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Now after two days was the feast of the passover and the unleavened bread; literally, the passover and the unleavened τό πάσχα καὶ τὰ ἄζυμα. It was one and the same festival. The killing of the Paschal lamb took place on the first of the seven days during which the festival lasted, and during the whole of which they used unleavened bread. Josephus describes it as "the festival of the unleavened, called Phaska by the Jews." The chief priests and the scribes. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:3) says, "The chief priests and the elders of the people." The two classes in the Sanhedrim who actually combined to put our Lord to death were those here mentioned by St. Mark. They sought how they might take him with subtlety (ἐν δόλῳ), and kill him. It is, literally, they were seeking (ἐλήτουν). The verb with its tense implies continuous and eager desire. They used subtlety, because they feared lest he should escape out of their hands. Moreover they feared the people, lest they should fight for him, and not suffer him to be taken.
For they said (ἔλεγον γὰρ) literally, for they were saying—Not during the feast, lest haply there shall be a tumult of the people. The same cause induced them to avoid the time of the feast. The feast brought a great multitude of Jews to Jerusalem, amongst whom would be many who had received bodily or spiritual benefits from Christ, and who therefore, at least, worshipped him as a Prophet; and the rulers of the people feared lest these should rise in his defense. Their first intention, therefore, was not to destroy him until after the close of the Paschal feast; but they were overruled by the course of events, all ordered by God's never-failing providence. The sudden betrayal of our Lord by Judas led them to change their minds. For when they found that he was actually in their hands, they resolved to crucify him forthwith. And thus the Divine purpose was fulfilled that Christ should suffer at that particular time, and so the type be satisfied. For the lamb slain at the Passover was a type of the very Paschal Lamb to be sacrificed at that particular time, in the predetermined purpose of God; and to be lifted up upon the cross for the redemption of the world. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:3) tells us that they were gathered together "unto the court of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas." It was necessary to state his name, because the high priests were now frequently changed by the Roman power.
And while he was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster cruse (ἀλάβαστρον)—literally, an alabaster; as we say, "a glass," of a vessel made of glass—of ointment of spikenard very costly (μύρου νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτελοῦς); and she brake the cruse, and poured it over his head. This anointing of our Lord appears to have taken place on the Saturday before Palm Sunday (see John 12:1). The anointing mentioned by St. Luke (Luke 7:36) evidently has reference to some previous occasion. The narrative here and in St. Matthew and St. John would lead us to the conclusion that this was a feast given by Simon—perhaps in grateful acknowledgment of the miracle which had been wrought upon Lazarus. He is called "Simon the leper," probably because he had been a leper, and had been healed by Christ, although he still retained the name of "leper," to distinguish him from others named Simon, or Simeon, a common name amongst the Jews. There came a woman. This woman, we learn from St. John (John 12:2, John 12:3), was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. The vessel, or cruse, which she had with her was made of alabaster, a kind of soft, smooth marble, which could easily be scooped out so as to form a receptacle for ointment, which, according to Pliny ('Nat. Hist.,' 13.3), was best preserved in vessels made of alabaster. The vessel would probably be formed with a long narrow neck, which could easily be broken, or crushed (the word in the original is συντρίψασα so as to allow of a free escape for the unguent. The ointment was made of spikenard νάρδου πιστικῆς). The Vulgate has nardi spicati. If this is the true interpretation of the word πιστικῆς, it would mean that this ointment was made from a bearded plant mentioned by Pliny ('Nat. Hist.,' John 12:12), who says that the ointment made from this plant was most precious. The plant was called by Galen "nardi spica." Hence πιστικῆν it would mean "genuine" ointment—ointment made from the flowers of the choicest kind of plant, pliny ('Nat. Hist.,' 12.26) says that there was an inferior article in circulation, which he calls "pseudo-nard." The Syriac Peshito Version uses an expression which means the principal, or best kind of ointment. The anointing of the head would be the more usual mark of honor. It would seem most probable that Mary first wiped the feet of Jesus, wetting them with her tears, and then wiping off the dust, and then anointing them; and that she then proceeded to break the neck of the cruse, and to pour its whole contents on his head.
But there were some that had indignation—the word in the original is ἀγανακτοῦντες, ached with vexation—among themselves. St. Mark says, "there were some;" avoiding any more particular mention of them. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:8) says that the disciples generally had indignation. The murmuring seems to have been general. At length it found a definite expression in Judas Iscariot (see John 12:4).
For this ointment might have been sold for above three hundred pence, and given to the poor. Three hundred pence would amount to about £10 12s. 6d. of English money. It appears from St. John (John 13:29) that the wants of the poor were carefully attended to by our Lord and his disciples. And they murmured against her ἐνεβριμῶντο); another very expressive verb in the original, they growled at her; rebuked her vehemently.
It appears from St. John (John 12:7) that our Lord here addressed himself pointedly to Judas in the words, Let her alone;… she hath wrought a good work on me, a work worthy of all praise and honor. "What," says Cornelius a Lapide, "what more noble, than to anoint the feet of him who is both God and man? Who would not count himself happy, if it were permitted to him to touch the feet of Jesus and to kiss them?"
Far ye have the poor always with you, and whensoever ye will ye can (δύνασθε) do them good: but me ye have not always. The little clause, "whensoever ye will ye can do them good," occurs only in St. Mark. It is as though our Lord said, "The world always abounds with poor; therefore you always have it in your power to help them; but within a week I shall have gone from you, after which you will be unable to perform any service like this for me; yea, no more to see, to hear, to touch me. Suffer, then, this woman to perform this ministry now for me, which after six days she will have no other opportunity of doing."
She hath done what she could. She seized the opportunity, which might not occur again, of doing honor to her Lord by anointing him with her very best. Our Lord might have excused this action, and have praised it as a practical evidence of her gratitude, her humility, and her love for him. But instead of dwelling on these things, he said, She hath anointed my body aforehand for the burying. Our Lord here, of course, alludes to the spices and ointments with which the Jews wrapped up the bodies of their dead before their burial. Not that this was what Mary intended. She could hardly have dreamed of his death and burial so near at hand. But she was moved by the Holy Spirit to do this, at this particular time, as though in anticipation of his death and burial.
Wheresoever the gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, that also which this woman hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her (εἰς μνημόσυνον αὐτῆς). "Mnemosyne was the mother of the Muses, and so called because, before the invention of writing, a retentive memory was of the utmost value in every effort of literary genius". When our Lord delivered this prediction, none of the Gospels had been written; nor bad the gospel been preached at this time throughout the then known world. Now it has been published for more than eighteen centuries; and wherever, it is proclaimed, this deed of Mary's is published with it, in continual memory of her, and to her lasting honor.
And Judas Iscariot, he that was one of the twelve (ὁ εἷς τῶν δώδεκα), went away unto the chief priests, that he might deliver him unto them. The betrayal follows immediately after the anointing by Mary. We may suppose that the other disciples who had murmured on account of this waste of the ointment, were brought to their senses by our Lord's rebuke, and felt its force. But with Judas the case was very different. The rebuke, which had a salutary effect on them, only served to harden him. He had lost one opportunity of gain; he would seek another. In his cupidity and wickedness he resolves to betray his Master, and sell him to the Jews. So while the chief priests were plotting how they might destroy him, they found an apt and unexpected instrument for their purpose in one of his own disciples. Judas came to them, and the vile and hateful bargain was concluded. It marks the tremendous iniquity of the transaction that it was "one of the twelve" who betrayed him—not one of the seventy, but one of those who were in the closest intimacy and nearness to him.
And they, when they heard it, were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought (ἐζήτει)—he was seeking; he made it his business to arrange how the infamous plot might be managed—how he might conveniently deliver him unto them (πῶς εὐκαίρως αὐτὸν παραδῷ); literally, how at a convenient season he might betray him. And they,when they heard it, were glad; glad, because they saw the prospect of the accomplishment of their wishes; glad, because it was "one of the twelve" who covenanted to betray him. They promised to give him money. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:15) tells us the amount, namely, thirty pieces of silver, according to the prophecy of Zechariah (Zechariah 11:12), to which St. Matthew evidently refers. These pieces of silver were shekels of the sanctuary, worth about three shillings each. This would make the whole amount about £4 10s. of our money; less than half the value of the precious ointment with which Mary had anointed him. Some commentators, however, think that this was only an instalment of what they promised him if he completed his treasonable design. How he might conveniently deliver him unto them. St. Luke (Luke 22:6) explains this by saying, "in the absence of the multitude;" that is, when the people were not about him, and when he was in private with his disciples. And so he betrayed him at night, when he was alone with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.
And on the first day of unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and make ready that thou mayest eat the passover? The first day of unleavened bread would begin on the evening of the Thursday (the 14th day of the month Nisan). Where wilt thou that we prepare? They do not inquire in what city or town. The Passover could not be sacrificed anywhere but in Jerusalem. The question was in what house it was to be prepared.
And he sendeth two of his disciples. St. Luke (Luke 22:8) informs us that these two were Peter and John. It is characteristic of St. Mark's Gospel throughout that Peter is never mentioned oftener than is necessary. Go into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water. The bearing of the pitcher of water was not without its meaning. It was a solemn religious act preparatory to the Passover. This man bearing a pitcher of water was not the master or owner of the house. The owner is distinguished afterwards by the name οἰκοδέσποτης, or "goodman of the house." The owner must, therefore, have been a man of some substance, and probably a friend if not a disciple of our Lord. Tradition says that this was the house of John whose surname was Mark; and that it was in this house that the disciples were assembled on the evening of our Lord's resurrection, and where, also, they received the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost. It was to this house that Peter betook himself when he was delivered by the angel out of prison. Hence it was known, as one of the earliest places of Christian worship, by the name of "Coenaculum Sion; "and here was built a church, called the Church of Sion. It was the oldest church in Jerusalem, and was called by St. Cyril, "the upper church of the apostles."
The Master saith, Where is my guest-chamber (κατύλυμα μοῦ); literally, my lodging.
And he will himself show you a large upper room furnished and ready. He himself, that is, the goodman of the house; perhaps John Mark. This upper room was furnished and ready (ἐστρωμένον ἕτοιμον); furnished, that is, with table and couches and tapestry, and in all respects ready for the purpose.
And they made ready the passover. This would consist in obtaining the Paschal lamb, and taking it to the temple to be sacrificed by the priests. It would then be brought to the house to be cooked; and the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs and the wine would have to be provided, and the water for purification. After all these preparations had been made, the two disciples would return to their Master.
And when it was evening he cometh with the twelve. It was in the evening that the lamb was to be eaten. Peter and John having returned from their preparation, the twelve (including Judas Iscariot) all went back with their Master to Jerusalem.
Verily I say unto you, One of you shall betray me, even he that eateth with me (ὁ ἐσθίων μετ ἐμοῦ). Much had doubtless happened before our Lord said this; but St. Mark only records the important circumstances. These words of our Lord were uttered with great solemnity. The presence of the traitor was a burden upon his spirit, and cast a gloom over this usually joyous festival. A question here arises whether Judas remained to partake of the Holy Communion when our Lord instituted it. The greater number of the Fathers, and amongst them Origen, St. Cyril, St. Chrysostom, St. Augustine, and Bede, consider that he was present; and Dionysius says that our Lord's words to him, "That thou doest, do quickly," were intended to separate him from the rest of the twelve as one who had partaken unworthily; and that then it was that Satan entered into him, and impelled him onwards to this terrible sin.
They began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? The disciples were naturally disposed to be joyful at this great festival. But their Master's sorrow and his words, and the solemnity with which they were uttered, cast a shadow over the whole company; and the disciples began to be sorrowful. The words, "And another said, Is it I?" are omitted by the best authorities.
And he said unto them, It is one of the twelve, he that dippeth with me in the dish. St. Mark here uses the present participle (ὁ ἐμβαπτόμενος), bringing the action close to the time when he was speaking. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:23) has (ὁ ἐμβάψας) "he that dipped his hand," using the aorist form. St. Mark's form is the more graphic. The dish probably contained a sauce called charoseth, into which they dipped their food before eating it. The following appears to have been the order of the events:—First, our Lord, before he instituted the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, foretold that he would be betrayed by one of his disciples but only in general terms. Then came the eager question from them, "Is it I?" Then Christ answered that the traitor was he who should dip his hand together with him in the dish. But this did not bring it home to the individual, because several who sat near to him were able to dip with him in the dish. So that our Lord had as yet only obscurely and indefinitely pointed out the traitor. Then he proceeded to institute "the Lord's Supper;" after which he again intimated (Luke 22:21) that "the hand of him that betrayed him was with him on the table." Upon this. St. Peter hinted to St. John, who was "reclining in Jesus' besom," that he should ask him to say definitely and by name who it was that should betray him. Our Lord then said to St. John, "He it is, for whom I shall dip the sop, and give it him" (John 13:26). Our Lord then dipped the sop, and gave it to Judas Iscariot. Then it was that our Lord said to Judas, "That thou doest, do quickly" (ὅ ποιεῖς ποίησον τάχιον) (John 13:27). Then Judas went straightway to the house of Caiaphas, and procured the band of men and officers for the completion of his horrible design.
For the Son of man goeth (ὑπάγει)—goeth, departeth from this mortal scene: the reference is, of course, to his death—even as it is written of him; as, for example, in Psalms 22:1-31 and Isaiah 41:1-29 It was foreordained by God that he was to suffer as a victim for the sins of the whole world. But this predestined purpose of God did not make the guilt any the less of those who brought the Savior to his cross. Good were it for that man if he had not been born. The Greek is καλὸν ἦν αὐτῷ εἰ οὐκ ἐγεννήθη ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖνος: literally, good were it for him, if that man had not been born. Better not to have lived at all than to have lived and died ill. Existence is no blessing, but a curse, to him who consciously and wilfully defeats the purpose of his existence. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:25) here introduces Judas as asking the question, "Is it I, Rabbi?" And our Lord answers him affirmatively, "Thou hast said." This was probably said in a low voice. Had it been said so as to be heard by others, such as Peter and John, they might have risen at once to inflict summary vengeance upon the apostate traitor.
The last clause of this verse should be read thus: Take ye: this is my body (Λάβετε τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ σῶμά μοῦ). The institution of this Holy Sacrament took place at the close of the Paschal supper, but while they were yet at the table. The bread which our Lord took would most likely be unleavened bread. But this does not surely constitute a reason why unleavened bread should be used ordinarily in the celebration of the Holy Communion. The direction of the Prayer-book of the English Church is wise and practical, "It shall suffice that the Bread be such as is usual to be eaten." This is my body; that is, sacramentally. St. Augustine says, "How is the bread his body? and the cup, or that which the cup contains, how is that his blood? These are, therefore, called sacraments, because in them one thing is seen while another thing is understood".
And he took a cup. There is no definite article either here or in St. Matthew.
This is my blood of the covenant. There is not sufficient authority for the retaining of the word "new" (καινῆς) in the text.
I will no more, drink (οὐκέτι οὐ μὴ πίω) of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God. It is observable that our Lord here calls the wine "the fruit (γέννημα) of the vine," after be has spoken of it as sacramentally his blood. Our Lord here refers to the time of the regeneration of all things, when the heavenly kingdom shall appear in the fullness of its glory; and when his disciples, who now feed upon him sacramentally and by faith, shall then eat at his table in his kingdom, and drink of the river of his pleasures for ever.
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out unto the mount of Olives. Some suppose that this was one particular hymn out of the Jewish service-books appointed for use at the close of the Paschal supper. The word in the Greek is simply ὑμνήσαντες. What they sang was more probably the Hallel, consisting of six psalms, from Psalms 108:1-13, to Psalms 118:1-29, inclusive. They went out unto the Mount of Olives. It was our Lord's custom, in these last days of his earthly life, to go daily to Jerusalem, and teach in the temple, and in the evening to return to Bethany and sup; and then after supper to retire to the Mount of Olives, and there to spend the night in prayer (Luke 21:37). But on this occasion he did not return to Bethany. He had supped in Jerusalem. Besides, he knew that his hour was come. So he voluntarily put himself into the way of the traitor (John 18:2).
All ye shall be offended. The words which follow in the Authorized Version, "because of me this night," are not to be found in the best manuscripts and versions. They appear to have been imported from St. Matthew. Shall be offended (σκανδαλισθήσεσθε); literally, shall be caused to stumble. Our Lord was to prove "a stone of stumbling" to many, not excluding his own disciples. Even they, under the influence of terror, would for a time lose confidence and hope in him. For it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered abroad. This is a quotation from Zechariah (Zechariah 13:7), "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my Fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the Shepherd." This passage brings out in a remarkable manner the Divine agency in the death of Christ. The sheep shall be scattered abroad. The disciples all forsook him and fled, when they saw him actually in the hands of his enemies. They felt doubtful for the moment whether he was indeed the Son of God. "They trusted that it was he who should redeem Israel;" but now their hopes gave way to fear and doubt. They fled hither and thither like frightened sheep. But God gathered them together again, so that when our Lord rose from the dead, he found them all in the same place; and then he revived their faith and courage. Our Lord and his disciples had no settled home or friends in Jerusalem; so they had no other place to flee to than that upper chamber, where, not long before, Christ had kept the Passover with them. The owner of that house was a friend; so thither they went, and there Christ appeared to them after his resurrection.
Howbeit, after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee. This our Lord said to reassure them. Galilee was more like home to them than Jerusalem, and they would there be less afraid of the unbelieving Jews.
But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. Our Lord had just distinctly stated that they would all be offended, and therefore these words of St. Peter were very presumptuous. Conscious of his own infirmities, he ought to have said, "I know that through my own infirmity this may easily happen. Nevertheless, I trust to thy mercy and goodness to save me." Just such is the Christian's daily experience. We often think that we are strong in the faith, strong in purity, strong in patience. But when temptation arises, we falter and fall. The true remedy against temptation is the consciousness of our own weakness, and supplication for Divine strength.
Verily I say unto thee, that thou to-day, even this night, before the cock crow twice, shalt deny me thrice. The day had begun. It began at six in the evening. It was already advanced. This second crowing of the cock is mentioned by St. Mark only; and it forms an additional aggravation of Peter's sin. The "cockcrowing" was a term used for one of the divisions of the night. But it appears that there were three times at which the cock-crowing might be expected—namely,
(1) early in the night, between eleven and twelve;
(2) between one and two; and
(3) between five and six.
The two cock crowings here referred to would be the two last of the three here mentioned. It would probably be about 2 a.m., when the first trial of our Lord took place in the house of Caiaphas.
But he spake exeseding vehemently (ἐκπερισσῶς ἐλάλει), If I must die with thee (ἐάν με δέρ), I will not deny thee. The right reading (ἐλάλει, imperfect) implies that he kept asserting over and over again. He was, no doubt, sincere in all this, but he had vet to learn his own weakness. St. Hilary says on this, "Peter was so carried away by the fervor of his zeal and love for Christ, that he regarded neither the weakness of his own flesh nor the truth of his Master's word."
And they come (ἔρχονται)—here again St. Mark's present gives force to the narrative—unto a place which was named Gethsemane. A place (χωρίον) is, literally, an enclosed piece of ground, generally with a cottage upon it. Josephus tells us that these gardens were numerous in the suburbs of Jerusalem. St. Jerome says that "Gethsemane was at the foot of the Mount of Olives." St. John (John 18:1) calls it a garden, or orchard (κῆπος). The word "Gethsemane" means literally "the place of the olive-press," whither the olives which abounded on the slopes of the mountain were brought, in order that the oil contained in them might be pressed out. The exact position of Gethsemane is not known; although there is an enclosed spot at the foot of the western slope of the Mount of Olives which is called to this day El maniye. The real Gethsemane cannot be far from this spot. Our Lord resorted to this place for retirement and prayer, not as desiring to escape the death that awaited him. It was well known to be his favourite resort; so that he went there, as though to put himself in the way of Judas, who would naturally seek him there. Sit ye here, while I pray. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:36) says, "While I go yonder and pray."
It appears that our Lord separated himself from all the disciples except Peter and James and John, and then the bitter agony began. He began to be greatly amazed, and sore troubled (ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδημονεῖν). These two Greek verbs are as adequately expressed above as seems possible. The first implies "utter, extreme amazement;" if the second has for its root ἄδημος, "not at home," it implies the anguish of the soul struggling to free itself from the body under the pressure of intense mental distress. The three chosen disciples were allowed to be witnesses of this awful anguish. They had been fortified to endure the sight by the glories of the transfiguration. It would have been too much for the faith of the rest. But these three witnessed it, that they might learn themselves, and be able to teach others, that the way to glory is by suffering.
None but he who bore those sorrows can know what they were. It was not the apprehension of the bodily torments and the bitter death that awaited him, all foreknown by him. It was the inconceivable agony of the weight of the sins of men. The Lord was thus laying "upon him the iniquity of us all." This, and this alone, can explain it. My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death. Every word carries the emphasis of an overwhelming grief. It was then that "the deep waters came in," even unto his soul. "What," says Cornelius a Lapide, "must have been the voice, the countenance, the expression, as he uttered those awful words!"
Our Lord now separated himself, though apparently, as St. Luke (Luke 22:41) says, only "about a stone's cast" from the three disciples, and threw himself on the ground in mortal agony, and prayed that this hour of his supreme mental anguish might, if possible, pass from him.
And he said, Abba, Father. Some commentators suppose that our Lord only used the Hebrew or Aramaic word "Abba," and that St. Mark adds the Greek and Latin synonym (πατὴρ) for the benefit of those to whom he was writing. But it is far more natural to conclude that St. Mark is here taking his narrative from an eye and ear witness, St. Peter; and that both the words were uttered by him; so that he thus, in his agony, cried to God in the name of the whole human family, the Jew first, and also the Gentile. We can quite understand why St. Matthew, writing to Jews, gives only the Hebrew word. All things are possible unto thee. Speaking absolutely, with God nothing is impossible. But the Deity is himself bound by his own laws; and hence this was impossible, consistently with his purposes of mercy for the redemption of the world. The Lord himself knew this. Therefore he does not ask for anything contrary to the will of his Father. But it was the natural craving of his humanity, which, subject to the supreme will of God, desired to be delivered from this terrible load. Remove this cup from me. The "cup," both in Holy Scripture and in profane writers, is taken to signify that lot or portion, whether good or evil, which is appointed for us by God. Hence St. John is frequently represented as holding a cup. Howbeit, not what I will, but what thou wilt. Our Lord has no sooner offered his conditional prayer than he subordinates it to the will of God. St. Luke (Luke 22:42) here says, "Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." Hence it appears that there was not, as the Monothelites taught, one will, partly human and partly Divine, in Christ; but there were two distinct wills, one human and the other Divine, both residing in the one Christ; and it was by the subjecting of his human will to the Divine that he wrought out our redemption.
And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? Couldest thou not watch one hour? St. Luke says (Luke 22:45) that they were "sleeping for sorrow." So on the Mount of Transfiguration he says (Luke 9:32) that they were "heavy with sleep." This rebuke, which St. Mark tells us here was pointedly addressed to Peter, seems to glance at his earnest protestations of fidelity made not long before. And our Lord calls him by his old name of Simon. In St. Matthew (Matthew 26:40) it is less pointed; for there, while our Lord looks at Peter, he addresses them all. "He saith unto Peter, What, could not ye watch with me one hour?" This is just one of those graphic little incidents which we may suppose St. Mark to have received directly from St. Peter.
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. The great temptation of the disciples at that moment was to deny Christ under the influence of fear. And so our Lord gives here the true remedy against temptation of every kind; namely, watchfulness and prayer—watchfulness, against the craft and subtlety of the devil or man; and prayer, for the Divine help to overcome. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Here our Lord graciously finds excuses for them. It is as though he said, "I know that in heart and mind you are ready to cleave to me, even though the Jews should threaten you with death. But I know also that your flesh is weak. Pray, then, that the weakness of the flesh may not overcome the strength of the spirit." St. Jerome says, "In whatever degree we trust to the ardor of the spirit, in the same degree ought we to fear because of the infirmity of the flesh."
Saying the same words. The repetition of the same words shows his fixed determination to submit to the will of his heavenly Father. Although the human nature at first asserted itself in the prayer that the cup might pass from him; yet ultimately the human will yielded to the Divine. He desired to drink this cup of bitterness appointed for him by the will of God; for his supreme desire was that the will of God might be done.
And again he came, and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy (καταβαρυνόμενοι): literally, weighed down. They had not deliberately yielded themselves to sleep; but an oppressive languor, the effect of great sorrow, had come over them, so that they could not watch as they desired to do; but by an involuntary action they ever and anon slumbered. They wist not what to answer him. They had no excuse, save that which he himself had found for them.
And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough (ἀπέχει); the hour is come. Some have thought that our Lord here uses the language of irony. But it is far more consistent with his usual considerate words to suppose that, sympathizing with the infirmity of his disciples, he simply advised them, now that his bitter agony was over, to take some rest during the brief interval that remained. It is enough. Some commentators have thought that the somewhat difficult Greek verb (ἀπέχει) would be better rendered, he is at a distance; as though our Lord meant to say, "There is yet time for you to take some rest. The betrayer is some distance off." Such an interpretation would require a full. stop between the clause now rendered, "it is enough," and the clause, "the hour is come;" so that the passage would read, "Sleep on now, and take your rest; he (that is, Judas) is yet a good way off." Then there would be an interval; and then our Lord would rouse them up with the words, "The hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners." This interpretation all hangs upon the true rendering of the word ἀπέχει, which, although it might be taken to. mean "he," or "it is distant," is nevertheless quite capable of the ordinary interpretation, "it sufficeth." According to the high authority of Hesychius, who explains it by the words ἀπόχρη and ἐξαρκεῖ, it seems safer on the whole to accept the ordinary meaning, "It is enough."
And straightway, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve. How the stupendous crime is here marked! It was so startling a fact that "one of the twelve" should be the betrayer of cur Lord, that this designation of Judas became linked with his name: "Judas, one of the twelve." He comes not only as a thief and a robber, but also as a traitor; the leader of those who were thirsting for Christ's blood. St. Luke (Luke 22:47) says that Judas "went before them," in his eagerness to accomplish his hateful errand. And with him a multitude (not a great multitude; the word πολὺς has not sufficient authority). But though not a great multitude, they would be a considerable number. There would be a band of soldiers; and there would be civil officers sent by the Sanhedrim. Thus Gentiles and Jews were united in the daring act of arresting the Son of God. St. John (John 18:3) says that they had "lanterns and torches;" although the moon was at the full.
Now he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsosver I shall kiss, that is he; take him, and lead him away safely. Why was Judas so anxious that Christ should be secured? Perhaps because he feared a rescue, or because he feared lest our Lord should hide himself by an exercise of his miraculous power; and so Judas might lose the thirty pieces of silver.
And when he was come, straightway he came to him, and saith, Rabbi; and kissed him (κατεφίλησεν αὐτόν); literally, kissed him much. The kiss was an ancient mode of salutation amongst the Jews, the Romans, and other nations. It is possible that this was the usual mode with which the disciples greeted Christ when they returned to him after any absence. But Judas abused this token of friendship, using it for a base and treacherous purpose. St. Chrysostom says that he felt assured by the gentleness of Christ that he would not repel him, or that, if he did, the treacherous action would have answered its purpose.
But a certain one of them that stood by drew his sword, and smote the servant of the high priest, and struck off his ear (ἀφεῖλεν αὐτοῦ τὸ ὠτίον). We learn from St. John (John 18:10) that this was Peter. St. John also is the only evangelist who mentions the name (Malchus) of the high priest's servant. Malchus would probably be prominent amongst them. St. Luke (Luke 22:51) is the only evangelist who mentions the healing of the wound by our Lord.
We learn from St. Matthew (Matthew 26:52) that our Lord rebuked his disciples for their resistance; after which he proceeded to rebuke those who were bent upon apprehending him. Are ye come out, as against a robber (ὡς ἐπὶ λῃστὴν), with swords and staves to seize me? The order of events in the betrayal appears to have been this: First, the kiss of the traitor Judas, by which he indicated to those who were with him which was Jesus. Then follows that remarkable incident mentioned only by St. John (John 18:4-6), "Jesus … went forth, and saith unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, was standing with them. When therefore he said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground." The presence of Christ in his serene majesty overpowered them. There was something in his looks and manner, as he repeated these words," I am he," words often used before by him, that caused them to retreat backwards, and to prostrate themselves. It was no external force that produced this result. The Divine majesty flashed from his countenance and overawed them, at least for the moment. At all events, it was an emphatic evidence, both to his own disciples and to this crowd, that it was by his own will that he yielded himself up to them. Perhaps this incident fired the courage of St. Peter; and so, as they approached to take our Lord, he drew his sword and struck off the ear of Malchus. Then our Lord healed him. And then he turned to the multitude and said, "Are ye come out as against a robber, with swords and staves, to seize me?"
But this is done that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. This, as it stands in the original, is an incomplete sentence; in St. Matthew (Matthew 26:56) the sentence occurs in its complete form. In both cases it has been questioned whether the words are those of our Lord, or whether they are the comment of the evangelist. On the whole, it would seem more probable that they are our Lord's words, which seem almost required to conclude what he had said before.
And they all left him, and fled. But soon afterwards two of them, Peter and John, took courage, and followed him to the house of the high priest.
And a certain young man followed with him, having a linen cloth cast about him, over his naked body: and they lay hold on him. St. Mark is the only evangelist who mentions this incident; and there seems good reason for supposing that he here describes what happened to himself. Such is the mode in which St. John refers to himself in his Gospel, and where there can be no doubt that he is speaking of himself. If the conclusion in an earlier part of this commentary be correct, that it was at the house to which John Mark belonged that our Lord celebrated the Passover, and from whence he went out to the Mount of Olives; what more probable than that Mark had been with him on that occasion, and had perhaps a presentiment that something was about to happen to him? What more likely than that the crowd who took Jesus may have passed by this house, and that Mark may have been roused from his bed (it was now a late hour) by the tumult. Having a linen cloth (σινδόνα) cast about his naked body. The sindon was a fine linen cloth, indicating that he belonged to a family in good circumstances. It is an unusual word. In every other place of the New Testament where it is used it refers to the garment or shroud used to cover the bodies of the dead. The sindon is supposed to take its name from Sidon, where the particular kind of linen was manufactured of which the garment was made. It was a kind of light cloak frequently worn in hot weather.
But he left the linen cloth, and fled naked. This somewhat ignominious flight is characteristic of what we know of St. Mark. It shows how great was the panic in reference to Christ, and how great was the hatred of the Jews against him, that they endeavored to seize a young man who was merely following with him. It shows also how readily our Lord's enemies would have seized his own disciples if they had not taken refuge in flight.
And they led Jesus away to the high priest. This high priest was Caiaphas. But we learn from St. John (John 18:13) that our Lord was first brought before Annas, the father-in-law of Caiphas. Annas and his five sons held the high priesthood in succession, Caiaphas, his son-in-law, stepping in between the first and the second son, and holding the office for twelve years. It is supposed that it was in the house of Annas that the price of the betrayal was paid to Judas. Annas, though not then high priest, must have had considerable influence in the counsels of the Sanhedrim; and this will probably explain the fact of our Lord having been first taken to him.
And Peter had followed him afar off, even within, into the court (εἰς τὴν αὐλὴν) of the high priest. This court was the place where the guards and servants of the high priest were assembled. Our Lord was within, in a large room, being arraigned before the council. St. John informs us (John 18:15) that he himself, being known to the high priest, had gone in with Jesus into the court of the high priest; and that he had been the means of bringing in Peter, who had been standing outside at the door leading into the court. We now see Peter among the servants, crouching over the fire. The weather was cold, for it was early springtime; and it was now after midnight. Peter was warming himself in the light of the fire (πρὸς τὸ φῶς), and so his features were clearly seen in the glow of the brightly burning charcoal.
Now the chief priests and the whole council sought witness against Jesus to put him to death, and found it not. Their supreme object was to put him to death; but. they wished to accomplish their object in a manner consistent with their own honor, so as not to appear to have put him to death without reason. So they sought for false witnesses against him, that they might deliver the Author of life and the Savior of the world to death. For in real truth, although they knew it not, and were the instruments in his hands, he had determined by the death of Christ to bestow on us both present and eternal life.
For many bare false witness against him, and their witness agreed not together. Whatever things these witnesses brought forward were either false, or self-contradictory, or beside the purpose.
Mark 14:57, Mark 14:58
And there stood up certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:60) says that they were two. What our Lord had really said was this—we read it in St. John (John 2:19)—"Destroy this temple; and in three days I will raise it up." These words the false witnesses perverted; for they assigned to Jesus the work of destruction which he left to the Jews. He did not say," I will destroy;" but "Do ye destroy, and I will rebuild." Nor did he say, "I will build another;" but "I will raise it up," that is, from the dead; for St. John tells us that "he spake of the temple of his body," in which, as in a temple, there dwelt the fullness of the Godhead.. He might have said plainly, "I will rise from the dead;" but he chose to speak as in a parable. According to their witness, however, our Lord's words would appear as little more than an empty boast, certainly not as anything on account of which such a charge as they desired could be brought against him.
Mark 14:60, Mark 14:61
And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing?… But he held his peace, and answered nothing. The high priest would naturally be seated at the top of the semicircle, with the members of the Sanhedrim on either side of him, and the Accused in front of him. Now he rises from his seat, and comes forward into the midst (εἰς τὸ μέσον), and demands an answer. But Jesus answered nothing. It would have been a long and tedious business to answer such a charge, which involved a garbled and inaccurate statement of what he had said. It would have answered no good purpose to reply to an accusation so vague and inaccurate. Our Lord knew that, whatever his answer was, it would be twisted so as to make against him. Silence was therefore the most dignified treatment of such an accusation. Besides, he knew that his hour was come. The high priest now asks him plainly, Art thou the Christ, the son of the Blessed? Here he touches the point of the whole matter. Christ had frequently declared himself to be such. Caiaphas, therefore, now asks the question, not because he needed the information, but that he might condemn him.
To this question our Lord returns a plain and candid answer, out of reverence for the Divine Name which, as St. Matthew and St. Luke tell us, had been invoked by the high priest, and also respect for the office of the high priest, by whom he had been put upon his oath. St. Chrysostom says that our Lord answered thus that he might leave without excuse all those who listened to him, who would not hereafter be able to plead in the day of judgment that, when our Lord was solemnly asked in the council whether he was the Son of God, he had either refused to answer, or had answered evasively. This answer of our Lord is full of majesty and sublimity. He is arraigned as a criminal, standing in the midst of the chief priests and scribes, his bitter enemies; and it is as though he said, "You, O Caiaphas, and you the chief priests and elders of the Jews, are now unjustly condemning me as a false prophet and a false Christ; but the day is at hand when I, who am now a prisoner at your judgment seat, shall sit on the throne of glory as the Judge of you and of all mankind. You are now about to condemn me to the death of the cross; but I shall then sit in judgment upon you, and condemn you for this terrible guilt of slaying me, who am the true God and the Judge of the world."
And the high priest rent his clothes (διαῤῥήξας τοὺς χιτῶνας); literally, his tunics.; St. Matthew (Matthew 26:65) has τὰ ἱμὰτια literally, his garments. None but people of rank wore two tunics. The Greek verb here rendered "rent" implies violent dramatic action. The Jewish tunic was open under the chin, and large enough to receive the head, so that it could easily be placed over the shoulders, by inserting the head. When the wearer wished to give this sign of indignation or grief, he would seize the garment at this opening with both hands, and violently tear it asunder down to the waist. But it was unlawful for the high priest to do this in a private grief (Le Matthew 10:6). Some of the Fathers think that by this action Caiaphas involuntarily typified the rending of the priesthood from himself and from the Jewish nation.
They all condemned him to be worthy of death (ἔνοχον θανάτου). There were, therefore, none there but those who were known to be opposed to our Lord. It will be remembered that all these proceedings were illegal.
And some began to spit on him. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:67) says, "Then did they spit in his face." That Divine face, to be reverenced and adored by every creature, was exposed to this vile contumely; and he bore it patiently. "I hid not my face from shame and spitting" (Isa 1:1-31 :61). And the officers received him with blows of their hands (οἱ ὑπηρέται ῥαπίσμασιν αὐτὸν ἔλαβον).
And as Peter was beneath in the court. The room in which the Sanhedrim were assembled was an upper chamber.
And seeing (ἰδοῦσα) Peter warming himself, she looked upon him (ἐμβλέψασα αὐτῷ). She looked upon him, in the light of the fire, so as to see his features distinctly. This was one of the menial servants who attended to the outer door of the court, and perhaps had been the one to let in Peter; so that she could say with some confidence, Thou wast also with the Nazarene, even Jesus.
But he denied, saying, I neither know, nor understand what thou sayest. "This shows the great terror of Peter," says St. Chrysostom, "who, intimidated by the question of a poor servant-girl, denied his Lord; and who yet afterwards, when he had received the Holy Spirit, could say, 'We ought to obey God rather than man.'" I neither know, nor understand what thou sayest. Every word here is emphatic. It amounts to this: "So little do I know who this Jesus is, that I know not what you say or what you ask concerning him. I know not who or what he is or anything about him. A question has been raised as to the number of times that Peter denied our Lord. The narratives are best explained by the consideration that all the denials took place in the house of Caiaphas. Furthermore, the accounts of the evangelists may be reconciled thus: First, Peter denied the Lord in the court of the high priest, when he was first asked by the maidservant, as he sat over the fire (Mat 24:1-51 :69); secondly, he denied him with an oath; thirdly, when urged still more, he denied him with many oaths and execrations. The cock crew the first time after the first denial, when we read (Matthew 26:71) that he went out into the porch (προαύλιον). This crowing would be about one or two in the morning. The second crowing would not be until five or six. This shows us the length of time that the proceedings lasted. It was doubtless as Jesus through the court that he gave Peter that look of unutterable pain and grief which moved him at once to repentance.
And when he thought thereon, he wept (καὶ ἐπὶβαλὼν ἔκλαιε, not ἔκλαυσε,). The word implies a long and continued weeping.
This concludes the preliminary trial, the whole proceedings of which were illegal.
Mark 14:1, Mark 14:2
The apprehension and death of Jesus were brought about By a combination between his foes and a professed friend. The avowed enemies employed the necessary force, and secured the authority of the Roman governor for his crucifixion; and the disciple suggested the occasion, the place and time of the capture, and delivered his Master into the hands of the malignant persecutors. The events of the first three days of this Passion week had been such as to enrage the Pharisees and scribes beyond all bounds. The only way in which it seemed possible for them to retain their threatened influence, necessarily diminished and discredited by their repeated public confutation, seemed to be this—to strike an immediate and decisive blow at the Prophet whom they were unable to withstand upon the ground of argument and reason.
I. THE ENEMIES WHO PLOTTED AGAINST CHRIST. These seem to have included all classes among the higher orders of society in Jerusalem, who, whatever their distinctions, rivalries, and enmities, concurred in hatred of the Holy One and the Just. The chief priests, who were largely Sadducees, the scribes, and the Pharisees, who were the most honored leaders of the people in religion, all joined in plotting against him who attacked their various errors with equal impartiality, and whose success with the people was undermining the power of them all.
II. THE CRAFT AND CAUTION OF CHRIST'S ENEMIES. It was in accordance with the nature of such men that they should have recourse to stratagem. Open violence was scarcely after their manner, and was out of the question in this case; for many of the people honored the Prophet of Nazareth, and would probably have interfered to protect or to rescue him from the onset of his enemies. Upon days of great popular festivals the people thronged every public place, where Jesus might be found teaching those who resorted to him; and those who delighted to listen to Jesus would certainly resist his capture. The opposition of Christ's enemies to his teaching had been captious, and it is not surprising to find that their plot for his destruction was cunning and secret.
III. THE PURPOSE OF CHRIST'S ENEMIES—HIS DESTRUCTION. This had, indeed, been foreseen and foretold by himself; but this does not lessen the crime of those who compassed his death. The resolution to slay Jesus seems to have been taken because of the popular impression produced by the raising of Lazarus, and because of the discussions which had only just now taken place between him and the Jewish leaders, whom he had overcome in argument and put to silence. Thus, he had come up to the metropolis with the intention of so conducting his ministry as he was well aware would bring down upon him the wrath of his bitter foes.
IV. THE SEASON AND OCCASION OF THIS PLOT, It was at the time of the Passover assemblies and solemnities that these deliberations took place. In this there was a coincidence which was not unintended, and which did not escape the observation of the Church. "Christ our Passover"—our Paschal Lamb and Sacrifice—"was slain for us." The Lamb of God came to take away the sin of the world. His death has become the life of humanity; his sacrifice has wrought the emancipation of a sinful race.
Tribute of grateful love.
A singular interest attaches to this simple incident in Christ's private life. Proud and foolish men have tried to turn it into ridicule, as unworthy of the memory of a great prophet. But they have not succeeded. Our Lord's own estimate of Mary's conduct is accepted, and the world-wide and lasting renown promised by Jesus has been secured. The record of the graceful act of the friend of Jesus is instructive, touching, and beautiful. And the commendation which the Master pronounced is an evidence of his human and sympathizing appreciation of devotion and of love.
I. THE ACCEPTABLE MOTIVE TO CHRISTIAN SERVICE IS HERE REVEALED. Mary was prompted, not by vanity and ostentation, but by grateful love. This had been awakened both by his friendship and teaching, and by his compassionate kindness in raising her brother from the dead. What Jesus appreciated was Mary's love. Services and gifts are valuable in Christ's view, not for themselves, for he needs them not, but as an expression of his people's deepest feelings. Let Christians consider what they owe to their Savior—salvation, life eternal. They may well exclaim, "We love him, because he first loved us." Acceptable obedience does not come first, for in such case it would be a form only; but if love prompts our deeds and services, they become valuable oven before Heaven.
II. THE NATURAL MODES OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE. These are severally exemplified in this incident.
1. Personal ministry. Mary did not send a servant; she came herself co minister to Jesus. There is some work for Christ which most Christians must do by deputy; but there is much work which may and should be done personally. In the home, in the school, in the Church, in the hospital, we may individually, according to opportunity and ability, serve the Lord Christ. What is done for his "little ones" he takes as done for himself.
2. Substance. Mary gave costly perfume, estimated to have cost upwards of ten pounds of our money. She had property, and therefore gave. All we have is his, who, when he purchased us with his blood, purchased all our powers and possessions. It is a precious privilege to offer him his own. "It is accepted according to what a man hath."
3. Public witness. Mary anointed the Master's feet in the presence of the company, and thus declared before all those assembled her devotion to him. It is good for ourselves that we should witness to our Savior, and it is good for others who may receive our testimony. It is a disgrace to professing Christians when they are ashamed of the Lord who redeemed them.
III. THE TRUE MEASURE OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE. She did, it is recorded, what she could; she gave what she had to give. This is an example worthy of universal imitation. We are reminded, as it were paradoxically, of two apparently opposed characteristics of Christian action and liberality.
1. How much devoted friends of Christ may do! Men may do much for harm and evil; and, on the other hand, what good even one person has sometimes accomplished in private life! What can be done should be done.
2. Yet, how limited are men's powers! If Christians could do more than they do, how vast a field of labor stretches around them! We are limited in our powers for usefulness. Our means may be small, our circle of influence restricted. Our powers of body and of mind are often a restraint upon us; our life is brief, even at the longest. The sister of Bethany could not do what others might; nevertheless, what she could do she did. And we are never to rest in inactivity and indolence, because the claims are so many, and our powers are so small, and our opportunities so few.
IV. THE APPROVAL AND ACCEPTANCE OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE.
1. The Lord accepts what his friends bring to him, as the expression of their love, in proportion to their means and powers. He is not influenced by men's regards. Good men as well as bad men often disapprove wise and benevolent actions. He judgeth not as man judgeth.
2. The Lord rewards the grateful and devoted friends who minister unto him. He enlarges their opportunities of usefulness and service here. "To him that hath shall be given." And he will hereafter recompense them in the resurrection of the just, when he shall say, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
1. Let Christians give love its way, and follow where it leads. There is no danger of our loving our Savior too ardently, or of our serving him too zealously.
2. If your means of showing devotion be but few, fret not; only let it be said, "They have done what they could."
Mark 14:10, Mark 14:11
That there should be a traitor in the camp of our Lord's followers and professed friends, may be regarded as an instance of the Divine forbearance, which tolerated one so unworthy, and also as a fulfillment of the predictions of Scripture. The fact is, however, one which is fraught with instruction and warning to every disciple of the Lord.
I. THE AGGRAVATIONS OF THE TRAITOR'S GUILT. These are to be recognized in two circumstances which have been recorded regarding Judas Iscariot.
1. He was not only a disciple and follower of Jesus; he was actually one of the twelve. These were admitted to an especial intimacy with Jesus; they knew his movements, they shared his privacy, they heard his language of friendship and partook his counsels. All this made the treachery of one of this select band the more guilty and reprehensible.
2. He was entrusted with office in the little society to which he belonged. The treasurer of the twelve—although, doubtless, their means were always small—Judas bare the bag, and made the purchases necessary for the wants of the companions, and even gave from the general poverty for the relief of those poorer than they. He was accordingly a trusted official, who abused the confidence reposed in him.
II. THE MOTIVES TO THE TRAITOR'S GUILT. These were probably two.
1. Judas was dissatisfied with his Master's methods. Doubtless his expectations were of a carnal character; he wished Jesus to declare himself a King, and to assign to his twelve friends posts honorable and lucrative in this new kingdom. It may have been to hasten on this catastrophe that the Iscariot acted as he did.
2. Judas was covetous, and was prompted in his treason by the love of money. He secured from the chief priests the thirty shekels which formed the customary price of a slave—"the price of him that was valued!" Surely it is a warning against avarice and covetousness, to find a professed friend of Jesus misled by these degrading vices!
III. THE OUTCOME OF THE TRAITOR'S GUILT.
1. It might have been difficult for our Lord's enemies to have seized him had they not been in the confidence of one of his companions. There were obvious reasons why the arrest could not have taken place at Bethany or iu Jerusalem. It was the duplicity and treachery of Judas that suggested the garden of prayer as the scene of this disgraceful apprehension.
2. To Judas the consequences were terrific. In remorse and despair he afterwards took his life.
3. Yet how was all this overruled for wise and gracious ends! The treachery of the Iscariot was the occasion of the crucifixion of Jesus, and this was the means of the salvation of the world!
The Paschal supper.
The Lord's Supper is a distinctively Christian ordinance. Yet this record shows us that it was our Lord's design that it should be linked on to an observance with which his disciples were already familiar. He thus took advantage of a principle in human nature, and connected the associations and recollections which to the Hebrew mind were most sacred, with what was to be one of the holiest and most pathetic engagements of his people throughout all time.
I. THE OCCASION AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE INSTITUTION OF THE LORD'S SUPPER,
1. The place in which this festival was first celebrated was provided by willing friendship. The circumstantial narrative points to the high probability that some wealthy friend of the Lord Jesus placed the guest-chamber of his house at Jerusalem at the disposal of the Master whom he honored. There was something very appropriate in the consecration in this manner of the offices of human love.
2. The time is very instructive and pathetic. It was evening; it was the last evening of rest and peace our Lord should enjoy; it was the evening which preceded the day of his sacrifice.
3. The company consisted of the twelve favored companions of Jesus. Judas was at the meal, but retired before the institution of the Eucharist. How sacred and congenial a gathering! How sweet and touching this calm which came before the bursting of the storm!
4. The occasion was the observance of the Paschal meal. Thus the light of the Hebrew Passover was shed upon the Christian sacrament and Eucharist. Thus it was suggested to the apostle that "Christ our Passover was slain for us."
II. THE TROUBLE WHICH SADDENED THE SUPPER. Evidently this made a deep impression upon all who took part in the meal. They saw that their Master was distressed, and they felt with him the touching sorrow. The treachery of Judas was known to him who needed not to be told what was in man. The grief which weighed down the heart of the Lord was communicated by him to all the sympathizing members of the group. The sin which was bringing Jesus to the cross was gathered up and made visible and palpable in the conduct of the traitor. And the sensitive nature of our High Priest was affected and oppressed by it.
III. THE SPIRITUAL IMPORT OF THE SUPPER.
1. It was a commemoration of the Lord's sufferings and death. The broken bread was intended to keep in perpetual memory the body which was broken; the wine poured out to recall to Christian hearts throughout all time the blood which was shed.
2. It was a symbol. Here is the explanation of the Lord's own words concerning eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of man. Thus are we taught and helped to feed on him by faith who is the Bread of life.
4. THE PROPHECY AND PROMISE OF THE SUPPER. It had a first chief bearing upon the past, yet it pointed on to the future; it prefigured the marriage supper of the Lamb. In the kingdom of God the heavenly wine should be quaffed; in the upper temple the plaintive hymn of the sacrament should be exchanged for the triumphal anthem of the glorified, immortal host and choir.
1. The blood was shed for many; have we shown our consciousness that it was shed for us?
2. Let every communicant tremble lest he betray the Lord, and ask with concern and contrition, "Lord, is it I?"
Long before had our Lord clearly realized what would be the end of his ministry of benevolence and self-denial. The prospect of ungrateful violence leading to a cruel death had not deterred him from efforts for the good of those whom he loved and pitied. And now that the blow was just about to fall upon him, his mind was no less steadfast, although his heart was saddened.
I. JESUS ANTICIPATES HIS OWN SUFFERINGS, AND THE RESURRECTION WHICH SHOULD FOLLOW HIS DEATH.
1. He foresaw that, as the Good Shepherd, he should be smitten. He was to lay down his life for the sheep, that they might be saved and live.
2. He foretold that he should rise, and should be found in Galilee in an appointed place. This assurance gives us an insight into the considerate kindness of the Redeemer, who not only resolved to triumph for mankind, but took care for his own friends that their solicitude might be relieved, and that his intimacy with them might be renewed.
II. JESUS ANTICIPATES THE CONFUSION AND UNFAITHFULNESS OF HIS DISCIPLES. Sorely as this prospect must have distressed his heart, he was not by it to be deterred from his purpose. He foretold to his friends how they were about to act, that they might learn a lesson of their own frailty and dependence upon unseen aid.
1. Offence and scattering were foretold concerning all. This, as the record informs us, came to pass; for in the hour of his apprehension "they all forsook him, and fled."
2. The denial of the foremost and the boldest of the twelve was also foretold. Peter loved Christ, had displayed a remarkable insight into Christ's nature, and now professed, in the ardor of his attachment, a readiness to die for his Lord. It was as though nothing that could distress the Divine Savior should be wanting to his sufferings and sacrifice; he consented even to be denied by the foremost of the select and beloved band.
3. Jesus knew the hearts of his disciples better than they knew their own. They vehemently asserted their attachment, their devotedness, their unswerving fidelity. But he knew the underlying nature which afforded at present no foundation for their resolutions and protestations. And he was evidently prepared for what actually happened; it did not take him by surprise. Only after his ascension, and the baptism with the Spirit, could the apostles withstand the onset of the foe, the rage of the persecutor.
1. Learn the frailty and feebleness of human nature.
2. Learn the steadfastness and the love of the Savior.
3. Learn the necessity of dependence upon Divine grace to keep from falling.
How pathetic is this scene! Here we are in the presence of the sorrow of the Son of man; and there is no sorrow like this sorrow. Here we see Christ bearing our griefs, carrying our sorrows—a load beneath which even he almost sinks! It is not to us a spectacle merely of human anguish; we are deeply and personally interested in the agony of the Son of God. It was for our sake that the Father spared not his own Son. It was for our sake that Jesus, our High Priest, offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto God, and learned obedience by the things which he suffered. The last quiet evening of fellowship has been passed in the upper room at Jerusalem by Jesus and the twelve. The last discourse—how full of encouragement and consolation!—has been delivered. The last, the most wonderful and precious, prayer has been offered by the Master for his disciples. Instead of returning, as on the earlier evenings of the week, to the seclusion of hospitable Bethany, the little company proceed to a spot where Jesus was wont to retire, from the excitement of the city ministry, for meditation and for prayer. By the light of the Paschal moon they pass through the open gate, and, leaving the city walls behind them, descend into the valley of the Kedron. Every heart is full of the sacred words which have just been spoken, and silence falls upon the pensive group. On the slope of Olivet they halt at an enclosure, where aged olive trees cast a sombre shade, and the rocks offer in their recesses a meet scene for lonely prayers. It is the garden of the olive-press, well known to every member of the band. Leaving the rest behind him, Jesus takes with him the favored three, who are witnesses to the awe and deadly sorrow that come upon him. He entreats their sympathy and watchfulness, and then withdraws to a spot where in solitude he pours out all his soul in prayer. The hour indeed has come. The ministry of toil is over, and the ministry of suffering and of sacrifice only now remains. He is straitened until the last baptism be accomplished. The shadow of the cross has often before darkened his holy path; the cross itself is just upon him now. Hitherto his soul has been almost cloudlessly serene; in this hour the tempest of sorrow and of fear sweeps over him and lays him low. There is no resource save in prayer. Earth rejects him, man despises him. So he turns to heaven; he cries to the Father. He is feeling the pressure of the world's sin; he is facing the death which that sin, not his, has merited. It is too much, even for Christ in his humanity, and he implores relief. "Oh that this cup may pass untasted!" Yet, even with this utterance of natural feeling, there is blended a purpose of submission: "Not my will, O my Father, but thine, be done!" It is the crisis of agony, unexampled, never to be repeated! An agony of grief, an agony of prayer, an agony that finds its vent in every pore. Angelic succor strengthens the fainting and exhausted frame. Is there human sympathy with the Sufferer? Surely the dear friends and scholars—they are praying with and for him! His craving heart draws him to the spot, to find them neither watching nor praying, but asleep! He treads the winepress alone! It is an added drop of bitterness in the bitter cup. "What, could ye not—not even Peter—watch with me—not for one short hour?" Alas! how feeble is the flesh, even though the spirit be alert and active! The prayer of Jesus, repeated with intensest fervor, gains in perfectness of submission. Thrice he retires to renew his supplication, with a growing acquiescence in the Father's will; thrice he approaches his chosen friends, each time to be disappointed by their apathy. But now the victory has been won. Jesus has wrestled in the garden that he may conquer on the cross. He leaves his tears and cries behind. For the eleven there is no further opportunity for sympathy; for the Master there is no more hesitation, no more outpouring of personal distress. He loses himself in his work. With the cross before him, a former exclamation seems to arise from the depths of his spirit: "For this cause came I unto this hour." He goes forward to meet the betrayer and his band. "Rise up, let us go; behold, he is near who betrays me!"
I. OUR SAVIOR'S SUFFERINGS IN HIS OWN SOUL. It is noticeable that, up to this point in his earthly career, Jesus had maintained singular tranquility of soul and composure of demeanor. He had been tempted by the devil; he had been calumniated by his enemies; he had been disappointed in professed friends; but his calm seems to have been unruffled. And it is also noticeable that, after his agony in the garden, he recovered his equanimity; and both in the presence of the high priest and of the governor, and (generally speaking) when enduring the agonies of crucifixion, showed the self-possession, the dignity, the uncomplaining resignation, which have been the occasion of world-wide and enduring admiration. But this hour in Gethsemane was the hour of our Lord's bitter grief and anguish, when his true humanity revealed itself in cries and tears, in prayers and prostration, in agony and bloody sweat. How is this to be accounted for? That his nature was pre-eminently sensitive we cannot doubt. Never was a heart so susceptible to profound emotion as the heart of the High Priest who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, because he had been in all points tried and tempted even as we are, though without sin. But what occasioned, in this hour, feeling so deep, anguish so poignant? To a certain extent we can clearly understand his sorrows, but there is a point here at which our finite understanding and our imperfect human sympathies necessarily fail us. It is clear that Jesus foresaw what was approaching. He was not ignorant of the hostility of the Jewish leaders, of the treachery of Judas, of the fickleness of the populace, of the timidity of his own disciples. And, by his Divine foresight, he knew what the next few, awful hours were to bring him. There awaited him bodily pain, scourging, and crucifixion; mental distress in the endurance of the insults of his foes, the desertion of his friends, the ingratitude of the people for whom he had labored and whom he had benefited. All this we can understand; but what careful reader of the narrative can deem even all this a sufficient explanation for woe unparalleled? It is, indeed, true that the sufferings and death of Jesus were undeserved; but this fact, and his own consciousness of innocence, might rather relieve than aggravate his distress. The fact is that, when we read of his being amazed and appalled—"exceeding sorrowful unto death," and asking that if possible he might be spared the approaching experience of shame and anguish—we are compelled to regard our Savior in the light of our Representative and Substitute. His mind was, in a way we cannot understand, burdened with the world's sin, and his body was about to endure death which he did not deserve, but which he consented to pass through that he might be made perfect through sufferings, and that he might give his life a ransom for many. In the garden of the olive-press the Redeemer endured the unprecedented pressure of human sin and human woe!
II. OUR SAVIOR'S PRAYER TO THE FATHER. The words of Jesus are reported somewhat differently by the several evangelists, from which we may learn that it is not so much the language as the meaning which is important for us.
1. Observe the address: "Abba, Father!" It is clear that our Lord was conscious of the personal favor and approval of him to whom he was rendering obedience, never so acceptable as in the closing scenes of the earthly ministry.
2. The petition is very remarkable: it was that the hour might pass, and that the cup might be taken away untasted. We are admitted here to witness the workings of Christ's human nature. He shrank, as we should do, from pain and insult, from slander and cruelty. Although he had forewarned his disciples that there was a baptism for him to endure, a bitter cup for him to drink, now that the time approached, the trial was so severe, the experience so distressing, that had he been guided by his individual feelings he would fain have avoided a doom so unjust and so overwhelming.
3. The qualification, added explains what would otherwise be inexplicable. Jesus did not absolutely ask for release; his condition was, "If it be possible," and his conclusion, "Not my will, but thine, be done!" There was no resistance to the Father's appointment; on the contrary, there was perfect submission. Not that the Father took pleasure in the Son's sufferings, but the Father appointed that the ransom should be paid, that the sacrifice should be offered.
III. OUR SAVIOR'S CLINGING TO HIS DISCIPLES. Very touching is our Lord's attachment to the eleven; "he loved them unto the end;" he took them with him to the garden. And very touching is his craving for human sympathy. Although his anguish could be best endured alone, he would have the little band not far off, and the favored three he would have close by him. If they would watch with him one hour, the one only, the one last remaining hour of fellowship—if they would pray for themselves, perhaps for him—it would be a solace to his tender soul; to be assured of their sympathy, to be assured that, even on earth, he was not alone; that there was, even now, some gratitude, some love, some sympathizing sorrow, left on earth. Why Jesus should have gone thrice to see whether his three nearest friends were watching with him in the hour of his bitter woe, seems only to be explained by considering his true humanity, his heart yearning for sympathy. Even his prayers, fervent though they were, were interrupted for this purpose! There is a tone of reproach in his final permission, "Sleep on now!"—now that the glimmering of the torches is seen through the olive boughs as their bearers cross the deep ravine, now that the step of the traitor falls upon the ear of the betrayed. A sad reminder of "the irreparable past;" an everlasting expostulation, again and again in coming years to ring in the ear of each slumberous, unsympathizing disciple, and rouse to diligence, to watchfulness, to prayer.
IV. OUR SAVIOR'S RESIGNATION AND ACCEPTANCE OF THE FUTURE BEFORE HIM. His bodily weakness was supported by angelic succor. His spirit was calmed by prayer, and by the final assurance that from the cross there was no release, except at the cost of the abandonment of his work of redemption. From the moment that the conflict was over, and his mind was fully and finally made up to accept the Divine appointment—from that moment his demeanor was changed. Instead of seeking sympathy from his disciples, he spoke words of authority and encouragement to them, in their weakness and their panic. Instead of falling upon his knees or upon his face, in agony and tears, he went forward to meet his betrayers. Instead of seeking release from the impending fate, he offered himself to his foes. He put forth his hand to take the cup from which he had so lately shrunk. He boldly met the hour which, in the prospect, had seemed almost too awful to encounter. He had now no will but his Father's, no aim but our salvation. Even now he saw "of the travail of his soul, and was satisfied." "For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame!" The unity of the Savior's sacrifice is thus apparent. He was obedient unto death; and the triumph of the spirit in Gethsemane was part of his filial and perfect obedience. Indeed, it would seem that the price of our redemption was paid, spiritually, in the garden; and, in the body, upon the cross!
1. This representation of our Savior's character is peculiarly fitted to awaken our reverence, gratitude, and faith. As we trace our Savior's career of active benevolence, our minds are constantly impressed with his unselfishness and pity, his willingness and power to relieve the wants, heal the disorders, pardon the sins, of men. But when we behold him in suffering and anguish, and remember that he conseated to this experience for our sake, for our salvation, how can our hearts remain untouched? The innocent suffers in the place, and for the benefit of, the guilty. If we are the persons benefited, how sincere should be our thanksgiving, how lowly our adoration, how ardent our faith, how complete our devotion!
2. In the demeanor of our Savior in the garden there is much which we shall do well to imitate. His patient endurance of grief and trouble encountered in the path divinely appointed, the absence of any hatred or vindictiveness towards his foes, his forbearance with his unsympathizing friends, and, above all, his submissive prayer offered to the Father,—all these are an example which all his followers should ponder and copy. Whilst we cannot suffer as he did for the benefit of the whole human race, our patience under trouble, our perseverance in resignation, and consecration to the will of God, are qualities which will not only prove serviceable to ourselves, but helpful and advantageous to some at least over whom our influence may extend.
3. Nothing is more fitted to deepen our sense of the enormity of human sin, nothing is more fitted to bring our sinful hearts to penitence, than the contemplation of the dread scenes of Gethsemane. Jesus was oppressed by a burden of sin—the sin of others, which we may take as an example of the sins of mankind, and ourselves—all of which he then bore. The coldness and callousness of the eleven, the treachery of Judas, the cowardice of Peter, the malice of the priests, the fickleness of the multitude, the injustice of the Roman governor, the unspiritual and unfeeling insolence of the rulers,—all these in this awful hour pressed heavily upon the soul of Jesus. But these were only samples of the sins of humanity at large, of the sins of each individual in particular. He took all upon his own great heart, and bore them, and suffered for them, and on the cross submitted to that death which was their due penalty. In what spirit should we contemplate these sufferings of our Redeemer? Surely, if anything is adapted to bring us in lowly contrition before the feet of God, this scene is pre-eminently so adapted. Not indeed in abject, hopeless, terror, but with humble repentance and confidence. For the same scene that reminds us of our sins, reminds us of Divine mercy, and of the Being through whose sacrifice that mercy is freely extended to every contrite and believing suppliant. This is the language of every Christian who is a spectator of these unparalleled woes: "He loved me, and gave himself for me!"
4. And what more fitted to awaken within the breast of every hearer of the gospel a conviction of the greatness and sufficiency of the salvation which is by Christ unto all who believe? There is no extenuation of the seriousness, the almost desperateness, of the sinner's case; for sin evidently needed, if this record be true, a great Savior and a great salvation. The means used were not trivial to bring sinners to a sense of their sin and need, to make it consistent with the Divine character to pardon and accept the contrite sinner. "Ye were redeemed … with the precious blood of Christ!" Therefore, without hesitation or misgiving, receive Jesus as your Redeemer; "be ye reconciled to God!"
Betrayal and arrest.
The agony and the betrayal are most closely related. Neither can be understood apart from the other. Why did Jesus so suffer in the garden, and endure sorrow such that there was none like it? Doubtless it was because he was anticipating the approaching apprehension, and all the awful events which it involved. His soul was darkened by the knowledge that the Son of man was about to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. And how came Jesus, when the crisis arrived, to meet his foes so fearlessly, and to bear his pain and ignominy with patience so inimitable, so Divine? It was because he had prepared himself in solitude, by meditation, prayer, and resolution; so that, upon the approach of his foes, his attitude was one of meekness and of fortitude. We observe here—
I. AN EXHIBITION OF HUMAN SIN. It seems as if the iniquity of mankind reached its height at the very time when the Savior bore it in his own body, in his own soul. As the awful and sacred hour approached when the Good Shepherd should lay down his life, sin appeared almost omnipotent; the Lord confessed as much when, upon his apprehension, he said to his captors, "This is your hour, and the power of darkness." Observe the combination of the various forms of sin manifested on this occasion.
1. The malignity of the conspirators is almost incredible. The chief priests, scribes, and elders had long been plotting the death of the Prophet of Nazareth. It had all along been the case that his truthful and dignified assertion of his just and lofty claims, and the performance of his best deeds, excited their worst feelings. They had especially been angered by his miracles of healing and help; both because they led the people to regard him with favor, and because they were a rebuke to their own indifference to the people's welfare. And it was probably the raising of Lazarus which determined them, at all hazards, to attempt the destruction of the Holy One and Just. Their own deeds were evil, and they hated the light. Hence their hateful and cruel conspiracy.
2. The baseness of the authorities. The Sanhedrim leagued itself with the Roman governor. With the temple servitors and officers were conjoined the band from Antonia. Discreditable to the Roman authorities, and disgraceful to the Jewish, was this leaguing together for a purpose so unjustifiable. Ecclesiastical and civil authorities concurred in reversing the true canon: they were a praise to evil-doers, and a terror to those who did well.
3. The treachery of the betrayer. Whatever may have been the motive of Judas, his action was traitorous and flagitious. Pretending still to be Jesus' friend, he conspired with his enemies against him, took their money to betray him, and even used to his disadvantage the knowledge his intimacy gave him of his Master's habits of devotion. Unparalleled was the baseness with which the traitor betrayed the Son of man with the kiss of the seeming friend. In suffering all this, our Lord showed his readiness to submit for our sake to the uttermost humiliation, to the keenest anguish of soul.
4. The cowardice apparent in the time, place, and manner of the Lord's apprehension. His indignation with these circumstances the Lord did not conceal. Why did not his enemies seize him in the temple, instead of in the garden? when teaching in public, instead of when praying in private? by day, instead of in the partial darkness of the night? Why did they come armed as against a robber, when they knew him to be peaceable and unresisting? If all this shows some consciousness of our Lord's majesty and authority, it certainly reveals the depth and degradation of the iniquity which could work deeds at once so foul and so cowardly.
5. The timidity and desertion of the disciples. Shall we call this excusable weakness? If so, it is because we feel that we might have acted as they acted had we been in their place. But, in truth, it was sin. They could not watch with him when he prayed, and they could not stand by him when he was in danger and encompassed by his foes. There is something infinitely pathetic in the simple statement, "They all left him, and fled." Even Peter, who had protested so lately his readiness to die with him; even John, who had so lately reclined upon Jesus' breast; even the young man whose affectionate curiosity led him to join the sad procession, as it passed through the still streets of Jerusalem!
II. A REVELATION OF CHRIST'S DIVINELY PERFECT CHARACTER. Circumstances of trial prove what is in men. When the sea is smooth and the wind is still, the unsound vessel seems as stout and as safe as that which is seaworthy; the tempest soon makes the difference manifest. Even our sinless, holy Lord shines out more gloriously in his adversity, when the storm breaks upon his head.
1. We recognize in him a calm and dignified demeanor. He had been disturbed and distressed in his solitude, and his feelings had then found vent in strong crying and tears. But his agitation has passed away, and his spirit is untroubled. He meets his enemies with unquailing boldness of heart and serenity of mien.
2. We are impressed with his ready, uncomplaining submission to his fate. He acknowledges himself to be the One whom the high priest's myrmidons are seeking; he offers no resistance, and forbids resistance on the part of his followers; he acts as One who knows that his hour has come. There is a marked contrast between the action of our Lord on this and on previous occasions. Before, he had eluded his foes, and escaped from their hands; now, he yields himself up. His conduct is an illustration of his own word: "No one taketh my life away from me; but I lay it down of myself."
3. We remark his compassion exercised towards one of his captors. The impetuous Peter aims a blow at one of the attendant and armed bondsmen; but Jesus rebukes his friend, and mercifully heals his foe. How like himself, and how unlike all beside!
4. We admire his willingness to fulfill the Scriptures and the will of God. It was a moment when, in the case of an ordinary man, self would have asserted its claims, and the purposes of Heaven would probably have been lost sight of. It was not so with Jesus. The word of the Father, the will of the Father,—these were pre-eminent in their authority.
III. A STEP TOWARDS CHRIST'S SACRIFICE AND MAN'S REDEMPTION. If the whole of our Savior's career was part of his mediatorial work, the closing stages were emphatically the sacrifice. And it was in Gethsemane that the last scene opened; now was the beginning of the end.
1. We discern here conspicuous self-devotion. Jesus appears as One baring his breast for the blow. From this moment he has to suffer, and of this he is evidently clearly conscious, and for this prepared.
2. His action is evidently in obedience to the Father; he treads the path the Father marks out, and drinks the cup the Father presents to his lips.
3. He already stands in our place. The innocent and holy One submits to be treated as a guilty offender; the most benevolent and selfdenying of all beings allows himself to share the contumely and the doom of the criminal. He is "numbered with the transgressors." Unmerited sufferings and insults are endured for our sake by the very Son of God.
4. Titus he prepares for death. "He is led as a lamb to the slaughter." He is bound as a victim, to be laid upon the altar. His sensitive nature tastes, in anticipation, the agonies of the cross. Already he is taking to himself, that he may bear it and bear it away, the sin of the world.
APPLICATION How deserving is such a Savior as this narrative portrays of the faith of every sinner, and of the love and devotion of every believer! His forbearance, patience, and compassion show the tenderness of his heart, and the firmness of his purpose to save. This may well justify the confidence of every poor, sinful, helpless heart. His love, his sacrifice, demand our grateful trust. And to such a Savior what adequate offering can be presented by those who know his power and feel his grace?
The trial before Caiaphas.
Surely this is the most amazing scene in the long history of humanity! The Redeemer of mankind upon his trial; the Savior at the bar of those he came to save;—there is in this something monstrous and almost incredible. But the case is even worse than this. The Lord and Judge of man stands at the tribunal of those who must one day appear before his judgment-seat. They judge him in time whom he must judge in eternity. It is a spectacle the most affecting and the most awful this earth has ever witnessed.
I. THE TRIBUNAL. Jesus has already been led before the crafty and unrighteous Annas. He is now led into the presence of the high priest, the Caiaphas (son-in-law to Annas) who has declared that it was good that one man should perish for the people; which meant, that it was better that the innocent Jesus should die, rather than that the ruler's influence with the people should be imperilled by the prevalence of the spiritual teaching of the Prophet of Nazareth. With Caiaphas are associated, first informally, and then in something like legal fashion, the chief priests, elders, and scribes. It appears that these are mainly of the Sadducees, of the party who aimed at political power. The tribunal before which Jesus is arraigned is composed of the Sanhedrim, so far as it may be said to exist at this time. It is observable, accordingly, that the accusers of Jesus are his judges. These are the men who sent down spies into Galilee, to lay in wait and tempt Jesus, and catch him in his speech. These are the men who instigated the cavillers who, in the public places of Jerusalem, opposed the teaching of the Lord with foolish questions, uncandid criticisms, unfounded calumnies. These are the men who, after the raising of Lazarus, plotted against the mighty One, and resolved that they would have his life. These are the men who themselves sent out the band that apprehended Jesus in the garden. He appears, therefore, at the bar of those who have watched and pursued him with eager malice, who have persecuted him with unscrupulous hatred, and who have now got him within their toils. Such was the court before which Jesus appeared. From a tribunal like this there was no prospect, no expectation, no possibility, of justice. This Jesus had long foreseen, and for the consequences Jesus was perfectly prepared.
II. THE EVIDENCE. When the judges condescend to become the accusers, it is no wonder that they seek evidence against the accused. In such circumstances Jesus must be obviously, undeniably innocent, if no charge can be substantiated against him. False witnesses appear; but so flagrantly inconsistent are their unfounded accusations, that even such a court, so prejudiced, cannot condemn upon testimony so mutually destructive. At length, however, false witnesses stand up, who distort a memorable saying of Christ into what may be construed as a disparagement of the national temple which all Jews regard with pride. Jesus, speaking of the temple of his body, had said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will rear it again." This saying is misrepresented, and made to appear the utterance of an intention to destroy the sacred and noble edifice. Even so, however, the witnesses agree not. If this is the worst charge that can be brought against Jesus, and if even this cannot he substantiated; if no remembered words can be twisted so as to give some color for condemnation before a tribunal so constituted and so prejudiced; then this is certain, that the ministry of Jesus must have been discharged with amazing wisdom and discretion. At the same time, the sin of the Lord's enemies appears the more enormous and the more inexcusable. Jesus was not condemned upon any evidence, any testimony, against him.
III. THE APPEAL AND ADJURATION.
1. The president of the court, stung with disappointment, springs from his seat, indignant at the silence and calmness of the accused; and, with most unjudicial unfairness, interposes, and endeavors to provoke Jesus into language which may inculpate himself. But he is met with a dignified demeanor and with continued silence.
2. This effort being in vain, the high priest adjures the accused, and requires him to say whether or not he persists in the-claims which he has made in the course of his ministry to be the Messiah, and the Son of the Blessed. Let him say "No," and he is for ever discredited and powerless; let him say "Yes," and then his admission may be construed into a claim which may be represented to the Roman procurator as a treasonable assumption of royal power. The intention of the judge in this proceeding was evil; but an opportunity was thus given for the great Accused publicly to put himself right with the court and with the world.
IV. THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT AND DECLARATION. Our Lord does not think it worth while to refute witnesses who have refuted themselves and one another. But now that the ruler of the people puts him upon his oath, and requires of him a plain answer to a plain question, Jesus breaks his silence.
1. He acknowledges what he has often asserted before, that no claim can be too high for him to make with truth. If he is to die-and upon that he has resolved—Jesus will die, witnessing to the truth and for the truth. He is the foretold Deliverer, the anointed King, the only Son of the Blessed and Eternal. This he will not conceal; from this avowal nought shall make him shrink.
2. He adds that his high position and glorious office shall be one day witnessed by his persecutors and judges, as well as by all mankind. There is true sublimity in such an avowal, made in such circumstances and before such an assembly. To the view of man Jesus is the culprit, powerless before the malice and the injustice of the mighty, and in danger of a cruel and violent death. But in truth the case is otherwise. He is the Divine King, the Divine Judge. His glory is concealed now, but it shall shine forth in due time and ere long. Men on earth shall bow in his Name, receive his laws, and place themselves beneath his protecting care. The world shall witness his majesty, and all nations shall be summoned to his bar, and heaven shall crown him "Lord of all." What striking harmony there is between this profession and expectation of Christ on the one hand, and on the other that wonderful statement of an apostle, "For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame"
V. THE SENTENCE.
1. The avowal is treated as a confession. No witnesses are now needed. From his own mouth he is judged. The charge, which Jesus' own language is held to justify and substantiate, is one of blasphemy. And, if Christ were a mere man, this charge was just.
2. The whole court concurs in the judgment. The president is eager to condemn, but not more eager than his assessors. One mind moves them all-a mind of malice and hatred, a mind rejoicing in iniquity, grasping at the fulfillment of base hopes.
3. The sentence is death. It was a foregone conclusion. The destruction of Jesus had been resolved upon long since. Death for the Lord of life; death for the Benefactor of mankind; death for the innocent but willing Victim of human ferocity and human sin!
VI. THE INSULTS. Again and again, in the course of that awful night, that awful morning, was the Lord of glory treated with derision, ignominy, and contempt. The record is almost too distressing to be read. We can read of the agony in the garden, of the anguish of the cross, but we scarcely know how to read of the treatment our Savior met with from our fellow-men, from those he came to save and bless. The spitting, the buffeting, the mockery, the blows,—those will not bear to be thought upon. We may believe, we cannot realize, the record!
1. Here we behold sin at its height, raging and seemingly triumphant. Whether we look at the witnesses who maligned Jesus, the court which condemned him, or the officers who abused him, we are confronted with appalling proofs of the flagitiousness of human sin.
2. Here we behold innocence in its peerless perfection. No fault is found in Jesus. Even his demeanor, amidst all this injustice, is consummate moral beauty. His unruffled calm, his Divine dignity, his immovable patience,—all command the profoundest reverence of our heart.
3. Here we behold a willing Sacrifice. Jesus is "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." With these stripes we are healed. These are a part of the suffering Jesus bore for us. That we may be freed from condemnation, he is condemned; that we may live, he is delivered unto death.
4. A glorious example is here presented for our imitation. "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow in his steps … who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously."
The story of our Savior's humiliation and suffering is a story not only of the malice and the injustice of his enemies, but of the frailty and unfaithfulness of his professed friends. It is true that the priests and elders apprehended him with violence and condemned him with unrighteousness; and that the Roman governor, against his own convictions, and influenced by his weakness and his selfish interests, condemned him to a cruel death. But it is also true, that of the twelve chosen and intimate associates one betrayed him and another denied him.
I. THIS CONDUCT WAS AT VARIANCE WITH PETER'S USUAL PRINCIPLES AND HABITS. No candid reader of the Gospel narrative can doubt either the faith or the love of this leader among the twelve. His confidence in the Master and his attachment to him were thoroughly appreciated by Christ himself. Had not Jesus named him the Rock? Had he not, upon the occasion of his memorable confession that Jesus was the Son of God, warmly exclaimed, "Blessed art thou," etc.? A warm and eager nature had found a Being deserving of all trust, affection, and devotion; and the Lord knew that in Peter he had a friend, ardent, attached, and true. He admitted the son of Jonas into the inner circle of three; he was one of the elect among the elect.
II. THIS CONDUCT WAS AT VARIANCE WITH PETER'S PREVIOUS INTENTION AND PROFESSION. When the seizure and capture were approaching, the Lord warned his servant that he would be found unfaithful. Peter's declaration had been, "I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death;" "If I must die with thee, I will not deny thee." And he was no doubt sincere in this bold and confident declaration. But sincerity is not enough; there must be stability as well. The professions of the ardent, experience teaches, must not always be taken with implicit trust. Time tries all; and endurance in trial is the true test of character. Peter's fall is a lesson of caution to the confident and the ardent.
III. THIS CONDUCT WAS FORESEEN AND FORETOLD BY THE LORD JESUS. The Master knew his servant better than he knew himself. In warning him of his impending fall, Christ had assured Peter that only his prayers should secure him from moral destruction.
IV. THIS CONDUCT MUST BE EXPLAINED BY THE COMBINATION IN PETER'S MIND OF LOVE AND FEAR. It was his affection for Jesus which led this apostle to enter the court, and to remain in the neighborhood of the Lord during his mock-trial. The others had forsaken their Master, and had fled; John only, being known, and Peter, being introduced by his friend, clung thus to the scene of their Master's woe. Peter, like John, felt unable to desert his Lord. Strange that he should feel able to deny him. He felt for his Master, but he feared for himself. Cowardice for the time overpowered the course which first brought him to the spot and then deserted him.
V. THIS CONDUCT IS AN INSTANCE OF THE TENDENCY OF SIN TO REPEAT ITSELF. A single falsehood often brings on others in its train. To get it believed, the liar lies again, and confirms his falsehood with oaths. Peter found himself in a position in which he must either repeatedly deny his Lord, or else expose his own falseness, and run into the very danger which he had sinned to escape. Ah! how slippery are the paths of sin! How easy it is to go wrong, and how difficult to recover the right way! Who knows, when once he lies, or cheats, or sins in any way, where, if ever, he shall stop? How needful the prayer, "Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not"!
VI. THIS CONDUCT COULD NOT ENDURE THE REBUKE OF CONSCIENCE AND THE REPROACH OF CHRIST. There was inconsistency between what Peter felt in his inmost heart, between the prayers which he was wont to offer, and what in this night he did and said. The falsehood and the fear were on the outside of his nature; below, there was a sensitive conscience and a loving heart. It was the look of the Master, as he was led through the open court, and met his faithless servant's eye, which melted Peter's heart, recalling in a moment the warning which had been disregarded and the profession which had been belied. If there had not been a heart, a conscience, responsive to the appeal and the reproach conveyed in that look, those eyes would have met in vain. All Christ's servants are liable to temptation, and it is possible that any one among them may be betrayed into faithlessness towards Christ; but it is only where there is true love that there is susceptibility to the Savior's tender expostulation and affectionate rebuke. It is thus that the Lord makes manifest who are his; he shames them because of their own weakness and cowardice, and awakens what is best within them to a sense of personal unworthiness, and to a desire of reconciliation and renewal.
VII. THIS CONDUCT WAS THE OCCASION OF SHAME AND CONTRITION. "When he thought thereon, he wept." Thought, reflection, especially upon the words of Jesus, are fitted to bring the misguided soul to itself. It is the haste and hurry of men's lives which often hinder true repentance and reformation. "They that lack time to mourn lack time to mend." These tears were the turning-point, and the earnest and the beginning of better things. Another evangelist relates to us at length the restoration of Peter to favor, and his new commission of service. But the simple words with which this narrative closes furnish the key to what follows, to the rest of Peter's life. Judas's sin led him to remorse; Peter's sin led him to repentance. The root of the difference lay in the two men's distinct and opposed characters. Judas's principle was love of self; Peter's was love of Christ. The recovery, which was possible for the one, was therefore morally impossible for the other.
1. A warning against self-confidence.
2. A suggestion as to the spirit in which to encounter temptation: Watch and pray; look to Jesus!
3. An encouragement to true penitents.
HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR
The precious spikenard; or, the impulse of the absolute.
The house of Simon the leper was a familiar resort to Jesus. It is Mary the sister of Lazarus who now approaches him as he reclines at meat. Let us look at—
I. HER ACT OF DEVOTION. The nard or spikenard was an unguent of the East. It was "genuine" and costly. Probably it had been kept against that day. She now entered, probably at first unperceived, and, breaking the neck of the alabaster cruse, poured the precious nard upon the Savior's person. John adds, And wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment." The offering was:
1. Sudden. It was given ere any one could interfere. The breaking of the cruse may also have pointed to the quick, spontaneous impulse which prompted. The woman who had come forward so unexpectedly, at once retired again before the tumult and anger her act had occasioned.
2. It sprang from secret sources of reverence and love. The disciples could not comprehend it. They were not consulted. It expressed her own feeling unshared with any other.
3. It was oblivious of cost. The price put upon it by the disciples—three hundred denarii—was about ten pounds of our money, but of greater actual value at that time. Mary belonged to a respectable family, and could probably afford the gift, although its purchase would tax her personal means. Of that she does not think. It is freely given, poured out without care or stint upon him for whom it had been designed.
II. THE CRITICISM TO WHICH IT EXPOSED. The disciples "had indignation among themselves." It presently broke forth in reproaches and murmurs. The action was stigmatized as purposeless "waste." Another use it might have served, viz. the relief of the poor, was mentioned. This judgment was partly honest, partly knavish; wholly ignorant and wrong. "What is not outwardly useful may be highly proper;" and men ought to be very careful in pronouncing upon religious offerings. A higher platform of principle is often affected by those who are really less spiritual.
III. CHRIST'S VINDICATION. "Why trouble ye her?" They had no business to interfere.
1. The act was commended. "A good [noble, beautiful] work." He saw the inward character of it. In his sight alone was it justified.
2. It was defended as more opportune and urgent than almsgiving. "Ye have the poor always with you,… but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she hath anointed my body aforehand for the burying." Many and mingled feelings prompted the offering—gratitude for the restoration of Lazarus, adoration of the character of Jesus, recognition of him as "the Way, the Truth, and the Life," as the Lord of life and death, etc.; but may not the foremost motive have been the reverent one which sought to do honor to One about to die? She who sat at the feet of Jesus divined his teaching more deeply than his professed followers. How are we to characterize this emotion which overcame her? It was deep, pure, unselfish, overwhelming. May it not fitly be termed "the impulse of the absolute"? It is the essence of religion. Thus the devout soul responds to the infinite sacrifice. Martyrs, apostles, missionaries, have felt its power. It obeyed a higher reason than the rudimentary religious experience of the apostles could comprehend. When the "length, and breadth, and depth, and height" of the passion of Jesus are perceived, no gift can fully express the sense of worship and obligation that arises: The highest sentiments of human nature are appealed to, and all the resources of our life are at his service, at the same time that we are profoundly conscious how far short they fall of his deserts or the claim he has upon us. It is a transaction, when it takes place, which others cannot judge; it is between the soul and its Lord.—M.
Mark 14:4, Mark 14:5
The spirit that betrays.
I. SELFISHNESS. An exaggeration of the natural principle of self-love. Judas, as chief representative of this spirit, shows the virtues of his great vice, and naturally enough becomes keeper of the bag, containing the earthward dependence of the band. He looks at everything from this point of view. Already his thrift or prudence has degenerated into avarice, the more quickly owing to the grace which he resisted. The money value of the offering is at once appraised, the spiritual worth being wholly discounted.
II. THIS IS REPRESENTED AS NOT CONFINED TO ONE INDIVIDUAL. In truth, every disciple had a share of it, although in a few it was more strongly manifest, and in one it may be said to have become incarnate. St. John, who is more given to this personalization of principles, speaks only of Judas. This, then, is a general danger to which the Church is liable, and requires the most careful self-examination. It can only be washed out of the soul by frequent and copious baptisms of Divine purity; it can only be consumed by the constant fire of the Divine love.
III. HERE IT IS CALLED INTO GREATER STRENGTH BY THE PRESENCE OF THE SPIRIT OF SACRIFICE. It is provoked by the display of self-forgetful affection. Why so?
1. Because it fails to discern the imminence and significance of the Divine event spiritually revealed to the soul of Mary.
2. Because, in resisting that spirit, its own evil is exaggerated and confirmed. It seeks, therefore, to discredit the special manifestation of the spirit of devotion taking place. The indirect form of Divine charity, viz. alms, is declared preferable to the direct, viz. self-sacrificing devotion to God in Christ. How often is this exchange actually made in the history of the Church; almsgiving (with all its attendant corruptions) taking the place of the soul's immediate allegiance to Jehovah! But on this occasion it is only a cloak for a deeper depth of selfishness, perhaps hardly confessed to himself by the chief culprit, he would by-and-by have stolen the worth of the gift, diverting it thus wholly from its rightful destination. Soon this self-seeking will declare itself in selling the Christ himself for money; a lesser sum (thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave) being temptation enough.—M.
Mark 14:10, Mark 14:11
Volunteering to betray.
The "and" connects this with the preceding paragraph, not only historically but psychologically. His present action was (immediately) determined by the gift of Mary and the mild rebuke of the Master.
I. THE CRIME CONTEMPLATED. To deliver up Christ to his enemies. Whether he fully realized how much was involved as a result of this step is uncertain. He might imagine that not death, but the checking of his Master upon the career he had marked out, would ensue. But there is recklessness as to any consequences, provided he himself should be no loser. In robbing the alms from the bag, he was guilty of a breach of trust; in this new development of his master passion the unfaithfulness culminated. It is manifest that the spiritual side of Christ's ministry had for him no value. It was only the earthly rewards that might attend on discipleship that made it attractive to him. Was it to force the hand of the ideal, unpractical Christ that he sought to deliver him up? A miracle of deliverance might then result in a realization greater than his most brilliant hopes could depict, and thus his (passing) act of villainy be condoned. Or was it in sheer disgust and desperation respecting the course affairs seemed to be taking that he conceived of his deed? We cannot tell. In a mind like that of Judas there are depths beyond depths.
II. THE MOTIVE. That selfishness was at the root we may be sure. Avarice is the direction it took. He proposed money, and asked how much (Matthew 26:15). Thirty pieces of silver a small sum? Yes, but he might be at that moment in real or fancied need, or the amount might be looked upon as a mere instalment of further reward, when he might have made himself useful, perhaps necessary, to the rulers. Fear of consequences, if he followed Christ further in the direction in which he was moving, may also have influenced his mind. And there can be no question as to the immediate impulse of wounded feeling, through baffled dishonesty and the sense that Christ saw through him. Falling short of the higher illumination and power of the Spirit, he was at the mercy of his own base, earthly nature.
III. CONSPIRING CIRCUMSTANCES. The background to all this mental and spiritual movement on the part of Judas is the attitude of the chief priests and scribes, "seeking how they might take" Christ. But for opportunity afforded the treachery of Judas might have remained an aimless mood or a latent disposition, instead of becoming a definite purpose. In this consists the danger of unspiritual states of mind: they subject those in whom they are indulged to the tyranny of passing influences and circumstances.—M.
Preparing for the Passover.
The festival of "unleavened cakes," or "unleavened bread," commenced on the night of the 14th of Abib or Nisan (Exodus 12:16) after sunset; that day, corresponding to our 16th of March, was therefore popularly called the first of the festival, because it was the preparation day for it. This preparation of the Passover, i.e. the killing of the lamb, etc., had to take place between three and six o'clock, the ninth and twelfth hours of the solar day. "Sacrificed," or "killed," has the force of "accustomed to sacrifice or kill." The room was to be "furnished," literally "strewn," i.e. the tables and couches were to be laid; and it was to be ready, i.e. cleansed, etc., in conformity with ceremonial purifications. A considerable amount of work had to be carefully gone through ere all things would be ready. The lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs, wine, and "conserve of sweet fruits," had to be purchased; the lamb had to be slain by the officiating priest in the temple; and then it had to be roasted with the herbs. From the circumstances connected with this preparation in the case of Christ and his disciples we see—
I. THE REPRESENTATIVE HEADSHIP OF CHRIST. The disciples looked to him for direction. They spoke of him, and not themselves severally, as being about to observe the Passover, which indicated, not that they themselves were not going to observe it, but that they ranged themselves under him as constituting, so to speak, his household· That they should have to seek his direction at the last was no proof of carelessness, but only of habitual dependence upon him; and it pathetically suggested how closely their circumstances corresponded with the typical character of the first celebrants, who as strangers and sojourners partook of the hasty feast. Fittingly enough, he who sought at birth the shelter of an inn, goes to such a place to observe the Passover with his disciples, in a separate and distinct capacity from that of any other household in Israel. They were to ask, "Where is my guest-chamber?" it was he who was to entertain.
II. His REGARD FOR THE OBSERVANCES AND INSTITUTIONS OF THE LAW. This is shown in the careful attention he gave to the details of the feast. Whether the arrangements made were due to the exercise of supernatural foresight, or merely to the natural forethought and human care of Christ, it is impossible to determine. In the former case, the "man bearing a pitcher of water," who was to meet them, would be indicated as a Divine token; in the latter, the man would be simply arranged for with the master or "goodman" of the hostelry. Either way, the feast was really prepared for by Christ, and no regulation was neglected. When the poverty, homelessness, and personal danger of the Savior are remembered, his observance of the Passover will be seen to possess an emphasis and intention quite special.
III. THE CONTINUITY IN WHICH THE "LORD'S SUPPER" STANDS. It was a "moment" or stage of the Paschal feast, and therefore a portion of the same celebration. Doubtless the feast would be protracted, or at any rate the actual eating of the lamb would be distinguished in time from the partaking of the bread and wine, which came a little later, as a new commencement after Judas had withdrawn at the bidding of the Master. In this way the retrospective character of the eating and drinking is quite natural. The two great feasts of Judaism and Christianity are thus vitally connected, the new celebration being a survival of the old one, and a perpetuation of its spiritual meaning. In such instances do we see the continuity of essential ideas, observances, and institutions throughout the varying phases and progressive stages of religious development.
IV. THE SPIRITUAL PREPARATION OF CHRIST FOR THAT WHICH THE PASSOVER SYMBOLIZED. It is just in the attention to these minute details, paid by One to whom in general the "spirit" was ever of so much more consequence than the "letter," that the inward preparedness of the Savior is suggested for his great sacrifice. The whole typology of the sacred festival had been spiritually realized by him, and its connection with his own death. In Matthew's Gospel this foreboding consciousness of doom, elevated into a higher mood by spiritual willinghood, is expressed: "The Master saith, My time is at hand," etc.—M.
The betrayer denounced.
I. THE SHADOW AT THE FEAST, Not fear, as of a criminal under sting of conscience; nor over-anxiety, the specter that sits with the worldling at his board; but moral repugnance expressing itself in sympathetic sorrow. An inward sense of interrupted sympathy and fellowship.
II. THE BETRAYER INDICATED. It is necessary to declare what it is which prevents the full communion of the household of Christ. This is done in order:
1. To awaken the spirit of self-examination and self-distrust. "Is it I?" Therefore the indication given is general and anonymous.
2. To characterize and accentuate the moral hideousness of the crime. It was shown to be an evil foretold from afar. The betrayal is to take place, "that the Scripture (Psalms 41:9) may be fulfilled, He that eateth my bread [or his bread with me] lifted up his heel against me" (John 13:18). And so, anticipatively, a new evidence is furnished by which to identify Jesus as the Messiah (John 13:19). As done by one enjoying the benefits of the Christian household, and reclining in pretended communion with the Lord, it is declared to be an act of the basest treachery and ingratitude.
3. As a personal discovery determining the further action of the guilty one. The special sign given was perceived by Judas alone, although explicitly mentioned. In answer to John's inquiry (the question of spiritual love), the partaking, which is here spoken of as a general thing, is specialized in a definite way with respect to the individual meant (John 13:26). The further command is given, not to do the deed, but, as he is determined even then to do it, to do it quickly (John 13:27, John 13:30). Thus the foulest crime against the Son of God is determined and accelerated amidst communion and sacred celebration—a psychological truth.
4. As an occasion for solemn lamentation over the miserable destiny of Judas. The "woe" is not spoken so much as a denunciation, but rather in commiseration. All the good of life is spoken of as forfeited—and more than forfeited. "The apophthegm is rather remarkable when microscopically examined, for, strictly speaking, nothing would be good to a man who never existed. But our Savior's meaning is not microscopic, but obvious, and most solemn. A man's existence is turned into a curse to him when he inverts the grand moral purpose contemplated in its Divine origination" (Morison). At the feast of love there is ever a sense of mingled reprobation and sympathy with respect to sinners.
III. THE PRINCIPLE OF THE INTERDEPENDENCE OF GOOD AND EVIL STATED. "The Son of man goeth," etc. Evil is overruled and made the occasion of good. Not that it is thereby necessitated: it is still the product of the free-will of the creature. Yet is it foreseen, and the operation of good is modified so as to produce the greater good. That Christ should die was foreordained; it was the expression of an eternal deterruination of the Divine nature; but the particular circumstances affecting the external character of his death were not foreordained. And, therefore, as freely committed, evil is not altered in its moral character by the result flowing from its being divinely overruled. Judas was a criminal awfully and uniquely wicked, and his "woe" is wailed forth by Infinite Love himself!—M.
The Lord's Supper.
A good title, as it was an evening meal; and it was appropriated to a new and special purpose by our Lord, in connection with whom its significance is received. He is the Host, while his disciples are the guests. Consider it:—
I. IN RELATION TO THE PASSOVER. The general meaning of the Passover was perpetuated in a spiritual sense. There was:
1. A transfer. Not of the whole Passover, but of a portion. It was during the progress of that meal, "as they were eating," that this particular occurrence took place. "He took bread [or a loaf]," thus adopting that, and the cup which was passing round, as something distinct from the main portion of the Passover meal, viz. the eating of the lamb itself. The cup was usually passed round three times, the bread frequently. We can conceive Christ's manner unusually solemn and impressive, as he raised these otherwise subordinate elements of the Paschal feast into prominent distinctness.
2. An interpretation. He took the brittle cake of unleavened bread and broke it, saying, "This is my body;" and the cup, saying, "This is my blood." The doctrines of transubstantiation and consubstantiation are philosophical refinements upon the simple meaning of the phrases, and lead inevitably to contradiction and absurdity. Christ was alive before them, and using his body, as he spoke. It must, therefore, have been distinct from the bread. "When our Lord said that the bread which he took in his hands was his body, and that the wine which he held in the cup was his blood, he used a simple figure of speech, such as he often employed. He called himself bread, a door, a vine; meaning that these objects resembled and so represented him. The words are understood figuratively by all, and must be so. Controversies merely concern the nature of the figure.… The Romanist interpretation is figurative. It supposes a figure without a precedent, a miracle without a parallel; and it attributes the salvation of men, not to the actual death of Christ, but to what he did with the bread and wine. As the Passover was simply a symbolical service, the addition to it would be regarded as similar" (Godwin). "Note that, according to our Savior himself, the liquid contained in the cup was not literal blood, but the fruit of the vine" (Morison).
II. IN ITSELF.
1. A covenant or testament. It was "a disposition of things," by virtue of which the good to be obtained through the obedience and sacrifice of Christ is secured to those who believingly partake. It is a "testament," inasmuch as it was to have effect after Christ's death, and through the fact and manner of that death believers were to become heirs of the blessings it secured. This "agreement," which is contained in the covenant-idea, is a mutual affair, and involves mutual obligations. It also, after the precedent of ancient Israel, constitutes the true recipients God's people and him their God. The thing handed over is not the body and blood, but that life and grace which they represented.
2. A communion. "Take ye." "He gave to them: and they all drank of it." It is only as a communion that the covenant has effect. To those who have received the life and spirit of Christ there is forgiveness and peace. Their sins are blotted out, and they are passed over in the mercy of God. And so the act of communion is a spiritual one, and involves fresh realization of the meaning of the great facts of atonement, and the duties of the reconciled children of God.
3. An anticipation. There is to be another feast, when the Savior comes to his people, and his people enter with him into the scene of the "marriage supper of the Lamb." It was Christ's last earthly Passover: he looked thence confidently forth to the final victory over sin and death, and the consummation of all things.
4. A thanksgiving. "Eucharist." In view of all the blessings to be conferred through Christ's death, and as acknowledging the mercy and love of God in common viands and (as symbolized by them) in the benefits of salvation.—M.
The Lord's Supper a celebration of death.
It is elsewhere spoken of as a "memorial," i.e. a funeral feast for the Savior. Not merely a vain regret, an indulgence of disconsolate affection, but—
I. A CELEBRATION OF DEATH AS COMPLETED SELF-SACRIFICE.
1. Therefore all that was most precious in the life was secured, in the highest degree and the best way, as a blessing for others. The early disciples were not handling mangled, useless remains, but touching a living spirit, pregnant with grace and power and inspiration. The "body" and "blood" of Christ, kept from moral corruption and death, were a spiritual fruit" rich and rare."
2. And believers are made partakers of the spiritual fullness of Christ's perfected nature, in receiving the "elements" of his "body" and "blood."
II. A CELEBRATION OF DEATH AS THE :REVELATION AND AVENUE OF IMMORTALITY. This "funeral feast" is full of hopeful, confident anticipation, because in the death that is celebrated:
1. The higher spiritual life is seen as the result of the sacrifice of the earthly nature. It is in the voluntary and obedient laying down of this earthly life that Christ set free his Spirit as an influence to savingly affect mankind, and satisfied and commended that perfect righteousness which is the ground of acceptance and union with God, the true life of the Spirit.
2. A foretaste is given of the final victory of righteousness over sin and death. The Captain of salvation, about to enter into final conflict with the powers of darkness, confidently looks forward, and invites his followers to look forward with him, "to glory, and honor, and immortality." In prospect of the final feast of victory and joy that was set before him, he was ready to go down into the gloom and shadow of death.—M.
Peter's denial foretold.
Christ's thoughts dwelt constantly upon the prophecies that foretold the sufferings and death of the Son of man. They were passing through his spiritual consciousness, voluntarily adopted as the expression of his own inward life, and consequently wrought out in external actions. He now quotes Zechariah 13:7. It taught him how absolutely solitary his position would be in judgment and death, as other passages had done; and suggested to him the reason for it.
I. THE UNIVERSAL DEFECTION OF THE DISCIPLES BEFORE CHRIST'S DEATH WAS A SPIRITUAL NECESSITY. They could not understand or allow it. It seemed so unnatural and unlikely. But their Master felt, by gauging his own spirit, how much would be required to enable them to be steadfast, and how wanting they were in the higher principles of spiritual life. He accepted the situation, and sought beforehand to prepare his disciples for the revelation of their own weakness, that when it took place it might not destroy all hope or desire to return to their fidelity. It was, then, at once in expression of his own inward Messianic consciousness, and in order to their warning and instruction, that he quoted the prophecy. How was this desertion of their Master a necessary experience? Because the realization of absolute oneness with Christ in the spirit of self-denial, or rather of love, would only be possible after his own sacrifice, as its ground or condition. They were, meanwhile, still in a state of pupilage or infancy. They could not understand the reason of his strange path, so unlike what they had anticipated. Had they been able to stand by the Lord when he was delivered up, they might have been their own saviors, and his work would not have been requisite.
II. SELF-CONFIDENCE IN ASSERTING ITS SUPERIORITY TO THIS LAW WOULD ONLY THE MORE SIGNALLY ILLUSTRATE IT. Peter, the representative of theoretic faith, was strong in his contradiction to this statement. It was he who had said, "Lord to whom can we go?" etc., and who had heard the approving response, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 16:17); and who had been called the rock. He therefore goes forward in the strength of his own convictions, and courts the disaster he sought to avoid, and that in an exaggerated form. (The seeming discrepancy between the evangelists as to the crowing and crowing twice is easily explained.) That very day, nay, that night, ere the dawning, he should deny his Lord thrice, i.e. absolutely and utterly; and, that he might test his Master's faithfulness and his own failure, the sign was given—"before the cock crow twice." His bold self-confidence and resolute endeavor to be with Christ were shown in his penetrating the hall of justice, and mingling in the very crowd amidst which the Savior stood. But this only provoked the challenge before which all his manhood quailed. The others did not orally deny Christ, because they had fled beforehand.
III. BUT WITH THE WARNING A WORD OF HOPE AND COMFORT WAS UTTERED. The Shepherd would reassemble his scattered flock, when he went before them into Galilee. But they could not receive the saying upon which that depended—"after I am raised up." It was to be lodged in their consciousness, nevertheless, to be recalled again when its fulfillment took place, and to be put on record as another evidence of the faith. Then they would no longer be told, "Whither I go ye cannot come," as he would give his Spirit to them.—M.
The agony in the garden.
I. ITS SORROW.
1. The manner in which it was experienced. There were premonitions. All through life there ran a thread of similar emotions, which were now gathering themselves into one overwhelming sense of grief, fear, and desolation: it was crescent and cumulative. He did not artificially create or stimulate the emotion, but entered into it naturally and gradually. Gethsemane was sought, not from a sense of aesthetic or dramatic fitness, but through charm of long association with his midnight prayer, or simply as his wonted place of retirement in the days of his insecurity. As a good Israelite observing the Passover, he may not leave the limits of the sacred city, yet will he choose the spot best adapted for security and retirement.
2. At first awakening conflicting impulses. He craved at once for sympathy and for solitude. The general company of disciples were brought to the verge of the garden, and informed of his purpose; the three nearest to him in spiritual sympathies and susceptibilities were taken into the recesses of the garden, into nearer proximity and communion. And yet ultimately he must needs be alone. All this is perfectly natural, and, considering the nature of his emotion, explicable upon deep human principles: "Sympathy and solitude are both desirable in severe trials" (Godwin). There was a sort of oscillation between these two poles.
3. To be attributed to the influence of supernatural insight upon his human sympathy and feeling. What it was he saw and felt cannot be adequately conceived by us, but that it was not emotion occasioned by ordinary earthly interests or attachments we may assure ourselves. The exegesis which sees in "exceeding sorrowful to die" a reason for concluding that it was the idea of dying which so overwhelmed our Savior, may be safely left to its own reflections. The "cup" he felt he had to drink to its dregs he had already alluded to (Mark 10:38). It had "in it ingredients which were never mingled by the hand of his Father, such as the treachery of Judas, the desertion of his disciples, denial on the part of Peter, the trial in the Sanhedrim, the trial before Pilate, the scourging, the mockery of the soldiery, the crucifixion, etc." (Morison). "He began to be sore amazed [dismayed, sorrowful], and to be very heavy [oppressed, distressed]," are terms which are left purposely vague. He saw the depths of iniquity, he felt the overwhelming burden of human sinfulness.
4. He betook himself to prayer as the only relief for his surcharged feeling. The safest and highest way of recovering spiritual equilibrium. Well will it be for a man when his grief drives him to God! There is no sorrow we cannot take to him, whether it be great or small.
II. THE SOLITUDE.
1. Symbolized by his physical apartness from the three disciples. "Is there any sorrow like unto my sorrow?" We may not intrude. God only can fathom its depths and appreciate its purity and intensity.
2. Suggested by their failure to "watch."
III. THE CONFLICT. The physical effects of this are given by St. Luke. His prayer was a "wrestling," not so much with his Father as with himself. But the struggle gradually subsides to submission and rest. This shows itself in his detachment from his own emotions and attention to the condition of his disciples, and soon in his movement towards the approaching band of the betrayer. There is a complete "grammar" of emotion gone through, however, ere that spiritual result is attained. Uncertainty, dread, the weakness of human nature, are overcome by the resolute contemplation of the Divine will. His own will is deliberately and solemnly submitted to his Father's, and the latter calmly and profoundly acquiesced in as best and most blessed for all it concerns.—M.
It involved in its very conception a rude, profane intrusion upon our Lord's devotions. At the head of the band was Judas, and with him the Roman soldiers with their swords, and the servants of the chief priests with staves (cudgels, thick sticks). Having met the temptations of the soul in the solitude of prayer, the Lord is now the better able to meet the external trials of which the garden is also the scene.
I. THE PRETENDED FRIENDS OF CHRIST ARE HIS WORST ENEMIES. Only a disciple can betray as Judas did. The kiss and salutation of respect, "Rabbi!" have become classical.
II. NOT THE SKILL OR FORCE OF HIS CAPTORS, BUT HIS OWN MEEKNESS AND MERCIFUL PURPOSE, RENDERED THEIR SCHEME EFFECTUAL. There was no surprise, for the Victim of the treachery was fully aware of it, and, indeed, warned his disciples of the approach of the band (Mark 14:42). As a stratagem, the midnight expedition was therefore a failure. And there is something unspeakably ludicrous in the portentous weapons which were thought necessary, and the large number of men. This is the sting of many a carefully hatched villainy, viz. that eventually it loses even the merit of originality or cleverness. The wisdom of this world is in any case no match for the wisdom of God.
III. THE INTERESTS OF CHRISTIANITY ARE NOT SERVED BY FORCE OR VIOLENCE. It was Peter whose impulsiveness had betrayed him into the thoughtless act. Hidden probably by the darkness, he was not detected, save by the eye of the Master. Had it even been expedient to oppose force with force in the general conflict of Christ with the world-power, on that occasion the odds were tremendous (cf. Matthew 26:52).
IV. THE SON OF MAN HAD TO MEET THE ONSET OF EVIL ALONE. His prediction was fulfilled (Mark 14:27).—M.
I. A TRANSCENDENT CRIME. Because of:
1. The character of Jesus.
2. The betrayer's relations to him. Ingratitude. Callous selfishness. Breach of trust.
3. Circumstances of the act. Intrusion upon holy retirement. Simulation of highest regard and purest sentiment. The spiritual interests of humanity trifled with.
II. A SUPREME FOLLY AND FAILURE. Overdone. Foreseen. Ending in contempt and misery.—M.
Jesus at the bar of Judaism.
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE EVIDENCE AGAINST HIM.
1. Not in support of any clear and definite indictment.
2. Encouraged by a desire on the part of the judges to incriminate. "They sought witness." The death of the Prisoner a foregone conclusion.
3. The accusations unreliable and conflicting.
II. HIS REPLY TO HIS ACCUSERS. Silence:
(1) Because of their character, and
(2) his own.
The impressive dignity of this attitude. He would not justify himself before an earthly tribunal.
III. His ANSWER TO THE HIGH PRIEST'S QUESTION. He declared himself the Messiah and the Judge of all the earth. This was done out of respect to the representative character of the high priest, and in order to assure and inform faithful Jews.
IV. HOW THIS WAS CONSTRUED. As blasphemy: either
(1) on the ground of imaginary, or feloniously represented, resemblance of the words, "I am," to Jehovah's Name; or
(2) because the claim was a priori assumed to be false.
V. HE WAS REJECTED AND DISHONORED BY THOSE HE CAME TO SAVE, OUT OF SHEER WANTONNESS AND UNBELIEF.—M.
Mark 14:54, Mark 14:66-72
Peter denying Christ.
The seeming discrepancies of the accounts by the evangelists of Peter's threefold denial are explained on the ground of their independency of one another, and their making prominent various portions of a lengthened and complex series of actions. "Three denials are mentioned by all the evangelists, and three occasions are distinguished; but on some of these there was more than one speaker, and probably more than one answer." This circumstance was—
I. AN EVIDENCE OF THE POWER OF EVIL IN GOOD MEN. This is the great lesson of the sins of the saints. There ought to be continual watchfulness, and living and walking in the Spirit.
1. It is not well to expose one's self to temptation unless from the highest motives. Curiosity seems to have been the ruling principle in Peter's mind. He was following the highest good, but not as perceiving it to be so, or truly desiring it—a perilous state of things. There are many unworthy followings of Christ, which have the "greater condemnation." Duty and self-sacrifice will, on the other hand, carry men safely through the most terrible trials.
2. Low views of Christ's character and office tend to unworthy conduct. The whole spiritual state of Peter was such as to expose him to the perpetration of the worst actions, and this arose from prevalence of false conceptions of Christ's person and work. His attitude and occupation immediately beforehand ("afar off;" " warming himself") have been regarded by many as symbolical of his spiritual position with regard to his Master. Scepticism and mental confusion on religious subjects, if not corrected or neutralized by close fellowship with Christ, or loyalty to the highest truth one knows, have sad moral results. Peter was still clinging against hope to his idea of a worldly Messiah.
3. Evil words and actions, if once indulged in, are the more easily repeated and aggravated. He proceeds from an equivocation—"I neither know nor understand what thou sayest"—to a stronger and more direct negative, and then to oaths and profanities.
II. AN EVIDENCE OF THE NECESSITY AND POWER OF CHRIST'S ATONEMENT. Even good men like Peter, if left to themselves, will grievously err and sin. How are men in such a position to be recovered?
1. There must therefore be a saving principle outside, and independent of ourselves. It is by virtue of his completed sacrifice in spirit that Christ by a look recalls his fallen disciple, and thus shows:
2. The power of his Spirit to redeem. In connection with such a power over spirit and conscience the greatest sins may be made the turning-points of repentance. Memory was appealed to, and the outward signs predicted by the Savior served as a spiritual index or clock of conscience. The cockcrowing has also an element of hope in it; it marked the dawning of a new day of penitence and enlightenment.—M.
HOMILIES BY A. ROWLAND
"She hath wrought a good work on me."
Describe the feast in the house of Simon the leper, and distinguish the incident from that which is recorded in Luke 7:1-50. Indicate Mary's reasons for loving the Lord, with all her heart and soul and strength, and show that this act of exquisite self-abandonment was the natural expression of her love. Learn from the subject the following lessons:—
I. THAT AN ACT WHICH IS PLEASING TO OUR LORD MAY BE MISCONSTRUED AND CONDEMNED BY HIS DISCIPLES. All the disciples were guilty of murmuring against Mary, but John points out that Judas Iscariot began it. Entrusted with the bag in which the common fund was kept, he had carried on for some time past a system of petty thievery. It has been suggested that, as our Lord knew his besetting sin of avarice, it would have been kinder not to have put this temptation in his way. There is, however, another aspect of this question. Evil habits are sometimes conquered by a tacit appeal to honor and generosity. An outward habit may be got rid of by removal of temptation, but absence of temptation does not root out the sin. In effect our Lord said to Judas, "I know your sin, but yet I put this money in your charge; for surely you would not rob the poor, defraud your brethren, and dishonor me!" This appeal might have saved Judas; but he yielded to his sin till it damned him. Such a man would be likely to feel aggrieved at this generous act of Mary's. He felt as if he had been personally defrauded. He knew that if this spikenard, which had vanished in a few minutes of refreshing fragrance, had been sold he would have had the manipulation of the proceeds. Therefore he was angry with Mary, and angry with the Lord, who had not rejected her offering. We can easily understand the feeling of Judas. But how was it the disciples re-echoed his complaint? They sided with him, although they certainly were not actuated by his base motive. Well, we all know that if a word of censure be uttered in the Church it swiftly spreads, and is like leaven, which soon leavens the whole lump. Suspicion and slander find easier access to men's hearts than stories of heroism and generosity. Weeds seed themselves more rapidly than flowers. The disciples had more to justify their fault-finding than we sometimes have. They were plain peasants, who had never known the profusion of modern life, and they were aghast at the idea of such a prodigality of luxury as this. From all they knew of their Lord they supposed that he would have preferred the relief of the poor to any indulgence for himself, and that he himself would have been disposed to say, "To what purpose is this waste?" Many now imagine that they can infallibly decide what will please or displease their Lord, yet in their condemnation of others they are often mistaken. Mary, no doubt, was discouraged and disappointed. Her gift had been the subject of thought and prayer, and now that her opportunity had come for presenting it she eagerly seized it. She was prepared for the sneers of the Pharisees; but surely the disciples would be glad to see their Lord honored. At their rebuke her heart was troubled; her eyes filled with tears as she thought, "Perhaps they are right. I ought to have sold it." Then Jesus looked on her with loving approval, and threw over her the shield of his defense.
II. THAT ANY SERVICE WHICH IS THE OFFSPRING OF LOVE TO THE LORD IS ACCEPTABLE TO HIM. He perfectly understood and approved her motive, and therefore was pleased with her offering. Whether it came in the fragrance of this ointment, or in the form of three hundred pence, was of comparatively little consequence. It meant, "I love thee supremely," and therefore he was glad. Naturally so. When a child brings you the relic of some feast which you would rather not have, yet because it has been saved from love to you, you eat it with as much gusto as if it were nectar from Olympus. Why? Because you judge of the gift from the love it expresses; and this, in an infinitely higher sphere, our Lord also does. Unlike us, he always knows what the motive is, and about many an act condemned by his disciples he says, "She hath wrought a good work on me." Καλόν, translated "good," means something beautiful, noble, or lovely. Mary's act was not ordered by the Law, nor dictated by precedent, nor suitable to everybody; but for her, as an expression of her love, it was the most beautiful thing possible. She poured her heart's love on Jesus when she poured the spikenard from the broken cruse.
III. THAT A GIFT OR ACT PROMPTED BY LOVE TO THE LORD MAY HAVE FAR MORE EFFECT THAN WE DESIGN. "She is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying." Some argue from this that Mary knew Jesus was about to be crucified, and would rise again from the dead, so that this would be the only time for such anointing. I doubt that. Probably she had no distinct, ulterior design when she simply did what her love prompted. But in commending her Jesus in effect said, "In this act she has done more than you think—more than she herself imagines; for she is anointing me for my burial." In God's Word we find that we are credited for the good or for the evil latent in our actions, by Divine justice or in Divine generosity. We read of some standing before the Judge of quick and dead who are amazed at the issues of their half-forgotten acts for or against the Savior. "When saw we thee an hungred or athirst?" etc. This was the principle on which Christ attributed to Mary's act a result she could not have foreseen.
CONCLUSION. This is true of evil as of good. There is not a sin you commit but it may beget other sins, and in effect as well as in memory the words are true, "The evil that men do lives after them." For the far-reaching effects of sinful words and deeds, of which he may know nothing till the day of judgment, the sinner is responsible to God. What an encouragement is here to steadfast continuance in well-doing! That which has the smallest immediate result may have the greatest ultimately. The story of Mary's inexpressible love has had far greater effect in blessing the world than the distribution of three hundred pence among the poor, which human judgment might have preferred.—A.R.
The Passover was by far the most important of the Jewish feasts. The disciples of our Lord were sure that he, who ever fulfilled the righteousness of the Law, would not fail to observe it. Their reminder of what they supposed he had forgotten, but which really was the subject of far profounder thought with him than they could fathom, immediately led to the remarkable incidents which are here recorded—the strange provision of the feast by a secret disciple, and the spiritual institution which Christ founded on the ancient rite. There were truths set forth by the Mosaic festival of which the Jews were never to lose sight, and which are full of significance to us. A few of these we will recall.
I. THE PASSOVER REQUIRED A SPOTLESS VICTIM. In this, as in many other Jewish ordinances, the spiritual was represented by the visible. The victim might be chosen from the goats or from the sheep. (Kids were offered as late as Josiah's reign (2 Chronicles 35:7), although in our Lord's time only lambs were sacrificed.) This was of less consequence than the rule that the victim chosen should be "without blemish." Not deformed, sickly, or injured.
1. Doubtless this taught the worshippers to offer their best, and do so cheerfully, with humble acknowledgment of the Divine right. The Jews learnt the lesson. Their religion cost them something, and they nobly responded to its claims, as we see when the tabernacle was erected and when the temple was built. Christians, in their gifts and in services, too often act as the Israelites would have done had they chosen their blemished and sickly lambs for sacrifice.
2. Besides, this provision was significant of the sacred purpose to which the victim was devoted, and symbolical of the moral integrity of the person it represented. The male of the first year, in the fullness of its life, stood for the firstborn sons of Israel, who were spared, while it died.
3. Nor does this exhaust the meaning. The spotless lamb points to him of whom John Baptist said, "Behold the Lamb of God!" to him who "offered up himself;" to him of whom we read, "Ye are not redeemed with corruptible things … but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot."
II. THE PASSOVER REQUIRED PERSONAL PARTICIPATION. It might have seemed to human wisdom hardly reasonable that deliverance from a pestilence should be the result of sprinkling the blood of a slaughtered lamb on the two side posts and lintel of the door; but he would have suffered the penalty of his rashness who had run the risk of his incredulity. Every saved household had its own lamb, and every saved one in that household was compelled to remain, for his safety, in the blood-sprinkled house. This arrangement, on the basis of family relationship, was not made so much for convenience as it was to sanction and sanctify home life, and to teach all who were united by earthly love to find their center in the Paschal lamb. The Israelites were not saved because they were descended from Abraham, but because of the blood sprinkled in faith and obedience.
III. THE PASSOVER WAS TO BE ACCOMPANIED BY PENITENCE AND SINCERITY.
1. The use of unleavened bread was ordained. Leaven, the presence of which was strictly forbidden, was a symbol of moral corruption, which the people were to put away from their hearts. Christ Jesus warned his disciples against "the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." St. Paul (1 Corinthians 5:7, 1 Corinthians 5:8), referring to evil in the Church, said, "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." More than anything else our Lord rebuked insincerity. As the King of truth he still says, "He that is of the truth heareth my voice."
2. Bitter herbs were also to be eaten at the Passover. Not because ahoy would give flavor to sweeter food, nor as a mere accompaniment to it, but as an essential part of the feast. The bitter bondage of Egypt was thereby represented, which was overpowered by the sweetness of the lamb. It may symbolize the bitter sorrow with which we should mourn our guilt.
IV. THE PASSOVER WAS A SOURCE OF PEACE, A PLEDGE OF PROGRESS.
1. The Israelites in Egypt knew that judgment was falling around them, and in that ominous dreadful night the peace of each one was proportioned to his trust in the appointed means of deliverance.
2. Those who partook of the feast were prepared for the march through the Red Sea and the wilderness, until Canaan was reached and won.—A.R.
The Lord's Supper.
The Lord's Supper was the natural outgrowth of the Passover. The broken bread, which was made a symbol of our Lord's broken body, had been seen and partaken of for generations by the Jews, who had regarded it as "the bread of affliction" which their fathers once ate in Egypt. "The cup of blessing," transformed into "the communion of the blood of Christ," was the third cup in the feast, which followed on the distribution of the Paschal lamb, and preceded the singing of the Hallel. The whole Passover was a symbolical festival of remembrance, and this we believe the Lord's Supper was intended to be. It was not to be a repeated sacrifice, as Gregory the Great was the first to suggest, but was a feast to be eaten in remembrance of the Savior. No symbols could be more appropriate. The bread represented the Bread of life; the broken bread that it was broken for us. The wine was "the blood of the grape" (Genesis 49:11), poured out from the true Vine (John 15:1), which was its Source. The expression, "This is my body," surely could not have been taken in any literal sense by the disciples, who had their Lord in his physical presence visible amongst them when he spoke. It was equivalent to "This represents my body;" just as elsewhere we read, "The field is the world;" "I am the true Vine;" "Leaven … which is hypocrisy" (see also Galatians 4:24; Hebrews 10:20). What, then, are some of the advantages of this commemorative feast?
I. IT REPRESENTS THE PROPRIETARY CHARACTER OF CHRIST'S DEATH. His blood was shed for many, for the remission of sins. His death was not merely a martyrdom; it was an atonement. He gave his life for the sheep. The prophets foretold this (Isaiah 53:1-12); the apostles declared it (Romans 5:1-21); the redeemed praise the Lamb who was slain, because he washed them from their sins in his own blood.
II. IT REMINDS US OF THE NECESSITY FOR PERSONALLY PARTAKING OF CHRIST. "Take, eat: this is my body." What we eat and drink becomes a part of ourselves. Once our Lord said, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." Food is useless unless we partake of it. Christ came to us in vain unless we trust him as our own Savior and Lord.
III. IT IS IN ITSELF A MEANS OF GRACE. This is to be proved in experience rather than by Scripture. Just as a word which we can see or hear conveys a thought which we cannot see or hear, so the bread and the wine convey thoughts of Christ, of his sacrifice, of his claims, of his love, which refresh and strengthen our inmost life.
IV. IT IS A PROCLAMATION OF FELLOWSHIP. 1 Corinthians 10:16, etc., "For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread." A "communion" is that of which we are common partakers, and St. Paul argues that by eating and drinking together thus we proclaim our unity; just as the Israelites in Egypt, on the night of the Exodus, met in families, each finding its center of thought and safety in the Paschal lamb. It is the idea of the family, and not of the priesthood, that God makes the germ of the Christian Church. Those in it are to "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ." By the extension of the Church will come about the true brotherhood, for which the world still sighs.
V. IT IS A PLEDGE OF FIDELITY. The "sacramentum" was the oath taken by the Roman soldier that he would never desert the standard, never turn his back on the foe, and never be disloyal to his commander. By our presence at the sacrament we pledge each other, before God, that with his help we will be true men, more courageous, more pure, more victorious, than before.
VI. IT IS A SIGN OF SEPARATION. The Egyptians had no part in the Passover. The scribes and Pharisees were not invited to the upper room. Judas, so far as we can judge, left before the new rite was instituted. St. Paul spoke of the duty devolving on the Church at Corinth to remove the immoral from fellowship. Yet all true disciples, though they may doubt as Thomas did, or deny their Lord like Peter, are invited to eat and drink with each other, and with their Lord.—A.R.
The Mediator between God and man experienced all the vicissitudes of human life. From the loftiest height of joy he plunged into the deepest depths of distress. Because of the fullness of his nature he surpassed us in these experiences, alike in the glory of the Transfiguration and in the agony of Gethsemane. Therefore we are never beyond the range of his sympathy. We are all familiar with the outward circumstances of this incident, but the wisest of us knows but little of the depths of its mystery. Indeed, although our interest in the scene is intense, although we feel it is fraught with the destiny of our race, we shrink with hesitation from speaking much of it. A sense of intrusiveness overpowers those who are conscious of ignorance and sin, when they would gaze on that sinless agony of grief. It seems as if our Lord still said to his disciples, "Sit ye here, while I shall pray." The place whereon we stand is holy ground.
I. THE SUFFERING SAVIOR.
1. There is mystery about his agony. Our recognition of the proper deity and humanity of our Lord leads us to expect seeming contradictions in him. They appear in his intercessory prayer. In one breath he speaks as the Son of God, in another he wrestles as a weak man might do. Sometimes he pleads as Mediator, and sometimes he expresses himself with Divine majesty and authority. is so with our Lord's agony, which must ever be a stone of stumbling to all who refuse to recognize that they only know in part and prophesy in part. Thus some assert that this experience contradicts the composure and resolution with which our Lord had previously announced his sufferings; and that his prayer is in antagonism with his omniscience as the Son of God. Here is the Prince of peace seemingly destitute of peace; the world's Redeemer wanting deliverance; the Comforter himself needing consolation. As the old myth reminds us, we sometimes come across a fact which appears like a glittering ring which a child could lift when we walk around it and talk about it; but, when we try to lift it, we find it is no isolated ring, but a link in a chain which we can hardly stir, for it girdles the earth and reaches heaven and hell! "Behold, God is great, and we know him not; and darkness is under his feet."
2. There is a meaning in this agony. We gain some little insight into it when we remember the vicarious nature of Christ's sufferings; that "the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquities of us all." If Jesus Christ were only a great Prophet, who came to enlighten the world, he might now seem to have lost his courage. If he were only an Exemplar of unconditional resignation or heroic endurance, he was surpassed by others. All points to the conclusion that his sufferings were not like those of Job, or Jeremiah, or Paul, or Stephen, but were unique in the world's history. He, the sinless One, was the Representative and Substitute of the sinful world.
II. THE TROUBLED BELIEVER may find instruction and comfort in this experience of his Lord, especially in the consciousness of his sympathy.
1. Sympathy was longed for even by our Lord. He wanted to have near him those who could best understand him, so that in the thought of their affection and prayer he might find comfort. It failed him. They were overpowered by sleep, and when aroused, they fell back into the old drowsiness. It was another pang in his anguish. He trod the winepress alone. How tenderly he feels for lonely sufferers!
2. Absence of sympathy intensified prayer. When our trouble is very heavy it has a tendency to paralyze prayer, and makes the heart stony; but we should rather follow him who, being in an agony, prayed the more earnestly. If, in answer to prayer, the cup is not taken away, still the prayer is not useless. Paul thrice besought the Lord in vain to remove the thorn in the flesh; but he had an answer, "My grace is sufficient for thee." And our Lord came forth from the place of prayer as one who had already gained the victory.
3. Earnestness in prayer led to absolute submission. When we pray we realize with growing intensity that there is another will besides ours and above ours firm and wise and good. If God sees further than we see; if he knows what would harm and what would bless us, when we do not; if he looks not only to this little life, but to the eternity to which it leads; let us seek in prayer to know what his will is, and then say, even though it be with tears, "Nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt."—A.R.
The cup of experience.
The mystery of our Lord's suffering is beyond our power of accurate analysis. We cannot fathom the depths of sin and grief which he experienced. We must not suppose that, because we are so familiar with this narrative, we know all its significance. At the most we have only felt one wave of the sea of sorrow which sobbed and swelled in his infinite heart. Only one phase of this manysided subject will engage our attention. Leaving the atoning nature of the sufferings of our Lord, we will now regard him as the Representative of his people, their Forerunner in this as in all things. The "cup" is a figure familiar enough to all students of Scripture.
I. THE CUP OF EXPERIENCE may be represented by the cup which was the symbol of the mockery and shame and grief the Savior suffered.
1. The phrase reminds us that our joys and griefs are measured. A cup is not illimitable. Full to the brim, it can only hold its own measure.
(1) Our joys are limited by what is in us, and by what is in them. If a man prospers in the world, his wealth brings him not only comfort, but care, anxiety, and responsibility, so that he may occasionally wish himself back in his former lowlier lot. And family joys bring their anxieties to every home which has them. No one drinks here of an ocean of bliss but he thanks God for a "cup" of it, measured by One who knows what will be best for character. This is true even of spiritual joys. The time of ecstasy is followed by a season of depression. The Valley of Humiliation is passed, as well as the Delectable Mountains, by Christian in his pilgrimage. Nowhere on earth can we say, "I am satisfied;" but many, like the psalmist, can exclaim, "I shall be satisfied."
(2) Our griefs are limited also. They are proportioned to our strength, adapted for our improvement. Even in the saddest bereavement there is much to moderate our grief if we will but receive it: gratitude for all our dear one was and did; gladness over all the testimonies of love and esteem in which he was held; hope that by-and-by there shall be the reunion, where there shall be no more sorrow and sighing, and where "God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes." God does not let an ocean of sadness surge up and overwhelm us, but gives us a cup, which we may drink in fellowship with Christ in his sufferings.
2. The phrase in our text suggests not only measurement, but loving control. Our Lord recognized, as we may humbly do, that the cup was filled and proffered by him whom he addressed as "Abba, Father." In one sense the events in Gethsemane and on Calvary were the results of natural causes. Integrity and sinlessness called forth the antagonism of those whose sins were thereby rebuked. Plain-spoken denunciations of the ecclesiastical leaders aroused their undying hate, and no hatred is more malignant than that of irreligious theologians. Judas, disappointed and abashed, was a ready instrument for evil work. Yet, behind all this, One unseen was carrying out his eternal purpose, fulfilling his promise, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." Hence Jesus speaks not of the plot accomplished by his foes, but of the cup given him by the Father. We are at an infinite remove from him, yet, as the same law which controls worlds controls insects, so the truth which held good with the Son of man holds good also with us. We may recognize God's overruling in man's working, and accept every measure of experience as provided and proffered by our Father's hand.
II. THE PURPOSE OF ITS APPOINTMENT. That it comes from our "Father" shows that it has a purpose, and that it is one of love, not of cruelty. It is not like the cup of hemlock Socrates received from his foes, but like that potion you give your child that he may be refreshed, or strengthened, or cured.
1. Sometimes the purpose respects ourselves. Even of Jesus Christ, the sinless One, it is said he was "made perfect through sufferings;" that as our Brother he might feel for us, and as our High Priest might sympathize, being "touched with the feeling of our infirmities." Much more is the experience of life a blessing to us who are imperfect and sinful; correcting our worldliness, and destroying our self-confidence.
2. Sometimes the purpose respects others. It was so with our Lord pre-eminently. He "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." "None of us liveth unto himself." If our cup of blessing runs over, its overflowings, whether of wealth, or strength, or spiritual joy, are for the good of those around us. If our lot be one of suffering, we may in it witness for our Lord, and from it learn to console others with the comfort wherewith we ourselves have been comforted of God.—A.R.
Sorrow, sleep, and sin.
When a dear friend is in trouble our footfall is quiet and our voice hushed. Even children are awed to silence when they see the face they love stained with tears and pale with anguish. How much more does stillness of soul become us when we enter into the Garden o£ Gethsemane and see the Lord we love in his agony! Christ completed the cycle of human temptations in Gethsemane. In the wilderness he had been tempted to desire what was forbidden, to obtain provision in a wrong way, to manifest Divine power in an act of presumption, to gain the kingdom by force and fraud. Now he was tempted to avoid what was ordained. And to do what we ought not, not to do what we ought, sums up all temptations. He "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." In this mysterious scene we discern a concentration of human history.
I. THE SIN-FORGETTING CHURCH is represented by the disciples who failed their Lord.
1. They did not understand the necessity and dreadfulness of Christ's struggle with the powers of darkness. They allowed natural weariness to overcome them, so that they had no share in the conflict endured near them and for them. As little does the Church share the purpose of Christ in the redemption of the world from sin; nor does she see the need for being in an "agony" about it. Is there the feeling about sin, even about our own sin, that there should be? Are we not too often like those who, under the shadow of Christ's sorrow, slept, though he himself had said, "Tarry ye here, and watch"?
2. Nor did these disciples reach the source of power that night. It was impossible to find victory through human passion, as Peter discovered after he had drawn and used his sword. Indiscriminate zeal, which will attack heretics and sceptics with bitter words and penalties, is sure to fail. Power to overcome is found in obedience to the command, "Watch and pray." To watch without praying is presumption; to pray without watching is fanaticism. The difference between our Lord and his disciples was this: they refreshed themselves by natural means, and he by spiritual; they fell back on sleep, and he on prayer—just as too often we rely on human agencies, and not on Divine.
3. Their confusion and indecision increased as they diverged from their Lord. He became more calm, and more sure of victory. They became more heavy with sleep, more cowardly and unprepared, till they all forsook him and fled. Only when they assembled again in his Name to pray in the upper room were they endued with power from on high. "Let us not sleep as do others, but let us watch and be sober," lest again he should say, "Sleep on now, and take your rest.… Behold, the Son of man is betrayed."
II. THE SIN-COMMITTING WORLD. (Mark 14:43.)
1. While the disciples slept, the hostile world was alert. This vigilance was a rebuke to their sloth. Still it is so. Frequenters of haunts of pleasure are often more eager than members of Christ's Church to invite their companions to join them.
2. Those who assail the cause of Christ are animated by different motives. Some are malignant, as the priests were; others join in the popular cry, though it be "Crucify him!" The mob in Jerusalem had little idea what they were doing—casting out of the world the Son of God, who had come to be their Savior and Friend. Men's acts have more in them than appears; and some who are simply careless will be amazed to find themselves reckoned amongst his foes! The world had no power over Christ except through the traitor Judas. The weakness of the Church, the inconsistency or apostasy of Christians, ever lead to the most successful attacks. Judas knew where Jesus resorted, and betrayed him by a kiss. The fall of one sentinel may prove the destruction of the camp.
III. THE SIN-BEARING SAVIOR. It is no figment of theological imagination that he himself took our infirmities, that "he was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities." He made atonement for us, as well as learnt sympathy with us. He took the cup of bitterness that we might receive the cup of blessing.—A.R.
Following afar off.
The story of Peter's denial is not omitted by any of the evangelists. They were more anxious for truth than for reputation. They set before us the strongest disciple at his weakest moment without a word of wonder, of blame, or of excuse. Our text indicates the state of mind which led to his fall. He was just beginning his descent to the depths of shame. Because he "followed afar off" he found the door of the house shut against him, cutting him off from John and from his Lord. Outside, alone, in the dark, he became more despondent as he reflected that Jesus was in the power of his foes, and that any attempt at rescue had been rebuked by himself; so by the time John came out he had given up hope, and still stood afar off from his Lord, amidst his foes. Then and there occurred this moral tragedy in Church history. Let us consider—
I. SOME MOTIVES WHICH SHOULD HAVE INDUCED PETER TO FOLLOW CLOSELY.
1. The remembrance of his own professions. When Jesus had asked, "Will ye also go away?" Peter had made a noble response; and when an earnest warning had been uttered a few hours before this, he had exclaimed, "Though all shall be offended, yet will not I." He meant his promises, and to abide by them; but though the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak. The world is fair in expecting more from those who are professed followers of Christ. Flight is more disgraceful to a soldier in uniform than to a campfollower.
2. Peter's recognized leadership of his brethren was another reason for close following. The Lord indicated that Peter would be their leader from the first, and the disciples acquiesced in this, always making way for him to speak and act on their behalf. His responsibility was the heavier. If he had continued to watch, they would have done so; if he had followed closely, they might have rallied. The failure of one was the failure of all. Each one is responsible to God for the talent, position, or force of character which constitutes him a leader of men. To whom much is given, from him much is required.
3. The loneliness of the Lord ought to have appealed to Peter's heroism and generosity. We can hardly understand holy, with his noble impulses, he could have left Jesus alone amongst his foes. Yet how often do Christians now fail to stand forth like men to rebuke wrong-doing at any risk! The fact that they alone represent their Lord amid evil companions, is an appeal to all that is chivalrous in them to speak.
4. The remembrance of Christ's personal love to him might have drawn him nearer. Jesus had dealt gently and generously with Peter. He had chosen him, with two of his brethren, to see his glory on the Mount of Transfiguration, and to see something of his dire agony in the garden. He had been faithfully warned of danger, and assured of the intercession of his Lord. Yet all seemed forgotten, and he only "followed afar off." It is when we realize the words, "He loved me, and gave himself for me," that we can say," My soul followeth hard after God."
II. SOME EXCUSES WHICH PETER MIGHT HAVE URGED FOR HIS CONDUCT.
1. It seemed as if he could do no good to his Lord. He had tried in his own way to defend him, but had been rebuked, and no other way seemed open. He forgot that, though his Master had refused the use of physical force, he would have gladly welcomed human sympathy. John had deeper insight. Amid the sea of hatred which surged around him, our Lord saw at least one face which expressed love and sympathy. Utilitarianism sometimes keeps us from beautiful and graceful acts, because we do not see immediate, practical good in them. We should probably not have poured out the spikenard as Mary did, but should have joined with those who asked, "To what purpose is this waste?" Let us never follow afar off because we do not see the practical advantage of walking closely with our Lord. Heaven's best blessings are too subtle to be tabulated.
2. It seemed as if evil would befall himself if he stood close beside his Master. On entering the palace amongst this excited rabble, he might fear personal violence, especially if he were recognized as the assailant of Malchus. He wished, therefore, to conduct himself as one of the miscellaneous crowd. In doing so he put his soul in danger, instead of his body. "He that sayeth his life shall lose it," his Lord had said, and Peter learnt the meaning soon. This mingling of courage and cowardice puts many a man in danger. May God give us the whole-hearted fidelity which even Peter failed that night to show!—A.R.
A detected disciple.
This chapter is crowded with contrasts.
1. The unmeasured love of Mary of Bethany shines radiantly beside the unexampled treachery of Judas Iscariot.
2. Contrasts occur also in the experience of our Lord. He passes from the fellowship of the upper room to the solitude of Gethsemane; from the secrecy of prayer to the publicity of a mock-trial before his foes.
3. There are also great changes visible in the spiritual condition of certain disciples. Judas appears amongst the chosen disciples, listening to the Master's words and eating at the same table with him; and a few hours after he is seen at the head of a band of ruffians, betraying his Lord with a traitorous kiss. Peter, in the garden, starts forth as a hero in defense of his Master; but in the palace of the high priest, with trembling heart, denies all knowledge of him. To this last scene our text points us. (Describe it.)
I. THAT THERE ARE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH THE CAUSE OF CHRIST'S AROUSES UNCOMPROMISING HOSTILITY. Peter was experiencing this in the palace of Caiaphas.
1. Paganism was instinctively hostile to Christ's teaching. Far-seeing men amongst the Gentiles soon saw its drift. They spoke of the apostles, not inaptly, as men who would turn the world upside down. Christ's doctrine of brotherhood would be the destroyer of slavery. His inculcation of purity and righteousness threatened licentious pleasures and tyrannous exactions. Men who could win high positions by force or fraud, and immoral people, who loved brutal or sensual amusements, would unite in antagonism to the Christian faith. Some would hate it the more intensely because their worldly interests were associated with the continuance of paganism. Many a Demetrius saw that his craft was in danger, and priests, with their crowds of attendants, would contend zealously for the idolatry which gave them their living. They would have granted Christ Jesus a niche in their Pantheon; but his followers claimed that he should reign supreme and alone.
2. The Jews, however, were the first instigators of opposition. Christianity threatened to destroy their national supremacy by inviting the Gentiles to all the privileges of the kingdom of God. They hated a Messiah who came not to deliver them from political bondage, but from their own prejudices and sins.
3. Heathenism in our own day, whether at home or abroad, is at enmity with Christ. The vicious, who live to gratify their passions, the worldly, who would make this life their all, as well as the idolaters in distant lands, hate the teachings of our Lord.
4. Even in nominally Christian society there is sometimes seen an ill-suppressed dislike to earnest fidelity to Christ's cause.
II. THAT A DISCIPLE OF CHRIST, IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES, MEETS WITH A TEST OF HIS MORAL COURAGE. We all appreciate the heroism of the apostles, who, with their lives in their hands, witnessed for their Lord before Jews and pagans, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for his sake. Equal courage is occasionally exhibited lives which are unromantic and prosaic, which endure each day the bitterness of scorn and shame,
1. Sometimes a Christian shows heroism by speech. Profanity is thus rebuked, slander is silenced, impurity is indignantly reproved, and the cause of Christ defended against mockery. It is well when this can be done without any sign of a Pharisaic spirit or of a censorious temper; so that from the tone of the defense the godless are compelled to say, "These men have been with Jesus, and have learnt of him."
2. Silence may also be on occasion the display of courage. If one, by reason of youth or sex, cannot speak, witness may be borne by quitting the scene where Christ is dishonored. The responsibility for witness-bearing is the heavier in proportion to the weight of our influence. The effect of Peter's denial was the greater because he was like a standard-bearer in the army of Christ. Even although his testimony might not have changed the opinion of one in the crowd around him, he was none the less bound to give it; and our Lord was grieved because he withheld it.
III. THAT VERY TRIVIAL THINGS MAY SOMETIMES REVEAL ASSOCIATION WITH JESUS CHRIST. Peter had no expectation of being discovered. He was a stranger; the crowd was large, and the excitement great; it was dark, and attention seemed centred in Christ Jesus, to the exclusion of all beside. A question unexpectedly put necessitated an answer, and his rough Galilean brogue increased the suspicion to a certainty that he was a peasant who had come up with Jesus from Galilee, and was intimate enough with him to know of his secret and sudden arrest.
1. Even the nominal connection with Christ which we all have as Englishmen is betrayed by speech in foreign parts; and how often is the work of our missionaries hindered there by dishonest traders, or profligate sailors and soldiers, who are supposed to be "Christians," but who by word and act deny the Lord!
2. Others, who have been under direct Christian influences in their homes, are sometimes tempted, at school or in business, to keep that fact secret, as if it were something to be ashamed of. But when some small phrase or act unexpectedly betrays the truth, and one of those standing by says, "Surely thou art one of them,… thy speech agreeth thereto," then comes the crisis, the turningpoint, on which the whole future will hinge. Happy is it if then they are saved from Peter's fail!
3. Occasionally those who are devout disciples wish, like Nicodemus, to remain secretly so. They wish to avoid all responsibility, and therefore make no profession of their love. Little do they suspect how many are discouraged by their failure to avow their loyalty to their Lord. Let all our influence everywhere be consecrated to him.
CONCLUSION. The hall of judgment is still standing. Christ Jesus is being examined and questioned now by men who resent his claims. Still we hear the cry, "Prophesy! who is it that smote thee? Tell us something new. Work some miracle now, that we may believe thee." And to it all Jesus answers nothing. His Church is keeping close beside him, as John did, and is glad to share his reproach. But many are like Peter; they have followed afar off, so that the world should not notice them. They would not be so near as they are, but that others have led them, as John led his brother apostle. Yet, after all their friends have done, they are still outside, in the courtyard, among the foes of their Lord. They hope that all will end well; they dare not help in the conflict, so they keep far enough away to retain their popularity, and yet to see the end. As the light of the fire revealed Peter, as his speech further betrayed him, so something has called attention to these, and companions begin to say, "Surely thou art one of them." What shall the answer be? Shall it be, "I know him not;" or shall it be, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee"?—A.R.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
The alabaster cruse.
A scene of great interest and beauty is described in these words and in the supplement supplied by St. Matthew and St. John. On the last sabbath eve before his crucifixion, Jesus came to Bethany. In the house of Simon the leper a feast was made in his honor. The disciples were there, and, of necessity, Martha and her sister Mary, and Lazarus. What a representative group! Simon, the type of suffering, healed, and restored human nature. Lazarus, a living testimony to the Lord's power over life and death—a blossom from the tree of life plucked in that early spring-time, promising a final fruitfulness in richness and beauty. Martha, who in her true character served, type of all faithful, diligent, practical, hardworking disciples. Mary, who also served in her way, with her heart full of meditative love; the incarnation of pure, rapt, fervent devotion, and the sanctity of deep thought. And the disciples were there. Those wonderful men, who have led and will continue to lead the world, as the pillar of cloud of old time led the hosts of God through the desert. And the Master was there, sanctifying all life, as he was the Spring of all. Jesus was there, about whom we cannot say too much. They had met in his honor, for he received honor and hospitality from lowly men. They were met in his Name, and he was "in the midst." Around, outside, were the assailants, the Pharisees and the multitude, the powers of the world, surrounding as with a black drapery; while all within was pure and white and heavenly, save the stream of hot breath from one earthly spirit, himself set on fire of hell. Judas was there. Our thoughts must fix themselves, first, on the silent deed of Mary; then on the open word of Judas; then we must hear the words of Jesus, who, on this occasion at least, made himself a Judge and a Divider over them.
I. THE DEED OF MARY. (Verse 3.) No reason for the act is assigned. Is one needed? Was it the offering of gratitude, or duty, or love? Was there goodness enough in that heart to lead it to do a kind action spontaneously, without respect to any previous personal obligation? Was there a sufficiently clear discernment of the true character of the distinguished Guest to compel her to offer her best gifts? We know not. One thing we know—Lazarus was there, "whom Jesus raised from the dead." Then upon that head so hot, and upon those feet so weary, she pours her costly perfume; pours it freely, so "that the house was filled with the odour."
II. Could any one have suspected a spot could be found in this almost heavenly feast? Alas! so is it with all things and all times of earth. Though all the college of the apostles was there; though there was one who had been raised from the dead, and one whose body had been purified and made anew; though all had seen the miracles which he did; though there were renewed and chastened spirits present, types of perfect love and faithful service; and though the Master himself was in the midst, on that sweet last sabbath eve;—yet even in this Eden of blessing was the trail of the serpent to be seen. Hearken (verses 4-6), poor human nature! Though Heaven itself come down to us, we tarnish it with some earthly foul breath.
III. Jesus, by his words, passes judgment on Mary's deed and on Judas's pronouncement upon it. He appears for her defense. "Why trouble ye her?" (verses 6, 8, 9). He may have been troubled, but in self-forgetfulness he thinks of her as she did of him. The work was a good one. "She hath anointed my body aforehand for the burying." Did she really know the meaning of her act? Did she really know that he would so soon be taken away? Then, to her quick apprehensive grief, he was dead already. Did she unconsciously predict his burial, or was love quick-witted here? We know not; but who can tell what she learnt at his feet? Probably she knew not on this quiet sabbath evening that on the next he would be in the tomb, or her heart would have been broken as well as her alabaster box. But if her gift of grateful love meant more than she supposed, it was only as all gifts of love do. They go beyond the discernments of intellect and judgment; they reach further; they mean more. So is it with all works done to Jesus. When we comfort the sorrowful, or minister to the sick or destitute, or do any "good work" in him and for him, he makes them symbolize himself. They show forth his praise. They reveal his spirit. As to the poor and our help of them, who, to our disgrace, are always with us. Let us see how Jesus honors even their lot by placing himself in the position of a receiver of doles of charity and human kindness. And let us, undeterred by the misuse which some make of our gifts, still break our alabaster boxes. Let us pour over the world the fragrance of a godly life, the sweetness of our Christian temper, the labor of our Christian zeal, the gifts of our Christian love.—G.
Mark 14:10, Mark 14:11, Mark 14:17-21, Mark 14:43-52
We now approach the darkest of all the dark hours through which our Redeemer passed in this world, so overcast with clouds. "The Son of man is betrayed into the hands of men." It was by "one of the twelve," and "unto the chief priests," and for "money
I. What lessons on THE FRAILTY OF THE POOR HUMAN HEART! The hand that received "the sop," that dipped into the same dish with Jesus, received into its hardened palm the miserable pittance—a slave's price. Ah! even in the presence of the holy One could he plot and scheme for his delivery. Let us, when we decry the deed, bow our heads lowly, remembering that we share the same frail nature. How barefaced the lie—walking, reclining, talking with the little band, carrying their common purse, and so trusted by them all, yet stealing away in the darkness to meet his enemies and plot with them how, "in the absence of the multitude," he could deliver him unto them! And going so far as to choose the symbol of brotherly affection—a kiss—to be the sign by which in the darkness they should distinguish him! "Woe unto that man through whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had not been born." Truly so; for what theory or process of restoration could prevent the name Judas from being for ever the symbol of treachery and base desertion and sordid misery. "Woe," indeed! "And he went away and hanged himself." It is impossible to contemplate the heights from which men have fallen into deep abysses, without a feeling of shame and humiliation. But it would be wrong to think of them without being warned by them of the sad possibilities to which we are all exposed.
II. THE INSUFFICIENCY OF OFFICE TO SECURE ITS RIGHTFUL SPIRIT. The parallel of Judas's infamy is found in the men who stood as the head and representatives of the very religion it was Jesus' high mission to fulfill and perfect. How deplorable is the contrast between the sanctity of the position held by these officials and the spirit in which they held it! It was theirs to be the leaders of religious thought, and the embodiment of the religious spirit. But the sad testimony is borne to the insufficiency of official relationship to secure the true spirit of office. Truly may the Shepherd say, "I was wounded in the house of my friends;" and the poor one, "yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me."
III. THE POWER OF COVETOUSNESS. And this was all for money! Well might it be written, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." But it is needful to return to the preceding incident to find the hidden clue to such a deed of darkness. St. John has left the sad record, "He was a thief, and having the bag took away what was put therein." So, yielding little by little to the love of pelf, this chosen one, who harbored the demon of covetousness within the folds of his dress, had lost all strength of virtue, and being overcome of evil, and under the influence of a master-passion, sold his Master for thirty pieces of silver—"the price of him that was priced, whom certain of the children of Israel did price." But our thoughts should rest less upon the faithless disciple or the more faithless priests than upon the patient, submissive One who drank so deeply of our cup. He who descended to that lowest condition of human shame was found, like the slaves in the market, "priced" and sold. Revolting from that unfaithfulness which could sell a friend for gain, from that love of pelf which could crush all the fine and noble and generous feelings of the heart, even closing it to the sweet, winning voice of him who spake as never man spake—revolting equally from that deceitfulness which could occupy holy of[ice without the slightest apprehension of the sanctity of demeanor, or the slightest possession of the purity of spirit due to such a position—let us mark and imitate the lowly, patient, self-possessed, forgiving, trustful spirit of him who endured all that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled, that the will of the Father might be done, that the redemption of the lost might be effected.—G.
Mark 14:12-16, Mark 14:22-26
The Lord's Supper.
During the process of the betrayal, the "first day of unleavened bread" came round, and "the Master," with "his disciples" in "a large upper room furnished and ready," sat and together partook of the Passover. It was the last time. The long series of observances begun in Egypt had now come to an end. Before the next year should bring round the time of the Passover, it would be "fulfilled in the kingdom of God." A deeper and wider meaning would be given to it. Another Lamb would be slain, whose blood, sprinkled by faith, would cleanse the "conscience from dead works." New symbols would supplant the old, by means of which the Lord's death should be showed forth until his coming again. The simplicity of the newly appointed ordinance stands in marked contrast to all the elaborate rites of the earlier service, and to the scarcely less elaborate forms of the extreme schools of the Christian Church.
I. THE ELEMENTS. Taking up the common articles of their daily food, he made them symbolize himself. The "bread" his "body;" the "wine" his "blood." Anything more simple could not have been conceived, anything more ready-at-hand, more truly universal. At the same time, he glorified that food by making it to represent, to memorialize, himself—his body given and his blood shed, through which spiritual life and nourishment were secured for them. Thus materials and spirituals are united; and a portion of our daily food may be taken in remembrance of him who gives life to the world, and "feeds the strength of every saint."
II. THE REPRESENTATION. To the simple "This is my body" of St. Mark, St. Luke adds, "which is given for you"—given up unto death on your behalf. He who "gave himself"—his entire personality—for our sins, gave his body "unto death, yea, the death of the cross." This is the sacrifice offered "once for all," "when he offered up himself." The blood represents, he says, "my blood of the covenant;" or, in St. Luke's words, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, even that which is poured out for you." It is "shed for many unto remission of sins." Both are to be taken with the impressive and tenderly touching words, "This do in remembrance of me."
III. THE COMMAND. "Take ye;" "Take, eat;" "Drink ye all of it;" "This do in remembrance of me;" "This do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me." With these words our Lord enjoins on his disciples the observance of this simple, central Christian rite; and they form the warrant for the observance of the Lord's Supper. Gathering together the several words of direct and indirect reference to this Christian service, we see how it is the center from which radiate many lines of relation to the entire circle of the Christian life.
1. It is an affectionate memorial service, bringing to remembrance the entire self-devotion of the Redeemer—"in remembrance of me." It calls up all that the one word me represents, with an especial allusion to the supreme act of self-immolation, "I lay down my life."
2. It is a covenant service. He who drinks of the cup places himself under the bonds of the new covenant, and receives at the same time the seal of the certain inheritance of all covenant blessings (see Hebrews 8:6-12).
3. It is a service of communion. It symbolizes our joint participation with the whole body of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:14-17). It. declares the perfect oneness of the Church of Christ: "We, who are many are one bread, one body;" and it affirms our perfect community of interest: we "all eat the same spiritual meat;" we "all drink the same spiritual drink."
4. It is at once a service of lowly confession and humble faith, of exulting hope—"As often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord's death till he come"—of brotherly love. It is to the believer the pledge of all blessing and help; while from him it is the pledge of all obedience. And the Eucharistic song speaks of the life, the fellowship, and the joy of heaven.—G.
Mark 14:27-31, Mark 14:66-72
The painful declaration that the words of the prophet, "I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered abroad," would find their fulfillment in them, and in "All ye shall be offended," roused Peter's spirit, and with a bold but mistaken estimate of his own courage and devotion, he fearlessly, even presumptuously, affirmed, "Although all shall be offended, yet will not I." St. Luke has preserved for us words which throw much light upon the incident of Peter's fall, and upon the position which Peter held amongst the disciples: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not: and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, stablish thy brethren." So Satan, the enemy of man, the agent for testing his religious character, has made demand to put all the disciples into his sieve. Men sift wheat to reveal and separate the useless from among the valuable—the bad from the good. Such is the good end of temptation. Brought to bear upon the great Master himself, it was powerless. He could say, "The prince of the world cometh: and he hath nothing in me." There was no chaff mingled with that pure grain. Assailing Judas—alas! how little of any thing but husk! In Peter how strange a mixture! In each of us? Peter, warned by the first prophetic admonition, by the parabolic words of Jesus, and by the yet more definite assurance that ere "the cock crow twice thou shalt deny me thrice," repeats his boast of fidelity with an emphasis, "If I must die with thee, I will not deny thee." The sieve is ready. Peter is accosted by a woman, "one of the maids of the high priest." "Thou also wast with the Nazarene, even Jesus." The story is well known, and needs not to be repeated. The word of Jesus found its exact fulfillment. "Thrice" did he deny, "and straightway the second time the cock crew." "And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter." It was enough; with broken heart he "went out, and wept bitterly?"
Let us learn:
1. Our constant liability to be tempted to evil. Go where we will, temptation assails us. Amidst the blessedness of Eden or the sanctities of the temple, the tempter hides. The felicities of home, the marts of trade, the seclusions of contemplation, are all as open to the evil presence as to the air of heaven. Our steps are dogged, our life assailed. Surely for this—for such an exposure of the precious life-a sufficient justification can be adduced.
2. One end of temptation is to search out existing evil for its exposure and destruction. On the elevated plateau, over the hardened and smooth floor, the wheat is shaken from the sieve. The gentle winds blow aside the chaff, for which the consuming fire is prepared, and the pure grain falls to the ground. Peter little knew that cowardice and fear lay lurking beneath the folds of his dress; but temptation revealed them. As men pass the magnet through the metal dust to discover and separate the particles of iron from more precious metals, and those particles respond, leaping up to the attractive force; and as men test the strength of iron beams by means of heavy weights or blows; so the wily temptation tests the purity of our hearts and the strength of our principles, and draws forth the lurking evil, that, being exposed, it may be separated ere it ruins the whole life.
3. If by temptation a weakness or flaw is discovered, our wisdom is, by penitence and contrition, to return for recovery and healing. We may be sadder and humbler, but we shall be wiser. Happy for us if we have strength so to do, and not, Judas-like, in blank self-despair and self-disgust, sink to rise no more.
4. But a further lesson is to guard against those evils which are the especial cause of danger to our spiritual life. Each has his own especial liability. Peter's was not covetousness; Judas was not in danger from pride of power. Our danger is always as the amount of alloy in our character—the amount of chaff amongst the wheat.
5. Again, let us seek the removal of our own peculiar faults by the winnowing fan and purging fire of the Spirit, that we may not be exposed to the destructive surprises of sudden temptation.
6. An additional lessen is so to guard our spiritual life that the current of our thoughts be pure. How often a colored stream, or one holding earthy salts in solution, gives its own tint to the banks, or determines the growths on either side! Well also is it for us to separate from those habits of life which are condemned by any conviction of right.
7. The great lesson, on the surface of this incident, is the necessity for humility—that we beast not of our religion, that we presume not on our power; but, in lowly dependence on the strength of Divine grace, walk warily, watching lest we enter into temptation.—G.
With reverent steps and bent head must we approach this scene. It would be improper to intrude upon the privacy of the Savior's suffering had not the Spirit of truth seen fit to "declare" this also unto us. The disciples, with the three, exceptions, were excluded by the words, "Sit ye here, while I pray." And even from the favored three "he went forward a little," "about a stone's cast." Then, "sore troubled," and with a "soul exceeding sorrowful even unto death," he "fell on the ground," kneeling, with his face to the earth. Then, from that spirit so sorely wrung, the cry escaped, which has ever been the cry from the uttermost suffering, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me." Thrice the holy cry was heard, and in so great "an agony" that "his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground," though strengthened by "an angel from heaven." Thrice the words of uttermost submission, "Thy will be done!" completed his act of entire surrender and self-devotion. "The will of the Father," which had been his law through life, was no less his one law in death. For all ages and for all sufferers Gethsemane is the symbol of the uttermost suffering, and of the supremest act of devotion to the will of the Father on high. Its depth of suffering is hidden in its own darkness. The bearing of this hour upon the great work of redemption, as well as the precise references of the Redeemer in his words, and many other solemn questions that this scene suggests, deserve the most careful thought. But we turn, as in duty bound, to consider its instruction to us. By him, who taught us to pray, we have been led to desire the accomplishment of the Divine will. By him, who is ever for us the Example of righteous obedience, we have been constrained to seek to bring our life into conformity with that will. And by him, from whom our richest consolations have descended, we have been led to submission and lowly trust in the times of our deepest sufferings. We would that his example should gently lead us to keep the sacred words upon our lips, "Thy will be done!" If we would use them in the supreme exigencies of our life, we must learn to use them as the habitual law of our life. Therefore, let us so use them that they may express:
1. The abiding desire of our heart.
2. The habit of our life.
3. The uppermost sentiment in the hour of our trial and suffering.
The former steps lead to the latter. We cannot desire the will of the Lord to be done by our suffering unless we have first learnt to submit to it as the law of our activity.
I. "THY WILL BE DONE!" IS TO BE THE ABIDING DESIRE OF OUR HEARTS. The habitual contemplation of the Divine will is likely to lead us to desire its fulfillment. We shall see, if faintly, the wisdom, the goodness, the pure purpose, which that will expresses. It is a desire for the Divine Father to do and carry out his own will in his own house on earth, "as it is in heaven." Seeing God in all things, and having entire confidence in the unsullied wisdom and unfailing goodness of the Father on high, it desires both that he should do his own will in all things, and that by all that will should be sought as the supreme law. It knows no good outside of the operation of that will. Within its sphere all is life, and health, and truth, and goodness; without is darkness and the region of the shadow of death.
II. As our prayer becomes the true expression of our desire, we shall seek to embody it in our daily conduct. It will then become THE HABIT OF OUR LIFE. Our great Exemplar said, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me;" "I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me;" "I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." And the spirit of his obedience is uttered in one word: "I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy Law is within my heart." How blessed to have a "will of the Lord" to turn to for our guidance! How holy a Law is it! The truest greatness of life is to hold it in subjestion to a great principle. There can be no higher one than "the will of the Lord." Devotion to a great principle transfigures the whole life; it makes the very raiment white and glistering.
III. But there are exigencies in life when the crush of sorrow comes upon us. He who has habitually sought to know and observe the will of the Lord in his daily activity will easily recognize the Divine will in his sufferings; and to bow to that will in health will prepare him to acquiesce in it in sickness. To say, "Thy will be done!" when health and friends and possessions all are gone, needs the training of days in which all the desires of the heart have been brought into subjection. Many things transpire which are contrary to the Divine will; but obedient faith will rest in the Divine purpose, which can work itself out by the least promising means. Though held in "the hands of wicked men," it will cry, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."—G.
Mark 14:53-65; Mark 15:1-5
Heaven's righteous King at earth's unrighteous judgment-seat.
"They led Jesus away to the high priest." So he appears before that ecclesiastical tribunal, whose duty it was to see that his own laws were obeyed. He who is the true Judge is arraigned before one who will prove himself to be the real culprit. But an accusation must be brought, even though the court is an unjust one. To this end "the chief priests and the whole council sought witness against Jesus." Their efforts were vain, for though "many bare false witness against him," yet "their witness agreed not together." Then, with directness, the high priest questioned him, asking the all-important question, "Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" Jesus, who knew how to maintain a dignified silence when suborned men bare false witness, and who knew equally how to reply with withering and confusing words when foolish men presented quibbling questions, boldly and promptly replied to the demands with an authoritative "I am." And then, in lowly humility, he bore further witness to the truth, saying, "Hereafter ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." With rage and indignation the high priest tears his clothes, and declares his words to be "blasphemy," which could only be true on the supposition that he was bearing false witness. He appeals for judgment, and the universal testimony is, "He is worthy of death." The ecclesiastical court has condemned him. "Straightway in the morning," after due consultation on the part of "the whole council," they "bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him up to Pilate." He is now arraigned before the civil tribunal. Pilate's direct inquiry, "Art thou the King of the Jews?" The reply, "Thou sayest," is an affirmative. Pilate has no idea of a spiritual kingship. In each court Jesus is tried, and found guilty. Pilate could have no fear that the calm Prisoner before him, who confessed his kingdom to be "not of this world," would be able to establish his claim, and having his interest in him excited by various circumstances, is disposed to release him. But the instant assertion, "If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend," and his desire "to content the multitude," and lest there should be an uproar, "delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified." Underneath all this show of human judgment we must see other forces at work. In "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" we must find the roots of this delivering up. The Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world. Nor must we lose sight of that voluntary consecration of himself to the will of the Father which guided Jesus when he laid down his life that he might take it again. Other aspects of this remarkable incident come into our view, when we hear Jesus refusing to make the appeal which could bring to his help "more than twelve legions of angels," and that because he would that "the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." It is needful to group together the various details given by the several writers, each throwing into prominence one or other important feature of the scene, and it is equally needful to read the records in the light of various portions of the epistolary writings of Paul and others, especially that to the Hebrews. There we see the end it was designed should be answered by his appearing "as a lamb before her shearers—dumb." But the judgment of Jesus is really the judgment of his accusers; of them at whose bar he is arraigned, and by whom his sentence is pronounced. We see in it the most humiliating condemnation of itself by its unwarranted condemnation passed by the Jewish nation upon its innocent Victim. Even Pilate declared he found no fault in him; nor would he have delivered him up had he not been hounded on by zealots, whose sensibilities he feared in his weakness to excite, and whose tool he lent himself to be. This repudiation of the truth, this despisal of holiness—holiness as exhibited in the life of One who has become the world's type of righteousness—and this revolt from the will of the Father as declared in the writings of the acknowledged prophets, condemns them as children of error, of unholiness, and of wicked disobedience.—G.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Mark 14:1, Mark 14:2
Approach of the end
I. "A TIME OF SILENCE AND SOLITUDE PROPERLY PRECEDES THE DAY OF DEATH."
II. "WITH THE HIGHEST ECCLESIASTICAL AUTHORITY, AND MUCH WORLDLY DENCE, THERE MAY BE GREAT WICKEDNESS" (Godwin).—J.
Anointing for martyrdom.
I. PURE LOVE RISES ABOVE THE CONSIDERATIONS OF THRIFT. Logic must give place to love. The full heart disdains the question of money expense. Habitual extravagance is one thing, the redundancy grateful affection is another. We are never safe, in conduct or in thought, except when we follow the heart's lead.
II. SYMPATHY PRESERVES THE JUDGMENT FROM ERROR, The disciples did not understand the woman's act. Christ lifted it into the light of truth. There is a narrow scale of judgment—of those who stand too close to the act, and see only its immediate bearings. To see truly we must see far. There is a perspective of acts. This Christ points out. The acts of instinctive faith and love, of obedience and loyalty, are worth more than those based upon prudence and calculation.
III. THE DEATH OF CHRIST MEASURES THE WORTH OF ACTS. This act will go down in history inseparable from his death. It was a forecast and a memento. The loving self-devotion of the Savior attracts the like from those who surround him and who know him.
IV. THE TRUEST REWARD OF GOODNESS IS TO BE HELD IN THE LOVING RECOLLECTION OF OTHERS. "The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance." One great man prays, "Lord, keep my memory green!" A poet turns the wish into song, that he may be "only remembered by what he has done."—J.
Mark 14:10, Mark 14:11
I. "THE BEST INFLUENCES FOR GOOD MAY RE RESISTED AND BECOME VAIN."
II. "HYPOCRISY PREPARES FOR DISHONESTY AND ALL WICKEDNESS" (Godwin).—J.
The Paschal supper.
I. THE DUTIFUL MIND IS THE CLEAR-SEEING AND THE PREPARED MIND. What struck the evangelists was the calm foresight and method of Jesus. It was like the strategy of a general; the presence of mind of one who holds the clue to events, because he knows the moral sequence. On another occasion "Jesus himself knew what he would do." Here the disciples "found even as he told them." So generally, "everything will be found as Jesus has declared."
II. THE PUREST SOCIETY IS NOT FREE FROM AN IMPURE LEAVEN. A Judas among the twelve; and an incipient Judas in the conscience of the rest. Better for us, instead of looking round for the Judas, to look into the heart to discover how much of Judas is there.
III. THERE MAY BE A COINCIDENCE OF ]DIVINE APPOINTMENT AND HUMAN GUILT IN THE SAME ACT. It is in the law of things that the good should suffer from human violence. But it is not in the law of things that any man should take part in that violence. We may not be able to seize the secret unity of principle behind the seeming contradiction of the knowledge of God and the responsibility of man. But the latter is our fact, clear and definite. The former is of the "secret things that belong to the Lord our God."—J.
I. THE SYMBOLIC BREAD AND WINE. Eating and drinking are the most significant physical acts of life. For they are the foundation of life. Hence the act is appropriate as a symbol of the foundation of spiritual life. The appropriation of Christ by the intelligence and will is analogous to the appropriation of food in the process of digestion.
II. THE SERVICE IS THE VISIBLE SEAL OF A NEW COVENANT. Which is a tinuation, an enlargement or evolution of the old; founded on better promises. Objectively, the grace of God is more clearly revealed and abundantly poured forth in the New Testament than in the Old. Subjectively, the conditions of blessing are purer and simpler. The spiritual act of faith includes them all, including the man as a whole.
III. IT IS DESIGNED AS MEMORIAL. The form, the words, the spirit of the loving and suffering Savior, appear and reappear at each celebration. It is the memorial of devotion for our sakes, and the reminder to us of the duty to live not for ourselves, but for the spiritual ideal contained in him.
IV. IT IS DESIGNED TO BE PROPHETIC. "Until that day!" Our purest earthly joys are the buds of celestial flowers. The reunion of the family on feast-days speaks of the reunion in heaven. All our best earthly joys are promises of better joys in heaven. The scene of the Lord's Supper lifts us out of the commonplace associations of life. We realize in it prophetically the truth of our personal and social existence.—J.
I. HUMAN NATURE IS NOT TO BE DEPENDED ON. The most loyal hearts are not fear-proof. Men act much like sheep; are gregarious both in good and in evil. Often they will follow a leader through the greatest dangers; remove the leader, and throw them upon themselves, and courage vanishes, and we know how frail a thing our nature is. Jesus foreknew all this.
II. YET DIVINE LOVE TRUSTS OUR NATURE. Jesus knew that he should return and again gather these scattered sheep. If our salvation depended on ourselves, all were lost. It is the power and the wisdom greater than ourselves which deliver us from ourselves; and there is no worse enemy to be found than the treacherous heart within our breast.
III. IDLE RESOLVES. "Sincere purposes are not sufficient to ensure steadfastness." Good men have said that the more resolves they make, the more sins they find they commit. This may not be strictly so. Still, to add to the original fault the fault of a broken resolve, does hurt to the soul. All experience teaches us our frailty. And the practical lesson is—not to indulge in offensive protestations of humility before our fellow-men, but to see ourselves as we are, and seek strength, not in self-dependence, but in God-dependance.—J.
I. THE SPIRIT'S NEED OF OCCASIONAL SOLITUDE. We need to collect and concentrate ourselves. "We must go alone. We must put ourselves in communication with the internal ocean, not go abroad to beg a cup of water of the urns of other men. I like the silent church before the service beans better than any preaching. How far-off, how cool, how chaste the persons look, begirt each one with a precinct or sanctuary! So let us always sit" (Emerson).
II. ITS NEED TO THROW ITSELF ON GOD. We ask advice of others too much, and depend on human sympathy when we ought only to depend on God. But God does not speak his deepest messages to men amidst a mob, but in the desert, when they are alone with him. Amidst the confusion of opinion and conjecture, his will becomes clear to us. In solitude it shines, the pole-star of our night. His will is ever wisest and best. It is ever possible to follow:—
"When duty whispers low, 'Thou must,'
The soul replies, 'I can!'"
It is ever safest:—
"'Tis man's perdition to be safe
When for the truth he ought to die."
III. THE NEED OF WATCHFULNESS AND PRAYER. Porphyry says, in his affecting life of the great philosopher Plotinus, that the latter, though full of suffering, never relaxed his attention to the inner life; and that this constant watchfulness over his spirit lessened his hours of sleep. And he was rewarded by an intimate union with, or absorption in, the Divinity. He was ever interrogating his soul, lest it should be yielding to fallacy and error. This was the great man of whom his disciple again says, that he was ashamed of having a body. Even in ascetic extremes, there are lessons for us. "The spirit indeed is forward, but the body is feeble."—J.
Violence and meekness.
I. THE INFLUENCE OF SELF-COMMAND SELF-COMMAND. HOW majestic does the Savior appear in this refusal to employ force against force! Moral grandeur is illustrated against the background of brute violence. It is but the show of violence that can ever be opposed to the majesty of truth. The Divine and the spiritual is conscious that it cannot be hurt. Evil, having no real substance nor personality, flees from it.
II. IN THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD IS OUR SURE REFUGE AMIDST THE PREVALENCE OF EVIL. "Thus it is, and thus it must be." Chance is an unmeaning word, when the soul is bound up in God's will.
"This is he men miscall Fate,
Threading dark ways, arriving late;
But ever coming in time to crown
The truth, and hurl wrong-doers down."
First trial of Jesus.
I. JUDICIAL INJUSTICE. Optimi corruptio pessima. The judge who should represent on earth the equal dealing of God, may turn the name of justice into a mockery. Names will not influence men to right if the heart be not right. Under the name and garb of judge, men have sometimes concealed the worst passions, the most arbitrary instincts. So do extremes meet in human life. Only in God do names and realities perfectly correspond.
II. TRUTH ITSELF MAY BE REPRESENTED AS IMPOSTURE. The Savior is here made to appear an impostor. It is the triumph of party-spirit. Misrepresentation within every one's power. Insight into character is rare. We ought to take no second-hand estimate of character. The wrong we do to others by false construction is great; still greater may be the wrong we do ourselves.
III. YET IN THE END TRUTH IS ELICITED BY OPPOSITION. The majesty of the Savior is enhanced in proportion as he is assailed. God is revealed in him and upon him, and his glory is reflected from human falsehood and villainy.
"Though rolling clouds around his breast are spread,
Eternal sunshine settles on his head."
IV. THE TEMPORARY SUCCESS AND ETERNAL FAILURE OF CONSPIRACIES. Here the noble and mean combined to dishonor the Christ of God, to treat him as if he had been the offscouring of the earth. So later were his disciples treated. But where are those conspiracies and conspirators now? For a small moment they triumphed; everlastingly they are branded with shame and defeat. What feeble folly were those blows aimed at the head of the meek and unsuffering kingdom!
"This is he who, fell'd by foes,
Sprung harmless up, repulsed by blows;
He to captivity was sold,
But him no prison-bars would hold;
Though they seal'd him in a rock,
Mountain chains he did unlock."
Extremes meet in character.
I. SELF-CONFIDENCE AND WEAKNESS. What is a man without self-reliance? Yet it seems to fail, and offers no security in temptation. In a true self-reliance is contained dependence and trust. Confidence in our thought is right, if we recognize that our true views are revealed to us; that it is not we who think, but God who thinks in us. Separated from our root in God, whether in thought or will, we become mere individuals. Once isolate the picture of yourself and your powers and activities from the Divine whole to which it belongs, and it will soon be found that you are in a false position.
II. IMPETUOSITY AND DELIBERATION. We admire the generous eagerness of Peter, but it topples over into precipitous haste. And the hasty falsehood is followed by the deliberate persistence in it. Brazening it out one moment, the next he breaks into a flood of remorseful tears. "Who can understand his errors?" Easy to criticize Peter, not easy to act better. Let us humbly own that he represents us all, in greater or less degree. Our life oscillates between extremes. God can make profitable to us the experience of our sins and errors. The chemistry of his love can bring our tragic scenes to a happy ending.—J.
HOMILIES BY J.J. GIVEN
Mark 14:1-11, Mark 14:18-21, Mark 14:43-50
Parallel passages: Matthew 26:1-16, Matthew 26:21-25, Matthew 26:47-56; Luke 22:10-16, Luke 22:21-23, Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-12; John 8:21-35—
The betrayal by Judas.
I. INTRODUCTION TO JUDAS. The individuality of Judas comes prominently before us in this chapter. We make his acquaintance in the house of Simon the leper in Bethany. We are introduced to him in connection with the alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; for though not mentioned here by name, we know from the other evangelists that he was among those who felt indignant at the supposed waste of the ointment, and who expressed that indignation by murmuring against the worthy woman who had poured it on the Savior's head. Either Judas had muttered dissatisfaction, and others of the disciples, in their simplicity, concurred, or Judas was spokesman of others who, accustomed to scant ways and means, were surprised at what naturally enough appeared to such men extravagant expenditure. "When his disciples saw it, they had indignation," according to St. Matthew's narrative; "There were some that had indignation within themselves," is the record of St. Mark; "Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?" is the explicit account furnished by St. John. There was only the one single point of contact between Judas and those of the other disciples who agreed with him about the matter of waste. Their motive differed from his; their thoughts were not his thoughts. The large-hearted liberality of this loving woman was, however, rightly comprehended by the Master himself, and justly commended by him. Our curiosity is not gratified by any particulars of information about Simon. Whether he was a brother of Lazarus, or a brother-in-law, being Mary's husband, or some other relative, or only a friend, we neither know nor need to know. The meaning of the epithet πιστικῆς is also little more than a matter of conjecture. Some of the Greek and Latin interpreters understand it to mean genuine or pure, and connect it with πιστός, faithful; others hold the meaning to be potable or liquid, from πίνω; while Augustine derives it from the name of the place whence it came, that is, Pistic nard. The Vulgate and Latin versions render it spicati, and similar, too is our English spikenard, as the name of fragrant oil extracted from the spike-shaped blossoms of the Indian nardus, or nard-grass. The costliness of this unguent was well known among the ancients; hence Horace promised Virgil a nine-gallon cask of wine for a small onyx box of this nard; while the evangelist informs us that the value of Mary's alabaster box of ointment was upwards of three hundred pence, that is, of Roman coinage, each denarius being equivalent to sevenpence halfpenny or eightpence halfpenny of English currency. The amount would thus be about ten guineas.
II. MARY'S LIBERALITY. This liberality of Mary had its origin in deep devotedness to our Lord, but her devotedness was the outcome of enlightened faith. She had a correct understanding of his character and claims. A believer in his Divine commission and in his kingly authority, she did not stumble as many at the prospect of his death. She knew he was to die, and hence she anticipated that sad event by the exceedingly expensive preparation in question. The custom of employing perfumes on such an occasion has an illustration in the record of King Asa in the sixteenth chapter of the Second Book of Chronicles, where we read, "They laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odors and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries' art." The disciples of Christ surpassed the generality of their nation in the knowledge of, and belief in, his person as Messiah; but though they had full faith in his Messiahship, they still clung to the notion of a temporal kingdom, with all its high honors and earthly distinctions. From this arose the difficulty which they had in reconciling themselves to his death, or rather the stumbling-block which his death placed in the way of their faith, as the two disciples to whom Jesus joined himself on the way to Emmaus, after speaking of his death and crucifixion, added, "But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel." Mary's faith excelled theirs as much as theirs excelled that of the Jews in general. Her faith did not fail in prospect of Messiah being cut off, her love was not chilled by the coming coldness of his death, nor did her hope go out like a taper in the darkness of his sepulcher. She believed that as Messiah Jesus would die and revive and rise and reign. She believed, and her faith worked by love. She believed, and therefore she poured the precious ointment ungrudgingly on her Savior's person.
III. THE BESETTING SIN OF THE TRAITOR. Judas is usually hold up as a monster of iniquity, and his sin regarded as something diabolical. While we would not diminish by one iota the heinousness of his sin, nor say one word in extenuation or mitigation of his guilt, we feel that, owing to certain exaggerated representations of his criminality, the lessons to be learnt from his character and conduct are to a large extent lost. On the contrary, if we carefully analyze his character and examine his career, we shall find much to learn, at least by way of warning, from the sad lesson of his life. Of course, by placing him outside the pale of humanity altogether, and regarding him more as a fiend than a man, we leave ourselves without any common measure whereby it is possible to compare his career with that of ordinary mortals. Now, we hold that he was just in roll with common men, though by his sin in its results he rose at last to such an exceptionally bad eminence. He was, as is admitted on all hands, a bad man, a wicked man, and a man as wretched as he was wicked. All the elements of evil in his character, however, may be resolved into one besetting sin, and that sin was avarice. His greed of gain was insatiable, and he loved gold much more than God. This inordinate love of money was the root of the evil in his nature. This love of money is a growing sin, for, as the old proverb has it, the love of money increases as much as the money itself increases—nay, it usually increases much faster. He was naturally avaricious, and he gave full swing to his natural disposition. Here we learn a lesson of the greatest utility and of very general application. In the Epistle to the Hebrews we read of "the sin which doth so easily beset us." The case of Judas exemplifies the baneful tendency and the fatal result of such a single besetting sin. Most people have some propensity in excess, some strong passion, some evil principle in their nature more likely to overpower them than any other. It is of vital importance to ascertain what the weak point is, in what direction it lies, and where the risk of entanglement is greatest. A physician is careful in the very first instance to discover the seat of the patient's disease, and its nature. So we should look carefully into our heart and out upon our life till we find out the source of weakness; and once it is discovered—nor can the discovery be a matter of any difficulty to the honest inquirer—we must be ever on our guard against it, and use every available means to fortify ourselves in that particular quarter. However strong our character may be otherwise and in other respects, one besetting sin, unless resisted and shunned, will ruin all. One weak link will spoil the strongest chain, and no chain is stronger than its weakest link; one small opening in a dam will flood a district, or even a province.
IV. OFFICIAL DIGNITY, OFFICIAL DANGER. It often happens that a man is placed exactly in that situation in life which, owing to his peculiar disposition, is fraught with greatest danger to him. Thus, for good and wise ends, God in his providence is pleased to try us, as gold is tried, that we may be proved and purified and strengthened. When so situated we need to seek daily increase of faith that we may be kept from falling, and constant supplies of grace that it may be sufficient for us. Judas had been clever at finance, and in consequence became bursar of the little society. This situation of purse-bearer was one of extreme danger to a man like Judas; his hand was too often in the purse, his fingers were too frequently on the coins it contained. With such an opportunity without and such a disposition within, what, in the absence of restraining grace, could be expected? His greedy disposition, combined with the temptation of his office, was too much for him; his covetousness developed into thievishness. He failed to check the evil propensity; he did not resist the strong temptation. The first act of pilfering was committed. The Rubicon was crossed; the line of demarcation between honesty and dishonesty became fainter and fainter, and was gradually effaced. Other acts of petty pilfering succeeded; and though we have little reason to suppose that the disciples' purse had ever been a deep or heavy one, or that it ever contained more than supplied the bare necessaries of daily life, yet we have much reason to believe that the paltry peculations of the purse-bearer were a constant drain upon it. "He was a thief," our Lord tells us plainly, "and carried the bag." Here we have a second lesson, which is the absolute necessity of resisting the first temptation to evil; for as the habit grows by indulgence, the power of temptation diminishes by resistance.
V. DISAPPOINTED AMBITION. The chief attraction to Judas had probably been the prospect of a temporal king and earthly kingdom; and thus of some lucrative position or highly remunerative office in the service of that king and in the affairs of that kingdom. Others of his fellow-disciples had been looking forward to posts of honor—to sit on thrones in the future Messianic kingdom. Judas eared less for honor than for profit, and however he may have esteemed such honor, it was mainly as the way to wealth. But now our Lord had referred in terms unmistakable, once and again, to his death and burial, this gave a rude shook to the hopes of the traitor, and seemed to cut off at once and for ever the prospect of worldly gain. This was a bitter disappointment to the greedy spirit of Judas; the cup of plenty was rudely dashed away as he was about to raise it to his lips; the time of discipleship he looked upon as a dead loss; his profits had been small at best, but the prospect of improving his circumstances is now blighted; and his occupation is gone. Tantalizing, and even torturing, as all this must have been to him, another disappointment, though of a minor sort, is added. A sum of three hundred denarii, or more, that is to say, upwards of ten guineas, had been profusely lavished in a way and for an object with which he had not the least possible sympathy, nay, in a manner as he thought highly reprehensible. It was sheer waste, and worse, for no one gained anything; the poor were not benefited—"not that he cared for the poor," except as a matter of hypocritical pretense; he himself missed the disbursement of a sum from which he could have appropriated a percentage that might have been a crumb of comfort in present disastrous times and during the dull days he must now look forward to. But there was even more than this; he must have felt himself by this time an object of suspicion; conscience must have made him aware of this; he must have known that the Master, at all events, saw through the thin disguises that concealed his real character from ordinary eyes. He did not feel at home with the brotherhood; and, his occupation being gone, a spirit of recklessness was creeping over him. Besides, he was stung into hostility by the severe but well-deserved reproof which our Lord now saw right to administer to him. "The poor always ye have with you," said our Lord; and it was thus hinted that it was his duty—part of his duty—part of his office—to look after them, and that opportunity was never wanting for that purpose. Thus wrought on, Judas bethought himself that it was high time to look to his own interests; and, having failed in one direction, to try the opposite.
VI. WARNINGS WASTED. It is truly astonishing what effect the continued indulgence of a single sin has in hardening the heart, searing the conscience as with a hot iron, blinding the mind, and banishing for a time at least all feelings of shame and even of common humanity. The black crime soon to be committed had cast its shadow before. More than one hint had been given, more than one warning note had been sounded; but all to no purpose. The first intimation appears to have been after our Lord had washed the disciples' feet, impressing by that expressive symbolic action the great lesson of humility on all his followers. On that occasion he said, "Now ye are clean, but not all" (John 13:10). In the second section of this chapter, where the traitor is again referred to, words of warning still more distinct are uttered: "One of you which eateth with me shall betray me;" and while all of them, "one by one," as St. Mark particularly mentions, deprecated with surprise and sorrow such an impeachment, asking, "Is it I?" or literally, "It is not I, is it?" Judas had the amazing effrontery to pretend innocence, and ask with the rest, "Is it I?" The intimation about the betrayer being "one of the twelve, he that dippeth with me in the dish," and the individual who should receive the sop, may have been whispered into the ear of the beloved John, and through him to Peter; but the final fearful warning was uttered aloud and in the hearing of all. And yet that terrible sentence, "Woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born," had no effect on him; at all events, it failed to shake his diabolical purpose. It is possible that during the first shower of questions—each asking, "Is it I?"—Judas had sat silent, either sullenly through contempt, or conscious-stricken; that subsequently, with an air of careless coldness, and in order to conceal the confusion of the moment, he asked not, "Lord, is it I?" but "Rabbi, is it I?" when he received the answer, "Thou hast said," in the affirmative, unheard perhaps except by the disciples John and Peter, who sat close by. The expression, too, which our Lord added, namely, "What thou doest, do quickly," though heard by all, was misunderstood, and referred by them to directions about the purchase of requisites for tomorrow's feast, or making distribution to the poor; but it must have been perfectly comprehended by the traitor himself. At all events, on receiving the sop, he went out immediately, and, in spite of all, pursued his foul and fiendish purpose. All these checks, all these warning, were utterly ineffectual. His besetting sin, growing like the mountain snowball, and gathering within its compass other elements, as disappointment, resentment, ingratitude, and envy, had now become too powerful to be overcome. The sin that might have been checked effectually at the first had now become uncontrollable; the evil one, who might have been successfully resisted at the commencement, had now gained complete mastery over this wretched man. To such a fearful extent was this the case, that the evangelist informs us that "Satan entered into him." In no other way, as it seems, could the enormity of his crime be accounted for. No wonder it is added, "And it was night." It was night with earth and sky—night with all its darkness, night with that dark heart of the traitor, night in every sense with that unhappy man! How all this inculcates, as another and a third lesson, the importance of cultivating prayerfulness of spirit, and enforces the necessity of praying frequently and praying fervently, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one"!
VII. ANOTHER SCENE IN THE TRAITOR'S LIFE. We now open another chapter in his history. The bargain is struck, the sum weighed and delivered, and in the paltry sum thus realized we have another proof of the grovelling spirit of this unspeakably mean and mercenary man. He has secured the thirty pieces of silver, or thirty shekels—some £3 15s. of British money. Both parties seem satisfied with the bargain. The chief priests are glad of the promised opportunity of arresting in private him whom the dread of popular tumult or probable rescue prevented them arresting in public. Public opinion was still so favorable to the Prophet from Galilee, and had such force, that, hostile as the Jewish authorities were, they dreaded, and with good reason, the risk of a public apprehension. Judas, too, is content with his pieces of silver. We almost fancy we see him, like Milton's picture of Mammon in the nether world, eyeing with furtive, downcast glance the proceeds of his bargain. But the satisfaction of the wicked seldom lasts long. We scarcely think that Judas at first realized the consequences of his wickedness; we cannot believe that he at all anticipated the sequel of his crime. Perhaps he thought that he who had wrought so many miracles would work one in self-defense, and not allow himself to be apprehended; or perhaps he thought that, if arrested, he would escape out of the hands of those who came to apprehend him; or it may be he thought Jesus would now be forced to set up the expected kingdom. All his calculations are at fault.
VIII. THE ACTUAL BETRAYAL AND APPREHENSION. Some two hours have elapsed from the revelation of the traitor and his departure from that upper room, when a motley multitude of men, armed with swords and staves-some of them Levitical guards from the temple, others Roman soldiers from the tower of Antonia, together with priests and elders—is marching down the hillside from Jerusalem to the valley of the Kidron. Already they have crossed the brook and reached the garden. But what mean those lanterns, for the Paschal moon is at the full? Perhaps the moon was obscured by clouds, or shining dimly that night; or the deep shadows of the hills and rocks and trees made the light of the lanterns necessary. The concerted signal was not really needed, owing to our Lord's forwardness to meet his fate. Had he pleased, he might have frustrated the attempt, as by a word he felled them to the earth (John 18:6); he might have ordered to his help twelve legions of angels, had he been unwilling to suffer. And yet, willing as he was to suffer, he is equally willing to save; his sufferings were in our stead, and for our sake. His ready willinghood to undertake for us and die for us assures us of equal willinghood to have the benefit of those sufferings transferred to us. The traitor's kiss, which was a fervent one (κατεφίλησεν), was the signal for arrest. From this we learn the terms of familiarity and friendship that existed between Christ and his disciples. Nor is he changed, or become colder in his friendship for his true followers; he is as cordial as ever, and still bends on earth a Brother's eye. His address to Judas, however, is too strongly expressed in the Common Version. The term "friends" (φίλοι) he reserves for his true disciples; the word addressed to Judas is ἑταῖρε, which signifies "companion" or acquaintance, and does not necessarily imply either respect or affection.
IX. THE COWARDICE OF SIN. Cowardice is generally associated with sin, so true it is that "sinful heart makes feeble hand." Our first parents, after their sin against God, hid themselves among the trees of the garden. The chief priests and elders, with the captains, are here charged by our Lord with cowardice. "Be ye come out," he asks, "as against a brigand or bandit (λῃστήν), with swords and staves?" Had he been an evil-doer, why did they not apprehend him publicly in the broad light of day as he taught in the temple? Poor, sinful souls! their cowardly spirits shrank from this; the power of public opinion, or the dread of a rescue, or the danger of a riot, they could not brave; but now skulkingly, secretly, stealthily, at the dead hour of night, they came upon the Savior by surprise, with a strong posse of men well armed. Their sin was seen in their cowardice. Our Lord is now in the hands of his enemies. He had healed the servant's ear—the right ear (St. Luke and St. John)—having asked freedom to stretch forth his arm to touch and heal the wounded ear, saying, "Suffer ye thus far;" if the words do not mean—Excuse resistance to this extent. Judas has betrayed him; all the disciples—even John the beloved and Peter the brave—have forsaken him and fled!—J.J.G.
Mark 14:12-17, Mark 14:22-25
Parallel passages: Matthew 26:17-19, Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 22:7-13, Luke 22:19, Luk 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-34.—
The old dispensation merging in the new.
I. THE PASSOVER AND THE INSTITUTION OF THE SUPPER.
1. Comparison of the records. The memorial Passover differed from the Egyptian or original Passover in several points. A still greater change is now made. The substance now takes the place of the symbol. The antitype supersedes the type. The true Paschal Lamb—Christ our Passover, about to be sacrificed for us—being come, the Jewish Paschal lamb disappears. The unleavened cakes and wine, formerly only secondary and subordinate, now become the primary and principal elements of the feast, as representing the body and blood of the Lamb to be slain. The idea of Christ's sacrificial death, previously intimated with more or less clearness, is now fully exhibited. In the fact of the particulars being foretold there is a close resemblance to that prediction which preceded the triumphal entry. The record of the Lord's Supper is fourfold. It is, recorded by three evangelists and by one apostle. These are the evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke; with Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles. Some points are brought out more fully or distinctly in one, and some in another, of these; accordingly, a brief comparison of their respective records with each other helps to a better understanding of the whole.
(1) Instead of "blessed," used by St. Matthew and St. Mark, St. Luke and St. Paul employ the expression, "gave thanks."
(2) In addition to the statement of "This is my body," found in St. Matthew and St. Mark, St. Luke and St. Paul give an explanation, the former adding, "which is given for you;" the latter, "which is broken for you;" while both enforce it by the suitable exhortation, "This do in remembrance of me."
(3) St. Luke and St. Paul append a note of time—"after supper," or "when he had supped."
(a) St. Matthew and St. Mark say simply, "This is my blood of the new testament, St. Luke and St. Paul introduce the word "cup," and alter the arrangement of the sentence, in this way rendering the whole clause clearer and more explicit; thus, "This cup is the new testament [more correctly ' covenant,' Revised Version] in my blood." Mark alone
(b) supplements the accounts of the other evangelists by stating the fact, "They all drank of it."
(5) St. Matthew and St. Mark have, "shed for many," using the preposition περὶ equivalent to in behalf of, or for the benefit of; but St. Luke has "shed for you," employing ὑπὲρ which, from the idea of superposition, covering, defense, or protection, may mean in the stead, or place, or room of, and so conveying the idea of substitution, though not so distinctly and definitely as ἀντί.
(6) St. Matthew alone points out the purpose in the expressive words "for the remission of sins."
(7) It is also to be noted that the original word for "shed" is ἐκχυνόμενον, a present participle passive, and so signifying literally being shed, as though the sufferings were already begun, the passion entered on, and the sacrifice commenced. These four records of the inspired penmen, each writing from his own standpoint, but all under the direction of the Holy Spirit, furnish a full exhibition of this ordinance in its different aspects; while they impress us with its solemnity and sacredness, deepening the interest we should take in it and the importance to be attached to it. Besides, there is usually this difference between the record of the same fact or truth when presented in a Gospel and then in an Epistle, that the record of the former is historical, that of the latter doctrinal; the former contains the plain narrative, the latter its practical application; the concise enunciation of the former finds its complete development in the latter; the direct statement of the Gospel is commented on or treated somewhat controversially in the Epistle.
2. The Author of this ordinance. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Author of this solemn institution; both evangelist and apostle refer its appointment to him. He is sole King and Head of his Church. His kingship is the result of a Divine decree. "I have set my King," says Jehovah, "on my holy hill of Zion." The government, both legislative and executive, is in his hand, as the prophet had foretold, "and the government shall be upon his shoulders." He is also "Head over all things to the Church." Not only so; this ordinance in particular is his special appointment, for it is the memorial of his death, and keeps the memory of his dying love green in the Christian's soul. To him, therefore, we owe its institution, the manner of its observance, the time of its continuance, and the persons admissible to its enjoyment. Nor is there any ordinance more closely identified with the Savior than this ordinance of the Supper. He is its "all in all," its Alpha and Omega. The words are his, and speak of him; the symbols are his, and point to him; the blessings embodied are his, being the purchase of his blood; the praise is his, for "unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,… to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever." The new covenant, with all its benefits, present and prospective, is his, for he ratified it.
3. Abuses. Little more than a quarter of a century had elapsed when human abuses were beginning to overlay this holy ordinance in the Church of Corinth, so common is it for man to leave an impure print on all his hand doth touch. A reformation of the holy rite had become necessary, and a republication followed. The abuses removed, and the ordinance restored to its original simplicity and sanctity, St. Paul received it by revelation, and republished it in his First Epistle to the Corinthian Church, as he says, "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you." With this fresh publication of it, we have a fuller exposition of its nature, and increased obligation for its observance; while it is restamped, as it were, with the seal, and resanctioned by the signature of the Church's Head.
4. The time of its appointment. The time of its appointment was "the same night in which he was betrayed." This of itself, apart from all other evidence, is proof positive that Jesus was more than man. It was the night when the Jewish Sanhedrim concerted measures for his apprehension; when chief priests and scribes and rulers were planning his condemnation and plotting his death; the night when one of his own disciples played the part of traitor and betrayed him into the hands of his deadliest foes; when another disciple denied him, and all forsook him; the night when he was to be delivered to his persecutors—to their malice and mockery and the worst tortures that their malevolence could devise.
"'Twas on that night, when doom'd to know
The eager rage of every foe,
That night in which he was betray'd,
The Savior of the world took bread."
It was the eve of his crucifixion; nor were the events of the coming morrow unknown to him. From the unrelenting hatred of his enemies, and the steady purpose of their persecuting fury, he might have anticipated them; he might, without much risk of error, have forecast them. But with him it was no forecasting of probabilities; he clearly foresaw all, and consequently in a measure foretasted all. Had he been a weak mortal and nothing more, the certainly approaching danger and disaster must have occupied his thoughts and oppressed him with grief. In this case he would have been insensible to the wants, and incapable of administering to the comforts, of others; he would have been too much occupied with himself and his own position to spare any thought for the concerns, or make any provision for the consolation, of his friends. On the contrary, instead of concentrating his thoughts on himself and the crisis just at hand, his thoughts were engrossed with his followers then, thenceforth, and onward for ages yet to come. All his thoughts, all his feelings, all his sympathies, were enlisted on the side of his disciples, and exercised for their benefit. The self-abnegation that had characterized the whole course of his life became yet more conspicuous, if that were possible, at the period when he came within measurable distance of death and dissolution. Self was absolutely lost sight of, the interests of his people bulked so largely that they occupied the whole field of vision.
5. A comparison. A comparison has frequently been instituted between the life and teaching of the Savior and Socrates-between the Prince of peace and the prince of pagan philosophers. Their respective sentiments on the eve of execution may for a moment be compared, or rather contrusted, here. On the part of Socrates we find a sort of posthumous ambition, present doubt, and practical indifference. There was posthumous ambition; for he allowed his vanity to be flattered by reckoning on the praises of posterity, and referred, with a feeling half of self-gratulation and half akin to revenge, to the false position in which his death would be sure to place his enemies, and especially his accusers. There was present doubt; for beautifully as he reasoned on the subject of immortality and a future state on previous occasions, now, in the presence of the great change, he doubted whether he himself or his friend Crito, who was to survive him, were likely to fare better. There was practical indifference; for the interests of his family and the upbringing of his children appear to have cost him little or no concern. With our Lord, on the other hand, there was no borrowing of comfort from the praises of posterity; his chief concern was for the well-being of posterity. There was no shadow of a cloud upon futurity; all was bright and blissful there. There was, instead of indifference, the deepest and most absorbing concern for the spiritual well-being and everlasting welfare of his friends and followers through all coming time. Far be it from us to undervalue the sage of Athens—he was one of the lights of heathendom; but we find him to the last human, intensely human; while Jesus was both Divine and human—unmistakably Divine, and yet truly human.
6. Use of monuments. Monuments draw attention to the facts of history and to the incidents of biography. How many thousands there are who would never have heard of Nelson, or Wilberforce, or Wellington; or who would have remained ignorant of their great achievements, and of the stirring times in which they lived, were it not for the monuments erected to their memory! How many have had their minds directed by some monument or other memorial to the life and times of men of whom otherwise they would never have heard even the names, or studied the history, or reflected on the lives however eventful! Thus it is, in a higher sense, with the institution of the Supper; it is a monument to Christ, and helps to keep up the remembrance of him, which would else have been more or less forgotten. It reminds men of his death, and shall continue to do so till he come again; it reminds us of the debt of obedience we owe to his dying command, "Do this in remembrance of me;" it reminds us, too, of a day when he will come "to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe."
II. THE NATURE OF THE ORDINANCE. A sacrament, not a sacrifice. The Lord's Supper is a sacrament, not a sacrifice. We reject and reprobate the teaching of those who regard the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper as a sacrifice—the so-called sacrifice of the Mass or the offering up of the bread and wine converted into the flesh and blood of Christ; and who represent it as a bloodless, yet true, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice for both the living and the dead. Nothing could be more contrary to or contradictory of the Word of God. In forming a correct notion of this ordinance, of which the passage before us contains the institution, it may be helpful to clear away the rubbish which, in the course of time, accumulated round it. In doing so it may be well to state what it is not, and then what it is—to exhibit the negative side of this sacrament, and then the positive.
1. In the first place, then, we reject the doctrine of transubstantiation held by the Latin Church. This doctrine, first formulated by the Abbot of Corbey, Paschasius Radbert, in the beginning of the ninth century, first denominated transubstantiation by Hildebert of Tours in the beginning of the twelfth century, and made an article of faith by the Lateran Council in the beginning of the thirteenth century, means the conversion or change of the elements of bread and wine into the real body and blood of our Lord. We repudiate this dogma
(1) as opposed to Scripture; for St. Paul calls the elements after blessing by the same name as before, saying, "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup;" thus they are still bread and wine as much and the same as ever. It is
(2) contradicted by the evidence of the senses; for handle them, and they remain the same; taste them, they are the same; smell them, they are the same; they are still bread and wine, with all their sensible qualities or accidents, as they are called, unchanged. Now, the testimony of the senses ranks the highest—the testimony of the most credible witnesses cannot overthrow it, and to refuse the information of the senses overturns the certainty of all knowledge; while one of the acknowledged tests of Scripture miracles is an appeal to the senses. It may fairly be admitted that one single sense may, under certain circumstances, err, but it can be corrected by the others; whereas all the senses together cannot and do not err. It is
(3) repugnant to reason, which convinces us that the material body of Christ cannot possibly be in heaven and on earth at the same moment; that is, at the right hand of the Majesty on high and on thousands of earthly altars at the same time. In this case the flesh and blood of Christ would be present, while their sensible qualities are absent; on the contrary, the sensible qualities of bread and wine would be present, while those substances themselves are absent. Thus we should have the subject without the accidents in the one case, and the accidents without the substance in the other. But this is palpably absurd, for substances are known by their qualities, and qualities do not exist apart from their substances. Once more,
(4) this dogma is derogatory to the sacrifice of Christ—that great sacrifice offered once for all and forever, because it represents it as needing continuous repetition in the so-called sacrifice of the altar. Moreever,
(5) it destroys the very nature of a sacrament, for every sacrament necessarily consists of two parts, a sign and a thing signified—"an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace;" in other words, a sensible object and certain spiritual blessings set forth and sealed by that object. But transubstantiation does away with the sign altogether, and puts the thing signified in its place. We reject the doctrine of transubstantiation, then, because of the absurdities it involves, as also because of the superstitions connected with it, and the idolatrous practices engrafted on it.
2. In the second place, we reject the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation, which teaches that though the substance of the elements is not changed, yet the body and blood of Christ are mysteriously but really and corporeally present in, with, and under the elements, and are received corporeally with the mouth by communicants along with the symbols. Though this opinion is rather speculative than otherwise, though it does not convert the sacrament into a sacrifice, though it does not lead to the adoration of the elements, and though it does not impart to the sacrament a physical virtue apart from the dispositions of the recipient, yet it involves several grave difficulties. It necessitates a literal interpretation of the words of institution, and so a substantial presence of the body and blood of Christ in this sacrament. The Lutherans are at pains to define this presence. It was not a change of one substance into another (μετουσία), nor the mixing of one substance with another (συνουσία), nor the inclusion of one substance in another (ἐνουσία), nor the absence of substance (ἀπουσία); but the real coexistence or presence (παρουσία) of the one substance with the other, that is, the earthly with the heavenly. For this purpose, however, a communication of properties is requisite, so that the humanity of Christ shares the omnipresence of his divinity. The Lutheran doctrine, it is true, makes the ubiquitous presence of the body of Christ unique and peculiar to the Lord's Supper. It is further alleged that the humanity of Christ is at the right hand of God, and that the right hand of God is everywhere; therefore Christ, as to his humanity, is everywhere present. It is plain, however, that this omnipresence of the flesh and blood of Christ in the sacrament of the Supper is contrary to the nature of a body, and thus self-contradictory. Besides, this omnipresence of the body and blood of our Lord would imply their presence in every ordinary meal as well as in the Lord's Supper. Neither is it a sufficient or at all satisfactory answer to this to say, as Lutherans do, that omnipresence in this case means no more than accessibility, that is, the fact of being everywhere given, for the body and blood, if thus given and received everywhere, would be everywhere operative.
3. In the third place, we do not agree with the Zwinglians, including Zwingle himself, Carlstadt, Myconius, Bucer, Bullinger, and the reformers of Zurich, who went to the opposite extreme from the Lutherans. They regarded the elements as signs or symbols, and nothing else and nothing more; these they held to be memorials of the absent body of our Lord. The tendency of the Zwinglian doctrine was to lessen the efficacy and lower the character of this sacrament. Looking upon the elements as mere signs, viewing them as memorials and not means of grace, denying the special presence of the Savior, they made the sacrament of the Supper little, if anything, more than a bare act of commemoration or a mere badge of profession. And so it happens that the doctrine of the Supper, as set forth by Zwingle himself, is that still held by Remonstrants and Socinians to the present day. Here we are reminded of the memorable conference that once took place on this subject. For a full account of the discussion, the district where it was held, and the disputants on the occasion, we must refer the reader to the description by D'Aubigne, which, as usual, is at once picturesque and instructive. We can only notice the fact in its bearing on the subject of the Supper. On an eminence overlooking the city of Marburg stands an ancient castle. Away in the distance sweeps the lovely valley of the Lahn. Further still, the mountain-tops rise one above another till they are lost in the clouds or disappear in the remote horizon. In that old castle was an antique chamber, with vaulted roof and Gothic arches. It was called the Knight's Hall. There, more than three centuries and a half ago, a conflict took place, not with carnal weapons, but intellectual and spiritual. Princes, nobles, deputies, and theologians were there. The combatants were the mighty Luther and the mild Melancthon on the one side, with the magnanimous Zwingle and the meek OEcolampadius on the other. It was this very subject that formed the ground of debate. Luther held by the literal sense, dogmatically repeating "This is my body," while his opponents urged the necessity of taking the words figuratively. And here, in passing, it may be observed that much as both Romanists and Lutherans insist on the literal sense of the words, they are figurative even according to their interpretation. As used by the Romanists they are an instance of the figure synechdoche, as used by Lutherans they are a metonymy, while as used by Protestants in general they are admitted to be metaphorical.
4. Now, in the fourth place, and in opposition to all these, we give in our adhesion to the creed of the great majority of the Reformed Churches on this doctrine. Here it is necessary to bear in mind that, among the Reformed themselves, Zwingle occupied one pole, Calvin held the opposite, while the form of the doctrine ultimately agreed on and acquiesced in by the great body of Reformed communions was intermediate. Zwingle's view, as already seen, made the sacrament of the Supper symbolical and commemorative, reducing it to a mere sign; Calvin, on the other hand, held that believers receive an emanation or supernatural influence from the glorified body of Christ in heaven. The illustration he employed made his meaning plain: it was to this effect, that the sun is absent and distant from us in the heavens, but his light and heat are present with us and enjoyed by us on earth. The Reformed, however, maintained that believers received the sacrificial virtue of Christ's atoning death. Eventually the Consensus Ligurinus was drawn up by Calvin. The immediate object was to harmonize the Zwinglians and Calvinists; but it accomplished much more than this. It embodies the doctrine of the Supper which is held by all the Reformed Churches. The various Reformed Confessions are in harmony with it. The second Helvetic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, which constitute the doctrinal standards of the Reformed Churches of the Continent; the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England; the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, are in full accord with it. The doctrine of these Churches and Confessions may be expressed in, or rather compressed into, the following brief statement, slightly modified from the Westminster Confession:—"The body and blood of Christ are as really but spiritually present to the faith of believers in this ordinance as the elements themselves are to their outward senses." Hence it comes to pass that while we outwardly and visibly partake of the sensible signs, which are bread and wine, we inwardly and faithfully receive Christ and him crucified with all the benefits of his death. The real presence of Christ is enjoyed by his people in this sacrament; but that presence is not bodily, it is spiritual. His body broken and blood shed are present, not materially, but virtually; by this we mean that the beneficial effects of his sacrificial death upon the cross are conveyed to the faithful recipient. These benefits are received, not by the mouth, but by faith. The whole is made effectual by the Holy Spirit to our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.
III. THE DOCTRINES MADE VISIBLE BY THE SUPPER. Nature of a sermon. A sermon is intended to explain some doctrine, or enforce some duty, or both. The great object to be attained is the glory of God in Christ and the Christian's good. The sacrament of the Sapper has often been compared to a sermon; but it is a sermon to the eye—a visible sermon, if the expression be allowed. It is a sermon, too, that thus visibly sets forth several of the leading doctrines of our holy religion.
1. The first doctrine visibly exhibited in the Lord's Supper is the Incarnation. The Incarnation, or Christ's coming in the flesh, was the great event of the ages; for "when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman." "The everlasting Son of the Father," when he took upon him to deliver man, "did not abhor the Virgin's womb;" and so, in the language of one of the Church's creeds, he "was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary." Now, the bread symbolizing the body, and the wine the blood, both together set forth the body of flesh with the living fluid that circulates through it; and thus the elements of bread and wine teach the doctrine of the Incarnation, speaking to us the same language as the Evangelist John, when, in the first chapter of his Gospel, he tells us, at the first verse, that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God;" and then adds, at the fourteenth verse, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." The bread and wine, therefore, inculcate the same sacred truth as the inspired writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, when he says, "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same."
2. The second doctrine visibly taught in the Supper is that of the Atonement, or the setting-at-one of persons alienated. The parties in this case are God and men, the latter alienated, and enemies in their minds by wicked works, the carnal mind being enmity against God; while "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." This setting-at-one is the work of reconciliation, from which, however, atonement only differs as being the more comprehensive term, and including not only the reconciliation itself, but the means by which reconciliation is effected. The atonement, then, or those sufferings of the Savior by which reconciliation is accomplished, in other words, the bruising and breaking of Christ's body and the shedding of his blood, are set forth visibly by breaking the bread and pouring out the wine in the Lord's Supper.
"Bread of the world, in mercy broken,
Wine of the soul, in mercy shed,
By whom the words of life were spoken,
And in whose death our sins are dead;
"Look on the heart by sorrow broken,
Look on the tears by sinners shed;
And be thy feast to us the token
That by thy grace our souls are fed."
III. The third doctrine presented to the eye in the sacrament of the Supper is that of Faith, by which we feed on Christ to our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace. The exercise of faith on the Son of God is symbolized by our eating the bread and drinking the wine. These same acts of eating and drinking are employed by our Lord in the sixth chapter of John to symbolize and signify the exercise of faith. Thus he says in the chapter cited, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you;" and again, "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day;" still further it is added, "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him." Thus the most intimate fellowship with Christ, the closest union and communion with him, life spiritual here and everlasting hereafter, together with part in the resurrection of the just, are conditioned by and connected with that faith of which eating and drinking are the symbols.
"Sweet feast of love Divine;
'Tis grace that makes us free
To feed upon this bread and wine,
In memory, Lord, of thee.
"Here conscience ends its strife,
And faith delights to prove
The sweetness of the bread of life,
The fullness of thy love."
4. The fourth doctrine thus visibly taught in the Lord's Supper is the Communion of saints. The word communion" implies our discharging some duty together (munus)—doing something in common. At the Lord's table we partake of bread in common and of wine in common—the same bread and the same cup; and this common participation is a visible manifestation of the doctrine of the communion of saints. Hence the apostle says, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread." This communion of saints is based on union to Christ. As branches, we are grafted into the living Vine, and thence draw life and strength and nourishment; as living stones, we are built up into a spiritual temple, the foundation being apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the chief Corner-stone; as members of his mystical body, we are knit by joints and bands to him as the living Head. By virtue of this union of all true Christians with Christ, they have communion each with the other. We have common privileges, common benefits, common blessings, and common duties. We have hopes and fears in common, joys and sorrows in common, trials and triumphs in common; and all these not merely in connection with the same congregation or the same Christian communion, but to some extent "with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." Oh that Christians realized this more in their own souls, and exhibited it more in their lives, and manifested it more to the ungodly world around! Oh, when shall the great intercessory prayer be fulfilled: "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me"! Oh, when will that proof of the divinity of our Lord's mission be given to an unbelieving world and a misbelieving age! Oh, when shall the holy Church cease to be rent asunder by schisms, distressed by heresies, and oppressed by the scornful!
"Elect from every nation,
Yet one o'er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses
With every grace endued."
5. The fifth doctrine is that of the glorious second Advent—that advent which the Church is looking for and hasting to. But this doctrine is presented in the communion, not visibly, but orally; not to the eye, but to the ear, in the words, "Ye do show the Lord's death till he come."
IV. THE SACRAMENTAL SIGNS; THEIR SIGNIFICANCE.
1. The sacramental elements. These are two in number—bread for nourishment and wine for refreshment. One of these might serve the purpose; then why are two employed? Two are employed instead of one
(1) for assurance. Thus we read in relation to Pharaoh's dream, "The dream is doubled to Pharaoh twice, because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass." In like manner the two signs show the certainty of the covenant and strengthen our faith in its provisions. Like the everlasting covenant made with David, well ordered in all things and sure, the promised blessings of the New Testament are firmly established, being "Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus." Their bestowal on the specified conditions is sure, soon, and certainly coming to pass. Again, they are
(2) for apprehension; that is, in order that they may be rightly and more readily apprehended. Thus two signs were granted to Moses, as it is written, "If they will not believe nor hearken to the voice of the first sign, they will believe the voice of the latter sign;" the reason assigned being the character of the Israelites, stiffnecked and hardhearted as they were. So God, because of our slowness of apprehension and hardness of heart, has added sign unto sign, mercifully accommodating himself to us, the frail and fallen children of men. But
(3) they imply abundance. While they quicken our faith and help us to a clearer view of Christ, they exhibit the plenitude of his resources, for "it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell," and "in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," the ample supplies he has in store for our necessities, the full forgiveness and plenteous redemption that are found in him, the rich abundance of all needful gifts and necessary graces, as also the sufficient nourishment he bestows on us.
2. The sacramental actions. Some of these are performed by the administrator, others by the recipient. On the part of the former they are taking, blessing, breaking, and giving. The taking symbolizes the assumption of our nature, "the mystery of the holy incarnation." The blessing signifies separation from a common to a special purpose, from an ordinary to a sacred use, as also thanks-giving to God for the unspeakable gift of his Son, for the means of salvation thus made available, and for this solemn ordinance itself as a sign and seal of the benefits bestowed—in a word, for all the mercies of his covenant, for all his love to our souls, for all his faithfulness to his promises, for all he has done, is doing, and has promised to do. The breaking is expressive of the breaking and bruising of his body; that is, the painful death on the cross, the pouring out of his life unto death, the making of his soul an offering for sin to satisfy Divine justice, to pacify Divine wrath, and purchase salvation for us. The giving denotes the gift of the Father, who "so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life;" the gift of the Son, of whom the believer can say, "He loved me, and gave himself for me;" every needful gift, for "he that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, shall he not with him also freely give us all things?—the gift of all things, for "all things are yours, because ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." The Christian's inventory is as follows:—"Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come;" all are yours, because Christ is yours—Christ, in the glory of his Godhead, in the dignity of his person, in the suitability of his offices, in the perfection of his work, in the sufficiency of his atonement, in the power of his resurrection, in the prevalency of his intercession, in the preciousness of his promises, in all the blessedness of his benefits; no benefit kept back, no blessing withheld, and no promise excepted. Thus he is "made of God to us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption;" and thus we are "complete in him." There are also sacramental actions on the part of the recipients—taking, eating and drinking, dividing. These also are significant. Our taking implies intelligent acceptance of Christ and cordial reception of him. We embrace him fully as he is offered freely. We take him in all the capacities pertaining to his person or identified with his work. We take him as our Teacher, to be taught to know and believe and do the truth; as our Sin-bearer, who bore our sins in his own body, suffering, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God; as our King, to rule in us and over us and for us. We take him as our Savior and Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob, that we may be saved from the guilt and filth of Sin, from the pollution and power of sin, from the defilement and dominion of sin; we take him as "the Lord our Righteousness" and Strength; as the Beloved of our soul—the chief among ten thousand in our esteem. We take his laws for our direction, his love for our consolation, his precepts to guide us, his promises to gladden us; his cross in time, his crown in eternity; for if we bear the cross now, we shall wear the crown hereafter. Thus St. Paul says, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ;" and again, "Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of glory, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me at that day." By eating and drinking we understand the necessary application. Bread must be eaten in order to nourish, and wine drunk that it may refresh. The elements thus entering our bodies incorporate with our system and become part of our frame. As the application of Christ by faith unites us with Christ, so by this symbolic application of his body and blood that union becomes still closer. By such sacramental action, too, we profess publicly our union with Christ, and proclaim to the Church and to the world that Christ is one with us and we with him—Christ formed in our heart the hope of glory, and our life hid with Christ in God. By eating and drinking we say in action what Thomas said in words, "My Lord and my God;" we claim sacramentally that mutual relationship which the Spouse in Canticles claims verbally when she says, "My Beloved is mine, and I am his." The dividing, according to the direction in St. Luke, "Take this and divide it among yourselves," is expressive of practical communion with each other in the charities and amenities of life; consequently of hallowed fellowship, Christian affection, and brotherly love; of the widest, yet tenderest, sympathies with all followers of our common Lord, with all fellow-travelers to the heavenly home, and with all fellow-heirs of the future glory in our Father's house above.
3. The sacramental words. These comprise an injunction, an explanation, and an obligation. The injunction or command is comprehended in the following terms:—"Take, eat;" This do in remembrance of me; Drink ye all of it;" "This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me." The explanation consists of the two following sentences:—"This is my body, which is broken for you;" "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Here there is an obvious reference to the words of Moses, "Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you" (Exodus 24:8). The obligation or enforcement applies to the whole, and is contained in the single sentence, "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show ['ye proclaim,' Revised Version] the Lord's death till he come."
4. Concluding observations. The Lord's Supper is thus not a sacrifice, but a feast after a sacrifice, and a feast upon a sacrifice. It is a wellspring in the wilderness, a green spot in the desert, a feast to refresh us on our pilgrimage, and a foreshadowing of that feast above, where "many shall come from the east, and west, and north, and south, and sit down [recline] with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven." We are constrained, somewhat reluctantly, to pass over several interesting topics in this connection—the reasons for partaking of this sacrament, the uses to be made of it, the benefits to be derived from it, as also the qualifications for worthily observing it. Here we may just notice in regard to the latter
(1) that a man must prove himself, and so partake;
(2) discern or discriminate the Lord's body by faithful apprehension and spiritual appreciation; and
(3) discern or discriminate himself and his relation to his Lord. Failing these he incurs judgment, viz. judicial visitation. Yet mercy mingles with such judgment, for it is the chastening of our heavenly Father for our good, and to prevent our final condemnation with the ungodly world.—J.J.G.
Parallel passages: Matthew 26:30-46; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1.—
The agony in Gethsemane.
I. SCENE AND SEVERAL CIRCUMSTANCES CONNECTED WITH THE AGONY.
1. Anticipation. From the entrance of our Savior upon his public ministry his life was one of continued trial. All along symptoms of the approaching crisis appeared, all along the bitter cup was steadily filling, all along the clouds were gradually gathering. At length, towards the close of his career, the stormclouds in all their fury burst upon him. After his last entrance into Jerusalem the bitter cup became brimful, and he was now to drink and even drain it to its very dregs. The anticipation of those sufferings he was to undergo had made a deep impression on his mind; forebodings of them had frequently disturbed his repose, dread of them overwhelmed his spirit. He foresaw all, he anticipated all, he in a measure foretasted all; accordingly, several days before his passion, he cried out," Now am I troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I to this hour;" or, as some erroneously read it, "What shall I say? Shall I say this, Father, save me from this hour?"
2. Preceding circumstances. On examining the circumstances that precede the agony, we find that the Wednesday and the Thursday before the Passover our Lord himself spent at Bethany, while on the latter day his disciples went to Jerusalem to engage an apartment and prepare a lamb for the coming solemnity. When the evening of the day was come, Jesus also repaired to Jerusalem. Having there joined the disciples, he sat down with them to the sacred feast which had been prepared, and which he purposed to render still more sacred by engrafting thereon (as we have seen) the new festival to be observed in remembrance of himself, as a memorial of his death, and in exhibition of his body broken and blood shed for many for the remission of sins. Such were the order and connection of events. The Passover had been observed—that Passover which he had desired so earnestly to eat with his disciples. The sacrament of the Supper had been instituted by our Lord, and kept for the first time in company with his faithful followers. Subsequently he had delivered that touching and pathetic, yet most consolatory and truly sublime discourse recorded in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth chapters of the Gospel of St. John. He had poured forth, out of the fullness of his heart, that fervent and beautiful prayer contained in the seventeenth chapter of the same Gospel. He had warned the disciples against deserting him in the hour of temptation. He had selected three of them specially to attend him in his sorrows. Then, late at night, after delivering the discourse and praying the prayer and making the arrangements referred to, he left the city for the scene of his agony.
3. The scene. The place where this occurred was a spot often frequented by our Lord and his disciples. On this account St. Luke does not designate the place by name; he merely says, "When he was at the place." St. John accounts for the traitor's knowledge of the place from its being a frequent resort of the Savior: "Judas also," he says, "knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples." The place was a garden, little more than half a mile from the city of Jerusalem, and only a stone's throw from the brook Kidron, situated on the western slope and near the foot of the Mount of Olives. That garden had not been laid out for the production of herbs, but as an olive plantation. The name of that garden, as given by St. Matthew and St. Mark, was Gethsemane, so called from two words meaning "oil-press." As just intimated, it appears to have been a frequent and favorite resort of our Lord and his disciples. To that spot he often went as a meeting-place with his disciples scattered through the city during the day, according to the meaning assigned by some to the term συνῆχθη, rendezvoused. Thither the Savior often retired from the world, and to be alone with God. Thither he often repaired for prayer and meditation. There he often spent the night in intercourse with Heaven. There, amid the deep gloom of that solitary plantation, was the place of the memorable and most affecting scene to which this section refers. That garden, if tradition has rightly marked the site, remains to the present day. That enclosure still stands, surrounded by a wall formerly of loose stones but now plastered and whitened, and contains eight large and venerable olive trees. Up to the present time it is a gloomy and forsaken place, yet from its associations it must ever be to the Christian a sweet and sacred spot. To this day it is a peculiarly sombre as well as solitary place, with that rude stone wall enclosure and those grey old olive trees. It was here an event took place the full purport of which eternity perhaps can alone reveal. At all events, for suffering and sorrow it ranks next to the Crucifixion itself. But sad and sorrowful as are the memories associated with Gethsemane, it is invested with a sacredness that makes it unspeakably dear to every Christian heart.
"Gethsemane can I forget,
And there thine anguish see,
Thine agony and bloody sweat,
And not remember thee?"
Let us imagine ourselves, then, in that sombre and solemn enclosure on the eve of man's redemption, in company with our Lord and along with Peter and James and John. The same three had been spectators of the Transfiguration. The same three had stood by while their Master restored to life the ruler of the synagogue's daughter. The same three are now privileged to be witnesses of that fearful struggle of the Redeemer's soul, called in this passage his agony. And as we stand in that society and on that spot, eastward rises high above us the lofty summit of Olivet. Westward we are overshadowed, or at least our view is shut in, by the gigantic walls of the holy city. Below us lies the valley of the Kidron, with the little freshet from which it takes its name. Yonder at a distance, amid the gloom of the overhanging olive trees, is seen the Savior's person dimly revealed by the pale light of the silvery moon. It is a chilly night, but chilly as is the night-air, the warm perspiration bursts forth from every pore, moistens every limb, and falls like big drops of blood down to the ground.
II. THE STRUGGLE AND ITS SEVERITY.
1. Meaning of the term. The word "agony" is due to St. Luke, and employed by him only in the record of this transaction; while the use of this word helps considerably to the right understanding of the whole. The idea of pain so usually associated with agony is not the exact sense of the word. It rather means conflict or struggle. It was a word which the Greeks applied to their games. Thus the runner in the race, the pugilist in the combat, and the wrestler in the contest, were properly said to agonize. Pain connected itself with the word only as a secondary and subordinate notion. But what was the nature of this struggle? It could not be with sin, for he had no sin; he was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." It was not with the development of any unholy tendency or the uprising of any evil passion; from all such his humanity was exempt. Nor yet are we without a hint respecting the source whence the struggle proceeded. If we compare an expression at the close of the temptation with another in the narrative of the agony we may arrive at a tolerably safe conclusion. In the first-named passage Satan is said to have left our Lord for a season, or rather until a convenient season; while in this passage the subject of prayer, which he suggests to his disciples, was the avoidance of temptation. Putting these two things together, we have good ground to believe that the suitable season for another onslaught of the evil one had arrived; that the attack was renewed; that Satan had returned; that the tempter, though foiled once and again before, had resumed with increased facilities, or from a vantage-ground, or at a more favorable opportunity, the terrific trial. A passage in the Epistle to the Colossians favors this view. It is there (Colossians 2:15) said that he stripped off or put away from himself the hostile principalities or powers that clung to him like a deadly Nessus-robe. The thrice-repeated assaults of Satan in the wilderness had been repelled, and the tempter defeated, but only for a time. The attack was renewed in Peter's effort to dissuade the Savior from suffering; and unconscious as the apostle was of the source whence the suggestion sprang, it was none the less a device of the great enemy, as we may infer from the sternness of our Lord's rebuke when he said, "Get thee behind me, Satan." But the tempter was again baffled and beaten. Once more, however, the prince of this world mustered all his forces for the last and fiercest onslaught. This was the hour and power of darkness, beginning with the agony and ending with the Crucifixion. And now Satan and the powers in league with him are not only vanquished, but Jesus "made a show of them openly, triumphing over them," as we read in that passage of Colossians; that is, they were boldly exhibited as trophies by the Victor, and led in triumph as captives bound to the Conqueror's car.
2. Point of attack. Still curiosity would desire information with respect to the particulars of the present trial, or the character of the struggle in which the Savior is now engaged. What was its turningpoint? Was he pressed to repudiate the responsibility he had assumed for sinners, and did the struggle consist in resisting such pressure? Was he tempted to renounce the great work of man's redemption? Was there a shrinking of the flesh from the terrible ordeal that was fast approaching, while the spirit drew in the opposite direction? It can be no matter of surprise that the pure humanity of our Lord should recoil from what was coming in the near future, for he foresaw it all—the sneer, the scorn, the spitting, and smiting; the robe of mockery, and the thorn crown, together with the scourging and suspension on the cursed tree. We cannot wonder that the anticipation of all this, and vastly more, should produce a struggle of no ordinary kind in the breast of the Son of God. But whatever the exact nature of the struggle was, from whatever cause he agonized, one thing is perfectly plain, and that is the extreme intensity of the agony.
3. Evidence of its intensity. So unspeakably intense was its severity, that he sweat as it were great drops or clots (θρόμβοι) of blood which ran down to the ground. With reference to this proof of its severity, several similar instances of sweating blood have been adduced. Ancient authors and modern writers alike record cases of it. Diodorus of Sicily mentions bloody sweat as resulting from the bite of Indian serpents. Aristotle speaks of it as caused by a diseased state of the blood. Some recent medical authorities reckon it among the consequences of excessive terror or extreme exhaustion. But by far the most striking case of all is one narrated by the infidel Voltaire. In his essay on the civil wars of France, he says that the king, Charles IX., soon after the Bartholomew Massacre, was attacked by a strange malady, which carried him off at the end of two years. His blood was always oozing out, forcing its way through the pores of the skin—an incomprehensible malady, against which the art and skill of the physicians were unavailing. This, he adds, was regarded as an effect of the Divine vengeance; but elsewhere he attributes it to excessive fear or violent agitation, or to a feverish and melancholy temperament, admitting that other cases of the same have occurred.
III. THE SAVIOR'S SORROW AND ITS SOURCE.
1. The description of his sorrow. There is a climax in this description. He began to be sorrowful; his soul was sorrowful, exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. He was amazed, and very heavy. One of the words here employed is peculiar. It denotes, according to one derivation, satiety, but according to another a state and consequent feeling of strangership—a sort of homesickness. How applicable to the Savior's sorrow! He must have been more than satiated with earth, and homesick, if we may use the expression, for heaven. But, looking deeper down, we find three words descriptive of the Redeemer's sorrow, which require closer and more careful consideration. The original word for being sorrowful (λυπεῖσθαι) is in this narrative peculiar to St. Matthew; that for being sore amazed or stunned (ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι) is only used by St. Mark; while those equivalent to very heavy (ἀδημονεῖν), and to the soul being exceeding sorrowful (περίλυπος) even unto death, are common to both. The first expression is one of frequent occurrence, but is here intensified by a subsequent compound and several adjuncts. Further, while the seat of this sorrow is the soul, the sorrow itself is exceeding and overwhelming, and enwraps the soul, the soul being distressed all round—grieved on every side (περί). Nor is that all; it is so excessive that soul and body seem ready to part, or actually to part, under the pressure and the death-pang to be anticipated. If it be not the fulfillment of, it is at least in correspondence with, the words of the psalmist—
"The pains of hell took hold on me,
I grief and trouble found."
The next term, that peculiar to Mark, imports a complex state of feeling made up of horror and amazement, or extreme alarm and consternation, approaching to stupefaction or being stunned, while here, again, an augmenting particle increases the notion to the highest degree. Once more, the former of the two words employed by St. Matthew and St. Mark in common, whatever origin is assigned to it, is used to denote a state of distress that combines at once dejection of mind and disquietude of spirit, or anxiety and anguish.
2. The cause of this sorrow. Now, those words and phrases employed in describing the Savior's sorrow, weighty as they are in themselves separately, when taken together represent an extreme of sorrow and a weight of woe which no utterances of human speech appear adequate fully to express. To this sorrow may be applied the words of the prophet, "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith Jehovah hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger." It is now time to inquire into the cause or causes from which such sorrow sprang. To what must we attribute this sorrowfulness, this sore amazement, this extreme heaviness and exceeding sorrowfulness of soul even unto death? We may answer
(1) negatively. To attribute it to fear of death would be a glaring outrage on all probability, and the gravest libel on the Son of God. Who has not heard of that Athenian sage who philosophized so calmly and conversed so pleasantly with his friends till the poison-cup did its work? Many a soldier, both in ancient days and modern times, has faced death fearlessly and unshrinkingly. Many a soldier of the cross has displayed equal, and in cases not a few still greater, heroism. Not only men, but delicate matrons and tender maidens, have heroically braved the persecutor's rage, and bidden him do his worst. In the days of the martyrs, many courageously and cheerfully encountered death in its most ghastly form. Some endured the most cruel tortures without complaint. Some were torn to pieces by wild beasts. Some were left to look at the ocean's tide as it approached nearer and nearer, rising higher and higher till they sank in the gurgling wave. Some were sawn asunder. Some were crucified with the head downwards. Some went upward from the stake in a chariot of fiery flame. And is it possible that the Founder of our faith had less fortitude in the near prospect of death than many of his weakest followers? Many, supported by a good cause and a good conscience, have despised death, and surrendered life unhesitatingly and unfalteringly. Many, of different ranks and different ages and of both sexes, have submitted to a death of cruellest torture, undaunted and undismayed. Hundreds have in their last moments illustrated the words of the poet—
"Resting in the glorious hope
To be at last restored,
Yield we now our bodies up
To earthquake, fire, and sword."
Is it, then, for a moment supposable that the servant should so far surpass his Master, and the disciple his Lord, that what caused the latter such agony and anguish was matter of exultation and triumph to the former? We answer
(2) affirmatively. What, then, was the cause of the Savior's sorrow? Was his case different from any or all of those referred to? Yes, most certainly; they were wide as the poles apart. Those illustrious heathens, those great and good men, those noble martyrs, those death-defying followers of the Savior, stood each in his own lot in the end of the days. Not so the Savior: his was a representative capacity; he was the second Adam—his people's federal Head. He came to give his life a ransom for many, to bear the sin of many, and to be numbered with the transgressors. He came to take the place of the guilty, and to stand in the stead of millions. Then the sword of justice was to be unsheathed against the Shepherd, the man that was God's Fellow. The Shepherd must lay down his life for the sheep, else they must perish, and perish entirely, and perish everlastingly; "for the wages of sin is death," and "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."
"Die man, or justice must
Except some other as able and as willing pay
The rigid satisfaction—death for death."
The exact relation of the Savior's sufferings to the penalty incurred we need not dwell on here. Whether it is a relation of diversity (aliud pro quo), as Grotius maintained; or of equivalence (tantundem), according to others; or of identity (idem), in accordance with the view of a third class, we shall not attempt to determine further than to reject the first, and express our preference for the second rather than for the third. Further. as his life had been stainless, his death must be sinless. Holy and harmless as that life had been, his death must be equally free from sin and separate from sinners. But now came the severest test and sorest trial. If the awful sufferings in near prospect should weaken his purpose; if, foreseeing the shame and pain and torture, his resolution should give way; or if, what would equally defeat his undertaking, his heart should conceive or cherish any feeling of revenge; or if the burning sense of wrong should provoke complaint, or any word of impatient murmuring should escape his lips; if, in a word, any sin were to mingle with thought or feeling, or find utterance in speech, his life-work would miscarry and the whole would end in irreparable failure. No wonder, then, that, in view of all this mighty burden which he bore-in view of the dread responsibility laid upon him, in view of that mountain-load of sin he was to transfer to himself and bear away, in view of that great sacrifice which he was to offer, in view of the great satisfaction he was to make, in view of that great salvation he was to effect, the Savior's humanity began to shrink. If we turn to the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, a passage written more than seven hundred years before the time of our Lord's agony, we find at once a comment on that agony and a key to its cause: "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all," or, more literally rendered, "The Lord hath made the iniquities of us all to meet or fall on him," or, more strictly still, "The Lord hath made the iniquities of us all to rush on him." In those words thus understood our sins are figuratively represented as beasts of prey, and Jesus is their Victim; or as cruel enemies, and Jesus is the Object on which their vengeance vents itself. Like bulls of Bashan, they beset him round. Like ravening and roaring lions, they gaped upon him with their mouths. Other adversaries, less powerful but more vexing, compassed him like dogs. It was as though fiercest foes of every kind and on every hand assailed him.
IV. THE SUPPLICATION AND THE STRENGTH THEREBY SECURED.
1. The meaning of this cup. No wonder he prayed, "Let this cup pass from me." The meaning of "cup" Isaiah (Isaiah 51:17) here is obviously suffering and sorrow—a bitter mixture to be drunk. Thus of his fur says, "O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out;" while in the seventy-fifth Psalm we read that "in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them." A similar figure is found in Homeric poetry ('Iliad,' 24.528)—
"Two urns by Jove's high throne have ever stood;
The source of evil one, and one of good.
From thence the cup of mortal man he fills;
Blessings to these, to those distributes ills.
To most he mingles both: the wretch decreed
To taste the bad unmix'd, is cursed indeed."
But while the figure itself is clear, the fact underlying it is not so clearly or easily understood.
2. The mixture in this cup. What elements mingled in this cup? What were the bitter ingredients in the mixture it contained? It was not, as already seen, the mere shrinking of our Lord's humanity from death, however painful and shameful, though we do not by any means exclude this element. Neither was it an apparition of the evil one in some form specially dreadful and terrible, as some have conjectured. There was something worse than all this—something more and bitterer still. There can be little doubt, though some seem to think otherwise, that the assaults of the Prince of darkness were peculiarly powerful at this juncture, and went to make up part of the bitterness of this cup. Of this we are not without some intimation from our Lord himself, for before entering Gethsemane he says, "The prince of this world cometh," and before leaving the scene of the agony he adds, This is your hour, and power of darkness." From all this, and from the circumstance already adverted to, that Satan had relinquished his attempt only until another and more suitable season arrived, we have reason to conclude that Satan was again at work during the agony, that he was renewing with redoubled energy his fiery darts, deterring from the work that was being done, and at the same time in every way depreciating its worth. The conflict foretold in the garden of Eden was to be fought out in Gethsemane; the heel of the Seed of the woman was to be bruised, and the head of the old serpent to be crushed. It was not strange, then, that the serpent should hiss most horridly, while his head was thus being crushed. It were strange indeed if, when the spoiler was to be spoiled, the captor deprived of his prey, and captivity led captive, Satan should not rouse himself to one fearful, final effort to retain at once his power and his prey. His temptation then mingled in and embittered the draught which the Savior was to drink and drain to its dregs. Whatever the nature of Satan's suggestion may have been, whether resistance to the Divine will, or refusal of the destined draught, or desertion of the post assigned, or something yet more shocking, it is needless to inquire. It is enough to know that when our Lord tasted the cup he turned aside, so exceeding bitter was that mixture; a dark cloud passed over the serene spirit of the Son of God; his inward vision was obscured; the Father's will became invested in mystery, and the cross in blackness.
3. Other ingredients in the cup. Another ingredient in that cup was the withdrawal of the Divine presence—the hiding of his heavenly Father's face. Sin shut man out of Paradise; sin excludes man from the favor of God. The Savior took our sin upon him; he became our Substitute; he acted as our Surety; he stood in our stead, and eventually offered himself a Sacrifice for us. He thus exposed himself to the temporary withdrawment of the light of the Divine countenance. Nor can anything be more trying or more painful to a child of God than the loss of the Divine fellowship for a season. When deprived of the sensible enjoyment of Divine communion, he is comfortless. It was thus with Job (23): "Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him." Similar is the complaint of the psalmist in the eighty-eighth psalm: "Lord, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me? I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have out me off." If a child of God, a sinner saved by grace, feel so acutely the hiding of God's countenance, how unspeakably more the sinless Son of God! This withdrawal of God's presence—favorable presence—is one element, perhaps a main element, in the misery of the world of woe, and forms no small part in the punishment of the lost. But this part of the Savior's distress had a positive as well as a negative side. Not only was there deprivation of the joys of Divine favor and fellowship, the overclouding of his heavenly Father's face; there was in all probability some actual infliction of chastisement, as may fairly be inferred from the strong language of the prophet, when he says, "It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief." But of all the bitter ingredients in the cup of the Savior's suffering, nothing would pain him more than the sense of our sins being laid upon him, that he might be made sin for us; and the sight of that accursed thing, so abhorrent to his pure nature, as the burden he was to bear; together with the consciousness of the close connection of sin and death and hell. It was then that sorrow arose on every side; sufferings, with concentrated bitterness, overwhelmed him. The hatefulness of sin, God's indignation against it, that loathsome load of human guilt he was to bear, the work he was to go through in order to remove it, the wrath of Heaven manifested against it,—all these ingredients mixed together in that bitter cup.
4. His supplication. It was then he prayed, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." Here we find, side by side with the deepest suffering, the meekest submission. The prayer is conditioned by possibilities. If justice can be satisfied, if redemption can be effected, if the government of God can be upheld, if, consistently with all this, sinners can be saved without such excess of sorrow, so let it be! The prayer was prayed three times. He went away and prayed; he kneeled down and prayed; he fell on his face or on the ground and prayed. Thus he offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears. His prayer was heard and answered, and yet the cup did not pass away. He was "heard in that he feared" ("for his godly fear," Revised Version); or, according to another rendering of the words, "he was heard, and delivered from the fear of death." Though the cup was not removed, the dread of death was thus taken away; at all events, strength was imparted.
5. The strength secured by his supplications. There appeared an angel unto him, strengthening him ;" literally, infusing strength (ἐνιχύων αὐτόν). The immediate consequence of this increased or renewed strength was more earnest and energized supplication: "He prayed more earnestly (ἐκτενέστερον)." Strictly sneaking, he continued praying (προσηύχετο), and that more intensely; the tense (imperfect) of the verb and the qualifying adverb imply prayer sustained and intensified. But intensely earnest as his supplication for the removal of the cup had been, it was equalled by the entire surrender of his own will to that of his heavenly Father. He had said, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (so St. Matthew); he had said, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" (so St. Luke); while here, according to the record of St. Mark, he says, "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt." And once more, as we read in the Gospel of St. Matthew, he said, "O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done." As though he had said,—I feel it may not be; I know I must drink it; and as I must I will Not as I will, but as thou wilt. Thy will be done.
6. His example. He was in all things an Example for us. We may pray, and with perfect propriety, for deliverance from danger, or disease, or difficulty, or distress of any kind. If the answer come directly and as desired, it is well; if not, succor of some sort will be brought us, strength suitable and grace sufficient will be given us; in either case, our duty is submission to a will that is wiser than our own, and a full surrender of ourselves into the hands of our heavenly Father, who, in disposing all things to his own glory, disposes them at the same time for our good. The address, as reported by St. Mark, repeats the word for "Father;" thus "Abba" is the Aramaic for "Father," and to it is added the Greek word of the same signification. It may be that
(1) St. Mark, as frequently, explains the vernacular Syriac of Palestine in our Lord's day by the equivalent Greek word; or
(2) the repetition may imply intensity of feeling and strong emotion, just as the thrice-prayed prayer imports intense earnestness of spirit; or
(3) it may be that by this conjunction of two terms, Oriental and Occidental—the one used by the Jew, the other by the Greek-our Lord meant to express his interest on behalf of both Jew and Greek. Further, it has been questioned whether the shrinking of our Lord's humanity on this occasion was in view of all the sufferings as a whole which, in the capacity of our Surety, he was to endure, or only of those apparently incidental and possibly unessential sufferings, occasioned, for example, by the treachery of one disciple, the denial by another, the desertion of them all, the Jewish trial and the Roman trial, the scourging, spitting, scoffing, and such like. We can hardly thus separate the essential from the unessential, the indispensable from the incidental, in our Lord's sufferings. As a man, he shrank from the wrath of God; but his ultimate submission to that sorest of all trials showed triumphantly his obedience to his heavenly Father's will. Thus, in order to save his people, his endurance was complete and his example perfect.
V. THE SLEEPINESS OF THE DISCIPLES AND THE SADNESS THAT CAUSED IT.
1. Object of the disciples' watching. The Savior had selected three disciples, as already seen, to be with him. No doubt one object, perhaps the primary object, in view was that they might be eye-witnesses of his agony, and bear testimony thereof to his Church. But another object, and one little if at all less in importance, was that they might be near him for sympathy and support. It was with this view, no doubt, he had said, "Tarry ye here, and watch with me." But even of this human succor he was deprived, forever as he came to them—once and again and a third time in the interval of prayer—he found them asleep; so Jesus was left alone in his agony.
2. Nature and cause of their sleepiness. And yet it was not a sleep of stupidity, or insensibility, or want of sympathy, in any sense. The cause was the very opposite. And here it is noteworthy that while the other evangelists record the fact, Luke, the beloved physician, alone assigns the cause. How characteristic of his profession! From his skill in physiology he here tells us that "he found them sleeping for sorrow; "just as afterwards, from his knowledge of psychology, he accounts for disbelief from joy where he says, "While they yet believed not for joy." And so it was from very sorrow that they slept. It is not an unusual experience that sorrow acts the part of a narcotic, and sadness causes sleep; thus the psalmist says, "Reproach hath broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness." And a merciful arrangement it is that men under such circumstances can sleep for a season and forget their sorrows.
3. Different explanations. The words which Jesus addresses to his drowsy disciples have been variously understood. Some take them
(1) interrogatively,—Do ye sleep now and take your rest? This seems favored by the parallel in St. Luke, "Why sleep ye?" As though he said,—Is it a time for indifference or indulgence of this sort? Is a time of present distress and approaching danger a suitable season for sleep? Others take them
(2) as a sort of sorrowful irony, as if he said,—Sleep on now if ye can, and if that be possible, in such perilous circumstances. But
(3) many prefer taking them as a permission slightly tempered with reproof, viz.,—Sleep for the interval that remains. I can now calmly watch and wait alone; the season of needful sympathy is past. He thus implies, moreover, according to Chrysostom, that he has no need of their help, and that he must by all means be betrayed. We may suppose that between this and the following verse some interval of time elapsed, and that then Judas and the band approached when Jesus roused the disciples with the words, "Rise, let us be going." The whole is thus, no doubt, perfectly consistent and clearly intelligible. Intermediately, however, occurs another difficult expression, ἀπέχει, which in the active voice refers sometimes to local distance, and sometimes signifies to have back, or get again, or receive in full, and so to be satisfied. According to the first signification, the word is here rendered by some personally and with reference to Judas—
(a) he is far off, or
(b) in relation to the crisis of the agony—it is past; while
(c) the great majority of interpreters, in accordance with the second meaning of the word, translate it impersonally-it is sufficient, or enough.
Thus understood, if taken in close connection with what precedes, the sense is,—Sleep on now and take your rest: it is enough; your watching is no longer required; but, if connected with what succeeds, it signifies,—It is enough: you have had sufficient sleep; the hour is come. By combining (3) and (c) we get what on the whole is most in agreement with both text and context; that is to say,—Sleep during the rest of the interval that may be allowed you, and take your rest; I require you to watch no longer. Then, after the lapse of a short interval, or even as an after-thought occasioned by the sight or sound of the enemy's approach, he checks himself in the additional words, "The hour is come … rise up, let us go."
VI. THE CHIEF OBJECT OF THE AGONY.
1. Preparation. One great object of the agony was, as we conceive, preparation for the final, fearful struggle near at hand. The Savior was to brace himself for the conflict. Hence the difference between the agony and crucifixion was this: The agony was, if we may so say, the prelude, the crucifixion the performance; the one was—with reverence be it spoken—the rehearsal, the other the reality; the one was the anticipation, the other the accomplishment; the one was the will, the other the work. The language of the one is,—I am willing—I am going to suffer, and so put an end to sin; that of the other is,—I have already and actually suffered, and so put away sin forever. The grand issue of Gethsemane was preparedness for future and final suffering, and, if put in words, it would be,—I am ready, and in no way reluctant to suffer; while from Calvary proceeds a shout of triumph over suffering endured to the uttermost and attainment of finality as expressed in the words, "It is finished." In the agony we see the sinless human nature of our Lord shuddering in sight of sin, and on the brink of fearful suffering because of sin, though not his own; in the crucifixion we see the same nature sustaining the load of human sin, and succumbing under the consequent suffering and sorrow, yet victorious even when vanquished, and conquering by being slain. The agony was a forecasting of the final struggle; it was going overall beforehand—going over all in mind, in spirit, and in body too; the crucifixion was the successful realization of the same. Once the agony was over, the bitterness of death was to some extent past.
2. The loneliness of our Lord in his sufferings. In all this the Savior was alone—as much alone in the garden as on the cross, in his agony as in his crucifixion. Sleep on now, he said; you have let the opportunity of sympathizing with and sustaining me pass by. Such, at least, is one not unnatural interpretation of the words. Miserable comforters ye have been, yet I blame you not; the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. Sleep on now—it matters not; for the struggle is over, and over without your cooperation; of the people there was none with me. I have trodden the winepress alone, from first to last. They had been saddened by the prospect of losing their Lord and Master, by his pathetic discourses, by his touching intercession, and by his present supplication, and in consequence they slept.
3. Summary. In summing up the lessons to be learnt from this subject, we are taught
(1) the terrible nature and fearful evil of sin. It was the cause of our Lord's agony—of the intense struggle, the overwhelming sorrow, the bloody sweat. The three chief ingredients in that bitter cup were, first, the unspeakable and indescribable load of human guilt; for though guilt in its moral demerit is not transferable, yet in liability to punishment it is. On the Lamb of God was laid the sin of the world, and he took it away; on our great High Priest were laid the iniquities of us all; the pressure of our transgressions rested on his head, as the sins of Israel on the head of the scapegoat. But another element entering into the cause of his agony was the temptation of Satan. The hour of darkness had come, the powers of darkness were doing their worst, the hosts of darkness rushed to the conflict. What fiendish power they exerted, what fiery trial they occasioned, what foul temptations they suggested, what fearful struggle they engaged in, we cannot even conjecture. A third element, and the worst of all probably, was the hiding of his heavenly Father's face; it commenced in the agony, continued during the crucifixion, and culminated in those words of awful import, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" But
(2) the next great lesson is connected with prayer. And here we find several important particulars suggested by the prayer of our Lord in his agony—the matter of prayer, the manner of it, the posture in it, the spirit of it, the intensity of it, and the success of it. From the matter of the Savior's prayer we learn the allowableness of supplicating relief from circumstances of distress or disaster, as far as is consistent with God's will and expedient for us. The manner sanctions not vain repetition, but only such repetition as great earnestness frequently employs. The posture was kneeling, then prostration even on the cold and clammy ground. The spirit was that of perfect submission to the Divine will, with devout and holy resignation to his Father in heaven: "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me." The intensity included increasing earnestness; it was the outpouring of the heart with continued importunity and augmented fervor. The success consisted not in the removal of the cup but of the fear, and in communicated strength and encouragement fortifying for the coming ordeal. Again,
(3) there is an affecting contrast. While all within was storm, all without was calm. Nature all around was tranquil; the moon was shedding her mild radiance over the top of Olivet, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the valley of the Kidron; no wind was blowing, no leaf was stirring, and no ripple moving. All was hushed in silent awe and wrapt in profound astonishment at the bloody baptism with which Jesus was baptized that night.—J.J.G.
Parallel passages: Matthew 26:57-75; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:13-27—
The denial by Peter.
I. THE CAUSES THAT LED TO PETER'S SIN
1.—The first cause of Peter's sin. The first cause, as we may infer from this very chapter, was self-confidence. Our Lord foretold the smiting of the Shepherd, as predicted long before in ancient prophecy—of himself the good Shepherd, appropriating the title; and along with the smiting of the Shepherd, he foretold, as a consequence, the scattering of the sheep. Peter, yielding to the impulses of his own ardent and impetuous nature, repudiated the notion of desertion thus implied. He did so in a manner that involved an invidious comparison of himself with others, and an overweening opinion of his own strength of will and purpose of fidelity. "Although" (καὶ ει), equivalent to "even if," viz. a supposed case not likely to exist; εἰ καὶ read by Tregelles, equivalent to "although," viz. a case really existing) "all shall be offended, yet will not I," were his somewhat boastful or egotistical words. The smiting of the Shepherd may be a stumbling-block to others—to all of them, but not to me; the others may fall ever it, yet will not I; the rest may act the cowardly, unmanly part indicated, breaking and scattering like feeble sheep soon as the wolf is seen to approach, but not I. I will prove myself the rock-man, and stand my ground in face of all danger, and in spite of all enemies. Thus Peter exalted himself at the expense of others; he also presumed too much on his own strength, and took too much credit for his own courage. Peter possessed physical courage, we have good reason to believe, but he lacked moral courage; nor do these two qualities always go hand in hand. There may be great physical courage with but little moral courage, and much moral courage where physical courage is defective. Peter was courageous enough—or rash enough, some might be disposed to say—to cut off the ear of a manservant of the high priest; but he was cowardly enough to quail before the glance of one of the maids of the high priest, tie had physical courage enough to do the deed of violence, but not moral courage enough to tell the truth to an inquisitive, intermeddling, though perhaps light-hearted, thoughtless girl. If we contrast the conduct and character of two comrade apostles, John and Peter, we shall find a confirmation of our view. As compared with Peter, John had less physical courage, for on a subsequent occasion, as we read, "Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulcher. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulcher.… Yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulcher." This is a very interesting and instructive statement. They both ran, in their eagerness and expectancy, to the rifled sepulcher; but John, being the younger and therefore swifter man, outran Peter, and reached the sepulcher before him. But there he paused; he had not the physical courage to enter that gloomy abode; a sudden awe arrested him. At length Peter came up, and as soon as he arrived at the place, without fear, or dread, or hesitancy, without stop, or stay, or a moment's pause, he dashed in. "Then went in also that other disciple which came first to the sepulcher." On this occasion Peter proved himself the physically bold, courageous man; while John, though younger and stronger probably, was the physically timid and hesitating. The scene shifts to the palace of the high priest; and these two apostolic men change places. John is now the bold, courageous man—morally so, for he "went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest; but Peter stood at the door without." John was known to the high priest, and known to him as a disciple of Jesus, and yet he went boldly into the palace, neither ashamed nor afraid to acknowledge his discipleship. Not only so, he spoke to the portress, and got Peter admitted. But now came Peter's turn and time of weakness. Though John, a man of much less physical courage, had gone in boldly, and then gained admission for his companion, yet Peter, with far less moral courage, is frightened into sinful denial of his discipleship in the first instance by the brusque boldness of a somewhat pert maid. And yet, notwithstanding all this, a certain cause, or at least somewhat of an excuse, may be found for Peter's moral cowardice, as com- pared with the moral courage of John at this juncture. Peter was conscious of a crime with which John had no complicity or connection—a crime that might shape itself into a constructive charge of an attempt at rescue. He had cut off the ear of Malchus, and so he may have dreaded the consequence of that act, or the more serious charge of interfering with the officers in the discharge of their appointed duty, in order to prevent the capture of his Master. These considerations may have increased the apprehensions of Peter, and added to the supposed danger of his position. The fact of discipleship of itself did not involve peril of any kind, and so John breathed more freely and moved about at large in the palace of the high priest without dread of danger.
2. A second cause leading to Peter's sin. A second cause leading to Peter's sin was unwatchfulness and neglect of prayer. When our Lord, in the Garden of Gethsemane, found the three disciples sleeping, he addressed himself specially to Peter, with the words, "Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?" and then he spake words of warning to all: "Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation." A curious incident, in a certain respect the converse of this, though generally over- looked, deserves well, we think, to be noticed in this connection. In the warning just referred to, our Lord passed from the particular to the general, from the singular to the plural—from Simon to the associated apostles. In the warning recorded by St. Luke (Luke 22:31, Luke 22:32), and which introduces the passage of that Gospel parallel to Mar 14:1-72 : 37, Mark 14:38, of the Gospel before us, our Lord passes in reverse order from the plural to the singular—from the whole of the apostles to Peter; thus: "The Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked or ['demanded'] to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not," where it is remarkable that Satan's demand comprehended all the apostles—the rest as well as Peter, as seems clearly implied in the plural ὑμᾶς, while our Lord's supplication embraced him in particular, as must be inferred from the singular σοῦ. Just as Satan had demanded all the apostles, including Peter, so our Lord prayed for all the apostles, but for Peter in particular. It was not without reason that our Lord thus individualized in his supplication for Peter, for he it was that stood in greatest peril. The most confident of them all was the most imperilled of them all. Some, like Judas, were soon to be blown away, or had already been blown away, as chaff, and had been separated from the good grain; but the word "wheat" applied to the remainder had in it both comfort and encouragement, while the Savior's great intercessory prayer was a guarantee of safety. The fact, moreover, that he prayed for Peter specially and individually, affords strong consolation to all the children of God in every age and clime. Not one of all is forgotten by him who ever lives to intercede; not one of all is forsaken by the all-prevailing Intercessor. No doubt some may be disposed to object, and say that after all, and notwithstanding all, Peter fell How is this reconcilable with the prevalence of the Savior's prayer? He fell, but he rose again; he fell, and fell far but did not fall away; he fell sadly for a time, but he did not fall finally and for ever. And this is the very thing implied in the form of the word rendered "fail;" for it is not the simple verb, but ἐκλείπῃ, or, according to the critical editors, ἐκλίπῃ, which signifies to fail out and out, utterly, or finally. Thus this utter and final failure was exactly the thing prevented by the Savior's intercession. But, reverting to Peter's want of watchfulness, we can find no hint nor indication of any kind in all this chapter, or in the parallel sections of the other Gospels, that would lead us to believe that Peter paid proper, or indeed any, attention to the warning of our Lord. We search in vain for proof that he watched against going into the place of temptation, or that he watched against the company where he might expect to be assailed with temptation. There is no evidence whatever that he either watched against the approach of temptation, or that he prayed for grace to resist the tempter or strength to overcome his temptations. He seems, in fact, to have had no idea whatever of the danger that was drawing near him so stealthily and so suddenly, and no suspicion of the snares which Satan was so subtly drawing round him; neither does he seem to have used the means which his Master had urged on him as necessary for safety and defense. He appears to have let the warning entirely slip, or for a time to have let it sink into oblivion. Accordingly, we find that, when years afterwards he called to mind his fearful neglect and its well-nigh fatal consequences, he addresses to others a most solemn warning, in words that echo his own mistakes, and the means he should have taken to avoid it; for in his First Epistle (1 Peter 5:8) he writes, "Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."
3. A third cause of Peter's sin. A third cause of Peter's sin was his following Christ afar off. This, of course, refers literally to the fact that Peter followed our Lord at a distance, keeping considerably aloof. He followed him, but at a long interval between; he followed him, but not close or near at hand. Instead of walking side by side, or close behind him, he kept away and afar off. It was, doubtless, the fear of man that kept Peter at this distance; it was the fear of man that thus unnerved him; it was the fear of man that prevented him coming immediately after his Master, as he should have done. He wished to be near his Master, but his heart failed him. He wished, we are sure, to be with his Master, but he lacked moral courage to share the reproach of Jesus of Galilee. It was not the personal risk so much as the ridicule he shrank from. This physical distance was a sign of moral distance, and a symbol of the condition of others as well as Peter, when they follow Christ afar off. Peter's duty was to have been at his Lord's side, or close behind him, or in some way near at hand. So with ourselves. Instead of following Christ afar off, we are bound by privilege as well as duty to follow him closely; instead of following him afar off, we must follow him faithfully; instead of following him fitfully, we are to follow him fully; instead of following him sneakingly, we are to follow him fearlessly; instead of following him by constraint, we are to follow him freely and of a ready mind; instead of following him for a short space of time, we are to follow him all our life, and so always. From Peter's disastrous fall and foul denial of his Master, we learn the important lesson of following Christ freely, fully, fearlessly, faithfully, and forever. Distance from Christ is real danger, nearness to him is true safety. Distance from the Sun of Righteousness is coldness, darkness, and spiritual death; nearness to him is love, light, and life. In Canticles the question is asked, "Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?" If this refer to the Church, as we are of opinion it does, it is a picture of her true attitude. The world is the wilderness through which the Christian is passing, and from which he is ascending to a better and promised land; while it is on the arm of Christ that he leans. Thus leaning on Christ, looking to Christ, and living by the faith of Christ, we journey safely from the wilderness of earth to the promised land of heaven. Away from his presence, away from his power, we are every moment in greatest peril; away from the range of his protection and the guidance of his providence, we expose ourselves to the temptations of the evil one, and speedily become his easy prey.
4. The fourth cause of Peter's sin. The fourth cause of Peter's sin was bad company. "He sat," we read, "with the servants" of the high priest, "and warmed himself at the fire." What was this but going into the company of his Master's enemies? This was mixing, and without necessity, with the enemies of the Savior. He thus went with his eyes open into the place of peril, among the attendants of the high priest and the adversaries of his Lord and Master. Here there is every reason to believe he would hear little good of any kind spoken; while he would be sure to hear his Master's name vilified, his character slandered, and his cause reproached. In all this contempt and reproach there is too much cause to believe Peter must for the time have concurred. Possibly he not only agreed with them, but acted as they did, the better to conceal his real connection with Christ. It is shocking even for a moment to suppose that Peter was so weak and so wicked, during the short space he consorted with such company, as to join them in reviling his Master. Suspecting him, as they did, of being Christ's disciple, and finding him thus readily uniting with them in heaping scorn upon his Master, what must they have thought of that Master? What estimate could they form of either disciple or Teacher? Must they not have concluded that Christ's discipleship was neither happy nor honorable? Must they not have inferred, and inferred with reason, that the disciple of such a Master was knave, or fool, or villain? When, on the other hand, we consider what Peter should have done and what he might have done at the time of his Master's difficulty and danger, we almost blush for the name of disciple so degraded and disgraced! Had he been true to his confession of the Christ, had he been staunch in his adherence to his Master, he would either have kept out of the company which he knew consisted of his Master's bitter enemies, or, if he found it necessary to stand by or sit among them, he would have defended him at whatever risk.
II. THE AGGRAVATIONS OF PETER'S SIN.
1. Ingratitude. Peter had been on the most familiar terms with his Master, and had been highly favored by him. Of the chosen, he was one of the choicest; of the elected, he was one of the elite. With James and John he shared the Savior's closest intimacy. Like them, he was with him on the Mount of Transfiguration, and was privileged to witness that wondrous scene and see that glorious sight. Like them, he was admitted to the solemnities of the death-chamber, and was present at the restoration to life of the daughter of Jairus. Like them, he had been invited to accompany his Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane, and to watch with him during the agony and bloody sweat. Still more, our Lord had commended his good confession of the Christ the Son of God, and traced it to heavenly revelation; he had bestowed on him the honorable surname of "Rock-man," in acknowledgment of his firmness and the foundation he should help to lay; besides, he had promised him a high position and also distinguished privileges in his kingdom. Peter had walked to him on the water, and been kept from sinking by his Master's hand. Yet now, for all these special marks of friendship and favor that had been lavished on him, he shows himself utterly and basely ungrateful. He turned his back on his best and kindest Friend, denying all knowledge of him. Now, when a return of friendship was most needed, he not only failed to act the part of a friend in need, and reciprocate the kindness he had received, but actually consorted with his bitterest enemies.
2. Falsehood. When our Lord stood in most need of sympathy, Peter, as we have seen, stood aloof or ranged himself on the side of his enemies. When he might have given valuable testimony in favor of his Master, silence sealed his lips, and he refused to acknowledge him. Nor was this all; he falsified to the most fearful extent and in the foulest manner. He denied all or any knowledge of Jesus; he repeated the denial in the most positive way; he backed his repeated falsehood with an oath. When challenged the third time, he "began to curse and swear, saying, I know not the man." Surely one falsehood of the kind indicated would have been bad enough and wicked enough, but its repetition once, again, a third time, greatly aggravated the sin and augmented Peter's guilt. The violence of language which was prompted by, and which gave expression to, his virulence of feeling is difficult to account for. There was fear of detection and imagined danger, but there must have been rage as well, to explain his violent and passionate language. Several of the bystanders recognize him; a kinsman of Malchus is there who had seen him in the garden; his Galilean dialect bewrays him; accusations crowd upon him; proofs multiply against him. Peter gets irritated, and completely loses his temper and self-control. At the supposed discrepancy, or at least difficulty, in Peter's denial of his Master we can only glance. The place of the first denial was by the fire in the high priest's hall, or quadrangular court under the open air (αὐλή), while that of the third is not specified. The place of the second was in the προαύλιον according to St. Mark, and the πυλῶνα according to St. Matthew; while St. John tells us that he was standing and warming himself. Now, the fire was in the open court (αὐλή), the passage from this to the street was προαύλιον, and the portal or entrance door of this passage was πυλών. He had removed to a short distance from the fire, but not so far as to lose the influence of its heat or warmth. With respect to the persons, the first question that called forth his denial was put by the portress. On the occasion of the second denial the same maid addressed the bystanders, who echoed her words, so that several persons (male ἕτερος) and (female ἄλλη) another maid different from the portress—all (εἶπον, plural) assailed Peter with their inconvenient and unwelcome questions. In replying to or repelling these, Peter kept denying (ἠρνεῖτο, imperfect). At the third denial more of the bystanders, with some other different person (ἄλλος τις of St. Luke) as ringleader, drew attention to his being a Galilean; while the relative of Malchus confirmed this by alleging that he had seen him in the garden. There is thus neither real difficulty nor discrepancy of any kind.
3. Profanity and perjury. By this time Peter is excited and enraged. Goaded to madness, he breaks out into language of shocking profaneness. The falsehood already repeated he backs by an imprecation. He also swears the lie, invoking the name of Jehovah and calling the omniscient One to witness his reiterated untruth, and thus lays foul perjury on his soul. He began, we read, to anathematize, that is to say, he used a formula of imprecation such as "God do so to me and more also," thus cursing himself if what he said was untrue; but, besides this, he employed the customary formula of an oath, invoking God as witness of his words, false as he knew them to be. Naturally impetuous and passionate, and in youth, or before his discipleship, perhaps addicted to profane swearing, he relapsed into his old sin in order to corroborate his statements and to force credence on the incredulous. One sin leads to another; one lie especially needs another to support it. The bystanders must have known little of Jesus' character and teaching, or Peter's profanity of itself would have convinced them that he knew not that Teacher—nothing, at least, of his spirit and doctrine. Could it be possible that Peter, in the madness of his rage and fear, meant by his profanity to leave this impression on his questioners, and that there was thus a method in his madness? At all events, he spoke as one who was a stranger to the fear of God and the ordinary dictates of religion, not to speak of discipleship to a Teacher who said, "Swear not at all … but let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay."
4. Other aggravating circumstances. There were several other circumstances of aggravation which we can only indicate, and may not dwell on, among them the following:—The faithful and frequent warnings he had received, and had received so recently; his own vehement protestations of loyalty and fidelity to his Master—that if all others should be offended he would not, that if be should die with him he would not deny him in any wise. There were also other considerations connected with the denial that greatly added to the sin: there were the circumstances and time—our Lord being now deserted, delivered into the hands of cruel enemies, and dragged before inexorable judges; there were the persons to whom the denial was addressed, namely, servants and other humble officials, with little influence and less power, not magistrates or functionaries invested with authority; there were the flagrant breaches of Peter's own positive and repeated promises. All are forgotten or falsified! Alas, what is man! At the strongest but weakness, and at the best but imperfection!
III. PETER'S REPENTANCE.
1. Extenuating circumstances. We may just notice, very briefly, in connection with Peter's repentance, certain extenuations of his sin. His sin, largely the outcome of his own impulsive nature, came on him with the suddenness and strength of an unexpected impulse. There had been no premeditation, no deliberate plan, and no deceitful design, as in the case of Judas. His plans and purposes had all been of the very opposite character; his determination and resolutions had all tended in the very contrary direction. He did not remain in his sin, nor ever afterwards repeat it. The sin was exceeding great and the guilt enormous, but it would have been still more so had he continued it, or persevered in it, or subsequently returned to it. Satan took him by surprise, as though asleep or off his guard; but once roused from the lethargy into which he had fallen, or brought back to the post which he had abandoned, he never again wandered from the path of duty or sank in sin.
2. How he was recalled to duty. Two circumstances were the means externally, or the occasions of reminding Peter of his sin and recalling him to duty. But, while all the evangelists record Peter's sin, St. Mark alone records the second crowing of the cock, which was one of the two circumstances referred to; and St. Luke alone records our Lord's look at Peter, saying, "And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter." The first crowing of the cock had passed unheeded. St. Mark, who gives us such an exact transcript of Peter's fall and feelings, probably from Peter's own lips, informs us that it was not till the second or regular morning cockcrow that Peter was brought to the recollection of his Lord's warning and his own sin. It was then he awoke as from a troubled dream or terrible nightmare; while much about the same time our Lord, either from the open front of the chamber in which the trial bad been proceeding, or as he passed across the courtyard from the apartments of Annas to the palace of Caiaphas, turned towards Peter and looked him into repentance.
3. His repentance. The same evidence of repentance is found in the words, "He went out, and wept bitterly" (ἔκλαιε, he continued weeping aloud; not ἐδάκρυε, he shed tears). The participle (ἐπιβαλὼν) attached to this verb is variously rendered. The most usual and probable meaning assigned to it is that of our version," When he thought thereon," that is, cast (his mind) on it. Some explain it, "He began to weep," as in the margin of the Revised Version, as well as of the Authorized Version; others, "He flung his mantle over his head;" others, again, "He flung himself forth [i.e. on the ground] and wept." Further, it is understood by others in the sense of abundantly, that is, "He wept abundantly," also in the margin of Authorized Version; while a more interesting explanation, if well founded, is, "He cast his eyes on him and wept," as if Peter reciprocated his Lord's look, and consequent compunction of soul vented itself, not in a transient outburst, but in a long-continued, copious flood of tears. Thus, while the Evangelist Luke records the look of Christ Peter, the Evangelist Mark, if this rendering be at all tenable, records the corresponding look of Peter on Christ; so that, when eye met eye, Peter was overpowered by strong emotion, and gave way to his deep grief by bitter (πικρῶς, St. Matthew and St. Luke) weeping.
4. Real repentance distinguished from remorse. It is very important to distinguish true repentance from mere regret or remorse; while a contrast of the ease of Peter with that of Judas will materially help us to see and clearly comprehend the difference. Certain elements are common to both, and these we must eliminate before we can rightly distinguish them. On the part of Judas there was sorrow of the intensest kind—remorse of the most distressing nature; there was the fullest and most ingenuously candid confession; there was also the strongest possible desire to make any and all the reparation that was possible. All these elements are found in true repentance; but as they are found also in the remorse of Judas, they are common alike to genuine repentance and mere remorse. The first material point of difference is that the sorrow of the true penitent is caused by the sight of sin in itself, apart altogether from its consequences; the sorrow of remorse is occasioned chiefly, if not entirely, by those consequences. Judas did rot foresee the terrible consequences of his sin; he little dreamt, perhaps, that it would lead to Jesus being evil entreated, condemned, and crucified. When he pocketed the reward of iniquity, he felt satisfied with the bargain and sure that the Master would find some way of escape. Had this been the case; had no ill consequences resulted from his treachery; had nothing beyond the arrest of Jesus taken place, and no worse results followed;—Judas, there is reason to believe, would have felt neither sorrow nor shame at what he had done; nay, he would have had a feeling of satisfaction rather than a sense of sin. He would scarcely have shrunk from the society of the apostles; he would have been able to find some pretext or frame some excuse for all that had happened. But the consequences of his treachery—the terrible consequences—made all the difference. Greedy as Judas was, and mean as he was, and treacherous as he was, he was by no means a cruel man or a man of blood. When, however, contrary to his expectation, the most appalling consequences were certain to ensue; when a judicial murder and a cruel death awaited the Master whom he had betrayed; then Judas for the first time saw his sin in its consequences, and was overwhelmed with the sight. It was quite different with Peter. His sin, heinous as it was, did not produce any such fearful effects as the sin of Judas. His denial of his Master did not lead to his apprehension; it had nothing to do with his condemnation; it did not cause his death. Peter saw it not in any such consequences, but in its own baseness and sinfulness. He saw the iniquity of his sin as committed against his loving Lord, as a sin against truth and righteousness, as a sin against goodness and justice, as a sin by which he wronged conscience and hurt his own soul. The sight filled his heart with sorrow and shame, while his eyes brimmed over again and again with salt and bitter tears. The next point of difference is that the true penitent seeks mercy, but the subject of remorse sinks in despair. Of this also we have a striking illustration in Judas and Peter respectively. The former confessed his guilt, acknowledged the innocence of his Master and the injury he had done him; not only so, in self-abhorrence and loathing he flung back the price of blood. But all this sorrow and remorse fell short of repentance; true penitence was as far off as ever. He had no heart to pray; no heart to seek God's face and favor free; no heart to sue for mercy. His heart was hardened, not softened, by sin; the blackness of despair enveloped him; blank ruin stared him in the face. Not so Peter: he sorrowed, but after a godly sort; instead of giving himself up to despair, he sought mercy. He was humbled, not hardened; the tears he shed washed his eyes, and his spiritual vision became clearer; he saw the blackness of his sin, but he saw also the benignity of the Savior. That look of his Master had pierced his heart with a feeling of his guilt, but brought withal a sense of Divine grace; he was fully alive to the misery of sin, as also to the mercy of the Savior. After the terrible storm which had swept across the horizon of his soul, the rainbow of hope remained upon the cloud, reflecting the sunshine of heaven on the tears of sorrow shed by the penitent. He saw his iniquity to be very great, yet he sued for pardon. He looked not away from, but to, the Savior whose heart his sin had pierced, and mourned in bitterness.
IV. PRACTICAL LESSONS.
1. A picture. Our Lord and his apostles are often seen grouped together in a picture; the Gospels exhibit a moral picture of the group. this picture there is much dark shading; but this dark shading helps to bring out more clearly the bright and brilliant colors of the picture and to enhance its beauty. If there were no dark shading in it, it would represent angelic life in heaven rather than human life on earth; in that case, the very perfection of the figures would diminish its fitness for our warning or comfort.
2. Good educed from evil. Peter, when restored (ἐπιστρέψας), was better fitted to help others. His own weakness became by grace a source of strength to others. When he had turned again, and been restored (as those referred to in ἐπεστράφητε, 1 Peter 2:25) to the Shepherd and Bishop of souls, he was better able from his own experience to keep other sheep from straying, or restore them from their wanderings.
3. A lesson never forgotten. The circumstances connected with Peter's sin were so engraven on the tablet of his memory as never to be forgotten, as is evident from several passages of his Epistles and his speech as recorded in Acts. When he would warn men against one of those mistakes which caused his sin, he says (1 Peter 5:8), "Be vigilant," or "watchful" (Revised Version). When he charged the Jews with the foulest crime, he expresses that charge in words that echo his own dark deed: "Ye denied the Holy One and the Just;" "Ye denied him in the presence of Pilate," as we read in Peter's speech (Acts 3:13, Acts 3:14). When he pictured the highest state of spiritual prosperity, he describes it as freedom from falling: "If ye do these things, ye shall never fall" (2 Peter 1:10). His most solemn warning is, "Beware lest ye also … fall from your own steadfastness" (2 Peter 3:17). The change that was effected in Peter after the descent of the Holy Spirit is wonderful, for in the early part of Acts we find him possessed of moral courage equal to his natural physical courage, and on all occasions acting a bold, manly, and courageous as well as prominent part. Whatever grace we need, we are thus encouraged to seek the Spirit to supply.
V. THE OMITTED PORTIONS OF THIS CHAPTER.
1. For section verses 51, 52, peculiar to St. Mark, see Introduction.
2. For section verses 55-65, containing the account in part of the Jewish trial, see beginning of next chapter, where that trial is concluded.—J.J.G.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Mark 14". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent