
Gave them a sign - That is, told them of a way by which they might know whom to apprehend - to wit, by his kissing him.
It was night. Jesus was, besides, probably personally unknown to the “Romans” - perhaps to the others also. Judas, therefore, being well acquainted with him, to prevent the possibility of mistake, agreed to designate him by one of the tokens of friendship.
John tells us that Jesus, knowing all things that should come upon him, when they approached him, asked them whom they sought, and that they replied, Jesus of Nazareth. He then informed them that he was the person they sought. They, when they heard it, overawed by his presence and smitten with the consciousness of guilt, went backward and fell to the ground. He again asked them whom they sought. They made the same declaration - Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus then, since they professed to seek only Him, claimed the right that his disciples should be suffered to escape, “that the saying might be fulfilled which he spake John 18:9; Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.”
Hail, Master - The word translated “hail,” here, means to “rejoice,” to have joy, and also to have “cause” of joy.
It thus expresses the “joy” which one friend has when he meets another, especially after an absence. It was used by the Jews and Greeks as a mode of salutation among friends. It would here seem to express the “joy” of Judas at finding his Master and again being “with him.”
Master - In the original, “Rabbi.” See the notes at Matthew 23:7.
Kissed him - Gave him the common salutation of friends when meeting after absence. This mode of salutation was more common among Eastern nations than with us.
And Jesus said unto him, Friend - It seems strange to us that Jesus should give the endeared name “friend” to a man that he knew was his enemy, and that was about to betray him.
It should be remarked, however, that this is the fault of our language, not of the original. In the Greek there are two words which our translators have rendered “friend” - one implying “affection and regard,” the other not. One is properly rendered “friend;” the other expresses more nearly what we mean by “companion.” It is this “latter” word which is given to the disaffected laborer in the vineyard: “‘Friend,’ I do thee no wrong” Matthew 20:13; to the guest which had not on the wedding-garment, in the parable of the marriage feast Matthew 22:12; and to “Judas” in this place.
Wherefore art thou come? - This was said, not because he was ignorant why he had come, but probably to fill the mind of Judas with the consciousness of his crime, and by a striking question to compel him to think of what he was doing.
One of them which were with Jesus - John informs us that this was Peter.
The other evangelists concealed the name, probably because they wrote while Peter was living, and it might have endangered Peter to have it known.
And drew his sword - The apostles were not commonly armed. On this occasion they had provided “two swords,” Luke 22:38. In seasons of danger, when traveling, they were under a necessity of providing means of defending themselves against the robbers that infested the country. This will account for their having any swords in their possession. See the notes at Luke 10:30. Josephus informs us that the people were accustomed to carry swords under their garments as they went up to Jerusalem.
A servant of the high-priest - His name, John informs us, was “Malchus.” Luke adds that Jesus touched the ear and healed it, thus showing his benevolence to his foes when they sought his life, and giving them proof that they were attacking him that was sent from heaven.
Thy sword into his place - Into the sheath.
For all they that take the sword ... - This passage is capable of different significations.
1. They who resist by the sword the civil magistrate shall be punished; and it is dangerous, therefore, to oppose those who come with the authority of the civil ruler.
2. These men, Jews and Romans, who have taken the sword against the innocent, shall perish by the sword. God will take vengeance on them.
3. However, the most satisfactory interpretation is that which regards it as a caution to Peter. Peter was rash. Alone he had attacked the whole band. Jesus told him that his unseasonable and imprudent defense might be the occasion of his own destruction. In doing it he would endanger his life, for they who took the sword perished by it. This was probably a proverb, denoting that they who engaged in wars commonly perished there.
Thinkest thou ... - Jesus says that not only would Peter endanger himself, but his resistance implied a distrust of the protection of God, and was an improper resistance of his will.
If it had been proper that they should be rescued, God could easily have furnished far more efficient aid than that of Peter - a mighty host of angels.
Twelve legions - A legion was a division of the Roman army amounting to more than 6,000 men. See the notes at Matthew 8:29. The number “twelve” was mentioned, perhaps, in reference to the number of his apostles and himself. Judas being away, but eleven disciples remained. God could guard him, and each disciple, with a legion of angels: that is, God could easily protect him, if he should pray to him, and if it was his will.
But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled ... - That is, the Scriptures which foretold of his dying for the world.
In some way that must be accomplished, and the time had come when, having finished the work which the Father gave him to do, it was proper that he should submit to death. This was said, doubtless, to comfort his disciples; to show them that his death was not a matter of surprise or disappointment to him; and that they, therefore, should not be offended and forsake him.
Against a thief - Rather a “robber.” This was the manner in which they would have sought to take a highwayman of desperate character, and armed to defend his life.
It adds not a little to the depth of his humiliation that he consented to be “hunted down” thus by wicked people, and to be treated as if he had been the worst of mankind.
Daily with you teaching in the temple - For many days before the Passover, as recorded in the previous chapter.
Scriptures of the prophets - The “writings” of the prophets, for that is the meaning of the word “scriptures.” He alludes to those parts of the prophetic writings which foretold his sufferings and death.
Then all the disciples ... - Overcome with fear when they saw their Master actually taken; alarmed with the terrific appearance of armed men and torches in a dark night, and forgetting their promises not to forsake him, they all left their Saviour to go alone to trial and to death! Alas, how many, when attachment to Christ would lead them to danger, leave him and flee! Mark adds that after the disciples had fled, a young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body, attempted to follow him. It is not known who he was, but not improbably he may have been the owner of the garden and a friend of Jesus. Aroused by the noise from his repose, he came to defend, or at least to follow the Saviour. He cast, in his hurry, such a covering as was at hand around his body, and came to him. The young men among the Romans and Jews attempted to seize him also, and he only secured his safety by leaving in their hands the covering that he had hastily thrown around him. It is not known why this circumstance was recorded by Mark, but it would seem to be probable that it was to mention him with honor, as showing his interest in the Saviour, and his willingness to aid him. See the notes at Mark 14:50-51. This circumstance may have been recorded for the purpose of honoring him by placing his conduct in strong contrast with that of the apostles, who had all forsaken the Saviour and fled.
The trial of our Lord before the council, and the denial of Peter happening at the same time, might be related one before the other, according to the evangelists’ pleasure.
Accordingly, Matthew and Mark relate the “trial” first, and Peter’s denial afterward; Luke mentions the denial first, and John has probably observed the natural order. The parallel places are recorded in Mark 14:53-72; Luke 22:54-71; and John 18:13-27.
To Caiaphas - John says that they led him first to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas. This was done, probably as a mark of respect, he having been high priest, and perhaps distinguished for prudence, and capable of “advising” his son-in-law in a difficult case. The Saviour was “detained” there. probably, until the chief priests and elders were assembled.
The high priest - Note, Matthew 26:3. John says he was high priest for that year. Annas had been high priest some years before. In the time of our Saviour the office was frequently changed by the civil ruler. This Caiaphas had prophesied that it was expedient that one should die for the people. See the notes at John 11:49-50.
The scribes and elders - The men composing the great council of the nation, or Sanhedrin, Matthew 5:22. It is not probable that they could be immediately assembled, and some part of the transaction respecting the denial of Peter probably took place while they were collecting.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 26:52". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/matthew-26.html. 1870.
52. Put thy sword again into its place. By these words, Christ confirms the precept of the Law, which forbids private individuals to use the sword. And above all, we ought to attend to the threatening of punishment which is immediately added; for men did not, at their own pleasure, appoint this punishment for avenging their own blood; but God himself, by severely prohibiting murder, has declared how dearly he loves mankind. First, then, he does not choose to be defended by force and violence, because God in the Law forbade men to strike. This is a general reason; and he immediately descends to a special reason.
But here a question arises. Is it never lawful to use violence in repelling unjust violence? For though Peter had to deal with wicked and base robbers, still he is condemned for having drawn his sword. If, in such a case of moderate defense, an exception was not allowed, Christ appears to tie up the hands of all. Though we have treated this question more copiously (218) under Matthew 5:39, yet I shall now state my opinion again in a few words. First, we must make a distinction between a civil court and the court of conscience; (219) for if any man resist a robber, (220) he will not be liable to public punishment, because the laws arm him against one who is the common enemy of mankind. Thus, in every case when defense is made against unjust violence, the punishment which God enjoins earthly judges to carry into execution ceases. And yet it is not the mere goodness of the cause that acquits the conscience from guilt, unless there be also pure affection. So then, in order that a man may properly and lawfully defend himself, he must first lay aside excessive wrath, and hatred, and desire of revenge, and all irregular sallies of passion, that nothing tempestuous may mingle with the defense. As this is of rare occurrence, or rather, as it scarcely ever happens, Christ properly reminds his people of the general rule, that they should entirely abstain from using the sword.
But there are fanatics who have foolishly misapplied this passage, so as to wrest the sword out of the hands of judges. They contend that it is unlawful to strike with the sword. This I acknowledge to be true, for no man is at liberty to take the sword at his own pleasure, so as to commit murder; but I deny that magistrates—who are God’s ministers, and by whom he executes his judgments—ought to be viewed as belonging to the ordinary rank. And not only so, but by these words of Christ, this very power is expressly ascribed to them: for when he declares that murderers must be put to death, it follows, that the sword is put into the hands of judges, that they may take vengeance for unjust murders. It will sometimes happen, indeed, that men addicted to the shedding of blood are punished by other means; but this is the ordinary way in which the Lord determined that the fierce cruelty of wicked men should be restrained from rioting with impunity. Certain doctors of what is called Canon Law have ventured to proceed to such a pitch of impudence as to teach, that the sword was not taken from Peter, but he was commanded to keep it sheathed until the time came for drawing it; and hence we perceive how grossly and shamefully those dogs have sported with the word of God.
(218) Harmony, vol. 1, p. 298
(219) “ Entre la jurisdiction externe ou civile, et le jugement spirituel, qui a son siege en la conscience;” — “between external or civil jurisdiction, and the spiritual judgment, which has its seat in the conscience.”
(220) “ Si quelqu’un use de violence pour repousser un brigand;” — “if any one use violence for repelling a robber.”
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 26:52". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/matthew-26.html. 1840-57.
Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings ( Matthew 26:1 ),
This is the end of now the Olivet discourse.
He now said to his disciples, Now you know that in two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified ( Matthew 26:1-2 ).
Now this is interesting, because this apparently was on Monday, that Jesus gave the Olivet discourse. He had made His triumphant entry on Sunday, which is known as Palm Sunday, and then the next day He came back into the temple. And He had been there the day before and cleansed the things, drove out the moneychangers. The next day when He came back the scribes and the priests and all said, "By what authority?" and they challenged Him on the issue. And so as they were leaving the temple they said, "Lord what will be the sign of your coming, and the destruction of the temple?" And Jesus gave this Olivet discourse.
Now as He had finished the discourse, now He said to His disciples, "You know in two days it's going to be the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is to be betrayed, to be crucified." Now if He was saying this on Monday, it meant that the feast of the Passover in two days would of course be on Wednesday. And Jesus was crucified on the feast day, the feast of the Passover. So it would appear that Jesus was probably crucified on Wednesday, which would then give you the three days, and the three nights in the heart of the earth. People have an awful hard time figuring that from a Sunday aspect, from a Friday crucifixion to a Sunday morning; three days and three nights takes a lot of juggling. So after two days, the feast of the Passover and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.
Then assembled together the chief priests, the scribes, the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, the high priest was called Caiaphas ( Matthew 26:3 ),
Actually there were two high priests, Caiaphas and Annas. Caiaphas the appointment of the Roman government, and Annas the accepted one by the people, the religious people.
And they consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people ( Matthew 26:4-5 ).
So they were doing their best to keep this from happening on the feast day, and yet in order that it might really fulfill the types of the Old Testament, it was important that Jesus be crucified as the Lamb of God on the feast day. So they were trying to avoid the feast day, but yet there was no way that they could, because that was appropriate that that feast of the Passover, in which they remembered how that the lamb was slain in order to save the first born. So the Lamb of God establishing now a new covenant of God, with people. It was important that it be on that day that commemorated the Passover lamb, Christ our Passover suffering for us.
Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, there came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and she poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. And when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? ( Matthew 26:6-8 )
Now in John's gospel he tells us that the disciple that declared this was Judas Iscariot.
When this woman came and poured this expensive perfume on Jesus, perfume that was worth several thousands of dollars, Judas became indignant, and he said, "what purpose is this waste?" Now John tells us that Judas said, "that could have been sold for several thousand dollars, and we could have given the money to the poor."
But John tells us that he said it not because he was really interested in the poor, and this is of course were Jesus Christ Superstar really stumbled and fell on his nose, and really revealed the true character of the whole portrayal. Because in this portion, they seem to make Judas appear to be the hero of the whole issue. Here Judas is a very benevolent man. He has a great concern for the poor. And this waste, this extravagant waste upon Jesus, when the money could have been given to the poor, and Judas comes out as the shining hero. And Jesus becomes in that portion of the play, an extravagant careless person, who is disregarding the needs of others.
But had they only read on, John said that Judas said this not because he cared for the poor, but because he was holding the money and had been feeding out of it. So Judas wasn't really a very magnanimous kind of an individual concerned with the poor. He is holding the bag of money and had been feeding out of the money. And he figured, wow, if we had that in the treasury there would be more to pilfer.
So they said,
This ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. And when Jesus understood it, he said to them, Why do you trouble the woman? for she has wrought a good work upon me. You'll have the poor always with you; but me you will not always have. For in that she has poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. And I say unto you, that wherever the gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this be declared, that this woman has done, and told for a memorial of her ( Matthew 26:9-13 ).
Now in this, Judas was rather rebuked by Jesus for the statement he made. So he left.
One of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests, and he said unto them, What will you give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought the opportunity to betray Christ ( Matthew 26:14-16 ).
Of course the thirty pieces of silver was a price that was predicted in prophecy in the Old Testament in the book of Zechariah chapter eleven, verses twelve and thirteen. And then it was told also by Zechariah that the silver would be cast down in the house of the Lord, and used to buy a potter's field. Thirty pieces of silver was the price that you would have to pay to your neighbor if you had an ox who was always goring people, or going around butting people with his horns, and he happened to gore your neighbor's servant and killed him. You would have to pay your neighbor thirty pieces of silver for his gored slave, in order to compensate him for the lost of his servant.
As in Zechariah said, "and name for me the price of which I am priced of you." And they measured out thirty pieces of silver. And he said, "a good price, that I was priced at them, and throw it down in the house of the Lord." And so Judas turning against Christ, seeking now to betray Him, looking for the opportunity.
Now on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where will you that we prepare for thee to eat the Passover? And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the Passover ( Matthew 26:17-19 ).
Now remember that among the Jews their day does not begin at midnight, as does ours, their day begins at sundown. So they celebrate their Sabbath dinner not on Saturday night, but on Friday night, because their Sabbath begins at sundown Friday night, and goes till sundown Saturday night. So Jesus having the Passover dinner with His disciples, had it at the beginning of the day of Passover, which began at sundown. And so in the evening they ate the Passover meal together, but that day continued until sundown the following day. So that on the first day of the feast of the Passover, as the disciples came, it was to prepare the meal for the Passover.
And then was not like we take a piece of bread and we drink a cup, and have communion, but theirs was a feast. They would roast the lamb and they would eat the whole thing. It was just a time of feasting. And in the early church they had feasts they called the agape feast. And so at sundown, they were to have the thing ready, and prepared, and they ate then the Passover dinner with Jesus. And then of course it was that night that Judas came in the garden of Gethsemane, and the following day, which would have been the day of the feast of the Passover, is when Jesus was crucified.
So when the even was come, Jesus sat down with the twelve. And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you is going to betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and they began every one of them to say to him, Lord, is it I? And he answered and said, He that dips his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. Now the Son of man is going as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born ( Matthew 26:20-24 ).
What an awesome thing to say of an individual, but while that might be said of every man who betrays Christ, well might that be said of every man who refuses to except Jesus Christ. "It would have been good for that person, had they never been born", than to be born and to live and to reject God's provision for their Salvation. You'd be better off if you'd never been born, than to reject God's love.
Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? ( Matthew 26:25 )
Of course he had already made the agreement, he knew it was him, he had already made the covenant.
And Jesus said, You said it. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and he blessed it, and he broke it, and he gave it to the disciples, and he said, Take, eat; this is my body ( Matthew 26:25-26 ).
The broken bread, Jesus relates it now to His body.
And he took the cup, and he gave thanks, and he gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until the day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom ( Matthew 26:27-29 ).
Now here Jesus institutes what we commonly call the Lord's supper, that which we observe here at Calvary Chapel, we'll be observing Thursday night. As we take the broken bread, and as we take the cup, and as we remember Jesus Christ, His body broken for us, His blood that was shed for our sins; as we remember the new covenant that God has made in the blood of Jesus Christ.
The old covenant was established through Moses. The covenant whereby men could relate to God, whereby a man might come to God. And under the old covenant man approached God through a priest, who offered a sacrifice for that man and for that man's sin. And the priest would go in and approach God for that man. Jesus said, now we're establishing a new covenant. A new approach to God. That approach is through Jesus Christ.
In the book of Hebrews the author goes through great length to declare how much better covenant we have through Jesus Christ. Showing that the covenant that God had established by the priesthood of Levi was something that had to be continued year by year. Had the sacrifice been complete, they would not have had to make it every year, going into the Holy of Holies.
But Jesus Christ has established a better covenant, a better way in once and for all given His life for us, that we through Him might be able to come to God, and to relate to God. The whole basis of God's covenant with men is relationship with men, men with God, and that basis by which I can come to God and relate to God.
Now God has made a way for all of us to come, and it's through Jesus Christ, and the blood that He shed for our sins. And so Christ is establishing now through this memorial the Passover, that of which the Passover supper was always looking forward to. They observed the Sabbath and the new moons and all, Paul said, "which were all a shadow of things to come. But the substance, the body is of Christ". All of the observances of the Passover feast in the Old Testament were all of them just looking forward to the actual Lamb of God, who would give His life for the sins of the world, and establish a covenant whereby men through Him could come into a oneness with God. So that beautiful covenant whereby we come to God through Jesus Christ.
Now I look forward to that day when I drink of it in His Father's kingdom with Him. I am going to have a glorious Lord's supper some day. And we're going to just be there with Jesus in the kingdom of God.
Now when he had sung a hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives ( Matthew 26:30 ).
I wish they would have had a twenty-four track-recording studio in those days. Man, I would love to have a cassette of Jesus singing with His disciples. The twelve singing men, Judas was already gone, that left the eleven with Jesus. What did they sing? Actually they sang Psalm 136 . This is the psalm that they traditionally sang at the close of the Passover. And so you can go back and read the lyrics of the song that Jesus sang, the hymn that He sang with His disciples there in Psalm 136 , that Hallel psalm, which traditionally sang at the end of the Passover feast.
"Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever. Oh give thanks unto the God of gods for His mercy endures forever. Oh give thanks to the Lord of lords for His mercy endures forever. To Him who alone does great wonders, for His mercy endures forever. To Him by His wisdom has made the heavens"( Psalms 136:1-5 ), and on through that psalm that declares the glorious mercies of God. And the law came by Moses, but grace and truth in Jesus Christ. The demonstration of God's mercies for men.
Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, [in Zechariah] I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. And Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of you, yet will I never be offended. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crows, you shall deny me three times. And Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. And likewise also said all the disciples ( Matthew 26:31-35 ).
Peter is guilty here of boasting in his flesh. And really in a sense declaring that his love was superior to the love of the other disciples. When Jesus told him the prophecy of Zechariah, "smite the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered abroad"( Zechariah 13:7 ). All of you are going to be offended tonight because of me. Peter said, "Lord, though they may be offend you, I will never be offended." Boasting in the flesh. I will never be offended.
And Jesus responded, "Peter before the cock crows you will have denied me three times." Peter continued to argue with the Lord. Arguing with the Lord has to be folly. Have you ever engaged in that folly? I have; I've found myself arguing with the Lord. I was always wrong. Peter was challenging the statements of Jesus. "Though they, I will never be. Lord, I would never deny you, I would die for you".
Do not doubt Peter's sincerity. Do not doubt his devotion. I believe that Peter was absolutely sincere when he declared this. I believe at that moment Peter believed what he was saying to be absolutely true. I believe that Peter felt that he would actually lay down his life for Jesus. "I would die with you. I would never deny you." But it does show us the folly of vows that are made predicated upon the ability of our flesh. To make a promise to God, to make a vow to God is only to trust in the flesh.
Jesus later on will say to Peter, "Peter your spirit indeed is willing"; that's right, your spirit is right, there is no problem there, but your flesh is weak. A common ailment that we all know. It isn't a question of my spirit. It isn't a question of my love. It isn't a question of my devotion. It isn't a question of my sincerity, or even of my desire. The question is the weakness of my flesh; that 's the problem. That's where the problem lies. I love the Lord. I want to serve the Lord with everything I have. My problem is that I am living in a body of flesh, and it is weak.
Now it is important that I know that it is weak, so that I do not trust in it. And this is what Peter was needing to learn. Jesus knew it all the time. The Bible says, "He knows our frame, He knows we're but dust." I don't know my frame. I am often prone to think that I am stronger than I really am. Why is it that I think I really am more capable than I really am? And because of my feelings of ability, the confidence that I sometimes have in my ability, God must reveal to me the weakness of my own flesh in order that I will learn not to rely upon myself, but to rely completely on Him.
If I am relying in myself, If I become a self-reliant person, then my strength is always limited to me. My abilities are always limited to me. But if I learn that I am weak, that I can't do it, and I learn to trust in the Lord and to trust in His strength and trust in His ability, then I have unlimited strength and unlimited ability. And God wants to bring you to the broader dimensions of unlimited strength, unlimited potential, unlimited abilities, but trusting in Him to do the work. And Peter needed to learn that. And his spirit indeed was willing, but his flesh was weak. Jesus knew it. Peter didn't. Peter needed to know it. And of course he found out in a little while.
Then came Jesus with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said unto his disciples, Sit here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and he began to be sorrowful and very heavy ( Matthew 26:36-37 ).
The whole thing, the pressure began to come upon Jesus at this point.
And he said unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me ( Matthew 26:38 ).
It's almost as though Jesus is bringing these three who He had brought into that close intimate relationship with Himself, the three who had the privilege of being on the Mount of Transfiguration with Him. The three that were so often designated for special missions. "Fellows stay with me, watch with me, my soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death, watch with me." Sort of reaching out for that support from these His closest associates.
And he went a little farther, and he fell on his face, and he prayed, saying, O my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me ( Matthew 26:39 ):
This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for the remission of sins. "Father if it is possible let this cup pass from me." If what is possible? If remission of sins is possible? Oh how this speaks against the blasphemous works of men to be accepted by God. A man thinking that he can offer to God his own good works, in order that he might receive the remission of his sins. How this speaks against the efforts of man to be accepted by God, by any other means. If it is possible, if salvation for man is possible, if man can be saved by being sincere, if man can be saved by being good, if man can be saved by being moral, if a man can be saved by being religious, if there is some other way by which sins might be remitted, let this cup pass from me.
Christ is calling now for an alternate plan. And yet He declares,
nevertheless not my will, thine will be done ( Matthew 26:39 ).
There submitting Himself unto the will of the father, is what involves the taking up of the cross. Jesus said to us that if we would come after Him, we must deny ourselves and take up our cross. What does He mean, take up our cross? It means that I too must submit my will totally to the Father.
Let me say that it takes far greater faith to submit yourself totally to God, and to commit your life and all, totally to God, that takes far greater faith, than it does to insist that God heal you or that God do something for you. These people that are going around declaring that you should demand from God whatever you want, and insist upon it, make your confessions, and God must act aqueous to your will, have no understanding of God, the nature of God nor our relationship to Him.
Jesus expressed His will, and that's fine. I often in prayer express my will to God. "Lord this is what I would like to see, this is what I would like to have." But whenever I express my will to God I always make that reservation; "Nevertheless, not my will, your will be done." Because I know that God's will is much better than mine, and God's ways are much better than mine. And Jesus here is declaring, "if it's possible, let the cup pass; nevertheless not what I will."
Now what the cross of Christ then declares, and should declare to all men is that there is only one way by which a person can be saved, for had it been possible, surely God would have taken an alternate way, as His Son cried out to Him there from the garden. If you could be saved by being good, or moral, or whatever, then God would have inaugurated morality, a law, a code, by which you could live and abide, and be accepted by God, be forgiven. But such was not the case. The new covenant must be established in the blood of Jesus Christ. The cross was an essential for salvation. And that's why the cross offends people today. Because the cross always declares, "there is only one way by which a man can approach God, and that's through Jesus Christ".
Now he came to his disciples, and he found them asleep, and he said to Peter, Could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak ( Matthew 26:40-41 ).
Here when Jesus needed their support more then any other time, He would bereft of it, for they were sleeping, instead of watching, instead of praying, instead of being there to encourage and strengthen, His disciples were weary, and they were sleeping. And Jesus wakes them up and sort of chides them, "could you not watch one hour, watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation?" And then, understanding, "I know your spirit indeed is willing, that's not your problem, your flesh is weak, I know that."
And he went away again the second time, and he prayed, and he said, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done ( Matthew 26:42 ).
Consigning Himself now completely to the Father's will. "Lord, your will be done."
And again he came and found them asleep: for their eyes were heavy. And so he left them, and he went away again, and he prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then came he to his disciples, and he said unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest ( Matthew 26:43-45 ):
Now these are not words of scorn or rebuke, but these are words of tender love to those men that He had become so close to.
Notice there is a colon there. Sleep on now, take your rest. Probably there is an interval of several hours designated by that colon. And I believe that during this interval of time, as the disciples weary, or sleeping there on the ground in the garden of Gethsemane that Jesus just sat, "you can't watch with me, but I watch over you". And He was waiting, waiting for Judas to come. Waiting for the inevitable to happen.
And I think He was just sitting there, looking at these fellows loving them, and praying for each of them. I think He just sort of went around in the circle and said, "Oh Lord there is Peter. He is going to blow it so bad, and he is going to be so discouraged. He is going to feel so guilty, and it's just going to eat at him. Lord just really help Peter. Lord just really work in his life. Father use him as the instrument to strengthen the others, when you've done your work in him.
Jesus said, "Peter I have prayed for you that your faith fail thee not, and when thou art converted strengthen your brothers." I think Jesus was probably praying that right at this moment as He was sitting there watching the disciples. And there is an interval of time of perhaps several hours because He had gone to the garden after the dinner, and the dinner usually began somewhere around six o'clock or so. And after the dinner they had gone in the garden. And there He spent the time in prayer, and then, it wasn't until towards morning when Judas came out, because it was while He was still at Caiaphas that the rooster began to crow, indicating that it was getting to be close to morning. They start crowing at about five o'clock in the morning or so.
So for a couple of hours, probably Jesus just sat there looking at them, watching over them, praying for them. Knowing the heartache, knowing the confusion that they were going to experiencing, knowing the whole experience, the trauma that they were going to go through, when they saw Him crucified. I think that He was just praying that the Father would strengthen them. And how often I wonder, He sits over us, watching us as our Lord. You know He is there making intercession for us, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for you. And how many times He just sits watching you as you sleep. And He says, "Now Father, they're going to have a rough day tomorrow. They're going to be facing a lot of problems. Lord, just really strengthen them, Father minister to them and all".
How beautiful Jesus sitting there in the garden watching over His disciples. Now that interval time is past, and Jesus then said, "fellows wake up",
Behold, the hour is at hand, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand who betrays me ( Matthew 26:45-46 ).
He could probably hear the soldiers coming through the garden. Hear them as they were coming down the path from the Kidron Valley, making their way from the house of Caiaphas and all, and noise seems to travel so easily in that country.
And while he yet spoke, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him ( Matthew 26:47-49 ).
This is an interesting word in the Greek, because it says in the Greek there is a word for kiss, which is the peck on the cheek that you give your wife when you leave in the morning. And then there is another Greek word for kiss, which is a passionate kiss. And it is interesting that these two Greek words are employed. Judas said, whomever I kiss, that is sort of a peck on the cheek kind of a thing, but when Judas came and it said, "he kissed Him", the other Greek word is used, kissed Him passionately.
And Jesus said unto him, Friend, why have you come? Then they came, and they laid hands on Jesus, and took him ( Matthew 26:50 ).
Another gospel says, "Judas you betray me with a passionate kiss!"
And, behold, one of them which was with Jesus ( Matthew 26:51 )
We know from the other gospels it was Peter. Of course you just know it anyhow, wouldn't you.
stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest, and smote off his ear ( Matthew 26:51 ).
He can be glad that Peter was half-asleep; he would have had his head.
Then said Jesus unto him, Put again thy sword into its place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Don't you realize that I could pray to the Father, and he would presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? ( Matthew 26:52-53 )
Peter don't you realize yet what's going on? I don't have to do this. He was submitting to the will of the Father. "I could escape this right now. I could say okay Father, it's enough", and twelve legions of angels would come down and deliver Him out of their hands. He didn't need Peter swinging away with his sword.
In the Old Testament we read that when the angel of Lord passed through the army of the Syrians, the camp of the Syrians, in one evening one angel slew one hundred and eighty-five thousand. Imagine what twelve legions could do, but the Roman legions, of which they were so familiar and terrified, what could they do against a legion of angels or even against one angel?
"Peter don't you realize that I could call twelve legions of angels to deliver me, but if I did that,
how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? ( Matthew 26:54 )
If I call now for deliverance, how could the scriptures be fulfilled? How could man be saved?
And in the same hour Jesus said to the multitudes, Are you come out as against a thief with swords and staves to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, you didn't lay hands on me. But all of this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. And then all of the disciples forsook him, and fled ( Matthew 26:55-56 ).
They suddenly just sort of disappeared in the darkness of the garden, and the attention was upon Jesus, and He was alone.
And they that laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter followed Him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and he went in, and he sat with the servants, to see the end. And now the chief priests, and the elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; but they found none; though many people bore witness, yet they really didn't find any that they could use. Until finally there came two witnesses, who said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to built it in three days. And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Don't you answer anything? what is it which these are witnessing against you ( Matthew 26:57-62 ).
Now of course Jesus talking about the temple of His own body. In asking for a sign, He said, "destroy this temple, and in three days I build it." And now they are using this phrase and saying, "He said destroy the temple of God and He could rebuild it in three days."
Of course even when Jesus said that, they challenged Him. They said, "Hey, we've been forty-six years building this thing. What do you mean build it in three days?" But He was talking about the temple of his own body.
But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him ( Matthew 26:63 ),
Now Jesus didn't respond until the high priest, then with this oath challenged him. He said,
I adjure thee by the living God, that you tell us whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God ( Matthew 26:63 ).
Now he is adjuring him by the Father, by the living God. And so Jesus then responds to him, and
He said unto him, Thou hast said [or you said it]: nevertheless [He said], I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest tore his clothes saying, He has spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of any witnesses? behold, now we have heard the blasphemy. What do you think? And they all answered and said, He is guilty of death. And they did spit in his face, and they buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands ( Matthew 26:64-67 ),
In Isaiah chapter fifty, verse six as Isaiah is prophesying concerning Jesus he said, "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."
Spitting is in that oriental culture a sign of total disdain. And that isn't really the spitting of the saliva that is in your mouth, they really dig deep. And it's horrible. We've had them spit at us over there. The people in that culture, if you take a picture for instance, and they don't want you to take a picture of them, then you better be able to duck. They show their disdain by just spitting on a person. It's just absolute disdain. It's one of the most shameful things that you can do to a person, of course that's easily recognized.
Now Isaiah said, "they plucked His beard". Grabbed a handful and pulled out the buffeted His face. One of the gospels tells us that they covered His face, and then buffeted Him, which is far more painful. Our bodies are marvelously designed, and we have tremendous reflex actions. So that if I see a blow coming, my body instinctively reacts to that blow, and I give with it. And by given with that blow, I am cushioning the blow, so it isn't as severe.
When the quarterbacks really get hurt, is when they get blindsided. They see those big two hundred and seventy-five-pound tackles coming at them, and they relax and they just sort of go limp and roll with it. And you're in good shape as long as you can see it, and your body responds and reacts, and with that reflex action you give with the punch. But if you don't see it when you're blindsided, you're not expecting it, that's when you really get injured, that's when you really get hurt.
And the same in boxing. It's when you're coming in that a guy catches you flush, and you're not able to move back. A lot of people say, oh how can he take all that punishment? Well you learn to give with the blows. You learn to be relaxed and you cushion the blow by giving with it. The knockout punch is when a guy isn't giving, he is coming in, and suddenly you catch him with a blow, as he is coming in, and he gets the full force of it, and that's the thing that knocks a guy out.
Now in covering the face of Jesus, it took away this advantage of reflex actions, and of cushioning the blows, so that with the face covered and then they began to hit Him, it was the full impact of the blow. And then they would cry out,
Prophesy, who was it, name me, who was it that hit you? ( Matthew 26:68 )
All of this He endured because He loved you.
Now Isaiah goes on in chapter fifty-two, to tell of that suffering that Jesus received, and He said, "as many as were astonished at thee, for His visage was so marred, more than any man, and His form more then the sons of men"( Isaiah 52:14 ).
In the Hebrew that is declaring that His face was so marred, you could not recognize Him as a man. By the time they pulled out His beard, and put the sack over His head and began to hit Him on the face and buffed Him, the face began to swell up, and contusions, and bruises, and the whole thing. When they were through with Him, you could not recognize Him as a man, as a human being. And Isaiah said, we, as it were, hid our face from Him. That is, looking at Him was such a shocking experience, you couldn't stand to see it.
You ever come upon an accident, and you see persons that are so mangled, that you just had to turn your head, you just couldn't look? That's what Isaiah is saying it was like. We, as it were, hid our faces from Him. But then Isaiah said, "but He was bruised, He was wounded for our iniquities" ( Isaiah 53:5 ). It was for me, wounded for me, chastised for our peace.
Now Peter was sitting outside of the palace ( Matthew 26:69 ):
And how it must have hurt for him to see all of this going on. But yet by this point, seeing such fierce anger, and the crowd turned against Jesus with such venom, fear gripped his heart.
And when a damsel came to him, and said, You were also with Jesus of Galilee. He denied before all of them, saying, I don't know what you are talking about. And when he was gone out to the porch, another maid saw him, and she said unto those that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man ( Matthew 26:69-72 ).
"I swear to you, I don't know Him."
And after awhile there came unto him those who were standing by, and they said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for your speech gives you away. [You have the accent of a Galilean.] And then began he to curse, and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crows, you shall deny me three times. And he went out, and wept bitterly ( Matthew 26:73-75 ).
How my heart goes out to Peter, because I can identify with Peter. For I have been in the same place, where I have done that which I swore I would not do. That which I promised God I would never do. I have failed. My flesh has failed. I also am guilty of denying the Lord by actions, by deeds, denying the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
The comforting thing to me is the fact that Peter was restored. Not only restored, but God used him in a marvelous way. Though Peter had many flaws, though he was impulsive, though he would swing easily with the sword, though there were many times when he was rebuked, and though he was even guilty of failing under the pressure in the crisis, yet the Lord took Peter and used him in such a marvelous way, as an instrument and the development of the church. That encourages me, because I know that God can use men like Peter, and thus He can use men like me.
But it is first of all necessary that God prepare that man that He uses. For you are His workmanship, created together in Christ Jesus unto the good works that God has before ordained that you should walk therein. And God is working in our lives to take away our confidence in our flesh, to bring us to the awareness of our need of relying totally upon Jesus Christ. So that as God begins to do the work in and through our lives we will not be taking the credit, or the glory for the work that God has done. But recognizing that my flesh is weak, and in and of myself I can do nothing, as God works through me, I can only praise God, and magnify the Lord, who uses imperfect instruments to do His work as He anoints them with the power of His Holy Spirit. And I can only seek to be empowered by the Spirit of God in such a way that it will over compensate for the weakness of my own flesh, and then I glory in the victory that God gives to me through the Spirit.
God wants to work in each of us. God has given to each of us a talent. It is important what we do with that talent. It is very important that we do not bury it, but that we use it for His glory. That we increase that which God has entrusted to us, and give it back to Him with the increase.
Shall we pray?
Father, we thank you for these lessons. Hide them away in our hearts. Teach us thy truth in Jesus' name. Amen. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Matthew 26:52". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/matthew-26.html. 2014.
And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.
"The porch" refers to the gateway or arched passageway leading from the central courtyard to the street. It is darker here and perhaps Peter wants to keep out of sight lest someone wants to question him or lest a Temple officer wants to arrest him. No sooner has Peter entered the passage, however, than another maid spots him and states, "This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth."
Matthew and Mark describe the second accuser as a "maid" whereas Luke identifies the accuser as a "man" (Luke 22:58). This apparent discrepancy may be resolved by the fact that the crowd within the palace is large. While there are only three general denials, Peter may have found himself variously accused on separate occasions. In this case, upon hearing the maid make an accusation, this unidentified man must have chimed in, forcing Peter’s response.
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Matthew 26:52". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ctf/matthew-26.html. 1993-2022.
2. The arrest of Jesus 26:47-56 (cf. Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-12)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 26:52". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-26.html. 2012.
John identified the aggressor as Peter and the wounded man as Malchus (John 18:10). Some have taken the description of this man as "the slave of the high priest" as indicating that he may have been the leader of the soldiers. [Note: E.g., France, The Gospel . . ., p. 1013.] Perhaps the other evangelists did not record Peter and Malchus’ names to focus attention on Jesus. His control of this situation, even though He was the one being arrested, is an obvious emphasis of Matthew’s. Peter’s response was predictable in view of his earlier protestations (Matthew 26:33-35). Peter’s courage was admirable if misdirected. He rushed in to defend Jesus. However, Jesus’ prohibition of violence and His submission to arrest made Peter look foolish. Evidently the disciples had brought two swords with them in view of Jesus’ predictions (Luke 22:38). Probably Judas’ guards did not restrain Peter because Jesus did.
"Peter had argued with the Word, denied the Word, and disobeyed the Word (when he went to sleep). Now he ran ahead of the Word." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:98.]
Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 26:52 showed that violence in defense of Himself was not proper. Jesus did not mean that violence in any situation is wrong. [Note: See Hagner, Matthew 14-28, p. 791.] Jesus had at His disposal more than six thousand angels to assist Him and each of His 11 faithful disciples (Matthew 26:53). He did not need Peter’s help.
"It is characteristic of this gospel that the authority and kingly majesty of Jesus should be suggested at a moment when every hope seemed to have perished." [Note: Carr, p. 295.]
It was necessary for Jesus to experience arrest to fulfill many Scriptures, all that pertained to His death and resurrection. Jesus again voiced His commitment to the Father’s will (Matthew 26:54; cf. Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:42).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 26:52". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-26.html. 2012.
THE BEGINNING OF THE LAST ACT OF THE TRAGEDY ( Matthew 26:1-5 )
26:1-5 When Jesus had completed all these sayings, he said to his disciples. "You know that in two days time it is the Passover Feast, and the Son of Man is going to be delivered to be crucified." At that time the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the courtyard of the High Priest, who was called Caiaphas, and took counsel together to seize Jesus by guile and to kill him. They said, "Not at the time of the Feast, lest a tumult arise among the people."
Here then is the definite beginning of the last act of the divine tragedy. Once again Jesus warned his disciples of what was to come. For the last few days he had been acting with such magnificent defiance that they might have thought he proposed to defy the Jewish authorities; but here once again he makes it clear that his aim is the Cross.
At the same time the Jewish authorities were laying their plots and stratagems. Joseph Caiaphas, to give him his full name, was High Priest. We know very little about him but we do know one most suggestive fact. In the old days the office of High Priest had been hereditary and had been for life; but when the Romans took over in Palestine, High Priests came and went in rapid series, for the Romans erected and deposed High Priests to suit their own purposes. Between 37 B.C. and A.D. 67, when the last was appointed before the destruction of the Temple, there were no fewer than twenty-eight High Priests. The suggestive thing is that Caiaphas was High Priest from A.D. 18 to A.D. 36. This was an extraordinarily long time for a High Priest to last, and Caiaphas must have brought the technique of co-operating with the Romans to a fine art. And therein precisely there lay his problem.
The one thing the Romans would not stand was civil disorder. Let there be any rioting and certainly Caiaphas would lose his position. At the Passover time the atmosphere in Jerusalem was always explosive. The city was packed tight with people. Josephus tells us of an occasion when an actual census of the people was taken (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6. 9. 3). It happened in this way.
The governor at the time was Cestius; Cestius felt that Nero did not understand the number of the Jews and the problems which they posed to any governor. So he asked the High Priests to take a census of the lambs slain for sacrifice at a certain Passover time. Josephus goes on to say, "A company of not less than ten must belong to every sacrifice (for it is not lawful for them to feast singly by themselves), and many of us are twenty in a company." It was found that on this occasion the number of lambs slain was 256,500. It is Josephus' estimate that there were in the city for that Passover some two and three-quarter million people.
It is little wonder that Caiaphas sought some stratagem to take Jesus secretly and quietly, for many of the pilgrims were Galilaeans and to them Jesus was a prophet. It was in fact his plan to leave the whole thing over until after the Passover Feast had ended, and the city was quieter; but Judas was to provide him with a solution to his problem.
LOVE'S EXTRAVAGANCE ( Matthew 26:6-13 )
26:6-13 When Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster phial of very costly perfume, and poured it over his head as he reclined at table. When the disciples saw it, they were vexed. "What is the good of this waste?" they said. "For this could have been sold for much money, and the proceeds given to the poor." When Jesus knew what they were saying, he said to them, "Why do you distress the woman? It is a lovely thing that she has done to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you have not me always. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me beforehand for burial. This is the truth I tell you--wherever the gospel is preached throughout the whole world, this too that she has done shall be spoken of so that all will remember her."
This story of the anointing at Bethany is told also by Mark and by John. Mark's story is almost exactly the same; but John adds the information that the woman who anointed Jesus was none other than Mary, the sister of Martha and of Lazarus. Luke does not tell this story; he does tell the story of an anointing in the house of Simon the Pharisee ( Luke 7:36-50), but in Luke's story the woman who anointed Jesus' feet and wiped them with the hair of her head was a notorious sinner.
It must always remain a most interesting question whether the story Luke tells is, in fact, the same story as is told by Matthew and Mark and John. In both cases the name of the host is Simon, although in Luke he is Simon the Pharisee, and in Matthew and Mark he is Simon the leper; in John the host is not named at all, although the narrative reads as if it took place in the house of Martha and Mary and Lazarus. Simon was a very common name; there are at least ten Simons in the New Testament, and more than twenty in, the history of Josephus. The greatest difficulty in identifying the stories of Luke and of the other three gospel writers is that in Luke's story the woman was a notorious sinner; and there is no indication that that was true of Mary of Bethany. And yet the very intensity with which Mary loved Jesus may well have been the result of the depths from which he had rescued her.
Whatever the answer to the question of identification, the story is indeed what Jesus called it--the story of a lovely thing; and in it are enshrined certain very precious truths.
(i) It shows us love's extravagance. The woman took the most precious thing she had and poured it out on Jesus. Jewish women were very fond of perfume; and often they carried a little alabaster phial of it round their necks. Such perfume was very valuable. Both Mark and John make the disciples say that this perfume could have been sold for three hundred denarii ( G1220) ( Mark 14:5; John 12:5); which means that this phial of perfume represented very nearly a whole year's wages for a working man. Or we may think of it this way. When Jesus and his disciples were discussing how the multitude were to be fed, Philip's answer was that two hundred denarii ( G1220) would scarcely be enough to feed them. This phial of perfume, therefore, cost as much as it would take to feed a crowd of five thousand people.
It was something as precious as that which this woman gave to Jesus, and she gave it because it was the most precious thing she had. Love never calculates; love never thinks how little it can decently give; love's one desire is to give to the uttermost limits; and, when it has given all it has to give, it still thinks the gift too little. We have not even begun to be Christian if we think of giving to Christ and to his Church in terms of as little as we respectably can.
(ii) It shows us that there are times when the commonsense view of things fails. On this occasion the voice of common sense said, "What waste!" and no doubt it was right. But there is a world of difference between the economics of common sense and the economics of love. Common sense obeys the dictates of prudence; but love obeys the dictates of the heart. There is in life a large place for common sense; but there are times when only love's extravagance can meet love's demands. A gift is never really a gift when we can easily afford it; a gift truly becomes a gift only when there is sacrifice behind it, and when we give far more than we can afford.
(iii) It shows us that certain things must be done when the opportunity arises, or they can never be done at all. The disciples were anxious to help the poor; but the Rabbis themselves said, "God allows the poor to be with us always, that the opportunities for doing good may never fail." There are some things which we can do at any time; there are some things which can be done only once; and to miss the opportunity to do them then is to miss the opportunity for ever. Often we are moved by some generous impulse, and do not act upon it; and all the chances are that the circumstances, the person, the time, and the impulse, will never return. For so many of us the tragedy is that life is the history of the lost opportunities to do the lovely thing.
(iv) It tells us that the fragrance of a lovely deed lasts for ever. There are so few lovely things that one shines like a light in a dark world. At the end of Jesus' life there was so much bitterness, so much treachery, so much intrigue, so much tragedy that this story shines like an oasis of light in a darkening world. In this world there are few greater things that a man may do than leave the memory of a lovely deed.
THE LAST HOURS IN THE LIFE OF THE TRAITOR ( Matthew 26:14-16 ; Matthew 26:20-25 ; Matthew 26:47-50 ; Matthew 27:3-10 )
Instead of taking the story of Judas piece-meal as it occurs in the gospel record, we shall take it as a whole, reading one after another the last incidents and the final suicide of the traitor.
The Traitor's Bargain ( Matthew 26:14-16)
26:14-16 Then one of the Twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What are you willing to give me, if I hand him over to you?" They settled with him for a sum of thirty shekels; and from that time he sought for an opportunity to betray him.
We have seen that the Jewish authorities wished to find a way in which to arrest Jesus without provoking riotous disturbances, and now that way was presented to them by the approach of Judas. There can be only three real reasons why Judas betrayed Jesus. All other suggestions are variations of these three.
(i) It may have been because of avarice. According to Matthew and Mark it was immediately after the anointing at Bethany that Judas struck his dreadful bargain; and when John tells his story of that event, he says that Judas made his protest against the anointing because he was a thief and pilfered from the money that was in the box ( John 12:6). If that is so, Judas struck one of the most dreadful bargains in history. The sum for which he agreed to betray Jesus was thirty arguria ( G694) . An argurion ( G694) was a shekel, and was worth about three shillings. Judas, therefore, sold Jesus for less than five pounds. If avarice was the cause of his act of treachery, it is the most terrible example in history of the depths which love of money can reach.
(ii) It may have been because of bitter hatred, based on complete disillusionment. The Jews always had their dream of power; therefore they had their extreme nationalists who were prepared to go to any lengths of murder and violence to drive the Romans from Palestine. These nationalists were called the sicarii, the dagger-bearers, because they followed a deliberate policy of assassination. It may be that Judas was such, and that he had looked on Jesus as the divinely sent leader, who, with his miraculous powers, could lead the great rebellion. He may have seen that Jesus had deliberately taken another way, the way that led to a cross. And in his bitter disappointment, Judas' devotion may have turned, first to disillusionment, and then to a hatred which drove him to seek the death of the man from whom he had expected so much. Judas may have hated Jesus because he was not the Christ he wished him to be.
(iii) It may be that Judas never intended Jesus to die. It may be that, as we have seen, he saw in Jesus the divine leader. He may have thought that Jesus was proceeding far too slowly; and he may have wished for nothing else than to force his hand. He may have betrayed Jesus with the intention of compelling him to act. That is in fact the view which best suits all the facts. And that would explain why Judas was shattered into suicide when his plan went wrong.
However we look at it, the tragedy of Judas is that he refused to accept Jesus as he was and tried to make him what he wanted him to be. It is not Jesus who can be changed by us, but we who must be changed by Jesus. We can never use him for our purposes; we must submit to be used for his. The tragedy of Judas is that of a man who thought he knew better than God.
Love's Last Appeal ( Matthew 26:20-25)
26:20-25 When evening had come, Jesus was reclining at table with the twelve disciples. While they were eating he said, "This is the truth I tell you--one of you will betray me." They were greatly distressed and began one by one to say to him, "Lord, can it be I?" He answered, "He who dips his hand with me in the dish, it is he who will betray me. The Son of Man is going to go away, as it stands written concerning him, but alas for that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been bom." Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Master, can it be I?" He said to him, "It is you who have said it."
There are times in these last scenes of the gospel story when Jesus and Judas seem to be in a world where there is none other present except themselves. One thing is certain--Judas must have gone about his grim business with complete secrecy. He must have kept his comings and goings completely hidden, for, if the rest of the disciples had known what Judas was doing, he would never have escaped with his life.
He had concealed his plans from his fellow-disciples--but he could not conceal them from Christ. It is always the same; a man can hide his sins from his fellow-men, but he can never hide them from the eyes of Christ who sees the secrets of the heart. Jesus knew, although no other knew, what Judas was about.
And now we can see Jesus' methods with the sinner. He could have used his power to blast Judas, to paralyse him, to render him helpless, even to kill him. But the only weapon that Jesus will ever use is the weapon of love's appeal. One of the great mysteries of life is the respect that God has for the free will of man. God does not coerce; God only appeals.
When Jesus seeks to stop a man from sinning, he does two things.
First, he confronts him with his sin. He tries to make him stop and think what he is doing. He, as it were, says to him, "Look at what you are contemplating doing--can you really do a thing like that?" It has been said that our greatest security against sin lies in our being shocked by it. And again and again Jesus bids a man pause and look and realize so that he may be shocked into sanity.
Second, he confronts him with himself. He bids a man look at him, as if to say, "Can you look at me, can you meet my eyes, and go out to do the thing you purpose doing?" Jesus seeks to make a man become aware of the horror of the thing he is about to do, and of the love which yearns to stop him doing it.
It is just here that we see the real awfulness of sin in its terrible deliberation. In spite of love's last appeal Judas went on. Even when he was confronted with his sin and confronted with the face of Christ, he would not turn back. There is sin and sin. There is the sin of the passionate heart, of the man who, on the impulse of the moment, is swept into wrong doing. Let no man belittle such sin; its consequences can be very terrible. But far worse is the calculated, callous sin of deliberation, which in cold blood knows what it is doing, which is confronted with the bleak awfulness of the deed and with the love in the eyes of Jesus, and still takes its own way. Our hearts revolt against the son or daughter who cold-bloodedly breaks a parent's heart--which is what Judas did to Jesus--and the tragedy is that this is what we ourselves so often do.
The Traitor's Kiss ( Matthew 26:47-50)
26:47-50 While Jesus was still speaking, there came Judas, one of the Twelve, and a great crowd with swords and cudgels, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. The traitor had given them a sign. "Whom I shall kiss," he said, "that is the man. Lay hold on him!" Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, "Greetings, Master!" and kissed him lovingly. Jesus said to him, "Comrade, get on with the deed for which you have come!" Then they came forward, and laid hands on Jesus, and held him.
As we have already seen, the actions of Judas may spring from one of two motives. He may really, either from avarice or from disillusionment, have wished to see Jesus killed; or he may have been trying to force his hand, and may have wished not to see him killed but to compel him to act.
There is, therefore, a double way of interpreting this incident. If in Judas' heart there was nothing but black hatred and a kind of maniacal avarice, this is simply the most terrible kiss in history and a sign of betrayal. If that is so, there is nothing too terrible to be said about Judas.
But there are signs that there is more to it than that. When Judas told the armed mob that he would indicate the man whom they had come to arrest by a kiss, the word he uses is the Greek word philein ( G5368) , which is the normal word for a kiss; but when it is said that Judas actually did kiss Jesus, the word used is kataphilein ( G2705) , which is the word for a lover's kiss, and means to kiss repeatedly and fervently. Why should Judas do that?
Further, why should any identification of Jesus have been necessary? It was not identification of Jesus the authorities required; it was a convenient opportunity to arrest him. The people who came to arrest him were from the chief priests and the elders of the people; they must have been the Temple police, the only force the chief priests had at their disposal. It is incredible that the Temple police did not already know only too well the man who just days before had cleansed the Temple and driven the money-changers and the sellers of doves from the Temple court. It is incredible that they should not have known the man who had taught daily in the Temple cloisters. Having been led to the garden, they well knew the man whom they had come to arrest.
It is much more likely that Judas kissed Jesus as a disciple kissed a master and meant it; and that then he stood back with expectant pride waiting on Jesus at last to act. The curious thing is that from the moment of the kiss Judas vanishes from the scene in the garden, not to reappear until he is bent on suicide. He does not even appear as a witness at the trial of Jesus. It is far more likely that in one stunning, blinding, staggering, searing moment Judas saw how he had miscalculated and staggered away into the night a for ever broken and for ever haunted man. If this be true, at that moment Judas entered the hell which he had created for himself, for the worst kind of hell is the full realization of the terrible consequences of sin.
The Traitor's End ( Matthew 27:3-10)
When Judas the traitor saw that Jesus had been condemned, he repented, and he brought the thirty shekels back to the chief priests and the elders. "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed an innocent man." "What has that got to do with us?" they said. "It is you who must see to that." He threw the money into the Temple and went away. And when he had gone away, he hanged himself. The chief priests took the money. "We cannot," they said, "put these into the treasury, for they are the price of blood." They took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to be a burying place for strangers. That is why to this day that field is called The Field of Blood. Then there was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, when he said: "And they took the thirty shekels, the price of him on whom a price had been set by the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the field of the potter, as the Lord instructed me."
Here in all its stark grimness is the last act of the tragedy of Judas. However we interpret his mind, one thing is clear--Judas now saw the horror of the thing that he had done. Matthew tells us that Judas took the money and flung it into the Temple, and the interesting thing is that the word he uses is not the word for the Temple precincts in general (hieron, G2411) , it is the word for the actual Temple itself (naos, G3485) . It will be remembered that the Temple consisted of a series of courts each opening off the other. Judas in his blind despair came into the Court of the Gentiles; passed through it into the Court of the Women; passed through that into the Court of the Israelites; beyond that he could not go; he had come to the barrier which shut off the Court of the Priests with the Temple itself at the far end of it. He called on them to take the money; but they would not; and he flung it at them and went away and hanged himself. And the priests took the money, so tainted that it could not be put into the Temple treasury, and with it bought a field to bury the unclean bodies of Gentiles who died within the city.
The suicide of Judas is surely the final indication that his plan had gone wrong. He had meant to make Jesus blaze forth as a conqueror; instead he had driven him to the Cross and life for Judas was shattered. There are two great truths about sin here.
(i) The terrible thing about sin is that we cannot put the clock back. We cannot undo what we have done. Once a thing is done nothing can alter it or bring it back.
"The Moving Finger writes; and having writ?
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it."
No one needs to be very old to have that haunting longing for some hour to be lived over again. When we remember that no action can ever be recalled, it should make us doubly careful how we act.
(ii) The strange thing about sin is that a man can come to hate the very thing he gained by it. The very prize he won by sinning can come to disgust and to revolt and to repel him, until his one desire is to fling it from him. Most people sin because they think that if they can only possess the forbidden thing it will make them happy. But the thing which sin desired can become the thing that a man above all would rid himself of--and so often he cannot.
As we have seen, Matthew finds forecasts of the events of the life of Jesus in the most unlikely places. Here there is, in fact, an actual mistake. Matthew is quoting from memory; and the quotation which he makes is, in fact, not from Jeremiah but from Zechariah. It is from a strange passage ( Zechariah 11:10-14) in which the prophet tells us how he received an unworthy reward and flung it to the potter. In that old picture Matthew saw a symbolic resemblance to the thing that Judas did.
It might have been that, if Judas had remained true to Jesus, he would have died a martyr's death; but, because he wanted his own way too much, he died by his own hand. He missed the glory of the martyr's crown to find life intolerable because he had sinned.
THE LAST SUPPER ( Matthew 26:17-19 ; Matthew 26:26-30 )
As we took together the passages which tell the story of Judas so now we take the passages which tell the story of the Last Supper.
The Ancestral Feast ( Matthew 26:17-19)
26:17-19 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus. "Where," they said, "do you wish that we should make the necessary preparations for you to eat the Passover?" He said, "Go into the city to such and such a man, and say to him, 'The Teacher says, my time is near. I will keep the Passover with my disciples at your house.'" And the disciples did as Jesus instructed them, and made the preparations for the Passover.
It was for the Passover Feast that Jesus had come to Jerusalem. We have seen how crowded the city was at such a time. During the Passover Feast all Jews were supposed to stay within the boundaries of the city, but the numbers made that impossible; and for official purposes villages like Bethany, where Jesus was staying, ranked as the city.
But the Feast itself had to be celebrated within the city. The disciples wished to know what preparation they must make. Clearly Jesus had not left the matter to the last moment; he had already made his arrangements with a friend in Jerusalem, and he had already arranged a password--"The Teacher says, my time is near." So the disciples were sent on to give the password and to make all the necessary preparations.
The whole week of which the Passover Feast occupied the first evening was called The Feast of Unleavened Bread. In following the events we must remember that for the Jew the next day began at 6 o'clock in the evening. In this case the Feast of Unleavened Bread began on Thursday morning. On the Thursday morning every particle of leaven was destroyed, after a ceremonial search throughout the house.
There was a double reason for that. The Feast commemorated the greatest event in the history of Israel, the deliverance from slavery in Egypt. And when the Israelites had fled from Egypt, they had to flee in such haste that they had not time to bake their bread leavened ( Exodus 12:34). Dough without leaven (that is, a little piece of fermented dough) cooks very quickly, but produces a substance more like a water biscuit than a loaf; and that is what unleavened bread is like. So the leaven was banished and the bread unleavened to repeat the acts of the night on which they left Egypt and its slavery behind them.
Second, in Jewish thought leaven is the symbol of corruption. As we have said, leaven is fermented dough and the Jews identified fermentation and putrefaction; so leaven stood for all that was rotten and corrupt, and was, therefore, as a sign of purification, cleansed away.
When, then, were the preparations which the disciples would make?
On the Thursday morning, they would prepare the unleavened bread and rid the house of every scrap of leaven. The other staple ingredient of the Feast was the Passover Lamb. It was indeed from the lamb that the Feast took its name. The last terrible plague which fell on the Egyptians and which compelled them to let the people go, was that the Angel of Death walked throughout the land of Egypt and slew the firstborn son in every house. To identify their houses, the Israelites had to kill a lamb and smear the lintel and the side posts of their doors with its blood, so that the avenging angel seeing that sign would pass over that house ( Exodus 12:21-23). On the Thursday afternoon the lamb had to be taken to the Temple and slain, and its blood--which was the life--had to be offered to God in sacrifice.
There were four other items necessary for the Feast.
(i) A bowl of salt water had to be set upon the table, to remind them of the tears they had shed while they were slaves in Egypt and of the salt waters of the Red Sea through which God's hand had wondrously brought them.
(ii) A collection of bitter herbs had to be prepared, composed of horse-radish, chicory, endive, lettuce, horehound and the like. This was again to remind them of the bitterness of slavery, and of the bunch of hyssop with which the blood of the lamb had been smeared on the lintel and the door-posts.
(iii) There was a paste called the Charosheth. It was a mixture of apples, dates, pomegranates and nuts. It was to remind them of the clay with which they had been compelled to make bricks in Egypt, and through it there were sticks of cinnamon to remind them of the straw with which the bricks had been made.
(iv) Lastly, there were four cups of wine. These were to remind them of the four promises of Exodus 6:6-7: "I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians; I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment; I will take you for my people, and I will be your God."
Such then were the preparations of the Thursday morning and afternoon. These were the things that the disciples prepared; and at any time after 6 p.m., that is when Friday, the 15th Nisan, had began, the guests might gather at the table.
His Body And His Blood ( Matthew 26:26-30)
26:26-30 While they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it and broke it, and gave it to his disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them. "Drink all of you from it," he said, "for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many, that their sins may be forgiven. I tell you that from now on I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in the Kingdom of my Father." And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
We have already seen how the prophets, when they wished to say something in a way that people could not fail to understand, made use of symbolic actions. We have already seen Jesus using that method both in his Triumphal Entry and in the incident of the fig tree. That is what Jesus is doing here. All the symbolism and all the ritual action of the Passover Feast was a picture of what he wished to say to men, for it was a picture of what he was to do for men. What then was the picture which Jesus was using, and what is the truth which lies behind it?
(i) The Passover Feast was a commemoration of deliverance; its whole intention was to remind the people of Israel of how God had liberated them from slavery in Egypt. First and foremost then, Jesus claimed to be the great liberator. He came to liberate men from fear and from sin. He liberates men from the fears which haunt them and from the sins which will not let them go.
(ii) In particular the Passover Lamb was the symbol of safety. On that night of destruction it was the blood of the Passover Lamb which kept Israel safe. So, then, Jesus was claiming to be Saviour. He had come to save men from their sins and from their consequences. He had come to give men safety on earth and safety in heaven, safety in time and safety in eternity.
There is a word here which is a key word and enshrines the whole of Jesus' work and intention. It is the word covenant. Jesus spoke of his blood being the blood of the covenant. What did he mean by that? A covenant is a relationship between two people; but the covenant of which Jesus spoke was not between man and man; it was between God and man. That is to say, it was a new relationship between God and man. What Jesus was saying at the Last Supper was this: "Because of my life, and above all because of my death, a new relationship has become possible between you and God." It is as if he said, "You have seen me; and in me you have seen God; I have told you, I have shown you, how much God loves you; he loves you even enough to suffer this that I am going through; that is what God is like." Because of what Jesus did, the way for men is open to all the loveliness of this new relationship with God.
This passage concludes by saying that, when the company of Jesus and the disciples had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. An essential part of the Passover ritual was the singing of the Hallel. Hallel means Praise God! And the Hallel consisted of Psalms 113:1-9; Psalms 114:1-8; Psalms 115:1-18; Psalms 116:1-19; Psalms 117:1-2; Psalms 118:1-29, which are all praising psalms. At different points of the Passover Feast these psalms were sung in sections; and at the very end there was sung The Great Hallel, which is Psalms 136:1-26. That was the hymn they sang before they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Here is another thing to note. There was one basic difference between the Last Supper and the Sacrament which we observe. The Last Supper was a real meal; it was, in fact, the law that the whole lamb and everything else must be eaten and nothing left. This was no eating of a cube of bread and drinking of a sip of wine. It was a meal for hungry men. We might well say that what Jesus is teaching men is not only to assemble in church and eat a ritual and symbolic Feast; he is telling them that every time they sit down to eat a meal, that meal is in memory of him. Jesus is not only Lord of the Communion Table; he must be Lord of the dinner table, too.
There remains one final thing. Jesus says that he will not feast with his disciples again until he does so in his Father's Kingdom. Here, indeed, is divine faith and divine optimism. Jesus was going out to Gethsemane, out to trial before the Sanhedrin, out to the Cross--and yet he is still thinking in terms of a Kingdom. To Jesus the Cross was never defeat; it was the way to glory. He was on his way to Calvary, but he was also on his way to a throne.
THE COLLAPSE OF PETER ( Matthew 26:31-35 )
We now gather together the passages which tell the story of Peter.
The Master's Warning ( Matthew 26:31-35)
26:31-35 Then Jesus said to them, "Every one of you will be made to stumble because of me during this night; for it stands written, 'I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.' But after I have been raised, I will go before you into Galilee." Peter answered him, "If all are made to stumble because of you, I will never be made to stumble." Jesus said to him, "This is the truth I tell you--During this night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." Peter said to him, "Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you." So also spoke all the disciples.
In this passage certain characteristics of Jesus are clear.
(i) We see the realism of Jesus. He knew what lay ahead. Matthew actually sees the flight of the disciples foretold in the Old Testament in Zechariah 13:7. Jesus was no easy optimist, who could comfortably shut his eyes to the facts. He foresaw what would inevitably happen and yet he went on.
(ii) We see the confidence of Jesus. "After I have been raised," he says, "I will go before you into Galilee." Always Jesus saw beyond the Cross. He was every bit as certain of the glory as he was of the suffering.
(iii) We see the sympathy of Jesus. He knew that his men were going to flee for their lives and abandon him in the moment of his deepest need; but he does not upbraid them, he does not condemn them, he does not heap reproaches on them, or call them useless creatures and broken reeds. So far from that, he tells them that when that terrible time is past, he will meet them again. It is the greatness of Jesus that he knew men at their worst and still loved them. He knows our human weakness; he knows how certain we are to make mistakes and to fail in loyalty; but that knowledge does not turn his love to bitterness or contempt. Jesus has nothing but sympathy for the man who in his weakness is driven to sin.
Further, this passage shows us something about Peter. Surely his fault is clear; over-confidence in himself. He knew that he loved Jesus--that was never in doubt--and he thought that all by himself he could face any situation which might arise. He thought that he was stronger than Jesus knew him to be. We shall be safe only when we replace the confidence which boasts by the humility which knows its weakness and which depends not on itself but the help of Christ.
The Romans and the Jews divided the night into four watches--6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; 9 p.m. to midnight; midnight to 3 a.m.; 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. It was between the third and the fourth watch that the cock was supposed to crow. What Jesus is saying is that before the dawn comes Peter will deny him three times.
The Failure Of Courage ( Matthew 26:57-58; Matthew 26:69-75)
26:57-58,69-75 Those who had laid hold of Jesus led him away to the house of Caiaphas the High Priest, where the Scribes and the elders were assembled. Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the High Priest's house, and he went inside and sat down with the servants to see the end.
Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A maid-servant came up to him and said, "You, too, were with Jesus the Galilaean." He denied it in the presence of them all. "I do not know," he said, "what you are saying." When he went out to the porch, another maid-servant saw him, and said to those who were there, "This man too was with Jesus of Nazareth." And again he denied it with an oath: "I do not know the man." A little later those who were standing there said to Peter, "Truly you too were one of them; for your accent gives you away." Then he began to curse and to swear: "I do not know the man." And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, when he said, "Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly.
No one can read this passage without being struck with the staggering honesty of the New Testament. If ever there was an incident which one might have expected to be hushed up, this was it--and yet here it is told in all its stark shame. We know that Matthew very closely followed the narrative of Mark; and in Mark's gospel this story is told in even more vivid detail ( Mark 14:66-72). We also know, as Papias tells us, that Mark's gospel is nothing other than the preaching material of Peter written down. And so we arrive at the amazing fact that we possess the story of Peter's denial because Peter himself told it to others.
So far from suppressing this story, Peter made it an essential part of his gospel; and did so for the very best of reasons. Every time he told the story, he could say, "That is the way that this Jesus can forgive. He forgave me when I failed him in his bitterest hour of need. That is what Jesus can do. He took me, Peter the coward, and used even me." We must never read this story without remembering that it is Peter himself who is telling of the shame of his own sin that all men may know the glory of the forgiving love and cleansing power of Jesus Christ.
And yet it is quite wrong to regard Peter with nothing but unsympathetic condemnation. The blazing fact is that the disaster which happened to Peter is one which could have happened only to a man of the most heroic courage. All the other disciples ran away: Peter alone did not. In Palestine the houses of the well-to-do were built in a hollow square around an open courtyard, off which the various rooms opened. For Peter to enter that courtyard in the centre of the High Priest's house was to walk into the lion's den--and yet he did it. However this story ends, it begins with Peter the one brave man.
The first denial happened in the courtyard; no doubt the maid-servant had marked Peter as one of the most prominent followers of Jesus and had recognized him. After that recognition anyone would have thought that Peter would have fled for his life; a coward would certainly have been gone into the night as quickly as he could. But not Peter; although he did retire as far as the porch.
He was torn between two feelings. In his heart there was a fear that made him want to run away; but in his heart, too, there was a love which kept him there. Again, in the porch he was recognized; and this time he swore he did not know Jesus. And still he did not go. Here is the most dogged courage.
But Peter's second denial had given him away. From his speech it was clear that he was a Galilaean. The Galilaeans spoke with a burr; so ugly was their accent that no Galilaean was allowed to pronounce the benediction at a synagogue service. Once again Peter was accused of being a follower of Jesus. Peter went further this time; not only did he swear that he did not know Jesus; he actually cursed his Master's name. But still it is clear that Peter had no intention of leaving that courtyard. And then the cock crew.
There is a distinct possibility here which would provide us with a vivid picture. It may well be that the cock-crow was not the voice of a bird; and that from the beginning it was not meant to mean that. After all, the house of the High Priest was right in the centre of Jerusalem, and there was not likely to be poultry in the centre of the city. There was, in fact, a regulation in the Jewish law that it was illegal to keep cocks and hens in the Holy City, because they defiled the holy things. But the hour of 3 a.m. was called cock-crow, and for this reason. At that hour the Roman guard was changed in the Castle of Antonia; and the sign of the changing of the guard was a trumpet call. The Latin for that trumpet call was gallicinium, which means cock-crow. It is at least possible that just as Peter made his third denial the trumpet from the castle battlements rang out over the sleeping city--the gallicinium, the cock-crow--and Peter remembered; and thereupon he went and wept his heart out.
What happened to Peter after that we do not know, for the gospel story draws a kindly veil over the agony of his shame. But before we condemn him, we must remember very clearly that few of us would ever have had the courage to be in that courtyard at all. And there is one last thing to be said--it was love which gave Peter that courage; it was love which riveted him there in spite of the fact that he had been recognized three times; it was love which made him remember the words of Jesus; it was love which sent him out into the night to weep--and it is love which covers a multitude of sins. The lasting impression of this whole story is not of Peter's cowardice, but of Peter's love.
THE SOUL'S BATTLE IN THE GARDEN ( Matthew 26:36-46 )
26:36-46 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go away and pray in this place." So he took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be distressed and in sore trouble. Then he said to them, "My soul is much distressed with a distress like death. Stay here, and watch with me." He went a little way forward and fell on his face in prayer. "My Father," He said, "if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. But let it be not as I will, but as you will." He came to his disciples, and he found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, "Could you not stay awake with me for this--for one hour? Watch and pray lest you enter into testing. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak." He went away a second time and prayed. "My Father," He said, "if it is not possible for this to pass from me unless I drink it, your will be done." He came again and found them sleeping, for their eyes were weighted down. He left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words over again. Then he came to his disciples and said to them, "Sleep on now and take your rest. Look you, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is being delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise; let us go; look you, he who betrays me is near."
Surely this is a passage which we must approach upon our knees. Here study should pass into wondering adoration.
In Jerusalem itself there were no gardens of any size, for a city set on the top of an hill has no room for open spaces; every inch is of value for building. So, then, it came about that wealthy citizens had their private gardens on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. The word Gethsemane very probably means an olive-vat, or an olive-press; and no doubt it was a garden of olives to which Jesus had the right of entry. It is a strange and a lovely thing to think of the nameless friends who rallied round Jesus in the last days. There was the man who gave him the ass on which he rode into Jerusalem; there was the man who gave him the Upper Room wherein the Last Supper was eaten; and now there is the man who gave him the right of entry to the garden on the Mount of Olives. In a desert of hatred, there were still oases of love.
Into the garden he took the three who had been with him on the Mount of Transfiguration; and there he prayed; more, he wrestled in prayer. As we look with awed reverence on the battle of Jesus' soul in the garden we see certain things.
(i) We see the agony of Jesus. He was now quite sure that death lay ahead. Its very breath was on him. No one wants to die at thirty-three; and least of all does any man want to die in the agony of a cross. Here Jesus had his supreme struggle to submit his will to the will of God. No one can read this story without seeing the intense reality of that struggle. This was no play-acting; it was a struggle in which the outcome swayed in the balance. The salvation of the world was at risk in the Garden of Gethsemane, for even then Jesus might have turned back, and God's purpose would have been frustrated.
At this moment all that Jesus knew was that he must go on, and ahead there lay a cross. In all reverence we may say that here we see Jesus learning the lesson that everyone must some day learn--how to accept what he could not understand. All he knew was that the will of God imperiously summoned him on. Things happen to every one of us in this world that we cannot understand; it is then that faith is tried to its utmost limits; and at such a time it is sweetness to the soul that in Gethsemane Jesus went through that too. Tertullian (De Bapt. 20) tells us of a saying of Jesus, which is not in any of the gospels: "No one who has not been tempted can enter the Kingdom of Heaven." That is, every man has his private Gethsemane, and every man has to learn to say, "Thy will be done."
(ii) We see the loneliness of Jesus. He took with him his three chosen disciples; but they were so exhausted with the drama of these last days and hours that they could not stay awake. And Jesus had to fight his battle all alone. That also is true of every man. There are certain things a man must face and certain decisions a man must make in the awful loneliness of his own soul; there are times when other helpers fade and comforts flee; but in that loneliness there is for us the presence of One who, in Gethsemane, experienced it and came through it.
(iii) Here we see the trust of Jesus. We see that trust even better in Mark's account, where Jesus begins his prayer: "Abba, Father" ( Mark 14:36). There is a world of loveliness in this word Abba ( G5) , which to our western ears is altogether hidden, unless we know the facts about it. Joachim Jeremias, in his book The Parables of Jesus, writes thus: "Jesus' use of the word Abba in addressing God is unparalleled in the whole of Jewish literature. The explanation of this fact is to be found in the statement of the fathers Chrysostom, Theodore, and Theodoret that Abba ( G5) , (as jaba is still used today in Arabic) was the word used by a young child to its father; it was an everyday family word, which no one had ventured to use in addressing God. Jesus did. He spoke to his heavenly Father in as childlike, trustful, and intimate a way as a little child to its father."
We know how our children speak to us and what they call us who are fathers. That is the way in which Jesus spoke to God. Even when he did not fully understand, even when his one conviction was that God was urging him to a cross, he called Abba, as might a little child. Here indeed is trust, a trust which we must also have in that God whom Jesus taught us to know as Father.
(iv) We see the courage of Jesus. "Rise," said Jesus, "let us be going. He who betrays me is near." Celsus, the pagan philosopher who attacked Christianity, used that sentence as an argument that Jesus tried to run away. It is the very opposite. "Rise," he said. "The time for prayer, and the time for the garden is past, Now is the time for action. Let us face life at its grimmest and men at their worst." Jesus rose from his knees to go out to the battle of life. That is what prayer is for. In prayer a man kneels before God that he may stand erect before men. In prayer a man enters heaven that he may face the battles of earth.
THE ARREST IN THE GARDEN ( Matthew 26:50-56 )
26:50-56 Then they came forward and laid hands on Jesus and held him. And, look you, one of these who was with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck the servant of the High Priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put back your sword in its place; for all who take the sword shall perish by the sword. Or, do you not think that I am able to call on my Father, and he will on the spot send to my aid more than twelve regiments of angels? How then are the Scriptures to be fulfilled that it must happen so?" At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, "Have you come out with swords and cudgels to arrest me, as against a brigand? Daily I sat teaching in the Temple, and you did not lay hold on me. All this has happened that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all his disciples forsook him and fled.
It was Judas who had given the authorities the information which enabled them to find Jesus in the privacy of the Garden of Gethsemane. The forces at the disposal of the Jewish authorities were the Temple police, under the command of the Sagan, or Captain of the Temple. But the mob which surged after Judas to the Garden was more like a mob for a lynching than a detachment for an orderly arrest.
Jesus would allow no resistance. Matthew simply tells us that one of the disciples drew a knife and, prepared to resist to the death and to sell his life dearly, wounded a servant of the High Priest. When John tells the same story ( John 18:10), he tells us that the disciple was Peter, and the servant was Malchus. The reason why John names Peter, and Matthew does not, may simply be that John was writing much later, and that when Matthew was writing it was still not safe to name the disciple who had sprung so quickly to his Master's defence. Here we have still another instance of the almost fantastic courage of Peter. He was willing to take on the mob alone; and let us always remember that it was after that, when he was a marked man, that Peter followed Jesus right into the courtyard of the High Priest's house. But in all these incidents of the last hours it is on Jesus that our attention is fastened; and here we learn two things about him.
(i) His death was by his own choice. He need never have come to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Having come, he need never have followed his deliberate policy of magnificent defiance. Even in the Garden he could have slipped away and saved himself, for it was night, and there were many who would have smuggled him out of the city. Even here he could have called down the might of God and blasted his enemies. Every step of these last days makes it clearer and clearer that Jesus laid down his life and that his life was not taken from him. Jesus died, not because men killed him, but because he chose to die.
(ii) He chose to die because he knew that his death was the purpose of God. He took this way because it was the very thing that had been foretold by the prophets. He took it because love is the only way. "He who takes the sword will perish by the sword." Violence can beget nothing but violence; one drawn sword can produce only another drawn sword to meet it. Jesus knew that war and might settle nothing, but produce only a train of evil, and beget a grim horde of children worse than themselves. He knew that God's purpose can be worked out only by sacrificial love. And history proved him right; for the Jews who took him with violence, and who gloried in violence, and who would gladly have dipped their swords in Roman blood, saw forty years later their city destroyed for ever, while the man who would not fight is enthroned for ever in the hearts of men.
THE TRIAL BEFORE THE JEWS ( Matthew 26:57 ; Matthew 26:59-68 )
26:57,59-68 Those who had laid hold of Jesus led him away to the house of Caiaphas the High Priest, where the Scribes and the elders were assembled.
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin tried to find false witness against him, in order to put him to death; but they could not find it, although many false witnesses came forward. Later two came forward and said, "This fellow said, 'I can destroy the Temple of God, and in three days I can build it again.'" The High Priest rose and said, "Do you make no answer? What is it that these witness against you?" But Jesus kept silent. So the High Priest said to him, "I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us, whether you are the Anointed One of God, the Son of God." Jesus said to him, "It is you who have said it. But I tell you that from now on you will see the Son of Man seated on the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of Heaven." Then the High Priest rent his garments, saying, "He has blasphemed. What further need have we of witnesses? Look you, you have now heard his blasphemy. What is your opinion?" They answered, "He has made himself liable to the death penalty." Then they spat upon his face, and buffeted him. And some struck him on the cheek saying, "Prophesy to us, you Anointed One of God! Who is he who struck you?"
The process of the trial of Jesus is not altogether easy to follow. It seems to have fallen into three parts. The first part took place after the arrest in the Garden, during the night and in the High Priest's house, and is described in this section. The second part took place first thing in the morning, and is briefly described in Matthew 27:1-2. The third part took place before Pilate and is described in Matthew 27:11-26. The salient question is this--was the meeting during the night an official meeting of the Sanhedrin, hastily summoned, or was it merely a preliminary examination, in order to formulate a charge, and was the meeting in the morning the official meeting of the Sanhedrin? However that question is answered, the Jews violated their own laws in the trial of Jesus; but if the meeting in the night was a meeting of the Sanhedrin, the violation was even more extreme. On the whole, it seems that Matthew took the night meeting to be a meeting of the Sanhedrin, for in Matthew 26:59 he says that the whole Sanhedrin sought for false witness to put Jesus to death. Let us then first look at this process from the Jewish legal point of view.
The Sanhedrin was the supreme court of the Jews. It was composed of Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and elders of the people; it numbered seventy-one members; and it was presided over by the High Priest. For a trial such as this a quorum was twenty-three. It had certain regulations. All criminal cases must be tried during the daytime and must be completed during the daytime. Criminal cases could not be transacted during the Passover season at all. Only if the verdict was Not Guilty could a case be finished on the day it was begun; otherwise a night must elapse before the pronouncement of the verdict, so that feelings of mercy might have time to arise. Further, no decision of the Sanhedrin was valid unless it met in its own meeting place, the Hall of Hewn Stone in the Temple precincts. All evidence had to be guaranteed by two witnesses separately examined and having not contact with each other. And false witness was punishable by death. The seriousness of the occasion was impressed upon any witness in a case where life was at stake: "Forget not, O witness, that it is one thing to give evidence in a trial for money, and another in a trial for life. In a money suit, if thy witness-bearing shall do wrong, money may repair that wrong; but in this trial for life, if thou sinnest, the blood of the accused and the blood of his seed unto the end of time shall be imputed unto thee." Still further, in any trial the process began by the laying before the court of all the evidence for the innocence of the accused, before the evidence for his guilt was adduced.
These were the Sanhedrin's own rules, and it is abundantly clear that, in their eagerness to get rid of Jesus, they broke their own rules. The Jews had reached such a peak of hatred that any means were justified to put an end to Jesus.
THE CRIME OF CHRIST ( Matthew 26:57 ; Matthew 26:59-68 continued)
The main business of the night meeting of the Jewish authorities was to formulate a charge against Jesus. As we have seen, all evidence had to be guaranteed by two witnesses, separately examined. For long not even two false witnesses could be found to agree. And then a charge was found, the charge that Jesus had said that he would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days.
It is clear that this charge is a twisting of certain things he did actually say. We have already seen that he foretold--and rightly--the destruction of the Temple. This had been twisted into a charge that he had said that he himself would destroy the Temple. We have seen that he foretold that he himself would be killed and would rise on the third day. This had been twisted into a charge that he had said that he would rebuild the Temple in three days.
This charge was formulated by deliberately and maliciously misrepeating and misinterpreting certain things which Jesus had said. To that charge Jesus utterly refused to reply. Therein the law was on his side, for no person on trial could either be asked, or compelled to answer, any question which would incriminate him.
It was then that the High Priest launched his vital question. We have seen that repeatedly Jesus warned his disciples to tell no man that he was the Messiah. How then did the High Priest know to ask the question the answer to which Jesus could not escape? It may well be that when Judas laid information against him, he also told the Jewish authorities about Jesus' revelation of his own Messiahship. It may well be that Judas had deliberately broken the bond of secrecy which Jesus had laid upon his disciples.
In any event, the High Priest asked the question, and asked it upon oath: "Are you the Messiah?" he demanded. "Do you claim to be the Son of God?" Here was the crucial moment in the trial. We might well say that all the universe held its breath as it waited for Jesus' answer. If Jesus said, "No," the bottom fell out of the trial; there was no possible charge against him. He had only to say, "No," and walk out a free man, and escape before the Sanhedrin could think out another way of entrapping him. On the other hand, if he said, "Yes," he signed his own death warrant. Nothing more than a simple "Yes" was needed to make the Cross a complete and inescapable certainty.
It may be that Jesus paused for a moment once again to count the cost before he made the great decision; and then he said, "Yes." He went further. He quoted Daniel 7:13 with its vivid account of the ultimate triumph and kingship of God's chosen one. He well knew what he was doing. Immediately there went up the cry of blasphemy. Garments were rent in a kind of synthetic and hysterical horror; and Jesus was condemned to death.
Then followed the spitting on him, the buffeting, the slapping of his face, the mockery. Even the externals of justice were forgotten, and the venomous hostility of the Jewish authorities broke through. That meeting in the night began as a court of justice and ended in a frenzied display of hatred, in which there was no attempt to maintain even the superficialities of impartial justice.
To this day when a man is brought face to face with Jesus Christ, he must either hate him or love him; he must either submit to him, or desire to destroy him. No man who realizes what Jesus Christ demands can possibly be neutral. He must either be his liege-man or his foe.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Matthew 26:52". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/matthew-26.html. 1956-1959.
See Romans 13:4 note on "Capital Punishment"
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Matthew 26:52". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/matthew-26.html. 2021.
Then said Jesus unto him,.... That is, unto Peter,
put up again thy sword into its place, or sheath. This Christ said not only to rebuke Peter for his rashness, but to soften the minds of the multitude, who must be enraged at such an action; and which was still more effectually done by his healing the man's ear: and indeed, had it not been for these words, and this action of Christ's; and more especially had it not been owing to the powerful influence Christ had over the spirits of these men, in all probability Peter, and the rest of the apostles, had been all destroyed at once.
For all they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword. This is not to be understood of magistrates who bear not the sword in vain, are ministers of God for good, and revengers of evil works; but of private persons that use the sword, and that not in self-defence, but for private revenge; or engage in a quarrel, to which they are not called; and such generally perish, as Peter must have done, had it not been for the interposition of almighty power. Though this seems to be spoken not so much of Peter, and of the danger he exposed himself to, by taking and using the sword, and so to deter him from it, but rather of these his enemies: and as an argument to make and keep Peter easy and quiet, and exercise patience, since, in a little time, God would avenge himself of them; and that the Jews, who now made use of the sword of the Roman soldiers, would perish by the sword of the Romans, as in a few years after the whole nation did.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 26:52". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-26.html. 1999.
|Christ Betrayed by Judas; The Priest's Servant Smitten by Peter; Christ Deserted by His Disciples.|
47 And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. 49 And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. 50 And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. 51 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. 52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? 55 In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. 56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.
We are here told how the blessed Jesus was seized, and taken into custody; this followed immediately upon his agony, while he yet spake; for from the beginning to the close of his passion he had not the least intermission or breathing-time, but deep called unto deep. His trouble hitherto was raised within himself; but now the scene is changed, now the Philistines are upon thee, thou blessed Samson; the Breath of our nostrils, the Anointed of the Lord is taken in their pits,Lamentations 4:20.
Now concerning the apprehension of the Lord Jesus, observe,
I. Who the persons were, that were employed in it. 1. Here was Judas, one of the twelve, at the head of this infamous guard: he was guide to them that took Jesus (Acts 1:16); without his help they could not have found him in this retirement. Behold, and wonder; the first that appears with his enemies, is one of his own disciples, who an hour or two ago was eating bread with him! 2. Here was with him a great multitude; that the scripture might be fulfilled, Lord, how are they increased that trouble me!Psalms 3:1. This multitude was made up partly of a detachment out of the guards, that were posted in the tower of Antonia by the Roman governor; these were Gentiles, sinners, as Christ calls them, Matthew 26:45; Matthew 26:45. The rest were the servants and officers of the High Priest, and they were Jews; they that were at variance with each other, agreed against Christ.
II. How they were armed for this enterprise.
1. What weapons they were armed with; They came with swords and staves. The Roman soldiers, no doubt, had swords; the servants of the priests, those of them that had not swords, brought staves or clubs. Furor arma ministrat--Their rage supplied their arms. They were not regular troops, but a tumultuous rabble. But wherefore is this ado? If they had been ten times as many, they could not have taken him had he not yielded; and, his hour being come for him to give up himself, all this force was needless. When a butcher goes into the field to take out a lamb for the slaughter, does he raise the militia, and come armed? No, he needs not; yet is there all this force used to seize the Lamb of God.
2. What warrant they were armed with; They came from the chief priests, and elders of the people; this armed multitude was sent by them upon this errand. He was taken up by a warrant from the great sanhedrim, as a person obnoxious to them. Pilate, the Roman governor, gave them no warrant to search for him, he had no jealousy of him; but they were men who pretended to religion, and presided in the affairs of the church, that were active in this prosecution, and were the most spiteful enemies Christ had. It was a sign that he was supported by a divine power, for by all earthly powers he was not only deserted, but opposed; Pilate upbraided him with it; Thine own nation and the chief priests delivered thee to me,John 18:35.
III. The manner how it was done, and what passed at that time.
1. How Judas betrayed him; he did his business effectually, and his resolution in this wickedness may shame us who fail in that which is good. Observe,
(1.) The instructions he gave to the soldiers (Matthew 26:48; Matthew 26:48); He gave them a sign; as commander of the party in this action, he gives the word or signal. He gave them a sign, lest by mistake they should seize one of the disciples instead of him, the disciples having so lately said, in Judas's hearing, that they would be willing to die for him. What abundance of caution was here, not to miss him--That same is he; and when they had him in their hands, not to lose him--Hold him fast; for he had sometimes escaped from those who thought to secure him; as Luke 6:30. Though the Jews, who frequented the temple, could not but know him, yet the Roman soldiers perhaps had never seen him, and the sign was to direct them; and Judas by his kiss intended not only to distinguish him, but to detain him, while they came behind him, and laid hands on him.
(2.) The dissembling compliment he gave his Master. He came close up to Jesus; surely now, if ever, his wicked heart will relent; surely when he comes to look him in the face, he will either be awed by its majesty, or charmed by its beauty. Dares he to come into his very sight and presence, to betray him? Peter denied Christ, but when the Lord turned and looked upon him, he relented presently; but Judas comes up to his Master's face, and betrays him. Me mihi (perfide) prodis? me mihi prodis?--Perfidious man, betrayest thou me to thyself? He said, Hail, Master; and kissed him. It should seem, our Lord Jesus had been wont to admit his disciples to such a degree of familiarity with him, as to give them his cheek to kiss after they had been any while absent, which Judas villainously used to facilitate this treason. A kiss is a token of allegiance and friendship, Psalms 2:12. But Judas, when he broke all the laws of love and duty, profaned this sacred sign to serve his purpose. Note, There are many that betray Christ with a kiss, and Hail, Master; who, under pretence of doing him honour, betray and undermine the interests of his kingdom. Mel in ore, fel in corde--Honey in the mouth, gall in the heart. Kataphilein ouk esti philein. To embrace is one thing, to love is another. Philo Judæus. Joab's kiss and Judas's were much alike.
(3.) The entertainment his Master gave him, Matthew 26:50; Matthew 26:50.
[1.] He calls him friend. If he had called him villain, and traitor, raca, thou fool, and child of the devil, he had not mis--called him; but he would teach us under the greatest provocation to forbear bitterness and evil-speaking, and to show all meekness. Friend, for a friend he had been, and should have been, and seemed to be. Thus he upbraids him, as Abraham, when he called the rich man in hell, son. He calls him friend, because he furthered his sufferings, and so befriended him; whereas, he called Peter Satan for attempting to hinder them.
[2.] He asks him, "Wherefore art thou come? Is it peace, Judas? Explain thyself; if thou come as an enemy, what means this kiss? If as a friend, what mean these swords and staves? Wherefore art thou come? What harm have I done thee? Wherein have I wearied thee? eph ho parei--Wherefore art thou present? Why hadst thou not so much shame left thee, as to keep out of sight, which thou mightest have done, and yet have given the officer notice where I was?" This was an instance of great impudence, for him to be so forward and barefaced in this wicked transaction. But it is usual for apostates from religion to be the most bitter enemies to it; witness Julian. Thus Judas did his part.
2. How the officers and soldiers secured him; Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him; they made him their prisoner. How were they not afraid to stretch forth their hands against the Lord's Anointed? We may well imagine what rude and cruel hands they were, which this barbarous multitude laid on Christ; and how, it is probable, they handled him the more roughly for their being so often disappointed when they sought to lay hands on him. They could not have taken him, if he had not surrendered himself, and been delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,Acts 2:23. He who said concerning his anointed servants, Touch them not, and do them no harm (Psalms 105:14; Psalms 105:15), spared not his anointed Son, but delivered him up for us all; and again, gave his strength into captivity, his glory into the enemies' hands,Psalms 78:61. See what was the complaint of Job (Matthew 16:11; Matthew 16:11), God hath delivered me to the ungodly, and apply that and other passages in that book of Job as a type of Christ.
Our Lord Jesus was made a prisoner, because he would in all things be treated as a malefactor, punished for our crime, and as a surety under arrest for our debt. The yoke of our transgressions was bound by the Father's hand upon the neck of the Lord Jesus, Lamentations 1:14. He became a prisoner, that he might set us at liberty; for he said, If ye seek me, let these go their way (John 18:8); and those are free indeed, whom he makes so.
3. How Peter fought for Christ, and was checked for his pains. It is here only said to be one of them that were with Jesus in the garden; but John 18:10, we are told that it was Peter who signalized himself upon this occasion. Observe,
(1.) Peter's rashness (Matthew 26:51; Matthew 26:51); He drew his sword. They had but two swords among them all (Luke 22:38), and one of them, it seems, fell to Peter's share; and now he thought it was time to draw it, and he laid about him as if he would have done some great matter; but all the execution he did was the cutting off an ear from a servant of the High Priest; designing, it is likely, to cleave him down the head, because he saw him more forward than the rest in laying hands on Christ, he missed his blow. But if he would be striking, in my mind he should rather have aimed at Judas, and have marked him for a rogue. Peter had talked much of what he would do for his Master, he would lay down his life for him; yea, that he would; and now he would be as good as his word, and venture his life to rescue his Master: and thus far was commendable, that he had a great zeal for Christ, and his honour and safety; but it was not according to knowledge, nor guided by discretion; for [1.] He did it without warrant; some of the disciples asked indeed, Shall we smite with the sword? (Luke 22:49) But Peter struck before they had an answer. We must see not only our cause good, but our call clear, before we draw the sword; we must show by what authority we do it, and who gave us that authority. [2.] He indiscreetly exposed himself and his fellow-disciples to the rage of the multitude; for what could they with two swords do against a band of men?
(2.) The rebuke which our Lord Jesus gave him (Matthew 26:52; Matthew 26:52); Put up again thy sword into its place. He does not command the officers and soldiers to put up their swords that were drawn against him, he left them to the judgment of God, who judges them that are without; but he commands Peter to put up his sword, does not chide him indeed for what he had done, because done out of good will, but stops the progress of his arms, and provides that it should not be drawn into a precedent. Christ's errand into the world was to make peace. Note, The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual; and Christ's ministers, though they are his soldiers, do not war after the flesh,2 Corinthians 10:3; 2 Corinthians 10:4. Not that the law of Christ overthrows either the law of nature of the law of nations, as far as those warrant subjects to stand up in defence of their civil rights and liberties, and their religion, when it is incorporated with them; but it provides for the preservation of public peace and order, by forbidding private persons, qua tales--as such, to resist the powers that are; nay, we have a general precept that we resist not evil (Matthew 5:39; Matthew 5:39), nor will Christ have his ministers propagate his religion by force of arms, Religio cogi non potest; et defendenda non occidendo, sed moriendo--Religion cannot be forced; and it should be defended, not by killing, but by dying. Lactantii Institut. As Christ forbade his disciples the sword of justice (Matthew 20:25; Matthew 20:26), so here the sword of war. Christ bade Peter put up his sword, and never bade him draw it again; yet that which Peter is here blamed for is his doing it unseasonably; the hour was come for Christ to suffer and die, he knew Peter knew it, the sword of the Lord was drawn against him (Zechariah 13:7), and for Peter to draw his sword for him, was like, Master, spare thyself.
Three reasons Christ give to Peter for this rebuke:
[1.] His drawing the sword would be dangerous to himself and to his fellow-disciples; They that take the sword, shall perish with the sword; they that use violence, fall by violence; and men hasten and increase their own troubles by blustering bloody methods of self-defence. They that take the sword before it is given them, that use it without warrant or call, expose themselves to the sword of war, or public justice. Had it not been for the special care and providence of the Lord Jesus, Peter and the rest of them had, for aught I know, been cut in pieces immediately. Grotius gives another, and a probable sense of this blow, making those that take the sword to be, not Peter, but the officers and soldiers that come with swords to take Christ; They shall perish with the sword. "Peter, thou needest not draw they sword to punish them. God will certainly, shortly, and severely, reckon with them." They took the Roman sword to seize Christ with, and by the Roman sword, not long after, they and their place and nation were destroyed. Therefore we must not avenge ourselves, because God will repay (Romans 12:19); and therefore we must suffer with faith and patience, because persecutors will be paid in their own coin. See Revelation 13:10.
[2.] It was needless for him to draw his sword in defence of his Master, how, if he pleased, could summon into his service all the hosts of heaven (Matthew 26:53; Matthew 26:53); "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall send from heaven effectual succours? Peter, if I would put by these sufferings, I could easily do it without thy hand or thy sword." Note, God has no need of us, of our services, much less of our sins, to bring about his purposes; and it argues our distrust and disbelief of the power of Christ, when we go out of the way of our duty to serve his interests. God can do his work without us; if we look into the heavens, and see how he is attended there, we may easily infer, that, though we be righteous, he is not beholden to us, Job 35:5; Job 35:7. Though Christ was crucified through weakness, it was a voluntary weakness; he submitted to death, not because he could not, but because he would not contend with it. This takes off the offence of the cross, and proves Christ crucified the power of God; even now in the depth of his sufferings he could call in the aid of legions of angels. Now, arti--yet; "Though the business is so far gone, I could yet with a word speaking turn the scale." Christ here lets us know,
First, What a great interest he had in his Father; I can pray to my Father, and he will send me help from the sanctuary. I can parakalesai--demand of my Father these succours. Christ prayer as one having authority. Note, It is a great comfort to God's people, when they are surrounded with enemies on all hands, that they have a way open heavenward; if they can do nothing else, they can pray to him that can do every thing. And they who are much in prayer at other times, have most comfort in praying when troublesome times come. Observe, Christ saith, not only that God could send him such a number of angels, but that, if he insisted upon it, he would do it. Though he had undertaken the work of our redemption, yet, if he had desired to be released, it should seem by this that the Father would not have held him to it. He might yet have gone out free from the service, but he loved it, and would not; so that it was only with the cords of his own love that he was bound to the altar.
Secondly, What a great interest he had in the heavenly hosts; He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels, amounting to above seventy-two thousand. Observe here, 1. There is an innumerable company of angels,Hebrews 12:2. A detachment of more than twelve legions might be spared for our service, and yet there would be no miss of them about the throne. See Daniel 7:10. They are marshalled in exact order, like the well-disciplined legions; not a confused multitude, but regular troops; all know their post, and observe the word of command. 2. This innumerable company of angels are all at the disposal of our heavenly Father, and do his pleasure, Psalms 103:20; Psalms 103:21. 3. These angelic hosts were ready to come in to the assistance of our Lord Jesus in his sufferings, if he had needed or desired it. See Hebrews 1:6; Hebrews 1:14. They would have been to him as they were to Elisha, chariots of fire, and horses of fire, not only to secure him, but to consume those that set upon him. 4. Our heavenly Father is to be eyed and acknowledged in all the services of the heavenly hosts; He shall give them me: therefore angels are not to be prayed to, but the Lord of the angels, Psalms 91:11. 5. It is matter of comfort to all that wish well to the kingdom of Christ, that there is a world of angels always at the service of the Lord Jesus, that can do wonders. He that has the armies of heaven at his beck, can do what he pleases among the inhabitants of the earth; He shall presently give them me. See how ready his Father was to hear his prayer, and how ready the angels were to observe his orders; they are willing servants, winged messengers, they fly swiftly. This is very encouraging to those that have the honour of Christ, and the welfare of his church, much at heart. Think they that they have more care and concern for Christ and his church, than God and the holy angels have?
[3.] It was no time to make any defence at all, or to offer to put by the stroke; For how then shall the scripture be fulfilled, that thus it must be?Matthew 26:54; Matthew 26:54. It was written, that Christ should be led as a lamb to the slaughter,Isaiah 53:7. Should he summon the angels to his assistance, he would not be led to the slaughter at all; should he permit his disciples to fight, he would not be led as a lamb quietly and without resistance; therefore he and his disciples must yield to the accomplishment of the predictions. Note, In all difficult cases, the word of God must be conclusive against our own counsels, and nothing must be done, nothing attempted, against the fulfilling of the scripture. If the easing of our pains, the breaking of our bonds, the saving of our lives, will not consist with the fulfilling of the scripture, we ought to say, "Let God's word and will take place, let his law be magnified and made honourable, whatever becomes of us." Thus Christ checked Peter, when he set up for his champion, and captain of his life-guard.
4. We are next told how Christ argued the case with them that came to take him (Matthew 26:55; Matthew 26:55); though he did not resist them, yet he did reason with them. Note, It will consist with Christian patience under our sufferings, calmly to expostulate with our enemies and persecutors, as David with Saul, 1 Samuel 24:14; 1 Samuel 26:18. Are ye come out, (1.) With rage and enmity, as against a thief, as if I were an enemy to the public safety, and deservedly suffered this? Thieves draw upon themselves the common odium; every one will lend a hand to stop a thief: and thus they fell upon Christ as the offscouring of all things. If he had been the plague of his country, he could not have been prosecuted with more heat and violence. (2.) With all this power and force, as against the worst of thieves, that dare the law, bid defiance to public justice, and add rebellion to their sin? You are come out as against a thief, with swords and staves, as if there were danger of resistance; whereas ye have killed the just One, and he doth not resist you,James 5:6. If he had not been willing to suffer, it was folly to come with swords and staves, for they could not conquer him; had he been minded to resist, he would have esteemed their iron as straw, and their swords and staves would have been as briars before a consuming fire; but, being willing to suffer, it was folly to come thus armed, for he would not contend with them.
He further expostulates with them, by reminding them how he had behaved himself hitherto toward them, and they toward him. [1.] Of his public appearance; I sat daily with you in the temple teaching. And, [2.] Of their public connivance; Ye laid no hold on me. How comes then this change? They were very unreasonable, in treating him as they did. First, He had given them no occasion to look upon him as a thief, for he had taught in the temple. And such were the matter, and such the manner of his teaching, that he was manifested in the consciences of all that heard him, not to be a bad man. Such gracious words as came from his mouth, were not the words of a thief, nor of one that had a devil. Secondly, Nor had he given them occasion to look upon him as one that absconded, or fled from justice, that they should come in the night to seize him; if they had any thing to say to him, they might find him every day in the temple, ready to answer all challenges, all charges, and there they might do as they pleased with him; for the chief priests had the custody of the temple, and the command of the guards about it; but to come upon him thus clandestinely, in the place of his retirement, was base and cowardly. Thus the greatest hero may be villainously assassinated in a corner, by one that in open field would tremble to look him in the face.
But all this was done (so it follows, Matthew 26:56; Matthew 26:56) that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. It is hard to say, whether these are the words of the sacred historian, as a comment upon this story, and a direction to the Christian reader to compare it with the scriptures of the Old Testament, which pointed at it; or, whether they are the words of Christ himself, as a reason why, though he could not but resent this base treatment, he yet submitted to it, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled, to which he had just now referred himself, Matthew 26:54; Matthew 26:54. Note, The scripture are in the fulfilling every day; and all those scriptures which speak of the Messiah, had their full accomplishment in our Lord Jesus.
5. How he was, in the midst of this distress, shamefully deserted by his disciples; They all forsook him, and fled,Matthew 26:56; Matthew 26:56.
(1.) This was their sin; and it was a great sin for them who had left all to follow him, now to leave him for they knew not what. There was unkindness in it, considering the relation they stood in to him, the favours they had received from him, and the melancholy circumstances he was now in. There was unfaithfulness in it, for they had solemnly promised to adhere to him, and never to forsake him. He had indented for their safe conduct (John 18:8); yet they could not rely upon that, but shifted for themselves by an inglorious flight. What folly was this, for fear of death to flee from him whom they themselves knew and had acknowledged to be the Fountain of life?John 6:67; John 6:68. Lord, what is man!
(2.) It was a part of Christ's suffering, it added affliction to his bonds, to be thus deserted, as it did to Job (Matthew 19:13; Matthew 19:13), He hath put my brethren far from me; and to David (Psalms 38:11), Lovers and friends stand aloof from my sore. They should have staid with him, to minister to him, to countenance him, and, if need were, to be witnesses for him at his trial; but they treacherously deserted him, as, at St. Paul's first answer, no man stood with him. But there was a mystery in this. [1.] Christ, as a sacrifice for sins, stood thus abandoned. The deer that by the keeper's arrow is marked out to be hunted and run down, is immediately deserted by the whole herd. In this he was made a curse for us, being left as one separated to evil. [2.] Christ, as the Saviour of souls, stood thus alone; as he needed not, so he had not the assistance of any other in working out our salvation; he bore all, and did all himself. He trod the wine-press alone, and when there was none to uphold, then his own arm wrought salvation,Isaiah 63:3; Isaiah 63:5. So the Lord alone did lead his Israel, and they stand still, and only see this great salvation,Deuteronomy 32:12.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Matthew 26:52". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/matthew-26.html. 1706.
We now enter on the Lord's final presentation of Himself to Jerusalem, traced, however, from Jericho; that is, from the city which had once been the stronghold of the power of the Canaanite. The Lord Jesus presenting Himself in grace, instead of sealing up the curse which had been pronounced on it, makes it contrariwise the witness of His mercy towards those who believed in Israel. It was there that two blind men (for Matthew, we have seen, abounds in this double token of the Lord's grace), sitting by the wayside, cried out, and most appropriately, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David!" They were led and taught of God. It was no question of law, yet strictly in His capacity of Messiah. Their appeal was in thorough keeping with the scene; they felt that the nation had no sense of its own blindness, and so addressed themselves at once to the Lord thus presenting Himself where divine power wrought of old. It is remarkable that, although there had been signs and wonders given from time to time in Israel, miraculous cures wrought, dead even raised to life, and leprosy cleansed, yet never, previously to the Messiah, do we hear of restoring the blind to sight. The Rabbis held that this was reserved for the Messiah; and certainly I am not aware of any case which contradicts their notion. They appear to have founded it upon the remarkable prophecy of Isaiah. (Isaiah 35:1-10) I do not affirm that the prophecy proves their notion to be true in isolating that miracle from the rest; but it is evident that the Spirit of God does connect emphatically the opening of blind eyes with the Son of David, as part of the blessing that He will surely diffuse when He comes to reign over the earth.
What appears further here is, that Jesus does not put the blessing off till His reign. Undoubtedly, the Lord in those days was giving signs and tokens of the world to come; and it was continued by His servants afterwards, as we know from the end of Mark, the Acts, etc. The miraculous powers which He exercised were samples of the power which would fill the earth with Jehovah's glory, casting out the enemy, and effacing the traces of his power, and making it the theatre of the manifestation of His kingdom here below. Thus our Lord gives evidence that the power was in Himself already, so that they need not lack because the kingdom was not yet come, in the full, manifest sense of the word. The kingdom was then come in His own person, as is said by Matthew (Matthew 12:1-50) as well as Luke. Still less did the blessing tarry for the sons of men. Virtue went forth at His kingly touch: this, at least, did not depend on the recognition of His claims by His people. He takes up this sign of Messiah's grace the opening of the eyes of the blind, itself no mean sign of the true condition of the Jews, could they but feel and own the truth. Alas! they sought not mercy and healing at His hands; but if there were any to call on Him at Jericho, the Lord would hearken. Here, then, Messiah answers to the cry of faith of these two blind men. When the multitude rebuked them, that they should hold their peace, they cried the more. The difficulties presented to faith only increased the energy of its desire; and so they cried, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David!" Jesus stands, calls the blind men, and says, "What will ye that I should do?" "Lord, that our eyes should be opened." And so it was according to their faith. Moreover, it is noted that .they follow Him, the pledge of what will be done when the people, by-and-by owning their blindness, and turning to Him for eyes, receive sight from the true Son of David to see Himself in the day of His earthly glory.
Matthew 21:1-46. The Lord thereon enters Jerusalem according to prophecy. He enters it, however, not in the outward pomp and glory which the nations seek after, but according to what the prophet's words now made good literally: Jehovah's King sitting on an ass in the spirit of humiliation. But even in this very thing, the fullest proof was afforded that He was Jehovah Himself. From first to last, as we have seen, it was Jehovah-Messiah. The word to the owner of the ass and colt was, "The Lord hath need of them." Accordingly, on this plea of Jehovah of hosts, all difficulties disappear, though unbelief finds there its stumbling-block. It was indeed the power of the Spirit of God that controlled his heart; even as to Christ "the porter opened." God left nothing undone on any side, but so ordered that the heart of this Israelite should yield a testimony that grace was at work, spite of the lamentable chill that stupefied the people. How good it is thus to raise up a witness, never indeed to leave it absolutely lacking, not even on the road to Jerusalem alas! the road to the cross of Christ. This, as we are told by the evangelist, came to pass that the word of the prophet should be fulfilled: "Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek [for such meekness was the character of His presentation as yet], and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass." All must be in character with the Nazarene. Accordingly, the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded. The multitudes, too, were acted on a very great multitude. It was, of course, but a transient action, yet was it of God for a testimony, this moving of hearts by the Spirit. Not that it penetrated beneath the surface, but was rather a wave that passed over men's hearts, and then was gone. For the moment they followed, crying, "Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!" (applying to the Lord the congratulations of Psalms 118:1-29)
Jesus, according to our evangelist's account, comes to the temple and cleanses it. Remark the order as well as character of the events. In Mark this is not the first act which is recorded, but the curse on the barren fig tree, between His inspection of all things in the temple and His ejection of those who profaned it. The fact is, there were two days or occasions in which the fig tree comes before us, according to the gospel of Mark, who gives us the details more particularly than any one, notwithstanding his brevity. Matthew, on the contrary, while he is so careful in furnishing us frequently with a double witness of the Lord's gracious ways toward His land and people, gives only as one whole His dealing with both the fig tree and the temple. We should not know from the first evangelist of any interval in either case; nor could we learn from either the first or the third but that the cleansing of the temple occurred on His earlier visit. But we know from Mark, who sets forth an exact account of each of the two days, that in neither case was all done at once. This is the more remarkable because, in the instances of the two demoniacs, or the two blind men in Matthew, Mark, like Luke, speaks only of one. Nothing can account for such phenomena but design; and the more so as there is no ground to assume that each succeeding evangelist was kept in ignorance of his predecessor's account of our Lord. It is evident that Matthew compresses in one the two acts about the temple, as well as about the fig tree. His scope excluded such details, and, I am persuaded, rightly so, according to the mind of God's Spirit. It may render it all the more striking when one observes that Matthew was there, and Mark was not. He who actually saw these transactions, and who therefore, had he been a mere acting human witness, would peculiarly have dwelt on them; he, too, who had been a personal companion of the Lord, and therefore, had it been only a question of treasuring all up as one that loved the Lord, would, naturally speaking, have been the one of the three to have presented the amplest and minutest picture of the circumstance, is just the one who does nothing of the kind. Mark, as confessedly not being an eye-witness, might have been supposed to content himself with the general view. The reverse is the fact unquestionably. This is a notable feature, and not here alone, but elsewhere also. To me it proves that the gospels are the fruit of divine purpose in all, distinctively in each. It establishes the principle that, while God condescended to employ eye-witness, He never confined Himself to it, but, on the contrary, took full and particular care to shew that He is above all creature means of information. Thus it is in Mark and Luke we find some of the most important details; not in Matthew and John, though Matthew and John were eyewitnesses, Mark and Luke not. A double proof of this appears in what has been just advanced. To Matthew, acting according to what was given him of the Spirit, there was no sufficient reason to enter into points which did not bear dispensationally upon Israel. He therefore, as often elsewhere, presents the entrance into the temple in its completeness, as being the sole matter important to his aim. Any thoughtful mind must allow, if I do not greatly err, that entrance into detail would rather detract from the augustness of the act. The minute account has its just place, on the other hand, if it be a question of the Lord's method and bearing in His service and testimony. Here I want to know the particulars; there every trace and shade are full of instruction to me. If I have to serve Him, I do well to learn and ponder His every word and way; and in this the style and mode of Mark's gospel is invaluable. Who but feels that the movements, the pauses, the sighs, the groans, the very looks of the Lord, are fraught with blessing to the soul? But if, as with Matthew, the object be the great change of dispensation consequent on the rejection of the divine Messiah, (particularly if the point, as here, be not the opening out of coming mercy, but, on the contrary, a solemn and a stern judgment on Israel,) the Spirit of God contents Himself with a general notice of the painful scene, without indulging in any circumstantial account of it.
To this it is I attribute the palpable difference in this place of Matthew as compared with Mark, and with Luke also, who omits the cursed fig tree altogether, and gives the barest mention of the temple's cleansing (Matt. 19: 45). The notion of some men, especially a few men of learning, that the difference is due to ignorance on the part of one or other or all the evangelists, is of all explanations the worst, and even the least reasonable (to take the lowest ground); it is in plain truth the proof of their own ignorance, and the effect of positive unbelief. What I have ventured to suggest I believe to be a motive, and an adequate motive, for the difference; but we must remember that divine wisdom has depths of aim infinitely beyond our ability to sound. God may be pleased to vouchsafe us a perception of what is in His mind, if we be lowly, and diligent., and dependent on Him; or He may leave us ignorant of much, where we are careless or self-confident; but sure I am that the very points men ordinarily fix on as blots or imperfections in the inspired word are, when understood, among the strongest proofs of the admirable guidance of the Holy Spirit of God. Nor do I speak with such assurance because of the least satisfaction in any attainments, but because every lesson I have learnt and do learn from God's word brings with it the ever accumulating conviction that Scripture is perfect. For the question in hand, it is enough to produce sufficient evidence that it was not in ignorance, but with full knowledge, that Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote as they have done; I go farther, and say it was divine intention, rather than, as I conceive, any determinate plan of each evangelist, who may not himself have had before his mind the full scope of what the Holy Ghost gave him to write about it. There is no necessity to suppose that Matthew deliberately designed the result which we have in his gospel. How God brought it all to pass is another question, which, of course, it is not for us to answer. But the fact is, that the evangelist, who was present, he who consequently was an eyewitness of the details, does not give them; while one who was not there states them with the greatest particularity thoroughly harmonious with the account of him who was there, but, nevertheless, with differences as marked as their mutual corroborations. If we might rightly use, in this case, the word "originality," then originality is stamped upon the account of the second. I affirm, then, in the strictest sense, that divine design is stamped upon each, and that consistency of purpose is found everywhere in all the gospels.
The Lord then goes straight to the sanctuary. The kingly Son of David, destined to sit as the Priest upon His throne, the head of all things sacred as well as pertaining to the polity of Israel, we can understand why Matthew should describe such an One visiting the temple of Jerusalem; and why, instead of stopping, like Mark, to narrate that which attests His patient service, the whole scene should be given here without a break. We have seen that a similar principle accounts for the massing of the facts of His ministry in the end of the fourth chapter, and also for giving as a continuous whole the Sermon on the Mount, although, if we enquired into details, we might find many and considerable intervals; for, as undoubtedly those facts were grouped, so I believe also it was between the parts of that sermon. It fell in, however, with the object of Matthew's gospel to pass by all notice of these interstices, and so the Spirit of God has been pleased to interweave the whole into the beautiful web of the first gospel. In this way, as I believe, we may and should account for the difference between Matthew and Mark in this particular, without in the smallest degree casting the shadow of an imperfection upon one any more than on the other; while the fact, already pressed, that eye-witnessing, while employed as a servant, is never allowed to govern in the composition of the gospels, bespeaks loudly that men forget their true Author in searching into the writers He employed, and that the only key to all difficulties is the simple but weighty truth that it was God communicating His mind about Jesus, as by Matthew so by Mark.
Next, the Lord acts upon the word. He finds men selling and buying in the temple (that is, in its buildings) overthrows their tables, and turns out themselves, pronouncing the words of the prophets, both Isaiah and Jeremiah. But at the same time there is another trait noted here only: the blind and the lame (the "hated of David's soul,"2 Samuel 5:8; 2 Samuel 5:8) the pitied of David's greater Son and Lord) find a friend instead of an enemy in Him who loved them, the true beloved of God. Thus, at the very time He showed His hatred and righteous indignation at the covetous profaning of the temple, His love was flowing out to the desolate in Israel. Then we see the chief priests and scribes offended at the cries of the multitude and children, and turning reproachfully to the Lord, who allowed such a right royal welcome to be addressed to Him; but the Lord calmly takes His place according to the sure word of God. It is not now Deuteronomy that is before Him ( that He had quoted when tempted of Satan at the beginning of His career). But now, as they had borrowed the words of Psalms 118:1-29 (and who will say they were wrong?), so the Lord Jesus (and I say He was infinitely right) applies to them, as well as to Himself, the language ofPsalms 8:1-9; Psalms 8:1-9. Its central truth is the entrance of the rejected Messiah, the Son of man by humiliation and suffering unto death, into heavenly glory and dominion over all things. And this was just the point before the Lord: the little ones were thus in the truth and spirit of that oracle. They were sucklings, out of whose mouth praise was ordained for the despised Messiah soon to be in heaven, exalted there and preached here as the once crucified and now glorified Son of man. What could be more appropriate to that time, what more profoundly true for all time, yea, for eternity?
Matthew, as we have seen, crowds into one scene all mention of the barren fig tree (ver. 18-22), without distinguishing the curse of the one day from the manifestation of its accomplishment on the day following. Was it without moral import? Impossible. Did it convey the notion of a hearty and true reception of the Messiah, with fruits meet for His hand who had so long tended it, and failed in no care or culture? Was there anything answering to the welcome of the little ones who cried Hosanna, the type of what grace will effect in the day of His return, when the nation itself will contentedly, thankfully take the place of babes and sucklings, and find their best wisdom in so owning the One whom their fathers rejected, the man thereon exalted to heaven during the night of His people's unbelief? Meanwhile, another picture better suits them, the state and the doom of the fruitless fig tree. Why so scornful of the jubilant multitude, of the joyous babes? What was their condition before the eyes of Him who saw all that passed within their minds? They were no better than that fig tree, that solitary fig tree which met the Lord's eyes as He comes from Bethany, entering once more into Jerusalem. Like it, they, too, were full of promise; like its abundant foliage, they lacked not fair profession, but there was no fruit. That which made its barrenness evident was the fact that it was not yet the time of figs. Therefore, the unripe figs, the harbinger of harvest, ought to have been there. Had the season of figs been come, the fruit might have been already gathered; but that season having not yet arrived, beyond controversy the promise of the coming harvest should, and indeed must, have been still there, had any fruit been really borne. This, therefore, represented too truly what the Jew, what the nation, was in the eye of the Lord. He had come seeking fruit; but there was none; and the Lord pronounced this curse, "Henceforth let no fruit grow on thee for ever." And so it is. No fruit ever sprang from that generation. Another generation there must be; a total change must be wrought if there is to be fruit-bearing. Fruit of righteousness can only be through Jesus to God's glory; and Jesus they yet despised. Not that the Lord will give up Israel, but He will create a generation to come wholly different from the present Christ-rejecting one. Such an issue will be seen to be implied, if we compare our Lord's curse with the rest of the word of God, which points to better things yet in store for Israel.
But He adds more than this. It was not only that the Israel of that day should thus pass away, giving place to another generation, who, honouring the Messiah, will bear fruit to God; He tells the wondering disciples that, had they faith, the mountain would be cast into the sea. This appears to go farther than the disappearance of Israel as responsible to be a fruit-bearing people; it implies their whole polity dissolved; for the mountain is just as much the symbol of a power in the earth, an established world-power, as the fig tree is the special sign of Israel as responsible to produce' fruit for God; and it is clear that both figures have been abundantly verified. For the time Israel is passed away. After no long interval, the disciples saw Jerusalem not only taken, but completely torn as it were from the roots. The Romans came, as the executioners of the sentence of God (according to the just forebodings of the unjust high priest Caiaphas, who prophesied not without the Holy Ghost), and took away their place and nation, not because they did not, but because they did, kill Jesus their Messiah. Notoriously this total ruin of the Jewish state came to pass when the disciples had grown up to be 'a public witness to the world, before the apostles were all taken away from the earth; then their whole national polity sunk and disappeared when Titus sacked Jerusalem, and sold and scattered the people to the ends of the earth. I have no doubt that the Lord intended us to know the uprooting of the mountain just as much as the withering of the fig tree. The latter may be the simpler application of the two, and evidently more familiar to ordinary thought; but there seems no real reason to question, that if the one be meant symbolically, so too is the other. However this may be, these words of the Lord close that part of the subject.
We enter upon a new series in the rest of this chapter and the next. The religious rulers come before the Lord to put the first question that ever enters the minds of such men, "By what authority doest thou these things?" Nothing is more easily asked by those who assume that their own title is unimpeachable. Our Lord answers them by another question, which soon disclosed how thoroughly they themselves, in what was incomparably more serious, failed in moral competence. Who were they, to raise the question of His authority? As guides of religion, surely they ought to be able to decide that which was of the deepest consequence for their own souls, and for those of whom they assumed the spiritual charge. The question He puts involved indeed the answer to theirs; for had they answered Him in truth, this would have decided at once by what, and by whose, authority He acted as He did. "The baptism of John, whence was it (asks the Lord), from heaven, or of men?" There was no singleness of purpose, there was no fear of God, in these men so full of swelling words and fancied authority. Accordingly, instead of its being an answer from conscience declaring the truth as it was, they reason solely how to escape from the dilemma. The only question before their minds was, what answer would be politic? how best to get rid of the difficulty? Vain hope with Jesus! The base conclusion to which they were reduced is, "We cannot tell." It was a falsehood: but what of that, where the interests of religion and their own order were concerned? Without a blush, then, they answer the Saviour, "We cannot tell;" and the Lord with calm dignity strikes home His answer not, "I cannot tell," but, "Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things." Jesus knew and laid bare the secret springs of the heart; and the Spirit of God records it here for our instruction. It is the genuine universal type of worldly leaders of religion in conflict with the power of God. "If we shall say, From heaven, he will say unto us, Why did ye not, then, believe him? But if we shall say, Of men, we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet." If they owned John, they must bow to the authority of Jesus; if they rejected John, they feared the people. They were thus put to silence; for they would not risk loss of influence with the people, and they were determined at all cost to deny the authority of Jesus. All they cared about was themselves.
The Lord goes on and meets parabolically a wider question than that of the rulers, gradually enlarging the scope, till He terminates these instructions inMatthew 22:14; Matthew 22:14. First, He takes up sinful men where natural conscience works, and where conscience is gone. This is peculiar to Matthew: "A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went." He comes to the second, who was all complacency, and answers to the call, "I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto Him, The first. Jesus saith unto them [such is the application], Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him." (Matthew 21:28-32.) But He was not content with merely thus touching conscience in a way that was painful enough to the flesh; for they found that, spite of authority or anything else, those who professed most, if disobedient, were counted worse than the most depraved, who repented and did the will of God.
Next, our Lord looks at the entire people, and this from the commencement of their relations with God. In other words, He gives us in this parable the history of God's dealings with them. It was in no, way, so to speak, the accidental circumstance of how they behaved in one particular generation. The Lord sets out clearly what they had been all along, and what they were then. In the parable of the vineyard, they are tested as responsible in view of the claims of God, who had blessed them from the first with exceeding rich privileges. Then, in the parable of the marriage of the king's son, we see what they were, as tested by the grace or gospel of God. These are the two subjects of the parables following.
The householder, who lets out his vineyard to husbandmen, sets forth God trying the Jew, on the ground of blessings abundantly conferred upon him. Accordingly we have, first, servants sent, and then more, not only in vain, but with insult and increase of wrong. Then, at length, He sends His Son, saying, They will reverence my Son. This gives occasion for their crowning sin the utter rejection of all divine claims, in the death of the Son and Heir; for "they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him." "When the lord therefore of the vineyard comes," He asks, "what will he do unto these husbandmen?" They say unto Him, "He will miserably destroy these wicked men, and let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons."
The Lord accordingly pronounces according to the Scriptures, not leaving it merely to the answer of the conscience, "Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?" Then He applies further this prediction about the stone, connecting, it would appear, the allusion inPsalms 118:1-29; Psalms 118:1-29 with the prophecy ofDaniel 2:1-49; Daniel 2:1-49. The principle at least is applied to the case in hand, and, I need hardly say, with perfect truth and beauty; for in that day apostate Jews will be judged and destroyed, as well as Gentile powers. In two positions the stone was to be found. The one is here on the earth the humiliation, to wit, of the Messiah. Upon that Stone, thus humbled, unbelief trips and falls. But, again, when the Stone is exalted, another issue follows; for" the Stone of Israel," the glorified Son of man, shall descend in unsparing judgment, and crush His enemies together. When the chief priests and Pharisees had heard His parables, they perceived that He spake of them.
The Lord, however, turns in the next parable to the call of grace. It is a likeness of the kingdom of heaven. Here we are on new ground. It is striking to see this parable introduced here. In the gospel of Luke there is a similar one, though it might be too much to affirm that it is the same. Certainly an analogous parable is found, but in a totally different connection. Besides, Matthew adds various particulars peculiar to himself, and quite falling in with the Spirit's desire by him; as we find also in Luke his own characteristics. Thus, in Luke, there is a remarkable display of grace and love to the despised poor in Israel; then, further, that love enlarging its sphere, and going out to the highways and hedges to bring in the poor that were there the poor in the city the poor everywhere. I need not say how thoroughly in character all this is. Here, in Matthew, we have not only God's grace, but a kind of history, very strikingly embracing the destruction of Jerusalem, on which Luke is here silent. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king which made a marriage for his son." It is not merely a man making a feast for those that have nothing that we have fully in Luke; but here rather the king bent upon the glorification of his son. "He sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again he sent forth other servants, saving, Tell them which were bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage." There are two missions of the servants of the Lord here: one during His lifetime; the other after His death. On the second mission, not the first, it is said, "All things are ready." The message is, as ever, despised. "They made light of it, and went their ways." It was the second time when there was this most ample invitation which left no excuse for man, that they not only would not come, going one to his farm, and another to his merchandize, but "the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully and slew them," This was not the character of the reception given to the apostles during our Lord's lifetime, but exactly what transpired after His death. Thereupon, though in marvellous patience the blow was suspended for years, nevertheless judgment came at last. "When the king heard thereof, he was wroth, and sent forth his armies and destroyed those murderers, and burnt up their city." This, of course, closes this part of the parable as predicting a providential dealing of God; but, besides being thus judicial after a sort to which we find nothing parallel in the gospel of Luke ( i.e., in what answers to it), as usual, the great change of dispensation is shown in Matthew much more distinctly than in Luke.
There it is rather the idea of grace that began with one sending out to those invited, and a very full exposure of their excuses in a moral point of view, followed by the second mission to the streets and lanes of the city, for the poor, maimed, halt, and blind; and finally, to the highways and hedges, compelling them to come in that the house might be filled. In Matthew it is very much more in a dispensational aspect; and hence the dealings with the Jews, both in mercy and judgment, are first given as a whole, according to that manner of his which furnishes a complete sketch at one stroke, so to speak. It is the more manifest here, because none can deny that the mission to the Gentiles was long before the destruction of Jerusalem. Next is appended the Gentile part to itself. "Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests." But there is a further thing brought out here, in a very distinctive manner. In Luke, we have no judgment pronounced and executed at the end upon him that came to the wedding without the due garment. In Matthew, as we saw the providential dealing with the Jews, so we find the closing scene very particularly described, when the king judges individually in the day that is coming. It is not an external or national stroke, though that too we have here a providential event in connection with Israel. Quite different, but consistent with that, we have a personal appraisal by God of the Gentile profession, of those now bearing Christ's name, but who have not really put on Christ. Such is the conclusion of the parable: nothing more appropriate at the same time than this picture, peculiar to Matthew, who depicts the vast chance at hand for the Gentiles, and God's dealing with them individually for their abuse of His grace. The parable illustrates the coming change of dispensation. Now this falls in with Matthew's design, rather than Luke's, with whom we shall find habitually it is a question of moral features, which the Lord may give opportunity of exhibiting at another time.
After this come the various classes of Jews the Pharisees first of all, and, strange consorts! the Herodians. Ordinarily they were, as men say, natural enemies. The Pharisees were the high ecclesiastical party; the Herodians, on the contrary, were the low worldly courtier party: those, the strong sticklers for tradition and righteousness according to the law; these, the panderers to the powers that then were for whatever could be got in the earth. Such allies now joined hypocritically against the Lord. The Lord meets them with that wisdom which always shines in His words and ways. They demand whether it be lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not. "Show me," says He, "the tribute money . . . . . And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." Thus the Lord deals with the facts as they then came before Him. The piece of money they produced proved their subjection to the Gentiles. It was their sin which had put them there. They writhed under their masters; but still under alien masters they were; and it was because of their sin. The Lord confronts them not only with the undeniable witness of their subjection to the Romans, but also with a graver charge still, which they had entirely overlooked the claims of God, as well as of Caesar. "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's." The money you love proclaims that you are slaves to Caesar. Pay, then, to Caesar his dues. But forget not to "render to God the things that are God's." The fact was, they hated Caesar only less than they hated the true God. The Lord left them therefore under the reflections and confusion of their own guilty consciences.
Next, the Lord is assailed by another great party. "The same day came to him the Sadducees" those most opposed to the Pharisees in doctrine, as the Herodians were in politics. The Sadducees denied resurrection, and put a case which to their mind involved insuperable difficulties. To whom would belong in that state a woman who here had been married to seven brethren successively? The Lord does not cite the clearest Scripture about the resurrection; He does what in the circumstances is much better; He appeals to what they themselves professed most of all to revere. To the Sadducee there was no part of Scripture possessed of such authority as the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses. From Moses, then, He proved the resurrection; and this in the simplest possible way. Every one their own conscience must allow that God is the God, not of the dead, but of the living. Therefore, if God calls Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it is not an unmeaning thing. Referring long afterwards to their fathers who were passed away, He speaks of Himself as in relationship with them. Were they not, then, dead? But was all gone? Not so. But far more than that, He speaks as one who not merely had relations with them, but had made promises to them, which never yet were accomplished. Either, then, God must raise them from the dead, in order to make good His promises to the fathers; or He could not be careful to keep His promises. Was this last what their faith in God, or rather their want of faith, came to? To deny resurrection is, therefore, to deny the promises, and God's faithfulness, and in truth God Himself. The Lord, therefore, rebukes them on this acknowledged principle, that God was the God of the living, not of the dead. To make Him God of the dead would have been really to deny Him to be God at all: equally so to make His promises of no value or stability. God, therefore, must raise again the fathers in order to fulfil His promise to them; for they certainly never got the promises in this life. The folly of their thoughts too was manifest in this, that the difficulty presented was wholly unreal it only existed in their imagination. Marriage has nothing to do with the risen state: there they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. Thus, on their own negative ground of objection, they were altogether in error. Positively, as we have seen, they were just as wrong; for God must raise the dead to make good His own promises. There is nothing now in this world that worthily witnesses God, save only that which is known to faith; but if you speak of the display of God, and the manifestation of His power, you must wait until the resurrection. The Sadducees had not faith, and hence were in total error and blindness: "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God." Therefore it was that, refusing to believe, they were unable to understand. When the resurrection comes, it will be manifest to every eye. Accordingly this was the point of our Lord's answer; and the multitudes were astonished at His doctrine.
Though the Pharisees were not sorry to find the then ruling party, the Sadducees, put to silence, one of them, a lawyer, tempted the Lord in a question of near interest to them. "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" But He who came full of grace and truth never lowered the law, and at once gives its sum and substance in both its parts Godward and manward.
The time, however, was come for Jesus to put His question, drawn fromPsalms 110:1-7; Psalms 110:1-7. If Christ be confessedly David's Son, how does David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, "Jehovah said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?" The whole truth of His position lies here. It was about to be realized; and the Lord can speak of the things that were not as though they were. Such was the language of David the king in words inspired of the Holy Ghost. What was the language, the thought of the people now, and by whom inspired? Alas! Pharisees, lawyers, Sadducees it was only a question of infidelity in varying forms; and the glory of David's Lord was even more momentous than the dead rising according to promise. Believe it or not, the Messiah was about to take His seat at the right hand of Jehovah. They were indeed, they are critical questions: If the Christ be David's Son, how is He David's Lord? If He be David's Lord, how is He David's Son? It is the turning point of unbelief at all times, now as then, the continual theme of the testimony of the Holy Ghost, the habitual stumbling-block of man, never so vain as when he would be wisest, and either essay to sound by his own wit the unfathomable mystery of Christ's person, or deny that there is in it any mystery whatever. It was the very point of Jewish unbelief It was the grand capital truth of all this gospel of Matthew, that He who was the Son of David, the Son of Abraham, was really Emmanuel, and Jehovah. It had been proved at His birth, proved throughout His ministry in Galilee, proved now at His last presentation in Jerusalem. "And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions." Such was their position in presence of Him who was so soon about to take His seat at the right hand of God; and there each remains to this day. Awful, unbelieving silence of Israel despising their own law, despising their own Messiah, David's Son and David's Lord, His glory their shame!
But if man was silent, it was the Lord's place not merely to question but to pronounce; and in Matthew 23:1-39 most solemnly does the Lord utter His sentence upon Israel. It was an address both to the multitude and to the disciples, with woes for Scribes and Pharisees. The Lord fully sanctioned that kind of mingled address for the time, providing, it would appear, not merely for the disciples, but for the remnant in a future day who will have this ambiguous place; believers in Him, on the one hand, yet withal filled, on the. other, with Jewish hopes and Jewish associations. This seems to me the reason why our Lord speaks in a manner so remarkably different from that which obtains ordinarily in Scripture. "The scribes," He says, "and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. All, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen of men." The principle fully applied then, as it will in the latter day; the Church scene coming in meanwhile as a parenthesis. The suitability of such instruction to this gospel of Matthew is also obvious, as indeed here only it is found. Then, again, our souls would shrink from the notion, that what our Lord taught could have merely a passing application. Not so; it has a permanent value for His followers; save only that the special privileges conferred on the Church, which is His body, modify the case, and, concurrently with this, the setting aside meanwhile of the Jewish people and state of things. But as these words applied literally then, so I conceive will it be at a future day. If this be so, it preserves the dignity of the Lord, as the great Prophet and Teacher, in its true place. In the last book of the New Testament we have a similar combination of features, when the Church will have disappeared from the earth; that is, the keeping the commandments of God and having the faith of Jesus. So here, the disciples of Jesus are exhorted to heed what was enjoined by those who sat in Moses' seat to follow what they taught, not what they did. So far as they brought out God's commandments, it was obligatory. But their practice was to be a beacon, not a guide. Their objects were to be seen of men, pride of place, honour in public and private, high-sounding titles, in open contradiction of Christ and that oft-repeated word of His "Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall bumble himself shall be exalted." Yet, of course, the disciples had the faith of Jesus.
Next the Lord* launches out woe after woe against the Scribes and Pharisees. They were hypocrites. They shut out the new light of God, while zealous beyond measure for their own thoughts; they undermined conscience by their casuistry, while insisting on the minutest alliteration in ceremonializing; they laboured after external cleanness, while full of rapine and intemperance; and if they could only seem righteously fair without, feared not within to be full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Finally, their monuments in honour of slain prophets and past worthies were rather a testimony to their own relationship, not to the righteous, but to those who murdered them. Their fathers killed the witnesses of God who, while living, condemned them; they, the sons, only built to their memory when there was no longer a present testimony to their conscience, and their sepulchral honours would cast a halo around themselves.
*The most ancient text, represented by the Vatican, Sinai, Beza's Cambridge, L. of Paris (C. being defective, as well as the Alexandrian), and the Rescript of Dublin, omits verse 14, which may have been foisted in from Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47. This leaves the complete series of seven woes.
Such is worldly religion and its heads: the great obstructions to divine knowledge, instead of living only to be its channels of communication; narrow, where they should have been large; cold and lukewarm for God, earnest only for self; daring sophists, where divine obligations lay deep, and punctilious pettifoggers in the smallest details, straining at the gnat and swallowing the camel; anxious only for the outside, reckless as to all that lay concealed underneath. The honour they paid those who had suffered in times past was the proof that they succeeded not them but their enemies, the true legitimate successors of those that slew the friends of God. The successors of those that of old suffered for God are those who suffer now; the heirs of their persecutors may build them sepulchres, erect statues, cast monumental brasses, pay them any conceivable honour. When there is no longer the testimony of God that pierces the obdurate heart, when they who render it are no longer there, the names of these departed saints or prophets become a means of gaining religious reputation for themselves. Present application of the truth is lacking, the sword of the Spirit is no longer in the hands of those who wielded it so well To honour those who have passed away is the cheapest means, on the contrary, for acquiring credit for the men of this generation. It is to swell the great capital of tradition out of those that once served God, but are now gone, whose testimony, is no longer a sting to the guilty. Thus it is evident, that as their honour begins in death, so it bears the sure stamp of death upon it. Did they plume themselves on the progress of the age? Did they think and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets? How little they knew their own hearts! Their trial was at hand. Their real character would soon appear, hypocrites though they were, and a serpent brood: how could they escape the judgment of hell?
"Wherefore, behold," says He, after thus exposing and denouncing them, "I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city." It is most eminently a Jewish character and circumstance of persecution; as the aim was the retributive one, "that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel, unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily, I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation." Yet, just as the blessed Lord, after pronouncing woes on Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, that had rejected His words and works, turned at once to the infinite resources of grace, and from the depth of His own glory brought in the secret of better things to the poor and needy; so it was that even at this time, just before He gave utterance to these woes (so solemn and fatal to the proud religious guides of Israel), He had, as we know from Luke 19:1-48, wept over the guilty city, out of which, as His servants, so their Lord could not perish. Here, again, how truly was His heart towards them! "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." It is not "I have," but your house is left unto you desolate; "for I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth [what bitterness of destitution theirs Messiah, Jehovah Himself, rejecting those who rejected Him!] till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."
Thus we have had our Lord presenting Himself as Jehovah the King; we have had the various classes putting themselves forward to judge Him, but, in fact, judged themselves by Him, There remains another scene of great interest, linking itself on to His farewell to the nation just noticed. It is His last communication to the disciples in view of the future; and this Matthew gives in a very full and rich manner. It would be vain to attempt an exposition of this prophetic discourse within my assigned limits. I will, therefore, but skim its surface now, just enough to indicate its outlines, and specially its distinctive features. It is evident that the greater completeness here exhibited beyond what appears in any other gospel is according to special design. In the gospel given by the other apostle, John, there is not a word of it. Mark gives his report very particularly in connection with the testimony of God, as I hope to show when we come to that point. In Luke there is peculiar distinctness in noticing the Gentiles, and their times of supremacy during the long period of Israel's degradation. Again, it is only in Matthew that we find direct allusion to the question of the end of the age. The reason is evident. That consummation is the grand crisis for the Jew. Matthew, writing under the Holy Ghost's direction for Israel, in view both of the consequences of their past unfaithfulness and of that future crisis, furnishes alike the momentous question and the Lord's special answer to it. This, too, is the reason why Matthew opens out what we do not find in either Mark or Luke, at least in this connection. We have here very comprehensively the Christian part, as it appears to me ( i.e., what belongs to the disciples, viewed as professing Christ's name when Israel rejected Him). This suits Matthew's view of the prophecy; and the reason is plain. Matthew shows us not only the consequences of the rejection of the Messiah to Israel, but the change of dispensation, or what would follow on their fatal opposition to One who was their King, yea, not only Messiah, but Jehovah. The consequences were to be, could not but be, all-important; and the Spirit here records this portion of the Lord's prophecy most appropriately to His purpose by Matthew. Would not God turn the Jewish rejection of that glorious Person to some wondrous and suitable account? Accordingly this is what we find here. The order, though different from that which obtains elsewhere, is regulated by perfect wisdom. First of all, the Jews are taken up, or the disciples as representing them, where they then were. They had not got beyond their old thoughts of the temple, those buildings that had excited their admiration and awe. The Lord announces the judgment that was at hand. Indeed, it was involved in the words said before "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." It was their house. The Spirit was fled. It was no better than a dead body now. Why should it not be carried out speedily to burial? "See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." All would soon be over for the present. "And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" In answer the Lord sets before them a general history so general, indeed, that one might hardly gather at first whether He did not contemplate even here Christians as well as Jews. (vv. 4-14.) They are viewed really as a believing but Jewish remnant, which accounts for the breadth of the language. Then, from verse 15, come the details of Daniel's special last half week, whose prophecy is emphatically appealed to. The establishment of the abomination of desolation in the holy place would be the sign for the instant flight of godly ones, like the disciples, who will then be found in Jerusalem. For this is to be followed by great tribulation, exceeding any time of trouble since the beginning of the world up to that day. Nor will there be outward affliction only, but unparalleled deceits, false Christs and false prophets showing great signs and wonders. But the elect are here warned graciously of the Saviour, and far, far beyond any guards afforded in the prophecies of the Old Testament.
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall, the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heaven shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."Matthew 24:29; Matthew 24:29. The appearing of the Son of man is a grand point in Matthew, and indeed in all the gospels. The once rejected Christ will come in glory as the glorious Heir of all things. His advent in the clouds of heaven will be to take the throne, not of Israel only, but of all people, nations, and languages. Returning thus, to the horror and shame of His adversaries, in or out of the land, the first thing spoken of here is His mission of His angels to gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. There is no hint of resurrection or of rapture to heaven here. The elect of Israel are in question, and His own glory as Son of man, without a word of His being Head; nor of the Church His body. What we find here is a process of gathering the chosen, not merely of the Jews, but of all Isaiah, as I suppose, from the four winds of heaven. This interpretation derives support, then, if that be needed, from the parable that immediately follows (verses 32, 33). It is the fig tree once more, but used for a far different purpose. Be it curse in one connection, be it blessing in another, the fig tree typifies Israel.
Then comes, not what may be called the natural, but the scriptural, parable. As that alluded to the outside realm of nature, so this was taken from the Old Testament. The reference here is to the days of Noah, applied to illustrate the coming of the Son of man. So should the blow fall suddenly on all its objects. "Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left, Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left." They must not imagine that it would be like an ordinary judgment in providence, which sweeps here, not there, and sweeps here indiscriminately. In such the guiltless suffer with the guilty, without any approach to an adequate personal distinction. But it will not be so in the days of the Son of man, when He returns to deal with mankind at the end of the age. To be without or within will be no protection. Of two men in the field; of two women grinding at the mill, the one shall be taken, and the other left. The discrimination is precise and perfect to the last degree. "Watch therefore," says the Lord, in conclusion of it all; "for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh."
This transition, in my judgment, leads from the part particularly devoted to the destinies of the Jewish people, and opens into that which concerns the Christian profession. The first of these general pictures of Christendom, which drop all reference to Jerusalem, the temple, the people, or their hope, is found in verses 45-51. Next follows the parable of the ten virgins; then, last of these, is that of the talents. Let me observe, however, that there is a clause in Matthew 25:13 which has a little falsified the application. But the truth is, as is well known, that men, in copying the Greek New Testament, added the words, "Wherein the Son of man cometh," to this verse, which is complete without them. The Spirit really wrote, "Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour." To those versed in the text as it stands in the best copies, this is a fact too familiar to demand many words said about it. No critic of weight considers that these words have any just claim to be in the text that is founded on ancient authority. Others may defend the clause who accept what is commonly received, and what can only be defended by modern or uncertain manuscripts. Surely those I now address are the last men who ought to contend for a mere traditional or vulgar basis in anything which pertains to God. If we accept the traditional text of the printers, we are on this ground; if, on the contrary, we reject human meddling as a principle, assuredly we ought not to accredit such clauses as this, which we have the strongest grounds to pronounce a mere interpolation, and not truly the word of God. But this being so, we may proceed to notice how strikingly beautiful is the effect of omitting these words.
First, then, in the Christian part, came the parable of the household servant. He who, faithful and wise, met the wishes of his Lord that set him over His household to give them meat in due season, being found so doing, when He comes, is made ruler over all His goods. The evil servant, on the contrary, who settled in his heart that his Lord was not coming, and so yielded to overbearing violence and evil commerce with the profane world, shall be surprised by judgment, and have his portion with the hypocrites in hopeless shame and sorrow.
It is an instructive sketch of Christendom; but there is more. "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept." Thus Christendom entirely breaks down. It is not only the foolish who go to sleep, but the wise. All fail to give a right expression to their waiting for the Bridegroom. "They all slumbered and slept." But God takes care, without telling us how, that there shall be an interruption of their slumber. Instead of remaining out to wait, they must have gone in somewhere to sleep. In short, the original position is deserted. Not only have they not discharged their duty of awaiting the return of the Bridegroom, but they are no longer in their true posture. When the hope revives, the position is recovered, not before. At midnight, when all were asleep, there was a cry, "The bridegroom cometh: go ye out to meet him." This acts on the virgins, wise and foolish. So it is now. Who can deny that foolish people enough speak and write about the Lord's coming? An universal agitation of spirit goes on in all countries and all towns. Spite of opposition, the expectation spreads far and wide. It is in no way confined to the children of God. Those who are in quest of oil, going hither and thither, are disturbed by it as certainly as those who have oil in their vessels are cheered to go out once more while waiting for the, Bridegroom's return. But what a difference! The wise were prepared with oil beforehand; the rest proved their folly in doing without it. Let me particularly call your attention to this, The difference consisted not in expecting the Lord's coining or not, but in the possession or the lack of oil (i.e., the unction from the Holy One). All profess Christ; they are all virgins with their lamps. But the want of oil is fatal. He who has not the Spirit of Christ is none of His. Such are the foolish. They know not what has made the others wise unto salvation, whatever they may profess; and their restless search, after that which they have not, finally severs them even here from the company of those they started with as looking for the Lord.
The notion that they are Christians who lack intelligence in prophecy seems to me not false only, but utterly unworthy of a spiritual mind. Is the possession of Christ less precious than a correct chart of the future? I cannot conceive a Christian without oil in his vessel. It is clearly to have the Holy Ghost, whom every saint that submits to the righteousness of God in Christ has dwelling within him. As John teaches us, the least members of God's family are said to have that unction not the fathers and young men but expressly the babes. Of course, if the youngest in Christ are so privileged, the young men and fathers do not want. Therefore I do assert, with the fullest conviction of its truth, that, as the oil in the parable sets forth, not prophetic intelligence, but the gift of God's Spirit, so every Christian, and no other, has the Holy Ghost dwelling in him. These, then, are the wise virgins who make ready for the Bridegroom, and go in with Him to the marriage at His coming. As that hour draws near, the others, on the contrary, are more and more agitated. Not resting on Christ for their souls by faith, they have not the Spirit, and seek the inestimable gift among those who sell it, asking who will show them any good of whom they may buy this priceless oil. The Lord meanwhile comes, they that were ready go in with Him to the wedding, and the door was shut; the rest of the virgins are excluded. The Lord knew them not.
Let me say in passing, that these virgins are distinguished from those who will be called in the end of the age by broad and deep differences. There is no ground to believe that the sufferers in that crisis will ever become heavy with sleep, as saints have done during the long delay of Christendom. That brief season of unprecedented trial and danger does not admit of it. Next, as little ground is there in Scripture to predicate of these latter-day sufferers the possession of the Holy Ghost, which is the peculiar privilege of the believer since the rejected Christ took His place as Head in heaven. The Holy Ghost is to be poured out on all flesh for the millennial day, no doubt; but no prophecy declares that the remnant will be so characterized till they see Jesus. And, again, there is the third point of distinction, that these sufferers are nowhere set forth as going out to meet the Bridegroom. They may flee away because of the abomination that makes desolate, but this is a contrast rather than a similar feature.
The third of these parables presents another phase again. During the absence of the Lord, before He appears to take the kingdom of the world, He gives gifts to men different gifts, and in different measures. This pre-eminently belongs to Christianity and its active testimony in peculiar variety. I am not aware of anything exactly answering to it in its full character in the latter day (which will be distinguished by a brief energetic witness of the kingdom). These gifts ofMatthew 25:1-46; Matthew 25:1-46 seem to me the thorough expression of the activity of grace, that goes out and labours for a rejected and absent Lord on high. However, I may not dwell upon minuter points, which would, of course, frustrate the desire to give a comprehensive sketch in a short compass.
The latter scene of the chapter is, to a simple mind, evident enough. "All the nations" or Gentiles are in question: there can be no mistake as to this. The Jew has already come before us, and at the beginning of the Lord's discourse, because the disciples were then Jews. Next, as disciples emerged from Judaism into Christianity, we have in this very distinctly the reason why the Christian parenthesis comes second in order. Then, in the third place, we find "all the nations" who are formally designated as such, and distinguished in the clearest manner from the two others, both in terms and in the things said of them. They come up and are visibly dealt with as Gentiles at the close, when the Son of man reigns as king over the earth. The question which comes before His throne, and decides their eternal lot, does not consist of the secrets of the heart then laid bare, nor their general life, but of their behaviour to His messengers. How had they treated certain persons that the King calls His brethren? It is an appraisal then, founded on their relation to a brief testimony rendered at the close of the present dispensation (I doubt not, by Jewish brethren of the King, when all the world wonders after the beast, and in general men go back to idols, and fall into Antichrist's hands); a testimony suited to the crisis, after the Christian body has been taken to heaven, and the question of the earth is raised once more. Thus these nations or Gentiles are dealt with according to their behaviour to the messengers of the King, just before and up to the time that the King summons them before the throne of His glory. To own His despised heralds when the time of strong delusion comes, will demand the quickening work of the Spirit; which, indeed, is needful for receiving any and every testimony of God. It is not a question of any general issue that would apply to a course of ages, as to the present preaching of God's grace, or to the ordinary current of men's lives. Nothing of the sort appears to be the ground of the Lord's action with either the sheep or the goats.
Matthew 26:1-75. Formal teaching is over now, whether practical or prophetic. The scene above all scenes draws near, on which, however blessed, I cannot say much at this time. The Lord Jesus has been presented to the people, has preached, has wrought miracles, has instructed disciples, has met all the various classes of His adversaries, has launched into the future up to the end of the age. Now He prepares to suffer, to suffer in absolute surrender of Himself to the Father. Accordingly, in this scene it is no longer man judging Him in words, but God judging Him in His person on the cross. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. So it is here. He maintains, too, every affection in its fulness. Here, aside from the crowd, the Lord for a season takes whatever of rest might be vouchsafed to His spirit. The active work was done. The cross remained a few brief hours, but of eternal value and unfathomable import, with which indeed nothing can compare.
At the house of Bethany Jesus is now found. It is one of the few scenes introduced by the Spirit of God into all the gospels save Luke, in contrast with, yet in preparation for, the cross. Was the Spirit of God then acting mightily in the heart of one who loved the Saviour? At this very time Satan was pushing on the heart of man to dare the worst against Jesus. Around these were the parties. What a moment for heaven, and earth, and hell! How much, how little was man seen! for if one feature be prominent in His foes more than another, it is this, that man is powerless, even when Jesus was the victim, exposed to every hostile breath as it might appear. Yet does He accomplish everything, when He was but a sufferer; they nothing, when free to do all (for it was their hour, and the power of darkness) nothing but their iniquity; but even in their iniquity doing the will of God, spite of themselves, and contrary to their own plans. They did their will in point of guilt, but it was never accomplished as they desired. First of all, as we are told, their great anxiety was, that the deed on which their heart was set, the death of Jesus, should not be at the passover. But their resolution was vain. From the beginning God had decided that then, and at no other time, it should be. They assembled, they consulted, "that they might take Jesus by subtilty and kill him." The upshot of their deliberations was only "Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people." Little did they foresee the treachery of a disciple, or the public sentence of a Roman governor. Again, there was no uproar among the people, contrary to their fears. Yet did Jesus die on that day according to God's word.
But let us turn aside to the company of our Lord for a little while at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper. There was poured out the worship of a heart that loved Him, if ever there was one. She waited not for the promise of the Father; but He who was soon after given to overflowing, even then wrought in the instincts of her new nature. "There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head as he sat at meat." This, John lets us know, she had kept; it was no new thing got up for the occasion; it was her best, and spent on Jesus. How little it was in her eyes, how precious in His, spent on one whom she loved, for whom she felt the impending danger; for love is quick to feel, and feels more truly than man's most sharpened prudence. So it was, then, that this woman pours her ointment on His head. John mentions His feet. Certainly it was poured upon both. But as Matthew has the King before him, and it was usual to pour on, not the feet of a king, but his head, he naturally records that part of the action which was suitable to the Messiah. John, on the contrary, whose point is that Jesus was infinitely more than a king, while lowly enough in love for anything John most appropriately tells us that Mary poured it on His feet. It is interesting, too, to observe, that love, and a profound sense of the glory of Jesus, led her to do that which a sinner's heart, thoroughly broken down in the presence of His grace, prompted her to do. For Luke mentions another person. In this case it was "a woman in the city, who was a sinner," a totally different person, at another and earlier time, and in the house of another Simon, a Pharisee. She too anointed the feet of Jesus with an alabaster box of ointment; but she stood at His feet behind, weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet. There are thus many added circumstances in harmony with the case. All I would point out now is, the kindred feeling to which is led a poor sinner that tasted His grace in presence of her proved unworthiness, and a loving worshipper, filled with the glory of His person, and sensitive to the malice of His foes. However that may be, the Lord vindicates her in the face of murmuring disaffected disciples. It is a solemn lesson; for it shows how one corrupt mind may defile others, incomparably better than its own. The whole college of the apostles, the twelve, were tainted for the moment by the poison insinuated by one. What hearts are ours at such a season, in the face of such love! But so it was, alas! is. One evil eye may too soon communicate its foul impression, and thereby many be defiled. It was Judas at bottom; but there was also that in the rest which made them susceptible of similar selfishness at the expense of Jesus, although there was not in them the same allowance of diabolical influence which had suggested thoughts to Judas. The example is surely not without serious admonition to ourselves. How often care for doctrine cloaks Satan, as here care for the poor! Morally, too, this connects itself with Christ's sufferings that should follow. The devotedness of the woman is used of Satan to push Judas into his last wickedness, so much the more determined by the outflow of what his heart could not in the smallest degree appreciate. Thence he goes to sell Jesus. If he could not manage to get the box of precious ointment, or its worth, he would, while he could, secure his little profit on the sale of Jesus to His enemies. "What will ye give me," says he to the chief priests, "and I will deliver him unto you?" Accordingly the covenant takes place a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell. "They covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver" man's, Israel's, worthy price for Jesus!
But now, as the woman had her token for Jesus, and in it her own memorial, wherever, whenever the gospel of the kingdom is preached in the whole world, so Jesus next institutes the standing, undying token of His dying love. He founds the new feast, His own supper for His disciples. At the paschal feast He takes up the bread and the wine, and consecrates them to be on earth the continual remembrance of Himself in the midst of His own. In the language of its institution there are some distinctive features which may claim a notice when we have the opportunity of looking at the other gospels. From this table our Lord goes to Gethsemane, and His agony there. Whatever there was of sorrow, whatever there was of pain, whatever there was of suffering, our Lord never bowed to any suffering from men without, before He bore it on His heart alone with His Father. He went through it in spirit before He went through it in fact. And this, I believe, is the main point here. I say not all that we have; for here He met the terrors of death and what a death! pressed on Him by the prince of this world, who nevertheless found nothing in Him. Thus at the actual hour it was God glorified in Him, the Son of man, even as, when raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, He forthwith declares to His brethren the name of His Father and their Father, of His God and their God, both nature and relationship. Here His cry still is simply to His Father, as in the cross it was, My God, though not this only. However profoundly instructive all this maybe, our Lord in the garden calls upon the disciples to watch and pray; but this is precisely what they find hardest. They slept, and prayed not. What a contrast, too, with Jesus afterwards, when the trial came! And yet for them it was but the merest reflection of that which He passed through. For the world, death is either borne with the obduracy that dares all because it believes nothing, or it is a pang as the end of present enjoyment, the sombre portal of they know not what beyond. To the believer, to the Jewish disciple, before redemption, death was even worse in a sense; for there was a juster perception of God, and of man's state morally. Now all is changed through His death, which the disciples so little estimated, the bare shadow of which, however, was enough to overwhelm them all, and silence every confession of their faith. For him who most of all presumed on the strength of his love, it was enough to prove how little he yet knew of the reality of death, spite of his too ready boasts. And yet what would death have been in his case compared with that of Jesus! But even that was incomparably too much for the strength of Peter; all was proved powerless, save the One who showed, even when He was weakest, that He was alone the Giver of all strength, the Manifester of all grace, even when He was crushed under such judgment as man never knew before, nor can know again.
Matthew 27:1-66. We next see our Lord, not with the disciples, failing, false, or traitorous, but His hour come, in the power of the hostile world, priests, governors, soldiers, and people. What was attempted by man completely broke down. They had their witnesses, but the witnesses agreed not. Failure everywhere is found, even in wickedness failure not in men's will, but in its accomplishment. God alone governs. So now Jesus was condemned, not for their testimony, but for His own. How wondrous, that even to put Him to death they needed the witness of Jesus; they could not condemn Him to die but for His good confession. For His testimony to the truth they consummated their worst deed; and this doubly, before the high priest as well as before the governor. Warned of his wife (for the Lord took care that there should be providential testimony), as well as too keen-sighted to overlook the malice of the Jews and the innocence of the accused, Pontius Pilate acknowledges his prisoner to be guiltless, yet allowed himself to be forced to act contrary to his own conscience, and according to their wishes whom he wholly despised. Once more, ere Jesus is led out to be crucified, the Jews showed what they were morally; for when the coarse-minded heathen put before them the alternative of releasing Jesus or Barabbas, their instant preference (not without priestly instigation) was a wretch, a robber, a murderer. Such was the feeling of the Jews, God's people, toward their King, because He was the Son of God, Jehovah, and not a mere man. With bitter irony, but not without God, wrote Pilate the accusation, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." But this was not the only testimony which God gave. For from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And then when Jesus, crying with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost, that ensued which particularly would strike the heart of the Jew. The veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent. What could be conceived more solemn to Israel? His death was the death blow to the Jewish system, struck by one who was unmistakably the Maker of heaven and earth. But it was not the dissolution of that system only, but of the power of death itself; for the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection, the witness of the value of His death, though not declared till after His resurrection. The death of Jesus, I hesitate not to say, is the sole groundwork of righteous deliverance from sin. In the resurrection is seen the mighty power of God; but what is power for a sinner, with God before his soul, compared with righteousness? What with grace? And this is precisely what we have here. Hence, it is the death of Jesus alone that is the true centre and pivot of all God's counsels and ways, whether in righteousness or in grace. The resurrection, no doubt, is the power that manifests and proclaims all; but what it proclaims is the power of His death, because that alone has vindicated God morally. The death of Jesus alone has proved that nothing could overcome His love rejection, death itself, so far from this, being only the occasion of displaying love to the uttermost. Therefore it is that, of all things even in Jesus, there is none that affords such a common and perfect resting-place for God and man as the death of Jesus. When it is a question of power, liberty, life, no doubt we must turn to the resurrection; and hence it is, that in the Acts of the apostles this necessarily comes out most prominently, because the matter in hand was to afford proof, on the one hand, of manifested but despised grace; on the other hand, of God's reversing man's attainder of Jesus by raising Him from the dead and exalting Him to His own right hand on high. The death of Jesus would be no demonstration of this sort. On the contrary, His death was what man appeared to triumph in. They had got rid of Jesus thus, but the resurrection proved how vain and short-lived it was, and that God was against them. The object was to make evident that man was wholly opposed to God, and that God even now manifested His sentence on it. The raising up Him whom man slew renders this unquestionable. I admit that in the resurrection of Christ God is for us, for the believer. But the sinner and the believer must not be confounded together, for there is an immense difference between the two things. Whatever the witness of perfect love in the gift and death of Jesus, for the sinner there is not, there cannot be, anything whatever in the resurrection of Jesus save condemnation. I press this the more strongly, because the recovery of the precious truth of Christ's resurrection exposes some, by a kind of reaction, to weaken the value which His death has in God's mind, and ought to have in our faith. Let those, then, who prize the resurrection, see to it that they be exceedingly jealous for the due place of the cross.
The two things we find remarkably guarded here. It was not the resurrection, but the death of Jesus, that rent the veil of the temple; it was not His resurrection that opened the graves, but His cross, though the saints rose not till after He rose. It is just so with us practically. In point of fact, we never do know the full worth of the death of Christ, until we look upon it from the power and results of the resurrection. But what we contemplate from the side of resurrection is not itself, but the death of Jesus. Hence it is that in the Church's assembling, and most properly, on the Lord's day, we do in the breaking of bread show forth, not the resurrection, but the death of the Lord. At the same time, we show forth His death not on the day of death, but upon that of resurrection. Do I forget that it is the day of resurrection? Then I little understand my liberty and joy. If, on the contrary, the resurrection day brings no more before me than the resurrection, it is too plain that the death of Christ has lost its infinite grace for my soul.
The Egyptians would have liked to cross the Red Sea, but they had no care for the doors sprinkled with the blood of the lamb. They essayed to pass through the watery walls, desiring thus to follow Israel to the other side. But we do not read that they ever sought the shelter of the Paschal Lamb's blood. No doubt, this is an extreme case, and the judgment of the world of nature; but we may learn even from an enemy not to value resurrection less, but to value the death and blood-shedding of our precious Saviour more. There is really nothing towards God and man like the death of Christ.
Then, in contrast with the poor but devoted women of Galilee that surrounded the cross, we behold the fears, the just fears, of those who had accomplished the death of Jesus. These guilty men go full of anxiety to Pilate. They feared "that deceiver," and so had their watch, and stone, and seal in vain! The Lord that sat in the heavens had them in derision. Jesus had prepared His own (and His enemies knew it) for His rising on the third day. Women came there the evening before to look at the place where the Lord lay buried. (Matthew 28:1-20) That morning, very early, when there were none there but the guards, the angel of the Lord. descends. We are not told that our Lord rose at that time; still less is it said that the angel of the Lord rolled away the stone for Him. He that passed through the doors, closed for fear of the Jews, could just as easily pass through the sealed stone, despite all the soldiers of the empire. We know that there the angel sat after rolling away the great stone which had closed the sepulchre, where our Lord, despised and rejected of men, nevertheless accomplished Isaiah's prophecy. In making His grave with the rich. The Lord then had this further witness, that the very keepers, hardened and bold as such usually are, trembled, and became as dead men, while the angel bids the women not to fear; for this Jesus which was crucified "is not here: He is risen. Come, and see the place where the Lord lay, and go and tell the disciples, Behold, He goeth before you into Galilee." This is a point of importance for completing the view of His rejection, or its consequences in resurrection, and so Matthew takes particular care of it, though the same fact may be recorded also by Mark for his purpose.
But Matthew does not speak of the various appearances of the Lord in Jerusalem after the resurrection. What he does dwell upon particularly, and of course with his special reasons for it, is, that the Lord, after His resurrection, adheres to the place where the state of the Jews led Him to be habitually, and shed His light around according to prophecy; for the Lord resumed relations once more in Galilee with the remnant represented by" the disciples after He rose from the dead. It was in the place of Jewish contempt; it was where the benighted poor of the flock were, the neglected of the proud scribes and rulers of Jerusalem. There the risen Lord was pleased to go before His servants and rejoin them.
But as the Galilean women went with this word from the angel, the Lord Himself met them. "And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him." It is remarkable that in our gospel this was permitted. To Mary Magdalene, who in her desire to pay her wonted obeisance probably was attempting something similar, He altogether declines it; but this is mentioned in the gospel of John. How is it, then, that the two apostolic accounts show us the homage of the women received, and of Mary Magdalene refused, on the same day, and perhaps at the same hour? Clearly the action is significant in both. The reason, I apprehend, was this, Matthew sets before us that while He was the rejected Messiah, though now risen, He not only reverted to His relations in the despised part of the land with His disciples, but gives, in this accepted worship of the daughters of Galilee, the pledge of His special association with the Jews in the latter day; for it is precisely thus that they will look for the Lord. That is, a Jew, as such, counts upon the bodily presence of the Lord. The point in John's record is the very reverse; for it is the taking one, who was a sample of believing Jews, out of Jewish relations into association with Himself just about to ascend to heaven. In Matthew He is touched. They held Him by the feet without remonstrance, and thus worshipped Him in bodily presence. In John He says, "Touch me not;" and the reason is, "for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." Worship henceforth was to be offered to Him above, invisible, but known there by faith. To the women in Matthew it was here that He was presented for their worship; to the woman in John it was there only He was to be known now. It was not a question of bodily presence, but of the Lord ascended to heaven and there announcing the new relationships for us with His Father and God. Thus, in the one case, it is the sanction of Jewish hopes of His presence here, below for the homage of Israel; in the other gospel, it is His personal absence and ascension, leading souls to a higher and suited association with Himself, as well as with God, taking even those who were Jews out of their old condition to know the Lord no more after the flesh.
Most consistently, therefore, in this gospel, we have no ascension scene at all. If we had only the gospel of Matthew, we should possess no record of this wonderful fact: so striking is the omission, that a well-known commentary, Mr. Alford's first edition, broached the rash and irreverent hypothesis founded upon it, that our Matthew is an incomplete Greek version of the Hebrew original, because there was no such record; for it was impossible, in the opinion of that writer, that an apostle could have omitted a description of that event. The fact is, if you add the ascension to Matthew, you would overload and mar his gospel. The beautiful end of Matthew is, that (while chief priests and elders essay to cover their wickedness by falsehood and bribery, and their lie "is commonly reported among the Jews until this day,") our Lord meets His disciples on a mountain in Galilee, according to His appointment, and sends them to disciple all the Gentiles. How great is the change of dispensation is manifest from His former commission to the same men in Matthew 10:1-42. Now they were to baptize them unto the name of the Father, etc. It was not a question of the Almighty God of the fathers, or the Jehovah God of Israel. The name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is characteristic of Christianity. Permit me to say, that this is the true formula of Christian baptism, and that the omission of this form of sound words appears to me quite as fatal to the validity of baptism as any change that can be pointed out in other respects. Instead of being a Jewish thing, this is what supplanted it. Instead of a relic of older dispensations to be modified or rather set aside now, on the contrary, it is the full revelation of the name of God as now made known, not before. This only came out after the death and resurrection of Christ. There is no longer the mere Jewish enclosure He had entered during the days of His flesh, but the change of dispensation was now dawning: so consistently does the Spirit of God hold to His design from the first to the very end.
Accordingly He closes with these words, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world [age]." How the form of the truth would have been weakened, if not destroyed, had we then heard of His going up to heaven! It is evident that the moral force of it is infinitely more preserved as it is. He is charging His disciples, sending them on their world-wide mission with these words, "Lo, I am with you always, all the days," etc. The force is immensely increased, and for this very reason that we hear and see no more. He promised His presence with them to the end of the age; and thereon the curtain drops. He is thus heard, if not seen, for ever with His own on earth, as they go forth upon that errand so precious, but perilous. May we gather real profit from all He has given us.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on Matthew 26:52". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/matthew-26.html. 1860-1890.
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13