[And captains.] They are called, verse 52, captains of the Temple: and in the singular number, the captain of the Temple, Acts 4:1: but who should this or these be?
I. All know that there was a Roman garrison in the castle of Antonia, whose charge especially was to suppress all tumults and seditions in the Temple: but was the tribune, or the centurions of that garrison called by the name of the captains of the Temple? Surely rather the captains of the castle of Antonia. And indeed it appears not that the Roman captains had conspired against the life of Christ, that Judas should betake himself to them to make a bargain for the betraying of him.
II. The conjecture might be more probable of those rulers in the Temple, concerning whom we have this mention: "These are the rulers that were in the Temple: Jochanan Ben Phineas, governor of the seals; Ahijah, set over the drink-offerings: Matthiah Ben Samuel, that presided over the lots," &c. But to me it seems beyond all doubt that the captains of the Temple were the captains of the several watches. "In three places the priests kept watch and ward in the Temple, viz. in Beth Abtines, Beth Nitsots, and Beth Mokad. The Levites also in one-and-twenty places more." Whereas, therefore, these watches or guards consisted every one of several persons, there was one single person set over each of them as their captain, or the head of that watch. And this way looks that of Pilate, Matthew 27:65; ye have a watch of your own; let some of them be sent to guard the sepulchre.
III. The captain of the Temple, therefore, distinctively and by way of eminence so termed, I would suppose him, whom they called the ruler of the mountain of the house, who was the chief of all the heads of those wards. "The ruler of the mountain of the Temple takes his walks through every watch with torches lighted before him: and if he found any upon the watch that might not be standing on his feet, he said, 'Peace be with thee!' But if he found him sleeping, he struck him with a stick; and it was warrantable for him to burn the garments of such a one. And when it was said by others, 'What is that noise in the court?' the answer was made, 'It is the noise of a Levite under correction, and whose garments are burning, for that he slept upon the watch.' R. Eliezer Ben Jacob said, 'They once found my mother's son asleep, and they burnt his clothes.'" Compare this passage with Revelation 16:15: "Behold I come as a thief; blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame."
It is easy distinguishing this captain of the mountain of the Temple from the ruler of the Temple or the sagan. The former presided only over the guards; the latter over the whole service of the Temple. And so we have them distinguished, Acts 4:1: there is the captain of the Temple, and Annas, who was the sagan.
19. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
[This is my body.] The words of the institution of the holy eucharist throughout the whole contain a reflection, partly by way of antithesis, partly by way of allusion.
I. This is my body. Upon the account of their present celebration of the Passover, these words might very well have some reference to the body of the Paschal lamb: the body (I say) of the Paschal lamb. For the Jews use this very phrase concerning it: "They bring in a table spread, on which are bitter herbs, with other herbs, unleavened bread, pottage, and the body of the Paschal Lamb." And a little after: he eateth of the body of the Passover. From whence our Saviour's meaning may be well enough discerned; viz. that by the same signification that the Paschal lamb was my body hitherto, from henceforward let this bread be my body.
II. Which is given for you. But the apostle adds, "Which is broken for you": which, indeed, doth not so well agree with the Paschal lamb as with the lamb for the daily sacrifice. For as to the Paschal lamb, there was not a bone of it broken; but that of the daily sacrifice was broken and cut into several parts; and yet they are both of them the body of Christ in a figure. And although, besides the breaking of it, there are these further instances wherein the Paschal lamb and that of the daily sacrifice did differ, viz., 1. that the daily sacrifice was for all Israel, but the Paschal for this or that family: 2. the daily sacrifice was for the atonement of sin; the Passover not so: 3. the daily sacrifice was burnt, but the Passover eaten: yet in this they agreed, that under both the body of our Saviour was figured and shadowed out, though in a different notion.
III. This do in remembrance of me. As you kept the Passover in remembrance of your going out of Egypt. "Thou shalt remember the day of thy going out of Egypt all the days of thy life. Ben Zuma thus explains it; The days of thy life, that is, in the day time: all the days of thy life, that is, in the night time too. But the wise men say, The days of thy life, that is, in this age: all the days of thy life, that the days of the Messiah may be included too." But whereas, in the days of the Messiah there was a greater and more illustrious redemption and deliverance than that out of Egypt brought about; with the Jews' good leave, it is highly requisite, that both the thing itself and he that accomplished it should be remembered. We suspect in our notes upon 1 Corinthians 11, as if some of the Corinthians, in their very participation of the holy eucharist, did so far Judaize, that what had been instituted for the commemoration of their redemption by the death of Christ, they perverted to the commemoration of the going out of Egypt; and that they did not at all 'discern the Lord's body' in the sacrament.
Under the law there were several eatings of holy things. The first was that which Siphra mentions, when the priests eat of the sacrifice, and atonement is made for him that brings it. There were other eatings, viz., of the festival sacrifices of the tenths, thanksgiving-offerings, &c., which were to be eaten by those that brought them; but these all now have their period: and now, Do ye this, and do it in remembrance of me.
IV. This cup...which is shed for you. This seems to have reference to that cup of wine that was every day poured out in the drink offerings with the daily sacrifice; for that also was poured out for the remission of sins. So that the bread may have reference to the body of the daily sacrifice, and the cup to the wine of the drink offering.
V. My blood of the new testament. So St. Matthew and St. Mark with reference to "the blood of bulls and of goats," with which the old testament was confirmed, Exodus 24; Hebrews 9:19.
VI. The new testament in my blood. So our evangelist and so the apostle, 1 Corinthians 11 with reference to the whole ministry of the altar, where blood was poured out; nay, with respect to the whole Jewish religion, for here was the beginning or entry of the new covenant. And indeed it seems that the design of that frequent communion of the Lord's supper in the first ages of the church, among other things, was, that those who were converted from Judaism might be sealed and confirmed against Judaism; the sacrament itself being the mark of the cessation of the old testament and the beginning of the new.
21. But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.
[But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me, &c.] What can be desired more as a demonstration that Judas was present at the eucharist? And whereas the contrary is endeavoured to be proved out of John 13, nothing is made out of nothing: for there is not only syllable throughout the whole chapter of the paschal supper, but of a supper before the 'feast of the Passover.'
26. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
[As the younger.] The vulgar and interlinear, sicut junior. We, as the younger, very well. For, as Beza hath it upon the place, it is properly to be understood of age. I ask therefore,
I. Whether Peter was not the oldest of the whole company? What reason can any have to deny this? It was necessary that some one of them should be the first both in number and order; and it was as fit and equal that the oldest amongst them should be reckoned the first. And who will you say was older than Peter? Hence was it that he had the first place in the catalogue of the apostles, because he was the oldest. For this reason he sat at table in the uppermost place next our Lord: for this reason did our Saviour so often direct his discourse so immediately to him: and for this reason were his answers to Christ taken in the name of all the rest, viz., because the oldest. Which brings to mind the interpreter of the doctor in the school of the Rabbins, who was the interlocutor between the master and the disciples, and for that reason the chief in the school, but without any primacy. Whereas therefore St. Peter, after our Saviour's ascension into heaven, was (to speak vulgarly) the prolocutor in that sacred college, what more probable reason can be offered why he was so, than this seniority? Were not others as capable as speaking as he? had they not equal authority, zeal, faith, knowledge with him, &c.? but he indeed was the eldest man.
II. I cannot therefore but suspect from the proper signification of the word younger, (to which the greater, respecting age, does answer) that some one amongst them had been challenging some privilege and primacy to himself upon the account of seniority: and unless any can make it out that there was somebody older than Peter, pardon me, if I think that he was the chief in this contention, and that it was chiefly moved betwixt himself and the two sons of Zebedee. For it seems unlikely that the other nine would have contended for the primacy with Peter, James, and John; whom Christ had so peculiarly distinguished in their presence with marks of his favour. So that the struggle seems to be especially between these three and Peter the beginner of the strife: which appears, partly in that our Saviour rebukes him by name, and partly in that he could not forget without some grudge, that request of the two brothers, "Lord, let us sit one on thy right hand the other on thy left."
31. And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.
[Simon, Simon.] Let us change the name and person: "Thomas, Thomas"; or "Philip, Philip, Satan hath desired, &c.; but I have prayed," &c. And who would from hence have picked out an argument for the primacy of Thomas or Philip over the rest of the apostles and the universal church? And yet this do the Romanists in the behalf of Peter. Who would not have taken it rather as a severe chiding? As if he should have said, "Thou, Thomas or Philip, art thou so hot in contending for the primacy, while Satan is so hot against all of you? And whilst you are at strife amongst yourselves, he is at strife against you all!" Under such a notion as this I doubt not our Saviour did speak to Peter, and that in these words he found a severe reprimand rather than any promotion to the primacy.
32. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
[That thy faith fail not.] There seems an emphasis in the word faith. As to the other apostles, indeed, that Christian courage and magnanimity which they ought to have exerted in that difficult time did fail them; but their faith was nothing so near shipwreck as Peter's faith was. They indeed deserted their Master and fled, Mark 14:50: which they seem to have not done without some connivance from himself, John 18:8. But when Peter renounced and abjured his Lord, how near was he becoming an apostate, and his faith from suffering a total shipwreck? Certainly it was Peter's advantage that Christ prayed for him; but it was not so much for his honour, that he, beyond all others, should stand in need of such a prayer.
36. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
[Let him sell his garment, and buy a sword.] Doth our Saviour give them this counsel in good earnest?
I. He uses the common dialect. For so also the Rabbins in other things: "He that hath not wherewithal to eat, but upon mere alms, let him beg or sell his garments to buy oil and candles for the feast of Dedication," &c.
II. He warns them of a danger that is very near; and in a common way of speech lets them know that they had more need of providing swords for their defence against the common enemy, than be any way quarrelling amongst themselves. No so much exhorting them to repel force with force, as to give them such an apprehension of the common rage of their enemies against them, that might suppress all private animosities amongst themselves.
37. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.
[For the things concerning me have an end.] That is, "My business is done, yours is but beginning. While I was present, the children of the bridechamber had no reason to weep; but when I am taken away, and numbered amongst the transgressors, think what will be done to you, and what ought to be done by you; and then think if this be a time for you to be contending with one another."
43. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
[An angel strengthening him.] I. In his temptations in the wilderness there was no angel by him; for St. Matthew saith, chapter 4:11, "Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him": that is, not till the devil had first left him. But in the midst of this trial there was an 'angel strengthening him': and why so? By reason of his agony, you will say, and that very truly: but whence arose this agony? and of what kind was it? It was occasioned (you will say) from a sense of divine indignation and wrath. This dare not I say or imagine, that God was angry or conceived any indignation against him at all. And if the anguish and agony of his mind was the result of the divine wrath pressing in upon him, I do not see what kind of comfort an angel could minister against the wrath of God. It is rather an argument God was not angry with him, when he sent an angel to comfort him.
II. It is not to be doubted, but that Christ was now wrestling with a furious enraged devil; yea, a devil loosed from his chain, and permitted, without any check or restraint from divine providence, to exert all his force and rage against him: which was permitted by God, not from any displeasure against his Son, but that even human nature might, by this her combatant, get a conquest over this insulting enemy. For it had been a small thing to have vanquished the devil by mere divine power.
III. However therefore it is not here related in express terms, yet could I easily persuade myself, that the devil might at this time appear to our Saviour in some visible shape. When he tempted him in the wilderness, he put on the disguise of some good angel, or rather some kind of resemblance of the Holy Ghost. But in this last temptation he puts on himself, and appears in his own colours; viz. in some direful formidable figure, on purpose to terrify our Lord. And from thence it was that he began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy, Mark 14:33; and here to be in an agony. Nor do I rashly, and without any ground, suppose this, but upon these reasons:
I. Whereas that old dragon assaulted the first Adam in a garden in a visible shape; it is not absurd to imagine, he did so now to the second Adam, in a garden, in a visible shape.
II. This our evangelist tells us concerning his temptation in the wilderness, that "when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him, for a season." Here he takes the season to return; and I see no reason why he should not at this time, as well as in the wilderness, assume some visible shape. Then, indeed, he addressed himself in a charming and grateful shape, to have enticed and deceived him; but now in a frightful and horrid one, to have amazed and terrified him. He had already experienced how vain a thing it was to go about to cheat and allure him: what remained therefore but to shake his mind (if possible) with fright and terror?
III. For when he had no greater invention in his whole storehouse, by which he could distress and shake the minds of mortals, than the horrid apparition of himself, none will conceive he would neglect this engine, that if it could be, he might disturb his soul through his eye. That, therefore, which the Jews feign or dream about Solomon, that he saw the angel of death (that is, the devil) gnashing his teeth, and that a disciple of Rabbi did so too, I suppose acted in good earnest here; namely, that Christ saw the devil, that old dragon, gaping at him with all horror he could put on. And in this sense would I understand that of the "messenger of Satan buffeting the apostle": viz. that the devil did appear visibly to him in some frightful shape, to afflict and terrify him. And perhaps that vehement desire he had to sift the disciples (v 31) respects this same thing, namely, that he might be permitted to assault them with such kind of affrightments.
44. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
[His sweat was as it were great drops of blood.] Diodorus Siculus, speaking of a country where Alexander the Great had to do with Porus, hath this passage; "There are serpents there which, by their bites would occasion most bitter deaths: they are horrible pains that afflict any that are struck by them, and an issue of sweat, like blood, seizeth them." I would ascribe this bloody sweat of our Saviour to the bite of that old serpent, rather than to the apprehension of divine wrath.
47. And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him.
[To kiss him.] Our Saviour had to do with a frightful and terrifying devil; but this traitor seems possessed with a tame and gentle one. He converses with the apostles, and there is no token of a devil dwelling in him. He is present at the Passover, at the eucharist, and the very lips of Christ, and still no sign of Satan being his inmate. But when once the devil hath done his work by thee, then, Judas, take heed of thy devil.
As to this treacherous contrivance of Judas, let us frame the most gentle opinion of it that the matter can bear: for instance, that he might perhaps think with himself, that it was not possible for Christ to be apprehended by the Jews, having already seen him working such stupendous miracles, and more than once strangely delivering himself from them: and grant further, that when he said to them, "Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he, lay hold of him," he said it scoffingly, as believing they could not be able to lay hold on him: grant we, in a word, that when he saw him condemned, he repented himself, having never suspected that matters would have gone so far, presuming that Christ would easily have made his escape from them, and himself should have got thirty pieces of silver by the bargain: let us grant, I say, that this was his contrivance, and colour it over with as plausible excuses as we can; yet certainly was there never any thing so impiously done by mortal man, than for him thus to play with the Holy of Holies, and endeavour to make merchandise of the Son of God. However, I suspect much worse things hatched in the breast of this traitor: viz. that Christ did really not please him; and, with the great chiefs of that nation, though he supposed him the true Messiah, yet not such a one as answered their carnal expectation.
The Rabbins distinguish between lawful kisses and kisses of folly; saying, that "all kisses are kisses of folly excepting three": which they there reckon up. But what kind of kiss was this? a kiss of folly? Alas! it is too low and dwarfish a term for this gigantic monster.
53. When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.
[This is your hour, and the power of darkness.] The serpent himself is now come in Judas; and the seed of the serpent was that rout that came with him, to whom it was fatal to bruise the heel of the Messiah; and now was the hour for that wickedness. It was anciently foretold and predetermined, both as to the thing itself and the instruments; and now all fences lie open, and you may do what you please. The chains of the devil himself are now loosed; and it is permitted to him, without the least check or restraint of Divine Providence, to exert all his furies at pleasure; for now is the power of darkness.
Darkness, is the devil among the allegorists. "It is said, On the first day of the creation, the angel of death [i.e. the devil] was created, according as it is written, There was darkness upon the face of the deep; that is, the angel of death, who darkeneth the eyes of men."