Christ predicts his being betrayed and crucified, Matthew 26:1, Matthew 26:2. The chief priests, scribes, and elders consult about his death, Matthew 26:3-5. A woman anoints his head at Bethany, at which the disciples are offended, but Christ vindicates her conduct, Matthew 26:6-13. Judas, for thirty pieces of silver, engages with the chief priests to betray him, Matthew 26:14-16. He eats a passover with his disciples, and assures them of his approaching death, and that one of them would betray him, Matthew 26:17-21. On each asking, Is it I? Christ asserts that Judas is the traitor, Matthew 26:22-25. Having eaten his last supper, he institutes the eucharist, to be observed in his Church as a memorial of his sacrificial death, Matthew 26:26-29. They sing a hymn, go to the mount of Olives, and he again announces his approaching death and resurrection, Matthew 26:30-32. Peter asserts his resolution to be faithful to his Master, and Christ foretells his denial and apostasy, Matthew 26:33-35. He goes to Gethsemane; the transactions there, Matthew 26:36-46. Judas comes with the high priest's mob and betrays him with a kiss, Matthew 26:47-50. Peter cuts off the ear of the high priest's servant; Christ discourses with the multitude, Matthew 26:51-55. The disciples flee, and he is led to Caiaphas, Matthew 26:56, Matthew 26:57. Peter follows at a distance, Matthew 26:58. They seek false witnesses, and question our Lord, who declares himself to be the Christ, Matthew 26:59-64. They accuse him of blasphemy, and abuse him, Matthew 26:65-68. Peter's denial and repentance, Matthew 26:69-75.
And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,When Jesus had finished all these sayings - He began these sayings on Mount Olivet, Matthew 24:1, and continued them till be entered into Bethany, whither he was going.
Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.The passover - A feast instituted in Egypt, to commemorate the destroying angel's passing over the houses of the Israelites, when he slew the firstborn of the Egyptians. See the whole of this business largely explained in the Notes on Exodus 12:1-27 (note). This feast began on the fourteenth day of the first moon, in the first month, Nisan, and it lasted only one day; but it was immediately followed by the days of unleavened bread, which were seven, so that the whole lasted eight days, and all the eight days are sometimes called the feast of the passover, and sometimes the feast or days of unleavened bread. See Luke 22:1-7. The three most signal benefits vouchsafed to the Israelites were,
1. The deliverance from the slavery of Egypt; to commemorate which they kept the feast of unleavened bread, and the passover.
2. The giving of the law; to commemorate which, they kept the feast of weeks.
3. Their sojourning in the wilderness, and entrance into the promised land; to commemorate which, they kept the feast of tabernacles.
The Son of man is betrayed, (rather delivered up), to be crucified - With what amazing calmness and precision does our blessed Lord speak of this awful event! What a proof does he here give of his prescience in so correctly predicting it; and of his love in so cheerfully undergoing it! Having instructed his disciples and the Jews by his discourses, edified them by his example, convinced them by his miracles, he now prepares to redeem them by his blood! These two verses have no proper connection with this chapter, and should be joined to the preceding.
Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,Then assembled together the chief priests - That is, during the two days that preceded the passover.
The high priest, who was called Caiaphas - Caiaphas succeeded Simon, son of Camith, about a.d. 16, or, as Calmet thinks, 25. He married the daughter of Annas, who was joined with him in the priesthood. About two years after our Lord's crucifixion, Caiaphas and Pilate were both deposed by Vitellius, then governor of Syria, and afterwards emperor. Caiaphas, unable to bear this disgrace, and the stings of his conscience for the murder of Christ, killed himself about a.d. 35. See Joseph. Ant. b. xviii. c. 2-4.
And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him.And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty - The providence of God frustrated their artful machinations; and that event which they wished to conduct with the greatest privacy and silence was transacted with all possible celebrity, amidst the thousands who resorted to Jerusalem, at this season, for the keeping of the passover. It was, doubtless, of the very first importance that the crucifixion of Christ, which was preparatory to the most essential achievement of Christianity, viz. his resurrection from the grave, should be exhibited before many witnesses, and in the most open manner, that infidelity might not attempt, in future, to invalidate the evidences of the Christian religion, by alleging that these things were done in a corner. See Wakefield in loco.
But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar - It was usual for the Jews to punish criminals at the public festivals; but in this case they were afraid of an insurrection, as our Lord had become very popular. The providence of God directed it thus, for the reason given in the preceding note.
He who observes a festival on motives purely human violates it in his heart, and is a hypocrite before God. It is likely they feared the Galileans, as being the countrymen of our Lord, more than they feared the people of Jerusalem.
Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,In Bethany - For a solution of the difficulties in this verse, about the time of the anointing, see the observations at the end of this chapter.
Simon the Leper - This was probably no more than a surname, as Simon the Canaanite, Matthew 10:4, and Barsabas Justus, Acts 1:23, and several others. Yet it might have been some person that Christ had healed of this disease. See Matthew 11:5.
There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.There came unto him a woman - There is much contention among commentators about the transaction mentioned here, and in John 12:3; some supposing them to be different, others to be the same. Bishop Newcome's view of the subject I have placed at the end of the chapter.
Some think that the woman mentioned here was Mary, the sister of Lazarus; others Mary Magdalene; but against the former opinion it is argued that it is not likely, had this been Mary the sister of Lazarus, that Matthew and Mark would have suppressed her name. Besides, say they, we should not confound the repast which is mentioned here, with that mentioned by John, John 12:3. This one was made only two days before the passover, and that one six days before: the one was made at the house of Simon the leper, the other at the house of Lazarus, John 12:1, John 12:2. At this, the woman poured the oil on the head of Christ; at the other, Mary anointed Christ's feet with it. See on Mark 14:3 (note), and see the notes at the end of this chapter, (Bishop Newcome's Account of the Anointing).
But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?His disciples - One of them, viz. Judas. This mode of speaking was common among the Hebrews. So, Matthew 27:44, the thieves also, i.e. one of them. So, Matthew 28:17, some doubted, i.e. one, Thomas. See also Genesis 8:4; Judges 12:7; Nehemiah 6:7, etc. By a figure called among rhetoricians enallag, the plural is put for the singular; it is, however, possible that Judas, who made the objection, was followed in the sentiment by the rest of the disciples.
For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.And given to the poor - How often does charity serve as a cloak for covetousness! God is sometimes robbed of his right under the pretense of devoting what is withheld to some charitable purpose, to which there was no intention ever to give it.
When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.Why trouble ye the woman? - Or, Why do ye put the woman to pain? See this sense of κοπους παρεχειν, established by Kypke in loco. A generous mind is ever pained when it is denied the opportunity of doing good, or when its proffered kindness is refused.
For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.Ye have the poor always with you - And, consequently, have the opportunity of doing them good at any time; but me ye have not always; my bodily presence is about to be removed from you for ever. The woman, under a presentiment of my death is preparing me for my burial.
For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.She did it for my burial - Or, She hath done it to embalm me - ενταφιασαι με. The Septuagint use ενταφιαϚης for the person whose office it was to embalm, Genesis 50:2, and ενταφιαζω for the Hebrew הנט which signifies to prepare with spices, or aromatics, Genesis 50:3. Our Lord took this opportunity to tell them, once more, that he was shortly to die.
Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached - Another remarkable proof of the prescience of Christ. Such a matter as this, humanly speaking, depended on mere fortuitous circumstances, yet so has God disposed matters, that the thing has continued, hitherto, as firm and regular as the ordinances of heaven.
For a memorial of her - As embalming preserves the body from corruption, and she has done this good work to embalm and preserve this body, so will I order every thing concerning this transaction to be carefully recorded, to preserve her memory to the latest ages. The actions which the world blames, through the spirit of envy, covetousness, or malice, God takes delight to distinguish and record.
Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,Then - Judas - After this supper at Bethany, Judas returned to Jerusalem, and made his contract with the chief priests.
And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.Thirty pieces of silver - Τριακοντα αργυρια, thirty silverlings; but στατηρας, staters, is the reading of the Codex Bezae, three copies of the Itala, Eusebius, and Origen sometimes; and στατηρας αργυριου, silver staters, is the reading of the famous Basil MS. No. 1, in Griesbach, and one copy of the Itala.
A stater was the same as the shekel, and worth about 3s. English money, according to Dean Prideaux: a goodly price for the Savior of the world! Thirty staters, about 4l. 10s. the common price for the meanest slave! See Exodus 21:32. The rabbins say, thirty סלעין selain of pure silver was the standard price for a slave, whether good or bad, male or female. See tract Erachin, fol. 14, and Shekalim, cap. 1. Each selaa weighed 384 barley-corns; the same number was contained in a shekel; and therefore the shekel and the selaa were the same. See the notes on Genesis 20:16, and Exodus 38:24.
And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.He sought opportunity - Ευκαιριαν, a convenient or fit opportunity. Men seldom leave a crime imperfect: when once sin is conceived, it meets, in general, with few obstacles, till it brings forth death. How deceitful, how deeply damning, is the love of money! Well might a heathen exclaim, while contemplating the grave of a person who was murdered for the sake of his wealth: -
- Quid non mortalia pectora cogis Auri Sacra Fames?
Virg. Aen. iii.56
"O! cursed lust of gold! what wilt thou not compel the human heart to perpetrate?"
Judas is deservedly considered as one of the most infamous of men, his conduct base beyond description, and his motives vile. But how many, since his time, have walked in the same way! How many, for the sake of worldly wealth, have renounced the religion of their Lord and Master, and sold Jesus, and their interest in heaven, for a short-lived portion of secular good! From John 12:6, we learn that Judas, who was treasurer to our Lord and his disciples, (for he carried the bag), was a thief, and frequently purloined a portion of what was given for the support of this holy family. Being disappointed of the prey he hoped to have from the sale of the precious ointment, Matthew 26:9, he sold his Master to make up the sum. A thorough Jew!
Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread - As the feast of unleavened bread did not begin till the day after the passover, the fifteenth day of the month, Leviticus 23:5, Leviticus 23:6; Numbers 28:16, Numbers 28:17, this could not have been, properly, the first day of that feast; but as the Jews began to eat unleavened bread on the fourteenth, Exodus 12:18, this day was often termed the first of unleavened bread. The evangelists use it in this sense, and call even the paschal day by this name. See Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7.
Where wilt thou that we prepare - How astonishing is this, that He who created all things, whether visible or invisible, and by whom all things were upheld, should so empty himself as not to be proprietor of a single house in his whole creation, to eat the last passover with his disciples! This is certainly a mystery, and so, less or more is every thing that God does. But how inveterate and destructive must the nature of sin be, when such emptying and humiliation were necessary to its destruction! It is worthy of note what the Talmudists say, that the inhabitants of Jerusalem did not let out their houses to those who came to the annual feasts; but afforded all accommodations of this kind gratis. A man might therefore go and request the use of any room, on such an occasion, which was as yet unoccupied. The earthen jug, and the skin of the sacrifice, were left with the host. See Lightfoot, vol. ii. p. 21.
And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.Go - to such a man - Τον δεινα It is probable that this means some person with whom Christ was well acquainted, and who was known to the disciples. Grotius observes that the Greeks use this form when they mean some particular person who is so well known that there is no need to specify him by name. The circumstances are more particularly marked in Luke 22:8, etc.
My time is at hand - That is, the time of my crucifixion. Kypke has largely shown that καιρος is often used among the Greeks for affliction and calamity. It might be rendered here, the time of my crucifixion is at hand.
And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.And the disciples did - The disciples that were sent on this errand were Peter and John. See Luke 22:8.
They made ready the passover - That is, they provided the lamb, etc., which were appointed by the law for this solemnity. Mr. Wakefield justly observes, "that the Jews considered the passover as a sacrificial rite; Josephus calls it θυσιαν, A Sacrifice; and Trypho, in Justin Martyr, speaks of προβατον του πασχα θυειν, Sacrificing the paschal lamb. But what comes nearer to the point is this, that Maimonides, one of the most eminent of the Jewish rabbins, has a particular treatise on the paschal sacrifice; and throughout that piece, speaks of the lamb as a victim, and of the solemnity itself as a sacrifice. And R. Bechai, in his commentary on Leviticus 2:11, says that the paschal sacrifice was of a piacular nature, in order to expiate the guilt contracted by the idolatrous practices of the Israelites in Egypt." It was highly necessary that this should be considered as an expiatory sacrifice, as it typified that Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. For much more on this important subject than can, with propriety, be introduced into these notes, see a Discourse on the Eucharist, lately published by the author of this work.
Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. - It is a common opinion that our Lord ate the passover some hours before the Jews ate it; for the Jews, according to custom, ate theirs at the end of the fourteenth day, but Christ ate his the preceding even, which was the beginning of the same sixth day, or Friday; the Jews begin their day at sunsetting, we at midnight. Thus Christ ate the passover on the same day with the Jews, but not on the same hour. Christ kept this passover the beginning of the fourteenth day, the precise day and hour in which the Jews had eaten their first passover in Egypt. See Exodus 12:6-12. And in the same part of the same day in which the Jews had sacrificed their first paschal lamb, viz. between the two evenings, about the ninth hour, or 3 o'clock, Jesus Christ our passover was sacrificed for us: for it was at this hour that he yielded up his last breath; and then it was that, the sacrifice being completed, Jesus said, It Is Finished. See Exodus 12:6, etc., and Deuteronomy 16:6, etc. See on John 18:28 (note), and the Treatise on the Eucharist, referred to Matthew 26:19; and see the notes on Matthew 26:26 and following verses.
And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.One of you shall betray me - Or, will deliver me up. Judas had already betrayed him, Matthew 26:15, and he was now about to deliver him into the hands of the chief priests, according to the agreement he had made with them.
And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?They were exceeding sorrowful - That is, the eleven who were innocent; and the hypocritical traitor, Judas, endeavored to put on the appearance of sorrow. Strange! Did he not know that Christ knew the secrets of his soul! Or had his love of money so far blinded him, as to render him incapable of discerning even this, with which he had been before so well acquainted?
And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.He that dippeth his hand - As the Jews ate the passover a whole family together, it was not convenient for them all to dip their bread in the same dish; they therefore had several little dishes or plates, in which was the juice of the bitter herbs, mentioned Exodus 12:8, on different parts of the table; and those who were nigh one of these, dipped their bread in it. As Judas is represented as dipping in the same dish with Christ, it shows that he was either near or opposite to him. If this man's heart had not been hardened, and his conscience seared beyond all precedent, by the deceitfulness of his sin, would he have showed his face in this sacred assembly, or have thus put the seal to his own perdition, by eating of this sacrificial lamb? Is it possible that he could feel no compunction? Alas! having delivered himself up into the hands of the devil, he was capable of delivering up his Master into the hands of the chief priests; and thus, when men are completely hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, they can outwardly perform the most solemn acts of devotion, without feeling any sort of inward concern about the matter.
The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.The Son of man goeth - That is, is about to die. Going, going away, departing, etc., are frequently used in the best Greek and Latin writers, for death, or dying. The same words are often used in the Scriptures in the same sense.
It had been good for that man - Can this be said of any sinner, in the common sense in which it is understood, if there be any redemption from hell's torments? If a sinner should suffer millions of millions of years in them, and get out at last to the enjoyment of heaven, then it was well for him that he had been born, for still he has an eternity of blessedness before him. Can the doctrine of the non-eternity of hell's torments stand in the presence of this saying? Or can the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked consist with this declaration? It would have been well for that man if he had never been born! Then he must be in some state of conscious existence, as non-existence is said to be better than that state in which he is now found. It was common for the Jews to say of any flagrant transgressor, It would have been better for him had he never been born. See several examples in Schoettgen. See the case of Judas argued at the end of Acts 1 (note).
Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.Judas - said, Master, is it I? - What excessive impudence! He knew, in his conscience, that he had already betrayed his Master, and was waiting now for the servants of the chief priests, that he might deliver him into their hands; and yet he says, (hoping that he had transacted his business so privately that it had not yet transpired), Master, is it I? It is worthy of remark, that each of the other disciples said κυριε, Lord, is it I? But Judas dares not, or will not, use this august title, but simply says ραββι, Teacher, is it I?
Thou hast said - Συ ειπας, or אתון אמריתון atun amaritun, "Ye have said," was a common form of expression for Yes. It Is so. "When the Zipporenses inquired whether Rabbi Judas was dead? the son of Kaphra answered, Ye have said," i.e. He is dead. See Schoettgen. Hor. Hebr. p.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.Jesus took bread - This is the first institution of what is termed the Lord's Supper. To every part of this ceremony, as here mentioned, the utmost attention should be paid.
To do this, in the most effectual manner, I think it necessary to set down the text of the three evangelists who have transmitted the whole account, collated with that part of St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians which speaks of the same subject, and which, he assures us, he received by Divine revelation. It may seem strange that, although John (13:1-38) mentions all the circumstances preceding the holy supper, and, from 14:1-31 the circumstances which succeeded the breaking of the bread, and in chapters 15, 16, and 17, the discourse which followed the administration of the cup; yet he takes no notice of the Divine institution at all. This is generally accounted for on his knowledge of what the other three evangelists had written; and on his conviction that their relation was true, and needed no additional confirmation, as the matter was amply established by the conjoint testimony of three such respectable witnesses.
Matthew 26:26 Mark 14:22 Luke 22:19 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it (ευλογησας and blessed God) and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat, this is my body. And as they did eat, Jesus took bread and blessed (ευλογησας, blessed God) and brake it, and to them, and said, Take, eat, this is my body. And he took bread and gave thanks, (ευχαριϚησας, i.e. to God), and gave brake it, and gave unto them, saying: This is my body which is given for you: This do in remembrance of me. The Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread; And when he had given thanks (και ευχαριϚησος, i.e. to God) he brake it, and said, Take, eat, this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
After giving the bread, the discourse related, John 14:1-31, inclusive, is supposed by Bishop Newcome to have been delivered by our Lord, for the comfort and support of his disciples under their present and approaching trials.
Matthew 26:27-29 Mark 14:23-25 Luke 22:20 1 Corinthians 11:25 And he took the cup, and gave thanks (ευχαριϚησας), and gave it to them, saying: Drink ye all of it. And he took the cup; and when he had given thanks, (ευχαριϚησας), he gave it to them; and they all drank of it. Likewise also the cup, after supper, saying: After the same manner also, he took the cup, when he had supped, saying: For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many or the remission of sins. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many. This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you. This cup is the New Testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
After this, our Lord resumes that discourse which is found in the 15th, 16th, and 17th chapters of John, beginning with the last verse of chap. 14, Arise, let us go hence. Then succeed the following words, which conclude the whole ceremony.
Matthew 26:30 Mark 14:26 Luke 22:39 John 14:1 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives. And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives. And he came out, and went as he was wont to the Mount of Olives. And his disciples also followed him. When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Kedron.
From the preceding harmonized view of this important transaction, as described by three Evangelists and one Apostle, we see the first institution, nature, and design of what has been since called The Lord's Supper. To every circumstance, as set down here, and the mode of expression by which such circumstances are described, we should pay the deepest attention.
As they were eating - Either an ordinary supper, or the paschal lamb, as some think. See the observations at the end of this chapter.
Jesus took bread - Of what kind? Unleavened bread, certainly, because there was no other kind to be had in all Judea at this time; for this was the first day of unleavened bread, (Matthew 26:17), i.e. the 14th of the month Nisan, when the Jews, according to the command of God, (Exodus 12:15-20; Exodus 23:15; Exodus 34:25), were to purge away all leaven from their houses; for he who sacrificed the passover, having leaven in his dwelling, was considered to be such a transgressor of the Divine law as could no longer be tolerated among the people of God; and therefore was to be cut off from the congregation of Israel. Leo of Modena, who has written a very sensible treatise on the customs of the Jews, observes, "That so strictly do some of the Jews observe the precept concerning the removal of all leaven from their houses, during the celebration of the paschal solemnity, that they either provide vessels entirely new for baking, or else have a set for the purpose, which are dedicated solely to the service of the passover, and never brought out on any other occasion."
To this divinely instituted custom of removing all leaven previously to the paschal solemnity, St. Paul evidently alludes, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even 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.
Now, if any respect should be paid to the primitive institution, in the celebration of this Divine ordinance, then, unleavened, unyeasted bread should be used. In every sign, or type, the thing signifying or pointing out that which is beyond itself should either have certain properties, or be accompanied with certain circumstances, as expressive as possible of the thing signified. Bread, simply considered in itself, may be an emblem apt enough of the body of our Lord Jesus, which was given for us; but the design of God was evidently that it should not only point out this, but also the disposition required in those who should celebrate both the antetype and the type; and this the apostle explains to be sincerity and truth, the reverse of malice and wickedness. The very taste of the bread was instructive: it pointed out to every communicant, that he who came to the table of God with malice or ill-will against any soul of man, or with wickedness, a profligate or sinful life, might expect to eat and drink judgment to himself, as not discerning that the Lord's body was sacrificed for this very purpose, that all sin might be destroyed; and that sincerity, ειλικρινεια, such purity as the clearest light can discern no stain in, might be diffused through the whole soul; and that truth, the law of righteousness and true holiness, might regulate and guide all the actions of life. Had the bread used on these occasions been of the common kind, it would have been perfectly unfit, or improper, to have communicated these uncommon significations; and, as it was seldom used, its rare occurrence would make the emblematical representation more deeply impressive; and the sign, and the thing signified, have their due correspondence and influence.
These circumstances considered, will it not appear that the use of common bread in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper is highly improper? He who can say, "This is a matter of no importance," may say with equal propriety, the bread itself is of no importance; and another may say, the wine is of no importance; and a third may say, "neither the bread nor wine is any thing, but as they lead to spiritual references; and, the spiritual reference being once understood, the signs are useless." Thus we may, through affected spirituality, refine away the whole ordinance of God; and, with the letter and form of religion, abolish religion itself. Many have already acted in this way, not only to their loss, but to their ruin, by showing how profoundly wise they are above what is written. Let those, therefore, who consider that man shall live by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God, and who are conscientiously solicitous that each Divine institution be not only preserved, but observed in all its original integrity, attend to this circumstance. The Lutheran Church makes use of unleavened bread to the present day.
And blessed it - Both St. Matthew and St. Mark use the word ευλογησας, blessed, instead of ευχαριϚησας, gave thanks, which is the word used by St. Luke and St. Paul. But instead of ευλογησας, blessed, ευχαριϚησας, gave thanks, is the reading of ten MSS. in uncial characters, of the Dublin Codex rescriptus, published by Dr. Barrett, and of more than one hundred others, of the greatest respectability. This is the reading also of the Syriac and Arabic, and is confirmed by several of the primitive fathers. The terms, in this case, are nearly of the same import, as both blessing and giving thanks were used on these occasions. But what was it that our Lord blessed? Not the bread, though many think the contrary, being deceived by the word It, which is improperly supplied in our version. In all the four places referred to above, whether the word blessed or gave thanks is used, it refers not to the bread, but to God, the dispenser of every good. Our Lord here conforms himself to that constant Jewish custom, viz. of acknowledging God as the author of every good and perfect gift, by giving thanks on taking the bread and taking the cup at their ordinary meals. For every Jew was forbidden to eat, drink, or use any of God's creatures without rendering him thanks; and he who acted contrary to this command was considered as a person who was guilty of sacrilege.
From this custom we have derived the decent and laudable one of saying grace (gratas thanks) before and after meat. The Jewish form of blessing, probably that which our Lord used on this occasion, none of my readers will be displeased to find here, though it has been mentioned once before. On taking the bread they say: -
ברוך אתה אלהינו מלך העולם המוצא לחם מן הארץ
Baruch atta Elohinoo, Melech, haolam, ha motse Lechem min haarets.
Blessed be thou, our God, King of the universe, who bringest forth bread out of the earth!
Likewise, on taking the cup, they say: -
ברוך אלהינו מלך העולם בורא פרי הגף
Baruch Elohinoo, Melech, haolam, Bore perey haggephen.
Blessed be our God, the King of the universe, the Creator of the fruit it of the vine!
The Mohammedans copy their example, constantly saying before and after meat: -
Bismillahi arahmani arraheemi.
In the name of God, the most merciful, the most compassionate.
No blessing, therefore, of the elements is here intended; they were already blessed, in being sent as a gift of mercy from the bountiful Lord; but God the sender is blessed, because of the liberal provision he has made for his worthless creatures. Blessing and touching the bread are merely Popish ceremonies, unauthorized either by Scripture or the practice of the pure Church of God; necessary of course to those who pretend to transmute, by a kind of spiritual incantation, the bread and wine into the real body and blood of Jesus Christ; a measure the grossest in folly, and most stupid in nonsense, to which God in judgment ever abandoned the fallen spirit of man.
And brake it - We often read in the Scriptures of breaking bread, but never of cutting it. The Jewish people had nothing similar to our high-raised loaf: their bread was made broad and thin, and was consequently very brittle, and, to divide it, there was no need of a knife.
The breaking of the bread I consider essential to the proper performance of this solemn and significant ceremony: because this act was designed by our Lord to shadow forth the wounding, piercing, and breaking of his body upon the cross; and, as all this was essentially necessary to the making a full atonement for the sin of the world, so it is of vast importance that this apparently little circumstance, the breaking of the bread, should be carefully attended to, that the godly communicant may have every necessary assistance to enable him to discern the Lord's body, while engaged in this most important and Divine of all God's ordinances. But who does not see that one small cube of fermented, i.e. leavened bread, previously divided from the mass with a knife, and separated by the fingers of the minister, can never answer the end of the institution, either as to the matter of the bread, or the mode of dividing it? Man is naturally a dull and heedless creature, especially in spiritual things, and has need of the utmost assistance of his senses, in union with those expressive rites and ceremonies which the Holy Scripture, not tradition, has sanctioned, in order to enable him to arrive at spiritual things, through the medium of earthly similitudes.
And gave it to the disciples - Not only the breaking, but also the Distribution, of the bread are necessary parts of this rite. In the Romish Church, the bread is not broken nor delivered to the people, that They may take and eat; but the consecrated wafer is put upon their tongue by the priest; and it is generally understood by the communicants, that they should not masticate, but swallow it whole.
"That the breaking of this bread to be distributed," says Dr. Whitby, "is a necessary part of this rite is evident, first, by the continual mention of it by St. Paul and all the evangelists, when they speak of the institution of this sacrament, which shows it to be a necessary part of it. 2dly, Christ says, Take, eat, this is my body, Broken for you, 1 Corinthians 11:24. But when the elements are not broken, it can be no more said, This is my body broken for you, than where the elements are not given. 3dly, Our Lord said, Do this in remembrance of me: i.e. 'Eat this bread, broken in remembrance of my body broken on the cross:' now, where no body broken is distributed, there, nothing can be eaten in memorial of his broken body. Lastly, The apostle, by saying, The bread which we Break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? sufficiently informs us that the eating of his broken body is necessary to that end, 1 Corinthians 10:10. Hence it was that this rite, of distributing bread broken, continued for a thousand years, and was, as Humbertus testifies, observed in the Roman Church in the eleventh century." Whitby in loco. At present, the opposite is as boldly practised as if the real Scriptural rite had never been observed in the Church of Christ.
This is my body - Here it must be observed that Christ had nothing in his hands, at this time, but part of that unleavened bread which he and his disciples had been eating at supper, and therefore he could mean no more than this, viz. that the bread which he was now breaking represented his body, which, in the course of a few hours, was to be crucified for them. Common sense, unsophisticated with superstition and erroneous creeds, - and reason, unawed by the secular sword of sovereign authority, could not possibly take any other meaning than this plain, consistent, and rational one, out of these words. "But," says a false and absurd creed, "Jesus meant, when he said, Hoc Est Corpus Meum, This is my body, and Hic Est Calix Sanguinis Mei, This is the chalice of my blood, that the bread and wine were substantially changed into his body, including flesh, blood, bones, yea, the whole Christ, in his immaculate humanity and adorable divinity!" And, for denying this, what rivers of righteous blood have been shed by state persecutions and by religious wars! Well it may be asked, "Can any man of sense believe, that, when Christ took up that bread and broke it, it was his own body which he held in his own hands, and which himself broke to pieces, and which he and his disciples ate?" He who can believe such a congeries of absurdities, cannot be said to be a volunteer in faith; for it is evident, the man can neither have faith nor reason, as to this subject.
Let it be observed, if any thing farther is necessary on this point, that the paschal lamb, is called the passover, because it represented the destroying angel's passing over the children of Israel, while he slew the firstborn of the Egyptians; and our Lord and his disciples call this lamb the passover, several times in this chapter; by which it is demonstrably evident, that they could mean no more than that the lamb sacrificed on this occasion was a memorial of, and Represented, the means used for the preservation of the Israelites from the blast of the destroying angel.
Besides, our Lord did not say, hoc est corpus meum, (this is my body), as he did not speak in the Latin tongue; though as much stress has been laid upon this quotation from the Vulgate as if the original of the three evangelists had been written in the Latin language. Had he spoken in Latin, following the idiom of the Vulgate, he would have said, Panis hic corpus meum signficat, or, Symbolum est corporis mei: - hoc poculum sanguinem meum representat, or, symbolum est sanguinis mei: - this bread signifies my body; this cup represents my blood. But let it be observed that, in the Hebrew, Chaldee, and Chaldeo-Syriac languages, as used in the Bible, there is no term which expresses to mean, signify, denote, though both the Greek and Latin abound with them: hence the Hebrews use a figure, and say, it is, for, it signifies. So Genesis 41:26, Genesis 41:27. The seven kine Are (i.e. represent) seven years. This Is (represents) the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Daniel 7:24. The ten horns Are (i.e. signify) ten kings. They drank of the spiritual Rock which followed them, and the Rock Was (represented) Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4. And following this Hebrew idiom, though the work is written in Greek, we find in Revelation 1:20, The seven stars Are (represent) the angels of the seven Churches: and the seven candlesticks Are (represent) the seven Churches. The same form of speech is used in a variety of places in the New Testament, where this sense must necessarily be given to the word. Matthew 13:38, Matthew 13:39. The field IS (represents) the world: the good seed Are (represent or signify) the children of the kingdom: the tares Are (signify) the children of the wicked one. The enemy Is (signifies) the devil: the harvest Is (represents) the end of the world: the reapers Are (i.e. signify) the angels. Luke 8:9. What might this parable Be? Τις ΕΙΗ η παραβολη αυτη: - What does this parable Signify? John 7:36. Τις ΕΣΤΙΝ αυτος ο λογος: What is the Signification of this saying? John 10:6. They understood not what things they Were, τινα ΗΝ, what was the Signification of the things he had spoken to them. Acts 10:17. Τι αν ΕΙΗ οραμα, what this vision Might Be; properly rendered by our translators, what this vision should Mean. Galatians 4:24. For these Are the two covenants, αυται γαρ ΕΙΣΙΝ αι δυο διαθηκαι, these Signify the two covenants. Luke 15:26. He asked, τι ΕΙΗ ταυτα, what these things Meant. See also Luke 18:36. After such unequivocal testimony from the Sacred writings, can any person doubt that, This bread is my body, has any other meaning than, This bread Represents my body?
The Latins use the verb, sum, in all its forms, with a similar latitude of meaning. So, Esse oneri ferendo, he is Able to bear the burthen: bene Esse, to Live sumptuously: male Esse, to Live miserably: recte Esse, to Enjoy good health: Est mihi fistula, I Possess a flute: EST hodie in rebus, he now Enjoys a plentiful fortune: Est mihi namque domi pater, I Have a father at home, etc.: Esse solvendo, to be Able to pay: Fuimus Troes, Fuit Ilium; the Trojans are Extinct, Troy is No More.
In Greek also, and Hebrew, it often signifies to live, to die, to be killed. Ουκ ΕΙΜΙ, I am Dead, or a dead man. Matthew 2:18 : Rachel weeping for her children, οτι ουκ ΕΙΣΙ, because they Were Murdered. Genesis 42:36 : Joseph is not, יוסף איננו Yoseph einennu, Ιωσηφ ουκ ΕΣΤΙΝ, Sept., Joseph is Devoured by a Wild Beast. Romans 4:17 : Calling the things that Are not, as if they were Alive. So Plutarch in Laconicis: "This shield thy father always preserved; preserve thou it, or may thou not Be," Η μη ΕΣΟ, may thou Perish. ΟΥΚ ΟΝΤΕΣ νομοι, Abrogated laws. ΕΙΜΙ εν εμοι, I Possess a sound understanding. Εις πατερα υμιν ΕΣΟΜΑΙ, I will Perform the Part of a father to you. ΕΙΜΙ της πολεως της δε, I Am an Inhabitant of that city. 1 Timothy 1:7 : Desiring to Be teachers of the law, θελοντες ΕΙΝΑΙ νομοδιδασκαλοι, desiring to be Reputed teachers of the law, i.e. Able divines. Τα ΟΝΤΑ, the things that Are, i.e. Noble and Honorable men: τα μη ΟΝΤΑ, the things that are not, viz. the Vulgar, or those of Ignoble Birth.
Tertullian seems to have had a correct notion of those words of our Lord,
Acceptum panem et distributum discipulis, corpus illum suum fecit, Hoc Est Corpus Meum dicendo, id est, Figura corporis mei.
Advers. Marc. l. v. c. 40.
"Having taken the bread, and distributed that body to his disciples, he made it his body by saying, This is my body, i.e. a Figure of my body."
That our Lord neither spoke in Greek nor Latin, on this occasion, needs no proof. It was, most probably, in what was formerly called the Chaldaic, now the Syriac, that our Lord conversed with his disciples. Through the providence of God, we have complete versions of the Gospels in this language, and in them it is likely we have the precise words spoken by our Lord on this occasion. In Matthew 26:26, Matthew 26:27, the words in the Syriac version are, hanau pagree, This is my body, hanau demee, This is my blood, of which forms of speech the Greek is a verbal translation; nor would any man, even in the present day, speaking in the same language, use, among the people to whom it was vernacular, other terms than the above to express, This represents my body, and this represents my blood.
As to the ancient Syrian Church on the Malabar coast, it is a fact that it never held the doctrine of transubstantiation, nor does it appear that it was ever heard of in that Church till the year 1599, when Don Alexis Menezes, Archbishop of Goa, and the Jesuit Fransic Rez, invaded that Church, and by tricks, impostures, and the assistance of the heathen governors of Cochin, and other places, whom they gained over by bribes and presents, overthrew the whole of this ancient Church, and gave the oppressed people the rites, creeds, etc., of the papal Catholic Church in its place. Vid. La Croz. Hist. du Ch. des Indes.
This was done at the Synod of Diamper, which began its sessions at Agomale, June 20, 1599. The tricks of this unprincipled prelate, the tool of Pope Clement VIII., and Philip II., King of Portugal, are amply detailed by Mr. La Croze, in the work already quoted.
But this form of speech is common, even in our own language, though we have terms enow to fill up the ellipsis. Suppose a man entering into a museum, enriched with the remains of ancient Greek sculpture: his eyes are attracted by a number of curious busts; and, on inquiring what they are, he learns, this is Socrates, that Plato, a third Homer; others Hesiod, Horace, Virgil, Demosthenes, Cicero, Herodotus, Livy, Caesar, Nero, Vespasian, etc. Is he deceived by this information? Not at all: he knows well that the busts he sees are not the identical persons of those ancient philosophers, poets, orators, historians, and emperors, but only Representations of their persons in sculpture, between which and the originals there is as essential a difference as between a human body, instinct with all the principles of rational vitality, and a block of marble. When, therefore, Christ took up a piece of bread, brake it, and said, This IS my body, who, but the most stupid of mortals, could imagine that he was, at the same time, handling and breaking his own body! Would not any person, of plain common sense, see as great a difference between the man Christ Jesus, and the piece of bread, as between the block of marble and the philosopher it represented, in the case referred to above? The truth is, there is scarcely a more common form of speech in any language than, This IS, for, This Represents or Signifies. And as our Lord refers, in the whole of this transaction, to the ordinance of the passover, we may consider him as saying: "This bread is now my body, in that sense in which the paschal lamb has been my body hitherto; and this cup is my blood of the New Testament, in the same sense as the blood of bulls and goats has been my blood under the Old: Exodus 24; Hebrews 9. That is, the paschal lamb and the sprinkling of blood represented my sacrifice to the present time this bread and this wine shall represent my body and blood through all future ages; therefore, Do this in remembrance of me."
St. Luke and St. Paul add a circumstance here which is not noticed either by St. Matthew or St. Mark. After, this is my body, the former adds, which is given for you; the latter, which is broken for you; the sense of which is: "As God has in his bountiful providence given you bread for the sustenance of your lives, so in his infinite grace he has given you my body to save your souls unto life eternal. But as this bread must be broken and masticated, in order to its becoming proper nourishment, so my body must be broken, i.e. crucified, for you, before it can be the bread of life to your souls. As, therefore, your life depends on the bread which God's bounty has provided for your bodies, so your eternal life depends on the sacrifice of my body on the cross for your souls." Besides, there is here an allusion to the offering of sacrifice - an innocent creature was brought to the altar of God, and its blood (the life of the beast) was poured out for, or in behalf of, the person who brought it. Thus Christ says, alluding to the sacrifice of the paschal lamb, This is my body, το υπερ υμων διδομενον, which Is Given in your stead, or in your behalf; a free Gift, from God's endless mercy, for the salvation of your souls. This is my body, το υπερ υμων κλωμενον, (1 Corinthians 11:24), which is broken - sacrificed in your stead; as without the breaking (piercing) of the body, and spilling of the blood, there was no remission.
In this solemn transaction we must weigh every word, as there is none without its appropriate and deeply emphatic meaning. So it is written, Ephesians 5:2. Christ hath loved us, and given himself, υπερ ημων, on our account, or in our stead, an offering and a Sacrifice (θυσια) to God for a sweet-smelling savor; that, as in the sacrifice offered by Noah, Genesis 8:21, (to which the apostle evidently alludes), from which it is said, The Lord smelled a sweet savor, ריח הניחח riach hanichoach, a savor of rest, so that he became appeased towards the earth, and determined that there should no more be a flood to destroy it; in like manner, in the offering and sacrifice of Christ for us, God is appeased towards the human race, and has in consequence decreed that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;And he took the cup - Μετα το δειπνησαι, after having supped, Luke 22:20, and 1 Corinthians 11:25. Whether the supper was on the paschal lamb, or whether it was a common or ordinary meal, I shall not wait here to inquire: see at the end of this chapter. In the parallel place, in Luke 22, we find our Lord taking the cup, Luke 22:17, and again Luke 22:19; by the former of which was probably meant the cup of blessing, כוס הברכה kos haberakah, which the master of a family took, and, after blessing God, gave to each of his guests by way of welcome: but this second taking the cup is to be understood as belonging to the very important rite which he was now instituting, and on which he lays a very remarkable stress. With respect to the bread, he had before simply said, Take, eat, this is my body; but concerning the cup he says, Drink ye all of this: for as this pointed out the very essence of the institution, viz. the blood of atonement, it was necessary that each should have a particular application of it; therefore he says, Drink ye All of This. By this we are taught that the cup is essential to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper; so that they who deny the cup to the people sin against God's institution; and they who receive not the cup are not partakers of the body and blood of Christ. If either could without mortal prejudice be omitted, it might be the bread; but the cup, as pointing out the blood poured out, i.e. the life, by which alone the great sacrificial act is performed, and remission of sins procured, is absolutely indispensable. On this ground it is demonstrable, that there is not a priest under heaven, who denies the cup to the people, that can be said to celebrate the Lord's Supper at all; nor is there one of their votaries that ever received the holy sacrament. All pretension to this is an absolute farce, so long as the cup, the emblem of the atoning blood, is denied. How strange is it, that the very men who plead so much for the bare literal meaning of this is my body, in the preceding verse, should deny all meaning to drink Ye All of this cup, in this verse! And though Christ has in the most positive manner enjoined it, they will not permit one of the laity to taste it! O, what a thing is man - a constant contradiction to reason and to himself.
I have just said that our blessed Lord lays remarkable stress on the administration of the cup, and on that which himself assures us is represented by it. As it is peculiarly emphatic, I beg leave to set down the original text, which the critical reader will do well minutely to examine:
Τουτο γαρ εϚι ΤΟ αιμα μου ΤΟ της καινης διαθηκης, ΤΟ περι πολλων εκχυνομενον εις αφεσιν αμαρτιων.
The following literal translation and paraphrase do not exceed its meaning: -
For This is That blood of mine which was pointed out by all the sacrifices under the Jewish law, and particularly by the shedding and sprinkling of the blood of the paschal lamb. That blood of the sacrifice slain for the ratification of the new covenant. The blood ready to be poured out for the multitudes, the whole Gentile world as well as the Jews, for the taking away of sins; sin, whether original or actual, in all its power and guilt, in all its internal energy and pollution.
And gave thanks - See the form used on this occasion, on Matthew 26:26 (note); and see the Mishna, Tract ברכות Beracoth.
For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.For this is my blood of the New Testament - This is the reading both here and in St. Mark; but St. Luke and St. Paul say, This cup is the New Testament in my blood. This passage has been strangely mistaken: by New Testament, many understand nothing more than the book commonly known by this name, containing the four Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, apostolical Epistles, and book of the Revelation; and they think that the cup of the New Testament means no more than merely that cup which the book called the New Testament enjoins in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. As this is the case, it is highly necessary that this term should be explained. The original, Η Καινη Διαθηκη, which we translate, The New Testament, and which is the general title of all the contents of the book already described, simply means, the new Covenant. Covenant, from con, together, and venio, I come, signifies an agreement, contract, or compact, between two parties, by which both are mutually bound to do certain things, on certain conditions and penalties. It answers to the Hebrew ברית berith, which often signifies, not only the covenant or agreement, but also the sacrifice which was slain on the occasion, by the blood of which the covenant was ratified; and the contracting parties professed to subject themselves to such a death as that of the victim, in case of violating their engagements. An oath of this kind, on slaying the covenant sacrifice, was usual in ancient times: so in Homer, when a covenant was made between the Greeks and the Trojans, and the throats of lambs were cut, and their blood poured out, the following form of adjuration was used by the contracting parties: -
Ζευ κυδιϚε, μεγιϚε, και αθανατοι θεοι αλλοι,
Οπποτεροι προτεροι υπερ ορκια πημηνειαν,
Ωδε σφ' εγκεφαλος χαμαδις ρεοι, ως οδε οινος,
Αυτων, και τεκεων· αλοχοι δ' αλλοισι μιγειεν.
All glorious Jove, and ye, the powers of heaven!
Whoso shall violate this contract first,
So be their blood, their children's and their own,
Poured out, as this libation, on the ground
And let their wives bring forth to other men!
Iliad l. iii. v. 298-301
Our blessed Savior is evidently called the Διαθηκη, ברית berith, or covenant sacrifice, Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:8; Zechariah 9:11. And to those Scriptures he appears to allude, as in them the Lord promises to give him for a covenant (sacrifice) to the Gentiles, and to send forth, by the blood of this covenant (victim) the prisoners out of the pit. The passages in the sacred writings which allude to this grand sacrificial and atoning act are almost innumerable. See the Preface to Matthew.
In this place, our Lord terms his blood the blood of the New covenant; by which he means that grand plan of agreement, or reconciliation, which God was now establishing between himself and mankind, by the passion and death of his Son, through whom alone men could draw nigh to God; and this New covenant is mentioned in contradistinction from the Old covenant, η παλαια Διαθηκη, 2 Corinthians 3:14, by which appellative all the books of the Old Testament were distinguished, because they pointed out the way of reconciliation to God by the blood of the various victims slain under the law; but now, as the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, was about to be offered up, a New and Living way was thereby constituted, so that no one henceforth could come unto the Father but by Him. Hence all the books of the New Testament, which bear unanimous testimony to the doctrine of salvation by faith through the blood of Jesus, are termed, Η Καινη Διαθηκη, The New covenant. See the Preface.
Dr. Lightfoot's Observations on this are worthy of serious notice.
"This is my blood of the New Testament. Not only the seal of the covenant, but the sanction of the new covenant. The end of the Mosaic economy, and the confirming of a new one. The confirmation of the old covenant was by the blood of bulls and goats, Exodus 24, Hebrews 9, because blood was still to be shed: the confirmation of the new was by a cup of wine, because under the new covenant there is no farther shedding of blood. As it is here said of the cup, This cup is the New Testament in my blood; so it might be said of the cup of blood, Exodus 24, That cup was the Old Testament in the blood of Christ: there, all the articles of that covenant being read over, Moses sprinkled all the people with blood, and said, This is the blood of the covenant which God hath made with you; and thus the old covenant or testimony was confirmed. In like manner, Christ, having published all the articles of the new covenant, he takes the cup of wine, and gives them to drink, and saith. This is the New Testament in my blood; and thus the new covenant was established." - Works, vol. ii. p. 260.
Which is shed (εκχυνομενον, poured out) for many - Εκχεω and εκχυω, to pour out, are often used in a sacrificial sense in the Septuagint, and signify to pour out or sprinkle the blood of the sacrifices before the altar of the Lord, by way of atonement. See 2 Kings 16:15; Leviticus 8:15; Leviticus 9:9; Exodus 29:12; Leviticus 4:7, Leviticus 4:14, Leviticus 4:17, Leviticus 4:30, Leviticus 4:34; and in various other places. Our Lord, by this very remarkable mode of expression, teaches us that, as his body was to be broken or crucified, υπερ ημων, in our stead, so here the blood was to be poured out to make an atonement, as the words, remission of sins, sufficiently prove for without shedding of blood there was no remission, Hebrews 9:22, nor any remission by shedding of blood, but in a sacrificial way. See the passages above, and on Matthew 26:26 (note).
The whole of this passage will receive additional light when collated with Isaiah 53:11, Isaiah 53:12. By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify Many, for he shall bear their iniquities - because he hath Poured Out his soul unto death, and he bare the sin of Many. The pouring out of the soul unto death, in the prophet, answers to, this is the blood of the new covenant which is poured out for you, in the evangelists; and the רבים, rabbim, multitudes, in Isaiah, corresponds to the Many, πολλων, of Matthew and Mark. The passage will soon appear plain, when we consider that two distinct classes of persons are mentioned by the prophet.
1. The Jews. Isaiah 53:4. Surely he hath borne Our griefs, and carried Our sorrows. Isaiah 53:5. But he was wounded for Our transgressions, he was bruised for Our iniquities, the chastisement of Our peace was upon him. Isaiah 53:6. All We like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of Us all.
2. The Gentiles. Isaiah 53:11. By his knowledge, בדעתו bedaato, i.e. by his being made known, published as Christ crucified among the Gentiles, he shall justify רבים rabbim, the multitudes, (the Gentiles), for he shall (also) bear Their offenses, as well as Ours, the Jews, Isaiah 53:4, etc.
It is well known that the Jewish dispensation, termed by the apostle as above, η παλαια διαθηκη, the Old covenant, was partial and exclusive. None were particularly interested in it save the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob: whereas the Christian dispensation, η καινη διαθηκη, the New covenant, referred to by our Lord in this place, was universal; for as Jesus Christ by the grace of God tasted death for Every man, Hebrews 2:9, and is that Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the World, John 1:29, who would have All Men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth, 1 Timothy 2:4, even that knowledge of Christ crucified, by which they are to be justified, Isaiah 53:11, therefore he has commanded his disciples to go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to Every Creature, Mark 16:15. The reprobate race, those who were no people, and not beloved, were to be called in; for the Gospel was to be preached to all the world, though it was to begin at Jerusalem, Luke 24:47. For this purpose was the blood of the new covenant sacrifice poured out for the multitudes, that there might be but one fold, as there is but one Shepherd; and that God might be All and in All.
For the remission of sins - Εις αφεσις αμαρτιων, for (or, in reference to) the taking away of sins. For, although the blood is shed, and the atonement made, no man's sins are taken away until, as a true penitent, he returns to God, and, feeling his utter incapacity to save himself, believes in Christ Jesus, who is the justifier of the ungodly.
The phrase, αφεσις των αμαρτιων, remission of sins, (frequently used by the Septuagint), being thus explained by our Lord, is often used by the evangelists and the apostles; and does not mean merely the pardon of sins, as it is generally understood, but the removal or taking away of sins; not only the guilt, but also the very nature of sin, and the pollution of the soul through it; and comprehends all that is generally understood by the terms justification and sanctification. For the use and meaning of the phrase αφεσις αμαρτιων, see Mark 1:4; Luke 1:77; Luke 3:3; Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:43; Acts 13:38; Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 10:18.
Both St. Luke and St. Paul add, that, after giving the bread, our Lord said, Do this in remembrance of me. And after giving the cup, St. Paul alone adds, This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. The account, as given by St. Paul, should be carefully followed, being fuller, and received, according to his own declaration, by especial revelation from God. See 1 Corinthians 11:23, For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, etc. See the harmonized view above.
But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine - These words seem to intimate no more than this: We shall not have another opportunity of eating this bread and drinking this wine together; as in a few hours my crucifixion shall take place.
Until that day when I drink it new with you - That is, I shall no more drink of the produce of the vine with you; but shall drink new wine - wine of a widely different nature from this - a wine which the kingdom of God alone can afford. The term new in Scripture is often taken in this sense. So the New heaven, the New earth, the New covenant, the New man - mean a heaven, earth, covenant, man, of a very different nature from the former. It was our Lord's invariable custom to illustrate heavenly things by those of earth, and to make that which had last been the subject of conversation the means of doing it. Thus he uses wine here, of which they had lately drunk, and on which he had held the preceding discourse, to point out the supreme blessedness of the kingdom of God. But however pleasing and useful wine may be to the body and how helpful soever, as an ordinance of God. It may be to the soul in the holy sacrament; yet the wine of the kingdom, the spiritual enjoyments at the right hand of God, will be infinitely more precious and useful. From what our Lord says here, we learn that the sacrament of his supper is a type and a pledge, to genuine Christians, of the felicity they shall enjoy with Christ in the kingdom of glory.
And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.And when they had sung a hymn - Υμνησαντες means, probably, no more than a kind of recitative reading or chanting. As to the hymn itself, we know, from the universal consent of Jewish antiquity, that it was composed of Psalm 113:1-9, Psalm 114:1-8, 115, 116, Psalm 117:1-2, and 118, termed by the Jews הלל halel, from הללו־יה halelu-yah, the first word in Psalm 113:1-9. These six Psalms were always sung at every paschal solemnity. They sung this great hillel on account of the five great benefits referred to in it; viz.
1. The Exodus from Egypt, Psalm 114:1. When Israel went out of Egypt, etc.
2. The miraculous division of the Red Sea, Psalm 114:3. The sea saw it and fled.
3. The promulgation of the law, Psalm 114:4. The mountains skipped like lambs.
4. The resurrection of the dead, Psalm 116:9. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
5. The passion of the Messiah, Psalm 115:1. Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, etc.
See Schoettgen, Hor. Hebr. p. 231, and my Discourse on the nature and design of the Eucharist, 8vo. Lond. 1808.
Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.All ye shall be offended - Or rather, Ye will all be stumbled - παντες υμεις σκανδαλισθησεσθε - ye will all forsake me, and lose in a great measure your confidence in me.
This night - The time of trial is just at hand.
I will smite the shepherd - It will happen to you as to a flock of sheep, whose shepherd has been slain - the leader and guardian being removed, the whole flock shall be scattered, and be on the point of becoming a prey to ravenous beasts.
But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.But after I am risen again - Don't lose your confidence; for though I shall appear for a time to be wholly left to wicked men, and be brought under the power of death, yet I will rise again, and triumph over all your enemies and mine.
I will go before you - Still alluding to the case of the shepherd and his sheep. Though the shepherd has been smitten and the sheep scattered, the shepherd shall revive again, collect the scattered flock, and go before them, and lead them to peace, security, and happiness.
Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.Peter - said unto him, Though all men shall be offended - yet will I never - The presumptuous person imagines he can do every thing, and can do nothing: thinks he can excel all, and excels in nothing: promises every thing, and performs nothing. The humble man acts a quite contrary part. There is nothing we know so little of as ourselves - nothing we see less of than our own weakness and poverty. The strength of pride is only for a moment. Peter, though vainly confident, was certainly sincere - he had never been put to a sore trial, and did not know his own strength. Had this resolution of his been formed in the strength of God, he would have been enabled to maintain it against earth and hell. This most awful denial of Christ, and his abandoning him in the time of trial, was sufficient to have disqualified him for ever from being, in any sense, head of the Church, had such a supremacy been ever designed him. Such a supremacy was never given him by Christ; but the fable of it is in the Church of Rome, and the mock Peter, not Peter the apostle, is there and there only to be found.
Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.Jesus said - Our Lord's answer to Peter is very emphatic and impressive. Verily - I speak a solemn weighty truth, thou wilt not only be stumbled, fall off, and forsake thy Master, but thou wilt even deny that thou hast, or ever had, any knowledge of or connection with me; and this thou wilt do, not by little and little, through a long process of time, till the apostasy, daily gathering strength, shall be complete; but thou wilt do it this very night, and that not once only, but thrice; and this thou wilt do also in the earlier part of the night, before even a cock shall crow. Was not this warning enough to him not to trust in his own strength, but to depend on God?
Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee - He does not take the warning which his Lord gave him - he trusts in the warm, sincere attachment to Christ which he now feels, not considering that this must speedily fail, unless supported by the power of God.
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.A place called Gethsemane - A garden at the foot of the mount of Olives. The name seems to be formed from גת gath, a press, and סמן shemen, oil; probably the place where the produce of the mount of Olives was prepared for use. The garden of the oil-press, or olive-press.
Sit ye here - Or, stay in this place, while I go and pray yonder: and employ ye the time as I shall employ it - in watching unto prayer.
And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee - That is, James and John; the same persons who had beheld his transfiguration on the mount - that they might contemplate this agony in the light of that glory which they had there seen; and so be kept from being stumbled by a view of his present humiliation.
Began to be sorrowful - Λυπεισθαι, from λυω, to dissolve - exquisite sorrow, such as dissolves the natural vigor, and threatens to separate soul and body.
And very heavy - Overwhelmed with anguish - αδημονειν. This word is used by the Greeks to denote the most extreme anguish which the soul can feel - excruciating anxiety and torture of spirit.
Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.Then saith he - Then saith - Jesus: - I have added the word Jesus, ὁ Ιησους, on the authority of a multitude of eminent MSS. See them in Griesbach.
My soul is exceeding sorrowful, (or, is surrounded with exceeding sorrow), even unto death - This latter word explains the two former: My soul is so dissolved in sorrow, my spirit is filled with such agony and anguish, that, if speedy succor be not given to my body, death must be the speedy consequence.
Now, the grand expiatory sacrifice begins to be offered: in this garden Jesus enters fully into the sacerdotal office; and now, on the altar of his immaculate divinity, begins to offer his own body - his own life - a lamb without spot, for the sin of the world. St. Luke observes, Luke 22:43, Luke 22:44, that there appeared unto him an angel from heaven strengthening him; and that, being in an agony, his sweat was like great drops of blood falling to the ground. How exquisite must this anguish have been, when it forced the very blood through the coats of the veins, and enlarged the pores in such a preternatural manner as to cause them to empty it out in large successive drops! In my opinion, the principal part of the redemption price was paid in this unprecedented and indescribable agony.
Bloody sweats are mentioned by many authors; but none was ever such as this - where a person in perfect health, (having never had any predisposing sickness to induce a debility of the system), and in the full vigor of life, about thirty-three years of age, suddenly, through mental pressure, without any fear of death, sweat great drops of blood; and these continued, during his wrestling with God to fall to the ground.
To say that all this was occasioned by the fear he had of the ignominious death which he was about to die confutes itself - for this would not only rob him of his divinity, for which purpose it is brought, but it deprives him of all excellency, and even of manhood itself. The prospect of death could not cause him to suffer thus, when he knew that in less than three days he was to be restored to life, and be brought into an eternity of blessedness. His agony and distress can receive no consistent explication but on this ground - He Suffered, the Just for the Unjust, that he might Bring us to God. O glorious truth! O infinitely meritorious suffering! And O! above all, the eternal love, that caused him to undergo such sufferings for the sake of Sinners!
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.Fell on his face - See the note on Luke 22:44. This was the ordinary posture of the supplicant when the favor was great which was asked, and deep humiliation required. The head was put between the knees, and the forehead brought to touch the earth - this was not only a humiliating, but a very painful posture also.
This cup - The word cup is frequently used in the Sacred Writings to point out sorrow, anguish, terror, death. It seems to be an allusion to a very ancient method of punishing criminals. A cup of poison was put into their hands, and they were obliged to drink it. Socrates was killed thus, being obliged by the magistrates of Athens to drink a cup of the juice of hemlock. To death, by the poisoned cup, there seems an allusion in Hebrews 2:9, Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, Tasted death for every man. The whole world are here represented as standing guilty and condemned before the tribunal of God; into every man's hand the deadly cup is put, and he is required to drink off the poison - Jesus enters, takes every man's cup out of his hand, and drinks off the poison, and thus tastes or suffers the death which every man otherwise must have undergone.
Pass from me - Perhaps there is an allusion here to several criminals standing in a row, who are all to drink of the same cup; but, the judge extending favor to a certain one, the cup passes by him to the next.
Instead of προελθων μικρον, going a little forward, many eminent MSS. have προσελθων, coming a little forward - but the variation is of little moment. At the close of this verse several MSS. add the clause in Luke 22:43, There appeared an angel, etc.
And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?He - saith unto Peter - He addressed himself more particularly to this apostle, because of the profession he had made, Matthew 26:33; as if he had said: "Is this the way you testify your affectionate attachment to me? Ye all said you were ready to die with me; what, then, cannot you watch One hour?" Instead of ουκ ισχυσατε, could Ye not, the Codex Alexandrinus, the later Syriac in the margin, three of the Itala, and Juvencus, read ουκ ισχυσας, couldst Thou not - referring the reproach immediately to Peter, who had made the promises mentioned before.
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.That ye enter not into temptation - If ye cannot endure a little fatigue when there is no suffering, how will ye do when the temptation, the great trial of your fidelity and courage, cometh? Watch - that ye be not taken unawares; and pray - that when it comes ye may be enabled to bear it.
The spirit - is willing, but the flesh is weak - Your inclinations are good - ye are truly sincere; but your good purposes will be overpowered by your timidity. Ye wish to continue steadfast in your adherence to your Master; but your fears will lead you to desert him.
He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me - If it be not possible - to redeem fallen man, unless I drink this cup, unless I suffer death for them; thy will be done - I am content to suffer whatever may be requisite to accomplish the great design. In this address the humanity of Christ most evidently appears; for it was his humanity alone that could suffer; and if it did not appear that he had felt these sufferings, it would have been a presumption that he had not suffered, and consequently made no atonement. And had he not appeared to have been perfectly resigned in these sufferings, his sacrifice could not have been a free-will but a constrained offering, and therefore of no use to the salvation of mankind.
And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.Their eyes were heavy - That is, they could not keep them open. Was there nothing preternatural in this? Was there no influence here from the powers of darkness?
And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.Prayed the third time - So St. Paul - I besought the Lord Thrice that it might depart from me, 2 Corinthians 12:8. This thrice repeating the same petition argues deep earnestness of soul.
Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.Sleep on now, and take your rest - Perhaps it might be better to read these words interrogatively, and paraphrase them thus: Do ye sleep on still? Will no warnings avail? Will no danger excite you to watchfulness and prayer? My hour - in which I am to be delivered up, is at hand; therefore now think of your own personal safety.
The Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners - Αμαρτωλων, viz. the Gentiles or heathens, who were generally distinguished by this appellation from the Jews. Here it probably means the Roman cohort that was stationed on festivals for the defense of the temple. By the Romans he was adjudged to death; for the Jews acknowledged that they had no power in capital cases. See the note on Matthew 9:10.
Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.Rise, let us be going - That is, to meet them, giving thereby the fullest proof that I know all their designs, and might have, by flight or otherwise, provided for my own safety; but I go willingly to meet that death which their malice designs me, and, through it, provide for the life of the world.
And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.Judas, one of the twelve - More deeply to mark his base ingratitude and desperate wickedness - He was One of the Twelve - and he is a Traitor, and one of the vilest too that ever disgraced human nature.
A great multitude with swords and staves - They did not come as officers of justice, but as a desperate mob. Justice had nothing to do in this business. He who a little before had been one of the leaders of the flock of Christ is now become the leader of ruffians and murderers! What a terrible fall!
Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.Gave them a sign - How coolly deliberate is this dire apostate! The man whom I shall kiss - how deeply hypocritical! That is he, hold him fast, seize him - how diabolically malicious!
Hail, Master - A usual compliment among the Jews. Judas pretends to wish our Lord continued health while he is meditating his destruction!
How many compliments of this kind are there in the world! Judas had a pattern in Joab, who, while he pretends to inquire tenderly for the health of Amasa, thrust him through with his sword; but the disciple here vastly outdoes his master, and through a motive, if possible, still more base. Let all those who use unmeaning or insidious compliments rank for ever with Joab and Judas.
And kissed him - And tenderly kissed him - this is the proper meaning of the original word κατεφιλησεν, he kissed him again and again - still pretending the most affectionate attachment to him, though our Lord had before unmasked him.
And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.
And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.Jesus said - Friend - Rather, companion, εταιρε, (not Friend), wherefore, rather, against whom (εφ' ὃ, the reading of all the best MSS.) art thou come? How must these words have cut his very soul, if he had any sensibility left! Surely, thou, who hast so long been my companion, art not come against me, thy Lord, Teacher and Friend! What is the human heart not capable of, when abandoned by God, and influenced by Satan and the love of money!
Laid hands on Jesus - But not before they had felt that proof of his sovereign power by which they had all been struck down to the earth, John 18:6. It is strange that, after this, they should dare to approach him; but the Scriptures must be fulfilled.
And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear.One of them which were with Jesus - This was Peter - struck a servant of the high priest's, the servant's name was Malchus, John 18:10, and smote off his ear. In Luke 22:51, it is said, Jesus touched and healed it. Here was another miracle, and striking proof of the Divinity of Christ. Peter did not cut the ear, merely, he cut it Off, αφειλεν. Now to heal it, Jesus must either take up the ear and put it on again, or else create a new one - either of these was a miracle, which nothing less than unlimited power could produce. See the note on John 18:10.
Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.Put up again thy sword into his place - Neither Christ nor his religion is to be defended by the secular arm. God is sufficiently able to support his ark: Uzzah need not stretch out his hand on the occasion. Even the shadow of public justice is not to be resisted by a private person, when coming from those in public authority. The cause of a Christian is the cause of God: sufferings belong to one, and vengeance to the other. Let the cause, therefore, rest in his hands, who will do it ample justice.
Shall perish with the sword - Instead of απολουνται, shall perish, many excellent MSS., versions, and fathers, have αποθανουνται, shall die. The general meaning of this verse is, they who contend in battle are likely, on both sides, to become the sacrifices of their mutual animosities. But it is probably a prophetic declaration of the Jewish and Roman states. The Jews put our Lord to death under the sanction of the Romans - both took the sword against Christ, and both perished by it. The Jews by the sword of the Romans, and the Romans by that of the Goths, Vandals, etc. The event has verified the prediction - the Jewish government has been destroyed upwards of 1700 years, and the Roman upwards of 1000. Confer with this passage, Psalm 2:4, Psalm 2:9; Psalm 110:1, Psalm 110:5, Psalm 110:6. But how came Peter to have a sword? Judea was at this time so infested with robbers and cut-throats that it was not deemed safe for any person to go unarmed. He probably carried one for his mere personal safety.
Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?More than twelve legions of angels? - As if he had said, Instead of you twelve, one of whom is a traitor, my Father can give me more than twelve legions of angels to defend me. A legion, at different times, contained different numbers; 4,200, 5,000, and frequently 6,000 men; and from this saying, taking the latter number, which is the common rate, may we not-safely believe that the angels of God amount to more than 72,000?
But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?But how then - Had I such a defense - shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say, that thus it must be? That is, that I am to suffer and die for the sin of the world. Probably the Scriptures to which our Lord principally refers are Psalm 22, 69, and especially Isaiah 53:1-12, and Daniel 9:24-27. Christ shows that they had no power against him but what he permitted; and that he willingly gave up himself into their hands.
In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.Are ye come out as against a thief - At this time Judea was much infested by robbers, so that armed men were obliged to be employed against them - to this our Lord seems to allude. See on Matthew 26:52 (note).
I sat daily with you - Why come in this hostile manner? Every day, for four days past, ye might have met with me in the temple, whither I went to teach you the way of salvation. See on Matthew 21:17 (note).
But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.But all this was done - This is probably the observation of the evangelist. See on Matthew 2:23 (note).
Then all the disciples forsook him and fled - O what is man! How little is even his utmost sincerity to be depended on! Jesus is abandoned by all! - even zealous Peter and loving John are among the fugitives! Was ever master so served by his scholars? Was ever parent so treated by his children? Is there not as much zeal and love among them all as might make one martyr for God and truth? Alas! no. He had but twelve who professed inviolable attachment to him; one of these betrayed him, another denied him with oaths, and the rest run away and utterly abandon him to his implacable enemies! Are there not found among his disciples still,
1st. Persons who betray him and his cause?
2dly. Persons who deny him and his people?
3dly. Persons who abandon him, his people, his cause, and his truth?
Reader! dost thou belong to any of these classes?
And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.They - led him away to Caiaphas - John says, John 18:13, that they led him first to Annas; but this appears to have been done merely to do him honor as the father-in-law of Caiaphas, and his colleague in the high priesthood. But as the Sanhedrin was assembled at the house of Caiaphas, it was there he must be brought to undergo his mock trial: but see on John 18:13 (note).
But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.Peter followed him afar off - Poor Peter! this is the beginning of his dreadful fall. His fear kept him from joining the company, and publicly acknowledging his Lord; and his affection obliged him to follow at a distance that he might see the end.
And sat with the servants, to see the end - When a man is weak in faith, and can as yet only follow Christ at a distance, he should avoid all dangerous places, and the company of those who are most likely to prove a snare to him. Had not Peter got to the high priest's palace, and sat down with the servants, he would not thus have denied his Lord and Master. Servants-officers, υπηρετων. Such as we term serjeants, constables, etc.
Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;All the council sought false witness - What a prostitution of justice! - they first resolve to ruin him, and then seek the proper means of effecting it: they declare him criminal, and after that do all they can to fix some crime upon him, that they may appear to have some shadow of justice on their side when they put him to death. It seems to have been a common custom of this vile court to employ false witness, on any occasion, to answer their own ends. See this exemplified in the case of Stephen, Acts 6:11-13.
But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses,Though many false witnesses came - There is an unaccountable confusion in the MSS. in this verse: without stating the variations, which may be seen in Griesbach, I shall give that which I believe to be the genuine sense of the evangelist. Then the chief priests and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; but they found it not, though many false witnesses came up. At last two false witnesses came up, saying; This man said, etc. It is the property of falsity to be ever inconsistent, and to contradict itself; therefore they could not find two consistent testimonies, without which the Jewish law did not permit any person to be put to death. However, the hand of God was in this business: for the credit of Jesus, and the honor of the Christian religion, he would not permit him to be condemned on a false accusation; and, therefore, at last they were obliged to change their ground, and, to the eternal confusion of the unrighteous council, he is condemned on the very evidence of his own innocence, purity, and truth!
And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.I am able to destroy the temple of God -
1st. These words were not fairly quoted. Jesus had said, John 2:19, Destroy this temple, and I will build it again in three days.
2dly. The inuendo which they produce, applying these words to a pretended design to destroy the temple at Jerusalem, was utterly unfair; for these words he spoke of the temple of his body.
It is very easy, by means of a few small alterations, to render the most holy things and innocent persons odious to the world, and even to take away the life of the innocent.
And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?Answerest thou nothing? - The accusation was so completely frivolous that it merited no notice: besides, Jesus knew that they were determined to put him to death, and that his hour was come; and that therefore remonstrance or defense would be of no use: he had often before borne sufficient testimony to the truth.
But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.I adjure thee by the living God - I put thee to thy oath. To this solemn adjuration Christ immediately replies, because he is now called on, in the name of God, to bear another testimony to the truth. The authority of God in the most worthless magistrate should be properly respected. However necessary our Lord saw it to be silent, when the accusations were frivolous, and the evidence contradictory, he felt no disposition to continue this silence, when questioned concerning a truth, for which he came into the world to shed his blood.
Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.Thou hast said - That is, I am the Christ, the promised Messiah, (see on Matthew 26:25 (note)); and you and this whole nation shall shortly have the fullest proof of it: for hereafter, in a few years, ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, fully invested with absolute dominion, and coming in the clouds of heaven, to execute judgment upon this wicked race. See Matthew 24:30. Our Lord appears to refer to Daniel 7:13 : One like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, etc. This may also refer to the final judgment.
Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.The high priest rent his clothes - This rending of the high priest's garments was expressly contrary to the law, Leviticus 10:6 : Leviticus 21:10. But it was a common method of expressing violent grief, Genesis 37:29, Genesis 37:34; Job 1:20, and horror at what was deemed blasphemous or impious. 2 Kings 18:37; 2 Kings 19:1; Acts 14:14. All that heard a blasphemous speech were obliged to rend their clothes, and never to sew them up again. See Lightfoot.
He hath spoken blasphemy - Quesnel's note on this is worthy of notice. "See here a false zeal, a mask of religion, and a passionate and seditious way of proceeding, tending only to incense and stir up others, all which are common to those who would oppress truth by cabal, and without proof. By crying out, 'heresy, blasphemy, and faction,' though contrary to all appearance, men fail not to stir up those in power, to gain the simple, to give some shadow of authority to the ill-disposed, to cast devout but ignorant people into scruples, and thereby to advance the mystery of iniquity, which is the mystery of all ages." This was the very plan his Catholic brethren adopted in this country, in the reign of Queen Mary, called the bloody queen, because of the many murders of righteous men which she sanctioned at the mouth of her Catholic priesthood.
What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.He is guilty of death - Ενοχος θανατου εστι, he is liable to death. All the forms of justice are here violated. The judge becomes a party and accuser, and proceeds to the verdict without examining whether all the prophecies concerning the Messiah, and the innumerable miracles which he wrought, did not justify him. Examination and proof are the ruin of all calumnies, and of the authors of them, and therefore they take care to keep off from these two things. See Quesnel.
Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,Then did they spit in his face - This was done as a mark of the most profound contempt. See Job 16:10; Job 30:10; Isaiah 50:6; Micah 5:1. The judges now delivered him into the hands of the mob.
And buffeted him - Smote him with their fists, εκολαφισαν. This is the translation of Theophylact. Κολαφιζειν, says he, means, "to beat with the hand, the fingers being clenched. Συγκαμτομενων των δακτυλων, or, to speak more briefly, to buffet with the fist."
Smote him with the palms of their hands - Ερραπισαν. Ραπιζω, says Suidas, means "παταξαι την γναθον απλη τη χειρι, to smite the cheek with the open hand." Thus they offered him indignity in all its various and vexatious forms. Insults of this kind are never forgiven by the world: Jesus not only takes no revenge, (though it be completely in his power), but bears all with meekness, without even one word of reply.
Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?Prophesy unto us, thou Christ - Their conduct toward him now was expressly prophesied of, by a man whose Divine mission they did not pretend to deny; see Isaiah 50:6. It appears that, before they buffeted him, they bound up his eyes, See Mark 14:65.
Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.A damsel came unto him - A maid servant, παιδισκη. See this translation vindicated by Kypke.
Thou also wast with Jesus - What a noble opportunity had Peter now to show his zeal for the insulted cause of truth, and his attachment to his Master. But, alas! he is shorn of his strength. Constables and maid servants are no company for an apostle, except when he is delivering to them the message of salvation. Evil communications corrupt good manners. Had Peter been in better company, he would not have had so foul a fall.
But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.But he denied before them all - So the evil principle gains ground. Before, he followed at a distance, now he denies; this is the second gradation in his fall.
And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.Unto them that were there - Instead of λεγει τοις εκει· και, more than one hundred MSS., many of which are of the first authority and antiquity, have λεγει αυτοις· εκει και, she saith unto them, this man was There also. I rather think this is the genuine reading. Τοις might have been easily mistaken for αυτοις, if the first syllable αυ were but a little faded in a MS. from which others were copied: and then the placing of the point after εκει· instead of after αυτοις· would naturally follow, as placed after τοις, it would make no sense. Griesbach approves of this reading.
And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.And again he denied with an oath - This is a third gradation of his iniquity. He has told a lie, and he swears to support it. A liar has always some suspicion that his testimony is not credited, for he is conscious to his own falsity, and is therefore naturally led to support his assertions by oaths.
And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.Thy speech - Thy manner of speech, η λαλια σου, that dialect of thine - his accent being different from that of Jerusalem. From various examples given by Lightfoot and Schoettgen, we find that the Galileans had a very corrupt pronunciation, frequently interchanging ת ה א and ע, and so blending or dividing words as to render them unintelligible, or cause them to convey a contrary sense.
Bewrayeth thee - Δηλου σε ποιει, maketh thee manifest, from the Anglo-saxon, to accuse, betray; a word long since lost from our language.
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.Then began he to curse and to swear - Rather, Then he began positively to affirm - καταθεματιζειν, from κατα intensive, and τιθημι, I lay down, place, affirm. But the common reading is καταναθεματιζειν, which signifies to wish curses on himself. The former reading is supported by almost every MS. of value, and is, beyond dispute, the true reading, and has been received by Griesbach into the text. The business is bad enough, but the common reading makes it worse. In Matthew 26:72, Peter is said to deny with an oath; here, he positively affirms and swears, probably by the name of God, for this is the import of the word ομνυειν. This makes the fourth and final gradation in the climax of Peter's fall. From these awful beginnings it is not unfair to conclude that Peter might have gone almost as far as Judas himself, had not the traitorous business been effected before. Yet all this evil sprung simply from the fear of man. How many denials of Christ and his truth have sprung since, from the same cause!
The cock crew - This animal becomes, in the hand of God, the instrument of awaking the fallen apostle, at last, to a sense of his fall, danger, and duty. When abandoned of God, the smallest thing may become the occasion of a fall; and, when in the hand of God, the smallest matter may become the instrument of our restoration. Let us never think lightly of what are termed little sins: the smallest one has the seed of eternal ruin in it. Let us never think contemptibly of the feeblest means of grace: each may have the seed of eternal salvation in it. Let us ever remember that the great Apostle Peter fell through fear of a servant maid, and rose through the crowing of a cock.
And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.Peter remembered the word of Jesus - St. Luke says, Luke 22:61, The Lord turned and looked upon Peter. So it appears he was nigh to our Lord, either at the time when the cock crew, or shortly after. The delicacy of this reproof was great - he must be reproved and alarmed, otherwise he will proceed yet farther in his iniquity; Christ is in bonds, and cannot go and speak to him; if he call aloud, the disciple is discovered, and falls a victim to Jewish malice and Roman jealousy; he therefore does the whole by a look. In the hand of Omnipotence every thing is easy, and he can save by a few, as well as by many.
He went out - He left the place where he had sinned, and the company which had been the occasion of his transgression.
And wept bitterly - Felt bitter anguish of soul, which evidenced itself by the tears of contrition which flowed plentifully from his eyes. Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall! Where the mighty have been slain, what shall support the feeble? Only the grace of the Almighty God.
This transaction is recorded by the inspired penmen,
1st. That all may watch unto prayer, and shun the occasions of sin.
2dly. That if a man be unhappily overtaken in a fault, he may not despair, but cast himself immediately with a contrite heart on the infinite tenderness and compassion of God. See the notes on John 18:27.
I have touched on the subject of our Lord's anointing but slightly in the preceding notes, because the controversy upon this point is not yet settled; and, except to harmonists, it is a matter of comparatively little importance. Bishop Newcome has written largely on this fact, and I insert an extract from his notes.