Sunday, May 28th, 2023
Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible Coke's Commentary
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 26". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tcc/ matthew-26.html. 1801-1803.
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 26". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
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The rulers conspire against Christ. The woman anointeth his head. Judas selleth him. Christ eateth the passover: instituteth his holy supper: prayeth in the garden: and being betrayed with a kiss, is carried to Caiaphas, and denied by Peter.
Anno Domini 33.
Matthew 26:1-2. When Jesus had finished, &c.— See Luke 21:37-38. When our Lord sat down on the mount of Olives to foretel the destruction of the city, and to deliver the parables which represent the method of the general judgment, he was far on his way to Bethany. After the parables were pronounced, and before he departed, he thought fit to add a word or two concerning his own death. The greatest trial which his disciples were ever to meet with was now approaching in their Master's sufferings; wherefore, to prepare them, he foretold those sufferings, together with the particular time and manner of them; and by so doing proved that he knew perfectly whatever was to befal him, and that his sufferings were all voluntary and necessary. The preceding discourses were most likely deliveredon the Tuesday of the week in which our Lord suffered; and he probably delivered what we have here, that evening, which was just two days before the Paschal Lamb was eaten. We do not find that any of the transactions of Wednesday are recorded, besides the general account given in the place of St. Luke above referred to. This being the last of our Lord's public teaching, (Tuesday,) it was more full of action than any other mentioned in the history, as will appear from the following induction of particulars. He came to Bethany six days before the passover, probably about sun-setting. He rode into the city surrounded by the multitude the next afternoon; for when he had looked round on all things in the temple, after his entry, it was evening: Mark 11:11. This happened five days before the passover. He went thither again from Bethany the day following; namelyfour days before the passover, and by the way blasted the fig-tree, and after that drove the buyers and sellers out of the temple. Next morning, namely, three days before the passover, and the last of his public teaching, being on his way to the city, he spake concerning the efficacy of faith, on occasion of the disciples expressing great astonishment at seeing the fig-tree withered from the roots. When he appeared in the temple, the deputies, who were sent by the council, came and asked him concerning his authority; he answered themwith a question concerning the baptism of John; then spake the parable of the two sons, and after that the parables of the vineyard and the husbandmen, and of the marriage-supper. Then he avoided the snare which was laid for him in the question concerning the tribute-money; confuted the doctrine of the Sadducees concerning the resurrection; shewed the scribe which was the greatest commandment in the law; asked the Pharisees whose Son the Christ is; cautioned his disciples to beware of the Scribes and Pharisees, against whom he denounced many grievous woes: when the woes were finished, he observed the peoplethrow their gifts into the treasury,—probably as they worshipped at the evening sacrifice, and commended the poor widow for her charity. After the service was over, he left the temple, and went to the mount of Olives, where he foretold the downfal of the nation, and spake three parables representing the procedure at the general judgment. Last of all, he concluded the work of the day with predicting his own sufferings. By this time it must have been about sun-setting. He went away therefore with his disciples to Bethany, intending to pass the night there, at a distance from his enemies the Scribes and Pharisees, who were now gathered together at the high-priest's palace to deliberate how they might take him, and put him to death. There was a tradition among the Jews, (still extant in the cabalistic books) that the people should be redeemed in the days of the Messiah, the same day upon which they went out of Egypt; for though their departure from Egypt was on the fifteenth day of the month, yet they prepared for it on the fourteenth, and ate the passover, standing, on that very day: consequently, on the very day that the paschal lamb, the type of the great Deliverer of mankind, was eaten by the Jews, the Saviour typified by that lamb was sacrificed for the sins of mankind. See Macknight, Grotius, and Calmet.
Matthew 26:3. Who was called Caiaphas— See John 11:49. Joseph Caiaphas was made high-priest by Valerius Gratus, as we learn from Josephus, Antiq. b. 18. 100: 3 and afterwards deposed by Vitellius, ch. 6. We may infer from Act 5:17 that Caiaphas was of the sect of the Sadducees.
Matthew 26:4. By subtilty— Surprise. Prussian Testament. See Luke 22:6.
Matthew 26:5. Not on the fast-day— 'Εορτη, the feast; that is to say, the whole time of the solemnity, which lasted seven days. All this interval was favourable to uproars and seditions, on account of the vast concourse of people. It is very remarkable, that the Jews in this instance receded from their usual custom; which was, to punish the most heinous criminals at this very time, that the example might be more general and diffusive. The priests, however, were doubtless more apprehensive of the Galileans, among whom Jesus resided, than of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. However, through fear of an uproar among the people, they determined to depart from their usual mode of proceeding. This circumstance, therefore, affords us an illustrious proof of the interposition of the divine Providence; for the Jews, having a fair opportunity offered them by the treachery of Judas of apprehending our blessed Lord, relinquished their intended design of not apprehending him on the feast-day, and thereby our Lord's crucifixion had a greater number of witnesses, and fell out upon the very time when the paschal lamb was slain. See Grotius, and Josephus, Antiq. b. 20. 100: 4.
Matthew 26:6-7. Now when Jesus was in Bethany— Or, Now Jesus being in Bethany. It is not to be thought that Simon was now a leper; for in this case he would not have been suffered to live in a town, nor would the Jews have come to an entertainment at his house; but either he was once a leper, and had been cured by Jesus, or else the name was given to the family, as some considerable person in it had formerly been a leper. The boxes here spoken of were called only alabasters, not because they were all made of alabaster, for there was some glass; but the greatest part of them were of a kind of alabaster called onyx, and made in the shape of a pyramid. It was customary among the ancients to regale their guests at entertainments with perfumes, odours, and chaplets of flowers, in token of respect; odoriferous balsams, gums, &c. were likewise used by the Jews and Egyptians to embalm their dead. Instead of, very precious ointment, some would render the Greek, odoriferous balsam of great price. See Mark 14:3.
Matthew 26:8. But when his disciples saw it— It appears from Joh 12:4-6 that none but Judas found fault with what this woman had done. St. Matthew has probably put the disciples in general, for one of the disciples; as he says elsewhere, with St. Mark, that the thieves reviled Christ, though it appears from St. Luk 23:39 that there was but one guilty of thatcrime. By the figure called enallage, the plural number is put for the singular, which Longinus mentions as an elegance in his treatise on the sublime. See Joshua 7:1; Jos 7:21 and compare Luke 23:36. Joh 19:29 with Mat 27:48 and Mark 15:36. Some have thought that Judas Iscariot was the son of that Simon, in whose house the feast was made; but the name was so common, that it cannot be concluded with any certainty.
Matthew 26:10-12. Why trouble ye the woman, &c.— The vindication of the woman suggests the reason why Jesus permitted so expensive a compliment to be paid to him. He told them, that God had ordered it for the exercise and improvement of charity, that there should always be poor in the land to whom they might do good offices at anytime; but if their love was not testified to him at that juncture, they would have no opportunity to shew it afterwards; because he was to die within two days, for which reason the woman had come very seasonably to anoint him for his burial; προς το ενταφιασαι με, corpus meum ad funus componere,—ornamentis sepulchralibus ornare,—"to prepare my body for its funeral:" see Mark 14:8. "You think," says our Lord, "that this profusion of precious ointment is a piece of extravagance; but if the very same thing was done to a dead body, none would find fault with it: for this is not only an established custom, but likewise a deed which is worthy of praise, especially when a king is the subject, and such this woman esteems me. Why then should the same action, which would be praise-worthy if the dead were the object, be thought blameable when applied to the living? I have often told you and others that my death is not far off. This woman therefore has only anticipated the solemn office to my body, a short time before it would be otherwise necessary." This possiblywas not the design of Mary; but our Saviour puts this construction upon what she did, that he might confirm thereby what he had said to his disciples concerning his approaching death. See ch. Matthew 20:18. John 12:3; Joh 12:50 and the note on Deuteronomy 15:0.
Matthew 26:15. They covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver— Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, (a circumstance of such high aggravation, that each of the evangelists has marked it out in this view) having been more forward than the rest in condemning the woman, or, most probably, the only one who did so, thought himself peculiarly affronted by the rebuke which Jesus gave. Rising up, therefore, he went straightwayinto the city, to the high-priest's palace, where he found the whole council seasonably assembled, and, being in a passion, he promised to put his Master into their hands for the reward of thirty pieces of silver, τριακοντα αγυρια . The Αργυριον is commonly supposed to have been the Jewish shekel, which, properly speaking, was the denomination of a weight equal to twenty gerahs, (Exodus 30:13.) each weighing sixteen barley-corns. The shekel therefore was equal to the weight of 320 barley-corns, or half a Roman ounce; consequently in silver was equal to two shillings one farthing and a half sterling. Thirty shekels were the price of a slave: see Zechariah 11:13. It deserves to be remarked, that Judas did not fix this price himself, but the Jewish Sanhedrim; and therefore, as it was the very price predicted by a prophet, no collusion could be suspected between Christ and his disciples, to make an appearance of his resembling the Messiah in such circumstances, as otherwise he might not have resembled him. This price was fixed by his enemies, who would have done all they could to prevent any resemblance between the circumstances of our Lord's life, and those which were foretold of the life of the Messiah. It was chosen, above all other prices, to shew their enmity, and to disgrace the character of Christ, as it was the price and ransom of the meanest slave: but their malice counteracted itself; and the circumstance which they pitched upon to vilify our Lord's character, served to exalt and ennoble it, by shewing him really to be the person of whom the prophet had spoken. As the treachery of Judas Iscariot must raise the astonishment of every reader, who has any just notion of our Lord's character, some particular considerations will be found at the end of this chapter, respecting the motives which swayed him to be guilty of such an atrocious crime, and the circumstances that attended it.
Matthew 26:17-18. Now, the first day of the feast, &c.— We learn from Mar 14:12 and Luk 22:7 that this was done the very day on which the paschal lamb was killed; for, though the feast of unleavened bread did not, properly speaking, begin till the 15th of the first month, as it is termedin Leviticus 23:5-6. Numbers 28:16-17.) yet they began to abstain from leavened bread on the evening of the 14th day. The passover [το πασχα ] means the paschal lamb; for the word is often used to denote the lamb itself, which was killed and eaten during the celebration of this solemnity. Into the city, means Jerusalem by way of eminence. The phrase to such a man, implies that Jesus named the person to whom they were sent; though the Evangelists have not thought it of importance to mention his name. See Mar 14:13 and Luke 22:10. My time is at hand, seems to mean, "the time of my sufferings and death;" for every body knew that the time of eating the passover was near. I will keep the passover, means, "I will eat the paschal lamb." It was customary for the inhabitants of Jerusalem to prepare rooms, tables, &c. for strangers to celebrate this festival; at which time, as appears by the Talmudists, the houses were not to be let, but were of common right for any one to eat the passover in. The Jews used to prepare the place in which they intended to eat the passover the night before, as they do at present. Their chief solicitude in their preparation consists in searching after any leavened bread, and their scrupulousness goes so far as to pick up the least crumb they can find. After this they make the beds or couches on which they recline, furnish their room, and dress their meat. See the notes onExod. 12: and Calmet's Dictionary under the word Passover.
Matthew 26:20. Now when the even was come— When the Jews celebrated the passover, they assembled together from ten to twenty in number, at some private house, or more properly speaking, laid down, and ate the lamb with unleavened bread. After this repast was finished, they washed again, and, lying down the second time, they had for the second course, a dish of sallad, consisting of bitter herbs, into which they put a kind of sauce named haroseth, made of palm-tree branches, or raisins and berries, bruised and mixed with vinegar and seasoning, to represent the clay of which their fathers made bricks in Egypt; for haras, is the Hebrew word for a brick. Then the master of the family, dividing the bread into two parts, is said to have blessed one of them in the following form of words: "Blessed be thou, O Lord our God, the king of the whole world, in the eating of unleavened bread;" but he hid the other part under the napkin till the feast was ended. Afterwards he took the piece of bread that was hidden, and having divided it into as many parts as there were persons present, distributed to every one of them, using these words; "This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in theland of affliction. Let him that is hungry come, and eat the passover; let him that hath need come, and eat the passover." Then taking the cup he first tasted it himself, and afterwards presented it to each of them, saying, "Blessed be thou, O Lord, who hast created the fruit of the vine." We should observe, that after eating the unleavened bread and bitter herbs, one of the younger persons present (generally a child) asked the reason of what was peculiar in that feast, according to Exodus 12:26; Exo 12:51 which introduced the haggadah, that is to say, the shewing forth or declaration of it: in allusion to which we read of shewing forth the Lord's death, 1 Corinthians 11:26. After these things they sung Psalm, cxiii,and the five Psalms following, which they called the greathallelujah; and thus the feast ended. See the authors above quoted, Josephus's war, b. 6: ch. 9: and the Religious Ceremonies, vol. 1 p. 215.
Matthew 26:23. He that dippeth his hand with me, &c.— Grotius and others think this implies, that Judas had placed himself so near his Master, as to eat out of the same dish with him; but their way of lying on couches at meat, must have made it inconvenient for two or more persons to eat in that manner. It is more probable that the disciples, being in the deepest distress, had left off eating; only Judas, to conceal his guilt, continued the meal, and was dipping his meat into the haroseth, or thick sauce before mentioned, when Jesus happened to be putting his into it; which sauce, according to custom, was served up in a separate dish. See John 13:26.
Matthew 26:24. The Son of man goeth— Is going indeed, that is to say, is departing, or near his death. Heylin.
Matthew 26:25. Thou hast said— This expression is equivalent to a positive assertion, both in sacred and prophane authors. Compare Matthew 26:64. The first time our Lord discovered that he should be betrayed, he only told it in John's ear, that Judas was to be the author of that atrocious villany. John told it to Peter; but the rest knew nothing of it. Now Jesus plainly points him out.
Matthew 26:26. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread— After they had done eating, &c. Our Lord instituted the holy communion after the paschal feast. See Luk 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:25. This passage might otherwise be rendered, as they were yet eating. The loaves of the Jews were round, flat, thin, and consequently very easy to break. The Jews, as appears from the Talmudists and Philo, never ate bread or received wine, without having first returned their thanks and praises to God their creator. Maimonides and other rabbles tell us, that it was a rule among the Jews, at the end of the supper, to take a piece of the lamb for the last thing they ate that night. If this custom was as old as Christ's time, it would make this action so much the more remarkable; it would plainly shew, that the bread here distributed, was a very distinct thing from the meal that they had been making together, and might be, in the first opening of the action, a kind of symbolicalintimation that the Jewish passover was to give way to another and nobler divine institution. Our Lord having taken the bread, and broken it, gave it to his disciples, Take, eat, this is my body, that is, "This is the representation of my body broken on the cross." This is agreeable to the style of the sacred writers. See Genesis 40:12; Genesis 40:18; Genesis 41:26-27. Daniel 8:20. Galatians 4:25. Rev 1:20 and lastly, Exo 12:11 where, after God had spoken of the paschal lamb, he says, It is the Lord's passover. Now our Savour, substituting the holy communion, instead of the passover, follows the stile ofthe Old Testament, and uses the same expressions as the Jews were accustomed to use at the celebration of the passover.
Matthew 26:27-28. And he took the cup— We learn from Jewish writers, that the wine was mixed with water on these occasions; and from the first fathers, that the primitive Christians adopted this custom. He blessed the cup, according to the usual method mentioned in the note on Matthew 26:20. Hence the cup itself is named the cup of blessing. As the words this is my body, signify, "This is the representation of my body," so the words this is my blood of the new covenant, "this is the representation of my blood of the new covenant." And by the same rule that difficult expression, 1 Corinthians 11:27. Guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, undoubtedly signifies, "guilty of profaning the representation of the body and blood of the Lord." Wherefore Christ's meaning in the passage before us was this, "All ofyou, and all my disciples in all ages, as many as shall believe, whether Jews or Gentiles, must drink of this cup, because it represents my blood shed for the remission of men's sins; my blood, in which the new covenant between God and man is ratified; my blood therefore of the new covenant." Sothatthisinstitution exhibits to your joyful meditation the grand foundation of men's hopes, and perpetuates the memory of the same to the end of the world. Every sacrifice consisted of two parts, of flesh and blood; the most considerable part of the sacrifice was the blood; see Lev 17:11 and Exodus 24:8. The first covenant was ratified with blood. It is said of the blood of the sacrifices in the place just quoted from Exodus, This is, or behold the blood of the covenant. See 1Ma 6:34. These words of institution relative to the cup, shew, that it is a primary end of this service to bring to the devout remembrance of Christians the death of their Master, as the foundation of the remission of their sins, and, in short, the whole mercy of the new covenant, as founded on the shedding of his blood; therefore they greatly err, who make the keeping up of the memory of Christ's death in the world, as a simple fact, the only end of the Lord's supper. Dr. Doddridge upon this subject observes very well, "I apprehend this ordinance of the eucharist to have so plain a reference to the atonement and satisfaction of Christ, and to do so solemn an honour to that fundamental doctrine of the church, that I cannot but believe, that while this sacred institution continues in the church (as itwill undoubtedly till the end of the world) it will be impossible to root that doctrine out of the minds of plain humble Christians, by all the little artifices of such forced and unnatural criticisms as those are by which it has been attacked. The enemies of this heart-reviving doctrine might as well hope to pierce through a coat of mail with a straw, as to reach such a doctrine, defended by such an ordinance as this, with any of their trifling sophistries." Another able writer has observed as follows: "Strange have been the inferences which the Romanists have pretended to draw from these and some other passages of Scripture of the like import; namely, that the elements of bread and wine are each of them actually transubstantiated into the whole natural body and blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ; but it may reasonably be asked, why these persons endeavour to impose such an unwarrantable signification on the above terms, while at the same time they deny that other parts of the sacred writ, which are expressed in the like words, (see 1 Corinthians 12:27. Ephesians 1:22-23.) can ever be admitted to have any such meaning. However, to speak more directly to the point, certain it is, that the above doctrine cannot be contained in the places under consideration, as it is impossible to be true in the very nature of the thing. This must evidently appear, from the following absolute contradictions, which, among many others, the transubstantiation in question necessarilyimplies, and towhich it is obvious the most unlimited power can never give a being:—that the same numerical body which has invariably existed for more than eighteen hundred years, does often at this time begin to be;—that the body of Christ is formed out of a particular substance, which never had a being till many centuries after the said body had unchangeably existed in full perfection;—that the body aforesaid does at once exist in its own proper form, and not in its own proper form; that the said body is at one and the same moment of time both greater and less than itself, (the size of an ordinary man, and yet no larger than a grain of sand:) that the above body is remote and distant from itself; that it is where it is not; that it is at once plainly seen and not seen by the same persons; that it is in real motion, while at absolute rest; that it comes where it was not before, and never comes to such place at all; that it is always in a glorified state, incapable of the least injury or defilement, and yet is sometimes not only eaten by the most contemptible vermin, but likewise totally immersed in the worst filthiness." These observations abundantly demonstrate the falsehood of the tenet above mentioned; and with regard to the phrases, this is my body—this is my blood, it is to be observed, that they are figurative; their precise meaning is, "This is symbolically, representatively, interpretatively, my body—my blood." Thus, 1Co 10:3-4 manna is affirmed to have been spiritual meat, and water spiritual drink, and the drinkers of the same are said to have drank Christ; that is, not literally, but symbolically, and in divine construction. In Exodus 7:1. Moses is declared to have been made a god to Pharaoh, that is to say, representatively. So Mat 19:6 man and wife are asserted to be one flesh; that is to say, are considered in that view by Almighty God. In 1Co 6:11; 1Co 6:17 he that is joined to the Lord, is affirmed to be one spirit (with him); that is to say, in divine estimation; and
1Co 12:27 the church is said to be the body of Christ, and the several individuals which compose it, members in particular; that is to say, not corporeally so, but mystically, according to the established rules of the Christian oeconomy. The doctrine therefore contained in the passages under examination is, that by divine appointment the sacred elements do, in their use, actually signify, stand for, and represent the body of Christ as broken upon the cross, and his blood as shed there for our sins. Such is the true interpretation of the foregoing controverted sentences; which at the same time that it corresponds with the analogy of faith, is likewise agreeable to the sentiments of the best divines, both primitive and reformed. See Waterland on the Eucharist, ch. 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.
Matthew 26:29. But I say unto you— Or, moreover, I say, &c. In Luk 22:18 our Lord made the same declaration concerning the passover cup. Hence we gather his meaning, upon the whole, to have been this; that he would not partake of any joy, till he rejoiced with them in the communications of the Holy Spirit, which were to be bestowed plentifully on them as soon as the Gospel dispensation began. See Mark 14:25. The word new, applied to a subject, often signifies in scripture excellence and truth, consequently the substance represented by any emblematical shadow. See John 13:34. Dr. Clarke paraphrases the present verse thus: "I will have the Jewish passover commemoration no longer continued; but the things, of which these were figures, shall now be fulfilled and accomplished in the kingdom of the Messiah." See Whitby.
Matthew 26:30. And when they had sung an hymn— This is thought by some to have been one of the Psalms used at the paschal feast, (see on Matthew 26:20.) though Grotius and others are of opinion, that it possibly was some other hymn more closely adapted to the celebration of the eucharist. The mount of Olives stood over against the temple of Jerusalem, about fifteen stadia from the city. Our Lord usually retired thither after having taught in the temple.
Matthew 26:31-32. All ye shall be offended, &c.— That is "You shall lose all sense of your dutyas disciples, and, seeing me in a condition inconsistent with the vulgar idea of the Messiah, shall leave me to the cruelties of my enemies." This was a remarkable completion of Zechariah 13:7. See the note. Our Lord might use this as a proverbial expression, I will smite the sheep, &c. but it being so remarkably accomplished in him above all others, especially as he was the great shepherd of souls, as he was described under that image in the Old Testament, and had assumed the title peculiarly to himself;—his disciples could not but consider this circumstance as a proof of his being the Messiah. No sooner did Jesus mention the offence which his disciples were to take at his sufferings, than, to strengthen their faith, he told them of his resurrection, as well as of the particular place where they should see him after he was risen. An appointment to meet in so large a region as Galilee, would, without this, have been of very little use; and ch. Mat 28:16 expressly declares such an appointment. We do not know the exact place, but we there learn that it was a certain mountain; probably it might be near the sea of Tiberias, not only because we find Christ on the borders of that sea after his resurrection, Joh 21:1 but also because, as he had resided there longer than any where else, he had, no doubt, the greater number of his disciples thereabouts; and it lay pretty near the centre of his chief circuits, and therefore must be most convenient, especially for those beyond Jordan, where many had of late believed in him. See John 10:40; John 10:42. The angel repeats the words of the 32nd verse to the disciples who visited our Saviour's tomb. Ch. Matthew 28:7. The words go before allude to the image of the shepherd in the preceding verse, it being the custom of the Eastern shepherds to precede their flocks. See Doddridge, and John 10:4.
Matthew 26:33-35. Peter answered, &c.— St. Peter, no doubt, was sincere in this protestation which he made; nevertheless he was greatly to blame for not payinga due attention to his Master's repeated predictions concerning his fall, (see Luk 22:34 and John 13:38.) for the preference which he gave himself above his brethren, and for depending upon his own strength, instead of begging assistance of him from whom all human sufficiency is derived. The 34th verse is expressed differently by St. Mark, who represents our Lord as saying, before the cock crow twice, &c. and from Mar 13:35 of that Gospel it appears, that one of the four watches of the night was named the cock-crowing: now as this ended with the second crowing, before the cock crow, is equivalent to before the cock crow twice, both signifying, "before the expiration of the watch called the cock-crowing;"—at three in the morning, when the cock commonly crows the second time. Or we may suppose that this expression in the three historians is elliptical; and that the twice is understood, and must be supplied. We have examples of this kind of ellipsis in other parts of Scripture.
Matthew 26:36. Unto a place called Gethsemane— Reland thinks Gethsemane was a particular spot in the mount of Olives. But its situation, like that of some other places mentioned in the Gospel, has been settled by considering the description of a particularEvangelistonly,withoutcomparingtheiraccountstogether.FromJohn,xiv. 31 it appears, that Jesus went out with his disciples immediately after he had pronounced the consolatory discourse; for at the conclusion of it he said to them, Arise, let us go hence: and considering the subject of the next sermon, I am the true vine, &c. it is probable he was in the mount of Olives, among the vines, when he spake that parable, it being his manner to preach from such subjects as were at hand. Here also he delivered the discourse and prayer recorded John 16:0; John 17:0. Accordingly, when he prayed, Joh 17:1 it is said, he lifted up his eyes to heaven; a circumstance which seems to imply, that he was then in the open air. His coming down from the mount of Olives is expressed indeed by the word εξηλθε, Joh 18:1 which has led most readers to imagine, that bysome accident or other they were hindered from leaving the house till then, notwithstanding Jesus had ordered them to arise and go away with him: the answer is, that εξηλθε, being a general term, may be applied with propriety to one's going out of an inclosed field, or mount, as well as to his going out of a house; and though St. Luke seems to connect what happened in the mountain with the transactions in the garden, Luk 12:39-41 omitting their going to Gethsemane from the mountain; it should be considered that St. Matthew and St. Mark mention it particularly, and that the difficulty arising from St. Luke's connection is no greater, on supposition that Gethsemane was in the valley at the foot of the mountain, than on supposition that it was in the mountain itself. The truth is, there are many instances of this kind of connection to be met with in the gospels. It may be allowed then that Jesus came down from the mount of Olives with his disciples, crossed the brook Cedron, which ran through the valley, and so entered the garden of Gethsemane, which therefore lay between the brook Cedron and the city: probably it belonged to some of the country-seats with which the fields round the metropolis were beautified. The word Gethsemane in Hebrew signifies the valley of fatness. The garden probably had its name from its soil and situation; with some peculiar reference whereto, some have rendered it, torcular olei,—a vat of oil. See Macknight, and Univ. Hist. vol. 10. It deserves to be remarked, that the words which our Saviour here uses to his disciples, are the words of Abraham to his servants, when he went to offer up Isaac, the great type of our Redeemer. See Gen 22:5 in the LXX.
Matthew 26:37. He took with him Peter, &c.— These disciples were admitted to the most striking circumstances of our Lord's conduct: they were present when he raised Jairus's daughter; they were present at his transfiguration; and were now made witnesses of his agony, the rest of his disciples being leftat the entrance of the garden, to watch the approach of Judas and his company. See the note on ch. Matthew 17:1.
Matthew 26:38. My soul is exceeding sorrowful— The words used here, and in the latter part of Mat 26:37 by our translators, are very flat, and fall extremely short of the emphasis of those terms in which the Evangelist describes this aweful scene; for λυπεισθαι, rendered, to be sorrowful, signifies to be penetrated with the most lively and piercing sorrow; and αδημονειν, rendered, to be very heavy, signifies to be quite depressed, and almost overwhelmed with the load. St. Mark expresses it, if possible, in a more forcible manner; for εκθαμβεισθαν, in Mar 14:33 imports the most shocking mixture of terror and amazement; and; περιλυπος, exceeding sorrowful, in this verse intimates, that he was surrounded with sorrow on every side, so that it broke in upon him with such violence, that, humanly speaking, there was no way to escape. Dr. Doddridge translates and paraphrases the passage thus: "He began to be in a very great and visible dejection, amazement, and anguish of mind, on account of some painful and dreadful sensations, which were then impressed upon his soul by the immediate hand of God. Then turning to his three disciples, he says to them, My soul is surrounded on all sides with an extremity of anguish and sorrow, which tortures me even almost unto death; and I know that the infirmity of humannaturemustquickly sink under it, without some extraordinary relief from God: while therefore I apply to him, do you continue here and watch:"—and had they done this carefully, they would soon have found a rich equivalent for their watchfulness in the eminent improvement of their graces, by this wonderful and instructive sight. Dr. More truly observes, that Christ's continued resolution, in the midst of these agonies and supernatural horrors, was the most heroic that can be imagined, and far superior to valour in single combat, or in battle; where in one case the spirit is raised by natural indignation; and in the other by the pomp of war, the sound of martial music, the example of fellow-soldiers, &c. See More's Theological Works, p. 38 and Psalms 116:3.
Matthew 26:39. And fell on his face— The human nature of our Lord being now burdened beyond measure, he found it necessary to retire, and to pray that if it was possible, or consistent with the salvation of the world, he might be delivered from the sufferings which were then lying on him; for, that it was not the fear of dying on the cross, which made him speak and pray in the manner here related, is evident from this consideration, that to suppose it, would be to degrade our Lord's character infinitely: make his sufferings as terrible as possible, clothe them with all the aggravating circumstances imaginable, yet, if no more were included in them than the pains of death, for Jesus,—whose human nature was strengthened far beyond the natural pitch, by its union with the Divine,—to have shrunk at the prospect of it, would shew a weakness to which many of his followers were strangers, who encountered more terrible deaths without the least emotion. Our Lord first kneeled and prayed, as St. Luke tells us, Luk 12:41 then, in the vehemence of his passion, he fell on his face, and spake the words recorded both by St. Matthew and St. Mark; in the mean time his prayer, though most fervent, was accompanied with expressions of the utmost resignation. See Macknight and Calmet.
Matthew 26:40-41. And he cometh, &c.— It was now very late in the evening; for after supper Christ had made his disciples a long discourse, from John, John 14-17. and besides they were oppressed and stupified with sorrow. See Luke 22:45. Our Lord speaks to Peter in particular, who was so forward to boast that he would follow his Master even unto death. Every one is apt to flatter himself, when he is out of danger, that he can easily withstand temptations; but without a particular care and watchfulness, the passions are generally found to prevail over reason at the sight of danger. Archbishop Tillotson very justly and beautifully observes in nearly these words, That so gentle a rebuke and to kind an apology as we read in these verses, were the more remarkable, as our Lord's mind was now so weighed down with sorrow, that we might expect that he would have had a deeper and tenderer sense of the unkindness of his friends: and alas! how apt are we, in general, to think affliction an excuse for peevishness, and how unlike are we to Christ in that thought, and how unkind to ourselves, as well as our friends, to whom in such circumstances, with our best temper, we must be more troublesome than we could wish. See Archbishop Tillotson's Sermons, vol. 2.
Matthew 26:44. Saying the same words— It is plain, by comparing Matthew 26:39; Mat 26:42 that the words were not entirely the same; and it is certain that λογος often signifies matter; so that no more appears to be intended than that he prayed to the same purpose as before. The reader by referring to Luk 22:43-44 will find a more distinct account of this astonishing scene.
Matthew 26:45. Sleep on now, &c.— Some read this interrogatively, Do you sleep on still and take repose? See Luke 22:46. This is a reproof which very well agrees with Mat 26:40-41 and the words following that passage. Into the hands of sinners, means of the Gentiles, according to the stile of the Hebrews, (see Gal 2:15) of which sort were the soldiers whom Judas brought along with him, John 18:3.
Matthew 26:48. He that betrayed him, gave them a sign— The soldiers having perhaps never seen Jesus before, and it being now night, and there being twelve persons together, probably dressed much alike, Judas found it necessary to point him out to them by some such sign as this. It was a Jewish custom, after a long absence, or at departing from each other, to make use of the ceremony of a kiss. They used it likewise as a sign of affection to their equals, and as a mark of homage and reverence to their superiors. See Psalms 2:12.Luke 7:45; Luke 7:45. It is very probable that our Lord, in great condescension, had used, agreeably to this custom, to permit his disciples thus to salute him, when they returned to him after having been any time absent. One would be apt to believe, from the precaution which Judas gives at the end of the verse, hold him fast, that he might suspect Christ would on this occasion renew the miraclesthathehad formerly wrought for his own deliverance; (compare Luke 4:30. John 8:59; John 10:39.) though he had so expressly declared the contrary, Matthew 26:24
Matthew 26:50. Friend, Wherefore art thou come?— The heroic behaviour of the blessed Jesus, in the whole period or his sufferings, will be observed by every attentive eye, and felt by every pious heart; although the sacred historians, according to their usual but wonderful simplicity, make no encomiums upon it. With what composure does he go forth to meet the traitor! with what composure receive that malignant kiss! with what dignity does he deliver himself into the hands of his enemies! yet plainly shewing his superiority over them, and even then leading as it were captivity captive. See Bishop Hall's Contemplations on the subject.
Matthew 26:51-53. And behold, one of them—drew his sword— None of the evangelists but John (John 18:10.) mentions the name of the high-priest's servant on this occasion, which perhaps the others omitted, lest it should expose them to any prosecution. But John, writing long after our Saviour's death, needed no such precaution. Jansenius justly observes, that it was a remarkable instance of the power of Christ over the spirits of men, that they so far obeyed his word, as not to seize Peter when he had cut off the ear of Malchus, or John while he stood by the cross, though they must know them to have been of the number of his most intimate associates. One would have thought, as Bishop Hall remarks, that Peter should rather have struck Judas; but the traitor perhaps on giving the signal had mingled with the crowd; or Peter might not understand the treacherous design of his kiss; or seeing Malchus more eager than the rest in his attack on Christ, he might postpone all other resentments, to indulgethe present sally of his indignation. Though this might seem a courageous action, it was really very imprudent; and had not Christ, by some secret influence, overawed their spirits, it is very probable that not only Peter, but the rest of the apostles, might have been cut to pieces. Accordinglyour Saviour ordered him to sheath his sword, telling him that his unseasonable and imprudent offence might prove the occasion of his destruction; or rather as Grotius interprets it, that there was no need of fighting in his defence, because God would punish the Jews for putting him to death; see Rev 13:10 where this very expression is used, in predicting the destruction of the persecutors of true Christians. Our Lord told him further, that it implied both a distrust of the divine providence, and also a gross ignorance of the Scriptures, Matthew 26:53-54. The legion was a Roman military term, and as the band which now surrounded them was a Roman cohort, our Lord might make use of this term by way of contrast, to shew what an inconsiderable thing the cohort was, in comparison of the force that he could summon to his assistance;—more than twelve legions, not of soldiers) but of angels,—instead of twelve deserting timorous disciples. How dreadfully irresistible would such an army of angels have been, when one of the celestial spirits was able to destroy an hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians in one night. See 2Ki 19:35 and the note on Matthew 26:56.
Matthew 26:56. But all this was done— Or, Is done. This was a consideration, which, if dulyapplied,mighthavepreventedhisdisciplesfrombeingoffended at his sufferings; and it strongly intimates that he still kept up the claim which he had formerly made of being the Messiah, and that what he was now to go through, was so far from being at all inconsistent with that claim, that on the whole it was absolutely necessary in order to make it out to full satisfaction.
The disciples, seeing their Master in the hands of his enemies, forsook him and fled, according to his prediction. Perhaps they were afraid that the action of Peter should be imputed to them all, and might bring their lives into danger. But whatever they apprehended, their precipitate flight in these circumstances was the basest cowardice and ingratitude, considering not only how lately they had been warned of their danger, and what solemn promises they had all made of a courageous adherence to Christ; but also what an agony they had just seen him in, what zeal he had a few moments before shewn in their defence, and what amazing power he had exerted to terrifyhis enemies into a compliance with that part of his demand which related to the safety of his friends. He had also at the same time intimated his purpose of giving them a speedy and kind dismission; see John 18:8. So that it was very indecent thus to run away without him, especially as Christ's prophesy of their continued usefulness in his church was equivalent to a promise of their preservation, whatever danger they might now meet with. But our Lord probably permitted it, that we might learn not to depend too confidently even on the friendship of the best of men. See Doddridge and Macknight.
Matthew 26:57. Led him away to Caiaphas— It appears from Joh 18:13 that Jesus was first led to Annas, because he wasfather-in-law of Caiaphas; besides, that having been himself a high-priest, and very much concerned in this whole matter, it was but natural that he should have this honour done him. St. Matthew makes no mention of Annas, because nothing remarkable happened at his house, our Lord having stayed there no longer than what was just necessary to acquaint the council that they were going to lead him to Caiaphas.
Matthew 26:59-60. Now—the council sought false witness— When the council found that Jesus declined answering the question whereby they would have drawn from him an acknowledgment of his being the Messiah, (see John 18:19; John 18:40.) they examined many witnesses to prove his having assumed that character: for by what afterwards happened it appears, that they considered such a pretension as blasphemy in his mouth, who, being nothing but a man, as they supposed, could not, without affronting the majesty of God, take the title of God's Son, which of right belonged to the Messiah. In examining the witnesses, they acted like interested and enraged persecutors, rather than impartial judges; for they formed the questions after such a manner, as, if possible, to draw from them expressions which they might pervert into grounds of guilt, whereuponthey might condemn Jesus. But notwithstanding they were at the utmost pains to procure such a proof as in the eye of the law would justify the sentence which they were resolved at all hazards to pass upon Jesus, they exerted themselves to no purpose. As this was a great proof of Christ's innocence (for otherwise his confederates might have been glad to purchase their own security by impeaching him), so is it a singular instance of the power of God over men's minds; that for all the rewards which these great men could offer, no two consistent witnesses could be procured to charge Jesus with any gross crimes. Possibly the exertion of his miraculous power, in striking to the ground those who were most forward to seize him, might intimidate the spirits of some, who might otherwise have been prevailed upon. See John 18:6.
Matthew 26:60-61. At the last came two false witnesses, &c.— St. Mark, Mar 14:58 tells us, that these false witnesses alleged, that our Lord had said, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands. Now it is in the addition of these last words that their false testimony consists, because it restrains to the temple of Jerusalem the expression of Jesus, which might otherwise be understood both of that temple, and of his body, and which indeed he meant of the latter. Besides, our Lord had not said I will destroy, but do you destroy this temple. See John 2:19. The witnesses, it seems, either through ignorance, or more probably through malice, perverted his answer into an affirmation, that he was able to destroy and build the temple in three days; and the judges reckoned it blasphemy, because it was an effect that could be accomplished by nothing less than divine power; wherefore these men are justly branded through the world with the name of false witnesses, and their testimony was deservedly disregarded by our Lord, especially as they had expressed great ill-will to him in giving it, contrary to the rules of equity and goodness.—This fellow, said they contemptuously. This is one instance, among many others, in which the bow of malice has been broken by overstraining it, and innocence cleared up by the very extravagance of those charges which have been advanced against it. It is observable, that the words which they thus misrepresented, were spoken by Christ at least three years before. Their going back so far to find matter for the charge they brought, was a glorious, though silent attestation, of the unexceptionable manner in which our Lord had behaved himself during all the course of his public ministry. See Doddridge and Macknight.
See commentary on Mat 26:59
Matthew 26:62-63. The high-priest arose, &c.— When the high-priest found that Jesus took little notice of the things which the witnesses said against him, he fell into a passion, supposing that Christ intended to put an affront upon the council. For he arose from his seat, which judges seldom do, unless when in some perturbation, and spake to him, desiring him to give the reason of his conduct. The rabbies say, that a judge stands up only when he hears witnesses deposing that some person has blasphemed. But the high-priest finding this in vain, in order to cut the trial short, and ensnare Jesus, he adjured or called upon him to answer upon oath, whether he were the Christ. It appears that the Jewish high-priests had the power of administering that oath, which laid the person adjured under the necessity of giving an explicit answer, and of speaking the whole truth without disguise. The craft of the question put to our Lord lay in this, that if he answered in the affirmative, they were ready to condemn him as a blasphemer; but if in the negative, they proposed to punish him as an impostor, who, by accepting the honours and titles of the Messiah from the people, had deceived them.
Matthew 26:64. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said— Our Lord would not vouchsafe to give an answer to so frivolous an accusation as was that brought against him, Matthew 26:61. But when he is called upon to acknowledge so important a truth as that contained in this verse, a truth which he came to reveal to the world, and for the maintaining of which he ventured the loss of his life, then he speaks boldly and openly. Hereafter ye shall see, &c. means, "You shall see the sign from heaven which you have so often demanded in confirmation of my mission." Heinsius would have the words 'Απ αρτι, rendered hereafter, joined together, so as to make απαρτι, the same with απηρτισμενως, truly, expressly. Moreover I say unto you expressly, you shall see, &c. By the right hand of power or greatness, is meant the right hand of God, who by the Jews is called power, as Dr. Whitby has fully proved. There is a plain reference here to the view in which the Son of man is represented, Dan 7:13-14 where he is said to come in the clouds of heaven—to receive dominion, &c. Our Lord looked veryunlike that person now; but nothing could be more aweful, majestic, and becoming,than such an admonition in these circumstances. The sending down of the Holy Ghost, the wonderful progress of the Gospel, the destruction of Jerusalem, of the temple, and of the Jewish state, were unquestionable proofs and demonstrations, shewn forth by Jesus Christ, of the infinite power wherewith he was invested at the right hand of God, in his mediatorial kingdom.
Matthew 26:65. Then the high-priest rent his clothes— Though the high-priest was forbidden to rend his clothes in some cases, when others were allowed to do it, (Leviticus 10:6; Leviticus 21:10.) yet in case of blasphemy or any public calamity it was thought allowable. Caiaphas therefore, by this action, expressed in the strongest and most artful manner his horror at hearing so vile a wretch, as he pretended our Lord was, thus claiming the sovereignty over Israel, and a seat at the right-hand of God, and this when adjured upon oath on so solemn an occasion. That the high-priest was clothed in ordinary apparel on this occasion, appears from Exo 29:29-30 where the pontifical garments are ordered to descend from father to son, and therefore were to be worn only at their consecration, and when they ministered.
Matthew 26:66. He is guilty of death.— Or he deserves or is worthy of death.
Matthew 26:67-68. Then did they spit in his face— Spitting in the face was the greatest contempt and disgrace which could possibly be shewn. See Numbers 12:14. Buffeting or striking with the fist on the temples, was esteemed one of the most disgraceful punishments by the Greeks, from whom the Romans might have adopted it: smiting with the open palms of their hands, was esteemed such a dishonour, as none but a slave ought to endure. See Luk 22:64 and Isaiah 53:3; Isaiah 53:7. Because St. Matthew says, that they who condemned Jesus spit in his face and buffeted him; and St. Mar 14:65.mentionstheindignitiesinparticularwhichtheservantsputuponhim,—it appears that he was smitten, blind-folded, and buffeted even by some of the council; who to ridicule him for having pretended to be the great prophet foretold by Moses, bade him, sarcastically, to exercise his prophetical gifts in guessing who it was that smote him. Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, who is he that smote thee? The word rendered prophesy, signifies not only to foretel things that are future, but also to discover any thing obscure or beyond the reach of uninspired nature. It was hardly possible for these miscreants to invent any thing more expressive of the contempt in which they held our Lord's pretensions to the Messiahship. Thus was the judge of the world placed at the bar of his own creatures, falsely accused by the witnesses, unjustly condemned by his judges, and barbarously insulted by all! yet because it was agreeable to the end of his coming, he patiently submitted, though he could with a frown have made his judges, his accusers, and those who had him in custody, all to drop down dead in a moment, or sink into nothing! See Macknight, Grotius, Wetstein.
Matthew 26:69. Now Peter sat without— Our Lord's trial in the high-priest's palace, and Peter's denying him, being contemporary events, might be related the one before the other, according to the historian's pleasure. St. Matthew and St. Mark describe the trial first, because it is a principal fact. But St. Luke brings it in after the denials. St. John has preserved the exact and natural order: for he begins with the first denial, because it happened immediately after Peter entered the palace; then gives the history of the trial as the principal fact, and concludes with the subsequent denials. The apostles, no doubt, were in great consternation when their Master was apprehended, as appears from their forsaking him. Some of them, however, recovering out of the panic that had seized them, followed the band at a distance, to see what the end would be: of this number was Peter, and another disciple, whom John has mentioned without giving his name, and who therefore is generally supposed to have been John himself, it being the manner of this Evangelist to speak of himself in the third person. See John 13:23; John 21:20. St. Matthew and St. Mark seem to differ in the account which they give of the place where Peter first denied his Master. St. Matthew says, Peter sat without in the palace; St. Mar 14:66 says that this denial happened as Peter was beneath in the palace. It appears from Joh 18:25 that Peter was with the servants at the fire, when he denied his Master the third time;and from Luke 22:61., that Jesus looked upon Peter, just as he was pronouncing the words of the third denial. Our Lord, therefore, and his disciples were not, the one in the court, and the other in the vestibule of the palace, during his trial, as some have supposed; but they were together in one room, Jesus with his judges at the upper end of it, and Peter with the servants at the fire at the other end. Accordingto this disposition, Peter might be said to have been without in the hall, that is to say, without, in relation to the crowd of judges, witnesses, and soldiers, around Jesus; but in relation to the place where the council sat, he was beneath in the hall, in the lower part of it; a way of speaking common even in our own language. Further, John, Mat 26:18 says, that Peter, after the first denial, stood with the officers at the fire; whereas St. Matthew and St. Luke tell us, that when he first denied his Master, he sat by the fire. It seems the maid's words had put him into such confusion, that before he answered her, he arose from the seat, which the servants had given him at his first coming in. We learn from St. John, that the damsel who attacked Peter was the who kept the door; it seems, that after having admitted him, she followed him to the fire, and spoke to him in an angry tone, having been informed that it was he who had cut off her fellow-servant's ear. See John 18:17; John 18:26. Thou also wast with Jesus, means, when he was apprehended in the garden; to be with, signifies sometimes to be a disciple. The woman, probably, either had some knowledge of Peter before, or was informed by John, or some of those who had been in the garden, that he was one of Christ's friends. See Matthew 26:73. The word Galilee is added by way of distinction, Jesus being a very common name at this time. See Macknight, Grotius, Doddridge.
Matthew 26:71. When he was gone out into the porch— St. Matthew and St. Mark say it was a woman that attacked Peter in the porch; St. Luke says it was a man; and Grotius, to reconcile the evangelists, has shewn that the Greek word Ανθρωπος signifies both man and woman, as homo does in the Latin. But without having recourse to this criticism, which appears rather too nice, it is natural and easy to suppose, that the apostle was accosted in the porch both by a woman and a man; the former mentioned by St. Matthew and St. Mark, the latter by St. Luke. The word προαυλιον, rendered porch, answers most exactly to the Latin word vestibulum, by which many good interpreters render it: and considering the magnificence of the Jewish buildings at this time, it is reasonable to conclude, that this which belonged to the high-priest's palace, was some stately piazza or colonnade, and therefore the word would be better rendered portico. The Jews gave our Lord the appellation of Jesus of Nazareth to shew that they looked upon him as an impostor, who was neither a prophet nor the Messiah, and that they held him in the greatest contempt; and in that view the modern Jews give him the same appellation.
Matthew 26:72. And again he denied with an oath— To his denial he now added perjury. Jesus was so public a person, and so well known to thousands, not at all in his interest, that this additional falsehood, I do not know the man, was most unnecessary; and—as it frequently happens, when people allow themselves to transgress the bounds of truth,—it was more likely to entangle anddiscover him, than to clear him. Dr. Clarke conjectures, that Peter was suffered to fall fouler than any of the rest of the apostles, except Judas the traitor, and to make more remarkable mistakes in his conduct, that we might thus be cautioned against that extravagant regard which would afterwards be demanded to him and his pretended successors. How must these people, before whom Peter denied his Lord, be surprised, when they saw, as no doubt some of them did, this timorous disciple, within the compass of a few weeks, when he was brought with John before the council, not only maintaining the cause and honour of Jesus, but boldly charging the murder of this Prince of Life upon the chief men of the nation, and solemnly warning them of their guilt and danger in consequence of it! See Acts 4:5-12. Perhaps when it is said there, Matthew 26:13., that they took knowledge of Peter and John, that they had been with Jesus; the meaning may be, that some of them or their attendants remembered Peter and John, as the two persons who had followed Jesus thus far, when the rest had forsaken him. See Joh 18:15-18 and Doddridge.
Matthew 26:73-74. And after a while came, &c.— The words of Malchus's kinsman, (see John 18:26.) bringing to Peter's remembrance what he had done to that slave, threw him into such a panic, that when those who stood by repeated the charge, he impudently denied it.When the servants at the fire heard Peter deny the charge which John has mentioned, they drew near, and supported the argument drawn from the accent with which he had pronounced his answer. We are told by the Jews that the Galileans had a clownish and uncouth way of speaking, for which they were ridiculed by the inhabitants of Judea; and as the Galileans were generally suspected of being disciples of Jesus, Peter's having the Galilean accent is therefore urged as a strong presumption that he was one of the disciples of Jesus. Thus pressed on all sides, to give his lie the better colour, he profaned the name of God by swearing and wishing the bitterest curses on himself, (for such is the force of the original) if he was telling a falsehood. Perhaps he hoped by these acts of impiety to convince them effectually indeed, that he was not a disciple of the holy Jesus. All the evangelists agree, that the cock crew immediately after Peter pronounced the words of the third denial, which they themselves have related: but upon comparing the things said when this third attack was made, it appears that the speeches at least which St. John has recorded, did not come from the persons mentioned by the other evangelists; wherefore the third denial was occasioned by different attacks made in succession; unless the men spoke all at once, which is not very probable. It is more natural to think, that when Peter denied his Master to them who first attacked him, the others who stood by supported the charge with an argumentdrawn from his accent in speaking, which proved him to be a Galilean. However, as in either case the succession of his answers must have been very quick, the veracity of the evangelists remains unshaken, because thus the cock crew immediately after Peter pronounced the words which they have severally related. To this part of the history it has been objected, that the Jews, as their tradition goes, never kept any cocks within the walls of Jerusalem, and consequently that Peter could not hear them crow, while he was in the high-priest's palace; but the objection maybe removed either by calling the tradition itself in question, because it contradicts the testimony of writers whose veracity is indubitable, and who could not but know the customs of the age in which they lived; and because many traditions of this kind were framed by the rabbis, with a view to magnify the sanctity of Jerusalem. Or, the objection may be removed by supposing, that the Romans who lived in the city, neglectingthe institutions of the Jews, might keep this kind of fowl about their houses, perhaps for their table, or for the auspices, a sort of divination to which they were peculiarly addicted. See Macknight.
Matthew 26:75. And Peter remembered the words of Jesus which said, &c.— Or, Who had said, &c. See Luk 22:61 where the remarkably beautiful circumstance of Christ's turning and looking upon Peter is recorded: see also Mark 14:72. Hence we learn that St. Peter denied his Master three different times, and with oaths, forgetting the vehement protestations that he had made a few hours before, He was permitted to fall in this manner, to teach mankind two lessons: first, that whatever a person's attainments may have been formerly, if once he passes the bounds of morality, he commonly proceeds from bad to worse, one sin naturally drawing on another; for which reason, the very least appearances of evil are to be dreaded, and thegreatest humility and self-diffidence maintained. In the second place, the goodness wherewith Jesus treated his fallen apostle teaches us, that no sinner whatever needs despair of mercy, who truly repents. But I shall reserve the Inferences which I may draw from the fall and repentance of St. Peter for another opportunity; referring the reader in the mean time to Dr. Foster's Sermons, vol. 1 and the Reflections on this chapter; and taking a view here of the conduct and character of Judas Iscariot.
Inferences.—The treachery of Judas Iscariot, in betraying his Master, must raise the astonishment of every reader who has any just notion of our Lord's character. Wherefore, the motives swaying him to be guilty of such an atrocious crime, and the circumstances which attended it, deserve a particular consideration.
Some are of opinion, that he was incited to commit this villany by his resentment of the rebuke which Jesus gave him, for blaming the woman who came with the precious ointment. But though this may have had its weight with him, it could hardly be the only motive; since the rebuke was not levelled against him singly, but was directed also to the rest, who, being rebuked at the same time, must have kept him in countenance. Besides, though he had been rebuked alone, it can hardly be supposed that so mild a reproof would provoke any person, how wicked soever, to the horrid act of murdering his friend; much less Judas,—whose covetousness must have disposed him to bear every thing at the hand of his Master, from whom he expected great preferment. If it be replied, that his resentment was so great as to hinder him from exercising his reason, and hurried him on precipitately, it should be considered, that though he struck the bargain with the priests a few hours after he was rebuked, yet almost two days passed before he fulfilled his bargain. Besides, to impute this treachery to the sudden impulse of a strong resentment, is such an alleviation of his crime, as seems inconsistent with the character given of it in Scripture; where it is always represented in the blackest colours, and said to merit the heaviest punishment.
Others think that Judas betrayed his Master out of covetousness. But neither can this be admitted, if by covetousness is understood an eager desire of the reward given him by the priests: for the whole sum was not much more in value than 3£. sterling; a trifle, which the most covetous wretch cannot be supposed to have taken as an equivalent for the life of a friend, from whom he had the greatest expectations of gain. The reader will see the strength of this reason, when he calls to mind that all the disciples believed the kingdom of the Messiah was instantly to be erected, and that, according to the notion which they entertained of it, each of them, but especially the Apostles, had the prospect of being raised in a little time to immense riches. Besides, the Scripture tells us, that Judas's predominant passion was covetousness. He would not therefore be so inconsistent with himself, as when just on the point, according to his apprehension, of reaping such a reward of his service, to throw all away for the trifling sum above-mentioned.
Others attribute Judas's perfidy to his doubting whether his Master was the Messiah, and suppose that he betrayed him in a fit of despair. But of all the solutions, this is the worst founded. For if Judas thought that his Master was an impostor, he must have observed something in his behaviour which led him to form such an opinion of him; and in that case he certainly would have mentioned it to the chief-priests and elders at the time when he made the bargain with them; which it is plain he did not, otherwise they would have put him in mind of it, when he came to them and declared his remorse for what he had done. Doubtless also they would have urged it against our Lord himself in the course of his trial, when they were at such a loss for witnesses to prove their accusations; and against the Apostles afterwards, when they reproved them for preaching in Christ's name. Acts 4:15., &c. Matthew 5:27., &c. Farther, had Judas thought that his Master was an impostor, and proposed nothing by his treachery but the price that he put upon his life, how came he to sell him for such a trifle, when he well knew that the priests would have given him any sum, rather than not have gotten him into their hands! To conclude this head, the supposition of Judas's believing that his Master was an impostor, is directly confuted by the solemn declaration which he made to the priests, implying the deepest conviction of Christ's innocence, (Chap. Matthew 27:4.) I have sinned, said he, in betraying the innocent blood! It is also confuted by the remorse which he felt for his crime, when Jesus was condemned; a remorse so bitter, that he was not able to bear it, but fled to a halter for relief.
Since Judas's treachery then proceeded from none of these motives mentioned, it may be asked, what other motive can be assigned for his conduct? St. John tells us, that he was so covetous, as to steal money out of our Lord's bag. This account of him gives us reason to believe, that he first followed Jesus with a view to the riches and other temporal advantages which he expected the Messiah's friends would enjoy. It likewise authorises us to think, that as he had hitherto reaped none of these advantages, he might grow impatient under the delay; and the more so, as Jesus had of late discouraged all ambitious views among his disciples, and neglected to embrace the opportunity of erecting his kingdom, which was offered by the multitude who accompanied him into Jerusalem with Hosannahs. His impatience, therefore, becoming excessive, put him upon the scheme of delivering his Master into the hands of the council, thinking it the most proper method of obliging him to assume the dignity of Messiah, and consequently of enabling him to reward his followers. For as this court was composed of the chief-priests, elders, and scribes, that is, the principal persons belonging to the sacerdotal order, the representatives of the great families, and the doctors of the law, Judas did not doubt, but that Jesus, when before such an assembly, would prove his pretensions to their full conviction, gain them over to his interests, and forthwith enter on his royal dignity. And though he could not but be sensible, that the measure which he adopted to bring this about, was very offensive to his Master, he might think that the success of it would procure his pardon, and even recommend him to favour. In the meantime, his project, however plausible it might appear to one of his turn, was far from being free from difficulty: and therefore while he revolved it in his own mind, many things might occur to stagger his resolution. At length something happened which urged him on. Thinking himself affronted by the rebuke which Jesus had given him, in the matter of the last anointing, and that rebuke sitting the heavier on him, as he had procured a former mark of his Master's displeasure by an imprudence of the like kind, he was provoked; and though his resentment was not such as could inspire him with the horrid design of murdering his Master, it impelled him to execute the resolution that he had formed of making him alter his measures. Rising up therefore from table, he went straightway into the city to the high-priest's palace, where he found the chief priests and elders assembled, consulting how they might take Jesus by subtilty (Matthew 26:4.). To them he made known his intention, and undertook for a small sum of money to conduct a band of armed men to the place where Jesus usually spent the nights, and where they might apprehend him without the danger of a tumult. Thus the devil, laying hold on the various passions which now agitated the traitor's breast, tempted him by them all.
That these were the views with which Judas acted in betraying his Master, may be gathered, first, from the nature of the bargain which he struck with the priests, Matthew 26:15. What will ye give me, said he, and I will deliver him unto you? He did not mean that he would deliver him up to be put to death. For though the priests had consulted among themselves how they might kill Jesus, none of them had been so barefaced as to declare their intention publicly. They only proposed bringing him to a trial for having assumed the character of the Messiah, and to treat him as it should appear he deserved. The offer therefore which Judas made to them of delivering him up, was in conformity to their public resolution. Nor did they understand it in any other: for had the priests thought that his design in this was to get Jesus punished with death, they must likewise have thought that he believed him to be an impostor, in which case they certainly would have produced him as one of their principal evidences, no person being more fit to bear witness against any criminal than his companion. Or, though Judas had repented before the trial came on, and had withdrawn himself, the priests might have argued with great plausibility, both in their own court, and before the governor, that for a man's disciple to require the judges to bring him to condign punishment, branded him with such a suspicion of guilt, as was almost equal to a full proof. Again, when Judas returned to them with the money, declaring that he had sinned in betraying innocent blood, instead of replying (as they did ch. Matthew 27:4.) what is that to us? see thou to that, it was the most natural thing in the world to have upbraided him with the stain he had put upon his Master's character, by the bargain that he had entered into with them. It is true, they called the money which they gave him the price of blood, (ch. Matthew 27:6.) but they did not mean this in the strictest sense, as they neither had hired Judas to assassinate his Master, nor can be supposed to have charged themselves with the guilt of murdering him. It was only the price of blood consequentially, being the reward that they had given to the traitor for putting it into their power to take away Christ's life under the colour and form of public justice. Nay, it may be even doubted, whether Judas asked the money as a reward of his service. He covetously indeed kept it, and the priests for that reason called it the price of blood; but he demanded it perhaps on pretence of gratifying and encouraging the people who were to assist him in apprehending Jesus. To conclude, Judas knew that the rulers could not take away the life of any person whatsoever, the Romans having deprived them of that power, (John 18:31.) and therefore could have no design of this kind in delivering him up; not to mention that it was a common opinion among the Jews, that the Messiah would never die (John 12:34.); an opinion which Judas might easily embrace, having seen his Master raise several persons from the dead, and among the rest one who had been in the grave no less than four days.
That the traitor's intention in betraying his Master was what has been already urged, is probable, secondly, from his hanging himself when he found him condemned, not by the governor, but by the council whose prerogative it was to judge prophets. Had Judas proposed to take away his Master's life, the sentence of condemnation passed upon him, instead of filling him with despair, must have gratified him, being the accomplishment of his project, whereas the light wherein we have endeavoured to place his conduct shews this circumstance to have been perfectly natural. Judas having been witness to the greatest part of our Lord's miracles, and having experienced the certain truth of them in the powers which had been conferred upon himself, could never think that the council would have condemned him as a false Christ, far less as a blasphemer. He knew him to be perfectly innocent, and expected that he would have wrought such miracles before the council as should have constrained them to believe. Therefore when he found that nothing of this kind was done, and that the priests had passed sentence of condemnation upon him, and were carrying him to the governor to get it executed, he repented of his rash and covetous project, came to the chief-priests and elders, the persons to whom he had betrayed him, offered them the money again, and solemnly declared the deepest conviction of his Master's innocence, hoping that they would have desisted from the prosecution; but they were obstinate, and would not relent; upon which his remorse arose to such a pitch, that, unable to support the torments of his conscience, he went and hanged himself.
Thus it seems probable that the traitor's intention in delivering up his Master, was to lay him under a necessity of proving his pretensions before the grandees, whom he had hitherto shunned; thinking that if they had yielded, the whole nation would immediately have submitted, and the disciples have been raised forthwith to the summit of their expectations.
This account of Judas's conduct is by no means calculated to lessen the foulness of his crime, which was the blackest imaginable. For, even in the light above mentioned, it implied both an insatiable avarice, and a wilful opposition to the counsels of Providence; and so rendered the actor of it a disgrace to human nature. But it is calculated to set the credibility of the traitor's action in a proper light, and to shew that he was not moved to it by any thing suspicious in the character of his Master; because, according to this view of it, his perfidy, instead of implying that he entertained suspicions of his Master's integrity, plainly proves that he had the fullest conviction of his being the Messiah. And, to say the truth, it was not possible for any one intimately acquainted with our Lord, as Judas was, to judge otherwise of him; having seen his miracles, which were great and true beyond exception, and having experienced his power in the ability of working miracles, which, along with the rest of the apostles, he had received from him, and no doubt exercised with extraordinary pleasure. However, as the motives of men's actions, at such a distance of time, must needs be intricate, especially where history is in a great measure silent concerning them, we ought to be very modest in our attempt to unravel them: for which cause the above account of Judas's conduct is proposed only as a conjecture worthy of farther inquiry. See the notes on the next chapter.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The time was now at hand, when Messiah, the Prince, should be cut off.
1. He gives his disciples notice of his betrayal and approaching crucifixion, that they might be the less surprised. He had finished his discourse on the sufferings that they might expect, and on their encouragements to bear up under them, and now he was going himself to set them the bright example they should copy.
The views of a suffering Christ should support every suffering Christian. Within two days the dreadful plot was to be executed.
2. Just at this time the chief-priests, scribes, and elders, the members of the sanhedrim, and the men of highest authority among the Jews, exasperated now beyond measure, and resolved upon the death of Jesus, assembled to consult upon the properest means of accomplishing their bloody purpose. The high-priest's palace was the place where these conspirators met; and, having weighed the dangers of an uproar which might ensue, if on the feast-day they should attempt to arrest him amid the concourse of people who attended him; they resolved, if possible, to watch their opportunity to seize him privately, and either thus make away with him, or get him condemned by the Roman governor, and execute him as a malefactor, on account of crimes which they were ready to lay to his charge. Note; The fear of man often restrains those from wickedness, who are unawed by any fear of God.
2nd, Jesus, though he spent the day at Jerusalem, retired at even to Bethany, a village at a little distance, and was now in the house of Simon the leper; one of those probably who had experienced his healing power, and had become his faithful disciple. We are told,
1. The singular mark of respect shewn him by a gracious woman who was present when they sat at meat. She poured upon his head a box of precious ointment, as the profession of her faith in him as the Messiah, the anointed of God, and as a token of her love to him, as her adored Lord and Saviour, See the critical notes.
2. The offence which the disciples took at the matter. They among themselves censured the action as an unnecessary waste of what might have been more profitably employed, if the money which so valuable a box of ointment would bring had been given to the poor; and perhaps meant tacitly to blame their Master for permitting this to be done, and not discountenancing the woman. Note; (1.) Charity bids us put the best construction on what is dubious; and we should be very careful how we censure those of over-doing, or as guilty of imprudence, who go farther than we dare or care to do. Probably the fault we complain of, will be found more justly retorted; and that not their intemperate rashness, but our lukewarmness and want of zeal and love for Jesus, is to be blamed. (2.) That is never wasted, which is employed for Christ and his service.
3. Christ rebukes his disciples, and vindicates this gracious woman. He knew their murmurs, and expostulates with them on the unjustness of their indignation, why trouble ye the woman by such harsh judging, and unkind sentiments of her conduct? The work was both suitable and seasonable, deserving of commendation, not censure. Among the poor, for whom they expressed such jealousy, they would always find objects to exercise their charity; but his bodily presence with them was short, and therefore this act of respect was not only pleasing to him, but had a particular view which they knew not: it was intended for his burial, as an embalming of his body though now alive, which she would not have an opportunity to do when he was dead; and this she did either by revelation, or the Holy Ghost directed her to the action for this end. So far therefore from issuing to her reproach, it should be mentioned to her perpetual honour, as the evidence of her genuine faith and love, wherever the Gospel should be preached in the whole world. (See the Annotations.) Note; (1.) If we knew the principles and motives on which others act, we should often see abundant reason to approve that conduct which now we condemn. (2.) It is a real grief to a gracious soul to be censured for well-doing, especially by those whose approbation he had reason to expect; but our judgment is with the Lord, and our reward with our God. (3.) We never need want opportunities of doing good, if we have hearts to do it; objects of distress every where abound. (4.) Those who honour Jesus, he will honour.
3rdly, The traitor Judas provoked with the vindication of the woman, and vexed at the reproof which he peculiarly felt, as having been the chief murmurer and instigator of the rest, given up now to the devil's power, presently arose full of malice and resentment, and went directly to the chief priests, who wanted, but could not hope to find, so fit an instrument for their hellish purpose. We need not startle to find that one of the twelve was a traitor, or had a devil: where shall we find, among professors in general, so small a proportion of hypocrites? We have,
1. The offer he made. What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? This was the very thing they desired; they dared not seize him openly; nothing therefore could be more opportune than to have a traitor among his followers, who could introduce them secretly, that they might arrest him without an uproar. The traitor, conscious of his Master's innocence, does not presume to vindicate his own baseness, by pretending the discovery of any crime, or daring to appear as an evidence against him; yet, resolved to ruin him, he proposes this villanous treachery. Note; (1.) Many want only opportunity and temptation, to shew the baseness and hypocrisy of their hearts. (2.) None wound the cause so deeply as those, who from apostles turn apostates, and employ their bitter enmity against the Gospel which they once preached and espoused. (3.) When the heart is bent on mischief, the devil will suggest the means. But see the notes and inferences for other views of the subject.
2. The chief-priests eagerly embraced the offer, and immediately the bargain is struck for thirty shekels of silver, the goodly price he was valued at by them, Zechariah 11:13. Note; (1.) They who sell themselves to work wickedness, often find the wages as wretched as the service is vile. (2.) Many cry out against the falsehood of this traitor, yet by crafty bargains, and inordinate profit on their goods, how often have they lied, deceived, defrauded, and sold their Master for less than thirty pieces of silver?
3. From that time Judas sought opportunity to betray him, that, acquainting them with his retirement, they might seize him in the absence of the multitude. The way of sin is headlong, one crime draws on another, the conscience is hardened by the repetition of guilt, and onward the miserable slave of Satan is hurried to the precipice of eternal ruin.
4thly, We have our Lord's celebration of his last passover.
1. The preparation for that solemnity. The first day of the feast of unleavened bread, when the paschal lamb was to be killed and eaten in the evening; the disciples, presuming that their Master would keep the passover at Jerusalem, though they knew of no house ready for his and their reception, asked him where they must prepare the paschal supper? and Christ, at the same time that he gave them a striking proof of his omniscience, directs them to a person who, on delivering the message that he gave them, would shew them the place they sought. Say unto him, who was probably a disciple, and well knew Jesus, the Master saith, My time is at hand, the time of his departure; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples; this was the last kind office he would be able to shew them while upon earth. The disciples, without hesitation, obeyed; found all things as he had said; prepared the passover; and at even when he came, the twelve sat down with him at table. Note; When we follow Christ in his commands, he will make us feast with him in his comforts.
2. During the supper, he took occasion to inform them of a circumstance which many of them would be shocked to hear; and this was, that one of them should betray him. He well knew the traitor and the plot, and gave them this notice for the confirmation of their faith, when the thing should come to pass. Exceedingly distressed at the thought that he should be betrayed, and more that one of them should be so perfidious, with anxious solicitude the eleven began severally to ask him, Lord, is it I? each perhaps trembling at the deceitfulness and treachery of their hearts; or rather grieved at the suspicion, and conscious of their innocence, desired to clear themselves from such an imputation. Just then, it seems, Judas stretched out his hand to dip the bread into the dish, and by this circumstance Christ pointed out the traitor; he that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me, which he mentions, to make the perfidy appear more base, and to shew the fulfilment of the Scripture; while he adds a terrible commination, if any thing might startle the hardened conscience of this apostate: the Son of man must indeed be betrayed, but woe to the traitor; it had been good for that man if he had not been born, a convincing proof of the eternal misery of every damned soul. With impudent effrontery, unabashed, though conscious of his guilt, Judas, who had been silent before, perceiving himself pointed at, endeavoured to brave it out; either fancying that Christ would not know of his guilt, or would not directly charge him with it, and therefore said, Lord, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said. The reply is express: he was the man. Note; (1.) True humility will ever make us jealous over our hearts; we know not to what we may be tempted, nor how weak we are to resist; nothing is too bad for the best to do if left one moment to themselves; therefore we should never be high-minded but fear. (2.) The more nearly we have been connected with Jesus, in the participation of his ordinances, the more aggravated will be the guilt of unfaithfulness. (3.)
Many put a bold face upon a bad cause, and they may indeed escape the judgment of men, but God trieth the heart.
5thly, All Jewish ordinances were now about to be abrogated, and among the rest the passover. In its room Christ here institutes the great Gospel ordinance, hence called The Lord's Supper, where he is held forth as our passover, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; and we are invited to come and feast thereon. The paschal supper bring ended,
1. Our Lord took bread, which lay by him, and, blessing it, brake and gave to his disciples, commanding them to eat, and explaining the import of what he did, saying this is my body, the representation of the sacrifice that I am about to suffer for your redemption, when my body shall be thus broken on the tree, the constant memorial of which shall thus be observed in my church to all ages, as the passover perpetuated the memory of Israel's deliverance from Egypt.
The doctrine of transubstantiation, raised from this passage, is almost too absurd to need confutation; and not only gives the lie to our senses, but contradicts the very nature of a sacrament. See, however, the Critical Notes.
2. He took the cup, and, with thanksgiving and prayer, having consecrated the wine, gave it to them, and commanded them all to drink of it, as the representation and memorial of that blood which he was now just ready to shed, to confirm and establish the New Testament, or Covenant, and to procure for them all spiritual blessings, and for as many also, as afterwards, trusting in his atonement, should plead the redemption hereby purchased for them from sin and guilt.
3. He takes a solemn farewel. No more would they enjoy this free and familiar converse with him, till the day, the glorious day arrived, when, admitted to his eternal kingdom, they should partake of those unutterable joys (signified by the new wine) which are at his right hand for evermore. Note; A dying saint with delight takes his farewel of all the comforts that he ever enjoyed here below; sweet as ordinances, the word, communion with God were to his soul, he is going where, instead of the drops that he tasted here below, he shall be admitted to drink of the living streams of eternal consolations, that flow uninterrupted, ever new, from the throne of God.
4. They closed the solemnity with a hymn; and never is the song of praise more suitable than on such an occasion. Hereupon departing from the house, he retired by moonlight to the mount of Olives, the place appointed for the scene of his agonizing sorrows.
6thly, In their way to the mount of Olives, we are told,
1. The prediction of his sufferings, and of their flight, which Christ delivered to his disciples. He foretels them of the offence they would take at the treatment he should meet with that very night, insomuch that every one of them would desert him, and fulfil the Scripture, Zechariah 13:7.; but though he should be smitten, and die, as it was prophesied of him, yet he should rise again and come to them, recover them from their fright and dispersion, and go before them into Galilee, where they would meet him to their unspeakable comfort. Note; (1.) We know not our own weakness till the trying hour comes. (2.) We are never safe, and must never be secure. The sweetest seasons of communion with Christ are sometimes succeeded by the sorest temptations.
2. Peter, unable to bear such a reflection, with too great confidence engages for his own fidelity, though all the rest should fly. He not only relies on his own resolution, but intimates a strong conceit of his superior courage. Note; A haughty spirit is sure to fall. We have lost our footing the moment we begin to think any thing as of ourselves.
3. Christ warns him of the delusion that he was under in this self-confidence of boasting; and assures him, that all his vaunted courage would quickly fail him,—that he would not only forsake, but disown him, repeatedly disown him; and that during the present night, before the crowing of the cock announced the approaching return of day. And this he solemnly affirms, Verily I say unto thee. He knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. Note; The forwardest to boast, are usually the first and foulest in their falls.
4. Peter still persists in his vain confidence, though warned by him who could not err; and, with increasing vehemence, unable to bear the suspicion of denying his Master, solemnly affirms that he will sooner die than be guilty of such baseness. And all the disciples joined his assertion, unwilling to be outdone by Peter, and equally confident of their own zeal for their Lord. Note; (1.) When death and danger are at a distance, it is easy to boast great things; but, when they come, how many stagger! (2.) It is among the follies bound up in the human heart, that we are all apt to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think; and sad experience is in general needful to bring us to a more humbling view of our weakness.
7thly, With sacred reverence we are called to approach the scene of the Redeemer's agony. The storm of divine vengeance now arose, to discharge all its fury on him who bore our sins and carried our sorrows.
1. The place whither he retired was called Gethsemane, an olive-press; for there it pleased the Lord to bruise him and put him to grief. The companions he took with him were his disciples, all but Judas; and, leaving the others at a distance, with an injunction to sit there, he, with Peter, James, and John, retired into some more secluded part of the garden to pray. Those who had seen his transfiguration, are chosen to be witnesses of his deepest humiliation.
2. There his agony began: the sorrows of death compassed him about, and distress and consternation unutterable seized upon his soul. The words in the original are most emphatical, expressive of the heaviest load of grief, perplexity, dejection, and anguish. No outward cause appeared; the conflict was internal: the powers of darkness now rallied their once-defeated forces, and summoned up all their fury for this decisive blow. The wrath of an offended God, due to the sins of mankind, all centered now on their Redeemer, and weighed him down under the intolerable burden. Death, with all its horrors of ignominy, shame, and torture, stood before him; and, worse than ten thousand deaths of the body, the pains of hell gat hold upon his soul, the wages of our iniquities.
3. In this distress he acquaints his disciples with the sorrows of his soul, that even now pressed him down to the gates of death, and only would end entirely with his expiring breath,—sorrows such as mortal never knew before, and perhaps beyond what even the damned ever felt. He enjoins them to continue there and watch with him, observe his agony, and be on their guard against their own approaching temptations.
4. He humbly applies to Him, whose terrors he suffered with a troubled mind. Being truly man, as well as God, he could not but wish for relief from pain, from pain so agonizing, and therefore poured out strong crying and tears, Hebrews 5:7. He went a little further, that alone he might tread the wine-press of the wrath of God, and, there falling on his face, under a load of guilt and misery to the humanity alone insupportable, he poured out his complaints before his Father, O my Father, for with unshaken faith he still looked through the dark cloud: if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; if, consistent with the glory of the divine perfections and the atonement that he was about to accomplish, these torments may be alleviated or removed, his nature asks relief: nevertheless, if all that I suffer is needful to glorify thee, I am all resignation, I bow my neck, and say, Not as I will, but as thou wilt; his human will, with perfect acquiescence, submits to the divine. Note; (1.) In all our sorrows it is good to make God our refuge, and in prayer to pour out our griefs into his compassionate bosom. (2.) Humble desire to be delivered from our sufferings is perfectly consistent with the most unfeigned resignation under them. (3.) Whether our troubles be removed or not, it is a sure token for good when we can say, Not my will, but thine be done.
5. Arising from the earth he returned to his three disciples, and, lo! astonishing to tell, while their Master was agonizing, they were asleep. Oppressed with grief, their senses were stupified, and their eyes closed. But Christ rouses them from their slumbers, and gently chides their disobedience to his commands, and inattention to his sufferings; and, directing his discourse to Peter, who lately appeared so forward in his professions of fidelity and zeal, he said, What! is it possible! asleep! and I overwhelmed with anguish! Could not ye, from whom I had such expectations, and whose plighted vows of constancy till death promised other conduct, could ye not watch with me one hour? so short the space, so little difficult the command! Watch and pray; you have need to be awake, if not to sympathize and join with me, at least to guard yourselves, that ye enter not into temptation, and by this sloth and drowsiness be exposed to fall more easily, when the approaching hour of your temptation comes. Yet, while he thus gently rebukes and admonishes, he also pities and kindly excuses them, the spirit indeed is willing; he knew that their hearts were really attached in him, that their love was without dissimulation, and that their desire was to serve him; but the flesh is weak; the body weighed down the soul; and he knew whereof they were made, forgave, and cast the mantle of love over the failings which he could not but condemn. Note; (1.) Slothfulness, and neglect of prayer, in time of temptation, are the sure forerunners of a fall. We need always watch; but, when we are forewarned of danger near, we should double our guard, and be more importunate at a throne of grace. (2.) We have a compassionate High-priest, who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.
6. Our Lord again retires, repeats his fervent supplications, and submits to all his Father's will. Again he returns, and finds his disciples sleeping; their heavy eyelids were closed, and all his remonstrances were ineffectual to keep them awake and watchful. The third time he withdraws, redoubles his prayers, renews his self-resignation, and is heard: though the cup may not pass from him, he is strengthened to bear the load, and patiently to yield up his soul to God. Coming to his disciples, still they sleep, and now he consigns them to their repose, if they can or dare any longer indulge themselves, when his foes and theirs are now at hand. It is high time to awake, when the traitor is so near. Rise, let us be going, not to fly from the sufferings before him, but to meet them: since the hour is come, Jesus is prepared, and resigns himself into the hands of his enemies. Note; (1.) Though we have not an immediate answer, we must pray and not faint. (2.) Repetition of the same requests in prayer is often far removed from the vain repetitions which our Lord condemns. Reiterated cries in the same words frequently bespeak the warmest importunity of desire. (3.) When calls and warnings raise us not from spiritual slumbers, it is a mercy if Jesus sends heavier judgments, or corrections, to rouse our sluggish souls.
8thly, As the words dropped from his lips, his enemies appeared to seize him.
1. Judas, who knew the place of his Master's retirement, led the way: one of the twelve, and lately dipping his hand with him in the same dish, now the guide to this savage band, composed of Roman soldiers, and the servants and officers of the chief priests, armed with swords and staves, and under their authority pretending to seize Jesus as a criminal. Thus often, while good men sleep, unapprized of danger, the wicked are awake, and plotting their destruction. It is well for us that we have a Guardian, who neither slumbers nor sleeps.
2. He had given them a signal before they set out, lest in the night they should mistake, by the glimmering of torches, the person of Jesus; and this was, that whomsoever he should kiss, that was he whom they should seize and bind. Accordingly, with the most hardened impudence, he no sooner descried his well-known Master's face, than he approached with the deepest professions of respect and warmest good wishes, and with a kiss executed his traitorous design. Well knowing his villany, Jesus rebukes his baseness, and with the piercing title of Friend, that should have spoken ten thousand daggers to his heart, replies, wherefore art thou come? how durst thou be present? What! lost to all shame? adding such impudence to foul ingratitude? Note; The bitterest enmity lurks often under the most plausible professions and apparent civilities.
3. Christ is immediately arrested and bound as a malefactor. He quietly yielded up himself, now his hour was come, and as a criminal submitted to the arrests of divine judgment for our transgressions.
4. Peter, fired with zeal at what he saw, instantly drew his sword, and, attempting a rescue, struck at one of the high priest's servants, who probably appeared very active on that occasion, and cut off his ear.
5. Christ rebuked him for his rashness, and bade him sheath his sword; for they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Resistance at present only exposed them to useless danger; but, ere long, they would see those who arrested their Master fall by the sword of the Romans, or in some civil tumult as their own executioners. As for them, the weapons of their warfare were not carnal but spiritual; patience and prayer were their best defence. Besides, Christ neither needed their help nor chose to be rescued; if he had, effectual succours were even now at hand; more than twelve legions of angels, upwards of seventy thousand, were ready to appear, one of the least of whom could destroy a world. He had only to ask his Father, and these ministers of shame would attend his orders: but how then should the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? and their accomplishment, wherein also were involved the redemption of the world and the salvation of every faithful soul, was far dearer to him than his own safety. It must be that he should suffer, that he might redeem; and therefore he willingly resigned himself as a lamb to the slaughter, Isaiah 53:7. Note; (1.) God wants not our services: we mistake, when we think our feeble arm of importance to his cause. (2.) Christ's sufferings were voluntary: he might, whenever he pleased, have been released; but his love to sinful souls bound him stronger than the cords of his persecutors. (3.) Surrounded as the people of God are with enemies, still more and mightier are those who are for them, than all who can be against them; the innumerable company of angels is their guard.
6. Christ turns from his disciples to the multitude, and mildly expostulates with them on their present conduct. What use was there in all this armed host? had he behaved as a desperate villain, who needed such force to overcome him? or had he fled from public justice, that at midnight, in this clandestine manner, they sought to arrest him? The gentleness and innocence of all his conduct confuted the one, and his public daily appearance in the temple the other: but the Scripture must be fulfilled.
7. His disciples hereupon shamefully deserted him, and fled. Seeing him passively submit, and fearing lest Peter's rash action should exasperate the guard, and that they should be murdered, or seized with their Master, each endeavoured to shift for himself, and left him alone to bear his burdens. Their baseness and ingratitude herein were highly criminal: and thus it became him to tread the wine-press alone.
9thly, Our Lord, being seized as a malefactor, is dragged before the rulers, and his process begun.
1. His judges were his inveterate persecutors, the chief priests, scribes, and elders, who, though in the dead of night, waked to do him mischief, and were now assembled at the palace of Caiaphas the high priest. Before this confederacy of treacherous men was he presented as a criminal, while they sat in judgment upon him. The Lamb of God, now about to be offered for the sins of the world, was thus presented to the priests, (see Leviticus 17:5.) before he bled on the altar.
2. Peter, whose fright began a little to abate, solicitous about his Master's fate, followed the crowd at a distance, and, mingling with the servants in the hall, thought he might, unnoticed, there hear the issue of the trial, and see whether Christ would deliver himself by some miraculous act of power, or what punishment they would inflict upon him. Thus, without a call, having thrust himself into temptation, he could not expect divine support; and his cowardly hypocrisy, of appearing among the crowd as one of those who had been employed to seize the prisoner, foreboded no good. For they who are ashamed to be known as Christ's disciples, if brought to the trial, will, like Peter, solemnly disown him.
3. Having brought Christ to their bar, and previously determined his condemnation, the question was, where to procure evidence to furnish them with a pretext for putting him to death; nothing less than his blood being able to satisfy his merciless and unjust judges: but though they endeavoured to procure accusations, and suborn witnesses against him, yet the falsehoods which they advanced were so palpable and inconsistent, that they carried their own confutation, and even before such partial judges could not furnish the shadow of a crime. At last two false witnesses appeared, and with virulence and insolence alleged that they had heard him say, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. He had said no such thing. His words were, Destroy ye this temple, not that made with hands, as they added, Mar 14:58 but the temple of his body, John 2:21.; and his raising it up referred to his own resurrection, not the rebuilding of the material house of God. But by such a false quotation they meant to accuse him as an enemy to the holy place, and a blasphemer against God, as well as one that dealt in magic, from his presuming to say that he could raise such a building in three days. A far-fetched accusation indeed! and too weak to support the bloody sentence which they desired to ground thereon. Note; If false witnesses rose up against the innocent Jesus, laying to his charge things that he knew not of, let it not appear strange if we meet with the like injurious treatment. The disciple is not above his Master.
4. Unable longer to retain his rage, the high priest in a fury arose, vexed at being able to produce no more plausible an accusation; and out of all patience to behold the meekness and silence of Jesus, dumb as the sheep before her shearers, he bids him make his defence instantly, if he had ought to say why sentence should not pass upon him. But Jesus held his peace. He knew their designs, and that the clearest evidence of innocence would weigh nothing before such judges. The high priest hereupon adjures and commands him upon oath to answer whether he was indeed the Messiah, God's eternal Son, or not; that from his own mouth they might obtain a charge against him, which they sought for from other witnesses in vain. Note; The silence of Jesus should teach us meekness before our bitterest persecutors.
5. To this solemn interrogatory Jesus makes a direct reply. He was apprized of their captious design; but his hour was come; therefore he professes himself to be that very Messiah concerning whom the high-priest spoke, though he knew the disdain with which they would treat his claim: nevertheless he made it before them all. And since they would admit no present proof of it, he would give them one hereafter, which should astonish them, Ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven: which would be fulfilled in the effusion of his Spirit after his ascension, in the ruin of their state and nation, and most eminently in the great day of his appearing and glory, when they, who sat as his judges, must stand as criminals at his bar, and perish under his righteous vengeance. Note; Impenitent sinners will one day be convinced, when it is too late, of the eternal ruin that they have brought upon their heads by rejecting the Lord's Christ.
6. Pretending to be shocked at such blasphemy, in token of his abhorrence, the high-priest rent his clothes; and, appealing to the council for the evidence of the crime, now clear from the confession of Jesus, presumes further witnesses to be needless: and all concurred in the opinion that he deserved to die as a blasphemer, for arrogating to himself divine power and honours. Thus was he condemned, though innocent, that we might be acquitted, though guilty.
7. No sooner was he thus unjustly condemned, than they began to treat him with all manner of indignities: some of the company, or the officers and servants, spat on his face, in token of detestation and contempt; beat and buffeted him with the palms of their hands, or with rods; and in ridicule of his prophetic character, having blind-folded his eyes, bid him tell who smote him. To such insult and suffering did the holy Jesus submit for our sakes: he hid not his face from shame and spitting, that our faces might not be covered with everlasting shame and contempt; he was bruised for our iniquities, that we might not be crushed for ever under the wrath of God. If we then, for his sake, are rendered contemptible, ridiculed, and mocked, by wicked men, let it be remembered how much more he bore for us; and let us never be ashamed of his reproach.
10thly, We have here the memorable event of Peter's fall and recovery.—A warning to us, never to be self-confident, lest we should fall like him.
1. His sin, with all the aggravations of it, is faithfully recorded; and blessed be God for the simplicity and fidelity of the sacred historians. Had they, in their account of God's saints, like the histories of human biographers, blazoned the excellencies and concealed the faults and infirmities of their worthies, how many an important lesson would have been concealed from us! While his Master was suffering within, Peter sat with the servants without. In bad company, no good can ever be expected; in the devil's palace we must not hope for protection; and, if we will associate with the crowd of his servants, the consequence naturally follows, we must be like them, or be laughed at. (1.) The temptation came first from one of the servant-maids; for the weakest instrument in the devil's hands can do much mischief. She shrewdly suspected, perhaps by Peter's melancholy looks, that he was a disciple of Jesus; or she had seen him formerly among Christ's attendants; and therefore charged him with her suspicions. Peter, quite disconcerted, shuffled out an answer, false, as he knew, and faithless, pretending not to understand her, and before them all denying the charge. Note; Many, who would hesitate at a direct lie, scruple not to evade; and will pretend not to understand what is said, when, in truth, it is because they are ashamed of their profession, and dare not avow their knowledge of Christ; which is most base, cowardly, and criminal. (2.) The second temptation quickly followed, and from a similar quarter. With infinite contempt of Peter's appearance, another maid-servant came up to him as he stood in the porch, perhaps meaning to steal off for fear of farther discovery, and, looking in his face, perfectly recollected his person among the followers of Jesus, and confidently asserted before those who stood by, that this fellow was certainly a disciple of Jesus the Nazarene: as if it was a reproach to admit such a fellow into their company. With such contempt and insolence are the disciples of Jesus often treated by those who know them not, because they knew him not. To silence such a suspicion, he solemnly denies his knowledge even of the person of Jesus, as if he had never seen him; and, to gain credit, backs his assertion with an oath; a shrewd proof of the falsehood that he urged: for they justly are to be suspected of making no conscience of a lie, who make none of rash oaths. (3.) A little while after, one who, perhaps excited by what had been suggested, marked Peter more narrowly, and was convinced by his provincial dialect and accent that he must be a Galilean, concluded certainly that he was a follower of Jesus, and declared it to his face before the company, with this evident proof, thy speech bewrayeth thee. Quite in a consternation, and not knowing what to say or do, he thought with a resolute air to carry it off; and, as in a passion at being suspected of such a thing, he began to curse and to swear, affirming with most horrid imprecations, that he never had the least knowledge or acquaintance with the man they mentioned, nor had ever before in his life seen him. He could not indeed have taken a more effectual way to prove that he did not belong to Jesus; his disciples never used such language. Note; (1.) One lie generally paves the way for another, and then perjury becomes needful to support the falsehood: so dreadfully connected are the links of sin. (2.) A real disciple of Jesus may ever be known by his discourse; his speech will indeed bewray him. (3.) While we look at such a fearful fall, we should tremble for ourselves, and dread the first step of deviation from the path of truth, lest with Peter we should be hurried down the precipice.
2. His recovery affords us as amazing an instance of divine mercy, as his fall has done of human weakness and corruption. Immediately, as he spake, the cock crew, a sound in Peter's ears more terrible than the burst of loudest thunders: it instantly recalled to his memory what Jesus had foretold, and he had most guiltily accomplished; his baseness, ingratitude, profaneness, perjury, all stared him in the face, and overwhelmed him with confusion. Unable to stay there a moment longer, he went out to give vent, in some retired corner, to the bursting anguish of his soul, and with tears of bitterest sorrow and unfeigned repentance bewailed his sin, and found mercy with a pardoning God. Note; (1.) Nothing so deeply affects the truly penitent sinner as the sense of his ingratitude, and base returns for all the love of Jesus to his sinful soul. (2.) They who have never wept with Peter over their sins, it is to be feared, have never felt their bitterness. (3.) It is never too late to return to God. None perish merely because of the greatness of their sins, but through their impenitence and unbelief.